Tag Archives: Christ

Summer Tour Part 1: From Amherst to Vancouver (and some poems!)

Outside Emily's House in Amherst

Outside Emily’s House in Amherst

I’m just back from an exhausting, but stimulating, expedition to North America in which I travelled from Boston to Vancouver, from Seattle to Albuquerque, from Santa Fe to LA and then home, so I thought I’d share a little of my adventures on the way.

The adventures began flying in to Boston so as to speak at the CS Lewis Foundation‘s Eastern Regional conference in Amherst. The Conference was on the theme of Lewis and Truth in the Public square and I gave a keynote address, preached a sermon on the Sunday and led a seminar on poetry as well as giving a reading/performance of my songs and sonnets. There was an impressive mix of people from many walks of life and many different churches all drawn by the common strand of Lewis’s Mere Christianity, and the sense that his plea for the Faith as offering truths robust and relevant in the ‘public square’ and not just a private ‘lifestyle option was well worth exploring. A highlight of that conference for me was a visit to emily Dickinson’s house still preserved just as it was. Seeing the tiny desk on which she wrote such great poetry inspired a new poem in me which I have given in a separate blog post here.

Emily's desk

Emily’s desk

Then it was a flight to Vancouver to spend a week at Regent College teaching a course called ‘ Poetic reflections on the sayings of Jesus’ which gave me a chance to develop the themes and ideas set out in my new poetry sequence Parable and Paradox. One of those themes was the way in which Jesus, in all his teachings, appeals directly to the imagination, as well as to the reason. In parables and paradoxes he asks us to imagine what the kingdom is like and to begin living, even now, as if we were already in it! Two poems in the new collection, particularly bring that into focus: ‘ As If’ and ‘Imagine’. The latter poem is also my own response to John Lennon’s song of the same name! As always you can hear the poetry by clicking on the title or the play button so here they are:

Parable and Paradox hi res

As If

 

Matthew 5:42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 

 

The Giver of all gifts asks me to give!

The Fountain from which every good thing flows,

The Life who spends himself that all might live,

The Root whence every bud and blossom grows,

Calls me, as if I knew no limitation,

As if I focused all his hidden force,

To be creative with his new creation,

To find my flow in him, my living source,

To live as if I had no fear of losing,

To spend as if I had no need to earn,

To turn my cheek as if it felt no bruising,

To lend as if I needed no return,

As if my debts and sins were all forgiven,

As if I too could body forth his Heaven.

 

Imagine

 

Luke 6:37 Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

 

Do not judge and you will not be judged.

Imagine if we took these words to heart,

Unselved ourselves and took another’s part,

Silenced the accuser, dropped the grudge…

Do not condemn, you will not be condemned.

Imagine if we lived our lives from this

And met each other’s outcasts face to face,

Imagine if the blood-dimmed tide was stemmed.

Forgive and you yourselves will be forgiven.

What if we walked together on this path,

What if the whole world laid aside it’s wrath,

And things were done on earth as though in heaven,

As though the heart’s dark knots were all undone,

As though this dreamer weren’t the only one?

 

With Luci Shaw at Regent College

With Luci Shaw at Regent College

My week at Regent ended with a wonderful invitation to join the poet Luci Shaw in one of her poetry readings, and so I had the opportunity to read to Luci in person, the poem I had written for her and published in Parable and Paradox. As always you can hear the poetry by clicking on the title or the play button. Here it is:

For Luci Shaw

 

Luci I love the gift you have for green:

Green fingers in your garden, a green art

In writing too, a feel for life and growth,

Kindly encouragement and yet a keen

Eye for the form, for what needs weeding out

To give a poem room to breathe and grow.

I sense your patience when that growth is slow,

Knowing that slow growth bears a fuller fruit.

I love your eye for detail too, the rich

Particularity of earthy things,

The way you strike the right note till it sings,

And all you have withheld is within reach;

The poem opens for us, and makes room

For fleeting apprehensions to come home.

Luci and I deferring to one another at Regent!

Luci and I deferring to one another at Regent!

In my next post I will tell you about my holiday in the mountains in Whistler and my adventures at Kindlingsfest on Orcas Island!

20 Comments

Filed under imagination, literature, Poems

Transfiguration

Russian -inspired icon of the transfiguration, artist unknown

Continuing my series of sonnets ‘Sounding the Seasons’ of the Church’s year, here is a sonnet for the feast of the transfiguration. The Transfiguration is usually celebrated on August 6th, but sometimes on the Sunday nearest, and sometimes in mid-Lent, which is a good time for it, as I believe the glimpse of glory in Christ they saw on the mount of the Transfiguration was given in order to sustain the disciples through darkness that would lead to Good Friday. Indeed it is for a disciple, looking back at the transfiguration from Good Friday, that I have voiced the poem. As always please feel free to copy or use the poem in prayer or liturgy; you can hear me read the poem by pressing the ‘play’ button or clicking on its title.

Transfiguration

For that one moment, ‘in and out of time’,
On that one mountain where all moments meet,
The daily veil that covers the sublime
In darkling glass fell dazzled at his feet.
There were no angels full of eyes and wings
Just living glory full of truth and grace.
The Love that dances at the heart of things
Shone out upon us from a human face
And to that light the light in us leaped up,
We felt it quicken somewhere deep within,
A sudden blaze of long-extinguished hope
Trembled and tingled through the tender skin.
Nor can this this blackened sky, this darkened scar
Eclipse that glimpse of how things really are.

7 Comments

Filed under christianity, literature

5 Dialogues: 5 Your Neighbour As Yourself

Parable and Paradox hi resHere is the fifth of my five dialogues on the two great commandments. I described the whole sequence in this post. The poems are taken from my new book Parable and Paradox, available from Amazon or on order from any bookshop. do come to the launch at Girton college on 14th June at 5:15 if you are free. This sequence will also feature on my new record Songs and Sonnets. Click here to learn more and support that project if you wish. This final poem in the series reflects on what it might mean to love my neighbour as myself. As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or the play button.

Luke 10:27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

 

V Your Neighbour As Yourself

 

My neighbour as myself? I cannot learn

To love myself at all. I look away,

The dark glass only shames me and I burn

At what should never see the light of day.

 

I’ll be the judge of that, for in my light

Judgment and healing meet you equally.

The self you loathe is precious in my sight

And I will have you love it into me.

You and your neighbor, both must made whole.

Her heart’s as dark and needy as your own,

So you must love her in her hidden soul, 

The very soul she’s trying to disown.

Love her as you are loved and you will find

Love is your heart, your soul, your strength, your mind.

5 Comments

Filed under christianity, Poems

5 Dialogues: 4 With All Your Mind

My Motto!

My Motto!

Here is the fourth of my five dialogues on the two great commandments. I described the whole sequence in this post. The poems are taken from my new book Parable and Paradox, available from Amazon or on order from any bookshop. do come to the launch at Girton college on 14th June at 5:15 if you are free. This sequence will also feature on my new record Songs and Sonnets. Click here to learn more and support the project if you wish. This fourth poem in the series reflects on what it might mean to love with all my mind. As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or the play button.

Luke 10:27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

 

IV With All Your Mind

 

With all my mind? With all my open questions?

My restless questing after hidden truth?

With all my science, all my suppositions?

My search for certainty, my lust for proof?

With all my mind? its logic and obsession,

Its wordless reveries, its language games,

Its reason and its deep imagination

Its mysteries, its riddles and its dreams?

 

With all your mind, with every gift I gave you,

For every drop of truth is drawn from me.

Not that your mind itself will ever save you,

But that it lives within my mystery.

Ask and be answered, seek and you will find

I am the life of every loving mind.

14 Comments

Filed under christianity, Poems

5 Dialogues: 3 With All Your Strength

Do Come if you can!

Do Come if you can!

Here is the third of my five dialogues on the two great commandments. I described the whole sequence in this post. The poems are taken from my new book Parable and Paradox, available from Amazon or on order from any bookshop. do come to the launch at Girton college on 14th June at 5:15 if you are free. This sequence will also feature on my new record Songs and Sonnets. Click here to learn more and support the project if you wish. This second poem in the series reflects on what it might mean to love with all my strength. As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or the play button.

Luke 10:27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

III With All Your Strength

 

With all my strength? What little strength I have

Is shadowed by the instruments of death.

I crawl from dawn to dusk towards my grave

As frail and fleeting as my every breath,

And all the strength of broken humankind

Seems only spent on pain and cruelty,

To magnify the malice of the mind

And crush the poor in deeper poverty.

 

And that is why you need to love with strength, 

And offer all that little strength to me,

That you might let me mend it, till at length

We bear the weight together, set you free,

As one who knows how all is borne above,

And meets all malice in the strength of Love.

2 Comments

Filed under christianity, Poems

5 Dialogues: 2 With All Your Soul

Parable and Paradox hi resHere is the second of the five dialogues on the two great commandments I described in my last post. The poems are taken from my new book Parable and Paradox, available from Amazon or on order from any bookshop. do come to the launch at Girton college on 14th June at 5:15 if you are free. This sequence will also feature on my new record Songs and Sonnets. Click here to learn more and support the project if you wish. This second poem in the series reflects on what it might mean to love with all my soul. As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or the play button.

II With All Your Soul

 

With all my soul? I scarcely know my soul.

The age I live in doesn’t think it’s there,

They cut me up, where you would make me whole,

And think your promise only empty air.

They say I’m hormones, chemical extremes,

Enzymes unwinding blindly, selfish genes,

Just empty gestures and repeated memes.

With all my soul? I don’t know what that means.

 

Before the first life stirred my spirit called you,

I knew you when I wove you in the dark,

I made you more than all the forms that mould you,

And kindled in your depth my hidden spark

So let them say your soul is empty air,

Love with your soul and you will know its there.

6 Comments

Filed under christianity, Poems

Five Dialogues: 1 With All Your Heart

Parable and Paradox hi resAs part of the run up to the launch on June 14th of my new book of poetry Parable and Paradox, I am going to post here some of the poems you can find in the book. I am starting with a series of five dialogues  I have written about the two great commandments, in which I try to explore what it means to love with all the heart, all the soul, all the strength, all the mind. these sonnets take the form of a conversation between the speaker and Christ. I say ‘the speaker’ because although I use the first person in the opening of each of these poems and I certainly speak with my own heart and soul, I hope that the reader too will be able to identify with the opening voice in each sonnet and so also be able to hear Christ replying to them in the second part of each poem.

Songs and Sonnets as we hope it will eventually appear!

Songs and Sonnets as we hope it will eventually appear!

These five poems will also appear, in a finer recording and with beautiful music, on the new record I am making with Steve Bell and Roy Salmond called Songs and Sonnets. They have started a crowdfunding page to make the recording and procductuion of the CD possible and I would be grateful if you could support it in however small a way. You can find out more and watch a short video by clicking Here. As always you can hear the poem in this post by clicking on the title or the play button. But it will be better still on the record!

So here is the first of the five, reflecting on what it might mean to love with all my heart:

 

 

Luke 10:27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

I: With All Your Heart

 

With all my heart? You know my heart too well,

It’s Yeats’s rag and bone shop. Will it do

To start my loving in that little hell,

Closed on itself and still excluding you?

Could I not offer you some empty room,

Some small apartment full of light and air,

Some portion of my life, above the gloom,

But not this pit of pride, not this despair.

 

Only your heart will do. Let me begin,

To break the ground and plant a seed that grows

Up through the closing darkness of your sin

Till your unsightly roots brings forth my rose.

For I have learned to make the broken true

Since my heart too was broken once for you.’

8 Comments

Filed under christianity, literature, Poems