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.”

 

 

O Spirit of the Living God

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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.

Continue reading “O Spirit of the Living God”

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.

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!

Dark Times, Unwise Words, and Hope

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.

— James 1:12 (CSB)

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.

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”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!☘️

Sharing this modified Irish blessing from my daughter, Asha ….

☘️”May you always have…
Walls for the winds
A roof for the rain
Tea beside your laptop
Those you love near you
And a little yellow dog at your feet.☘️

Also love this Irish blessing:
“May you always walk in sunshine. May you never want for more.
May Irish angels rest their wings right beside your door.”                          (h/t Linda)

☘️ Happy St. Patrick’s Day! ☘️ The luck of the Irish be with all my merry readers!

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”

Walking On Water With You

LORD, you want me to live upside down defying gravity
I can’t unless you hold me to the ceiling and that’s insanity
I want to keep lurching back to my feet or I’ll be dead
Floating on air with you and most of the time my head
Keeps exploding because everything is turned around
But You tell me I’m right side up and not to frown
When I can walk on water like You.

You’ve rearranged my living not to put myself first,
To love my enemy and do good to all who thirst
To turn the other cheek and walk the extra mile
To let go of the bling the world prizes with a smile
And enjoy the freedom of a brand new life in You
To let my self die so You can live and I in You
Because when I lose my life I gain it for free
In your kingdom eternally though I can’t see
But by faith which is fantasy to most people minus one
Who look out for sensible ways to get the job done
While living in the world like me.

But I trust You, Lord, and what you say is right
The Way to live my life is by faith and not by sight
I’ll walk in the Spirit and obey and not retreat
And forget the world says that it seems to spell defeat
To see the first is the last and the last is the first
When the devil fights like there’s no end to the curse
Though we’re in the last days, You still haven’t come back
And not to criticize but that seems out of whack
But it’s true because You said it so I’ll live upside down
And with You holding me I believe I’ll get my crown
And I can walk on water like You.

(Based on Matt. 5, 1 John 2: 15-16, John 16:33, & 1 John 5: 4-15)


Rap poetry is an energetic, raw, and unpretentious genre which is not always put to its best use as an instrument for good. But sometimes it is. If you’re not familiar with its use in the church, popular Christian rapper Shai Linne’s “Justified” is a great example of lyrical theology at its finest in contemporary culture and I encourage you to read it here

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Belief (3)

I feel as if I’ve put it off long enough while going around in circles, thinking, thinking, thinking, feeling that it must be said, to myself and to you – if you are a Christian believer – that you and I are no different from the man on the stretcher whose sins were forgiven by the Son of God, or the woman who touched the hem of His garment and found the healing she had sought from her disease.

Continue reading “Belief (3)”

The Time is Now: Daily Reflections for Advent

It’s been two days since the first Sunday in Advent, so it’s not too late to share once again a video series of short daily reflections that I found to be a cornerstone of family devotions one past Christmas season and whose benefits, I believe you will find, linger through the year.

The Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics has put out a series of daily reflections for advent which provide a beautifully meditative context for our individual prayers and reflection. Each medit…

Source: The Time is Now: Daily Reflections for Advent

Belief (2)

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What holds you back, O my soul,
that you stand in the shadows
wavering in the crossroads of doubt
then in the outer courts of unbelief
now in the halls of mistrust?
Why cower in shame when you are robed
in the righteousness of the King?
You have the seal of the Spirit
deposited in your bosom,
the first-fruits of your riches,
that you may approach boldly
the throne of grace,
the throne of your Father
to whom you have been reconciled
forever and ever more.

What troubles you, my soul?
Why hide in defeat when the victory is won?
The Savior King has come into His kingdom
and brought you in with songs of delight.
Because of Him, you are no longer an outcast
but a child of God, His Father and yours
as the Spirit testifies.

So come, my soul, take heart and enter
the chamber of the eternal holy God
and say, “Father.”

Come, my soul, with faith to light the way
His word the lamp to your feet
and say, “Father”
and believe.


Romans 8:14-17
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Galatians 4:6
And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Image credit: MinnieBaker.weebly.com
DailyPostPrompt: crossroads

Advent

IcySnowTree
The Urals, photography by Sergey Makurin

She was dead she thought
The leaves gone gray with frostbite
Fullness of life pinched like the last rays
Of twilight and the seed rotten
In the grave of her heart where it lay
Thick corpse unlooked for, unhoped for.

Then the recrudescence of the unseen cloaked –
Birth pains preceded by incredulous laughter
Behind three visitors, welcome yet sorely
Testing her faith that after all these years
The barren belly and breasts hanging loose
Like the flaps of Abraham’s tent would swell
With child and milk and passion flailing
In her arms in cries of longing.

Still yet would the muted prayers of her heart
Confuse a blind priest and escape like drunken speech
From a spirit overburdened with years of enduring
Whispers interspersed with “poor Hannah”
And taunts hastily stifled between pursed lips
Escape the earth to a listener in the heavens
Beneath the frozen stare of endless reeling stars.

Oh, birth that fell upon the girl betrothed twice:
First to the gallant, plainspoken carpenter by trade
Then to the shame that lay as heavy upon her as the child
Ripening within, immortal Savior, promised to a broken remnant
Who had almost ceased to believe their barren vineyard –
Stripped, plundered, bruised under heel of pharisee and emperor –
Would find its fruit at last in the promised seed of God
Eternal hid here in the virgin’s bespoken womb!

Now to ready the still beating heart beneath the flesh
That spawns decay, loss, grief, hate, pain and misery
Unbroken by relentless time, but that time itself stoops
To enter into a stable wherein lies a gurgling babe,
The hope of every longing heart
The joy of bright expectant eyes
The peace of life newborn where once there was none
Now in this advent of his return.


Isaiah 9:6-7
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

The Self’s Prayer

What do I have to offer You, my God?
My self? A nightmare, this wretched thing that like a silly sheep
has gone this way and that, astray and beyond, and that
just today. This sin-encrusted self is too paltry a thing to offer
my God. Yet it beats with a heart that You have turned
from stone to flesh by the sweet breath of Your Spirit,
an altar made acceptable by the blood of Your Son
where You, O God, Father-Son-Spirit, one God,
holy Trinity, abide to save, rescue, cleanse, protect
this heart of mine to love, adore, worship and praise You.
Of my self I possess no love that is not weak and tainted.
You know, O God. You know, my Father. By Your Word,
flood, melt, devour me with Your love.
Give me the love I thirst to love You with.
For if I cannot love You with Your love
overtaking my self,
O God, I am nothing.