Pithy quotes from our current reading which give us pause to reflect

Thanks, I needed that.

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Here’s another view that includes more of the painting on the landing…

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During the time when “sleep would have been preferable to learning,” sometimes I find things like this, which speak to the day before and reason for learning rather than sleep;

PROLOGUE

Church or sermon, prayer or poem:
the failure of religious feeling is a form.

The failure of religious feeling is a form
of love that, though it could not survive
the cataclysmic joy of its inception,
nevertheless preserves its own sane something,
a space in which the grievers gather,
inviolate ice that the believers weather:
church or sermon, prayer or poem.

Finer and finer the meaningless distinctions:
theodicies, idiolects, books, books, books.
I need a space for unbelief to breathe.
I need a form for failure, since it is what I have.

    • Christian Wiman
      Survival is a Style
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The implicit made explicit burns bridges, erases connections. Why not and-and-or rather than either/or? Does the excluded middle really extend everywhere or do we just like it that way so we use it to thin the world to a degree that leaves us feeling in control? Perhaps the seeming so is gratifying enough that the being so can simply be ignored. As with pronouncing Latin, who can call us on it while we exude limitless confidence?

Not sure if this fits or not but something about the emphasis on form, terminology and making things clear feels something like this to my ear.

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At 4 a.m. when the exhausted brain has been bathed in adrenaline for hours from endless over-processing, things look particularly dark. It’s probably not appropriate for me to engage with, much less share poetry that resonated at the time. I’ll avoid it in the future.

In my self-centeredness, the last stanza spoke to me particularly, while I was feeling particularly sleeplessly raw. Am I merely obsessing over finer and finer distinctions that are ultimately meaningless? Theodicies, idiolects, books, books, books. I don’t believe so, but certainly I am aware of disagreement on this score.
I do need space to breathe, although not for unbelief, but actually for belief. It’s been a long time since – rather, I feel I’ve removed a corset and can at least fill my lungs without condemnation.
I need a form for failure, since it is what I have.

I am not interested in burning bridges, although I can see smoke in spots here closer to home. And ironically, you and I both see ourselves in the Middle somewhere. The Middle exists at fault lines, where the heat and friction can sometimes feel unbearable.

Nothing in this poem was directed outward. It is simply reflective of things that plague me, when “sleep would have been preferred to learning.” The learning here is mine.

I liked the poem and just took a shot at riffing something in the same vein. Please don’t stop sharing poetry because of my clumsy response.

On that score I’ve been remembering snippets of favorite Cummings’ poems I think you might like. Now I just need to find them online to share.

Ah here is a bit now which expresses my discontent with a purely materialist outlook which I sometimes find in dry legalistic theology as well as in sophomoric atheist banter.

down with the human soul
and anything else uncanned
for everyone carries canopeners
in Ever-Ever Land

(for Ever-Ever Land is a place
that’s as simple as simple can be
and was built that way on purpose
by simple people like we)

down with hell and heaven
and all the religious fuss
infinity pleased our parents
one inch looks good to us

It comes from his “Of Ever Ever Land I Speak” and copied from here

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Thanks, Mark.
Still, maybe 4 a.m. is not the best time, particularly under the circumstances.
Thanks for another serving of cummings. His work is refreshing, challenging and beautifully ironic.

I’ll match your cummings with a Fujimura, I hope you find satisfying:

A Theology of New Creation may at first seem “too good to be true”: excessively generous, even gratuitous. This generative path challenges our obsession to reduce everything to utilitarian pragmatism and presuppose a scarcity model. But there is not an iota of scarcity in “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The God of the Bible is the God of abundance. Therefore, Jesus’s preaching addresses the mindsets of scarcity-ridden, fear-filled followers. “Consider the lilies,” “love your enemies,” “blessed are the poor,” the many parables that assume abundance at the core of our lives—they all point to the greater love. Love demands more than utility; a greater love expands purposefully into an expansive and enduring realm of relational depth. When we say God is purposeful, we need to move beyond our industrial mindset of bottom-line thinking about efficiency and success. God is gratuitously purposeful to bring vast, abundant beauty into our lives.

God’s purposefulness is not aligned with our notion of day-to-day pragmatic purpose. God did not build us as survival machines that would function like clockwork; we are creatures of magnificence and imagination, made in the image of God.

Art and Faith by Makoto Fujimura, pg. 78

And I’ll raise you an Odell:

THESE LAST FEW projects have something important in common. In each, the artist creates a structure—whether that’s a map or a cordoned-off area (or even a lowly set of shelves!)—that holds open a contemplative space against the pressures of habit, familiarity, and distraction that constantly threaten to close it. This attention-holding architecture is something I frequently think about at the Rose Garden. Far from your typical flat square garden with simple rows of roses, it sits into a hill, with an endlessly branching system of paths and stairways through and around the roses, trellises, and oak trees. I’ve observed that everyone moves very slowly, and yes, people do quite literally stop and smell the roses. There are probably a hundred possible ways to wind your way through the garden, and just as many places to sit. Architecturally, the Rose Garden wants you to stay awhile.

You can see this effect at work in the circular labyrinths that are designed for nothing other than contemplative walking. Labyrinths function similarly to how they appear, enabling a sort of dense infolding of attention; through two-dimensional design alone, they make it possible not to walk straight through a space, nor to stand still, but something very well in between. I find myself gravitating toward these kinds of spaces—libraries, small museums, gardens, columbaria—because of the way they unfold secret and multifarious perspectives even within a fairly small area.

How to do nothing: resisting the attention economy by Jenny Odell, pg. 6
It’s actually very hard not to copy and paste the entire book, which would be cumbersome and illegal. I need to reread it. It was wonderful.
Her resistance to a materialistic outlook is quietly fierce.

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Somehow, expressing feelings makes things meaningful. I do not know if this is so, but …

Before creation I saw her
I felt eternity shine
In her beautiful smile.

She walks in a field of tulips
Her fragrance perfumes my world.
I walk through such fields in wonder
As I did when a child.

Before the beginning of time
God predetermined those he called
To be saved by the Word of God.

God revealed himself
As Creator of life
The goodness of life
God through His Son offers eternal life.

Even as mankind struggles with perplexity and fear
The Holy seed testifies to God’s grace
To those living by faith,
Hoping in things unseen.

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Thanks for sharing this encouragement.
@GJDS , this just came to mind: do you know Calvin Miller’s Singer Trilogy? I think he published it in the late '70s or early, '80s. I just walked over to the bookshelf. 1977, IVP.
I just found it in Internet Archive: The singer trilogy : the mythic retelling of the story of the New Testament : Miller, Calvin, 1936- : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
You might enjoy them.

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More water:
We saw this exhibit a few years ago at the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM). For a relatively small museum, the exhibit was huge. My husband and I could hardly tear ourselves away. Oldest and Youngest child were so bored, watching us engage with art, they finally quit picking at each other and just laid down on the gallery benches. I bought the book, justifying the sizeable investment as an anniversary gift to ourselves.

Living where water is abundant (and now more abundant), although fragile, it was moving and instructive to see the unimaginable, where water had been and is no longer, or is so utterly corrupted that spreads poison and death.

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Thanks, I have not come across this - I will read it with pleasure.

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Good trilogy. I really enjoyed it as a teen.

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Read this the other day in Loren Haarsma’s When Did Sin Begin?. So far, this book has been a pleasure to read and would be a very good one to share particularly with those who have been coerced into YEC or ID for doctrinal reasons and fear. Haarsma keeps scientific references as non-technical as possible (good for the non-scientist sucked into YEC/ID) and his respectful tone encourages the reader to think and consider, rather than challenging them to the typical duel of apologetics and stupid point-scoring.
Haarsma seems particularly fascinated by the rarely perceived beauty and purpose of things that often repulse us, entropy and death for example.

The death of animals and plants is part of a larger system. If animals and plants didn’t die, there wouldn’t be room for new generations to grow and thrive. Reproduction would have to stop, or the earth would soon be overfull. Without death and reproduction, animal and plant species couldn’t genetically adapt to environmental changes. Evidence from the natural world implies that God has created animals and plants to be finite, not eternal. Thus, animal and plant death plays a role in a good system in which one generation gives way to another, species adapt, and ecosystems can become more complex and filled with a greater variety of creatures over time. Centuries before modern science, Augustine summed up the argument that God chose to create animals and plants to be finite in time. Change, decay, and death are natural for earthly creatures.

“But it is ridiculous to condemn the faults of beasts and trees, and other such mortal and mutable things as are void of intelligence, sensation, or life, even though these faults should destroy their corruptible nature; for these creatures received, at their Creator’s will, an existence fitting them, by passing away and giving place to others, to secure that lowest form of beauty, the beauty of seasons, which in its own place is a requisite part of this world. For things earthly were neither to be made equal to things heavenly, nor were they, though inferior, to be quite omitted from the universe. Since, then, in those situations where such things are appropriate, some perish to make way for others that are born in their room, and the less succumb to the greater, and the things that are overcome are transformed into the quality of those that have the mastery, this is the appointed order of things transitory. Of this order the beauty does not strike us, because by our mortal frailty we are so involved in a part of it, that we cannot perceive the whole, in which these fragments that offend us are harmonized with the most accurate fitness and beauty. And therefore, where we are not so well able to perceive the wisdom of the Creator, we are very properly enjoined to believe it, lest in the vanity of human rashness we presume to find any fault with the work of so great an Artificer.”

Haarsma, Loren. When Did Sin Begin? (pp. 74-75). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

My incomparable Sunday school teacher in Jr. High, Steve Rhein, who was teaching us real theology without us even noticing, brought in a mountain of books one day, and spread them all over the floor. (Too bad our church library stuck with Janette Oke for the women and Calvin’s Commentaries for the men. (That’s really hyperbole.) I used Calvin a time or two for research in high school. Otherwise I didn’t use the library there.)
They were all Christian fantasy, adventure books the likes of which we’d never seen before. Steve MUST have told us something about the books, because none of us knew what we were looking at. Mike E dove faster and beat me to the first volume of Archives of Anthropos (Which I wish IVP would republish in epub). Darn! I grabbed “The Singer.” Happy accident! Steve probably sent the whole set home with me. “Bring 'em back next week when you’re done.” I did. Eventually, I also read all of the Archives of Anthropos books and loved them, too. Some of us in that class put a lot of wear and tear on his library.
I eventually bought my own copy of The Singer Trilogy. It’s dated 1986, so I was in college by that time and felt I needed my own copy. I still have 'em. Time to rereread.

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Jayber Crow is a very good book, moving and thought provoking. He may have just become my favorite fictional Christian character last night when I reached for it to put me back to sleep around midnight. But it turned on me, galloping off in interesting directions and giving me no rest at all. If I am not careful I will be transcribing the whole thing.

To place this excerpt it may help to know that Jayber is orphaned young, goes to live with an aunt and uncle who are happy to get him as all three of their children died young. But before long they both die too and he is shipped off to an orphanage which is run by Christians. He loves to read but forms no bonds with other ‘students’ or anyone else. At one point he comes to think he has received the call to go into ministry. So eventually he is packed off to Pidgeonville college with tuition and board paid but then he begins to have doubts.

I took to studying the ones of my teachers who were also preachers and also the preachers who came to speak in chapel and at various exercises. In most of them I saw the old division of body and soul that I had seen at The Good Shepherd [orphanage]. The same rift ran through everything at Pigeonville College; the only difference was that I was able to see it more clearly, and to wonder at it. Everything bad was laid on the body, and everything good was credited to the soul. It scared me a little when I realized that I saw it the other way around. If the soul and body really were divided, then it seemed to me that all the worst sins - hatred and anger and self-righteousness and even greed and lust - came from the soul. But these preachers I’m talking about all thought that the soul could do no wrong, but always had its face washed and its pants on was in agony over having to associate with the flesh and the world. And yet these same people believed in the resurrection of the body.

Although I was shaken, maybe I could have clamped my mouth shut and gone ahead. But about then I began to get into different trouble and more serious. You might call it doctrinal trouble.

The trouble started because I began to doubt the main rock of the faith, which was that the Bible was true in every word. “I reckon there ain’t a scratch of a pen in it but what is true,” Uncle Othy used to say, but he spoke as of a distant wonder, and was not much concerned. The pious men of The Good Shepherd and Pigeonville were concerned. They had staked their immortal souls on the infallible truth of every pen scratch from “In the beginning” to “Amen.” But I had read all of it by then and I could see that it changed. And if it changed, how could all of it be true?

From chapter six, pp 49-50

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My wife tripped over this on a Facebook feed (and a somewhat arresting title :slightly_smiling_face:)… With the only caveat being his use of the word ‘evolutionists’ (but now I cannot find it in the transcript), and the mistaken idea of uppercase ID (recalling that lowercase ‘id’ is true, God’s being sovereign over mutations in DNA and all), this speaks interestingly to the issue and pulls in a little history as well:

OK, looks like I am going to have to order a copy.

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I finally found the REAL quote I wanted to put here from Jenny Odell’s wonderful book, How to do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy. @markd’s photo of the creek behind his house brought it to mind. I only put the beginning of it, which is from a chapter called “Exercises in Attention.”

A YEAR AND a half ago I came across an aerial map of Rancho Rinconada, the Cupertino neighborhood I grew up in, as it was being built in the 1950s. Looking back and forth between the photo and Google Maps, I was able to figure out which street was which and thus pinpoint my house, otherwise indistinguishable amid the rows of tiny faux-Eichler bungalows. But there was one odd, wiggly road that didn’t seem to correspond to anything, that is, until I realized that it was not a road but Saratoga Creek. When I thought about it, I did remember seeing a creek running past the neighborhood swimming pool, but I hadn’t known it had a name. In my memory, it was just “the creek”; it didn’t come from anywhere in particular, nor was it going anywhere.
I zoomed out on Google Maps and saw yet another creek, winding past the school where I went to kindergarten. Again I searched my memory, where it showed up only once. When I was five, the creek was the place that you couldn’t get your ball back from if it went over the fence at the edge of the schoolyard. I barely remembered looking through that fence at its tangled and mysterious green depths and the strange pillowy cement bags that made up its banks. Back then, it merely represented the unknown, like an unruly foil to the manicured school grounds behind me. That is the only time that Calabazas Creek had surfaced to the level of my consciousness; all the other times I must have looked at the creek or walked or driven past it, it was like the unseen stimuli in Arien Mack and Irvin Rock’s vision experiments—seen but not noticed.
Recognizing the creek unfolded a whole topography of what I had not noticed.

“How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God.” Psalm 139:17

Divine omniscience affords no comfort to the ungodly mind, but to the child of God it overflows with consolation. C.H. Spurgeon

I know I shouldn’t quote too much but there was a part that came soon after the one I just transcribed which had to do with prayer and, reading this from you @Kendel ,

In 1996 my 16 year old cousin died of brain injuries from a car accident she caused. The psychological destruction that this did to her parents, who are Christians, was/is huge and permanent. I know they and everyone they knew prayed. The answer was devastating.

In 2012 my oldest child (then 10) was diagnosed with a massive brain tumor next to her brain stem. Just from the surgery there was a lot of neurological damage, and her main recovery took about 2 years. We have continued to see improvement, though, even since then. She’s about to finish her sophomore year in college, where she’s focusing on neuroscience. Our church and our families prayed and supported us in innumerable ways. Do I claim some sort of victory here? In light of my experience, what would that say about my cousins’? No. I refuse to interpret.

… I wonder if it squares with your life experience?

After Jesus’ terrible prayer at Gethsemane, an angel came to Him and gave Him strength, but it did not remove the cup.

Before that time I may have had my doubts about public prayers, but i had listened to them complacently enough, even when they were for the football team. I had prayed my own private prayers complacently enough, asking for things I wanted I was not going to get, no matter how much I prayed for them. (Though I hadn’t got around to thinking about it, I already knew that I had been glad to have some things I had got that I had never thought to want, let alone pray for.)

But now I was unsure what it would be proper to pray for, or how to pray for it. After you have said “thy will be done,” what more can be said? And where do you find the strength to pray thy will be done” after you see what it means?

…Does prayer change God’s mind? If God’s mind can be changed by the wants and wishes of us mere humans, as if deferring to our better judgment, what is the point of praying to Him at all?

Does God want us to cross the abyss between Him and us? If we can’t - and it looked to me like we can’t - will He help us? Or does he want us to fall into that abyss? Are there some things He wants us to learn that we can’t learn except by falling into the abyss?

By then I wasn’t just asking questions; I was being changed by them. I was being changed by my prayers, which dwindled down nearer and nearer to silence, which weren’t confrontations with God but with the difficulty - in my mind, or in the human lot - of knowing what or how to pray. Lying awake at night, I could feel myself being changed - into what, I had no idea. It was worse than wondering if I had received the call. I wasn’t just a student or a going-to-be preacher anymore. I was a lost traveler wandering in the woods, needing to be on my way somewhere but not knowing where.

from Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry, pp51-2

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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