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Archive for the ‘Poems’ Category

homeless-streetsA great poem, shared with me by my friend Roberta Damon:

What, finally, shall we say
In the last moment
When we will be confronted
By the Unimaginable,
The One
Who could not be measured
or contained
In space or time
Who was Love
Unlimited?

What shall we answer
When the question is asked
About our undeeds
Committed
In his name—
In the name of him
For whose sake we promised
To have courage
To abandon everything?

Shall we say
That we didn’t know—
That we couldn’t hear the clatter
Of hearts breaking—
Millions of them—
In lonely rooms, in alleys
     and prisons
And in bars?

Shall we explain
That we thought it mattered
That buildings were constructed
And maintained
In his honor—
That we were occupied
With the arrangements
Of hymns and prayers
And the proper, responsible way
Of doing things?

Shall we tell him
That we had to take care
Of the orderly definition
     of dogmas
So that there was no time
To listen to the
     sobbing
Of the little ones
Huddled in corners
Or the silent despair
Of those already beyond
     sobbing?

Or, shall we say this, too:
That we were afraid—
That we were keeping busy
     with all this
To avoid confrontation
Wih the reality of his
     meaning
Which would lead us to
     repentance—-
That it was fear that
     kept us
Hiding in church pews
And in important boards
     and committees
When he went by?

                     —Ursula Solek

 

Bonus:  Take a look at these pictures and the accompanying story by Ryan Phillips, grandson of Irma Lee Hardie, one of our regular volunteers in Community Missions.

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CB106347Here’s another great poem by Wendell Berry.  I smiled when I read it because, for nearly five years in Kentucky, I was pastor to his mother, Virginia Berry.  She was everything he says she was here and then some.  But I also smiled because it reminded me so much of my own mother, who forgave me more wrongs than I care to remember, and who—like Wendell’s mother—has long since forgotten them.  So, here’s to you, Virginia, and Mary Rice, and all mothers everywhere. 

God bless you every one.

————————————-

To My Mother
by Wendell Berry

I was your rebellious son,
do you remember? Sometimes
I wonder if you do remember,
so complete has your forgiveness been.

So complete has your forgiveness been
I wonder sometimes if it did not
precede my wrong, and I erred,
safe found, within your love,

prepared ahead of me, the way home,
or my bed at night, so that almost
I should forgive you, who perhaps
foresaw the worst that I might do,

and forgave before I could act,
causing me to smile now, looking back,
to see how paltry was my worst,
compared to your forgiveness of it

already given. And this, then,
is the vision of that Heaven of which
we have heard, where those who love
each other have forgiven each other,

where, for that, the leaves are green,
the light a music in the air,
and all is unentangled,
and all is undismayed.

 

“To My Mother” by Wendell Berry, from Entries. © Pantheon Books, 1994.

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forest210240ai1Wendell Berry–well-known poet, philospher, and prophet—was a member of the church I served in New Castle, Kentucky.  I’ve read a number of his novels and essays, but this poem has always been one of my favorites.  If you’re not a fan of poety (some people aren’t), you can skip down to the last line which—during this Easter season—presents itself as a bold challenge to the followers of the risen Lord.

——————————–

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

 

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” from The Country of Marriage, copyright © 1973 by Wendell Berry, reprinted by permission of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.

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purple-irisesI was at Starbucks this afternoon, reading through a stack of correspondence, studying for Wednesday night’s sermon from Mark 12:1-12, and savoring the first few pages of Phyllis Tickle’s new book, The Great Emergence, when I looked up and saw a pair of shoes that inspired poety.  Here’s the result:

There is a girl
with her purple tennis shoes propped up
on the window sill at Starbucks,
jiggling her heels up and down
as she reads a thick textbook and nibbles
a slice of iced lemon pound cake.

It occurs to me that she
picked out those purple shoes;
That she looked through her closet and decided
that for this day—
this first gloomy,
then rainy,
now (surprisingly!) sunny Springtime day—
those shoes the color of purple irises
would be perfect.

–Jim Somerville, © 2009

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istock_000002390324xsmallAs a follow up to my Ash Wednesday sermon about overcoming our fear of death by denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, and following Jesus (“volunteering to die” as Dietrich Bonhoeffer would put it), let me offer this wonderful poem by M. Truman Cooper, first shared with me by my dear friend Judy Skeen.  It’s called “See Paris First,” and it’s about knowing what it is you fear and facing up to it–approaching it squarely and head on–so that you don’t have to spend the rest of your life being afraid.  The poem itself is simple and spare.  It may take more than one reading to appreciate it, but I assure you…it’s worth it.


Suppose what you fear
could be trapped
and held in Paris.

Then you would have the courage
to go everywhere in the world.
All the directions of the compass
open to you,
except
the degrees east or west
of true north
that lead to Paris.

Still, you wouldn’t dare
to put your toes smack dab
on the city limit line.

And you’re not really willing to stand on a mountainside
miles away
and watch the Paris lights
come up at night.
And just to be on the safe side, you decide to stay completely
out of France.

But then danger
seems too close
even to those boundaries,
and you feel the timid part of you
covering the whole globe again.

You need the kind of friend
who learns your secret and says,
“See Paris first.”

—M. Truman Cooper

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woman-dancing-outside-green-dressAfter spending two days with my staff talking about what the church should be, what the church can be, what the church will be, it’s nice to remember what the church is in its best moments, something captured beautifully in this poem by Ann Weems:

 

The church of Jesus Christ is where a child brings a balloon…
is where old women come to dance . . .
is where young men see visions and old men dream dreams.
The church of Jesus Christ is where lepers come to be touched . . .
is where the blind see and the deaf hear . . .
is where the lame run and the dying live.
The church of Jesus Christ is where daisies bloom out of barren land . . .
is where children lead and wise men follow . . .
is where mountains are moved and walls come tumbling down.
The church of Jesus Christ is where loaves of bread are stacked in the sanctuary
to feed the hungry . . .

is where coats are taken off and put on the backs of the naked . . .
is where shackles are discarded and kings and shepherds sit down to life together.
The church of Jesus Christ is where barefoot children run giggling in procession . . .
is where the minister is ministered unto . . .
is where the anthem is the laughter of the congregation and the offering plates
are full of people.
The church of Jesus Christ is where people go when they skin their knees or their hearts . . .
is where frogs become princes and Cinderella dances beyond midnight . . .
is where judges don’t judge and each child of God is beautiful and precious.
The church of Jesus Christ is where the sea divides for the exiles . . .
is where the ark floats and the lamb lies down with the lion . . .
is where people can disagree and hold hands at the same time.
The church of Jesus Christ is where night is day . . .
is where trumpets and drums and tambourines declare God’s goodness . . .
is where lost lambs are found.
The church of Jesus Christ is where people write thank-you notes to God . . .
is where work is a holiday . . .
is where seeds are scattered and miracles grown.
The church of Jesus Christ is where home is . . .
is where heaven is . . .
is where a picnic is communion and people break bread together on their knees.
The church of Jesus Christ is where we live responsively to God’s coming . . .
even on Monday morning the world will hear . . .
an abundance of alleluias! 

                                                                               —Ann Weems

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