River Poetry

The Merry Mystic Goes to Xanadu

Today I’m thinking of an old poem: “Kubla Khan; or, A Vision in a Dream: A Fragment,” written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1797. I’m also thinking of an even older poem: the Book of Revelation.

(Perhaps I should apologize to those whom the title of this post fooled into expecting a clip from “Xanadu,” the 1980 roller-disco movie featuring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly. But I’ll try to do something with that movie next week!)

Wind on the Hill

Pentecost with The Merry Mystic and A. A. Milne

Hello, friends! I’m releasing this edition of The Merry Mystic a little early, so you can have it for Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost is a celebration of the Holy Spirit: a noise like a rushing wind, and tongues of fire, and speaking in tongues, and all that. And whenever I think of the Holy Spirit, I think of this beautiful little poem by A. A. Milne.

Mothers Day Psalm

Tribute to a Merry and Mystical Mama

Hello, friends. Here’s a Mothers Day special, in honor of my own wonderful mother.

Here’s the text of that version of Psalm 23.

The Lady Is My Mother

The Lady is my mother;
   I shall not want.
She tucks me in between clean sheets;
   She reads me a story.
She cleans the cut and binds on the Band-Aid;
   She combs down my hair for our name's sake.
Even though I tremble and cry out in darkness, I will waken with relief,
   For you are with me; your hand and your voice, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me with macaroni and cheese
      in the presence of my siblings;
   You set fresh milk on the table, and only gently scold me when
      My cup runneth over.
Surely love and generosity shall sustain me all the days of my life,
   And I will dwell in the house of the Lady for ever.

Already and Always Enough

A Prayer of Confession from The Merry Mystic

Forgive me, Father, for I have multitasked…

P.S. — Here’s the text of that poem.

Already and Always Enough

The hardest commandment you ever gave me, 
	dear Spirit-Friend, was this:
		to enjoy being alive, and
		to speak for the joy of being alive.
And I need your help now, because
	I’m screwing it up.
Yes, still.

I am guilty of impossible yes-ing:
	yes to one project on top of another,
	yes to writing, composing, and singing, 
	yes speaking, preaching, recording, and posting,
	yes to everyone who calls, emails, or walks into my office,
	yes, yes, yes.

I am guilty of egregious multitasking.
This past week, I worked on writing while 
	not enjoying a movie at home with my family.
I worked on a speech while
	not enjoying a hot shower.
I worried about my church while
	not enjoying lying in my warm bed.

In short, I was a fraud.
I posed as a speaker for the joy of being alive while
	not enjoying being alive.

And I was ungrateful, another great sin.
I was like a child 
	who counts up his birthday presents and then
	complains that there are not enough of them.
I wished for more hours in every day, and
	more productivity, and
	more money.
I said, in the silence of my heart,
	I need more power.

And, forgive me, but that was a prayer.
It was to you that I spoke, dear Spirit-Friend, when I said it.
To you I said, Help me, and I need more,
	but what I really meant was:
You’re not helping me enough.
What you’ve given me is not enough.
What I am is not enough.

So please, may I ask for your help again?
This time, I’ll stipulate that when I say,
	Help me,
What I really mean is,
	Help me to see how your help 
	is already and always enough.

O Spirit-Friend, please help me:
	to enjoy your abundance, 
	and to enjoy being abundant,
	and to know how it is enough, and I am enough,
		already and always.

Amen.

Rime of the Ancient Magi

The Merry Mystic Speaks for the Joy of Being Alive

I was about thirteen years old when I had this little epiphany: I realized that I needed to speak for the joy of being alive. Forty years later, I haven’t made all that much progress! The problem is, I can tell the truth, or I can make sense, but not both at once.

Sermons just don’t seem to work for this.  (Actually, I think the sermon is a highly overrated form of communication!) And rational language in general can be pretty inadequate for the task; “I too am untranslatable,” as Whitman said in Leaves of Grass. Whitman said this as well (this is from With Walt Whitman in Camden, Horace Traubel et. al., p. 56):

After culture has said its last say we find that the best things yet remain to be said: that the heart is still listening to have heart things said to it—the brain still listening to have brain things said to it—the faith, the spirit, the soul of man waiting to have such things of faith, spirit, the soul, said to it. Books won’t say what we must have said: try all that books may they can’t say it.

I dare say I’m not the first to experience the compulsion to say what can’t be said.  Here’s a poem about it.  (Poetry helps—a little!)

The Eucharistic Twinkie

Snack-Cake Spirituality from The Merry Mystic

There’s no way to sugar-coat it: in this video, I read a poem and take a bite out of a Twinkie.  (You might notice a bit of a bow to Julian of Norwich at the end of the poem: hazelnut to her, Twinkie to me.)

I think this was the first Twinkie I’ve tasted since I had a deep-fried specimen at the Bureau County Fair in Illinois, years ago.   But what do you think: can a Twinkie be full of the Spirit of God?  Is there even room in there, amid the sodium stearoyl lactylate and xanthan gum?

On Not Having Heard from God Recently

Waiting for Instructions with The Merry Mystic

Have you ever asked God to tell you what to do?  I have …

Leave a comment and tell us a story: have you ever received clear instructions from God?  Did you ask for them?

P.S. — Here’s the text of that poem.

On Not Having Heard From God Recently

I think that if I were King,
I'd want a captain who doesn't keep asking,
	What should I do now?
I'd want an agent who knows what I want,
	and does it,
	and rarely asks for advice or permission.
I'd want an independent servant,
	someone I have to seek out
	to comfort from time to time.

I'd find her in the field, at night,
	in the chapel there alone, with her weapons beside her.
I'd sit down next to her,
	pray with her.

After a while, just as dawn began to lighten the sky, I'd say:
	Hello, Captain.
	It's me.
I just want you to know, I'm grateful for all you do.
Anything I can do for you?
Anything you need?

And my captain would smile,
	maybe for the first time in days,
	and she'd say:
No thanks, Boss.
I've got it covered.

Prayer for Children Going to School

The Merry Mystic Slips a Note into your Backpack

Today I have a poem to share with you. Check out the video below.

What about your experience of school? Scroll down and share a thought below.

Here’s the text of that poem again.

Prayer for Children Going to School

I saw them waiting in line,
	four children,
	early in the morning,
	backpacks ready and full.
I saw the yellow bus take them away.
And I rode with them in thought to the place they were going:
	the double doors to darkness and to doubt,
	the waiting in lines,
	the permission slips, the hall monitors,
	the subjects to learn and be tested on.
And, of course, the bells.
Regular, like in a monastery, yet so unlike,
	and faster, so much faster,
signifying, over and over:
	stop what you're doing.
	Your time, your will, your body, your soul, count for nothing.
	Can't you see the next machine is waiting for you?
Their sighs rise up regularly
	 with every ringing of the bell.

And I know,
they police themselves ruthlessly, 
	hating any part that exposes them to ridicule.
And these parts, too, rise up regularly,
	a constant stream of despised selves,
	unwhite selves, stuttering selves,
	fat, skinny, ugly selves,
	picked-last-for-kickball selves,
	boyish selves, sissy selves,
	mockable, different, hateful selves,
	all, all, are cast off and rise up to heaven.

I do not believe, O Lord, that you made children
	for this purpose,
	to serve as burnt offerings like this.
You could speak to them;
	please could you speak to them?
You could tell them:
	I am the Lord your God.
	I love these despised selves.
You cast them off, but they rose up to heaven,
	and now I want you to have them back,
	as good as new.

Here's an idea, Lord:
	maybe you could slip them into the backpacks.
Maybe when the bus comes back,
	and the kids come home,
maybe they could open up their bags and find,
	among the books and pens and pencils,
their lost hours,
	and their spent sighs,
	and their beloved selves.
Maybe you could pin a note to them—you know.

And, dear Lord,
	if you find anything else up there,
	anything that rose up forty-odd years ago,
	anything that belongs to me,
	could I have it back please?
I promise to take better care of it this time.

Earth Hymns

I’m working on two new hymns about the earth: one happy (“The Harmony of the Incredible Earth”) and one sorrowful (“Compassion’s Sting”). That’s sort of how I’m feeling these days. Sometimes the earth is so overwhelmingly beautiful that I just have to join in its song; sometimes the harm we’re doing, the harm I’m doing, to the earth is so sad that I just have to lament. Here’s a draft stanza of the first:

Oh, blessed is Earth, the prolific and sweet,
Providing us plenty of good things to eat,
With life on the surface and treasures below,
What greater abundance could any bestow?
Her fisheries, forests, and fields of grain,
Her breathable breezes, her drinkable rain,
The harmony of the incredible earth!
The harmony of, the harmony of, the harmony of the incredible earth!

And here’s a draft stanza of the second:

When species vanish from the Earth,
And ancient coral dies,
When land erodes and life is stilled
And burning forest cries,
When silence falls where once the calls
Of songbirds filled the air,
You weep, O God, with every death
And final breath,
And yet we do not care.

I don’t think Keystone XL is a good idea — maybe that’s why this is on my heart today.