Sanballat and Tobiah?

Sanballat and Tobiah?

This (I can hardly call it a poem) is based on Nehemiah 4 in which Nehemiah and the work of rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall is opposed by Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite. It may be a spoken word hit piece. The question always comes back, who’s the one hit or who gets taken down?

Sanballat, you stinky polecat,
You heavy-handed, fat-headed rat
You poser, you loser, you boozer ding-bat.
Tally these up on your clay ledger mat
Suck on them eggs you viperous diplomat
And stash them in your skanky velvet hat
You blithering boob of a bureaucrat!
Whatcha think about that, Sanballat?

Tobiah the Ammonite, you parasite;
You feast on misfortune, you buggy blight
On humanity, doing good only for spite;
You imagine other’s success as a slight
As if it all were about you, amiright?
You are as alive as a barrow-wight
What you love are the deeds which you do at night
Which you always do when you get lit, get tight.
But one day you’ll be drug out into the light,
And you will fall, fall, so far from your great height.
I’ll say it again, Bruh, if you like,
Tobiah the Ammonite.

Thank you God, that I am not like them
Who use people, do with them all they can,
Evil-Doers, not just every now and then.
But Me? I have given a tenth of every yen
I’ve made, given time and time again;
Oh how I thank you that I am not like those men.

Lord, How many times must I forgive a debt?
He answered with parable, with a gospel net,
Caught me in a trap, and that trap upset
My truce between resentment and regret,
My long record of all I was owed, kept–
A list from A to Z, an alphabet
Of wounds which chained me so I’d never forget,
To which I’m still chained, and still not free yet.

Who will rescue me from where I am at?
From being a Tobiah, Sanballat?
Would He give what I deserve? Give tit for tat?
Pay me out, squash me like some pesky gnat?
Or would He in love, take the blow, be spat
Upon, scorned, become sin, be a doormat
Become for me, Tobiah and Sanballat?

© 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: James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). The Pharisee and the Publican (Le pharisien et le publicain), 1886-1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper. Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.178 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.178_PS2.jpg)

Start Again

Start Again

This sonnet is based on Nehemiah 3 where Nehemiah recounts the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem. Repair work is difficult because of the “re-” part. Having to tend again to something that was previously finished exposes the grief of the impermanence of this world. When however, we are sober, we identify the reality and hidden hopefulness in T. S. Elliot’s words from “The Four Quartets”,

“What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from….”

The ending necessary so that something new may start, is the most difficult step. Thankfully it is not the whole journey. Rather the new begins with a step, with picking up one thing, and putting it in its place.

How does one begin when the worst befalls?
And how does one know even where to start
When violence tears down destroys your walls
Leaves vulnerable the tender heart?
And the mind is laid bare with questions, Why?
Regret comes each night, resentment with day,
Keeps you awake, leaves you looking at sky
For an answer, some direction, or way.

Forward rather, seems going round again
Repairing the old, fitting in the new,
Filling the breaches, and facing the pain,
Not delivered from the trial, but through.
So I start again, admit I need grace,
Hand o’er my life, set the first piece in place.

© 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: Gustave Doré [Public domain]

Time’s Fullness

Time’s Fullness

This sonnet is first in a new series from the book of Nehemiah. It finds its inspiration in both Nehemiah 1 and Galatians 4:4,5. I was particularly struck by the moment word of the destruction of Jerusalem’s walls and gates reached Nehemiah. He writes that he “sat down and wept” which echos the song of the exiles in Psalm 137. Time both seems to stand still and move. Nehemiah receives the news in the month of Chislev, but doesn’t approach the king until four months later in Nisan. How might time seemed to have passed as he waited and prayed? And once he determined to make his request, how quickly did it pass to conclude with an answer?

Time sometimes turns with a question which you
Toss to a friend as he passes through;
Your world comes apart with, “Didn’t you hear?”

To crash on your head, up to your ears.

To you, time had borne your hopes as a stream;
Now blocked it pools in troubling dreams,
O’erflows its banks, puddles, makes a dammed slough,
Leaves you stuck in the moment, mired in right now.

But faith takes time and patiently bears
The mind’s burdens, the heart’s worrisome cares
To the God of heaven whose will holds the key
That turns the door’s lock and brings delivery.

When time’s fullness at last fin’lly comes,
Delivery gives birth and makes us sons.

© 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: Mobilos [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

Dwell in Me

Dwell in Me

This sonnet is based on: Ephesians 1:3-14.

God: Father, Christ, and Spirit blessed be,
Whose embrace enfolds with the Trinity,
Who with every blessing blesses me.

Father, before I was, you loved me
Not because I was a saint or lovely,
But to make me holy, you chose me.

Jesus, beloved, you have redeemed me
By your blood, abundant grace — lavishly,
Paid my debt, brought me back, uniting me.

Holy Spirit, you make strong, live in me;
You satisfy, seal, are a guarantee,
And fill to the measure all of me.

God: Father, Christ, and Spirit, blessed be
The Three in One, One in Three, dwell 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.
Graphic: AnonMoos (initial SVG conversion of PostScript source by AnonMoos was done by Indolences) [Public domain]

The City’s Wood

The City’s Wood

I have always been taken with the image depicted in Revelation 22:1-2 of the Heavenly City. This past Sunday while as a part of a visit to Vancouver, BC, I gained an albeit small sense of what that city might be like. It was such a beautiful day, and I was already full of gratitude after visiting a lovely church here. The photo is University of British Columbia’s main mall and is similar to what I imagine except for the river.

I sit ‘neath the shade of the city’s wood
Which stands in rows along the river road
And breathe in the life and all the good
That has come to me, that He has bestowed.
And all is life! As a river, life flows
From the God throne down the eastern slope
To make the Dead Sea live where nothing grows
And flood my wild heart with love and hope.
In this place the Spirit blows full and free
The river roars Life! Life! Be satisfied!
The leaves of the wood fall in healing on me
And her fruit fills what was long denied.
And now I rest, I live in Him above;
I am his, He is mine, and all is love.

© 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.

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}