It is never a good sign if I am reading five different books at once. It means that I am restless and unsatisfied.
This spring, the stack of five books on my side table was betraying the fact that something was not quite right.
There are times when I feel like I am learning many things from God and growing and alive in my brain and heart. And there are also wilderness times, desert times, or just plain ordinary life times when nothing is new under the sun.
These are times when my bible reading is dry, when I forget to pray and fall away from my regular routine of reading, praying, and thankfulness journalling. Times when I go to write a blog and nothing comes out, when nothing new is forming and I am just dealing with the same old lessons God has been trying to teach me.
Instead of just tuning out and ignoring my inner life, I decided to do try something new.
What I started doing is not something you might find on a “10 Ways To Slow Down And Restore Your Soul” type lists and you might be surprised by what I am about to say - but stay with me. Give me 2 more minutes of your time. (It actually only takes 2 more minutes to read the rest, I timed it.)
So, what did I start doing?
I started reading poetry.
Two poets in particular: Luci Shaw and Malcom Guite.
I have always wanted to be a person that read poetry. I have always been a bit jealous of people who could quote little lines of poetry. I have always enjoyed the idea of poetry but honestly, I just did not understand a lot of modern poetry. And, so, not knowing where to start or who to read - I just never did it.
But this year, I asked for a book of poetry for my birthday and I started reading.
The poems have felt like a breath of fresh air on a dry and dusty soul. It has been as if God has lead me to the green pastures for a little lie down.
Poetry invites me to slow down.
We live in a frenetic society that is high on content. We speedily scroll blogs and articles, pump out posts and tweets multiple times a day. I daily skim and scurry over words, many of which are just filler.
But poetry has no filler - every single word has been carefully chosen with significant intent. Every single word is important. And if every word matters, you have to read it slowly.
Poems are best enjoyed when read three or four or twenty times and EVEN better when they are read aloud - feeling the words in your mouth and hearing how the syllables sound in the air. Poems are the opposite of efficient.
Poetry welcomes me to pay attention. In a world that is interested in “big”, “many”, and “more” - poetry is small, concise, and brief. It is a welcomed gift in the world of overload. These poems slow my heart and mind and very little in my world does that.
Luci Shaw and Malcolm Guite are teaching me to notice the smaller things - the intricate work of God in creation and my soul. They are giving words to my experience. Feelings about life and pain, death and grace, sadness and confusion, beauty and joy, loneliness and longing. They draw my mind away from the new headlines and focus it on what I can learn from a flower or the graceful boughs of a tree, the mysteries of the Old Testament, the words of Jesus, and saints of old.
Countless times I have read a poem, set the book down, opened my door and stepped outside. And I stand there silently watching with wonder at the world and the preciousness of the life I live - with its difficulties and joys.
How many things in your life cause you to stand up and walk outside?
This gift is bringing life back into my soul.
It might just be a summer of poetry but I hope it lasts longer.
Are you looking for some new life in a dry time? Are you looking for something to slow you down and help you pay attention to your life?
In this week’s “Food For The Journey”, I am going to send one poem for every day of the week. They will be poems that I have been reading and you can consider them an offer of spiritual friendship from my journey to yours. (You are welcome to sign up below if you are not on the list for Food For The Journey)
Blessings my friend.