“Naught be all else to me, save that thou art…”

The ancient Irish poem, ca. 8th century, and beloved hymn, Be Thou My Vision has this phrase that has been rumbling about in my heart.


“…naught be all else to me, save that thou art…”

Every time I sing this song, and hit that phrase, a button is pushed, a trap door opens, sirens blast!  My brain tries futility to untwist and unpack these poetic and convoluted words and grasp their meaning.  Like all poetry, you can’t speed read this or you’ll miss good stuff.  I usually shake off the vertigo and sing the rest of the song knowing I just left something more behind.

But no more.  I took the first step toward ruminating on their meaning by writing the words in my “little book of cows” which is the notebook I carry around on the dairy to note important cow and calf observations.  Now I can grab the notebook out my shirt pocket, try to memorize the phrase, and plod along behind a herd of Holsteins on the way to the milking parlor.

If I didn’t have such an aversion to well-intentioned, but shallow, ‘how-to’ tips, tricks and techniques, I’d tell you to do the same thing, because I like the focus on Christ I sense blossoming inside me.   This phrase asks a lot.  No other gods before me…no idolatry allowed…but it flips it around to be so confidently declarative.  “Lord, all else pales in your light and in this moment of awareness of my deepest longings, I find I long for You!”

If you wish, I have extra cow/calf notebooks around (or you could get your own at Murdoch’s) but I’m afraid you’ll have to rustle up your own herd of Holsteins!

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A Ram Crowned with Thorns

A Ram Crowned with Thorns

Ol’ Abe trudged up.
Trudged up the mount
With the steps you take
When God wants it back.

It was justice really,
Knife-piercing justice.
Give up your gods
And what do you lack?

Is a son a god?
He raised the blade.
He’d waited, long.

Obedience colored black.

Behold, a voice.
A reflection on the blade.
A ram crowned with thorns.
God cuts him slack.

Back down the mount.
A father, a son

Turn cartwheels.
No turning back.

Crown of Thorns

Ram in a Thicket

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