Friday, January 29, 2016

Dancing for the Lord


A Dancing Disciple

The following was written by a 15-year-old Christian. Grace Jaqueline has a marvelous talent as a dancer and she has performed in numerous ballets and musicals.

I believe that God has a divine plan for everything. I believe that He works in our lives to accomplish incredible things before we even know what He has in store for us. However, I also believe that God works most through struggles and hardships. Unfortunately, I think that most frequently we must first be broken for his light to shine in on us, but there is nothing better than when God steps in and takes control.

When I was in the sixth grade my life felt like it was on a road that didn’t go anywhere. I felt like I was never going to be happy, never succeed, and never get to follow my dreams. But to look back on my life since then, I realize that that was one of the most crucial times in my life and that I could never be in the place I am today without that time. And I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. If I had not been through that extremely hard time in my life I would not have been prepared to realize that I couldn’t fight the troubles of this world on my own. In that season, God showed his power of provision to me by providing a better school environment for the second semester of that year. But everything changed when I went on my first service youth retreat in June 2013 and I realize that I wasn’t capable of fighting the fight on my own. Although I was fighting for myself, I was never alone. God was there in every hour of tears, every moment when I felt worthless and unwanted and in every moment that Satan told me that I wasn’t good at any of the things I loved. God was there protecting, providing and waiting for me to realize that I am nothing without my purpose. My purpose was and is to follow God with everything I have in me even when I fail. On June 13, 2013, I finally decided to stop just letting God run alongside me and to instead run hand-in-hand with Him through the rest of my life. Now I realize that God had been trying to show me what I needed, and that was simply that I had to accept his grace and love for me so that He could show me how He saw me; beautiful and chosen, exactly as he had designed me to be.

That is my story and it has taken me a long time to realize what God has been trying to teach me through that time. Now I am finally starting to see tiny glimpses into Gods character and plan for my life. He has taught me that even my passion for dance, though I may never be the best in my class or the lead character, can be used in further His kingdom. He has been teaching me that all the parts of His spiritual body are important though some are unseen. I believe we must except that we were created to worship Him and that He has equipped us with unique spiritual gifts for just that purpose.

God has given me a heart to dance for his glory, to be a missionary to my community, other cities and other countries, and He has given me a heart for teaching dance. I may not become a dancer but at least for this time in my life I am called to this ministry. God hasn’t left me feeling completely helpless to follow the great commission to, “Go and make disciples of all men” (Matthew 28:19). He has given me a tool and I intend to use it until He instructs me otherwise. I believe God has a plan for my life, and if being broken is what it takes to see His light, then so be it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Old Man Reading Scripture

Rembrandt painted multiple portraits of old men praying. Here are two of the most famous.

On Rembrandt's Portrait of an Old Man Reading the Scriptures
by John Finlay (1941-1991)

Exposure salted his grave Northern face.
An unerasable sadness tinged that grace
Of sourceless light glowing on solid form.
Hard winter nights - the isolating storm -
Hiis oil burned out onto the living word.
A man matured in loss, in griefs incurred
By love outside himself, he would expend
His mind on God, still opened to the end.

John Finlay was an Alabama poet and essayist. This poem first appeared in a collection of Finlay's poems titled "Mind and Blood" published a year after his death.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Remembering Jorge Luis Borges

“Writing long books is a laborious and impoverishing act of foolishness: expanding in five hundred pages an idea that could be perfectly explained in a few minutes. A better procedure is to pretend that those books already exist and to offer a summary, a commentary.”– Jorge Luis Borges

"My father was very intelligent, and like all intelligent men, very kind."-- Borges 

Jorge Luis Borges was one of the most unique literary figures of the twentieth century. He blended realism with metaphysics and loved stories that evoked wonder. He penned stories about the gauchos of Argentina, tales with an Eastern flavor, and he lectured on everything from Chinese mysticism to Germanic and Icelandic epics.

It is a great injustice that he died without having received a Nobel Prize for literature. After winning the coveted award in 2010, Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa said: “It makes me a little ashamed to receive the Nobel Prize, given that Borges didn’t receive it.”

Jorge Luis Borges

Around the time that Borges was named Director of the National Library in Buenos Aires,he lost his eyesight completely. In "Poem of the Gifts" he celebrates the splendid irony of being given a vast library and blindness. 

His poems commemorate the unique culture and traditions of Buenos Aires, where he was born and where he died in 1986. 

In the prologue to his 1975 collection of poems, The Unending Rose, Jorge Luis Borges wrote that "verse should have two obligations: to communicate a precise instance and to touch us physically, as the presence of the sea does." The Borges poems that clearly meet these two obligations are "Plainness" and "Limits."

Related reading: Borges on Tyranny; Interview with Jorge Luis Borges

Friday, January 8, 2016

Wise Men Follow: A poem by Ed Pacht


Thank you for posting Chesterton’s poem on the Wise Men. I was not familiar with this one. Three of his couplets became the framework for this piece.  The three italicized couplets are from his poem.

Wise Men Follow
We are the three wise men of yore,
    And we know all things but truth.

And so it is with humankind,
who standing tall on two strong legs,
thinking thoughts with one strong brain,
and reaching out with wondrous hands
to grasp what we can never grasp,
think that we have found the truth,
have seen the way,
begun to comprehend what is,
but have not.
We think we know,
or that we can think it out,
and plumb the depths of this creation,
and decide ourselves what is best to do,
but, though we’ve partaken of that tree,
and have thought by it to be like God,
and, though we bear His holy image,
we are not God,
nor shall we ever be,
nor can we really know the truth,
unless we know the One who is the Truth.

The way is all so very plain
    That we may lose the way.

What we have understood,
figured out and comprehended
is what WE have understood,
figured out and comprehended
in the limits of our finite mind,
having tasted of the tree of knowledge,
that fools us into thinking we are God.
We are not,
and in the finitude of our mind
we think we know the way,
and since our mind is not the mind of God,
we lose the way and fall into destruction,
unless we let ourselves be led by Him,
who is the Truth and has prepared the way.

So very simple is the road,
    That we may stray from it.

Simple is the road:
it is the road that He provides
through Him who is Himself the Way,
who is the Truth, who is the Life,
and if we try to bend the way
to meet our untrue understanding,
we shall surely wander into darkness,
and in confusion fail to reach the goal.
But His sure and simple guidance leads us
to the infant King who comes to save us,
and with him through the Cross and empty tomb
to the everlasting City of our God.

-ed pacht

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

St. Cecilia's Song

Image from Enid Chadwick's  'My Book of the Church's Year' 

The feast day of Saint Cecilia, the Patroness of music, is traditionally celebrated on November 22.  The following poem was written by Ursula Vaughan Williams, an English poet and author, and biographer of her second husband, the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Sing for the morning's joy, Cecilia, sing,
in words of youth and praises of the Spring,
walk the bright colonnades by fountains' spray,
and sing as sunlight fills the waking day;
till angels, voyaging in upper air,
pause on a wing and gather the clear sound
into celestial joy, wound and unwound,
a silver chain, or golden as your hair.

Sing for your loves of heaven and of earth,
in words of music, and each word a truth;
marriage of heart and longings that aspire,
a bond of roses, and a ring of fire.
Your summertime grows short and fades away,
terror must gather to a martyr's death;
but never tremble, the last indrawn breath
remembers music as an echo may.

Through the cold aftermath of centuries,
Cecilia's music dances in the skies;
lend us a fragment of the immortal air,
that with your choiring angels we may share,
a word to light us thro' time-fettered night,
water of life, or rose of paradise,
so from the earth another song shall rise
to meet your own in heaven's long delight.

Ursula Vaughan Williams (1911-2007)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Chesterton's The Three Wisemen


Step softly, under snow or rain,
    To find the place where men can pray;
The way is all so very plain
    That we may lose the way.

Oh, we have learnt to peer and pore
    On tortured puzzles from our youth,
We know all the labyrinthine lore,
We are the three wise men of yore,
    And we know all things but truth.

We have gone round and round the hill
    And lost the wood among the trees,
And learnt long names for every ill,
And serve the mad gods, naming still
    The furies the Eumenides.

The gods of violence took the veil
    Of vision and philosophy,
The Serpent that brought all men bale,
He bites his own accursed tail,
    And calls himself Eternity.

Go humbly ... it has hailed and snowed...
    With voices low and lanterns lit;
So very simple is the road,
    That we may stray from it.

The world grows terrible and white,
    And blinding white the breaking day;
We walk bewildered in the light,
For something is too large for sight,
    And something much too plain to say.

The Child that was ere worlds begun
    (... We need but walk a little way,
We need but see a latch undone...)
The Child that played with moon and sun
    Is playing with a little hay.

The house from which the heavens are fed,
    The old strange house that is our own,
Where trick of words are never said,
And Mercy is as plain as bread,
    And Honour is as hard as stone.

Go humbly, humble are the skies,
    And low and large and fierce the Star;
So very near the Manger lies
    That we may travel far.

Hark! Laughter like a lion wakes
    To roar to the resounding plain.
And the whole heaven shouts and shakes,
For God Himself is born again,
And we are little children walking
    Through the snow and rain.

G. K. Chesterton

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

2015 Random Word Poetry Contest Winner

This year's winner, Ed Pacht, is from New Hampshire. Ed, a frequent contributor to this blog, has written:

Poetry is a calling. As a Christian, I consider it a sacred calling, an expression of something other than earthly. I consider this true even when, as is the case in most of these poems, the subject matter is not religious at all.

A poem represents a stepping aside from ordinariness, a suspension of the usual way of thinking, an entrance into a realm of words that point to what is beyond words. I find this to be true even in the most trivial of my poems. Even when I am making a bad pun, I find that I am not seeing as I usually see, nor thinking as I usually think. And then there are poems that speak of deep things I can barely imagine, and these too arise from extraordinary ways of thinking.

Ed used all the required words and met the guidelines for this Random Word Poetry Contest. Here is his winning poem:

Merchant-Boy’s Despair
by Ed Pacht

In the southern sky flashes a clear light
amidst oily-seeming black and churning clouds
that threaten those whose course must pass beneath.
The merchant’s son has been entrusted with a task:
to lead his father’s caravan through this gloomy land
in pursuit of the scent of gold to place upon his scales.
Beneath the lowering canopy above the merchant band
they press on, encouraged by the luminous glow,
attracted by the wealth of the newly settled lands.
Their traveling clothes are patched in many places,
and their faces are mere masks of dead emotion,
no speck of joy revealed as they push on and on.
When at last they have reached to their objective,
a clipped, unfriendly voice conveys the wrenching news
that their rival has arrived some days before them,
and there’s no trade left, no business they can do,
and they so sadly must press on further southward
underneath the threatening cloud-filled skies.

Poet Ed Pacht performing his original poetry at the Exeter Town Hall, New Hampshire

Ed has an inviting manner and expresses himself in a transparent way. He reads his own work and also Chandler Hamby's "Screaming Fire" which was published here.

Other poems by Ed Pacht

Spoiled Milk
In the Wildness of My Soul
Thumbs Mightier Than Fear
The Love Soaked Road
Go Ye Into the City
Fire Screaming in the Sky
Pain Like Broken Bones
A Really Big Party
Mass of the Visitation
Lament for the Hills
Reflections on Screaming Fire
The Rose
Spoiled Milk
Why Do I Write?
Acrostic for Hannah Mulliken
Leah's Burden
Ed Pacht Captures Mickey Blue Eyes
Novum Ordo
From Random to Reason
Jesus and the Concrete Jungle
Belshazzar's Wall
My Party