Posted by: Phoebe | April 3, 2010

“The Agony” by Herbert

Again a favorite poem by George Herbert. One fit for the last hours before we celebrate “Christ is Risen!”

The Agony

        Philosophers have measured mountains,

Fathom’d the depths of seas, of states, and kings,

Walk’d with a staff to heaven, and traced fountains

        But there are two vast, spacious things,

The which to measure it doth more behove:

Yet few there are that sound them; Sin and Love.


        Who would know Sin, let him repair

Unto Mount Olivet; there shall he see

A man, so wrung with pains, that all his hair,

        His skin, his garments, bloody be.

Sin is that Press and Vice, which forceth pain

To hunt his cruel food through ev’ry vein.


        Who knows not Love, let him assay,

And taste that juice, which on the cross a pike

Did set again abroach; then let him say

        If ever he did taste the like.

Love is that liquor sweet and most divine,

Which my God feels as blood; but I, as wine.


That last couplet has gone through my head off and on this last couple days. “Love is that liquor sweet and most divine, Which my God feels as blood, but I, as wine.” Amazing!

Christ’s agony earned peace and warmth and nourishment for us, as symbolized by wine. We remember the bread and the wine he shared with his disciples on Passover. During that last supper he promised to his disciples “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” (Mt. 26:29) After dying and making atonement for sins, he rose again and is alive today. One day he will return as he promised and feast with us in his kingdom. One day he will experience his love with us not as blood, but as wine.

So our remembrance of his death and resurrection now, his love and agony, should whet our appetites for his second return when we will experience the final fulfillment of his sacrifice. We will joyously celebrate with Jesus and with our Father to whom he reconciled us! In the words of Isaiah 53:

But the LORD was pleased

To crush Him, putting Him to grief;

If he would render Himself as a guilt offering,

He will see his offspring,

He will prolong his days,

And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

As a result of the anguish of His soul,

He will see it and be satisfied;

By his knowledge the Righteous One,

My Servant, will justify the many,

As he will bear their iniquities.

 ~ Isaiah 53:10-11


Have a blessed Easter. Come, Lord Jesus!

Posted by: Phoebe | March 15, 2010


Lord, I am waiting for guidance to a place, a job, a pursuit, a provision. I do not even know exactly what I want, but I wait for you to fulfill my longings in your time. I wait the same for those I love, many of whom are in more dire, discouraging, and confusing circumstances.
Waiting for marriage. Sacrificing my dreams of who, what, when, to your choosing and your timing.
Right now, for word from graduate school. I must believe you have a plan and not berate myself for my inadequacies of planning.
Waiting for a rift between friends to be bridged by repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation. Is it possible? Yes, but when? And when do I speak or act?
Waiting for wounds to heal — when Lord? (I myself don’t think of myself as having many wounds, but there are a few. And the wounds of my friends and family affect me. I want to bear their burdens.)
Waiting for an email, waiting for lunch, waiting for sleep.
Lord, in this time before Easter, but also all my life I want to wait for you. I want to seek you and receive the pain and joy of remembering your death and resurrection. Teach me to wait for you more than I wait for anything else. That is not easy to pray, because I know that to answer that prayer, you will give me practice… in waiting. But you will also come to me and satisfy my longings, I know. Thank you for being a loving and faithful father to me. 
“my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.” Psalm 130:6
Posted by: Phoebe | March 2, 2010

Faithful Wounds

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend;

profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”

In wounding a friend, there are so many questions…

how? how much? how deep? how strong?

It is said “do to others

as you would have them do to you.”

If I am in error, or even unbalanced,

I want kind reproof, I want honest wounds.

And yet the questions how and how much and how strong

would I want to be wounded?

The faithful friend only knows he must.

He must have strong reproof tempered with gracious love.

It may be an eyedrop, to wash out a speck.

It may be the gush of a fire-engine hose, to budge a log.

Strong enough to dislodge friendship?

I hope not enough to dislodge mine.

But I must be faithful to my friend,

as I would want him to be faithful to me.

Prov. 27:6, Luke 6:31

Posted by: Phoebe | February 25, 2010

“Love” by Herbert, with a retelling

Here is one of my favorite poems, again on the theme of God’s love.

Love (III)

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning 

If I lacked anything.


A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:

Love said, You shall be he.

I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,

I cannot look on thee.

Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,

Who made the eyes but I?


Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame

Go where it doth deserve.

And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?

My dear, then I will serve.

You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:

So I did sit and eat.


~ George Herbert (1593-1633)


This poem always teaches me something new. This time I noticed the use of the homophonic words I/eyes in it. Love (Christ) is quick-eyed, seeing my need. The speaker in the poem, I, seeks a guest worthy of Love. Who is that guest? Love said, You shall be he. I am that guest. I the unkind, ungrateful? I cannot look on thee [with my eyes]. Love took my hand and smiling did reply, Who made the eyes but I?

How beautiful. In keeping with this poem, I will speak in the first person as I extrapolate on the poem.

I enter a room, welcomed at the door by Love. I am fearful and draw back, ashamed of my sin, ashamed of myself. I cannot meet. . . his eyes. Love tells me I am a worthy guest? How can that be? He tells me he made me, he made my eyes. He sees me with his eyes of love and wants me to see myself through those eyes. He is remaking I, me, in a new identity. He is remaking my eyes to see with love.  I am not worthy, for I have marred my eyes and I am blind; in doing so I have marred his property, for he made my eyes.

But he makes me worthy. He bears the blame for the marring of myself that I have done! Moreover, when I ask to serve, to work off my guilt, to gain the privilege of being here, he will not let me.  The gift of his love is free and boundless. He asks me to receive his grace, to sit down and rest. He serves. Serves me his food of life, himself, and for the first time in my life, I am full. As I eat, all I can see is him and his eyes of love for me. My eyes, unworthy yet free from shame, wholly joyful and peaceful, are free to gaze back.

Amen. Thank you Lord Jesus!

Posted by: Phoebe | January 21, 2010

Quote 2: Self-giving Love

This quote is from the Christian classic by Hannah Hurnard, “Hinds’ Feet on High Places.” It is an allegory about the journeyings of a maiden, Much-Afraid, under the protection and guidance of the Good Shepherd. I read it several years ago, but it came to mind again when I saw it at a friend’s house. Since then I’ve started it again and given it to a friend. This quote is from Chapter 4: Start for the High Places.

In this section, little Much-Afraid, who is starting her journey to the High Places and learning to trust the Shepherd, is asking him why the sweet, tender flowers grow in the “wild places of the earth” to be unseen and trod upon by animals. I’ve seen (what I think are) tundra flowers before, growing in a thick mat beside a mountain lake. One can’t help but step upon them. One can’t help but marvel at their beauty and vivacity in the thin air and thin soil under the clear rays of the sun.  In this allegory, we learn from such little flowers.

The look the Shepherd turned on her was very beautiful. “Nothing my Father and I have made is ever wasted,” he said quietly, “and the little wild flowers have a wonderful lesson to teach.  They offer themselves so sweetly and confidently and willingly, even if it seems that there is no one to appreciate them.  Just as though they sang a joyous little song to themselves, that it is so happy to love, even though one is not loved in return.

“I must tell you a great truth, Much-Afraid, which only the few understand.  All the fairest beauties in the human soul, its greatest victories, and its most splendid achievements are always those which no one else knows anything about, or can only dimly guess at.  Every inner response of the human heart to Love and every conquest over self-love is a new flower on the tree of Love.

“Many a quiet, ordinary, and hidden life, unknown to the world, is a veritable garden in which Love’s flowers and fruits have come to such perfection that it is a lace of delight where the King of Love himself walks and rejoices with his friends.  Some of my servants have indeed won great visible victories and are rightly loved and reverenced by other men, but always their greatest victories are like the wild flowers, those which no one knows about.  Learn this lesson now, down here in the valley, Much-Afraid, and when you get to the steep places of the mountains it will comfort you.”

The Love of which the passage speaks has several meanings. Love is God, our Good Shepherd, who in this story is also the heavenly lover who chooses and nurtures little Much-Afraid. He is teaching her to love him faithfully, even when the way of obedience is secret and hard. Love is the beauty which he grows in us by giving us his love.

Posted by: Phoebe | December 30, 2009

Quote 1: Christ’s obedience on our behalf.

Announcing the Quote Collection. I like to collect quotes and for a while I used to write them in a book, but I got lazy with that. Also I don’t post very often on my blog during the school year. To answer both deficiencies, I would like to begin posting quotes that I find particularly interesting or well-put in my readings.

To begin, a quote from Of First Importance on Christ’s obedience on our behalf:

“I must not only wash in Christ’s blood, but clothe me in Christ’s obedience.

For every sin of omission in self, I may find a divinely perfect obedience ready for me in Christ.

For every sin of commission in self, I may find not only a stripe or a wound in Christ,
but also a perfect rendering of the opposite obedience in my place,
so that the law is magnified,
its curse more than carried,
its demand more than answered.”

—Robert Murray M’Cheyne, quoted by Andrew Bonar, Robert Murray M’Cheyne (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1960), 176

Posted by: Phoebe | December 26, 2009

A Parable of Friendship

This parable has to do with the hopes and expectations we can build upon a friendship. There is an opportunity to reap something good even when the results of friendship-growing are different than what we had hoped. I dedicate it to my friends S, P, N, and myself.

 A Parable of Friendship

Once upon a time there was a man. He gardened, but not in the ordinary sense. Someone else laid out the plots of earth and planted the seeds. His job was to tend the plots and enjoy what grew there. Eventually, he would share the fruit of his labor with the owner of the plot.

The man had only recently begun tending plots in this manner. He had tended others in the past, freely and sometimes carelessly tending them and freely enjoying the vegetables and fruit. He smiled when some of the plants continued to spring up year after year, and sadly patted down the ones that grew for a season but then passed away.

 But this time he had hopes. He hoped that this time the owner had planted the seeds of the sweet perennial shrubs of roses and lilacs. Day by day, he looked at the plot, waiting for something to grow. He didn’t tend it every day, but every so often he would sprinkle some water and a handful of mulch. He kept an eye out for weeds, but there didn’t seem to be too many. He could smell the roses and lilacs. He could feel the strong stem of the lilacs and their enveloping perfume. And even though he knew roses had thorns, in his imagination it was easy to turn aside the thorns of the roses in order to rejoice in the sweetness.


Slowly he saw shoots coming from the earth. He didn’t know what it was yet. He took a break and came back in a few days. Looking at the tender shoots, he eagerly knelt and whispered to the winds and the plants “please be roses and lilacs!”  He went home, to wait and hope. As he was gone, rain fell from heaven and God gave an increase.

In a few more days he came back again. But what was there? Greenleaf lettuce, crunchy carrots, juicy tomatoes, and pragmatic cabbage intermingled with a few patches of basil. The man was surprised. He mourned inside… surely his longings for roses and lilacs had counted for something … surely his loving care was not in vain. He blew his nose. After sitting for a while looking at the vegetables, he reached out, plucked a leaf of lettuce and took a tomato, and bit into them slowly. It would take adjustment to like the red of a tomato when he had been dreaming of the red of a rose. Bolstered by the energy from his gentle meal, he stood up.


Carrying his watering can, mulch, and rake, the man slowly walked to the next plot. He bent down on his knees and reached for the can and the mulch. With care he touched the earth. Who knew what was inside it? Perhaps nourishing vegetables, perhaps, just maybe, roses and lilacs. He glanced over his shoulder in the general direction of the owner, who had prepared and planted the plot. Either way, he would tend this plot watchfully and keep an eye on his established vegetable gardens. Slowly and respectfully he stood up and began to mulch and water.

Posted by: Phoebe | December 21, 2009

Peace by Henry Vaughan


My soul, there is a country

Far beyond the stars,

Where stands a winged sentry

All skillful in the wars.

There, above noise and danger,

Sweet peace sits crown’d with smiles,

And one born in a manger

Commands the beauteous files.

He is thy gracious friend

And (O my soul, awake!)

Did in pure love descend

To die here for thy sake.

If thou canst get but thither,

There grows the flower of peace,

The rose that cannot wither,

Thy fortress, and thy ease.

Leave then thy foolish ranges;

For none can thee secure

But one, who never changes,

Thy God, thy life, thy cure.

— Henry Vaughan, 1622-1695

I love the imagery of peace and rest as evoked by the words ease, peace, security. Jesus asks me to leave my ranging search for fulfillment in foolish pursuits. He calls “Come all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in spirit and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:28-29) Rest in Jesus this Christmas-time!

Posted by: Phoebe | December 17, 2009

Annunciation: The spark of the moment when God became Man

I tend to take a while to post things because I am a perfectionist. Advent is also a challenge for my perfectionism because I feel that I should plumb the depths, seek God whole-heartedly and meditate on his mysteries with perfect zeal. Well, needless to say I never live up to it. I fall short of all those things and tend to encounter Christmas guiltily, with much more luke-warm-ness than I would like. That is ironic, because in reality Christmas is the time when we remember that because of Jesus, guilt is no more, and grace is forevermore. 

There are moments in the midst of my luke-warm-ness, glorious moments, when I taste the mystery of Christmas and am humbled by God’s goodness. This poem is one of them. Read it at least three times. The first time to get the feeling of it, the second time to understand it, and the third and fourth times to let it imprint the facets of its beauty on your heart. The beauty of the Incarnation, God becoming Man, occurring by that strange mystery, the virgin birth.

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner


By John Donne (1572-1631)


Salvation to all that will is nigh;

That All, which always is All every where,

Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,

Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,

Lo, faithful Virgin, yields himself to lie

In prison, in thy womb; and though he there

Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet he will wear

Taken from thence, flesh, which death’s force may try.

Ere by the spheres time was created, thou

Wast in his mind, who is thy Son, and Brother;

Whom thou conceiv’st, conceived; yea thou art now

Thy Maker’s maker, and thy Father’s mother;

Thou hast light in dark; and shut’st in little room,

Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb.


How can Jesus be 100% man and 100% God? How can he be sinless and yet understand what it is to be a human struggler? How can the immortal die? Immensity be shrunk into flesh? As I meditated in an earlier post, these paradoxes are contained in Jesus, Emmanuel. These paradoxes are the richness behind Christmas that I strive to savour.  Jesus, receive my imperfect worship.

Since school ended and I finished with all my performances, the pianist in me has gone into hibernation and the bookworm has been reborn. I’ve been reading books (Start Your Family by Candice Watters, The Tempest by Shakespeare, and A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature by Wiker and Witt) and poetry (George Herbert and selections on and blogs.

I’m not familiar with either of the things I’m posting articles about – I’ve never watched  Tiger Woods play golf and I haven’t read or seen Twilight. But in my reading I have come across some articles that are very well written and that provide fascinating and convicting insight about the human condition.

[If I were nifty with photoshop, I would here insert a picture of Tiger with vampire fangs.

For now, please use your imagination.]

The first set of articles is about Tiger Woods and his tremendous fall, from having the image of a public role model to the image of a public fake.

 Albert Mohler’s article, The Travail of Tiger Woods — Lessons Not to Be Missed, draws warnings from Wood’s situation.

Tim Challies uses the metaphor of a movie set – picturesque, but a false front—to draw similar moral conclusions in his article Lessons from Tiger.

In Tiger, Barack, and the Law of Transitivity, Lisa Schiffren at the American Thinker website warns people not to trust in human gods, whether Tiger Woods or Barack Obama

The second set of articles is about the Twilight book and movie series. Twilight has been criticized as a fad, immoral, and appealing only to girls. I haven’t read the series so I do not have my own opinion, except that I don’t want to bother reading it. The first two excellent articles are analytical, but not necessarily negative. The last is a medley of several things.

In Twilight’s Vast Gleaming: John Granger Explains the Widespread Popularity of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Series, Bobby Maddex at Salvo magazine interviews John Granger, who is writing a book on the artistry and meaning of Twilight. Granger is mostly positive about the value of the story and explains why it communicates powerful to a contemporary audience. He provides insight into the culture and philosophy that Twilight reflects.

In Salvo’s cousin, my favorite magazine Touchstone, Granger provides fascinating details about Mormon Vampires in the Garden of Eden, explaining how Stephenie Meyer’s Mormon background influenced the allegory and metaphors of the story.

Last, Schubert’s Killer Abs! Jeremy Denk is a world-famous concert pianist (who kindly gave me a lesson last October!). He also writes a blog, with a mixture of musical analysis and witty cultural commentary. This article appealed to me on many levels– I’m excited about playing Schubert’s song cycle “Die Schone Mullerin” next year and I will probably never watch Twilight. Denk describes how, against his will, he ended up at a movie theater watching New Moon (of all things.) In the soundtrack of the movie is a Schubert song, which leads him to all sorts of musings about the perception of classical music in popular culture. Denk rhapsodizes on the superlative beauty of Schubert’s song and Goethe’s poem, especially within the irony of its context.  

I want to write a more Christ-oriented post soon. For now, read the links and comment here if you liked anything in particular!

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