Thursday, December 29, 2005

pastorpoetfriend

i knew when i saw the title of this book i had to read it. i even recommended it to a dear friend, sight unseen (or page unread as the case may be). it has proven immeasurably more than i could ask or imagine. he has tough competition, being that i've been reading exceptional works of late.

i misjudged peterson and would the man were standing before me i would tell him myself. and humbly ask his forgiveness. i was utterly wrong. ignorant. stupefied by his successes and the production of a work so accessible to everyman that i could not see beyond it. a friend helped me to realize, just because i delight in king james english does not mean everyone else does. it is, in fact, a matter of preference. and i shall shut my mouth about it. i'll try not to cringe when i hear it. and i'll try to be gracious with those who adore it. i am, after all, a work in progress. "open during renovation" as it were. don't mind the scaffolding see, it is supposed to be there, holding up sagging beams and trusses. what a wreck i am, but then aren't we all.

my intent is to share a poem i just wrote. this moment. or that one actually. but let me share a passage from the peterson book i am reading. and a letter, or commission--as far as commissions go, this one is not so great, but it will suffice--i wrote this morning to the fine circle of poets who honor me with their presence. i humbly offer this commission to all artisans, whatever their field or medium.

hi there.
by way of introduction. in denver a story was read about a pastor. it occurred to me then, and i still believe it now (i'm coming to believe it more), that we are all pastors. we artists convey the truth of God to the people. while we may not hold the position or title pastor, that is merely window dressing. our actual function, as artists, is to convey the Lord to the world. prophetic in nature, sure. we are ministers all, of life. of fire. but the pastoral calling is something we abdicate to the titled professionals to our peril. a high calling indeed. higher than, perhaps, we realize. may it be our word for this coming year. that whatever task you find yourself fulfilling. oiling boots, tending patients or students, sweeping floors, that you might have the unction of God upon the work of your hands and the force of creation behind every word that forms in your spirit and comes forth onto the page. so be it, Lord.

here's the passage:

an excerpt from a book i'm reading: eugene peterson's "the contemplative pastor"

Apocalyptic Poet

"The apocalyptic pastor is a poet. St. John was the first major poet of the Christian church. He used words in new ways, making (poetes in Greek is maker) truth right before our eyes, fresh in our ears. The way a pastor uses the language is a critical element in the work. The Christian gospel is rooted in language: God spoke a creation into being; our Saviour was the Word made flesh. The poet is the person who uses words not primarily to convey information but to make a relationship, shape beauty, form truth. This is St. John's work; it is every pastor's work.

I do not mean that all pastors write poems or speak in rhyme, but that they treat words with reverence, stand in awe before not only the Word, but words, and realize that language itself partakes of the sacred.

If St. John's Revelation is not read as a poem, it is virtually incomprehensible, which, in fact, is why it is so often uncomprehended. St. John, playful with images and exuberant in metaphor, works his words into vast, rhythmic repetitions. The gospel has already been adequately proclaimed to these people to whom he is pastor; they have become Christians through preaching and teaching that originated with Peter and Paul, and was then passed on by canonical Gospel writers along with unnumbered deacons, elders, and martyrs. But there is more to St. John's work than making a cognitive connection with the sources. As pastor he re-speaks, re-visions the gospel so that his congregations experience the word, not mere words. To do that he must be a poet.

The pastor's task is to shape the praying imagination before the gospel. This revelation of God to us in Jesus is a fact so large and full of energy, and our capacities to believe and love and hope are so atrophied, that we need help to hear the words in their power, see the images in their energy.

Isn't it odd that pastors, who are responsible for interpreting the Scriptures, so much of which come in the form of poetry, have so little interest in poetry? It is a crippling defect and must be remedied. The Christian communities as a whole must rediscover poetry, and the pastors must lead them. Poetry is essential to pastoral vocation because poetry is original speech. The word is creative: it brings into being what was not there before--perception, relationship, belief. Out of the silent abyss a sound is formed: people hear what was not heard before and are changed by the sound from loneliness into love. Out of the blank abyss a picture is formed by means of metaphor: people see what they did not see before and are changed by the image from anonymity into love. Words create. God's word creates; our words can participate in the creation.

But poetry is not the kind of language that pastors are asked to use, except in quotation at funerals. Most pastoral work erodes poetry. The reason is obvious: people are not comfortable with the uncertainties and risks and travail of creativity. It takes too much time. There is too much obscurity. People are more comfortable with prose. They prefer explanations of Bible history and information on God. This is appealing to the pastor for we have a lot of information to hand out and are adept at explanations. After a few years of speaking in prose, we become prosaic.

Then a dose of apocalyptic stops us in mid-sentence: the power of the word to create faith, the force of imagination to resist the rationalism of evil, the necessity of shaping a people who speak and listen personally in worship and witness. The urgencies of apocalyptic shake us down to the roots of language, and we become poets: pay attention to core language, to personal language, to scriptural language.

Not all words create. Some merely communicate. They explain, report, describe, manage, inform, regulate. We live in an age obsessed with communication. Communication is good but a minor good. Knowing about things never has seemed to improve our lives a great deal. The pastoral task with words is not communication but communion—the healing and restoration and creation of love relationships between God and his fighting children and our fought-over creation. Poetry uses words in and for communion.

This is hard work and requires alertness. The language of our time is in terrible condition. It is used carelessly and cynically. Mostly it is a tool of propaganda, whether secular or religious. Every time badly used language is carried by pastors into prayers and preaching and direction, the word of God is cheapened. We cannot use bad means to a good end.

Words making truth, not just conveying it: liturgy and story and song and prayer are the work of pastors who are poets.

yes. be encouraged in your high calling, pastorpoetfriend.
suz.

pastorpoetfriend

raise up the word
high over the altar
break
___symbolic flesh
bless the cup
an offering
___poured out
for a friend
fellow sojourner
whose eyes across
___your lines
may be the only
___gospel
they ever see.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

befitting

i've never hung my hat on being appropriate. you can tell that in two seconds around me (whether irl or blog). but you know that if you're read me even once.

so my poetry book is in the final stages before publication (i am self-publishing). being read by dear souls who are willing to bless me with their kind concern.

i have written a few poems about the darkest days of my life on this earth. one, in particular, ponders suicide.

i have been told this is rampant self-pity and unbefitting a christian work. i am not sure if i agree.

i know judas is a lowsy comparison, but he offed himself in the Bible and we mention it and move on. perhaps because he didn't say a monologue in the to be or not to be vein it is well. he just hung himself or rolled off a cliff (and in mel gibson's movie it appeared demons drove him to it. very interesting).

but my dilemma is whether or not to run these poems in my collection. whether they are befitting an heir of righteousness.

i had some black self-piteous works early on in my days of healing that i trashed because i wanted that legacy to end and my children not to read it. somehow i feel this is different. i'm healed of much of the trauma of my youth, and now these battles i am fighting seem at times to be more for others than for me.

i ask the Lord why i struggle with depression, why i write about it, why i get the privilege as it were to pen these dark poems, and the reply i hear is,
because you can.
no sorry about how it makes you look. sorry about how you are percieved. just,
because you can.


often times in my great despair, or emotional throes i have lamented, why am i like this? and the reply,
for My good pleasure.


it makes me rethink every valley i've wandered, every dark thought i've fought off. it makes me think they might have a purpose. inexplicable though it may be to me, they might have a higher purpose.

i am asking the question, what is befitting my work now. one friend who has experienced depression agrees i need to leave them in. she has read the poems and knows me thoroughly.

my experience with christian art is canned happiness. the triumphant situations exclude me because i never did it right, never took the high road (i do sometimes now, but still i struggle immensely). when i was presented a big fat doobie i inhaled, i won't even pretend i didn't. there was so much i did wrong, and i'm not glorifying it, but saying, i hate to read about saints who don't have muddy shoes.

perhaps that is why henri nouwen has been such a great fount of wisdom for me lately. he clearly says,
i haven't changed. i'm afright. i can't do it on my own.
and that is the kind of honesty i need. that is the kind of honesty i want to live. and i want my work to convey that kind of honesty.

truth is often a painful friend. so my works will likely include the suicidal pieces because i think they need to be there. i know this will put me on the outs with some christians, but i am probably already on the outs with them anyway (and don't mind, actually).

i just want to convey a true piece of art. not something prettied up with triumph or smiley faces. that is not my life or me. ultimately the story is truimphant, but i guess like mary in those death shroud poems i'm writing, i just don't know how it ends. at least not yet.

soundtrax

inexpressible things have been happening lately. some poems have come but these experiences are largely eluding my grasp and i cannot wrangle them into words.

my life is a study in paradox. the things which draw me most of late embrace this aspect of life (or at least don't avoid it).

i listen to heavy metal/alternative (which my husband and probably a great many of my friends would say contributes to my depressive tendencies), and find it resonates in my deep, deep places--something i long for and often return to (don potter has said, rock and roll is not stealing your kids, it's the anointing. yes, that's it).

there are times when these worldly comforts do not assuage me. those times i find old hymns the remedy. today i began hunting and pecking my way through what a friend we have in Jesus the words ran over me like a balm and i lost myself in their lament.

What a Friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge,
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He'll take and shield you;
you will find a solace there.

hymns do not avoid the difficulties of life. my gripe with modern christian music is it is too "happy" too triumphant, too jubilant as it were. and i'm simply not there anymore. i don't live from that place. which admittedly is more my fault than anyone's, i should just rise above it. but i can't folks, i simply can't. i am grateful someone, somewhere took the time to detail the human struggle and it is captured in a hymn to soothe me.

this morning as i was playing sweet hour of prayer (a very melancholy tune that i play well when i am sad), i kicked into improv mode. that has never happened before. when i tried to recreate it as my family returned home i found it eluded me. like so many great and precious gifts, they come to me unbidden and steal away when i try to lay hold of them. i am merely a recipient of the gifts, not a possessor.

Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
That calls me from a world of care,
And bids me at my Father's throne
Make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief
And oft escaped the tempter's snare
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!

Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
The joys I feel, the bliss I share,
Of those whose anxious spirits burn
With strong desires for thy return!
With such I hasten to the place
Where God my Savior shows His face,
and gladly take my station there,
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
Thy wings shall my petition bear
To Him whose truth and faithfulness
Engage the waiting soul to bless.
And since He bids me seek His face,
Believe His Word and trust His grace,
I'll cast on Him my every care,
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
May I thy consolation share,
Till, from Mount Pisgah's lofty height,
I view my home and take my flight:
This robe of flesh I'll drop and rise
To seize the everlasting prize;
And shout, while passing through the air,
"Farewell, farewell, sweet hour of prayer!"

Friday, December 23, 2005

lifeline

after reading Henri Nouwen's "Remain Anchored in Your Community," from The Inner Voice of Love

caving
caverns
of the
heart

keep me
tethered
here

when i
launch
out in
service

you are
__my
lifeline

belay me
__pull
me back

if i
plunge
into
sorrows

too profound
you are
___my
lifeline

lead me
to safety
only
after

letting
____me
_____go


who knows what makes a poem come. but i am certainly glad it is here. i wrote something about a passage emerson wrote where he says all poetry was written before time. i do not think it such an odd statement, especially when espousing my contemplative technique. i listen for poetry. and if the Lord loved me from BEFORE the foundations of the earth, if He is truly omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, then He knows each word before i write it, each thought before i think it. and emerson does not seem so far-fetched. i can embrace his transcendent view and it comforts me.

poetry index


death shroud


for charlie

review index

  • rated -*mulch it, *don't bother, **so-so, ***good, ****must read, *****absolutely loved

  • *** dan b. allender'sto be told: know your story, shape your future

  • **** lynne m. baab's sabbath keeping: finding freedom in the rhythms of rest

  • *** george barna's think like Jesus: make the right decision every time

  • *** james stuart bell's from the library of c.s. lewis

  • **** john bevere's how to respond when ou feel mistreated

  • * carol brazo's divine secrets of mentoring

  • **** howard e. butt, jr.'s who can you trust?: overcoming betrayal and fear

  • * nancie carmichael's selah: your moment to stop, think, and step into your future

  • **** jan coates' set free: stories of God's healing power for abuse survivors and those who love them

  • *** jan coleman's unshakeable faith: the steadfast heart of obedience

  • *** judson cornwall's dying with grace

  • ***** joe dallas' when homosexuality hits home

  • ***** david dewey's a user's guide to Bible translations: making the most of the different versions

  • ***** john eldredge's epic

  • ** elisabeth elliot's a lamp unto my feet: the Bible's light for your daily walk

  • *** michael evan's the american prophecies: ancient scriptures reveal our nation's future

  • *** john fischer's love Him in the morning

  • ***** david foster's accept no mediocre life

  • ***** david w. gill's doing right: practicing ethical principles

  • *** sandra glahn and william cutrer's the infertility companion

  • * connie glaser and barbara smalley's what queen esther knew

  • * rick godwin's live full, die empty

  • **** gospel light's raising up spiritual champions: teach children to think and act like Jesus
  • **** group publishing's coloring creations: 52 Bible activity pages

  • *** group publishing's give-it-away-crafts for kids

  • *** nancy guthrie's holding on to hope

  • **** chip ingram's God: as He longs for you to see Him

  • *** june kimmel's that i may know Him: a women's Bible study

  • -* ellie lofaro's leap of faith
  • **** marvin l. lubenow'sbones of contention, updated and expanded ed.: a creationist's assessment of human fossils

  • ** beth moore's further still

  • ***** brennan manning's ruthless trust

  • ***** brennan manning's the signature of Jesus

  • ***** brennan manning's the wisdom of tenderness

  • **** elisa morgan's naked fruit:getting honest about the fruit of the Spirit

  • *** stormie omartian's the prayer that changes everything: the hidden power of praising God

  • *** mike pilavachi's for the audience of One: worshiping the One and Only in everything you do

  • ***** tim riter's 12 lies you hear about the Holy Spirit

  • ***** tim riter's 12 lies husbands tell their wives

  • ***** tim riter and david timms' just leave God out of it: the cultural compromises christians make

  • ***** david ruis' the worship God is seeking

  • *** t. stanton and dr. bill maier's marriage on trial: the case against same sex marriage

  • ** fred and brenda stoeker's every heart restored

  • *** cynthia sumner's mom's trapped in the minivan: surviving your child's middle years with your sanity and salvation intact!

  • ***** joni eareckson tada's 31 days toward intimacy with God

  • ***** c. peter wagner's changing church: how God is leading His church into the future
  • ***** pat william's coaching your kids to be leaders

  • ***** jan winebrenner's the grace of catastrophe: when what you know about God is all you have
  • Wednesday, December 21, 2005

    misdirection

    i love the Lord
    in you

    you love the Lord
    in me

    we dealers
    in passion

    can easily
    misdirect

    love and
    drink the

    cordial down
    to our peril

    rather
    pour out

    a drink
    offering

    to the Lord
    whom i love

    in you.

    ecstasy

    speak with me in silence
    hold me at a distance
    whisper words unheard
    and i will listen.

    touch me with your greatness
    love me with your life
    and i will dance
    and sing songs again

    too long this barren
    womb unleaping
    too tired this body
    broken unfeeling

    and i cannot help
    but weep
    in sweet relief

    as i hear the echoed
    silence
    and feel
    the caress of love
    upon the wind

    hold me from a distance
    and i will dance again.

    Tuesday, December 20, 2005

    poembs

    tonight i let these
    phantoms fall
    a restless waking
    tempered

    tonight i let this
    hunger go
    and yield to
    feasting

    tonight i let these
    shadows fade
    and lighten all
    illusions

    tonight i let this
    torrent out
    rushing course
    unyeilding




    ...

    i am bought
    with a price

    paid for
    in full

    who do i see
    about making
    a return?

    ...

    death shroud
    vi.

    how can i not
    love you
    who received
    my worship

    how can i not
    long to see
    you again

    how can i forget
    deny the love
    in your eyes

    how can i not
    worship you
    again

    had i all the myrrh
    with tears i would
    wash you

    my hair the
    fragrant towel
    of my choosing

    across your face
    your body

    i remember well
    your life

    how can i not
    long to see you
    again

    hold the silent echo
    of your voice
    within my heart

    how can i not long
    to worship
    you


    ...

    Saturday, December 17, 2005

    believe

    there has always been a cheering section in my life. i am blessed that way. and lately, i've just lost the will to prove myself to anyone. i've never been much of a joiner, but i'm terrible about it now. to the lookeron it might appear as if i am just being difficult. but no, this is how it is folks.

    i've quavered and quaked in my boots of late because i've been so petrified of moving forward, stepping out into what i believe the Lord is calling me to and at the same time i'm afraid not to move out. it is quite a damned if you do dilemma.

    i make no professions of wisdom. certainly none of certainty. maybe i'll make you laugh, probably i'll piss you off and that is fine with me. i trust that you have your reasons for reading these words as i have my reasons for writing them.

    it seems the Lord just won't let me crawl under a rock and stay there. although at times i want to. it is an odd place, not fitting in community and being unable to manage without it. again, damned if i do.

    but i'm just trying not to check out of life but stay in the game, painful as it may be at times. i wear this necklace my daughter made for me, a flourescent pony bead, gawdy thing. i wear it to remind myself my life is not my own. i am accountable for more than just myself these days. i have to remember her. i have to think of her. i have to make it to tomorrow for her.

    sometimes, that is all i've got.

    Wednesday, December 14, 2005

    benediction

    may you find friends worthy and true. may they be life and blessing unto you. (damn rhyme!)

    a poem i wrote this morning in gratitude.

    it is not
    that you
    love me
    i doubt
    the earnestness
    of your regard
    i feel
    it is
    that you
    love me
    i doubt
    you see
    my shortcomings
    it is not
    that you
    love me
    i doubt
    it is
    that you
    love me
    i believe.

    my friends have saved me alive in more ways than the literal. even now they rally to encourage me to keep on in my appointed task. they have, it seems, more faith in me and my abilities than i do. i am grateful beyond words.

    Tuesday, December 13, 2005

    reader

    in order to keep my child reading and not avoid big thick books. i require her to always be reading a big thick book. my 8 year old has read all the little house on the prarie series, little women, black stallion, and assorted other big books. i keep looking for big fat juicy literature (not just calvin and hobbes, believe me, she gets plenty of that), but noteworthy books for her to read. (suggestions welcome.)

    when she was three or so, maybe younger, she sprawled out on the floor and said,
    i want to be a writer


    i got a big stupid grin on my face and a smile in my heart at hearing that one. i did not make her say it or ask her to say it. she just said it one day while scribbling on some sheets of paper.

    she has written poems (quite good ones i must say) and draws like the dickens. she has had a change of heart in the past couple years and no longer wants to be a writer. she says
    i am not a writer, i'm an artist


    and she draws well, but i don't want her to put a mental block there. so my typical response is,
    say i choose not to write now, i choose to draw rather than setting your mind against writing


    although the heartache and grief she would be spared by NOT being a writer is immense, i just don't want her blocking herself. and fifty years later in therapy finding it was that little profession that bound her up (like mick's rum soaked fruitcake).

    so she is sitting there reading some big book this morning and we have to leave. i go shopping on tuesdays. and she says,
    i'm going to read another chapter, that one was good.


    the kid may not be a writer, but she is definately a reader and that is plenty.

    Monday, December 12, 2005

    budgies

    it is so woefully human to want to train things. to make them little replicas of us. such is the case with the little parakeets my daughter recently acquired. one is a white, ecru, lavendar aptly named orchid. the other is an aqua blue named chyna (aka. mr. feisty).

    having read parakeet books and training books, she informed me the way to make these birds talk (although they are not talking at all, merely mimicking), is to separate them. to keep them apart during the training process.

    these are young birds. striped foreheads and all. they call to each other when not in the same enclosure. and i know capturing birds and enclosing them is cruel to begin with, believe me, i hear you. but i do not make any claims at perfection or having even approached some semblance of it.

    watching the maneuvering of birds, the logic behind their separation, while reading works of fiction on native history had me thinking about how these means of training have run through the ages. somehow i don't think dominion included bits, bridles, and cages, but that is another issue for another time.

    yes, i kept thinking of indian boarding schools. and couldn't help but ache when chyna would call for orchid or they would sound just to hear each other, unsure of what was happening only that their counterpart was missing.

    my girl asks me,
    can't we train them to talk?


    and i reply,
    let's just let them be parakeets.


    something in me wants them to not learn mimicry. not to make them little models of humans and thereby establish their worth. they have value because they are.

    we have learned, they fly away from us when they are not together. in order to keep them on our arm and get them accustomed to our handling, if we just hold them both on the same hand, they have the comfort of being together. and, i'm learning to speak a bit of parakeet, whistling calls in return. they appear content, as am i, to see them not being little humans.

    when i first tried to write this post, i got called away to a funeral. since then, a full eleven days have passed and most recently my girl and i went to the caldwell zoo in tyler (more on that later), but at the end of the day, we found a little wild bird walkabout enclosure. we entered. some fifty to seventy-five free flying parakeets and cockatiels were in there. they would dive bomb your head and swoop by your ears. my kind of exhibit. (my first thought was, bet they don't try this with the lions.)

    we left after oohing and awwing, only to return one last time. that time the birds kept flocking to our feet and nibbling on our tennies. we purchased seed sticks (glued seed on popsicle sticks).

    i held the stick curled around over my chest. in short order i had about six parakeets walking all over my chest and arms. and a small flock on my tennies still sampling the goods.

    it was utterly delightful.

    i know i wax melancholy most often, but not today. i'll leave you with that sense of sheer joy i had feeling like jane in disney's tarzan with birds all over her up in the canopy. it was the best day i'd had in quite some time.

    Monday, December 05, 2005

    faith

    today i can only make
    french toast
    soaked slices
    in milk and egg
    dashed cinnamon
    pat of butter
    sizzles in the pan
    no great thoughts
    or plans
    just french toast
    plated and served
    gratefully devoured
    the measure of my
    faith today
    swirled in syrup
    all that is required
    of me today
    is french toast.