RSS

Category Archives: Religious

Vicarious (Spiritual Journey Thursday)

A few weeks ago an acquaintance sent me a newly published book of her poems. They were simple but beautiful in their first-person expression of praise, love, and gratitude to God—a collection of modern psalms. I reacted to that book like I have to other similar ones, asking myself, why don’t I write more overtly spiritual poetry? I ask because writing about spiritual subjects is hard for me to do.

I’m not sure why. It may be because I fear using theological jargon and worn-out phrases, thus slipping into cliché. (It certainly does take thought and attention to relate spiritual experiences and express convictions and emotions with fresh language that avoids being trite, maudlin, or sentimental.) Or I might avoid that kind of writing because many of my convictions don’t fit the politically correct social climate of the day and so the poems come whiny or like a rant.

As I look over the overtly spiritual poetry I have written, I feel that the poems that have come to me the most easily and naturally are the persona poems. In these I’ve tried to get into the head space of a Bible character.

Preparation to write these got me studying characters in the Bible and imagining their thoughts and feelings as they faced specific circumstances. I often fictionalized how that moment was a catalyst to growth in faith or rejection of it.

Several years ago I wrote a collection of these based on Bible women. Here are two from that collection.

figures-1826253_640

Image: Pixabay

Miriam

(Based on Exodus 15:19-21)

Though I lived under the bright
Egyptian sun these many years
my sky went black the day Moses left.

Even his return with snake-rod
didn’t banish the clouds
hovering on my horizon.

Premonition dampened
my celebration when we crossed
out of Goshen into the wilderness.

Dust of approaching chariots
was my nightmare
entering the day.

But somewhere on that black
step-by-step sea crossing
I walked through fear to faith.

I taught Moses to sing.
Now he gives that gift back to me
Hand me my timbrel!

© 2018 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

 

Orpah

(Based on Ruth 1:1-14)

I am too young
to give in to death
be numbed by Naomi’s
negative breath.

Mighty Yahweh has failed
this family, my man.
Here’s my chance to detach
from this unlucky clan.

So I’ll return to Moab
to make a new start
(despite this strange yearning
deep in my heart).

© 2018 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

If you’re like me and find writing poems about spiritual subjects a challenge, maybe writing persona poems could become a spiritual poetry portal for you too.

spiritualjourneyfirst-thursday-copyThanks to Carol Varsalona, who suggested the subject of Poetry as spiritual practice of the heart, and who is hosting Spiritual Journey First Thursday today at her blog Beyond Literacy Link.

 

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Gospel Choir Newbie and other reflections on music (Spiritual Journey Thursday)

P1030041

Watoto Children’s Choir in Canada – 2013 (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

I cannot remember a time when music wasn’t part of my life. The steel-backed Heintzman that I grew up with— that my mom played with flowing chords and that I attacked at 6 a.m. to practice scales, arpeggios and four-note chords in my Royal Conservatory days—still lives with me.

One of my earliest memories is of Dad, up early to do laundry with Mom. He helped her by pinning the loads of diapers to the clothesline. Between loads, he put on records of rousing gospel music with voices and brass ensembles that drifted into my bedroom.

Singing was an integral part of my Mennonite church and community—rich singing in harmony. From childhood on I sang in choruses and chorales, small groups, and mass choirs. Early in life I learned the pleasure of harmonizing with my alto-range voice, using it cooperatively as part of a many-voiced instrument.

Music is still a huge part of my life. Perhaps it’s no wonder that my Spotify app is a close second behind photos for space used on my iPad. It is also testimony to how music’s delivery has changed—many times over in my lifetime—from records, to 8-tracks, to cassette tapes, to CDs. That Spotify business is evidence of the latest change—one I adopted by necessity.

We listen to music a lot when we travel. So when I discovered, just after we had sealed the deal on a new car in 2016, that it had no CD player, I all but panicked. What would we do for music?

A few days later, through our music savvy son, we discovered the music-sharing behemoth, Spotify and the Bluetooth capability of my iPad and our new Honda. I’ve hardly bought a CD since.

Music is the sound track to many hours of my life, especially those spent in the kitchen. Some of my favourite artists are Matt Maher, Shane and Shane, Audrey Assad, Don Moen, Fenando Ortega, and Andrew Peterson, to begin the naming.

The poem, below, is one I wrote a few years ago, after we joined our church choir which, at the time, was very into singing Black Gospel.

Gospel Choir Newbie

You sing coffee
dark, strong, edgy
your bodies a caffeine choreography
with the Hallelujah beat
and the Praise the Lord bop
and the vamp
and the vamp
and the vamp
Amen!

In me the notes are Sweet Jesus
honey flow over vocal cords
wrap themselves around arms
legs, trunk, hold spellbound
mesmerized, forget
to clap, do those little two-steps
and dips to make
our robes sway
as one.

© 2009 by Violet Nesdoly (first published on VerseWrights)

Now, here’s some Black Gospel that really moves—no out-of-sync forgetting in sight! The Watoto Children’s Choir, is an arm of the Watoto Mission of Uganda.

Beat of Your Love – Watoto Children’s Choir

spiritualjourneyfirst-thursday-copyThis post is linked to Spiritual Journey First Thursday, hosted today by Karen Eastlund at Irene Latham’s blog, Live Your Poem.

Thanks Karen & Irene!

 

Tags: , , , , ,

#CY365 Currently reading – Revelation

Last Saturday the #CY365 photo prompt was “Currently Reading.”

Two of the books I’m reading are the Bible book of Revelation along with Discipleship on the Edge by Darrell Johnson—a book about Revelation (which two of our pastors are teaching a class of seniors and others on Tuesday afternoons).

The teaching sessions and the book are fascinating. We’ve learned about apocalyptic literature as a genre. (Revelation is an apocalypse—written large with symbols and hidden meanings in order to encourage the Christian churches of that time with a message disguised by images they, but not necessarily their persecutors, would have understood.)

We’ve been given insights into the meanings of numbers and symbols with special emphasis put on how would the people of John’s time may have understood the book.

A refrain that Johnson keeps repeating throughout is “Things are not as they seem.”

 

02-17-18 Currently reading

Revelation

 

A letter to lamp stands,
a throne room, a crowd
worship continuous
passionate, loud.

Creatures mysterious,
seals that won’t break.
Apocalypse visions
for Church’s sake.

Dragons and angels
that prostrate themselves,
sevens and forties
hundreds and twelves.

Horsemen and plagues
that fill mankind with terror,
signs from the heavens
that change Earth forever.

Martyrdom, bloodshed
pursue the Lamb’s team
but do not despair—
Things are not as they seem. 

© 2018 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

 

(If you’re interested, audio sessions of these classes are online, under the heading “Behind the Curtain: A Study In the Book of Revelation” – bottom of THIS page.)

 
2 Comments

Posted by on February 20, 2018 in #CY365 Photo-Poem Series, Religious

 

Tags: , , , , ,

A Hobby

02-13-18 A Hobby

Photo © 2018 by V. Nesdoly

A Hobby

My pencil
has begun to tell
simple stories

© 2018 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

(“A Hobby” was the photo prompt for Feb. 13, from Capture Your 365 [#CY365] February list.)

And the finished piece inspired by the Matt Tommey’s 30-day Art Challenge (of which I’ve done a mere four so far) for day 14: “Create a piece of art using only shades of one color of your choosing.”

It’s based on “I have loved you with an everlasting love” – Jeremiah 31:3.

IMG_0211

Photo © 2018 by V. Nesdoly

 
 

Tags: , , , ,

Glory Tour (Spiritual Journey Thursday)

Dec 31 Happy New Year

Last moon of 2017 (photo ©Dec. 31, 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

Welcome to Spiritual Journey (first) Thursday, February edition. Today we’re moodling on the moon.

To tell you the truth, I don’t have much of a relationship with the moon. It’s beautiful, for sure. I do love to see it bulge orange and bountiful over the horizon on a clear evening. I associate moonrises with autumn on the prairie, the thrum of combines and trucks in the background, my dad and uncle taking advantage of every bit of light to gather in the harvest of wheat and oats. But most of the time I feel sorry for the moon staring distant, cold, and lone into the night.

Of course the moon’s prominence, cool beauty, and mystery are impossible to miss. One of my favourite childhood poems was about the moon. You probably know it:

“Slowly silently now the moon
Walks the night in her silver shoon;
This way and that she peers and sees
Silver fruit upon silver trees;”

Read the rest of “Silver” by Walter de la Mare HERE.

It’s not surprising that the moon has been a worship object in many religions (and probably still is). Its waxing, waning, and connection to tides and seasons surely invest it with mysterious power that is only reinforced by the occasional eclipse. I love the poem “Lunar Eclipse (June 1928)” by D. S. Martin (a poem from his chapbook So the Moon Would Not Be Swallowed—a collection of poems inspired by correspondence from his grandparents who were missionaries in China). In it, he describes the reaction of the Chinese people to the lunar eclipse in June of 1928:

LUNAR ECLIPSE (JUNE 1928)
Yencheng, Honan, China

On Sunday
evening as darkness crept in
the people rushed out
with gongs
& pots
& anything to make noise
to scare
the heavenly dog
that slowly
very
slowly
ever so slowly
had
placed its jaws about the moon

Read the rest of D.S. Martin’s poem HERE…

My attitude toward the moon has been influenced by my Christian faith and the Bible, which depicts it as one of God’s creations. I love how Genesis describes its beginnings:

“Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night” – Genesis 1:16 (emphasis added).

My poem today was inspired by Psalm 19 (where the moon isn’t mentioned specifically, but we know it is a part of the created heavens).

“The heavens declare the glory of God
And the firmament shows His handiwork.” – Psalm 19:1

Glory Tour

“God’s glory is on tour in the skies …
unspoken truth is spoken everywhere” – Psalm 19:1,4 The Message

The stars are reciting
galaxies rhyming
the language of eons
in speed-of-light timing.

The Sun’s dialect
of dangerous rays
is inflected with angles
defining our days.

The Moon serenades
tide, lover and season
chanting its charms
with quarterly reason.

The Heavens are dancing
Truth, Beauty and Wisdom.
The tickets are free,
Earth attendees are welcome!

© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly (All Rights Reserved)

(Glory Tour was first published on Laurel Archer’s 2017 Advent blog.)

spiritualjourneyfirst-thursday-copyBe sure to visit our Spiritual Journey First Thursday hostess, Donna at Mainely Write for links to more moon meditations.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

2018 one-little-word reveal (Spiritual Journey Thursday)

Welcome to the first Spiritual Journey Thursday post of 2018. Today I and my SJT friends are unveiling our one-little-word choices for the year. My trusty altar-ego Power Shot is here to do the honors in a storyboard sequence. Take it away, PS!

IMG_0158

Life is full of so many lovely distractions.

IMG_0157

But now it’s time to get to work…

IMG_0156

Write and tackle that “To-do List”

IMG_0160

Wait. I need to see what’s happening on Twitter…

IMG_0159

Aand Facebook and Instagram, and Pinterest, and all the social media hangouts I love.

IMG_0155

No PS. FOCUS!

So there you have it, folks. My word is FOCUS.

Frankly, I was loath to leave my 2017 word LISTEN behind. So I picked its cousin who is not quite so sensory specific.

The word FOCUS came to me as somewhat of a lifesaver over the last few weeks. On November 1st, my husband had hip replacement surgery. My broken hip experience of 2014 sure came in handy here as I knew what to expect. Still, on some days the compounding of caregiving and household responsibilities together with Christmas almost bowled me over.

When I began to feel overwhelmed, I would calm myself with self-talk like: “Just do the next thing” and “Focus.” That attention to the moment and refusal to give in to distraction helped me stay on top of things through the first weeks of hubby’s recovery.

He’s well on his way back to normal now and Christmas is over. However, I’ve decided I want to hang onto FOCUS a bit longer applying it to my work, my relationships, my leisure, and my spiritual life.

The Bible passage that I’ve chosen as my focus true north is Philippians 3:13,14:

“But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

To me this means living a life of purpose that will be effective in its trajectory because of its focus on the things that matter.

spiritualjourneyfirst-thursday-copyThis post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday, hosted today by Margaret Simon on her blog Reflections on the Teche. There you will find links to more 2018 one-little-word reveals. (Thanks, Margaret, for hosting and for making the swank 2018 Spiritual Journey button!)

 

 

Tags: , , ,

An early Christmas present (Hurry to Bethlehem!)

Last November I wrote a children’s Christmas poem just for fun. It was a countdown poem, starting with ten multitudes of angels, dwindling down to the one baby in the manger. I shared it with my writing friend Laurel, who liked it.

Fast forward to this fall, when Laurel took a job at our church in the children’s department. One of her responsibilities was to help plan the Christmas concert. She asked whether she could use that poem I’d written. Of course I gave permission, we made some changes, and I gave her carte blanche to use it as she liked.

A few weeks ago when I was setting up for a women’s class with the help of our pastor in charge of the technical stuff, he said as an aside, “Your book turned out really well.”

“My book?! I never wrote a book.”

“But didn’t you write the poem?”

Then it dawned on me. Laurel & company must have developed my little poem into a book.

Indeed, that is what happened.

So this Christmas, the little book I never knew I’d written has been distributed to hundreds of kids (the Sunday School children were given copies to help them memorize it for the concert) and on Sunday it will part of the show. That’s a pretty fine early Christmas present, I’d say!

I photographed it to show you…

IMG_0117

Front and back cover of Hurry to Bethlehem

IMG_0111

A multitude of angels
brightening the sky.
“Do not fear,” their leader says.
“I will tell you why.

“To you shepherds I bring news
of the greatest joy.
In Bethlehem is born this night
Messiah baby boy!

IMG_0112

Leave your sheep behind you here
travel to the town.
You’ll find Him in a manger
dressed in a swaddling gown.”

They hurry into Bethlehem
as fast as they are able.
On many streets they search and search
seeking the right stable.

IMG_0113

In barns they visit one by one
are donkeys, cows, and sheep
but then they hear a baby dry.
“Not all the town’s asleep!”

They race at once toward that barn
knock on the flimsy door.
“Come in,” a voice from inside says,
“What do you come here for?”

IMG_0114

The door swings wide, they come inside
watched by four pairs of eyes—
a cow, a donkey, man and wife
who can’t hide their surprise.

The light is dim inside the barn
shepherds can hardly see
but then, by the low lantern light
they make out there are three.

IMG_0115

Father stands beside the two
guarding them from danger.
Mother rocks the crying babe
then puts Him in the manger.

Here is the One in swaddling clothes
just like the angel said
in a straw-filled cattle trough
for His newborn bed.

IMG_0116

Then countless times they tell the tale
by their excitement driven,
“This night our simple eyes have seen
Christ the Saviour given!
Glory, glory to our God
in the highest heaven.”

© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

You might want to check out my friend Laurel’s Toward Christmas blog, where she posts a poem a day throughout Advent (following the stories of people in Jesus’ lineage—sometimes called the “Jesse Tree”)

And now I wish you and yours every blessing of the season!

*************

poetryfridayThis post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted today by Diane Mayr at Random Noodling.

 
17 Comments

Posted by on December 14, 2017 in Christmas, Religious

 

Tags: , , , ,