And they wrestled all night


My intention is to continue unpacking what I began yesterday, talk about it, bring it into the light, consider what it means, consider how being at this juncture is where I’m supposed to be.

Today I opened The Good Book, which led me to a commentary by Alexander MacLaren, and there I discovered his wonderful essay about Jacob wrestling with…a man…an angel…the divine presence…God!

Alexander Maclaren (February 11, 1826 – May 5, 1910) was an English non-conformist minister of Scottish origin. “Called the “prince of expositors,” Alexander MacLaren was a renowned preacher of the 19th and 20th century. [The published collection] Expositions of Holy Scripture brings together many of the sermons over his fifty years in ministry.”(https://www.ccel.org/ccel/maclaren)

Here are some highlights from MacLaren’s commentary on Genesis 32 :

So this failure of natural power is the turning-point in the twofold
wrestle, and marks as well as symbolises the transition in Jacob’s
life and character from reliance upon self and craft to reliance upon
his divine Antagonist become his Friend.

How interesting to land on this particular story, and these particular insights now. Spiritual formation study and practise have been part of my life for over ten years. My recent studies have led me to the teachings of Contemplative Christianity (Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr, Margaret Silf etc.) with distinctions between living from the false self vs the true self. I am beginning to understand my longing for authenticity and integrity, and my unique place as an artist/poet in the world. I have begun to look at The Enneagram as so much more than a diagnostic justification of identity, rather a starting point toward spiritual transformation, balance, and healing. These teachings are rich, impacting. I continue to sense the draw toward this way of being.

And yet, ironically, I find myself wrestling with certain fundamentals of faith…and perhaps wrestling is what is required of me to continue on The Way with God. Do I truly desire to be transformed? Do I?

Further highlights from MacLaren’s expository on Jacob’s encounter with God (bold text by me);

God desires to go, if we do not desire Him to stay. He will go, unless
we keep Him. Then, at last, Jacob betakes himself to his true weapons.
Then, at last, he strangely wishes to keep his apparent foe. He has
learned, in some dim fashion, whom he has been resisting, and the
blessedness of having Him for friend and companion.

The desire to retain God binds Him to us. All His struggling with us
has been aimed at evoking it, and all His fulness responds to it when
evoked. Prayer is power. It conquers God. We overcome Him when we
yield. When we are vanquished, we are victors. When the life of nature
is broken within us, then from conscious weakness springs the longing
which God cannot but satisfy.

And God prevails when we prevail. His aim in all the process of His
mercy has been but to overcome our heavy earthliness and selfishness,
which resists His pleading love. His victory is our yielding, and, in
that yielding, obtaining power with Him. He delights to be held by the
hand of faith, and ever gladly yields to the heart’s cry,’Abide with
me.’ ‘I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me,’ is music to His
ear; and our saying so, in earnest, persistent clinging to Him, is His
victory as well as ours.

This is far from being tied up with a bow. I will continue to lean into what is revealed…in word, deed, circumstance, and the world around me. I don’t yet know what it means…this seeking and longing for…answers…peace…justice…love…God?

I continue to read and consider the the new name “Israel” that Jacob receives from God after morning comes and wrestling ends. I admit there is a teeny shift for me when I read MacLaren’s words;

To impose a name is the sign of authority, possession, insight into character. The change of name indicates a new epoch in a life, or a transformation of the inner man. The meaning of ‘Israel’ is ‘He (who) strives with God’; and the reason for its being conferred is more accurately given by the Revised Version, which translates, ‘For thou hast striven with God and with men,’ than in the Authorised rendering.’

A true Christian is an ‘Israel.’ His office is to wrestle with God.

jacobwrestlesgod

An encounter with the Divine…

Wrestling as worship, leading to transformation…

I wonder…

Monday poem 2017.8


Dry-Bones

1. For the paradox of wandering

in a mapped landscape,

for my half-blind eyes

and Your tiny blinding light,

I give you thanks, Oh Lord.

2. For the altered state of

ice over lake water, the kindness

of snow on snow on snow covering

a multitude of sins,

I give you thanks, Oh Lord.

3. For the cravings of knowledge

and the fear of the unknown,

for all that is or will be

and all that never will be so,

I give you thanks, Oh Lord.

4. For endings of childhoods

and each best loved dog,

the incremental demise of body and mind

that You say one day will rise,

I give you thanks, Oh Lord.

5. For closed doors

and open roads,

for edges of the wild world

and the nothing that is everything,

I give you thanks, Oh Lord.

6. For this moment, this chair,

fingers synapsed and sure,

breath, room, silence,

Your imagined and almost certain presence,

I give you thanks, Oh Lord.

LAE2017

The elusive art of editing


DSC_0050I think writers come to believe in an innate ability to catch our own errors, spit and polish our work to its very best form, and we do so each time we offer work for submission, contests, or print. This post is yet another chance for me to make editorial mistakes, I know, I know. (Sure, you can point them out to me if you like.)

Truth is, like many artists, poets are just scraping by financially. We cannot afford to hire editors, so we take risks, perhaps believing a little too strongly in our guts, our grammar, and our attentiveness. How hard can it be, we think. Well done, we say. It will be…fine, we whisper as we drift off to sleep having pressed “submit” again, with some hesitation and a little bit of angst.

Deep down we are not entirely sure, but we bravely do what we have to do, which can lead to embarrassing moments. Like the time I spelled the publisher’s surname incorrectly, or saw a clear lack of punctuation upon my 1st read, right after submission! My personal challenges often come in the form of it’s and its, and my deep and abiding love for the Oxford comma that ripples out, abundantly.

Or, most recently, after several months of design, planning, and (several) eyes on every comma, word, line break, title, font, layout, selection of hardware, paper, packaging, and marketing approach, I felt I was finally ready to put my poetry/art books together.

I painstakingly built one hundred copies of the book, tightened each Chicago screw,  placed each stainless steel washer, organized flash card covers into fun and witty combinations, collated stacks of poetry on beautiful cream paper (professionally laid out and printed and drilled with holes for the screws), hand tinted each vintage illustration, and felt a sense of progress and fulfillment at the growing pile of books.

Then I went online to put the finishing touches on the announcement for my book launch. As I typed in the title of my poetry/art book, I felt a niggling. I spell checked a word, and it was correctly spelled…yea, me! But the niggling didn’t go away. And then it hit me…there, blatant, unchecked, WRONG…was a word. On every title page of every book that I just spent days putting together, was a spelling mistake!

POETRY PRIMER | a book of elementary principals

instead of what it should have said;

POETRY PRIMER | a book of elementary principles

ahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!

First anger. Then blaming. Then another hissy fit because it was so OBVIOUSLY WRONG and I missed it…we all missed it… but I MISSED IT! And then the creative problem solving began…what if this, or what if that, in an attempt to save it somehow…but I could not. It was WRONG. It had to change. Then my gratitude to God that I saw the mistake before my book was sold!

Yes, indeed. Gratitude. Two hundred times I unscrewed those Chicago screws. One hundred times I removed the offending page and, after paying my printer a substantial amount of money for a one page reprint, one hundred times I replaced the page with the corrected title page. And then I tightly bound the book with the turn of two hundred more Chicago screws! Editor, I am obviously not. Life learner, yes I am. And my thumb and index finger were throbbing proof!

What would I do differently next time? I don’t know, I run a tight ship, so I still can’t afford an editor. Or, maybe I can? Maybe we could barter something? Or, maybe if I sell all of MY POETRY/ART BOOKS (limited edition, signed, numbered, unique, collectible, fun) I can afford an editor for my next project?

Have you got a copy of POETRY PRIMER yet? If you live in Kelowna, delivery is free!

A human, being, and learning humility,

Lesley-Anne

Along the way…


Years ago I began to see. At birth, my physical eyes opened. At the age of 40, my spiritual eyelids lifted to reveal new and meaning filled sights. And, another (almost) ten years later, I recognize that the second sight that comes with the spirit focused eyes must be intentional, often requiring of me a tuning up, a dusting off, a wiping of my glasses to ensure that I am seeing as best I can. God has things to reveal to me… even when I forget (see this post) or when I’m distracted or simply focusing on myself way too much.

Ten years ago or so I often saw things as I walked my dog and talked to God along the way. I was reminded of those wonderfully intimate times this morning as I drove to meet a circle of women who are becoming very important in my life and spiritual development. I saw things along the way today… and they revealed a deeper sight that I will share with you. May it bring you peace. God often brings peace in the midst.

I saw… a soldier dressed in his fatigues walking a very happy dog with tail back and forth and tongue lolling and face turned up to his master with an obvious ‘smile’ to share (those of you with dogs know this canine ability to smile). The dog was so full of joy at the walking with the one he loved that I almost didn’t see the obvious, that this pup had three legs, not four. At some point the fourth leg was removed due to an accident or disease and the dog carried on in a way that appeared to be without any real impact on his ability to enjoy the life he’d been given.

and I saw… a man waiting at a traffic light, a man whom I’ve noticed for years now, pocket protector in his short sleeved dress shirt, comb-over hair almost all grey, dress pants, and in one hand his black briefcase… very much the ‘Death of a Salesman‘ image here. And his body, his 60-something body, had conformed to the weight of whatever was in the briefcase, turning in, shoulders dropped forward, arms almost lengthened by the pull of the case. He was heading… somewhere… no smile, no joy, yes purpose, but no outer signs of pleasure.  Compared to the dog.

And here’s what I think I’m going to take from these images that linger in my mind, I’m going to take what I saw and own the truth that speaks. How we each have a choice to carry or to leave behind that which is diseased, that which weighs us down, that which we do not have to carry. And with that another choice, to leave the burden behind and embrace the joy of the moment, the gift of what remains rather than what could have been, might have been, and maybe still is. The dog made adjustments to how it walked to enable him to bounce on three feet. The man, burdened for years, his body also made adjustments, but in a way that left an impression of sad emptiness and pursuit of something just beyond his reach. Yes, I’m reading much into this, but I believe there really is something to it… a revelation of truth in the ordinary.

Thought I’d just lay it out there for you. To do with as you wish.

Journeying and watching, sometimes spirit sight,

Lesley-Anne

A politically (in)correct rant…


Patrick Stewart as Locutus, the assimilated Je...

Image via Wikipedia

Asking you about God is going to get me in trouble, isn’t it? It’s gonna polarize people, ‘cause some will hear preaching and pontificating, while some will breathe a sigh of relief.  Some won’t give a shit either way. It’s true.

I was reading a piece about culture the other day, in a nationally respected rag, (that I ordinarily choose not to read because I’d rather not focus on the bad news of dailiness), but I digress… So I read how it’s not considered correct to discuss ethnic distinctions with respect to child raising, or anything else. And it’s just as incorrect to create cultural stereotypes. They suggested what we need, no desire, is a homogeneous culture based upon polite equality. ‘Cause nobody really wants to stand out with unique and unpopular thinking. Everyone wants to fit in. And like the Borg, once you have fit in, you live to assimilate others. Yet the woman in the article passionately refused to be assimilated.

And so do I.

Resistance is not futile.

Here’s the thing… no matter what I write of a ‘spiritual nature’… poetry, stories, rants, rambles, there’s a question that begs to be asked.  Is there a God or not? You, dear reader, can’t sit on the fence forever. You can argue using scientific facts, test my theology, list the atrocities done in the name of religion ‘til you’re out-of-breath-red-in-the-face and making me wince, like when I see myself in this slam poem by Chris Tse. You can talk about my intolerance and ‘my truth’, but you still land in the same place of having to decide for yourself. Does God exist?


You can dull your mind with work and with technology and with whatever other addiction you’ve got hidden up your sleeve that prevents you from thinking about big annoying stuff. Or just busy yourself with the everyday-ness of life. One day leads to another and unless some drive-a-stake-cataclysmic-thing happens to stop you in your rut, you grow old. We all eventually die. And because of that fact, still the question lingers… Is there a God?

Perhaps I’m responding to having watched the amazing, thought provoking play ‘The Screwtape Letters’ just yesterday afternoon, or maybe I’ve got a screw loose? But, I’m fed up with my own insipid waffling. All the rationalizing and relativism and political correctness is really pissing me off. And the ways of watering down the truth so as not to offend, offends ME! Sorry, but it does.

No, I’m not wishing fire and brimstone preaching back, nor do I believe in shoving my beliefs down anyone’s throat like back in the day when I delivered evangelistic tracts from door to door, to complete strangers!. But there comes a time to be honest in every relationship. It all starts there… because you care about the people in your life… there’s a time to be truthful… to speak up!

So, I have to ask, In the face of all the evidence that surrounds you, to…

… take a minute to look out your window, at the mountains, the trees, the snow, the sunshine, the birds, the stars, the minute details of the natural world (and that’s without a microscope)…

… then consider metamorphosis, DNA, the chicken and the egg, erosion, volcanoes, the creation of new life inside a woman’s body, the germination of a tulip bulb in spring…

(Not-withstanding all the crappy, inexcusable ways that ‘Christian’ people like me have done things in the past to hurt you deeply with hypocrisy and unloving words and ways… please forgive them… please forgive me.)

… now think of the words of all the people of all the nations in the world who share their unique stories, telling how about their lives were ripped from the jaws of ultimate peril by a God who changed everything

… and then, as you consider the beauty of music, and architecture, and art, and all the unexplainable heart ripping creative forces in this world…

… bravely, hesitantly, ask yourself the question that just won’t go away…

Does God exist?

Lesley-Anne

Poetry Friday on Christmas Eve


 

 

 

 

 

 

MADE FLESH

After
the bright beam of hot annunciation
fused heaven with dark earth
his searing sharply focused light
went out for a while
eclipsed in amniotic gloom:
his cool immensity of splendor
his universal grace
small-folded in a warm dim
female space–
the Word stern-sentenced
to be nine months dumb–
infinity walled in a womb
until the next enormity–
the Mighty, after submission
to a woman’s pains
helpless on a barn-bare floor
first-tasting bitter death

Now
I in him surrender
to the crush and cry of birth.
Because eternity
was closeted in time
he is my open door
to forever.
From his imprisonment my freedoms grow,
find wings.
Part of his body, I transcend this flesh.
From his sweet silence my mouth sings.
Out of his dark I glow.
My life, as his,
slips through death’s mesh,
time’s bars,
joins hands with heaven,
speaks with stars.

by Luci Shaw

Sunday Soliloquy, 2 days early…


Demonstrator at the March on Washington for Jo...

Image via Wikipedia

by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Delivered on 28 August, 1963 at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the ‘March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom‘, to an audience of more than 200,000 people. This is only a small portion of the original speech, but possibly the most famous portion.

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.