A thought on a Psalm

Vindicate me, O LORD for I have led a blameless life,
I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and mind:
For your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.
I do not sit with deceitful men, nor do I consort with hypocrites;
I abhor the assembly of evildoers and refuse to sit with the wicked.
I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your Altar, O LORD,
Proclaiming aloud your praise and telling of all your wonderful deeds.
I love the house where you live, O LORD, the place where your glory dwells.

Psalm 26:1-8

Denis 26:8 [between 9 &10 pm]

Will you vindicate me? I have not led a blameless life,
constantly I doubt your hand and presence in my life.
My faith wavers like a flag: steadfast in the wind
and baren in the still. I forget you till I need.
My inner heart does love you, but my hands resist;
opting rather to sing in dishonesty.
Though I avoid deceitful men, my tongue is just as adept
in my solitude I find a hypocrite.
I long to do great evils and admire the seats among the wicked.
My hands still stained, and the stench of dishonour upon me,
I dare to approach your Altar. Not in penitence,
but masking my guilt from my companions.
For fear of shame I bite my tongue, hiding praise for you
beneath my pride: sourced from the gifts you give me –
I, too quickly, forget your wonderful deeds.
If you don’t, with my guilt before me, who will?

2012.

Poetry 034: The seat

A poem about a blind poet

Seated, he heard the foreign sounds
Of passing cars, of children, of hounds,
Of planes sailing through the clouds
Of silent moments, and of crowds.
The wind through the leaves whistled
The bamboo heaved along with the thistles
Distant worlds in torrents neared
But window blinds blocked out the mounds

Seated, he thought to find the nouns
For subtle smiles, for tickles, for frowns
For faces floating from the downs,
through greens, through forests, and through towns.
Deep within old cinders glistened
He strained his heart so it would listen
And the world without in torrents neared
But window blinds blocked out the mounds

© Denis Adide 2011

Poetry 033: Live!

“Let us make man in our own image
and in our likeness form him.”

Perfected yet dead; still he lay
void, recent from the deep.
No thoughts emerged nor receded
None pleaded for victory, none defeated,
And none rebelled: He was balanced,
inanimate, formed but still,
alive but perfectly dead.

Then breath, hovering over the deep;
the same that churned him from the mound,
approached from steep heaven
and un-barrened sea to seep
Awakening earth from death to sleep.

Inhaling, he embraced life – the gift;
drifting into the breath that once crept
into the crypt – fleshy heart at the mercy
of fleshed earth – made first animate.

Before him he saw his naked arms,
with naked eyes saw naked feet,
felt naked air be drafted in
and blown on naked skin.
Untamed wind within,
unchained wind without,
both whispering “Live!”

© Denis Adide 2012

 

Poetry 032: Happy Father’s day

Your absence –
felt more than empty clouds,
or late rains after hot days,
or delayed snow in the cold,
dark winter months,
or breath withheld
by clasping hands,
the dry well,
a moonless night,
shadowless willow,
no pulse on a flat line –
is killing me.

My heart –
like new shoots,
empty young beaks,
and soft small fingers –
reaches out,
calling
weeping
….
immersed in the hope
that wherever you are
on this, our day,
you’re happy.

© Denis Adide 2012

 

 

and to all who received him, all who believed. He gave the right to be called the sons of God

Poetry 031: Recompense

How am I to face the eyes of pity
that will surround and follow me
the rest of the days before they all
begin to forget, Knowing that I,
for the love – yours – sowed within,
am reaping eternal – internal – grief?

I can’t unless you give it all back.

I had enough love for four lifetimes
and more, all you to do was ask;
all you had to do was talk, take,
walk, live… give – a little.

Set my heart alight – immolate –
this rebellion must succeed.
Failure ensures my mind recedes,
past the faith I held, as the torch of old
that with coloured rings made a whole
of the hemispheres. Once to love,
and to hold, but lo! and behold the bold
did to frailty fall.
Forsaking the rollings stones, they became
immersed in moss. covered in the green
they gave way to the mud that slowly
inched over inches to make six feet;
and ashes – once oaks – returned to dust:
the crowds, like the vicar, slowly left
pinching more earth and spraying them
over the flowers – like the memories doomed
to rot and die – that adorned the lonely casket.

The groom, escorted by all into the sepulchre,
now slept. His weeping stilled by the thick
air, lightly lit, hovering between the stained panes
that crowned the walls. Prayers unheard,
like insence, floating hazily; kept in by
the sooty roof.

When they bury the dead, everyone leaves
except the dead. They stay, singing to the stars,
unrequited songs of love, of hope, of floating dreams
in tins unsealed, of loss encountered in daring
for victory, of death, of end without end,
of conflicted beginnings, of afflicted unamended –
untamed – …
Their affectations slowly, like their flesh, disappear:
Unheard once covered, unseen once left.

I can’t unless you give it all back.

What hurts is the hand that held the blade
and not the merciful blade itself. For edges,
sharp or blunt, have no master, no loyalty,
nor judgement. They serve hearts, and hands,
and feet, and thoughts grown to become deeds,
and deeds done in attempts to undo others:
be they dreams once seeded, now rejected
as shoots – unplucked but doomed to die.

uprooted into insignificance, like a drop of rain
falling from the clouds onto the surface of the sea,
drifting. One among many drops; no longer a drop.
At once sea, no mercy but what is given me,
no power nor self. Shelved until the improbable:
the currents drift me back up into the realms
of elevating rays. For now though, and maybe
forever, the abyss awaits, and hell.

And I can’t unless you give it all back:
all of it, in it’s separate pieces and moments;
spots that form the person that, within your
supposed love, I grew to become: grew
away from being.

© Denis Adide 2012

 

Something new

For all the human handiwork it displays, the bible remains a peculiar holy book. I cannot think of any other text that has such authority over me, interpreting me faster than I can interpret it. It speaks to me not with the stuffy voice of some mummified sage but with fresh, lively tones of someone who knows what happened to me an hour ago. Familiar passages accumulate meaning as I return to them again and again. They seem to grow during my absences from them; I am always finding something new in them I never found before, something designed to meet me where I am at this particular moment in time.

Barbara Brown Taylor

And in reading God’s word, he most profiteth not always that is most ready in turning of the book, or in saying of it without the book; but he that most tuned into it, that is most inspired with the Holy Ghost, most in his heart and life altered and changed into that thing which he readeth; he that is daily less and less proud, less wrathful, less covetous, and less desirous of worldly and vain pleasures; he that daily (forsaking his old vicious life) increaseth in Virtue more and more.

Thomas Cranmer

The Priestly Church

The Church is priestly because from her proceeds the aroma of perpetual offering towards God. The Church is priestly because her arms are spread out perpetually to succour and intercede for those who need the sacrifice of love… Then the Church is God’s priest in the world and for the world, alike as presenting to God on the world’s behalf that homage which the world has not learned to present for itself, and a spending and suffering for God in service to the world.

Being a Priest today, Christopher Cocksworth and Rosalind Brown

 

 

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of Him who called you out of the darkness into his Marvelous light.

1 Peter 2:9

 

The Divine Hand

When an operation, no matter of what sort, is brought to a close at the right moment, the stoppage does it no harm and the agent himself is no worse for discontinuing the action. So if life itself – which is nothing but the totality of out actions – also ceases when the time comes, it takes no hurt by its mere cessation, nor is he adversely affected who thus brings the whole series of operations to its timely conclusion. But the proper hour and term are fixed by nature; if not by a man’s own nature – as, for example, through old age – then at all events by great Nature herself, bu whose continuous renewing of her every part the universe remains forever young and vigorous.

Whatever serves the purpose of the Whole is kept always fair and blooming. It follows then that the ending of his life can be no evil to a man – for, being a thing outside his control and innocent of all self-seeking, there is nothing in it to degrade him – nay, it sis even a good, inasmuch as for the universe it is something opportune, serviceable and in keeping with all else.

Thus by following the way of God and being at one with him in thought, man is borne onward by the divine hand.

Marcus Aurelius
 

Being confident of this.

Philippians 1:3-6
“I thank God every time I remember you, In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with Joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”

I always struggled with the term “coming to faith”. In my case it seemed disingenuous. Faith in the Divine wasn’t this unknown sentiment or place that I happened upon during the course of my life. On the contrary, Faith was at the centre of my life from a very young age. This, partly I think, can be attributed to the manner in which my parents and relatives expressed their faith. More poignant however, is the recognition within me of a knowledge of this thing I now understand to be love. It has been a constant hum in the background as life ebbed away, whispering the songs of selfhood and identity throughout my childhood – at this include the adult and adolescent years of curiosity and discovery. God was never far enough for me to have to find him. He was, in fact, close – within me – working to grow my eyes and heart into maturity: the ability to see, hear, recognise, and respond to Him and His love.

I found however, after my awakening, that life had more hurdles to overcome. It seemed as though the world I had occupied did all it could to spit me out – people I valued greatly couldn’t stay intimate with me as a result of the new direction my heart was being tugged. It’s almost as though in surrendering my life to God, I gave up the world. I was forewarned about this by wiser Christians and had encountered the same in scriptures, this sense of carrying a cross, of hardship, of rejection by the world, but was unprepared for it. For all the encouraging words however, I still felt the sorrow of loss. This was compounded further by everyone talking about having received “peace, joy, Love” etcetera. Meanwhile I was in pain: it hurt to be – or at least feel – alone. Only one thing kept me walking in this new direction toward the unknown, a deep knowledge that it was the only way I could go in response to the Love of God, as well as a realisation of the equal sorrow that being in the world was breeding, and had bred within me.

Jesus spent 40 days in the desert after He was baptised. He then returned to where He had come from.

Retrospectively, the world I inhabit now is no different from the one I felt sorrow for leaving. In fact, the Church has the same broken people within it – me being one. The difference is this, that after time spent separating myself – or at least trying and failing to separate myself – to and for God, there is a solidity within. This isn’t by my doing. He led me out of my house into a storm and asked me to stand and call out to people without shelter while he built a stronger house around me. The more the bricks went up, the less the wind blew. This house is still incomplete.

Take heart, persevere. He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…

‘Stone Altars’ (Part 4)

I asked for your hearts, but you built these stone altars for yourselves

Under the spell of the Bishop’s hat, which towered above the crowds now gathered on the steps of the Cathedral, we listened as the canon read from the book of Moses the story of how God delivered and led the Israelites through the parted sea and away from the pursuing Egyptian army. He, the Bishop, then began the service and marched us – crowds and candidates – into the huge cathedral doors, stopping by the font where the waters waited. With vigor and verve, he blessed the water and began to baptize the candidates. Each name was spoken with a deep sense of passion and enthusiasm, this man celebrated each face the drops touched, pronouncing the blessings surrounding the choice to pass into death and emerge into life with Jesus – Him for whom we were gathered.

(It is an interesting thing, that the church chose to have baptisms and confirmations on easter Saturday. I will cover this in a further reflection. For now I must return to the issue at hand).

I was impressed by the manner in which regardless of the number of people being baptised, the Bishop’s enthusiasm and sense of privilege never waned. Once the baptisms were done, He invited the rest of us – the confirmation candidates – to renew our vows before God by symbolically drawing the cross upon our foreheads with the waters from the font. When this was done, he led the procession down to the front, underneath the great dome. Candles in hand we all sat – the crowds joining in the scramble for good seats.

Being on the first row, my confirmation came and went quite quickly – I’m certain there is still a lot of processing to take place of what went on within me during those brief moments, what you are getting here is what I have been able to digest so far and feel is relevant to the issue of stone altars. As I mentioned in the preceding post, I was privileged to have been sat next to a young lady who was being baptised and confirmed on the same day. It was an honour to explain some of the liturgy and symbolism to her and see the effect of her grasping the depth of the steps she was making, even sharing her first journey to taking holy communion. This, and the long list of names that – like me – were called up to be confirmed, gave the occasion a sense of grander that surpassed all sense of ego that had developed within: leading up to the service, I had grown to believe in the speciality of my place but seeing and feeling my name vanish into a list that seemed endless was humbling. It was at this that the statement rang again.

I asked for your hearts, but you made these stone altars for yourselves

Yes, there was an altar made of stone (a hardening) that I had built for myself. Not to give God glory or even to lead me to a place where I could, but rather to keep myself in an elevated place. It was an altar well concealed in the sentiments of radicality and difference: in the desire to be set apart, to be distinctive. All these things in and of themselves aren’t bad, it is the secret edifice that they had allowed me to build without my noticing that made me shudder. As the names were called out, I realised that this vow that I was making wasn’t being done just by me. In fact, I was joining a whole host of people: becoming one of many. I was disturbed by the fact that I wanted the service to end quickly so I could go out and celebrate. The other names had began to make uncomfortable listening. The arrow to heart was the fact that for all his pomp and age, the Bishop remained enthusiastic about each name he read and blessed each one aloud and with such favour.

Skirted by a sense of self-righteousness masked in good intentions, I had erected my name, my reputation and adorned it with many things – words of affirmation, prophecy, and works, I had built myself into a tower overlooking the city so much so that in many ways I despised the Cathedral, trying to depose it.

A friend had asked me how our worship made God feel. This in an attempt to understand how to worship God in ‘Spirit and in truth’. My response was to say that our drive to worship shouldn’t be one that seeks to affect God, for he is suited in Glory already. Worship, and all it’s acts, were there as responses to God in all his splendour. This is right I think as it focuses our lenses onto the heart, which turned out to be the most important part of the sentence I heard.

I asked for your hearts, but you built these stone altars for yourselves

The heart is the most important word in that line because it canvases everything else. If the heart is correct, then the pieces of bricked up stones cease to be altars for selfishness but tools for mission and service. God doesn’t need beautiful buildings in order to be glorious or reveal his Glory. Neither does he need the pomp and ceremony of religiosity to touch the heart. It is in the heart – like that which I saw displayed in the Bishop’s sense of privilege in service – that God dwells and affects hearts. The real cathedral was in the heart of the man serving within it.

When we attach a deeper Spiritual essence onto the bricks and mortar, and beautiful artwork, we elevate what is architecture into something that it isn’t. On the other hand, though it isn’t the house of God, it is the house of God’s people and where they are (two or three) there He is also. I had walked into Chichester Cathedral thinking that God would speak to “me” there because “I” had gone into “His house”. I forgot that he could speak to me at any point and at any time thus the rebuke I think (and the rebuke was word from God spoken to me – I believe – inside the Cathedral: chew on that).

I asked for your hearts, but you built these stone altars for yourselves

I come from a continent that isn’t adorned with many cathedrals and churches. The church there is very much carried within its people. The many Church buildings that Britain, and Europe, are blessed to have are, and will always be reflections of the people within the church. They carry the sense within us of God’s grandure and hospitality but can be stumbling blocks to the development of faith within the heart. Like the dinner table for sunday roast, or Christmas meals, or Easter turkey, these spaces provide avenues for us to celebrate with each other the deep sense of hope that our faith gives us. It gives us space to share that hope with guests to our family. These things however, like the faith, do not require the space the buildings provide in order to be done – as I have experienced in Africa and is documented in many places. God is preached on streets, in homes, in fields and felt in hearts.

We cannot escape the privilege however of having these beautiful buildings and must, like Peter and the boat, cease to see them as means of surviving on the water but rather tools from which to preach the possibility of walking with Christ. We can only do this once we, internally turn our eyes heavenward, and not to fresco’s and domes. Remembering out own brokenness and folly in repentance (destroying the architecture in our hearts that keeps us from humility). Only then can we respond to the call the heart in true worship.

I was reduced to tears after sharing the peace with my family and friends who had journeyed to take part in the service with me. The joy they had in their eyes, having watched what had taken place, humbled me. It reminded me of the call to serve and invigorated me with a passion for them. It was their eyes, handshakes, hearts, and hugs that broke the bricks that supported my internal dome.

As you read this, please do place me in your prayers as the journey towards a truer understanding of my place in God’s kingdom continues. I know that within me is the urge to shy from addressing my own brokenness so desperately I ask for your intercession as I try and tear down the boulders within.

Finally, think on the statement and feel free to converse with me on your reflections.

I asked for your hearts, but you built these stone altars for yoursleves