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    God the Poet

    October 14, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    I went through a period of time where I didn’t appreciate poetry at all. I remember really enjoying it in my childhood–trying my hand at writing it, as well as attempting to tackle Milton while lounging in a plum tree. What happened?

    Life, I suppose. And busyness.

    Motherhood was overwhelming to me for a number of years. It was all I could do to keep up. As we added more children to the mix, I got better at managing the load of work, but I still found that my mind could only handle certain types of reading.

    To be honest, poetry requires a certain quality of heart, one that busyness had crowded out of my soul.

    {I’m not writing this to wallow in regret. I’m not sure there is a whole lot I could have done differently, and hindsight is always 20/20 anyhow.}

    After listening to Cindy tell us over and over how poetry is the “highest form of thought and writing” enough times, I decided to quit avoiding it. This dovetailed nicely with our commencing with Ambleside Year 1 for the first time {four years ago now}.

    For two years straight, I read a poem a day.

    And I still didn’t feel the love.

    I knew at that point, though, that this was about something lacking in me, not about something lacking in poetry.

    I have mentioned before that I only began to love poetry when we finally began to memorize it. I don’t know why that is, but I have speculated that perhaps in order to love something in general, we must love something of its kind in particular. Can I really say I “love people” if I do not love the very real people living in my house? In the same way, how can I learn to “love poetry,” but never know one intimately?

    In memorizing, I was forced to become intimate with a poem. Studying it over and over, letting the lines impress themselves upon my heart, I began to appreciate it on its own terms.

    And then my children started quoting poetry in conversation.

    One of the earliest poems we memorized was Whole Duty of Children by Robert Louis Stevenson:

    A child must always say what’s true
    And speak when he is spoken to,
    And behave mannerly at table;
    At least as far as he is able.

    If I was thinking about something, and didn’t hear my oldest daughter talking to me, she would chide me: “Mommy! Speak when you are spoken to!” Or when a certain preschooler went through a lying stage, certain older siblings would rejoin with reminders that “a child must always say what’s true!”

    There’s something to this poetry thing, I would think to myself.

    And so it goes.

    We’ve been memorizing poetry for two years now, and we have almost two handfuls of poems under our belts. The more we learn, the more I like it.

    No. I love it.

    I can honestly say that I love poetry now, even though I will also admit I am still a bear of very little brain and do not always understand it all.

    I was astounded the other day when I was thinking about Revelation being a poem. No one teaches it that way, you know. I googled the idea of the Bible as poetry, and found varying statistics, but it seems to be agreed upon that the Old Testament is about 40% poetry, while the New Testament is about 30%. Eugene Peterson is telling me that I’m doing Saint John a disservice if I ignore the fact that he wrote Revelation in poetic form, and then I realize that if the Revelation is, as is written, the revelation of Jesus Christ, then John isn’t the only poet.

    Jesus is.

    God is.

    Now that is an interesting idea. When I knew, years ago, that my lack of poetry–my inability to read it and appreciate it and understand it and love it–signified a deficiency in my own character, I did not consider that I was made in the Divine Image, and the Divine is Himself a poet.

    Think about it.

    Adam is in the Garden, and God puts him into a deep sleep. He pulls out a rib and fashions a woman. Adam awakens, and what is the first thing he does? Adam, the unfallen divine image bearer, speaks in poetry. He called her bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. Adam, the first man, writes a poem at the dawn of time.

    And Jesus, the Second Adam, who spent his ministry telling simple stories, reveals Himself to us in the final chapters of the Bible in a blaze of poetry.

    At this point, it becomes simple logic.

    God is a poet.

    We bear His image.

    Therefore, we are poets, too.

    But not all of us. I once was not.

    When we develop the poetic, we bear His image more fully.

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  • Reply North Laurel April 9, 2014 at 1:15 am

    Very nice, Brandy! My kids even sat here mesmerized by your post as I was trying to read it. They read it faster than I did. I’ve shared this.

    In every poem there is some of the substance of God. ~St. Augustine

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 9, 2014 at 1:32 am

      Thanks, Blossom! I adore that Augustine quote…never heard it before. πŸ˜‰

  • Reply Nelleke from P.E.I. April 8, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    Beautifully expressed. Now I do love poetry, but have no affinity for visual art, whether making it or appreciating it. This makes me think there’s hope for that, too. πŸ™‚

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 8, 2014 at 10:33 pm

      Oh, yes, I think there is hope for that! God is an artist in every sense of the word. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Candace Crabtree April 8, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    I LOVE THIS POST. So glad you decided to share it again. πŸ™‚

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 8, 2014 at 4:43 pm

      Thanks, Candace! I had completely forgotten about it until a friend brought it up to me the other day and I found that it was good for me to be reminded again. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Ellen October 15, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    I have always enjoyed poetry, and I have a book that I copied favorite poems and quotes into all through high school and college. I want my boys to enjoy poetry, too…. so I’ve started with silly poetry. =) Try Shel Silverstein’s “A Light In The Attic.” Cute illustrations, too. We’ll move on to Robert L. Stevenson soon, but I think this a good way to whet a 4-year-old’s whistle.. =)

  • Reply Cindy October 15, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Loved this post and not just because you mentioned me, mostly because you mentioned poetry and Eugene Peterson. But also that is a wonderful insight.

  • Reply Kathy October 15, 2011 at 4:55 am

    Kelly, my dad mentioned once that that word could also signify “song,” and I’ve ever afterward thought of Aslan singing the universe into being anytime I think of that verse.

  • Reply Pam... October 15, 2011 at 12:32 am

    I liked this post. Wish it rhymed,!
    That’s interesting that you started to love poetry when you spent more time on one poem. Maybe you didn’t grow up with poetry,or with someone who enjoyed it? That might be the key for me. My mom was pretty much a CM minded mom but didn’t know it. She was always quoting parts of poems,or reading them to us (doing nature study, admiring art, reading aloud.) Naturally, I adopted her fondness of such things. How great is that? (Thanks mom!)
    So in that train of thought, imagine how the things we love might be a part of our children’s and grandchildren’s lives!

    Insightful. God is a Poet. Of course He is. Kelly’s comment “..we are his workmanship–poem.” Yes, Silvia; hymns are such lovely poetry also. Wow. Good stuff.

  • Reply Sharlene October 15, 2011 at 12:23 am

    I have just recently taught about man’s being made in the image of God. Your thought about being poetic reflects His image caught my attention. That is a beautiful thought. I will make more effort to include poetry in school.

  • Reply Silvia October 14, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    Now you mention God as a poet, and we, His creation, as poets too, I’m realizing that the hymns we sing, (we sing a Capella, and often. Every first Wednesday of the month is our singing Wednesday, and we have singing Saturdays, and we sing at home too), I see the poetry of the songs, some more than others, same with folk songs, they are like poems with music.
    As a young girl, I remember memorizing poems of my own accord. I did not have to, no teacher gave me the poem book, my father brought it from work one day. Can you believe my father, who worked in a bank at the time, got books for presents? One was a book with paintings from El Museo del Prado, a famous museum in Madrid, and I will never forget Saturn devouring his son, from the dark period of Goya, a Spanish painter, or Las Meninas from Velazquez. It’s quite amazing how our own beings yield to these things CM talks about, even without that gentle guidance from a grown up.
    I can still recite that poem.
    I have this thing lately of looking into my childhood to understand my girls, and this post brought back this memory.

  • Reply Elizabeth October 14, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    Reading this made me think of a Michael Card song that I like. It’s called The Poem of Your Life.

  • Reply Kelly October 14, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    A couple of years ago when we were doing the Leisure book club I did a brief study on Ephesians 2:8-10, especially that last verse, “We are his workmanship…” That’s literally, We are his poiēma. His poem.

    That’s a humbling yet inspiring thought.

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