Thoughts at Dusk, April 2020

There’s no news but breeds new fears
In the flickering light as dusk falls
In the last cry of a distant bird
In the misshapen shadows of the unseen
Within cloistered walls.

Bated breath and heaving sighs
The chill alarm of a sickness bred
In a distant lab, a plague let loose
Not of locusts or frogs but airborne
Contagion, the ghost of times gone.

In the night an insistent distress
A job lost, and mouths to feed,
A waiting game for a government check
One nightmare subsides only to waken
Another in the fell dark.

A manic wind pulls the screen door free
What have we let in, what have we to do;
Across the street, above the lampposts
A twinkling starry host and the watchful moon
Shine their peace.

A Sinner’s Plea

Waterhouse Miranda
“Miranda and the Tempest,” John William Waterhouse, 1916

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’” (Mark 2:17)

Lord Jesus,
Speak life to my bones
Command health to my soul
Restore loving compassion
Instill sweet amazing grace
Send forth Your Spirit
Throw open the gates
Cast light in the darkness
Lead me to Your Word
Speak of Your blood
Shed from the cross
Grant healing forgiveness
Set free my guilty soul.
Amen.

 

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” … For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10: 9-13, ESV)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9, ESV)

Lenten Days

 

serveimage
Herodian Oil Lamp, 1st c. AD

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. (2 Cor. 7-11, ESV)

Father, before you I kneel in dismay
Ashamed I’ve grieved you again today
Aware that this handful of dust and clay
Rescued from darkness to eternal day
Betrayed your love, from You turned away:
O forgive me, I pray!

Driven by discontent and greed
All I could see was my own selfish need
Taking me swiftly where You do not lead
Enticing in thought, and word, and deed
Faithless to endure and your word to heed:
O Spirit of God, help me!

Nothing I do will right my wrong
Against You I have sinned and oh how I long
To be set free from guilt so strong
Blinding me to whom in love I belong
Who over death my victory won:
My hope rests in Jesus alone!

For His is the blood that washed me clean
His death on the cross covered all my sin
His is the power that sets me free to begin
Humbly to walk with You again
Trusting the word of my sovereign King
For life abundant united to Him!

Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!


Ash Wednesday was originally the day in the church year when people who were ordered to show public penitence for their sins began forty days of penance—outward displays of inward repentance. Sometime around the end of the first millennium the practice became more general. The symbol of this was marking the forehead with ashes. It was the sign that a person had begun a multi-week fast, with forty weekdays included. They were now setting out on an internal journey of the spirit that would end only with the celebration of Christ’s resurrection at Easter. The message was visible on their faces” (Sinclair Ferguson, To Seek and To Save).

Faith’s Furnace

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

…Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
(Daniel 3: 16-18, 24-25)

Even if the fire should scorch
The flames should singe till sight is lost
And flesh burn off like candle wax —

Even if dreams deferred
Rot the heart and sicken hope
To shriveled bones like raisins in the blaze of day —

Even then I will not bow to gilt or gold
To fortune’s prince or hell’s hot blast
For a Love stronger than death.

Continue reading “Faith’s Furnace”

On Mother’s Day

Measured like fine sand in an hourglass
Your life poured time-space-gravity
Spanned dimensions of dreams-desires-duty
Ebbing to a diminishing close of expectation
Then sand-breath-light fighting your will
Until all ceased.

Tracked like footprints on ragged shores
Your life followed heights-valleys-seascapes
Ambitious, sacrificial service to home-church-community
Fording rough currents, plans laid, brought to their knees,
Hopes met where rough tides pass over to erase or salvage
Until a glassy sea.

But what of the immeasurable you, the wind that blows
Then shifts like gusts to whirl, embrace, bounce up,
Throw down, then surrounds like a garment of perfumed silk
Warmed by a light unquenchable-tried-tested-indomitable,
Or a cool breeze on a fevered brow from an unseen land that calms
Until the break of day.

Continue reading “On Mother’s Day”

O Love That Came Down

O Love that came down from heaven
Of Your glory I have glimpsed
Tides of mercy as you raise me
Even now to dwell with Thee.

Draw my eyes from worldy idols
So my sight is clear and free
To behold Your holy radiance
And always only worship Thee.

Wondrous, gracious are Your works, Lord
These I ponder with delight
Trusting, finding grace sufficient
As I daily walk with Thee.

Bread of Heaven, feed me ever
In Your kingdom as I am
Granted riches from Your table
Heavenly food from Your dear hand.

The Way I Take

The way I take You know, O Lord:
The stony path, the cheerless track —
No glory here, no crowds to say
How well you ran through pain, through tears.
But cheerless whispers resound at dusk
When silence falls and fears draw near
A crowd of strangers along the way
Their dirgeish voices battering faith.

The way I take You know, O Lord:
I cannot see around the bend —
When nights put flight diminishing days,
I reach for stars and gather dark;
I reach for You and though You’re there
My inward light burns low for sight.
Still I can hear Your Shepherd’s voice
The words You speak like strengthening rays
Of life, of health, of love, of grace.

The way I take You know, O Lord:
It leads me to my Father’s home —
Still while I’m here let this race be won
Not for my name but Yours alone!
My blessing in Your promise fulfilled,
Your Name borne high, Your word shown true;
I wait on You, Thy glory craving,
Your will to see, My will subdued,
Till that day You lift me up
And bear me high to shouts of joy
As in Your victory, mine abounds.


nota bene, 12/19/2018: A couple of weeks after writing this, I read these powerful lines from the pen of that master poet/hymn writer John Newton (Olney Hymns, 1779):

Though sometimes unperceived by sense,
Faith sees Him always near;
A Guide, a Glory, a Defence,
Then what have you to fear?

As surely as He overcame,
And triumphed once for you;
So surely you, that love His name,
Shall triumph in him too.

Wingless Phoenix in Wal-Mart

You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me! (Psalm 139: 15-18 NLV)

Dreams from a Pilgrimage

360px-Mosaïque_Phénix_01

A wingless phoenix in Wal-Mart
By Special K and Quaker Oats
Stands mid-aisle, stock still, face pinched.

View original post 110 more words

Cloud of Glory

Roll over me, Cloud of Glory, majestic mountain of Light
Clothing the enthroned Godhead!
Touch me with the Fire that no Promethean labor avails
To impart but the Love-enflamed Spirit!

A spark from Thee to this dry timber of my heart
Would burn wiry vines of Satan’s lies, noxious fears,
Corrupted roots, and leave unharmed the tender growth
Of life reborn, fed by living water and the Word,
To fruition of Abundance, a banquet of Life Eternal
Before the Most High God!

So Thou has promised, so let me receive
The fulness of Thy outpouring
Grace upon grace
That loosens tongues of gladness
And sets free faith
Till Heaven opens
On this child of the King!

Going for a Walk

I will see cherry blossoms today
dancing lightly in the April breeze
crenellated puffs of softest pink
jostling, welcoming, anticipating
meetings under the arch-browed branches:

where petals scamper round the feet
of once deplete, now wealthy hearts surfeit
with delight not won, but given
in sweet abandon from the Lord of heaven:

and sweet angel, I will think of you.

View From a D.C. Mezzanine

From under the milky sky we came breathing the rusting fumes of the day
Pumping its ready cocktails next to the George Washington bridge.
Just there a body had lain mugged in the night, a petty assassin
Pocketing a diamond ring and some change, leaving the rest
For the city to collect, the remains of a life unfulfilled.
A flag rose not two blocks down, the guard changed, a band played
And the cloaked world gazed with cataract eye upon a jaded crowd.

Continue reading “View From a D.C. Mezzanine”

Belief (4)

To ask Him if He sees, when He made the eyes
that angrily accuse;
To ask Him if He hears, when He made the ears
that ring with raging accusation;
To ask Him if He is mute, when He made the mouth
that spits hurt challenge;
To ask Him if He knows, cares, desires to stem
the flood of misery
When He knew, cared, desired enough to bear
the Cross;
To ask and then grieve to ask
And in my grief to fall abashed into waiting arms
again, and yet once again,
To ask, “O God, how great is Your lovingkindness!”

Plead for Me

Our family devotions have centered around the book of Job for the past few weeks and considering the upheaval of plans and difficult transitions for each one of us in different ways, it has been fitting and it has been a blessing. 

There are passages of time where the universe seems to collapse into the cramped space of one’s own trials. Those are the times when our conversations with God are not only intense & often wrought with a sense of overwhelming frailty, but also liberating as worship leads us upwards into the infinite, omnipotent throne room of our heavenly Father.

In such a place of holiness and sovereign love, our weaknesses, our fears, our impoverished faith are of no account. There we can freely ask the immortal, invisible God to do for us what we cannot. I wrote the following in deep wonder at the truth rediscovered time and time again that, in Christ, we can even ask Him to plead for us.

Plead for Me

Holy Savior, plead for me, a crippled sinner, lame of tongue
Ill-begotten in the night, a rebel to Your sovereign power.
I would throw off the shackling chains that curb my pride,
Restrain my steps, and lead to humiliation’s lonely way.
Yet here I see Your riven form, the crown of thorns,
The nail-pierced flesh. Here alone I hear the cry
That tore the temple veil in half as One forsaken
For my sins bore the wrath that I deserved.
Where then is shame, where then is grief
If not borne by You for love of me?
So all my fears shall be dissolved if You, my Lord,
Would yet plead for me.

Selah (2)

A feast of rest, a feast of praise
Fills my heart, my mouth, my days;
A Sabbath feast of prayer and love
A shout of “Hallelujah!” to God above.

O let me never from this feast descend
But ever by Your Spirit ascend;
Hold me, Father, with Your right hand
As by faith on holy ground I stand.

Ushered in by Your Son’s call
To the festal celebration hall
Joy abundant and peace unfettered
From Your table I am fed.

Should I stray from Your dear presence
Let me quickly feel Your absence
And in Your grace, rejoicing always,
Before Your table find my place.


Hebrews 12: 22-24
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Red Darkness

This picture was taken behind our home. The colors all stream together into a red pool breeding a kind of wanderlust, an unhealthy variety where you feel like you’re fleeing from all the demons of hell but really just taking them all with you, pursued, driven and tormented. Into such a dark night of the soul, home is the only cure, a place where you are rescued and kept safe. I pray that all who read this will find that home in Christ Jesus, who in His faithful love I have found to be the only sure refuge from such a rabid wanderlust of the mind and spirit.

Continue reading “Red Darkness”