Sunday, December 18, 2011

sweetly I take thee, obligation dread.

Let these words, printed pages,
phrases, the smell of ink faded
be devoid of beauty now.
Come to these shelves not again,
we who beg because of hunger.
Empty them of sound or sigh,
battered by uncomfortable fits of chance,
finally divorced from dreams
to heal in sullen silence.
The elegy of beauty was stark.

Desolate in endings,
tear them from strength or pallid sweetness,
kindness, longing, choosing, sickness,
disappointment. Hate the length of sounds
and quiet friendship
of syllables, flash of something new,
chemicals and blood.
The next breath; worlds languish,
dying, and the sun burns blindly.
Sky stretches without sackcloth,
clashes all inside with something
and nothing, nothing else;
brutal our mighty steps
through towns where novels spill no light.

Let our words decay and shatter
at the sound of singleness.
Poured in a dry riverbed,
they would shout in their millions
an endless cacophony
of something
and everything else. Turn the lights brighter,
make the music louder. Drown the sky.

Heart, steal not memory
from blood or parchment,
words of any goodness.
Pour your apathy into
the mouth of earth’s darker tunnels.
Surrender cold cynicism
to the hands of one desirable,
the words that speak endlessly
and perplex us
(long nights alone).

Once, I loved you.
More than I could say.
Today I know only
the tumbling leap of my
own mind. In my universe,
your words move the air
scattering resonance,
austere and alone.

The elegy of beauty was forgettable.
We are the ones who desired,
who were satisfied.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

as if in a mirror.

Faithfulness, thankfulness,
a path known well and trodden often,
a gift, a surprise, and the hope
enveloped like a bird
in the mountains,

endless, darting
amidst the songs welcomingly.


Half-awoken, shifting or falling
in the earth; who sighed
with my sigh, near to me?
Darkling world,
you mourn the exhaustion
of rivers who flow forward
endlessly, or end
in perpetual barrenness.
Empty rivers stretch in testament
of movement.

Do we speak
to all that springs forth
green and bright as a friend,
when we people the world
with lore, knowing ourselves
in the swimmingness of rivers?
Do we shy from light with the single desire
to be, desire written intricately
across all else,
folded gently into me?

Nothing was said of this.
Who divides mercy from madness?
Who divides water from water,
light from light,
the endless darkness, hurtling,
from the sweetness of sleep,
when we wake up
deeply refreshed?
I heard you walking near

while I sat near the window on a rainy day,
and someone practised the piano.
I asked about my parents,
the parents of their parents, trying to trace
far back to what cannot be reached
in time, or in evident process.
In a simple step,
a simple way, movement in time.
We fill the pages, finite, almost endless,
all with stories,

Morning wakes
for a winsome world,
who also yearns to wake.
I yearn again to wake
when my eyes see light,
when the light falls sweetly,
when leaves sway inanimately.

A boat stirs the lake,
a child moves in the womb,
and I lie in the shade of the valley.
I lie here and try to remember
under elemented skies.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I strive to understand the words
addressed to me, unknown. Immense
as unread shelves and the minutes
till morning,
robed in silence;

you are more than I've clung to
or imagined.

Lost in the elaborate and foreign gaze,
you are to me
like one who is spoken of.

Under an unchanging sky
and windswept clouds,
you are to me like one
whose words are of more worth
than I'd known.

When you spoke,
I heard, after many days.
You are like one who stays with me
near an unlit fire,
who waits for me, with me,
through seas of restlessness.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

you restore.

I revel not in a dying sun;
my eyes, my feet, lament not western seas,
nor will I sacrifice again the bird that sings,
but cleave my heart, my eyes,
to your paths over me.

To these,
one thing I know;
my heart, my feet,
my hands that grope,
my eyes grown dim,
the crops that fail,
the vine grown sweet.
One thing I've known,
the house I return to.

One lingers on the horizon,
fills the fields, the trees,
the words and the days.
Here is one thing, one hand,
one voice left
at the end of all things,
and your paths over me.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

akin to pleasantness.

my words like sharpened stone,
drawn and formed from mercurial soil
to shatter violence.

No small river, your words
like eternity. Waters passing over,
over and over me.
(Had you abandoned me?)

Having no names
they take my stone-heart mail,
rend open the ceiling
to see the sun.

All I lament
this soil, beneath the sky.
My paths wend back for no one
into ignominy.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

a cord of many strands.

As the waking stars slowly emerge,
in the middle of the night
or in sleep like valleys,
in the morning
when the light is sweet

we belong to this day, flowing seamlessly
from week to year, hour to hour
of daylight, inclining
to the words beneath.

Small fires flare, some nights;
vast storms ascend.
In our last rest (last breath),
sunrise, earth, and sky immense
flee from your presence.
Words on our lips
are standing on the path where eyes
find coastlines, never seen before.

We’ve silently remembered
for a long time, turning it over
and over, brighter still
in an ordinary conversation.

Earth and sky are waiting
as the waking stars slowly find light.
Rest, rest in this,
or stand on the precipice of wordlessness.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

the smallness of things.

“Good evening! Are you still awake?” The small face looked out into the night, listening carefully for her friend’s response. The night peered down on her for some time before glancing across the earth, noticing a more solemn face at a distance. This friend sat, ornately established, on an old stone roof in the centre of a city. He contemplated words in the silence.
“Yes, Wristwatch.” He spoke, after a pause: “I am here.”
The watch smiled. She was a delicate but plain piece of silverwork, not very costly, nor as old as the stone-tower clock. She had a pleasant nature and a bright face.
“A lovely evening!” she murmured a few times, half-mindful of her listener. “How is the city tonight?”
Stone-Tower Clock spoke his mind, although he was accustomed to silence. “My eyes are failing, Little Watch. There is little difference from night to night in the movement of the people; the year is growing warm, yet they all wear their coats and seem to be unmindful of the seasons.”
“A strange thing,” agreed the wristwatch. She was still looking out at the night, but she listened intently.

Being set with about an hours’ difference, the two conversants grew increasingly aware of the symmetry and difference of their movements. Wristwatch spent a while admiring the silence. “Aren’t the seconds fascinating? I think I’m overwhelmed by the idea.”
“Yes.” Stone-Tower Clock spoke in a strange voice, she thought. “I try not to think about it.”
“I rarely think; I prefer to observe.”
Wristwatch was thinking, her small motor buzzing almost without sound. “I love how we are so small, but we are caught up so inherently with something as large as time. Is this what it feels like to be swimming, or breathing?”
“Time is distant, Little Watch,” Stone-Tower Clock responded gently.
“I have always felt it to be close.”

“Think about what we are.”
“Clocks.” The watch felt curious, uncertain.
“You are silver and leather. I am embedded in these rocks. We are material things and the hours escape us.”
The thought was almost too foreign for Wristwatch to find a reply to. “Our hands are always moving. We are moving things, set to move in time.” She frowned a little as she thought.
“But can you hold time, or speak to it?” Although his eyes did not meet those of the night, he appeared very respectable in the clouds’ dappled shadows. “You are almost irreverent to the immensity, Little Watch.”
“So large we can hardly flee from it.”
“Are you made of movement? Are you time itself? Are you as old as I am?”
“I am not time.”
“Do we represent time?”
The wristwatch imagined what the night might perceive when it saw her. “Not very well.”
“And where is time, what is it like? Words are elusive as the thing itself. So you see,” said the city clock, “that some things are too immense for either you or me to ponder well.”

Saturday, September 24, 2011

so much yet lies buried.

Ours are the conversations,
the pages and days of the world,
the shapes of silent music from an unknown
brightness of all forgotten or submerged
voices in a place that appears no longer.

"A voice speaks and you listen:
wondering at the form of what is foreign
or alike you listen, speak in reply and listen."
Why hope that there is something material,
something less like ghosts who slip
treacherously out of meeting
in the words we knit and reach for?

Languages fierce in their secrets intersect
or slice apart the dreams proffered
across gravity, space, time, motion.
The sky speaks and the vacant face
looking up to shapeless face
speaks, unheard and unknown.
So much unfolds to be told.
We stare together at the same spark
and then go home.

What if there were more to give
and a heart to empty into hands,
whatever that would mean,
regardless of how it were held?
Though you've rested in this place
I can barely breathe.

This is the gift that isn't yours to give,
the canvas that isn't yours to fill.

"We could still stand together.
I hope we could walk as if we weren't alone."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

to be, to be like.

I've heard sometimes that there are two ways of understanding and defining things. You can either describe what they are like or divide them from what they are not, and these are conflicting approaches. While the first way seems to evoke a primitive kind of cosmology, a tangible world where similitude, meaning and metaphor belong together, the other is linked more with Western rationality. The whole idea seems to lament the responsible necessity of dividing logic's desired Reality from the countless perspectives known by experience.

I'm not sure that this is right. The fullest and most resonant ideas seem to approach their subjects according to their shape and their substance simultaneously, working through the relationships and differences between both aspects of each thing as we see them to be. The universe is varied and yet it's real; it's not a homogenous field of feeling, intense yet irrelevant to the nothingness outside it. It's not a mass of shadows or echoes, and certainly not a cold shell of categories.

Logic stands strong, but never stands alone. The further you travel into understanding the layers upon layers of what the world is (independently of us, except for ourselves) and is significant as, this grows: feeling and meaning stand together in a highly natural way.

Knowledge like this can be surprising and intense. It can be familiar and ordinary. That's not the point; there's something deeply right about handling what defines and what comprises a thing in the same breath. Even if you won't and can't pin all things down like dead moths, they may not be elusive to reason.

Even when it feels like the sense of sight has rarely, if ever, existed for us.

Friday, August 26, 2011


As warmth rises in the afternoon
of what has been winter,
I stand and face the west.
It’s weeks now since I stood

and months, years long
since I spoke, but I’ve learnt songs
and I anticipate the morning,
morning from behind the hills of sunset.

To have words and not the heart
or to have the right heart and yet long
to be filled with the words
you spoke or speak.

To hold what is not apathy
but is numb to the voice
that spoke or speaks,
to stand, to move,

simply to be in a place
and understand the warmth
of the sun over us. Oh agitation
of beginnings, of costliness.

I stand facing the west
with eyes closed because colours are perceptions
and I ache for the real, because sunset
and sunrise are too deep a lake.

I can’t help but listen
to what is not silence,
join the songs from somewhere
in the past.

Friday, August 12, 2011


How could I hide the morning? Even my home I’ll shift
to find you, show you a field with treasure marked.

I felt your hands tremble. Friend; smallness adrift
among strangers, your brother, the oracle, the anarch.

How can I share a life that he will sift
like flour, how tempt you to embark
and give yourself to him, your life the first gift?

Let the steel storm of questions build to lift
and unveil my decision. Would I bury the first light’s spark?
Or choose to see that night, responding swift
to give myself to you, my life the first gift.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Are humans inherently selfish or relational? By looking at the way people live and at the way we create and compose, it seems your answer to this question defines your understanding of what absolutely everything is. Regardless of all the other questions we might have, if we could answer this one our cultures and lives would be utterly different.

I want to learn to love well in every relationship- even every acquaintance. I'm convinced that love is valuable; that people are genuinely valuable on so many levels at once. There's something in friendship beyond any reason that makes sense, yet it's the opposite of reasonless. It's hard to look into all that's behind that, but if it were a gift that's real and possible... It would be worth understanding, embracing.

Friday, June 17, 2011


How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it;

Sunday, June 12, 2011

ever, only, all for thee.

...and in other news, today I read a well-written thought from Oliver O'Donovan.
"We discover we are free when we are commanded by that authority which commands us according to the law of our being, disclosing the secrets of the heart. There is no freedom except when what we are, and do, corresponds to what has been given to us to be and to do. ‘Given to us’, because the law of our being does not assert itself spontaneously merely by virtue of our existing. We must receive ourselves from outside ourselves, addressed by a summons which evokes that correspondence of existence to being."

Friday, June 10, 2011


I was gently reminded that knowledge is worthless if it's not part of love. That understanding God is only possible through relationship with Him; that He has given us so many ways to actually know Him, and that these are perfect. In seeking wisdom or knowledge, we should also seek out which parts of those things God is leading us to value and follow- in light of the freedom He longs to bring, and the glory He is revealing to us, in us. Rather than knowing Him systematically (as our basis, I mean), we should seek His face- the Living God who's so thoroughly in touch with all the parts of our world- like in a conversation. Like many, many years of conversations, often and real.

Friday, June 3, 2011

day or night.

That moment when I closed my eyes
and was hidden,
when I stopped speaking
despite poetry,
despite friendship
and welcomed every breath as a stranger.

The breath when I yearned
and vowed to have no rest,
no rest
until the fire returned
(with little hope)
but hoped,

perhaps, not to be neglected
or like one desolate.

If the sky would wake and stir
and see the raging water,
there might be footsteps then.
Stirring of shoots
and the dry earth melting
with a shout
just beyond reach.

Monday, May 30, 2011

into the open.

I might be buried
with your pages folded neatly
in my mind.
I might be called to recite,
translate old ink.

The caverns of your essence hold
your shape;
your mind is here
and mine not far away.

A meeting,
moment of something true.
Something like proximity
or life,
or bright words striving with a void
outside our time.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


I've been feeling the strangeness, lately, of having my life centred around a relationship with God that is so clear to me- yet invisible and even ridiculous to most of the people I know. When faith is compelled by reasonable evidence, met by indescribable and obvious blessing, it's a beautiful thing... But I'm tired of my friends seemingly not being able to see these things at all, despite how actually important they are. I care a lot, and it can be confusing. I think that sometimes I try to see things from the perspective of others' experiences so much that I forget the simple reality I'm genuinely allowed to rest in.

If I surrender deeply to the things I can't dispute, how can taking them seriously be considered fundamentalist or naive? What am I expected to believe? The reality is intricate, not to be waved off with unnoticed double standards or considered undesirable. So when friends seem to engage with all these things and then dismiss them as an emotional, social or aesthetic choice- or misunderstand the nature of them, even when genuinely peering into them- it's just surreal. It hurts, it can be awkward and it's discouraging. Has something so large ever seemed so invisible?

God has revealed Himself to our generation in a way that asks faith and desire of us, even whilst giving us the grounds for it. I feel more and more that belief is not only about seeing things on the surface of reality and affirming them, but rather being willing to be stirred when God asks if we want anything to do with the kind of goodness that is His. Willing to be bound to this love, though it costs everything I thought was worth my desire. Willing to study, have my small perspectives challenged and have integrity with belief, and yet to surrender to what isn't comfortable. To acknowledge that we aren't being judged, but welcomed and desired, far beyond what we deserve. That however we imagine Him, God is desirable, faithful and good, not to be treated as worthless.

I need to remember the nature of the reality I walk in, even whilst trying to stay in touch with how others see it. To know that we are all subjects of this king, like it or not. To find the energy and the thankfulness to be lost not in what is imagined (the everyday, the mere undisputed), but in reality's fullness and real meaning. To be able to keep speaking about what I have found to be real, whether or not I know how to make that clear. For my heart to adore my God as king; for Him to be like the one I come home to, who is more real than anything else I find or am found in, because He is.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


For the marriage of simplicity and truth,
sing these songs.
Bid trust bring us all her gifts
till the allegory fades
and we, remade,
are caught into the sky, the breath we come from.
Rest, restored: one is here
who knows us, knows us well.

Soon we’ll speak exactly as we feel and think and are, yet be well. See how our faces glow with the grace of it. The hours flow by, word of simplicity like water.

We’ll hold onto them like a treasure. Soon we’ll be eye to eye, heart to heart, and held under the poetry that wakes us gently—so well, by the fruit of these trees. The words that grow slowly, stand strongly. The cold, blue sky, the light of full sun and clouds, these gumtrees and even the homes and roads will catch their breath at her splendour (coming up from the desert).

To the light that rises for us, piecing together what was scattered, that holds my face, that catches my eyes, that holds me; whose silence speaks quietness to us here—
I love you, we love you here. The depth of what we hold.

Not broken. Only sleeping, if you still create.

Whose wisdom, whose words arrived (in our hearts, in this song):
let it now be like it will be.
Never leave for a moment, in your promise.

Beautiful and perfect, the weaver of all things.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

whan that the month of May is comen,

I haven't been posting properly for a while because of busyness, despite having planned (and promised!) to write up some of the things I've been learning in Biblical Studies this semester. No excuse needs to be made for lapses in blog posts, nor for my never having really been a 'blogger'. Still, I do feel that the long, sporadic writing here is symptomatic of the trouble I find in communicating things succinctly and relevantly. I'd love to deliberately work on that.

A while ago now, my friend Blake encouraged me to write poems with a word limit, for a month. I think it was about thirty words- and while that may not have made my poetry much better in quality or more outward-focused, I found it helpful! So I've decided to do the same this month, with prose. I'll try to give some super-quick thoughts, two hundred words or less, a bit more often. Whether or not this writing-space even has any readers matters little. It should be good practice! :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Better I were without words
and learnt to speak again,
words that are found.

Let me, sometimes,
wander your wordless roads
and rest.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

to what I did and said.

"But You are He who took Me out of the womb;
You made Me trust while on My mother’s breasts.
I was cast upon You from birth.
From My mother’s womb
You have been My God.
Be not far from Me."

as if it were again.

For what was hidden:
not for fear of light
lest the pages wither,
but knowing how precious the words are
and how they were given;

for this I walk
and my heart touches the lines
and the ink, almost bursts with this.

With a wax seal,
with a hidden world.
For this I speak
and my face becomes pale
for this, for you.
My love unseen.
My mornings are shadows,
sincere one, to you;
the world shivers;

the early morning
and the soaking dew on grass,
my dress cold from it
and my shoes,

the bright sky,
the purity of eyes
so gently kept closed.

Or else the wound,
your eyes that drift
so deep,

perfume of sleep,
the murmur of its darkness.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

everything is here.

No wonder they love you,
no wonder they come to see us
in this light,
in the morning with dancing.
The scent of the gardens all still
and the voices that carry through dusk
on the paths of these hills.

Yours are the words that draw me,
yours is the grace that I praise.
Yours are my songs
and yours is the glance of my heart.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

because you answer me!

Yours I come,
frail in my love.
In my eyes
you are everything
when you call me.

I am blind,
inclined to other things.
You pursue me
and you have called,
your voice has called:

I love you, with all that is mine.
I will give all of my days to you.
Is there a light other than yours?
I could lose all my ways in you.

You who take nothing away,
whose song is deep and strong,
I stay, my face unmasked in you.

By your nearness I'm kept close
to stay here,
hoping to be unified in love for you.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

my light.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that I will seek after;
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent,
he will set me high upon a rock.

And now my head will be lifted up
above my enemies round about me;
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, "Seek my face".
My heart says to you,
"Your face, Lord, I seek".
Hide not your face from me.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

return, return, that we may look upon you.

When we asked our lecturer on Thursday which biblical translation she preferred for the poetic books, she simply replied that she reads them in Hebrew. This is more frustrating than amusing for me, since I don't read any Hebrew, but the surrounding discussion justified her answer well. Poetry is incredibly heightened in its awareness of every part of language as part of its meaning. The literal sense, the effect of sound and rhythm, the atmospheres emerging and the subtle implications of all the words' order, patterns and relationships enflesh the sub-literal parts of what is uniquely expressed.

A simple example of this is the gender of language, where for example strength and power in Psalm 21:13-
Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength!
We will sing and praise your power.
are paired; one is feminine, one masculine. I wrote about parallelism earlier here, where the second line of each pair often reflects and expands on the first one. This is happily translatable, but the felt sense of each is still dampened in a non-gendered image.

Another difference between the languages is that Hebrew has a much more complicated case system than English. A lot of our words don't change, regardless of where they are in a sentence. We usually rely on sentence order to know what a word is doing or having done to it, but Hebrew poetry easily places important words early in a phrase. Many words also have very particular, clustered meanings that take a number of words to translate- so that a very simple line of just a few words, carefully placed together for meaning, usually becomes a long sentence in English.

That said, the translations are still wonderful, still the words of God in our hands. Even if the literary and devotional senses of poetic lyrics can't be split, the simple meaning of the words themselves is deeply true and fully relevant. This seems to be the way with God! There is always so much vastness, so much reality to be amazed by, yet His knowledge (in love) is already near. His goodness is overflowing for everyone who seeks Him, and He makes our worlds larger forever.

We looked at some beautiful things. In Song of Solomon 2:14, "Let me see your face" is stronger than it seems: let me doesn't mean 'I'd like to' so much as it is an imperative to the listener. The words for see and face are related as well, so that the lover is really telling his beloved to let him see her face, and in her face her visible self. This whole book is also fascinating when the titles are taken out of modern translations, so that it is difficult to know who is speaking at which point, who is listening, what they are doing and where; it changes often. This is true of many of the psalms and other poetry, and gives a sense of sounds and conversations- an entire atmosphere- being taken out real social or relational moments to be held in the pages. As a side note, ancient readers seem to have always read out loud, and ancient writers to have 'written out loud' as well, dictating to themselves. Many 'readers' were really a collective audience of listeners, and many of these poems would have been music. It gives the literature a different way of being.

The structure of thoughts within a psalm often tells a story on its own, as in Psalm 136:10-15. There, the firstborn of Egypt are killed; Israel is brought out from among them; the Red Sea is divided; Israel passes through it; Pharoah and his host are overthrown in the sea. The structure is a-b-c-b-a, fulfilling Israel's deliverance through the waters. The psalm begins with praise for God's goodness and love, then sees Him spreading out the earth on the water, then forming all the great lights named as rulers of their times. The deliverance centrepiece is followed with God's leading of His people out of the wilderness (which is like what is "formless and empty"), overthrowing kings and providing food for all people. The reflection is not so precise, verse by verse, as to feel contrived, but it is a strong declaration of who God is as the Lord and the Shepherd of the earth, of the whole cosmos, of the nations and of His people whom He loves. All through the song there is also repeated a response, "for his steadfast love endures forever", embodying this trustworthy, unchanging strength. The final line is beautiful after the first three and after the rest of the psalm:
O give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

Psalm 80 does something similar, repeating its plea and adding to it.
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock...
Restore us, O God,
let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Restore us, O God of hosts...
and finally again,
Restore us, O Lord God of hosts,
let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Among these refrains is the story of Israel led like flock, and the stirring cry for restoration of this covenant:
O Lord God of hosts,
how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbours;
and our enemies laugh among themselves.

The picture is repeated and articulated as a story, this time with a vine rather than a flock. In a few final verses this is told again, the travellers and animals that ravage the vineyard being now people who burn it and cut it down; and then, at this height, the Davidic promise is remembered (astounding that these worshippers were led to write about their God like this) and the covenant is renewed in heart and in blessing.
But let your hand rest upon the man of your right hand,
the son of man you have made strong for yourself!
Then we will never turn back from you...

In these ways the image is expanded, the scene embroidered, from line to line and from part to part. Song of Solomon 5:1 does this clearly, with a different sense:
I come to my garden, my sister, my bride,
I gather my myrrh with my spice,
I eat my honeycomb with my honey,
I drink my wine with my milk.

We talked as well about how the second part often particularises the thought it reflects. In Psalm 144:1,
Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
who trains my hands for war,
and my fingers for battle
the wider reality of a hand or a war is brought down to smaller details, the fingers and battles. It feels like the lesser things look after lesser things, the greater ones the greater; every detail is seen and known among the vast plans of God. Meaning is formed in the poetry, infusing the literal words.

The other thing I hadn't noticed was the idea of fixed pairs in the Bible- sons and daughters, the heavens and the earth, night and day- and how embedded these are in the idea of Hebrew songs. Some translators even consider the positioning of these pairs to determine which passages are prose and which, with pairs as the heart of their parallel lines, are poetry. Here is Psalm 19, which is exquisite when it's read with the ear of all this tradition.
The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, there are no words;
their voice is not heard;
yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

In them he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them;
and there is nothing hid from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring for ever;
the ordinances of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
More desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey,
and drippings of the honeycomb.

Moreover by them is thy servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
But who can discern his errors?
Clear me from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

bütün şarkılarımız senin için.

In the first week of lectures and readings for 'Islam and Muslims in World History', we've talked mostly about the idea of a 'universal history'- explaining the whole human past according to one's own paradigms. Whether creationist, Enlightenment, Romantic or modern in basis, this has tended in European history to draw a picture of linear development towards 'civilisation'. Because of this, the history of other regions is often exoticised even when portrayed.

An alternative to this is a more 'global history', an attempt to portray the connections between cultures and societies in the history of the world from a wider range of perspectives. This doesn't just include telling the stories of the rest of the world, but also the potential to tell these in light of foreign memories of the events; even exploring foreign values to choose which stories should be told in the first place, and what meaning is drawn from those. Far from relativism, this opens out so much of the real meaning of history. Humanity is intricate on so many levels: there's always something new to look at and piece into our understanding of universal history- and of our personal histories- as they really are.

It's interesting to begin learning more about the connections between Arabic/Oriental and Hellenic/Roman/European cultures. The divide between East and West didn't always exist, but it is difficult to imagine the Middle Ages or the current time without it. There have been many exchanges between the two that are easy to forget, and our lecturer also made a point of the differences between the Arab and Muslim 'worlds'. At some points in history the two have been basically synonymous, and obviously there is significant mutual identity, but not all Arabic speakers have been Muslims, nor by any means all Islamic societies Arab/Eastern. Territorial and doctrinal conflicts in the Middle Ages, along with the Classical concept of the barbarian, led to the deep 'otherness' that the East has attained in the eyes of the West, but this is hardly inherent.

Apart from the diversity of Islamic societies- the distinctions between religion, society and culture seem to unify groups while also allowing for significant differences- the continuities and changes within a single culture are also underestimated. Islam has developed over time, and cultures in one country or empire can change dramatically even within a decade. To speak of 'Western culture' as somehow the same in antiquity, in the Middle Ages, a few centuries ago and the present- and then of all these together as somehow different to 'Eastern culture'- is a false construct. The lines of time and space are much more nuanced than archetypal history and literature have sometimes portrayed.

I still have a lot to learn, just by listening and watching for a while. I don't feel I've begun to understand the real heart of Arabic and Islamic cultures. Drawing closer to this, there are things I'll both appreciate and disagree with, but hopefully in a different way to the stereotypes I have at the moment! For now, even the methodology is interesting... It's nice to be an Arts student this year :)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

when he fled.

"But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.

"I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.

"Arise, Lord!
Deliver me, my God!"

Thursday, February 24, 2011


I've been learning a lot about rest recently. Part of that has come under learning to trust and to enjoy what God is doing, even though sometimes it takes so long to grow... Realising that He delights in us even in the process of grace. And with time, that's just the thing: I've been aware more than ever that really, really long periods of time can hold deep and coherent realities. I'm beginning to let my heart and thoughts settle more into those, to appreciate them and even desire them.

The thing that has struck me the most, though, is how we can rest in each other's gifts. The friends that God has placed around me are amazing me more all the time, and I so love serving Him with them. I love seeing people thrive in roles that I would have to work so hard in and with less results, and being able to step back and fill the places God has set aside for me. I so love being part of other people's lives- what a gift!

And I'm learning, in life and in friendship, that it's okay to move slowly. Not with apathy, with real desire and passion... Yet living in rest, knowing what is valuable and what is just too much. Relying on the grace and love of friends in places I need to come into just a bit at a time, places I really want to be in but which might take a while. People always surprise me! Whenever I need to rely on these friends in places that are hard (especially those that shouldn't be!) the welcome is real and easy, the opportunities are perfectly made, and I'm so thankful. When it feels like there's just too much to do or focus on, it's good to rest in the fact that it's God who is working around us, making everything happen and choosing what matters, so that we can simply join with His work within the resources we have. Running in God's strength, but also in only His expectations :)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

what it is to reflect.

I've just started reading 'The Idea of Biblical Poetry' by James L. Kugel, which has been sitting on my bookshelf from the library for a few weeks. I've only read nine pages into the first chapter, but the thought is quite cool and I'd love to share a little part.

Kugel is writing about how often in biblical poetry, each line is made up of two parts- with a pause between. Instead of any set poetic metre or things such as rhyme or alliteration, this form is what the Hebrew ear expected from poetry. The theme of this book is the way that there is often a relationship between the two parts, where the second half will either repeat part of the first or reflect its ideas/voice, as in Psalm 94:
God of retribution, Lord / God of retribution, appear! //
Rise up, earth's ruler / give the arrogant their due //
How long shall the wicked, Lord / how long shall the wicked rejoice? //
They brag, speak arrogance / all the evil-doers do act haughtily //

This draws the imagery and the heart of what is written in a unique and expressive way, whether you notice it or not. Even the writers might hardly have noticed; it was culturally inherent.

Rather than simply mirroring or copying the first part in the second, though, there is something more significant held in the intuitive meaning of this form. Kugel rightly mentions how the listener would understand a build-up. The first part of the line is a truth in its own right, but it's also there to set the stage for something more: "A is so, and what's more, B is so."

I love this paragraph:
The medial pause all too often has been understood to represent a kind of "equals" sign. It is not; it is a pause, a comma, and the unity of the two parts should not be lost for their division. Indeed, its true character might be more graphically symbolised by a double arrow-
All your works praise you Lord <--> and your faithful ones bless you
for it is the dual nature of B both to come after A and thus add to it, often particularizing, defining, or expanding the meaning, and yet also to harken back to A and in an obvious way connect to it. One might say that B has both retrospective (looking back to A) and prospective (looking beyond it) qualities.

So amazing how God taught these people, within their culture, to know who He is within a context of worship. Even its poetic form is so aware of the goodness of God that is all through creation. There's a beautiful relationship between what is seen first, and what these things point to; things that are less become precious by holding His image. What comes now is caught up in what it will become later. Rather than discarding things or forgetting His servants, God delights in perfecting and glorifying. It's the nature of things :)

This feels like a glimpse of what it means for us as well to be part of the glory of God. Surrendering to this gives us His rest. His light over-illuminates ours, but in undeserved love His fire also points back to, always brightens, our own.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


I've just read Deuteronomy, and one thing that has stood out to me in this story is how God has set so clearly in people's memories what He has already done... Yet for Israel, it's not just about looking to the past. It's a real hope, to be experienced in His faithfulness: to be strong and courageous even in what is unseen and what is ahead. People are given (and become part of) stories to understand, but each generation and each individual gets to live out the story of who God is.

This contrasts so much with our culture's ideas of security and hope. In listening to God for each step, not hiding things from Him, it's beautiful to know how vast the future is as something we could never weave together ourselves, but that He is delighting in holding for us. Everything is held. When we wait only on Him, time and its seasons are a beautiful thing.

wherever you.

When we’ve said too much,
let us meet silence
for a time,
deep river of moments
under the afternoon light.

You fill each day to the brim
according to the rhythms of your own house.
We could explore them forever,
understand them among friends.
I love each note,
however brief; I lose myself in the sound
and the uniqueness.

Time tells his stories more quietly
in the language of earth,
the words we will incline to
and by which we are remade.
Emptied of the old ways,
taught to be real;
we lack nothing,
delighted by what you have made.
We enjoy your house with silence in the afternoon,
contented and delighted by you
whose reality precedes us
and whose love upholds our breath.

Every morning rises with a new sun,
a light unseen before and newly made
yet of one kind
with the faithfulness we rise to each day.

In the evening
when stars appear,
then we are stirred
and we race over the sand in the cold breeze,
watching you,
arriving to find you in your promises.

Let our hearts be quiet before you again now
and watch. Then we will follow
wherever you go.
You have spoken already.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Every drop of the rain is a word about your kindness. Desiring such goodness to be held within, even when I'm within walls, hope cannot disappoint us.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I really want my thoughts and prayers to tend so much more naturally towards loving God and people. Not just genuinely caring, not just thinking of them, but lingering there easily, effortlessly. To run in circles around God's heart for people and His own goodness, rather than returning home in thought to the things I need His strength for.

To learn where His desire for us to surrender to Him more is still surrounded by His real delight in us.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

and it's sweet to've come.

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.

The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

you search me.

When I was woven at first
in the depths of the earth,
you sought me there; you knew
all the days hidden for me
and whether they'd see light.

If I now so uncertain, so small, flee back
into the darkness to be born,
if my mind flies through the earth
and the depths I saw,
you are still with me.

I love the light of your face.
We walk with open hearts, with you in eye.
Kindness is truly my companion.
Everything rains blessing here in you
on this road, which is yours only always.

So if I rise on the first light's wings
or if they chase me, meet me
on the other side of night and seas,
your words are as close as my own and my love,
to obey them; your strong hand guides me.

out of the depths.

We see so far into everything and
we are so small.

See the poet who writes Nature,
Beauty transcending.
Is he true to his vision at evening?
Who commends himself to Heaven’s harvest?

Or you whose eyes responsibly fail in your darkness,
whose pen leaps out of hunger into chaos:
hold it to the end then, if still you can,
for the sky's epitaph.

I can’t, I can’t; love unrequited.
Write of open fields,
of deserts
and mountains who fall to goodness
with strong songs;
kingdoms and hope everlasting,
trust beyond strength
and the worship
of those who are small
and so blessed.
These songs are older,
born of the wind.

The world itself will flee
until we shelter in the words that still remain.

Monday, January 17, 2011

the end of a breath.

We run with more trust to the words
that are always on your lips,
in this your love!
The feet of the noble are like those who come
to the home of a friend, invited.
They'll wait without dread
and trust with praise for kindness.
They'll wait for just a moment.

We are like the rain
sent on the earth,
touching the surface of these moments
and seeping, creeping into them.
The future is real in your eyes only;
there are dreams that are empty
and things that are too wonderful for me.

Our eyes find the substance of your love
in its place, as those who stand on a mountain
and search, and breathe, the sky itself;
those who know that you withhold

Why does grace pursue me?
I can't grasp for goodness
yet your love is always with me.

You who wake me from my dreams
and your loved ones from death,
your light is like the morning.
Your joy awakes our light vastly, deeply
over all these salted waters.
They surge and rage
even among hope,
but we are holding peace.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

(to the tune of) a dove on distant oaks.

"Then my enemies will turn back
when I call for help.
By this I will know that God is for me.

"In God, whose word I praise,
in the LORD, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can man do to me?

"I am under vows to you, my God;
I will present my thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered me from death
and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

to love what is yours.

The gentleness of others, the softness of the afternoon
and their faithful joy in this deep light,
the rain of last night,

they call me to wear something new,
something simple,
apart from the incomparable loveliness;
your own goodness.

Something simple, more pure.
Let quality protect herself, then.
She'll surprise us as we finally arrive,
by persuasions that bring praise
on ourselves instead;

freely praise.
Everything woven into the new garment
that is your own love.

She responds through the ages to you
in a glory of delight,
and within her I feel it;
I come to you (and yours) more aware
of the flood of your hope for us
worked by your own hands,

Simpler too, I hope,
looking at your beauty,
since all these days are born
to such a humble light.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


"Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

"If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings."