Thursday, January 28, 2021

Creative Obedience


Late last December, I was listening to a devotional app (Lectio 365), and the speaker for the day encouraged me to spend time listening to God for a phrase to carry with me into the new year. He also suggested I find an accompanying Scripture verse and choose a new spiritual discipline. Sometimes exercises like this are helpful. Sometimes they’re not. But I felt moved to try it.

The verse that immediately came to mind was an old favorite from the Psalms: “My heart is stirred by a noble theme. I recite my poems for the king. My tongue is the pen of a skillful writer” (Psalm 45:1). The phrase that presented itself was “Creative Obedience.” That got me excited.

The new discipline to practice came from an unusual source: the poet William Stafford. It has special significance for me because of my personal contact with Stafford. In the early 90s, just a year before Stafford’s death, he invited Hal and me to his home (a story in itself). We spent a whole morning with him, reading our poems to each other and talking about life and art. I asked him to tell us about his own creative disciplines. William Stafford told us he got up every morning at 4:00, made coffee (that part is important!), then sat in silence until a poem came to him. It must be true; he was prolific!

I’ve been mulling that over ever since, wondering if I could possibly do something like that.

Well, I’m going to find out. I took it on as my new discipline for the year (except for the 4:00 a.m. part but including the coffee).

I hesitated to blog this because it kinda makes me accountable. I might just end up embarrassed. But then again, maybe no one will notice. Maybe it only matters to me and (maybe) to God.

At any rate, so far so good for the month of January. I’m having fun. I actually like some of the poems. Others will stay safely in my journal. No pressure. Creative obedience.

Here’s one of my daily offerings, written after reflecting on my reading from the book of Exodus.


Magic and Miracles


Moses’ staff

like Gandalff’s

looked common enough

but the power that flowed

through it

hissed with venom

summoned blood from the river

heaped waves into walls

brought water from a rock

and defeated an army.


God also asks me

What do you have in your hand?

No shepherd

all I have is this pen.

It has yet to turn into a snake

or fill the bathtub with blood.

Where are the miracles?

Maybe this year?