Both enchantment and chore

A poem about vocation

by Ken Sehested

Our vocation entails both enchantment and chore;
beatific vision and mundane devotion;
reverent rapture and disciplined restraint;
the dissolution of the ego’s ravenous edge and
discovery of the true self’s Center,
which combined provide
the joyful and fearless freedom necessary
to live in Creation’s broken and bruised places
to declare that another world
is not only possible
but is promised.

©Ken Sehested @

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God’s mutiny against Lenten tedium and patriotic pablum

by Ken Sehested

There’s a raucousness to God, in God, of God, by God,
that the orderly mind cannot abide (finds chaotic, riotous)
that the prim-proper mind finds embarrassing (even trashy)
that the erudite mind judges tacky (mangy)
that the pious mind believes unseemly (well-nigh depraved)
that the disciplined mind finds rowdy (or at least untidy)
that the morally rigorous simply cannot condone.

Have you ever been in a place like, maybe, as a child
in church, sitting next to your best friend who, despite
trying hard not to,
            how can I say this without
            offending delicate sensitivities

“breaks wind”? What might normally be only marginally
humorous, now
            given the sanctuarial circumstances,
            the prohibition of irreverence being severe

becomes funny all out of proportion and, despite your
best efforts, trying to swallow the guffaw rising from
your esophagus,
            like trying to muzzle a sneeze
it squirts out anyway, and the breath suppressed explodes
through nasal cavity, launching a mucus-laced snort,
unleashing giggles, a mutiny against solemnity.

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The quelling word

Emancipation is (still) coming: A poem inspired by Revelation 21:1-6a

Written against the backdrop of New Year's Eve services, 1862, when African Americans gathered to await news of US President Abraham Lincoln's promised "Emancipation Proclamation."

The angel breaks with Heaven’s hail!
from Joy’s horizon on every weary heart,
amid that unruly, precarious land beyond
where cheery sentiment stalls and merry,
bright roads end. Now, in terrain beyond all
mapping, the adventure begins. No warranty
reaches this far. Creature comforts here are
few, risks are high, and danger surrounds.
Here winded Breath calls to bended knee
with promises of ecstasy and manna’s
fragile provision. Here water clefts rocks to
slake desperate thirst. Chained, tamed hearts
will never survive, deprived as they are of
Mercy’s solvent power to undo generations-old
resentments, driven deep by fear’s reflexive
habit into armed entrenchments. The
temptation is strong to abandon earth’s rancor
in favor of Heaven’s rapture. Yet from Joy’s
horizon storms the quelling word: Heaven’s
abode is anchored in earth’s tribulation.
The proclamation has been rendered;
incarnation, tendered; emancipation,
though delayed, will not finally be hindered.
Misery’s tearful eye will glisten with elation;
mournful cries shall rise in thankful jubilation.
Despoiling death itself will yield to adoration.
Behold! All things—from earth’s bounded
borders to Heaven’s blissful shore—stand
destined under Glory to be made new.
The quelling word to a quarreling world:
Come home. Come home.

©Ken Sehested @
Inspired by Revelation 21:1-6a, lectionary text for the 2015 New Year's Eve Watch Night service.

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Venite Adoremus (Come and Adore)

A poem for Advent

by Ken Sehested

I have given birth countless
Times, too many stillborn
And breathless, despite
Conception in the
Throes of passion and
Patient preparation. Restless
Nights and nauseous days
And stretch marks
Amniotic fluid securing watery
Life, waiting, kicking
Kicking and waiting
Anxious about that
Birth canal’s tumultuous ride
And leaky breasts
Until then, waiting, kicking
Kicking and waiting
Waddling stride
Provoking curious stares
Down Broadway in
Manhattan and
Comments from strangers
On the bus, a complete stranger
Saying, I bet it’s a girl
No, says another across
The aisle, she’s carrying
High, it’s a boy, with unseen
Choired angels arrayed
testing their pitch:
Venite adoremus!
Come and adore!

Who are these people? Why
Didn’t I ask for phone numbers
And maybe recipes? But they
Barrel on past my stop to
Where I wish I knew. Who is
Waiting for them, I wonder, like
Those truckers I notice rumbling
On up the interstate when I exit
For gas and a pee, no need for
My company, four-wheelers
Just get in the way

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Portal of praise

Praise as presage to Advent’s treason

by Ken Sehested

The Manger’s trailhead opens at
the portal of praise and genuflecting
thanks. Not because heaven arises to
piety’s incense. But because Advent’s
brush with mortal flesh is a perilous journey,
fraught with insurrection’s threat,
pregnancy’s scandal, birthed from
stabled bed, and Herod’s foam and fury.

The innocents take it in the chops every
time. Yet Advent threatens treason to
every Herod-hearted arrangement.

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Now Thank We All Our God

Revised lyrics to a Thanksgiving hymn

Now thank we all our God, With heart and hands and voices
Who wondrous things hath done, In whom the world rejoices
Who, from our mother’s arms, Hath blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, And still is ours today

O may this bounteous God, Through all our life be near us
With ever joyful hearts, And blessed peace to cheer us
Enfold us in Your grace, and guide us when perplexed
And free us from all ills, In this world and the next

All praise and thanks to God, All gratitude be given
Our Christ and Spirit reign, Rejoice O highest heaven
The Sovereign One attends, All earth and heaven adore
For thus it was, is now, And shall be evermore.

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In memory of one whose absence is still felt

by Ken Sehested

Absent now the countenance, the familiar
inflection, the identifiable measured
sound of steps, the scent of palm
and cheek. Lungs, stilled.
But breathless?

Only returned to the One Breath, who
hovers still, sowing and reaping,
reaping and sowing, to the
day when all shall play
’neath vine and fig,
and none shall
be afraid.

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All People That On Earth Do Dwell

Old hymn, new lyrics

by Ken Sehested

All people that on earth do dwell, Sing to our God with cheerful voice
Let Resurrection joy foretell, Life in the Spirit’s breath rejoice

The Most High One is God indeed, Without our hand the world was made
Yet would not leave us in our need, But walks among us unafraid

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New lyrics to Leonard Cohen’s song, adapted from Psalm 23

The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want
Green pastures rise and from the font
Flow waters, ever gentle, to surround me
My soul restored, my heart aflame
My feet will walk and for that Name
My lungs will lift to sing, Hallelujah.

Chorus: Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.

In darkest valley, I’ll not fear
Though evil threat be crouching near
Your Presence ever shadows and enfolds me
At banquet feast you bid me rest
With enemies as table guests
My cup o’erflows with shouts of Hallelujah.

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