21 02 2010

Just wanted to share a poem by Frederick Ohler that spoke to me today:


Great and holy God
awe and reverence
fear and trembling
do not come easily to us
for we are not
Old Testament Jews
or Moses
or mystics
or sensitive enough.
Forgive us
for slouching into Your presence
with little expectation
and less awe
than we would eagerly give a visiting dignitary.
We need
neither Jehovah nor a buddy —
neither “the Great and Powerful Oz” nor “the man upstairs.”
Help us
to want what we need…
and may the altar of our hearts
tremble with delight
Your visitation

At our Ash Wednesday service last week, Ashley talked about the spiritual practice of confession. She made the point that we often we get into the habit of thinking that the Protestant Reformation did away with the necessity for confession. But that’s not the case! It only did away with the necessity for an intermediary (the priest). It still is an important part of Christian practice to recognize the ways in which we fall short, and then to confess them to God and/or other people.

And sometimes we think that when we pray the Lord’s Prayer — forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us — that we are making some sort of blanket statement to absolve ourselves from everything, all at once. It’s not that we need to be keeping tallies of our sins in our heads…but true confession requires us to search our souls and notice the specific ways in which we have missed the mark. Ohler’s poem employs a sort of linguistic precision that speaks directly into my own heart:

Forgive us for slouching into Your presence…

Let this be my prayer today…

Sky-jewelry and God’s Detergent

7 08 2009

BK01I have heard criticism of Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” Bible translation before, but I don’t think anyone in their right mind could ever question the poetry he creates within the Psalms.  I’m floored that he could take a passage as well-known as Psalm 8, and repaint it in colors dazzling enough to give pause to even the most seasoned of Bible-readers …  And that he could piece together phrases to describe the sky like “your macro-skies, dark and enormous,” or  “your handmade sky-jewelry.”

The verse itself is like an onomatopoeia (you know, the words that sound like their meaning? Pop! Hiss!  Whirr! etc.)  Except in this case, the poetic description of the vast universe has given me a heightened awareness of the “poetry” within God’s creation throughout the universe.

Is there anything more beautiful than God's own poetry?
Is there anything more beautiful than God’s own poetry?

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Before I even made it that far within the psalm, I got held up by the very first verse:

God, brilliant Lord, yours is a household name.

At first I was thinking of household brand names and began imagining the limits of Christian consumerism: God’s detergent perhaps, or Jesus Air Freshener: Smells Like Purification? (no joke, this one actually exists.  I bought it for Jordan a few years ago)

But the psalmist is talking about a different kind of household name.  He’s talking about — who or what permeates your everyday conversations?  Who do you talk about at the dinner table?  Whose life do you try to emulate?  Whose life do you follow, for example, in the news media (and I’m not talking about those tabloids that predict the end of the world)?  In short, how well have you followed the prescription of the Shema of Moses:

Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.

– Deuteronomy 6:6-9

I love what David Crowder says at the end of his own meditation on this psalm: “One attribute of habitual praise is that it is inherent in creation.  We tell the glory of God by our very existence.  It is unavoidable.  We can choose whether to amplify this or not.  We can choose to be moved by this or not.  Maybe we just need a simple book beside our beds that reminds us of who the household name is.”


18 07 2009

your beauty
is so great
it defies
words on a
piece of paper.

a pen cannot
what my eyes
have seen.

– mikel k

This poem is framed and posted at the drinks bar at IF Coffeehouse, a little hole-in-the-wall venue in Little Five Points, Atlanta. We went there tonight to watch a concert by the students at local music school Eclectic Music. Every Saturday night, apparently, they host a free coffeehouse featuring local musicians. It was clearly an artists’ haven: there were colorful paintings adorning all of the walls (We forgot our camera, but I’ll try to post pics the next time we go). The food and drinks are cheap (I think the most expensive thing on the menu was $2), but as it is a non-profit organization, it runs on tips and donations.


From the brochure:
“IF stands for Intown Fellowship, a not-for-profit serving ministry supported by individual Christians from Atlanta. Our goals include providing a comfortable environment for music, being a resource to those in need, and to promote discussion and conversation about God and reality … Intown Fellowship began as a church in 1986. In 1992 the church group decided to change direction and begin the coffeehouse.”

What a neat ministry! I’ll definitely be back soon!