Budding Again

I don’t know about anyone else, but after a long “season” of enduring all the COVID-19 restrictions, this poem by George Herbert resonates with me. Once again, I am feeling energized and hopeful. This is true of life in general — we go through dark times, times of pain or grief, but through our hope in Christ, those times pass and we “bud again.”

The Flower

BY GEORGE HERBERTHow fresh, oh Lord, how sweet and clean
Are thy returns! even as the flowers in spring;
         To which, besides their own demean,
The late-past frosts tributes of pleasure bring.
                      Grief melts away
                      Like snow in May,
         As if there were no such cold thing.

         Who would have thought my shriveled heart
Could have recovered greenness? It was gone
         Quite underground; as flowers depart
To see their mother-root, when they have blown,
                      Where they together
                      All the hard weather,
         Dead to the world, keep house unknown.

         These are thy wonders, Lord of power,
Killing and quickening, bringing down to hell
         And up to heaven in an hour;
Making a chiming of a passing-bell.
                      We say amiss
                      This or that is:
         Thy word is all, if we could spell.

         Oh that I once past changing were,
Fast in thy Paradise, where no flower can wither!
         Many a spring I shoot up fair,
Offering at heaven, growing and groaning thither;
                      Nor doth my flower
                      Want a spring shower,
         My sins and I joining together.

         But while I grow in a straight line,
Still upwards bent, as if heaven were mine own,
         Thy anger comes, and I decline:
What frost to that? what pole is not the zone
                      Where all things burn,
                      When thou dost turn,
         And the least frown of thine is shown?

         And now in age I bud again,
After so many deaths I live and write;
         I once more smell the dew and rain,
And relish versing. Oh, my only light,
                      It cannot be
                      That I am he
         On whom thy tempests fell all night.

         These are thy wonders, Lord of love,
To make us see we are but flowers that glide;
         Which when we once can find and prove,
Thou hast a garden for us where to bide;
                      Who would be more,
                      Swelling through store,
         Forfeit their Paradise by their pride.

For more poems by George Herbert see these posts:

A Poem on Rest by George Herbert

An English Major Moment from Joan

Another English Major Moment

Pilgrims and Pilgrimage

I’ve been thinking about this topic recently after reading a book about going on a pilgrimage (Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron–Book Review). I came across this poem by Sir Walter Raleigh, said to have been written shortly before his death by beheading. I really liked it, and I hope our readers will, too. It’s definitely an English major moment!

The Passionate Man’s Pilgrimage

Give me my scallop shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immortal diet,
My bottle of salvation,
My gown of glory, hope’s true gage,
And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage.

   Blood must be my body’s balmer,
No other balm will there be given,
Whilst my soul, like a white palmer,
Travels to the land of heaven;
Over the silver mountains,
Where spring the nectar fountains;
And there I’ll kiss
The bowl of bliss,
And drink my eternal fill
On every milken hill.
My soul will be a-dry before,
But after it will ne’er thirst more;
And by the happy blissful way
More peaceful pilgrims I shall see,
That have shook off their gowns of clay,
And go apparelled fresh like me.
I’ll bring them first
To slake their thirst,
And then to taste those nectar suckets,
At the clear wells
Where sweetness dwells,
Drawn up by saints in crystal buckets
.

   And when our bottles and all we
Are fill’d with immortality,
Then the holy paths we’ll travel,
Strew’d with rubies thick as gravel,
Ceilings of diamonds, sapphire floors,
High walls of coral, and pearl bowers.

   From thence to heaven’s bribeless hall
Where no corrupted voices brawl,
No conscience molten into gold,
Nor forg’d accusers bought and sold,
No cause deferr’d, nor vain-spent journey,
For there Christ is the king’s attorney,
Who pleads for all without degrees,
And he hath angels, but no fees.
When the grand twelve million jury
Of our sins and sinful fury,
’Gainst our souls black verdicts give,
Christ pleads his death, and then we live.
Be thou my speaker, taintless pleader,
Unblotted lawyer, true proceeder,
Thou movest salvation even for alms,
Not with a bribed lawyer’s palms.
And this is my eternal plea
To him that made heaven, earth, and sea,
Seeing my flesh must die so soon,
And want a head to dine next noon,
Just at the stroke when my veins start and spread,
Set on my soul an everlasting head.
Then am I ready, like a palmer fit,
To tread those blest paths which before I writ.

P. S. In case you are wondering, the scallop shell was an ancient symbol associated with pilgrimage, and palmer is another name for pilgrim.

If you’re interested in more of my English major moments see:

An English Major Moment from Joan

Another of Joan’s English Major Moments

More Rest In Nature + English Major Moment!

A Poem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote this poem in 1944. It is a comfort that in our need, God comes to us, whether that need is sickness, hunger, or sin.

People go to God when they’re in need,
plead for help, pray for blessings and bread,
for rescue from their sickness, guilt, and death.
So do they all. All of them, Christians and heathens.

People go to God when God’s in need,
find God poor, reviled, without shelter or bread,
see God devoured by sin, weakness, and death.
Christians stand by God in God’s own pain.

God goes to all people in their need,
fills body and soul with God’s own bread,
goes for Christians and heathens to Calvary’s death
and forgives them both.

For more on Dietrich Bonhoeffer see these posts:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Hope

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Prayer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on God’s Victory

Martin Luther on Facing Challenges

“Inasmuch as tribulation serves the same purpose as rhubarb, myrrh, aloes, or an antidote against all the worms, poison, decay, and dung of this body of death, it ought not to be despised. We must not willingly seek or select afflictions, but we must accept those which God sees fit to visit upon us, for he knows which are suitable and salutary for us and how many and how heavy they should be.”

Martin Luther

For more Martin Luther quotes see:

Martin Luther on Uncertainty

Martin Luther on Charity

Martin Luther on Youth

A Poem of Surrender

Milton was going blind when he wrote this Sonnet.  He was wondering how he could continue his work.  Would he be able to serve and glorify God any longer?  Would he be rebuked by God for not completing his task?  The answer of course, is that God doesn’t need our works– what He wants is our surrender to His will.

Sonnet 19: When I consider how my light is spent

When I consider how my light is spent,
   Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
   And that one Talent which is death to hide
   Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
   My true account, lest he returning chide;
   “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
   I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
   Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
   Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
   And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
   They also serve who only stand and wait.
For more about John Milton see:

Another of Joan’s English Major Moments

I haven’t had an English major moment for a while, but I came across part of this poem in my daily devotional, had to look up the rest, and now I want to share.  It’s uncertain if this poem was actually written on John Donne’s deathbed, but certainly at a time when he thought he could die.  I love the image of the Christian as God’s music!

Hymn to God, My God, In My Sickness

Since I am coming to that holy room,
Where, with thy choir of saints for evermore,
I shall be made thy music; as I come
I tune the instrument here at the door,
And what I must do then, think here before.

Whilst my physicians by their love are grown
Cosmographers, and I their map, who lie
Flat on this bed, that by them may be shown
That this is my south-west discovery,
Per fretum febris, by these straits to die,

I joy, that in these straits I see my west;
For, though their currents yield return to none,
What shall my west hurt me? As west and east
In all flat maps (and I am one) are one,
So death doth touch the resurrection.

Is the Pacific Sea my home? Or are
The eastern riches? Is Jerusalem?
Anyan, and Magellan, and Gibraltar,
All straits, and none but straits, are ways to them,
Whether where Japhet dwelt, or Cham, or Shem.

We think that Paradise and Calvary,
Christ’s cross, and Adam’s tree, stood in one place;
Look, Lord, and find both Adams met in me;
As the first Adam’s sweat surrounds my face,
May the last Adam’s blood my soul embrace.

So, in his purple wrapp’d, receive me, Lord;
By these his thorns, give me his other crown;
And as to others’ souls I preach’d thy word,
Be this my text, my sermon to mine own:
“Therefore that he may raise, the Lord throws down.”

For more of Joan’s English major moments, see these posts:

An English Major Moment from Joan\

Another English Major Moment

More Rest In Nature + English Major Moment!

The Perfect Church?

Recently I remembered a little poem I read once about the perfect church.  I went searching for it on the internet, and found a number of versions attributed to different people.  Here’s my compilation.  You’ll probably get a chuckle out of it, as I did.

THE PERFECT CHURCH

If you could find the perfect church, without one spot or smear,

For goodness sake, don’t join that church, you’d spoil the atmosphere!

I think that I will never see, a church that’s all it ought to be,

A church that has no empty pews, whose pastor never has the blues,

A church whose deacons always “deak,” and none are proud and all are meek.

Where gossips never peddle lies, or make complaints or criticize.

Where all are always sweet and kind, and all to others faults are blind.

Such perfect churches there may be, but none of them are known to me.

So since no perfect church exists, where people never sin,

Stop looking for the perfect church and love the one you’re in!

For more on the church see these posts:

We (the Laity) Are the Church

The Church Family

Do I help or hurt the Church?

 

 

 

John Donne, Again

John Donne was an English clergyman and one of the metaphysical poets.  This poem celebrates the victory of God over the evil of death.

Death, be not proud (Holy Sonnet 10)

John Donne – 1571-1631

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou’art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy’or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

For more by John Donne, see these posts:

A Quote By John Donne

John Donne on the Church

A John Donne Sonnet on Freedom

 

Little Lamb

This poem was written by Willian Blake(1757-1827), English poet and painter.  It is part of a larger collection which was his most famous work, Songs of Innocence and Experience.  Consider this one of my English major moments!  The Lamb, of course, is Jesus.

 

                      Little Lamb who made thee

Dost thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice!
Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee

Little Lamb I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb I’ll tell thee!
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb:
He is meek & he is mild,
He became a little child:
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb God bless thee.
Little Lamb God bless thee.

For more on William Blake go to this post:

More Rest In Nature + English Major Moment!

 

 

I’ll Go?

In church this past Sunday, the choir sang this hymn:

It made me wonder how many of us are really willing to go and do and be whatever Christ wants.  I fear I’m too often more like the anonymous writer of the poem below.  I’m all too inclined to offer God what feels comfortable and convenient.  Which kind of Christian are you?

Think It Over

I’ll go where You want me to go, dear Lord;
Real service is what I desire;
I’ll say what You want me to say, dear Lord—
But don’t ask me to sing in the choir.I’ll say what You want me to say, dear Lord;
I like to see things come to pass;
But don’t ask me to teach girls and boys, dear Lord—
I’d rather just stay in my class.I’ll do what You want me to do, dear Lord;
I yearn for the Kingdom to thrive;
I’ll give You my nickels and dimes, dear Lord—
But please don’t ask me to tithe.I’ll go where You want me to go, dear Lord;
I’ll say what You want me to say;
I’m busy just now with myself, dear Lord—
I’ll help You some other day.