Monday, October 16, 2006


Poetry is of the heart, soul language, a distillation of human feeling.  It is refined thought.   It is often prayer.   Poetry resonates with personal story.  We are moved by the opening line of Psalm 130 because it describes the essence of a human experience:  Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD.  This feeling, we know!
Most of the poetry which I have written for worship services is themed for a special occasion, often a holy day, a commemoration or covenant day.  At its best the work arises from heightened spiritual awareness or life changing experience.  The writing process is reflective of Wordsworth’s ‘emotion recollected in tranquility.’
One of the first such poems, The Passing of Janice Worthy, was written in a night-long storm of grief following the death of a young friend.  I was called to the hospital on my way to the beach.  Dressed in shorts, I felt inadequate to my priestly role.  In a gesture which seems absurd now, I raced home to change into uniform!!  Janice, thoughtful as ever, waited.  What followed was a compassionate release in which she taught me about forgiveness, love and dying well.  I learned about pride and helplessness in the face of ultimate reality and that my deficiencies were irrelevant.  
Read at Janice’s funeral, the poem was later set to music by my brother (Major Len Ballantine) and sung in concert.  Surprisingly, a Christian teacher used it for years in his poetry curriculum.  In part, the poem reads:

From the other side
she saw us as we were,
     our shallowness,
            our foolish fears,
                   our pride.
As in life
it made no difference.
Still she gave us love,
forgetting the limits of our own.
simply, she taught us much.
A poem from the other end of human experience was written for the dedication of a grandchild.  It springs from a lifetime of watching parents struggle to do their best in a world which compromises their efforts.  This poem is about the discipline of relinquishment and trust in the benevolence of God.  It speaks of our inability to control outcomes.  We surrender our children because we never owned them in the first place.  Their destiny is to become individuals, personally accountable before the One who loves them supremely.  The poem ends:

But when we give our little children to God
we pray that the Divine,
implanted deep,
will draw them back.
Love Alone
despite the dusty years
recalls the golden limbed child,
his zeal of heart,
her innate godliness.
Wholeness returns
when we give our children up to God.

     For me, poetry provides a bridge into the mystery of the work of Holy Spirit.  It issues from the dialogue of prayer and a life journey with Jesus.  It is healing.  Offered in worship, poetry connects us to each other and to Abba, the parent of our hope.



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Anonymous said...

beautiful connie. i am tracking with your idea that it is truly soul language because there are times when it makes NO sense to me at all - and those are the times my soul is hiding or i'm not in tune with it.

sometimes it is another language all together and i can't grasp it, and then othertimes it is a doorway into a world i needed exactly at the right time. great thoughts!