Just So

This month is Pastor Appreciation Month. This was written a couple of years ago after I heard someone talk about leaders and how they liked them ‘just so’. The line caught my attention and rolled around in my head for a few days.
Oftentimes there is an attempt to position ourselves in terms of us and them: us pastors and them parishioners or us who appreciate pastors and them who don’t. But when it all boils down there is really only us and Him. And well, He’s really just so…

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 serve without putting on a show.
Not pretentious, 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-conceived 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 cursing, take all the blame?
We like our leaders just.

So, you’ll have to do better;
You’ll have to 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.

The Whole Earth

This is a spoken-word piece meditating on the cry of the seraphim in Isaiah 6 who cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy! The whole earth is full of his glory.”

The whole earth is full of his glory;
Every person, every place, was
Made for the story of the fullness of His grace,
To shine in holiness, shine on every face
Among all peoples, every tribe, every race—
The whole earth is full, the Whole.

It’s full. Do you hear? Full.
Don’t fill yourself with the dull,
Dank counterfeit bull
Oh, quit! Don’t settle for it: the pleasure of praise
Which you’d like to score (and is nice)
But leaves you wanting more
Until you’ve poured out everything,
Left lying empty but consumed
Though the whole earth is Full.

And they said the whole earth:
The Earth,
Not just feelings or thoughts but the dirt
And dust of life, the struggle and strife,
The ordinary, everyday-ness, the lovely
The great, the worries you carry,
And the mess, the beauty and hurt
What seems important or of no worth,
It’s all for his glory, the whole Earth.

© Randall Edwards 2020.
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).

The Gold of Evening

There is a kind of poetry for fall which are often referred to as as autumnals. Here is one such. You may listen to me read the poem via the link below.

As the sun sets behind her further shore,
The Gold of Evening ricochets
Off the rippled surface of Lake Arzu
Her silver sparks pierce,
With desire’s cool arrows
Even as the golden warmth
Of light and water 
Warms and comforts
Evening’s whisper.

The beat of beauty breaks my heart
And longing wells up in tears with the grand
Greatness of this moment’s grace
Bright as gold.
Unseen by those whose heads are
Bent down with the busy,
Whose faces are washed
In the silver light of screens
Which carries them away
On threads of comment and envy,
The Beauty grows me

I sit in the slow and wait…
Watching the sunset shimmer on the lake.

When will the Beauty stay?
When will I not be driven away
By dusk
And the dark of ending day
But rise full and free into 
The Day upon day
Which breaks with joy and grace
Full of love and play?

O the grace of color,
Of reflecting water and sky
And the fullness which resonates 
For all I have received.

And you, my golden girl.
The Silver sparkles on the waves of your hair
In this evening’s light,
Whose smiling eyes,
Creased with time and care,
Whose spirit is as bright and light as the sky,
Who gives, who holds me here above the flood,
We sit suspended on this shore
Midst gleam and gold,
And watch and wait and listen
To Evening’s whisper.

© Randall Edwards 2020.

Saints Day

As Fall has come, and as we move to All Saints/All Souls Days, I have been thinking about church members and friends who have died. One such date came yesterday. My wife and I spruced up a flower bed in which a plaque had been placed and in whose honor a crepe myrtle was planted.

These friends and former members, I carry around in my heart. I think of them often and remember my experiences with them which include all those things which friends experience together and share. This sonnet is for them and for the hope we share when all is made right.

I bear within heart, mind, and soul
The memories of their mortality— 
Those beloved saints whose love pulls
Me into their immortality.

Their smiles and laughter I recall;
How facing some, I stood toe to toe
Or side by side in some bygone brawl
About something I owed or was owed.

Whatever the weight of regret
Or resentment about the past
With which I walk bruised, still limping, yet
I  believe love shall o’ercome, outlast.

Grateful for the love which as grief I bear,
Hopeful for the joy we shall one day share.

© Randall Edwards 2020.

The Incense

This sonnet is based on Isaiah 6:1-8, and is part of a new series on Isaiah titled, Full of His Glory.

I have always been brought up a bit short by the coal touching Isaiah’s lips and his subsequent eagerness to be sent. I can’t get over how painful I imagine it.

Much is made in my circles of the atonement made for Isaiah’s sin and the conviction that the coal must have come from the altar of sacrifice in the Temple’s courtyard. But Isaiah’s explicit mentioning of Uzziah at the beginning leads me to believe that the altar of incense inside the Sanctuary is what he has mind. Though I hold firmly to justification by faith, it seems that there is more going on than the battles of atonement theories.

In Isaiah more generally, but here too, the all too often malady of giving lip service to God while having a heart that is far from him seems to be more at hand. Even here, Isaiah’s preaching will fall on ears that cannot understand and be set before eyes which cannot perceive. Judah’s problem is in the heart. So this brings me back to Isaiah and his lips, and mine if I’m honest.

Burning coals and lips do not go together, but what if the image is not one of atonement but of sanctification. What if Isaiah is the incense who when ignited by God’s Spirit sends up the offering of prayer and praise –rising to heaven and suffusing everything around with the fragrant message of God’s word? What if Isaiah’s heart has been ignited in holiness and zeal and love? That he would rush forward and say, Send Me! Send Me! makes much more sense. So, here’s to Isaiah and hearts set aflame to make lips smoke with prayer and praise.

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

In the year that King Uzziah died I
Saw the Lord seated in His Temple high
Above where he speaks, makes the threshold shake
At the sound of his voice and glory’s weight.

And I shake too and break, for I am one
Who has seen the Holy. I am undone.
Unclean in heart my lips lie, lay claim
To the greedy loves of self, pride, and fame.

But from the altar where Uzziah sinned,
Comes heat and fire born on wings and wind.
I, the incense, the coal touches my lips,
Ignites his word, prayer smokes, calling grips
With grace. My heart aflame, he calls to me
To proclaim His favor, set captives free. 

© Randall Edwards 2020. 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).

artwork: Marc Chagall, Le prophète Isaïe, 1968–1968.