Listen to / read this poem prayer for those weeping in the night, struggling emotionally and spiritually, perhaps physically, during this season.
Listen to the poem:
Encourage each one,
their heart desire
Distill the cry
to nesting purr
so they can face
and all it holds…
and all it hides…
in darkness, treasures,
with second sight.
Are you, or is someone you know, crying—even as a holiday approaches? You are not alone. Many people are sad, bereaved, or lonely during the holidays.
A.R. Cecil speaks to these feelings in her beautiful poem:
WHAT? YOU CAN’T STOP CRYING.
What? You can’t stop crying.
I hear you. Been there.
You say you left your grocery cart in frozen foods.
You’re telling me it was loaded with food
and every kind of whatnot
from all the other aisles,
and then you hightailed it to your car.
There you hid behind sunglasses and drove home.
Did you remember to wipe your fingerprints
off the handle of the loaded, abandoned cart
in frozen foods?—
You complain you couldn’t sleep because your slumber
was interrupted by the need to blow your nose.
David of the Old Testament cried on his bed.
See, we are in good company.
Let’s look at the list of life’s events that can trigger
such an avalanche of emotion.
Just check the one that fits, or mark “Other”
at the bottom.
All right, here we go.
You poured your life into the children.
All the children left home.
The empty nest doesn’t feel as good as you thought it would.
You lost your job.
You’re too old to be hired.
You’re not sure whether this reinventing is right for you.
You moved your mother into a nursing home.
You tried to manage Mom at home.
You moved your mother back into the home.
There is an injustice in your life.
You try to think of ways to address it.
Every idea leads to a dead end.
You choose to remain silent.
You have just received a bad diagnosis.
Many well intentioned people are offering suggestions.
Someone who is dear to you is very ill.
That loved-one says, “Just sit with me.”
An important person in your life passes away.
Listen, if you weren’t crying, I’d be worried about you.
I sympathize with you.
God empathizes with you.
That’s the reason He included people
like Joseph, David, Job, and Paul in His Book.
Think about them; think about the Lord; and think about me.
And, in the near future,
you’ll be able to leave your empty cart in the corral,
go home, store the perishables in the refrigerator,
and then sit on the sofa and have a good cry.
Now, that will be progress. That will be hope.
In Revelation Chapter 5, Christ the King is depicted as a Lamb who has been slaughtered. All the magnificence of Heaven bows down and worships this Lamb.
In Isaiah 53 we are told “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”
Then why do we continually seek the pretty, the popular, the powerful, the persuasive, and the polished to emulate, venerate, and follow?
More questions: Have we ever given thanks to God for entering into our humanity and suffering with us and for us? Have we given thanks for the privilege of suffering with him and for him? Are we giving our hearts, our allegiance, our lives to the slaughtered Lamb who lives? the wounded one who heals? Are we willing to bring our wounds to the Lamb for healing? to transform us into wounded healers?
This Thanksgiving I want to join my thanks giving and praise with the angels and those who “fell down and worshiped” the lamb as they held aloft bowls filled with “the prayers of the saints” and as they sang a “new song”:
You are worthy …
for you were slaughtered
and by your blood you ransomed,
saints from every tribe and language
and people and nation….
To the one seated on the throne
and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory
and might forever and ever!
(Rev. 5:9-13, NRSV)
Photo: Photo: “Thanksgiving” Stained-Glass Windows used by permission of Library of Congress
I’m raking leaves and raking leaves, scrape, scrape, scraping leaves; reds and oranges, greens and yellows, all the crispy, crunchy fellows in soft piles under the big Mulberry trees.
Leaves are falling all around me, on my head, before, behind me, making mockery of my raking, all my nice green lawn o’ertaking.
It’s a leafy, leafy world as the trees their glory hurl. Oh, I need a vacuum sweeper or a giant tree-leaf eater.
This poem was written a number of years ago before our neighborhood had leaf blowers. Extracted here from the book, Remembering Softly: A Life In Poems. This post was first published five years ago. I thought we could all use a little humor again.
As my husband and I make our backyard garden a hospitable place for creatures, pollinators, and people … I watch the bees on flowers (like in these photos I took). The bees inspire me by the goodness of their work: They seem to remind the plants to produce, and the blooms and blossoms respond by flourishing. Honeybees pollinate and gather nectar within about a two-mile radius, reminding me of the interconnectedness of nature and of us all. They risk the journey of flying out to forage, then back to the hive laden with pollen and nectar, despite the perils of nature’s predators and humans’ poisons. Thus they store up honey that will feed the hive in winter as well as the people who respectfully extract and enjoy the delicious, surplus honey.
As I watched a “bee doing good” this week, I was reminded to “be doing good” myself.* And this poem came to me:
Jesus came to show us what God the Father is like.
I was reminded of this truth today while listening to an audio book of sermons by George MacDonald, the 19th-Century Scottish author, poet and Christian minister whose writings deeply influenced C.S. Lewis.
In his strong belief in God’s relentless, fatherly love for all He has created, MacDonald proclaimed beautifully:
What more could the living God do than to send…this Lord Jesus Christ, His own eternal bosom friend, being His very Son, saying:
‘Let them see what I am like. Go, and be Myself amongst them. You can do it because you are my son.… They are my sons; but they cannot understand the Father until they get some idea of what the real son of my heart is. Go to them and dwell with them. And suffer them. And let them do anything to you they like so that they may see what I am, who from morning to night am serving them and doing all that I can do for them. And they won’t believe me. Go and be amongst them as my very self.’
And so he came.
Formed in the womb of Mary, birthed in an animal stall, hailed by dusty shepherds and star-gazing magi.
Jesus’ coming is what we both celebrate and look forward to during these days (that Christians call “Advent”) leading up to Christmas.
Jesus came to show us that God is with us and God loves us.
We writers seek to express this beautiful, life-giving truth in beautiful compositions of words. Lyrics of worship songs and verses of Psalms touch our hearts. And a beautifully crafted poem lifts our hearts in expectation, realization, and celebration of “the present and the presence” of God’s Love in Christ. The creative imagery in poetry reminds me that something very solid, very immediate, very physical yet very eternal and spiritual has happened!… Is happening!… Will happen!
During Advent, each day we post a new poem, in print and audio, to help us experience this immediacy of the meaning of Christ with us. Click HERE for A Poem A Day during Advent.
In addition, a video featuring five poems from the week is posted weekly on our YouTube channel.
I have found that spiritual, emotional, and physical healing can begin even in times that are darkened, cold, alone, silent … when I still my heart and contemplate the “treasures of darkness” (Isaiah 45:3). One of the sweetest treasures of darkness is the realization that we are not alone. This realization encouraged me anew this winter as I contemplated that nature also experiences the waiting that has become more acute for us during a pandemic winter.
In much of the Northern Hemisphere, at least, we have been waiting for lighter, warmer days of nature’s renewal. And during these days of Lent we also recall, again, Jesus’ crucified body waiting in a dark, cold cave of death. When Jesus “woke up” in that cave of a tomb, did he open his eyes to darkness? Or did his open eyes, his very breath and resurrection-life energy, shine light into the darkness even before the stone rolled away? John wrote that Jesus is the light and the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).
We can experience moments during periods of waiting that are holy, even healing. One morning this past winter I sat in meditative prayer in a corner room of our basement. That room has two windows with below-ground-level window wells. During the summer, toads and tiger salamanders dwell in the window wells. My grandchildren like to look for them. During winter, these denizens of the deeps dig into the earth and wait in darkness, finally emerging again in late spring. On that cold, sequestered pandemic morning I was thinking about these creatures—and my own sense of waiting—when this poem came to me:
There is no heartbeat
in a seed
Yet life waits
in that brittle encasement
as surely as in the stilled
breathing and slowed
beating heart of
toads and salamanders
in winter deeps and
sleeping bears in caves
Waiting, waiting, we wait
in lengthened nights and
chilled soil and cloistered suns
for warmer, lighter, moister days
From on high—and pulsing
in the depths—we hear
“Wait… Wait… Be still…”
I did, I am, I will.”
(This post was first published at GodSpace on 3-27-21.)
We have never experienced a Christmas like this one. No children’s programs at church, school, or community. No concerts to attend. Not much “window shopping.” No caroling door-to-door, no dinner parties, few gatherings or family reunions. I do think I see more people putting lights on their houses and trees outside.
In this season, as during this whole pandemic year, my husband and I have found great comfort in nature, even right in our backyard, especially the many birds that visit our feeders, birdbath, and trees and shrubs.
On a more normal Christmas a few years ago, our young grandchildren came to visit. We enjoyed playing in the snow and other activities, such as making pine cone suet feeders for the birds. Later I wrote these verses (below) and even illustrated them in a little Advent / Christmas book for the grandchildren. Two years ago I published this story-in-verse, entitled Something Is Coming To Our World.
These verses tell something of my own hopeful vision for the world, how our loving God is present to all creation, and has come into our world in the form of Jesus, the Incarnate Christ, whose coming again we await with anticipation, and with whom we can now be “partners,” co-laborers, caring for creation and loving people. (May God’s reign soon fully come!)
• • • • •
What Is Coming To Our World? (How a Backyard Bird Sees Christmas)
Seasons have passed of warm, wiggly worms,
bountiful gardens and bright wildflowers,
plentiful insects on leaf and wing,
sun traveling high across the sky,
and all good things that make us sing.
The days grow shorter. The air grows colder.
We search now for meals and warm roost.
When the hawk and fox come hunting,
I will quickly hide in a bush.
The chill in the air tells me high on the peaks
snowflakes are drifting in piles white and deep;
soon, in this place that’s home to me
frost will sparkle and snow will fall.
Creator God, who gives sunshine and seeds,
berries and water, spring, summer, fall—
surely wants us to thrive all year long!
Bells are ringing. I hear singing.
Good aromas are increasing.
What should we anticipate?
What story does the music relate?
When the people open their doors,
I smell something warm, spicy and sweet,
and the seeds they bring us are nice.
Nippier days turn their noses pink,
but something good is coming, I think.
Anticipation fills the air.
Nights are cold, but lights are bright
and they twinkle everywhere.
It looks like stars are coming down
on trees and houses from the air.
It looks to me—all around—
like Heaven’s surely coming down!
Children come bounding out in the snow,
all rosy and bundled for winter play.
They gather greenery, seedpods, and cones—
much like we do sometimes in spring.
I wonder what they’re going to make?
A blue-eyed girl and boy look my way.
I start to fly; then I hear the girl say,
‘Hello, little bird. Here’s a present for you.
Do you know that tomorrow is Christmas Day?’
The boy says, ‘Merry Christmas to you, little bird,
and happy celebrations with your friends, too.’
I like the peanut butter and seeds they’ve pressed
into the pine cones they hang in the tree.
I’ll fly to the highest branch and sing
a song of Heaven coming down,
light in the darkness, warmth in the cold,
provision and plenty, promises of old.
As seeds wait patiently within the earth,
there’s hope for us all—even little birds.
All feathered friends, all four-legged creatures,
all living things, now hear my song.
All who Creator God called ‘good’:
God cares—and comes—for all.
I will sing the song God gives me.
I will wing the flight that lifts me.
I will listen to the glorious sounds,
for Heaven’s love is all around.