Restore my soul

This song began life as a result of a mountain top (for want of a better word) rant at God. I had been feeling pretty low for some time and needed to vent some frustration at him which, I can imagine you thinking, was a bit arrogant and disrespectful. But I think there are enough Psalms and other parts of Scripture which show this to be something that God understands and, perhaps, even encourages if it means we are being honest with him. I believe he blesses such openness and does respond with grace and mercy. That was certainly true in my case as he put my grievances in perspective and reminded me of his unfailing and steadfast love and compassion for me, despite all my failures and inadequacies.

So, as Psalm 23 explains, he will restore our souls … if we but ask …

When there’s darkness all around,
when I walk on stony ground,
when upon my knees I fall

and I make that final call ...

Lord, restore my soul.
Lord, restore my soul.
Restore my soul.

When I feel so very tired,
when my worship’s uninspired,
when I lose my sight of you

and I doubt the things you do ...

Lord, restore my soul ...

When I long for heaven’s rest,
when I think I’ve done my best,
when there’s more you ask from me

and I cry, “O, let me be!” ...

Lord, restore my soul
...

(c) 2020 Graham Oakes

Out there, somewhere …

About 28 years ago we went through a family experience that everyone dreads. Our youngest son (aged 2) was missing, on a dark, cold winter’s night.

It was two weeks before we were due to fly home on UK leave and Gail and I were attending a rare hospital meal at the restaurant. We had just ordered when I was called to a phone, someone was asking for me. It was about 7:30 pm.

The phone call was from our babysitter. She nervously explained that Gethin was ‘missing’. She had heard the back door and found it was open. She searched the house. She searched outside and called his name but couldn’t see or hear him. This was when she decided to call and tell me what had happened

My first response was to disbelieve her although I soon realised that she was extremely concerned, not to mention embarrassed. I told her that I would come home straight away.

I went back to the table and told Gail that I was going home for a bit and that I would be back soon.

When I arrived home I searched the house. I also went outside and called Gethin’s name. At this point Ceryn, aged 8 came home from Cubs and became very upset when she realized what was happening. She started calling his name as well. I wondered if he might have followed us down the hill to the harbour although of course he would never have caught up with us. He didn’t like letting Gail out of his sight. My fear, however, was that he had headed in the opposite direction where there was rough ground and ice covered ponds.

I knocked on our neighbour’s door and asked if they had seen him. She said she hadn’t but lent me a torch. I carried on looking and she, unknown to me, called her husband who was training with the FIDF (Falkland Islands Defence Force). She also informed the Police. Still not finding him I decided that I had better go and tell Gail.

So, now both of us were leaving the party to quizzical looks from our hospital friends who didn’t have a clue what was going on. Later we found out that the mystery deepened for them when the Chief of Police, who was also there for a meal, got bleeped and rushed out and they saw vehicles, with blue lights flashing, racing by on the harbour road. Why hadn’t they been called as well they wondered.

Gail was obviously very upset when she understood the situation. As we got to the top of the hill we saw dozens of people around the house, some in uniform. The Police and the FIDF had turned up along with many locals as it had been announced on the local news service that a little boy was missing.

I spoke to the Detective in charge, who of course we knew, and he confirmed that he had searched the house so now they were looking in neighbours’ gardens their out-buildings and underneath those newer houses which were built on stilts. Time was going on and still no sign of him.

Some of our close friends, including the vicar and his wife, had turned up in support and we were in our kitchen just waiting for news. I was very worried and Gail was frantic. I hardly believed that he would have survived after being outside for a couple of hours. I decided to pray, out loud, that God would keep him close to himself, wherever he was. It was a prayer of faith in God’s abiding love more than a prayer for his safe return …

Gail had been out shouting his name too but returned too upset to speak and left the kitchen to go into his bedroom. She lay down on his bed and reached for one of his cuddly toys. I had walked with her to the bedroom but thought it better to leave her alone for that moment so I walked back to the kitchen. I’d only taken a few steps when I heard her scream and thought she’d finally broken down. But she was shouting, “He’s here! He’s here!”

Disbelief!

She came out with tears streaming down her face to tell us all that she had touched his head and found that he was down between the side of the bed and the wall! What a relief!

How do you define a miracle?

This was a happy ending but it had been a really traumatic couple of hours.

It was gone 9pm and I had to go and tell the Detective that we had found him. He asked me where and how. I told him. He too found it hard to believe … then he shouted to everyone to stand down because the boy had been found. He didn’t say where …

Only after the event did we realize what a tremendous effort had been made by everyone in this small community to reach out and help. We also learned that the military were on the verge of scrambling a helicopter.

The next day I rang the FIDF and Police to thank them for what they had done only to be thanked by them for the best exercise they had had for a long time! They said they had learned so much about searching for missing people.

I think I learned a lot from that episode too but that’s another story …

I also contacted the local Broadcasting Station to say thank you to the community for their help and support. This was the song I dedicated to them. And I thought that, on this Father’s Day, I’d share it with you:

This version is sung by Father and Daughter duo Mat and Savannah Shaw (who have only been singing on Youtube since the start of the Pandemic) and is a beautiful example of a father sharing a moment with one of his children … so, in memory of one of our moments here’s “Somewhere, out there …”

And Peace be upon you …

Crushed, beneath the tyrannical force of those sworn to keep it, 
Peace dies in the street without mercy or consideration of its gasps for help.

Onlookers, powerless to intervene, are warned off and resort to recording, 
for the world, this abhorrence. 

A world, saturated with gratuitous and visual violence, is enraged …

The agonised frustrations of a people consumed with the desire to be free 
from a slavery, not abolished in practice, and still suffered in sight of privilege 
and prejudice, are unleashed …

The pattern is not new.

It repeats the sad reflection on the state of this fragile human union.
‘… One nation,
under God,
indivisible,
with liberty
and justice
for all”
Fluttering with certain irony, the flag, before which this oath is made daily, 
must look down with shame on the way truth is denied, in the streets, 
within government, in the minds, hearts and souls of an entire country, 
of the wider world…

The self-evident founding assertion that,
‘… all men are created equal …’
condemns every act perpetrated by all bigots and supremacists who use 
the Constitution for their own selfish ends, with no regard for those whom 
it was created to protect.

With deepening dismay, we see injustice and hate overflow; protests are deflected 
and defeated by weak political resolve and there is no public figure brave enough 
to articulate and spearhead the national revolution required.

This is a fuse which is getting shorter by the moment with political expediency 
and personal ambition about to blow nations apart.

But, an older constitution exists.

Though forgotten by many, it founded and formed much of 
western civilisation and law.
Written in stone, revealed in flesh and blood, it takes love for God 
and for humanity seriously, to the point of self-sacrifice and self-denial.

With all our technological progress and social media prowess this message is 
being lost, diluted and replaced by the unfiltered expressions of human emotion, 
untethered by restraint and concern for consequence and responsibility.

Can we return to that simpler way of life ruled by the discipline of spirit where words 
are not used lightly or to wound; 
where minds are subject to the control of reflection and long-term hope?

Where our neighbour is worthy of respect and care, whoever they are?

Where we recognise, when observing failed humanity, that 
‘... there but for the grace of God’?
For, it is by grace that we are saved, not of anything we are or can do.

We all stand, equally condemned before the throne of God and no number of Bibles
on our shelves or in our hands can give us immunity from the inevitable judgement.

Presidents, Kings, Popes and Archbishops, World Leaders, Governments, Religions,
Criminal & Terrorist organisations … every one of us … must bow before a bloodied
and executed outcast who died as Prince of Peace and now reigns as King of Love.

We must see ourselves for who we really are and recognise him for who he really is.
“Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.
Turn me around, let me face you and learn humility.
Fill me with your presence and make me clean.
Take my thoughts, words and actions and make them yours.
Take my memories and shame and forgive and redeem my past 
that I may live renewed in your present.
Grow your Spirit’s fruit and gifts in me for the blessing of others, 
for peace – and your glory.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, 
your Son and my Saviour. 

Amen”

Pentecost pondering.

Walking
in the radiant light
of this morning’s
rising sun.

Sensing
the intangible yet
intimate presence
of that gentle breeze
engaging and inspiring
my very soul.

Hearing
the refreshing sound
of rushing waters;
clean and life-giving:
flowing with hope
and joy and
peace.

Appreciating
the journey;
the ups and downs,
highs and lows
and paths not
walked before.

Anticipating
that final bend,
the familiar door
and a glorious
welcome home.


(c) 2020 Graham Oakes

Pentecost Prayer

Oh Lord!

Forgive us
for the way
we turn your
living presence
into works of stone,
of unchanging forms
which exist for
themselves;
within which you
cannot breathe.

Forgive us,
for celebrating
your coming
as a birthday,
for one day only,
then putting
it back into the
drawer for seasons
and special occasions.

Forgive us,
that the fruit
you challenge us with
is observed as
a ‘still life’ study;
to be marvelled at
for its composition
and setting
without moving us
to desire its treasure
when revealed in us.

Forgive us,
that the gifts
you share are
denied, devalued
or desired for the
wrong reasons.

Forgive us,
that we
underestimate
their power
and your glory.

Forgive us:
for arguing
over their use
and limitations.

Forgive us:
that, in the midst
of diversity,
we ignore your
translating, 
transforming,
and unifying power.

Lord, in your mercy, forgive us:

Oh, Lord!

Redeem, restore,
revive and renew;
breathe on me,
I pray.

Indwell my tradition
with daily renewal,
my human perspective
with your heavenly vision;
refresh my stagnant backwater
with the rushing waters 
of your love; 
replace my ambition
with your 
perfect calling.

Fill me,
to overflowing;
capture me and
set me free
to serve you,
here, now
and forever.

By your amazing grace,  
Amen.

Ascension 2020

To have and to lose:
this is our human condition.

Through struggle, or gift,
we gain that which, 
through struggle or gift,
is taken away.

Transient experiences
of life elude our attempts 
to retain them.

We learn that 
our humanity 
is finite; our lives
but a vapour;
our loves and hates
live on in others,
if they live at all.

The small steps we take
are as nothing.

The earth revolves 
around the sun
and its cycles 
diminish, even more,
our grasp on time
and space.

But you ...

in your birth
you bore the hope
of nations.

In your life
dwelt all the Godhead,
bodily.

In your sacrifice
is forgiveness
for all who call.

In your resurrection
death, and all its power,
is defeated.

And then,

at your Ascension,
the Gift was 
promised ... 

Incarnate Presence,
restored with a 
more glorious
Indwelling.

Your heavenly 
humanity is all gain
and, by your Spirit,
you fill us with
the light of
your Day ...

... turning our shadows
into everlasting
Dawn.



Response to ‘The Other’ by RS Thomas

As part of the RS Thomas Poetry Appreciation Group we have been asked to write a poem in response to one of his … this is my first attempt which I posted to the group today … you can find his poem on the Intranet … it’s a beautiful read.

There is a 
wakefulness that
is not bound 
by the margins
of sleep;
an awareness that
is constant and
alive. Alive to all
there is in the
infinity and
eternity
of being.

We could not
bear it. Only One
who has borne 
our weakness and
broken our chains
hears and listens,
watches and sees,
across the ocean
that separates
and calls us
home.

The Other Tree

The Garden of Creation, now lost to one and all,
replaced by forest thickets upon whose roots we fall;
our destiny still governed by laws we always break
and all creation stumbles over the mess we make. 

The fruit for which we lusted, upon that single tree,
reminds us of our stubborn pride and failed humanity.
The other Tree was kept from us lest we should live forever;
expelled, we faced the mortal cost of our rebellious error.

But while that sin stained everyone born to the world of men
the love of God could not be dimmed and purposed, even then,
to be the way for our return into his holy place,
our restoration, full and free, by such a costly grace.

Into our world he placed the seed: his Word, his Light, his Son
and he, among us, lived and died - the hope for everyone.
The Tree of Life was lifted up to bear the Lord of All
as it became the wooden cross that broke our fateful Fall.

And once again the Garden received that perfect Man
and we began to understand the mystery of Love’s plan.
The empty cross, the empty tomb, now relics of the fight:
the darkness withers at the dawn of Resurrection Light.