April is Poetry Month – April 2

One of my favorite poets is George Herbert, especially at this time of year.  He wrote so much poetry about the Lord, the Christian life, and the Church.  I recently read an article about him, which reminded me again of why I enjoy his poetry so much.

Here is one of his poems that I particularly cherish:

“Perseverance”
My God, the poor expressions of my Love
Which warm these lines, and serve them up to Thee
Are so, as for the present I did move,
Or rather as Thou movedst me.

But what shall issue, whether these my words
Shall help another, but my judgement be;
As a burst fowling-piece doth save the birds
But kill the man, is sealed with Thee.

For who can tell, though Thou has died to win
And wed my soul in glorious paradise;
Whether my many crimes and use of sin
May yet forbid the banes and bliss.

Only my soul hangs on Thy promises
With face and hands clinging unto Thy breast,
Clinging and crying, crying without cease,
Thou art my rock, Thou art my rest.

–George Herbert

April is Poetry Month – Fourth Sunday

Here is one of my favorite poems by Christina Rossetti.  She is better known for Goblin Market and her children’s poems but I love how her devotional poems are so heartfelt and full of faith.  If I had been a literature scholar/professor, my thesis would have been how Christina Rossetti’s faith influenced and  is reflected in her poetry.

 

Weary and weak,–accept my weariness;
Weary and weak and downcast in my soul,
With hope growing less and less,
And with the goal
Distant and dim,–accept my sore distress.
I thought to reach the goal so long ago,
At outset of the race I dreamed of rest,
Not knowing what now I know
Of breathless haste,
Of long-drawn straining effort across the waste.

One only thing I knew, Thy love of me;
One only thing I know, Thy sacred same
Love of me full and free,
A craving flame
Of selfless love of me which burns in Thee.
How can I think of thee, and yet grow chill;
Of Thee, and yet grow cold and nigh to death?
Re-energize my will,
Rebuild my faith;
I will arise and run, Thou giving me breath.

I will arise, repenting and in pain;
I will arise, and smite upon my breast
And turn to Thee again;
Thou choosest best,
Lead me along the road Thou makest plain.
Lead me a little way, and carry me
A little way, and listen to my sighs,
And store my tears with Thee,
And deign replies
To feeble prayers;–O Lord, I will arise.

 

One of my favorite things about this poem is the participation of the Lord with the poet in arising.  She arises but He gives her breath and leads her and carries her and listens to her–a beautiful picture of sanctification.

Wednesdays with Words – April 23, 2014

I’m reading By Design by Susan Hunt for my Sunday School class this quarter.  It is an excellent, balanced book on God’s design for women and how they can contribute to the Church.  Here are a few quotes:

“We were created to help, not hinder. We were created to complete, not compete. Competition destroys relationships, and the writer of Proverbs said: “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (Proverbs 14:1).”

“Woman’s helper design is not so much what we do but rather who we are. It is not the only aspect of who we are, but it is an essential part of our essence. ”

“In other words, in many situations men and women may do much the same thing. But our design equips us to bring a unique perspective to that role. We put our own female spin on the particular task, and that is as it should be.”

“We must not dilute the worth of our design as women by capitulating to the voices in our culture that say we have to do the same things as men in order to have value.”

“When we join a church, we place ourselves under the authority and protection of the elders (or governing body) of that church in matters relating to church-life, realizing that the Holy Spirit has guided in their selection (Acts 20:28). We enter into a covenant relationship that involves accountability. ”

“The decision to join a church is not a social decision; it is a spiritual decision with spiritual ramifications.”

“Any genuine resurgence of Christianity, as history demonstrates, depends on a reawakening and renewal of that which is the essence of the faith-that is, the people of God, the new society, the body of Christ, which is made manifest in the world-the Church. “

April is Poetry Month – Good Friday

Why is this called “Good” Friday when the most holy, righteous, perfect man who ever lived was cruelly killed?  It is “good” because he voluntarily gave His life so that you and I might live.  Hallelujah!  What a Saviour!

I have a poem and a hymn today to help us meditate on His sacrifice:

 

The Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot

East Coker, IV

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we fell
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam’s, curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses and the smoke is briars.

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food;
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood–
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died;
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ, my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all. –Isaac Watts

 

 

April is Poetry Month – Maundy Thursday

 

As this is Holy Week, I wanted to find a poem that remembered some of the main events in the life of Christ.  Maundy Thursday is celebrated throughout the world as the day on which the Last Supper occurred.  “Maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum, meaning commandment since the Lord gave His disciples (and us) several commands during the Last Supper, especially to remember Him each time we take communion.

Here is a poem that commemorates that last meal:

Here is the source of every sacrament,

The all-transforming presence of the Lord,

Replenishing our every element

Remaking us in his creative Word.

For here the earth herself gives bread and wine,

The air delights to bear his Spirit’s speech,

The fire dances where the candles shine,

The waters cleanse us with His gentle touch.

And here He shows the full extent of love

To us whose love is always incomplete,

In vain we search the heavens high above,

The God of love is kneeling at our feet.

Though we betray Him, though it is the night.

He meets us here and loves us into light.

–Malcolm Guite, Sounding the Seasons

Wednesdays with Words – February 26, 2014

I’m continuing to read through The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel.  We all need to read more of the Puritan writings.  They are rich and deep and very convicting.

“Must we not conclude that, ” he withdraweth not his eye from the righteous?” Job xxxvi. 7, and that “the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect towards him,” 2 Chron. xvi. 9. His providences proclaim him to be a God hearing prayers.”  – p. 42

I must confess that I am drawing great comfort in knowing that the Lord hears my prayers.

But such hath been the special care of Providence towards us, that our turn to be brought upon the stage of this world was graciously reserved for better days : so that if we had had our own option we could not have chosen for ourselves as Providence hath. p. 50

Here you have, or may have, the help and assistance of Christians to direct your way, resolve your doubts, support your burdens, and help you through those difficulties that attend the new birth. p. 52

Here, he is talking about the times and places in which we are born and how that is a blessing.  I couldn’t help but think that we are blessed to live in a land that still allows us, for the most part, freedom to worship, to assemble, and to talk about the Lord publicly. Unlike Mr. Flavel’s day, our pastors are still allowed to preach the gospel without being hounded by the government rules on what they can believe.  We can still meet with our brothers and sisters in the Lord and be helped by them without fear of being turned in as in other countries around the world.  I am deeply thankful for being born in such a time and place.

for whether the families in which we grew up were great or small in Israel ; whether our parents were of higher or lower class and rank among men, yet if they were such as feared God, and wrought righteousness, if they took any care to educate you righteously, and trained you up ” in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” you are bound to reckon it among your chief mercies, that you descended from such parents, for from this spring a double stream of mercy rises to you. p. 53

Yes, it is indeed a mercy to be born to Christian parents.  As exciting as it always was to hear dramatic conversion stories, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize that growing up in a Christian home is a great blessing.  When I was young, I thought my conversion story was boring.  I hardly even can tell the time when I first knew the Lord.  However, I now realize that it was the goodness of God that has allowed me to have always known who Jesus was and how He died for me.  I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know that and my life has only been better as a result.

What a mercy was it to us to have parents, who prayed for us before they had us, as well as in our infancy, when we could not pray for ourselves 1 Thus did Abraham, Gen. xv. 2, and Hannah, 1 Sam. i. 10, 11, and some here, likely, are the fruits and returns of their parents’ prayers. This was that holy course they continued all their days for you, carrying all your concerns, especially your eternal ones, before the Lord with their own, and pouring out their souls to God so affectionately for you, when their eye-strings and heartstrings were breaking. O ! put a value upon such mercies, for they are precious I It is a greater mercy to descend from praying parents, than from nobles.  p. 54

There is none in the world so likely, as you, to be instruments of their eternal good. You have peculiar advantages that no others have, as the interest you have in their affections : your opportunities to instil the knowledge of Christ into them, being daily with them, Deut. vi. 7, and your knowledge of their tempers. If therefore you neglect, who shall help them ?  p. 58

And, for you, in whose hearts grace hath been planted by the blessing of education, I beseech you to admire God’s goodness to you in this providence. Oh ! what a happy lot has God cast for you ! How few children are partakers of your mercies ! p. 58

It is a great responsibility and privilege to raise children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  On the flip side, it is a great blessing to have Christian parents who pray for you, encourage and admonish you, and lead you to the Lord from a young age.  Never minimize the immense mercy in having Christian parents.

See that you honour such parents; the tie is double upon you so to do. Be you the joy of their hearts, and comfort of their lives, if living; if not, yet still remember the mercy while you live, and tread in their pious paths, that you and they may both rejoice together in the great day, and bless God for each other to all eternity.  p. 59

I thought of my mother when I read these words.  She is already with the Lord and I look forward to the day when I will rejoice together in heaven with her.  In the meantime I do remember the blessing she was to me and “tread in [her] pious path” in honor to her faithfulness while she was still with us.

This book is a challenge and a blessing.  I look forward to reading (and sharing) more over the weeks to come.

Wednesdays with Words – January 29, 2014

I was originally planning on sharing more quotes from “The Rock That is Higher” by Madeleine L’Engle today.  Unfortunately, it had to be returned to the library and I am back on the waiting list so I can finish it.

Those plans thwarted, I decided to share some quotes from “The Mystery of Providence” by John Flavel.  Flavel was one of the Puritans in England during the seventeenth century.  He was barred from preaching in Dartmouth, his original parish, by the Act of Uniformity in 1662.  He moved out of the city and continue to minister to many people, who traveled to the countryside to hear him preach.  He was often in danger but happily lived to see the Glorious Revolution in 1688, which not only required that the monarch be a Protestant but that the “Non-Conformists” have protections as well.

Like many of the other writings by Puritan authors, Flavel’s work is meaty and deep.  A little bit goes a long way and it will take me many months to work through this work.  However, it will be worth the work.  There is so much that is edifying in this little book and I look forward to not only learning more about God’s Providence but also how it works out in my daily life.

“I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.” Psalm 57:2

“The word which we translate ‘performeth’ comes from a root that signifies both to perfect, and to desist or cease.  For when a business is performed and perfected, the agent then ceases and desists from working.” p. 17

“Payment is the performance of promises.  Grace makes the promise, and Providence the payment.” p. 18

“[Providence] has its eye upon every thing that relates to them [the saints] throughout their lives, from first to last.  Not only the great and more important, but the most minute and ordinary affairs of our lives are transacted and managed by it.  It touches all things that touch us, whether more nearly or remotely.” p. 19

” ‘Tis true we often prejudge its works, and unjustly censure its designs, and in many of our straits and troubles we say: ‘All these things are against us’; but indeed Providence neither does nor can do any thing that is really against the true interest and good of the saints.  For what are the works of Providence but the execution of God’s decree and the fulfilling of His Word? And there can be no more in Providence than is in them.  Now there is nothing but good to the saints in God’s purposes and promises; and therefore, whatever Providence does concerning them, it must be (as the text speaks) ‘the performance of all things for them.'” p. 19

“All the dark, intricate, puzzling providences at which we were sometimes so offended, and sometimes amazed, which we could neither reconcile with the promise nor with each other, nay, which we so unjustly censured and bitterly bewailed, as if they had fallen out quite against our happiness, we shall then see to be to us, as the difficult passage through the wilderness was to Israel, ‘the right way to a city of habitation’ (Ps 107:7)” p. 22

“It is certainly a highway of walking with God in this world, and a soul may enjoy as sweet communion with Him in His providences as in any of His ordinances.” p. 22

As you can see, this is deep stuff and plenty to ponder over the next week.

May you seek to contemplate the Lord’s Providence today, as you meet each and every circumstance, knowing that His will for you is for your good and for His glory.