- Once, I sat on a slide in the dusky California warmth and thought I would change the world. These days, I would find it more of a miracle if I could change myself, and the world frightens more often it inspires.
- Listen! The soft belly of the world
Murmurs its beholden hunger—a mother
Bereft of its child, motherliness
Peeling like paint, like skin,
The inside of the empty tomb.
Outside the wasted womb, rain turns to sleet,
Turns to snow, turns to return
The frail earth to its fingertips,
Its flower bed sprouting forgiveness
In slumbering cycles. Sing, O barren one!
Let the lilies teach you
Love without labor,
Blessedness without toil. So Solomon composes his platitudes
In fine Israeli splendor;
So the earth sings, a broken-hearted maestro;
So I, for one, am no closer to wisdom
For having listened.
- There’s a Crossway ESV bible sitting on my desk right now, given to me last week by a deeply kind and generous woman. On the cover of the bible and in four of its inside pages are reproductions of Makoto Fujimura’s artwork, the Four Gospels. They are hauntingly beautiful works of art, even as small reproductions on a page, and below the work entitled “Charis Kairos (The Tears of Christ),” which coincidentally enough hangs on my bedroom wall at this very minute, is Fujimura’s signature. I have three ESV bibles, each unique to me for different reasons—the first is one I’ve had since high school and that has been at nearly every Sunday service, retreat, conference, and bible study I’ve attended since high school; the other omits chapter headings and verses so that the text reads more cohesively as a narrative. But this bible, with Makoto’s artwork, has already come to mean something deep to me, something almost symbolic of my faith. By placing abstract expressionist art side by side—literally, inside—the bible, it reminds me that my apologetic is aesthetic, that time and time again it is beauty that sees me back at the foot of the cross, and that the mystery of the Gospel is inarticulate and wild and moving just as those paintings are. In a strange, inexplicable way, Makoto’s artwork in this bible makes me trust it more. It makes me feel safe
- Some Words from Walter Brueggemann:
- “Elie Wiesel was once asked whether he believed in God, and he said something to the effect of ‘Sometimes I believe against God.’ It seems to me that that’s one way of taking [biblical texts] seriously: to engage enough with the God in the text to be against what God is up to. That’s taking God seriously.”
- “The tenured West tends to think, ‘It couldn’t be any better than this, so why would we want to change anything?’ I suppose that’s why a good theology of hope always wells up among the disinherited who can’t hope otherwise.”
- “He said ‘I want to protect the faith.’ And what I want to say is ‘It doesn’t need protecting. It just needs elucidating in imaginative ways. Being evangelical can’t be reduced to a fixed package of truths.'”
- Milk-soft white
On roofs and bare branches.
Merely a sheen Seen in the robes
And branches that line Jerusalem
Every Sunday. Inside, Blue-green pines, upon
Whose needles yellow bulbs
Drip.Call them floating islands,
Blurry North stars. See how our imprecision
Keeps at bay A darkness
We could not afford.
- I wish, oh Lord, that I were stronger. That I were braver, that I had more to offer to such a Lord. It is difficult to describe how powerfully confused I am—about who You are, about the role I am supposed to play in this staggering world—and yet also how desperately I love you, like the leper before he is healed, like the woman who touches your robe. That this love can coexist alongside such confusion simultaneously unnerves me and serves as a reason for deep joy. That You hold such tension in Your scarred hands and are more fully known when I approach you with both of them, the confusion and the love, the sorrow and the hope. Oh Lord, You know. All that I am is Yours; for what other reason am I here? Here at all, who had no reason to be, and here still, who has no right to be? Oh Lord, Your Gospel is beautiful. Of all the things I can say, and of all the words I could hurl in accusation or sadness, this too I can and must say: Your Gospel is beautiful. I felt it on Friday when the Stars performed their Christmas program, full of a joy the world has never seen, and I who sat there and felt for one split second the curtain between heaven and earth lift and saw Your smile, not hidden but full, and felt Your unambiguous, unadulterated love for these Stars, Your joy so raw it was nearly frightening. And You know I felt it again today as the whole congregation, the young and the old, sang “Christ is Lord / Oh praise his name forever / His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim,” and the room reverberated with the sound of the voices and the instruments, and I felt again that rare, mystic grace that makes me think one could very well feed on worship alone, even on this side of things. Your Gospel is beautiful. The Word who took on flesh and made his dwelling among us, who came and keeps coming through the layers of cynicism and altruism we hold up against him like shields, through our unbelief and belief and sheer apathy. Oh Lord, Your good news infiltrates a starving world like water irrigates a field, and there is hope in this Advent season that calls even this stone heart to life.