The First Poem That Hooked, or Entering the Poetry Portal

I must have been in elementary school, one of those kids that other kids love to hate because their parents were always telling them to “be more like Dora,” you know, the girl who had skipped two grades, the “genius” kid, the one whose parents were always bragging about her (out of her hearing of course).

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C. S. Lewis and Tamara Natalie Madden: Two Quotes

I want to give thanks today for all those who inspire us daily to live in faith, hope, and love.

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for those who inspire us, as do Lewis and Madden, from very different generations, cultures, classes, life experiences, and yet, one faith.


Two artists.

Two communicators in two different mediums.

C. S. Lewis (“Jack”) through his words on a broad canvas of scholarship, Christian apologetics, and science fiction and fantasy works. Tamara Natalie Madden through the portraits she lovingly brushed on a painter’s canvas, where people emerged from their ordinary guises to reveal the immortal souls they bore.

Jack died on this day in November 1963 at the age of 64 in Oxford. Tamara died on November 4, 2017 at the age of 42 in Atlanta, succumbing to cancer after suffering from illness much of her life.

Jack lost his mother at the age of nine and, having married late in life, his wife Joy after only four years of marriage. Tamara received a kidney transplant by “the grace of God”1 that enabled her to live another seventeen years painting and writing, counting “survival from illness, and my willingness to listen to God and pursue my art”2 her greatest achievement.

Both artists remind us not to take ourselves too seriously, or others too lightly. Tamara clothed her subjects in the colorful African and Indian fabrics of royalty. Jack read every one of the hundreds of letters he received from the Christian and non-Christian readers of his books, and replied to each one by his own hand with unfailing kindness and courtesy.

What a blazing legacy they have left us, to live brightly, however briefly, whatever our challenges, heightening our vision to see we are all royalty, bearing the image of God. We are all immortal and destined for immortal ends.

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The Light that Passed and Shone Forever

In the midst of suffering, grief, pain, and loss, the hope of glory we have through Christ Jesus is our sustaining grace. One day we shall see with our own eyes our Redeemer, when with the beloved ones we are reunited with, we shall hear “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!'” (Rev. 5:13, ESV)

What a glorious day that will be!



The Light that Passed and Shone Forever (348 Words)

Some people will tell you that when you lose someone, you grieve and move on. They tell you, and rightfully so, that the loved one who passed would not want to see you sad. They would want to see you as they knew you, living and alive. But if you have ever truly loved, and if you have lost, how can you not miss the one you will never see in this world again? How can your soul not be shaken by a separation so sudden, so wrong?

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My Mother’s Smile

I wrote this to be delivered as a short eulogy to my mother the day she died a year ago this month. I miss her and my Daddy so much! Were it not for the grace of God through Christ Jesus whose salvation has wrought us the death of death, my grief would be unending, and for this great mercy, I rejoice in God my Savior!


As a child, my mother’s smile gave me the greatest joy and the greatest comfort. It was my refuge against the harshness of the world and against disappointments. It made happy days even brighter and chased every shadow away. That smile never left me even when she was a great distance from me for most of my adult life. I heard that smile in her voice when we talked and it had the same impact on me that it always had.

There was much to smile about in her life because it was a life of service. Not only was she was a loving wife, mother, aunt, and grandmother, but she was committed to serving God with all her considerable energy and talents. Long before she and my father returned to India, she felt deeply the needs of her community back home. As members of the church here in America, she helped my father raise funds for the Polio Home for Children and organized annual Medical Mission trips to Karakonam and raised further funds so that a medical hospital could be built and even a medical school in an area that lacked both.

When she returned to live in India, that same work continued, first helping my father and then [at his death] taking over his responsibilities. Part of the Polio Home used to be her house when she was a child and her father was a pastor in the Church of South India. So when she was serving the Polio Home as Honorary [volunteer] Director it was a sweet thing for her to behold how the place had been transformed to help the children for whom there would have been no other help. And she devoted herself to improving it further, expanding it, and providing greater resources for the work of the Polio Home to continue long after she was no longer there. She would tell me of all that was being done for the people of Karakonam but especially the children and staff she had grown to love at the Polio Home.

Her service there brought her the greatest happiness and the greatest satisfaction. Through it she was able to express her love of God and her dedication of her talents to the tasks He called her to perform. When she spoke of what was being accomplished, I would hear that smile in her voice that I so loved.

For the past few months that voice and that smile remained silent as my mother suffered the ravages of illness. Now her suffering at long last is over and she is home with the Savior of us all, Christ Jesus. For after all this wonderfully long life of service that my mother enjoyed, her deepest desire was not to be able to smile at what she had accomplished in the lives of her family and the lives of all those she helped.

Rather, her deepest desire was to see the smile on her Savior’s face as He said, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:23).

Now that desire has been answered. And I know that my mother’s smile is sweeter and brighter than the sun, moon, and stars above. And I know that one day, by the grace of God, I will see it for all eternity.




Savannah Church Door

It is no wonder that Virginia Woolf entitled a collection of essays on writing “A Room of One’s Own” since not only does a writer’s room occupy a space all its own, like a creative work or an individual’s life, but it maintains the boundaries of that space with enclosing walls formed at its conception. Only a doorway admits entrance or exit both to the occupant and visitor. And whatever that “room” may be, however modest or grand, private or public, man-made or natural, we leave one room only to enter another which in turn we leave for another. It is this sense of leave-taking that we see played out in our lives and in our occupations, but also in the interior spaces of the imagination as artists and storytellers, scholars, and critics.

In our lives, we pass through places, events, times, and histories, our own history intersecting with others’, passing from one day to the next until time stops. As writers we leave the “real” world with its ready-made structures and demands into a self-created world which may or may not bear a resemblance to any we have known.

But leave-taking in its many forms is not an easy job, and the dynamics of its interplay between the leaving of one room for another creates an uneasy tension.

There is an entrance that must be made and, more often than not, what we see is a closed door. Maybe even locked. Perhaps only slammed shut by an unceremoniously hostile exit echoing with the finality of rejection. It doesn’t matter that you yourself may have slammed it shut, stung by criticism or scorn or frustration at fruitless effort. The closed door dares you to approach it once more and make your entrance.

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Notes: “Writing from a Christian Worldview”


Dr. Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan discussed his insights into “Writing from a Christian Worldview” during a Redeemer InterArts Fellowship in 2003. What was said then rings true today. As his website puts it, “You can’t make sense from facts without using them to create a story, and you can’t make sense of a story without putting it in context of a macro-level worldview. All the stories we tell as Christians fall into the gospel worldview of creational good, fallenness, and redemption.”

For me, the most helpful takeaway from this hour-long discussion revolved around “how Jesus resolves the plot lines” for these reasons:

1. Every story fits into the world’s story, an overarching narrative that you believe in: “You can’t tell facts without a story.”

2. Every story is a subplot of your macro-story. If the macro-story is the Christian storyline, then it will follow the creation-fall-redemption arc.

3. The Christian story co-opts or completes all the storylines of all cultures and worldviews. For example, is it a story of gaining power? wisdom? goodness? freedom? Only Jesus can resolve and satisfy these other worldviews.

In effect, the Gospel story is the story to which all good stories point.

Happy writing!