Snow beats a soft staccato On grass and concrete Stars pulse in the winter sky Diamond beads on black velvet I drag the blanket up to my chin and Listen to the lullaby Breathing slows and deepens I sleep and dream of spring
that day the wolf and the lamb will live together;the leopard will lie down
with the baby goat.The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion,and a little child will lead them all.” Isaiah 11:6
I suppose I have always thought of the
wolf lying down with the lamb not in a literal sense. I have tended to see in
as the church family with all its personalities, getting on together, showing
unity and working hard to submit the tendency to dominate or terrorise others, to
God. I have known too may wolves in the church family and too many lambs. Sad
to say, I might have given up any utopian vision of a world living in peace and
There must have been a time before the
Fall, before the serpent, Eve and the fruit eating event when the hunter and
hunted didn’t exist. There was a time when there was no eat or be eaten
mind-set in animals or in people. Venus fly traps didn’t trap flies once upon a
time. Spiders wove webs to show off their creativity, not to catch insects.
I’ve also thought about seeing it as all
the complex bits of a single person living in peace and harmony with
themselves. I love the word “integrity”. A dictionary defines it as “the state
of being whole and undivided.” When all the bits of me fit together properly, and
there are not broken bits or drifting bits, just a single whole – that’s what I
would like to be. It’s a challenge for any single individual or a community or
a nation – to be whole and unified, not broken into bits.
Malcom Guite’s advent anthology “Waiting
on the Word” contains a poem by David Greive - “Advent Good Wishes”. The poet
speaks to the wolf and the lamb. The wolf is told not to stop roaring but to
roar about thing that matter like justice for the poor. The lamb is told not to
fear because the Messiah is on their side.
Part of our problem, as individuals or communities,
lies in not saying anything to the wolf or the lamb at all. We don’t tell the wolf to
change its roar direction. We don’t tell the lamb that there’s someone on its
side. We don’t speak at all and our silence gives approval to whatever
injustices are there. The wolf keeps eating the lamb and the lambs keep living
in fear and no one tells them there’s a different way to live. We accept as
normal the things that were never meant to be so.
What is the wolf in me that I am not telling
it to turn its roar into a cry for justice for the poor? I want things my way.
I want my advantages. Sometimes I roar at the wrong people to get what I want.
What is the lamb in me that I’m not
reminding it about God’s converting grace and the Messiah that saves me from
jeopardy? I allow myself to be terrorised by the people with all the power. I
flinch when I should be facing up to people and situations that make me cower.
I was looking out of the window not so long ago. The day
had been bright and sunny. The afternoon had clouded over.Evening had darkened. The half-glass-empty
bit of me wondered if in one day I had glimpsed what my year might look like. A
beginning followed by a clouding over and ending in darkness. I’m not up for
It is time to start talking to the wolves and the lambs
and the leopards and the goats. I’m not that clear yet on what we ought to be
telling them but silence won’t do.
To the wolf in me I say roar at injustice And not at the lamb
To the lamb in me I say God is on your side And roar with the wolf
I have been secret Santa-ed. It causes some concern as I
never put my name down on the secret Santa list. It wasn’t anything anti-Santa,
although I have deep seated Santa issues. The whole list was constructed on a
google form. I never found my way on to it. My username and password didn’t
grant me access to the list, and yes, I could have emailed or phoned and days
went by and I did nothing. I felt stupid that I couldn’t get on to the google
list. Yes, pride was involved. I skipped the part of the lunch where the maths
teacher dressed up as Santa and invited the rest of them to sit on his lap. My
present remained alone and unclaimed in the bottom of the box. I feel unsettled
that someone out there should have had an answering secret Santa present and
they don’t. There are other Mrs Kerr’s on the staff but it’s not a case of
mistaken identity as the label clearly states Melanie.
Yesterdays’ newspaper, read over a bowl of porridge,
contained two articles about Santa Claus.
The first was a very tongue-in-cheek thing. Apparently
Santa Claus is not in good health and some of it is our fault and some of it is
his. We are responsible for the weight problem by leaving out mince pies for
Santa to eat as he stuffs our presents under the tree. He would, apparently, be
better off eating Rudolph’s carrots and giving the mince pies to the reindeer.
His part of the health problems comes with the stress of
delivering presents to everyone all over the world in one night. Maybe we could
help by asking for fewer presents, or none at all.
The reindeer came in for some of the blame. Who was to
know how many ticks and fleas they carried, some of which could skip from hide
to beard and cause distress. Of course, if he didn’t have the reindeer at all,
Santa could do a lot more running from house to house and climbing on to roofs
to get to chimneys. He would be that more fitter, that more streamlined.
All of this was said by a dose of doctors who ought not
to have that much time on their hands for such frivolity.
The second article was written by an atheist who felt the
need to justify celebrating Christmas without the Jesus content of it. She
talked of church attendance when she was young and going through all the
rituals of growing up, but always feeling that it was done for her parents
rather than herself. She felt that everything about Jesus didn’t make sense.
Christmas for her was all about family and present giving, for trees and tinsel
and something good to break up the winter darkness.
She ended her article with the sentiment that it would be
nice to go outside and look up. I thought she was going to say something about
looking out for a really bright star – that somewhere still deep inside was a
longing for the Jesus part of Christmas to be true. Not at all – she would be
looking for a glimpse of Santa’s sleigh.
Something in me mourned the apparent loss of Jesus in the
Christmas celebrations. What Satan couldn’t do by sending Herod into Bethlehem
to slaughter the babies, he has found a neater way by replacing Jesus with Santa
– so much more appealing. Santa with his nice and naughty list doesn’t make a
permanent change in anyone’s life.
I confess that I have never been a fan of Santa. I see
beyond the “Ho! Ho! Ho!” to a very unfair gift giver! It still rankles that
good behaviour really doesn’t have a say in what goodies he leaves. It is all
about how what parents can afford. I grew up in a one parent household with six
children. She wasn’t irresponsible to have such a large clutch – just a good
Roman Catholic and with a husband that would have looked after us all well had
he not died young. It really didn’t matter how good I behaved, I was never
going to get a bike. Other children grew up with both parents and the 2.4
average children. Bikes were no problem.
So, yes, Santa and I have never been on good terms. Had
my family been born a little later into the pay-day loan era, who knows what
kind of debt my mum might have got into to provide the bike simply to keep up
with the neighbours. My Santa grudge goes deep! He is not harmless fun, not in
“Santa will never topple Jesus from His throne,” said God
as we sat reading poetry together over a cup of tea. “People might look at the
tinsel and the trees and feel they have something to celebrate but all too soon
the Easter eggs will be out in the shops. Christmas will be done and dusted and
everything put away. Jesus – you can’t put Him away and move on. He insists
that He walk with you through every day of the coming year.”
There are some poems where the imagery is beyond me. Last
night a friend of mine was sharing with us his morning of creative writing in a
workshop. They read through “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" by
Wallace Stevens. He dug out his copy from a bag of stuff
and handed it over to someone to read aloud.
XII reads “The river is moving. The blackbird must be
flying.” It feels like something that might come out of a fortune cookie. That
said, the last fortune cookie I read was “You have to be in it to win it”. I
would rather have had Wallace’s two lines. It has that mystic mantra feel about
My friend also told us they had been issued with homework
of a kind – to write a poem about fences or borders. I thought I would combine
the “Thirteen ways of looking at…” with the fence. The images are obvious there’s
nothing to analyse really.I just
thought about fences and 13 ways I look at them.
I have just
finished with the Poetic Asides November Poem A Day Chapbook Challenge.I am one poem short of the thirty required. As
ever I am amazed when I read back through the collection how much they reveal
about my hidden world. Sometimes I’m not sure I like what I see.
This poem –
Spandex Love – was something not hidden but hard to admit to. Life has not been
its easiest over the last month or so.I’m
aware that my troubles are not big ones in comparison to what other people
There’s that bit
in the marriage vows where each person says “for better, for worse” and “in
sickness and in health”. There’s no small print at the bottom with all the exceptions
listed.There is not a “get out of jail free”
card that comes with the marriage vows. I wonder if we consciously take on
board exactly what we’re saying and think “the worse won’t happen to me” or “sickness
will not come near us”. On our marriage day we are at our most optimistic.
Having said that though, the wonderful man who married Joe and myself spoke in
his address to us about seeing death on the road and how, as a couple, we were
as close to divorce has we had ever been. He talked about the dying as being
something daily – always dying to self to allow our marriage to live and flourish.
There are troubles which fly up, that can’t be avoided no matter how strong out
faith is, and have to be dealt with.
How do those who
face the worse or have to meet sickness head on do so with love? When loving
someone becomes hard what happens next? Is it still love if there are gritted
It has been a
month of watching my husband struggle with health issues. Yes, I know, a month
is nothing. You’ve been doing it for years. Too often irritation and sharp
words have peppered my landscape. There is, or perhaps more accurately was, a
knot of anxiety. The “what ifs” piled up like traffic on a motorway when there
are road works. And then there was the guilt that inevitably plagued me. I
shouldn’t feel as if I’m not sure still love him. What? After only a month of “worse”?
And when much “worse” is down the road somewhere.
I sat with God,
as I have a habit of doing, or perhaps it was Him sitting with me, as He has a
habit of doing when I’m too unhappy to seek Him out. Too often I expect a slap
for my failures and a sharp rebuke.Most
of often I get a God-cuddle and a gentle word of encouragement. He tells me a
truth that I withhold from myself – that He loves me. He lifts the heavy yoke I
have put upon myself and sets His yoke on my shoulders with His assurance that
I never carry it alone. We sweep away the dust that has settled, the dirt that
has become engrained in my spirit and share a new picture of how things will
I came to it with almost a spirit of apathy clinging to
me. There was no eagerness to be in God’s presence, but a kind of gritted-teeth
crawl with some part of me knowing that things get restored in the presence of
God. I was stirred to reword the prophecy and as I did so, I felt myself speaking these words over myself.
·There will be an opening of what you sealed,
what you buried.Of all you called dead
and allowed to crumble there will be a new beginning.
·There will be a rising up, a resurrecting, if
you will, a shrugging off and a leaving behind of the death shroud.
·There will be a taking by the hand, a leading
back to His land of promise to the soil that God has given you, a resettling
and a planting in that place where you best thrive and flourish.
·There will be a giving and an imparting of My
Holy Spirit to you, bringing a fragrance of life that spills over, a breathing
in and a breathing out of His life inside.
·There will be a knowing that God has spoken and
an understanding there is no part of life where God doesn’t act or move.
There is a sense in which this is past history – God has done
these things already. There is also an awareness that every day is new and old
manna will not do for a new day.