Slow Down, Look Around, Beauty Is Everywhere

Blog / Produced by The High Calling

Recently I stopped at Office Max to get some supplies for a poetry workshop I'm leading at Laity Lodge this weekend. And I was struck by their ad campaign at the time: "Life is beautiful. Work can be too." I believe our daily lives and our daily work should be beautiful. And I believe poetry can help us find the beauty.

Looking at our site's purpose, you might wonder, "What does poetry have to do with the high calling of daily life and work?" David, the shepherd-warrior-king, certainly found it relevant. Solomon, the wisest king in the bible, certainly found it relevant. Daniel knew Babylonian poetry well enough to understand the worldview of the culture around him. Paul knew Greek poetry well enough to stand at Mars Hill and quote their own artists back to them.

Poetry is a way of seeing ourselves and the world around us. For me poetry is prayer. And like C. S. Lewis said in The Great Divorce, “Looking comes first… At present your business is to see. Come and see. He is endless.”

Where do we look? Poetry isn’t hidden in special places. King David understood that when he wrote the first lines of this poem:

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. (Ps 19:1-2, NIV)

Paul understood that when he described the people of God as the fabric or artwork of God. Here is what Paul says to the church in Ephesus:

For we are God's masterpiece [poiema]. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago (Eph 2:10, NLT)

The world itself is poetry pointing back to God. And we are part of that world. We are part of his masterpiece.

But we can’t always see that. We live in a busy, busy world. We’re busy raising our kids, building our businesses, keeping our marriages alive. We’re busy coaching in the soccer league for four-year-olds. We’re busy writing out strategic plans for blog networks and online ministries. We’re busy making plans to go on vacation. And we’re even busy when we’re on vacation, trying to squeeze it all in, get it all done, see all there is to see.

We don’t like to waste a single moment. We move so fast, that we skim across the surface of life without seeing the beauty. I can’t hear the heavens declaring the glory of God unless I turn off my ipod.

Marshall McLuhen famously said, "The medium is the message." In poetry, that is certainly true. Something about the form of poetry forces us to slow down. If we want to write poetry, we must slow down and look at the world in a particular way. But the same is true if we want to read it. Poetry is the antithesis of haste and busy-ness.

To find poetry, just look around. God put poetry in the world.

To find poetry, look inside yourself. God put poetry there, too.

Here are three folks who are sharing the poetry of daily life and work:

Breaking the Law for Poems about Mail

James C. Schaap, Siouxlander, of Stuff in the Basement, is breaking the law for the love of poetry. He writes, “I’m not sure this is legal, but what the heck.” And he shares a BEAUTIFUL poem by Laure-Anne Bosselaar, with his easy, insightful reader’s notes in brackets. The poem is about a strange courier service with an even stranger name: G.O.D. (Guaranteed Overnight Delivery). Here's an excerpt:

I'm not making this up --they bolt through traffic all year long-- "G.O.D." plastered in black on their fronts, sides, backs...

Commercial Fishing Poetry

Image Journal, one of our new "non-network friends," posted some audio files of Leslie Leyland Fields reading her three part poem “Passing It On” at the 2008 Glen Workshop. On her website, Fields says, "Through writing, I find not only a way of saying, but a way of living: when wilderness, work, the chaos of culture divide me from myself and others, the call to words and Word brings the means and power to forge cohesion, to literally construct a linguistic lattice between nature, spirit, and body, all that feels disparate." The poem she read at Glen Workshop is about her family’s commercial fishing operation in Alaska. It’s well worth listening to.

Pastor Poetry

Another link to a non-network friend. At Out of Ur and Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight shares a review of M. Craig Barnes’ new book, The Pastor As Minor Poet: Texts and Subtexts in the Ministerial Life. Scot's post starts with this quote from the book:

“Wisdom needs to be the name of the pastoral game. Wisdom finds its way into the poetic (not as in rhyming and verse), and not enough of us are committed to a life intent on wisdom. I wish more pastors (and Christians) were committed more to wisdom than to success.”
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