If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry.
By Dr. Jim Ferguson
I find it easier to write when something comes to mind rather than waiting for perhaps a more noteworthy topic closer to deadline.
I could write about all that is wrong in this broken, fallen world, but there is enough that. So, after church and Sunday lunch with friends, and working in the garden with Becky on a beautiful spring afternoon, I started this essay with poetic joy in my heart and thoughts. There is goodness to be found in God’s creation, even though, these days, you sometimes have to actively look for it. So, I begin this essay thanking God for life and awareness of the Way.
I feel somewhat guilty because, as I enjoyed a beautiful spring day, people were dying in Ukraine. In 1939 Hitler launched WWII marching west to east across Europe before turning westward. The new Hitler is on the move from the east to the west threatening Ukraine and the rest of the world.
Long before the discredited, revisionist 1619 Project and the patently racist, anti-American CRT movement invaded education, I was taught to read and introduced to books like Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Sixty years ago, I remembered the line “It’s spring, son, and she’s coming in like a lion,” as March winds bent the still bare trees around me. Laura Ingalls ’autobiographical reflections of her family, first in the Wisconsin woods and then the Little House on the Prairie in Minnesota, were popularized by the TV series with Michael Landon. As a kid, I did not understand the concept of Americana, but Ingalls’ vision of our country, family and faith still resonates in my soul.
I grew up in a neighborhood that was safe and solid middle class. I rode my bike to the corner drug store, to the baseball field and often to school. Every generation thinks of their own childhood through the lens of their own idyllic experiences. However, we had our own troubles with “wars and rumors of war” such as the Cuban missile crisis, when Russia attempted to put nuclear missiles in Cuba. I remember my father taking us out of school and filling the bathtub with water in case we were attacked with nuclear missiles! Fast forward to the present, as war rages in Europe, we are again threatened by Russia with nuclear weapons.
These days you sometimes have to work to find goodness in the world. My fruit trees were slaughtered last weekend by a bitter spring freeze. But this is a first world problem because my life and my family’s well-being are not dependent upon what I can grow in my orchard, garden or vineyard. Perhaps I should not even use the word slaughter because the murder of my fruit trees cannot compare to Putin’s slaughter of Ukrainians.
As a writer and a Christian, I admire the work of CS Lewis. I have read over a dozen of his books. He is best known for his Christian apologetics, but he also wrote a science fiction trilogy which influenced me to write my own Stellar Trilogy. The second novel Mantis was just published, and I am at work on the third novel of the trilogy. Lewis averred that his hardest book to write was the Screwtape Letters. He said it was difficult because he had to write from the perspective of a devil whose every thought was negative and evil. I am no Pollyanna ignoring evil in the world, but I am trying to avoid being consumed by the bad and to look for the good. Actually, inflation, gas prices, European wars, and the mismanagement of our government pale in comparison to the difficulties of the Civil War, the Great Depression and World War II.
These days, fewer people memorize scripture, poetry or hymns. I once read Billy Graham lamented that he hadn’t memorized more Scripture which he could then recall when his eyes were too weak to read the Bible. I wish Mr. Graham had the app I have on my iPhone. I can have scripture read to me. However, I still memorize favorite verses to call my own. In antiquity, professional raconteurs memorized, for example, the entire Iliad, to recite to people who could not read.
So, in these troubled times where do you seek or find solace? I find peace in nature, in Sunday worship service, small group fellowship and hanging out with the lovely Becky. I also find sustenance for the soul in daily devotionals and writing, hymns and poetry.
Hymns are poetic theology set to music. Singing cherished hymns resonates with my soul and lifts my spirit. Poetry does the same. I like short pithy poems rather than long convoluted odes. Emily Dickinson is my favorite poet, but I also like Robert Frost who was a poet laureate of our country. So, in this rather unusual essay I’ll share with you the words of a poetic hymn and a few of my favorite poems. I hope they bring you peace and joy.
“O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be! Let thy goodness like a fetter bind my wandering heart to thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above” (Robert Robinson).
Robert Frost poetically described the lovely, yet transitory, green of spring: “Nature’s first green is gold. Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower, but only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So, Eden sank to grief, so dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.”
And on encountering a field of spring daffodils, William Wordsworth penned, “I gazed and gazed but little thought what wealth the show to me had brought. For oft, when on my couch I lie in vacant or in pensive mood, they flash upon that inward eye which is the bliss of solitude; and then my heart with pleasure fills, and dances with the daffodils.
May your wandering heart be bound and your thoughts filled with a spring of hope.