An inch the moon moved, me eyeing through sleepless lids I lay dying: apple-fed.
Dim my sight, breath weakening death’s poison ever strengthening: apple-cursed.
Whispered prayers, hurried words of flesh plead soul’s deliverance afresh: apple-damned.
Darkness now floods the mind distraught I would, I could, but I cannot: apple-bent.
God’s Son whose flesh my guilt impaled On cross for me o’er death prevailed: apple-freed.
Grace at dVerse challenges us today to write a Compound Word Verse, an unfamiliar form to most ous I daresay. She writes: "The Compound Word Verse is a poetry form invented by Margaret R. Smith that consists of five 3-line stanzas, for a total of 15 lines. The last line of each stanza ends in a compound word and these compound words share a common stem word which is taken from the title. (In the first example below the stem word is “moon” from the title “Moonlighting”; the compound words related to the title are moondust, moonbeams, moonsongs, etc.)
The Compound Word Verse (3 lines) has a set rhyme scheme and meter as follows:
Rhyme Scheme: a,a,b
Syllable/Meter: 8, 8, 3
Click on Mr. Linky to read more and join in!
Jesus said:“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
I’d been talking with her on the phone for quite a while. Now I had come to the end of myself, not simply physically weary, but spiritually. She was still anxious, overwrought, doubtful of her salvation, overrun with the voice of the Accuser undercutting the gospel she had known and believed for most of her life. Painful circumstances had brought her to the end of her rope. And I was at the end of mine, spiritual weapons blunted and defeat looming.
I was, in effect, poor in spirit. Impoverished, like the woman who said to Elisha: “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil” (2 Kings 4:2). Destitute.
But Jesus had said this was a characteristic of those in the kingdom. So I was good, right?
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5: 3)
Blessed/Happy: μακάριος “makarios” mak-ar’-ee-os (Gk.) – “blessed,” “happy,” “possessed of peace (shalom), well-being” — in the Amplified Bible: “happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous–with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions”
This is the very first beatitude, a statement of blessing. Jesus’ eight beatitudes are the dramatic opening to his teaching in Matthew 5, 6 & 7. The beatitudes are the tour de force of the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, consummate prophet, priest, king, knows how to grab the attention of his listeners by describing the happy, fulfilled life, the desire of every human being. He describes “the makarios life,” that is, the “blessed/happy life,” of those who follow Him. This life is available to every believer. The kingdom of heaven had already come with His appearance, even as it will come fully on the day He returns. As believers, we are citizens in His kingdom, and as kingdom-dwellers, we should possess all the qualities that the beatitudes describe.
The makarios life is the life of someone described in Psalm 11, and in Christ Jesus, we possess its qualities. So, as Jesus says, happy are we! And this first beatitude gives the foundational characteristic that leads to all the other attributes listed of the blessed life. Living the makarios life means we are first and foremost “poor in spirit.”
Well, I was certainly feeling my spiritual poverty on the phone with my desperately anxious friend.So why didn’t I feel blessed?
Simple. The kingdom of God is not a matter of feeling. It is knowing and believing and trusting that God’s word and promises are true. It is a matter of taking with both hands God’s revealed truth and turning around continually to Him, looking to Him, and relying on Him to provide for all that we need to apply that truth in our lives and our relationships. That is kingdom-living. That is happiness-producing. That is blessedness. That is the makarios life!
So I acknowledge my spiritual lack and gather the riches of the kingdom in Christ Jesus. And I give my friend what Christ gives me: His love.
Do you remember the song we grew up with as children, the one we taught our children? I ask her. We used to sing “Jesus Loves Me”?
Yes, she says.
Can we sing it together?
Jesus . . . loves . . . .
Her voice fades pitifully. I can feel her anguish, hear her cries of panic and uncertainty, powerless to hope, powerless to believe. She can’t bring herself to say “me.” Jesus loves ME.
She hardly has the breath to sing through her cries, so I sing it for the most part alone. She is silent while I sing. Listening. Then I ask her:
Can you, dear one, say “Jesus loves me”?
Patiently we repeat the words of the song. Simple words. Words at the heart of the gospel.
She stumbles many times, as if in unbelief at the immensity of the statement, that Jesus could love her, even her.
Yes, I remind her, Yes! Jesus loves you. Yes! Jesus loves me. This I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little ones — us, you and me – to Him belong. You are weak and I am weak but He is strong. Say it, dear one: say, “Jesus loves me.”
And when at last she does say it, substituting her name for the “me,” it is as if another gate of hell had been broken through, and the Accuser driven back in defeat.
It is a moment of great victory. You see, the kingdom of God is ours, the poor in spirit, in the person of Jesus Christ who loved us and gave Himself on the cross for us. And He gives us the kingdom He won for us.
I am weak but He is strong. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Sister! Brother! Preach it to yourself, to each other. We are living the makarios life. Hallelujah!
1Psalm 1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Grace at dVerse engages us to try a new poetic form: the Zéjel,
a Spanish form with Arabic influence related to the Qasida
and adopted by the Spanish troubadours of 15th century.
The rules for the most common form:
1) 8 syllable lines.
2) stanzaic, opening with a mono-rhymed triplet followed by any number of quatrains.
3) rhymed, the rhyme of the opening mudanza establishes a linking rhyme with the end line of the succeeding quatrains. Rhyme scheme, aaa bbba ccca etc.
Click on Mr. Linky to read more poems.
Image credit: Roman Odintsov.
Universes and grains of sand Threading dreams, like daisies, by hand Unstrung the quicker when more grand.
I sought the visions of a dream Where suffering ends and life would seem Heavenly, as every soul would beam To see wishes fulfilled as planned.
Long I searched by day and by night Like Eldorado by the knight The end I sought grew dim not bright As all my hopes came to a stand.
Now gray and old, I do decry The day I fell for that old lie: Apart from God to live and die And build my towering hopes on sand.
There she was: I realized she was me crouched in the beating room, hateful she, a thing that cried piteously ugly she, crying stupidly, screwed up she, she ugly, she stupid, she dumb, nothing deserving.
Dark, glassy the room: no color, but a stink of loathing a stink of putrid fear, foul abhorrence disgust mirrored through the open door of midnight huddled waiting for the next well-deserved blow.
The rustling of leaves: standing many a time at the doorway dreaming she was never there, the she that was me this still-born excrescence, but now she, suddenly shielded with the cloak of pure light of the Ancient One, holy, whose right cannot be denied, his blood the price for she, for me.
Romans 7:14-25 (NET) For we know that the law is spiritual – but I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin. For I don’t understand what I am doing. For I do not do what I want – instead, I do what I hate. But if I do what I don’t want, I agree that the law is good. But now it is no longer me doing it, but sin that lives in me. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For I want to do the good, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want! Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me. So, I find the law that when I want to do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God in my inner being. But I see a different law in my members waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Romans 8:15 (NET) For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.”
2 Corinthians 3: 17-18 (NET) Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
For dVerse: Poetics - Dungeons and Dragons, Sanaa asks that we "play a poetry game called,'Dungeons and Derivatives.' The idea here is to select one (from a list of eight sentences) and to change at least one word or more by replacing it with a derivative. Once you are done, unlock the muse from its dungeon and write a poem with the existing sentence." I chose the line from one of her poems which runs: “The rustling of leaves; I have stood many a time at the doorway of dreaming.” Click on Mr. Linky to read more and join in!
fare thee well, my sister fare thee well, my brother too well met this day to savor a spell of time to share
what see you in my path what see I in yours a cross laid upon our shoulders to follow in His steps
be gentle, sister, brother ours is not to judge called are we to tarry in comfort and in love
kneel and pray o sister kneel and pray today kneel and pray o brother Manna for this day
For He who died on Calvary is Bread of life to us and He has sent His Spirit to quench the thirst in us
now we rise to journey on our way again the time that we have tarried a well of joy has been
I’ll see you at the Wedding I’ll see you with the Lamb we’ll sing with great rejoicing never to part again.
I had just completed the next to the last verse when I received the news that my dear friend, A. J., had passed into glory. It was as if all the verses that had been written before were not a coincidence but had been a preparation for this, a reminder to all those who hear that our journey leads homeward to our heavenly Father, to God our Savior. “As it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’”— (1 Corinthians 2:9).
image resource – https://www.lovethispic.com/image/56666/pathway-to-the-unknown
Join in Eugi's Weekly Prompt, "journey"
Let’s face it. Most of us prefer to maintain the status quo. It’s painless, well-established, safe. Anything disruptive spells danger, so we go along with those who maintain the status quo. They prey on our sheep-like need for a communal feeling of security even if it leaves us shorn of our freedoms. We want to be included, not excluded from the social norm, so we compromise, even when “inclusion” means branding others in Orwellian terms (see Animal Farm).
One of the many unsettling characteristics of our time, though, is the unreliability of what is status quo: beliefs and assumptions that once took several decades to change, now can change in a matter of years, even weeks as we’re seeing when it comes to scientific opinion on biological gender, psychology, epidemiology. A lot of this change has to do with the political hurricanes blowing around us. They pressure us into jumping onto the currents of zeitgeist so we’re not left out of the “loop,” because who wants to be on the outside looking in on the popular fads or dictates of the moment.
But it has become increasingly difficult to ride the waves of popular sentiment and opinion. We could find ourselves being outsiders in the twinkling of an eye, the mob raging after us, “outed” for unpopular beliefs by our own families, friends, colleagues, and employers. Playing it safe has never been more dangerous than when sociopolitical tides shift rapidly.
“Choose the hill you want to die on carefully,” a wise man once told me. The problem? A terrain of equally worthy hills to make my stand.
No. That’s wrong. There’s only one hill to die on: Calvary’s rise where the greatest battle ever fought raged and one Man died the victor, defeating death once and for all to rise again in glory, and reign over heaven as one day he will over all the earth. In the meantime, he is sovereign over individual moments of history, personally and collectively.
As a Christian, that puts me on the wrong side of history according to the prevailing status quo. But as the Bible tells me, I’ve always been an outsider in this world, a stranger and a pilgrim. I should be ill at ease in a society that tells me that my security and comfort come first. And one day I may have to die on this hill, as an outsider, as Christ Jesus did outside the city walls.
Truth is, with my rebirth and new life in Christ, my status quo changed from the world’s to the kingdom of God’s.
And that makes me an outsider no more, but included in the most secure and eternal kingdom of all, peopled by sinners of every nation, ethnicity, and language, each washed in the blood of the Lamb, knowing a freedom from guilt and sin’s hold.
More than that, I am a child of God, known and loved, surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, united with Christ by the indwelling Holy Spirit. And on this hill may I die a worthy death to be raised on that day when Christ returns.
Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
Ephesians 2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God . . . .
1 Peter 2:7-12, 21-25 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. … For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
“Poetry makes nothing happen: it survives”¹ unlike young Icarus² who would fly to freedom under the belly of a giant whale ascending but he plummeting, free-falling, down to his death while a world watched, still watches in horror through that silver screen of the mind’s eye as of an oracle that survives in the folds of memory forecasting doom, like the poetry his heart sang of a better life, a New World of winging hopes now a land in chaos helmed by venal fools where yet survive as in the Ark the few whose hope shies not away in whom Life supplants death to whom Bread is provided and thirst quenched whose city is built not with human hands whose cornerstone is the Lamb that was slain.
2On Monday, August 16, 2021, seventeen-year-old Zaki Anwari fell to his death after clinging to a US military plane taking off from Kabul as he tried to flee the Taliban takeover. He was one of several Afghans who rushed onto the tarmac of the capital’s airport and desperately held onto to the side of the C-17 aircraft before takeoff, captured in a widely-shared video that encapsulated the chaos of America’s exit from Afghanistan. A member of Afghanistan’s National Youth Football Team, Anwari was described by a spokesman for the sports federation as “kind and patient.He had no hope and wanted a better life.”3
Right now while I’m writing this, there are around 15,000 Americans in Afghanistan with no way out. Taliban insurgents have cut off access to the airport while our “woke” military leaders and diplomats are in effect begging “non-inclusive” terrorists to allow safe evacuation. Meanwhile, dictatorial domestic policies on the vaccine front don’t reflect either the data or the science, with the emergency vaccines themselves proving more and more ineffective (even harmfully ADE), except in satisfying greedy pharmaceutical companies that have never seen so much money in their lives (not to mention their political benefactors). The Biden administration has proved itself to be more of an incompetent, greedy, dangerous morass of idiocy than what they and their allies in the media and big tech daily branded the previous administration’s domestic and foreign policies.
I think we can spot a narrative failure when we see one. And we’re seeing more than one.
If only we could sit back in our armchairs and relax. But we can’t. Both on the domestic front, where liberties are daily being eroded, and the international front, where terrorists have been given a new lease on life thanks to Afghanistan, Americans are under attack. And though for the good of our children and our neighbors we must pray and strive to be vigilant at all cost, we cannot deny that we are under increasing threat, especially as Christians. We are living with moral erosion and Marxist hegemony in every major American institution. The political and socio-cultural agenda of the far-left has advanced far faster than they themselves could have foreseen, thanks to the money pouring in from big tech as well as its effective monopoly of social media platforms. Their unholy narrative advances.
There’s plenty of cause for fear. So why aren’t we afraid?
We aren’t afraid because all human narratives, the meta-text of civilizations and empires, fail. Any good history book tells you that. But more importantly, the Bible tells us that. Kingdoms come and go. But as chapter 2 of the Book of Daniel tells us so graphically through the vision of Nebuchadnezzar, only one kingdom overtakes them all and is eternal. God’s kingdom.
Don’t lose that plot in all the frenzy that surrounds us. God is sovereign. Jesus is King. His kingdom has come in the hearts of every believer and is coming as we proclaim it and will come when He returns.
Even as we long for Christ’s return, let’s not let any narrative of fear take control of us. In Christ we are already victorious. Hallelujah! All glory be to God our Savior!
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?’”
Don’t stand there with your sword drawn —
Or in your case, the pen — as if
You see the fires of hell in my tongue
And the corruption of corpses long dead
To the ravenous lusts of the flesh —
Warning of eternal judgment.
This morning I read chapters 12 through 14 in the book of Job, the words of a man alternately addressing God and his deluded comforters in the midst of his suffering. Immediately after, I read the first chapter of Luke. The juxtaposition of the two readings left a strange sensation, a net of chiaroscuro, light and shadow, the sunrise of salvation and the nihilism of pain.
Oddly, there came to my mind, Agatha Christie’s psychological novel, Absent in the Spring, and Shakespeare’s sonnet from which it drew its title.
From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,
That heavy Saturn laughed and leaped with him,
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odor and in hue,
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew.
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet seemed it winter still, and, you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.
Caught in the pain of loss, the poet’s world is colored by it. What used to penetrate his senses with beauty now sharpens the knife’s edge of absence. Everything is a shadow of what it once was or ought to be and he is deeply aware of it.
Not so the narrator of the psychological Christie novel. She is absent to her own loss, that is, she doesn’t know what she’s missing. For a brief time an awareness of her loss, her failure to “be there” for those she claims to love, all of life that she’s failed to see and missed, cuts into her consciousness. Her grief is almost unendurable and she is overwhelmed by regret. She determines to change and make amends. But the moment passes like a mirage in the desert heat. She returns to her narcissistic life “absent” once again, oblivious to the misery of those who need her the most.
The pain of loss absorbs Job’s consciousness. But he engages with God through it all. While his “comforters” try to justify his suffering, Job goes straight to the One who can get him though it. He will not “curse God and die” as his wife advises. He will not absent himself to his suffering. He will neither deny it nor flee from it. Instead, in his suffering he looks for God. He remembers who God is. He knows that whatever the season, the summer of abundance or the winter of loss, God is unchanging, steadfast in love and faithfulness and sovereign in power. This knowledge emboldens Job and shores up his hope so that he doesn’t fall into the despair with which Satan tempts us during hard times.
It is the first chapter of Luke that puts it all in perspective. This is where Christ’s birth is announced. Zechariah breaks into a joyful song of expectation and Mary bursts into a paean of praise as her spirit rejoices in God her Savior. Jesus’s birth breaks into history, the history of the world and our own personal history. His birth is pivotal to our understanding of temporal loss because His birth is the moment in time when the eternal becomes more real, more true, more present than absence caused by loss, whether the loss of health or loss through death.
His presence overtakes the absence. His reality in history, in the flesh, through His death and resurrection, overshadows everything. Eternity trumps the temporal. And by the word of God through the Holy Spirit we glean it daily as God who suffered here on earth suffers yet with us, making more real to us the glory that awaits us when we see Him face to face.
Praise God for that day!
Job 19: 25 (NASB) “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.”
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (ESV) For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Hebrews 2: 14-15 (ESV)
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
They shall awake as Jacob did, and say as Jacob said, Surely the Lord is in this place, and this is no other but the house of God, and the gate of heaven, And into that gate they shall enter, and in that house they shall dwell, where there shall be no Cloud nor Sun, no darknesse nor dazling, but one equall light, no noyse nor silence, but one equall musick, no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession, no foes nor friends, but an equall communion and Identity, no ends nor beginnings; but one equall eternity. Keepe us Lord so awake in the duties of our Callings, that we may thus sleepe in thy Peace, and wake in thy glory, and change that infallibility which thou affordest us here, to an Actuall and undeterminable possession of that Kingdome which thy Sonne our Saviour Christ Jesus hath purchased for us, with the inestimable price of his incorruptible Blood. Amen.
And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord: Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.1
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.
And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”
These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.
Revelation 11: 3-4
I long for the Lord’s return as does every disciple of Christ in heaven and on earth. So in anticipation we labor to understand John’s visions in the book of Revelation, visions that are couched in poetic form, heavy with imagery, rife with symbolism, and characterized by repetition. Truly, the eyes of our mind have to be opened by the Spirit of Christ to understand the Scriptures as once He did for the disciples before His ascension to show, as He said, “that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 14: 44-45).
If we understand that Revelation was given to us so that we may see the end of all things as being Christ’s final victory over death, the devil, and the world, we will see it is as a joyful summons to “Lift up your hearts!” a sursum corda, to rejoice in what Jesus has achieved and will achieve in the coming of His kingdom, and the new heavens and the new earth.
The images from Revelation 11 appear random but are fraught with meaning and I have written about the entire passage in “The Two Witnesses.” What I left out was a closer look at how the imagery of the two olive trees and two lampstands complement the image of the two witnesses and how wonderfully rich they are.
Reading Romans 12, I am struck by how it seems to compress the whole of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount while at the same time expanding on the Beatitudes. Basically, Romans 12 simultaneously provides a bird’s eye view and a X-ray magnification of Matthew 5-7. Both passages, of course, are specifically addressed to followers of Christ.