Tag: Poetry

Holy Week Longings

It’s Maundy Thursday of Holy Week. Palm Sunday seems a long time ago. Children waved palm branches at church. It felt good to rejoice in the triumphal entry of the One who would surely be King and bring vindication and victory.

But when the the palm branches turn brown and the “red-carpet” of cloaks is put away, unresolved conflicts remain. Evil presses in, not as easy to identify as we thought. Sin wins the day, both personally and corporately. Friends transform into enemies. Favorite doctrines and laws lose their luster. Disappointment, cynicism, and fear blind the eyes.

If today we didn’t know what Holy Week would bring, we would be filled with longings and regrets, perhaps we’d even join the mob mentality of the Jews as Passover approached. Or perhaps we’d find ourselves cowering and cowardly as were the disciples.

At these times, it’s hard to see the Light, feel the Hope, hold onto Courage. Some of us feel overcome by a sense of failure, helpless yearnings, and hopeless waiting.

In the confusion surrounding the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus, perhaps Jesus’ followers turned to words of the Psalmist David:

“How long, O Lord? … How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death…” (Psalm 13).

Even today, David’s poetic psalms speak to our emotions.

God still gives us poets who have the ability to express our heart longings. One such poet is James Troy Turner. Like Jesus’ followers who were not highly educated, who had few of this worlds goods, but who felt the burden of sin and oppression and wanted to believe that a Deliverer would set them free—so James Troy Turner expresses the neediness and longing of Holy Week with these verses:

THE END

Deeper and deeper into the open arms of death,

As the world lives, then what time is left.

We push and we pull, filling our lives

With only the promise of tomorrow.

And where is the light?

 

 

TRUTH

How I long for the days of

   My simple youth.

You could believe all they said—

   You knew it was true.

A man was a man always,

   True even to himself.

The good he would buy—

   Top quality on each shelf.

But those days are past,

   I think never to be again.

Listen hard what they say—

   Truth and lies in a spin.

 

 

WORLDLY

I am so far off the bubble

sitting idle in all this rubble.

It really doesn’t make any sense;

reality is left so unraveled,

no common sense, I’m left baffled.

(verses excerpted from the book, POEMS by James Troy Turner)

 

Enhance Your Devotions With Poetry

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

I gave a copy of Mary Harwell Sayler’s book of Praise poems to my sister, a retired English teacher. She said these poems remind her of poems by Emily Dickinson. She is reading them along with her daily Scripture and other devotional readings.

When she told me that, it got me thinking …

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 usually poetry. And this is why, 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 have found poems that helped them focus on God and his presence and love:

 

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

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

“Reading 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.

 

 

When I Heard the Stars Sing

Though this experience happened 2 1/2 months ago, it is still fresh in my mind and still lifts my heart. Looking at the night sky brings the experience back to me. Hearing music like I heard this week does, too: a glorious bell choir playing “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Or a symphony … and the Nativity story, with bright stars and angels appearing, giving glory to God.

Here’s what happened. In early October, Larry and I went camping in the Rockies. I wanted to see the stars. But so many campfires and lanterns and flashlights obscured the view. Then in the night, when I had to get up and hike to a campground restroom, all was quiet, all human activity was still, all was dark … except for the sky blazing with stars. And that’s when this mystical moment came: I “heard” the stars sing! Here’s a “poem” I wrote about this experience:

•  • •  • •  • •  • •  • 

I HEAR THE STARS SING

Sleeping in a tent, we must take a walk
to the ‘comfort station’ sometime in the night.
At 1:30 a.m. we pull out of sleeping bags,
put on our shoes, snap the dog’s leash tight.

Campfires and lanterns now out, we need
no flashlight to see in the ethereal glow
bathing path, tents, trailers and trees,
boulders, peaks, and meadows below.

Fear of bears is forgotten as, looking up,
I acquiesce to the serendipitous sight—
stars sprinkling the sky, a sparkling array
only dreamed of on lit suburban nights.

Like music engraved across the sky,
notes—not in even scores or measures,
but in splashes of compositions our eyes
and ears aren’t attuned to hear or decipher.

Not with physical ears do I hear music
of stars singing out from the night pavilion,
graced by the moon, answered by bugling elk,
crooning owls and sibilant whispering wind.

Celestial strains fill my soul with consolation,
comfort, and swells of settled certainty
one would expect of constellations shining
in place since God sang the Heavens into being.

Surely nature sings back to God day and night,
I think, as we settle back in our places—
born under stars, resting under starlight
and listening still to star-song cadences.

–Catherine Lawton, ©2018

 

 

 

 

Praise the Lord from the Heavens

praise him in the heights!

Praise him, all his angels…

Praise him, all you shining stars!

Praise him, you highest heavens…

from Psalm 148:1-4, NRSV

 


Photo of stars taken in Colorado mountains: by Lionello (Unsplash)

A Worthy King

Worthy to Receive Glory

Made to honor, we give fealty,

We seek true north like a needle.

But to look for your king

   in a pulpit, disappoints;

   in a government, fails;

   in the mirror, distorts.

Look instead with the eyes of your heart

   to the Wounded who heals;

   to the Throne that is true;

   to the Lamb who was slain,

       Christ the King.

–Catherine Lawton

© 2018

In Revelation Chapter 5 Christ the King is depicted as a Lamb who had been slaughtered. Yet all the magnificence of Heaven bowed down and worshiped 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?

 


Photo: “Thanksgiving” Stained-Glass Windows used by permission of Library of Congress

An Autumn Walk

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Autumn Walk Along the Poudre River

I go down by the river in autumn breeze

that quakes gold leaves on craggy trees

and skitters dry ones at my feet.

The chill breeze hints of snowy peaks,

lifts cricket songs, soars hawks on high,

sails wispy clouds across clear-blue sky.

I see Kingfisher, Yellow-legs, bright Magpie;

hear squirrels chatter, Red-tails scream,

and splashing fish in sparkling stream.

God said that all He made was good;

and surely all these things are good;

and everything He does is good.

My senses and soul exult in our God

who made seasons of change and decay

to display His unchanging glory.

–Catherine Lawton


Excerpted from Remembering Softly: A LIfe In Poems

 

Realistic Poetry Review: Remembering Softly

The glory, sorrow and unquestionable beauty of life are encapsulated in Catherine Lawton’s Remembering Softly. Lawton’s prose gently captures, like coaxing a firefly into the palm, the indescribable joy of simply seeing nature and the world in action. Sure, there are vile things out there, but there are precious things which overcome them and are worth living to witness. When misfortune passes, the memories of goodness will be everlasting.

So begins a just-published review of my poetry collection, Remembering Softly: A Life In Poems, reviewed by Realistic Poetry International. They seem to have “caught” and understood my poems. The review continues:


Remembering Softly is a personal and inspirational collection with Christian themes. The poems span several years of Lawton’s writing and experiences and are richly emotional. Reading it conjures a feeling of great creation, like seeing the kaleidoscopic glimmer of sunbeams through the fire reds of autumn woods, or perhaps one of those pure winter days where the sky is an unblemished white like being just beneath the floor of heaven.

“Shadows” stood out to me, as did “Glory” and “A Walk at Dusk” as strong points of the compilation. “A Walk at Dusk” in particular is a thought-provoking and fearless piece….

Remembering Softly is truly a beautiful book, and it’s hard to find anything to dislike. If I absolutely had to choose something, some of the personal poems addressed to certain people may not be as resonant to a new reader, though it’s obvious that they were written out of love. The illustrations are a charming touch, and fit well with the poems.

I would recommend Lawton’s collection wholeheartedly, with a 5 out of 5 stars.


My thanks to Realistic Poetry for their reading, evaluation, and recommendation of my first volume of poetry. You can read their entire review HERE.

Graphic by Realistic Poetry Intl.

Life As a Journey

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“Does the road wind up-hill all the way?”

“Yes, to the very end.”

“Does the day’s long journey take the whole long day?”

“From morn to night, my friend.”


This poem by Christina Rossetti has often given me encouragement to keep stepping onward and upward on my own life’s journey. Just recently, Rossetti’s poem came to mind again— when I noticed that many Cladach book titles allude to various aspects and dimensions of this journey called ‘life.’ For instance,

On that up-hill road, we often WALK:

As we walk, we will inevitably need to TRUST:

We may need to RUN (from SHAME and toward LOVE):

Our journey may lead to ESCAPE:

We may have to release and LEAVE BEHIND:

Our journey will be fraught with DANGERS:

Our journey will involve SEARCHING and finding:

We will COME to oases that bid us to STAY awhile and CELEBRATE:

The journey provides stretches of solitude for pondering and REMEMBERING:

The journey includes places for PAUSING, letting others pass, and finding renewed perspective:


But is there for the night a resting-place?

   A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.

May not the darkness hide it from my face?

   You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?

   Those who have gone before.

Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?

   They will not keep you standing at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?

   Of labor you shall find the sum.

Will there be beds for me and all who seek?

   Yea, beds for all who come.

–Christina Rossetti

 

This Wide and Wonderful Land Needs a Rebirth of Soul

We are a nation of immigrants and descendants of immigrants.

Today, on the 4th of July, the passionate words of the poem below express the heart of a woman who grew up on a “far-flung” island of Scotland and immigrated to America as an adult, with her husband and young family. Author and poet, Alice Scott-Ferguson, writes:

“In a land of deep class divides, my parents were not from the nobility, elite or formally educated. They were people of the land and sea in the farthest reaches of the United Kingdom, the Shetland Islands, where the sun never sets in summer and the aurora borealis dances in the long, dark winter skies.”*

Many of my ancestors also came from Scotland (and Ireland)—but way back during Colonial times of the 1600s. They crossed the Atlantic to the New World for economic opportunity (survival?) and for religious and personal liberty. They settled in and around Virginia and Kentucky, and each generation moved steadily across the expanding frontier, seeking new beginnings and opportunities, until they reached the Pacific Ocean. And now some of us have moved back toward the east. My ancestors include farmers, preachers, teachers, homesteaders, soldiers, and transient laborers. Many generations of blood, sweat, and tears have soaked into this land from shore to shore.

We are America. “This Land is My Land …” we have sung with gusto. Does our subjectivity make it hard—even impossible—for us to take an objective look at our country, our land, our nation? Have we become full of “hubris,” as Alice has penned (below)?

I think the voices of immigrants, who continue to choose to come to “America the Beautiful” to seek life and opportunity and freedom, are voices we need to hear and heed, if we want to “trade our hubris for humility,” as Alice Scott-Ferguson expresses in this poem:

America the Beautiful*

Pilgrim from a more restricted place
to America, the parent
of my progression
land of my adoption.

Country of limitless opportunity
for me and my progeny,
ever grateful
sometimes sad
land divided
in agony
in greed
in need
of a re-birth of soul
into a vibrant whole
not of uniformity
but of unity
in our differences
in our sameness
with the world
though still we hold
that glorious space
of being
a framework
of freedom.

Wide and wonderful land
open your arms of welcome
let us love one another
let us not fear one another
let us harness the love
and discover fire again.

Let us trade our hubris for humility,
thee and me.

~Alice Scott Ferguson

*(excerpted from Alice’s forthcoming book of poetry, Pausing in the Passing Places.)


Photo credit: Original Oil Painting by Amy Whitehouse © 2018

Hunting for Agates on the Beach

We look down on Agate Beach before descending the steep, winding trail at Patrick’s Point in Northern California.

On the pebbly-sand beach as the fog clears and tide ebbs.

Larry searches for agates in the sand.

One of my happy places, finding semi-precious, polished-by-the-waves agates glowing in the sand.

See any agates among these pebbles?

Some agates found through the years and polished in a rock tumbler.

Looking for agates on the beach is what it’s like for me, as a poet, to dig into my heart and come up with poems shaped by experiences and observations.

And this is what it’s like for me as a publisher to discover stand-out poets and their glowing poetry to share with our readers. So far, we have searched for, found, and polished a few collections of gems, which you can discover at Agates Poetry.

 

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