Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Bobi Jones’

The Year Has Known Conversion

November 21, 2008 Leave a comment

As I gaze out upon my leaf-covered lawn, I am reminded, “the year has
known conversion.” Bobi Jones wrote those words as he stepped out into
a springtime bursting forth into new life, confessing, “energy is
everywhere.” As he celebrates that “winter has gone to its fathers,” I
watch winter return and begin overtaking the golden autumn afternoons
with freezing breath.

And once again, I think about the phrase, “the year has known
conversion.” Nothing remains. Oh that the glory of trees raining
colored leaves might last just a bit longer. But the gentle wonder
gives way to barrenness. And the season is left behind.

My world has known conversion this year. As most of you know, our
building caught fire last February. The Living Room that had hosted
weddings and movie nights, retreats and a weekly liturgy, caught fire
one Thursday morning. I got a call after lunch. We recovered boxes of
books for future cleaning. Then a few of us began meeting in the home
again as we left that season behind.

More recently, my job ended. One Thursday. And in true literary style,
I got a call after lunch. After months of dropping sales, our company
began cutting jobs. I packed up a few boxes for future sorting. Then I
came back home to work and left that season behind.

Even as I write these words, I realize that I am addressing many other
people who have known conversion this year. Some of you lost your jobs
in the midst of this struggling economy. Some of you have lost loved
ones to death. Some of you have known the death-like agony of
separation and divorce. And some of you have watched your savings
almost disappear as the stocks keep tumbling down.

Much like the barren trees, our lives sometime reflect a season of
stripping away. A time of loss and death. We know the uncertainty of
conversion that feels like the world has come to an end. Almost
weekly, I hear some preacher declaring the end of the world is at
hand. And in some ways they are most certainly right. The world has
ended for some people.

Listening to a survivor of the Rwandan genocide recently, I was
transfixed by the sudden and horrible devastation that can bring a
family, a nation, a world to an end. It reminds me of the insulation
lives that most Americans live. Tragedy happens to the other guy: the
person on the other side of the world. When it comes close, people cry
out, “Why me?”

In other ages and times, people have wondered, “Why not me?” Why did
it pass me by? Earlier this year, I read Barbara Tuchman’s revealing
account of the 14th century in the “The Distant Mirror.” The century
knew conversion. Darkness descended across Europe in ways that no 13th
century person could have anticipated.

The dramatic progress of the 12th and 13th century came crashing down
as famine, black plague, war, raiders, and other natural and man-made
disasters brought the Western world to the brink of destruction. And
in the midst of this devastation, some towns prospered. One town fell
victim to complete annihilation by the black plague and another town
didn’t experience a single case, leaving survivors to wonder, “Why did
I survive?”

As I think about the chaos of the 14th century and I consider the
chaos that ripples across the world in the 21st century, think of the
Spirit of God who hovers over the waters of the deep. Again and again
in Scripture, the Lord shows up in the midst of flooding, fire, wind,
and death.

The Bible doesn’t present a world free of problems and suffering and
pain. Rather, we are confronted with a disturbing portrait of man’s
inhumanity against man. We see evil expressed in violence, war, and
all manner of human suffering. We behold people who face the same pain
and anguish and barrenness that sometimes comes close to our lives and
into our homes.

And yet, we also see God in the midst. The ocean of chaos that
threatens all order cannot threaten God. He consistently enters into
the midst of his suffering people. In the gospels, we behold the Lord
of Glory entering in to our frailty, our suffering, our pain, our
death.

And what does he do in death?

He creates a new man, a new world. All things are made new. The chaos
doesn’t threaten him. When the world seemed be coming apart in the
14th century, His Spirit brought winds of change in the 15th and 16th
century that opened new possibilities for people throughout the world.

When it seems like our world is colliding to an end, His grace can
heal and renew and revision and recreate our lives, our families, our
world. Whether we suffer sickness or job loss or financial problems or
relational strains. He has not abandoned us in this season of winter.

This brings me back to Bobi’s line, “The year has known conversion.”
When Bobi uses the word conversion, he is drawing from a deeper well
than just change. He is called upon this conversion that our Savior
reveals in His resurrection. He brings life out of death. He writes,

“Winter has gone to its fathers.
It was sharp; alive. And look at them here:
Life has triumphed over life, and death death
On this everlasting meadow that is
A Cross for the year.
Spring came through the mouth of the morning
Its tongue clamouring hotly on the petals of sunrise
Like the boots of a soldier coming home.”

His poem stirs my heart, as I continue gazing at the barren trees in
my yard. Even as the coldness of winter sometimes to grip our world
and our homes and our lives, He is coming. The Soldier who harrowed
hell is coming. And even in the midst of our endings, He is a
beginning. Let us rejoice at the newness of His grace that surrounds
us even now, and look expectantly for the new shoots to spring forth
in the midst of the old.

Buried Treasure

October 22, 2008 Leave a comment

After hours of digging, we finally quit. My sister and I were going to dig to China (or at least discover some buried treasure in the process). I guess we choose the wrong spot. Like most children, visions of treasure chests often danced in our eyes as we longed to find that one map that would lead us to “x marks the spot.”

I never found that map.

Over time, the passion of childhood dreams is buried beneath layers of pain and disappointment. Hope that is frustrated again and again goes underground. But it still bubbles, and once in a while we feel fleeting sensations of this childhood ache for Christmas magic, buried treasure and the world of fairies. Chesterton and Lewis realized that this we wouldn’t have this longing if it wasn’t for something real.

Here is a delightful verse from my favorite poet Bobi Jones (translated by Joseph Clancy). Hope you enjoy, and may it stir a little longing in your soul.

Labrador
By Bobi Jones

Cold ugly lady with beads
of icebergs around your sea
like stumps of teeth,

Uncivilized, empty, and fruitless apart
from the ore beneath your soil that is
a complex in the sub-conscious.

Out of sight your embryo, in
your wine cellars, the love child
deep beneath your desolation,

Is about to flourish like a fountain. Overhead
the sun is always moon
shining over the blossoms

Out of sight beneath the soil forever.
Singing was hid there,
colours are buried: here it is all

A waiting, all of it is about to come,
and the strain of holding the possibilities
inside, a discipline

We in Wales don’t know much about.

Learning to Think

August 14, 2008 Leave a comment

This probably deserves more space, but I was talking with our group last night about the need to learn the habit of thinking. We live in times when we are bombarded with information, bits of data. From blogs like this to rss feeds to non-stop entertainment and 24 news cycles, we know lots and lots about little bits of stuff. But instead of helping us to think, this immersion into data seems to make everyone talk and act like robots that repeat the latest cliche.

We need time to pause and wait and think. A.W. Tozer once suggested that books should starting the thinking process but reading is not a replacement for thinking.

As I was reflecting on the story of King David, I thought about how his time as a shepherd gave him time to think. From the psalms he composed, it is clear that he spent time thinking, reflecting and contemplating upon the law, the creation around him, relationships and even statecraft. We talk about David the warrior and David the psalmist but I would also think of him as David the thinker.

Thinking is not about using large words that exclude most people and only allow specialists to enter a dialogue. Nor is it about forming other kinds of exclusive clubs that exalt one set of ideas or one group over another. It is the habit of regular reflection. The habit of using our imagination and reason together. And in the Bible, it is about training the mind and heart to focus on the Word, soak in the Word, reflect on the Word and reflect upon the world around me through the lens of the Word. And thinking is not simply silent ideas swirling in my head. It is speaking and singing thought.

The Psalms and poetry (as well as Eugen Rosenstock Huessy) have taught me about speech-thinking. The poet focuses upon the particular, the common, the thing right in front of him. As he reflects and speaks about the “thingyness” of the thing before him, his ideas explode outward, opening the particular thing into a vision of the universal.

Here is a poem by the Welsh poet Bobi Jones (translated by Joseph Clancy). Imagine Bobi enjoying a warm home with his family. As he sits before the hearth and thinks about the heat circulating through the house, he sees the grace of God afresh. He redefines fire and heat and hearth for us as we live thorugh his eyes.

As I read this poem yet again, I pray for eyes to see the world around me, and the discipline to pause and think about all the great gifts that fill my world.

Hearth

Hell is fire; then there’s a fire that’s Heaven
In a grate amidst the children. We draw close around it
And listen to the beating of its orange wings
Against the breeze that’s gathered the invisible
Confidential cooking of the hearth.
The fire from the sky, it broke through the rain
And alighted like a bird upon the kitchen altar.
And the mother caught it like Noah’s dove
Between her two hands and offered it becomingly.

Which of us who listen to it can help but hear
The warm melody of the kettleful of family?
In bed, between mother and myself,
God is warm; and His place at the table’s filled.
He is the Musician we hear coming
From room to room in secret.
It is His music heats the house
Gurgling through feet and blood, to rise,
Smokeless, to our half drunk heads.

Only those who know the sunshine know the beauty
That breaks across the mat between door and cupboard.
It pierces to the marrow of all laughter patiently
Like a tune that lingers round the edges of the mind
Or a cat curling up. Our song’s purring, the love
That’s been composed so cunningly, that’s been performed
On the harpstrings of the family fires through Him.

by Bobi Jones (translated by Joseph Clancy)

In Praise of Pasture

July 6, 2008 Leave a comment

Notes on “To a Scrap of Pasture Pushing Itself Between the Slates of Pavement”

Bobi Jones sings a song a praise “To a Scrap of Pasture Pushing Itself Between the Slates of Pavement.” As he looks out upon the square in the middle of town, he sees a blade of grass growing up through the pavement. He hears God singing through this pasture, and revealing in image His wisdom in parables, His holy presence, His birth and death and resurrection.

Though we pave over the earth, His song cannot be stopped, and “His lightning will tongue-lash freely from the earth.” In this small blade, Jones sees a “deluge” and an “eloquent greenery” that “narrates His life and speaks in parables on all sides.”

Jones calls us to look with him,
“When we look, there are angels near the stage
And the mist at the back, its head in feathers.”

These words call to my mind the image of Isaiah’s encounter with the holiness of God in the temple. Isaiah sees the Lord “high and lifted up” and the “train of His robe filling the temple.” Around the throne he sees angels, covered in winged and hiding their face and feet before the holiness of God.

In the middle of a town square filled with people moving to and fro, God reveals His holy power and glory in a single blade of grass. This blade of grass becomes a “thin place” where the glory of God is revealed, shouting aloud the wisdom of God. But the simple pass by and miss the awesome display of God’s wonder.

The song that is sung is the song of the Word made Flesh. For in the blade of grass, Jones sees a mystery. He “watch(es) Him being born there.” This blade of grass speaks to Jones of the nativity and the irrepressible life of Christ, but the image of pasture also speaks of grain that is formed into bread.

As Jesus proclaimed, “Unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it remains a single grain.” Jones sees this grain springing up in bread that feeds the people of God with the bread of heaven, the Lord’s Supper. Jones writes,
An herb whose flesh’s heap of crops we taste
In the tasting it turns to wormwood like each scrap that grows
But I know beneath my ribs the coming of the hour’s astonishment.

The supper is bitter for in partaking of His body broken for us, we are entering into the communion of death. Jones writes that the bread is literally beneath his ribs being digested. In the meal of death, we partake of life anew.

The bread of heaven nourishes. Even as our body draws nourishment from the physical bread, our whole person draws life from the bread of Christ. In His death, we know life. For in His death, we can participate in the great mystery of life after death.

Each day we rise, we taste the sweetness of death in Christ and the hope of life after death. His irrepressible life is at work in us. So no matter what happens in our world. The fools of the world can try to extinguish God’s word and life and power from the earth, but they cannot, for it springs afresh in us, in a little blade of grass bursting through the pavement, and in all creation.

He’s performing. The foolish civilization of today can
Kill Him and bury Him deep. The inherent will frolic through the soil.
In the hand of the grassblade the creation trembles,
And it sows eternity itself: tender is the land.

The Gift of the Poets

June 18, 2008 Leave a comment

In his poems praising various people, Bobi Jones writes a poem to the poet. The Celtic poets use the discipline of constant praise to offer thanks, challenge status quo, offer social commentary and more.

Such a praising of the harvesting of the keeping–the baby’s life,
The lad’s life, the old man’s life behind your door.*

Bobi realizes that the poet connects the generations. And for a people crushed either personally or as a nation, the poet transforms that pain:

And you turned the blows as well into a praise of living.

These Welsh poets have personally gifted me with the habit of praise, of sight to praise and as Bobi says, of learning to transform the struggles and blows in this world into a “praise of living.”

The poet offers everything–the very essence of his life–in service to the gift.

From your immense Preselau** you raised teh walls of your belonging
And in the presence of its sun’s rafters you consecrated your laughter’s values:
You made your people one in a mystery sea.
You included us in your family. You sang
The white guts of your praise and your being, and you planted
Your leaves in our back-garden in proper robes like a choir.

* – Bobi Jones writes poetry exclusively in Welsh, so when I quote him, I am quoting Joseph Clancy’s translations.

** – Preselau or Presely Hills, a place in Wales (whose location is in question). I think this poem is using it as a way of identifying the land of the poet (which like the ancient Hebrew is connected with his salvation).

Potatoes and Peace!

May 16, 2007 Leave a comment

During the middle of the Cold War, as America and the Soviet Union raided their children’s future to fund a space program, Welsh poet Bobi Jones wrote a plea for peace with the potato as a love messenger. Could the poor potato bring that love message to our warring world?

Sending a Potato as a Love-Messenger to the Spacemen of America and Russia

Will you go for me to the moon-struck men?
Oh political matter, will you go?
(Stars and moon are political matters now:
A potato’s a political matter in our enlightened age.)
I’d like to see you go because you know what it is
To be in hot water, old friend of peas,
Fellow union-member with meat. You know
The slums of the earth, and on your crooked back
Is found the mark of toil; through your pits
You’ve heard the simple cursing of the unchosen people
Of worms and the beetles (neighbor of beans).
I’ll send you, because you’re a fist, and your smile
Is almost kind; and tell them
(The interworldists who are worse than the almost unmentionable internationalists)
Of solid lands, stupid potato
Of good leaves, of deep soil with roots, of fat ants
That lick a hollow through your side. I know
That will be a void of meaning, but at least
It will be a void fit for them to fly through
On a new course. So they will sing to hear you,
And you know how a seed can grow
When the forests have doffed their shadows
And when the mornings come to ride their big-bellied colts.
You needn’t insist you can’t possibly go
Because you’re so fatigued: ask someone to fling you.

(from Bobi Jones, Selected Poems, Christopher Davies Ltd: Swansea, Wales, 1987.)

Bobi Jones

November 15, 2006 Leave a comment

Here is a little poem from one of my favorite Welsh poets, Bobi Jones. Hopefully this will suffice in lieu of a good quote for the day. And I must also offer tribute to Joseph Clancy for the translation (as translation is an integral part of the poetic art).

The Middle Aged Poet

The child has dried up; his play and his sweat have died
His dance has shrivelled, besieged by bloated limbs,
And his leg’s sprightliness has grown bitter. I wonder whether
The muse can restore it in her swaddlings? Yes. Though finger
And thumb and ankle rot, praise will surely escape from their pit
By night, and make metre of the corruption: angels of mirth
Will still chat in the joints of the Poem. I bear within me
The innocents’ cheerful graveyard; an occasional night
Invites the remains of me to creep secretly out
To the early-patterned white leaves, and I dance a cradle’s questions
Through them, rhymes’ curiosity, till the dawn;
Then heavily, stooped, sad, in a magic procession,
Like lamentations that ventured out freely
For a time, they muster back to my silent daily ageing.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: