“Carmel”

How long must we still dither, hedge our bets?
The fallen flames leap high, and burn so bright—
Despite our best attempts to douse the wood,
To soak the sacrifice, and drown the stone,
And frenzied prayers to gods who’d do our will,
Our self-inflicted wounds accomplished nothing.
The sign is clear: The Lord alone is God!
Why will we not repent, nor bend our knee
Before our Maker and our rightful King?

I’ve always found the Bible’s story of Elijah to be both a fascinating story and a fertile source of lessons applicable to the world today. (Which is, I suspect, part of why I’m so fond of Mendelssohn’s oratorio.) I began this poem back in 2016, when the first two lines flew into my head, but I didn’t get any farther until I took it up again earlier this month and finished it. And then it occurred to me that it would be a good fit to post in this, the first week of Lent.

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.

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“That first Christmas evening”

I wish a merry Christmas and blessed Christmas season to all my readers.

It is common, in some circles in which I move, to say that Jesus was born “that first Christmas morning” or even “that first Christmas morn.” But I, being curious and something of a quibbler by nature, have at times wondered: what time of day was the Christ Child born? Is the idea that he was born in the morning “possible, but in this life we’ll never know,” like the popular notion that there were exactly three Magi (or in fact that he was born on what is now December 25), or “unlikely,” like Rossetti’s charming, picturesque, theologically on-point, but in-details-dubious poem “In the Bleak Midwinter”? Continue reading ““That first Christmas evening””

“Send not …”

A wise and pious man, in verse, once prayed
“Send not, send not, the rich empty away.”
For God—as virgin Mary sang in praise—
Has satisfied the longing of the poor
And filled the hungry with his gracious gifts,
And sent the rich away with empty mouths.

But we are rich—embarrassingly so.
The living Word stands at our fingertips,
As well as wisdom of long ages past
Preserved for us in volumes on our shelves,
The secrets of the universe laid bare,
And knowledge more than any man can know.

The least of us is clothed in finery
Beyond our fathers’ dreams of avarice,
And carried far and wide in speed and state,
Our daily health preserved and lives prolonged
By miracles we now think commonplace.

And all this comes in mercy from God’s hand,
Who does not treat us as our deeds deserve,
But pours out grace on evil, good alike—
But he is just as well as merciful
(And mercy without justice is no mercy),
And justice will not sleep until the end.

But mercy, Lord, have mercy—we are rich,
And have not used our riches as we ought;
Indeed, we have all but forgotten you
Who are both author of prosperity—
The owner of the world’s ten million hills
And all the cattle feeding there,
Whose wealth we, really, are but stewards of—
But also treasure more than all Earth holds.
If we do not have you, then all is naught.
Lord, we are rich, but send us not away!

I wrote this poem this week, prompted by the line “Send not the rich empty away!” (which appears several times in Taliessin Through Logres and The Region of the Summer Stars, and I think is in fact even the last line of the last poem of one of those collections) coming unexpectedly to mind, and bringing with it a train of thought about what the Bible says about God and the rich, and how even the poorest of us is, from a historical perspective, unimaginably rich.

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.

“Psalm 2”

How dare the nations join to plot revolt,
And all the kings and rulers stand, conspire
Against the Lord, on who their thrones depend,
And rise against the Lord’s anointed Son?
But God, enthroned in heaven, laughs in scorn
And cows them with his glory and his wrath,
For he has placed his king on Zion’s hill.
He said—his word is law—“You are my son,
From this day I’m your father; ask of me,
And I will gladly give you anything:
The nations? So you shall inherit them;
The world’s remotest lands? They shall be yours.
And you shall rule them with an iron scepter,
Crushing every foe like brittle clay.”
So therefore, kings, conspiring rulers, heed:
Be wise, not foolish, and in reverent fear
Obey the Lord, and serve him; though you quake,
Rejoice in him and love his righteous ways.
And stoop to do your homage to the Son,
To kiss his feet, lest his fierce anger flare
And so consume you in his kindled wrath.
But blest are they who find their home in him!

This versification of the second psalm continues the series I began a few months ago with my setting of the first psalm. But while that poem came easily to me, this one proved much more difficult, and I’m still not entirely satisfied with it.

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 yesterday’s archive installment, 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.

Advent: A Season for Penitence

Last week I wrote about what should be our first concern for Advent, understanding how desperate our situation is without Christ. That understanding is crucial for truly meaningful joy and celebration at Christmas—but the Christmas season has not yet arrived, and the more we think about it the more we should become aware of how small we are compared to God, and how pitifully we fall short when measured against his righteous standard for us. In short, as the season celebrating God’s “advent” (his “coming”) waxes on, and the season celebrating his incarnation approaches, we should become increasingly mindful of how unfit we are for his visit, just as (or, rather, just-as-only-more-so-than) we would for the (announced or unannounced) visit of some Very Important Person to our cluttered, neglected hovel.

Now, as I tried to point out last week, in and of our own power we are utterly incapable of improving this situation, so our preparations are at best along the same lines as (as Lewis put it) asking our father to lend us sixpence to buy him a Christmas present. But that does not excuse us from making the attempt, and the same word from which we learn of our dismal situation also assures us that the power which raised Christ from the dead is at work within us, to accomplish what we cannot, so that when we stand before his judgment we shall be ready. Continue reading “Advent: A Season for Penitence”

Coming down from a “spiritual high”: A Scriptural investigation

When I was in high school, every so often (usually after a retreat, a conference, or some such event) in Sunday School we would have a lesson on “coming down from a spiritual high.” The text, if it was connected to the topic at all, was (if memory serves) usually something from one of the letters to the seven churches in Revelation or an exhortation to perseverance in general, and the lessons were more grounded in practical experience than in finding what the Bible said about the topic.

Recently, I had a thought: While the Bible says little if anything explicitly about this precise topic, there are a few examples of people coming down from “mountaintop experiences,” and we can look at those to at least tentatively extract some spiritual principles. I’ve come up with four such examples, and I’ll talk about them in chronological order. Continue reading “Coming down from a “spiritual high”: A Scriptural investigation”