Love Is Not Strength

This poem is based on 1 Corinthians 13 and in honor and memory of a friend and friends.

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

Love is not strength
Though it is patient and kind.
Not that it doesn’t desire
Or burn hot as fire,
Yet it does not quit.
It takes a seat to the side, and there it will sit
Through time’s tides and troubles. It
Does what it can
And with you stands
Ready to help, paying no mind
To impatient demands.

Love does not shine.
It does not put me first or over other’s climb
Or grab with greed, yelling,
Mine. Mine. 
Mine!

Love cannot keep you from grief
But only makes sadness more certain
Only makes the inevitable hurting
Of goodbye sure.

Love cannot keep others from leaving.
It cannot make them stay.
Love is not enough
To keep any from going away.
It cannot keep.
But of those wrongs, the slights,
The thoughtless words said in jest, 
The deeds that were nothing near the best
One could be?
Love keeps no record of the wrong
Whether they happened today or time long
Since gone.

Love cannot heal. It cannot make anyone well.
If they are sick and dying,
It’s not like some spell
That can magically make them right.
Though if you love, love just may keep you awake
Night after night,
After night.

Love makes no demand.
It does not have to have its say
Which means that things may not go your way.
And so love oftentimes weeps
Or grieves what it may not keep.

Love takes no delight in the cruel
Or wicked things which others say or do,
But love rejoices in the true.
And when seeing the truth
Love bears all things,
And in so doing
Carries the weight of waiting
For the other to come ‘round
Or for the time when what was lost
Is at last found.

Love cannot keep, make, or do,
Yet it believes all things which means
He still believes in you.
Yes, love may be blind.
It cannot see the hope.
(Who hopes in what they can see?)
But with hope in faith
Love looks down the drive,
Expecting any moment to see you.
You, who were thought to be dead, alive
Walking up to the house.

Love is not strength
Though it endures all things:
Whether fearing the grave
Or the pain of death’s sting.
Love never fails,
Is on time, never late.
For it always hopes, always trusts,
And waits and waits
And waits…

© Randall Edwards 2021.
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).

Hard to Bear

A good friend shared this quote from Elisabeth Elliot’s devotional, A Lamp Unto My Feet.

“Someone who is suffering as a result of his own foolishness or failure may read these words. These griefs are hard indeed to bear, for we feel we might easily have avoided them. We have no one to blame but ourselves, and there isn’t much consolation there. Sometimes we imagine that we must bear this kind of trouble alone, but that is a mistake. The Lamb of God, slain for us, has borne all of our griefs and carried all of our sorrows, no matter what their origin. All grief and sorrow is the result of sin somewhere along the line, but Christ received them willingly. It is nothing but pride that keeps me from asking Him to help me to bear the troubles which are my own fault. ‘Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,’ take away mine.”

It has continued to be of encouragement to me and so as to work it in deeper, I’ve taken the quote and re-written it as a sonnet.

These griefs and sorrows are indeed hard to bear–
This bed of my trouble in which I must lie;
Had I simply avoided the obvious snare,
I’d be holding the pearls I’ve trampled in this sty.
The troubles I’ve made are mine and mine alone
To silently bear (suck it up) make no plea,
Any help of relief I must pay out on my own
I’ve no one to blame, pass the buck, just me.

Ev’ry grief and sorrow came somewhere from sin,
And Christ received them all and willingly bore
All our sins no matter what their origin
Only pride keeps you from going, to humbly implore,
“Lamb of God, who the sins of the world takes away
Take the troubles I’ve made; please, take my sins today.”

© Randy Edwards 2016
artwork: Unknown

The Narrow Door III: Levi’s Table

This the third in a series of sonnets reflecting on the Parable of the Narrow Door from Luke 13:22-30. In this sonnet, I am imagining the table at which the Master’s guests recline and the sorts of tables they’ve left behind to sit at that table. One such table is the table at which the disciple, Levi, collected taxes and from which Jesus called, “Follow me.” The account is in Luke 5:27-31 which reads,

After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.
29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

He stopped at my table and stood and stared
At me and the extorted wealth I’d taken;
But he discerned beneath how poor and scared
That my collector’s kingdom would fin’lly be shaken.
He called, “Follow me.” I arose and followed after,
Left my booth and scales dropped them all aside,
And welcomed to my home light and love and laughter;
But left out all other’s debts, left no seat for pride.
And reclining with this rabbi, at my table of the least
While my betters stood despising, scoffing from outside,
My Master in the presence of mine enemies set a feast
Of lordly leisure and promise: to be always at his side.
My mission now is to carry news, calling from east and west,
“Come to the table of the King, be found and filled and rest.”

(c)Randall Edwards

Easter Sunday: Be Thou My Light

This villanelle is inspired by the prayer, Need of Jesus, which is included in Banner of Truth’s collection of puritan prayers.

In particular I meditate upon Mary Magdalene who came to the tomb on Easter morning to anoint Jesus’ body. Dealing with the confusion of the empty tomb, she weeps not only for her grief for Jesus’ death, but the double wounding of not being able to honor him in preparing his body. Thinking she is talking with the garden’s gardener, Jesus speaks, calling her by name, “Mary!” and she sees that she has been speaking with Jesus — that realization must have been as bright as the dawn of creation.

I have recorded the poem via Soundcloud which you may listen to below.

I am blind, be Thou my light.
Speak, call me into New Creation’s Day,
And seeing Thee, I shall love aright.

My heart bedeviled with the night
Is faithless, wanders, loves to stray
I am blind, be Thou my light.

Rescue me; employ Thy might;
Leave no unclean spirits to remain
And seeing Thee, I shall love aright.

Raised upon Golgotha’s height,
God’s Lovingkindness, the world did slay;
I am blind, be Thou my light.

Now this morn, the end of night–
With spice to dress at dawn’s first ray,
And seeing Thee, I shall love aright.

My called name turns dark to sight;
Fear and sadness gives way to say,
“I was blind, Thou art my light!”
And seeing Thee, I love aright.

(C) Randy Edwards
artwork: Biblia Pauperum, Netherlands, N.; c. 1405. The Master of the Hours of Margaret of Cleves (Lisbon, Museum Calouste Gulbenkian, Ms. LA 148).

Holy Saturday: Five Wounds

On this Saturday of waiting, between Christ’s crucifixion and burial and his resurrection, we are taking time to reflect on the cross. In this sonnet we look at the hands and feet of Jesus in both his earthly ministry and the pierced hands, feet, and side which bear the marks of his crucifixion.

I have recorded the sonnet to Soundcloud which you may listen to below.

His nail-scarred palms hand me trial and blessing.
His gospel feet run my ordered days.
The thoracic flood my core-sin redressing.
The stain in my heart is bleached by his grace.
His hands beckon Peter to step on the tempest–
Waken Talitha who in death only sleeps.
They wipe his own eyes when his sorrow breaks heaviest
For his friend, Life and Resurrection weeps.
His feet bear him here through time’s threshold leaping–
Washed with tears and perfume, stride the sea.
These feet leap the cosmos a bride in seeking
And walk Calvary crossed to bring healing to me.
Sleeping in death, having opened his side
From the second Adam’s rib comes a pure, spotless bride.

artwork: wood engraving by Gustave Dore (1832-1883)