Glass Poetry

Good morning!

By the time this publishes, I shall be winging my way to New York for Christmas. Flying has always seemed a little magical to me- I’ve had the mechanics explained to me by a pilot, but I don’t buy it. My best explanation for the phenomena I experience when I get into this huge metal bus and fly though the air is that somehow our wizards have harnessed the power of fire and air (HT Doug Wilson). Anyway, here’s another bit from MacDonald’s book Phantastes, a fairy romance which you all should read. Anodos, the main character, has gone to sleep in the forest. He wakes up in the middle of the night and wanders over to a pond to see the reflection of the moon therein.

Why are all reflections lovelier than what we call the reality?—not so grand or so strong, it may be, but always lovelier? Fair as is the gliding sloop on the shining sea, the wavering, trembling, unresting sail below is fairer still. Yea, the reflecting ocean itself, reflected in the mirror, has a wondrousness about its waters that somewhat vanishes when I turn towards itself. All mirrors are magic mirrors. The commonest room is a room in a poem when I turn to the glass.

I love the way MacDonald sees things.


Good evening,

Don’t know if I’ve ever posted this before. I wrote this in 2012, trying to see the cosmos like the medievals. Perhaps you’ll see it as a welcome break from all this exegesis stuff.

Dark phantasmagoria
In madness bound by Cynthia
Gaia’s sickly children long
For brightly lit Empyrean.

In flowing speech and language fair
Where silver parts and silver meets
They hear the fair and winged one
Tell them of Empyrean.

Though yet with darkened eyes, they see
Unimagined bright beauty;
Long straight arms of burnished bronze
Point to fair Empyrean.

Next the children of the Fall
Reach Helios’ golden hall
Yet even the incandescent sun
Is a shadow of Empyrean.

The ragged travelers nearly turn
From gates of iron, black and stern
But martial spirits urge them on
To march to grand Empyrean.

To the courtly dwelling of king Jove
Our small and weary seekers rove
Though respite comes in bright pavilions
True kingly splendor is Empyrean’s.

Black leaden lands they come to last
And feel cruel Saturn’s mortal blast
But death Earth’s sons will gladly welcome
To walk into Empyrean.

Here baptized in the stream of stars
The wanderers wash away their scars
Styx is their Jordan; out they come
Now ready for Empyrean.

At last to everlasting day
The travelers have made their way
They’re greeted by a nail-scored Son–
The bright Lord of Empyrean.


Rhetorical RPG


I know all my posts lately have been about exegesis; that’s just what happens when I’m in the midst of writing a paper on the subject. Out of the overflow of the study, the student blogs, I guess (By the way, that’s an example of metalepsis).

I found this gem from R.B Hays’ book Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul, and in my opinion it blows Longenecker out of the water.

If we learned from Paul how to read Scripture, we would learn to appreciate the metaphorical relation between the text and our own reading of it. Thus, we would begin to cherish the poetics of imagination, allowing rhetoric to lie down peacefully with grammar and logic. In our own proclamation of the word, we would grant a broad space for the play of echo and allusion, for figurative intertextual conjunctions, and even–if our communities were sufficiently rooted in Scripture’s symbolic soil–for metalepsis. The troping of the text would be the natural consequence of locating our lives within its story.

By the way, a metalepsis is a figure of speech used in a new context. See my example above.


Solid Love


It has been a hectic few weeks, but I’m back. At least, I think I’m back. Time will tell.

I think that for Christians, the way that we will rise to meet the challenge of Postmodernism is by throwing off the dead abstract propositionalism of Plato, which the church has flirted with since her inception. It is not enough to simply state true things; Jesus didn’t give lectures, he told stories. And our stories are better than anyone else’s because they’re both true and beautiful.

What I’m talking about is enfleshed, narratival Christianity, the sort that Lewis and Wilson and Rigney are always going on about (for a better explanation of this, read Nate Wilson’s book Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl). This Christianity embraces everything that God has made, and sees God better because of it.

I think this is what Psalm 136 is getting at. To describe the steadfast love of God, the Psalmist uses pictures, mostly. Here’s an excerpt from a sermon I delivered last fall on Psalm 136:

So what does God’s steadfast love look like? The Psalmist paints us a picture, if we just walk down through these twenty-six verses. It looks like God in himself, before all worlds, existing in infinite happiness as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, high and lifted up in every way. It looks like 200 billion stars in our galaxy. It looks like the Amazon Rainforest, the Swiss Alps, the Mojave Desert. It looks like a sunrise painting the sky red and gold on a cold, clear morning in Minnesota. It looks like a full moon wreathed in wispy clouds. It looks like a few thousand pounds of Egyptian armor rusting away at the bottom of the Red Sea, and 2 1/2 million pairs of Israelite footprints coming out on the other side. It looks like manna in the morning- every morning- for forty years, without fail. It looks like the armies of the Amorites crashing against the children of Israel like water against a rock. It looks like a field of battle littered with fallen soldiers from Bashan, with not a single dead Israelite warrior to be found. It looks like crossing the Jordan on dry land, like grapes the size of your head, like a land flowing with milk and honey, like peace and rest and safety and security and deliverance and provision-that’s what the steadfast love of the Lord looks like, according to the Psalmist. Twenty-six grand exhibits of God’s covenant-keeping love toward his people.

There will no doubt be more on this later.


It’s Not Going To Kill You To Try


I’ve got be studying for these last weeks of school- I just need a little distraction before I start, so thank you for providing me with this opportunity.

I’ve written on my previous blog about reading the Word typologically, poetically- an art I strongly believe in, and a thing which I think Christians are leery of today. There is good reason for this, no doubt. If you start assigning hidden meanings and symbolism to Scripture at will, it may end up looking more like Alice in Wonderland than orthodoxy pretty quickly. Nevertheless, I think it can be done responsibly, and even in a way which doesn’t presume upon Scripture.

What I’m talking about is thoughtful reflection on the Scripture, followed by creative expression. George Herbert is, I feel, the master of this. In his poem “The Sacrifice,” he points out over and over again these ironies in Christ’s Passion which are both poignant and deeply tragic.
For example: in speaking of the soldiers blindfolding Jesus to strike him, Herbert says (from the viewpoint of Christ), “My face they cover, though it be divine/ As Moses’ face was veiled, so is mine/ Lest on their double-dark souls either shine.”
Now, is that a comparison that the text would lead us to make? Probably not. But what insight it brings! It’s clear that Herbert thought deeply about the event of Christ’s trial, connected this event to Moses covering his face, and expressed it in such a way that we would see the sad irony in this bit of the story.
Another example: speaking of the crown of thorns, he writes, “So sits the earth’s great curse in Adam’s fall/ Upon my head: so I remove it all/ From th’ earth unto my brows, and bear the thrall.”
I had never thought of it like that- of course it’s true that in his crucifixion Jesus bore Adam’s curse, but is that what the crown of thorns represents? Maybe. Maybe not.

My point: Herbert isn’t saying that the authors of Scripture intended that these connections be made; in making them for us, he is simply helping us to think deeply about Scripture ourselves. We don’t have to pretend that everything we imagine Scripture might be saying is gospel truth, and it certainly isn’t going to kill us to try.

Back to work,

Either An Idiot Or A Genius

John 6, the feeding of the five thousand. I’m reading it and trying to picture the scene. Jesus has been teaching a huge crowd, and now their hungry. He’s got a trick up his sleeve, so he calls a brainstorming session.
“Philip, where are we to buy bread so that these people may eat?” I’ll bet Philip wasn’t happy to have been called on right then.
“Uh… we don’t have the money to give each of these folks a snack, let alone a meal.” And then Andrew butts in. I’ll bet Andrew and Peter’s mother had a blast raising those kids.
“Hey, there’s this kid here. He brought his lunchbox. It won’t feed everybody.” Thanks, idiot. Seriously- why would he even bring that up? It’s the equivalent of offering a slingshot to an army that’s just run out of ammo. Congratulations, Andrew- you get the Unhelpful Award for this week.

I have to wonder if Andrew was taking a page from yesterday’s post on imagination. I mean, it’s possible that he really was an idiot, but he had already seen Jesus turn water into wine, heal some folks, and drive some demons out. I think its more likely that he had no idea what was going on, but that he believed Jesus was going to pull a big one. He was just trying to get the ball rolling.

Not to compare one Christ’s apostles to the Queen of Hearts, but I think this interaction is interesting:

“There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” (Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland)

I admire Andrew for this. The guy just took a flying leap into absurdity and landed on solid ground. I think we could learn from him. I know I can.


I Dare You To Try

Good morning!

A quick word on Christian imagination: In what is one of my favorite phrases in the Old Testament, Psalm 126 says, “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream” (emphasis mine). We were like those who dream.

Because of their disobedience, these slaves made a people were cast out of the land of promise, ravaged by their enemies, demeaned, humiliated, slaughtered. The temple- where the glory of God had dwelt- was destroyed, the holy items pillaged. Tossed aside and forsaken by the God they had made angry, Israel was destitute and beyond hope.

And then, after 70 years, God restored their fortunes. The people returned to the land. The temple rebuilt. A new Son of David on the throne. Jerusalem’s wall restored. Is this a dream? Even better- no one could have dreamt this.

In the New Testament it gets better still: God’s wrath taken away forever, a new covenant written on our hearts, inducted into the divine life, an heir of the glory of God, the promise of eternity in the presence of the Lord, etc. It seems like it never ends.

Paul gets this. After praying for the Ephesians, that they would “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” and “be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19), he closes with this number: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20)- far more abundantly? What’s more abundant than knowing that which surpasses knowledge, or being filled with that which cannot be contained by heaven and earth? Now who’s dreaming? That’s quite an imagination you’ve got, Paul.

I think Christian imagination is good and necessary. After all, whatever God is going to do, it will surpass our wildest imagination, put our dreams to shame. God is in the habit of surprising his people like that. Moreover, exercising the imagination properly will teach us to expect big things of God, and to look for him to work. It will teach us to be amazed at what he does. And when God does something other than we expect, imagining will be taught by reality and become bigger yet- something on the scale of, Wow! I didn’t even know I could think that big!

So dream big dreams, pray impossible prayers, and think crazy thoughts. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what the Lord does.