A Parent’s Target Number

A Parent’s Target Number

Yesterday was World Diabetes Day. My youngest’s Type One diagnosis eight years ago has brought so much change. The grueling management of the disease not withstanding, the T1D community and our friends and family have been of such immeasurable support and encouragement. Nevertheless, it is a looming gravitational force in our life around whose orbit from which (until there is a cure) we will never reach escape velocity.

As the parent of a #T1D child, life goals and accomplishments have been reduced in great measure to how the management of the disease is going that particular day. Life is easily reduced to the data being collected  and how the management of blood sugar is going. On the one hand, the collection of data can give a false sense of control. On the other hand, the ignoring of data is deadly. To all my friends who suffered with #T1D or have a #T1D child, I didn’t know until I knew. You are, as is my daughter, my heroes.

To watch a young child suffer the onset of the disease, deal with the diagnosis, and try to come to terms with it is painful. The above picture (or below in the player), is one example of how our daughter dealt with her disease. When she began to take ownership of her management, she began to insert her own insulin cannula (which she does every three days). She needed to practice, and she practiced on her favorite stuffed turtle who remains to this day, her nighttime companion…and who still wears the inset. She is one of the bravest people I know. She is my hero.

If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.

I can’t say that I feel I’ve accomplished
As much as I’d like, or even what you
And I might agree was what I’d promised;
The benchmarks changed, and I have to make due.

The matrix by which I measure success,
That which steals sleep, to which I give my best
Are not often the things others might guess:
A1C, glucose, and blood sugar tests,
(Type one never goes on vacation),
Hypo, DKA, dead in bead syndrome,
Burnout, confusion, inset location,
Basal rate, target, not too high or low.

I hit my number each morn with dawn’s light
When (thank God) again, she made it through night.

© Randall Edwards 2017
photo credit: Randy Edwards 2014

God’s Final Word

God’s Final Word

One of the safe things about salvation is that the final word has been spoken. Not only is Jesus the last word of God, but Jesus so fulfills the work of God that nothing more need or can be said. Here in Hebrews 1, we see that “he [Jesus] sat down”. A seated High Priest (rather than standing and interceding) is one whose work is finished. He has completed his ministry as High Priest for he made “purification for sins”.

When siting, Hebrews also notes that he “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” A King who is sitting as a King and Judge is sitting because he is “in session”. Being “in session” means that his sovereign rule has been effected. A King who is sitting is not mediating conflict, not fighting with his enemies, not subjecting rebellious subjects, but all that has been accomplished. A sitting king is a king at rest, and he is ready to rule.

The Gospel of John says something similar. John, records Jesus’ last words from the cross. In John 19:28 we read that Jesus cried out, “It is finished.” He has completed, once for all, the work of salvation — nothing more can or need be done. The Greek renders the sentence with one word: “tetelestai”.

This sonnet is based on Hebrews 1:1-4 which reads,

1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,
2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

You may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.

Speak to me three-person’d God, for you
In silence stand far off beyond knowing
Or my seeing the purpose of what’s true
In the senseless storms of blather’s blowing.
I beg for a sign, some word that you’re there
That you see the world of my sorrow and tears
That you’ll respond showing with love and care,
Marking the weight of my worries and fears.

In-folded here that we might see and know,
You were silent so that all could be said,
For our hunger, pierced, in death left below
To rise up in light, your life feed as bread.
In your silence, I’ve listened, seen and heard
The full and meet answer: God’s final word.

© Randall Edwards 2017
This sonnet 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.

Just So

Just So

This poem or spoken word piece had its start with a sentence I heard in a meeting I recently attended. I cannot recall the specific context or who spoke it, but the sentence captured my imagination, and I wrote it down. I believe the subject of the conversation was what we expect of our leaders: how we expect them to be superhuman, heroic, and yet accessible and personable. The breadth of qualities which are encompassed in all our expectations have only been found in one man, and maybe you heard what they did to him.

Here’s a swing at working those thoughts out.

If it’s helpful you may listen to me read the poem via the player below.

We like our leaders just so–
Not too brash, not too bold.
We like them humble, but not so much so.
We like our leaders just so.

We like them selfless
Who’ll serve without putting on some show.
Not pretentious, nor ostentatious,
Modest and humble,
Not too high but not too low.
That’s how we like our leaders.
Just so,
You know from the start
From the get go. We have no issue
With receiving, following, heeding,
We hope you got the memo.
And we like you too,
We thought you’d like to know,
We like our leaders.
Just so
We’re clear, and although
No one’s perfect, we’d like you
To be the closest to perfect
Of anyone we know—
Who’ll play their part
In our well-imagined dreams,
Lead us in fulfilling all our schemes,
Who is authentic down to their bones,
Who really is, not merely seems,
Someone we can trust more than anything,
We like our leaders.

We like our leaders just. So
You’ll need to measure up,
Exude perfection,
Reflect our fronting, our righteous reflection,
Our confident, prosperous, self-projection.
We like our leaders just.

So, why are you wearing that towel?
Why disrobed, down on your knee?
Why touch my feet, as a slave?
Why wash me?

Why don’t you speak, live up to the hype,
Do the deeds which brought you fame?
Are we to follow one so derided, disdained?
Defend yourself, why scorn the shame?
Why bear the cursings, take all the blame?
We like our leaders just.

So you’ll have to do better,
You’ll have rise higher,
You’ll have to break out
Of this lamb of God game,
You’ll need to make a better name
If we’re to follow you into your dominion
You may not like it, but that’s our opinion
There’s just no glory for a lion laid low
Because we like our leaders just so.

© 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: The image is from page 13 of Leonard Leslie Brooke’s, The Story of the Three Bears, (1900).

My Author

My Author

This is a poem which I’m reposting is for All Saints Day.

In it I am giving thanks for the poet-saints who have been my guides on my pilgrimage through this world. There are so many for whom I am grateful, but these especially have had an ongoing influence. Thank you Lord, for your people.

There are lines or allusions to each of the poets pictured. See if you can pick out where the references are. The poets are John Donne, George Herbert, Malcolm Guite,  John MiltonWilliam Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, Dante Alighieri, and Edmund Spenser.

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If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.

Midway through the journey of my life–
Lost, having wandered from the straight way–
In this world weary with sadness and strife,
You became my guide, mio maestro e autore.
Following your lead into verse, I stray
Browsing in rhythm midst meter and rhyme;
Imagination bodies forth bright as day,
And leads me up the encircling climb.
Dissevering, your backward mutters unwind,
Dispelling, each volta’s gospel paradox,
Singing, timelessness resounds into time,
Entering, as heaven in ordinary unlocks.
In your spell of song, this pilgrim finds habitation–
A concord midst the lyric lines, my reconciliation.

© Randy Edwards 2016

Bless God

Bless God

Psalm 134 is the last of the collection of songs in the Bible’s book of Psalms called the Songs of Ascent. These songs serve as a guide or a map of the life of faith, whose destination is the presence of God. The psalms were sung by pilgrims on their way to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem during the great annual festivals. In Psalm 134, the pilgrim at last, arrives at his or her destination. But in what shape, at what cost, and for what?

Psalm 134 reads,

Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,
who stand by night in the house of the Lord!
2 Lift up your hands to the holy place
and bless the Lord!
3 May the Lord bless you from Zion,
he who made heaven and earth!

The celebratory destination of faith is worship and that is also the purpose for coming. However, what if in coming so far, at such cost, enduring such difficulties, one does not arrive in strength but arrives in weakness — as one who barely makes it?

Eugene Peterson, in his book on the Songs of Ascent (A Long Obedience in the Same Direction) writes about the first words of Psalm 134 with the condition of the arrivals in mind. If the Songs of Ascent are a map, Peterson seems to place a hypothetical red arrow on the map and ask, what if YOU ARE HERE?

Peterson writes,

Read one way, the sentence is an invitation: “Come, bless GOD.” The great promise of being in Jerusalem is that all may join in the rich temple worship. You are welcome now to do it. Come and join in. Don’t be shy. Don’t hold back. Did you have a fight with your spouse on the way? That’s all right. You are here now. Bless God. Did you quarrel with your neighbor while making the trip? Forget it. You are here now. Bless God. Did you lose touch with your children while coming and aren’t sure just where they are now? Put that aside for the moment. They have their own pilgrimage to make. You are here. Bless God. Are you ashamed of the feelings you had while traveling? the grumbling you indulged in? the resentment you harbored? Well, it wasn’t bad enough to keep you from arriving, and now that you are here, bless God. Are you embarrassed at the number of times you quit and had to have someone pick you up and carry you along? No matter. You are here. Bless God.

Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

Peterson has the psalmist speaking to the many circumstances one may arrive to worship, and has the psalmist call them to worship (no matter where they’ve come from) with the refrain, “Bless God”. As I listened to the words earlier this week, I felt they bore a poetic-ligurgical quality. I have taken his words as they or modified them to fit into the form of a poem’s rhyme and rhythm.

If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the poem via the player below.

Did you fight with your spouse along the way?
That’s all right. You’re here now.
Bless God.

Did you quarrel with your neighbor while on the road?
Forget it. You are here now.
Bless God.

Lost touch with your children, haven’t seen them all day?
Take a moment; for these worries, pray,
But while you wait, arise, say,
“They are yours; you are mine;
I bless you, God.”

All those wasted miles pouting, are you ashamed–
The grumbling indulged? the resentment inflamed?
It wasn’t so bad that it kept you abroad,
And now that you are here,
Bless God.

Embarrassed by quitting, that you’re not counted tough?
How your burdens were carried by those who bore you up?
No matter. At long last, you are here;
That’s enough.
Bless God.

Join with the assembly, the joyful throng
Whether sinner, saint,
Afraid, faint, weak, or strong
We have arrived together,
You’re where you belong.
Welcome, take your place, and
Let us, bless God.

The thoughts and some of the words are most certainly, Eugene Peterson’s.
See: Eugene H.. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society (Kindle Locations 2394-2401). IVP Books. Kindle Edition.
artwork: Illustration of The Pilgrim’s Progress or Christian’s journey from the City of Destruction in this evil World to the Celestial City; Published July 1, 1813 by J. Pitts No 14 Great St Andrews Street Seven Dials.

What Fellowship?

What Fellowship?

I am continuing my current project of writing a series of poems based on the Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120-134). The Songs of Ascent are a collection of songs intended to guide the pilgrim in their upward ascent to God. They are traveling songs meant to encourage, challenge, and console the singer and listener. They are a map of the life of faith.

Psalm 133 is the second to last of the songs, and it sings the song of fellowship and community. If one recalls, the first of the Songs of Ascent (Psalm 120) is about the disappointment and disfunction of community, but now at the end we are rejoicing in it. The irony may feel more deep because this psalm is attributed to David. And though there was a point when the people of Israel were joyfully united under King David, much disappointment and tragedy would follow in the stories Uriah and Bathsheba, Amnon and Tamar, and David and his son, Absalom.

Psalm 133 is willfully ignorant of these events or wisely instructive about true community. It reads,

1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!
3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

Nothing here of disappointment, just the beauty and goodness and pleasantness of unity — which of course, is beautiful and good and lovely. It is precisely the failure to experience this sort of community which leads to such great disappointment.

A part of the psalm’s encouragement to us, is that just like everything else, if we are to arrive at our destination, we must have faith. We must believe that God is and can do what he has promised. He will make his people one. (Talk about needing faith). In addition, the psalmist reminds us that this sort of community is not the result of contrivance and manipulation, it is the fruit of God’s provision and blessing (comes down). The unity of love is a “bond of faith” and what binds us, is the atonement which God has made possible through his high priest. Just as our “at-one-ment” is made with God, it settles everything else between us and our fellows. It pours down from above and out upon others. In arriving into God’s presence, His promise is that we will arrive together.

As for this sonnet, I begin by imaging all the sorts of people God’s people are and all the names by which we tag others and ourselves. Only when our identity is identified with the one “who brings peace” are we freed from those other names so as to bear and share in his beloved name.

If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below:

Bless our hearts, people pleasers, control freaks,
Sloppy, extroverts, neatniks, jocks, and nerds,
Authentic hipsters, awkward introverts,
Are Your peculiar people, in other words.
The defiant and stubborn, the weepy,
Stoics, passionate, patient, short-tempered,
The fringe, those keeping it weird and creepy,
They make up Your flock, us odd, little birds.

Whether Peter, Paul, Apollos, or James,
We are members of one congregation;
No matter the labels, whatever the names,
We’re bound by the Name who is salvation,
Who pours out, by our new name addresses,
Drenches in love, makes holy, and blesses.

© Randall Edwards 2017
This sonnet 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: detail from an illustration of The Pilgrim’s Progress or Christian’s journey form the City of Destruction in this evil World to the Celestial City; Published July 1, 1813 by J. Pitts No 14 Great St Andrews Street Seven Dials.

The Seed

The Seed

Here is a sonnet about what happens when one reads poetry.

If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.

Like seed broadcast by a sower’s throw
Are the words which poets scatter around,
And those words, now dormant, will only grow
When received by ears which hear and resound
Their meaning, the wonder, through turn of phrase,
By rhyme and cadence, the incantation
Which breaks through as one freed from a maze
Into seeing through imagination.

I see your brow furrow. Till you look again
At these words which are flung across your way;
As you work your plot, try to comprehend
The worries which germinate through your day.
Stopped in this moment, amazed, you’re the ground
Who sprouts into smile by words which you’ve found.

© Randall Edwards 2017
artwork: James Tissot, The Sower, 1886 and 1894, Medium: opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Brooklyn Museum,