Saturday, April 28, 2018

Learning to Die

It is beyond any logic to imagine that man could teach God anything, but in a sense, a terrible, world-reversing sense, that is exactly what happened. And, of course, the rest of the story is so much greater, for God in turn taught and showed man so much more than we could ever dream or imagine, and gave back to the human race far more than our wildest imagination could ever have conceived. But before all the wonder and glory came to be, man had to teach God the experience of death, and then God had to teach man how to rightly die …

He was in anguish, and his wounds were beyond counting – the thorn cuts on his head, the agony of each nail that had been driven through his limbs, the deep lacerations of the Roman scourge that had been laid on his back more times than he could count in such extremity, and now were abraded into new pain by the rub of the rough wood upon his back. Every breath was torture; it was a terrible way to die.

But there was more. God knew, far more clearly than any finite, sin-encumbered human brain possibly could, the exact, hideous nature of sin and death. But he had never experienced them till now: the abject desolation and existential aloneness of being cut off from life and love, the choking terror of despair. God had to learn to die.

But it was God who had to show man how to deal with death. Later he would reveal something even more wonderful, that death had been defeated and now was only a dark shadow which must be walked through to glory, not an all-devouring monster. But today was for the dying. What is mortal man to do in the face of the last enemy?

He forgives. He shows compassion. He takes thought for the needs of others. He is honest about the raging thirsts of his body and soul. These are all part of the process.  But there is something deeper to address.  How does a man face the annihilation of everything he is, of the only self he has ever known? How does a man say goodbye to love and pleasure and every good and beautiful thing he has ever known? How does a man let go of the air in his lungs and the rhythm of his heartbeat? In that emptiest of places, how does he keep on believing? How can he know? Courage can take you so far, gritted faith may take you further, but there is a terrible unknowing which soaks them up that soaks them up like the desert soaks up rain.

But he has shown them a way to die that keeps courage and faith when you no longer have the strength to lift them up. “Into your hands I commit my spirit!” There is the answer, right in the eye of the tornado of mortal dread.  There is so much we cannot know on this side of death and dying, but it doesn’t matter. Our trust is not to be placed in theological formulae. Our trust is to be placed into the hands of the Father who has loved us utterly from all eternity. We have no map for that journey, except that we know that the only bridge is a cross. It doesn’t matter. He will carry us. He will carry us through the things no earthly metaphor can capture and bring us to himself. He has made us and he will bear the burden. He will carry us and bring us to safety. He will bring us home to himself.


Another from the archives. I wish I could remember what led me to write this

Beyond the ever-drifting banks
Where stagnant waters, weed-locked, lie,
I flow into a quieter place
With my own tears my lullaby.

Here drinks the morning from the hills;
Here the first clouds in stillness blush.
Here waits the spear-straight, silvered grass,
Too pale and pristine to be lush.

And here I wait, newborn, alone;
Skin-less until my skin shall grow
To bear the agony of light,
And greet the waters’ ebb and flow.

And then (perhaps?) the dearer thing
My storm-drowned heart so longs to find:
A hand, a voice, a welcoming;
The human touch of my own kind.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Sing not to me ..

another from the archives, one of my dealing-with-abuse poems

Sing not to me of summer seas
Lulled lapless neath a silver moon;
For mighty waves, and bitter winds,
And cloud-torn storms have been my tune.

Sing not to me of palm-nursed isles
Where perfumed air enfolds the breath;
For I through lunar-scapes have walked,
Where airlessness crept close to death.

Sing not to me of family love,
And warmth and safety found at home:
That was where vultures lit on me,
And terror came in monochrome.

But sing to me of Life so strong
The grave cannot annihilate;
And sing to me of Faith that holds
Through whirlwind, till all storms abate.

And sing to me, ah sing to me,
Of Love that suffers by my side,
And of the glory waiting there:
The Father’s arms stretched open wide.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Prodigal's Return

 another from the archives

Soft, kindly waiting, reaching forth to me;
All of His patience waits for my return;
To fold me in His love, replenish me,
And soothe the aching needs that toss and burn.

Why am I then so slow to turn to Him?
Knowing His love, my folly runs away!
All richness dwells in Him, all plenitude;
Yet, from His liberality I stray!

The deserts of my painful emptiness,
The dreary desolation of the heart
Adrift from God, sin's mocking loneliness,
Are things in which the wise man has no part.

I will have done with husks! My Father's love
Is all my true desire. His pastures green
Have a dear beauty. I will rise and go,
Returning where I should have always been.

I will confess my sorriness and sin;
Before my Father's throne speak out my shame.
Oh, how I long His doorkeeper to be;
His slave, His servant, dare I make such claim?

His love forestalls me! Ah, His grace! His grace!
The warmth of His embrace for such as I,
Who fled His love so long! The robe! The ring!
For me, the fatted calf led forth to die!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Being Triggered

There are many types of abuse, and many types of victims. Some have been totally shattered by what they went through, but there are so many others who carry their pain on the inside, and the world knows little about it

In the dreadful place of greyness
Some far dungeon of the soul
Where we lock away the memories
Never spoken, never whole.

In that place the body carries
Terrors which it cannot name
And we feel ourselves grow tighter
With old helplessness and shame.

Shadows on the mind’s projection
Out of focus, oddly clear,
The deep waters of rejection
Where our monsters reappear.

Where the flesh, made taut, remembers
Every pain the mind can’t hold.
Carries, like a cup of acid,
Wounds untended, fear controlled.

Never speaking, never showing
Primal dread that roils inside:
Half ignored, half overwhelming,
But we tamp it down with pride.

We are legion, walking wounded,
Sisters, brothers, lovers, friends,
Pilgrims to the heart of mercy,
The grace-place where torment ends.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Sleeping Beauty

just a fairy tale princess, or is she?

She waits inside the frozen place
While the world is turning, turning
Waits for the benison of grace
Deaf to its yearning.

She waits through blossom’s bloom and fall
Leaf drop and the brown fruits’ drying;
Through winters like a world in thrall,
But the heart keeps crying.

She waits while stars in heaven spin
And the circling earth grows blinder;
She waits, but still cannot name him:
The one who’ll find her.

She waits, and thorns grow sharply round
Her heart, so benumbed and hidden,
His kiss is still a rumoured sound
Its time forbidden.

She waits. She waits for her true king,
Enchanted till his returning,
The world does not know anything
All undiscerning.

She waits, but he is coming soon,
He will lift her from her slumber
To a place more fair than sun or moon,
Past night’s encumber.

She waits, forgotten and alone,
But then the whole world beholding,
Sees her great beauty, not her own,
His love’s unfolding.

Monday, April 16, 2018


He hangs between earth and sky, a thing from which men turn away their eyes. The prophet had once mourned the fall of Jerusalem, lamenting “look and see if there is any sorrow like unto my sorrow”; but now he hangs there, outside the city, cast aside as one too impure to be within its walls, the very one for whom Jerusalem was built, the one for whose worship the temple existed. But when he came unto his own, his own received him not; when he came to cleanse the temple, so that it could be a house of prayer for all nations, the very ones who were supposed to bring the people to God, seethed against him in hatred and plotted to kill him.

And now their hour had come.  When God would not be tamed to their advantage, they strung him up between earth and sky, and believed that two beams of wood and a handful of nails represented the victory of their chosen way.  They did not know that he wore the thorns of Adam’s curse as a crown upon his brow, they did not care that the trilingual sign above his head declared him to be king. They would not have this man to rule over them, and that was the end of the matter. Soon he would be ended, and that would be that. In other words, they did not understand anything that was happening that day.

But he did. He knew exactly what was happening, and why, and every particle of his pain was part of his purpose. God knew what it was to be forsaken by God. God, pure and perfect, tasted the full awfulness of sin, drank to the very last drop the cup that had been prepared for him – fire in his veins and the agony of every hell pressed down upon his soul. The immortal took on death. There was no passion like his passion, there was no compassion like the compassion of the one who died for the very sake of those who had rejected him.

But still there was no limit to his love. One hung beside him, likewise crucified, but this one suffered for his own crimes. He was not a good man, and no one cared for his fate. But, as pain stripped his illusions away, he saw something that the “righteous” of Israel were blind to. And, like drowning men are prone to do, he grasped at it. “Lord!” he cried with his struggling breath, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus didn’t have to answer. Locked into unimaginable pain, with everything he was locked down into the struggle for the salvation of humanity, what strength did he have left to comfort a criminal? But he did. With unimaginable love he reached through his pain to speak out his promise. “Today you will be with me in paradise,” he said.

And still his compassion has no limits.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Prayer for a friend 24/9/92

another oldie .. I'm not even quite sure who i wrote this for, ot why

Be with him, Father, for the night is cold,
And stark uncertainty is hard to bear.
Show him his path, (You only are the Way).
Even in dimness, let him know You there.

Let Your light shine wherever it must fall:
Whether as beacon, signalling his road,
Or as a searchlight turned upon his heart,
Be all his answer, for You are his God.

Be to him comfort in the lonely place
Of the heart's seeking. Answer to his cry
With tenderness, with fullness of Yourself.
Give his heart wings, and teach him how to fly.

Show him that thing which he needs most to learn.
Guide him to drink from waters of delight;
And lead him, hand in hand, till he finds rest,
Your perfect peace, the glory of Your light.

Thursday, April 12, 2018


another from the archives -- this one addressed to a caterpillar

Green one, your long-lunched feeding days are over;
In this, known form, there's nowhere left to grow.
Things stir within, undreamt of fears possess you;
Dearly you would remain with what you know.

But, law unalterable, that bids the lush leaves
Change to strange hues and drop from their safe tree;
That bids the moon transmute to hidden rhythms,
And binds the lives of all the things which be,

Calls you to destiny, till now a rumour
Of alien glory you can't comprehend.
The days of youthful ignorance are fleeting.
The only life you know comes to an end.

What is a butterfly? It were as easy,
To talk to earthly men of heavenly things.
Your sceptics say cocoons are final darkness,
How dare a caterpillar dream of wings?

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Hug

another from the archives

In the held warmth of this desired embrace
I am at rest. Your kindness touches me.
This, too, is evidence of given grace:
I, by your affirmation, am set free.

For, when all words are said, I simply stand
In frail humanity, to be your friend;
But, by the willing outreach of your hand,
You give a gift on which I can depend.

I would adorn you with the tenderness
Of my affection, gentle and sincere;
Gift that my clumsy tongue cannot express,
Gesture that says I hold you very dear.

After that treasured moment, we will take
Our separate pathways with a warmer glow.
For love has eased the solitary ache.
There is a healing, kindness can bestow.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Civitas Dei (the City of God)

another from the archives -- my longing to walk, even now, as a citizen of Heaven

I yearn to be made free of that estate
Which is the spanning of your joy in me;
Wondrous that city, past all telling, great,
In which the sons of love find liberty.

There, where the shining streets stretch into light,
There I would tread in worship, and be free;
Where I shall know no fading into night,
Only that surgence, which is life to me.

There I would know the perfect, sure embrace
Of undivided love, and grieve no more.
But now, already freeman of your grace,
I would know something of that love before.

I would walk, even now, the open way
Of heart to heart, and know I am received,
Not for my merit, but by full array
Of straitless love, by which I was retrieved

Out of my doorless prison. I am come
To, faltering, learn the steps by which to go
From this small thinking, all too long my home,
Into the bounty which I yearn to know.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

The Fence Builders

Another from the archives -- this one on legalism

Rest not at evening, nor the dawn of day,
And, in the daunting noon, be stalwart still;
Such works must surely be your father's will,
As, in the sweat of worry, you obey.

Dig ditches deep, rope off each tempting tree,
Lest some impious foot near there should tread:
For men are never safe till they are dead,
And risking freedom is insanity.

Keep eyes fast-fixed upon the onerous task;
Blue is the sky stretched glorious above,
It might inspire some lawless thought of love,
It might seduce you to remove your mask.

Stand at your numbered sections, stakes in hand.
Beat in each stake, though it pierce through some heart!
Those not confined by diagrams must smart,
Till, beaten down by pain, they understand.

Freedom's too dangerous for careful men!
Ignore bright birds that fly across your wall:
For, if a man be lifted, he might fall!
Better to crawl amongst the dust motes then.

Down in the dust, flail at the arid earth
For that fulfilment earth can never give.
But never step outside the fence. Don't live.
That might show up legality's true worth.

So, build constrictive shelters ceaselessly,
Build them of wood or stubble, hay or straw.
And, while Love's rushing winds around you roar,
You'll huddle with your father, Pharisee.

Thursday, April 05, 2018


Beyond the scrub lands of the common day,
Where most men live and love in littleness,
And fear the naked truth that would betray
What they conceal so well - their emptiness.

Beyond the careful smiles that masquerade
To hide their bitter, aching human need:
The decency that hides that they're afraid
(It can get very messy when you bleed).

Beyond this country of the unpossessed,
Whose creed's possessiveness and outraged lust,
Who know no living joy, no perfect rest,
Because they have not learnt to give or trust.

Somewhere, beyond here, lies another place,
Where limping pilgrims, who dare fight with sin
Enter with joy, and wonder at the grace
Which carried all the way, and took them in.

They dared confront the army of their fears,
Would not surrender to their secret pain;
But walked, with bleeding feet and burning tears,
Towards that land which bears no spot or stain.

They see the glory of that hidden place
Shine, even now, such light upon their way
That their raw agony breathes forth its praise,
Whilst, with a thin-stretched passion, they obey.

There is such love, such love upon that road,
Where the disarmed, in dear embracing, meet,
And journey forward, hand in hand with God,
Into Himself, where all love is complete.

From Weariness

another from the archives

My heart is worn. I feel my lack
Of passion, mourn my emptiness:
A worn shell tossed up on the shore,
With no life in me to express.

Too tired to grieve, as grieve I should,
The ragged hole where joy once glowed.
My tears are dry as the salt wind;
I feel the grit where once they flowed.

And yet, when every strength is gone,
Because my eyes are turned from You,
You do not leave me thrown aside;
You lift me up, and You renew

My fragile hope, the ragged breath
Of my desire for holiness -
Not by Your wrath, but with the touch
Of love, in healing tenderness.

Therefore, from helpless weariness,
I will arise, borne up by grace,
Ready to open up my lips;
In stumbling joy to speak Your praise.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

On the First day of the week

I still remember how cold and grey it was that morning. Of course, every morning is grey if you get up before the sun, but this grey was different, because I did not really believe that the sun would ever shine again. They had crucified the Light of the world, and the noonday had turned to darkness while they did – a truly terrifying event. What was the point of sunlight, what was the point of anything, without him?

We barely spoke as we walked through the early morning silence of the city. What was there left to say when we had shed more tears than a human body could surely hold? What was there left to say when our hearts had turned to stone inside us, and we had to drag the miserable weight of them with us wherever we went? We did wonder about the stone across the mouth of the tomb – we were none of us strong enough to deal with that – but surely the soldiers guarding the tomb would help us? Even Romans would regard the proper attentions of women to a dead body as a pious duty.

When we reached the garden it was oddly quiet, and there was no sign of the soldiers. But we were walking like people trapped in a terrible dream, our senses muted, our hearts turned inward. I am not sure which of us, as we approached, first noticed that the stone, that heavy, heart-rending lump of lifeless rock, had been rolled away from the entrance of the tomb. We looked at each other in confusion, this was not what we were expecting, and we weren’t sure what it meant. But we had come to do a job, love’s last tender, unbearable ministry, so, drawing in our breath, we passed that portal and found … nothing! He wasn’t there!

It was as if something broke inside us. Were we to be denied even this? Had they planned some further degradation for his broken, tortured body? But even as we were looking at each other in baffled despair, inside that dim cave, there was a light shining beside us like the fullness of the sun, too bright for our eyes to focus on, and there were two men standing in our midst. We couldn’t at them steadily to discern them feature by feature – the light was too strong. They were clearly not human, they were the very angels of God. In terror we bowed down to them, but their purpose was not intimidation.

“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” they asked, and as they went on to explain that the impossible had happened and Jesus was alive again, our souls turned inside out and our world turned right way up.

We had gone to the tomb that morning to make an ending, to weep for our loss and find some consolation in the midst of paralysing grief, But this was not the end, but the beginning, a new beginning for a new creation. We did not fully understand where this would take us, or what it meant for the salvation of the world, but we knew what mattered most: Jesus had overcome death and was alive for evermore.