Monday, September 27, 2010

Deep Down Things

THE world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs --
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

~Gerard Manley Hopkins

I’m on a roll. Life has been going well for me lately. This isn’t a problem, per se, but I am starkly aware of my grasping desire to keep things going my way. This seems to mean living life on the surface in accordance with my safe and selfish imagination—I use work and achievement (smeared with toil) and entertainment to keep my soul at bay as it tries to come to life. I’ve been down this road before (have trod, have trod, have trod). It leads to death.

And yet, “there lives the dearest freshness deep down things.” My truer desire for something deeper and grander always returns—a desire for something better, more difficult, and more beautiful than my way.

As I was reading David Benner again yesterday morning I was struck by the truth in his words, “We will never come to prefer God’s kingdom and will to ours until we meet the Divine in this relationship of love intermixed with wonder… There would be no reason to submit our will to a tame god of our imagination. No god that is merely a projection of our deepest needs and longings is worthy of surrender of our soul. Surrendering to God’s will begins by encountering God’s grandeur. It also involves falling in love with God’s grand plan of restoration of all things. This lies at the heart of God’s will and God’s kingdom.

This put me in mind of the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem.

May I be willing to exchange successful surface living for the grandeur of a Kingdom of restoration.  May I give up the god of my imagination for the God of wonder. Oh, morning!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Silence and Soul Cravings

I have just entered into a very busy season of life—maybe busier than any other time in my life. So, what has been on my mind lately is how discipline leads to rest. And beauty. And rightness. And all the things that feed my soul.

My tendency is to let life spin madly on and carry me away, and before I know it I don’t know who I am or where I’m going. But I need silence. And nature. And God. To remember. And discipline leads me there. Discipline (once hated as the end, now cherished as the means) allows me to pay attention to the soft, low sounds that can probe depths to awaken soul cravings. Like the sound of poetry.

I heard Mark Sayers speak recently, and as he read this poem aloud, I felt as if something that had died in me was being awakened with a gentle caress—as if something deep and beautiful and a little tragic, like my favorite novel, was coming to life. And it filled me with a new and urgent desire for silence, so I could hear more of the same.

In The World of Whispers - Cam Semmens

There is a serpent in the speakers
of my TV,
I can hear its hiss
running beneath every

Thiss hissssss –
a subtle, insistent whisper:

…buy, buy,
buy an ipod, buy an MG,
buy a PC, buy an Apple
and you will be like God,
buy, buy…

And I – too late – feel the fangs
pierce the thin skin of my will.
And I can feel the venom
every choice I make,

…buy, buy…

but I
lie as still as I can.
Still listening.
for that other whisper –
that still, small voice.

Cameron M. Semmens