Archive for the ‘Mary Oliver’ Tag

Puppy Ways: Living in the Mystery of God

lovely Luna A new puppy has entered my world, thanks to my husband who cannot be trusted alone in a pet store.  Luna Consuela Kuhlman, a fawn and white chihuahua, was his Father’s Day gift, he says, but in reality, my service of housebreaking and tending to the new pup are his real present.

Besides bringing extra work into my household, Luna has opened my eyes to the wonder and mystery of the world around me, much the same way  a toddler would.  When I take her out to potty, she stops to sniff a dandelion and to chase a moth.  Observing her as she experiences this world helps me to see the beauty that I take for granted because I have labeled and categorized it, perhaps even read about it in a book. I know, for example, that moths have different antennae than butterflies, but having this knowledge doesn’t fill my heart with wonder and joy, perhaps even a lightness, as does watching a moth flit through my yard and garden.

When I feel I have learned everything there is to learn (or that I want to learn) about a topic, I’ve found that I start to take it for granted and stop noticing the subtle nuances.  I think this premise can also pertain to our perception of God.  When we begin to label and categorize God, we most likely feel that we are understanding the Father, Son, and Spirit better.  But I believe we need to be watchful we don’t get to the place where we feel comfortable with our knowledge of God, believing we have everything figured out.

Poet Mary Oliver captures this in her poem “Mysteries, Yes,” where she begins, “Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous to be understood.” While it is important to know fully and deeply that we are loved and held by Someone greater than ourselves, the danger comes from resting our belief in what we have figured out or in what someone else has figured out for us. We forget how limited our human minds are, how incapable of comprehending spiritual truths that are outside our senses. We become comfortable with our limited view of God, and when that view is shaken, we feel uncertain and afraid. Even worse, we become immune to the miracles and beauty that surround us every day, constantly revealing the love of the Father, Son, and Spirit for all creation.

Our job is to become comfortable with mystery, living with the uncertainty joyfully by noticing the “I love yous” sprinkled throughout our everyday existence.  As Oliver concludes her poem:

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment
and bow their heads.

Our puppy Luna says to me, “Look!” in her own puppy way, showing me something old that I’m seeing as if for the first time, making me laugh and then bow my head, recognizing that God is greater and more wonderful than anything I could ever fathom.

~by Nan Kuhlman




Un-Complicating the Simple

Water_lilies    I am a fan of the poet Mary Oliver, though I really couldn’t specifically say why.  I suppose that’s the way it is with real art – you know it when you see it.  And I see it in the words she uses to craft her poetry.

Poetry is difficult for that very reason.  One has to take a thought or an observation and translate it into a word or two, conveying the subtle nuances with astounding brevity.  It takes a true craftsman (craftsperson?) to do that, and as a lover of words, it pleases me to allow her poetry to paint glorious pictures and amazing truths in my mind.

Oliver has a new book of poems, and I was reading an article about what it is that makes her poetry, and the work of other poets, speak:

Into the void came poets who spoke of spiritual emotions that were neglected or condemned by organized religion. Poetry explored dreams. It celebrated the body, the animal world, the awakened life of nature. It offered praise, sometimes to God, sometimes to itself, for our connection to all those things.(Ray Waddle)

I believe that this is true – poetry manages to cut through the doctrinal disagreements, the judgments, the “shoulding” that we do on each other, to speak truths about ourselves, this world, and our God in a way that makes what seems so complicated on a Sunday morning seem so simple on a beautiful summer evening, or in a winter’s day reflection.

One of the truths that I hear spoken through Oliver’s poetry is the theme that we are perfectly imperfect, glorious beyond measure just the same.  One of my favorite Oliver poems is called “The Ponds.”  In it, she describes the beautiful lilies that crowd the ponds during midsummer, looking so perfectly beautiful, but when she looks more closely, she sees that one is lop-sided and another one has some blight, and still another is starting to decay.  Despite the imperfections she sees up close, this is her conclusion:

I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing—                                                               water lily

that the light is everything—that it is more than the sum

of each flawed blossom rising and fading.  And I do.

“The Ponds” by Mary Oliver

Words carefully chosen like these speak volumes about our glorious imperfections and how, because the Light is everything, it more than makes up for any flaw or fading.  I believe this is the challenge of the church – to speak with words carefully chosen, illuminating the glory in each one that has been there all along.

In language that is simple and clear, Oliver manages to communicate a truth that many have found elusive.  In our churches today, we could learn a lesson about simplicity and clarity through the lessons in nature all around us, instead of always complicating the simple. Leaving the “shoulds” and “have to’s” behind, we are able to embrace all that we have and all that we are, thanks to our relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit.

~by Nan Kuhlman

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