Some years ago when I was working on a 'Listening to God' unit for Christian Listeners, I wrote the following:
I’d like to walk with you, Lord
I’d like to walk with you, Lord
Along a coastland path.
I’d love to tell you stories
And hear you belly laugh.
I’d love to stop at a headland point
And gaze at the restive sea,
And listen to your gentle voice
Describing how you feel.
I’d love to walk with you, Lord
Into a shopping mall.
I’d love to see what shops you’d like
And if you’d use a credit card.
I’d love to stop for coffee
at a table on the street;
I’d love to see who’d come with tears
To wash their Saviour’s feet.
I’d love to walk with you, Lord
Into a local church:
I’d love to see what songs you’d sing -
Would you really like that dirge
That everybody strained at
While they took the offering?
And would you like the vicar’s style
Of intoning everything?
And I wonder where you’d sit Lord
At the front, or at the back?
And would you dance with a coloured flag -
Would you have the knack?
And who would you go and chat to
Over coffee in the hall?
Would you stop with one or two
Or would you try to see them all?
I guess I’m just being silly;
You’re God, for goodness sakes!
Your time is spent on major things
Not chatting to your mates.
But then I can’t help thinking
In your days in Galilee
That you did have walks with your good friends
And you chattered by the sea.
So perhaps I’m not that stupid
To think you’d walk with me.
Maybe I need to listen more
To look, and hope to feel
Your presence as I travel
On cliff path, street or pew,
To hear your laughter, sighs and tears
that inwardly renew
That part of me that has grown dull
But wants so much to see.
I’m tired of so much common sense
I’m tired of sanity!
Yes, I’d like to walk with you, Lord
No matter what they say
I’m going to put my boots on
Can I walk with you – today?
In the last few years I have served as spiritual accompanier for Pilgrimages to early Celtic Christian sites led by Russ Parker. Here are some of the poems that I have written:
Ciaran was born in 515. He founded a number of monasteries and came to Clonmacnoise in 549 to establish a new Christian community in the busy crossroads of river and road transport. He died not long after founding the community, which, after his death became one of the greatest centres of mission and learning in Ireland.
Thus Ciaran died
While peaty smoke caressed his face
And swans swooped over Shannon reeds
In the morning mist.
What did he see in those dying moments
Beyond the teary faces of faithful friends?
Did he see the future vision for which he strove?
Did he see the busy scenes of gospel-hearted scholars
And flames of brilliant light
Unextinguished by the cold winds of persecution?
Or were his eyes fixed on a greater flame,
The light of all lights?
Whatever his eye saw in those fading moments
There were those there who were so heated
By Ciaran's firey vision
That they travelled to the ends of the earth with that flame
And a darkened world blazed up in luminous glory.
Let my heart be lit by such unquenchable fire
That even the valleys of deepest darkness
Will be enflamed with tender Christ-light.
Brendan was born in 484 Brendan was born near Tralee in the south-west of Ireland. He was an active planter of monastic communities. In his early 60's he felt the call to search the seas of the West. In the Voyage of Brendan this is described as a part literal exploration, and part spiritual quest for Paradise. After he returned from his voyage he continued his community planting and died in his nineties and was buried at Clonfert.
Brendan was as mad as a bear with toothache
But it was a madness you loved
And you took hold of that old bear
And threw him out to sea
'Til he returned to land with such a wild tale
That even the priests laughed themselves silly.
The people danced in the surf of Bantry Bay
And a thousand coracles set sail
Into the bright breeze of your Spirit.
O Lord madden me by that same Spirit
Bring on the God-blessed flights of fancy
Inebriate me with Holy Ghost visions
And set me free to behold with the eyes of my heart
Great wonders on the high seas of God.
Brigid was born around 454. She was the Abbess of the monastery at Kildare that included both women and men. She was known for her kindness and charity, assisting the poor and freeing slaves. The fire she lit in the heart of her community burned for a thousand years, and the remains of this fire temple exist to this day.
Leading lady, leading light and brightly lit leader;
You were fuelled by the Breath of God
And the deep breath of a people inhaling the life of Christ.
Lit by compassion you reached out with healing.
Your flame burned for a thousand years
Tended by women of faith
And your fire is still remembered
By those who seek the warmth of Christ.
Dear God, open the vents of heaven
That I may catch my breath at your wonders
Fill me, that I may breathe upon the dimly burning wicks
And the fragile fires burning in the hearts
Of your servants in this beloved yet wounded world
And let the compassion of Brigid
Be as a fire in the temple of my soul.
Kevin was born in the middle of the 6th century. He founded his monastery in the lower valley of Glendalough, but later felt called to live the life of a hermit in the upper valley. He was at heart a mystic and was a great poet. He was a gentle and kind person with an unusual affinity to nature.
Few heard your footsteps in the forest
As you searched for your place of prayer.
You came to your mountain like an evening mist;
Mystery hung in the valley
While poetry rose in your soul.
Young mystic, dark-battling, light-releasing saint
You settled in your quiet soil
As autumn leaves brushed the lips
That quivered in devotion.
May I too find my high places of prayer;
Give me the grace to live with the shadows of God
And let holy mists of glory
Rise in praise to my most dear Creator.
Brynach was born in Ireland some time in the 6th century. He felt called to plant a community in Wales but initially there was strong opposition to him because he was Irish and following an attack he was seriously wounded with a spear. He was also attacked by demons, but survived all these and eventually planted his community at Nevern. Visitors today can see an ancient high cross, and yew trees 1200 years old, one of which weeps blood-red sap.
Dazed by the spear wound
Brynach found himself lowered
Into the sacred stream of Redspring.
And there, through the gentle hands of friends
The healing of Christ repaired his torn body.
He knew his destiny:
To plant a home in this foreign land
And this he did
Despite the hostile threats of men and demons.
This home still stands where ancient trees weep red
And a high gold-splashed cross
Reaches triumphant to a wild Welsh sky.
Dear Lord grant me Brynach's perseverance
That I may not fear the wounds from hostile hands
Nor be distracted in my quest
To build life-giving homes
Where the redspring of your Cross
Will weep with healing glory
On the sons and daughters of this wounded earth.
Non gave birth to David around 500 during a great storm. Tradition has it that when she gave birth, nearby water gushed from the ground and became a natural spring of water that has flowed ever since. It has been regarded as one of the most sacred wells of Wales, and many healings have taken place here.
We see you, Non,
In paintings, windows and sculptures
As a serene mother
Holding your infant, David, to your side.
But on that day when your waters broke
You gripped the stone on which you lay
And in your agony you birthed that young saint
Into Welsh destiny.
With his birth
The waters of the earth broke
Upon the bright sea-breezed headland
And have never ceased to flow.
To this crystal stream
Countless followers have pilgrimmed
To mark their new birth
And to feel the cool waters that rise from the dark earth.
Let your fountains of living water
Spring up again upon our dry land.
Flood us with the waters of new life
Flowing from the deep earth
Of your most generous heart.
After studying on Caldey Island, Illtyd founded a community at the place now called Llantyd Fawr in around 500. Illtyd was a fine soldier, but was dramatically converted when meeting the hermit Cadoc. He had a brilliant mind studying maths and philosophy, and he became a fine Bible scholar.
In the candlelight
Illtyd leans over his grainy wooden desk.
His head is as still as a standing stone
As he draws his mind once more
Into the pages of Holy Scripture
That are to him the brightest of lights
In a world of deep shadows.
The hand that once wielded a great iron sword
Now grasps the feather of a goose
And in the silence
Wisdom is scratched onto another page of history
And the foes of God are silenced.
Bless the mind you have entrusted to me
Take me deep into your sacred Scriptures
That well stand the test of time
And let me wield your wisdom
With an Illtyd heart
That radiant truth will set the captive free.
Breacan came to the island of Inis Moir in the Aran Islands, Ireland, in the late 5th or early 6th century, around the same time as Enda, whose communities also occupied the island. To the north of the island can be found a collection of buildings known as ‘The Seven Churches’, which would have been Breacan’s community.Within these buildings are the remains of the ‘Bed of the Holy Spirit’.
This ancient place of gathered stones on Inis Moirwas once your home.
We see it clearly – though now in ruins.
It is not tired or worn, but enduring and strong.
Each grey stone, hewn and shaped with such care
That is so alive, we almost hear its ‘hosanna’.
So here we sit in this bed of Holy Spirit
where once faithful people cameto dip their unshamed bodies
into the cool water
and with their eager hands grasped the love-carved cross
and felt the bond of earth and heaven
both yielding their tender blessings.
Thus our unclothed spirits reached up
with untroubled praiseto the wild, wild unroofed sky.
Oh God, lay me down on this thy Holy Spirit bed
cleanse me in its deep water
bring my earth and heaven to a sacred meeting
And in this resting place
breathe into me such dreams and visions
that will not fleein the busy beat of day.
10 April 2014
Sennach founded a monastery on the island of Illauntannig, just north of Castlegregory on the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland. Visitors to the island can still see the remains of the monastic community, including some beehive cells, a cross, church and burial ground. Access to the island is not easy!
Your hand that clutches the rim of your coracle
is the same that gently lifts its blessing
on your isle.
Such swells and currents don’t disturb you
for you dream them in your salty sleep.
You feel the surges of God in these waters
divine heaves and sighs
signs of the yearnings of God;
glimpses of the grace of God
in the fin of a passing dophin.
Is that why you set sail to this island
and built your tent from its rough earth?
I see you there, your blistered hand lifting dark stones
one upon the other
transforming these cold rocks into a vibrant home.
This your dysart, beckoning the surf of God
to break over the dry, dry land.
Oh Lord, when I settle too much on my mainland
take me back to these waters.
Let me feel again the movements of the great sea
the surgings of your restless heart.
Let me see the glittering surf
your life breaking through the waters
my soul at last in tune with yours.
13 April 2014 Dingle Peninsula
Our God of Hope
There is a God whose light shines in every darkness
There is a God who hears every lament
There is a God who transforms even the deepest grief
Therefore you have hope:
You shall sing again, but with a different tune
You shall dance again, but with a different step
You shall laugh again, but with a different breath
Not yet, but one day,
For there is a God who heals your wound
with the gentlest hand.
This is a poem I wrote some years ago for some friends of mine who experienced a sudden and terribly tragic family bereavement. The situation seemed so hopeless, but as I prayed for them I realised that there was hope around, but hope didn't mean everything would get better and we'd all get over it - far from it. The bereavement would cause us to change, and within that change there would be newness. I also wanted to include a note about not trying to find hope in a hurry, but to give it time.