Tag Archive - Poetry

11 Albums I’ll Listen to Til I Die

Musical tastes are very fluid. Plenty of artists and songs prove to be flirtations. Fun to know for a while, but ultimately unsatisfying. Cloying in large doses. But there are exceptions…

Every now and then, an artist or an album emerges that is of such fine quality, that touches such an important part of who you are, that you know you have made a friend for life. Rather than becoming tiresome, it becomes more dear with each listen. And you revisit it over and over, threading it into the soundtrack of your years. And when it plays, a whole cinema of images rolls across your mind and you are in a thousand place at once. And nothing is quite so affective at setting the world to rights as these familiar friends. Here are a few of mine:

Beautiful Things Gungor  For its artistry. For its whimsy. And for its reminder that God persistently transforms my folly and my filth into something radiant.

Come Away With Me Norah Jones  Her resonant voice and her restrained, elegant piano sing peace into me. When my soul is restless, this album is very good company.

Downtown Church Patty Griffin I grew up singing most of these songs. The inimitable Ms. Griffin renders them with passion and grace. I’ve listened to it dozens and dozens of times, but I still tear up every time she sings Never Grow Old.

Greatest Hits James Taylor  I have fond memories of a soft summer night on the grass as Starwood with Mr. Taylor. I also remember him all dressed up with the Nashville Symphony and a performance of Steamroller that almost lit me on fire. But mostly, I remember him singing into, and around, and over and under all that has been my life thus far. Playing his music is like coffee with a friend. Comfortable and good.

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb U2  For their superb musicianship. For driving rhythms that have secured them a position on all my running playlists. For lyrics that mean something.

If On a Winter’s Night Sting  I listen to it while washing dishes or folding laundry, and I am transported. I sit before a crackling fire, wrapped in a heavy woolen blanket. Outside the wind howls, swirling the falling snow hither and yon. Inside the tea kettle whistles and someone picks up a guitar. Echoes of Christmas past. Lyrical incense.

O Brother Where Art Thou (Soundtrack) This is the music of my childhood. It is story. It is heartache and hope. As sustaining as biscuits and gravy. And just as satisfying. And I always, always sing along.

The Outsiders NeedToBreathe  A rockabilly good time with wailing vocals and infectious rhythms. Some of the songs are just plain fun. But some of them pierce the heart, helping me find my better self. And I need all the help I can get.

Songs of Joy and Peace Yo Yo Ma and Friends  My favorite cellist teams up with artists like Dave Brubeck, Chris Botti, Diana Krall, and Alison Krauss, among others, for a delicious compilation of carols, meditations, and jigs. Exquisite artistry in an infinitude of incarnations. It makes me happy. Every time.

Unplugged Eric Clapton  Rhythm and Blues by a master of the genre. Clean. Uncluttered. Kinda like having Eric Clapton in your living room. Brilliant!

Why Should the Fire Die Nickel Creek  The harmonies. The flawless instrumental interchanges. The poetry. The consummate storytelling. And a couple of tunes that wreck me. Still. Marvelous.

For the record, this was extremely difficult. My original list, which I already believed to be conservative, had 27 items. Axing the final 4 or 5 made me want to throw up. I’m nothing if not loyal. SO, although I accommodated my 11 item limit, just know my for-real list is much, much longer.

How bout you? Are there albums that you love more and more with each listen? Music that is an integral part of your life?

*Fourth in a series of eleven posts of elevens; one for each of the first eleven days of the eleventh month of 2011.

**Props to Karissa who suggested this topic.

How Inarticulate the Longings of My Soul…

How inarticulate are the longings of my soul, O God,
yet how acute are its pangs.
How incapable am I in understanding those longings,
let alone, in tending them.
Feed me with food, O God, that will best nourish my soul,
food that will intensify rather than satisfy
my love for You
and my longing to be with You.
Awaken every eternal seed You have planted in my soul
so while I am yet rooted in this earth
something of heaven may blossom in my life…

~Ken Gire, Windows of the Soul

Ghosts Upon the Earth

Sometimes it seems like the most real thing is what we can see and experience with our senses around us – this life, the tangible…Ideas like love, like God, these things sometimes feel more disconnected and ethereal, like that’s the ghostly real. This is turning it on its head, recognizing that God is real, love is real, and we are the ghosts walking upon the earth, wanting to become more real. 
~Michael Gungor

A tone poem, of sorts. An illumination…in sound…of the beauty and fragility of life. A musical experience you can stand inside. A fusion of lyric and sound that will crawl inside you. An artistically exquisite exploration of all that matters…..

Ghosts Upon the Earth, the new album by Gungor, drops one week from today. It is one of the most intriguing, provocative, and artful works I have encountered in a while. I can’t stop listening to it. These are my distinctly personal listening notes. I do not presume to voice their intent in crafting the music, only my reaction to it.

Let There Be  Ever since reading The Magician’s Nephew, I have always imagined God singing the world into being. Now I know what it sounds like… Atonal meanderings drift, meterless. A voice wandering, lost. Then a gentle summons: Let there be… Echoed. Joined by other ethereal voices. Beats push and pull against one another, as cosmos is wrested from chaos. Building to a glorious crescendo, Let there be light!!! The energy, the rightness of this moment throbbing, exultant, ecstatic!

Brother Moon  and Crags and Clay  Both are celebrations of the One who makes all things beautiful. The first is a playful nod to St. Francis; a frolic. The second is a meditation..quiet at first…growing in intensity. Lovely.

The Fall  A tender lament of innocence lost. Voices rise and fall together in a plea…winsome, persistent. How long will You wait? Make things right, O God. Turn your face to us.

When Death Dies  A dream without bounds…of a world made right. Barely a whisper at first. Then a riotous celebration of possibility. Hope. When death dies, ALL things live.

Church Bells  One of my very favorites. Very like a Venetian barcarolle. A gentle invitation to surrender cynicism, and remember joy. Unadulterated. Without agenda. Clean.

Let church bells ring. Let children sing.
Even if they don’t know why, let them sing.
Why drown their joy…stifle their voice
Just because you’ve lost yours?

May our jaded hearts be healed. Amen.

Let old men dance, lift up their hands.
Even if they are naive, let them dance.
You’ve seen it all. You’ve watched them fall.
Wash off your face and dance.

May our weary hearts be filled with hope. Amen.

Amen.

Wake Up Sleeper  Discombobulation. Unconventional harmonies. Mixed meter, including an unsettling passage in 7/8. Instruments leaping back and forth between speakers. The world is being turned upside down. Or…then again…right side up. As it should be. The poor, the sick, the despised, inherit the Kingdom. And corrupt manipulators, users, exploiters, are exposed.  What a ride! Brilliant!

Ezekiel  This one is intensely personal for me. Excruciating. I have been so often faithless, selling myself to anyone who would promise to fill my empty places. I have broken the heart of my Lover. Over and over. He sings to me here. Of relentless love. Of eyes that see who I am. Inside. Beneath my horrible choices. And He calls me back….

Vous Etes Mon Coure (You Are My Heart)  Une chanson d’amour. Très beau. Avec la mandoline. Délicieux.

This is Not the End  Faith is, above all, a journey. The Way. This is not the end of this. We will open our eyes wide, wider...

You Are the Beauty  A rollicking celebration of the One who has made all things beautiful. Who did not abandon us, even when we abandoned Him. Who is turning the world upside down to redeem us and put all things right. And who pursues us relentlessly. Selah.

Every Breath  Finally, a love song back to Him. He who has loved extravagantly. A giving of myself. The very words I am looking for. Perhaps, the words you are looking for, too…

Buy the album. Then give yourself the gift of undivided attention for a listen all the way through. Take a walk in the woods. Sit on your porch in the moonlight. Light a candle. Pour a glass of wine. And let it wash over you. It is unlike anything you have experienced. Yet.

P.S. If you are lucky enough to live in (or near) Atlanta or Nashville, you can be part of an album release show next week. Click your city for more info. I will be at the Nashville show with my guys. Perhaps I’ll see you there. 🙂

Only He Who Sees…

Benevolent, solemn, fateful, pervaded with divine light, every landscape glows like a countenance hallowed in eternal repose; and every one of its living creatures, clad in flesh and leaves, and every crystal of its rocks, whether on the surface shining in the sun or buried miles deep in what we call darkness, is throbbing and pulsing with the heartbeats of God. ~John Muir

Here is an unspeakable secret: paradise is all around us and we do not understand.
It is wide open. The sword is taken away, but we do not know it:
we are off “one to his farm and another to his merchandise.”
Lights on. Clocks ticking. Thermostats working. Stoves
cooking. Electric shavers filling radios with static.
“Wisdom,” cries the dawn deacon, but we do not attend.

~Thomas Merton

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. ~Marcel Proust

…And we pray, not
for new earth or or new heaven, but to be
quiet in heart and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

~Wendell Berry

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

~Mary Oliver

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes

~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.  ~John Muir

I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam. ~Annie Dillard

The Air was perfectly delicious, sweet enough for the breath of angels. Every drought of it gave a separate and distinct piece of pleasure. I do not believe that Adam and Eve tasted better in their balmiest nook.  ~John Muir

Supernatural grandeur expands our soul and helps us throughout the day to live not in glass-breaking tension but in tiptoe perspective. It’s the place where, in our “upward leap of the heart,” we see beyond the fray to the Father who does all things well.  ~Patsy Clairmont

And God saw everything that He had made, and behold it was very good. ~Genesis 1:31 KJV

I am rich, rich beyond measure, not in rectangular blocks of sifted knowledge, or in thin sheets of beauty hung picture like about the “walls of memory,” but in unselected atmospheres of terrestrial glory diffused evenly throughout my whole substance….  ~John Muir

When I entered this sublime wilderness the day was nearly done, the trees with rosy, glowing countenances seemed to be hushed and thoughtful, as if waiting in conscious religious dependence on the sun, and one naturally walked softly and awe stricken among them. I wandered…as if in some vast hall pervaded by the deepest sanctities and solemnities that sway human souls. At sundown the trees seemed to cease their worship and breathe free.  ~John Muir

*All photographs taken in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks where the glory of God is a breathable reality: astonishing, elevating, nourishing….for the one who sees.

 

Praying

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

~Mary Oliver

 

Off paying attention…

…See you in a few days.

 

*Artwork at top of post by Andy Goldsworthy

The Voices in My Head

I am a big fan of Ansel Adams. Of all his images, this has always been one of my favorites. This time next week I will be somewhere up in those mountains. I can hardly believe it. As I have looked at photographs in preparation I have found myself in tears, imagining what it will be like to finally see them for the first time.

Last week I talked to you about gear I am taking to care for my body in the Grand Teton Ultra. This week, I acquaint you with those friends I am taking along to care for my soul. Unconventional to be sure. Of all the ultra sites I visited, nobody told me which prayers, poems, and music would travel with them mile after mile.

But I know myself.

I chose this event because it is BEAUTIFUL. And I will need words, as much as I need water and food. God will give me words of my own. This I know. But there will be times when I need to borrow the words of another. For a space. So I am filling my phone with prayers and poems and my ipod shuffle with music.

Here is a sampling of the voices who will be in my head as I run…

 

Poems:

Praying by Mary Oliver

O Land Alive With Miracles by Thomas Merton

Point Vierge by Thomas Merton

The Summer Morning by Mary Oliver

Wild Geese by Wendell Berry

 

Prayers:

O Lord, how lovely it is to be your guest:
Breeze full of scent; mountains reaching to the skies;
Waters like a boundless mirror,
Reflecting the sun’s golden rays and the scudding clouds.
All nature murmurs mysteriously, breathing depths of tenderness,
Birds and beasts bear the imprint of your love,
Blessed are you, mother earth, in your fleeting loveliness,
Which wakens our yearning for happiness that will last for ever
In the land where, amid beauty that grows not old,
Rings out the cry: Alleluia!

You brought me into this life as into an enchanted paradise. We have seen the sky, like a deep blue cup ringing with birds in the azure heights. We have listened to the soothing murmur of the forest and the sweet-sounding music of the waters. We have tasted fragrant fruit of fine flavour and sweet-scented honey. How pleasant is our stay with you on earth: it is a joy to be your guest.

~excerpted from the Akathist in Praise of Creation. I am taking the whole of it with me on the trip. I want to read it in the gorgeous places where we will find ourselves. I will only bring excerpts on the trail.

*Portions of Psalm 104 and Psalm 148.

 

Playlist:

Andrew Peterson  Audrey Assad  Beethoven  Bela Fleck  The Brilliance  Cara Dillon  Carl Orff (Carmina Burana)  The Civil Wars  David Teems  Delirious  The Doobie Brothers  Eddie Vader  Eric Clapton  Gateway Worship  Gungor  Herbie Hancock  Iron and Wine  James Taylor  Javier Navarrete  Joe Cocker  Kaki King  Lion King Broadway Cast  Loreena McKennitt  Michael Buble’  Mutefish  NeedToBreathe  Nickel Creek  Norah Jones  Nuns of St Paisos Monastery  Old Crow Medicine Show  Patti Griffin  Ray Charles/Count Basie  Rachmaninoff  Russian State Symphony Capella  Soggy Bottom Boys  St. Petersburg Chamber Choir  Sufjan Stevens  Vivaldi  Yo Yo Ma

 

P.S. My travel reading list (for the trip, not the run. :)):

A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
Windows of the Soul by Ken Gire (re-read)
Thirst by Mary Oliver

Music Lesson

She sits on my lap–smooth, cool whiteness
under her fingers–tick of the clock barely pierces
the silence. She pushes against a cluster of notes
and is surprised. I watch her face reflected in the ebony.
Rapture.

I play figures against the keys. She lays
her hands on mine–following up and down.
And she sings. Ecstatic eruption–conversation
with the notes.

I do not say to her—This is G. Nothing could be
less important.

I press the pedal, letting all the notes jumble
together. We sit perfectly still as they hang
in the air–breathing the music–feeling the coolness
of it–listening as the notes separate to dance singly–then
drift away.

She pounds the keys and squeals with joy as they yield to her
their song. She slides her fingers over them–probing. What is it
about smooth, cool, white that makes this?

Clock ticking–silence–tiny hands–shared breath–singing–
warm babies in laps–leaning into one another–wonder–
cherubic face reflected in ebony–joy.

Music.

~sm

 

Postcards from Atlanta…

Words, phrases, stories and songs keep playing in my mind and heart. Every time I try to describe it to a friend, I feel like English needs more words.

This weekend I was nourished, wrecked, provoked, refreshed, and inspired at Women of Faith: Imagine. I took my husband, who loved it too. I wish I had taken everyone I know.

A few reasons why I implore you to find a Women of Faith event near you, and do whatever it takes to get there:

Mary Graham Mary is the person who makes sure this operation runs like a well-oiled machine. And baby it does! Every detail is flawlessly executed: decoration, production, creative introductions, and the friendliest please take your seats/silence your cell phone messages I have ever encountered. Sessions begin and end ON TIME. Lunch is provided for your convenience. And Mary’s gentle, winsome presence holds all together.

Luci Swindoll When I grow up, I want to be Luci Swindoll. 🙂 Apparently I am not alone in this. These words from Hermann Hesse, which she shared with us, could be her own. This is the life she leads. Adventurous, creative, and fully present in the NOW. She challenged and inspired us to do the same.

Life passes like a flash of lighting
Whose blaze barely lasts long enough to see.
While the earth and the sky stand still forever
How swiftly changing time flies across man’s face.
O you who sit over your full cup and do not drink,
Tell me, for whom are you still waiting?

Sheila Walsh In her first session, she spoke to us of the relentless love of God in such evocative terms I felt I could almost taste it. This session crescendoed into the most moving rendition of Amazing Grace I have ever experienced. Because it grew out of the beautiful truths she had given us. She is a funny, transparent, and enthralling storyteller. I will never forget about the Shepherd who knows where to find us and Who invites us to come as we are.

Angie Smith Cute as a button and disarmingly self-deprecating, with a delivery so intimate I sometimes forgot there were several thousand other people in the room. This precious young woman has been called to walk on water through a devastating storm. And she knows the terror of waves slamming against you, threatening to destroy you. She also knows the ONLY way to keep from drowning.

“On those dark days when you can’t catch your breath, remember who you’re swimming towards. Kyrios: the Lord; the One to whom you belong.”

Nicole Johnson I’ve seen Nicole Johnson before. She has this way of making you laugh, and somewhere in the middle of the laughter you realize that important life-giving truths have wiggled their way into your heart. She did this again with one of my favorite of her sketches, The Invisible Woman. But, she also took the stage in a different role this time. This time she poured her heart out like water before us. Her own story of beauty from ashes. Glorious.

Lisa Harper Funny, honest, gutsy. I like this woman. She and I share a passion for mountain trails and for Thomas Merton. I loved this quote she used from him as she spoke to us about worth:

“God is asking me, the unworthy, to forget my unworthiness and that of my brothers, and dare to advance in the love which has redeemed and renewed us all in God’s likeness. And to laugh, after all, at the preposterous ideas of ‘worthiness.”

Amen.

Steve Aterburn Yes. You are right. Steve is, in fact, not a woman. And, I’ll admit, I was skeptical. But he had so many good, good things to say. He talked to us about walls that separate us from the life God has for us. Walls like stubborn resistance, arrogant entitlement (ouch!), justifiable resentment and others. And he helped us see how choices like acceptance and gratitude can help us make a door through the wall.  P.S. Steve is actually the founder of Women of Faith. For that alone, I am deeply grateful.

Mary Mary Oh, Baby!! These grammy award winning artists know how to rock the gospel. Songs filled with truth will have you on your feet and the joy of the Lord will throb from the top of your head to the souls of your feet. *Incidentally, try to position yourself to see Lisa Harper and Sheila Walsh do their white girl interpretations of the choreography. Trust me on this. 😉

Laura Story Laura was a surprise guest. A hometown girl. I predict you will be seeing more of her. You probably know her song Indescribable even if you don’t know her name. But, her song that keeps singing itself in my head is Blessings. It beautifully articulates what I have come to understand about “mercies in disguise”. And after hearing Laura’s story, I know from whence the questions come.

Natalie Grant One of the sweetest moments of the weekend was when, at the end of her Friday evening set, Natalie Grant sang the old hymn, It Is Well. The whole hall was silent, except for her powerful voice. No instruments. Clean. Uncluttered. And when it was over, no one wanted to go anywhere. We just wanted to let the notes, the words, hang over and around us for a few moments longer.

Her musical benediction sums up the truths of the weekend about as well as anything. In this world we will have trouble, they all said to us. But there is a Shepherd, a Father, our Kyrios, Mender of that which is broken, Who has created all things for our enjoyment; and He will walk those hard places with us and lead us safely home.

Idle and Blessed

A Sabbath meditation. Of the prayer of attention. Glory in the humble.

The Summer Morning

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

~Mary Oliver

Stained Glass Hearts

Supernatural grandeur expands our soul and helps us throughout the day to live not in glass-breaking tension but in tiptoe perspective. It’s the place where, in our “upward leap of the heart,” we see beyond the fray to the Father who does all things well.  ~Patsy Clairmont

Diminutive dynamo. Teller of tales. Wearer of audacious designer boots, including at least one pair in red. She who can captivate a whole stadium full of women and keep them breathless, on the edge of their seats. All are apt descriptions of Patsy Clairmont.

But it’s only part of the story.

Contemplative. Poet. She who has a deep ache for beauty, transcendence, truth. Weaver of words who can turn a phrase with a delicate, fragile loveliness that pierces the heart. This too is Patsy Clairmont.

I’m known for my playful approach to life, which is fused within me; but to those who are closest to me, I’m also known for my need to pull on galoshes and wade into a thought. I guess when you’ve lived 60-plus years you collect a lot of heartache from this wind-whipped world that causes you to search the shadows of the forest. In my childhood I would have skipped through the woods oblivious to anything more than the path ahead, but today I’ve learned to check the secret places for the treasures of darkness.

Patsy’s new book, Stained Glass Hearts, is a sweet washing of the soul, with stories true and deep. With generous transparency, she takes us inside some of the more excruciating places in her life. She gives a courageous, vulnerable account of fear so paralyzing that it kept her housebound. Difficult to imagine if you have ever seen her on stage. But that is the beauty of the story. She shows us how, if we let Him, God will take the broken shards of our lives and solder them into luminous works of art.

…even though the stained glass pieces are artistically designed, they still have been broken, sanded, and soldered. They didn’t naturally fit the redemptive pattern without holy repairs. Also, stained glass art doesn’t begin to show its beauty or its inspiration or release its story until light touches the dark. The light transforms an otherwise subtle picture into a brilliant, dimensional experience.

Along with her stories, her experiences, her great loves and her great woes, Patsy introduces us to some of those who have shed light on her path. At the end of each chapter is a gallery in which she shares poems, paintings, songs, prayers, artistry of all sorts that have nourished her spirit. I implore you to google each of these as you read. A sumptuous feast for the soul.

Many of us have come to love the ones who have left lovely lines that fit inside us, that help us to see our world more grandly and ourselves more kindly.

Don’t all of us wish we had more wise voices in our lives? Those who deal with us winsomely and honestly, helping us find our true selves. Patsy is such a voice. As she walks with us through gardens and galleries, thunderstorms and snow, she gently points out things along the way. “Did you see that?” “Listen!” And our parched souls drink the liquid grace of the moment. And we are refreshed. And inspired. And emboldened.

Rescue us from small speculations. Enlarge our hearts. You alone, Lord, can attend to our desperation. Silence us with your peace. Comfort us with your tenderness. Mend us with your love. Amen.

Amen.

 

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