Season of Hummingbirds

My first full season of feeding and watching hummingbirds is coming to an end. I thought I would get tired of cleaning out feeders on a regular basis, but, no, all I did was add a couple of more feeders. I’m not enough of an expert to be able to give an accurate count, but I did have at least two adult males on a regular basis and probably a couple of females. In the middle of the season, several more hummingbirds began to come regularly. At least three of them are juvenile males making me assume the females had a successful season with hatching and bringing out their young. It will be interesting next year to see how many of these males show up to stake out their territory.

The tongue is out!

Any time I interact with nature–whether through observation or studying the life cycles of plants, birds, or animals–I am reminded anew of God’s majestic, artistic creation and His unmatched imagination in creating both the hummingbird and the woodpecker; the whale and the seal; the butterfly and the daylily.

“Some people, in order to find God, will read a book. But there is a great book, the book of created nature. Look carefully at it top and bottom, observe it, read it. God did not make letters of ink for you to recognize him in; he set before your eyes all these things he has made. Why look for a louder voice?” Augustine of Hippo

A Week at Hilton Head

Pod of Pelicans
horseshoe crab

Fish Haul Beach Park

Harbour Town Lighthouse
sand dollar
Pair of Pelicans
Side trip to Savannah

Beach read

Sunrise

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights!

Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts!

Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars!

Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise Yahweh’s name because

it is he who commanded and they were created.

And he established them forever and ever;

he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.

Praise Yahweh from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps,

fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word!

Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!

Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds!

Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!

Young men and maidens together, old men and children!

Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted;

his majesty is above earth and heaven.

He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints;

for the people of Israel who are near to him. Praise the Lord!

Psalm 148

The First Temptation

Have you ever thought about the conversations between Jesus and Satan when Jesus was living in a physical body on this earth? We get some hints of what this may have been like from the book of Job where a conversation between God and Satan is recorded, but other than knowing that Jesus was indeed tempted, we don’t have much to go on. Some years ago, I wrote an epic tale of the Christ and his struggle with his Adversary, Satan. And, yes, I used The Odyssey as a model for my format (not the content). Divided into “Books” (the first being an introduction) the second Book is entitled The Wilderness Temptations. Here is an excerpt which I hope you will both enjoy and will provoke some thought concerning the Christ and his earthly life.

The First Temptation

On that forty-first day, the God-Man woke

to hunger pangs and discovered his body

had become weak from that month-plus trial.

As his eyes focused to face the day,

he saw his Adversary standing at

his feet, smiling a crooked smile and shining

bright as the desert sun. “Good morning,

old friend,” he said. “Surprised to see me? But

didn’t I promise to come back? You will

find that I, unlike some others, keep all

my promises and will never forget

you or leave you for too long, for I am

concerned about you and how you’re spending

your life and squandering your potential.

I suppose with all this time to think and

consider, you’ve come to realize that you

could not possibly be the Son of God?

Since I am the one who has come to check

on you and see if your needs are being

met, it is obvious,” and his eyes swept

the horizon and the God-Man’s surroundings

and came back with a look of distaste, “that

your Heavenly Father,” and he spat the

two words out, “has not been by or if He has,”

and he smiled a sinister smile, “He has

done nothing to secure your belief that

you are His Son, has He?” Unperturbed, the

God-Man rose to his feet and answered, “Quite the

contrary. He has been here in many

wonderful ways–ways you could never see

or understand–and He has only confirmed

my belief and my profession that I Am

His Son and His Chosen.” Satan attempted

to mask the furious anger that welled up

within him with a strained smile which truly

appeared as a grimace. Then with eyes ablaze,

he said in a voice dipped in honey,

“Of course, you are. Whoever said you weren’t?

But, tell me, have you had breakfast yet?” As

if in answer, the God-Man’s fleshly insides

began to grumble, bringing delight to

his Antagonist though he tried to cover

this with a false look of concern and

pity as he waited for an answer. “No,

there’s been no breakfast here. Only rocks and

dust, as you can see.” And Satan nodded as

if in sympathy but then he appeared

to have an idea and said with great

enthusiasm, “But you are the Son

of God, remember? If you are the Son

of God, you should have no problem coming

up with a substantial meal and then we

can talk over some business.” Eyebrow arched,

the God-Man gazed at his rival and said,

“I was not aware we had any business

to discuss.” And Satan again smiled that

patient smile. “Of course, but how can you think

on an empty stomach? An empty

stomach causes the head to be light and

the heart to be weak. Come, you say you are

the Son of God, let us see you come up

with some breakfast. The Son of God shouldn’t

be out here in this wilderness where the

wild beasts are quite well-fed, yet here he is,

his guts crying out in torment, as he

stands by, as if helpless. You say you

are the Son of God but for thirty years

you have lived in practical poverty

submitting yourself to the surroundings

into which you have been thrust and now you bow

to the elements. To the things which you,

yourself, claim to have created. How can

you possibly allow yourself to be

subdued by the works of your own hands? Come,

if you are the Son of God, tell these stones

here to become bread for your breakfast. They

will be glad to be of service to their

Master, for isn’t that why they were formed?

To serve their Master and obey his commands?

In fact, I daresay that your creation

has been watching you in wonder and has

been speculating as to why you have

not called on them earlier. Can you not

see their eagerness to serve you? Come, Son

of God, call on them; exercise your power

and authority. You say God has now

anointed you to be King, so be King.

Prepare your breakfast so we can discuss

deeper matters.” Folding his arms, Satan

stood back and waited, his impatience

obvious, but the God-Man refused to

make a hasty decision knowing well

this was not as simple a matter as

his Adversary portrayed it. He

also knew the power he possessed had

been given to him by his Father, so

consideration of his Father’s will

must be made. But he was hungry and his

insides churned once more as if to remind

him of his responsibility to

them, too. He gazed on the stones and easily

imagined them as loaves and could almost

smell them baking in the sun and taste

their flaky crusts and their soft middle–

He shook his head to clear his thoughts. His

Adversary watched him intently, though

he tried to appear both nonchalant

and impatient. Impatient as in:

‘This is no big deal, you know, get on

with it.’ And nonchalant as in: ‘But then

again, it is no matter to me, one

way or the other.’ A faint smile played on

the God-Man’s lips as he read all this in

his Opponent’s face which caused that angel

to simmer. He managed to keep his

temper in check and gazed calmly back at

his prey as he waited for an answer,

a decision to be made. Then Satan recalled

another king he had tempted, that first

king of Israel whom he convinced that

waiting for God’s provisions and living

strictly by His rules was not only

unnecessary but also senseless

when you could take care of the matter

yourself. So, Israel’s first king bent the rules

of a God of no compromise–not once

but twice–and he who was to be a

great king and leader was instead a

failure and died a scorned and rejected

king and man. Satan knew he did not need

to lead this present and final king

to compromise more than once for once

would be enough. Now he almost became

excited before the deed was done, smelling

the sweet smell of such a victory, and he

trembled but caught himself when he saw the

curious look from his prey. “Come on,”

he snapped. “What’s taking you so long? You act as

if you faced a monumental decision.

I only want you to eat, so we can talk.

Sustain yourself, my friend,” he added

more gently, his words becoming

like honey at his command, causing

the God-Man to once more remember his

hunger. Again, he looked at the stones, but

this time they brought to mind days of old,

and he saw the children of Israel

led into a similar desert and

led into a similar temptation

to be taught . . . what? Obedience. Yes, that

was it–obedience. Now he recalled

they had failed their test and he reflected

on why. He remembered their grumbling

and identified their discontent as

an expression of their lack of trust

and confidence in God as their provider.

Knowing himself to be the new Israel,

he realized if he treated himself to

breakfast (as his Adversary had so

artfully suggested), he would be

expressing the same lack of confidence.

So, summoning up the Scriptures in his mind,

he recalled God’s word on it all: ‘Remember

how the Lord your God led you all the way

in the desert these forty years, to humble

you and to test you in order to know

what was in your heart, whether or not you

would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing

you to hunger and then feeding you with

manna, which neither you nor your fathers

had known, to teach you that–‘ and he stopped and

smiled as the answer was there and the

clarity in his mind shone on his face,

and Satan inwardly recoiled as he

caught a whiff of the air of defeat.

But stiffly he waited and then it came

as in a clear and steady voice the God-Man

said in his new-found strength, “It is written:

‘Man does not live on bread alone but on

every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.'”

Now Satan cringed outwardly and the

rocks trembled and the heavens smiled and the

God-Man waited, but not long for Satan

knew this was a small defeat and the day

was young with boundless opportunities

and uppermost in his mind remained the

refrain: ‘It will only take one. Once will

be enough.’ With this thought, Satan

recovered his poise and said, “Very well,

you do not wish to eat; that is your privilege.

I was only thinking of your comfort.

You are too quick with your suspicions, but

come, ‘Son of God,’ (for you have yet to prove

to me that you are such) and let us go

to Jerusalem, that ‘holy city,’ and

there you can show me whose son you truly are.”

P.M. Gilmer

Soli Deo gloria

One Starry Night (rerun)

I posted this story last year in three parts. I wanted to repost but decided to put it all together & hope you will all read to the end. I pray it will be a blessing and a time to reflect on what it must have been like on that first Christmas night–to be the first to hear the Good News.

One Starry Night

A long day finally over, the sheep

now settled to sleep. The weary shepherds

found places to rest–some to lay their heads;

others to keep watch over their flocks (many

of them destined to be a sacrifice 

for man’s sins) alert for any dangers

that might be lurking or for any sheep

that might decide to take a midnight stroll.

Under a clear sky with stars so bright,

the night air took on a chill, causing the

sheep to huddle together and the shepherds

to wrap their cloaks around themselves and most

stayed near one of the fires kept burning throughout

the night. The men on the first watch neither

saw nor heard anything to make them believe

this night would be any different than hundreds

of others. When their time was ended, they 

went to wake their companions for the second

watch. Before they could rouse the slumbering

shepherds, a light so bright filled the sky and

caused the poor shepherds to gasp and cover

their faces. Some fell to their knees and one

even stumbled into the companion

he had come to waken causing a stir

amongst the others whose dreams had just been

shattered. But when they tried to open their

eyes and grumble at their rude awakening,

they too were blinded by the light and covered

their faces in fear. Barely able to 

think or breathe, they heard a Voice speak from–

where? The Light? The sky? It seemed to fill the

the very air. “Do not be afraid!” the voice

cried out. Though still they trembled, they slowly

lowered their arms and their hands from

their faces; and their eyes began to make

out a form. A form so majestic they

knew it was no ordinary being

and had to have come from Heaven. “Behold!”

the Being proclaimed and as he continued

to speak, the shepherds ceased their trembling and

stared and listened in awe. Even the sheep

had shaken off their drowsiness and seemed

to be listening as well. “I bring you

good news that will bring great joy to all

people. Today in Bethlehem, the city

of David, a Savior has been born to

you. He is the Christ, the Messiah, the

Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you

will find a baby wrapped in cloths and

lying in a manger.” Before the shepherds

could marvel at these words, the Messenger

Being was, in an instant, joined by a

whole host of more of these Heavenly Beings.

They began to sing in voices so sweet,

the shepherds stood entranced and the sheep

bleated softly as if in accord with

their song. “Glory to God in the highest

of heavens, and peace on earth among all

those who delight Him.” And as suddenly

as they had appeared, the messenger choir

was gone, leaving the shepherds to stare up

into the star-filled sky as if waiting

for more miracles to appear. The sheep,

however, knew the heavenly show

was over, and so settled themselves to

return to their peaceful slumber.

The shepherds all gathered together to

discuss this news that had been given to

them. “Could this be true?” one old grizzled

veteran shepherd asked. “A baby who

is the Christ?” “Did you ever hear such

singing?” asked another, his eyes still on

the sky and his ears still ringing with the

fading heavenly melody. “What should

we do?” worried a third. “Go and see!”

exclaimed an eager shepherd. This shepherd

put on his sandals, grabbed his cloak and staff,

and made ready to leave for Bethlehem,

not caring if anyone joined him

or not. He wanted to see this baby

whose birth had launched a choir of heavenly

messengers. “Now, wait,” the old shepherd

cautioned. “We can’t just run off and leave our

sheep, especially when we’re not sure who

those creatures were or even where they came

from.” The rest of the shepherds looked at him

aghast. “Why, they surely came from heaven.

Where else could they be from?” “They were angels,

I be certain,” declared another. “And 

I am with Reuben. To Bethlehem, I

am bound.” And he, too, put on his sandals

and took up his sack and staff. Soon, they were

all picking up their things, murmuring with

excitement. “A message from heaven, did

you ever hear of such a thing?” “No,” said

the old shepherd. “I never have and neither

have any of you. Why would someone from

heaven want to speak to the likes of us?”

Reuben placed a hand on the old man’s shoulder.

Good news for all people. Come with us, Asa,

and see if this baby is where the

Messenger said he would be. Our sheep will

be fine until we return.” The old shepherd

considered his companions, shrugged, and fell

in line. A trip to Bethlehem in the

middle of the night seemed like madness to

the old shepherd, but this whole night had been

unlike any he had ever encountered

in his eighty some years. A messenger

from heaven? Or a demon to mislead

and taunt them? His friends seemed certain the word

came from Heaven, but he had experienced

more of the latter than the former. Still,

a surge of hope went through him as he

tottered after his fellow shepherds,

listening to their excited chatter

as they made their way along the moon-lit

road to Bethlehem, the city of David.

They entered through the gates of Bethlehem,

(How did those shepherds know which way to go?)

and walked unerringly through the darkened

streets. Shops were closed and houses still, but from

overflowing inns, light and noise spilled out

and in front of one of these the shepherds

stopped and considered again the words of

the Messenger. “You will find a baby

wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

A manger, they knew, would be found where the

animals were fed, so they made their way

behind the first inn and followed the sounds

(and smells) of animals whose nightly slumber

had been disturbed. Quietly, they approached

a cave carved into a small hill where the

soft, smoky glow of an oil lamp cast a

shadow. They stopped as one when they reached the

entrance, suddenly unsure of their next

move. Just as Reuben decided to go

forward, the cry of a baby broke the

stillness of the night. The shepherds gasped and

several of them surprised themselves with tears.

Going in together, they peered in awe

at the sight. A young woman (a girl to

their eyes) along with a man dressed in

garments plain, crouched over a manger where

a tiny infant lay wrapped in cloths just

as the Messenger had told them. They crept

as close as they dared, wondering at the

babe whose birth had been declared to them by

a heavenly being and even sung

about by a heavenly choir. “We

were told to come here,” the old shepherd broke

the silence. “By a . . .” He stopped, unable

to continue and unsure of how to

explain the phenomenon they had witnessed.

The young woman smiled at them. “An angel?”

she suggested. “Yes!” they all said at once.

Then mindful of the sleeping babe, they told

their story in excited, though hushed whispers.

“Yes, yes! An angel, that’s what he was. A

messenger sent from God. He told us he

had good news.” “Good news for everyone. The

whole world.” “He said it was great joy.” “For

everyone.” “He said we would find a baby.”

“A baby wrapped in cloths.” “In a manger.”

They stopped for breath and gazed anew at the

sleeping babe. How could such a small, helpless

newborn baby be the cause of such a 

revelation? Of a heavenly

announcement? The promise of good news for

all people? “He said,” the old shepherd, Asa,

cleared his throat. “He said, the Messenger, I

mean, that this baby is the Christ. Our

Messiah.” Tears filled his eyes. “I never

thought he’d come for me.” The plain-dressed

man, who seemed to be the baby’s guardian,

put an arm around the old shepherd’s shoulders.

“We were as amazed as you when the

Messenger came to us and gave us the 

same good news. This baby is God’s gift to

us and will do more for us than we can

ever imagine.” “We must go and tell

everyone what we have seen and heard,” Asa

declared. His companions, though mildly

amused at the old shepherd’s change of heart,

joyfully agreed. With a final look

at the Christ child and a farewell to the

young couple, whom they all knew would face times

of trouble and sorrow as they raised this

baby in this sin-struck world, they set out

to walk the streets of Bethlehem as morning

broke and people began to stir. They stopped

and told everyone they met of the

celestial announcement they had received

about the baby and the significance

of his arrival. Though some had no interest

in hearing news of any kind from lowly

shepherds, many others marveled at their

story and spread the word throughout their town

and still others carried the story to 

their homes in places near and far throughout

Israel. “A baby has been born to you.”

Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

 

 

“Holy, holy, holy”–A Christmas Carol

 

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.

A Christmas carol? But aren’t those songs about the baby Jesus? With angels and shepherds, the virgin Mary, a donkey ride and a manger? Yes, of course, all those things are important but none of them would matter without God becoming man. A doctrine we can never take for granted as even some who call themselves “Christians” have doubted the divinity of Christ. And this hymn is very much about the divinity of Jesus Christ.

Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty! God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

In his teachings, “Christian” priest, Arius (250-336 A.D.) of Constantinople stated a belief in a created finite nature of Christ rather than having equal divine status with God the Father.

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee, casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea.

Church leaders met in Nicea, Bithynia (present day Iznik, Turkey) in May 325 to formulate a consensus of belief. Arius was declared a heretic for refusing to sign the formula of faith that stated Christ was of the same divine nature as God the Father.

Cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee, which wert and art and evermore shall be.

Nicene Creed: We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all the world. Light of light, very God of very God, begotten, not made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man.

Reginald Heber (1783-1826), a rector of a small church in Shrewsbury, England wrote the hymn Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! to be sung after reciting the Nicene Creed.

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee, though the eye made blind by sin thy glory may not see,

Heber based his hymn on the words from Revelation 4. The Apostle John saw one seated on a throne and around the throne were creatures who “never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!'”

Only thou art holy; there is none beside thee, perfect in power, in love and purity.

Some might try to argue that the one on the throne to whom these “holies” are being sung could only be God the Father and this all has nothing to do with Christmas at all, never mind the divinity of Christ. But the Apostle John made clear in the beginning of his Revelation that he saw the Lamb, the risen Christ. “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not. I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore.'” (Revelation 1:17-18a)

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth, and sky, and sea;

To further the argument that the life of Jesus did not begin in Bethlehem, some 700 years before his birth, the prophet Isaiah also had a vision and heard those words, “Holy, holy, holy”. In the Hebrew language, repetition is used as a superlative, something of the highest quality or degree. But only here in Isaiah is a quality raised to the power of three “as if to say that the divine holiness is so far beyond anything the human mind can grasp that a ‘super-superlative’ has to be invented to express it and, furthermore, that this transcendent holiness is the total truth about God.” (J. Alec Motyer in Isaiah, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries).

Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty! God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

But who did Isaiah see? According to the same John the Apostle who had the vision in Revelation, Isaiah saw Jesus. “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.” (John 12:41) 

“The prophet, standing outside the temple, sees the Divine Presence seated on the mercy-seat, raised over the ark of the covenant, between the cherubim and the seraphim, and the Divine glory filled the whole temple. This vision is explained, John 12:41, that Isaiah now saw Christ’s glory, and spake of Him, which is a full proof that our Saviour is God.” (Matthew Henry in Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible).

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

 

Creation & Faith

“By faith [that is, with an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom and goodness of God] we understand that the worlds (universe, ages) were framed and created [formed, put in order, and equipped for their intended purpose] by the Word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” Hebrews 11:3 (Amplified Version)

“For ever since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through his workmanship [all His creation, the wonderful things that He has made], so that they [who fail to believe and trust in Him] are without excuse and without defense.” Romans 1:20 (Amp)

“If we stop believing that the Lord made the universe out of nothing, then we have failed to believe the God of the Bible.” Tabletalk (July 2020; p. 50)

Getting Back to Normal?

How many times have you heard, thought, or said the words, “When things get back to normal–“? Are you hoping things will change before you start a new project? Are you just sitting back and waiting for things to get back to normal before you make any new commitments? Though we may be living with limitations we’re not accustomed to, we could be waiting for some far-off (and possibly non-existent) future, and besides, what is normal anyway?

In 1939, when Britain was on the edge of war (a war that would soon change their lives dramatically), C. S. Lewis preached a sermon, “Learning in War-Time.” A professor at Oxford, Lewis wanted to assure his students that learning was always important, no matter the world situation, and we can never have any guarantees of “normalcy.”

“The war (or virus or riots or civil unrest) creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure the search would never have begun. We are mistaken when we compare war with ‘normal llife’. Life has never been normal.”

If life has never been normal, then why does it seem so extraordinary now? And how are we live our lives?

Lewis told his students it is important to remember to do whatever God has given them to do, no matter what the circumstances. “The work of a Beethoven, and the work of a charwoman, become spiritual on precisely the same condition, that of being offered to God, of being done humbly ‘as to the Lord’ . . . A man’s upbringing, his talents, his circumstances, are usually a tolerable index of his vocation. If our parents have sent us to Oxford, if our country allows us to remain there, this is prima facie evidence that the life which we, at any rate, can best lead to the glory of God at present is the learned life.”

The Apostle Paul addressed a similar situation at the church at Thessalonica. When times are normal or not so normal, we should always: “Stay calm; mind your own business; do your own job. You’ve heard all this from us before, but a reminder never hurts. We want you living in a way that will command the respect of outsiders, not lying around sponging off your friends.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (MSG)

We all need to be constant students of the Word. No need to wait for life to be “normal” to do what God has called us to do. I had decided this year to enter several writing contests with the various short stories and poems I have been working on. Sometimes this seems like a waste of time, but the words of Lewis and Paul remind me that I need to continue to do the works God has given me whether that means writing a blog post, sending out a story, studying His Word, praying for my children, or encouraging one of my sisters or brothers to carry on. Don’t wait for life to return to normal to do what God has called you to do. This is the time He has put you in to live for Him. Now, excuse me as I see a contest deadline looming ahead.

If God Had Chosen Quarantine by P.M. Gilmer

If God Had Chosen Quarantine

What if God had chosen to quarantine

Himself (as the agnostics would have us

believe)? To be isolated from

the virus of man, to keep a social

and moral and holy distance from

Heaven to earth, (six feet, six miles–it

may as well be a million of either),

then what would have happened to all mankind?     

 

For in the beginning we were

separated by a great gulf of sin–

by a rebellion caused by pride.

We listened to Another and

chose to believe we could be

wiser than our Creator and King.

 

What if God had chosen then to

quarantine Himself from us? To keep

His distance and His face covered and

His voice silenced and His heart closed?

 

How could our feet be cleansed that we

might stand on holy ground? And who

would wash our hands that we might

lift them to praise and worship

our Creator and our Savior

 

For we walk in this world where

communicable diseases of sin

brush up against us and cling to us.

They touch our eyes, our ears, our hands,

our feet, and our minds. How can we not

be touched daily by the virus of sin?                         

 

What if the Veil had not been torn?

If a mask still covered the face of God?

A mask that keeps the breath of God

from reaching us? A mask that keeps                                     

us from his mercy, his grace, his goodness?

 

But the God of the universe risked

contamination and broke the quarantine.

He came down to us and the Veil

was torn, the mask ripped away

to reveal the face of a merciful God.

 

He that would not be quarantined.

He did not keep himself apart from us,

but came down and bridged that sinful

distance, and cleanses us with his blood

and daily washes our feet and hands.

P.M. Gilmer

Soli Deo Gloria

 

National Poetry Month 2020

Today is the last day of National Poetry Month, and I hope you’ve spent some time reading poetry during this unusually stressful month. I have been dipping into several authors including: Malcolm Guite, Jeanne Murray Walker, Edward Clarke, George Herbert, and Luci Shaw. I have also been reading the book of Isaiah, taking more notice of the poetry in that book and comparing several translations.

From Isaiah 26–The path of the righteous is level; you make level the way of the righteous. In the path of your judgments, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.

In my reading, I came across a tradition of English poetry known as “the metrical psalms.” Starting during the Renaissance, many English poets began to put certain psalms of the Old Testament in the form of English poetry. These poems usually rhyme and have a way of making the reader see something familiar with a fresh eye. The first one I read was George Herbert’s The Twenty-Third Psalm. Herbert never published in his lifetime, keeping his work “private” because he wrote for God. Fortunately, The Temple (a book which contains most of his more well-known poetry) was published in 1633, the year of his death.

Though our language has changed since 1633, I hope you will enjoy Herbert’s “spin” (as one commentator put it) on psalm 23 and recognize how he, just as David did in the original some thousands of years ago, wrote this as worship and adoration to God.

The Twenty-Third Psalm

The God of Love my shepherd is, And he that doth me feed; While he is mine, and I am his, What can I want or need?

He leads me to the tender grass, Where I both feed and rest; Then to the streams that gently pass; In both I have the best.

Of if I stray, he doth convert And bring my mind in frame; And all this not for my desert, But for his holy name.

Yea, in death’s shady black abode Well may I walk, not fear; For thou art with me, and thy rod To guide, thy staff to bear.

Nay, thou dost make me sit and dine, Even in my enemies’ sight; My head with oil, my cup with wine Runs over day and night.

Surely thy sweet and wondrous love Shall measure all my days; And as it never shall remove, So neither shall my praise.

 

 

His Boundless Word

In these days of quarantine, social distancing, stay-at-home, and always wash your hands–we can feel stifled, closed in, and bound. Not bound by the laws of health only but by our fears and worries as well. In the midst of these concerns, how blessed I was to read these words:

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.  2 Timothy 2:8-10

Paul wrote many of his letters from prison. Sometimes, under house arrest (as many of us feel we are now), but he reminds his readers that though he may be in chains, the Word of God is never bound! Never in chains, never closed in, never kept at a distance, and never limited to “only two verses, please.” We are free to study the Word of God, share it, memorize it, and know that it will always be working. His Word is free and boundless.