Acrostics

Acrostics mean a lot to me because they are a memorable way of reflecting on a significant point. They are quite hard to write, especially if you want them to rhyme, but I think they’re worth it.

Objects of God’s Love – God’s love is unconditional. Is ours?

Disciple – an acrostic written for our church’s year of discipleship

Thin Places – are there places where we feel especially close to God?

Songs of Praise – more than just a good sing!

Prayer – prayers don’t have to be long and complicated

Doubting Thomas – inspired by a post-Easter sermon

Prophets – sometimes they’re ordinary people…

Rainbow – a colourful reminder of God’s promises

Remembrance – an acrostic written for Remembrance Sunday

Saints – sometimes these are ordinary people too…

A Blessing – the Celtic Christian tradition is especially good at pronouncing a blessing…

Happy New Year – a particular blessing – and challenge – for a new year

Year of Young People – an acrostic specially written for the Church of Scotland’s ‘Year of Young People’ (2018) but it applies to everyone under and over 25

Creation – an acrostic written for the World Day of Prayer 2018, whose theme was ‘All God’s Creation is Very Good’

Victory – an acrostic written for anyone who finds that ‘victorious living’ isn’t always easy on a day to day basis

Gifts of The Spirit – particular talents given by the Holy Spirit

Pilgrim – we’re on a lifelong pilgrimage, alone and together

Psalm – whether you feel like rejoicing, crying or venting your anger, the psalmists have already given voice to your prayer

Treasure – an acrostic I wrote on the publication of The Kilfinan Treasure

Widow’s Mite – Jesus chose marginal people to take their place in history

A Cord of Three Strands – check out Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, a passage my wife read at our son’s wedding

Cana – written in a month when one wedding in particular was on our mind

Two acrostics about newness – New Every Morning (Lamentations 3:22-23) and Behold I Make All Things New (Revelation 21:5)

Angels – whatever view we have on angels, there’s an awful lot of them in the Bible

Walls – we had a series of sermons on Nehemiah who oversaw the reconstruction of Jerusalem’s city wall. Walls are back in the news at the moment.

Shepherd – Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?

Cornerstone – The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.

Impossible – “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:24-43), and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Selah – We don’t truly know what Selah means in the Psalms, but we surmise it was a musical instruction to pause and reflect. You have been praying and praising: don’t be too quick to disturb the silence, to rush from God’s presence.

Wild Goose – In the Celtic church the wild goose – An Geadh-Glas – was a synonym for the Holy Spirit. Not only did the wild goose move in ways which (at that time) were a mystery, it also ‘disturbed and disrupted’.

Body of Christ – we are the body of Christ. If one part suffers, we all suffer.

Most Excellent Way – “And now I will show you the most excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31)

Sparrow – don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows (Matthew 10:29,31)

Anchor – We have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll

Suffering – Christians are not spared heartache and difficult times, but we have a God who shared (and still shares) directly in human suffering

Righteousness – Perhaps not a popular term nowadays – but understand rightousness, understand how God reckons it to us, and I think it will help you understand God

Rejoice – smile, God loves you!

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Objects of God’s Love

’Orrible ’ooligans
Bad boys wiv bovver boots
Junkies, users, boozers
’Ells Angel ’eadcases
Chancers, shirkers
Trailer trash
Sex workers

’Ooray ’Enrys
Feral youth

Gamblers, wide boys
Outcasts, outsiders
Dossers, down-and-outs
Smackheads, layabouts

Losers, loners, winos
Oddballs, weirdos
Vagrants, hoboes
Everyone, in fact

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Disciple

Dare we risk opening up, sharing,
Intent on being mutually caring
Sisters and brothers – not fairweather
Christians, but friends growing together?
Inquiring, going deeper, seeking God’s will,
Praying, listening, then going deeper still
Learning what it means to be salt and leaven
Engaging with Jesus twentyfour-seven.

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Thin Places

Time pauses and
Heaven touches earth
In special places where
Nearness to God suddenly happens.

Present meets eternity,
Light dazzles
And we encounter the living God.
City or country, garden or wildness:
Everyone finds their oasis, a
Still point of calm and sanctuary.

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Songs of Praise

Soprano, alto, tenor, bass
Offer thanks to the God of Grace
New hymns, old hymns, anthems raise
Gospel songs and ancient lays –
Sing a sacrifice of praise.

Organs, praise bands, harmonise;
Fanfares echo to the skies!

Powers of darkness: feel despair,
Recoil as worship fills the air! –
Aware that Heaven’s victorious King
Inhabits the very words we sing.
So saints on earth lift up your voice,
Even the hills and trees rejoice!

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Prayer

Perhaps, more often, we should just listen and be still
Receiving God’s guidance, expecting to be blessed
Accepting that God knows our needs, and is eager to fulfil.
Yet when we do speak, God heeds even the simplest request
Each childlike prayer is heard: for the prayer warrior’s skill
Rests in honest everyday words, not just our Sunday best.

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Doubting Thomas

Didymus, the twin, was not in the room
On the Sunday of the empty tomb.
Unless he witnessed flank and limb
Believing wasn’t an option for him.
Then the Lord returned, dispelling doubt:
In front of all, He pointed out
Nailmarks and the spear’s
Gash, recalling God-forsaken tears.

Thomas rarely grasped things first time round –
His doubt was real, his faith profound.
Overwhelmed, humbled he confessed
My Lord and My God” – and then was blessed.
And the twin became a saint of steel:
Sincere doubts can make faith more real.

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Prophets

Prophets are messengers who
Respond to God’s warning word,
Old or in their youth.
Prophets bid their comfort zone farewell,
Holding fast to what they heard
Even if they must tell
The most inconvenient truth.
Sometimes it has to be you!

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Rainbow

Recalling an eternal promise, a covenant sign
Arched over the earth, God’s valentine
Ineffable light made visible in refraction
Noah discerned that it meant ‘God in action’
Being ever alongside us, the Ancient of Days
Occupying our hearts, inhabiting praise
Wavelengths of God illuming our ways.

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Remembrance

Recall, O Israel, your deliverance
Escaping Pharaoh’s army, brought safe to shore;
Moses’ song of triumph, Miriam’s victory dance.
Each day a fiery pillar going before
Multitudes wandering in Sinai’s harsh expanse,
Becoming a special people united by perfect law.
Remember’ cries the psalmist, ‘and cast a sidelong glance
At how God has saved us in times of peace and war’.
Nations delivered from direst circumstance,
Captive souls plucked from Sheol’s jaw,
El Shaddai, God of victory, God of the second chance.

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Saints

Sometimes ordinary people do
Absolutely extraordinary things;
It’s quite possible the person in the pew
Nearby will suddenly soar on eagle’s wings
Taking God’s calling to pastures new,
Surpassing their wildest imaginings.

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Blessing

Before you rise from this place
Let a blessing rest on you and yours
Everywhere you go may you encounter grace,
Safe in the promise that always endures;
So may the ground rise to meet your feet
Insecurities and worries cease
New friends be amongst the people you meet
Go in joy, go in love, go in peace

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Happy New Year!

Hear the bells ring out for Twenty-Nineteen
Announcing January, bidding farewell to December.
Put aside regrets about what might have been,
Prepare instead for a year to remember.
Yesterday’s past, and now we stand

Needful of guidance as we face the unknown,
Enquiring prayerfully into what God has planned –
Will He lead us beyond our comfort zone?

Yet God has not given us a spirit of fear;
Each Christmas He cheers us with Bethlehem’s birth.
And Jesus asks from each of us a New Year
Resolution – “to find fresh ways of being salt of the earth”.

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Year of Young People

Yes! to the hopes and fears,
Energy, vision, fresh ideas,
Actions, dreams, decisions,
Radical views and visions

Of the under-25s –
Faith-inspired, vibrant lives.

Yes! to the music and songs
Of a thousand youthful tongues
Uniting us as we seek and search
New paths to revival in our church –
Generation “Z” has some really cool

Prayers and prophecies for renewal!
Everybody, play your part,
Old and young and young-at-heart:
Pick up the baton, pass it on
Let’s seize the moment before it’s gone
Every child, every teen, everyone.

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Creation

Cosmos called out of infinite dark,
Restless void roused by wisdom’s spark
Emergent shapes formed in deepest night
A piercing voice summoned primal light
The sun and moon obeyed its command
Infinite life teemed through water and land
On ground that was once mere dust, Adam stood.
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Victory

Victory doesn’t mean a bed of roses every day
It’s more likely that we’ll carry on facing the flak
Cherished by God, yet still wandering astray
Taking two steps forward and one step back.
Often victories happen when we share, we pray,
Reaching out to each other when things look black,
You and I walking side by side on the pilgrim way.

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Gifts of the Spirit

God’s Holy Spirit intercedes,
Imparting talents to us in different measure
For the common good and particular needs.
To some, wisdom is a special treasure;
Still others are given knowledge to convey.

Others, in times of trouble, are a strong tower –
Faith, deep and sure, they display.

Then, there are those whose power
Heals the broken body, the heart that’s riven.
Even more, some have the ability to perform

Signs and miracles; whilst some are given
Prophetic powers to counsel and warn.
Ineffable words are spoken by others, through
Rapturous tongues from angels above.
Interpreting those tongues is for others to do –
Though greater than any talent, is the gift of love.

And a much underestimated Gift – Administration (1 Cor. 12:28)

All spiritual gifts work in common accord,
Different types of service all come from one Lord:
Miracle workers may only rarely be found,
Inspirational apostles may be thin on the ground,
Not every member can be a prophet or teacher,
Interpretation of tongues requires a very rare creature,
Spirit-given messages are revealed to but a few –
Thankfully, most of us are given lesser tasks to do!
Routine gifts of the Spirit may not set the world aflame,
Administration in particular receives scant acclaim
Though rotas, forms and spreadsheets don’t fill up by themselves.
If you find a church with orderly pigeon-holes and shelves,
Operating smoothly like a finely tuned machine
No doubt a gifted administrator toils away unseen.

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Pilgrim

Pathways trodden together kindle trust
In pilgrims, as we share one another’s load;
Life’s journey requires – as well as wanderlust –
Guardian angels to guide us on the road.
Refreshment happens when a kindred friend
Inspires us on to Zion if our pace has slowed,
Making sure, together, we reach our journey’s end.

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Psalm

Praising, sing out when you’ve blessings to spare;
Sorrowing, cry out from the depths of despair;
Angry, storm Heaven when nothing seems fair;
Life can be carefree, life can be too much to bear;
Mourning or laughing, the psalmist gives voice to your prayer.

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Treasure

The Kingdom of Heaven is like
Rare treasure hidden in a field:
Even if it costs everything, you may strike
A vein where pure gold is concealed.
Seek treasure that is safe from moth and rust
Ultimately, it is worth the endeavour.
Riches and wealth will end up as dust
Easter’s ransom holds its value forever.

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Widow’s Mite

Why do we remember her, this solitary figure?
Is it because we see her as part of something bigger?
Destitute and stooped, at the margins of society,
Overshadowing the rich with their fake shows of piety,
Waiting on God, she unburdened her cares,
She had no need of fine robes or long prayers.

Maybe she never heard what Jesus then said –
Injustice angered him, the Father-heart bled.
Time will forget the corrupt and the vain
Examples of selfless faith will ever remain.

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A Cord of Three Strands

A friend makes sure you walk together

Comforts you when you tire
Offers shelter from icy weather
Rescues you from the mire
Defends you from the violent thief.

One person alone reaps little reward –
Fellowship strengthens faith and belief.

There are three strands to a trusty cord –
Holy Spirit, first, gives an encouraging word
Rabonni, Jesus, is its second strand
Eternal God the Father, its third
Each one steadying the pilgrim’s hand,

Setting eternity within our sights.
Three persons always there in our need,
Roped together, we scale the heights
Alone we stumble, together succeed.
Never doubt the strength of Three,
Delivered, shielded by the Trinity
Secured and tethered to eternity.

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Cana

Curb your celebrations, for the master looks downcast
Anxiously he sees the wedding flagons dwindle fast,
New wine will soon be ready, with a bouquet unsurpassed –
Attentive servants see that Jesus saves the best till last.

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New Every Morning

Night falls, and sometimes it’s very dark
Evening’s bright stars hunker down behind cloud;
Where lamps once glowed, now there’s barely a spark.

Empty hearts break, black-dog heads are bowed,
Very faintly on the breeze there wafts a prayer,
Echoing, glimmering, flickers a solitary candle –
Risible weapons against a world’s despair
Yet still too hot for Hell’s hordes to handle.

Moonlight still dances behind its shroud
Oceans still yield their eerie luminescence
Rims of silver trim each nimbus cloud –
Nocturnal sentinels of a numinous presence:
In a few short hours the boundless day will dawn
New comforts will inhabit those who mourn
God’s mercies are, with each fresh sun, re-born.

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Behold I Make All Things New

Babel’s futile tower exemplified our vanity –
Eden’s rebels, not content with our humanity,
Hoping to touch Heaven, we pursued an illusion,
Our lust to play God led us to warlike confusion,
Law-breaking, covetous, fleecing our neighbour,
Disobedience condemned us to lives of hard labour.

In His mercy, God wept over His people’s dismay,

Miraculously freed Israel from Pharaoh’s sway
As a pillar of fire by night and of cloud by day
Kept vigil as they wandered Sinai’s scorched sands
Established them safe in Canaan’s sweet lands.

Always rebelling, rarely returning
Looking to idols for wisdom and learning
Lacking God’s spirit, they met violence with violence,

The prophets fell quiet – then, after aeons of silence,
Hair-clad John came to Jordan to herald a Messiah,
Instead of water, He would baptise with fire –
No hiding place for sin, but an offer of repentance
Grace alone would commute our death sentence
Sin’s chains were broken if we claimed our new birth

Now we await new bodies, a new Heaven, a new earth
Eternal glory is offered to each who perseveres
Where there will be no anguish, no pain, no want, no tears.

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Angels

Announcing glad tidings to God’s chosen heirs
Never ceasing their praises, Heaven’s glories are theirs
Guarding us, ministering, hearing our prayers
Emissaries of God in our worldly affairs
Leading us through life’s darkest thoroughfares
Sometimes we entertain them unawares.

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Walls

When Nehemiah’s wall finally made Jerusalem secure
At last Judah could return and set itself apart,
Levites could banish all they deemed impure.
Love outpoured at Calvary now melts our granite heart,
Safe within Christ’s arms, we can tear down walls once more.

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Shepherd

Sheep are wayward creatures, always wandering astray
Humankind is much the same, it’s in our DNA;
Ever envying, ever hankering after greener
Pastures – discontent is part of our demeanour.
Hirelings cannot save us, they’ll quickly run amok
Every time a ravening wolf threatens the flock.
Remember Jesus is The Gate, for both Gentile and Jew:
Didn’t he leave the ninety-nine, just to search for you?

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Cornerstone

Come all of you who set your trust
On treasures corrupted by moth and rust,
Reckoning your value by what you possess,
Needing ever more stuff as your key to success.
Examine yourself, ask what you are worth,
Riches don’t lie in the mines of the earth.
Sands may shift, but one anchor holds tight –
The lamb of God, the world’s one true light
Our rock of ages, our firm foundation
Name above all names from the dawn of creation
Emmanuel, Logos, hope of each nation.

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Impossible

In this world, some things cannot possibly be.
Moses couldn’t possibly have parted the Red Sea,
Peter could never have preached with authority
Or walked upon the Lake of Galilee,
Slaves to sin could not possibly be set free,
Sarah couldn’t have experienced maternity,
Israel couldn’t be redeemed from captivity,
Bartimaeus couldn’t possibly ever see,
Love couldn’t have changed the course of history.
Everything, with Jesus, is a possibility.

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Selah

Still yourself: can you hear the beating of God’s heart?
Even Jesus cherished time to be apart;
Learning to press life’s pause button is a vital art,
As when Martha’s sister chose the better part.
Heaven’s symphonies are pianissimo when they start.

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Wild Goose

Whither does the Holy Spirit blow?
It listeth wherever God pleases.
Loosen your moorings and let yourself go,
Dare trim your sail to Heaven’s breezes.

Give up control, risk setting a course
Over unknown seas, tracking wild geese –
Or else stay safe in port and gaze in remorse.
Spirit-led lives know both tempest and peace
Ever venturing, ever returning to source.

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Body of Christ

Bones, flesh, lifeblood, sinews combine,
Organs, hormones obey God’s design,
Dispute no more about which part is best.
Young, give freely of ideals and zest

Old, your experience and wisdom share
Feast upon testimonies seasoned with prayer.

Consider you are wonderfully and fearfully made
Healed in the heart now sin’s price has been paid
Rise above doctrine, banish division
Inspire each member to strive for one vision
Suffer together, together rejoice
Tongues of prophecy tell out as one voice.

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Most Excellent Way

Maturity of faith demands love that is tough
Once I thought as a child, but now that’s not enough,
Sacrificial love must be stripped of its pride;
Too often, good intentions hurt and divide.

Empty words of charity are easily said:
X is a cross where love suffered and bled.
Covenant love always yearns to reconcile
Ever willing to walk the additional mile.
Love keeps no record, it trusts, perseveres,
Lights up the darkness, wipes away tears,
Encourages the broken to prevail and cope.
Now, three virtues remain – faith and hope,
Then, conquering everything, love.

Wrongs are forgotten when we rise above
Anger and envy, and let kindness hold sway.
Yes – there is a most excellent way.

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Sparrow

Scratching amongst stubble after the gleaning
Provisioned by God, the sparrow finds grain,
Anxious for nothing, it’s pecking and preening,
Roosting and resting, then fluttering again.
Restless people, when God’s intervening
Open your heart, offload your pain –
Wealthy is the life to which Jesus gives meaning.

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Anchor

Adrift, aimless, without compass or chart,
No balm for the soul, no hope in the heart.
Christ alone guarantees us safe haven,
His Father, alone, has on his hands graven
Our names – a steadfast, firm, secure,
Redemptive love bringing us safe ashore.

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Suffering

Say it! Rant at God. Tell Him you’re mad.
Unleash the anger you didn’t know you had.
Faith should help, but now it’s hanging by a thread;
Friends speak clumsy words that are easier left unsaid.
Empty. Bereft. Scared by a diagnosis.
Raw emotion lets guilt seep in by osmosis.
In a heartbeat, your known world turns to dross.
No-one feels your pain or comprehends your loss.
God only knows! He went through it on the cross.

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Righteousness

Reckon you’re good enough? Think again!
Inside each of us dwells the mark of Cain.
God reckons righteousness to us, cancels our sin,
Helps us to conquer our struggles within;
Trying to keep the law, striving to be wise
Ends with us being righteous in our own eyes.
Offer our bodies, then, as a living sacrifice
Unclean vessels washed pure at great price
Speak ill of no-one, let your faith shine
No longer wild olives but grafts in God’s vine:
Each worldly gain we now count as loss,
Status and pride, we consider them dross,
Surrendering all at the foot of the cross.

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Rejoice

Relish every action which seems wise and fair
Enjoy each blessing, and each blessing share
Jot down details of every answered prayer
Observe God’s handiwork always, everywhere.
Incline your ear to the Spirit’s voice,
Counselled and comforted in every choice –
Even in the dark times, yet you may rejoice.

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Wisdom

Where are wisdom and understanding to be found?
In the ocean’s depths or far underground?
Sapphires and gold may have their brief worth;
Deep wisdom, though, lies not buried in the earth.
Often the richest vein is in the mine least explored:
Mortals strike wisdom when they discover the Lord.

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