Christianity 201

February 21, 2015

Devotional Poetry

Today you have a choice of two devotionals; you can choose one or read both.

 

CEB Luke 5: 29 Then Levi threw a great banquet for Jesus in his home. A large number of tax collectors and others sat down to eat with them. 30 The Pharisees and their legal experts grumbled against his disciples. They said, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

31 Jesus answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do…

Last year at this time we visited the blog Scripture4You. Because they take more of a poetic approach to scripture and the readings are shorter than what we do here, I thought we would include two of their most recent posts. As always, click the titles to see these at source, along with some beautiful illustrations.  (I wish I had the font that they used as well!)  The scripture verses are all links as well, today we’ve used the Common English Bible for all of them.

Scripture4You

Levi’s Dinner Party

Jesus called Levi, the tax collector, to follow.
Jesus was an equal opportunity employer.
Levi was so excited about his new career…
 …he gave a great banquet for him in his house,
and a large crowd of tax collectors
and others were at table with them.

 

Levi invited all of his friends who also just happened
 to be in the financial field.
So was this one of the first fund raiser events.
Did Levi see that if Jesus was to spread his message
some additional funds might be necessary?

 

Jesus chose to place himself in the company
 of every kind of person imaginable.
He did not concern himself with a person’s
sinfulness social or economic status.
Jesus came for everyone.

 

Imagine for a minute if Jesus
had only chosen fine upstanding members
of the community for his followers.
Would the greatest of sinners given him any notice?

 

Jesus purposely went out of his way to encounter
 all aspects of the human condition.
No one repulsed him… no one was rejected by him…

 

“Those who are healthy do not need a physician, 
but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous 
to repentance but sinners.”

 

Today we believe in annual
visits to our physician for our well-being.
Jesus was focused on the well-being of the soul.
We have many ways to maintain the health
 of our soul through the sacraments.

 

When Jesus walked among us
 he was the preview of all of the sacraments.
Jesus restores and repairs all things;
those whom he called came to witness this first hand.

 

We are Blessed today because Jesus
is the Divine Physician
for the body and soul.
~~~Peace~~~

14 At that time John’s disciples came and asked Jesus, “Why do we and the Pharisees frequently fast, but your disciples never fast?”

15 Jesus responded, “The wedding guests can’t mourn while the groom is still with them, can they? But the days will come when the groom will be taken away from them, and then they’ll fast.

Fasting Beatitudes

Today’s message highlights the pitfalls
and the beauty of fasting.
Fasting is a spiritual practice designed
to bring us closer to God.
We do not fast to let others think more highly of us.
A time of fasting is not to pretend we are a better
person because we are not eating.
Fasting is a practice to remind ourselves of our dependence on God.
It is God who sustains us in all our needs.

 

We fast for blood work, we fast because it is prescribed
by our religious beliefs.

 

Fasting is not so much about what we do or don’t eat.
Fasting is more about our mindset.
We must ask ourselves what is our motivation for fasting.

 

God reveals to Isaiah what amounts to
the Beatitudes of Fasting.
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.

 

Yours will be a clean heart…entrance into the kingdom.

 

…your wound shall quickly be healed…

 

If while you are fasting you focus on the care of others;
your own ills will be healed…
your heart will be cleansed…
you will be forgiven…
Your fasting will not be in vain…for all the wrong reasons.

 

The wounds of our soul are healed
when we reach out to care for God’s children.
The wounds of our soul from years past
will be filled in smoothed over with the grace of God.

 

If you choose to fast do so with a loving heart…
for even if you are not aware of the wounds of your heart
healing will occur.

 

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn…

 

Fasting is not about being sad and gloomy.
Fasting is about surrendering our will to doing God’s will.
It is in fasting where we can come to know
 what hunger for God truly is…
Our hunger for God is our hunger to be made
whole again to be with him in heaven.

 

Blessings may come in restricting you food intake,
but not by ignoring the needs of the poor.
~~~Peace~~~

July 8, 2014

The Psalms in Rhythm

I recognize that today’s post may be wildly different from what we normally do here, but just as different translations can spark sections of scripture to life afresh, so also can this project The Psalms in Metre with Notes by John Brown of Haddington — first published in 1991 — bring fresh insights into very familiar words.  I’ve chosen to go with Psalm 19 here and also Psalm 91.  To begin, go to this page, and then select a text section. The book can also be purchased online.


Psalm 19

To the chief Musician,
A Psalm of David.

Now the books of God are opened, not for my trial and condemnation in the last judgment, but for my instruction. Let my soul look and read therein ­ (1.) The book of creation and providence, in which all the works of God instruct mankind in general, concerning the eternal wisdom, power and goodness, of their Maker, ver. 1-6. (2.) The book of inspiration; the sure, the right, the pure, the true, the perfect and powerful oracles of which instruct, convert, comfort, and warm the members of the church; and in keeping of which there is an exceeding great and everlasting reward of glory obtained, ver. 7-11. (3.) What conviction of sin! what supplication for pardon of it, and preservation from it! and for the acceptance of our duties through Jesus’ blood, doth or ought to ensue upon a proper perusal of these volumes of heaven, ver. 12-14.

While I sing these matters, let me, conscious of my own ignorance and folly, in all things consult the mind of God. Let me blush that my experience of the powerful influences of God’s word is so scanty; and that in me, still dwell such fearful remains of sinful corruption. Let me cry mightily to God, for the subduing and destruction thereof.

1    The heav'ns God's glory do declare,
          the skies his hand-works preach:
2    Day utters speech to day, and night
          to night doth knowledge teach.

3    There is no speech nor tongue to which
          their voice doth not extend:
4    Their line is gone through all the earth,
          their words to the world's end.
		
     In them he set the sun a tent;
5         Who, bridegroom-like, forth goes
     From's chamber, as a strong man doth
          to run his race rejoice.

6    From heav'n's end is his going forth,
          circling to th' end again;
     And there is nothing from his heat
          that hidden doth remain.

7    God's law is perfect, and converts
          the soul in sin that lies:
     God's testimony is most sure,
          and makes the simple wise.

8    The statutes of the Lord are right,
          and do rejoice the heart:
     The Lord's command is pure, and doth
          light to the eyes impart.

9    Unspotted is the fear of God,
          and doth endure for ever:
     The judgments of the Lord are true
          and righteous altogether.

10   They more than gold, yea, much fine gold,
          to be desired are:
     Than honey, honey from the comb
          that droppeth, sweeter far.

11   Moreover, they thy servant warn
          how he his life should frame:
     A great reward provided is
          for them that keep the same.

12   Who can his errors understand?
          O cleanse thou me within
13   From secret faults. Thy servant keep
          from all presumptuous sin:

     And do not suffer them to have
          dominion over me:
     Then, righteous and innocent,
          I from much sin shall be.

14  The words which from my mouth proceed,
          the thoughts sent from my heart,
     Accept, O Lord, for thou my strength
          and my Redeemer art.

Psalm 91

This psalm was perhaps penned on the occasion of the pestilence, inflicted for numbering the people, 2 Sam. 24. In it, while the psalmist, by faith, takes God for his own refuge and keeper (ver. 2-9) he, for the encouragement of others to do the same, represents, (1.) The dignity, extent, and continuance, of their happiness and safety, who have God for their residence, ver. 1-4. (2.) Their preservation from all malice and baleful influence of the powers of darkness, while multitudes are ruined thereby, ver. 3-9. (3.) Their enjoyment of angels for their guard; and their triumph over devils and other opposers, ver. 10-12. (4.) Their possession of special favour from, and delightful intimacy with God, here and hereafter, ver. 13-16.

In singing these lines, let mine eyes be fixed on Jesus, the Man of God’s right hand, in whom all these promises were fulfilled to the highest; and, in his name, let me depend on them to be accomplished in myself. And let all the begun experience I have had thereof, encourage me to rejoice in hope of the more abundant mercies and glory of God.

1    He that doth in the secret place
          of the most High reside,
     Under the shade of him that is
          th' Almighty shall abide.

2    I of the Lord my God will say,
          He is my refuge still,
     He is my fortress, and my God,
          and in him trust I will.

3    Assuredly he shall thee save,
          and give deliverance
     From subtile fowler's snare, and from
          the noisome pestilence.

4    His feathers shall thee hide; thy trust
          under his wings shall be:
     His faithfulness shall be a shield
          and buckler unto thee.

5    Thou shalt not need to be afraid
          for terrors of the night;
     Nor for the arrow that doth fly
          by day, while it is light;

6    Nor for the pestilence, that walks
          in darkness secretly;
     Nor for destruction, that doth waste
          at noon-day openly.

7    A thousand at thy side shall fall,
          on thy right hand shall lie
     Ten thousand dead; yet unto thee
          it shall not once come nigh.

8    Only thou with thine eyes shalt look,
          and a beholder be;
     And thou therein the just reward
          of wicked men shalt see.

9    Because the Lord, who constantly
          my refuge is alone,
     Ev'n the most High, is made by thee
          thy habitation;

10   No plague shall near thy dwelling come;
          no ill shall thee befall:
11   For thee to keep in all thy ways
          his angels charge he shall.

12   They in their hands shall bear thee up,
          still waiting thee upon;
     Lest thou at any time should'st dash
          thy foot against a stone.

13   Upon the adder thou shalt tread,
          and on the lion strong;
     Thy feet on dragons trample shall,
          and on the lions young.

14   Because on me he set his love,
          I'll save and set him free;
     Because my great name he hath known,
          I will him set on high.

15   He'll call on me, I'll answer him;
          I will be with him still
     In trouble, to deliver him,
          and honour him I will.

16   With length of days unto his mind
          I will him satisfy;
     I also my salvation
          will cause his eyes to see.

November 13, 2013

To The Chief Musician

Although many of the Bible’s books are poetic in nature, you don’t see a proportionate number of contemporary writers using that form. But there are a few Christian blogs devoted to poetry. Yesterday, I discovered CHRISTian Poetry by Deborah Ann.  Here’s a sample:

Did You?

Did you feel the Lord’s hand,
in your life today
did you feel Him gently
nudging you His way?

Did you feel His tender touch,
in your soul today
did you notice Him tenderly
guiding you His way?

Did you feel the Lord’s breath,
in your ear today
did you hear Him softly
calling you His way?

Did you feel the Lord’s love,
in your heart today
did you sense Him quietly
beckoning you His way?

Did you feel the Lord,
in your life today
did you know He wants you
to always feel this way?

At the end of a long day, I found that poem to be quite challenging. Poetry has a potential that prose does not. But in our society, we don’t have a lot of poets, what we have instead is songwriters. They are our modern poets. But despite the evocative nature of music, we often minimize its power.

The Bible’s best known book of poetry is Psalms, but we forget that Psalms is really a book of song lyrics; the songs were sung and in some cases the title of the song tells us a tune name. It would be interesting to know what those tunes were, but perhaps its for the best that we cannot force the Psalms to be associated with a particular musical genre.

Many of the Psalms were written by David. His songwriting career got off to a slow start, performing before an audience of one, i.e. Saul.

I Sam 16:14 Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil[a] spirit from the Lord tormented him.

15 Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. 16 Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better.”

17 So Saul said to his attendants, “Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.”

18 One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.”

19 Then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.” 20 So Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them with his son David to Saul.

21 David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers. 22 Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, “Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him.”

23 Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.

But perhaps the best worship we can offer today is when it is performed before an audience of One, i.e. the Lord.

Of this passage, Matthew Henry writes:

…Only his instrumental music with his harp is mentioned, but it should seem, by the account Josephus gives, that he added vocal music to it, and sung hymns, probably divine hymns, songs of praise, to his harp. David’s music was Saul’s physic.

[1.] Music has a natural tendency to compose and exhilarate the mind, when it is disturbed and saddened. Elisha used it for the calming of his spirits, 2 Kgs. 3:15. On some it has a greater influence and effect than on others, and, probably, Saul was one of those. Not that it charmed the evil spirit, but it made his spirit sedate, and allayed those tumults of the animal spirits by which the devil had advantage against him… Music cannot work upon the devil, but it may shut up the passages by which he has access to the mind.

[2.] David’s music was extraordinary, and in mercy to him, that he might gain a reputation at court, as one that had the Lord with him. God made his performances in music more successful, in this case, than those of others would have been. Saul found, even after he had conceived an enmity to David, that no one else could do him the same service (1 Sam. 19:9, 10), which was a great aggravation of his outrage against him. It is a pity that music, which may be so serviceable to the good temper of the mind, should ever be abused by any to the support of vanity and luxury, and made an occasion of drawing the heart away from God and serious things: if this be to any the effect of it, it drives away the good Spirit, not the evil spirit.

The second point reminds us that the powerful potential of music and poetry can be used for things that are spiritual profitable, and things that are spiritually harmful.

We have to decide what we allow to shape us.

January 20, 2013

Don’t Forget What You Look Like – A Devotional Poem

James 1:22-25 (NLT)

22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

Be doers of the word and not only hearers, deceiving yourselves.

Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his own face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.

But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but one who does good works—this person will be blessed in what he does.

cat in mirrorWe look in a mirror and we see ourselves.

Ears, lips, nose, neck, eyes.

Sometimes, all we see is our flaws.

Uncle Henry’s ears. Aunt Millie’s nose. Not quite symmetrical. Not quite perfect.

Sometimes, we see our ideal.

Brad Pitt’s chin. Angelina Jolie’s lips. Almost perfect. Nearly beautiful.

But neither imperfections or ideals is truth. We have a hard time seeing ourselves just as we are.

Just as we are made. Just as he sees us. Just as he saw himself, the image of the invisible God, reflected in the still places along the river.

Ears, lips, nose, neck, eyes.

  • He had ears – that really listened. Not just waiting for a silence to fill, but hearing. Patient. Understanding.
  • He had lips – that smiled, knowing the difference between just talking and actually saying something. Whispering or shouting as needed.
  • He had a nose – that sniffed out trouble. Sniffing out the hurt, the lack, the fear, the lonely, drawing him toward, not away. Sniffing out hypocrisy, pretension, and lies.
  • He had a neck – strong, but never stiff. Always stretching to see beyond the immediate, and beyond the stars. And bending to work and to pray, in compassion and in humility.
  • He had eyes – deep, bright, warm, embracing, looking through the surface to the truth. Seeing the eternal beneath the skin. Seeing the beauty beneath the brokenness.

Jesus is the mirror that the Father holds up for you. The mirror the Spirit polishes and refines in you.

The mirror that commands us to, more and more everyday, reflect God’s image into the world.

He is the mirror that we so quickly turn away from, forgetting what we look like.

So our prayer must be this:

Teach us to look at ourselves and at you. To look honestly.

Show us where we have been deaf.

Show us where we have been silent.

Show us where we have failed to face corruption.

Show us where we’ve been proud or stubborn.

Show us where we’ve chosen darkness, and ignored the light.

Show us what we look like. Don’t ever let us turn away. Don’t ever let us forget.

 

~ Ruth Wilkinson

August 19, 2012

Met by God

We sometimes ask for God to ‘come’ to us, but in fact, he is already in our situation.

Isaiah 30:18 —

New International Version
Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

New Living Translation
So the LORD must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the LORD is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help.

Matthew 11:28 —

J.B. Phillips New Testament
28-30 “Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest! Put on my yoke and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Ruth wrote this and shared it with our congregation this morning.

Met By God

Paul was met by God in his hostility
Zaccheus was met by God in his curiosity
Adam and Eve were met by God in their failure
Joseph of Nazareth was met by God in his disappointment

Where are you?

Jacob was met by God while running from his family
John the baptist was met by God before he was born
Elijah was met by God when alone and in danger
Jonah was met by God while going in the wrong direction

Where are you?

Moses was met by God on a mountain top
Joshua was met by God while on the outside, looking in
David was met by God while everyone else ignored him
Peter was met by God while simply earning a living

Where are you?

Abraham was met by God when he was content and at home
Sarah was met by God in her laughter
Hagar was met by God when she was dying of thirst
Mary Magdalene was met by God at the grave of a friend

Where are you?

~Ruth Wilkinson

December 28, 2011

Poetry Corner

Different people I know react to poetry in diverse ways. The Bible has five books which we call “the wisdom literature” which are poetic, though each in various ways. However, the song lyrics and poetic forms are found throughout both major and minor prophets, as well as in the historical books.

In the gospels we have the four examples of song associated with the birth of Jesus, with the Magnificat in Luke’s gospel being the best known.  And we have Paul’s Philippians passage beginning, “Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus…” which many believe had become a hymn of the early church.

Modern Bibles indent poetic sections or typeset them in verse form so that we recognize the change in form, though they do not all agree as to which sections deserve this treatment. Many contemporary writers wish to place Genesis 1 as poetry, while others cringe at what they feel is taking the passage down the road to a more liberal interpretation of the creation story.

How do you react to the poetic passages?  Or contemporary verse?  If you have an ‘artsy’ temperament you probably relate better than those not so inclined.  Either way, poetry can’t be absorbed with speed reading. It requires you to slow down and adopt a more meditative posture; I would argue it also requires more than a single reading.

Today we have two post-season reflections on the incarnation.  The first by Thomas Watson comes by way of Ann Voskamp by way of David Fisher:

”He was poor, that he might make us rich.
He was born of a virgin that we might be born of God.
He took our flesh, that he might give us His Spirit.
He lay in the manger, that we may lie in paradise.
He came down from heaven, that he might bring us to heaven…
that the ancient of days should be born.
that he who thunders in the heavens should cry in the cradle….
that he who rules the stars should suck the breast;
that a virgin should conceive;
that Christ should be made of a woman, and of that woman which himself made,
that the branch should bear the vine,
that the mother should be younger than the child she bare,
and the child in the womb bigger than the mother;
that the human nature should not be God, yet one with God

Christ taking flesh is a mystery we shall never fully understand till we come to heaven
If our hearts be not rocks, this love of Christ should affect us .
Behold love that passeth knowledge!”
~Thomas Watson

The second is uncredited from Daniel Jepsen’s blog, and is perhaps his own work.

I have sometimes wondered, dear Christ
Which was the greater sacrifice
Was it the tomb or the womb?

Dark death held you inside
Three days, and nights beside
Imprisoned in the world you had framed

But nine months did You face
There in Mary’s dark place
Growing in the woman you had made

Did You know even then
You were the Savior of men
Or were your thoughts in darkness as well?

And as Your mind came to life
Could you sense of the strife
You would endure on Calvary’s Hill?

I have sometimes wondered, dear Christ
Which was the greater sacrifice
Was it the tomb or the womb?

December 14, 2011

He’s Calling Us

This is a poem by Lauren Hunter that appeared over a year ago on the blog where she regularly writes things that are quite different, Church Tech Today. A lot of the Christian internet deals with technology, but it’s encouraging to see writers who have much more depth than you might see in writing intended to deal with more mundane issues. 

I wrote this poem several years back for my church’s Women’s Retreat. It was inspired by the hymn, Softly and Tenderly. I hope it touches you and encourages your ministry efforts!

Gently, softly, sweetly,
Our Jesus is calling us.
Are we heeding His Word?
Are we listening to His call?

Often, His voice comes to us
In the depths of the night
Or in brief moments of stillness
When we aren’t looking,
When we don’t think He’s there.

Little nuggets of clarity,
God’s vision for our lives,
Descend like doves
Bringing peace, comfort
And the stillness we need to worship Him
In every area of our lives.

Are we listening?
Are we tuned in to who we are in Christ?
Can we feel His pull?
As the earth revolves around the sun,
We must revolve around Him.
Our every move,
Our every breath—
Breathe in His grace,
Smell His mercy
Feel His touch.

When we are gathered together,
He is among us,
Leading and guiding,
Directing and counseling.
Sense His wisdom,
Know His presence.

He is moving and working
In each of our lives,
All in different ways
And at dissimilar times,
Yet He brings us together
Through a common love.

This love guides us.
It directs us and leads the way.
Before the planning—
God’s love moves us all.
It motivates us,
Inspires us to give
and leads us all the way.
God is taking us there.
Let’s follow Him.

Hoping God touches your heart today and leads you to fulfill your life’s purpose!

June 30, 2011

Lord, May I Be Worthy of You

Jim Greer has a whole series on his blog called “400 Year Old Prayers.”  This one ran recently, and I’ve included his introduction, and also his link to the entire series which appears at the end.

The following prayer is from the largely forgotten deposit of the Puritan Movement of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It testifies to the richness and color of evangelical thought and language, as well as their devotion to the Savior. This prayer and others can be found in a book titled “The Valley of Vision”, by Arthur Bennet. I have included them in this blog so that others can use them in their own prayer life as a springboard to a more faithful walk with Jesus. These prayers are 300-400 years old! They were written in old English, but that should not get in the way if you don’t let it.

Need of Jesus

Lord Jesus,

I am blind, be my light,
ignorant, be my wisdom,
self-willed, be my mind

Open my ear to grasp quickly your Spirit’s voice,
and delightfully run after His beckoning hand;

Melt my conscience that no hardness remain,
make it alive to evil’s slightest touch;
When Satan approaches may I flee to your wounds,
and there cease to tremble at all alarms.

Be my good shepherd to lead me into green pastures of your Word,
and cause me to lie down beside the rivers of its comforts.

Fill me with peace, that no disquieting worldly gales may ruffle the calm surface of my soul.

Your cross was upraised to be my refuge,

Your blood streamed forth to wash me clean,

Your death occurred to give me a surety,

Your name is my property to save me,

By you all heaven is poured into my heart,
but it is too narrow to comprehend your love.

I was a stranger, an outcast, a slave, a rebel
but your cross has brought me near,
has softened my heart,
has made me your Father’s child,
has admitted me into your family,
has made me joint heir with yourself.

O that I may love you as you have loved me,
that I may walk worthy of you, my Lord,
that I may reflect the image of heaven’s first-born.

May I always see your beauty with the clear eye of faith,
and feel the power of your Spirit in my heart,
for unless he move mightily in me
no inward fire will be kindled.

For More of these old Prayers, visit our prayer page http://notforitchingears.com/prayer-of-the-week/400-year-old-prayers-1/

February 18, 2011

Pruning

When you see a lovely orchard
With its trees so trim and neat
And the branches heavy loaded
With delicious food to eat;
Don’t just take it all fort granted
That this happened just to be,
For there’s always lots of labor
Long before the fruit you see.

Trees have gotta be well planted
And their tender roots are fed,
Then the water and the spraying
And the sun from overhead;
Then the prunin’ of the branches
Till at last for all to see,
Ready for the time of harvest
Yielding fruit abundantly.

Somehow people are like orchards
When they’re saved by grace divine;
And whose only one ambition
That their lives for Christ may shine.
First they must be firmly planted
With their roots deep in the Word
And to grow in grace and knowledge
Of the Savior and the Lord.

After this then comes the prunin’
This is where so many fall;
For the saint this operation
Seems the hardest of them all.
Yet like all those lovely orchards
That can stand without dispute,
You and I need times of prunin’
If we’re gonna bear good fruit.

~Walt Huntley

from Homesput Gospel: The Poetry of Walt Huntley (1981)

January 28, 2011

Introducing the Ministry of Ann Voskamp

We’re going to take a break today from the regular format to introduce daily devotional and Bible study readers to the ministry of Ann Voskamp, author of the just-published One Thousand Gifts.

First, you might want to get to know Ann’s website, A Holy Experience.  Make sure your speakers are turned on, as music plays underneath.  Or not.  I read one reviewer who valued Ann’s words so much, readers were advised to make sure their speakers were turned off!  I guess we each process things differently.

Second, read Ann’s story.  Some of you have blogs of your own and you’ve had that experience of creating an “about” page where you try to sum up your life journey in a few words for people who you’ve never met.  If not, open a word processing program or open a blank e-mail and take about fifteen minutes to craft your own personal “about” page.  (If you like the result, you can post it here as a comment!)

Finally, watch and listen to an excerpt from the book in this video.  Usually on days like this I embed a Christian worship video, but this time we’re going for a different kind of video that is so suited to Ann’s ministry. I realize not all of you are into poetry, but consider the following:

  1. The Bible devotes five books to wisdom literature, much of which is poetic in form.
  2. In many places that we don’t think of as poetry, the simple repetition of words (i.e. “Holy, Holy, Holy”) is following Hebrew poetic forms familiar to the audience.  There is a beauty to the language of scripture that our language, English, causes us to overlook.
  3. The Bible is filled with Psalms in places other than the book that bears that name.  Mary greets the angel’s news that she is the one chosen to bear the Messiah with the song we know as The Magnificat.  While it is largely a reiteration of various scripture; combined it becomes poetic.  The passage in Philippians about Christ’s humility (“Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus…”) is indented in most modern Bibles because it’s recognized as an early Church hymn.

So watch, listen and enjoy…

July 26, 2010

On Asking God to “Disturb” Us

This was posted earlier this month at Jay Cookingham’s blog Soulfari:

Disturb Us, Lord – 1577 – A Prayer by Francis Drake

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the Waters of Life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery:
Where losing sight of land
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push us in the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.