Grand Canyon

The hoarse, unworthy prayer
echoes in the empty canyons
cut by the persistent rivers.


Telescopes (Hir a Thoddaid)

Telescopes can use mirrors to see
by reflection of light, so dimly
shining, past the frail ability
of an unaided eye. But closely
mark: the eyes that peer through the lens do not
perceive themselves looking intently.


What is a Hir a Thoddaid?

November 2019 Poem-a-Day Challenge #20

The Publican Pharisee (Shakespearean Sonnet)

This poem is inspired by this post.

Lord, I thank You that You are not like me,
For I am full of greed and lust and hate;
But You, a fountain flowing with mercy,
A wealth of love for sinners in dire straits.
Every penitent You will welcome,
Even the publican beating his breast;
You need no tithes of spices and income,
On a thousand hills your cattle find rest.
You prefer mercy over vanity;
You find delight in helpless, humble faith.
I am not worthy to even be seen,
And yet to me––me!––You lift up Your face.
I take no comfort but in Your esteem,
In You I find love for eternity.


Astronomy (Saraband)

O Yahweh, Maker of all things,
You Yourself s     t       r        e         t          c         h        e       d out the heavens.
You are with cherubim-song ringed.

O Wave-Treader, O Star-Namer,
Commander of celestial hosts:
Who am I to have such favor
That You would deign to bring me close?

A Saraband is a musical dance form, originally Asian, that was introduced to Spain and later France and Italy.


Remedy and Replacement

If Psalm 95 had a soundtrack, the record skips and scratches or the car brakes slam between the middle and end of verse 7.

The first verses fit well within the surrounding psalms; the themes of singing, shouting, joy, and the greatness of God are all there. But beginning with the last line of verse 7, the song changes quick, fast, and in a hurry.

Continue reading “Remedy and Replacement”

The Pharisee’s Prayer, Revised

The Pharisee was standing and praying like this about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like other people  — greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’ “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner! ’ (Luke 18:11-13 CSB)

Jesus tells a parable in Matthew 20 about a landowner hiring workers to tend his vineyard. Some start in the morning, some work a half-day, and some work only a couple of hours or so. All the workers are paid the same day’s wage, regardless when they started. The full-day workers are indignant at this, and the landowner responds with a haunting question: “Are you jealous because I’m generous?” I am thankful for the times when I am struck by how much like the full-day workers I am (“let the righteous one strike me, it is an act of faithful love,” Psalm 141:5). The Holy Spirit shows me in these times how unlike Him I am, and I am always thankful. We sinners make terrible, terrifying gods; He alone is God and He alone is good.

The discomfort of being like some and unlike others reminded me of the tax collector’s prayer in Luke 18. There, Jesus contrasts the arrogant self-assuredness of the unjustified Pharisee with the humble, penitent contrition of the justified publican. What if the Pharisee prayed righteously, as Jesus would have him? What would that sound like?

The Pharisee closed the door in his house and fell on his face, praying like this:

“God, I thank You that You’re not like me––greedy, unrighteous, lustful, and especially not hateful and arrogant like the deep, crimson stains of my hypocritical heart. I thank You that You give grace to all––even to that tax collector over there.

“You don’t need my fasts or tithes; You own the cattle on the thousand hills, so I can’t pretend to give something to You as though You would owe me. You desire mercy, not the empty, heartless ritual of man-pleasing religion.

“I couldn’t help but see the tears of that tax collector and overhear his prayer to You. I can’t think of a better way to come to You. I am such a sinner––much worse than anyone I know! I know I don’t deserve it, but please show me mercy!”