Tag Archives: Rumi

a single brushstroke down

Light dawns, and any talk of proof
resembles a blind man’s cane at sunrise.

Remember the passage,
We are with you wherever you are.

Come back to that.
When did we ever leave it?

No matter we’re in a prison of forgetting
or enjoying the banquet of wisdom,
we are always inside presence.

Drunkenly asleep, tenderly awake,
clouded with grief, laughing like lightning,
angry at war, quiet with gratitude, we are nothing
in this many-mooded world of weather
but a single brushstroke down,
speaking of presence.

*The word Allah in Arabic begins with a strong downward mark.

Excerpt From: Coleman Barks. “A Year with Rumi.”

This is what Proverbs calls “a word on its wheels” – what we call a “timely word.” I simply can’t quite get enough of it.

All talk of proof is like a blind man’s cane at sunrise. Positively exquisite.

Always inside presence in this many-mooded world of weather. Yes.

How desperately we need this truth as an ice pick when heart and hearth freeze. Where are those Ezekiel eyes? Those roomy eyes that can see through our barren Chebar landscape to the whirling of the Wheels, to the indescribable presence we thought reserved for holier, happier climes.

And the single brushstroke down speaking of presence. Exquisite doesn’t even begin to capture how it fires my soul to know that the Muslim word for “the God” begins with a single brushstroke down. Some see only sword, but it’s Immanuel hidden in a stroke. Immanuel everywhere.

In this many-mooded world…




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Posted by on December 1, 2015 in Poetry, Uncategorized


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dragged by the hair into his presence

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 4.44.59 PM

It’s been awhile since I picked up Rumi and took a stroll with him through his pages.
And now I remember why.

He tells the truth just a bit too brutally.

“By deferring generosity I am helping him.”
aka “I caused you to hunger then fed you with manna
that I might know what was in your heart.”

And so our need “drags us by the hair into his presence.”

Received a text this morning from a couple I love who have been dragged by the hair into his presence for decades. Well meaning idiots people tell them, “This is the enemy! Pray against the enemy!” This, of course, has never occurred to them. Such glorious words of comfort rank right up there with blood letting for them. I told them “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Yes, that enemy I will ever pray against. God bless and keep you far away from all who suffer.

Satan gets so much credit for what God is doing.
Where did we get this notion that it’s all about escaping pain,
that this is God’s number one goal and plan for my life?
Because if that is his plan, quite frankly he sucks, and his plan sucks.

I would love to trade in the torn-open cry. I would.
I can caw-caw like a crow, truly I can, if that means you would let me go.
But you have stolen me, with no intention of return, I your singing nightingale.

And in my torn-open nightingale-ish cries,
I see what I never would have seen,
feel would I never would have felt;
dimensions and worlds open before my dumbfounded gaze,
my torn-open lips screeching, “Holy, Holy, Holy”
but to your ears it’s my own nightingale song
and so I steal You.

Rumi, I really, really hate you.


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Posted by on September 13, 2014 in haverings, Poetry, Suffering


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birdsong from inside the egg

from Rumi.
the first sentence alone is worth the price of admission.

There is an excessrumi2

in spiritual searching

that is profound ignorance.

Let that ignorance be our teacher.

The Friend breathes into one

who has no breath.

A deep silence revives the listening

and the speaking of those two

who meet on the riverbank.

Like the ground turning green in a spring wind,

like birdsong beginning inside the egg.

Like this universe coming into existence,

the lover wakes, and whirls

in a dancing joy,

then kneels down

in praise.

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Posted by on July 17, 2014 in Poetry


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another kind of tablet


There are two kinds of intelligence: one acquired,
as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts
from books and from what the teacher says,
collecting information from the traditional sciences
as well as from the new sciences.

With such intelligence you rise in the world.
You get ranked ahead or behind others
in regard to your competence in retaining
information. You stroll with this intelligence
in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more
marks on your preserving tablets.

There is another kind of tablet, one
already completed and preserved inside you.
A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness
in the center of the chest. This other intelligence
does not turn yellow or stagnate. It’s fluid,
and it doesn’t move from outside to inside
through the conduits of plumbing-learning.

This second knowing is a fountainhead
from within you, moving out.

RUMI, “Two Kinds of Intelligence”

“And it is written in the Prophets, ‘They will all be taught by God.'”

I love it when Muslim, Jewish and Christian thought converge on the most fundamental of all realities…

pretty sure not the tablet Rumi has in mind...

pretty sure not the tablet Rumi has in mind…

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Posted by on February 11, 2014 in Poetry


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“After the uproar had ceased…”

I find I usually feel I have to dig deeper for spiritual insights and epiphanies. But this morning’s little epiphany came, borne gently on the morning breeze with the first five words (six actually) of where my reading happens to be in my annual read through the Greek New Testament. Acts 20. First verse. “And after to cease the tumult” it reads, literally. And I didn’t need to read any further.

I sat back.

I breathed.

I gave thanks.

New chapters begin in your life and mine. They do.

Our latest chapter, like Paul’s in Acts 19, may seem interminably long, dragging on and on and then reaching a pinnacle of noise and commotion – which is what “tumult” means – that leaves our senses dulled, our heart numb, our head dazed. So many voices. Faces. Feces.

But the next chapter comes. And maybe it’s just a lead in prepositional phrase. Maybe it’s just a verse before we launch into the next venture leading to the next tumultuous crossroads.

But it is enough, or at least was enough this morning, to read those six words, then pause and breathe.

“And after to cease the tumult…”



Fear and hurt are lassoes
drawing you through a door.

Lord, Lord, you say weeping.
Green herbs sprout where those tears fall.

Dawn comes; blindness drains away.

That’s enough sourness. No more vinegar.

~ Rumi


Penelope Long, “Tumult”


Posted by on July 16, 2013 in haverings, Poetry


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When I see your face, the stones start spinning.dreidel
You appear. All studying wanders.
I lose my place.

Water turns pearly.
Fire dies down and does not consume.

In your presence I do not want
what I thought I wanted,
those three little hanging lamps.

Inside your face the ancient manuscripts
seem like rusty mirrors.
You breathe, and new shapes appear.

The music of a desire as widespread as spring
begins to move like a great wagon.

Drive slowly.
Some of us walking alongside are lame.

Love this from Rumi. Love it.

When I quoted Rumi recently while teaching I almost said “13th century Persian prophet” but changed it to poet. It was a near mispeak, but afterwards I wished I had said “prophet” from the simple biblical perspective that sees so much overlap between poet and prophet. Both speak under the influence of divine breath to one degree or another. Both traffic with life as it is, as it should be, as it could be.


Rumi is so on to something. Particularly here.

“You search the Scriptures, because you think that by them you have eternal life – and they point to me! And yet you refuse to come to me that you might have Life!”

Rumi’s ruminations serve as amplification and elaboration of Jesus’ words.

I love ancient manuscripts. I love the play of Hebrew words rolling on, around and off my tongue. But “inside his face they are but rusty mirrors.”

I can’t shake the image of the Divine Visage causing Hebrew words and letters to spin like dreidels! My God, how we need to lose our place in such reverie! How we lame souls need ears that can attune to the “music of a desire as widespread as spring” that will finally cause our studious study to wander…

…as we walk beside the Great Wagon…

I do believe I hear it.

And how the letters spin.

spinning Rumi

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Posted by on June 5, 2013 in musings


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Juxtaposition. Rumi and the Rabbi. And this lug loves it.

From Rumi:grain_1

Friends, we are traveling together.

Throw off your tiredness. Let me show you

one tiny spot of the beauty that cannot be spoken.

I am like an ant that has gotten into the granary,

ludicrously happy, and trying to lug out

a grain that is way too big.

I feel like this.

a lot.

But then I see myself too much in these two lugs whose traveling together yielded much poorer dividends in this story related by Kushner:

Jewish tradition says that the splitting of the Red Sea was the greatest miracle ever performed. It was so extraordinary that on that day even a common servant beheld more than all the miracles beheld by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel combined. And yet we have one midrash that mentions two Israelites, Reuven and Shimon, who had a different experience.

Apparently the bottom of the sea, though safe to walk on, was not completely dry but a little muddy, like a beach at low tide. Reuven stepped into it and curled his lip. “What is this muck?”
Shimon scowled, “There’s mud all over the place!”

“This is just like the slime pits of Egypt!” replied Reuven.

“What’s the difference?” complained Shimon.” “Mud here, mud there; it’s all the same.”

And so it went for the two of them, grumbling all the way across the bottom of the sea. And, because they never once looked up, they never understood why on the distant shore, everyone else was singing songs of praise. For Reuven and Shimon the miracle never happened. (Shemot Rabba 24.1)


Abba, more of the lugging of the ant today, ludicrously happy over one tiny spot of beauty that cannot be shaken;

less lugging around with Reuven and Shimon…


Posted by on March 14, 2013 in Faith, musings, Poetry


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Be empty of worrying.gagged
Think of who crafted thought!

Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?

Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.

Flow down and down in always
widening circles of being.

There’s a strange frenzy in my head,
of birds flying,
each particle circulating on its own.
Is the one I love everywhere?

Love this from Rumi.

What a prison worry. What a chain fear-thinking.

The door is so wide open, and yet still I hover inside shadows, remaining captive to toothless fears. My tongue and fingers bound, paralysed not by awe but by shadows large on the wall. Fear of frowning and fondness of fawning both equally enslaving.

What others will think. What they will say. Frayed and fearing frays of words. Fearing frowns of judgment.

Bring on the strange frenzy in my head.

Release birds and particles to freely fly and bear me where they will.

The One I love is everywhere. So let me flow right out the wide open door, spiraling down into widening circles of being that suspend supposed logic, that defy imagination.

And I would hestitate before such a breath-taking threshhold as this…
over a shadow frown on the wall?

What, I wonder, holds you in your cell before such a wide open door?




Posted by on March 7, 2013 in Faith, musings, Poetry


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of penny nails and precious daggers

There is one thing in this world which you must never forget to do. If you forget everything else and not this, there is nothing to worry about, but if you remember everything else and forget this, then you will have done nothing in your life.

It is as if a king has sent you to some country to do a task, and you perform a hundred other services, but not the one he sent you to do. So human beings come to this world to do particular work. That work is the purpose, and each is specific to the person. If you don’t do it, it’s as though a knife of the finest tempering were nailed into a wall to hang things on. For a penny an iron nail could be bought to serve for that.

Remember the deep root of your being, the presence of your lord. Give your life to the one who already owns your breath and your moments. If you don’t, you will be like the one who takes a precious dagger and hammers it into his kitchen wall for a peg to hold his dipper gourd. You will be wasting valuable keeness and foolishly ignoring your dignity and your purpose.

Love this from Rumi.

Love it.

I have spent so much of life missing it. Is there a greater human tragedy than having the precious dagger of our unique existence confined to the role of a penny nail?

How crucial to know where our business way_2

In 1864, after Sherman took Atlanta, in a last ditch effort to turn the tide of things, John Bell Hood took his Confederate Army of the Tennessee back north to play havoc on Sherman’s supply lines in the hopes of drawing him back. Sherman began pursuit, as military wisdom would dictate. But then he stopped. “My business is south,” he told his officers – and then left Hood to crash on his own wall in the north while he turned to make his infamous “march to the sea.”

So much would pull us north, east and west and every point on the compass in between, when our business is south.

Having recently taken a spiritual assessment in Bruce Bugbee’s book What You Do Best In the Body of Christ (check out my review on the BookCellar blog), I was wonderfully reminded where my business lies. I suck at evangelism (at least defined in traditional ways). Also at discernment (coming up with detailed solutions to people’s problems). It’s true! And good to remember. No precious daggers crammed into those walls. My personal pillars in the assessment: mercy, faith, shepherding. No surprise there for me – but wonderfully clarifying. And empowering.

How crucial to slow down enough, to listen and look deeply enough, to know where our business lies. And where it doesn’t.

To see the one necessary thing.

Then to be.

Then to do.

one way


Posted by on February 14, 2013 in Evangelism, musings, Poetry


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drink the wine that moves you

I’m not a winebibber.

Shoot, I’m not even really a wine

When I’m eating with friends who are imbibing wine, one of the favorite table amusements is watching me try someone’s wine. It’s kind of like the time I tried one puff on a cigar a few years back. It just wasn’t pretty (though everyone else present thought it was beautiful). I will probably never grow up.

Anyway, love this from my Rumi reading this morning. I would be a connoisseur of such wines…

God has given us a dark wine so potent
that, drinking it, we leave the two worlds.

God made Majnun love Layla so much
that just her dog would cause confusion in him.

There are thousands of wines
that can take over our minds.

Don’t think all ecstasies are the same.
Jesus was lost in his love for God.
His donkey was drunk with barley.

Every object, every being,
is a jar full of delight.
Be a connoisseur, and taste with caution.

Any wine will get you high.
Judge like a king, and choose the purest,
not the ones adulterated with fear,
or some urgency about “what’s needed.”

Drink the wine that moves you
as a camel moves when it’s been untied,
and is just ambling about.


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Posted by on January 28, 2013 in Poetry


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