Monthly Archives: July 2007

Hope

Space is still filled with the noise of destruction and annihilation, the shouts of self assurance and arrogance, the weeping of despair and helplesness. But round about the horizon the eternal realities stand silent in their age-old longing. There shines on them already the first mild light of the radiant fulfillment to come. From afar sound the first notes as of pipes and voices, not yet discernable as a song or melody. It is all far off still and only just announced and foretold. But it is happening today.

Alfred Delp

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Jottings

One more conference and then the world stops spinning. It’s been a whirlwind of a few weeks! I am itching in every finger and brain cell to spend hours in writing out my thoughts regarding all that I have learned and seen; it will have to wait for just five more days. There’s a rich harvest of contemplation growing up in me! But I can share a few of the books I have discovered in the past week and though my opinions on them are not yet full formed, I can easily recommend all the below simply for the thought they stimulate. My favorites of late:

For the Glory of God

This book was assigned to me by Ranald Macaulay who is tutoring us in worldview every week. The author, Rodney Stark, argues that apart from a specifically Christian worldview we would never have known the age of science, the abolition of slavery, or the university as we know it. Which, in our culture, is a bold claim to make. Many of us have grown up hearing that the “Enlightenment”, especially as regards scientific discovery, happened in spite of the backwardness of the church and the confinement of Christian belief. Stark argues that it was specifically because of a strong belief in God that scientific discovery was able to flourish. Most of the famous scientists (think Newton, Copernicus, Galileo, etc.) were steadfast believers in a personal God who made mankind in his image to explore and understand the orderly creation within which he placed them. Fascinating read.

Technopoly

I’m in the midst of this right now. This is a loud cry for our modern, technologized world to evaluate whatever soul it retains. Tracing the history of technology and its rampant increase in the past couple of centuries, Neil Postman challenges us to see just how much of a hold technology has not just over our lives, but over the way we view and accept reality, humanity, and meaning. For me, this is the sort of book that grabs me at the soul level and drives me to challenge the cultural assumptions I so easily accept. I can’t wait to write about this one.

Life is A Miracle

I’m falling in love with the writing of Wendell Berry; you can expect to hear much more on him. But more on that later. I read this slim book about a month ago at L’Abri and was so captivated by his thought that I am determined to read it again first chance I get. The title really states the purpose of the book; to defend the idea of our human lives as intricate miracles made by God (the quote is from a line in King Lear), in opposition to the secular conception of humanity as merely a machine. The logical consequence of naturalism (the belief that the material world is all there is) is to view humans simply as the sum of their well-evolved parts to the exclusion of soul. It’s a cold view, a frightening view, and one that has major consequences. Berry valiantly challenges this belief while simultaneously affirming that we are indeed, each of us, created miracles, called to live in loving relationship with the God who made us, the people he created, and the earth in which he made us to live.

And I guess that’s going to have to do it for today. I must run down to the college to tape a session with our new speaker. (Joel heard the first session last night and is quite excited.) May you have rich thoughts today my friends and a lovely summer day in which to think them.

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Aragorn On Worldview

In the whirlwind of apologetic debate this past week, I’ve found this quote dancing often about in my brain:

“It is hard to be sure of anything among so many marvels, the world is all gone strange… how shall a man judge what to do in such times?” said Eomer.
“As he ever has judged,” said Aragorn. “Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.” (J.R.R. Tolkien in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers)

Funny how the really good old stories haunt your contemplations. The world does seem strange to me of late. As I seek a better knowledge of my own beloved Truth, I am cast up day after day upon the shores of other strange beliefs. I get up each time to sail to better lands and yet, the strangeness of the daily struggle after a faith to match reality comes strongly to me. Day after day of late I have strung out every truth I held for minute inspection, compared my beliefs to the rest of the world and striven to perceive the fiber of my faith. And while there is surely exultation in the task, there is also a sudden fear, a sense of my inner thoughts being mercilessly unravelled for examination. There is no doubt in me, but there is certainly a sense of unboundedness in this ocean of speculation; perhaps a bit of bewilderment at the time in which I live. What sort of world is it to which I’ve been born?

But into this march Aragorn’s sturdy words. And they remind me that goodness is discernable, truth choosable. Tis a good man’s (woman’s) part to judge twixt good and ill (or Truth and moral relativity), in Middle Earth, in the Golden Wood, in my Colorado home. Goodness does not change, evil is ever the same and the soul whose love is truth can discern and choose the way that leads to life. Not that I ever doubted it, but in this modern/postmodernist jumble of belief, it is easy to feel that reality has lost its grounding. In the midst of endless speculation (even about other worldviews) it is good to hear a word of surety, to be certain of the unchanging clarity of Truth and our ability to choose it.  Aragorn had traversed years and miles and in his living had found the touchable goodness of a changless truth. By grace, I find that I have grasped it too. And it’s mightily good to remember how sure a thing it is.

So to thee Lord Aragorn, I give my humble thanks.

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Saturday Ruminations

It is evening and I am perched up here in my fourth floor room, the window open to the blue light and cool, the laughter of my housemates flitting up from the garden. My mind is awhir tonight after the ceaseless activity of this past week and it is good to sit in the quiet of my garret and think of, in the words of Bilbo Baggins, “all that I have seen”. I have spent the past week sitting in on one of the conferences put on by Christian Heritage and it has filled my thought to flood point. There were three days of basic education in apologetics and worldview, one day with a theoretical physicist on the topic of God and science, and another day spent delving into the reliability of Scripture. In between I talked a mile a minute with fellow believers from the world over; Romania, Holland, Georgia, the Czech Republic, and got a glimpse of faith as it is being lived in a dozen different lives in a dozen different places. It’s really quite something to discuss the finer points of creation and suffering over tea breaks. It all fills me with a frenzied thought, an eager excitement of contemplation that, as soon as I have become coherent again, I will be sure to share.

I look forward to condensing some of the things I have heard into a post; giving out again the nuggets of truth that I have so graciously been given. My time here is expanding my thought on issues that had never before concerned me, I find new horizons of thought opening up in me as my capacity grows with the training I receive to understand the power of Biblical thought in every realm of human endeavor. I look forward to sharing a bit of what we heard from Ranald in our tutorial this week. But I also find a surprising renewal of old values, long-held truths in me. I see, with slightly amused eyes, my sudden appreciation for everything my parents have taught for years. Of course I always believed what they said about family and values and such to be true. But now I get it. It really is true. (Oh it’s a fun thing to be young and discover humility!) I look forward to writing about that too.
I’ll be posting soon on all this. And, of course, must get up some pictures of the dear staff at CHC and our fellow intern and comrade in evening fun, Nathan. So look for some new posts soon.

For tonight though, I intend to rest, and I wish the same to you. Today has been my first day off in awhile and the idea of sabbath rest has lurked in my thought all day. My days are filled with worthy things; with people and ministry, work and deep discussion, but in the busyness I lose that center of soul from which all life takes its meanings. Without my morning quiet, my blessed few minutes of prayer, I am less able to reap the goodness from all that I am doing. I am amazed sometimes at how desperately I need the centering of Scripture. I need the grounding of quiet, the renewal of God’s presence hovering in my hushed thought in order to live fully present to the world and goodness around me. Apart from those foundational minutes of quiet, I find that I grow callused to the beauty God is weaving through the hours and days of my life. My days here have been crafted by him, but apart from his daily grace, I cannot reap his goodness. A day of Sabbath rest is the drawing back of my soul into that center place of spirit where God enriches, renews, restores me so that I can enter fully into the “good works that he has created”. So to end these thoughts on this dim blue evening, I wish you good sabbath. I wish you rest and peace; a spirit renewed in the ease of the weekend so that you and I both may enter life again and reap God’s joy to the full.

Goodnight my friends.

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The New Anne

My beautiful sister Joy is on a new adventure; an audition for the role of Anne in a new prequel to the beloved Anne of Green Gables series. This promises to be a great movie as it is being done by the same company who produced the series we have all grown up loving so much. As part of the process, Joy has submitted a video of herself doing an Anne monologue to YouTube, where Anne fans can vote and comment on the various submissions. So, I want to let the world know and tell you all to go on over and see how darling she is, and VOTE! Vote for Joy!

YouTube Video
Sullivan Entertainment

Thanks!

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Pictures!

Here it is… finally! A tour via picture of our crazy English adventures. It’s high time you had a glimpse into our summer world. We’ve been living the high English life, traipsing round cathedrals and cobblestoned streets, hidden gardens and vast estates (think Mr. Darcy’s Pemberly…literally). We’ve had multitudinous cups of tea (the English average is six cups a day and we’re doing our level best to fit in), eaten gigantic pieces of fresh fried fish with a newspaper bag of hot “chips” (french fries). We’ve walked what felt like three million miles, had quite a blast setting up house (we’re doing our own cooking) and attempting to grill burgers on the 4th in between sudden bursts of pounding rain. In general we’ve simply delighted in the gift of a summer in this ancient town. Here’s the quick tour:

The Round Church

This is our homebase. We work here daily doing whatever happens to be needed and meeting the visitors who come here from around the world. Its one of the oldest buildings in England, built between 1000-1100, it’s shape inspired by the round Church of the Sepulchre that sits on the supposed tomb of Christ in Jerusalem. The model was brought back with the Crusaders.

 

 

Ely Cathedral

Ah, be still my soaring, singing soul. Who knows if there is such a thing as sacred space (aside from the whole of the glorious creation), but if there were, surely the soaring, echoing beauty of this church could be one. The sheer hugness of the place, the ceiling rising four stories straight, lit by the dappled light of stained glass murals, the paintings on the cieling a procession of the stories of the prophets with Christ at their head, the nearest to the altar. We spent a lovely day here, wandering, journaling, loving God through the beauty, remembering that heaven really will be beyond conception of beauty or thought.

4th of July (Picture to follow)

A priceless memory. This is us, hands clasped faithfully over our hearts to hear The Star Spangled Banner trumpeted out over the spires of Cambridge in a burst of American Patriotism. One of the American students in town climbed to the top of St John’s College Chapel tower just to play the national anthem. Of course, he had to follow it with God Save the Queen, but we just muttered the words of My Country Tis of Thee under our breaths instead…

King’s College Chapel

This might be one of my single favorite memories of the summer. We very innocently wandered in to this world famous church for an evensong and had two hours of near divine excitement. This church, begun by Edward the 6th, and finished by Henry the 8th, is really the center point of Cambridge and is one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture I’ve seen. However lovely from the outside though, it is the inside that so amazes for the walls are almost entirely replaced by walls of stained glass murals, the only complete set of original Renaissance stained glass in Europe. We took our places in the pews just as the sun was sinking and so hit the whole Western wall. It became a shimmering, four story mural of jewels in a swirling picture of Christ’s resurrection. And that was before the choral prayers, the boy voices swirling up to the ceiling, the prayers spoken low and sweet. And that was before the organ recital culminating in a joyous rendition of Holst’s Jupiter that set us grinning at each other with the sheer glory of being in that place and hearing that music.

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Witnesses

I was watched the other day; scrutinized by countless eyes whose gaze I could not catch. Not a single person else stood near and yet I was hemmed and hedged by souls who saw the going and the coming of my way. I was in a church you see. One of the old kinds of soaring, bright-storied windows and weathered old stone. The sort of place that is hushed by the very intensity of the life it represents. Words aren’t forbidden, they are inadequate. The vault of the ancient ceiling and the gigantic stone pillars made it an echoing place, an eerie space of live silence that paced the empty corridors beside me as I tiptoed in. Yet as I went I never felt myself alone. The hugeness never settled full because I walked in view of countless, silent faces, surrounded by a cloud of silent, ceaseless witnesses.

I could not escape them; the faces of saints, jewel bright in the thousand stained-glass windows. The woeful eyes of the prophets as they kept their constant vigil. The sorrow-laden heads of saints caught in eternal prayer, the confident gaze of the apostles from their perch in the golden altar. The glance of angels, the gaze of gentle Mary, the gaze of a little lamb. And then the eyes of Christ; playing in ‘ten thousand places’ round the quiet church. All of these followed my way and clutched at my heart, their faces a bright and silent challenge to my thought.

A challenge? Yes. A call, an unheard plea for recognition. For though silent, the very presence of those countless, waiting faces set a call upon my thought; how, o soul of mine, will you live, when such as we have walked before you? The mere sight of them in their storied forms reminded me of who I was and what I was called to do. I remembered again that I do not walk alone in this thing called faith; that many have gone before me, and some will come behind and they are all of them waiting, watching, to see with what mettle I will live the portion of my days. These witnesses demand of me a goodness that I have at times forgotten. And in their faces, I have found a grace. An extra bit of reason in the living well of these slow days. I carried the faces of those saints and angels with me even as I left the church. They walk with me and call to me. They are, in a way, my witnesses.

And that set me to thinking. For our churches in this later time are almost never graced by picture or form. I wonder if we lose by it. Surely somehow, the sight of those ancient figures could spur our spirits to remember who we are and just what it is we are called to do. We are bombarded in every instant of the day with the faces and voices of modern culture. But where are the spiritual witnesses in our time? When do we see the artful faces of our own, faith-driven heroes except in the occasional Biblical tale? Where are our pictures of the saints and prophets and martyrs and mystics? These are the people who have gone before us into the kingdom, they are the pilgrims whose feet have trodden out the path along which we travel today. But we never think of them. We never see them. We are never seen by them. And so there is no silent face to call us to a fresh made faith when ours is running low.

This modern world at times, seems emptier than it used to. Faith seems harder. Goodness a less tangible, graspable thing. I’ve seen a lot of people in the last year who were grasping at esoteric ideas, wrangling out a theory of truth, an intellectual structure of goodness. But the saints never lived in theory. They lived in fact; loving and serving and praying and working. I remember this when I see them, when they are present to my sight, their stories vivid, their faces close. I think perhaps our modern world is hungering for witnesses like these to tell us how to live and hold us to the truth we find. We need those “clouds of witnesses”. It’s part of faith. It’s part of life. So maybe somehow we need to return to the older ways, at least a bit. Find a way to bring the old witnesses back to spur us on to goodness. In this age of autonomy, perhaps a friendly eye would be welcome. It certainly was to me.

(I ought to mention that these thoughts and this picture began in Magdelene College Chapel, Oxford. The same one where C.S. Lewis worshiped every morning. (Now there is a great witness.) It was the sheer number of faces on that far wall that began my musings.)

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