Note to My Readers: from mid-June to mid-August (6/18 - 8/20), I will be taking a summer break from posting new articles for my Thursday and Friday slots. This will only affect my Thursday series on the global growth of Christianity, and my Friday series, the "Theological Bestiary" of birds, both of which will resume in late August. During the summer, I'll be dusting off some of my best essays from the first few years of this blog (a decade ago), as well as my verse play "Thus Ends the World," and re-posting them in the Thursday and Friday slots. All other weekdays will continue to feature new material throughout the summer.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

As Wild as the Woods

Let me be still,

And listen to You.

I hear You best in silence,

In the wonder of this place.

Christ, be real to me here

When I find You nowhere else—

In the mountains,

White with snow;

In the howling, biting wind;

In these woods,

Frozen and lonely

And altogether quiet.

I am driven to the endless wild,

To this refuge from my home

And from the company of friends.

Their love is not enough for me;

I need the silence of God’s love.

And here I run—

To this quiet, desperate place,

Which enfolds me for a time,

But only for a time.

I would die here if I stayed too long,

And these trees that welcome me

With whispers of peace

Are neither tame nor safe

For this hard and broken man.

And so it is with You.

You overwhelm me with peace and power,

The gentle violence of Your grace.

I am not strong enough to drink it full;

I merely taste and tremble,

And walk away renewed.

I need this Presence,

Which would kill me if I stayed

And rested ‘neath its crushing weight.

It is too strong, too pure,

Too wild and untamed;

And I, weary with sin,

Would be shattered by its force.

And so I come here,

To be pounded into shape

In this soft and quiet crucible.

I love this place, this air, this peace;

And someday, before my life is spent,

I will learn to dwell within its shadow,

To walk its trails without fear,

And to rest in One who always is

As wild as the woods.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Meekness

Recently in my personal Bible study I've begun looking at the Sermon on the Mount. Here are some thoughts on Matt. 5:5 ("Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth") that I thought I'd share with you:

Meekness is an attribute so out of favor with the times that the word itself is becoming lost to us. In short, to be meek means to be gentle, humble, considerate, and unassuming. The meek do not go out seeking to call no attention to themselves; rather, they look first to the praise and betterment of their fellows. Meekness is humility in action--a gentleness and forthreaching consideration of others.
However, against the perceptions of our age, we must assert that meekness is not weakness. Meekness is a choice, a state of character and lifestyle fostered by exertions of the will, and thus it is not synonymous with a lack of self-confidence or poor self-esteem. Rather, the meek are God-confident, and choose to be meek based on a true understanding of themselves as human beings. No one is born meek; it must be cultivated. And it is no easy virtue. It runs against the grain of our natural pride. Anyone can explode in anger and violence in an irksome situation, but it takes a man who is truly his own master to respond with meekness. Rather than being weakness, meekness is a sign of incredible strength in one's will and character.
And then follows the paradox: they will inherit the earth. This is the topsy-turvy nature of the Kingdom of God, which takes the world's expectations and turns them on their head. The world expects the strong, the violent, and the self-assertive to gain control of the earth's power; while the meek, because they do not go about violently laying claim to personal rights, are trampled underfoot. But in God's kingdom, this will be reversed. Those who seek only to assert themselves will, in the end, be left with their greatest idol--themselves--and no more. But the meek will be the true heirs of the earth's power and wealth, and only they, by being meek, will be able to control it, and not be controlled by it. They will receive it as a gift from the Giver, who made them not to be self-important demigods, but men and women living in loving community. And in that loving, mutually submissive community, the meek have already gained the best and highest part of their full inheritance.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Poverty

The blessings of poverty I ask from Thee now…

A coarse robe.

A rope belt.

A mat of reeds.

Plain and honest fare.

The good company of my fellows.

Lady Poverty, romance me now:

Away from my comforts—

My clothes

My books

My bed

My food

My gadgets—

Away from myself and all that is mine…

Let it be yours instead.

If I am rich,

May I be rich in giving,

To spend myself for others.

If I am poor,

May I still be rich in giving,

To spend myself for others.

Give me charity enough

To give humbly and gladly

And humility enough

To gladly accept,

With thanksgiving,

The charity of friends.

May Christ and His Kingdom be

My security

My peace

My pleasure

My hope for years to come.

May I be rich enough to aid my neighbors

And poor enough to value nothing

That is not found in Christ.

These blessings of poverty I ask from Thee now—

To use Your money as you would have it used, O Lord,

And to be myself,

Apart from property or station,

As You would have me be.

Poor to the world

And rich to the Kingdom;

Poor to myself

And rich to my neighbors;

Poor to my will

And rich unto Christ.

All I have is from Your hand,

And all do I give back to Thee—

For grace,

For life,

For Your design,

For the fellowship of poverty.