Thursday, February 26, 2009

Life, Etc.

Tunnel of Freedom

I thought about writing my own poem for Random Acts of Poetry, but then my 9-year-old daughter read me these musings on life. It seems she drew the picture first and went from there...


Love and
kindness are the
path to wisdom and
wisdom is the path to a
humble life.


Rain drops peacefully
or sun shines blessedly,
or even both at once.
Flowers sprout up,
bushes grow a
tunnel of freedom
to go to goodness
but still no life
is perfect.

Other Random Acts of Poetry:
Mom2six's poem by her 8-year-old daughter
Andy C's For Me
Lavonda's What is Required
Marcus reads excerpts from T. S. Eliot's Ash Wednesday
nAncY's On the Road
The Unknown Contributor's Orchid
12 Steps Closer's Haiku for Jesus: The Crazy at Night
RAP: Meditations for Lent, at High Calling Blogs
Erica's Toward Jerusalem poem for Lent
Joelle's Symbiosis

If you would like to write in color by composing a color poem, post and let me know by Thursday, MARCH 5, to be considered for a possible feature and definite links at High Calling Blogs.

An alternate project, also due by Thursday, MARCH 5, would be to try the poem prompt... "I went searching for grace..." This prompt jumped out at me when I read Laura's Stone Crossings book giveaway preview post. Try to set your search in a concrete place... your street, in someone's arms, on a particular riverbank, in a field, whatever. See if you can give us the sights, sounds, smells, textures or tastes of the place and of your search for grace.

Laura's Stone Crossings Reflections and Giveaway

Tunnel of Freedom drawing by Sonia. Used with permission. Photo by L.L. Barkat.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Silly Little Barriers to Doing Good

phone card

So here I am trying to do good at a party and not too far into the process I discover...

I face silly little barriers to doing good.

In this case, all I have to do is send a gift card with left-over credit on it, to benefit Gift Card Giver, but I get stuck before I even get in the game. Oh, I'd like to be able to say I get stuck for really good reasons (I'm out making the world a better place by curing the common cold or something). But no, this is the truth of it...

1. I have questions about the process. I'm not sure how to get answers and I have to take the time to ask the questions. (This makes me feel anxious. I don't like being anxious.)

2. I get answers, but they mean a little more work on my part (You mean I have to call the companies or go to their websites to figure out how much credit is left on the cards?! My personal lazy-factor awakes.)

3. I can't find a permanent marker in the drawer that should have a permanent marker. (How come these can be found by the simplest child in need of writing on a wall, but not by me in a moment of do-good crisis? My disorganization skills suddenly depress me.)

4. I have to find an envelope (which means a relocation exercise... envelopes are upstairs), I have to look up the address to send the gift-card to (this means finding the original invitation), and I have to use two stamps just in case one won't cover the postage (selfish syndrome at the pickiest level now appears).

5. I think... maybe I could use this card myself. (Selfish syndrome apparently has multiple faces.)

Then I look at the pile of cards (above) and I think about all they represent. The simple fact that I have so many different kinds of cards reminds me that every day of my life I have more than enough to meet my needs. The kings remind me of The King, who wishes I would put aside my silly little barriers to do his Kingdom work. The division cards say to me that it is, sadly, small things which often ultimately divide me from blessing others. The cup of cold water... well, how could I forget what Jesus said about that? Will I offer an umbrella, share my apple, act the part of a compassionate queen? Or will I settle for that little joker card off to the left?

Since I have no plans on the horizon for curing the common cold, I decide to take the plunge and do this instead. Good thing I don't have to lick any stamps. : )

If you would like to do good by having fun, check out the House Party going on right now at High Calling Blogs. Ann V is bringing cranberry slushies. And Ann K is telling stories. Hope to see there...

Win a Starbucks Gift Card at Erica's
Fun Video at High Calling Blogs
Fun Video, Take 2, at HCB
Sarah's A Card Game of Skill? Or a Game of Guilt?
Need Magazine's Making Use of Those Last Few Dollars on Gift Cards

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Friday, February 20, 2009


Prison Pipe Art1

Thinking about color today, and the question people often ask Dayton Castleman about his red-pipes-in-prison art installment... why red?

Scarlet is,
man, scarlet is
fever and sins
snow. Scarlet
is, man,
scarlet is
single stray drop
to ruin a
queen's perfectly
good embroidery,
don't you know,
scarlet is,
man, scarlet is
he doesn't give
a damn.

Man, put scarlet
in my hands
so I can throw
it out windows
of Jericho, put
palms in
hidden pockets,
let it flow past
thighs and knee
become a trail
behind me. Man,
give me a bucket
of scarlet paint,
pipes and the
vision to see
escape routes,
openings, ways
to the sky, and
all the places
scarlet can,

Random Acts of Poetry:
High Calling Blogs' RAP: Changing the World
Nancy's Awaken
Jim's August Evening
Andy's Would You Have Known Him
Erica's Red
The Unknown Contributor's Nursing

Maybe some of you would like to try your hand at a color poem? Please let me know if you post one by Thursday, MARCH 5, to be considered for a possible feature and definite links at High Calling Blogs.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sometimes a Dream Comes True

Chris and the Book

With not a little hope and daring, I called this my Year of Dreams. Included in the list of wishes: meet poet Sam Hazo.

Well, sometimes a dream comes true. While at the Jubilee conference I met Sam over at Carlow University, where he leads the International Poetry Forum (pic of Carlow below). Stay tuned for more from Sam this Friday in Random Acts of Poetry at High Calling Blogs. Also, Marcus Goodyear has promised to share my premiere [cough, cough] video-wielding skills by posting our interview of Hazo [sometime soon, right MG?]

Carlow University

Bass and Vocals

Cello Enthusiast

I just had to love a conference that fed one of my other dreams (to become a real-live cello player), by including string instruments in the hip-hoppin', jazz tappin', rock and rollin' praise bands. I could not help but catch the enthusiasm of the cello player as she swooped her bow up to the ballroom ceiling (after she played the most astonishing solo and I was reminded that I'm not a real-live cello player yet.)

Overall, there really is too much to tell. I met so many awesome people, including the guy at the top of this post, sitting there with his bible (yup, it was about 6 inches thick... I thought he'd stolen an illuminated manuscript from an old monastery or something : ) . An English major, dating an Art Therapy major, Chris exemplified the deep-heartedness and warmth of the students at Jubilee. I met people who are making a difference in big and little ways. Stay tuned for more on that too, when I invite you to a special kind of House Party over at High Calling Blogs next week.

Stone Crossings Last Copies

Prison Pipe Art 7

I cannot choose what impacted me most. The art, the stories, the music and poetry— all of it spoke to hidden places in my heart. Maybe this is best expressed by the series below, by artist Dayton Castleman. He shared how he came to create the Red Pipe in Prison art installment after spending time in the prison, letting the oppressiveness of the setting eat into him. "I began to see the spaces, the holes, the escape routes," he said. And thus was born the network of red pipes— dreams of freedom leaking out of prison windows, walls, corridors.

We all have dreams. Maybe that's what I remembered most while at Jubilee. For some of us, it's time to begin making them come true. For others, it's time to help a dreamer who has been ushered away by society... time to bring in a pipe and help him paint it red, place it near the escape routes, ride it out to the sky.

Prison Pipe Art 4

Prison Pipe Art 3

Prison Pipe Art 5

Prison Pipe Art1

Prison Pipe Art 6

Jubilee photos by L.L. Barkat. Other awesome people I met or reconnected with: Alissa Wilkinson, Andy Crouch, Lauren Winner, Jonathan Walton, Byron Borger, Derek Melleby, Jeff Shinabarger, Sam Van Eman, Larry Bourgeois, Brian Moss, Michael Stevens, Jason Panella, Karen Sloan, and Scott Calgaro

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Once Upon a Time

bridge rail

Once upon a time, an author went to Jubilee. (She'll give details when she returns next week.) In the meantime, come to High Calling Blogs for more on story and Random Acts of Poetry: Once upon a time... and a sweet little poem from said author's nine-year-old daughter. (Okay, so maybe said author is biased, but she thought the poem was sweet. : )

Bridge photo by J Barkat. Used with permission.

[UPDATE: this was supposed to publish on Friday and apparently didn't. Ah, the wonder of technical difficulties. I'm back from Jubilee now, but am completely overwhelmed, in a good way, with the experience. I promise I'll try to surface soon!]

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Blogger Be Brave

Nesting Doll & Porcelain

Despereaux Tilling, a mouse who dared reach beyond his mousedom, was sentenced to the dungeon. There, in a darkness so black he could not see his paw in front of his whiskers, he began to wonder if he even existed. In desperation he 'grabbed hold of his have something, anything, to hold on to. He considered fainting.'

Then he remembered the 'words of the threadmaster: honor, courtesy, devotion, and bravery' and thought, 'I will be brave.'

Bravery. Bravery! 'How best for him to be brave? He cleared his throat. He let go of his tail. He stood up straighter. Once upon a time, he said out loud to the darkness. He said these words because they were the best, the most powerful words that he knew and just the saying of them comforted him.' (pp.74-75)

Once upon a time. These are the first words of fairy tale, the quintessential beginning of story that proposes to hold in tension both joy and sorrow, terror and triumph. It strikes me that whenever we find the bravery to tell a story true and whole, to say 'Once upon a time, I...', we do something extremely powerful. We take the mute fear of darkness and give it voice; we form the void, make possible a clean and unexpected comfort, maybe even joy.

I feel compelled to say this because I have noticed small places of doubt among us— those who are asking, 'Is it okay if I write something dark?' and similarly 'Is it okay to dare the darkness of life just for a moment and write in joy?' It is okay. Maybe even essential for our existence, to keep us from fainting.

Of course I cannot resist extending an invitation then, even though I'm going to be leaving next week to attend Jubilee. It means an earlier deadline for us. Wednesday afternoon, if you want to be considered for a feature at High Calling Blogs. But here's the invitation. (There is a part of me that hesitates to begin with this prompt, simply because I don't want it to plunge us into abstract language, stereotype and sentimentality, but I thought it would be fun to try)...

Write a poem that begins, middles, or ends with Once upon a time... or even just Once... Or, if you'd prefer, you could use some other common fairy tale language like happily ever after. Just try to tell a moment true and whole. Don't shrink from the darkness or the joy but outline them in bold details— the broken yardstick that snapped because your mother spanked you with it; the goldenrods you brought to your teacher that she threw away, declaring them weeds (true story!); or the hands of your child that reached warm to cradle your chin, while she looked you in the eye and said 'You are a good mommy [or daddy].'

While you saddle your horse and dig through briar rose and bramble, I will wait for you, once upon time...

The Dolls photo, by Sara B. Used with permission.

[UPDATE: Here's my contribution...]


upon a time
I thought you would
ride back into our lives
convertible Pontiac,
into the kitchen
grey splintered
barn, dead end road,
barrel, wind whipped
creaking maple...
pick up mop
you had thrown across
black and white
checkered floor,
put it back
near white iron sink,
kiss mother
on the cheek
and play fly-like-a-birdie
with me again.
That was before I learned
some people never
make it
to happily ever after.

Nancy's The Dance of Time and First Post
Nikki's The Dangers of Sitting
Jennie's Picture This and Broken Wing
Erin's Divine: The Sprite (don't miss the final line of this... it was something to ponder)
Katrina's Love Amazing
Mom2Six's Once Upon a Time
Erica's Once upon a time
Laura's Valentine
Laure's 5 O'Clock Afternoon Hour

Marcus's Drought on the Open Road

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

I Close My Eyes


Maybe it seems ironic to close one's eyes to see. But when we shut out the pressing world, we can open our memories. There in the dark, we dig for what was and find that we need companions like courage, joy, curiosity, grief, and hope. Such companions help us open this or that box... maybe the big locked one in the far corner (our father's leaving), or perhaps just a small one on the attic sill (a happy adventure with a brother or sister).

This morning I stayed in bed just a little bit longer and kept my eyes closed. I thought about the lovely place where I grew up. I wrestled with the news my sister had shared (as a result of a previous post): some of the beauty of that place has been swallowed up in housing development. There is no bringing it back, except to put a piece of it into poetry.

'The Return'

I close my eyes
blot out one hundred
and fifty shale driveways
pickup trucks, Ford
pintos, trailers barely
tied to this ground
by wires, gas lines
cable TV.

I can still see
dirt road, Queen
Anne's Lace, goldenrod
blue chicory
field mice nesting
under leaning timothy
and the apple orchard
rooted beyond tall firs

where a woman
in navy sweat pants,
red Budweiser t-shirt
is just now hanging laundry
to drift upon the wind,
sing with ghosts
of spring white
blossoms, honeybees.

If you would like to participate in the invitation to see and possibly be featured at High Calling Blogs, post your contribution by Thursday afternoon. And don't be afraid to call on the helping companion you need: courage, joy, curiosity, grief or hope. I look forward to seeing what you see.

Photo by Amy Fabbri. Used with permission.

The Seeing, at High Calling Blogs

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