About Ray McClendon

Ray McClendon last served as a minister with A church of Christ in Petaluma from 2001 to 2016 and has retired from full time church ministry. From 2013 to 2019, he served the City of Petaluma as a Public Safety Chaplain for Petaluma Police and Fire. Ray & his wife have just relocated to the peninsula in the south Bay Area to be closer to their children and will continue his ministries in First Responder Chaplaincy, Theological Poetry, and his children's book series, Angels Whisper. He has published Angels Whisper the Stories of Creation, Respect the Elderly, and the Nativity Story, and is currently working on Angels Whisper the Story of Easter. Ray is married to Linda, his High School Sweetheart, for 43 years. They have four children and three grandchildren and consider their close, loving family to be their greatest achievement.

R E F U G E

Shine forth in retribution Lord,
Rise up and judge the proud.
How long will wicked ones proclaim
Their arrogance aloud!

They pour out vain, conceited speech,
God’s own, they crush and grieve;
They say that Jacob’s God cannot,
Their violence perceive.

When will the simple understand
Or foolish ones grow wise?
T’is Him who hears and sees it all
Who formed our ears and eyes

Our mortal thoughts are empty breath
But God discerns our mind;
And he will discipline the world,
Instructing humankind.

How blessed are the disciplined
Who learn from sacred page
The Lord gives rest from troubled days
When justice comes of age

Can wicked leaders stand with you
Who write unjust decrees?
As they condemn the innocent
And disregard their pleas

May God destroy their unjust ways
And judge them for their wrong
For He will always be my rock
My fortress firm and strong

Unless the LORD had given help
My soul, my life to save
I surely would have slipped into
A dark and silent grave

When troubles overwhelm my soul
My foot begins to slide
Your steadfast love will strengthen me
And hold me by your side

—Psalm 94

R E I G N I N G

The LORD is reigning–Sovereign King
In awe, the people shake
Enthroned above the cherubim
The earth below will quake

Oh praise His great and holy name
So righteous, just, and fair
Come to the footstool of the Lord
For we must worship there

Moses, Aaron, Samuel too
All called upon His name
They cried to Him, He answered them
In cloudy pillar came

They kept His statutes and decrees
Forgiven of the sin
Yet they were held to strict account
For their wrong within

Oh praise His great and holy name
So just and righteous still
Exalt the LORD, our holy God
Upon His holy hill

Exalt the LORD, our holy God
For He is Holy still

—Psalm 99

Musings

To start with (and everyone gets this about poetry), poetry makes things memorable. I may not remember everything I or someone else talked about just last Sunday, but the very first piece of religious verse I heard in my life—in high school fer’ Pete’s sake—I can still quote verbatim after some 40 years! And it’s just this goofy, silly, little rhyme:

God’s plan had a hopeful beginning

But man spoiled his chances by sinning

We trust that the story, will end in God’s glory

But, at present the other side’s winning!

A little over 20 years ago, I read another, more serious piece of theological poetry written by a good friend of mine, Rodger Trimm.

I saw a grinning pup

Running in the wind

A grinning, speckled pup

Running with a friend

The boy, not far behind

Laughed for all his worth

The two were joined in mind

By love and love of mirth

Where did it all begin, this homo-canis bond?

In evolution’s bin? Or did a God so fond

Of elemental joy

Create a grinning pup?

Create a laughing boy?

I know what I believe…

Love that!

But there is SO. MUCH. MORE. to poetry than mere memorability.

Here is an insight from N.T. Wright in his book, The Case For The Psalms; Why They Are Essential:

“To write or read a poem is already to enter into a different kind of thought world from our normal patterns. A poem is not merely ordinary thought with a few turns and twiddles added on to make it pretty or memorable. A poem (a good poem, at least) uses its poetic form to probe deeper into human experience than ordinary speech or writing is usually able to do, to pull back a veil and allow the hearer or reader to sense other dimensions.”

This sounds right to me and dovetails with my own experience in writing theological poetry.

All of the verse on this site is inspired by a biblical text or group of texts, a biblical story or character. And when you write about this kind of material in verse, when you attempt to relate some biblical truth in a literarily artistic way, you really can’t do it justice without some careful study. And if you want to be faithful to the text, to the story, to the character—and be theologically sound—neither can you do it without introspection and prayer. You can’t do it without dwelling within that text or that story or that life and trying to see God in them as well as yourself.

So that, when God does enable a creative writer to pen something that can be read or shared in verse or song, we can say two things about the result:

  1. That the resulting verse is a product of faithful reflection, sound theology, and the gift of God.
  2. That the resulting verse will, in turn, promote sound theology and has the potential to produce ever deeper insight when thoughtfully read and reflected upon. A beautifully ascending and uplifting spiral that stirs the soul as it strengthens faith and increases knowledge.

Theological poetry also expresses itself as this lovely, artful form of commentary–one that can actually aid in understanding the word of God. Not merely by imparting information to be processed in a logical or linear kind of way, as in two plus two equals four. This bit of information plus that bit of information equals this conclusion. The real power of poetry–the power of literary artistry—is that our minds are stirred emotionally, aesthetically, inspirationally, and imaginatively (as well as memorably), in ways that augment the rational. Only God knows exactly how all that works chemically and biologically within the brain as synapses fire this way or that way. But we can often sense, experience the way logic and intellect mate with emotion and feeling—giving birth to truth and the freedom truth brings to us. We sense that, when our hearts are deeply touched as well as our minds—when emotions are deeply stirred and imaginations are fired in a creative fashion—timeless truths have a new and vibrant way of being revealed to us and sticking with us and leading us to even more timeless truths.

Now that I’ve read what I’ve just written, it sounds a little like I’m describing ‘inspiration’. I suppose I am. Or at least scratching the surface of it.These are some of the things I have noticed and become increasingly aware of as I’ve worked on my craft.

It is truly a shame that poetry, as literature, is not mainstream in all the ways it once was. But, perhaps only poets think that anymore.The good news is, poetry is still alive and well and mainstream in music (so thank God for our music!). For where the artistry of muse and music meet and marry, some of our very best poetry lives happily ever after.

While we’re on the subject… what are your gifts? How does God and His Story deeply move and inspire you? Then… how can God participate with you—deeply move and inspire you—in the using of your gifts to honor and glorify Him?

The Proverbial James

JAMES  1

When trials bring you hardship… fear…
Then count it joy and persevere.

When perseverance has its say,
You’ll be complete in every way.

Ask for wisdom and believe,
And from a generous God receive.

Ask in faith and do not doubt,
Like the waves, wind-tossed about.

The poor rejoice in exaltation,
The rich, in their humiliation.

The steadfast ones are blessed when down,
For when they rise they have their crown.

Don’t beat your own desire’s drums,
Then blame God when tempting comes.

Each good and perfect gift in sight,
Is given by the God of light.

Be slow to let your anger peak,
Be quick to hear and slow to speak.

Renounce all evil, be undeterred,
Receive with meekness the engrafted word.

Those casual hearers of the law,
Forget what they in mirrors saw.

Be doers of that word and never,
Just hearers who are lost forever.

Be steadfast in the law that frees,
In doing you’ll be blessed in these.

Are you a true, religious one?
Then guard your heart, control your tongue.

Pure religion and undefiled,
Serves widow and the orphan child.

Keep from the world, unstained and pure,
To show a faith sincere and sure.

 JAMES  2

Brothers, show no preference for,
The wealthy rather than the poor.

An evil motive judges things,
Like shabby clothes and golden rings. Continue reading

Ages

Though generations pass away
And ages come and go;
O Lord, you are the dwelling place
For men of dust below.

Before you gave the mountains life
Or birth to earth and sea;
Forever God, you always were
Forever you will be.

To you a thousand years and more
May seem as but a day;
But, like the grass we quickly pass
We bloom, then fade away.

Our secret sin that hides within
Lies clearly in your sight;
Iniquities illumined by
Your presence and your light.

We are consumed in holy wrath
Convicted of our wrong;
Our days of sorrow languish on
We wonder Lord, “How long?”

Our years will end with mournful sigh
Since we have lost our way;
Please help us number all our years
Before we fade away!

Instill a heart of wisdom in
The children you have known;
And Father, when the morning comes
Show mercy to your own.

Let us, your servants, see your deeds;
And to your children show
Your favor as you bless our hands
To do your work below.

— Psalm 90


 


Fine Print

The calloused, rough-hewn workers heaved
And threw another rough-hewn cross
Upon the growing pile of wood
Flecked with human dross

The timbers all had served their turn
And splintered over time
As one by one they’d pinioned those
Paying for their crime

And when they could no longer hold
A nail to pin the gruesome load
That pillar of the damned, the spurned
Was piled up with the rest and burned

They tossed the last one on the pile
Paused… shuddered at the Reaper’s Tally
Then fired the wooden bones just like
Those bones in Hinnom’s Valley

A worker standing near for warmth
Eyes gazing at the glowing pyre
Caught something strange upon the wood
In the growing flickering fire

Moving close, he grabbed the end
Of one old, rugged stake
Pulled it out, saw the words
And then began to shake…

          …Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews

“Pilate made a sign and put it on the cross.                                                                       It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

— John 19:19


REFLECTIONS

This is a fictitious piece, attempting to imagine the reaction of one who might have been a believer, or at least a curious one, who came across the sign Pilate had nailed to the cross of Jesus. Especially in view of what so many were saying about Him and the resurrection.