June 28, 2007

Art in Action [jana]

Last time I posted, all I came up with was a rushed explanation of how I had been invited to travel to California to paint during a church service focused on Daniel chapter 2. For putting up with that sort of cop-out, you at least deserve some pictures of the process. Reading, studying, and praying over Daniel 1 and 2, brought out some core ideas I wanted to focus on within the project.

1) Throughout scripture, God is working to reveal himself and his character. This revelation often takes different forms, but what is miraculous is not necessarily the (sometimes super-natural) form the revelation takes, but the loving and consistent character and passion for the salvation of humankind that is revealed; everything points to the resurrection and the everlasting kingdom of heaven, even Nebuchadnezzar’s crazy dream.

2) Daniel, under the king’s “Tell-me-my-dream-or-die” edict, has the dream and the interpretation revealed to him in a vision. He didn’t immediately jump up and run to the king’s chambers to save his skin by blurting out the dream, instead, he stopped and sang a hymn of thanks and praise to God first. This idea of “praise from the pit” is important…and comes in later in the book of Daniel as well. The timing of Daniel’s praise and thanksgiving is crucial. He is not praising God from the hindsight of standing on the top of Mt Everest, looking back down at the trials he’d already gone through; he was presenting an offering of Thanksgiving knowing that he could very well be executed within the next day.

These thoughts that came out of my initial meditations on the idea of visually presenting the scripture influenced the final products. I did not do a lot of planning, other than a few initial sketches. Each painting, I think, reflects some elements of the ideas above, even though they all worked out differently. The experience of painting in a limited time frame was unique…once I stepped out on the stage and had all my tools and a blank canvas at my fingertips, it was an experience in faith and action. I simply had to keep on making the choices that would shape what was happening on canvas…I had to be fully absorbed in what I was doing…and trust that at the end of the sermon, it was complete.

A few weeks later, my friend Andy used some of the paintings in a Prayer Room installation at the church. You can view the installation here. http://www.flickr.com/photos/andymadsen/sets/72157600470072330/

Listed below are the paintings, each accompanied with an artist’s statement.

Daniel 2: Acrylic paint and Silver Leaf on Canvas.

In this painting, I was thinking about a sense of rain—as a darkness or a mist that pervades the atmosphere. This is a persuasive type of muddiness that can keep us bound by a sense of powerlessness to change.

Daniel and his friends were constantly surrounded by the mist of a dark environment. Their vision was constantly clouded by the necessities of surviving in their current position. Coexisting without compromising, they kept their focus on the constant they could not see…the blue sky that lay behind the darkness, trusting in God to reveal himself in his time through them.

Therefore show me the dream and its interpretation.

This time, I focused on Daniel’s hymn of salvation in verses 20-23. After God revealed the dream to Daniel in the vision, Daniel’s first response was first, before being assured of his salvation, to break into this song of praise to the God who reveals mysteries. Daniel’s song goes out after the dream is revealed but before the actual salvation, which is a foreshadowing of our own place…after the revealing of Christ, but before the final fulfillment of His kingdom. Again, the praise rises not from a clean, perfect, whole and safe place, but from the pit. Daniel has not been saved from death yet; praise from the pit in hope of deliverance must be desperately beautiful to Christ.

he reveals deep and hidden things;

he knows what is in the darkness,

and the light dwells with him

Similar elements to the first two paintings are present here. The constant elements are the clouds and darkness, and the blue sky hidden behind the silver leaf. The silver will tarnish, growing more transparent as it ages, gradually revealing what is behind it on the canvas.

there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries

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June 21, 2007

Why Can't the Church Be More Like a Pub [james]

A few of us got to the pub early-ish Friday night before the place filled up. We got a drink, played some darts, and then stuff happened. And it happened more than once.

If you go, it may happen to you, too: “Some random guy” is going up to the bar to get a drink, or maybe he is standing in line to play darts. He just starts talking to you like you’re a friend or acquaintance. It’s almost like he knows you, but he has momentarily spaced on your name. You’re not a threat to him; he sees you as someone against whom he holds no grudge and from whom he asks for nothing but courteous conversation. He’s just waiting for his beer or his turn at the throwing line. He’s not asking for a life story, but if you gave it, he might not mind too much. This is a pub, and this is where you can talk about such things. A “Cheers!” here, a glass clink there, and now you’re buddies.

Not being a regular patron of bars or pubs, this activity throws me for a loop. If there’s any place I’m not sure I want to “mix,” it’s in the pub. It’s as if I might be afraid to get someone else’s unholiness on me or something. (Either that, or I’m not much of a mingler. I’m sure the truth is in the middle).

I’m more familiar with the restaurant attitude of “my table is an island”: if a nearby table makes too much noise, other folks start to get a little uneasy. Imagine a stranger at a restaurant sitting down at your table and just start talking about stuff. You would think him mad or creepy. You just don’t do that.

In the pub, noise doesn’t matter. Table territories have soft borders. People don’t care as much about keeping others out. If you’re not a complete weirdo, then you’re like everyone else who happens to be enjoying an evening out in the company of 100 of your closest Guiness-loving friends.

If the pub people were at a restaurant, they’d all be at one, big, loud table. Maybe you don’t know everyone at the table, but that’s just because it’s so big that you haven’t been able to talk with everyone. Didn’t talk to ‘em all yet? No worries. These same jokesters will be around the next time you visit.

I saw this happening on Friday, and I instantly thought of the church. Why was it that in this night that I could feel more welcome in a pub than in a ‘holy’ place? Why are strangers, who don’t know whether I’m a visitor to this place or not, more apt to chat me up in this pub setting than in the foyer outside the Worship Centre?

The pub has its spirits, sure, and they affect how people act. Certainly not everyone will be as friendly as I describe here. But the church has her Spirit, too, and this Spirit is infinitely more interesting, more powerful, and more significant than the pub’s once you recognize It. And It’s supposed to affect how people act, and in a very good way.

Somedays I wonder if the pub is more welcoming and has a better view of “come as you are” than the church.

I see this as a problem and the solution starts with me. The next time I go to a church potluck, I'll bring the 6-pack. We need to start building some real community.

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Moriah [guest]

by Elizabeth Olwin

The approach is grim. Low gray clouds threaten rain, and the foot of the mountain rises sharply from the wasteland that you now travel. Your steps feel ponderous and slow, yet the terrain speeds by as if hastened by the horror of the task ahead of you. You wish that you were not on this path, but you were commanded to climb, and His commands are not to be ignored. Somehow you reach the mountain and begin the ascent.

How do you climb Mount Moriah? I know, I know… before anybody points out the fact that I am most decidedly NOT Abraham and I most decidedly do NOT have to sacrifice my son… let me explain. I have no struggles that are not commonplace to humankind. But, every Christian at some point in their walk with God faces a call to sacrifice their heart on the altar of obedience. That altar lies at the top of Mount Moriah.

Moriah is a place where you go to give God the thing that you love most. That piece of your life that you believe is a keystone. Your most precious prize. Moriah is a place where faith meets action, and trust is acted out in a life devoted first and only to God. Moriah is a long climb with a dreaded summit and an agonizing decent. Moriah, to be quite blunt, is impossible.

The Bible doesn’t tell us how much Abraham cried or the intensity of heartbreak that he must have felt, but I can guess. Abraham had waited for over 100 years for this boy. This was his promised one from God, the baby that he and his wife had dreamed and hoped and prayed for longer than I have dreamed, hoped, or prayed for anything. This child was his flesh and blood, and was laughter and hope and legacy. His heart was breaking, but his faith remained unshaken.

Abraham had already seen how God operates; he was a dad after all hope of fatherhood was long since dead. His faith is described in Romans as follows: “…in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. In hope against hope he believed…” Abraham simply took God at His word. He figured that his God knew what He was about and was not going to let him down. He understood that this relationship with God is not a guarantee of happiness or ease but of grace, strength, and complete faithfulness when life seems impossible.

How do I grasp that kind of faith? How do I obtain the kind of faith that believes that God gives life to the dead, the kind of faith that would bind my own heart to the altar and offer it as a sacrifice to the God whom I love? In fact, let’s take it one step further. How do I climb Mount Moriah, let alone climb it while teaching the ones that walk beside me that “God will provide the lamb for the sacrifice?”

Altars are tools meant to restore God to His proper place in our hearts. They hurt, and they require shedding of blood (be that literal or figurative). My true test of devotion lies in my struggle to reach the altar. I am not strong enough on my own but I know that my Father is pleased to see me try. Obedience is something only achieved by the grace of God. I am able to walk up the mountain only because He is leading me.

-- Elizabeth Olwin lives in Bellingham, WA. She is an Environmental Studies major; she wonders why grass is green and enjoys going boldly into forests where no man has gone before. --

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June 13, 2007

A Kafka Kick to the Face [matt]

My world was recently rocked by a strange man born nearly 125 years ago named Franz Kafka. Due to my typical lack of self-control, as well as a need to understand what literary theorists and philosophers were talking about when they said a work was “Kafkaesque,” I picked-up The Complete Stories a few weeks ago. Having devoured all of Kafka’s short stories, I feel pained in heart and mind and now need to bleed-out the nastiness he has infected me with, which would likely please him to hear. In a letter he once wrote the following;

I think we ought to only read the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? So that it will make us happy, as you write?... We would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we love more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.

Franz Kafka has stabbed me, confused me, disgusted me, and, ultimately, challenged me. My desire is to write on a few of his stories in depth, but for this medium I will restrain myself and try to give a small glimpse into some writings that really can give quite a “blow on the head” just as much today as they did long ago. To do so, I will briefly comment on three stories; In the Penal Colony, The Metamorphosis, and The Burrow.

In the Penal Colony was by far the biggest smack in the face Kafka delivered to me personally. It is the story of an explorer’s visit to a certain penal colony. While there he is to be given a demonstration of a “remarkable” device that slowly kills condemned prisoners. It does this by continually stabbing them, the stabs slowly writing-out what the person has done onto his mutilated flesh. The officer who is showing this apparatus to the explorer is obviously quite fond of the machine; it is, to him, a thing of absolute beauty, dispensing judgment in an amazingly original manner. The machine is well made, immaculately clean, and “perfect” for the dispensing of “justice.”

This entire scene drips with irony. And blood. It is a story of the failures of the m/Modern world. The machine is amazing, but heartless. It is used on innocent, illiterate men who are never told what their crime is and obviously won’t have an idea what is written on their skin since they cannot read in the first place! Ultimately the officer takes his own life on the machine, sacrificing himself to his machine and his ideal of a mechanized world. The story ends with the explorer taking a boat away from the colony, but refusing to take with him a guard and prisoner that also long to escape. I believe Kafka is referring to the river Styx, implying that we live in a hell of our own creation. We have damned ourselves, loving machines and progress without ever asking bigger questions about justice, love, mercy, or right and wrong. Perhaps it is too late to ever cross back over the river, and we are stuck forever in our self-made hell. Maybe we can never cross the river.

We are given a glimpse of this m/Modern hell in The Metamorphosis. The strange story begins with Gregor Samsa waking up from a poor night’s sleep, only to discover that during the night he has become a giant insect. At first, the description of Gregor’s transformation is what disturbs the reader. But that quickly changes. The really disturbing truth is that Gregor is more concerned about how he is going to get to his dead-end job than the fact that he is now an enormous bug! Is it possible that in our bureaucratic, capitalistic, machine-ruled world our humanity is already gone? That we have freely given ourselves over to this sham of a world, never to be returned? I believe this is what Kafka is implying. Gregor is not surprised by his tranformation because his humanity was stolen from him long ago by the pressures of the m/Modern world. He hides away in his room, refusing more and more food or contact from the outside. Perhaps his long fast from human food and contact is the way he finally finds the redemption of his humanity, even if it does not equal freedom from the metamorphosis that has occurred.

The Burrow, like The Metamorphosis, is a foul story relating our lives to the lives of animals. It is told first-person by a man who seems more animal than human, living in a massive burrow he has dug into a labrynth-like maze. It is a place for him to hide from his “enemies,” and find safety and satisfaction in his own workmanship. The reality, though, is that the burrow and his enemies have become two sick obsessions. The narrator admires his “perfect or almost perfect structural devices,” which allow him to slip in and out without being noticed, though he recognizes that they are nothing more than “the mark of a restless nature, of inner uncertainty, disreputable desires, evil propensities.” This burrowing man is obsessed with his hole, so fearful of losing it that he even hates the burrow itself; “to be honest I cannot endure the place…with new anxieties instead of peace.” This man sits in his burrow, or outside of it, eating raw meat and worms and obsessing over his construction. After all of the work and obsession, this man is more animal-like and troubled than when he began. He suffers the anxieties and disconnections that are common to our troubled times. He is a disgusting parody of us; after all, I can think of no better desciptors of the men and women of the Western world than a people of “restless nature,” full of “inner uncertainty, disreputable desires, evil propensities.” It hits very close to home.

So I ask; are these not the problems of our own day? Some fight and struggle to overcome. Others live within, never wanted to truly question their societally-constructed reality. Either way, we are entrapped in a paradigm that simply does not fit who we were made to be. We cannot live without our machinations, yet so many turn out to be efficient but ethically dubious. We let meaningless McJobs (thank-you, Douglas Coupland) rule our lives and before stealing our very humanity. We become so obsessed with humanity’s stuff that we lose our humanity in the process. Kafka stories are grotesque, horrible tales that affect us like a disaster, especially when we realize they are about us and our (post-)modern condition. My hope is that Kafka’s literary axe can break into the frozen sea inside all of us. Perhaps it’s not too late…

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Life Happens in the Journey [guest]

by Mark French

As I write to you, the light is dim in this coffee shop. I am seated in a leather chair in the corner by the door. The barista, a girl I've known for several years, empties the trash nearby and mutters to herself (and me) about the lack of a liner in the can. She has the same name as the woman I love. The world is so big, my love is so far away; I feel small.

I have always identified with the small, rooted for the underdog and dreamt that one small boy could make one big dream come true. Although time has lifted many stories to the wind, vivid memories of my childhood remain. With eyes closed I can hear the wicker swing hanging from the playhouse out back; remember how big it was, how easily I fit in it. I remember the sound of the trees swaying as the wind blew. Standing in my crib with my chin on the edge listening to my mom sing "Frere Jacques" as my sister and I were put to bed. There is something so right about these memories. When the house went quiet in the night my mother would hold me to her heart and hum; there was nothing to disturb the beating of her heart in my ears. There is so much in this world that I will not understand but this I know, something about life was right in that moment.

I can see the clouds moving by in the reflection of a car windshield outside. It is a dreary day in Washington state. My heart flits and flies as I hear the laughter of several people playing a game in my quiet cafe; it reminds me of the time I have spent with my love. My heart is like the sun today, I know it is warm and friendly, but I cannot see it. I can only remember what it was like when it shone just a few days ago as my love and I walked through the park hand in hand. My tea grows cold, as most things do, and their laughter fades into the voice on the radio. He sings the words that I could not sing which drove me to sit down and write.

The sun is nearly gone so I walk home. The light which briefly illuminated this somber day goes away, darkness is all that filters through the clouds. When the dark hedges so close I don't feel so small. I reach to turn off the light by my bed and pull the covers around my chin. My world is in my room. As I drift off to sleep, the realization settles in that you can never go back to where you began. Life is messy; it moves, twists, turns, splashes and never returns to where it began. We let go of what once seemed right as it slips through our fingers to find that place again.

in the journey...

-- Mark French lives in Lynden, WA. In his spare time he likes recording music and thinking of ways to take over the world. --

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June 8, 2007

Self Service Checkout [justin]

Checkout aisle three has a middle-aged man in his cabbie hat arguing with the clerk over the price of an eight-dollar bottle of wine. Down a few aisles, a young mom and her two-year-old boy are raiding number five. He is at that stage where grabbing anything within reach of his pudgy fingers and throwing it on the floor with exuberant cry is a normal occurrence; the lower portion of the candy stand is not fairing so well. Then at the 15 items or less “express” lane, grandma unloads her 18 individual items and reaches into her purse to pull out, what’s that… oh, a few sheets of coupons… should I mention that they are uncut?

Even in the small areas of life like grocery shopping, people can be an unwanted hassle whether it is their personality or character or just their presence. It’s not hard to see why the self-service checkout lane is becoming more and more popular in stores these days. It provides another option to get done what needs to get done while having the possible benefit of removing unnecessary human interaction and the small added ego boost of doing it yourself. The self-service checkout is a minute item that touches on a greater underlying social observation; we gravitate towards isolation and drift away from community.

Community, a buzz-word now-a-days, is one of those complex things that we know we need but don’t really want unless it is on our own terms. But by definition, while it involves us, it is not about us. Maybe what we subconsciously want is to be a dictator rather than a friend, or have our peers be pets rather than humans. Just like our checkout lanes we would prefer our community to be self-serving, that is, fill the need [though never actually doing so] with as little overhaul as possible. But as with anything that deals with wanting sincere relationships, to be self-serving in relationships is really to check out of community.

Over the past two years in dealing with a small group, a church internship, and marriage some of my concepts of what authentic community is have been expanding. Here are some of those thoughts.

We are not made to live in isolation. Jesus Himself, in all His perfection stated that he couldn’t independently do anything on His own but only in connection with the Father. And it’s a precarious thing for us non-perfect people that in the beginning before relation with God was severed that our Creator looked at Adam and said that it was not good for man to be alone. Now there are times where we all need to take the path less traveled and I whole-heartedly believe that every follower of Christ needs to be able to hear and discern His voice. However, more often than not, I believe that the lone-ranger-it’s-just-me-and-the-Lord approach, whether known or not, is used in subtle rebellion. The proverb states it clearly when it says that whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire. It also tends to be tricky to love others if you are never around them… even the Lord’s Prayer is filled with “our” and “us” as compared to “me” and “my”.

There is a difference between isolation and solitude. Just like Jesus, we all need to retreat to a lonely place. Being a social glutton is just as detrimental to community life as isolation is. Healthy boundaries enhance both our times alone and together, and most of us have not yet found that balance. My only suggestion is to get those times in before you feel the need for them. We need to realize that we lose our individuality outside of community and hinder our relationships when we don’t get enough solitude.

Size matters. It’s tricky, really. Jesus had three in his inner circle, twelve that he basically lived with, and the whole world, which he loved. We need to keep ourselves in check so that we don’t try to save the world with our friendship and hence burn out… but also we need to guard against exclusive pride and elitism. In some way or another we have all been in that place of wanting to connect and wanting someone to let us in… we must not deny that for others as well. It’s somewhat funny to read the disciples complaining how another group is doing the same stuff they are [Mark 9:38]… it’s like they wanted to be the only “in crowd”, the “cool ones” and the rest of the people can just go bugger off. Sheesh, glad we don’t do that now-a-days.

Anyone can be alone in a crowd. It’s a hidden trend of humans to have the appearance of something while really not having the substance. It’s quite easy to fall into this façade of community where we hang out with others (even laughing and have a good time or doing something important) but still only breathe in our own little individual port-a-bubbles. We’re missing out on something and we can’t place our fingers on it… its surface community at best and possibly social vanity at worst.

Vulnerability, communication, effort and grace. We tend to want our community like we want our faith; heap on the joy, peace and affirmation – go light on the grief, discipline and refining (I am fasting after all). We do a disservice to our relationships when we don’t take the opportunity to speak up and show some concern for another’s sanctification. We suffocate the possible truth if we don’t learn to communicate in love to each other’s individual souls. We are foolish to not take into consideration a friend’s insight, even if it hurts. Better is open reprimand than concealed love. The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive [Proverb 27:5-6]. There is only one Holy Spirit, we don’t need another. What we do need (and need to be), rather, is a comrade that aids in the Spirit’s work by pointing to a shadowed place in us and then pointing to Jesus.

In theory, community seems simple… but in practicality it is one of the hardest things to find, develop and maintain. It is a melting pot of the ordinary, mundane, and spectacular being constantly poured out in the every day. To steal Bonhoeffer’s title, it is life together in the raw. The art of being known is probably the most rewarding and painful thing we go through during our years here. Granted, authentic community doesn’t happen overnight but it also doesn’t happen if there is no nurturing of it towards that place of sincerity. If nothing else, it helps reaffirm this truth about Christ which we usually only take in part: He died for me… He died for more than me.

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June 2, 2007

A Few Thoughts on Truth [jenna]

Jesus answered, "...For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice." Pilate said to him, "What is truth?" - Jn 18:37, RSV

Pilate’s question of Jesus has fascinated me since childhood; the more so, because Jesus—on the record, at least—didn’t answer it, not to Pilate, anyway. The disciples got to hear Jesus say “I am the way, the truth, and the life”; but even with that statement, what we have in response to one of the most powerful questions asked in history is a strange and brilliant mystery.

The comments on my article “Spirituality and Certainty” last month have kept me thinking over the topic of truth and the different perspectives offered. Out of those thoughts have come several convictions. These ideas are not gospel, preached on a dusty Jerusalem street two thousand years ago. They are not necessarily exclusively correct or balanced. They are not even originally and directly mine alone. They have simply caught my attention as, if you will, truth about truth.

First: truth, however outwardly unappealing, leads to joy. The current cultural teaching—and often the immediate and natural reaction of our own hearts—says that truth, the word itself at least, mainly comes to us as a weapon in the hands of the controlling (extremists/arrogant/violent/naïve/insert your epithet here). Having grown up acquainted with the rigid and frequently reactionary sector of the homeschool movement, I can sympathize with the fear of repressive power. I cannot sympathize with the rejection of all rules except those that “protect” us from Judeo-Christianity.

Judeo-Christian “rules”, which seem to limit our freedom and joy, are actually their guarantee, and the freedom gained from rejecting those rules is illusory. Chesterton said in Orthodoxy that “The outer ring of Christianity is a rigid guard of ethical abnegations and professional priests; but inside that inhuman guard you will find the old human life dancing like children, and drinking wine like men; for Christianity is the only frame for pagan freedom. But in the modern philosophy the case is opposite; it is its outer ring that is obviously artistic and emancipated; its despair is within.”

Second: truth is as likely to be complex and paradoxical as simple and straightforward. Whether we say “The only absolute truth is that there is no absolute truth” or “Jesus saves; you just need to accept him”, we’ve stripped thought down to clichéd mantras and self-help. Forgive me the sarcasm, but since our hip and modern and enlightened culture prides itself on pandering to youth and ignorance (the former in matters of judgment and the latter in our systems of education), we have quite naturally lost the maturity-dependent ability to comprehend such things as paradox and mystery. Of course we run mad along pointlessly looping paths.

Of all candidates for authoritative truth, none could be more paradoxical than the Gospel. The ideology of grace, expressed by an itinerant Bethlehemite who claimed the titles of both “Son of man” and “Son of God”, perplexes theologians; allowing them to battle over things like extent, efficacy and application. But small children, just becoming conscious of the world around them, still entirely reliant on their parents’ faith, pray and take Communion and receive grace beyond their understanding.

The sheer mystery of truth should teach us that there are things too infinite for us to comprehend, too wild for us to dream, too powerful for us to challenge and too holy for us to touch. With that understanding should come all the humility necessary to keep us from arrogance. Even if we fail, though, our human weakness cannot nullify the glory of truth.

Third: truth is above, not opposite to, falsehood. Humanity is forever running to opposites. Women get treated as property in Africa, so they must receive every preference in America; the old style of worship seemed dry and stilted to the young, so nowadays the traditions of the elderly are blatantly disrespected in nearly every church. This might work if right and wrong were simply polar opposites, but they’re not. Wrong, in practically every instance, is a perversion of right. Likewise, lies generally distort truth, rather than contradicting it, and truth cannot be found by looking backwards from the viewpoint of the false.

Fourth: truth will command me, whether or not I recognize it. In C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength, Jane Studdock has a garish vision that shatters her ideals of dignity and confronts her with an authority that promptly demands her submission. In discussing that vision with a Christian, she finds herself facing a dilemma that awaits us all. She can accept truth baptized or unbaptized, but it will have her one way or the other:

“…[S]he had been conceiving this world as “spiritual” in the negative sense—as some neutral, or democratic, vacuum where differences disappeared … The vision of the universe which she had begun to see in the last few minutes had a curiously stormy quality about it. It was bright, darting and overpowering … And mixed with this was the sense that she had been maneuvered into a false position. It ought to have been her who was saying these things to the Christians. Hers ought to have been the vivid, perilous world brought against their grey, formalised one; hers the quick, vital movements and theirs the stained glass attitudes. That was the antithesis she was used to. This time, in a sudden flash of purple and crimson, she remembered what stained glass was really like.”

Finally: I need truth. I have tasted of Christ and now I must have Him. I would rather believe blindly, even foolishly—in the world’s eyes or my own—than surrender my faith to a perceived ‘intellectual honesty’. The need for His life is more concrete than my logic and more desperately hopeful than my imagination. For me, Christ has to be truly all, and in all.

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Lazy Summer Daze [jessi]

I remember when I was growing up, in the summertime, our local library (in partnership with Reading Rainbow, and Public Television—supported by viewers like you) always had summer reading programs. The goal of these, of course is to lure children into the library, who wouldn't otherwise set foot inside. "If we can get them through the door" the librarians still reason, "into the cool dark aisles, with rows of Newbery winners, and cushy bean-bag reading nooks; if we can do that, we can get them hooked on Harry Potter." And of course, once one has plowed one's way through one's first 784-page book, it's entirely possible that one can get talked into beginning another, and another.

The summers when Jana and I were signed up, we didn't have Harry Potter, but we feasted on L. Frank Baum, and Lucy Maude Montgomery, gleefully watching mom sign off on each of our finished books, attesting as a parent, that her child did not lie about the completion of such. We weren’t quite so gleeful when she took The Baby-Sitter's Club books out of our to-be-checked-out stack, and replaced them with Scholastic's biographies of Founding Fathers, and forbidding even Marguerite Henry’s horse books until we had finished at least one. Still, those were heady days of acquiring imagination and knowledge.

As I got older, and the paper certificates that the library issued to those who met their reading goal lost their power as incentive, and I stopped plowing my way head long through a pile of books, with an August 31 deadline looming like a Texas thunderstorm on the horizon. When I was in college, my friends and I took pictures of each other next to our giant stacks of required reading. One semester my Riverside Chaucer made a great base for a veritable Babel's tower of literature. Usually by the time the final sentence was laid down for the final essay, we were so ecstatic at being finished with the rigidity of institutionalized education that we declared we would read only for enjoyment until fall semester boxed us in again. Summers were spent roaming free across the country on road trips, volunteering at summer camps, or interning in silent and overly-air-conditioned offices. I still read during those summers, but couldn't be talked into the structure of a list. I picked up whatever appealed to me, and sometimes it was Les Miserables, and sometimes it was something decidedly less cerebral.

I have been out of college for three years, and this summer will be my second sans summer camp. In drastic attempts to keep my brain from melting away in the tediousness of my job, I have, for the first summer since the Summer Reading Program at the Library, made a summer reading list. I'm kind of excited. I may even have my mom check them off and sign at the bottom.

To make it, I culled my own stack of nearly 50 as yet unread titles. (I counted 45 on my shelves yesterday, and found two more under my bed this morning.) I seem to be unable to walk out of Henderson’s Used Books with less than five books in hand, and it is a personal point of shame that I am more of a compulsive book buyer than a great reader. So, 47 volumes it is (unless I find more under the bed), and from that, I’m pulling 13 books for the Great Summer Reading List. One for each week through the end of August:

The Book of Chameleons – Jose Eduardo Agualusa

Diamonds for Moscow – By David E. Walker (this one I bought at Henderson’s solely for the cover: vintage 1950s penguin paperback green-and-white two-tone. Shameless, I know.)

5 Red Herrings – Dorothy L. Sayers

Kidnapped – Robert Lewis Stevenson

Cost of Discipleship – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Blue Like Jazz – Donald Miller

The Idiot – Dostoyevski

The View From Saturday – E.L. Konigsburg

Paradisio – Dante

Piers Plowman – William Langland

The Pooh Perplex – Fredrick Crews

The Hiding Place – Corrie Ten Boom

Reflections on Psalms – C. S. Lewis

So that’s the list. Now let’s here from you: which books, out of the millions in print, available at Barnes and Noble, Henderson’s, Amazon.com, or your local library will you choose to rest tent-like over your face while you snooze in the Saturday sunshine?

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