Tag Archives: poetry

Pressing Pause

I am in a bit of rest and retreat mode, so went up to visit my friends Tom and Christine Sine for the MSA Rest in the Moment Retreat. It was a wonderful, restful, and creative time. I got to engage in poetry again, and wrote a poem of rest:

Pressing Pause

Waiting is an act of worship
It is a sacrificial act
To lay aside what I want NOW
Or NEXT or “in a second” or
Instead of what IS now

Waiting is a pressing pause
It is a mindful act
To accept what is here NOW
And know that now is holy
If only I can pause to look

Waiting is a taste of peace
It is an accepting act
To welcome what exists NOW
As a sign that love surrounds
Pressing pause sustains

 

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Pressing Pause by Gilbert George is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://extrovertedquaker.wordpress.com/2015/09/26/pressing-pause/.
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Moving…Again

As we prepare for our short-notice need to move situation I feel overwhelmed by “one more thing” in a life that seems characterized more by the presence of transition than the absence. In many ways it feels like my life is a transitional one, always moving to another place or thing, always in flux in one way or another. In the past it was easy to transition because we only had one other person to worry about, now there are three others, and that makes things complicated. One of my disciplines in times of stress is to stop and write poetry about what is happening so that my emotions find an avenue of expression. With the current batch of transitions, it feels like that well is dry and that my emotions are so tangled that expressing them is nearly impossible. I am disoriented. As I go to the Psalms I once again resonate with the Psalms of the depths. I pray with the words of David:

Psalm 28:1 Eternal One, I am calling out to You;
    You are the foundation of my life. Please, don’t turn Your ear from me.
If You respond to my pleas with silence,
    I will lose all hope like those silenced by death’s grave.
Listen to my voice.
    You will hear me begging for Your help
With my hands lifted up in prayer,
    my body turned toward Your holy home.

It is all to easy to mouth the platitudes in order to not hear people giving “advice” on how to make things better, or worse trot out that “All things work to the good of those who served the Lord” quote. Unsolicited advice from me: Under no circumstances quote the All things work together passage to someone who is experiencing any kind of rough time, it just makes them angry. The reality now is that I have to move because of someone else’s financial errors, my brother had brain surgery that I couldn’t be there for, I have a huge proposal that is being brought to my congregation this weekend that impacts the future of the church, my 1 year old is incredibly strong-willed, and my almost 6 year old is needing my full emotional support to make it through this move well. My plate is overfilled and it feels like my cup is running dry.

So I share with you this prayer for transition that I cry out to God

My Cup Underfloweth

God, Seriously.

This is a bit much.

I try to hold it all together and I can’t

The ball has not only been dropped, but has also rolled away

I don’t remember half of the details I have forgotten in this over whelming time

And I have no energy to pick up what I have dropped

Forget about looking for where dropped balls rolled

My cup underfloweth

I have cast my four letter prayers at you

In the hope that your Spirit translates the weariness behind them

My soul needs rest but finds only more labor, more burdens

I long for the green pastures and still waters

But my cup of faith underfloweth

I know you are with me

But right now I need more than presence

I need to be refilled with your peace and strength

I don’t have enough to get through one more transition in a lifelong line

And the food that I turned to for comfort is put aside in one more transition

My cup of strength underfloweth

I cry out to you my rock

In the hope that my words aren’t in vain

That you are there to fill me again with good things

That you really are there to take my burden and replace it

with the yoke that is easy and the burden that is light

I need your grace and mercy to fill  me again

Help me trust you to carry your end

My cup of trust underfloweth

God, seriously.

I need a refill.

 
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My Cup Underfloweth by Gilbert George is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://extrovertedquaker.wordpress.com/2014/05/13/moving-again/.
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Fully Present to Worship

(This last week I got to share my work on the Psalms at West Hills Friends Church in SW Portland. I appreciate the opportunity and had a bunch of fun. Click here for audio. Link fixed. 2/19/2014)

Good Morning, I am Gil George, the pastor at Clackamas Park Friends Church. I appreciate the chance to share with you today about the importance of bringing our whole selves into our faith. Even those emotions that we might call ugly have an important place in our worship. In my growing up church was not a place you could be struggling in. I kept hearing people say “life is hard, but God is good, so I can’t complain.” With the subtext being that it wasn’t OK to complain or take any negative feeling to God. God was like this image by Gary Larson. (I don’t have rights to the image, I had scanned it in from a book, but here’s a google search that will take you to it.) That God isn’t safe to come to with anger. I was under the impression that since God’s people had to have it all together that God wasn’t interested in our struggles, just in our praise. There were consequences for believing in a God that forced me to hide parts of myself. I learned how physically damaging it is to hide my feelings when I got my first ulcer at 14. I was forced to learn how to express my anger, doubts and fears as a way of preventing myself from physical harm. I also learned that the best one to bring these hard parts of myself to was God. That God not only could handle me being mad, but welcomed me in my anger and grief and rage, in my sadness, in my brokenness and in my frustration. It was only through expressing these things to God that I could then heal. This God who listens to our discontent, brokenness, anger and grief is the God Jesus shows us in the garden, the cross, and the resurrection. A Jesus who probably looked something like this guy was someone I could actually have a frank conversation with.

I had a problem though: I had no idea how to bring my emotional self to God. I wasn’t comfortable with my emotions since they didn’t seem to be controllable and my church background hadn’t prepared me to look at my emotions with anything other than suspicion. Those pesky emotions just got in the way of being rational and objective, how could that ever be a good thing? A family friend introduced me to the Psalms, which contain every human emotion and bring each one of them before God in worship. How shocking is it for us to hear the ending of Psalm 137 and think of this as worship?

7Remember, Eternal One, how the Edomites, our brothers, the descendants of Esau, stood by and watched as Jerusalem fell. Gloating, they said’ “Destroy it; tear it down to the ground,” when Jerusalem was being demolished. 😯 Daughter of Babylon, you are destined for destruction! Happy are those who pay you back for how you treated us so you will no longer walk so proud. 9Happy are those who dash your children against the rocks so you will know how it feels.

This Psalm is one of disorientation. The Psalmist is angry with a rage beyond bearing and throws it in God’s face as if to say “This is how I feel! This is what I want! What are you going to do about it?” It is in Psalms like these that we can learn to say “Things are not as they ought to be. God, things are not the way you have expressed your desires for this world. Why did you let this happen? God, why can’t we see your work against these situations?” Has anyone here ever looked at the way the world is, at a hard situation and felt the question burn within you “Why does God allow this to continue?” I want to give you permission to take this question to God. Not having the ability to take our religious frustrations and disappointments to God destroys the authenticity of our faith experiences. The destruction of authenticity is accomplished through making sorrow, mourning, fear, doubt, and uncertainty the opposite of true faith. Since every one of us experiences all of these emotions at various points in our lives, we damage our own integrity in our efforts to hide them from God and each other. When we give voice to these uncertainties in the presence of God and each other, we find the voice of hope within our relationship to God and then are freed to enter into praise.

The biblical scholar Walter Breuggeman describes three types of Psalm: Psalms of Orientation, Disorientation and Reorientation.

  • The Psalms of Orientation help us to share the controversial message that we depend on our God, because our God is faithful, mighty and continues to create all that is. These Psalms orient us to the fact that not only our lives, but the lives of everything are dependent on God for existence, or as Paul said to the crowds in Athens “In him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28. When we express gratitude for the bounty of God’s good creation, joyfully obey the call of Jesus on our lives, depend on the wisdom of God, rely on God’s justice, and recognize those times when we get to experience the well-being that comes from witnessing God’s loving power; we are oriented on reality.
  • The Psalms of Disorientation ask hard questions of God when we don’t understand what is going on and ourselves when we make those grave errors that bring harm to ourselves and others. Over half of the Psalms contain elements of lament, the children of Israel experienced loss and pain on a regular basis, some of it through circumstances beyond their control or influence and at other times they were the source of their own pain. Just like us. The laments take these negative circumstances and hold them before God in childlike trust. Their inclusion in the Hebrew Scriptures may be judged to be acts of unfaith and failure, but for us, and the Hebrews, I would say that bringing our dark experience into the light of God is an act of bold faith. By speaking our hurts, sorrows, anger, and disorientation in our worship of God we boldly proclaim that God is big enough to handle anything we bring to him, no matter how negative, even our anger or disbelief. When we bring the fullness of our disoriented thoughts and lay them at the feet of God, we prepare the soil where new life can grow.
  • Psalms of Reorientation that renew our relationship with God and reorient our lives to the paths of righteousness. One of the encouraging truths the Psalms share with us is that disorientation is not a permanent state. New life blossoms right when it seems all hope is gone. One thing important to note is that there’s no return to the simple faith that says bad things can’t happen. God will never call us to deny reality. Our faith must then grow to encompass the reality of disorientation and when the storm passes, to praise the God who walked beside us through it. This is our hope, not only that the storms of life pass, but that God is with us in those storms. The Psalms of Reorientation are, at their core, a witness to the good character of God.

In my life I have experienced all of these times, I have cursed a blue streak at God and I have sung the praises of my redeemer, and God has yet to hit the “Smite” button on his keyboard. God truly desires to be in relationship with us exactly as we are. The greatest worship occurs when we open ourselves fully to the light of God, allowing God to be present to us exactly as we are. This is a booklet I made for our church community that I bring as a gift to you. I hope that you may use the discernment tools inside and the guides to help you bring, with authenticity, your full emotional self into the Light within.

If any of you would like access to the booklet or are interested in having me speak at your church, please post in the comments and I will give you access to the document which is released under the creative commons license or contact you with more information.

New Poetry “Where is Freedom?” and “The Shout”

Sorry about the lateness. Last weekend I was at the 22nd Annual Celtic Prayer Retreat put on by Mustard Seed Associates. It was a truly life giving time of connection and reflection with a liturgy centered on the story of St. Brendan, an Irish monk who jumped into a small boat with a few brothers and let the wind take them where God willed. During the liturgy there was a time of Lectio Divina centered around two scriptures Isaiah 42:5-10 and Revelation 21:1-4 I was inspired to write a poem out of each lectio. To honor the lectio style of reflection I will share the scriptures immediately followed by my poems below.

Isaiah 42:5-10

Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am the Lord, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them. Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth! Let the sea roar and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants.

Where is freedom?

Where is freedom?

The captives are still bound

Addictions still rule us

Our gods are still not you

We stay lost rather than found

We choose the familiar cage

Over an unfamiliar world

Our captivity is maintained

By shining screens which change

To match a growing desire

Which can never be filled

With things that break and fail

We need freedom from our captivity

To every thing that is not you

We need a peace from incessant noise

Help us find silences filled with you

There is freedom

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Where is freedom? by Gilbert George is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://extrovertedquaker.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/freedom-shout/.
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Revelations 21:1-4

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

The Shout

Someday I will hear the shout

God is home

And home is here

The tears have come

And our Daddy has held

Us until the storm of

Mourning has passed

All that we knew has

Died and like the seed

Has sprouted to new life

Beyond pain, beyond death

Beyond tears, beyond agonies

Of loss, the emptiness has fled

And now we are filled, overflowing

With home, with you, with us

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The Shout by Gilbert George is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://extrovertedquaker.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/freedom-shout/.
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New hymn parody while you wait

Things are a little crazy the last couple weeks with Community Warehouse’s Tualatin grand opening coming up this Thursday. I am the manager of the Estate Store there and have a LOT of work to do to make sure things are ready. I just haven’t had the time to thoroughly research part 3 of my series, so look for that in a few weeks. In the meantime I got into a silly mood after reading some facebook comments and I am getting very frustrated with the Messianic language that I am hearing in reference to “The Market”. To vent my frustration I wrote the following bit of satire to highlight the futility of looking to an economic system for fulfillment.

Yes, The Market Loves Me
to the tune of Yes Jesus Loves me

The Market loves me this I know
For the TV tells me so
All my cash to it belongs
Being selfish makes it strong

Chorus
Yes, the Market loves me (3X)
The TV tells me so.

The Market loves me! Loves me still
Unless I’m very weak and ill
When I indebt myself to consume
The Market’s love for me will zoom.
(Chorus)

The Market loves me! It will stay
By my wallet all the way
Glue yourself to its high priest
Buy cathode, plasma or LCD
(Chorus)



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Yes, The Market Loves Me by Gilbert George is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://extrovertedquaker.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/new-hymn-parody-while-you-wait/ ‎.
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Time for a Break – New poem

Time for a break

My mind whirrs in fruitless striving

As I try to make sense of turbulence

That surrounds my heart as I think

Of the arguments and incidents

Of things I desperately wish weren’t

Beyond my control

I throw barbed comments, and yes,

Sometimes accusations at God

Trying to make God feel bad enough

That a change in the struggles will be sent

That maybe I can dictate something

Different, a new story that shies away

From dark valleys

I grapple and wrestle trying to control

That which is beyond my ability to

Comprehend, let alone direct

Everything I do to try to maintain

A semblance of control only serves

To show how little control I really have

Over what matters most to me

My striving fails

I need to take a break from my efforts

To operate on my own strength alone

Can I really trust that which I can’t control?

I don’t know, but I desperately want to

But I can’t even control myself enough

To find a center in which I can listen

To anyone or anything that speaks

What I am straining to hear

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Time for a Break by Gilbert George is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at extrovertedquaker.wordpress.com.
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Ways

What a semester I have been having! Between involvement with chaplaincy at Occupy Portland, 8 credits of schoolwork, being a Teacher’s Assistant and Homemaker I am not sure if I am coming or going. Despite my busyness I have still been making time in my schedule for reflection. My reflection more and more is finding expression in poetry. My most recent poem comes from reflecting on this crazy journey that will be drawing to an end at the end of the Spring semester.

Ways

I am changing in ways
I did not know I could through
Work in my soul at depths I cannot reach
Alone

You are forming me in ways
I do not grasp because of their complexity
There are processes of life giving at work in me changing
Everything inside

I am growing at the deepest level in ways
Of roots breaking up the dark soil of my composted pain
New life sprouting from old blood seeping into thirsty darkness
Searching for anesthesia

You face the pain of loss and rage with me in ways
Of compassion that break through my bleak cynical barriers and
Walls of stone around my heart protecting me from pain and you and love
That I am afraid to let fall away

You have drug me out of myself and welcomed me to walk in ways
That open heart to the beauty of your world the beauty of your image that
Sits within every face I see overwhelming me with you every time eyes look into mine
Your presence beyond me within me is life

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Ways by Gilbert L George is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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