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The Pilgrim’s Psalter

Within the Book of Psalms, certain collections or groupings of thematic psalms can be found.  One of the most easily identifiable is the fifteen psalms known as the Song of Ascents, Psalms 120-134.  As you can see in your Bible, each of these psalms has translated the title “A Song of Ascent” above it, as this title is actually the first verse of each psalm in the Hebrew manuscript.  They were given this name because they were sung as the Jewish people journeyed up to Jerusalem during their three annual feasts.  One could title this collection The Pilgrim’s Psalter.

That these psalms chronicle and encourage the Christian’s journey in this world was first brought to my attention by Pastor Paul Faris.  Paul was a long-term minister in the RPCNA, grandfather of Gentle Reformation author James Faris, and one who served with me and mentored me in my early years of church planting.  This faithful pilgrim finished his course in this world and is now enjoying the fullness of the lessons he taught me and others below.

Paul saw the Song of Ascents as capturing three stages of our spiritual journey.  We first begin our walk with God by leaving evil behind (Beginning), make progress in […]

Libations of Prayer

O loving Father,

  When our hope begins to fade

  And our strength fails,

Again you send Your servants

  To come alongside us,

  Visible, tangible messengers of Your care.

 

In prayer we cling to ancient promises

  With brokenhearted faith that cries,

  Weeping yet once again over loss.

Their tears fall together with ours,

  Forming on faces and floors

  The sweetest libations of Your Spirit.

 

As we arise from sacred moment,

  To look through bleary eyes

  Upon pained yet radiant faces,

We behold the glory of a Savior

  Who, having shed tears and blood,

  Even now fellowships with us.

This Country Song Life

Had some of those days of late

  That sound like a country song.

You know the kind I mean when

  Everything goes all wrong?

The concrete block we was a-holdin’

  My son dropped on the count of two.

So I danced around like a charismatic

  While my fingernail turned all blue.

Pesky squirrel knocked down my feeder again

  So I took aim right at his head;

His chortle and the dripping water told me

  I’d hit my garden hose instead.

Was diggin’ out for my woman those

  Overgrown bushes in the yard,

When the handle of my favorite shovel broke

  ‘Cause I pushed down way too hard.

“Typical York luck!” is what

  Mama taught me to holler.

But now, by God’s good grace,

  Them words I try to swaller.

And instead of fussin’ and fumin’

  And gettin’ all jittery with my nerves,

I just try and remember that

  I’m still doing better than I deserve.

Besides, my finger’s no longer a-throbbing,

  And duct tape kinda fixed the hose.

Yep, I did lose a shovel I’ll miss but

  My wife’s still pretty as a rose.

Now, I ain’t written no tune for you

  To sing with me this country song.

But figured a knowin’ nod would be

  ‘Nuff for you to sing along.

Man Like Him

“He was made like his brothers

                in every way.”

With awe and joy I read.

My humble yet exalted priest 

                Who, every day,

Hears me as I plead.

 

Then thought of “Lamb slain

                before earth’s foundation,”

Brings pause over Holy Writ.

Another shining facet

                Of salvation

Warms this heart further yet.

 

“Not only was the Lord

                Made like me

Except without sin,” I ponder.

“We were first formed as the man

                He would be.”

A wonder upon a wonder!

 

So true God-Man, seated

                at the right,      

with love that will never dim,

Meets with pity believers

                He became like,

So they can be man like Him. 

Looking at Parables

Morning rays shine

  With warming love;

Swaying trees stretch

  Toward heaven above.

Cheerful birds in chorus

  Offer their praise.

Looking at parables

  Each of my days.

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Black clouds come,

  With wind’s strong roar.

Dead limbs crash,

  In union no more.

Little sparrow falls,

  Wings no longer raise.

Looking at parables

  Each of my days.

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Whether cloudless sky

  Or drops of rain;

Sown seed growing

  Or bringing no gain;

Be it gathering flock

  Or owl’s lone gaze.

He says that I am

Looking at parables

  Each of my days.

Through Colored Glass

When we left the congregation of Sycamore last month, they presented us with a beautiful stain glass piece taken from one of the old windows of the church.  Designed by Susan Spiegel and crafted by Kokomo Opalescent Glass, it captures the church’s logo in a unique way.  As you can see in the picture, without knowing where we would be living, it fits perfectly in the upper hallway window of our new home. Below is a little poem of thanks and prayer.

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Each day, through colored glass,

   The Lord’s sun shines through.

 Even so His glory in Christ

   Radiates through each one of you.

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 Every night, through same glass,

   Our home’s glow shines through.

 Even so our prayers go out

   Asking His blessings for you.

The Poetic Life of the Christian – Part 3

We come now to the third and last post on the poetic life of the Christian.

As stated in the first post on this subject, the lives of believers are to be poetic in the sense they should be ones of contemplation, for we are  people of the Scriptures.  Recently in an interview in Tabletalk magazine,  John Piper said:

The fact that hundreds of the pages of God’s inspired Word are devoted to poetry makes me aware that God thinks the sound of language matters…It is self-evident to me that poetry is not meant to be speed-read, but ordinarily read aloud.  So now I see that God has forced me to hear.  He has forced a slow savoring of the way things are written to be heard as well as seen.

Not only does Piper speak of contemplation, but of how “the sound of language matters” and that we should enjoy a “slow savoring” of the Bible’s poetry.  In other words, poetry by nature has a beauty as we discussed in the second post, and our lives as redeemed by the Savior should be purveyors of the beauty and laughter of redemption to the world.

However, one other vital aspect of poetry, that mirrors the believer’s life, […]

Two Adams Met in Me

Two Adams met in me.

The first enslaved; the Other set free.

The serpent blinded my first father to God’s glory;

Yet Seed of woman crushing his head is now my story.

One man, from a living tree, brought me death;

One Man, on cursed tree, gave me life and breath.

The first man’s nakedness became my shame;

The last Man’s exposure removed all the blame.

One took me from a garden to the wilderness;

The Second turned heart desert into a land of bliss.

The first Adam brought me sweat and tears;

The Second sweat blood to take away my fears.

Yes, two Adams have met in me.

The first is dead and dying

Agonizingly;

The Other is giving me life

Everlastingly.

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Acknowledgment: This poem was generated when my daughter Emory read to me a line from John Donne’s “Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness.”

The Poetic Life of the Christian – Part 2

While I do not suffer from color blindness, I do have a condition that might best be described as “beauty blindness.”  I simply need help from others  to see many of the lovely things all around me that I might miss.  Thankfully, the Lord has placed four bright beacons of beauty in my life, in the persons of my wife and three daughters, who help me with this.  Miriam is constantly pointing out to me such things as the flowers on a walk I would not have seen, the piece of music I would not have heard, or those sweet moments in our children’s lives I would miss because I’m distracted with other matters.  My daughters’ bright faces, love of music, active lives, and joyous spirits keep reminding their dad of the glories of God seen in the ways He has made this world overflow exuberantly with so much artistry.

Through these ladies in my life I have become more attuned to poetry and song as well.  Indeed, it was one of my daughters, reading to me a poem one day she was excited to share, who unknowingly inspired me to speak on this subject and then write these posts.  In […]

The Poetic Life of the Christian – Part 1

A few days ago I spoke to a group of college students about a subject in which I am ill-trained.  I gave a talk on poetry.  I even spent most of the time reading poetry to them.  To be honest, I felt as awkward as if I were at my first dance. The talk, and even the posts I am doing on it, will be fairly amateurish to those knowledgeable in this field. So why put myself through this?

Because the Christian life is a poetic one by nature and, as I have been seeing this more and more, I want others to see it as well. Though I read the poetry like I dance – with two left feet – I still enjoyed the exercise.  So how exactly is the Christian life a poetic one?

Christians are to be people of the Bible, and by its nature the Bible is poetical.  We see that primarily in the Wisdom literature of the Scriptures, the books Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon (which are often also referred to as the “poetic books”).  In these books, God uses poetry extensively to call us to seek wisdom.  Not only does He command us to seek it, […]