Poetry

Reflections on Midlife

In my recent farewell address, I noted how differently you see life at age 55 compared to your early 20s and 30s. When you are young, you think you will live forever! But life and time do move quickly. The stages of life seem to progress with increasing speed: childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, midlife, mature adulthood and late adulthood and before you know it, the end of life is in sight. Yes, it's a sobering thought.

As we move into another weekend, why not take some time aside, find a quiet place, and reflect on your own life. Where have you come from? Where are you now? Where are you going? What time is it for you? What is your current stage of life and how should that inform the way you live and what is important to you (see links to various BLOG posts above)? 

Recently, I was doing just that - reflecting on my own stage of life: midlife. It is an interesting time for me. I haven't been this way before. This is new territory. I am at a different stage of life. At 55 years of age, I'm not yet 'old' but I'm definitely not 'young' anymore. I feel different and I see things differently.

I am at a different stage of my spiritual journey. My faith in God is deeper. But I have given up the need for everything to be black and white. I've accepted that there is a lot of grey in this world. I'm comfortable with mystery and paradox - in who God is and in the universe he created.

I am a different leader than I used to be. I don't 'need' a bigger church to feel good about myself. I don't 'need' another significant conference speaking invitation to feel important. Anything 'additional' is a simply a gift from God, not a goal to be strived towards nor the result of me praying hard enough.

With that context, I share with you a poem I wrote on the 18th December 2016 called 'Midlife': I hope it is an encouragement to you, as well as a challenge to live your life to the full.

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Ageing body
Agile mind
Still feel young
But feeling the grind

Caught between two generations
Elderly parents
Growing kids
Not old but no longer young

Crazy busy first half
Don't want a repeat
What has meaning now?
How do I want to live?

Glitz and glitter
No longer attracts
Climbing the ladder?
Not on that wall

Very aware of my frailty
The shortness of life
The length of eternity
What really matters now?

Family and friends
Being over doing
Character over achievement
Who am I becoming?

Life is a gift
The clock is ticking
But no need to rush
Enjoy this moment fully

Time to reflect
Need to take stock
Halftime
Midlife

Crisis or opportunity?
You decide
Follow the crowd
Or the road less traveled?

Selah


Time

Good morning, everyone.

It's hard to believe it, but Christmas is over and the new year is well underway. I've just returned to work after 3 week's of holidays and I only have 6 more weeks before I finish up in my role as Senior Minister as CityLife Church. I turned 55 years of age back in October and for me, time seems to be moving faster as life goes on. 

I was reflecting on this one morning last week and put a few words together around the theme of 'time' - in my amateur form of poetry. Have a read. Slowly. Savour the words. Think about your life. Enjoy.

Clocks

Tick tock
Hear the clock
Always moving forward
Relentless motion

A new day dawns
Sun rising
Before long
Afternoon arrives

Then a setting sun
Evening again
The darkness of night
Another day gone

What's it all mean?
This thing called life
Searching for a purpose
Need to get it right

Something to decide
Or something to discover?
Make your own way
Or listen for the Other?

So fragile, so frail
So short
A blip in time
Blink and it's gone

History
Geography
Science
Faith

Memories
Experiences
Dreams
Hopes

Yesterday
Today
Tomorrow
Now

This moment
Right here
Breath of life
Be fully present

Time ...


The Finish Line

Finishline

Today was my last official day of work for 2016. I spoke at all 5 of our church's Christmas carols presentations this weekend. It was a lot of fun and it was great to see so many people there, especially so many visitors.

It's now 2 months and 8 days till I finish up in my role as Senior Minister of our church. That's 70 days all up but once you take out holidays and some days off, I only have 31 days of actual work left. That's hard to believe! Especially after being employed for 32 years at the same place. 

Early this morning, I was thinking about and reflecting on the idea of a 'finish line' and wrote this poem. Wherever you are in your race, may you be encouraged today.

Ah, I can actually see it now
The finish line
An end to this race
It's not far away

Hard to explain the feeling
To lay down a burden
To let it all go
To actually be done

Surreal but exhilarating
Grief for sure
But more so relief
A fitting conclusion

It's been a long race
Many twists and turns
Hills and valleys
Seemingly unending stretches

Sunshine and rain
Joy and pain
Good friendships
Yet times of feeling alone

Bursts of great speed
Times of catching my breath
Seasons of clarity
Other times only a mist

At times it felt like forever
A race with no end
Caught in a calling
Be faithful to the end

Drinks break ahead
Refresh and refuel
Celebrate the day
Hear the 'well done'

Then what?
Who knows
Another race?
Time will tell

Enjoy the finish line ...


The Great Unknown

Sometimes in life we experience 'more of the same' as we deal with the familiarity of routine. At other times, there is the adventure of new things and of entering uncharted waters. That's my life right now.

I am in the process of transitioning out of a staff role at CityLife Church where I have served in various roles for almost 32 years, and for 22 years as the Senior Minister. I'll take 6 months off when I finish at the end of February 2017 then see what new opportunities may present themselves. 

I am also living between our new home in the Sunshine Coast and my continuing ministry work in Melbourne. Talk about liminal spaces. It's a bit like walking back and forth through the wardrobe door into Narnia. "Yes, I remember you!" Exciting but scary. 

During times like this, I find my times of prayer, solitude and reflection even more valuable. My journal is my listening book, enabling me to share my heart and see what God might say to me. I also dabble in a little amateur poetry.

Here is something I wrote a few weeks back that will give you a window into my soul right now. Maybe some of you can identity with it, especially if you are in a season of change right now. It's called "The Great Unknown".

Unknown

About to jump ...
Into the great unknown
No guarantees
No promises

A blank page
A new start
Time to reboot
Owner's reset

Start again
Completely new
Identity search
Who am I?

Lay it all down ...
Achievements and trophies
Titles and positions
Applause and fame

Into the unknown
Stripped bare
Naked yet free
Having nothing yet everything I need

Into the cocoon
Dark and cold
Unsure and unclear
Ready to die

Yet there will be a light
At the crack of dawn
Resurrection
New life

Caterpillar to butterfly
Metamorphosis
Deep change
Transformation

Time to really live
Spirit breath
Life source
Soul force

Across the threshold
What will I see?
Leave the past behind
Time to be me

Discover, discern
Destiny, design
Holy whispers
Divine fingerprints

Into the great unknown ...

[Photo by Thomas Frost Jensen taken in Trolltunga, Norway]

[Read more of Mark's poetry]

 

Life's Journey

Journey

Mountain top and valley
Sunshine and rain
Calm and storm
Ease and pain

Joy and sorrow
Hope and disappointment
Laughter and tears
Known and unknown 

Darkness and light
Night and day
Summer and winter 
Blue skies and fog

Confidence and fear
Faith and doubt
Answers and questions
Lost and found

Enemies and friends
Acceptance and rejection
Approval and shame
Sin and forgiveness 

War and peace 
Unity and conflict 
High and low 
Life and death

Yet these three remain 

Faith, hope and love 
Father, Son and Spirit
Eternal God
Ever faithful and true.


Crossroads

Crossroads

At another crossroads
So many options
Destination competition
Loud voices
Multiplicity of signs

Stay on the same course
Or make a turn?
Popular highway
Or the road less travelled?

Moving fast
Trying to read the map
Traffic congestion
Important decisions

Take a pit stop
Pull out of the race
Just for a moment
Catch your bearings

Where have you been?
Where have you come from?
Where are you now?
Pin point your location

Big picture
Zoom out on the map
Where are you headed?
Check the compass

What is true north?
Where do you really want to be?
Don't follow the crowd
Wide and easy road

Dare to be different
Be true to yourself
Hear the voice
Heed His call

Identity
Significance
Meaning
Belonging
Destiny

Take the ancient path
Footprints in the sand
Follow His lead
Trust His heart

One step at a time
Don't rush ahead
Enjoy this moment
Be fully present

He IS the way


Selah

Forest Path

My joy, my peace, my source, my life
My rock, my anchor, my refuge, my strength
My healer, my freedom, my restorer, my transformer 
My wisdom, my guide, my creator, my courage 
My hope, my future, my vision, my inspiration 

God Almighty
Blessed Trinity
Father, Son and Spirit

Selah
Pause and think about it


Today

New-day

A new day.
A fresh start
A clear page
Wonders waiting to be discovered. 

New dreams yet to be born.
Visions still unseen.
Insights unknown.
Wisdom from God's world. 

Yesterday is gone.
Only a memory now.
Lessons learnt.
Experience gained. 

Tomorrow's not yet here.
A future unrealized.
Always beyond our grasp.
The distant horizon. 

Live in this moment.
Right here right now.
The present is what we have.
Pregnant with possibility.

HE is here.
All you need.
Nothing lacking.
Fulness revealed.

Conquer fear.
Walk in faith.
Love is here.
Trust and wait. 

Wide awake.
Seize the day.
Drink it full.
All the way. 

Nothing wasted.
Nothing spared.
Brave and strong.
Free at last. 

Climb your mountain.
Sing your song.
Reach for the sky.
Everything belongs. 

Life is adventure.
Scary for sure.
Well worth living.
No regrets. 

This is your day.

Today. 


Marine Expedition

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God's world.
The power of the sea.
Endless motion. 
Seasons come and go.
The sands of time. 
Vast humanity.
Creation care. 
Human achievements are but castles in the sand.
Erosion. 
Shaped by relentless movement and motion. 
His love never fails. 
His faithfulness reaches beyond - from generation to generation. 
Mercy un-ending. 
The finite meets the infinite.


Discouragement

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Questions, doubts, disappointments
Like a wet blanket settling down
Lower, deeper, darker
Feels like your going to drown 

Can't cope, can't breathe
Intense pressure mounting
Will it ever ease? 
A burden, a weight, heaviness

Dark clouds, stormy wind, rainy days

Frazzled mind
Numb heart 
Spirit down
Weak will 

Is there a light?
Is there a word? 
Is there a song?
Will it be long?

Dawn slowly conquers the night
A new day born 
Words break silence
Peace stills the storm 

He is here
He is good
Truth will prevail
Faith will triumph

Breathe IN

Courage
Hope
Love
Peace

Joy

[Mark Conner - 2nd July, 2014]


Lighthouse

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Be a light
In stormy sea
and gusty wind
Show the way

Faithful and true
Solid and strong
Built on the rock
Unmovable

Shine bright
Be clear
Stay at your post
True to your calling

[Mark Conner - 6th January, 2015]

[Picture taken near Point Londsale, Victoria]


Seasons

Sea

Seasons come and seasons go
The sun rises then sets
Day turns to night
Summer to winter

Time is always moving
It never stops
Ceaseless forward motion
The cycle of life

The past is gone
The future’s not yet here
The present is all we have
Right here, right now

Be at peace
Let anxiety go
Say goodbye to regret
Worry’s a waste, you know

Live in this moment
Fully present
Fully alive
God is the great I AM

Feel His love
Never far away
Wake up!
This is your life

Love and be loved
Be a force for good
Fight injustice
Work for Kingdom come

One day time will end
History’s great convergence
Into God’s heart
For Eternity

[Mark Conner - 6th January, 2014]


Life's Journey

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The journey is difficult at times

Shadows fall
Can’t quite see
A little dark
Sunshine is far away

The path is narrow
Seems confined
Can’t go back
But can’t see far ahead

Take the ancient path
Ways well trodden
Pilgrim travellers
Spirit led

Going home
That’s the call
Keep on walking
Not alone

[Mark Conner - 5th January, 2015]

[Picture taken on pathway near Point Lonsdale, Victoria]


The Joy of HOME

Home-series-900

"Christ is in me, and I in Christ.

In Christ, my home,  I belong - I see and am seen, I hear and am heard, I love and am loved - I belong.

In Christ, my home,  I am safe - there is nothing that separates me from Him.

In Christ, my home,  I have purpose - my purpose is to share the joy of home.

I am in Christ and Christ is in me - in Christ I have the joy of home - for He is the home of joy."

By Nicole Conner


Shadows

Step-into-the-light

In the shadows 
A cold chill
Shivering spine 
Dark and dreary

Feeling down
Low mood
Flat and lifeless
Depressing thoughts

Get up
Take a step
Just one
Start to move

Toward the light
The warmth of God's love 
Feel the hope
Live again

Energy returns 
Clouds clear 
See again
God is here

[Mark Conner - 5th July 2014]


Opportunity

E41A178DD0B749BEACC4197D9587E940An open door
Opportunity knocks
Someone calling
A mountain to climb

Divine opportunity?
Or nice distraction?
Hard to tell
Difficult to know

Did it choose me?
Or did I choose it?
Is my heart leading? 
Or simply following the lead?

Am I writing the script?
Or just reading what’s already there?
Am I in control?
Or just fulfilling my role?

Creator or creature?
Director or actor?
Leader or follower?
Yes or no?

Go deep
Into the unknown
Uncharted waters
Dreamtime

Follow the storyline
See the narrative
A new chapter
Turn the page

What do you see?

[Mark Conner - 2nd April, 2014]


Sabbath

Sabbath2

Day of rest
Work now done
Life is blessed
Thank the Son

Enough 
No need for more
Just this moment
Time to pause

Stop
Let go
Finish
Say 'No'

Yesterday is gone
Tomorrow hasn't come
Today is life 
The Great I AM

Serenity
In the air
Melody
Everywhere

Eternity 
Here and now
Beauty
Quite profound

Can you hear?
Can you see?
Do you know?
Come with me

Sacred time
Sacred space
Still your mind
Holy place

Breathe 
Renew
Calibrate
Refuel

Seven
Rest
Perfection
Blessed

Sabbath …

[Mark Conner - 24th February, 2014]

See also: Ministerial Sabbaticals


Morning Moments

Stream

Quiet and still
Peaceful 
A new day born
Hopeful

Birds singing
Joyful
Heart beating 
Grateful

Before the rush
Before the noise
Cacophony of activity
Whirlwind of productivity
It's coming …

Be still
Wait
No rush
Meditate

All you need
All you desire
Here right now
Come up higher

Holy place
Sacred time
Not alone
Heavenly company

Breathe out
Fear and worry
Breathe in
Peace and joy

Gentle brook 
Deep and wide
Come and drink
Life inside

Stay awhile …

Morning moments

[Mark Conner - 24th February 2014]


The Great Exchange

Great ExchangeMusing replaced by amusement 
Preoccupation over meditation 
Noise for quiet 
Activity for depth

Elders replaced by celebrities 
Glitz over substance
Acting for being
Gossip for wisdom

Better replaced by bigger
Trendy over timeless
Speed for well-being
Quick fix for deep change

Time for a great reversal

Selfishness replaced by love 
Joy over sorrow 
Grace for guilt
Peace for the storm

Lies replaced by truth
Justice over abuse
Hope for despair 
Good news for bad

Lethargy replaced by passion
Purpose over aimlessness 
Courage for fear
Faith for doubt 

God over all and in all

Ready to swap?

 

[Mark Conner - January 22nd, 2014]


An Invitation

InviteGod in human form
Immanuel
God with us

Jesus calls
Follow me
Will we go?

Spirit calls
Gentle whisper
Will we hear?

Father waits
We play with toys
Will we turn?

An invitation
From heaven’s throne room
Come and see
Trinity

Other invitations
Distant preoccupations
Distract and clutter

Competition
For my heart
Tug of war

Who wouldn’t go?
What greater call?
What better company?

Just a quick visit
Or a lengthy stay
Or maybe another day

An invitation
Just for me
Time to RSVP

 

[Mark Conner - January 24th, 2014]


The Cycle of Life

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Struggle … caterpillar … earth bound  

 Darkness … cocoon … transformation

  New birth … butterfly … flight

   New life … colour … beauty … 

    Sudden death - one life for another

     All too soon. 

      Is there more?

 

[Mark Conner - January 23rd, 2014. Written after observing a willy wagtail eat a butterfly on a walking trail, leaving just it's beautiful wings. Note the ant already there]


Silence and Solitude

Silence2Day started well ... a walk, silence, conversation, coffee. 

Serenity invaded by noise.  
Walking away now …

… Slow down

An invitation … to silence … 
Just to BE.  
Sit down … stay awhile

No rush … no hurry 
Still 
Peace. Joy. Loved. 
Content. Enough.

Look … listen …

No agenda. Together, that's all. One.

Timelessness … present … this moment 
Now. Here. Today. 
With the I AM.

Wait …

No outcome … just experience ... and presence.

Jesus walked everywhere 
In conversation 
Listened and observed
Taught people from that 
Simple. Profound. 
Fresh. New. 
Life

 

[Mark Conner. January 23rd. 2014]


Prophets

ProphetProphets are poets
Wordsmiths and craftsmen
Musicians who muse

Prophets are seers
Artists and artisans 
Visionaries who venture

Ears always open
Listening to hear
Waiting for words 
Attentive to sound

Eyes always open 
Looking to see
Watching for pictures
Observant to images

Bushes still burn 
God waits to see
Most pass on by
Few stop to look

God's heart, God's mind 
Pathos and ethos then logos 
Words with power 
To change and transform

Where are the prophets?
Time to roar

 

[Mark Conner - January 22nd, 2014]

Next Poem - Silence and Solitude


A Very Different World

NyCars replace donkeys
The pub over the synagogue
Image over character
Looks trump who you are
Crowded yet lonely
Advanced yet stunted
Welcome to our world

Yet people are still the same
Hungry and thirsty
For meaning and friendship
God is still the same too
Speaking through burning bushes
When people take time to look

Busy, busy, always in a hurry
Faster than ever before 
Distraction, obsession, boredom 
Attention deficit disorder 
Quickly moving on to what's next
Hardly noticing … no time

Packed but empty lives
More turns out to be less 
Slow is actually fast 
And less is really more 
Simplicity calls 
To love and be loved 
That's all …

A very different world.

[Mark Conner - January 22nd, 2014]

Next Poem - Prophets


My Poetry

PoetryRhythm more than rhyme
Feelings over form
Words over whatever

No thunder
No lightning
Just a whisper

Listen then write
Read then listen
Inspired circle

Express the heart
Tease the mind
Stir the spirit

Articulate life
Words have power
Shape your world

Never the same
See the change
Transformation

[Mark Conner - January 23rd, 2014]

Next Poem - A Very Different World