Much thanks to Carol Varsalona, who sent me a lovely digital journal for the Summer Poetry Swap. Here are some screen grabs of it:
Jone Rush MacCulloch is hosting the roundup today. Check out what everyone is posting!
1 hour ago
Here's a taste: "He'd elected to look after me himself. I'd been pondering this, and concluded that there must be some people for whom difficult behavior wasn't a reason to end their relationship with you. If they liked you - and, I remembered, Raymond and I had agreed that we were pals now - then, it seemed, they were prepared to maintain contact - even if you were sad, or upset, or behaving in very challenging ways. This was something of a revelation."
Here's a taste: "This was how you did it, how you raised children. You built them a house that was impervious to danger and then you gave them every single thing that they could ever want, no matter how impossible. You read to them at night. Why couldn't people figure this out?"
Here's a sample: "The evacuation had torn a hole in the narrative. The missionary confidence that we were hope-bearers, shining with Christ's love had been replaced with a fundamental uncertainty: Were we even wanted? There was a palpable sense of failure in the room."A bonus for me in reading this book was meeting the character Suzette Goss-Geffrard, a person I have met in real life. At a time when everyone is reflecting on social media about their experiences with racism, I think about working with Suzette as a colleague at the school where I teach here in Haiti. At that point in my life I had lived only a few years in the United States, and I understood very little about the history of racial issues and what it was like to live there as a person with dark skin. I also thought I understood it all, having grown up in Kenya. Suzette very patiently and kindly undertook my education, and explained many things to me which I very much needed to hear. In this book she comes across as a fantastic teacher, the first one to tell the author that she would be a writer. For me she was a fantastic teacher too, and though I very rarely see her these days, I am grateful to her.
Here's a sample from this book: "We say that the world is made of sea and land, as though they were equal; but we know that there is more sea in the Western than in the Eastern hemisphere. We say that the firmament is full of stars, as though it were equally full; but we know that there are more stars under the Northern than under the Southern pole. We say the elements of man are misery and happiness, as though he had an equal proportion of both, and the days of man vicissitudinary, as though he had as many good days as ill, and that he lived under a perpetual equinoctial, night and day equal, good and ill fortune in the same measure. But it is far from that; he drinks misery, and he tastes happiness; he mows misery, and he gleans happiness; he journeys in misery, he does but walk in happiness; and, which is worst, his misery is positive and dogmatical, his happiness is but disputable and problematical: all men call misery misery, but happiness changes the name by the taste of man."Vicissitudinary. I mean, you have to love that, right?
"I have found it very important in my own life," Nouwen writes, "to try to let go of my wishes and instead to live in hope. I am finding that when I choose to let go of my sometimes petty and superficial wishes and trust that my life is precious and meaningful in the eyes of God something really new, something beyond my own expectations begins to happen for me. To wait with openness and trust is an enormously radical attitude toward life. It is choosing to hope that something is happening for us that is far beyond our own imaginings. It is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life. It is living with the conviction that God molds us in love, holds us in tenderness, and moves us away from the sources of our fear."
Here he quotes Psalm 69: "'Save me, O God...I have come into deep waters. In...your steadfast love,...rescue me...from the deep waters.' Under threat, ... this psalm refuses to host the idea that chaos is limitless. The very act of the prayer is an affirmation that watery chaos has limits, boundaries, and edges, because the waters butt up against the power of God. ... We are not watching simply the unbounded power of chaos savage the earth. We are rather watching chaos push to its extreme limit, doing its worst, most destructive work, and spending itself without finally prevailing. The psalm invites us to honesty about the threat. More than that, however, the psalm is buoyant in its conviction that all around the chaos, guarding its rise, monitoring its threat, is the counterpower of life, only haunting and shadowing, not too soon evident, but abidingly there. This voice of faith acknowledges the chaos, but then submits it to the larger power of God. So Jesus in that supreme moment of threat, does not yield, but announces in evangelical triumph, 'It is finished.' It is decided! It is accomplished! It is completed in triumph!"Brueggemann is talking about Good Friday here, and in that story the worst happens. Jesus really does die. But it turns out that Good Friday doesn't have the last word.
"But what to do midst the threat?" he goes on. "Do what believing and trusting Jews and Christians have always done. Refuse the silence, reject despair, resist the devastating, debilitating assault of chaos, and speak a counterspeech. This psalm is not simply a passive, pious act of trust in God. It is rather a bold, abrasive speech that addresses God in the imperative, and in the utterance of the imperative, puts chaos on notice that we will not yield, will not succumb, will not permit the surging of chaos to define the situation. ... God comes into the deep waters at the behest of the faithful who watch in the night and who know that chaos is not normal, and must not be docilely accepted."I could go on quoting, but I highly recommend you find Brueggemann's Collected Sermons and read them all. (And by the way, when I was looking for that link to his sermons, I found out he's published a book about the virus already - it came out at the end of April. I don't know anything about the book but I'm betting it's good. Here it is.)
As I pondered over "deep waters," I heard this other text in which God assures:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you. Isaiah 43:1b-2a
This promise is that God will come to be in the waters with us, submitting to the chaos, and by submitting, transforming the waters. So we dare imagine that Jesus did not die abandoned on Friday. As he submitted to the sweeping, surging waters, his God and parent were present in the chaos, thereby transforming the waters into a place of rescuing communion. ...
The world now waits to see whether the faithful church can enter its Friday of chaos, enter in hope and resistance, to trust enough to let the threat become the home of rescue. The transformation requires profound faith and high hutzpah. How dare anyone under such threat say in triumph, "It is finished!"? Such nerve called trust causes the waters to recede, and life in all its fruitfulness may begin again, on Friday toward Sunday. (From a sermon preached by Walter Brueggemann on Good Friday, 1992, at All Saints Episcopal Church in Atlanta.)