Saturday, September 3, 2022

Outliving Legalism - a poem

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay.

Outliving Legalism  (presented without comment)

Jesus tolerates me, this I know
My childhood preacher told me so
So in my shame and in my fear
I tried my best not to get too near

His Jesus knew me in and out
And marked me up for every doubt
Kept careful tally of all my sins
So it would be clear why I didn’t get in

But through all the laws that preacher laid
He failed to tell that my debt was paid
By righteous ransom – How could that be?
Then I heard You whisper, “Come to me . . .”

Yes, Christ, You saved this heart of mine
You healed it holy, now I’m wholly Thine
And when I still struggle to believe
You are rest and peace and certainty

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

The Songs We Sing


 Photo by JF by Pixabay.

“It is the voice of the Church that is heard in singing together. It is not you that sings, it is the Church that is singing, and you, as a member of the Church, may share in its song.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Whenever and wherever God’s people gather, as brothers and sisters, as the unified Body of Christ, we raise a song together. And because, as Bonhoeffer implied, it is a fearful, beautiful, holy thing that we struggling pilgrims put words on the lips of the Bride of Christ, we do well to carefully consider those sung words. Singing for the King is an honor, but it is also a responsibility to be shepherded well.


WHY We Sing

Scripture demonstrates countless instances of congregational singing within the church, but, in a nutshell, God’s people gather to sing for two primary reasons: to praise God and to encourage one another in the truth. In terms of worship songs, we typically categorize these as vertical (sung to God) and horizontal (sung to one another about God).

Begin with the Old Testament and the Psalms, then lean into the epistles to find exclamations of praise and prayer sung directly to God the Father and to Christ. His people lift praises for His unchanging nature, His power and goodness. He is worthy! We also call out in tune with desperate petitions and sung prayers to the God who hears those pleas and welcomes them.

Also, while we gather, we sing as a means of remembrance and encouragement, to look into the faces of our church family and retell the Gospel again and again. Our good God knew we would need to remind one another, in our fallen flesh and blood, day in and day out, that the redemption story is true, and one way we do this is through songs sung together.


WHAT We Sing

Scripture is our guide. We determine what sorts of songs, words and phrases are to be put on the lips of Jesus’ Church by looking at THE Word. So, with regard to the songs we sing, we must ask:

“Is it true?” and “Does it honor God?”

Much like all aspects of our walk of faith, the songs within the Body must be measured against what Scripture teaches. Heaven forbid (literally) that we mouth any untrue words about our God within our songs. It’s good and worth the time to comb through lyrics used in worship and root out anything that might contain error. Teaching is happening when we sing, so we must hold firmly to truth.

It’s also important to honestly consider the focus of each song, whether we are honoring our God or ourselves. Often called “me-centric” worship songs, many verses have been penned that zero in narrowly on the gifts and hype the recipients (us) far more so than the great Giver. May we be more forgetful of ourselves and keep our hearts directed toward the Father in the things we sing to Him.


HOW We Sing

Yes, we sing with open hearts and seeking spirits, but the HOW category is a tricky one, because it’s also where we deal with the style of the music we use in our churches. It can become a difficult and divisive topic among a diverse people because style preferences vary from person to person, neighborhood to neighborhood, nation to nation and era to era. I personally was raised on heavy metal and Motown, so most of the songs we sing don’t quite fit my background either.

But here’s the thing (and this is just my own opinion): If a song meets the “true” and “God-honoring” criteria laid out previously, style is going to be a secondary issue, one of preference and expediency for the congregation and the musicians serving. To incorporate various musical styles, when possible, can be a beautiful thing. It’s also beautiful and crucial to, when necessary, sacrifice a bit of our personal preferences to facilitate the united worship of God’s people.


Friends, it’s a big, glorious deal that God calls His people to sing together. What an honor to honor Him in this way! In a world ripe with self-seeking, individualism and division, a group of people getting together to lift voices in united song can seem a bit strange to the outside population. A bit “not of this world.” Good. As such, let us continue to meet together, get loud with praises and give words of life to one another as we demonstrate to the world just how worthy He is to receive these songs.






Friday, April 15, 2022

Holy Week Poems . . . Monday - Good Friday

Tests and Traps (for Monday of Holy Week)

The day’s wakening brings a stale surge of testing,
careful traps systematically set to spring and sever,
but feet that scale the wild waves worriless
know no fear of capture
and tread lightly anyway on these earth’s thoroughfares
So onward to the throne, splintered and stained,
to the hanging and the humbling
for me
meanwhile flippant and tardy invitees are cast out
manipulators learn of their just end
and a barren tree tells the future
for both the fruitless
and the faithful
The plan is in motion and will not be amended
Today, the serpent-crusher steps with valiant purpose toward week’s end

Holy Tuesday – A One-Sided, Sacred Rap Battle
Come, it’s time to stir the pot
He’s got rhyme they can’t dispute
Root up pride, ye hypocrites,
Sit and burn ‘neath rare repute
All you fam think you’re so righteous
Slamming doors on seeking souls
God abhors such cold, blind guides
With dead insides, hell’s loopholes
Filthy phonies! Sons of snakes!
Own your guilt and count the sum
Of sin, plumb through holy shade
The God who made you, Christ, has come

How to Savor Silence (Holy Wednesday)
Before the genesis of the eucharist
Before the humble handling of those filthy feet
Before the olive grove
and the blood splatter
and the guilt-laced kiss
there lay
a day
of quiet
betwixt parade and passion
But how could He savor that silence
when he knew what awaited
the cosmic chaos, the torture and tearing slated
for the other end of the reprieve?
Oh, He knew the quiet would soon turn to clamor
Yet rest thrives best inside a deep pocket of sovereignty
The tunnel’s dark end
can cast no shadow when
each moment is bathed in the light of holy confidence,
confidence in the good Maker Almighty
in His goodness and purpose and
His steadfast love that King David sang so loudly of
and for you, dear one, confidence in knowing that on that Wednesday
yes, the God-man knew
and He still chose you

Glimpses of the Good Shepherd Within the Shepherd’s Psalm (Maundy Thursday)

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want
*And when the hour had come*
He makes me lie down in green pastures
*He reclined at table*
He leads me beside still waters
*He poured water into a basin and began to wash their feet*
He restores my soul
*“I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer”*
He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake
*“Father, I have glorified You on earth”*
Even though I walk through the valley of deepest darkness
*“My soul is very sorrowful, even unto death”*
I will fear no evil, for you are with me
*“Father . . .”*
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me
*“Your will be done”*
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies
*Judas answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?”*
You anoint my head with oil
*“. . . she has done a beautiful thing to me”*
My cup overflows
*“drink . . . this is my blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins”*
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life
*“take heart, I have overcome the world”*
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever
*“. . . in my Father’s kingdom”*

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives

Darkness Dawns and the Price is Paid (Good Friday)
Darkness dawns and the price is paid
This rate of wrath for all I’ve done
A cruel cross for the holy Son
Through lace of lies each charge was laid
Now darkness dawns and the price is paid
Mid-day mourning masks the sun
The seemingly “forsaken” One
Cries out beneath the burden weighed
Darkness dawns and the price is paid
Oh, wilting Savior, heaven-shunned
It feels like death has almost won
Hope is slipping and I’m afraid
As darkness dawns and the price is paid
My God, I’ll wait ‘til glory’s spun
And I’ll take no ease ‘til Your return
The Light of Life has been betrayed
Darkness dawns and the price is paid

Thursday, January 20, 2022

On 1 Corinthians 10:12 & 13


We usually start the thought in verse 13:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

It’s a word of encouragement. A “you’re not alone” in the trials and things with which you struggle. And then more encouragement in that “God is faithful” to help you hold up underneath the crushing trial and temptation.

That’s good stuff, for sure. And necessary.

But if we step back and start the thought in verse 12, another vital layer is added to this passage:

Therefore, let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

Read that part first because preceding the encouragement is a dire warning. “Take heed lest (you) fall.” It’s not just that all temptations are common to all people, but that ANY temptation is a real possibility for ANY person. Do you see the shift in mindset? Verse 12 reminds you that you are not above or immune to certain pulls or trials or wandering longings no matter how strong you may think yourself to be. You can never underestimate the depths of depravity lurking in your own heart. So be on guard. “Watch and pray” as Jesus taught his disciples in the garden “that you will not fall into temptation.”

Be warned, but also be encouraged. Because the eternal takeaway is that “GOD is faithful,” and, even in the baseness of our fallen world and in the sickness of our own human hearts, He has made and is making a way for you.


Friday, November 5, 2021

Echoes of Genesis Three

Image by klbz from Pixabay.

Our Maker determined that we should be
able to choose

Built with a will to select either the warmth and peace and providence of
perfect Presence
Or to choose to lean into the curiosity of
the other
and for that bend to bleed and to weep
to face futility and heart wars
and to be cast out.

He built us with this blessed choice mechanism
by His own choice
and I must assume the Almighty Creator was bound by no
outside requirement to do so

He gave us ears tuned to receive all the voices
not just His own
Crafted eyes that are able to take in
even the beauty of poisonous things 
things not meant for our frail consumption
Engineered minds that can step outside the curtain of
His proven faithfulness and love
to wonder wanderingly,
“did He really say . . .?”

So I have questions

Questions that swim all around “why”
Because even now in this moment
I am able to use those heaven-ordained faculties to
choose to consider “why did He do that?”

Is it sin to think such?

Because here we are
the progeny of the first chasm created
continuing to choose the divide
Still hiding among trees
having again discovered a new layer of shame and regret
of dirtiness

And the eternal Eyes see and saw it all

Yes, Sovereignty is a certain thing
It’s a thing my heart grasps only with slippery fingers
and yet I do believe that “it is good”
Even today, He calls to me from beyond questions
and I hear the Spirit’s hovering whisper
beckoning us all
like He did in ages gone
with a plan already shaped and
as from the brink of eternity’s shore
through nails and sweat and sacred blood
He chooses again and again and forevermore to reach out
asking for an answer He already knows:
“where are you?”


Thursday, October 7, 2021

Again. - a Poem, a Plea

How do you talk yourself into trying again?

Whether to make a friend
Or to trust in love
Or to sketch out the perfect landscape
Or to blanket a blank page with your brilliant nonsense


How do you will such bravery to be?

When the mirror mocks you
When time *tsks* its taunting finger in your face
When you have grown admittedly lazy and
The sparkling silver shows not your wisdom but your weakness, your weariness


How can you talk yourself back out onto the ledge?

To remember once more how to fully forget yourself
To stop overthinking and leap again into that fantastical unknown
To dare to believe that flight could be possible this time around
That this landing might actually stick and grow deep roots and bear sweet fruit


How do you shut down and shut up the patterns of the past?

And do away with the demons that tripped up your progress
And close your eyes tight enough to not notice the ghosts hovering
And hold in a big breath with your chest punched high
To then finally exhale all the years and scars and every sly thing that has pressed STOP


How do you muster the madness to try it again?

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Rest & Work -- A Poem (sort of)

 . . . free writing is a messy freedom. Here we go . . .

I said again that I would wait to create until
after a little rest
A little closing of the eyes and folding of the hands
because I am always sure that
once my mind has been refreshed and my eyes
open wider to truth, unincumbered
then I could get to the work
But suddenly the day’s currency is spent
like each day before
and this soul slips haphazardly into easy Spectacle and flighty Flavor -
Distraction and Disillusionment then come to pay ready penance
A reminder that, frankly, the work seems too hard on a tired, old soul
And refreshment too, too far away
I hardly notice that the hours in waterfall rush me toward forever’s sea
But I do wonder if perhaps feeling fresh is more
about going to The Well than mustering
More opening up and less closing the deal
So before my mind has remembered
the villainous cast of naysayers swimming frantically inside
“Quick, now, before they steal control!
Move, child!”
Yes, I’ll Insist that Weariness take a seat there next to Anxiety and
I’ll busy Self-Absorption on some fool’s errand
and leave them and the others behind and close the door hard
Then go to another mental room taking only Wonder with me
I’ll be sure to check under the desk
where Apprehension is prone to lie in wait, salivating
He's there - shun him
If Doubt shows his face, I won’t send him away, but I’ll use him up
Let him watch what happens next
Because Wonder is holy and patient and will stay and will deliver
See, I have rested too long
And the work won’t wait
Eternity won’t wait
My mind is only aging and my bones growing gray
More so and more so every blessed day
So this little life, I’ll use it up
On beauty and truth and God’s calling
Rest comes later and forever