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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Letter to My Students

You can ignore the song they’re singing for you-
that flashy, loud (so they think passionate) lament,
a flimsy screen for chaos and despair
assuring that, "You can be everything you want,"
for they assume your wants they can assign. 
Your secret is to want more than they offer
to long for everything they do not love
never be enslaved to the apparent, 
learn to distinguish fame from music
(choose the music)
to drink your coffee black and without shame. 
Direct your thoughts instead to
ancient stories, long dead men
and wrap your mind in something not
that thing they urge you to do something with
to make, find, grasp, cling to, express it
This self obsession they have labeled Virtue,
but hawks the culture of the cannibal
so cleverly mislabeled and then marketed as Life.
They have never read. They do not know you must
unmake yourself, let go
push away from all you think you want
stop searching anymore.
Embrace the One
Who by His death to self, gives Life to all. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Redeeming Ender

“ A brother is to help you.”

At least according to Ruth Krauss’s brilliant, timeless children’s book A Hole is to Dig
(Go buy it.  Every household needs a copy, now more than ever.)

A brother is also to fill the gaps in your library. 

I might be the resident English degree-holder.  But I am far from having it all figured out when it comes to literature.  And this past week was another reminder of that. 

Aaron read Ender’s Game almost 10 years ago when he was in 8th grade.  Back when I was still lazing around in never-meant-to-be dreams of medical school.    He read it and loved it for all the right reasons and never told me about it because I had a misplaced distaste for science fiction. 

That was then.  This is now. 

I have everything good in the world to say about Ender.  Goodness…start anywhere…the unlikely hero whose character development is both sublime and believable, the setting which lacks and therefore makes the reader long for familiarity, the plot that unfolds to support Ender even while destroying him…
But here I focus on the one that makes me thrill.  The reason I found my face glued to the pages of this little paperback late into the night. 

The major question of the book is “why?”  (I won’t put spoilers here…)

And the answer is “Love.” 

The narrative pushes the question until the answer is so obvious the reader is almost certain to miss it in the chaos of the final chapters.  Ender is love-motivated.  It is what makes him different far beyond his intellect and leadership qualities.  Different from his brother and from the other soldiers at the battle school.  

From the fire of that answer rises a new, deeper question then.

Ender loves.  So what will it cost him?  

I would argue that this is why we read a lot of fiction.  We know, more or less, the outcome of many stories.  It won’t take too much to figure out who deserves justice and that it will all come out right in the end no matter the odds.  But it’s those very odds that heighten the value of the story.  Yes.  It will all come out right in the end.  But what will it cost?

This is also the story of the Bible.  The true story of God’s love for humans. 

Adam and Eve were put into this perfect world to be the keepers and to bear the Image of the Holy God.  But their sin ushered in death.  Still evident today are the obvious glimpses of brokenness with beauty shining through.  Hidden by the evil.  But still there.  Because everything is ruined, but God has a plan for making it all good again, in spite of the rebellion of his Image Bearers. 

Isn’t it amazing?  We know, for certain, the end of the story.  It is written down for us.  Though there are some details that we don’t understand fully, we know the basic outline of what’s going to go on.  King Jesus gets His inheritance.  The world returns to its submitted place under the rightful Ruler.  Peace and justice will reign again.  Everything returned to Edenic beauty and harmony.  In other words, everything comes out right in the end.  Evil vanquished.  Good restored.     

The question to answer then is what is the cost

I wish I had you here with a Bible and a red pen.  We could go through together and mark the countless places where the first part of the Bible foretells what the cost would be.  Genesis 3:15.  The serpent will be crushed and darkness will be obliterated by light!  But the One who comes to do it will have a bruised heel.   The Promised One will come and suffer and “by His wounds we are healed.” (Is.53)  Then we could read the gospel accounts of the cross.  The blood.  The betrayal.  The horror.  God turns His back on His own Son.  The punishment for sin is death.  And Jesus accepts it.  In place of every sinner.  The curtain of the temple is torn from top to bottom.  It is finished!  Then turn to Paul’s writings.  Peter and John, too.  They look back at what it was.  They have a new understanding of love.  “This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  1 John 4:10.  And they also give their lives out of love for “Him who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.”

This is what it cost Him.  

Monday, October 7, 2013

Changed Attitude, Static Aptitude

There is more than just
one way of seeing things.
Have not all the classics taught
me this?
If it were not so,
the library would lack all
but one book
in its ancient stacks.
And yet for all my wonder of it
despair is still singular
to my numbered hours with these sums.
I love the mystery,
would delve in if I knew the way
but well I know
the tyranny of
worlds inside the arc.
I can respect it.
Can break my pencil over it
and all the fragments of the wood
will fall in angles
with a measure,
and there will be a rule
for finding the circumference
of my tears.
To cry out in frustration
requires complication
of my vocal chords
to vibrate at a pitch-
which means the air must meet
with a surface area
to move a muscle deep
inside my throat.
But it will not escape.
I will squirm,
how many times before I solve the problem right?
My head throbs with attempts to still
the wild mind that will submit
to nothing stable.
And so math
with all its magic
remains a mystery to me
and I am free,
while yet imprisoned
in sweet ambiguity.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Beauty That Demands a Verdict

They speak in calculations
surrounding space with suffocating distance
but it is dead data
detached from all this life
and standing statuesque
imposing by suggestion
bare facts to be
our necessary end.
They quantify our bodies
make statistics of our loves
as if the graphs will satisfy
a thirst for purpose.
we allow it
we watch the watercolors drip
and slip from canvas to the floor
our work dissolves and colors mix
to shades of sterile silver.
But it is ours-
we made these things
when irises were blooming
before Sparta conquered Athens
the extravagant frivolity of goodness
filled our veins and
shot through every limb.
We thrived on loaves
which could not be counted
and what began as
just a few small fish
Back then the sparkle of a snowflake
spoke theology, ontology
before the scientific spear
had severed all connections
We were whole in such uncharted ways
as can no ledger now express.
The residue remains like gold dust
falling on the laboratory floor
which they will sweep away
as it interferes with progress
but that too is ours
the remnant of the beauty
that demands a verdict.