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Posts Tagged ‘Spirit’

I’ll be honest. Many contemporary worship songs just don’t do it for me with their repetitive, self-focused lyrics. Some songs even diminish words themselves by stressing “how words cannot express” one’s feelings for God. So then the words pretty much stay at the surface level, since they’ve been given the heave-ho, and my eyes glaze over into the expression of sleep.

As one who lives and worships with words, lines like that get under my skin. I can and wantto express myself with words! Is there something inherently unspiritual or unfeeling about vivid images or surprising diction? However, I have to face the fact that Paul speaks to the whole phenomenon of wordlessness in Romans 8:26: “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26 ESV)

I am not a biblical scholar. I can’t say for certain whether this verse refers to emotions, speaking in tongues, or a mysterious silence we humans aren’t privy to. But I do know in those rare times of deep communion of God, I can sense a feeling, almost a wave sweeping over me, that does not attach itself to language. Perhaps I can capture the sense later in a poem, but in the moment, it’s just Spirit, just the wave.

I’ve been enjoying David Keplinger’s collection of poems, The Clearing The Clearing (New Issues, 2005). His poem “Without” speaks to this sense of wordlessness in a way that I’ve never been able to articulate. (How’s that sentence for some irony?) Enjoy this beautiful poem.

Without

“Where knowledge and desire ends,
There is darkness, and there God shines.”–Meister Eckhart

Upon his stroke, he did without. Still
He found that he could think, lacking words.
Seeing it, he could think a wooden table,

A glass, its dusty water, its blue,
Unsinkable stars. What spoke to him? He didn’t
Think the names. He had to listen. Like an ache

Far into the yard and to the neighbor’s yard
And to the neighbor’s neighbor’s even cows
As dark as hammers flickered in that self-

Same cloud. Twilight, they and all the lights
Would fade. No sense could hold the cows,
Their figures indistinguishable from the land,

In the same late angles as the land, when
He knew: This is God thinking. But he was
Thinking it without. Without This. God.

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In my last post I discussed my desire to listen to the Spirit throughout the writing process. After writing my draft for this week, I realized that I write the same poem over and over again: trying to conquer my fears by taking my thoughts captive. When I talk about fear, I don’t mean fear of rejection or failure or public speaking. Those things are child’s play. My fears are those of exploding planes, fiery car crashes, and dramatic, earth-swallowing quakes. My mind has always had a tendency to wander to these action-flick scenes, and I don’t quite understand why. But rather than trying to fight these poems, I’m letting myself go with them. Training my mind to focus on the “pure and lovely” is one my biggest challenges. Why not embrace the challenge and allow the Spirit to do His work? This week I spent some time thinking about Romans 8:6. “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” The following untitled draft emerged.

I maneuver my minivan down a licorice stick
of asphalt. Salt spews from a cavalcade
of trucks, but the glacial shoulders advance.

I try to fight where my mind wants to go:
a bamboo foot-bridge swaying over a river,
a quarter-inch slip and plunge into white.

My family laughs about the Abominable
Snowman, imagining his stomping up I-55
and toppling a truck-stop Dairy Queen.

They’ve taken the side of the storm,
this morning’s watercolor of Doppler radar
now a miracle birth in our headlights.

I pray that I can unclench and love,
see the mysteries of the Spirit
in these swaths of black ice, the arms

of Christ in the muscled mounds of snow.
The exits count down toward home.
We’re safe, I say, we’re safe, we’re safe.

The kids trace their names in the fog,
flakes like sweet alyssum flowers
blurring their faces in the window.

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