Friday, February 24, 2017

A Poem for the Lenten Season

Through the Wilderness

            As a pastor something I have heard over the years from people going through tough times is, “Why is this happening to me?  Where is God in all this?”  I listen to their story and then gently ask them, “Have you ever wondered why there is so much wilderness and exile in the Bible?  You see, the journey goes through the wilderness.”

Through the Wilderness

Why do you lead me through
the wilderness?
My map shows another way
no turns or bends
yet straight
to my contentment

Yet you say the hard way
is best for me
To strip away the weight
that has settled
around my all too
satisfied soul

You bid me to kneel and
remember that I
Am mere dust gathered
for a time and
then blown away
by the wind

Yet for this dust you died
on a distant hill
Your way was through
the wilderness
and you went there
for me when
I get lost

There is leaning in the
wilderness of Lent
That cannot be found on
the highway where
we go so fast
and fail to see

“Front dust you came and
to dust you shall return…”
But O how you love
the dust

 Jody/Lent 2017

Monday, January 2, 2017

A New Year Poem

Step Forward…Slowly
(a poem for the New Year)

Ah, there you are with your
arms wide open
You bid me to step forward
Your hand raised as a caution
to guide me for
you know my desire
to run

You know me because your
memory has witnessed my haste
Times I should have walked
open eyed
Instead I have hurried to
arrive only to
find myself
weary from the journey

So you are new, again
and you offer fresh hope
if I see instead of
just looking
How much did I miss
in your past offerings
because of my

You want me to make it
better for all
not just for me and mine
You wait
as I must before I start to

And what is this you whisper
to me in my waiting?
“Make it truly
the gift of a new year
…this time”

Jody Seymour

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Morning Thought: New is Not Always Better

New Is Not Always Better

            Okay, I know because of my degrees and seminary training that I am supposed to be supportive of the newer translations of the bible but quite frankly there are moments when new is not always better because something gets lost.  A good example is the famous Christmas story from Luke.
            I grew up on swaddling clothes instead of “bands of cloth.”  I also remember the line in those church Christmas pageants that I often participated in as a child when we heard that the shepherds were sore afraid rather than “terrified.”  So let me share with you why new is not always better.
            First of all to hear the words “bands of cloth” sounds rather mundane but if you look up the practice of swaddling it was done because the people in Mary and Joseph’s day believed that to not wrap the child tightly form head to toe after bathing the infant in salt would mean that the baby might just have crooked legs.  Now let’s just stop a minute and see the power of this practice.
            I mean Mary earlier had been visited by an angel and told that this child of hers was to be the Son of God.  There was to be no honeymoon fun to create the child.  This kid was coming without a middle-man.  Why wrap the child in the same package as other infants? 
            We need to hear swaddling because it is a different word; an old word for an old ordinary practice that mother’s used to help babies grow straight.  Jesus was real.
            We are in danger in our new age of being desensitized by those smiling wooden or plastic manger figures looking up at us from a neat tiny manger.  Jesus becomes “a figure” that is “nice.”  It becomes too easy to forget that he was the product of a woman’s labor.  I just witnessed my daughter’s labor as she birthed “her firstborn child and laid him in a…well…something new.”  Labor is for sure real.
            Mary may have had some help when it came to the conception but she received little when it came to the birth.  The birthing suite was not available and the mid-wife was off for the Christmas Eve holiday.  Mary might have whispered a prayer that night in the midst of smelly animals, “O my angel, where are you now?”
            And then Jesus was swaddled because after that birth and where it happened, Mary knew for sure what we need to remember; this wondrous child was one of us.  He had no wings.  The Wise Men would bring no magic wand.  He would be swaddled again in the not too distant future; this time by another Joseph of Arimathea who attempted to help the family find a place to bury their crucified son.
            He was swaddled.  He needed swaddling because he really was and is Emmanuel; God with us…really with us; then and now.
            And lastly; what about sore afraid? As an educated grown up I now know that “sore” simply means “very.”  Well, since Christmas begins as a children’s story what I remember as a child is that the shepherds were actually “sore;” you know as in muscle pain.  It all started out with people being “really sore.”  And here again the manger baby would sure end up being sore for us.  He would be “wounded for our transgressing…by his stripes we would be healed.”
            I like “sore” because everybody is terrified these days about something.  We lose the power of it all. 
            Jesus was swaddled and the shepherds were sore.  It is a sweet, wonderful story but it is more than the Christmas story.  It is the beginning of God becoming really real for us.  Sometimes new is not always better.  Thanks be to God.
            So with all this in mind, here is a poem about it all:

She Wrapped Him Tight

She wrapped him tight
but why?
Swaddling it was called
back then
So that legs would grow
strong and straight

But he was the child of
 an angel’s promise
Why go to the trouble
for he was
Surely straight from
the very start

But no, God meant to
make him real
So that finally a
very stubborn
People would realize
that God was real

God with us

Jody Seymour
Christmas 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Night Before Christmas: The Real Story

Twas the Night Before Christmas
(The “real” story)

Twas the night before Christmas,
And all through the stable,
Not an animal was sleeping,
None of them were able.

Something special was ahead,
All the animals knew,
The cow couldn’t speak,
But he did say, “moo.”

A star was shinning,
Ever so bright,
And the donkey was nervous,
He was really uptight.

The animals could sense it,
But they really could not say,
So they tried to keep warm,
In the midst of the hay.

If the sheep could have spoken,
She would have shouted, “hoorah,”
But in the excitement,
It just came out, “bah.”

Something was stirring,
In the air that night,
That special star was in the sky,
Shedding its light.

Then out of the dark there appeared,
Such a clatter,
The animals wondered,
Just what was the matter.

The door slammed at the Inn,
And the sign read, “All Filled,”
And the stirring of animals,
Was suddenly stilled.

From out of the dark,
Came Joseph and Mary,
It was time for a birth,
And things were kind of scary.

Some angels flew by,
Knowing the hour was near,
And hurried off,
To sings songs of great cheer.

The first folks they found,
Were shepherds tending their sheep,
But news like this,
Just was not going to keep.

The angels broke into song,
The sky filled with joy,
And they told the shepherds,
About the birth of a boy.

“Hurry,” they said,
“And in a stable you’ll see,
The birth of your savior,
It’s the manger baby.”

The shepherds had trouble,
Believing their eyes,
It was angels they saw,
So they all gave high fives.

Meanwhile back at the stable,
Baby Jesus did appear,
Way before the pawing,
Of tiny reindeer.

Because it’s Jesus,
That gave Christmas its start,
Before Santa and Rudolf,
God gave us his heart.

In a manger of hay,
With animals for friends,
Baby Jesus was born,
That’s the way Christmas really begins.

The shepherds arrived,
The wise men three,
With presents at a stable,
With no Christmas tree.

So remember the night,
Animals wanted to speak,
And come to the manger,
For this child we must seek.

Before mistletoe and Jingle Bells,
Before Grinches and shopping,
Came the meaning of Christmas,
Before we ever hung a stocking.

So sing a song of good cheer,
Children in all times and all places,
For little boy Jesus,
Came to put a smile on your faces.

And as the curtain came down,
The animals thought, “What a sight.”
And Mary and Joseph whispered,
“Merry Christmas to all
and to all a good night.”

Jody Seymour