The Luckiest Paper Clip Finder You Know

sixteen paper clips

paper-clipsIf you’ve walked with me, you know I often find paper clips. I’m probably the luckiest paper clip finder you know.

When I catch sight of the silver glint, I stop. It’s a moment of discovery and remembrance.

The way people respond when I find one tells me more about them than they know. There are those who dismiss me as quirky, or crazy. There are those who take part in my delight. These are my friends.

They look for them with me. They look for them on their own and when they find one, send it to me taped on greeting cards with a kind word, “Found this today and thought of you!”

They scatter paper clips for me in secret so I can find them on my way. Such love blesses me. Their desire to make me happy makes me happy.

It started on Sept. 20, 2011. After lunch with a friend, I found a wealth of paper clips outside the door of my building, Gentry Hall. I wrote this poem.

what it is to love you

walking back from lunch
i noticed silver glinting
in afternoon light–
nineteen large paperclips scattered
for the taking.

i picked up sixteen–
their metal warm from the sun
and i left three
in case someone else wants
to discover treasure
and feel rich

so many paperclips
in my hand

now i can attach papers together
without puncturing them as staples do
without making them stick forever with glue
and take the risk of being torn apart in separation.

paperclips bring them close
enough to touch
but keep them easily freed
at any moment

Finding spirit

Some people understand me without explanation. I was walking with a colleague on campus to a meeting. At sight of a paper clip, I remarked on it and stopped to pick it up. “It’s good luck to me,” I told her.

“Oh, your thing is paper clips? Mine is pens,” she said.

It can be difficult to see God’s work in our world. Even if you’re in a moment of health and power, strength and youth, beauty and popularity, you know the moment will pass. We all have lived through—or will live though—brutal experiences. Terror, violence, isolation, suffering, irrelevance, bitterness. Sometimes we carry our losses so long that the weight of them bends over our spirits. We can live in a schism, disconnected from our deepest needs of joy, peace, hope and love.

When I find a paper clip, it reminds me of God’s abundance. I can trust that good surprises still await me. New friendships, new journeys and new ways of seeing.

We are free to choose what we see and what we look for. We decide what we value. We can take the lost and give them a home, as I have with my cats, dogs, pony and paper clips. We can help a friend find the thing she thinks is lucky.

I’m a searcher. I search for grace, a kind of paper clip that fastens my life to God.

I often find it. More often than I find paper clips and I’m quite the lucky paper clip finder.

Is it from luck? Or is it from looking?

Three ways to make poetry a spiritual practice

lenten rose

lenten roseHow has your Lenten season been? As my spiritual practice for Lent this year, I’ve written a free verse poem every day. I approached this practice with a willingness to let it change me.

What have I learned so far? First, commitment counts! I can write when I don’t feel like it. Many evenings, I didn’t feel creative. I could still create because I made the commitment I would.

Second, when I focus on the process—doing and relating, it’s harder to worry about results and effects. These poems were meant to bring me closer to God. I didn’t need to worry about who would think what about them.

Third, a “we” voice lives within me. If you’re familiar with my poetry, you’ll know I’ve been an “I” person in my poems for the past 20+ years. Each time my hand wrote “we,” I wondered where it came from. It’s a nice surprise to write from “we” and not “I”. May it continue past Lent!

Would you like to try something enjoyable and thought-provoking? I invite you to try making poetry as a spiritual practice! You can take as little as five minutes. This is my process.

Read it

I begin with reading Scripture. Before I read, I settle myself and breathe. One of the great problems of our time is our pace of life. I have to slow myself down before I read sacred words. It’s no good skimming!

Use spiritual literature that you find meaningful. It might be your holy book, a poem or a devotion. Meditate and rest in the tiny garden made of wisdom and alphabet letters that seems larger once you are inside it.

Respond to it

After I take in a small amount, I let the words digest. I imagine the scene and inhabit the feelings.

Ready yourself to receive a new understanding.

Ask yourself, What is it like physically? How is the air, the light, the water? What am I experiencing inside the words?

Write it

Then I tip my pen over and let my words pour out.

You might have a critic in your mind who is quick to judge and say, “That’s stupid!” as you write. That’s OK. Say, “Oh well!” right back to the judge and let the words spill onto the page anyway. This is between you and the Holy Spirit. Your inner critic is not part of this particular conversation.

Examples

Here are a couple of examples from my Lenten journey this year. These are unedited, raw words as I wrote them.

February 26, 2013

He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
Psalm 23:2

It was a dusty, long walk. We had so much grit
in our throats, we felt like our throats had turned to
sandpaper and we sanded our own
surfaces when we swallowed.

Our feet had long since stopped hurting.
They’d gone past tired to become
wooden boats we drug over rough dirt,
the road a dry stream bed.

We smelled the heat as much as felt it.
It dried our noses and eyes.
Everything had that overbaked smell and
things fluttered in the hot wind.
When he led us to the green meadow,
we collapsed more than lay down.

We put our heads next to the sparkling stream
as if it were a long love song that
we couldn’t hear enough of.
We listened to it sparkle and flirt
with the shore, playful in its splashing.
It was not a stream in a hurry.
It meandered and strolled.
We drank and drank more.
We smiled again and talked.

March 19, 2013

I have so much to write to you but
I would rather not write with pen and ink; instead
I hope to see you soon and
we will talk together face to face.
Peace to you.
The friends send you their greetings.
Greet the friends there, each by name.
3rd Letter of John 13:15

We were full with words, like an Easter basket
so filled with eggs that
the slightest bump tumbles them out.
We couldn’t wait to be together and laugh in person,
about the misunderstandings,
the unneeded worries,
the overlooked grace.

Final thought

May the hope of Easter live in your heart this week and always!

Open love letter to the people of the world

heart
Today is Ash Wednesday and tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.

These are both important days because one is about life, death and love, and the other is about life, death and love.

Poems for Lent

As my spiritual practice for Lent this year, I will write a poem every day. Prayers and poems are good friends, sometimes one and the same. In writing poetry during Lent, I hope to grow closer to the light.

Poems as gifts

Have you already picked out something to give to your Valentine? Why not add a poem? Don’t worry about not knowing poetry. You already recognize a good poem without having to think about it or spend years working at it.

Poetry is a God-given right

The essence is in you from birth. You can refine your abilities, as a reader, writer and listener, but you already have poetry in your heart, passed down from the time you lived beneath your mother’s heart.

My poem for you today

I want you to know
I’ve had a good time here so far.
You open the door for me and
I notice your thoughtfulness.

Thank you for making this a world where doors open.

I want you to know
you belong here.
How you are and who you are matters.
Those around you today might not be the same people around you tomorrow.
Tell them today why you’re glad to see them.

Thank you for being part of this time on earth.

I want you to know
you’re not alone.
Someone else is awake at 3 a.m. You’re not alone.
Loneliness doesn’t have to be a killer.
It can be the start of a friendship
if you give it words.

Someone I didn’t know well called and asked how I was doing.
“I’m lonely,” I said.
“I’ll come over,” she said.
She brought a pizza. We became friends. We had babies.
Our babies played together. It started with saying, “I’m lonely.”

Loneliness comes to everyone. Single people
might think marriage is an answer but if you
know enough married people, you know
loneliness can live there too among the married.

Give the loneliness a place to be. Put it in words.
Put it in art. Put it in song. You can make something
out of your loneliness. Be an alchemist.

Thank you for not giving up because of
moments of loneliness. Thank you for staying.

I want you to know
your feelings have value but not always meaning.
We have times we feel abandoned and betrayed.
Go on. Don’t let pain be the end of you.
Make peace with it.
Sometimes it’s just a feeling and it doesn’t mean anything
about you.
Feelings are clouds passing by.
Some are bright, some are thunderheads.
Let them all pass by. You’re a sky, not a cloud.

Thank you for living in a world of feelings
even when they’re hard feelings.

I want you to know
there’s more to find out.
Keep looking!
Keep finding out!
Splash your face with curiosity and
wake up!
Go toward the thing that makes your heart pound.
Get to know what you fear.
Keep finding things to wonder about.

Thank you for teaching me that it’s interesting to live.

I want you to know
I appreciate you believing in me
when I didn’t believe in life.
You, the people of the world, did this for me! You gave me the sense
I was part of something important, this adventure where we pack our
bags with different items but we all have stories.

Thank you for trusting me with your real stories.

I want you to know
I notice all the big and small things you do.
You help me with my zipper when my own hands can’t do it.
You feed me when I’m hungry.
You say, “Don’t worry about your life.”
You give me a ride when it’s cold and rainy out.
You ask after me.
You know my favorite kind of donut.
You go out of your way to make sure I’m safe.
You smile.
You bring me my favorite drink, hot tea with sugar.
You are patient with children and tender with the old.
You say my name with affection.

Thank you for making my life lighter.

I want you to know
I like hearing you laugh:
children, friends over lunch in a restaurant,
people reminiscing how their loved ones were,
missing them but still
laughing because they could be so funny
about sand in the house or about the speed of the coffee maker.

Thank you for the sound of laughter. Thank you for
remembering those who have gone.

I want you to know
love still matters.
Look around. Who do you love?
Tell them. Tell them in a hundred ways.
Enjoy them! Hug them, serve them food,
forgive them, write them notes. Say,

This is what I see in you.

You try hard. You get frustrated and discouraged but you go on.
You might have times of feeling alone or in pain but go on.

Thank you, world, for going on.

Go on.
Go on.
I love you.
God bless you.

Go on.