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.

Conversation {a #poem}

IMG_20191027_153436What did I do to deserve this? is the wrong ask.

Because you didn’t.

Do anything.

There is no quid pro quo/cash economy in this wide

invisible, Kingdom-filled world. The sunlight searching

between oak leaves, the slant of green on the birdbath,

chime of silver in the breeze. It’s all gift.

Like the sloppy kiss of a two-year-old or an unexpected

letter in the mail, you are worth surprising.

Don’t quibble with your questions, paint your Creator

God as an if/then Saviour. He is a because/when God.

Because you are mine, I will pour out my gracelings

when I want, to whom I want.

Just look up from time to time and say thanks.

That is always the correct answer.

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.

Image result for church calendar graphic

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 Continue reading

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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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).

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Five 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.