In The Bleak Midwinter

Of all of the Christmas songs that I’ve heard throughout my life, none have ascended to the heights that this one has in terms of my appreciation for its beauty and lyric. This year the grace of this song is more evident than ever before to me.

A Christmas Carol

Alternate Title: In The Bleak Midwinter;Words by Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894), 1872; appeared posthumously in The Poetical Works of Christina Georgina Rossetti, Poem #426,  1904. Source: “The English Hymnal,” p. 44, 1916;

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,
But only His mother1
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

Anchored In The Deep

Over the past few months I’ve been wearing holes in the soles of my figurative shoes from the endless pacing that my mind has been engaged in trying to figure out best how to interpret, understand, and responsibly handle the circumstances that my dad has found himself in after being diagnosed with two different kinds of cancer (one being a stage four malignant brain tumor) within the course a month or so. As I’ve told my dad and others numerous times, I cannot imagine somebody having worse luck (cancer being just the latest in a slew of frustrating and undeserved challenges he’s faced) and I can’t fathom any reason that he would deserve to have to deal with such issues. I just don’t understand, as well-meaning people tell me, how my dad’s suffering can benefit anyone in God’s grand scheme, least of all, himself. Then there are other people who see my dad’s circumstances as an opportunity to discredit the notion of a loving God to the point of comparing him to a mother who shakes her child awake in the middle of the night just so that she can show her love to her child by soothing him back to sleep. Well, get ready, because, here’s my big comeback…

Ok. I really don’t have one. From a logical human perspective, his argument is just as plausible as anything else I’ve got. But, then again, why should I try to place my own limitations (or his) on God? As a parent, I recognize that my kids don’t always understand why I don’t let them get away with certain things and they certainly let me know about it when they’re not happy with my decision. I also have to admit that I can be a real sucker for the crocodile tears that both of my kids are capable of producing in an instant. But, the fact is that if I don’t act as a responsible parent by helping them to make good decisions, sometimes allowing them to experience the negative consequences that come as a result of bad decisions, and, also, helping them to understand and deal with the fact that life isn’t always fair, I’m setting them up for failure in their own lives. Simply put, there are things that they simply can’t understand at the ages of three and seven that my wife and I do understand. Our judgments overrule theirs whether they like it or not and it is for their good whether they understand that or whether they don’t.

I just finished reading the Old Testament book of Job through for the first time in my life. I read parts of it as a teenager as part of a bible study and knew the general gist of it, but, this seemed like a good time to take it in as an adult and, in a nutshell, here’s what happened: Job was a tremendously wealthy guy with a prosperous family. Based on the precept of some kind of cosmic discussion between Satan and God (not sure how literal the book is) Job ends up being tested with the tragic loss of his family, his wealth, and the onset of health issues that make him absolutely miserable. Over the course of the forty-two chapters he questions God, complains about the notion that he doesn’t deserve all of the trouble he’s experiencing and he receives at first friendly support and then not-so-friendly advice from three other men who basically suggest that: 1-He does deserve it. 2-He has no right to question God. In the end, though, God responded and dismissed Job’s acquaintances’ advice as near-sighted and inaccurate. As for Job, God never really answered His questions, but, He did make one thing clear to Job and his acquaintances: men are not capable of knowing or understanding the purposes of God. Job rightly concluded, “…surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know,” (Job 42:3). God went on to bless the rest of Job’s life far greater than it had been prior to losing so much to begin with. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

I will not claim that I understand what is going on with regards to the trouble that my dad is experiencing and why he has to experience it (though I can say, with conviction, that watching him go through this and not being able to change it is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to experience).  Additionally, I know that my arguments for trusting God may not always win out in a logical debate (perhaps there are arguments that could be used to win in such a debate, but, the person debating would have to be someone much more intellectually qualified than myself like, say, C.S. Lewis, for example). But, I do know that my dad is suffering and I don’t know why this has happened to him. But, God sees and knows everything and my faith in Him is the only hope that I’ve got. If He’s allowed it to happen, it will serve the ultimate purpose of good as God is love (2 John 4:8). He will win over sin (also known as selfishness) and the damage that sin has caused over the course of human history. As for my dad and I, I will continue to pray for him daily. I will pray for his soul. I will pray for his peace of mind. And I will pray for his health, because, though his circumstances may seem intimidating to us, they are are not intimidating to God and He can use them in whatever way he sees as being necessary. Until then, I will do everything I can to stand by my dad and support him and I will maintain my faith in my Father in heaven, my Abba.

…being confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

1 Corinthians 13:12

Thanksgiving

Trusting God, I am thankful for his blessings and his grace. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says,

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Rest

Headache gray eroded away along with
The scent of the radiation burned fray
Synthetic rogue fibers that tripped you up
Dissolved into the past of a place where
Time only stands as a fading construct
Dreamt up by shepherds whose herds were scattered
Leaving them with just the hope on their backs
So they could still know that for which they yearned
Would be sufficient to provide pastures
Lush green and graced with peace unending

For you to be healthy, you must rest. Slow down, and God will heal you. He will bring rest to your mind, to your body, and most of all to your soul. He will lead you to green pastures. Green pastures were not the natural terrain of Judea. The hills around Bethlehem where David kept his flock were not lush and green. Even today they are white and parched. Any green pasture in Judea is the work of some shepherd. He has cleared the rough, rocky land. Stumps have been torn out, and brush has been burned. Irrigation. Cultivation. Such are the work of a shepherd. Hence, when David says, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures,” he is saying, “My shepherd makes me lie down in his finished work.” With his own pierced hands, Jesus created a pasture for the soul. He tore out the thorny underbrush of condemnation. He prided loose the huge boulders of sin. In their place he planted seeds of grace and dug ponds of mercy. And he invites us to rest there. Can you imagine the satisfaction in the heart of the shepherd when, with work completed, he sees his sheep rest in the tender grass? Can you imagine the satisfaction in the heart of God when we do the same? His pasture is his gift to us. This is not a pasture that you have made. Nor is it a pasture that you deserve. It is a gift from God.
Safe In The Shepherd’s Arms, Pp.29-30, by Max Lucado

November Boarding

Words buckle under the weight of this matter
Each letter since stretched to dissociation
From the next broken thought left circling after
The scent of a ghost memory next to me
Your stubborn soul in a broken bag of bones
Slipping from my grip at a deafening pace
Praying while I stumble alongside of you
For fertile soil bearing peace and aged grace