About revhill

Minister Emeritus at Community Christian Church in Kansas City, MO.

WEDNESDAY WORDS – # 9 – TALES FROM THE TRAIL

Brookside Sunrise 2018

WEDNESDAY WORDS
[During the current COVID-19 crisis, each Wednesday I’m posting musings, meditations, poems, and wonderings as potential sources of hope, encouragement, and resolve. Imbibe, use, and/or share the postings as you see fit. (I won’t be tagging colleagues or friends, but if you choose to do that, that’s fine.) Here’s WEDNESDAY WORD #9.]

TALES FROM THE TRAIL

Brookside Trail, as we Brooksiders informally call it (instead of its official name, “The Harry Wiggins Trolley Track Trail”), is a grace-laced pathway to health, beauty, community bonding, and revelation.

Stretching from Volker and Brookside boulevards all the way to 85th Street and Prospect Avenue, it offers anyone who traverses its 6.5 miles plenty of opportunities to enhance their quality of life, and to meet new friends.

As it parallels Brookside Boulevard and/or Wornall Road and/or Main Street, it offers extraordinary vistas of nature and humanity.

Being a frequent walker, I appreciate the foresight of the Kansas City leaders who decided that the former trolley track-beds should be transformed into an urban trail for enjoyment by one and all.

I’ve learned and re-learned a lot on the trail.

• I’ve learned that etiquette is both important and inspiring. Saying “Good morning,” “Morning,” “Good afternoon,” “Good evening,” “Hello,” or “Howdy” can be a day-changing encounter.

• I’ve discovered how bold robins can be once they’ve become accustomed to human creatures and once we human creatures leave the robins alone.

• I’ve experienced how a person can enjoy, exert, marvel, relax, ponder, and huff-and-puff one’s way toward peace of mind in a mere 30 minutes.

• I’ve observed that there are more ways to walk and run and ride and mosey than you would ever imagine.

• I’ve noticed that there are more sizes and shapes of walkers, runners, riders, and moseyers than you would ever imagine.

• I’ve witnessed how revelation can come in the form of an earthworm or a cloudburst or an automobile manufacturer’s logo, all on the same day.

• I’ve realized again how weather is an ever-changing phenomenon capable of surprising and dismaying those experiencing it in a minute’s turning.

• I’ve learned that a trail can become an avenue of awareness, a pathway to keener perception, a portal to knowledge, an entrance into encounter, a way into wonder, and a track toward truth.

– Bob Hill

[From ALL YOU NEED IS (MORE) LOVE, Caroline Street Press, 2019, pp. 164-165.]

MONDAY MEDS (Meditations) – MED #9 PETER GOMES

Peter Gomes

MONDAY MEDS (Meditations)
[During the current COVID-19 crisis, each Monday I’m posting chapters from a manuscript (“Great Souls, Great Prayers”) as a potential source of hope, encouragement, and resolve. Partake, use, and/or share the postings as you see fit, as a resource for prayer, meditation, and/or contemplation. Each posting contains a week’s worth of suggestions for use. Follow the suggestions or the leadings of your own creativity. Here’s MONDAY MED #9.]

PETER GOMES

For more than 40 years, Peter J. Gomes was situated at a rare and rarified intersection of the religious landscape in the United States. His New England rootage was clear to anyone who met him. With a booming baritone and exquisite rhetoric he could mesmerize a Sunday morning congregation in Harvard’s Memorial Church. Being both the consummate gentleman and daringly impish, he managed to surprise and inspire countless listeners and leaders, religious and otherwise. With his books on the moral life and the Bible, as well as his collections of sermons, he lured contemporary seekers into lively conversations about faith and the possibilities of faith’s relevancy for everyday life. For the media and media-followers, his charm went beyond quaintness, and his prophetic depths challenged everyone’s status quo.

Gomes’ personal and professional makeup was a bundle of complexities and a lived example of diversity. He was patrician in his honoring of the past and a “high church” Baptist preacher, a proud African-American and an equally proud “Yankee,” a socially conservative Republican and a liberal interpreter of scripture, an unashamed homosexual and a leading authority on Plymouth pilgrims. He was passionately driven and yet rationalistically oriented. His musical preferences definitely ran toward the classical, but he was full of mother wit. His character and commitments were exemplary, and his urgency as an apologist for truth was steadfast and rapier sharp. He was professional in his conduct, theatrical in his presentations, and always forthrightly proud f his humble origins in Plymouth, Massachusetts. And while he was acutely appreciative of the integrity and value of a wide variety of religions, he was first and foremost an unapologetic Christian. “Christian” was indeed his nominative identity and not merely a vague adjective to be applied occasionally to his life and conduct.

Over the course of his working life Gomes’ memberships and involvements in civic and religious organizations were huge: advisory editor, Pulpit Digest; advisory board, The Living Pulpit; trustee, The Roxbury Latin School; The Massachusetts Historical Society; The Colonial Society of Massachusetts; Advisory Board of The Winterthur Museum; The Royal Society of Arts, London, England; president of The Signet Society, Harvard’s oldest literary society; trustee of Wellesley College, The Public Broadcasting Service, Bates College; trustee of Plimouth Plantation and president of The Pilgrim Society of Plymouth, Massachusetts. In time he would receive 39 honorary degrees from institutions who esteemed his singular achievements. Anglophile in temperament and tone, the wide scope of his activities and allegiances reflected the extraordinary reach of his intellect and his voracious appetite for life.

In his first best-selling book, Gomes described the central quests raised up at the crossroads of Biblical truth and daily life. He was convinced that the fulfillment of the good life was to be found in the answers the Bible provides for five basic questions:
1. Am I the only one who is confused?
2. What can I trust?
3. Am I on my own?
4. Can I feel good about myself?
5. How can I face the future?(1)

Gomes’ “coming out” about his homosexuality in 1991 was, at once, a gift for human liberation and a bold and necessary step in his growth as a Christian and as a public religious leader. His decision to reveal his sexual orientation at a Harvard rally was motivated by a deep repulsion at the way bigotry was being wed to an ignorant understanding of the Bible to promulgate hatred and violence. “I am a Christian who happens as well to be gay,” Gomes said at the time. “Those realities, which are irreconcilable to some, are reconciled in me by a loving God, a living Saviour, a moving, breathing, healthy Holy Spirit whom I know intimately and who knows me.”(2) He would move forward from that moment of disclosure to do battle with a literalistic reading of scripture and thus to counter the ravages of reductionistic fundamentalism.

Gomes’ greatest gift was his boundless, enraptured rejoicing in language. He was fascinated by words and luxuriated in their proper use. Words like “literate,” “eloquent,” “erudite” can never do justice to his capacious ways with language. In his public preachments and prayers he was respectful of traditions, historically relevant, economical in his word choice, Biblically based, and occasionally Jacobean in syntax. While other U.S. university chapels suffered downturns in attendance on Sunday mornings in the last quarter of the 20th century, the Harvard Memorial Church was always full. Gomes loved language and its incomparable power to move the human heart and transform communities and society. After his loyalties to Harvard, Plymouth, and his family, his devotion to the beauty and glory of the English language was second only to his love for God.

PRAYING WITH PETER GOMES:
SUGGESTIONS FOR USE

Day 1 In his Invocation at that 1996 Harvard Convocation honoring Nelson Mandela(3), Gomes includes tropes and phrases from the rich resources of hymnody and scripture. Included are references to hymns — “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (The Negro National Anthem) — and Joel 2:28, Psalm 118:24, Luke 4:18, Isaiah 66:1, Isaiah 61:3, Isaiah 61:4 and Isaiah 61:11. In his succinct 219-word prayer, Gomes adroitly intones 2,800 years of history and some of the most inspirational words from the Christian tradition to mark a momentously historic occasion honoring a momentously historic figure who lived out the verities of scripture’s prophetic anticipations. Pray today by considering the most powerful Biblical passages and most memorable hymns/songs in your life and how they mark you’re the living of your days.

Day 2 Pray today by first reading the following: “We Are. In spite of our foibles and because of God’s grace we are not daunted by the troubles of this age, nor are we fearful of what is to come. We do not bless God for our wealth, our health, or for our feeble wisdom. We bless God that God is, that we are, and that his promise and love shall be with us when time itself shall be no more.”(4) Now ponder your interdependence on and with God and offer your deep thanks that God is, that you are, and that God’s promise and love shall be with you and all humanity until time itself shall be no more.

Day 3 Give thanks today for Peter Gomes and his courage to speak out about his identity. Ponder your own identity and offer a word of gratitude to God that, while some people may find some realities about you that are irreconcilable, God’s love embraces you as you are.

Day 4 Pray today by reviewing the place(s) of your origins. Bless those places by remembering their specific contributions to your development and growth as a human being and as a person of faith.

Day 5 The subtitle of Gomes’ best-selling book The Good Book is “Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart.” As with the Bible, so it is with prayer. Consider today which portion of your prayers are “heart prayers” and which portions are “mind prayers”? Pray with both heart and mind today, as freely and as openly as you can muster.

Day 6 Give thanks to God today for linguistic eloquence and the particular instance of such eloquence in Peter J. Gomes. Say an additional prayer for those in your own experience who have touched you with their eloquence.

Day 7 Pray today by mulling over the following questions:
1. Am I the only one who is confused?
2. What can I trust?
3. Am I on my own?
4. Can I feel good about myself?
5. How can I face the future?
Now, pray for new resolve to explore the Bible in order to discover the plentitude of answers it poses for these questions in your life.

BIOGRAPHY TIMELINE — May 22, 1942, born Peter John Gomes in Boston, Massachusetts, the only son of Orissa Josephine (White) Gomes (a native of Boston) and Peter Lobo Gomes (from an immigrant family from Cape Verde Islands); mother works as a clerk in the Massachusetts statehouse and father as a worker in cranberry bogs; 1954, preaches first sermon at First Baptist Church (American Baptist), Plymouth, Massachusetts; works as page in public library in Plymouth and houseboy among the wealthy; 1960, in the eleventh grade, writes entry on Plymouth, Massachusetts, for Americana Encyclopedia; 1961, graduates president of his class, Plymouth High School; attends Bates College in Maine, working his work through as organist and choirmaster at the First Congregational Church, Lewiston, Maine; works summers at Pilgrim Hall Museum library; 1965, graduates with AB in History from Bates; decides to do a trial year at Harvard Divinity School; wins Harvard preaching prize and chairs Publications and Worship committees; 1968, graduates with S.T.B from Harvard Divinity School; June 1968, ordained at First Baptist Church of Plymouth; becomes instructor in Western Civilization and director of Freshman Experimental Program at Tuskegee Institute; assists in Tuskegee Chapel and serves as choirmaster at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church; 1970, appointed assistant minister of the Memorial Church, Harvard University and tutor in Divinity; 1972, becomes acting minister at Memorial Church; 1974, becomes Pusey Minister of Memorial Church and Plummer Professor of Christian Morals as a faculty member of the Arts and Sciences and the Faculty of Divinity of Harvard University; 1979, named by Time Magazine as one of seven most influential preachers in the U.S.; 1985, gives benediction at the second inauguration of President Ronald Reagan; 1989, gives sermon at National Cathedral service for the presidential inauguration of George Herbert Walker Bush; 1989-1991, serves as acting director of Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research; November 15, 1991, at a Harvard rally intended to counter expressions of hatred, bigotry, and misuse of the Bible to justify prejudices, reveals “I am a Christian who happens as well to be gay. … Those realities, which are irreconcilable to some, are reconciled in me by a loving God;” 1996, publishes The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart; 1998, publishes Sermons: Biblical Wisdom For Daily Living; 1998, presents the Lyman Beecher Lectures on preaching at Yale Divinity School; named “Clergy of the Year” by Religion in American Life; 2000, delivers the University Sermon at University of Cambridge, England, and the Millennial Sermon in Canterbury Cathedral, England; 2001, receives the Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Award from Harvard University; 2002, publishes The Good Life: Truths That Last in Times of Need; 2003, publishes Strength for the Journey: Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living;” 2006, having been a Republican for all of his adult life, registers as a Democrat in order to back candidacy of Deval Patrick for governor of Massachusetts; 2007, named a member of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, Britain’s oldest order of chivalry, by Queen Elizabeth II; 2009, represented Harvard as lecturer at University of Cambridge on the occasion of its 800th anniversary; during a speaking engagement at St. Lawrence University in New York, while experiences heart problems and thereafter receives a pacemaker; 2010, gives The Princeton Lectures on Youth, Church, and Culture; Harvard elects him Honorary President of the Alpha-Iota Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa; November 14, 2010, preaches what would be his last sermon at Memorial Church at Harvard; December 10, 2010, suffers a stroke; February 28, 2011, dies at Massachusetts General Hospital after suffering brain aneurysm and heart attack; March 8, 2011, funeral service held at First Baptist Church, Plymouth, Massachusetts; buried in family plot at Vine Hills Cemetery in Plymouth; April 6, 2011, memorial service is held at Harvard’s Memorial Church with numerous speakers, including Derek C. Bok, former president of Harvard University, Drew Gilpin Faust, president of the University, and Deval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts.

NOTES
(1) Peter J. Gomes, The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc. 1996), pp. 184-185
(2) Robert S. Boynton, “God and Harvard: A Profile of Rev. Peter Gomes,” The New Yorker, November 11, 1996, p. 64.
(3) http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/mand…/6_peter_gomes.html
(4) Peter J. Gomes, Sermons: Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc. 1998) p. 234.

© 2020, Robert Lee Hill

GRATITUDE AND RESOLVE AT THE WALL

On a sunlit Saturday in May, Kansas City’s Liberty Memorial was blessed to host the presence of the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall, a 4/5 scale replica of the actual memorial in Washington, D.C.

Many people were there simply to pay their respects and to commemorate Memorial Day.

The wall’s bare inscriptions of the names of the 58,303 Americans who died during the Vietnam War were a stark and painful reminder of the costs of war and the sacrifice given by loyal citizens and their families.

As was the case during my first trip to the actual memorial in our nation’s capital, I experienced again at the Traveling Wall on Memorial Day a deep recognition of the impact of the Vietnam War on multiple generations of Americans and the need for healing and hope, most especially for our veterans and their families.

And, as with my first visit to the actual wall, so with this visit I saw my own name, right at the midway point of the wall, about shoulder high.

The name inscribed was actually “Robert M Hill,” but the different middle initial did not blunt my shock.

Through a quick internet search, I came to discover that the “Robert Hill” on the wall was from Starkville, Mississippi, and that he died at the age of 24, at Pleiku, on November 15, 1965, almost three months to the day from when he began his tour of duty.

I also learned that his “Casualty Type” was “Hostile” and that he “died outright,” meaning that whatever suffering he might have encountered was hopefully minimal.

Seeing my own face reflected back at me with my name on the wall, I realized, we all face ourselves and our relationship to the war through those remembered there.

And I knew, with a new and unrelenting urgency, that we all have an abiding stake in what happens to each and every person whom our nation ever sends into harm’s way.

As I walked away from the Traveling Wall, I offered a silent prayer, a prayer that was, as the war was, complicated, full of poignant thanks for those who so willingly served, anguished grief over the collective blundering that resulted in so many deaths, and resolve to help, as best I can, those who remain and those still coming home from further wars.

– Bob Hill

[From ALL YOU NEED IS (MORE) LOVE (Caroline Street Press, 2019), pp. 178-179.]

GEORGE NAKASHIMA – To Rest for the Night with an Honest Face

nakashima-portrait.#2

GEORGE NAKASHIMA
To Rest for the Night with an Honest Face
(On what would have been his 115th birthday, I’m remembering the life and legacy of George Katsutoshi Nakashima.)

A while back, on a sunlit afternoon in New York City, near an illuminating window within the confines of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I ran across a small table by George Nakashima. Astounding in its simplicity, beautiful in its form, shining in its appearance, it was immediately apparent why a table like that had attained the status of art and been deemed worthy of exhibition.

One of Nakashima’s hallmark creations, I would learn later, is a Peace Table he made for the United Nations. It turns out he was also an insightful soul, chock full of good counsel for life, as well as knowledge about wood and its wonders.

Nakashima mentored many wood artists, always encouraging them to do their work in such ways, with such integrity, that they could “rest for the night with an honest face.”

Sterling advice for us all, indeed, whether or not we know much about wood.

[From ALL YOU NEED IS (MORE) LOVE (Caroline Street Press, 2019), p. 161.]

WEDNESDAY WORDS —#8 APPRECIATIONS

Sidewalk Chalk Artistry - 2020

WEDNESDAY WORDS
[During the current COVID-19 crisis, each Wednesday I’m posting musings, meditations, poems, and wonderings as potential sources of hope, encouragement, and resolve. Imbibe, use, and/or share the postings as you see fit. (I won’t be tagging colleagues or friends, but if you choose to do that, that’s fine.) Here’s WEDNESDAY WORD #8.]

APPRECIATIONS
Are there places, persons, moments, or things that are less appreciated than you think they should be? Try listing them and sharing with friends. While our lists might be different in emphasis and intent, surely a sharing can inspire deeper appreciation. Here’s my provisional list. I look forward to seeing yours.

• a neighbor’s sidewalk chalk artistry;
• postal workers who deliver the mail;
• a dove’s cooing in the morning;
• the way rain and sun tango together in a summertime tomato patch;
• a surgeon who can quote poetry;
• a poet who loves to cook Thanksgiving dinner;
• clothbound hardcover books;
• the grace of a clean bill of health;
• the availability of pavement, no matter its state of repair or disrepair, nearly everywhere you need to go in the U.S.;
• gravel roads that stream along the edges of verdant fields;
• the relative constancy of air pressure in the tires of our vehicles;
• the luxury of a glass of cool water;
• the value of a 98 mph fastball;
• worms in good soil;
• the sound of a violin played by a master violinist;
• the music made on a piano by a ten year old virtuoso;
• the gifts and graces of a regional accent;
• the prayers others pray for you without you ever knowing it;
• the accommodation and collaboration among Jews, Christians and Muslims in the Andalusian world in the Middle Ages.

– Bob Hill

[Adapted from LIFE’S TO SHORT FOR ANYTHING BUT LOVE (Kansas City: Woodneath Press, 2015), p. 105.]

MONDAY MEDS – #8 – RUMI

Rumi - 2018
MONDAY MEDS (Meditations)
[During the current COVID-19 crisis, each Monday I’m posting chapters from a manuscript (“Great Souls, Great Prayers”) as a potential source of hope, encouragement, and resolve. Partake, use, and/or share the postings as you see fit, as a resource for prayer, meditation, and/or contemplation. Each posting contains a week’s worth (7) of suggestions for use. Follow the suggestions or the leadings of your own creativity. Here’s MONDAY MED #8.]
 
RUMI
 
Mawlana Jalaluddin Muhammad Balkhi Rumi was the inspiration for the Mevlevi order of Sufis, better known as the Whirling Dervishes of Sufism, which abides into the 21st century. When he died, he left behind a stunning body of work – quantitatively and qualitatively. Addressed as “Mawlana” (Master) by his disciples and adoring devotees, simply called “Rumi” (after the common Muslim term – “Rum”– for the area where he lived most of his life), Rumi has attained a rare status among religionists in world history.
 
Though his poems have garnered Rumi his greatest fame among contemporary readers in North America, he was a faithful and observant Muslim, best known in his time as a supremely insightful religious master. As an orthodox Muslim (following in the traditions of the Sunni sect), he fulfilled the “pillars of Islam.” He prayed five times a day, fasted, observed holy days, made pilgrimage, and regularly practiced alms-giving. (1) Encountering the mystical interpretations of the Qur’an by Ali ibn Abi Talib, Muhammad’s cousin and successor, which form the basis for the Sufi expression of Islam, Rumi would become one of the most renown exponents of Sufism.
 
Championed by contemporary enthusiasts like Fethullah Gulen and translated for a new generation by Coleman Barks, Rumi has become one the most widely read religious poets of the last millennia.
 
Rumi’s emphasis on the universal theme of compassion for all human beings has garnered him admiration and adulation among adherents of Islam, of course, but also among followers of all of the world’s major religions.
 
More than eight centuries after his birth, Rumi has the distinction of being the best-selling poet in the U.S. (2) His lyrical odes to love, his deeply felt musings on God, his seemingly infinite compassion for all people, his sensitive connection to creation’s multiplicity of wonders, all combine to establish him as an extraordinary voice for goodness and an inspirational source for countless spiritual seekers of all kinds and sorts around the world.
 
His most esteemed work is Mathnawi (or Masnavi, or Mesnavi), a poem of 25,700 couplets written in the latter decades of his life. Diwan-i Shams-i Tabriz, consisting of 40,000 couplets, attests to the dynamics and tenets of Sufism. Diwan, consisting mostly of “ghazals,” are lyrical love poems and were supposedly composed during the state of meditation known as “Sama” (whirling meditation) as practiced by the Mevlevi order of Sufis. Sufi tradition has it that he did not inscribe any of his poems but rather spoke them as they came to him and his students wrote them down.
 
The predominant themes of Rumi’s poetic vision and religious teachings included: (1) love as the bridging dynamic between the human the divine,(2) a spirit and the practice of inclusion, and (3) the possibility of mystical union with God for all human beings.
 
Rumi’s much celebrated love poems are, at once, the stuff of human romance and religious devotion to God. With simple lyricism and searing insights he plumbs the depths of human emotions and humanity’s most profound encounters with God.
 
From all extant accounts, Rumi presented both a spirit of inclusion in his thinking and his religious practice. Evidence for his sensitivity about the integrity and validity of other faith perspectives is seen in his many references to Jesus and Moses throughout his writings. Testimony to the interfaith attractiveness of his teaching, his poetry, and his wide-hearted spirit began immediately after his death, when his funeral bier was carried throughout Konya with representatives of five different faiths following it.
 
Rumi’s meeting and subsequent friendship with the whirling dervish Shams al-Din of Tabriz led Rumi into a deep appreciation of the affective/emotional sustenance that came with the Sufi Sama (or listening) ceremony that included dikhr (remembrance of God). Thereafter he championed the practice of whirling as a physical form of meditation that could render the practitioner closer to the heart of God and God’s loving will for the world.
 
PRAYING WITH RUMI – SUGGESTIONS FOR USE
 
Day #1: Expectant of the Table of Bounty – In his poem “What Hidden Sweetness is There,” Rumi describes a the relation between emptiness and the capacity to be filled by God’s bounty.
What hidden sweetness there is in this emptiness of the belly!
Man is surely like a lute, no more and no less;
For if, for instance, the belly of the lute becomes full, no
lament high or low will arise from that full lute….
When you keep the fast, good habits gather together before
you like slaves and servants and retinue….
The table arrived from heaven to the tents of the fast, by the
intervention of the prayers of Jesus, son of Mary.
In the fast, be expectant of the table of bounty….(3)
Pray today for a fasting from that which does not fill or fulfill you , so that you can partake fully of the table of bounty that God will give to you.
 
Day #2: Through Love – In his poems about human relationships and his poems about God and the desire for union with God, Rumi’s focus is always on love .
THROUGH LOVE all that is bitter will be sweet.
Through Love all that is copper will be gold.
Through Love all dregs will turn to purest wine
Through Love all pain will turn to medicine.
Through Love the dead will all become alive.
Through Love the king will turn into a slave!(4)
Pray this prayer three times today, keenly aware of the gifts love (human and divine) provides for you – sweetness, “golden” character, pure wine, the experience of relief and healing,, a life which is vital and vibrant, truest servanthood and the humbling of the highest.
 
Day #3: Living, Praying, Being Free – Rumi consistently promoted a profound respect for the fleetingness of life and for the goodness of things as they are, for as long as they are. The following prose proem can serve as a mantra for living a present-focused life.
“I died to the mineral, and became a plant. I died to plant, and attained to the animal. I died to the animal, and became a man. Why, then, should I fear? When have I become less by dying?”(5)
Pray today for a deeper respect for the given-ness of this very day without a need to seal it up for safekeeping.
 
Day #4: Searching for the Clear Water – In the poem “A Marriage at Daybreak,” Rumi urges those who are spiritually thirsty to be discerning about what they sip.
You get restless, you say, when you don’t sip
the world’s fermentation. But if for one second
you saw the beauty of the clear water of God,
you’d think this other was embalming fluid. (6)
Pray today that you will be able to see the beauty of the clear water of God and also that you will be able to avoid any “embalming fluid.”
 
Day #5: Unseen Power – In this couplet, Rumi speaks of the presence of God giving life and vitality to all that human beings do.
We are the flute, our music is all Thine;
We are the mountains echoing only Thee…. (7)
Give thanks for God’s energizing presence in all individual and collective human undertakings.
 
Day #6: Trusting the God of All Life – Poets, religious seers, farmers and others who work closely with the substances of earth know the presence of the divine in the circles and cycles of life. In the following selection from a poem by Rumi, the speaker reminds us of God’s providence over all life.
I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was Man.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?(8)
Pray that your trust in God’s provision for each moment of your existence and every stage of your development will be made clearer to you today and clearer still tomorrow. Pray, too, there will well up within you a mounting confidence in God’s eternal care for you.
 
Day #7: Come, Whoever You Are – In one of the most quoted of Rumi’s poems, we find the assurance of welcome and hospitality to anyone who would dare to want to return to God and the embrace of community.
Come, come whoever you are.
Even if you are a wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come even if you have broken your vows a thousand times.
Come, come, come yet again. (9)
Pray today for yourself to “come home” to God’s welcome and hospitality, that which we call “Amazing Grace.” Also, pray today for someone you care deeply about that he or she will know God’s liberating good news so profoundly and deeply that, like the prodigal son, they will know they can come home to God and the community of faith.
 
BIOGRAPHY TIMELINE: September 30, 1207, born Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi (aka, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi), likely in Wakhsh, northeastern province of Persia, in the greater Balkh region (present-day Tajikistan), or in the city of Balkh (present-day Afghanistan), son of Baha ud-Din Walad, a theologian, jurist and mystic (known as Sultan al-Ulama or “Sultan of the Scholars”) and Mu’mina Khatun; 1215 -1220, fleeing invading Mongols, family moves westward; 1212 , family lives in Samarqand, 1216, family leaves Khorasan for Baghdad and Mecca; meets Attar, one of the most famous mystic Persian poets; 1217, family briefly lives in Damascus and Malatya; 1218, family moves to Aqshahr near Erzincan; 1221, Mongol army sacks Balkh, 1222, family moves to Laranda; Rumi’s mother dies; 1224/5, marries Gowhar Khatun in Karaman; they will have two sons, Sultan Walad and Ala-eddin Chalabi; family eventually settles in Konya (known also from antiquity to the medieval period as “Iconium”), Anatolia, then part of Seljuk Empire in the northwestern province of Persia, present day Turkey; 1228, his father is granted a teaching position in Konya by Seljuk king ‘Ala’ al-Din Kayqubad and serves as respected Islamic theologian, teacher, and preacher; Gowhar Khatun dies; marries Kira Khatun and they will have a son, Amir Alim Chalabi, and a daughter, Malakeh Khatun; 1231, at age 24, Rumi inherits his father’s religious teaching position; a friend of his father, Burhan al-Din arrived, befriends him and teaches him the rudiments of Sufism; teaches and preaches at countless mosques and halls; November 29, 1244, Shams al-Din of Tabriz, a wandering dervish, arrives in Konya, and transforms Rumi’s life; a Rumi disciple, Husam al-Din Hasan inspires him to compose poems; 1244-1254, devotes himself to writing ghazals, an ancient Arabic poetic verse from, composed of couplets (typically between 5-15 couplets); 1247, Shams is murdered, possibly by jealous disciples of Rumi; teaches and preaches at countless mosques and halls; 1262, begins composing Mathnawi; December 17, 1273, dies in Konya; buried beside his father in Konya; shrine erected over his tomb (known now as the Mevlana mausoleum) and becomes site of visitation and veneration for countless admirers;1273, the Mevlevi order of Sufis established in Rumi’s honor; 2005, UNESCO issues proclamation designating Turkey’s Mevlevi Sama ceremony as amongst “the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.”
 
NOTES
 
(1) Rumi, Franklin Lewis, trans., Rumi: Past and Present, East and West. The Life Teachings and Poetry of Jalâl al-Din Rumi. Foreword by Julie Meisami (Oxford: One World Publications, 2000, 2008), p. 12.
 
(2) See Ptolemy Tompkins, “Rumi Rules!,” Time, Oct. 29, 2002, and Jonathan Curiel,“Islamic verses / The influence of Muslim literature in the United States has grown stronger since the Sept. 11 attacks,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 6, 2005
 
(3) Rumi, A.J. Arberry, trans., Ehsan Arshater, ed. Mystical Poems of Rumi,(Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2009), pp. 224-225.
 
(4) Rumi, Annemarie Shimmel, trans., LOOK! THIS IS LOVE: Poems of Rumi,(Boston, Massachusetts: Shambhala, 1991, 1996), p. 17.
 
(5) Rumi, A.J. Arberry, trans. Tales from the Masnavi (Richmond: Curzon Press, 1961, 1994), p. 271.
 
(6) See Rumi, Coleman Barks, trans., One-handed basket weaving: poems on the theme of work (Athens, Georgia: MAYPOP, 1991)
 
(7) Rumi, Reynold A. Nicholson, trans., Rumi: Poet and Mystic (London: Unwin Paperbacks, 1978), p154.
 
(8) Rumi, as quoted in Reynold Alleyne Nicholson, The Mystics of Islam (London: G. Bell & Sons, 1914), p. 125.
 
(9) Rumi, Coleman Barks, trans., THE BIG RED BOOK: The Great Masterpiece Celebrating Mystical Love and Friendship (New York: HarperCollins, 2010 ), pp. 28 and 476.
 
FOR FURTHER READING AND STUDY
 
Rumi, Coleman Barks, trans., Rumi: The Book of Love: Poems of Ecstasy and Longing(New York: HarperCollins, 2003)
 
Rumi, Coleman Barks, trans., with Reynold Nicholson, A.J. Arberry, John Moyne, The Essential Rumi – New Expanded Edition (New York: HarperCollins, 2004)
 
Rumi, A.J. Arberry, trans., Ehsan Arshater, ed. Mystical Poems of Rumi, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2009)
 
Rumi, Farrukh Dhondy, trans., Rumi: A New Translation of Selected Poems (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2013)
 
Rumi, Franklin Lewis, trans., Rumi: Past and Present, East and West. The Life Teachings and Poetry of Jalâl al-Din Rumi. Foreword by Julie Meisami (Oxford: One World Publications, 2000, 2008)
 
© 2020, Robert Lee Hill

WEDNESDAY WORDS — #7 IF THERE IS EVEN ONE

WEDNESDAY WORDS
[During the current COVID-19 crisis, each Wednesday I’m posting musings, meditations, poems, and wonderings as potential sources of hope, encouragement, and resolve. Imbibe, use, and/or share the postings as you see fit. (I won’t be tagging colleagues or friends, but if you choose to do that, that’s fine.) Here’s WEDNESDAY WORD #7.]

IF THERE IS EVEN ONE

If there is even one peach or purpled bird
or unbridled laugh to grace this day
that will be enough.

The solitary sight of a blue jay’s flight
or the kiss of the sun
will do as well.

The smoothing brush of a generous breeze
combing the unkempt yard
will more than suffice.

Just the clicking choice on the godly remote
to bring in worlds from worlds away
is like genesis, for sure.

The singular stride of a neighbor’s pace
from home to store to home again
fills an afternoon fully.

The canopied street of oak and sweet gum
(including their damnable, laughable burrs)
shapes a sacral portal.

The slashing blades and the clanking pots
and the faucet rush
symphonically inspire.

The generous lemon spritz makes Bennett Springs trout
the best of the best
of all the fishes.

Just the sheer crack of a maple branch underfoot
or a glint of sky through the dogwoods
is sufficient.

There’s no need for burning bush or crashing thunder
to tell that this life is worthy of dying for
and living in, too.

– Bob Hill

© 2020, Robert Lee Hill