Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Narrow Way

Sometimes I think we get the wrong ideas from Christmas and the baby. Like we think Jesus is this cute baby, cuddly, come to make everything right, make everything easy. Instead, this baby has teeth.

I have a friend with a new baby. Teething. Those teeth are sharp. Jesus in coming comes with an agenda. We are called to a purpose. Not to just have Him do what we want, but rather that He sends us to impossible places. Then demands we trust Him.

That is more the message of Christmas. "I have come, so you may have life. Life abundant". But a life spent in hard places. Things demanded, impossible to do on our own. Like the disciples left behind when Jesus ascends the mount of transfiguration. Sent to do more than we know is possible.

This Christmas, know the baby comes. He comes to send you to some very hard places. Places you can go only when you walk with Him. A strange Christmas message. Perhaps the real one. An invitation to the narrow way. Here is a poem about The Way He invites us to walk.

Walking the Narrow Impossible Path

Danger from any misstep.
This path like walking the ridge
leading to Mt. Everest
a slip each way leads to death.

You demand I walk
this treacherous path.
You do not force me
yet I must obey You.

You call to me. “Relax.
Trust Me. Be not afraid.”
I look down.
I do not see you.

Terror seeks to seize my soul.
Terror seeks to freeze my will.
Terror seeks to keep me from you.
Terror seeks to keep me prisoner.

Like Peter on the water
I take my eyes from you.
Disaster strikes, I start to slip.
I cannot do this on my own.

You reach out your hand to me.
I cannot see you, but I trust you.
We walk this impossible path together.
I relax and give myself to you.

© Presbypoet, 1999, revised January 18, 2004

Merry Christmas. Welcome to The Narrow Way.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Jesus, the I Am

For Christmas, here are some poems about Jesus. Not the sappy wimp we often see. The "meek" mild inoffensive guy. But Jesus the wild man. The one with the wild heart. A heart of passion.

It is easy to write poetry about scary stuff. The same way it is easy to preach about hell, and try to scare people into heaven. It is hard to understand and express the quality of mercy, the love, compassion God has for us. Not the wimpy love of Jesus the "nice guy", the one his disciples would never have recognized. Instead, a fierce love, like a mother bear for her cubs, or a father who has learned a boy has hurt his daughter. This is Jesus, who cares for us, who wants the best for us, and isn't afraid of pushing the envelope.

Jesus first miracle, is one his mom precipitates. He tells her, it's not time yet, yet he has compassion on an idiot who forgot to get enough wine. Not only that, but the stuff Jesus makes out of water turns out to be the good stuff. Ever hear a sermon on that? Real wine. Not grape juice. The hard stuff. Not just a gallon or so, but filling huge storage jars. I wonder at what it would have been like to be there? Yet how many of us would have been as generous as Jesus. Would we have been so quick to provide the miracle? Are you sure you wouldn't have thought, why should this fool get a miracle. No body ever gave me so much blessing.

I will try to turn it into a poem.
One on outrageous mercy & grace.

Outrageous Mercy & Grace.
On turning water into wine.

When you turned
water into wine.
What were you doing?
Why waste your time
on an idiot who forgets
to order enough wine.
Why does he get
your compassion?
What did he do
to deserve such grace?

You don't make sense.
We can't understand.
Why change water
to wine?
Not only that, it's
better than he deserved.
We would have
taught him a lesson.
We'd make him
suffer for his sins.

Why do you cover
for this guys mistake?
Why do you let him
get off so easy?
Is it that we need
to learn to enjoy?
We need to learn
to celebrate?
Are we too much
like the elder brother?
Unable to rejoice with
brother returned from the grave.

Lord help us to appreciate
the grace you give.
As you pour out outrageous
amounts of blessing.
May we rejoice when
our brother gets more
than we know he deserves.
Help us to learn to join the party
to drink from your wine
of new birth.
(John 2:1-11)
© September 27, 2005, Presbypoet
inspired by "anybudee"

Will you join the party?

Saturday, December 10, 2005


The latest theme seems to be forgiveness. Leslie at the Insomniac:
Has a post on forgiveness.
Last night, I had a long conversation with a woman who knows someone who was molested. She can't forgive the man who did it, and it poisons her relationship with God.

We seem to have a hard time with forgiveness, both doing it, and even understanding it. A book that is very helpful in understanding forgiveness is by Debbie Morris. She was a victim of the man who was the central focus of dead man walking. Robert Willie (the man portrayed in the movie by Sean Penn), raped her, and killed her boyfriend. She testified against him. Willie threatened that if he ever got out, he would kill her. On the night he was executed, Morris forgave him. In her book, on page 173, she writes about forgiving the killer on his execution night.

"With that prayer pronouncing my forgiveness of Robert Willie, I gained an
emotional release, a sense of freedom I don't know how to describe. Somehow
it cut me loose from the control Robert Willie had over me for all those

For Morris, forgiveness isn't some abstract concept. She realizes and explains in her book, that forgiveness is essential to be healed from what happened. If you can find the book, read it. At 251 pages, it is helpful in understanding the power of forgiveness. The last line in her book says "Justice didn't do a thing to heal me. Forgiveness did.

A poem on forgiveness.
Taking Offense
You take offense.
Refuse to forgive.
You’re seduced by,
the Devil’s bait.
How can I forgive,
if you refuse to forgive?
So sanctimonious,
you refuse to admit,
you sin by failing,
to forgive.
you turn from Me.

Your soul hates,
stores up anger.
Anger corrodes,
spiritual connection.
Forgive those,
who don’t know,
they’ve caused pain,
so you can be healed.
Don’t seek revenge.
Forgive & be healed.
Forgive & let,
My grace flow.
(Ephesians 4: 1-8)
© Presbypoet, February 17, 2002

Is there someone you need to forgive? Do you need to ask for forgiveness?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Making Things New

One thing that I have noticed is that people come to church because they are broken. Like those who came to Jesus. Hopeless. In need of healing. Lepers. Sinners. Jesus invites them to come.
This poem was written in 2001, the message is still current. Jesus invites the broken to come and be healed.

Making Things New

You come to Me
At end of your rope.
I offer hope
Making things new.

I love you.
You’re important.
You have value
I see within.
I chose to love you.
To care for you.
I reach out to you
to heal.

offered you.
Hope, real stuff
to be born again.
Love given
freely without price.
Offered you
to change your life.

I loved you so much
I died on a tree.
Sacrificed for you.
To set you free.
Now pass it on to others
I send you to give hope.
To the broken, hopeless
at end of their rope.
© Presbypoet, May 13, 2001

Are you at the end of your rope? Do you know Jesus offers true hope?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A message from GOD?

The choice of readings at Presbytery last week, was strange. (Presbytery is an assembly of representatives from various churches in the Presbytery, we meet five times a year in various churches, to vote on issues of importance, and be given information).

When we had our customary worship service, complete with readings, to start the meeting. The book of Amos was one of the readings. This portion of the readings, from chapter 5 of Amos seem a strange choice to start a religious gathering.

21 "I hate, I despise your religious feasts;
I cannot stand your assemblies.

22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, [b]
I will have no regard for them.

23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
Perhaps, given the efforts to use the denomination for political purposes, this reading may have been a word from God. Did we listen to what God wanted us to do? Or were we simply an empty vessel unwilling to be filled? Is this how God feels about the PCUSA? Was this a message from God?

Joy To the World

Joy to the world, we hear the words. Do we know what they mean?
Do you understand why it is joy? Listen to Jesus.

Joy to the world.
that is My decree.
Freedom from bondage.
Freedom to come to Me.
Not mere happiness
found at end of suffering.
But true joy in midst of storm.
Relax and let go in your storm.

Keep your eyes on Me.
See Me in your journey.
Know joy on your cross.
Know I’m in control.
No matter what happens.
Appreciate gifts I give you.
Rejoice in My presence.
Rejoice. You belong to Me.

Be Not Afraid for I am with you.
(Luke 2:18-25, Isaiah 43:1-2)
©Presbypoet, December 16, 2001

Monday, December 05, 2005

Christmas Joy

More advent poems

I give you news of great joy.
I have come to be born.
Rejoice and know why I came.
Rejoice and know I am with you.

Rejoice and know I have overcome.
Rejoice at My death and resurrection.
Rejoice for my redemption and salvation.
Listen to My news of great JOY.

©Presbypoet, December 15, 2002

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Myths of Genesis part 2

Myth has a bad rap. We think it means fake. I have a friend who told me of someone who calls fiction, lies. Often in fiction, truths that are difficult to write in non-fiction, can be understood more clearly. Fiction may be truer than non-fiction. Yet if my friend's friend, who thinks fiction is lies, doesn't read it, she is the loser, because she misses the truths available in fiction's "lies".

Myth is the same way. A fable, like the fox and the "sour" grapes, can show a simple truth. Jesus' parables, like one about a rich man and poor man (Luke 16:19-31), tell a deep story that illustrates truth in a more compact way than any philosophy text. Myth is like that. The important issue in Cain and Able, isn't their existence, it isn't if they lived, or who did Cain marry? It is the meaning of the story that is important. If you get stuck on how old Adam was when Cain was born, and focused on trying to prove every word is "true", then you miss the most important part. You lose the beautiful idea of relationship with God that is a focus of the story. These stories are rich in truth. The problem is that unless you focus on the two threads, myth and historic, you can miss the deeper meaning.

Another way we get stuck on these stories is trying to figure out who wrote them. Moses? J? P? Q? A redactor? As though if we can label the writer, we have proved anything. The truth in the words is independent of an author. If we are trying to decide if something is true, and we are looking at a written "fact", knowing something about the author may make sense. When CBS tried to throw the election to Kerry by publishing lies about Bush, (supposedly by his old commander), the "author" of the "documents" was critical, since if it was written by anyone else, they lost all credibility.

Myth isn't like that. The stories in the first eleven chapters are not dependent on who wrote them. Moses doesn't claim to have heard them direct from God. It doesn't even matter if Moses wrote them, or they are the result of a series of writers polishing them for thousands of years until the words gleamed. The myths in the stories speak for themselves.

Noah's story is rich with meaning. The writers took what had to be one of the best known stories of the past, and loaded it with ideas about men and our relationship with God. The first myth is that God cares about what we do. The story is full of the idea that people have gotten so bad that the only thing to do is to wipe them out. Just start over. This is a theme that recurs in the Bible, and is at the heart of Revelation, where God is going to finish the job. The day of the Lord, is not a day you should be looking forward to. It will be a day of terror. The readings at our Presbytery meeting today were about this subject. Amos 5:18-21 is scary.
The Day of the LORD

18 Woe to you who long
for the day of the LORD!
Why do you long for the day of the LORD ?
That day will be darkness, not light.

19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion
only to meet a bear,
as though he entered his house
and rested his hand on the wall
only to have a snake bite him.

20 Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light—
pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?

God is not just some disinterested watchmaker who kicked off the universe, and is letting it wind down, but a clearly interested participant. It is the difference between a parent, who just hands over his wallet, and the car keys without any questions, versus the watchful parent, who questions, and perhaps even snoops at the right time. A parent who cares. A God who cares. Perhaps this is a strange way to discover God cares, as He starts to destroy, starts to discipline. Perhaps the only way?

Do you know God cares for you enough to discipline you?.
The following poem is about how God disciplines us.

Go Into the Furnace

Go into the furnace.
Too hot to endure.
Like Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego.
Trust Me.
I am with you.
Go forward.
Thru midst of trouble
on My way.

Sometimes the burning’
just what you need.
Trouble brings wisdom.
Trials refine.
When death strikes near.
Illness strips strength.
Learn I’m in control.
I prepare you with suffering.

Don’t fear the furnace.
Your life part of My plan.
Step from boat’s safety
into the storm.
In wilderness
I mold you to My will.
Be not afraid.
Trust Me in life’s furnace.

(Daniel 3:1-28)
Thanks to Michael W for the inspiration
© Presbypoet, December 30, 2001, & January 6, 2002

These few words don't even start to explore the truth hidden in this first myth packaged in Noah's story. Now you can go on your own journey, seeking truth and joy.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


Today was Presbytery. An hour drive one way. Our moderator is a pastor who is a reserve chaplain called up to serve in Iraq. He was back in the U.S. and flew in for the day to moderate the Presbytery meeting. Now that is dedication. He isn't even staying to preach at his church. He flies back tonight.

He told us what it was like in Iraq. The docket had him scheduled for ten minutes. He spoke for forty. He served with the Marines. He told of leading a Marine to the Lord in a lonely watchtower. Of being bombarded with rockets. Of leading memorial services. Of another pastor who had conducted memorial services for 48 soldiers in his unit, then went home to Ohio with them, to minister to loved ones, and tell relatives of their sacrifice. Of flying on helicopters, never knowing if they might be shot down. He took us with him to Iraq, and made it real.

We welcomed a new church to our Presbytery. Is this a sign of real growth, or simply the last gasp of a dying denomination? Pray for the PCUSA. It isn't dead yet. I meet so many dedicated Christians at Presbytery meetings. I organize prayer during presbytery meetings, so the work is covered in prayer. We need to pray more. We try to do it in our own strength. Then wonder why we fail.

Got home to discover Sears had called about our replacement washer. The one that died 2 days after we got it new from the factory. They were sending another. It would be delivered December 14th. I called. Politely informed them that was not acceptable. It only took an hour to get it changed to the 6th. Then took the wash out for a drive. Not much time for the internet. No time for part two of Genesis. It will take me longer to write about it than for God to create it.

Tired. A good tired. Made it to the Church Christmas dinner only five minutes late. Missed the Carol service completely. Laundry can be more important than church. Important lesson; learning when to say no to the church.

Told a friend I should change my name to joyful Job, in honor of all the bad things happening. He thought the name fit. What does that tell you?

Now to rest. To be still. To hear God? We Presbyterians need to listen more.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Myths of Genesis.

I realize I tread on very thin ice here. To even consider the first eleven chapters of Genesis might not be an exact literal history, is heresy to some.

Since my role model is Thomas, always willing to check things out himself, I will venture to seek wisdom. A quest trying to understand, or at least asking questions. Realizing there is so much I can never know. I seek a chance to converse with others who seek God. Who seek to know. Who seek Joy.

There are two strands of truth in the Genesis stories. The first is historic truth that shows itself in places, bits of actual events and people. It can reveal some of what life was like thousands of years ago.

The second is religious truth, described as myth. Myth told in the form of a story. Like the invention of the "Teddy Bear", when Teddy Roosevelt chose not to kill a bear, there may be historic truth in a story, yet the mere naked historic facts may not be the most important part of the story. A recent myth is that Bush knew there were no WMD, so he lied. For those who believe the myth, actual facts are not important. The true power is in what the story expresses. "Bush lied. People died." Is a religious/political myth that has the power to kill. The power to change lives. Just as we have myths today, the Bible is filled with myths. Stories designed to show a truth. Designed to make us think.

We start with Noah. That drunkard. Hero. Is he Gilgamesh? Who wrote the story? When? All questions we may never know the full answer. Yet there are interesting clues.
Noah's story is interesting in many ways. One of the most striking is how it shows oral tradition can transmit accurate information for thousands of years.

We now know almost the exact year the ocean broke into the Black Sea. The
description of the gates of the deep breaking, (Genesis 7:11) I had always thought had to be false. How could water flow uphill? Yet, after I learned of the Black Sea flood, I realized; before the ocean broke through, an old stream bed that led from the sea to the ocean, a place 400 feet above the lake level would have been "the gate to the deep", (ocean). Also, before it broke through, there would have been springs of saltwater, so it truly is a magnificent description of something not seen for over 4,000 years.

A description of the flood is found at:

When the "gates" finally broke, it must have been an incredible sight from
below. Imagine going back 7600 years. You look out over a lake separated from the ocean. This lake, one of the world's largest bodies of fresh water. Good for irrigation. A land with higher air pressure due to the 400 feet of additional air. Better for plants, better for people. A rich land. A fertile land. Yet there is a hidden menace to this Eden. At the southwest edge of the lake is a pass high up in the hills. A narrow gap that leads to the "deep". A former river valley when the lake was hundreds of feet higher, the valley consists of soft sediments, easily eroded should water ever have the chance. At its mouth, salt springs, produced by seepage from the ocean a few miles to the south.

There would already be two small streams in the valley. One draining to the lake, the other to the deep. Let it rain. Heavily. A time when water turns tiny placid streams into raging torrents. Torrents that cut into the last dam holding back an ocean of water.

Look up 400 feet in the air, and see a waterfall burst forth, larger than Niagara, where before were only the springs of the deep. The sound must have been incredible. The story would have been told, and passed on for generations. Then finally written down with the birth of writing.

Was the story exactly as written? Did God speak to Noah? I know He speaks to me. He seems to intervene for His purposes. Was there an ark? Was it exactly 300 cubits? "What's a cubit? There certainly seems to have been a man and a boat. Perhaps more important than we realize. The first divine encounter? The first obedient man? Like Abram who was told. "Go". Noah who was told. "Build Me an ark." So Noah sails out into the flood. With his family, flora and fauna.
Then Noah lands near Ararat, (near where we find the Garden of Eden).

The stories of early Genesis, may trace the path of a people from the Black Sea, to Abraham and Ur. The early stories of Genesis only show us fragments of the story,
all that survived. They even included contradictions, trying to be faithful to the story.

But Genesis real importance, is in what the myths truly say. They speak of
God's relationship to us. Try to explain why we are a fallen race. Show
God's wrath at our pride. The importance of rest. Sin and its consequences. Forgiveness. A most amazing 11 chapters.
An idea for a book, "The myths of Genesis." Or a sermon series. Or a blog
series. More to follow: Noah's myth.

Today's poem:
You call My story
you think you can
Yet myth contains
more truth
than simple facts can ever

The truth of if I am Son
of God
is not found in fact of
virgin birth.
The truth of
original sin
is never spoken by
real snake.

If you fall into facts
seductive trap
you miss myth’s
deeper meaning.
Listen for the
parabolic truth
oft found in
paradoxical myth.

© Presbypoet, September 3, 2003

Thursday, December 01, 2005

How To Be A Christian

This question is answered by a poem shorter than the title.

How to live as a Christian

Be silent
© Presbypoet, March 2002

It is simple. Just follow these instructions. Only 25 letters contain all you need to know.