Saturday, December 24, 2011

Nativity Poem -- For Christmas Eve

It is the evening
of the birth of God.
Singing &
with gold instruments
the angels bear down
upon the barn, their wings
neither white
wax nor marble. So
they have been recorded:
literal in the composed air,
they raise their harps above
the beasts likewise gathering,
the lambs & all the startled
silken chickens ... And Joseph,
off to one side, has touched
his cheek, meaning
he is weeping ---

But how small he is, withdrawn
from the hollow of his mother's life,
the raw flesh bound
in linen as stars yield
light to delight his sense
for who there is no ornament.

-- by Louise Gluck

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Awaken Your Senses -- Early Reviews

The first reviews of the new book are coming in -- and I couldn't be more pleased. Here are some excerpts!

Awaken Your Senses: Exercises for Exploring the Wonder of God J. Brent Bill and Beth A. Booram. InterVarsity ... Modeling the best Sunday School teachers, Bill (Sacred Compass) and Booram (The Wide Open Spaces of God) get close to God via the five senses. The journey could so easily have been a skip instead of a sail; however, they truly manifest the book’s purpose: “to help more of you experience more of God.” The two ministers and workshop leaders accomplish this so well with natural sweetness from the inside, not with treacle glopped on top. Starting with the cover illustrations—a rose, a bird singing treble, threatening thorns, and a bitten pear, each image superimposing on another—the book divides naturally into five parts. ... Within each chapter, the authors alternate essays, their voices nearly indistinguishable except for Bill’s wittier bits; they touch on the personal, such as Booram’s sacred hospital smells. Each chapter includes spiritual exercises. The two cite the Bible’s raising up of the five senses, augmented with quotes from many sensate Christians. It adds up to a deeply pleasing book. -- Publishers Weekly.

Awaken Your Senses: Exercises for Exploring the Wonder of God J. Brent Bill & Beth Booram ... I had a very early version of this and was so taken with it I told a few folks this summer that it will be one of the books of the year. ... [Beth and Brent] walk us through an array of wonder-full meditations and experiences that combine a sensuous engagement with creational givens---taste, hearing, touch, smell, seeing---and ways these activities can help us know God. There are two things going on here, it seems---helping us be attentive to the world around us, practicing a sensuous worldview and embodied sort of discipleship, and the ways in which this sort of attentiveness can facilitate a deeper relationship with God. Beautiful! I'll bet you know somebody for whom this will be a godsend. It'll wow 'em, for sure. And that cover---you have to see it "for real." Splendid. Kudos, again, to InterVarsity Press. -- Byron Bolger of Hearts and Minds Books.

Awaken Your Senses is now available at local independent bookstores like Hearts and Minds and, of course, at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, InterVarsity Press, and more.

Order a copy online in the next five days and I'll be happy to send you a free signed bookplate!

Holiday Blessings!

December -- A Poem for this Season of Wonder

A little girl is singing for the faithful to come ye
Joyful and triumphant, a song she loves,
And also the partridge in a pear tree
And the golden rings and the turtle doves.
In the dark streets, red lights and green and blue
Where the faithful live, some joyful, some troubled,
Enduring the cold and also the flu,
Taking the garbage out and keeping the sidewalk shoveled.
Not much triumph going on here—and yet
There is much we do not understand.
And my hopes and fears are met
In this small singer holding onto my hand.
Onward we go, faithfully, into the dark
And are there angels hovering overhead? Hark.

-- by Gary Johnson. From "The Writer's Almanac"

Monday, December 19, 2011

Advent -- A Poem for this Season of Wonder


by Mary Jo Salter

Wind whistling, as it does
in winter, and I think
nothing of it until

it snaps a shutter off
her bedroom window, spins
it over the roof and down

to crash on the deck in back,
like something out of Oz.
We look up, stunned—then glad

to be safe and have a story,
characters in a fable
we only half-believe.

Look, in my surprise
I somehow split a wall,
the last one in the house

we're making of gingerbread.
We'll have to improvise:
prop the two halves forward

like an open double door
and with a tube of icing
cement them to the floor.

Five days until Christmas,
and the house cannot be closed.
When she peers into the cold

interior we've exposed,
she half-expects to find
three magi in the manger,

a mother and her child.
She half-expects to read
on tablets of gingerbread

a line or two of Scripture,
as she has every morning
inside a dated shutter

on her Advent calendar.
She takes it from the mantel
and coaxes one fingertip

under the perforation,
as if her future hinges
on not tearing off the flap

under which a thumbnail picture
by Raphael or Giorgione,
Hans Memling or David

of apses, niches, archways,
cradles a smaller scene
of a mother and her child,

of the lidded jewel-box
of Mary's downcast eyes.
Flee into Egypt, cries

the angel of the Lord
to Joseph in a dream,
for Herod will seek the young

child to destroy him. While
she works to tile the roof
with shingled peppermints,

I wash my sugared hands
and step out to the deck
to lug the shutter in,

a page torn from a book
still blank for the two of us,
a mother and her child.

by Mary Jo Salter, from Open Shutters. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2003. (buy now)

from "The Writers Almanac"

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Karma -- A Poem for this Season of Wonder

Christmas was in the air and all was well
With him, but for a few confusing flaws
In divers of God's images. Because
A friend of his would neither buy nor sell,
Was he to answer for the axe that fell?
He pondered; and the reason for it was,
Partly, a slowly freezing Santa Claus
Upon the corner, with his beard and bell.

Acknowledging an improvident surprise,
He magnified a fancy that he wished
The friend whom he had wrecked were here again.
Not sure of that, he found a compromise;
And from the fulness of his heart he fished
A dime for Jesus who had died for men.

-- Edward Arlington Robinson

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas -- A Poem for this Season of Wonder

Though crowded be the inn, although God’s son
Is lying in the hay, my soul may enter.
There’s need, on man of flesh, of thoughts that centre
On fleshly things today: here cryeth one.

Who’ll cry one day for us, compared to whom
A queen’s newborn is but a worthless plaything.
This child in manager will fulfil our waiting
Whenas the times are full and ease our doom.

God resteth in our flesh, here fatherless,
In heaven motherless. Word co-creative,
God, Father of the virgin and her native,
Lies in the hay. Rest here and cease thy stress,

My soul, cease rhyming without rhyme or reason.
A mute humility is here in season.

-- by Constantijn Huygens

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Winter Is Cold, Is Cold -- A Poem for this Season of Wonder

The winter is cold, is cold.
All’s spent in keeping warm.
Has joy been frozen, too?
I blow upon my hands
Stiff from the biting wind.
My heart beats slow, beats slow.
What has become of joy?

If joy’s gone from my heart
Then it is closed to You
Who made it, gave it life.
If I protect myself
I’m hiding, Lord, from you.
How we defend ourselves
In ancient suits of mail!

Protected from the sword,
Shrinking from the wound,
We look for happiness,
Small, safety-seeking, dulled,
Selfish, exclusive, in-turned.
Elusive, evasive, peace comes
Only when it’s not sought.

Help me forget the cold
That grips the grasping world.
Let me stretch out my hands
To purifying fire,
Clutching fingers uncurled.
Look! Here is the melting joy.
My heart beats once again.

--by Madeleine L’Engle

Monday, December 12, 2011

Birthing -- A Poem for this Season of Wonder

How does one birth peace. . .
in a world that seems to prefer the profits of war?
How can one birth hope. . .
in a time when devastation is born of poverty and pandemic?
How does one birth love. . .
in a world whose heart is captive to fear?
How can one birth joy. . .
How can one birth joy?
The plastic manger scene on the front lawn
just doesn't do it!
Birthing is so much more!
It is, and requires. . .
radical intimacy,
prolonged patience,
the coming together of pain and ecstasy,
the joining of our deepest hopes and fears.
Face it,
birthing is a messy business.
And yet this process occurs every moment of our lives:
as our bodies birth cell upon cell,
as our minds birth ideas and dreams into the world,
as our spirits birth. . .
in the midst of labor and pain. . .
as our spirits birth.. JOY!

-- by Mark Unbehagen

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Coming -- A Poem for this Season of Wonder

And God held in his hand
A small globe. Look he said.
The son looked. Far off,
As through water, he saw
A scorched land of fierce
Colour. The light burned
There; crusted buildings
Cast their shadows: a bright
Serpent, A river
Uncoiled itself, radiant
With slime.
On a bare
Hill a bare tree saddened
The sky. many People
Held out their thin arms
To it, as though waiting
For a vanished April
To return to its crossed
Boughs. The son watched
Them. Let me go there, he said.
-- R. S. Thomas

Friday, December 09, 2011

Expectans Expectavi -- A Poem for this Season of Wonder

The candid freezing season again:
Candle and cracker, needles of fir and frost;
Carols that through the night air pass, piercing
The glassy husk of heart and heaven;
Children's faces white in the pane, bright in the tree-light.
And the waiting season again,
That begs a crust and suffers joy vicariously:
In bodily starvation now, in the spirit's exile always.
O might the hilarious reign of love begin, let in
Like carols from the cold
The lost who crowd the pane, numb outcasts into welcome.

-- by Anne Ridler

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Stable -- A Poem for this Season of Wonder

The winds were scornful,
Passing by;
And gathering Angels
Wondered why

A burdened Mother
Did not mind
That only animals
Were kind.

For who in all the world
Could guess
That God would search out

--Sr. M. Chrysostom, O.S.B.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Ecce Puer --A Poem for this Season of Wonder

Of the dark past
A child is born;
With joy and grief
My heart is torn.

Calm in his cradle
The living lies.
May love and mercy
Unclose his eyes!

Young life is breathed
On the glass;
The world that was not
Comes to pass.

A child is sleeping:
An old man gone.
O, father forsaken,
Forgive your son!

--by James Joyce

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Stay Awake -- A Poem for This Season of Wonder

Stay awake
And for God*s sake
Really I mean it
For God*s sake
Keep your eyes open!

You have no idea when the next thing
Will come around the bend.
The bush may blaze in your front yard.
The waters may part
In the creek out back.
The child who lives in your house
May dance on tiptoe.
Jesus may ring your doorbell
And ask
For a place to be born.

Keep your eyes open
For God*s sake.
You have only begun to see
What needs to be seen.
It is a veritable drop in the bucket.
Water shines even
In an old wooden bucket.

For God*s sake
Stay awake!
Open your eyes!
You have no inkling
When the next thing
Will come around
The bend.

-- by Catharine Phillips
Follow Catherine's poetry/meditations at

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Prophets -- A Poem for this Season of Wonder

Once in the Advent season
When I was walking down
A narrow street

I met a flock of children
Who all came running up to me
Saying that they were prophets
And for a penny they
Would prophesy

I gave them each a penny

They started out
By rummaging in trash-cans
Until they found
A ragged piece of silk

It’s blue, they said
Blue is a holy color
Blue is the color that
The mountains are
When they are far away

They laid the rag
On a small fire
Of newspaper and shavings
And burned it in the street

They scraped up all the ashes
And with them decorated
Each other’s faces

Then they ran back to me
And stood
In a circle ‘round me

We stood that way
In a solemn silence
One of the children spoke

It was the prophecy!

He said that long before
The pear tree blossoms
Or sparrows in the hedges
Begin to sing

A Child will be our King.

--by Anne Porter

Friday, December 02, 2011

Mary's Poem -- A Poem for This Season of Wonder

When she heard infinity
whispered in her ear, did the flashing
scissors in her fingers gall
to the wooden floor and the spool unravel,
the spider's sly cradle
tremble with love? Imagine

How the dry fields leaned
toward the news and she heard, for a moment,
the households of crickets --
When she answered, all things shifted, the moon
in its river of milk.

And when she wanted to pluck
her heart from her breast, did she remember
a commotion of wings, or the stirring
of dust?

-- Kathleen Wakefield, from Divine Inspiration: The Life of Jesus in World Poetry

One Leaf

One Leaf

David Ignatow

One leaf left on a branch
and not a sound of sadness
or despair. One leaf left
on a branch and no unhappiness.
One leaf left all by itself
in the air and it does not speak
of loneliness or death.
One leaf and it spends itself
in swaying mildly in the breeze.

Source: Earth Prayers From Around the World

photo by Brent Bill

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The God We Hardly Knew -- A Poem for this Season of Wonder

No one can celebrate
a genuine Christmas
without being truly poor.
The self-sufficient, the proud,
those who, because they have
everything, look down on others,
those who have no need
even of God- for them there
will be no Christmas.
Only the poor, the hungry,
those who need someone
to come on their behalf,
will have that someone.
That someone is God.
Emmanuel. God-with-us.
Without poverty of spirit
there can be no abundance of God.

--by Oscar Romero