In the two-CD effort Why Not Sea Monsters? Songs from the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament,(CarpetSquare) Justin Roberts steers clear of any ham-fisted agenda while staying faithful to the power and majesty of the Bible stories, and making them his stories. On the “Hebrew Scriptures” CD, Roberts gets things off to a clever start with “Why Not a Spark?” Singing in a style that suggests John Lennon, James Taylor and Glenn Tilbrook, Roberts lays out the tale of creation as if God were a smiling child in a swirling cosmic sandbox: “On the fourth day / God said, Where are the stars? / Where’s Mercury, Venus and Mars?/ Where’s all those old rusty cars? / Wait, that’s later!”
Maker of galaxies, at latest count Billions! And who can say that our Big Bang Was not preceded, from your primal fount By other billions, while the angels sang? Then shall we take the word of a great Jew, That one child is more precious in your sight Than all the rocks in all the worlds you view, And loyal anima is your delight? Maker of galaxies, how then weigh out A small Iraqi eye, terror-suffused, Against the marvels you have brought about, Why are your little children so abused? “Not bread, not miracles, not use of power,” So your Son said. We must await your hour.
Spring did not officially arrive until two this afternoon, or so the weatherspinner had informed us, so that when, at morning prayer, my still wintered words were interrupted by a pair of honking calls, I laughed aloud to think that my Canadian neighbors of several springtimes had beaten nature’s clock by seven hours and more to seek their customary lot along the creek for hatching this year’s brood.
Minutes later—the creed and half a prayer, no less— and their first raucous pass to reconnoitre was followed by the splashdown run, low now across our deck and through the clustered trees onto that quiet pool stretching above the rapids where, over the next few days, they will be joined, most likely, by a familiar pair of mallard ducks who share their taste in shoreline real estate. Meanwhile a red-tailed hawk orbits high aloft in leisurely anticipation.
He introduces each poet with a brief biography or an overview of the poet’s work. Hirsch draws on his own lifetime of poetry reading and writing in assembling an engrossing collection that will serve those who appreciate poetry but are glad for a guide. The international collection of poems and poets testifies to the power of poetry around the globe.
Here’s your Ash Wednesday story. A mother carries her tiny daughter With her as she gets ashed and the Girl, curious and wriggly, squirms Into the path of the priest’s thumb Just as the finger is about to arrive On the mother’s forehead, and the Ashes go right in the kid’s left eye. She starts to cry, and there’s a split Second as the priest and the mother Gawk, and then they both burst out Laughing. The kid is too little to be Offended, and the line moves along, But this stays with me; not the ashy Eye as much as the instant when all Could have been pain and awkward But instead it led to mutual giggling. We are born of dust and star-scatter And unto this we shall return, this is The Law, but meantime, by God, we Can laugh our asses off. What a gift, You know? Let us snicker while we Can, brothers and sisters. Let us use That which makes dark things quail.
Between 1990 and 2010, Iowa lost over 500 churches. The numbers reflect migration from rural to urban areas and the fewer number of people who identify with a faith community. The decline in churches is having a direct effect on the social fabric of the state. According to research at Iowa State University, nine out of ten rural people said they rely less on their neighbors than they once did. Surviving churches have gone back to older patterns to find leadership, engaging itinerant pastors or lay leaders. Some are surviving through cooperation with other denominations or with ethnic Christian groups (Pacific Standard, January 20).