Writing his own ‘Psalm 151’

November 7th, 2017

You sometimes hear of a group of Christians who describe themselves as an Acts 29 church, so committed are they to extending the Bible’s narrative of apostolic faithfulness into our own times. Similarly, a new follower of Jesus Christ whom I’ve recently met might be called a Psalm 151 believer.

For his heartfelt devotional poems read like an additional modern-day chapter of the ancient psalmist’s hymnbook.

Richard Bowes is a businessman and grandfather in St. Louis. After a lifetime in Christian Science, this past spring he accepted Jesus as his Savior and Lord, and this summer he was baptized. Dick has recorded the joy of it all in a steadily growing poetry notebook that he shares with friends.

The 1970 Principia College graduate, who went on to teach at Principia Upper School, says his years in Science were in no way a negative experience. But when it provided no answers for health issues he and his wife were facing, and especially after her death in 2012 overwhelmed him with grief, he began exploring other faiths. It was at a suburban megachurch called The Crossing that Dick finally opened up to what Paul calls “the gospel of grace.”

In lines written this fall, addressed to “Jesus, my dear friend,” he marvels, “Upon the cross you cleansed my sins. With death arrested new life begins.” Dick says the offer of a relationship with Jesus vibrantly alive and personally accessible to us is one of the new treasures he’s found in biblical Christianity that Mrs. Eddy’s teachings never hinted of. The full meaning of grace is another, he told me.

In “His Grace is Free,” a poem from June 2017, Bowes pictures Jesus with outstretched hand appealing at the end of each stanza, “Reach out, take hold accept His grace.” “You cannot earn his grace at all,” he continues. “It’s free to all who accept his call.” What a contrast to the metaphysical work, work, work inculcated by Science and Health. It’s easy to imagine this poem’s six rhyming verses set to music as a hymn. Psalm 151 indeed.

In the dozen poems he sent me, you see a dramatic year of spiritual rebirth in one broken man’s life. Poignant lines from April 2016, tenderly addressed to his children, mourn Dick’s beloved Cindy and urge their son and daughter to cherish those closest to them, for “love unites our souls and gives meaning to life.” So true — yet God as the source of such love and Jesus as its incarnation are not invoked.

By December 2016, however, he has begun attending The Crossing, and muses in a Christmas poem that what shone on the manger “was not a star at all, [but] God’s Love” lighting up the night. May it “be in your heart and guide you on your path,” he prays. “May we see all of mankind in his holy light.” This could still be a Christian Scientist talking, or it could be a new subject of King Jesus. Something is happening.

A few weeks later, in February of this year, there’s a little poetic tribute to his friends Greg and Brenda, “persistent but never pushy” in inviting Dick to church with them. He reflects that the summons to be born again had come not through “a burning bush or thundering cloud.” Rather, “now I know it was not their voice but God’s that called me.”

June brought the scheduled date of Dick Bowes’ baptism in a lake near his new church home, and with it the climax of of this former CSer’s journey to the cross. He narrates it in “Baptism Road.”

“I accepted Jesus as my Lord, my soul began to heal… then in the garden… the serpent spoke….” Put it off a year, the argument went. “Prove to yourself that you really believe.” Prayer showed him it was the devil talking. “From my head to my heart my faith moved that day.” He went ahead as planned, and “the sky opened up with a future so bright.”

Not everybody is a writer, let alone one with a poetic gift like my new friend Dick. But no one is without the ability to speak their own heart and tell their own story, the story of coming from Christian Science to Jesus Christ, in simple honest terms that will bless the next person preparing to walk that same baptism road. “I will declare what he has done for my soul,” says the Psalmist. Shouldn’t we all?

If you’d like to see all the Bowes poems that I’ve seen, write me at AndrewsJK@aol.com. Or contact Dick directly at RPBowes@sbcglobal.net.

I’ll close with one of his shorter selections, “The Almighty,” written a month or two after Dick was baptized. It’s interesting to notice how the first verse could be spoken by any Christian Scientist, but the second verse could only come from a born-again believer in our crucified and risen Lord. Bowes honors his both his earlier spiritual beginnings, and his completed newborn identity, in ten simple lines. “Praise be to His holy name.”

Almighty is our God,
Our protector our strength,
Our Father and we his children.
All we have His grace has given.
Thanks be to His holy name.

Out of the darkness Jesus reached out.
He touched my soul, he healed my heart.
He rescued me from the dark of night
And showed me God’s eternal light.
Praise be to His holy name.

— Richard P. Bowes, Aug. 2017

The author can be reached at andrewsjk@aol.com

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