Can I share a poem with you? I have no idea if this poem is good, as far as poems go. But when I first wrote it, I thought it must be special because of the way that it dropped out of the sky.
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This is one of the first poems that happened to me.
Every once in a while, something sort of like poetry drops into my lap, like a gift from somewhere beyond my imagination or understanding.
This poem happened on a winter morning when insomnia drove me to my couch, and I sat staring at the dark sky. I watched the way the world changes in the early morning just before the sun rises. The morning star was bright and low and beautiful. I spent a good while just paying attention. This poem started forming–words describing what my eyes were witnessing.
Suddenly, while I was staring at the star (or the planet Venus if we want to be accurate) this phrase arrived:
“I held a staring contest with the morning star.
And it was gone.”
The words came. I blinked. When my eyes opened, I couldn’t see the star. This all happened in a moment. But the words came first. Then they happened. It was weird. And unforgettable.
I had not yet read Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water or Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. I had not listened to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Ted Talk on Creativity. Gilbert’s Big Magic hadn’t hit the shelves. I did not know that this is sometimes the way of inspiration. I did not understand that we get to be vessels of something that moves through us and our pens if we are willing and paying attention.
At first, I thought that there must be something special about my poem (or maybe even about me). Now, I’m not so sure that the words hold any special significance. And I’m about as ordinary as people come. (Except for my above-average height and test-taking abilities, which are both pretty irrelevant when you’re nearing 40.)
The poem is special-but probably only to me. This poem was my invitation. An invitation to listen. To participate. To dance and play with something much bigger than myself. I firmly believe that this invitation is extended to everybody.
Does this excite you like it excites me?
Before poetry happened to me, I was in an “I have to see it to believe it” phase. I was a skeptic. If someone mentioned hearing from God personally, I would have narrowed my eyes suspiciously. Somewhere, I sadly learned to be suspicious of that beautiful motto: “God is still speaking.” I, for one, had no idea how to listen. But this changed and is changing.
Poetry and prayer are connected for me these days. Both poetry and prayer are happening. Both poetry and prayer invite us to listen. Invite us to participate with the One who creates and sustains and flows through and beyond time. I want to be open to that One.
Learning to listen opened my heart to the improbable beauty of participation and connection. We get to be a part of something beautiful and timeless and deep and true. What do you hear when you listen?
Not all who listen will hear poetry. Maybe you will hear in images. Maybe you will hear music. Maybe you will hear laughter. Or just plain wonder–a lovely oxymoron. Maybe it will take a while to hear anything deep down. We are so used to listening to just about everything else.
We are invited to listen.
We are invited to participate–to move in this world as souls who belong here. What does that mean for you?
Jesus said that God’s kingdom is within you. This kingdom is in us–connecting us to one another and to God. We get to participate.
I want to participate fully in the life that God is calling me to, whatever that means. Whatever that requires. For now, it begins with listening: keeping my ears, eyes, heart, and hands wide open. Listening for the ways that I can take my part today.
“True listening is worship. When you listen with your soul, you come into the rhythm and unity with the music of the universe.” John O’Donohue, Anam Cara