Tongues and Interpretation

I’m not sure what brought it to mind, but I’ve been thinking lately about the best example I ever saw of tongues and interpretation in a church setting.

In the church I went to in high school, we usually had a few pauses in the worship service that were sort of designed for an interruption from the congregation.  I’m pretty sure they were put there on purpose, but they always seemed like a natural selah in the singing.  That was the designated time for prophecy.  Sometimes it would be the pastor, or another elder, sometimes a member of the youth.  They would speak, the elders would lead the congregation in response if it was necessary, and the music would resume.

Occasionally, from the last or second to last row, this couple would rise, holding hands.  It was very striking, because he was a black man, with great bright eyes and a beaming smile, and she looked as though she might have been a combination of Inuit and Welsh.  First she would speak, in a tongue that sounded something like Chinese, her closed eyes rapidly fluttering, her hand clamped hard on her husband’s.  When she was done, there would wait a second or two, and then her husband would open his eyes and begin to give the interpretation, always comfort and encouragement, with a voice on the verge of rejoicing.

I always thought how convenient it must be, to always bring your interpreter along with you.  Paul doesn’t give the prophets any favors in his passage about decency and order.  If a person prophesies and another person interrupts him, the one who was interrupted should give ground to the person who so rudely interrupted.  The one who speaks in tongues, apparently, has the responsibility of ensuring that an interpreter is there.  No interpreter?  He should keep it to himself.

I think this places an even greater burden of charity on the congregation (and thereby on the elders as well) to plan ahead.  Do you believe that these Spirit-led utterances are supposed to be a normal part of the service?  You do well to set parameters and practice.  Without parameters, you will get chaos, and your primary means of guiding the church in these things will be stamping out the disorder.  Without practice, having stamped out the disorder, you get… nothing.  Your service will be identical to our brothers in the cessationist camp, broken up by six-month swings into Pentecostal hysteria.

Opening Thoughts, Marred by Verse

This poem isn’t really finished, but it’s at least round the first bend, and since somehow I’ve already managed to post it once by accident, I’ll let you read what’s there while I work on the rest.

I have been reading Dante, so
Forgive me, if you may,
The way that I am strewing all
These iams on the page.

The mind adapts itself unto
The pattern that it’s fed
And replicates it endlessly
While pulling on its thread –
Unraveling, re-raveling
With endless permutation,
A master-house that has the goal
Of its own renovation.

Who has seen a created thing
That’s made quite like the mind?
Do fish, or birds, or arthropods,
Or beasts that feed on grass
Create themselves the path they follow
And set their lives to plans?
But such is man who’s made like God
The created who creates.
He picks a star and sets his course,
And rides in his own wake.

Yet, unlike God, who gets to choose,
Man also cannot choose.
The mirror shines, and so must he,
Reflecting what he sees.
He halts a bit, and modifies,
Changes meter, or the rhyme,
Opens up his aperture,
Adjusts his shutter speed.

But he cannot cease to worship.
He cannot cease to feed
On wisdom, honor, truth and beauty.
The numinous, the seed
Of glory ever lives inside him
and grows there like a weed.
It forces him to seek the holy
With a holy sort of greed.

And Lord, here is your gardener,
Standing in the field:
He has his seed; he has the soil,
He has a hoe to wield.
He has his purpose, and his duty,
And has the call to choose.
But still he cannot force himself
To ever choose the good.

And like a telescope deciding
Stars are without worth –
It twists itself to look for something,
Unhinging from it’s posts,
Then sways and tips, and holding… falls,
Its lens now mired in earth,
Its vision-shaft now soundly bent,
And lost to starry hosts.
Yet something still is working there,
Receiving what it sees,
Passing up exhumous visions,
Displaying rotten leaves.

So the human constitution,
Though broken by its fall,
Cannot help but seek its purpose,
Shaping self and all
The cosmos to the god it’s fashioned,
Cycling god and self
And cosmos, thralled with choosing, still
Desiring something else.


This fallen world affects all creatures,
Saint and sinner, with the bread
Of hard affliction—mournful soul-ache,
Unjust judgment, creeping dread.

But the God of all creation
Has engineered a hidden path
Wherein the sweetest, purest pleasures
In affliction may be had.

The wise are found in those dark mine shafts
Sifting ore from worthless slag,
While the torrents of life’s hardships
Fall like oil upon their heads.

And the key into this pathway
Where God’s favorites know to hide
Is the simple abjuration
Of any form of human pride. Continue reading “Exhortation”

A Little Lack

It is a peculiar quality of my religion
That it holds the broken reed above the straight one
(as no musician would).
The smoking flax is greater than the bright one
Because it cannot help but to announce
That something in its life is lacking.

As something in my life is always lacking.

So it comes as no great shock to me
To find that I am reaching for perfection
And yet to find that I am never quite achieving it.
This little lack is all I have, sometimes,
That draws me back to Him
Who makes my heart to breathe.


What were you thinking, when you ran
your fingers through the tangles on my head?
“You don’t really love me,” is what you said,
When you asked me for the seventh time
The secret to my magic strength.

Could it be that for a moment
You actually thought you loved me?
Not the man of titanium, so light and strong,
But me, stubborn and corruptible, the one who
Could not decide if he was meant
To marry Philistines or murder them?

You were my second almost-wife,
My second chance to lay to rest
The hostility between our peoples,
My second chance to prove
There’s not much difference
Between a Gentile and a Jew.

We were so beautiful and so different
Lying next to one another
Fascination and xenophobia
Making love to one another

Did you think that I was beautiful
As I lay there, almost in your lap?
Did you smile at my innocence
As I swept loose bits of hair
That fell on my nose and mouth?

What were you thinking when you woke
Me up and delivered me to death?
“Up and face your enemies!” is what you said.
When they took me, tied me, blinded me,
And laughed at my lacking strength.

Did your insides leap for just a moment
That last time I glanced at you?
Your face was the last thing that I saw.
When you smiled and waved at me,
Did you whisper to yourself,
“At last I know he loves me”?

Won by One

Won by one by one by one by one by one by one
Won by one by one by one by one by one by one…

Lord in power you saw us here when weakness made us dry
You left Your life, came down to heal—Your tears restored our eyes
Your cleansing power restrained our fears—Your words revealed our lives
Your life and has washed us clean—We know you are the Christ

(And we are) Won by one…

And this is the testimony that we have given to the world
That the Son of Man was lifted up to draw us to our Lord
And though they slay us, we will proclaim the glory of our King
Our lives are His, we lay them down, that every man might see

(That we are) Won by one…

And every time we lift Your name, another hears your voice
A song is shouted through the night, a power that changes lives
That every man who hears the song would say you are the Christ
And this is the hope and power we have—eternal life is in a choice!

(For we are) Won by one…


I Looked to the Light

I looked to the light,
And a river of blood
Was flowing from the altar.
The fountain it flowed
From the side of the lamb,
And the kingdoms of men it faltered.
They could not believe
That the heart of the lamb
Was for the healing of the nations

And I stood and I wept
For the kingdom of God.
It was waiting just behind Him.
The river of life
Was the only bar,
And the tree of life stood beyond it.
But no one would come,
Their eyes were so fixed
On the lamb, though none received him.

The Lamb turned to me
His eyes burning deep
And he said to me, “Will you come?
And coming will you bring them?”

Scientists and Poets

There is so little guise between
The poets, prophets and scientific men,
That instruments have rarely been
Available to measure there
When mortal souls met man to man
With gods.

Those great creatures, higher-ups,
Never seem to have any truck
With men who want to analyse
And take their measurements,
And quiz them on their sentiment
Of things that sometimes seem

The spiritualists and poets can’t be blamed;
They can’t control these sorts of things.
A man can only testify of what he knows:
That only moments or hours ago
There were astounding creatures
Flying everywhere.

“Yes, I know they’re not here now.
No, I can’t explain it. It’s just amazing how
Some things can always find a way to leave.
My cousin also came by today,
Or maybe it was just a plague
Upon my mind. I have been breathing
Lightly lately.”

Those pernicious gods are always
Making fools of mortal men.
And how they should be pitied, those
Who are gifted with the second sense
Of ear as well as eye:

Always hearing echoes in another realm,
The sounds of mocking laughter
Flowing steadily up and down.
Unless their hearing was acute,
There could be some misdirection.

Who is mocking whom?

Haze of Love

They brought me honey,
but I would not eat it.
Food from the honeycomb,
but I would have none.

How can I eat when my love is gone?
How can I taste pleasure when my heart is so low?

They found me at Ramallah
Wandering in Tesh Gibbeon
Looking for the one I love
Even as I searched, I grew far from you
In my distress, I abandoned you

Come with us, and drown your sorrows
Take pleasure, for love has gone

How can I forget you
Who gave my life to me
How can I turn away
From the one who will come for me

It was not you who abandoned me
But I who lost myself from you
Do not forget the one you love
Rescue me from the haze of love

Authority and Love

Jonathan leaned on Jesus’ breast
And breathed in out a sigh
And on his friend’s behest, he asked
The question that no other could get by.

And Jesus spoke no mystery
No story did he tell
And though plain, ‘twas secretly
So none would know, save those who know him well.

Mirriam rose when she was bid
And came before her Lord.
She said in quiet, a few still words
He had already heard before.

And Jesus wept, cried bitterly
At the pain that he had caused
He saw her heart, that loved him dearly
And knew no other law.

The others left.
The Magdelene, she stayed
And though she shuddered silently
Her heart was not afraid.

A gardener’s voice:
The victor spoke her name
He put off triumph that he might touch
The life he died to save