Fire, water and a swimming deer

Where are you oh Lord but in the heat of the coals?
Where but in that red-orange glow of heat and fire?
Dante’s hell is no flame, no lava, no smoke, no explosion.
Dante’s hell is ice, cold, silent and stuck.

We long for you oh Lord,
like the deer longs for the water brook*
for you created deer which swim,
which stay submerged in the safety of water.
We long for safety,
yet you keep drawing us into the fire.
We want to submerge, yet you coax us to heat,
to anvil, to sparks, to change.

When, oh Lord, will you let us rest in the water brook?
When may we lay safe, silent, underwater?
But you create and push us out of our
safe labels by making deer which
hide, submerged in streams.

Back and forth between the
cool waters of Baptism
and the hot coals of formation
you coax us out into the change.

Just when we feel our cold-steel-selves
set and hard-made by your hands and hammers into a
sword, you then blow onto the coals of our lives
and with the anvil of life and the hammer of love
you make us into a trowel
for the tilling of soil,
for the digging of earth,
for the growing of food.

And then more heat from yet more billows
and we are, yet again, remade, hammered
yet again into
a chalice of steel
filled with your blood, cool and thick and
tasting of iron and grape.

We are like the deer, panting for the water brook,
for you oh Lord.
We are the steel, caught between
hammer and anvil,
being made and remade by the fires of your love
in the furnace of your trinity.

Hammer me Lord.  Make me a vessel for your peace,
Make me strong in fire.
And then, when I am orange and soft and re-made,
plunge me into the icy stream of your love where,
when I open my eyes in that flowing stream,
I find myself face to face
with the deer.

We stare at each other.

We will stare into each other’s eyes in that stream,
she frightened,
me strong, formed, re-made;
and we will praise you
for the fire
and the water.

For more about swimming deer referenced in Psalm 42 go to

Psalm 42

1As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.
2My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?
3My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?”
4These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.
5Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help
6and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
7Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your cataracts; all your waves and your billows have gone over me.
8By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.
9I say to God, my rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I walk about mournfully because the enemy oppresses me?”
10As with a deadly wound in my body, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me continually, “Where is your God?”
11Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.

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