Vicarious (Spiritual Journey Thursday)

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A few weeks ago an acquaintance sent me a newly published book of her poems. They were simple but beautiful in their first-person expression of praise, love, and gratitude to God—a collection of modern psalms. I reacted to that book like I have to other similar ones, asking myself, why don’t I write more overtly spiritual poetry? I ask because writing about spiritual subjects is hard for me to do.

I’m not sure why. It may be because I fear using theological jargon and worn-out phrases, thus slipping into cliché. (It certainly does take thought and attention to relate spiritual experiences and express convictions and emotions with fresh language that avoids being trite, maudlin, or sentimental.) Or I might avoid that kind of writing because many of my convictions don’t fit the politically correct social climate of the day and so the poems come whiny or like a rant.

As I look over the overtly spiritual poetry I have written, I feel that the poems that have come to me the most easily and naturally are the persona poems. In these I’ve tried to get into the head space of a Bible character.

Preparation to write these got me studying characters in the Bible and imagining their thoughts and feelings as they faced specific circumstances. I often fictionalized how that moment was a catalyst to growth in faith or rejection of it.

Several years ago I wrote a collection of these based on Bible women. Here are two from that collection.

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Image: Pixabay

Miriam

(Based on Exodus 15:19-21)

Though I lived under the bright
Egyptian sun these many years
my sky went black the day Moses left.

Even his return with snake-rod
didn’t banish the clouds
hovering on my horizon.

Premonition dampened
my celebration when we crossed
out of Goshen into the wilderness.

Dust of approaching chariots
was my nightmare
entering the day.

But somewhere on that black
step-by-step sea crossing
I walked through fear to faith.

I taught Moses to sing.
Now he gives that gift back to me
Hand me my timbrel!

© 2018 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

 

Orpah

(Based on Ruth 1:1-14)

I am too young
to give in to death
be numbed by Naomi’s
negative breath.

Mighty Yahweh has failed
this family, my man.
Here’s my chance to detach
from this unlucky clan.

So I’ll return to Moab
to make a new start
(despite this strange yearning
deep in my heart).

© 2018 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

If you’re like me and find writing poems about spiritual subjects a challenge, maybe writing persona poems could become a spiritual poetry portal for you too.

spiritualjourneyfirst-thursday-copyThanks to Carol Varsalona, who suggested the subject of Poetry as spiritual practice of the heart, and who is hosting Spiritual Journey First Thursday today at her blog Beyond Literacy Link.

 

Dynamic duo by Laura J. Davis (review)

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Come to Me

Come to Me by Laura J. DavisFictionalizing the story of any Bible character is tricky, but Laura J. Davis chose some of the most sensitive characters when she set out to write Come to Me—the story of Jesus’ life as seen through the eyes of His mother.

Mary’s narrative begins with her betrothal to Joseph, and ends after Jesus’ resurrection. Her attentive audience includes Matthew and Luke, who intend to write her story, as well as fictional characters who accompany her on travels to join John the Beloved (who, in Davis’s tale, is Jesus’s cousin).

Davis, aware of the sensitivity of the characters she is fictionalizing (“With some works of fiction, a writer is free to do what he or she pleases. However, when it is about the Son of God that freedom is somewhat limited” –  from the Foreword) sticks pretty close to the Bible account. Thus don’t expect to find extra-scriptural scandals or controversial “what ifs” in Come to Me.

What you will find is a warm, caring mother who struggles, as mothers do, with letting their kids go, seeing them make mistakes (as Mary interprets some of the things Jesus does), and watching them suffer and die. She comes across as deep, wise, with the odd glint of mischief and humor, but above all a woman worthy of respect.

The experience of seeing Jesus’ life through a mother’s eyes was one of the things I enjoyed most about the book. Another moving aspect was the heart-rending portrayal of Jesus’ passion, recalling scenes of Mel Gibson’s film Passion of the Christ.

This book would be a great addition to any home, church or Christian school library.

Title: Come to Me

Author: Laura J. Davis

Publisher: Word Alive Press, October 21, 2010, 338 pages, paperback & Kindle versions

  • ISBN-10: 1435705564
  • ISBN-13: 978-1435705562

Learning From the Master

Learning From the Master by Laura J. DavisDavis has also written a twelve-week study guide, Learning from the Master, to accompany Come to Me.  This workbook assigns chapters from Come to Me to read, then introduces discussion topics pulled from the chapters (over twenty topics in all), and poses questions with space left in the book to write the answers.

The study guide underlines and reinforces the novel’s themes of surrender, trust, and how to translate principles from the life of Jesus and His mother into modern living.  Learning From the Master also includes word studies, explanations of the history and setting of the times, lists, and a timeline of the Passion Week. Each lesson ends with a prayer

Davis’s friendly conversational style is sure to make this a popular study. It deals with many Bible themes, refers to lots of Scripture, and I can only think that twelve weeks spent in this kind of study would encourage the best kind of spiritual growth. The study guide could be used independently from the novel, however the two together would make an excellent resource for use in Bible studies or book clubs.

Title: Learning From the Master

Author: Laura J. Davis

Publisher: Word Alive Press, March 22, 2012, 124 pages, paperback & Kindle versions available

  • ISBN-10: 1770695125
  • ISBN-13: 978-1770695122