An Important Anniversary

The Nailing of Luther's 95 Theses by Julius Hübner
Half a millennium ago today, the story goes, an obscure college professor posted a list of propositions for debate to the church bulletin board, and from that one spark God breathed his fire in the Church back to life again.

The central insights of the Reformation have been crystallized in what, five centuries later, we now think of as “the five Solas”: the salvation of Man is

  • By grace alone, not because we in any way deserve or could deserve it;
  • Through faith alone, not by or on the basis of anything we could or will do or accomplish;
  • Through Christ alone, for there is and can be no other way;
  • As recorded in the Scriptures alone, for they are the sole infallible Rule by and against which which all other claims of truth must be measured; and
  • To the glory of God alone: the salvation of Man is the means, not the end.

Oh, that the fire of the Holy Spirit would once again set the world ablaze!

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“Psalm 16”

Protect me, God, my chosen hiding place!
As I have said, you are my only good,
And all my joy is in your holy ones
Whose lives show forth your glory in the land—
But those who leave the truth for other gods
Shall surely always see their sorrows grow,
So I will make no offerings to them,
Nor shall I even speak their names aloud.

Lord, you in grace have given me a share
Within your kingdom and among your folk,
And even welcomed me within your house;
Your will and law securely hold my cause,
And you assigned a pleasant place to me.
I praise you, Lord, for showing me your way;
Even at night my heart repeats your words,
And while you always stand at my right hand,
Nothing can move me or shall make me fall.

Even my flesh is safe within your care;
You will not let me slip out from your hand
To fall into the silence of the grave,
Nor suffer rot to touch your Righteous One,
And so my heart and tongue rejoice with praise.
For you will show the road of life to me,
The path to meet you, where is utmost joy,
And grant me pleasure for uncounted days.

A Summer Day (Eduardo Leon Garrido)

This poem is the sixteenth in my series of verse paraphrases of the Psalms. I began this project in 2012, starting with the first Psalm, and have worked on one Psalm at a time; I began this poem soon after finishing my setting of Psalm 15, back in February, but didn’t finish it until earlier this month.

As always, I earnestly welcome your comments, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments), follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things), or get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

“Deo gratias”

“Thanks be to God!” let all my being say:
For light, and eyes to see it, breath of life,
Abundant water running clean and clear,
The harvest’s bounty, stars on high so fair,
Friendship’s warmth and kindness, family’s love,
The glory of the ever-changing earth,
And so much more—but let me not forget
That God deserves my greatest thanks of all
For the great mercy he has daily shown
To this unworthy sinner, in his grace
Accepting me, forgiving my offenses
(More each hour), and with his sworn assurance
Promising a lasting share in Christ.

Thanksgiving (Jennie Augusta Brownscombe)
I’ve had the beginning of this bouncing around in my head for several weeks, ever since I first tried to think about writing a poem for the week of Thanksgiving. But every time, it seemed, I tried to sit down to write any more of it, some distraction intervened, so I didn’t finish it until today.

As always, I earnestly welcome your questions, suggestions, or other comments about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments); get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing; or follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things). You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

“Psalm 10”

Why, Lord, my Lord, are you so far away?
Why do you hide when I am in distress?
For wicked men, in pride, pursue the weak
And scheme until they catch them in their net;
They boast of all their great desires fulfilled
But ever want much more and “better” things.
They praise those who are like them in their greed,
And, when they think of God, revile his name,
For in their haughty arrogance of thought
They have no room to seek or follow God.

Despite the scorn they heap upon your law,
Their ways seem charmed and always prosperous.
They scoff at any foe, and sneer at danger,
For they say, “What woe can threaten me?
My life and wealth shall always be secure,
For I shall see untroubled happiness.”

But bitter poison spews out from their mouths;
They call down curses, issue monstrous threats,
And seek to drown the truth in floods of lies,
For words of evil flow up from their hearts,
And trouble comes to those beneath their tongue.

Because they stir up greed, they hunt the weak
And lie in secret ambush for the helpless,
To beat the innocent with brutal brawn.
Their only thought of God is but a sneer:
“God soon forgot my works and face and name,
And cannot call to mind what I have done;
He blinds his eyes, and I am unopposed.”

Not so! And therefore, Sovereign Lord, arise,
For neither grief nor woe escapes your eye,
Nor do you let them silently pass by.
And thus the helpless, fatherless, oppressed,
Who in disaster have no other hope,
Have trusted you and cry to you for help.
Rise up, O Lord, stretch forth your mighty hand,
And break the oppressors’ wicked, grasping army;
Lay bare and punish all their secret sins,
The crimes they hid from every mortal judge.

Lord, you alone are everlasting King,
And every prince or serf who does not bow
In fealty before your righteous throne
Shall surely perish from your scepter’s sway—
But you have ever bent your ear to hear
The longing of those broken down by woes,
The cries of those whose lives see much distress,
And ever shielded orphans and the weak.
For all whose boots oppressed them are mere men,
Creatures of earth, while you are of the heavens;
When you arise, they go down to the grave,
And you have banished even fear of them.

The Last Judgment by John Martin

This is the tenth in my series of verse paraphrases of the Psalms. I began this project in 2012, starting with the first Psalm, and have worked on one Psalm at a time; I began this poem soon after finishing my setting of Psalm 9 in early May, and finished it about a week ago.

As always, I earnestly welcome your questions, suggestions, or other comments about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments); get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing; or follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things). You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

Psalm 9

O Lord, my heart is full and sings your praise;
Rejoicing, I shall tell your mighty deeds,
The wonders that your outstretched hand has wrought.

For you have put my enemies to flight;
They stumble as they perish in the way.
In justice you have lifted up my head
As you have sat in judgment on your throne,
And ended all the nations’ wicked schemes. Continue reading

Untitled Metaphor #9

The cat who has found mercy looks
Contentedly, with golden eyes
Half-lidded in her purring bliss,
Past fingers stroking down her back,
Her neck thrust up insistently
To beg I scratch her ears or chin—
Then wanders off to roll, legs up,
Still purring, ’round upon the rug.

Ah! Would, O Sovereign Lord, that I might find
Such mercy in your house as she in ours!
That, when I go astray and seek my ill,
I might be firmly, lovingly held back—
To, like her, have not aught to do but praise!

Our cat, RuhamahI wrote this yesterday, after a particularly striking glimpse of our cat’s eyes in (more or less) the pose the first few lines describe. Her name is “Ruhamah,” which explains the opening line. (This picture is of her about seven years ago.) But after that initial spark, most of the ideas here are ones that friends have used, including Aubrey’s post in March.

As always, I earnestly welcome your comments, suggestions, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. (In other words, if you liked this poem, or you didn’t like it, or it made you think of something, or … please leave a comment to let me know.) If you liked this, you can follow this blog, which includes one of my poems every Friday, or read other poems I’ve written here on my blog (starting with those linked from one of the “archive ” installments, since the full archive is by now, at well over a hundred poems, somewhat daunting); I’d especially like to know, as part of my preparations for a collection, which poems you think are my best. You may also share it with others, subject to my sharing policy.

This poem is also archived on my wiki.

“Repentance”

You’ve set reflections of your glory’s fire,
O Lord, in human faces you have made,
And I have written verse that called them fair
And called them “my beloved” with my sighs,
Then feeling—as I thought—my highest joys
When I but shared a hall, and breath, with them.
But surely all this glory came from you;
To you alone should heights of praise be given,
And fervent love be offered first to you.
For now I would repent me of this sin—
That I have loved, in deeds of thought and word,
These images above Whom they reflect,
The creature over her Creator-Lord.
Forgive my errant foolishness, O Lord,
And teach me always to lift up my gaze
And find delight in best and clearest form
In you alone, as I was made to do.

I wrote this in a few stages a couple of weeks ago, starting after my family sang “Fairest Lord Jesus” as our evening hymn. I decided to post it today, as somewhat suitable to both of the two previous days, Ash Wednesday and St. Valentine’s Day.

As always, I earnestly welcome your (further) comments, suggestions, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. (In other words, if you liked this poem, or you didn’t like it, or it made you think of something, or … please leave a comment to let me know.) If you liked this, you can follow this blog, which includes one of my poems every Friday, or read other poems I’ve written here on my blog (perhaps starting with those linked from one of the “archive ” installments, since the full archive is by now, at well over a hundred poems, somewhat daunting); I’d especially like to know, as part of my preparations for a collection, which poems you think are my best. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

This poem is also mirrored on my wiki.