I’m so pleased to have discovered a podcast that addresses issues of color, ethnicity, and diversity with a Christ-centered perspective. Prof. Janine Bolling and Rev. Dr. Gerard Bolling host The (Im)partial Churchpodcast for Lutheran Hour Ministries, a podcast exploring “how Christians embrace different cultures, celebrate diversity, and live out their faith.”
Entertaining as this brother-sister duo is, when addressing the issues of BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color), cancel culture, and cultural diversity, they follow the apostle Paul’s admonition to “let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:6). As they point out in “What Not to Say” (episode 3), salt preserves, and we must use our speech to preserve relationships between people, not destroy.
The Bollings are winsome and practical, providing with their podcast a place for Christians to look for ways in which to live out their faith midst cultural diversity. Bringing their personal and professional experiences into the conversation makes it that much more relatable, while grounding their discussion in frequent references to Scripture and what God calls us to be as His family bought and reconciled through the Cross of His Son provides the solid ground of love and hope and fresh motivation to build bridges between communities.
Repentance. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Love. For Christians these qualities are part of the very identity we have in Christ Jesus.
The (Im)partial Church engages and informs, inspires and connects, all in service to the God who calls us above the noise and fray of hostility to live to His glory in obedience and love and humility and sacrifice.
Listen to this podcast and be refreshed and energized to meet the challenges of a culture that would divide rather than unite us. As Christians we are called to this ministry of reconciliation by living missionally, reflecting the new life we have in Jesus.
If someone were to tell us that knowing God is Three Persons in One is an easy concept to understand, we would have to declare them either a simpleton or a liar. But if someone were to tell us that this concept of the Trinity makes all the difference to how we interact with him in adoration and joy, with his overflowing love as the driving engine of our evangelism, we may just stop and ask this rejoicing Christian to explain. And Michael Reeves, president and professor of theology at Union School of Theology in the UK, does just that in Overflow: How the Joy of the Trinity Inspires Our Mission.
There is a reason that Christ commanded, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19, bold italics mine), and Reeves does a great job spelling it out for us simply and convincingly in this short book that will leave a lasting impact.
Charles Spurgeon once said this: “The most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity. And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatory. Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrows? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of grief and sorrow; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead.” (p. 11)
Reeves shows us that “the Trinity is not a weird puzzle for theological nerds but glorious good news for every Christian to enjoy”; that “the radiantly self-giving nature of God as the wellspring of all love, joy, goodness—and mission” is revealed from Genesis to Revelation; that when the Trinity is denied, love is denied; and “how, when Christians share God’s own outgoing fullness and radiance, we shine as lights in this current darkness.”
Reeves writes, “Mission is rooted in the Trinity, in the very being and nature and heart of God. And this is something deeply heart-winning and attractive in Him. If there is one thing I really want, above all, to communicate in this book, it is the great truth that God is mission. Wherever you’re at with God, particularly if you aren’t too thrilled with Him at the moment, I’d love for your eyes to be opened so you see just how stunningly beautiful and satisfying He is. I pray that your heart begins—maybe for the first time in a long time, maybe for the first time ever—to burn with a love for Him. Not just a duty that compels you and tells you what you ought to do, but rather, that you truly love Him! And then, out of this deep love, you will want to see the whole world come to know about Him too.” (p. 18)
“Mission is the outworking of God’s very nature. Before we ever did anything for Him, this God comes and gives His life away for us. So mission does not start with something we do, but with something done for us” (p. 48).
“Mission is the overflow of love from the enjoyment of divine fellowship. As we partake in the Father’s pleasure in His Son, and the Son’s pleasure in His Father, and the Spirit’s enlivening of their mutual love, it causes us to share their love for the world. Thus we become like what we worship. It is then, friend, you will want to sing of Him: when you are basking in the sunshine of God’s love. Because, as Jesus said, the ‘mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart’” (Luke 6:45 HCSB) (p. 56).
Reeves reminds us of the Father’s eternal love, what Christ has done for us on the Cross, and the Spirit’s regeneration, and encourages us to live in the light of this gospel truth: “You can live by the flesh, which means living under a spirit of slavery, always propelled by an insatiable lack, by guilt, by greed, by the desire to justify yourself. Or you can live as a child of God, by the Spirit of adoption.” (p. 82) “The children of God live from a fullness of life, a fullness of blessing. We can’t help but overflow with it. Other people need it too.” (p. 89)
This book is full of encouragement for those who feel themselves spiritually weary or empty. It is Christ-centered, Gospel-proclaiming, and Trinitarian-affirming and celebrating. I heartily recommend it.
You were four with a Daddy when you laid out dancing colors of pink, blue, green and purple
When you were four and a day the colors went orange viral of corona, corona everywhere
You sat half-hidden in shadow your diamond father stolen from you with black words like ICU
Now pink, blue, green and purple have fled a world of frightening red your mother widowed in white
And you are four and counting looking back at days of gray a rainbow shining over you: we pray
Reena at Xploration Challenge gives us an update on the four-year-old pictured above: “I came across a heart-wrenching picture of a drawing by a 4-year old, whose father [was] battling lung failure due to Covid in hospital. When asked what was it she had drawn, she said “Corona, Corona …. Everywhere Corona.” The entire family was infected, but all others have recovered…. She lost her father today. Her mother, whom I see as an exceptionally strong woman, fought till the end, staying afloat with her Buddhist beliefs and chanting “Nam myth renge Kyo.” It kept her going, if nothing else. She is totally deflated now, after the incident. She, who led a fatherless life (her father being a drug-addict), just uttered the words ‘My daughters will meet the same fate.'”
Whom the fire burned is under gauze. Was it once black or white or non-white? What the closed eyes? What myriad colors swirl beneath the bandages? Sins of color stain even a child. What absolution have we if we offer such sacrifices as the gods decree? And if it walks like blind Tiresias what will it prophesy but death which comes to all and judgment.
In keeping witht the theme of minimalism in art, Sanaa at dVerse writes: “I want you all to select one out of the twelve photographs shared … and write a poem. It can be an Ekphrastic poem, if you like. Go philosophical. Go dark or romantic or solemn. Share what you feel about Minimalist photography when you see it. The idea here is to provoke an emotion, and what better way to pour them out other than poetry?” Click on Mr. Linky and join in.
I’ve always stood out. Indian child. Small town. No friends really. A lonely thing with a big moon that followed her. I thought about you a lot. Didn’t know you thought about me too. You know the story. You loved me even when I didn’t. I wanted to DO something. Never did. I trained with pretty great chefs, one from Paris. They agreed all I did right was making tomato soup. What could I do? I opened a stand-out “All-Things-Tomato” take-out. Some can pay. Some can’t. I do it for You, Lord. May it be to Your glory.
For Rochelle Wisoff-Field's Friday Fictioneers where we write in any genre in 100 words or less. Click on the frog and join in!
writers are knife-walkers we walk to make the final cut where the blade ruptures the heart
surgical artists dissecting ourselves in the Circus Maximus for the amusement of the gods in their curtained prosceniums
they, eviscerating each other, we rip ourselves up to see the truth in fictional lives stitched up later as scarred tissues of lies
only to find we’re not hopelessly alone that our arteries flow into one another through artful bridges of aqueducts leading one to another’s aortas
in ancient tides and ocean swells, each as wombs incubating embryonic lives of who we are meant to be where the bone meets the marrow.
Today Tricia Sankey guest hosts at dVerse Poetics, and she challenge us with writing about risk. Inspired by Tricia's own poem, well, writing poetry is a risk for me, but as I tried to say, one well worth taking when it's done in community like the poets at dVerse. Thanks to one and all.
Sitting across the table from you Wonder what you’re thinking Is it just the food? Something more? You look up. The sweetness in your eyes Dispels all doubts in wedded bliss All conversations merge into one There’s no one for me but you.
Sitting down at Your table with You Dark the vagrant thoughts in my head Not on the bread, nor on the wine Your living Presence hid to my eyes Your tender, humbling gaze on me, I look up: Enthroned majesty cloaked in a naked Lamb Slain for the love of a sinner like me There’s no one for me but You.
For Laura’s dVerse Meeting the Bar prompt “of poetry craft and critique, ‘to turn again, about turn again‘ we are employing the device of ‘epiphora/epistrophe’ which makes use of consecutive end line repeats of words or phrases. The optional extra is ‘Symploce’ – a consecutive repeat of first and final words.”
Laura points out that ‘epiphora’ is also “a medical term for excess tear production,” which can result from both comedy and tragedy.And so I have incorporated quotes from the classic Frank Capra film, “Arsenic and Old Lace,”to write a farce and an omen, reflecting perhaps something of the state of the world today.
In Melbourne one night I dreamed of you Cold-eyed in June with summer roses hanging tough Knew I’d meet you when the four horsemen rode With plague and famine and war on their hooves With plague-driven carts bouncing off their hooves.
Ribbed, malnutritioned, unhallowed eyes knuckle mine And without turning I see in wintry desert climes A thing to be desired above all others A taste to consume and be consumed by A reign of terror sublime where worms meet flesh Of tree-fruit hung, mouth-watering pulp of initiation Plucked, bitten off, in excess of secret concupiscence
In ravishment of the verboten, for that which I hate, I had done, and thus doing, am undone, the unmaggoted Fruit in its rainbow pride turning to dust and ashes in my mouth. For I have traded a Love without price For emaciated fruited-husks littering the fields of deceit Yet again, an unslumbered hungering malice ever-stalking At my heels, until out it comes, the vinegared indigestible
Bulk of it spilled vomitously, wretched retchings of a fool Words and deeds like knives ungorged flying mercilessly And I with unclean hands, naked in the cool of the evening Hidden, yet sought, drawn to the hallowed treed shade where Gratuitously, there is room for me, manna for me, Bread of life, Water that quenches my thirst, Whose wine-dark blood Spent in mercy divine washes over and covers me so To walk at last in honeyed valleys and orchards free.
Song of Songs 2:3 [She]: As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
As clouds curl and stretch above a ginkgo tree a twilight gold wreathes three small figures their Dad quickening his steps as they race toward open church doors their laughter echoing in its depths and I still warm from the summer’s smile sit waiting on the benches of sung psalms there to worship the living God who knew this moment before it began a moment that began long before my conception in the dreaming womb of a mother returned to the songs of her land and I cold from her lost embrace, lost lamb carried in the arms of the Shepherd to sail motherhood embraced by the cossetting arms of a sun-kissed husband and the eager hands of ebullient children whose mouths warble love like songbirds in the Sabbath twilight as clouds curl and stretch above a ginkgo tree.
For my husband and children on Mother’s Day with love.
Grace at dVerse asks us to meet the bar by writing a palinode or palinody, “an ode or song that retracts or recants a view or sentiment to what the poet wrote in a previous poem.” She has various examples of this and I’ve chosen to follow Monica Youn’s model. Modernists like the young T.S. Eliot have always intrigued me, their loss of faith, their perceived dissolution of any moral center so that it could not “hold” (Yeats) leading to a hellish fragmentation of their psyche, the untethered remnants of a “lost generation.” Their poems nevertheless are replete with the religious symbolism of earlier ages. I thought I’d pluck a character from one of Eliot’s most famous poems (“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”) and see how he would do in a palinode.As a palate cleanser, which you may be in great need of after my clumsy fan fiction, listen to the Jeremy Irons reading of Eliot’s poem below.Click on Mr. Linky to read more dVerse palinodes and join in.
Inspired by the Georges de La Tour painting below, the following poem attempts to give an added voice to the eloquence of Tour’s work by “unmuting” Job’s wife. As a character in the Book of Job, a Gentile living during the time of the patriarchs, Job’s wife is not prominent. But, perhaps, she delivers the most bitter blow to Job. Through her, we hear the voice of Satan speaking most directly to Job when she asks, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). In the midst of his sufferings, I believe Job’s greatest challenge was to withstand this voice and choose to trust God.
No, Job, I didn’t sign up for this. The ships lost at sea, drowning spices Camels marauded, flocks lit into carrion husks Children buried by an ill-wind where they danced And my jewels? Bartered for funeral meats
Shall I proclaim it for posterity, inscribe in stone Your endless complaints, the hollow sounds Of jagged grief and friends’ scorn? Look at me! Washing our rags, hiding my shame From the maids that I once kicked out of doors
Job, I didn’t sign up for this, my darling. Your boils how they stink where they fester Open wounds that run dry and break open again The prayers that you whisper late into the night While in the city they dance and they dine
Gentiles we are, not of Abraham’s tribe! The God you both serve has given you hell So leave it, I tell you; curse Him and die! Don’t live like a fool trusting Him with your life When a stillborn child has much better luck
I heard you this morning sing like a lark, Of your God who will come to intercede and save Who with your own eyes you will see at last So you’ll wait, diseased, though you’re slain. You’re mad!
The sacrifices you offered once smoked to the sky Yet you speak of a Redeemer as if he were a man But, husband, what broken body, what blood can make clean Hearts bitter with hate, hands wicked with lust? This God that you worship is too holy, too proud Do what I say! Curse Him and die!
I didn’t sign up for this! Do you hear? I didn’t sign up for this.
Job 19:19-27 All my intimate friends abhor me, and those whom I loved have turned against me. My bones stick to my skin and to my flesh, and I have escaped by the skin of my teeth. Have mercy on me, have mercy on me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has touched me! Why do you, like God, pursue me? Why are you not satisfied with my flesh? Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!
Roughly reworked from an earlier version for dVerse "Poetics: "Exploring the Narrative Voice," guest hosted by Ingrid. Thank you, Ingrid for a superb prompt.More dVerse poems, at Mr. Linky's.
Whether Mr. Roth’s Poems from the Heart are read over the course of a week or a day, you will feel each time that you’ve just had a heartfelt talk with a friend: a friend with a way with words in all the particulars that touch you to the core. You’ll come away as if you’d been on a companionable walk, finding more in common than not with the poet, and knowing that it was time well-spent for the sentiments shared.
So it’s altogether fitting that the first poem is “Famous Only Among Friends”; after all only such fame is real and meaningful, with time spent and hearts open. And Roth invites us into his thoughts with his signature openheartedness, a style that is thankfully short on obscurities and long on frank and unabashed clarity so that its poetic beauty penetrates the heart.
Throughout this collection of poems, you will be charmed as I was with the poet’s unerring descriptions, the imagery of the woods (“To Be a Leaf”) and hearth-side (“Blackberry Pie”) mingling effortlessly with the deeper truths of life and spirituality.
Stay bright, yellow Roughshod blue the bliss of it Corner it free to humility Bother the pride loose Trill the tree-lit melodies Emblazon green In ragged hearts Gush on the joy Glory forth the holy Genuflect the new life Grace unspeakable Stay bright, yellow
WhimsyGizmo at dVerse asks us to use any variation on the word "bother" to write a quadrille (a 44-word poem). Click on Mr. Linky to join in!
In the underground caves we lived the squalor that passed for life Each of us coveting the other’s baubles, driven by transient desires One took another’s wife, someone her neighbor’s pearl of contentment Deceived and deceiving we lived as opulent moles in a darkness unrelenting.
We were aware of an abundant life above ground, one richer in life and meaning We yearned to quench ourselves in the unfathomable joy of its Light pouring Through the dim recesses of our shadowed being, but mechanically going to and fro We multiplied our labors seeking promised pleasure in glinting mirrors of craving eyes.
Dear reader: A little background to the above poem.In reading the 20th-century philosopher René Girard, one can’t help but be struck by how the last of the Ten Commandments focuses exclusively on covetous desire, something that the second tablet of the law enumerates to a certain extent. Thou shalt not covet. Girardfinds the breaking of this law to be the root of violence in every culture. Here’s how he explains his theory of mimetic desire:
In reading the tenth commandment one has the impression of being present at the intellectual process of its elaboration. To prevent people from fighting, the lawgiver seeks at first to forbid all the objects about which they ceaselessly fight, and he decides to make a list of these. However, he quickly perceives that the objects are too numerous: he cannot enumerate all of them. So he interrupts himself in the process, gives up focusing on the objects that keep changing anyway, and he turns to what never changes. Or rather, he turns to that one who is always present, the neighbor. One always desires whatever belongs to that one, the neighbor. Since the objects we should not desire and nevertheless do desire always belong to the neighbor, it is clearly the neighbor who renders them desirable. In the formulation of the prohibition, the neighbor must take the place of the objects, and indeed he does take their place in the last phrase of the sentence that prohibits no longer objects enumerated one by one but “anything that belongs to him [the neighbor].” What the tenth commandment sketches, without defining it explicitly, is a fundamental revolution in the understanding of desire. We assume that desire is objective or subjective, but in reality it rests on a third party who gives value to the objects. This third party is usually the one who is closest, the neighbor. To maintain peace between human beings, it is essential to define prohibitions in light of this extremely significant fact: our neighbor is the model for our desires. This is what I call mimetic desire.
Grave clothes left behind see death’s dominion broken in an empty tomb
Light the air, so bright silent glory transpiring the King ascending
John 11: 25-26 “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’”
It was Good Friday morning and Humble Singh was watching the clock.
He had done this every Good Friday for as long as he could remember, even while his wife, Millie, was still alive and before he had sold his business and moved to live with his son and his family.
It was a quarter to nine. Soon Jesus would arrive, cross-laden, at Golgotha. His face is beaten to a pulp, Jewish and Gentile spit mingles with his blood, and he is struggling with exhaustion and pain as long strips of deeply scored flesh lie open on his back from the scourging, and every nerve in his body screams in anticipation of the crucifixion. The soldiers hurry him along. They conscript a bystander to carry the horizontal beam on his back.
Ten till. Humble sat in his sitting room at the back of the house. Suddenly he leapt up and went into the back garden. Red tulips. Purple hyacinths. Large burgundy magnolia buds like the bruises that covered Christ’s body. The Roman soldiers had mocked him with a purple robe and a crown of thorns while beating him repeatedly. The Jewish priests and their hitting, spitting and slapping needed their scorn driven home. But it was their hour of shame. “His blood be on us and on our children!” the crowd had cried. The mob must have its victim. Even if that victim was pure, blameless. The Lamb of God.
A minute till nine. They lie him down, stripped, arms held down on the cross beam. Humble looks up at a movement in the shrubbery. A bunny had scurried through the open garden gate. Humble hurries to close it. Piercing nails. Blood running free. Writhing agony. Joints stretching in excruciating torture. The crowd gathers round. Women sob. Many watch in satisfaction.
“Humble! Yoo hoo, Humble!” a woman’s voice sings out. It was Prithi, known in the predominantly Asian neighborhood as the “Giddy Widow.” She approaches him with a broad smile and with nowhere to run, unlike the bunny, Humble returns her greeting. She comes into the garden, her heels clicking on the pavement, bangles bouncing on attractively plump arms and her rouged face a pantomime of coquetry.
They wander around the garden, Prithi chatty, Humble surreptitiously checking his watch. It was a large garden, professionally tended, an arbor here, a fish pond there, a large oak in the middle of the grounds, shady trees of cherry, plum, and maple. No olive trees. Unlike that garden where Christ sweated huge drops of blood at what he would be enduring today. “The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.”