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Celestial Bodies {a #poem}

My weary eyes need reminders to
view the galaxies aright. Focused on
the sliver of moon, they forget an
entire orb hides in the dark.
I gaze at dull concrete, traipse
around the observatory, past
an entrance where God stands in the
doorway beckoning me to peer,
Galileo-like, past roofs, across
trees, into velvet sky.

As feet pause on sure ground,
a whisper beckons to dream
above, beyond to distant beauty.
Consider the immeasurable
heavens inside, reckon my
need as I’m handed a telescope.

Brightened eyes rest and remember.


This poem was written as part of Poems for Ephesians, an online project of D.S. Martin at McMasters Divinity College. I was particularly taken by Eugene Peterson’s rendering of these verses in Chapter 1: 17) “I ask the God our master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory – to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, 18 your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for Christians, 19 oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him – endless energy, boundless strength! 20 All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, 21 in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments,” 

How appropriate this passage is for these times, #lifeinthetimeofthecorona, where we cling to the truth that God is “in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments.” And, that as believers in Jesus, we would be urged to “grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life.”

I want to reckon my need as I’m handed a telescope, to rest and remember the power of Jesus in me and on display in the world, from the particular to farflung planets. He is over it all.

We Were Made for Connection

Last week I wrote about #loveinthetimeofthecorona–illuminating what or how we can embody love in the world in these very challenging times, especially as believers in Jesus. (And? Did you know, #loveinthetimeofthecorona is actually a hashtag on Instagram and Twitter. If you are on either of those social media platforms, type in the hashtag and be inspired.)

I was originally going to title this wrap-up, “Thank you Al Gore for the Internet” (which is partially true. Thank you Wikipedia). People all over the globe are working and connecting and chatting via Zoom and Facetime, Facebook live and Marco Polo videos and so on, all thanks to the world wide web.

How starved we are for the sight of our friends and loved ones’ faces! And a voice–who knew how we would miss that? I was serenaded last week via Voxer by a friend on the opposite coast as she sang “It is Well” in her lovely alto voice and tears rolled down my cheeks as I harmonized with her.

Our church has live streamed “services” from an almost empty sanctuary (with stuffed animals in the audience) and the attendance last Sunday was nearly double what we have on an ordinary Sunday. This week our pastor shared a message about Jesus calming the storms, with a painting on the living room wall behind him as spoke from his home. Viewers were given his cel phone number to text in answers to trivia questions from the Bible and even the young kids got to play along. Necessity is the mother of invention, yes? Virtual or not, is a great way to be connected with those we know and love.

In that vein I’d like to share some of the goodness I’ve found online with you–a quiet word on how to deal with sadness or fear, and talk to your kids about their feelings. Orchestral music via Skype, a library tour with poet Malcolm Guite, the Quarantine Song from two very talented Grandparents, never before seen photos of crystal clear canals in Venice, Italy and opera singers and everyday folks serenading from their balconies and plazas.

I hope you’ll take some time to listen and watch; maybe you’ll find a way to connect just a little bit more with the beauty and goodness around you.

Love in the Time of the Corona

IMG_20200319_084623It has occurred to me during this time of worldwide change and upset that although we have been told to isolate and keep our distance from one another, we may in the long run learn how to love each other better. Poetry has been my method of processing the world lately; here’s a few lines from my heart to yours.

Love in a Time of The Corona*
Although I cannot touch you, care goes deeper
than skin–invisible; it cannot be taken away.
Love underground, like somnolent bulbs
shedding their skin, unstoppable eruption.
Forced into the open, colors like tentative,
defiant flags unfurl, waving for all to see.
Bent by the wind or subtle as a tepid breeze,
flying colors that will last down deep in the
dark to live another day.
——-
When my daughter Leah and I were in New York City on September 11th, like the rest of the world, we saw communities of care sprout up overnight as neighbors, families and friends reached out beyond their fears and need to help one another.

The camaraderie and sensitivity lasted a good long while (certainly not long enough) and eventually we all went back to our isolated selves, each waving our own flags of independence.
God did not make us to live alone–we are made for community and each other.
I pray that the catastrophic changes we are experiencing now will, as Eugene Peterson says in The Message (James 1:3), “force our faith life into the open” for all to see. That our fruit of love will remain.
Amen.


*’corona’ is of course, Spanish for ‘crown.’ One of my niece’s led us in a prayer last week at church (our last gathering for a good long while) that those who are “running in every other direction because of the Coronavirus would run to the one who wears the crown, Jesus.” Isn’t that a great prayer?

Speaking of prayer, if you missed my thoughts about pinecones, planets and prayers you can read those here. And don’t forget to sign up for my Random Acts of Writing–quarterly-ish thoughts straight to your virtual Inbox. Just click HERE; You can unsubscribe any time.

Be well friends, be wise, and take a walk to look at Creation waking up. Easter is coming–you can’t quarantine the Resurrection!

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When Music Breaks Your Heart {open}

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I sat down two hours ago to write this post, but every screen I turn to–phone, tablet, computer–has an update or email or message about COVID-19. And, since it’s in my Seattleland backyard, it’s difficult to ignore. I could scroll endlessly through articles and information, repost and share what I’ve found with updates on the situation–but really? I’m convinced I need to change my focus-for my mental, spiritual and emotional health.

So I’m going to talk about music. How it lifts our spirits, ministers to our souls and breaks our hearts {open}.

In her new book Chasing Vines, author and speaker Beth Moore writes,

Music wields a power words alone can rarely match. It sidesteps your defenses and comes for you without politely asking permission.

Several years ago I was glancing out the window in my study when a Facebook message popped up with a link to Gabriel’s Oboe, a composition by Ennio Morricone from The Mission movie soundtrack. I’d seen the film years before but did not remember this particular piece. It is simple strings and gentle notes from the oboe, resonant of the Angel Gabriel, after whom the piece is named.

As soon as I hit ‘play’ I began to sob. There’s no easy way to say that–the tears came without stopping from somewhere deep inside me. God began a healing process in my life because of that moment, touching a place that was wounded in ways I didn’t even realize. When you listen, see if the final note doesn’t move you in the same way. And if you’d prefer a strings only version, here are 2Cellos and their rendition.

How to Lent-Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us

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Posing by New Orleans trolley, 2012

The city of New Orleans has a singular reputation for laissez les bon temps rouler (“let the good times roll”) no matter what time of year. During Mardi Gras, though, the celebrations take on an over-the-top frenzy that is hard to match.

We lived in New Orleans in the 1970’s and saw this dress-up carnival cum Halloween celebration firsthand. Mardi Gras (literally ‘fat Tuesday’ in French) offers the citizens and umpty zillion of their best friends to dress up, dance and drink, throw candy and don beads. There are parades uptown, downtown, in the suburbs, everywhere.

I still have some beads from one of those parades. I also have snapshots of folks in the crowds during one particularly bawdy celebration. In New Orleans many of the folks live for Mardi Gras, its year round preparation and presence synonymous with their fair, old city. In theory, Mardi Gras is a day to indulge one’s senses, for the next day—Ash Wednesday (February 26th)—is to be marked by ashes and repentance.

Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, the forty days of prayer and fasting observed by many faith traditions, and derives its name from the placing of repentance ashes on the foreheads of participants. Priests or pastors recite either, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Lenten practices are intended to prepare our hearts to acknowledge the passion and death of Christ on the way to the celebration of Easter. But like the candy and costumes on Mardi Gras, the overwhelm of the world has overshadowed the meaning of Lent.

Phillis Wheatley, African American Poet

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From Poetry Foundation online
Several years ago in a biography of preacher and evangelist Jonathan Edwards, I read the name of  “slave poet” Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784). Wheatley wrote an elegy (poem on the occasion of one’s death) for George Whitefield, one of Jonathan Edwards’ dear friends. Whitefield and Edwards were pillars of the Great Awakening that swept the world from England to the United States in the 1700’s and Wheatley had been greatly affected by the move of God in her own life. In fact, much of her strong Christian faith shows up in her poems, which I soon found out when I went looking.
What’s astonishing to me is the language and voice of Wheatley’s work. She was brought to America from Senegal/Gambia at the age of 7 and purchased by a family in Boston to purportedly “accompany the family’s children and share in domestic work.” As a result, she inadvertently was taught to read and write, receiving a stellar classical education alongside the children, something unheard for a slave. She read widely the literature and early works of Virgil and Ovid, John Milton and Shakespeare, and the style of her writing reflects this classical immersion.
The more I read the more surprised I was, assuming that all African slaves in the 1700’s were illtreated and illiterate. Thanks to my Sophomore English teacher, Dr. Kehl, I learned to love the language and style of Shakespeare’s writing (though I often needed assistance in deciphering his meaning.) When I first became a Christian I enjoyed the King James Version of the Bible for just that reason. Reading Wheatley’s poetry was like reading Shakespeare and I was drawn in.
Thanks to her owners and their wide circles in Boston society Wheatley’s work was known and shared widely in Boston and across the Atlantic. Her first published poem was printed when she was only 13 and she went on to write many, many more. Mary Wheatley, Phillis’ benefactress, saw to it that bookseller Archibald Bell begin to circulate Phillis’ work, and the debut edition of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral was published in 1773. Poems on Various Subjects was the first volume of poetry by an American Negro published in modern times. Its readers included notables like Benjamin Franklin, among others and was well received and widely supported.