Listen

Listen

Some words which came while sitting in the garage before a fall rain.

You listen, and you know it means something,
But just what it means has not yet formed or
Settled; You’re tempted to think it’s nothing,
But you linger a moment at the door.

And there in that moment, midst the noise of
Your day, you stop on this threshold and knock;
The door swings wide, opens broad, high, above,
Where glory descends, and wonder unlocks.

I pause outside, hear the mockingbird call,
The squirrels scowl-screech, the chirping chickadee–
This monochrome cherub who flits midst fall
Colors while a thrush thrashes ochre leaves.

And the fall breeze blows in refrain
Sings the turn in weather, the coming of rain.

© Randall Edwards 2019.
Photo by C. Edwards.

Success

Success

Sometimes poems come quickly, and you don’t know from where or sometimes fully comprehend what they even meaning. (This sounds like a disclaimer). All the same, here it is.

It must be that people are called to succeed
By the way that they pull up and leave,
Run from sadness, do anything but grieve
Rather than stay, hold forth hope, love, believe.
We must be called to succeed.

For if people aren’t called to success
How on earth could they live their best
Life now? Excel? Rise above the rest?
How be envied in how they’ve been blessed?
The happy are called to success.

By the measure of most, the Son was outside
The blessings promised. No doubt someone lied—
That if you’re faithful, if you love your bride,
It ends happy. But him? He died.

© Randall Edwards 2019.
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: “Love” abstract weaving by © Jennifer Edwards 2017, (jenniferedwards.com) Photo by Hazel Kuehn. Used with permission.

Mere Mortals

Mere Mortals

In his sermon, “The Weight of Glory,” C.S. Lewis has this to say about those people with whom we come into contact and who are themselves immortals. He writes, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal….Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”

It is the span between humanity’s dignity and depravity which so shocks and devastates us. To know that each individual may be both gloriously godlike and yet an insufferable tyrant? And to know that the flip between each may occur in such proximity and with such an ease? Ugh.

Yet the grand hope of the gospel, the resurrection, and the new creation means that what we count awful, shall grow in us so that we will be full of awe for the glorious weight that shall be, and is even now, ours.

This earth in which you’re wrapped is as a tomb,
Holds only the frame, the bones of one’s fame
But hides also a secret place, a womb,
Where in darkness life may spark into flame.

Dear brother and sister, in you Christ dwells
By faith. You are filled with resurrection;
United to Him, your soul, limbs, and cells
Are filled with Him who is love, perfection.

On the surface, each saint’s quiescent
Life seems unchanged, but beneath, glory swells
And bubbles with New, the effervescent
Which cannot hold, shall not be kept in shells.

These ord’nary, mere mortals you walk past
Shall shatter this world when raised at last.

© 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.
Original photo by Randall Edwards. The Beasley Family cemetery in Francisco, NC.

Why All This Waste?

Why All This Waste?

I spent some time these past few days at DITA10 (Duke Initiatives in Theology & the Arts) which was an excellent conference. One of the sessions attempted to tackle the question of whether, in this age of scarcity and need, there was just cause to spend so much time, energy, and of course money on art (as the value of anything in this age of the world is reduced to dollars). The question at the conference itself arose from Matthew’s gospel and the account of Jesus’ anointing in Matthew 26:6-10 which reads,

Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, ‘Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.’
But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me.'”

The question to which art is always having to give an account is, “Why this waste?”

In another session later in the day however, conference speaker, Malcolm Guite, answered the question quite succinctly when he noted that Matthew 26 is the first and only time the gospels that Jesus says something is “beautiful”.

Well, that settled it for me.

In between the time that the question was posed and Guite’s answer came, a friend and I were stopped short by seeing a hummingbird flit and hover around a lobelia near us. This moment set us up for the answer to come later. As we observed, having already been asked the question, Why this waste? I was asking, of what possible utility or value is a hummingbird? Well, it was a beautiful thing. It turns out it answered quite clearly.

Why should we make room for more beauty?
Why this waste when we have the duty
To be responsible, care for the poor?
Why all this waste when we could do more?

Why all this room in the cosmos above
If space is empty, if it only consists of
Us? Are we the only ones? Nothing more?
Why all this waste? What on earth is space for?

A hummingbird on a tree’s branch sways
In the wind, takes flight, flies up and away
And down, stops to kiss the lobelia blooms;
And Beauty stops me, in my heart makes room.

God wastes not a moment, but to me calls:
For love of you, I have gladly spent all.

© Randall Edwards 2019.
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: original linoleum block print by © Randall Edwards 2019.

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.

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