For Julie

Don’t fall away
Turn from lies
With Jesus stay

Embattled, your nerves fray
Deceiving half-truth with faith vies:
Caboodles of falsehoods the serpent will say

Peace bereft, you say you can’t pray
All night in darkness your hope dies
Thinking you’re lost forever to Day

Call to Christ though skies seem gray
Your guilt he knows, hears your cries
Hung on a cross, your sins to pay

Your enemy slay!
Resist, despise!
Don’t fall away
With Jesus stay


Rhyme scheme: aba,aba, aba, aba, abaa in semi-villanelle fashion 
Sammi's WWP #229: "caboodle" in exactly 78 words
Eugi's Weekly Prompt: "Peace"

Image credit: cocoparisienne from Pixabay

The Table

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.

Image by Bouf16 from Pixabay

I Saw A Guillemot Fall Today

Common guillemot

I saw a guillemot fall today
off the nesting cliffs
before it caught the wind;
I saw it snatched by a seagull’s bill
fast-disappearing in its maw.
Lazarus-like it emerged again
and I caught my breath for joy,
when swept down another gull
to swallow the fledgling whole.

Nature’s mien is none too keen
on compassion for the young.
The weak it passes over lightly
as fodder for the strong.
The world smiles at peace
entraps hopeful souls
then dogs of war do feed
while songbirds chirp
and children sing
of innocence and joy.

What means this? cries the philosopher
writing down his ethics.
Why it’s nature versus nurture,
exclaims the educationist.
Oh, hollow man, feed on love,
the poet strums a tune.
The guillemot parents of a fledgling bird
hear not the empty words.
They see beyond a skeptic’s sight
to an ordaining hand, and flying easy
from an empty nest, they’ll return again in spring.

Oh God, who takes away and gives,
our wounded hearts you see!
O give us strength to bear the pain
and rest in faith again.
Our grief we give to you once more
and pray our sight you’ll clear
to see the hope of eternal days
when tears no more we’ll fear.


Job 12: 7-10
[Job speaks] “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;
or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the LORD has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of all mankind.”

 

 

En Pointe

Sarah of dVerse asks us to choose a poem we’ve read over the last year and write a response to it in conversation, as it were, with its preoccupations. I’ve chosen John Updike’s “Fine Point,” written just weeks before his death in January 2009. His consciousness of our tainted public and personal history, and faith’s endurance as he alludes to Psalm 23, is what engages me most. And so my response, “En Pointe.”

En Pointe

What divinity is this that tempers our clay

with hammers of wrath expended on temple,

church, in our uneasy play with pagan tunes

of lust? Even as we covet our neighbor’s lamb

we would sing tuneful papyrus songs in our Babylon

with lyres hung under willows, calling out as children

“Abba, Father,” knowing we are heard by the Name

of One who bore the curse of our sinful rebellions.

O Son of David, thou whose lips have tendered infinity –

“It is finished” mercy and justice united blood

spilled and body spent on the cross so that Surely—

yes, “surely”— and all the days of my life wilt thou

pursue not merely “follow”— poor substitute

for the ancient tongue which reaches out in mercy

as unbounded as a lover’s song of songs to me

now to dwell in the house of the Lord, forever. Selah.

The Bright Field

Since my last poem, “October Fire,” I encountered “The Bright Field” by R. S. Thomas, a Welsh poet and Anglican priest of the last century. It’s theme of illumination is so allied to mine (though its poetic genius far eclipses mine) that I’d like to share it with you, that it might enflame and brighten your heart with hope. We are living in times that make us distrust the very leaders and experts that vie for our trust, and suspect the motives of those who claim to speak for the general welfare, for the sick, the poor and the oppressed. Our hopes have been misplaced if they have been placed on men and women. In the days leading up to our national election, let us pray that many will turn to the only true source of hope, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and reach out again to their neighbor on every street and every corner with grace and love.

A field in the Shenandoah Valley

The Bright Field

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

R. S. Thomas (1913-2000)

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.

Grace in Wretches Like Me: Two Quotes

We all search for heroes and heroines, and some even find them, only to discover their clay feet. When we see faults of different proportions in our Christian brothers and sisters, we tend to be less forgiving with them than we are with those who aren’t of our faith. Yet the same God who works in you to transform you into the likeness of Christ, works in me to do the same. And as we disappoint one another, even betray one another, we must love each other, hating the sin all the while.

Such sin we can see so clearly in others. But our own we so often fail to see until we are forced to. On some sin-encrusted surfaces of our lives, the grace of God melts and molds us easily to conform to His image. On others which are more obdurate, our stony footholds of sin must be hammered away by the heavy blows of suffering until we are transformed.

Continue reading “Grace in Wretches Like Me: Two Quotes”

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”

Unforsaken


On a sunny day to feel so cold
or to be joyless in the moonlight
alone with demons that circulate in the air
like dust motes no one else can see
but the prisoner engulfed by placid Hades—”of suffering
the Old Masters were never wrong”—
agape in excess, empty of hope.

I cannot feel the sunlight’s burst or the moon’s
pale rays but this I know in my darkness:
enthroned on high in the heavens
my King reigns in whose power lie the visible
and invisible, Who holds sway over all,
yet undertakes to dwell with me
to deliver me from hell.


¹line from W. H. Auden’s Musée des Beaux Arts (poem)

John 1:5
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Nectar

The butterfly sings with finely painted wings
her prayer of faith in nectar of needs
catches the fire of Your glorious throne
as from Your hand gaining flight
over meadows she streams
silent praise.

I sing with rude feathers of thought
lines of prayer drawn in rough flight
till unseen wind of Your Spirit
send them winging in faith to receive
praise unbroken for my lips,
divine nectar of joy,
healing balm of Your touch,
and manna for all of my needs.


Matthew 15:28
“O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.”

Prayer for Ellen

Before You I fall, the blood of the slain Lamb
Like rubies lit across the spilt years,
Dispersing hungry darkness, preying fears
Dismayed faith, that my prayers in ceaseless
Torrent may wash through unbelief and doubt
And the inane repetitions of old words
Earth-bound and worn, ill-used in faith, weary
But that fright has flung them on my tongue
Again to plead mercied miracle for a friend.

Continue reading “Prayer for Ellen”

The Author, the Word

If an author needs a reader
To see with different eyes
The words that she has written
Which once were on her heart,
The reader needs the author
To show her other worlds
That only words can offer
As a bridge to different hearts.

Still better is the Author
Who became the Word in flesh
And walked among the suffering,
Our griefs upon His heart,
Who with divine compassion
Bore our sins upon His cross
Then wrote in broken hearts
His unending song of Love.

Continue reading “The Author, the Word”

Betrayed

When words that breathe in storied volumes
Stained by guilt become clanging cymbals
As loveless shepherds of the church be
Who trample over hearths, homeless leave
Their sons, their daughters, cold hearts unwarmed
By trophied honor, noxious fumes their legacy.

From the pulpit come your soundings,
O man of God and woman too, what will your
Words of sounding brass do but betray your Master
With false heart, a kiss from lips of self-love,
Self-glory, when a servant you proclaim to be?


1 Corinthians 13: 1-3
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

A Patient’s Prayer

When sickly sorrow settles like grave-dust
Do You, O Lord, quicken me with light,
That septic darkness spreading its malodor
Can no longer bury me, cold and sightless
To Your presence as pain and grief alone
I see — O, hear my cry, attend to me,
An earth-bound sinner, Spirit-compelled
To shed mourner’s garments for robes of grace,
In faith to dwell by streams of gladness
And taste the riches of Your providence.

Continue reading “A Patient’s Prayer”