Whom Am I?

The following poem was written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in prison one month before he was executed under Hitler’s evil regime; which Bonhoeffer opposed in word, in deed, in life, and in death.

Who am I? They often tell me
I would step from my cell’s confinement
calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I would talk to my warders
freely and friendly and clearly,
as though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I would bear the days of misfortune
equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I know of myself?
restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
struggling for breath, as though hands were
compressing my throat,
yearning for colours, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
trembling in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today, and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine.

………………………………………………..

(Earlier this week I published a sketch of Dietrich Bonhoeffer here.)

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Envoy

Go, songs, for ended is our brief, sweet play;
Go, children of swift joy and tardy sorrow:

And some are sung, and that was yesterday,
And some unsung, and that may be to-morrow.

Go forth; and if it be o’er stony way,
Old joy can lend what newer grief must borrow:
And it was sweet, and that was yesterday,
And sweet is sweet, though purchas-ed with sorrow.

Go, songs, and come not back from your far way:
And if men ask you why ye smile and sorrow,
Tell them ye grieve, for your hearts know To-day,
Tell them ye smile, for your eyes know To-morrow.

– The preceding poem is by Francis Thompson. You can listen to this poem read aloud here.

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Knowing Christ (A Prayer)

A prayer from St. Augustine (354 – 430 A.D.)

Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know You, and desire nothing save only You.
Let me hate myself and love You.
Let me do everything for the sake of You.
Let me humble myself and exalt You.
Let me think of nothing except You.
Let me die to myself and live in You.
Let me accept whatever happens as from You.
Let me banish self and follow You, and ever desire to follow You.
Let me fly from myself and take refuge in You,
That I may deserve to be defended by You.
Let me fear for myself.
Let me fear You, and let me be among those who are chosen by You.
Let me distrust myself and put my trust in You.
Let me be willing to obey for the sake of You.
Let me cling to nothing save only to You,
And let me be poor because of You.
Look upon me, that I may love You.
Call me that I may see You, and for ever enjoy You. Amen.

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The Prayer of a Dumb Ox

St. Thomas was a huge heavy bull of a man, fat and slow and quiet.

These are the words G.K. Chesterton used to describe the Catholic theologian and philosopher Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). Chesterton goes on to describe Aquinas in this manner, “It will not be possible to conceal much longer from anybody the fact that St. Thomas Aquinas was one of the great liberators of the human intellect . . . Simply as one of the facts that bulk big in history, it is true to say that Thomas was a very great man who reconciled religion with reason, who expanded it towards experimental science, who insisted that the senses were the windows of the soul and that the reason had a divine right to feed upon facts, and that it was the business of the Faith to digest the strong meat of the toughest and most practical of pagan philosophies.” (G.K. Chesterton, Saint Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox. 1933)

The following is a prayer/poem by Thomas Aquinas that is rich in theology and devotion. I hope you find it as relevant, powerful, and as helpful as I have:

O merciful God, grant that I may
Desire ardently,
Search prudently,
Recognize truly,
And bring to perfect completion
Whatever is pleasing to You for the praise
And glory of Your name.

Put my life in good order, O my God;
Grant that I may know what You require me to do.
Bestow upon me the power to accomplish Your will
As is necessary and fitting for the salvation of my soul.

Grant to me, O Lord my God,
That I may not falter in times of prosperity or adversity,
So that I may not be exalted in the former, nor dejected in the latter.

May I not rejoice in anything unless it leads me to You;
May I not be saddened by anything unless it turns me from You.
May I desire to please no one, nor fear to displease anyone, but You.
May all transitory things, O Lord, be worthless to me,
And may all things eternal be ever cherished by me.
May any joy without You be burdensome for me,
And may I not desire anything else besides You.
May all work, O Lord, delight me when done for Your sake,
And may all rest not centered in You be ever wearisome for me.

Grant unto me, my God, that I may direct my heart to You,
And that in my failures I may ever feel remorse for my sins
And never lose the resolve to change.

O Lord my God, make me
Obedient without protest,
Poor without discouragement,
Chaste without regret,
Patient without complaint,
Humble without posturing,
Cheerful without frivolity,
Mature without gloom,
Quick-witted without flippancy,
Fear You without despairing,
Truthful without duplicity,
Do good works without presumption,
Reprove my neighbor without exulting,
And—without hypocrisy—strengthen
Him by word and example.

Give to me, O Lord God, a watchful heart,
Which no capricious thought can lure away from You.
Give to me a noble heart,
Which no unworthy desire can debase.
Give to me a virtuous heart,
Which no evil intention can divert.
Give to me a constant heart,
Which no tribulation can overcome.
Give to me a free heart,
Which no violent passion can enslave.
Give to me, O Lord my God,
Understanding of You,
Diligence in seeking You,
Wisdom in finding You,
Conversation pleasing to You,
Perseverance in waiting for You,
And confidence in finally embracing You.

Grant that
In refining repentance I may be afflicted by Your hardships now,
Through grace I may rely on Your blessings along the way,
And in glory I may enjoy You fully in the kingdom of heaven.

To You who live and reign,

God, forever and ever.

Amen.

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O Little Man

Where would you be O Little Man,
If not for the love of God?

Alone? Without hope? Imprisoned to death?

Where would you be O Son of Adam,
If not for the calling of God?

Empty? Separated? Destined for despair?

Where would you be O Image Bearer,
If not for the purposes of God?

Searching? Grasping? Clinging to nothing?

But O Man, O Son of Adam, O Image Bearer:
God has loved you with an endless love.
God has called you with an effectual calling.
God has purposed you with an unfailing purpose.

And who can stand against Him?
And who can stand without Him?

And where would you be O Little Man,
If not for the love of God?

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The Consolidated Moment

The consolidated moment:
Our sins merged as one,
Placed in judgment on the Son;
The wrath of God now spent.

The consolidated moment:
With pains compounded,
The Begotten One abandoned;
The wrath of God now spent.

The consolidated moment:
Impoverished joy leaves dearth,
Darkness sprawled across the earth;
The wrath of God now spent.

The consolidated moment:
History’s hope unveiled,
The slaughtered lamb prevailed;
The wrath of God now spent.

The consolidated moment:
Desperate we stood unclean,
Yet in Him we stand redeemed;
The wrath of God now spent.

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And Others Call It God

Both the atheist and the theist begin their quest for knowledge by making fundamental assumptions that influence how they interpret the world around them.

Let no man be so naive as to boast of no prior commitments. This reality is illustrated in the 1915 poem “Each In His Own Tongue” penned by William Herbert Carruth in 1915.

Each In His Own Tongue

FIRE-MIST and a planet,–
A crystal and a cell,–
A jelly-fish and a saurian,
And caves where the cave-men dwell;
Then a sense of law and beauty,
And a face turned from the clod,–
Some call it Evolution,
And others call it God.
 
A haze on the far horizon,
The infinite, tender sky,
The ripe, rich tint of the cornfields,
And the wild geese sailing high,–
And all over the upland and lowland
The charm of the goldenrod,–
Some of us call it Autumn,
And others call it God.
 
Like tides on a crescent sea-beach,
When the moon is new and thin,
Into our hearts high yearnings
Come welling and surging in,–
Come from the mystic ocean
Whose rim no foot has trod,–
Some of us call it longing,
And others call it God.
 
A picket frozen on duty,–
A mother starved for her brood,–
Socrates drinking the hemlock,
And Jesus on the rood;
And millions who, humble and nameless,
The straight, hard pathways plod,–
Some call it Consecration,
And others call it God.

—————————–

The poem emphasizes each individual’s perspective in seeking to make sense of the world. In a personal letter written later, the poet Carruth explains that it is Christ alone who can “interpret and satisfy.” The following is an excerpt from that letter as quoted in H.T. Kerr in his 1921 book, The Gospel in Modern Poetry:

World ruin it seems to the spoiler,
To the prophet a new age begun,
For the burden-bearer and toiler
Are taking their place in the sun.
So fear not, tho’ places totter
And the scheme of the Past is unmade;
The voice that stilled Galilee’s water,
Calms the tempest so: ‘Be not afraid’

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The Good Friday

On this day of consolidated suffering
Vengeance drained from the Divine cup;
Wrath fell like rain whilst he looked up;
A thief’s wages not fitting for a King.

But in the mourning, a hue of hope,
‘Midst arid tears and silent sheep:
Doth calm their souls as if to keep,
Them for a day, content to cope.

‘Til Destiny’s dawn shines its light.
When darkness flees into retreat;
The defeated to know defeat.
Death hath died, and day hath lost its night.

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Cardiac Arrest

If there is no God why can you not rid yourself of abiding guilt?

Against whom have you sinned?

Have you sinned against nature? It is under you and has no authority.

Have you sinned against the animal kingdom? It is not your equal. Your evolution is supreme.

Have you sinned against your neighbor? Who is he to require such emotional turmoil from your soul?

Why does your heart betray you?

“Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated…he sets himself in a way that is not good…” (Psalm 36:1-4)

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