lenten journal: borrowed words


    I am wordless tonight, my friends. There are a lot of things running through my head and my heart, but I can’t seem to get them to shoot out my fingers and onto the keyboard. So I will lean a little on the words of others.

    I Feel Sorry for Jesus

    People won’t leave him alone.
    I know He said, wherever two or more
    are gathered in my name . . .
    but I’ll bet some days He regrets it.

    Cozily they tell you what He wants
    and doesn’t want
    as if they just got an e-mail.
    Remember “Telephone,” that pass-it-on game

    where the message changed dramatically
    by the time it rounded the circle?
    People blame terrible pieties on Jesus.

    They want to be his special pet.
    Jesus deserves better.
    I think He’s been exhausted
    for a very long time.

    He went into the desert, friends.
    He didn’t go into the pomp.
    He didn’t go into
    the golden chandeliers

    and say, the truth tastes better here.
    See? I’m talking like I know.
    It’s dangerous talking for Jesus.
    You get carried away almost immediately.

    I stood in the spot where He was born.
    I closed my eyes where He died and didn’t die.
    Every twist of the Via Dolorosa
    was written on my skin.

    And that makes me feel like being silent
    for Him, you know? A secret pouch
    of listening. You won’t hear me
    mention this again.

    Naomi Shihab Nye

    “The truth tastes better here” and “a secret pouch of listening” are two phrases that remind me why I think poetry matters to the heart.

    The Peace of Wild Things

    When despair for the world grows in me
    and I wake in the night at the least sound
    in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
    I go and lie down where the wood drake
    rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
    I come into the peace of wild things
    who do not tax their lives with forethought
    of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
    And I feel above me the day-blind stars
    waiting with their light. For a time
    I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

    Wendell Berry

    My idea of camping involves at least a Holiday Inn, so I can’t honestly say I have lied down where the wood drake rests, but I do resonate with the image of the day-blind stars and searching for rest.

    The News of the World

    Like weather, the news
    is always changing and always
    the same. On a map
    of intractable borders
    armies ebb and flow.
    In Iowa a roof is lifted
    from its house like a top hat

    caught in a swirl of wind.
    Quadruplets born in Akron.
    In Vilnius a radish
    weighing 50 pounds.
    And somewhere
    another city falls
    to its knees.

    See how the newsprint
    comes off on our hands
    as we wrap the orange peel
    in the sports page
    or fold into the comics
    a dead bird

    the children found
    and will bury
    as if it were the single
    sparrow whose fall
    God once promised
    to note, if only
    on the last page.

    Linda Pastan

    The more I read of Pastan, the more I love her stuff. I found this link to a free e-book of nineteen poems. I also found this harbinger of better weather at The Writer’s Almanac this week:

    While We Wait for Spring

    The last three days snow has fallen.
    No thaw this year, no day even above
    twenty since the end of December.
    Climbing the hill, my two boys slip, fall,
    stand again. They complain, but there’s nothing
    to be done except to make it to the top
    where above the trees we will look down
    upon the river. Near the peak a barred owl
    releases from the limb of a burr oak, sweeps
    over our heads and out above the tree line.
    Our eyes follow its flight to the river ice,
    current moving beneath its blue surface.
    Like the owl, our breath rises, drifts
    toward something warmer, something better.

    Todd Davis

    I will return with a sackful of words I have collected and sorted tomorrow.



    1. Sometimes others can better put into words what we are feeling than we can ourselves…..
      In spite of my beliefs that Jesus is THE answer, here’s one of my favorites, well said by the Sufi master, Hafiz.
      of a great need
      we are all holding hands
      and climbing.
      Not loving is a letting go.
      the terrain around here
      far too
      BTW, thanks for the link. It was an unexpected gift.

    2. Tess — I’m glad you find her words meaningful. She has a lot to say. Find every word you can.

      T.Gray — the Sufi poem knocks me out. I think I will use it in our Darfur service on Sunday.


    3. Jesus I don’t think regrets anything. Because He has a perfect plan for everything. No matter what happens, if you notice God’s glory shines in all situations. Nothing is a suprise to God, He chose you before you were born. He knew when sin entered into the hearts of the angels and adam/eve. Does God feel sorrow?? Of course, we are his children. So to focus on his pain instead of ours is what should matter most of all. May God bless you in all you do…..
      Humble yourself in the site of the Lord and He shall lift you up. James 5:10

    4. I think Jesus regrets. I think God regrets. the Old Testament is full of God getting really really angry and regretting he made such recalcitrant creatures, just before wiping out 90% of them. Jesus regretted when he asked God to please “take this cup from me”. And He got over it. Just like we do.

      Anyway, thanks for the thoughts and poems. Sometimes, when you can’t come up with your own recipe, gotta go back to Julia or Jacques or for me, sometimes, Alton.

    5. I love that analogy! And Julia, Jacque, and Alton are all standing on other folk’s shoulders, who are standing on other’s shoulders, and on and on…..

    6. For me, taking the humanity of Jesus seriously means having room for him to have felt regret and exhaustion.

      The more we talk about it, the more the line that says, “And that makes me feel like being silent
      for Him, you know?” speaks to me.

      I don’t really see how the glory of God is shining in the genocide in Darfur or in the lack of response from the rest of the world. The plan doesn’t look so perfect.

      Paul said God works in all circumstances, so God is in there somewhere — and in us — but nothing is shining yet.


    7. hi milton–

      tess pointed me your way. i, too, love the Nye poem. your entry on “3/3” has also stuck with me (i just purchased my own copy of “Faith Club”). anyway–just wanted to say hi and thank you for the beautiful words–yours and others.


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