Friday, November 26, 2010

SAICFF and The Sojourner's Poet Fellowship

Among the SAIC Film Festival's highlights was a rough screening of Ace Wonder, Message from a Dead Man. Directed by John Moore, this movie will show that independent, family, Christian studios can produce films which are technically sound and have good storytelling. It was satisfying to see the vast improvements in acting skills and in storytelling, and to hear a world class musical score by Ben Bodkin. Did I mention that John Moore's storytelling has improved?

Other good movies included The Runner from Ravenshead (VERY GOOD), Divided (Yes!), The Penny, Agenda: Grinding America Down, and Live to Forgive.

The main thing which I discovered at the festival, however, was an idea. I have long wanted to form (or join) a group of poets with a kindred belief in the sufficiency of Scripture. After watching the accomplishments of so many small studios and ordinary people, I have decided to put this group officially into a planning stage, with "The Sojourner's Poet Fellowship" as a working name. Membership will be by application/invitation once the Fellowship becomes official. Hopefully a founding document/manifesto will be forthcoming.

So come ye poets, (if ye do exist). James, may I enlist you as my first co-member?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Meditations, II - IV


Like a deep well is a man whose tears are not hidden,
The one who speaks plainly is a cool cistern.


The heart is like a drunken man,
And stumbles like a man full of wine;
Standing, he declares his balance
Until he has fallen again.


He has cast wide the stars beyond the heavens;
Will you count each as a grain of sand?
Each one burns – mankind dwells in a hundred trillion shadows.
Will you change them, or brush them away with your hand?

Should He seek you out from the heavens?
Should He find a single grain of sand from all the shores?
Should He love you, a grain of a grain?

Saturday, November 06, 2010

From the Archives

To those who know me from Apricotpie: you may disregard this post. The purpose of this is simply to put some of my older poetry on display for those who know me from elsewhere.


I didn’t know the someone
Who left us with this smold’ring
In our minds; who left us holding
Less, and wond’ring what had gone.

And watching from the pew-side,
Her good friend praying, clinging
To the railing; mem’ry ringing,
With her smile before she’d died,

I saw her shaking, sinking,
To the floor, and felt my weakness,
Looking on and standing, helpless –
Asking then what all were thinking:

What is this empty evening?
God, why have You shred these faces?
Lord of Mercy, filled their glasses
With the bitterest of wine?


Later on I heard her brother
Barely reading what he’d written –
That she’d never be forgotten,
That he’d loved her like no other,

And his voice became unsteady,
(Had some mem’ry of his sister
Crossed his eye?) His words were
Halting, and his sorrow free.

And I, who was a stranger,
Bowed my head in silence, broken,
Wond’ring at the words he’d spoken,
Reeling in the painful wonder:

“Tell your family, tell your friends,
What I wasn’t there to tell her;
I wish that I had been there,
And I will see her, soon, again.”


And now, the dwindling rays
Of this dark Friday’s evening
Are sketching shadows, leaving
Traces of the grief-struck day,

And I’m, in silence, sitting;
Dim reflections of Your glory
Have begun to overcome me;
All that I have left is trusting

That the smile she had while with us
Was like a candle, flick’ring
In the darkness of our misery
Of a traveler through this earth;

And that her smile, now with You,
Has become a brilliant burning;
And though we remain in mourning,
Hers is everlasting joy.

Moth’s Wing

Lay the tulips softly, withered hand;
Grass has crept onto the dirt
And skirts the ashen stone.

The first touch of her fingers
Had been a golden moth’s wing beneath the moon;
A silver-blue shape at your brother’s wedding dance,
With laughing eyes.

A Prayer to the King of Glory

Let me dwell within Your breath, my King of endless Glory,
And hide me in the shadow of Your love;
Though my sins, like a forest, stand ever thick around me,
Remind me that Your promise is enough.

It’s been years since You first called me, to this desperate journey,
And I tremble for the little way I’ve come;
But though my love is faithless, still Your face has not turned from me,
And Your arms are open, even though I run.

Lord, it is not Your justice that eludes my comprehension,
Nor Your judgment passed on worthless, filthy men,
Nor Your wisdom, nor Your power, but your graceful intervention,
And Your sacrifice to pay for all my sin.

King, You know that I’m a failure, and my wrongs are like an ocean,
And I’ve little courage, even for a man,
But I’m resting in Your promise, though with faltering devotion,
And trusting You’ll complete what You began.

And when it is they ask me, “Who is this King of Glory?”
I pray that I will answer with Your name;
Though men of wrath or lions stand open-mouthed before me,
Give me the strength to answer them the same.


Spread behind.

The glass is touched;
Broken, where I’ve gone,
Clear ahead,

Silent trees
Stoop down to meet the water,
Hidden shores drift by;
Red-crowned mountains
Spread the lake
With twilight fire.

The owl’s cry
Echoes in the fading sun:
I must have come by dream
Into this living song
Where mountains
Speak with wild words:
“This is a shadow of the Glory”


Hush, Naomi;

The sparrow sings
Beyond the twisted wire

Last night
His small hand
Held your finger,
His glassy brown eyes
Held yours
When they took him,
They left his empty blanket
In your hand:
It is cold

And still
You sit beside the door
And watch
The wood ants file
Slowly by
And hear the sparrow sing.

Hush, Naomi.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Where Have the Stars Gone?

This piece was written during a road trip from Alabama to New York. It is supposed to be a song, with the music provided by my good friend and former roommate Chris Adams. The words and the tune, however, have not yet been tried together and may not actually work. Also, the tune for the chorus has not yet been written, so I left the words of that part unedited.

Verse 1

Savior I run to you, stumble and fall,
The lights of this city are shining in vain.
My eyes, they are weary; my drink, it is gall,
My head has forgotten, my hands hold a stain.


Oh God, where have the stars gone?
In never-ending blackness
They shown brilliant with Your glory.
My soul had been well rested,
Until they disappeared.

Verse 2

A burden of sorrow is tied to my shoulders,
How will I not stumble, how will I not fall?
And how will the wounded around me see comfort
If stars do not guide me, if you’re not my all?

Verse 3

Oh, vanish the lights of this terrestrial city
For stars are most brilliant when darkness is shown!
And if I should stumble, yet I’ll be made steady,
And if I should fall I will still be your own.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Quotes >

"I preach as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men."

This was originally spoken by the English preacher Richard Baxter, who lived from 1615 to 1691. The thought came out of Baxter's perpetual struggle with internal bleeding, which informed his ministry to such an extent that he is remembered as one of the greatest preachers and pastors of the era.

Recently, I had an opportunity to present the Gospel to a group of about forty fellow midshipmen as I gave the talk at my school's Christian Fellowship Club. There were at least five people in the audience who were not regulars, and probably another ten or so regulars who were not believers. I spoke as God allowed, and with some emotion. I talked about the goodness and justice of a Holy God. I talked about repentance, redemption and forgiveness. I talked about having God as a father. I believe that most heard a bit of what I said, but I am not sure if any of the unsaved heard the heart of it.

Now, with my graduation approaching, I have just days left. My witness to my classmates will effectively die on June 21, 2010. Even now, I can think of one person in particular who I care about, who is abjectly miserable, and who has never heard the full Gospel from me. I wonder if I will have a chance to speak with him again.

God is sovereign, and His plans are beyond our understanding. But from our viewpoint, the lines of battle have been drawn. We are surrounded by miserable, hopeless, evil people who are doing everything they can to convince themselves that they are happy, content, and deserving. They hurt others, they hurt themselves, and they despise the idea of surrender to Christ. We cannot present a timid Gospel to them, because a timid Gospel has no power to challenge that kind of miserable self-reliance.

We will often not know which conversation or which opportunity to speak will be our last. Thus, I resolve this: to write as a dying man to dying men, to speak as a dying man to dying men, and to pray as a dying man for dying men. And I will be adding Baxter's The Saint's Everlasting Rest to my reading list.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Traveler Who Loves the Rain

The follwing are two versions of the same poem. I begain the poem in an attempt to write a Villanelle, but then experimented with several shorter forms. The first is the original, and the second is the best of the shortened versions:

Don’t ask that life be good to you, or free from pain,
Lest you, betrayed, should stumble on the slip’ry ground,
And fall, a bloodied traveler who hates the rain.

And rising, do not shake your fist aloft, in vain:
The sky is brooding, dark, and ever without sound;
This life will not be easy, or lived free from pain.

The blood and dirt mix on your coat, a spreading stain,
And drip (a sting, each drop) from fingers to the ground,
From you, a weary traveler who hates the rain.

The water’s running down your arm in little veins,
And washes down your coat and cleans your dirty wound;
Don’t ask that life be always kind, without this pain.

But readjust your pack: you are hurt, not slain,
Stand fast, and take a footing on this muddy mound,
You silent, brooding traveler beneath the rain.

Look down this gritty road, this black and muddy lane;
A way was made for you until you’re homeward bound:
“Don’t ask that life be kind to you, or free from pain,
But learn to be a traveler who loves the rain.”


I asked that life be good to me, and free from pain,
And I, betrayed, soon stumble on the slip’ry ground;
And rising, then, I shook my fist aloft, in vain;
The sky was brooding, dark, and ever without sound.

The blood and dirt mixed on my shirt, a gritty stain,
And dripped (a sting, each drop) from fingers to the ground;
The rain ran down my wounded arm in little veins,
Until, through all the darkness, came a voice, a sound:

“Now readjust your pack: you are hurt, not slain,
Stand fast, and take a footing on this muddy mound,
Don’t ask that life be kind to you, or free from pain;
A way was made for you until you’re homeward bound.”

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Broken (Meditations, I)

This thing I ask of my Lord:
That when my soul becomes lofty, I receive tears,
And that my arrogant heart will be scorched with truth.
Then I may dwell at the side of God,
And my soul will be lifted up.

As the proud heart which stands in grace,
So is the soldier who sleeps in battle;
When his enemy comes, he will be surrounded,
He will lay down his rifle in the face of his foe.
Only in prison will he learn to be watchful,
And he will find humility through pain.