a capricious little beast

[Here’s a poem by an alumna that speaks to a theme that has seemed very important lately]:

Wait

it’s morning now
I sit down
settle in
light a candle,
and wait

a friend comes to greet me
and I pour out my questions
like hot water over tea leaves
and together,
we wait

other writers guide us
from this poem to that one
a quote here, some words there
all these paradoxes rise and fall
like our ribs as we breathe,
and we wait

only if you are patient
with your questions
only when you cease
the frantic quest
for some certainty
that will cement your faith

only as you wait
still as the oak for her lark
to come home again
to nest in her branches

wait here, just wait
wait with the questions,
sit down and wait

and maybe, maybe you will find
it’s not the answers that you seek
but the questions themselves
the only way you know how to live

and maybe, maybe you will see
that even without the answers
you can go on

accepting as a gift
each moment of grace
accepting as a gift
each mystery and absurdity
accepting as a gift
all the joy and all the frustration

of understanding you will never stop asking
and understanding you will never know
and understanding it’s okay to let go

you do not need what once you sought
that capricious little beast, certainty

  • Ash

what you missed

[Maybe you missed last weekend’s “Rain and Snow” festival featuring Pádraig Ó Tuama and many others? Or maybe you were there and now you him, or miss poetry? ]

“What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade”

Mrs. Nelson explained how to stand still and listen
to the wind, how to find meaning in pumping gas,

how peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. She took
questions on how not to feel lost in the dark.

After lunch she distributed worksheets
that covered ways to remember your grandfather’s

voice. Then the class discussed falling asleep
without feeling you had forgotten to do something else—

something important—and how to believe
the house you wake in is your home….

  • Brad Aaron Modlin, [This is the start of a poem that Padraig shares and discusses in the first episode of the new podcast he started with On Being just before coming to St. Stephen. Hope it whets your appetite for more. Check this out for the full poem and Padraig’s reflection.]

a response to confessions

[a follow-up to the last poem by Rachael Barham]

confessions ii : God responds

Hear this.
I don’t care
whether or not
you believe in me.

I believe in you.

I don’t need you to protect
my fragile sense of self
by defending me,
by ensuring I am the answer
to every question,
by twisting and distorting your precious soul
to accommodate this little image of me
that you’ve created but outgrown.

I am not small
and I don’t need you
to play small
or play safe for me.

Can’t you sense
that I am always
beyond,
outside,
and calling you
to join me there?

Can’t you feel
this unstoppable force
carrying you towards
a love so powerful
that it is breaking your brittle heart
and remaking it
as a river?

Can’t you see
that I don’t exist
for me,
but always for you,
always for the other,
and that you are just like me?

So please.
Let go.
Stop fighting
and give in to the mighty flow of reality
which is love.

Let whatever is
be.
Let your own beloved self
be.
Whether or not you believe I am
Let me be
for
you.

Let me be
in you.

Let me
believe
in you.

– Rachael Barham – see her blog to find this and related poems

psalm 42 retold

[SSU ministry student, Jessica Williams, recently shared this personal re-telling of Psalm 42]:

As a newborn babe cries out for the milk of her mother, so I cry out for you, O God.

I thirst for God, the living God.

As an orphaned child longs to be held by the arms of their parents, I have longed to be held by You.

When can I go and stand before the One who made me?

Day in and day out I taste these tears that fall upon my lips,

And evil endures in ways that confound me, saying

“Where is this God of yours?”

My heart is breaking inside my chest,

It wasn’t always like this.

I can remember a time when the church felt like a safe shelter,

I walked in freely and we worshiped together.

There was space for me and we sang with joy in our hearts, giving thanks in celebration.

So how did I get here?

Why has this pain come now?

I am sick with sadness, it reaches to my core.

Put your hope in God, I say. And I will. I will hope in God.

I will hope in Goodness. I will hope in Love. I will hope in Beauty and in the power of the Human Spirit. I will hope in Compassion and in Mercy and in Justice. I will hope in unruly children and in rebellious youth and in persistent women and in kind men who are willing to change their minds.

I will hope in God.

And I will find a way to praise You again.

But, right now, I am deeply discouraged.

Still, I remember You.

Even from the far-away place of my youth. The Cascade Mountains, the source of the Deschutes River and the land surrounding Cougar Mountain. That is where I knew you first.

But the deepest places in me keep calling out to the deepest places.

I hear the tumult of the raging seas as wave after soul crushing wave sweeps over me.

The tide pulls me out again.

I cannot catch my breath.

And yet, every day of my life, You’ve poured out your unfailing love upon me.

And even through the darkest nights your songs were on my lips.

I have found that I can only pray to the God who gives me life.

O God, You’re the only thing that’s stable here, but still I cry,

“Where are you? Have you really forgotten me?”

Why am I still wandering around in grief? I’m unable to see a path and the darkness laughs, saying, “Where is this God of yours?”

I am so discouraged.

My heart is sick with sadness.

But I will bury my hope down deep into God.

And one day, I will praise You again.

poets as spiritual mentors

[A reminder of the spiritual potential in poetry and stories – and a recommendation for anyone looking for a prayer guide as we begin the season of Ordinary Time]:

Indeed, many of us might include a poet or an author, whether dead or living, among our spiritual mentors. On a quiet evening, curled up with a good story, we have encountered the memorable character, the articulate phrase, the evocative image, the small suggestion, the smuggled truth, the shattering epiphany, which changed us, and we weren’t even looking to be
changed. It enriched our lives, and we didn’t even know our own poverty. We were not the same people afterward.

Sarah Arthur, At the Still Point: A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time