Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November PAD Poem #30

So this poem marks the end of the November PAD Poetry Chapbook Challenge on the Writer's Digest website. I'll be working through December to whittle down and edit my poems to 10-20 pages in order to submit my chapbook in early January (January 5th, to be precise). The winner will be announced on Groundhog Day (February 2nd). I have not a hope of winning, but I appreciate the opportunity to wrestle with words and learn a lot about poem-ing and even more about myself during this crazy upside-down month of scribbling pages smothered in the blue ink of my beloved fountain pen.

Our Day 30 Prompt is to write a "lessons-learned" poem, and that's what I've done. I hope that you enjoy it! And I'm sure that those of you who aren't poetry fans will appreciate the lack of daily poetry on my blog...at least until April, which is National Poetry Month and the month of NaPoWriMo!

Words on Safari
My words, they stumble--
tripped by faint, fading images,
faulty and fragile rhyme,
the metrical patterns of Mother Goose.

Mixed and tumbling, they heap
together in an eroding mass,
weathered by the wind, rain, ice--
tunneling through my dessicated veins,
upending my vague sense of reality.

I cannot control these words.
I cannot shape them to my will
or carve them into sharp silhouette
or force them to submit to my vision.

All I can do is quietly live
among them in their native land,
watching them ravenously feed on their prey
while I jot weary observations
into this once-crisp journal,

hoping to learn a thing or two
in the messy, gory process.

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

There. I am officially done with the drafting stage. Now it's time for revision, editing--cutting and culling and switching and unswitching. We shall see how it goes....

Setting down my blue pen to take up the red,

The Servant, Not the Source

I just have to share some wonderful and oh-so-convicting words from Ann Voskamp at her beautiful blog, A Holy Experience. One of the main speakers at Relevant 2010, an annual gathering of Christian women bloggers, and slated for speaking at Relevant 2011 (oh, how I wish finances allowed me to go!), Ann gently reminds us that blogging is about the Kingdom of God, not about us. It's all about Upside-Down Kingdom Blogging.

Her Blogger's Prayer is one I am printing and hanging at eye level above my desk.

Ann has been publishing letters between herself and her Relevant roommate, Holley Gerth about Kingdom Blogging and Writing the Word.

Here is The First Letter: How to Not Get Caught in the World Wide Web, written by Ann to Holley.

Here is Today's Letter on Serving with Words written by Holley to Ann.

So this day as I pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," I add this prayer, and I hope to pray it each day when I face this blank window on Blogger: "Lord, give me bread to feed the ones who read here, friends and friends-to-be."

As we are reminded in Holley's letter to Ann:
"I am the servant and not the source."

Thanks be to God that I am not the source, that He is, that He provides.

Only the servant,

Nov PAD Poem Day 29

I meant to post this poem last night, but I was simply too tired. Our challenge for Day 29 was to write a "next steps" poem, possibly a "list poem," but something about future plans. As I pondered the prompt, the ticking of my grandmother's Seth Thomas clock on the mantel insistently reminded me of passing time. So I made the clock the central image. And, yes--that's my grandmother's clock pictured above.

The Hour Chimes
My grandmoter's mantel clock
ticks the minutes, chimes the hours--
murmuring flickers of memory,
glimmerings of possibility:
eyes freezing with anger
.....so well-deserved,
lips stuttering truths
.....I don't want to hear,
nose wrinkling in disdain
.....over some forgotten faux-pas,
fingers reaching, wiping away
.....cascading tears he caused,
arms encircling, holding close
.....to the point of entrapment,
feet finally wandering home
.....after long months of absence.

The hour chimes, groaning thick with decades,
waking me from restless dreams, dreary sleep.

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

It's far from a happy poem. I just imagined the Shepherd Girl print hanging on our wall, and a troubled relationship that seems to glare from her resentful eyes....

Only one poem is left for this challenge, then the editing begins!

Writing painstakingly this day,

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bushels o' Blessings

As the Thanksgiving holiday week winds down and we gather our feeble forces to return to the work of common days, exchanging the extraordinary for the ordinary and trying not to complain, we can still find bushels o' blessings hiding from us, revealed as we shine the Light into all-too-familiar corners of our busy lives.

So as I continue on my journey to and beyond One Thousand Gifts with the Gratitude Community at A Holy Experience, I discover the abundance of Thanksgiving does not end just because the holy day is past....

Thanking Him this day for:

426. ...Keith's beautiful and delicious pies, a gift he shares with my family and his each holiday. In fact, Keith may make his dad an apple pie tonight to celebrate his 77th birthday tomorrow

427. ...the grace of gathering with family and dear friends around an overcrowded Thanksgiving table

428. ...the joy of meeting new people at Thanksgiving this year, especially my brother's significant other, Ari, and her two young people

429. ...for chill days made warm and cozy with roaring fires and cuddly kids and dachshund

430. ...for finishing grading the last essay late last night for my Brave Writer MLA Research Essay Class

431. ...for having a break from work until early January

432. ...for having my daughter home for five days straight for the Thanksgiving holiday break

433. ...for the beginning of Advent: lighting the first candle, reading the Scriptures, praying the prayers, seeing the Light dispel the Darkness each evening as we gather together in anticipation

434. ...for the lovely Pumpkin Biscotti candle from my Secret Sister at Class Day which I very much enjoy burning on cold mornings during prayer

435. ...for a Hobbit-sy boy who brings joy and laughter into our house at the most suprising moments

436. ...for the return to work after the Thanksgiving holy days, and all the learning we do together as a family

437. ...for trees emptied of leaves by abrupt, brisk winds, leaving their branches bare

438. ...for a frosted lawn this morning that looked for a moment as if snow had descended overnight

439. ...for a cuddly boy who still fits snugly into my lap as we whisper about "feeling faith" versus "knowing faith"

440. ...for wise friends who know when to encourage, when to nudge, and when to give a swift kick. You know who you are....

I am thankful also for nearing the end of the November PAD Poetry Chapbook Challenge, and I'm sure many of you are also thankful that I won't be posting a poem each day for a while...or at least not until NaPoWriMo in April....

Walking in grace this day,


Sunday, November 28, 2010

First Sunday of Advent

(Photo courtesy of Rollo Casiple, Pastor of La Vina Community Church in Miami)

A Repost from the Archives

Advent is definitely one of my favorite seasons, just behind Lent and Holy Week. I love the candles, the carols, and the sense of mystery as we gather together to read and pray by candlelight that grows brighter each week as another candle is lit. Aaaaahh, Advent!

The word “Advent” means “coming” or “arrival.” The focus of the four weeks before Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus in His First Advent, the Incarnation, and the anticipation of His return in His Second Advent, His Coming again to the earth. Thus, Advent celebrates the revelation of God in Christ whereby all people may be reconciled to God, a process in which we now participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate in the Second Coming.

Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of Christians as we affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power. It calls us to holy living that arises from a profound sense that we live “between the times” and are called to be faithful ambassadors of Christ’s gospel as His return is imminent.

Advent is richly symbolic. The light of the candles reminds us that Jesus is “the light of the world” and that we are also called to “walk in the light, as He is in the light.” The purple of the candles symbolizes the royalty of Christ, the Almighty who “made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” The rose candle reminds us that hope and peace are near, available only through God. The large white candle, the Christ candle, recalls Christ’s holiness, purity – He who was without sin who died for the sins of all. The greenery, symbolizing abundant life, surrounds a circular wreath – never ending, eternal life. The red of the holly berries reminds us of His blood to be shed on the cross for us.

Advent takes place over the four Sundays before Christmas: today, the first Sunday, we light the Prophecy Candle, which reminds us of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah. On the second Sunday we light the Bethlehem Candle, which shows us that Christ was born in the poorest of towns, in utter humiliation. We light the Shepherd Candle on the third Sunday, which recalls the shepherds watching their flocks by night when Christ was born, and also symbolizes Jesus Himself, the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep. On the fourth Sunday we light the Angel candle, which reminds us of the Heavenly Host, proclaiming the Good News in Bethlehem on that night long ago, and also that the angels rejoice when one sinner turns to the Lord. Finally, on Christmas we light the Christ Candle, which reminds us whose Light we are celebrating: the light of Him who rescued us from darkness and death and reconciled us to God Himself.

The primary focus of Advent is Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God, as we wait together to celebrate His birth, death, and glorious resurrection.

As a family, we're using the devotional Christ in the Carols along with Advent Scriptures from Focus on the Family and some materials that Bill Huff gave us a couple of years ago when he taught our Sunday School class at Lake Murray before he reverted to the Catholic Church, bringing his wife Joan with him. I miss them both dearly, but I am so happy for their happiness in the Catholic Church. B lit our first Advent candle tonight and we read from Isaiah 40, the carol "Silent Night," and the Collect for the First Sunday in Advent:

ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

***This Collect is to be repeated every day, after the other Collects in Advent, until Christmas Day.***
My favorite Advent devotional is Watching for the Light, and from it I have jotted down some wonderful quotations, including the one for this week:

"Advent is a time of waiting. Our whole life, however, is Advent -- that is, a time of waiting for the Ultimate."
--Dietrich Bonhoeffer
So enjoy your family or church celebrations of the Advent season. I'm so glad I started the Advent tradition when our kids were fairly small so that it has become an important part of their childhood memories.

A blessed Advent to you and yours!

Nov PAD Poem Day 28

As we near the finish line of the November PAD Poetry Chapbook Challenge, I'm posting my response to the Day 28 Challenge: write a "what really happened" poem. I keep thinking of friends of ours who are going through a very rough time, and this prompt reminded me of their struggles. Again, it's very rough, but that's kind of what this challenge is all about. December is for revision, after all....

what really happened
it happened in autumn.
tears freckle her cheeks,
pain-choking sobs, deep and
slow and quiet, bloom forth.
while she rips herself
into papery shreds, he sits
seemingly unaffected,
untouched, whole, rounded.

perhaps he simply acts well,
convincing everyone that
he's got it all together
when he is just as fractured,
creeping forward just as feebly.
yet he keeps smiling while
she continues weeping blood
from wounds too deep to measure.

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

I only have two more poems to write for this challenge. Then comes the real challenge of this challenge: what to do with them all! I think I may be seeing a bit of a theme emerge, but all the poems need so much work. Aaaaacccckkkk!

Marching ever forward (I think),

Saturday, November 27, 2010

November PAD Poem #27

This is the prompt for Day 27 at the November PAD Poetry Chapbook Challenge: write a poem with "Blame the _______" as the title. And with this poem, I am officially caught up! This poem also qualifies for the Carry on Tuesday Prompt #80 for last week, the first line of George MacDonald's extremely long poem "A Book of Dreams," Part III: "A gloomy and a windy day."

Blame the Rain
As it falls so quietly
on this gloomy and windy day,
the chills buffet me--
not from the cold, mind you--
the cold I can handle.
It's something more sinister,
called forth by rain and greyed skies,
the lack of reflection in puddles
in which I am wholly invisible.
Impotent, I ghost through my days
awash in fears I do not fully comprehend.
All I can do is
blame it on the rain.

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

Taking a deep breath, so glad to be caught up!

Breathing a bit easier tonight,

Nov PAD Poems #25 and #26

Yesterday I spent the day in Julian, another small mountain town, one much more touristy than ours, with my family before my sister and her family have to return to Montana. We even saw several deer on the way home as we stopped by our old camping area. Since we were gone all day, I wasn't able to write or post any poems yesterday.

So today I'm posting three poems so that I can be totally and absolutely caught up on the November PAD Poetry Chapbook Challenge at Writer's Digest. Please keep in mind that these are rough drafts--very rough. Rougher than usual, even....

So I took on the Day 23 Challenge to write a form poem, in this case a tanka.

at the fireplace
the fire's burning,
its warmth trusting, embracing,
a quiet respite
from the fretting, busyness,
and all the stress of this life.

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

Part of me wants to tackle a form that I don't already know, so this tanka feels a little like a cop out to me. But I'll challenge myself later. I also picked up the challenge for Day 26 to write an "on the run" poem:

Just for an Hour or Two
There are times when I wish
I could run away,
just for an hour or two
to a quiet place where
I can hold a pen in hand,
allowing it to skitter across
the page as I learn more about
lacing imagery,
weaving metaphor,
whispering hints of
foreshadowed events,
dripping truth
(my truth--and yours too, I hope)
across the page to the music of
a glimmering field of silence.
I will be on the run--
just for an hour or two.
I'll kiss you when I get back.

Copyright 2010 Susanne Barrett

With the poem I post after this one, I will at last be caught up with the Poetry Chapbook Challenge. Whew!

Breathless with catching up,

The Daily Office

As I spend this day grading MLA essays for my research paper class at Brave Writer, I thought I'd post a little something about the Daily Office, also called the Divine Office, the Divine Hours, the Daily Hours, etc.

I ran across this excellent explanation of the Daily Office at The Virtual Abbey: For the Modern Monastic, one of my favorite blogs. For my non-liturgical friends, this explanation will be very helpful in seeing the value of the Daily Office of Prayer that many Catholics and some Anglicans pray as part of their day.

The Virtual Abbey: The Daily Office, Part I

For a busy homeschooling mom like me, I've found a less-exhausting and far more manageable way to pray the Daily Office through Phyllis Tickle's beautiful book series, The Divine Hours. Published in three volumes that cover the entire year, Tickle has laid out Scripture and prayers for Morning, Midday, Vespers, and Compline--much more manageable than the whole Daily Office. She has also published smaller guides specifically for Advent and Lent.

And, best of all, she has the Divine Hours available online for free! Just enter your time zone and up pops the readings and prayers for your time of day. If I'm running a bit late, I fudge the time zone and use Hawaiian time if I miss Morning Prayer (as I'm not much of a morning person).

The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle online
(Scroll down to "Pray the Hours")

I have my phone alarm set for 12:30 PM for Midday Prayer and for 6:00 PM for Vespers. I pray Morning Prayer after I get dressed and Compline just before crawling into bed. The prayers follow the seasons of the Church Year and mostly consist of Scripture, with a few Anglican Collect prayers and a few historical prayers here and there. Each prayer time takes only a few minutes, but praying the Daily Office requires us to stop in the midst of our busy lives and make time for prayer.

I also combine Morning Prayer and Compline with John Baillie's little classic A Diary of Private Prayer which contains Morning and Evening Prayers for thirty days plus special prayers for Sunday so that I pray through the book each month. And of course I pray the Morning and Evening Offices of Prayer from The Book of Common Prayer as well, usually the 1928, although in our homeschool we often use the 2011 version that I am currently helping to proofread and edit.

So this is how I pray the Daily Office. I pray it far from perfectly, but I find that when I take the time out of my day to stop whatever is at hand and direct my thoughts and prayers to Christ, the rest of the day, no matter what it holds, becomes more peace-filled, more imbued with grace.

All thanks be to God who daily loads us with His good gifts!

Praying daily with you,

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Nov PAD Poem #24

My parents with our kids at the zoo, three years ago

I'm almost caught up--with two poems tomorrow, I will be. I'm actually posting the Day 25 poem for the November PAD Poetry Chapbook Challenge--the day it was given. But it's rough--very rough. I may go back and write some of the prompts I've missed...or I may not. We'll have to see....

Faded with the years,
the montage of memories
skittered across the TV screen.
Transferred from old Super-8 rolls,
these home movies, shot mostly
by my father, start with my mother's
childhood and encompasses their early
marriage, our birthdays and Christmases,
summers riding horses in the mountains,
winters driving long to see the snow,
ocean shimmering behind our sandcastles,
vacations to DC, San Francisco,
Grand Canyon, and Wyoming--
our childhoods rolling by
as we eat pumpkin pie
with whipped cream
and talk loudly over the music.

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

I hope that you all enjoyed your friends and families this Thanksgiving. May God bless you all richly and deeply with His good gifts!

Remembering tonight,

Nov PAD Poem #23

The November PAD Poetry Chapbook Challenge prompt for Day 22 was to write a poem that takes a stand. My poem is a rather personal take on this prompt, one I have to deal with many times each day, sometimes more easily than at other times....

Thus I Take a Stand
I take a stand,
a pain-filled one--
a stand elemental
and very, very basic.
From sitting at the dining table,
my hand grasping the crook
of my cane, feverishly white-knuckled--
crazily shaking as if Parkinson's
rather than Rheumatoid Arthritis
grips me, I put weight
on the cane and with
great care and concentration,
I rise to my feet.
This simplest of actions for most
can be the greatest feat of my day--
a miracle of true consequence.
Thus I take a stand.

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

Truly, rising from my chair during Thanksgiving dinner this afternoon felt just like this--hand and arm shaking as I sought to rise. Most days it's not this bad, but sometimes it is very difficult to stand--and even more challenging to remain standing.

Taking my stand,

Happy Thanksgiving!

This afternoon our family is driving down the mountain to my parents' home in Pacific Beach, half a block from the shimmering ocean which can be seen from their upper deck, the center of this day's festivities. An abundant pot luck is in store for us; Keith made the pies, as usual: two pumpkin, one apple, and one huckleberry (my sister brought the jar of filling from Montana, wild huckleberries her family picked back in August). We're bringing Apples to Apples and Harry Potter Clue to play after we take a stroll down the boardwalk between dinner and dessert, with a total of 23 people to enjoy it all. I'm also excited to meet my brother's girlfriend and her two kids for the first time, plus my sister and her family are here from Montana. The weather is cold but clear, and it will truly be a beautiful day across Southern California.

Last night Jonathan played guitar for the Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service in Alpine as part of the Free Teen Guitar Class. Several churches (Catholic, mainline Protestant, and evangelical) gathered together to worship and to thank God for His goodness and love. It was a lovely service, and we read portions of Psalm 118 responsively:

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let Israel say,
"His steadfast love endures forever."
Let the house of Aaron say,
"His steadfast love endures forever."
Let those who fear the LORD say,
"His steadfast love endures forever."
The LORD is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God,
and he has made his light to shine upon us.
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God; I will extol you.
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm 118: 1-4; 14, 26-29, ESV
This day also seems magnified after almost a year of walking in thanksgiving with the Gratitude Community. Since last December 19, I have tallied 425 thanks as I journey to One Thousand Gifts. Pausing each week to remember His good gifts has greatly influenced how I view this Holy Day--it seems more significant, more of-the-heart. Thanksgiving is no longer merely a day of family, friends, and turkey; it's a deeper day, more quietly joyous now. And for this gift of gratitude I also offer my heart-deep thanks.

So on this day set aside for the giving of thanks, may we gather with our beloved ones and hold them close, thanking our Lord for His steadfast love which endures forever!

Thanks be to God!

With thanks this day and always,

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Nov PAD Poem #22

My 22nd poem for the November PAD Poetry Chapbook Challenge is from the Nov PAD Day 21 Prompt: write a permission poem. So here is my very rough (very, very rough) attempt:

I grant myself permission
to be wrong--
praying that I may learn
to admit it with true humility,
not letting it discourage me,
not letting it slay me.

I grant myself permission
to be imperfect--
to lower my defenses,
to allow others into
the place in which
the "real me" dwells,
not caring whether they
like me (or not).

I grant myself permission
to truly be myself--
others may take or leave
this broken child of the Father:
only gracious because of His grace,
only merciful because of His mercy,
only loving because of His love--
His right, perfect Love.

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

It's difficult to give myself permission to be wrong, to admit it, to be humble--it's so hard for this broken child who needs His mercy so much, who wraps self in rightness and pride rather than let down my defenses and allow others in. I pray that I can change...with God's help, and with your prayers, which I dearly covet.

Trying to give myself permission,

Nov PAD Poem #21

I'm ever so slowly catching up on the November PAD Poetry Chapbook Challenge through Writer's Digest. The poems I'm posting are extremely rough--first drafts really--but they're a start.

So this 21st Poem is the Nov Pad Day 20 Prompt: write a "what's wrong or right" poem. I've been spinning lately around the idea of perfectionism, of needing to be right in my mind and thus in my poems. So here 'tis:

Being Right
I need it--
I don't know why.
But this need to be right-
is harmful, destructive;
pride in its most elemental form.
It's as if my entire world
will crumble into dank nothingness
if I am proven wrong.
I wrap myself in this rightness,
a protective sheathing
that holds me together,
letting nothing in,
allowing nothing out.
It causes me to be alone--
unhurt, untouched, untouchable.
It's pride...and fear:
a stunning fear that
buzzes my brain--
fear of others' opinions,
fear of losing the grip on myself,
fear of not having the answer
when I don't know the question.

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

I'm not really sure of what this poem means--I wrote it without thinking consciously, just allowing pen to fill page. I think that sometimes truth is told under these rare circumstances.

Writing the perhaps truth,

The Gift of Listening

(Photo by Susanne Barrett)

A repost from the archives.....

There are times I can't hear--not a single thing.

I feel the confusion rising, like bile in my throat, burning. My mind is muddled, drowning, flailing desperate arms through the noise.

I feel the deep need to unearth that quiet center, that listening place, where ears can open and mind can slip from its numbing frustration, and I can hear once again.

I wrote a poem in February that confesses this need. I include the middle of the poem here:

the present
shimmers, shakes,
demanding my attention:
the volume requires reply.

but I run--
escaping boundaries of my present,
of home--
boxed in by walls
and clamoring needs.
I slam the door behind me.

but I can't run far--
only to porch steps
bepuddled by morning's rain.
chill winds grasp my face--
I gulp the shifting of cloud
into cramped lungs.
But sometimes I need to run farther than the front porch, the need to clear head and spirit, to unplug listening ears and actually hear overwhelms.

When I, ever so rarely, have a day to myself, I run to the San Diego Mission de Alcala--the first church in California. Founded in 1769 by Father Junipero Serra, it's the first of the famous California missions. The adobe church is open to the public seven days a week, and although tourists wander through quite often, long stretches of sacred silence fill the high-ceilinged building.

I sit in a wooden pew, cocking my head to the side as songbirds in the garden outside the ancient double doors trill up and down the scale as if rehearsing for a concert. If I strain my long-plugged ears, I can barely make out the echoes of children's recess laughter from the school on the mission grounds.

But mostly I listen to the silence, allowing it to fill me, flushing out the confusion and the building despair that come with the hurry-scurry of modern life. My prayer book falls open to the Venite, and I allow His Word to fill my mind, to gently whisper into the silence where it can truly be heard:
Venite, Exultemus Domino (from Psalms 95 and 96)
O COME, let us sing unto the LORD; * let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; * and show ourselves glad in him with psalms.
For the LORD is a great God; * and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are all the corners of the earth; * and the strength of the hills is his also.
The sea is his, and he made it; * and his hands prepared the dry land.
O come, let us worship and fall down, * and kneel before the LORD our Maker.
For he is the Lord our God; * and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.
O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness; * let the whole earth stand in awe of him.
For he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth; * and with righteousness to judge the world, and the peoples with his truth.
I don't know when or how it happened, but I am on my knees "before the Lord our Maker," the vinyl-covered kneeler almost comfortable beneath my painful joints.

But now I can truly listen.

What is it about the physical position of kneeling that opens ears and minds and hearts to Him? That allows us to finally hear that "still, small voice" that so easily eludes us in our busy daily lives? I feel His presence warming me, from head to the very tips of my toes, to the very ends of my fingers. He floods through me, and the bracken of worry, fear, busyness, frustration, confusion--all this breaks away from the choking hold upon my soul--now tumbling down, spiraling away, through the white-waters of His Spirit. All is flushed away--the bottlenecks freed through the sheer power of Grace.

And once the flood calms, the waters receding to flow within usual banks, I draw a deep breath, then two. My lungs expand easily, the former constriction washed away. My mind is cleared of the detritus of living this wonderful, crazy, hectic life of mine--all aspects of who I am, what I do, able to flow gently side by side rather than damming up and blocking the flow of His life-giving waters.

My eyes open. The candles before me flicker in the easy breeze that wafts through open side doors, bringing me the scent of jasmine. Everything around me appears the same, yet I am seeing my surroundings with refreshed eyes, hearing all with renewed ears.

I close eyes and pray, hearing more than His Word in my mind as He speaks through printed pages directly to my depths.

This sacred space--the white walls wafted with decades of incense, the fourteen Stations dark against them, the rows of deep wooden pews, the choir loft risen above the high door--fades, and He is all that is Real.

At last I pull myself to my feet, joints stiffened with kneeling, and, pausing to dip fingers into the fount mounted beside the door, I touch His cleansing to my mind, my heart, my strength. Because that's how I am to love Him--how I pray I will love Him. And more so each day.

The gardens outside the door are awash in noon sunshine. The roses seem brighter, their fragrance spicier, headier, than before. The distant bells tolls clearer, even closer, than before. The green of cala lilies past their bloom and lacy ferns seems greener, more verdant, the bougainvilleas a deeper fuchsia, the geraniums a brighter crimson than before. The sun glints against the white walls of the garden, gleams and glimmers on the ancient bells in the tower, the noon-ish light more shimmery than before.

How can a simple kneeling change light and sound and seeing?

It changes everything.

He changes everything.

In an instant.

Walking with Him and with you this Wednesday--always listening,

holy experience

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Nov PAD Poem #20

The November PAD Poetry Day 19 Challenge was to write a poem with a hole in it. And so I tried it....

The Hole
The hole broadens, widens,
swallowing me whole
in a single, satisfied gulp.
And I let it happen.

I feel helpless against its powers,
unable to put up a fight,
unable to struggle against it,
unable to whisper for help.
And who could help me anyway?

Perfection is a demanding taskmaster,
one to whom I have bowed in obeisance
far too often to resist now.
And so I limply acquiesced,
entering the all-consuming black hole
once again.

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

It's been a long month, difficult and busy, but I hope to catch up completely with the Nov PAD Poetry Challenge--I'm only three poems behind now! Yay!

Writing furiously,

Nov PAD Poem #19

In response to the November PAD Poetry Chapbook Challenge Day #18--a "lost and/or found poem," I took some thoughts about perfectionism that I read about on a writing blog--about how perfectionism robs our writing of certainty, never been satisfied with "good enough."

I think I may have found it,
flinging itself haplessly against
the iron bars of my brain.

It's a nebulous thing,
creeping about with vain stealth,
hiding behind the kitchen door,
peering at me from behind the rocker,
its eyes blinking in flickers of fire,
winking slyly in evening candlelight.

It's something I need to capture,
fluttering its wings in frantic panic
as I cup it with care between my hands,
taking it out the front door,
out onto icy front porch steps,
and releasing it into blank night--
hoping to never see it again.

It's an insidious, deadly thing--

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

Trying to slay the Perfection beast,

The Week of Thankfulness

As I wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving, I remember all that I am thankful for. I have been tracking these thanks for nearly a year now, and have listed over 400 thanks to God on this blog since beginning this journey on December 14, 2009. But this is my first Thanksgiving Week while on this journey, so pausing to recall these thanks, sometimes repeated from week to week, is an apt way to continue my "attitude of gratitude" toward Him. Throughout the Old Testament, God calls His people to remember. He gives them festivals and celebrations throughout the year for that express purpose: to remember what He has done for His people, and to remind them that He is with them still.

And this call to remembrance is my reason for embarking upon this journey to One Thousand Gifts with the Gratitude Community at A Holy Experience. Joining with many other women on the same journey, especially Ann herself, has made this difficult year much more bearable, much more interlaced with gratitude rather than grumbling, peace rather than panic. So thank you, Ann, for being a beautiful example of a Woman of Thanks, and I look forward to the publication of your book, One Thousand Gifts, in the coming year. Thank you for expressing to us all that God impresses upon your heart--you inspire me to be more like Him each day.

And thus continues the journey, sometimes stumbling, at other times running forth in joy, a journey of ups and downs, but always a journey of remembering His good graces to us, to me....

On this grey morning, with chill winds blustering around our little cabin, I thank our Father for:

411. ...stacks and stacks of free firewood that will keep us cosy all winter

412. ...my sister and her family visiting this week from Montana

413. ...having Elizabeth home from college for nearly a week--my mama's heart misses her so during the week!

414. ...for the wind-up of a great MLA research essay course at Brave Writer

415. ...for Mango Tea from Trader Joe's on cold mornings that warms me and reminds me of warm, tropical places

416. ...for a full pantry, thanks to the Thanksgiving Box from Lake Murray Community Church

417. ...for a week's break from home schooling when I most need it

418. ...for my husbands arms holding me close on cold mornings

419. ...for His grace in helping me to bang out a poem a day this month for the November PAD Poetry Chapbook Challenge

420. ...for the grace of writing wherein time and place disappear and I am awash in words and in His Word.

421. ...for the little gem of A Diary of Private Prayer which helps me to pray in ways I never would have before

422. ...for the editing work going forward on the Book of Common Prayer project

423. ...for His Word, piercing me through daily and upholding me, being my strength and my song

424. ...for a husband who is constant in prayer

425. ...for a lovely Thanksgiving this Thursday with family and friends galore

This week my project (among many) is to at least start to transcribe my One Thousand Gifts into a physical journal. Currently I have them copied into a Word document on my computer, but I want them at hand where I can peruse them at will, thumbing the pages and remembering His gracious gifts, His mercy that never ends. I'll let you know how it goes....

Thanking Him with you,

holy experience

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Quotation of the Week: Thanksgiving

It's been a crazy-busy few weeks around here, and I haven't posted a new quotation in quite a while. So with Thanksgiving arriving this week and then Advent soon behind, I find myself awash with thanks....

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live them."
--John F. Kennedy

"A grateful mind is a great mind which eventually attracts to itself great things."

"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
--Colossians 3:17, English Standard Version

So I wish you all a blessed remembrance of the Feast of Christ the King, the final Sunday of the Church Year, and a wonderful Thanksgiving week!

In gratitude,

Nov PAD Poem #18

I'm working with the prompt for Day 17 of the November PAD Poetry Chapbook Challenge for Poem #18 out of the thirty poems I hope to write this month and edit into a chapbook. It didn't help that I was watching an exorcism on Paranormal State while I was writing to this prompt of "Tell Me Why______"....

tell me why
tell me why he creeps
ensnaring minds,
entrapping souls,
bent on stolid destruction
of all that is holy and good.

he entered this world made his
through a decision eons ago
when a serpent hissed
into her ear
.....and she listened
.....and acquiesced
.....and tempted another
.....and they blamed one another
.....and they blamed the serpent
.....but never blamed themselves.

he crouches at the door
.....to deface
.....to devour
.....to destroy
.....to enter the weak and
..........swallow them whole,
..........leaving behind not a crumb.

do not succumb.
you may bend, perhaps, but do not break.
you are hedged by the Light
that glimmers in dankest night--
brightening as Grace approaches.

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

It's very rough, but it's what was going through my mind as I listened to the exorcism...what they called "deliverance"...with pen in hand. Evil is a real thing, and I tried to make him so without, I hope, being too cartoonish, too cliche.

Writing in the light,

Nov PAD Challenge Poem #17

For my 17th poem for the November PAD Poetry Chapbook Challenge, I am tackling Prompt #16 from Poetic Asides at The Writer's Digest: write a stacking or unstacking poem.

I built this house of cards
with utmost care--
the foundation a solid premise,
the characters intriguing yet slightly-flawed,
the style spare yet oddly enticing,
the plot propelling action seamlessly,
the dialog sharp and wise,
often bordering on real wit,
the organization clear, the allusions deft.

I stack carefully,
one element atop the next,
holding my breath lest
one unconscious sigh
sends all tumbling flat,
leaving a mess to be cleaned up
in the morning.

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

As I try something new in the writing arena, this metaphor seems quite apt.

Stacking with care,

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Nov PAD Challenge Poem #16

The Nov PAD Challenge Poem #16 comes from the Day 15 prompt: a "just when you thought it was safe" poem. So here's a rough, rough draft:

When logic says "no"
and imagination says "yes"--

When words fly easily,
gliding across page effortlessly
on updrafts of thought--

When characters speak,
carrying wise conversation
and all I have to do
is transcribe their dialog--

When all flows together beautifully,
so beautifully that
one feels blessed to write--

But one thought, one idea, one false step
forces everything to explode,
disintegrating into rubble--
bits of ideas floating gracefully
to earth in the aftermath.

I rise, injured, perhaps mortally,
placing the half-empty kettle
onto the stove to boil for tea.

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

So, "just when you thought it was safe," all hell breaks lose....

Pushing the pen forward,

Nov PAD Challenge Poem #15

I wrote the rough draft of this poem yesterday at Victoria House where we meet for Morning Prayer and Holy Communion each Friday as part of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity. While the strains of J's guitar lesson with Fr. Acker drifts down the stairs, I focused on the beautifully carved wooden crucifix hanging above the fireplace (not the one pictured above--this one hangs in the chapel) as I jotted these thoughts....

It's still very rough, but I have little time today to work on poems, so this is basically still in first-draft form.

The Nov PAD Poetry Challenge prompt for Day 14 was to write a crossroads poem, and somehow the crucifix provided the images for this response:

each breath heaves wetly,
each sigh agonizing--
lungs filling, filling,
fluid rising and choking.
pain unspeakable throbbing
in wrists, ankles, head.
blood mingles with cold sweat,
uncontrolled tears wash clean
the bloody face unrecognizable,
the broken jaw.
the beatings, the ridicule--
these were nothing, nothing.

the thorns forced onto head,
piercing scalp and forehead--
the royal robes draped over shoulders
raw with bleeding whipstrikes.
a scepter meant for a king
now all too heavy--
these were nothing, nothing.

unseen pain brought untold agony--
desertion, for the first and only time.
the weight of the entire world's people,
past, present, future--
all laid upon this body,
so thin, broken, bleeding, drowning, dying.
the wrongs, the injustice,
the lying, cheating, stealing,
the hatred, vice, murder--
all these submerged His Spirit
to a suffering never experienced
before or since--
more wrongs, more hate
poured into Him, upon Him, through Him--
he took it all, willingly--
only His final words betraying
the depth of His pain,
pain far beyond mere physical suffering:

"My God, my God...
why have you forsaken me?"

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

Sorry it's so rough--but it's a start.

Sad, thankful, and grateful,


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