‘Sacraments of War-Time Living’ – A Poem

As the German sky, begrudging the Spring, released one more snow day last Saturday, April 2nd, my heart broke for the Ukrainian refugees— Women, children, the aged, disabled, and infirm who remain caught in the grip of this evil situation, while talking heads spin and turn the conversation every which way. Let us continue to pray, love, give and help in whatever ways we can.

(C) ‘Snow in April’, Otterberg, Germany, 2022.

Helen Lowrie Marshall was known for her very bright, hope-filled poetry and other works. She was determined to be happy, she often said, because God has given us so much to be happy about. These reasons for joy, which Elizabeth Barrett Browning alludes to as, ‘Earth being crammed with heaven”, have been an inspiration for my own writing.

But as I looked out on the German landscape at some of the very wonders appropriately celebrated by Marshall, I could not shut out of my mind that, on the very same continent, untold horrors of war are playing out in Ukraine and Russia. So I felt compelled to write the rest of the story of sacraments of living… on a sin-scarred planet.

‘Sacraments of War-time Living

(With apologies to Helen Lowrie Marshall, 1904-1975— a mimic poem of her ‘Sacraments of Daily Living’*, Women’s Devotional Bible, NIV; The Zondervan Corporation 1990, p.657)

Then days there are, as holy too,

When where we stand is cold and blue;

When morning-glories on the fence

Aren’t seen by eyes tear-filled and tense,

Are trampled under soldier’s boots,

Who hide behind the fence to shoot.

One hundred nine, more empty prams

Stand line on line, as break the dams

‘Gainst evil’s reach, when war is waged,

Slaying the helpless, weak and aged.

But when bombs indiscriminate fall,

So to our knees both great and small

Reach out to grasp faith’s sure relief;

Cry out to God and gain belief

That evil’s reign in human heart 

Will not forever tear apart 

And havoc wreak upon the earth,

But one day soon will be at dearth. 

The trouble-burned and sin-scorched field

A holy harvest soon will yield.

We’ll thank God for new wine, fresh grain

Brought by His benedictive rain.

Tears and grief all washed away.

Food spread, lamps lit, at close of day,

As humbled, yield the chastened ones;

Laid down, all labours ‘gainst the Son.

The Altar reestablished there

Where it belongs—the house of prayer.

When all remember, with thanksgiving,

The sacraments of righteous living.

—DSA, Otterberg, 03/31/22

So, as millions of people join the ranks of refugee; as national boundary lines are fought over and the times of nations weighed in the balance; pray for ‘one-blood’, hurting humanity to seek God, and reach out for Him; “for He is not far from each one of us” Acts 17:24-27.

~~~

*Marshall’s poem; one of two reproduced in Zondervan’s Women’s Devotional Bible; it outlines what the poetess calls, ‘the sacraments of daily living.’—

“Each day, upon my daily round,

I find myself on holy ground-

The morning-glories on my fence

Inspire quiet reverence.

Just one small, tender seedling grew,

And now, this miracle in blue.

A robin in the apple tree

Sings out his glad doxology.

I hear the pure, unsullied joy

of laughter from a little boy;

I bow before the firm belief

And faith of one who lives with grief;

I watch a jet plane skim the skies

And marvel at man’s enterprise;

I look upon a field of wheat

And thank God for the bread we eat;

I watch the benedictive rain

on low-bowed heads of flower and grain.

A friend drops in, a neighbor calls,

The lamps are lit, night gently falls;

Contentment settles with the sun

In labors of the day well done.

So many little altars there,

So many little calls to prayer,

So many reasons for thanksgiving-

The sacraments of daily living.

—Helen Lowrie Marshall(1904-1975)

Author: Denise S. Armstrong

e teacher. She gratefully enjoys a thirty-years-strong marriage, which has joyfully produced three offspring. Jamaican by birth, Denise's work reflects her family’s cross-cultural journey. She is a blogger in poetry, short-form essays, ethnic sketches and musicals. Her work has also appeared in The Caribbean Writer--a literary publication of the University of the Virgin Islands, on SA Radio Cape Pulpit’s – ‘Voices of Change’, as well as on Jamaican television. She considers herself privileged to be a contributor to one of today’s most exciting online communities of Christian artists—The Cultivating Project. At present, she resides in Europe.

6 thoughts on “‘Sacraments of War-Time Living’ – A Poem”

  1. Denise! I love your poem! It must feel eerily real to you, living so much closer to the heartbreak and horror of this war than I do…and my heart is breaking from half a world away. Thank you for naming the pain, and also for pointing beyond it to the One who holds all things together. He is where our hope lies, always.

    Sending much love to you, friend, Kimberlee

    >

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    1. Hi dear Sis! Yes, it is surreal, knowing that just two countries over such horror is being willfully exacted on ordinary people… by ordinary people. You look out the window for signs that the birds, the trees, the skies…all creation knows and somehow is reflecting that things are wrong…Let’s keep praying, “Your Kingdom come, Lord!”
      Love received, and returned multiplied, Denise

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  2. Thank you Denise for this inspiring poem. My take away is, that in spite of all that is happening, though it’s breaking our hearts yes we pray for those who are suffering. However, we’re to keep our focus on God in Worship because through faith we know he’s in control.

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    1. Thank you Aunty Cherry, for this encouraging response. That must’ve been my dear friend Cheryl Palmer-Nelson!!Your take away is exactly what I hoped for. Your response came through just fine! Thx for persevering. He is Lord! ♥️🙏🏿Denise

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  3. Denise, this is so beautiful. I love how one poem can inspire another, and goodness how challenging to pen these words when the bordering war is not so very far away. Your work always uplifts, friend. xo

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    1. Jody, this means much coming from you, a poetess in your own right, and beyond that a believer in the Source of hope Himself. I still look forward to further consultation with you in the near future. In Him, Denise

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