Listening Closely {Christianity and Creativity series}

John Blase is a rarity on the Internet: a thoughtful, Christian poet. I was introduced to him via his Advent meditation book, Touching Wonder, which retells the Christmas story vividly through the eyes of the various personae. (In a non-cheesy way). It should definitely be on your Advent wishlist. It is an honour to have him talking poetry here:

Two things first.

First. A small, silver star hangs in our kitchen window throughout the year. It was originally intended to be a Christmas ornament but we’ve re-intended it to be our daily reminder of what being a believer is all about. The star is etched with a single word – hope. Now by all means a believer can add to that, but hope is the core.
Second. I posted this status update on Facebook not long ago. It rang true with a good number of people: I’m interested in writing that speaks of life lived on this dark and marvelous planet, writing that honors dying and sex and cottonwood trees and lower-middle-class Cabernet and your daughter’s faded red robe that hangs behind the door and the fact that your grandfather poured cream in his cereal instead of milk. I’m interested in writing that smells and tastes and feels, writing that makes the marrow burn. I’m not interested in any other kind of writing.
Those two thoughts are the feet my current creative work stands on: hope, and flesh and blood.
Now here’s a fly-on-the-wall look at my creative process. I get up early, start the coffee, and make this request: Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. It sounds just a tad serious but I believe God really has something for me to see or hear or feel or taste or remember, and I don’t want to miss it. Some mornings I stand awhile and watch the sun come up, listen to birds and the train. Some mornings I listen to music and daydream. Other mornings I read a little, maybe some scripture but not necessarily so; in fact, many days its poetry or fiction. But every morning, regardless of the specifics, I’m trying to pay attention, which is what I believe prayer to be.
For example, today I read a few Jim Harrison poems and in one he used the line:
deep-yellow dove – a phrase that arrested me. I underlined it and chewed on it awhile and eventually this emerged:

A deep-yellow dove more
brilliant than gold came to
me to die. I said see I’m not
a doctor and she said I know
but you look at the world and
into your heart at the same time.

So I spent her last day listening
to her sing of this world, what
she called the Suchness. I held
her in my fragile hands and felt
the shape of death. I held her to
the very end and then a little more.

But there was more going on than just the poem because after I had written those lines I remembered my grandmother who is slow-dying in a nursing home in north Texas. Then I thought about a good friend who is watching his mother live out her final days. I stopped and prayed for them both and for the family that surrounds them in the valley of the shadow. That kind of thing doesn’t happen every morning, but it does happen some mornings. Is there some deep theological message in that poem? I don’t know, probably not. I sure didn’t write it with that goal in mind; I never do. But I did feel the lines achieved a kind of beauty – the words, imagery, even the very end – and for me that is enough.
In talking with one of my very best friends recently, he said something to the effect of When I read your words I feel like everything’s going to be okay. It may not be right this moment, but its going to be. I was encouraged by his words because as I said earlier, hope is a touchstone for me as a believer, a reality I trust always comes through in my writing.
I’ll conclude with one more poem. This one has an edge to it but also hopefully an invitation to something simpler, maybe even wiser. But who knows? And yes, I had listened earlier to John Denver sing Annie’s Song.

I don’t care about theology.
By that I mean the academic,
systematic kind which is
always arguing for the faith.
I prefer to simply display the
faith and let it fend for itself.
And as for the popular theology
which is all abuzz over making
disciples, I’d much rather make
pancakes, flip them for my kids
on Saturday mornings while we
listen to John sing Annie’s Song.
Mine has become a theology of
the senses, one that makes sense.
If that seems too simple for you,
remember I am but a simple man.

John Blase John Blase is a poet and writer living in Colorado with his wife and three children. His next book releases in October from Abingdon Press – Know When To Hold ‘Em: The High Stakes Game of Fatherhood.

Over to you:

  • Do you read/write poetry? What do you like about it?
  • ‘Hope is the core’ – to what extent does this characterise Christian art?

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20 Responses to Listening Closely {Christianity and Creativity series}

  1. Lucy Mills 3rd August, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

    I like writing poetry and have often used it to express my thoughts about…well…what ever I’m thinking about (!). But I find I get so distracted in life that I forget the benefits of writing poetry and of writing in general.

    I suspect I need to find a way of retrieving it, a way of submerging myself once again into soothing, disturbing words.

  2. Joy Lenton 27th July, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

    John, this is refreshingly real, touching and inspirational. I loved ‘Touching Wonder’ and adore the poetry here. Sublime simplicity. My own theology is undergoing a shift change. Maybe a season of life that is leading to greater openness, seeking understanding of the wonder and complex mystery that is God by attempting to be more centred in His presence and know Him better relationally.
    Authenticity is important to me too in my writing. I have a long way to go creatively as poet and writer (I’m a slow starter publically) but I’m enjoying the journey. It sounds as if that’s the main thrust for you too – being aware, listening and responding to all that has input to your life.
    Thank you so much for your words and thougts here. They have brightened my day! Blessings to you and to Tanya for hosting this wonderful series.

    • John 28th July, 2013 at 2:01 am #

      Hi, Joy. Thanks so much for your comment. That simple stuff is where I am as well…and yes, it may have much to do with season of life. Keep at your writing…that’s what the rest of us are doing too, just keeping at it, and trying to enjoy every bit of it along the way. Again, thanks!

  3. David Rupert 26th July, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    Sorry…stumbled into this series late, but what a great idea and will be reading all of the posts today. I am particularly encouraged that you have included some male bloggers. John Blase is one of my favs too. Ok. Closing comment box. Opening reading box 🙂

    • John 28th July, 2013 at 1:58 am #

      Thanks for stumbling in, David. Its been a very good series and I was honored to be asked to join in.

  4. Lori 26th July, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    Now that’s the kind of writer I want to be when I grow up…….arresting, beautiful, real so much so that you could just smell it, and I can’t even smell. Wonderful way to start my day. (From a fellow Annie’s song listener, train lover. I pray to the sound of doves just about every morning. Lori

    • John 28th July, 2013 at 1:57 am #

      Thanks, Lori. Its nice to know other listeners of Annie’s song and doves and trains.

  5. HopefulLeigh 25th July, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    Stunning, John. Thank you.

    • John 25th July, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

      Thanks for reading, Leigh, and taking a moment to let me know you did.


  6. Mark Allman 25th July, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    I have written poetry to express love to ones I love and some writings to spill feelings out of darkness.

    I think it is harder to write in simple terms than complicated ones. There is beauty in something boiled down for all to see in simple beautiful language.

    • John 25th July, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

      Hi, Mark.

      I agree with you – poetry can be very cathartic. Many poems I write are never seen by others, they remain private.

      And yes, writing in simple terms is, for me at least, more difficult. There’s a big difference between paring things down and dumbing things down, and I believe the reader can always tell.

      Thanks for commenting.

  7. Herm 25th July, 2013 at 4:28 pm #


    Fearlessly loving the moment … capturing and basking in a one time only spiritual and physical glow with as much daring as you have matured enough to be responsible to … shared with you by His grace and through you us by your grace … thank you for insight that without you I would be without.

    I am scripturally centered on Luke 10:25-42 and all that supports and is supported by the picture painted in my heart and mind.

    It would take too long to explain what you just did for me. You just sewed up the tear in my daily spiritual robe through which I have been vainly distracted as though wearing rags and too often chilled to the bone by the draft. My relationship with Them, the creator God (Genesis 1:24-27), is moment to ever changing moment tied in my heart and my mind through one I know as the Holy Spirit. It is not just the Holy Spirit I hear and see but all of God in and surrounding me. We, God and I, don’t relate too much differently than my wife and I, in 100% commitment and unqualified love, except my wife and I know how minutely little we can be certain of relative to God’s omnipotence. We are proud to be adults of mankind and infant children of God.

    Your offering relegated, intentionally or unintentionally, theology to a much lesser valued learning toy for children of God than does our more structured and formalized classmates. I have witnessed the results in prison ministries from what it is like to simply lead someone into honestly challenging God in private, alone, in any vocabulary, to show Them as real in that inmate’s life. The Bible is a wonderful vitamin to social, intellectual and spiritual health and is most beneficial when given in the dose, timing and combination best for the child as only a fully knowledgeable Parent would know. For both constructive and destructive reasons we too often feel compelled to share our prescription with our needy or addicted peers not realizing a healthy dose for me might be lethal to another.

    This is supposed to be a comment relative to your gift to us and not an exposé of my “theology” so I will end abruptly. Thank you both, John and Tanya!

    • John 25th July, 2013 at 7:22 pm #


      Thanks so much for your comment. It sounds like in reading you experienced some needed breathing room or permission or something. Regardless of what to call it, I’m thankful that was your experience. I love your phrase ‘infant children of God’…it might appear soon in a poem of mine.

      Again, thank you.

    • KATHLEEN KRUEGER 12th August, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

      I do believe I received as much from your comment as I did from the post. Much to ponder in these beautifully written words.

      • Herm 12th August, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

        Thank you Kathleen, thank you very much.


  1. Advent and Christmas Recommendations, (Books, Music, and E-Courses) | - 13th November, 2013

    […] of that first Christmas. It is a retelling of Luke 1-2, by John Blase, poet and blogger, (who has guest-posted here earlier this year). It has 12 sections, each starting with a Bible reading from Eugene […]

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