My Dream–Christina Rossetti
Sargent-Muddy-Alligators

My Dream

Christina Rossetti

Hear now a curious dream I dreamed last night
Each word whereof is weighed and sifted truth.

I stood beside Euphrates while it swelled
Like overflowing Jordan in its youth:
It waxed and coloured sensibly to sight;
Till out of myriad pregnant waves there welled
Young crocodiles, a gaunt blunt-featured crew,
Fresh-hatched perhaps and daubed with birthday dew.
The rest if I should tell, I fear my friend
My closest friend would deem the facts untrue;
And therefore it were wisely left untold;
Yet if you will, why, hear it to the end.

Each crocodile was girt with massive gold
And polished stones that with their wearers grew:
But one there was who waxed beyond the rest,
Wore kinglier girdle and a kingly crown,
Whilst crowns and orbs and sceptres starred his breast.
All gleamed compact and green with scale on scale,
But special burnishment adorned his mail
And special terror weighed upon his frown;
His punier brethren quaked before his tail,
Broad as a rafter, potent as a flail.
So he grew lord and master of his kin:
But who shall tell the tale of all their woes?
An execrable appetite arose,
He battened on them, crunched, and sucked them in.
He knew no law, he feared no binding law,
But ground them with inexorable jaw:
The luscious fat distilled upon his chin,
Exuded from his nostrils and his eyes,
While still like hungry death he fed his maw;
Till every minor crocodile being dead
And buried too, himself gorged to the full,
He slept with breath oppressed and unstrung claw.
Oh marvel passing strange which next I saw:
In sleep he dwindled to the common size,
And all the empire faded from his coat.
Then from far off a wingèd vessel came,
Swift as a swallow, subtle as a flame:
I know not what it bore of freight or host,
But white it was as an avenging ghost.
It levelled strong Euphrates in its course;
Supreme yet weightless as an idle mote
It seemed to tame the waters without force
Till not a murmur swelled or billow beat:
Lo, as the purple shadow swept the sands,
The prudent crocodile rose on his feet
And shed appropriate tears and wrung his hands.

What can it mean? you ask. I answer not
For meaning, but myself must echo,
What? And tell it as I saw it on the spot.

Home Going: Poetry For A Season
Fireflies

I remember summer nights in Texas, warm enchanted nights when my brother and sister and I would hike down to the creek behind our house to collect fireflies. This poem, taken from Carolyn Weber’s Home Going: Poetry For A Season, brings back the magic of  those nights.

FIREFLIES

by Carolyn Weber

On the night we move in
we sit in a row
on the couch
beads on a prayer chain
faces pressed against glass,
all awe, framed.
Outside, countless points of living light
dot the darkening grass.
Screen door screeches then slams
as we race outside to join the twinkling dance.
Bare feet meet cool grass,
the heat retreating with the day.
Children in night shirts,
me, in my tattered robe;
all of us, sorely underdressed
for such festivity.

What are we doing here?

Unleashed uncare wins out,
along with weariness lifted, doubts appeased.
After a full day of unpacking,
of worries and obstacles,
of sweat and second thoughts,
only now the revelation:
Joy unlimited in the connecting of dots …
Everywhere!
The dance of living light.

“Fireflies” is reprinted here with the permission of Carolyn Weber. To find out more about Home Going, please visit Carolyn’s Blog, PressingSave.

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Teaching Your Kids About Opera

This is a super-fun, interactive video that will teach your kids oodles about opera. It was designed by Classical KUSC Radio & Creative Kids Education Foundation. Just click on the image to get started. Please note that you'll need to have Flash installed to make it work on your computer, however.

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A Poem For All Times
Oath-Of-Christian-Kighthood

AN OATH OF CHRISTIAN KNIGHTHOOD

Andrew Cuff

I swear allegiance to the Lord,
The Source of unattainable Good
And Author of truth, justice, and life.

And to the precepts of His spoken Word,
By which I may prove my devotion
And live the life that my God desires.

I offer my heart as a home made clean
For Christ's Holy Spirit, which from my Father proceedeth.
Undoubtedly this is His greatest gift to His children.

To uphold the safety and virtue of the weak,
To show civility and mercy to the enemy,
To give heart, soul, mind, and strength to the calling of Christ:

Here is my oath, this day foresworn.
Of all purposes Christ first in my heart,
For whom I will do battle ceaselessly unto death.

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An Easter Carol–Christina Rossetti
Morning-Of-Resurrection

An easter Carol

CHRISTINA ROSSETTI

Spring bursts today,
For Christ is risen and all the earth’s at play.

Flash forth, thou Sun,
The rain is over and gone, its work is done.

Winter is past,
Sweet Spring is come at last, is come at last.

Bud, Fig and Vine,
Bud, Olive, fat with fruit and oil and wine.

Break forth this morn
In roses, thou but yesterday a Thorn.

Uplift thy head,
O pure white Lily through the Winter dead.

Beside your dams
Leap and rejoice, you merry-making Lambs.

All Herds and Flocks
Rejoice, all Beasts of thickets and of rocks.

Sing, Creatures, sing,
Angels and Men and Birds and everything.

All notes of Doves
Fill all our world: this is the time of loves.

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How To Tell A Story

Some great tips from that master storyteller, Mark Twain:

The Humorous Story an American Development.—Its Difference from Comic and Witty Stories.
 

I do not claim that I can tell a story as it ought to be told. I only claim to know how a story ought to be told, for I have been almost daily in the company of the most expert story-tellers for many years.

There are several kinds of stories, but only one difficult kind—the humorous. I will talk mainly about that one. The humorous story is American, the comic story is English, the witty story is French. The humorous story depends for its effect upon the manner of the telling; the comic story and the witty story upon the matter.

The humorous story may be spun out to great length, and may wander around as much as it pleases, and arrive nowhere in particular; but the comic and witty stories must be brief and end with a point. The humorous story bubbles gently along, the others burst.

The humorous story is strictly a work of art—high and delicate art—and only an artist can tell it; but no art is necessary in telling the comic and the witty story; anybody can do it. The art of telling a humorous story—understand, I mean by word of mouth, not print—was created in America, and has remained at home.

The humorous story is told gravely; the teller does his best to conceal the fact that he even dimly suspects that there is anything funny about it; but the teller of the comic story tells you beforehand that it is one of the funniest things he has ever heard, then tells it with eager delight, and is the first person to laugh when he gets through. And sometimes, if he has had good success, he is so glad and happy that he will repeat the "nub" of it and glance around from face to face, collecting applause, and then repeat it again. It is a pathetic thing to see.

Very often, of course, the rambling and disjointed humorous story finishes with a nub, point, snapper, or whatever you like to call it. Then the listener must be alert, for in many cases the teller will divert attention from that nub by dropping it in a carefully casual and indifferent way, with the pretence that he does not know it is a nub.

Artemus Ward used that trick a good deal; then when the belated audience presently caught the joke he would look up with innocent surprise, as if wondering what they had found to laugh at. Dan Setchell used it before him, Nye and Riley and others use it to-day.

But the teller of the comic story does not slur the nub; he shouts it at you—every time. And when he prints it, in England, France, Germany, and Italy, he italicizes it, puts some whooping exclamation-points after it, and sometimes explains it in a parenthesis. All of which is very depressing, and makes one want to renounce joking and lead a better life.

Let me set down an instance of the comic method, using an anecdote which has been popular all over the world for twelve or fifteen hundred years. The teller tells it in this way—Twain goes on to write several examples of what hes talking about, such as The Wounded Soldier & The Golden Arm

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All Saints–Christina Rossetti
Adoration-Of-The-Magi

All Saints

Christina Rossetti

They have brought gold and spices to my King,
Incense and precious stuffs and ivory;
O holy Mother mine, what can I bring
That so my Lord may deign to look on me?
They sing a sweeter song than I can sing,
All crowned and glorified exceedingly:
I, bound on earth, weep for my trespassing,–
They sing the song of love in heaven, set free.
Then answered me my Mother, and her voice
Spake to my heart, yea answered in my heart:
Sing, saith He to the heavens, to earth, Rejoice:
Thou also lift thy heart to Him above:
He seeks not thine, but thee such as thou art,
For lo His banner over thee is Love.’

*From The Complete Poems Of Christina Rossetti

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Inspiring Your Kids To Read

by Rick Nau

As a writer of children’s literature I have a vested interest in encouraging kids to read. The more I can do to steer them to the world of books, the better. That’s a difficult task these days, given the competition that comes from movies, video games, social media, texting and what all.

This isn’t to say that anything’s really changed. When I was a kid I wasn’t interested in reading. It seemed that every book I encountered was dull and boring. Dogs were running about and children were combing their hair, but neither the dogs nor the children were going anywhere. 

Then we moved to an island in the tropics, thousands of miles from the nearest continent. Our house had no air conditioning, so everything electrical was a feast for the wet, salty air. After a month the television expired in a shower of sparks. A while later the record player went haywire. All that was left with speakers in it was a small battery-powered radio that only worked late at night, when it was able to pick up a Japanese station 2000 miles away.

And so I turned to books. At night, when I was supposed to be sleeping, I’d leave the closet door ajar (the closet had a burning lightbulb near the floor to dry out the air and keep the mold off my shoes), turn on a fan to drive off the mosquitos, and enter new worlds, magical worlds, romantic worlds far away from a tiny little island lost in the tropics . . . .

Which brings me back to the topic–how to inspire your kids to read? First off, you’ve got to get the magic yourself. You’ve got to pop open a few books, read them from cover to cover (aloha Pinterest, au revoir Facebook, auf Wiedersehen Twitter, hasta la vista Instagram–for a while, anyway), and let your imagination be swept away like it was when you were a kid. (In my case I’m rereading The Chronicles Of Narnia. Right now I'm up to The Silver Chair and having a blast.) Once you’ve regained that sense of excitement, that urge to venture into the boundless realm of the imagination, you’re ready to inspire your kids.

Now it’s time to find something you can all read together, something that will grab your kids’ attention. It may be a story about a ballerina or a baseball player or someone who can walk on air while wearing special stilts. It may be a book about cats or bugs or lonely kids without any friends. It may be overflowing with difficult words or simple words or no words at all (avoid this one, unless you want to make up the story yourself). It may be filled with pictures, or there may be no pictures at all. Whatever it may be, work with your kids until you find just the right book.

On to the last part, the magical part. Make reading together a fun event, like going to the movies or celebrating a special occasion. Whip up some popcorn or hot chocolate or lemonade, find a nice place in the house or on the porch or in the yard, and read the book aloud together. Take your time, enjoy it, just for the sake of  being with your kids. Be patient. If they massacre some of the words (which they will), help them to say and understand them. If they can’t visualize what the writer is saying, help bring the words to life for them. Whatever you do, make it fun, something they will look forward to the next time. Remember, what they want more than any book in the world is being with you. And later, once they have left the nest, once they are curled up with a good book, they will think of those happy times with you.

Rick Nau1 Comment
Before The Dawn Of Time
Glory Of The Heavens

In C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, a young boy, Edmund, betrays his brother and sisters to a terrible witch who holds the kingdom of Narnia under her evil spell. When he is caught in his crime, the witch demands justice. Under the law, she says, Edmund must die:

. . . unless I have blood as the Law says all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water.

All seems lost until Aslan, the great lion, King of many kingdoms, reveals a far greater law, one set down before the beginning of time.

But if she (the witch) could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table (on which is written the law) would crack and Death itself would start working backward.

So it was in the fictional land of Narnia that Edmund was saved by the death and resurrection of a fictional lion. And so it is that in our world, we are saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Lion of Judah.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

This is the Good News we celebrate this Easter, that Christ is risen and that if we pledge our allegiance to Him, we will dwell with Him forever.

One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple. Psalm 27:4

And with this Good News comes a warning, for it makes clear that if we die without Christ in our lives, we will be judged under the law and perish.

For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish. Psalm 1:6

So let us remember the message of the angel to the women who came to visit the tomb of our Savior:

But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. “He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. Matthew 28:5-6

In celebration of Easter, let us spread the news that Christ has delivered us from our sins, that with His resurrection He has overcome the spell of death that enshrouds our dark and dying world. Let us answer the message of the angel in the presence of all who would hear:

Christ Is Risen! He Is Risen Indeed!

Rick Nau1 Comment
Review Of Surprised By Oxford

It was a summer ago that I read Surprised by Oxford. I was working on a novel, an attempt to resurrect a story that lingered in the distant past. I needed something to inspire me, to move me forward, to push me out of the rut I was stuck in.

I can’t remember how I found the book. Not at a bookstore. Almost all of them had long since closed their doors. The days of browsing the shelves were over. Instead, I was tapping around on my iPad, not really knowing what I would find, when I stumbled upon it. I read a few of the reader comments, then noticed that I could download the prologue for free.

It was a stunner, grabbed my attention immediately. A young college student (the author-Carolyn Weber) is walking with her professor, pitching him her idea for a feminist interpretation of a John Donne sonnet about God. His reaction? Twofold. There is a short version, which I’ll not give away, and a long, which is this:

Anything not done in submission to God, anything not done to the glory of God, is doomed to failure, frailty and futility. This is the unholy trinity we humans fear most.

Her reaction? She’s blown away. Her brilliant analysis is so far off base she’s afraid she’s going to flunk the class.

So begins the memoir of an agnostic running the gauntlet of academia, one of the last places on earth you’d think you’d find God. But everywhere she turns, he’s there, surrounding her with his love, speaking to her through teachers, fellow students, books, paintings, etchings on paving stones, the Oxford crest (Dominus Illuminatio Mea-The Lord Is My Light), even a coffee mug.

This is an incredible story–required reading for anyone considering a life-major in agnosticism. Written in a snappy,  self-effacing (though not always), off-the-cuff, sometimes irreverent style (did I just think of Joan Rivers?), you never know what or who’s lurking around the next bend.

Though the subject–the nature of God and our relationship to him–is huge, Caro (the author’s nickname) tackles it head on, showering us along the way with her delightful humor, wit, and wisdom. One minute she’s talking about the pervasiveness of sin, the next minute a Buck’s Fizz is going up her nose. One day she’s enthralled by a painting of Christ, another day she’s lost on the streets of London, dragging a suitcase full of shoes behind her. She’s not intimidated by an eminent Oxford professor who puts her on the spot about the existence of absolute truth, yet she’s thrown into a tizzy by a gorgeous rival in stiletto heels (whom she calls Miss Georgia).

In spite of her agnosticism, Caro falls for a Christian, a handsome American she (a Canadian) names TDH (why do I keep thinking of him as Hugh Grant–he’s British), who bears a striking resemblance to the original James Bond. One stormy night he presents the gospel to her, plain and clear, patiently answering each of her questions.

“So what is faith?” she asks, not sure if she wants to know the answer. TDH replies:

Faith is simply belief in the gift of eternal life, made possible by Christ’s resurrection. This gift of grace is yours for the taking. We just have to accept it.

Wherever Caro goes, God is always there, answering her questions, spoken and unspoken. At a dinner she overhears a fascinating conversation between a waiter and a brilliant scientist.

I wondered if you could tell me what you consider to be the strongest force in the universe.

Love . . . Life without faith is death. For life, as it was intended to be, is love. Start loving and you’ll really start living. There is no other force comparable to that.

Which leads us to the heart of the memoir, one of light and of love. For above all this story is about Christ’s love for us, told from the heart of a wounded soul who discovers (with great surprise) Christ’s deep and and tender love for her.

Behold! My servant whom I uphold,
My Elect one in whom my soul delights!
I have put my spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.
He will not cry out, nor raise His voice,
Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street.
A bruised reed He will not break,
And a smoking flax He will not quench.

Isaiah 42: 1-3

Toward the end of her story Caro puts several questions to a fellow Oxford student, hoping that he’ll follow her down the new path she has taken with Christ:

Don’t you ever wonder what it’s all for? Don’t you think you’ll get to the end of your life, look back on it, and regardless of what you’ve built for yourself–if you’re lucky enough to have even achieved that–it won’t seem quite enough? Haven’t you ever had a strange, ‘What is it all for?’ feeling as you flip through an obituary? What about when it’s yours?

She is, of course, asking us the same questions, hoping that we will look with her beyond the stark, material world into the eternal heart of God.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough (as I’ve said, I’ve read it twice). It’s not just a memoir, it’s a guide for living, overflowing with wonderful, wisdom-filled advice. Whether you’re a college student, a college-bound senior, or anyone else who who wants to be able to judge wisely between the truths and the lies you’ll be presented with in life, you’ve got to read Surprised By Oxford.

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