COME TO THE DESERT by Richard Keith Carlton


My son, why are you still wandering
aimlessly along the pathways of men—
searching for things of the soul among
empty souls, in places far from comfort?

Come to the desert. It is there I have
called you, have prepared you to inhabit.
In the dark nights of hunger and want,
you called to me in desperate hours to
save you, free you from chains of worldliness.
When no light shone in you, I was your light.

Who was there with you when the chilling
rains poured down torrents of loss and regret?
Where were the sons of men as you languished
in the scorching heat, walking lonely miles
without hope in a place you did not know,
surrounded by people you did not know?

It was then first I whispered to your poor heart,
“Come to the desert.” After the great fall, when
all seemed lost, and life filled with bitter wine,
I spoke to you my son, spoke to you of a desert.
A place not of time and space, but within you.

Where hunger is sated by things sacred, thirst
quenched in the cup of suffering and humility.
Away from needless distractions and enticements—
in the bare desert of mind, heart, spirit and soul.
Do not wait long, for time races against mortality,
against one searching and longing for eternal things.
The hour is late. Leave behind all vain glories,
do not conform to the habits of this jaded world.

But follow your spirit’s desires, satisfy the
anxious longings and groanings of your poor soul,
and listen to the inner whisperings I speak to you.
Be at peace now, my son, before the last setting
of the sun upon your days, and come with me—
Come to the desert.




On one of those blissfully chilling nights
in January, as I stood gazing into a beautiful
blackboard sky, spotted with stars as clear
as sunlight passing through a glass of crystal,
my heart was filled with the realities of life.
As though God Himself had whispered to
my weariness of spirit, and fragility soul,
that life, my life, was a passing shadow.

I thought about my past, and that inner
voice asked me if it were possible for me
to change one thing, one moment, of my past.
No, of course not, no one change any part of
the past, the good or the bad of it. I thought of
the future and the words of Carl Sandburg came
to mind, “ No one has a jump on the future.”
Truth spoke to my heart, to my reason, that

there were less sunsets ahead of me than behind
me, and that, in the winter of my days, that time
would not allow me the luxury of planning great
and wonderful things, which probably would never
come to be. The past was gone, unchangeable, the
future, uncertain. But that I was certain of two things:
the present moment, and what I could do with it,
and that I, one day, like all others, was going to die.

The thought of my passing did not frighten me, but
sobered me, awakened me and roused me as much
as the chilling January wind rushing through me.
“I want to finish well” I said to the good God.
What I had done was done. I could not change one
single thing, “And Lord, I do not know how long
You have given me before my race here is run.”
“But here I am God, I have this beautiful winter night,
beneath a billion stars of light shining from heaven.”

And as though an answer, the inner whisperings deep
inside of me, where God does His work in all of us,
reminded me of the words of St. Paul, the Apostle,
“Do not be conformed to the ways of this world any
longer, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Then I remembered the words of Christ, Himself,
“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,
and all the rest will be given to you as well. Do not worry
for tomorrow, for the day has troubles enough of its own.”

No burning bush that night. No heavenly visions.
Truth spoken to my heart, in the secret place where
the natural meets the supernatural, when the veil between
heaven and earth is pulled back for just a moment, and
our gracious and merciful Father whispers to His child.
Death will come for me, I do not know the hour, but I
know it will come. And it is up to me to decide what
is important to me in the time given to me before death
comes knocking, and how I will spend that time.

I decided that it was true, I must live in this world a time,
but I would not be of this world. I set my heart and mind
on things above, and began to build a treasure for myself
beyond the past, the present, to that eternal kingdom, and
on the things of God. And since that cold January night,
peace has come. Yes, there have been struggles, and I have
stumbled along the narrow way, and will do so again.
But the peace of God, which transcends human understanding,
is not a fleeting peace one feels for a moment, but a peace

that seeps quietly into the depths of a man, into the soul,
down in that quiet place the jaded world cannot enter.
It comes without fanfare at times, silently, as fog creeps
upon a harbor in the first hours of dawn. It remains there,
protecting, guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
That wonderful, merciful peace of God, dwells forever in
us, reminding us, even on chilling January evening, filled
with crystalline lights against a black sky of velvet glory, that
we are mere shadows passing through the night. That we
will stumble at times along our way, but with His help,
no matter our past or future, we can finish well.


© Richard Keith Carlton



Come soon old friend, before winter.
For in that season of purging the
good and gracious God calls me to solitude.
He knows well the toll summer takes
upon my fragile spirit and tender soul—
knows well the conflicts which rage
inside of me thru that scorching season.

Bring with you, the books I left behind,
those sacred tomes which filled my heart
with light and heavenly inspirations.
Leave all else in the dust of yesterday—
faded dreams, and pitiful poetry of pathos.
I fear old affections to worldly possessions
may turn me back from the way I have chosen.

Let us share laughter and tears equally,
for life gives both without discrimination
or concern to the welfare of heart and spirit.
I have, my comrade of light and gentle heart,
chosen the better part, and I trust our Lord
will not let it be taken from me. And if possible,
come before winter, before I surrender all to
the peace found in that sacred season of solitude.

© Richard Keith Carlton

SEASONS CROSSING by Richard Keith Carlton


The changing of the seasonal guard—
Summer clings to the senses, refusing
to acquiesce to the change, to Autumn.
Mind, body and soul stand in the middle,
restless, longing for the change and
struggling to free themselves from
the grasp of what was, and will never
be, must not ever, be again.

Old ways must take their leave—
new ways must conquer at all costs.
Winter stands ready at fair distance,
indifferent to the tug and pull, the
conflicts of yesterday and tomorrow.

It comes when it wills to come with
no concern for Summer or Autumn—
cares not what season may prevail
in the struggle between life and death.
Winter waits for now, for a time,
armed with the weapons of purging,
ready to lay bare all that was, and is.


© Richard Keith Carlton

The Hermitage

hermitage wordpress

Not in speaking nor in many words written,
but in silence, the soul of a man finds peace.
For God’s holy whispers cannot be heard amid
worldly noises of distraction that never cease.

A pupil cannot hear the Master while
while fluttering and twittering like a bird.
So it is well the student learn to be still,
for the soul to receive its Master’s word.

Be still then, amid a thousand clanging bells—
useless tasks and demands of this earth.
In silence and in solitude, away from the mob,
will the soul of a man find true worth.

Turn out glaring lights of worldly intrusion,
close shutters of the heart against the garish day.
Take shelter in the hallowed cell of prayer,
and let the blessing of silence be your way.

© Richard Keith Carlton

This World Is Not My Home

mountain man wordpress

I was thinking of the words of an old
hymn, “This world is not my home,
I’m just a passin’ through.” And I realized
these words expressed exactly what I feel—
have felt for a good long time now.

Here in what may be called the autumn of
my years, I realize there are many more sunsets
behind me than lie ahead of me. That time is
no longer on my side, and passes as quickly
by me, as a jet plane across a clear blue sky.

For some time now I have been more concerned
with building treasures for the life beyond, than
worrying about the little treasures I now possess,
or those I have lost or discarded along my way.
Too old now to plan great and wonderful things.

Save for those loved ones dearest to me, whom I
pray for with all my heart, every day and every night,
there is little in this world that holds my interest.
My days are spent, in the words of Paul the Apostle,
“working out my salvation with fear and trembling.”

Peace is found in the silence of heart, spirt and soul,
where I meet the Almighty in my many prayers—
in the sanctuary each morning where I receive the
Bread of Life, my needed nourishment on the journey.
In the sacred hours of solitude, closing out the world.

Listening for those inner whisperings from beyond this,
where Love beckons my weary heart and tired soul to
prepare in this life for the holy mysteries of the next.
Where I ask God to heal the pain, and empty me of
all anger, regret, and disappointment of days long gone.

To love all, forgive all, to remember not the former things,
and leave the past in the heap of ashes it truly is, to live in
the now, the hour, with a new heart, a heart cleansed of all
the dirt and dust accumulated in my long history.
And to trust Him, only Him, above all other creatures.

To live each day in gratitude for what I have, and what I
have survived, and to remember it could have been otherwise.
To live as though it may be the last day, and cast all worries,
fears, and useless anticipations upon the winds of nevermore.
And to remember, “This world is not my home,
I’m just a passin’ through.”


© Richard Keith Carlton