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Young Again – A poem I wrote for my friend, Lore.

My friend Lore Ferguson Wilbert has written a beautiful and needed book entitled, Handle with Care.

Before the book made its way into the world, she asked a few friends to consider writing poems based on portions of Scripture for a collection given to those who pre-ordered her work.

I had the pleasure of spending time with Mark 10, and then writing the poem found below. Lore was kind enough to let us share them publicly after the book released earlier this year, so I thought I’d leave it here. She also asked each of us to record the work, which you can listen to me read the poem below here.

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. (Mark 10:13–16 ESV)

 

Young Again

How young were you
when another broke trust
you felt the fool
and learned to guard off hurt
through self-reliance?

How old did you grow
when invited again
to depend upon another
and guided by memory
you withheld love?

How alone did you feel
when discipled by man
you distrusted the Maker
and believed him no better
than those who failed you first?

How childish it sounds
since you’ve learned the world
could His love be altogether different
and better than you’ve known
at the hands of others?

Now become young again
not of age, but of heart
feel the Maker’s touch
and restore hope’s stolen youth
heeding his true invitation:

How welcome you are!
push past the hurried and harried
hear the Maker’s words
all is yours in the Son
Let the children come.

At some point you have to take responsibility for yourself.

 

 

 

This last weekend in our Residency Program, we discussed Who God Says You Are by Klyne Snodgrass. This is easily one of my favorite books from the last few years, as it deals with issues of identity from a distinctly Christian perspective, and with the reality that much of who you are is shaped by things you did not choose.

But there is a great deal you are able to choose that shapes who you become, and we are all becoming someone.

Below is a brief excerpt from the book, I recommend you grab a copy and dive in.

– MK

 

 

 


 

 

At some point you have to take responsibility for yourself.

You can blame your parents and your circumstances only so long; you are responsible  for who you are.

You deserve the chance to make an honest and critical analysis of yourself and choose with an honest executive self to be who you should be.

You deserve to be the real you.

Here is the really crucial point.

You do choose yourself, even though it is only in the context of the givens of your life.
Yes, there is the huge debate about your ability to choose, the limits to your ability to choose caused by sin, hardwiring, and other people’s sins and inabilities, but you still choose yourself.
You did not choose to be born, your family of origin, or where you were born.
You do choose if you will stay where you were born and how you will handle relations, even messy family relations.
You choose whether you will be honest with yourself about yourself and whether you are willing to be displeasing to yourself in order to become what you should be.
You choose whether you will be honest about and examine the society of which you are a part. You choose to accept or reject illusion.
You choose whether you will live an unexamined life. You choose whether you will take responsibility for your actions.
You choose how you will handle your urges and desires, especially your anger and your sexuality.
You choose whether you will give attention to and love God and God’s will or whether you will ignore God’s intent for your life and go your own way.
You choose how and where you will invest yourself and what interests you will pursue, whether your life will focus on really important issues and relations or on temporary pleasure.
You choose whether you will be self-centered.
You choose whether you will invest in your own learning and hold yourself accountable for learning.
You choose the people you allow to be models and mentors of your life.
You choose whether you will have good will toward people, even if they do not deserve it.
You choose how you will react to injustice.
You choose whether you will live from a sense of entitlement and privilege, so that you do not function from any sense of justice and fairness.
You choose whether you will blame other people for your failures and all that is wrong in life.
You choose how you treat people.
You choose what kinds of attitudes characterize your life.
You choose how you will steward your body and to what kinds of abuses and dangers you expose it.
You choose the communities-or at least some of them-that you allow to tell you who you are and that will be formative in shaping you.

Is God present in your choices? Of course, buy Madeleine Boucher makes a scary point: God assists people in the choices they make. God helps us choose life with him or lets us go our own way and even ignore him, Why God is so tolerant I do not know, but I do know choosing to ignore God is a dangerous path. Romans 1:24-28 makes the point three times that in response to humans turning from God, “God gave them over.” That is not a final giving over, as the rest of Romans makes clear. Despite human rebellion, God still seeks to live with us, nurture us, and participate with us. God still assists our choices to return to him, Even our choices are not ours alone.

Snodgrass, pp.224-6

Rabbit Trails 9.12.19 – a poem, the care of souls, & sabbath rest.

§ George Herbert – Aaron 


I work through a few Herbert poems each month, and am increasingly convinced the man was a literary genius. The structure, turns, and endings are layered in such powerful ways. Here is one that I have really enjoyed lately:

Aaron

Holiness on the head,
Light and perfections on the breast,
Harmonious bells below, raising the dead
To lead them unto life and rest:
Thus are true Aarons drest.
//
Profaneness in my head,
Defects and darkness in my breast,
A noise of passions ringing me for dead
Unto a place where is no rest:
Poor priest, thus am I drest.
//
Only another head
I have, another heart and breast,
Another music, making live, not dead,
Without whom I could have no rest:
In him I am well drest.
//
Christ is my only head,
My alone-only heart and breast,
My only music, striking me ev’n dead,
That to the old man I may rest,
And be in him new-drest.
//
So, holy in my head,
Perfect and light in my dear breast,
My doctrine tun’d by Christ (who is not dead,
But lives in me while I do rest),
Come people; Aaron’s drest.

Re-read it. Look at the structure of each stanza and how it repeats in the same topical pattern. Then, if you’re interested, here is an analysis.

Herbert is my favorite poet. I love this collection, and have been really enjoying Ryken’s commentary in this anthology of Christian devotional poetry.

§ Harold Senkbeil – Care of Souls

The first book we are reading in the Ministry Leadership track of the TVCI Residency this year is from Lexham Press, and is entitled The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart by Harold Senkbeil. Senkbeil is a lutheran pastor who, after 53 years in ministry, has written a beautiful work on the classical model of pastoring. I keep finding myself caught between stories of his childhood on a farm and pictures of him ministering in the most humane ways that shine with God’s mercy. It is an encouragement and call toward the normal work of pastoral ministry, and I keep getting the kind of gentle, patient, but firm sense of truth that I sense from men like Eugene Peterson and Zack Eswine. There is a settledness about Harold’s words that is comforting and calls toward something beautiful in the work for the pure sake of the work for the Savior, and not for success in secular terms.

Here are a few quotes:

“What you might consider mundane routine is the very heart of your calling: to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ and to administer his life-giving sacraments. Preaching, baptizing, communing may be ordinary and God-ordained—but they are never dull. Through these sacred acts, God gives his Holy Spirit, who works faith when and where it pleases him in those who hear the gospel. Week after week, day after day these seemingly ordinary tasks of a pastor are extraordinarily rich in their impact: sinners are forgiven, saints restored, lives enriched and hearts consoled—all by your mouth and hands! The Spirit’s work continues through you daily and richly in his holy church. This may be routine, but it’s never boring.” p.29

“People have been scrambling to find some way of carrying out what seems to be an impossible task: making disciples in a world that seems with every passing year less and less inclined to become disciples. All kinds of methods have been borrowed from business, advertising, and the social sciences in service of Christ’s commission. Yet the most important ingredient in that mission is often overlooked: the promised personal presence of Jesus by means of his word and sacrament.” p.15

“It amazes me that the medical profession depends on something that we pastors in recent generations have tended to dismiss: quiet, probing conversation accompanied by a great deal of attentive listening. In my experience, the listening itself provides an immensely therapeutic benefit. Most people in our time are frenetically occupied with so many things that they don’t take the time to sit down and unburden their hearts. And if ever they are inclined to do so, there’s no one to listen. So simply giving someone your undivided attention for sixty or so clock ticks, you’ve given then an immense gift.” p.68

§ Sabbath – Recent Sermon and Resources

Last weekend I preached on Sabbath from Psalm 95. As we are learning to practice this rhythm in our house with small children, I have included the sermon and several resources below for use.

“If you don’t come apart for a while, you will come apart after a while.” – Dallas Willard

§ tidbits: 

Lately I’ve been enjoying a song by The New Scottish Hymns Band, Give Me Some Truth. Here it is below:

Here’s to hoping the Texas weather cools off soon, it’s the time of year where I want to end the day around the fire pit with friends. Thanks for reading.

Holy Baptism – George Herbert

One of my favorite books is The Complete English Works of George Herbert. It’s a bit of a poetic anchor for me. Here’s one I enjoyed this week.

Holy Baptism (I)

As he that sees a dark and shady grove,
Stays not, but looks beyond it on the sky
So when I view my sins, mine eyes remove

More backward still, and to that water fly,
Which is above the heav’ns, whose spring and rent
Is in my dear Redeemer’s pierced side.

O blessed streams! either ye do prevent
And stop our sins from growing thick and wide,
Or else give tears to drown them, as they grow.

In you Redemption measures all my time,
And spreads the plaster equal to the crime:
You taught the book of life my name, that so,
Whatever future sins should me miscall,
Your first acquaintance might discredit all.

Shame on us.

Shame gets on us from the inside. Wielded like a sword by sin, it separates us from our own selves, from others, and from God.

As you head into another year, may this be a space for you to sit still enough to begin to hear where shame drives you apart – from yourself, from others, and from God.

These two songs have been ringing around in my head about the battle of this voice, and the struggle to hear true words in the middle of wishing I’d done, I’d been better.

Beloved in Christ, shame’s story isn’t the end for you.
May we hear the voice of the Father louder each day.
 

 

 

 

We are our memories. What story are they saying about you?

For the last five years, my wife and I became parents and began raising three children in my hometown. A simple drive to the grocery store was a (sometimes forced) opportunity to reopen a memory. Five years of opening drawers gave me new eyes for the past, with a little more compassion for myself and others. It was always the stoplights that got me thinking – history and the moment pulling to the line, idling and parting ways.

A few months ago, we left home. Now I am remembering different things.

Like the daily drive to the nursing home in grade school. Rooms filled with the fullness and lack of a lifetime, echoes of homes built with other hopes. The short, but routine visits – a firm smile, a fragile hug. The feel of waxen skin.

And the smell of hospice at All Saints mixed with the buttery popcorn in the lobby. The crowded family waiting room, another room pretending to be anywhere but there. The feel of holding warm bread in my lap on the drive to hospice, my mom delivering homemade food to bring a sense of normalcy in a world of confusion.

Or the back half of high school – those last two years where we packed and unpacked the ever-diminishing suitcases of my grandfather’s belongings into the half-dozen medicare homes before his death to pancreatic cancer. The call from that same hospice floor while my dad and I were out running errands. “Get here, quickly.”

Sitting with my 7th grade Sunday school teacher shortly before cancer took him. Corned beef and rye over lunch, and how his body leaned heavily upon the cane with each step back to the car.

The feeling of these rooms, the memories of presence and loss.

I’ve been sitting with these thoughts trying to figure out why I think it’s important to remember – to do the work of trying to actually interpret what we observe in life. My interpretation at 12 has impacted who I am at 35, and my lenses for life will progressively change with each decade.

God knows I am a bad interpreter of my own experience, and how fast I move to avoid remembering things that were confusing, brought pain, or I didn’t know what to do with. But who I am is undeniably affected by what I have experienced and how I interpret it. We are, to a great extent, our memories. They shape the story we believe about who we are and where we are going at the next stoplight.

Perhaps it’s time to revisit our observations, inviting Jesus into those moments of loss, of grief, of geography, community, and need.

I don’t want another moment of loss to be marked by a desire to escape discomfort – but to live aware of God’s presence in that moment, aware of his work beyond my interpretation.

Reality is too heavy to close the drawer on. It will sit until geography forces it open, one way or another.

Eugene Peterson, whose work has shaped me greatly, went into Joy yesterday. Last week I reread a poem by Hopkins that Peterson often quoted, which for the twelfth reading and the first time hit home:

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
Christ — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

 

Remember. Be present.

Recognize God is already present.

Look for how Christ plays in the memories and moments of your life.

Let them form you, and do what you came for.

Abide in My Love.

Last Sunday I preached my final sermon as one of the pastors at The Village Church Fort Worth. This Friday I begin a new role as the Director of the Training Program within The Village Church Institute.

We spent the time looking at John 15, and the love of God for those in Christ Jesus. I’ve spent the last 15+ months in this passage, praying and pleading in a season of pruning and pressing to abide. I was thankful to end five years with these people in this passage, looking at the love of Jesus.

I’ve been using the same language for us as a people, hopeful it would sink into our thoughts as a congregation:

God is who he says that he is, and what he says about you is true.

I caught myself in this season needing to nuance it for my own heart:

God is who he says that he is, and what he says about you – what he says about how he feels about you – is true.

Help us believe this, Lord.

Here’s the audio.

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