Saturday, September 24, 2011

Water and Books

The paper from which books are made is itself composed of wood products and water. Once the paper is in a book, however, adding additional water is never a good idea.
A few weeks back a dehumidifier we were running in the basement started running overtime and it iced up – then the ice melted. Water soaked a small section of carpeting on which were some shelves with books. A few books suffered some water damage. By the way, placing wet books in the freezer seems to help stem the tide of the damage and prevents mold. Our freezer has a few books in it for a time. Taking the books out of the freezer still requires that they dry.
Two books which came through this journey were themselves about spiritual journeys and have been a part of my own journey – Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey and Thomas Merton, No Man Is An Island. I first read both of these books in college. Eiseley’s was assigned reading for a humanities course I took on the 1960s. Merton’s book was part of my coming more deeply into Christian faith after a time of wandering and doubt. I needed resources for a deeper, richer Christian faith than I had experienced before, intellectual and spiritual resources that could converse with the philosophers and psychologists I had been also reading. Merton was and has continued to be a help along the way.
Drying these books, I came across two passages that seem nicely complimentary. Eiseley begins his book with two quotes, this one from William Temple: Unless all existence is a medium of revelation, no particular revelation is possible. In his book, Merton writes the following: It gives great glory to God for a person to live in this world using and appreciating the good things of life without care, without anxiety, and without inordinate passion (85).
As summer recede and autumn ascends - with its cooler weather, its brilliant colors, its crisp apples it seems a good time to joyously appreciate the good things of life and see where God might be revealing Godself more deeply.

With Faith and With Feathers,


Saturday, September 17, 2011

September 11, 2011

Last Sunday I was privileged to speak at the Duluth-area event commemorating September 11, 2001. These are the words I offered:

I begin with words of thanks. Thank you to all those who have worked to help make this event happen today. Thanks to all you who are attending as we both remember the past and consider what kind of future we want to create and the inner resources we have for creating that future. I also want to add words of thanks to all those who work for the safety and protection of our communities. September 11, 2001 reminded us of the countless people who work day in and day out to keep us safe. It reminded us of the human capacity to give of oneself for others. I am grateful for the courage and compassion of those who responded to the horrific events of September 11, 2001 and who continue to respond when disaster strikes.
Today we remember events indelibly etched on our memories. I also want to encourage us today to remember our common obligation as human beings to work for healing, and to care for each other.
I am here this afternoon as a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ and his way. I cannot claim to speak for all Christians, but I intend to speak from the Christian tradition and to Christians especially, even as my words are spoken to us all, whatever our framework for orienting ourselves in the world.
As a Christian I acknowledge that my faith tradition and the central texts of that tradition have not always been used in the service of healing, compassion, care, reconciliation and justice. Just weeks ago (July 22) in Norway a man making some kind of claim to be Christian went on a killing spree. My Christian faith tradition has been used to hurt, harm, damage.
Yet I believe, and I strongly assert today on this anniversary of September 11, the heart of my Christian faith is a heart that beats for justice, for peace, for reconciliation, for compassion, for caring. Today is a day for we Christians to say that this part of our tradition is what we stand on, this part of our tradition is what we will live out in our lives in a diverse world – a world with Muslims, Jews, Native Traditions, Buddhists, Hindus, others and those who claim no religious tradition.
There are a number of churches in our community that have committed themselves this fall to rediscovering the art of neighboring. An important part of neighboring is seeking to live peaceably with all, regardless of religious differences. The central story Jesus told about loving one’s neighbor is also a story about cross-cultural caring and compassion – the story of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Let us commit ourselves to being good neighbors. It is part of the heart of the Christian tradition.
“Honor everyone” (I Peter 2:17). These words from the Christian Scriptures remind us that respect is an important part of relating to others. Let us commit ourselves to being respectful. It is part of the heart of the Christian tradition.
When we seek to live out our faith, we seek to live with “all humility and gentleness” (Ephesians 4:2). Christians, like those of other traditions, believe we have insight into God and the world. We have truth to share and a way of life to commend. Yet our way of life is a way of humility and gentleness, which means deeply listening to others, respect for others, an openness to learning from others. Let us commit ourselves to humility and gentleness. It is part of the heart of the Christian tradition.
At the heart of the Christian tradition we find an obligation to heal and to care, to work with all others in those tasks, and to build bridges of peace and understanding. In the words of Christian theologian Stanley Hauwerwas written in the aftermath of September 11, 2001: God invites us to respond to September 11 with “small acts of beauty and tenderness,” which… if done with humility and confidence, “will bring unity to the world and break the chain of violence.” Ten years later, the words still ring true and they echo the heart of the Christian tradition.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


This week many of us are remembering just where we were ten years ago, September 11, 2001 when planes were hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center Towers and the Pentagon building. “Remembering” almost seems redundant. The memory of that day is indelibly etched in most of our minds.
I was a district superintendent in The United Methodist Church then, and part of the leadership for a retreat for the clergy of my district. We were at a camp in northern Minnesota (Northern Pines). That morning, one of the clergy, who was leading sessions on the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory, approached me to say that he had heard about some disturbing events taking place in New York. There was one television set in the lodge, and the reception was rather poor, but we gathered around the set and watched, shaken, saddened and stunned. The retreat ended after we watched for a time, each person returning to their community to be a presence for prayer and healing.
I also remember the time around September 11, 2002. I was driving across the southern Minnesota prairie listening to National Public Radio. Writer and poet Kelly Cherry was being interviewed about a piece she had written to be included in an anthology of writings about September 11. She read her piece, entitled “A Writer’s Pledge of Allegiance.” It was profoundly beautiful and moving, one of the best pieces I have heard or read following September 11, 2001. I cite portions below. The entire poem can be found in September 11, 2001 American Writers Respond, ed. William Heyen.

I believe one must speak and speak truly. I believe in the power of language to show, to move, to solve, to heal, to build…. What is unsaid can be said. What is said can be heard. What is heard can be sung. I believe that the music of humanity must and surely shall encompass everything…. For I believe nothing is beyond knowing. I believe nothing is beyond saying.

I believe this and am without words.

We need words. I, too, believe in the power of words, of language, to show, to move, to solve, to heal, to build. Yet there are moments in life – September 11, 2001 among them, when words cannot capture all that we are feeling, all that we are trying to understand and know. Language arises out of silence and should, at times, give way to silence. “Be still,” the Psalmist enjoins.
On this tenth anniversary of September 11, let there be some silence amidst all our words, and may the words we speak be words of healing, building and solving.

With Faith and With Feathers,


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Thoughts Along the Way

Since my last blog I have been a part of honoring and saying good-bye to three members of my congregation by officiating at their funerals. I have also been working to get ready for the fall church programming season and have met with our Minnesota delegation to General and Jurisdictional Conference. Writing time has been at a premium.
Along the way a few droplets of wisdom have fallen on me, gifts of grace like a fresh spring shower. They are gifts to be shared.

Christian faith is no sentimental thing. It is a faith that takes all the dimensions of life into consideration.
Reinhold Niebuhr, Justice and Mercy, 34

We are all fixing what is broken. It is the task of a lifetime.
Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone, 22

Living is worth the effort if only because without life we could not read or imagine stories.
Mario Vargas Llosa, In Praise of Reading and Fiction, 5

With Faith and With Feathers,