The Starry Host

For the starry host of heaven

for the velvet black of night

for the moon a brilliant circle

for the clouds reflecting light

for the land in silence resting

for the stillness everywhere

for the dew like grace descending

for the fragrance in the air;

for God is in the evening

for Christ is drawing near

for the Spirit now is longing

to make beauty’s presence clear.

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Saviour in a Swampy Land

There’s a swamp of secrets here

stretching as far as the eye can see.

Secrets, crossed over with lies, half-submerged,

the muck of deception clings close

and there is something rotten in the state of grace.

You speak about your life, lightly,

and politely comment on the weather.

Your eyes tell a different story.

You are mired here, bone-mired,

in mud that will not let you go.

You are trapped and alone

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Anniversary Prayer

God of love, thank you for marriage

and the way love’s face

changes with time.

Thank you for love’s beginning;

the tidal pull that draws together

as sure as sea and shore,

the beauty of that meeting,

its strength and intense fragility,

sweet as an apple blossom

pale in the moonlight….


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Bitterness, like some evil intravenous

drips into each day

from a clear bag of memories.

He said, she said,

he did, she did,

he was, she was.

Daily, nightly, a steady dose

poisoning the soul.

Too many times the body convulses

shaken with anger

racked with sorrow

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The Grudge

The grudge sits squat and heavy

in the middle of the road between two people.

Built of solid rock by a team of experts

schooled in hurt feelings,

every chink is cemented with spite.

There are no windows or doors.

Unmovable as a mountain

it sits in the thoroughfare saying,

“Road closed.”…

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The Final Hour

The family sits on either side of the bed.

The reedy rhythm raises her chest

slightly up, slightly down.

The quiet breathing slows, pauses,

resumes again, shallower now.

Life seeps away as night deepens.

Death dawns, gentle as silence.

This was the final hour….

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Glimpsing God

At the very edge of hearing,

at that fine line

between what is in and out of reach,

in the wondering moment

where a fragrance is apprehended

but unrecognized,

when you gaze intently

and in the shift between seeing nothing

and seeing something (who knows what),


God arrives.

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Smooth Hollow of Worship

gather the eyes in

stand and seek them out

the tired, the hopeful,

the sad, the skeptical, the inquiring eyes

gather each pair

with these upraised arms,

this gaze,  these words

I gather you in

gently patting you into place

this place

this place here

this smooth hollow

of worship

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The Best Christmas Gift

Christ comes as a gift into your life,

but he doesn’t come

wrapped in shiny paper and ribbons

and you can’t say

“Isn’t that nice,”

as you quickly slide him under the bed

or store him in a dark closet

thinking that someday you’ll find a place to put him.

Christ is a gift that you can’t

pack away neatly in a box,

bringing him out for special holidays

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About Carol Penner

I am a Mennonite pastor currently teaching theology at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ontario. I’ve served congregations in Ontario and most recently, Alberta.

I love to write and to lead worship! If you are finding my writing helpful, I would love to hear from you! Feel free to use or adapt the material here, it is all written by me. If printing material, please credit “Copyright Carol Penner www.leadinginworship.com” (and say whether you modified it). If publishing, please contact me for permission. Contact me at carol@leadinginworship.com

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