Two Saturday's ago, I was sitting in a beautiful day retreat with John Blase. It was a day of reading poetry and writing poetry. For some strange reason, I've been drawn to poems. The brevity instead of prose makes me drawn to shorter expressions, brief insights into the world and into my soul. For the last 10 years, this window has been open to me and I've found myself very glad. This week, I got Mary Oliver's brand new book of poetry (A Thousand Mornings) and on this rainy and cold Saturday morning, I've sat here reading and being drawn into Oliver's insights and I'm the better for it.John Blase encouraged us to take 30 minutes and write a poem--or start one based on a word or phrase we found in a book he gave us to peruse. So, I took my book and went outside at our retreat and sat in a rocking chair basking in the morning Colorado Sun. Then it happened. I found on a page, a phrase which stopped me... it was simply this...."This Holy Place."In my work with so many church leaders, I often hear the laments of the broken church. Some hate it now. Some are leaving it. Some are sick and tired of it. I have my own struggles. And in that rocking chair, I was able to give words to my own thoughts about my church.I"ll share my new poem with you here. It somehow brought my feelings out into the open and gave me a way to express this holy place called church--at least my church that I am discovering. The high priest I refer to are the poets that have most inspired me, motivated me, transformed me and mentor me. This Holy Placeby Stephen W. Smith There are no stained glass windows here.Only the gold of the Aspens and the cathartic blue of heaven's skies.Yet, this is a holy space.And in my heart, I am bowing. The high priests swing their incense,And it is the words that sway me--that slay me.No candle burns here but my heart alone.and I feel ignited. I am burning--finally burning. The open book is my Eucharist.The wafer offered me by Oliver, Frost and Whyte.My cup is the poem of words that draw blood.Words that wound. Words that heal. This place--this moment is my churchand I belong. I am free. And I am at rest.The words--they do baptize my wondering heartto come home. To finally know this place as church.
Gwen and I have been focused for a year now on learning, practicing and growing about Sabbath. It's been one of the most life giving things we've EVER done to have this focus. I think I've counted 11 books that we've read on this subject and in the upcoming book, Soul Custody (released in August 2010), I give my own perspective on what it means to "Cease the Insanity by Practicing Sabbath Keeping." One of the ideas I've tried to incorporate on Sabbath this past year is to read and write poetry--a practice that Wendell Berry, famous Kentucky farmer and author has practiced for years. Though I'm also growing in my love and appreciation of poetry, here's a Sabbath poem I wrote a while back and discovered in a pile of papers beside my desk as I was looking for something else. Sit with this and don't grade me on my poetry writing--for I know I'm a beginning but allow the Lord to perhaps use this to stretch you a bit.The Sabbath Gate by Stephen W. SmithThe Sabbath gate is narrow.aNo room for burdens borne the other six.For six days there is the sorrowful weight of work and toil.Not on this day, though.The gate is here to remind us allTo cease, quit and stop.Were it not here we would never cease;And thus never truly live.Through this gate, we must lay all downand carry nothing, nothing, nothing.Then everything is waiting on us: Sabbath Blessing.Through the gate there is this, yes this, Sabbath Blessing.In Sabbath promise we lean forward in anticipationinto the grace of of the gate's promise.Eager we lay down all the cumbersom thingsOur drooping shoulders have carried thus far.Sabbath blessing for today the wind bringsAnd no care can pull me down.For all has been left at Sabbath's gatefor me to pick up tomorrow.Copyright 2010. Stephen W. Smith. All Rights Reserved.