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When Dwayne Cole's daughter and son-in-law finished medical residency, they accepted job offers in Alaska.  With two small children they needed help with childcare as they started their busy medical careers. Since Dwayne and his wife Beth were retired, they joyfully volunteered. What could be better than being with your small grandchildren and getting to do that in the beauty of Alaska. With this move came the dawn of adventurous love—Alpenglow clouds and mountains shining with radiance and glacial melt rivers filled with wild salmon. All this beauty said, “Take our picture, and write nature poems of wonder.”

The light in Alaska is so beautiful,
so very beautiful!
As the sun rises licking the ice crystals,
turning them purple, mauve, and golden,
I begin to muse—
What is time?
Can you crawl into it?
Jacob’s dream ladder
would be nice!
In these awe-inspiring moments—
Time does stand still.
The world becomes so beautiful
our soul cracks open.
Letting the glory in!

Alfred North Whitehead advised his followers to learn what they can about authors before reading their work. Let me share my story.

I was born on April 20, 1940, as the 8th of 13 children. I was nurtured in the womb of biblical faith—taken to church from the first week of my life. I felt called into the pastoral ministry at an early age, and was ordained to serve as pastor in February, 1963— 59 years ago. In preparation for ministry, I received the B. A degree in religion, Master of Divinity degree, Master of Theology degree, and Ph. D. degree in New Testament studies with a major in Greek.

My ministry was born from my masters thesis, Hermeneutical Theory In Transition As Reflected In Interpretation: A Journal Of Bible And Theology (1947-1966); and my doctoral dissertation, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper In the Gospel of John: A Hermeneutical Inquiry. This parentage is especially true of my books, A Relational Hermeneutic of Kindness. On the deepest level, all of my 50 year preaching ministry, published articles, Sunday School lessons, devotions, and poetry were born from this parentage and nurtured in a relational hermeneutic of God’s kindness.

My poetry books for the last decade have especially sought to unite science and the humanities in one clear voice that brings healing and transformation. Relational theology sees God in the world and for the world, in us and for us. In this relational kindness people of all sexualities, gender identities and expressions are equally loved by God and are an integral part of God's diverse family. God calls all persons, and all who respond become co-workers with God’s novel aims and purposes.

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babymoose
bears

I did post-graduate study in world religions, focusing on Hinduism and Buddhism. For the past 45 years I have been an avid reader of science, Jungian psychology, process philosophy, and process theology. I met John Cobb when I was in seminary. He came as a guest lecturer and sparked my interest in process philosophy. Then in my first full-time pastorate, I met Lewis S. Ford while I was teaching as an adjunct professor at Old Dominion University in Virginia. I collaborated with him when he was writing his groundbreaking process book: The Lure of God (1978). Through his friendship my knowledge of process flowered. I spent 50 years as a pastor and also taught seminary-approved classes to new ministers. I wrote and published Sunday school lessons and devotional material. I have now published 27 books on the Bible and poetry.

I share this journey with the sincere prayer that what I have written will serve as a stimulus for creative dialogue and the transformation of our lives and society, moving us all toward, beauty, truth, goodness, kindness, art, and a zest for life.

feed the birds
hungrybird

It is also important to evaluate one’s writings from the perspective of the time in which they were written. The books listed below, were published during the last decade, and the final editing of many of them were done in a time of “Breaking News” about the COVID 19, pandemic that has changed our world. The last few years have also seen the advancement of genetic studies, the Genome Project, and a new understanding of race and gender. My books pick up on this code breaking science. The Bible: A Poetic Journey, especially gives a challenge for “Going Forward” with this genetic code breaking science providing our road map.

My Alaska adventure in the last decade is captured in photos and poems that seek to inspire beauty and wonder. These poetry books reveal this relational social understanding of life.

Down On the Farm in Georgia: a Poetic Memoir a spiritual autobiography that nurtures kindness as it sings our faith, our being—the language of our soul.

Poems Inspired by Process Philosophy and Poet of the Universe: A Vision of Beauty and Goodness lay the groundwork and open a new path filled with adventure and happiness for all my Alaska process praxis. On this daily path I discover new ways of seeing and feeling beauty, goodness, and tenderness—the goal of process and poetry.

Kindness Is Every Step: Photos and Poems anchors the kindness in us with the all-embracing kindness that is in God.

Trees and Driftwood: Poetic Ecology reveals that our lives are often bleached of meaning. The poems move us to a new adventurous aliveness, a new union of feeling among all things.

Lone Leaf Dancing continues our journey through the seasons where trees and leaves are our companions giving us life, the very air we breathe. Trees open our lives to everwidening circles of faith that includes all other entities. Golden falling leaves teach us how to let go and open our lives to new ever-widening horizons.

Alpenglow Miracles: Fire Dance of Wonder and Clouds of Inspiration bring immense loveliness shining through nature and bring mornings full of joy and evenings glorious and wild. Each cloud as a miracle of love, a fire dance of wonder, with infinite changeability and untouchable height, inspires mythological and folkloric qualities that are life changing. They lead us to a deeper love of all people in all societies.

Heart Haiku: Alaska Inspired Photos and Poems will take us on a journey from Alaska’s high snowy peaks of Denali to Homer’s shining sea shores. Climbing the high peaks reveal where earth ends and heaven begins, opening eyes to everwidening circles of enlivenment. Heart Haiku is about zest filled adventure. It will also be available by the end of August, 2022.

The Bible: A Poetic Journey represents my 82 year relationship with the Bible, God, the world, and the church. This book will be available by the end of August, 2022.

If it seems conceited to suggest that these books reveal God, the Bible, and the world with new eyes, please forgive me. My study of the Bible has revealed that each writer and each book in the Bible sought to accomplish this calling. The very titles, the Old Testament and New Testament, suggest this journey of ever new insights and revelations. Jesus often said, “You have heard it said by men of old, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth; but I say unto you: Love your enemies.” Jesus placed a child in his lap and said, “If you want to enter this new time of God, you must become as a little child.” In the spirit of a child, I sought to express, in The Bible: A Poetic Journey, each book of the Bible in a few short poems that will sing for you the Bible as you have never heard it. While writing these books, I often woke from dreams, holding my breath, in silence seeing poetic truths unfold.

I use Alaska nature photographs I have taken as inspiration for my poetry. Poetry inspired by art has been described as ekphrastic— meaning, to draw descriptive images out of the art. The poem and the photograph share the same space and often complement each other. but not to explain one another. In some instances the poem and the photograph have little to do with one another. Each can stand alone. Otherwise it would mean that one has been added because the other is not complete or adequate to stand alone.

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moose

Poetry allows me to speak of God at a time when the name is so abused and filled with judgment and hatred. I can use nature images for God without the religious elephant in the room. Poetry can juxtapose paradoxical images without the need to resolve them, often raising more questions than giving answers. Poetry elicits joy in the super-natural by making the unseen visible.

Poetry renders eternity as present in the here and now. At the heart of these nature poems is a deep feeling of beauty. The wish to live and experience this beauty and wonder is visible in all living entities. In sharing this beauty, we experience enlivenment—The deep meaning of life. Nature throbs with the desire to live. Poetry captures this beauty and sense of adventurous enlightenment and zest, luring us toward more meaningful lives. In this ultimate sense, poetry and process philosophy have the same purpose. Whitehead captured this relational concept when he said, “God is the poet of the World, with tender patience leading by a vision of truth, beauty, and goodness.”

Contemplating in nature allows me to slow down and see the secrets in the natural world. I reconnect with nature as I first experienced it growing up on a farm. In this re-wilding, I gain a fresh love for the natural world that lies deep in the psyche. Being still in nature makes the invisible visible, and we gain wisdom as birds and wildlife reveal secrets of the natural world. I call this deep nature language that sings for us beauty and wonder. Thus, to walk in the beauty and wonder of Alaska is to feel value as a self-actualizing entity in the temporal social world. Kant called this a feeling of moral order derived from the immanence of God. Whitehead called this the creative purpose of God— “the attainment of value.” (See Religion in the Making, pp. 87-92). According to Whitehead, every entity requires the social order of the all inclusive universe to exist. I feel value and a oneness with the universe when I walk in nature, especially in Alaska—“The Last Frontier.” As I walk, I sense a zest for depth of reality experienced in the beauty around me; and I gain peace, the harmony of harmonies. I seek to pass on this peaceable joy in my photos and poems of kindness. The kindness that is partial in my poetry, is all-embracing in God, the Poet of the world.

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eagle
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sunset
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snowbranches
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dwayne

  • Dwayne Cole is a retired pastor of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. He earned his degrees, including a Ph.D. in New Testament with a major in Greek, from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. Cole lives with his wife, Beth, in Alaska. He is spending his retirement writing poetry, photographing the wildlife of Alaska and being a grandpa.