I wander through life in the company of nonbelievers. My closest friends follow the Golden Rule, but the sayings of Jesus fall on barren soil. I am selling, but no one is buying a Redeemer. Oddly, I am less distressed by my circle of friends, these secular saints who truly care for the marginalized, than the haters who, in the name of Jesus Christ, selectively search the scriptures for churlish outcomes. We need to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and care for the weak among us—and always remember we cannot love God and hate our neighbor, for where our hearts are, there will be our treasure. Not everyone believes in the sweet by and by, but I cannot help but commend Christlike behavior.
NOTE: If you want to make a comment about the poetry or communicate with me, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
Giving thanks in your heart is the alpha of gratitude. Gratitude is the sum of what you sense and say. Remembering to offer your thanks is the omega of gratitude.
Longing for things you lack is a flawed attitude. Always be thankful for what you have today. Feeling grateful in your heart is the alpha of gratitude.
Do not devalue the goods you currently hold. What you have today was only hoped for yesterday. Remembering to offer your thanks is the omega of gratitude.
Desire for things puts you in an anxious mood. You’ll find your happiness in the persons you most enjoy. Giving thanks in your heart is the alpha of gratitude.
The lives of those you love will increase in magnitude as you count your blessings and walk with them in the Way. Remembering to offer your thanks is the omega of gratitude.
The ungrateful person is one who journeys in solitude. Appreciation is the greatest kindness, far and away. Giving thanks in your heart is the alpha of gratitude. Remembering to offer your thanks is the omega of gratitude.
We bring nothing into the world and we leave the world with nothing. Whatever comes our way, we are renting—and never owning. We aim to be content with basic food and clothing. If blessed with more than that, we do our best in sharing.
Godliness is the reverence of persons who never stop believing that we live in the presence of God. We do all we can in storing up treasures of a good foundation for the future—for life everlasting.
The condor rises on wings of the present and past. Warm thermals lift these wings of time.
One wing is all of us in this sacred place. The other bears the souls of every age.
We fold the Common Era into a single day. Time slows to a stop with the bread and cup.
And now we eat this bread and drink this cup. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
I did not find any of the readings for today’s posting particularly inspiring for poetry. The first lesson is a pity party for Jeremiah. Psalm 79 is a litany of complaints to God, imploring Him to destroy the enemies of Israel. In the letter to Timothy, I have written several poems already about the ideas expressed here. Luke 16:1-9 is confusing (to me) because it seems Jesus is talking about an assortment of dishonest, opportunistic rascals.
Instead, I am posting a personal favorite of mine. “Breaking the Consecrated Bread” is one of my earliest poems on Christian themes. It has been set to music to be performed during the Communion service. The setting is for a flute soloist and a full choir. Kerry Lewis is the composer. Click this to see the sheet music.
The potter was weary of throwing ordinary pots.
For the longest time, he sat at the potter’s wheel
crafting useful pots with a bland appeal.
None of these pots satisfied his heart of hearts.
Each pot was slightly different, but basically the same.
I want to make a vessel, the potter allowed,
of the highest quality—something to make me proud!
The potter began his masterpiece, and gave it the name
Israel. Nothing happened according to plan. The clay refused to cooperate. It wobbled on the wheel. The potter could never get the proper feel, and the flawed clay spoiled in the potter’s hand.
The potter’s fail unveiled a hopeful sign.
He was not able to pull the perfect from the good,
but the spoiled clay taught a lesson of what should
be done to fully achieve his true design.
A single mom gave everything she had
to her children. She took care of their urgent needs
at all hours. She worked in a stressful job
to put food on the table and clothes on their backs.
Because of her, there was peace and harmony at home.
The day came when she suffered a stroke and died.
Nothing was the same again. The children devolved
into anger and bitterness. Selfishness ruled the day.
The team was losing. The starting point guard
was bringing the ball up the court and taking
all the shots. His teammates were standing around
watching—hoping to do something useful.
The frustrated coach benched his leading scorer
and put in an unselfish pass-first reserve
who got the whole team up and running.
Soon the team was pulling away for a win.
The leading scorer sat at the end of the bench.
A major company wanted to increase its profits
by reducing payroll, so they laid off thousands
of competent older workers. The new people
struggled to find their footing. Investors were glad
when the stock price and quarterly earnings went up.
But the company lost its edge and never recovered
because of lagging productivity and the great loss
of institutional memory that left with the severance checks.
The high achievers make things better, not worse, by their presence. Be honest: are you a high achiever?
We waste a lot of time making excuses. The Bible is full of them. Some are good like Moses saying, correctly, he is not eloquent. The Lord enlists brother Aaron to speak for him, and that is enough to do the job. But most excuses are offered out of indolence. For every Isaiah who says, “Here am I, send me,” many more can’t be bothered. Jeremiah is just a kid when the Lord calls on him. Now the Lord is a master salesman who knows how to handle every objection. He has heard them all! He tells the kid not to worry—he will provide the words to say, and will protect Jeremiah at all times. The Lord says to him, “Now I have put my words in your mouth. Jeremiah: see, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build up and to plant.” In our era, everything is totally different in every way except for the one dishonest excuse that never goes out of style, “I’m busy.”
I ran my best, but failed to place. My legs were dead the entire race.
I don’t have wind. I don’t feel strong. Tell me: What am I doing wrong?
Unless you change, you’ll never win. You are running races with the weight of sin.
The weight of sin drags you down. A change of heart wins the crown.
I like the pleasures that come from sin. Unless you change, you’ll never win.
Defeat or victory is yours to choose. The life you live is yours to lose.
(Speaking to the congregation in unison)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
You don’t need all this extra stuff. You were buried with Jesus Christ in baptism, and you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
You have people telling you that the simple truth preached by Jesus and preserved in the Gospel is not enough. They want you to add an elaborate system of pseudo-philosophical thought and accept a system of astrology in addition to Jesus.
Then you have another group seeking to impose circumcision and all sorts of rules and regulations in addition to Jesus.
People, you don’t need special knowledge and you don’t need a badge of the flesh to be faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. Keep it simple. Ignore these distractions and trust in the Good News.
Someone once said, “There are no second acts,” but here I am. I am the prophet Amos of Tekoa. I walked the earth one hundred generations ago. Because of you, the Lord brought me back. The most devout nation in the western world, I am told, is America. I find that hard to believe. Do you really think the Lord is that naïve? You offer thoughts and prayers, but your hearts are cold. Nothing has changed: the rich and famous are greedy. You have the power because you have the wealth; you have the wealth because you have the power. Nothing has changed: you trample on the needy. Your actions deny that persons are created equal, and for your callousness, the Lord will lay you low.
With a plumb-line, the wall of Israel was erected with closely-fitted, well-joined stones. These perpendicular stones were the very bones of a great nation, but a careless people neglected their promise to the Lord. They failed to stay the ruin. And now the Lord is holding a line and plummet against the wall. It is used for building up; the line is also used for tearing down as the demolition crew decides how much to raze. The Lord bears long, but the Lord won’t bear forever. The herdsman Amos foretells the coming days of desolation for an errant nation who lost its way. The bowing, bulging wall is put to the measure; by the sword of justice, the edifice is swept away.
Welcome to the family of faith. Listen up: these are the rules. The Holy Spirit is the boss. Got that? Your job is to pay attention to what the boss has to say. When the boss encourages you to do something, you do it. Always do as you are told. There may be times you think you have a better idea, but, trust me, that never works. You are just asking for trouble. In the family of faith, we bear each other’s burdens. When someone slips up, you need to do what you can to help out. Don’t be judgmental; we are family here. Respond with a spirit of gentleness. And don’t take comfort in that person’s misfortune. No one is perfect—not even you. Be humble. Your time could be next. Each member of the family has strengths and weaknesses, and we have unique responsibilities. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. The boss takes a dim view of that. Do you understand? You may think you are doing good work. Even so, you could probably do better. Right? Be mindful of that. We are playing the long game here. We won’t grow weary in doing what is right because we hope to reap at harvest time if we don’t give up. Whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. OK, are there any questions?
No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.
When the Leader puts his hand to the plow, insisting on steering while looking back, he cannot plow a straight furrow. The result is row after crooked row. Our Sacred Honor is under attack. Every patriot needs to know the Leader is conning his credulous claque: the good old days won’t come back
NOTE: Your political mileage may vary with this poem.
From “The Bible and the Common Reader” by Mary Ellen Chase:
Many of the most beautiful psalms extoll the greatness and glory of God in the physical world. Two of particular excellence are Psalm 19 with its familiar beginning: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork,” and Psalm 104 with its exultant, ecstatic outpourings in praise of God’s manifold creations, from the clouds which are His chariot to the trees which He has made “full of sap,” from the volcanoes and the earthquakes to the conies who live in the rocks and even to the bread “which strengtheneth man’s heart.” This psalm, one of the loveliest in the entire Psalter, is supposedly based on the Egyptian hymn of King Ikhnaton.
The book by Mary Ellen Chase is one I have had since childhood. This book, my family Bible, and my 1928 BCP are, by far, the oldest books in my personal library. Her quote above inspired me recently to take a careful look at Psalm 104.
Psalm 104 plays a very important role in Judaism, according to Wikipedia.
Observant Jews recite Psalm 104 in its entirety every day during morning services, and on certain occasions, such as the New Moon (Rosh Chodesh), though customs vary.
It is recited following the Shabbat Mincha between Sukkot and Shabbat Hagadol.
Verses 1-2 are recited upon donning the tallit during morning services.
Verse 24 is part of Hameir La’aretz in the Blessings before the Shema during Shacharit and is found in Pirkei Avot Chapter 6, no. 10.
Verse 31 is the first verse of Yehi Kivod in Pesukei Dezimra, is part of Baruch Hashem L’Olam during Maariv, and is recited when opening the Hakafot on Simchat Torah.
I don’t know if this has been done before with Psalm 104, but I set the entire psalm to blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter)—with the intention of creating lyrics for a full choir. I added the refrain,
O Lord, all we have comes from you; In death, all we have returns to you.
So, if you are an ambitious musician/composer, feel free to set my lyrics to music.
Paul was annoyed. A slave girl with divination powers followed him around in Philippi, crying out, “These men are slaves of the most high God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” She was mentally ill, but her ability to foretell the future made a lot of money for her owners.
She annoyed Paul for many days. Finally, he said to her spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” The spirit left her immediately and she was healed.
Her owners were annoyed because she was healed. She lost her powers and no longer made them any money.
The authorities in Philippi were annoyed when the annoyed owners dragged Paul and Silas before them for the crime of robbing them of an income.
Everyone was annoyed except the imprisoned Paul and Silas, who prayed and sang hymns throughout the night, and the grateful slave girl, no longer imprisoned in mental darkness.
What is our aim in life? Snowflakes have a noble aim: to melt. But first, they cloak the world in white.
The beach is bare. The perishing sun is lighting up the bottom half of thunderheads. The day is done, and Earth depends on us again To electrify the night, To cheer the globe with love’s outrageous light.
A multi-colored young life died so we could see the whiter-than-white, sun-white face of God.
Ananias of Damascus was minding his own business when Jesus spoke to him in a vision: “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul.” “Wait, what?” said Ananias. “Lord, many of your followers are forced to hide from this evil dude. The last I heard he was muttering threats against the saints in Jerusalem, and now he’s coming for us here in Damascus. This guy is nothing but trouble.” The Lord said to Ananias, “Go, for Saul is an instrument I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel.” Ananias pushed back, then relented. Against his better judgment he went to Saul, laid on his hands, and said, “Brother Saul.” Because of him, Saul’s sight was restored. Saul got up and was baptized. After that, Ananias is out of the story, but think about it: where would we be today without such courage?
Imagine truth is a sea where high above a man can see it all, at least the surface, but cannot hear or smell or taste or touch. The pilot knows a fraction of the truth.
The swimmer knows a fraction of the truth. With every nerve ablaze, he bodysurfs selected waves on a favorite patch of sand. His choice excludes a billion miles of beach and vast unfathomable truth that lies between.
And kneeling by the tide, a poet holds a chambered metaphor that seems to say it all. The poet speaks a fraction of the truth.
A Roman governor asked, perhaps in jest, “What is truth?” He did not wait for an answer. Like him, we often ask and do not wait.
We cannot know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth by ourselves. But we of faith have a fact witness. We put our trust in Jesus, the faithful witness of the truth of God, who is and who was and who is to come.
The flowing lake is always filling, but is never full. Once there was a true sense of fullness of which all that now remains is an empty print and trace. The lake strains for completion with waters around it— seeking in things that are not there the help it cannot find in those things that are. Instead, there is a chronic ache that comes from feeling incomplete.
Your father’s love is certain. This you know.
All that is his is yours. You know it’s true.
If you are safe and sound in your father’s love
and all his blessings still belong to you,
why resent the feast for the prodigal son?
Why the sudden anger? Why the scorn?
Your brother once was lost, but now is found.
Your father must rejoice with love unbound.
Your father cares for you: What has changed?
All his goods are yours: What has changed?
For us, this tale is one we understand. We may be safely wrapped in our father’s love. We may enjoy the gifts of his generous hand. But a rush of jealousy can make us doubt his love. We need to stop and ponder why we doubt. Why the anger? What is this about? Our father’s grace extends to every child. It pleases him when all his children are reconciled. Our father cares for us: What has changed? All his goods are ours: What has changed?
In nature’s design, the rule of life is clear. The useful thrive, advancing from age to age. They manage to master time’s turning page. The useless take up space for a while, then disappear. In God’s design, uselessness is a grave offense. If we’re not bearing fruit, what good are we? This is the lesson of the barren fig tree: If you take sustenance from the soil, you must produce. Unlike the natural world, in God’s design there may be room for hope and a second chance. To achieve your promise, you might be granted grace. But even the patient planter draws the line. Take advantage of your one last chance before he orders the gardener to clear the space.
The prophets Isaiah and Joel assure us
that the matter of Law and achievement is flawed.
Zeal for the Law of Moses won’t save us:
the word of faith is the way to God.
This is echoed by the Apostle Paul.
The end of the Law is grace for all.
Legalism is with us still. It is sad
to see justification as a joyless chore
for someone measuring good vs. bad,
wishing and hoping for a plus score.
Listen and learn from the Apostle Paul—
the end of the Law is grace for all.