The following excerpt is from Sören Kierkegaard’s, Fear and Trembling. Kierkegaard adds commentary offering a unique spin on the Biblical story of Abraham’s journey to sacrifice Isaac. It is so worth reading:
"And God tempted Abraham and said unto him, Take Isaac, Mine only son, whom thou loves, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering upon the mountain which I will show thee."
It was early in the morning, Abraham arose betimes, he had the asses saddled, left his tent, and Isaac with him, but Sarah looked out of the window after them until they had passed down the valley and she could see them no more. They rode in silence for three days. On the morning of the fourth day Abraham said never a word, but he lifted up his eyes and saw Mount Moriah afar off. He left the young men behind and went on alone with Isaac beside him up to the mountain. But Abraham said to himself, “I will not conceal from Isaac whither the course leads him.” He stood still, he laid his hand upon the head of Isaac in benediction, and Isaac bowed to receive the blessing. And Abraham’s face was fatherliness, his look was mild, his speech encouraging. But Isaac was unable to understand him, his soul could not be exalted; he embraced Abraham’s knees, he fell at his feet imploringly, he begged for his young life, for the fair hope of his future, he called to mind the joy in Abraham’s house, he called to mind the sorrow and loneliness. Then Abraham lifted up the boy, he walked with him by his side, and his talk was full of comfort and exhortation. But Isaac could not understand him. He climbed Mount Moriah, but Isaac understood him not. Then for an instant he turned away from him, and when Isaac again saw Abraham’s face it was changed, his glance was wild, his form was horror. He seized Isaac by the throat, threw him to the ground, and said, “Stupid you, dost thou then suppose that I am thy father? I am an idolater. Dost thou suppose that this is God’s bidding? No, it is my desire.” Then Isaac trembled and cried out in his terror, “O God in heaven, have compassion upon me. God of Abraham, have compassion upon me. If I have no father upon earth, be Thou my father!” But Abraham in a low voice said to himself, “O Lord in heaven, I thank Thee. After all it is better for him to believe that I am a monster, rather than that he should lose faith in Thee.”
When the child must be weaned, the mother blackens her breast, it would indeed be a shame that the breast should look delicious when the child must not have it. So the child believes that the breast has changed, but the mother is the same, her glance is as loving and tender as ever. Happy is the person who had no need of more dreadful expedients for weaning the child!
“Without somehow destroying me in the process, how could God reveal himself in a way that would leave no room for doubt? If there were no room for doubt, there would be no room for me.”—Frederick Buechner
“This time of technology is a destitute time, the time of the world’s night, in which man has even forgotten that he has forgotten the true nature of being. In such a dark and deprived time, it is the task of the poet to help us see once more the bright possibility of a true world.”—Martin Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought
“When the church’s singing is structured around Israel’s psalms, there is a constant reminder that worship is not primarily a matter of personal choice; that the experience of worship is not primarily my own private experience; that the voice in worship is not even primarily my voice, but the voice of Israel, the voice of Christ, the voice of Christ’s people gathered across time and space, learning together how to transmute all the varied raw materials of human experience into the praise of God through the alchemy of Jesus Christ.”—Faith and Theology: Psalms for all seasons: a contemporary psalter
“Our own love for God is so feeble that we might forget all about God for days at a time: but our hearts are torn wide open as we join our voices to the enormous lovesick longing of the psalmist’s praise. We are safe, affluent, protected, untroubled by enemies or oppression: but we learn to join our voices to the psalmist’s indignant cries for the catastrophic appearance of justice on the earth.”—Faith and Theology: Psalms for all seasons: a contemporary psalter
“If your congregation sings only Hillsong choruses, then their emotional repertoire will be limited to about two different feelings (God-you-make-me-happy, and God-I’m-infatuated-with-you) – considerably less even than the emotional range of a normal adult person. It is why entire congregations sometimes seem strangely adolescent, or even infantile: they lack a proper emotional range, as well as a suitable adult vocabulary. But in the psalter one finds the entire range of human emotion and experience – a range that is vastly wider than the emotional capacity of any single human life.”—Faith and Theology: Psalms for all seasons: a contemporary psalter
“I am learning not to be passionate about empty things, but to cultivate passion for justice, grace, truth, and communicate the idea that Jesus likes people and even loves them.”—Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz
“'You know what I'm going to do?' she says to me at long last. Without waiting for a reply, she says, “I'm going to make myself a cup of coffee, then go sit out on the back porch and spend the rest of the night thinking of new ways to ask, and answer, 'What is the meaning of life?'”—Christopher Phillips, Socrates Cafe
“Truth, nature, imagination, affection, love, hope, beauty, joy. Those words are hard to keep still within definitions; they make the dictionary hum like a beehive. But in such words, in their resonance within their histories and in their associations with one another, we find our indispensable humanity, without which we are lost and in danger.”—Wendell Berry
“The way we deal with loss shapes our capacity to be present to life more than anything else. The way we protect ourselves from loss may be the way in which we distance ourselves from life. We burn out not because we don’t care but because we don’t grieve.”— Rachel Naomi Remen Kitchen Table Wisdom
The following post was originally posted on our school blog:
Reconciliation is the dream of hope. We are to dream redemption until the day we die.
During this current season of eastertide, the church my husband and I attend in Seattle has been collecting stories of resurrection. This is one of such stories. Like the rhythm of the triduum (Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday), redemption is only possible because one has experienced death and the grave. This is a story of the relationship between death and resurrection, suffering and beauty, conflict and reconciliation; a rhythm that is so often unavoidable it can only be embraced. However, the beauty found in such a rhythm as Friday, Saturday, Sunday, is largely unknown until given an opportunity to experience it, and not just once, but over and again.
On such Fridays, we experience what could be described as the death of hope. In March of 2011, a death occurred in mine and my husband’s relationship with our former Pastor and his family. Several at our school describes themselves as having been ‘hurt by the church’. While my husband and I wouldn’t necessarily describe ourselves as such, in many ways, we do find ourselves located there. That is, as ones having been hurt and also having inflicted hurt on those whom we have disagreed, by our words, assumptions, distance, and silence.
Our Saturday of silence lasted for over a year, which is longer than my heart wants to admit. Saturday is characterized by silence, abandonment, disbelief, death, agony, grief, and tears. If you do not allow yourself to mourn during this time, the day has not served you well. There is something beautiful about the process from death to life that is unnoticed when rushed.
Last week, we began our journey toward Sunday; and reconciliation, the dream of hope, became feasible. Hope is often found in unexpected places. The span of silence was broken, and we began the long, hard work of moving from death to resurrection. Our words were carefully crafted so as not to inflict any more pain on one another than our already present wounds could bear. These words reminded one another of the love we once shared, and the goodness of the other that we had long forgotten. We realized that our need of one another was more than our need to agree.
In his book, The Wisdom of Stability, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove writes on the necessity of cultivating stability by rooting ourselves more intentionally in the place and people of our community; while acknowledging that conflict among those who do life together is inevitable. In the foreword, Kathleen Norris writes: “Sometimes the conviction that it is God who has brought two people—or a community—together is all we need to keep us in the struggle to nurture and maintain relationships of trust, respect, and love. Committing to such stability is never easy, but it is always worth a try.” Stability demands that when tempted to leave, we stay, and allow God to find us there. Likewise, with such stability is a commitment to seek reconciliation.
In retrospect, I wonder: “what would have happened if we had stayed?” If we had it to do over, given what we have learned, we wouldn’t have so easily left. Yet our journey through the pain of Friday, the silence of Saturday, and the resurrection of Sunday that has got us to this place was necessary for a deeper relationship of love and grace that we now have with this Pastor and his family.
If you have never given yourself to this rhythm, the fullness of my heart bears witness that reconciliation, whether with a church, friend or foe, is indeed sweet.
Reference: Wilson-Hartgrove, Jonathan. The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2010.
The following poem was written as an assignment for my Multicultural Issues class:
I’m from the South The foothills of Hamptonville, North Carolina. With one gas station And a fire department of volunteers, Traffic lights aren’t necessary here.
I’m from highway 21. The light blue house with burgundy shutters, built by the Amish in ’73. Fireflies and Bradford Pear Trees With perfectly cut grass, my home since enrolling in a 1st grade class. This is the place where I am free.
I’m from the Mathis’ and Spicer’s. A close-knit family, Most of whom live adjacent to our home. I’m from southern hospitality. Where everyone knows everyone, And you pretend to like everyone, even if you don’t. The porch is the main gathering place. Here is where gardens are shared And you never show up empty handed.
I’m from the Bible Belt. Called Longtown, The little white church named after it’s road. I’m from Pentecostal Holiness. Pews, hymns, and vacation bible schools. Revivals, altar calls, and the anointing oils stained our faces.
Where I’m from, kids are outside ‘til dark and always with bare feet. We played ball, hide-and-seek, and were often in the creek. We caught and fought crawdads and had four-wheeler trails to all our friends houses. A tom-boy at heart, A girly-girl when I wanted to be. I’m from ninja turtles, hot wheels, And of course I had Barbie’s.
Meals are shared together, where I’m from. And the Lord always blesses. We had the sweetest tea, served with breakfast, lunch, and don’t forget dinner. I’m from sausage gravy with Grands biscuits, Fatback, country ham, corn bread, And they say the pintos put hair on your chest, where I’m from. I’m from hot sauce and ranch dressing. Nenaw’s goulash on Halloween And Pepaw’s pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving We gather together for cookouts, potlucks, all-you-can-eat buffets, And every time Dad makes homemade ice cream.
I’m from my Dad’s shop, Working on muscle cars since I could talk. And please don’t assume that we listened to country. Daddy and I sang Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “You ain’t nothing but a hound dog,” And something about a cow named Daisy, Whom I’ve just discovered is actually a gal. For all these years, this song I’ve had wrong.
I’m from sharing my Mom’s closest, Shopping, And Saturday morning coffee. I’m from big hair, and the smell of hairspray. Where you don’t leave the home without your makeup on.
Where I’m from, you better “be careful what you pray for.” And Mama says, “Don’t look at the mess,” But everyone knows there’s never a mess. I’m from, “If there’s a will, there’s a way” And, “You’ll never know ‘til you try.”
I’m from the land where races don’t mix. Only the fearless actually do. Where the Bible says something about it somewhere, I’m sure.
Where I’m from, people talk different. Of this, I am aware. “But you don’t look like you have a southern accent,” Say those who aren’t from where I’m from.
I am from the American dream, Where my parent’s made life better for me.
From our couch, I can look out the large window in our apartment and partake in one of my favorite pastimes: that which we have rightly called, ‘people-watching’.
On the opposite corner of 2nd and Blanchard, is another brick apartment building much like our own. On the sidewalk in front of the building, is a hopscotch board painted in neon pink.
I am always surprised by those who, casually walking, hopscotch through that portion of the sidewalk.
I’ve seen children play.
But in what has become a productivity-oriented and consumeristic culture, it is rare to see adults play.
Yet, from my window across the street, I’ve watched all sorts of people hopscotch: children, hipsters, businessmen, and old people, alike.
In fact, I just watched one who looked to be a young professional, briefcase in hand, do just that. At the end of the hopscotch board, he continued to walk as casually as before. Another pedestrian was walking toward him. Everyone acted as though playing hopscotch in that moment was perfectly normal. It was fascinating. I found myself smiling.
We need to have an imagination for the ways in which we may bring areas of play into our daily life. Play reminds us that we’re human. It gives us a face. It is deeply relational. And at the very essence of play is the Sabbath.