Monday, March 24, 2014

Rest

Steal not from me my cherished place of rest
This secret space beside the Master’s feet
His words are honey, lavish, rich and sweet
I catch them as they fall and I am blessed
Call not to me you small and trifling things
My soul is pressed upon another call
As at His feet all blow and bluster fall
I hold instead the stillness that He brings

Come sit with Him and leave all haste behind
There’s rest from noisy clamour here to find
Let veils and artifice be stripped away
God’s image be restored and on display
His light and easy yoke is mine to bear
The message of the Kingdom now to share

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Recent Reviews of "Wider Than..."


There are a couple of more recent reviews of my poetry book posted on Amazon.

Refreshing  (March 22, 2014)
By Dee 

“Wider Than The Corners Of This World” is a wonderful collection of poems written from the heart. The author, Melanie Kerr, shares her understanding and belief of a loving Savior.

Kerr's poetry, though simple, is drawn from Bible verses and tells familiar stories in a refreshing way while delivering a powerful message showing how Jesus Christ touched and continues to touch various lives.

This book makes you reflect on the love of the Father through His Son and the joy of sharing in this great love. Anyone who enjoys good poetry will love it.


Beholden ( January 22, 2014)
By tranz4md 

Melanie Kerr's “Wider Than The Corners Of This World” is a beautiful collection of poems from a heart I sensed is beholden. The love for her Savior, the need for His touch, and the overwhelming gratitude for His presence is evidenced throughout her poetry.

I decided to write down a couple of titles that I enjoyed the most and to expound mostly on those in this review, but as I continued reading the list grew longer and longer.

She shows the reader many different lives that were touched by Jesus of Nazareth while also showing how we have been touched or can be touched by the same One.

I too am beholden to the King! If you love poetry with a strong and powerful message than you'll love “Wider Than The Corners Of This World”!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Moniack Mhor


Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre was the venue of the second day of the weekend writing course. 

It might have been just fifteen miles away from Inverness, but a look at the milometer in the car shows I travelled a lot further than that!  The AA route I printed off did not stand up to the challenge.  The promised thirty minutes turned into an hour and a half.  The final left turn, right turn and left turn took me deep into the hills but not to my destination.  Had I been following me in an unmarked police car, for whatever reason, I would have been suspicious of my intentions.  There are a lot of big houses up in them there hills.  I could have been casing the joints. 

I was actually on the right road at one point.  Had I just kept going I would have reached Moniack Mhor.  Instead, convinced I was on the wrong road, I turned around and headed back down the hill.

A local hotel had vaguely heard of the place but no one knew where it was.  The postcode given apparently covered a very large area – not a mere single street.  The man behind the desk kindly lent me his phone and I called the centre for help.

I had thought of abandoning the course.  I had enjoyed the previous day and perhaps anything else might have been an anti-climax.

Arriving an hour late I missed the first writing exercise – a filling in the blanks affair with creative responses.  They had just moved on to look at nature poems from famous poets.  I scored brownie points by noticing an unusual rhyming scheme that might otherwise have gone unnoticed – AABA – BBCB – CCDC- DDED- and so on.

There was an interesting youtube clip of a man reading a poem with something claiming to be music in the background.  It was sound and there was rhythm and there were different notes – but it lacked any kind of tunefulness or harmony.  It did little to add to the poem.  One woman sitting at the end of the table snorted not just at the music but at the poem itself.  It required a lot of work from the reader to make sense of it.  It involved an abandoned township and a lot of trees and some girls – but I think the girls weren’t real and the trees were some kind of metaphor – or not.  

We were then left to our own devices for an hour or so to write from our forest day ramble.

There were individual tutorials available with the course leader.  I had made up my mind that I wasn’t going to go.  I am not so bold as to suppose that I know everything about poetry writing or that now I have a poetry book out there I don’t need expert help.  It was just that I had come to the weekend from a very bad end of week.  I was barely holding things together although the forest walks had done much to restore me.  Poetry is the one thing that, right now, I do well.  I didn’t want anyone bursting that bubble.  I know that friends and family like the poetry I write and they say it’s good, but there is always that question hovering in the background about whether it really is good.  An expert in the field might think it’s not so good.

Well, despite my intentions, my curiosity got the better of me.  I wanted to know what the expert might say.  I had written three poems and handed them over for comment.  The first two passed muster – a line deleted from the first was all he suggested.  He talked about redundant words and I had a whole redundant line! 

The third poem was dissected.  The stresses on certain words were on the wrong syllable.  I had gone out of my way to avoid clichés – but he said my alternative to a cliché was worse than the cliché itself.  The last line had too many syllables but he couldn’t see how I could maintain the powerful thought by using a different line.  I had “set myself a mountain to climb” and he looked forward to seeing the re-worked poem.  He also suggested something longer than the four lines.

It was a really painless tutorial.  He didn’t talk down to me.  It went really well and I was glad that I went.

The final summing up was for us all to read the pieces of work.  There was the option to stay quiet.  I had spent most of the writing time doing another poem, focussing on the forest walk and including trees and moss and stuff.  I had poured over a thesaurus but ached for a rhyming dictionary instead.  I just did my best.  In this day and age of free verse, I sometimes think that rhyming poetry can be snorted at.  I thought about not sharing it because the rhymes were too obvious and simple.  I wasn’t prepared for the reaction.  They loved it.  Names of other poets were thrown about the room and my poem, apparently, held its own with them all.  How encouraging is that?

I don’t write this to blow a trumpet and say that I am a great poet – but to say that the whole weekend did so much to restore what had been damaged earlier on in the week.  God had known, long before the weekend was organised and I had signed up, that I needed to be there.  Thursday and Friday were very hard days for me.  The rubber hit the road – and the road, a metaphorical one, was sprinkled with nails – and the rubber shredded.  Grim days they were and only two of them, thankfully.  I knew that I would recover, but felt disinclined to assess the damage and think about repairs.

Everything got fixed over the weekend – the forest walk on the Saturday and the focussed writing and the tutorial on the Sunday.  I have come away with a deep down confidence about my writing and a renewed confidence in myself.



Sunday, March 16, 2014

AFT

I have had a really wonderful weekend.  It was a birthday treat from my husband – two days of plenty of stimulation, opportunities to write and constructive feedback from experts.

Day One was spent with the ladies at the Abriachan Forest Trust.  While I might have textbooks and dictionaries on the bookshelves at work, they have a stuffed badger, a variety of empty wasp nests, skulls and antlers on theirs. Where I have four walls, a selection of windows and a door they have 534 hectares of forest.

After a short writing exercise to warm up the creative juices, we were taken on a very slow walk through a kissing gate and along a forest path.  We went just a few hundred yards but it took a hour and a half.  Commentary ranged from naming trees to identifying the particular variety of lichen on the branches.  Every aspect of managing the forest was explained, not through looking at pictures in a book, but by wading through bracken and touching things.  Even the poo from a pine martin was unravelled with a twig,

It was more than fascinating.  I envied them their knowledge of nature and their interaction with it.  I felt almost ashamed that I knew so little.  I spent my childhood in a rural village, but spent far too much time re-enacting scenes from “Captain Scarlett” and not enough learning about the flora and fauna around me.

The first poem sprang from a phrase that echoed in my head. “It’s like learning a foreign language.” 

The Forest

I confuse wild cherries with willows
And mix up bark and bud
As I learn the language
Of a forest
I stumble over the nuances
Of celandine and buttercups
The young oak
Refuses to surrender
Its brown leaves
But the words I have learnt
Slip away on the breeze

Despite an introduction to different trees the knowledge was not transferable.  Just because I was told “this tree is a birch”, I didn’t seem to be able to recognise the other birch trees in the forest.

The conversation moved on to badgers.  A nearby slope was home to a badger set or two.  We had to take their word for it as we didn’t see any.

The conversation moved on to bikers.  Mountain bikers have made their own trails down the hill.  The women recognised that the forest is not theirs.  They have to share it with other groups of people.  They didn’t mind the bikers hurtling down the hill, but talked to them of places to avoid.  Bluebells barely above ground had been mown down and newly planted saplings had been knocked over.  They could have waggled a finger and spoken harshly but chose to talk to the bikers and offer advice about minimising the damage.

I hadn’t realised the conversation had moved on from the badgers.  Apparently the bikers can hurtle from the top of the hill to the bottom in four minutes.  Badgers? Thought I. Moving that quickly? I wasn’t the only one to miss the change in the conversation. The picture in my head demanded a poem.

The Badger Run

At midnight the badgers
dash down the hill
Leaping the boulders,
through bracken they spill
From top to the bottom,
In four minutes flat
I stand in awe of
Achievements like that

I missed having my husband walking beside me.  The idea of writing anything and sharing it with others brings him out in a cold sweat.  He would have liked the walk.  He would have liked the kissing gate.  Everyone would have been lined up and told to kiss the person coming through the gate.  He would have demonstrated with me.

Curious them that the gate prompted such a sad poem.   I tried to force the poem to be positive and uplifting but it wouldn’t cooperate.  I was at pains later to tell people that it was not about me and my husband.  We haven’t stopped kissing – at gates or in other places. Showing the poem to Joe when I came home, I was at pains to insist it wasn’t biographical.

No More Kissing

We have stopped kissing - you and I
Our life together - left to die
Trails we followed now overgrown
I hew through bramble knots alone

I really enjoyed the first day of the weekend.  The weather wasn’t great.  A little bit on the windy side. It was only as I was leaving the car park at the Forest Trust that I read the notice NOT to park in the car park.  High winds were felling tall thin trees and nowhere was really safe.  All that was missing was the giant and the giant’s bowling ball as far as the landscape went.  They were planning to take down some of the trees, but the wind got there first and didn’t consult them on the ones that needed to come down.

I shall never look at a forest path and ignore the trees around me.  In fact I shall buy a book of trees so I know what to look for in buds and bark and leaf shapes.

The variety of things and how they all live together in one space is so fascinating.  I see God’s finger prints everywhere.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

God In and Through Me


After putting off the task for far too long (and after hearing some scary stories told by my boss), I finally got around to renewing my driving licence.  It arrived this morning. 

The problem boiled down to getting a decent current photo of myself.  I am not photogenic.  It’s not that I don’t have any pretty genes in my DNA – they are inside pretty as opposed to outside pretty. The outside pretty ones were not fairly distributed among the siblings.   What few I possess seem to go AWOL when someone produces a camera.  

New rules have also been introduced for photos for passports and other identity cards

You’re not allowed to smile in the picture.  Without my smile I really do look grim.  I look like some dragon you hope never to have to meet.

You’re not allowed to wear glasses! This creates for me a practical problem – I can’t see myself clearly enough to know if I am actually there at all.  There is a vague fuzzy blob but I don’t know if I am centred enough.  These people are very fussy about the empty space at the top and sides and whether your eyes are in line with the red guide lines.  I CAN’T see the red guide lines!  I can only guess!  They gave you three attempts in the booth to get it right!

Without my glasses I cannot see the wrinkles under the eyes.  The camera can!

The end product did not match my own preconceived idea of what I thought I looked like.  I look much older and angrier without a smile and my glasses.  Every skin blemish was there to see.  I looked like one of my older sisters.  It was kind of nice to see her looking back at me – although she wasn’t smiling either.

The picture was like a naked version of my face.  Gone were all the cover-ups – the smiles and the glasses.  My “disguise” was gone.  I had a good look at my eyes trying to glimpse the soul through the window that people insist is there.  I looked confused and bewildered mostly because I wasn’t sure I was doing it right.  There was also a tinge of hostility because I didn’t want to have a photo taken at all.

There is a poem I have been mulling on - “Lent” by Jean M Watt.  The opening line is “Lent is a tree without blossom, without leaf” and a later line reads “Lent is a taking down, a stripping bare”.  She makes a comparison between a Christmas tree with all the trimmings and a tree in winter just before the arrival of spring.  What we see is not just the bare shape of the tree, its trunk and branches.  It’s the things we see through it, like the stars.  The leaves are not there to obscure.  The blossom isn’t there to distract our eyes.  We can look through the empty branches to see something else.

Leaves and blossom hide the blemishes on the branches of trees just as the glasses and the smile conceal a lot of my imperfections.  How hard it is for us to allow ourselves to stand before others without all the disguises we wear.  Sometimes it takes a gentle stripping away of the leaves and the blossoms that obscure and distract to enable people to see God more clearly in us and through us.

That is why people were so drawn to Jesus.  He allowed people to see God in and through Him.  They liked what they saw.



Saturday, March 08, 2014

Winter Tree





Stripped bare
Of leaves and
Blossom
I see the moon
Through the branches

Stripped bare 
Of pretence and
Pride
I see God 
Through you

Thursday, March 06, 2014

I am...

I am created from clay in Your hand
I am redeemed, ‘neath the cross I stand
Daily I’m led on the journey You’ve planned

I am forgiven, my sin washed away
I am chased down by Your blessings each day
Always and ever by Your side I’ll stay

Quicken my heart so it beats like Your own
Make the hands spotless I raise to Your throne
Instruct my tongue that I praise You alone

I am Your soldier – I fight the good fight
I am Your servant – holding out light
I am your child – my Father’s delight

Monday, March 03, 2014

ISIS and the Return of Tariq bib Ziyad



Sometime last week an FB friend posted a link to a BBC article – “Syria crisis: ISIS imposes rules on Christians in Raqqa”.

The article was about an extreme Islamic group who had taken over the city and imposed some very harsh rules on the Christian population.

“The directive from ISIS, citing the Islamic concept of "dhimma", requires Christians in the city to pay tax of around half an ounce (14g) of pure gold in exchange for their safety. It says Christians must not make renovations to churches, display crosses or other religious symbols outside churches, ring church bells or pray in public. Christians must not carry arms, and must follow other rules imposed by ISIS (also known as ISIL) on their daily lives.”

As I read through the article, the main thought in my head was that the Christians would not agree to those conditions. OK – it wasn’t so much the Christians in Raqqa who wouldn’t agree as a particular Christian – me – who wouldn’t agree.  I don’t have a half ounce of gold to hand over to anyone, and even if I did, I don’t see why I should hand it over as protection money! 

The alternative to following the rules laid out was to a) convert to Islam or b) risk the possibility of being killed.

I have watched Quo Vadis often enough to know that the heroine (and the hero) chose death.  The martyr gene in my DNA was activated.

I read on…

“A group of 20 Christian leaders chose to accept the new set of rules, ISIS said.”

Maybe they hadn’t watched Quo Vadis as often as I had.  They had, in my estimation, caved in to bullying. 

What is happening in this city in northern Syria reminded me of a poem I wrote for a FW weekly challenge.  The topic was Europe and I dug around in Spanish history to come up with a man Tariq bin Ziyad, a Muslim general who conquered Visigothic Hispania in 711–718 A.D.  He inflicted a similar set of rules on the Christian population then.  Writing the poem it was firmly fixed as a historical event and not likely to be something Christians today would face.  I didn’t reckon on the ISIS in northern Syria.

“You are not there, Mel” said the gentle voice within.  “When you live in such safety can you really make a sweeping judgement like that?  You don’t know what their lives are like. A dead Christian, even one dying a martyr's death, doesn't always speak as well as a living one."

I got the impression that God didn’t think they had caved into bullying.  I began to set my heart to pray for not just the Christians in Raqqa but also the ISIS.  Even Al-Qaeda has distanced themselves from this organisation.  One of the Muslim clerics pointed out that ISIS were not really in a position to charge a “protection tax” as they were not securely in control and couldn’t guarantee anyone’s protection.

So many of the external things people do to demonstrate their faith are no longer permitted.  Did it really matter that they couldn’t carry Bibles or ring church bells or do anything outside their homes in terms of witness?  There are things that the ISIS can’t rule against – the Christians following Jesus’ teaching to love one another.  Talking about their faith might no longer be an option, but living their faith is more than repairing a broken building or wearing a cross around their neck. Living their faith is so much more compelling.

I prayed about the Muslim neighbours. Not all of them agree with what ISIS is demanding. I pictured some of them paying the protection money on behalf of their Christian neighbours. Not all demonstrations of Islam are violent or oppressive ones.

Finally yesterday – at church we were talking about our witness to the world.  We talked about Christians we knew who took their Bibles and had breakfast and prayer times in some of the local cafes.  I was reminded about all the things that the Christians in Raqqa were forbidden from doing.  Those things that they couldn’t do – nothing stops us from doing them and yet we don’t really make an outward show of our faith for the most part.  It seemed to me that because the Christians in Raqqa couldn’t carry Bibles, pray in public places or wear a cross that I had a special obligation to do so on their behalf. 

So the plan is to be much more open about my faith – not to offend anyone, or ram scripture down their throats – but to celebrate and to use the freedom that I have on behalf of those who don’t.