Friday, March 16, 2018

Poetry and Praise take three

The above anthem...and the poem below seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly.  They fit together and sing to my soul.  I pray the two blend together singing out to you with more than a trace of God's grace.

Everything Is Waiting for You ~ By David Whyte

 Your great mistake is to act the drama
 as if you were alone. As if life
 were a progressive and cunning crime
 with no witness to the tiny hidden
 transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
 the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
 even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
 the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
 out your solo voice. You must note
 the way the soap dish enables you,
 or the window latch grants you freedom.
 Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
 The stairs are your mentor of things
 to come, the doors have always been there
 to frighten you and invite you,
 and the tiny speaker in the phone
 is your dream-ladder to divinity.
Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the
 conversation. The kettle is singing
 even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
 have left their arrogant aloofness and
 seen the good in you at last. All the birds
 and creatures of the world are unutterably
 themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

May the everything of God be seen/felt/heard/tasted/touched in your life this day.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Poetry and praise take two

Sometimes the church can overuse the word, "Grace" ~ the unconditional and unceasing presence of God.  Or we can drop the word grace in the midst of a bunch of oughts and shoulds and coulds - which is a contradiction.  Or we turn grace into a carrot that if we are just good enough or volunteer enough or believe enough we might finally be able to earn...again the exact opposite of what grace is and does and prays for our life.  Grace is.

Grace moves with a wild abandon...
Grace interrupts and disrupts in the most delightful ways...
Grace dances
Grace laughs
Grace beckons us to see that joy is the fuel that feeds our life.

Yes...there is too much violence and we are too much in the world (especially when the world is at our fingertips twenty-four hours a day).  Yes...grace can be elusive and we can miss the traces in our life.  Yes, it certainly doesn't always come in the ways we wish or want. 

But grace will keep inviting us to travel another road.  The road as described in this poem by Mary Oliver.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Amen...and Amen.

Grace and peace ~~

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Poetry and praise take one

Where is the ache today?

Where is the restlessness that makes placidness practically impossible?

Where does it hurt?

Often times our frustrations sit on the back burners of our life simmering and steaming.  The unresolved feuds with family members.  What our co-worker said to us.  The pains that we collect throughout our life.  Eventually, these can boil over, coming out in ways we immediately and instantly regret.  As Richard Rohr says, "Pain that is not processed is passed along."

But how?

How do we process pain?  Because sometimes we think a wound has started to heal, only to be bumped by some other experience/encounter/event...and we can feel like we are right back to square one.  Sometimes, we think we have taken care of that pot simmering on the back burner, only to have it boil over unexpectedly.

For me, music helps soothe my soul.
For me, poetry helps too.

When processing pain, I love the following poem.  Not only reading it, but enacting and embodying it.

The Eye of Despair
Sometimes the best you can do is to howl. 
When the wound is so deep 
you know the hurt will never heal, 
when the world is so broken 
a universe of prayer won’t repair it, 
the best you can do is howl.
Throw your head back and 
(I dare you) 
howl like a banshee, like a she wolf, 
like the wild thing buried in your bones, 
and feel rising from deep, 
dark places with the primal power of your breath 
a sliver of hope to hurl with your howl at the eye of despair.

So, you now have permission (not that you needed it) to howl.  Growl.  Yell.  Let it come from the deep within you.  Not words.  Not phrases.  Just primal/carnal sounds.  Let it rise up and escape out into the universe that griefs and growls and howls with you.  And then, listen again, to the hymn above to see if some small way...this prayerful act was a balm for you soul.

With love and blessings ~~

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

How Can I Keep From Singing

This hymn has been stuck on repeat and replay in my heart over the last few days.  The words are poignant and powerful...pointing out that life is not all chocolate rivers and pony rides.  It asks us to notice and name the brokenness, the tumult and the strife, the pain, the stress and the strain. will not let the brokenness have the last word.

That is so difficult to do in our world today.

How can we sing when schools are no longer safe?
How can we sing when loved ones die?
How can we sing when the plumbing needs to be repaired - again...I mean we just had the plumber out last week.  Good Lord!
How can we sing when divisions are so deep and we can't even talk to each other about what matters most?

Maybe the singing doesn't solve the problem.  Maybe the singing is the start of something else.  When we sing we are conspiring - a word that literally means we are breathing together.  When we sing - even different notes - we call that harmony.  Not everyone has to sing the melody.  Not everyone has to offer the same exact note.  As a matter of fact, if we did, it gets kind of boring. 

Robert Lowry who wrote this hymn offers a powerful, prayerful juxtaposition.  We don't just sing because ware happy...we sing in the face of barren, broken moments because our faith is rooted, grounded in God who is not finished with us yet.

I sing not to distract, deny, or diminish the brokenness.   I sing because it is my only prayer in facing the realities in the world.  And when approached that way, how can I keep from singing?

With much love ~~

Friday, March 2, 2018

Poetry Prayer

Yesterday, along with our ministry of music, I offered a session called, "Prayer, poetry, and praise".  In addition, to what I think is a very clever use of alliteration, those three words are also synonyms.  Poetry is often prayer to me.  Poetry, one poet said, is 'The language from which we have no defense.'  Words that challenge and convict us in the best meaning of that.  Here is a poem by Bonnie Thurston that has been sitting as a prayer for me recently:

 Ein Sof*

We scrabble to fill the world with noise:
relentlessly grinding intellect,
perpetually moving tongue,
electronic racket our grandparents couldn’t imagine.

If you are quiet,
strive for inner stillness,
waste few words, many will think you mad.
You will hear within
the vast emptiness which they fear.

In the beginning,
God created,
made everything from darkness and silence.
What surfaces,
emerges in your empty spaces,
might be a full moon on your darkest night.

* Ein Sof is a Kabbalist term meaning ‘no limit’ or ‘infinity’.

I invite you to re-read these words..
pause at the end of each line...
taste the words melting...
see which one lingers with sweetness...
which words taste bitter.

I invite you to pray these words outloud...
where do you emphasize...
where do you whisper lest you hear the too harsh honesty you are saying

I invite you to let these words be praise ~ celebration ~ on this Friday.

Together ~ poetry and prayer and praise ~ might all stew together at once within you.

Grace and peace and love ~~