The Black Veil – A Poem

5150943940_b94fffd722_bThe Black Veil – A Poem

I wear this black veil of despair
Like the wrappings of a mummy,
Covering my self-inflicted wounds.

My face frozen in cold, blank stare
Trapped within my tomb,
Alone in my room.

Why do you continue to test me?
Why do you hold out savory meat
Only to snatch it from my hands?

It is wrong for me to question your authority,
To question the good of your plans,
To hold you in contempt, unable to understand?

I wear this lonely shroud of betrayal.
Spend my days wondering
Why is it I who should be denied?

Haven’t I sought to be faithful?
Why are the wicked given an easy ride,
Never facing near the trials you’ve thrown in my life?

Is it too much to ask
For an outlet to this love,
Just to have a companion by my side?

Each time the die is cast
Comes another lashing to my pride,
Another time where I’d discarded and thrown aside.

Why is it that romantic lovers
Are often the ones alone,
While cheaters, liars, thieves, and betrayers come home to open arms?

But though anger stirs, I’ll patiently wait to discover
Why you seem set on placing me in the midst of harm,
Why alone is always where you think I belong.

I wear this black veil of despair,
But I trust that you know more
Than what sits before my somber scene.

I guess that life is not always fair,
So be my rock upon which I lean
As I wait in solitude until you send to me my queen.

-Poem by Justin Farley


 

photo credit: Dream is Just A Dream via photopin (license)

Advertisements

Fear of the Lord – A Lesson On What It Means To Fear God

“Fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” – Proverbs 9:10

14829998461_12bcf564b9

As you read through the Old Testament, fear of or fearing the Lord is a common theme. It wasn’t until a recent study through the book of Proverbs that I truly grasped this concept and understood it completely. The Bible continues to reveal new things in spite of what we believe we have mastered. The Word is a tree that continues to sprout new shoots even when we think it can’t grow any taller or wider.

Fearing the Lord was one of the concepts I thought I truly understood. I struggle with an anxiety disorder that is often exacerbated by the threat of God’s wrath or judgement. There are few who can understand fearing God like someone with an anxiety and panic disorder; yet, it may be this very fact that kept me in ignorance of wisdom.

I sought out help in the book of Proverbs to deal with specific sins that no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t stop doing consistently for more than a few days or weeks at a time. But I found nothing, nothing that would really help me move past my own weakness and overcome the temptations I face. If I’m honest, I have to say I was a bit disappointed. I read chapter through chapter, hoping that surely the next I read would contain the knowledge I was missing. Still nothing.

Humility quickly turned to frustration. Surely, if this was God’s Word and if God really wanted to help me he would give me the knowledge I needed. All I kept hearing was “fear the LORD”, “fear of the LORD”, blah…blah…blah. Thanks, God. Think I got that one covered. But because I was looking for what I thought I needed, I was missing the message God was trying to reveal to me.

Unintentionally, I began to start contemplating what that phrase really means. My understanding was right at the surface level. Obviously, to fear God means to fear him. You do something bad or turn away from him, watch out because his wrath is likely to fall on you.  But as I dove deeper into meditating on the phrase, I realized that I think the word “fear” is really lost on our culture.

We are a society built on individualism. Fear is only understood as a response to a danger that we perceive can hurt us or threatens our individually. Fear in ancient cultures was more than just a threat; it also dealt with honor or respect. I would say that the vast majority of people fear breaking their country’s laws, but crime still occurs in high numbers everyday. Why? Because the people breaking the law may fear the law, but they don’t respect it. They may fear the consequences of their actions, but ultimately they think the rules don’t apply to themselves, or they respect their desires more than they respect the rules.

And as I pondered over this concept of fear, I began realizing how finite my understand of the “fear of the LORD” truly was. I realized that I was relating to God exactly the way a criminal relates with their county’s rules. I feared God’s wrath, but I didn’t respect him or honor him. When choosing to follow God’s laws became difficult, I always failed. It wasn’t because I powerless, as I often times felt; it was because I respected or honored by own desires and rules over God’s. I ultimately “feared” my ego and pride more than I feared God.

Fear has a lot to do with respect and even admiration. It is even a sense of awe and wonder, knowing that whatever we are fearing has more power than ourselves. If you fear a dangerous animal, such as a bear, you would never walk into its den because you respect their territory. My fear of God was sneaking around in his world, not respecting him, but hoping that he would either be sleeping, forgive me without ever changing my behavior, or not get caught.

“Fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” because it makes you humble and opens your eyes to your lack of power. Yes, it does deal with the concept of God being a very real threat and danger, but I believe biblical concept of fear goes much further than that. “Fear” is probably not the best word to use in translation to get across the meaning to our culture who does not generally think of fear and respect as two sides of the same coin. Fearing God means submitting to his power, admitting that you know very little, and that his wisdom surpasses anything which you could ever conceive.

Strangely, what began as a search for a way to fix my lust problem, ended with the revelation that my problem was not really lust at all. Not fearing God was. Respecting my ego and selfish desires over God’s law was. Now lust is still a part of the equation, but I believe it to be a small part. The main thing that was keeping me from overcoming my desires was not lack of power, but lack of will.

Somewhere in the depth of my heart I believed (and still do to some degree) that I knew better than God. Somewhere I believed that I should be able to seek out pleasure wherever I want to, and if I’m honest, never wanted to stop. And I don’t think that’s ever going to completely disappear. Our very fallen nature as human beings is to look out for ourselves before anyone else, including God. The more humble we are, the weaker that desire becomes, but I think will always exist. The essence of “fear of the LORD” is not necessarily the threat of vengeance. It is viewing God as a loving parent who we respect and who’s rules who choose to follow, regardless of whether we think they are fair, right, or in our best interest. It means keeping our pride in check and understanding that God’s wisdom far exceeds our own and that even when we don’t understand or disagree, we know that he knows better than we do.

-Post Written by Justin Farley


 

photo credit: Dirty Collars via photopin (license)

Be Aware. Be Alert. Be Ready – A Commentary For Advent

No One Knows That Day and Hour

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is the servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place their will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

-Matthew 24:36-51

8258017746_26187a340d

Sunday marked the beginning of Advent, and my personal favorite time of the year for reflection and prayer. Advent is particularly seen as a time of preparation for the birth of Jesus. It is also a time period for those of us in the northern hemisphere where the days are colder, days are getting shorter, and where your work days begin and end in the dark.

But winter is not just a season of darkness, but also of stillness and quiet. Though we are called everyday of the year, Advent in particular gives us a chance to reconnect with our center, spend time in quiet prayer; and be aware, alert, and ready for the coming of Christ.

The scripture reading above is not popular; it does not make us feel warm and fuzzy and is easily tossed aside because we don’t want to confront the truth – that we will be held accountable for our actions and there will come a time when Jesus comes again.

Furthermore, I think it really shakes up our image of Jesus as this fun loving character; this hippie with long hair, a beard,  is all about peace and love, and doesn’t really care about how you live your life as long as you believe in him. Many people have no problem with the New Testament, but swear off the Old as archaic and filled with a God they want no part of. The New Testament is often seen as containing a God of love, while the Old Testament is riddled with a God of anger and wrath.

The problem is that if we have that preconceived notion, it means we haven’t been reading very carefully. If we see Jesus as just our buddy who never judges our behavior and offers us unconditional love and grace without any hard truths, we’ve been cherry picking his teachings. We come across passages such as the one above and either purposely skip over them or water them down by saying, “Well, he didn’t actually mean it that way…he was just being extreme to make a point.” We must be very careful and make sure we are serving the real Jesus, and not the culturally cool Jesus. The same God who resides in the Old Testament resides in the New.

Jesus warns us that there will be a time of judgement and one person will be left, while the other one taken. he stresses, “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” As if the fact that some will be left behind is not scary enough, even more frightening is that I don’t believe he is referring to “good” and “bad” people. If that was the case, there would be little use in giving a long sermon about being alert and ready. For the most part, I think we all know whether we fall into society’s class of “good” or “bad”. No. I don’t think he is preaching to wicked people; he is directing it at believers who are asleep or have not fully given their life over to him.

Being a follower of Jesus is not an easy walk. There are time periods in our lives where it is not convenient socially or personally to stay true to the Gospel. How many times have you desired to develop a closer relationship with God or known you need to change certain behaviors, but you put it off to a later date because you’re too busy, too young, too proud, or not ready yet? I know I have countless times and still continue to use those excuses.

For the overwhelming majority of the population, I think we believe in God, want a relationship with him, and want to be a “good” person; but now is never a good time. We’ll get around to it next year, 10 years from now, when we retire, or before we die. And we are exactly the people Jesus is referring to as the “wicked servant” who puts off his duty and falls into sinful behaviors because “my master is delayed”.

Jesus does not say, “if the Son of Man comes”, but “the Son of Man is coming”. When he does, will I be ready? Personally, I have always wondered how so many of the Jews could deny Jesus when there were prophecies all throughout the scriptures promising that he would come. How could they be right next to him and not know he was the Messiah? I think it’s for the same reason that we believe in him, but don’t alter our behaviors or procrastinate following him – it’s not easy and forces us to let go of our ego and selfish desires. They could not see Jesus for who he was because they were not alert or ready, even though God promised he would come.

God has also promised us that he will come again. Let us not be like the Pharisees, but be ready and be doing the master’s work when he returns. I think we all have a conceived notion of the End of the World as some drawn out event  in which we can quickly change our ways before it’s too late. But in the parable of the servant and the master, Jesus portrays a much different view. We have already been warned that he’s coming, so if we’re not ready it’s because we haven’t listened and are wicked.

It’s not just the End of the World that we have to worry about. No one knows the time of place they’ll die. It could be tomorrow; it could be 50 years from now. But don’t wait to do the master’s work until he surprises you at your door.

I don’t think Jesus used the passage to scare us, but because he loves us. Who lets their child go into a dangerous situation without warning them first? God is no different. He is merely trying to get our attention that we need to not take this lightly and need to be prepared.

During this Advent season, as we prepare for the birth of Christ, let us retreat into the silence and open our minds and hearts to what God is speaking to us. Let us analyze our behaviors and motives, making sure that we are alert and ready for the Light of the World. Let us take this season to finally fully commit our life to Jesus and not put it off any longer, so that we can joyfully embrace the master when he arrives home and not be surprised and ashamed when he knocks at the door.

-Post Written by Justin Farley


 

photo credit: It Snows via photopin (license)

The Mirror of Truth – A Poem

1656546046_f1856afea5_b

The Mirror of Truth – A Poem

Into the mirror I gaze
and am wrapped within the frame
of a smoky haze of secrets swirling within glass.

I can’t deny the face,
can’t pretend I don’t know,
have no trace of realization that the figure before my eyes is me.

It’s unsettling to see the darkness,
to discover the demons in the flesh,
to witness my flaws, flogging me in the face.

Beneath this mask of pride,
there is a face scorched and seared
by lies, deceit, and by the heat of betrayal.

I know the image I wish to see,
I know the reflection my heart believes;
but within me is a darkness I prefer not to acknowledge.

The mirror of truth does not lie,
does not flinch when it brings onlookers to their knees,
does not hide delusions, but pierces the veil of our ego.

The mirror of truth is a loving master,
a humbling stone meant to trip our feet,
a pastor to turn us towards joy and away from the bonds of slavery.

I may not like the face that stares back at me,
I may not like the icy eyes, the lips of pride,
but I have the opportunity to reconstruct my image.

Morning sun, be my witness –
when you lay down to rest tonight, the flames may remain
fueled by my darkness, but will crackle beside the waters of love and grace.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley


 

photo credit: De lujo y miseria via photopin (license)

Build Within Me A Foundation of Thanksgiving – A Poem of Praise to God

0d4c3a6d8e3880db49db107e06322131

Build Within Me A Foundation of Thanksgiving – A Poem of Praise to God

May your rays of righteousness
pierce through the clouds and shadows of my heart.

May my mind give way to your fruit –
take up your shears and prune these vines that ensnare me.

Give thanks, give praise to the tree of life,
whose branches stretch out into infinity’s depths.

Give thanks, give praise to the tree of life,
whose leaves cover and provide shelter from worldly strife.

May wisdom flow like a river, filling my well –
knowledge of you soothing my parched lips and restoring my soul.

May I not walk by the power of my own two feet,
but make the journey through life on my knees, yielding to your majesty.

If I find nothing to be grateful for, nothing to praise you for,
surely my eyes are closed like curtains to the light of morning.

If my ears do not hear your name praised throughout the forest,
surely I am deaf to the songs and melodies of mother nature.

Build within me a foundation of thanksgiving –
a cornerstone on which my heart and soul rests.

Build within me an unquenchable thirst to praise your name,
never ceasing to be marveled by the brilliance of your glory.

Still the river of desire that flows through the heart of man,
unceasingly paddling down torrential waters, never satisfied, never able to rest.

Still the winds of lust, of jealous breezes,
our noses consistently sniffing for scents trying to sense what we don’t have.

Let our hearts not beat for what we’re missing,
but become firmly grounded in the grace which we already have.

Let our hearts not beat for foolish wishes,
but boil over with thanksgiving for your endless bounty and be glad.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley

Like the Summer Wind – A Poem

462652631_e60bf9b338_b

Like the Summer Wind – A Poem

I yearn for you like the summer wind –
vast, cool, refreshing upon my cheek;
a shelter to soothe beneath the furnace of life’s heat.

Your character radiates and pierces
through the layers of lust surrounding my heart,
pushing foolish desires aside; shredding selfishness apart.

Your faith is a fortress –
a castle that contains a bounty of beauty;
an unfamiliar treasure invigorating. intriguing me.

Respect reflects from your resolve like an echo –
a lovely sonata to my ears,
finding all the melodies attractive that you hold dear.

Purity has never been pursued by me,
but you make it as arousing as naked flesh.
seductively strutting your sexuality within a soul of righteousness.

Romance flares up; sensuality beckons me
to brush your lips, to feel your kiss.
and have my hands caress and rub out all your loneliness.

You’ve got me on the hunt,
pursuing an prize I’ve never seen –
my bow is strung, my arrow nocked, and aimed for the heart of a queen.

I long for you like stars in a void of black –
hopeful, resilient, a lamplight to guide the way,
and your flames lick at my heart, burning to speak your name.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley


 

photo credit: Purity via photopin (license)

Everyday Miracles – A Poem About Finding God in Ordinary Things

13344520804_dc369acf49_b

Everyday Miracles – A Poem About Finding God in Ordinary Things

The clamor of your wisdom claps
like a thousand hands in unison throughout the forest,
calling from every treetop,
and whispering within every breath the north wind blows.
Your wisdom can be found in the simplicity of a dew drop
and within the caw of a congregation of crows.

You are an invisible hand, always laboring,
opening and closing doors as you see fit –
not always on my time frame,
not always giving me access to the rooms I wish,
but often times I find ignorance is bliss.
For the paths I most yearn to walk down
you wall off, knowing they lead to my demise.

You are the wise King,
always leading, but serving unceasingly.
With each new day you bring,
I am astonished at your beauty –
as long as I make the time to open my eyes,
as long as my awareness is focused on you
and turned away from the desires of my mind.

Your miracles come in small packages,
constantly sent, but rarely opened.
I look for you in grandiose experiences,
but you keep gently tugging at my sleeve,
urging me to put on my leather gloves
and dig for you in the dirt of the garden.

If I’m not careful,
I can become oblivious to the everyday mystery –
the beauty of a daffodil,
the way sunlight rests upon my windowsill,
the spirit that speaks when my mind gets still,
and the non-coincidental meetings of strangers,
sharing the exact conversations I need to hear.

Open my eyes when they are blind to your majesty,
so that I may witness your glory
in every root, rock, river, and ravine.
May I read the love letters you’ve written
upon every stump I pass in the forest,
every deer that crosses my path,
and every squirrel that leaps from limb to limb.
May I marvel at your everyday miracles
and find your fingerprints upon every piece of evidence
in this case called life.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley


 

photo credit: Ontelaunee Creek Tributary (1) via photopin (license)

Life’s Amphitheater – A Poem About Helping the Less Fortunate

8963171357_0ab30913bf

As I was driving down the road the other day and came to a stoplight, my eyes fell upon a young woman begging on the side of the road. I must admit that often times I am quick to judge out of pride or wonder why they are too lazy to pick themselves up and get a job or get help for their addiction. Often times I put the blame on their shoulders and often times it may be. But that woman’s image flooded my heart with sympathy – her head was hung low, and it was clear that she was ashamed of herself and her situation. I found myself wanting to write her story…and not just hers, but for all those struggling in the world without a voice.

It is easy to judge, but much harder to place ourselves in the shoes of another. We all have issues we wish to keep hidden in the safety of our hearts and minds. And what we often times attribute to our strength, our character, or our success has nothing to do with our actions, but only the grace of God.

What would your life look like without loving parents, a loving spouse, a warm and safe home; without teachers, mentors, and other positive influences? What would your life look like if you were abused as a child, afraid of going home after school, or knowing there wouldn’t be anyone there to ask you how your day was or help you with your homework? What would your life look like without someone to help you through college, without an employer who was willing to take a chance on a young intern, without a friend to pick you up all the times you fell? I don’t know, but I think it would do us all a little good to keep our judgments hushed and our hearts open to the stories of the less fortunate people around us.

Life’s Amphitheater – A Poem

Sing a song for the brokenhearted
Whose hopes were snatched away like a thief in the night;
For those who’ve been burnt by the flames of love,
Their hearts charred and scarred no longer with the will to fight.

Sing a song for the prince of pain
Whose sorrows cast shadows upon the skies.
Sing, sing for the once crowned king
Whose tears fall like rain from dismal eyes.

Sing a song for fairy tales lost.
Reality stings like salt on an open wound.
Yesterday’s hours were filled with childhood play.
Oh, how the years pass away much too soon.

Drum a dirge for the divorcee,
Who was ill-equipped to hear the secrets that fell upon their ears.
The soul shatters like sheet of glass
When reality reflects the realization of your deepest fears.

Drum a dirge for dying dreams
That have been abandoned for monetary pursuits.
To live a life never meant for our hearts
Is is pull up your essence and chop it off at the roots.

Drum a dirge for the desolate and deserted
Who hobble hopelessly, begging on downtown streets.
Do not be quick to judge a stranger
Until you pick up their bags and take a ride in their seat.

Belt out a ballad for the afflicted,
For the addicted, and for the anxious minds.
Have sympathy for the struggle you might not understand,
For we each carry a story we wish to leave behind.

Belt out a ballad for the sick and suffering;
Share their tale of sadness and woe.
A kind smile and gentle hand is often the only demand
To make somber faces delight and glow.

Belt out a ballad for the fatherless,
Familyless, and utterly alone
Whose story goes untold, lost
Sinking to the bottom of life’s ocean like a heavy stone.

Have pity on the less fortunate people
Whose notes resound throughout life’s amphitheater.
We are all apart of one beating force,
One united, cosmic voice; one rhyme, one rhythm, one meter.

-Poem and Content Written by Justin Farley


 

photo credit: Hard Times via photopin (license)

There’s Wisdom In Silence – A Poem of Contemplation

4664285408_d4682f2234

There’s Wisdom In Silence – A Poem of Contemplation 

There’s wisdom in silence;
Silence breeds seeds of wisdom.
Knowledge pours in like an flowing pitcher
Of water into an empty basin
When the heart is humble and the mind is tranquil.
When the tongue is mute,
The ears of the heart can listen.

The quiet is filled with more noise
Than the roaring downtown street traffic
Until the mind is stilled and becomes clear
Like the glassy surface of a calm lake.
But yet, silence is not silent.
For beneath the still surface,
Depths of movement swirl in swift currents of contemplation.
Silt is swept away by the forces of freedom –
Detachment from worldly bonds and chains.

Wisdom speaks in silence,
For she waits patiently until the listener is humble
Before she opens her mouth.
She knows there is no sense in wasting her breath
On ears that are clogged with distractions.
I asked wisdom what I must do to receive her blessing,
And the Lord answered:

“I will fill your pockets with wisdom,
But first you must put on clean clothes.
Rags only soak up and retain the delusions
Of the ego, bound like a slave to his desires;
The foolish feed their flesh.
Shed your stained dresses –
Evidence of all your failures and messes –
And wear my clean, white garment.
Wisdom lies dormant until you can receive
And hear this teaching.
As painful as it may be to your prideful heart,
Man never gave birth to knowledge himself,
But simply became aware of it in my being.
All that you are seeing are either products of truth
Of fallacies formed by the ego
To justify remaining in the dark,
Traveling blind down the wide and easy path.
It is not my wrath you should fear,
But the seeds you are planting
And the grain you will reap.
Your house is maintained or profaned
By the company you keep.
Every action forces fate’s hand
To set a chain of events in motion.
Do not give claim to the foolish notion
That free beings can refuse reproof and disdain discipline
And merely move along merrily without repercussion.
You need not my punishment.
For you punish yourself each time you scoff at truth,
Slowly watering, unknowingly growing
The roots of destruction that will choke you from within.
Wickedness knows no other way
Than to breed pain, emptiness, death, and decay.
I will fill your pockets with wisdom,
But you must first strip off your ragged clothes.
Perfection only comes from those under my atoning garment.
But to wear it, you must face being exposed.
For it does not keep in secrets;
It does not allow your selfish heart to plot.
It is a daily reminder of your inadequacy
That when you are swept away within the currents of life
You have not the power to save yourself, but must cling to the rock.
Wisdom walks unceasingly,
Wandering through the crowded streets.
But few have eyes to see and ears to hear;
Few are the faces that she greets.
If you want her knowledge,
You must also accept her reproof.
But if you remain humble,
You shall surely taste the splendor of truth.”

There’s wisdom in silence,
But she is not loose, but haughty.
She does not strip off her secrets
Or share her bed to just anybody.
She desires the humble, the meek, and the mild
With hearts full of shame, begging to be reconciled.
Few dare to enter the gates of silence.
For they fear what their hearts will hear.
So they continue to ignore wisdom’s silent warning
And dig their own destruction year after year.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley


photo credit: The Moon Legend via photopin (license)