Setting the Inner Compass: May 2023


Reading poetry is one of the ways some of us nourish our faith, a way we set or reset our inner compass and stay focused on the big picture, on the spiritual journey. I know that is true for me. In this monthly column, ‘Setting the Inner Compass’ I share some of the poems I find nourishing to the soul.

Last month, I read a poem and said a few words at a benefit for a NY musician who had a stroke. It was at a club, The CUTTING ROOM, on 33rd Street. Some of my favorite musicians and old friends were on the stage behind me. I ended my comments with the benediction that was the catalyst for the poem I am sharing this month, a poem I wrote. I don’t usually share my own poems but I want to offer this one to those who read this column. When I left the stage at the benefit, I was humbled and surprised by how many people approached me and thanked me for the reminder about kindness and love. That response is one reason I am sharing the poem here.

I first heard a version of the quote from Henri Frédéric Amiel when Marcus Borg used it at the end of a presentation at Immanuel.  It resonated and is now the benediction I use whenever I preach, teach, or offer a refection at BLUES VESPERS. I am thankful for my friend Marcus for the gift of this quote. It resonates and offers a needed reminder in these tense and somewhat toxic times.



Life is short, and we never have too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are travelling the way with us. So, be swift to love, make haste to be kind.”
(Adapted from a quote by Henri Frédéric Amiel 1821-1881)

“BENEDICTION” by Dave Brown

“Life is short” …let’s not start there.
Aren’t we all too aware of the passing of time?
One day you feel like you’re walking down an endless highway.
The next, you wonder if you will reach the next intersection.

It may be how it was written all those years ago,
but let’s go backwards. “Make haste to be kind.”
Ah yes, that’s better, even uplifting. Be kind, don’t delay.
Don’t hold back those simple acts:

a smile, an offer to take a photo of the young family
so that mom can be in the picture: the whole gang
in front of the big Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.
Be kind: hold open the door, say thank you and mean it.

Remember to compliment a friend on a good job,
smile when the band plays, nod your head even.
Try to clap on the beat and to not block
the sidewalk when you take that selfie.

“Be kind”, yes, a good last word,
let’s “make haste” to live it out.
And then we come to love.
“Be swift to love”, yes.

Love, not a warm feeling, but a deep intention.
A deep intention for the well-being of the world and
all of the creatures in it. Love for the people smashed
together on the subway and those riding bikes next to the river.

“Be swift”, don’t debate whether you should or not.
Love this world. Love, the crowded city,
the white mountain rising against the blue sky
and the snowy fields outside of Green Bay.

Love, not just the beautiful voice
but the man in a mask
playing the Chinese erhu
in the 23rd street subway station.

Love, love, love- yes indeed.
Love “Gladdens the heart.”
Our heart and the “hearts of those
who travel the way” with us.

This benediction- the last word,
from all those years ago
gives us the first words
as we go out into our world.

“Life is short”, we know that opening phrase so well.
As we “are swift to love” and “make haste to be kind”
the preciousness of the time we have
glows with even more clarity.

Our desire to not say goodbye,
not quite yet, becomes,
so very

For Marcus Borg


“Benediction” © by Dave Brown is from the upcoming collection, “I Don’t Usually But…volume 2.” It is used with permission of the poet. It was recently published on the ECHOES OF PANHALA poetry group on Facebook.

Rev. Dave Brown is a writer, poet, and the creator/host of Blues Vespers. He speaks about interfaith understanding with Imam Jamal Rahman and serves on the PCUSA Self Development of People Education national committee and the PCUSA Education Roundtable. Dave is the former pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Tacoma WA. ([email protected]).

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