A Gift

Someone special got some new parents today. Or at least she met them. Catherine, 8 lbs, said hi to the outside world and she seems to like her folks! Actually she is very sleepy and hasn’t commented much, at least while I’ve been watching. I hope Evan will write a poem about her. “The hand of our God was upon us,” and GravyGal had a very easy and quick day of it. More later I hope!

GravyGal and her baby

Love Unknown by George Herbert

I’m going to try to reopen comments starting with this post.

I’ve posted a new poem by Herbert entitled Love Unknown. You can read the text without comments here, but since it is long I thought I would walk you through it. It is a little difficult the first time you read it.

The poem is written as if Herbert is telling his friend a story. The friend’s words are in italics. Herbert narrates the poem as if it is something that happened to him, but it is symbolic or allegory, a bit like Pilgrim’s Progress. You’ll see what I mean as we go along.

Dear friend, sit down, the tale is long and sad:
And in my faintings I presume your love
Will more comply, than help. A Lord I had,
And have, of whom some grounds, which may improve,
I hold for two lives, and both lives in me.

This introduction is a little obscure. There seem to be double or triple references here. (Pasternak says: “Unconvoluted, the sense runs as follows: I have a Lord some of whose grounds I rent, in return for my two lives. The two lives are life on earth and life in the hereafter; the grounds belonging to the Lord are the speaker’s soul, which may improve with the repentance about to be detailed.” But this does not explain the “both lives in me.”) At any rate, he brings his lord a dish of fruit, and the picture seems to be that the lord passes all dishes of food to his servant before partaking of them. However, the dish (or offering) has Herbert’s heart in the middle, and the servant sees that his heart needs some serious medicine, because it is a wicked heart. It needs the washing of the blood of Christ:
To him I brought a dish of fruit one day,
And in the middle placed my heart. But he
(I sigh to say)
Look’d on a servant, who did know his eye
Better than you know me, or (which is one)
Than I myself. The servant instantly
Quitting the fruit, seized on my heart alone
And threw it in a font, wherein did fall
A stream of blood, which issued from the side
Of a great rock: I well remember all,
And have good cause: there it was dipt and dyed,
And wash’d, and wrung: the very wringing yet
Enforceth tears. Your heart was foul, I fear.
Indeed ’tis true. I did and do commit
Many a fault more than my lease will bear;
Yet still ask’d pardon, and was not denied.
But you shall hear. After my heart was well …

The friend, in italics, observes that Herbert’s heart was foul, and Herbert admits it. But there is more to come:

But you shall hear. After my heart was well,
And clean and fair, as I one even-tide
(I sigh to tell)
Walk’d by myself abroad, I saw a large
And spacious furnace flaming, and thereon
A boiling caldron, round about whose verge
Was in great letters set AFFLICTION
The greatness show’d the owner. So I went
To fetch a sacrifice out of my fold,
Thinking with that, which I did thus present,
To warm his love, which I did fear grew cold.

The greatness showed the owner: that is, it was owned by the Lord. Herbert goes to his “fold” (i.e. sheep fold) to get a sacrifice…
But as my heart did tender it, the man
Who was to take it from me, slipt his hand,
And threw my heart into the scalding pan;
My heart that brought it (do you understand?),
The offerer’s heart. Your heart was hard, I fear.

The friend makes another observation.

Indeed ’tis true. I found a callous matter
Began to spread and to expatiate there:
But with a richer drug, than scalding water,
I bathed it often, even with holy blood,
Which at a board, while many drank bare wine,
A friend did steal into my cup for good,
Even taken inwardly, and most divine
To supple hardness.
[”supple” = soften]
Herbert realizes the problem, and he regularly bathes his heart (again) in the healing blood of Christ. Of course this is all figurative. We must take our hearts again and again and cleanse them before God in the forgiveness and healing of Christ. You thought the Gospel was just for the unsaved? No, my brother, it is to heal you daily also.

Note his interesting comment that many, when they approach, drink “bare wine.” In other words, without faith, the mere partaking of the outward symbols of the Christian faith has no more effect than drinking ordinary wine. The “friend” who mixes in blood is probably the Holy Spirit, in Herbert’s thinking.

…To supple hardness. But at the length
Out of the caldron getting, soon I fled
Unto my house, where to repair the strength
Which I had lost, I hasted to my bed:
But when I thought to sleep out all these faults,
(I sigh to speak)
I found that some had stuff’d the bed with thoughts,
I would say thorns. Dear, could my heart not break,
When with my pleasures even my rest was gone?
Full well I understood, who had been there:
For I had given the key to none but one:
It must be he. Your heart was dull, I fear.

The friend again gives his helpful observation!

Indeed a slack and sleepy state of mind
Did oft possess me, so that when I pray’d,
Though my lips went, my heart did stay behind

Herbert ends with his confidence that all his misdeeds are atoned for by his Savior. Then the friend wraps it all up with an extended explanation:

But all my scores were by another paid,
Who took the debt upon him. Truly, Friend,
For aught I hear, your Master shows to you

More favour than you wot of. Mark the end. [”wot” = knew]
The Font did only, what was old, renew:
The Caldron suppled, what was grown too hard:
The Thorns did quicken, what was grown too dull:
All did but strive to mend, what you had marr’d.
Wherefore be cheer’d, and praise him to the full
Each day, each hour, each moment of the week,
Who fain would have you be, new, tender, quick.

How can we not love Herbert, who sees that “And now I am happy all the day” is not at all a description of the true Christian life! Friend, are you worried and afflicted? God is merciful to you! Seek him in the affliction, not simply to escape the affliction. If you need a Font, a Cauldron, or Thorns, the Lord knows to give them to you.

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I’ve had to disable comments on the blog while I study how you use WordPress to disable comment spam.  I’ve received hundreds of ‘comments’ which are all spam. If anybody is a WordPress expert, let me know how you disable spam comments.

New articles and UK premiere of Amazing Grace

With the UK opening of the movie this week, and the four weeks of US reflection on the movie, some interesting articles have appeared.  I bypass many (sometimes poorly researched) articles to bring you one that is genuinely interesting, and a couple of others.
Mark Steyn, who loves movies as well as conservative reforms, has his say, and he does not disappoint. This is one of the best short articles that has appeared this year on Wilberforce, and by a non-evangelical at that.
Christian Today, a UK website, has a nice interview with several of the main participants.

Finally, here is the Web equivalent of junk food: pictures of the actors at the UK premiere.

Amazing Bluegrass

Bobby Hicks with the reunited Hot RizeWell, what a Friday and Saturday we had in Argyle, Texas at the Argyle Bluegrass Festival. This festival has brought bluegrass to new heights in North Texas, heights that have never been seen before. Sure, we’ve had our Ricky Skaggs at Bass Hall, Alison Krauss at Bass Hall, and there was that time when the Down From the Mountain tour came to Fair Park, etc. But for consistent, yearly bluegrass with top national bands, nobody does it like the 4 year old Argyle Bluegrass Festival. For the price of one ticket at Bass Hall, you get two days of the very best bluegrass anywhere. Plus, the organizers are heavy on the traditional: no Telluride flavor here. This is straight up bluegrass. The most progressive they get is when they invite Claire Lynch, which they’ve done two years in a row, and bless them, they can just invite her every year as far as I’m concerned.

Anyway, the headline band to close out the show this year was Hot Rize. That’s right, a band that hasn’t existed for 15 years was on stage. It’s kind of like getting to see a Beatles reunion. Three out of four of them are still alive - Charles Sawtelle being the tragic missing figure, having died young - but they brought Bryan Sutton with them on guitar, and the legendary Bobby Hicks even stepped on stage for a few numbers.

It just doesn’t get any better than this for family entertainment, folks. Come one, come all, to Argyle next year on March 7th & 8th, 2008.

Reviews and Articles - 3

Of course, as good as the movie Amazing Grace is (and I still need to write my own complete review), I’m sure we can all think of ways that it could have been even better. There could have been a more exact representation of the content of his Christian faith. (One Christian blogger wondered about a faith that seems only to have consisted of wanting to lay in wet grass and look at spiderwebs.)

An excellent article appeared in my Gmail inbox. My link was to website VirtueOnline, “The Voice for Global Orthodox Anglicanism,” but the article, “Hollywood’s ‘Amazing’ Glaze” comes from the Wall Street Journal’s website OpinionJournal. Charlotte Allen sums up, better than most, the deficiencies of the movie’s representation of Wilberforce’s faith. I urge you to read it here. When Christian and political leaders in the USA are falling all over themselves to recommend the movie (and I agree with them), we need to realize that this is just a movie after all, and it is no substitute for the robust and challenging content of the actual faith that Wilberforce believed.

Perhaps the best rebuke to some of the Wilberforce mania is the actual full title of Wilberforce’s one book of theology. Meditate deeply on this title and apply it to our American scene: A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians in the Higher and Middle Classes of Society, Contrasted With Real Christianity.

In other news, this article contains an interview with Michael Apted, and shows some of his own (secular) motivations for making the movie the way he did.

And this article contains an account of a preview showing of the movie in Wilberforce’s hometown, Hull.

Reviews and Articles - 2

More reviews.  I note that on RottenTomatoes.com, the movie has a 70% approval rating.

Los Angeles Times

Chicago Sun-Times

The New Yorker

Denver Rocky Mountain News

Reviews and articles

As expected, there are lots of Amazing Grace reviews. I’ll be writing my own later, but here are a few of the best. They don’t constantly get the details or understand what they are writing about, but they are basically positive. (Because I didn’t link to the less-positive ones!)
Miami Herald

San Fransisco Chronicle

Santa Cruz Sentinel

National Review

National Public Radio

New York Daily News

Orange County Register


Hot links for Amazing Grace movie

Now it’s time to start rounding up some of the good links across the Web this week. This will probably be the first of multiple posts.

First, know that Chuck Colson and the Breakpoint staff are featuring Wilberforce all week. There is a post for every day.

World Magazine likes the movie.

Now for some blogs and reviews.

SoloFemininity says it’s a great movie

CinemaDave says Amazing Grace is a peaceful Braveheart.

The Salem, Oregon StatesmanJournal really likes this movie.

New York magazine says “No, it’s not subtle, but how subtle was slavery?

And don’t forget the address of the main movie website.


Ioan Gruffudd as William WilberforceI’ve been using Google News Alerts to get daily updates on what the media is saying about Wilberforce. Up to this week, the reviews of this movie have been basically nonexistent, but as its worldwide release is February 23, I expect that to change rapidly during this week.

I believe this movie has the potential to be the next Chariots of Fire, in the area of inspiration. I urge everybody to see it as quickly as possible, inside of a theater, so that it makes money and continues for a long release.

As for media attention, I’ve found only one really meaty article on the Web this week, and that is from World Magazine, no real surprise there. You can find it here.

I’ll try to post links to the most informative reviews as they appear. Personally I think I will be at Cinemark Legacy this weekend.