30.10.13

"Nightmare" by William Schwenk Gilbert


Nightmare
by William Schwenk Gilbert

When you're lying awake with a dismal headache,
     and repose is taboo'd by anxiety,
I conceive you may use any language you choose to
     indulge in without impropriety;
For your brain is on fire - the bedclothes conspire of
     usual slumber to plunder you:
First your counterpane goes and uncovers your toes, 
     and your sheet slips demurely from under you;
Then the blanketing tickles - you feel like mixed 
     pickles, so terribly sharp is the pricking,
And you're hot, and you're cross, and you tumble 
     and toss till there's nothing 'twixt you and the ticking.
Then the bedclothes all creep to the ground in a heap, 
     and you pick 'em all up in a tangle;
Next your pillow resigns and politely declines to 
     remain at its usual angle!
Well, you get some repose in the form of a doze, with 
    hot eyeballs and head ever aching,
But your slumbering teems with such horrible dreams 
     that you'd very much better be waking;
For you dream you are crossing the Channel, and 
     tossing about in a steamer from Harwich,
Which is something between a large bathing-machine 
     and a very small second-class carriage;
And you're giving a treat (penny ice and cold meat) 
     to a party of friends and relations -
They're a ravenous horde - and they all came on 
     board at Sloane Square and South Kensington Stations.
And bound on that journey you find your attorney 
     (who started that morning from Devon);
He's a bit undersized, and you don't feel surprised 
     when he tells you he's only eleven.
Well, you're driving like mad with this singular lad 
     (by the bye the ship's now a four-wheeler),
And you're playing round games, and he calls you
     bad names when you tell him that "ties pay the dealer";
But this you can't stand, so you throw up your hand, 
     and you find you're as cold as an icicle,
In your shirt and your socks (the black silk with gold 
     clocks), crossing Salisbury Plain on a bicycle:
And he and the crew are on bicycles too - which 
     they've somehow or other invested in -
And he's telling the tars all the particulars of a com-
      pany he's interested in -
It's a scheme of devices, to get at low prices, all goods 
     from cough mixtures to cables
(Which tickled the sailors) by treating retailers, as 
     though they were all vegetables -
You get a good spadesman to plant a small trades-
     man (first take off his boots with a boot-tree),
And his legs will take root, and his fingers will shoot, 
     and they'll blossom and bud like a fruit-tree -
From the greengrocer tree you get grapes and green 
     pea, cauliflower, pineapple, and cranberries,
While the pastry-cook plant cherry-brandy will grant, 
     apple puffs, and three-corners, and banberries -
The shares are a penny, and ever so many are taken 
     by Rothschild and Baring,
And just as a few are allotted to you, you awake with 
     a shudder despairing -
You're a regular wreck, with a crick in your neck, 
     and no wonder you snore, for your head's on 
     the floor, and you've needles and pins from 
     your soles to your shins, and your flesh is a-creep, 
     for your left leg's asleep, and you've cramp in 
     your toes, and a fly on your nose, and some fluff 
     in your lung, and a feverish tongue, and a thirst 
     that's intense, and a general sense that you 
     haven't been sleeping in clover;
But the darkness has passed, and it's daylight at 
     last, and the night has been long - ditto, ditto 
     my song - and thank goodness they're both of them over!

20.9.13

"The Justice and the Joy of Heaven" by John Donne

I read sermons regularly. I enjoy it and I fancy that it improves my own preaching, though I suppose I must leave that verdict with my congregants. Regardless, I have oft been instructed well by pastors past and wish, on this occasion, to pass on one such worthwhile specimen. 

Here, then, I humbly present to thee, most esteemed reader of mine, a sermon. A sermon which comes at the conclusion of a series on heaven. 

The Justice and the Joy of Heaven
by John Donne

Justice: As it is said of old cosmographers, that when they had said all that they knew of a country and yet much more was to be said, they said that the rest of those countries were possessed with giants or witches or spirits or wild beasts, so that they could pierce no farther into that country; so when we have traveled as far as we can with safety, that is, as far as ancient or modern expositors lead us in the discovery of these new heavens and new earth, yet we must say at last that it is a country inhabited with angels and archangels, with cherubim and seraphim, and that we can look no farther into it with these eyes. Where it is locally, we inquire not; we rest in this, that it is the habitation prepared for the blessed saints of God; heavens where the moon is more glorious than our sun, and the sun as glorious as he that made it; for it is he himself, the Son of God, the sun of glory. A new earth, where all their waters are milk and all their milk, honey; where all their grass is corn, and all their corn, manna; where all their soil, all their clods of earth are gold, and all their gold of innumerable carats; where all their minutes are ages, and all their ages, eternity; where every thing is every minute, in the highest exaltation, as good as it can be, and yet super-exalted and infinitely multiplied by every minute's addition; every minute infinitely better than ever it was before. Of these new heavens and this new earth we must say at last that we can say nothing; for "the eye of man hath not seen, or ear heard, nor heart conceived the state of this place." We limit and determine our consideration with that horizon with which the Holy Ghost hath limited us, that it is that new heaven and new earth, "wherein dwelleth righteousness."

Here then the Holy Ghost intends the same new heavens and new earth which he does in the Apocalypse, and describes there by another name the new Jerusalem. But here the Holy Ghost does not proceed, as there, to enamor us of the place by a promise of improvement of those things which we have and love here, but by a promise of that which here we have not at all. There and elsewhere the Holy Ghost applies himself to the natural affections of men. To those that are affected with riches, he says that the new city shall be all of gold and in the foundations all manner of precious stones. To those that are affected with beauty, he promises an everlasting association with that beautiful couple, that fair pair, which spend their time in that protestation: "Behold, thou art fair, my beloved," says he, and then she replies, "Behold, thou art fair, too," noting that mutual complacency between Christ and his Church there. To those which delight in music he promises continual singing, and every minute a new song. To those whose thoughts are exercised upon honor and titles, civil and ecclesiastical, he promises priesthood, and if that be not honor enough, a royal priesthood. And to those who look after military honor, triumph after their victory in the militant church. And to those that are carried with sumptuous and magnificent feasts, a marriage supper of the Lamb, wherein not only all the rarities of the whole world but the whole world itself shall be served; the whole world shall be brought to that fire and served at that table. But here the Holy Ghost proceeds not that way, by improvement of things which we have and love here: riches or beauty or music or honor or feasts, but by an everlasting possession of that which we hunger and thirst and pant after here and cannot compass, that is, justice and righteousness; for both these we want here and shall have both for ever in these new heavens and new earth. 

What would a worn and macerated suitor, oppressed by the bribery of the rich or by the might of a potent adversary, give or do or suffer that he might have justice? What would a dejected spirit, a disconsolate soul, oppressed with the weight of heavy and habitual sin, that stand naked in a frosty winter of desperation and cannot compass one fig leaf, one color, one excuse for any circumstance of any sin, give for the garment of righteousness? Here there is none that does right, none that executes justice, not for justice' sake. He that does justice, does it not at first; and Christ does not thank that judge, that did justice upon the woman's importunity. Justice is no justice, that is done for fear of an appeal or a commission. There may be found, that may do justice at first; at their first entrance into a place, to make good impressions, to establish good opinions, they may do some acts of justice; but after, either an uxoriousness towards wife or a solicitude for children or a facility towards servants or a vastness of expense quenches and overcomes the love of justice in them; in most it is not, and it dwells not in any. In our new heavens and new earth dwelleth justice. And that's my comfort: that when I come thither, I shall have justice at God's hands. 

Joy: If you look upon this world in a map, you find tow hemispheres, two half worlds. If you crush heaven into a map, you may find two hemispheres, too, two half heavens; half will be joy and half will be glory; for in these two, the joy of heaven and the glory of heaven, is all heaven often represented to us. And as of those two hemispheres of the world, the first hath been known long before, but the other, that of America, which is the richer treasure, God reserved for later discoveries. So though he reserve that hemisphere of heaven, which is the glory thereof, to the resurrection, yet the other hemisphere, the joy of heaven, God opens to our discovery and delivers for our habitation even whilst we dwell in this world. As God hath cast upon the unrepentant sinner two deaths, a temporal and a spiritual death, so hath he breathed into us two lives. Though our natural life were no life, but rather a continual dying, yet we have two lives besides that, an eternal life reserved for heaven, but yet a heavenly life, too, a spiritual life, even in this world. And as God doth thus inflict two deaths and infuse two lives, so doth he also pass two judgments upon man, or rather repeats the same judgment twice. For, that which Christ shall say to thy soul then at the last judgment: "Enter into thy master's joy," he says to they conscience now: "Enter into they master's joy." The everlastingness of the joy is the blessedness of the next life, but the entering is afforded here. 

Howling is the noise of hell, singing the voice of heaven; sadness the damp of hell, rejoicing the serenity of heaven. And he that hath not this joy here lacks one of the best pieces of his evidence for the joys of heaven, and hath neglected or refused that earnest by which God uses to bind his bargain, that true joy in this world shall flow into the joy of heaven, as a river flows into the sea. This joy shall not be put out in death and a new joy kindles in me in heaven; but as my soul shall not go towards heaven, but go by heaven to heaven, to the heaven of heavens (for all the way to heaven is heaven), so the true joy of a good soul in this world is the very joy of heaven; and we go thither, not that being without joy, we might have joy infused into us, but that as Christ says, "Our joy might be full," perfected, sealed with an everlastingness; for as he promises that no man shall take our joy from us, so neither shall death itself take it away, nor so much as interrupt it or discontinue it; but as in the face of death, when he lays hold upon me, and in the face of the devil, when he attempts me, I shall see the face of God (for, every thing shall be a glass, to reflect God upon me); so in the agonies of death, in the anguish of that dissolution, in the sorrows of valediction, in the irreversibleness of that transmigration, I shall have a joy which shall no more evaporate, a joy that shall pass up and put on a more glorious garment above, and be joy superinvested in glory. 

Amen. 



13.9.13

"The First Psalm" by Robert Burns

The First Psalm

     The man in life wherever placed,
          Hath happiness in store,
     Who walks not in the wicked's way,
          Nor learns their guilty lore. 

     Nor from the seat of scornful pride
          Casts forth his eyes abroad,
     But with humility and awe
          Still walks before his God. 

     That man shall flourish like the trees,
          Which by the streamlets grow;
     The fruitful top is spread on high,
          And firm the root below.

     Be he who blossoms buds in guilt,
          Shall to the ground be cast,
     And, like the rootless stubble, tost
          before the sweeping blast.

     For why? that God the good adore
          Hath given them peace and rest,
     But hath decreed that wicked men
          Shall never be truly blest. 

1.7.13

"What Every Pastor Should Know" by Gary L. McIntosh and Charles Arn



McIntosh, Gary L. Arn, Charles. What Every Pastor Should Know: 101 Indispensable Rules of Thumb for Leading Your Church. Baker Books, 2013.

What Every Pastor Should Know is just the reference book it sounds like. 101 rules of thumb divided into 15 sections covering such topics as evangelism, small groups, revitalization, and more. These rules of thumb, which McIntosh and Arn are very careful to offer with appropriate cautions in the introduction (all churches are different, these are just guidelines, etc.), are each given in four parts: the rule itself, a brief introduction, a longer explanation, and a set of practical suggestions. 

Though the subtitle of this book indicates that the rules are about "leading" a church, it really should have read "growing" a church. This is not a criticism, merely a clarification. The rules offered here are very much a product of the church growth movement. Thus, the underlying assumption that leading church is really about growth. This does not mean that other topics are completely neglected; you will find rules covering the topics of prayer, taking care of staff, guiding volunteers, and so on. It simply means that within each subject there is a definite slant towards the question of what will make your church larger. 

With that clarification in place, let me share a few thoughts on this book. It is a reference book filled with rules of thumb. That means that they are not intended to be strictly accurate or applicable in all situations. Any reader of this book needs to take what is offered, not more. It is not a complete book on being a pastor. Many important questions are not addressed here at all. There is very little theology, other than one rule about spending 15 hours or more preparing a sermon there is little about preaching, etc. In general, the personal and spiritual side of thing is left out. Still, for what it is, it is good. In terms of metrics of growth, there are a lot of ideas here. In terms of getting a pastor thinking about things they might try or ideas that might lead to a healthier church, there are lots of ideas here. Each section is short, a blessed gift in itself. The ideas are practical and the diagrams are helpful. Given the nature of the book, that is good enough for me. 

Conclusion: 4 of 5 Stars. Conditionally recommended. The condition is that you use this book for what it is, recognizing what it is not. I also recommend that anyone reading this book also read books on being a pastor; perhaps by Eugene Peterson or William Willimon. 

Book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martinc Communications and Baker Books in exchange for an honest review

28.6.13

"Tempted, Tested, True" by Arnie Cole and Michael Ross




Cole, Arnie. Ross, Michael. Tempted, Tested, True: A Proven Path to Overcoming Soul-Robbing Choices. Bethany House Publishing, 2013. 

 Tempted, Tested, True is a book about overcoming temptations. Combining biblical insight with testimonies and stories from multiple sources Cole and Ross explore temptation from a number of different angles. There is a chapter on the life-cycle of temptation, a chapter on men and on women, and topics such as addiction, worry, and confession. Following each chapter is a "nudge." The "nudge" is a set of activities and reading divided into 'tempted' (questions to help you see your own situation), 'tested' (methods of overcoming these temptations), and 'true' (help to "customize a realistic 'change plan' you can apply to your life" [22]).

The goal of this book is good. And there is some good content, especially in the 'nudge' sections. Encouraging people to memorize scripture, pray, and ask some questions that will lead towards self-awareness are all good and worthwhile. Unfortunately, laudable goals and the 'nudge' sections do not make up for what I consider to be three problems in this book. 

1. A "scientific veneer" - Near the beginning of the book Cole and Ross discuss the extensive experience they have and research they have done which form the "empirical foundation for this book." (19) This language, and stance, which suffuses the book, leads to such gems as claiming that research confirms "the Enemy's forces have studied our behavior since the day we were born." (62 See note 1 below) Or "Four of five people will face at least one temptation in a given day." (92. Note 2). Such nonsense aside, this veneer relays confidence falsely and in precisely the wrong places. In dealing with temptation our confidence needs to be in the power of Christ, not the power of empirically researched and proven paths. Sadly, it is just when Ross and Arnie come to our relationship with God that they have the least to say. One can hardly turn a page without being told to spend more time with God, to give things up to God, to submit to God, and so on. But one would search in vain for helpful writing on how to actually do these things. 

2. Scattered Writing - This is partially my own stylistic preferences coming through, but I don't like books with so many random stories and disjointed sections. What isn't just me is that I found this book poorly organized. 

3. The compilation of errors - Beginning with the errors I mentioned in point 1, and continuing in the same light, I found that about half way through the book I could no longer read with a trusting ear. What really clinched it for me was a section on anger. "What God says about anger: Stop being angry!" What of Ephesians 4:26? Or the fact that when God confronts Jonah the question is "Have you any right to be angry?" 


Conclusion: 2.5 Stars. Not Recommended. I have no doubt that this book will help some, especially the 'nudge' sections. But overall, I simply cannot recommend this book.




Note 1: What kind of research could possibly confirm this? Nowhere in this book are research methods discussed. Sources and evidence are absent. Claims are just made. Did Cole and Ross find that many people agreed with this statement? Made this statement? As a piece of Christian theology one might agree with it but that hardly makes it a subject of research.

Note 2: Really? 4 out of 5? The other 20% get through a whole day without a single temptation? Either 20% of people move through each day completely unconscious or this is utter nonsense. I can't even say that 20% of people simply lied, as I don't know where this number comes from. If I was told that in a survey 4 out of 5 people admit to facing at least one temptation a day, I would confidently conclude that the other 1 of 5 lied or misunderstood the question. I don't even know that much though; it's just another number thrown out at random.



Book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Bethany House Publishing in exchange for an honest review

27.6.13

"Ordinary Prayer" by Jeremy Rios


Rios, Jeremy. Ordinary Prayer: Encountering God through our Everyday Needs. Jeremy Michael Rios, 2012. 

Rios begins with two important truths: 
1. The center of prayer is petition. 
2.Petition is difficult. 
From there he offers a  guide to, you guessed it, ordinary prayer. Petitionary prayer practiced daily over all of our needs, small to large, common and repeated or unique. His goal, his prayer, is that "as you read you will be led to put the book down and begin praying."

What follows is a guide to understanding prayer, how to pray, how to understand God's answers, how to pray in groups, and more. And by guide I do not mean exhaustive step-by-step instruction manual. "Ordinary Prayer" and Rios, as the author, is more like a wilderness guide. He won't carry you up the mountain, but he will tell you which paths are fruitful, which rocks are firm, and point you to the views along the way. In other words Rios is not out to be prescriptive, nor to answer all of our questions, but to enable us to pray. In this he succeeds. 

This is an excellent book. It is, in fact, one of the best books on prayer I have ever read. Helpful, surprisingly insightful, applicable in ways far broader than the subject of petitionary prayer, this book is worth reading several times. And I'm not just saying that because I know the author. Rather, that last sentence was included as a subtle way of giving you, the reader of this review, full disclosure; Jeremy did not pay for or even ask for this review, but he is my friend. The book has been published for some time now; he just had the bad luck to publish it right as I stopped reviewing books. Now that I might start again, I thought I should start with something great. 

Conclusion: 5 Stars. Highly Recommended. Pray. Then read this book. Then pray more. 

29.5.13

"Solitude" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Solitude
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Laugh, and the world laughs with you,
     Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
     But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
     Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
     But shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you;
     Grieve, and they turn and go;
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
     But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
     Be sad, and you lose them all, -
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
     But alone you must drink life's gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded;
     Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
     But no man can help you die.
For there is room in the halls of pleasure
     For a large and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
     Through the narrow aisles of pain. 

26.5.13

"Losing His Place"

Losing His Place
by Andrew Demoline

Rumbling ever onward go,
The world shall never stop.
Rumbling ever onward go,
There is no place for off.

No out, no way, no else;
One place to spend your days.
No far away, nor yonder,
To ease the windy way.

Rumbling ever onward go,
We looked both far and near.
Rumbling ever onward go,
There seemed no place but here.

No out, no way, no else;
This giant wheel moves on.
But what if we could step aside;
Would life seize up, be done?

We heard, we three, of one that did
His story gives us hope
We heard, we three, of one that's gone
Could we to break this rope?

He turned his head aside,
Somehow the world turned too.
He took just one small step,
Somehow he made it through.

We heard, we three of one that did,
What happened to that man?
We heard, we three, of one that's gone,
But where could he have ran?

We talked and stepped and tried,
the world would not be skewed,
Until we turned our heads just right,
Then eyes could see anew

Rumbling every onward go,
No one can see but you,
Rumbling every onward through,
To leap into the dark...

No out, no way, no else,
Until you see anew.
No far away nor yonder,
The steps are but a few.

Rumbling ever onward go,
We each did have our go.
Rumbling ever onward go,
Tilting our heads just so.

No out, no way, no else,
Or so we had believed,
One step away to yonder:
Went one, went two... not three.

I know, just me, of three that did,
Their stories gave me hope.
I saw, just me, the two that left,
But now I'm here alone.

They turned their heads aside,
Somehow the world turned too.
They took just one small step,
But did they make it through?

I know, just me, of three that did;
My hope is all but gone.
I saw, just me, the two that left;
I don't know what to do.

I thought and prayed and cried,
My heart was torn in two,
I could not follow my two friends,
Out there into the blue.

16.5.13

"Sometimes" by Sheenagh Pugh


Sometimes
by Sheenagh Pugh

Sometimes things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well. 

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man; decide they care
enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor. 
Some men become what they were born for. 

Sometimes our best efforts do not go 
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to. 
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you. 

15.5.13

A Prayer (III): The Steadfast Love of the Lord

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; For your steadfast love endures forever.My soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.Where there is, still, your steadfast love O Lord.I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.Beholding your steadfast love.Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.For your steadfast love endures forever.I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.
In your name, you who are Love.
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; Satisfied with your steadfast love.With singing lips my mouth will praise you.
Praise you for your steadfast love.
On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.
For your steadfast love endures forever.
Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I sing of your steadfast love, which never leaves my side.
My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
For your steadfast love endures forever.
They who seek my life will be destroyed; they will go down to the depths of the earth.They will be given over to the sword and become food for jackals.
For my life is held in your steadfast love.
But the king will rejoice in God; 
And in your steadfast love.all who swear by God's name will praise him, while the mouths of liars will be silenced.For your steadfast love endures forever.

16.4.13

"Egg" by C.G. Hanzlicek

Egg
by: C.G. Hanzlicek

I'm scrambling an egg for my daughter. 
"Why are you always whistling?" she asks. 
"Because I'm happy."
And it's true,
Though it stuns me to say it aloud,
There was a time when I wouldn't
Have seen it as my future. 
It's partly a matter
Of who is there to eat the egg:
The self fallen out of love with itself
Through the tedium of familiarity,
Or this little self,
So curious, so hungry,
Who emerged from the woman I love,
A woman who loves me in a way
I've come to think I deserve,
Now that it arrives from outside me.
Everything changes, we're told,
And now the changes are everywhere:
The house with its morning light
That fills me like a revelation,
The yard with its trees
That cast a bit more shade each summer,
The love of a woman
That both is and isn't confounding,
And the love
Of this clamor of questions at my waist.
Clamor of questions,
You clamor of answers,
Here's your egg. 

11.4.13

Psalm 119

Psalm 119
By Andrew Demoline

Always you are with me God
But sometimes it is hard,
Coming from the world I do, to ever get
Down in your word, to trust or live at all.
Even when I know it’s good,
For your word always is,
Going forth on your path
Has ever been a pain.

I want to have within me, even
Just for one brief moment,
Kindled in my heart,
Love for you and your word. To have in
Me an undivided soul, focused
Now and onwards solely
On your promise. To have the
Psalmists trust in you, in
Quiet and in song.

Rarely am I persecuted,
Seldom must I run, But in
The face of difficulty,
Under even hottest sun,
Verily I ask thee, O lord of all my heart,
When times like this do come,
X-out all my fear and doubt, as
You alone can do, and fill me with a
Zest for all things that are true.

9.4.13

"To Be of Use" by Marge Piercy


To Be of Use
by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls. 

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again. 

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out. 

The work of the world is common as mud. 
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust. 
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident. 
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used. 
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real. 

27.3.13

Inns

Inns
by Andrew Demoline

Insecure and unsecured
The road shall always be,
But there, upon that hill, I spy
A light to welcome me.

The Inn upon the hill you see,
Fire warm and food for all.

The road is always very long,
the world too large for men,
But find me welcome just this night
And come morn' I'll rise again.

The Inn upon the hill you see,
Fire warm and food for all.
The Inn upon the hill you see
Bids welcome, though its small.

Highwaymen and vagabonds,
may steal and slay and fight
But give me four strong walls and friends
And I know I'll fare alright.

The Inn upon the hill you see,
Fire warm and food for all.
The Inn upon the hill you see
Bids welcome, though its small.
The Inn upon the hill you see,
Strong walls, good drink, and friends.

Life, it makes my feet ache,
Rains stay far to long,
But when I step inside to rest
Within me rises song.

The Inn upon the hill you see,
Fire warm and food for all.
The Inn upon the hill you see
Bids welcome, though its small.
The Inn upon the hill you see,
Strong walls, good friends, and beers.
The Inn upon the hill you see,
Gives rest as days end nears.

What's that you say?
I dream of such a place?
No inn upon the hill you see? 
Ahh, but look with eyes of grace!

The Inn upon the hill you see,
Fire warm and food for all.
The Inn upon the hill you see
Bids welcome, though its small.
The Inn upon the hill you see,
Strong walls, good friends, and beers.
The Inn upon the hill you see,
Gives rest as days end nears.
The Inn upon the hill you see
is but a taste of home

There is an Inn upon the hill.
But if you would look close
It's not an inn but the mansion where
Pain's wind no longer blows.

The Inn upon the hill you see
is the mansion saved for you.
And all good moments on the road,
of that long and dusty life,
are Inn's that point beyond the now
To the future end of strife. 




Authors Note: Inspired by "The Problem of Pain" by C.S. Lewis. Specifically this quote: "The Christian doctrine of suffering explains, I believe, a very curious fact about the world we live in. The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will note encourage us to mistake them for a home."- C.S. Lewis "The Problem of Pain"

22.3.13

"The Orange" by Wendy Cope

The Orange
By Wendy Cope

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange - 
The size of it made us all laugh. 
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave - 
They got quarters and I had a half. 

And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park. 
This is peace and contentment. It's new. 

The rest of the day was quite easy. 
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over. 
I love you. I'm glad I exist. 

14.3.13

The Long and the Short of It

The Long and Short of It

I like shortcuts.
Point A to point B in five easy steps!
Why not four?
If one can reduce the number of reps,
Won’t one soar?

I like settling.
Is not 70 to 80 good enough?
One giant leap!
When 80 to 85 will be rough?
And hardly cheap.

But I’m worried.
Technology makes it so simple,
automatic,
To take leaps and bounds over people,
and it’s tragic.

So then I think…
What of times and places I won’t avert?
Long walks
What of all the people I won’t desert?
Love talks

I like long cuts.
Point A to point B in five easy steps?
Why not more!
What if higher and further take more reps?
Then I’d soar!

I’ll never settle.
85, for love, is not enough!
Can’t we go deeper?
Yes, 100 will surely be rough!
Could love be cheaper?

I suppose long and short
Each have their place
But don’t let the light of a screen
Confuse and displace

13.3.13

"On the Strength of All Conviction and the Stamina of Love" by Jennifer Michael Hecht

On the Strength of All Conviction and the Stamina of Love
by Jennifer Michael Hecht

Sometimes I think
we could have gone on.
All of us. Trying. Forever.

But they didn't fill
the desert with pyramids.
They just built some. Some.

They're not still out there,
building them now. Everyone,
everywhere, gets up, and goes home.

Yet we must not
Diabolize time. Right?
We must not curse the passage of time.

"He Wishes for the Clothes of Heaven" by W.B. Yeats


He Wishes for the Clothes of Heaven
by. W.B. Yeats

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams
I have spread my dreams under your feet; 
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. 

11.3.13

A Prayer (II): O Lord, Our Lord

When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, 
the moon and the stars which thou hast established

Man that is born of a woman is of few days, 
and full of trouble. 

What is man that thou art mindful of him, 
and the son of man that thou dost care for him?

He comes forth like a flower, and withers; 
he flees like a shadow, and continues not.

Yet thou hast made him little less than God, 
and dost crown him with glory and honor.

And dost thou open thy eyes upon such a one and bring him into judgment with thee?


Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? 
There is not one. 

Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands; 
thou hast put all things under his feet,

Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with thee, 
and thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass,

all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, 
and the fish of the sea.whatever passes along the paths of the sea.

look away from him, and desist, 
that he may enjoy, like a hireling, his day. 

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth!

26.2.13

"Poem About Morning" by William Meredith


Poem About Morning
William Meredith

Whether it's sunny or not, it's sure
To be enormously complex -
Trees or streets outdoors, indoors whoever you share,
And yourself, thirsty, hungry, washing,
An attitude towards sex. 
No wonder half of you wants to stay
With your head dark and wishing
Rather than take it all on again:
Weren't you duped yesterday?
Things are not orderly here, no matter what they say. 

But the clock goes off, if you have a dog
It wags, if you get up now you'll be less
Late. Life is some kind of loathsome hag
Who is forever threatening to turn beautiful.
Now she gives you a quick toothpaste kiss
And puts a glass of cold cranberry juice,
Like a big fake garnet, in your hand. 
Cranberry juice! You're lucky, on the whole,
But there is a great deal about it you don't understand.

A Prayer (I)

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

You are my God; be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you I cry all day long.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,

You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love,

Have mercy on me, a sinner.

In the day of my trouble I call on you, for you will answer me.

Lord Jesus Christ

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord

Son of God

Nor are there any works like yours

Have mercy on me

Teach me your way, O Lord

a sinner

Give me an undivided heart

Lord

I give thanks to you, O Lord

Jesus

I will glorify your name forever

Christ

Great is your steadfast love

Mercy

Turn to me, be gracious to me

Me

Show me a sign of your favor

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, you have helped me and comforted me. 

22.2.13

"Otherwise" by Jane Kenyon


Otherwise
by Jane Kenyon

I got out of bed
on two strong legs. 
It might have been 
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise. 
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood. 
All morning I did
the work I love. 

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise. 
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise. 
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day. 
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise. 

20.2.13

Checking Out

Checking Out

I stand in line, my cash in hand
My eyes flicker from stand to stand
  Swollen breast, pumped up chest
Financial plans, futures best

I step aside, my cash in hand
Alone here in this foreign land
Strobing light, sudden night
Eyes fastened shut, trembling flight

I pant outside, no purchase made
Just one thought I cannot dissuade
Flashing near, hopeful fear
I just do not belong here...


We all check out, one way or another.

17.2.13

Naps

Naps

I walked upstairs today
to find Kristina sleeping. 
I wondered how long she'd lain 
and listened to her breathing. 

I sat and pondered how much longer 
I should let her rest a-sleeping, 
and if she'd had major plans 
with time left to completion

I laid down next to her
with thoughts of tender waking
And then awoke, to my surprise,
with her the one now speaking!

14.2.13

"Ash Wednesday" by T.S. Elliot


 Ash Wednesday 
by T.S. Elliot

I
Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

II
In the cool of the day, having fed to satiety
On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been contained
In the hollow round of my skull. And God said
Shall these bones live? shall these
Bones live? And that which had been contained
In the bones (which were already dry) said chirping:
Because of the goodness of this Lady
And because of her loveliness, and because
She honours the Virgin in meditation,
We shine with brightness. And I who am here dissembled
Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love
To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd.
It is this which recovers
My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions
Which the leopards reject. The Lady is withdrawn
In a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown.
Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.
There is no life in them. As I am forgotten
And would be forgotten, so I would forget
Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose. And God said
Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only
The wind will listen. And the bones sang chirping
With the burden of the grasshopper, saying
Calm and distressed
Torn and most whole
Rose of memory
Rose of forgetfulness
Exhausted and life-giving
Worried reposeful
The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end
Terminate torment
Of love unsatisfied
The greater torment
Of love satisfied
End of the endless
Journey to no end
Conclusion of all that
Is inconclusible
Speech without word and
Word of no speech
Grace to the Mother
For the Garden
Where all love ends.
We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each other,
Under a tree in the cool of the day, with the blessing of sand,
Forgetting themselves and each other, united
In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye
Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity
Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.

III
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitul face of hope and of despair.
I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,
Damp, jagged, like an old man's mouth drivelling, beyond repair,
Or the toothed gullet of an aged shark.
Was a slotted window bellied like the figs's fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind over the third stair,
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
Climbing the third stair.
Lord, I am not worthy
but speak the word only.

IV
Who walked between
The various ranks of varied green
Going in white and blue, in Mary's colour,
Talking of trivial things
In ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour
Who moved among the others as they walked,
Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs
In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary's colour,
Sovegna vos
Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring
One who moves in the time between sleep and waking, wearing
The new years walk, restoring
Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring
With a new verse the ancient rhyme. Redeem
The time. Redeem
The unread vision in the higher dream
While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.
Between the yews, behind the garden god,
Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed but spoke no word
Redeem the time, redeem the dream
The token of the word unheard, unspoken

V
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season, time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.

VI
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth This is the time of tension between dying and birth The place of solitude where three dreams cross Between blue rocks But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away Let the other yew be shaken and reply.
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated
Because I do not hope to know again
Because I know that time is always time
And pray to God to have mercy upon us
Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree
Lady of silences
Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining
At the first turning of the second stair
At the second turning of the second stair
At the first turning of the third stair
Lord, I am not worthy
Who walked between the violet and the violet
Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand
Here are the years that walk between, bearing
White light folded, sheathing about her, folded.
The silent sister veiled in white and blue
But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down
Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew
And after this our exile
If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
O my people, what have I done unto thee.
Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Will the veiled sister pray for
O my people, what have I done unto thee.
Will the veiled sister between the slender
O my people.
Although I do not hope to turn again
Wavering between the profit and the loss
And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
And let my cry come unto Thee.