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.
This ground underfoot, this riddling ground
Would you say you know it down to Adam and Eve,
Where lie its precipices, its canyons,
Where breathe the dragons that prey
On travelers at dusk and lost children?
I have walked on it with trepidation,
Fainting not, East of Eden, west of the moon,
Where the dead among the living
Like infernal winds sweep over the earth
Furies spitting on the destinies of men.
All around the wasteland where visions die
Banshees howl and half-formed men bay
Around fires of Cain’s wandering offspring.
Nevertheless, the eternal revelation, tri-folded,
Goes forth to the hungry and the poor in spirit.
The riddled ground beneath our feet,
Treacherous though it be, is as the dust of history
And we quickened ones like lilies of the field,
Dandelions harboring the unsearchable riches of Christ
To show forth the unassailable purpose of God.
Dumb to the world’s riddles, trusting, we carry on,
Until spinning out of bereft arms into shrouds
Or across canyons of a diseased mind
We lose each other to time’s grasp, till time stops,
And we, with joy unspeakable, everlasting, walk on new ground.
Ephesians 3: 8-12, Tyndale Bible (1522)
Vnto me the lest of all sayntes is this grace geven that I shuld preache amonge the gentyls the unsearchable ryches of Christ and to make all men se what the felyshippe of the mistery is which from the begynnynge of the worlde hath bene hid in God which made all thynges thorow Iesus Christ to the intent that now vnto the rulars and powers in heven myght be knowe by the congregacion the many folde wisdome of god accordinge to the eternall purpose which he purposed in Christ Iesu oure lorde by whom we are bolde to drawe nye in ye trust which we have by faith on him.
Isaiah 46:8-10 NASB
“Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
[I am] God, and there is no one like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure'”
**Featured Image: “Moody Skies” (Lizzie Crawford, 2020)
from Francis Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? (1976)
“No totalitarian authority nor authoritarian state can tolerate those who have an absolute by which to judge that state and its actions. Christians [have] that absolute in God’s revelation.”
from Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos? (1940)
I believe it to be a grave mistake to present Christianity as something charming and popular with no offense in it …. We cannot blink at the fact that gentle Jesus meek and mild was so stiff in his opinions and so inflammatory in his language that he was thrown out of church, stoned, hunted, and finally gibbeted as a firebrand and a public danger. Whatever his peace was, it was not the peace of amiable indifference.”
For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice ….”
– Zechariah 4: 10
Anyone who hasn’t turned on the news and come away disheartened isn’t paying attention. The years that saw men and women strive for noble ideals in the interest of their countrymen, when the Constitutional Convention assembled to debate the great truths that should be enshrined as the foundational principles of a nation, those days are long past. The leaders that strode across the canvas of time – George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson – seem shrouded in the distant past replaced by the frontrunners of our current presidential primaries, a morally and intellectually bankrupt buffoon and an equally corrupt power-hungry crony capitalist.
I wonder how many Christians have been feeling like Jeremiah watching woe upon woe fall upon the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” We have seen government decrees not only ripping apart our Constitution but also shredding the moral fabric of our nation.
Have you ever stood at the edge of a great height and looked down? From the safety of an intervening window, there is a panorama spread out before you. But if you’re standing on a ledge, there is the immediate danger of falling precipitously.
Funny how the seasons go
in a gray disappearing rush
and shadows everywhere appear
to discuss how they may grow
to overtake pale light, pale cheer,
waging inconsequential war
beneath the evening’s watery gaze
on grave earth, imprisoning tomb –
If you knew your days were numbered, what would your last blog post look like? What truth would you declare to the world at large? Would it be one of sweet expectation and hope? One of peace and comfort for loved ones left behind?
Douglas Taylor (1948-2014) entered into glory in June of this year after a more than two-year struggle with cancer. The following was his last blog entry on May 8, 2014. May the God of all comfort be with his wife, Di, and their six children.
The Desired Haven
A rather poignant story is told (some may know its origin). A godly minister was dying, in everyone’s estimation, including his own. But, to everyone’s surprise, he gradually recovered.
But the sensation that overwhelmed him was disappointment. ‘I saw the harbour gates’, he exclaimed. ‘But now I am obliged to remain on the high seas, with my soul battered by every wave, doing battle with the world, the flesh, and the Devil.’
The ungodly world cannot understand this point of view, but should it not be the attitude of godly Christians? Should they not long for safety within the gates of glory, more than anything else?
Jesus, lover of my soul . . . let me to thy bosom fly. Charles Wesley
So he bringeth them to their desired haven (Psalm 107:30).
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:9-10)
Have you seen the “Unsung Hero” commercials of Thai Life? They’re not the usual “roll your eyes” fare. I can’t say many commercials have really reached out and touched me but these did, and especially this one: three minutes long and worth every second. Hats off to the folks who made it. It’s got heart. Take a look:
A commenter on The Church Eternal put me on to this gem of a sermon given by the late Dr. Peter Eldersveld on Ephesians 1:22,23 on “The Body of Christ.” It reminded me of something John Owen wrote in his immortal treatise, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (1684), when he described our Lord Jesus as
the “candlestick” from whence the “golden pipes do empty the golden oil out of themselves,” Zech. iv. 12, into all that are his.” (Book 1, ch. 3)
Likewise, Dr. Eldersveld reminds us through his preaching on “The Body of Christ” of who we are, the unattractive “stained glass” that is the church, yet lit from within by Christ Himself.
And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:22-23)
Have you ever wanted to write a letter to your younger self? Not anything complicated. Just a simple note because here you are on the other side of darkness and the sun’s out and there’s so much to look forward to and so much to be grateful for.
I looked back at my younger self today and wished I had lived my life more fully, that is, conscious of God’s presence, as one who is living coram Deo, before the face of God.
I would like to tell her to commit each day to Him, because He’s the author; to give each moment to Him, because His hand is in it; to take each task however trivial and do it as for Him, because He assigned it to me; and to see in the darkness the same glory that I see in the light, because He never leaves or forsakes me.
Do you think I’m a doormat
‘Cause I’m a Christian,
‘Cause I don’t swear and curse
And berate you when I’m angry?
Continue reading “Of Doormats and Doorstops”
As I listen to the world around around me, there is no doubt in my mind that the church is being characterized as weak, internally and externally. Apostasy is on the rise in the western church as is persecution around the world.
I was one of those who was brought up to believe that life’s fullest purpose was to serve mankind, to do good works, that the most joyful life was the most productive life of service. Two fellows who were often quoted to me were Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Rabindranath Tagore, for self-evident reasons, but here’s a sample of why:
Let us, then, be up and doing, With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait. (Longfellow, last stanza, “A Psalm of Life,” 1838)
I slept and dreamt that life was joy, I awoke and saw that life was service, I acted and behold, service was joy. (Tagore, 1861-1941)
Yet I had seen enough folk as I was growing up with a stoic sense of responsibility who were as joyless as the day is long, but who were happy enough to criticize those who lived for the joy of the coming life in eternity with their Lord as if their constant desire for heaven was somehow a serious flaw in their character. Escapists and weaklings, they were said to be, with no true love of humanity, living for the joy of what is yet to come when Christ returned instead of the practical demands of the day.
Dr. Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan discussed his insights into “Writing from a Christian Worldview” during a Redeemer InterArts Fellowship in 2003. What was said then rings true today. As his website puts it, “You can’t make sense from facts without using them to create a story, and you can’t make sense of a story without putting it in context of a macro-level worldview. All the stories we tell as Christians fall into the gospel worldview of creational good, fallenness, and redemption.”
For me, the most helpful takeaway from this hour-long discussion revolved around “how Jesus resolves the plot lines” for these reasons:
1. Every story fits into the world’s story, an overarching narrative that you believe in: “You can’t tell facts without a story.”
2. Every story is a subplot of your macro-story. If the macro-story is the Christian storyline, then it will follow the creation-fall-redemption arc.
3. The Christian story co-opts or completes all the storylines of all cultures and worldviews. For example, is it a story of gaining power? wisdom? goodness? freedom? Only Jesus can resolve and satisfy these other worldviews.
In effect, the Gospel story is the story to which all good stories point.