Poet Divine: Gerard Manley Hopkins

GerardManleyHopkinsToday is the birthday of Gerard Manley Hopkins, one of the most beloved Christian poets of all time and the poet whose work has spoken to me most personally. Hopkins was a Victorian Era poet, educated at Balliol College, Oxford, and influenced by the Oxford Movement led by John Henry Newman, John Keble, and Edward Pusey. This movement, sometimes known as Tractarianism because of the tracts written by the leaders, was focused on a renewal of the church through recovery of historic thought and practice. Hopkins eventually converted to Roman Catholicism, becoming a priest and a university professor.

Hopkins’ poetry is unique because of his distinct approach to rhythm (‘sprung rhythm‘) and sense of description linked to deeper realities (‘inscape’ and ‘instress’), the latter of which partially reflects Hopkins’ view of God’s presence in human realities reaching its zenith in the sacramental presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. He died relatively early and his poetry never became widely known until much later thanks to the tireless efforts of his good friend, the Poet Laureate Robert Bridges.

Here are two of his most well-known poems, “God’s Grandeur,” “Pied Beauty,” and “Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend with Thee”:Read More »

The Beloved and Doomsayers

brennanWhile having a conversation today with a colleague, he shared these marvelous words from Brennan Manning with me. In the midst of our current angst-ridden ethos, I found Manning’s words particularly poignant.

Certainly this is not the only answer to how we address the apparent chaos of these days and times, but it is still a vitally important response that keeps us abiding in Christ and centered on God’s reign.

As we listen to the heartbeat of the Rabbi, we will hear words of reassurance: “I’ve told you all this beforehand. Shh! Be still. I am here. All is well.” In place of end-time agitation and thoughts of doom, Jesus tells us to be alert and watchful. We are to avoid the doomsayer and the talk-show crank when they conduct their solemn televised meeting in the green room of the apocalypse. We are to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with our God. We are to claim our belovedness each day and live as servants in the awareness of present risenness. We pay no heed to the quacks and self-proclaimed seers who manipulate the loyalty of others for their self-serving purposes.

[Excerpt from Abba’s Child in the collection Dear Abba: Morning and Evening Prayer.]

Sunday Prayer 10


This good day is a gift from You,
and we receive it as the gift it is.

Father eternal,
Jesus the Son,
Life-giving Spirit –
there is none like You.

We praise You, Lord,
and remember all Your goodness:
You heal our diseases,
You save us from sin,
You renew our strength so that we rise up like the morning’s dawn.

May our mouths bring You praise
as the fitting overflow of lives offered as sacrifices for You.

Glory to Your Name!

[This is part of a series of prayers for Sunday worship preparation that begins here.]

In the Shadow of the Cloud: Jacob

Here’s an excerpt from my latest post on the life of Jacob at the Gospel Life blog, where I am a regular contributor.

1-3One of the most famous stories in the life of Jacob is the dream he has of angels ascending and descending a stairway or ladder between heaven and earth in Genesis 28. In the midst of this dream, God reaffirms to Jacob the same promises He made with Abraham and Isaac about making a great and blessed nation from Jacob and his descendants, as well as “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring” (Gen. 28:14). What is ironic about this situation is that God is affirming His promises and mission for the world even as Jacob is running away from his family after stealing his brother’s birthright and blessing by deceiving his father.

If you read through Jacob’s story, you may begin to wonder whether Jacob really belongs in the roll call of faith heroes in Hebrews 11. He deceives his father, his brother, his uncle, and his neighbors. He seems bent on his own gain. He seems to avoid direct conflict even as he seems to leave conflict in his wake. He plays favorites with his wives and his children, causing great tensions between his own family members. In one sense, Jacob is a mess.

However, if we step back for perspective and get a little bit more honest, we realize that we are not that different from Jacob. Jacob’s particular sins and weaknesses may not be ours, yet we also have our particular sins and weaknesses. We may not always see them, but others probably do.

There is another story from Jacob’s life that most of us know found in Genesis 32…
[Read the rest of the post here.]

The Bramble King: Abimelek (discussion questions)

Flawed Heroes Series Gfx_App SquareHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “The Bramble King,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This message continues our series, “Flawed Heroes” from the book of Judges. This week we looked at the life and demise of Abimelek in Judges 9.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Answer one of these two questions:
    • Who would you describe as one of the greatest leaders of the last 100 years, and why?
    • Who is someone that you know personally that you respect as a leader, and why?
  2. This week, as we continue our “Flawed Heroes” series, we look at one of the lowest points of the book of Judges with the character of Abimelek in Judges 9. There is a lot to learn here, so take a moment to prepare your heart, asking God to speak to you through His word. After that, read the entire passage out loud.
  3. The story of Abimelek is connected to the story of Gideon (also known as Jerub-baal) in Judges 6-8. What do we know about Abimelek, the end of his father’s life, and the attitudes of the tribes of Israel at this time (see especially Judges 8:22-35)?
  4. What happens in Judges 9:1-5? What does this tell us about Abimelek’s character and the character of the leading citizens within Shechem? (Note: the word translated ‘citizens’ of Shechem in the NIV has the sense of ‘lords’ or ‘leaders’; see the ESV, NASB and NLT.)
  5. Jotham, the youngest son of Gideon, survives the massacre of his siblings and offers a prophetic message against Abimelek couched in a parable in 9:7-21. When he describes Abimelek as a thornbush seeking to shade the other trees, why is this both ridiculous and foolish?
  6. Have you ever sought to find refugee or help from an untrustworthy person or source? What happened? How might Jotham’s words guide us here?
  7. The uprising against Abimelek is guided by God (9:22-24). What does this tell us about both the power and character of God?
  8. The rebellion by Gaal son of Ebed (9:25-41) is short-lived and ends poorly for all involved. Why do you think the people of Shechem were drawn to Gaal?
  9. As Abimelek’s wrath is poured out on Gaal and his army, then the people of Shechem, and the neighboring town of Thebez, we see an ironic answer to Abimelek’s promise in 9:2. What does this tell us about appearances and empty promises?
  10. Abimelek’s death is a dishonorable finish to a dishonorable life. Judges 9:56-57 serve as a commentary on the life and wickedness of Abimelek and Shechem. There’s a saying that people get the leaders they deserve. What does Abimelek’s story tell us about true leadership? What are the spiritual issues underlying the disasters of this chapter?
  11. What is one thing that God is speaking to you through this study today? If you are on your own, take a moment to write it down, pray about it, and then commit to sharing that with one person this week. If you are with a small group, share your answers together and then pray for each other.

Read More »