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Archive for November, 2017

Our parental angst rises from an inexhaustible well.

We can worry about anything that touches upon our children’s future, and we probably will. We are capable of outlasting any promising fact and every reassuring word.

Yet such fear for our children’s shalom is in pious circles too easily dismissed. Our longing for an ongoing legacy—to put things in the most self-interested way—has itself a long pedigree. And our maternal and paternal desire that children and grandchildren might live long and well is a creational impulse that encourages us against considerable odds to take the long view when après moi le déluge might have seemed the handier parental slogan.

It is telling that the Isaianic redemption song includes a stanza or two for the little ones.

O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of agate, your gates of carbuncles, and all your wall of precious stones. All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children. In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you. (Isaiah 54:11–14 ESV)

Because the prevailing context depicts the construction or re-construction of an enduring city, we should probably read the dual sentence about children as referring both to children as young ones and as offspring now ‘all growed up’.

The doubts of the ‘Afflicted One, Storm-Tossed and Not Comforted’ do not stand alone.

The forlorn cry of the eunuch, that man who is definitionally incapable of both family and legacy, is heard and requited just two chapters away:

Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely separate me from his people’; and let not the eunuch say, ‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’ For thus says the Lord: ‘To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.’ (Isaiah 56:3–5 ESV)

To say nothing of the brute fact that the very prophetic oracle that lies before us is initiated by the worst fears of a woman who regards herself as childless:

‘Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,’ says the Lord. ‘Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities.’ (Isaiah 54:1–3 ESV)

Indeed, it is impossible for the biblical story of redemption to speak singularly for longer than a paragraph or two. Family, clan, tribe, and nation eventually interrupt such relative singularity and resume their central place in the narrative. Only the most stubbornly individualistic reader can rattle on for too long about the solitary man or woman in his or her crisis of faith before finding himself crowded by jostling next of kin.

Some of these are children: those who already cling to at a mother’s breast, those jostling the healthy old folks in restored Jerusalem’s streets, those imagined by a future that suddenly looks like more than smoke and ashes and family trees cut short.

The Isaiah text before us reassures that the wellbeing of the children will grow from the inside out.

All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children. (Isaiah 54:13 ESV)

All your children will be taught by YHWH, itself an exceedingly broad and unmediated picture of formation and instruction, assures us that truth and reality will have become internalized and therefore organic in the lives of those who may still bear even our name. Perhaps in consequence, their shalom shall root itself deeply and extend to the margins of a remade city, and beyond.

We daddies and mommies find such promise ludicrously unreal. Redemption always looks that way from a distance. Only close up, when YHWH of Wonders has once more shown the meaning of his name, does clarity come clear. Then praise displaces worry, and nearly everything else.

 

 

 

 

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81BoDnpucYL._SY679_After three or four road trips with this very long garment bag, I’m a fan.

My routine with it has not included turning it over to airline baggage handlers. Under these less than rigorous back-seat-of-the-car conditions, I find that the bag exceeds expectations. I can carry significant numbers of shirts and suits, the first choke-point being how many of the protruding hanger-tops I can comfortably handle as I make my way from car to hotel room.

In terms of quality of build and fit-and-finish, the bag represents well-constructed value at a low price point. I estimate it will last me several years for the kind of use I’m describing.

The bag is significantly longer than the average suit, which means it may accommodate dresses or a user who prefers to hang trousers ‘the long way’ rather than bent over a hanger.

Two nice-sized handles at either either hand mean I can bend the bag double, hold both end-handles plus the protruding hanger-heads in one hand, and walk the last ten yards (or one hundred …) to check-in while pulling a suitcase with the other.

Nicely done.

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