Trails of Grace



Longfellow's famous poem "I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day" contains a stanza we can hang our hats on, no matter how difficult things are in our lives:
"And in despair I bowed my head; 'There is no peace on earth,' I said; 'For hate is strong, And mocks the song Of peace on earth, good-will to men!'” I'm grateful to the The Gospel Coalition for leaving this morsel of truth. It altered my perspective and softened my pragmatic heart this past Christmas season. It made me see how small my difficulties are. Sometimes we read or listen to poetry blindly, without bothering to look into the circumstances of its conception. I urge you to select the link above, read Longfellow's story and his poem, and think about the impact that Luke 2:14 had imprinted in his consciousness. The truth is that there never has been peace on earth. The world has never been free of the bonds of hatred. But pure joy & peace comes from a source outside ourselves.

Longfellow shows us how to overcome our circumstances and find grace in the most unlikely space and time, and perhaps the most ironic situation imaginable.
Peace among those with whom He is well pleased!

Come Live with Me and Be My Love

Legendary Elizabethan dramatist and poet Christopher Marlow (1564 – 1593) was a contemporary of Will Shakespeare, and his life was shrouded in controversy. Whether Marlow was the “roguish rake” many critics claim is beside the point: this missive isn’t about authorial  criticism.  Though Marlow didn’t create it, he is known as the “father of English blank verse,” and he was a poetic genius. His work had a tremendous influence on Shakespeare’s work. See one of Marlow’s many online biographies posted on Encyclopedia Britannica.

This post is, rather, all about adaptation. “Come live with me and be my love” is the first line of Marlow’s “pastoral” lyric titled “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love.” The poem has been adapted in many ways over the years: around 1846, William Sterndale Bennett set the lyrics to a four-part madrigal; in 1995 the poem was adapted for the lyrics of a 1930s-style swing song in the 1995 motion picture Richard III, by Will Shakespeare (performed by singer Stacey Kent). The poem has even been adapted as a polka.

But this is my favorite adaptation, performed by the wonderful American singer Stacey Kent. The video includes music and scenes from the 1995 production of Shakespeare’s Richard III. The video is 5:42 minutes long, and the singing (Marlow’s lyrical poem) picks up at 2:15. It is a fantastic example of Renaissance art beautifully adapted for us moderns.  I hope you enjoy this YouTube version.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

AlexanderPope_NewBioImage_0

Poet Alexander Pope (1688 – 1734) demonstrated (arguably) the dominant voice of the 18th century. His mellifluous, moralistic, biting tongue produced remarkable satire and heart-wrenching prosody. His personal life was rife with controversy and he wrestled with physical health issues (a brief biography is offered on poets.org).

Pope’s “Eloisa to Abelard” (from which the line “Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind” springs) is an Ovidian heroic epistle inspired by an illicit love affair. The secret marriage between Eloisa and Abelard, who is an infamous teacher/philosopher, twenty years older than she, sets the stage for this 18th century tragedy. This poem eloquently plumbs the depths of the nature of human and divine love. See the complete text of the poem on the Poetry Foundation website.

And here is my tiny haiku, inspired by Pope’s life, his silver winged tongue, wit, and criticism, which qualifiy him as one of my favorite artists:

Little Nightingale

In Hump-Backed Toad Disguise

Sings a Priceless Song

You Vulnerable? Covenant Haiku XII

Jonathan Holmes has a great post up on the Covenant Eyes blog which delves into the gut-wrenching reasons for viewing pornographic images. He offers some fabulous advice for pastors who are searching for an accountability model that motivates an atmosphere of healing and sanctification. The article is titled “Fostering Christ-Centered Vulnerability in Your Church About Pornography,” and it may be found here. 

Holmes drills deep into the reasons why online accountability does not work (of and by itself); he explains what is needed alongside online accountability: “Embedded Accountability”:

By nature, I think many of us struggle with awkwardness in social settings. Accountability-specific relationships as they relate to pornography and purity only heighten this relational dynamic. I know what question is going to be asked of me, and I know I can either lie about it or tell the truth. Not very many options.

If that’s the conversation, I’ll soon either be a consummate liar or overwhelmed with guilt and shame. Neither of which promotes the life-saving truth of the gospel (Holmes).

This article is packed with wisdom and great accountability advice. I highly recommend this article for Christian counselors, mentors, pastors, or anyone who wants to foster a profoundly effective accountability relationship.

Continue reading to see your Covenant Haiku XII

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Covenant Haiku IX: The Slender Man Commeth—After Your Kids!

There is a creepy side of the Internet. We all know  this. But I was taken aback by this article by Leigh Ann Seger, an Internet Safety Consultant with Covenant Eyes: “Slender Man and Other Big Fat Digital Dangers Headed for Your Young Children.”

Seger tells of the bizarre and sometimes horrific (fictional) stories that circulate online. While the stories may be harmless for adults, they may cause a huge problem for young, impressionable kids.

Seger’s exposé unpacks the reasons why this type of content may be harmful to your kids. It’s all about the not-fully-developed brains of children. Seger quotes David Walsh, a child psychologist:

The teenage brain is different from the adult brain, says Walsh. The impulse control center of the brain, the part of the brain that enables us to think ahead, consider consequences, manage urges—that’s the part of the brain right behind our forehead called the prefrontal cortex. He says part of the brain is under construction during the teenage years. In fact, Walsh continues, the wiring of that is not completed until the early 20s (Covenant Eyes).

The development of the brain is under construction during the teen years and is not complete until kids are well into adulthood! This is an insightful article, one which will raise parental hackles.

A word to the wise: Parents, pay close attention to the content to which your kids are exposed online—a must read for parents raising healthy kids with healthy brains.

Continue reading for today’s Covenant Haiku: “The Slender Man Commeth—After Your Kids!”

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