The Total Inability (or Total Depravity) of graceless human nature should not be difficult for us to grasp. One glance at the nightly news plainly reveals that all human beings – from Hollywood to Afghanistan – struggle unsuccessfully to find spiritual meaning and satisfaction. As the Preacher in Ecclesiastes makes clear, the heart of every person is filled with a desire for “eternity” (Ecc 3:11) and yet, if God should leave us in our graceless Continue reading
I wrote the following poem from the perspective of a dying maple leaf. Several years ago I was driving along Interstate 81 heading toward Roanoke, Virginia. It was autumn and the leaves were absolutely gorgeous. I pulled my car over to the side of the road to enjoy a breathtaking view that overlooked a valley filled with white farmhouses and green pastures. The surrounding trees were brilliantly splotched with every color that autumn could possibly render. As I stood there drinking in the scene, I noticed a maple tree on the side of the ridge beside me. Its head was stretching in the wind. The tree grew out sideways over the valley and as a result it had lost almost all of its leaves. I took special note of one bright yellow leaf that hung on tight, shivering all alone in the wind. That leaf held fast when almost every other leaf had given way, falling hundreds of feet into the valley below. I wrote this poem with that leaf in mind. I cling to life. Just like that little leaf. I hang on with the vain hope that I will live forever, scared to death of the “undiscover’d country, from whose bourn no traveler returns.” Yet, a day will come, sooner than I realize, when the Autumn Daystar (the beloved Savior – Jesus Christ) will call me to let go of that which was never mine. As that day moves closer, I am learning how to die – how to bear the Cross, how to die to myself, how to die to sin, idolatry, selfishness, and anger. I am learning to surrender to the call of Christ’s sacrificial love. I am learning to surrender to the music that will one day sound my departure from this life. Until then, may Christ prepare me for that day, so that I may release my grip with joy and worship, singing “Autumn Daystar, bid me come.”
I love the song “Joy” by Page CXVI. It was written by Tifah Phillips as a lament to Christ after her father died of cancer. (Here is the link to her story ab0ut how the song was written – http://blog.pagecxvi.com/post/683764188/joy). Tifah took the song “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, down in my heart” and she rearranged it into a lament. She recognized that joy is something that is beyond mere happiness. She understood that true joy, if it is to become true and loving, must be mingled with a sorrow that shares in the sufferings of Christ.
So often I find that we Christians do not know how to be sad. We tragically believe that the joy of Christ does not allow for sadness or tears or pain, feeling that an expression of sadness is a denial of Christ. We mask our sadness by wearing a veneer of happiness. Or we avoid sadness by harboring deep bitterness and anger. In a weird paradox, we often do both at the same time.
I’m watching her; I can’t will myself to look away from her bright beautiful form. I doubt she notices me, I am so dwarfed by comparison, but it does not matter. Just a few more minutes, I tell myself, and then I will scrape the last amount of dignity I have out of the bowl and I will look away. I feel as if I am feeding off of her radiance. If I look away I believe that I will die. I must look away in order to regain my self-respect. I have to stop worshiping the Moon. I may be a flower, but I am not ordinary. I am a rose. The king of flowers. I can defy the Moon. She is false nourishment. I must get back to my true light. With all the determination I have left, I force my gaze away toward the ground. I did it. I looked away, and I am still breathing. There is no hurt. No death. I remain whole. But then I start to feel it…a burning deep within me, and an intense sense of shame. I have bowed before this idol’s borrowed glory and now I am ashamed. What have I done? Is there nothing that is true? The red within my petals withdraws into the ground. My bloom begins to fade. Death sets in.
Just when these thoughts seem most crushing, I feel the change. The Moon is gone and something has replaced it. The Sun has broken in the morning sky, elegant and majestic. He lights up all the earth and I feel myself being fed and renewed. He notices me and my shame is cast away. He looks at me and I know that I am loved. Once starving, my hunger now is quenched. I know what is true and what I will worship. True light. True warmth. True fire. I am weak, but he is strong. I will falter, but I am forgiven.
I was loved, I am loved, and I will be loved.
Yet, I must drink deeply now, for night will come again.
This is a poem written by my daughter – Callie Melton. She calls it “Made to Fly”. Whenever I read it, it makes me think of heaven. My heart yearns to dwell in that place where earth and sky are one, where the curse has been removed, where our doubts no longer master us,…where our faith has become sight and we dwell together with our God in the garden that he has prepared for us.
Click “Read the rest…” to read the poem.
I’m feeling pretty pensive today. I thought it might be a good day to repost my poem – I Descend into the Beauty. This time, I have included effects and music in the recording. If I had to put a scripture reference underneath this poem it would be “Matthew 16:25 – For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” I am finding that spiritual maturity in the Christian life is gained through learning how to die – dying to selfishness, dying to anger, dying to idolatrous dreams, dying to sin – that we might gain Christ. In the poem, I am the yellow maple leaf, weak with fear, dying to the blows that life delivers. Until I finally release my grip, I cannot know the joy of Christ’s Song nor dance in his arms. How thankful I am that the Autumn Daystar reveals himself to me and pries my fingers away from my idolatrous life.
The music in the background is from the movie Pan’s Labyrinth – which by the way, is also about dying, overcoming fear, and selfless love. It is a beautiful picture of the gospel. But that’s another blog entry. Enjoy.
Click below to hear the poem.
Click “Read the rest of this entry” to read the lyrics to the poem.