A Psalm of Repentance

The road to an apology

is fraught with theology.

The twists and the turns

are the bumps and the burns

of a heart in the throes of agony.

The words an illusion

of my soul’s contusion.

I continue to stumble

with each word that I mumble,

and I am slave to my endless confusion.

The relief that I seek

is on Mercy’s peak.

My struggle to the top

made worse by each drop,

until I am sufficiently shown I am weak.

The wind reaches down.

I am given Your crown.

When my silence is silent,

I am released from the Tyrant,

and I am clothed in a new white gown.

Forgiveness cannot be obtained,

as my old gown cannot be unstained.

The renewal comes from You,

as a gift, it is true,

and through it, my heart you have claimed.

by Alyssa Carlburg

A Psalm for the Hidden Church


For those who clean the kitchen,

put away chairs,

record prayer requests and areas of interest—

we bless you, Lord!


For Adam, who delivers our just-roasted coffee;

for Cindy, who pays our bills and helps keep us on track;

for Ladora, our faithful and friendly mail carrier,

we bless you, Lord!


Thank you, God, for teams.

For the team that paints arrows for parking,

keeps bathrooms clean,

light bulbs burning,

windows sealed and so much more,

we bless you, Lord!


For those who who gather and organize for retreats and events,

for those who print and fold our worship folders and newsletters every week,

for our photographers and videographers,

we bless you, Lord!


For those who put up posters and newsletters,

for those who cook such good food,

for those who fold and collate week after week,

we bless you, Lord!


For those who give themselves—

to make our gardens lovely,

to patch our ceilings and walls,

to catalog books for our library,

we bless you, Lord!


For those who help us park, we bless you, Lord!

For those who serve us coffee, we bless you, Lord!

For those who greet us at the door, we bless you, Lord!

For those who help us find a seat in worship, we bless you, Lord!

For those who greet and help our newcomers, we bless you, Lord!

For those who sell us books, we bless you, Lord!

For those who teach the Bible, we bless you, Lord!

Have You Ever Looked at Water

by Vikki Willams


Have you ever looked at water?

Have you ever looked at glass?

Have you wondered if you ought to

stand and wait the storm to pass?


Have you seen a faded red rose?

Have you seen when summer’s passed?

Have you wondered at the day’s close

Why the time should even last?


Have you ever felt the ice-wind?

Have you ever felt the fire?

Have you ever had your arm pinned

‘Twixt the blizzard and the pyre?


Have you laughed among the happy?

Have you laughed among the lost?

Have you felt the current lapping

'Round your ankles for the cost?


Have you ever cursed the sunshine?

Have you screamed into the rain?

Have you crossed a bloody fault-line

just to staunch a spreading stain?


Have you learned an invocation?

Have you learned to read some Psalms?

Have you pled for our salvation

Holding outstretched, empty palms?


You have known the disappointment.

You have known the state of shock.

Can you keep your next appointment

If you cannot use the clock?


Have you tasted of the honey?

Have you eaten of the pods?

Have your hunger and your thirsting

Brought you back from other gods?


Have you wept among the lonely?

Have you wept among the weak?

Have you wandered looking only

For the blessing that you seek?


Have you ever felt the wind's tail?

Have you felt the winter's snows?

Have you ever seen a child fail,

and then wonder how it grows?


Have you ever watched the sun rise?

Have you watched it as it set?

Have you wondered when the lark cries

Why your need to rest is met?


Have you looked upon the ocean?

Have you looked upon the shore?

Let us journey up the mountain

Though our feet be scarred and sore.

A note from Vikki: "Have you ever looked at water?" is an intense poem about beauty, loss, the yearning for redemption, and the not-so-easy path to capture it. All this is fitted into a roughly chiastic structure. (That is, when verses are in the sequence A, B, C, C', B', A', the verses A and A', etc. form a pair.)


by Liita Forsyth

This isn't the first time artist Liita Forsyth has shared her work with College Church. She and her husband, Paul, were members here before they moved to River Forest, where they now attend Calvary Memorial Church in neighboring Oak Park. OneWord Journal is pleased to feature Liita's art once again.

Says Liita, "The idea in this piece is HOPE, which the psalms are full of . . ."


A Song of Lament by Nancy Tally

Oh Lord, you knit me together but did you have to drop 

so many stitches when you made my brain?

You must have dropped stitches for there are so many holes

 into which my words and thoughts fall and disappear.

I must admit, you were creative about it.

The variety seems endless.

The letters in one word may dance about

 making them impossible to erad or pesak.

Letters from multiple words may mix together

Causing a cacophony of Sorgi ts hunod.

My eyes may read them out of order.

“Is it so?” Or was it, “It is so.”

My ears may hear them out of order

“We are marching into the enemy’s camp” made no sense.

Oh! All those years it was actually “Are we marching?” 

As I listen words may chute through holes and not reach my brain

 in the same order in which they were spoken.

My face echoes my confusion as “Huh?” escapes my mouth.

The roll of the eyes on the speaker’s face says “Duh”

I stand in a group wanting to enter the conversation,

My thoughts are together,

As I open my mouth key words fly away.

Friends may offer me words as I struggle, I still appear stupid.

I am embarrassed and swear to myself I won’t speak again.

Why does my tongue trip and say my words out of order?

Why does it change my chosen word to something similar but wrong?

In print an editor may catch the confusion that I cannot see.

In writing I have time to make corrections that conversation does not afford.

The praise is received. People like what I wrote. 

But my fear is confirmed.

As they express their surprise that I can think deeply,

I know it is true, people perceive me as shallow.

Lord, maybe you didn’t drop stitches.

Maybe moths put holes there after you were done.

A Life of Its Own

Every once in a while, a Saturday Musing takes on a life of its own. That's what happened with the musing about Joe Bayly--College Church attender, husband, father, author, publisher, child of the heavenly Father. No sooner had the musing gone out, than emails came in from people who knew Joe only through his writings as well as those who knew him face-to-face.

Here are some of the emails that came in. At the end, we've posted "A Psalm of Wandering" from Joe's book, Psalms of My Life, used by permission of his son Tim, who recently wrote his own book on fathering. (The College Church Library has books by Joe and many are available online.)

  • "A remarkable gentleman--gracious, good humor and lots of insight."
  • "Some of the comments in his book A View from the Hearse [now titled, The Last Thing We Talk About] have stayed with me through all the losses I have had in life. I only knew them to say hello, but they left me with wonderful tools."
  • "I remember Joe and Mary Lou so well. I read Winter's Flight and it had a very humble impact on my life. I remember them with fun, humility and I honor them for their Christlike lives."
  • "I agree with your description of Joe's welcome of varied thoughts in discussions. He often shared the teaching of a large Sunday school class back in the day."
  • "The Bayly family was one of the major reasons I loved the church so much. I left Wheaton College for one  year and spent it at Kansas University because Joe encouraged me to go to a place where I would be uncomfortable."
  • "I will have to share this with my father-in-law. Joe was the best man at his wedding." (This was from Dawn Clark, by the way.)
  • "I never met him even though I lived in Wheaton in his time. I bought his book Psalms of My Life. I love it and the beautiful calligraphy by  Tim Botts.
  • "I wanted to know that someone like this existed . . . and even was a part of our church's recent history."

A Psalm of Wandering
by Joe Bayly

Lord You know

I'm such a stupid sheep.

I worry

about all sorts of things

whether I'll find grazing land

still cool water

a fold at night

in which I can feel safe.

I don't.

I only find troubles



I turn aside from You

to plan my rebel way.

I go astray.

I follow other shepherds

even other stupid sheep.

Then when I end up

on some dark mountain

cliffs before

wild animals behind

I start to bleat

Shepherd Shepherd

find me save me

or I die.

And You do.

Psalm of Lament in Three Parts

1. After working a long shift, Mom came home

To fix supper. Bring me another beer,

Dad said. So I did while Mom cooked.

She filled our plates as I got my own glass of milk.

Mom brought dinner hot from the stove

And set Dad’s down on the coffee table in front of the tv

So we could watch Wheel of Fortune together.

He looked down at the plate of food she’d fixed,

Then flung it across the room in disgust.

He never liked vegetables to touch meat.

I threw my glass of milk in his face

Which shocked us all in different ways.

Father, forgive.

2. When they used to call me Saul, or something like that,

I knew truth in my own familiar way.

Going off to camp wasn’t what it is here.

Not at all. And yet, oddly similar…

Weapons, devotions, survival skills, prayers.

And as I went deeper into this way of truth

I found a certain pride in what most others feared.

Looking back, it surprises me still

How simple and right it seemed

To take a life; and then, lives.

The cracks and gurgles and groans of death,

Though, gave way to a sort of silence.

And then, the Dream came. Father, forgive.

3. You know, the guard said to me,

If they set you free, who will be left

To tell me the things you do.

I know no other soul whose eyes have what your eyes hold.

Once I even heard you sing

And even though I could not comprehend

the words or tune, I wanted to.

If they release you, I’m afraid

That I’ll be bound to life without you

Or the God you love,

The One who brought you here to me.

Me—whose job it is to keep an eye on everything you do.

Even though I don’t believe,

When you talk to that God of yours,

I think that you and he are talking about me.

And tonight, I'll lock you up, put the keys away,

And as I walk away, hear you say, like you always do,

Father, forgive.

by Wil Triggs