Resources for Christians

If you’re a communicator for Christ, as I am, you can find Writing Resources with Christian poets, writers, and pastors in mind on my website.

In addition, I hope you’ll follow these blogs, which I maintain as often as family, church, and book-writing commitments allow:

Bible Prayers
Bible Reviewer
Mary Sayler (in lieu of this site)
Poetry Editor & Poetry
Praise Poems (many of which have been compiled in the book PRAISE! and the forthcoming chapbook, WE: the people under God.)
What the Bible Says About Love

May God bless you and your good work in Christ.

Mary Harwell Sayler, (c) 2017

 

Who is My mother?

sayler cover april 10 full (2) (640x474)Stone Jars

She hadn’t meant to check the flow of wine,
but, when it ended, suddenly, their em-
bryonic time together ran out too, springing
across those six steps of the universe
and descending into six stone jars
of water.

For one creative moment, they rehearsed
another hour, transparent,
with transformations yet to come,
and, still, He asked, so like a child,
What has this to do with Me or you?”

She had no answer for Him,
no command, no sign
but poured, instead, instructions
onto the waiting stewards
of the wedding wine.

Do as He says,” she simply said,
but making it as clear as water
that she knew Him as The One
to trust.

Later,
dazed
by a crowd half-crazed with disbelief,
she sought Him – called Him home –
like any good mother apt to calm
a storm with solemn warnings
and warm bowls of chicken soup.

But He’d grown so far beyond the womb –
empty now, swept clean –
she scarcely knew what He might mean
by sowing words, seeded,
seemingly, with thorns:

Who is My mother?”

How could this Child she’d borne
say such a thing, and yet, she knew
the sound of truth which stoned
her laboring heart with pain:

Whoever does God’s will,
alone can bear the jar
of mothering again.

by Mary Harwell Sayler, (c) 2016
from the book of Bible-based poems, Outside Eden, published in 2014

Opening King David: Poems in Conversation with the Psalms

As Brad Davis tells us in his preface to Opening King David: Poems in Conversation with the Psalms, “The intention was not to create a new translation/ adaptation of the Psalms, engage in midrash, or even generate ‘religious’ verse, but to make poems in a conversational idiom that bear witness to an attention to three horizons: the text, my surroundings (natural, cultural, relational, situational), and whatever may have been happening inside my skin at the time of composition.” Most likely, something similar happened to King David, Asaph, and other psalmists whose words were preserved in the Bible rather than an Emerald City book published by Wipf and Stock.

Written over centuries, biblical Psalms express praise, thanksgiving, laments, pleas, and petitions with no thought of book length or the divisions later devised to reflect the five books of Torah. Poet Brad Davis followed that editorial precedent in dividing his 150 poems into five parts or “books” with each poem responding to a verse chosen sequentially from Psalm 1 to 150.

For example, the first poem “Ashre” considers Psalm 1:1-2, “Blessed is he who meditates day and night,” then begins by telling about a collision with a deer whose “giant black eyes blinked slowly, confused,” perhaps describing the dilemma of the poet, who finds it “Difficult this morning to concentrate/ on the psalmic text – Happy is the man” when admittedly feeling “like chaff that the wind blows away.”

In the poem “She Said,” the reference to the “deeds of man” in Psalm 17:4 considers how “the Spirit I know works in us as we/ work on things like love – putting out the trash without having to be reminded – which / I am very far from getting right.” And, in the “Neighbor as Theologian” the poet responds to Psalm 29:3, “The God of glory thunders,” which his neighbor seems to hear with clarity, causing the poet to wonder why “would I begrudge her/ an assurance of contact? More likely,/ I long for what she has, embarrassed, pained/ by my lack of openness to mystery – / which, she has told me, is wholly present/ in, with, and under the hedge between us.”

Generally written in free verse or ten-syllable lines with occasional use of internal rhymes, the poems present an acrostic response to Psalm 34 since its referent was also written in lines that began with each letter of the alphabet. As the poet proceeds in “Reading the Psalter,” Psalm 54 considers how “Vengeance is mine,/ says the Lord….” which ends with the conclusion that “We must – I must do my own dirty work/ or forever hold my difficult peace.”

With laments, praise, cries, insight, a rare use of crudity, and occasional humor, one poem sends a critique in “E-Mails to Asaph,” admitting “If your God’s good with mixed metaphors,/ who am I to argue.” When the poet seeks to escape in “The Good Life,” the realization comes that “The same/ irreverence travels with me, clings to my every/ move like Spanish moss in the live oaks….” Nevertheless, the poem “Pentecost” reveals that “more than tongues/ or hummingbirds or art, we await,/ beyond wasp and swift or even want,/ a word to set ablaze the air, ignite our hearts.”

Continuing to seek “Words That Matter,” the poet sings “an infinite Word who calls forth// in our souls an infinite longing./ Though death may require a dislocation// of the self from all that is not the self,/ this is the Word that will return us to// our right minds, a right regard for all things./ This is the Word that will wake us from death.”

Before that waking though, “A New Song” brings the realization, “For now, I am thankful for how all things// seem to resolve into song – and the high call/ to bend our wills to set a wronged world right.” But how? How does the poet do that? How do we?

Quoting Psalm 150:6, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord,” the last line of the last poem ends this read-it-again collection with the challenge: “Do you breathe? Praise God” – an everlastingly good idea.

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler — poetry book reviewer and poet-author of Living in the Nature Poem published by Hiraeth Press, the book of Bible-based poems Outside Eden published by Kelsay Books, and the e-book, Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry

Opening King David: Poems in Conversation with the Psalms, paperback

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Bible People, then and now

The official Bible canon closed in the early years of the church, but Bible characters and their stories continue to connect with the people of God whose lives are still being written.

Returning People
by Mary Harwell Sayler

They’ve come, you know.
They’ve come through
Genesis singing Psalms
and Lamentations and landing
at your kitchen table. Sometimes
they walked. Sometimes they
danced. Sometimes they dragged
themselves through First and
Second Chronicles into one
war then another around a world
that rolls like parchment across
four walls where you sometimes
think you’re cornered until
they remind you that you’re not.
Listen. They come with slingshots,
tambourines, flatbread, and wine.
They come carrying poems,
prayers, and sometimes swords –
whatever it takes to get them
through a chapter and onto the
next revelation of what it means
to have a body, know a body
and be one, upright, with you,
around the table.

© 2007, Mary Harwell Sayler, All rights reserved. Originally published by CSS Publishing in 2007 in What A Body! book on the ministry gifts, this poem was later included in Outside Eden, published in 2014 by Kelsay Books

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