Bartholomew: Disciple

Jack will livestream today’s poem at 9am, ET,  on his Facebook Page here,  and the video will be saved with all of his past Livestream videos here. 

“ I cannot tell a lie.”
“I cannot tell the truth.”

Well. This is post number 201.

I can remember where this started — 2016, and feeling I needed to try to do something when the ridiculous-idea-of-an-electoral-college placed cruelty-incarnate inside the White House.

I, of course, knew that writing each week would be ineffectual. I naively thought when I pledged to myself to write a post each week, that the most-inhumane-person-ever-to-assume-the-presidency would be gone after half a year. I sure was wrong to believe in the integrity-of-checks-and-balances. So, here I sit trying once again to protest in the way that I can.

By the time you read this, 45 will have distorted and obfuscated and lied and fouled the office of Lincoln as he faced the decency of one Joe Biden, the only one of the two seeking office who knows and understands and believes in democracy. The presidency is an office meant to protect not prostitute the Constitution, an office where one serves and doesn’t boss the people, whose hair grays, rather than costs taxpayers $70,000 to maintain in a circus-clown-coif.

Some friends got trapped in the traffic jam of a 45 rally-parade near here. What stood out to them was that there was little if any affirmation of 45. Instead there was a loudspeaker barrage of vicious, racist, misogynist lies. And along the route was an enormous billboard containing just three lines, one under the other:


Imagine the man riding, not a chariot, but a donkey, slowly passing that billboard. I always think that when giving The Sermon on the Mount, that same donkey rider had in mind the preface, “YOU are NOT the blessed! Blessed are . . .”

There was a memorial service the other day for the man who changed my life when I asked him if he remembered what he wanted to be when he grew up. He looked into my eyes and said, “Kind.”

Vote kind.

Bartholomew: Disciple

I never knew what was going on.

He would say, “Let’s go,” and we
would follow. “Follow” was his word.

And we would. Fools we were to let that
take us all that way. Why we did to this day

I don’t know. Look how it ended. Look
what it became. But what did we have

to stay for? Nothing. There wasn’t much
work. Nothing much to do. There were no

stories left. Bread. Fish. So we ended up
with more bread and fish. But we did find

stories and stories. Well, what else is there?
I never did much along the way. Look it up.

In the big deal painting I’m the one who appears
rather glassy eyed, and believe me, it wasn’t the wine.

I just went along. The miracles had been done before.
I will say, though, that it was his words. Words!

Imagine. Words had never done what his did.
I’d listen, and I wasn’t much of a listener. Then

later I would try to make sense of them. I couldn’t.
But I could feel them. And maybe that was it, how

they got inside you and made you wonder and wrinkle.
They got in my brain’s garden and made it seem like

the roots were above ground and all the flowers and
vegetables, all the nourishing, were now below.

He didn’t reverse things, exactly—the first shall be
last and the last first and all that. It was that everything

changed inside me when he said those things. It was
what happened to me. I started looking at lepers and the poor

and paid no attention anymore to the kings and scribes and
Pharisees. I had thought the world of them. Now they seemed

unimportant in their importance. See? See how hard it is to
explain this stuff? You just started seeing everything with a

new mind. You began to be drawn to a whole new world,
and it was a world. Like now. A world within a world, one

drawing you, the other imposing itself on you. Why am I
telling you what you already know? Erosions. That’s it.

The reversals were erosions. And in what was left, I
wanted to plant what didn’t belong. Lilies in fields.

You might say, okay, whatever, and yet those words
did become flesh, my flesh. And my flesh, my body, held

the kingdom of God, and if it’s a place that’s a place
for children, then most of what I know really doesn’t matter.

Labor doesn’t, and money, and reason, and, well, you
go make a list. He’d get me so confused. And then we’d

head off worrying about how we would eat and where
we’d sleep. Our feet were filthy. My God, we were always

filthy. We stank. And then he’d go and point at birds or
stalks of grain, even stop and have us kneel before a flower,

and then he’d smile. That haunts me still. That smile.
And then he died. He brought out hate, not love. He had

a terrifying sense of justice. Nothing he said or did
was impossible. Maybe that was it. It was all possible.

–Jack Ridl
Published by Image Journal, 9/28/2020

Where are the books? Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

See all of Jack’s Facebook Livestream Videos Here.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Jack on And Then Suddenly podcast by Angela Santillo.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

26 thoughts on “Bartholomew: Disciple

  1. Jack, Please know that each Thursday I look forward to your posts……it’s my weekly dose of “take a deep breath and remain calm”. I, too, never thought it would go beyond six months…………but here we are. Bob and I are road tripping down Route 66 and also have seen the huge billboards stating Pro God, Pro Guns, Pro T_____. And then a semi truck passed us with a big T_____ flag on the back and a sign that said “Don’t be a hater….Show your boobies.” I pray you’re not having to post weekly another four years. Sue Carlson

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Sue,
      Do know how much it means to me to know that you loo forward to Thursday’s post.
      To know I am a bit of help to you, such a great good soul, is so sustaining

      It’s become so ugly, my stomach turns.

  2. SO glad we get your posts. Also the caring and love you send us. Inspired to think about kindness led me to realize how much it means to have my four children grow up as kind people. We love you and Julie and wish so much we could share some big hugs. Mary


    • Mary,

      We are hugging you all the time.

      Oh my, sooo true about the kindness of your children!

      Sending you and Bob our abiding admiration, love, and care

  3. Oh, Jack. A beautiful poem.

    Here’s hoping for change within the next few months….

    Many thanks for all you do…


    Christopher Giroux

    Associate Professor, English Department, SE165, 989.964.4914

    Assistant Director, Writing Center, Z250A, 989.964.7228

    Co-Director, Center for Community Writing


  4. thank you so much jack! for your kindness and artistry and wisdom and your prophetic courageous great poem!🐒

    • Can you possibly know what your beautifully extravagant words
      mean to me? I don’t know how to believe or accept them. YOU
      have always been my model of an authentic artist, always.
      You the suga

  5. Jack, I just want to say thank you. For all of your words. For all of you passion. For all of your teaching. In kindness, arianna

    • Arianna,
      To hear such from remarkable you brings me humble joy
      If I have been of any help to, I am, well, overwhelmed.
      Thank you for filling this heart.

    • That wow means a lot. It says the work hit something
      that matters. Poetry is what the poem takes you to. It’s
      the “beyond the poem itself” that one can be in touch with.
      Thank you so much.

  6. Bart–oh my. What a raggedy faith I have left…it has nearly disappeared. The last three and a half centuries has taken their toll on us all. Thank you for pouring your gold into the cracks of the pottery we have left.

    • Your comment has the heart and lyricism of poetry. It’s certainly unfortunate
      what some forms of Christianity have done to imprison rather than liberate
      into love as Jesus so revolutionarily hoped.
      Thank you.

    • As always, Colette,You sustain me as I try. It sure is beautiful, how you keep this heart open
      to the arrival of a poem. My thanks are forever.

  7. Just getting back to your poem today to watch you deliver it. A NEW poem! Such a gift. Always best to hear it as you intended. Thank you so much and stay well!

    • I’m so glad you enjoy the poem read. In some ways a poem is
      like sheet music. It seems to strike you that way. I really
      appreciate that. You stay well too!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s