Joy

window ScotlandThough I want joy—unceasing,

I experience only moments of it

Much between is grit-my-teeth “showing up.”

None of it is horrible;

I can always make the comparison—

To parents of children with cancer

To those suffering persecution or

being abused

To orphans, single moms, trafficking victims,

Others who have lost loved ones…

The juxtaposition brings guilt,

Which coils in my gut,

A python heavy, growing heavier.

Ach, guilt is no answer.

Joy requires realization,

That though life is often cruel because of heartbreak,

It more often is simply hard because of paradox:

who we are is not who we want to be,

the grand beauty we dream of

is not actualized in the day–to-day—

and the movie screen is an insufficient substitute.

If we settle, give up the longing, and live half-lives,

No joy.

But when we plumb beyond the temporal shallows,

Shoving past the “too weak” desires

To the eternal depths beneath,

We discover Joy has a Name,

A Face, a Person—

Whom we are invited to Know.

Inspired in part by C.S. Lewis’ opening words in “The Weight of Glory”:

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (26)

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In the woods, walking slow–a sort-of poem

I always put disclaimers before I post my “poetry.” This is particularly true when I post one of my “poems” just after posting a piece by someone who really can write poetry. (If you haven’t read high school Tyler Jackson’s “Beloved,” please follow the link and do so.)

I am working on (or at least processing) several blog posts right now, a couple of which will be in the confessional living series, but as none of them is fully formed, I am instead sharing my creative-ish ramblings on walking in the woods, which I love to do no matter what the season, what the weather.

In the Woods, Walking Slow

Birds sound out—I imagine they are sharing the news,

The weather forecast, the society page.

One last note, and there is unusual silence,

Deep, weighty.

Perhaps even ominous.

I stop, too—the better to sense the wolf of Grimm’s dark tale—

scan the trees, then laugh at myself.

Another birdcall, and my eyes follow the sound, sliding up dark trunks

To trace the branches black against the darkening sky.

Dusk is here.

I step further,

seeing less, listening more,

hearing the Spirit’s whisper:

“I am here.”

The Holy hangs in the air around me,

In the Joy of the birds, the Mystery of the imagination, the Beauty of the branch-laced sky

God IS—Big and Real.

In the woods

I practice stillness

And know.

Odds and Ends: a recording, a verse, a suggestion

A RECORDING: If you didn’t read the last post, a poem by Wheaton Academy student Tyler Jackson, please scroll down below this post to see it (or follow the link above). The more I read her poem, the more I am influenced by it, so I made a recording of it in case any of you would rather hear it (poetry so often has a different effect when it’s listened to) or listen as you read along. Here’s the recording:

A VERSE: In my latest post in the Confessional Living series, it was implied but not actually stated that the Holy Spirit most often uses the very Word of God to make us aware of our hidden (or not so hidden) sins. Hebrews 4:12 is a oft-quoted verse about the power of Scripture. I’m putting it here in the New Living translation because it makes the verse new and fresh even to those who have quoted it since they were children. I am also including verses 13-16 because the Gospel, hallelujah, goes beyond our sin to the Savior who rescued us through His own sacrifice.

Hebrews 4:12-16 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. 14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

*Here is Hebrews 4:12-16 in several different versions/paraphrases.

A SUGGESTION: Are you wanting to read Scripture more and allow God to use it to change you? Bible Gateway has recently added a section to its website titled “Scripture Engagement.” Here’s the first paragraph on that page: “This section of Bible Gateway, created in partnership with the Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement, outlines a set of practical exercises and activities you can undertake to interact more meaningfully with the Bible.” I would encourage you to check it out by following the link above.

Guest Writer: Tyler Jackson’s poem “Beloved”

Beloved
I don’t want a fairy tale that’s sweet on the mind, but fades when the book closes
I don’t need curled up pages, binded by hardback covers on wooden shelves
I want petals penned in stone
literature so smooth it’s like a lullaby
Scripture so strong it sets fire to hearts closed up by the world
I want words written on flames that dance through fields of roses
I want graphite to flow through pages like an evening spring
I want poetry to hit so hard it leaves scars on the very parts of your soul you’ve locked away
I don’t need illusions and alliterations to unlock the chains you bind to your feet
You’re a child of wrath, living within the glory of darkness
so unaware of the brightness
I want to show you a different world
where literature isn’t just princes and witches
I’ll show you pages that were written in the sky, bright like stars and timeless like the universe
God breathed they say
Sonnets of love and sacrifice
just stories they say
But I tell you, I don’t believe in fairytales
So give me a reason why we hold the rambles of man as greater than the words inspired by one greater than all
For He calls you Beloved, is that not more wonderful than all the praises of man?

Tyler, a very talented writer and photographer, is a junior at Wheaton Academy. She went with us to Scotland in January 2015. This poem was written as she reflected on her time in a country that has such a rich heritage of Christian faith but now has so few who believe in and follow Christ.

Sharing a site

I’ve been following “Leaf and Twig” for nearly a year now, and it just struck me that I’ve never passed it on as a suggestion. Each day Catherine Arcolio, the artist behind “Leaf and Twig,” posts an incredible nature photo and a short poem to go with it. I’ve found it a wonderful way to celebrate God’s beauty found in both creation and word. The link above takes you to the entire site, but the links below take you to a couple of my favorites from months past.

“Steeple”

“Seeing Through”

“Unexpected Blooms”