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Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Psalm 1 speaks of the one who is blessed, whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and he meditates on it day and night. It says that this person will be like, “a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season…”

I’ve often taught that using the concept of at different times in our lives, we are in different “seasons”. We don’t serve when we are in our 60’s the same way we did in our 20’s, but “fruit” is still being produced.

There’s another thing that happens in different seasons of our lives – and this has more to do with “life” than it does with age. Some seasons are just plain harder than other seasons.

Twenty years ago Joe and I went through one period in our lives where we attended more than 12 funerals in 18 months. These were all family or extended family or church family. That was a tough season.

We seem to be in another “season” now. It seems that everywhere I look, someone I know has cancer or another debilitating disease – many of them are very serious. When we went through that season before, I wrote the following poem…. and I’ll have to admit, the thought about the wall crossed my mind again this morning…

 

Building that Wall Again

On July 11, 1996, we received the news that my aunt (whom we affectionately called “Gran”) was diagnosed with cancer, throughout… then I sat down and wrote this poem.

 

“When I was a child

I spoke as a child, I understood as a child

I thought as a child.

But, when I became an adult

I put away childish things…”*

Or did I?

 

In 1969, I was 15 years old

When my uncle died.

He was my Mother’s closest brother

And he was my friend.

And it hurt.

 

Then I decided

That if I built a wall around my heart

And never loved

That I would never be hurt… again…

So I did.

And it took many years to overcome that mentality

To be able to love again.

But I did.

I should say, with God’s help, I did…

 

And today I am an adult

With all the entrappings of adulthood,

A home

A husband

Children

Responsibilities…

 

But in the past year

I’ve been carrying a weight

That has about worn me down;

A mother-in-law with Alzheimer’s

But that wasn’t enough it seemed

The past 5 months

Have been one long bad dream…

 

I’ve lost an uncle

And an aunt

And a very sweet friend.

 

And now, I’m thinking about building that wall again.

I’m thinking

About building that wall again…

 

But it’s too late

I already love too many people…

 

©1996 Betty Newman

 

*Scripture from 1 Corinthians 13:11

 

(PS – Little did I know when I wrote that poem that over the next year, Joe and I would lose more than a dozen folks from our “blood” families and Church families… It was a very difficult 2 years…)

(PPS – today – 2017, I am holding to that “Blessed Hope” that is promised in the scriptures. As Job said, “I know my Redeemer liveth…” And because He lives, I can fact tomorrow… and today, too.  Amen.)

 

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Friends often post picture of sunrises or sunsets on Facebook. Every time, I am reminded of this poem, written when I was in my early 20’s. I haven’t painted in a very long time, but still, I often look at things and “think color” such as “Thalo Green” or “Burnt Umber” or “Cadmium Red”. I guess that part never leaves…

 

The Heavenly Artists’ Guild

 

In my mind’s eye

I have never known anything

more beautiful

than a sunrise or a sunset.

 

Vibrant hues from red through blue

to yellow and virgin white,

Christening our newborn day

saluting another’s night.

 

And nothing would be better,

than on that Judgment Morn,

To have my Savior say to me,

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant,

you have been faithful over a few good paintings,

I will make you artist over many…”

 

Then to take me by the hand

and lead me to a distant hill,

where I would be painting sunsets

with The Heavenly Artists’ Guild.

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A poem written in the early 80’s when I was pregnant with our first child.

 

A Mother’s Eighth Psalm

The Psalmist said,

“What is man that Thou art mindful of him

for Thou hast made him

only a little lower than the angels.”

 

And I say,

What am I, that You are mindful of me?

For You have made me a woman

and capable of

creation myself.

 

And I have carried a child in my womb

and borne him into the world.

But today that child alone must choose

“Whom ye will serve…”

and only he can

“Confess with your mouth

and believe in your heart…”

for himself

I can’t do it for him…

 

Being a creator isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

 

God,

what did you feel

when You turned man loose

with Your creation?

 

 

 

 

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A friend and I were talking about fear and trusting God. I have had times of great fear when learning to trust God. I wrote this about 15 years ago – it has been a long and at times, hard journey getting here. And I still don’t trust like I should… but I’m getting there.

The Fear of the Lord

Solomon declared,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

And I do have fear.

Sometimes

to the point of despair.

For I know that nothing happens

without first passing through the Hand of God.

God calls forth the act, directs the act

or He allows the act.

And so I fear – What will be His Will?

 

My mind and my heart struggle for control

of the emotion.

My heart says “Love”

and my mind says “Sovereignty”

with “sovereignty” being a fearful word.

 

I’ve seen God act to spare His people

and I’ve also seen Jeremiah thrown

into a well,

And Hosea sent to marry a harlot.

How can such infinite Love

allow such personal tragedy?

And so I fear…

 

But fear of the Lord

is the beginning of knowledge.

And with knowledge comes wisdom,

and with wisdom comes faith.

And with faith comes assurance

that sovereignty is not a fearful word

but is indeed Love.

 

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It’s that time of year again… The time when the so called “learned” Christians among us begin to criticize and ridicule Christmas hymns and songs for “poor theology” as well as poor ignorant Church members for – well – being so ignorant!

I’ve actually seen pastors become visibly angry over a congregation wanting to sing “Go Tell it on the Mountain” or “Joy to the World” before Christmas Day! What are we going to do with them? (These uneducated church members – not the learned pastors, of course…)

One of the most common of songs to raise ire is the favorite “Mary Did You Know?”

“Well, of course she knew”, they cry. “After all, the angel Gabriel told her everything!”

“Plus”, they add, “Her trip to Elizabeth should have been enough proof…”

Ok – let’s think about that for a moment. Those who follow my writing or Bible study teaching know that I am a stickler for two main things – first – context! The context of the scripture must be correct.

My next oft repeated phrase is that the Bible concerns, “Real people, in real events, in real time.” So with that in mind let’s examine what Mary knew – both mentally and emotionally.

In my poem “A New Understanding of Christmas” (written several years before I had children) I say that:

“Was she afraid, so far from home?

And knowing no more than she must have known,

Was she afraid that Silent Night

Bearing her child with only the light

From the star for assurance

That God was there

In person and prayer

Father and Son as One?”

 

Yes, Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her everything. Mary went to visit Elizabeth and heard an uplifting corroborating word. Yes, and Mary’s “Magnificat” is – well – magnificent in its faith-filled words of praise and submission to God… but… there is such a thing as the emotion of the moment.

And… let’s remember this is a real event, happening to real people, in real time. Mary heard the word from Gabriel. Then almost immediately she traveled to her cousin Elizabeth’s house. She stayed with Elizabeth for three months (whether she stayed until after John’s birth is debatable – personally, I think she did, unless a caravan was leaving for Nazareth and she had to leave sooner.)

Next she arrived back in Nazareth, obviously pregnant… So then we have the “real event” of Joseph’s reaction and his dream assuring him that the baby was, indeed, the Messiah.

And then… nothing…

Not another word from an angel, a dream, or special encounter for six… long… months…

Well… there was the fact that they knew the Messiah must be born in Bethlehem (and they had no intentions of making a trip to Bethlehem!) But then current events dictated that they go there anyway – but I suspect they viewed that more as a difficulty than a sign from God.

And so, they went… And they got there and the place was crowded and noisy and (likely) dirty. Surely to goodness, if this was really God’s Son, there would have at least been a nice place to birth the baby… but there wasn’t.

Think about it… six… long… months… and not a word.

Six long months of morning sickness, and back pain, and kicks that take your breath away… this was a real baby, and these were real months.

 

Have you ever had an encounter with God during a time of prayer or at an event? Have you ever felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit to do something, or take on some responsibility or chart some course? How did you feel six months later when there had been no follow up from God and things were beginning to get tough? Have you ever questioned if you heard Him correctly? Of course you have! And I’m sure Mary and Joseph both questioned, at times, if they’d heard correctly.

And then He was born…

My poem puts it this way:

“I wonder if

I could endure

The pain and then still be as sure

That this was God’s plan for my life

To be a mother before a wife,

I wonder if I could…”

 

We sing:

Mary did you know that your baby Boy will someday walk on water?

Mary did you know that your baby Boy will save our sons and daughters?

Mary did you know that your baby Boy will give sight to a blind man

Mary did you know that your baby Boy will calm a storm with His hand?

And the critics wail away at us for daring to ask these questions.

Did she really know all this? I doubt it. Did she know that He was God – yes – but what did that really mean? I don’t think she had a clue what it all really meant.

As my poem ends, I say:

“I’m sure then Mary softly smiled

And looked down gently at her child

The Savior of the world to be

But right now, so tenderly

He was her baby.

Somehow, looking out through Mary’s eyes

Brings a new understanding of Christmas.”

 

Yes, Mary knew in her mind that He was God… but in her heart, He was her baby – and that – is a “real time” event!

 

 

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first-umc-desplaines-il

First UMC DesPlaines, IL

 

There are many questions surrounding the Shepherds and the Wisemen. Why did God choose them to spread the Good News? Perhaps this will help a little. (I also have this is a Bible Study format with questions. If you’d like a copy please e-mail me).

 

The Shepherds

The orthodox Jew often despised the shepherds. Due to the very nature of their occupations they could not always participate in the rites and ceremonial rituals. It made no matter that the Jews’ greatest ancestors, Moses, Abraham, and David, were all shepherds and were idolized. It is much like an ancestor of ours who, though somewhat of a “rascal” or an “outcast” might be idolized or spoken of with thinly veiled price. “We wouldn’t do what they did, but…”

How much easier it is to romanticize life than to actually live it.

Therefore, the shepherds were looked upon with disgust, although they were greatly needed, because it was they who raised and cared for the “unblemished lambs” that were used for all the temple sacrifices.

They were the “blue color service industry.” All these people we greatly need, but never “see…”

 

The Wisemen

The Magi, also known as “The Wisemen” were learned men and scholars, most likely descended from the Medes. They were also skilled in astronomy and astrology, which was the study of the stars, as well as their meanings. (God said in Genesis 1:14 that the lights in the heavens were to be for “signs and seasons and for days and years.”) Astrology and astronomy were not mutually exclusive, but mutually explanatory.

The Wisemen, in addition to being a priestly tribe, were men who spent their time in study. Anyone who comes into a study (of any kind) with an open heart is prepared (however unknowingly) to hear God’s voice. (As God is over all things, He speaks in all things.)

“How do we begin to understand without study?

And how do we study without desire?

And how do we desire without seeing a need?

And how do we see a need without beginning to understand that we need to study?

It is completely God’s Calling.”

The Wisemen were called and prepared, and sent. And then they proclaimed. All without ever having known that they were used of God.

 

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first-umc-akron-ohio

A beautiful shot of First UMC Akron, Ohio

 

Wiseman or Shepherd?

God revealed Himself to the Wiseman’s intellect

and to the Shepherd’s heart…

 

Sometimes I think I’m a Wiseman,

with all my charts and diagrams,

but they continue to point to where I am

and never to where I want to go.

 

But these are my diagrams and charts,

constructed of logic and not the heart

and following my maps will never impart

where God wants me to go.

 

Then,

Sometimes I’m a Shepherd, or so I claim,

when I don’t want to play life’s little game

of who I am by what’s my name.

And I only want to be different.

 

But God called the Shepherds through their open ear,

who we’re willing to follow despite their fear.

Then shouted Hosannas to all who would hear

regardless of the difference.

 

God calls to us wherever we are

to step out on faith and follow the star

to travel however near or far

we have to go to change

or rearrange

our thinking.

 

In each of us the Wisemen lie

the Shepherds too, we can’t deny,

And God’s Holy Name we glorify

each time we’re willing to change

and rearrange

our thinking.

 

Yes, God still reveals Himself to the Wiseman’s intellect

and the Shepherd’s heart

And neither one is more important than the other.

 

 

 

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