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Archive for September, 2008

Blogging is, at its worst, shamelessly self-promotional and narcissistic.  I always hope I can be a bit better than that worst, even with my usual posts but TODAY, especially, I’m giving it a shot, for a good cause.

An organization I believe is doing INCREDIBLE kingdom work is the Pregnancy Clinic of Bowie/Crofton – Severna Park.  This local pro-Life ministry is making an incredible impact in our county, and is faithful to not only minister to the physical needs of the clients who walk through their doors (providing counseling, STD screening, ultrasounds, material aid, and more – all for FREE) but also to preach the gospel faithfully and winsomely.

 

In years past, I’ve volunteered at the center and served on their Board of Directors and, though I’ve stepped away from that formal involvement for a time, I’ve never stopped praying for this tremendous place.  THIS WEEKEND is the Clinic’s big fundraiser of the year: A 5k walk/run, which raises money for operating expenses and client services. 

I’d like to encourage readers of this blog to support this life-changing ministry.  Just contact me by responding to this posting or sending me an email and I’ll tell you how you can send in a pledge.  Meanwhile, if you would like more information on the Pregnancy Clinic’s ministry, check out this link.

Don’t put it off!  Shoot me an email (to hsblogs@gmail.com) now saying you’ll pledge a little or a lot!  And link to this from your own blog, or forward this link to others who you think might be interested in giving!  Maybe we can start an avalanche of support! Tomorrow perhaps I’ll return to my usual introspective reflections, but meanwhile, won’t you support this blog’s effort at something better TODAY? 

POSTSCRIPT:  Soooooo… If you’re reading this at some point AFTER the aforementioned weekend, feel free to send along a donation anyway!  It’s always needed.  It’s always welcome.

 

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This morning, wrapping up a devotional time with my daughters before we headed off to school, I asked Ellie, who is a senior this year, to pray for our day.  In the course of her prayer, she petitioned God to have mercy on our nation and on our leaders as we face the upheavals in the present economy.  She prayed unselfconsciously but passionately for requests, on behalf of our nation, which I’d barely ever considered laying before God’s throne and I found myself silently adding And thank you, Lord, for her godly Economics teacher, who has opened not just her mind, but her HEART to consider economics from a biblical perspective…”
 
After school, I asked El about her day and she rolled her eyes to tell me her brain hurt, but then proceeded to tell me, by way of explanation, about how her class had been wrestling, in Great Ideas, to understand how Descartes could move from his position of hyperbolic doubt to take his first step toward reason and real knowledge, while still denying the reliability of the senses and all but present thought.  She explained that her brain hurt because Descartes moved from his cogito to an acknowledgement that his perceptions and awareness must come from God, but that the paradox of believing that all one can trust is one’s senses yet believing that those senses must come from something external in which one must therefore believe (she informed me that this was called a Cartesian circle,) was boggling her brain.   She was totally lost in her explanation as I stared at her, wondering who this young woman was (thinking of the pig-tailed five year old she was just a couple eye blinks ago,) and silently praying, Thank you, God, for godly tutors who move her to wrestle with ideas I’ve barely even begun to understand, and challenge her to examine those ideas in light of your Word…”
 
Now we’re home, and we’re going about our  tasks on a crisp and beautiful fall evening.  Before settling down to work, we took a walk out to examine the vines at the end of the pasture, and she laughed convulsively when I gagged on a sour grape after I’d just finished gushing to her over how sweet the last few clusters of the season always were.  We wandered back toward the house, enjoying the evening and making easy conversation.  She commented on how fat the sheep were: they’ve been gorging on the end-of-summer grass and are quite pleasantly plump. I enjoyed watching her enjoy the simple beauty of the closing day, and thought Thank you, Father, for the godly influences who’ve helped mature this child of mine toward such and easy and flexible grace… Thank you, God, that she can move between grappling with the Great Ideas and giggling over grapes in the pure sort of joy and freedom that only one who is Your child can fully understand…
 
She’s hunkered down in the library now, buried beneath a pile of commentaries, working on an exegesis of Romans 1:18-25 for her Apologetics class. Physics will come later in the evening, but for now, she’s doing biblical study I wasn’t challenged to do until seminary. Thank you, God, for her Bible teacher who never stops pushing her to see a deeper Truth… Thank you for our faithful pastor, who never lets pass an opportunity to make clear the greatness of the gospel…  Thank you for all the teachers and coaches and mentors who’ve prayed for and exhorted and challenged and sharpened and LOVED this child…”
 
I want to remember this day, when the school year gets long and hard, particularly in this last year at Rockbridge for Ellie.   I know that education isn’t salvation, but tonight, in light of today’s conversations, I sure am thankful for the part my daughter’s education has played in her sanctification.  I want to remember that hard work and long days and tired brains are part of the blessings of the kingdom fruit that’s ripening.  Thank you, God, for this clear glimpse of the “already” in the “not yet” of your kingdom.
 
Nothing can be rightly known, if God be not known; nor is any study well managed, nor to any great purpose, if God is not studied. We know little of the creature, till we know it as it stands related to the Creator…”
                                                                        ~Richard Baxter

 

I am much afraid that schools will prove to be the great gates of hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of youth. I advise no one to place his child where the scriptures do not reign paramount.”

                                                                          ~Martin Luther

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Still Playing

This might just be the only way you’ll get two posts in one day out of me… 

This one is a wordle of my favorite Gerard Manley Hopkins poem, Pied Beauty, which I mentioned in a previous post

 

Don’t you love how these words taste?

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Playing (Praying?)

I’m a little slow on these things, so maybe I’m the last one to hear about wordles… but I’ve been having fun with them after discovering them on several friends’ blogs.   Here’s the one I was playing with tonight, for a snippet in our church newsletter on prayer:

 

 

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The Immaturity of Modern Art

Another unsettling element in modern art is that common symptom of immaturity, the dread of doing what has been done before.”  ~Edith Wharton

Greg Wilbur, whose thoughts I respect on this sort of thing, had a short post today with a link to an encouraging article about a critic’s response to the artwork (??) of Damien Hirst.  It’s worth taking a look at the article, but I’ll give it to you here by way of Wilbur’s blog,  since his is one of the few I really read regularly and now you’ll have to take a look too.  (Manipulation of others’ route through cyberspace being, of course, one of the chief purposes in blogging…)

As I prepare to teach my high school art students today, I’m well aware that I’ve created a bunch of “art snobs” in some people’s mind, because those students just shake their heads incredulously at work like Hirst’s, and turn back to their more classical tastes. Wish I could feel more apologetic.  But when I look at the work that my middle and high school students consistently turn out, using the time-tested method of growing artistically by careful imitation of what is true, good, and beautiful, I can’t help but be a bit biased.  I’ll pick my students’ work (some of which I’ve posted below) over Hirst’s ANY day.  

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Musing, lately (more than usual), on the relation of faith to beauty.   God’s common grace allows all men to enjoy beauty.  Yet beauty is of, and flows from, God.  In what sense does a Christian have better eyes to see the beauty around him?  Does the Christian have a heightened capacity to create true beauty?

But what is it that I love in loving You? Not corporeal beauty, nor the splendour of time, nor the radiance of the light, so pleasant to our eyes, nor the sweet melodies of songs of all kinds, nor the fragrant smell of flowers, and ointments, and spices, not manna and honey, not limbs pleasant to the embracements of flesh. I love not these things when I love my God; and yet I love a certain kind of light, and sound, and fragrance, and food, and embracement in loving my God, who is the light, sound, fragrance, food, and embracement of my inner man— where that light shines unto my soul which no place can contain, where that sounds which time snatches not away, where there is a fragrance which no breeze disperses, where there is a food which no eating can diminish, and where that clings which no satiety can sunder. This is what I love, when I love my God.

~ St. Augustine (Book X, Chapter 6, Confessions)

 

If your everyday life seems poor, don’t blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is no poverty and no indifferent place.

~Rainer Maria Rilke (Letters To A Young Poet, Letter 1)

 

 

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That poetry engages the emotions and the senses, and that God put so much poetry in the Bible, assures me that I’m not a nut.  At least not as much as I might otherwise think.  There’s an implied affirmation of that side of my humanity that doesn’t fit neatly into quantifiable medical and scientific statistics like these: I’m forty years old, I have brown hair, type O neg. blood, and calloused feet that resist even the most persistent pedicurist. You can learn those things about me pretty quickly if we chat.  But I’m also, as are you, a tangle of intangible otherness.
 
Poetry written by men draws that otherness of me at least part way to the surface.  When I roll Hopkins’ alliteration around on my tongue (“Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings; Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough”) or when I wonder at George Herbert’s cleverly composed shape poems, there is a part of me that must  be engaged in a way that’s altogether different from what suffices in most of daily life. 
 
How much more then, should my soul be stirred, when I consider that GOD HIMSELF has chosen to communicate to us in poetry!  The propositional truths of God’s Word are right and good and beautiful.  And it seems that those propositional truths are enough: God could have simply asked us to believe with our minds and our reason.  But He further condescended to reach into the deeper parts of us through poetic form.
 
Whether it’s through the poetry of the Scriptures or the aching beauty of creation on a crisp fall evening, I’m reminded that when God commands us to love him with all our heart and all our mind and all our soul and all our strength, he also woos ALL of those parts of us.  He created us with souls and hearts, perhaps so that we would image and understand, in some small way, the tremendous depth and strength of His lavish love for us.

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