“Simple Song” by Yours Truly

Simple Song
Will Humes
© September 2004

Simple gifts he gave us of water, broken bread and wine
Simple gifts he gave us to lead us to his love divine

Simple tales he told us of sheep and coins and long lost sons
Simple tales he told us – a God who searches, seeks and runs.

Refrain:
A God who did not choose to stay in heaven far above the fray
A God who came and lived on earth, who came to show our sacred worth

Simple love he showed us on cross of wood, in tomb of stone
Simple love he showed us – a love to claim us as his own

A simple song we sing now – a song of love and joy and light
A simple song we sing now – we, once blind, now given sight.

Repeat Refrain

A simple life we live now – a life of faith and hope and care
A simple life we live now – the life of Christ we live and share

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“Ask Me” by William Stafford

frozen river

I discovered this poem for the first time at this post Ask Me located on the blog inward/outward

By William Stafford, The Language of Life

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

I am still trying to comprehend the meaning of this poem, but the imagery and words spoke to me so powerfully that I had to write about it.  The most powerful line for me is “Ask me whether what I have done is my life.”  On the most obvious level, the answer to the question Stafford invites us to ask is “Yes.”  Yes, my life is all about what I have done.  What other measure for one’s life is there than to look at what one has actually accomplished?  Even Jesus in Matthew 25 seems to tell us that the truest measure of our lives lies in what we have accomplished/attempted/done.  “I was hungry, and you fed me.  Thirsty, and you gave me a drink, etc. . .”

On another level, however, we are more than the sum of our actions – at least I hope we are.  Don’t our beliefs, convictions, and internal lives/monologues count for anything?  Again, Jesus seems to think so, especially when it comes to our negative thoughts.  In the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7, Jesus equates lust with adultery and hate with murder.

And then there is the line “ask me the mistakes I have made.” For me, at least, the answer to any such question would take a while to process and would entail a lengthy response.  The same is true for the last line of the first stanza:  “ask me what difference their strongest love or hate has made.”

The last stanza is the more difficult of the two for me. Is Stafford saying that we cannot know everything about ourselves and our lives, much like we cannot really know what lies beneath the surface of a river, especially one that is frozen on the surface?  Is the frozen river indicative of the fact that we can only examine our lives in discreet artificial increments – and by doing so we step outside the flow of time and thus set up an artificial environment for our ponderings?  And what does the river say?  The answers to these questions elude me.

Nevertheless, I have been reflecting on this poem for over a week now.  I cannot get it out of mind.  Now, maybe you won’t be able to either.

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One sermon that quotes this poem is “The Call,” by the Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III, Dean of Washington National Cathedral.  At one point Lloyd says:

There’s a line in a William Stafford poem that goes, “Ask me whether what I have done is my life.” That’s a haunting question for most of us to have to answer. For some of us those words will sound ridiculous, the kind of empty words you’d expect from a poet. Obviously my life has been my life!

But for others, those can be penetrating words, because they ask the question of whether the life I’m living is the life I was made for, the life I have it in me to lead, the deepest, most creative, best life I could offer.

Two other sermons that utilize this poem are:

The Meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything

“Letting Your Life Speak” by Rev. Barbara Palmer.  Click here to download full sermon as PDF file. A sampling of William Stafford’s wonderful poems can be found here.  The Academy of American Poets page on Stafford, here, has a brief biographical note about him, as well as links to other sites featuring his poems and other related material.  A longer biography of Stafford is located here.  Below are links to books by and about William Stafford

The Darkness Around Us is Deep: Selected Poems of William Stafford
by William StaffordRead more about this title…
Learning to Live in the World: Earth Poems by William Stafford
by William StaffordRead more about this title…
Even in Quiet Places: Poems
by William StaffordRead more about this title…
Getting the Knack: 20 Poetry Writing Exercises 20
by Stephen Dunning, William StaffordRead more about this title…
Writing the World: Understanding William Stafford
by Judith KitchenRead more about this title…

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Please Note:
The photo at the top of this blog is used with the permission of the owner of the blog ccomfort.com.  The original source of the picture can be found here, and the home page of the blog is located here.  Special thanks to Chris!

Tired

When you are tired, really tired, nothing else matters.  Today I was really tired.

Up at 5:30 after about 4 hours of sleep, I drove my daughter Desiree back to her school before it began at 7:30.  An hour and a half there and same back (with a quick stop at Panera’s for a delicious cinnamon crunch bagel), I arrived back in Pottstown to do my usual work.  At 3:30 I went to the grocery to pick up stuff for dinner.  Got home, made dinner (Asian Bar-B-Que boneless chicken thighs, scalloped potatoes and broccoli), chatted for a moment with Jim and Joy, and then retired to my room for a relaxing night.

I had planned to watch some TV, do some blogging, work on Sunday’s bulletin, and read some. What can I say, I am usually good at multi-tasking.  But none of this actually happened, however.  As I said earlier, I was tired.  In addition to the busy day, and lack of sleep last night, I had also gotten less than 5 hours sleep on each of the previous 3 nights.  It finally got to me.

I sat down in my recliner at 7:00 pm, fired up my computer, and got ready to work and watch.  Five minutes later I was sound asleep.  It was the sleep of the dead, and I didn’t wake up for the next three hours . . . I also got nothing done that I had hoped to do, and now (at 1:01 am) I am wide awake.

What can I say, I was tired, and when you are tired, really tired, nothing else matters.