"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

18 December 2007


Last night, CSI-Miami shocked us -- apparently hell really is freezing over. First Criminal Minds has a main character return to Christian faith; now CSI-Miami has declared that unborn children are exactly that -- living human beings who have the right to continue living. A murdered woman was found to have been pregnant. The medical examiner was the only one who used the medical term at any time in the show, but here's what she said: "I found fetal tissue -- she was pregnant -- you need to find the monster who did this." The rest of the show the words "baby" and "child" were consistently used, and the anger of the whole team was clearly doubled at this double homicide. Wow.

One class down, one taking an exam right now, two to complete tomorrow morning. Fill in the final exam grade, add it up, and I'll be done. How can an objective time period of 3 months feel so much like both a week and a year? One thing I love about academia, though -- every semester really is a new start, and it always ends in a set amount of time.

Thursday morning we leave early for Kansas and a visit to our second son, followed by visits with my mother-in-law and my parents. It will be a long trip, and we'll be without computer access most of that time. That will be fine with me -- no one can make demands if they can't reach me! This is probably the last Inscapes post till January, so blessed holy days to you all, and be safe.

What I Told My Students

My Advanced Composition students have given me an outstanding semester, as they often do (this is a course for those in the writing minor). The following is the letter I've enclosed in their final portfolio.

I wish I could thank each of you individually for the specific ways you have encouraged me this semester; but, since time doesn’t allow, please accept this – because what I have to say applies, as it so rarely can, to each one of you.

During a semester rife with personal difficulties that often weighed me down and made ordinary work seem almost beyond bearing, you have made this class an oasis of joy and hope. You have come prepared and eager, challenged and challenging, with humility and cheerful spirits. You trusted me, doing the assigned work with the assumption that it had a purpose whether you always understood it or not, you came with willing hearts expecting and loving to learn – and this allowed me to trust you, to know that you
would learn, without my having to constantly expend energy seeking ways to make and keep you interested and involved. For that most invaluable gift, I thank you, as well as for the gifts of your prayers and encouragement, smiles in the hallway and chats in my office. Your love for your Lord has cast light on my way at many unexpected, now cherished, moments.

At the end of my first-semester freshman English class, my professor – a man not given to flattery – told me, “Keep writing; you’ve got what it takes.” Those have kept me going through many discouraging times. I do not repeat them lightly, or to just anyone, for flattery is destructive. But I can say to each of you in this class: “Keep writing.” Every one of you has the ability to do more than merely competent writing, and if you have the desire – if God has given you the desire and you have the commitment and discipline to pursue it with passion – you can serve your neighbors with this ability in profound ways. Whether your writing in the future is missionary newsletters, magazine articles, academic studies, memoirs for your family to enjoy, books read by millions, letters to the editor or letters to your grandchildren – you have the ability to touch hearts and minds through the truths you convey with the written word.

Lately I’ve been revisiting Thomas Merton’s meditations in No Man is an Island. He has much to say about this journey we’re on which helps me to remember who I am and why, and which draws me to desire the One who knows me and loves me as no one under the sun can. The past several days, I’ve kept re-reading the final chapter, “Silence.” Certain of his words seem especially apropos for those who are called to the vocation of wordsmithing:

“If our life is poured out in useless words we will never hear anything in the depths of our hearts, where Christ lives and speaks in silence. We will never be anything, and in the end, when the time comes for us to declare who and what we are, we shall be found speechless at the moment of crucial decision: for we shall have said everything and exhausted ourselves in speech before we had anything to say.”

But on the other hand:

“If we fill our lives with silence, then we live in hope, and Christ lives in us and gives our virtues much substance. Then, when the time comes, we confess Him openly before men, and our confession has much meaning because it is rooted in deep silence. It awakens the silence of Christ in the heart of those who hear us, so that they themselves fall silent and begin to wonder and to listen. For they have begun to discover their true selves [in Christ].”

May your Christmas break contain silences in which you hear the voice of the One whose coming we celebrate, calling you into oneness with Him so that He can make you more fully yourself. Take great joy always in words, but bathe your words in silence before the Word Himself, and let Him tell you when to speak before men what He has shown you, what He has made you.

12 December 2007

"How the Grinch Stole Back Christmas"

Over at Mere Comments yesterday, David Mills posted this poem written by MC commenter Joe Long. Enjoy! And Merry Christmas, Happy Holy Days, and all that.

(One more week, just one more week . . .)

03 December 2007

Christmas Cheer

Saturday evening, K went for a walk as night was falling on a gloomy dusk at the end of a cloudy, cold day. Returning, he told me that he'd been walking along in a bit of the spirit of the evening when he turned a corner and there were simple Christmas lights in someone's yard -- cheery color leaping out from the gloom to lift the spirit; further on, another display of simple cheer as a reminder.

Gems of joy; gems of joy.