Here are some reflections on God’s love that I wrote last week.
Your love awakens me to sing
Sing at the top of my voice
Shouting and declaring to all
Your goodness and beauty
I want to dance—a dance with
Wild, unrestrained, uncontrolled
Yet free and lovely
Ripped off the cliff of my life
You expose me for who and what I am
Yet without condemnation or guilt
Slowly but surely I am drawn to You
As metal to a magnet
As grains of sand pulled out to sea by a receding wave
A rushing, whirling, turning, white foaming river of love
Dangerous yet beckoning me to come
To plunge in, yet not afraid
Of dangerous rocks that threaten to dash my life away
Swirling eddies, pools of decay
Tempt me to get off this journey to safety
A love that is painful, a love that woos me
All consuming love
Gently fiery touch
Love that is deeper than the ocean
Wider than the skies
Not a love that is self-formed
Always demanding that my needs be met
But a love that frees me from my bondage to self
Unyielding, incontrovertible love
Running with absolute abandon to the waiting arms of my Father
Accepting, inviting, strong and comforting arms
Finding refuge and solace in who You are
All fear is gone, replaced by a
Reverential calm that I do not understand
Have to let go, lest in my groping
I lose intimate awareness of Your grace
I want to bottle it, take a picture, record this moment
So that I have memories of a time when You came to me
Just received this soul-touching poem by Ruth Barton. Her books, Silence and Solitude and Sacred Rhythms are extremely powerful books that I think every Christian should read. You can look more at her ministry at the Transforming Center
Sabbath in Late Fall
Ruth Haley Barton
For everything there is a season…
Sometimes on the Sabbath
all you can do is
settle into the soft body of yourself
and listen to what it says.
the exhaustion that is deeper than tiredness
the hunger that is for more than food
the thirst that is for more than drink
the longing for comfort that is more than physical.
On the Sabbath
body and soul reach out for time of a different sort
time that is full of space rather than activity.
time to watch the burning bush in your own back yard…
the movement of the wind among bare branches…
the last leaf that clings to the branch
before its final letting go.
Letting go is hard,
letting go of that which no longer works
that which no longer brings joy and meaning
that which is no longer full of life.
It seems cruel
That something that used to be so beautiful
should fall to the ground
sinking into the earthy mud along with everything else that is dying,
no longer recognizable for what it used to be.
It seems cruel but it is the way of things.
One generation gives its life for the next.
One season slips away so another can come.
One crop of fruit falls from the tree so that more can be borne.
One wave recedes while another gathers strength
to crash upon the shore.
It seems cruel
but it is the rhythm of things
And rhythm has its own beauty.
©Ruth Haley Barton, 2006.
Not to be reproduced without the express permission of the author
or the Transforming Center.
At the end of the chapter on Respect–the heart of love, van Breeman gathers together some of his thoughts in the following poem. As I read over this again, it sounds like a number of situations in which I have been involved in the last few months.
The other is also wounded.
you have mercy with the inability of both of us.
Therefore, give me the good will
to see the need of the other
and not to nurse my own wounds
like a dark treasure
which occupies my mind continuously.
The other is also wounded.
You see through the reasons
why we did not listen to the signals of our heart.
Prevent me from bargaining for myself
the deeper pain,
the smaller part of the guilt
as profit to which I am not entitled.
The other is also wounded,
and when I seek his presence,
then you, God, are with us both.
I want to begin seeing him,
whom the anger alienated from me so much,
with your eyes.
Lord, restore the shattered confidence
and when I cannot forgive,
then please forgive in me.
I pray for peace
which puts an end to all enmity.
Lord, say to us both:
peace be with you
today and every day
forever and ever.
I read this prayer by John Baillie this morning (in A Diary of Private Prayer) and I offer it here with slight editing of the Thees and Thous. He recognizes that even as he prays for his own obedience and God’s honor, there may be hidden areas that he still wants to hold onto and so he includes them at the same time. An honest prayer. It reminds me of how I have prayed before speaking, “Lord, I recognize that there is a part of me that enjoys the attention of being up front but Lord, I really want this to be about you and your glory. Work in spite of my double-mindedness.”
O God, let your Spirit now “fill my heart.”*
Even now as I pray this prayer, let not any room within me be furtively closed to keep You out.
O God, give me power to follow after that which is good.
Even now as I pray this prayer, let there be no secret purpose of evil formed in my mind, that waits for an opportunity of fulfillment.
O God, bless all my undertakings and cause them to prosper.
Even now as I pray this prayer, let me not be still holding to some undertaking on which I dare not ask Your blessing.
O God, give me chastity.
Even now as I pray this prayer, let me not say to myself secretly, But not yet, or, But not overmuch.
O God, bless every member of this household.
Even now as I pray this prayer, let me not still harbour in my heart a wrongful feeling of jealousy or bitterness or anger towards any of them.
O God, bless my enemies and those who have done me wrong.
Even now as I pray this prayer, let me not still cherish in my heart the resolve to “seek revenge” when occasion offers. **
O God, let Your Kingdom come on earth.
Even now as I pray this prayer, let me not be still intending to devote my own best hours to the service of lesser ends.
O Holy Spirit of God, as I rise from these acts of devotion, let me not return to evil thoughts and worldly ways, but let that mind be in me which was also in Christ Jesus. Amen.
* changed by me from “now enter my heart”
** changed by me from “requite them”
I enjoyed this poem that I read last night by W.H. Davies in Good Poems by Garrison Keillor.
What is life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheeps or cows.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care
We have no time to stand and stare.
I think Buchanan would agree with this poem when he suggests that we need times of play. “What about spending some of the day in sheer unapologetic uselessness– not just ceasing from our utilitarian existence, but turning it right on its head? What about spending time producing nothing but adrenaline, laughter, memories?”
Here is a poem from Practicing the Prayer of Presence by Adrian van Kaam and Susan Muto that I read last week. I have been anything but gentle of late and there is a restlessness within me that I don’t like these days. As a new journey lies ahead, the following line is one that I need to pray every day! “Free me from the need for achievement. Make my life less forceful, more gentle, Centered in you alone.”
The Splendor of Your Presence
by Susan Muto and Adrian van Kaam
You want me to learn from you
Gentleness of heart.
No matter how I fail you,
Your gentleness never fails me.
You are slow to anger;
Your kindness is without limit.
You tell me not to be distressed,
To make your gentleness my own
So that my soul may find rest.
Give me the wisdom to make time in my day
For a gentle nursing of my soul.
Free me from arrogance,
From goals too sublime for me.
Still and quiet my soul
As a mother quiets the little ones on her lap.
Free me from the need for achievement.
Make my life less forceful, more gentle,
Centered in you alone.
Let the splendor of your presence
Light up my everydayness.
Make me a smooth channel for the outflow
Of your Divine Will in this world.
Let me move gently
In the omnipresence of the Divine.
Harmonize my frail spirit with the Infinite Spirit
Who fills the universe and its history.
Love of my Lord,
Invade my soul and melt away any trace of vehemence.
This came out of a reflection on John 2. I started the poem below and got stuck–maybe someone can help finish it. Actually, I made two attempts and I am combining both of them here. I really wanted to take some clay in my hands and create a pot but these words are all I can offer.
Fill the clay pots with water, he said.
Who is this guy? I don’t know.
She just said, “do whatever he says.”
And so we did. A miracle in time.
Just some old clay pots
Receptacles of water
Springs for a miracle
Water turned to wine
My life transformed by You
Old clay pots
That’s you and me
Cracked and broken
Old clay pots we’ll always be
Stained with time, full of eternity
Nothing beautiful yet full of glory
The ordinary becomes the extraordinary
From the potters wheel and the masters touch
Old clay pots
Full of water
Ready for a miracle
Water into wine
Old clay pots
Broken and scarred
Ready for a miracle
Holding new wine
Old clay pots
Now full of the vine
The following was borne out of reflection on Mark 10:45-52.
Have mercy on me,
a cry borne out of desperation
and longing to be whole.
No one else can help me.
Lord, you know I’ve tried
and now, all I am left to do,
is to sit by the road, the dusty road, alone,
shouting for you,
to listen ,
to show mercy.
So many voices trying to shut me up.
Pride and independence—I can do it on my own.
I don’t need anyone else.
What a joke!
Reduced to begging, a mockery of a man.
I’m not worthy, who am I?
Why should the teacher help me?
No power, no influence, no money,
no glory to be gained by listening to me.
Should I be quiet?
Remember my place?
My sin? My heritage?
No! A guttural cry,
borne out of desperation
and emerging faith.
Have mercy on me, have mercy on me.
There is no place else for me to turn.
I cannot be silenced.
I will not be silenced.
Have mercy on me, oh God.
Yes, on me, a sinner.
Your mercy is undeserved,
my only hope for new life.
Please, just stop and listen to me!
Get up, you fool and be brave!
The teacher is calling you.
I almost fall on my face
as I jump off my mat.
With reckless abandon
I throw off my cloak
and drive forward those leading me.
What do I want?
You to do?
I can hardly believe what I am hearing.
You to do?
Shouting, laughing, my words come tumbling out.
I want to see.
I want to see.
I want to see, again!
Read a poem called, The Dark Night by St. John of the Cross again this morning–slowly, carefully, reflectively. There is much here–no wonder he wrote two books on it (Ascent to Mt. Carmel and the Dark Night) I focused on the first two stanzas this morning.
One dark night
Fired with love’s urgent longing
–Ah the sheer grace–
I went out unseen,
My house being now all stilled.
In darkness, and secure,
By the secret ladder, disguised,
–Ah, the sheer grace!–
In darkness and concealement
My house being now all stilled;
Why are compliments so hard for me to accept?
I am to think appropriately about myself.
Neither too high, nor too low
but according to the ability God has given.
Instead of receiving a sincere compliment,
graciously, humbly, giving glory to God.
I so easily, so quickly, minimize,
put myself down,
make a joke,
show false humility,
which is really,
Forgive me Lord for taking away
the glory that belongs to you alone,
when I deny the good work you have done in me.
It’s not about me.
It’s about you.
if you are in control
you would think that
i would have learned by now
yet this week
i awake each morning as if i have been in a train wreck
why am I so reluctant
to admit that i worry about
am i good enough?
will they like me?
can drain the life out of me
bring about enough uncertainty
just enough pause in my step
the smooth flow
is interrupted, jarred
and i thrash about
in vain to find my place
Being powerless is supposed to be good for me
but it sure feels lousy.
nothing i can fix
left with prayer as my last resort
loving the sinner not the sin
falling on my knees before you
Anger is supposed to be bad
but sometimes it brings me comfort
as if my anger can bring
enough pain to you to bring about
After awhile, I look inside and
see the darkness
threatening to overwhelm me.
Why didn’t I?
What bad decisions have I made?
Will I ever learn?
My doubting threatens to
flood my soul like the
floodbanks of the Missisissippi.
guilt lounges on
the edges of my consciousness,
never quite going away,
yet not able to take control.
So the only option left is to let go.
let my troubles fall
out of my hands,
into a chasm of unknowingness.
and yet out of the same icy depth,
a delicate fragrance of hope arises.
will things change?
I don’t know but it’s okay.
I am changed, you remain the same.
so, I can go on another day,
trusting, holding onto you,
clinging as if my life depends on you.
because it does, it always has,
only I forget my own desperation
powerlessness serving as my reminder
how utterly foolish I am
to think that I can
choose to sin, and not
deadening, although not life-threatening
thirst-quenching yet soul-emptying.
before I choose to go there again,
remind me of your love for me.
no good thing will you withhold.
why settle for something
far less satisfying?
why believe a lie when
I can live in the truth?
why live in guilt and shame
when you offer
life, abundant and free,
a life of eternity that begins now!
“What do you think is most important for a 19 year old, David? What was most important to you at that age?” At 52, that was not so easy and yet the answer easily came, “Freedom–to do what I want to do without getting hassled . . .” Not bad but you are missing something. I missed “spending time with friends” which shows that I am out of touch. All Agree on that!!
Here is a poem I later read by Jeanne Murray Walker, from A Deed to the Light This helps me understand this odd mix of feelings inside as I am about to release another one.
To My Son, Off to College
We stand there in our vestibule, me clutching
my car keys, you, your suitcase
me about to recite the names of apples,
winesap, braeburn, etc., the way poets
recite them, then to chant the names
of poets, too, anything you’ll listen to,
stanzas of lightning from red mouths.
It isn’t loveliness I’m after, I can tell you
it’s any damn thing that keeps your hand
from pushing that door open. Though you’re
long gone already. And I know it’s wrong,
when the heart has stopped, to pretend it hasn’t.
Like a taxidermist. No, we’re mixed up
with time, my Love, and poetry, as usual
fails to stop you. You have to go away,
and you may not be back.
I eat one of the apples in your memory,
like a pioneer who’s down to eating seed corn,
the sweet-sour juices running into a future
without you, while a voice tells me
I don’t own you, you were a gift, and
my barbaric unteachable mother’s heart doesn’t get it
thinks, Okay, fine, so you’re gone now,
you’re that much closer to coming back.