Tag Archives: Grace

My One-Note Song

Last summer I entered my first poetry book, Light in My Darknessin the Writers Digest Self Published Book Awards contest. Riding high on the coattails of being named a finalist in the Cascade Writers Contest in the published poetry category, I decided to submit my book on the last possible day of the contest and see what happened. I didn’t really expect to win, but I thought the feedback I would receive might be valuable.

I received an email with the judge’s comments just yesterday. I was a bit surprised to find that my submission was only read by one judge. Given the price tag on entering and the national scope of the contest I figured they’d have at least two judges per book.

At any rate, I thought I’d share the less-than-glowing review here with you all. I know, it seems weird to share a review that doesn’t just rave about my book, but I do so for a reason. Although the judge found fault with my labor of love, it was the very fault that he or she found that made me smile. Here’s the review, copied and pasted with grammatical errors and all, with my favorite part in bold:

Judge’s Commentary*:

This book of Christian devotional poetry is written by a woman who pulled herself up from the depths of depression through faith, and she should be admired for it. I also appreciate is that the poet uses many different forms of poetry to express herself:  pantoums, sonnets, villanelles, cinquains, triolets, sestinas, ghazals, acrostics, and even a concrete poem, as well as other rhymed verse and free verse.

My problem with this 127-page book is that it is composed almost entirely of poems of praise, and after a while it becomes a one-note song. The entire first section uses the metaphor of darkness into light to describe her salvation and coming up from depression. One can say the same thing only so many ways. There are five more sections to the book, on themes of “bring light to the darkness of others”, “being set free from the past”, forgiveness, “god in the midst of pain and suffering”, and a last section of what I would describe as “pure praise”.  Recurring themes come up in poem after poem: darkness vs. light, Jesus vs. Satan, “jars of clay”, etc. Most of the poems have an addendum of a Scripture quote too. Also, the poet chooses to label the type of poetic form beneath the title of most of these poems. This isn’t necessary, and many rhymed poems here are mislabeled as “free verse.”  The book conveys its message through its cover too – a kneeling figure on a cliff looking up to an image of a cross on a mountainside. The type size is quite large- was it meant to be a “large-print” book ? (I’m not asking this facetiously.) The bio and blurbs on the back cover are well-presented.

Granted, I am not a devout person, so maybe I don’t take the message to heart as a more religious person would. Still, I think even a faithful reader may find this book a bit repetitive after the first twenty or thirty pages.  My advice to the author: Use your interest in poetic forms to your best advantage, and diversify your themes and subjects. There is so much you can say from a perspective of faith about nature, your family and friends, social issues, even your career.  Don’t be afraid to bring in more details of your life and less of the language of praise, and your next book may be even better.

I am thrilled that this reader saw my praise of God so prominently in my poetry. If that is my one-note song, I’ve succeeded in doing what God has called me to do. I’ll keep singing that song until the day I die. To those struggling with depression, I want to clearly reveal the love and hope of Jesus so that they might one day praise Him, too, for being the Light in their darkness.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Faith, Jesus, Life, Poetry

Read to the End

My life’s an open book
pages torn, stained
with tears and blood

Come read who I am
see where I’ve been
get lost in my painful life

But don’t put my book down until
you’ve reached the end where
you’ll find grace and redemption

_______________________________________

It’s Quadrille Monday at dVerse Poets Pub. I love this prompt because I can always find time to write 44 words that say so much. Today the required word is “open.” Head over and check out the other 44-word tomes offered today. The pub opens at 12:00 Pacific Time.

42 Comments

Filed under Jesus, Life, Poetry

Who Am I?

A Quadrille self-portrait for dverse Poets Pub.
——–

I am afraid at my core
but courageous because
I know God loves me
I am survivor, forgiver
I am a killer, but forgiven
I am an introverted extrovert
straddling the line of expectations
Melancholy but full of joy
Lover of mercy and justice

image

35 Comments

Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life, Poetry

Assumptions of Bias

During the past week watching the news and reading Facebook posts about the violence and racial tensions in this country, I was struck by the assumptions made by some who protested the loudest. One such assumption—a  statement I read more than once—was that white people are afraid of the big black man, and that’s the problem.

I would argue that this assumption contributes to the problem of racial tension and is not true because it is an over generalization. All white people cannot be lumped into one set of beliefs or viewpoints any more than all black people can. Many white people, as well as many black people, would prefer to be part of the solution.

As I pondered all of this, I was reminded of something that happened to me just a month or so ago. We were having mandatory “Implicit Bias” training at work. It’s not the first time we’ve had this training, but this time something happened that made me think about how sometimes our assumptions about implicit bias can be part of the problem. We focus on and assume bias where diversity and camaraderie might flourish if we didn’t try so hard to see the negative.

The presenter was talking about the online Harvard Implicit Bias Project tests. I’ve taken several of these tests before so I raised my hand to offer my unique experience.

“I’ve taken the race Implicit Bias test three times,” I said, “and each time it has revealed I have a strong preference for African Americans. I have no explanation for why that is because I really only know a few African Americans.”

The presenter thanked me for chiming in and started talking about how we don’t always know where these biases come from. Then she said,” That was very brave of you to admit that.”

”Wait,” I replied, “I think you misunderstood me. Why would it be brave for me to say I had a bias in favor of, strongly in favor of, blacks?”

“Oh,” she said,” you said against.”

My boss, who was sitting at the same table as me, replied,” No she didn’t, she said in favor of.”

Later I talked to several people who were on the other side of the room and they all said they clearly heard me say what I actually said. But the presenter—who spends much her time talking, thinking, and studying about implicit bias—heard what she assumed any white woman would say, that she was biased against blacks.

I share this because I think it is so important not to assume we know what others think about difficult issues like this. We have to stop making broad general assumptions about whole groups of people whose only thing in common might be the color of their skin. Human beings—and each individual human being—is so much more complex than that.

The second presenter at this training had commented at the beginning that we didn’t need to talk about religion or spirituality, because that isn’t really very important for people in Oregon. I found this comment odd because it was another inaccurate assumption. For me, my faith is very important and it is the teachings of Jesus that inform much of my belief about others. It is my understanding that we are all created in God’s image, no matter what color our skin, that helps me in dealing with and accepting those who are different from me.

D.C. Talk does a great song called Colored People that I want to end with. I’m linking to YouTube because often embedded videos don’t work on this free blog. I encourage you to follow the link and give it a listen.

4 Comments

Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life

Seeking Truth

Words matter. Our choice of words, whether speaking or writing, makes a difference.

And words have meaning. That’s what dictionaries are for—to tell us what words mean. When we try to use words to mean something other than what they really mean, it causes confusion.

Sometimes people do this on purpose. One such misuse of a word that I have encountered lately is the use of the word “true” to substitute for “believe.” A person will say “such and such is true for me” when what they really mean is “I believe such and such.”

According to the dictionary, the word “true” means “being in accordance with the actual state or conditions; conforming to reality or fact.” Truth is not relative and is not affected by what any one person believes. Truth is external, and belief is internal, in origin.

Many years ago, when I was suffering from major clinical depression, there were a number of things I believed about myself. I believed I would always be depressed based on how long I had been depressed already and my doctor telling me I would always have bouts of major depression for the rest of my life. I also believed I would never be able to hold down a full-time job. I believed no one liked me and that I was worthless. In the parlance of relativism, these things were true for me.

But they weren’t true. They aren’t true and they never were, no matter how deeply I believed them.

And trust me, I deeply believed these things about myself.

But here I am, 18 years later, and I haven’t had a bout of major depression since God showed me how to be free. I’ve had the same good-paying full-time job for almost 12 years, and I had a different full-time job that paved the way for this one for 5 1/2 years before that. On top of my full-time job, I’m actively involved in my church and Bible Study Fellowship, have self-published two poetry books, and take care of my family. And I have a lot of friends, people who like me (and some who even love me).

As I look back over the past 20 years, I see God’s hand in my life, lifting me up and leading me to see the truth. I believe that. But it’s not my belief that makes it true. In fact, I could be dead wrong, but I don’t believe I am.

Whether God is real and cares about His creation enough to do all I believe He has for us is either true or not. It can’t be true for me and not for you, or vice versa. Truth is. As humans, our greatest purpose is to seek the truth. To say that truth is relative—that what is objectively true for me is different from what is objectively true for you—negates that essential human drive to know truth, to know our Creator, to know where we come from, and to know our reason for being.

At any rate, that’s what I believe.

4 Comments

Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life

Set Free

She drove away from the pizza place
joyful in the knowledge that she had been set free.

No dark cloud appeared.

She realized she was humming along,
tapping her foot to the beat.

As she waited for her pizza to go,
Bad Company played on the radio.

One day, she stopped to get a pizza
on her way home from work.

She felt a weight lifted and joy return.

When she awoke, she knelt and prayed
for the strength to forgive.

One night she dreamed of forgiveness
and knew it was a message from God.

She pondered taking her own life
because she thought she was forever broken.

She spent years in darkness and anger.

She was never the same; whenever she heard Bad Company
a dark cloud would descend upon her.

Afterwards, he drove her home
and left her broken upon her doorstep.

Bad Company played on the radio.

He assaulted her in the front seat of his Lincoln.

He asked if she wanted to go to a party
and she said yes because he seemed nice.

_________________________________________

The NaPoWriMo prompt today is to write a story in reverse. I couldn’t help but turn each line of this semi-autobiographical story into a verse.

6 Comments

Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life, Poetry

Nothin’ But the Blood – An Elfje

Crimson
Jesus’ blood
Trustworthy and true
Mercy to my soul
Salvation

_____________________________

A little elfje for NaPoWriMo Day 15, and while you’re at it check out Jars of Clay and The Blind Boys of Alabama singing Nothin’ But the Blood of Jesus.

2 Comments

Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life, Poetry

Celebrate Christ Is Risen

Yesterday in despair we wept
Friday last the veil was riven
Oh to know His promises kept
Celebrate that Christ has risen

Today Christ has risen indeed
Grace and mercy to us given
Because we know our deepest need
Celebrate that Christ has risen

Jesus who’s called Faithful and True
Celebrates that we’re forgiven
By His wounds we have life anew
Hallelujah Christ is risen

2 Comments

Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life, Poetry

Nails of Love

Jesus came to give from above
His love
On the cross mercy wins
My sins
that are told in sordid tales
were nails
no longer tip the justice scales
He surely paid the price
as soldiers rolled the dice
His love, my sins were nails

Leave a comment

Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life, Poetry

Holy Week

On Sunday He was lauded as King
Hosanna the crowd did sing to Him

On Monday He taught in the temple square
in parables of sons and tenants and wedding feasts

On Tuesday His authority was questioned
by those clinging desperately to their own

On Wednesday He taught the greatest commandment
was love of God, and love of one’s neighbor was second

On Thursday He supped with His disciples
washed their feet and prayed His Father’s will

On Friday they crucified Him, we crucified Him
with the multitude of sins He willingly paid for

On Saturday His followers hid away afraid
grieving a loss they didn’t at all understand

On Sunday, oh sweet Sunday
He rose again, He is risen indeed

Leave a comment

Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life, Poetry