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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.

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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.

 

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Gratitude (Spiritual Journey First Thursday)

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Image: Pixabay

A few weeks ago I attended the Global Leadership Summit (by simulcast). One of the speakers was Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook and author of the book Lean In). This gorgeous young woman looked like she had it all, and had it all together. Then she shared the story of her young husband’s sudden death while they were on vacation. He wasn’t even ill.

She was understandably devastated and paralyzed by grief. She told how slowly she worked her way through this tragedy to a new normal. Her therapist, Mark, was a big help, especially when he directed her mournful thoughts away from self-pity to gratitude (e.g. “Yes, your husband is gone, but you still have your children”). He challenged her to recall and write down, at the end of each day, three moments of joy from that day.

This Spiritual Journey Thursday finds me in the unusual spot of seeing my husband through surgery. Every time my mind goes to a negative place concerning this, I am trying to take Mark’s advice to Sheryl, and redirect it toward gratitude… which really isn’t that hard!

1. It’s elective surgery. Now that medical science has figured out how to replace hips, walking with a painful arthritis-degenerated hip is no longer a life sentence. And we’ve been waiting for this appointment for almost a year.

2. It’s publicly funded. We do our share of complaining about our country’s nationalized medical system (inefficiencies, rationing of treatment, long wait times). But when it comes to having to go to the hospital, it’s reassuring that it won’t bankrupt us.

3. General good health. I sat with hubby through his pre-admission interview with the nurse. As he answered question after medical question with “No” (no heart attacks, no strokes, no kidney disease, no diabetes etc.) it struck me how blessed he and I have been with good health.

4. Surgery is local, so no long drives to visit and fetch him home.

5. The hope of pain-free walking again—soon, we hope!

As I think of the days of rehabilitation ahead for him (I know a bit about what’s involved because I broke my hip in 2014 and also had to do the walker / cane / raised toilet seat / bath bench / hard to climb in and out of the car thing) I cling to my life verse for thought hygiene and reassurance:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses al understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” – Philippians 4:6,7 NKJV (emphasis added).

 

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sjt-2017-graphicThis post is linked to Spiritual Journey (first) Thursday, a once-a-month look at life’s spiritual side by a collection of blogging friends who met (mostly) on Poetry Friday. Spiritual Journey (first) Thursday is hosted today by Karen at Irene’s blog Live Your Poem.

 

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Party Hostess

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Party Hostess

Thinking it through and making lists
to cover all the bases.
Imagining each this or that
and putting myself through the paces.
I know I shouldn’t be uptight
I tend to be a perfecter.
I’d have more fun if I cut loose
this fete to faith and prayer.

© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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This Sunday my husband and I are hosting a big family party. I love being part of this kind of thing as a helper but being in charge is certainly getting me out of my comfort zone. That is our topic this month and a good one for me to muse on this week.

Even thinking about it for this blog post has been helpful. I’ve been intentional about countering every worrisome “what if?” thought with thoughts and prayers of gratitude that this is happening and joy and anticipation as I look forward to getting together with my large extended family. I am trying to follow my own advice…

sjt-2017-graphicVisit Pat at Writer on a Horse to read more “Getting out of your comfort zone” writings.

 

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Teach me

As I contemplate “finding joy” (our Spiritual Journey Thursday topic this month), it occurs to me how little it takes for me to lose mine. A stretch of bad weather, a cold that hangs on, misplacing my things, upcoming obligations that worry and stress me… These and many more easily grab my attention and, if I let them, steal my joy.

On the weekend I visited a friend who, a week ago, had a heart attack. Now mending from bypass surgery, her attitude of noticing all the positive things and being grateful for them is, I think, a template for retaining joy through bad times or good.

She was perfectly peaceful about relinquishing her classroom to a substitute for the rest of the year. Her husband was laid off from work a while ago, but because of that he was free to be with her in this distant city through this time. Her doctor happened to come by her room as her heart was misbehaving, witnessed what was happening, and pushed up her surgery. Her daughter, passing through on holidays visited the night before surgery and calmed her mother’s jitters using her doula skills. My friend has a strong faith and interpreted these things as evidences of the care of a loving heavenly Father.

For all of us—my friend navigating through her life-and-death health challenge to me with my petty annoyances, I believe finding joy comes in seeing and focusing on the good in the situation and being grateful for what is, rather than wishing for something that isn’t.

I leave you with a short prayer that I wrote some years ago but still need to pray:

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Image: Pixabay

teach me

the sweet leisureliness
of being a lily
the implicit trust
of my child-hand
in Yours
the unlikely joy
that sings sparrow-songs
even when I’m on the ground

© 2007 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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sjt-2017-graphicThis post is linked to Spiritual Journey (first) Thursday, hosted this week by Margaret Simon at her blog Reflections on the Teche.

 

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My Master Is My Mentor

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Image: Pixabay

My Master Is My Mentor

My Master is my mentor.
I have more than I need.
Master lets me lie motionless in a meadow.
He maneuvers me beside melodious streams.
He manifests new might in me.
He motivates me to do
what gives Him the most esteem.
I may roam through the midnight valley of mortality
but even then I will not have any qualms
for Master is immediate.
And You are my armament and mentor all the way.
You give me mouthwatering morsels
in the homestead of my defamers.
You have esteemed me as Your company.
I am submerged in blessings.
Your goodness and mercy
move with me all my life
And then I will make camp with You
forever in Your mansion.

© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)
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Prompt – Inspiration
On January 18, 2016 writing acquaintance April Yamasaki’s blog article titled “How to Meditate on Psalm 23 and Have Fun at the Same Time” had several versions of Psalm 23 featuring the letters “G” and “L.” It also contained this challenge:

Try your own version of this psalm, using the letter M and starting with the line “My Master is my Mentor.” Or choose a letter and opening line of your own.

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VintagePADThis April I’m celebrating National Poetry Month by posting some not-as-yet published poems from my files, along with what inspired them. If the prompt inspires you to write a poem of your own, you’re welcome to share it in comments. Whether you write or not, thanks so much for dropping by!

And that does it for National Poetry Month! I hope you’ve enjoyed these poems, pulled from my files. Tomorrow is a new month and it’s back to a regular about once-a-week postings.

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Posted by on April 30, 2017 in Religious

 

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Rhoda’s story

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Peter’s at the door! (Artist: C.M.B.)

Rhoda’s Story

My fluster undeniable
they labelled me emotional
but it was unbelievable—
Simon was at the door!

With death sentence official
our prayers were sacrificial
could answer be incredible
he with us as before?

Your hope is artificial
makes hearing prejudicial
As joke it is despicable.
He knocked and called some more.

It’s him, identifiable
a wonder inexplicable.
It’s time to end this spectacle
and let the praises soar!

My bent my be impractical
your head-shakes justifiable
but still I’m beneficial
—I let him in the door.

© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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Prompt – Inspiration:
This poem (written in 2013) was inspired by the story of Peter’s miraculous release from prison and Rhoda’s reaction when he arrived at Mary’s house (Acts 12:5-16).

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VintagePADThis April I’m celebrating National Poetry Month by posting some not-as-yet published poems from my files, along with what inspired them. If the prompt inspires you to write a poem of your own, you’re welcome to share it in comments. Whether you write or not, thanks so much for dropping by!

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Posted by on April 23, 2017 in People, Religious

 

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Mountain

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Along the Kicking Horse River – Golden B.C. (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

Mountain

“By Your favour, O Lord, You have made my mountain stand strong.” Psalm 30:7

The hill outside my Golden Motel
is a face of barren gravel
nourishing only weeds
though pines grow up
it’s angled backbone—
everyday grace from hard mercy.

The gunmetal peak
rising behind it
appears impermeable, immovable.
Now partly obscured
by morning vapours
it speaks of Your faithfulness
there whether I see it or not.

© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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Prompt – Inspiration
Scene from a window: I wrote this while on holidays in July 2013, looking at the mountain outside our Golden B.C. motel window.

~*~*~*~*~

VintagePADThis April I’m celebrating National Poetry Month by posting some not-as-yet published poems from my files, along with what inspired them. If the prompt inspires you to write a poem of your own, you’re welcome to share it in comments. Whether you write or not, thanks so much for dropping by!

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Posted by on April 22, 2017 in Nature, Personal, Religious

 

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