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God of Silence and Sound

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God of silence and sound,

Help me dance around the spaces and textures of your voice.

In this moment, Holy One, speak new life into me

the way you spoke in beginning;

Brushstrokes of breath…

Colors of conversation…

Landscapes of language…

Allow the words that wound create in me a silent melody

which sings the song of genesis

of pain and promise

of purpose and presence

God of silence and sound,

Teach me to sing in the darkness of my day.

On this night, Holy One, sing over my tired soul

the way you refreshed Elijah;

as he slept beneath the tree…

as his anxiety obscured his reality…

yet still, you nourished his soul…

May the notes caress away the fear in my heart

which sings a song of captivity

of love lost and misplaced

of loneliness and isolation

God of silence and sound,

I know I am a singer of confused songs.

In this chaotic space, Holy One, teach me the tune of paradox

of beauty and ash, joy and sorrow, frivolity and sincerity.

Teach me to listen…

Help me to see…

Free my voice to sing without sound

The beautiful songs of Your love.

Technology Needs Poetry

bookAmy and I had just entered the biblio-pilgrims destination in Portland Oregon this past Tuesday. Even though the temple was under construction Powell’s Books was busy with life. Grabbing a facilities map as we entered we chose to divide and conquer each of us heading toward our favorite areas of erudite worship.

It wasn’t long before Amy shot me a text. She had found a really intriguing and really old book of poetry on the top floor near the rare books section.

She showed me her rare find.

The book was small and had the familiar smell of dust mixed with age; its pages darkened with time.

Compiled in 1929, the title was utilitarian: “One Hundred and One Famous Poems, with a prose supplement.”

Many of the writers were familiar, but the selected works were like a newly found  picture of an old friend. Quickly I scanned the poems and noted some that I would need to read.  What struck me immediately, though,  was the preface penned by the editor Roy J. Cook. It reads as follows:

“This is the age of science, of steel-of speed and the cement road. The age of hard faces and hard highways. Science and steel demand the medium of prose. Speed requires only the look-the gesture What need then of poetry?

Great need!

There are souls, in these noise-tired times, that turn aside into unfrequented lanes, where the deep woods have harbored the fragrances of many a blossoming season. Here the light, filtering through perfect forms, arranges itself in lovely patterns for those who perceive beauty.

It is the purpose of this little volume to enrich, enable, encourage. And for man, who has learned to love convenience, it is hardly larger than his concealing pocket.”

How timely for us today. The age of science and speed, and I would add technology. As technology continues to increase at an exponential rate, the need to slow, and read prose, practice meditation and find balance in solitude and silence with God also rises.

The very advances that were supposed to bring us more time to enjoy life, seem to absorb any spare moment we might otherwise have.

Noise-tired and technologically-saturated lives have great need of words that remind of what matters most.

hamletsblackberry385-01A book I have read in the past couple years titled Hamlet’s Blackberry (which I highly recommend) looks at our current “screen addiction” offering  some hope for our souls in a culture that is obsessive about connectivity. Hamlet’s Blackberry  illustrates how our technological advances over the centuries have eroded  much more than we realize, and the author gives great advice on how to regain what we have lost. Check it out here.

So, yes, our data-filled, noise-filled, and growth-oriented world need prose, poetry and verse to bring balance and beauty back to us. To that end, allow me to reveal some prose from my new little book. The title is “A Psalm of Life.”  The author is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

I know you are busy. There are more things in your inbox than in your completed box. You don’t have time to slow and read something that doesn’t help your current end-game…but hold on.

Maybe reading this will be a tipping point for your soul…

Perhaps in the next few moments your soul will be stirred and offer a different direction for your future…

Maybe, just maybe, you will breathe deeper and feel the joy of life return to your bones. So relax, and absorb Longfellow’s words. May they be a dessert for your busy-soul.

A Psalm of Life

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but empty dreams!–
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like a muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,—act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

I agree with the editors premise…our world of science, steel and speed need poetry.

Wounds and Scars

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The following piece by Amy Carmichael has long been a challenging favorite of mine.

It is real…
It is earthy…
It speaks of the truth that wounds and scars are a part of life…

Not something to run away from…
Not something to turn us into victims…
Not the end of the journey…

Rather, it’s the beginning of the journey.

What wounds do you have that you have tried to cover, to fix, to identify you?

In my book Sacred Space I wrote a chapter called Sacred Wounds. The big idea of the chapter is how God longs to take our wounds and redeem them in order to become restorative for others…yet, if we leave them unattended, they turn into bitter wounds and we become victims… and victims never realize the power of wounds and realized in scars when redeemed.

Hast Thou No Scar 

by Amy Carmichael

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land,
I hear them hail thy bright ascendant star,
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet, I was wounded by the archers, spent.
Leaned me against the tree to die, and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed me, I swooned:
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yet as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me;
But thine are whole. Can he have followed far
Who has no wound nor scar?

Christmas Stories

There are so many wonderful stories centered around the Christmas tradition. From The Little Drummer Boy to The Christmas Candle, authors have worked to capture the heart of the Christmas season. One of my favorite short stories is by the author Annie Dillard titled “God In The Doorway”  It de-scafolds so much and always places a smile on my face while I read it. So enjoy Annie’s Christmas glimpse:

God In The Doorway

One cold Christmas Eve I was up unnaturally late because we had all gone out to dinner-my parents, my baby sister, and I. We had come home to a warm living room, and Christmas Eve. Our stockings drooped from the mantle; beside them, a special table bore a bottle of ginger ale and a plate of cookies.

I had taken off my fancy winter coat and was standing on the heat register to bake my shoe soles and warm my bare legs. There was a commotion at the front door; it opened, and cold winter blew around my dress.

Everyone was calling me. “Look who’s here! Look who’s here!” I looked. It was Santa Claus. Whom I never-ever-wanted to meet. Santa Claus was looming in the doorway and looking around for me. My mother’s voice was thrilled: “Look who’s here!” I ran upstairs.

Like everyone in his right mind, I feared Santa Claus, thinking he was God. I was still thoughtless and brute, reactive. I knew right from wrong, but had barely tested the possibility of shaping my own behavior, and then only from fear, and not yet from love. Santa Claus was an old man whom you never saw, but who nevertheless saw you; he knew when you’d been bad or good. He knew when you’d been bad or good! And I had been bad.

My mother called and called, enthusiastic, pleading; I wouldn’t come down. My father encouraged me; my sister howled. I wouldn’t come down, but I could bend over the stairwell and see: Santa Claus stood in the doorway with night over his shoulder, letting in all the cold air of the sky. Santa Claus stood in the doorway monstrous and bright, powerless, ringing a loud bell and repeating Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas. I never came down. I don’t know who ate the cookies.

For so many years now I have known that this Santa Claus was actually a rigged-up Miss White, who lived across the street, that I confuse the dramatis personae in my mind, making Santa Claus, God, and Miss White an awesome, vulnerable trinity. This is really a story about Miss White.

Miss White was old; she lived alone in the big house across the street. She liked having me around; she plied me with cookies, taught me things about the world, and tried to interest me in finger painting, in which she herself took great pleasure. She would set up easels in her kitchen, tack enormous slick soaking papers to their frames, and paint undulating undersea scenes: horizontal smears of color sparked by occasional vertical streaks which were understood to be fixed kelp. I liked her. She meant no harm on earth, and yet half a year after her failed visit as Santa Claus, I ran from her again.

That day, a day of the following summer, Miss White and I knelt in her yard while she showed me a magnifying glass. It was a large, strong hand lens. She lifted my hand and, holding it very still, focused a dab of sunshine on my palm. The glowing crescent wobbled, spread, and finally contracted to a point. It burned; I was burned; I ripped my hand away and ran home crying. Miss White called after me, sorry, explaining, but I didn’t look back.

Even now I wonder: if I meet God, will he take and hold my bare hand in his, and focus his eye on my palm, and kindle that spot and let me burn?

But no. It is I who misunderstood everything and let everybody down. Miss White, God, I am sorry I ran from you. I am still running, running from that knowledge, that eye, that love from which there is no refuge. For you meant only love, and love, and I felt only fear, and pain. So once in Israel love came to us incarnate, stood in the doorway between two worlds, and we were all afraid.

*Taken from…”Teaching a Stone to Talk” by Annie Dillard