Embarrass MinnesotaI had no intention of writing a blog for this day. Never the less,  I seem to be tapping away at my iPad while sitting next to my trusty manager, Dave, who’s driving our van to Embarrass, Minnesota where there is an expectation that I will perform a concert tonight.

In the meantime, as our vehicle bullets through a scruffy, leaf-bare Minnesotan forest,  Malcolm Guite’s delicate sonnet  for the Feast of the Annunciation has gotten under my skin, and has reminded me of  song I wrote years ago. So now I feel compelled to share both:

 

annunciation

The Feast of Annunciation falls tomorrow (in some western traditions) and remembers the Angel Gabriel appearing to a young, obscure woman with an outrageous proposal – and ‘proposal’ is the exact right word – that she, Mary, would receive the seed of God in her very womb and bear forth, for the sake of the world, the fruitful outcome of this tender cooperation. (Luke 1:26-38)

It’s hard to stand in the light of this story without putting sunglasses on. The blazing revelation here is almost too much to take in – it says so much about the radical glory of God, and so much about  the dignity and freedom of humanity created to “house the fullness” of this God.

First, the poem:

Annunciation – Malcolm Guite

We see so little, stayed on surfaces,
We calculate the outsides of all things,
Preoccupied with our own purposes
We miss the shimmer of the angels’ wings,
They coruscate around us in their joy
A swirl of wheels and eyes and wings unfurled,
They guard the good we purpose to destroy,
A hidden blaze of glory in God’s world.
But on this day a young girl stopped to see
With open eyes and heart. She heard the voice;
The promise of His glory yet to be,
As time stood still for her to make a choice;
Gabriel knelt and not a feather stirred,
The Word himself was waiting on her word.

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(click here to visit Malcolm’s site and hear him read the poem)

As a boy, I was surrounded by saints; folks who were seemingly impregnated and radiating with love; my grandparents being the foremost example. Nanny and Papa were missionaries in Tibet for 30 years of the first half of the last century. That’s where my father and most of his 9 siblings were born. I was raised on stories of their  adventures and courage, their deep losses and their many joys. Always, the subtext of every tale was the abiding presence and faithfulness of God. Indeed, my Nanny couldn’t even speak of her soul’s lover without her shining eyes rimming with tears. I loved to hear her speak of God. I would always well-up with wonder and anticipation when she did  – hoping, daring to believe, that one day, I may be so filled.

But as much as my heritage was rich, it was also somewhat oppressive.  At a very young age I keenly felt my own inadequacies and suspected my life may end up as more of a sorry take-away than a positive contribution;  that, for whatever reason, I didn’t really have the goods.  In short, all through my teen years and well into my twenties, I silently lived with what felt like a terrible and agonizing barrenness.

IMG_0386 (1)Then came an evening, in my late twenties, when, as I lay on my bed with my wife Nanci sleeping beside, the room suddenly and unexpectedly filled with a shimmering presence. Language is incapable of bearing the freight of that experience so I won’t even try. But there was a gentle invitation, and I felt my soul respond with an uplift and a yes. And it was shortly after that experience that songs started pouring out of me that have become my life’s work – my contribution to the tale.  And like my Nanny, I can hardly speak of this without my eyes rimming with tears.

I flip down the visor and look into the mirror to see if my eyes are also shining, but it’s hard to tell… because I’m all blurry.

prayer:  Eternal Light, illumine my soul.  Infuse me with your shinning, fruitful love.

 

May It Be Done

music by Steve Bell  lyric by Steve Bell and Jamie Howison
song appears on Steve Bell’s CD, The Feast

From the dawning of the age
And the house that bears the name
Of the great I Am
Comes the promised righteous reign
To the ones who wait
but how much longer can we bear the delay?

May it be done as you have said
Plant your seed in me oh God
Not the seed of human life
But your everlasting Word
For we are all just like the grass
And our glory’s like the flower
But the grasses wither
And flower fades
Yet your Word, oh Lord, it stands
Forever

How unsettling are these days
How completely floods the ache
Of an empty womb
But there’s a promise to receive
And I expect to see
That you’d defend me if I dared to believe…

That it be done as You have said
Plant your seed in me oh God
Not the seed of human life
But your everlasting Word
For we are all just like the grass
And our glory’s like the flower
But the grasses wither
And flowers fade
Yet your Word, oh Lord, it stands
Forever

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Just for fun, check out the following video. As I was writing the blog, Dave suddenly blurted out, “Hey I have a video of you recording that guitar solo.”

 

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Above painting: The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1898. See The Philadelphia Museum of Art

Sounding the SeasonsMalcolm Guite’s poem The Annunciation appears in Sounding the Seasons / Seventy Sonnets for the Church Calendar Year (Canterbury Press).

Sounding the Seasons is currently available on Amazon and will soon be available through my website at www.stevebell.com

Visit Malcolm’s BLOG…

 

The FeastMay It Be Done is found on my 1995 Christmas Release The Feast.  Preview and purchase HERE…

 

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