Thick heads and the deeper truth

Micah 6:8

“God has told you people what is good–
and what the Lord requires of you:
do justice, love mercy,
and walk humbly with your God.”

One third of the Jewish Bible
is in poetry:
all the prophets, all the proverbs,
Job and all the Psalms.
Fables, sagas, metaphors–we
take it literally?
No, its truth is deeper, wider
than the sea. Our souls
leap or cry, our hearts sing or sigh.

We are called to act by holy
words in parallel:
every idea is repeated–
image, example,
contrast…thick heads hit again and
yet again. As sheep
we need a good shepherd or we
stray. For us to keep
ten commandments we need poetry.

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, March 4, 2013

The Legacies of Joe Hill and Doug Hall

You who hold us in the hollow of your hand,

Who hold us in the curve of a mother’s arms,

Whose flesh is the flesh of hills and hummingbirds and angleworms,

Whose skin is the leathered skin of the barge-toter and the old Indian Chief and the smooth skin of a newborn babe,

Whose color is the color of the zebra and the brown bear and the green grass snake,

Whose hair is the aurora borealis, the rainbow and nebulae,

Whose eyes sometimes shine like the evening stars, and then like fireflies, and then again like an open wound,

Whose touch is the touch of life and the touch of death,

Whose name is everyone’s, each and all alike, for just a fleeting moment on the shore of time, the hem of your eternity:

Grant us to see ‘tis only the splendor of light hideth thee.’  Let Your healing balm salve the tender wounds of grief and turn the tears of mourning into tears of unshakable joy.

God of the sparrow, God of the whale, God of the pruning hook: You ask only that we do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with You.  Lead us to take the claims of justice, mercy and humility into the palaces and chambers of power where public policy is made and administered.  Give us confidence that, though truth still sways upon the gallows, yet it is truth alone that is strong.

Let our lives flow in endless song above earth’s lamentations.  Let no storm shake our inmost calm.  No tempest dim our vision.  No noisy gongs or clanging cymbals of ignorant armies clashing by night drown out the gentle sounds of the flute and the dulcimer, the quiet chords of love.

For this work and this alone, raise us up on eagles’ wings to follow Wamble Pok-he, our lead eagle now departed, and to see him standing there, like old Joe Hill, as big as life and smiling with his eyes.  “What they could not kill,” says Joe, says Doug, “went on to organize, went on to organize.”   “I did not die,” says he.  “I did not die.  Where workers strike and organize,” says he, “You’ll see Doug Hall,” says he, “We’ll see Doug Hall,” says he.  How can we can we keep from singing?  Amen.

– GCS, pastoral prayer at Doug Hall’s Memorial Celebration, Wabasha, MN.

Stephanie Autumn and Clyde Bellecourt honoring Doug with Indian blanket

Stephanie Autumn and Clyde Bellecourt honoring Doug with Indian blanket

Doug was the definition of “the street lawyer.” The farewell to Doug was attended by the people he had defended over many years, the founders of the American Indian Movement, African-American activists, U.S. District Court Judges, MN Supreme Court Justices, Indian drummers, and “America’s troubadour, Larry Long.” Doug was an important figure in the standoff between the federal troops and the AIM members who occupied Wounded Knee. He served as Director of the Legal Rights Center, and, in the last decade of his life was a leading figure in the state-wide movement for restorative justice. He was the Honorary Chair of the Minnesota Restorative Justice Movement.

Joe Hill, Swedish-American labor organizer, songwriter, (1879-1915)

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night

Alive as you or me.

Says I,  “But Joe, you’re ten years dead.”

“I never died,” says he,

“I never died,” says he.
“In Salt Lake, Joe,” says I to him,

Him standing by my bed.

“They framed you on a murder charge.”

Says Joe, “But I ain’t dead,

Says Joe, “But I ain’t dead.”
“The copper bosses killed you, Joe,

They shot you, Joe,” says I.

“Takes more than guns to kill a man.”

Says Joe, “I didn’t die,” Says Joe,

“I didn’t die.”

And standing there as big as life,

And smiling with his eyes, Joe says,

“What they forgot to kill Went on to organize,

Went on to organize.”
“Joe Hill ain’t dead,” he says to me,

“Joe Hill ain’t never died.

Where working men are out on strike,

Joe Hill is at their side,

Joe Hill is at their side.”
“From San Diego up to Maine

In every mine and mill,

Where workers strike and organize,”

Says he, “You’ll find Joe Hill.”

Says he, “You’ll find Joe Hill.”
I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night

Alive as you or me.

Says I, “But Joe, you’re ten years dead.”

“I never died,” says he,

“I never died,” says he.