‘They tend to tell you rather than exemplify…’

To be a giant and keep quiet about it,
To stay in one’s own place;
To stand for the constant presence of process
And always to seem the same;
To be steady as a rock and always trembling,
Having the hard appearance of death
With the soft, fluent nature of growth,
One’s Being deceptively armored,
One’s Becoming deceptively vulnerable;
To be so tough, and take the light so well,
Freely providing forbidden knowledge
Of so many things about heaven and earth
For which we should otherwise have no word—
Poems or people are rarely so lovely,
And even when they have great qualities
They tend to tell you rather than exemplify
What they believe themselves to be about,
While from the moving silence of trees,
Whether in storm or calm, in leaf and naked,
Night or day, we draw conclusions of our own,
Sustaining and unnoticed as our breath,
And perilous also—though there has never been
A critical tree—about the nature of things.

Howard Nemerov – Trees, 1981.

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Bonnie Scotland

Long walks, mountains, hills and streams like these always put me in mind of some literary travelling companions. I’ll leave the final word to one of them…

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

By Bilbo Baggins, sung as he departed the Shire to visit Rivendell.

[Thanks to Lucy & Lisa-Rose for two of the photographs!]

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His Road

Then learn to scorn the praise of men,

And learn to lose with God,

For Jesus won the world thro’ shame,

And beckons thee his road.

Frederick William Faber, ‘O blest is he who can divine’ (1814 – 1863), who knew that to be where Jesus is, to go where he has gone is more precious than anything else the world has to offer.

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10 More Things

1. The thrill of going fast on my bike

2. Salted caramel cookies

3. Friends who can make me laugh just by sending whatsapp messages

4. The smell of old books

5. Handel’s Messiah

6. The smell of laundry drying

7. The way Jesus is in Luke 7:36-50

8. The writings of Dorothy L. Sayers

9. Nice people at the National Trust

10. Laughter- chuckling, sniggering, giggling, snorting, guffawing… great words for a good thing.

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10 things

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1. Sunshine

2. The smell of the air in the morning

3. Tickets for a nice cinema that cost less than going to chain

4. Good, honest conversation with friends who are wise and kind

5. Functioning heating in my home

6. A family who love me, despite my failings

7. A family I love, despite their failings

8. Coffee

9. Cinnamon and almond rooibos tea

10. Sad Russian films that bring back memories and prompt thankfulness

 

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A Surprising Addiction

bannerI love Table Talk Radio.

Anyone who has listened to even one episode of this bizarre, persistently amateur yet strangely compelling radio show will know that it’s quite something to admit this publicly. But I am so hooked that I have lost all sense of social norms, and cannot help but confess that I laugh out loud in my empty house whilst listening to episodes.

Let me commend it to you. If you can see past the minor techincal flaws (background phone calls during recording are a semi-regular feature) and the somewhat niche jokes (I’ve learned when to laugh at mentions of ELCA / LCMS / WELS differences, despite never having stepped into a church of any of these denominations) it’s really quite good.

I’ll just re-iterate – I really do love Table Talk Radio!

Hosts Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller and Pastor Evan Goeglein test one another’s theological sharpness through a series of games and discussions. Yes – you read that correctly – it’s a theological radio gameshow. Specifically, a Lutheran theological gameshow. Probably the best one to be found on radio or podcast. Some of my favourite features include the Praise Song Cruncher, Name that Theologian, Which Ladder? and Bible Bee. Far from being stuffy / self-righteous / dry / boring / irrelevant / [insert your honest gut reaction here], this podcast is nourishing and thought-provoking and hilarious. Pastors Bryan and Evan speak, joke, quiz and question from the conviction that nothing is more capitvating, important, joyful or comforting than the good news of Jesus Christ. One of their explicit aims in the show is to cultivate discernment. I have been armed with good questions to ask of teaching I hear or songs I sing.

But I didn’t really mean this to become a review of the show. I just wanted to tell you enough to make you curious about it… go and listen! Persevere through the initial shock to the system, and you’ll be richly rewarded for your efforts!

 

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“Please will you do my job for me?”

C.S. Lewis offered the following pointer to aspiring writers. It is sound advice to all of us who desire to communicate well.

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

Found in Letters to Children.

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Life Together – Extras

life togetherFor Christians the beginning of the day should not be burdened and oppressed with besetting concerns for the day’s work. At the threshold of the new day stands the Lord who made it. All the darkness and distraction of the dreams of night retreat before the clear light of Jesus Christ and his wakening Word. All unrest, all impurity, all care and anxiety flee before him. Therefore at the beginning of the day let all distraction and empty talk be silenced and let the first thought and the first word belong to him to whom our whole life belongs. ‘Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light’ (Eph. 5.14).

From Life Together  – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1949.

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Life Together

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The death and the life of the Christian is not determined by his own resources; rather he finds both only in the Word that comes to him from the outside, in God’s Word to him. The Reformers expressed it this way: Our righteousness is an ‘alien righteousness’ a righteousness that comes from outside of us (extra nos). They were saying that the Christian is dependent on the Word of God spoken to him. He is pointed outward, to the Word that comes to him. The Christian lives wholly by the truth of God’s Word in Jesus Christ. If somebody asks him, Where is your salvation, your righteousness? he can never point to himself. He points to the Word of God in Jesus Christ, which assures him salvation and righteousness. He is as alert as possible to this Word. Because he daily hungers and thirsts for righteousness, he daily desires the redeeming Word. And it can come only from the outside. In himself he is destitute and dead. Help must come from the outside, and it has come and comes daily anew in the Word of Jesus Christ, bringing redemption, righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

But God has put this Word into the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men. When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others. God has willed that we should seek him and find his living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of a man. Therefore, a Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure.

And that also clarifies the goal of all Christian community: they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation. As such, God permits them to meet together and gives them community. Their fellowship is founded solely upon Jesus Christ and this ‘alien righteousness’. All we can say, therefore, is: the community of Christians springs solely from the biblical and Reformation message of the justification of man through grace alone; this alone is the basis of the longing of Christians for one another.

From the chapter called ‘Community’ by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together, 1949.

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The Humanity of God

God’s divinity rightly understood includes his humanity. Where do we learn this? How is this statement justified and what indeed demands it? It is a Christological statement, or rather a statement based on and to be developed out of Christology. … One thing is certain, that in Jesus Christ, as we know him from the witness of Holy Scripture, we have not to do with humanity in the abstract… Nor, on the other hand, with God in the abstract… In Jesus Christ there is no barrier on the human side upwards nor one on God’s side downwards. Rather, what we have in him is the history, the dialogue, in which God and humanity meet and are together, the reality of the covenant concluded, kept and completed by them mutually. In his one person Jesus Christ is at once as true God humanity’s faithful partner, and as true human being God’s faithful partner, both the Lord abased to community with humanity, and the servant exalted to community with God, both as the Word spoken from out of the highest, most glorious Beyond, and the Word heard in the deepest, darkest Here and Now: both unconfined, but also undivided, wholly the One and wholly the Other. Thus, in this unity Jesus Christ is the Mediator, the Reconciler between God and humanity. Thus, demanding and awakening faith, love and hope, he acts for God before humanity – and, representing, atoning, interceding, for humanity before God. Thus he attests and guarantees to God free human gratitude. Thus he establishes in his person God’s right vis-a-vis his humanity, but also humanity’s right before God. Thus he is in his person the covenant in its fullness, the close at hand Kingdom of Heaven, in which God speaks and humanity hears, God gives and humanity receives, God commands and humanity obeys. God’s glory shines in the highest – but also from the highest into the depths – and peace on earth eventuates among the people of his good pleasure. And just in this way, as this mediator and reconciler between God and humanity, Jesus Christ is for both revealer. Who and what God is in truth, and who and what humanity, we have not to explore and construct by roving freely far and near, but to read it where the truth about both dwells, in the fullness of their union, their covenant, that fullness which manifests itself in Jesus Christ.

Karl Barth, The Humanity of God, (1956) quoted in ‘Selected Writings of Karl Barth: Theologian of Freedom’, ed. Clifford Green, 1989, p.52-53.

 

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