C. S. Lewis, “Evensong” [Poetry for Ordinary Time]

I’ve enjoyed posting poetry series themed around the Christian year in the past couple of years (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter“). I will continue that with a series called “Poetry for Ordinary Time.” Ordinary time includes two sections of the church year between Christmastide and Lent and Easter and Advent. The word “ordinary” here derives from the word ordinal by which the weeks are counted. Still, ordinary time does serve an opportunity to embrace the ordinary spaces and places of our lives, and the themes of the poems will express this.

Here is C. S. Lewis’ poem “Evensong.” While C. S. Lewis is best known for his Narnia books and other writings on Christian themes, such as Mere Christianity, Lewis was a scholar of Medieval and Renaissance literature at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Amidst all this, Lewis was an occasional writer of poetry, which was edited by Walter Hooper and published posthumously in Poems.


Now that night is creeping
O’er our travail’d senses,
To Thy care unsleeping
We commit our sleep.
Nature for a season
Conquers our defences,
But th’ eternal Reason
Watch and ward will keep.

All the soul we render
Back to Thee completely,
Trusting Thou wilt tend her
Through the deathlike hours,
And all night remake her
To Thy likeness sweetly,
Then with dawn awake her
And give back her powers.

Slumber’s less uncertain
Brother soon will bind us
—Darker falls the curtain,
Stifling-close ’tis drawn:
But amidst that prison
Still Thy voice can find us,
And, as Thou hast risen,
Raise us in They dawn.

The Weekend Wanderer: 20 March 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.even sharing it with someone who you know struggles in this way.


Leland Ryken“Leland Ryken: Teaching Literature and the Bible as Literature” – As an undergraduate studying English literature at Wheaton College (IL), I had the privilege to study under Leland Ryken, an authority on John Milton, but also a man of God passionate about reading and teaching the Bible well. His 1984 book How to Read the Bible as Literature had a monumental impact upon me and continues to have great influence on many others today. I was privileged to serve with a couple others as a research assistant with Ryken and Jim Wilhoit on The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. Here is Chase Replogle’s Pastor-Writer podcast interview with Ryken as he prepares to release a new book, Recovering the Lost Art of Reading: A Quest for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.


Li-Young Lee“A Conversation with Li-Young Lee” – With my undergraduate studies in literature, I find tremendous joy in both reading and writing poetry. Here is a fascinating interview of Li-Young Lee, one of our most powerful contemporary poets, by Paul T. Corrigan in Image Journal: “Li-Young Lee’s books of poetry include Rose (1986), winner of the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Poetry Award; The City in Which I Love You (1990), which was a Lamont Poetry Selection; Book of My Nights (2001), which won the William Carlos Williams Award; From Blossoms: Selected Poems (2007), and Behind My Eyes (2008). His other work includes Breaking the Alabaster Jar, a collection of twelve interviews edited by Earl G. Ingersoll, and The Winged Seed (1995), a memoir which received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Lee was born to Chinese parents in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 1957. In 1959, the family fled the country to escape anti-Chinese persecution and lived in Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan before settling in the United States in 1964. Lee attended the Universities of Pittsburgh and Arizona and the State University of New York at Brockport. He has taught at several universities, including Northwestern and the University of Iowa. His awards include fellowships from the Academy of American Poets and Guggenheim Foundation, a Lannan Literary Award, a Whiting Writer’s Award, the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award, the I.B. Lavan Award, three Pushcart Prizes, and grants from the Illinois Arts Council, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and National Endowment for the Arts. He lives in Chicago. He was interviewed by Paul T. Corrigan.”


stanley-hauerwas“Peacemaking Is Political: An Interview with Stanley Hauerwas by Charles E. Moore” – Stanley Hauerwas is undoubtedly the most renowned, and at-times controversial, Christian ethicist of our day. His book, A Community of Character: Toward a Constructive Social Ethic, is a seminal work on Christian ethics in the contemporary era. In Plough Quarterly, Charles E. Moore interviews Hauerwas in what becomes an exploration of Jesus-centered ethics, peace-making and non-violence, narrative frames, how peace is political, and so much more. While we may not agree with everything Hauerwas speaks about, he will certainly provoke each of us toward deep thinking about Jesus and what it means to be the church and a disciple of Jesus in an age of violence, tension, and distrust.


spirituals“Black Spirituals as Poetry and Resistance” – From Kaitlyn Greenidge in The New York Times: “This imaginative leap is most on display in spirituals. These are the songs, born from rhythms of stolen labor, that enslaved Black people invented on the plantations. They are an early instance of the kind of doublespeak and double consciousness made famous by W. E. B. DuBois. They served, on the one hand, as a testament to the Christian experience but also, on the other, as a way to articulate a resistance to slavery. Spirituals, like many other musical genres across the African diaspora, draw on traditions from West Africa. But spirituals are unique to the experience of the enslaved in the United States — the same artistry and craft that birthed them here produced recognizable, but decidedly different, music across the Caribbean and South America.”


Old-Vintage-Books“Reading Old Books: C. S. Lewis’ Introduction to Athanasius’ On the Incarnation – In his introduction to St. Athanasius’ On The Incarnation, C.S. Lewis shares his extended reflections on the importance of reading widely, but always reading deeply, in terms of reaching deeper into previous eras to converse with ancient voices, whose different contexts and different issues can help provide perspective on our own context and issues. If you’ve never read Lewis’ fine words in that introduction let me encourage you to read it here. While you’re at it, you may enjoy reading the work Lewis is introducing itself. Athanasius is one of the most important theologians in the history of Christianity.


Christ Church Melaka Malaysia“Malaysia High Court rules Christians can use ‘Allah'” – From the BBC: “Malaysia’s high court has overturned a policy banning Christians from using the word “Allah” to refer to God, the latest in a decades-long legal battle. It comes as part of a case brought by a Christian whose religious materials were seized as they contained the word. The issue of non-Muslims using “Allah” has in the past sparked tension and violence in Malaysia. Muslims make up almost two-thirds of the population, but there are also large Christian communities. These Christian communities argue that they have used the word “Allah”, which entered Malay from Arabic, to refer to their God for centuries and that the ruling violates their rights. Malaysia’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion. But religious tensions have risen in recent years.”


Music: John Tavener, “The Lament of the Mother of God” (1988), performed by Solveig Kringelborn, the London Symphony Orchestra, and the Winchester Cathedral Choir under the direction of conductor David Hill.

The Weekend Wanderer: 12 December 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


Nazareth site“Ancient Dwelling Excavated in Nazareth May Have Been Childhood Home of Jesus” – “An archaeologist may have discovered the location of the childhood home of Jesus in Nazareth. Professor Ken Dark from the University of Reading in England believes he has established a plausible case for the remains of a 1st-century home excavated beneath a modern-day convent. According to him, the ancient dwelling was first investigated in the 19th century, but the idea lost traction among experts in the 1930s. The site went mostly forgotten since, until Dark launched an expedition in 2006 to reinvestigate the area.”


Chauncey Allmond“Logos Enlists Black Church Leaders to Diversify Bible Study Resources” – “Chauncey Allmond dreams of a day when white evangelical preachers will reference the work of African American Bible scholars without even thinking about it. He and his colleagues at Logos Bible Software hope they can make that happen by adding more African American voices to the digital study tools currently used by more than 4.5 million people. ‘The African American voice is a powerful voice that needs to be heard,’ Allmond said. ‘There’s a lot of traditions in the African American church that I think Logos is missing out on.'”


W H Auden - Reimer“What Comes After: W. H. Auden’s cure for the post-Christmas blues” – W. H. Auden was one of the foremost English poets of the 20th century and also a Christian. His poetry was increasingly influenced by his faith, and his book-length work For the Time Being is particularly appropriate for this time of year. A professor I studied with while at Wheaton reads this work every year during Advent or Christmas. Here is Jeff Reimer in Commonweal: “every character in this long and complex poem senses that the birth of the child demands a response; senses that…Christ has “thrown everything off balance.” They are all caught up in the aspect of time that Tillich, developing a biblical contrast, calls kairos as opposed to kronos, categories with which Auden was consciously working. In other words, their confrontation with the Christ child is not part of the flow of ordinary chronological time, but by appointment; it is a summons, a moment of decision.”


Including the Stranger“Book Review: Including the Stranger: Foreigners in the Former Prophets – The prophets of the Hebrew Bible often address God’s care for what is often called “the quartet of the vulnerable“: the widow, the orphan, resident aliens, and the poor. The Minor Prophets are the easiest portion of Scripture to turn to on God’s concern for these people, but what do other portions of Scripture say about this theme? In Themelois, David R. Jackson reviews David G. Firth’s recent contribution to this area of study on the former prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings) for the New Studies in Biblical Theology series.


Keira Bell“Puberty blockers: Under-16s ‘unlikely to be able to give informed consent'” – This in from the UK, which tends to be ahead of us on some of these issues related to social change, via the BBC: “Children under 16 with gender dysphoria are unlikely to be able to give informed consent to undergo treatment with puberty-blocking drugs, three High Court judges have ruled. The case was brought against Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, which said it was ‘disappointed’ but immediately suspended such referrals for under-16s. The NHS said it ‘welcomed the clarity’ the ruling would bring. One of the claimants, Keira Bell, said she was ‘delighted’ by the judgment. Ms Bell, 23, from Cambridge, had been referred to the Tavistock Centre, which runs the UK’s only gender-identity development service (GIDS), as a teenager and was prescribed puberty blockers aged 16. She argued the clinic should have challenged her more over her decision to transition to a male as a teenager.”


Walter Hooper“Died: Walter Hooper, Who Gave His Life to C.S. Lewis’s Legacy” – From Christianity Today: “Walter Hooper, a North Carolina man who dedicated his life to preserving and promoting the writings of C. S. Lewis, died Monday at the age of 89. He was sick with COVID-19. Hooper served briefly and informally as Lewis’s literary secretary—helping the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, and The Abolition of Man answer his mail—before Lewis’s death in 1963. Hooper, then 33, left a teaching post at the University of Kentucky to take a leading role in managing Lewis’s literary estate. He continued to promote Lewis for the rest of his life.”


Music: Chabros Music, “Come Worship Christ

The Weekend Wanderer: 21 November 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


Hatch - preaching“When Words About God Become the Word of the Lord” – I think a lot about preaching and how the words of human communicators can possibly express the wonders of the Scripture given us by God. Not only do I think a lot about preaching, but I also preach quite a bit and write about preaching. Because of this, I don’t lightly recommend articles about preaching. This one by Nathan Hatch, President of Wake Forest University, is well worth the read.


Thabiti Anyabwile“Pastors Launch Church-Planting Network for ‘Black and Brown Neighborhoods'” – Over the last few years, a good friend of mine, Kurt Owens, has been working on new initiatives for equipping and raising up central city church planting. He found that many of the predominant models of approaching church planting really do not work well in non-suburban, non-white contexts. I applaud his work and try to encourage him. I was encouraged when I saw that Thabiti Anyabwile was also working on something similar with his new initiative, The Crete Collective.


Carl Lentz - K Beaty“Carl Lentz and the ‘hot pastor’ problem”Last week I posted the disappointing news about Hillsong-New York’s pastor, Carl Lentz, being fired after having an extramarital affair. At Religion News Katelyn Beaty offers a well-written, entertaining, and challenging read about Lentz, megachurch Christianity, and men’s and women’s roles within evangelicalism. The last line will leave you thinking. Another take on the same topic comes from Carey Nieuwhof in his blog post, “Some Thoughts on Why Megachurch Pastors Keep Falling.” Another article that I posted a couple of weeks ago is also relevant here, Andy Crouch’s “Spiritual Disciplines for Public Leadership.”


Bay area“Gardeners and Pilgrims: Reviving place in the Christian imagination” – I bookmarked this article at Comment several months ago, but returned to read it only this past week and found it particularly insightful and meaningful as I finished off a series on unity by looking at the new heaven and the new earth. In this article Wilfred M. McClay explores the loss of a sense of place that has accelerated because of technology and transience, considering how Christianity speaks into this loss in a way filled with tension between the now and not-yet. That description is a mouthful, but McClay’s essay will make you think about the way we live now.


Eagle and Child interior“Friends and Letters: A Review of Dorothy and Jack: The Transforming Friendship of Dorothy L. Sayers and C. S. Lewis, by Gina Dalfonzo” – Alexandria Desanctis in The National Review: “Lewis, Tolkien, and the Inklings have been the subject of careful study and popular interest for decades, but thus far scholars have paid relatively little attention to the friendship between Lewis and another well-known contemporary of his, Dorothy L. Sayers. The mind behind the Lord Peter Wimsey detective series, Sayers was a fiction writer who, like Lewis, devoted herself also to the study of Christian theology and produced several works of apologetics. In a new book, Dorothy and Jack, Gina Dalfonzo delves into the correspondence between these two writers, which spanned more than a decade, beginning with a letter from Sayers to Lewis and ending with Sayers’s death.”


children douthat“The Case for One More Child: Why Large Families Will Save Humanity” – While the title may not immediately grab your attention, or may even put you off, let me encourage you to give this article by Ross Douthat in Plough a spin: “We lack a moral framework for talking about this problem. It would make an immense difference to the American future if more Americans were to simply have the 2.5 kids they say they want, rather than the 1.7 births we’re averaging. But talking about a declining birthrate, its consequences for social programs or economic growth or social harmony, tends to seem antiseptic, a numbers game. It skims over the deeper questions: What moral claim does a potential child have on our society? What does it mean to fail someone who doesn’t yet exist?”


preaching-the-christian-year“Time Touching Eternity: Preaching through the Christian Year” – My latest article at Preaching Today went live this week. In it I explore the ways in which preaching can benefit from following the Christian year. As we move through Thanksgiving to Advent and the beginning of the Christian calendar, I am so thankful to the editors of PT for giving me the opportunity to share some ways the rhythms of liturgical year have shaped my own spirituality and preaching.


Music: I.Erickson, “Drowning

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

C. S. Lewis on the Unprovable Efficacy of Prayer

Recently, I came across this extended quotation from C. S. Lewis on prayer in a devotional I read each morning. Lewis’ writings on prayer are always refreshing to me in their vibrancy and practicality. He is willing to address some of the most perplexing issues about prayer but does so without drying all the lively faith out of prayer.

Some years ago I got up one morning intending to have my hair cut in preparation for a visit to London, and the first letter I opened made it clear I need not go to London. So, I decided to put the haircut off too. But then there began the most unaccountable little nagging in my mind, almost like a voice saying, “Get it cut all the same. Go and get it cut.” In the end I could stand it no longer. I went

Now my barber at that time was a fellow Christian and a man of many troubles whom my brother and I had sometimes been able to help. The moment I opened his shop door he said, “Oh, I was praying you might come today.” And, in fact, if I had come a day or so later, I should have been of no use to him.

It awed me; it awes me still. But, of course, one cannot rigorously prove a causal connection between the barber’s prayers and my visit. It might be telepathy. It might be accident.

I have stood by the bedside of a woman whose thigh-bone was eaten through with cancer and who had thriving colonies of the disease in many other bones as well. It took three people to move her in bed. The doctors predicted a few months of life; the nurses (who often know better), a few weeks. A good man laid his hands on her and prayed. A year later the patient was walking (uphill, too, through rough woodland) and the man who took the last X-ray photos was saying, “These bones are as solid as rock. It’s miraculous.”

But once again there is no rigorous proof. Medicine, as all true doctors admit, is not an exact science. We need not invoke the supernatural to explain the falsification of its prophecies. You need, not unless you choose, believe in a causal connections between the prayers and the recovery.

The question then arises, “What sort of evidence would prove the efficacy of prayer?” The thing we pray for may happen, but how can you ever know it was not going to happen anyway? Even if the thing were indisputably miraculous, it would not follow that the miracle had occurred because of your prayers. The answer surely is that a compulsive empirical proof such as we have in the sciences can never be attained.

Some things are proved by the unbroken uniformity of our experiences. The law of gravitation is established by the fact that, in our experience, all bodies without exception obey it. Now even if all the things that people pray for happened, which they do not, this would not prove what Christians mean by the efficacy of prayer. For prayer is request. The essence of request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted.

C. S. Lewis, The World’s Last Night, as quoted in Reuben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer (Nashville, TN: Upper Room, 1983), 326-7.