Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Poem for Advent

Not Yet
(A Poem for Advent)

Soon outcasts whose
only companions
are sheep
will be summoned to
a not so royal
not yet

Soon star gazers will
follow their hearts
and a light
only to be surprised
to find a child
cradled in
not yet

Soon a frightened king
will seek answers
from sacred texts
but will not find them
and will  be
surrounded by
more questions
not yet

We, like Mary, must wait
upon the good news
for all
because waiting is
required by a
Father who
knows the impatience
of a people
who need the child
who also need the time
not yet

The waiting is a pregnant
space filled with
longing and hope-
Tis a laboring time
of listening and
Advent- the season of
not yet

Jody Seymour
Advent 2016

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Salvation and a Missed Trip to the Bathroom

Salvation and a Missed Trip to the Bathroom

            I was ten years old when I found myself on the top row of the Charlotte Coliseum sitting between my father and mother.  Dad for sure did not want to be there.  It was the last night of the Billy Graham crusade and the only reason for my father’s attendance was the result of a peace offering that he gave my mother after they had some sort of disagreement.
            My Catholic father, who only attended mass once in a while just before his early Sunday morning golf matches, had no room in his mind or heart for altar calls and “finding Jesus.”  Such customs and terminology were completely foreign to my Dad whose religious language was in Latin at the time.  Sure he did not understand it but he was not supposed to.
            So that night near the end of the evening when George Beverly Shea started singing after Billy’s invitation to accept Jesus into your heart, I saw my Dad rise out of his seat.  I assumed he was going to the bathroom so I followed him. 
            To my surprise I found myself standing beside my father in the midst of a large group of people many of whom were crying as “Just as I am” was being played and sung.  We never made it to the bathroom.  Instead we were escorted into a petitioned off room and sort of interviewed by a volunteer, who happened to be a Presbyterian minister.
            My father had joined the throng of people not only physically but emotionally.  He was crying.  I had never seen my father cry.  What followed was a series of pamphlets that came to our home in the mail as a way to lead my Dad and me closer to salvation.  My religious material was geared to my age as was Dad’s.  Somewhere on the journey he decided that if he was going to be serious about this salvation thing he would have to become a Methodist and join Mom and me in the quest to “find Jesus.”
            I remember the official letter he got from his Catholic priest informing him that his decision to leave the faith meant that “his soul was in danger of hellfire.”  I also remember our soft spoke Methodist preacher, Bill McCulley, angrily telling that priest over the phone, “Who in the hell do you think you are telling this dear man about the status of his immortal soul?”  Wow, that was a big thing for this quiet unassuming pastor to say.  “This must be serious,” I thought.
            Cliff Barrow's funeral recently reminded me that George Beverly Shea’s rich baritone voice is now silent and he has joined that heavenly choir, but I still remember that bathroom detour that was part of my “salvation journey.”  The newspaper article telling of Barrow's funeral mentioned that the wheel chair bound Graham was mostly blind now and his powerful preaching voice was limited to quiet “one word sentences.”
            The article also chronicled Graham’s pilgrimage from a hell and damnation type message if you did not find Jesus in time to broader words about love and caring.  My personal theology is and was a far cry from Billy Graham’s but I will be forever grateful for the power of George Beverly Shea’s voice and the door that Billy Graham opened for my father and me to “find Jesus.”
            I have come a long way since missing the bathroom that night but I still remember Mom and Dad putting on the records and hearing “Blessed Assurance Jesus is Mine,” and “How Great Thou Art.”  We would sit in the Living Room watched over by a picture of Jesus entitled “Inspiration.” 
            I found that picture recently in my attic.  Jesus looks like a cross between Richard Simmons and Boy George.  The expression on his face is such that you might scare him if you suddenly said, “Boo.”  But that was the Jesus of my younger years and for a while he was just fine.
            He is not so fine now but then Jesus can’t be captured anyway.  He is bigger than George or Billy or Jody but he finds a way to reach people in mysterious ways for sure.
            I have taken many detours since that night I thought I was headed to the bathroom.  It seems that the spiritual journey is full of surprises and turns in the road.  Our task is to stop, look, and listen; and ponder where we end up.
            So George, thank you for that voice that reached out and melted the heart of my father.  And Billy, bless you as you wait to meet face to face the man you offered to so many including a crying Catholic and his son.  Your mind perhaps is cloudy now and you have no idea of the number of people you led to Jesus…but the Jesus who is not in any picture frame knows.
            I marvel at the variety of paths that the spiritual journey offers.  One of mine happened on the way to the bathroom. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

A Thanksgiving Poem

Falling Leaves
(A Thanksgiving Poem)

So colors fall to the ground
releasing Spring’s hope
in a kind of death
spiral, but in the
breeze that
cradles them
comes a
leaf’s whisper;

“Thank you for life- that
gift you offered me
to shine for a time
and twist in
the wind of
your breath that
first gave me

So in this season of color and endings
stand below one of
Creation’s leafy canvases
and allow falling
life to surround
you for a moment
and then say
“thank you”

For we too are full of color
and life but
so often forget from
where we came,
thinking we are
just here
in some

So it is a time of falling
leaves that calls to us-
 a reminder that
we too are full of
a gift that
comes from the breeze-
Hold a fallen leaf
in your hand and
give thanks…

Jody Seymour

Friday, November 11, 2016

An Open Letter to Donald Trump

An Open Letter to Donald Trump

            I just got up off my knees and I do not usually find myself in that posture.  I prayed for you and for people like me who are completely shocked at what happened, but then that is my problem not yours.  I prayed for our country because if it had gone like many of us thought it would we would still be in a mess and terribly divided.
            I am writing this because I have to get something out.  I have no idea what I will do with it until after I read it.  I do not want to do harm.  There is enough harm and blame to go around.
            I want you to know why so many of us are confused and perhaps afraid.  It can be summed up in the words of a young child who when told by her tearful mother that you had won the election simply responded, “Well Mommy, maybe this will make him a better man.”
            I/we need you to be a better man than the candidate who worked so hard to get where you now are.  We need the office to transform you because if we believe what you said and promised we will remain afraid and even hurt.
            You can begin with letting go of your threat to prosecute your opponent.  Even if she is “guilty” of something your first act can show us what kind of person you are.  Whatever your feelings about Mrs. Clinton she is obviously a wounded person right now.  You can show us the kind of character you possess by disappointing the angry people who shouted so much, “lock her up.”  You can become a better man by changing direction and offering a hand of reconciliation to a divided people.  It will show who you are.
            Next you can listen to all those voices that you did not hear as a candidate who will now fill your ears and mind with the reality of the world and how complicated and dangerous it is.  None of us will know what kind of briefing you will daily get about those who seek to do us harm.  Surely you will quickly realize that the issues you so often tweeted about cannot be responded to in tweets but must be thought through and handled carefully.
            Mrs. Clinton may have been guilty of being “careless” in her handling of e mails but as our new President we do not need to go to sleep at night thinking that you will lead us as a nation in the careless manner in which you often acted and spoke.  All Muslims are not terrorists.  All immigrants are not rapists and thieves.  All women are not objects.  All trade agreements and treaties are not sound bite material.
            I believe when you start to hear the “truth” of these matters from those who will give you those detailed briefings that you can start talking not in tweets but with substance.  If you do this you will disappoint some of those who voted for you because you promised to build walls and deport people, but that will show that the office is bigger than the candidate who ran for it.
            Border security is justified without having to use angry rhetoric.  Immigration reform is long overdue without having to paint with such a board brush and gather groups of people and send them back.  You will learn that such nations as Russia and North Korea are not what you claimed them to be.  You will know more about them than we ever will and it will and can change your attitude and policies but you can do that because now you are not running you are serving.
            We need you to show us you know how to serve not just how to rule.  Your language painted a picture of a ruler who promised to “fix” things that are not easily fixed.  I am sure it will not take you long to learn this. Show us that you can lead and not just dictate.  We need that Mr. President Elect.
            You promised to “make America great again,” and it now appears that more people believed you than doubted you.  Many of us still doubt you.  Make us believe you by showing us what great really means.  Show us that it is not just a slogan on a hat but a portal to bring about a spirit that created the heritage that is America.  It is a heritage of a welcoming spirit that prized freedom for all.  We learned the hard way as a nation and we did not always live our stated principals of liberty for all but you can help us remember what true greatness is.
            Greatness does not begin with fear and labeling.  Greatness begins with listening and offering a kind of strength that is not just based on big words and threats.  Greatness means a willingness to take chances on justice, mercy, and love.  This is not na├»ve simplistic thinking but neither is it sound bite kind of thinking.  Show us that you can quickly learn when you close those doors and listen to the great complexity of the issues you spoke so firmly about.  Show us you can do what that child hoped.  Show us you can be a better man because we need and want you to be.
            Make me wrong about you Mr. President.  I want to be wrong.  I/we need you to be a better man.  I hope you believe that we really want that from you and for you.  You will be our President.  That cannot happen simply because of a vote count.  It can happen if you will listen and learn and serve.  I will continue to get on my knees because I need to.  God bless you Donald Trump.