Leaf Song: A Poem by Prasanta Verma


Leaf Song


Beautifully curling upward
Cupping droplets on its skin

I take my finger, wipe the drop
Leaving a skirmish behind

*

The autumn leaf is like a heart
Turned toward heaven

Changing colors, singing in its death
I wonder, Leaf, how many songs you have sung?

*

I wrap myself in a coat of leaves
Stand under a sheltering tree

Sing with the wind
Go to the one who sings over me

Cup my hands, raise them—empty
Here they are, here am I

*

Am I to be like that last leaf,
Stuck on the tree? Alone?

 I am answered,
“You are connected to the vine.”

Water spills over my hands, overflows,
Slips through my fingers.





***

Photos: Prasanta Verma

Prasanta Verma, a poet, writer, and artist, is a member of The Contemplative Writer team. Born under an Asian sun, raised in the Appalachian foothills, Prasanta currently lives in the Midwest, is a mom of three, and also coaches high school debate. You can find her on Twitter @VermaPrasanta, Instagram prasanta_v_writer, and at her website: https://pathoftreasure.wordpress.com/.

WEEKLY PRAYER: W. E. B. DU BOIS

W. E. B. Du Bois (1868 – 1963) was an American writer, historian, and civil rights activist. Today we are praying his prayer for grace and courage in the face of the work that cries out to be done in our lives and our society.

***

Give us grace, O God, to dare to do the deed which we well know
cries to be done. Let us not hesitate because of ease, or the
words of men’s mouths, or our own lives. Mighty causes are
calling us—the freeing of women, the training of children, the
putting down of hate and murder and poverty—all these and
more. But they call with voices that mean work and sacrifices
and death. Mercifully grant us, O God, the spirit of Esther, that
we say: I will go unto the King and if I perish, I perish.

Source

Swimming with God

Imagine something with me. You’re in a ship in a raging sea, going somewhere important. Perhaps going on a pilgrimage. But it’s beginning to look like you’re not going to make it. The ship dips and lists. The sea is alive – a force against you. You pray to God to save you from destruction.

Doesn’t our faith often feel like this? Like we’re being tossed around by untamable wind and waves? Medieval theologians often compared the world to the sea. “All the ways of this world are as fickle and unstable as a sudden storm at sea,” wrote the Venerable Bede in the 8th century. And every soul must cross this sea on the journey through life.

So what do we do? Usually we respond with alternating displays of strength and alarm. We try to build a stronger ship. Bone up on our sailing skills. Lay in resources. And when the storm comes, we cry out to Jesus to pilot our ship.

Now imagine that the worst happens. Despite everything you’ve done, your ship capsizes . . . you fall into the water. And it becomes calm, buoyant. You realize that you’re floating. Swimming. Drinking water yet not drowning.

How is this possible?

Perhaps because we’ve got it wrong. Perhaps Jesus does not pilot us through the sea but is the sea. Perhaps this is the way we make it through the waves.

Two female mystics of the Middle Ages paint this picture of our journey. The 14th-century Dominican Catherine of Siena prays:

Eternal Godhead!
I proclaim and do not deny it:
you are a peaceful sea
in which the soul feeds and is nourished
as she rests in you in love’s affection and union
by conforming her will with your high eternal will—
that will which wants nothing other than that we be made holy.

(source)

In this prayer, the sea becomes a figure of God’s gracious abundance. The soul does not have to survive the water in a ship. Instead, God is the water. He envelops us, and we rest in him.

We might even go for a swim in this sea. The 13th-century mystic Marguerite d’Oingt writes of a vision of unity she received:

The saints will be within their Creator as the fish within the sea: they will drink as much as they want, without getting tired and without diminishing the amount of water. The saints will be just like that, for they will drink and eat the great sweetness of God.

(source)

Marguerite envisions the sea as a source of living water that never runs out (John 4:10-14). It’s a source of nourishment, where the saints (that’s you and me!) taste the sweetness of God.

I love this imagery for the way it rewrites the usual script about the sea of life. In the words of Catherine of Siena and Marguerite d’Oingt, the sea does not inspire terror but represents the incredible generosity of God. It’s a way to conceive of being fully enveloped in God’s goodness. And it’s an image of peace and rest.

As we ply the waters of life, let us remember the vastness of God who, like the sea, is everywhere. Let us be assured that if our ship capsizes, we will not perish. Should we be tossed overboard, we can swim like fish in the sea that is God.

***

This post is loosely based on one chapter from my forthcoming book, 3000 Miles to Jesus: Pilgrimage as a Way of Life for Spiritual Seekers. It’s a sneak peak behind the scenes, because it contains a lot of material that didn’t make it into the book! Click here (my author website) for more info on 3000 Miles to Jesus.

WEEKLY PRAYER: ST. TERESA OF AVILA

This week’s prayer is by Teresa of Avila, (1515-1582) a Spanish nun in the Carmelite order. Teresa was a mystic, a founder and reformer of monasteries, a spiritual director, and a writer. Although her most famous work is The Interior Castle, the prayer below comes from St. Teresa’s Autobiography.

***

O my Lord, how good You are! Blessed be You forever, O my God! Let all creatures praise You Who have so loved us that we can truly speak of this communication which You have with souls in this our exile! Yes, even if they be good souls, it is on Your part great munificence and kindness. In a word, it is Your loving-kindness, O my Lord.

Source

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! This week, Prasanta Verma and I bring you a collection of links on poetry, stories, witness, writing, and . . . eternity! We hope they prompt you to reflect and to hold on to faith. Read, listen, and be blessed.

***

Water; A Poem via Ana Lisa de Jong (a beautiful prayer poem about trust)

Matins via Louise Glück (a poem from the Nobel Prize winner in literature)

This eternal moment via Simon Parke (when eternity pricks the present moment, we can see past our past and believe that all is well)

Stories as Service via Festival of Faith and Writing (this podcast episode looks back at past FFW speakers on this theme)

Your Witness Is Showing via Collin Huber (speak, post, debate, and vote, but do so with your allegiance to Christ on full display)

Letter Writing as a Powerful Prompt via Stuart Horwitz (how the quaint art of letter writing can benefit our other writing projects)

WEEKLY PRAYER: ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI

This week’s prayer comes from St. Francis of Assisi (1181 – 1226). Francis’s Feast Day was on October 4.

***

All Highest and Glorious God,
cast your light into the darkness of my heart.
Grant me right faith, firm hope, perfect charity,
profound humility,
with wisdom and perception, O Lord,
so that I may always and everywhere
seek to know and do what is truly your holy will,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Source

WEEKLY PRAYER: RICHARD ROLLE

Today’s prayer is by Richard Rolle (ca. 1300–1349), an English mystic and writer of spiritual treatises. Rolle, along with Margery Kempe and Walter Hilton, is remembered in the Episcopal Church (USA) today, September 28. The prayer below comes from his best-known treatise, The Fire of Love.

***

I ask you, Lord Jesus,
to develop in me, your lover,
an immeasurable urge towards you,
an affection that is unbounded,
a longing that is unrestrained,
a fervor that throws discretion to the winds!

The more worthwhile our love for you,
all the more pressing does it become.
Reason cannot hold it in check,
fear does not make it tremble
wise judgment does not temper it.

Source

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

One of the greatest joys of being a writer and, well, a person, is that of being in community. It’s always a joy to discover the words of fellow writers and then to bring them to you. This week, Prasanta Verma and I are sharing a collection of links that we hope will inspire you. So much beauty! Be encouraged, and be blessed.

***

Day Begins via Linda Hoye (after dark comes dawn)

My Prayer Mat via Kevin Driedger (channeling Brother Lawrence in the kitchen)

My Cross I’ll Carry via Aarik Danielsen (when you pick up a cross to justify yourself, that cross gives up its meaning)

When You’re Stuck–A Reflection on Exodus 14:19-31 via April Fiet (when we get stuck, we want to turn around and go back–but is “back” where we’re meant to go?)

Days of Awe: A Gentile Discovers Jewish Poetry via Melanie Weldon-Soiset (the poetic history and possibilities of the Days of Awe)

You Do Have Agency: Your Morning Walk with Sophfronia via Sophfronia Scott (as creatives and as people, we can do much more than we think)

WEEKLY PRAYER: HILDEGARD OF BINGEN

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was a German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, and mystic. Her Feast Day was on September 17. As she is sometimes called the “singing nun,” today we’ll pray one of her songs of praise.

***

Doctor of the desperate,
Healer of everyone broken past hope,
Medicine for all wounds,
Fire of love,
Joy of hearts,
fragrant Strength,
sparkling Fountain,
Protector,
Penetrator,
in You we contemplate
how God goes looking for those who are lost
and reconciles those who are at odds with Him.
Break our chains!

You bring people together.
You curl clouds, whirl winds,
send rain on rocks, sing in creeks,
and turn the lush earth green.
You teach those who listen,
breathing joy and wisdom into them.

We praise You for these gifts.
Light-giver,
Sound of joy,
Wonder of being alive,
Hope of every person,
and our strongest Good.

Source

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome back to Friday Favorites! This week, Prasanta Verma and I have a great round-up of links related to prayer, Scripture, remembering, joy, and writing. Enjoy, and be blessed.

***

A Prayer Amid an Epidemic via Kerry Weber (a prayer for individuals and groups)

Why Do We Cling to Scripture? Our Lives Depend on It via Patricia Raybon (why black Americans dive deep into the Word, and an invitation for everyone to take the dive)

The Spiritual Practice of Remembering via Nicole T. Walters (the importance of remembrance in our lives)

The Verdant Greening of Joy via Erin Jean Warde (in honor of Hildegard of Bingen, whose Feast Day was Sept. 17)

Of Being via Denise Levertov (a poem)

The Necessity of Pruning via Caroline Langston (pruning in the garden, in the spiritual life, and in writing)

Katelyn Beaty and Al Hsu — Publishing in the Time of COVID via Jen Pollock Michel and ERB (a podcast episode about the state of Christian publishing and favorite books)