Monthly Archives: May 2007

From My Hour of Reading…

As Danny watched, the light reddened and warmed in the sky. The last of the stars disappeared. Above him, on both sides of the hollow, the wet leaves of the treetops began to shine among the fading strands and shelves of mist. Eastward, the mist took a strain of pink from the rising sun and glowed. And Danny felt a happiness that he knew was not his at all, that did not exist because he felt it but because it was here and he had returned to it.

-Wendell Berry in Fidelity

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Destination: Cambridge

As I was scurrying around this morning trying to catch the fleeing multitude of details that have escaped me, I realized that I had never announced the great news about my summer. So here it is: I am going to Cambridge. As an intern. For two months. For those of you who know me well, you know that the mere idea of calling that city my own even for a month is highly exciting. Besides the beauty (and it is a lovely old city), I figure that just ambling along the same streets that C.S. Lewis walked ought to somehow imbue me with renewed creativity. However, lest there be confusion, I should clarify; I am not going as a student, but as an intern with Christian Heritage Cambridge.

I first stumbled upon them when I was in Cambridge two years ago for a C.S. Lewis conference. They operate out of the Round Church, one of the oldest buildings in Cambridge and their whole goal is renew culture by renewing the faith of the people within it. Pretty good vision huh? And how better than to set up shop right in the center of one of the best universities in the world? Through a combined mixture of summer and weekend conferences, displays in the Round Church and guided tours of Cambridge from a Christian perspective, they are constantly seeking to get to know people, engage their hearts and their minds and shape their thought. CHC was founded in part by Ranald Macaulay, the son in law of Francis Schaeffer. For those of you who are familiar with the writing of Francis and Edith Schaeffer, or L’Abri, CHC is very similar in its vision and heart to engage people.

The lovely thing is that my brother Joel was also accepted as one of the three interns so we will be going together. (Along with another intern named Nathan, which is, ironically, the name of my other brother…) This is sort of an ideal situation for us as the subject of nightly discussions around here is just how to bring truth, goodness, beauty into a postmodern culture. How be winsome and yet absolute in conviction, how to portray Christ in art of all kinds, how to live life in such a way that Christ’s compassion is communicated to whoever we happen to see. And since we are both pursuing some sort of art, writing for me, music for Joel, it’s good to consider how God draws through creation of all kinds. The excitement is high around here. (And then, you can just imagine us as weekend and evening gypsies, determined to see as much as have as many adventures as possible…)

We will actually spend two weeks in preparation at the English L’Abri before starting the internship in full around the first of July. Once we arrive, we’ll be, to our delight, right in the thick of it all, giving the tours, guiding the visitors and writing a short research paper while we are there. And hopefully having a myriad of discussions with our hosts in between. So, in the midst of buying airplane tickets, arranging lodging and raising support, I thought I should at least make a semi-official announcement of this new adventure. That way, when I start posting debates, pictures and adventure tales from Cambridge you won’t think you’ve stumbled onto a different blog. And…if any of you happen to be in England this summer, come by! We’ll give you a grand tour.

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Continuity

The scene is simple; she is old but still very lovely as she stands on the wooden steps of her home with her sun-whitened hair pulled back from the gentle lines of her face. She clasps a small box, holding it out to the young man standing on the step just beneath her. She is Ukrainian, he is American, and he has traveled half the world to find her. His name is Jonathan and he is very young, very quiet, filled with a single longing to know the past that has formed him. An old time-beaten photograph has brought him here to find the woman who helped his grandfather escape the Nazis. Finally he has at least found her sister, and this sister is about to give him a treasure. She holds it out, he takes it, meeting the frank blueness of her eyes as she tells him the story of her marvelous gift.
I didn’t understand why my sister hid her wedding ring in a jar, and why she said to me, “In case.
In case what? he asks.
In case she was killed. Her answer is short, and she is quiet in the starkness of it. But then, as Jonathan fingers the small box in his hands; the box holding the wedding ring that had survived war and massacre, long years and the death of its owner, the old woman spoke again. Why did she bury it?
I do not know. The translator answers for Jonathan. But the old woman insists, pointing straight at him as if to extract his answer in payment for her given treasure. Ask him.
Jonathan stands unsure, his answer hesitant.
So there’d be proof that she existed? To remember her?
No. The woman rejects this theory out of hand. I don’t think so.
He tried again. In case someone should come searching one day, so they would have something to find? No, she says again. But then begins to speak, softly, surely.
It does not exist for you. She says it slowly, with solemn emphasis.
You exist for it. You have come because it exists…

It has been over a week now since I saw that scene played out in the movie Everything Illuminated (review forthcoming), but something in my soul cocked its head at those words; a restless perplexity rose up in me and since that night has not left me in peace. Somehow that scene especially echoes in my thought, for there is something in that story that is familiar to me, something in Jonathan’s search for his past and in the strange declaration of the old woman that addresses my own reality. Somewhere in that scene and story, I see myself, and I have spent the last week trying to figure out where. But tonight I finally got it.

 

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For Sunday

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

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April Showers Bring May…Snow?

Well look what I woke up to on this bright May morning. To say that Colorado weather is unpredictable is a gross understatement. At least the sky is back to blue.

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And here is the storm as it rolled into the dawn two days ago:

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Oh the drama.

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Apples & Evangelism

Two roads diverged in, if not a yellow wood, at least my tentative brain as I faced down a way-leads-on-to-way sort of decision. My choice would irrevocably alter a good chunk of my intellectual life, change my mode of writing and form of interaction with the world. I writhed, I wavered, I waffled. But the choice had to be made. I took my less-traveled (sort of) road and knew I could not turn back. I converted. I abandoned the Microsoft upbringing of my childhood and bought a MacBook.

I am now a thorough and enthusiastic disciple of the Apple side of the spectrum, but because of my choice, have had to defend my decision to several old friends of late. It’s always a long and colorful process of explaining the allure of those great commercials that started me thinking, my brother’s many praises of his own beloved Mac, and my occassional stolen sessions on his to see if I would enjoy it for myself. It’s quite a protracted process to relate. But oddly enough, it has gotten me thinking about, of all things, the ways of evangelism. Not just for Apples, but for Christ.

The process is, after all, much the same. It all begins with a bit of publicity. Good publicity it is to be hoped. I currently attend (with much inward debate) a rather large church with quite a reputation for the quality of their productions and services. As I watched a well-filmed clip advertising their small groups program last Sunday, I found it to be pretty similar to the catchy charm of the Apple commercials. And it did its job. It piqued my interest. And that led to the next step; personal contact with someone who could provide me with the good thing I had seen. In the case of my new laptop, it was my brother-who was eager to praise the benefits and superiorities of the Apple way of life. Sounds pretty close to evangelism to me. I wasn’t convinced the first go round. But he insisted on bringing up the subject at every hint of my desire for a new computer and was dogged in his insistence that I give his Mac a try. I did. Once in his presence, and several on my own when I could putter about at my leisure. My puttering led to more conversations, and more debates and more trials. But ultimately it led to full conversion; the buying of my own, magnificent Mac OS X.

I don’t really think evangelism is much different. Because the thing that most struck me in my rather random musings was that it was the live-eyed convincing of a fellow-human being that changed the set ways of my former ideas. The commercials may have stirred my interest, but the ardent conviction of my brother caught my ideas. The conversations (and arguments) and long debates were what, over a long period of time, led me to invest a large amount of money in this slim black book. And I think that in the winning of hearts it is the same; conversion usually happens in the context of relationships, at the end of countless conversational hours and endless discussions of worn out debates. Change comes when people see the alternate way of life lived by Christ lovers. The overturn of long held values occurs when people are able to putter about among the ideas of goodness, kindness, unconditional love as they are lived out by the Christians in their homes and families and neighborhood haunts. Conversion comes when faith has tangled itself so deeply into their thought that they can no longer deny it.

I think perhaps we give an overemphasis to the commercial sort of evangelism that charmingly illustrates the superiority of our way of life. A bit of showiness has its place. But it cannot stop there. We cannot allow our entertainment culture to be merely amused by Christianity. We must be ready to offer what we have presented, ready to live out our confidence in the superiority of Christ’s kingdom. Ready for long debates. Willing to open our homes and selves to people’s curiosity and need to putter about in the touchable reality of a new philosophy as it is lived out in us. I think that’s where conversion really takes place. In the rhythmic weave of daily, relational life.

So you see, Apples really are superior. Could a PC ever inspire such deep (or ridiculously random) contemplation?

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Springtime Craziness

I forayed out into the spring world in the blue hours of this morning. I’ve been up with the birds of late and have made it a habit to greet the dawnlight with an hour of walking. It is good, unspeakably good for my soul and body to stride out into the freshness of the waxing sunlight, to watch the soaring joy of the myriad birds as they reclaim their wintered nests, to witness the ever-changing drama of the mountain sky. I find that my hour grounds me, plants my feet firm in the humble goodness of God’s green earth, reminding me of my place as tiny, yet beloved creature, teaching me of his nature as it is expressed in what he has made.

But this morning especially brought me a rare insight, filled me with a strange gladness. It was a storm morning, one of those dappled, rushing dawns with great swaths of mist pouring over the western mountains, challenging the sunlight’s slow advance in the east. Headphones in and jacket zipped tight against the keening of the wind, I gloried in it. I felt that chill blue briskness of looming storm, the aspens shuddering, the sky darkling, and I was heady and bright with the beauty. My walk was almost rhythmic as my music came pouring into my ears to accompany the drama of the rare day around me.

I had walked a good five minutes before the words of the song I was hearing registered in the breathlessness of my thought. “Love like crazy”. It was a song by Chris Rice, one of my family’s all-time favorite artists, and it was all about love, the love of Christ; quick, and free, and downright crazy in its goodness. And as I heard the words the wind swerved suddenly to miss a streak of lightning and his gust caught a flock of sparrows and flung them laughing through the blue air to catch their balance in the lush growth of new leaves. I looked up and saw the new growth of vines and flowers, pushing inexorably up through the rain-soaked earth. Saw the lake, full from the spring storms, etched with the dancing of the wind. And suddenly the music and the words and the storm-swept world around me took eachother’s hands and fused their beauties into a coherent thought in my mind.

Love like crazy. Love like this wild storm.  Live with this goodness rushing through you. It was as if I could see a picture of God’s wild love before me in the unbounded beauty of the storm and rush of the wind; saw the unfetteredness of his life in the tangle of new vines and profusion of leaves and zip of the birds. There is nothing that holds itself back either in springtime or in the unexplainable mercy of God’s love for me. And to love like crazy, to love as Christ did, means to love freely, in unbounded gladness. Love must be rampant in its goodness, an untameable force of new life that broaches no resistance. I must love like crazy; love like the blue of the sky in its vast blueness, in its endless drama of color. I must love like the wind, with a dance and a flourish, unchained by bitterness or judgment. I must love like the verdant, springtime earth, in a growing abandon of life that covers the ground that is barren and brings shade to the sun-scorched heart.

I needed my lesson from the goodness of God’s creation this morning. I am such a soul of justice, walk in such a weights-and-measures sort of goodness that is tempted only to love when it is is earned, only to accept grace if I deserve it. But the wildness of this springtime morning, with the soundtrack of that single thought helped me to enter back into the grace of God, into the springtime freedom of his endless love.

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