Monday, December 26, 2011

Where Are You in the Manger Scene?

Infant King

Poor, needy, hungering,

Shivers, cries, sucks, clings

To the mother’s warm mantle.

“Love Me.”

A look

Tender, loving, pondering

Believes, hopes, comforts, cherishes

The babe at her breast

Before she lays him in the manger.

There’s a tension in my heart as I write these words. This poem is supposed to represent in some humble form what's in my heart this Christmas. I feel sometimes that I am the child, clinging to the mother’s mantle, hungering for comfort, while at the same time, I am the young believer, called to hope, called to believe the message of an angel, and to adore the God who comes to me as a little child, a baby.

This poem is about the longing between the Christ Child and His mother Mary and between the Christ Child and us. The miracle of Christmas is that the God of the universe comes to us as a baby, fully human and fully divine, hungering after our love and adoration. He says to us in His great love, “See my love poured out for you? Love me in return.”

Mary answers with a look of tenderness, while she ponders the absurdity of the Messiah coming like this! Sometimes we put God in a box and then when we can't see his presence in our lives, we complain, "Where is God?" But God can't be confined to a box. He likes to surprise us and to come to us in unexpected ways to show us just how much He cares.

As Mary answers his cries of hunger, she wonders at the fact that her Lord takes His nourishment and sustenance from her – He who is the Bread of Life for the world. And as she gently lays Him down in the manger, the feeding trough of animals, she resigns herself with total trust to the Will of the Father. In that simple act, she is giving Him to the world, a world that is hungering for a savior.

She is laying him down before the shepherds, who are all of us – afraid, surprised, hurrying, searching, finding, peering, gazing, beholding, praising, pondering, worshiping...

Now you can do it…write a poem that represents what you’re feeling this Christmas. Where are you in the manger scene? Where are you in this season of Christmas celebrations, waiting, shopping, gift-wrapping, baking and falling snow? I’m passing on the drill to you, so warm up your poetry muscles!

Instructions: write a poem about God or your relationship to God this Christmas, using the following format.

A noun

Three adjectives

Four verbs

A phrase

One or more words that relate with the first noun

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Coffee Shop Phenomenon

My daily commute to work takes about three seconds (okay, 11 seconds, if you count the journey from my kitchen for breakfast to my room with my office desk.) Most days, in typical Flannery O'Conner fashion, I do my writing in the silence and solitude of my room.

Some days I splurge. I start the day with 8 a.m. Mass (also in Flannery O'Conner fashion) at a charming, little historic church named after St. Peter. Then I head downtown to an aroma-filled coffee shop, seeping with character. I settle into a nook and set up my laptop on a table, lit by a glowing lamp. Cozy, antique furniture adorns the rest of the place, and the walls are decorated with covers of old LIFE magazines - framed next to their matching murals on the wall. The faces of Mark Twain, John Wayne, Lucille Ball and Native American chiefs smile from the walls at me. Smells of bakery waft through the air from the warm ovens. Service comes right to my table, delivering delicious hot chai tea or steamed eggnog and a bagel. Then I write. What could be better?

Listening to the murmur of conversations and people enjoying each others' company warms my spirits and is a welcome hustle and bustle from the loneliness and solitude so prevalent in the writer’s life.

“Talent is nurtured in solitude, but character in the throws of the world,” said Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

The writer must find a balance between the contemplative life and the active life, achieving the perfect balance between what Benjamin Franklin said, “Write things worth reading or do things worth writing.”

Ultimately, we as artists must seek to be contemplatives in the heart of the world. The veins run in, past, and through us, carrying everything of the world throughout the body, while we try to make sense of it and relate the vision we see to others. Writing is about observing the intricacies of the human experience and illuminating the things seen and unseen, the mysteries hidden and revealed.

Writing is a mystery. Mysteries, like a sunset or newborn life are best contemplated in silence. So, too, the act of writing best takes place in silence. These luxuries we grant ourselves remind us of the joyous experience it is to write. They remind us of the world going on outside of our heads, widening our imagination’s horizons and splashing color on the landscape of our work. It is good. It is very good.

The friendly hostess is intrigued by the fact I’m a writer. “Your work must be so much fun and interesting!” she exclaims. She is fascinated by the “writer’s life,” reminding me, too, that yes, this is an exciting life despite bouts of loneliness. It is an inspiring life, a mysterious life, an old-fashioned life, a simple life.

Treat yourself today to something special, something out of the ordinary. Then rediscover joy again in your work and in your life.