How beautiful you are, my love,
how very beautiful!
Your hair is like goats along the hills;
your teeth are like shorn ewes that have been washed;
your lips are like a crimson thread—so lovely;
your cheeks are like pomegranate halves.
(Song of Songs 4:1-3)

Sure, maybe it’s a poem about God. This poet wouldn’t be the first one to look at creation and imagine how it reflects characteristics of God: the wind as God’s whisper, the sunset as God’s smile, a sparkling stream as the glint in God’s eye.

It’s also possible, despite (or because of!) its location in the middle of the Bible, that it’s a poem of physical adoration, a celebration of human beauty, an unapologetic delight in the joys of sensuality. The poet gazes upon a beloved and cannot cease in adoration:

Oh my gosh, your eyes!
My goodness, your hair!
Be still my heart—your smile!

Then again, maybe it’s not either/or. To pause in delight, to celebrate a love (and to celebrate the Love of all loves), to be full of wonder, to be satisfied by the mutuality of adoration, to give thanks for the senses and sensualities that make life so acute—these too are gifts of the Creator. As the late Mary Oliver wrote about prayer: “Just pay attention … [this is] the doorway into thanks.”

Thank you, O Love, for touch and affection. Thank you, O Life, for the flood of your beauty through all of my senses. Thank you, O Creator, for putting my spirit in flesh.

written for the Stillspeaking Daily Devotional

Lent 17 (Spring)

I beg you,
by the gazelles and the wild does,
loose your heavy cloak of winter
and brave the first delicate steps
that will send you
bounding over snow drifts and
dancing beneath dull gray skies.

I urge you,
by the red-tailed hawk and the house wren,
be unladen from the world’s dispiriting chill
and soar to answer the Siren call that is
God’s frivolous joy
attracting you with the drifting scent of lilies
caressing you with sun’s long-forgotten warmth.

Come now, I beseech you,
by the leopard frog and the queensnake,
do not surrender your song or your swing
though you are carrying many burdens
but look and see!
the earth is turning to bring you a new day
the season of hibernation is finally ending.

on Song of Songs 2:10-12, with 2:7