Come Clouds and Rain

“Grief”, from The Temple (1633), by George Herbert

O Who will give me tears? Come all ye springs,
Dwell in my head & eyes: come clouds, & rain:
My grief hath need of all the watry things,
That nature hath produc’d. Let ev’ry vein
Suck up a river to supply mine eyes,
My weary weeping eyes, too drie for me,
Unlesse they get new conduits, new supplies
To bear them out, and with my state agree.
What are two shallow foords, two little spouts
Of a lesser world? The greater is but small,
A narrow cupboard for my griefs and doubts,
Which want provision in the midst of all.
Verses, ye are too fine a thing, too wise
For my rough sorrows: cease, be dumbe and mute,
Give up your feet and running to mine eyes,
And keep your measures for some lovers lute,
Whose grief allows him musick and a ryme:
For mine excludes both measure, tune, and time.
Alas, my God!

Was I Free?


I love this passage, which my wife pointed out this week while reading Plague Dogs, a novel by Richard Adams, and a sequel (of sorts) to Watership Down:

Freedom — that consuming goal above doubt or criticism, desired as moths desire the candle or emigrants the distant continent waiting to parch them in its deserts or drive them to madness in its bitter winters! Freedom, that land where rogues, at every corner, cozen with lies and promises the plucky sheep who judged it time to sack the shepherd! Unfurl your banner, Freedom, and call upon me with cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer and all kinds of music to fall down and worship you, and I will do so upon the instant, for who would wish to be cast into the fiery furnace of his neighbours’ contempt? I will come to you as a male spider to the female, as the explorer to the upper reaches of the great river upon which he knows he will die before ever he reaches the estuary. How should I dare refuse your beckoning, queen whose discarded lovers vanish by night, princess whose unsuccessful suitors die at sunset? Would to God we had never encountered you, goddess of thrombosis, insomnia, asthma, duodenal and migraine! For we are free — free to suffer every anguish of deliberation, of decisions which must be made upon suspect information and half-knowledge, every anguish of hindsight and regret, of failure, shame and responsibility for all that we have brought upon ourselves and others: free to struggle, to starve, to demand from all one last, supreme effort to reach where we long to be and, once there, to conclude that it is not, after all, the right place. For a great price obtained I this freedom, to wish to God I had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when I sat by the fleshpots and ate bread to the full. The tyrant wasn’t such a bad old bugger, and even in his arbitrary rages never killed as many as died in yesterday’s glorious battle for liberty. Will you return to him, then? Ah no, sweet Freedom, I will slave for you until I have forgotten the love that once consumed my being, until I am old and bitter and can no longer see the wood for the starved, dirty trees. Then I will curse you and die; and will you then concede that I may be accounted your loyal follower and a true creature of this Earth? And, Freedom, was I free?

I’ve read that passage several times over the last few days. It’s a good reminder that freedom must not be worshiped as an end in itself. Liberty is dangerous in a fallen world. But it’s better than the alternative.

Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of Liberty.
~ Thomas Jefferson

Introducing Josh Garrels

One of my favorite parts of my job is the collaboration with other musicians who share many of my interests. This often results in the discovery of new music or artists that I come to appreciate. Yesterday, one of our guitar instructors introduced me to the music of Josh Garrels, and now I have the privilege of passing that blessing on to you!

I’ve spent most of the last couple hours listening to Garrels’ music, and reading his poetic. While I haven’t yet listened to everything he’s ever recorded (though I might have by the end of the day!), two early favorites have definitely emerged.

The first, “Ulysses”, is from his newest album, Love & War & the Sea In Between, available as a free download from Bandcamp or Noisetrade. The song is based on the story of Odysseus (Ulysses is the Latinized version of that name) from Homer’s Odyssey. Lyrics are posted below this live acoustic performance:

I’m holding on to the hope that one day this could be made right.
I’ve been shipwrecked, and left for dead, and I have seen the darkest sights.
Everyone I’ve loved seems like a stranger in the night
But Oh my heart still burns, tells me to return, and search the fading light.

I’m sailing home to you I wont be long
By the light of moon I will press on
Until, I find, my love

Trouble has beset my ways, and wicked winds have blown
Sirens call my name, they say they’ll ease my pain, then break me on the stones
But true love is the burden that will carry me back home
Carry me with the, memories of the, beauty I have known

I’m sailing home to you I wont be long
By the light of moon I will press on

So tie me to the mast of this old ship and point me home
Before I lose the one I love, before my chance is gone
I want to hold, her in, my arms

This song, entitled “Words Remain”, is from the album Jacaranda, available here. I love the unique instrumentation!

Heaven and the earth will pass away
But your words all remain
And my hands are growing old
And weary with pain
Still I fold them to pray
To the one unchanged
Yesterday and today
Oh YHWH
I will try to stay awake
Take my last breath of faith
As I wait for you to come
Take me beyond
This land undone
Over the flood
By your word, spirit, and blood

It was prophesied long ago
Every word set in stone
Not one will pass away
Or walk alone
All that I own does not compare
To the love that we share
Please remember me
When the hour arrives
And you must decide
If you’ll wait for me to come
Take you beyond
This land undone
Over the flood
By my word, spirit, and blood

I love originality and creativity, particularly when it comes to creating art for the glory of God. When you can combine those things with classic Greek literature and God’s own Word, it’s certainly a winning combination in my book!

If you’d like to check out more of Josh Garrels’ work, take a look at his other two albums: Over Oceans and Lost Animals.

Lord, I Am Vile, Conceived in Sin

I’ve been reflecting this week on Isaac Watts’ three poems based on Psalm 51. Let me share them with you.

Psalm 51, Part 1: A penitent pleading for pardon

Show pity, Lord, O Lord, forgive,
Let a repenting rebel live:
Are not thy mercies large and free?
May not a sinner trust in thee?

My crimes are great, but not surpass
The power and glory of thy grace:
Great God, thy nature hath no bound,
So let thy pard’ning love be found.

O wash my soul from every sin,
And make my guilty conscience clean;
Here on my heart the burden lies,
And past offences pain my eyes.

My lips with shame my sins confess
Against thy law, against thy grace:
Lord, should thy judgment grow severe,
I am condemned, but thou art clear.

Should sudden vengeance seize my breath,
I must pronounce thee just in death;
And if my soul were sent to hell,
Thy righteous law approves it well.

Yet save a trembling sinner, Lord,
Whose hope, still hov’ring round thy word,
Would light on some sweet promise there,
Some sure support against despair.

Psalm 51, Part 2: Original and actual sin confessed

Lord, I am vile, conceived in sin;
And born unholy and unclean;
Sprung from the man whose guilty fall
Corrupts the race, and taints us all.

Soon as we draw our infant breath,
The seeds of sin grow up for death;
Thy law demands a perfect heart,
But we’re defiled in every part.

Great God, create my heart anew,
And form my spirit pure and true;
O make me wise betimes to spy
My danger and my remedy.

Behold, I fall before thy face;
My only refuge is thy grace:
No outward forms can make me clean
The leprosy lies deep within.

No bleeding bird, nor bleeding beast,
Nor hyssop branch, nor sprinkling priest,
Nor running brook, nor flood, nor sea,
Can wash the dismal stain away.

Jesus, my God, thy blood alone
Hath power sufficient to atone;
Thy blood can make me white as snow
No Jewish types could cleanse me so.

While guilt disturbs and breaks my peace,
Nor flesh nor soul hath rest or ease;
Lord, let me hear thy pard’ning voice,
And make my broken bones rejoice.

Psalm 51, Part 3: The backslider restored

O Thou that hear’st when sinners cry,
Though all my crimes before thee lie,
Behold them not with angry look,
But blot their mem’ry from thy book.

Create my nature pure within,
And form my soul averse to sin:
Let thy good Spirit ne’er depart,
Nor hide thy presence from my heart.

I cannot live without thy light
Cast out and banished from thy sight:
Thine holy joys, my God, restore,
And guard me that I fall no more.

Though I have grieved thy Spirit, Lord,
His help and comfort still afford;
And let a wretch come near thy throne,
To plead the merits of thy Son.

A broken heart, my God, my King,
Is all the sacrifice I bring;
The God of grace will ne’er despise
A broken heart for sacrifice.

My soul lies humbled in the dust,
And owns thy dreadful sentence just:
Look down, O Lord, with pitying eye,
And save the soul condemned to die.

Then will I teach the world thy ways;
Sinners shall learn thy sovereign grace;
I’ll lead them to my Savior’s blood,
And they shall praise a pard’ning God.

O may thy love inspire my tongue!
Salvation shall be all my song;
And all my powers shall join to bless
The Lord, my strength and righteousness.

Amen!