"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

24 October 2005

Beauty in the Darkness

Driving to campus this morning, I was not in the best of moods. Spent all day yesterday grading midterm portfolios (they are pretty good, but an entire day of them is still wearing), then spent the night tossing and turning and watching the clock. Then leaving in the deep dark with a cold wind and no moon in sight and people driving towards me with their brights on . . . all those little things that it's so easy to allow to annoy.

And then I drove up the hill towards campus, and just before I reached the chapel, two deer leaped out of the trees, across the road, through the Grassy Bowl and away.

Such grace. Such beauty. Such a reminder of the little things God provides in His kindness. May I think today of grace and beauty instead of nagging little annoyances. May I keep my heart set on Him.

23 October 2005

Trusting in the Dark

Many years ago, a friend drove me home one night to change clothes between some more and less formal activities our group of buddies was enjoying. It was a several mile drive, and my friend one who had made some important decisions, and someone I could talk to honestly.

I told him my fears, the only person who had heard them. I described my place at that time as standing with darkness before me and nothing of value behind me. My friends mostly seemed to be going down the same old path, a path I had finally realized led nowhere (or perhaps worse). I didn't want to continue on that path. And yet . . . I could at least see something on it -- not least people I'd known and been at ease with for many years -- and in front of me: utter blackness, the kind in the caves in Missouri where Tom and Becky got lost, darkness you can actually see because you can't see through it to anything else.

And I was terrified that one more step would take me over a cliff into a bottomless canyon . . .

Well, with the help of loving words from my friend and others, I stepped into the darkness, and the path indeed took me over a cliff, and I died, and though I try to resuscitate myself pretty regularly, He helps me to stay dead as much as I'll let Him. It was worth it.

Years later, I made another significant change, and someone called me "courageous." I wasn't. That change was from one familiarity to another (how different can teaching be, wherever you do it?), and since the life was being choked out of me where I was, the change couldn't very well be for the worse even if it turned out not to be for the better. And today, a couple of similar changes later, it is certainly better.

But I find myself facing that darkness again. There is a change in the wind, a subtle internal voice pushing towards something new, but this time,
again, something I cannot see at all. The familiar calls to me, siren-like -- here is comfort, here is security, here are material needs met, here you know who you are and you are recognized and respected. It is not, however, like that path years and years ago which held no good; it is a good in itself, and that makes it all the harder.

But that other call . . . I've heard it before. It terrified me then, and following it was the best choice I've ever made. But still I'm terrified. I want to see if there's another cliff there. I want to see the path and where it will lead.

I wonder sometimes if I will ever truly trust. Trust is a scary thing. And because I'm always wanting life to go my way, answers to be those I want, I am often blinded to the blessings He holds out until I look back much later and realize . . . oh, that's what He was doing.

I have been reading Chambers again lately, and what keeps leaping out at me from the pages of his meditations is our need to know God. He is continually rebuking us for our propensity to work for God, to gain His approval by our good works. But what He wants, Chambers keeps reminding us, is for us to know Him and in that way become like Him.

Have no other motive than to know your Father in heaven, Chambers writes; God does not hear us because we are in earnest, but only on the ground of redemption.

Father, may I long to know You, and thus trust You, and banish the fear of not knowing where You are leading me -- because my Father will never lead me wrongly or to my ultimate hurt. May I learn to let You be my vision indeed, taking each step you open before me with a childlike trust in Your lovingkindness toward me.

17 October 2005


As I drove round the bend this morning, the moon dazzled my eyes to near blindness. No soft glow or haze of clouds to mute her, she could have muted the loud glare of bright headlights had any challenged her. She did not peek from behind the trees, as so often happens; rather, her insistent brilliance demanded notice and required obedience.

Phoebe, so changeful, from seeming absence to full presence, from romantic hazy glow to icy clear radiance. I am reminded of Dickinson's poem:

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant --
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind --

There is time for this circuitous telling, certainly, for partial or hazy revelation, but there is time too for bright Truth straight on. May God grant the wisdom to know which phase any given moment may require.

10 October 2005

En-Visioning Again

It's fall break here. This morning, K and the YM went to run errands. I fixed something to eat, stared at the book I am reviewing, read a bit in Lilith again, then pulled our hymnal off the shelf. It's been so long since I've just sung hymns, and the rare times we do so in our church it's to a new tune or with added choruses, and never all the verses, as though the writer's thought can be known and edify us in snippets or by cut and paste. So I just sang, hymn after hymn, and found myself for the first time in a very long time feeling something in worship. It was good, very good.

This particular hymn has always been a favorite, and it spoke to me strongly today, so I thought I'd share.

"Be Thou My Vision"

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Nought be all else to me, save that Thou art --
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word:
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord,
Thou my great Father and I Thy true son,
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise,
Thou mine inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven's joys, O bright heaven's Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

"Without a vision, the people perish." May the vision be His, indeed Him, and may I learn to pursue with a whole heart. Vision and wisdom, Lord; grant me vision and wisdom.

04 October 2005


I have always loved the image of the dance for marriage. Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity has a section in the front called "Quodlibet" (it means "whatever"), snippets of ideas the editors have been mulling over. David Mills writes about marriage this time, and I love these two paragraphs:

"It's as if the couple have spent so long learning to dance that now they move so fast and so smoothly that you just see one thing (one flesh) moving. The husband has always led, and he's still leading, but he's better at it: He's leading his wife where she can and (mostly) wants to go, and she's following because she wants to.

"She trusts him and thinks that following him makes the dance better, and even when it doesn't (because he's not perfect), they keep dancing in a way that covers the mistake. If she hesitates or resists, he changes the dance, most of the time (because he's not perfect), because he knows she sees something he doesn't."

It's All About You

Cindy posted this over at Quotidian Light, and since I took the bait, I have to put it here. :)

Leave your name and...

1. I'll respond with something random about you.

2. I'll tell you what song/movie reminds me of you.

3. I'll pick a flavor of jello to wrestle with you in.

4. I'll try to say something that only makes sense to you and me.

5. I'll tell you my first/clearest memory of you.

6. I'll tell you what animal you remind me of.

7. I'll ask you something that I've always wondered about you.

8. If I do this for you, you must post this on your journal. You MUST.