Saturday, January 23, 2016
From when I take my first time breath
Till time I shall embrace my death
He loves me
In moments stirred as angels sing
In tearful times as demons sting
He loves me
In times today I walk alone
Tomorrow’s journey yet unknown
He loves me
He loves me as the enemy
Aims his fiery darts at me
He loves me when I feel so high
Tracing rainbows in the sky
He loves me through the darkest night
Stumbling, lost, without a light
With every sunrise, every dawn
In every day that’s newly born
He loves me
At every end of every day
As stars across the heavens play
He loves me
Thursday, January 14, 2016
I bought a second hand how-to-write-poetry book the other day through Amazon. I wonder whether some of the great poets would scorn the use of such a book. Is poetry something that you can learn to do, or is it part of the essence in a real poet that doesn’t need instructions? I have played around with different poetry forms and I can hunt down the one word that works in a line – but is there more?
The chapter I’m reading is about the sound of poetry, vowel sounds in words set next to other words stretch or shorten them as the poet need it.
I skipped the paragraphs on Hindu mantras focussing on sounds of Hindu words, saying them out loud, twenty times, and reflecting on how it makes me feel. I would prefer not to be calling on Durga, the goddess of protection. She might ride on a lion and have a hundred arms and wield a hundred different weapons – but it/she isn’t my God. The idea of simply the sounds of words rather than the meaning of them is something I haven’t thought about.
The next challenge was to write a poem to the gods (or in my case God) – to write it in a language that’s made up, an unknown language, sounds without meaning to get a feel for the mood that sounds create.
Can any language ever be truly made up? I recognise in my poem some attempt at Lord-of-the-Rings elvish and a hint of something Gaelic sounding. I liked the sound of it.
Eir ruhm engethir sig nurn
Eir rhut enshrith as nhur
Shrievne both giran, oth Gher
Lathne both giran, Sun Seir
Methlin eir rhum til blethnir rhun
Enshrir both giran, oth Gher
Lethir shu gheldir, en Othri Aan
Bear in mind, here, that I had been reading Jonathan Edward’s list of 70 Resolutions he made daily. It’s an impressive catalogue of intentions. There is a lovely one somewhere at the start that acknowledges there will be days when the last thing he wants to do is resolve to do something – off days, days when getting out of bed is an achievement. Those days, he resolves, are days simply to wait it out until he find himself again– then he will repent and get back to his resolutions.
One of the results of his living in such a way was seen in the revivals that he ignited. He didn’t ask for revival, or plead for it. He didn’t particularly preach with passion and zeal as if to find words to stir people. He preached the truth that God revealed to him as he studied and as he set to live his life according to his resolutions.
I would love to see the revivals, but deep down I would want to be the person with the words and the passion that would stir hearts. If it was all dependent on living my life to the standard of his resolutions – it might not happen.
So, in my heart I was aware that my faith walk was a little bit too mediocre and not quite sharp enough.
The next part of the writing challenge was to translate the poem. This was what my heart seemed to be saying.
I don’t know how to walk without stumbling
I long to walk a straight path
Reveal your way, dearest Guide
Call me onto Your path, Heaven’s Traveller
May I fully trust Your road beneath my feet
Lead me along Your highway, dearest Guide
To the place You inhabit, oh Eternal One
It’s one thing to ask God to call me on to His path, but another to answer that call. In the gospel story where Peter walks on water, his stepping out of the boat begins with his challenge to Jesus -
Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” And Jesus answered, “Com”. Peter left to boat to walk on the water towards Jesus.
I walk with confidence, not stumbling
I stride the straight path, feet secure and arms swinging
For He has revealed His way to me, my dear Guide
He has called me onto His path, inviting me to travel with Him
And as I commit to His road beneath my feet
He leads me along His highway, and guides my steps and
Every day I find the place He inhabits.
Maybe what’s needed is a bit of a re-wrtie – something less hesitant, less tip-toeing. Something that declares what is rather than what I would like. I don’t have, or want, 70 resolutions. God doesn’t want another Jonathan Edwards. He is not looking for a matching pair for His mantelpiece. He just wants me. It is enough.
Friday, January 08, 2016
I was praying and I looked and I saw a door standing open in heaven. And it opened up to a vast storeroom. A voice said, “Come inside, and I will show you everything.” In an instant I stood next to Jesus. I looked and saw there were deep shelves on the walls of the storeroom, all of them empty, and a sweet fragrance filled the air.
He touched the first shelf. “Here is my joy. It’s broad and rich. It turns away sharp hurts and hot anger and makes the heart light and the enemy easier to love.” The shelf was empty but I heard the echo of laughter.
He touched the second shelf. “Here is my healing. By this comes wholeness of spirit, soul and body. Combined with mustard seed, mountain moving faith bones are knit together, skin is washed clean of disease and blemish, a spine straightens, a limb grows and the broken highways of the synapses in the mind are restored.” The shelf was empty but I saw the shadow of a man dancing.
He touched a third shelf. “Here is my resilience to build strong family ties. No short cuts or easy answers to create a robust family, but patience and understanding are here in abundance. The love and tenderness of the heavenly Father lights the path ahead.” The shelf was empty but I felt the last lingering softness of an embrace.
He touched a fourth shelf. “Here are my victories. For those watching times when the Lord fights the battle, there is stillness for the soul. For those sword-wielding, shield-lifting times, there is vigour to see the battle through. The word stirs the spirit, and when spoken with boldness - the enemy runs.” The shelf was empty but I smelt Satan’s fear.
He touched a fifth shelf. “Here is my intimacy. The bright thread of obedience is woven into the search for truth and wisdom. The surrendered heart listens for the still small voice.” The shelf was empty but the taste of sweet honey was on my lips.
“Lord,” I said, “Why are the shelves empty?”
“Because when My church earnestly prays they plunder the storerooms of heaven.”
Sunday, January 03, 2016
I have been thinking about the challenges ahead in this New Year. I would very much like to play the ostrich with them and stick my head firmly in the sand and hope they just go away. That’s not likely to happen though.
I occasionally do some of the Facebook quizzes but rarely post the result unless it really impresses me. A recent one was about abstract paintings and you were to indicate the colours which most attracted your attention, an emotion you sensed or some such thing. It was supposed to explore your subconscious mind. Apparently my character trait turned out to be “courage”. Quite how they come to these conclusions I don’t know and for the most part I take them with a pinch of salt. I could run a hundred scenarios through my mind that would demonstrate the lack of courage – but deep down there was a resounding “Yes, I am courageous!”
I thought back to my move up to Inverness. It was more than 25 years ago. I had taught abroad for a number of years, returned home to discover the education system had gone through too many changes for me to feel I could catch up. I wasn’t a happy beanie. I was in a church where the women were all mothers and met in the afternoons for Bible studies and prayer meetings. Their lives revolved around homes and husbands and babies and – nothing whatsoever I could relate to. I though the solution was to find a husband and have lots of babies and become a proper woman! Sadly that is how some churches deal with women. Find them husbands. That wasn’t God’s plan. A year spent on a gospel outreach team was His plan – not mine at all. Door knocking, street drama, days of intense prayer, fasting – not my cup of tea I thought but it turned out to be totally me for that one year. The rest of the team might have been full of angst and soul searching and deep repentance or whatever, but I was having a ball.
The outreach year began at the end of September with a team-bonding week in a stately home mid-way between Newcastle and Jedborough. Our team was one of a half dozen or so. After that we all piled into minibuses and headed off to various towns and cities around the UK. My pastor at the time, Steve Petra, had recommended I be placed in Inverness – the furthest north he could place me. He wanted me to be as far away from Rugby as I could go, so I wouldn’t keep coming home when things got tough. He severed the spiritual apron strings and kicked me north.
I thought I was making a big mistake. I wasn’t a sociable being – still aren’t. I wasn’t particularly vocal about my faith. I had heaps of baggage from the Plymouth Brethren Church I had been attending for years and had issues about the role of women. It just seemed such a bad idea but I’d handed in my notice at work, raised the relevant funds to get on the team and I was carrying the best wishes of a church I had been a part of for barely two years.
We stopped somewhere along the A9 – possibly to let me out of the van to be sick. I have never been a great traveller by bus. It was night time and the middle of nowhere. It’s quite possible we did the holy thing – praying before arriving in Inverness and giving the year over to God – like you do on gospel outreach teams.
There was no light pollution. The sky was cram-packed with stars. I remember looking up at them and being able to identify the few constellations I knew. They were like familiar friends.
“Just as the stars in the sky never change, I never change either,” said God. “I am the same God, yesterday, today and tomorrow.”
My life was changing. My place of residence was changing. The things I would be doing each day were going to be different from anything I had ever done before but God was still the same. I felt courage seep into every bit of me. I squared my shoulders and stood up tall – as tall as someone who was four foot eleven inches could be – and I climbed back into the minibus with something approaching joy.
Years later I wrote a poem. I find the words are speaking to me again, reminding me that whatever the challenges ahead I am fixed to the truth of an unchanging God.
Broad sky above her
Peppered with stars.
A road winding northwards
Empty of cars.
Uprooted and moving
To pastures unknown.
Friends left behind her
She traces the patterns
Of stars in the sky,
Fixed in their places
Shining so high.
Some things are certain
They always will be;
Like sunrise and sunset
And tides of the sea.
God never changes,
This much she knows.
Fixed to this truth
Onward she goes.
Friday, January 01, 2016
it ends now -
this foolishness and disobedience
this slavery to lust and pleasure
this life of evil and envy and hatred
for God has shown me His love
without limits or conditions
conquered me with His kindness
that melts this intolerant heart
granted me His mercy
tossing sin too far away to touch and
generously poured out His grace
I inhabit this
new life of the Spirit given me
The usual monthly search for a poem began in earnest this morning. The theme for “Poetry for Everyone” at Eden Court on Monday is all about time – and in my case time is running out. I have decided on a Mel poem that matches the theme, “Numbered Days”, swithering about whether to exclude two of the verses which are “in-your-face-Christian-doctrine”. The poem works well without them, and no one comes to a poetry night to be preached at – but I wouldn’t ever consider censoring someone else’s poem in such away, so the verses stay!
Looking for a second poem to read I came across “08/22/08” - by David Lehman.
I have never been a person who is able to recall where I was when great events in history happened. I don’t know where I was when Martin Luther King was assassinated – playing, most likely. I don’t know where I was when John Lennon was shot – playing, most likely. Or when men took their first steps on the moon. Or when the two towers were destroyed on 9/11. I can’t remember anything about what I was doing, nothing caught my eye outside or inside, no particular sense of history in the making, nothing. I have to admit that it bothers me. Am I so much the centre of my own universe that other things, other people, unless it impinges directly on me, just don’t count?
There’s another search that has been going on for a much longer time. It’s this whole My One Word thing. Last year the word was Contineo, the Latin word for “connect”. The English word would have done sufficiently well, but the writer in me demanded something poetic. Did I connect? Actually, yes. The desire to connect led to some very unexpected but inevitable changes. I have made mew friends and embraced new “families”. I have also connected at a deeper level with friends I have known for a while and the various groups I am involved in. It’s not all been successful but then, not everything we get involved in will be. There are re-connections still to be made.
This year’s word, another Latin one, is Possido – the Latin word for “occupy”. Possido can be translated as hold, inherit, occupy, possess or seize. Occupy is defined as:- “to take possession of by settlement or seizure, to hold possession of by tenure, to dwell in, to take up or fill up (space, time, etc.) or to employ, busy, or engage (oneself, one's attention, mind, etc.)
You see, maybe I don’t remember all these moments in history because I don’t fully occupy my life. I don’t stretch out and fill every moment and every corner with thoughts, feelings and experiences. In John 10:10 Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” The NLT puts it this way – “a rich and satisfying life.” I’m not sure that I would describe my life that way. My life is only lightly occupied.
Throughout advent and the Christmas period I have been challenging myself to write a poem a day. I have a week or so worth of poems to catch up on but a short one, a haiku perhaps is this one:-
Heaven’s king comes down
Jesus at ease in His skin
touches a leper
Jesus fully occupied every moment of his days on earth. He was at ease in His skin, not fretting about stuff. Nowhere is scripture do you read of Jesus chewing his fingernails or fretting about who was or wasn’t listening to his teaching. He just took responsibility for what He was given to do and did it wholeheartedly. He wasn’t half involved but fully.
That is my challenge to myself this year – to be at ease in my skin and to fully occupy every moment of the days I have been given this year.