Avalon Sunrise

In memory of Kathleen Mary Savage, 1929-2020

Beside thistled paddocks I make my way,
sun nestled in grey,
faint light peeking through.
These paddocks contain
the means of my flight,
and when I arrive where the fruit trees grow
I shall see what's lost of home.

When final breath is breathed in the night
and what faces we knew
we scarce recognise,
when all that we've lost
is in memories of home,
we will return, though some
shall not.

And when the clouds part into light,
shall we see what the morning brings?
A grandmother young,
a conquering king?
In thistled paddocks,
still tied to ground,
the flight has not shown
what one day will be shown.

But this we know: the fighting shall cease
and when we set foot once more on ground
we shall be young among apple trees
and love upon love will return.

Advent 21: Neither slumber nor sleep

In a creaking house for family feasting, I sat
as summer light streamed through leadlight doors and
cracks in curtains,
fairy lights twinkling on pine tree while
I rocked my youngest, disrupted by
the change of place, his older
brother’s noise and the stubborn light,
and tried to make a darkness conducive
to an eight-month child’s much-needed sleep,
and fancied the Father
keeping vigil by my fretful side
neither slumbering nor sleeping
until true day arrives.

And so this is Advent

Today is the first Sunday of Advent – and of a new church year! Having just launched my book “The Swelling Year”, I’m a little behind in my own plans for how to mark the season here at The Consolations of Writing, but I thought I’d begin by sharing some of my favourite Advent resources for those who are on the lookout for a devotional resource for themselves or their families.

1. Names of Jesus Advent Calendar (from Sweet Honeycomb)

This gorgeous hand-made calendar is a lovely alternative to chocolate and Santa. Each day, turn over a number to see a name for Jesus and read a passage relating to it. You also get daily devotionals emailed to you with online purchase. Great for families or individuals alike.

2. Biola University Centre for Christianity, Culture and the Arts’ Advent Project

Twice a year these people do a seasonal devotional series, in Lent and Advent. They combine art, music, poetry and scripture to create a visceral devotional experience that I always appreciate.

3. Young Oceans – “Advent” album

Many bands claim to release Advent albums that are basically Christmas albums. There’s a few that capture the longing that Advent is all about. This is one of the best.

4. Walter Wangerin Jr – Preparing for Jesus

Wangerin is a gifted storyteller, especially when it comes to capturing the magical everydayness of the Bible story. These devotions open up the many stories contained in the Advent story in delightful and profound ways.

5. Rachel Mann – In the Bleak Midwinter: Through Advent and Christmas with Christina Rossetti

This one is brand new for Advent 2019. I’m just about to start it so can’t vouch for it entirely. But I know Rossetti well enough to be confident.

Know some other great resources? Drop me a comment to let me know. I’d love to hear about them.

Meanwhile, have a blessed Advent everyone. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus.

The dishes you will always have with you

and the laundry, piled up
in crevices and corridors as though to say,
“You can hide me, but you cannot do without me.”
Toys underfoot and books scattered wide
amongst other toddler treasures:
a measuring cup, a rooster,
a brochure considered la mode before
some other fancy flitted through the growing mind.
Some things are permanent, like
dishes, some new –
an Amen! after grace.
Unsettled nights and
teary mornings only serve to say
that all this may pass, but God
it is good that it finds me at all.

Learning Father (II): For Eli

…it was I who taught Ephraim to walk…
(Hosea 11:3)

In truth, I teach this child very little.
So much is sheer instinct, determination,
what HR would call “get up and go”.
But there’s little of HR, more of
the deep-sea diver
or the alchemist at his art,
to how this small enthusiast takes
to his knees, then feet, then –
where next?
I did not teach him this.
No, this has a deeper logic,
one taught to joints and sinews,
flowing in marrow, raising from soil
to soul, teaching the human spirit
to walk.
Best is the Father who says, Let it Be, and all Is.
Best the Father who teaches Baby Father me
to bounce the pensive child and sing
a song in the night for dreams.
For I too, often reduced to a crawl,
must also learn, down in the sinews and the marrows of the self
the truth that says, Rise up and walk.

Poetry for new dads

Grand plans will have to wait.
Time works differently here:
sometimes it hums,
sometimes skips, sometimes
vanishes.
You will think, “There’s a thought;
I’ll write about that-”
Only – catch the thought, before
nappies and necessity
make it dissipate
in baths at 8
and all that joy – the total joy
that nonetheless necessitates
that all grand plans will have to wait.
At end of day, the poem is this:
the breathing child
upon the chest.
Catch the moment while you can:
stardust spark in the grandest plan.

Spring Cleaning (II)

I go to prepare a place for you.
We do too;
with unsure anticipation, we make a space
atop the stairs, with bunting and books
and animals on the walls,
a cot, tiny clothes,
a place for your toys.

We also prepare
our days, our thoughts.
They too make space
for the big rearrange,
this reordering of selves,
this exchanging of grace.
We sweep out old cobwebs, air out stale pride.
Not only our home
but our hearts must be fit.
We prepare a space for you.

While eternity yawns its welcoming wait,
our big brother making a place for us too,
checking the time, vacuuming floors,
eagerly listening to knocks at the door…
Does my heart have room too
for eternity’s home?
We wait. We are waited for.
Time to make room.