Author: Sarah (Page 1 of 4)

After Rain

Heavy veils of grey yield to wind,

Parting to reveal still-shining blue,

Shedding soft shreds, whiter now and thinned,

Gladsome white-gold sunshine beaming through.

 

All the ruts and ditches that here lie,

They are mirrors now of water-glass,

Wherein fragments of the glowing sky

Gleam up from among the stones and grass.

 

Branches netted roughly, tattered bars,

Drab grey webs all drizzle-wet and grim,

Glisten now with countless bits of stars,

Silver-bright, as if with Christmas trim.

 

Every leaf and flower-head weighed down,

Battered with the rushing of the rain,

Now stands splendid in its diamond crown,

And is swift forgetting all its strain.

 

All the earth is baptized, washed anew,

And stands radiant before the sun,

All the gloom and tempest that it knew

Now become such glory as to stun.

 

So for nature, so also for me,

When that which oppressed and struck me low,

As the light returned, changed wondrously,

New marvels of grace and joy to show.

 

Let it come then, Lord, the bitter rain,

Though it drench and pound upon my soul;

Only, send Your light, and make my pain

Something shining, my fractures Your whole.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind may be the quintessential Hayao Miyazaki film—meaning, not necessarily his best, but the most comprehensive assortment of his characteristic themes and motifs. The setting is a staggering feat of creative world-building and visual opulence. Characters include a strong young female protagonist, children, and old people; and while the villains may be more clearly evil than most Miyazaki antagonists, they don’t ultimately evoke hatred or vindictiveness. There are flight sequences and stunning uses of water. Themes include pacifism and environmentalism. The story frankly acknowledges the sadness of loss and fears for possible future losses, but is subtly shot through with hope and grace.

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Bride of Christ

Raise a glad song, favored maiden;

Sing out sweetly, turtle-dove,

By your King with treasures laden,

Called by Him to be His love!

Truer bridegroom was there never,

Nor more generous a lord;

All that’s His is yours forever,

Sealed with His eternal Word!

 

Lo, He sets His mark upon you,

Claims you for His own dear bride;

With His holy Blood He won you,

For your love He fought and died!

Now fair robes as bright as morning

He brings for your wedding gown,

Rarest jewels for your adorning,

And a shining royal crown.

 

But before the feast in splendor,

When your joy will be complete,

Bride of Christ, you must surrender

To what seems a dark defeat,

To the night of bloody sweating,

To the vicious world’s abuse,

To the hour, of God’s own setting,

When your very self you lose!

 

From earth’s world of dim phantasm

To your Spouse’s radiant realm,

One road only spans the chasm;

Let it not your heart o’erwhelm.

He sees your tears, drawn by fire,

By each wound and valiant loss,

Diamond stairs to lead you higher

By the King’s road of the Cross.

 

If a maid follows her lover,

Join yours on His mystic way,

Road He traveled to recover

Precious souls that dying lay.

Join His great task of redeeming

Each lamb wand’ring from His fold;

Your blood mixed with His and streaming

Sows their new life manifold.

 

Think on Whom it is you marry,

King of Kings and Friend most dear,

Who scorns not weak lambs to carry—

Let His love cast out your fear!

He’s worthy of all your treasure,

And you’ll find, dear bride of Christ,

He returns bounteous measure

For all that you’ve sacrificed!

 

Break your jar, your ointment flowing,

Pour it and count not its worth,

For the joy that passes knowing

And the love past scope of earth!

Take your cross, moved by Love’s fires,

Learn its deep, mysterious charms,

Find your heart full past desires,

Find you’ve risen—in His arms!

 

 

Ocean City Boardwalk

The sun beats down upon this bench;

The boards resound with thumping feet;

The passing breeze picks up the stench

Of tobacco and roasting meat.

 

To left and right a world spreads out

Of blaring music, flashing signs;

The cream-streaked people peer about

Through glasses dark for cheapest finds.

 

An eastern wind comes from behind,

A crisp and cool breath from the sea;

Its sharp, clean fragrance wafts to mind

A world of grace and mystery,

 

A quiet world, breakers and breeze

Singing their wild, blissful hymn,

Earth’s edge fading in glimm’ring seas,

Free blue-green depths where finned things swim.

 

My heart leaps up to hasten there,

Leaving behind this boardwalk scene,

For all its splendid flash and glare

Pales by this majesty serene.

 

I’ve brought no purse nor souvenir,

Nothing that I need fear to leave.

My shoes I gladly set down here,

Forsake the scene, and never grieve.

 

For though its sweet delights I reap,

My hungry heart finds them too small;

The sea’s glory is strong and deep,

And fades not nor changes at all.

 

So may I gladly quit this earth,

Not weighted by things on the way,

And freely seek my second birth,

The joys deeper than man can say.

 

Though pleasures here be bright and sweet,

Still my heart strains up from the sod;

Into the depths shall fly my feet,

The changeless, beauteous depths of God!

 

 

The Problem with Poetry in Our Time

Why talk about poetry? It might not seem an urgent concern. It certainly isn’t among the “hot-button issues” of our day. Our thoughts, however, would be impoverished if we devoted them only to the latest controversy over Pope Francis, the new dismaying scandal, or whether our country will collapse. Even in harsh times, the things that make human life full and sweet still deserve attention.

Art is part of what makes life human. The urge to create has always been a distinctive mark of humanity, and has been manifest wherever people have had time to draw, sculpt, or compose. God made us “making-creatures,” as Tolkien put it, reflecting the image of our Creator by becoming little creators ourselves. If you have no interest in poetry or arts generally, you probably aren’t still reading. But if you are, and if you’re interested in how language relates to human nature, keep going.

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Looking to the Future: A Balanced Vision

What will the future be like? Our inability to answer this question with certainty has never stopped us from wondering and guessing, both about our personal futures and the future of the world. During the past century, the speculations about the latter have grown more numerous, diverse and elaborate than ever. Stories set in some projected time after our own have created such powerful images of the future that they shape our culture in the present, for better or worse. Although no expert on futuristic stories, I find the ideas underlying them intriguing and sometimes troubling. What do our imaginings do for us—or to us—now?

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The Gift of the Elven-King

Many ages ago, a great realm lay between the mountains and the sea, once ruling much of the world but now mostly forgotten. During the years leading to its decline, a curious affliction spread to many of its people. Fine, filthy fumes drifted across much of the land, becoming a slow poison in men’s eyes and throats. This was the doing of some wizards in the moors; they were releasing the foulness, most out of careless folly more than wickedness, from the furnaces and cauldrons where they performed their secret labors. But the people were to blame as well, for they made no effort to protect themselves. Instead, they simply coughed and blinked and went on as before.

In time, they became so accustomed to these fumes that they no longer knew anything different. They thought nothing of the bitterness they breathed, or the dull, ugly sights coming through their marred eyes. Many forgot that air could be sweeter, light stronger, colors brighter. Some, noticing the change, fled to remote regions where the air was less sullied, but they were few.

On the land’s western border, in the mountain forests, the Elves observed this evil from their own realm. No corruption could come near their dwelling places, but they saw and grieved over the sufferings of the foolish men. Thus it came, one day, that the Elven-king called his messengers to him.

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Peter Pan vs. My Neighbor Totoro: Contrasting Perspectives on Childhood

Recently, my family and I watched two movies deemed by their fans to be classic celebrations of the magic of childhood. The two take place in profoundly different cultures on opposite sides of the globe, but both—in their own ways—involve the magical bursting into the everyday, celebrate innocent wonder, and affirm the importance of family. One of them is, alas, much less well-known in the United States than the other. That one is Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro, and the other is Peter Pan (the Broadway version, starring Cathy Rigby). I had seen both many times before, but on these reviewings, I noticed some remarkable contrasts in their perspectives on childhood and growing up.

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The Host of the Wounded King

All you who weary of living,

All you tear-blinded who stumble,

Finding the road unforgiving,

Feeling your strength slip and crumble,

Though blood from your hands be streaming,

And the cross your backs encumber,

Through this night one star is gleaming:

Strength Himself is of our number!

 

Though we be lonely and desolate,

And our faith’s rock-bed be shaken,

We have not lost our last, nor yet

Are we completely forsaken.

That Lord so battered and slandered

Rises like flame of the morn,

Raising His unconquered standard,

Winding His summoning horn!

 

Rise up to heed His call!

Hail it, for ‘tis addressed

To weary suff’rers all,

Worn, wounded and oppressed.

All earth He means to win;

All souls who dwell therein

Rise as to Him they fall;

His cross, His weapon blest.

That conquest we may share,

All we who crosses bear,

Strange triumph if we dare

To love Him best!

 

Let us not drag like slaves

Burdened and raddled,

But with our King who saves,

Fight even to our graves,

As knights embattled!

Shall we not now perceive?

Hasten, all who believe;

Though all our hearts may grieve

And bones be rattled,

Let us live well and die

Knowing for Whom and why—

He leads us, riding by,

On ass-charger saddled!

 

Hark what we have to win!

Pulling from swamps of sin

Our souls and others’ in

Strength of His power;

Gaining, through patient fight,

Ever a higher height,

Up toward the world of light,

Hour by hour!

All of our bloody tears

Sowing our battlefield,

By our feet hoed, will yield

Fruit past the years,

From faith-laid seed appears

Immortal flower!

 

When we hear glad and resounding

His final blast o’er the earth,

All these grim foes now surrounding

Will, like the womb-walls at birth,

Burst away, and we will gather

Into our King’s lightsome hall,

No more blood-streaming, but rather,

Streaming His joy in its all.

 

Shall we not then rouse our spirits

And stand our ground this one night,

Knowing that we need not fear its

Dark, who have drunk of His light?

Faith’s light kindles Love’s blazing heat,

We fight by its heavenly glow,

Bleeding, but ne’er in defeat—

Till morning His triumph will show!

How to Be a Successful College Graduate

This piece is not what you might think. I’m not going to tell you how to get your dream job, climb the corporate ladder, navigate social circles, or make an obvious impact on society. I won’t tell you those things, partly because I don’t know them, but also because I want to challenge their status as the definition of success.

College students and new graduates hear a good deal about “success,” but are likely to receive very mixed signals about the particular goals in question. When our mainstream culture speaks of “succeeding,” it tends to have some sort of economic or social ends in mind. Land a well-paying job, achieve recognition in your field of work, acquire the means to live in comfort and security, and you’re probably a “success” by this assessment. The more noble-minded raise this standard to include making a useful contribution to the world, which is well and good, though I will bring in an important nuance later. Schools with a strong Christian outlook, like my alma mater, also emphasize building up the kingdom of God and winning the world to Christ. This is also, undoubtedly, an important and worthy aim. Any one of these, however, can become dangerous if new alumni make it the measure of themselves and their lives.

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