In Flanders Fields

This comes late for 7/28, though the poem itself likely explains why. Let this be of health to those who have been wandering astray, as I have been. For those otherwise confident in their deeds, let this sober us to the value and purpose of our lives.


Lord, I kneel before Thy throne,
Judgment seat and scales’ rest,
To present myself, and beg Thy mercy.

Lord, why when was I born,
In comfort to dwell,
In leisure to ‘cline,
No sergeant in sight,
Bellyful of fat and fancy,
Rather of lead and iron.

Lord of Hosts and Laughter,
Why was I these gifts
Unfairly given,
‘Llowed to live my life
As a son of delinquence?

Marshal of Heaven,
Answer my piteous self,
For so many died
In the storm of steel,
Beneath shell and hail,
In mud and blood
to make of themselves
A feast for rats and worms.

And here I sit at ease,
All pleasure and leisure
No more than a finger away;
What men died for others to steal,
I have free to excess.
What right have I to luxury?
What right have I to pleasure?
What right have I to disobey?

How can I live for pleasure
While they rest in Flanders’ fields?

My Lord, Commander, and Judge,
Redeem me:
Redeem my time, redeem my flesh,
The hours I’ve squandered,
The life I’ve wasted;
The dreams undreamt,
The prayers unprayed;
Let me remember why poppies grow
In Flanders’ Fields,
And why flowers bloom,
On Golgotha’s Hill.


For those, like me, who missed the significance of the intended original date of this post, 7/28 marks the beginning of the First World War. I will not comment here on the Great War’s significance in the course of history, though it marks the beginning of the end for the West. That is a subject for an essay (likely several) and another time.

My wish is that this poem, rambling as it is, would help us reflect on the conduct of our lives. Those of you who follow our risen Christ, I would ask your prayers for a stranger, that my deeds would echo the words I have written here, and my life would follow the Word He brought for us.

 

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No Father Better

You are gracious beyond measure

Patient for eons beyond counting

Your love is faithfully ever-sure

Your will ever onward marching

Though every man a liar be

Faithful is timeless He

Ever tender, ever warm

Even to me, a lowly worm.

 

No father better to be had,

Than He who will dress the wounds

Of the ones who drove the nails;

Who loved His children onto a tree,

Where He hanged that they might live,

And rose again to take them Home.

 

Father, I want to go home.

 

Thoughts on the Heart

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
Jeremiah 17:9

I’ve had a bit of a rough week, my troubles largely self-inflicted. I won’t go into any graphic detail, but I should think that the above quote is sufficiently informative.

I’m sure we’ve all heard countless times various -isms to the effect of “trust your heart” or “trust your conscience.” I am leaning ever more towards the opinion that these truisms are nothing but ignorant half-truths at best and vain delusions at worst – at least so far as applied to myself.

The heart is fickle and indecisive; it wants one thing but rarely clarifies how you are to go about obtaining it. It is insistent and petulant in its primitive desires, unreasoning in its persistent demands for lustful gratification, constant amusement, and transcendental bliss. The heart is not a being of reason, of contentment, nor of faithfulness, but a beast of wretched selfishness.

God is true when we are false. Those of you who in His Son already profess salvation – be wary of trusting your own hearts, how you feel before God, how you feel about your actions. “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21). When our hearts are not firmly fixed on God’s purpose and His holy commands, when we take first the counsel of our flesh before that of the Mighty Counselor, we are quick to turn astray into selfish vanities and foolish self-delusion.

In short – I deceived myself for almost a whole week that I could control my lust in the moment of self-gratification, against all wisdom and caution, and while God graciously has not punished me with stripes, I beg that He would, if only it would keep me from sinning against Him again. Instead, I must live with my conscience – I must fasten myself ever tighter to His forgiveness. By grace and grace alone are any saved at all. This last week is a reminder most sharp – my own efforts and plans shall never substitute for His blessing.

Lord, my God,
Watch my soul tonight.

El Shaddai, my Prince of Peace,
Guard my wayward steps.

For I am but a child,
A fool little better than an animal –

Yet one whom you have uplifted,
That he might dare to be a man.

Lord, give me strength, and give me grace,
That grace in which I undeservedly live,
That I might rejoice in obedience,
Not for one night but until my last.

 

New Projects, New Hopes

Long time, no see, ye loyal few who remain subscribed to this beleaguered bulletin of frippery and faith. I have recently come into gainless employment as the senior editor of an up-and-coming tabletop role-playing game publisher, Darklore Publishing co., and thusly have been occupied with the curating of others’ work in preparation for our May 1st launch date. When our website is nice and refine, I’ll post the link both here and on its own page.

But, I still have my own projects and directives, and in collaboration with the wonderful Write Practice course, “Write to Publish,” (creation of Joe Bunting and Sarah Gribble) I have begun work on a new/old novella and short story assembly with the tentative title, “Hero is a Four Letter Word.” (Set in a certain sci-fi universe of mine for which I lack a decent name.)

I’ll cover the world-building aspects of the universe in another post, but suffice it to say that the 22nd century is no better than those that preceded it, even with faster-than-light travel, commonly-available nuclear power, and cloning (especially cloning). Our hero, Paddy, grows up in the shadow of his father’s dishonor – a deserter who abandoned his post as a system patrolman to save his family, dooming the rest of his colony to destruction at the hands of a band of alien raiders. Living in lawless Free-Space, he must come to terms with the sins of his father – and his own as he becomes intangled in deadly interspecies politics as the human nations wrestle over the fate of the aliens which have entered the political stage.

Hopefully, my pitch will improve.

For my readers of a praying inclination – I would appreciate a prayer for mindfulness. I’ve found myself distracted by petty materiality, old sins, vulgar things which I had thought I should never bother with again. I find it increasingly difficult to compel myself to heed God’s Word, to read and listen, feel, understand, obey, and pray. I know His truth, but my flesh does not obey – and I am guilty for its indiscipline.

But through God, I know all things are possible. By Him I was justified, and in Him shall I be sanctified.

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Amen. 🙂

 

Overtake

I’m tired of my condition.
Always inattentive.
Driven to stray.
Made to fail.

The inferior man.
No excuses.
No escape.

Every mistake.
Every heartache.
My life they take.
My soul, forsake.

I don’t know where to go.
I am lost, Elohim.

Please.
Help.
Me.

I feel you, o Father of Love.
I hear you, o Spirit of Justice.
I see you, o Savior of Souls.

May the cracks in my skin
Shine with the light of Your Law.
That I and all my earthly kin
May kneel in awe.

Every mistake.
Every heartache.
My body breaks,
That Your Glory may Overtake.

To Serve His House

I yearn for His presence,
Yet I shy from His duties.

I wish to cast off my burdens,
as I add daily to my shackles.

I do what I ought not,
And do not what I ought.

I fear to rest or relax,
For when my guard is laxed —
Sins come in hordes,
Till all left is to mourn.

I am hateful to myself,
A stranger in my own skin.

A sojourner in a cursed body,
A wretched soul in a blameless corpse.

I cannot shoulder the blame,
to a body which cannot think.

I am responsible, I alone;
But my sins too great to atone.

Christ is all I have, pauperish me;
Can you not see it, that He came for thee?

Too great a miracle, sayest thou?
Otherwise to save thyself how?

Canst thou not see it?
The miracle stands before you.

God’s grace is unearned,
God’s grace is infinite,
God’s grace knows no limits of man.

You are forgiven by His blood!
It is not your power not to sin, but His!
Let His will flow through your veins!
To be ever more sin’s eternal bane!

Letters to my Son: Letter I

Dear Son,

Son, I’m writing this to you because I love you. I don’t know you yet, but I hope that when we meet, I will be a man you can happily call Dad.

But until we meet, there’s a lot that I have to do. I’m not your father yet. I’m a rotten man, a hypocrite, a rebel and a stubborn goat who will hear the truth preached to him all the day long and still not heed the words of wisdom. I’m unworthy in every way to be your father, and it frightens me that I might never become that man.

Or it would, if I did not have a better Father of my own. He’s not the man whose funny crooked teeth or thick hair I inherited, but He has been as much of and far more of a father than the one who conceived me.

To point, I want to be a good father to you. My father provided for me, but there’s quite a few lessons and points of guidance which he never gave to me, but which God graciously provided to me by His providence when I needed it, and even now He continues to lead me for His namesake – and I fully expect that when I see you, He will still be guiding us, me and you both. He is your Father too, and He knows you better than I ever will, for He made you with His hands, and breathed life into you in your mother’s womb.

I’m a writer, my son. That means that when God gives me good thoughts and words, I write them down. Right now, in my youth, it doesn’t seem like there’s much else that I’m good for, so it’s what I do whenever I’m not earning my wages. And that is one of the tough truths that we have to wrestle with under God. There are things we want to do, things we would want to spend all our days doing nothing but, and yet we cannot. Writing is not profitable. It is risky even to try to make a subsistence living as a writer, because unlike a standard 9 to 5 job, there’s no benefits package and no overtime pay. You live off of royalties, advances, and ad-revenue, depending on what you write. You have to practice for years just to get into the craft, and then once you’re in, you can never stop practicing.

And right now son, I’m afraid. I’m ashamed. I’m not brave enough to risk it all to get my dream career. I’m afraid of shaming myself in the eyes of those who love me by forsaking conventional labors for my writing. I’m afraid that I am just indulging laziness by wishing for this. I’m afraid that I would be acting in pride to gratify the desires of my flesh, and forsaking the God who has delivered me from my sins many and myriad. I’m ashamed already at the ungodly desires of my heart, the unrighteous intentions of my flesh, of my weakness in entertaining these traitorous thoughts.

Son, there will be a great many people in your life who will tell you to ‘pursue your dreams.’ They will tell you life is an open book, that the possibilities are limitless, that the world is your oyster.

They are lying to you. The world is not an oyster, it is a barren field. There is much possibility in it, but to extract from the bitter soil your dreams will require of you undying toil, remarkable luck, and toil again until your very bones wear out. To fulfill all your earthly desires by your own hands will consume you like a flame until you come to the end of your road and wonder what you gave up your life for.

Do not desire the things of this world. Even good and glorious things like fame, like doing something you love for a living, these things should not be your heart’s desire. Your desire must be in the Lord, or you will die unsatisfied. I know, because I chased these things and even baser desires for too long in my life, ignoring the appeals God made so gently upon my heart.

Please, my Son – do not be like me. I am not proud of my writing. I am good at it, and I know I was unarguably better at it than many of my peers in school. And there is some joy when I write well, a finely put together sentence, a good day which brought forth more words than usual. And if you become a writer like me, my son, by no means do I discourage you.

But if you are a writer, I want you to do one of two things. If you want to write because you want your name on book covers, because you enjoy it, because you’re good at it – don’t quit your day job. Secure your living first, and indulge your passion when the sun sets. Please, think hard before you give your life to art.

Did I say two things?

My son, no matter how much I want to give you that dream, of being able to do nothing but write for a living – I can’t offer it to you now. I don’t have that dream. I wonder if I even have the self-discipline to manage it if I wasn’t so hemmed in by shame.

God loves you. And if God wills it, it will happen. But when you pray to our Father, you cannot have doubt. You must know what you want, want it truly, want it for the right reasons (read: the glory of God’s Kingdom, the salvation of the unredeemed, and the deliverance of His people), and be faithful that God can do all things.

The Lord knows no doubt. He knows no fear, none of the vacillation that you see in this letter. He is not afraid of being shamed, He is not afraid for His reputation or his 401K or His marriage prospects. He is our bold and fearless King, who humbles all the wicked and proud of this world and heals the sick, feeds the hungry, and shelters the weary. It is our good and gracious God who liberated me from the lusts which consumed my whole being, our kind and merciful God who spared my grandparents from rapacious invaders and conveyed them safely to America, our holy and generous God who gave to me the woman who will be your mother, blessing me a million times in excess of that which I deserve – including by giving me you to rear and teach.

All the gifts you will enjoy, from your food, to your shelter, to your parents (hi there) to the nature present as it may be, to every single talent and ability of your body and mind – all these come from God, and they are purposed for His glory – that all should hear His Word, call upon His name, and be rescued from their evil. As our God smites the wicked so He also redeems them, saving awful sinners like me, who did only evil in His sight with no regard for good.

Our God – and I hope your God – is a delightful savior, who makes my heart sing with joy as I write this very line. For I know that a day will come when these worries will trouble me no more, when I will finally find rest when all I have known is toil. I love my God because He is good, because He first loved me when I was unlovable, and never expected a single thing in return but that I would believe in Him and look to Him as Father. And even these things are gifts from Him, to be given back to Him with loving shouts of praise.

I love you, son. I will write to you again soon. Please take to heart all that I have said, and treasure the wisdom I struggle to pass on to you.

May the peace of God be with you, offspring of mine.

Sincerely,

Dad.