Tag Archives: poetry

Thirty-Three Years: A Life [Poem by Mom]

Have you been impatiently waiting for the monthly poem from my mom? No, we have not forgotten. Here it is, just in time to help you remember the death and life of Christ.

God bless you as you read Mom’s poem and meditate on Christ.

I remember as a young girl, lying on the grass, gazing at the immense blue summer sky above me, and trying to grasp in the “grain of sand” that was my mind, the concept of eternity. As the clouds moved lazily overhead I pondered the puzzle of eternity past and eternity future, tried to envision the vast expanses of “time” implied, and wondered which would be more irrational, that God should have never begun—how could that be!—or that He should have a beginning—but then how and why could He have begun? I would try to stretch my mind across the eons of eternity from past to future until I felt my brain would explode.

G. K. Chesterton said that “poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea… the result is mental exhaustion. To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain. The poet desires… a world to stretch himself in… asks only to get his head into the heavens… the logician… seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head which splits.”

The Scriptures tell us it is “by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God…not…of things which are visible” (Heb. 11:3, NKJV, italics added).

I was nearing fifty years of age when I wrote the following poem about Christ’s time on earth, and my brain felt no more adequate then of grasping the puzzle of Christ’s work of salvation than it was earlier with the concept of eternity.

The puzzle: Did Jesus come to live or to die for us? His death was only efficacious because of His Resurrection and because of His perfect life. His life alone could not have saved us. He needed a body for the very purpose of dying for us. Remission of sin demands blood shed, a death, a sacrifice.

Romans 5:1 says we are “justified by faith” in Him “who was delivered up [to death] because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:25, NKJV, italics added).

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (Rom. 11: 33, NASB)

In humble faith I celebrate and trust in the life and death and resurrection of my Risen Lord and Saviour as all-sufficient for my eternal salvation!

—Elaine Gingrich, March 1, 2016


He came to die, but first He came to live.
Not as some faceless, flat protagonist
Who dies in a pale story, never missed
By readers. No, our captured minds would give
The world to know this Man. The finest sieve
Can catch no fault in Him. Go down the list
From “healed a leper” to “by traitor kissed,”
Then watch Him die unjustly, yet forgive.

Here was a man to tower above men,
With strength to calm the stormy Galilee,
With touch more tender than a baby’s sigh.
Here was a man deserves to live again,
A man to love! We turn the page to see
The script. He lives! But first He came to die.

—Elaine Gingrich, May 2, 2000

While this was not her intent, Mom’s insight about the need to connect the life and the death of Christ has been the subject of some recent discussion in scholarly circles.

N.T. Wright, for example, wrote a book called How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels. Wright argues that evangelicals and other confessional Christians, influenced by the pattern of the ancient creeds, have tended to emphasize the virgin birth and the cross of atonement while skipping over the life of Christ with his radical kingdom teachings. Liberal theologians, however, influenced by post-Enlightenment critical scholarship and embarrassed by the miraculous elements of Jesus’ birth and death, have emphasized the exemplary power of his human life.

But true Christianity needs both—the kingdom teachings and life of Jesus on the one hand, and also his miraculous, saving death and resurrection. In Wright’s words, we need both kingdom and cross. (While I have not read this book, I have listened about three times to this lecture Wright gave on the same topic. Highly recommended.)

Wright is a scholar of the first rank, but his book above is written for a general audience. Pastors have also written on this subject, such as Tim Chester in his 2015 book Crown of Thorns: Connecting Kingdom and Cross. (I have not read this book, but am familiar enough with Chester to feel confident it will be a useful read.)

I am excited to see scholars and pastors grasp this insight. But understanding exactly how Jesus’ life and death relate together to save us and shape our lives is secondary to simply trusting and following him. So it’s okay if you identify with what Mom said after I shared some of the above with her:

You can develop the deep debates and I will stick to the simpler faith foundation. 🙂

I am deeply grateful to my mother for helping to keep my faith foundation firm, both in my youth and to this day.

For the rest of the poems in this monthly series, see here.

And if you enjoyed this poem, leave a comment here for Mom, or send her an email at MomsEmailAddressImage.php.  Thanks!

Jasmine, Our Blossom [Poem by Mom]

 It’s time for another poem from Mom! So I’ll remind you of the introduction to this monthly series and hand the microphone directly to my mother. Enjoy!

In early 2011 a precious baby girl was born to our son Brent and his wife, Carolyn. Terrifying blood sugar crashes over the next months led to a frightening diagnosis. Jasmine had hypopituitarism, an incurable, life-threatening congenital condition.

Jasmine Photo - May 2011b
Jasmine with my parents, Ken and Elaine.

This poem was born on a woodland walk in early May when I felt a desperate need to hear from God. I tossed my questions to the skies and tramped my fears into the forest floor. At my feet the spring blossoms were bursting through the mulch of years past. Poetry is for me a process of discovery, not a pronouncement of pat answers. In the work of God’s fingers I hear whispers of His ways and glimpse parables of His power. On this morning I again sensed God communing with me in the garden of His creative handiwork.


At this time
Of trilliums and violets
Spring beauties and baby leaves
When eternity in our heart grieves
For everything exquisite and beautiful in its time
Whose time is so brief
Leaving behind fading fragrance
Beneath fronds of ferns
In springtime full-leaf—

At this time
Must we alone
Join Job
In receiving stone for bread,
Who wished himself dead,
Who had asked only to be just and merciful
Until he felt the full-force blow of physical
Loss and anguish?

Must we also
Face this puzzle too powerful
For that perfect and upright man?
Like Job who prayed for his children,
For this child’s coming too we prayed,
And open-hearted thanked you for the gift.

Each trillium opens pure and perfect to our sight.
So why at this time this blight,
This tiny hidden deadly flaw
Within this delicate blossom
This cherished child we received with awe?

I pace the wooded paths and ask:
How can You so distant and non-physical
Ethereal and other
Immense and grandiose of plan
Comprehend our weight?
Until I look beneath my feet—
You who find purpose in this brief
Exquisite woodland extravagance,
Each baby leaf,
What have you given us, bereft—
A stone? Or gift?

This we do know,
Whatever life may deny or grant her,
Your love will be her constant shelter,
Till past all brevity
And all disaster,
For all eternity in perfect beauty
Our Jasmine will bloom
Radiant with laughter
Happily forever after.

—Elaine Gingrich, May 12, 2011

The trillium, Ontario's provincial flower.
The trillium, Ontario’s provincial flower.

Photo Credit: anthony_7x via Compfight cc

Four years have passed since my woodland walk, and our “grand-blossom” is still blooming, exquisite and vibrant, hardy and full of life. Despite heart-stopping 911 calls and anxious hospital stays God has graciously preserved Jasmine’s life. Specialists at Sick Kid’s Hospital, a fine-tuned, carefully scheduled regimen of hormones, funding for the incredibly expensive growth hormone, many miracles, and the constant vigilance of loving parents have been God’s gifts to Jasmine’s health.

As with all flowers, we have to learn how to hold such a delicate life in our hands without crushing it, to delight in today with no demands on tomorrow. Must I know God’s purposes before I accept what He sends? Can I joy in the beauty of today and find His grace for any attending pain and for the uncertainty of tomorrow?

Jasmine, December 2014
Jasmine, December 2014.

Jasmine revels in life—in each moment of it. True, she hates needles, but she loves people and runs laughing to meet life, with arms wide open, eyes sparkling and her voice full of laughter. She is learning to cast a line so she can go fishing with her big brothers. She has crammed a lot of living into four years, and her energy and delight seem boundless. As her grandma, I hold each moment with her in a special place in my heart, and I rest in knowing God holds both of us in His.

If you enjoyed this poem, leave a comment here for Mom, or send her an email at MomsEmailAddressImage.php.  Thanks!

PS: You might also enjoy Mom’s poem about one of Jasmine’s big brothers, my nephew Curtis.

On borrowing pagan musical forms

(Old Facebook Post – Revised)

I find hard to believe that heavenly music will be restricted to the styles of 16th to 19th century Europe. The Bible itself demonstrates the appropriateness of borrowing from other musical cultures:

“It is clear that Israel’s psalms have in some places happily taken over Canaanite poetic meter, imagery, and even aspects of their mythology and utilized it all in extolling the unique sovereign and providential power of YHWH.” – Christopher Wright, The Mission of God (footnote on page 443)

I’ve done some study of how music “means,” looking both at music history and at some scientific literature. I’ve concluded that there is some intrinsic emotional meaning to some sounds (for example, sudden, loud or fast sounds tend to increase the excitement level–or, more accurately according to scientific literature, it is unexpected sounds that do this, so an unexpected silence can achieve the same), but that most of the meaning/affective power of music comes from the extrinsic associations we bind up with a particular kind of sound, thanks to our past history and teaching regarding that kind of sound. What we hear and enjoy in our adolescence/youth tends to become the norm by which we experience and compare all other musics we subsequently hear throughout life.

(I’ve heard a story of an ex-Satanist fleeing a church because of the organ music of Bach, which had been used in his Satanic cult, and another story of a mother and infant in severe distress during birth, until medical personnel were convinced to play her favorite heavy metal music–at which point the baby’s heart rate calmed down, as did the mother, and the birth proceeded successfully.)

I think much fundamentalist/conservative Anabaptist teaching regarding music is a reactionary theology, developed on the “battlefield” in response to the rock and roll music revolution, during which time certain sounds were connected quite closely by a majority of musicians with an evil lifestyle. Those concerns were valid for the time. However, such music today is does not carry those evil associations to a majority of listeners and performers, being innocent enough to be useable for radio jingles and children’s educational songs.

The suitability of musical sounds is an important question, yes, but the deeper question is whether the musician is using sound to bless God and neighbor. David used pagan poetic meters to praise Yahweh.