All for Love – Poem of the Day

Lord Byron – ‘All for Love’

O talk not to me of a name great in story;
The days of our youth are the days of our glory;
And the myrtle and ivy of sweet two-and-twenty
Are worth all your laurels, though ever so plenty.

What are garlands and crowns to the brow that is wrinkled?
‘Tis but as a dead flower with May-dew besprinkled:
Then away with all such from the head that is hoary—
What care I for the wreaths that can only give glory?

O Fame! if I e’er took delight in thy praises,
‘Twas less for the sake of thy high-sounding phrases,
Than to see the bright eyes of the dear one discover
She thought that I was not unworthy to love her.

There chiefly I sought thee, there only I found thee;
Her glance was the best of the rays that surround thee;
When it sparkled o’er aught that was bright in my story,
I knew it was love, and I felt it was glory.

I came upon this poem a couple years ago, and I find myself coming back to it.  It’s become one of my all-time favorites. The beauty and value of love and youth are so easily taken for granted, but so much more valuable than what we typically consider as “fame” or “glory.”

The further I get from my teens and early twenties, the more I appreciate those years and the love and the youth of those days. It was sometimes dramatic, sure, but it was lovely too.  I find myself so fond of those years. I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

When we are young we try our best. There is an innocence about it.  But we are indeed young, and sometimes do stupid things as a result of our youth. And as painful as that can be, there’s beauty in it.  There are valuable lessons found there.  There’s a peace in knowing that, if you could, you may do some things differently, but you can’t – what’s done is done, what’s said is said. All we can do is carry those significantly good people and places and moments with us – the ones we love- in our souls and think of them fondly and learn from them. And we can trust that, though sometimes we don’t know what we are doing, God is able to work anything out for the good if our hearts are following after Him.

When we are young we dream of achievement and success and, yes, glory.  But as Byron writes, true glory is the presence of love in your life – whatever love that may be.  A wife or daughter – brother or sister – mother or father – this love is true glory.

What care I for wreaths…?

So if you have love in your life don’t forget to bask in the glory of it all.  It’s what gets us all through.  

I knew it was love, and I felt it was glory.

Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he told us to love others.  And I think it’s part of what makes God so glorious, because He is the source of love God first loved us – mistakes and all.  We don’t have to prove it, or earn it – just to accept it.  And that’s a truly beautiful thing.


Easter – Let’s Party

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair.  We are the Easter People and hallelujah is our song.”  –Pope John Paul II

Maybe we are doing it wrong.  Maybe we aren’t celebrating enough for Easter.

Easter – it’s about Life.  Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we were given a second chance.  We were given life.  Why don’t we celebrate that more than we do?

Maybe we pass around some pastel-wrapped candy, maybe we go to church and maybe we sing some nice songs and hear a good sermon, and maybe we go home have a nice lunch with relatives or friends, and then maybe we go home and start work the next day. Which is all very nice.

And that’s it.

The NCAA Final Four & championship game is this in the next few days.  And whether it’s Kentucky, or any of the other three teams that win, students will be wreaking passion-fueled havoc all over, fans will be out flying their car flags, their house flags, wearing their colors, hash-tagging and bragging for weeks and months after the final game. And they should. Their team won. They should be stoked about it.

But when it comes to Easter, sometimes us Christians look at it as just another nice little holiday and move on.

If that’s how we treat it, we are missing an incredible opportunity to party!  To celebrate the fact that Easter is to celebrate the living, risen Jesus. Shouldn’t we be happier about that? Jesus rose.  We won through him.  He conquered death, and if we accept him, so did we.  Let’s celebrate that!

For the Christian, Easter isn’t just about spring time and candies and eggs and rabbits.  Easter is about the unrestrained, life-giving truth of the resurrection of Jesus, the abolishment of Sin, the gift of abundant life now and eternal. 

It’s because of Easter we can have life, and have it to the Full (John 10:10) – so now that we will soon be on the other side of Lent, let’s really live it to the full.


© Honey Heart Photography

N.T. Wright makes this excellent point in his great book Surprised by Hope

“Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air?  Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our litergies? Is it any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom?”

Easter is the most important holiday of the year for the Christian.  Without Easter, we don’t have Christianity.  Without Easter we are left fending for ourselves in a cruel and cut-throat world. Thankfully we aren’t.  And we don’t.

Let’s take Easter back.  Let’s really celebrate it.

Wright goes on to say…

“We shouldn’t allow the secular world, with its schedules and habits and parareligious events, its cute Easter bunnies, to blow us off course. This is our greatest day. We should put the flags out.”

So this Easter, let’s really party it up.  At church, sing loud and proud – you’ve been given life.  At home, have a party – a feast – have fun. If you’re on twitter, hashtag it up.  Tell everyone.  Through Jesus, we won. We have new life.

As the great poet George Herbert wrote in his poem Easter Wings,

           Thou didst so punish sinne,
                  That I became
                        Most thinne.
                        With thee
                  Let me combine,
            And feel thy victorie:

Let it Spill

I came upon this poem the other day…

They tell me I’m going to die.

Why don’t I care?

My cup is full, let it spill

-Robert Friend

It’s a beautiful image of a man with a full heart at the end of his life.  If I knew I were going to die soon, could I say that?

Could you?

When our hearts are full, we have nothing to fear.  When our hearts are full, it doesn’t matter what happens after this life is over.

The question is – how do we get our hearts in that place? What can truly fill our hearts?

I couldn’t help but relate this poem to Psalm 23 where it says…

…Even though I walk

through the darkest valley,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

2X9A8717Photo © Gabe Lawson

In this Psalm, there is a direct correlation between being anointed with oil, and having a cup that overflows.

The oil signifies God’s presence. God’s blessing. The good news is that’s available to all. God wants everyone to come to Him and simply receive it.

There are certainly enemies out there. There are dark times and valleys to walk through, for sure.  But it doesn’t matter. We aren’t alone. We’ve been anointed with oil.

When we truly receive the presence of God in our lives, and we choose to live in it, we will find our cups running over with all things divine – love, grace, peace, joy.

Psalm 23 ends like this…

Surely your goodness and love will pursue me

all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

When we accept divine Love and Grace and let it fill our hearts, goodness and love chases after us closer than a loyal dog.

When we truly accept the Love and Grace that only comes from God, we want nothing more than to have it spill out and splash those around us.


God, Donne, & Love

I scarce believe my love to be so pure As I had thought it was…

John Donne is one of my favorite poets. His writing is so deep and rich and real.

His poem Loves Growth is one of my all-time favorites.

It’s a poem about how his love, at the beginning, wasn’t as totally pure as he thought.  Perhaps that’s true of many of us in one way or another.  How much of my love includes selfish motives? How pure is my love of my wife and my friends and my God?

Methinks I lyed all winter, when I swore my love was infinite, if spring make’d it more

When we first fall in love, we think we couldn’t be any more in love.  We think it’s infinite. Perfect.  But that’s not quite true.  The truth is, it grows.

Donne compares Love to the seasons, saying it has it’s hard Winter times, and it’s happy Spring times.  Love isn’t all elation and joy.  Even love has it’s winter times.

Real authentic Love is a complex thing that should grow and turn into something even more beautiful and grand than it was at the start. Even in the winter times, the love is real, because really it’s about the other person more than yourself.

The Christian life is the same.  We come to God broken, full of hurt and covered with scars.  We love God the best we can.  And our relationship to God has winter times too. But the longer we stay in the faith, the more we grow and heal, the more our love becomes more selfless and beautiful and grand. And the longer we stay, the more we realize that God’s love is more beautiful than anything we can imagine. 

And we know that God’s love for us will always be there.  Always remain, no matter the Winter we face, for surely no Winter shall abate the Spring’s increase…001 Photo © Gabe Lawson


For the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

Love’s Growth – John Donne

I scarce believe my love to be so pure
   As I had thought it was,
   Because it doth endure
Vicissitude, and season, as the grass;
Methinks I lied all winter, when I swore
My love was infinite, if spring make’ it more.


But if medicine, love, which cures all sorrow
With more, not only be no quintessence,
But mixed of all stuffs paining soul or sense,
And of the sun his working vigor borrow,
Love’s not so pure, and abstract, as they use
To say, which have no mistress but their muse,
But as all else, being elemented too,
Love sometimes would contemplate, sometimes do.


And yet no greater, but more eminent,
   Love by the spring is grown;
   As, in the firmament,
Stars by the sun are not enlarged, but shown,
Gentle love deeds, as blossoms on a bough,
From love’s awakened root do bud out now.


If, as water stirred more circles be
Produced by one, love such additions take,
Those, like so many spheres, but one heaven make,
For they are all concentric unto thee;
And though each spring do add to love new heat,
As princes do in time of action get
New taxes, and remit them not in peace,
No winter shall abate the spring’s increase.

On Autumn, Beauty, Grace, and a Dash of Keats

We had to wait for Fall a little longer than usual here in Kentucky.  Autumn made a late entrance, but now it’s here and the fiery Fall colors were here for a time. The trees were full of sunburst leaves and rained them down like papers thrown out of a building.


photo: © gabe lawson

This season has me thinking about the miracle of beauty coming from ashes. This is the season where the trees lose their coats and are left barren.  Yet in a short time they have life spring anew, and the leaves grow and bloom and tell a whole new story.  Perhaps it’s my studying of Nehemiah this season as well, but I’ve been thinking about how something amazing, holy even, can come from a barren, ruinous state.

In Isaiah chapter 30 the Lord speaks to the Israelites about how they are seeking the protection of Egypt rather than resting in the protection of the Lord. They got caught up in what they could see.  They got swept up by the tangible riches of Egypt.  They forgot what their God had already delivered them from.

Their reliance on the “worthless and empty” (Isa 30.7) help of Egypt had consequences. It left the Israelites in ruins.

Often times, we too trust more in what everyone else does than what God does and has done for us, don’t we?

The Israelites. turned their backs on the God who rescued them from captivity in order to go back to that same captor. We do this so much too, don’t we?  We continue to go back to the chains.  But we don’t have to.  

Even still, God tells them and tells us, “The Lord waits to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him” (Isa 30.18).

This God we serve is a God full of grace.  Let’s leave those chains worthless and empty. 

If we wait for him, he will make blooms spring from barren branches and beauty come from ashes (Isa 61:3.)

I love this poem from John Keats,

After dark vapors have oppress’d our plains    

For a long dreary season, comes a day    

Born of the gentle South, and clears away

From the sick heavens all unseemly stains.

The anxious month, relieved of its pains,    

Takes as a long-lost right the feel of May;    

The eyelids with the passing coolness play

Like rose leaves with the drip of Summer rains.

The calmest thoughts came round us; as of leaves    

Budding—fruit ripening in stillness—Autumn suns

Smiling at eve upon the quiet sheaves—

Sweet Sappho’s cheek—a smiling infant’s breath—    

The gradual sand that through an hour-glass runs—

A woodland rivulet—a Poet’s death. 

Poem of the Day – The Peace of Wild Things

Wendell Berry is one of my favorite poets.  One of the best artists and writers Kentucky has ever produced.  I’m loving this poem of his this morning…

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come in to the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

                          -The Peace of Wild Things

It reminds me of the passage in Matthew 6 where Jesus talks about how God feeds even the sparrows, and clothes even the flowers of the field.  The birds to not worry about what they will eat, and the flowers don’t worry about their clothing situation.  So why should we, being God’s treasure, worry?

It’s as if Jesus is saying, “If I can take care of all the wild things, I will take care of you.”  It’s a simple truth, but oh so hard to grasp sometimes.

Sometimes we need a lesson from the wild things to put things in perspective. Sometimes we need to rest in the grace of the world to help us understand our own place in life.

We never know what day-blind stars are out there, waiting with their light for us to see them.


photo copyright: gabe lawson

A Heart That Breaks

“I have seen so much in my life, I didn’t think my heart could break.  I didn’t think I could be touched by anything.  But my heart is broken now, and I don’t know what to do.”

This was what an Airman told me during my recent Air Force Reserve duty as a chaplain.

After we finished talking I thought about what he said – about how his once impenetrable heart had been suddenly broken and he was left wondering what’s next. Despite his defenses his heart had been breached.

I thought about how all of us, from time to time, surround ourselves with walls and barriers and claim that no one can touch us, or break us.  I thought about how lonely this makes us in the end.

I’m reminded of that C.S. Lewis quote from The Four Loves, 

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give our heart to no one, not even to an animal…lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken, it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

The conversation with the Airman had me thinking – Have I made my heart like a sort of casket – impenetrable, or am I vulnerable?

I mean, sure, I love my family, and my friends.  Certainly I love God.

But do I really love others?  Does my heart break for people I don’t know? Does my heart break at all?

As Christians, have we surrounded our hearts with bubblewrap and packing peanuts, not to be exposed to that which we are unfamiliar with?

As Christians, what breaks our hearts?

This Fall, The Mix (our college & young adult group) will be studying the life of Nehemiah on Sunday Mornings at 9:15am (We start on Aug 25th – we’d love for you to join us). Nehemiah has a remarkable story, and it starts with the fact that had a heart that broke.

When Nehemiah, from the comforts of the King’s court in Persia, heard that the wall of Jerusalem had been destroyed and his people were in trouble the Bible says that he “sat down and wept, and mourned for days” (Neh 1.4).

He opened himself up to the struggles of others in a distant land – and their struggles broke his heart.

It’s hard to make ourselves vulnerable.  It’s not fun to be susceptible to pain.  However, we can’t underestimate the power that comes from a broken heart.  If we let Him, God can turn the pain that comes from what was meant for harm into action that helps, that heals, that does great things in the kingdom of God. Nehemiah is a prime example of this.

In our lives as Christians, the worldly view of strength is turned on its head.  Strength doesn’t mean strong walls and towers in our lives. Strength means having the courage to let our walls down, letting our hearts break for and with others, and then doing something about it. After all, isn’t this exactly what Jesus did?

This line from the poet John Donne has turned into a prayer for me. Maybe it could be for you too…

O might those sighs and tears return again,

Into my breast and eyes, which I have spent,

That I might in this holy discontent

Mourn with some fruit… 

 Maybe your heart is already broken from something in your own life.  That’s okay.  Thankfully, God is a God who believes in building things that have been broken and creating beauty from ashes.

So may we mourn, but may we do it with fruit – with action – like Nehemiah did.  Like God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit did for us once and does with us for all time.

So for those of us who need to have the strength to let our guard down, here are some questions to consider:

What breaks your heart?

Where could you be more tender?

Where is the first place you turn when your heart breaks?