Tag Archives: Poetry

Ditch Picnics and Poetry

BooksThe spring my granddaughter, Kaylee, was five we took lessons in reading outside of the box. I, of course, had years of reading behind me. But she had only the alphabet and a handful of three-letter words at her command. Together we ventured by way of a picnic of cheese sandwiches into poetry and friendship.

My book club had met for a year or two when we settled on George MacDonald’s At the Back of the North Wind. In the story, death is personified as the mystical, gentle, and yet fierce North Wind who takes the young boy, Diamond, on night excursions that foreshadow his impending death. Sunny and silly poems temper the solemn subject matter in the children’s story. The prose is light and lovely, devotional in nature.

In a new move for our book club, Jana, who has an English degree, wanted to read aloud a poem from Diamond’s idyllic day at the seashore. I remembered the one—birds flying, lambs skipping, daisies growing—sweet, but a little repetitive.

Jana thumbed through the book to find her place and began to read. Her voice of silver and earth soon dissolved the room. Meadow flowers overhung a brook crossing at our feet. Birds wheeled on the wind, diving fast with wings spread, celebrating the gift of life. Lambs stumbled and balked, then nosed each other before skipping away to beginning their worship anew.

Jana’s voice wavered with emotion. Tears came to our eyes while the daisies waved, showering thankful petals on the breeze.

I don’t know if I got all the details exact. But that’s due to time, not because I didn’t see it clearly then. Jana’s voice transcribed the poetry into pictures. Her emotion made them magic.

Tea Party

Tea Party

A day or three later, I was playing picnic with Kaylee. I sliced plastic donuts on petal-pink plates with a tiny plastic knife and fork. Kaylee poured pretend tea from her silver pot and looked up at me. “Couldn’t we have a real picnic?”

“Well…I suppose we could make sandwiches.”

“And can we go outside?”

The grass was damp, so we folded the old tan bedspread with the modern art flowers double on the flat grass above the drainage ditch that cuts across our hilly lot. We nibbled our potato chips and quarters of granny smith apples, pouring juice from a Popples thermos that had belonged to her mother.

With lunch finished we poked sticks into the gully, snagging winter-rotted leaves as they hurried for the pond that would be their grave.

When I retreated from the water, I grabbed my book and called Kaylee back to the blanket. “Do you want to hear a poem?” I asked, hoping to share the magic of the book club with her.

Kaylee plopped down to listen and lay very still, her feathery hair floating with the breeze. She seemed mesmerized by the song-like words. But when I got to the end, she bounced up without a word to pick the flowers, small as seeds, that littered the lawn.

Maybe she was a bit young.

At lunchtime the next day she brought the tea set downstairs. “Can we have another picnic?”

Her pleading eyes sealed the deal. I headed for the kitchen to make the sandwiches, but she called me back. “Don’t forget your book.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThough we had read Dr. Seuss and the Grimm Brothers all her short life, the ditch picnic marked the beginning of our literary friendship. We returned to the ditch and the George MacDonald poem more than once.

But soon, Kaylee was off to school and bringing me things that she liked. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo were two of our favorites. Later, we fell in love with A Bridge to Terebithia and Inkheart. Discussion questions sometimes led to thoughtful conversation we might have otherwise missed. And we celebrated too, rewarding ourselves with movie premiers or video rentals.

Kaylee has grown a lot. Our discussions turn now on the writing style of The Wind in the Willows, the faithfulness of The Hobbit movie to the book, or the moral issues in The Hunger Games. We continue to share our discoveries, but in addition  we encourage each other in our writing adventures as well.

We learned lessons in reading and listening outside of our little boxes that spring. And I learned that my granddaughter makes a thoughtful companion. Our picnic and poem inspired what I hope will be a lifelong legacy of friendship through books.

A Little More About the 1000 Generations

A Very Few Generations Back

A Very Few Generations Back

I want to dream big for a moment, because I think that’s what it will take to leave a legacy that will last a thousand generations.

On the about page I talked about why I incorporated Exodus 20:6 into the tagline of Carry the Blessing. I discussed God using us in his mission to bless a thousand generations.

In this post it’s the number in that verse that concerns us.

Take a look at it written a different way:

1000 Generations

Not a thousand years (the track my mind keeps wanting to turn down,) but a thousand generations. That’s a very long time. So long, in fact, that it dwarfs the distance from the cross. Generations are measured at anywhere from 20 to 30 years. If we take the shorter, 20 years, and we’re 2000 years from Christ and another 1400+ back to the giving of that promise to Moses, then we are a little past generation 170.

But is this a literal one thousand generations of direct descent?

I usually hope for a literal interpretation of scripture when there’s poetry at stake. Things like mountains singing and trees clapping their hands give me a shiver of anticipation. And if the stones start to cry out…I’m all in. I’d like to see God breathe life into the inanimate. While the natural world is beautiful and elaborate beyond word or art, it’s fun to imagine the glories that might be possible in a world restored. Images of singing mountains and crying rocks speak the wonder of God to our spirit.

A magic of a gray day not diminished by a dumpster in the foreground.

Facsimile of Glory

Of course, these scriptures could be figurative only. And so too our one thousand generations. While the Hebrew verse probably means just a very long time or, more accurately, a whole lot of people, neither of those express the magnitude of God’s blessing quite as well as the poetry of “one thousand generations.”

One thousand generations is a picture of boundless mercy—the love of Christ stretching through our life into the indefinite.

Or could it be both poetic and literal? Is it possible that a thousand generations could be blessed through us?

The Bible pictures our lives as branches grafted into a living vine. We bear fruit when the life of the vine flows through us to others in acts of love. But vines are often tangled, making it hard to see the whole picture. The multiple branchings are more obvious if you think of a tree. New limbs divide off of and run concurrently with main branches. The thousand generations might do the same thing. Think of the number of lives God has blessed through a Jonathan Edwards or a Billy Graham.

Most of us are not likely to reach a thousand outright. Still, we might reach it in a different way. Andy Andrews illustrates the phenomenon of unexpected impact in his book The Butterfly Effect: How Your Life Matters. His inspiring video explains the premise much better than I can, but here’s my illustration:

Say the Compassion child you sponsor, has a mother, father, and maybe a grandparent at home. That’s three generations. If you help change a child’s life such that it affects his children and grandchildren, that’s five (not to mention the countless opportunities for blessing that each of them might have in their lifetime.) And if you support more than one child, it could really add up.

It’s likely that reaching any one person sends off side shoots you will never know about in this life. Good News Clubs affect curious older siblings that don’t attend. Prison or street ministries change families you never meet. Medical missions leave a graft behind in a foreign land. There are lots of places where blessings multiply over time.

But we need to dream big and take action. God has a legacy he wants to leave the generations. He wants to funnel our love and obedience into the lives of others until the blessing overwhelms them and they, in turn, bless a thousand others.

Do you believe God could use you to bless a thousand generations?