Archive of ‘Poetry’ category

Who Can Endure?

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“. . . For Who Can Endure the Day of His Coming?”–Malachi 3:2

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When an Angel
snapped the old thin threads of speech
with an untimely birth
announcement, slit
the seemly cloth of an even
more blessed event with the
shears of miracle,
invaded the privacy of a dream,
multiplied
to ravage the dark silk of the sky, the
innocent ears
with swords of sound: news in a new dimension demanded
qualification.
The righteous were as vulnerable as others.
they trembled for those strong
antecedent fear nots, whether goat-
herds, virgins, workers in wood or
holy barren priests.

In our nights our
complicated modern dreams rarely
flower into visions. No
contemporary Gabriel
dumbfounds our worship, or burning,
visits our bedrooms. No
sign-post satellite hauls us, earth-bound but
star-struck, half
around the world with hope.

Are our sensibilities
too blunt to be assaulted
with spatial power-plays and far-out
proclamations of peace? Sterile,
skeptics, yet we may be broken
to his slow silent birth
(new-torn, new-
born ourselves at his
beginning new in us).
His bigness may still burst
out self-containment
to tell us—without angels’ mouths—
fear not.

God knows we need to hear it, now
when he may shatter
with his most shocking coming
this proud cracked place
and more if, for longer waiting,
he does not.–Luci Shaw

Photography by Melissa Thomas. Taken in Rome, Italy. Used with permission.

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Gifts in The Valley of Vision

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Gift of Gifts

O Source of all Good,
What shall I render to Thee for the gift of gifts,
Thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
my Redeemer, Proxy, Surety, Substitute,
His self-emptying incomprehensible,
His infinity of love beyond the heart’s grasp.

Herein is wonder of wonders:
He came below to raise me above,
He was born like me that I might become like Him.

Herein is love;
when I cannot rise to Him He draws near on wings of grace,
to raise me to Himself.

Herein is power;
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
He united them in indissoluble unity, the uncreated and the created.

Herein is wisdom;
when I was undone, with no will to return to Him,
and no intellect to devise recovery,
He came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost,
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me.

O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds,
and enlarge my mind;
let me hear good tidings of great joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father,
place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
to look with them upon my Redeemer’s face,
and in Him account myself delivered from sin;
let me with Simeon clasp the new-born Child to my heart,
embrace Him with undying faith,
exulting that He is mine and I am His.

In Him Thou hast given me so much that heaven can give no more.

–Arthur Bennett, Valley of Vision

Photography by Cindee Snider Re. Used with permission.

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He Did Not Wait. We Cannot Wait

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First Coming

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine. He did not wait

till hearts were pure. In joy he came
to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!–Madeleine L’Engle

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When I Meet Jesus in You

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Salutation

Framed in light,
Mary sings through the doorway.
Elizabeth’s six-month joy
jumps, a palpable greeting,
a hidden first encounter
between son and Son.

And my heart turns over
when I meet Jesus
in you.–Luci Shaw

Photography by Cindee Snider Re. Used with permission.

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Welcome. Another Laity Reflection

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“The essence of hospitality is a heart open to God, with room prepared for the Guestness of the Holy Spirit, that welcomes the presence of Christ. This is what we share with those to whom we open our doors. We give them Him.”–Karen Burton Mains

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From the minute I arrived at Laity Lodge I felt room prepared. Yes, there was a literal room waiting for me, but the spirit of every aspect of this place whispered, “Welcome. You will meet Him here.”

I loved how during the first evening, Tim, one of the Laity employees, briefly explained the kind of hospitality we would experience in our days there. Always beautiful pottered mugs and hot coffee and tea waiting for us in the reception area of the dining hall. Always fruit and snacks waiting. If we needed or wanted anything at all, just ask. After a clanging bell was rung, the most lovely and healthy meals were served family style. We gathered around a table of strangers and friends who were in reality brothers and sisters from the same Father.

I was perhaps one of the attendees who was most on the fringe. Never once did I feel left out of the group. Just the opposite, I experienced open arms, listening ears and sincere hearts. I use the phrase, “To know and be known by you” frequently in my close friendships. I did not coin this term. It comes from Parker Palmer’s To Know as We Are Known where he describes hospitality as a “way of receiving each other, our struggles, our newborn ideas with openness and care. It means creating an ethos in which the community of truth can form.”

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One of the things I was most anxious about in deciding to attend The High Calling retreat was sharing a room with someone I did not know. I arrived in an earlier group and settled into my space before my roommate arrived. Since deciding to attend I had prayed about who God would choose to share my space. I thoughtfully made a little tote bag of gifts to leave on their bed. Gifts. My love language. I haven’t shared a room with a stranger since college, and even then I did not do it well. When the door opened this beautiful woman came in, and her face seemed disappointed, even sad. She had come to the retreat thinking she was rooming with someone else. Someone she knew. Someone who was more important. Someone who had a large blog following and a published book. Someone who she could learn from and grow from because of knowing her. Who in the world is Monica Snyder from Uniontown, Ohio? I greeted her and told her I had been praying for her. She answered, “Oh, I haven’t!” We began to laugh. She explained how this room change turned her idea of what the retreat would be upside down. We hugged. I’m not sure who welcomed who, but it was comfortable and easy from that moment on. We told a little of our stories, a place I think everyone should start. How can I be with you if I know nothing about you? We headed out to dinner, and she welcomed me at “her” table and introduced me to the many she already knew. I silently exhaled. There was room for me. Caryn and I became very close during our time together. Except for my older sister, Rochelle, I can’t remember such late nights of sharing and laughing and “Oh, one more thing and then we HAVE to go to sleep.” I believe we will be lifelong friends and know God planned the room switcheroo for reasons we can’t even understand just yet. I am grateful for the willingness of this precious woman’s heart to open a space where our truth could meet.

I’m thinking about welcome as we begin Advent. Our Savior’s story begins with Mary making room in her heart and rearranging all notions about what her life would look like to welcome God made man into her womb. As Mary and Joseph traveled the night her labor pains began to come steady and strong they we told there was ” . . . no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7

Eugene Peterson wrote a beautiful poem about “Hospitality” from a small volume of his work titled Holy Luck. I love how he takes us from welcoming Jesus, something we think we would all heartily agree to do, to opening our hearts and homes to others who are broken angels unaware; to those who are Christ people in their messy state. Long after they are gone your sacrifice of welcome may become the story that saves and even raises you from the deadness into life.

Benedict taught us well: Receive
Each guest as Christ. The bell rings, the door
Opens. Some unexpected, and some, yes,
Unwelcome. Our guest book spills out photos.

Christ abused. Christ the fool,
Christ sullen, Christ laughing,
Christ angry, Christ envious,
Christ bewildered, Christ on crutches.

Like Gospel writers of old we pray
And reminisce over left behind guest signs–
A bra, a sock, a scribbled thank you–

And let them grow into stories. Sometimes
It takes an unhurried while. Then,
There it is: absences become Presence. Resurrection.

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Come Lord Jesus

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“Lord Jesus, master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas. We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day. We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us. We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom. We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence. We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light. To you we say, ‘Come Lord Jesus!'”–Henri Nouwen

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I’ve been toiling over several posts; half written drafts telling stories of my trip to Laity. I’m trying to mine the riches and words are failing me. I am changed in a way a few days would not normally morph a person into someone else. The profound nature of God’s work in me is not something I can tell lightly. I am quietly holding these things in my heart. Much like Mary I am answering, “Be it unto me according to your word.”

I was thrown back into daily life with my Danica getting the tummy flu the Monday night I returned home. She missed school Tuesday and Wednesday, time I would have reflected and written more. I began to feel sick Wednesday and am really not well even now. I have a cough that racks my EDS body and makes a sharp knife like feeling behind my left eye. We had a lovely Thanksgiving at my parent’s home but did not push to decorate that evening. For some reason our traditions are feeling less necessary as the girls get older. We are all willing to relax into this Advent season. We finished decorating our tree today and will begin our candle lighting tonight and readings from Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp.

More than ever before our little family is not wanting for any one thing. We still sit in ashes in many ways financially and face a new year of immediate appointments that mean deductibles and trips and scans. We have purposed in our hearts to face these hard challenges in January, but for this month we will celebrate the gifts we already have and the one and only gift we really need, our God made man. Tonight we begin following the star, seeking the light and crying out, “Come Lord Jesus.”

Our journey will be quiet, soft and slow.

On repeat.

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Thorn in the Flesh

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I have been in the Texas hill country at Laity Lodge for The High Calling Retreat since Thursday. There is a marinating of soul needed before I can write more about this sacred experience.

Marilyn McEntyre encouraged us yesterday to cultivate a litany. I struggled and eventually put the pen and paper away and went to bed. This morning I entered the mostly empty and quiet main room in the lodge for worship. A humble and striking presentation of the Lord’s Table was waiting. Morning light slanted across the canyon illuminating simple pottery holding the sacraments.

I opened my Moleskin, and these words poured from my heart to the page.

I stood at a minimal wood pulpit and read:

I forget
Calculating a one to ten scale
Pain
Always five or more
Thorn in the flesh

I wail
Hiding in my locked room
Fear
Never going to escape
Thorn in the flesh

I fake
Entering the day with a smile
Obligation
Pretense of hopeful trust
Thorn in the flesh

I push
Dragging snapping bones forward
Wounded
Betraying my body to serve my man and girls
Thorn in the flesh

I retreat
Leaving behind the lonely place
Anxious
Breathing life in community and affirmation
Thorn in the flesh

I remember
Kneeling before the rugged cross
Redeemed
Believing His body and blood are for me
Thorn in the flesh

I expect
Lifting body, mind and soul
Healed
Knowing I am made eternally well by His
Thorn in the flesh

(I did not punctuate my words in any way while writing and wanted to share it here in the raw form.)

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