Friday, March 5, 2021

A Poetic Walk through the Scriptures

At the beginning of the year, I committed to the spiritual discipline of waiting in silence each morning until a poem came to me, asking to be written. (This is not some weird automatic writing, rather openness to the Spirit to capture the idea, with a willingness to later do the hard work of crafting.) Some of these poems are in the form of personal prayers and they will stay safely hidden in my journal. Others are worthy of bringing out into the air.

I am coupling this with a practice of reading the Scriptures, focusing on one book at a time, alternating between the Old and New Testaments. I sit with the book for as long as it takes to begin to understand on a deeper level what God is saying through this portion. Much of my poetry of late comes from meditation on these Scriptures. Some of the poems are interpretative. Others are reflections from my experience, bouncing off a phrase. Some are simply wondering and questions.

I just spent a couple of weeks in Joshua, always a challenging book for Quakers. (I’m now beginning the book of Romans. Gulp.) Here are just a few of the Joshua poems.

Joshua 2:1

I remember an adolescent Bible study
when my turn came and the portion
I was to read included
the town of Shittim. I stopped short
of the word. I couldn't read it out loud.
The other kids giggled. The leader,
a no-nonsense grown-up, made me
continue and I somehow mumbled
my way forward. Later I learned
that Shittim meant acacia, that the city
was probably near an acacia grove.
A tall acacia tree stood in the front
yard of the house where we lived
and I used to climb it. My secret place
was hidden in the upper branches.
I loved that tree, that acacia tree,
without even knowing its name.

No Survivors
Joshua 10:40 

In terrible obedience
Joshua subdued the land
      hill country
      the Negev
      western foothills
      mountain slopes,
together with their kings.
The target, by holy command—
any being that breathed.
No beast, no baby escaped
the brutal blitz.
A challenge, yes, but
not too hard for a band
of soldiers seasoned to kill,
not nearly as hard
as God’s latter command
to warriors of a new regime—
love your enemies.

This time, Lord,
you go too far.  

Old Testament War Revisited

As a sophomore
our daughter made the coveted
cheerleading squad.
Some of the chants underscored
the brutality of high school sports.
One afternoon, I watched
as the girls waved their pom-poms,
danced, leaped, and led
the crowd in
      Kill kill
      Hate hate
      Murder murder
      Go, Team!
I was glad when the school
year ended.

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