I first discovered the Reverend David Keighley and his poem “Leaving Home” years ago in a newsletter published by Bishop John Shelby Spong. I read “Leaving Home” every Friday as part of my early morning quiet time, when I do prayers (Progressive Christian style), relevant readings, and prep for the day. I always look forward to my weekly time reviewing “Leaving Home.” It helps me realize that I am not in this alone as I try to paddle upstream and show people an alternative to the church’s fourth-century approach to living in the twenty-first century.
I was deeply honored when David gave me permission to use his poem in my newest book, Cramming for the Finals, and even more so when he sent me the following poem he composed.
Thanks, David, for helping me paddle.
A wise, eighty-five-year-old priest once told me, there’s NoOneUpThere.
Strange comment for a priest, I thought.
Even for an American Episcopalian one.
A fire engine had hit him and his friend on their motorcycles.
His friend was killed outright.
NoOneUpThere didn’t stop it happening.
If NoOneUpThere was letting such hideous things like this happen, he said,
I want no part of this religion. Worship NoOneUpThere? No way.
So I wondered . . .
Why didn’t NoOneUpThere keep my mum alive, stop her cancer, zap her cells?
Why did NoOneUpThere let Susan and Joe suffer the loss of their baby Lucy?
Why did NoOneUpThere, all-powerful creator of the Universe, send a tsunami to that holiday beach?
Why did NoOneUpThere of our faith let the terrorist with his faith kill and maim in our lovely cities?
NoOneUpThere’s omnipotence seems to fall short.
Does NoOneUpThere pick and choose, I wonder?
You pray for the tornado to miss your village, but what about the one it hits?
You pray for Mike to get safely home tonight on the foggy motorway,
But what of the deaths in that multiple pileup?
Did their prayers to NoOneUpThere not work as well as yours?
Whose side is NoOneUpThere on in war?
Did NoOneUpThere hear Hitler’s prayers for victory and ignore them?
Did we create NoOneUpThere, I wonder, through fear and wonder?
With the first few words uttered by frightened cave dwellers gazing at the miracle of a rising sun after the darkness.
We’re told if horses had a God, it would be a horse.
“Our Father who art in NoHeavenUpThere.”
NoOneUpThere looking down, taking care, making things better.
Just us, made in the image of NoOneUpThere but doing his job just the same.
Loving, caring, healing.
My wise, priestly friend now uses the word “Creation” for NoOneUpThere.
A force for good everywhere in the Universe.
No gender. Not judging. No son to send.
Still creating. Still evolving. Tsunami and tornado. Just being Creation.
“I am in you and you are in me and my father and I are one,” said Jesus, maybe.
Perhaps he also agrees there’s NoOneUpThere.
Just the force of creation and the power of Jesus in us all.
But down here, now!
Dedicated to Rev. Dr. Bil Aulenbach from the Reverend David Keighley.
Thanks, David. I shall treasure this and use it on a weekly basis to remind myself that I am the hands, feet, and mouth of NoOneUpThere.
Read more from Rev. David Keighley at www.therapyretreats.com.