Psalm #21(Sanctuary)

Welcome to 2015! I know; I know--I'm a little behind. But rest assured, I was sucking the very last bit of marrow from the holidays, enjoying the sabbath. All good sabbaths must come to an end (this side of the veil, anyhow), and the grind must go on, which brings me to my first post of 2015.

In considering what I'd publish first in 2015, I ran the gauntlet of ideas. Should I lead with my One Song for 2015 (my take on the "One Word" craze)? Would Amber and I open with a Marriage Letter? Would I pen existential thoughts on wonder, or beauty, or the inevitable rise of the machines against humanity? I considered each of these (save and except for the bit about the machines), but instead opted to kick off 2015 with a continuation of my psalm series.

Sure, it's not all cannons, fireworks, and inspirational quotes, but there's something about the sparseness of a poem, the economy of it. And perhaps this is a metaphor for my 2015. Perhaps I'd like to explore sparser, more economical words.

On to the poem.

Psalm #21 (Sanctuary) was inspired by a holiday drive through the Arkansas Delta. The Mississippi Alluvial Plain on the eastern side of my grand state is home to a winter migration of birds like you've never seen. Thousands upon thousands of our avian friends fill the delta fields and squawk one to another. It's a sight to behold, and speaks a metaphor of sorts (if you're willing to listen). This morning, I'm offering you a window into that world.

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Psalm #21 (Sanctuary)

Gather all creatures of God and King, far from the riverbed’s evening blush. Come near alluvial’s winged throngs; Listen to Delta songs sung.

Near the rice tassels of Carlisle’s skirt, singing the songs of God’s ashen sky, rising and falling like ribbons of smoke, Flock of best Delta songs sung.

Congregation of the fowlest found— Snow geese in hunted month’s plumy field, Mallard drake, murder of crows, sparrows— Singing the Delta songs sung.

Here, find the Great Blue on stickish legs, priest of the flock belching herron hymns. Rhythm of liturgy, heaven bends Hearing the Delta songs sung.

God and King’s creatures gather you here. Listen to best congregation’s song. None is as simple, as loud, as bold. Emulate Delta songs sung.

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Psalm #20 (Genesis)

From time to time I pen my own psalms. Follow the link for the entire corpus (such as it is). And too keep up to date with all of my writings, drop by my Facebook page and give it the old thumbs up. (Thanks!) Today's psalm was inspired in part by the artisans of Tuscany. In the same way, though, it was inspired by the artisans I've encountered in the Ozarks, the Appalachians, and the Mississippi Delta. Enjoy.

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Psalm #20

These are imperfect metaphors: the wine-maker in the vineyard, tender with his grapes; the fromagère with aging cheese, gentle in the salty-washing of rind; the leather worker etching a name, shadows past the surface of tanned skin.

These are imperfect metaphors for times more tender, washings more gentle, and hides more etched with words eternal.

Creation creates; the work of hands echoes, "it is good."

Amen.

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*Enjoy a few photos of the artisans of Italy.

 

Luciano

Luciana cultivates a vineyard and olive grove on the outskirts of Castelmuzio.

cheese

Sandra and her husband Ulysses (you read that correctly) operate a cheese farm on the road from Pienza.

Leather

Valerio Truffelli crafts amazing leather goods at Bottega Artigiana del Cuoio in Pienza.

Art

Amber and Erika Morrison ran across this wonderful artist who'd set up shop near a small church in Pienza.

The Come by Here Psalms

I've been thinking about Emmanuel--God with us--and the Great Come by Here of God. In considering the ways in which God visits us, his people, I've come back to these two psalms (notice the lowercase lettering; these are my psalms, not the biblical Psalms). In any event, I'm reposting Psalm #1 and Psalm #4 for your consideration here. Seek God and he will be found.

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Psalm #1

If there came an eternal morning on the wings of the robins collecting daily manna,

Seek God and he will be found;

one that woke soft silver, and rose new orange only to return to soft silver and to rise again new orange, and so on and so forth,

seek God and he will be found;

if there were only the quiet before the house waking--the mother, the children, and the coercive routine--

seek God and he will be found;

then prayer would linger like morning mist and praise like the Northern Cardinal calling.

seek God and he will be found.

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Psalm #4

If I might impose; allow me to to suggest a reinstatement, a return, a coming like the splitting of another veil, the fission of this present from the eternal Real, so that men might tremble in the memory of their once Edenic selves.

Could there be a quickening return of the Immediate Dramatic, a natural transfiguration of clouds, from mist to Face, a thundering rising from the earth's bowells, ozone steaming, rising upwards like asphalt incense?

Were I so bold, might I request a trumpet, a white horse, an inimitable, fierce army of the once low, poor saints? Might the air be filled with all that Is, so that those who would breathe life are filled with life, and those who breathe death drink only dread?

On the mountain called expectation do the suffering poor wait for the terrifying, Vehement Beautiful.

In the deserts of war do the greater men fill their mouths with the orders of bones.

Psalm #19 (Spring Stones)

Last night I had a brief exchange with a friend, a good woman who speaks timely words. We were discussing the status of public discourse, especially in concern to matters of faith. I said that I was growing weary of the endless battle royale, the endless war of words that has taken to the hallowed halls of the internetShe replied with a simple statement: this week I'm reminded that God (and the church) are bigger than the internet. Wiser, more nuanced words haven't been spoken to me in some time.

Last night I considered us, this grand swath of humanity. We are more than digital arguments, avatars, and coded bits and blips, no matter how much we might wish otherwise.

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Psalm #19 (Spring Stones)

I. In the turning over of spring's stones I see the unfurled woodlouse, unafraid, the lichen that lives best undisturbed, and the soil that is the medium of our genesis.

From dust I came and dust will be my home.

II. There was once a Great Awakening that started with clay and God, and it knew nothing of one thousand pixel bosoms, or men whom, in their pyromaniacal fits burned every expendable, sexable good down to its consumable, silicone dust.

We were created clay paupers, at once began collecting orgasmic baubles.

III. If there were a man who could be all to everyone, he would not be a man but a god. These are the days of the every-god, god the terrible, god the kind, god the electronic omnipresent, god the straight, god the gay, the ever opinionated, sometimes quiet unjust semi-sovereign.

These are the days when men turn over stones in spring and see only dirt, forgetting that the soil is our cousin.

Psalm #17 (For the Strivers in Their Striving)

Today's psalm is for the strivers who love their striving. (Click here for more of the psalm series.)

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Psalm #17 (For the Strivers in Their Striving)

In this tabernacle of great green floor unfurling, the bright blue above, sometimes black and star-flecked, we kneel, fingernails busy like tiny shovels searching for the ancient, eternal word of Life that was breathed first below the roots, and then into saplings, into the nests in sycamore boughs, into all.

Cease scratching and know; be known!

It is in the jutting limestone, in sandstone, dolomite, in the bill of Hawksbill Crag, in the point Whitakers Point.

Cease scratching and know; be known!

It was spoken into seeds, into ovum and ovum's lover, implanted so that it might be a perpetual echo of the All of all being.

Cease scratching and know; be known!

In the full faith of virgins, in the cavernous, hollow caves-- yes, Word is there. In the triumph, in the joy of death, it springs from the river whose streams make glad!

Cease scratching and know; be known!

There is Word under your nails, in the creases of all knuckles. In our hair down hill on borrowed bike, in foundry callouses and sulfur burns.

Cease with tiny shovels, with claws of scratching! 

In the cousins, most-- we, in the midwinter of our todays-- before the coming of the spring flocks, it finds Home most intimate, most present, most actual.

Thanks be to God!