This long November day unravels, filaments of self unthreaded spin in disarray seek a coalescing glance from Thee, my soul’s desire.
This long November night defeats, malingers yesterdays that moon in shallow doorways guilt-shadowed, hammering refrains that only Thy voice can silence.
Hasten to send Thou, Oh Lord, Thy Word, Thy Light by day, by night, my sight unblind, my thought overspread, unroll yard by yard Thy seeded spring in frozen heart by Thy Spirit’s warmth.
And then shall November night become as day, November day as night unfurled in Thy blanketing love, and like a traveler who spies a bridge o’er torrents harsh, I’ll race to cross encircling time, and so abide in Thee.
I hear the call, Eternal, sound in my heart and in the stars. Is it timeless or infinity itself? Is its Voice a song? I do not question, so much yet to understand and I am not able.
I only respond in gratitude, though one-legged in faith still hobbling, letting go finger by finger my pride, and taking up, hand after hand, my cross of self-denial.
For this Eternal is Love.
By Purgatorio, Canto 11 of the Commedia, Dante the pilgrim has exited Hell and entered purgatory by permission of the angel at the gate who uses two keys, one silver (remorse) and one gold (reconciliation). As he and his guide, the poet Virgil, enter they are warned not to look back at any point in the journey up through the terraces of purgatory to the Garden of Eden. In Purgatorio, Canto 10, Dante had seen examples of humility. Now on the first and lowest terrace he sees souls of the proud bent over by large stones they carry on their backs, due penance for their sin of Pride, of which there are three kinds: pride of family, pride of art, and pride of power.
Purgatorio is filled with the prayers of souls as they ascend the terraces. And Canto 11 opens with the only complete prayer which is really an expanded version or gloss of The Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6: 9-13; Luke 11: 2-4).
“Our Father, You who dwell within the heavens
but are not circumscribed by them out of
Your greater love for Your first works above,
Praised be Your name and Your omnipotence,
by every creature, just as it is seemly
to offer thanks to Your sweet effluence.
Your kingdom’s peace come unto us, for if
it does not come, then though we summon all
our force, we cannot reach it of our selves.
Just as Your angels, as they sing Hosanna,
offer their wills to You as sacrifice,
so may men offer up their wills to You.
Give unto us this day the daily manna
without which he who labors most to move
ahead through this harsh wilderness falls back.
Even as we forgive all who have done
us injury, may You, benevolent,
forgive, and do not judge us by our worth.
Try not our strength, so easily subdued,
against the ancient foe, but set it free
from him who goads it to perversity.”
Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio, Canto X1, lines 1-21, transl. Alan Mandelbaum
The Commedia ends with Paradiso where Dante receives the beatific vision: “The Love that moves the other stars” (l’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle). As Giuseppe Mazzotta notes, Inferno and Purgatorio also end with stelle. “So when Dante says that love moves the sun and other stars, what he’s really doing is placing himself immediately right back on earth, back at the beginning of his quest. He’s here with us looking up at the stars.”
“Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16) “But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’” (Matt. 15:25)
Two women: Queen Esther. The Canaanite/Syrophoenician woman.
One was a Jewish concubine in a Persian king’s harem. The other was a Gentile kneeling before the Messiah.
Both women were pleading for the lives of people they loved, one for the Jews in the Persian Empire, the other for her daughter possessed by an unclean spirit.
One pleaded for community. The other for family.
One came before an earthly king. The other before the Kings of kings.
Both came trusting in a God who “had prepared a table before them” in the presence of their enemies, came in the power of His Shepherding grace and love through the valley of the shadow of death. (Psalm 23)
They came as sheep before their Shepherd, believing in His power to rescue and save.
Two women. Two needs.
Having prayed to the sovereign God, Esther came before the earthly king knowing the fate of the Jews in the land was in the hand of God, as was her fate: “If I perish, I perish.”
Having heard of Jesus, the Canaanite woman came before the Jewish Messiah, knowing He was Lord and her daughter’s fate was in His hand: “Lord, help me.”
They were tried. Haman worked actively against all that Esther would do.
They were tested. The Canaanite woman was asked the reason for her hope.
In both cases, God worked behind the scenes, though in the book of Esther He is never mentioned, not once. In Matthew and Mark, Jesus seemed to be indifferent to the Canaanite woman’s plight, though in her heart He had already laid the groundwork that made her bold and persistent.
They knew what God could do. They didn’t know what God would do.
“Let my life be granted for my wish, and my people for my request.” (Esther 7:3) “Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” (Mark 7:28)
They hadn’t known what God would do, but they knew who He was: He was a God who cared enough to listen.
Two women who had no rights but what were granted as crumbs in the society in which they lived, went away as daughters of the living God, granted more than crumbs, granted their heart’s desire.
A community of Jews was saved. A daughter released from demonic possession.
A tale of two women alone? No. The story is really about God, and how his daughters (and sons) are never alone.
Pray now, and “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
Isaiah 49:15-16 “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.”
Round and round the kwestions go Where they stop knowbody knose.
“Mr. Knowbody, tell us please! When will our suffering cease?”
“It will end in God’s own time,” Knowbody answers with a rhyme.
“Knose you, knose I knose we by and by when on our knees we make our pleas to Him who does know more than we can know does all things well more than we can tell.”
Knowing this by faith I offer praise To God alone who with me stays.
Yet knowbody’s cries can turn into wails It’s a whale of a tale rehearsed to cat’s tails.
Then round and round the kwestions go When they stop knowbody knose
Cause everybody whales and nobody tales.
Mark 7:37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Psalm 28:1 To you, O LORD, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit.
Philippians 3:20 (KJV) For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
I find this to be remarkable: that God is in constant conversation with us who are His own, even when language fails, as it often does. Especially when we feel as if we’re talking in circles around the same things, and it feels like nonsense to our own ears, as we wait on God.
We would be less than honest if we stated glibly that we can be articulate when in pain. That is a luxury most of us are denied. Pain drives us insane. It unmoors us from all that we know. Language becomes meaningless. We become a series of moans and groans and outright wails.
For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened–not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
2 Corinthians 5:4
Yet the Word who became flesh to tabernacle among us knows each of us, reads us like a book of which He is the Author. And whatever our wordlessness, our communion with Him continues.
It continues in the language of faith. Of which He is the Giver.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
It continues in the language of love. He is love.
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
1 John 4:16
It continues in the language of hope. He is the God of hope.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
It continues in the language of peace. He is our peace.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility
It continues in the language of life. He is the Author of life.
. . . the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.
Jesus, the Word of God, is in constant communion with us. Everything we do, say, think, is in the context of conversation with Him.
Prayer is more than words for believers. It is trust. We live in an attitude of trust even when we are bereft of all else, including words. Because we know who He is, the One who first loved us and gave Himself for us.
Our wordlessness, in suffering or in pain, is not an impediment to Him. It is a grace.
Dig deep in communion with Him who never leaves us nor forsakes us. Dig deep in His word. He is not silent.
The one who gave us mouths to speak, speaks to us. The One who gave us ears to hear, hears us.
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Silvery strands, hair falls in brush-fulls one saint’s covering glory thread-bare every thread-count, hair-count numbered tears bottled, not nameless not in a warehouse, but in the house of the Lord, O En-hakkore, on Zion’s mount, where nations stream one day, El-Shaddai, that day don’t delay, Yahweh, that hour cry the faithful weeping from hospital beds prison cells, beside mass graves, the suffering martyrs, broken families soldiers and civilians mere fodder for power, numberless babes murdered in wombs: hear our prayers, O LORD our God, for the coming of Thy Son.
For today's dVerse Poetics, Ingrid asks us to "try to complete the poem as far as possible without writing it down. Think about the devices discussed above: regular rhythms, repeated phrases or ‘motifs’, alliteration and rhyme schemes – anything to aid the memory and help the words to flow....Make an audio/video recording of your poem and post it to your blog and/or transcribe your poem, so we can read the finished version." Click on Mr. Linky to join in and read more poems.
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.'”
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!
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.
Some of the happiest moments in my life have been spent in church. Some of the dullest too, thanks to a sluggish spiritual frame. But nothing can withstand the sheer love of God shed abroad in our heart by His Spirit.
Those moments are intensely personal and intensely communal: my union with Christ paralleling my union with His church.
How can I explain, but by likening them to the sweet psalmist’s when he exclaimed to the Lord: “you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23: 5-6).
Since March, millions of us around the world have been restricted from going to church because of COVID-19, either because of regional restrictions or because our health and/or our age puts us in a high-risk category.
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!
If you live in the world long enough, you will go through hard and painful times when, as the Psalmist writes, darkness seems your closest friend. The atheist and the Christian alike cry out, “Why?” Yet even when you know the answer is the fallen world in which we live, there is no satisfaction but what we most desire: help, release, escape from our anguish and circumstance, those things easily cried out for but often bitterly delayed.
As with Job, there seems no shortage of counsel to be got from trusted sources. “Offer your sufferings to God,” says one. But what does that mean? “Our hope lies in heaven, think on that,” says another. But does God then deny us help on this side of heaven? “The real miracle today is faith; the miracles of the New Testament have ceased and were for the early church.” But is that scriptural? Then the counsel most often given: “Pray and believe in the promises of the Bible.” But which ones, whose interpretation, and to what extent?
It’s the last piece of wisdom that troubles the most. If you are one of those least prone to truncate scriptural promises by rationalization, prepared to be as a child looking to the father, this one should give unmitigated hope:
The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect. — James 5:15-16 (CSB)
But prayer, when uttered in the darkness, feels hopeless after many a cry and many a month or year has gone by:
I am like a man without strength,
abandoned among the dead.
I am like the slain lying in the grave,
whom you no longer remember,
and who are cut off from your care.
You have put me in the lowest part of the Pit,
in the darkest places, in the depths.
… But I call to you for help, Lord;
in the morning my prayer meets you.
Lord, why do you reject me?
Why do you hide your face from me?
— Psalms 88:4-6, 13-14 (CSB)
Faith, even as it’s being tested, seems too feeble to do the job. The very struggle seems designed to undermine what little there is so that, like the man who came to Jesus pleading for his son’s deliverance, we are even inclined to doubt out Lord’s willingness or even power. We judge His resources, His compassion, by ours which lag behind to an infinite degree.
But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
Jesus said to him, “ ‘If you can’? Everything is possible for the one who believes.”
Immediately the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe; help my unbelief! ”
— Mark 9:22-24 (CSB)
So where does that leave us? Not with the unwise words of comforters who say “yes & no” to the imperishable faith in God’s very present help. Not with words at all. After all, the last words of that most bleak psalm are, “Darkness is my only friend” (88:18). Yet the sense of hopelessness, even in the psalmist, is deceiving. There is hope. A glorious one.
The man who cried, “Help my unbelief!” was helped because he was looking straight into the face of Jesus. So too must we look not at ourselves or at the unwise words of our counselors who muddy up the waters of scripture according to their own doubts and fears, but to One who is the Light in our darkness.
As God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes and no.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you … did not become “Yes and no.” On the contrary, in him it is always “Yes.” For every one of God’s promises is “Yes” in him. Therefore, through him we also say “Amen” to the glory of God.
— 2 Corinthians 1:18-20 (CSB)
Blessed is the one who endures trials, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
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.
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.
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
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.”