So. I have been thinking about the change of seasons. I don’t want to miss spring this year. I want to distinguish the last winter frost from the out-of-season one, the frost of spring. I want to be there on the spot the moment the grass turns green. I always miss this radical revolution; I see it the next day from a window, the yard so suddenly green and lush I could envy Nebuchadnezzar down on all fours eating grass. This year I want to stick a net into time and say “now,” as men plant flags on the ice and snow and say, “here.” (Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)

…I believe that most people who read the Bible as Scripture do so in one of two ways: compliantly or conversantly… …Compliant readers are individuals whose basic instinct is to read the Bible trustingly. Those who read this way accept the Bible’s claims, adopt its values, and embrace its assumptions without necessarily giving serious consideration to the implications of their consent. Rather than questioning or challenging the text, compliant readers take what the Bible says — or at least what they think it says —…Continue Reading “Two Ways of Reading”

Pearls are layers and layers of soothing ‘nacre’ intended to insulate the delicate mollusk from the irritant that has abraded it. At root, a pearl is a ‘disturbance,’ a beauty created by something that isn’t supposed to be there, about which something needs to be done. It is the interruption of equilibrium that creates beauty. Beauty is a response to provocation, to intrusion. ‘How like art,’ I catch myself thinking. The pearl’s beauty is made as a result of insult just as art is made…Continue Reading “Pearls”

These words from Gandhi were quoted in Quiet: I have naturally formed the habit of restraining my thoughts. A thoughtless word hardly ever escaped my tongue or pen. Experience has taught me that silence is part of the spiritual discipline of a votary of truth. We find so many people impatient to talk. All this talking can hardly be said to be of any benefit to the world. It is so much waste of time. My shyness has been in reality my shield and buckler….Continue Reading “Food for Thought: Restraint”

Whether you are sick or well, lovely or irregular, there comes a time when it is vitally important for your spiritual health to drop your clothes, look in the mirror, and say, “Here I am. This is the body-like-no-other that my life has shaped. I live here. This is my soul’s address.” After you have taken a good look around, you may decide that there is a lot to be thankful for, all things considered. Bodies take real beatings. That they heal from most things…Continue Reading “Marvelous luggage”

Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her: “Good morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, Beautiful inside and out! God be with you.” (Luke 1:28, The Message) This afternoon I heard the song “Breath of Heaven” on the way home from the grocery store. It’s a song I’ve always assumed I liked, but today I realized: I don’t, particularly. It’s not really in keeping with the Scriptural account of Mary’s character in Luke 1. (I’m speaking from a Protestant point of view, by the way.) In “Breath of…Continue Reading “Bursting with God-news”

I read this the other day in The Lost Art of Reading by David L. Ulin. I wonder if anyone else relates. This, I think, is something on which we can agree: to read, we need a certain kind of silence, an ability to filter out the noise. That seems increasingly elusive in our overnetworked society, where every buzz and rumor is instantly blogged and tweeted, and it is not contemplation we desire but an odd sort of distraction, distraction masquerading as being in the…Continue Reading “Recent reading: “the encroachment of the buzz””

Our pastor has been taking a close look at what some of our traditional Christmas carols have to teach us. It’s making this richest of seasons even richer. Yesterday while teaching on “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” he brought some lines from a poem by Luci Shaw to our attention. I wasn’t familiar with the poem, but it’s a wonderful discovery, honing in on some of the mind-blowing paradoxes of Christmas. Here are a few excerpts: Quiet he lies whose vigor hurled a universe. He…Continue Reading “Quiet he lies”

A few weeks ago, we finished Egermeier’s Bible Storybook. It ends with a description of John on Patmos, writing Revelation. It doesn’t summarize Revelation — just tells the story of its writing. My older daughter remembered once hearing the Bible description of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse in Revelation 6, and she asked, “Could we read that?” “Sure,” I said. “Why don’t you read it out of your Adventure Bible.” So she did… verse after verse of highly symbolic description of the otherworldly setting…Continue Reading “As little children”

I love this quote from Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet: …Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves… Do not… seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will… gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. That seems to sum up so much of my life. Questions —…Continue Reading “Living the questions”