Thursday, July 21, 2011

mary oliver

Here is an article written by Mary Oliver titled "The First Requirement for Writing Poetry." Oh drat! I have probably bored you already. That title has so many reasons to stop reading. The word first is like when a teacher or pastor says "But we'll get to that later," which makes the listener assume it will be a very long discourse. First makes you assume there is something else to follow. Requirement is no less friendly a term. Requirement is not an easy house guest. It always seems to ask you to cater to its needs and then judges you when they are not met, whether or not you have agreed to their terms (The very reason men don't read instruction manuals or road maps). Writing and poetry is also a sale stopper. It is the scary territory of mixing discipline and mysticism. Poetry is not satisfied repeating the old jargon. Poetry is always squinting its eyes to see clearer. It would stand on its head if it helped. Poetry finds the unwritten lyrics to the tune everyone is humming.

Anyway, imagine the essay below is describing our rendezvous with God. It hurt my heart to think how cheaply I treat my relationship with him. But let us now wait at that same spot for renewal...

"The First Requirement for Writing Poetry" by Mary Oliver

"If Romeo and Juliet had made appointments to meet, in the moonlight-swept orchard, in all the peril and sweetness of conspiracy, and then more often than not failed to meet — one of the other lagging, or afraid, or busy elsewhere — there would have been no romance, no passion, none of the drama for which we remember and celebrate them. Writing a poem is not so different — it is a kind of possible love affair between something like the heart (that courageous but also shy factory of emotion) and the learned skills of the conscious mind. They make appointments with each other, and keep them, and something begins to happen. Or, they make appointments with each other but are casual and often fail to keep them: count on it, nothing happens.

The part of the psyche that works in concert with consciousness and supplies a necessary part of the poem — a heart of a star as opposed to the shape of a star, let us say — exists in a mysterious, unmapped zone: no unconscious, not conscious, but cautious. It learns quickly what sort of courtship it is going to be. Say you promise to be at your desk in the evenings, from seven to nine. It waits, it watches. If you are reliably there, it begins to show itself — soon it begins to arrive when you do. But if you are only there sometimes and are frequently late or inattentive, it will appear fleetingly, or it will not appear at all.

Why should it? It can wait. It can stay silent a lifetime. Who know anyway what it is, that wild, silky part of ourselves without which no poem can live? But we do know this: if it is going to enter into a passionate relationship and speak what is in its own portion of your mind, the other responsible and purposeful part of you had better be a Romeo. It doesn’t matter if risk is somewhere close by — risk is always hovering somewhere. But it won’t involve itself with anything less than a perfect seriousness.

Various ambitions -- to complete the poem, to see it in print, to enjoy the gratification of someone's comment about it -- serve in some measure as incentives to the writer's work. Though each of these is reasonable, each is a threat to that other ambition of the poet, which is to write as well as Keats, or Yeats, or Williams -- or whoever it was who scribbled onto a page a few lines whose force the reader once felt and has never forgotten. Every poet's ambition should be to write as well. Anything else is only a flirtation.

And, never before have there been so many opportunities to be a publicly and quickly, thus achieving earlier goals. Magazines are everywhere, and there are literally hundreds of poetry workshops. There is, as never before, company for those who like to talk about and write poems.

None of this is bad. But very little of it can do more than start you on your way to the real, unimaginably difficult goal of writing memorably. That work is done slowly and in solitude, and it is as improbable as carrying water in a sieve."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011



I encourage you to try your hand at this very realistic poverty simulation game. In you frustration you might think exaggerates the difficulty of living a low-income life. Hang with me a day and you'll hear a few words that might check your heart. Today I thought about the audacious claim we often make about knowing the heart of the Father. He likes the guy in the ditch. The uncomfortable people. Is that our heart or do we just like holding the banner? Are we prepared for God to fulfill our prayer, "break my heart with what breaks yours"? In God's mercy may he help us shed our masks.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

who am I?

Here was a poem written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer during his days of confinement under the Nazi's during WWII. He would be be hanged a few short weeks before the war ended:

Who am I? They often tell me

I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a squire from his country-house.
Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As though it were mine to command.
Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
Equally, smilingly, proudly,
Like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were
compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectation of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine!

D. Bonhoeffer
March 4,1946

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

give me...

"Give me a man in love; he knows what I mean. Give me one who yearns; give me one who is hungry; give me one far away in this desert, who is thirsty and sighs for the springs of the Eternal Country. Give me that sort of man; he knows what I mean. But if I speak to a cold man, he just doesn't know what I am talking about....You are surprised that the world is losing its grip? That the world is grown old? Don't hold onto the old man, the world; don't refuse to regain your youth in Christ, who says to you:'The world is passing away; the world is losing its grip, the world is short of breath.' Don't fear, for thy youth shall be renewed as an eagle." - St. Augustine

Saturday, July 9, 2011

mr. and mrs. michael auerswald

Notes from sermon spoken at Mike and Ami's wedding ceremony, July 9, 2010:

In the book in the book of Song of Solomon 8:4 it says, “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” But what will we do when it awakens? If you are at all familiar with children stories you will now that there are certain consequences for waking up things that have long been sleeping. There is a fearful awe that comes with not knowing exactly what form something will take when it wakes up. What will love look like when it is awakened?

Today you have the opportunity to see the form of love. For you witnessing the wedding you might respond, “I know, aren’t they such a cute couple!” But let me tell you this, if the form of love is just the way your wife or your husband looks, love will look very different in the morning with disheveled hair and morning breath! And yes, they are cute, but cuteness is not the true reality of awakened love. Consider this illustration: imagine you gone to listen to the Seattle symphony. The whole time one particular violin player has caught your attention. At the end of the performance you approach this violinist and complement them on their playing. Without hesitation the violinist points you to the conductor of the orchestra and says, “Thank you for your complement, but it was work of that man that allowed me to perform my best alongside other great musicians.” Walking over to the conductor you praise him for the evening’s performance. Humbly the conductor of the whole orchestra bows and says, “I only carried out what the composer wrote in the original music.”

This is the deep reality of marriage. In marriage we hear the melody of the original music composed by the Creator of the world. From the beginning Mike and Amy have known that a marriage is not defined by dresses and limousines. Whenever things became stressful for the wedding Amy would remind us that she was absolutely content to get married in shorts. The reason we dress up and celebrate is not to keep up with fashion. It is that we are learning to sing the song written by the original composer and learning to express in both word and in action how special that, as Genesis 2 says, “a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” In marriage we find a relationship in which two separate people—stubborn, selfish and silly people—submit to each other, out of love for each other, from the love they have been given by God. It is in this act of commitment to faithfully love each other that Mike and Amy strike the tune that first overcame Adam as he watched God walk the first bride, Eve, down the aisle; much like God the Father walked Amy down the aisle today. When you love each other your best you are playing the music of God, the Grand Composer, well.

For Mike to receive Amy in marriage today is to claim with conviction that Amy is a gift from God. And that all the things that God has in store for you, Mike, He also has in store for her. Likewise, Amy today you are declaring God has joined you inseparably to Mike through both the summers and winters of life. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” God is helping each of you complete the good work that he has intended for the other person.

What this practically means is that Mike, you are a gift from God to Amy to help her raise Raven and Christina, to love them and father them as your own. For Amy this means supporting Mike as he learns to be the father and husband in an already busy home. Together you are facing unique challenges entering the first year of marriage; however, today you are taking in the faith the promise that God has given you a unique gift in each other.

Now as part of Mike and Amy’s desire to express their absolute faith in Jesus Christ and His love expressed to them on the cross enabling them to love one another, they are going to share the pour unity sand and take communion together. As you will see, there are three sands being poured together—one symbolizing Mike, one symbolizing Amy, and the third symbolizing Jesus Christ. This shows that though these three lives were once separate they are now united inseparably. Just as it would be impossible to separate the granules of sand from each other, we pray that this marriage, united in Christ, will be inseparable. Likewise, during the last meal Jesus shared with His disciples before He died, Jesus said to them, “This bread represents my body which is for you, this cup represents my blood which is poured out for the forgiveness of your sins”. Mike and Amy will take communion together to remember and hold in their hearts Christ’s love for them. As often as we take may you always say, when you have loved well and lived long, “I have only sung the song that the creator first wrote!”