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Poetic reflections for uncertain times

A person stands on a stepping stone in a stream. Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash
A person stands on a stepping stone in a stream. Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

Advent Reflection: The Garden we have been given

(by W. Craig Gilliam, original, 2015; revised 2020)

What have we done with the garden we have been given and long for?

There is an infinite moment when everything happens.

Advent is the season of being in that moment, waiting and watching,

where everything and nothing happens;

watching for the shoot that grows

out of a mysterious dark place,

behind a thousand images,

above a thousand thoughts,

beneath a thousand words,

a world quakes,

out of the non-happening,

the world trembles

and everything changes, quietly.

Silence, please.

Sometimes. . .

(by W. Craig Gilliam, 2020)

Sometimes we need
new colors
and subtle light
to awaken us
to what is painted across
the star-lit sky at night.

Sometimes we need
magical moments of not-knowing
to break through to the already,
a crescent moon at midnight,
half-seen, half-understood,
discovered at a distance.

Sometimes we need
moments in and out of time,
hope for tomorrow, presence today,
a simple smile or caring caress,
a star that speaks in silence
just before the break of day.

Sometimes we need
God to be an invitation,
no command, no demand
just a twinkling star,
a holy bard who invites
us on this serendipitous journey.

(by w. craig gilliam, 2020)

In these uncertain times one message is:

“No matter how deep we dig, how high we climb, or how far we
travel, we eventually meet the blue fires we left unattended.”

—W. Craig Gilliam, Where Wild Things Grow

These Uncertain, Anxious Times:
Extremes are easy. . .

(by W. Craig Gilliam, 2020)

Two buckets were easier carried than one.
I grew up in between.
—Seamus Heaney, “Terminus”

Where one ends,
the other begins.

Extremes are easy. It’s
the middle that’s the puzzle. Midsummer—
the middle way,
shades of gray,
no absolutes,
only choices.

in the note between notes,
in the pause between pauses,
in the breath between breaths,
in the silent space between two waves,
in the still, quiet place between deep night and dawn’s soft light,

in those sacred in-between spaces
everything is possible.

(original 2016; revised 2020)

In these anxious, uncertain times, I pay attention to the in-between spaces—the subtle place where real meeting occurs, and individuals and groups connect. What are those places of real encounter for you with yourself, God, others, life, work, and the world? How do you pay attention to those sacred in-between spaces where everything is possible? How do we invite more of them?

Questions to ponder:

  • What does it mean for you to pay attention to “those sacred in-between spaces”?
  • What impact might this attention have on others, yourself, and your relationships?
  • What are your best practices for tending to the sacred-in-between spaces where everything is possible?

What Beckons you?

(by W. Craig Gilliam, 2020)

Have faith
in what
you want,
what beckons you,
what gives meaning
and life in its
passionate pursuit,

not that
what you do
or do not desire
are necessarily
ways of God,
at least not
traditional ones,

but your way, your path
to the mystery
that calls you by name,
the requited, soft love
for which you yearn,
the quiet, fearful symmetry beyond,
all these are you.

What you find,
the path you walk,
the places you stumble,
ecstatic joy, unyielding sorrow, breath-taking wonder,
all these are entrances into the virgin forest yet to be found
still whispering your name under the vague
moon that loosely lights the path before you.

What you
seek, seeks

Times of anxiety, uncertainty, and disruption can bring the worst and the best out in us. As we live the dance, systems will change, evolve, deepen, and grow. In due season, we will come out on the other side better because of it. On the other hand, getting to the other side is a struggle and the crucible from which transformation emerges. Out of chaos comes clarity. What beckons us, and how do we create a container broad enough, deep enough, wide enough, and strong enough to hold?  What beckons us? Time will tell. In the meantime, watch for God whose middle name is Surprise!

Hope hidden in it all

(by W. Craig Gilliam, 2020)

The life I live
the one I hope
to live—
how rarely
they meet
but in the unhoped
I find
hope hidden in
cluttered corners,
cracks in the ceiling,
holes in the floor,
places I never
noticed or looked before.
whispers, look closely;
I am in it all.

Hope is a basic human need, the silent guest for which we search. Those who connect with hope, find a courageous friend, a key to unlock the door to resilience, trust, motivation, meaningful work, compassion, and quality of life. Where is hope? “Hope whispers, look closely; I am in it all, “even during and post-pandemic.

The Silence that holds me

(by W. Craig Gilliam, 2020)

I love silence but not too much. . . not too often. . .not interrupting work. . .not too quiet,
and definitely not during a pandemic. . .

Let the silence
that holds me be the
solace that molds me,
as the cool, quiet breeze
blows across blue waters,
the calm, stable earth
beneath my feet;
the air I breathe today, first
and last, foreshadows
soft whisper as
from my sleep
I awake.

In these uncertain, anxious times, silence and isolation are part of our daily routine. Some of us fear it; others live near it. Whether introverted or extroverted, in silence and solitude, we are invited to meet parts of ourselves long since forgotten, ignored, ole’ friends to re-discover and embrace. “Let the silence that holds us be the solace that molds us.”

Life has its Mysteries to Share

(by W. Craig Gilliam, 2020)

What is recognized, what are we aware?
Life has its mysteries and annunciations to share,

unspoken beauty to lavishly adore, 
intolerable sorrows we painfully abhor,

revelation arrives in varying degrees,
through simple elusive encounters not necessarily pedigrees,

everywhere common, many in sight,
beauty in listening, wonder in star-lit nights,

the difference in seeing and stumbling through
is to listen to life’s melody in what we say and do,

not bigness in glory or bushes with a flare,
but in tiny, subtle insights and the kindness that we dare.

What is recognized, what are we aware?
Life has its mysteries and annunciations to share.

Echoes of our future

(by W. Craig Gilliam, 2020)

Though the sign on the door
says, “Instructions for survival,”

the sun rises out of the glassy sea
and climbs into fields of skylight,

the warm waft carries
swaths of simple showers,

worlds weave intricate connections
that say we are here to stay.

We are meant for more than to survive
but to rise, experience, love, and lean

into the heart of our longing,
a world of satisfied desire

hoped for, lived into, and gone,
the mystery of tomorrow, today.

We are echoes of our future;
our future echoes us.

As anxiety and uncertainty are our present world, what future are we creating as we go? The choices and decisions we make today, day-to-day, large and small, echoes our unscripted future. Yet, while we hold fear, anxiety, and uncertainty and it holds us, irises bloom, the sun rises, and mockingbirds still sing. Nature does what it does best, life goes on, and we are part of its echo. “We are echoes of our future;/ our future echoes us."

Be a precious donor of Compassion, Kindness, Calmness, and Hope

(by W. Craig Gilliam, 2020)

Be a precious
donor of
and hope.
Give peace to
all you meet
including yourself.
Be present
with all
you encounter.
Many in this world are
anxious, afraid,
torn by forces
deeper, vaster
then they or we can
One act of
calm kindness
genuinely given
from the human heart
is bread for

Uncertain times

(by W. Craig Gilliam, 2020)

In uncertain times
I ponder
certain poems
as steppingstones across
wind-rippled waters of uncertainty,
Hermetic winged messages
bound to fields of eternity,
whispers from the Beloved
in words and images
for certain.

For more poems visit Craig's website and click on "Weekly Thoughts".

While we all have our own unique rhythms for best practices, for me, the best practices in uncertain times include exercise, poetry, acts of kindness such as calling an old friend or person in need, meditation and prayer, and other healthy paths that lead to healthy ways of being and doing. In our home and workplace, we limit the time television is on. Not having enough information to deal with current challenges is counterproductive, but too much information (such as the television on all day) overloads us with things out of our control and escalates chronic anxiety, fear, and reactivity. 

Questions to ponder:

  • In uncertain times, what are your best practices for regulating your own anxiety, reactivity, and fear? How do you “walk across the wind-rippled waters of uncertainty” responsibly and calmly (less-anxious)?What are your steppingstones that give you footing and allow you to be at your best, most responsive, and productive?
  • What does your family/congregation/workplace need from you at this time to bring out their best?
  • How do you offer responsible connection, communication, collaboration and support to yourself, your family and others?

*W. Craig Gilliam, an elder in the Louisiana conference of The United Methodist Church, is founder and owner of Gilliam & Associates

The first poem was published March 23, 2020. 

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