"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

25 September 2006

On Being Doormats

In Sunday School yesterday morning, one of the innumerable rabbit trails brought up had to do with "being doormats." The issue was framed something like this: "Everybody says we're not supposed to be doormats. But the Scripture seems to say we should be doormats -- go the second mile, if somebody takes your coat, give him your cloak . . . but I thought we weren't supposed to be doormats."

The teacher rightly ignored this remark, given that it had nothing whatsoever to do with the topic of the lesson. But I've been mulling it over, since I hear it, or something like it, fairly often in this individualistic, rights-centered culture my students are so much a part of.

My first reaction always tends to be "Why shouldn't we be doormats?" In the world's eyes, surely Christ Himself was a "doormat" as He stood silent before Pilate and allowed Himself to be hung on a cross. Am I not called to live like my Savior? In the world's eyes, my humility will always look like folly, like weakness.

But the world is not where I should be finding my definitions, and its perceptions should not be my especial concern. In the situation brought up in Sunday School, how is the believer who obeys the injunction to go the second mile a "doormat"? He is constrained by law to carry the soldier's burden the first mile; anyone might do so, however grudgingly, to avoid punishment.

But if he then says, in cheerful humility, "Sir, because I love the Lord Christ, and through Him I love you, I desire to serve you by carrying this burden another mile" -- how is this being a doormat? This is precisely love in action -- and love is power. Not power to stand up for my rights and demand respect and protect my space -- to not be a doormat -- but power to reach hearts for the Savior who suffered and died for my unworthy self.

20 September 2006

Reflected Light

Phoebe the merest sliver of reflected light on this morning's pre-dawn drive, but that resplendent sliver illuminating the mountains and valleys of her darkened surface.

Oh, Lord, to be even the merest sliver reflecting Your light.

19 September 2006


I have longed for someone to share my writing with -- someone who will be honestly, lovingly ruthless. Someone like LuCindy, who helped me tear apart and reconstruct my tenure paper a couple of years ago, who has been a Godsend to me in this and many ways.

True, we can help each other online some, and we do so, but it's not the same as when intellectual energy sparks across a room and productive silences explode into dynamic word-play.

This year, I've been blessed with two friends who desire the same thing and are willing to sacrifice to make it happen.

We are all busy with lives that draw us away from writing by urgent claims on our time, many of which cannot be ignored. Yet we are writers, and our craft -- whether publication is in view or not -- cannot become a casualty of the urgent.

So we decided to help each other maintain a discipline of writing. Every other week or so -- the realities are not to be ignored and if we try to do too much we will do nothing -- we will bring some work in progress and delight together in the crafting of language.

We met for the first time this afternoon -- affirming, questioning, challenging, laughing together even as we delved into complex and unsettling truths.

It was good. We love each other enough to be kind, yet we are confident enough in each other -- and in our work -- to be honest. As I told a colleague -- this is something I no longer have the time not to do.

15 September 2006

The Struggle for Expression

Looking through Oswald Chambers last night (My Utmost for His Highest) in search of a quote I wanted for an article I'm working on, I came across this (the December 15 entry):

"If you cannot express yourself on any subject, struggle until you can. If you do not, someone will be the poorer all the days of his life. Struggle to re-express some truth of God to yourself, and God will use that expression to someone else. Go through the winepress of God where the grapes are crushed. You must struggle to get expression experimentally, then there will come a time when that expression will become the very wine of strengthening to someone else; but if you say lazily -- 'I am not going to struggle to express this thing for myself, I will borrow what I say,' the expression will not only be of no use to you, but of no use to anyone. Try to state to yourself what you feel implicitly to be God's truth, and you give God a chance to pass it on to someone else through you.

"Always make a practice of provoking your own mind to think out what it accepts easily. Our position is not ours until we make it ours by suffering. The author who benefits you most is not the one who tells you something you did not know before, but the one who gives expression to the truth that has been dumbly struggling in you for utterance."

I am trying to emphasize to my students the importance of writing well for the reader's sake. Chambers makes the case eloquently here. Taking the time and pains to articulate truth for yourself, which brings genuine understanding and the possibility of articulating it to others -- that makes you available to be used by God. Laziness leaves us all the poorer.

Inspiration to keep plugging at the article in process.

13 September 2006

Home Thoughts

My students are writing an essay which will include description of a place. Last night I was playing around with the mode a bit myself, and I came up with this, from my years at the University of Kansas. The true irony, to my mind, is that Wescoe is the humanities building . . . :( Six years in it was -- what shall I say? -- uninspiring.

Wescoe Hall squats ungracefully in the campus center. Its concrete walls could not speak beauty in any setting; the surrounding buildings of native limestone and red tile roofs only heighten its dullness. These older buildings lift the eye toward heaven with towers or turrets or steeply sloped gables. Wescoe sprawls across the land, low to the ground, flat-roofed, ashamed perhaps to usurp the heart of this centuries-old place with its unlovely modernity.

There are fun places I could go with this very rough sketch, but student essays call. Perhaps I'll revisit it.

(P.S. The Shenk review will appear in October's Touchstone, for those who are keeping track.)

04 September 2006

My Son, My Protector

My oldest son is heading overseas soon to none of us knows where for none of us knows how long. If we wish to write, we can send mail to his wife, who can take it to the base, where they will see it gets to him. I thought this would be not a big deal, but when I emailed him a kind of "farewell for now" note today, my heart constricted.

I will pray for his safety, of course; I'm his mother. But more than that, I will pray for a mission effectively completed -- because that is what is important to him. That is why he is going to wherever it is, doing whatever it is, and placing himself in harm's way. He knows the risks, and he chooses to take them because the cause for which he works is far bigger than any one of us. I wonder if this is just the tiniest taste of what Mary may have felt in knowing her Son as her Saviour? My son is my protector now, a protector of our country. I can no longer protect him, but only uphold him in prayer and let him know how grateful I am.

I am proud of him -- proud of his choices, proud of his character that has made him be chosen for the work he does, proud of the man he has become.

01 September 2006

Another Beginning

Rebecca Anne made her appearance Wednesday night; all are well. She is, of course, adorable. She is the thirteenth grandchild and so very precious. Her big brother is perhaps a bit tired of sisters by now -- he has five (one older and the rest younger). But he will learn many valuable things about the female half of the species!

Welcome, Rebecca! You are deeply loved by many.