Death – a poem

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Zv3AyaO7DNc/UTt-aeaowaI/AAAAAAAAWEI/PZdtVjHmo7w/s1600/doorway.jpg

A doorway, or a thief?

Pain or relief?

At last.Farewell.

Above, beneath.

See you later,

Finality.

Gratitude.

Grief.

Endless descriptions, yet one truth is needed:

That oppressive sovereignty, once firm, has been ceded.

For when Jesus Christ rose, death was defeated.

Our hearts feel the pain of this temporary separation,

but Spirit brings comfort of guaranteed celebration.

For those who know him, by Christ are well known,

and presented to Father at the glorious throne.

Death is defeated, life is assured,

Love won the victory,

‘Welcome’ the final word.

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Significance

Significance is found at your throne.

Is seen in your face.

Is heard from your lips.

Every word drips

living water from your Spirit to mine.

Ears on fire,

Heart alight,

I see

me

As you see.

Identity

in you.

I am I AM’s:

healed healer,

restored restorer,

dreamt dreamer,

created creature,

spoken speaker,

formed reformer,

loved lover.

Free, redeemed,

me.

For you.

I am,

significant.

Last post I described my trip to Bethel Church, California.  I could, and probably will, write some more reflections on that time, but if you want a sense of what God spoke into me then this poem is a pretty good start.  I wrote this during a time of worship.  Realising God’s love for me and His actual delight in, not just tolerance of, me is one of the most valuable things I brought back from the USA.  I’m bold to hope that in some way this poem might communicate some of that same truth to you too.

Where the greenhouse used to be

I was surprised, not so long ago,

In the garden of all places,

Where the greenhouse used to be.

Small patch of land, soil and some paving slabs,

I grabbed my spade and began to dig.

I’m not sure why I did.

Boredom perhaps, curiosity.

I’d done the rest: Flowers, shrubs, ponds and plants,

Every inch of garden, Carefully crafted and nurtured into growth.

Except this patch.

I don’t know why I waited.

The rest had taken time alright,

Year after year of dedicated time,

But perhaps I waited because I knew what I would find

In that corner.

Vague memories of what used to be,

Or just a sense of something new that would change the way things are.

Still, one day, I dug.

Crack.

Spade blade on something hard.

A rock? Too wide.

I dug a little wider.

To my surprise I found,

A chest.

I pulled it out and set it down,

In the corner, where the greenhouse used to be.

Muddy chest, once new, now locked and rusted shut,

Through years of being almost disappeared under layer and layer,

Of life.

Soil and weeds, over years, months and weeks,

Gradually covering,

As people, places, things I used to know,

Priorities so important once, now forgotten,

Disappointments and unmet expectations,

Dreams dreamed and not quite reached,

Or altogether ripped apart,

Like passing minutes and grains of earth

Layer upon layer covered that chest

Until it lay forgotten.

Now found.

I opened it.

It wasn’t easy.

Through lock and rust I had to thrust.

I hesitated, I didn’t want to break it,

Didn’t even know if what I’d find was good or bad, or nothing.

But something told me I had to do it now,

To wait another moment was to risk another burial.

It had to be done. So done it was.

You’ll never guess what I found inside.

Not medieval coins or ancient crockery,

But a beating heart.

Fragile, weak and small,

But still alive.

Protected in this shrine of grubby memories of earth and time.

And the strangest thing, to my surprise,

I knew this heart was mine.

Distant memories echoed in my mind of a time

This heart beat in me.

A time before it sunk beneath the years,

And days of people, things and places,

Shattered dreams and broken promises,

Wasted time and mundane mediocrity

The simple stuff of life allowed to gather,

And to cover what should have been it’s source,

Not half-forgotten, hidden, buried deep,

Where the greenhouse used to be.

I heard a voice.  Still, calm, it whispered:

“Pick it up.

Pick it up and put it in.

It’s never too late for new life to begin.

Your heart is beating still,

Kept alive through time by mine,

The source of life even when unseen,

But now you have a chance to start afresh,

To know your heart and know mine too,

To dream again with hope and expectation,

Based on me and not on you.

The new begins today.

Pick it up.”

Pick it up.

Did I?

Will you?

A faith buried through years of life, distractions, hurts and joys,

Is still a faith that beats with life never too late to be awakened.

Things will change when we let Him in,

Re-discover dreams, allow ourselves to feel again,

But change brings life, and life in all it’s fullness,

When it’s nurtured by the gardener,

Not buried in the corner

Where the greenhouse used to be.

Pick it up.

Colours on the Horizon – viewing the future from the Father’s table

There is a new season coming for the church.  A season characterised by creativity and community.  As a friend and I were praying and talking yesterday we were struck afresh by how true this is, how we can see signs of it already bubbling up, but how we have no idea what it will look like.  Like colours on the horizon we can see signs of it, but can only walk to it step by step, doing what God says each moment.  This isn’t a set model that we can develop a tried and tested strategy to reach. We feel like we have been given an opportunity to explore what it might look like in one particular church gathering that we’re part of.  Exploring by simply doing what God says to do each step.  First we began eating together, now we want to encourage, demonstrate and release creativity and expression towards God.  That is what has inspired this poem.  It’s not meant to be polished or amazing, it is the beginning of an expression of praise through creativity, of me finding a voice I didn’t think I had, in the hope that others might find theirs.  (Click on the image below to read the poem.)

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A few helpful resources

Here are a few resources I’ve found incredibly helpful in listening to God and getting to know what living for Him looks like. I’ve given a brief description plus a link to their websites (apart from one link to Amazon for the ‘Jewish Study Bible’) – enjoy!

5 Great Books!

5 Great Books!

1. ESV Study Bible

I love this Bible.  It has a brilliant balance of good scholarly thinking and accessibility.  Excellent introductions to each book of the Bible, good notes throughout, and some really useful and interesting essays on everything from how the canon was formed to Christian views on bioethics.  Every morning I use this for my daily Bible reading.  I like to use a Bible without any notes alongside and then have this close by to refer to.

2. The Message

Another great and probably familiar resource.  The Message is an interpretation of the Bible in contemporary language.  It isn’t a direct translation so you definitely want to read a more accurate version of the Bible alongside, but I find this incredibly helpful for getting a fresh view on some very familiar passages.  It was written by Eugene Peterson and came from trying to write particular scriptures in a way that people could readily understand for a group of people at his church.  I would recommend this for both new Christians just getting to grips with the Bible and for those who have been around for a while who want some fresh inspiration.

3. The Jewish Study Bible

Something I came across whilst at vicar school.  This is a study Bible with introductions to each book and comments by passages, but from a Jewish perspective written by Jewish scholars. For obvious reasons it does not include the New Testament!  I find it a useful resource for getting a sense of how the Old Testament texts were and are understood by Jewish thinkers rather than just from a Christian perspective.

4. Common Prayer – A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

I used this every morning for quite a while and loved it.  This is a collection of contemporary liturgy from missional communities.  The main feature is morning prayer for every calendar day.  These have prayers, a song, readings from scripture, and (my personal favourite) a reflection on a hero of the faith.  These range from ancient saints to contemporary Christians and from the well known to the obscure.  There is often a short bio plus some thoughts or an extract from their writings or prayers.  Also, every month there is a particular theme and some suggested reading that ties into the daily prayer for that month.  Using liturgy in daily time with God is great for finding words you might never find on your own, being part of a community by sharing in common prayers, and establishing a pattern of prayer.  This really is a great resource either for daily use or simply to dip into for inspiration as I do now.

5. God’s Generals

There are a range of volumes of ‘God’s Generals’ books by Roberts Liardon – the one pictured was a Christmas present.  Essentially they are short biographies of Christian heroes, often from more recent years and people you may know little about.  When we read the Bible we see how God has moved incredibly in a whole number of people’s lives, but He hasn’t finished yet.  Not long ago I became aware how little I actually knew about people who have been used by God in recent years to do amazing things.  I’m talking about a host of people from John Wesley to C.J. Parham and Billy Graham.  These books give short and accesible biographies that I personally find challenging and inspiring.

So there you go, 5 books that have hugely blessed me over the years and I hope might be an encouragement for you too.  If you’ve already used any of these then I’d love to know what you thought about them.  More than that, I’d love to know if there are any resources that you’d add to the list – books (or other media!) that have helped you learn more about God and draw closer to Him.

So why not add to the list or offer your thoughts by leaving a comment?

The residue of time…

Writing Peace

Einstein called creativity “the residue of time”.

So quoted Pete Grieg at the Retreat to Advance conference last weekend.  A great weekend where God spoke many things, but this one stuck out.  Grieg threw out some real nuggets, explaining that “sometimes it is in the waste that the treasure is found”, referring to Lowack coffee – the most expensive coffee in the world made from beans found in a small animal’s poo.  His encouragement was to leave time to waste.  To not fill our diaries so full that there is no time for time to leave it’s residue and God to speak to our imaginations.  When we’re rushing from pillar to post, weighed down by busyness and pressure upon pressure, then we become our least creative, our most imaginatively restricted.  Then it is harder for our Creator God to speak.

I must admit that since getting back from that weekend this week has been manic.  But today I finally stopped and yesterday God prompted me to look in a journal I started during theological college.  I found a few pages at the back written during a Quiet Day containing two poems.  Evidence of a creative side I rarely allow expression, but I love whenever I do.  So today I’m going to share the first poem with you.  Then over the next week or so I’ll share both the other poem and the journal entry.  Written in a particular situation 2 years ago, they still speak fresh to me today and (I pray) might speak to you too.  But for now, a bit of poetry, you don’t have to like it or even think it’s very good, but please be sensitive in any comments!  Maybe it’ll inspire your creative side too!  If you’ve every felt the pressure of being overworked, where everything seems too much but you feel you can’t stop, then you’ll know the feeling that started this poem.  I’ve seen first hand the effect of workaholic stress and have felt a tendency in myself at times. Yet I’ve also found a place, or rather a person, that brings peace.  That’s what this is about; read generously…

Striving

Surging

Pushing

Driving

Must not fall.

Never slip or slide.

Heaven forfend,

that my efforts cease.

For all depends on Me

Me

Me

Who am I?

Blinded, narrow gaze – wide as my face and no more

Who am I?

Face full of tasks and jobs – no arms in sight but mine

Who am I?

All there is, there is nothing more

Yet could there be any less?

Me?            I’m a mess

covered, smothered of swirling, churning slime

a suffocating damp of pressured time as minutes tick

and fall – hours, days, deadlines gone and

still I soldier on

a plastic toy on broken stand, bent gun at side,

I want to run and hide, but who then?

when I am gone, who then?

what disaster if I cease?

Only peace.

Peace.

Peace.

Peace.

The knowledge of another

standing near.

And fear?

Gone – stripped and slips away

as in my life I turn and pray…

…to Jesus.

King.

Lord.

Saviour.

My life is gift – his not mine.

Time held in his hands,

And his mind my feet shall guide.

For nought depends on me at all.

If I should fall, crushed or drown,

He remains.

With thorns for crown and pierced side spilling light.

Light that warms, leads and shines.

Rock that holds, secures, supports.

Drink that fills, sustains, renews.

Grace that occupies, endows with power,

For to this hour we are called as He was first

And now we follow, to have fulfilled in us all He desires and plans

Through Him and Him alone, for on the throne of my heart stands,

The only King, the worthy King,

Lord of light, my everything,

Jesus.

His name is Jesus.