DEUTERONOMISTIC POETRY

English: Moses Pleading with Israel, as in Deu...

English: Moses Pleading with Israel, as in Deuteronomy 6:1-15, Bible card published 1907 by the Providence Lithograph Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chances are, even if you are a Christian who has read the Bible, you haven’t read this beautiful text from Deuteronomy 4:32-40. This is one I memorize from time to time (meaning, all the poetry doesn’t always stick in my brain so I have to re-memorize it). One reason you may not have read it is because it comes right after Israel wipes out the population of conquered lands. We don’t always know what to do with those texts, but it’s important to me that we don’t gloss over those particular contexts when we quote “beautiful” poetry from the Bible. We have to take the difficult texts with the cross-stitchable ones.

Deuteronomy is the catechesis of Israel’s young who are being trained to possess a new land and be a people for God. Moses repeats their story going back to Abraham, particularly the Exodus, gives the 10 Commandments and many other stipulations of being God’s holy people.

The following comes from the New International Version, which titles this section, “The Lord is God.”

“Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?

You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other. From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire. Because he loved your ancestors and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength, to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance, as it is today.

Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time.”

Then God said, “That’s enough. Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.”

I found this a profound, fascinating story about Moses pleading with God to allow him to cross over and see “the good land beyond the Jordan [River]–that fine hill country and Lebanon.”

This is from NIV (3:21-29):

At that time I pleaded with the Lord: “Sovereign Lord, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do? Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country and Lebanon.”

English: Moses Sees the Promised Land from Afa...

English: Moses Sees the Promised Land from Afar, as in Numbers 27:12, by James Tissot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But because of you the Lord was angry with me and would not listen to me. “That is enough,” the Lord said. “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter. Go up to the top of Pisgah and look west and north and south and east. Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are not going to cross this Jordan. But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.” So we stayed in the valley near Beth Peor.”

What a moment it is when God says, “That is enough. Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.” God relented to let Moses see what he would be missing, but He did not change His mind over this particular matter with Moses.

Poetry of a Cell Phone Call

cell phone icon

Louis! Louis?

A man with a thick accent talking on the phone in a cafe one day . . . He was talking really loud. I couldn’t think or concentrate on anything else. I had no headphones to drown out his voice. I could have left, but I just started typing his side of the call.

Louis [Lew-eeese] no, no, no, I really don’t like this, Louis.

I’m really surprised, Louis.

No, Louis. Louis. Louis. I understand this but you are talking nonsense. Is Jose there?

No, no, no, I want. This is bulls***, Louis.

Louis, Louis. You should tell me. No, no.

I don’t understand. Are you willing to take this 50K?

Is Jose there?

Louis?

Louis, can I talk to Jose?

Can you get him to call my cell?

Hello? Louis?

What is poetry?

What is poetry, someone asked . . .

It rhymes sometimes

Emily Dickinson says “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that it is poetry.”

It’s the Serenity Prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, Psalms and Proverbs

Poetry is what music is made of

Poetry tells stories in very concise ways

Storytellers can be prosaic or poetic, and I like them to be poetic

In poetry pulses creation, and when you read a good one you know you are alive

Once a year I skulk around some musty used bookstore looking for my annual poetry book purchase

This year I bought Robert McDowell, Poetry as Spiritual Practice: Reading, Writing, and using Poetry in Your Daily Rituals, Aspirations, and Intentions.

Robert McDowell says poetry can be spiritual practice

Mr. McDowell also says “you need to know poetry is written in lines, not sentences, which conform to the breathing of its creator rather than to the artificial signposts of punctuation marks and conventional grammar.”

Well, yes, after 22 years of school and graduate school and a decade of editing, I could use some relief from the breathing patterns of punctuation.

As I read I’ll tell you more, but I’ll end by saying that his sub-title is longer than a Haiku and maybe could have been one so I’ll leave you with a sort of sub-title review Haiku of McDowell’s book.

Read and write poems
Deeper meaning in daily life
You will be surprised

Haiku and prayer

Remember haiku from grammar school? You thought it was corny, right? OK, you were partly right.

But consider this: haiku is a way of sabbath ceasing for any moment of the week. It’s a way to jot down, reflect upon, and capture a moment in time. Turned toward God, it becomes another form of prayer.

Here are two examples I wrote from early this morning.

It’s not only about the exercise

Forty degrees out
I’m running with my daughter
Still dark the morning

 

God of Seasons

Refreshing morning
Leaves still cling tight to branches
Praise God of seasons

A few reminders:

  1. The syllable pattern is 5-7-5
  2. Pick seasonal word(s)
  3. Seize a moment by reflecting on a part of nature or humanity