Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Repentance

A poem for Lent ..


REPENTANCE
The heart submits to it’s pain
As a bird to a thorny nest.
Oh Lord, must I walk again
Through the desert of the test?

Must I turn and face the dark
When my hunger is for light?
Yet I followed a self-lit spark
As I stumbled through the night.

And the fortress that I built
For the easing of my soul
Is now the den of guilt
I must leave it to be whole.

I must leave it, I must go
Through the torn up, shambled street
Though my steps are halt and slow
Chained to my vast defeat.

Chained, desolate, afraid
Borne by a shrinking will
To where I am unmade
And Your arms wait me still.

The Broken One

The issue of abused women is one that doesn't go away. (Like many issues, it is one that will never go away until Jesus returns and all things are made new) This poem is about an imaginary girl, but the problems she represents are anything but imaginary. A victim of some form of abuse since childhood, she runs away, ends up in prostitution (where of course she gets re-abused over and over)and ends up on drugs to numb the impossible pain of being a human being who has been reduced to living like a brute beast. This is not about the rights and wrongs of her situation; which of us, really honestly, has lived so blamelessly, so free of ever making wrong choices, that we have any right to stand in judgement? This is about a broken soul who needs to know that her only hope of healing lies in a God who was broken for her ..

Out of the limelight’s glare
Shadows where none will care.
Huddled in slimy street
Garbage beneath your feet
Garbage attacks your soul:
Who knows what more they stole?

Body an empty shell
Mind on the brink of hell
Absent from all that’s real
(For who can bear to feel?)
Only the sullen rain
Cries for such dreadful pain.

Blank are the eyes that see
Things that should never be
Plaything, discarded, lost,
Used only once, then tossed
Leaving the flesh behind
Cleaving the broken mind.

“Love” is the user’s word
Yet strangely still preferred
The bleak command of pain
Calling to feel again
Therefore oblivion’s haze
Swallows unwanted days.

Already lost in hell
Why then condemn as well?
Only love crucified
Goes where the heart has died
Lifting aside the stones.
Breathing on barren bones.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Some Favourite Lyrics

Over at the Rabbit Room, Andrew Peterson's group blog, they asked for people's favourite song lyrics. Last time I looked, they had 177 replies, some of them quoting stuff that was just so .. (fill in appropriate non-cliched adjective to express deep emotional response). So I thought that from time to time I'd post some of my own favourites here, here a line, there a stanza, standout lines from songs, hymns, anythoing with music, that impact me. Let me say in advance that most things written by Rich Mullins or Andrew Peterson already fall into that category!

So, a few to start with:

Heart of my own heart whatever befall
Still be my vision, oh Ruler of All
 Be Thou my Vision (traditional)

Rushing wind blow through this temple
Blowing out the dust within
Come and breathe your breath upon me
I’ve been born again
 Keith Green

Death is dead, love has won, Christ has conquered
 New Irish Hymns

Come to the Table that He’s prepared for you
The bread of forgiveness, the wine of release
Come to the table and sit down beside Him
The Saviour wants you to join in the feast
 Michael Card
(this one has particular significance for me. For years I had thought that when certain people in the church rejected and condemned me they were speaking on God’s behalf. I actually visualised myself standing outside in the rain and looking in through the window at those who were gathered inside, banqueting. Hen one day I heard this song ..)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Other authors -- In No Strange Land

Not sure how well known this poem is, certainly a couple of lines are! And of course to keep the meaning, I have to change the English references to an Australian locale (Ironically, I actually live closer to the Holy land than to England, but both are a VERY long way away.) But the principle is universal: God, Who is so evidenced and delineated in the historical story, is not confined by it. He is here, in our midst, in our lives, intimate beyond the formal constructs of our imaginations. And we, who are His, are truly His, even here, even now ..


In No Strange Land


The kingdom of God is within you

O world invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!

Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air--
That we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumor of thee there?

Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumbed conceiving soars!--
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.

The angels keep their ancient places--
Turn but a stone and start a wing!
'Tis ye, 'tis your estrang├Ęd faces,
That miss the many-splendored thing.

But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry--and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob's ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.

Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry--clinging to Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water,
Not of Genesareth, but Thames!

Francis Thompson

And some more ..

Reflections on the river at Mallacoota; Pelicans at the wharf (there was a guy cleaning his catch of fish and throwing them the scraps); a deserted Victorian beach; low tide




still more photos

lorikeets at the motel bird-feeder; driving through the forest towards Eden; an upturned boat (ok I thought the colour made it photogenic); a sparrow on the ground




The Jane Austen Book Club

Went to see this movie with my daughter yesterday afternoon, in search of some girly entertainment. It certainly wasn't a deep movie, yet it had some surprisingly moving moments, especially at the end, when only one character's fate struck a false note. The rest were wonderfully apprpriate, and one, Emily Blunt's character, was just SO right I surprised myself by getting teary. (My daughter would say I do that because I'm a pickle .. not sure I quite understand!)

The premise of the movie was that 5 women and one token man (who copes very well) are to meet once a month for 6 months to discuss, by turn, each of Austen's 6 books. (confession time, there are a couple I've never read. I quite like Austen and appreciate her skill as a writer but I don't get the almost cult-like status she has with some people. perhaps, by temperament, I'm just not that Austen-tatious (terrible pun, pretend you didn't see it)The interest is driven by the parallels between the plots of Jane's books and what is happening in the lives of the club members. And here I have a special word of praise, the film did not do this heavy-handedly, but trusted the audience to have enough intelligence to work out the nuances for themselves (and I'm sure I missed some, but that may be my lesser familiarity with the books .. or lack of intelligence .. open question!)

There were a couple of heavy issues raised which may be uncomfortable for some people, such as lesbianism and teacher/student relationships that cross the line, but, the stickier the issue, the more carefully and discreetly it was handled.

Not an I'll-remember-this-always movie (I'll give that award to the Kite Runner, which I saw a few weeks earlier) but pleasant, thoughtful entertainment, with one standout performance (Emily Blunt) which I would even describe by such unlikely words as "luminescent" and "haunting"

More photos

holiday details -- succulents in a pot outside a craft shop, a decent surf on a southcoast beach, reeds in a pond in the Eurobodalla Botanic gardens (south of Bateman's Bay) and a wayside rosebud




Monday, February 18, 2008

Some bird photos




Returned!

All back from holidays, and settling down to laundry, cooking, and the start of a small group at church which I've been asked to lead. That should keep me off the streets!

Random moments from my time away:
*Discovering that black swan cygnets that are almost full grown look like the adults except for mottled grey feathers on their backs instead of all black.

*Seeing white breasted sea eagles swoop down and take a fish from the water

*deciding that early morning light makes landscapes look like watercolours. Strong golden afternoon light gives the intensity of an oil painting

*the tame duck that wanted to get into our picnic stuff; a bit too tame for my liking

* buying myself a beautiful indian shawl in a craft shop, in soft pinks and greys

*eating perfectly cooked kangaroo (it's a very lean meat that can easily dry out) stacked on vanilla mushrooms -- sounds weird, but it's now in my shortlist of best meals I have ever eaten.

that's off the top of my head (a very dangerous place)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

My School Hymn

Feeling pretty jaded at the moment, my computer's gone dead on me, the repairman says it's probably the motherboard. I'm waiting for him to give me a call and tell me what's going on. So I'm using my husband's computer, which is frustrating, because I have no access to my normal email, or my bookmarks (poor google is really getting a workout at the moment). But through my head is going my high school school hymn. OK< I finished school in 1972, but that hymn became part of me, and, because it made so much sense to me, parts of it have become woven into the essential fabric of my thinking. This is it(and we 900 girls singing it together in school assembly)

GO FORTH WITH GOD

Go forth with God! The day is now
That thou must meet the test of youth:
Salvation's helm upon thy brow,
Go, girded with the living truth.
In ways thine elder brethren trod
Thy feet are set. Go forth with God!

Think fair of all, and all men love,
And with the builder bear thy part:
Let every day and duty prove
The humble witness of thy heart.
Go forth! Tis God bids thee increase
The bounds of love and joy and peace.

Behold with thine uplifted eyes
Beauty through all that sorrow seems,
And make of earth a paradise,
The substance of thy dearest dreams,
Bring laughter to thy great employ:
Go forth with God and find his joy.

Go forth with God! The world awaits
The coming of the pure and strong;
Strike for the faith and storm the gates
That keep the citadel of wrong.
Glory shall shine about thy road,
Great heart, if thou go forth with God!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Other Authors -- George Herbert

This is another old favourite, would you believe I first met it in a school textbook? Which of us has never asked, "what is God doing?" when we go through seasons of extreme emotions, not just in our lives in general, but particularly in our relationship with Him? Sometimes there is just no discernible human reason why His comforting presence is so close to us some days, and, to our human perception, completely absent on others. Herbert's answer is the only one I have ever found that satisfies my soul on this; his final two verses have for many years been my prayer in the overwhelming moments.

THE TEMPER. (I)


HOW should I praise thee, Lord ! how should my rymes
Gladly engrave thy love in steel,
If what my soul doth feel sometimes,
My soul might ever feel !

Although there were some fourtie heav’ns, or more,
Sometimes I peere above them all ;
Sometimes I hardly reach a score,
Sometimes to hell I fall.

O rack me not to such a vast extent ;
Those distances belong to thee :
The world’s too little for thy tent,
A grave too big for me.

Wilt thou meet arms with man, that thou dost stretch
A crumme of dust from heav’n to hell ?
Will great God measure with a wretch ?
Shall he thy stature spell ?

O let me, when thy roof my soul hath hid,
O let me roost and nestle there :
Then of a sinner thou art rid,
And I of hope and fear.

Yet take thy way ; for sure thy way is best :
Stretch or contract me thy poore debter :
This is but tuning of my breast,
To make the musick better.

Whether I flie with angels, fall with dust,
Thy hands made both, and I am there.
Thy power and love, my love and trust,
Make one place ev’ry where.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Ash Wednesday at Election Time

This is dedicated to my American friends, who are going through a prolonged election campaign right now.. I wrote it years ago, when Ash Wednesday happened to fall in the lead-up to an election -- it seems to me that there are aspects of politics which are very good illustrations of original sin ..

ASH WEDNESDAY AT ELECTION TIME

The politicians drone their platitudes.
The media meander on for miles;
And desolation over all the earth,
As candidates try on their different styles.

There is no bitter like the ashen taste
Of plastic-smiling, cold futility.
If people all deserve their governments,
Then penitence becomes an urgency.

Nightly, the same old stagnant mud gets hurled.
Daily, the same old headlines shriek their way,
Across the barren mindscapes of despair;
And folly and cupidity hold sway.

Yet, there are those who say there is no wrong
In human nature, simple, undefiled.
Romantically, they yearn an innocence
Which is not real in even a small child.

Have they not heard, have they not understood,
Whence wickedness, frustration, every woe
That haunts the heart of man, estranged, confused;
The pain we carry everywhere we go?

Refusing God, they disbelieve their sin,
Yet have not found another name to call
The hunger of the heart unsatisfied,
Which, God denied, has nothing else at all.

Yet, are we guiltless, who have named His name
With lips of honey-sweet hypocrisy;
But have not let our lives be crucified:
Reject the cross, but want cheap ecstasy?

Judgement begins within the house of God.
We are not holy, though self-set-apart.
We dabble in the dirtiness of life,
And, whitewashed, hide our horridness of heart.

So, in the season of stark penitence,
Let it be our own hearts that feel the rod;
With living urgency, put off our sin;
And own our deep and dreadful need of God.

Let us proclaim His word, not smugly, but
As those who have been ransomed at great price;
And, for our nation's sake, learn how to pray,
That this land might be drawn back to Christ.

Another angle

We can't always just walk away from situations or people who cause us pain, sometimes we have no choice (think slavery, for example)sometimes we choose because there is a good reason why we must endure something, or at least a good thing that requires a season of endurance for its fulfilment. That's what this is about ..

It would be much easier
To simply walk away.
To take my living fragments
To the place where stones don’t fly
Farewell the unequal struggle
And the long, despairing tiredness;
Welcome the soft spring morning
In that place where hearts can thaw.

I am no saint Sebastian
And these no holy holes.

Here, as I breathe corruption
I know myself corrupt
Locked in dishonest silence
Wrestling resentment down
Hacking against the hydra
Of my heaving hopelessness:
This is sport for fools.

And yet, to keep the promise
Is somehow to keep the faith.
Although my only flying
Is the reaching and the falling
I must trust in Him who holds me
And will never let me go.