(Review) Collected Poems: 1945-1990 R. S. Thomas

Thomas
Publisher and Publication Date: Phoenix. 2000.
Genre: Poetry.
Pages: 560.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Poetry readers.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link

Additional links of interest:
Britannica
Poetry Foundation
Poetry Archive
PBS, Religion and Ethics

 

I’d not heard of R. S. Thomas (1913-2000) until hearing Sarah Clarkson read some of his poems on her Facebook page.

In this collection of poems, from page 1 to 533 hold the poems. The first several pages of the book (Roman numerals) is the content pages. This book doesn’t have a bio or author page. Besides the back cover, a scant 45 word summary of Thomas is given on the opening page. Pages 535 to 548 is the index.

I wrote down a list of poems that are my favorite-a count of 20.
A few of them are “Welsh Landscape”/The Minister/”Children’s Song”/”In a Country Church”/”Welsh”/”The Garden”/”Barn Owl”/”Adjustments”/”The Waiting”/”One Way”/”Shadows.”
He seemed to wrestle with his feelings about God and religion. Those thoughts are written down in poetry as a way of understanding. Poetry is his outlet. He writes poems about Wales, it’s landscape and language; people (even his wife and church members), and God.
Of all the books read this month for poetry month, Collected Poems of R. S. Thomas has been my favorite.

 

Part 1 of an Interview with Janelle Alberts and Ingrid Faro, Authors of Honest Answers: Exploring God Questions with Your Tween

Honest Answers
Who would have thought a month ago that we would be facing so much fear and uncertainty? There are so many unknowns, so many questions, and if we have them, we know our kids have them too. And they are going to be asking a lot of them in the coming weeks, including questions about God’s goodness and if prayer works. Are we prepared to answer their questions concerning faith? Janelle Alberts and Ingrid Faro set out to help parents confidently have these hard conversations with their new release, Honest Answers: Exploring God Questions with Your Tween (Kregel Publications).

The tween years present an incredible opportunity to build trust with kids and to keep them coming back to their parents for answers rather than finding other sources. With the tools and conversational tips in Honest Answers, moms and dads can engage in a hopeful conversation and help their children build a Christian faith to hold them steady their whole lives.

Q: At what age do kids generally start asking faith questions that aren’t easy to answer?

Janelle Alberts: That depends. My kids each started in with questions that gave me pause before they hit double-digit ages. But the irony is they were easy questions, rather obvious observations such as, “Wait, I thought it was two by two?” when we hit the line in the Noah story that he was to take “seven pairs” rather than the “two of every kind” that we had read in the chapter before.

It’s no wonder that Jesus said we should all accept the kingdom of God like a child, because little kids happily embrace the core tenets of our faith with such abandon. It’s that very sweet, simple acceptance that our kids bring to bear when they then try their faith on for size, like my son when he started reading the Bible for himself—only to lob at us over breakfast the next day, “That book is not like the pages we’ve been coloring at vacation Bible school.”

We parents want to feel confident enough to say to our kids, “Let’s talk about that,” right at their point of interest. However, that is not an easy thing to do. These core tenets of our faith have been debated over centuries and have involved councils, creeds, Bible translations, extraordinary feats of faith, and also terrible behavior.

But we’re the parents. These kids want to know what there is to know from us. If our kids see a pattern that when they come to us, they get honest, forthright discussion even if we do not know every answer, that will keep them coming to us as a resource as they mature in their faith.

Ingrid Faro: It also depends on what life circumstances your child might have encountered.

My son began asking tough questions about death and monsters, what happens when someone dies, why people kill other people, what heaven is like, and what angels look like around age four or five.

Q: What are some of the most common questions that come up about how the Bible came together and was handed down to us today?

There are a number of common questions, depending on kids’ ages. How did we get the Bible here in our hands from so long ago? Who wrote it exactly? My friend has Bible sections that are different than mine—why? What can I tell my friend who has never been to church or read a Bible? How are Bible stories different than stories we hear at school about Mayan civilization or Greek mythology?

We may not have perfect responses on the spot, but that’s not what parents are on the hook to deliver in every situation. We are on the hook to give our kids permission to dig into God’s Word and into their faith honestly, even if this does not showcase us as perfect parents like we wish it would. That’s okay for one reason in particular: God’s given us that permission for years.

This can feel scary as a parent, but remember, dialegomai was good enough for Paul and the apostles as they discussed, disputed, and reasoned out the ways of God and how to spread the truth. God will be with us while we handle our children with that same verve and commitment, even if it looks messy.

Q: For us as adults, it’s hard to understand what seem to be unanswered prayers, so how do we explain not getting the answers we were hoping for to our children?

These times emphasize that one should not be a Christian alone. It makes a monumental difference for our kids to see others in the church who have suffered the anguish of perceived unanswered prayers and how they have still walked that out in faith.

To that end, we can let our kids know that prayer is a chance for them to sort out their relationship with God even more than it is about asking for stuff. So when they’re disappointed, mad, hurt, or confused by what they perceive as unanswered prayer, we can let them know they can take that to God.

That’s what Jesus did. When the moment came for Jesus to face what was about to happen to him in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus did not sit by stoically, calmly praising the Father and counting his blessings. He was distraught and brought that before his Father bluntly and emotionally. We can encourage our kids to do the same. They can pray as though God wants to hear the actual truth of what’s going on in their hearts and minds—because he does!

We walk through conversations that help kids practice prayer, speak candidly, and maintain and grow in awe and affection of a Lord who personally and palpably loves them very, very much.

Q: What does it mean to practice “praying unedited”? Why is this an important part of teaching your children how to pray?

“Praying unedited” is an idea from a lecture by Redeemer Presbyterian Church’s Kathy Keller. The idea is that prayer helps us get a grip on who we are and who God is, yet it is a process that may take a little time and even, dare we say, trial and error. “Practice, practice, practice. Trial and error, repetition,” Keller said. “Just like riding a bike, you get it wrong a whole lot of times before you get it right.” With that kind of foundation, our kids stand a better shot at sticking with prayer over the long haul, rather than abandoning it when times get tough.

Kids regularly pick up a habit of fear when it comes to prayer. They can grow afraid to speak honestly in prayer because it might look to God like they doubt him. But prayer is not an entrance exam for our kids to showcase their “goodness” to God and therefore score a spot in his valued family. We want our kids to know they already belong. God wants our kids to know that he knows them and wants to be known by them. His longing for this cannot be overstated. That is a good reason for our kids to be themselves in prayer.

If our kids can approach God’s throne with a real sense of honesty and with an eye for relationship, their prayers will be personal, not just something they recite.

This kind of praying and talking to God is demonstrated throughout the Bible in the psalms of lament (which make up about one-fourth of the Psalms) and other parts of the Bible, like Lamentations and in many of the prophets.

Q: How can parents prepare for the Bible versus science questions that are sure to come up as their kids progress through school?

This is probably something parents are really facing now that the kids are doing school from home.

We can be honest with ourselves that our attempts to neatly marry truths of God’s material world (science) to God’s written truths (Scripture) in clear, cogent, concise ways regularly turn out to be . . . none of those things. Yet God made nature, and he made Scripture. Digging deeper into one shouldn’t threaten the truth about the other.

We run into a bind when we insist the Bible should serve as a science textbook. For example, our church forefathers insisted the sun circled the earth rather than the other way around. Martin Luther wrote, “As Holy Scripture tells us, so did Joshua bid the sun to stand still, and not the earth.”

We might help our kids by listening to a church forefather even further back in time. Third-century bishop Augustine of Hippo warned believers that we “should not rush in headlong and so firmly take a stand on one side that, if further progress in search for truth justly undermines our position, we too fall with it.”

Almost two thousand years later, we Christian parents can practice that. It’ll give our kids the learning chops necessary to evaluate theories and ideologies in patient, consistent, coherently systematic ways. It’ll help our kids develop a steadfast resolution that all truth originates from the same author.

Why is this important? Because it’s true.

Q: How can parents prepare their children to react well when their faith is brought into question? How do they equip them to speak the truth?

It depends on the situation at hand, but a general encouragement might be this: God is real.

We can let our kids know directly and repeatedly that we, their parents, know God is alive. We can also give them personal examples from our own lives about why we believe that: How we came to that faith
Instances where we faced others calling our faith into question
Our own doubts and how God has called us back to that truth over and over again
We can encourage our kids to remember that they are not defending a religion; they are building a relationship with a God who wants to have relationship with everyone, even though not everyone wants a relationship with him. That is a complicated matter, but our job (especially as younger Christians) is to simply walk out the relationship we are developing and enjoying with God. That way when our friends have questions, we can honestly answer what we know about praying to God, reading his Word, and getting to know God in context of our own walk with him.

Q: What question that one of your own children asked caught you most off guard or was the hardest to answer?

Janelle: When my daughter was in third grade, she prayed for her brother in kindergarten to win a raffle at school, but when he didn’t, she was crushed. I told her he was fine! After all, the most important thing remained true, which was this: God loved him.

She teared up and said, “This is what God’s love feels like?”

Ingrid: When my son was eleven, he asked why he couldn’t have died instead of his dad, who had taken his own life. The process of walking through that loss and pain took years, but the personal healing and restoration of relationship with God could not have happened if we hadn’t continued to talk and question and pray and love together.

ingrid
Janelle Alberts spent her early career in PR departments for Microsoft and UPS, boiling down logical, clear corporate messaging. She now attempts the same for parents who love Scripture, often featuring bits we’ve never heard but wish we had.

Alberts wrote her first faith column for the Akron Beacon Journal in 2010 and has since been a regular contributor to various online sites including Christianity Today’s Gifted for Leadership, RELEVANT magazine, and others. Honest Answers is her first book.

Alberts and her family make their home in Ohio.

Visit her on Facebook (@AuthorJanelleAlberts).

Faro
Ingrid Faro is dean of academic affairs and associate professor of Old Testament at Northern Seminary. She is also associate professor of Old Testament at the Scandinavian School of Theology in Sweden. She has an MDiv and PhD from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Faro is an international speaker at conferences and churches and writes on topics that include navigating evil and suffering, abuse and power dynamics, women in the Bible, forgiveness, the goodness of God, identity in Christ, discipleship, and leadership. Her motivation is to encourage people, help them navigate the pain and sufferings of this world, and grow in thriving relationship with God and others. She is the coauthor of Honest Answers.

Faro has two married children and three grandchildren. She lives in Illinois.

For more information at the publisher:Kregel Publications.

Publisher and Publication Date: Kregel. March 24, 2020.
Genre: Christian nonfiction.
Pages: 224.

Amazon link 

 

Part 2 of an interview with Paul Tautges, Author of A Small Book for the Hurting Heart

A Small Book for the Hurting Heart
In A Small Book for the Hurting Heart: Meditations on Loss, Grief, and Healing, Paul Tautges offers fifty short devotions filled with messages of help, encouragement, and healing. By biblically and transparently addressing the heart and faith struggles in the midst of this grief, Tautges delves deeply, but gently, into the issues of the heart—presenting encouragement and comfort in the character of God.

This small but transformative devotional cultivates anchors of hope, redirecting men and women to the trustworthiness of God who is always for them in Christ. Tautges walks with readers through their grief to see the one who nourishes their faith and heals their soul.

Q: In your book you relentlessly connect God’s comfort to the gospel. Why is that?

In times of loss we desperately need to know that God is near. Nothing meets this need quite like the gospel; that is, the good news about how God drew near to us by sending his only Son to conquer sin, death, and the devil on our behalf. The gospel offers us an everlasting hope which enables us to face the reality of death and other forms of loss head-on. When we gently speak these hope-dispensing truths to ourselves and others, we make loss a servant to God’s purposes by redirecting our focus to matters of eternity.

The strength of God’s comfort does not come from his ability to change our present circumstances (which he can do if he chooses). Rather, God’s comfort comes from his promise to us in Christ, that the glory we will one day share with him far outweighs our present suffering (Philippians 1:6; Romans 8:18). Christ-centered comfort is the only true comfort.

Q: Psalm 56:8 tells us that God keeps track of our sorrows and collects our tears. Why are our tears that important to God?

Tears are a gift from God, a means to embracing your pain, releasing emotion, and revealing the depth of your love. Poetically, if God collects all the tears we cry during our life’s journey, if he keeps track of all our sorrows, then surely, he cares about them. He is aware of what causes them. Like it did for King David, this truth encourages us to turn toward God and plead for his sustaining grace.

When something bad happens, we may be tempted to think of God as being distant or even against us. But if we belong to him, through repentant faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, there is nothing that can ever sepa­rate us from his love: not heartbreak, not dis­tress, not disability, not death, not loss of any kind, nothing (Romans 8:38–39)! He is intimately aware of all of our struggles, and longs to show us the depth of his fatherly love.

Q: In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus preaches that blessed are those who mourn. In what ways are we blessed in times of great grief?

Loss has a way of nudging us to look to the Lord, which is a hidden blessing. Typically, however, when grievous things happen, our first reaction is to turn inward instead of upward, to look inside for the strength we need to endure. But, if we’re honest, we are actually really weak people. And that’s ok. It’s actually by God’s design. I like to say that we are dependent by design—God’s design. If we try to endure suffering in our own strength, then surely, we will feel alone.

When we feel alone in our hurts, or even when others have abandoned us, we are easily tempted to think that God has also turned His face away. But he has not! He is present. He is near. Turning to the Lord while embracing the promise of his presence does not come naturally to us. Therefore, we need to renew our mind and let the Holy Spirit re-train our response, so to speak. So, loss can actually become an opportunity for significant spiritual growth in our lives.

Q: One of the titles that the Bible gives to Jesus is the Man of Sorrows. How is seeing Jesus in this way a comfort when we are grappling with grief?

Life can hurt badly. Sometimes we may even feel forsaken and alone. But it comforts us to know this: Jesus experienced those feelings and more. The Father turned away from Jesus when our guilt and sin were placed upon the Lamb of God, and he was punished in our place. Jesus was abandoned, so that you and I would never have to be turned away. Jesus understands our pain, no matter what is causing it. There is no sadness, hurt, or loss he does not know personally.

Jesus wept at his friend’s grave. He was misunderstood and falsely accused. He was betrayed by a so-called friend. He was spat upon by men and women whom he had created. Yet none of this matches the indescribable pain he endured while hanging upon the cross—in our place—becoming the only, fully acceptable sin offering we needed and God’s justice required. While he hung upon the cross, in our place, Jesus was separated from his Father for the first time in eternity. So, if we are tempted to think that no one understands what we’re going through, remember: Jesus understands the agony of loss. He not only says, “I love you,” he says, “I love you, and I know. I know your hurts and losses. And I’m here for you.”

Q: In addition to reading the devotional daily, what else should readers be doing alongside to face their loss and move toward healing?

Grief leaves us vulnerable in so many ways that it can be easy to get stuck; we can allow ourselves to be overtaken by loss in a crippling way. Knowing that this danger exists encourages us to maintain practical, soul-nourishing disciplines, even when our emotions don’t agree. Maintain continual communication with the Lord through listening to him in the Word, talking to him in prayer, and praising him through song. Personally, I find singing privately to the Lord extremely helpful for my times in the valley. You may want to create a worship song playlist to listen to when your heart hurts the most.

In the wake of grief, it’s also really important to stay public; that is, to be careful not to isolate yourself from others. Though it’s normal to need time alone with God, be careful to not isolate yourself. Stay connected to your church family through participation in the public worship service. Yes, you may need to back away, for a time, from some of your service responsibilities at church, but guard your heart from spending too much time alone. As you grieve, be sensitive to how the Lord may give you ways to serve others, even while your pain remains.

Q: What are some of your favorite Bible verses and passages that offer comfort?

Psalm 46:1 is very near the top of my list. It contains one of the most helpful images of God that we find in the Scriptures: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” The concept of refuge is this: God is a safe place. He is a shelter in times of trouble. He is a hiding place when the dark storm clouds of loss threaten to defeat our faith or overtake our joy. “God is our refuge” means he is the One to whom we can run when we feel unsettled about the discomforting changes in our pres­ent situation. He is the One to whom we can freely express our fears about all of the un­knowns in our future.

The life of Joseph is also a part of the Bible that I often turn to, especially when suffering doesn’t make any sense. When I read Genesis 39-50, I am repeatedly reminded of how near God was to Joseph at all times. Though Joseph surely felt alone and forsaken at times, God was always with him, and working out his gracious providence. Additionally, I often turn to Romans 8:31–32. Here, the apostle Paul encourages believers with this stabilizing truth:“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him gra­ciously give us all things?”

A Small Book for the Hurting Heart: Meditations on Loss, Grief, and Healing
By Paul Tautges
March 9, 2020 / Retail Price: $17.99
Print ISBN: 978-1-64507-060-3
RELIGION/Christian Life/Spiritual Growth

Link at Amazon 

All Scripture links courtesy of Bible Gateway.

Paul Tautges
Paul Tautges, DMin, is pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. He is also a recognized leader in biblical counseling and has authored many books on topics related to pastoral ministry, counseling, and parenting.

He is an adjunct college professor and ACBC fellow. In addition to writing regularly on his blog, Counseling One Author, Tautges has written for Crosswalk and Biblical Counseling Coalition.

Tautges has been married to Karen for thirty-two years. Together they cherish their ten children and growing tribe of grandchildren.

Learn more at www.counselingoneanother.com. Tautges can also be found on Twitter (@PaulTautges).

 

(Review) The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats

Yeats
Publisher and Publication Date: Wordsworth Poetry Library. 2008.
Genre: Poetry.
Pages: 401.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Poetry readers.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link 
Kindle copy is $1.99
Paperback $6.99

 

 

 

Links about Yeats:
Britannica
Poetry Foundation
Biography
Poets.org
Poetry Archive

William Butler Yeats was born in Ireland, 1865. He died in France, 1939.
He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.

800px-WB_Yeats_nd

Date is unknown for this photo of W. B. Yeats

Yeats1923

Yeats in 1923

The first twelve pages (Roman numeral pages) in the introduction written by Cedric Watts is the start of this gem.
I counted 293 poems in this edition.
The poems begin on page 3 after the intro and contents pages. From page 385 until page 402 is the index.
Yeats wrote with passion about love, life itself, and Irish politics and culture. I read the word “nationalism” several times in the introduction with regards to Yeats. What does this mean? I found a couple of articles that explain: Britannica and Encyclopedia. The Irish Nationalist movement began in the 1840s to celebrate Irish heritage and language, and to promote independence.
Several poems by Yeats are favorites. My number one favorite is “The Tower” published in 1928. I’ve read it several times. Reading it aloud is the best. I’ve read this poem is a spiritual journey of sorts.

“That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees,
Those dying generations-at their song,”

“An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing”

This is beautiful! It touched my heart and I cried. “The Song of Wandering Aengus.” The poem is read by Michael Gambon.

“Easter” read by Liam Neeson.