You Who Thirst

You Who Thirst

It was a dull Autumn day and Jill Pole was crying behind the gym.
She was crying because they had been bullying her….
C. S. Lewis, The Silver Chair

Jill Pole is one of my favorite characters in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. Introduced in The Silver Chair‘s first lines, a case could be made that she is the central figure of the book. Indeed, she changes the most of all the characters. Jill’s transformation manifests in a multifaceted way. Her hardness at the beginning is a cross, ill-tempered, sort of bravado which transforms into a meeker and yet a great-hearted willingness. As the story grows, she dissolves into tears less and by the end seems to have a broader range of emotional expression — emotional maturity, one might call it. She is a wonderful character.

Early in the book Jill meets Aslan. Here is a part of their interaction,

“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.
“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.
“Then drink,” said the Lion.
“May I—could I—would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill. The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.
The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
“Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.
“I make no promise,” said the Lion.
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer. “Do you eat girls?” she said.
“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.
“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.
The Silver Chair, Chapter Two

This sonnet is written in honor of her and more so in honor of those in my life who are dearer to me than Jill.

“Dear child, come to me from your crying place
Where you hide from giants (bullying brutes)—
You, whose confidence masks another face
Waxing white at the sound of their jackboots.

Dear daughter, you who thirsts but dares not drink,
The stream is yours; it’s water satisfies,
Yet your conditions, the safety you think
Keeps safe, finds water but leaves you to die.

Eve’s Daughter, draw near. Dare not to not dare.
Though I, The Lion, have devoured kings of old,
If you’ll lose for me, you’ll gain all that’s fair,
Keep all your silver and get all the gold.

Rightly fearing, making the first of me,
You’ll drink of joy, be filled with love, set free.”

© Randall Edwards 2019
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
Artwork: Illustration by Pauline Baynes from The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis. Published by HarperCollins.

Unless I See

Unless I See

Today is the feast day of St Thomas whose doubting has earned from some a moniker of skepticism. In my estimation, his honesty has comforted and encouraged, but even more so, Jesus’ compassion for Thomas leaves me full and so very grateful.

In John 20:25 we read, “So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

‘Unless I see the marks the nails left,
The scars of his hands, place my fingers in
Those iron wounds, place my hand in the cleft
Of his side where the spear went in?
I’ll not believe. I’ll not be taken in.
I was ready to lose my life in off’ring,
Gladly die with him, give everything.’

Thomas, I know you would’ve gladly given
Your life with me if you could. Nor do I
Doubt that you would’ve resisted, striven,
Remained true, not run away, nor in fear fly,
You’d have stayed by my side, lent a hand, died.
Embrace my death, but more, my life receive
Take my hands, touch my side, see, live, believe.

© Randall Edwards 2018.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.

Artwork: Béla Iványi-Grünwald [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. {PD-1923}

New Creation

New Creation

“Neither [this] nor [that] means anything; what counts is a new creation.”
Galatians 6:15

Where do I put all the broken things
Which once adorned my blessed life —
The furniture of life lived right?
Where do I put these things?

Where do I put the world gone mad —
Murder, cancer, inflammatory disease,
What happened to the peace, the fun and ease?
In this broken world gone mad?

Where can I take this ruined riddled wreck —
The brittle bones, heart hard beyond repair,
The innocence fouled, the filth that was fair?
Who’ll take this riddled wreck?

It’s from this — the broken, mad, wrecked, sea
The Spirit works new creation in me.

© Randall Edwards 2019.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
Artwork: El Greco [Public domain]. St John Opening the Fifth Seal

To Grasp

To Grasp

This sonnet is based on Ephesians 3:14-19.

It seems to me that there are two kinds of grasping. There is the taking in hand of something so that one may posses it, control it, and own it, and there is the taking in hand of being taken in hand. It seems to me that Paul is speaking of the later.

Our comprehending the love of God is not something over which we get mastery but instead it is something which gets mastery over us. Love can become controlling and possessive — even if it is our love for another. The love of Christ is not of that sort. The “master-slave” sort of love is more akin to ‘dominatrix-submissive’  love (which has its reflection in Baal worship). Rather, Jesus’ love is the love that kneels down, takes the lowest place, and washes the feet of those he loves.

There is a grasping which is not stealing,
Nor taking what’s another’s for one’s own
But it is a child’s clasp — a hand sealing
Taken and given against the unknown.

There is a moment of comprehending
That avoids the pressing need to explain
And rather than being condescending
Knowledge is full yet the questions remain.

As one upon a canyon’s edge stands
After hours of climbing the narrow trail
Taking in the scope of sky, broad’ning land
You see your world’s concerns against the scale.
And your thoughts which cannot grasp, though you try
Take the hand of Love who dwells above sky.

© Randall Edwards 2019.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
artwork: Gabriel Max. The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter , oil on canvas, 1878.

Your Love’s Breadth

Your Love’s Breadth

This sonnet draws its inspiration from Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians in Ephesians 3:14-21.

What strikes me about the passage is that Paul invites the Ephesians to do what they cannot in fact, do. He prays that they “may have strength to comprehend” the size of God’s love when we know that though we may apprehend God’s love, we could never fully get our minds around it. Secondly, he prays that they might know the “love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” How can one know what is beyond knowing? Of course, this is the point.

Paul is not praying for their capability to quantify God’s love, he is inviting them to marvel in the massive, unknowable, cosmic, stunning, out of this world size of God’s love. He is inviting them to imagine it. In making use of their imagination, the Ephesians will begin to apprehend in fresh ways and greater insight. And here, in a fresh experience with something of which we thought we already knew the answer, we step out of the dingy familiar and onto the barefoot, holy ground. This is where we worship with Paul, and we bow our knees and give God glory.

I bow my knees before the Father of
All, in whom we all live and to whom we
All return to stand uncovered, stripped of
All our self-stuff, stark as a winter tree.
Naked at first, in Eden unashamed,
But we deceived ourselves with lying arts,
Running, we hid behind the good He made,
And in stealing His gifts, greed grabbed our hearts.

But Your love’s breadth reached, stretched out on a cross
Climbed to the height, hanged naked on the tree,
Descended in death, entombed, paid the cost,
Went to any length to bring us mercy.
I praise You who has abundantly done
More than we can ask, think, or imagine.

© Randall Edwards 2019.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (www.backwardmutters.com). Thanks.

Artwork: artwork: Maximilien Luce [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Maximilien Luce  (1858–1941), Le bon samaritain, oil on canvas, signed ‘Luce’ (lower right); signed again and dated ‘Luce 1896’ (on the stretcher)

Falling Fire

Falling Fire

This sonnet is based on Acts 2:1-13 and the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost which the church will celebrate this coming Sunday. Pentecost seems to be an under-realized holy day in the church. One it seems, cannot trust to rely on anyone relegated to “spirit” status. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit is the gift which the Father gives without begrudging (Luke 11:13). Shouldn’t we ask for the river of the water of life to well up in us to spilling over? Sounds messy, I guess. But better that kind of mess than the powerless wasting and vacuum of self-concern, eh?

Happy Pentecost! Come Holy Spirit, come!

Suddenly, like a mighty, rushing wind,
Love fell upon us as fire and flame,
Winding and binding, empowering to send
Us to the nations proclaiming his Name.
The exalted Name, above all others,
The only Name by which one may be saved
Whose salvation unites, makes enemies brothers
Whose dying gives life, frees the enslaved.

Light and Life, the crystal river flowing,
Effulgence, increase, pours out, spills over,
Enwraps, enfolds, breath of life, breeze blowing,
Love welling up, beloved and lover.
Falling fire in tongues, Babel’s blather breaks
With word of the Word whose voice Kadesh shakes.

© Randall Edwards 2017.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.

Artwork: Jean Restout le jeune (1692–1768) Oil on canvas 1732.

Had You Not Gone

Had You Not Gone

Tomorrow is Ascension Thursday which marks the fortieth day after Easter Sunday and is the day we remember when Jesus led his disciples out to the Mount of Olives, and after giving last instructions, ascended up into heaven as Luke 24:50-53 and Acts 1:1-14 record.

The practical, encouraging, benefit of the ascension is oftentimes missed. The Heidelberg Catechsim explains the blessing in Question 49 which reads,

Q49. How does Christ’s ascension to heaven benefit us?
A. First, he pleads our cause in heaven in the presence of his Father. Second, we have our own flesh in heaven: a guarantee that Christ our head will take us, his members, to himself in heaven. Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth as a further guarantee. By the Spirit’s power we make the goal of our lives, not earthly things, but the things above where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.

The Ascension early on in my walk with Christ seemed a bit anticlimactic. Though it seemed to be an important day in the Scriptures and in the Gospels and Acts, I couldn’t really understand how it could be better. The Heidelberg Catechism answer helps me some. Over the years, the thought that my life is with Christ there even as he is with me here has grown to be of great value. Enjoy your Thursday. He holds you fast as an anchor beyond the veil.

Had you not gone away, ascended on high,
You would have remained and still be here;
The tale of your rising, none deny—
Proof forever, age to age, year to year.
Had you not gone our faith would now be sight,
And seeing, believing, for all could see;
You could heal, stop hate, give wisdom and light
So why ascend? Why go? Why leave us be?
I must go, and bear what’s finished to heav’n
Take your life with me, hide you in love
From whence I’ll rule, sit in royal session,
Pour out my Spirit of fire from above.
Secure as an anchor, I hold you fast
For you’re with me now, till I come at last.

© Randall Edwards 2017.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
artwork: James Tissot  (1836–1902), The Ascension; between 1886 and 1894; opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper.