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Graceful Rider

30 Jun

I recall the asphalt—a blur beneath—and my days
at the school of tachometry.  Chrome tailpipes
and handlebars shone like a vision.
I leaned into the turns until the foot pegs scraped.
Hardtop suited me just fine.

I evoke the throttle’s spirit—the twist and release—
and the engine’s heat.  They moved me, but pavement
takes a toll and ditches are replete.  All those close calls,
falls, and crashes hurt, but I never refused the road.
I crossed the double line

before I slowed.  Then came the graceful rider.
He rode from days of old on everlasting tires
because the time had come.  When he spoke I shattered,
but he whispered to each piece; for every shard he shouted.
His voice was bread and wine.   

He made pursuit his standard and tattooed me with fire.
I ducked and dodged and rolled with bent desire,
but he planned my course.  He pierced and purchased,
broke bones and mended, then caught me with a look…
He saw a man born blind.

My will failed, he gripped.  He healed my road-rash knees,
rebuilt my make and model, he saw to parts unseen
and my gears made changes.  Rubber on the street
moved me to new places.  Beneath chain and sprocket
I saw narrow roads unwind.               

The Lustering Of Love

29 Jun

Her lips, the wine of garden evenings.
His hands, the bread of their communion.
The conversations of their skin lingering
Unhindered by rejection.  In their fields
Pomegranates, dates, and figs flourished.
Ripe fruit bent branches low for them.

By guile, then, eyes were opened, fields taken;
And they sewed fig leaves, bodies curtained,
Alien.  Yet, they would begin again
To anticipate lilac drifting on the breeze,
To look for all the ways a rose can please.
As one, they would await shame’s retreat.

So arise my beautiful one.  Winter is past,
The rain is gone.  Go early to the fields
With me to see if vines have ripened,
If flowers have opened.  The gardens
Are protected, the figs do well, the harvest
Will be full, the vineyards are in blossom.

Dickinsonbird

9 Aug

…not a creature failed–
No Blossom stayed away…
~Emily Dickinson

Mockingbird, where do you begin
and which are the sources of your spring?
Curious the clouds that fill your well.

Veiled in drab plumes you seem a jest.
No man, by sight alone, could guess
your sung surprise, your unexpected spell.

Curious the clouds and dark the dirt
that nourish and expose your verse—
a crown and trunk rise from buried root.

          I am beguiled and beguiler, but you!
a winged prophet, a truth-teller,
a humble stump bearing lovely fruit.

Capably you quip; you chirp and charm
until by feathered phrase and turn
I lift my head. You offer a reward

to the trespassed and trespasser: a place
where grief and glory have a face
and your dull body pierces like a sword.

Meditation On Shadow

20 Jul

Lifted shades—shoulder blades
angled to the window;

Pen jots—mortal thoughts
cast immortal shadows;

Salt shaker, pepper mill
huddled on the table;

I, the paragon of Cain,
extol the offering of Abel.

Morning Reflection

14 Jul

As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them… ~John 17: 18

…my yoke is easy…    ~Matthew 11:30

At the kitchen, by the door,
Our heels on morning floor,
We gather and prepare
To cross the threshold.

Our heels on morning floor,
We hesitate or hurry
To cross the threshold—
sent into the world.

We hesitate or hurry;
We sally, stump, or tumble—
sent into the world
to shoulder and forgive.

We sally, stump, or tumble,
Heels bruised and blistered,
To shoulder and forgive,
To receive the yoke of rest.

Heels bruised and blistered,
We gather and prepare
To receive the yoke of rest
At the kitchen, by the door.

Curse

29 Oct

An ocean: reaction, a dingy: satisfaction
with wind and wave upon its wooden side.  

We founder in deceit, we curse our hands and feet,
and sink beneath the swell of Adam’s pride.

O Christ, Our King, Creator, Lord by Gregory The Great

11 Apr

O Christ, our King, Creator, Lord,
Savior of all who trust Thy Word,
To them who seek Thee ever near,
Now to our praises bend Thine ear.

In Thy dear cross a grace is found,
It flows from every streaming wound,
Whose power our inbred sin controls,
Breaks the firm bond, and frees our souls.

Thou didst create the stars of night,
Yet Thou hast veiled in flesh Thy light,
Hast deigned a mortal form to wear,
A mortal’s painful lot to bear.

When Thou didst hang upon the tree,
The quaking earth acknowledged Thee,
When Thou didst there yield up Thy breath
The world grew dark as shades of death.

Now in the Father’s glory high
Great Conqueror, never more to die,
Us by Thy mighty power defend,
And reign through ages without end.

Gregory The Great, d. 604

250px-Gregorythegreat

Art Is Always Transgressive

10 Mar

"Art is always transgressive.  What I always say is, we need to transgress in love.  We, today, have a language to celebrate waywardness, but we do not have a cultural language to bring people back home."                                                                                                

—Makoto Fujimura, abstract contemporary artist and illuminator of The Four Holy Gospels, a manuscript published by Crossway Publishing in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of The King James Version Bible in 1611.

Listen to Tim Keller’s intro to The Four Holy Gospels.

Visit Makoto Fujimura’s website.

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God by Martin Luther

3 Nov

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

250px-Luther's_Ein_Feste_Burg

songsandhymns.org

Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand by Henry Alford

8 Aug

Henry Alford

On the ABOUT page of my blog, I explain that my blog title If You Long For Home…is meant (in part) to reflect my eternal perspective.  This hymn by English hymn writer Henry Alford (1810-1871) is a fine description in poetic form of my eternal hope and desire.

Alford was also a scholar who studied Homer, English Poetry, and the Greek New Testament.

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Ten thousand times ten thousand in sparkling raiment bright,
The armies of the ransomed saints throng up the steeps of light;
‘Tis finished, all is finished, their fight o’er death and sin;
Fling open wide the golden gates and let the victors in.

What rush of alleluias fills all the earth and sky!
What ringing of a thousand harps bespeaks the triumph nigh!
O day, for which creation and all its tribes were made;
O joy, for all its former woes a thousand-fold repaid!

O then what raptured greetings on Canaan’s happy shore;
What knitting severed friendships up, where partings are no more!
Then eyes with joy shall sparkle, that brimmed with tears of late;
Orphans no longer fatherless, nor widows desolate.

Bring near Thy great salvation, Thou Lamb for sinners slain;
Fill up the roll of Thine elect, then take Thy power and reign;
Appear, Desire of nations, Thine exiles long for home;
Show in the heaven Thy promised sign; Thou Prince and Savior, come.

The Meaning Of Violence and The Desire For Violence

13 Apr

To read the next two segments (four and five) of my series, The Virtue Of Violence CLICK HERE and scroll down to:  4. The Meaning Of Violence.

It is Jesus’ virtuous, violent death on the cross that enables the meaning of my violence to be changed.  The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ makes it possible for my violence to be used by God for his good and virtuous purposes.

When the brutalized and risen one pursued me, caught me, turned me toward himself and joined me to himself by his Spirit, he began the ongoing process of turning the meaning of violence in my life (among other things).

The Violence Bearer

30 Oct

3.  The Violence Bearer

To recap, there is no virtue in me that changed the meaning of violence in my life.  But there is Jesus, who was subjected (in humble reliance on his Father’s goodness and loving-kindness) to the collective brutality of every sin.  On the cross He absorbed every violence that ever was, and ever would be.  By doing this he enabled the forgiveness of every sin (past, present, and future) for everyone who would call on him for forgiveness.

After all, every violation of God’s good law is ultimately against God and his son Jesus (and the Holy Spirit).  The historical figure of King David makes this very clear in his response to the prophet Nathan’s rebuke of him for killing Uriah and taking Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba.  (Continue…)

The Denial Of Violence

27 Oct

2.  The Denial Of Violence

It was in a seminary lecture on violence that God spoke, quietly and clearly, “John, violence is a problem for you.  You need some help.”  I went to my professor after class and told him about some of my failures.  Later, we met and he told me to participate in an anger management group and other counseling if I wanted to continue taking classes at that school.

I was embarrassed and alarmed again.  But I followed his recommendation and began to see how my angry, vengeful violence could be changed; that, in fact, the very meaning of my violence could be changed.  (continue)

The Violence Of The Cross

25 Oct

1.  The Violence Of The Cross

Late one night, over Dunkin Donuts and coffee, I made this offhanded comment about the crucifixion to my college roommate, “At least he [Christ] didn’t have to hang there too long.”  My friend was indignant, “What?!  John, let me tell you a little bit about a crucifixion!” And he went on to describe the horrors of the cross in great detail.  Everything about a cross-death was designed to cause maximum suffering.  It is, perhaps, the cruelest tool of human torture ever devised.  The word excruciate is derived from Latin words that mean “out of the cross.”

At some point during the description, I cut him off.  I was embarrassed and alarmed.  (continue…)

In Tenderness He Sought Me by W. Spencer Walton

7 Oct

I AM the Good Shepherd

Jesus said, “I am the gate for the sheep.  All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved” (John 10: 7-9).

In tenderness He sought me,
Weary and sick with sin,
And on His shoulders brought me
Back to His fold again.
While angels in His presence sang
Until the courts of heaven rang.

Refrain:
Oh, the love that sought me!
Oh, the blood that bought me!
Oh, the grace that brought me to the fold,
Wondrous grace that brought me to the fold!

He washed the bleeding sin-wounds,
And poured in oil and wine;
He whispered to assure me,
“I’ve found thee; thou art Mine”;
I never heard a sweeter voice;
It made my aching heart rejoice!

He pointed to the nailprints;
For me His blood was shed;
A mocking crown so thorny
Was placed upon His head:
I wondered what He saw in me
To suffer such deep agony.

I’m sitting in His presence,
The sunshine of His face,
While with adoring wonder
His blessings I retrace.
It seems as if eternal days
Are far too short to sound His praise.

So, while the hours are passing,
All now is perfect rest;
I’m waiting for the morning,
The brightest and the best,
When He will call us to His side,
To be with Him, His spotless bride.


Jesus Of The Scars by Edward Shillito

14 Jan

If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
Thine eyes burn through the dark, the only stars;
We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow;
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.

The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place.
Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars we claim Thy grace.

If when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,
Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
We know today what wounds are; have no fear;
Show us Thy Scars; we know the countersign.

The other gods were strong, but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds, only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.