Resources for Christians

If you’re a communicator for Christ, as I am, you can find Writing Resources with Christian poets, writers, and pastors in mind on my website.

In addition, I hope you’ll follow these blogs, which I maintain as often as family, church, and book-writing commitments allow:

Bible Prayers
Bible Reviewer
Christian Healing Arts
Mary Sayler (in lieu of this site)
Poetry Editor & Poetry
Praise Poems (many of which have been compiled in the book PRAISE!)
What the Bible Says About Love

May God bless you and your good work in Christ.

Mary Harwell Sayler, (c) 2017

 

Modern Poetry and the Christian Tradition

Who would expect a book written over 50 years ago to give serious poets and poetry students such a timely word about Christianity and culture today? Nevertheless, Modern Poetry and the Christian Tradition manages to do just that.

Written by the late Amos Wilder – a New Testament scholar, poet, literary critic, clergyman, and brother of Thornton Wilder – the book, kindly given to me for review by Wipf and Stock Publishers, provides a highly intelligent look at ways we can relate Christianity to the culture in which we live.

Interestingly, the poets Wilder highlighted for significant contributions in this area are the ones I also recommend: Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Wallace Stevens, W.H. Auden, and others.

Why does this matter? As Wilder said, “We recognize that the creative, imaginative expressions of culture are often our best clues to the diagnosis of men’s hearts and the deeper movements of the age.” Furthermore, “of all the arts, poetry, since it is an art of language, of the word, will often retain and sustain a varied relation to religion.”

Attesting to the insight that “poetry is praise,” the author acknowledged different views “held as to what is important and unimportant, what is healthful and harmful, what is Christian and un-Christian, in the tangled skein of cultural traditions” as we find “differing judgments as to the true spiritual heritage of the West and especially as to the Christian tradition in our English-speaking lands. Thus different values can be assigned to such main factors as Catholic order, the Protestant revolution, scientific empiricism, all of which have had their changing roles through the centuries and which have entered into special combinations with more recent phases of culture….”

With a fair-minded presentation of the many factors involved in the “story of what happened to the modern world’s faiths and assumptions” in literature, the author stated how, “We note first the loss of absolutes in our world.”

This loss led to devaluing traditions and communal roots until we reached a general “depersonalization” of mankind. If we take a sec now to think about the ads, television programs, popular books and movies today, we can see how timely or, perhaps, prophetic, Wilder’s words were in saying, “The depersonalized psyche, the numbered and enervated worker, requires high-tension stimuli to recover a transient awareness of his own identity.”

Insightful!

In other words, the more insensitive society becomes, the more it takes to awaken individual readers, help them to feel again, know themselves again, and/or draw them to Christ, the church, and the Christian faith.

So, how are we, as Christian poets and writers, to respond to this dilemma? As Wilder reminded us, “It is the spirit, as the Christian understands it, which searcheth all things and which underlies all the dynamic impulses of our crisis. Therefore the Christian is in the best position to understand them, to diagnose the age, to ‘interpret the times’.”

While acknowledging that a “diagnosis of our time in terms of its imaginative literature allows us to speak rather of directions than of solutions or conclusions,” the author gave us insight into Catholic and Protestant poets and writers who found ways to connect with readers during their lifetimes and also with readers now.

As I mentioned earlier, Wilder selected works to discuss of the very Christian poets and writers I’d also recommend for careful study and enjoyment. What I did not mention, though, is that it took me years of reading and searching on my own to “discover” and recommend those same literary artists as mentors I turn to again and again.

Be forewarned, however: You might need a dictionary, as I did, to clarify some words in Wilder’s heightened vocabulary, but his insights will give you a wide view of the impact and Christian influence your poems and writings can have on our needy society now.

© 2014 Mary Harwell Sayler – poet-author of Living in the Nature Poem and the Bible-based poetry book, Outside Eden – also wrote the Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry e-book, based on the home study course she used, one-on-one, with poetry students and other poets for years.


Modern Poetry and the Christian Tradition, paperback

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Review of St. Peter’s B-List

Recently I reviewed Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully on my blog, In a Christian Writer’s Life as the book includes essays on three major poets and writers who wrote from a strong perspective of faith in Jesus Christ: George Herbert, George Whitefield, and C.S. Lewis. So, when I received a review copy of St. Peter’s B-List, I expected to review this highly recommended anthology on that blog too. However, these “Contemporary Poems Inspired by the Saints” fit better here as written by creative seekers whose views occasionally come across as bleak.

Besides making this collection a sign of our religious and literary times, the darker overtones contrast well with the approach taken in the previous review, showing poets and readers the wide range found in religious poetry. As stated in the Introduction, “For a work of art, be it a novel, drama, or poem, to be a ‘good’ work does not mean that the characters are drawn to be morally good but that their speech and actions follow the laws of probability in the human, or natural, world. Good works of literature have intrinsic artistic merit because they avoid sentimentality – the depiction of moral innocence at the expense of qualities of character that remind us of our need for redemption.”

While I see sentimental poems akin to greeting card verse at one extreme end of the spectrum, these poems approach the opposite end, which my poems sometimes do too. As the Introduction explains, such poems “remind us of our need for Christ, regardless of whether the poets themselves explicitly profess this concept in their poems.”

Edited by Mary Ann B. Miller and published by Ava Maria Press, each of the poems in St. Peter’s B-List deals honestly with problems and concerns most of us can recognize in ourselves or relate to readily. From homemaking and mothering to showering or lying supine in prayer, the poems speak of a lifetime of topics with words that soothe, shock, amuse, or “put my foot on that first step” in “Desert Ascent.”

Equally commendable is the consistently high quality of the poems, whether written by people I’ve never heard of or by such acclaimed names as Pulitzer poet, Franz Wright, whose poem “Say My Name” ends with the uplifting word of the “Word that means you are loved.”

Ironically, the very quality of the poems keeps me from wanting to single out examples of the situations described, metaphors used, and fresh perspectives found. So, I’ll skip to the back where James Martin, S. J. , wrote an “Afterword,” I wish I’d read initially.

As he says, “The lives of the saints are poems./ In other words, one cannot fully understand a saint’s life from a purely rationalistic point of view. Strictly speaking, they do not make ‘sense’.” He goes on to explain how Mother Theresa, St. Damien, St. Francis, and others responded to God in mysterious ways that often seemed foolish. Or, as Rev. Martin puts it, “The saint’ lives shock….” He then ends with this challenge: “The most important truths about God are not reached with definitions and proofs but by poems and stories…. You are called to be a saint, too. What will your poem be?”

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer and poet-author of Living in the Nature Poem published by Hiraeth Press and book of Bible-based poems Outside Eden published by Kelsay Books.

St. Peter’s B-list: Contemporary Poems Inspired by the Saints, paperback

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Writing Bible studies

Christian poets and writers who read the Bible often feel drawn to writing Bible guides but think the lack of a degree in biblical studies will hold them back. This can happen but might not!

A manuscript written according to the guidelines of your denomination’s official publishing house might not require a college degree if you have been teaching a Sunday School class or leading a Bible study group for several years or if the Bishop of your diocese agrees to proof the manuscript.

Self-publishing what you have written offers an option too, but self-published manuscripts, e-Books, and Print on Demand (POD) book sales succeeds mainly if your work is well-known and biblical soundness trusted. To build a following, many Christian writers begin with a Bible-based blog until enough followers want the articles in book form.

Regardless of the publishing route you take, consider these basics for writing Bible studies:

Pray for God to inspire and direct your thoughts and interests toward the project you’re to do.

Know the Bible – really well, preferably in several translations.

Select a topic you want to research such as the biblical word on work, marriage, or family.

Type any key word(s) relevant to your topic into the Search Box on a Bible website such as Biblegateway.com.

Investigate scriptures from a variety of translations.

If you want to use one version only and have a few hundred scriptural references, you need to find out if the publisher allows this. If not, just write to ask for permission. Or use the King James Version in the public domain.

Besides knowing the Bible, knowing your topic, and knowing which translation you plan to use, you need to know your potential readers:

Does your topic lend itself to group discussion or private reading?

What age group will most likely be drawn to your topic?

Will the study focus on the concerns of new Christians or church peoples?

What format do you plan to use? For example, you might provide background info for a group leader to use with scriptures for everyone to look up followed by pertinent questions to help readers or participants apply the Bible to their own lives.

If you plan to write for interdenominational groups or Christians from any church, see “Getting to know the whole Body of Christ” on the Christian Poets & Writers blog.

Begin your research with prayer. End with prayer, and invite your readers to do the same!

May God bless your work and give you the prayers to pray!

~~

© 2012, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved, but pass it on!

~~

Revisiting the Love Chapter

Taking A Bible Stanza
(from I Corinthians 13)

Though I speak with the most angelic voice
heard in the human heart….

Though I resound as a clear bell calling
all readers to ring with praise….

Though I prophesy with power,
decipher mysteries, acquire
insight, and utter wisdom well….

Though I have faith to move
mountains of people with perceptive words
and cast rejection into deep depths of the sea….

Though I write all I have been given
and hand over my body of work without
reimbursement or acknowledgment….

Though I may boast of publication and best-sells….

Without love for God and readers, my work is nothing.

The loving writer-poet must be patient,
kind – not proud.

The loving writer-poet must not insist
“My work, my way!” nor be
manuscripted with resentment,
but rejoice, rejoice in giving voice to truth.

The loving writer-poet bears all
disappointments, believes all
timing comes from God, and has all
hope to end: endure.

The loving writer-poet knows
we know in part, but every part
of every reader needs
The Loving Word of God.

This love story, theme, or purpose
never ends.


by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2000, all rights reserved, please do not use without the poet’s permission. Poem originally published 2000 in Cross & Quill.