Author Archives: Jody Lee Collins

About Jody Lee Collins

Now that I'm retired from 25 years of elementary teaching, I am able to spend time in my happy place--at my desk where I read and write as often as I can. When I'm not at my desk, you can find me in my other happy place--the garden, watering, weeding and worshipping. My husband and I live near Seattle and close enough to my two grown children and grandchildren that I'm able to hug them often. That is my greatest joy.

Ready for the Sights of the Season (sort of)

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol   

I’m sure you’ve noticed….the fervor of the Christmas season often assaults us from September’s end all the way until December. The other day while shopping at Costco I felt just that–overwhelmed by an onslaught of Christmas music, faux decorations and mountain of toys two aisles wide. While I rounded the corner next to cases of hummus and casserole fixings, I sighed and pondered our desperate need for a slower walk into the coming season.

I wish more folks in the world ordered their lives around the church calendar and its feasts rather than the calendar of consumerism. Along with harvest decorations and the Halloween costumes there’s mechanical Santas and fake flocked Christmas wreaths at nearly every department store around.

I suppose Costco prescribes to Dickens’ philosophy above, that of keeping Christmas (almost) the entire year. While I support the spirit of this sentiment–being filled with peace and goodwill towards all men–the crush of gift-giving and pressures of picture-perfect holidays miss the point completely. We would do well–I would do well–to remember the need for a slow walk into the season; Advent is the perfect place to begin.  

After All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween) we observe All Saints Day on the church calendar, an occasion for remembering all the saints, known and unknown. After that is the last church feast day in Ordinary Time-the Story of the People of God, Christ the King Sunday on November 24th. We are then ushered into the season of Advent and the months that encompass the Story of Jesus from his birth until the celebration of Pentecost. This graphic below is helpful to me, a clueless Evangelical, when it comes to understanding the church year. Perhaps you’ll find it an aid to your understanding as well.

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photo credit-Renovare.org

As with much of Christianity, the church year can be radically countercultural, a much-needed light showing a better way to live. In a culture that is often too hurried and distracted, the church year helps us pay attention because it draws our focus continually back to Christ.    -K.C. Ireton, The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year

A couple of years ago when I wrote my Christmas book, Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas, God gave me a simple idea for the little by little walk of waiting that Advent affords us. Enter the amaryllis bulb.

Amaryllis bulbs usually show up in the grocery stores by the end of the month of October, right along with the Disney princess costumes, next to Spiderman and the Jack-o-Lanterns.

Ignore those blatant garish reminders of a consumer holiday gone wrong and instead buy one or two amaryllis bulbs in various colors–red or peach or salmon.  With a view to the Advent Season, think of them as a visual reminder to begin a slow(er)walk into the coming Season. Really.

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A crinkly light-brown flower bulb half-buried in the dirt can become a silent message, counter cultural if you will, that says, “wait for the Real Thing. Wait for Jesus. Celebrate Him.” This is a great idea to do with kids, I might add.

When I buy my amaryllis (amaryllii???) I usually cut out the flower photo on the box and keep it as a way of reminding me of the beauty to come. Granted, watching the crinkly white globe while it sits in the dirt won’t make it bloom, but each little nudge of green shows me that something is happening down there in the dark.P_20181110_073001God is up to something….and (prayerfully) when the blooms arrive at Christmas I can rejoice in their  remarkable surprise.P_20181204_090440.jpgWhen I sign my books either in person or via mail, I always include this Scripture from Micah 7:7, “But as for me, I watch in hope for the LordI wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” In Hebrew the word wait here is by implication to be patient, to hope, tarry, trust.

Perhaps our own lives can mirror this small slice of God’s creation and, like the amaryllis, take our time to reveal God’s remarkable surprises. Or tarry a bit in the days ahead before they all come careening towards in a pile up of presents and lost peace.

What we really need is the Presence of God. Let’s wait for that, shall we?

Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas is available via Books a Million, Barnes and Noble online or wherever books are sold. You can also purchase signed copies directly from me for $10 which includes postage. Click on the tab at the top for more info  and a link to the book Website with free lists and downloads. You can also fill out the Contact form for a signed copy and we’ll connect there. cover final.jpg

*header photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

On Reading & Reciting Poetry

I have a signed copy of this lovely book from Caroline Kennedy’s Seattle appearance a few years back. I was amazed by how many of these poems she knew by heart, many of which she recited for us  that night. 

I am a terrible memorizer. Memorization is an analytical skill, a counter-intuitive trait to this Random Abstract Global thinker. However, next to trying to remember favorite Scriptures, which I’ve gotten mostly by osmosis lo, these 40 plus years, I do want to get some poetry in my memory banks. As C.S. Lewis said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” (Thanks to Johnny Anomaly at Creative Coping Podcast for that quote.)

So off we go; there are so many lovely poems to memorize.

Poem Number One-The Singing Bowl, Malcolm Guite

I began memorizing Malcolm Guite’s The Singing Bowl last March after a special retreat  where God gave me a singing bowl as a metaphor for the weekend’s experience. In an effort to remind myself often of what God had done, I committed to the process, which I discovered is very doable if the words rhyme. Meter helps, as well.

Guite’s poem is a sonnet–14 lines written in iambic pentameter, with alternating end rhymes. What is iambic pentameter you ask? For those of us not steeped in Shakespeare’s work, let’s thank Google.

“Iambic pentameter is line of verse with five metrical feet, each consisting of one short (or unstressed) syllable followed by one long (or stressed) syllable.”

Read The Singing Bowl and you’ll see what I mean.

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Singing Bowl Malcolm Guite

Begin the song exactly where you are,
Remain within the world of which you’re made.
Call nothing common in the earth or air,

Accept it all and let it be for good.
Start with the very breath you breathe in now,
This moment’s pulse, this rhythm in your blood

And listen to it, ringing soft and low.
Stay with the music, words will come in time.
Slow down your breathing. Keep it deep and slow.

Become an open singing-bowl, whose chime
Is richness rising out of emptiness,
And timelessness resounding into time.

And when the heart is full of quietness
Begin the song exactly where you are.

The remarkable thing to me about having this poem in my bones is that I can recall it at any time and do what the words say–slow down my breathing and stop and listen, a practice I desperately need these days.

Poem Number Two-The 23rd Psalm, George Herbert

Over the summer I kept hearing different lines from Psalm 23 in various places and finally decided to memorize it. How hard could it be? It’s only six verses. Well.

Verse one is easy, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” Everybody knows that one. I repeated the next lines rather haltingly from what I could recollect but floundered after verse 3.

Then I read George Herbert’s rendering of the 23rd Psalm. Or, as he wrote it, Psalme 23. Herbert was a cleric and poet who wrote in the 1600’s and while his language is full of very old English phrases, the words are incredibly rich. I especially was pleased to find the six verses of this Psalm written in rhyme and they are now in a little plastic envelope sitting on my kitchen windowsill. The theory is I’ll memorize the psalm/poem while I’m doing dishes. So far I’ve got the first two verses down, but I am in no rush (there are always dishes to wash.)

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Maybe you’d like to read/memorize it, too?

The 23d Psalm George Herbert

The God of love my shepherd is,

And He that does me feed:

While He is mine, and I am His,

What can I want or need?

He leads me to the tender grass,

Where I both feed and rest;

Then to the streams that gently pass:

In both I have the best.

Or if I stray, He does convert

And bring my mind in frame:

And all this not for my desert*

But for His holy name.

Yea, in death’s shady black abode

Well may I walk, not fear:

For You are with me; and Your rod

To guide, Your staff to bear.

Nay, you do make me sit and dine,

Ev’n in my enemies’ sight:

My head with oil, my cup with wine

Runs over day and night.

Surely Your sweet and wondrous love

Shall measure all my days;

And as it never shall remove,

So neither shall my praise.

* desert. Dessert; what one deserves

Poem Number Three-Barter, Sara Teasdale

The folks at Tweetspeak Poetry, founded by poet and editor L.L. Barkat, are committed to keeping poetry alive in the public square. Tweetspeak began with an impromptu Twitter party where all the participants chimed in and voila, Tweetspeak was born. I wrote about my experience with Tweetspeak and some of their mischief here.

Barkat and her team are committed to folks reading and memorizing poetry and to that end they recently included the poem Barter by Sara Teasdale in their offerings to patrons and readers alike. I’m up for the challenge as well, as I enjoy the content of this poem very much–life and loveliness and all–plus, it rhymes!

Here’s what’s printed out and sitting on my desk…. I’ve got the first stanza down. Baby steps.

Barter  Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)

Life has loveliness to sell,
     All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
     Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children’s faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.
Life has loveliness to sell,
     Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
     Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit’s still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.
Spend all you have for loveliness,
     Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
     Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.
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Loveliness, my summer garden
Now it’s your turn. 

Find a simple poem you like, rhyming or otherwise, and add it to your memory banks. Then tell me, what are you reading these days? I’d love to hear in the Comments.

 

In Which I Speak of Buying Books & Saying Hello

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Golden Gardens Park, Seattle WA, end of summer jlc.

Dear Faithful (and new) Readers~Hello! You might remember back in January when I posted here about spending  my writing efforts in other arenas and that I would henceforth no longer be writing regularly in this space.
Well~things change and God nudges and it’s the first day of Autumn, always a marker for new beginnings. So I am writing to you anew. You may find more poetry here in the coming months as I’ve discovered a latent passion for both reading and writing it. You may also see topics a little more wide ranging than in the past; I look forward to sharing with you what comes to mind and pours out through my pen. Thank you for coming along.

In the meantime, let’s talk about books.

I know you’re as chagrined as I am that all things Halloween and Harvest are now overflowing at nearly every store you see. And alas, the holiday season isn’t far behind. (At my local Michael’s it’s already here. Sigh).

Thoughts of holiday gift-giving and receiving always bring to mind books I’d love to have or want to purchase. And I’m guessing you have many folks to consider as well when it comes to gifting, whether during the holidays or year round for birthdays and such. (Speaking of books about the holidays, I wrote one that I think you’ll find fun and helpful and encouraging–Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas. You can purchase a copy from Indiebound, Books a Million and Barnes & Noble–all listed below). 

But here’s the thing about buying books. The behemoth that is Amazon has nearly swamped the world with its reach and taken the soul out of bookselling and buying. And while I enjoy the ease with which I can purchase everything from bubble bath, to my favorite music and new baby clothes for my granddaughter from my phone…. well, part of me just really wants to do the Christian thing and put the soul back into commerce and spend my money somewhere there’s an actual human.

Consider this my feeble attempt at holding back the tsunami that is ecommerce. (I live in Seattleland where Amazon is headquartered. This is no small feat.)

In the years that I have been attending writing conferences and workshops and retreats I’ve met some fine folks in person who actually are still in business as Christian booksellers and who could really use our money and support. (Two are listed below).

They will not give you the deep discounts and deals that Amazon provides, but your money will go towards supporting the heart of a business and supporting good writers everywhere. If you don’t live in Wichita or somewhere in Pennsylvania, you can support them by ordering online.

One of the largest independent booksellers in the country is Powell’s books in Portland, OR. I love what they say on their website, explaining the whys of independent bookstores:

“Think about the last good book you read. Did it make you feel more connected to others? Maybe it served as a welcome escape. Maybe it helped you rediscover the beauty in life. Did it surprise you?

As an independent bookstore, we strive to offer the same variety and richness of experience as the books on our shelves. And because the only people we’re beholden to are our customers and ourselves, we can focus on what really matters — promoting diverse perspectives, upholding the free exchange of ideas, championing the enduring power of books, and bolstering the great community of readers and authors we’re lucky to be a part of.

Thank you for supporting these lofty goals. Your choice sustains a family business with over 500 local booksellers, and allows us to follow our passion for getting the right books into the right hands, 365 days a year.”

Here is my list (by no means exhaustive) of brick and mortar stores with their online websites, followed by online-only booksources. I hope you’ll consider these as your go-to’s when it comes to buying books for all those on your lists.

Powell’s City of Books-Portland Oregon, plus 4 other Portland Locations

Flagship location with over one million books!

Totally worth a field trip, my PNW friends
1005 W Burnside St.
Portland, OR 97209

Third Place Books 3 Seattle area locations–Lake Forest Park (original store), Ravenna and Seward Park

17171 Bothell Way NE, #A101, Lake Forest Park WA 98155

https://www.thirdplacebooks.com

Hearts and Minds Bookstore–Byron Borger Dallastown, PA Byron is committed to supporting Christian authors and their work through his store, which is more like a ministry than anything else. His staff is remarkably helpful; there are actual people to talk with you call about your orders and books come wrapped with exquisite care. 

https://www.heartsandmindsbooks.com/

234 East Main Street
Dallastown, PA 17313
(717) 246-3333

Eighth Day Books-Warren Farha Wichita, KS. Warren regularly sets up his display of books at the bi-annual Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids Michigan where I first met him in 2018. He is also the official bookseller for the Glen Workshop (Image Journal) in Santa Fe each year, where he also was a gracious servant to all of us book-loving attendees.

https://www.eighthdaybooks.com/

2838 E Douglas Ave,

Wichita, KS 67214

(316) 683-9446

Goodwill Stores I buy most of my books used and Goodwill is always my first choice.

For collectible, rare and out of print, go to https://www.goodwillbooks.com/

Barnes and Noble (of course) Everywhere almost

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/

Online Only

Indie Bound

https://www.indiebound.org/

Includes a link (big red button) to find a local independent bookseller in your area

Books a Million (BAM!)

https://www.booksamillion.com/

Books, Toys, Tech & More

Thrift Books–New and Used Books–also a favorite source

https://www.thriftbooks.com/

Abe Books–Hard to find, out of print and rare–also a favorite

https://www.abebooks.com/

Oh~almost forgot–Half Price Books–they’re everywhere! Actual stores and online.

Happy Shopping! Tell me, what’s your favorite booksource? I’d love to hear in the Comments.

 

The Problem with Making Plans

P_20190120_153155_vHDR_On.jpgSome History

I’ve been writing most of my adult life via Letters to the Editor in publications as diverse as our local San Joaquin valley paper, to People Magazine (something about Michael Dukakis–Google him). I forayed into writing and submitting essays before they became creative nonfiction and had a few pieces published–one was an entire page and garnered me a whopping $75.00 check. (It’s on microfiche in the Fresno Public Library. You can also Google microfiche). I even had some poetry printed in one of the very first Jesus People magazines, Cornerstone. (Google. Again.)

In addition to writing, I returned to school as a mom and finished my teaching credential program at the age of 40. The years I spent in the classroom, along with raising our son and daughter demanded more and more of my time. There was very little opportunity to write or submit work anywhere. However, when my kids were grown and gone several years ago I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit to begin writing again.

At the time ‘writing’ equaled ‘published’ in my mind. When I mentioned this to someone they suggested I start a blog. “What’s a blog?” I asked. Well.

This Blog’s Beginning and Connections

Seven years ago this week during a 7-day snowstorm that shuttered the city and the schools, I had plenty of time on my hands and jumped into the blogosphere with both feet.

As I went looking around the interwebs for Christian bloggers I discovered three kind souls in particular who answered my novice question, “where do I begin?” One suggestion was to use the free online platform of Blogger.  I taught myself how to navigate their layouts, hit ‘Publish’ and 3 Way Light was born. ‘Taught’ is a relative term; I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I entitled my blog “Three Way Light,” because I wanted my words to shine, reflect and reveal the light and glory of God. My words went off into cyberspace and thus began a wonderful adventure.

When I reached out to those who had gone before me or who were journeying alongside, I found I was surrounded by welcoming writer friends and readers. It was an astonishing event; the community of people I met were encouraging and kind as I connected via the comments in my blogposts. Many of those people became personal, in real life friends; in fact many of you, dear readers, are those kind souls whom I have had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know in person over the years.

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Over time I transitioned to my current site via the WordPress platform and changed Three Way Light to simply my name, as people were beginning to know my work and my words (which was also astonishing.)

A New Direction

Here I am seven years later and God has said it’s time. Time for a change in the blogosphere.

Seven years is a long-ish time. Seven is also a number in God’s economy that signifies completeness. Through very surprising circumstances and another silent nudge from the Holy Spirit, a course correction is in order. Not for a different direction, but to travel with fewer encumbrances, if that makes sense. The present nudges have come in very subtle ways… I re-read my journal from the last month and found pieces like breadcrumbs on the page, all leading to an ‘aha!’ decision that surprised me a great deal.

One day while I was pondering these soul thoughts and the tug of my heart to grow my words in other ways, I heard a still, small voice say, “What if you stopped blogging regularly?” And just like that I was not only shocked but incredibly relieved. (Sometimes we don’t know how wound up we are about something until God releases us, yes?)

The shock came because I had grand plans at the beginning of 2019 to regularly feature work from Faith Writers Over 50–The Sage Ones, to feature more female poets of faith and to spotlight Christian writers of color. I would do interviews, I would gather awesome folks to introduce to the world. I would make the world more beautiful by pointing towards poetry.

But I’m also being pulled towards a regular life of writing in other directions and I can’t do it all. So~as of this writing, I will be signing off my last blog post entry. No more weekly or semi-weekly blog entries to think about. Insert happy/sad face.

That being said, this website will continue to be a place for resources and information and encouragement, as my tagline says. I’ll just have things set up differently. The categories and tabs will be modified somewhat and readers will find entries in lists rather than blogposts.

Past blogposts will be enfolded into Lists/Resources like:

  • 5 Female Faith Writers
  • Faith Writers Over 50
  • 3 Blogs About Faith and Food
  • 5 Non-Profits I Trust and Give To
  • Christian Writers of Color
  • 12 Writers Conferences and Retreats for 2019 (click here for that)
  • and many more

I’ll also be adding new categories–‘Photography’ combined with music–my amateur film captures with music I love, and a ‘Favorites’ tab–listing websites and blogs I enjoy.

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There’s a rainbow in the distance if you look very closely….

Most change comes at a very slow pace so the differences here will show up over time. Something like turning a cruise ship around.

I’m still venturing through the water, paddling towards the shore, but the oars will be a little lighter in my hands. (And I’ll be waving at all of you from the shore.)

My regular writing will now be via my newsletter ‘Random Acts of Writing–Miraculous to Mundane.’ Every other month beginning with February 1st I’ll be penning a multitude of thoughts I haven’t shared elsewhere. You can sign up for my newsletter here. Next month’s edition will feature notes as varied as my review of “Mary Poppins Returns” to thoughts about two new book projects and links to other places on the web where my work has appeared.

I hope you’ll come along for the ride by subscribing here. 

Rowing towards the same shore with you,

Jody

 

5 Female Poets of Faith

gardenia NOLAOne thing the world needs is for more people to read poetry. Especially from female writers of a certain age who identify as people of faith. I hope you enjoy this small round up and hope you’ll take the time to read more of their work via the links provided. You will be richer for it.

–Abigail Carroll

Photo:  Julian Russell

That I Might Dwell

That I might dwell in warbler
song, in fields of sorrel, fields
of stars, that dwelling in your
house I’d know, I’d rest, I’d play
at wonder. Oh that I might dwell

in pine-branched shade, among
the sway, among the praise of oak-fern,                                                                                        granite, jay nest, spruce—
among the shadow-dance of leaves,
the breeze unpinning doubt, all

apathy, all hollow hours, all fears.
Oh may I dwell in reverence here,
and dwelling in your house, I’ll
wait, I’ll pray, I’ll lay this body
down on what you’ve dreamed,

on what you’ve sung, spliced, spun,
twined, embroidered, breathed.
And dwelling in your house I’ll
know the peace of moss, the moth-                                                                                                    winged hush of unhinged awe,

musk of sage, gaze of deer. Oh let
me lose myself in rooms of fox-                                                                                                          glove, cowslip, wild plum, wren—
that I might taste the sleep of loam,
that I might tenant beauty here.

from Habitation of Wonder by Abigail Carroll (Wipf & Stock 2018)

Abigail Carroll is a poet and author whose most recent book, Habitation of Wonder (Wipf & Stock, 2018), is an offering of poems that travels the intersection of the natural landscape and the landscape of spirit. A Gathering of Larks: Letters to Saint Francis from a Modern-Day Pilgrim (Eerdmans, 2017), has been called “sparked with joy and stitched with whimsy” by the Chicago Tribune, and Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal (Basic Books, 2013), was a finalist for the Zocalo Public Square Book Prize.

Click here for Abigail’s website.

–Barbara Crooker

IRELAND

A brown hare washes her face

in the lane while the hare in the moon

looks on.  The hare in the moon

carries an egg, new cycle of life

that comes in the spring.  But now,

it’s autumn, the sky closing in,

fir trees inking footprints

on the gray silk sky.  A luminous sky,

tattered with crows.  Two swans,

ruffled lilies, float in the lake’s bright bowl.

Some fairy’s touched all the trees overnight,

turned them orange, yellow, and red.  All of

the green fields are clotted with sheep.  What

is the world, but the body of God?

from The Book of Kells by Barbara Crooker (Cascade Books, 2019)

Barbara Crooker and I first met in person at the Seattle AWP Conference in 2014. I’d just read one of her poems in a collection “How to Read a Poem” (TSPoetry Press) and gushed about how much I loved it. Barbara’s been writing a long time and is an inspiration to me personally as her persistence in publishing has blessed the world with so much beautiful poetry. 

Her 8th volume The Book of Kells from Cascade books, has just been released. From the back cover: “In her work, Crooker considers the struggle to pin lines to the page, to tie experience to the written word, to wrestle between faith and doubt, to accept the aging body as it tries to be fully alive in the world. Crooker contrasts the age of faith, when the Book of Kells was created, to our modern age of doubt, and uses as her foundation the old stones of Irish myth and lore from pre-Christian times. Above all, she captures the awe that the word inspired in preliterate times: “The world was the Book of God. The alphabet shimmered and buzzed with beauty.””

You can read more about Barbara and her work on her website.

–Jeanne Murray Walker

STAYING POWER

In appreciation of Maxim Gorky at the International convention of Atheists.  1929

Like Gorky, I sometimes follow my doubts

outside and question the metal sky,

longing to have the fight settled, thinking

I can’t go on like this, and finally I say

all right, it is improbable, all right, there

is no God.  And then as if I’m focusing

a magnifying glass on dry leaves, God blazes up.

It’s the attention, maybe, to what isn’t

there that makes the notion flare like

a forest fire until I have to spend the afternoon

spraying it with the hose to put it out.  Even

on an ordinary day when a friend calls,

tells me they’ve found melanoma,

complains that the hospital is cold, I whisper, God.

God, I say as my heart turns inside out.

Pick up any language by the scruff of its neck,

wipe its face, set it down on the lawn,

and I bet it will toddle right into the godfire

again, which–though they say it doesn’t

exist—can send you straight to the burn unit.

Oh, we have only so many words to think with.

Say God’s not fire, say anything, say God’s

a phone, maybe.  You know you didn’t order a phone,

but there it is.  It rings.  You don’t know who it could be.

You don’t want to talk, so you pull out

the plug.  It rings.  You smash it with a hammer

till it bleeds springs and coils and clobbered up

metal bits.  It rings again.  You pick it up

and a voice you love whispers hello.

Jeanne Murray Walker is a writer and teacher born in Parkers Prairie, a village of a thousand people in Minnesota.  She frequently lectures, gives readings, and teaches workshops in places ranging from The Library of Congress and Oxford University to Whidbey Island, WA, from a working fish camp in Alaska and  Texas canyon country to Orvieto, Italy. She taught at The University of Delaware for 40 years, where she headed the Creative Writing Concentration..  She also serves as a Mentor in the Seattle Pacific University Master of Fine Arts Program. 

Jeanne’s newest release is from Paraclete Press, Pilgrim, You Find the Path by Walking, a collection of 50 sonnets in contemporary language.

Click  here for Jeanne’s website.

–Laurie Klein

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St. Kevin’s Blackbird

Outstretched in Lent, Kevin’s hand

did not expect

the blackbird’s egg, its speckled warmth,

new-laid, in his uplifted palm. Think prayer

as nest: an intimate travail whereby

fledgling hopes, like birds, leave behind

a kind of grave. Amen, seeming

premature, the saint-in-waiting

dovetailed faith with knuckles.

And afterward, did he save those eggshell bits,

adorn his windowsill with each goodbye

the smallest beak ever made?

He never said. Nor will he

know these hearts of ours,

more shell than shelter,

as they fissure, let in light enough

for Christ to enter. Yes,

let grief be, with every breath, a readied womb.

from “Where the Sky Opens” (Wipf & Stock, 2015)

Laurie Klein is the author of Where the Sky Opens (Wipf & Stock, 2015) and the prize-winning chapbook Bodies of Water, Bodies of Flesh. She also wrote the classic praise chorus “I Love You, Lord” forty-three years ago, “weary and bone-lonely…while our first child slept.”

Laurie’s poems and prose have appeared in many publications, including Ascent, The Southern Review, Ruminate, Atlanta Review, Terrain, and the Holman Personal Worship Bible. She is a recipient of the Thomas Merton Prize for Poetry of the Sacred. She lives with her husband near their daughters and a growing group of grandchildren in Eastern Washington. You can connect with her on Facebook and at www.lauriekleinscribe.com.

–Marjorie Maddox 

Photo Credit: Thad Meckley

Eucharist

Host

the small circle of face

we see by

in light of wine

the sliver of why

that bends the bones

begs “Come!”

the orbed cross

bright in the palm

of the poor

the crucified moon

nailed high

on the night of tongue

Chalice

To sip is to sing the Amen

into veins, sweeten

the soured tongue.

But first: lips

pursed with it,

hollowed mouth brimming

with want.

This is the swallowing

of what spewed out: spears

stuck long in the side,

thorns thick in the skin.

No trickle.

A Hallelujah

torrent down the throat.

Marjorie Maddox is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania. She has published eleven collections of poetry, most recently the  re-released Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation, about her father’s heart transplant. Some of her other titles include What She Was Saying (stories) from Fomite Press, Wives’ Tales (poems) from Seven Kitchens Press, and True, False, None of the Above from Cascade Books’ Poeima Poetry Series, as well as Local News from Someplace Else (about living in an unsafe world).

Marjorie lives with her husband and two children in Williamsport, Pa., birthplace of Little League and home of the Little League World Series. She is the great grandniece of baseball legend Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers who helped break the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson.

Click here for Marjorie’s website. 

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Tell me, whose poetry are you reading these days?

When God’s Word Goes Haywire {Operator Error}

P_20181111_130112You know how it is when you’re clicking around online and you visit a website link looking for information and up pops that 404 Error message?

I was stuck in a rabbit hole kind of like that recently, stewing for weeks over an issue (always the battleground for me, the ol’ noggin) and could not seem to get past it. I had worried the situation to death, played scenarios over and over again about a particular Terrible Thing that I needed to pray against and it wouldn’t go away. I woke up with it on my mind and went to bed mumbling about it in my prayers.

There was spiritual warfare going on like crazy, fighting principalities and powers, pushing back that stupid devil/destroyer/stealer. I was in a battle for sure.

So~one night in the shower--the land of ‘aha’s’, we all know this, right?–I heard the first half of John 10:10 running through my head, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy….” and the next thing I heard was the Holy Spirit saying, “Um, there’s the abundant life part. You forgot the rest of the verse.”

The problem with memorizing Scripture, if I may be so bold, is that sometimes the wrong parts stick. I’d been so uber-focused on the steal/kill/destroy part of the verse in John that it had overshadowed completely the fact that God is a good and abundant God.

He is aware of what is needed and able to take care of those we love. He is not blind to what’s going on in our lives and the lives of others. He’s not caught by surprise with the challenges we face. He is rich in mercy, lovingkindness and grace. And he’s like superpowerful, to use the theological term, capable of accomplishing what seems impossible.

So, in my head, I made up a counter-ditty for the God Team.

Ready? 

The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. But Jesus comes to heal, build and give joy.  Heal, build and give joy. That’s what He does. That’s what He’s all about. That’s who He is, what His character contains. Resurrection power, unending love and unlimited resources.

I’d like to work on memorizing t h a t.

Here’s a picture I made in case you need to remember, too. heal, build and give joyThis week look for Scriptures as you read that focus on God’s capabilities, his care and his concern. See how it turns your prayers around and then let me know how it goes;  I’d love to hear about it.