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 (Manna 49: After God's Heart)
Songs of Homecoming
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Songs of Homecoming

Song of Ascent, the First

            In my distress I cried…

Here I am,
O Lord,
barefaced, undisguised,
half a dozen people in one.

You see plainly
     I sew no feeble fig leaf to cover
    the divisive beings within me.

            In my distress I cried…

Here I am:
   I rage in animal anger,
   I swell in dark, fierce pride,
   I lust for drunk pleasures,
   I hate in my jealous heart and
   I curse and lie with a foul bile that’s
              lodged deep within my belly.

And here I am again:
   a monster crouched,
   a shadow supplicating.
   a child of darkness
              who knows his place
              belongs to the night,
              who should be tucked away
              in unknown corners,
              invisible to all,
                          invisible to You.

And yet,
grotesque though I may be,
I still creep out with the
     far-flung hope that You will be here:
     do not reject me entirely.

For there is
this one last
part of me
   O Lord,
that urges me to
Your presence.

One last
tender part
that now whispers
my guilt to You.

Salvage this part
Save me from who I am.
For I cannot escape
the well of myself.

My heart strains,
longs to speak,

My soul yearns,
longs to breathe.

I beg You,
will You be my Lord?

Teach me your ascent.

Song of Ascent, the Second

            I will lift up my eyes to the hills…

Quickly, softly
Be before me now,
O Lord,
Be before me now.

Be in my sight and heart’s vision
Be in the shadowy slopes of the distance, in
     the layered stretches of varying green, the
     trees that reach up, the
     roots that push down, the
     warmth of the primitive soil.

Allow my eyes to
     scale these heights, to
     plumb these depths.
Allow my heart
     to witness
    Your infinite latitudes of creation.

            I will lift up my eyes to the hills…

And trace out a road
     climbing and curving,
     winding up to You and
     Your holy temple.

I know this road,
journeyed upon it once, and
these are my former travels:
     when I saw that
     my steps had become routine,
     my prayers, an empty ritual, that
     I was no more
     than a mime of devotional acts,
     constantly roving in gesture, but
     stationary in that thing called faith,

     I stepped back once,
     then I stepped back again.

     And before I recognized
          the direction of my feet,
     I found myself alone
         and faraway on the
         foothills of Your holy place.

I look on now.
The hills are at a distance and
I find myself drawn back,
searching for the ascendant road,
     for the meaning within the hills,
     for a place to begin my journey.

I will lift up my eyes
     and remember that
     though I have strayed,
You have preserved for me the
     inheritance of the hills, and
     they are here and ever-present.

Therefore, as I lift up my eyes,
Be before me now,
     O Lord,
Be before me now—
     lest I miss the path
     lest I lose my course—
Lead me to these hills once more.

Song of Ascent, the Third

            I was glad…

In a subterranean way
     as I neared the hills and
     lingered at the edges of God’s presence.

My steps were slow and halting for
      the lost traveler finding home
     knows not how to enter and
     wonders if there is a back way in.

Still, I was glad
in a slowly-wakening, deep-unfurling way, as
I stood looking on,
remembering old joys in these old places
that have long been locked in the
lost chambers of my memory.

By the edges of the hills
I waited
until voices called out to me:
Let us go into the house of God.

My heart leapt and froze.
I was afraid to enter—

The House of God
     Immutable law.
The House of God
     Place of reckoning.
The House of God
     Eternal judgment.

A throne
A temple
filled with holy smoke and the
     train of Your majestic robe.

I was afraid for
You know,
O Lord,
I am no Isaiah.

I will not go up, I decided,
But the voices kept calling
Let us go into the house of God.

And the voices echoed and ushered me forth
     and the voices of praise led me on.
I followed though I knew
Here is no place for one like me

My thoughts slapped my conscience and
spitefully told me to go back and hide.

But the singing urged me on
     urged me on
And I continued
     as one who knows no other way.

To You,
     they lead me
O Lord,
     the voices of singing, the voices of praise
To You, they lead me.

I will go, but I will not speak,
I determined in my heart.
My mouth is not like others that
     praise with a blameless and burning zeal.

Yet the voices drew me on
     drew me on
And they said,
     Peace be within you.

I listened and
     those words shook
     every string of
     my untuned heart.

Peace be within me?
I peered into myself—
     and it was evident,
     peace was not meant for
     hearts such as mine.

But they repeated,
Peace be within you.

—I do not know how to believe.
—I do not know how to disbelieve.

But of peace
I will dream
And of peace
I will hope.

And gradually,
I became glad
     in a growing way,
     in the way a mute thought
          somehow takes song.

I was glad
In a soft but audible way
As I whispered,
Peace be within you too,
     my brothers and sisters.

Song of Ascent, the Fourth

            Unto You I lift up my eyes
O You who dwell in the heavens.

Unto You I bow my knees,
O You who formed the earth.

Unto You I clasp my hands,
O You, designer of man.

Unto You I direct my heart
O You, searcher of the soul.

Unto You…
I turn my body
O You,
Lord of all life.

And You, my Lord,
     will You turn to me?
And if You do,
     what will Your eyes behold?

I cannot hide my ugliness
Nor do I wish for any cover.

Let me lay bare
     all of what I am and
     I beg You,
Search me and
Know me whole.

And if you can love me,
Love beyond the seeming me and
Love me whole, too.

Gaze upon my hidden selves and see:
   See how I have reviled my neighbor,
   See how I have doubted You, and when
              doubt was impossible,
   See how I have gritted my teeth and
              clenched my fist at You
              In wild defiance.

See it all
But see also
     my heart
This very moment:
     For unto You I strive
     to center my acts and thoughts.

Unto You I strive
Unto You
I strive,
     pulling forth my energies and
     my innermost being as
     an offering before Your eyes.

I cannot say,
Here I am, Lord,
Your servant forever.

For part of me fears I will depart
and return and repeat and sing
this heart-wrought song
of homecoming again.

I can only say
I am weak,
standing on a sliver of faith.

I am feeble,
but sincere in my
present pursuit of You.

My offerings are scattered,
O Lord,
my offerings are scant.

And though I know
I have no right,
I ask for you to come.

Come, Lord,
Whether it be
     in hazy cloud,
     consuming fire,
     smashing thunder,
     tender hand or
     still, small voice.

Come as You may, but

For unto You
     do I turn my whole being.

See me, hear me, search me,
     O Lord, and
Meet me in my pleas.

Song of Ascent, the Fifth

            If it had not been [for] the Lord
Who was on [my] side,

I would have kept to
     the thousands of paths that lead away from
     Your holy hills.

I would not have found my way to
     Your mountain.
I would not have followed the voices of praise.
I would not have turned towards Your presence.
Surely, You have guided my steps.

If it had not been [for] the Lord…
The unbearable throbbing of
     stacked-up, tedious days
      would have enclosed me.

The thick, dark void that had
     so long been creeping towards me
     would have covered my soul and
     eaten bit by bit any good, any
     living part still within.

A final glance around
     would have finished me off—
Hurt inflicted by those I loved and
     my own failures and evils.

Then, I would have dissolved
In the misery that was all my own,
     in the tears I could not dry by night,
     in the tears I could not stem by morning.

If it had not been [for] the Lord…
How could I have looked up to the hills?
How could my feet have found direction?
How could my heart have had hope enough to

It is, indeed, a mystery of the deep,
how You work within the heart of man.
I cannot trace nor understand Your ways.

Tell me the story then
     of how I came,
     how You brought me.
Tell me how You pulled at my heart
     in Your soft and gradual way
     until I found my heart yearning,
     my eyes searching, and my feet moving
          towards You.

The silver cord
You forged between us,
     has not been broken.
Pull it yet closer and
Renew its strength.

I await you still,
O Lord,
My Lord.

Thus far have You held me,
Thus far have You guided me.

May this song be my Ebenezer
     in the faint light of the morning,
     in the secret depth of the night.

I will search for You.
I will await You.

For by Your will,
      I am here.

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Publisher: True Jesus Church