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There was an inaudible but deep sigh from the small audience as the poet read his two-lined poem entitled “Compline.”  Something had pricked our spirits. I felt the whisper of tears, a recognition, as if an uncrafted longing had been brought to life through another writer’s pen:

“Into thy hands                                                                                                                                         I commend my spirit.                                                                                                                             It fits in them                                                                                                                                        Exactly.”

Another line from a later poem caught my attention: “We are released from prayer into wonder, into longed-for space.”

Sometimes I feel we trod  the same paths of prayer until they carve valleys between mountains.  Some would argue that this is good, that it is merely persistence.  That could be true sometimes, but perhaps other times we need to look up from the path and head up the mountain.  Prayer as wonder opens up possibilities in our spirits and understanding, reorients us to God who does not fit into our neatly packaged categories.

As Jonah put it after his brief ‘Dark Night of the Soul’  experience in the big fish: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” (2:8).

Our Christian routines can certainly become idols—may we be freed from them into spaces of grace.

Poems “Compline” and “Beethoven Quartet Op. 132”  taken from: Christopher Southgate, Rain Falling by the River: New and Selected Poems of the Spirit, London: Canterbury Press, 2017.



Baptism by Rain and Grace

“As you know, this is the first time we’ve done this, so we don’t know exactly what will happen,” Pastor D. said.  “But don’t worry, I am an excellent swimmer, so no one will drown.”

Excitement buzzed around like little gnats of joy, effectively dodging the disappointment of  rain and gloomy cloud-cover after so many days of hot sun.  The Little Darda Church was hosting its first ever onsite baptism, and seven people in white stood listening to Pastor D.’s instructions. IMG_4500 Some things were up for debate: How to get the elderly grandmother into the pool without injury?  Was it  better to get on one’s knees before submersion into water?  Should the person be dipped backwards or forwards?

The people listened intently, faces wreathed in smiles and eyes teary after the prayer of blessing.

After the singing and sermon inside the church,  everyone haphazardly filed outside to watch the baptism.  Apparently, we had missed our non-rain window during the first part of the service, and  a steady, soaking rain showed no signs of abating.




People grouped up under the eaves and umbrellas as we tried to get organized—but the  grandmother made a straight beeline to the pool and started climbing in—so we abandoned any formal start and just went with it. Everyone cheered as she was successfully helped in and stood in expectant waiting.

People whooped as they got into the cold pool, and came roaring up out of the water—the shock of the cold reminding them that indeed, they were alive with new life.

Later, Pastor D., as it was his first time to baptize anyone,  told me he had so much adrenaline that he couldn’t remember what he planned to say, so he just went with the standard, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit….”


I stood laughing in the rain, reveling in the craziness, the joy, the celebration around me. IMG_4468 This is so typical of our church, I thought.  We are not polished or perfect, but are full of quirky mistakes and unexpected happenings.IMG_4473



Perhaps this is  metaphor for the spiritual path—to shun the burden of polished appearances for the sake of laughing in the safe space of God’s grace.



And may I be like the grandmother who hobbled straight for that pool, regardless of the ‘order of service.’

Nobody was going to stop her from getting baptized that day.