Monday, September 19, 2016

No Wiggle Room: The Five Unshakeable Solas NRH 07

Rome to Geneva Bond Tour 2015

Creator God, Our Sovereign Lord (

I originally collaborated on this hymn with Paul Jones, Music Director, organist, and composer at Tenth Presbyterian, Philadelphia, he providing the excellent musical composition, and I the poetry. It's based on the five "solas" of the Reformation, sola Scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, soli Deo gloria, with a refrain based on John Calvin's personal seal, "My heart I offer thee, O Lord, promptly and sincerely." We entered it in a Calvin 500 commemorative hymn writing contest based in Geneva... and lost; they said it was too doctrinaire, or something like that, and preferred a hymn written in commemoration of Calvin's 500th birthday (July 10, 1509) to be more conciliatory with modern ideas about God and religion.

Watch for this hymn and others on a forthcoming album composed and arranged by Greg Wilbur.

Creator God, our Sovereign Lord,
The heavens tell, the stars have shown,
Your splendor, might, and Deity,
Yet Truth lies in your Word alone.
                        My heart to you, O God, I give,
                        And by your Word I live.                                               
In Truth your Word reveals my guilt,
My lost, unworthy self makes known,            
But now made new I’m justified
And live and move by Faith alone.
                        My heart to you, O God, I give,
                        And now by Faith I live.

Before you made the world you chose,
In love, to send your only Son
To ransom me and make me one
With Christ, my Lord, by Grace alone.
                        My heart to you, O God, I give,
                        And now by Grace I live.

O Christ, Redeemer, Savior, King,
Subdued by grace, I am your own;
Enthrall my soul and make me free,
Reformed, redeemed by Christ alone.
                         My heart to you, O God, I give,
                         And now in Christ I live.

O glorious God, who reigns on high,
With heart in hand, before your throne,
We hymn your glory ‘round the world   
With psalms adoring you alone.
                          My heart to you, O God, I give
                          And for your glory live.

                                 Douglas Bond, Copyright, October 31, 2007

Brief commentary:
Creator God, our Sovereign Lord, by Douglas Bond, is written in quatrains of iambic Long Meter with a developing refrain arranged in an 8.6 couplet in iambic meter. The five stanzas are organized around the five theological priorities of John Calvin and the Protestant Reformation, expressed in Latin as, Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, Soli Deo Gloria, and in English as the Bible alone, Faith alone, Grace alone, Christ alone, to God alone the glory. The refrain makes parallel references to these five solas, and also alludes to Calvin’s inscription on his personal seal, Cor meum tibi offero, Domine, prompte et sincere, or in English, “My heart I offer thee, O Lord, promptly and sincerely.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Crisis: Relationship tension, fighting, and resolution--INKBLOTS

I read an article my friend Greg Bailey at Crossway shared about new research on common themes of bestsellers. Marriage, love (not reduced to illicit sex), human closeness, and work topped the list of themes explored by bestselling authors. It sounds like human beings remain fascinated with the primal relationships and responsibilities God ordained in the beginning. You want to write a bestseller? Okay, start by immersing yourself in the bestseller of all time, the Bible.

Inkblots tonight, warm autumn evening, the Scriptorium warm and toasty (new heat pump belching out a steady breath of warm air as the sun sets, evening falls, and temperatures begin to drop). We had a new guest this evening, welcome, David. And regulars John, Patrick, Alisa, Sophia, Rachel, and yours truly (Dougie Mac and Bob R had better things to do, snubbed us, humph).

Alisa leads off with an award-winning story (entered in a writing contest and won; do this) she wrote seven years ago and is now dusting off and reworking, a prank gone wrong. 1970s but make more clear about hard line or cell phone, for Patrick. Begins with a call to 911 dispatcher, his brother missing, awkward to describe his brother. I like the way Alisa writes one side of the phone conversation but gives us clear impression of what was said on the other end, though we don't actually hear what is said. Brother goes hunting for his brother while law enforcement is on its way. Not at the logging camp; where had they taken his brother? David likes the way Alisa had the Led Zeppelin song grate on him. Creating tension on multiple levels. Description of room, algebra homelike lying about. Patrick pointed out that Alisa is showing not telling, so well. What are areas she wants to change and improve. There's great benefit to switching genre and projects, fiction to nonfiction, article to poetry, blog post to different topic blog post, and did I mention poetry? Alisa is writing from the point of view of a teen male, "Not deep thinkers," she tells us, with total candor and precise accuracy for the vast majority. David, a psychologist, agrees that the male brain doesn't fully develop until twenty-three. Sounds generous to me. Alisa's protagonist is years out on that score.  Alisa brings a range of writing experience to 'Blots, with several newspaper articles on her writing plate right now, and the final push on Swiftwater to book in hand.

John reads from Saving Grace, Grace is abortion-minded, her dad a cop dealing with a grim crime scene, "refuse" from an abortion clinic, murder of two children, but MDs did it and its just medical waste. She has just told her parents. Who spoke words of comfort to her distraught daughter--show us this, don't tell us. Dean said tenderly, but is he a tender guy? He sounds too nice. His throat felt as dry as death valley--kills this, or alter to avoid cliche. From what I've read about his character, this seems not how he would react, at least at first. Sorry I interrupted, seems unrealistic. I think there needs to be more rapid exchange dialogue here. What does the mom say, the day reply, or retort? Grace says a few words, parents interject. Have Dean be torn; he wants her to abort to save her scholarship, his job, their reputation as a family, everything. But then images of what he saw at crime scene. War Games, filmed in part in Steilacoom, David reminds us of a moment when they have a brawl over whether a human or a computer can push the button. Purpose of this scene was to give background to the depth of what they are about to do. Bring audience up to speed, fill in back story, in a fight. The reader is riveted, but also getting the back story needed for the rest of the yarn to work. Backstory can stall the pace or be an opportunity for intensity. Make this scene a fight, one that only gradually simmers down, but make the reader wonder if it will resolve satisfactory, but deeply want it to resolve right. Sophia comments on the dialogue, girl in this place, telling her parents that she is pregnant, or some other parent child conflict, is going to be explosive in the extreme.

Sophia reads from her point of view, from various blogs, coming together for a book of encouragement mostly for women. Challenge is bringing things together from. Going from blog voice to book voice. From Lament to Love: Finding God in Life's Darkest Places. I like the description of awkwardness at a first meeting, handshake, but not too firm, too sweaty in the palm, arms crossed, well done. This from Sophia's role as a personal trainer. Honesty coming out, and the feeling of hypocrisy. Insecurity of being chronically ill but being a physical trainer, in a role to tell others how to be well and fit, when she didn't feel well and fit herself. Good job of directing the reader to the Lord, God in holy community with himself, the Trinity, so we are called to live in community. We need one another. In the darkest places the light will shine through, the Psalms. This is very good material, maturing spiritual reflections, honesty, candor. I have found that I learn best from story, mine, yes, but the myriad of other people's stories too. Consider a story/expound pattern something like Colson does in Loving God maybe. I love your direction to the Word, Lamentations. Chapters organized around themes (as in The Prophet). Patrick asked if it will be stories, rather than abstract reflections, essays. Using conversations, dialogue. I'm a fake, stick with what you began with. Inclusio, end introduction or chapter where you began it. Are there more than one book in this material? Probably. Patrick had lots of good ideas about this piece, including being intentional in the tone, blogging tone that is more intrusive, or book tone where the author disappears more. Can you write this as a chronology? Where you are able to show the sequence of your own change.

I was just reading Isaiah 60 (I find myself parked in this section of Isaiah, the Gospel according to Isaiah. There will be no sun or moon in the New Jerusalem; Christ will be our everlasting Light. Thinking about your title, Sophia, and the direction of your manuscript. I wonder if Being Found of God in Life's Darkest... might not be more accurate?

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Despair in Politics: Delight in Worship (NRH 06)

WW I British soldiers singing on the march

NEW REFORMATION HYMN 06: King Jesus Reigns (NRH 06) Long Meter, LM,

I don't know about you, but I've just about had it with this presidential campaign. I try to stear pretty clear of political posts (I ALWAYS get skewered by someone, and if I'm going to get skewered, I'd rather get it for a post on an ultimate theme, a topic worth dying for). Never before in my life have I felt more out of step with both parties, and their respective candidates.

In our family worship of late we have made it a goal to pray more immediately for Hillary Clinton. There's hardly a single issue on which I agree with her, but she is sixty-eight, our second oldest president to take office (if she wins), and she has had too many health episodes even for her supporters and the MSM to ignore. She needs Jesus, King Jesus. Our prayer is that she is not "sickness proof and sermon proof," as Samuel Rutherford wrote (I would vote for the author of Lex Rex in a heartbeat; I know he's a Scot, but, hey, our all-embracing immigration policy being what it is, surely we can fix it so he could run. Okay, I know he's dead, but we allow dead people to vote, so why not?).

Illness has a way of re-calibrating ones world view.  By the grace of God alone, the Democratic presidential nominee's failing health could be the best thing that ever happened to her. Our prayer as a family is that she will be terrified by these health episodes, that, far more that merely being unfit health-wise (not to mention, otherwise) to be president, she will fear her own dying. And that that fear would lead to godly sorrow, which would lead to true repentance and faith in King Jesus.

What the world needs now is neither income equality, nor reproductive rights, nor gender equality, nor a few more rednecks. No doubt I have overstepped into politics sufficiently for a skewering, so I'll leave of haranguing about it. What the world needs now is what the world has needed since the Fall: King Jesus. Which takes me to the next New Reformation Hymn, King Jesus Reigns (NRH 06).

While listening to a sermon on the text "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesars, but to God the things that are God's," I began furiously jotting down a flood of ideas for this hymn. My wife at times scowls at me during a worship service when I begin doing this; she thinks it might be a bad example to the children. I explain to her (later, not during the service) that it's just my version of taking notes on the sermon. I don't think she entirely buys this, but I'm imminently satisfied with it. Readers of the Crown & Covenant Trilogy will hear hints and allusions reminiscent of the grand struggle of Covenanters to uphold the Crown Rights of the Redeemer in his Kirk.  
King Jesus reigns, enthroned on high!
With heart and voice we glorify
His Majesty, his power and grace,
And his high sovereignty embrace.

Though kings usurp and proud men try
Their pompous selves to deify,
Adoring praise shall never cease
For Christ, Redeemer, Prince of Peace!

King Jesus rules upon his throne
And does the wealth of nations own;
While fading things to Caesar bring,
Ourselves we render to our King.

While pharaohs, kings, and emperors boast,
The King of kings leads out his host;
The proud, one day, shall bow the knee
When Christ in triumph sets us free!

King Jesus wears his worthy crown,
Though envious men and nations frown,
And we, by grace, on eagle’s wings,
Uphold the Crown rights of our King!

His holy nation, chosen ones,
We joyful bow, and with our tongues
We hymn allegiance high and sing,
“Hail Jesus! Sovereign Lord and King!”

                Douglas Bond, Copyright, March 12, 2008

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Love Poetry, Hard Labor, and the Hymn (NRH 05)

NEW REFORMATION HYMN (NRH 05): If I Can Speak With Tongues of Fire (NRH 05) (Long Meter, LM, 
After singing one of very few poetic texts on I Corinthians 13 and feeling that there was so much left unearthed in the lines I was singing, I began working on the following. This hymn was intensely painful labor (with apologies to my darling wife and all mothers). Over months that became years, I have worked and reworked several versions, some shorter, and one considerably longer.

In another post I might share another hymn that is a recasting of a recasting of one of the recastings of this one (and still recasting), the hymn itself being a recasting of Paul's great text on love, which was Paul, under Divine inspiration, recasting a description of Jesus himself who is ultimate love personified.
Hymn poetry.      Musical score.   Musical score 2      Erfurt (score)     Audio.

If I can speak in tongues of fire
Yet fail to do what love requires,
I’m nothing—though high mountains move—
I’m nothing without perfect love.

I’m nothing if I try to hide
Resentment, envy, selfish pride.                      
I’m nothing—though high myst’ries find—  
If I’m not patient, humble, kind.
His heav’nly gifts God gives to me
So Christ’s perfected love I’d see
And know—and speak, and serve and give—
And in my holy Bridegroom live.

In faith and hope, love perseveres,
No anger and no rudeness hears;
Such lovingkindness—fully blessed—
Gives foretastes of eternal rest.

We see in part like children here,
A poor reflection in a mirror;
Yet in my heart I long to find
Love more by Jesus’ love refined.

Above I’ll know, as Christ has known,
How vast his love for sinners shown!
With eyes undimmed I’ll end my race
And gaze on Jesus face to face!
                            Douglas Bond, Copyright, December 28, 2007

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Cutting Words, Pace, and Why We Write: INKBLOTS

Writing Luther/Katie novel and leading Luther 500 Tour
Inkblots resumes after misalignment of summer schedules. Meeting in my nearly finished Scriptorium (sitting on plush couch surround donated by Dougie Mac, Inkblots founding patron, and using electricity piped in by John Schrupp, electrician and fix-anything writing dude). Late summer evening but with a hint of rain in the air; five men and three women launch in for an evening of reading, discussion and critiquing--and laughing 'Blots fashion: gently at and with each other.

Dougie Mac leads off with a revised Return to Tarawa, WW II historical fiction set in the Pacific theatre. I recent had the privilege of reading this then 94,000 word manuscript, now significantly tightened (cut more than 7,000 words); my main encouragement was to cut anything that didn't drive the story forward, that didn't immediately work on his protagonist, changing him, making him face his demons. He is rereading the first chapter. Pace is hugely improved. You cut out a number of things that I thought confused the reader: what is the problem, who do we care about, but now we feel far more focused. He explained what he did in revision. He realized that he had a character that was not necessary, and then another one who didn't really have an essential role to play. Patrick pointed out that just listening he wasn't sure if the old man was having a flashback to the war or was it the tourist boat? This is a good comment, though Patrick, in the end, thought it wasn't in need of revision.

I shared the work I'm doing on my Luther novel, Luther in Love (working title). I need a more sympathetic beginning. Two old people sitting around the fire in the Augustinian cloister might be a trifle dull, unless I handle it in a rivetingly compelling manner. Maybe start when Katie gets word of his death, was suggested, or at Luther's grave/funeral. I want this historical novel to adorn Christian marriage, show how God designed it for imperfect people, living in a dark and broken world, but that Christian marriage by God's design works better God's way. All the pet ideals about sex and marriage of today are busted wide open by the kind of portrayal of marriage I have in mind. A pastor friend of mine thought the book idea could shape into a book he would give as a first read in premarriage counseling; I like this idea. Then again, I could start the novel with Luther preaching on marriage, his treatise on why nuns and monks should leave the cloistered life and marry. Katie could be reading it aloud to Luther, sick and old, but the reader doesn't know that yet. I need more tenderness in this opening scene.“What a lot of trouble there is in marriage! Adam has made a mess of our nature. Think of all the squabbles Adam and Eve must have had in the course of their nine hundred years together. Eve would say, ‘You ate the apple,’ and Adam would retort, ‘You gave it to me.’” And then after twenty years with Katharina von Bora, Luther says he wouldn't trade "My Rib" for all the gold of Croesus.

Bob reads his crime fiction just underway. Have him argue for his qualifications to be a New Age guru because he liked movies by Shirley McClain. Bob took us on a geology lesson about Soap Lake, Washington. Scheme to fleece women at the spas. Bob is calling it Hot Tub Homicide. Sofia has some very good ideas about how to expose with the story the snake oil dimensions of the whole false religion. We discussed the problems of changing point of view, with the opening character going to die a third of the way through the story.  I suggest having the pastor who will be the sleuth and solve the murder be in the first chapter, dealing with a parishioner who is toying with New Age spa stuff. Good stuff and keep writing.

Patrick is explaining his speculative fiction work underway. The Jade Zealot. Story begins with the protagonist exiting the space station, launching himself into space to find the alien object. Fine tuning his trajectory or else; a tiny miscalculation grows in space; missing desired mark and the vastness of space stretches endlessly before you. The confrontation is terrifying. Patrick explained that it is horror genre. A house divided against itself cannot stand. Patrick, while reading aloud, caught a number of his own writing issues, proof once again of the critical importance of reading what we write out loud, often. I would go so far as to say that if we don't read aloud we have not finished our job yet. So much corrective happens when reading aloud. I'm having trouble seeing what is going on. Now, in fairness, this may be because of my genre limitation (true confession: I'm not a reader of sci-fi). John commented right off about his calculations needing to be precise. Dougie commented that it needs fleshing out, something Patrick is so good at, as we all have heard many times before, to our delight; this is an early draft. Bob wanted to know what his protagonist's motivation for doing what he is doing, launching out into space, but we don't know why. Patrick says that will come in later. Have suit talk to him when his heart rate goes too high or blood pressure rockets (sorry).  Needs more anxiety about what he is doing, a flashback to his wife, and kids, if something goes wrong, and why it is the likeliest thing on the cards that something will. Ramp up the uncertainty, in my opinion.

Rachel working on a new story, this being what she's working on in between her college studies until next quarter. We got a name, straight off, Nicole and last name too. Place firmly established at the gate, New York City. Very good use of specifics, number of stories in the building, what it has and does not have. Good narrative, showing us the various people, but I'd like to hear more of the sounds of a bustling newsroom, digital printer, gurgling water cooler, an array of ringtones going off at the same time, buzz of voices, rapid footfalls--nobody walks at a normal pace in a newsroom. It is so much fun to watch high-octane Rachel describe what she is writing and what is coming. Nicole is going to have to undergo change. Rapid pace yarn, read rapidly by Rachel. Bob suggested fewer adjectives and more verbs, which is showing more than telling. You have a effective narrative style; don't lose that, but show us more than tell us. Patrick suggests moving it to a 1940s newsroom, which would create wonderful new sounds, typewriter keys clickity-clacking. Being forced to report on her ex-husband is a great set up. Make sure the contrivance works; show the history of other odd combining of reporters and subjects to write on. Nicole idealizes things and then is disappointed. This is her problem and the story should move from episode to episode driving her to change.

Alisa and John deferred to Rachel, ever the gracious writers. Next time you lead off, and Sofia, bring us some of your material to hear; glad you came.

I have a few more spaces available in the April 1-8, 2017 OXFORD CREATIVE WRITING MASTER CLASS. Check it out.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Giving Birth, the Epidural, and Writing Hymn Poetry (NRH 04)

NEW REFORMATION HYMN 04 (NRH 04) Triumphant Jesus (Long Meter, LM,

While reading CH Spurgeon's Morning and Evening, wherein he was waxing eloquent (as only Spurgeon can do and so often does) on the phrase "The Lord mighty in battle" from Psalm 24, the following lines came to me, considerably more rapidly and effortlessly than is remotely normal for me. Poetry is whole-being labor, not quite so extreme as that cosmic and peculiar kind God carried my wife through six times over when delivering our children into the world, but to me at times it feels sort of like that when writing. But not on this one. I had a spiritual, theological, and poetic epidural anesthesia.

Triumphant Jesus is another effort of mine to write Psalm-like lyrics, the veil torn back, and all the glorious blessings of the New Covenant in full view, lyrics that have that Psalm-like warrior component so appealing to young men--and, alas, so conspicuously absent in the output of the well-intentioned but sometimes vacuously emotive lyric of some worship leaders shaped more by the dictates of a feminized culture than by the themes and attitudes of the Psalms. (Hymn poetry) Several able composers have written fine music for this lyric.

Triumphant Jesus bore the cross
Of cruel passion, curse, and loss;
He routed sin, and death, and woe,
And Satan my infernal foe.                   

Yet does the fiend still prowl and lurk,
His schemes upon my heart to work.
But God before me who can stand
When Christ in battle guides my hand?

Since Christ my Savior works within,
No more am I a slave of sin.
The hopes of hell and Satan wrecked,
No more can he charge God’s elect.

No power of flesh or demon’s might
Can snatch from me Christ’s blood-bought right.
I more than conquer by the Word
Of Christ my Captain and my Lord!

                                Douglas Bond, Copyright, December 12, 2007

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Tasting and Seeing, Trinity and Thanksgiving: New Reformation Hymn (NRH 03)

I confess to getting more than a bit derailed on my good intentions to blog a New Reformation Hymn each week (don't look at the date of the last one). But, as they say, if first you don't succeed, try, try again. So here I am trying again. I'm posting these in the order of their creation over the last fifteen years.

NEW REFORMATION HYMN 03 (NRH 03) We Rise and Worship (Long Meter, LM,

I was asked by my friend and PCA minister, Rick DeMass, to work on a new hymn appropriate to a Thanksgiving service. My initial reaction was that I'm not a performing animal who can crank out poetry on cue. But then I began going through passages on Thanksgiving (there's heaps--a rich blessing in itself), until I came to Psalm 34, my father's favorite Psalm during his terminal illness. "O, taste and see that the Lord is good," struck me afresh, and the Eucharistic, Lord's Supper allusions and implications thrilled me. Just days before the Thanksgiving service that Rick wanted the hymn for I managed to produce the following. It seems to me that the hymn is not restricted to once a year Thanksgiving service use.Several have written tunes for this hymn which you can listen to at

Hymn poetry.       

We rise and worship you, our Lord,
            With grateful hearts for grace outpoured,
For you are good—O taste and see—
            Great God of mercy rich and free. 
A chosen son of God on high,           
            I trembling bow and wonder why
This Sovereign Lord—O taste and see—
            In love stooped down and rescued me.

Your Son obeyed the Law for me,
            Then died my death upon the tree.
O Jesus Christ, I taste and see
            And marvel that you purchased me.

In might, your Spirit drew me in,
            My quickened heart from death to win.
O Holy Spirit—taste and see—
           My comfort, hope, and surety.

With thankful praise our hearts we give;
            By grace alone we serve and live.
O Trinity, we taste and see
            Your sovereign goodness full and free.

Douglas Bond, Copyright, November 19, 2007