Pilgrim Pleasure 3 – Poetic

We have followed Pilgrim, as he gave in to the temptation for temporary indulgence on the “Please Yourself” path. We saw how that small step of selfishness changed the way her perceived and accepted the “Do Right” trail, which he had been on before.

pilgrims progress

We saw how Pilgrim became addicted to pleasing himself and eventually abandoned the right way completely. Yet, in that process, Pilgrim found that he could not enjoy the things he pursued. Pleasure became elusive and his life was spent in the vain quest of what he believed could be found.

Poetic Summary

I have described Pilgrim’s pleasure plunge in a poetic summary. This not only summarises the story, but allows you to put it up somewhere as a reminder of what this story teaches. Print it off and put it behind the toilet door, or on the fridge.

Read this series to your children and have them learn the important lessons described therein.

I pray that the Lord open your hearts to the truth and shine light into your whole existence, as you receive the reality embodied in this poetic summary.

A Poetic Warning

One day another pilgrim walking the “Do Right” trail came to the place where the “Please Yourself” path crosses and leads off to a lovely meadow. And there, nailed to a tree, hung a parchment with these pain-filled words.

Please Yourself – Pilgrim’s Folly

“Please yourself”, they told me, “and have your fill of sunshine.”
I nodded my approval and gladly took their cue.
I sampled all the goodies of sight and sound and senses,
And told myself with sureness, “This will surely do”.

My purpose, like a boulder, that weighed upon my shoulder
I left behind for playful things, without that load of care.
Intent upon my pleasure I ran from treat to treasure
And did about as many things as I was wont to dare.

But as the days unfolded, while other voices scolded,
I found a sourness turn to bad the things that ought to please.
I also found a yearning and a deadly sort of burning
That nothing I could do would now appease.

“Please yourself”, they told me, but something seemed to hold me
And keep my senses empty, to never feel their fill.
So I became distracted, obsessed and sore impacted
By burning lust undaunted and longings raging still.

“Please yourself”, they tell you, and try now to compel you
To venture down a pathway that steals away your soul.
So stop, right now and hold back, and stay upon the right track
For “Doing Right” and fearing God is what will make you whole.

Copyright 2009 CGF

Edmund Hamilton Sears the Poet

Edmund Hamilton Sears was born into a farming family on April 6, 1810, in Sandisfield, Massachusetts, USA. He won a poetry prize during his school years and maintained a poetic and even mystical quality about his Christian ministry throughout his life.

It is his great Christmas hymn that promotes his place in Christian history.
In 1846 he wrote:

It came upon a midnight clear,
that glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
to touch their harps of gold…

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Against a background of “his fellow citizens killing Mexicans that they might enslave more Negroes, and the Civil War looming on the horizon”, Sears struck a message of hope and peace.

For, lo, the days are hastening one
by prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
comes ’round the age of gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
its ancient splendours fling,
And the whole world gives back the song
which now the angels sing.

Whilst most of today’s congregations would sing this, thinking of the Lord’s Return and the glory that will follow, such was not the meaning of the author.

Rev E H Sears was pastor of a Unitarian Church that looked for the triumph of Christ’s teachings in the here and now.  It is doubtful that he even believed in the Second Coming. Some books quote him as saying that he wrote “I believe and preach the Divinity of Christ” – but what he meant by ‘divinity’ and what others mean by it could be two different things.

Not only was he a Unitarian pastor of various churches (1859-1870), but he also held to the curious occultic teachings of Emmanuel Swedenborg!

Sears wrote some 500 hymns, including another Christmas carol, “Calm on the List’ning Ear of Night”. He also wrote The Fourth Gospel, the Heart of Christ, which is his most scholarly work and expresses his life-long fascination with the person of Jesus Christ.

Edmund Sears died on January 14, 1876, in Weston, Massachusetts.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

The Battle Scene

He lay in agony for an eternity.
His cries of pain drowned in the tempest of deadly conflict.
Blood drained from his body as the sodden earth sucked warmth from his mangled frame.

He lingered for a day and half a night.
Delirious he sobbed and cursed and faced a thousand fears.
In the nether-land he halted, too weak to live, yet too strong to die.

The battle was abandoned.
All was fought in vain.
The violence and blood were now a crying shame.
The territory held by all the hated foes
Was still his own domain.
With no-one to oppose.

Nature’s lamp-light rose and cast its eerie pall across this dreaded vale.
And there a hand reached out to touch a cheek now pale.
An eye turned up to see what comforter had come.
Who smoothed away the tears upon a frame now numb?

In silhouette above he saw his deadly foe, now crouched in soft compassion.
Then only did he know that though men face and fight
And each believe he’s right
When death comes in the night
We face a common end.

The issue of our day, exalted to hold sway,
Is like a passing rage that tears across the stage.
Upheaval in its wake, it makes the strongest quake
Then once the thing is passed, peace returns at last.

Leviathan long gone, society moves on
And there returns again, awareness we’re just men.
Compassion stirs a hand and joins a brave new band
Who reach out to unite those caught up in the fight.

And so the wounded soul was lovingly caressed
Until he breathed his last and slipped into his rest.
Then grass began to grow where blood once flowed so free.
And life continues on, bequeathed to you and me.

Be careful of your heart and issues which hold sway.
For men still rise to fight on this a brand new day.
Be careful of the rage and cry that sweeps our land.
For God is over all, before whom you must stand.

His only is the fight and His alone the cause.
And we are mortal men who need to take a pause,
And listen to His voice and do His will again.
Remembering in all, that we are only men.
C.G. Field 2003/2008

The Reason Why

Have you ever been caught up in the emotion of an issue? Have you seen others get swept away by their feelings? Rage abducts nice people out of their comfortable existence and turns them into destroyers, willing to lose all for next to nothing.

People died thousands of years ago for causes that mean nothing at all today. People are dying today over issues that have no right to exalt themselves over people’s domestic happiness.

Oh, and yes there are some serious issues afoot. There is evil which needs to be arrested. I am not a pacifist, suggesting that all strength of will and purpose is somehow invalid. But I am concerned that many a battle which has left people bloodied, bruised, dying and dead, has not deserved the passion with which it was fought, nor the price which was paid.

The same is true in homes, where marriages and families are torn apart because of rage, intolerance, unforgiveness, depth of emotion, jealousy and so on. In the heat of the moment and the rage of the battle we can forget that our feelings are lesser things than God and His purposes for our lives.

How many people have ended up in prison, pain or deep regret because they were drawn into a battle that should never have been fought?

When the fight is over and the storm is passed we seem to be able to remember that we are but mortal flesh and that God is master of all. Would it not be better to have that in mind all the way through?

James Russell Lowell the American Writer

James Russell Lowell was born, in New England, USA on February 22, 1819.

He is described as “a poet, essayist, publicist, humorist, scholar and diplomatist” (Cyclopaedia of English Literature, Volume 3, page 799). DP notes: None of the books consulted tell me whether he professed to be a Christian – or not!

His father was a Unitarian clergyman in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, and young James received a thorough education in Cambridge and Boston, graduating from Harvard College in 1838. But during his last year a spurned love led him to drastic action. “There was no measure to Lowell’s bitterness and rage. We have his miserable confession that he put a loaded pistol to his head but was too cowardly to fire.” (ibid, page 800). Later he married Maria White, and after her death nine years later (in 1853) he remarried.

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Two years after graduating from Harvard he was awarded the Bachelor of Laws degree by Harvard’s Law School. With a keen interest in literary pursuits he abandoned his legal career and sought to be a poet.

Lowell is associated with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, being in that group of authors sometimes called the Fireside Poets or the Schoolroom Poets. These poets displayed a conservative approach to verse and strong moral values.

His attempts at poetry show that, while quite capable, he was less naturally talented than he may have wished. His works are accused of being at times ‘forced’, in his efforts to express poetic qualities. Despite that criticism he succeeded as a poetic voice to the people of America. His sentiments at times piqued the hearts and minds of fellow Americans and spoke clearly to them even if not at the literary standard purists might aspire to.

As part of his literary pursuits he was appointed Professor of Modern Language at Harvard, succeeding Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Numerous books and articles flowed from his brilliant pen – one of them being a protest at the United States war with Mexico in 1845. It was a poem of 90 lines called, “The Present Crisis”. Garret Horder converted this poem into a hymn (about 1896), by piecing together 16 of Lowell’s lines. And the result is still found in many church hymnals –

Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Through each choice God, speaking to us,
Offers each the bloom or blight,
Then the man or nation chooses
For that darkness or that light…

Another significant work from Lowell is his 1848 “The Vision of Sir Launfal”, about one of King Arthur’s knights who went in quest of the Holy Grail, and in which Lowell teaches that true charity is greater than the casual gifts of the well-to-do. The book was extremely popular and used as a school text for many years, as it taught selflessness as a key to the success people seek. It was reprinted annually for more than half a century.

Lowell happily used vernacular language in his works, helping to elevate common speech as a worthy tool of artistic expression. Lowell’s The Biglow Papers ranks among the first American political satire. His public odes were praised by such as Henry Adams, William James, and William Dean Howells. Lowell was an effective diplomat during the period of America’s emergence as a world power, due to his personal charm, and he was one of America’s finest letter writers.

Following the Civil War Lowell became an increasingly public figure. His ambassadorial roles were to Spain from 1877-1880 and to the Court of St. James in England from 1880-1885. Following those appointments Lowell lived much of his time in England and wrote some of his most admired works.

Henry James said of Lowell, “He was strong without narrowness; he was wise without bitterness and bright without folly.”

James Russell Lowell died on 12 August, 1891. Since then his life and works have been generally discarded, despite the many worthy contributions he made in his own generation.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Submission to God – I am Willing Poem

I recently updated an ancient poem about submission to God and I share it here to prompt you on the topics of making Jesus Lord, yielding your life to God, dying to self, humility and submission.

I am Willing….

I am Willing…
To receive what You give me,
To lack what You keep from me,
To relinquish what You take from me,
To surrender what You claim from me,
To suffer what You ordain for me,
To do what You command of me,
To wait until You say to me, ‘Go’.
Original Version by an Unknown Author, reworked by Chris Field, October 2008.

Poetry or Reality

The problem with sweetly stated poetic ideas is we can enjoy them as poetry and fail to make them reality. While I love the sentiment of the verse I have just shown you, we must all go further than reading the words. Our journey is to make the words real in our personal life experience.

Sadly, many Bible truths have been reduced in the minds of church-goers to the status of children’s stories, inspiring thoughts, poetic sentiment and so on. Christianity is a very gritty reality.

Consider the martyrs of church history. There faith was not a more poetic sentiment, but a complete commitment. What about those who suffer persecution on a daily basis? And consider those who die to selfish ambition, turning down golden opportunities on account of conscience and their commitment to Christ. Christianity is no mere poetic nicety. It is a tough and sacrificial, life-changing, all encompassing lifestyle.

God Wants All of You

Such is the demand of our faith that it invades and messes with every aspect of our lives. God wants to be Lord of every aspect of our existence, including the personal, family, career, mental, emotional, business and social realms.

The claims of Christ on our lives is summed up well in a 1967 song by gospel artist, Audrey Meier, “All He Wants is You”.

“All He wants is you. No one else will do.
Not just a part, He wants all of your heart.
All He wants is all of you. All He wants is you

All He wants is me, Unreservedly.
Not just a part, He wants all of my heart.
All He wants is all of me. All He wants is me.” (Audrey Meier).

Have Thine Own Way Lord

Please excuse my ongoing reference to poetic verse on this topic, but it is one that has been well celebrated by hymn writers and poets through the centuries. The yieldedness which I outlined in “I am Willing” at the start of this article, has been beautifully articulated in the lovely and popular hymn, “Have Thine Own Way Lord”.

Over 100 years ago (1907) Adelaide Pollard penned the verses to this lovely hymn. In successive verses she: acknowledges God as the Potter with power over the clay; recognises God’s ability to see what is inside us; confesses our weakness in need of God’s power; and celebrates the ultimate achievement of a life reflecting Christ.

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after thy will,
while I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Search me and try me, Savior today!
Wash me just now, Lord, wash me just now,
as in thy presence humbly I bow.

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me I pray!
Power, all power, surely is thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine!

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway.
Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!

How Willing Are You?

To receive what God gives you: Or do you demand what you want, maybe loving this present world more than fellowship with your Heavenly Father. Remember that Demas “loved this present world” and abandoned the faith.
To lack what God keeps from you: Or do you go after the things you want, demanding that you be gratified, despite what God requires of you or has for you.
To relinquish what God takes from you: Or do you become resentful of God and jealous of others when you lose things or have to yield things to God.
To surrender what God claims from you: Or do hold tightly to those things that you fear God may want you to give up, maybe in lifestyle, possessions or relationships, including those ambitions which have driven you all your life.
To suffer what God ordains for you: Or do you flee from persecution and opposition, using that as justification for not going ahead with God’s purposes in your life.
To do what God commands of you: Or do you resist, substituting something else in place of what God really wants from you, justifying your independence and rebellion by pointing out all the others who seem to get away with what you are doing.
To wait until God says to you, Go: Or do you just rush off when you have the impulse, fearful of missing out if you wait for God’s timing.

The Original Version of I am Willing

“I am Willing ….
To receive what Thou givest,
To lack what Thou withholdest,
To relinquish what Thou takest,
To surrender what Thou claimest,
To suffer what Thou ordainest,
To do what Thou commandest,
To wait until Thou sayest ‘Go.”‘
Author Unknown