Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Hibernation

Cold wind murmurs a gentle melody
Through skeleton trees
Snow beats a soft staccato
On grass and concrete
Stars pulse in the winter sky
Diamond beads on black velvet
I drag the blanket up to my chin and
Listen to the lullaby
Breathing slows and deepens
I sleep and dream of spring

Monday, January 01, 2018

Speaking to the Wolf and the Lamb

“In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all.” Isaiah 11:6

I suppose I have always thought of the wolf lying down with the lamb not in a literal sense. I have tended to see in as the church family with all its personalities, getting on together, showing unity and working hard to submit the tendency to dominate or terrorise others, to God. I have known too may wolves in the church family and too many lambs. Sad to say, I might have given up any utopian vision of a world living in peace and harmony.

There must have been a time before the Fall, before the serpent, Eve and the fruit eating event when the hunter and hunted didn’t exist. There was a time when there was no eat or be eaten mind-set in animals or in people. Venus fly traps didn’t trap flies once upon a time. Spiders wove webs to show off their creativity, not to catch insects.

I’ve also thought about seeing it as all the complex bits of a single person living in peace and harmony with themselves. I love the word “integrity”. A dictionary defines it as “the state of being whole and undivided.” When all the bits of me fit together properly, and there are not broken bits or drifting bits, just a single whole – that’s what I would like to be. It’s a challenge for any single individual or a community or a nation – to be whole and unified, not broken into bits.

Malcom Guite’s advent anthology “Waiting on the Word” contains a poem by David Greive - “Advent Good Wishes”. The poet speaks to the wolf and the lamb. The wolf is told not to stop roaring but to roar about thing that matter like justice for the poor. The lamb is told not to fear because the Messiah is on their side.

Part of our problem, as individuals or communities, lies in not saying anything to the wolf or the lamb at all. We don’t tell the wolf to change its roar direction. We don’t tell the lamb that there’s someone on its side. We don’t speak at all and our silence gives approval to whatever injustices are there. The wolf keeps eating the lamb and the lambs keep living in fear and no one tells them there’s a different way to live. We accept as normal the things that were never meant to be so.

What is the wolf in me that I am not telling it to turn its roar into a cry for justice for the poor? I want things my way. I want my advantages. Sometimes I roar at the wrong people to get what I want.

What is the lamb in me that I’m not reminding it about God’s converting grace and the Messiah that saves me from jeopardy? I allow myself to be terrorised by the people with all the power. I flinch when I should be facing up to people and situations that make me cower.

I was looking out of the window not so long ago. The day had been bright and sunny. The afternoon had clouded over.  Evening had darkened. The half-glass-empty bit of me wondered if in one day I had glimpsed what my year might look like. A beginning followed by a clouding over and ending in darkness. I’m not up for that.

It is time to start talking to the wolves and the lambs and the leopards and the goats. I’m not that clear yet on what we ought to be telling them but silence won’t do.

To the wolf in me
I say roar at injustice
And not at the lamb

To the lamb in me
I say God is on your side
And roar with the wolf



Sunday, December 24, 2017

Santa V Jesus

I have been secret Santa-ed. It causes some concern as I never put my name down on the secret Santa list. It wasn’t anything anti-Santa, although I have deep seated Santa issues. The whole list was constructed on a google form. I never found my way on to it. My username and password didn’t grant me access to the list, and yes, I could have emailed or phoned and days went by and I did nothing. I felt stupid that I couldn’t get on to the google list. Yes, pride was involved. I skipped the part of the lunch where the maths teacher dressed up as Santa and invited the rest of them to sit on his lap. My present remained alone and unclaimed in the bottom of the box. I feel unsettled that someone out there should have had an answering secret Santa present and they don’t. There are other Mrs Kerr’s on the staff but it’s not a case of mistaken identity as the label clearly states Melanie.

Yesterdays’ newspaper, read over a bowl of porridge, contained two articles about Santa Claus.

The first was a very tongue-in-cheek thing. Apparently Santa Claus is not in good health and some of it is our fault and some of it is his. We are responsible for the weight problem by leaving out mince pies for Santa to eat as he stuffs our presents under the tree. He would, apparently, be better off eating Rudolph’s carrots and giving the mince pies to the reindeer.

His part of the health problems comes with the stress of delivering presents to everyone all over the world in one night. Maybe we could help by asking for fewer presents, or none at all.

The reindeer came in for some of the blame. Who was to know how many ticks and fleas they carried, some of which could skip from hide to beard and cause distress. Of course, if he didn’t have the reindeer at all, Santa could do a lot more running from house to house and climbing on to roofs to get to chimneys. He would be that more fitter, that more streamlined.

All of this was said by a dose of doctors who ought not to have that much time on their hands for such frivolity.

The second article was written by an atheist who felt the need to justify celebrating Christmas without the Jesus content of it. She talked of church attendance when she was young and going through all the rituals of growing up, but always feeling that it was done for her parents rather than herself. She felt that everything about Jesus didn’t make sense. Christmas for her was all about family and present giving, for trees and tinsel and something good to break up the winter darkness.

She ended her article with the sentiment that it would be nice to go outside and look up. I thought she was going to say something about looking out for a really bright star – that somewhere still deep inside was a longing for the Jesus part of Christmas to be true. Not at all – she would be looking for a glimpse of Santa’s sleigh.

Something in me mourned the apparent loss of Jesus in the Christmas celebrations. What Satan couldn’t do by sending Herod into Bethlehem to slaughter the babies, he has found a neater way by replacing Jesus with Santa – so much more appealing. Santa with his nice and naughty list doesn’t make a permanent change in anyone’s life.

I confess that I have never been a fan of Santa. I see beyond the “Ho! Ho! Ho!” to a very unfair gift giver! It still rankles that good behaviour really doesn’t have a say in what goodies he leaves. It is all about how what parents can afford. I grew up in a one parent household with six children. She wasn’t irresponsible to have such a large clutch – just a good Roman Catholic and with a husband that would have looked after us all well had he not died young. It really didn’t matter how good I behaved, I was never going to get a bike. Other children grew up with both parents and the 2.4 average children. Bikes were no problem.

So, yes, Santa and I have never been on good terms. Had my family been born a little later into the pay-day loan era, who knows what kind of debt my mum might have got into to provide the bike simply to keep up with the neighbours. My Santa grudge goes deep! He is not harmless fun, not in my book.

“Santa will never topple Jesus from His throne,” said God as we sat reading poetry together over a cup of tea. “People might look at the tinsel and the trees and feel they have something to celebrate but all too soon the Easter eggs will be out in the shops. Christmas will be done and dusted and everything put away. Jesus – you can’t put Him away and move on. He insists that He walk with you through every day of the coming year.”

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Wasting Time


come and waste time with me, my love
stand beside me and see the moon
leave those pressing things behind for
tomorrow’s moon is not this one

come and waste time with me, my love
stand beside me and see the sky
clouds morning kissed and blushing for
tomorrow’s sky is not this one

come and waste time with me, my love
stand beside me and see the sea
Feel the sand between your toes for
tomorrow’s sea is not this one

come and waste time with me, my love
stand beside me and embrace life
explore the untouched corners for
tomorrow’s life starts with today

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Thirteen Ways to Look at a Fence

There are some poems where the imagery is beyond me. Last night a friend of mine was sharing with us his morning of creative writing in a workshop. They read through “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" by Wallace Stevens. He dug out his copy from a bag of stuff and handed it over to someone to read aloud.

XII reads “The river is moving. The blackbird must be flying.” It feels like something that might come out of a fortune cookie. That said, the last fortune cookie I read was “You have to be in it to win it”. I would rather have had Wallace’s two lines. It has that mystic mantra feel about it.

My friend also told us they had been issued with homework of a kind – to write a poem about fences or borders. I thought I would combine the “Thirteen ways of looking at…” with the fence. The images are obvious there’s nothing to analyse really.  I just thought about fences and 13 ways I look at them.

1.
that which marks out the boundary
of what will be mine when
the mortgage is paid in full

2.
my warning to you
that you are trespassing and
I will prosecute

3.
something to sit on when
coming down on one side or the other
brings no clear benefits
and makes enemies

4.
it rips the wool off
a sheep’s back and then
waves a white flag of surrender

5.
think Canute by the sea commanding
the waves to come no nearer
then think cows in a field
and the fence

6.
steel yarn
like loosely knitted garter stitch
stretched and nailed between
two concrete posts

7.
wrapped around a building site
knocking on the doors of the young and foolish
saying, “Are you coming out to play?”

8.
wood and whitewashed
an afternoon’s work for
Tom Sawyer’s friends

9.
permission granted for
weeds in my garden
to crawl into next door’s border

10.
a declaration of love
to keep you safe from
predators

11.
splinters of rust
biting my fingers
making me cry

12.
invisible perhaps but
Montagues and Capulets can
never marry

13
always the reminder
that I’m not free

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Spandex Love

I have just finished with the Poetic Asides November Poem A Day Chapbook Challenge.  I am one poem short of the thirty required. As ever I am amazed when I read back through the collection how much they reveal about my hidden world. Sometimes I’m not sure I like what I see.

This poem – Spandex Love – was something not hidden but hard to admit to. Life has not been its easiest over the last month or so.  I’m aware that my troubles are not big ones in comparison to what other people face.

There’s that bit in the marriage vows where each person says “for better, for worse” and “in sickness and in health”. There’s no small print at the bottom with all the exceptions listed.  There is not a “get out of jail free” card that comes with the marriage vows. I wonder if we consciously take on board exactly what we’re saying and think “the worse won’t happen to me” or “sickness will not come near us”. On our marriage day we are at our most optimistic. Having said that though, the wonderful man who married Joe and myself spoke in his address to us about seeing death on the road and how, as a couple, we were as close to divorce has we had ever been. He talked about the dying as being something daily – always dying to self to allow our marriage to live and flourish. There are troubles which fly up, that can’t be avoided no matter how strong out faith is, and have to be dealt with.

How do those who face the worse or have to meet sickness head on do so with love? When loving someone becomes hard what happens next? Is it still love if there are gritted teeth involved?

It has been a month of watching my husband struggle with health issues. Yes, I know, a month is nothing. You’ve been doing it for years. Too often irritation and sharp words have peppered my landscape. There is, or perhaps more accurately was, a knot of anxiety. The “what ifs” piled up like traffic on a motorway when there are road works. And then there was the guilt that inevitably plagued me. I shouldn’t feel as if I’m not sure still love him. What? After only a month of “worse”? And when much “worse” is down the road somewhere.

I sat with God, as I have a habit of doing, or perhaps it was Him sitting with me, as He has a habit of doing when I’m too unhappy to seek Him out. Too often I expect a slap for my failures and a sharp rebuke.  Most of often I get a God-cuddle and a gentle word of encouragement. He tells me a truth that I withhold from myself – that He loves me. He lifts the heavy yoke I have put upon myself and sets His yoke on my shoulders with His assurance that I never carry it alone. We sweep away the dust that has settled, the dirt that has become engrained in my spirit and share a new picture of how things will be.

With this is mind I wrote the poem

Spandex Love

love is like Spandex, don’t you think?
every time it stretches
and spans the gap between
what feels to be impossible and
what turns out to be achievable
but can it tear? I hear you ask
if love becomes tired and dry,
rigid and inflexible, it snaps
keep love warm and soft
with laughter and shared tears

Sunday, November 26, 2017

My Own Soil

I was reading Ezekiel 37:12-14 from a small book of common prayer.

I came to it with almost a spirit of apathy clinging to me. There was no eagerness to be in God’s presence, but a kind of gritted-teeth crawl with some part of me knowing that things get restored in the presence of God. I was stirred to reword the prophecy and as I did so, I felt myself speaking these words over myself.

·         There will be an opening of what you sealed, what you buried.  Of all you called dead and allowed to crumble there will be a new beginning.

·         There will be a rising up, a resurrecting, if you will, a shrugging off and a leaving behind of the death shroud.

·         There will be a taking by the hand, a leading back to His land of promise to the soil that God has given you, a resettling and a planting in that place where you best thrive and flourish.

·         There will be a giving and an imparting of My Holy Spirit to you, bringing a fragrance of life that spills over, a breathing in and a breathing out of His life inside.

·         There will be a knowing that God has spoken and an understanding there is no part of life where God doesn’t act or move.

There is a sense in which this is past history – God has done these things already. There is also an awareness that every day is new and old manna will not do for a new day.

Amen. Let it be so.