Engine Against Th’ Almightie

After Prayer Book Cover

Here in this shadowed valley, dark and bleak,
We lay a bitter siege against the one
Who was our heart’s desire, but now withdraws
Behind his battlements. Our prayers just break
Against what seem like walls of silent stone.
We make an engine of our injuries,
And vault at God a volley of our sorrows:
All the despair and anger that we feel.
The catapult of our catastrophes
Hurls up its heavy load, and flights of arrows
Clatter against his walls, fall back and fail.
How can we make him feel our miseries?
We fling back famine at him, torture, cancer,
Is he almighty then? Has he no answer?

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A Joy Beyond the Walls

The beauty of it smote his heart, and he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was a light and high beauty forever beyond its reach.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Today as I write, it is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. As the internet raises its voice with opinion pieces, heated arguments, and the latest headlines, I feel a familiar fatigue, a growing weariness from the deluge of brokenness that perpetually threatens to submerge the earth whole.

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My Heart In The Highlands

Then homeward all take off their several way;
The youngling cottagers retire to rest;
The parent-pair their secret homage pay,
and proffer up to Heaven the warm request
That he who stills the raven’s clam’rous nest
And decks the lily fair in flowery pride,
Would, in the way his wisdom sees the best,
For them and for their little ones provide;
But, chiefly, in their hearts with Grace Divine preside.

~Robert Burns, from The Cotter’s Saturday Night

If everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day we are certainly Scottish today.  January 25th is the anniversary of the birth of the Great Scot Robert Burns who came into this world in 1759.  Though he lived for only 37 years, he made a lasting mark as the national poet of Scotland. He and his beloved Highlands are celebrated around the world on this night (called Burns Night) with a traditional supper, dancing and the reading of his works. The theme of the night is the grandeur of Scotland and its rich traditional values.

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When Jesus Needed A Genius

Men who produce works of genius are not those who live in the most delicate atmosphere, whose conversation is the most brilliant or their culture the most extensive, but those who have had the power, ceasing suddenly to live only for themselves, to transform their personality into a sort of mirror, in such a way that their life, however mediocre it may be socially and even, in a sense, intellectually, is reflected by it, genius consists in reflecting power.

~Marcel Proust from Within a Budding Grove

On January 25th, the church celebrates the conversion of Saint Paul.  So who was this man?  Well let’s put it this way – Jesus called various types of men for various tasks – from fishermen to tax collectors, but when He needed someone to write at least 13 of the 27 books in the New Testament, He had one specific genius in mind.

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Hanging On By A Thread

If you know anything about my story, you know my affection for amaryllis flowers – ever since I had one that bloomed in the shape of a beautiful, blazing cross in the middle of a shadowed season of doubt.

That same friend has continued to gift me with amaryllis bulbs every year, and even in spite of my brown thumb, I’ve learned to love tending to them and watching them grow. I don’t know what it is about these mysterious plants, but they always seem to whisper secrets as they quietly and unobtrusively unfold little by little over the passing days. Not in any weird pantheistic way; in the way any beautiful work of art whispers to us about the “More” that is brimming underneath the surface of everything.

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The Divine Mathematician and His Image-Bearers

In his celebrated book, The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe, Dr. Steven Weinberg said that mankind is a “farcical outcome of a chain of accidents reaching back to the first three minutes” after the Big Bang. According to Weinberg and many other atheist thinkers past and present, the cosmos is not purposeful and we, its observers, amount to nothing more than self-aware cosmic dust bunnies.

Dr. Weinberg is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, a scholar who has spent decades investigating the intricacies of the material universe. I find it astounding that individuals with such extensive knowledge of the mathematics of nature could so confidently dismiss the implications of the fact that we are conscious, intelligent beings capable of ascertaining these complex truths.

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Still Let Me Love

’Tis time this heart should be unmoved,
Since others it hath ceased to move:
Yet, though I cannot be beloved,
Still let me love!

~Lord Byron, from On This The Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year

George Gordon, later to be known as Lord Byron was born on this day, January 22nd in 1788. He composed a poem on his 36th birthday which was to become a eulogy: He died only a few weeks later on April 19th. Lord Bryon shares a strange kinship with Marilyn Monroe who also died at 36. Like Marilyn, his mesmerizing face, riotous living, many love affairs, and tragic death has made him a romantic, fascinating figure. His mystique was so iconic that even today, an alluringly dark, mysterious, and moody man is said to be Byronic. 

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Crying Out For Barabbas

185900George Orwell died on this day, January 21st in 1950.  He wrote his masterwork 1984 in 1948 (yes – he merely flipped the last two years as a nod to “where things are headed.”) The book enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in recent years as the current political environment in the United States and other Western countries seemed to flirt more and more with totalitarianism. Many see similarities to Orwell’s view of a government-controlled by “Big Brother.”

In the book he said

“Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”

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Martin Luther King Jr.

Racism is not new, nor will it be eradicated in this age.  The inherent belief that one race is superior to another is rooted in the worse kind of idolatry.  It’s all a world of double standards, and they are a fearful thing. They allow you to hold diametrically aligned but contrasting views in the cradle of your mind with no moral angst whatsoever. It takes children a while to get the hang of it, but not long. The problem, of course, is that we all are guilty and remedy requires a hard lonesome fight against the resolute crowd.

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Between Hopes and Heaven

Edgar Allan Poe was born on this day, January 19th in 1809.  He is a master of macabre, but no tale is more unsettling than William Wilson. It is the story of a man haunted since his youth by a double who shares his name, his size, his features, and even his birthday. Intimate rivals as schoolboys, the two Wilsons part ways, but the narrator finds, as he leads a life of cruelty and extravagant debauchery across Europe, that his double appears again and again at his side to remind him of his nature in low, insinuating whispers. When, finally, the narrator is driven to murder his twin, he finds that he has murdered himself. In a further blurring of identity, the Wilsons share their birthday with their creator, Edgar Allan Poe.

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