Poetry

Wonder At What Tender Flesh Receives

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Amazement should mark our every inhalation – amazement that we live,  that love and thought and breath find home in our flesh!  Amazement too that there is a distinct “I” who is the self who is invited to amazement – an “I” who is simultaneously on the journey, and who is observer, tactician, poet/philosopher, and chronicler of the way traveled.

The God-Creator of all the universe inhabits our very being.  How is it possible that someOne larger than is imaginable is integrally woven into our most intimate being’s fiber?  We should just explode, in our vulnerability!  And yet, it seems, it is vulnerability and weakness and empty openness that most draws God’s artful presence and play which shapes and shatters and sends us.

Fragile flesh is holy, the Incarnation tells us so.  I came across this translation of a piece from St. Irenaus, which prompted my musing.  I hope the poetry hints for you at some of the truth which should send all of us into wonder, and tutor our thinking, and foster wisdom.

The tender flesh itself
   will be found one day
   — quite surprisingly —
   to be capable of receiving,
and, yes,
   capable of embracing
the searing energies of God.
   Go figure. Fear not.
For even at its beginning
   the humble clay received
God’s art, whereby
   one part became the eye,
another the ear, and yet
   another the impetuous hand.
Therefore, the flesh
   is not to be excluded
from the wisdom and the power
   that now and ever animates
all things.  His life-giving
   agency is made perfect,
we are told, in weakness —
   made perfect in the flesh.

– St. Irenaus (c.125 – c.210),
adapted and translated by Scott Cairn in Love’s Immensity: Mystics on the Endless Life

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Categories: General, Poetry | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

The Light Gains Ground! (Ravens, Advent, & Mary Oliver)

TrainingCamp_GotGame_1440x900I’m a crazy happy Baltimore Ravens fan, and LOVE to see those games when the team turns a corner and starts to climb back into the competition. Things start to click, energy builds, anxiety lessens and hope rises. Players celebrate and you can feel the joy across the Ravens nation – on and off the field.

Well, we just turned a corner with Solstice, and light is gaining ground again in this part of the world. Every day hence, the sun will be a bit longer with us and days will extend. Though there will be snow and cold and darkness yet, the momentum has moved and light is beginning to win. Go Sun Nation!

It’s late Advent, and I come across this Mary Oliver poem (below) that celebrates the Sun. No accidents, I think. Post-Solstice is here with gradually lessening darkness and gradually increasing light; and so it seems fitting to share it.

SAMSUNGBesides, the Christ event that we will celebrate two nights hence is a HUGE Solstice moment that says that LIGHT, the SON, HOPE, JOY, PEACE, POSSIBILITY, GRACE saves all of us who stumble around in the dark. And nothing is ever the same since that stabled night that brought a stability beyond what any woman, man or child could have hoped. Since this moment, the whole game is changed. We are a people – a nation – of the Son. Things click, anxiety can lessen, celebration can commence, and all of life morphs into a pattern of death and resurrection begun in a Love that becomes poor and enters darkness that we might become rich and live in light.

So, celebrate with pleasure the warmth of this Son as you read Mary’s poem below. And by all means come empty handed, without distraction, and do the kind of praying that is most fitting for the Christian — stand in the warmth and receive the Love poured out and over and through you. God is a giving, a With, Love.  We are a receiving, an accompanied one, beloved children. It is as we live entirely receiving that we welcome the One who enters our world and each of our lives and hearts fully. Let go of what fills you, and come empty — you too may find joy in such poverty.

We’ve got game! The corner is turned. Welcome Light! Welcome Jesus to our world!

Light that enlightens us all, dwell with us this season. Open us to Your Presence in new and wondrous ways. Help us touch Your humility and poverty, Your vulnerability in flesh and newborn cries and snuggling. Help us hold You – and the truth of Light’s forever gained ground – tightly, yet lightly. Guide us. Transform us. Grant us a Christmas grace of Your choosing. Amen!

IMG022

The Sun

Have you ever seen
anything
in your life
more wonderful

than the way the sun,
every evening,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon

and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone –
and how it slides again

out of the blackness
every morning,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower

streaming upward on it heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance –
and have you ever felt for anything

such wild love –
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure

that fills you,
as the sun
reaches out,
as it warms you

as you stand there,
empty-handed –
or have you too
turned from this world –

or have you too
gone crazy
for power,
for things?

from New and Selected Poems, Volume One, by Mary Oliver, 1992

Categories: Advent, Christmas, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Words and Wonder-ings to Hearten the Creative – Who Is, and Serves, Art

For those who would serve the work of creativity – who must, in order to be true to their life’s (or this moment’s) call – there is a wonder in this serving and seeking.

art-heartsWhether one’s work is with words or mixed media, paint or clay, glass or stone, metal or cloth, threads or tonalities, human movement or drafting, musical instruments or voices, drafting boards or firing ovens, food stuffs or growing things, human interaction/dynamics, the knowledge or wisdom of the ages and ways to educate, or the soul’s own journey – the process of seeing and creating and collaborating is rife with amazement and not-too-few tears.  Carnage is done in shaving off what once seemed precious and necessary to an end product, in seeking what is at heart and truest.  Materials and words and worlds fall at the feet around the tables where we create, as we chase and name the fleeting glimpses we see sideways and fabricate textures with our media that approximate our visions.

If each of us is “God’s work of art” (says Paul’s epistle), I wonder what truth we express in flesh and sinew.

Is it love, most of all?  Are our different textures of temperament and giftedness reflections of the color and variety of goodness?   What were the remnants cut away in our creation, to get at the truth that resulted in each of us?  Our core is important to the Artist, and is a delight to be treasured in this large Creation’s art show.  There we are, displayed next to the Milky Way and the intricacy of a butterfly’s wing.

God’s art in human form is functional too and participates in creating more beauty and spreads the circle ever outward.  We are makers too, splashing life and color with our work and selves like spin art at a carnival which ecstatic children whirl and splatter paint everywhere.  Thus we continue the efforts begun by God and stamped in the hard drive of our hearts, not entirely knowing what we are about, but recognizing when the art we serve approximates in its process or product more closely some element of who we most are, and what is most true about life-love-work-suffering-joy-the human-the divine-the journey.  We often do not know what we set out to name or visually represent, but we know the creating itself is a good and serves.

Our beings and our efforts then are art-in-process.  And we have need of a muse, a companion, an inSpiration to carry us.  Our art-ing often comes forth from the vulnerable and most sensitive centers where we see and feel and breathe and fear and dance and seek, and we need still points and words and ways that tell us that this ‘hunt’ is ‘worthy of all tears’.

And so I share these well hewn words from Carmelite poet Jessica Powers to hearten those involved in this journey which gives joy and also costs the journeyer.   May we know ourselves accompanied, and find our seeking draws us home.

Since the luminous great wings of wonder stirred
over me in the twilight I have known
the Holy Spirit is the Poet’s Bird.

Since in a wilderness I wandered near
a shining stag, this wisdom is my own:
the Holy Spirit is the Hunter’s Deer.

And in the dark in all enchanted lands
I know the Spirit is that Burning Bush
toward which the artist gropes with outstretched hands.

Upon the waters once and then again
I saw the Spirit in a silver rush
rise like the Quarry of the Fisherman.

Yet this I know: no arrows of desire
can wound Him, nor a bright intrepid spear;
He is not seen by any torch of fire,

nor can they find Him who go wandering far;
His habitat is wonderfully near
in each soul’s thicket ‘neath its deepest star.

Let those who seek come home through the vain years
to where the Spirit waits a shining captive.
This is the hunt most worthy of all tears.
Bearing their nets celestial, let them come
and take their Quarry on the fields of rapture
that lie beyond the last gold pendulum.

– Jessica Powers

Categories: Art in Life and Work, Carmelite, Poetry | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Casting Down the Compass of the Wither and the Why: Living With the Spirit, Part II

wpid-2014-08-18-20.11.23.jpg.jpegThe soul that walks where the wind of the Spirit blows
turns like a wandering weather-vane toward love.
It may lament like Job or Jeremiah,
echo the wounded hart, the mateless dove;
it may rejoice in spaciousness of meadow
that emulates the freedom of the sky.
Always it walks in waylessness, unknowing;
it has cast down forever from its hand
the compass of the whither and the why.
 

I promised Jessica Powers’ poem on Living With the Spirit in three parts over a few days.  Alas!  Robin Williams’ death sent my reflections another direction — along with many more.  And there are so MANY MANY things happening throughout the world and in and around Church these days that merit so much conversation, reflection, prayer, work, silence.  Still, my path leads me back here — to the next stanza of Powers’ poem above, and a few thoughts below.  See if any of this invites your integration with what is going on in the world or your life too.

If we walk where the wind blows, we go hither and thither, without a whither or a why.  This seems inefficient, at least!

wpid-20140818_193149.jpgI am presently reading a 2014 title by Sarah Lewis which I recommend – The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery.  I’m not far in, but two early images strike me, and enter into dialogue with this stanza as I muse.

One is the perspective of an archer, committed to her art.  There is built-in to the craft of pulling bows and launching arrows compensations that must be made for curvatures, and deliberately aiming off-target in order to actually find the target, let alone anything near center!  Huh?  How can this be?  The human body bends.  And eyes see from a perspective, and over a curving landscape.  If one wants to be near the mark, one must learn – counter intuitively – to ‘aim’ off the mark.

The second image is that of finding oneself in a place where the curvature of the earth at its horizon is obvious to the eye, and what that does to our ways of perceiving.  In Utah, over the Bonneville salt flats, Lewis notes that mountains look like they are suspended in the sky.  Their base is beyond the horizon, and so they do not ‘reach’ the ground, as the ground that is seen does not have mountain on it!  And if one then starts to walk in a line directly towards these mountains, the sense of curvature occasions the footprints in the flats to reveal that the most direct route between two points – on this earth – seems to be a curved line!  We meander naturally, with no knowledge of having done so!

So we aim “off” to find “true”, and when we walk “true” we end up walking “curved”!

So what can keep us truly true?  What do we depend on?  What can we depend on?

Jessica’s words say it simply:   “the soul…. turns like a weather-vane toward love”.

We do not understand.  We cannot understand, so very much.  Instead, this is the advice.  Celebrate that very incompleteness!  Try to be as responsive as possible to the turns that the Spirit takes and listen to and for Love, who is a Person (or – more accurately – persons), who is our intimate and friend, who is our path and our goal and companion, who also whispers how to be love too – which is our noble call.

We do not control our way.  If we follow the Spirit’s wind-breath, we will lament, be lonely, rejoice, and dance freely.  What we know most and best is that we do not know much at all.  (Ah, well Jessica Powers IS a Carmelite — friend of John of the Cross, and her words echo his of unknowing paths.)  The soul, “always it walks in waylessness, unknowing”.  This is simple fact.

When we grasp to know-Know-KNOW, we aim our arrows at the centers of targets and they fly past.  Our most authentic ‘knowing’ is a commitment not to waste time chasing knowing, but to relax into the mystery named in the last blog on this poem.  Our way-going can perhaps be best described as  a simple intention and a humble listening to wind’s (and Spirit’s) slight breaths.  It requires that we “cast down forever” from our hands “the compass of the whither and the why”.

For most of us, relinquishing our compasses and submitting to willy-nilly wandering seems nonsense.  It’s not responsible!  It’s not proactive!  It’s not adult or the best use of human potential!  It’s lazy!  It’s not self-actualizing!

OR… it is the absolute and only way to the truth that we are and the way we can go.  It is our true self, deepest identity.  And “may your inner self grow strong” (Ephesians) in just this way!

The quote under my senior picture in my high school yearbook read “A bird does not sing because she has the answer, but because she has a song”.  So, we are invited to sing… and with our distinct voice… as we wander.  This will call us, challenge us, draw us to healing, send us over edges, help us be with and lead others.

bagger vanceThis week I re-watched the 2000 film “The Legend of Bagger Vance”, which connects for me here as well.  (Hey – the Spirit uses all kinds of things, yes??)  You’ll remember the film’s setting at a golf tournament, and Bagger  Vance (Will Smith) appears as caddy (as well as a wisdom figure? divine messenger?): he helps a WWI vet (Matt Damon) to face himself, his past, his life and to choose to go forward with all he has.  The game of golf is the field of formation, and Smith’s character continually invites Damon’s to let the field tell him what to do, and to find his authentic swing in response to the field, as it brings forth an investment of who he truly is, and he is to give it all in that moment, in that one swing.  Words to us too?

The only authentic way – I’d dare to say that Powers’ instructs us to in this poem, and a way that echoes her Carmelite saint patrons – is to listen to love by living with the Spirit.  Live each moment, let the Spirit turn your soul, your weather-vane, toward that love – whatever joy or grief or dance it leads you to or through – with no compass, but with all your you.

May we each and all find our true ways of living this – in peace, and for good.

Categories: Carmelite, General, Mystery, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Keep the Vigil of Mystery – It Matters: Pondering with Jessica Powers

“To live with the Spirit of God is to be a listener.
It is to keep the vigil of mystery,
earthless and still.
One leans to catch the stirring of the Spirit,
strange as the wind’s will.”

I am attracted, these days, to this poem by the gifted Carmelite Jessica Powers (1905-1988).   Her way with words I’ve long loved, and I’ll offer you this work in three parts over the next few days, with a few lines of wanderings/wonderings for your reflection and mine.

To live listening, to keep the vigil of mystery – these are wise invitations to the seeker. I wonder – can you and I learn to truly WAIT?  WAIT = Why Am I Talking?  Does my talking serve listening?   The freedom of the other?   The truth of a human experience or challenge?   The beyondness of an encounter with LIFE, GOD, LOVE, A HUMAN PERSON, or SELF?  Are my words echoes that come out of silence,  or noise that protects me from the rawness of experience?

Could it be that we live speaking instead of listening because we feel somehow safer or in more control when we guide the dialogues we have with others, with life’s complexities, with our own confusions or cluelessness?  What would it take to lay down the burden of managing mystery and to instead hold vigil in the darkness?

At times this may indeed feel raw, vulnerable,  intimate – and remind us once again of what we do not understand.  Without a GPS to tell us exactly where we are, a Google or Bing access to explain the unknown, and an app to help us navigate with ease… will we be okay?

At this time of year,  I liken it to the reaction we might have as we step onto an empty beach or look up at night – away from city lights – at vast darkness or uncountable stars.   Does sheer space in those contexts scare us,  make us feel small?   Do we feel inconsequential before multi-billion grains of sands or a night sky-view that hints at a cosmos we cannot begin to see or imagine from where we stand?  And in our more daily moments?   Do large joys or sorrows overwhelm us?  Does not-knowing disturb us, and send us into calculating or strategic plans that remake the real contours of complexities into manageable microbits?

SAMSUNGspitzer-saggitarius-glorius-blue-space-800

Powers’ words invite us to listen to the Spirit – to recognize all moments as opportunities to stand small and naked and clueless before mystery – and to learn trust.  Those moments at the beach or beneath the night sky bring me peace, in the midst of wonder – and likely bring that to many of us.  Our intuitive selves know that these experiences are safe and whole-ing.  They can quiet us, even help us to relax by evening us out, reminding us of the large, of the gift we have in living in it without grasping, and refresh us with joy in our being part – a precious part – of something very VERY large. (Think universe, cosmos, creation, and the Creator bigger-than-this-infinity LARGE!)

This awareness can become a lifestyle – and one more relaxing and whole than endeavoring to protect ourselves from life’s big  questions or managing mystery.  We can find joy in being little, known, poor, unknowing.  But this indeed is not an easy journey for we who express our discomfort with this reality, our alienation from this truest identity, in manifold ways.  We circle.  We project.  We protect.  We narrate.  We analyze.  We fear pain.  We have known hurt.  But being bigger than we are and trying to microwave meaning and skip over transcendence with reality-for-dummies strategies simply does not work.  We can be taught, and allow ourselves to be drawn out and allured into deserts and spaces where we can learn trust and heal from our own first person singular ways of doing frenzy.  We can allow ourselves to rage or weep, laugh or dance, and ask for whatever we need for the next steps into living mystery and listening to life and living with the Spirit.  And we can support each other on this journey as true community and pilgrims in process.

With time, and Grace’s enduring work in and with us, we may find that Living Loved and finding our refuge and home and mission from there may prove to be our truest experience of Mystery, as we – and all – are wrapped within the Trinity’s love.  And our vigils with these truths will guide us to reengage in living with integrity,  and provide us a way to reboot when we stray back to lesser living and efforts to manipulate or be our own source, wisdom, control.  They may also help us as individuals, and as a human race, to make better decisions towards peace and stewardship and solidarity and creativity.  And is that not a need for our very survival at this point?

So,  let’s listen to the Spirit today some… do our part to be faithful to the journey.  It matters if we do.  It matters that we do.

“By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, 
in quiet and in trust your strength lies.”

(Isaiah 30:15)

Categories: General, Mystery, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Joseph of Nazareth – Friend, Witness, Patron – Be With Us, Tend Our Journeys Too

Happy Feast of St. Joseph, one of my patrons! In Mary’s vulnerability, he encircled her. His sheltering created a boundary where Mary’s availability to God and the life within her could flourish. Mary is theotokos, God-bearer; but it is Joseph who surrounded his beloved with strength and tenderness, bearing the one who bore the one larger than the universe itself.*

Joseph, your faithfulness to God held you firmholy-family
as you guided and protected Mary
and the child within her womb,
as you assisted at a stable birth,
as you greeted star followers and sheep tenders.

You held an infant son to your chest
and, with his mother, taught him –
as he toddled and explored
the human confines of home and hearth –
to speak and to pray.

You shaped wood, family, and Jesus –holy-family-statue
with love and attention.

You bore the one who bore God,
sheltering and encompassing her
from the beginning,
treasuring her as she treasured in her heart –
and you in yours –
what crazy wondrous things
your God (and ours)
was amazingly moving forward
through your growing son.

SAMSUNGTeach us your trust
your daily fidelity,
your openness to witness wonder
in the everyday.
And be companion-friend to us, to all.

Provide your circling tending presence,
place your hand upon our shoulders,
as we make our vulnerable way along too,
seeking to be available to God
and give Christ birth today,
at Spirit’s prompting.

Put in a word for us
to the boy and man you shaped,
and teach us your love for him
and your willingness to have him be all he is,
whether or not you or we understand.

We greet you and thank you on our way!
And we thank God for you!
St. Joseph, pray for us.


*This description of Mary owed to another friend, Clare of Assisi, in one of her letters to Agnes of Prague.

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The Uses of Sorrow, Darkness, Temptation: Mary Oliver and Lent D5*

The Uses of Sorrow

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

               (Mary Oliver, from Thirst, Beacon Press, Boston, 2006)

boxofdark

On a Sunday when the Gospel sends us to find Jesus in the desert, Oliver’s poem seems apt.  Coming across it reminded me of the line from Isaiah that reads “I will give you treasures out of the darkness”.  It takes years indeed, it seems to me, to discover the gifts in darkness, sorrow, temptation.

I like very much the view of a few who have reflected that part of the experience of Jesus’ temptation in the desert was discovering what being God’s Beloved (as he was named at the Baptism) was not.  It was not to always be fed and full.  It was not to have power and control.  It was not to be rescued.  For us as well.  We are Beloved – but we are sometimes/often empty and yearning.  We are Beloved – but our experience and fact is often of being poor in power to control events or people or even ourselves.  We are Beloved – but that does not mean we are rescued from every harm.  But we are God’s Beloved Ones, right along with Jesus, and these things do not make that Belovedness somehow less.

Who are we to measure love so meagerly, or not to unwrap the gifts we are given in deserts and darkness?

It’s in the desert that we are “allured” by God (Hosea 2) and where distractions are less and we might hear and respond.

It is in the darkness that we may discover where light (Light) comes from; where we may find ourselves too in solidarity with other dark-traveling journeyers, and offer and receive the support of pilgrim companions. There we are not over others, or under them – but we find ourselves side by side in need of way-walkers we link arms with and hope as we go step by step.  We may find, surprisingly, new strength from walking this way, and learn to differently see and value and love and relate.

It is in the temptations perhaps that we learn the art of listening for the homing signals that say ‘this is off target, this is on’, ‘beware’, ‘this is plastic, this is gold’.  It may be there we discover (again from Isaiah) that the Teacher is behind us saying “This is the way, walk in it, when you would go to the left and to the right”: and we know he’s right because we know what was the wrong way.

A friend today posted a line she heard at Mass on temptation:  “Our temptation is often that of forgetfulness… forgetfulness of how much God loves each of us. When we try to remember that amazing truth, we will be home again in the arms of Christ.”   I love it.  My only edit is with the last line: “we will know again that we are home in the arms of Christ”.  We’re already there, but as noted, we forget.  Our darkness, deserts and temptations make it hard to see.

But let’s practice what we believe – literally.  Practice by focusing on what we know to be true – such love – whether or not we have sand in all the wrong places, we can’t see well, or we’re off kilter with confusing messages or off-center longings or attachments.  If we just live and love from here, knowing we are in the arms of God in Christ…  whatever our circumstances…  we will find ourselves “coming out of the desert, leaning on [her] lover” (Song of Songs).  We will learn the uses of sorrow, darkness, desert, temptation – and perhaps be more clear on who and whose we are in our everyday.

Blessings on you as you receive whatever gift this day and Lenten season brings.

                                                                                                                             * Lent D5 – Day 5

 

Categories: Lent, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

One King’s Epiphany: Final Arithmetic and Losing the Stars (Madeleine L’Engle)

Madeleine L’Engle does it again!  Read this Epiphany poem once, twice, three times:

One king’s epiphany

I shall miss the stars.

Not that I shall stop looking
as they pattern their wild will each night
across an inchoate sky, but I must see them with a different awe.
If I trace their flames’ ascending and descending –
relationships and correspondences –
then I deny what they have just revealed.
The sum of their oppositions, juxtapositions, led me to the end of all sums:
a long journey, cold, dark and uncertain,
toward the ultimate equation.
How can I understand? If I turn back from this,
compelled to seek all answers in the stars,
then this – Who – they have led me to
is not the One they said: they will have lied.

No stars are liars!
My life on their truth!
If they had lied about this
I could never trust their power again.

But I believe they showed the truth,
truth breathing,
truth Whom I have touched with my own hands,
worshipped with my gifts.
If I have bowed, made
obeisance to this final arithmetic,
I cannot ask the future from the stars without betraying
the One whom they have led me to.

It will be hard not ask, just once again,
see by mathematical forecast where he will grow,
where go, what kingdom conquer, what crown wear.
But would it not be going beyond truth
(the obscene reduction ad absurdum)
to lose my faith in truth once, and once for all
revealed in the full dayspring of the sun?

I cannot go back to night.
O Truth, O small and unexpected thing,
You have taken so much from me.
How can I bear wisdom’s pain?
But I have been shown: and I have seen.

Yes. I shall miss the stars.

     –  Madeleine L’Engle

The poem describes a mourning and a gaining, a seeing and a no-longer-looking, a finding and a losing, a Truth touched that changes one’s relationship to what has been most valued.  Following the ultimate equation leads to the One beyond the arithmetic.  The end erases the path.

I grieve with this king.  I’ve known times when what is found is wondrous, but what it means in loss intimidates. Have you?  What happens when we apply this to the simplest arithmetic of our relating to God – prayer?

I very much like the writings of Ruth Burrows, Carmelite.  Early in her Essence of Prayer she speaks of being attached to the strategies and methodologies of prayer being a bit of a trap.  I utterly agree.  We can become so focused on the how that we forget the Who.  The purpose is encounter with Love, not a completion of our favored strategies and some success to mark in our do-it-yourself I-am-not-a-prayer-for-dummies gradebook or prayer journal.  We become very attached to hows: they help us feel more in control in this relationship that is all unknowing — and some insoluble combination of mist, bright light and darkness when we try to put it in words.

Ah, but why would such little ones as we expect to word the Word in ultimate fashion?  We share sketches and glimpses, which is why this blog has been full of poetry during these days since Christmas.

When we meet the Word, the Truth – like the one king of L’Engle’s epiphany – we have come to the end of our arithmetic.  If we have been mathematician only, and lover only of the vehicle that brings us to what we seek, our loss is greater.  For me, when we meet the Word, all these images I love to play with fail.  All comes to silence, to no more equations.  We have seen.  And so, perhaps the best prayer for this one king, and for us, is the way to come to silence with Psalm 46:

Be still and know that I am God

Be still and know that I am

Be still and know

Be still

Be

SAMSUNGOh, one king, we pray with you.  We miss our stars too, but meet you in the region where the One we know as Truth reigns well.  The stars never lied, no fear.  Help us to release ours as you have yours… the better to encounter, unencumbered by our strategies and lesser loves, the Word who Loves and is ever With us, Emmanuel.  

Categories: Christmas, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Stars Everywhere: Epiphany with Jessica Powers

On this day in a week begun with celebrating stars that guide through the darkness, I am intrigued by the relationship between light and dark and sight.  And so I google! Doesn’t everyone?  And I found what’s below on http://www.physicsclassroom.com

“The bottom line is: without light, there would be no sight. The visual ability of humans and other animals is the result of the complex interaction of light, eyes and brain. We are able to see because light from an object can move through space and reach our eyes. Once light reaches our eyes, signals are sent to our brain, and our brain deciphers the information in order to detect the appearance, location and movement of the objects we are sighting at. The whole process, as complex as it is, would not be possible if it were not for the presence of light. Without light, there would be no sight.”

We humans need light to guide us.  We need light in order to cue our eyes and brain to see.  It is light which makes perception possible.

Perhaps this is obvious?  I do not think so.  We focus, of course, on what we bring in bodily equipment and our choice to open our eyes!  But light precedes us.  It even invites our bodies and our hearts to open.  And is that not an apt thought as we wander round Epiphany?

The Light, the Word, the One precedes us always.  Without this Light, there is no chance to see, no resulting experiments and play our brain can make, no creating of our own with shades and color.

It is the Star that speaks to the magi.  It precedes them, and leads them to an unlikely end – a manger, a family, a vulnerability that would not have been the human dream to match their hopes.

SAMSUNGIn Too Much Light

The Magi had one only star to follow,
a single sanctuary lamp hung low,
gold ornament in the astonished air.
I am confounded in this latter day;
I find stars everywhere.

Rumor locates the presence of a night
out past the loss of perishable sun
where, round midnight, I shall come to see
that all the stars are one.

I long for this night of the onement of the stars
when days of scattered shining are my lot
and my confusion. Yet faith even here
burns her throat dry, cries: on this very spot
of mornings, see, there is not any place
where the sought Word is not.
Under and over, in and out this morn
flawlessly, purely, wakes the newly born.
Behold, all places which have light in them
truly are Bethlehem.

                                                                                                                Jessica Powers, 1964

There is SO MUCH light – an excess, and stars everywhere to guide us.  There is “not any place where the sought Word is not”.  

In Psalm 119:105 we read that the Word is a lamp for our feet, a light for our path.  May we rejoice in the excess of this person who is Love, expressed in Light, that helps us see where we stand and guides us forward.  If we manage to wake now and then to what is all around us, we will be dazzled by the amount of light with us, within us, within each other.  Just remember that waking to it does not necessarily mean that you or I feel it, anymore than I feel the molecules of the air.  See what the light creates in you, in others… what growth, what we see because of it, what life emerges.  The very looking for the Light is Light’s own gift.  Trust the process.  There are stars everywhere for us to find.

Blessed Light!  May we let its truth reach into every corner of our hearts, our relationships, our world.

SAMSUNG

Categories: Christmas, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas, Praying and Snow: Mary Oliver

This week and more has been filled with poetry and verse to point to the Incarnation wonder.  Wordsmith witnesses who wander their own ways upon the earth record what they see — and we are grateful.  They walk with open eyes and listen, pray and chronicle – and we are blessed.  Today’s good verses come to us from contemporary American poet, Mary Oliver.  There are three.

The first follows a legend and takes us to a stable.  At its end we are left perhaps in the safest place to be — you’ll see. Spend some time there.

Christmas Poem

Says a country legend told every year:
25A_00002-2Go to the barn on Christmas Eve and see
what the creatures do as that long night tips over.
Down on their knees they will go, the fire
of an old memory whistling through their minds!

[So] I went. Wrapped to my eyes against the cold
I creaked back the barn door and peered in.
From town the church bells spilled their midnight music,
and the beasts listened –
yet they lay in their stalls like stone.

Oh the heretics!
Not to remember Bethlehem,
or the star as bright as a sun,
or the child born on a bed of straw!
To know only of the dissolving Now!

Still they drowsed on –
citizens of the pure, the physical world,
they loomed in the dark: powerful
of body, peaceful of mind,
SAMSUNGinnocent of history.

Brothers! I whispered. It is Christmas!
And you are no heretics, but a miracle,
immaculate still as when you thundered forth
on the morning of creation!
As for Bethlehem, that blazing star

still sailed the dark, but only looked for me.
Caught in its light, listening again to its story,
I curled against some sleepy beast, who nuzzled
my hair as though I were a child, and warmed me
the best it could all night.

 

The second wakes us just to see again what’s at our feet. It bids us know that prayer is simple too, atTENDing only.  As 2014  begins, let’s make a practice of it in our moments. Let’s not make of prayer a strategy, an achievement, a technique — but just the simplest doorway to a place, a Presence who opens us.

 

Praying

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

From: Thirst: Poems

And a third remarks on snowy days and nights, a gift to those embraced by white these January days. Enjoy the beauty, the wallking, the red hat, and shut the door.  What gates do you look to, hoping openings?

 

November

The snowSAMSUNG
began slowly,
a soft and easy
sprinkling

of flakes, then clouds of flakes
in the baskets of the wind
and the branches
of the trees –

oh, so pretty.
We walked
through the growing stillness,
as the flakes

prickled the path,
then covered it,
then deepened
as in curds and drifts,

as the wind grew stronger,
shaping its work
less delicately,
taking greater steps

over the hillsSAMSUNG
and through the trees
until, finally,
we were cold,

and far from home.
We turned
and followed our long shadows back
to the house,

stamped our feet,
went inside, and shut the door.
Through the window
we could see

how far away it was to the gates of April.
Let the fire now
put on its red hat
and sing to us.

From: Why I Wake Early 

 

What do these verses wake in you?  

What is their invitation to your heart and life?  

Be present, then, to this your moment.  And see.  And see.

Categories: Christmas, Poetry, Seasons | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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