D. S. Martin

Contributor Biography

D. S. Martin is the author of five poetry collections, including Ampersand (2018), and his newly-released book Angelicus (2021)—both from Cascade Books. He is Poet-in-Residence at McMaster Divinity College. He is also the Series Editor for the Poiema Poetry Series, where he has edited more than thirty poetry collections and three anthologies. He and his wife live in Brampton, Ontario; they have two adult sons. Visit his blog Kingdom Poets and his website: dsmartin.ca

MIDRASH ON THE LORD’S PRAYER

I.

Our Father   simultaneously far & near
    my insufficient fear   could never drive me
         to dive   deep as Titanic
    on the wide Atlantic's floor  
         for there's nowhere to hide
or if I tried an astro-Jonah  
    scooting to some far star  
         that's where you'd be
especially for me   since you've made
    a walking temple   of this aging cage of bones
         that could never contain you
& though   your notorious silence
    shakes the last leaf from my tree
         I can't push you from my consciousness  
    stress   only what I see
for this shrivelling balloon of a world
    would be so hollow in your absence
         & my only escape   from blame
               would seep away
Hallowed be your name

II.

We pray for what is   & what will be   your divinity 

     spreading kingdom seed   into its valuable dying

so that what is   grows   & so reality 

     subtracts our macro-negativity   from our micro-good   & so

our mess doesn’t mess with your sovereignty 

     as if it ever could
 

III.

Give us this day   bread
    with strawberry jam  

          even if made by our own hands

 

for though I worked for coins
        to buy flour

 

& I worked the dough   before
    it went into the pan  

 

& I helped hull berries for
    the slow rolling hosanna


without sun & rainshower  
    there'd be no grain
        or berries ripening in rows  


We shall not live   by bread alone  
    but by every sweet jewel
        of Christ

IV.

 

I know   my mind forges manacles   & the keys 

     my heart jingles   are slow 

to click   in those rusty locks   so the miry sorrow 

     of those who’ve wronged me

will be a swamp they must wallow in

 

May we release ourselves   

     as you have already released us

for it’s not until the last chain falls away   that we go free

V.

 

Lead us not into sensation   but deliver us from

     revealing   what we think proves us right   

Uncover our hiding   Rip sunglasses 

     from our faces   our defence 

          against sunlight   on into the night

Spit on our eyes   or pluck them right out 

     to be made new   & without offense

          Amen

IMPLEMENT

after Emily Dickinson

     Imagine an implement that permits

you to reach   further than you

     otherwise could   flinging your

     speech   further than megaphone

telephone   or internet ever would

     to breach the high atmosphere

     to where there’s no gravity or air

so your words are heard even in God’s ear

     through the apparatus   of prayer

THE INSCRUTABLE NAME

Judges 13:18

I was out in the field   where the wheat
grows golden   in the heat of the afternoon sun
when the grain parted   & you came forward  
brighter   than the tawny grasses  
               than the glistening sky
You withheld your name   as being beyond
our perception   stood by
the rock of sacrifice   with far greater light
emanating from you   than arose from the fire
& as it blazed higher   you ascended in the flame  
rising like the wonder of your name

NAMING EL ROI

Genesis 16

I stumble   in desperate   headlong flight  
from the sharp bite   of a woman   empty
of what her god has promised   envious
of what seems to be coming my way
How foolish of me   to flee
into the arms of death   Sun-scorched
& breathless   I make for the well  
with nothing to eat   & nothing to draw with
& the child in my abdomen kicking in confusion

I'm met by a man   who gives me a drink  
more than a man   who pours hope in my heart  
the god of my mistress   the god of my distress  
the nameless one   to whom
         since I know no better
I give an intimate name
                   The God Who Sees Me

HOW TO LISTEN FOR GOD

Turn off your cell phone   lace up 

     a good pair of hiking shoes

          leave everything at the trail head

               except the words of the prophet Isaiah

& set out on your own   Open the book

     of field mouse & shrew   where unseen

          songbirds call from the green   & a hawk

               slowly patrols the cloud-enhanced blue

like an illumination   from some

     ancient manuscript   so the distractions  

          of reports & percentages seem abstractions

               & there's no street noise to normalize

the ugly things you've said   Don't be afraid

     to squirm at your hollow justifications

          to feel far from holy   to wipe your hands

               again & again   You're learning to listen

Soon you may even hear well   the whisper

     some have heard   on fiery hillsides

          when you're confined to a room   as narrow

               as Bonhoeffer's cell in Flossenburg

Author's Note:

"Midrash on the Lord's Prayer" first appeared in Alliance Connection.

"The Inscrutable Name" and "Naming El Roi" first appeared in Reformed Journal.

"How to Listen for God" first appeared in Presence.

Jenni Ho-Huan

Contributor Biography

Pastor Jenni Ho-Huan was raised and ordained in the Presbyterian Church. Her desire is to live with authenticity and help others develop a vibrant faith-life in their particular circumstances and personalities through developing a strong inner life, a logos ordered by divine love. She founded a community, To Really Live, to question our usual narratives of life, and offer resources to encourage us to slow down, savour and serve from a place of Grace. An avid writer, Jenni was a columnist for Impact magazine. She has authored six books, and now writes on Medium and the usual social media spaces. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (NUS), a Masters of Divinity and a Masters of Theology (Trinity Theological College).

Transforming Grace

You know what I find disturbing about us Christians?

 

We have a holier-than-thou attitude.

 

I would not have said this ten years ago. But a lot has happened in ten years, the most important being this: I have seen the darkness in my soul. Yes, I have come to the place where I understand that when Paul called himself the chief of sinners, it wasn't hyperbole. We all rank first place when it comes to harbouring demons in the dark alleys of our souls.

 

Yelling at kids?

Thinking of divorce?

Entertaining hurtful thoughts?

Fantasizing?

Blaming?

Ego trips?

Seized by discontent?

Poor stewardship?

Lack of love?

What if i try out...?

 

Been there, been that.

 

This reckoning has in turn done two things. One, I am much less shocked by confessions. Second, I have begun to strip away at the notion of ‘the other’. I identify with others more than I differentiate from them.

 

If you have ever met a personal darkness, sensed a shadow, wrestled with a demon, chances are you want to either reach for HyperGrace—it’s no big deal, or we collapse into UnderGrace—we are wrecked with guilt and try our best to cover it all up.

This happens to the individual, and even to groups and entire churches.

The problem is that both of these take us away from Transforming Grace, which the Bible says is given to the ‘humble’ (see 1 Peter 5:5–7).

Peter wrote this.

I dare say no one knows about Grace and humility the way Peter does.

 

He was the blustering disciple who boasted of his loyalty only to find it crumble when faced with the threat of persecution. He is the one Jesus recreates a memory of his calling (read John 21) so that he could be restored. He tasted Grace that morning when his professional fishing efforts yielded no gains. He tasted Grace in the fish on live coals and the poignant words of restoration Jesus spoke into the depths of his being.

He humbled himself in admission of his shadows and failures and was reunited with His Lord in love and mission. Still, he would have moments of weakness, but those are moments and not definitions.

 

Being humble is connected with casting our anxieties on God.

We are anxious whenever we don’t know the outcomes to things or when we anticipate a negative result. But Peter, he has learnt that. All his bravado cannot gainsay the truth that he has limits and he cannot really fix some things, even if he can swing a sword the way he can throw a net.

 

Transforming Grace—that flows downward to the bowed and receptive heart—happens when we humbly agree with God that we don’t have the answer but we know God does.

 

I love Danielle Strickland’s definition of humility: agreeing with God about who you are.

Mind you, God does not think small of us. No, he thinks wonderful thoughts beyond our wildest dreams. Yet, he remembers and knows we are dust. We are finite. We do well to remember that of ourselves and others. That’s when Grace happens. Peter tells us that God’s intent is to exalt us. God knows we cannot reach the heights of who we truly are unless He raises us up.

Form ‘Other’ to ‘Another’ and The Wide Mercies of God Our Cradling Grace

My life has some pretty basic routines. One of them is going to the neighbourhood mall Junction 8. By now I know the street, the spots to park free, the stores and the shortcuts pretty well. But still, I never quite get used to all the life I will meet each time I venture out.

Even a familiar place can yield the unfamiliar. The expected can throw up a surprise.

We can walk like the dead, going about our routines, operating like the rest of kingdom animaliae; just trying to survive another day. But we get restless, we question, we mourn, we get served a notice that jolts us awake.

Today for example, in the hustle I saw this skinny man whose eyes did not seem to focus really well.

He’s not really old, not more than thirty. He was in his green and yellow uniform, standing right there in the sea of humanity streaming around him scrounging for bargains and queuing to make payment. There he stood, quite oblivious, waving his arms with palms up as if to catch falling water. I looked for a leak but did not see any. He seemed consoled too that he did not catch anything, and then proceeded to pick up his broom and pan. 


I am rushing through my grocery run routine and I am as usual feeling thirsty; and all this Life is asking me to pay attention.


We are all but souls with skins on. All trying to make it through.


There was a time when our thoughts were ‘other’—we see someone different and we thank God we are not born/bred/turned out so. We feel a twinge of sympathy and when the charity drives come along, we are moved to help with our monies. But there remains an I/they divide. What’s more, we often compare and augment ‘I’ by classifying and categorising ‘them’ so that the ‘I’ feels stronger/better/more.

But there comes a time when we see just ‘another’. It is just another life really; and very much like ours. Another life wanting to mean something, be useful, to laugh, be loved and love. The garb and language and colour and words may all be different, but it comes to the same stuff of dust seeking glory. This is why I am upset these days—

when I think how we interpret Jesus’ words that he came to give us life

abundant as a narrow, materialistic, self-indulgent offer that we deserve. 

when i find myself forgetting so quickly that the awkward, badly dressed

teen is imago Dei as I am. 

when I push my closest ones away too quickly because my soul is out of

shape and I don’t know what to do with my jutting angles; and it is their

fault for coming too close.


In Brennan Manning’s final book, All Is Grace, he writes simply of his life without fanfare or any need to embellish. His was a lifetime of struggle with alcoholism. His was a life others can only dream about: book successes and a life message about Abba Love... Yet here was a man, another, like you and me. He had his triumphs and his demons. He lived as honestly as he could. His is not written to garner a book prize. It almost read like a child’s retelling of a long adventure.

The simple truth that grips your heart and changes you is this: Ordinary life shines because it is all Grace.

 

What would your life and mine look like if we lived like we truly believed this Grace is wrapping us safe and cradling us through the storms?

 

What would our world look like if we saw each other as just another, and helped each other sip often of the sweet nectar of Grace rather than rush around thirsty?

Author's Note:

"Transforming Grace" and "Form ‘Other’ to ‘Another’ and The Wide Mercies of God Our Cradling Grace" are excerpted from my blog here and here.