Untitled Number Nine

Gentle Reader,

Participated in a craft fair this past weekend. Managed to sell more books than I gave away, but none went for consistent prices. (Never go into business with me). The experience has got me both looking through old, unpublished poems and beginning to scratch out new ones. I reveal not which the following is, for half the interest in poetry is in the interpretation.

While all art is contextual, tied to a specific place and moment, it is also universal, transcending boundaries and speaking the language common to all. And the truth is, we suffer. We battle.

Plutarch wrote, “Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks.” May the following conjure up a clear image in your mind. May you find Jesus there.

What do you do
When you’re trapped in a storm
That nobody else can see?
What do you do
When it takes all you’ve got
To stay afloat in the sea?

Arms wrapped tight ’round
Center mast of the ship
Feet continually slipping
Gales pasting hair to face
Filled with howls, screeches
A voice, against faith chipping

There is no meter to capture
The scene playing in mind’s eye
Nor prose that’s fit to express
The beating up of the heart
The bruising of the soul
The ever deepening distress

God, I pray You grant perception
To someone with grace to move
To walk in steady love
To be the hands and feet of You
Just as was designed
On mission from above

Because, I can’t stand on my own
Just one push away from falling
Hands already bleeding
From hanging on for dear life
Oh, Lord! Please, I beg,
Respond now to my pleading

…the members would have the same concern for each other. So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it…

– 1 Corinthians 12:25b-26a

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Five Minute Friday: Just

Gentle Reader,

What a week.

I’m feeling better, but so sluggish. As if the virus chose to leave the parting gift of zapping what little energy I possess.

Kate says: just.

Go.

She cut her hair short. Danced the Charleston. Was an early adopter of store-bought bread. Loved beautiful clothes.

In the time that I knew her, my Great-Grandma Jessie was a slim, white-haired lady, but she held onto the sass. She wore leather jackets, made bets on how long car trips would take and had an opinion on every topic under the sun. She was also gentle, kind and unendingly generous; as a teenager I admired a garnet ring she wore and she slipped it off her finger and pressed it into my palm. Only later did I find out that the ring was her retirement gift after years of working in a department store.

I want to be like her.

Family lore says that when someone tried to convince Jessie to move to a different expression and practice of faith, she replied, “I was born a Pentecostal and I’ll die a Pentecostal, thank you.” I love that so much. While I’ve never spoken in tongues or taken a ride on a chandelier (big smile for my charismatic friends), a bit of Jessie’s tradition comes out in me when I pray. I feel compelled to use my whole body. Hands moving. Rocking onto the tips of my toes and back again. There is something electrifying about knowing that, while I am here, I am also there, in the throne room of God.

Prayer doesn’t have to be long-winded or eloquent. Some of the strongest praying people I know stumble over their sentences. What prayer does have to be is more than “just.” Oh, I’m just praying. No, my dear. You are standing against the Devil himself every time you take your petitions to Jesus. You are in the arena, engaged in the battle, even when you don’t have words, when your prayers are silent and tinged with tears.

Not “just” anything, but the thing. All that you’ve learned from Scripture and sermons coming together in a bold act of faith. Choosing to believe that God really hears and really will respond.

What fierce people we might become, if we learned to take prayer seriously.

Stop.

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A Prayer for Truth

Prayer in 2019

Gentle Reader,

Lord, Creator of all things, infinitely wise, majestic, holy
The One for Whom stars sing and sun shines
All atoms and pieces within held together by Your breath
Never sleeping, always seeing, forever working, full of grace
This year belongs to You

Your fingerprints and mercy cover every hour
The ones past and yet to come
For You sit, enthroned, outside of time, the King
Nothing can contain You, nothing will constrain You
None, no matter size or strength, can stand against You

Your plans and purposes will be accomplished
And all will see that they, that You, are so very good

Three days into this new year and already beset by worries
Pressures and old ways of being, deeply ingrained
I come to You, Beautiful Savior, and sit at Your feet
Here, surrounded by angel’s never-ceasing praises,
You lovingly and rightly speak

Every word that falls from Your lips is sweet
They fill my mind and warm my heart
Even as they pierce my soul – for my good
And with every piercing, comes a whisper of love
A balm for righteous wounds

You are not mean and awful, as some say
But truly kind, wholly true, ever-faithful

God, You count the lies I keep, held tight
Pulled close, afraid to let them go
They are what I know, what I feel, what I can see
If I open palm in release, what, Lord, then?
Exchanging these for truth is an ongoing battle

Yes, the battle – one into which to press, to engage
Yes, the fear – but truth more needed than routine
Yes, the ache – but this too will soon pass
Yes, the step – of faith, of hope, of love, of trust
Yes, the word – please Jesus, yes

You are my Savior, my Friend, my Great Reward
In You, in truth, I dwell this year

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Today, Tomorrow and the Next Day

Trust

Gentle Reader,

Over the last month, there have been scores of articles written, stressing the importance of voting. This midterm election has taken on a weight, an importance, that I don’t recall seeing before. We are all Chicken Little, but instead of the sky falling, we fear, and even believe, that our country is coming to pieces.

I look out my front window. We have new neighbors. They’ve been here since early September. I’ve yet to get up the courage to go and introduce myself. They’ve been busy getting settled, anyway, running loads to here from whence they came. When I do cross the street and extend my hand, my first question will not be, “Who did you vote for in 2016? 2018?”

Because who wants to start off a relationship like that?

Politicians have sold us a great lie: The neighbor is the enemy. This simply isn’t true. Unless you live near a Neo-Nazi, chances are pretty good that those in the homes within shouting distance want the same things you do. A job, good schools, safe neighborhoods. Chances are also pretty good that everyone up and down your street disagrees on how to achieve those things, and just what role the government should play in the achievement, but down at the base level, where it really matters, people are just people.

We forget that. All of us, so tuned into what our leaders have to say, find our sinful, baser natures rising to the forefront. Fears of “the other” and “the different” and “the invader” have been stoked, and blatantly. It behooves those in power to stir us up and create suspicion. As Abraham Lincoln famously said, the house that is divided shall not stand. He uttered these words in 1858, on the eve of civil war, when brother took up arms against brother.

Do we want to repeat this history?

Yes, I believe that if we do not check ourselves, we will wreck ourselves. Violence is the natural, logical conclusion when people feed on fear and hate. Perhaps not tomorrow. Maybe not even next year. But eventually.

I won’t tell you who to vote for. I won’t even tell you to vote. As I write this, the polls open in less than 24 hours and I have yet to decide if I will be among those waiting for a ballot. Not because I think voting is pointless – I don’t. It matters a great deal. A couple of weeks ago I was sure; now, I feel a heaviness knowing that, once again, it will come down to choosing the “lesser of two evils.”

Is that a choice that a Christian can or should make?

Wrong is still wrong, isn’t it, even if varied by degrees?

You’ve read here of my love of politics. Long have I been fascinated by the history, the personalities and the processes. Today, I am sickened instead. Waves of nausea wash over me as I ponder what lies before us. Nobody knows exactly what tomorrow holds, but it is not too far a stretch to make an educated guess. More anger, more division, more trouble.

Unless we choose differently.

We legislate morality. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. Murder, robbery, abuse – all sinful, all penalized. What we cannot do, and must stop attempting to do, is legislate Christianity. This marriage of faith and politics, this reckless and futile attempt to establish the Kingdom of God on earth, right now, in the United States, as a distinct physical and political entity (read this as a jumping off point), must stop. There will be no utopia before the return of Christ. And His return certainly isn’t going to be forced by us.

Before you go to sleep tonight, examine yourself. Take a good, long, hard inventory of your heart and mind. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal both cherished and hidden sins. Ask Him to grant you the strength to repent. If you choose to vote tomorrow, be sure that you do so with His agenda squarely in focus.

Because that’s what we are to be about. Today, tomorrow and the next day.

Let us choose differently. Vote, don’t vote – that’s not an answer I have. What I can tell you is that, whatever the results are, we have to learn that sanctification is a process meant to change all parts of our lives. Nothing is to be held back from the refining fire of the Spirit’s touch. For some of us that might mean choosing to listen to the stories of an immigrant family (legal or otherwise). For others that might look like turning off the obnoxious cable news and reading the Bible a little longer than usual. I don’t know what God is asking of you, but I know it’s something, because that’s what He does.

Listen. Oh, please, let’s listen. Let’s choose Him, over and above all else. Like Hannaniah, Azariah and Mishael. Let’s not go with the flow. Let’s not allow ourselves to be manipulated. Let’s not give into fear and hate.

Today, tomorrow and the next day.

Mediate on these words:

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

– Psalm 20:7 (NKJV)

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