Sunday, 13 December 2009

Sing Till Sundown

~Eileen Spinelli

Sing till sundown, hum your joy
dress in starlight, girl and boy.
Man and woman climb the hill,
warmed beyond December's chill,
reeling, clapping, touch the air,
is that fragrant music there?
Come the glory, gone the gloom:
in a wondrous huddled room.
Christ the Word we've longed to know
calls us dancing through the snow.

Gladness deepens into grace,
weaves its light on every face.
Let us wake the sleeping earth,
celebrate the sweetest birth,
pierce the night with festive cry,
bloom in colours of the sky.
Bring the flute, the tambourine,
wave the branch of evergreen.
Lost we were a grief ago,
now we're dancing through the snow.


Thursday, 10 December 2009

Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble


The mountains tremble at the coming of the Lord.
Creation groans in expectation.
The whole world waits in anticipation.

The question is, do we?


Wednesday, 25 November 2009

a prayer

Our Lord and King,

How are we to live as servants in your kingdom? How can your kingdom come and your will be done in and through us, our marriages, our families, our homes, our church, our province? Give us and your church a vision of how you want us to live, of the alternative reality you can create through us. Give us the wisdom and power through your Spirit to hear and obey your voice. Help us recognize the subhuman patterns we engage in and fight against, patterns that conform to the darkness and keep us from reflecting your image, your purpose, your love. May we not collude with those whose stomachs growl for power through oppression, position through accumulation and recognition through vanity. Make us hungry for the bread of your presence, your word. Fill us with your food so we may feed the needy in your name. Let us not be content with our own spiritual comfort, but shape us in the pattern of giving, the pattern of new birth, the pattern of the cross. May death and resurrection be the motion of our lives as we offer our bodies to you. Show us your way, the way of your Son, and give us strength and courage to follow you.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven


Considering Mary at Christmas

This is a paper I wrote for a Barth class at Wycliffe in December 2006. As Christmas approaches, I find my thoughts turned again to Mary and the miracle of Christ's birth.

Considering Mary at Christmas: a Generous Reading of Barth

When considering Karl Barth’s treatment of Mary in Church Dogmatics 1/2, one is likely to think of his excursus against Mariology, which Barth denounces as a “diseased construct of theological thought” (§ 15.2, 139-146). He rejects it as a falsification of Christian truth in that it propagates “the principle, type and essence of the human creature co-operating servantlike (ministerialiter) in its own redemption” (143). For the Roman Catholic Church, the problem of creaturely cooperation is manifested in its doctrine of Mariology, and this heresy explains all the rest. For Barth, Mary must rightly be rejected as having any kind of mediatory or even relatively independent role in salvation. She must not become a subject in the divine redemptive activity. This would be an attack on the miraculous nature of revelation.

Of this, Barth is adamant, and gives the following evangelical response:

There can be no thought of any reciprocity or mutual efficacy even with the most careful precautions. Faith in particular is not an act of reciprocity, but the act of renouncing all reciprocity, the act of acknowledging the one Mediator, beside whom there is no other. Revelation and reconciliation are irreversibly, indivisibly and exclusively God’s work. (146)

The human creature must not be confused with God. This is the thrust of much of Barth’s writing. To be sure, Mariology is a later innovation and perversion, and does not represent either the Scripture or the early Church in their presentation of the mother of God. Barth necessarily puts Mariology in its place, but where does that leave Mary herself?

Though she can seem overshadowed by discussions of the doctrine named after her, a generous reading of Barth may find Mary pointing readers in a worthy direction. In the midst of his polemic, Barth does cast a positive light upon Mary. We may even find he presents in Mary a model of the right and proper response of the human to revelation.

To begin, he reminds us of Mary’s primary place in dogmatics when he states, “Mary is spoken of partly for the sake of Christ’s true humanity, partly for the sake of His true divinity, but not for her own sake” (140). In Luke Barth finds there is “not a single statement that does not point away from Mary to Christ” (140). He agrees with Luther that the greatness of Mary is in her directing interest away from herself to her Lord, evidenced in the Magnificat. What is the object of special consideration concerning her? It is not her worthiness as a cooperator with the divine, but rather in her lowly estate and in “the glory of God which encounters her” (140). There is nothing meritorious in her person. She is simply the one “to whom the miracle of revelation happens” (140). Barth portrays her as standing at the crossroads of the Old and New Testaments representing all of humanity in their reception of the sovereign gift of revelation. This is a significant role, not because of Mary’s action, but God’s.

She is the first to receive Christ, in a space that was created by God and not of her own capacity. This is how any man must receive Christ. Barth goes on to say later in § 15 that man is involved in the form of Mary, but, “only in the form of non-willing, non-achieving, non-creative, non-sovereign man, only in the form of man who can merely receive, merely be ready, merely let something be done to and with him” (191). Some might seize upon this in isolation and conclude that Barth really has no place for true human participation in revelation. If Mary is not a cooperator, then she is simply a receptacle to be taken over and used by God, forced upon by the Holy Spirit. Yet we know that Barth considers the human to be an active participant, with a free and truly human agency. Mary’s humanity is not eclipsed by revelation, rather, it becomes active. Our “yes” to God matters, as did Mary’s “be it unto me according to Thy word.” Indeed it was according to the Word himself. Yet her role remains as recipient; her “yes” was a response and not a precursor of God’s activity. We follow Mary ever mindful of the primacy of God’s revelation.

Finally, we find a less guarded picture of Mary a few pages prior to Barth’s defensive polemic. It is in this picture that we are joined by a few other characters with whom Barth was wont to associate generously. It is the picture of the Isenheim Altarpiece. Barth is well known to have considered his vocation as one similar to the Baptist of Grunewald’s central panel, ever pointing a finger toward the Crucified Christ. Here Barth describes another panel of the Altarpiece (125). It is the picture of the incarnation, and it is here Barth ponders Mary’s role. The angels are welcoming the child Jesus with a musical chorus, and perhaps in Barth’s mind they are playing Mozart. Mary is pictured twice. She is the mother who holds the child and indirectly beholds the light of the Father in the infant’s face. She also appears as the recipient of grace, representing all who come before and after her, leading the Church in adoration of Christ. In the end, Barth leaves Mary standing with John the Baptist, and this is where the Church must stand as well. We stand facing a mystery, a mystery which has come and dwelt with us by divine freedom and grace. We are not cooperators, neither are we spectators. There are things we can and must do in light of the glory in the face of Christ which has encountered us. With the Baptist, we point to the mystery, and with Mary too, we point to this glory with praise on our lips.

As Christmas approaches, it is fitting even for Protestants to ponder this picture of Mary. In her we are reminded of the greatest miracle of Christmas – not the virgin birth, but what it signifies, that in Christ God became man and is still willing to enter into our humanity. It is this mystery we proclaim with Mary at Christmas. Through her, Barth reminds us that we are first of all recipients, but that our response matters. Hers was the first “yes” to Christ, and we echo her acceptance. Hers was the first hymn of praise to the Word become Flesh, and we join in adoration. Hers was the first pointing away from empty humanity to the fullness of God’s revelation in Christ. Barth invites us to stand with her, with the Baptist, and with the heavenly orchestra, giving our only fitting response as those blessed of God:

“For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.”


Sunday, 22 November 2009

Jonah 4

Jonah, why so angry?
You of all people should know God's mercy extends farther than you could imagine, into the depths of the sea, to the roots of the mountains and the dark of a fish's belly.
God's deliverance gobbled you whole, yet you despise the salvation offered through your own message.
You give us hope. You give us a warning.


Friday, 13 November 2009

St. Patrick's Breastplate

St. Patrick's Breastplate
“The deer's cry”

For my shield this day
A mighty power:
The Holy Trinity!
Affirming threeness,
Confessing oneness,
In the making of all
Through love . . .

For my shield this day I call:
Christ's power in his coming
and in his baptising,
Christ's power in his dying
On the cross, his arising
from the tomb, his ascending;
Christ's power in his coming
for judgment and ending.

For my shield this day I call:
strong power of the seraphim,
with angels obeying,
and archangels attending,
in the glorious company
of the holy and risen ones,
in the the prayers of the fathers,
in visions prophetic
and commands apostolic,
in the annals of witness,
in virginal innocence,
to the deeds of steadfast men.

For my shield this day I call:
Heaven's might,
Moon's whiteness,
Fire's glory,
Lightning's swiftness,
Wind's wildness,
Ocean's depth,
Earth's solidity,
Rock's immobility.

This day I call to me:
God's strength to direct me,
God's power to sustain me.
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's vision to light me,
God's ear to my hearing,
God's word to my speaking,
God's hand to uphold me,
God's pathway before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's legions to save me:
from snares of the demons,
from evil enticements,
from failings of nature,
from one man or many
that seek to destroy me,
anear or afar.

Around me I gather:
these forces to save
my soul and my body
from dark powers that assail me:
against false prophesyings,
against pagan devisings,
against heretical lying
and false gods all around me.
Against spells cast by women,
by blacksmiths, by Druids,
against knowledge unlawful
that injures the body,
that injures the spirit.

Be Christ this day my strong protector:
against poison and burning
against drowning and wounding,
through reward wide and plenty . . .
Christ beside me, Christ before me;
Christ behind me, Christ within me;
Christ beneath me, Christ above me;
Christ to right of me, Christ to left of me;
Christ in my lying, my sitting, my rising;
Christ in the heart of all who know me,
Christ on tongue of all who meet me,
Christ in eye of all who see me,
Christ in ear of of all who hear me.

For my shield this day I call:
a mighty power:
the Holy Trinity!
affirming threeness,
confessing oneness
in the making of all – through love . . .

For to the Lord belongs salvation,
and to the Lord belongs salvation
and to Christ belongs salvation.

May your salvation, Lord, be
with us always,
Domini est salus, Domini est salus,
Christ est salus,
Salus tua, Domine, sit semper nobiscum.


Friday, 23 October 2009


Alice cannot see her face
Through a looking glass darkly
Gentle jabberwockies grin bemusedly
But this is no wonderland

Three inches is a wretched height
Unless your head is in a teapot
But the Dormouse never wakes
And the Dodo is extinct

“EAT ME,” “DRINK ME,” which shall it be?
Or sit drowsily sipping the Mad Hatter’s tea?
Alice wonders where reality lands
On the other side of the rabbit hole


Saturday, 10 October 2009

Come, Ye Thankful People

This is an old Thanksgiving hymn that I learned only a few years ago when celebrating with my Bernhardt grandparents and great aunt Ruth in Bolsover. Being in the middle of an agricultural province makes the harvest language even more real. It's also a hymn that reminds us to prepare for another great harvest yet to come.

Come, Ye Thankful People
(Henry Alford & George J. Elvey)

Come, ye thankful people come,
Raise the song of harvest home:
All is safely gathered in,
Ere the winter storms begin.
God, our Maker, doth provide
For our wants to be supplied:
Come to God's own temple, come,
Raise the song of harvest home.

All the world is God's own field,
Fruit unto His praise to yield:
Wheat and tares together sown
Unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade, and then the ear,
Then the full corn shall appear:
Lord of harvest, grant that we
Wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Lord our God shall come,
And shall take His harvest home:
From His field shall in that day
All offenses purge away;
Give His angels charge at last
In the fire the tares to cast,
But the fruitful ears to store
In His garner evermore.

Even so, Lord, quickly come
To Thy final harvest home:
Gather Thou Thy people in,
Free from sorrow, free from sin;
There, forever purified,
In Thy presence to abide:
Come, with all Thine angels, come,
Raise the glorious harvest home.


Friday, 2 October 2009

A Prayer of St. Columba

My dearest Lord,
Be thou a bright flame before me,
Be thou a guiding star above me,
Be thou a smooth path beneath me,
Be thou a kindly shepherd behind me,
Today and for ever more.

(St. Columba - Abbot & Missionary to Iona, 521-597 AD)

Friday, 25 September 2009

This is our God.

Isaiah 25:6-9. The strength of this passage is in its beauty, its generosity, its assurance,and its unwavering hope. This is our God. Read it slowly. Read it imaginatively. Read it as the future reaching back into the present. Read it in hope.

The LORD of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all people on this mountain;
A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow,
And refined, aged wine.
And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples,
Even the veil which is stretched over all nations.
He will swallow up death for all time,
And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces,
And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth;
For the Lord has spoken.
And it will be said on that day,
"Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us.
This is the LORD for whom we have waited;
Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation."

So be it.


Hosea 6

The clouds are heavy with the knowledge of the LORD. A storm is brewing over the plain, and those who are not afraid of the weight of glory are bidden to return. He has torn us, but He will heal us. Our lack of knowledge has destroyed us, driven us to the desert, to death. This flood will be our salvation. Come if you will, but come trembling, for the LORD's goodness is fierce and holy. Two days more, and He will revive us. He will raise us up on the third day. Hurry, let us press on toward the dawn, toward our spring.

Leave behind your meaningless sacrifices; He is not there. Run to the plain of mercy. He will meet us on the third day, on the third day, we will live. On the third day, we will know Him.


Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Hosea 1

Hosea - Would I offer my life, my heartbreak as willingly as you? Would I align my heart with God's through suffering? Would I accept the names He gives? Would I hear the promise through cries of betrayal?



I will seek you . . . till I know that what is unknown is meant to be a mystery.
I will seek you . . . till I know your heart, not just your will.
I will seek you . . . till trust permeates fear, uncertainty and aimlessness.
I will seek you . . . till the lost is found only in you.


Sunday, 6 September 2009

the way in

The way into Christ is through a sacred door of body and blood, broken open by the Spirit’s breath.
Hear him whisper from the cross, through his pain and through his loss, “come up here.” Through his broken hands and side we may find a place to hide; plunge your soul in blood and water, sinners become sons and daughters. The only way up is in, into the sacrifice, into scarlet love, crawling into Christ’s heart through his brokenness. You are in him and he is in you when you eat and drink, by faith entering the narrow path through Calvary’s splinters. Here is intimacy, here is love.


Thursday, 27 August 2009

new blog!

I've started a new blog, red letters theology. It won't replace this one, which will still house many of my personal and spiritual ponderings, but is branching out into a more specific realm - theology. It's a way for me to keep myself thinking and writing theological thoughts, with the hope that it will stir conversation with others. Check it out.


Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Jeremy Camp - Walk By Faith


Trust presupposes the unseen, the unknown, and the rush of fear that accompanies them. Faith has its basis in mystery and anticipation. By faith we trust the Father has good gifts, and that at just the right time his heavenly lights will pierce the dusk that conceals them.


Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The Fourth Watch

In the fourth watch of the night
A fearful and fragile moment
Battered by waves and a contrary wind
We start to see ghosts on the sea
The timbers are shivering until one cries out
“Take courage, it is I!”

And before I know it, a miracle
Not that he walks on the sea
But that I am walking on furious waves to him
The wind is a banshee shrieking doubts
And my faith falters first in my feet
Sinking, panicking
“Lord, save me!”
The ghost becomes a man with a strong arm
A man with a strong name
God’s Son

And now in the boat he captains the wind
Calming our hearts
Till the tide of fear recedes and leaves only


Thursday, 23 July 2009

Gifts of the Boreal Forest

You taught me how to look at things up close. How to get so close to something I learned its smell. Old man’s beard, cranberries frozen on the stem, the smooth grain of birch – they revealed their secrets to my curious young senses. You taught me how to stand with my eyes closed and feel the mood of the forest in the wind. You and the wind were always talking, always dancing, sometimes fighting, and you let me listen in. You taught me how to be still and silent – especially when I didn’t want to be seen by other people, but also when making friends with foxes and chickadees and pelicans. In silence I sank into a deeper knowing of all things, sinking deep into the earth itself till I felt myself slowly spinning with it. You taught me how to uncover the next season, how to smell spring before it came and know by a certain tone in the trees that old man winter was hobbling closer. You taught me how to hear music in the river, in the raindrops, even in the falling snow. You taught me to feel small under the glowing sky, but as big as the north I was part of. You taught me to throw my dreams to the distant horizon where the sun caught them and circled them around the earth on the shortest night of the year, only to hurl them back in brilliant tones of morning fire. You taught me to love, to look for magic in the common life of your hidden corners. You wrapped me in a blanket and made me your queen.

Now I find myself on a distant shore, with wonders strange and beautiful. Though your throne is far to the northwest, I pull your blanket closer and close my eyes. When I open them, your gifts are all around me again, ready to be unwrapped in red sand.


Tuesday, 21 July 2009


His teachings still haunt me, following my thoughts, questioning my actions, examining my motives. They poke and stare, murmuring to themselves, at times nodding, at time furrowing their brows. I can’t shake them, but neither can I always make out what they’re saying. Perhaps if these archaic ghosts became friends I wouldn’t feel my spine tingle every time they showed up.


Friday, 17 July 2009


... begins with a breath
and then another
a conversation, an exchange
Spirit to spirit


summer camping 2

My tent is leaking. This always seems to happen on camping trips – Jasper or Judea, makes no difference. I can’t sleep, my stomach is growling too loudly. Wish I’d brought more food, but I ran out of trail mix at the Beatitudes. I didn’t think I’d stay so long, but I’ve never heard anything like this. I wonder if the Teacher sleeps much. He and some guys were still around the fire when I called it night. I think they were bringing out the guitars and smores. Well, it’s still a night and I’m still awake. Maybe it’s true what they say – no rest for the wicked. Might as well get up and check out the stars. Bare ground is even more uncomfortable when you’re awake. Wish I’d brought a therm-a-rest.


summer camping

I’ve been camping out on the sermon’s mount
With teachings as old as the hills
The preacher-man and his strange commands
Are enough to give me the chills

But the hungry hikers and washed out bikers
Are given a place at his fire
And to the pure-hearted grace is imparted
To behold what they desire


Friday, 26 June 2009

june rose

Wild roses bloom in June
When the car windows are wide open
They are the fragrance of the highway
They hold the hidden joy of the forest
Within five smooth fingers

Wild roses are beautiful in June
When the sun shines on us all night
And the pelicans return to the river
And the world returns to warmth
Caressed by five smooth fingers

Wild roses beckon in June
But hold me at a distance with thorns
To gather their nectar is to bleed
Love them loosely or they will wilt
In five clenched fingers


Tuesday, 23 June 2009

unfinshed dream

In a misty dream I saw your face
Tears blur the lines of distinction between fact and myth
And for a moment I hover, suspended between the firmaments
Then a river of salt washes to the wide, wide sea
And I go with it

We all have islands you know
And there are some waters which can never be crossed
I will set my feet down firmly on red earth
We are humans after all
. . .


Monday, 22 June 2009

Abraham again

Abraham, I’m glad I can tell you my secrets. (The trees may have ears out here, but they are always discrete.) This ancient path is perfect for sorting them out, sorting me out. I guess I want to say thanks for putting up with a straggler like me. I think I’m learning the way. I think I can make out the contours in the earth now. I think I’m learning what to take with me and what to leave behind. All my tears have evaporated, leaving tiny pillars of salt to remind me not to look back.


Tuesday, 16 June 2009

breaking camp

Hey Abraham, would you give me a hand with these cardboard boxes? I never knew so much stuff could come out of one little tent. I don't really want to talk about leaving yet, so let's just keep busy. Just stuff those blessings in with that pile of promises over there. If you get tired, we'll take a nap under the tamarisk tree you planted. It's big enough now to provide shade for two. Maybe God will whisper in our dreams. Isn't that just like Him?


Friday, 5 June 2009

good stuff

Just think about it:

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
(James 1:17, NASB)

How can we doubt His goodness? How can we not see His light every day? How can we not live in and out of thanksgiving?


Thursday, 21 May 2009

Solomon, Solomon

The other day I was reading about Solomon and thinking about nursery rhymes. This is what happened:

Solomon, Solomon
King of the land
Your wisdom is golden
Your palace is grand
The temple is sparkling
And so is your smile
Your words bring you praise
On the banks of the Nile

Solomon, Solomon
King of great fame
Egypt and Sheba
Are singing your name
The fig trees are growing
To shade every man
With riches and safety
By royal command

Solomon, Solomon
Plated in gold
Your heart is divided
Your love has gone cold
Tear your fine velvet
Repent now and mourn
From splendor to ashes
The kingdom is torn


When we garden

When we garden
We remember the beauty of an Eden morning
Naked as the lilies in all their splendor
We were born with dirt under our fingernails
And we spend too much time scrubbing it off
When we should be digging with the worms
Joining our toil with God’s imagination

The violets whisper the ancient garden's song
Nodding their heads in purple chorus


Thursday, 30 April 2009

habits of renewal

Put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him. . . (Col 3:10)

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:2)

Renewal is a choice, a way of thinking, an opening of the mind to the pattern of Truth. It doesn't happen automatically. Renewal happens when we make a regular habit of facing ourselves with the mirror of God's image. It seems to be glass at first, but as we look further up and further in the glass melts into a pool of unfathomable depth and beauty. We need habits of renewal which cause us to gaze intently, drink deeply, and dive joyfully into all that God is.

Brother Lawrence speaks to this habit-making:

"We cannot escape the dangers which abound in life without the actual and continual help of God. Let us, then, pray to Him for it continually. How can we pray to Him without being with Him? How can we be with Him but in thinking of Him often? And how can we think of Him but by a holy habit which we should form of it? You will tell me that I am always saying the same thing. It is true, for this is the best and easiest method I know; and as I use no other, I advise all the world to do it. We must know before we can love. In order to know God, we must often think of Him; and when we come to love Him, we shall also think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure. This is an argument which well deserved your consideration."


Wednesday, 29 April 2009


Weeping willows cry green tears of joy,
dripping into the silver creek,
for spring.
Fair forests are wrapped in ethereal emerald gauze,
dressed for an evening dance
with spring.

What is this naive colour,
defying old man winter's mothballs,
rippling secret laughter through sleepy forests
racing to the horizon to catch up with the sun?

This is green,
green so new God must have thought it up only moments ago.


Sunday, 19 April 2009

401 reverie

The wooded hills beckon in the evening sunfall
The bare brown carpet invites spring
invites me to come up and commune
with the strength of the oaks and the
delicate beauty of the birch child
Amethyst clouds light the ridge above
and elvish whispers stir the leaves to a hesitant dance

The woods are not awake yet
But their clear blood begins to rise
in the warmth of lengthening days
They give to us a taste of the first sweetness of spring
Pouring their joy out from wounds
Drink from the promise of hope
and let your tongue sing our song
Shadows of geese sail though the sundogs
which circle their master three times before
sinking to the horizon's bed

The woods will sleep another night


Intercessions - April 1

Father of peace and healing,

You are the one who breaks insurmountable dividing walls. Make a footbridge of peace over troubled waters. Where disappointment and bitterness wedge souls apart, bind them together with cords of mercy and the balm of Gilead. Be near to the brokenhearted, and save the ones who are crushed in spirit. Gather their pieces in tenderness and speak healing to their brokenness. May your gentleness make them great. Restore souls and rescue the estranged from division. Be their peace.


Ps 18:35; 34:18


my internet

In the effort to detach myself from the computer over Lent, a new pile emerged on the coffee table. I came to call this pile (which varied over the weeks) my "new internet." These were the pages I surfed, with a sense of satisfaction I never get from reading off a screen. As you can see, it was a little of this, and a little of that, reflecting my current interests: theology, PEI, L. M. Montgomery, Hadrian's Wall, good stories, topped by my Bible and journal, which help make sense of everything else I read. Lent is over but the pile (slightly changed) is still there, a welcome stack of paper friends. The only thing missing from the picture is a steaming cup of coffee!


Saturday, 4 April 2009

spring floods

The Forks of the Credit are swollen with the force of spring. Heaven’s thoughts, hurled down in the rain and snow, are now converging to water the earth. The waves are high, higher than the banks, higher than our thoughts can hold them. We are frightened by their icy strength, until we can hear the undercurrents of joy. The northwest wind breaks over the mountains and hills, waking up the trees of the field. Their bony applause welcomes the wind and the rising waters. Clap your hands, put on your rubbers, you cannot hold back the impetuous vernal flood.

God . . . has infinite treasure to bestow, and we take up with a little sensible devotion, which passes in a moment. Blind as we are, we hinder God and stop the current of His graces. But when He finds a soul penetrated with a lively faith, He pours into it His graces and favors plentifully; there they flow like a torrent which, after being forcibly stopped against its ordinary course, when it has found a passage, spreads itself with impetuosity and abundance.
(Brother Lawrence - The Practice of the Presence of God)


Thursday, 12 March 2009

giving up computer time

I've been slow to post because I've given up much of computer time for Lent! In the absence of the glowing screen and its habitual power over my free time, I've had time to think some lovely thoughts, but they haven't made it to a word processor yet. One of these days...


Tuesday, 24 February 2009

nature knows

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. (Psalm 19:7)

One of the ways I believe God’s word is perfect is in its timeliness. Just as Jesus came at the fullness of time, so God sent his word to his people in the fullness of time. The fact that the words of Scripture were given to the Hebrews and to the early Christians at the time they were is no accident. God has tied the revelation of his nature to particular periods of history, to particular modes of expression, to a particular way of seeing the world. God’s word is living, so it always speaks to every generation. But God chose people to express his word in oral tradition and in writing in their own language and idiom. So we must treasure the language of the Bible. We must dig deep into its figures of speech, into the comparisons made, into the methods of expression and the metaphors used to describe the ways of God.

We live in a world that is at times completely out of touch with the earth. No longer tied to the seasons and rhythms of the land and the sea, we forget or ignore the lessons nature has to teach us. The ancient writers did not have this luxury. The Scriptures are filled with creation as a living testimony and witness to God. The mountains shout, the trees applaud and the heavens declare. Too easily we can dismiss nature’s appearance in the Bible as mere metaphor and the crude anthropomorphisms of an ignorant culture. But I happen to think they were on to something, or rather, that God was on to something.

We need an understanding of the natural world viewed both as God’s creation and God’s revelation. Yes, we do make the distinction between “special” and “general” revelation. Christ falls in the first category, and creation in the second. But for those who know Christ – in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, in whom all things are made new, in whose being all things in heaven and on earth are summed up and made perfect – we have been given an incredible treasure in the works of nature. If we listen closely, we can hear the story of Christ in the rivers and wrens. Creation whispers the secrets of the kingdom of God for those willing to listen.

(See previous posts talking trees, secrets and rara avis.)


Tuesday, 17 February 2009


After I finished my thesis, I took an unofficial break from theology, at the least on the level to which I had been accustomed. Burnt out, with another big writing project to finish, I think I was just too tired to think anymore. My rows and rows of theological books temporarily lost their luster. (horrors!) But then I started reading a book which was given to me by my wonderful Aunt Karen. It's an autobiography of a woman named Leanne Payne, who has been influential in my aunt's life. Her writing is both theological and deeply spiritual, the perfect mix to spark the synapses I had sent on an extended vacation. Long story short, last night I picked up Alexander Schmemann's For the Life of the World, a book about the sacraments that I really should have finished long ago. I read the first three pages and I was hooked again. I thought about it as I drifted off to sleep. I thought of the book when I woke up this morning, wondering if I could sneak a few pages in with my devotions this morning, or when I come home for lunch. I even wrote a blog post about it. Yup, the signs are all there. I'm in love.


Thursday, 12 February 2009


"But the fear of God reigning in the heart is the beauty of the soul; it recommends those that have it to the favour of God, and is, in his sight, of great price; it will last for ever, and bid defiance to death itself, which consumes the beauty of the body, but consummates the beauty of the soul."

~Matthew Henry, from his commentary on Proverbs 31:30

Monday, 9 February 2009


"Time is a sheer gift, the soil in which the soul's understanding buds and blossoms and virtues can be realized."

~Leanne Payne, Heaven's Calling

The archer

I feel the weight of the quiver
A gift and a burden of fire in my bones
The forest is silent and I pluck the bow
It sings like an instrument

I reach back to feel feathers
Drawing out smooth and straight
The heart of a tree
And a red tip

I hear the oak leaves shiver
And suddenly I can smell the earth
In the meeting of taut string and limb
My arms strengthen

I do not shoot
I am waiting and watching
Learning the names of my arrows
Tuning string to match strength

When the wind blows again
The trees will open a path
With clear eye and steady hand
I will be ready


Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Proverbs for a Recession

Wise words ring true in troubled times;
They bring contentment to those who listen.

All the days of the afflicted are bad,
But a cheerful heart has a continual feast.
Better is a little with the fear of the LORD
Than great treasure and turmoil with it.
Better is a dish of vegetables where love is
Than a fattened ox served with hatred.
(Proverbs 15:15-17)


Sunday, 25 January 2009

bread recipe

"Knead dough until smooth and resilient, about 8-10 minutes."

I made bread last night. Well, I set it to rise last night and baked it today for Sunday lunch. It was good. There's nothing like homemade bread. I don't often make it, but when I do, I like it. Aside from feeling like a superior homemaker, I just like to get my hands in the flour and play around. I always cross my fingers when the yeast is rising, and try not to peek till it's doubled, which proves that it is indeed "active." The arms get a workout too, stirring in all that flour till the mixture forms "a soft and shaggy dough." But my favourite part is kneading. All 8-10 minutes of it. There's something about the rhythm which puts my mind at ease. I feel like I am really and truly making something, something wholesome and worthwhile. I am coaxing the goodness out. There is an immense satisfaction when I have turned it into a smooth ball of anticipation. Smooth and resilient. Hmnn. Those words stick in my head. That's what dough has to be before it can become good bread. It has to make you smile. I think I will need more than 8-10 minutes before I become soft and resilient. Fortunately God's arms do not get tired. I wonder if he likes kneading too.


Wednesday, 14 January 2009

more imagination

Here are some articles from John Piper's website on imagination:

God Is Not Boring

Jesus Is Precious Because We Yearn For Beauty

This idea of Christian imagination is something that has been simmering in the back of my mind for quite some time. I think it's often a neglected aspect of Christian life. We crave imaginative descriptions and depictions of the truth and beauty of God without even knowing it, and when we come across them they permeate both the mind and heart.



I came across this quote on one of the blogs I read and thought it was a good one:

The imagination calls up new words, new images, new analogies, new metaphors, new illustrations, new connections to say old, glorious truth. Imagination is the faculty of the mind that God has given us to make the communication of his beauty beautiful.
–John Piper

(and this is the blog article)


Thursday, 8 January 2009

Spirit poem

I know you breathe even now, all around me, in me, and through this thing we scientifically call aerobic respiration. You are the Lord and Giver of Life, my life, our life on this green and blue globe. I breathe, and I know you are here.

Spirit of God.
You are God’s own breath, the Lion’s warmth on my cheek. You give new life, breathing into existence a realm where I live in Christ, breathing a space where Christ lives in me. Are you in my veins and arteries? You cannot be limited there, but you must be there too if you are here at all. I have a new pulse, and I know you are here.

Creator Spirit.
Your invisible colours are weaving a tapestry outside the window. You prick me with your needle so I may be a thread in your fluid hands. You are making all things beautiful, even bloodstains. You whisper in my imagination, in my garden, in my bread as it rises. I am woven through your imagination till I see the colours you create. I think, and I know you are here.

Holy Spirit.
You sanctify the ordinary. I live and move and have my being, I love and laugh and cry, I work and eat and sleep, and it all matters. You are the bond that ties it all up into God’s life, into God’s love. I am woven into a divine mystery. You breathe, and I know you are here.

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