Fierce love #2

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles  (Photo: Irene Bom)

Here’s a prayer inspired by Genesis 32:24-28, where Jacob wrestles with God.

O Wrestler
contending with us until daybreak,
holding us in the grip of your argument,
grappling with our questions and doubts,
You who strive to deepen us through struggle,
and strengthen us through adversity:
Hold on to us now
in that fierce love that will never let us go.
Bless us, as you name us, as those who have prevailed.

~ posted on Third Space

Go deeper

– follow the Third Space link above for more on Genesis 32:24-28
– see also Fierce love #1

Call of the wild ones

Last year’s clutch of Egyptian goslings behind Rotterdam Central Station

On the eve of Ash Wednesday and a new season of Lent, here is a “wild” poem by Joel McKerrow that I found on the Northumbria Community website.


As the tamed horse
still hears the call of her wild brothers
and as the farmed goose flaps hopeful wings
as his sisters fly overhead,
so too, perhaps,
the wild ones amongst us
are our only hope in calling us back
to our true nature.
Wild ones
who have not been turned to stone
by the far-reaching grasp of the empire
and its programme of consumer sedation,
the killing of imagination.
Where, my friends,
have the wild ones gone?

Joel McKerrow

Can you hear the wild ones calling?

Jesus: ‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.’ (Mark 4:9)

More Joel McKerrow

Curious to find out more about Joel McKerrow, I found this youtube video featuring another of his “wild” poems: We Dance Wild by Joel McKerrow

You can find the words to “We dance wild” and some backstory on the Abbey of the Arts website.

Wild animal praise

Sebastião Salgado exhibit, Rotterdam 2017 (Photo: Irene Bom)

This post combines a contemporary take on Psalm 148, written for a “blessing of the animals” service, and the work of Sebastião Salgado, the world-renowned Brazilian photographer, whose exhibition I visited last summer.

Circle of Praise

(inspired by Psalm 148)

All dogs and cats, large and small:
Praise the Lord!
All rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs:
Praise the Lord!
All goldfish, guppies, and swimming creatures:
Praise the Lord!
All robins, wrens, and singing birds:
Praise the Lord!
All racoons, squirrels, and deer:
Praise the Lord!
All horses, cows, and sheep:
Praise the Lord!
All lizards, snakes and creeping things:
Praise the Lord!
Every animal in the sky, the sea, and the forest:
Praise the Lord!

~ from “Blessing of the Animals” on the Web of Creation website and sourced from


1. The Story of Creation for Child-Like Hearts, an intergenerational story of creation (Genesis 1-2) told in gestures and words, from the Kairos Canada website.

2. More about the Sebastião Salgado Genesis exhibition (15 June to 22 October 2017 in Rotterdam).

3. The trailer for the film “The Salt of the Earth” that filmmaker Wim Wenders made with Salgado. It’s a beautiful testimony to how reconnecting with nature can restore our souls.

4. TED-talk, ‘The Silent Drama of Photography’, given by Salgado in 2013.

Fierce love #1


With Lent almost upon us, the theme for February is “wild”, as a precursor to a Lent-inspired theme for March: “wilderness”.

Here is a prayer by Bruce Prewer that touches on various dimensions of God’s love, including its fierceness, standing up for victims of wrong.

A prayer

God of all things seen and unseen, if you had insulated yourself from the pain of the world, then your name could not be love and our condition would be without hope. Thank you for being so personally involved, for revealing your complete commitment in Jesus of Nazareth. Through him we pray with hope, in him we pray with love.

Let your healing love be known this day by all who suffer ailment of body, or distress of mind, or agony of spirit.
     Please reveal your compassion,
     Loving God, bring wholeness to all.

Let your intimate love be known today by all who feel forgotten or lost, and all who are walking in the dark valley of despair.
     Please reveal your compassion,
     Loving God, bring wholeness to all.

Let your fierce love this day redress the wrongs of all who suffer exploitation, injustice, abuse, neglect, violence or unwarranted imprisonment.
     Please reveal your compassion,
      Loving God, bring wholeness to all.

Let your nurturing love today encourage those who are gathering resolve to make tough decisions, take on new responsibilities, or break free from some bondage.
     Please reveal your compassion,
     Loving God, bring wholeness to all.

Let your relentless love this day upset congregations that have become self-centred or even contemptuous of other churches.
     Please reveal your compassion,
     Loving God, bring wholeness to all.

Let your reconciling love today gather together the separated Christians, and make them aware of the fellowship and mission of the one, universal body of Christ.
     Please reveal your compassion,
     Loving God, bring wholeness to all.

Let your inspiring love this day rejuvenate pastors, priests and prophets who have become weary to the very roots of their souls.
     Please reveal your compassion,
     Loving God, bring wholeness to all.

Thank you for hearing us, most loving God. With the whole body of believers in time and eternity, we want to love, praise and serve you, today and evermore. Through Christ Jesus your true Son. Amen!

— written by Bruce Prewer, and posted on Bruce Prewer’s website.

Hot-hearted in serving thee

Keerthana’s tasty treat (Photo: Irene Bom)

In this series of prayers by Chinese Christian women, practical tasks inspire prayer for parallel spiritual virtues.

Use and adapt the prayers to enrich your own daily (prayer) life.

Prayers by Chinese Christian women

Prayer when opening a door

I pray thee, Lord, to open the door of my heart
to receive thee within my heart.

When washing clothes

I pray thee, Lord, to wash my heart,
making me white as snow.

When sweeping floors

I pray thee, Lord, to sweep away my heart’s uncleanness that my heart may always be pure.

When pouring oil

I pray thee, Lord, to give me wisdom like the wise virgins who always had oil in their vessels.

When posting a letter

I pray thee, Lord, to add to me faith upon faith, that I may always have communication with thee.

When lighting lamps

I pray thee, Lord, to make my deeds excellent like lamps before others, and more, to place thy true light within my heart.

When watering flowers

I pray thee, Lord, to send down spiritual rain into my heart, to germinate the good seed there.

When boiling water for tea

I pray thee, Lord, to send down spiritual fire to burn away the coldness of my heart and that I may always be hot-hearted in serving thee.

from 2000 Years of Prayer compiled by Michael Counsell, p. 527-8

Other posts in the “Heart” series:

Heart’s desire

(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)

Take delight in the Lord,
      and he will give you
      the desires of your heart

(Psalm 37:4)


The secret is to connect with – and pursue – the desires that God has placed in our heart.

Recommended listening

Ashton Gustafson in conversation with John Philip Newell, the celebrated author of Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality.

United by love

(Photo: Irene Bom)


I took this photograph of John and Ruth Robertson's wedding plaque when I last visited them in South Africa in 2015. Both have since passed away after a long life of loving and prayerful devotion in God’s service.

I first met John and Ruth the year after they were married, when I was in my 20’s, and they graciously took me (and later my family) into their hearts and prayers.

Ruth and John had been friends for years and when Ruth heard that John’s wife had died, she sent John a letter of condolence. Imagine her surprise when he came to visit her and proposed. Ruth’s initial response was “no”. She was in her fifties and happily single. But then, after praying about it, she contacted John and said, “If you ask me again, I’ll say yes”. So began a new chapter in their lives as instruments of love as a couple.

May you and I be instruments of love wherever God has called us and may we inspire and support others as John and Ruth have inspired and supported so many over the years – also me.

A prayer: Instruments of love

Let us pray to our kind and merciful God that his love for us may animate all we do and that our love may become contagious. Let us say: Lord, make us instruments of your love.

That the Church, the People of God, may never cease to proclaim by its teaching, life and liturgy that love of God and neighbour is the heart of the gospel and that people are God’s gift to us, let us pray: Lord, make us instruments of your love.

That people may not lose their hearts in today’s economic systems of profit, efficiency, production and competition, but that they may keep giving first place to human relationships of friendship and respect, let us pray: Lord, make us instruments of your love.

That we may have room in our hearts and homes for refugees and strangers, that we may learn to share our goods and ourselves with the little people loved by God – the poor and the lonely and those who suffer, let us pray: Lord, make us instruments of your love.

That those who don’t know how to forgive, those who have not experienced much happiness in life or whose longings have not been fulfilled may encounter a bit of God’s goodness in our attention and care, let us pray: Lord, make us instruments of your love.

That in our Christian communities we may uplift one another rather than tear down, accept each other with trust and affection, forgive one another from the heart and go forward together in hope and love, let us pray: Lord, make us instruments of your love.

Our gentle God, help us to love you and one another with your measure, that is, without measure,
in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

from Liturgies Alive, Models of Celebration,
posted on

Related topics to explore to your heart’s content

  1. Resources for the 2018 week of prayer for Christian unity which takes place annually from 18 to 24 January.
  2. From the blog: Prayer sheet on Theme: The greatest is love


From a grateful heart

(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)

A Prayer

based on Psalm 103:1-5

Come praise the eternal God!
Let all that is within us —
body, emotions, mind, and will —
praise God’s holy name!

Despite our failures, He forgives and releases us.
More than any doctor, He heals our diseases.
When we are famished and weak,
He fills us with good and beautiful things,
satisfying our needs,
and restoring our strength.

So come!
Come, praise the eternal God!
Sing songs from a grateful heart,
and remember all that He has done for us.


What songs of praise and thanksgiving is your heart dying to sing today? Sing away.

See also Forgiven and forgotten

Give me a heart of flesh

Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland
Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland (Photo: Irene Bom)

God said to the Jews in exile in Babylon, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26, NIVUK)

Here is a prayer dating back to the 4th century asking God to work this miracle in us.

O Lord, who has mercy on all,
take away from me my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away from me the heart of stone,
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and enjoy you,
for Christ’s sake, Amen

St. Ambrose of Milan (AD 339-397)

Related topics to explore to your heart’s content

  1. Jesus’ parable about the sower and the seed in Mark 1:1-20 (also in Matthew 13 and Luke 8). Note in particular the impact of stony ground.
  2. From the blog: Unite my divided heart
  3. article about Ambrose and his legacy
“When we speak of wisdom, we are speaking about Christ. When we speak about virtue, we are speaking about Christ. When we speak about justice, we are speaking about Christ. When we are speaking about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking about Christ.” So wrote Ambrose, bishop of Milan, biblical exegete, political theorist, master of Latin eloquence, musician, and teacher; in all these roles, he was speaking about Christ.

To keep our hearts in tune

Children learning about God's heart for the world
Children learning about God’s heart for the world (Photo: Irene Bom)
In October 2017 I visited the Scots Kirk in Lausanne, as part of a Local Church Review team.

At lunch one day I met Geraldine Ewen (82) who has been a part of the Lausanne congregation for 23 … 25 years. She told me about her links with the Salvation Army, through her grandparents. Still today Geraldine occasionally foregoes Sunday worship in her own church to attend the Salvation Army Sunday morning service with the band playing all the lovely hymn tunes.

Here is Geraldine singing one of the songs she learned as a child, and sharing how this and other songs from her childhood continue to do her heart good.


Geraldine (singing):

Whisper a prayer in the morning
Whisper a prayer at noon
Whisper a prayer in the evening
to keep your heart in tune

Irene: Tell me the story of the song.

Geraldine: It was Salvation Army that we used to sing it. Yes. I don’t know if it was used by other churches.

Irene: You learned it from your grandparents or not?

Geraldine: Yes. Yes, and from Sunday School.

Irene: Right. Thank you.

Geraldine: But it’s something that has come, come with me all along. And when I go to Bible Study … we have Bible study in Le Mont. One of the girls here, she runs it in her home. And sometimes I just think of a chorus, a refrain, you know.

My grandfather, he used to sing, ‘He came right down to me … He came right down to me to condescend to be my friend. (in a whisper) He came right down to me.’ That’s another lovely one. ‘Condescended to come right down to me.’

Irene: What’s your name?

Geraldine: Geraldine.

Irene: Geraldine.

Geraldine: Geraldine Ewen from Lausanne, yes.

Verse 2 of “Whisper a prayer in the morning”:

Prayer changes things in the morning
Prayer changes things at noon
Prayer changes things in the evening
And keeps your heart in tune

See also: From generation to generation