‘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)

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