Among Grandmother’s Books

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Hazel Felleman came to work for The New York Times as a teen-ager in 1905.  Eventually, she edited the Queries and Answers column, answering the questions of readers. I imagine we would not have heard of Ms. Felleman had Wikipedia been around. Often she would receive letters containing a snippet of poetry. Readers would ask if she could tell them the source of the poetry. She would answer and publish the poem as well.  So often did the questions come about the same poem that she began to keep records of the answers and ultimately published a book of poetry called The Best Loved Poems of the American People (still available on Amazon!). She explains in the preface:

The majority of inquiries that I receive are for favorite poems, and since not a day passes that does not bring to my desk a large sheaf of letters from all parts of the country, it is only natural that I have learned something of the poetry preferences of the American people. I have used this knowledge rather than my own personal liking in the selection of these poems; but I feel free to say that there are few of the poem that I would not have included myself.

Ms. Felleman worked for The New York Times for 46 years and retired in 1951. She died on April 30, 1975. You can read her interesting obituary HERE

Recently I stumbled upon a stack of books that belonged to my grandmother. As a book hound, I was immediately interested. I loved my grandmother as a child but circumstances led to my not seeing her much in the last years of her life. That’s a story in itself, but suffice it to say that it was neither her nor my choice that we didn’t see one another. But back to the books. Her books were not my usual interest, but I procured a couple of them and brought them home. One of them was a book of poetry. Yes, Hazel Felleman’s Best Loved Poems book.

Now I must confess that poetry is not my great love. However, the snippets of paper and pencil markings seemed to give me a guided tour of what may have been my grandmother’s favorite poems. There are nearly 700 pages of poetry, assembled according to subject matter, but I decided to at least thumb through it. I admit that some of the poems caught my eye … and some caught my heart.

Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting. – Robert Frost

I  noticed familiar names like Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, RudyardStockSnap_WAFKX8JUDB Kipling, Edwin Markham, Alfred Tennyson, William Wordsworth and that poet best known as Unknown. I expect that if Ms. Felleman couldn’t find out who wrote it, then the author is truly unknown. I began marking the poems that really struck me. These are the ones I want to revisit sometime when I’ve wandered through the entire volume.

Lines keep running through my mind …

I am weary of the Garden, Said the Rose;

For the winter winds are sighing,

All my playmates round me dying,

And my leaves will soon be lying ‘Neath the snows.

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If you should go before me, dear, walk slowly

Down the ways of death, well-worn and wide,

For I would want to overtake you quickly

And seek the journey’s ending by your side.

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I’d like to be the sort of friend that you have been to me;

I’d like to be the help that you’ve been always glad to be’

Id like to mean as much to you each minute of the day

As you have meant, old friend of mine, to me along the way.

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If you want to have the kind of a church, Like the kind of a church you like,

You needn’t slip your clothes in a grip, And start on a long, long hike.

You’ll only find what you left behind, For there’s nothing really new.

It’s a knock at yourself when you knock your church; It isn’t the church – it’s you.

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While posting a few of these in entirety on my Facebook page I realized that poetry resonates with a wide range of people. I think I was missing out on something, not being enamored with poetry.

Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history. – Leonardo da Vinci

I don’t know what will become of this book. Perhaps one of my grandchildren will happen upon it once I’m gone and think to themselves that they might like to read the poems that Poppy liked. I hope so.

…And few shall know we ever lived a hundred years from now… Mary A. Ford

Out Here Hope Remains, JD.

Did Not Overcome

The Light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness did not understand it or overpower it or appropriate it or absorb it [and is unreceptive to it]. – John 1:5, AMP

I hope your new year is beginning with brightness and optimism. Resolutions, plans for new ways to approach our issues, and the hope that things are going to be different in the next 365 days than they were before. After the fireworks and shifting the Christmas decor back into the attic we look around and things remain about the same. Those struggles? Still there. The pain? It still hurts. The issues? They’re nagging. The hope for something different … it is dimming.

What really changed in our new year’s celebrations? Just a replacement of the old calendar with a new one and acquiring the new habit of writing 2018 instead of 2017. (As a bonus, though, it’s easy to correct the 7 to an 8!) I know that sounds pessimistic, but if any of us were thinking that the arrival of January meant brand new life, we were wrong.

I do, however, believe in the potential for new life. It just doesn’t come from a calendar. Into a sin-soaked and sin-darkened world the Light of Jesus came. The darkness didn’t get him … wouldn’t accept him … even today it yammers about him. The darkness tried to kill him. Couldn’t. The darkness tried to kill his people. This resurrection thing is just hard to overcome! The darkness tries to deny him. He keeps saving anyone who will believe in him.

New life comes from the light of the world. New life comes from living in the light of grace. Grace doesn’t deny sin, it heals and lets in the light. New life comes from yielding to the Spirit. The more I try to fix my own life the worse things get.  New life comes from the story of the light. The more I get to know him the more I love him.

“Grace shatters our darkness. Grace explodes on us with penetrating, heart-exposing light. Grace illumines our dank hallways and our dark corners. The Son of grace shines the light of his grace into the darkest recesses of our hearts, not as an act of vengeance or punishment, but as a move of forgiving, transforming, and delivering grace”. – Paul Tripp, New Morning Mercies

Can We Find New Life When We Feel We Live in the Darkness?

Some days I still don’t get it. How could he live, die, resurrect, and love a sinner like me? Why is there darkness still around when the King of Light is reigning? Why … why … why … humans have been asking for eons. But the transformational power for new hope and new life comes even in my hours of wondering and weakness. It’s not a change of calendar, it is a change of Savior. Thank you, Jesus, for your great love for all who trust in the Light that the Darkness could not, and never will, overpower.

“When I endure, in the darkness of faith, the prolonged wait for the God who comes, he has already come to me and is embracing me silently, with the same embrace with which I, in faith, embrace him. – Carlo Carretto, The God Who Comes

Whether you find yourself in darkness or light, remember, out here hope remains. JD

 

 

Book Question and Winner!

Congratulations to Rusty Pettus for being randomly chosen to win the Tim Keller book. Thanks to all of you who commented (and for your kind comments). I will do another giveaway soon … just a small way of sharing with others! 

Until then … as we wrap up 2017 … what’s the best book you read this year on a spiritual theme? I think we can stipulate that the BIBLE is the very best….so other than that? Would love to hear what book has impacted your faith and spiritual journey this year.

I had a goal on Goodreads to read 25 books this year. I finished 21 and am close with a few others…I might make it! It’s hard to pick one that was most beneficial to me. I do think, though, that the one that touched my heart the most was MONDAYS WITH MY OLD PASTOR.  Check it out!

TKellerOnce again, Rusty will be receiving the excellent Tim Keller book of devotionals from Proverbs. Rusty is the minister for the Natural Bridge Church of Christ in Lynn, Alabama. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter

 

Here’s a New Year prayer I found in the Spill The Beans publication that I’d like to share:

Sweep out the old.

Sweep in the new.

Sweep out fear.

Sweep in love.

Sweep out war.

Sweep in peace.

Sweep out poverty.

Sweep in sharing.

Sweep out all that breaks God’s heart.

Sweep in love and compassion.

The gifts of God for us to share.

Amen.

Wherever life finds you today, remember that out here hope remains. JD

 

Clearness

As we approach the end of this year, I appreciate this prayer. It is found in the Sarum Missal, an 11th-century book of prayer and worship practices. I wasn’t thumbing through the Sarum Missal, however. I found this prayer in Elizabeth Goudge’s Diary of Prayer, a book I’ve come to appreciate. It has prayers for each day of the year. So today’s prayer is this one:

We beseech thee, O gracious Lord, let our hearts be enlightened by the holy radiance of thy Son’s Incarnation; that so we may escape the darkness of this world, and by his guidance attain to the country of everlasting clearness. 

The country of everlasting clearness. What an expression of hope and recognition that we do see through a glass darkly, as Apostle Paul said.

For now we see in a mirror, dimly [in a riddle] but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

…The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4)

The darkness of this world is demonstrated daily in communities where we live. The atrocities of far away places have us shaking our heads; the violence that takes place within our villages stuns us. Only the light of the Son of God can provide illumination for the path out of the darkness. 

We should long for a country of everlasting clearness. To be able to understand God’s plan and know His love with complete clarity – that blessing awaits us in another time. To share with others a fellowship untinged by mixed motives and doubtful questions will be pure joy. To be secure without consideration of what might happen or how to survive the things that do happen will be such a relief. To be in a country of everlasting clearness

I’m hoping that our new year leads us closer to that place. I know only Jesus, light of the world, can show us the way. 

And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim… Isaiah 32:3

Until then, out here hope remains. JD

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarum_Rite

Every Cloud Wears a Rainbow

Every Cloud Wears a Rainbow

I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. – Genesis 9:13

She was born in Philadelphia in 1847. As a young girl she was interested in writing, her first poem published when she was only 12 years old. Lizzie De Armond was a believer in Sunday School and worked tirelessly writing hymns for children as well as material that could be used in classes. Her best known hymn is seldom heard in churches today. The first stanza is as follows:

If the dark shadows gather as you go along,

Do not grieve for their coming; sing a cheery song.

There is joy for the taking; it will soon be light.

Every cloud wears a rainbow if your heart keeps right.

We have been thinking a lot about clouds and storms, floods and rainbows in the past week. We have witnessed horrors and heroics. Most of us will go about our lives as usual, while many thousands are pulling out wet carpet, tearing out cabinets, and feeling quite hopeless. It seems trite to suggest that those who are hurting so deeply should ‘sing a cheery song’, but it is true that ‘there is joy for the taking’. Every cloud does wear a rainbow.

One Jan­u­ary 1st, De Armond writes, “Now in the light of the glad New Year, 1915, if an­y­thing I have writ­ten has helped to lift one soul above the cares and wor­ries of ever­y­day life, and brought it near­er to the great lov­ing heart of Je­sus, the joy is mine, but the glo­ry be­longs to God.”

Lizzie’s husband died in 1923, leaving her with eight children to raise. She had let her writing efforts go dormant for a while, but now she took it up with renewed vigor to support her family. She found a rainbow in that dark cloud.

I don’t know what 600 year old Noah thought when he saw his first rainbow, but I know what we should think. On our darkest day, God still keeps his promises. In fact, it’s often after the storm that we see so clearly His presence. Keep your heart right and you’ll see it. Every cloud wears a rainbow.                   

Thanks for reading. JD

Reference: http://cyberhymnal.org/bio/d/e/a/dearmon_l.htm

Trusting Faith

Trusting Faith
By Scott Elliott

Words do not stay the same. The definition or influence of a word can change over time. Sometimes they are overused and lose their power. Words that were once quite meaningful can become meaningless. Christianity is a religion that relies on certain words. The Bible is a story, and you cannot tell a story without words. Some of these words are essential to Christianity, and yet Christianity is a religion that has been around for many, many years. Christians have clung to important words while also dealing with an ever-changing world where the meaning of words can change.

Faith is one of the most significant words belonging to Christianity, but what does it mean? Over the years, many have equated it with belief. For these individuals, faith is the same as mental assent, but I believe a careful reading of the Bible will prove this definition to be inadequate. Certainly, belief is an element of faith, but it goes deeper than what a person may hold to be true.

Several times in the Gospel of Mark, faith is contrasted with fear (Mark 5:36). One of the most famous stories where this occurs is when Jesus calms a storm (Mark 4:35-41). You can imagine how frightening it would be to be on a small boat in the middle of a lake during a storm. Your boat could be capsized by the wind and waves. You would be susceptible to lightning strikes. You would essentially be helpless until you could reach shore. This is the situation that the disciples found themselves in. They were scared, and through it all Jesus slept. Finally, they decide to wake him. He calms the storm, and then says, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40).

If faith were merely belief, then fear would have no power over it. It’s possible to believe and at the same time be afraid. Faith is more closely related to trust. When we trust, fear goes away. This is what Jesus was looking for in the boat. The disciples were believers, but they did not have trusting faith. If they would have had faith in Jesus, then they would not have been afraid.

The contrast between faith and fear that Mark provides is helpful in evaluating our level of faith. It might be difficult for some to gauge their commitment to God adequately. We are great at critiquing others and not so great at self-criticism. However, if we think of fear as the opposite of faith, then it is much easier to identify areas where we are afraid. Wherever we find fear, we will likely also find a lack of faith. If we fear the political future of America, then we need to trust that God is sovereign over all. If we fear our neighbors who do not look like us, then we need to seek to love them all the more while trusting that God has created all people in his image. If we fear what will happen to the economy or where our next check will come from, then we need to trust that God will provide.

Radical faith is when we put our trust in God even when the future seems uncertain. We see this in story after story in the Bible beginning with Abraham. What we discover from Scripture is that God is always faithful. It would be difficult to trust in a chair that looks weak and fragile, and that has never been set in by you or someone you know. There would be no reason to trust the chair. However, if you saw a big sturdy chair that always provided a safe and secure seat for anyone who rested in it, then you would have no problem trusting the chair. God gives us every reason to trust him. We can always depend on God.

Scott Elliott is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and Austin Graduate School of Theology. He lives in La Grange, TX and is the minister for the La Grange Church of Christ. He is married and has two sons. He enjoys writing about the Christian faith and posting the occasional film review. His articles and reviews have appeared in RELEVANT magazine, Englewood Review of Books, and other publications. Scott’s blog, Resurrected Living, can be found HERE. Follow him on Twitter @tscott_elliott.