One of my favorite writers is Roger Housden, author of the "Ten Poems..." series, the novel Chasing Rumi , the memoir Saved By Beauty and the editor of Love Poems to God . I have carried his books on poetry in my backpack all over the world, using them in workshops and liturgical services for years. Last winter, almost exactly a year ago, I was walking through Golden Gate Park , when I came upon a tall and elegant man with penetrating blue eyes, a regal presence and a British accent coming down the staircase from the De Young Museum. I suddenly knew it was Roger. He graciously agreed to meet with me and we talked about Dante for hours over tea. Since then, we have become good friends and now are planning to co-lead pilgrimages in France and Italy. Roger will be coming up to Bishop's Ranch to lead a weekend writing workshop entitled "Writing the Inner Life" on March 8-10 , and if you are need of some inspiration to find your writing voice, I can hardly imagine a more lovely place to find it, and a more inspiring and warmhearted guide to lead you. You can find our more about the program and register at https://thebishopsranch.wufoo.com/forms/m7p4w1/
This is one of the poems in his collection Risking Everything:101 Poems of Love and Revelation, a book which I have given away to more people than I can count for graduations, birthdays, moments of transition. It might well be my favorite book ever. My Lenten practice this year will be to memorize one poem a week from this marvelous collection. I am starting with this poem by Rumi because it perfectly captures the essence of Lent.
Prayer is an Egg:
On Resurrection Day God will say, “What did you do with
the strength and energy
your food gave you on earth? How did you use your eyes?
What did you make with
your five senses while they were dimming and playing out?
I gave you hands and feet
as tools for preparing the ground for planting. Did you,
in the health I gave,
do the plowing?” You will not be able to stand when you
hear those questions. You
will bend double, and finally acknowledge the glory. God
will say, “Lift
your head and answer the questions.” Your head will rise
a little, then slump
again. “Look at me! Tell what you’ve done.” You try,
but you fall back flat
as a snake. “I want every detail. Say!” Eventually you
will be able to get to
a sitting position. “Be plain and clear. I have given you
such gifts. What did
you do with them?” You turn to the right looking to the
prophets for help, as
though to say, I am stuck in the mud of my life, Help me
out of this!
Theywill answer, those kings, “The time for helping is past.
The plow stands there in
the field. You should have used it.” Then you turn to
the left, where your family
is, and they will say, “Don’t look at us! This conversation
is between you and your
Creator.” Then you pray the prayer that is the essence
of every ritual: God,
I have no hope. I am torn to shreds. You are my first and
last and only refuge.
Don’t do daily prayers like a bird pecking, moving its head
Up and down. Prayer is an egg.
Hatch out the total helpless inside.
[ Tr. Coleman Barks]