Posts Tagged ‘Poetry’

This Wretched Heart

PARDONING LOVE

Jer. iii. 22 Hos. xiv. 4.
by Mrs. Anne Steele

I.

How oft, alas, this wretched heart
Has wander’d from the Lord!
How oft my roving thoughts depart,
Forgetful of his word.

II.

Yet sov’reign mercy calls, Return;
Dear Lord, and may I come?
My vile ingratitude I mourn;
Oh take the wand’rer home.

III.

And canst thou, wilt thou yet forgive,
And bid my crimes remove?
And shall a pardon’d rebel live
To speak they wondrous love?

IV.

Almighty grace, thy healing pow’r
How glorious, how divine!
That can to bliss and life restore
So vile a heart as mine.

V.

They pardoning love, so free, so sweet
Dear Savious, I adore;
O keep me at thy sacred feet,
And let me rove no more.

Some resting flower of yesterday’s delight.

A Tuft of Flowers
Robert Frost

I went to turn the grass once after one
Who mowed it in the dew before the sun.

The dew was gone that made his blade so keen
Before I came to view the leveled scene.

I looked for him behind an isle of trees;
I listened for his whetstone on the breeze.

But he had gone his way, the grass all mown,
And I must be, as he had been,–alone,

`As all must be,’ I said within my heart,
`Whether they work together or apart.’

But as I said it, swift there passed me by
On noiseless wing a ‘wildered butterfly,

Seeking with memories grown dim o’er night
Some resting flower of yesterday’s delight.

And once I marked his flight go round and round,
As where some flower lay withering on the ground.

And then he flew as far as eye could see,
And then on tremulous wing came back to me.

I thought of questions that have no reply,
And would have turned to toss the grass to dry;

But he turned first, and led my eye to look
At a tall tuft of flowers beside a brook,

A leaping tongue of bloom the scythe had spared
Beside a reedy brook the scythe had bared.

I left my place to know them by their name,
Finding them butterfly weed when I came.

The mower in the dew had loved them thus,
By leaving them to flourish, not for us,

Nor yet to draw one thought of ours to him.
But from sheer morning gladness at the brim.

The butterfly and I had lit upon,
Nevertheless, a message from the dawn,

That made me hear the wakening birds around,
And hear his long scythe whispering to the ground,

And feel a spirit kindred to my own;
So that henceforth I worked no more alone;

But glad with him, I worked as with his aid,
And weary, sought at noon with him the shade;

And dreaming, as it were, held brotherly speech
With one whose thought I had not hoped to reach.

`Men work together,’ I told him from the heart,
`Whether they work together or apart.’

Twitter Must Decrease and Blogging Must Increase

I just exhausted a Twitter phase. I was tossed for a while between quitting it all together or just mostly ignoring it. I’ve decided on the latter. Sean talked me into it with one simple Twit. That demonstrates the power of Twitter! So why am I quitting?

Because Twitter was making me stupid. You have to express yourself in 140 characters or less and so you can’t Twit complex thoughts. When you communicate too often in sound bytes, you begin to think in sound bytes. Which is probably what is wrong with 90% of our politicians, they can’t think in complex terms. At the same time, there is a benefit to a drill like Twitter. It forces you to get to the main point and express yourself in a fashion that eschews superfluous elocutionary flourish. Like what I just did there. Really, that’s not all that bad. It allows you to think like Jonathan Edwards but not write like him. However, as I got hooked on Twitter I started thinking in 140 character Twit-speak (pun intended if not delivered). It is like the difference between a Robert Frost poem and haiku. Almost all haiku is useless but it is easier to write because it is short. I’m not claiming to be Robert Frost but I am aiming at more than:

Haikus are easy
But sometimes they don’t make sense
Refrigerator

One of the things that triggered this desertion of Twitter was when I noticed that I hadn’t written anything on my blog in a while and then I saw some updates from a few Twitter friends mentioning that they’d neglected their blogs and RSS feeds and stuff. For Twitter? Really?

So if I were to write this post on Twitter, it might look like this:

Time for me to back off of Twitter & spend time with complete sentences. Better for my brain.

Job and Jonah: Studies in Grace

I’ve just finished, with tear streaked eyes, listening to John Piper read his poem “The Misery of Job and the Mercy of God”. All the time my mind kept going back to Jonah, a book I’m translating in Hebrew Exegesis. The two men couldn’t be more different but the message is similar in and to both.

Job did not share Jonah’s small view of God in the end. God sent to Job boils and loss and accusation and Job put his hand over his mouth and blessed God. God sent Jonah deliverance from drowning, and afflicted with a scorching socorro and the burning sunshine. And Jonah wouldn’t back down.

To explain, I need to reinterpret Jonah for you. I know many have grown up with flannelgraphs of Jonah, the reluctant prophet and the message that God is the God of second chances. That isn’t the case with Jonah. Jonah’s problem wasn’t with Nineveh, it was with Yahweh, his God. This kind of reading of the book is the best way to make chapter 4 make sense and fit in. The way many of us grew up reading Jonah, that he resisted and then eagerly obeyed, makes chapter 4 an anomaly. If you go back and read Jonah carefully, you’ll see that he resisted God constantly. Even in chapter 2, where Jonah cites Psalm after Psalm from the belly of the fish, (you have to read those Psalms and bring their context with you into Jonah), he isn’t praising God for sparing his life and showing himself to be a changed man. The context of each Psalm he quotes indicates that he really believes that he is on his way back to Jerusalem and that God will destroy Nineveh. Jonah interprets his miraculous deliverance from death as God agreeing with his desire not to preach to Nineveh. He believes God has come around to his way of thinking! When he finally does what God told him to do, “Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey” (Jonah 3:4, emphasis mine) though Nineveh was a great city, a three-day’s journey. Jonah is dragging his feet as he enters the city.

The sailor repent, Nineveh repents, the fish obeys God, the plant obeys God, the worm obeys God, the wind obeys God and in the end Jonah stands with his finger in God’s face. Even when he recites God’s attributes (Jonah 4:2) he does it in an accusing manner. “I knew you were like this!” Jonah seems to say. The book ends with God’s question to Jonah, “And should not I pity Nineveh?” and no answer. Jonah stands alone on center stage, scowl on his face, finger pointing into the white light of an overhead spot. A voice over asks the question while no music rises from the orchestra pit and, with Jonah unmoving, the curtain descends and the play is over.

Job on the other hand is different. Piper does a wonderful job of bringing out Job’s innocence and God’s work in his life. Piper uses the color of the sky over Uz to indicate what Job could not have known was going on in heaven. We see things only from Job’s perspective. We see a man suffering horrible affliction and facing the unfair accusations from his friends.

After Eliphaz accuses Job of sin:

Job didn’t move or speak. The winds
Of such incriminations crashed
Against his stagg’ring soul and smashed
The fingers barely grasping to
The goodness of his God.

This was after Job had already said:

O, God I cling
With feeble fingers to the ledge
Of your great grace, yet feel the wedge
Of this calamity struck hard
Between my chest and this deep-scarred
And granite precipice of love.

Job, struck head to toe with boils, deprived of wealth and children, sits on an ash heep with friends It is interesting that the sky that seems to depict Satanic activity in the story appears when Job’s three friends open their mouths to speak to him. Piper seems to think that their “advice” to Job is part of Satan’s attack against him. While it is not explicitly stated so in the text, I don’t think it is too far a stretch to assume it. who have know him for years telling him that he is a sinner clings to God’s goodness through it all. He will not accuse God of injustice and he will not falsely confess sin he is not guilty of. He does demand and answer from God and when the answer comes, he humbly accepts it.

Jonah on the other hand, is spared death, watches the king of Nineveh repent and sit in ashes, misuses God’s written word, most likely delivers only part of the message God has given himWe are never given the message that God gave Jonah to preach to Nineveh, but Jonah’s message, half-heartedly delivered, is a mere 5 Hebrew words. It lacks God’s characteristic prophetic call to repentance and pronounces only doom on Nineveh. Given Jonah’s attitude toward the pagans I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he omitted part of God’s message. , jabs his finger in God’s face and in the end is left only with a question.

Job learned the message of God’s great grace in the midst of his suffering. Piper again:

“Do you think God made you sick?” She drew
Her breath, and swallowed hard. “I know
You’d like to think that there’s a foe
That hurts and God that heals. And that
Would not be wrong; but I have sat
And pondered months in pain to see
If that is true–if misery
Is Satan’s work and happiness
Is God’s. Jemimah we must bless
The Lord for all that’s good and bad…

I have some friends who thought they knew
The mind of God, and that their view
Of tenderness exhausted God’s,
And that severity and rods
Could only be explained with blame,
To vindicate his holy name.”

Job did not share Jonah’s small view of God in the end. God sent to Job boils and loss and accusation and Job put his hand over his mouth and blessed God. God sent Jonah deliverance from drowning, and afflicted with a scorching socorro and the burning sunshine. And Jonah wouldn’t back down.

Our God does not domesticate. He does not operate according to vision. Bertrand Russell can say that it is impossible that God be good and all powerful and that he allow evil to exist. And I think Jonah might say that God cannot be good if he allows good to exist outside of His covenant people. Job however, would have none of that. Job learned the lesson of the tender kiss of God’s painful rod. God loves his children too much to let them love and hope in anything other than Him. Logic or hope in nationality are not the ends for which God created man. He himself is.