Reflection: Surprised by the Spirit through poetry

By Karen Garrett

Hands with a fountain pen over rivers of hand-written text
Part of the mural “Once upon the River” created by ArtWorks in the Duke Energy Convention Center. Photo by Jan Fischer Bachman.

Joelle Hathaway, faculty at Bethany Theological Seminary used an equipping session to encourage the use of poetry to stimulate our imagination. A goal is to learn to be surprised by the Spirit.

What does it mean to be “surprised by the Spirit”?

One thought is to ponder where we expect the Spirit to be present in worship. Then consider what might hinder us from spotting the Spirit. It could be fear, or resentment, or a preconceived expectation.

To practice allowing our imagination to be surprised Hathaway introduced us to the poem The Rain Stick by Seamus Heaney.

  • Read the poem through aloud two times. If you have a rain stick, use it when prompted in the poem.
  • Name images that come to mind as you read/hear the poem, words that make you smile, or that prompt a question.
  • Where do you see or hear the Holy Spirit? Remember the Holy Spirit is often referred to as wind or breath.
  • What did you hear that you did not expect to hear?

Poetry is one way to inspire the imagination. You can probably think of others. Pondering and discussing poetry is one way to practice a spiritual discipline to help grow your capacity to be surprised by the Spirit. Set expectations aside, as much as possible. Listen to the Spirit within you.

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