Wednesday, January 30, 2013

i want to start living like a monk

(This is the second in a series of three poems I am posting this week - see the first one for explanation of the project.)

i want to start living like a monk
(but i don’t know how, lost soul that i am)

yet i will set my heart to the journey within,
filling my haversack with my doubts and my sin.
i will bring my heart’s longing as i search anew,
listening and watching and waiting for You.

i will walk, i will climb, i will run for You
 i will listen, i will search, i will wait for You.
i will walk aimlessly, endlessly, lost in my blame,
climbing hills of reluctance and valleys of shame.

i will listen while moaning in deepest dark night.
i will watch for Your radiance in sun’s first light.
i will wait for You in churches, in temples, in shrines,
i will wait in prisons, under bridges, in mines.

at last, exhausted, my soul’s final oblation –
i will mingle my tears with waters of salvation.
my thoughts i will burn as incense before You.
my dreams up in ashes that i might adore You.

i will let go of color, of desire and beauty
until empty and free of all that was me.
 i will bring You the vessel once called my heart
that You might fill it with Your sacred art.

for You are all and i am none.
my only desire: that we might be one.
i will be Your poor monk by Your holy grace
forever and ever may i gaze on Your face.


Monday, January 28, 2013

i am going to start living like an artist

I thought I would share a few poems this week. Not because they are particularly great poems but because I hope that the creative self-expression I found in writing them will be contagious.

I am currently part of an online class through that brings together monasticism and art. (While the class is in its 4th week now and is closed to new members, anyone interested in exploring how to nurture creativity with monastic wisdom might enjoy reading Christine Valters Paintner's book, The Artist's Rule that outlines much of the content for the class.)

The first line of the poem I am presenting today was given as part of an "assignment" in the class. I tend to feel more than a bit pretentious if I label myself as an "artist" because there are many, many people who deserve this title more than I do. However, in recent years, I have been nurturing and expressing my creative self more and that has been a great blessing, emotionally and spiritually.

I believe that all of us have creative capacity, though we may not know it or have the confidence to use it. I might add that this is very different from "talent" - which we tend to associate with creating a product that people will admire or buy. Creative self expression does not need to meet these criteria and often doesn't. Rather it is process we engage in for express, to heal, to grow.

Sometimes the poems (or paintings or songs or stories) we produce surprise even us, as though there were some other force than our own intention at work. And, of course, I believe there is...that's were the monastic/spiritual part comes in, as well as the healing.

(I will share one poem today and two others on separate days later in the week. Each has such a different rhythm that it seemed best to let each stand alone. I invite you to join me - allow yourself to play with words or colors or sounds or any other medium that you feel ready to engage...)

i am going to start living like an artist,

splashing and splashing in color till drenched

in all of the blue the sky can hold

and dripping pink and purple dusk.

i am going to start fingerpainting my life

on endless rolls of vanilla paper

till it tastes like strawberries

and peaches and pears and plums.

but then i might pause…take a breath

and carefully sketch the feathers

of every bird flitting by me today,

etching each shaft and barb into my soul,

that i too might soar in heavens’ light.

 then i will stoop back to my warm earth,

scooping its muddy softness into my hands

where i will hold it and mold it and shape it

until i see within it my heart alive with joy.

and then – then, i will give it all to you,

laughing my soul into yours in wordless delight.

i am starting to live my life as an artist –

yes, i am starting…

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Gifts

Our world has seen an abundance of tragedies in this past year. I have walked with many who have suffered personal tragedy and all of us have learned of our neighbors suffering from devastating storms, senseless mass murders and unrelenting wars. So much evil and pain that it may easily lead us down the path to doubt.

Where is God? If He is loving, why does He not stop these things from happening?

Of course, I do not know the answer. Even if I could lay out my beliefs, I know they would appear inadequate in the face of both personal and global suffering. There simply are no words.

However, I will share with you a quote and then a video. The quote is from Christ The Eternal Tao, by Hieromonk Damascene. As a bit of background, in ancient China (6th century BC), Lao Tzu wrote about a Being "...fathomless, it seems to be the Source of all things. I do not know its name, but characterize it as the Tao". (The word "Tao" is translated as "The Way"). Around the same time, in a completely different culture, Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote about "The Logos" (translated as "The Word"): "All entities come to be in accordance with this Logos" which he viewed as the first principle of existence.

Five thousand years later, there was One born into our world who said, "I am the Way". Of this same One, John the Apostle wrote: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God". This is the One who is said to have died and risen from the dead.

And so the author writes, in the manner of Lao Tzu:

"The Great Way empties Himself into His creation
Out of love, in complete self-giving.
He empties Himself,
Yet, being the unchanging Cause of all things,
He remains ever full.

Quenching their desire for created things,
Followers of the Way likewise empty themselves
Out of love, in complete self-giving.
For in emptying themselves as He does,
They are ever filled with Him,
The Ever-full."

As one who strives to be "a follower of the Way", I have seen His self-giving around me in so many ways. Most of those ways defy words. However, in the video below, I will share with you a little of what I encountered of Him during this past year... Blessings on your new year.

(I made this video from some of my favorite photos of 2012. As always, you are welcome to share this video and may download any of my photos for your personal or non-profit use.)