Friday, November 21, 2008

Poems from the desert

When I was 23 years old, I lived in the desert of northern Sudan for nearly a year, doing work for Emmanuel International. It was an adventure to be sure. I was young and single, and probably thought I could be another Lawrence of Arabia. But in the midst of the excitement of camel rides, sand storms and practicing my Arabic were the unwieldy challenges of culture shock, team life, unfamiliar illnesses and 120 degree heat. Needless to say, I had my ups and downs over there.

It's probably fair to say that I'm still vulnerable to experiencing ups and downs right here in Winnipeg amidst the adventures of a dove on our window sill and meaningful times of prayer for Fiona, as well as the weighty challenges of disappointing doctor's reports and Fiona's ongoing illness.

But I'm happy to say that I don't fall quite so far as I used to when big challenges follow closely on the heals of encouraging times. I was reminded of that when after receiving some disappointing news from the doctor, as I was encouraging myself in the Lord about it, I recalled two poems that I wrote in Sudan amidst somewhat similar, though different circumstances. I realize that I was quite a different person when I wrote them, but I'll share them here in the order I wrote them.

Bitter Sands
The sand blew by
With ferocious intensity
It filled the sky
It cut the skin

I didn't care
I simply leaned against
A whithered tree
And squinted
At what I didn't know
For I knew not what
Lay beyond that blanket
Of bitter sand
I didn't care
I had wandered
Into a desert
To find peace
And contentment
The peace of the desert
Is the peace of death
And contentment
The contentment of a madman

April 7, 1987

Whispers in the Silence
How clean the desert is! 
How pure in her golden radiance.

Where is man's mark within her?
She has filled her borders
With the power of her impeding presence
That man might find no room
To dwell in his customary comfort
Within her.
Yet she is welcoming to the humble,
Placing before him no obstacles
Save the challenge of her company 
And the company of her challenges.

Enter her company then,
Accept her challenges, 
And leave behind the confusion

And the noise
And the endless distractions
Of the world of man. 
Sit down in her silence,

And hear the whisper of God 
Speaking of peace

And quiet contentment.

April 24, 1987

© 2008 by Ken Peters

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