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The World Is Whispering

This poem comes at the moving conclusion of Andrew Peterson’s fourth and final book in the Wingfeather Saga, The Warden and the Wolf King:

The world is whispering–listen child!–
The world is telling a tale.
When the seafoam froths in the water wild
Or the fendril flies in the gale,

When the sky is mad with the swirling storm
And thunder shakes the hall,
Child, keep watch for the passing form
Of the one who made it all.

Listen, child to the Hollish wind,
To the hush of heather down,
To the voice of the brook at the stony bend
And the bells of Rysentown.

The dark of the heart is a darkness deep
And the sweep of the night is wide
And the pain of the heart when the people weep
Is an overwhelming tide–

And yet! and yet! when the tide runs low
As the tide will always do
And the heavy sky where the bellows blow
Is bright at last, and blue

And the sun ascends in the quiet morn
And the sorrow sinks away,
When the veil of death and dark is torn
Asunder by the day,

Then the light of love is the flame of spring
And the flow of the river strong
And the hope of the heart as the people sing
Is an everlasting song.

The winter is whispering, “green and gold,”
And the heart is whispering, too–
It’s a story the Maker has always told
And the story, my child, is true.

We think so highly of this poem that Andrew Peterson somehow got Armulyn the Bard to write for him that we’re memorizing it together.

Our family relished the re-read-aloud of the first three volumes in preparation for the fourth, and the capstone did not disappoint. My oldest son has read the first three volumes so many times that when we read back through them, I would finish a chapter, and he would tell me the title of the next! We had to put contact paper over the cover of the third book because it was worn out from use. I’m pretty confident that before long this fourth volume will look as books do when they’re constantly in the hands of young readers. Binding no longer crisp and tight, dust jacket torn and loose fitting, pages softened and browned at the edges. Books are beautiful when they’re new, but well-used books earn another kind of beauty: the love they’ve been shown gives them a velveteen rabbit kind of grandeur. (A fitting comparison/compliment, don’t you think, for the proprietor of The Rabbit Room who writes books whose covers have to be held together by contact paper?)

We praise God for Andrew Peterson. The Lord has used his music and his fiction to bless and deepen our lives. If you haven’t read the Wingfeather Saga series, you should.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

North! Or Be Eaten

The Monster in the Hollows

The Warden and the Wolf King

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The Stone by The Gray Havens

Just in time for Easter, check out this creative lyric video from The Gray Havens:

Available at Bandcamp (where they would prefer you get it) and Amazon.

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“The Legend of the Sunken Mountains” by Andrew Peterson

We’re fans around here of Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga, and in the run-up to the real release of Book Four, The Warden and the Wolf King, we are reading back over the first three volumes. We just finished volume one, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, which includes this poem, “The Legend of the Sunken Mountains.” The rhyme scheme is clear, there are internal rhymes, and the meter is well paced and fits the message.

Along with its technical competence, this poem captures that haunting, suggestive quality. It’s a bit mysterious, hinting at a back story, tantalizing the reader with the suggestion of an old story high and beautiful. The poet novelist has intrigued us with his first three volumes, and we’re eager to read the fourth. Without further ado, here’s

“The Legend of the Sunken Mountains” by Andrew Peterson

Come forth from sunken mountain calls the sundered summer moon
The eyrie’s fallen dragon king hath groaned his grievous tune
The halls that rose in cloudy steeps now lie beneath the waves
And Yurgen’s fallen kingdom sleeps in bouldered ocean graves

Yurgen’s son, the dragon fair, met Omer son of Dwayne
And so the knight and Yurgen’s heir did battle in the rain
And lo, the dragon wounded lay from Omer’s mortal blow
The knight, in grief, did haste away to save his mortal foe

And Omer, bent with sorrow, bowed in Yurgen’s mountain hall
And told the ancient dragon how his only heir did fall
So Yurgen, mighty dragon king, atop his mountain keep
Asunder tore the glistening and rocky mountain steep

He summoned every dragon for to burrow through the ground
And find at last the fabled ore that makes the maiméd sound
But Yurgen’s heir was cold and killed, and buried in the mount
As dragons tunneled deeper still below the ocean fount

And then at last with thund’rous din the misty mountain climbs
Collapsed upon the beasts within the darkness of the mines
From ocean then did Yurgen rise to seek his dying son
But where his mountain once arrayed a half-moon golden hung

His dragon kingdom moldered, his dragon scion slain
King Yurgen’s sorrow smoldered and he sank away again
The halls that towered in cloudy steeps now lie beneath the waves
And Yurgen’s fallen kingdom sleeps in murky ocean graves

The summer dusk hath split in twain the gilded summer moon
And all who come shall hear again the dragons’ lonesome tune

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In Sorrows Dust and Ash

For Liam’s Parents at His Funeral
January 15, 2013

O LORD, our Lord, majestic name,
We sit in dust and ash.
Though sorrows all around us crash,
Rejoicing all the same.

We know not why this little one
Is laid to rest today.
He brought us joy, though not yet born,
We know not how to say

What might have been. We’ll never know.
What paths, what joys, what pains?
We would have loved to watch him grow,
To clean up spills and stains.

And so we bring this grief to you,
The one who’ll raise the dead,
For where we thought there would be life,
We’re left with death instead.

We hate it, Lord, but somehow know,
That bonds this too will form.
Through shared sorrow does marriage grow,
Together weather storm.

So bind our hearts in faith and hope,
And never let us go.
As in the darkness still we grope,
And in rough waters row.

O LORD, our Lord, majestic name,
We sit in dust and ash.
Though sorrows all around us crash,
Rejoicing all the same.

January 25, 2012

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We Watch Every Year, by Spencer Haygood

Spencer Haygood shared this Dr. Seuss style poem with me for the Christmas season. I loved it, and he gave me permission to post it here. Enjoy!

We Watch Every Year!

B. Spencer Haygood, Jr

 

We all know the story, we’ve all heard it told,
of the Who’s down in Whoville, and the Grinch, bold and cold;
how the grouchy old Grump greatly hated their joys
and grinningly plotted to steal all their toys.

Oh, we watch every year, at least most everyone.
We watch, and we watch, as the dark deed is done;
as the Grinch takes the toys of the Who girls and boys
and away, on his sleigh, takes them all, without noise.

And up on a ledge, at the top of Mount Crumpit,
the meany old Grinch sits ready to dump it
all off the edge of the ledge to the pit
he means to dump it all, yes, all of it.

“For what could he do worse than this,” he surmised
“than take away all of these things that they’ve prized?”
But just as he’s ready to shove it headlong,
from the town comes a sound … “Oh no, it’s a song!”

A song, being sung, while the Who’s all hold hands
A song that now echoes throughout all Who-land
And a great celebration of life and its ways
of family and friend and fun holidays

And the grouchy and grumpy old Grinch-heart was stirred.
That heart two sizes too small had heard
something that made him see Christmas was more
than all of these “things” that were bought at a store.

And so he returned all the toys to the Who’s
And all they thought lost they didn’t really lose
So they all joined together at the grand Christmas feast
and the Grinch, you remember, carved the roast beast.

It’s all a good story, with a good moral, yes!
Life doesn’t consist in the things we possess.
But is that all Christmas is, an Enlightenment tale,
of peace and good will, beyond things for sale?

Is Christmas just time for family and friends,
a year-ending festival of food without end,
with check accounts empty, and credit cards full,
a few sincere wishes, and a whole lot of bull,
when presents are given—some are hers, some are his—
is that really all we believe Christmas is?

Oh, I know a story, a story that’s old
and of this story’s glory not the half has been told
of Paradise first, and then Paradise lost,
of the deepest rebellion, and the terrible cost,
of the entrance into “Ourville,” not of an old Grinch,
but of that ancient Serpent, and sin and its stench,
and how he stole, not some toys, but life from our race
leaving us with no hope, not even a trace.

But then the first promise of One who would come
and undo the undoing the Undoer had done.
From that moment on, as the story proceeds
everything points to this coming seed.

From Seth to Noah to Shem it flows
then to Terah and Abraham, it goes and it goes
on to Isaac and Jacob and then David the King
the line can’t be stopped, not by anything.

Finally to Christ everything leads
prophecies, promises, patterns, and seeds
the portrait grows clearer and clearer, till the day
He appears in “Ourville” who will take sin away.

How perfectly, perfectly the round is maintained
Paradise lost, now Paradise regained
The way to the tree of life that was barred
now opened in him once more, evermore.

It’s true, in the Garden the first Adam fell
and if that were the end … what a story to tell
but the last Adam came and took all our loss
stood all the test, endured the cross
paid what we owed, went to the grave
then rose the third day, mighty to save.

It’s the story of sacrifice, of changing of place
of love everlasting and infinite grace
of sweet mercy offered to us, due the worst,
now freely accepted, freed from the curse.

Oh, we watch every year, least most everyone
we watch, and we watch, as the great Deed was done
from the grandeur of heaven to the grime of the stall
comes the Lord of all glory, and the great King of all
who’s born there in Bethlehem that dark, starry night
for the purpose of making what’s wrong once more right.

We all know the story, we’ve all heard it told
this story of glory, and this good news of old
Oh, for the wonder and witness once more
of our voices, with angels, raised evermore,
singing, shouting, filling earth with the praise
of the glorious Gospel of God’s mighty grace.

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Because He Gave His Son

We transgressed, defiled and raged,
And he gave his son.
For our filth and shame, staining sin,
He sent the pure one.

Bloodied hands and bloodsoaked lands,
The Lamb—he held his tongue,
His blood was spilt; the church was built,
Because he gave his son.

Now free from chains and all your pains
To living waters run
For cleansing life where Jesus reigns,
The risen, ruling Son.

Worthy he of all our praise,
Honored as his name we raise,
Constant through all time he stays,
Jesus all who trust him saves!

—-

From the sermon “This Is How God Loved the World” on John 3:16–21, preached at Kenwood Baptist Church on October 13, 2013.

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Beowulf as Christian Apologetic

Douglas Wilson has translated Beowulf, and a few years back he wrote an essay for Touchstone on it: “The Anglo-Saxon Evangel: The Beowulf Poet Was a Shrewd Christian Apologist.”

Though a heroic poem about pagans that never mentions Christ, Beowulf is the opposite of syncretistic compromise. It is written to highlight the treachery as a way of life that afflicted these pagan societies from within, and the greed and plunder as a way of life that afflicted them from without (whether they were the marauders or the victims).

Our poet shows us this pagan hopelessness in a period of history just before their conversion to the Christian faith. He is recounting the testimony of his people, and, just as with modern testimonies, the sin is highlighted. But it is art to conceal art, and he leaves us hanging just before the explicit moment of conversion. His original listeners knew exactly what was going to happen next.

….

The poem shows how necessary was this sequel, and in this lies its shrewd apologetic. Many generations of roistering pillagers had not thought any other way of life either possible or desirable. In Beowulf, this pattern of raids and counter-raids, of vengeance accomplished and vengeance thwarted, is a way of life on its last legs.

The people are (most of them) heartily sick of it, and they keep trying to find ways of fixing the problems created by their cycles of blood vengeance. Their vain attempts to weave peace through arranged marriages, and their frustrated attempts to stay the violence with the wergild (or man-price, a compensation for murder) show that they know they have a serious problem.

Their long-established way of doing things gives them all the civilization-building power of a biker gang. It is hard for us to imagine Viking angst,but the author of Beowulf is delivering us a vision of exactly that.

The rest, including a beguiling suggestion that the poet has created paganism at its best, as it never existed anywhere, is here. Vintage Wilson, with much insight into Beowulf.

Wilson has also put together a volume on The Rudiments of Anglo-Saxon accompanied by an Answer Key, and in this clip you can hear him reading Beowulf in Anglo-Saxon:

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How To Use “The Bible’s Big Story”: Dads, Step Up and Play the Man

Do you know what I’m trying to accomplish with The Bible’s Big Story?

I want you to win the hearts of your children.
I want you to win them through the time you spend with them.
I want you to start when they’re so small they can’t yet climb off your lap and crawl around.
I want you to read to them, and I want you to read to them about the highest and most important things: the Lord, the gospel, the true story of the world in the Bible.

So more than just winning their hearts, I want you to win your kids to the Lord. My prayer is that the big story of the Bible will capture their imagination, that the high King would lay claim to their allegiance, that they would trust him from deepest recess of soul.

I’m trying to help parents–and I really have dads in my crosshairs–obey Deuteronomy 6:7. The ESV translates that verse as follows: “You shall teach them [these words that I command you today, v. 6] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

That phrase “you shall teach them diligently” could also be rendered “you shall repeat them constantly.”

This verse calls fathers to do two things: 1) repeat the Bible constantly to their children, and 2) discuss it with them.

That’s your basic recipe for family discipleship, and I’m trying to help you do it by starting when your children are sitting there on your lap looking at picture books with you.

[Here's a longer discussion of family discipleship interpreting Deuteronomy 6 and Proverbs: “That the Coming Generation Might Praise the Lord,”].

Make no mistake about it: Satan is prowling around like a lion wanting to devour your child. You can’t outsource their discipleship. They need you. Particularly you, Dad.

The other day my wife was telling me how it’s harder for my kids to get to sleep when something has me out of the house and I’m not part of the bedtime routine of family devotions. Without me there, she finds the kids to be more fussy and fearful. She said to me: “Don’t underestimate daddypower.”

Dad’s, I’m calling you to step up.
I’m calling you, fathers, to read to your kids.
I’m calling you to be a man, to take the responsibility God has placed at your feet in the Scriptures.

This is bigger than any free throw you ever shot, bigger than any at-bat with two outs in the bottom of the ninth with the winning run in scoring position. This is more important than twitter and blogs and books and news. We’re talking about your kids.

We’re talking about whether you will lay the foundation when they’re small that will put you in position to be heard and heeded when you start warning them against the snares of the devil–snares of porn and predators and pushers. How do you lay that foundation? By establishing yourself as their father in the formative years. Before they start walking, you’re holding them, teaching them what the world is–what it’s for, what life is about.

Step up, dads. For the sake of your children, for the respect of your wife, for your own Christlikeness, for the glory of God, for the church in the generations to come. By all that you love, by all that is holy, in the name of the Lord Jesus, let us take up the solemn charge to train our kids in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Disciple your children.

Play the man. Repeat the Bible constantly to your kids and discuss it everywhere you go, when they get out of bed in the morning, when they go to bed at night, when at home, when out and about (cf. Deut 6:7).

Their souls depend upon it, and if you’re in ministry, your qualification depends upon it.

So how can you use The Bible’s Big Story in your efforts to fulfill the role God has given to you and play the man? (cf. 1 Cor 16:13–14)

Here are some suggestions, following the basic outline of Deuteronomy 6:7, to 1) Repeat and 2) Discuss, and I’m adding the third step of 3) Do It Yourself to get at the idea that is clearly the goal of the repetition and discussion Moses prescribed in Deuteronomy 6:7–living out the Bible. Moses wasn’t calling for Hebrew households to become seminar rooms or discussion forums. He wanted fathers to repeat the Bible to their children and discuss its meaning with them so that they would live out faith and obedience for God’s glory.

Here’s how you can use The Bible’s Big Story to lay the foundation of you being the most influential person in your child’s life. Here are some steps you can take on the path of winning their hearts:

Repeat

1. Read the poem straight through. On each page there is a rhyming couplet and a Bible verse, and this first recommendation is to skip the Bible verses and just read the rhyming couplets of this book. These rhymes comprise one unified poem. By reading the whole poem over and over straight through, the idea is for both you and your little one to find that you have the thing memorized. The poem is intended to be a high-level overview of the whole story (thus its title, The Bible’s Big Story), and my hope is that it will serve as a roadmap for Bible reading.

So read the poem straight through. This is how you read most children’s books, and in this recommendation I’m encouraging you to read the poetry by itself and save the Bible verses on each page for other kinds of trips through the book.

2. Repeat. Maybe your experience is like mine, and you find yourself saying to your toddler: “we just read that book.” On those second and third readings, go more slowly through the pages, and these are the times to read the verses.

Discuss

3. Got a toddler and other kids under the age of 10? We do, and often the older ones gather round as we read to the younger. When this starts happening, don’t just read, discuss. Ask the older kids to tell you more about the pictures and the stories they depict.

4. Talk about what happens between the lines. This little book is only 24 pages. Most of the Bible’s events and teachings are not depicted. Ask your child if they know what happened before or after what’s on a particular page. Let the things depicted in this book be your landmarks, and more and more sketch in the details between the landmarks.

Do It Yourself

These suggestions can be adapted to the age and aptitude of your child.

5. Assuming that you have access to a photocopier (three in one printers are everywhere these days), photocopy a page in black and white and let your child use it as a coloring page.

6. Have your child reproduce the pictures in the book using tracing paper.

7. The next step after tracing paper is of course for your kids to draw their own versions of the pictures in the book, whether reproducing the book’s pictures or doing the scene a different way, or the previous event . . . you get the idea.

8. At our family gatherings, the cousins sometimes do drama presentations. Why not use The Bible’s Big Story for the family (or church) Christmas drama your kids produce. Have them memorize the lines and say them as they act out the story. Get costumes. Make it a yearly tradition at Christmas or easter. Go whole-hog (even if you’re an LSU fan).

9. Are there families of small children whose parents you’re shepherding or discipling? At $4.99, this is a pretty affordable discipleship tool, birthday gift, or party favor. Let me assure you: my goal is not selling more copies or making a name for myself. I want to love God and neighbor. I want God to be glorified as you win the hearts of your kids, as your friends win the hearts of their kids, as fathers establish themselves in the lives of their kids by obeying Deuteronomy 6:7, as families grow in their understanding of the Scriptures together, as disciples are made of all nations.

10. Are there unbelieving family members, friends, or others who sometimes read to your kids? Put this book on the top of the pile. Unbelievers who read this book will be exposed to the big story of the Bible and an exhortation to trust the Lord Christ. I hope and pray The Bible’s Big Story can be a natural evangelistic experience for your unbelieving neighbors, friends, or family members.

These are of course, merely suggestions, and they’re not exhaustive. Have some other ideas? Please do share them in the comments (or post them somewhere–I’d love to know to your thoughts. . .). The main thing is for us to know God by knowing the Bible, and helping you and your kids do that is what I’m after in The Bible’s Big Story.

Look around.
Darkness clouds the horizon.
The culture grows more and more hostile to Christians and Christianity.
Take action.
Redeem the time.
Disciple your kids.

Dads, your wife and children are yours to protect and lead. Play the man.

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Paris Review Interview with Shelby Foote

Deeply enjoyed this long interview in Paris Review with Shelby Foote (HT: JT). Here are a few snippets.

Advice for young writers:

To read, and above all to reread. When you read, you get the great pleasure of discovering what happened. When you reread, you get the great pleasure of knowing where the author’s going and seeing how he goes about getting there—and that’s learning creative writing. I would tell a young writer that. Of course I would tell him: work, work, work, sit at that desk and sweat. You don’t have to have a plot, you don’t have to have anything. Describe someone crossing a room, and try to do it in a way that won’t perish. Put it down on paper. Keep at it. Then when you finally figure out how to handle words pretty well, try to tell a story. It won’t be worth a d***; you’ll have to tear it up and throw it away. But then try to do it again, do it again, and then keep doing it, until you can do it. You may never be able to do it. That’s the gamble. You not only may not be able to make a living, you may not be able to do it at all. But that’s what you put on the line. Every artist has that. He doesn’t deserve a whole lot of credit for it. He didn’t choose it. It was visited upon him. Somebody asks, When did you decide you wanted to be a writer? I never decided I wanted to be a writer. I simply woke up a writer one morning.

Then some motivation from Robert Browning:

One of the most remarkable jobs of becoming a writer I ever heard of was done by one of my favorite writers, Robert Browning. Browning decided at the age of fourteen, I think, out of the clear blue sky, to become a writer. His father had books all over the house anyway. He said, If I’m going to be a writer, there’s certainly one thing I must do, and then he proceeded to memorize Johnson’s Dictionary—both volumes, cover to cover. He has, next to Shakespeare, the largest vocabulary of any English writer. Now that’s preparation.

The whole thing (warning, some language).

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Hopeful Indications in Derek Webb’s “Everything Will Change”

I’m hearing good things from people I trust about the direction of Derek Webb’s new album. Scott Corbin pointed me to one of the new songs on YouTube, “Everything Will Change.”

It’s encouraging that this song locates the resolution to the world’s ills not in some social-engineering project of a political party but in the eschaton, when “you’ll wake and the curse will break.”

I also appreciate friends who have encouraged me to be as generous to Derek as I’ve tried to be to J. K. Rowling. Point taken. Eager to hear the whole album.

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Derek Webb’s Failed Confession

Collin Garbarino posted a new video from Derek Webb, in which Derek “confesses”: “I was wrong, I’m sorry, and I love you.”

My problem with this song is that Derek doesn’t specify what it is he thinks he was wrong about. There are some things I think he has been wrong about, but those may or may not be the things he’s apologizing for. Does he think he was right where I thought he was wrong, and wrong where I thought he was right? He doesn’t clarify, so the song isn’t very satisfying. What tried to be sincere and authentic devolved into bland platitudes and cliches. I know that’s not what Derek wanted.

It does have a catchy tune, though. Like much of his stuff. Classic Derek–wailing voice that really communicates emotional depth, changes in tempo and volume, good stuff.

I wish Derek would recognize that he’s not an inspired prophet, that for every stupid thing some church or some Christian says or does there are a lot of examples of biblical ecclesiology and truly Christ-like Christians, and that he should give himself to writing God-honoring, Bible-saturated, thought-provoking songs.

And for my money he can leave the swear words out.

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Biblical Theology in a Children’s Book? Introducing the Bible’s Big Story

I remember the first time someone presented to me, all at one shot, an overview of the Bible’s big story. It was in the famous Bible Study Methods and Hermeneutics class taught by Howard Hendricks and Mark Bailey at Dallas Seminary. That overview was so exciting to me I thought all Christians should go to seminary, because all Christians should be able to see the Bible’s inter-connectedness. What was so compelling about that presentation was the way it attempted to set out the big picture, the whole Bible, with its turning points and movements in thought (and, in that telling, changes in dispensations). To that point in my life, I had never been presented with an explanation of the whole story.

I’m convinced that the Bible does tell a unified story, that the later biblical authors were aware of earlier Scripture, and that they were consciously contributing to the developing revelation of himself God was giving. There is a big story in the Bible, and you shouldn’t have to go to seminary to hear about it! What if you could read it to your kids–in less than 5 minutes for less than $5–right there in your rocking chair?

Children’s books can be great fun to read and re-read to the kids–if they’re well written (I love the language in Little Cricket’s Song) and/or tell a great story (we never tire of Fool Moon Rising). Some of these books my wife and I are able to recite from memory. Children’s books can have a profound impact on parents: Tom Schreiner once said in a sermon at Clifton Baptist Church that Goodnight Moon was his favorite. That book has great rhythm.

A few years ago I felt led to select what I thought were the signposts at the major turning points, in the Bible’s big story, try to set them in rhyming couplets, and see if the result might become a children’s book. The goal was to produce something that would help parents and kids remember the high points of the whole story. There is value in being able to see the whole thing all at once, to behold about the unity of the Bible, and to cut a path through the neurons and synapses that will be walked and re-walked, run and re-run. We want to cut the Bible grooves deep in our brains, and we can do this with the wee ones as we read and re-read to them.

My oldest son was the original artist on the project, which we worked on together when he was four and five years old. I would ask him to draw a picture, not give him instructions beyond telling him about the event from the Bible that I wanted him to depict. He would bring the picture back, and I would scan it in and format it with the rhymes I had come up with. A few years ago (after we had been turned down by a couple publishers) I posted the result of our joint efforts.

Upon seeing that post, some friends encouraged me to continue to seek publication. There was a guy in Australia I’ve never met, my friend John Thacker offered to help in any way he could, my friend Adam Richardson cheered the project on, and Andy Naselli told me that his daughter loved to have the book read to her. So I mentioned it to a friend at Christian Focus, who gave me the name of the contact person there, and off we sent it again. Praise God, they decided to publish it, with new drawings by Tessa Janes, and recently hard copies arrived on our doorstep.

I’m not sure how all this works, but apparently the UK release date is about a month earlier than the USA release date, so I’m guessing that I’ve received advanced UK release copies. I’m assuming that means that it will be available in the US near the end of August or beginning of September (Amazon has the date of September 10).

My hope is that if you have little children, you will read many many books to them. I also hope you’ll read this one to them over and over, to the point that both you and your child have the rhymes memorized, which will enable you to take a mental stroll through the Scriptures, which I hope will enable you to meditate on them day and night, so you can be one of those trees whose leaf won’t wither.

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Lepanto by G. K. Chesterton

Savor the power of the language in this stanza from G. K. Chesterton’s tribute to the Battle of Lepanto:

Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard,
Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred,
Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half attainted stall,
The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall,
The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,
That once went singing southward when all the world was young,
In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid,
Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade.
Strong gongs groaning as the guns boom far,
Don John of Austria is going to the war,
Stiff flags straining in the night-blasts cold
In the gloom black-purple, in the glint old-gold,
Torchlight crimson on the copper kettle-drums,
Then the tuckets, then the trumpets, then the cannon, and he comes.
Don John laughing in the brave beard curled,
Spurning of his stirrups like the thrones of all the world,
Holding his head up for a flag of all the free.
Love-light of Spain—hurrah!
Death-light of Africa!
Don John of Austria
Is riding to the sea.

The rest is just as good. Whole thing here.

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“A City Radiant as a Bride,” by Timothy Dudley-Smith

Revelation 21:9–11,

“Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.”

A City Radiant as a Bride
by Timothy Dudley Smith
Copyright 1987

A city radiant as a bride
and bright with gold and gem,
a crystal river clear and wide,
the new Jerusalem;
a city wrought of wealth untold,
her jeweled walls aflame
with green and amethyst and gold
and colors none can name.

A holy city, clear as glass,
where saints in glory dwell;
through gates of pearl her people pass
to fields of asphodel.
In robes of splendor, pure and white,
they walk the golden floor,
where God himself shall be their light
and night shall be no more.

A city ever new and fair,
the Lamb’s eternal bride;
no suffering or grief is there
and every tear is dried.
There Christ prepares for us a place,
from sin and death restored,
and we shall stand before his face,
the ransomed of the Lord.

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Daniel

Son of Man and floating hand,
Mysteries galore.
A statue gold, a dream untold,
Unfold what is in store.

Furnace of fire and lion pit,
Nations there did rage.
The letters on the wall were writ,
And God his people saved.

Antichrist is on the way,
Many now have come,
Those who know their God will stay,
If killed still will not run.

For God his Kingdom will raise up,
And all the dead will rise.
These will suffer, those will shine,
Like stars will be the wise.

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As Deserts Are with Sands

Set in vast realms of space
Across an untold time
The sprawling story he creates,
Sings the song sublime.

The music pure made matter hard,
The words became the real.
What is was built by his mere word,
The worlds the words do feel.

A garden sprang up from the song,
Replete with sacred tree,
The sounds had no notes in them wrong,
Though people there were free.

So when they chose to disobey,
Transgress God’s holy word,
The judgment wrought a disarray,
Unsheathing death’s sharp sword.

He sang again in Egypt land
His people to redeem.
By outstretched arm and his strong hand,
The Lord made freedom ring.

At Sinai Ten Words Yahweh spoke,
The people ate and played,
At Sinai tablets Moses broke
When golden calf was made.

In mercy wide with steadfast love
The Lord he made a way
Through trackless waste, bread from above,
Water from rock he gave.

Like Adam then the people sinned,
Transgressed the holy word,
Forsook their faithful only friend,
The Lord, their Shepherd.

Like Adam then from the land,
Israel was driven,
With consequences of command,
Asunder they were riven.

The covenant was broken,
The marriage bond no more,
Yet the Lord had spoken,
Of hope beyond death’s door.

And then the bridegroom came,
Prophesied of old,
Then heard the deaf and walked the lame,
And word was spoken bold.

To kill him his own people sought,
The murderer went free.
Salvation on the tree was wrought,
Mysterious to see.

While they meant evil God meant good,
A remnant he would save,
In whose place condemned he stood,
Then rose up from the grave.

Someday soon he’ll split the skies,
The trumpet call resound,
From their graves the dead will rise,
At white throne gather round.

Wheat from chaff, sheep from goats,
The Lord will separate.
Those who made the cross their boast,
Who sought the narrow gate,
Will on that day reward receive,
Who claimed Christ as their Lord,
Who in him with whole heart believed,
Clinging to his word.

And glory bright and glory fair
Will cover the dry lands,
Full as heavens are with air,
Or deserts are with sands.

The Lord will have his way on earth,
His Kingdom he will bring,
So through the pangs of this childbirth,
In faith and hope we sing.

[composed Thursday, February 28, 2013]

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The Best Sermon I’ve Ever Heard on Marriage

Denny Burk preached the best sermon I’ve ever heard on marriage at Kenwood Baptist Church this morning. It was prophetic, powerful, piercing, and poetic.

Denny’s introduction was prophetic:

We all found out last month what the President of the United States thinks about marriage. He sat down for an interview with ABC News and announced to the world [in his own words],

“I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married…”

He went on,

“[Michelle and I] are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated…”

My reaction to what the President said probably wasn’t that different from yours. I thought that what he said was outrageous. I thought that citing Jesus as if He were in support of sexual immorality was blasphemous. But I also thought, there’s really nothing new here.

The president is a sign of our times not the cause of our times. If you think that the President has caused the massive revolution in our culture on marriage, you are just wrong. The changes have accelerated in the last few years, but the seeds were sown many decades before.

Our culture long ago embraced…

-The sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s …

-The idolatry of sex and the diminishing of marriage…

-The ubiquity of the birth control pill and the severing of human sexuality from its connection to children and family.

-No-fault divorce and the idea that we can change spouses like we change sox.

-That there’s no difference between men and women, gender is just a social construct that we learn from culture, not something given to us by God at creation.

-And closely related to this, the idea that gender shouldn’t matter when it comes to human sexuality. And so we have a whole generation of young people who see nothing at all wrong with homosexuality.

No, our culture’s devolution didn’t begin last month with an announcement from the President. This slide has been a long time coming.

Denny’s exposition of Ephesians 5:21–33 that followed this introduction was powerful and piercing, and funny too–you’ll probably hear me belly laughing when you listen to this.

And Denny’s conclusion was poetic. He had me and many others in tears with these words:

I wrote a poem for Susan on our third anniversary that was a bit of a vision of how I was hoping and praying we might end up. It’s a story that ends with a short prayer.

The old man took her tired hand
to hold for one last time.
The years had fin’lly pressed her to
her final breaths of life.

Their wrinkled hands in warm embrace
brought back the long-gone years,
The memories of their happy times,
and those dissolved in tears.

The old man saw in her ill frame
the girl that stole his heart.
He saw in her that gracious gaze
that filled their home with warmth.

His mind turned back to lighter days
when she did make her mark,
The children her love reared for them,
Her single heart for God.

He also felt the weight of grace
that marked her many years,
How she had borne him patiently
when he did cause the tears.

The old man said, “My love, the time
was cruelly short to me.
I cannot say goodbye to you
and let your passing be.”

“How can I ever say farewell
or ever let you part?
You are my only precious thing,
the joy of my old heart.”

And as his eyes began to well,
she reached to touch his face.
And then her quivering voice began
to give one final grace.

“This is the day the Lord has made,
The one He’s brought to pass.
This day was written in His book
before my first was past.”

“The Lord has granted us to spend
together all these years.
He’s also granted all the joy
and even all our tears.”

“And though this is a bitter day,
we owe Him so much thanks.
Dear, we made it! By Him we did!
Yes, we made it! By grace!”

________________________

Oh Father, grant that we may see
our days as at their end.
Oh let us know the weight of grace
in every year we spend.

We make this prayer unto You,
for there is no one higher.
This testimony of Your grace
we desperately desire!

This sermon is not to be missed. Listen here: Denny Burk, Ephesians 5:21–33, Husbands, Wives, and the Glory of God

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