With All His Heart

With All His Heart

A friend of mine died three years ago today. From the very beginning, she had a life of struggle. Ultimately, that battle took its toll, and as is the case for all, she succumbed to that struggle. The elf queen, Galadriel, in Lord of the Rings speaks of “the long defeat”. Talking this way may sound morose, but it is comforting for me because this is how I experience the world. My friend struggled with the long defeat.

Many moving through this world don’t seem to know an end is coming. Fewer of our fellows seem to slow for funeral processions. Nevertheless, you can’t get around it. In my town they still slow, stop, and honor the departed and their family. But in many places, the procession is passed by drivers who are in a hurry to get somewhere else. They could do with the lesson they’d be afforded if they could recognize it. The lesson being, Where do you think you are headed so fast?

My friend was a writer and poet. She fought her battle with words and phrases, and she inspired me and the congregation of which she was a member. One of those poems, “With All My Heart” was put to music by our our congregation’s worship leader, Michael Kuehn. You may listen to the song via the player below.

Tonya’s last days were physically uncomfortable. She didn’t want visitors. Though for those of us who ventured into expressing our love for her by visiting, she did what is often the case of those for whom we are grieving, she comforted us. In my grief for her, I wrote this sonnet for her several days before she died. In her poem, she has a line in which she expresses her love for Jesus, (“…with all my heart”). I turned that line into an expression of Jesus’ love for her. His love for us is no less eager, zealous, pleading, or desiring. I make use of the story of Jairus’ daughter in Luke 8:40-56 to help imagine the love Jesus expressed for her.

See you soon, Tonya.

Arise now, stand strong and healed
Safely home, never to depart;
Welcome to the broad and spacious field
Of His expansive love filling all your heart.
Come now, made whole and see
With your own eyes the One —
The Poet who speaks thought into reality
Whose mercy shines as morning sun.

With all His heart, he welcomes you,
Whispers your name, speaks to your fear
Whose salvation searches, makes you new
As he gently wipes away every last tear.
And taking your hand, “Little one, awaken in my light
What was imagined in thy heart is now given in thy sight.”

© Randall Edwards 2016
Artwork: Gabriel Max. The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter , oil on canvas, 1878.

Goodness Reached Out

Goodness Reached Out

This sonnet is from my chapbook collection of poems inspired by the Gospels and is entitled Walking with Jesus. This sonnet is based on Mark 3:1-6 and Luke 6:6-11 when Jesus enters the synagogue and heals the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath.

I sat there each Sabbath in that same place
Pitied and lonely with my withered arm;
Friends couldn’t even look me in the face
For them a reason of subtle alarm
That Providence’s purpose and pleasure
Is not easily read or understood:
Why not all judged with the same measure?
Why the wicked thrive though doing no good?

But goodness reached out on this Sabbath day,
Freed me from power’s weighty, with’ring yoke
His question left them with nothing to say
He worked with a word. He healed when he spoke.
To what length will this rabbi stretch out to take,
The broken in arm whom the powerful forsake?

© Randy 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.

Had You Not Gone

Had You Not Gone

This sonnet is is for Ascension Day and is based upon Luke 24:50-53 and Acts 1:1-14 regarding Jesus’ ascension into heaven on the 40th day after Easter.

The question why Jesus ascended is a worthy question. It seems that so much could have be dealt with and handled if he had stayed. Aside from his saying that it was needful for him to go so that he might send us the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, it is important to see what his going means for us. Rather than grieving his departure, we may enjoy a deep consolation because of his Ascension. For though he is not physically present with us here, we are spiritually present with him there. Our life, as Paul says in Colossians 3, is “hid with Christ in God.” The author of Hebrews says that the reality of Jesus ascension is in fact, an anchor for the soul.

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

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.

© Randy 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.

What Love

What Love

This poem imagines a few texts from the scriptures. Primarily it is an imagining of the parable of the prodigal sons (younger and elder) from Luke 15:11-32, but I have also drawn from Ezekiel 16:6, Romans 8:32, and 1 John 3:1.

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

See what kind of love the Father has shown
Though orphaned in the world and left to die,
You adopt me as your child, make me your own.

You found me lifeless, cast off like a stone,
And gathered me close, having heard my cry;
See what kind of love the Father has shown.

Raised as Your child, nevermore alone,
I walk the wide world beneath Your blue sky
As your child, having made me your own.

But wanting as I would have, off I roam
To the wild wood, other loves to try
Just what kind of love has this Father shown?

From your presence into hiding I’ve flown
I could’ve stayed, hiding, serving up a lie,
Denying I’m your child, pretending I’m my own.

Broken and shoeless, shall I return home?
Shall I enter the joy? Or remain outside?
What love is left that the Father hasn’t shown?
Would He give His all, not even sparing His own?

© Randy 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: Rembrandt van Rijn, The Return of the Prodigal Son, c. 1661–1669. Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg

Woe to You

This sonnet is based upon Luke 11:37-12:3 where Jesus pronounces woes upon the Pharisees and lawyers. The passage reads,

While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. 38 The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.
42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. 44 Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”

45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” 46 And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. 47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. 48 So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. 52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”

53 As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, 54 lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.

12:1 In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

For both the Pharisees and the lawyers (scribes), the glory they seek or the power of counsel they offer only leads to one place: death. It will be the glory of unmarked graves for the Pharisees who love to sit in the seat of honor and be greeted in the marketplace, and it will be judgment and accountability for the oppression and bloodshed which the scribe’s counsel leads to and inspires. Neither the scrupulous avoidance of taboos, nor rigorous application of legal guidance will lead to liberty, purity, and life. One has come however, who will make clean, who will honor with love and bring light even into the darkness of death.

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

He invited the teacher to dinner
In a pious show of hospitality;
“But not washing?” He thought him a sinner;
“A dirty messiah? How could he be?”
When the scribes claimed he was being too hard,
He opened the door to their brutality–
Who rather than unlock, hindered and barred;
Instead of loosing the lock, losing the key.
The honor you lust, is as unmarked graves
Woe to you who wash in that devotion;
Shackled to self, you’ll sink ‘neath those waves
Swallowed by night in pride’s pitiless ocean.
But in the dirt of his death, becoming sin, He makes right
Washes free the tomb’s terror, and floods us in light.

© 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.
Artist: James Tissot, Malheur à vous, scribes et pharisiens (Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees), between 1886 and 1894, opaque watercolor.

Jericho Road

Jericho Road

This poem is based upon Luke 10:21-42 which includes the parable of the Good Samaritan and the account of Jesus in Martha and Mary’s house. It’s my belief that Jesus’ interaction with the lawyer (the context of Jesus telling the parable) and his visit with Martha both took place on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem and comprise two scenes for the same instruction. In the case of both the lawyer testing Jesus and Martha who is testy with Jesus, they have failed to see who stands before them and what He could offer them should they ask. The lawyer feels the desire to justify himself (“Who is my neighbor?”) and Martha is distracted with much serving (“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?”). The passages begin with this provocative invitation of Jesus speaking privately with his disciples, which we have the benefit of overhearing, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (Luke 10:23,24).

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

He had long sought these things to see,
But being blinded by self-justification,
The lawyer tried with an inquiry
To test the teacher’s sophistication–
A subtle attempt at trickery
By explanation.

She had long listened, labored in care
For a word of mercy for her sibling’s wants;
Though she served, worked, managed affairs,
Death’s specter yet threatens and haunts.
She thirsts for life to well-up somewhere–
A free flowing font.

Help arrived in time on the Jericho Road
To this lawyer and sister hung’ring in need
Whose own back is for their burdens bowed,
Who for distractions and excuses bleeds:
A Samaritan to carry the load
Whose own body feeds.

© Randy 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.

Artist: Diego Velázquez (1599–1660)  Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (Cristo en casa de Marta y María), c.1618, oil on canvas.

The Widow’s Best

The Widow’s Best

On the Tuesday of Holy Week, Jesus and his disciples return to the Temple where Jesus teaches and debates with the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus also witnesses a commendable act of faith and devotion.

This villanelle is based upon the story of the Widow’s Mite found in Luke 21:1-4 which reads,

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, 2 and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3 And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. 4 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

John Tissot’s painting of the same account choses to imagine the moment a bit differently than I. I imagine the moment of her offering being one that is ignored by all except Jesus. Tissot, however, imagines how the widow may have experienced her giving in this public place being watched by all. In his painting, Tissot, has one of the wealthy depositing his offering just as the woman walks away with her child. What is one to make of the position of the hand of the man making his offering behind the widow? It is an unusual intersection, my wife says and must be deliberate. What may Tissot be saying about one who is giving and this widow with her child who is walking away.

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

From her poverty she gave more than they
Who gave of their wealth, who gave from their best;
All she had to live on, she gave away.

Their offering was a giving display
Giving to show they had more than the rest;
From her poverty, she gave more than they.

For they fill their hearts with what other’s say
The real treasure buried ‘neath their vest;
All she had to live on, she gave away.

The crashing of shekels like a surf’s spray
Washes in praise as they empty their chest;
From her poverty, she gave more than they.

Round the Temple’s court, the Rabbi’s eyes stray
To one who gives from how much she’s been blessed;
All she had to live on she gave away.

He wonders at one who gives, freely lays
Down her living, no trouble or unrest;
From her poverty, she gave more than they
All she had to live on, she gave away.

© Randy 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, The Widow’s Mite (Le denier de la veuve), 1886-1894, Brooklyn Museum.