Moments Morph into Poems

Our lives are built of moments in time and space. And just as one moment of your life doesn’t define you, so one poem doesn’t define a poet.

Some moments of my life I wouldn’t want anyone to remember. Some moments beg interpretation. But not every moment of life warrants being grappled with or immortalized in a poem.

Some of my poems come out of my humanness / humanity; some come from the living workings out of faith; some come out of my searching, listening, and questioning; some poems come out of the sensations of a moment in time.

Some moments that inspire poems are microcosms of creation’s cosmic array, snapshots of life’s bigger pictures. Some poetic moments are unique flashes or epiphanies that I wish could be repeated but will likely never come again, at least not quite the same. These moments can change us if we allow them to, if we open our hearts to receive what they have to give. I think that is true, to some extent, of poetry as well.

I don’t sit down to make lines and rhymes, but to use words, rhythms, and metaphors to paint pictures of life’s moments of observing, noticing, being present to someone or something in a new way … of seeing a sometimes-startling new depth or aspect or facet of a fleeting, evocative, life-giving moment.

Poems come to the poet out of living moments that, penciled on paper, morph into verses of word art that can bring meaning to the reader’s own moments.

~Catherine Lawton

A Time for Tears

Guest Post

TEARS ARE ONLY FOR A TIME

by Alice Scott-Ferguson

I wasn’t just crying, I was wailing. I had traveled five-thousand miles to see my father and I missed him by a few hours. He had gone where there are no more tears and I was left to mourn and cry buckets of them in the days and weeks that followed that fateful day years ago. That the Father called him home suddenly, that he passed peacefully and at the ripe old age of eighty five, persuades me to agree with the British journalist Julie Burchill when she says, “Tears are sometimes an inappropriate response to death. When a life has been lived completely honestly, completely successfully or just completely, the correct response to death’s perfect punctuation mark is a smile.”

The smiles came later.

But how glad I am for the sweet release of crying, the catharsis that tears provide, and the commonality of the experience to all of us. At times, our lives seem to float on an ocean of tears and sometimes we feel that we are drowning in their salty sea. I got to thinking about those drops of fluid that flow from our eyes and what volumes they speak of the condition of the human heart. What is this curious creation, what are the causes, the kinds and the cultural connotations of crying?

The dictionary definition calls a tear a drop of clear, salty liquid that is secreted by the lachrymal gland to lubricate the surface of the eyeball and wash away irritants. This marvelous process goes on continuously and it is only when emotion triggers a profusion of the fluid that we are aware of the phenomenon known as crying. In the Russian language, there are seven distinct words to describe the various properties of tears. There is a word for large ones, one for clear tears, and another two for both hot tears and salty ones. Yet other selections describe the abundant as well as the sparse and a word that specifically depicts tears falling rapidly one after another. Many of us will have shed some of these and some of us, all of the above.

Various emotions evoke tears. Generally known as more negative, the emotions of anger, frustration, self-pity and manipulation certainly cause crying. Then tears are expected and accepted when we experience sadness, grief, joy or compassion. Perhaps there is a mix of these emotions in all of our tears. I suspect so, for even in the sorrow over my father’s death there was certainly self-pity at the prospect of life without his presence. Hence the inability to smile. Sorrow would have turned to celebration if I could have cast my thoughts heavenward. Perhaps compassion commands the purest of tears. Yet, there is an undeniable element of anger even as we are moved to deep weeping over an abused or starving child, for example. We are angry and frustrated over the inexplicable inequities of life even though we tenderly suffer with the victim. No matter what their etiology, tears are therapeutic and God-designed. Through the voice of Mr. Bumble in Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens declares, “It opens the lungs, washes the countenance, exercises the eyes and softens down the temper; so cry away.”

When my sons were small, I encouraged them to cry away. “God gave you the same apparatus as he gave girls when he installed lachrymal glands in your eyes.” So they learned what to this day they still unashamedly do, they let the tears fall when they or others around them hurt. Back then it was scraped knees when they fell on the playground, now it is the bitter bruises of dreams dashed in the playing field of adulthood. I am saddened to see little boys fight back the tears just because society still generally deems it sissy to cry. I witnessed such a little fellow at an airport recently as he said good bye to his Dad. He bravely stifled his sobs and wiped away the telltale tears with his sleeve while his sister, of similar age, cried loudly and lustily.

I had learned from my father that the dignity and beauty of tears is as much the domain of men as of women. Although raised as a stoic Scotsman, he could never get through telling the story of Abraham offering up Isaac without crying. Still less the account of Calvary and the suffering of the Savior he loved. Christ Jesus, who was both God and the man of all men who wept. The brief account in John 11:33-36 often provokes debate as to why he was crying. I like to think that he simply felt the pain of those around him who mourned the loss of Lazarus.

The scriptures are not shy to tell us tales of tears. Not surprisingly, Job is recorded crying. In chapter 16 and verse 20 he says, “My friends scorn me: but mine eye poureth tears unto God.” Friends and family may grow weary of our crying and they may consider it attention getting, weakness or histrionics. However, we will always have the caress and the uncritical, caring attention of our Father. Jeremiah the weeping prophet, so named for his proclivity to tears, wails, “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jer. 9:1). He, in common with us, experienced the place where the tears have dried up but the sorrow is still unstaunched. Mothers can relate to Rachel weeping for her children who were no longer there (Jer. 31:15). Some of the deepest grief must undoubtedly come from the loss of a child to untimely death, estrangement or to the land of the prodigal. However, the Lord exhorted Rachel to stop for there is hope in the end.

From the pen of David who wept through the gamut of human emotions, comes these wonderful words “Thou tellest my wanderings: put my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?” (Psalm 56:8). Here David is alluding to the ancient burial custom of collecting the tears of mourners in a bottle and putting them in the tomb of the departed. Greater than the reference to the grave, is what we glean of the tender care of our Father. He cares about and counts our tears as he does the number of hairs on our head and records the most mundane and intimate of our hearts’ experiences. He noted that little boy at the airport!

But, like Rachel, we know there is an end to our tears. They belong only to this frame of time and space. That great and glorious promise beckons us beyond the present picture when we read “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4). At the very same time that I wept over the aching loss of my father, our heavenly Father was gently wiping away my Dad’s tears, whispering that the promise had come true. “My beloved child; your crying days are over.” Smile indeed. Smile forevermore.

Wonder-Working Hope

The grip of grief has slackened its shackles
Hope, the thin, unbroken thread stretches
to permit a spring in the step
Hope, the harbinger of happy
highlights bright color and contrast
Though life is air brushed in sadness,
though tears still wait willingly in the wings,
They serve now to baptize a reluctant convert
into a new and different life
Hope springs eternal…

~Alice Scott-Ferguson

Poet and author of Pausing in the Passing Places and Mothers Can’t Be Everywhere But God Can

 

 

Peace Blows In

Sometimes the simplest moments are the most profound. On a quarantined breezy morning last week, as I watched the branches of our front-yard tree waving in the wind, these lines of verse came to me:

Spring Wind

On a bright blossomy breezy day

my fears and sorrows blew away;

And in their place gentle hopes

of fresh tomorrows came to stay.

~Catherine Lawton

Five weeks ago I wrote (in this post) that I had both caught a virus and a virus had caught me.

Now (as I have recovered), I’m thinking that sometimes it feels as if the peace of God is caught much like a virus is caught. Though perhaps I wouldn’t say God “catches” us the way a virus “catches” us, yet I will say that…

  • We are both found by God and we find God.
  • We are both taken hold of by God and we take hold of God.
  • We are both accepted by God and we accept God.
  • We are both embraced by God and we embrace God.

It is being said that anyone exposed to this new Corona Virus will “get” it, whether they show symptoms of Covid 19 or not, because we humans have no resistance to it yet. On the other hand, we humans are adept at resisting God’s pursuit.

A virus seems to pursue us, intent on invading. It can kill. On the other hand, God, out of love, pursues and woos every person he has created, desiring to rescue and save and give life.

As long as we resist God’s pursuit and wooing, we are filled with spiritual death, as if a virus has invaded and found receptors in our vital “spiritual organs.” But as we turn to God, he envelops us in his arms of love. I don’t want to say God invades us like a virus, but he freely enters our being, fills us with the spiritual life of his presence. Then Death is swallowed up in Victory.

O Breath of Life, breathe on us. Let your Wind blow through us and fill us anew with your healing Spirit, that we may resist both spiritual and physical disease. Give renewed life and vigor to our bodies’ very cells that we may resist and defeat viral attacks. Thank you that even the final death has been swallowed up in victory by the death and life of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Fear not, my soul.

Fear not, friends.

 

Publishing During the Coronavirus Pandemic and Social Isolation

Photo by Julentto Photography on Unsplash

Like everyone else, Cladach has felt the effects and isolation of the virus. Especially in these ways:

  • Amazon, where many of our sales happen, has de-prioritized orders, sales, and shipping of books during the pandemic as they concentrate on shipping more urgently needed items. But, the good news is we’ve heard from customers that their orders are on the way. Amazon has our books in stock and will fulfill orders, though the ship time may be longer than usual. So go ahead and place those orders!
  • Postponed spring titles and uncertain release dates. But the following books will release in 2020 (dates to be announced):
    • A BRAVE LIFE by Janyne McConnaughey, PhD
    • BIBLE POEMS by Donna Marie Merritt
    • UNPAUSED : Poems by Alice Scott-Ferguson
  • Author events cancelled. Here are a few examples:
    • Catherine Lawton (that’s me) was scheduled to teach three workshops at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference, which had to be canceled, but conference director Marlene Bagnull says she plans to save the 2020 program in 2021. Conferees can look forward to my workshops on these topics in May 2021 in Estes Park, Colorado: 1) Poetry, 2) Creative Nonfiction, 3) Marketing
    • Janyne McConnaughey (author of BRAVE and now living in Seattle) has had to cancel her early May trip to Colorado Springs, where she was scheduled to participate in the Mountain of Authors event and do a book signing at a local shop.
    • Alice Scott-Ferguson had anticipated a trip in April to Monument, Colorado for a Pen Women’s event, meeting with friends, authors and readers and selling copies of Pausing in the Passing Places.This event was postponed.
  • As we’ve all heard, small businesses, including those in the book business, have suffered because of lower sales, closures, layoffs. One way to support local independent bookstores is to purchase books through the nation-wide, excellent and efficient online Bookshop program, Books are shipped directly from printer/warehouses, and the profits from these online sales are shared among all participating, local independent bookstores. Cladach titles that are available through IndieBound are also searchable and orderable through Bookshop. For instance, you can find my new book, Glimpsing Glory, at Bookshop HERE.
  • We all feel the isolation. “Staying Home” and social distancing can bring out creativity and is surely teaching us some important and hopefully lasting lessons if we will listen in the solitude to what our very-present God is whispering to us. May it be so. May healing and hope spread through our world, and may we come together again soon!
  • Some heartwarming stories are coming out of this difficult season, as people choose to show generosity and a giving attitude. Donna Marie Merritt (author of forthcoming BIBLE POEMS, who lives, writes, and works as a librarian in Connecticut) shared this happy, heartwarming report: “Last night I was feeling helpless, looking at a box of children’s books [that she authored] sitting idle because there are no book events right now. Then … I posted on a local FB page that any child in need of a book right now could get a signed copy from me free. Within hours, the entire box was signed and waiting in bags on my porch for pick-up. I had unemployed parents reach out, parents with bored children, parents who can’t bring their kids to the library during this crisis. It was the best ‘book event’ of my career. And some have begun sending photos.” [Photos posted below with permission].

Does a virus catch us, or do we catch a virus?

The news, social media, and our attention has been occupied by the Corona Virus sweeping the world and Covid-19 case numbers increasing daily, Meanwhile, our publishing schedule is interrupted, author events canceled, and I haven’t posted here for a while. The following story (which I wrote and posted for my Facebook friends two days ago) explains part of the reason for my recent silence. Someone said, “Our stories matter. Everyone needs to share their stories.” Here’s mine at this time. This story is longer than most of my posts. Thanks for reading. And thanks for visiting. Feel free to share your response or a bit of your own story at the bottom of the page. ~Cathy on 3-31-20


Not long ago, we heard of a newly mutated virus discovered and starting to spread in a far away place called Wuhan. I didn’t give it a lot of thought. But numbers kept increasing. We heard briefly of a “whistle blower,” and it caught our interest more. Then we heard that that exotic virus somehow showed up on our shore. And soon it was spreading in Seattle, where I have friends (including Cladach authors). And it was more and more in the news. It seemed to show up in the area of every international airport (and one of those is an hour away from us). Before long this new virus was in our state of Colorado! Then someone in our state died of it. At that time we heard a lot about washing hands and not touching our faces.

About that time Larry and I attended a philharmonic orchestra concert at the Union Colony Civic Center in Greeley. Unlike most orchestra concerts, this one was packed! This time Greeley’s wonderful philharmonic invited a tribute singer and his small band of drums, bass, mandolin, and flute to join their orchestra onstage to perform John Denver music. The music was lovely. John Denver is popular in Colorado, and people happily crammed together, reminiscing about concerts at Red Rocks in the good ol’ days, and singing along. No doubt there were a few coughs, as there are in any crowd.

At intermission, the crowd–mostly senior citizens–flocked to the restrooms. We waited close together in line outside and inside the restroom. And because of all the advice about hand washing, we stood patiently in a crowded line to wash our hands, a long time as each person took a little longer (20 seconds?) to scrub.

Just a couple days after the concert, the public was told we needed to practice “social distancing” and stay 3 to 6 feet away from each other. When we took our neighborhood walk and approached other walkers, one neighbor would step off the sidewalk onto the grass or street and we’d greet each other from a few feet distance. We were somewhat careful but not worried.

A few days later, we were told the virus had spread within our city. What?! From Wuhan, China to Greeley, CO in such a short time?! Our church, which had prepared for Sunday by cleaning, putting away pew hymnals and Bibles, and offering plates, now, along with all faith groups in the state, was asked not to meet in groups larger than 10. Actually, that’s when it hit us more seriously. Online church was no longer just a convenient option. It was the only way to “go to church.”

Meanwhile we were going to stores, offices, small group meetings, a medical building. Larry played basketball at the gym several times during the week, as usual. Then the rec centers suddenly closed–indefinitely. It was time for spring break for students. Spring break was extended. Then schools were closed indefinitely.

We thought, well we can still take drives, maybe go to nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. But then the park was closed! OK. This is getting real and immediate and a little unsettling.

It seems a virus caught us–somewhat unawares, unprepared, somewhat unbelieving.

And somewhere along the way, I caught a virus.

One day I was walking our dog, Jasper, on our regular route. About 1/4 of the way I began feeling seriously out of breath, strangely, and had to turn back. By the time I got home I was exhausted. But in the usual way I have of ignoring symptoms and determinedly pressing on, I didn’t give it too much thought. Nor did I give the occasional dry cough much thought.

But when I started waking up at night with an awful-feeling achy, burning, tightness in my chest, I wondered. But one day I’d feel better and over-do it. Only to feel worse, though, the next day. I don’t generally take naps, but I had to lie down in the middle of the day. I began taking my temperature. I was running a low-grade fever, which usually isn’t considered crucial.

A week and a half after these symptoms started sneaking up on me, I thought, I should go to the doctor. By then we’d been learning a lot more, and no way did I want to go to a hospital or ER. I called my doctor and was surprised that they said to come in. But they told me to call from my car when I arrived and they would check me in by phone, then they’d meet me inside the door with a mask for me to put on.

Well, my doctor, wearing a mask, examined me and said I had the symptoms of Covid 19. She prescribed one of the meds that doctors worldwide are finding has some effect in fighting Covid 19. She said, “We don’t have tests. We have to save them for patients in hospitals or we’d run out.” She added, “You’re sick. Stay away from people!” and “If you get worse, go to the ER.”

I texted our son and daughter, and you can be sure text messages began to fly back and forth across the country. Our son immediately contacted his close friend who is the head of Emergency medicine in an East Coast city. His advice was relayed to me. Then our son contacted his other good doctor friend, practicing in So Cal. He sent the advice to “Rest, rest, rest!”

Everything I tried to do exhausted me quickly, so I complied. My grown kids know I can’t easily be made to rest, so they keep reminding me. I know they love me, and it’s good to feel their love (and that in itself is probably the best medicine).

Meanwhile, I told my prayer group that I was sick and they have been so concerned and prayerful. I told my sister, and her church’s prayer chain got the word. Many of them are our friends, and some of them called and texted. In the past few days I’ve heard of several groups and prayer chains praying for me! Wow. No wonder I feel such peace. And I’m hopeful I’m turning a corner and coming out of this. It has been two weeks since I first felt symptoms. And I’ve got a ways to go. [But no “place to go” anyway, it seems. 🙂 ]

So, I think a virus catches us as well as we can “catch” it. And, even though the reported case numbers are rising so fast, I’m sure they don’t nearly represent all the actual cases.

Pay attention to cautions, to symptoms, to governor’s orders, etc. Express your love to your loved ones through texts, calls, emails, letters. Take care of yourself and those around you. And pray!

~Catherine Lawton, 3-29-2020

 

 

Antidote to Hate, Fear, Disgust, and Vexation

With this poem I affirm my faith in:

  • God’s love, that changes hearts.

  • God’s power, that calms storms.

  • Jesus’ victory, that delivers from evil.

  • The Holy Spirit’s presence, that offers soul rest.

ANTIDOTE

Some things in this world make me mad—
but I cannot live with hate.
The One whose anger had no sin
plants His love within.

Some things in this world frighten me—
but I cannot live in fear.
The One who calmed the thundering storm
keeps me safe and warm.

Some things in this world are abhorrent to me—
but I cannot live in disgust.
The One who cast the demons out
gives a victory shout.

Some things in this world vex my nerves—
but I cannot live in tension.
The One who took all mankind’s stress
gives vitalizing rest.

~Catherine Lawton

(extracted from the book, Remembering Softly: A Life In Poems  by Catherine Lawton © 2016)

 

Enhance Your Devotions With Poetry

Poetry for Praise, Worship, Devotion, Opening our Hearts to God

In our experience of God’s presence, poetry can help us focus and engage our senses and entire being. Poetry can help us process life and emotions—and see ourselves—in new ways, and thus be open to hearing God say fresh, new things to us. Scripture does this also, of course. And much of the Bible was written as poetry. I have long found soul nourishment and renewed perspective in the Psalms. And how can a person read Song of Solomon and not believe God woos and reaches us through the five senses he has given us? Isaiah, the prophet, wrote often in poetry. Sometimes poetic expression reaches straight to the heart more effectively than prose.

I believe God still speaks through poets today. Sometimes with a prophetic voice. Sometimes imparting wisdom. Sometimes bringing clarity. Sometimes lifting the soul to hope and love.

Even if you think you aren’t “into” poetry, you probably are more than you realize. Songs lyrics are a type of poetry. Along with the music, songs can pierce or soothe our hearts as well as our minds.

I encourage you to include poetry in your devotional reading, meditative prayer, quiet times, and soul care. Here are some poetry collections in which readers are finding poems that help them focus on God’s presence and love:

Glory-fr-cover

“I read a couple of your poems each morning.” ~Alice Scott-Ferguson, poet, author, reader

“Luminous, Christian spiritual walk poetry that blends the daily journey with God and the beauty and glory of God’s created world.So many of the poems provided moments of prayer for me. You’ll share time with God and His creation as you recall and navigate through life’s journey with the author as your guide.” ~Jimmie Kepler, reader and reviewer

9781945099175

“In our own seasons of suffering, words to explain the pain, to cry out to God, or to get a grip on our faith…” Elaine Wright Colvin, WIN

“[These] poems individually and collectively pour out love for who God is.”  –Glynn Young, blogger/reviewer

“I am reading them along with my daily Scripture and other devotional readings.” ~Bev Coons, reader

This book is salve for the soul. It provides a place for you to gather the stray bits of experience and gently mend your wounds.”  –Isaac, online reader/reviewer

“To read this book is to … open one’s own heart in unexpected ways.”  –Susan Elaine Jenkins, reader/reviewer

 


This post was first written in Jan. 2018, and updated Jan. 2019, again updated Feb. 2020.

 

 

Current Buzz – Feb. 2020

Over a month into 2020 we’ve had some surprises as well as some planned happenings. In this post I’ll share with you some of the surprises. One of our authors has garnered increased media attention lately:

Hostage In Taipei : A True Story of Forgiveness and Hope by McGill Alexander

This memoir by now-retired South African ambassador and brigadier general tells the dramatic hostage story that occurred in Taiwan. A few years after the book was released, National Geographic TV broadcast a docudrama of this amazing story and testimony of the Alexander’s, which was re-enacted by a British production company. Now the “Locked-up Abroad” episodes, including this one (Season 1, Ep. 10: “Taiwan”), have become available on Amazon video. Viewers of the docudrama sometimes search for more about the story and land on Alexander’s Wikipedia page, which leads to info about Hostage In Taipei, which may lead to the interested party purchasing the paperback or ebook. One such viewer / searcher / reader was a Christian media person, who then invited McGill Alexander as a guest on his podcast. Find it in audio or video here:

 Artwork for Audio Mullet #35: How To Forgive The Man Who Shot Your Daughter Audio Mullet #35: How To Forgive The Man Who Shot Your Daughter  Or, even better, watch video of the episode on Youtube here.

Doug TenNapel and Ethan Nicolle welcome special guest McGill Alexander from South Africa, who was in an intense hostage situation many years ago while living in Taiwan. A notorious murderer and rapist held his family hostage for 26 hours, shooting McGill and his daughter – both survived. McGill and his wife later brought a Bible to the man who held them hostage and led him to Christ, forgiving him for what he put them through. This interview is all about that act – loving those who are your enemies, praying for those who persecute you. Why are we called to do it and what does it mean?

(In the 40-minute interview, McGill tells the story with such passion and freshness, you’d think it happened yesterday.)

Then, it so happens that one of the “Mullet” podcasters, Ethan Nicolle, also co-hosts the Babylon Bee podcast, which then hosted McGill on Jan 24. This one is probably even more indepth and thoughtful. You can listen to this 48-minute podcast segment on this page: Forgiving The Man Who Took My Family Hostage: The McGill Alexander Interview Jan 24, 2020.

You may know the Babylon Bee as a Christian / Political satire site. There are good vibes but no satire this time, as the story is deadly serious, has eternal ramifications, and has provided challenging, inspiring testimony to the world. In their interview, Kyle Mann and Ethan Nicolle covered these topics and more:

    • McGill’s story : How this hostage event happened and who the criminal was

    • McGill’s Christian faith

    • How did McGill get through this horrible event?

    • Forgiveness- what is it and what does it look like?

    • How long did it take to forgive, was this a process, and what was going through his mind as all this was happening?

    • Is forgiveness completely unconditional?

    • Does forgiveness condone the evil?

    • We live in a “show no mercy” culture nowadays, especially on social media. How does forgiveness shape how we approach this culture?

We at Cladach appreciate the length of these podcasts and the time they gave McGill to tell his story, as well as the excellent questions and subjects covered in the discussions. (Thank you, Ethan.) We are also pleased at the increase in sales we have noticed as a result of these media opportunities. And we are even more pleased that the Alexander’s story is reaching ever-widening audiences.

In another part of the world, McGill Alexander was invited to Indonesia by CNA, an English-language Asian news network, to appear in an episode of The Negotiators to tell his hostage-crisis story, which was also reenacted. The 47-minute episode can be viewed at:

 The Negotiators: Ep 2: Taipei Hostage Crisis (Updated: ) Taiwan’s most-wanted criminal holds a South African diplomat’s family hostage at gunpoint. Negotiators find themselves trying to do their work in the midst of a frantic media circus.


Even though McGill was ill while in Indonesia for this filming, he did a great job.

I thank God for continuing to open doors for this story and testimony to be told through both Christian and secular media.

 

Where Do the Poems Come From?

Where Do the Poems Come From?

“Which do you like most? The mountains or the ocean?” My sister and I would ask each other.

I could never decide. In California for much of my life, I didn’t have to choose. We had both within close distance. I could look up and see the steadfastness of the Sierras or the Coastal Range with their redwoods, pines, deer, bears, raccoons, waterfalls and trout streams that fed the valleys. I could often feel the ocean breezes and smell the salt air from tides so full of power yet knowing their limits, from waves that lapped like earth’s heartbeat.

The metaphors we claim as our own come to us from our surroundings like a fawn stepping out of the forest or beach glass glistening in the sand.

“Which season do you like best?” was another question my sister and I would discuss. Winter offered Christmas. Summer offered school-less, barefoot days, swimming and camping. Spring meant orchards in bloom, Easter, newness.

When I returned with my husband in midlife to my native state of Colorado, I found that daily life was even more determined by the seasons here, especially winter and summer. I found that Spring near the Rockies is a matter of winter and summer fighting it out until summer wins a precarious victory.

But fall remains my favorite season, a time of the year that most inspires me to write poems. As I prepare this collection, I find myself in the Autumn of my life. Christmas doesn’t bring quite the same delight and anticipation except as our grown children and our six grandchildren share the celebrations with my husband and me. Summer I love in this high country, where wildflowers bloom from spring to early fall, the scent of summer rains on prairie grasses imparts indescribable sweetness, and sunsets paint glorious colors across the wide sky.

But fall … During this season of life colors have muted a little, most storms have settled, and anticipation of change keeps one mindful that each era of life comes—and then passes. We must gather the harvest, the fruit, the beauty—as I do from my garden—and preserve it, distill it, package it to sustain us in the winter and to share with others.

When we lived near the Pacific Coast of Northern California, we enjoyed hunting for agates on the beach any time of year. Sometimes as a wave receded, we’d see the semi-precious stones tumbling in the gravelly sand. This process had polished them to translucence, often revealing mossy patterns inside, each unique and formed by the accumulated years. Other types of agates are found in the mountains and on the plains. Each of these gems uniquely encapsulates the effects of pressures and changes in the formation of our earth home. Yet, looking deep within each agate elicits a certainty that these natural processes were guided by a beautiful, loving, almighty Creator.

I think poems are like agates.

This week I had a conversation with my sister, who has also written verse. “Where does a poem come from?” we wondered aloud. Sometimes it seems to rise up from some secret place deep within. Other times a poem—or the inspiration for one—seems to come from without. Our grandfather used to say with a twinkle in his eye that he wrote poems when the “muse sat on his shoulder.” To me it seems as if help comes surely, perhaps from a literary angel. In his poem, “The Country of Déjà Vu,” Wendell Berry asserts that his poems “came through the air, I wrote them down, and sent them on” like migrating birds stopping at his feeder. Perhaps that is as good an explanation as any.

I still marvel at an experience I had in my young adult years. At home with two toddlers, my husband busy with his career, I was emotionally bound up by griefs and losses, especially the death of my mother. I hadn’t written a poem for a long time. One evening I went by myself to a poetry reading at a religious retreat center near our home. I knew no one there. The woman poet read with warmth from verses full of life and light and love. I didn’t go expecting this to happen; but, somehow, soaking in the spoken rhyme, rhythm, and sense, awakened the gift in me. For months after that evening, poems began freely coming to mind. The opening of this fountain provided one part of the healing the Lord began working in and through me, which continues today.

Admittedly, I am not a disciplined poet. I can compose meter and rhyme on demand; but mostly I wait for that elusive and mysterious inspiration. The important thing is to capture on paper the phrases, images, and insights as they come; to sit with them, savor them, polish them like agates; and if they pass the test of holding together and ringing true, to share them.

I won’t limit each poem’s meaning by trying to explain the emotions and experiences that, for me, are encapsulated in each one. As I send them out, they are free to take on new meanings as each reader looks into them. Perhaps for you a poem will speak to a quandary, a sorrow, or a joy you are experiencing at this season of your life. That is the beauty of sharing a gift of poetry.

(Note: This essay is published in my book, Remembering Softly: A Life in Poems, © 2016, under the title “A Word About These Poems” serving as an introduction to a selection of poems written throughout my youth and adult years (so far).)

My new collection of poems written from 2016 to 2019 released Feb., 2020: Glimpsing Glory: Poems of Living & Dying, Praying & Playing, Belonging & Longing


Photo: overlooking a Lost Coast beach, Humboldt County, CA. © C.Lawton

 

Credibility, Context, Trust

 
Before choosing to buy or read a book, don’t you check to see who has endorsed it, what reviewers are saying, which of your friends recommend it? When we tell you that a well-known, trusted leader or author has endorsed a book, we’re not just “name dropping.”

We appreciate every single person, famous or not, who posts a review of one of our titles, shares an update from one of our authors, and recommends a Cladach book to their friends and followers. Word of mouth is the most effective way of “getting the buzz going.” And buzz gets people’s attention.

And these hope-filled books are worth their attention.

Endorsements also add context to a lesser-known author and their books.

These people, whose names are recognizable to a large number of Christian readers, have lent their support by endorsing or reviewing our authors’ titles:

Kay Arthur (Precept Ministries International) endorsed Judy Pex’s WALK THE LAND:

You’ll be enriched spiritually through Judy’s story of the insights given her by her God on this journey of a lifetime.”

Jill Briscoe (author) endorsed Judy Pex’s WALK THE LAND:

“A delightful and exciting story, unusually spiritually penetrating.”

Eric Wilson (New York Times bestselling author of Fireproof, October Baby, and Field of Blood) endorsed Judy Pex’s COME • STAY CELEBRATE!:

“A breath of fresh air in a world full of strife… A fast-paced read full of humor, insight, and emotion.”

Thomas Jay Oord (theologian and author of The Uncontrolling Love of God) endorsed Janyne McConnaughey’s BRAVE:

“Janyne McConnaughey is vulnerable in the kind of way that changes the world!”

William Prince (General Superintendent Emeritus, Church of the Nazarene) reviewed Physa Chanmany’s NO MORE FEAR:

“A good story of a man who found God and is preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ.”

Jan Johnson (author of Growing Compassionate Kids and When the Soul Listens) endorsed Alice Scott-Ferguson’s MOTHERS CAN’T BE EVERYWHERE:

“Thank you, Alice, for helping us trust God and let our parenting be about our children instead of being about us.”

Ken Canfield (founder, National Center for Fathering; president, National Association for Grandparenting) endorsed Nancy Swihart’s ON KITTEN CREEK:

“A fresh reminder that we are each living an adventure.”

Eva Marie Everson, well-known Christian author and novelist recommended Catherine Lawton’s FACE TO FACE: A NOVEL:

“I was fascinated.”

Eric Wilson (New York Times bestselling author) endorsed J. Michael Dew’s GADLY PLAIN:

“A small literary miracle … full of hope.”

Marilyn Musgrave (then U.S. Congresswoman from Colorado) recommended Donna Westover’s WHITE AS SNOW:

“A wonderful book. I couldn’t put it down.”

and many others. To all, we say “Thank you.”