Tag Archives: poem

Holy Saturday, Happy Easter

I realized that I have no profound words to offer today, so then I realized: let’s use other people’s. I went searching for John Updike’s poem “Seven Stanzas on Easter” because it is perfect. I found it plus this blog entitled “In the Meantime”, so I’m just going to share the link, because it is excellent.

Happy Easter y’all! May it be green with hope and alive with wonder.


My Story 4

Oddly, I keep remembering the first time I got mad at the church. I have always had a sort of temper, but I rarely remember whatever I was angry about. Honestly, I just don’t. My husband loves this about me.

I do remember the first time I got mad at the church so clearly because I was so eager to learn more about God and had started trying to study the bible. And it was Christmas time. And the adult Sunday school class was about the nativity story. Great, I thought, this is an excellent place to start. I’ll start at the beginning. Isn’t there a song about that?

So it was interesting to learn that there are only two nativity stories, one is in Matthew and one is in Luke and that they are distinctly different.

It was interesting to learn that Matthew’s Joseph plays a large role, and a lot of it in dreams. There’s a sort of mystical quality I liked about Matthew’s version.

It was wonderful to have to more accessible Luke story, and to wonder how uncomfortable the trip to Bethlehem must have been for Mary. I started to imagine the story, imagine the stable — likely attached to a house — being rather cozy and warm.

And I got really angry when the third or fourth class was about pulling it all down. The teachers told us that Jesus is extremely unlikely to have been born in winter. There was a sort of ancient history of creating “birth stories” for beloved people in that era. Politically for Jesus to “compete” with other religions, he had to have a mysterious Godly birth. Nor can the two versions of the story be easily compared. And all the dream stuff in Matthew, so clearly made up! And so on.

I was absolutely furious. None of that was important to me. What was important to me was the story.

And I was scared. I didn’t realize it then or for many years. But I didn’t want my newly found faith to be made frail; I didn’t want to sink back into the despair that had left me open to God’s zapping love.

The gift this anger gave me was my first “Christian” poem. And many many poems thereafter….


Here’s my “first” poem:


Angel Dreams

It started as a dream for Joseph

No, actually, it started as a deal

He and Mary’s father discussing dowry and dickering

like for a horse.

And then discovery of damaged goods.


So, okay, it started, for Joseph, as just business as usual.

It turned into a dream.

A dream with angels, a dream of freedom for Israel.

Imagine being chosen to protect God’s son!


Hear what I think:

God picked Joseph because he listened

He listened to angels in a dream. How long had God

searched for a girl willing to say yes and

a man willing to listen?


Reality started on a cold night, in a stable,

or maybe not cold or a stable. This I know:

Giving birth hurts.

Turning dreams into reality hurts.

Hear the cries of pain, the pleading for it to be over,

See the blood, the mess, the ugly cord connecting

God’s son to Mary, and there’s Joseph,

holding the knife

carefully, carefully, barely breathing, cutting Him free.

I know, warm or cold, inside or outside, Joseph and Mary shared

a look between them of wonder and amazement.

God big enough to create himself so small inside Mary

and is now helpless before them.

Joseph’s all ready to die to protect Him.

Even though right now he’s so scared he can barely breath, and

with just the tip of his finger he touches God’s soft, warm, helpless red face

gently, gently.


The best bible studies are discussions, where all sorts of things get discovered together, and no one’s voice is silenced and no one’s questions are wrong. But no one is left afraid of losing faith either.

The word for where I’ve found myself is “literary” (not “literal”), where I use all my tools of being an English major: themes, characterizations, narrative, motifs, patterns, plot, everything.

Wonderful things arise!

(And perhaps check out stuff I’ve written about Matthew and Luke and so on: for example:

For example: https://rrussell10.wordpress.com/2015/12/26/christmas-luke-2-vs-john-1/)


Interrupted by the Overwhelm and Poetry

So completely overwhelmed, my friends. This morning I went to a beautiful lecture/speech and the speaker said, to the effect anyway, “When we hurt the least of us, we are hurting God. God suffers when the hungry are not fed, when the thirsty do not have water….to help God is to help each other.”

I nearly cried right there and my eyes are suspiciously moist now.

Here’s a poem, written a while back initially that I have been working on for a while.


The Body of Christ


We remember Him by breaking bread or

Is that the way He remembers us? Either way

Breaking is messy – let’s be glad it isn’t glass

Imagine the shards

Stabbing us

The drops of inevitable blood


Instead, today, with each piece pulled free and given,

Tiny crumbs fell to the ground, creating an abundance of memory

Reminding us of dogs who also

Deserve salvation and the birds of the air

And even of mustard seeds


Close your eyes. Wonder about mysteries

Wonder about wholeness that is found

only in the beautiful broken mess and then open your sight

to the cross, to what we are remembering

to Whom was so messily broken for dusty us


Interrupted by poetry

A Song for Maundy Thursday

Under the full moon, His love growing
Never to dim, never to end

Gather together children of light, 
Start with the feet so small in our sight

Under the full moon, His love growing
Never to dim, never to end

Feel the warm water, removing the dirt,
Imagine His hands cleaning your hurt

Under the full moon, His love growing
Never to dim, never to end

Children of Light, tremble in our bones
No skipping now, He’ll find every home

Under the full moon, His love growing
Never to dim, never to end

Sun slowly sinking, the water is drained 
the towels are stained, but His love remains

(note that I almost never normally rhyme, but this poem wants to so there we are as best as possible….)

Time for another poem

John in Prison

The cold stone walls, the slime that grew there, the hard floor, the rags
of rags. His skin red and rough and raw.
He knew it wasn’t going to heal. Not this time.

Way up high, a grate and sometimes a ray of sunlight or
a breath of wind. Dreams of the desert, its cold nights, its
burning sand, endless thirst. Sweetness of honey.

Seeing it all again. They had come. They had repented.
Fathers, sons, daughters, mothers. He remembered
their eyes or their hands, or a tentative foot toeing the water.

Some rising up from the Jordan’s wild and living water with laughter,
some with tears. Some very still, eyes looking around, wet hands gently
touching those that had brought them.

They had been there when his cousin had come and when he had risen
From the water, the glorious stillness – the moment the world seemed
to stop its orbit. Just a moment. Had he merely imagined?

Had it all been for nothing? Imprisoned now, destined for death,
was he merely a fool all along, such vanity, such pride? And nearly too late
the word of what his cousin was doing, of what was seen and heard.

And his dreams turned from the desert to the river.
Each night, swimming in the Jordon, swimming underwater.
Each night a new baptism, as he swam with the fish.

written 12/2/13

We felt sorry for coming and awkward with our hands and

Lack of bandages and sorry about the man who kept

Not making sense and the woman holding a doll instead

Of her baby.


The river of need and hunger; the raw

angry, desperate pain of brokenness. We discovered

Our need for forgiveness was far deeper than expected.


The water cooler, coming up so sweet

Lungs gratefully gulping. The air extra rich

as if a thunderstorm was brewing

and John himself kneeling before the next one to come.