Poetry Party: Always We Begin Again

Christine from Abbey of the Arts offers this prompt…

Theme: Always We Begin Again

I spent this past weekend with my Oblate community at St. Placid Priory. It was our annual retreat and this year I helped Sister Lucy facilitate on the theme of “Always we begin again” which is a line from the Rule of St. Benedict. One of the vows in Benedictine life is conversion which is essentially a commitment to ongoing transformation and recoginizing that we never fully arrive at the destination, we are always on a journey.

I took this photo while up on the Canadian coast last week. At low tide one day I wandered the beach gathering stones and creating cairns, carefully balancing one stone upon another. It became a meditation on my life. For me Benedictine practice is at heart about living my life in a renewing balance between solitude and community, between silence and conversation, between work and prayer, between all the elements of my life that demand attention and energy. I have returned from this retreat renewed in energy, focus, and commitment to my Benedictine practices. I am ready to begin again.

We are half way through the year, so I invite you to take this opportunity to pause and reflect where you are being called to begin again. Write a poem about your longing for balance or the places where you seek renewal.

~— * —~

This prompt comes at an interesting time for me.

My life is over full with school (boy howdy!), family (a husband of 22 years I love dearly, one daughter going to college, and one daughter starting high school), and friends. My part-time, 12-hours-a-week pastoral job was really eating up more like 20-25 hours a week, since Sunday mornings are not considered part of my “work” hours, and most people need to meet outside of the “church workday”. I was up early to see kids and husband off to their busy days, up late to finish assignments or take my on-line classes. As my mom noted when she was here visiting for The Harpist’s graduation, I looked tired.

In the midst of all of these activities, I had prayed for direction, for peace and for assurance that I was on the right path. Personal struggles and doubts were just assaulting my spirit. Several conversations left me fairly bruised and unsure. And in the middle of it, a fairly blistering critique of my personality and ministry style was the final kink in my personal gyroscope.

I cried out to God. I took a day to throw everything down. I asked,

“God is it this? Do you want me to give this up? Lord, is it this? What about this?”

One worship song (by Hillsong United) became my theme song….

Falling on my knees in Worship
giving all I am to seek your face
Lord all I am is yours
My whole life I place in your hands
God of mercy humbled I bow down
In your presence at your throne

I called you answered
and you came to my rescue and I
wanna be where you are

The answers God gave me were strange –

Rest.

Listen.

Be at peace.

Which weren’t really the kind of answers I wanted…

About three weeks ago, my New Testament professor called and invited me to be one of his Teaching Assistants for the next school year. It meant a small stipend and help with my tuition. I was torn because I don’t exactly see myself as an academician. Sometimes the arguments are so much like counting angels on pinheads, if you know what I mean…

I didn’t give him an answer right away. He pursued me and we discussed what my hang-ups were. I was (and still do) feel inadequate to this whole ministry thing. So many people know so much more, can quote so much more Scripture, and can always find the politically expedient way to say things. I feel like a clumsy ox in a china shop, crashing this way and that. I don’t like to play politics and too frequently speak my mind.

On the other hand, my “pastoral” role was mostly secretarial, frequently frustrating and was not offering me the service I knew I was called to do – preaching and teaching. How does a church offer that to a part-timer anyway, when there are good preachers on staff?

SO… the answer is that I am stepping out of a pastoral role in a church to be a pastor of sorts to new graduate students. I will be TA’ing for a course that students in Divinity take their first semester. My role is to teach, but also to listen, encourage and pray for them.

A year from now I will reassess and ask God what’s next? But for now…

I rest.

I listen.

I am at peace…

~— * —~

This is the poem birthed out of this experience…

Longing. Searching. Dreaming. Believing.
God, I know you hold my life in balance,
Please wrest from me my selfishness, my angry words,
My hurting heart..
and heal me.

Standing. Walking. Preaching. Teaching.
Jesus, I hear your words in my ear,
Please show me how to live by example, by serving,
Tear the rough places away…
Use me.

Bowing. Praying. Fasting. Worshiping.
Holy Spirit, I surrender every facet, every part
Please guide me once again into your place for me.
My heart is warmed…
I am resting.
I am listening.
I am at peace.

Poetry Party: Illumination

Christine over at Abbey of the Arts writes:

…my invitation to you this week is to write a poem in honor of the call to illumination. In the growing darkness of these days, might you discover your own brilliance and the brilliant beauty of the world? The image below was taken at the retreat center (on the Hood Canal) one evening when the world was luminous.


Just the right moment
when all is still
and all is at rest
there! I see it!

The way across…
the way through…
the path beyond
reflected in my heart.

It’s known as reality –
a place to bring vision
and joy and peace and light
where there is blindness
and anger and brokenness and darkness.

More than ever,
as You shine within my heart
I know I am made
to spread that Light.

– Deb Vaughn
Advent 2008

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to You;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to You.
Psalm 139:11-12

Poetry Party: The Written Word

From Christine at Abbey of the Arts:

I select an image and suggest a title and invite you to respond with your poems, words, reflections, quotes, song lyrics, etc. Feel free to take your poem in any direction and then post the image and invitation on your blog and encourage others to come join the party!

This week’s theme is simple: I invite you to write a poem celebrating the gift of the written word in your life.


I looked at Christine’s image and thought about the power of God’s Word in my life to blown down my mental barriers, to bring me to a place of “followship” — It reminded me of the feeling I had when I saw these ruins in France. SO – with her picture and mine in mind, I wrote…

Taken at the site of a Roman bath and temple ruins near Poitiers, France.

Your Word knocks down the verbal strongholds in my mind
where I think I can fool others, I do not fool You.
Your Word presents the Truth with a gentle whisper,
removes the barriers of my rebellion
the defenses of an angry heart tumble to the ground.

You lovingly teach, remind, rebuke.
You celebrate and tenderly restore.

I remain at Your feet.
Lifted up. Rejoicing. Renewed.

Thank You for Your Word…

Deb Vaughn


God
takes the wind out of Babel pretense,
he shoots down the world’s power-schemes.
God‘s plan for the world stands up,
all his designs are made to last.
Blessed is the country with God for God;
blessed are the people he’s put in his will.
Psalm 33:10-12

Poetry Party: Anticipation

Christine from Abbey of the Arts has this invitation to her latest Poetry Party:

I found myself pondering last night what this week’s theme should be, waiting for inspiration, when I saw sweet Tune waiting at the bathroom door across the hall from my office. My husband was behind the door and she was in eager anticipation of her evening walk. Luckily my camera was close at hand, but seeing her sit there so patiently, yet full of expectation, touched something in me. I have been pondering doors a lot lately with some of that to appear here on this blog. Often we wait at a threshold and the door has yet to be opened. That space of waiting can be one of the most difficult, and yet often the most necessary of times.

For what are you waiting with eager anticipation? You might speak from your own voice in the poem or that of a dog full of hope.

Life’s full of questions that God hasn’t answered…
I am
Full of hope, yet not without promise.

Hurt and in pain I seek to live by God’s power…
I am
Full of wonder, while not without doubts.

Wanting, needing answers to all my uncertainties…
I am
Resting expectantly, but not without fears.

Depending on God for my life’s direction…
I am
Peaceful in the wrestling, heart nestled in Grace.

Deb

Poetry Party: Clear-Eyed

Christine from Abbey of the Arts writes:

Our Twentieth Poetry Party! I select an image and suggest a title and invite you to respond with your poems, words, reflections, quotes, song lyrics, etc. Leave them in the comments or email me and I’ll add them to the body of the post as they come in along with a link back to your blog if you have one (not required to participate!) I’ll add your contributions all week and then I will draw a name at random on Saturday morning from everyone who participates and will send the winner a copy of my newest zine Season by the Sea: A Contemporary Book of Hours when it is back from the printers in another week or so.

Feel free to take your poem in any direction and then post the image and invitation on your blog and encourage others to come join the party! (a blog is definitely not required to participate!)

I photographed the image below last summer on Vancouver Island at a Raptor Sanctuary. There is something so powerful about eagles and they are known for strength and vision. What in your life do you feel this kind of clarity about? Or is there something for which you would like a clearer vision?


soaring high above
no sound distracts my Father’s voice
fly on, wings of change

Deb

Poetry Party

From Christine at Abbey of the Arts:

Poetry Party Number Nineteen! I select an image and suggest a title and invite you to respond with your poems, words, reflections, quotes, song lyrics, etc. Leave them in the comments or email me and I’ll add them to the body of the post as they come in along with a link back to your blog if you have one (not required to participate!) I’ll add your contributions all week and then I will draw a name at random on Saturday morning from everyone who participates and will send the winner their choice of zine.

Feel free to take your poem in any direction and then post the image and invitation on your blog and encourage others to come join the party! (a blog is definitely not required to participate!)

The photo below is of course of my beloved Abbess Petunia. This is the first time she stars as the prompt for a Poetry Party. She teaches me many things, but her total abandon when it comes to rest is one of the most precious gifts she offers. I have been thinking a lot about Sabbath these days because summer is coming when my husband’s and my schedule slow quite down a bit and we make time to relish relationship, to linger, to make discoveries in the sacred space of being rather than doing. So my invitation to you for this week’s Poetry Party is to celebrate the gifts of being – what do you discover in those still spaces and holy pauses? Where are you invited to release the hold of doing and surrender to something much bigger?


Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

She snoozes in a comfy spot
At peace. At rest. A-dreamin’…
Her paws chase after rabbits.
Her nose twitches as she mumbles a “woof”
And I smile.

She is. She knows.
At peace. At rest. A-dreamin’…
And yet not.
The first jingle of a leash and collar
And she’s up with a shake and wag.

:What’s next? Where we goin’?:
She wrinkles her brows with question marks dancing over her head.
:Who’s here? Time to play?:
Her tail wags, she smiles at me.

“No, silly dog. Go back to sleep. I’m just cleaning off the counter.”

She slumps back on the bed.
Blinks twice and yawns.
Her tail thumps a wag. Once or twice.
She drifts back to the rabbits…

At peace. At rest. A-dreamin’…

Poetry Party #17: Inner Compass

From Christine at Abbey of the Arts:

When I was in Maine I was struck by all of the weathervanes on top of buildings, something you don’t see as much in other parts of the country. I loved the image of finding the direction the Spirit is blowing within you. What would an interior weathervane or compass look like? Feel free to take your poem in any direction you feel moved, focus on one image or all of them.

Feel free to post any of the images and invitation on your blog and encourage others to come join the party!

Inner Compass

I turn not
because you push me
but because I want to move
and face the change.
I turn not
because you force me
but because it is time to embrace
new winds,
new power.
I turn.
And turn back.
And the Center?
I pivot on Christ.

Deb Vaughn
from An Unfinished Symphony