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

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.



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.

The Seventh Day

Never,
since the seventh day, 
had there been 
this silence of 
accomplishment.

Not that 
the world noticed.

It had long since 
lost its sensitivity 
to eternity and 
the breathing 
of creation.

Behind the stone,
in a virgin tomb, 
lay the body of 
the Creator.

The Word that spoke,
"Let there be Light",
was contained within 
complete darkness,
just as Deity
had been contained
within human flesh.

The final sacrifice;
the ultimate definition
of "Immanuel" -
God with us:
in living,
in dying
and now
in death itself.

Outside, 
the soldiers 
nonchalantly 
do their duty.

The Pharisees
find comfort 
in their religion
but are haunted 
by his words.

The disciples, 
incredulous that
it had come to this, 
fear
for their own lives 
as those who had 
once believed ...

The women
keep watch.

And, 
as the sun 
slowly slips 
into the evening
of the seventh day,
God, 
having accomplished
all that could be done
took his Sabbath
once again ... 


(c) 2020 Graham Oakes


 

Maundy

He chose to wash disciples’ feet,
despite his majesty,
and showed them all the way of love,
his holy destiny.

Though tempted to refuse the Cup
he knows its history.
The Chosen One has made his choice
and drinks his destiny.

The Prince of Peace is judged by hate
though reason would him free.
This world will never let him rule
and change its destiny.

The Servant-King gives up his throne
to grip a cruel tree.
With hands held wide and crowned with thorns
he bore his destiny.

My God, my Saviour and my Friend
has suffered all for me.
He calls me to leave all for him
and share his destiny.

Now may I live as if I’ve died
to all that I might be
and rise with him, to live and love,
this is my destiny.



(c) Graham Oakes

Gethsemane Night

This deep and silent darkness,
this all too human fear;
this self-denying Deity,
this judgement drawing near.

This cool and fragrant garden,
this echo of the Fall;
this reason for his Passion,
this hard and heavy call.

This path of pain and sorrow,
this pruning of the bud;
this cup that must be taken,
this shedding of the blood.

This one last opportunity,
this choice to turn away;
this Love that answers for him,
this Will that means he'll stay.

This Father-Son communion,
this precious Trinity;
this loss of heaven's presence,
this fulfilled prophecy.

This waited for arrival,
this friend and solemn foe;
this end to end all endings,
this life to death must go.


(c) Graham Oakes

Palm Sunday 2020

This Holy City, silent now,

no congregating crowd;

no busy bustle in the streets,

no meetings are allowed.

But still Messiah makes his way

despite no welcome praise;

his mission, yet to be fulfilled,

the cross must still be raised.

He comes for one, he comes for all;

the sick, the lame, the lone;

he brings his comfort, peace and grace,

to make his Kingdom known.

So listen, in the silence now,

can you make out the sound?

The stones are singing out his praise,

Redemption Love abounds.