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Thanksgiving Incense

I sit alone by crackling fire.
Quiet prayers of gratitude ascend.
Spirit-fired sparks shoot upward.

We embraced a long-lost son this week.
He tells us he was blind and dead.
He now sees! He is alive!

I kissed a head for the first time.
A dimple-cheeked grandson was placed in my arms.
I still feel his softness, the hope he gives.

Another grandchild was shy at first.
Yet she of brown eyes and ponytail remembered love.
My legs became her slide, my arms her wings to flight.

A daughter too far away gave birth.
For yesterday a little dove arrived.
How can love fill a heart so for one yet unseen?

I rejoice over children walking in faithfulness.
The two middle ones will celebrate at other tables today.
The faces of our two youngest bringing joy to our own.

I sat at other tables this week.
Lifelong friends smiled across from me.
Stories and laughter outer signs of the Spirit’s bonds.

Thanksgivings, like holy incense, drift heavenward.
Yet libations are present also.
For tears of gratitude drop upon the hearth.

Here I Stand

An old friend, knowing that I have four daughters, who love Disney princess movies, recently sent me a poem he had written in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  His poem is actually an adaptation of the popular song, “Let it Go” from the Disney movie “Frozen.”

Hearing the line, “Here I stand and here I’ll stay” from the song made him realize the entire song could be modified to describe Luther’s experience of finally coming to terms with what it means to be saved by the righteousness of Christ through faith.

Luther struggled for years to come to terms with the righteousness of God.  Finally, the Holy Spirit opened Luther’s eyes to understand what Paul meant when he wrote in Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.  17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’” (NKJV).

Reflecting on his experience some time later, Luther wrote, “Before these words broke upon my mind, I hated God and was […]

Motherly Grief

The following piece is the sad companion to one I wrote a number of years ago entitled “Fatherly Grief“.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lying next to me, I know that
Her restlessness comes most
Acutely
In the middle of the night.
The pillow beneath her head and her body move
Gently in rhythm with the quiet
Sobs
And questioning supplications.

Augustine eventually said,
“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is
Restless
Until it finds its rest in thee.”
Did Monica then pray beforehand,
“Thou hast made him through me, O Lord, and my heart will be
Restless
Until he finds his rest in thee”?

I witnessed the awe of birth, and its ending;
The cutting of the binding cord that gave
Life,
When mother’s blood was child’s own.
But, no matter the number of yearly remembrances,
An unseen tie still remains, wishing
Life
For the child needing another birth.

O, what awful pain some mothers endure when
They stand by a child’s grave! The unnatural
Reversal
Bringing unbearable grief, unimaginable grief.
Do promise and time truly help? Does knowing a child is
Living though dead help dull the ache, ever
Reverse
Unending waves of sorrow and loss?

The book of wisdom speaks of a similar
Grief other mothers must bear; of a child living yet
Dead,
Not caring that earthly pleasure brings endless pain elsewhere.
This maternal distress does not diminish, each passing day
Sending […]

But I Do, Dad

You are often there, in the edges of my dreams. Quiet. Not speaking. 

Not like you were in life. Working, hunting, fishing, fixing – always using your hands. And always, always a story to tell or a tease to offer. You were unable to suppress the grin, the crow’s feet forming around smiling, brown eyes. Yet there, in hazy dreams, you are silent, just watching. A presence. The others do not see you. 

But I do. 

When the sun rises and I’m off into my day, the dreams dissipate like the morning mist. Then, softly and quickly, wispy memories bring you back. As in my dreams, you are there. Quiet. No one sees you. 

But I do.

When my son, who never knew or saw you, moves his hands like you did when he tells a story. When I see the flashing, dark eyes and hear the big laugh of my daughter. When I use a tool, then clean it and put it back in its place like you told me to do a thousand times. When I open that wooden box Uncle Pete made and see your initials on the blade of your knife. When men speak of leading and I remember the kind way that you […]

Preparing for Thanksgiving

Are you giving thought to words you might speak at your Thanksgiving Day table or worship service? Whether you are the host of the meal for the extended family, a head of the household, or a ministry leader, you’ll have the opportunity to take a few moments to lead the family in some reflection of gratitude.

Over the years here at Gentle Reformation, we’ve written a few article on the topic of thanksgiving. Around this time of year, we hear from people looking to our archives to help prepare thoughts. We’ll surely keep writing more, but here are links to posts of Thanksgivings past. They might give you ideas of themes to emphasize as you lead those under your charge.

Biblical Themes:

Growing in Jesus on Thanksgiving Day explores how Psalms of thanks stimulate growth in our souls, and Eight Themes in Thanksgiving pulls more themes of praise from the Psalter.

Seven Themes in Thanksgiving in the New Testament explores exactly that.

Historical Themes:

A seventeenth Century prayer of thanks following deliverance or prayers of thanksgiving from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer will lead your hearts to the throne of God like they did for saints of old.

A Thanksgiving Day Proclamation from 1777 or a Thanksgiving Day […]

O Little Nuthatch

O little nuthatch,
From whence comes your name?
Did you look a little crazed
When from the shell you came?

O little nuthatch,
Can you explain this to me?
How does your gray disappear
On the trunk of my oak tree?

O little nuthatch,
Why eat upside down?
Would not swallowing be easier
If you simply turned around?

O little nuthatch,
What is with your song?
Are your really laughing
With those scratchy notes all wrong?

O little nuthatch,
Why do you despise a duet?
Can you really be so fierce
To chase a jay from the suet?

O little nuthatch,
Have you guessed by now?
You bring a smile to me
As to your Maker I bow.

Then You, My Love

Today my wife and I celebrate thirty years of wedded love.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If love must be awakened
     Then you, My Love,
Stirred mine the day
I first set eyes upon you.
An ardor unceasing,
Unrelenting,
Never to be quiet again.

If love is a banner to be raised
     Then you, My Love,
Have me waving ours gladly,
Shouting from the peaks,
Telling the whole world
Simply
You are the one
Whom my soul loves.

If love is better than wine
     Then you, My Love,
Are fresher than a rosé,
More elegant than a Bordeaux,
Smoother than Chardonnay. 
How delightful you are!

If many waters cannot quench love
     Then you, My Love,
Can be assured that
Rivers of tears
Or trials that may flood us
May sweep all away,
But they will never conquer
This passion for you.

If love no greater is a life laid down
     Then for you, My Love,
I am
An offering pledged,
Willingly, solely
Vowed unto you.
To love until death,
To die loving you,
To cherish you until
The only enemy able
To end these anniversaries
Makes us part.

Yet, O yet,
Remember this, My Love.

If love is stronger than death –
And it is, My Love, it is –
     Then you, My Love,
Need to know our foe’s reminders –
The scars you bear,
The wrinkles you see,
The […]

Love (III) by George Herbert

In posting about the darkness of our age earlier this morning, I thought I would share the poem below.  In a class I am in being taught by Dr. Dennis Johnson, he read aloud this poem with tears. One help in reading these verses is each time you see Love to substitute in the name of Jesus. Truly Love will conquer all.

Source: George Herbert and the Seventeenth-Century Religious Poets  (W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1978)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
                              Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
                             From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
                             If I lacked any thing.

A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
                             Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
                             I cannot look […]

Two Dates My Epitaph

Corrupted from the womb,
Consigned to damning tomb –
Two dates my epitaph.
Soon chiseled upon stone,
Story of my life.

Yet He came forth!
First a babe 
From virgin womb,
Then a man
From virgin tomb.

A babe delivered,
By mother’s anguish,
Grew to receive 
Sin’s imputation
And the death it brings.

A man raised,
By Spirit’s power,
Now victorious
Over sin’s invasion
And death’s vain sting.

So now I,
United to Him,
Have two dates my epitaph
As my life’s story
No more.

A Garden Afar

Over vales and fields,

lies a garden afar.

The beauty of its three flowers

call to me.

So I travel winding road 

for a day to gaze upon,

to joy in,

and to learn from them.

~~~~~

The first, a bright crocus, 

puts springtime delight 

in a heart shivering over 

her wintry surroundings.

As I bow to smell 

her playful fragrance,

and feel chubby, little petals against my cheek,

I wonder how one so small

– and too far away –

can put such great love

in a grandfather’s heart?

~~~~~

My next flower is a bold tulip –

how colorful, grace-filled, and statuesque she stands!

The snows melt away

before her charming aroma,

her radiant joy,

and the musical glory of springtime

she sends forth heavenward.

The father longs for the times

his tulip was in garden near;

yet gives thanks that Another

cares for her so well.

~~~~~

The last flower, a fading red rose,

has drooping head

and slowly dropping petals.

The cruel winter

has been so […]