Real Faith for a Real Life in a Real World.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Big Twelve

This is a collection of poems written for a church writing project. The subject matter is the 'The Big Twelve', the values that the life of the church is built upon. They are, of course, my expression of the values, and do not necessarily represent the 'official' stance of the church. Each title relates to one of the values.

Almighty God
From Everlasting
To Everlasting
Author of life
Source of all things
Still, small voice

Creator of all
Judge of all
Lover of all
Saviour of all
Lord of all
Over all

Gentle dove
Roaring flame
Whisper of truth
Indwelling power
Inspiring guide
Breath of God
Holy Spirit

Come, dwell with us
Or we are corpses
Without life,
Without hope;
Empty husks
Driven before the wind.

You are our life,
Our hope,
Our dreams,
Our meaning,
Our purpose,
Our all.

Lord, we are imperfect,
But that you know
And love us anyway.
We get things wrong,
But, wonder of wonders,
Still you love us.
When we’ve wandered afar,
Your love has always
Waited for us,

You’ve given us a family
Of which we’re unworthy –
No surprise there.
We know our lack,
When we take time to be honest.
In your family,
We find grace, give grace,
Have room to grow;
Brothers and sisters
Of each other
And of Christ.

Together, in your family,
We’re learning to love,
And that love covers sins.
We are life and breath
To each other.
Happy, hurt and hurting,
Together we’re learning
The value of family, your family,
Where Blood
Counts for more than
Being Right.

There is a Book of ageless wisdom
Whose pages show,
In shades of light and dark,
The lives of people of a by-gone day.
Their stories tell the timeless truth
That life is lived best
In contact with its Source.

Although the times have changed,
And modern men face challenges new,
The Truth holds true:
The Companion still guides us best
Life’s fullest potential to attain.

The priceless treasures of the Book
Still lead us right.
Illumined by God’s Fire,
The written word yet points us to
The Living Word, to Christ,
The Lord, the Source of Life,
The Way to God, absolute Truth.

Not just, ‘Good morning,’
Or, ‘How do you do?’
But, Honoured Guest,
In this, our special place,
There is a special place for you.
Here, there is peace and sanctuary;
A place to be your genuine self
Without prejudice or distinction.
Come, bask in the warmth of love,
Enjoy respect for who you are;
Your unique presence
Completes our company.
When you leave,
Go with our peace,
And plan to return.

If, among us, you find
Meaning and Purpose, then

Share with us in
Joy or sorrow,
Failure or success,
Victory or defeat.
Grow with us;
Become one with us
And find belonging
And acceptance.

For we are family, related by Blood
And always there is room at the Table
For another.

Unity & Diversity
My brother,
You are not like me,
Nor I like you;
Our viewpoints overlap,
Not coincide.
I do not have your gifts,
Nor you mine.
Your weaknesses are not mine
But, then, mine are unvisited on you.
Together, we are strong:
You lift me when I fall;
I stand and fight beside you.
We each know pain,
And so can understand.
We each know success,
And can cheer the other’s victory.
We need each other.
We have each other.
We are one,
Joined not at the hip but at the Cross.

Gathered & Dispersed
You are there,
I am here;
Our God is in both places.
You’re asleep,
I’m awake;
He still sees both our faces.
Together now,
Our union God embraces.

Life (I)
Life is for living:
That’s how God made it.
We are for life:
For, so He made us –
To dance,
To sing,
To feast,
To work,
To play,
To enjoy,
To worship from a full heart.

Dour religion is not in the plan;
Someone else makes that…

This wondrous world is
A place for us to be,
God’s gift to us –
A place made for us:
Its sights,
Its sounds,
Its smells,
Its tastes,
Its textures.
All of life
Offered to the Creator is true worship.

Life (II)
Choose life that lasts for ever,
Choose hope that will not fail.
Face the fallen realm with vigour
And laugh in the face of Death,
Whose sting is drawn,
Whose grip is greased.
Choose life that lasts for ever.

The world needs Jesus.
We have him,
Yet he is not ours to keep
But to share.

The world has lost its way.
We have a course,
And we are lights on it
To help others navigate.

The world needs hope.
We have the means
To show what can be,
If we’re bold enough to use it.

The world needs justice.
We can take our stand
With the down-trodden
And help them lift their heads.

The world needs mercy.
We can help
The damaged lives we meet
Make new beginnings.

The world needs a friend
To lean on, share with,
Turn to, grow with.
The world needs Jesus.

If we could convince men of wrong-doing,
and persuade genuine change of heart…
If we could reach the hearts of the lonely,
and satisfy them with fullness…
If we could bless the children,
and give them a future full of hope…
If we could touch the hopelessly sick,
and fully restore their health…
If we could shine light into darkness,
and make God known…
If we could steer our own lives,
and keep a true course…
If we could, then we would
have no need of the Holy Spirit.

We can’t.

He can.

A week has 187 hours.
For a third of them, I sleep;
For more than another third,
I travel and work, work and travel.
Then I eat and wash, and walk the dog…
How much time do you need?
Here it is, and thanks for yours.

I’m blessed with many talents.
Some of them are useful.
Some of them, well, less so – but fun!
I can do some things you can’t do,
And some I don’t need to do.
What do you need me to do for you?
Here’s my talent, and thanks for yours.

I have an income.
The government wants a cut – a big one…
I have to eat, have somewhere to live,
Pay the bills, run the car, fund a church.
And, yes, get things I don’t actually need…
What are you short of? Can I pay?
Here’s my money, and thanks for yours.

God has thousands of cattle
On thousands of hills;
Bucketsful of gold, and bathsful of silver,
Righteousness, holiness, purity, more,
And the biggest debt of all to pay…
How does He help? What does He say?
‘Here’s My life; and thanks for yours…’

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All church and no home makes Jack a dull boy.
All Jack and no Jill makes Jack a dull boy.

Jack is Jill’s, and Jill is Jack’s;
Joy in church, at home – relax;
Vocation kicks! Chill at the Flicks;
All this makes Jack a brilliant boy.

Body, Spirit, Soul are we.
God made us thus, so feed all three!
God gives you life and, with it, He
Gives all things richly to enjoy!

My best,
Your best,
All our bests –
For the Best

He is not ‘Good enough’,
His offering not ‘Near enough’,
His grace not ‘Make do and mend’,
His mercy not ‘As much as could be spared’,
His love not ‘The thought that counts’.

He is perfection,
His offering, complete,
His grace, unbounded,
His mercy, crossing a universe to be expressed,
His love, bleeding and dying on a cross.

The best we can do
With the best we have;
He deserves no less.
For we proclaim an unseen King
To a blind world that walks by sight,
And guess what it sees first…

My best,
Your best,
All our bests –
For the Best

Copyright © 2008 Desmond Hilary

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Value of Discipline

Last weekend was a difficult one, at least as far as my dog and I are concerned. Last weekend I had to administer discipline, and it was not easy. What it taught me, in a limited measure, is how God must feel when he has to discipline me. It makes me feel sorry for the grief I have caused him in my time, never mind the grief I have caused others. I think of David’s statement in Psalm 51, ‘Against you, you only, have I sinned,’ and maybe for the first time understand what David meant.

We had family staying with us, and my dog decided to let my nephew know his position in the pack. He did so in a typically doggish way by snapping at the boy: no serious harm intended, just a warning. Naturally, we humans disagreed with Max’s point of view and he had to be disciplined – a measure amounting to immediate isolation for a while. Later that day, he decided to assert his ownership of a tennis ball when I approached him by snapping at me. Again, this was not an opinion I could share with him, and so, once again, he was dragged into isolation by the scruff of his neck. The outcome was his total lack of interest in the tennis ball, even when I later offered it to him.

The next day, he had another argument with my nephew. Realising that he had not learnt his lesson, I put him into isolation for the whole of the evening and, whenever I had to enter the same room in which he was incarcerated, totally ignored him. This time, the message got through. Max lay in his cage looking forlorn. At each of my appearances, there was the most pathetic of appeasing flickers from the end of his tail, and an upward glance in my direction from beneath flattened ears; he was in the doghouse and he knew it. The punishment was compounded by my bringing my nephew into the room, both of us ignoring Max, and my making very clear the boy’s rank in the pack above Max.

Max had to be allowed out for essential relief before bed-time, but the whole process was conducted with curt orders and immediate compliance, and ended with a return to solitary confinement.

The following morning, Max seemed to be behaving himself. As far as he was concerned, this was another day, and the pack order had been changed for reasons he was unable to remember. He showed no interest in my nephew, who still wanted to stroke Max, and who had learnt to act important so as to reinforce his status in the pack.

The whole episode was a painful experience for dog and owners alike. The problem is, we love our dog and are fully aware of the extreme circumstances under which his unruly behaviour was being expressed. As a dog, he needs exercise, discipline and affection, in that order, to be a balanced, calm animal. Currently, he is recovering from major surgery on his hind leg and is not able to have all the exercise he needs. To his credit, he has needed very little in the way of discipline during this time of inaction but, perhaps to our discredit, and, because of our anthropomorphic tendencies towards our dog, he has had more than usual affection. Added to this, he found himself in the unusual circumstance of being surrounded with new house guests who had to be fitted into his world view. It is not entirely surprising that he had ideas above his station.

Nevertheless, as responsible dog owners, there is no way that we could tolerate his wrong assessment. We also love our nephew, and would be horrified to think that he came to any harm because of our dog, or even became afraid of dogs. Max wasn’t going to learn the easy way and so he had to learn the hard way. Even so, I wanted to let him out of solitary and tell him that everything was OK, and I found it very hard (but necessary) to hold my nerve and persist with the discipline.

I am reminded of passages in Isaiah where God expresses his anger at the sins of his people, and in the next breath his agony of love for the same offenders, his only desire being to show them mercy.

When we do wrong, we hurt not just the person we sin against, but the God who loves us. The pain he feels is not because he is just and holy but because he loves us and wants us to live in relationship with him. Scripture tells us of a God who is slow to anger but quick to be merciful, who bends over backwards to avert judgement, who sent prophet after prophet to his people with warnings when he could have justifiably dealt out wholesale justice without delay.

Well, I think Max has learnt something. He has certainly been more readily obedient since, and has enjoyed restored favours: he is certainly loved no less for his misdemeanours. I think I have learnt something too. God does not enjoy handing out discipline. He would far rather show mercy but discipline us he will, when we need it to bring correction of behaviour and to restore right relationship to him. I have realised that I cause God double grief by my offences, firstly by the offence itself, and secondly because he has to embark on a course of action that is not pleasurable for him. Furthermore, the purpose of discipline is not to mete out justice but to restore the balance and preserve the good, to make love available to us once more.

That makes me want to live right.