Saturday, 30 July 2011

Flames upon their head - Mythopoeia 5

Continued, Tolkien to Lewis, 1931. [Parts 1, 2, 3, 4]
In Paradise perchance the eye may stray
from gazing upon everlasting Day
to see the day illumined, and renew
from mirrored truth the likeness of the True.
Then looking on the Blessed Land 'twill see
that all is as it is, and yet made free:
Salvation changes not, nor yet destroys,
garden nor gardener, children nor their toys.
Evil it will not see, for evil lies
not in God's picture but in crooked eyes,
not in the source but in malicious choice,
and not in sound but in the tuneless voice.
In Paradise they look no more awry;
and though they make anew, they make no lie.
Be sure they still will make, not being dead,
and poets shall have flames upon their head,
and harps whereon their faultless fingers fall:
there each shall choose for ever from the All.

Friday, 29 July 2011

John Stott with his incomparable Christ

Post updated 29 July: 
Obits worth reading, in all major UK press - BBC online here; Independent here; Telegraph here; Guardian here; Times also posted but behind a pay-to-view wall.

[27 July]
Dr John R W Stott died this afternoon, surrounded by friends, listening to Handel's Messiah having just heard 2 Timothy read. What glory and joy for him to be face to face with the Christ he loved, served and preached for so long, and hear the words, 'Well done, good and faithful servant: enter into the joy of your Master.' What loss for us.

It is hard to imagine a British evangelical church scene without John Stott. In fact, such was his influence - not colonial, but as a humble servant - that it is hard to imagine the international setting without Uncle John's testimony to Jesus Christ and all his teachings. Yet he was faithful in passing the baton to others, as he was faithful in stewarding talents and starting or developing such ministries: The Lausanne Movement (initiated by Billy Graham, with JRWS bringing a theological unifying factor), Langham Partnership International, IFES, the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, and All Souls Langham Place - all continue with ministries under the leadership of men he encouraged. 

His books continue to speak of his Christ: from Basic Christianity, the means of leading so many to faith in Christ, through his magnum opus, The Cross of Christ, to his final word: The Radical Disciple.

Tributes are everywhere - there's a memorial site on which you can share,, and from All Souls, Lausanne, Christianity Today, Justin Taylor at the Gospel Coalition, Derek Thomas at Ref21... Look out for obits in the broadsheets, to honour this servant, and we pray, lead many to worship his Lord and Saviour. 

I will not walk with your progressive apes - Mythopoeia 4

Continued [part 1, 2 & 3], by J R R Tolkein, to C S Lewis, 1931.
I would that I might with the minstrels sing
and stir the unseen with a throbbing string.
I would be with the mariners of the deep
that cut their slender planks on mountains steep
and voyage upon a vague and wandering quest,
for some have passed beyond the fabled West.
I would with the beleaguered fools be told,
that keep an inner fastness where their gold,
impure and scanty, yet they loyally bring
to mint in image blurred of distant king,
or in fantastic banners weave the sheen
heraldic emblems of a lord unseen.

I will not walk with your progressive apes,
erect and sapient. Before them gapes
the dark abyss to which their progress tends
if by God's mercy progress ever ends,
and does not ceaselessly revolve the same
unfruitful course with changing of a name.
I will not treat your dusty path and flat,
denoting this and that by this and that,
your world immutable wherein no part
the little maker has with maker's art.
I bow not yet before the Iron Crown,
nor cast my own small golden sceptre down.
To be continued...

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Blessed are the legend-makers - Mythopoeia 3

Continued from Mythopoeia 1 and 2 'And still recalls him'; by J R R Tolkien, to CSL in 1931. 
Yes! 'wish-fulfilment dreams' we spin to cheat

our timid hearts and ugly Fact defeat!
Whence came the wish, and whence the power to dream,
or some things fair and others ugly deem?
All wishes are not idle, nor in vain
fulfilment we devise - for pain is pain,
not for itself to be desired, but ill;
or else to strive or to subdue the will
alike were graceless; and of Evil this
alone is deadly certain: Evil is.

Blessed are the timid hearts that evil hate
that quail in its shadow, and yet shut the gate;
that seek no parley, and in guarded room,
though small and bate, upon a clumsy loom
weave tissues gilded by the far-off day
hoped and believed in under Shadow's sway.

Blessed are the men of Noah's race that build
their little arks, though frail and poorly filled,
and steer through winds contrary towards a wraith,
a rumour of a harbour guessed by faith.

Blessed are the legend-makers with their rhyme
of things not found within recorded time.
It is not they that have forgot the Night,
or bid us flee to organized delight,
in lotus-isles of economic bliss
forswearing souls to gain a Circe-kiss
(and counterfeit at that, machine-produced,
bogus seduction of the twice-seduced).
Such isles they saw afar, and ones more fair,
and those that hear them yet may yet beware.
They have seen Death and ultimate defeat,
and yet they would not in despair retreat,
but oft to victory have tuned the lyre
and kindled hearts with legendary fire,
illuminating Now and dark Hath-been
with light of suns as yet by no man seen.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

'And still recalls him' - Mythopoeia 2

Continued from part 1 - Mythopoeia, by J R R Tolkien...

He sees no stars who does not see them first
of living silver made that sudden burst
to flame like flowers beneath an ancient song,
whose very echo after-music long
has since pursued. There is no firmament,
only a void, unless a jewelled tent
myth-woven and elf-patterned; and no earth,
unless the mother's womb whence all have birth.
The heart of Man is not compound of lies,
but draws some wisdom from the only Wise,
and still recalls him. Though now long estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not dethroned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned,
his world-dominion by creative act:
not his to worship the great Artefact,
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons, 'twas our right
(used or misused). The right has not decayed.
We make still by the law in which we're made.
[Paragraphs mine.] To be continued...

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


While I was pondering the value of fairy tales, I met several parents who didn't seem to value them for their children. I recalled that growing up, the fiction shelves in the library started to fill with realistic books. Stories of broken families, of grumbling teenagers, of children like me. But I didn't want to read of children like me, and a plain messy world. I knew that people were sinful and the world subject to frustration. 

As a child, I wanted to read of greater possibilities, to call me out of myself. Not escapism, but words of power to call me on to glory, beauty, faithfulness, hope and love. To know, meeting those things in another broken world, that they might yet be my portion in this world. Fairly tales, myth and legend are timeless, and therefore always relevant. The story of teenagers trying to whine their way through the mundane of school life, well, I didn't need someone to write to me about that. 

Now C S Lewis was on a pursuit of glory, of joy. Surprised to find it in Christ, he turned against the myths which had so fascinated him before. In 1931, he argued about this with his friend Tolkien, who wrote a poem in response, 'To one who said that myths were lies and therefore worthless, even though 'breathed through silver'.' It's quite an astonishing read - although, we don't know if Lewis embraced the views Tolkien tackled, or if his friend was showing him his opinions pushed to logical extreme. 

Philomythus to Misomythus

You look at trees and label them just so,
(for trees are 'trees', and growing is 'to grow');
you walk the earth and tread with solemn pace
one of the many minor globes of Space:
a star's a star, some matter in a ball
compelled to courses mathematical
amid the regimented, cold, inane,
where destined atoms are each moment slain.

At bidding of a Will, to which we bend
(and must), but only dimly apprehend,
great processes march on, as Time unrolls
from dark beginnings to uncertain goals;
and as on page o'er-written without clue,
with script and limning packed of various hue,
an endless multitude of forms appear,
some grim, some frail, some beautiful, some queer,
each alien, except as kin from one
remote Origo, gnat, man, stone, and sun.
God made the petreous rocks, the arboreal trees,
tellurian earth, and stellar stars, and these
homuncular men, who walk upon the ground
with nerves that tingle touched by light and sound.
The movements of the sea, the wind in boughs,
green grass, the large slow oddity of cows,
thunder and lightning, birds that wheel and cry,
slime crawling up from mud to live and die,
these each are duly registered and print
the brain's contortions with a separate dint.
Yet trees are not 'trees', until so named and seen
and never were so named, till those had been
who speech's involuted breath unfurled,
faint echo and dim picture of the world,
but neither record nor a photograph,
being divination, judgement, and a laugh
response of those that felt astir within
by deep monition movements that were kin
to life and death of trees, of beasts, of stars:
free captives undermining shadowy bars,
digging the foreknown from experience
and panning the vein of spirit out of sense.
Great powers they slowly brought out of themselves
and looking backward they beheld the elves
that wrought on cunning forges in the mind,
and light and dark on secret looms entwined.
 To  be continued tomorrow...

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Cape Town 2010

What was Cape Town 2010? Does it have any lasting impact? What about The Lausanne Movement? An excellent 14 minute documentary gives a glimpse into the Congress - well worth watching:

Order a copy of The Cape Town Commitment here, or find it in other languages at

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Whole of life as... premarital counselling

There's a strange phenomenon around: people being engaged for ... 5, 10+ years. No wedding in sight, apparently. Now, whatever the sociological reasons for that, it's not unlike a lot of us Christians live. We're engaged, but sort of forgetful that we've a wedding ahead - we live as if we're not planning or looking forward to anything.

In these very helpful paragraphs, from 'Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands', Paul Tripp explains that the only way to go through life properly is to understand we are engaged:
Keeping the final destination in view is the only way to solve the problems of today. ... Paul captures this principle of 'long view living' in 2 Corinthians 11:1-3.
I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that. I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

Paul understands the Christian life eschatologically. This means that today is preparation for tomorrow, and tomorrow is preparation for something else to come. Paul is saying, 'I know I have hovered over you, but you need to understand why. I am afraid that you will forget who you are and to whom you have been promised.' To Paul, the only way to go through life properly is to understand that we are engaged. We have been betrothed to Christ, and our life now is preparation for the great wedding to come.

The difficulties now, the suffering now, the disappointments now, and hte blessings now are all preparation fo the wedding then. Our experiences today do not reflect God's inattention or unfaithfulness, but his jealous love. He is exposing our wandering hearts and foolish minds and the ways we trust our passions more than the principles of his Word. He is calling us to forsake our own glory for his, and teaching us that the idols we pursue will never satisfy us. He is making us wise to temptation and aware of a lurking enemy. He is teaching us to live for treasures that moth and rust can't destroy and that thieves can't steal. He is teaching us what it means to live in a way that recognises our identity as his children. He is teaching us to live open, approachable, and humble lives.

In other words, your whole life is premarital counselling! You belong to a groom whose name is Immanuel, and God is preparing you for the wedding for which you were created and redeemed. Everything you face today is premarital preparation - living now with then in view.

In contrast, sin produces in all of us a tendency toward 'now-ism,' which means we forget three things: who we are (betrothed to Christ); what he is doing now (preparing us for the final wedding); and what we are supposed to be doing (remaining faithful to him). When we focus only on what we want now, we fail to solve our problems and we also cause more difficulties. A common factor in depression is self-absorbed now-ism. Anger is often fuelled by a self-righteous now-ism. Fear and anxiety are strengthened by an obsession with the here and now. Maturity and perseverance are weakened by a 'now' mentality.

Teaching others how to solve now problems with then in view is one of the most important things we can do, because it is not something we sinners do well on our own. We tend to be short-sighted and self-absorbed. We forget that God's primary goal is not changing our situations and relationships so that we can be happy, but changing us through our situations and relationships so that we will be holy. We need people who love God and us enough to come alongside and help us deal with our spiritual myopia.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Fairy tales

I'm in love with fairy tales. [Not like this - but I couldn't resist.] No, C S Lewis and others taught me to delight in fairy tales, and not think it childish. In fact, it often seems more serious. Here's an article with brilliant quotes from Lewis - on 'Three Objections to Fairy Tales and C S Lewis' response' from a series, 'Live like a Narnian'.

Monday, 4 July 2011

To Chad

If you're interested in things Africa, or medical, or the gospel, or all three, check out my sister's blog

I'm rather glad she's started blogging, as she's off to Chad for the next several years.

Friday, 1 July 2011


When I lived in Brussels, we bemoaned the fact that the IFES Interaction teams in Paris and Nice seemed to fill up before the Brussels team - couldn't imagine why. Well, the current Paris team have gone some way to explaining it, in a rather arty way. (I have to appreciate the skills of some ex-Relay worker friends!) Not that what they say about Paris is substantially different to Brussels...