Monday, April 24, 2017

In These Last Days, God has Spoken to Us in His Son

This is a poem or prayer, or meditation that I had lost for a long time, and did not have memorized.  I was glad to find it again.  Yesterday, someone shared that their professor on the book of Hebrews had claimed that almost all theological questions find answers in Hebrews.  I won't go that far, but it is certainly a rich book.  This is a meditation on Hebrews 1: 2-3, and since that's not a complete sentence, let me give you Hebrews 1:1-3:

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 


In these last days, God has spoken to us in His Son

A meditation on Hebrews 1:2-3

Jesus, you are appointed heir of all things.
You're the one the Father chose to have it all.
Keep me from grabbing, clutching things to myself.
In You, I have it all.
Apart from You, there's nothing left to own.

Jesus, through You the Father made the world.
The ages past, the present,
And all the future there will ever be
Were spoken into being through You.
And You made me.
You knew me, and planned me, held me in Your heart,
Before the beginning.

Jesus, You are the radiance of the Father's glory,
The light that shines forth from the blazing sun.
Help me be a true mirror,
With veils and masks stripped away,
So that I can catch Your light,
And shine it truly into the darkness I see.

Jesus, You are the perfect engraving
Of the Father's underlying essence,
The exact representation of His being.
I am like a coin that's blurred and fuzzy.
I long to be new-minted.
Melt me in the fire of Your love
And stamp Your image plainly on my heart.

Jesus, You uphold all things by the word of Your power,
By the spoken word that creates and brings forth life.
Hold me up, Lord.
Hold me together,
And speak Your powerful word into my life.

Jesus, You made purification of sins,
Cleansed, purged, made it right.
The work was finished, final, and complete.
Complete it in my heart, O Lord.
Bring your cleansing, purify my inmost being.

Jesus, You sat down
On the right hand of the Majesty of the Father.
Your work was finished, You entered into Your rest.
Bring me too into that Sabbath rest,
That having run the race, I may sit at Your feet
And worship You forever.

Amen.


(Why sunflowers?  I recently had a dream about growing sunflowers, and as I was waking up I questioned what sunflowers were about and immediately felt that sunflowers represented the fruit of relationship with the Son.  I am hoping that putting a picture in this post will reduce the likelihood that Facebook will associate this link with the Kiva logo.  Much as I like Kiva, I don't think that that picture encourages people to click through to this blog.)



Thursday, April 6, 2017

A Prayer from Hebrews 1

This is another poem being brought forward through my house-cleaning spree.  I finally found a copy of the first little book of poems I put together, long lost.

My first inductive Bible study, one that formally pushed us as a group to dig hard into what we were seeing in the text, was on the book of Hebrews, a book that before I studied it I had considered rather boring.  That study did two things for me.  One was that it awakened in me a longing to do more formal academic study of the Bible, and eventually led me to seminary.  The other was that one assignment suggested that we ask God for a poem or song related to what we were studying.  And that request led to all kinds of things.

This prayer is one of the first that came out of that request.  In case you haven't read Hebrews recently, here is a link to Hebrews 1, from which this poem came.

Father,

You have spoken to us through the prophets
In portions, a bit at a time–
And the word that you spoke overwhelms me,
Your law is so awesome and fine.

You spoke to the people through angels,
Great creatures of wind and of fire.
People shook at the visions in terror,
Such fear did their speaking inspire.

And now you have spoken in Jesus,
Not a shadow, but the brilliance of Your light.
The Word that created the planets
is spoken to us in the night.
The Word that holds all things together,
Came down to destroy all our sins.

When the world is changed like old clothing,
The Word that is Jesus will stand.
A better will never be spoken,
Through Him you have reached out Your hand.

The ears that I hear with are shallow,
The eyes I can see with are dim.
Father, speak Jesus into my being,
'Til my life is completed in Him.

Amen.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Half of the Story

I think I wrote this song in 1998 or thereabouts.  But as we're coming up on Good Friday and Easter, it seemed appropriate to share it again.

Half of the Story

When I was little, there were times when I'd say,
"Mom I don't like it when the story's this way:
The lions are gonna gobble Daniel, he's dead."
And she'd turn the page and she would shake her head.
"You'll have to wait and see 
Just what the end will be."

You're seeing half of the story
This isn't finished, my friend,
We're only halfway through the story.
There will be glory and praise in the end.

When Jesus hung dying on that terrible cross
The people around him knew all hope had been lost.
The story is over when the hero dies
But then Easter morning came, and what a surprise
God had the final say
Death had to go away.

It was only half of the story.
It wasn't finished, my friend,
It was only halfway through the story.
And there was glory and praise in the end.

Now all around me I hear people say,
"How can God love us when the world is this way?
There is pain and betrayal, destruction and war."
But I've got to say what I have said before:
"Don't stop the story now
God will come through somehow."

We're seeing half of the story.
This isn't finished, my friend.
We're only halfway through the story
There will be glory and praise in the end.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Waiting

This is an old song, but one that has come to mind recently, so maybe it's time to get it out to the world in this format.

Waiting


Waiting for fruit to ripen,
Waiting for seed to grow...
Sometimes it seems your Kingdom
Comes only in ways that are slow...

     But I don't have to wait to know that you love me
     I don't have to wait to know that you care
     I can seek you each day in the Word you have given
     And come to you in prayer.

Waiting for dawn to brighten
Waiting for bread to rise
Your Kingdom is slow, but certain
Someday I'll see with my eyes

     The things that today are only a promise
     A glimmer of hope I can barely believe
     The things that I know you have promised to give me
     Someday I will receive

     And I don't have to wait to know that you love me
     I don't have to wait to know that you care
     I can seek you each day in the Word you have given
     And come to you in prayer.






My Life's Song

I am trying to declutter my house, or at least to get it ready for a major decluttering push.  And in the process I came across a booklet of songs and poems that I gave to people in 1999, which is a long time ago now.

Despite the title, his one is just a poem; it never had a tune to it.  It still feels right to me, so I thought I'd share it here.

My Life's Song


When I'm stretched to the limit and aching
With tension I cannot release,
Then use me O Lord, as a drumhead.
Let me throb with the rhythms of peace.

When I'm empty and feeling so keenly
The holes that remain in my heart,
I ask You to breathe through my spirit.
Let love's melody then be my part.

Please use every part of my life, Lord--
The strengths and the scars and the pains--
'Til all are caught up in Your music
And only Your glory remains.

Amen.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Jonah: The Prophet Who Couldn't Understand God's Love

This is a very brief play designed for a specific group of children I will be working with this summer, for whom English is a second language. We needed very simple language and something that can be brought to a pleasing level of performability with very little rehearsal time.  The play is also designed to be performed by three different groups of children, with each group rehearsing one of the acts.  The narrator does not have to memorize lines.  This is a musical, because I think it's easier to memorize songs than random lines.  We also have a lot of chorus parts, because previous experience with similar groups suggests that while we will have some students willing to do a solo speaking part, we will have more students who are very uneasy about speaking alone in this sort of performance.

The Youtube links are there just to give an idea of the tunes.

About using this play.  I would love to have you use the play, but please don't steal it.  Let me know about it, and give me credit.  (c) Rebecca Howell 2017

Although this whale could not possibly have swallowed Jonah (it is a baleen whale), I thought he would make a cheerful title page.  The whale was painted by my sister Mattie Wheeler, is used by permission, and here is a link to her webpage.

Jonah 
The Prophet Who Couldn’t Understand God’s Love
Act 1

Narrator: This is the story of Jonah, the prophet who couldn’t understand God’s love.  Jonah was a prophet.
Questioner: What is a prophet?
Narrator (Or possibly Chorus): A prophet is a person who speaks for God.
God speaks and a prophet listens.
Then a prophet tells what he heard.
A prophet is a person who speaks for God.

Narrator: And God spoke to Jonah.

Questioner: What did God say?

Narrator:  God said, “Go to Nineveh.  God said:

Chorus Song:
Nineveh is a big city, and the people that are there are doing bad bad things.  
If they don’t change their ways I’ll destroy that city.
Go and let the people know that they have to change.”
Go to Nineveh, Jonah go
Go to Nineveh, go, go, go



Questioner: So Jonah went to Nineveh, right?
When God says to do a thing, well of course, you do it.

Narrator:  Not quite. Let’s look at what Jonah did.

Jonah Song:

I want to run from God.
Not go to Nineveh.
No, No way!
I won’t obey!
Those are bad people there 
and I don’t want to talk to them.
I’m going to run just as far as I can.


Chorus Song:
He wants to run from God
Not go to Nineveh.
No, No Way
He won’t obey!
Those are bad people there
And he won’t talk to them
He’s going to run just as far as he can.




Jonah:  Here’s a boat.  Ahoy there, Captain—Where is your boat going?

Captain: My sailors can tell you that:

Chorus Song: 
We are sailors big and brave
We are sailors bold and true
We are sailing off to Tarshish
Far across the blue

We are sailors bold and true
We are sailors big and brave
We are sailing off to Tarshish
Far across the wave




Jonah:  Hmm.  Tarshish.  That’s a long, long way from Nineveh.  That sounds like the perfect place for me.

Chorus Song: 
Running from God is a bad idea
Running from God is a big mistake
Running from God won’t make things better
Jonah here’s the road that you ought to take
Go to Nineveh, Jonah, go
Go to Nineveh, go, go, go




Narrator:  God caused a big storm to come on the sea.  The boat was in danger of breaking up, and the sailors were very scared.  All the men were praying to the different gods that they believed in, but nothing helped.

Captain:  Wake up, Jonah.  Help us to pray!  Maybe your God will help us.

One Sailor:  I have an idea.  Let’s draw straws to see who is causing this problem.  

(Men draw straws and Jonah is the clear loser.) 

Jonah:  I’m the problem.  I thought I could run away from God.  

Captain:  Who is this God that you serve? 

Jonah:  I serve the LORD who made the land and the sea.

Sailors:  Yikes!  He made the land and the sea?  That’s a pretty powerful God.  What should we do?

Jonah:  Throw me overboard and the storm will stop.

Sailors: That doesn’t sound like a good idea.  We could get in trouble for murdering him.
Yes, but the storm is getting even worse.  May God forgive us, we’ll have to do it.

Narrator:  The storm stopped, and the sailors worshiped God

Act 2

Narrator: Meanwhile, Jonah was drowning, going down for the last time.  And God sent a fish to swallow Jonah.

Chorus Song:
Running from God was a bad idea
Running from God was a big mistake
Running from God didn’t make things better
Now there’s a fishy path that you’ll have to take.




Fish swallows Jonah.

Narrator:  Inside the fish, Jonah finally started to pray.

Jonah Song:

I was in trouble,
very bad trouble
I was in trouble 
And I cried to You, God

I was in trouble
very bad trouble
I was in trouble
And you heard my cry.

Chorus Song: 
Jonah you were in trouble
very bad trouble
you were in trouble
Drowning in the sea

Jonah you’re still in trouble
very bad trouble
you’re still in trouble
in the belly of a fish.




Jonah: Hey, God, I’m sorry.  I should have done what you told me to do.

Narrator:  And after three days and three nights, God made the fish vomit Jonah back onto the land. And God said:




Chorus Song: 
Go to Ninevah, Jonah, go
Go to Ninevah, go, go, go

Nineveh is a big city and the people that are there are doing bad, bad things
If they don’t change their ways I’ll destroy that city.
Go and let the people know that they have to change.

Jonah: Shucks, I thought I could get out of doing this job.

Narrator: So Jonah went to Nineveh.  The city was so big that it took him three days to walk through it.  Jonah walked everywhere saying:  

Jonah:  God says that in 40 days Nineveh will be destroyed.  (repeat several times, with Jonah walking to different parts of the stage and talking to different people).

Chorus Song:
 But the people listened.  The people believed.
The people began to pray.
The people heard the message, the people changed.
The people lived a brand new way.

Stop doing bad things. Start being good.
Maybe God will change his mind.
Pray, pray pray.




Narrator:  And God changed his mind.

Act 3:

Narrator:  God changed his mind because the people of Nineveh changed.

Chorus Song:
Jonah didn’t like it.
Not one bit.
Jonah didn’t like it
Jonah threw a fit.

Jonah: 
God I knew you’d do this.
You’re just too kind.
I knew that you’d forgive them
That you’d change your mind

(Spoken:)That’s why I ran away to Tarshish.
You should have destroyed this evil city.

God you make me very angry,
And I want to die.
Chorus Song:
God, you make him very angry,
And he wants to die.




Narrator:  Jonah went up on a hill to see what God would do to the city.

Jonah:  I hope God changes his mind again and wipes that city out.

Narrator: God sent a gourd plant that grew up quickly and protected Jonah from the sun.
Jonah was happy about the gourd.

Jonah: Thank you, God, for protecting me from the sun.

Narrator: The next day, God sent a worm to eat the gourd plant and it died.
The sun was hot and Jonah was angry about it.

Chorus Song: 
Jonah didn’t like it.
Not one bit
Jonah didn’t like it.
Jonah threw a fit.

Jonah Song: 
God you make me very angry,
and I want to die

Chorus Song:
God you make him very angry
and he wants to die.

Narrator: God said, “Do you have a right to be angry about the gourd?”

Jonah:  Yes I do.  I am so angry that I want to die.

Narrator:  God said, “You feel sorry for a plant that you didn’t grow or care fo
Can’t I feel sorry for a city that is filled with people and animals, a city that has more than 120,000 people that don’t know right from wrong?

Chorus Song:
Nineveh was a big city and the people that were there stopped doing bad bad things.
They changed their ways, and they prayed for mercy
God let the people live because they changed their ways.

God is merciful, God is love
God is merciful, God is love

Everyone:
God is merciful, God is love
God is merciful, God is love



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

It is for Freedom, Galatians 5:1

Another Bible memory verse song, but this one contains commentary in a companion song (or part) that is sung simultaneously.  Sort of like the way Judas and Jesus sing different songs that blend together in "All for the Best" from Godspell.  Of course, not nearly as musically sophisticated as that, but I had that in mind as I wrote this, as well as the way the parts join together in songs like Power in the Blood, which I tend to think of us one of the detergent jingle hymns.  Whether I like that song or not, it's clearly one of the influences that goes into this song, a part of my musical DNA.

It was fun discovering that these two parts, which I hoped would sound right on top of each other really could be made to work.

I love the underlying message of this verse, that following Jesus is not about following rules, but it's also not about succumbing to all the various things that can enslave us.  And I tried to say that in a way that was simple enough for young children to follow.