Friday, 27 June 2008


With Christ
12 December 2005

"We have all, no doubt, been moved to various contemplations over the past months of Liz’s illness. In my case I have the custom of writing verse, and what is below is what I have put into verse in that period. As I would be glad to see the fruit of others’ thought I have set my own out, trusting that there will be comfort in them. Some explanations may help. Although it has come from various sources I have put it more or less in the order in which it was written. The period of Liz’s illness overlapped with the year from my fiftieth birthday onwards, and when I was urged to count my blessings I started writing one haiku each day showing a blessing. The way in which Liz impinged on that counting comes through below. I was not to know that the only day on which the best I could do was to ask was precisely one year before the day on which, if the Lord will, Liz will be buried. But the year has given answers to the question. I have also engaged in an endless setting out of random thoughts in what may be verse, but is not poetry, “To Gislebertus”. This is in sprung rhythm, with four beats per line. One piece is an extract from other thoughts about Paul. I cannot really recall to what extent Liz was consciously in my mind in this writing. Then there are the distinct pieces of verse written in thinking of Liz. It is important that from what we have experienced there should be fruit to God. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all."

Written to the family in December 2005, following the home-going of my sister-in-law, Elizabeth, aged 41

Lord, what is to be
The blessing to come specially
From today’s sorrows?

God is in control
Measuring both the blessings
And the sufferings.

Grief is a blessing
When in it God touches me
In His own sweet way.

Words fail, poetry fails,
Art fails, Christ remains.
Grace suffices. All, all is well.

If it were my personal cancer I could (27/12/04)
Address it in sonnets, converse with it
Even thank God for it. (The facts may
Test that.) But how have I a right to
Accept Liz’s suffering? Yet I have
No more right not to accept it -
For Liz, Mark, the family, for Rosie
This circumstance is best, for it is God’s.(29/12/04)
I have developed a horrifying metaphor -
Gestation. As in the ways of God a bundle
Of cells, formed as perfectly as sin allows,
Made Ingrid, so a bundle of cells
Replicated within Liz’s skull to form
Her tumour. God’s hand was with each;
As by a strange collusion of physical forces
The Aceh epicentre developed. All time
Is the gestation of eternity; all time past
The gestation of the present. Time present
Is, under God’s hand, the birth from the past.(30/12/04)
But Liz’s tranche of cells is unbearable.
Yet we go on in hope, encouraged by
The new generation. Ingrid Ellis
Has spent all of her existence in 2004;
But its griefs have not grieved her - and she
Is centre of joy. And over all things
The bow is in the cloud; underneath are
The everlasting arms; around us a wall of salvation.(31/12/04)
It’s nearly the end of January now, Gislebertus,
And I haven’t written. What has occupied my mind
Has ranged from the tragic to the trivial, the blessings
And the irritations. Even as we think of Liz the reactions
Change. The invasive force within her head
Pervades more consistently. The assurance of
Future well-being is sometimes fogged by
The present. The bitterness of today’s medicine
Drives the health it is for from thought.
All will be well, said the saint, and all will
Be well. The test to the spirit is to know (29/01/05)
Consciously that all, all is well - that this
Is the best circumstance which divine love,
And wisdom, can provide. (That’s a little easier
Since I’ve just been handed a free brandy
In the Buckhurst Hill Italian restaurant! Is that
Today’s blessing?) But it is easier to accept (22/02/05)
With illness, which is clearly God’s hand,
Than when pressure results from my own error -
Only as I have done what is amiss
By mistake, it points up the excellence of the Man
Who did nothing amiss, even by accident.

If your way is fresh and bright,
If your way is dank and strange,
If you move from gloom to light
His compassions never change.

Though the way ahead seems dark,
Though the foe seems to prevail,
Or you’re buoyant as a lark
His compassions never fail.

When oppressions press the brain,
When you need a heavenly Friend,
When your heart is full of pain
His compassions never end.

I told Alan that the work of God
Would not be complete in him without
Liz’s illness. For we are in the hands
Of such a skilled Sculptor - One who
Uses each stroke with such efficiency
That not one but a multitude
Of carvings are formed, little by little.
For some, close, a deep cut opens
A shadow; for others there is a shading;(26/03/05)
And for others a groove, subtly greying. (27/03/05)
One stroke serves for all in God’s deft hands.(08/04/05)
How does a man treat his dog? Cruelly,
It would sometimes seem, subjecting him
To needles or commands, training its will,
Holding it by a leash where its nature would bolt,
Holding it by a leash where its legs would revolt,
Opening its body with surgery, if needed;
By this harshness he attains for his will
A workdog, or lapdog, or even a companion.
But however little the dog may understand
His benefit lies in the power of a greater mind.
May we have the dog-like trust as Liz
Tholes what the power of a Greater Mind (08/04/05)
Doles her! Thus He trains each one of us
That more in this time He may have
Companionship. And for the future to have
Eternity with us at His feet, companionable
As well as worshipful.
And it is not all harshness
Even now. For the dog’s master caresses,
Fondles, speaks encouragement, and becomes
All that the puppy growing to maturity needs.
He provides it with food, warmth - and company
Long before it is truly amenable to him.
And what a Master is ours! He rescued us
From destruction, purchased us, and now
The caresses of His love! The fondlings
Of His fondness - the words of ineffable grace!
May I be helped to be trained in the enjoyment
Of my Master’s will and company.

As the subject of
God’s work, gold to the smith,
Liz is a blessing.

As the instrument
Of God’s working in others
Liz is a blessing.


As the reason for
Many turning to God in prayer
Liz is a blessing.

Liz is a blessing
As one who has supported
Christ’s testimony.

(from PAUL)


Winds lamming the sapling,
Hail like slingshot,
The frost imposing its grasp on the soil,
Survivors flourish;
Tribulation works endurance.
Roots strengthened, trunk resilient,
The tree grows, drinking
Sun, air and water,
Fresh weathers and seasons;
Endurance works experience.
Greenness fringes the tree,
Blossoms pink or white out,
Life fruits and seeds;
Experience works hope.


The potter wrought a work upon the wheel,
Forming the clay according to his will,
And every perfect curve served to reveal
The consummateness of the potter’s skill.
Fingers made lumpishness attain a form
As thought and eye gave guidance to his hand –
How touch and pressure caused it to conform
The bystander could barely understand.
Sometimes, perhaps, his fingers seem to press,
Narrowing the vessel as he has conceived;
Sometimes, perhaps, his hands seem to caress
Until a broader form has been achieved:
Thus we trust God who holds Liz day by day
Because we know His hand is masterly.


Using our human faculties we wrestle
With thought of Liz and death’s impending fact –
But God asserts this is His earthen vessel,
On which He has a sovereign right to act.
In every day and hour He works His pleasure
With love and skilfulness that are divine,
Since in this earthen vessel is a treasure
Which, when the days of sorrow cease, will shine.
But even in the days of preparation
He has an answer to His sovereignty:
A vessel which is held in separation;
A vessel which is held in sanctity.
And in the eternal setting we’ll behold
A vessel far more valuable than gold.


The vessels fit for use that he could bring
Into the treasures of the house of God.
Were cast in Jordan’s clayground by the king
– Near where the priests who bore the ark once trod.
Thus all God’s people have this origin
Under the hand of Jesus in the place
Where He died – in His raised life they begin
Their risen life under the power of grace.
Thus we can think of Liz, who had the start
Of her enduring vessel at that source;
And of the vessel where she has her part
With saints in light beyond that watercourse.
And she will be forever at Christ’s side
Perfectly merged in His celestial bride.


The Lord is full of
Compassion, the Lord is good,
And the Lord is near.

For a while soft sun
Lightens the weeping willow
In Rashwood garden.

As one of my hands
Held Rosie’s live hand, and one
Liz’s dying hand
The Shepherd’s hand embraced us
And the Father’s hand clasped us.

The greatest wonder
In the world is the work of God
In the Christian soul.

As we droop round her
Our Sleeping Elizabeth
Waits for Prince Charming.



Dear Ingrid, you will never know
Your dear old Auntie Liz,
You’ll have no chance for her to show
Her sparkle and her fizz.

You’ll see her figure and her form
Fixed in a photograph
But you will never hear her warm
Reverberating laugh.

You will not have the chance to share
The days when she is glad;
Nor need to join with us in prayer
In days when she is sad.

You will not laugh along with her
At her own quaint behaviour;
His grace has taken her to where
She’s with her Lord and Saviour.

The One who promised He would keep
Her safe from fears and harms
Has gently nestled her to sleep
Within His tender arms.

Dear Ingrid, in this world of sin
To travel without scathe
Trust in the Lord she trusted in
And imitate her faith.

Thursday, 26 June 2008


Saints gather to
The standard - the Name
Of the Lord Jesus. He
Is in the midst.

Saints, conscious
Of His rejection, the lack
Known on earth, find
He comes to them.

Watching saints - eyes
Upward, ears alert for
His voice: He
Himself will come for them.

The triumph His,
The victory parade
His - but the ransomed saints
Will throng with Him.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008


Our sins - remembered
No more - but ourselves never
To be forgotten.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008


Since He came to relieve bearers,
The bereaved, blind, and dumb,
So that strangers should be retrieved;
Ears He opened - where first Eve
Let temptation enter; fever
He rebuked, and those who believed Him
Followed; and all He would achieve
Rooted from His excellence. God
Saw a heave offering; men
A panacea for their peevishness.
See those who received Him, children
Of God - metal to magnet, cleaving
To Him - grace made them perceive
His worth, leave all for One
Weaving a seamless garment.

Monday, 23 June 2008


Mercy endured for me
When I was lost;
Mercy secured for me
Peace - at great cost;
Mercy has reached for me,
Mercy has preached for me,
Mercy beseeched for me
When I was lost.

Mercy has cared for me,
One who is found;
Mercy prepared for me
Heavenly ground;
Mercy has sought for me,
Mercy has wrought for me,
Mercy has fought for me -
One who is found.

Sunday, 22 June 2008


All God's inheritance is richly blest
Since, in the temple Solomon prepared,
The Ark of God is finally at rest.

Round it a system God chose to invest
With glory which will never be impaired
‑ All God's inheritance ‑ is richly blest.

It led the way in every storm or test
But now, past all the trials which they shared,
The Ark of God is finally at rest.

Since God's great wisdom knew which way was best
And He was there beside them as they fared
All God's inheritance is richly blest.

His people praise the Lord with joy and zest
As, while His lasting triumph is declared,
The Ark of God is finally at rest.

Because God knew the object of their quest
Before they ventured, and in all things cared,
All God's inheritance is richly blest;
The Ark of God is finally at rest.

Saturday, 21 June 2008


A fit place for the Ark he longed to find
When he was still a youth in Bethlehem;
So as the king he firstly had in mind
To bring it upward to Jerusalem.
But when they took the Ark when he was spurned,
And Absalom his son usurped his throne,
David ordained that it should be returned:
He would not make the Ark of God his own.

Peter loved Christ, rejoicing to belong
To such a Master, who did all things well;
But "Peter taking Him to him" was wrong
And moved by impulses Christ had to quell.

May I delight to call the Saviour mine
But on His terms, since He remains divine.

Friday, 20 June 2008


Using the fleshly notion of a cart
They sought to carry up the Ark, but failed.
When they eschewed the ways of human art
And went by God's due order they prevailed.
And what a time of holy jubilance:
Hear voice and music praise with one accord!
See David, in true fervour, play and dance
In honour of the glory of the Lord!

Often desires are good, objectives right,
But means wrong, till the way that God desires
Is followed; and He has for His delight
His Christ and those that glorious One inspires.

What joy it is to God that He should find
Those who give Christ the honour God designed!

Thursday, 19 June 2008


No longer exiled in a foreign land
The Ark next suffered decades of neglect;
Abinadab could give the Ark room and
Still fail to teach his family respect.
But Obed‑Edom gave it its true place
So that one came to David to attest
The evidence of God's unfailing grace ‑
That through the Ark his household had been blessed.

The Pharisee invited Jesus in
But failed to give Him honour from the start;
The woman came near, conscious of her sin,
But gave the Lord the throne‑room of her heart.

Lord Jesus, may my household always be
One where the foremost place belongs to Thee.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008


Rightly she named her infant "Ichabod"
At that abyss of Israel's decline:
Men fled; the priest was dead; the Ark of God
Was taken captive by the Philistine.
But what is this that comes across the field
(Decked with the Philistine's pathetic pelf)
In power and dignity which will not yield?
The Ark of God is caring for itself.

They led the Saviour to a place of scorn,
Thinking to choose if He should die or live;
"Jesus..went forth..wearing the crown of thorn...":
The Son of God retains the initiative.

And now, despite the worst the world can do,
The Lord will bring His testimony through.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008


To pious minds all seemed to fall apart
But Phinehas remained before the Ark
Though others' lanterns faltered into dark
And coldness crept across the nation's heart.

Dan turned to images of human art;
Benjamin flicked and guttered to a spark;
To pious minds all seemed to fall apart
But Phinehas remained before the Ark.

Their enemies all sought to seize a part
Of Israel, each voracious as a shark;
Would all be lost? Tossed like a feeble barque
Israel seemed ignorant of star or chart ‑
But Phinehas remained before the Ark.

Monday, 16 June 2008


The sentries on the walls of Jericho
Would surely feel occasion to remark
On the procession they observed to go
Around them ‑ soldiers, Levites and the Ark.
Confiding in the structure of their wall,
They would not start to apprehend the power
Within that Ark to make their ramparts fall
And unbelievers of their city cower.

In outward weakness, but in secret might,
Those gathered to Christ's name now guarantee
The power of God will intervene to slight
Men's cities, and what they assume to be.

But, Lord, as Thou art cherished let me know
Within me this world's systems overthrow.

Friday, 13 June 2008


When Moses asked that Hobab should be eyes
To Israel in the paths they were to trace
Across the waste, God caused the Ark to rise
And guide His people to their resting place.
For three days' journey it was in the lead
And over them there was the cloud by day
That God might answer to the people's need
Whilst teaching them to follow in His way.

Still in the testimony Christ exerts
His right to lead His people into rest;
If we seek other pathways He asserts,
And shows us, that His way is always best.

Lord, give me help that I may not enmesh
My feet by following in the ways of flesh.

Thursday, 12 June 2008


Although because of sin and man's reproach
It dwelt within a place where all was dark
Which once a year the High Priest might approach
God had a system centred on the Ark.
All furnishings took bearing from its site;
All Israel arrange itself around.
Boards measured from and like it would unite
To frame the Tent amid the barren ground.

And now God's system has Christ as its centre
While all who are for Him derive from Him;
Now through the grace of God we freely enter
A place which, by His light, cannot be dim.

So by God's grace unitedly we stand
Surrounding Him while still on desert sand.


Within the Ark the tables of the law
Which God had written on by His own hand
Were cared for ‑ in the Ark Jehovah saw
His testimony carried to the land.
There was the manna in the golden pot
And Aaron's rod which budded ‑ evidence
Of what was suited to Jehovah's thought
And of the good it pleased Him to dispense.

And thus God's law was treasured in Christ's heart
As all His will was perfectly expressed;
While blessings God in Christ chose to impart
Delight Himself and those whom He has blessed.

Oh blessed Spirit, help my soul rejoice
In what in Christ makes Him the Father's choice!

Tuesday, 10 June 2008


Hands of the priests alone could touch the Ark
To robe it in the glory of the veil
And safety of the badgers' skins to embark
Across the wilderness's arid trail;
But all was swathed in blue. The sombre tones
Of all around as it went forth to seek
A resting place through desert sand and stones
Show once again the Ark to be unique.

And thus the heavenly Man moved in a scene
Foreign to Him; but if He laid aside
Some of His glories His distinctive mien
Showed heavenly grace which flesh could never hide.

While each true Israelite, in heaven's view,
Should also wear a thread of heavenly blue.

Monday, 9 June 2008


The Ark of God upheld the Mercy‑seat
Where stretched the pinions of the cherubim:
From here the word of God, and men, can meet
Since God had found all suitable to Him.
All was of gold; and all God's righteousness
Set forth for men in mercy may unfold.
God has secured an avenue to bless
From this place forth: since blood was on the gold.

God's rights in mercy have been fully met
Because the blood of Jesus has sufficed
To satisfy the heart of God and set
Him free to speak to every man in Christ.

Eternally God has before His sight
The blood of Him in whom He has delight.

Sunday, 8 June 2008


Out of the wilderness, yet sap‑embrued,
As if it grew where it did not belong
The acacia seasoned to acacia wood:
"How pliable, how durable, how strong!"
Yet see one's skilful workmanship enfold
Wood, measured to its own distinctive marque,
Inside and outside, with the finest gold
To integrate one vessel, God's own Ark.

We see perfection in humanity,
Suitable to sustain and to express
The glory inherent in divinity
Even while journeying in the wilderness.

Beholding One so near, and yet beyond
All human thought, we willingly respond.

Saturday, 7 June 2008


Why do the mighty Jordan's waters turn?
Does a great barrier thwart their onward urge
Or some vast tempest's concentration spurn,
For once, the vigour of its downward surge?
No. Just an Ark. Its littleness prevails:
Though men might deem it insignificant
Yet by God's power its presence countervails
Where flood before were always dominant.

Only a man to men's self‑holden sight,
The Christ advanced to meet death's awesome power;
And through God's strength and His inherent right
Quelled it and freed men it once forced to cower.

For while death's torrent rages as before
We stand with Christ upon the other shore.

Friday, 6 June 2008


Hewn forms; formations sculpted
Into grand beauties or grotesque grandeurs;
Softer mouldings ‑ curves and slopes,
Green with life; and the dark oceans
And white waters surging without
And springing within; crags, plains,
Swamps, meadows, savannahs, deserts,
Earth comprises. For man, carved
Arena of his actions, evoking
God's operations. God's flood
Clearing one scene conforms rock,
Water and soil to freshly construe
A place for the sons of men to be:
A place for the Son of God to effect
Purposes of God conceived outwith
Time, sin, earth and man.

Thursday, 5 June 2008


Lord, as I watch this little lamb
I ask you first to shepherd me
Since as Thy wayward sheep I am
As prone to wandering as he'll be.

Help us to feed among Thy sheep
Where both of us will know Thy care;
Protect us, water us, and keep
Our footsteps from the lion's lair.

But he himself will need to learn
The way his Shepherd had to go
And in his heart himself discern
The reason for his Shepherd's woe.

Help him to learn the Shepherd's voice
And follow in the Shepherd's way
Till he will constantly rejoice
In what his Shepherd has to say.

And bring him safely home at last
Secure eternally from harm
Where no wolves roam and no winds blast
Within the shelter of Thine arm.

He's not such a little lamb now!

Wednesday, 4 June 2008


I thought I deserved
Few; God showed that I deserved
None ‑ but gave me all.

The best of this earth
I would have chosen: God gave
No less than heaven.

"Blessed" would have sufficed:
But God was not satisfied
Without " Christ".

Tuesday, 3 June 2008


If your way is fresh and bright,

If your way is dank and strange,

If you move from gloom to light

His compassions never change.

Though the way ahead seems dark,

Though the foe seems to prevail,

Or you’re buoyant as a lark

His compassions never fail.

When oppressions press the brain,

When you need a heavenly Friend,

When your heart is full of pain

His compassions never end.

Monday, 2 June 2008


He held me in His strong embrace

Displaying His unbounded grace -

How much the Father cares for me!

Although I had been so remiss

He welcomed me with many a kiss -

How much the Father cares for me!

He did not question me, or probe,

But clothed me in His finest robe -

How much the Father cares for me!

Love more than I can understand

Put a gold ring upon my hand -

How much the Father cares for me!

So that my comfort was complete

He gave me sandals for my feet -

How much the Father cares for me!

He did all this on my behalf:

And then He shared the fatted calf -

How much the Father cares for me!

Sunday, 1 June 2008


We thought we knew the way the river went

Until well-laden waters reached the seas -

We thought we saw its fertile green extent

Broadening through fields and valleys, crops and trees.

God had another thought - it suddenly

Dropped seaward in a rushing cataract -

His vision and His wisdom rapidly

Brought it to His broad sea. This was His act.

Within love’s ocean she is now at rest,

Guarded by Him through whom she is asleep;

Since One she trusted and whom she confessed

Endured the anguish of the greatest deep.

And when He comes - her Lord and Lord of all -

She will spring forth in answer to His call.