Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Freshman English and Happy Birthday Edgar Allen Poe!

"Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
'Tis some visitor' I muttered, 'tapping at my chamber door',
'Only this and nothing more.'"

Ah, The Raven. A popular and very long poem by Edgar Allen Poe. How I loved "The Fall of the House of Usher", "The Talisman" and much of his macabre poetry. What I didn't like was Poe being used as my punishment for taking the easy way out!

I was a Freshman at Western Hills High School in Ft. Worth, Texas - and fortunate to have Mr. Williams as my English teacher. The man had a true love of all things literary, and although I was already an avid reader of Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, and Shel Silverstein. I feel I owe my love of real, solid, gotta think about it literature to Mr. Williams. It is Mr. Williams who gave me a small book of the poetry of Robert Frost that caused me to ponder which road I would take if faced with a fork in a yellow wood (25 years later, I can tell you that I'm almost certain I've taken the one less traveled). It was in his class that I read, with fervor, Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" - and cried openly in class as we read the end. It was Mr. Williams who stopped me after that class to say "If you thought that was good, you might want to check out 'Wuthering Heights' from the library." (Those who know me well, know my undying love and affection for this - my favorite tortured love story of all time - THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU MR. WILLIAMS!) And it was in Mr. Williams class that I was introduced to the literary works of the great Edgar Allen Poe.

So, it's with some amount of shame I tell you this: It was also in Mr. Williams class when I was assigned a poetry memorizing project - which counted for 1/2 of my grade one 6-week period - and I took the easy way out. The assignment was to memorize a poem of at least 100 lines in length. Ask me how smart I thought I was when I discovered and memorized a poem that was exactly 100 lines in length - each line containing merely two words! It was a child's poem, and it had something to do with a king - that's all I remember. The class had four weeks to memorize a poem, it took me all of four minutes.

Finally the day for me to recite my memorized poem had arrived! I couldn't wait to crack my friends up with my silly little poem that met, just barely, the requirements of the assignment. Oh, I wish you could've seen my cocky self-assuredness as I rose from my desk and made my way to the front of the classroom. In just under 30 seconds I recited my entire poem, bowed, grinned and began to head back to my seat. "Stop right there Miss Martin", Mr. Williams snarled (and yes, I believe there was visible smoke coming out of his ears). I turned to face my teacher (who was much too good to be teaching us miserable high school teen agers). He begins to tell me, in front of my classmates how disappointed he was in me, how he knew I was capable of much more and that my score on this very important assignment was a ZERO.

Any student who was ever blessed enough to land in one of Mr. Williams classes will tell you that he was a ruthless disciplinarian, overly strict, a stingy and unfair grader (read: you actually had to work hard and deserve a good grade to get one), and he was NOT friends with his students. I agree wholeheartedly with all of these statements. What I also know is that Mr. Williams was extremely merciful. I got the zero for my poem, and the grade stood. However, Mr. Williams assinged me mandatory extra-credit - just me, no one else - I had to memorize "The Raven" by Edgar Allen Poe and recite it for the class in two weeks time. If I recited it perfectly, he would give me 90% - not even an "A"!

Because of two things: 1) my respect for Mr. Williams, and 2) my fear of facing my parents with an "F" in English on my report card, I resigned myself to the grueling task of memorizing the creepy poem and reciting it - very well I might add - to an audience of less than interested classmates just 2 weeks later. My grade was saved, and more importantly my favorite teacher once again regarded me with some small measure of esteem.

Ask me what I would give to be back in that class today? Or to just see Mr. Williams one more time and tell him of the great impact he had on my love of all things with a binding and printed pages! I want to thank him for making me do "better" and requiring me to live up to his expectations. I learned a lot in my Freshman English class - how to diagram a sentence, how to make sense of Shakespeare plays, how to write a Haiku, and even how to write a decent short story. Oh, but it's the life lessons I learned in Mr. Williams' class (this "always do your best" lesson was just one) that have meant the most and which I return to time and time again.

To read "The Raven" in its entirety, click here: http://www.houseofusher.net/raven.html

Monday, January 4, 2010

Proof of Christ at work...My Christmas Angels

Because I love the question, "Can I get a witness", I want to share with anyone who cares to read it, what God did in my life this Christmas through his faithful followers, (also because I want a place to keep a record of it as a good reminder to myself) I wanted to share the letter below that I wrote for my friends and family who helped us "Make it through December" this year...

My Sweet, Precious and Dear Friends and family – truly Brothers and Sisters in our Wonderful Christ, how can I ever express my gratitude and thanks to you enough? I am humbled by the incredible expression of love that you all gave me and my Rebecca this Christmas. (this was my feeble attempt at beginning a letter as gracefully as Paul - impossible, I know, but my love for you insists I try)

Just a few weeks ago, I was feeling very bleak about the Christmas Holiday. We definitely try each year to make Christ the central focus of our Christmas celebration – but I’ll be honest and admit it’s been easier to do so in years past, when my thoughts weren’t clouded with worry over the possibility of not even one gift under the tree for my child. Why after all of these years of knowing Christ, did I worry for even a moment? So many areas I feel I lean on Him completely, yet in so many He continues to show me I still need to trust Him – I confess that I am often a “Doubting Thomas”. Thank you all for being the proof of Christ in my life, not only to me, but to everyone I can get to listen to me tell of the wonderful things He has done for us this Holiday Season through you my Christian family (and my ever faithful “family” family). I stand in awe of Jesus and of you in the full knowledge that I am truly and abundantly blessed.

The money (and the prayers that I know you put with it) meant so much – it meant that Rebecca would wake up on Christmas morning with several fun (and even a few necessary) gifts to unwrap, that I’d have the money required for the extra and special food items that make our Christmas traditions “ours”, that I wouldn’t give into my fears and spend money on gifts that was really needed to pay bills (yes, I’ll admit it, I was seriously considering robbing Peter to pay Paul – BLASPHEMY I tell you!). Thanks to your generous hearts, I was able to make Christmas “happen” and still pay all my bills on time. You guys just overwhelm me – I can’t say thank you often enough – and I want you to know how very much I love each and every one of you – you were all Christmas Angels to us this year and I will never forget it.

The whole experience brings to mind several passages from the Bible that I want to share with you. I will attempt to be wary of time for reading constraints and only share these few:

Because I did spend a few nights early in December crying myself to sleep with worry, I think of a portion of Revelation 21:4…”He will wipe away every tear from their eyes…” Thank you for giving me a reason to dry my tears and have joyful expectation of Christmas day.

Financially, this Christmas promised to be a burden, and my lack of funds was definitely a burden on my mind and in my heart, so Galatians 6:2 comes to mind… “Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Thank you for helping to not just carry my burden, but for removing it!

I also think of Acts 4:32… “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.” Thank you for sharing with me and Rebecca.

I love you all and am praying for a prosperous, happy, and Christ-filled 2010 for us all.

Merle Haggard singing "If We Make It Through December" here >>> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-IJxTd8dCo