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Archive for May, 2008

A genealogy like the extensive one that occupies the opening chapters of the Books of Chronicles is a black hole of tribal memory. Like those astronomical oddities, the recitation of the carefully archived names evokes an incalculably dense matrix of human experience. There are hundreds of them. Each lived, loved, ached, rejoiced, ate, defecated, hoped, despaired, died. Each was to some greater or lesser degree mourned by those who survived him. (more…)

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Sometimes an artist with formidable cross-genre credits returns to her roots, as much for her own soul’s sake as to mine a promising market. The results are often mixed, for spanning multiple blocks of fans is more than just a technical feat. As often enough, the broadening loosens the soil that surrounds the roots. To be widely admired is, often inevitably, to be far from home. (more…)

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Rarely does a Cal Tech-trained physicist become an accomplished contributor to literary magazines like the incomparable Atlantic Monthly. Even rarer still, this one tosses off a thin little collection of whimsical reflections on the world’s most famous theoretical physicist in early last-century Bern and it becomes a best seller.

As it should. (more…)

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A handful of well-received twentieth-century writers were particularly adept at probing the deep structure of reality and the meaningful juxtaposition of suffering and redemption that resides there. J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis come to mind. These men spun tales nourished by the notion that deep suffering lodges itself in the anteroom to liberation and even to glory. (more…)

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Remind me five weeks from now, when the frenzy has engulfed me again and I’m in a hotel room on some two-week business itinerary, waking up and taking five minutes to remember where I am, how good today felt.

It has been so long since a Saturday at home came down like this one. Sleeping ’til a rested body agrees on its own volition to rise, reading in my easy chair with Tucker and Rosie sprawled on the carpet around me. A conversation, a real, genuine conversation with a family member when we looked at each other and recognized something other than a lunatic tempest in lateral motion to somewhere else. (more…)

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There was a time in the circles of my youth when too much talk of love in connection with ‘the things of God’ was taken as the surest sign that one had ‘gone liberal’. This is a deep shame.

To be sure, people who speak critically in this way have seldom set out to pursue bloody-minded hatred. They are usually quite loving people, particularly with others whose profile is proximate to their own. Their intention is to be faithful stewards of a truth that comes from God. Having observed others merrily casting away sacred things for the sake of happy Groupfeel, they have become incensed and mistakenly fallen back upon a suspicion of love itself. (more…)

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It is these days considered a naive question to read ancient documents and ask ‘what really happened’. We are instructed that ‘actual events’ are inaccessible behind the interpretive curtain that necessarily separates all tellers of tales from the space-and-time events they describe. Further, what are ‘space-and-time’ events, and does it even make sense to speak of them apart from the ubiquitous interpretive lens?

There may come a time when such epistemological resignation begins to look absurd. In the meantime, readers unenlightened by this doctrine continue to wonder what really happened, say, on the day that the Moabites and Ammonites came in war against King Jehoshaphat’s Judah. Vastly outnumbered and with no tactical hope in the world, Jehoshaphat and his people ‘seek the Lord’, as though military survival could possibly be achieved by means of such a religious initiative. (more…)

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Jesus’ grief-stricken followers cannot imagine life without him. So absorbed are they in their loss that they fail even the courtesy of asking him how he is negotiating these turbulent waters. Yet Jesus is convinced that the Advocate (traditionally, Paraklete) will more than compensate for the kind of ‘absence’ that he foresees:

But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

It is difficult to accept that this will be. Will this Advocate illuminate their lives with prescient teaching? Will he heal ugly, oozing disease? Will he restore demented minds to their prior clarity? Can an Advocate restore the sight of blind people, make lame ones dance? (more…)

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Jesus’ agricultural metaphors are both vivid and harsh. A vineyard keeper doesn’t wince at every stroke of his knife. He does not sentimentalize his vines, else he’d make little wine.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.

The formal difference in the Greek words translated as removes (airei) and prunes (kathairei) is a mere preposition, a modestly elided form of kata. Yet the experience of the respective branches could hardly be more remote. One is thrown into the fire, the other made more productive. Destruction and production are the two fates. (more…)

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An album of the caliber of Steven Curtis Chapman’s Declaration worms its way deeper into an appreciative listener’s soul with every new pass-through. Its appeal is multi-layered. Each new encounter with this kind of music reveals a new facet, a previously unheard sound, the pleasure of an allusive turn of phrase that had gone undetected.

Chapman winks and nods a fair bit in this CD, a hobby that doesn’t distract him from exploring life-and-death themes via some very fine music. The album’s opening track–the jaunty, witty, `Live Out Loud’ starts the winking in earnest, but you get the idea he’s just getting down to business and having a bit of meaningful fun while he arranges his desk. (more…)

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