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Swept

Into the swing of words
The cadence
The dip and bend and rush
Of the thing
The slowing, as if when truth
Itself settles on the tongue
You have no choice but
To savor, mull it over
Momentarily
In your mind
On your tongue
And then past the lips
Fluttering into the sky
Settling dovelike
On shoulders
Or the stone
The flesh of a waking heart

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Still in Saturday

blood and water

The longest Saturday

this world has known

Nigh on two thousand years

waiting

Waiting

for the sun to set, so it may rise

for the winter white to end

for the spinning world to slow

or stop

Or wheel toward a resolution

of some sort

still Saturday

Morning, perhaps

When shadows stretch toward the day

Or evening,

with a new day drawing near

Just beyond the night

Mourning

Loss of life and will to live

Loss of love of life

Loss of love itself

As powers of air whirl

Around the world

Yet Saturday’s sadness

Wrings sweetness, though disguised

through hope

by faith

in love

For thus is Light

Finding Grace

Grace for grace
grace after grace
grace upon grace
Isn’t it what we have all
been given
Freely
What we all should give
Just as freely
But in my thoughts
My heart
my words
I find gavels and courtrooms and judgment
May the words of my lips
The thoughts of my heart
find a place of grace
in Your sight, O God
You, who have ever been
my Grace
my Redeemer
my Strength

Worship in Gratitude

Marjorie Holmes on Creation

“How can we worship without being grateful? Giving thanks in all our beings for the sheer privilege of being here to witness the marvels of creation–from the magnificence of stars and mountains to the frailest blue harebell or humblest mouse. How can we worship God without rejoicing and being grateful for the greatest marvel of all–self? One’s own precious, sentient self, and every circumstance of its life experience.

Gratefulness! Just being grateful–that, too, flings open even wider the door to God. One thing is sure, I can never hang on to God if I keep right on whining and complaining, blaming other people, the world, and sometimes even the weather, for what seems my dismal lot. In essence, blaming God! No, no, such ingratitude is an insult to my Creator. It’s like slamming the door on God.” – Marjorie Holmes

We can’t be grateful unless we notice. Unless we see reasons to be grateful. Unless our eyes are open. In the beginning of a romance, it’s easy to notice things. The lilt of a voice or the cute accent. The fine features or the curly hair. It’s easy to be grateful for every moment shared. It’s natural to show gratitude to the loved one, in thoughts and words and deeds, because that person is all we’re thinking about.

But time passes and the beauty seems to fade. Our eyes grow dull … or did we never see clearly in the first place? They say that love grows cold; passion and romance related to fire, and apathy to frigidity. Must love always fade into coldness, something wintry and worn instead of springlike and new? Must our love for God do the same?

God forbid. Help us to open our eyes. Because the wonder and the newness, the gratitude and the receiving of every perfect and beautiful gift, comes with seeing eyes.

So much love is sprinkled throughout the world. Awash in the light of every day are gifts bestowed from a God of perfect love. A goal or purpose to pursue. A sight that brings laughter or belonging. A worthwhile cause to promote. A son or daughter or husband or wife to love and with whom to rejoice. A friend or a book that puts in words something you’ve always felt so you know you’re not alone. A crystal sky, a placid lake. A puddle reflecting pristine blue.

It is all love. We see it and know it if we will only take the time to look. A writer, an artist, a lover, tries to take that time. It might come more natural for certain people. But there are moments for every one of us that it takes effort. Because our hours are brimming with timely tasks and overdue projects.

Today, perhaps this moment, stop. Take that time. Make that time. Look. Listen. Let your heart and mind fill with wonder. Then write … or live … from a heart of gratitude.

 

God, it is a challenge, my days filled with so much to do and try to be. Help me to make the effort to stop, fill my heart and life with gratitude … so that I may truly see the wonder of all You are and all that You have done.

Saturated by Grace

Saturated by Grace - Brennan Manning

“Our world is saturated with grace, and the lurking presence of God is revealed not only in spirit but in matter – in a deer leaping across a meadow, in the flight of an eagle, in fire and water, in a rainbow after a summer storm, in a gentle doe streaking through a forest, in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, in a child licking a chocolate ice cream cone, in a woman with windblown hair. God intended for us to discover His loving presence in the world around us.” – Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

The act of writing is a certain grace, and it begins – in many ways – with a sense of wonder. A writer takes in the sweetness of the world and its pain, the joy and the sorrow, the windblown moments of awe and the heart-catching times of silence. The task and the privilege of a writer is to see it all. To look upon the beauty and the shame of the world and of us who live within it, and write with wonder and fearlessness for the sake of that world. For the sake of us who live within it.

Writing, and those words written, are a dispensation of wonder … or they can be. When the words are riveted with grace, fastened with that ever-deepening sense of awe and gratitude, the result is beauty for the world. A ray of light. Of truth. But it begins with eyes open, and a heart seeking the sweet exchange of God and nature. Seeing His fingerprint, ever so lightly, tracing all things within the world. The opening and closing of a blue butterfly’s wings as it rests upon a butter-colored flower. A stone beneath the ripples of a stream, its colors brought to life by those waters. A child’s trusting smile at the promise of his parent.

A writer is beckoned to move slowly enough through the world to see these things, to reflect on the story whispering beneath the sight, and to write of them.

A New Year begins. I feel as if the past year has charged past without me having taken stock of it. But it is gone. So many moments of raw beauty and wordless wonder passed by. How many did I miss with my eyes closed, or my gaze fastened upon the weight of my daily tasks and concerns? Too many. Too many for a writer who feels the beckoning of truth and light and wonder and grace … but only when I stop and take the time to truly look and listen and see.

A New Year begins, and it begins with the desire to see the world with wonder anew. For my sake and for the sake of my family and those I love. For the sake of a God of love, who dispenses cupfuls of color and joy and laughter at every step of nature and asks us to behold His glory. And to measure it out freely to the world.

 

God, this year, let my words, my thoughts, my writings and my deeds, whisper the weight of Your glory and love, and bring glory to You. It begins with a sense of wonder at all You do and all You are. Let me move slowly, breathlessly enough to see Your works with eyes of awe and gratefulness for all that You are. Amen.

Genesis One Poem

a-birdPoem like and filled

With wonder and the stirring of earth’s worth

The cadence of creation

Let there be … and it was so … and it was good

So good, for it was Yours

Made at Your hand

Triune God almighty

From eternities past

How far back stretched Your hand

Your beauty, Your knowledge, Your triune joy

Into eternity

Before You reached forth and brought life at a Word?

Into the measureless span of no time

Spoke time into being until time shall be no more

How far forward reached Your mind, all-knowing, all-loving, supremely just

To see where Your creation would fall, and further yet, where You would enter

At the moment before time when all was good

So good, for it was Yours

All-knowing, those first words You spoke into this universe

Let there be light

Were spoken knowing the Light that would one day

Descend from Heaven to lighten a darkened earth

A promise to reclaim the world who has forgotten You

Who so easily forgets

But you did not forget

From the cadence of creation until now

You remember this world

For it is good because of Your hand … because of Your Word … because it is Yours.

juggling pinsWe all struggle with our desire for balance, that place of imaginary security. We all admire balance; we even envy it when we perceive others are living a more balanced life than we. But this balance we see and the balance we desire, is it from God? Is it from a need for God? Or is it personal, prideful gymnastics?

…  It takes all my effort and focus just to maintain this appearance of balance. How long I can continue the effort will depend on my resolve.

Eventually, in exhaustion, God offers me merciful futility. I fall down. Gratefully defeated.

There is an unbalanced balance that pleases God. You see it throughout the Bible. It’s only when I accept my imbalance and acknowledge how weak and crippled I am, that I become dependent on God.

That’s where I find the paradox of balance, leaning totally on Him. –  Stephen Shortridge, in Deepest Thanks, Deeper Apologies

One of my ongoing struggles is with balance. I sometimes feel like a tightrope walker. Sometime like a circus clown with a juggling act … a clown because if anyone were to look closely enough, they would realize how comical it really is. “Why are you trying to juggle that?” I’m not sure if I would have the answer. So I hope no one looks too closely while I keep up the act.

And I get frustrated when I drop a pin or two. Or I get annoyed that no one notices how hard I’m trying to maintain. Or I sink into a dark morass of self-inflicted disappointment, because of self-set goals I’ve missed.

And still, I try to find a balance.

I recently edited a project for a writer, who is also a painter. In order to get a better sense for his writing style, I began reading one of his previously published works: Deepest Thanks, Deeper Apologies. Something I read did more than whisper to me. It spoke, loudly: “This is you. Pay attention!” Maybe it was the timing. Maybe it was just the simple truths. But I saw myself in the above paragraphs.

Finding an unbalance balance. A strange paradox indeed. Unsettling, even undesirable. But sometimes it is necessary because maintaining a perfect balance requires motionlessness. But life itself requires movement, change, challenges. The passage I read and the resulting reflections drew me, on the threshold of a New Year, to make this my prayer …

 

Heavenly Father, it’s a New Year. I meant to have everything worked out, my goals and to-do list for the entire year. Okay, maybe not that, but in my mind I wanted everything figured out, and preferably on paper, so I know what to expect in order to decide in advance how I will tackle it.

An unbalanced balance must be what I need to embrace this year, at least in the beginning, because I see that a motionless balance will not be an option. Please help me with this, Lord.

I don’t have everything figured out and that’s okay. Rather than patting myself on the back because of my misguided sense of control, it will force me to depend on you. And that’s what I really want. Even when I don’t want it, it’s what I really need.

Forgive me for trying to figure it all out instead of resting in You and allowing You to work.

Help me to understand that the things I try to do without Your strength and guidance will only fall flat. And the things that You do through me, often almost without me even knowing or realizing, are the things that really matter. The things that go farther than those things I am grasping to control.

It’s the start of a new year. Let me be led by Your Spirit, guided by Your hand. Let these not be just words but the deep prayer of my heart. Help me to surrender to You in every way, even when it means giving up some of my so-called rights.

Lord, You had every right, and made Yourself a servant. 

Forgiving me for trying to make myself a master, of sorts, in my own mind and bearing. I know you have forgiven. Your grace is renewed each morning. Thank You for that. Help me to lean on You and in leaning, find my strength, my joy. My true balance.

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