Button Clover


This is a little weed that I found on my lunchtime walk at the park across the street from the library. If Google Lens found the right match, it is Medicago orbicularis, commonly called Button Clover.

Just look at those seed pods! They remind me of Isaac Watts hymn, “I Sing the Mighty Pow’r of God,” and the line, “There’s not a plant or flow’r below, but makes Thy glories known.”


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Susan sometimes urges me to be patient with people who have not evolved in their thinking over the last few years. After all, I was in my late fifties before I even started examining and adjusting some major facets of my life….

But is that fair? Have the past few years really not shown us enough selfishness, inhospitality, and bigotry in ourselves and our neighbors that DEMANDS reformation?

(Background image: the trail above Norbuck Park. I took many a contemplative walk on this trail after being introduced to it by a man who wouldn’t change his ways.)

#bigotry #inhospitality #selfishness #racism #idolofcomfort #reformation #spiritualgrowth

See How Far We’ve Come

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I checked with some of my theologian friends to make sure it isn’t just me who has a problem with the popular definition of meekness.

When meekness is defined as “strength under control,” the emphasis is misplaced. It would be more appropriate to say that meekness is a demonstrated acknowledgment of—or reliance on—another’s strength. For Jesus and his followers, meekness demonstrates that we rely on God’s greater purposes and power. OUR strength or weakness is incidental.

My definition of meekness needs work. It isn’t as memorable as that popular, but problematic definition. If only I knew a poet….

#meekness #christiannationalism #thisisnot #thekingdomofgod

(background image adapted from one by WikiImages on Pixabay)

Music and Posture

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When the Stiff Armers made first contact with the Stiff Upper Lippers, it wasn’t clear they’d get along. For centuries, these two sects had lived in isolation. Their cultures had developed in radically different ways. Everything, from the core of their respective religious practices, rippling out to dietary preferences, all the way to entertainment choices was different.

The two sects did have one thing in common. They each thought the gods had uniquely gifted them with music. Believe me when I tell you—they were delightful musicians, each in their own way. The Stiff Armers could whistle like birds. The Stiff Upper Lippers wouldn’t think of whistling, but they were absolute magicians with the ukulele.

Someday, we can explore the story of how the Stiff Armers and the Stiff Upper Lippers met, and the many things they learned from one another. Their encounter would change history. How much? So much that you’ve probably never even heard of these sects and their strange practices. Right?

Today, I just want to bluntly state the revolutionary lesson that the Armers and Lippers learned. Simply put, it is that the gods give music freely, totally apart from our posture.

[This little flight of fancy was the result of thinking about Acts 15. There we read how some of the Jewish followers of Jesus were surprised and delighted to learn that God approves of man not on the basis of his religious practice, but on his grateful reliance on Jesus.]

#acts15 #religion #faith #grace #approval #salvation

Critical Octopus

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This poem should be read with another VERY DIFFERENT poem that I wrote on this New Year’s Eve. While that other poem explores the idea that we all need approval, especially from God, this poem reveals that a certain critical octopus isn’t always inclined to grant approval to others. Maybe this coming year I’ll get it all together.

Idol in the Drawer

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Sometimes I refer to my brain as a filing cabinet. But let’s be honest: it’s more like a chest of drawers. File folders would turn their nose up at the jumble of odd-shaped trinkets and treasures lodged in my sexagenarian* mind.


This morning, someone left one of my drawers open. I could tell they’d been rummaging around. Stuff wasn’t evenly distributed. What were they looking for? Mismatched socks? My cache of chocolate? That thingamabob I found on the trail?

I’m not a practicing archaeologist, but I could tell where the drawer-opener stopped digging. It was over on the right side, at the back. Everything was cleared away. It sat there smiling up at me with fixed admiration.

It’s a clay figurine. I’ve had it ever since I was a little boy, down in Mexico. Back then, my eyes were sharp. When we visited ancient Aztec sites, I sometimes found artifacts that everyone else had overlooked. I was good at it… the best. In fact, I think you should know: I almost made a career of it. In college, the academic advisor asked what I’d like to study. “Archaeology,” I said.

“Are you independently wealthy?”

“No sir.”

“Well then forget about it!”

And I did. But I held onto that thought: “I’m good at it… the best!” And I kept the clay figurine as a reminder. It never fails to look up at me, and smile.

“You’re good at it… the best. You found me when nobody else could.”


*That’s the word; don’t blame me!

(The image here is of someone else’s figurine. Most of mine are mere memories.)

My Christmas Sermon

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Before I start my sermon, here’s a little context. What I’m going to say is the very opposite of what some very intelligent, very wise people say. Am I right, or are they? This may be like the Proverbs, where two seemingly opposite things can both be true. Okay, now for my sermon….

I was recently reminded of something a hard-nosed old teacher once said: “I teach my students that they aren’t entitled to anything in life except life itself.” The students in view were little children.

I beg to differ (to put it politely).

Every creation of God is entitled to respect, at the least. Imagine saying to God, “I have no respect for this thing you made.” That doesn’t work, does it?! And since God LOVES the world, His creations are entitled to love as well. Those of us who wish to follow and please Him must be learning to love the world as He does. “The world….” That’s billions of people who are “unlovable” only insofar as WE are unable to love them.

Don’t live under the misconception that you’re unlovable, that you don’t deserve love. If someone doesn’t love you, it’s their problem, not yours.

A great reversal is coming. “Trust God! See all, nor be afraid.” (Thanks, George MacDonald and Robert Browning).

[December 25, 2023; file this under “Sermons to Self”]

The Lime Strategy

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I don’t recall posting this piece before, probably because back in 2021, I would not have considered this poetry. But, who cares.

The idea came up in a conversation I had recently with one of my most brilliant friends. He was telling me how he had messed up when he participated in a book club at work. His purpose in joining the club was partly to foster relationships with coworkers so he could introduce them to Jesus.

The first three books they read were about racism. My friend welcomed insights he got from the first two. But the third book was written from a Marxist perspective.

I told my friend, “I read that book and could tell it was heavily influenced by Marxism. However, I welcomed the incisive criticisms and descriptions of white supremacist behavior. Without such keen criticism I might never see some of how I myself participate in that evil.

My friend responded (this is a paraphrase), “That’s exactly what I figured out later on. But in the short run I messed up by railing against the Marxist non-solutions.”

By focusing his energy on what was wrong in the book’s perspective, my friend shut down what could have been fruitful discussion with fellow book club members. Fighting a temporary enemy, he endangered eternal influence.

Getting this right isn’t easy. We live in a society where everything is made out to be a crucial battle in a desperate war. “Our guys” are always right and “their guys” are always wrong. We cannot be civil. There’s no compromise, no nuance. Rather than talking, we must throw grenades. At least that’s the model we live with.

Because he is humble in addition to being highly intelligent, my friend was able to see his error.

There were other topics in our conversation where I was thinking, “Oof! Let’s not go into detail there; I’m not sufficiently humble yet to acknowledge my need for growth in that area!” But at least there was that “Oof!” One can hope it’s the sound of a seed cracking. Maybe soon a root will emerge. Then a shoot. Then leaves….

An Apology, and Thanksgiving

Those of you who receive my poems via email from my blog are having to put up with a TORRENT of poems these days. Forgive me for that. I’m trying to get caught up with posting everything I have written and posted on social media this last year.

But… I would be remiss if I didn’t thank God for the progress I am making in writing. I just spent an hour reading back through my Facebook posts. I was looking for a particular poem that worked its way into a conversation with one of my smartest friends (I haven’t found the poem yet; it had something to do with limes, scurvy, and helping others grow without offending them). Amongst all the fluff, there are a few gems. At least they reflected on gems as I beheld them.

Refusing Glory

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Recently, I have been thinking about what it means to seek glory.* I frankly haven’t made much progress other than beginning to shed some presuppositions. I suspect that God has far better plans for us than we think possible or even appropriate. If my suspicions are right, this would affect not only how we see ourselves, but also how we see others.

And now, a confession…. This poem is my complaint directed at some imaginary critic of my thinking, some person who is more faithful to their systematic theology and sense of propriety than they are to what God may or may not have meant when he communicated with us via Scripture.

*see Romans 2:7, 10, 29

(background adapted from a photograph by Brent Hammond on Pixabay)

#psalm8 #hebrews2 #alittlelowerthanangels #ephesians3v20 #romans2v7

Blessings in the Library

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[Note: this was partly a writing exercise, for which I requested and received(!) encouraging feedback on Facebook]

“Can you show me how to write a letter where people can read it?”

The patron seemed to be mentally competent, so I sat her down at a computer and launched Word with a blank new page.

The cursor blinking in the upper left didn’t mean anything to her. “Where do I start writing?”

“See this thing blinking here? It shows you where you are on the page. Just start typing.”

She started pecking with two fingers. “I don’t spell very well. Can you help me with that?”

“I’ll come back and check on you in a couple of minutes. And I’ll help you with spelling.” I returned to the reference desk.

A few minutes later, I checked in on her. She had typed about three lines, all upper case, and with no space between many of the words.

“Do you really want to write that in all capital letters?”


“Okay. How about if we put spaces between these words?”

“Do words need spaces between them?”

“Yeah, most of the time. You can move the cursor around with the mouse or with these arrows. Yep, just like that. And you can start a new paragraph by pushing this key. You’re doing great.”

I headed back to the reference desk. “Amazing,” I thought. The patron was doing exactly what I have urged highly educated people to do when they have a hangup with writing: she was writing the words she’d say if she were speaking to someone. But in all caps…. Oh well.

An hour passed. The patron called me over. “I’m finished. Can you take a look?”

She had me sit in front of the computer, and pulled up a chair to sit beside me.

“You changed it all to lower case! That looks better. Shall I read it and make some corrections?”

“Please do.”

I read out loud, just loud enough for her to hear me, and corrected some spelling and punctuation as we went along. “I’m not going to correct everything, okay?” It needed to be her voice, not the voice of an old white guy with more education than brains.

This was the patron’s account of a traumatic event. She needed it for a court appearance. Now and then, I’d get to a part where I felt it necessary to say, “I’m going to read this part under my breath.” I think she understood why I was doing that, although she clearly didn’t require as much privacy as I do.

Close to the end, she wrote something along these lines: “I wasn’t going to let them do this to me… not after God had turned my life around.”

Having corrected as much as I felt was appropriate, I printed and stapled two copies for her to take.

“God bless you,” said the patron. I could tell she meant it. “And God bless you,” I answered.*

— Brad Hepp, 10/21/2023

March 19, 2024 Update: This morning, just as I was leaving the reference desk, a lady came up and said she’d need help on the computer. Since my fellow PSS was starting his shift, I told her that he’d be assisting her. She said, “You may not remember me, but I remember when you helped me write a letter.”

“Oh yeah,” I said, “It’s coming back to me. I do remember you!”

“I won the case!” Then, reaching her hand out to shake mine, she reminded me of her name. “I’m Pamela.”

“Pamela, I’m Brad.” Thank you so much for letting me know how that turned out. What a blessing!”


*I generally don’t engage in “God talk.” But I’m willing to do so to a limited extent when a patron initiates it.

Son of Encouragement

I keep forgetting Barnabas. Somehow, his name catches me by surprise when it crops up here and there in Acts. He shows up as a counterpoint to greed, a calmer of fear, a believer of the best. People say, “Let’s hear from Barnabas… oh, and Paul too.” Those who don’t know him can tell he’s someone special, someone god-like. His real name is Joseph. But his friends insist on calling him “Son of Encouragement.” As Jesus showed us what the Father is like, Barnabas showed us what encouragement is like.

I keep forgetting Barnabas. I’m sure God hasn’t forgotten him.

— Brad Hepp, 10/18/2023


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In my crawl through Acts, I’m finishing up chapter 8. One of my observations here and elsewhere in Acts is that many of the stories feature bigshots—people we tend to think of as “important.” I find that curious, to say the least. It’s not what one might expect from reading the Gospels. It’s not what we see in the Epistles. Consider James, Peter, and Paul. You can probably think of many passages in their writing where the proud are brought down and the humble lifted up.

Maybe this focus has something to do with Luke’s target audience: “most excellent Theophilus….” I’ll have to bear his excellency in mind as I continue my crawl. How would Theophilus have understood the stories Luke was telling?

Back in seminary, we occasionally heard from renowned evangelists in our daily chapel. On one such occasion, the speaker was so famous that we had to use overflow seating in a second auditorium. I gladly joined my fellow miscreants there. In this unsupervised setting, we could loosen our ties, remove our uncomfortable jackets, and grab a bite to eat.

On the big screen, the evangelist in his pinstripe suit was talking about evangelizing in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Picture this heathen,” said the evangelist. “One day he’s wearing a loincloth. Then, he converts to Christianity. Before long, he’s wearing a 3 piece suit!”

I hear a groan from the next table.

Another student and I look at each other in dismay. Our eyes roll. In unison we exclaim, “Well, la-di-da!”

(background image by Mohamed Hassan on Pixabay)

#evangelism #bigshots #ladida #1corinthians1v26 #james1v10

Nap With a Grizzly

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Last night, I took my first ever nap with a grizzly bear. How it all got started was fuzzy, as such things often are. Anyway, there I was, lying on my side with my head pillowed on the grizzly’s massive chest. My nose and eyes were within inches of the grizzly’s maw.

The grizzly seemed to be more interested in sleep than in this defenseless human delicacy. But I wasn’t taking chances. My only other experience with clawed monsters involves kittens. I know from them to not make any sudden movements. So I limited myself to the slow rise and fall of my chest. In fact, I tried to coordinate my breathing with the grizzly’s, hoping that would pacify the beast.

“So what happened next?” you ask. Remarkably, nothing! I survived without a scratch and am here to tell this tale.

Oh, one more thing…. You’re probably wondering, “What does a grizzly’s fur feel like?” You’d think it’s coarse and bristly, right? Not at all. I can tell you, it’s as soft and smooth as a silk pillowcase!

(background image by Daniel Alonso on Pixabay)

Learning to Appreciate My Weird, Selective Memory

In the 10 months since I started working at the library, I have learned the names of 40-50 patrons, and can usually greet them by name when they come in.

In contrast, I have written 100s of poems, but can quote only three or four of the simplest ones from memory.

In a happy note to a friend, I shared that I’m actually starting to appreciate my leaky memory when it comes to Bible study. It’s my honest companion on the journey. It often lets me see passages with fresh eyes, my vision not clouded by years of listening to teachers and preachers.

— Brad Hepp, September 28, 2023

Simon and the New Program

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[In my crawl through Acts, I finally broke free from chapter seven (Stephen’s speech), and am now starting to think about chapter eight. Why did Luke tell the story of Simon? How does that story fit in the bigger story? I REALLY DON’T KNOW YET. Some time ago, I concluded that one of Luke’s (the writer) main themes is “The Fruit of Generosity.” So, in the following trial gloss, I’m starting to consider how Simon’s story might further the theme.]


Simon liked attention, and he lived in a city where people paid attention. They were impressed with his power. One can assume he parlayed this power into personal prosperity. Philip came along, announcing and demonstrating a greater power. Like an MLM junkie, Simon jumped right into the new program. Then, to advance quickly to the pinnacle of his new pyramid, he proposed to purchase power from the apostles. The apostles rebuked him: “This program isn’t what you’re used to. It was developed by a God who gives freely, generously, sincerely, and at a high cost to himself. Those who enter the program are empowered alright—they’re empowered to follow God’s example. Don’t insult God. Get with the program!”

— Brad Hepp, 9/21/2023

A Crude Comparison

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Inspiration comes at many times, and in many ways.

Back before I got the job at the library, I told one of my friends that what I really wanted was to get a job walking around White Rock Lake picking up trash. She probably thought I was joking. But I told her that partly in grief. Several years of free-lance work had given me the freedom to walk many miles every day. It was a time of tremendous growth, as I was able to listen through the Bible repeatedly, along with other books.

So, I got the job at the library. I thoroughly enjoy helping patrons, and God is using it to grow me in new ways. But every day, one of my favorite things is to walk around the library property picking up trash. Believe it or not!

#atonement #communityservice #hewhoknewnosin #2corinthians5v21 #romans5v8

Colonel Shakealeg

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Just now, reading Anne Frank’s diary, I got to the part where she laments that her new roommate, Mr. Dussel “has turned out to be an old-fashioned disciplinarian and preacher of unbearably long sermons on manners.”

My mind goes back to 1967 or thereabouts. My folks are hosting some traveling preacher or missionary in our Puebla, Mexico home. The guest is reputed to have a military background. He’s Colonel This or That.

The fine Colonel gets the second bed in my room. He seems nice enough. I sleep the solid sleep of a young boy, probably straight through the Colonel’s military-grade snoring.

It’s time for breakfast, but I’m still dreaming, even after Reveille has played in the Colonel’s head.

He comes over to the foot of my bed. Taking an ankle in each of his pulpit-pounding fists, he shakes my legs up and down. I awake to his cheerful “Rise and shine!”

It’s Colonel Shakealeg’s first order of the day.

— Brad Hepp, September 10, 2023

The Poet’s Poet: Another “Well, DUH!” Moment

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These days I am very deliberately reading and listening to Scripture as though it were my first time. This is made easier by my leaky memory.

Yesterday, listening to Acts 10, I got to the part where hungry Peter is given a dream that involves “unclean” animals being lowered to him from Heaven in a large lunch sack. The purpose of that dream—as Peter learns—is to instruct him that, “I should not call any person common or unclean.” (Acts 10:28 ESV).

Here’s the “Well, duh!” epiphany: the Holy Spirit uses metaphor to communicate truth. In this case, he uses lunchmeat as a metaphor for people. The Holy Spirit is the poets’ poet.

Another Poet’s Poet
I was thinking about how Emily Dickenson’s “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant” is related to this realization. Dickenson comes to mind because she was also referred to as “the poet’s poet.” Poetry relies heavily on metaphor. It also relies on an artful, thoughtfully-timed presentation of the truth as opposed to blunt propositions. I see that in Dickenson’s poem “Tell all the truth but tell it slant:”

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

Truth is sometimes dazzling, sometimes dreadful. In either case, it must be conveyed artfully.

Since my [thinking in this post] was suggested by my reading of Acts 10, let me apply more of this thinking about the Holy Spirit as poet to an earlier passage….

The word “slant” has been on my mind as I spend time observing Stephen’s speech in Acts 7. He’s recounting history his listeners would be familiar with. But he’s telling it in a way that makes troubling points. He’s putting a “slant” on it. It is largely by discerning the slant that we get his message. It is by his artful telling that he persuades those who are willing to be persuaded.

Stephen wasn’t your run of the mill talker. Rather, he was “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.” He would naturally “sound” like the Holy Spirit, our Poet’s Poet.

— Brad Hepp, September 2, 2023

Eyeglass Repair Shack In Canossa Park

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I stood there at the window, up to my knees in heat radiating from the parking lot.

“Honk when you drive up,” said the sign.

I knocked on the window instead.

Five seconds later, the eyeglass repairman slid open his window.

“It’s a drive-thru!”

“Yes, I realized that when I got here. Anyway, I called you just a few minutes ago about these eyeglass frames.”

I placed the frames on his counter.

“I didn’t realize how hard it would be to get the screw back in a spring hinge!”

“Why did you take it out?”

I could give him a complicated answer, but sensed he was after something else.

“I’m a do-it-yourselfer, but sometimes I’m just old and stupid.”

His face softened.

“I’ll be right back.”

As he pivoted and disappeared into his workroom, I slid the window closed on its smooth track.

“His shack must get hot on days like this,” I thought. “He might as well keep his cool.”

Less than a minute later, he reappeared at the window, slid it open, and stood there wiping the lenses clean.

“It takes a special tool to depress the spring.”

My smile hid a correction: “He means ‘extend the spring.’”

“Thank you! What do I owe you?”


“I’ll give you a good review,” I said.

And I will.

— Brad Hepp, 8/4/2023

#roadtocanossa #humiliation #henryiv #popegregoryvii #eyeglassrepair #texasheat

The Banana Boat Came In

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I and the other students in the Linguistics class shared two features: we all had four eyes and opposable thumbs. Other than that, we were very different. They were geniuses and I was but a clever monkey.

Most days the professor would pose a problem and all my classmates would raise their hands to offer correct solutions. “Excellent!” the prof would say to one, “Precisely!” he’d say to another.

Then I’d raise my hand and ask, “How did you know that?” They’d always answer, “I don’t know… I just KNOW.”

“Rats!” I sniffed in frustration. “Unattainable intelligence!”

Then one day, the banana boat came in. The assignment, or “cargo” wasn’t actually bananas; this was Linguistics, remember? Let’s just pretend they were bananas since I’ve forgotten what they were… and I’m a monkey, not a linguist.

We spent the next week—it may have been two—classifying bananas. My classmates applied their scientific method. “This banana is 13 centimeters in length and 100 grams in weight. It must be Musa paradisiaca.” And they’d be wrong! Banana after banana was miscategorized by my genius classmates.

Meanwhile, I applied the skill I learned in monkey elementary.* “That’s a Ripe Banana!” I’d say. The prof would begrudge my answer: “Technically, you are correct.” Banana after banana, I classified as “ripe” or “green” and then gobbled down the good ones. Meanwhile, my genius classmates went hungry for want of correct answers.

“How do you know which ones are ripe?” my classmates asked. Wiping my mouth and sniffing in triumph, I answered them, “I don’t know… I just NOSE.”

— Brad Hepp, July 10, 2023

*In one Linguistics class (probably Phonology), I did actually devise a little manual computer that yielded plausible, technically correct answers every time. The professor always furrowed his brow and acknowledged “Well, technically you are correct, although that is NOT the answer I was looking for….”

#linguistics #cleverversusintelligent #bananas #bananaboat #clevermonkey

(background image by Jason Dexter on Pixabay)

Dishwashing Magic

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When I washed dishes as a child, there was one thing that made me linger at the sink: watching colors play in soap film.

My favorite dish was Mom and Dad’s coffee percolator. At the heart of that percolator was a hollow tube that carried boiling water up from the bottom of the pot and delivered it to coffee grounds in a perforated basket. For me, that tube was a magic wand.

After washing all the other dishes, it was time for the percolator. First, I’d wash the grounds basket, rinse it, and set it aside to dry. Now, all the nasty business of dishwashing was done. It was time for magic!

The tube was all 1/4 inch diameter except at its base, where it widened out to about an inch across. Holding the hollow stem, I’d dip the base in soapy water, and then turn it over to watch what happened in the film that spanned the one-inch opening.

Holding the stem at a slight tilt, I’d watch as bands of intense color formed in the thin film of soapy water. Pure, delightful colors!

What was causing those colors to appear? I’m not a physicist now, and was even less so then, but here’s my guess: Since the “wand” was slightly tilted, gravity was causing the film to be progressively thicker from the high side to the low side. But everywhere it was thin enough to be reflecting different wavelengths of visible light.

After gazing at the intense bands of color, I’d turn the wand upright so that the soap film was level. Immediately, I’d start blowing gently across the film. The bands of color began to swirl on the surface… green going this way, purple going that way, yellow splitting the difference. It was a weaving folk dance of colors.

As I continued gently blowing, the dance of colors continued. But dark areas began to form, one here and another there. More blowing, more dark spots. The colors were all vanishing. Then, just as darkness covered the surface, the film broke, and I was left looking at an ordinary, everyday percolator stem. The magic was gone.

— Brad Hepp, 6/18/2023

(image by Alexa on Pixabay)

#weavingdance #soapbubbles #color #dishwashing #childsplay

The Beauty of a Disciplined Younger Brother

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I had to stop and think what “younger brother” I was referring to. But then I remembered. He inspires me still. And I love the prospect of walks, meals, conversations with our Older Brother in Eternity.

Last night, the waiter was probably impatient to “turn” our table as my friend and I lingered long over our shared meal. As always with this friend, the conversation was significant. How did he get there, always ready to discuss the deepest matters of the heart? Tragedy, trust, and discipline. My friend is far busier than me, but he disciplines himself to read, study, reflect, and obey. By an iron will, and because he trusts God’s goodness, he has powered through tragedy to learn how God would have him think and respond. Long ago, I was more mature than him. Long ago. Not now.

Is this not what our Elder Brother wants of us all? Not to the same degree — He’ll always be more mature — but in the same way?

— Brad Hepp, June 9, 2023

RE: Creation

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Immediately after finishing my ThM, I started into a second master’s, this time in linguistics.

But I was mentally exhausted. I was tired of school. Coffee, which I had relied on since high school, hardly did the trick anymore.

On the other hand, I had no trouble working on multi-projector slideshows late into the night… no coffee required. While studies reduced my energy, being creative added to my energy.

I took this difference as one indication I should drop out of linguistics and pursue a career in graphics or audio visual work. The rest is history… about thirty-five years of history.

These days, I’m feeling that old mental exhaustion. To pay the bills, I’m doing a “9-5” job at the library.* Once again, coffee fails me. But creative writing? Poetry? These I could do all day and night… no coffee required.

If pleasure were my god, I’d be an atheist. Instead, I serve the Creator whose plan includes suffering, even for Himself. Did Jesus ever suffer drudgery? Did the Creator ever set aside creativity in order to achieve a lasting New Creation? Yes.

So, I must be patient as I revel in glimpses of Eternity.

— Brad Hepp, June 3, 2023

*Doldrums that I describe here notwithstanding, the library job is clearly useful in my spiritual formation.


(if you are viewing this via email, the website has a recording of this poem and commentary; click the title above)


I knew back when I wrote this poem that it would be difficult to explain. Let me try to simplify….

There are many things in the Christian faith that I currently feel driven to explore and understand on my own… just me, the Greek or Hebrew, several good translations, and the Holy Spirit. That is, perforce, a lonely task. It requires a shedding and distancing that feels like alienation.

But it also feels like faithfulness. And more than one wise friend has assured me that this is where I need to be.

In my poetry, I like to twist words so as to wring out meanings I didn’t initially notice. That’s what was happening with the word “unbecoming.” The process I mentioned above is one of undoing an old status and creating a new status. In the process of becoming a person who has honestly arrived at convictions, I must “unbecome” the person who complacently mouths the convictions others have arrived at.

So far, so good. But the usual meaning of “unbecoming” is something even more negative, like “unseemly” or “inappropriate.” While more than one friend has affirmed me in my harmless form of deconstruction, more than one other person has asked me questions, or given me a look that suggests “this is unseemly.” That’s understandable. When someone purges his cache of unconsidered “conclusions,” and closes his ears to the insistent voice of convention, it must look like arrogance, verging on heresy. It’s almost as bad as not wearing green on Saint Patrick’s Day, or not cheering at the high school pep rally.* You’re suddenly an outsider, a persona non grata. And so, once again, this unbecoming is a lonely task.

By the way, there are still parts of this poem that I can only feel, but not explain.

*Forgive the sarcasm

Does Your Arm Tell a Story?

(if you are viewing this via email, the website has a recording of this poem and commentary; click the title above)

Aside from being a personable, energetic leader, my new boss at the library has a fascinating background. But I didn’t always know that.

Brave questions have opened windows into his life. One evening, when we were leaving work, I said, “The way you park makes me think you were in the military….” My curiosity did not offend him. “Close!” he said. “I was brought up in a military family.” Over the next week, he expanded on that response. We talked about his early and recent years living in Italy where his parents and wife were based as U.S. Army personnel.

Yesterday, I noticed that his entire left arm is covered with tattoos. Since he was manning the reference desk on a very slow morning, I ventured a question: “Does your arm tell a story?”

Boy, does it!

When he had told his way from wrist to bicep, I confessed “When I read what I could find of your CV, I thought—please forgive me—’a librarian since 2006?… Sounds like a dull life!’ Boy, was I wrong!”

What questions do YOU venture to open windows into the lives of your magnificent fellow men and women?

— Brad Hepp, May 13, 2023

Don Quixote at the Public Library

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So, Don Quixote comes in the library and sits at a public computer to do research on fighting legal giants. You’re at the reference desk. He comes over and asks for your help with his research.

You listen for a few minutes as he describes his noble steed and powerful lance. From somewhere, he produces laminated sheets that make claims about “stare decisis” and “color of law.” Mr. Quixote seems to think you should be impressed with his depth of knowledge. Surely you’ll jump at the opportunity to be his legal research assistant for the next three hours.

Fearing for your sanity, you say, “I’m sorry, but I am not allowed to give legal advice.” That displeases Mr. Quixote. He responds with disgust, “I’m not asking for legal advice; I thought libraries were places where you could get information!”

Technically, Mr. Quixote is right about what you’re supposed to do at the reference desk. But you can barely keep from blurting out, “You’re tilting at windmills!”

You really love helping patrons, but this patron needs help of a sort you cannot give. What do you do?

— Brad Hepp, May 3, 2023

Wonder and Feigning Knowledge

(if you are viewing this via email, the website has a recording of this poem and commentary; click the title above)

I have been where Ta-Nehisi Coates was. He tells about reestablishing his friendship with wonder. At a conference in Aspen, Ta-Nehisi met a retired gentleman who told him…

“he’d taken his dog and driven out to the Continental Divide to watch the wildlife. I did not know what the Continental Divide was, and I did not ask. Later I felt bad about this. I knew, even then, that whenever I nodded along in ignorance, I lost an opportunity, betrayed the wonder in me by privileging the appearance of knowing over the work of finding out.”

— Brad Hepp, April 26, 2023

When Poetry’s More Than I Mean

I often think “out loud” by writing poetry. It’s dangerous. Poetry conveys a finish, a finality I may not really possess. I lay awake this morning, thinking about how poetry gets me in trouble. Here are some analogies:

1. Writing poetry is like trying on hiking boots at REI. Adjusting and tying the laces doesn’t mean “these are mine.”

2. Writing poetry can be like singing in an operatic style “So very good to meet you!” when someone introduces themself. Weird!

3. Writing poetry can be like flourishing a gun when all you mean to say is, “No thanks. I’ll not be buying your Girl Scout cookies today.”

–Brad Hepp 4/12/2023

Deficient in Grace

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Susan tells me I was troubled by my dreams last night. I already knew that. My dreams centered around an inability to get something right. It was some coding that was supposed to automatically update verbiage in one paragraph as verbiage in another paragraph changed. Basically, if I said something positive “here,” it should have resulted in positive words “there.” But it just wasn’t working.

Then I awoke, and one of my first thoughts was—I know this is weird—how Ross Hay, my High School band director, used to mock things that were not up to his high standards. Specifically, this morning, I recalled how he’d mock songs that rely on tired old rhymes about “June,” and “moon,” and “spoon.” Did Ross Hay write poetry? I doubt it. But he still affects my poetry writing half a century later.

That sounds good, right? NO. Here’s the problem: my beloved band director, like many other influencers, was teaching me not only to be discerning, but to be judgmental. He was teaching me not only to aspire to excellence but to look down on those who don’t achieve it. He was teaching me to not have grace.

A lifetime of troubled dreams later, I still pay the price for that early influence. It affects how I think of myself, and how I treat others.

I’m deficient in grace.

— Brad Hepp, 4/11/2023

My Little Lousy Joke

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Tidying up books in the religion section, I’m suddenly taken back 42 years…

I’m in the living room of the house I share with two pre-med students and a dance major. Danny’s in the study, reading for a philosophy class. I call out, “Danny, that’s a lousy book you’re reading!” I hear Danny chuckle.

Rick, also in the living room, eyes me with disgust. “That’s rude, Brad.” He means it. To him, I’ve slipped into a zone of perpetual disapproval. I can do no right.

“It’s not what you think,” I attempt. “Danny’s reading the ‘Tao Te Ching’ by Laozi. Get it? A Laozi book?” No response.

Disapproval. It can become habitual. In my life, I have been both the victim and the perpetrator.

–Brad Hepp, 4/11/2023

Lovely Spiritual Maturity

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Over the past few years, I have had the pleasure of interacting with several young men* who were/are students at Dallas Seminary. They have restored much of the enthusiasm for that institution that I lost back when I was a student there long ago. What has changed? Well for one thing, DTS instituted a mandatory spiritual formation program, including spiritual formation groups (that’s important). SF can probably be abused, but it can also be a boon to a man or woman’s spiritual growth.

Here’s one indicator: their readiness to pray for others. Twice in the last three months, I have had to do announcements in our church service. That should be a piece of cake for an Elder like me, but my public speaking is infrequent, and there’s always the danger that my brain will freeze up from stage fright. So, I have asked the young DTS student who was filling in for me up in the soundbooth to pray. On both occasions, Cameron has said, “Let me pray now.” Here’s a young man, praying for his Elder, unashamed, confident, and effective. How could I not love him, and the seminary that is preparing him for a lifetime of such service?

— Brad Hepp, March 26, 2023

*what I write here is undoubtedly true of young women at DTS as well.

The Grid: One Man’s Systematic Approach to the Bible

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There was a young man whose love for God’s Word was exceeded only by his love for organizing things.

Joining love to love, the young man asked, “How can I organize God’s Word?”

He set about finding a way. Soon he had it: he’d build a perfect grid of fine steel wires to lay on top of his open Bible. Off to the side, he’d place a large battery, with the positive post attached to his grid and the negative post attached to his Bible.

At first, nothing happened. The wires were so slender that he hardly noticed them. They did not impede his reading in any way.

Then one day, he began to see it… words were being pulled off the page and onto his grid. How exciting!

Years passed. The grid kept doing its job. The battery was strong, and rarely needed charging.

Soon, whole paragraphs left the page and adhered to the perfectly-aligned wires of his grid. The wires grew thicker and thicker with their beautifully organized words.

Then at last came the day when his grid had completed its work. The once slender wires now had a thick coating of words, so thick he could not see past them. Was this a problem? Of course not! Pages below were practically useless now—blank, save for a few words that refused to be organized.

— Brad Hepp, 2/21/2023


(if you are viewing this via email, the website has a recording of this poem and commentary; click the title above)

Today, I had to pull long duty on the reference desk. But the time flew. Enrique, a young Spaniard whose first languages are Spanish and Catalan, wanted to know how he could access newspapers from cities other than Dallas. Excited, I had him draw up a chair, and I showed him PressReader, which is free with a Dallas Public Library card. Our conversation was ranging over a dozen other topics when two other patrons–Julio and his father, Castor–walked by. I greeted them in Spanish, and then apologized for assuming they speak Spanish. No problem… they’re from Venezuela. Enrique, the Spaniard, commented on how beautiful Castor’s voice is, and Castor explained that he is a reciter of poetry. Wow… I didn’t know such a person existed. Later, Castor and I shook hands more than once.

The Venezuelans departed, after Julio offered that he’d love to teach Spanish to any interested Anglos. He’s CLEARLY a brilliant guy. Anyone interested?

Enrique and I talked some more, until it was time for me to take care of library business. I wished him God’s blessing in finding a job as an engineer.

This morning, I wrote about Jesus’ humble representation of the Father (see “Sent“). I knew that I’d be challenged to represent Jesus after writing that. But I wasn’t expecting it to be so pleasant!

— Brad Hepp, February 21, 2023

Hear Any Good Stories Lately?

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Today, while I was sitting at the reference desk, a fellow came up to me for help faxing something. When we had finished the fax, I said, “Forgive me. I studied linguistics when I was young, and I’m interested in accents. Where is your accent from?”

Carl explained that he had moved to Dallas from South Louisiana. He lived on a bayou with his parents and 10 sisters(!). When there were table scraps, Mamma would feed them to the big fat alligators. “They were friendly alligators,” Carl insisted.

Carl met Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson once, and told him, “People in Dallas aren’t friendly.” Mayor Johnson asked him “Where are you from?”

So, I’m not the only curious person out there. The Mayor and I both learned that one can find friends on the bayou… on the shores and in the water.

— Brad Hepp, February 9, 2023

ALL Giants: A Slight Correction

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My mother was a first-rate egalitarian. Among mortals, I doubt there was anyone who struck her as deserving extra honor because of their position, wealth or fame. If she had something that needed to be said, she’d have said it as soon–and as plainly–to a king, a president, or a pope as she’d have said it to a child.

I used to say that my mother taught me that “there are no giants.”

Here’s what I am slowly learning… it’s not that there are no giants; it’s that THEY’RE ALL GIANTS.

I once carried luggage for a world-famous theologian. Yesterday, I carried luggage for a homeless man. I could swear… Heaven was smiling just as broadly both times.

— Brad Hepp, January 21, 2023