Watercolour pattern of deep oranges and browns, with lighter colours at the sides. Text over the top: The Spirit declares (a poem for Pentecost, part inspired by the book of Hebrews)

The Spirit declares (a poem for Pentecost – part inspired by the book of Hebrews)

Last week I found out a friend was preaching on the book of Hebrews on the day of Pentecost (today). I mentioned that last year I’d written a poem for Pentecost that I was particularly proud of. He asked if it related to the topic of priests and priesthood, to which the answer was, “No, but maybe I will have one by this evening.”

I didn’t quite manage to finish the poem that day, but I did write one.

Continue reading The Spirit declares (a poem for Pentecost – part inspired by the book of Hebrews)
A black bird perches in a ruined stone window opening as the morning light falls on the stones; in the distance mist covers the hills. Words over the top "The God who ceases (a poem)" Faith in Grey Places

The God who ceases (a poem) (with pictures)

Partly inspired by my Hebrew studies, I’m writing 12 poems inspired by 12 Hebrew verbs.

I was feeling particularly groggy this weekend (hence this post is late), so I thought I’d look at the verb to rest. It’s an easy one, being שׁבת / shavat, andsharing the same root as the word ‘Sabbath’.

Continue reading The God who ceases (a poem) (with pictures)
A woman's bare feet standing on bronze coloured sand with words over the top: "The God who stands (a poem)" Faith in Grey Places

The God who stands (a poem) (with pictures)

I’m back from my break and starting a new series!

Partly inspired by my Hebrew studies, I’m going to write 12 poems inspired by 12 Hebrew verbs. 

The first one I’m looking at is עמד a.mad (all the ‘a’ vowels are long). It means ‘to stand’ but can also mean ‘to endure’ and has strong connotations with service and ministry. Essentially, ‘to stand before’ or ‘to stand in the presence of’ was an idiom meaning ‘to serve.’

Continue reading The God who stands (a poem) (with pictures)
Purple stencil graffiti of Princess Leia from Star Wars on a white wall with the text underneath 'FIGHT like a girl'. Text on top: The reward of victory: a letter to Barak and Deborah. Faith in Grey Places.

The reward of victory: a letter to Barak and Deborah

As I mentioned last week, the list in Hebrews 11 of the cloud of witnesses is not in chronological order. So even though I wrote to Gideon last week, this week’s letter is to Barak and Deborah – who came before Gideon. Their story is in Judges 4 and Deborah’s victory song is in Judges 5. 

Fair warning, both chapters are a bit gory—and I do discuss war crimes in this post. 

Continue reading The reward of victory: a letter to Barak and Deborah
Close up of small clay jars. Text over the top: Jars of clay: a letter to Gideon. Faith in Grey Places

Jars of clay: a letter to Gideon

I’m returning to my series of letters to people listed in Hebrews 11 as the “cloud of witnesses” who went before us. Last year I got to Rahab, and this year I’m finishing by writing to those the author of Hebrews didn’t have time to cover: Gideon, Barak (and Deborah), Samson, Jephthah (and his daughter), David and Samuel. 

The topic of warfare is common to all of them, and some of these men made disastrous decisions. Even so, I’m looking forward to discovering more about each of them as I write to them. 

Continue reading Jars of clay: a letter to Gideon
Window in a stone wall with closed wooden shutters painted scarlet. Text over the top: Acting in the moment: a letter to Rahab. Faith in Grey Places.

Acting in the moment: a letter to Rahab

This is the last (for now) in the series of letters I’m writing to people listed in Hebrews 11 as the “cloud of witnesses” who went before us. I will probably return to Hebrews 11 in the new year to cover those the author said they didn’t have time to go into (Gideon through to Samuel).

Rahab was a Canaanite and a prostitute who hid two of Joshua’s spies when they came to the city. The story is in Joshua 2, Joshua 6:17,22–23. 

Continue reading Acting in the moment: a letter to Rahab
Landscape of sand dunes with a trail of footprints at the side. Text over the top: To fight and be good: a letter to Joshua

To fight and be good: a letter to Joshua

This is part of the series of letters I’m writing to people listed in Hebrews 11 as the “cloud of witnesses” who went before us. This one is to Joshua. 

Joshua was Moses’s successor, though he had quite a career before Moses died. He fought the Amalekites (Exodus 17); he went with Moses, at least part of the way, when Moses went to meet God on Mount Horeb (Exodus 24); and he had a habit of sitting at the tent of meeting (Exodus 33:11). 

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Manuscript of Hebrew text from Exodus 15. Text over the top: Trusting God's goodness: a letter to Moses. Faith in Grey Places

Trusting God’s goodness: a letter to Moses

This is part of the series of letters I’m writing to people listed in Hebrews 11 as the “cloud of witnesses” who went before us. This one is the second of two letters to Moses. The first letter is on my blog here.

The author of Hebrews mentions Moses both as a young man and as a much older one, when he led the Israelites out of Egypt. Far from how Hollywood is wont to portray him, Moses was 80 years old during the Exodus and, I suspect, someone who stammered (Exodus 4:10, Exodus 6:12 – albeit there are other ways to interpret these verses). 

Continue reading Trusting God’s goodness: a letter to Moses
Black and white photo of the head and shoulders of a young person, viewed from behind, attending a protest. They wear a backwards cap with the word “Freedom” on it. Text over the top: Passion and justice: a letter to Moses. Faith in Grey Places.

Passion and justice: a letter to Moses

This is part of the series of letters I’m writing to people listed in Hebrews 11 as the “cloud of witnesses” who went before us. This one is the first of two letters to Moses. 

When the author of Hebrews writes about Moses, there are several “by faith” statements. In this letter, I’m going to focus on the first two: about how he refused to be considered an Egyptian, and how he left Egypt. 

Continue reading Passion and justice: a letter to Moses
Yellow reeds in a river. Text over the top: A mother's courage: letter to Jochebed. Faith in Grey Places

A mother’s courage: letter to Jochebed

This is part of the series of letters I’m writing to people listed in Hebrews 11 as the “cloud of witnesses” who went before us. This one is to Moses’s mother, Jochebed.

We’ve moved from Genesis to the beginning of the book of Exodus.

Continue reading A mother’s courage: letter to Jochebed
Brown silhouettes of mountains against a yellow sky with a dark silhouette of a camel in the foreground. Text over the top: The witness of the body: a letter to Joseph. Faith in Grey Places

The witness of the body: a letter to Joseph

This is part of the series of letters I’m writing to people listed in Hebrews 11 as the “cloud of witnesses” who went before us. This one is to Joseph.

Joseph had a very eventful life. It’s the subject of Genesis 41–50. Although his brothers sold him as a slave, he ended up in Egypt and rose to power just in time to manage a famine. He reconciled with his brothers and then his whole family came to live in Egypt. When Jacob/Israel died, Joseph led a large entourage to bury him with his wife, father and grandfather. Curiously, Joseph didn’t ask for the same thing when he died. Well, not in the same way: he asked for his bones to be taken back to Canaan when God came to his people. 

And that’s what I focus on in this letter. 

Continue reading The witness of the body: a letter to Joseph
House plant near a desk that holds up a white canvas with words from Micah 6:8 on them; the top of the canvas is out of shot but the words "walk humbly" are visible. Text over the top: The truth of worship: a letter to Abraham

The truth of worship: a letter to Abraham

This is part of the series of letters I’m writing to people listed in Hebrews 11 as the “cloud of witnesses” who went before us. Today’s is to Abraham and in particular the part of his story where he very nearly sacrifices Isaac. The story is in Genesis 22, though Genesis 18:1–15 and Genesis 21:1–7 provide context.

Jews refer to the (non-)sacrifice of Isaac as the “Akedah.” Some of what I write in this post draws on a book by scholar Aaron Koller: Unbinding Isaac: The Significance of the Akedah for Modern Jewish Thought (2020: Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press).

Continue reading The truth of worship: a letter to Abraham
Yellow wall with small purple flowers growing up it. Text over the top: The story less told: a letter to Sarah

The story never told: a letter to Sarah

This is part of the series of letters I’m writing to people listed in Hebrews 11 as the “cloud of witnesses” who went before us. Today’s is to Sarah. Her story is broken up and intersects with those of her husband, Abraham, and her slave Hagar. You can find the relevant passages in Genesis 12:10–20, Genesis 16, Genesis 17:15–22, Genesis 18:1–15, Genesis 20, Genesis 21:1–21.

Sarah’s not exactly a comfortable story—both in terms of how Abraham treated her and how she treated Hagar. Nevertheless, Sarah’s story and her identity as a mother figure was of huge importance in Jewish thought and we can see this in New Testament writings. 

Continue reading The story never told: a letter to Sarah