Love's Depths ~ a villanelle of water and life

God stills the storms of waters’ might:
The spirit moves to set us free.
No sea can quench love’s fire and light.

Creation brings our day and night –
From chaos deep we’re brought to be.
God stills the storms of waters’ might.

Our hearts and minds beset by fright –
From war and want we’re never free.
No sea can quench love’s fire and light

Christ comes to save us from our plight,
His grace is our salvation’s key.
God stills the storms of waters’ might.

From depths of death to heaven’s height;
God’s life is nailed to hatred’s tree.
No sea can quench love’s fire and light

The dead are raised by Jesus’ right:
Call on his name – on bended knee.
God stills the storms of waters’ might:
No sea can quench love’s fire and light.

For Peter Futcher

© Neil Thompson 2021

Waiting Room

Advent is a waiting room
in a world where there is
so little room for waiting.

disconnection
on hold
adrift
passive
done unto
…everything that is contrary
to the zeitgeist of
our egocentric gravity

Ignore the diversions of triviality
Listen
Be still

Love and truth and hope speak out
in the mists of prophets
discounted and marginalised – voices
that cut to the bone
of our fragile, arrogant flesh.

We miss the glory,
enchanted by the mirror
of importance and pleasure.

There is a greater joy and purer light
that lies in a different reflection:
we look but we do not see,
we hear but never resonate
with heaven’s promise and
simple treasure.

God is coming – and has come – in
fragility and vulnerability:
it is only in waiting,
in making room –
disarming the defences
of our ambient power –
that we can be free and be found
by the future
born in
Bethlehem.

Veni, veni Emmanuel.

© Neil Thompson 2020

Beyond comprehension

Below the lights and tinsel
lies another world
which we are keen to deny
and smother in any way we can.
Snow does it, our hearts and minds
long to…
Forget – as much as you can –
pretend, cover up and escape –
if only for a day or two.

The manger is rough and splintered,
the stable cold and bare,
the parents displaced
and far away from home.

The Christ comes to our dis–ease,
our pain and insecurity;
he is born amongst strangers
in a land invaded by a distant power.

Our hearts and minds are no different.

Yet love fills the vacuum of the interim
barrenness of meaninglessness, despair
and abandonment.

Fear is the fuel of our needy coldness
and there in its terrifying grip –
God is born
– to journey to your grave and mine.
Hope reaches out from tomorrow
and eternity.

This story is not to be understood
but to overcome every other
thought and certainty.
A distant birth is a present friend
– there is no moment or place but this one
which takes us beyond all that is
to all that shall be.

There is but one change, one response:
believe and trust – risk
that life is more than this
because love is born in the darkness.

And the darkness comprehends it not.

© Neil Thompson 2020

A Lenten gift

Lent is more than a season,
it is a gift:
the dark side of
our human living
is exposed to the light.
Inner darkness is confronted;
external hardship is allowed
to test our confidence
in our strengths and allow
humility and reality to
recalibrate our ego and our will
– alone.
It is a time when grace emerges
as our real consolation and hope;
on our own we will founder:
we are not self–sufficient
but utterly dependent
on the One who gives us life
and those among whom we exist.

a stone is not our bread
the pinnacle drop is not a source of wonder
the bended knee to evil does not win the Kingdom

Here is the gift of God in Jesus:
frail holiness made strong
by faith in Father’s will
and faithfulness in Word
– now made flesh.

We are the wilderness;
He is the bread,
the wonder
and the glory:
in forty days,
in human span,
in dying breath,
in all that is to come.

© Neil Thompson 2020

A Villanelle for Lent

Take now the path of love and truth to grow:
Find time and space, let go of self and pray;
Choose life and pass beyond the things you know.

Our love is but a bloom with seeds to sow –
Each life is frail and formed in mortal clay:
Take now the path of love and truth to grow.

Uneven days embrace both joy and woe,
Our thoughts and feelings change – they cannot stay.
Choose life and pass beyond the things you know.

When truth is found we needs must face the foe
And challenge wrong in moral cause and fray.
Take now the path of love and truth to grow.

No inner peace is found in comfort’s flow;
Alluring pleasure does not win the day;
Choose life and pass beyond the things you know.

The ‘yes to life’ involves our saying ‘no’ –
A line is drawn by living love’s true way.
Take now the path of love and truth to grow.
Choose life and pass beyond the things you know.

© Neil Thompson 2020

Easter +50

The inner and the outer worlds
blend and fuse and liberate
taking us beyond in the here
and into eternity in the now

Barriers fall and
we live in our limits
yet on the other side of
mortality and self

A new language never of
our own making possesses
and burns uniting us in a
meaning of mystery and many
when we know only because
we are fully known

Energy bursts and explodes
from the smallest thought or thing
and simultaneously there is an
inner calm and creative turmoil
beyond our understanding

This is a way of being alive
that is always new
but has existed for ever –
it comes as a gift and
costs everything and nothing

It is born in love
and borne on love:
it is never mine yet
always possessing –
holy, spirit, wisdom, life –
contradiction of reason and
paradox of possibilities

Breath that we draw
into the inner world
and fire that is exhaled
from the soul

Fusion of all fragments
fall flame flow
into the moment
and enter –
veni

© Neil Thompson 2020

Advent Waiting ~ an incomplete truth?

Is all our living a time of waiting?
Each moment incomplete and always borne
by time’s ceaseless flow?

We make ourselves complete in our incompleteness
by being at the centre and recalibrating all else.

The past is irretrievable and as good as fiction:
all that you need is me in the present moment
and the future can be mine…

But it’s not true. The future might not be mine
because I might not be the future.
If flesh and blood, the pulse of being,
passes away, what is left?

Does anything mean anything?
The meaning is hidden, beyond us,
and yet within us.

The other has made us:
the other is the mystery
that defies my mortality
and will come

in time
in humility
in birth
in love
in death.

Advent: the days of the year grow shorter
and the nights longer
yet in the dark a light has shone
and it comes always
now
and has a name
a hand to take us and lead us.

There is no waiting for this truth,
this completeness.

Hold out your hand;
open your mind and heart;
let go.
The waiting is filled
with hope
and faith
and love.

© Neil Thompson 2019

The Wedding at Cana

The empty jars at Cana’s feast
Surprise with joy when wine has ceased –
A mother’s plea to God’s own Son
Brings wonder when his will is done.
The wedding guests, the passing hour,
Must wait upon the Saviour’s power:
As servants trust, the jars are filled
With water plain – yet steward thrilled.
He hails the groom for richest wine;
The gift of love from guest divine.

© Neil Thompson 2019

Maranatha

The waiting is over
when Jesus is born
but time unfolds
and traps each of us
in each moment.
Our waiting now is
waiting on eternity
as we live each day
and interpret the past
and look to and
plan for the future.
The present moment
is infinite in its possibilities
as it lies in the manger,
dies on a cross,
is raised to new life
and claims all our living.
Maranatha

© Neil Thompson 2019

A Christmas lullaby for the soul

Metre: 88 88 88Stella

This baby born in distant years
Is yet a brother to us all;
God’s love and joy – and pain and tears –
Begin in time in form so small.
Sing, sing all people of the earth –
For endless joy in Bethlem’s birth!

A helpless babe; th’Eternal Word:
This holy birth confounds all sense.
The angels sing – their music heard
By those whose love has no pretence.
Sing, sing all people of the earth –
For endless joy in Bethlem’s birth!

The keenest mind and simplest heart
Are taken to the stable bare
Where humble love eclipses art
And reason’s need to challenge prayer.
Sing, sing all people of the earth –
For endless joy in Bethlem’s birth!

The peace of every age lies here:
A child to grow and save each soul.
For we belong: God’s love so near –
Our broken selves made one and whole.
Sing, sing all people of the earth –
For endless joy in Bethlem’s birth!

© Neil Thompson 2019

Breath, beasts and straw

Another breath –
but this one is God’s
– his first
as a brother and saviour,
Jesus.

He comes to us on our own terms
but many say he can’t.
This birth is a fact of history
and also much more:
the refutation of human glory,
self seeking and personal triumph
whilst at the same time each and
every soul’s hope and the
promise of the unimaginable.

Without Him our lives
are but as straw;
without love we
are nothing but
brute beasts.
In our midst God is born.
Emmanuel.

Both then and now
and till the end of time,
our cold and poverty,
the beast and the straw
are filled and inhabited
by a glory we cannot see
– yet.

© Neil Thompson 2018

Dare to stop

Stop!
Look? Listen? No –
Wait!

Advent is the time of waiting.
We rarely choose it
for waiting teaches us
we are subject to time.

We invent the clock,
the measure
but the power is beyond us.

Time embodies mystery
and brings change
with glimpses of memory and expectation.
Stop and we might experience the beyond.

Advent is the threshold of God’s coming in time.
Am I too busy and important to stop?
It is control and complacency that
corrode our souls and darken the glimpse of glory.

The journey of wonder lies in the waiting;
we reach Bethlehem by stopping.
Even a heartbeat can drown out
the song of the angels.

Stop.
Think too much
and the world floods back in.
The everything of God
is born in the poverty
of Bethlehem and me.

Empty is

the altar;
the manger;
the cross

– until He comes.

© Neil Thompson 2018

Beyond Bethlehem

Bethlehem

Barely a breath has filled your lungs

You know nothing
and without another you cannot live

Absent from our human past
and promised death in the future

Is this hope? Is this wisdom?

Yes, for love is so simple
and truth so fragile

This is Jesus in time
Love unending in our midst

Beyond – the gift from afar

Beyond all knowledge and self
Here in this birth

© Neil Thompson 2017

Dust and Ashes

Dust.

That is what we are.
And spirit.

It is the ash that smothers and stifles
sight and sense
when we ignore the spirit.

Lent’s forty days
to see a different way
and feel a different gravity
when love and truth and pity
lighten our heavy dust–choked selves.

It is the road to Calvary
and the empty tomb.
There is no other.

Without spirit
there is only dust.

With God, Resurgam.

© Neil Thompson 2017

Verses accompanying the Seven Last Words from the Cross

Metre: 887

The seven last words from the Cross

1.
Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. (Luke 23.34)

Love in death breathes life for ever,
God forgives so hate can never
Triumph over Jesus’ cross.

2.
Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise. (Luke 23.43)

Reaching out to lost and crying,
Takes our souls in hour of dying
To the Father’s heavenly home.

3.
Woman, behold thy son! Behold thy mother! (John 19.26)

Caring for his blessed Mother
Chooses John to be his brother:
Makes their home for coming days.

4.
Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matthew 27.46)

Darkness breaks the soul in bleakness;
Jesus carries all in weakness
Now abandoned – all alone.

5.
I thirst. (John 19.28)

Agony is life o’erturning,
Broken body’s thirst is burning:
Death draws near with every breath.

6.
It is finished. (John 19.30)

Life and death no more competing,
Love fulfils as God completing:
Giving all, so all is won.

7.
Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. (Luke 23.46)

Darkness joins in sorrow’s grieving
Father’s love his Son receiving
O’er the brink of death and time.

© Neil Thompson 2015

The kiss of God

Hush.

Stop. Be still.

What is it to be kissed?
Yes, think
...and then stop thinking.

The Christmas birth is the kiss of God.
God takes our humanity – and our lips
– he kisses and is kissed.
Is this real?
Is God in love with you and me?
Is he so close as to touch and kiss?

So many questions but a kiss is a kiss.
It is love and flesh combined.
It lasts yet is gone:
touched, blessed, ravished and set free.

God’s heartbeat is born:
a baby to be loved
and hidden until strong enough
to be kissed in the Garden
and abandoned to the Cross.

What is it to be kissed?
It is surrender – in the moment
and for eternity.

Did shepherds and kings kiss you
O little one of Bethlehem?
Can I?

If I can’t, can we ever be one?

You kiss me till my dying breath,
O love eternal –
use my lips to bring that truth
to life today.

© Neil Thompson 2015

Wind and Fire ~ A Sonnet for Pentecost

The power of nature flows through every day
– it lights and holds each moment’s thought and move
Yet humankind has walked illusion’s way
By making self the point of all to prove.
The winds bring change and life o’er all the earth
And fire ignites a danger rarely tamed;
For we are not the masters making worth
Creation’s life – by us forever framed.
The fiftieth day of Easter changes all
As fire and wind bring power of love by grace:
The spirit burns and blows to seek our hearts
And minds – so meaning’s purpose finds the place
In human wills inspired by nature’s arts.
We live beyond ourselves for evermore
In Spirit’s breath fulfilling every law.

© Neil Thompson 2015

Candlemas ~ A Sonnet

Two turtledoves are offered to the Lord
As firstborn son is given back by Law;
The ancient covenant brings lives outpoured
In simple gifts, the offering of the poor.
Through Temple courts the infant Jesus’ light
Is recognised by Simeon’s vigil eyes
Waiting for God to flood dark Israel’s night
With glory – and with light, the Gentiles’ prize.
Many will rise and fall in God’s new age
As Jesus, God’s anointed holy one,
Brings judgement as foretold in scripture’s page,
Salvation’s grace bestowed in Christ, the Son.
So take the flame of Jesus’ holy birth
And walk by faith God’s gift for days on earth!

© Neil Thompson 2015

A Christmas Sonnet of the Dispossessed

We know the place where Jesus Christ was born
As God took breath and laid his head on earth;
Yet power and people mixed their love with scorn –
And soon the babe takes flight from Bethlem’s birth
Escaping sword and jealous murderous fears
To find a refuge in a distant land.
We learn that joys of love are bathed in tears
As Christ our brother holds us by the hand:
The newly born becomes a man despised,
For living out the truth that conquers loss;
He wanders homeless, humbly – God–disguised –
And brought to shame and death on Calvary’s cross.
So, all displaced by war and want are one
With God – who shares all pain in Christ his Son.

© Neil Thompson 2015

A Contradiction of Sense

God’s Son is born as cattle low
and heaven’s silent trumpets blow:
the Christ arrives in darkest night
lit by love’s invisible light.

We know this story
but is it really true?
It strains our credibility –
thin on facts and
rich in poetry.

The Bethlehem scene tests us:
everything here
asks us questions
and searches us out
for the rest of time.

The smelly stable
Is now a part of heaven.
The munching beasts
and creaking beams
resound the music of the angels.
The flickering lamp
and pale moonbeams
are flooded by
celestial invisible glory.

Here, all human weakness is met;
all pain and loss is transformed:
by this collision
and these contradictions.

This baby takes us to the cross
and the grave
…but does not leave us there.

Christmas overcomes our power
and invites another.
Truth is never simpler
nor nearer:
the silent trumpets sound and
the darkest light streams in!

God’s Son is born as cattle low
and heaven’s silent trumpets blow:
the Christ arrives in darkest night
lit by love’s invisible light.

© Neil Thompson 2014

Summer somersaults of joy

Summer somersaults of joy!

Earth and sky, sky and earth – 
head over heels in joy:
with the high sun we can tumble over and over
seeing one, both, the other
in brightness and in sudden shower,
in dazzling light and heady scent,
in steamy throbbing night. 
 
Colour bursts before and in our eyes – 
the very earth teems and oozes life and nectar – 
intoxicating our senses and souls
into reels of ecstasy.
 
O happy apogee of sun,
you whose beguiling rays of light
undresses us and reveals
the desires of all
to be free,
to be me,
to be thee!

© Neil Thompson 2013

Clavis Christi

He came
and unlocked
every heart
and cell
and vault.

He left the key
for me and you
—and all.
In trust, in love
we’re free or fettered.
Can I choose?

Where then is the key
when all is locked
and blocked?
It lies close by
so small and hid
my pride can scarcely bend
to touch and reach it.

Amidst the cries of cruelties,
the screams of crucified life
there is the silence of my prison
and the comfort of my selfish cell.

My health, my wealth, my stealth
are the very bars of self.
Unlocked by Christmas Christ
and Friday’s Calvary friend
yet freedom’s risk
may still not be my choice.
I am the key, the lock, the grave:
sweet grace and life are Christ’s alone.

© Neil Thompson 2013

Two Sonnets of Faith

DUST

From dust through dust life’s miracle will pass:
Between each breath eternity can flow;
My life as frail and short as blade of grass
Is promised more than any mind can know.
Can bread be love as well as mortal food?
Can matter carry spirit with each breath?
Each hint, each gulf and void, when self subdued,
Makes answer over every sense of death.
There is a hope and truth in life alone
That makes us one and free in every hour:
Love lives and gives to rescue and atone –
In smile and word and sacrificial power.
This dust is bound for glory – in our doubt
Let feeble voice give rise to mighty shout!

16 June 2012


LABYRINTH

There always is a path beneath our feet:
We are not strangers cast adrift at birth.
Our hearts can echo love’s eternal beat,
Each foot can feel below the mortal earth.
There is a pattern formed by risk and death
On lonely hill at noontide’s darkest hour
That rescues us with cry and parting breath –
The edge’s wire is now the eternal bower –
The lost is found; the centre claims each heart.
All we who are set loose with choice when born
Find life a road that takes us from the start
With questions where the heart and will are torn.
Yet home is always here by love’s true grace:
The journey is our heavenly dwelling place.

25 June 2012

© Neil Thompson 2012

The Lens

What can I see of Christmas?
Two thousand years or a party?
I’m not sure what I see at all.
There is a magic and a moment
but then it is gone.

Is there really a gift that lasts for you and me?
There is – but mostly we don’t want it
let alone dare to open it.

The baby with new born eyes
adds a lens to our selfish sight.
Love shares our life to set us free –
free to see the difference and the other:
to enjoy it and to die for it.
We have to die for something
and dust is all we are.

The lens of life transforms the clay of everyday
into the vision of unending joy.
It’s Christmas: yes, now I can see!

 

© Neil Thompson 2012

Two Church Sonnets

THE GARDEN

Where nature walks with humankind as one,
God’s tree of right and wrong is honoured there;
The town, the home and all our work is done –
Set free by love and faith and Spirit’s flair.
To find this garden takes us all our days
If we resist the gift and hope of Christ.
From leafless tree, nailed limbs and godless maze
His death redeems our riches overpriced.
Now is the time when human life can flower,
When will submits to love as germ and seed,
So toil and care will flourish in God’s bower
And moment’s prison from ourselves is freed.
The healing stream of Paradise can flow
When human cities like God’s garden grow.

FALLING MUSIC

Tumble down all sounds and notes of heaven
And rain your truth o’er all the faithless earth!
May music be the means, the end, the leaven
Of mortal clay whose life, whose death, whose birth
Is shared by God in Jesus Christ the Son –
His humble music reaches out to all
To bring us home when all our days are done
And saves us from the selfish curse, the Fall.
Sing, sing aloud with joy all dust and clay
For staves hold notes that shall for ever ring
And earthen pots resound the eternal day.
Night’s dark is ended when with Christ we sing:
The Spirit is the song which brings us home
To Father’s house, celestial music’s dome!

© Neil Thompson 2011

© Neil Thompson