At just the right time benediction

Wendell Berry… outstanding in his field. Just when needed: grace.

Years ago, I found myself sitting at the dinner table of one of my literary heroes, Wendell Berry, on his farm in Henry County, Kentucky.

At the end of the evening, Berry made it clear it was time for me to go by saying something along the lines of, “Well, it’s been good to have you.” I couldn’t leave, though, without telling the agrarian novelist and poet how much his writing had meant to me—while attempting to sound like a Christian academic rather than a giddy fanboy. His response was less a thank-you than a benediction.

“Isn’t it something, how we get what we need at just the right time?” he said. “The right book comes along at just the right time. The right friend comes along at just the right time. The right conversation comes along at just the right time. It’s grace.”

From Russell Moore’s article “The Mainliner who made me more evangelical.


How might you pray about all the grace that comes along at just the right time?

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Mocking God with Metaphor?

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, Carravaggio, circa 1601

Caravaggio depicts Jesus taking Thomas’ hand and intentionally inserting his outstretched finger into His wounded side in response to Thomas’ own assertion in John 20:

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

To this, Jesus appeared to Thomas among the disciples and said: 

“Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

In that theme, John Updike’s early poem speaks to the fact that if Jesus rose – He rose as His body; we are encouraged therefore: “let us not mock God with metaphor.”


Seven Stanzas at Easter, by John Updike

Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
Eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.


“In his twenties, a young Harvard graduate named John Updike (1932-2009) began worshipping with a Lutheran congregation in Marblehead, Massachusetts–finding there the religious community he remembered during his upbringing in rural Pennsylvania. Updike later remarked that these years were his “angst-besmogged period”. The congregation sponsored a “Religious Arts Festival” that offered a $100 prize to the festival’s best work–96 adults entered, including Updike who contributed this brief poem as his entry. He won. Updike gave the $100 prize back to the congregation.”

The poem reveals the fundamental truth that holds Christian faith together: the bodily resurrection of Christ. He appears before us “in the flesh as true, real evidence of the victory over death and sin. We mock God if we think anything less of it. It is not a day to be trivialized in reducing it to a happy ending. It is not a parable, a metaphor, a moment of rhetoric. As Christians the resurrection is key–the hope of eternal life has meaning only because of the terror of death.”

Comments on John Updike from “Genius.com

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Let us be Men who Love

Man carrying woman cradling baby. Hurricane Harvey, August 2017. Credit David J. Phillip/AP

Totally inspired by Idelette McVicker’s “Manifesto: Let us be Women who Love” – I give her credit, and hope my imitation honours her, and energizes both Women and Men:

Written by R.H. Foerger based on Idellete McVicker’s poem:

 

Let us be men who Love.  

Let us be men willing to lay down our harsh words, our hard looks, our ignorant silence and towering stance, and fill the earth now with extravagant Love.

Let us be men who Love.

Let us be men who make room.

Let us be men who open our arms and invite others into an honest, spacious, protective embrace.

 

Let us be men who carry each other.

Let us be men who give from what we have.

Let us be men who leap to do the difficult things, the unexpected things and the necessary things.

Let us be men who live and die for Peace.

Let us be men to hold up our brothers and bring them along.

Let us be men who Love.

 

Let us be a sanctuary where God may dwell.

Let us be a resting place for wounded souls.

Let us be a table where others may feast on the goodness of God.

Let us be a fortress for human flourishing.

Let us be men who Love.

 

Let us rise to the questions of our time.

Let us speak to the injustices in our world.

Let us move the mountains of fear and intimidation.

Let us tear down the walls that separate and divide.

Let us fill the earth with the aroma of honour.

Let us be men who Love.

 

Let us listen for those who have been silenced.

Let us honour those who have been devalued.

Let us say, Enough! with abuse, abandonment, diminishing and hiding.

Let us be men who build up our wives, our sisters, our daughters.

Let us be relentless until every person has discovered the mystery of their worth.

Let us be men who Love.

 

Let us be men who are savvy as serpents and gentle as doves.

Let us be men who shine with the light of God in us.

Let us be men who take courage and give encouragement.

Let us be men who say, Yes to the engaging, unique purpose seeded in our souls.

Let us be men who call out the vision in another’s heart.

Let us be men who teach our children to do the same.

Let us be men who Love.

 

Let us be men who Love, in spite of fear.

Let us be men who Love, in spite of our wounded sagas.

Let us be men who Love loudly, joyfully, mightily.

Let us be whole-hearted brothers, fathers, husbands.

Let us be men who Love.


This poem is in homage to Idellete McVicker’s poem “Manifesto: Let us be Women who Love“. Idelette is founding editor of shelovesmagazine.com.  Her bio reads: “She’s a bit intense, granted, but she’s getting to be really okay with it. She was born and raised in South Africa which shaped her longing for justice and freedom for everyone and a deep, deep love for Africa. She also worked in Taipei as journalist and discovered that Heaven might look like lingering over oohlong tea in the mountains of Chiufen. She moved to Vancouver, Canada a month before the millennium turned. She is married to Scott, has three young children and loves Sisterhood. She blogs at idelette.com and tweets @idelette.”

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Bitter Herbs & Bitter Tears

The Last Supper: Bitter Herbs. Linocut by Tanja Butler

In this linocut of the Last Supper, Christ is offering Judas bread with his own hand, “a gift the defecting disciple receives with a distracted mind and heart. On the table lie the bitter herbs and salt water required for the Passover, reminders of the bitter tears shed by the people of God in bondage and foreshadows of the tears Christ would soon shed in the Garden as he approached the Cross to free his people for the bondage to sin and death.”

Ned Bustard, Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-ups

As you contemplate Good Friday, the Last Supper, and the communion we can have with Christ now, consider He who is at the centre of the story, the table, the bread & the wine, and our lives.

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“I Thirst for You”

Open your heart to the One who thirsts for you.  thewardrobedoor.com

I Thirst for You, by Mother Teresa

I know you through and through – I know everything about you. The very hairs of your head I have numbered. Nothing in your life is unimportant to me, I have followed you though the years, and I have always loved you – even in your wanderings.

I know every one of your problems. I know your need and your worries. And yes, I know all your sins. But I tell you again that I love you – not for what you have or haven’t done – I love you for you, for the beauty and dignity my Father gave you by creating you in his own image.

It is a dignity you have often forgotten, a beauty you have tarnished by sin. But I love you as you are, and I have shed my blood to win you back. I you only ask me with faith, my grace will touch all that needs changing in your life; and I will give you the strength to free yourself from sin and all its destructive power.

I know what is in your heart – I know your loneliness and all your hurts – the rejections, the judgements, the humiliations. I carried it all before you. And I carried it all for you, so you might share my strength and victory.  I know especially your need  for love – how you are thirsting to be loved and cherished. But how often have you thirsted in vain, by seeking that love selfishly, striving to fill the emptiness inside you with passing pleasures – with even greater emptiness of sin. Do you thirst for life? “Come to me all you who thirst” (John 7:37). I will satisfy you and fill you. Do you thirst to be cherished? I cherish you more than you can imagine to the point of dying on the cross for you.

I thirst for you. Yes, that is the only way to even begin to describe my love of you: I thirst for you. I thirst to love and to be loved by you, that is how precious you are to me. I thirst for you. Come to me, and fill your heart and heal your wounds.

If you feel unimportant in the eyes of the world, that matters not at all. For me, there is no one more important in the entire world than you. I thirst for you. Open to me, come to me, thirst for me, give me your life – and I will  prove to you how important you are to my heart.

No matter how far you may wander, no matter how often you forget me, no matter how many crosses you may bear in this life, there is one thing I want you to remember always, one thing that will never change: I thirst for you – just as you are. You don’t need to change to believe in my love, for it will be your belief in my love that will change you. You forget me, and yet I am seeking you every moment of the day – standing at the door of your heart, and knocking.

Do you find this hard to believe? Then look at the cross, look at my heart that was pierced for you. Have you not understood my cross? Then listen again to the words I spoke there – for they tell you clearly why I endured all this for you: I thirst (John 19:28). Yes, I thirst for you – as the rest of the Psalm verse which I was praying says of me: “I looked for love, and found none” (Psalm 69:20).

All your live I have been looking of your love – I have never stopped seeking to love and be loved by you.  You have tried many other things in your search for happiness; why not try opening your heart to me, right now, more than you ever have before.

Whenever you do open the door of your heart, whenever you come close enough, you will hear me say to you again and again, not in mere human words but in spirit: “No matter what you have done, I love you for your own sake.”

Come to me with your misery and your sins, with your trouble and needs, and with all your longing to be loved. I stand at the door of your heart and knock. Open to me, for I thirst for you.


I thirst for you, by Mother Theresa quoted in “Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter.”

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The things that crucified Jesus

Dachau Crucifix, Ryan Duek

Good Friday approaches, and still it is difficult to understand the conditions that made it possible for Jesus to be crucified.

Morton Kelsey reflects on the banality of evil when he considers the things that crucified Jesus:

They were not the wild viciousness or sadistic brutally of naked hate, but the civilized vices of cowardice, bigotry, impatience, timidity, falsehood, indifference – vices we all share, the very vices which crucify human beings today.

This destructiveness within us can seldom be transformed until we squarely face it in ourselves. This confrontation often leads us into the pit. The empty cross is planted there to remind us that suffering is real but not the end. that victory is possible if we strive on.


The Cross and the Cellar, by Morton T. Kelsey quoted in “Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter

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The Key Ceremony

Image from “dreamstime.com”

Shelter Canada” provides the opportunity for more than building houses in El Salvador, it provides connection and relationship. It is no small thing to provide a clean livable space for a family who may have lost theirs to no fault of their own – who may not have the wherewithal to start again. But a house on its own is merely material; a home is full of life.

Recently friends of mine returned from what is becoming their annual contact with people they have come to love.  One of the events at the end of building a home is what is known as “the key ceremony.” In one sense it completes the project, but in a more profound sense, it is a touching observance that sets the stage for the family’s next chapter of life:

The Key Ceremony by Krista Scott

Without a doubt the key ceremony is my favorite day of the week with Shelter. Typically taking place on the Friday of the week, some time has passed between meeting the families, building for the families, and reuniting with the families at the key ceremony. Often times this is the only time that every individual who will be living in the house is present with the teams. Because it is a significant day, people often try to get a day off work or come in from the field to receive the keys for their new home. Each family shows up in their best attire. It’s fun to see the girls in their dresses and sparkly shoes, the boys with hair slicked back or spiked up, the moms in their good blouse and the dads all cleaned up and looking somber and official. The gravity of the situation is punctuated by these small formalities.

When our eyes meet there is a recognition, a familiarity that instantly rings of friendship. Kids come running with hugs. Moms give warm smiles and dads stand and nod. Hands are extended and ‘Dios te Bendiga’ is exchanged among new friends. The community leaders buzz around ensuring that each family has arrived. The local church sets to work sweeping and setting up chairs, a children’s program is assembled, amps and instruments are plugged in and mics are tested. There is an excitement about what is to come.

At the front on a table rests 8 bibles, each topped by a set of keys.

Worship music erupts in Salvadoran decibels and everyone takes their place. Worship. A good message preached by Sister Fatima on loving your neighbor. She defines the moment by recognizing that Canadians don’t come build houses because we are all multi millionaires. We are not. We come build houses because Jesus has invited us to love our Salvadoran brothers and sisters. She asks who will invite Jesus into your new home? Hands go up. Prayers go up with them. English prayers. Spanish prayers. All speaking love with no translation required.

And then we are all at the front. The Canadians lined up on one side of the table holding ‘the wisdom book’ [Bible] and the keys. During the ceremony a member of our team will speak to a family before presenting the Bible and keys. The family also speaks to the team. One husband said thank you for the house – but the real thing of value is ‘the wisdom book’.  I couldn’t agree more. Perspective.

The translator is front and centre. Each Bible and keys are handed to one of our team and we take turns speaking truth to one another. English. Translation. Spanish. Translation. Smiling. Nodding. Crying. Hugging. Shaking hands. Bibles and keys are presented. The message that we hear time and time again… ‘Gloria Dios’, ‘Gracias’, ‘Dios te Bendiga’. We smile and say ‘You’re welcome’ because that’s polite. We know our place. Because of their grateful hearts, God gets the glory and we get the thanks. It is as it should be.

We are all called together for prayer and consecration of the home. Sister Fatima brings out a bucket of goods. There is one for each family. She begins to go through the bucket, taking out items, speaking of the provision and protection of Jesus:

The house, she explains, represents God. We are always the safest when we are with Him. The keys then, she explains are Jesus. They work only for your own personal house. Your keys cannot open your neighbor’s house. They are very important. You must not lose the keys. The Bible is the manual. For the house, for life, for everything. We must read it if we want to know how to live fully.

More prayers. Spanish. English. More hugs and handshakes. Buckets are distributed and children run to burst piñatas as our hearts explode.


For more information go to: “Shelter Canada.

For more on the simple homes that are built see: “Shelter Canada: Home.

To gain insight on how your well-meaning helpfulness can actually be hurtful, see this brief and pithy video: “Helping Without Hurting.”


Krista Scott works in her spheres of influence to enrich her communities for the common good and for the glory of God. She is a host of relationships, including a friend, and she is among the most articulate people I know.

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