Monthly Archives: July 2013

Bandera- A Poem


Every blade of grass comes armed with some spear, barb or spike
And the soil is only a thin blanket covering a bed of limestone
Where the dry winds and the burning heat
Bake the fields like bread in an oven
Roadrunners dart among the cedar trees searching for snakes
While scorpions patrol the dust vigilantly with their tales held high
The clouds rumble and complain as they float through the sky
As if some angry god refused to shed a tear for the parched earth beneath
Yet through the burning summer life continues to persevere
Birds sing their songs while flies and bees buzz through the air
The deer seek out the few remaining pools in the dried creek bed
And for all its arid heat there is a beauty that draws me back home
Through most of the year I dwell where the soil is dark and deep
Where the rains fall and the corn grows tall
And the land is green and the grass is soft
But this dusty land is in my blood and draws me back as one of its own

Neil White, 2013

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Herbert James Draper, Mourning for Icarus (1898)

Herbert James Draper, Mourning for Icarus (1898)

There are days when I push carelessly beyond the bounds of my own mortality
Brushing against the edge of the heavens in the frantic flight of my own fancy
And I try to capture the moon and stars while ascending to the seat of the sun
In the valiant pursuit of my own vainglory; trespassing of the limits of body and soul
Yet, for the moment I soar within the vision of my mind’s imagination
But it is not long before my cramping muscles and my throbbing head remind me
I am indeed mortal and not a god, that my limits are painfully real
That my wings are only a clever construct of wood and leather and stolen feathers
Held together with pins and hinges and melted wax
And that as I approach the fire in the sky they evaporate in the heat
While my body finds itself unable to sustain its efforts on the thin air of the heavens
So I plummet again to my home in the dust, collapsing into the hard embrace of earth
Wounded in body and spirit and yet the deepest blow is to the pride
Yet, my body heals and the spirit forgets and the ego yearns
As I once again tan the leather and steal the feathers and build the wings
For the next time I try to make the impossible ascent into the heavens

Neil White, 2013

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The City Becomes a Desolation: Jeremiah 7:27-8:3



Jeremiah 7: 27-8:3

 27 So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you. 28 You shall say to them: This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the LORD their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.

 29 Cut off your hair and throw it away; raise a lamentation on the bare heights,
for the LORD has rejected and forsaken the generation that provoked his wrath.

                30 For the people of Judah have done evil in my sight, says the LORD; they have set their abominations in the house that is called by my name, defiling it. 31 And they go on building the high place of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire– which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind. 32 Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the LORD, when it will no more be called Topheth, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of Slaughter: for they will bury in Topheth until there is no more room.33 The corpses of this people will be food for the birds of the air, and for the animals of the earth; and no one will frighten them away. 34 And I will bring to an end the sound of mirth and gladness, the voice of the bride and bridegroom in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; for the land shall become a waste.

 8:1 At that time, says the LORD, the bones of the kings of Judah, the bones of its officials, the bones of the priests, the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be brought out of their tombs; 2 and they shall be spread before the sun and the moon and all the host of heaven, which they have loved and served, which they have followed, and which they have inquired of and worshiped; and they shall not be gathered or buried; they shall be like dung on the surface of the ground. 3 Death shall be preferred to life by all the remnant that remains of this evil family in all the places where I have driven them, says the LORD of hosts.

It has been a little while since I’ve posted anything on Jeremiah. This has been sitting as a draft for a couple months and it was going to be posted the day the tornadoes went through Moore, Shawnee and Newcastle Oklahoma and I didn’t want any association with the title and what happened there. (Also as an excuse my son who had some of my resources on my e-reader with him while he was in Oklahoma for the first part of the summer) but recently I’ve had a couple events that have encouraged me to get back to Jeremiah, so here you go.

We return to the language of horror and disgust precisely to attempt to get past the walls of resistance that the people have put up around them. Are the people practicing child sacrifice, we will never know, but to the Jewish mind this is the most revolting of the practices of the world around them. A time when death is so prevalent that there is no longer the ability to separate the dead from the living because there are no places left to bury the dead. Death is so prevalent that it invades into the everyday experience of the people and they cannot help but be defiled by the presence of death in their midst. The dead are left in the open for the crows and wild animals to consume, and the wild animals have the run of the land—no one is there to stop them. This is the image of a slaughter. There is no more joy, no more happiness, no more celebration, it is the ending of the world as they know it.

Even kings and priests and officials are not exempt from the sacrilege. Their honored bones are laid upon the ground, prophets have no honor, and they are valued as crap. What remains is the image of the boneyard of Ezekiel 37 where no life seems possible. The world where death and defilement has been kept at bay is suddenly turned upside down and death is everywhere around.

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What I Learned About Myself, Life and God from My Divorce: Part 1

Apophysis-Betrayal (1footonthedawn at

Apophysis-Betrayal (1footonthedawn at

On July 1, 2010 my marriage of almost 13 years with two children officially ended. For those who have been through or are going through the process of divorce you know that this journey, which for me was unwanted, begins much earlier than that, but now over three years later I finally sat down to think about what I learned from this journey. Much like some of my earlier posts about my learning about myself, the world and God from my son who is on the autistic spectrum I hope that perhaps others may be able to find some light in the midst of their dark times in their own journey. An unwanted divorce causes a crisis that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, but even though it is an unwanted journey there are gifts that do come along the way.

1.       There is some wisdom that is only learned through pain and suffering. My divorce was the third of three major transitions in my life in a very short period of time. In the spring of 2009 one of my personal dreams had died. I saw myself going on to do PhD work to teach at a university or seminary. For several years this had been a direction that I had put considerable time and energy into preparing for this possibility and had applied to several programs over the period of a couple years. In 2009 I received a rejection letter from the final program I had applied for, a program that I was fairly certain that I met all the criteria for, and I sensed that this dream was not going to happen. I attempted to care for myself during this time period, meeting with a counselor and trying to take good emotional care of myself yet even as resilient as I am this did take a toll on me personally. The second transition was due to the church I was serving at that time, it was a congregation that had experienced a lot of conflict in the previous four years and I knew that another conflict was on the horizon in the fall of 2009 due to decisions made within my denomination. Dealing with conflict, especially as a leader, for any extended period of time is very draining. It was in the fall of 2009 that I also learned that my wife was not satisfied with the relationship. In this time of broken dreams, conflict and a distancing spouse I went through an emotional breakdown, and just as Brené Brown can joke about her breakdown becoming a spiritual awakening, mine in its own way was very much a spiritual awakening. The experiences of heartbreak, betrayal, depression and anxiety, shame and weakness forced me to go through a process of re-learning who I was, how I related to others and the world, the process of forgiveness, the way in which I would relate to God, and the sympathy I was able to show others.

The wisdom that comes from going through a time of intense pain or suffering is a slow process, and it is not the type of learning that we actively seek on our own. It is not the reason we go through a difficult journey, instead it is a gift that we realize along the way. It takes a while to be able to accept it as a gift because it comes at a cost-a cost that involves re-examining who you are from bile to bones, to the very core of your identity. It is not a gift that comes all at once, rather it is more like a slow process of awakening physically, spiritually and emotionally and which I will touch on in many of my other points. You didn’t ask for this wisdom that came at a cost but it is now a part of you, a gift that you can share with others.

2.      The process of rediscovering yourself. For fifteen years (two years of dating, thirteen years of marriage) I had invested so much of my identity into my relationship with my ex-wife and my relationship with my children. I was deeply in love with my ex-wife and still love my children more than words can express and to make the relationship work I had given away a number of pieces of myself over the years, it wasn’t intentional-we all make sacrifices for the sake of relationships. I feel that I was a good husband and a loving father who had poured himself into the family and I didn’t realize how much of me was defined by my sense of living out these roles. When first my wife began to distance herself from me and later left the relationship and later when the agreement we came to on parenting left my son living with me and my daughter living with my ex-wife and we would have times where both kids would be with one parent or the other-I found myself for the first time in fifteen years having to live with just me for times. I had poured so much of myself into raising kids and into my work as a pastor I had not made space (nor felt I had the money at the time) to pursue hobbies, to take part in many of the activities I enjoyed and without either my family around me or, initially, a congregation to be a minister to I had to find who I was again. I had to learn new things, I had to learn how to date again (honestly, not sure I figured it out the first time and I certainly have had my share of lessons this time around), to learn how to take care of myself and to give myself permission to spend money on myself. I had been a natural giver who found his joy making other people happy but I rarely would allow myself to do the things I wanted to do or to buy the things that I wanted. In hindsight I probably hoped that my wife and children would want to give back to me the way I enjoyed giving to them, but that wasn’t the case. I also came from a family that one of their primary ways of expressing love was to give gifts and so I didn’t understand that not everyone has that same experience.

 Three years later, and I came to this realization well before three years, I genuinely like who I am. I’m far from perfect and I still have the occasional dark day, but most of the time I’m comfortable in my own skin. Nice guys may finish last, but it is more important to be who you are than to win. I am a nice guy, I am always looking out for other people. Don’t get me wrong I am a very mentally, physically and most of the time emotionally strong and resilient person, but I have always had a soft heart. One of the reasons I don’t carry and use cash very often is that if I had cash in my wallet I would give it away. Because I am a nice guy there have been many times in relationships and in my work life that I have been taken advantage of because I genuinely have wanted to make other people happy. I could become a jerk and say I’ll never be taken advantage of in the same way again, but that wouldn’t be me (nor would it be healthy-even if it is a common male way of avoiding vulnerability). I had to come to the point where I could admit to myself, I genuinely like who I am most days. I am proud of the way I have handled adversity, I am proud of the father I am and I am enough. I also had to arrive at the point where I was OK being alone and not trying to fill the emptiness with someone else. I would love to find someone I can share my life with again, but I’m not willing to settle just to have someone next to me.

3. You can do everything right and still fail.  This may sound like a really depressing lesson to learn, but failure is not the end of the world and it doesn’t define the future, in fact it may open up new possibilities. Marriage for example takes two people committed to working at it, no matter how one person tries they cannot by themselves hold a marriage together. You can go the extra mile and the mile beyond that, and perhaps even the marathon beyond that and things may not work. And maybe this sounds self-centered, but most people have been in the situation where you’ve had to try to make something work and failed. Sometimes the best thing you can take out of a situation is what did you learn about yourself, your gifts, your weaknesses, your habits, etc. that you can use in the future. I can look back without any regrets that I didn’t try hard enough to save my marriage. Yet, before going through my own divorce I did think that, ‘if someone just tried harder, loved more, was more patient, etc.’ they could have made the relationship work. I have no such illusions anymore and it has helped me numerous times in the last several years as I have worked with people not only in the midst of divorce but in the midst of many other crises that come up in life.

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The Scars of the Past


We all bear the marks of
Mistakes made that cannot be undone
Hearts broken by betrayal
Regrets of roads not taken
Days when dreams are dashed
False hopes that proved to be illusions
And the wear and tear of life
That left scar tissue in the places
Where we knit ourselves back together

Most days the scars blend into the background
Blending in with the rest of us that is good and whole
Yet, sometimes the scars burn red hot
As old wounds are reopened
As an instant takes us back to the mistakes of yesterday
When our hearts are broken anew
When doors close
When our dreams seem to slip through our fingers
And the wear and tear of life
Tears at the skin still trying to make itself whole again

We all have scars and wounds
We all are in the process of healing
In this journey we call life
Sometimes we are able to bind another’s wounds
Othertimes we can only sit by holding a hand
Praying they will stop wounding themselves
Sometimes all we can see are the scars of the past
Unable to see the living tissue that moves towards tomorrow
But our scars, though they mark us
They do not make us

We walk towards the day when mistakes are forgiven
When hearts are healed by love
When we can choose the road of our destiny
When we dare to chase our dreams again
Where hope does not disappoint
And where the laughter and love of life
Allow us to accept ourselves as we are
As whole, even able to accept the beauty
Of the scars of the past

Neil White, 2013

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Looking Back

Looking back through the photos of another lifetime ago
Looking at this young man with the belief that he will go out and conquer the world
That the struggles of the moments are merely obstacles to be overcome
And the conflicts that will arise in the future are merely opportunities to test one’s mettle
If he knew the pain and the heartaches that lie ahead
The ways in which everything he knew would be shaken to the core
Would he change course or would he stay the path?

As I look into the eyes of my twenty year old self, captured in pictures two decades old
In the midst of the steely idealism and implacable optimism
With his awkward quietness and fiery intensity
When I look I see both myself then and the person I would become
As I walk through the pictures that mark the years and wonder at each point
Would I make the same decisions again or would I change them

I can see the ways in which each step was less a choice
And more an unfolding of the person I was becoming
For the young man I see in the past is the man I see in the mirror
Minus the experience and knowledge that can only come through the journey
And even the parts of my life I wouldn’t wish on an enemy
I wouldn’t trade for myself for they made me who I am

And without changing who I am and who I was
I would still make the same choices, or at least all the important ones
And still within there is that same steely idealism and implacable optimism
Sometimes the awkward quietness still comes out
Most of the time the fiery intensity remains
Yet the twenty years were not in vain as they stretched and challenged me
Learning love and loss, trust and betrayal
And even when good guys finish last they are still themselves
And so I go to sleep, looking back not seeking a better past
Still hopeful enough to look for a better future

Neil White, 2013

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