25 December 2011

Joy to the World

Merry Christmas! As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, let us rejoice that his kingdom has no end.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; 
And the government will rest on His shoulders; 
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, 
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, 
On the throne of David and over his kingdom, 
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness 
From then on and forevermore. 
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Isaac Watts 1719

O Come, All Ye Faithful

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels;

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

True God of true God, Light from Light Eternal,
Lo, He shuns not the Virgin’s womb;
Son of the Father, begotten, not created;

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation;
O sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!
Glory to God, all glory in the highest;

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

See how the shepherds, summoned to His cradle,
Leaving their flocks, draw nigh to gaze;
We too will thither bend our joyful footsteps;

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Lo! star led chieftains, Magi, Christ adoring,
Offer Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
We to the Christ Child bring our hearts’ oblations.

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Child, for us sinners poor and in the manger,
We would embrace Thee, with love and awe;
Who would not love Thee, loving us so dearly?

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be glory given;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

John F. Wade, circa 1743

24 December 2011

O Holy Night / Silent Night

Happy Christmas Eve! I have two carols for you tonight: O Holy Night and Silent Night.

O Holy Night

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our Friend!
He knows our need—to our weakness is no stranger.
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy Name!
Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!

Placide Cappeau, 1847

Silent Night

Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and Child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light;
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

Silent night, holy night
Wondrous star, lend thy light;
With the angels let us sing,
Alleluia to our King;
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!

Josef Mohr, circa 1816-1818

22 December 2011

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold;
“Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From Heaven’s all gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever over its Babel sounds
The blessèd angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet-bards foretold,
When with the ever circling years
Comes round the age of gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Edmund H. Sears, 1849

21 December 2011

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

This poem, written by Henry W. Longfellow in 1864, addresses the despair felt by many during the Civil War. It seemed there could be no peace when a nation was warring against itself and brothers killed brothers. But the sound of the church bells on Christmas called Longfellow to remember that though the war had dragged on for years, God would ultimately put all to right.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th’unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

20 December 2011

In the Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Christina Rossetti, 1872

19 December 2011

Who Is This So Weak and Helpless

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth," John 1:14. See in this carol the earthiness of our salvation. God did not choose to save to a bodiless heaven, nor did he give us only a spiritual salvation. Rather, at his chosen time, the Father sent Jesus to the earth as a corporeal man to live out obedience in an earthly life and to bear the weight of our sin in his own body on the cross.  

Who is this so weak and helpless, Child of lowly Hebrew maid,
Rudely in a stable sheltered, coldly in a manger laid?
’Tis the Lord of all creation, who this wondrous path hath trod;
He is God from everlasting, and to everlasting God.

Who is this, a Man of sorrows, walking sadly life’s hard way,
Homeless, weary, sighing, weeping, over sin and Satan’s sway?
’Tis our God, our glorious Savior, who above the starry sky
Now for us a place prepareth, where no tear can dim the eye.

Who is this? Behold Him shedding drops of blood upon the ground!
Who is this, despised, rejected, mocked, insulted, beaten, bound?
’Tis our God, who gifts and graces on His church now poureth down;
Who shall smite in righteous judgment all His foes beneath His throne.

Who is this that hangeth dying while the rude world scoffs and scorns,
Numbered with the malefactors, torn with nails, and crowned with thorns?
’Tis the God Who ever liveth, ’mid the shining ones on high,
In the glorious golden city, reigning everlastingly.

William H. How, 1867

18 December 2011

Nations That Long in Darkness Walked

I must confess that I did not know about this carol until this year, but now that I do, it is quickly becoming one of my favorites. The lyrics paraphrase many of the Messianic passages of Isaiah and remind us that the birth of Jesus has signaled the beginning of his perfect and everlasting kingdom. If you want to hear the song, Jill Phillips and Andy Gullahorn have included a marvelous version on their album, "Christmas."

Nations that long in darkness walked
Have now beheld a glorious light;
On them who dwelt in shades of death
The light hath shinèd heav’nly bright.

For lo! the virgin’s Child is born;
To us the Son of God is giv’n.
Upon His shoulders shall be laid
The government of earth and Heav’n.

His Name is callèd Wonderful,
The Counselor, the mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace,
Peace dearly purchased with His blood.

His government shall know no bounds,
But far and wide o’er all extend;
And happy peace, the glorious fruits
Of His just reign, shall know no end.

O’er David’s kingdom, on His throne
To rule, and ’stablish it secure
With judgment clear, and justice right;
His reign forever shall endure.

Written by John Barnard, 1752

17 December 2011

Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming

This song speaks for itself:

Lo, how a rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the rose I have in mind;
With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright, she bore to men a Savior,
When half spent was the night.

The shepherds heard the story proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of glory was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped and in the manger found Him,
As angel heralds said.

This flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

O Savior, child of Mary, who felt our human woe,
O Savior, King of glory, who dost our weakness know;
Bring us at length we pray, to the bright courts of Heaven,
And to the endless day!

a German carol from the 16th century, translated into this version by Theodore Baker in 1894

16 December 2011

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a king,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Written by Charles Wesley in 1745

15 December 2011

Thou Who Wast Rich Beyond All Measure

Today's song may be unfamiliar and certainly doesn't fit into the classic repertoire of Christmas carols, but it is one of my favorite hymns nonetheless. The lyrics tell of how Jesus set aside all his heavenly wealth and glory to become a poor man - all for the sake of love.

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendor,
all for love’s sake becamest poor;
thrones for a manger didst surrender,
sapphire pave courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendor, 
all for love’s sake becamest poor.

Thou who art God beyond all praising,
all for love’s sake becamest man;
stooping so low, but sinners raising,
heav’nward by thine eternal plan.
Thou who art God beyond all praising,
all for love’s sake becamest man.

Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Savior and King, we worship thee.
Emmanuel, within us dwelling,
make us what thou wouldst have us be.
Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Savior and King, we worship thee.

Frank Houghton, 1894 - 1972

14 December 2011

What Child Is This?

Written by William C. Dix in 1865, "What Child Is This?" is not a cute lullaby. Rather it is a call to worship to you and me to humbly bow before the baby who was to become our atoning sacrifice.    

What child is this who, laid to rest 
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, 
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King, 
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud, 
The babe, the son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate, 
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here 
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, 
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh, 
The babe, the son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, 
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings, 
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise a song on high, 
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born, 
The babe, the son of Mary.

13 December 2011

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

When it comes to old songs, you really don't find many that are older than "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence." It was written in Greek in the fourth century AD, at least 1600 years ago. Translated by Gerard Moultier in 1864, its words still ring just as true today. See the contrast and the tension between Jesus' humiliation and his exaltation in these verses.

Let  all mortal flesh keep silence, And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded, For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth, Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary, As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture, In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six wingèd seraph, Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence, As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Lord Most High!

12 December 2011

Hark! the Herald Angels Sing

Today's Christmas carol was written by Charles Wesley in 1739. The version we now know consists of Wesley's original lyrics and alterations by George Whitfield. At its heart, "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing" is a call to worship and prayer based on many facets of Christ's life and character. Savor all of the stanzas, as they contain a Christology that rivals the Nicene Creed for their richness.

Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King;

Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”

Joyful, all ye nations rise, Join the triumph of the skies; 

With th’angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ, by highest Heav’n adored; Christ the everlasting Lord;

Late in time, behold Him come, Offspring of a virgin’s womb.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail th’incarnate Deity, 

Pleased with us in flesh to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel.

Hark! the herald angels sing, 

“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness!

Light and life to all He brings, Ris’n with healing in His wings.

Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die.

Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the newborn King!”

Come, Desire of nations, come, Fix in us Thy humble home;

Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed, Bruise in us the serpent’s head.

Now display Thy saving power, Ruined nature now restore; 

Now in mystic union join Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the newborn King!”

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface, Stamp Thine image in its place:

Second Adam from above, Reinstate us in Thy love.

Let us Thee, though lost, regain, Thee, the Life, the inner man:

O, to all Thyself impart, Formed in each believing heart.

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the newborn King!”

11 December 2011

Christmas Carols Are for Mourners

“White Christmas,” “Jingle Bells,” “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm.” These are the songs that echo throughout the malls as people prepare for what we know as the most wonderful time of the year. But these songs and the sentimentalism they inspire only serve to mock and injure many. The purpose of this post, however, is not to denigrate such songs or bemoan the commercialization of Christmas. My goal is to offer comfort by refocusing on truth and specifically truth in song.

Grief is painful at any time of the year, but at Christmas, when everyone is “supposed” to be filled with holiday cheer, the hurt can be intensified a thousand times. The sources of grief are many, ranging from the death of a loved one, a broken heart, family feuding, the lack of any family, physical distance from family and friends, to as many more as there are people on earth. The nostalgia and the frivolity that we celebrate during the holidays can only serve to drive a dagger into the heart of the already broken-hearted. Nostalgia whispers “remember the way things used to be and can never be again,” or “remember that you have never known what was meant to be.” Frivolity shouts “life is all about fun and games, never-mind that death is all around.” And they leave the grievers feeling like miserable, lonely outsiders while everyone else is enjoying life and love.

The birth of Jesus tears all of that away, and Christmas is precisely for the mourners. Abraham waited twenty-five years for the birth of Isaac from the time that God promised him a son. But from the time that God promised Israel a Messiah until the birth of Christ, the nation waited hundreds of years. In that time span, the nation had gone through war after war after war, famine, hundreds of years of exile and deportation. Israel had split into two nations almost a thousand years before the birth of Jesus. And at the time Jesus was born, although the people had returned to the land, they were subjected to Roman authority. Truly they were a people beaten down.

In Luke 2, there are two people who greet us in their sorrow and leave revived in their hope at the presentation of Jesus. At the time Mary and Joseph presented Jesus at the temple, Simeon came in faith by the Spirit to the temple to see Jesus. We do not know much about Simeon other than the fact that he was likely quite old, for he had been told that “he would not see death until he had seen the Lord’s Christ (Lk 2:26).” He was focused on waiting for “the consolation of Israel (Lk 2:25).” His was a life of waiting, and it was not until he saw the baby Jesus, the salvation of Israel and a light and glory for the people of the world, that he could say, “now you are letting your servant depart in peace.” Then there is Anna, a prophetess. She had been a widow for many decades, in a society where widows were completely dependent upon charity, and she spent her days in prayer and fasting. Fasting is not for the happy people, the fulfilled people. It is for the waiting ones, the needy ones, the sorrowing ones who are still looking for God to answer prayer. And this is how Anna spent her years. But at the moment Jesus was brought into the temple, her words changed to thanks to God for the redemption of Jerusalem had come. Her status as an aging widow did not cease to matter but was overwhelmed in the greater glory of the fulfillment of God’s promises.

Christmas proclaims that God keeps his promises and his salvation is the comfort of his people. This is what the best Christmas songs reinforce. They break into the real pain and sorrow of this life and call us to remember that what God has promised he will do. For when he promised a Messiah and a Savior, he sent Jesus to free his people, sent him into an Israel under Roman oppression, to a poor step-father and a mother bearing the shame of unwed pregnancy, birthed in a stable. This is the One who caused Simeon to sing and Anna to proclaim. Though we may weep now, we know that as certainly as Christ did come, he will come again. As Rich Mullins sang, “He will never break his promise, though the stars should break faith with the sky.”

My intention is to post a different Christmas carol every day from now until Christmas in the prayer that the reader may find hope and comfort in the truth of Christmas, and perhaps find that they can sing, even in sorrow.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high, Who orderest all things mightily;

To us the path of knowledge show, And teach us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;

From depths of hell Thy people save, And give them victory over the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer Our spirits by Thine advent here;

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come, And open wide our heavenly home;

Make safe the way that leads on high, And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, great Lord of might, Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height

In ancient times once gave the law In cloud and majesty and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree, An ensign of Thy people be;

Before Thee rulers silent fall; All peoples on Thy mercy call.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Desire of nations, bind In one the hearts of all mankind;

Bid Thou our sad divisions cease, And be Thyself our King of Peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

All Scriptures quotations are from the ESV.

14 March 2011

Tap, Tap, Tap. . . Is This Thing On?

Well, if no one is out there, I completely understand. After all, I haven't posted anything in almost (gasp) two years, and even my mother has removed this link from her site. If that isn't a sign of doom, I don't know what is.

So, to anyone who does happen upon my blog and this post, well, I'm not going to apologize for abandoning the blog for so long. I had nothing I desired to expound upon, and my writing had greatly diminished for a while.

But now, I'm back. I think. And this time look for musings on photography, music and literature, with smatterings of other stuff tossed in for fun.

09 June 2009

Knowing God

We just finished our study of Knowing God by J.I. Packer at Maison de la Vie. There is so much rich wisdom in this book that we all learned from (not that I agree with everything). If I were to start typing out quotations from the beginning to end, I would probably infringe upon copyright law. But there are two things that I do want to share, the first from "These Inward trial". It is a poem/hymn by John Newton that expresses the experience of many believers as we pray for growth.

I asked the Lord, that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek more earnestly His face.

I hoped that in some favoured hour
At once He'd answer my request,
And by His love's constraining power
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

"Lord, why is this?" I trembling cried,
"Wilt thou pursue Thy worm to death?"
"'Tis in this way," the Lord replied,
"I answer prayer for grace and faith."

"These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may'st seek thy all in me."

Second part to come...

24 May 2009


"God is love, and believers were meant to live like that's true."

~Ryan Fullerton

20 April 2009

Photos, Anyone?

If you are still keeping up with this blog, you might have noticed that I post quite a few of my photos here. Well, I have decided to make some of them available for sale. If you like what you see, you may go to my gallery at imagekind: eyeofthecreativesage. Photos are available for purchase there. If there is a photo that you want that is not in that gallery, please let me know, and I will do my best to make it available to you. I would also appreciate any feedback that you may give.

13 April 2009


One of my new favorite hymns is "The Power of the Cross" by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. In our house Bible study we have been going through J. I. Packer's Knowing God, and last week, we studied the chapter on the "Heart of the Gospel." It is an amazing chapter, but what amazed me more was that this hymn captures the message of that chapter so beautifully. So we listened to the song during Bible study. But I have been thwarted at church. The past two Sundays we were supposed to sing the "Power of the Cross," and the past two Sundays it has been axed from the order of service. I hope that we will sing it soon, but I want to share it with whomever might happen to still read here.

25 February 2009

What We Did: A Summary of DC on the Weekend

Eating, drinking and general merriment making were the order of the weekend.

Fishy beer? Dogfish Head Alehouse

Flute and old peopleThe Kennedy Center

Slow Food, Pre-Prohibition Bar. Yes, I will take mine stirred, not shaken.Founding Farmers Where good food and good flavors are combined in an exquisite sensation for the taste buds.
Where we also had Intelligentsia

But I preferred Murky.

Worship by the Book. Capitol Hill Baptist Church

Fireflies in February? No, I said Firefly.

Just for kicks. Nebo.

07 February 2009


This is a "reprint" of the note I posted on Facebook, just twenty five things about me that you may or may not have known.

1.My name is spelled A-S-H-L-E-A and is pronounced like Ashley. However, I have been known to answer to Alicia, Ashalee, Ashleuh, Ashlay, Abigail, Dave, RC, etc, etc, etc.

2.Since I moved to Louisville in 2004, I have lived in seven different places.

3.In high school, I was a soccer referee.

4.My favorite clothing stores are Banana Republic, Bass Pro, and the Tractor Supply Co.

5.When I was a child in early elementary school, I would wonder if I (or anything else for that matter) existed, or if everything was the figment of someone's imagination.

6.I am a contortionist. Rather unusual though, is that I am both a back-bender and forward-bender.

7.Blood and I get along just fine, as long as it stays where it is supposed to – in my body. There have been two times when I fainted at the sight of my own blood.

8.One of my favorite pastimes when I was little was to play farm or pioneer. I still have secret wish to travel out west in a covered wagon.

9.I despise air conditioning, even when it is over 100 degrees outside.

10.On more than one occasion (ok, lots of occasions) I have been caught dancing in random places (in an elevator, while cleaning, going down a sidewalk, etc).

11.My face betrays all of my thoughts and emotions. But beware, it is entirely likely that what I am thinking has absolutely no correspondence to the conversation at hand.

12.I absolutely love climbing – trees, rocks, machinery. Speaking of climbing, I used to freak my mother out when I would climb to the tops of the trees in our yard and perform circus like antics freestyle thirty or forty feet in the air.

13.Reading is one of my deep and abiding passions – anything and everything from ancient literature to the modern Russians to English literature to poetry to philosophy to history to biography to literary theory to theology to dictionaries. And I usually have multiple books going at one time (I like synthesizing the ideas that I am reading into a big picture). But, what might surprise some people is the fact that I did not learn how to read until I was seven years old.

14.My imagination is incredibly vivid, and I see faeries and elves everywhere I go.

15.The little toe on my right foot has independent muscle control.

16.Blame my parents, I am what I call an “extreme morning person.” It is nearly impossible for me to sleep past 5:00am, even on weekends, even when I stay up until midnight.

17.I love thunderstorms and wind and rain; it is on those occasion that the earth feels very alive and impish, and it always invites me to come out and play.

18.I love taking naps on Saturday mornings during a warm spring or autumn rain with my windows open.

19.Sometimes for kicks, I will come up with new philosophical theories.

20.I have worked first, second and third shift. Second shift is definitely my least favorite of the three, and I don't mind my quasi-third shift because of #15.

21.When I am in a sappy, emotional movie mood, my movie selection will usually run toward “Gettysburg,” Black Hawk Down,” the Bourne movies or something else along those lines.

22.On one occasion, when I still attended Patrick Henry College, I took my room's orange inflatable couch out and re-enacted the “Lady of Shalott” on Lake Bob, our drainage pond.

23.Speaking of poetry, my two favorite poems are “Mythopoeia” by J.R.R. Tolkien and the “Lady of Shalott” by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

24. I like food. . . a lot. But I particularly like beef and everything dairy.

25. I love my current role as a Protestant mother superior, discipling the women in my house; I could not imagine a better gift or more challenging task.

31 January 2009

Let It Snow,

And ice, and rain. The poor trees, they have really suffered these past few months. First, Hurricane Ike roared through Louisville with its winds, and then, this week, we had a pretty big "winter mix" storm. Some roads have been impassible, lots of people lost their electricity, and work has been insane. But my little world looks like a crystal palace, and I tried to capture it in photos. So here are just a few to share with you. (I have also been enjoyed doing some photo editing, so this has been good practise for me.)

24 January 2009

A Grand Irony

"It may be said of one who is contented in a Christian way that he is the most contented man in the world, and yet the most unsatisfied man in the world; these two together must needs be mysterious. . . . A contented man, though he is most contented with the least things in the world, yet he is the most dissatisfied man that lives in the world. A soul that is capable of God can be filled with nothing else but God; nothing but God can fill a soul that is capable of God. Though a gracious heart knows that it is capable of God, and was made for God, carnal hearts think without reference to God. But a gracious heart, being enlarged to be capable of God, and enjoying somewhat of him, can be filled by nothing in the world; it must only be God himself. Therefore you will observe, that whatever God may give to a gracious heart, a heart that is godly, unless he gives himself it will not do."

~Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Philippians: Wordle Style

Wordle: Philippians


12 January 2009


It snowed a few days ago,and when I arrived home from work, I discovered a dusting on our shrubberies. So I immediately grabbed my camera to shoot the beauty, and I'm glad I did because the snow melted about a half hour after I took some shots. Today, I uploaded the photos and found that some of the photos had actually turned really well. Look for the individual snowflakes; you may have to enlarge them to see the detail.

28 October 2008


"'I don't like anything here at all,' said Frodo, ' step or stone, breath or bone. Earth, air and water all seem accursed. But so our path is laid.'

'Yes, that's so,' said Sam. 'And we shouldn't be here at all, if we'd known more about it before we started. But I suppose it's often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of sport, as you might say. But that's not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually--their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn't. And if they had, we shouldn't know, because they'd have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on--and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You now, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same--like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren't always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we've fallen into?'

'I wonder,' said Frodo. 'But I don't know. And that's the way of a real tale. Take any one that you're fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don't know. And you don't want them to.'

'No, sir, of course not. Beren now, he never thought he was going to get that Silmaril from the Iron Crown in Thangorodrim, and yet he did, and that was a worse place and a blacker danger than ours. But that's a long tale, of course, and goes on past the happiness and into grief and beyond it--and the Silmaril went on and came to Eärendil. And why,sir, I never thought of that before! We've got--you've got some of the light of it in that star-glass that the Lady gave you! Why, to think of it, we're in the same tale still! It's going on. Don't the great tales never end?'

'No, they never end as tales,' said Frodo. 'But the people in them come, and go when their part's ended. Our part will end later--or sooner.'

'And then we can have some rest and some sleep,' said Sam. He laughed grimly. 'And I mean just that, Mr. Frodo. I mean plain ordinary rest, and sleep, and waking up to a morning's work in the garden. I'm afraid that's all I'm hoping for all the time. All the big important plans are not for my sort. Still, I wonder if we shall ever be put into songs or tales. We're in one, of course; but I mean: put into words, you know, told by the fireside, or read out of a great big book with red and black letters, years and years afterwards.'"

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

25 October 2008

The Goodness of Grieving

From Chapter 11 of Mourning Into Dancing, by Walter Wangerin, Jr. To the people who have been reading this blog for a long time, you have probably noticed a recurring theme on grief and suffering. And this is not without reason, for I have known much. But it is not the grief of despair, but grief leading to life and joy. So this post does not come from nowhere, but is applicable to every Christian and for those who know, have known, and will know intense sorrow. Let this truth sink into your soul, as you learn to distinguish happiness from joy and grief from despair.

"But we still dwell in the second act of this Cosmic Drama. That is, we still live our days on the earth, both in joy and in sorrow.

Sorrow and joy are not separate.

Happiness and sadness may be opposites of one another, but not joy and sorrow. In fact, it is through sorrow that one discovers a calm abiding, indestructible joy.

This is a paradox of our faith: joy is forged in sorrow.

And death leads to life.

And grief is the road between them.

It is grieving that drives us from dying to living, from death to life again - from any single Secondary Death that we might suffer, back to the bosom of God, which relationship is the fullness of life for us.

Unless, says the Lord, you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Unless like children we turn to the Father, the third death will be the fourth death for us; we would rightly be terrified of our physical decease, then, because it would be our soul's decease as well, and death eternally.

But the sinner does not turn easily. Neither does he turn willingly. He must, in mercy, be turned. Nor does plain preaching often accomplish so total a conversion. He who truly believes he's strong is not prepared to confess an abject weakness, not for verbal persuasions, or reasonable proofs, or even the leadings of those who love him. Rather, something has to happen. The sinner must run headlong into Truth as one runs into a stone wall, must experience it, suffer it after all. If the wall doesn't move, the sinner will.

This is what grief does. This is the effect of the earnest and painful, extended, and personal experience of grieving.

The hit that I take in a serious Secondary Death both undeceives me and defines me. Defines me. It awakens me to an essential truth that I had rejected long ago, a truth that my sinful nature hates, hates - and utterly repudiates.

Therefore, I (that is, my Old Adam, the sinful self, the major Me of this world) I defy this truth. I fight it. It's a compulsive decision, a gut reaction: I think I've no choice but to fight, because this truth would destroy me!

Battle after battle I struggle to the extreme of my ability; and battle after battle, I lose. Truth triumphs. It is, then, a painful fight, marked by a series of my failures. Truth is Truth, changeless, indifferent to my most mighty effort. against Truth I spend all my resources, I exhaust myself. I grow hurt and weary and defeated.

This personal, earnest fight - stage by stage descending into the Truth - is a part of the process of grieving. Grief may begin as "passive," "reactive," the pure pain of a sundered relationship; but then there follow these spasms of an "active" grief.

And what is the Truth my sinful self denies? Why, that I am limited. That there's only so much Walt - and the little there is, is helpless, pitiful, and soon to die. I am finite. And when I experience evidence of my finitude, I hate it.

And ironically, my struggle to prove myself strong - to which I commit the whole of my resources - proves me weak, in fact, when my resources are exhausted. If I fight to the end of my ability, then my ability is revealed to have an end. O Walt! Thou art so tine! Thou are born to a few days, full of trouble, the flower that must wither, the shadow that fleeth away; thou are dust.

My defeat, then, is altogether in myself and of myself and to myself. Truth need do nothing but be.... God waits - waits upon us, waits to show mercy unto us. I, all on my own account, strive against the wall of truth. I sweat and exert my little dust as though it were a deity - and in that very exertion discover . . . dust.

I can't win.

And the pain of my active grieving will be exactly equal to the intensity with which I believed I could win. As strongly as I cling to that Old Lie (Ye shall not surely die) even so strong is the pain of losing it, the pain of having it torn from my fingers, my mind, and the core of my heart. To the degree that I gripped the lie, grief will seem a violence; to the degree that I loved it, grief will be a deep sorrow. I is my self destroyed in this process.

I simply can't win.

Ah, but I do win.

Because what am I now if not a god? Oh, dear Jesus! - I am a child. Helpless, needy, weak, returning to thee, and by thee to the kingdom of heaven! I am the prodigal, come to myself and coming home again. Home again.

This is the purpose of grieving, then:

Within the pale of earthly experience, always to turn the bereaved back to life. The widow cannot remain forever by the grave, nor the divorcé forever before the wreckage of his marriage. They cannot in health continue to exist with the raw, unhealed wound of a vital separation. The goodness of their grieving is that it brings them by stages into the stream of the living again, however slowly, however painfully. It reveals bit by bit the fullness of this death - as each is able to receive it - and when reality is accepted and assimilated, when the wound heals, it urges them into relationships again, which is our earthly life.

And this too is the purpose of grieving:

In the same manner (it is the same experience, but now on a cosmic scale) to turn all those bereaved of the primal, divine relationship back to God, to his love and to that Life that cannot be taken away from them, forever.

This is joy most serene. And lo: it cometh out of sorrow."

20 October 2008


I posted this back around the middle of March, but I find that it is tremendously relevant right now, especially as I am going through training at work and as peak season approaches. So, for anyone who still actually happens to read my blog, maybe this poem will help you understand the life of a third shifter. And, if you happen to notice that I don't seem to be around as much over the next few weeks, it is because until after Christmas, I will be (for the most part) nocturnal. So, seek me out, as I will try to find you, but just know that hanging out will not happen by chance.

"Seeking the Sunshine"

Hounding my steps
all while I wake
pitch black sky of
deepest night
pursues, surrounds me,
claims me as captive
to the cave lands
where phantoms, vampires
and criminals dwell,
hiding from all that's light.
But there are others of
us to whom the music
of the night has no
allure, and who
for the shadows there is no
love. The only call is the
constant drum of need, and
so we answer, giving heed.
We trudge and toil
throughout our day.
The night it eats our
years away, as our
skin like parchment
fades to the only
shade of yellow we see.
The only consolation of
this dark life comes
at break when I
with the morning star
beckon the dawn,
greeting the blushing
blue of morn's first
So find me now,
sun above; send me no
shadows nor darkened
clouds. Wrap me in
a blanket of warm
bright light.
Reveal the true colors
and textures of this
tapestry called earth.
Hail out the arias of
birds sweet songs, and
Always remind me
that we were meant
for dawn.

08 October 2008

It's October,

and she's on her way to the 'Ville. So watch out!

18 August 2008

Eye to the Sky

My head may not have been literally in the clouds, but my camera was certainly aimed in that direction. Here are a few of the sky photos I captured while in Michigan (okay, maybe there is a little water in there also):