In 1998, Eva Cassidy recorded an old spiritual called “Wade in the water”. I was listening to her sing it in my car just recently:
Wade in the water
Wade in the water, children
Wade in the water
God’s gonna trouble the water
The lyrics are simple, but this water runs deep. As you’d expect from a spiritual, the reference is biblical. The rest of the song speaks of the children of Israel on the banks of the Jordan river, ready to cross into the promised land. In Joshua chapter 3, God tells the priests of Israel to carry the ark of the covenant, the symbol of his relationship with his people and presence with them, to the edge of the flooded river and stand in the water. They obeyed, and as soon as their feet got wet, God began to stop the flow of a mighty river and clear a path for his people to walk across on dry land.
Continue reading Wade In The Water
On the ruins of an ancient cathedral in Ardmore, County Waterford, on the south coast of Ireland, there are a series of pictures carved in stone. Each picture tells a story from the Bible, and most of them are still complete enough to be recognisable. Adam and Eve are under a tree, and three wise men are bringing gifts to Jesus. Solomon is there with a sword, making a judgment between two women who claimed the same baby. There’s also a pair of weighing scales—but what Bible story is that?
Continue reading How Much Does A Good Deed Weigh?
Halloween is a dark holiday, but I don’t find it very scary. Costumes and plastic skeletons don’t intimidate me. It’s all pretend, and for most people, the main point is sugar. I find the news headlines in my Twitter feed a lot more terrifying. Some of the themes are the same—darkness, death, and evil running free. I guess the decorative ghosts and tombstones and skeletons do contain an element of realism: there is real darkness in this world, and real death. At our point in history, there’s no question that the real skeletons on this planet outnumber the living humans by a long shot. That’s a sobering thought. And there are plenty of other fears for those of us who aren’t skeletons yet—from disease and disaster to dystopian decisions and disturbing trends and growing disorder and disunity, you don’t have to look far to get a fright these days.
In Luke 21, Jesus warned his disciples about difficult days that were coming. He said, “People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world.” Does that sound familiar? But he tells his disciples: “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Continue reading Lift Up Your Head
The history of Ireland is written in stone—crumbling stone—in the ancient walls and castles and cottages and churches dotted all across her landscape. I find them constantly fascinating, which I’m sure has something to do with the fact that I came here from a country that wasn’t covered in such tangible monuments to the past. When I look at them, they remind me that life is short, history is long, and the possessions and power that humans collect here on earth are only temporary.
Last week, our family stumbled across the ruined mansion of a man who was powerful and important, in the extreme. It was enormous. Even in ruins, it still impresses. But among the ruins, there was a statue that had toppled from its place in the Big Wind of 1839, and when it fell, the head broke off and was never recovered. Psalm 146 tells us to put our trust in the Lord, not in the power of mortal princes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more vivid picture of this warning than that statue of a man who was the head of all of Ireland, whose head has never been recovered. As I thought about what we had seen, I wrote this poem:
Continue reading The Headless Head Of Ireland
The weather is warmer now, and that means the cranes have sprouted. Some of the fields near us are starting to bloom with new houses and factories. It’s always interesting to watch them grow, but I have to admit that sometimes the process puzzles me. The diggers come in first and push dirt around for ages in ways that seem pointless and confusing, and then there are pipes and concrete pillars and none of it looks like anything I would have expected until the walls start going up and then suddenly I start to recognise the shape of what the builders knew all along. None of it was pointless. Every pillar and digger was directed towards the blueprint of a final product that started in the imagination of the architect, and will finish in a tangible reality that people can live or work in. Just because I don’t see or understand the plan doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It just means that I’m not the architect.
Continue reading The Blueprints I Haven’t Seen
If you really want a loyal friend
Then find someone who’s loyal when
The friend they’re being loyal to
If you want a friend to keep your secret
Find someone who will not gossip
Even if the one who asked them to
Continue reading If They’ll Do It For You, They’ll Do It To You
Evidently I don’t have a strong stomach, because the last time I went fishing at sea I got sick. I know fishing trips are famous for being exaggerated, but I’ll be honest with you: there was no storm. It was a normal day, with normal waves, and we didn’t even go far out to sea. Still, as the boat continually shifted, my insides rebelled against me in slow motion. It was getting harder and harder to focus on my fishing line or the conversation going on around me. I felt bad. All I wanted was for the floor to stop moving—was that so much to ask? Thankfully, I was with an experienced fisherman who gave me helpful advice: “Look at the shore,” he said, “it will give you a reference point, and help you be able to roll with the waves.” I could tell he knew what he was talking about, because he had no trouble at all moving confidently around the constantly rocking boat.
Continue reading The Fisherman’s Advice
This is a poem about confidence. Not confidence in myself, my abilities, or my circumstances, but confidence in God and in his good promises for those who belong to him:
When there is all and only need
Flowing freely out of me
The answer of my heart will be:
“Now we will see what God will do” Continue reading Now We Will See What God Will Do
This poem is inspired by Psalm 146 and by the year 2020:
Do not put your trust in princes
Do not hang your hopes on them
Their power and their prominence
Will soon come to an end
They will promise you security
(They always have a plan)
But if they save the future
It will soon need it again Continue reading Do Not Put Your Trust In Princes (A Poem)
Halloween is coming soon, but I’m not interested. The celebration of demons and death has never held much attraction for me, but this year the holiday seems especially out of place: haven’t we had enough to scare us already in 2020? Who needs a horror film, when we have the news? Brexit, which would normally dominate European headlines, has taken a back seat to Coronavirus, and then of course there’s my own homeland, the (Dis)United States of America, trying to hold an election like Jerry Springer used to try to interview guests. When the world isn’t panicking, it’s angry. When it isn’t angry, it’s panicking. It’s a rollercoaster that refuses to end.
Continue reading Anger, Panic, And The Psalms