Joseph and Mary: A Poem


I wrote this poem in 2007, during my third year of training for the ministry. I probably wrote it in transit, on the train to or from my day job as a software developer.

The poem is a conversation between Mary and Joseph as he grapples with the implications of her decision to say yes to God’s plan.

I do hope, like Mary, you find support from the significant others in your life when you say yes to God’s plan for you. We cannot do it alone.


Joseph and Mary

by Irene Bom

How could you agree
When there’s so much at stake?

My-beloved-is-mine potentially,
Reckless it may be,
But the risk is mine to take.

Are you insane, Mary?
What did the angel say to sway you?

Such wisdom, it’s agony.
I glimpsed the future briefly.
He said dreams are coming true.

What am I to do, tell me?
I had my hopes pinned on a quiet life.

I don’t determine your destiny,
But the load is heavy.
It would be easier to carry if I’m your wife.

Your mind is clearly
Made up, and I have no say.

I’m dazzled, I’m dazed, I can see
I’m an embryonic community.
Join us, embrace the future. Stay.

From the blog
Prepare = action
God loves stories
Theme: Called into community  [prayer sheet]

Healed from the inside out

Rome  (Photo: Irene Bom)

I recently bought a book of poetry by Bonnie Thurston called, Practicing Silence, and have been dipping into it as a kind of spiritual practice. You have to slow down and savour the words. You can’t rush it.

Here’s the poem that inspired this month’s theme, “Healing”.

Inside out

On the face of it
all appears well,
but mostly wounds
are deep beyond reckoning.
As in surgery
the surface heals,
but in subcutaneous depths
resides an awful, jagged maw
into which one
must eventually walk,
sit down, wait for what
only waiting accomplishes:
victory over restlessness
conquering the urge to control;
acceptance of utter helplessness
inviting help’s arrival.
We are all healed
in passive voice
and from the inside out.

~ by Bonnie Thurston, from Practicing Silence: New and Selected Verses, p. 74

From the blog
The Spirit does wonders
Testing ground
In the school of prayer with Anselm

Thank you. For dust

(Photo: Albert Goedkoop)


Easter blessings to you all.

In light of the resurrection, here’s a different take on the word, “dust”.

A poem: Dusting

by Marilyn Nelson, 1946

Thank you for these tiny
particles of ocean salt,
pearl-necklace viruses,
winged protozoans:
for the infinite,
intricate shapes
of submicroscopic
living things.

For algae spores
and fungus spores,
bonded by vital
mutual genetic cooperation,
spreading their
inseparable lives
from equator to pole.

My hand, my arm,
make sweeping circles.
Dust climbs the ladder of light.
For this infernal, endless chore,
for these eternal seeds of rain:
Thank you. For dust.


Article: The Science of dust, Picasso’s favourite phenomenon


When hot and bothered

After a warm spell dried out curly willow leaves litter the grass  (Photo: Irene Bom)

I was searching for something to share on a summer theme. The word “hot” led me to this prayer poem by Anita Munro.

Teach us where the bucket is

O God, we gather at your waters,
as a hot and bothered crowd gathers on the beach
on a sweltering, summer day.
O God, we drink at your fountain,
as a parched dog laps at the fresh,
running water of a bush creek.
O God, we await your refreshment,
as a tired worker watches for the change of shift.
Quench our thirst, satisfy our longings.
May we be refreshed and restored in you;
and teach us where to find the bucket and how to carry it
so that we might draw that water for those who most need it.

— written by Anita Monro and posted on the MAD-e-Lena blog.

Read Anita’s blog post for the story behind this prayer poem.

From the blog
Water world news

The Gift revisited

The Gift

This blog usually features the prayerful writings of others. One major exception is the series, “The Gift”: 12 meditations with readings and original prayer poems on the Holy Spirit that I published between Ascension Day and Pentecost last year.

As a gift to you for Pentecost 2018, I’ve repackaged the 2017 series as a 16-page booklet in PDF format, ready for printing. To get your copy, click here.

For the original blog posts, click here.

Also, check out the Index to see what else this blog has on offer (past posts/series) and maybe consider signing up (if you haven’t yet done so) to receive future posts in your email inbox.

Call of the wild ones

Last year’s clutch of Egyptian goslings behind Rotterdam Central Station

On the eve of Ash Wednesday and a new season of Lent, here is a “wild” poem by Joel McKerrow that I found on the Northumbria Community website.


As the tamed horse
still hears the call of her wild brothers
and as the farmed goose flaps hopeful wings
as his sisters fly overhead,
so too, perhaps,
the wild ones amongst us
are our only hope in calling us back
to our true nature.
Wild ones
who have not been turned to stone
by the far-reaching grasp of the empire
and its programme of consumer sedation,
the killing of imagination.
Where, my friends,
have the wild ones gone?

Joel McKerrow

Can you hear the wild ones calling?

Jesus: ‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.’ (Mark 4:9)

More Joel McKerrow

Curious to find out more about Joel McKerrow, I found this youtube video featuring another of his “wild” poems: We Dance Wild by Joel McKerrow

You can find the words to “We dance wild” and some backstory on the Abbey of the Arts website.

2017: Advent Hope #7

(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)


Luke 2:28–32  (NRSVA)

28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

29       ‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
                according to your word;
30       for my eyes have seen your salvation,
31       which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32       a light for revelation to the Gentiles
                and for glory to your people Israel.’


What do you hope for this Advent? Simeon had been promised that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah and he lived in the hope of that promise being fulfilled. When he met the baby Jesus he knew immediately that he had not waited in vain.

In his prayer of thanksgiving, Simeon also prophesied that Jesus would not only minister to the Jews; he would be the hope of the Gentiles too. That gives hope and a promise to me and you. The child of Bethlehem, the Christ upon the cross, Jesus the Saviour of the world, our Redeemer.

Poem: Advent hope

Advent, a time of waiting in expectant anticipation
For the celebration of Messiah’s birth
For the visit of shepherds and wise men
For Angels singing peace on earth

Advent, a time of earnest preparation
For the return of the king
For the establishment of his kingdom
And the peace that it will bring

Advent, a time of trusting and hoping
For God’s promises to come true
For the love of God to fill the earth
Beginning with me and with you

Advent, a time which God has set aside
For each to watch and pray
To seek a deeper understanding
Of his purposes for us each day.


Our hope is in the Lord.

Lord, help us to hold onto our Advent hope as we journey with you through these days, getting our hearts ready to welcome Jesus this Christmas.

Help us to listen for your word and be directed by your spirit so that when Jesus returns he will find us ready for him. May we truly be servants who act upon your word and live in hope of your coming to reign.

Come Lord Jesus!


Church of Scotland Advent Calendar
Journey daily with characters in the Nativity through video, reflection and prayer


2017: Advent Hope #6

(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)


Isaiah 11:1–3  (NRSVA)

1 A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
      and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
      the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
      the spirit of counsel and might,
      the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
   He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
      or decide by what his ears hear;


Have you ever been told the same thing by several people? God had sent prophet after prophet to tell his people Israel about the one to come, the one they called the Messiah and yet the people still did not understand. Often we have to be told something many times by many different people before the information drops from the head to the heart, before we begin to hope for what is promised.

Poem: The prophets

The prophets promised a Messiah
Would be born to save the Jews
But the people never listened
To their message of good news

They promised them a future King
Who would rescue Israel
They promised he’d save the gentile too
That didn’t go down so well

They said a child would be born
In Bethlehem in Judea
That his mother would be a virgin
And he’d be named “God is near”

They told them the Messiah
Would be born of David’s line
That God would send his servant
At the appointed Time

They told them of the servant
Who would suffer and die
“Surely not our Messiah”
Was the people’s cry

For they wanted a Saviour
A great and mighty King
Who would lead forth his people
And bring the kingdom in

The people wanted a warrior
To lead them on to victory
They didn’t want a preacher
Who would die upon a tree

But the prophet’s message was clear
Through the centuries it came
The promise of a Messiah
Immanuel by name

God would send his son
The Servant King
To carry his people’s burdens
To redeem the world from sin


Father God, you sent your prophets to your people Israel and yet they refused to listen to their message and missed the promised Messiah. Help us to listen to the message of your prophets today so that when you come among us we are prepared and ready to respond.


Church of Scotland Advent Calendar
Journey daily with characters in the Nativity through video, reflection and prayer


TIP … from the blog
Children’s prayer #1

2017: Advent Hope #5

(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)


Matthew 1:18–21  (NRSVA)

18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’


Have you ever had your hopes dashed? Joseph was looking forward to seeing his hopes fulfilled as he married his fiancé and they started a new life together. Then, in an instant, everything he had hoped for was taken from him. His hopes were dashed, or were they? He received all he had hoped for but not in the way he expected. It reminds me of these words from a prayer written by an anonymous Confederate soldier in the US civil war: “I got nothing that I asked for but got everything I had hoped for.”

Poem: Joseph’s Diary

I wonder what would you do
If something like this happened to you
The wedding was only a few weeks away
We were all prepared for our special day
When Mary who was the love of my life
The woman who was to be my wife
Told me that she was to have a child
Any other man might have gone wild
Because the baby she carried wasn’t mine
She told me God had given a sign
That she hadn’t been with another man
This was all part of God’s plan
Well I didn’t know what to do
Being a good God-fearing Jew
So I decided to send her away
She could go to Elizabeth’s and stay
While I organised a quiet way
To call off the wedding with least affray
Then an Angel visited me
The brightest light you ever did see
He told me what Mary said was true
He told me what I had to do
To believe the message of this Holy one
Her child would be God’s own Son
I wondered if I was going insane
But the wedding was back on again


Father, sometimes I feel my hopes have been dashed. The things that I long for elude me and yet I know that you have plans for me, plans to give me hope and a future. Help me to trust in your purposes. Amen


Church of Scotland Advent Calendar
Journey daily with characters in the Nativity through video, reflection and prayer


TIP … from the blog
Theme: God makes all things new (Prayer sheet)

2017: Advent Hope #4

(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)


Luke 1:26–33  (NRSVA)

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’


Has God ever surprised you with an unexpected gift of hope? Sometimes God’s plans for us surprise us because we have not even formulated a hope. Mary’s unexpected visitor brought her news she was unprepared for and yet that news brought hope to the earth.

The words of an Iona carol come to mind: “God surprises earth with heaven/Coming here on Christmas Day.” Allow God to surprise you!

Poem: Mary’s Diary

Dear Diary, the strangest thing happened today,
I was in my room, I’d just started to pray
When from the sky came a blinding light
There stood an Angel shining bright
I wondered how could this be
As the Angel spoke to me
He said “Mary be not afraid”
“In your womb God’s son is laid”
I wasn’t afraid, I was terrified
I was sure the Angel must have lied
I knew I couldn’t be pregnant you see
Why did this have to happen to me?
But the Angel promised it was true
My son would be the King of the Jews
Of all women, God had chosen me
This child would set his people free
What could I say, I couldn’t say no
So all I said was “Let it be so”.


Lord God, you so often surprise us. Thank you for the unexpected gifts which bring hope and joy into our lives. Amen.


Church of Scotland Advent Calendar
Journey daily with characters in the Nativity through video, reflection and prayer