Today the world is mourning the death of famed author Harper Lee at the age of 89. She wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, which was first published in 1960 and made into a film in 1962. This story of racial injustice, set during the Great Depression, is told through the eyes of Jean Louise “Scout” Finch. Scout’s father, Atticus, is a small town lawyer in rural Alabama who is appointed to defend a black man against an accusation of rape. While Atticus is unable to prevent an unjust guilty verdict, the truth shines through his words in the courtroom.
Not surprisingly, my image of Atticus comes from the film version. Gregory Peck won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Atticus. From the movie, I always remember the words of an African American pastor to Scout, which I quote in my haiku below, as Atticus walks beneath the balcony from which the pastor and Scout and numerous African Americans in the town have been watching the trial.
Maybe there’s a scene in your mind that highlights a hero from a book or a film — someone who has been an inspiration to you and to others. Those heroes are the theme for today’s haiku. Say a few words about them in one verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line:
Atticus lost . . . yet
the man says to Scout, “Stand up,
your father’s passing.”
Last month I officiated at a beautiful Saturday evening wedding at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas. Friends and family of the bride and groom, of course, gathered there for a joyous occasion in their life together. As a priest, I had the privilege of witnessing that moment and, in the name of God, blessing it. This is a photograph from another wedding, one of a former staff member at Palmer, about a year ago, in which I was assisted by a pastor in the Church of Norway (Lutheran):
There are all kinds of weddings. Some of them even include a blessing and readings in Norwegian. Write a haiku about that or other details from these ceremonies that mark the beginning of a marriage. Your one verse, like this, only needs five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line:
The bride and groom say
their vows. Then, as they walk out,
I think, “Mind the steps.”
Today is our oldest son Rowan’s birthday! Eight is great, and Benny’s Spaceship from the Lego Movie includes awesome Lego pieces that I remember from childhood. As Benny-the-1980-Something-Space-Guy says, “Spaceship! Spaceship! SPACESHIP!!!”
Birthdays are this week’s haiku theme. So write a short poem about presents, cakes, candles, and celebrations large or small, wonderful or not-so-wonderful. Just put it all into a verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. Here’s mine about the best birthday gift that I can remember as a child — not wrapped, because it was an experience with my Daddy:
Tenth birthday. First flight.
Piedmont Airlines took Daddy
and me to D.C.
The East Coast is preparing for a dangerous winter storm that has caused blizzard warnings to be issued from northern Virginia to southern Connecticut. It brings back memories for me of the “Storm of the Century” in mid-March of 1993 during my first year at Yale Divinity School. Of course, I dealt with plenty of snow during the seven years that my family lived in Minnesota before we moved to Texas. Below is a photograph of the walkway to the front door of our first house there in St. Louis Park. It was no small task to clear that path and the sidewalk and the driveway.
It seems only right, therefore, to invite you to write haiku about snow. That could range from contemplating a single, unique snowflake to making a snowman as a child or describing your preparations for a snowpocalypse in the Great Blizzard of ’16. Since my family and I now live in Houston, we’re completely dependent on your imagination to remind us of what snow is like. So write your one verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. Then share that bit of creativity here. Here’s mine:
In the North Star State,
I became a kid again
with the first snowfall.
I spent part of this afternoon with these two daughters of Benji, as I sometimes like to call them. They are loyal and loving friends named Birdie and Tippet.
Let’s write haiku this week about friends, whether canines or college roommates. Say something about them in one verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line, like this:
We love you always,
constantly wagging our tails.
Wait . . . we’re at the vet?!?!
I think this week’s haiku theme is self-explanatory. Write about your grievances in one verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. It could be anything from the silly to the serious:
As it is written:
Potholes and humidity
are not a blessing.
It’s New Year’s Day, marking the arrival of 2016! Lots of folks whom I admire make New Year’s resolutions. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. But, personally, given what I know about human nature, I’m not a big fan of them. However, I did like a tweet by Christian theologian Miroslav Volf, who teaches at Yale Divinity School:
In my own family, we made a decision to do wishes for the New Year. These were not wishes for ourselves but wishes for others in our household. Will that become our new tradition? We shall see. It was certainly fun to do and a great way to focus on the wellbeing and flourishing of those we love — an invitation to speak from the heart.
The New Year is a great theme for haiku. You could write about your resolutions, your wishes for those you love, your hopes for the world of tomorrow, your prayers for all sorts and conditions of humanity, etc. Whatever it is, put it into a verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. Mine is a prayer about the suffering we’ve endured and also caused:
On this New Year’s Day,
forgive us, abide with us,
God of the suff’ring.
It’s Christmas Day! This is a magical time of the year, especially for children. That’s certainly true for the Willards. Here’s a photo of us at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church on Christmas Eve. Joy and wonder seemed to fill the air on that holy night.
Inside the church, of course, we are reminded that love came down at Christmas in the birth of Jesus. I witnessed that on Christmas Eve as men, women, and children came forward to receive communion and in the Rector’s study with my family as we enjoyed a picnic there between services. It’s truly a special evening filled with awe.
Today it seems appropriate to reflect on Christmas in haiku. All you need is one verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. Mine refers to the late church service on Christmas Eve:
Christmas at Palmer —
Sing “O come, all ye faithful”
and watch incense rise.
One of my colleagues at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, whom everyone knows really loves Star Wars, has decorated the publications office with lots of snowflakes for Advent & Christmas. The Morning Star, of course, dispels even the dark side. That’s good news for the whole universe, including these Imperial Stormtroopers.
It’s no secret either that today is the official opening date of Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens or that the Willard family has tickets to see that movie today, very soon after school is dismissed for Christmas break. It should really come as no surprise, therefore, that today’s haiku theme is all things related to Star Wars.
Although this theme has been explored here previously, I doubt that our collective imagination has been exhausted. So may the Force be with you as you write your one verse of poetry with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second, and five syllables in the third line. Then share it with the rest of us. Here’s mine:
Snowflakes are unique.
God sees Stormtroopers that way,
removing the mask.
The several weeks leading up to Christmas are a special time of the year known to many Christians as the season of Advent. Some of us are counting down those days before Christmas by participating in the Anglican Communion’s Global Advent Calendar. Each day it features a new word that people are invited to respond to with images and prayers that speak to their hearts. It also uses hashtags (i.e., adding “#” before a word so that it can be found on the internet via Twitter, just like looking up a word in the index of a book). #Shine is today’s #AdventWord, which inspired my wife Carrie to take this photograph at Camp Allen in Navasota, Texas.
For me, it brought to mind the first verse of a traditional Moravian Christmas hymn:
Morning Star, O cheering sight!
Ere thou cam’st how dark earth’s night!
Jesus mine, in me shine;
in me shine, Jesus mine;
fill my heart with light divine.
Let’s write haiku using the #AdventWord #Shine. Create a verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. Here’s mine:
People are afraid
of the dark. But light will #shine
there — The Morning Star.
While I’m not the biggest sports fan in the world, I did marry an awesome woman from Wisconsin. That means that I automatically married into a family of Green Bay Packer fans. The entire State of Wisconsin supports that NFL team with a religious zeal that is difficult for many outsiders to understand completely. It’s amazing.
Also amazing was last night’s football game against the Detroit Lions. At halftime, the Packers were down 17-0. Soon thereafter, they were down 20-0. But the final score of 27-23 showed the seemingly impossible — the Packers on the winning side. It was miraculous because of this last-second, “Hail Mary” pass by Aaron Rodgers.
Let’s write haiku this week about those kinds of mission impossible situations. It might be sports-related or something much more serious. In the end, it might have turned out well, or the effort might have crashed spectacularly in a blaze of glory. Describe that experience for us in one verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. Here’s what I wrote:
Seemed like a long shot —
but she liked me as much as
she liked the Packers.