Posts Tagged ‘random’

Dear Readers,

My book is finally available in print on Amazon after a long delay. My father wanted me to finish this project, so I have completed it as a tribute to him.

You can view it at this link:

Drifting into the Divine

It’s also still available on Kindle if that is better for you.

Please feel free to send me a note about your reading experience if you wish, and pray that my story will benefit someone on their own spiritual journey.

Peace & Grace,

Olive ♥

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I want to thank those of you who have continued to drop into my site during my absence. I have not been able to write much due to family matters & health concerns, but your notes and visits have meant a great deal to me.

During the past month, I have finally been able to work on the print version of my book. My father intended to help me with it, but his time on Earth was cut short, so I have added some chapters in his memory. In a short time, the book will be available on Amazon. I will let you know when it is ready. Please pray that God will be pleased with it and that it might help someone along their spiritual journey.

Please continue to pray for me and I will do the same for you.

Peace & Grace,

Sister Olive ~♥~

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The Last Dance

“No matter how close to yours another’s steps have grown, in the end there is one dance you’ll do alone.” -Jackson Browne

My birthday was yesterday, and it was my first one without my father. He would have sent me photographs or a music video, or called me from Spain for the occasion. I missed that, but I wore his scarf to remember the scent of him.

I often think of how he and my mother ushered me into this wild dance of life. He would tell me the story laughingly, of how he drove my mother to the hospital and they helped her onto a stretcher, and left him in the waiting room. She was so ready, that before they could wheel her down the hall into a room, I was suddenly born. The doctor turned the stretcher around, called for my father and showed him my fat little body squirming and crying. I was 11 pounds and 2 ounces they tell me! I have always tried not to hurt anyone and I suppose on that single occasion, I succeeded. Her labor was over just like that. I was so fat, my father said, that my forehead was folded and almost covering my eyes. I had arrived in my usual style, clumsy and overly dramatic.

When I think of my father, it saddens me that I was not there to take his hand and usher him out of this world as he had ushered me in. I didn’t know it was his time while I was dreaming about Christmas with him in Spain. He departed just after Easter on my son’s birthday.

My mother and I still talk of him. She says he was quite a dancer. I believe that he was and I like to imagine it. I can see them scooting across a wooden floor in our living room, she in a lilac dress with a thick corn silk braid flowing to her waist, and soft flat lavender shoes. He is wearing a light saffron shirt with rolled up sleeves and a hickory vest, black pants and tai chi shoes. Her swan-like arms lay across his amber elbows; one hand rests on his shoulder and strokes his espresso hair. She is soft as bread and he is spicy like cinnamon. Their eyes of blue and brown dance together like water and wood.

But the curtain begins to close, the music is fading and I can’t quite hear the song. I  barely hear soft shoes and gentle high and deep voices on the dance floor. They will always dance together within the red satin lining of my music box heart.

 

 

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My father lives in a different world than me.

He lives in Mallorca, Spain and the traditions are different in many ways. I always like to hear of the festivities for different occasions, so I sent an email asking him about Christmastide, and whether they decorate Christmas trees.  I received this long message which I want to pass on to my readers, complete with links and photos.  I am especially amazed by the snowflake lights.  At the bottom of the post you can listen to the song my father refers to in this message, sung by a child.

I hope you all have a meaningful Christmas celebration in honor of the Son of God who came to Earth to save us all.

Shalom,

Sister Olive

~♥~

Dear Dottir,

In the last decade or so, yes, Christmas trees, Santa Claus, elves and any commercialization possible has taken over.  Even here in this small village, in the little plaza up in town there is a Christmas tree with decorations.

Before this northern invasion, Christmas Eve was celebrated in the church, or quietly in the home, no tree, no gifts just a celebration of the birth and the mother.  Here on Mallorca and in Catalunya, they had another very strange custom. A young child sings the Sybila, a song of the Judgment Day. You can read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Song_of_the_Sibyl 

I have heard it sung many times over the years, because when I directed the church choir we were up in the organ loft, waiting for our turn to sing various Christmas songs from the region.  It is a haunting melody, very difficult for a child to sing, so they practice it for weeks before, no accompaniment of any kind, just that pure “white voice” as they call unchanged voices here. Here it is sung in a little church by a woman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfirOs1RGIc

In the Cathedral of Palma they make a real production of it, with full choir, organ and a young woman singing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aYV_Kqv44g– these may be beautiful, but I prefer the single child in the Deya church, innocently singing about the end of the world.  Every year a different child is chosen.

Before also, the decorations were basically “nerulas” or white paper cutouts like snowflakes, hung across the nave of the church and in houses.  The streets still are blazoned with lights, as traditionally – I first saw them in Barcelona in 1969 and was amazed. Take a look https://www.google.es/search?q=christmas+lights+in+Barcelona&hl=en&tbo=u&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ei=nZfRULDuGOyY0QWeuICoBA&ved=0CEMQsAQ&biw=1024&bih=614

As for myself, you know me – Stephanie and I would sometimes walk and look at the world, especially the stars which are exceptionally bright in winter, just appreciating Creation, perhaps lamenting its ultimate passing…

I will be doing that alone this year for sure, and will send my love to you all.  What I see from my balcony is this:

 Poppy's Window View

Where Chopin stayed in 1838 for the winter, so I have good company.

At night it is lit up, blocking the stars until late, when they are turned off.

 Poppy's View at Night

What will you be doing?  Have you found a compatible church where you can enjoy the songs of Christmas?

Lots of love,

Poppy

~♥~

Here is the link for the solo sung by a child, my favorite of the versions so far:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nANDw8XOHhU

 ~♥~

The Song of the Sibyl

On the Day of Judgment
The good go to heaven for their services.

An eternal King cometh
Dressed in our mortal flesh
He certainly will come from heaven
To judge the century.

Before the judgment is passed
A great sign will show itself
The sun will lose its shine
The earth will tremble with fear.

Then comes a mighty thunder
The sign of a great anger
In a hellish confusion
Rays and cries resound.

A great fire will fall from the sky
In a stench of sulfur
And the earth will burn furiously
And a great terror afflict people.

Then comes the terrible signal
A major earthquake
The rocks will break
And the mountains will collapse.

Then nobody will have gold pieces
Silver or wealth
And all await sentencing.

Death will leave you penniless
And all collide
Only men remain crying
And sadness will cover the world.

The plains and peaks are all the same
Good and bad will be achieved
Kings, dukes, earls and barons
They will have to account for their actions.

And then comes, unexpected
The son of God Almighty
He will judge the living and the dead
The good go to heaven.

The Unborn
Cry from the wombs of their mothers
And with her cries say
“Help us God Almighty”

Mother of God, pray for us
You, the Mother of All Sins
You have the judgment merciful
You have that paradise is open to us.

You who have heard it all
Pray to God with devotion
With all your heart and fervor
That should save us.

 ~♥~

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Title page of the First Folio, 1623. Copper en...

“Some say that ever ‘gainst that season comes

Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated,

The bird of dawning singeth all night long.

And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad.

The nights are wholesome. Then no planets strike,

No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,

So hallowed and so gracious is that time.”

 

Hamlet, Act I, Scene I

~♥~

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“Since my earliest childhood a barb of sorrow has lodged in my heart. As long as it stays I am alive, if it is pulled out I shall die.”

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“We all long for Eden, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most human, is still soaked with the sense of exile.”

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“I wished to show, in little Oliver, the principle of Good surviving through every adverse circumstance, and triumphing at last.”
~ preface to Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
I came across this amazing research essay called “Oliver Twist: Divine Child” and it fascinated me because I have always identified with Oliver, and this only reminded me of the many spooky correlations with my own life. Many of the characters even bear resemblance to people from my own story. Check it out if you are interested here: http://www.academia.edu/2631456/Oliver_Twist_Divine_Child_A_Jungian_interpretation 
I hope that the author will let me know if if there are any issues with me copying the link here…
 
Peace be with you,
Olive ~♥~

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Happy Father’s Day to the music man of Mallorca…

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IF

Poppy

Love, Dottir ~

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Salt of the Earth

Atheism, true ‘existential’ atheism, burning with hatred of a seemingly unjust or unmerciful God is a spiritual state; it is a real attempt to grapple with the true God Whose ways are so inexplicable even to the most believing of men, and it has more than once been known to end in a blinding vision of Him Whom the real atheist truly seeks. It is Christ Who works in these souls. The Antichrist is not to be found in the deniers, but in the small affirmers, whose Christ is only on the lips. Nietzsche, in calling himself Antichrist, proved thereby his intense hunger for Christ.

* This excerpt is from “Nihilism” by Eugene (later Fr. Seraphim) Rose

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It was very interesting trying to reblog this on both of my sites, but I finally succeeded…

Originally posted on Salt of the Earth:

Fr. Seraphim Rose of Platina Fr. Seraphim Rose of Platina

What, more realistically, is this “mutation,” the “new man”? He is the rootless man, discontinuous with a past that Nihilism has destroyed, the raw material of every demagogue’s dream; the “free-thinker” and skeptic, closed only to the truth but “open” to each new intellectual fashion because he himself has no intellectual foundation; the “seeker” after some “new revelation,” ready to believe anything new because true faith has been annihilated in him; the planner and experimenter, worshipping “fact” because he has abandoned truth, seeing the world as a vast laboratory in which he is free to determine what is “possible”; the autonomous man, pretending to the humility of only asking his “rights,” yet full of the pride that expects everything to be given him in a world where nothing is authoritatively forbidden; the man of the moment, without conscience or values and thus at the mercy…

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Fr. Seraphim Rose of Platina Fr. Seraphim Rose of Platina

What, more realistically, is this “mutation,” the “new man”? He is the rootless man, discontinuous with a past that Nihilism has destroyed, the raw material of every demagogue’s dream; the “free-thinker” and skeptic, closed only to the truth but “open” to each new intellectual fashion because he himself has no intellectual foundation; the “seeker” after some “new revelation,” ready to believe anything new because true faith has been annihilated in him; the planner and experimenter, worshipping “fact” because he has abandoned truth, seeing the world as a vast laboratory in which he is free to determine what is “possible”; the autonomous man, pretending to the humility of only asking his “rights,” yet full of the pride that expects everything to be given him in a world where nothing is authoritatively forbidden; the man of the moment, without conscience or values and thus at the mercy…

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I was very pleased to find this blog and particularly this article! I had written about the Holy Week traditions in Mallorca where my father lives, and how sad it is that in our “land of liberty” we are not allowed to openly celebrate our religion. I hope you enjoy this reblog!

Peace be with you, Olive

The Mallorca Photo Blog

Today, Mallorca celebrates Diumenge des Ram (Palm Sunday), the first day of the dramatic and rather compelling Easter processions, commemorating the entering of Jesus in Jerusalem. Traditionally, on this day, blessed olive branches or dried palm leaves are handed out to the church goers attending the morning mass. This evening, the first of the Easter processions will be held in Palma with the attendance of all the Confrarias (confraternities, or brotherhoods). Last Friday, all of Palma’s Confrarias held their first procession of this year’s Easter proceedings (see photo below), simply manifesting their attendance this year.

Easter processions in Mallorca usually involve hooded cloaks whilst some involve chains, mock flagellation and bare feet. This week, there are also Vía Crucis or Vía Dolorosa (The Bearing of the Cross) processions and theatrical Passion Play performances, Davallaments, Enterraments and vigils.

One of the more vivid Easter processions is the Processó del Silenci

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I know an elder who used to tell me that thoughts are like birds that fly over your head.  You have no control over them, but you can prevent them from building a nest in your hair.  I always liked that analogy, and I seem to have more birds fly over than I can handle.  They come when I least expect them, sometimes in flocks and sometimes one at a time. So I just write about them.  Today this silly little bird flew over and reminded me about the nondenominational cookies.

English: Plateful of Christmas CookiesWhen I was employed at a bank some time ago, I had co-workers of many different beliefs. One of them did not believe in celebrating holidays.  So another young lady from a Baptist church came in one day with fancy home-baked Christmas cookies to give to everyone.  When she approached the woman who didn’t celebrate such occasions, she set the little plate of cookies down politely in her window.  She said with a smile “I know you don’t celebrate Christmas, but these cookies are nondenominational.”  The two women smiled and spoke politely to each other  and I enjoyed watching the meekness and affection between them.

I wish more people had that recipe and baked those nondenominational cookies.  They look prettier on the plate because they are not all the same kind. They taste better because they are seasoned to perfection, they are softer, and they don’t bite back.

~♥~

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English: hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com Good_ki...

Some of my happiest Christmas memories are of times spent Christmas caroling with the Quakers.  I remember one chilly December night when a group of Friends gathered at the meetinghouse in San Jose, California before getting bundled up  in coats and scarves and mittens, then we all stepped out  to sing carols to people in several neighborhoods.

We walked merrily down the sidewalk house-to-house and stopped in front of each doorstep to sing, and many people opened their doors gratefully to listen and smile. I remember the blinking Christmas lights in the windows and the cold breeze on my cheeks and the glowing lamp posts along our path. It was invigorating and peaceful as we went a-wassailing.  In our group of carolers, we took turns letting people pick out their favorite songs.  I always loved “Good King Wenceslas” and “Here We Come A-Wassailing” and “I Saw Three Ships.”

After we had caroled outside for some time, we drove to a nearby care home for the elderly and walked through the hallways. We joined up in a social hall full of residents and continued to sing happily.

One elderly gentleman wearing his pajamas and sitting in a wheelchair seemed especially moved by the music and soon wheeled over to a kind Quaker man named Larry Wolfe, who without hesitation invited the man to join us for a Christmas party at the home of another Quaker fellow.  The resident asked Larry to approach a nurse, who helped sign him out for the evening, and Larry brought him to our post-caroling celebration.  The old man was teary-eyed with joy for the entire evening eating holiday food and sipping spiced cider while someone played the piano and friends laughed and talked.  Because I was familiar with the compassion of Larry, I’m sure it was not the last time he and the old man spent together.

I wonder if caroling is illegal by now, like so many of our former religious freedoms. I have tried for several years now to find a church that still practices the tradition of Christmas caroling in public, and have even tried unsuccessfully to coordinate a group of carolers. People make all kinds of excuses such as they can’t sing in tune or they’re too busy with their family or whatever. But the truth is that we are so self-absorbed these days, trapped in our computers and technology and our own individual versions of the American dream, that we have no time for such things anymore.

Whenever I cut on the TV and see carolers on a Christmas special, I long for those days when real people did things together face-to-face and not through digital devices such as the one I am communicating through right now.

I wish we could all coordinate non-digital days to encourage more real human socialization, so that everything meaningful in our culture is not sacrificed upon the altar of technology.

Peace and Grace,

Sister Olive

~♥~

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My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken Me?” Matthew 27: 46

Diary of a Country Priest

Diary of a Country Priest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night I watched the French film, Diary of a Country Priest, and though it was pretty dreary and dark for the most part, there were moments that held great meaning for me. To provide you with a brief summary, the story is of a young priest who moves into a village where he is not well-received and he experiences poor health and many spiritual battles. From the beginning, he is told by an older priest that a true  priest does not expect to be loved, and also understands that all of his agonizing labors during the day are undone during the night. The young priest experiences alienation from the people he wants to bless and minister to.

As a believer, I was able to immediately identify with this young priest and his inner battles. The most powerful moment for me is after the priest concludes that God has left him and that he can no longer pray because everything in his being is fighting it, and he is thoroughly disillusioned and weary. The older priest comes to him and says that if the soul could possibly drag the body back two thousand years to be with Christ for a moment, it would carry him to one place- the olive grove. At that moment, the younger priest began to weep as he felt God’s grace fall upon him. He realized that Christ was sharing His Gethsemane experience with him- he called it “holy agony.”

That resonated with me very deeply because it is our human nature to want all of the good things but no unpleasantries- no sweat, tears, or anguish. As a believer, I would like to always be ministering and blessing people and experiencing God’s presence near me. But even Christ had to experience isolation, abandonment, and dreadful loneliness.

It made me wonder if I have been merely a “fair weather friend” to Christ or a sincere disciple. With an acquaintance, I can only share the surface of my life. But with my closest friends, I can reveal the deepest joys and agonies of my soul. So shouldn’t I feel privileged that Christ should share His deepest torments with me?

He wants us to heal and minister and share the gospel and be bold in our spiritual walk. But He also calls us to hunger and the temptation in the desert, rejection by people we love, and even the cross. The early disciples understood this and rejoiced when they were able to partake in Christ’s mental and physical suffering.

I am thankful that I have a whole new perspective today!

Peace be with you,

Sister Olive

~♥~

 

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The subject of mental dysfunction and depression is addressed by Joan Didion in “The White Album” and F. Scott Fitzgerald in “The Crack-Up”. Their treatment of this subject is similar and distinctive in several ways. Fitzgerald and Didion both reflect back to the time when they first realized that something was going awry in their minds, but Fitzgerald writes in a more straightforward and analytical manner about himself. He uses metaphor and humor more often, and Didion uses more physical description of objects and people to depict what is going on inside her mind.

 
In Fitzgerald’s essay, he writes about a nervous breakdown with an expository style, comparing his mental state to a broken plate. He tells the reader with startling honesty: “-And then, ten years this side of forty-nine, I suddenly realized that I had prematurely cracked” (140). Then he gradually reveals the details of his mental state:

I saw that for a long time I had not liked people and things, but only followed the rickety old pretense of liking. I saw that even my love for those closest to me was only an attempt to love….in the same month, I became bitter about such things as the sound of the radio, the advertisements in magazines, the screech of tracks, the dead silence of the country…hating the night when I couldn’t sleep and hating the day because it went toward night. (142)

He looks back at the warning signs that he did not recognize at the time, very clearly portraying the torments that he was experiencing, with such clarity that it almost makes the reader want to draw back, and examine whether they are familiar with such feelings. Then he describes how he began to feel a sense of worthlessness, and again uses the plate metaphor in a poignant fashion:

Sometimes, though, the cracked plate has to be retained in the pantry, has to be kept in service as a household necessity. It can never again be warmed on the stove nor shuffled with the other plates in the dishpan; it will not be brought out for company, but it will do to hold crackers late at night or to go into the ice box under leftovers. (144)

He is amazingly artful in his use of a common household object to depict himself as feeling inadequate for everyday purposes and ambitions, and it makes the reader feel sadness for the broken plate. The plate becomes almost a Disney animated character with feelings similar to “The Brave Little Toaster.”

 
Fitzgerald describes the middle of the night anxieties that are common to most humans when he writes “But at three o’clock in the morning, a forgotten package has the same tragic importance of the death sentence, and the cure doesn’t work- and in a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day” (144). This passage actually has shock effect, because the reader is brought to the horrible realization that some people experience the three o’clock a.m. agonies throughout every day. In the same expository style, he informs the reader that “Trouble has no necessary connection with discouragement- discouragement has a germ of its own, as different from trouble as arthritis is different from a stiff joint” (146). He clarifies his own condition so well, making it evident that this species of discouragement is totally irrational and based on anxieties that have no rational basis. Then he says in a humorous tone, “I have the sense of lecturing now, looking at a watch on the desk before me and seeing how many more minutes-” (147). This humor is much needed at this point in his essay, because by now the reader is feeling very labored and distressed, and needs a bit of lightness. The watch also seems to connote an attempt to regain some control of his environment by measuring the time.

 
Joan Didion also writes as one looking back upon the years when her mental struggles began to manifest themselves. She said that it all started with her beginning to question all of the things that she had held true:

I am talking here about a time when I began to doubt the premises of all the stories I had ever told myself, a common condition but one I found troubling. I suppose this period began around 1966 and continued until 1971. During those five years, I appeared, on the face of it, a competent enough member of some community or another… (421)

The vagueness of her sentences creates a feeling that truth was becoming blurry to her, that nothing is really clear any more. She visits a psychiatrist and supplies the reader with his findings:

Patient’s thematic productions on the Thematic Apperception Test emphasize her fundamentally pessimistic, fatalistic, and depressive view of the world around her. It is as though she feels deeply that all human effort is foredoomed to failure, a conviction which seems to push her further into a dependent, passive withdrawal. (423)

She is expository in a way that is similar to Fitzgerald, but she describes her depression and anxiety without the metaphor or humor. However, she later uses language to present her confusion and growing paranoia in a fashion that engages the reader with dislocated scenes and events. In this segment, she describes a night when The Doors came to her house to practice before cutting an album:

There were three of the Four Doors. There was the bass player borrowed from the Clear Light. There were the producer and engineer and the road manager and a couple of girls and a Siberian husky named Nikki with one gray eye and one gold. There were paper bags half filled with hard-boiled eggs and chicken livers and cheeseburgers and empty bottles of apple juice and California rosé. There was everything and everybody The Doors needed to cut the rest of this third album except one thing, the fourth Door…(428)

The reader is entangled in this twisted collage of mismatched people and foods and the sense of disorder. The two colors of the eyes of the husky, the empty bottles, and the half-filled bags all seem to connote the growing vacuum of confusion and tension in the mind of the author. It also creates a strong sense of the time period and a subliminal feeling of being on mind-altering drugs.

 
As a reporter, Didion often had to prepare for travel on the spur of the moment. She describes a travel list that she kept on hand during this time, a list of things to collect before she departed on her frequent trips:

It should be clear that this was a list made by someone who prized control, yearned after momentum, someone determined to play her role as if she had the script, heard her cues, knew the narrative. There is on this list one significant omission, one article I needed and never had: a watch….I didn’t know what time it was. This may be a parable, either of my life as a reporter during this period or of the period itself. (438)

Here again is the watch, the symbol of control over one’s environment. This passage bears a resemblance to Fitzgerald, in that it depicts that the author is slipping into instability and a terrifying loss of control. The missing watch is an effective metaphor to recount a restless and chaotic time, and the author’s feeling that she was a victim of this time period in many ways.

 
The styles of both Didion and Fitzgerald allow the reader to go inside their minds and feel their pain and hopelessness. While Didion writes with an unpredictable style that creates a colorful collage of experiences, Fitzgerald is more analytical and stays on a set course in his writing.

Works Cited

The Best American Essays of the Century. Ed. Joyce Carol Oates. New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 2000. Print.

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~♥~

The name Mediterranean is derived from the Latin mediterraneus, meaning “inland” or “in the middle of the land” (from medius, “middle” and terra, “land”). –Wikipedia

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Today marks the one-year anniversary of our beautiful trip to Mallorca, Spain to visit my lost-and-found father. So I have decided to re-post some of my series entitled Spanishoeprints.  At the top of the screen, you can also click on the page with the same title for an assortment of photographs and journal writings from our trip.

I will never forget that day when we looked out of the airplane window and saw Mallorca for the first time from the sky. First we saw the pure and blue Mediterranean sea, then what appeared to be Middle Earth in the art of Tolkien.

imagesIt was a magical three-dimensional game board- green and terracotta with the curves of stone streets and walls, the hammered out cliffs, the pencil lines of fields, square and triangular pastures, and the dots of sheep and almond trees.  The game pieces were steeples and palaces and monasteries set in spirals that rose gently with the slopes to the tops of mountains.

I will never forget that feeling of being a Hobbit in the Shire for three magical weeks with my father and my son. I still dream of the place and long for the time when I can return…Sometimes I try to pretend it wasn’t real because the hollowness I feel becomes almost unbearable. Please pray for me that I may continue to “follow the light unflinchingly”.

Peace & Grace,

“Sister Olive”

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~♥~

“A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

 

 

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 Poppy 3

“My father lives in Spain.” “My father is a science fiction author.” “My father founded an international music festival in Mallorca.” “My father tours in Europe with a chamber music orchestra.” “I love to hear my father play Spanish guitar.”
I love to tell people about my father, because I am a bit like Rumpelstiltskin. I try to spin the straw of my life into gold. During my childhood, my father’s letters came to me in thin red-and-white air mail envelopes from a village called Galilea. I thought it sounded like Galilee and imagined this to be symbolic somehow. I hoped it meant he would save me and take me to his world someday.
He would write that he lived in a villa near the cliffs of the Mediterranean Sea, and that from his open windows he could hear sheep bells tinkling and smell the apricot and almond groves. He would say that his friends were all writers, musicians, composers, and artists. When he sent photographs, I thought the island looked like Paradise beside the crystal sea.
He wrote that he wanted to come and take my sister and me from the orphanage to live with him and his new wife. I told all of the other girls in my cottage about my amazing father and his letters, and I began to envision him with legendary proportions. So when I watched television and saw certain dark-haired characters on the screen, I would replace their faces with my father’s. He became James West and The Lone Ranger and Zorro and The Count of Monte Cristo and The Fighting Prince of Donegal. I believed that he would come and rescue me from the horrors of my childhood. But he never did. He was only a charming mysterious stranger who made promises and never kept them. As the years swam past me like slippery fish, I realized that he would never arrive.

Poppy 5 (2)He didn’t arrive for my elementary or junior high years. He didn’t arrive when I dropped out of school. He showed up for a few days while I was living on the streets as a teenager, and then vanished again for years. He didn’t arrive for my wedding or college graduation or the birth of any of my sons. I knew he was out there in the fog somewhere, but I lost sight of his face in my mind.
Then suddenly during his recovery after his first heart attack he began to write to me, so I began to send questions to him about my childhood. I am not angry but I need to know who I am and who my parents are. So now he sends me emails whenever I send him questions. My first message was to find out about the car accident during my childhood, and this was his answer:

May ’60? Studebaker broke down, bought Chevy Bel Air Saturday, accident Sunday on the road to Apopka. Car salesman had lied, saying insurance was good until Monday, but not so. The drunks who ran into us were on their last binge before going into the US Army, no insurance. Chevy a total loss, but at least I managed to avoid killing the Negro children leaving their church just off the road.

He says that he left my mother in 1960 (when I was two) because he “unraveled” from all of their problems:

I had lost both my jobs, an unfortunate car wreck wiped us out financially, and I could see no way out. Of course, fate and the desire for literary and artistic adventure and travel, instilled in us all at university, these things sent me sailing away with Mari to Europe within a couple of years. (The last thing I remember in the house on Julian Street: you were looking out the window from your crib and said: Why is the moon blowing the clouds away?)

Soon after his departure, I was sent to a crippled children’s home in Florida had an operation and wore a full body cast for about a year. My father came to visit when I was there:

About this time (1960?), I made a visit to Florida from NY, and you were in Umatilla Children’s Hospital with braces between your ankles to straighten your hip joint. Your mother of course knows a lot more about this than I do. (You poor thing, all smiling, with a pleated light blue skirt, scooting around with fantastic energy and will.)

He also recalls visiting us in a one-room apartment where we stayed briefly with mother. I remember the place, but not his visit:

1961 Spring- visited you all in your grandfather’s garage apartment in Indialantic, soon after which I left New York for Paris.
Summer 62 – summer 64: I was in Europe and Turkey with Mari, until she had her nervous breakdown in Germany.

He came for Margaret and me during his second marriage, and we stayed with him in Missouri. He published his first story for a science fiction magazine while we were there.

I think in autumn 64 (maybe 65, since when we first returned, Mari spent several months in the Nevada Mental Hospital south of Kansas City) she and I drove to pick up you kids from the house in the country (NC?) You three spent part of that summer with us in Pleasant Hill, Mo.
December 1965 Analog published my first story: Countercommandment. I began writing sci-fi regularly, and when I had sold a few more, and when Mari was working and healthy again, I left for New York. (Her family did not like me, and blamed me for her breakdown.) A year later I went to Mexico for a divorce.

I asked my father where he was when we were placed in the custody of the state of North Carolina, and he replied:

In 1967-68 I was working for the Welfare Department in Brooklyn, caring for unwed mothers and abandoned families, ironically. My supervisor convinced me I could get custody of you guys. Shortly after that, my new wife and I visited you girls in NC, with a view to perhaps taking you with us when we got married (May 1968.)
By that time, not sure when, James was already adopted by your grandparents. When your mother learned my plan, she sent a telegram asking me please not to take you. She was about ready to bring you home with her, I guess.

This message made me rather downcast, because I believe things would have been much better for me and Margaret with our father, but we were destined to return to our mother instead. I ended up in Gainesville alone at the age of thirteen. My father appeared one day when I was living on the streets.

I visited you in Gainesville, staying with Grant. You said somewhere I turned you on to LSD on one of these visits – I always thought it was the other way around, though definitely I remember walking around Gainesville with you, stoned. You visited your trunk on somebody’s porch. I believe you were living in the woods? Reading Shakespeare and Chaucer? Learning guitar? Writing poetry? This is the way it comes to memory.

Wow! Did I really turn my father on to drugs for the first time? Maybe so, but I am sure he made the purchase. I asked him if he or my mother had ever experimented with drugs and he answered:

Your mother and I never used any drugs, did not smoke cigarettes, and only occasionally drank wine with a meal. I first smoked when I started working in night clubs, and drank the occasional Scotch. It wasn’t until I was caring for drug addicts in the NY welfare dept that I discovered marijuana, say in 1967-68.
As for the hippies, yippies, and yuppies, maybe, briefly, from 1968 to 1978: smoking dope, magic mushrooms, long hair, beard, improvising music and life in general. But that is behind me.

After my father’s visit in 1974, I did not see him again until he was appointed by the Spanish government to visit Saint Augustine in 1988. He claims to have lost track of me when I moved to Oregon to attend college, but I remember asking him to “give me away” at my wedding, and sending him birth announcements for each of his grandsons.

I lost track of you when you went to Oregon, or so I believe, and the next thing I knew you were married to a Quaker baker, and had children. When did all this happen? While I was in Galilea?

My father visited me in Saint Augustine during the Christmas holidays just before my sons had reached school age. He had never seen them. He kept hugging them and reading them stories and singing to them. He was just as charming as ever, with his slender body and warm resonant voice and goatee. He told us that he wanted to be part of our lives from then on and promised to keep in contact with us after he went back to Spain.
One night, he went out with a lady from the local cultural events committee and had a few drinks, and began to tell her about what a terrible father he had been to me. The lady quoted him as saying, “I can’t believe my daughter even lets me in the house or speaks to me. But she invites me in with a smile, and gives me homemade pumpkin pie, and lets me help decorate the Christmas tree. I just can’t stand it.”
During this visit my father told me his version of what happened during my childhood. He spoke again of the car accident and my hip defect and how the medical bills began to flood in. He said that while he was working all day and going to school in the evenings, my mother was busy hanging out with her friends. No food was ever prepared for him and the sink was always full of dishes and we were always in our cribs crying in our dirty diapers. After a long exhausting day he had to change our diapers and do dishes and find food to eat. So one night after the anger had been building in him for a long time he came home and found the sink full of dishes.
He called my mother into the kitchen and pulled a dish out of the sink and asked her, “Are you going to wash it?” She stared at him with those cold icy eyes that I know so well, and said nothing. He threw the dish on to the floor where it shattered. He picked up another dish and asked her again, “Are you going to wash this?” Again, no answer. He threw this one on the floor and continued until every dish was broken on the floor.
At least now I know where one of my tragic personality flaws came from. I cannot stand for a man to tell me what to do. Perhaps this is what was wrong with Eve in the garden. Maybe she resented Adam’s authority.
The night my father left he says that Margaret and I heard him threatening to leave our mother. So we tied his shoelaces together and hid his shoes. When he was ready to walk out he had to search for his shoes and untangle the knotted up laces. When I heard this I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry.
My father says that he returned a year or two later and tried to reconcile with Mother but it didn’t work out. But why did he throw his children away?
I am told that he had an abusive alcoholic father so perhaps he passed on the neglect he experienced as a boy. I am fairly certain we had two parents who did not wish to be parents.
My father was in Saint Augustine for a week or two and returned to Spain where he promptly forgot about us again for many years. My three sons are now in college and he still asks me their names whenever he gets around to calling. Now that he is elderly and his companion is gone he is in touch a bit more. He wants forgiveness but he can still be terribly insensitive.
I have tried to tell him that it’s never too late to start being a father. Once I became weary of him wounding me and cut off all communication with him for over a year. It was the first time he ever had to grovel for attention. During this time his email messages to me completely changed. He had always expected me to address him by his first name, but he started writing them with the greeting “Dear Daughter” and signed off with “Love, Papa.” He had never tasted his own poison before. The poison of neglect and loneliness.
My father tells me he has lived his life well and to its fullest. I have barely survived and suffered tremendously. I cannot imagine bringing children into this world and doing nothing for them in your whole life. I would hate to take that to my grave or to my God. I am not so angry with him now but I feel very sorry for him. He will become very lonely one of these nights. It is his karma.
In a recent telephone conversation my father said, “I feel so guilty because I have had such a good life but I have not been good. I didn’t deserve any of the things I’ve enjoyed. But if you live long enough your evil ways will catch up to you. Mine are catching up to me now.” I felt a warm wave of comfort splash upon the shores of my mind as he said these words to me, a feeling I cannot fully describe.
My father still cares about my mother and he always inquires about her. He loves to look at photos of her and he says that he will never forget the day that he climbed into the back seat of a friend’s car and met a woman with long blonde hair, a low-cut dress, and a classic face like a goddess. I asked my father if he and Mother were beatniks and he sent me this reply:

Well, it was the age of beatniks, all right. But I didn’t know that. When I hitched at age 17 from Florida to Michigan and on to Seattle, to go for a summer job working in the Coos Bay Lumber Camp in Oregon, I had no idea Kerouac was also on the road. And when the lumberjacks went on strike, I turned in my boots and bought the second book I ever bought, The Old Man and the Sea, which was brand new, and best of all, very short.
I went on to San Francisco, but when I went to the City Lights Bookstore, I didn’t know that Gregory Corso, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti and the whole bunch were going to be so important. I bought a couple of books, moved over to Berkeley Bowl to set pins in the alley for a couple of weeks before heading on back to Tallahassee to start college.
I did buy my clothes in the Army surplus, and copying a self-portrait of Van Gogh, wore a woolen cap and smoked a stub pipe, walking around the campus with my buddy David Wade, quoting Dylan Thomas to each other, and generally staying independent of all the usual college guy stuff.
Your mom was of the same ilk. She hung out with the art crowd, let the famous Karl Zerbe make a plaster cast of her face, and while he was at it, he pulled her top down, so she said. I wouldn’t blame him. She wore strapless elastic gingham dresses that tested gravity and the will power of mankind itself.

Now I address my father as “Poppy” because it implies both toxicity and endearment. Our communication is much better these days and because of him I know a few things about my parents that I can laugh about.

Poppy 2He still lives in Mallorca and had his first heart attack a couple of years ago while sitting at a café with a doctor. He had a quadruple bypass. After he was partially recovered he broke his foot while building a chicken coop outside his villa. Poppy says his lungs have only have forty-eight percent of their capacity. He is writing more nowadays. I received an email from him when he was finally able to go out for a walk and I replied that I wished we could take a walk together.
He answered my message with these words:

You are walking with me, in spirit. Hopefully one day again in the flesh. Just the two of us on a country road, or along a river, under autumn leaves on fire with the sunlight.
Poppy

IF

~♥~

 

Addendum to “Our Father Who Art in Spain”
Since the time that I completed this story in 2009, my father purchased two plane tickets for my eldest son and me to visit him in Spain. We spent three unforgettable weeks with him there, and I have written a series of journal writings called “Spanishoeprints” about our time together.

Poppy

~♥~

 

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I learned so much among the Spanish people, not only about civility which seems to be disappearing in my own nation, but about things that make life simpler and more pleasant.  I would never intentionally shed negative light on my own country, but we could learn so much if we would be more humble and listen to our friends from other places.  My father was a wonderful guide and explained many things to me as we wandered around different villages and cities.

image086

For example, I love the beautiful lace curtains that hang over the doorways in Spain, and it didn’t occur to me right away that I didn’t see any screened doors or windows.  My father explained that the lace is a more fashionable way of fulfilling the same purpose. When the doors are open, the lace keeps insects out of homes. Many of the people have beaded curtains, like the ones that were so popular in the hippie days in America. Flies and other insects can sense the motion of the beads in the breeze and it frightens them away.  And the homes are more aesthetically pleasing to look at without all of the screens.

One of the most pleasant features of Spain is the remarkable cleanliness of the place. The streets in even the larger cities like Barcelona were incredibly clean.  I never saw trash cans or litter drifting around while I was in there, because the business of trash disposal and collection occurs at night.  Metal hooks are set into the stone walls beside the doors, and the people place trash bags on the hooks at dusk for the trash collectors.

In the entire time that I was in Spain, I never sat at a table in a restaurant that had spills or crumbs on it.  Even in the airport McDonald’s, the tables were kept spotlessly clean and shiny. People seem to genuinely take pride in their villages and cities.

One taxi driver in Barcelona was beaming with pride as he explained to us about the best sites to see during our visit, and he pointed out his apartment as we drove by, remarking several times as he drove that he loved living in this beautiful city.  I don’t know that I have ever seen people take such pride in their places of habitation.  In America, we are proud of our own property, but Spaniards take pride in their whole community.

After a couple of weeks in Spain, it occurred to me that I had not seen any semi-trucks on the highways even in the cities.  My father explained that they transport merchandise at night, not in the daytime.

I saw a sign in the village square which showed a picture of a hand covered in chain mail, and I asked my father about it.  He told me that is was for the butcher shop. He explained that in Spain, a butcher is required by law to wear chain mail over the hand which is holding the meat when he cuts it.  It is not only a tradition but a matter of insurance liability. More importantly, it’s good sense.

My father asked me one night if we wanted to go to a tapas bar, and I glared at him and said “What?”  Then he repeated himself, and explained that tapas are appetizers or hors d’oeuvres.  In Spain you go out for tapas when you are not ready for a full meal but you need a little something to hold you over.  I love this concept because it saves the embarrassment of going in a restaurant when you only want soup or a salad and the waiter looks at you with annoyance as if to say “cheapskate” or “there goes my tip for this table.”

I noticed that many waiters wear arm bands above the elbow that resemble garter belts made of black satin.  So one day I inquired of a dashing young waiter, “Do your arm bands represent something, or do you wear them just to look nice?”  He answered, “We adjust the length of our sleeves with them, so that our cuffs don’t come in contact with the food we serve.” What a great idea! And they look much classier than rolled-up sleeves.

I saw mostly small cars in Spain, because they are economical and more suitable for the narrow roadways and easy parking.  I did not see the gigantic gas hogs driving around there like I am accustomed to seeing here.  The people are also smaller, and I rarely saw an obese person.  The competitive over-consumptive capitalistic spirit seems to be absent from the atmosphere.

Weapons don’t mean a thing to most Spaniards.  My father says that aggression takes place everywhere, but the Spanish people don’t like fighting.  In fact, he says they don’t like to place their hands on each other at all during an argument.  When they get angry with one another, they shout mostly, but seldom push or strike one another.

My father says that there is a strong sense of community in Spain, that
there is not an attitude of every man for himself, striving against the whole world.  Spaniards think in terms of every man for himself and his neighbor.  He said that Americans think this is communist, but it isn’t. Communism is every man for the government.  What could possibly be wrong with “love thy neighbor as thyself”?

There is no charge for medical care in Spain, and if you need antibiotics, you don’t need a prescription. You walk to the pharmacy and buy it complete with instructions on dosage, warnings, etc.  You are assigned a doctor based on where you live and from there to specialists if you need them.  Spain is fourth in quality of medical care in the world, and America is around thirty-two while the care is more costly than anywhere else. My father had a quadruple bypass surgery about two years ago, and paid nothing for his care. There goes that community spirit again.

People really enjoy being together is Spain. When you meet a friend at a restaurant, you don’t sit for an hour and get your ticket from a hurried waiter. You commune with your friends for hours over food and wine presented with style and kindness. No rude service there! My father says once you sit down at a table, it is yours as long as you like and no one will take it from you.

The cathedral bells there ring out the hours of the day, the church services, special holidays, and the deaths of villagers. I loved seeing the birds flying from the bell towers when they chimed. There are unique rings for each kind of event, and the bells toll differently to signify the passing of men or women or children.

I have been dreaming of Spain ever since our departure.  My son and I wandered around the beautiful Barcelona airport for an hour or so before our departure, shopping for last minute souvenirs and gifts.  The floors were so polished that I felt as if I was walking across a pond.

When we flew into the Atlanta airport, we looked out the windows and saw trash everywhere in and around dumpsters.  As we walked inside, we smelled the dismal smell of sweat and dirt.  We were so sad that this is what foreigners experience when they arrive in America.

When will we ever learn?

~♥~

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Excerpt from Frozen Tears: Part I

Of “This World is Not My Home: A Spiritual Journey”

~~ 

My brother and sister and I were all born in The Moon of the Snowblind, an unhappy month known for unpredictable weather, evil Ides, blustery winds, cold rains, and mischievous leprechauns. We were hurled headlong into a nightmare with no one to wake us up. If only we could have found and captured just one leprechaun and demanded three wishes, perhaps we might have acquired some of that Irish luck or a pot of gold, but there were no rainbows within our darkness.

Our mother was a yellow-haired enchantress who wore dangling orb earrings, tie-dyed dresses and crocheted sandals. She derived pleasure in casting her spells upon men of the cloth, and casting them aside.

Our father was a charming cellist of Cherokee descent, who loved melancholy women and chamber music. He wore shell necklaces and tapestry vests, and wrote short stories about legless hobo angels who traveled around in boxcars.

The three of us grew from pure sparkling seeds into distorted rootless trees.

A leprechaun counts his gold in this engraving...


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This post brought tears to my eyes, especially the song lyrics at the end, which really resonate with me in terms of my own personal experience. I’m sure that many of you will relate as well.
Shalom,
Sister Olive

dreamprayact

Twelve years ago, on the Second Sunday in Lent, at the church I was serving in Los Osos, California, I preached a sermon titled, “Love Took My Hand.” The sermon was based on the very familiar text of John 3:16, which reads, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” I have subsequently preached a revised edition of this sermon in my current church in Santa Maria, California, because so many people have responded positively to its underlying message of grace and hope!

The scripture text is almost too familiar. People of all stripes think they know clearly what it means. But my approach in the sermon was to make the words of John’s gospel very personal for myself and my listeners. I wanted us to consider how God searches for…

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Dear Readers and Seekers,

In October when I released my Kindle Book on Amazon, I gave them exclusive rights and removed all of my memoirs from this site.  But I have decided to post a few book samples for you to enjoy since that is not breaking their rules.

If you click on the “Memoirs” tab above, you can read the entire sample.  It contains excerpts from Part I, II, and III.

I have not been posting here very much lately for a variety of reasons, but I do appreciate you stopping by, and I try to visit your blogs on a regular basis as well.

Peace & Grace,

Sister Olive

~♥~

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Book Sample

From “This World is Not My Home:  A Spiritual Journey”

~~

Foreword by Sparrow

What a story! It’s like a combination of a Charles Dickens novel (as the author’s pseudonym suggests), an LL Cool J song and an R. Crumb comic. This picaresque tale centers on love and food, which are often intimately connected. Olive spent many years searching for both, on the creepy highways and streets of America, where exploiters and saints waited to harm or aid her.

I first met Olive in 1975 in Gainesville, Florida. A couple hundred of us drifters had gathered in the “hippest” town in Florida, where Tom Petty was (unbeknownst to us) turning up his guitar. Olive resembled three fairytale characters rolled into one: Goldilocks, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood. She had pretty golden hair, quiet blue eyes and high cheekbones. Always she wore purple (but did she own more than one purple outfit?). She lived nowhere, and was accompanied by Katy, her green-clad “Lady-in-Waiting.” Olive was a singular blend of courage, innocence and mordant wit. I never saw her wear shoes, and I remember the hardiness of her feet, like a peasant’s in a Bruegel painting.

I am Sparrow because of Olive. Another Michael had begun working at Mother Earth Natural Foods, where I bagged raisins and almonds in the back room. Someone would call, “Michael!” and both of us would rush up front. “One of you could be ‘Mike,'” Dorothy suggested. I already hated my name, but the one worse option was ‘Mike.’ So I visited the Princess of Love, humbly requesting a new identity. “You be Sparrow; you look like a sparrow” were her words; I remember them exactly. Sparrow is my name still. As “Sparrow,” I’ve been published six times in the New York Times.

I remember dancing with Olive to free concerts at the University of Florida. She moved her body like a giggling ghost. Rarely did our little group speak about our former lives. Rather we ate barley soup — cooked by Isabel — and laughed together. Only tonight, reading This World Is Not My Home, did I learn the true story of Olive Twist.

Sparrow

Phoenicia, NY

October, 2013

~~

Wounded but Winged

I am writing this story, because words have wings that lift me above sorrow. My story is not intended to blame, hurt, or offend anyone. It begins and ends with compassion, because forgiveness can take the angry and guilty thorns out of us and allow healing to begin. Everyone can benefit from forgiving and being forgiven. Through compassion, we are set free to redeem ourselves and others.

The larva of this story has twisted and languished inside its gloomy cocoon for years gnawing at the edges of my mind and awaiting release. A dark bruised butterfly comes forth with wicked truth, fluttering with tattered wings. If she lights upon you gently, I hope something good will come of it.

~~

Frozen Tears: Part I

My brother and sister and I were all born in The Moon of the Snowblind, an unhappy month known for unpredictable weather, evil Ides, blustery winds, cold rains, and mischievous leprechauns. We were hurled headlong into a nightmare with no one to wake us up. If only we could have found and captured just one leprechaun and demanded three wishes, perhaps we might have acquired some of that Irish luck or a pot of gold, but there were no rainbows within our darkness.

Our mother was a yellow-haired enchantress who wore dangling orb earrings, tie-dyed dresses and crocheted sandals. She derived pleasure in casting her spells upon men of the cloth, and casting them aside.

Our father was a charming cellist of Cherokee descent, who loved melancholy women and chamber music. He wore shell necklaces and tapestry vests, and wrote short stories about legless hobo angels who traveled around in boxcars.

The three of us grew from pure sparkling seeds into distorted rootless trees.

A leprechaun counts his gold in this engraving...

~~

Flashes: A Child Remembers

Who murdered the minutes,

The bright shining minutes,

The minutes of youth? – Joan Baez

What did I do wrong?  I have been crying for a long time. I have been hot and hungry and sad. I have been waiting for the hands that take care of me, the eyes that study me, the lips that smile and make odd sounds. But they took a long time to come.

I have been choking on my tears. The curtains are open. The sun has been burning me through the window, and the blankets have made me sweaty. I have been crying and kicking my feet against the crib rails. My room was empty for too long. Now the hands seem angry as they yank at my clothes and blankets, and short hot puffs are coming from the mouth. The eyes are flashing. What did I do wrong?

I am jumping on the bed with my sister. We love to jump. We jump and twirl and fall down, tumbling on each other. We laugh until we are breathless. This is so much fun. The pictures on the wall are jumping too and swirling around us. Our hair floats up and down. We are so happy. I wonder how the pictures look upside down. I will find out when we finish jumping and jumping and jumping. We are having a good time. Suddenly the door opens, and our mother is mad. She wants us to stop.

Tonight we all go to see a movie called “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. It is at a drive-in theatre. There are lightning bugs around our car while we watch, and the metal box in the car window makes loud music and sounds. The dwarfs and the little animals are so funny. We all laugh together. When we drive home, I pretend to fall asleep in the back seat. Daddy thinks I am asleep and picks me up in his arms to carry me into the house. I want to be carried in like a baby. But I can’t stop smiling and Mommy sees me. She and Daddy laugh, but he carries me inside anyway.

My sister and I are playing outside and Mr. Cole from next door calls for us. He is in his garage, and he says he wants to give us some candy. We love candy, so we run inside. He closes the door to his garage and sits on a chair. He holds out a bag of candy. What a nice man! We walk over and reach our hands into the bag. Suddenly he reaches his cold rough hand into my panties, smiling. What is he doing?  I look at him with questioning eyes. He touches my sister the same way. We look at each other and at him, but we are confused. Why is he doing this? The candy tastes good, but something is wrong. Maybe we better go home. We leave quickly. Mr. Cole calls out to us, “Come and see me again tomorrow.” What a nice man!

I notice one day that Daddy has been missing, and I ask Mommy about it several times. She won’t say anything, but she looks sad. The house seems colder and so does our mother. My sister and brother and I are wondering what is wrong.

One day, Daddy comes to visit us. He doesn’t come into the house, but we meet him on the porch. He is so handsome. He brings his brown guitar and sings songs by Peter, Paul, and Mary. He holds me on his lap and asks me to sing. I am so happy with him near me, and I have missed him.

A lady is waiting quietly for him in a car that is parked by the house. I wonder why she doesn’t get out of the car and come over too. Who is that lady? I don’t like her. I am sad when Daddy gets into the car and drives away. After he leaves, I wander into the house. My mother is playing the dulcimer and singing softly:

I never will marry.

I’ll be no man’s wife.

I wish to live single

All the days of my life.

The shells in the ocean

Will be my death bed,

The fish in the water

Swim over my head.

Her sadness washes over me and my heart tries to surface for air.

Another day, a friend of our mother comes to visit, and Mother is not home. His name is John, and he has visited our house before. He is handsome like my Daddy. He plays the guitar too and I love to hear him sing.

My sister and I tell him we are home alone. He is very friendly and says he wants to visit us anyway. He asks us if girls and boys have the same stuff in their pants. We tell him no. He says he doesn’t believe us, that everyone must have a hot dog. We laugh and tell him that girls don’t have those. He says he doesn’t believe us. We decide to show him. He comes into our bedroom, and we take off our panties. He looks surprised and says that he is glad we showed him. Then he decides to show us his. He pulls down his jeans. It is scary and we start to scream and cry.

Our brother suddenly walks in from school and sees everything going on. His face turns red and he runs back out. We pull up our pants quickly. John pulls up his pants and leaves. My brother doesn’t talk to us and we are scared, and we hide in our room when our mother comes home. We know we are in trouble. Mother comes in with a hairbrush and spanks us with it. She never says anything, but we know we did something wrong.

One night Mother is angry and puts me outside the front door in the dark. I am crying on the front step and tapping on the front door. Please let me in. I am scared. Then a man in a car stops at the end of the sidewalk. He is smiling and calls out to me. I go to his car and he asks me to get in. We go for a nice ride and he gives me candy to eat. He brings me back home after I have stopped crying. My mother is on the step when we drive up, and she looks really angry. When we go inside, I see that her face is red and sweaty. She spanks me for going for a ride with the nice man in the car.

One summer, Mother takes us to Florida to see a family there. We are so excited. We get there and Mr. and Mrs. Linebaugh have three kids too. We all play together all day long. They decide to let us stay the night to play with their kids some more. Just before our mother leaves, they decide to let us stay all weekend! Wow! We will have so much fun.

We have a great time, and the food is good and their house is so big. But our mother doesn’t come when she is supposed to. A week goes by, then a month, and then the summer is almost over, and still our mother hasn’t come. Mr. Linebaugh decides to send us home on a Greyhound bus, and tells us our mother will meet us at the station.

We have a fun ride on the bus together, and we get to the station when it is dark outside. We wait and look for our mother, but she doesn’t come. It gets very late, and the police come and take us to their station. A nice policeman feeds us sandwiches, because we are hungry. He keeps making phone calls, and after a long time in his office, our mother comes and she looks very unhappy. After a long talk with the police, she takes us home.

But people start watching us after that. A neighbor says we don’t get enough food, because they invited us over to eat, and we stuffed ourselves. We are home alone late at night, feeling scared many times. One night, I try to cook eggs for us. I turn the burner on too hot, and the pan and the eggs start to smoke. I get scared and cut off the stove. I grab the pan and set it on a chair. It burns a hole in the chair. When our mother comes home, she spanks me because of the chair.

One evening a lady comes to the door. She asks for our mother, and we tell her she isn’t home. She asks if she can come in. We open the door, and our Siamese cat scratches her leg and tears her stockings as she comes in. Her leg has blood on it, so I tell her I know where the band-aids are. I run and get her one. She asks us about our mother, and where she is. We tell her that we don’t know. She asks us to take a ride with her in her car. It has a round symbol with words I can’t read on the side of it. We ride to an office building, where some people are sitting in rooms writing out papers, and a man says they are taking us somewhere else to live. We ask when we will be going home, but no one will answer us. What did we do wrong?

~~

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Black Elk SpeaksI love this description by Black Elk of his vision in which he saw the son of Wanekia, the Great Spirit:

“They led me to the center of the circle where once more I saw the holy tree all full of leaves and blooming.

…Against the tree there was a man with arms held wide in front of him.  I looked hard at him, and I could not tell what people he came from.  He was not a Wasichu (white man) and he was not an Indian.  His hair was long and hanging loose, and on the left side of his head he wore an eagle feather.  His body was strong and good to see, and it was painted red…while I was staring hard at him, his body began to change and became very beautiful with all colors of light…He spoke like singing:  “My life is such that all earthly beings and growing things belong to me.  Your father, the Great Spirit, has said this.  You too must say this.” 

~♥~

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The Hand of God?

NASA Space Telescope Spots the ‘Hand Of God’ After Incredible Star Explosion.

All I can say is…WOW!

Shalom,

Sister Olive

~♥~

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“In My Father’s house are many mansions.  If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you”  John 14:2

English: Hans Christian Andersen at the house ...

I woke up this morning from a very interesting dream.  I was sitting in a cafe talking to an American fellow, explaining why I love Europe.  I said that Europeans don’t fret about hoarding possessions and money.  Instead they read books and go to concerts and sip wine with friends.

Then I told him a fantastic tale.  I said that my father lives in a palace facing the castle of Hans Christian Andersen, and it is just across the fjord.  I told him that my father and I visit him often at his castle for tea, and that Andersen wears a tall black hat like Abraham Lincoln.

Of course in my dream it was all true, so I was a bit disappointed to wake up.  But then my mind began to ramble on this idea, that if this life is a dream, I might awaken someday in that world.

Perhaps in Heaven I shall live in My Father’s palace across from Hans Christian Andersen.  Maybe we will have tea together- in a field of flowers under the moon. Then I might climb into my little golden boat with silken sails and glide across that crystal sea to visit Søren Kierkegaard and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Corrie Ten Boom and Mother Teresa and Black Elk…and Abraham Lincoln!

Why not?  Anything wonderful could happen in a world governed by King Jesus!

~♥~

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19th century painting of Our Lady.

I have been in Protestant circles for most of my life, and I find it curious that I have never heard a full-length sermon about the Virgin Mary, although her name pops up fleetingly and most often at Christmas.  I have often wondered why she is not properly spoken of in the context of Mother’s Day or other occasions considering that she was such a powerful and pure instrument of God. She is an amazing example of how every woman of God and mother should be. Although she was not rich or famous, she demonstrated a noble spirit and character that everyone could learn from. She remained humble even when she was chosen to perform the most amazing work for God’s plan.

Have you ever wondered why Christ didn’t just come down here on a fiery chariot like the one that Elijah departed in, or why He didn’t just walk here like Enoch or float down from Heaven on a cloud heralded by the sound of angelic trumpets? 

It seems to me that God wanted Jesus to enter here the same way that we all do, to experience being a helpless innocent child for a season.  And God wanted Him to have a mother while He was in this world as a seal of His humanity, and because there is nothing on Earth that compares to the love of a mother.

I did not care for some aspects of the movie “Passion of the Christ.” It was far too graphic for my taste, and it seemed like the director wanted to make Jesus into another Braveheart. But I did find one thing especially moving in the film:  the powerful presence of Mary. 

I had never stopped to consider what it must have been like to be the mother of Christ, to always be in His shadow observing His ministries, suffering, rejection, and death.  As a mother myself, it resonated with me in a mighty way.  I realized that God knew exactly what He was doing when He chose Mary.  She knew when to stay out of the way and when to be close.  She loved Jesus with incredible longsuffering and tenderness, and yet never interfered with God’s business.  Even at the cross, her heart was so strong and she too drank from a bitter cup that most of us would have refused. 

I don’t write this to steal any glory from Jesus the Messiah, because He is the one who willingly died to deliver us from sin and opened the door to Heaven for every soul. But I don’t think we should be afraid to talk about His earthly mother and learn from her character.  She is a Biblical woman to celebrate. Because there’s just something about Mary.

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Jesus, the Strong Man

I was moved by this post today, especially the image of Christ as the strong man who carried us all on His shoulders…It makes me imagine Him flexing His muscles under the burden of our sins.

Shalom,

Sister Olive

~♥~

Writing Sisters

roemische_krippe_simeon_480

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . John 1:14

We love these words from C.S. Lewis:

The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation.  They say that God became Man.  Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this. . . .

In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity . . . down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature He has created.

But He goes down to come up again and bring the ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches…

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Butterfly for Breakfast

IMG_20131113_100244This morning I tossed my hot raisin toast on the plate, and voilà! I noticed I had created a piece of accidental art.  I’m glad it didn’t fly away before I could eat it!

Be of good cheer,

Sister Olive

~♥~

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Mandala Supernova

As Thanksgiving approaches, I have been reflecting gratefully upon the human angels that have been dispatched to me, those who helped me pass through the wilderness of my youth safely and joyfully. I wanted to take a moment to write a list of their names. I also challenged myself to find a single word to define each of them, something that represents what they taught me by their character:

Evelyn the Wise

William the Gentle

Katy the Courageous

Isabel the Nurturer

Rabbit the Whimsical

Margaret the Noble

Savage the Healer

Sparrow the Lighthearted

Gandalf the Mystical

Linda the Generous

Elizabeth the Compassionate

Today I am thankful for these and many others who have helped me in my travels.  Try writing down your own angels, if you will.

Peace & Grace,

Sister Olive

~♥~

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A Winnie the Pooh Thanksgiving

“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Today I spoke to my father on the phone and he said, “I am trying to keep myself alive long enough to come to the United States one more time in the spring.”  I couldn’t find any words to say in reply.  I later told my eldest son about this remark spoken so casually, and his face looked pained. “I wish he wouldn’t say things like that,” he said.

I nodded, “I feel the same way, but I think he is trying to prepare us for the inevitable. But we have hardly known him and now he is speaking of death. It hurts a lot.”

Last October, my father came from Spain and spent three days with each of his children.  After he had visited me in the South and my sister in California, she called me on the phone and said, “I almost fell over when he said he was staying for three days. That is the longest visit I’ve had with him.” It is sad but true. It was the longest in our lives.

Then winter blew in and Poppy began to ask me to come and see him in Spain, and he gave my eldest son and me a gift we will never forget.  We spent three weeks with him there in Paradise in the month of May.

Since then, I am trying not to fall apart from the longings inside, and Anger keeps whispering into my ear, saying “How could he hurt you like this after you have suffered so much already?”

But love covers a multitude of sins. I told my son, “Our battle now is to love purely and not feel bitter about the past or how late it is for him to come into our lives.  Your grandfather is reaching out to us now, and we might have never known him at all.  Many people never know their fathers or grandfathers. Think about that.” My son nodded.

So now we want to admonish Poppy that we expect him to live to be at least one hundred, and to come and stay for a longer time with us.  We have really enjoyed the tapas but now we are hungry for the plato principal.

~♥~

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One of my all-time favorite albums is Late for the Sky by Jackson Browne, and this song really “speaks to my condition” as the Quakers used to say.

Here are a few lines from it:

I’m just one or two years and a couple of changes behind you
In my lessons at love’s pain and heartache school
Where if you feel too free and you need something to remind you
There’s this loneliness springing up from your life
Like a fountain from a pool…

Fountain of sorrow, fountain of light
You’ve known that hollow sound of your own steps in flight
You’ve had to struggle, you’ve had to fight
To keep understanding and compassion in sight
You could be laughing at me, you’ve got the right
But you go on smiling so clear and so bright

-Jackson Browne

 

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Several people have asked me lately how they can read my book since they don’t have a Kindle.  Kindle reading apps can be downloaded for free to computers and various devices through Amazon.  Here is the link to see which one works for you.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=1000493771

Thank you to those of you who have been reading my book and sending your remarks.  I am grateful to all of you.

Peace be with you,

Sister Olive

~♥~

English: The second generation Amazon Kindle, ...

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I really appreciate the brave Brother Basilius blowing the trumpet from Africa about false doctrine in our times.  He writes about the prosperity gospel saying, “Gambling has simply been spiritualized…and now given a Christian name…” In other words, false teachers are selling a lie that if you put enough into the offering you might get back some blessings. This is a terrible misuse of Christ’s teachings to help leaders make money from the poor.

Please take a moment to visit this brother’s site at: 

http://savouringthegospel.wordpress.com/about/about-basilius/

Let’s savour the gospel together!

Peace be with you,

Sister Olive

~♥~

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English: Logo for Esso

I know it seems a bit trivial, but there are so many things that contribute to the quality of our lives, and make things more personal and human. Gradually it seems that we are slipping into total anonymity. We are becoming faceless and heartless.

I was thinking of the days when even the gas station attendant made you feel like you were somebody.  You would drive to the Esso station with the sign that said “Put a tiger in your tank” and pull  up to the pump and roll down your window.  A man in an orange uniform with a tiger badge on his chest would walk up to your window with a smile on his face, and ask “May I help you?”  You’d tell him how much gas you needed and while your gas was pumping, he would ask you to pop open your hood.  He would check your oil with the dipstick and if it was low he would ask if you wanted him to add some for you.  After that, he’d squirt washer fluid all over your windows and clean them with a rag and squeegee.  It was really swell.

It was helpful for women with their cars full of children and elderly people who didn’t feel like climbing out to pump their gas.  It was even fun for the young girls who just wanted to flirt with the attendant.

I wish we could go back to some of these old concepts so that people wouldn’t feel so lonely and unimportant in life.

Manila petrol station, Philippines

Peace and Grace,

Sister Olive

~♥~

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“The suspense: the fearful, acute suspense: of standing idly by while the life of one we dearly love, is trembling in the balance; the racking thoughts that crowd upon the mind, and make the heart beat violently, and the breath come thick, by the force of the images they conjure up before it; the desperate anxiety to be doing something to relieve the pain, or lessen the danger, which we have no power to alleviate; the sinking of soul and spirit, which the sad remembrance of our helplessness produces; what tortures can equal these; what reflections of endeavours can, in the full tide and fever of the time, allay them!”
Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

English: A photograph of an engraving in The W...

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Page 100v: Healing of the blind man of Jericho...

Page 100v: Healing of the blind man of Jericho, Lc 18:35-43 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was digging through some old Bible study notes, and came across a series by a very humble pastor in our community named “Brother Bob.”  This series was about seven of the miracles of Jesus from the Gospels which proved His divinity.

I occasionally meet people who follow other spiritual teachers. I can’t imagine why someone would prefer any leader over Jesus. Sometimes I argue my case in a gentle way, and Brother Bob gave me a bit more evidence to show that Jesus was God in the flesh! Here are a few of the miracles that Brother Bob talked about one night:

First, the Bible says in John 20:30-31 that not everything is written down, and that these things were written so that the reader might believe that Jesus is the Christ.

Here are some of the miracles that were recorded in The Gospel According to Saint John:

1. Water To Wine (Chapter 2):  Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast when all of the wine had run out. He did this to increase joy and to show that He has power over nature.

2. Healing of Nobleman’s Son (Chapter 4):  Jesus healed the young man to show that He has power over disease.

3. Healing of the Lame Man on the Sabbath (Chapter 5):  After this miracle, He told the man to avoid sin so that nothing worse would befall him. He did these things to show He can heal both body and soul, and that He has more authority than the Law.

4. Feeding of the 5000 men plus women and children (Chapter 6):  To show that God is compassionate and to prove that He is the Bread of Life.

5. Walked On Water (same chapter):  To show that He has power over Nature and over Fear (Be Not Afraid)

6. Healed the Blind Man on the Sabbath (Chapter 9): To illustrate that He is the Light of the World and that He is not subject to the Law.

7. Raised Lazarus from the dead (Chapter 11): To show that He has human compassion (Jesus wept) and power over Death and that He is the Resurrection and the Life.

Peace and Grace be with you,

“Sister Olive”

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English: "The Little Match Girl"For most of my life, I have felt like The Little Match Girl waiting for an angel to come and rescue her from the streets, or Cinderella scrubbing the floors while her stepsisters dress up for the ball.  But something is changing since I visited my illustrious father in Spain.

I feel like Alice upon returning home from Wonderland to tell her adventures, or the little girl who first noticed The Leaf from Heaven, or The Ugly Duckling finding out about her swan-hood. My soul is transforming from that of a poor little gypsy to a noblewoman, because I’m connected to something special.

There’s no wealth or fame in this story, just a sense of treading closer to the Earth, rather than feeling like a ghost who passes by and reaches out with invisible fingers.

Peace & Grace,

“Sister Olive”

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So, daughter, inasmuch as it concerns you so closely to set forth on this devout journey under good guidance, do you pray most earnestly to God to supply you with a guide after His Own Heart, and never doubt but that He will grant you one who is wise and faithful, even should He send you an angel from Heaven…

The simple style of this bishop (Saint Francis de Sales) really speaks to me… This book on the devout life is a series of his letters to a married woman who earnestly desires to grow closer to God…

Ponder Jacob’s ladder:–it is a true picture of the devout life…Consider, too, who they are who trod this ladder; men with angels’ hearts, or angels with human forms. They are not youthful, but they seem to be so by reason of their vigour and spiritual activity. They have wings wherewith to fly, and attain to God in holy prayer, but they have likewise feet wherewith to tread in human paths…

Here is one of my favorite passages from Chapter 3 where the writer explains that where God is concerned, no one “falls through the cracks” if the heart is sincere and humble…

A different exercise of devotion is required of each–the noble, the artisan, the servant, the prince, the maiden and the wife; and furthermore such practice must be modified according to the strength, the calling, and the duties of each individual…

No indeed, my child, the devotion which is true hinders nothing, but on the contrary it perfects everything; and that which runs counter to the rightful vocation of any one is, you may be sure, a spurious devotion. Aristotle says that the bee sucks honey from flowers without damaging them, leaving them as whole and fresh as it found them;–but true devotion does better still, for it not only hinders no manner of vocation or duty, but, contrariwise, it adorns and beautifies all.

~♥~

St. Francis de Sales, the gentleman saint and ...

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Devout LifeI have started reading this book as sort of a spiritual self-improvement course, and on the first page of the introduction, I found this lovely passage that I want to share with you… I feel already that this angelic fellow is speaking directly to my heart.  It’s a little spooky, especially when he keeps writing to someone that he refers to as “daughter”… I am very excited about what I will learn!

Almost all those who have written concerning the devout life have had chiefly in view persons who have altogether quitted the world; or at any rate they have taught a manner of devotion which would lead to such total retirement. But my object is to teach those who are living in towns, at court, in their own households, and whose calling obliges them to a social life, so far as externals are concerned. Such persons are apt to reject all attempt to lead a devout life under the plea of impossibility; imagining that like as no animal presumes to eat of the plant commonly called Palma Christi, so no one who is immersed in the tide of temporal affairs ought to presume to seek the palm of Christian piety.

And so I have shown them that, like as the mother-of-pearl lives in the sea without ever absorbing one drop of salt water; and as near the Chelidonian Isles springs of sweet water start forth in the midst of the ocean and as the firemoth hovers in the flames without burning her wings; even so a true stedfast soul may live in the world untainted by worldly breath, finding a well-spring of holy piety amid the bitter waves of society, and hovering amid the flames of earthly lusts without singeing the wings of its devout life. Of a truth this is not easy, and for that very reason I would have Christians bestow more care and energy than heretofore on the attempt, and thus it is that, while conscious of my own weakness, I endeavour by this book to afford some help to those who are undertaking this noble work with a generous heart.

~♥~

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For I desire mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.  Hosea 6:6

Red red wineHe sat across the table from me, eyes damp and swollen.  I could smell the soft scent of cologne and red wine as my father studied my face sorrowfully.

He pointed towards the room upstairs where my son was seated and said, “He would not exist if I had not done this awful thing to you. He was a gift sent to help you because of what I have done. He is pure gold. He loves you so much, and you love him, and that is such a blessing for both of you.  As for me, I have been punished because when I finally found my true love, we could not have any children.  That is how I was repaid for what I did to you.”  I closed my eyes and could not find any words for reply; I knew that my father needed this moment even more than I did.

When he had finished speaking, he hugged and kissed me and I climbed the stairs to my little bedroom. My heart was a giant paperweight in my chest. Only one matter is important now: to humbly participate in this redemptive work with an open and forgiving heart.

~♥~

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I really enjoyed the post today by the Blue Hermit,  It is about Jonathan who was a true friend to David, and preferred to be a friend rather than the next king. He was not competitive or jealous of his friend, and stood up for him at the risk of his own life.  It made me think about whether I am a true friend to people I know…I hope that you are inspired to contemplate the same.

Click the link below to read the post:

http://brotherdismas.blogspot.com/2013/06/wednesday-of-12th-week-in-ordinary-time.html#comment-form

Peace & Grace,

Sister Olive

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Sandro Botticelli, Magnificat, 1480-81, temper...

I love and enjoy the Holy Scriptures, and there are passages throughout that I have special fondness for.  I love how Peter writes that God chooses the stones that the builder rejects.  I love Hebrews 11 where the writer describes the great patriarchs of faith.  And there are several parts of the Bible which lend themselves perfectly to prayer: I love to pray the 23rd Psalm and The Lord’s Prayer.

The styles and tone of the battle king and the fishermen and the converted Pharisee are all distinctive and strong and hard-hitting, but one passage gently strums the strings of my heart because of its graceful feminine voice.  Nothing “speaks to my condition” like the Magnificat, expressions from the soul of a woman who humbly loved God. It affects me on a very personal level as a daughter of God, and I love to recite it in my prayers:

My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior, for He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden, for behold from henceforth shall all generations call me blessed, for He that is mighty hath done unto me great things, and Holy is His Name. 

(Luke 1:46-55)

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jrrtolkien

All that is gold does not glitter

Not all those who wander are lost

The old that is strong does not wither

Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken

A light from the shadows shall spring

Renewed shall be the blade that was broken

The crownless shall again be king.

~♥~

I suppose someone might wonder why I love this poem.  First of all, it’s Tolkien, of course- the Christian literary genius who invented all kinds of crazy languages and imaginary worlds!  The first time I read The Hobbit, I was completely swept away by this dapper fellow with the pipe who puffed magical smoke rings, and I had to read everything else he wrote, even the lesser known stories such as Farmer Giles of Ham and The Smith of Wootton Major

But this particular poem is a favorite of mine for several reasons:  first, because it appears in one of the first letters from Gandalf to the hobbits in Bree, and also because it is a lovely metaphorical mixture of prophecy and wisdom.

Here are some of the little treasures hidden in it:  1)There are many things more precious than gold that the world doesn’t recognize, contrary to the words of Led Zeppelin’s song.  2) Some people appear to be wandering because they are just on a different path.  3) Withering is only a physical occurrence that doesn’t affect the soul.  4) When the roots of faith are deep, they are incorruptible and untouchable by the frost of desire or trouble.

Then in the second stanza is an illustrated prophecy about a crownless King who will return and bring light and renewal back from among the shadows.  Sounds like Jesus to me!

Light and Peace to Thee,

Sister Olive

~♥~

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I am feeling a peculiar mixture of emotions as I prepare to depart for Spain-  happy and overwhelmed and apprehensive to name a few of them.

I feel like Bilbo Baggins after Gandalf and the unexpected party showed up at his door and summoned him for an adventure. There is a part of me that would just as soon stay safe and snug in my hobbit hole, and let brave-hearted folks go to faraway lands to meet a dark mysterious stranger (who just happens to be my father- there’s the rub).

It has dawned on me that I really don’t know my father…but I want to so much.  Please keep praying for me that I will “go out with joy and be led forth with peace.”

“Sister Olive”

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Palm Sunday was yesterday, and today the snow falls upon the white pear blossoms.  Tree brooms sweep the grey clouds across the sky. The daffodils have become clusters of snow cones, and a confused robin hops in circles with his beak pointing heavenward, flicking the snowflakes from his wings.

We are officially in the season of SPRINTER!

Peace be with You this Holy Week,

“Sister Olive”

Flowers (in this instance marigolds) strewn ab...

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Too late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient, O Beauty so new. Too late have I loved you!  You were within me but I was outside myself, and there I sought you! In my weakness I ran after the beauty of the things you have made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The things you have made kept me from you – the things which would have no being unless they existed in you! You have called, you have cried, and you have pierced my deafness. You have radiated forth, you have shined out brightly, and you have dispelled my blindness. You have sent forth your fragrance, and I have breathed it in, and I long for you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst for you. You have touched me, and I ardently desire your peace.

Prayers of Saint Augustine, X, 27, 38

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Cover of "The Inner Voice of Love"

When I first read this passage in Henri Nouwen’s book The Inner Voice of Love, I felt as if the Holy Ghost was speaking directly to me and that I was seeing myself for the first time in a magnified mirror.  I suddenly realized that I have been searching for my father for most of my life; in sweethearts, friends, professors, and spiritual leaders. Perhaps some of you can identify with this battle:

 “You have to let your father and father figures go. You must stop seeing yourself through their eyes and trying to make them proud of you.

For as long as you can remember, you have been a pleaser, depending on others to give you an identity. You need not look at that only in a negative way. You wanted to give your heart to others, and you did so quickly and easily. But now you are being asked to let go of all these self-made props and trust that God is enough for you. You must stop being a pleaser and reclaim your identity as a free self.”

Excerpt from “The Inner Voice of Love:  A Journey through Anguish to Freedom” by Henri Nouwen

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This a new blog from Mallorca and I’m looking forward to reading it regularly!

Mallorca Observed

The traditional white paper doilies in Mallorca used as a Christmas decoration are called Neules.

Many moons ago, neules were hung in churches from a main lamp called the Solomon. Then, neules functioned as a kind of religious calendar helping the priest to let the poblers (villagers) know how many weeks and days would pass in that particular year, from Christmas Day to Dimecres de Cendra (Ash Wednesday), the first day of Cuaresma (Latin: quadragesima, Lent). Either the same number of neules were hung in the church as days were left until the first day of Lent, or larger neules were used for the number of weeks, with smaller neules being used for the remaining days. As the ecumenical year progressed towards Cuaresma, neules were removed one by one to give the faithful congregation a clearer impression of the period getting shorter by the day…

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Rabbit Letter I have an old box of handwritten letters, and occasionally I take it down from my closet. I enjoy looking through them, seeing the peculiar handwriting styles of my friends and relatives, and the stationary they selected to deliver the message or the mood. The colors of ink and crayoned images, the light scents of people’s hands, the stains of coffee or tears or dirt, the scribbled art and poems make each one a unique piece of art filled with memories.

I find it sad that letters written by hand are becoming obsolete in our modern world.  It is difficult to find beautiful quality stationary these days.  Many stores sell cards for certain occasions, but there are few tools for real letter writers who enjoy mailing sentiments to people.

I have thought a great deal about dying traditions like letter-writing, and ways that I might help to restore some of the beauty and meaning that is being lost in our technological society.

Francis

Instead of just pecking out quick emails, I want to slow down and put forth the effort to buy or create pretty stationary, take out a fancy pen and write a letter by hand in my best cursive writing, seal it into an envelope with a charming sticker or two on the outside, and lick an artistic commemorative stamp to place upon it.  Then I’ll drive to the post office and slip it into the big blue mailbox. It’s the least I can do for people I love who have enriched my life.

It’s time to look for ways to slow down and enjoy moments and people more, to dig a little deeper for meaning.  Writing letters will be one of my contributions to this cause.  And maybe I can help save the post office too.

~♥~

(I am working on a series of editorials called “Dying Traditions” to be posted here as time permits.) 

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I attended Mass recently, and I found the lyrics to this song to be haunting:

People, look east. The time is near 
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.

Furrows, be glad. Though earth is bare,
One more seed is planted there:
Give up your strength the seed to nourish,
That in course the flower may flourish.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the rose, is on the way.

Birds, though you long have ceased to build,
Guard the nest that must be filled.
Even the hour when wings are frozen
God for fledging time has chosen.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the bird, is on the way.

Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim
One more light the bowl shall brim,
Shining beyond the frosty weather,
Bright as sun and moon together.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the star, is on the way.

Angels, announce with shouts of mirth
Christ who brings new life to earth.
Set every peak and valley humming
With the word, the Lord is coming.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the Lord, is on the way.

People, Look East” was written by Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965) and was first published as “Carol of Advent”

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But of that day or hour no man knoweth, neither the angels
in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father. 
(Mark 13:32)

I visited an Episcopal church recently, and I asked a lady the meaning of the last line of the Doxology that says “World without end.”  She was a bit embarrassed and said she wasn’t sure, because she wasn’t really “up” on theology.  Then she approached a Sunday school teacher who didn’t seem to know either, although he tried to wing it.

I guess I’m funny that way.  I like to know exactly what I’m singing and saying in my prayers.  Whose world are we referring to?  Surely it doesn’t mean our world will never end.  Or does it?  Everyone thought the world was going to end yesterday, but it didn’t! Big surprise…

Jesus said He doesn’t even know when the end of time will be, so it strikes me as funny that people keep trying to figure it out.  Why do we play these guessing games? If only Christians would read the Bible more. Christ said the end would be like a thief in the night, and that’s a pretty straightforward analogy.  He said if you knew when a thief was coming, you could bust ’em quick.  But it’s not like that…we don’t know, so we’ve got to always be prepared. It’s aggravating, I know, but that’s just how it is.

P.S.  If you know what “world without end” means, please tell me…okay? I love to learn new stuff.

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“And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.”  Genesis 32:25

An angel simply touched Jacob’s thigh and dislocated it. Perhaps some angel touched our brows and dislocated our memory of why we had to come here and what we have to do.  Thomas Merton implied that this earth is Purgatory in his book Seven Storey Mountain. I sometimes think that we are fallen angels sent to Earth to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.”

The scriptures say a lot about what becomes of us after death, and what we are to do while in our bodies, but very little is said about why we came to this planet in the first place.  God told Jeremiah “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” (1:5)  The birth of the Messiah was predicted in the TaNaKh.  But I am pretty sure that most of us were not appointed to any sort of greatness.

I remember the seventies when my friends and I would smoke pot and drop LSD and sit around for hours asking questions like, “Why are we here?” and “Where did we come from?”

I don’t believe that all of us are simply the result of a big bang between two people.  Our flesh came about that way, but our mind and our spirit were designed for something higher. We are spiritual beings living in mortal bodies. No two of us are the same, and we all have this amazing potential to commune with the Divine.

Even Christ said very little about why each of us was born in the first place. He said we have to be born again of the Spirit.  He said “He that liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11:26).  He said, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  He talked about the rich man and Lazarus going to separate places after death.  But He never told us why we came here, to a certain country and a certain time period and certain parents.  He never said it was all an illusion or a dream.  I find it somewhat surprising that none of His disciples asked Him about this.  They addressed so many subjects, but not that one.

I read somewhere that the rich are here to help the poor, and poor are here to save the rich. I also have read that good and evil angels are constantly involved in the affairs of men, and often wear disguises.  For me, one of the most terrifying stories in the Bible is of Nebuchadnezzar being spied upon by watcher angels because of his arrogance and his judgment finally being pronounced. For the whole story, read Daniel chapter 4, but here are a few verses:

I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven; He cried aloud, and said thus…Let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him. This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men…The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.

I wonder why this doesn’t happen more often…we certainly have enough evil dictators. It is interesting to me that in the Bible many of the military and political figures are fallen angels. Ezekiel writes about the King of Tyrus “Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God (28:13).”  Daniel reports about the Prince of Persia who battled with a messenger angel for twenty-one days before being defeated by the archangel Michael. (10:13)

People laugh at me sometimes for believing “this stuff” but I find it much more imaginative to be an atheist. I felt terribly sorry for Hunter S. Thompson, even though he was a fantastic writer.  Take this statement of his:

“I have never seen much point in getting heavy with stupid people or Jesus freaks, just as long as they don’t bother me. In a world as weird and cruel as this one we have made for ourselves, I figure anybody who can find peace and personal happiness without ripping off somebody else deserves to be left alone. They will not inherit the earth, but then neither will I.”

How would he know about my inheritance, anyway?  Only the child knows what the father has prepared for him or her.  It’s a personal affair.  That’s why the scriptures say:

The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.  (Deuteronomy 29:29)

Should I believe the promises of Jesus or or the ramblings of Hunter S. Thompson?  That’s a tough one. Let me ponder that. Everyone who met or knew Jesus found Him to be faultless. He loved everybody, even the people that no one else understood or liked. (He would have loved Hunter S. Thompson.)

Jesus walked on water. He fed five thousand men (and their families) with five loaves of bread and seven fish. He ordered a storm on the ocean to calm down and it did. He healed people of all kinds of diseases. He raised Lazarus and others from the dead. After His crucifixion, He raised His own body from the tomb, and met His disciples down by the sea. He cooked fish for them after His resurrection! He wasn’t a ghost! His whole body went into heaven.

I think I’ll believe Jesus. I can’t see what there is to dislike about Him. I understand if people don’t approve of His so-called followers, but that’s a whole different matter.

There are lots of things I don’t know, but I know I am in good hands with Jesus, and I will understand it all someday.

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (I Timothy 3:16)

~♥~

Work Cited:

Hunter S. Thompson, The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time

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I found this devotional by Oswald Chambers to be really meaningful in my own life.  It is so human to cling tightly to other people, even to spiritual leaders who are just as flawed as I am.

This passage encourages me to cherish my Heavenly Father above all other relationships, because He alone will remain with me when I am facing my own Jordan’s.

Growing in Grace,

“Sister Olive”

This Experience Must Come

Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha . . . saw him no more —2 Kings 2:11-12

It is not wrong for you to depend on your “Elijah” for as long as God gives him to you. But remember that the time will come when he must leave and will no longer be your guide and your leader, because God does not intend for him to stay. Even the thought of that causes you to say, “I cannot continue without my ’Elijah.’ ” Yet God says you must continue.

Alone at Your “Jordan” (2 Kings 2:14). The Jordan River represents the type of separation where you have no fellowship with anyone else, and where no one else can take your responsibility from you. You now have to put to the test what you learned when you were with your “Elijah.” You have been to the Jordan over and over again with Elijah, but now you are facing it alone. There is no use in saying that you cannot go— the experience is here, and you must go. If you truly want to know whether or not God is the God your faith believes Him to be, then go through your “Jordan” alone.

Alone at Your “Jericho” (2 Kings 2:15). Jericho represents the place where you have seen your “Elijah” do great things. Yet when you come alone to your “Jericho,” you have a strong reluctance to take the initiative and trust in God, wanting, instead, for someone else to take it for you. But if you remain true to what you learned while with your “Elijah,” you will receive a sign, as Elisha did, that God is with you.

Alone at Your “Bethel” (2 Kings 2:23). At your “Bethel” you will find yourself at your wits’ end but at the beginning of God’s wisdom. When you come to your wits’ end and feel inclined to panic— don’t! Stand true to God and He will bring out His truth in a way that will make your life an expression of worship. Put into practice what you learned while with your “Elijah”— use his mantle and pray (see 2 Kings 2:13-14). Make a determination to trust in God, and do not even look for Elijah anymore.

This Experience Must Come | My Utmost For His Highest.

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And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”  Luke 18:19

I am haunted by my past, ashamed of my numerous failures, and constantly battling my self-serving nature.  I am afflicted with a disease called the human condition.  Christians refer to this as sin, the force that prevents our communion with a perfect God.

I can’t help but wonder:  If Jesus didn’t view Himself as good, then how do well-seasoned Christians tend to become so self-righteous?

I married a very religious Quaker baker when I was twenty-four who brought me to church to straighten me out.  He said that it took “the patience of Job and the wisdom of Solomon” to put up with me.  I can attest to the fact that it’s true.  But he wasn’t perfect either, although he thought he was. I tried to fit in by changing the way I dressed, the way I talked, the way I behaved.  I became fluent in the Christianese language.  But no matter where I went or how well I performed, I was still there…darn!

The truth is that I felt much more comfortable with my hippie friends than I’ve ever felt in any church. And church people have been very good to me. I just happen to enjoy the company of people who are really really real. I would rather attend a “love-in” or “rap session” any day over a church potluck.  (Without the dope and sex.)  Because among my friends, I could play an out-of-tune guitar and sing Donovan songs and recite T.S. Eliot and dance like a confused child until I almost fell down, and I still felt accepted and loved.

I’ll bet Jesus and those sinners had some great rap sessions when He was on Earth.  He accepted and loved people with all of their strange ways, and that is why I still adore Him even when His followers are disappointing.

I know I’m half-crazy, but could there be a problem with the church too? As Leonard Cohen asserts, “One of us cannot be wrong.”

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I’m in Tennessee now and it’s stinkbug season…I used to think I could be a naturalist, but one problem always prevented me: INSECTS.

I wrote an essay about this problem during graduate school.  We were discussing nature writing, and I decided I would try my hand at it.  My mentor loved this piece entitled “Insect Armageddon.”   I hope you enjoy.

Peace,  Olive Twist!!

~♥~

C.S. Lewis, the Christian apologist, believed that animals go to Heaven when they die, because Isaiah the prophet speaks of the Holy Mountain being inhabited by more animals than humans.  Someone once asked Lewis, “If animals go to Heaven, what will become of the mosquitoes?”  Lewis replied that “A heaven for mosquitoes could be combined with a hell for man.”

I can attest to the fact that such a place already exists, where men are tormented for their sins and insects have dominion: the state of Florida.  Many northerners have discovered this punishment at the time of their retirement, having thought they were moving south to tropical paradise and Jimmy Buffet songs.

I will not even embark upon issues such as the relentless heat and no seasons, the hurricanes and power outages that follow every storm, the wharf rats, the stinging jellyfish, the rabid raccoons, or the water moccasins that lurk in lakes, awaiting some brazen tourist who might decide to skinny-dip.  I will tell only of that which I despise the most: the bugs. I have always despised bugs and regard them with a mixture of contempt and dread.  Every autumn, I begin to pray for a winter harsh enough to send them all into early graves.

One summer my sons and I moved to Oregon, because most of our relatives live on the west coast and the weather is milder.  After about two months there, I asked my young sons what they missed the most about Florida.  My six-year-old quickly replied, “I miss the giant rhinoceros beetles that crawl around the parking lots, and those big locusts that are green and yellow and orange with zebra stripes on them.”  His big blue eyes were glowing with purity.

“You miss those?” I asked, trying not to look disgusted. “Not me.”  I mumbled a prayer that we would never go back, but we unfortunately did.

As we drove back into Florida, I opened the car window and could hear the cicadas chirping loudly in the trees.  They’ve been waiting for me, I thought with horror.  They are like giant flies that are naturally attracted to long hair, and nothing is worse than trying to shake one out while it rattles like madness in your ear, and you shriek and do a nerve dance until it falls out.

But the great demon of the south is the roach.  Some of them fly, such as the giant palmetto bug.  Once I lived in an old two-story house with a group of friends, and a man was cooking spaghetti and garlic bread in the kitchen. He had a neat stack of bread on a corner of the table and we noticed a huge roach on the ceiling several feet away.  Its antennae were shaking excitably, and it suddenly did a sky dive with no parachute and landed perfectly on top of that tall bread castle, where it seemed to be quite content with its plunder.  I did not eat that night.

Most roaches crawl with wriggling hungry antennae in garbage cans, on kitchen counters, and through windowsills and crevices.  In the middle of the night, when you go to the kitchen for a cookie and milk and you turn on the light, they flee like desperate soldiers behind the fortress of the stove.  When you open a cupboard in the daytime, one might rustle behind the sugar bag, or you might spy their eggs like tiny white bullets in the corner.

Once I was lying in my bed, and I heard a sound as soft as silk slippers on the venetian blinds over my head.  I leapt from my bed and cut on the light, and was amazed that I had even been able to hear it.  The roach, I mean.  My ears are ultra-sensitive to insects, especially roaches.  I wake up everyone in the house for such occasions, and won’t let anyone rest until the skirmish is finished and the culprit has met his demise.

The pest control man can’t stand me. I laugh with victorious delight whenever his Ghostbuster truck pulls into the driveway with its giant canisters of poison and ammunition. I call him any time I see one bug, and I make him spray the whole house again, since it is included in my service agreement.  Though most people have switched to annual pest service, I expect my house to be sprayed once per month inside and out.  I let him know when I think it’s time for more bait behind the kitchen drawers and under the sinks.  I know he gets sick of dealing with me.

I can’t leave out the termites and giant ants. I called the termite man to come and tell me about a tree that looked like it was dissolving to sawdust all by itself.  He looked at it and said, “I can’t do anything about that tree, because it is within three feet of your house, and we don’t do indoor service for you.”  So I called the pest control man, and he says, “I can’t touch that tree because it’s not part of the house.  So the bugs have all figured out where the no-kill zone is, and they continue to prosper there and raise their families. I once thought it would be funny to put up a “roach crossing” sign in front of our house.

Should I embark upon the subject of mosquitoes carrying diseases like malaria, yellow fever, encephalitis?  Or have you ever awakened to find a tick burrowing in your flesh?  How about those wasps with great stingers and long legs that hover around the eaves looking for a victim?

Once I had a crazy dream that I was looking with curious disdain at a display of insects in some laboratory.  As I analyzed one big furry bug with wings pinned to a board resembling an insect Hellraiser, the bug suddenly squirmed and opened its eyes and started talking.  I jumped back in horror, as it told me about the injustice and misfortune of its life and how it ended up being nailed by some entomologist. It was like a horror movie scene and I woke up sweating and feverish.  I wondered if I was like Hannibal Lechter to the bug world.

As I sat shaking on the edge of my bed, I thought:  Perhaps I have misjudged these little creatures.  Perhaps they are only innocent civilians. Perhaps they are really cute and cuddly if you get to know them.

One tiny baby roach wriggled on my dresser.  I grabbed my hairbrush and smacked it into eternal bliss.  No, even my Quaker beliefs must be suspended for this war, this enmity.  I cannot love these hellions in paradise.

(See Isaiah Chapter 11 and The Problem of Pain, chapter 9)


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English: A door in Morocco in 2010.

When I first read this poem, I felt that the author was a kindred spirit, because I have always tried to stay near the door too.  I try not to drive anyone away, or send them in the wrong direction…Friends, pray for me.

Peace & Grace, “Sister Olive”

~♥~

I stay near the door.
I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out.
The door is the most important door in the world –
It is the door through which men walk when they find God.
There’s no use my going way inside, and staying there,
When so many are still outside, and they, as much as I,
Crave to know where the door is.
And all that so many ever find
Is only the wall where a door ought to be.
They creep along the wall like blind men,
With outstretched, groping hands,
Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door,
Yet they never find it –
So I stay near the door.

The most tremendous thing in the world
Is for men to find that door – the door to God.
The most important thing any man can do
Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands,
And put it on the latch – the latch that only clicks
And opens to the man’s own touch.
Men die outside that door, as starving beggars die
On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter –
Die for want of what is within their grasp.
They live, on the other side of it – because they have found it.
Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it,
And open it, and walk in, and find Him –
So I stay near the door.

Go in, great saints, go all the way in –
Go way down into the cavernous cellars,
And way up into the spacious attics –
It is a vast, roomy house, this house where God is.
Go into the deepest of hidden casements,
Of withdrawal, of silence, or sainthood.
Some must inhabit those inner rooms,
And know the depths and heights of God,
And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is.
Sometimes I take a deeper look in,
Sometimes venture a little farther;
But my place seems closer to the opening –
So I stay near the door.

There is another reason why I stay there.
Some people get part way in and become afraid
Lest God and the zeal of His house devour them;
For God is so very great, and asks all of us.
And these people feel a cosmic claustrophobia.
And want to get out. “Let me out!” they cry.
And the people way inside only terrify them more.
Somebody must be by the door to tell them that they are spoiled
For the old life, they have seen too much;
Once taste God, and nothing but God will do any more.
Somebody must be watching for the frightened
Who seek to sneak out just where they came in,
To tell them how much better it is inside.

The people too far in do not see how near these are
To leaving–preoccupied with the wonder of it all.
Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door,
But would like to run away. So for them too,
I stay near the door.

I admire the people who go way in.
But I wish they would not forget how it was
Before they got in. Then they would be able to help
The people who have not yet even found the door,
Or the people who want to run away again from God.
You can go in too deeply, and stay too long,
And forget the people outside the door.
As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place,
Near enough to God to hear Him, and know He is there,
But not so far from men as not to hear them,
And remember they are there, too.
Where? Outside the door –
Thousands of them, millions of them.
But – more important for me –
One of them, two of them, ten of them,
Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch.
For those, I shall stay by the door and wait
For those who seek it.
“I had rather be a door-keeper…”
So I stay near the door.

By the Reverend Samuel Moor Shoemaker, Jr.

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To read the entire “Divine Doorkeepers” essay as one continuous page, please click on this link:

https://olivetwist.wordpress.com/essays/divine-doorkeepers/

I hope you have enjoyed this series.

Peace & Grace to You,

“Sister Olive”

~♥~

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“Divine Doorkeepers:  How Mystical Authors Usher Readers into the Spirit Realm” is a study of evangelical writers and how they use literary devices such as metaphor and simile to usher the reader in the door to experience the supernatural realm.  The books examined for this extended essay will come from Christian evangelical writers, revivalists, and reformers such as George Fox, Charles Finney, Dwight Moody, Charles Spurgeon, and continuing with writers to the present day.  The essay is an analysis of how they portray God and the workings of the Spirit to readers.

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 (In the process of posting this, I lost my MLA formatting)

Claiborne, Shane. The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2006. Print.

Claiborne, Shane, and Chris Haw. Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals. Grand Rapids, MI: The Simple Way, 2008. Print.

Edwards, Jonathan. “A Faithful Narrative.” The Works of Jonathan Edwards. Ed. C. C. Goen. New Haven, CT.: Yale UP, 1972. Print.

Finney, Charles. “Charles Finney Systematic Theology.” Finney’s Revivals of Religion: Lecture 3 on How to Promote a Revival. Didaskalos Ministries, n.d. Web. 4 Nov 2010. <http://www.bibleteacher.org/finrev1b.htm#LEC3&gt;.

—. The Autobiography of Charles G. Finney. Condensed and Edited by Helen Wessel. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1977. Print.

Fox, George.”Selected Epistles of George Fox.” Renascence Editions. U of Oregon, 1998.Web. 4 Nov 2010. <http://www.luminarium.org/renascence-editions/foxep.htm&gt;.

—. The Journal of George Fox.  Edited by Rufus Jones. Richmond, IN: Friends UP, 1976. Print.

Graves, Michael P. “Functions of Key Metaphors in Early Quaker Sermons, 1671-1700.” The Quarterly Journal of Speech 69.4 (1983): 364-378. MLA International Bibliography. EBSCO. Web. 24 Nov. 2010.

Hosek, Dr. Pavel. “How Does C.S. Lewis do Apologetics?” (2003): n. pag. European Leadership Forum Research Center. Web. 20 Dec 2010. <http://www.euroleadershipresources.org/resource.php?ID=76&gt;.

Jarman, Mark. “To Make the Final Unity: Metaphor’s Matter and Spirit.” 301-318. Southern Review, 2007. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 24 Nov. 2010.

Kierkegaard, Søren. Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard. Ed. Charles E. Moore.  Farmington, PA:  Plough, 2002. eBook.

—. Kierkegaard Spiritual Writings: A New Translation and Selection by George Pattison. New York: Harper Collins, 2010. 57. eBook.

—. The Journals of Kierkegaard (edited by Alexander Dru. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959), 324.

Lewis, C. S., The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics. New York: Harper One, 2002. Print.

McKeever, Dr. Joe. “Why We Need Parables.” (2009): n. pag. Web. 20 Dec 2010. <http://www.biblestudytools.com/pastor-resources/11610729.html&gt;.

Miller, Donald. Searching for God Knows What. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004. Print.

Miller, Donald, and John Macmurray. To Own a Dragon: Reflections on Growing Up Without a Father. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2006. Print.

Moody, Dwight L. The Best of Dwight L. Moody. 6th Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1971. Print.

Savant, John. “Follow that Metaphor.” Commonweal 132.20 (2005): 17-19. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 24 Nov. 2010.

Spurgeon, Charles H. “Songs in the Night.” Spurgeon Collection on Bible Bulletin Board.  Tony Capoccia, 2004. Web. 4 Nov 2010. <http://www.biblebb.com/files/spurgeon/2558.htm&gt;.

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(Excerpt from “Divine Doorkeepers”)

The writers and orators in this essay were chosen because of their tireless efforts in the furtherance of God’s kingdom, with particular emphasis on revival and reform.  All of them address people with truthful compassion and concern for their souls, and none of them conform to the status quo religion of the day or are crowd-pleasers. While these authors seldom mention each other, they all are concerned with the common purpose of advancing the Kingdom of God, many of them at the expense of their own comforts and livelihoods.

At times their messages and styles bear striking resemblances to each other. Fox and Claiborne are iconoclasts, seeking to tear down the “graven images” of empty religion and draw believers to a deeper personal spirituality. Spurgeon and Moody both have a gentle chiding style in their writings and sermons. Kierkegaard and Lewis tend to personify God to establish our kinship with him, and they have a more argumentative and logical style which is well-suited for dealing with more scholarly audiences. Like Miller, they are also fond of humor and satire to illustrate their teachings.  Lewis, Fox and Kierkegaard enjoy using fantasy-like style to create fables and allegorical tales. The sense of a hero on a spiritual journey can be found in the writings of several of the mentioned authors, including Fox, Lewis, Miller, and Claiborne, who write their memoirs in a way that the reader can travel with them on their path as they seek answers to life’s questions.

Through artful literary devices, these spiritual authors coax unbelievers to contemplate the divine. Savant states that through metaphor we can open the doorway to the supernatural realm: “Precisely because metaphor suggests meaning or sensibilities beyond quantification–beyond plain-speaking and common sense–it serves as a tool, however imperfect, with which we can open up the mysterious in human life and destiny” (18). While earlier writers used farming and weather images to address people who lived on farms and dealt with seasons, seed times, and harvests, modern authors have evolved and become more scientific, industrial, and sociological. Though the metaphors of spiritual writers change to suit their audience, they continue to recognize that stories and illustrations are a powerful tool to make God and the Spirit realm more tangible.

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(Excerpt from “Divine Doorkeepers”)

Shane Claiborne is one of the founders of a New Monastic community called the Potter Street Community (formerly The Simple Way) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Claiborne worked with Mother Teresa during a ten-week term in Calcutta, and worked in Baghdad with the Iraq Peace Team.

Shane Claiborne was raised in East Tennessee where he and his family attended an old-fashioned Methodist church.  Being both idealistic and intelligent, he began at an early age to question what all of the activities and programs in his church had to do with Jesus or being a disciple. His sincerity and earnestness toward God are reminiscent of George Fox as a young man, going about questioning the authorities in religion and seeking for the true meaning of “taking up the cross” of Christ. In one of his books called The Irresistible Revolution, he speaks of wanting to follow Christ but not knowing where he could buy a staff.  By merely mentioning the staff in the context of modern life, he accomplishes two things:  He makes the reader laugh, and he puts forth the concept of embarking on a spiritual pilgrimage without the proper equipment.

Most of his writings evoke a sense of conflict internally and externally.  Claiborne uses a metaphor in his chapter entitled “Spiritual Bulimia” to illustrate the growing hunger for God and the fact that he was not being “fed” by the church:

I developed a common ailment that haunts Western Christianity.  I call it spiritual bulimia.  Bulimia, of course, is a tragic eating disorder, largely linked to identity and image, where folks consume large amounts of food but vomit it up before it has a chance to digest.  I developed a spiritual form of it where I did my devotions, read all the new Christian books and saw the Christian movies, and then vomited information up to friends, small groups, and pastors.  But it never had a chance to digest.  I had gorged myself on all the products of the Christian industrial complex but was spiritually starving to death.  I was marked by an overconsumptive but malnourished spirituality, suffocated by Christianity but thirsty for God. (Revolution 39)

Claiborne strengthens his analogy with strong verb metaphors such as “gorged”, “vomited”, “starving”, and “suffocated” as well as strong adjectives like “overconsumptive” and “malnourished”.  These all enhance the metaphor of the spiritual sickness that was tormenting him so that he could not “digest” the truth.

Claiborne uses Babylon as a metaphor for the worldly kingdom that wars with the kingdom of Heaven in his book entitled Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals.  In the chapter “The Empire has No Clothes,” he talks about the spiritual marriage of believers to God and the problem of the church lusting after the world system which is represented in this passage as a prostitute:

John’s language couldn’t be clearer:  we are to “come out” of her literally to pull ourselves out.  Let’s be honest here: this is rated R…Scholars point out that this is erotic language and that the words John uses are the same ones used for coitus interruptus— to interrupt sexual intercourse before climax.  As John is speaking of this steamy love affair with the empire, he calls the church to “pull out of her”– to leave romance with the world and be wooed by God, to remember our first love, to say no to all other lovers. (150)

After quoting John’s metaphor, Claiborne compares worldly desire to a whore who tempts believers into spiritual adultery, and Christ is portrayed as the one true love to whom a believer must always be faithful. This is a very powerful juxtaposition which is easily understood by the reader with all of its connotations.  Claiborne uses his illustrations in attempt to be a catalyst in the church system which he considers to be largely in conflict Christ’s teachings.  Like Bonhoeffer, he advocates monastic life within the secular community, not in an isolated place.

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(Excerpt from “Divine Doorkeepers”)

Donald Miller is a best-selling American author and public speaker from Portland, Oregon. He founded “The Mentoring Project,” a non-profit agency that works with local churches to help fatherless young men. In his memoirs, Miller seems like a literary ringmaster entertaining the reader in a three-ring circus that consists of humor, sensitivity, and spirituality.  In To Own a Dragon, he writes about the emotional problems that are experienced by young men who are raised in the absence of a father figure. He begins by describing a documentary pertaining to elephants in which the narrator describes how young male elephants that lose their fathers become particularly violent and aggressive during their “musth cycle” (puberty):

Occasionally, two elephants in a musth would meet, and the encounter was always violent, going so far as to uproot trees in the fray of their brawl…I couldn’t help but identify…I mean, there were feelings, sometimes anger, sometimes depression, sometimes raging lust, and I was never sure what any of it was about.  I just felt like killing somebody, or sleeping with some girl, or decking a guy in a bar, and I didn’t know what to do with any of these feelings. (32)

Miller juggles sensitivity and humor in this passage, causing the reader to laugh about problems that aren’t innately funny.  He uses the angry young elephants as an analogy for adolescent young men who need paternal care in their lives. He describes how mature male elephants “adopt” young elephants and have a calming effect on them: “The green pus running down his hind leg and his smell like fresh-cut grass alerts an older, fully mature male, that this is a young elephant in need of guidance.  Upon finding a mentor, the young elephant’s musth cycle ends” (33).  Miller then writes of an older male mentor coming into his own life and offering guidance, and extends the analogy into the spiritual realm, explaining that the Heavenly Father can also assume the role of adoptive father and resolve many of these issues for men.

In another of his books entitled Searching for God Knows What Miller describes his own spiritual journey, prefacing the book with a story of being born in a circus surrounded by clowns:

Sometimes I feel as if I were born in a circus, come out of my mother’s womb like a man from a cannon, pitched toward the ceiling of the tent, all the doctors and nurses clapping in delight from the grandstands, the band going great guns in trombones and drums…the smell of popcorn in the air…and all the people chanting my name as my arms come out like wings…the center ring growing enormous beneath my falling weight.

And that is precisely when it occurs to me that there is no net…who is going to rescue me? (ix)

Through the absurd he illustrates the fears about life that surround people from their youth.  He creates the sense of terror by depicting the man coming out of the cannon and discovering he has no net to catch him, and wittily embarks upon the subjects of desperation and divine intervention when he raises the question of who will rescue him.  Miller always performs a graceful balancing act of seriousness and humor, making his writings entertaining and yet profoundly meaningful.

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(Excerpt from “Divine Doorkeepers”)

Clive Staples Lewis was a highly acclaimed Christian apologist.  He was born and raised in Ireland and as an adult became a faculty member at Oxford University in England. Lewis had been baptized in the Church of Ireland at birth, but gave up his faith during adolescence. Because of Tolkien and other close friends, Lewis returned to Christianity when he was thirty-two. He became known for his strong intellect and ability to debate with spokesmen of different faiths and philosophies.  In an article entitled “How Does C.S.Lewis do Apologetics?” Dr. Pavel Hosek describes Lewis’ appealing style:

As no one else he succeeded in attracting the mind of the unbelieving reader…Many Christians testify that they only learned to really look for heaven after reading Lewis’ books. The way he is able to picture heaven and the spiritual world in general very often enables the reader to taste the heavenly quality, its atmosphere, beauty and splendor (par 11).

Having been an atheist in his younger years, he was especially capable to address a broader audience than most Christian writers, and to consider questions that people ask about God and faith.  While Fox seemed to be an alchemist, and Finney seemed to be a lawyer, Lewis speaks with the voice of a professor addressing other scholars.  He uses metaphor and personification throughout his books, to enable the reader to comprehend the complexities of good and evil in a fallen world.

In Mere Christianity, he illustrates many of his concepts with comparisons to people.  In this segment, he describes what true pride is as compared to humility.  First he says that “Pride leads to every other vice; it is the complete anti-god state of mind.” Then he uses the metaphor of a young girl to illustrate the nature of pride: “What makes a pretty girl spread misery wherever she goes by collecting admirers?  Certainly not her sexual instinct: that kind of girl is quite often sexually frigid.  It is Pride” (Classics 103-104).  The way that Lewis personifies Pride as a careless woman enables the reader to see the true nature of this vice as being senselessly competitive and self-centered.

In his essay called “The Obstinate Tin Soldiers”, he compares people who avoid God to toy soldiers who, like Pinocchio, have come to life:

Did you ever think, when you were a child, what fun it would be if your toys could come to life?  Well suppose you could really have brought them to life.  Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man…And suppose the tin soldier did not like it…all he sees is that the tin is being spoilt.  He thinks you are killing him. (Classics146)

Lewis is using the story to explain how people fear that their lives will be ruined if they allow God to take charge and kill their sinful natures, which really brings them to life. The irony here is hilarious and Kierkegaardian in style, because the toy which was never alive in the first place thinks he has been killed, and was made better but thinks he is ruined. It is humorous to imagine the soldier worrying about its tin being damaged. The story makes it seem silly that humans can feel so threatened by God.  Lewis is the master of creating imaginative metaphors that allow people to laugh at themselves.

In The Great Divorce, Lewis responds to William Blake’s book The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and uses the metaphor of divorce to show that good and evil are opposing forces that can never be reconciled.  He uses a simile of a tree whose branches keep separating to illustrate this spiritual principle:

We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the centre: rather in a world where every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at each fork, you must make a decision…life is not like a river but like a tree.  It does not move towards unity but away from it and the creatures grow further apart as they increase in perfection. (Classics 465)

In this example, Lewis illustrates his belief that all roads don’t lead to Heaven and Christ is not merely another “great teacher.”  Like Kierkegaard, Lewis always seems to be in debating mode and tries to challenge those who think they are too intelligent for God. He always is seeking dialogue with his readers.

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(Excerpt from “Divine Doorkeepers”)

Dwight Lyman Moody was born in Northfield, Massachusetts and was one of nine children. His father, a poor farmer and stonemason, died at the age of forty-one while praying on his knees when Dwight was four years old.

Moody was a shoe salesman before he became a missionary. He acquired great fame as an evangelist in England in 1872. He was invited by Spurgeon for speaking engagements and was also promoted by him. Moody mentions Fox and Finney in his writings, referring to them as great leaders in reforming and reviving God’s work among the slumbering churches. He had a soul-searching tone that was similar to Finney’s, and he had a gift for spinning stories in such a way that calls upon the reader to extend the tales and draw more conclusions on their own.

For instance, he asserts that the spiritual needs of humans are as real and treatable as physical ailments. In The Best of Dwight Moody, he writes of the importance of fellowship by using a medical simile:  “Church attendance is as vital to a disciple as a transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man.”  This statement is effective because he shows in the statement that even a disciple can become spiritually ill if he does not maintain his “health” by following the precepts of God and being in a community of encouragers.  It also allows the reader to conclude that the disciple could die in a spiritual sense from lack of encouragement and fellowship. He juxtaposes the physical man and the spiritual man and alludes to the healing blood of Christ through the transfusion simile.  By being inconclusive in his stories, he allows the reader to make more associations.

Moody believed in using simple and plain style. In Dr. Joe McKeever’s article called “Why We Need Parables”, he writes:  “Dwight L. Moody used to remind pastors to ‘put the cookies on the bottom shelf so everyone could reach them.’ What he meant–and what he practiced as well as it could be done–was, ‘Keep the message simple.’ Make it accessible to everyone” (par 1).  Moody, like Finney, used the idea of a courtroom when explaining why flowery speech was not his method for addressing an audience of unbelievers.

My friend, we have too many orators.  I am tired and sick of your “silver-tongued orators.”  I used to mourn because I couldn’t be an orator…

Take a witness in court and let him try his oratorical powers in the witness-box, and see how quickly the judge will rule him out.  It is the man who tells the plain, simple truth that has the most influence with the jury (Best 198).

This passage depicts the urgency that the evangelist feels to “plead his case” and why it is so important to be understood as opposed to merely sounding lofty and educated.  It also carries the reader to think upon the consequences of being “ruled out” and the injustices that may result, and he juxtaposes earthly and divine judgment.

He uses a similar method in this passage where he tells the story of a little boy who catches a sparrow, and he uses it as an allegory for redemption:

A friend in Ireland once met a little Irish boy who had caught a sparrow.  The poor little bird was trembling in his hand, and seemed very anxious to escape.  The gentleman begged the boy to let it go…but the boy said he would not, for he had chased it for three hours before he could catch it.  He tried to reason it out with the boy, but in vain.  At last he offered to buy the bird.  The boy agreed to the price and it was paid.  Then the gentleman took the poor little thing, and held it out on his hand…in a little while, it flew away chirping (Best 16).

The purchase and release of the sparrow represents the redemption of souls by the grace of God. Moody also allows the reader make other associations, and think of the weakness of the little bird being like humans without the strength of Christ, and wondering if the sparrow fully appreciated its freedom.  One might also contemplate how the sparrow had no concept of what had transpired, and thus could not feel truly grateful, and that man is often the same way towards God. The reader continues to make associations beyond what the writer develops in the piece, and this is artistic because by understatement, the author causes the reader to think further on the matter.

Moody uses a balloon analogy to speak to believers about how to walk in a manner that is pleasing to God and allows them to meet their full potential:

You know, when a man is going up in a balloon, he takes in sand as ballast, and when he wants to mount a little higher, he throws out some of it, and then he will mount a little higher; he throws out a little more ballast, and he mounts still higher; and the more he throws out the higher he gets, and so the more we have to throw out of the things of this world the nearer we get to God (Best 72).

This analogy is very thought-provoking and clear. The balloon was a familiar mode of travel during Moody’s day which makes it appropriate, and it gives readers a sense of the time period the writer is speaking from. One can also visually see the effect of abstinence and self-denial through this portrayal of the man in the balloon, and how the level of spirituality a man reaches is determined by what he lets go of.  This matter of weight works well in association with the subject of burdens and encumbrances, and the balloon connotes lightness of heart and freedom.  The writer allows the reader to visualize so they can comprehend the principle more clearly, which is quite superior to merely explaining the concept without the illustration.

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(Excerpt from “Divine Doorkeepers”)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a British Baptist preacher, but his style stirred the interest of Christians of all denominations.  He is referred to by many as the “Prince of Preachers”.  He was born in Kelvedon, Essex and was converted on January 6, 1850. His conversion occurred when a snow storm cut one of his journeys short and he stopped into a Primitive Methodist chapel in Colchester.

Spurgeon preached up to ten times per week in different locations during his years of ministry. He was the pastor of the New Park Street Chapel (later the Metropolitan Tabernacle) in London for thirty-eight years and was a prolific author of many types of works.  He wrote sermons, an autobiography, devotions, poetry,a hymnist, prayer books,and more. Many of his sermons were transcribed as he spoke and translated into many languages.

Charles Spurgeon has a graceful poetic style in his writing and speaking, and his voice is elevated and lyrical.  He has a remarkably sensitive and gentle voice by comparison to other evangelical authors and preachers, as he is full of comfort and encouragement.  His writing is melodious and flowing and almost angelic in its tone, and his metaphors evoke a sense of divine music.  One of his most “musical” transcribed sermons is his aptly titled “Songs in the Night” (Job 35:10, KJV).    He begins by exhorting the reader about how to maintain good cheer in the midst of distress:

Anyone can sing in the day. When the cup is full, one draws inspiration from it; when wealth rolls in abundance around them, anyone can sing to the praise of a God who gives an abundant harvest.  It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but the skillful singer is the one who can sing when there is not a ray of light to read by—who sings from their heart, and not from a book that they can see. (Songs I-1)

This passage contains many of the poetic elements used by Fox in his epistles, such as the contrast of light and darkness, and the exhortation to sing in the thick night. The songs represent joy and the night represents times of adversity. The full cup and the harvest are images of abundance. He uses them to clarify that it takes no strength of character to be cheerful when one has wealth and comfort.

Then his images shift when he speaks of singing without any light to read the notes by, from an inward book which cannot be seen. The darkness is a symbol for the times when things appear bleak to us and we have to grope for happiness.  The “skillful singer” is a graceful metaphor for the one who can retain joy in times of tribulation, and memorizing the words as opposed to reading them re-emphasizes the skill of the vocalist. The passage is richly sensual, engaging both sight and hearing and also full of contrasts of light and darkness, joy and pain, music and silence.  Rather than merely telling the reader of joy in the midst of trials, he paints glorious pictures and makes lofty music to illustrate his message.

 Let all things go as I please—I will weave songs, weave them wherever I go, with the flowers that grow along my path; but put me in a desert, where there are no flowers, and how will I weave a chorus of praise to God? How will I make a crown for him? Let this voice be free, and this body be full of health, and I can sing God’s praise; but stop this tongue, lay me on the bed of suffering, and it is not so easy to sing from the bed, and chant high praises in the fires…confine me, chain my spirit, clip my wings, make me very sad, so that I become old like the eagle—ah! Then it is hard to sing. (Songs I-1)

His flowing musical style creates a tone of worship.  The coupling of the verb metaphor “weaving” with “songs” is aesthetically pleasing as weaving is rhythmic like musical notes.  “Chanting praises in the fire” is remarkably visual and conjures up an image of strong faith.  He writes that the desert has no flowers to weave a chorus and then asks how to make a crown of praise for God; these two sentences make the reader associate weaving with crowns, and this seems to imply the crown of thorns.  The old eagle is similar to T. S. Eliot’s verse from “Ash Wednesday” about the aged eagle that no longer stretches its wings, and both authors are speaking about mortality and loss of dreams.

While making melody can produce comfort in a troubled mind, Spurgeon is not referring to a real song, but to a supernatural state of mind which he asserts can be retained through the Spirit, which makes people resilient beyond the limits of human fortitude. The unfruitful fig tree is symbolic of the times of struggle, and the divine song represents an attitude of acceptance and peace.

He then speaks of not trying to create joy but to simply ask for it, and he uses a metaphor of an old well pump:

So, then, poor Christian, you needn’t go pumping up your poor heart to make it glad. Go to your Maker, and ask him to give you a song in the night. You are a poor dry well: you have heard it said, that when a pump is dry, you must pour water down it first of all, to prime the pump, and then you will get some up; and so, Christian, when you are dry, go to God, ask him to pour some joy down you, and then you will get some joy up from your own heart. (Songs I-2)

The water Spurgeon refers to is a metaphor for joy, and he tells readers that they are “poor dry wells.”  The old well pump was a familiar household appliance during the days in which he preached, and he uses it as a symbol for striving to find joy when the heart is troubled.  He tells his audience not to work at it on their own or “pump the well” because God can pour down the joy upon His people.

Spurgeon refers to God as the great composer of songs, meaning that God is the one who creates the joy that man cannot find inside of himself.

It may be darkness now; but I know the promises were sweet; I know I had blessed seasons in his church. I am quite sure of this; I used to enjoy myself in the ways of the Lord; and though now my paths are strewn with thorns, I know it is the King’s highway. It was a way of pleasantness once; it will be a way of pleasantness again… Christian, perhaps the best song you can sing, to cheer you in the night, is the song of yesterday morning. (Songs Part II-1)

Spurgeon suggests that people should encourage themselves by remembrance of better times, and he presents the notion of life having seasons.  Seasons illustrate that “pleasantness” will always circle around again after a time in which the path is covered in thorns. The thorns were used by Fox in his writings as well, and they are a symbol of piercing anguish and suffering in the human heart.  The King’s highway is another example of metaphor suggesting a pilgrimage. Spurgeon’s language and tone are effective, because rather than trying to appeal to the heart through abstractions, he creates imagery and music and moods through his flowing style and use of lyrical metaphors.

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(Excerpt from “Divine Doorkeepers”)

Søren Kierkegaard was a renowned Danish philosopher, theologian and religious author. He was born to an affluent family in Copenhagen, and his mother was employed as a maid in the household before marrying his father.

Kierkegaard was greatly influenced by Socrates and the Socratic method of thinking. His theological writings primarily focus on the flaws in the church institution and the crowd-driven mentality of believers. He was strongly opposed to the way that theology and organized religion had tarnished the Gospel message, and he believed that seminaries taught Christians to think and talk about God rather than to take any kind of action. His writings beg for soul-searching and an active response from the reader.

Dr. George Pattison writes of the author’s style in his introduction to Kierkegaard’s Spiritual Writings: “The discourses are not plodding expositions of ready-made dogmas, but have an almost conversational feel, sometimes serious, sometimes playful, but always seeking to open a dialogue with the reader, whose own response is anticipated and responded to” (57).

Kierkegaard tells stories about God humanizing Himself willingly out of His great love for people.  He depicts Christians as thieves and cheaters who twist the gospel to suit their own agenda. Here he portrays the struggle between worldly religion and true spirituality:  “…The Bible is very easy to understand.  But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers.  We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly…Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament” (Provocations 201). His representation of religious folks as “scheming swindlers” is a piercing metaphor that suggests deception and misuse of something valuable.

In one of his letters, Kierkegaard presents God as being a creator who fashioned humans in His own image, and loved them so deeply that He placed Himself into their lives. He asserts that the Incarnated God taught people about service to others by His own example.  In this passage he uses an analogy pertaining to artists and their productions to illustrate how even God lowered Himself out of compassion for humans:

If a poet or an artist puts himself into his Productions he is criticized. But that is exactly what God does, he does so in Christ. And precisely that is Christianity. The creation was really only completed when God included himself in it. Before the coming of Christ, God was certainly in the creation, but as an invisible sign, like the watermark in paper. But the creation was completed by the Incarnation because God thereby included himself in it. (Journals 324)

This statement bears resemblance to one of the parables of Jesus, in which God finally arrives on the scene Himself when his workers have rebelled against Him in the vineyard where he hired them to work (Mark 12:1-10, NKJV). These stories have power because they present the idea that God is one of our kind and that He loved us enough to get involved in our drama of sorrow and suffering and even our mortality.  Kierkegaard’s comparison to the creation without Christ as being as a watermark on paper adds a touch of mystery, because it portrays the idea that we don’t see everything that exists.

In the chapter from Provocations entitled “Behold the Birds of the Air,” Kierkegaard spins a fable about wood doves.  Using an opening like his fellow Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen, he writes of one wild dove that refuses to live in a dovecote under the care of a kind farmer: “Once upon a time there was a wood dove. It had its nest in the fearsome forest, where wonder and apprehension dwelt together, among the erect, lonely trees. But nearby, where the smoke rises up from the farmer’s house, lived some tame doves” (148). The wild dove is a metaphor for a person who chooses to live without divine authority.  The “fearsome forest” where “wonder and apprehension” live together is an aesthetic way of portraying the world and the conflicts that beset us each day.  The reader is hereby summoned into a sense of inner tension which Kierkegaard evokes to show the awful state of man without God. Through interactions between the wild dove and the tame ones, the writer portrays the inner friction between faith and the natural mind:

From now on, the wood dove began to worry. His feathers lost their glint of color, his flight lost buoyancy. He was no longer joyful; indeed, he was almost envious of the rich, tame doves… In worrying about his needs he had trapped himself in a snare in which no birdcatcher could have trapped him, trapped as only a free creature can trap himself. (Provocations 148)

The “tame doves” depict the faithful who don’t live unto themselves and need not worry about their livelihood or their future. Kierkegaard uses artful paradoxes and images to represent the anxiety that began to trouble the “free” dove, describing the loss of luster in his feathers and how he felt weighted down when he attempted to fly. The glossy feathers and lightness are symbols for joy and peace, and the lack of them implies strain and encumbrances.  The wild dove that “has trapped himself…as only a free creature can trap himself” is an apt representation for a man who cannot extricate himself from his ways because his ego is at stake. The author creates irony in that the tame birds are free and the wild bird is in bondage.

Kierkegaard was accomplished in the art of addressing controversial subjects with satire and paradox and allegorical tales, and by using graceful metaphors to illustrate his views in an evocative manner.

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(Excerpt from “Divine Doorkeepers”)

Charles Grandison Finney was born in Warren, Connecticut, and was the youngest of fifteen children. Born to a family of farmers, Finney never attended college, but he apprenticed to become a lawyer. After his conversion, he became an important figure in the Second Great Awakening which swept over the northern states, especially upstate New York.  Finney believed that the revivals did not have great impact in the Southern states because of the evil of slavery. He has been called The Father of Modern Revivalism and he was famous for sermons that were preached without notes or memorization, also known as “extemporaneous preaching.”  He developed the custom of the “anxious bench” for people who were anxious about their souls and wanted guidance.

Finney was a tireless spiritual leader who worked to bring about revivals in many communities in America and Europe.  Having been with a law firm before his conversion, he was well-suited to “plead the case of Christ”.  He was often told that his style was like a lawyer at the bar talking to a jury, because he was powerfully direct, searching, and persuasive in his language.

Finney was criticized by other preachers in his time for his straightforward and plain style, and his illustrations that were directed at common people in ordinary occupations. He was told that his sermons were an embarrassment to the ministerial profession.  But he replied by saying, “Great sermons lead people to praise the preacher.  Good sermons lead people to praise the Savior” (Autobiography 74).  He frequently had to defend his style: “Among farmers and mechanics, and other classes of men, I borrowed my illustrations from their various occupations.  I tried to use language they would understand… my object was not to cultivate a style of oratory that should soar above the heads of the people, but to make myself understood” (Autobiography 70).

In one of his lectures recorded in the book Revivals of Religion, he uses the analogy of hardened ground to represent the hardness of the human heart that resists the gospel message.  Like George Fox, he refers to himself as the divine gardener that has been appointed by God to labor in the field and plant holy seed:

Fallow ground is ground that has once been tilled, but which now lies waste, and needs to be broken up and mellowed, before it is suited to receive grain.  I shall show, as it respects a revival in the church…

To break up the fallow ground, is to break up your heart, to prepare your minds to bring forth fruit unto God.  The mind of man is often compared in the Bible to ground, and the Word of God to seed sown therein, the fruit representing the actions and affections of those who receive it…

Sometimes your hearts get matted down, hard and dry, till there is no such thing as getting fruit from them till they are broken up…It is that softening of the heart, so as to make it feel the truth, which the prophet calls breaking up your fallow ground (32-33).

Fox previously used the analogy of “thick cloddy earth” in a similar manner. Finney explains that tilling represents self-examination which allows the heart and mind to become tender and receptive. He explains that no preacher can “sow seed” or have any effect until a man prepares his heart on his own first.

Finney also depicts the movement of the Spirit with language pertaining to weaponry.  For instance, he spoke of the Word of God as an arrow: “The Word of God had wonderful power…and I was surprised to find that a few words spoken to an individual would stick in his heart like an arrow” (Autobiography 32).  He refers to preaching as being like a sword:  “I concluded with such pointed remarks as were intended to make the subject go home…The sword of the Lord slew them on the right hand and on the left” (Autobiography 63).  The “pointed remarks” and the sword represent the effect of the truth on the minds of people, piercing them with self-awareness and “slaying” their evil natures.

Finney was disillusioned that many ministers in his day had been trained in such a way that diminished their spiritual potency and hindered their growth.  He writes of one such minister in his autobiography: “The fact is that Mr. Gale’s education for the ministry had been entirely defective. He had imbibed a set of opinions, both theological and practical, that were a straitjacket to him” (Autobiography 50).  The straitjacket is used as a symbol for a condition of being restrained and weakened in faith.

Charles Finney uses simple stories and style in a way that is persuasive and authoritative, and draws readers into a stronger understanding of their own spiritual condition and the workings of God.

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(Excerpt from “Divine Doorkeepers”)

Jonathan Edwards was a great American evangelist and revivalist.  He was born in East Windsor, Connecticut and was the fifth of eleven children.  He and his siblings were all well-educated.  Edwards was not only a preacher, theologian, and missionary, but he was also considered a great intellectual.  He was very active in the First Great Awakening in the American colonies, and oversaw some of the earliest revivals in 1733–1735 in Northampton, Massachusetts.

In many of his memoirs, he seems to be a divine journalist and mystical meteorologist, reporting the amazing works of God in various communities.  Like Fox, he is fond of weather imagery and refers to a revival as a “shower of divine blessing” (Narrative 155), and a spiritual awakening among the youth as being “like a flash of lightning upon the hearts of young people all over the town” (Narrative149). These kinds of images shift the focus from the evangelists to God and enable the reader to visualize what the Spirit is doing.  The author also implies that preachers have no more control over revivals than they have over the making of weather.

Edwards depicts God in terms of supernatural strength and energy, using His strong arm to smite and jerk and awaken humans from spiritual slumber. He describes the revival in Northampton using many exercise metaphors and he emphasizes concrete verbs showing physical exertion to illustrate God’s presence in the towns. He refers to revivals as “works” and “awakenings”, and describes the Spirit striving vigorously to win over the hearts of people.

Throughout his memoirs in A Faithful Narrative, he uses language that creates a sense of motion and strife and physical strain. Upon witnessing a great urgency towards spiritual matters in one community he writes: “…the Spirit of God began to extraordinarily set in, and wonderfully to work amongst us…and some of them wrought upon in a very remarkable manner: The only thing in their view was to get into the kingdom of heaven, and everyone appeared pressing into it” (150). The language connoting physical activity in these passages gives the reader a sense of movement and people straining to get closer to God.  In the last sentence, you can envision a crowd trying to squeeze through a door, pressing against each other in desperation to get in first.

Edwards describes the supernatural swiftness of the conversion of souls during this time, and how humans could not possibly have accomplished this on their own:

God has also seemed to go out of His usual way in the quickness of His work, and the swift progress the Spirit has made in His operations on the hearts of many…seized with strong convictions of their guilt and misery…

The work of God’s Spirit seemed to be at its greatest height in this town…When God in so remarkable a manner took the work into His own hands, there was as much done in a day or two at ordinary times, with all endeavors that men can use, and with such a blessing as we commonly have, is done in a year. (159)

Edwards humanizes God, and then creates a sense of tension between Him and people.  He puts flesh and bones on the Spirit, and allows the reader to see God at work in the souls of men. The reader gets the sense of men being sleepwalkers who God is sharply awakening from slumber. He juxtaposes physical strength and supernatural power, thus allowing the reader to sense the activity of God.

1832 republication of "A Faithful Narrati...

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(Excerpt from “Divine Doorkeepers”)

George Fox was a renowned seventeenth century English dissenter who founded the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).  He traveled throughout Britain, challenging the “hireling preachers” of his time and suffering tremendous persecution.  Fox was born in Leicestershire, England (now known as Fenny Drayton). George was the eldest of four children of Christopher Fox, a successful weaver.

In his journals and other writings, Fox frequently uses surreal imagery to portray God. He presents his life story in a way that leads the reader to believe that he was born into a world of powers far greater than himself, and was chosen to carry divine seed to a parched and weary Earth.  He artfully uses ocean waves and clouds, elements and stars, and sparkling fiery seeds to depict the movement of the Spirit.  His memoirs seem to have been written with a magic quill, because they twinkle with a fantasy-like quality.  His poetic style is reminiscent of Bunyan in that he depicts himself as a seeking hero on a spiritual journey. He creates a mystical sense of place by applying geographical dimensions and weather patterns to abstractions such as good and evil. Michael Graves asserts that this kind of language enables the reader to visualize and vicariously “travel” with the author:

…to name life a Pilgrimage overlays a gloss of geographic factors which may have never occurred to the person who hears the metaphor applied to life for the first time.  At the very least, the idea of pilgrimage may call forth associations which have lain dormant… [e.g., living in an evil place; finding a straight path; traveling light (and in the light), etc.]…( 364)

Fox had visions from his youth, which he referred to as “openings” because his eyes were opened to the spiritual.  He contrasts light and darkness to show the spiritual battle within man’s heart and on the earth:  “I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death; but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness.  In that also I saw the infinite love of God, and I had great openings” (Journal 87).  He uses the ocean to portray the vastness of the forces of evil and good, and a sense of overwhelming waters inwardly and outwardly.  Darkness is a metaphor for death, and light is the symbol for the love of God.  Fox effectively uses alliteration here as well to couple “darkness” with “death” and “light” with “love”, while making the infinite into something finite and visible. Nature and elements were commonly used by Fox as to describe spiritual revelations. In his journal, he records an experience of being within a mystical cloud:

One morning as I was sitting by the fire, a great cloud came over me, and a temptation beset me; and I sat still.  It was said “All things come by nature”; and the elements and stars came over me, so that I was in a manner quite clouded with it.  But as I sat still under it and let it alone, a living hope and a true voice arose in me, which said, “There is a living God who made all things.”  Immediately the cloud and temptation vanished away, and life rose over it; my heart was glad, and I praised the living God. (Journal 94)

The visionary cloaked in cloud is reminiscent of the story of Moses. The imagery works because it shows that Fox was alone with God and people could not see what was taking place as they communed.  Then he creates the sense of light piercing through the cloud when the “true voice” speaks.  Elements and stars and clouds are real but uncontrollable things in the universe, and the juxtaposition helps readers to understand God as having the same unfathomable power. Fox writes of God sending him into the world with a message, in a manner that bears resemblance to Dante embarking upon his journey:

Some time after the Lord commanded me to go abroad into the world, which was like a briery, thorny wilderness.  When I came in the Lord’s mighty power with the Word of life into the world, the world swelled, and made a noise like the great raging waves of the sea.  Priests and professors, magistrates and people, were all like the sea when I came to proclaim the day of the Lord amongst them, and to preach repentance unto them. (Journal 102)

The words “world” and “Word” flow together in this description of the world swelling and raging as he is sent with divine power.  He creates with his language a sense of two great powers raging against one another, and the sense of this overwhelming task that the preacher has been commissioned to carry out. The analogy of the sea evokes a sense of great power behind him as he goes forth. Fox often writes about the “Seed of God” that he is “sowing” around Europe.  He describes his sense of God having prepared the soil in Scotland before he arrives with divine seed:

For when I first set my horse’s foot upon Scottish ground I felt the Seed of God to sparkle about me, like innumerable sparks of fire.

Not but that there is abundance of the thick, cloddy earth of hypocrisy and falseness above, and a briery, brambly nature, which is to be burnt up with God’s Word, and ploughed up with His spiritual plough, before God’s Seed brings forth heavenly and spiritual fruit to his glory.  But the husbandman is to wait in patience. (Journal 316)

This scene of the author’s horse touching Scottish ground could be expected to come from the pages of King Arthur or “Jack and the Beanstalk.” Like Jack, the hero sets out on a journey with only some magic beans and has to battle with evil giants as he climbs toward heaven. The sparkling seeds around his feet give a touch of mystique to his divine calling and the fire is a metaphor for the Spirit.  He uses the thick clods of earth and the thorns to show the resistance that he expects to encounter, and the condition of people’s minds before they have been tilled with patience. The mystical plough of God has been given to him as the gardener, and he is expected to work diligently.  Like Rumpelstiltskin in the Brothers Grimm tale, Fox seems to be able to “spin straw into gold.”  He transfigures the properties of earthly things into heavenly things by using fantasy-like literary devices.

John in the New Testament addressed new believers as “little children” in his letters, and Fox uses a similar style in his epistles. In one of his letters, he refers to converts as “children of the light”:

Sing and rejoice, ye children of the Day and of the Light, for the Lord is at work in this thick night of Darkness that may be felt; and Truth doth flourish as the rose, and the lilies do grow among the thorns, and the plants atop of the hills, and upon them the lambs do skip and play.  And never heed the tempests nor the storms, floods nor rains, for the Seed of Christ is over all and doth reign. (Epistle 227)

This passage is illuminated and lyrical, and the style evokes a sense of reverence. The tempests, floods, and rains are metaphors for the evils that can drown out the “Seed of Christ”.  The Truth is depicted as the rose, and as lilies among thorns, because they are flowers that are recognized as fragrant and lovely.  The lambs skipping represent the purity of children of God, and the tops of the hills indicate that believers transcend the world and its ways.  The elevated tone adds to the sense of being in this place of light and truth with the writer.

Fox’s metaphors, similes, and analogies depict might, authority, and movement, and a sense of light and beauty.  Through his poetic and magical style, he draws the reader into a sense of being in the presence of something glowing and desirable.

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When I was attending graduate school for my Master of Fine Arts, I was asked to write an extended critical essay of at least thirty pages, and I thought I would share it with my readers in small doses- starting with the introduction.

My mentor was quite impressed with the research for this piece, and asked me how long it had taken me to find all of the passages cited in the work. I told him that I had started gathering my material one semester early.

My father laughed when I mentioned it to him and asked me, “Did you tell him you’ve actually been doing this since you were twelve years old?”  Good ol’ Poppy, always making a good joke at my expense…oh well. I was pegged early on as the “religious one” in the family.

So, let’s move on to the essay itself, which I hope you enjoy and gain some insight from.

Peace be with you,

Olive Twist

~♥~

Abstract

“Divine Doorkeepers:  How Mystical Authors Usher Readers into the Spirit Realm” is a study of evangelical writers and how they use literary devices such as metaphor and simile to usher the reader in the door to experience the supernatural realm.  The books examined for this extended essay will come from Christian evangelical writers, revivalists, and reformers such as George Fox, Charles Finney, Dwight Moody, Charles Spurgeon, and continuing with writers to the present day.  The essay is an analysis of how they portray God and the workings of the Spirit to readers.

~♥~

Divine Doorkeepers: 

How Mystical Authors Usher Readers into the Spirit Realm

“Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in” (Psalm 24:7).

If you were trying to write or speak about a world that cannot be apprehended with the senses, what method would you use to be most effective?  How would you make it possible for someone to touch the intangible world, or illuminate the invisible mystical realm for the human eye?

Evangelists, revivalists, and religious reformers have always been particularly fond of metaphor in their writings to make God and spiritual matters clear to their readers.  Rather than merely stating abstract concepts in an ethereal way, they build a sense of God being tangible. They use stories like soldiers to round up and captivate the minds of skeptics and unbelievers. In an essay entitled “To Make the Final Unity: Metaphor’s Matter and Spirit,” Mark Jarman writes about this process of presenting the mystical to people in a natural way:  “If it sounds too religious to call metaphor an incarnation, then let’s call it a manifestation, for it makes available to the senses what is often intangible, invisible, unknown, obscure; metaphor brings to light, it reveals, it unifies the fragmented, it is an act of creation, indeed” (301).

Christian writers have historically used physical activity, images of nature and weather, and human characteristics to describe the mystical world, enabling people to apprehend God with their senses instead of in an abstract manner.  Perhaps for some of these writers, the spiritual dimension is as real as the physical realm.

By using strong verb metaphors, evangelical writers enable the reader to see the activity of the Spirit during times of revival and religious change. By using stories about nature they allow the reader to understand complex visions and theologies.  By applying human traits to God, they give readers a sense of the humanity of God and a feeling of kinship with Him.  Spiritual writers weave metaphor through their messages and writing in such a way that makes the supernatural seems natural, and the metaphysical seems like physical activity.

Jesus Himself said, “This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matthew 13:13, ESV). Spiritual authors have continued in His style, using allegorical stories or parables to illustrate the spiritual world. In his essay “Follow that Metaphor”, John Savant writes:

“For a person of Christian faith, the Gospels are a similar tool, teaching more through experience and story than through argument or explanation. The Gospels work by juxtaposition, indirection, comparison, and suggestion: they are, in other words, poetic and metaphoric” (18).

In this essay, I wish to examine the kinds of metaphors that are traditionally used to illustrate spiritual events, such as (1) depicting a hero with divine weapons on a spiritual journey, (2) humanizing God in order to give the reader a sense of identification with Him, (3) using weather and nature to depict God’s power and activity, (4) using magical realism in order to “spin straw into gold” and carry the reader into a new dimension, (5) using illustrations that show God striving with man, and (6) using metaphors that relate to the lifestyles and occupations of ordinary people.  The authors addressed in this essay are George Fox, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney, Søren Kierkegaard, Charles Spurgeon, Dwight Moody, C. S. Lewis, Donald Miller, and Shane Claiborne.

~♥~

George Fox (1624-1691): Divine Alchemist

George Fox was a well known English dissenter who founded the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).  He traveled throughout Britain, challenging the “hireling preachers” of his time and suffering tremendous persecution.  Fox was born in Leicestershire, England (now known as Fenny Drayton). George was the eldest of four children of Christopher Fox, a successful weaver.

Fox frequently uses surreal imagery to portray God. He presents his life story in a way that leads the reader to believe that he was born into a world of powers far greater than himself, and was chosen to carry divine seed to a parched and weary Earth.  He artfully uses ocean waves and clouds, elements and stars, and sparkling fiery seeds to depict the movement of the Spirit.  His memoirs seem to have been written with a magic quill, because they twinkle with a fantasy-like quality.  His poetic style is reminiscent of Bunyan in that he depicts himself as a seeking hero on a spiritual journey. He creates a mystical sense of place by applying geographical dimensions and weather patterns to abstractions such as good and evil. Michael Graves asserts that creating using this kind of language enables the reader to visualize and vicariously “travel” with the author:

…to name life a Pilgrimage overlays a gloss of geographic factors which may have never occurred to the person who hears the metaphor applied to life for the first time.  At the very least, the idea of pilgrimage may call forth associations which have lain dormant… [e.g., living in an evil place; finding a straight path; traveling light (and in the light), etc.]…( 364)

Fox had visions from his youth, which he referred to as “openings” because his eyes were opened to the spiritual.  He contrasts light and darkness to show the spiritual battle within man’s heart and on the earth:  “I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death; but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness.  In that also I saw the infinite love of God, and I had great openings” (Journal 87).  He uses the ocean to portray the vastness of the forces of evil and good, and a sense of overwhelming waters inwardly and outwardly.  Darkness is a metaphor for death, and light is the symbol for the love of God.  Fox effectively uses alliteration here as well to couple “darkness” with “death” and “light” with “love”, while making the infinite into something finite and visible. Nature and elements were commonly used by Fox as to describe spiritual revelations. In his journal, he records an experience of being within a mystical cloud:

One morning as I was sitting by the fire, a great cloud came over me, and a temptation beset me; and I sat still.  It was said “All things come by nature”; and the elements and stars came over me, so that I was in a manner quite clouded with it.  But as I sat still under it and let it alone, a living hope and a true voice arose in me, which said, “There is a living God who made all things.”  Immediately the cloud and temptation vanished away, and life rose over it; my heart was glad, and I praised the living God. (Journal 94)

The visionary cloaked in cloud is reminiscent of the story of Moses. The imagery works because it shows that Fox was alone with God and people could not see what was taking place as they communed.  Then he creates the sense of light piercing through the cloud when the “true voice” speaks.  Elements and stars and clouds are real but uncontrollable things in the universe, and the juxtaposition helps readers to understand God as having the same unfathomable power. Fox writes of God sending him into the world with a message, in a manner that bears resemblance to Dante embarking upon his journey:

Some time after the Lord commanded me to go abroad into the world, which was like a briery, thorny wilderness.  When I came in the Lord’s mighty power with the Word of life into the world, the world swelled, and made a noise like the great raging waves of the sea.  Priests and professors, magistrates and people, were all like the sea when I came to proclaim the day of the Lord amongst them, and to preach repentance unto them. (Journal 102)

The words “world” and “Word” flow together in this description of the world swelling and raging as he is sent with divine power.  He creates with his language a sense of two great powers raging against one another, and the sense of this overwhelming task that the preacher has been commissioned to carry out. The analogy of the sea evokes a sense of great power behind him as he goes forth. Fox often writes about the “Seed of God” that he is “sowing” around Europe.  He describes his sense of God having prepared the soil in Scotland before he arrives with divine seed:

For when I first set my horse’s foot upon Scottish ground I felt the Seed of God to sparkle about me, like innumerable sparks of fire.

Not but that there is abundance of the thick, cloddy earth of hypocrisy and falseness above, and a briery, brambly nature, which is to be burnt up with God’s Word, and ploughed up with His spiritual plough, before God’s Seed brings forth heavenly and spiritual fruit to his glory.  But the husbandman is to wait in patience. (Journal 316)

This scene of the author’s horse touching Scottish ground could be expected to come from the pages of King Arthur or “Jack and the Beanstalk.” Like Jack, the hero sets out on a journey with only some magic beans and has to battle with evil giants as he climbs toward heaven. The sparkling seeds around his feet give a touch of mystique to his divine calling and the fire is a metaphor for the Spirit.  He uses the thick clods of earth and the thorns to show the resistance that he expects to encounter, and the condition of people’s minds before they have been tilled with patience. The mystical plough of God has been given to him as the gardener, and he is expected to work diligently.  Like Rumpelstiltskin in the Brothers Grimm tale, Fox seems to be able to “spin straw into gold.”  He transfigures the properties of earthly things into heavenly things by using fantasy-like literary devices.

John in the New Testament addressed new believers as “little children” in his letters, and Fox uses a similar style in his epistles. In one of his letters, he refers to converts as “children of the light”:

Sing and rejoice, ye children of the Day and of the Light, for the Lord is at work in this thick night of Darkness that may be felt; and Truth doth flourish as the rose, and the lilies do grow among the thorns, and the plants atop of the hills, and upon them the lambs do skip and play.  And never heed the tempests nor the storms, floods nor rains, for the Seed of Christ is over all and doth reign. (Epistle 227)

This passage is illuminated and lyrical, and the style evokes a sense of reverence. The tempests, floods, and rains are metaphors for the evils that can drown out the “Seed of Christ”.  The Truth is depicted as the rose, and as lilies among thorns, because they are flowers that are recognized as fragrant and lovely.  The lambs skipping represent the purity of children of God, and the tops of the hills indicate that believers transcend the world and its ways.  The elevated tone adds to the sense of being in this place of light and truth with the writer.

Fox’s metaphors, similes, and analogies depict might, authority, and movement, and a sense of light and beauty.  Through his poetic and magical style, he draws the reader into a sense of being in the presence of something glowing and desirable.

~♥~

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758): The Town Crier

Jonathan Edwards was a great American evangelist and revivalist.  He was born in East Windsor, Connecticut and was the fifth of eleven children.  He and his siblings were all well-educated.  Edwards was not only a preacher, theologian, and missionary, but he was also considered a great intellectual.  He was very active in the First Great Awakening in the American colonies, and oversaw some of the earliest revivals in 1733–1735 in Northampton, Massachusetts.

In many of his memoirs, he seems to be a divine journalist and mystical meteorologist, reporting the amazing works of God in various communities.  Like Fox, he is fond of weather imagery and refers to a revival as a “shower of divine blessing”(Narrative 155), and a spiritual awakening among the youth as being “like a flash of lightning upon the hearts of young people all over the town” (Narrative149). These kinds of images shift the focus from the evangelists to God and enable the reader to visualize what the Spirit is doing.  The author also implies that preachers have no more control over revivals than they have over the making of weather.

Edwards depicts God in terms of supernatural strength and energy, using His strong arm to smite and jerk and awaken humans from spiritual slumber. He describes the revival in Northampton using many exercise metaphors and he emphasizes concrete verbs showing physical exertion to illustrate God’s presence in the towns. He refers to revivals as “works” and “awakenings”, and describes the Spirit striving vigorously to win over the hearts of people. Throughout his memoirs in A Faithful Narrative, he uses language that creates a sense of motion and strife and physical strain. Upon witnessing a great urgency towards spiritual matters in one community he writes: “…the Spirit of God began to extraordinarily set in, and wonderfully to work amongst us…and some of them wrought upon in a very remarkable manner: The only thing in their view was to get into the kingdom of heaven, and everyone appeared pressing into it” (150). The language connoting physical activity in these passages gives the reader a sense of motion and people straining to get closer to God.  In the last sentence, you can envision a crowd trying to squeeze through a door at the same time, pressing against each other in desperation to get in first.

Edwards describes the supernatural swiftness of the conversion of souls during this time, and how humans could not possibly have accomplished this on their own:

God has also seemed to go out of His usual way in the quickness of His work, and the swift progress the Spirit has made in His operations on the hearts of many…seized with strong convictions of their guilt and misery…

The work of God’s Spirit seemed to be at its greatest height in this town…When God in so remarkable a manner took the work into His own hands, there was as much done in a day or two at ordinary times, with all endeavors that men can use, and with such a blessing as we commonly have, is done in a year. (159)

Edwards humanizes God, and then creates a sense of tension between Him and people.  He puts flesh and bones on the Spirit, and allows the reader to see God at work in the souls of men. The reader gets the sense of men being sleepwalkers who God is sharply awakening from slumber. He juxtaposes physical strength and supernatural power, thus allowing the reader to sense the activity of God.

~♥~

Charles Finney (1792-1875):  Retained by God

Charles Grandison Finney was born in Warren, Connecticut, and was the youngest of fifteen children. As a son of farmers, Finney never attended college, but he apprenticed to become a lawyer. After his conversion, he became an important figure in the Second Great Awakening which swept over the northern states, especially upstate New York.  Finney believed that the revivals did not have great impact in the Southern states because of the evil of slavery. He has been called The Father of Modern Revivalism and he was famous for sermons that were preached without notes and without memorization, also known as “extemporaneous preaching.”  He developed the custom of the “anxious bench” for people who were anxious about their souls and wanted guidance.

Finney was a tireless spiritual leader who worked to bring about revivals in many communities in America and Europe.  Having been a lawyer before his conversion, he was well-suited to “plead the case of Christ”.  He was often told that his style was like a lawyer at the bar talking to a jury, because he was powerfully direct, searching, and persuasive in his language. Finney was criticized by other preachers in his time for his straightforward and plain style, and his illustrations that were directed at common people in ordinary occupations. He was told that his sermons were an embarrassment to the ministerial profession.  But he replied by saying, “Great sermons lead people to praise the preacher.  Good sermons lead people to praise the Savior” (Autobiography 74).  He frequently had to defend his style: “Among farmers and mechanics, and other classes of men, I borrowed my illustrations from their various occupations.  I tried to use language they would understand… my object was not to cultivate a style of oratory that should soar above the heads of the people, but to make myself understood” (Autobiography 70).

In one of his lectures recorded in the book Revivals of Religion, he uses the analogy of hardened ground to represent the hardness of the human heart that resists the gospel message.  Like George Fox, he refers to himself as the divine gardener that has been appointed by God to labor in the field and plant holy seed:

Fallow ground is ground that has once been tilled, but which now lies waste, and needs to be broken up and mellowed, before it is suited to receive grain.  I shall show, as it respects a revival in the church…

To break up the fallow ground, is to break up your heart, to prepare your minds to bring forth fruit unto God.  The mind of man is often compared in the Bible to ground, and the Word of God to seed sown therein, the fruit representing the actions and affections of those who receive it…

Sometimes your hearts get matted down, hard and dry, till there is no such thing as getting fruit from them till they are broken up…It is that softening of the heart, so as to make it feel the truth, which the prophet calls breaking up your fallow ground (32-33).

Fox previously used the analogy of “thick cloddy earth” in a similar manner. Finney explains that tilling represents self-examination which allows the heart and mind to become tender and receptive. He explains that no preacher can “sow seed” or have any effect until a man prepares his heart on his own first.

Finney also depicts the movement of the Spirit with language pertaining to weaponry.  For instance, he spoke of the Word of God as an arrow: “The Word of God had wonderful power…and I was surprised to find that a few words spoken to an individual would stick in his heart like an arrow” (Autobiography 32).  He refers to preaching as being like a sword:  “I concluded with such pointed remarks as were intended to make the subject go home…The sword of the Lord slew them on the right hand and on the left” (Autobiography 63).  The “pointed remarks” and the sword represent the effect of the truth on the minds of people, piercing them with self-awareness and “slaying” their evil natures.

Finney was disillusioned that many ministers in his day had been trained in such a way that diminished their spiritual potency and hindered their growth.  He writes of one such minister in his autobiography: “The fact is that Mr. Gale’s education for the ministry had been entirely defective. He had imbibed a set of opinions, both theological and practical, that were a straitjacket to him” (Autobiography 50).  The straitjacket is used as a symbol for a condition of being restrained and weakened in faith.

Charles Finney uses simple stories and style in a way that is persuasive and authoritative, and draws readers into a stronger understanding of their own spiritual condition and the workings of God.

~♥~

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855):  Thinking Outside the Crowd

Søren Kierkegaard was a renowned Danish philosopher, theologian and religious author. He was born to an affluent family in Copenhagen, and his mother was employed as a maid in the household before marrying his father.

Kierkegaard was greatly influenced by Socrates and the Socratic method of thinking. His theological writings primarily focus on the flaws in the church institution and the crowd-driven mentality of believers. He was strongly opposed to the way that theology and organized religion had tarnished the Gospel message, and he believed that seminaries taught Christians to think and talk about God rather than to take any kind of action. His writings beg for soul-searching and an active response from the reader.

Dr. George Pattison writes of the author’s style in his introduction to Kierkegaard’s Spiritual Writings: “The discourses are not plodding expositions of ready-made dogmas, but have an almost conversational feel, sometimes serious, sometimes playful, but always seeking to open a dialogue with the reader, whose own response is anticipated and responded to” (57).

Kierkegaard tells stories about God humanizing Himself willingly out of His great love for people.  He depicts Christians as thieves and cheaters who twist the gospel to suit their own agenda. Here he portrays the struggle between worldly religion and true spirituality:  “…The Bible is very easy to understand.  But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers.  We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly…Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament” (Provocations 201). His representation of religious folks as “scheming swindlers” is a piercing metaphor that suggests deception and misuse of something valuable.

In one of his letters, Kierkegaard presents God as being a creator who fashioned humans in His own image, and loved them so deeply that He placed Himself into their lives. He asserts that the Incarnated God taught people about service to others by His own example.  In this passage he uses an analogy pertaining to artists and their productions to illustrate how even God lowered Himself out of compassion for humans:

If a poet or an artist puts himself into his Productions he is criticized. But that is exactly what God does, he does so in Christ. And precisely that is Christianity. The creation was really only completed when God included himself in it. Before the coming of Christ, God was certainly in the creation, but as an invisible sign, like the watermark in paper. But the creation was completed by the Incarnation because God thereby included himself in it. (Journals 324)

This statement bears resemblance to one of the parables of Jesus, in which God finally arrives on the scene Himself when his workers have rebelled against Him in the vineyard where he hired them to work (Mark 12:1-10, NKJV). These stories have power because they present the idea that God is one of our kind and that He loved us enough to get involved in our drama of sorrow and suffering and even our mortality.  Kierkegaard’s comparison to the creation without Christ as being as a watermark on paper adds a touch of mystery, because it portrays the idea that we don’t see everything that exists.

In the chapter from Provocations entitled “Behold the Birds of the Air,” Kierkegaard spins a fable about wood doves.  Using an opening like his fellow Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen, he writes of one wild dove that refuses to live in a dovecote under the care of a kind farmer: “Once upon a time there was a wood dove. It had its nest in the fearsome forest, where wonder and apprehension dwelt together, among the erect, lonely trees. But nearby, where the smoke rises up from the farmer’s house, lived some tame doves” (148). The wild dove is a metaphor for a person who chooses to live without divine authority.  The “fearsome forest” where “wonder and apprehension” live together is an aesthetic way of portraying the world and the conflicts that beset us each day.  The reader is hereby summoned into a sense of inner tension which Kierkegaard evokes to show the awful state of man without God. Through interactions between the wild dove and the tame ones, the writer portrays the inner friction between faith and the natural mind:

From now on, the wood dove began to worry. His feathers lost their glint of color, his flight lost buoyancy. He was no longer joyful; indeed, he was almost envious of the rich, tame doves… In worrying about his needs he had trapped himself in a snare in which no birdcatcher could have trapped him, trapped as only a free creature can trap himself. (Provocations148)

The “tame doves” depict the faithful who don’t live unto themselves and need not worry about their livelihood or their future. Kierkegaard uses artful paradoxes and images to represent the anxiety that began to trouble the “free” dove, describing the loss of luster in his feathers and how he felt weighted down when he attempted to fly. The glossy feathers and lightness are symbols for joy and peace, and the lack of them implies strain and encumbrances.  The wild dove that “has trapped himself…as only a free creature can trap himself” is an apt representation for a man cannot extricate himself from his ways because his ego is at stake. The author creates irony in that the tame birds are free and the wild bird is in bondage.

Kierkegaard was accomplished in the art of addressing controversial subjects with satire and paradox and allegorical tales, and by using graceful metaphors to illustrate his views in an evocative manner.

~♥~

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892):  Spiritual Lyricist

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a British Baptist preacher, but his style stirred the interest of Christians of all denominations.  He is referred to by many as the “Prince of Preachers”.  He was born in Kelvedon, Essex and was converted on January 6, 1850. His conversion occurred when a snow storm cut one of his journeys short and he stopped into a Primitive Methodist chapel in Colchester.

Spurgeon preached up to ten times per week in different locations during his years of ministry. He was the pastor of the New Park Street Chapel (later the Metropolitan Tabernacle) in London for thirty-eight years and was a prolific author of many types of works.  He wrote sermons, an autobiography, devotions, poetry,a hymnist, prayer books,and more. Many of his sermons were transcribed as he spoke and translated into many languages.

Charles Spurgeon has a graceful poetic style in his writing and speaking, and his voice is elevated and lyrical.  He has a remarkably sensitive and gentle voice by comparison to other evangelical authors and preachers, as he is full of comfort and encouragement.  His writing is melodious and flowing and almost angelic in its tone, and his metaphors evoke a sense of divine music.  One of his most “musical” transcribed sermons is his aptly titled “Songs in the Night” (Job 35:10, KJV).    He begins by exhorting the reader about how to maintain good cheer in the midst of distress:

Anyone can sing in the day. When the cup is full, one draws inspiration from it; when wealth rolls in abundance around them, anyone can sing to the praise of a God who gives an abundant harvest.  It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but the skillful singer is the one who can sing when there is not a ray of light to read by—who sings from their heart, and not from a book that they can see. (Songs I-1)

This passage contains many of the poetic elements used by Fox in his epistles, such as the contrast of light and darkness, and the exhortation to sing in the thick night. The songs represent joy and the night represents times of adversity. The full cup and the harvest are images of abundance. He uses them to clarify that it takes no strength of character to be cheerful when one has wealth and comfort.

Then his images shift when he speaks of singing without any light to read the notes by, from an inward book which cannot be seen. The darkness is a symbol for the times when things appear bleak to us and we have to grope for happiness.  The “skillful singer” is a graceful metaphor for the one who can retain joy in times of tribulation, and memorizing the words as opposed to reading them re-emphasizes the skill of the vocalist. The passage is richly sensual, engaging both sight and hearing and also full of contrasts of light and darkness, joy and pain, music and silence.  Rather than merely telling the reader of joy in the midst of trials, he paints glorious pictures and makes lofty music to illustrate his message.

Let all things go as I please—I will weave songs, weave them wherever I go, with the flowers that grow along my path; but put me in a desert, where there are no flowers, and how will I weave a chorus of praise to God? How will I make a crown for him? Let this voice be free, and this body be full of health, and I can sing God’s praise; but stop this tongue, lay me on the bed of suffering, and it is not so easy to sing from the bed, and chant high praises in the fires…confine me, chain my spirit, clip my wings, make me very sad, so that I become old like the eagle—ah! Then it is hard to sing. (Songs I-1)

His flowing musical style creates a tone of worship.  The coupling of the verb metaphor “weaving” with “songs” is aesthetically pleasing as weaving is rhythmic like musical notes.  “Chanting praises in the fire” is remarkably visual and conjures up an image of strong faith.  He writes that the desert has no flowers to weave a chorus and then asks how to make a crown of praise for God; these two sentences make the reader associate weaving with crowns, and this seems to imply the crown of thorns.  The old eagle is similar to T. S. Eliot’s verse from “Ash Wednesday” about the aged eagle that no longer stretches its wings, and both authors are speaking about mortality and loss of dreams.

While making melody can produce comfort in a troubled mind, Spurgeon is not referring to a real song, but to a supernatural state of mind which he asserts can be retained through the Spirit, which makes people resilient beyond the limits of human fortitude. The unfruitful fig tree is symbolic of the times of struggle, and the divine song represents an attitude of acceptance and peace.

He then speaks of not trying to create joy but to simply ask for it, and he uses a metaphor of an old well pump:

So, then, poor Christian, you needn’t go pumping up your poor heart to make it glad. Go to your Maker, and ask him to give you a song in the night. You are a poor dry well: you have heard it said, that when a pump is dry, you must pour water down it first of all, to prime the pump, and then you will get some up; and so, Christian, when you are dry, go to God, ask him to pour some joy down you, and then you will get some joy up from your own heart. (Songs I-2)

The water Spurgeon refers to is a metaphor for joy, and he tells readers that they are “poor dry wells.”  The old well pump was a familiar household appliance during the days in which he preached, and he uses it as a symbol for striving to find joy when the heart is troubled.  He tells his audience not to work at it on their own or “pump the well” because God can pour down the joy upon His people.

Spurgeon refers to God as the great composer of songs, meaning that God is the one who creates the joy that man cannot find inside of himself.

It may be darkness now; but I know the promises were sweet; I know I had blessed seasons in his church. I am quite sure of this; I used to enjoy myself in the ways of the Lord; and though now my paths are strewn with thorns, I know it is the King’s highway. It was a way of pleasantness once; it will be a way of pleasantness again… Christian, perhaps the best song you can sing, to cheer you in the night, is the song of yesterday morning. (Songs Part II-1)

Spurgeon suggests that people should encourage themselves by remembrance of better times, and he presents the notion of life having seasons.  Seasons illustrate that “pleasantness” will always circle around again after a time in which the path is covered in thorns. The thorns were used by Fox in his writings as well, and they are a symbol of piercing anguish and suffering in the human heart.  The King’s highway is another example of metaphor suggesting a pilgrimage. Spurgeon’s language and tone are effective, because rather than trying to appeal to the heart through abstractions, he creates imagery and music and moods through his flowing style and use of lyrical metaphors.

~♥~

Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899):  Soul-Winning Storyteller

Dwight Lyman Moody was born in Northfield, Massachusetts and was one of nine children. His father, a poor farmer and stonemason, died at the age of forty-one while praying on his knees when Dwight was four years old.

Moody was a shoe salesman before he became a missionary. He acquired great fame as an evangelist in England in 1872. He was invited by Spurgeon for speaking engagements and was also promoted by him. Moody mentions Fox and Finney in some of his writings, referring to them as great leaders in reforming and reviving God’s work among the slumbering churches. He had a soul-searching tone that was similar to Finney’s, and he had a gift for spinning stories in such a way that calls upon the reader to extend the tales and draw more conclusions on their own.

For instance, he asserts that the spiritual needs of humans are as real and treatable as physical ailments. In The Best of Dwight Moody, he writes of the importance of fellowship by using a medical simile:  “Church attendance is as vital to a disciple as a transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man.”  This statement is effective because he shows in the statement that even a disciple can become spiritually ill if he does not maintain his “health” by following the precepts of God and being in a community of encouragers.  It also allows the reader to conclude that the disciple could die in a spiritual sense from lack of encouragement and fellowship. He juxtaposes the physical man and the spiritual man and alludes to the healing blood of Christ through the transfusion simile.  By being inconclusive in his stories, he allows the reader to make more associations.

Moody believed in using simple and plain style. In Dr. Joe McKeever’s article called “Why We Need Parables”, he writes:  “Dwight L. Moody used to remind pastors to ‘put the cookies on the bottom shelf so everyone could reach them.’ What he meant–and what he practiced as well as it could be done–was, ‘Keep the message simple.’ Make it accessible to everyone” (par 1).  Moody, like Finney, used the idea of a courtroom when explaining why flowery speech was not his method for addressing an audience of unbelievers.

My friend, we have too many orators.  I am tired and sick of your “silver-tongued orators.”  I used to mourn because I couldn’t be an orator…

Take a witness in court and let him try his oratorical powers in the witness-box, and see how quickly the judge will rule him out.  It is the man who tells the plain, simple truth that has the most influence with the jury (Best 198).

This passage depicts the urgency that the evangelist feels to “plead his case” and why it is so important to be understood as opposed to merely sounding lofty and educated.  It also carries the reader to think upon the consequences of being “ruled out” and the injustices that may result, and he juxtaposes earthly and divine judgment.

He uses a similar method in this passage where he tells the story of a little boy who catches a sparrow, and he uses it as an allegory for redemption:

A friend in Ireland once met a little Irish boy who had caught a sparrow.  The poor little bird was trembling in his hand, and seemed very anxious to escape.  The gentleman begged the boy to let it go…but the boy said he would not, for he had chased it for three hours before he could catch it.  He tried to reason it out with the boy, but in vain.  At last he offered to buy the bird.  The boy agreed to the price and it was paid.  Then the gentleman took the poor little thing, and held it out on his hand…in a little while, it flew away chirping (Best 16).

The purchase and release of the sparrow represents the redemption of souls by the grace of God. Moody also allows the reader make other associations, and think of the weakness of the little bird being like humans without the strength of Christ, and wondering if the sparrow fully appreciated its freedom.  One might also contemplate how the sparrow had no concept of what had transpired, and thus could not feel truly grateful, and that man is often the same way towards God. The reader continues to make associations beyond what the writer develops in the piece, and this is artistic because by understatement, the author causes the reader to think further on the matter.

Moody uses a balloon analogy to speak to believers about how to walk in a manner that is pleasing to God and allows them to meet their full potential:

You know, when a man is going up in a balloon, he takes in sand as ballast, and when he wants to mount a little higher, he throws out some of it, and then he will mount a little higher; he throws out a little more ballast, and he mounts still higher; and the more he throws out the higher he gets, and so the more we have to throw out of the things of this world the nearer we get to God (Best 72).

This analogy is very thought-provoking and clear. The balloon was a familiar mode of travel during Moody’s day which makes it appropriate, and it gives readers a sense of the time period the writer is speaking from. One can also visually see the effect of abstinence and self-denial through this portrayal of the man in the balloon, and how the level of spirituality a man reaches is determined by what he lets go of.  This matter of weight works well in association with the subject of burdens and encumbrances, and the balloon connotes lightness of heart and freedom.  The writer allows the reader to visualize so they can comprehend the principle more clearly, which is quite superior to merely explaining the concept without the illustration.

~♥~

C. S. Lewis (1898-1963):  Scholar of the Divine

Clive Staples Lewis was a highly acclaimed Christian apologist.  He was born and raised in Ireland and as an adult became a faculty member at Oxford University in England. Lewis had been baptized in the Church of Ireland at birth, but gave up his faith during adolescence. Because of Tolkien and other close friends, Lewis returned to Christianity when he was thirty-two. He became known for his strong intellect and ability to debate with spokesmen of different faiths and philosophies.  In an article entitled “How Does C.S.Lewis do Apologetics?” Dr. Pavel Hosek describes Lewis’ appealing style:

As no one else he succeeded in attracting the mind of the unbelieving reader…Many Christians testify that they only learned to really look for heaven after reading Lewis’ books. The way he is able to picture heaven and the spiritual world in general very often enables the reader to taste the heavenly quality, its atmosphere, beauty and splendor (par 11).

Having been an atheist in his younger years, he was especially capable to address a broader audience than most Christian writers, and to consider questions that people ask about God and faith.  While Fox seemed to be an alchemist, and Finney seemed to be a lawyer, Lewis speaks with the voice of a professor addressing other scholars.  He uses metaphor and personification throughout his books, to enable the reader to comprehend the complexities of good and evil in a fallen world.

In Mere Christianity, he illustrates many of his concepts with comparisons to people.  In this segment, he describes what true pride is as compared to humility.  First he says that “Pride leads to every other vice; it is the complete anti-god state of mind.” Then he uses the metaphor of a young girl to illustrate the nature of pride: “What makes a pretty girl spread misery wherever she goes by collecting admirers?  Certainly not her sexual instinct: that kind of girl is quite often sexually frigid.  It is Pride” (Classics 103-104).  The way that Lewis personifies Pride as a careless woman enables the reader to see the true nature of this vice as being senselessly competitive and self-centered.

In his essay called “The Obstinate Tin Soldiers”, he compares people who avoid God to toy soldiers who, like Pinocchio, have come to life:

Did you ever think, when you were a child, what fun it would be if your toys could come to life?  Well suppose you could really have brought them to life.  Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man…And suppose the tin soldier did not like it…all he sees is that the tin is being spoilt.  He thinks you are killing him. (Classics 146)

Lewis is using the story to explain how people fear that their lives will be ruined if they allow God to take charge and kill their sinful natures, which really brings them to life. The irony here is hilarious and Kierkegaardian in style, because the toy which was never alive in the first place thinks he has been killed, and was made better but thinks he is ruined. It is humorous to imagine the soldier worrying about its tin being damaged. The story makes it seem silly that humans can feel so threatened by God.  Lewis is the master of creating imaginative metaphors that allow people to laugh at themselves.

In The Great Divorce, Lewis responds to William Blake’s book The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and uses the metaphor of divorce to show that good and evil are opposing forces that can never be reconciled.  He uses a simile of a tree whose branches keep separating to illustrate this spiritual principle:

We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the centre: rather in a world where every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at each fork, you must make a decision…life is not like a river but like a tree.  It does not move towards unity but away from it and the creatures grow further apart as they increase in perfection. (Classics 465)

In this example, Lewis illustrates his belief that all roads don’t lead to Heaven and Christ is not merely another “great teacher.”  Like Kierkegaard, Lewis always seems to be in debating mode and tries to challenge those who think they are too intelligent for God. He always is seeking dialogue with his readers.

~♥~

Donald Miller (1971- present):  Mystical Ringmaster

Donald Miller is a best-selling American author and public speaker from Portland, Oregon. He founded “The Mentoring Project,” a non-profit agency that works with local churches to help fatherless young men. In his memoirs, Miller seems like a literary ringmaster entertaining the reader in a three-ring circus that consists of humor, sensitivity, and spirituality.  In To Own a Dragon, he writes about the emotional problems that are experienced by young men who are raised in the absence of a father figure. He begins by describing a documentary pertaining to elephants in which the narrator describes how young male elephants that lose their fathers become particularly violent and aggressive during their “musth cycle” (puberty):

Occasionally, two elephants in a musth would meet, and the encounter was always violent, going so far as to uproot trees in the fray of their brawl…I couldn’t help but identify…I mean, there were feelings, sometimes anger, sometimes depression, sometimes raging lust, and I was never sure what any of it was about.  I just felt like killing somebody, or sleeping with some girl, or decking a guy in a bar, and I didn’t know what to do with any of these feelings. (32)

Miller juggles sensitivity and humor in this passage, causing the reader to laugh about problems that aren’t innately funny.  He uses the angry young elephants as an analogy for adolescent young men who need paternal care in their lives. He describes how mature male elephants “adopt” young elephants and have a calming effect on them: “The green pus running down his hind leg and his smell like fresh-cut grass alerts an older, fully mature male, that this is a young elephant in need of guidance.  Upon finding a mentor, the young elephant’s musth cycle ends” (33).  Miller then writes of an older male mentor coming into his own life and offering guidance, and extends the analogy into the spiritual realm, explaining that the Heavenly Father can also assume the role of adoptive father and resolve many of these issues for men.

In another of his books entitled Searching for God Knows What Miller describes his own spiritual journey, prefacing the book with a story of being born in a circus surrounded by clowns:

Sometimes I feel as if I were born in a circus, come out of my mother’s womb like a man from a cannon, pitched toward the ceiling of the tent, all the doctors and nurses clapping in delight from the grandstands, the band going great guns in trombones and drums…the smell of popcorn in the air…and all the people chanting my name as my arms come out like wings…the center ring growing enormous beneath my falling weight.

And that is precisely when it occurs to me that there is no net…who is going to rescue me? (ix)

Through the absurd he illustrates the fears about life that surround people from their youth.  He creates the sense of terror by depicting the man coming out of the cannon and discovering he has no net to catch him, and wittily embarks upon the subjects of desperation and divine intervention when he raises the question of who will rescue him.  Miller always performs a graceful balancing act of seriousness and humor, making his writings entertaining and yet profoundly meaningful.

~♥~

Shane Claiborne (1975- present):  Gentle Revolutionary

Shane Claiborne is one of the founders of a New Monastic community called the Potter Street Community (formerly The Simple Way) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Claiborne worked with Mother Teresa during a ten-week term in Calcutta, worked in Baghdad with the Iraq Peace Team.

Shane Claiborne was raised in East Tennessee where he and his family attended an old-fashioned Methodist church.  Being both idealistic and intelligent, he began at an early age to question what all of the activities and programs in his church had to do with Jesus or being a disciple. His sincerity and earnestness toward God are reminiscent of George Fox as a young man, going about questioning the authorities in religion and seeking for the true meaning of “taking up the cross” of Christ. In one of his books called The Irresistible Revolution, he speaks of wanting to follow Christ but not knowing where he could buy a staff.  By merely mentioning the staff in the context of modern life, he accomplishes two things:  He makes the reader laugh, and he puts forth the concept of embarking on a spiritual pilgrimage without the proper equipment.

Most of his writings evoke a sense of conflict internally and externally.  Claiborne uses a metaphor in his chapter entitled “Spiritual Bulimia” to illustrate the growing hunger for God and the fact that he was not being “fed” by the church:

I developed a common ailment that haunts Western Christianity.  I call it spiritual bulimia.  Bulimia, of course, is a tragic eating disorder, largely linked to identity and image, where folks consume large amounts of food but vomit it up before it has a chance to digest.  I developed a spiritual form of it where I did my devotions, read all the new Christian books and saw the Christian movies, and then vomited information up to friends, small groups, and pastors.  But it never had a chance to digest.  I had gorged myself on all the products of the Christian industrial complex but was spiritually starving to death.  I was marked by an overconsumptive but malnourished spirituality, suffocated by Christianity but thirsty for God. (Revolution 39)

Claiborne strengthens his analogy with strong verb metaphors such as “gorged”, “vomited”, “starving”, and “suffocated” as well as strong adjectives like “overconsumptive” and “malnourished”.  These all enhance the metaphor of the spiritual sickness that was tormenting him so that he could not “digest” the truth.

Claiborne uses Babylon as a metaphor for the worldly kingdom that wars with the kingdom of Heaven in his book entitled Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals.  In the chapter “The Empire has No Clothes,” he talks about the spiritual marriage of believers to God and the problem of the church lusting after the world system which is represented in this passage as a prostitute:

John’s language couldn’t be clearer:  we are to “come out” of her literally to pull ourselves out.  Let’s be honest here: this is rated R…Scholars point out that this is erotic language and that the words John uses are the same ones used for coitus interruptus– to interrupt sexual intercourse before climax.  As John is speaking of this steamy love affair with the empire, he calls the church to “pull out of her”– to leave romance with the world and be wooed by God, to remember our first love, to say no to all other lovers. (150)

After quoting John’s metaphor, Claiborne compares worldly desire to a whore who tempts believers into spiritual adultery, and Christ is portrayed as the one true love to whom a believer must always be faithful. This is a very powerful juxtaposition which is easily understood by the reader with all of its connotations.  Claiborne uses his illustrations in attempt to be a catalyst in the church system which he considers to be largely in conflict Christ’s teachings.  Like Bonhoeffer, he advocates monastic life within the secular community, not in an isolated place.

~♥~

Concluding Remarks

The writers and orators in this essay were chosen because of their tireless efforts in the furtherance of God’s kingdom, with particular emphasis on revival and reform.  All of them address people with truthful compassion and concern for their souls, and none of them conform to the status quo religion of the day or are crowd-pleasers. While these authors seldom mention each other, they all are concerned with the common purpose of advancing the Kingdom of God, many of them at the expense of their own comforts and livelihoods.

At times their messages and styles bear striking resemblances to each other. Fox and Claiborne are iconoclasts, seeking to tear down the “graven images” of empty religion and draw believers to a deeper personal spirituality. Spurgeon and Moody both have a gentle chiding style in their writings and sermons. Kierkegaard and Lewis tend to personify God to establish our kinship with him, and they have a more argumentative and logical style which is well-suited for dealing with more scholarly audiences. Like Miller, they are also fond of humor and satire to illustrate their teachings.  Lewis, Fox and Kierkegaard enjoy using fantasy-like style to create fables and allegorical tales. The sense of a hero on a spiritual journey can be found in the writings of several of the mentioned authors, including Fox, Lewis, Miller, and Claiborne, who write their memoirs in a way that the reader can travel with them on their path as they seek answers to life’s questions.

Through artful literary devices, these spiritual authors coax unbelievers to contemplate the divine. Savant states that through metaphor we can open the doorway to the supernatural realm: “Precisely because metaphor suggests meaning or sensibilities beyond quantification–beyond plain-speaking and common sense–it serves as a tool, however imperfect, with which we can open up the mysterious in human life and destiny” (18). While earlier writers used farming and weather images to address people who lived on farms and dealt with seasons, seed times, and harvests, modern authors have evolved and become more scientific, industrial, and sociological. Though the metaphors of spiritual writers change to suit their audience, they continue to recognize that stories and illustrations are a powerful tool to make God and the Spirit realm more tangible.

~♥~

Works Cited

Claiborne, Shane. The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2006. Print.

Claiborne, Shane, and Chris Haw. Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals. Grand Rapids, MI: The Simple Way, 2008. Print.

Edwards, Jonathan. “A Faithful Narrative.” The Works of Jonathan Edwards. Ed. C. C. Goen. New Haven, CT.: Yale UP, 1972. Print.

Finney, Charles. “Charles Finney Systematic Theology.” Finney’s Revivals of Religion: Lecture 3 on How to Promote a Revival. Didaskalos Ministries, n.d. Web. 4 Nov 2010. <http://www.bibleteacher.org/finrev1b.htm#LEC3&gt;.

—. The Autobiography of Charles G. Finney. Condensed and Edited by Helen Wessel. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1977. Print.

Fox, George.”Selected Epistles of George Fox.” Renascence Editions. U of Oregon, 1998.Web. 4 Nov 2010. <http://www.luminarium.org/renascence-editions/foxep.htm&gt;.

—. The Journal of George Fox.  Edited by Rufus Jones. Richmond, IN: Friends UP, 1976. Print.

Graves, Michael P. “Functions of Key Metaphors in Early Quaker Sermons, 1671-1700.” The Quarterly Journal of Speech 69.4 (1983): 364-378. MLA International Bibliography. EBSCO. Web. 24 Nov. 2010.

Hosek, Dr. Pavel. “How Does C.S. Lewis do Apologetics?” (2003): n. pag. European Leadership Forum Research Center. Web. 20 Dec 2010. <http://www.euroleadershipresources.org/resource.php?ID=76&gt;.

Jarman, Mark. “To Make the Final Unity: Metaphor’s Matter and Spirit.” 301-318. Southern Review, 2007. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 24 Nov. 2010.

Kierkegaard, Søren. Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard. Ed. Charles E. Moore.  Farmington, PA:  Plough, 2002. eBook.

—. Kierkegaard Spiritual Writings: A New Translation and Selection by George Pattison. New York: Harper Collins, 2010. 57. eBook.

—. The Journals of Kierkegaard (edited by Alexander Dru. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959), 324.

Lewis, C. S., The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics. New York: Harper One, 2002. Print.

McKeever, Dr. Joe. “Why We Need Parables.” (2009): n. pag. Web. 20 Dec 2010. <http://www.biblestudytools.com/pastor-resources/11610729.html&gt;.

Miller, Donald. Searching for God Knows What. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004. Print.

Miller, Donald, and John Macmurray. To Own a Dragon: Reflections on Growing Up Without a Father. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2006. Print.

Moody, Dwight L. The Best of Dwight L. Moody. 6th Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1971. Print.

Savant, John. “Follow that Metaphor.” Commonweal 132.20 (2005): 17-19. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 24 Nov. 2010.

Spurgeon, Charles H. “Songs in the Night.” Spurgeon Collection on Bible Bulletin Board.  Tony Capoccia, 2004. Web. 4 Nov 2010. <http://www.biblebb.com/files/spurgeon/2558.htm&gt;.

~♥~

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Several missionary families lived in a village in South America where there was great civil unrest.  They all inhabited one large building together. One day the families were told that there would be fighting during the night hours.  So they all gathered together in one room with their children, and prayed for God’s protection.

As darkness fell, they heard the noise of shouting and fighting and gunshots outside.  They all suffered through a very stressful and sleepless night.

The next morning, after things had become quiet, the men slipped out of the building to see if everything was safe again.  Gradually, the women and children began to venture out into the village.

During that day, the natives kept questioning them saying, “Who were those men in white standing around your house last night while the fighting was going on?”  They learned that their building had been surrounded by powerful looking men in white apparel, who seemed to be guarding their little fortress.  The families soon realized that God had dispatched angels to protect them that night.

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A young American missionary couple rode their bicycles together down a muddy road in Africa after a heavy rain. The woman was pregnant and was due to give birth soon.  The mud became so thick that their bicycle wheels could not turn in the mud, and they could not maneuver through the tall roadside grass either.  It was dusk, and the wife was becoming exhausted. They were worried that wild animals would start to come out of hiding.

Two tall strong men with tribal markings on their faces appeared out of nowhere, and asked if they could help them.  First they gave them tall boots, and the woman was astonished by how effortlessly they were able to stride through the mud. Then the native men offered to carry their bicycles back to their huts. The missionary couple thanked them, and the tall men lifted the bicycles across their shoulders and strode away gracefully.

When the couple returned to the village, they were approached by several people in the village and asked about the two men who had left the bicycles at their hut.  To their surprise, the natives said they did not recognize the tribal markings on the faces of the men.  That seemed strange, since all of the tribes in the region were very familiar with each other.

The Spirit revealed to the missionaries that the two tall men were angels who had been sent to help and protect them when they were in trouble.

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A seventeenth century Quaker missionary was told by the Spirit to go and preach the gospel to a certain house.  He walked to the house and knocked at the door which swung open.  He called out a few times, and he saw through the doorway that no one was home.

So he thought to himself, “The Spirit clearly told me to preach the gospel to this house.”  So he proceeded to preach to the empty house.  After he was done, he departed with a clear conscience.

A couple days later, the missionary was at the marketplace and a man approached him.  He said that he had been in the back yard of the house where the missionary had preached, because he had stopped by to pick up some tools his neighbor had offered to loan him.  Since the front and back doors were open, he heard the gospel message from the back yard.  He gave his life to the Christ that day, because the missionary had been obedient to the Spirit, and had preached to the empty house.

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(From EvangeLegends)

A nomadic tribe near Sudan reported a great miracle. They say they were traveling through the desert, and came upon a waterhole that was completely dry.  They always plan their journeys in such a way as to pass waterholes, because they don’t carry water with them.  They know the geographical locations of all of them very well, because they can die of thirst in the desert if they travel too long without water. So they knew that the nearest waterhole from that spot was too distant for them to make it alive. Many of the people in the tribe began to weep aloud, and some of them laid down to wait for death.

But one of the natives told the others that he had heard another tribe singing songs to a god named Jesus, whom they said could save people.  He asked if anyone had ever heard of Jesus before, and the others said no.  Then the man asked if they wanted to try singing to Jesus, to see if He could save them.  They all agreed, and they began to sing a song that the man had heard the other tribe singing.

They sang loudly and earnestly, and to their astonishment, a cloud began to form over them.  It got darker and heavier, and then it began to rain into the waterhole until it was filled up. After the people drank all the water they needed, they continued on their journey and told everyone they met about the amazing thing that had happened. They kept inquiring about Jesus, until they finally met some missionaries who told them all about Him and His teachings.  The entire tribe became Christians because they had called upon the name of Jesus and He had saved them from death.

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“The Ministry Of The Unnoticed” : My Utmost For His Highest : HEARTLIGHT ®.

This devotional really resonated with me, especially after reading the latest post by Brother James entitled “Letting Go of Fear” in which he addresses our worries over what people think of us.

Today many people seem to attend church with an agenda of some kind rather than simply to worship, and some use the Gospel and the House of God to magnify themselves instead of God. This passage speaks of the humility that is essential to a true walk with Christ. 

To read Brother James’ thought-provoking and beautiful blog, please visit http://dominicanes.me/.

~♥~

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(From EvangeLegends)

A young college student sat alone in his study and his eyes scanned a globe, when suddenly one little spot on it seemed to light up. He touched it with the tip of his finger. The Spirit told him to go to that place, a remote jungle in South America, to share the Gospel with whoever lived there.  The leading was so clear and certain, that he decided to depart right away.

His parents and friends were terrified about his safety, and tried to persuade him not to go. He only had enough money for a one-way ticket, but he was not concerned.  He packed a small backpack with a few food items and articles of clothing, and bought a plane ticket to the airport nearest to the spot where God told him to go.

When he arrived at the lonely airport and stepped off the plane, he was still a good distance from the spot where he had been told to go.  So he set out walking into the jungle in the middle of nowhere, by himself. After walking for several hours, he became very tired and hungry.  He reached into his backpack for a can of tuna fish he had packed, and he realized that he had not remembered to bring a can opener.  So he picked up various rocks, and tried to use them to open the can.  Nothing seemed to work, but he kept trying.  All he could do was to crush the can, so that the oily liquid from the tuna leaked out.  He drank the juice in discouragement, and continued on his journey.  Soon thereafter, his stomach became very upset and he felt like he might need to vomit.

Just then, a group of small men came running through the trees, and surrounded him.  Their bows and arrows were drawn tight and ready to shoot.  The young man did not know that it was the custom for the eldest member of the tribe to shoot first.  All of the younger men looked at the oldest man, as if waiting for him.  The old man said something in their language, looked at the others disapprovingly, and would not shoot.

The young missionary learned later that the tribe also did not believe in harming anyone who was already ill.  The oldest member of the tribe had told the others in their language “He looks sick to me.” God had made the student forget the can opener and had used that can of tuna to save his life. He otherwise would have been killed by the tribe he sought to minister to.

The natives took him back to their village to help him get well, and they all became very fond of him.  He learned their language and customs, and taught them about Jesus.  The entire tribe eagerly received and believed the Gospel message, and the Word spread throughout the region.

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(From EvangeLegends)

A Quaker missionary went to preach the gospel in a remote part of Alaska, and he found that the Eskimos could not understand the parable of the Good Shepherd, because they had never seen sheep.  As he was trying to figure out how to solve this problem, the Spirit reminded the missionary that the natives herded seals.  So he changed the parable to say, “I am the good seal herder, and I lay down my life for the seals.”  After that, the natives understood the parable perfectly.

~♥~

Parable of the Good Shepherd:  John 10:11-16

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(From EvangeLegends)

A missionary couple began to translate the Bible into the dialect of a certain tribe in Africa, and the whole village was excited when the first mimeographed sheets of the Book of Mark arrived.  The natives gathered in their huts every night to read the scriptures, and one evening they invited the missionaries to come and lead them.  The couple agreed, and after holding a study they visited informally with the people.  They asked one of the native men if he had enjoyed the meeting, and he replied, “It was good, but it isn’t what we normally do.”

“What do you usually do?” the missionary’s wife asked.

“We just read the Word, and go out and do what it says.”

~♥~

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(Intro to EvangeLegends: A Series of Missionary Mementos)

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”  Matthew 13:45-46

If a famous millionaire stood on a street corner and started throwing handfuls of dollars around, can you imagine the stir it would create?  The press would be there and headlines would cover the story and people would forget everyone around them in their desperation to grab as much cash as they could.  There would be viral videos of people trampling one another to get some money.

But very few people have the vision to press through the crowd to lay hold of Jesus, the priceless treasure. Here in America, when a preacher or missionary tells the story of Christ who offered Peter the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, people laugh and mock and walk away.  The atheists create billboards about our sadistic God and useless Savior.

Yet missionaries willingly leave the comfort and safety of the American dream to carry the gospel to other nations.  Imagine what it would feel like to tell someone about Jesus for the very first time, someone who had never even heard of Him before.  At moments like these, the scriptures say that angels celebrate.  I sometimes imagine them leaning in to hear every word. The value of Christ is so immense that it captivates the interest of even the supernatural world.

Not only is it amazing to hear about the mystical experiences on the mission field, but also to learn of new people who have clear vision and voices, who sense His glory with fresh tender hearts.  They seem to see Jesus more purely than those of us who have sleep in our eyes.

Missionary stories have always moved me, because they light a flame of hope inside of me.  As a young student at a Christian college years ago, I hung on every word when a missionary came to chapel services or when any speaker told a story of someone on the mission field; I’ve never been able to forget the stories, even when I forgot the names or places.

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Charles Spurgeon (C.H. Spurgeon)

“If it is daylight in my heart, I can sing songs touching my graces—songs touching my sweet experience—songs touching my duties—songs touching my labors; but let the night come—my graces appear to have withered; my evidences, though they are there, are hidden; I cannot clearly read my title to my mansion in heaven. And now I have nothing left to sing of but my God. It is strange, that when God gives his children mercies, they normally set their hearts more on the mercies than on the Giver of them; but when the night comes, and he sweeps all the mercies away, then right away they say, “Now, my God, I have nothing to sing of but you; I must come to you; and to you only.”

Anyone can sing in the day. When the cup is full, one draws inspiration from it; when wealth rolls in abundance around them, anyone can sing to the praise of a God who gives an abundant harvest.  It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but the skillful singer is the one who can sing when there is not a ray of light to read by—who sings from their heart, and not from a book that they can see.

Let all things go as I please—I will weave songs, weave them wherever I go, with the flowers that grow along my path; but put me in a desert, where there are no flowers, and how will I weave a chorus of praise to God? How will I make a crown for him? Let this voice be free, and this body be full of health, and I can sing God’s praise; but stop this tongue, lay me on the bed of suffering, and it is not so easy to sing from the bed, and chant high praises in the fires…confine me, chain my spirit, clip my wings, make me very sad, so that I become old like the eagle—ah! Then it is hard to sing.”

Excerpt from a Sermon

Preached by Charles Spurgeon in the late 1800’s

~♥~

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(From “A Cloud of Witnesses”)

Today is September 14, 2008 and I am standing before the church.  I can see Elder Thomas over my right shoulder as he reclines behind the lofty pulpit on a dark carved chair with velvety red upholstery.  To my left, his wife Annie and daughter Sheilah are seated with the church mothers, facing the altar.  I see Mother Lee opening her Bible, Mother General with her handbag tied to her walker, and Mother Hendrieth with weak shaky feet walking slowly down the aisle clinging to the arm of Donquarius.  Here comes Mother Craine towards the front row. The ladies hats are circled with lace and netting and brocade and braids of gold.  Their hats nod as the women whisper softly to one another.

To my right on the other side of the altar are the brothers: Deacon Williams with his stout strong frame, Deacon Hatten leaning forward with his hands on his knees, and Deacon Ronnie  wearing orthopedic pads and braces, while his crutches lean against the pew. His brother, Deacon Sammie stands near the white-gloved ushers at the back of the church.

Directly in front of me, I see Brother and Sister Spotford, who have been married a few months.  Her shoulder rests against his and their fingers are entwined.  Sister Hatten has come in from the kitchen to sit down next to where I usually am seated.  Sister Green, slender and graceful, is surrounded by her four lovely young daughters a few rows back on the right, and her mother rests at the end of the same pew next to the wall.  Sister Angela Passmore sits just in front of her, smiling softly and Sister Bertha is walking out of the office.

These are my brothers and sisters and parents by the Spirit.  Everyone is dressed in white today, because it is Missions Sunday, the second Sunday of the month.  How appropriate it is, considering the words I have been given about the bride. They look like a wedding party.

Today I shall be a mouthpiece for my Father. I have a message from the Spirit.  Two weeks or so ago, I was in prayer when I received this Word.  With apprehension, I asked God to give me a platform if it was truly His will for me to deliver it.  I never like to speak until I am sure.

Then it happened.  Sister Thomas, the pastor’s wife, called me yesterday and asked me to be the speaker this morning.  She said she would email me with the topic and scriptures.  After checking the email several times, I called her to let her know that her message had not come through.  I only had one night to prepare and now she was away from her computer, so she said “Just go ahead and speak on whatever you like.”

That is when I knew it was time.

I prayed earnestly last night, knowing that God had indeed given me the message and the platform.  The burden of the Word weighs heavily in my mind. I have no notes except for a scripture verse on a little card which is in my Bible.  All I can do now is to pray that His Spirit will come out of my mouth and do the work. Now it is time, and I am standing before the people of God.  This moment will always be frozen in my memory, as the day God let me speak with His voice inside of me.

I thank God for this opportunity to speak with you today.  This may come as a surprise to you, but God gave me a message for His people about two or three weeks ago.  I was in prayer by my bed after tossing and turning most of the night, as I kept pondering the state of the church, and why it is so powerless and hated in the world scene. I wondered why our district elder has been in his wheelchair for eleven years, and all of the saints together cannot pray well enough to bring about his healing. I kept crying and asking God, “What is wrong with us?  Where has our power gone?” 

The next morning, I awoke crying again and knelt by my bed and said, “Lord, why am I crying like this?” 

The Spirit of God broke into my thoughts, and said, “Because my heart is breaking, and I am sharing it with you.” 

“Why?” I asked. 

“Because the hearts of My people who are called by My name are not right before me, and I can’t come into my house, because I am holy, and I can’t come into an unholy place.” 

“Why are you telling me this, Lord?” I cried. 

“Because I want you to tell my people that I am holding them responsible for this lost generation, because they are driving people away from My Kingdom.”

I told the Lord that I would speak His words if He gave me a platform, because then I would know that they were true and not just my own imaginings or emotions. 

As you can see, God confirmed his message.  Sister Thomas called me yesterday to ask me to speak, so I am doing as I promised God I would do.

I will call this message today “The Bride of Christ”.

I will begin with a scripture in which Jesus is telling the Pharisees, “It is not enough that you will not enter the Kingdom of God yourselves, but you are also preventing others from entering.  You travel over land and sea to find one convert, and then you make him twice as much a son of Hell as yourselves.” 

Today, churches are still doing the opposite of what Jesus intended them to do. We are driving people away, instead of drawing them in.  The world sees the corruption and greed in the church and wants no part of it. They see through our programs and our polish and see everything for what it is.  Who do we think we are fooling?  We aren’t fooling people.  Or God, for that matter. 

There was a time when the world came to church when they had a need that they could not deal with on their own.  When they had exhausted all of their human powers and needed divine intervention, they came to church.  But now, the church is going into the world looking for what it has to offer.  One elder I know called this “spiritual adultery.”  The church is Christ’s bride, and has no part in the world. 

But we cut on our television and let the world tell us how to dress and wear our hair, how to make more money, and how to have a better sex life.  We have learned money-making skills from the world and are using them in the church. Religion has become a business today, a highly profitable business.

But God doesn’t operate like the world does. We should be focusing on God for all of our needs and letting Him guide us, but we are learning from people who are ruled by a different set of values.  We are citizens of another Kingdom, but we are bowing to the gods of the world. 

People make many excuses for why the church is so worldly.  “The church is a human institution” they say, so it can’t be perfect. But it is not a human institution, and it is supposed to be without a spot or blemish, according to the scriptures. It is a divine institution, and the first time the word “church” appears in the Holy Scriptures is when Jesus spoke of it to Peter and said “Upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” 

The world judges Christ based upon its view of the church, and that is how it will always be, regardless of the excuses we make.  You cannot tell the world to ignore the church and look at Christ.  They know that the church is supposed to be founded upon Jesus. 

The Bride represents the Bridegroom. Married couples represent each other whether they are together in public or apart. Mrs. Spotford here represents Mr. Spotford and he represents her even when they are absent from one another.  

The church is Christ’s Holy Bride, and her only focus should be making herself as pure and beautiful as possible to meet Him. This is all that she should be concerning herself with. Pleasing Christ.

Think about a wedding you have been to.  The anticipation of the Bride is intense.  Have you ever seen a bride looking ugly or ragged?  No, the bride prepares herself to look radiant and graceful and without a blemish.  The crowd enjoys seeing the flower girls, the ring-bearer, and the bridegroom waiting there.  But all eyes are looking for the Bride to come down the aisle.  She is the centerpiece, the jewel of the ceremony.  When the piano plays the bridal march for her coming, the crowd stands and stares at her glorious elegance and beauty. Has anyone seen an ugly bride?  I never have. 

But the Bride of Christ isn’t looking good at all.  She doesn’t even look like a bride.  She looks like something else. (Chuckles come from the congregation.)

The world is looking for a suitable Bride of Christ, and cannot find her.  As long as the Bride is corrupt, the world will continue to play and behave as they do.  When the people of God get serious, the world will follow suit.  When worldly people observe the saints falling at the altar weeping and repenting, they will do the same thing.

We must address the greed and the corruption. God never said that money was a seed of the Kingdom.  The seed was the Word of God.  We must stop trying to sell Jesus and the gospel to people, and stop oppressing the poor by constantly nagging them for money.  When evangelists on television and in our pulpits tell us to sow a seed (referring to money), they just want to reap a harvest.  Jesus said the seed is the Word of God, and the harvest we are seeking is souls.  Not money.  People are being tricked by religious leaders.

Jesus said if we cause one person to stumble and turn away from Him, it would be better to have a millstone tied around our necks and to be cast into the sea.  God is not pleased with His church and the scriptures say that judgment will begin in the house of God. 

I had a dream once that I was standing in a hotel lobby and a man came running in shouting “We need a sanctuary!  We need a sanctuary!”  Then there was a sound of weeping inside one of the hotel rooms down the hallway, and the door was open so I saw the man run inside that room. 

When I awoke, the thought came to me that a hotel room is where you go when you can’t go home.  The Spirit placed the thought in my mind that God cannot go into His House anymore, so He has to go to wherever people really want Him; in the hotel room, on the street corner, in the jail, in the hospital.  

Many times I have felt like giving up on the church, because I am so weary of the lies and deception.  But I love Jesus so dearly. I also love God’s congregation, and I have a vision of the Bride of Christ glowing and drawing people to God with her radiance and beauty and gentleness and love.  I just can’t give up on this vision. I hope that you will help me make this dream come true.

I am going to kneel at the altar now, and you may join me there if you like, but first let me read this scripture from Revelation 19:7-9:

“Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb’”.

It is done and I kneel at the wooden altar, and there I leave some diamond tears as a gift for my Beloved.  He comes to my side and places His invisible hand upon me. He is pleased with my offering today.

Then I feel an arm around my waist and a cheek pressed against mine.  It is Sister Hatten who is kneeling beside me. “That was beautiful,” she says softly.  As I pull myself off my knees, Sister Michelle comes and embraces me tightly, then Brother Spotford, then the pastor.  Elder Thomas’s eyes are sparkly and wet.  “We need more messages like that,” he says with earnestness.

~♥~

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(From “A Cloud of Witnesses”)

Sister Brenda was the wife of Deacon Proctor.  I always loved to hear her rich melodious prayers, and the way she clapped her hands as she prayed on her knees.  She had a beautiful glow about her face, and fiery eyes.

She composed her own spiritual music, and I learned many of her songs.  She and her husband would say that Brenda had a terrible speech impediment before she became a believer, and she used to be ashamed to talk to people.  But she said when she was reading about Moses and his fear of speaking, the Spirit assured her that He would help her.  I couldn’t tell that she had ever had a problem, but the deacon says she stuttered badly at one time.

One day in church, Sister Brenda was testifying and said, “Sometimes when I ask people if they are saved, they tell me they are just to keep me from bothering them anymore.  So now when they say that, I ask them what they were saved from.  If they can’t answer that, they probably aren’t saved.  A person who is truly saved is always anxious to tell people what God delivered them from.”

Once Sister Brenda approached me at church and said, “I dreamed about you last night.  You were climbing up a ladder, and I was right behind you.”

“Wow, that’s a really good dream,” I said. “I hope you haven’t had any dreams about us falling into a pit or anything.”

She laughed and shook her head, saying, “Sister Olive, I would’ve called you if I had a dream like that, and I would’ve said, ‘We need to shape up and get back on track.”

Sister Brenda died before I had finished writing about her. It’s ironical that she reached the top of that ladder ahead of me, and I am still trying not to lose my balance or fall down.

She passed away suddenly one Sunday morning in June.  I was in Tennessee at the time, and Elder Foster called to tell me the bad news.  He said, “As I was driving into the parking lot, I heard sirens and saw the ambulances pulling up,” he said.  “I thought it was one of the older members who had been having health problems, but as I went in, I saw Sister Brenda on the floor in front of the altar and the paramedics working hard trying to revive her.  They finally put her on the stretcher and took her in the ambulance, and she died at the hospital the next day.”  Sister Brenda was among the youngest women in our church, so it was a terrible blow to all of us.

Deacon Proctor lost his mother several weeks after losing his wife, and is still holding on by faith and inner strength. Ella Mae tells me that she finds it almost unbearable for her to hear anyone else sing Sister Brenda’s favorite song in church.  I can still hear it right now in my mind:

Just another day that the Lord has kept me

Just another day that the Lord has kept me

He has kept me from all evil

And my mind stayed on Jesus. 

Just another day that the Lord has kept me

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Sister Shirley is a radiant saint with a gift of mercy.  I have heard her speak about how she loves to visit the elderly people in her neighborhood, and rub them down with oil and give them comfort.  She visits people in the care home and sings songs about Jesus to encourage them.  She doesn’t mind doing the dirtier jobs and dealing with the more aggravating residents who no one else has patience with.  There is one woman who always has stool under her fingernails, and a nasty disposition to go along with it, but Sister Shirley sits by her bed and cleans her nails and talks gently with her.

Sister Shirley has had a lot of tragedy in her life, such as the drowning of her son when he was a teenager.  One Sunday, Deacon Proctor asked her if it was okay for him to speak about her son and she nodded.  But as the deacon talked about being in the hospital room when Sister Shirley’s son died, I saw her glasses fogging up with a mist, and she kept taking them off to clear them.

Sister Shirley was once stabbed by a woman and was taken to the hospital.  The doctor told her that the knife had missed her heart by less than an inch, and that she could have died. The woman who stabbed her has been released from jail and Sister Shirley always speaks to her with kindness whenever she sees her at the grocery store.  The woman glares at her as if she is crazy.

Sister Shirley had a terrible marriage, but remains friends with her ex-husband and often speaks to him about Jesus.  She has a son in prison that clings to her desperately whenever she visits and often calls her just to talk.

Sister Shirley has a quiet faith, despite all of the bad things that have happened to her, and she is a beautiful example of the love and compassion of God.

 ╬

(For More Portraits like this, see “A Cloud of Witnesses” category or page.)

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“A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.” Isaiah 42:3

I first saw and heard Elder Thomas at the district services.  He was hosting a Friday night Missions service, and I had never met him before.  He stepped up to the pulpit, a dignified and well-dressed man looking over his glasses at the congregation.  Because I thought his voice to be somewhat gruff, I thought that he must be stern and irritable, and that he was someone I would not want to annoy or make angry, because he wouldn’t put up with very much.  It is funny how we perceive people at first observance.

The second time I saw Elder Thomas was at a pastor appreciation service, and suddenly he ran down from the pulpit area to the front of the altar, where he began to dance in the spirit.  My whole conception was thus thrown out the window.

The third time I saw him, he was again at a district service, and he opened the service by saying, “You’re in the Holy Ghost headquarters now.”  I laughed when he said it, and my two guests also laughed about that.  I knew then that I really liked this man, and that I needed to hear him preach.

Soon thereafter, I visited a Sunday service at his church for the first time with my son. That Sunday, Elder Thomas preached from Ecclesiastes 12, and it was one of the most enjoyable and concise teachings I had ever heard.  Not only did Elder Thomas have a gift of teaching with great clarity, but he could make people laugh and enjoy the studying of it.  Whenever I cast a sidelong glance at my son, he was smiling a broad smile or laughing.

I don’t know quite where to begin to describe the incredible giftedness of Elder  Thomas.  He is remarkable in so many ways.  He says that when he was a young boy, he knew a great evangelist in the area named Mother Benjamin, and that he sought for God to give him a portion of the Spirit that was upon her.  He says it was quite difficult even as a young man to keep up with this tireless woman.  But, like Elisha who refused to leave Elijah, he followed her to the best of his ability until she left this world.

Elder Thomas is a gifted preacher, prophet, servant, shepherd, and prayer warrior.  He has a huge heart of compassion for the lost and suffering, and has a word from the Father of Lights for every occasion and every need.  He knows how to guide God’s flock to higher and deeper faith, and to their own personal callings from the Spirit.  I have seen people line up at the altar to receive “the Word of the Lord” from his lips, and I have seen God use him as a mighty instrument of mercy.

He has truly touched my life by his earnestness about the things of God, and his desire to see his people grow, and not wax cold and stagnant.  He knows how to encourage and how to correct, and with such skill and wisdom that only God could give.

(For more portraits like this, visit the page or category entitled “A Cloud of Witnesses”)

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(From “A Cloud of Witnesses”)

The first time I saw Deacon Wayne in church, I noticed how animated and joyous he was during worship services.  He would have made a great Levite priest in the tabernacle, because they had to wear bells along the hems of their garments, and they were forbidden to stop moving.  If those bells stopped jingling, they would die instantly by the hand of God.  Deacon Wayne was slender and constantly in motion, and was immensely graceful.  His bearded face had an Abe Lincoln honesty to it, and I could always see reflections of Christ in his persona and demeanor.  A few weeks after I met him, I learned that he was the son of Elder and Mother Foster, and this made perfect sense.  He was married to my dear friend Glenda.

Deacon Wayne was an incredible vocalist with the “Men of Faith” singing group.  His voice was rich and deep, and my favorite song that he sang was “My soul loves Jesus.”  He was very modest whenever I complimented him, and would say humbly “Pray for me.”  Whenever I asked him how he was doing, he would say “I’m maintaining.”  I liked this saying very much, because we have to maintain our faith, like we maintain our yard, our car, or our marriage.

Sister Glenda has spiritual dreams, and sometimes they reveal future events. When she first recounted one of her dreams to me, her daughter Tameika was twenty-nine and unmarried and feeling that she would never find a companion.  Tameika had encouraged by her friends to look for a companion through the internet.  She was matched up through a website with a man that she visited, and she found that he was disabled and unable to work or drive.  She told her mother about the man, and Glenda told her that God had something better for her if she would just wait on Him. Tameika told her mother that maybe she should give the man a chance, but her mother discouraged the idea.  Reluctantly, Tameika listened to the advice of her mother, although still thinking of the man.

About this time, Glenda had a beautiful dream.  She dreamt that Tameika was in a gorgeous wedding gown with a huge diamond ring on her finger, and she was just floating with happiness.  In the dream, they were in a church in Blountstown.  She recounted the dream to her Tameika, who didn’t take it very seriously.

A couple of weeks later, in the month of August, Glenda and Tameika were in Blountstown, and a preacher named Christopher came to a house they were visiting. He was immediately attracted to Tameika. The two of them went on a date that same night, and when they returned, the preacher told her family that he had “met his rib”.  The whole family was shedding tears of joy. Glenda told me that the preacher was “just precious” and that she was so happy for her daughter.  Her dream had been fulfilled.  The preacher gave Tameika a ring right after Christmas, proposing to her in front of her parents and sisters.

Tameika married Christopher a few months after, and he relocated.  I had the privilege of hearing him sing in our Mother’s Day service, and he delivered the message the following Sunday.  I can only say that he is amazing and kind and humble.

Another amazing thing to me is that Tameika’s entire family is so musically talented, and so is the preacher!  I have brought my guitar for visits to their house, and we sound like a professional gospel-singing group when we get together. I have learned from them that it is better to wait on God than to try to handle things ourselves, because we can really mess things up on our own.

About a year after their marriage, Deacon Wayne suddenly died. He had just arrived at the paper mill where he worked as a supervisor, and a young woman came in to give him the shift report.  As she began to read it, his whole body began to shake, and then he just slumped over.  The woman called for emergency help, but he died before anything could be done for him.

I remember that Friday night, because the Foster’s were all called out to the hospital from church, and his wife Glenda was supposed to sing a solo that weekend at the district service.  I am told that Deacon Wayne was gone before any of his family arrived at the hospital and no one got to say one single word to him.

His wife recounted the night of his death in great sorrow:

“He worked the graveyard shift at the paper mill, and I cooked him fish for his last supper.  Oh, Sister Olive, he kept telling me he was so tired, and I was trying to encourage him.  I rubbed the bald spot on top of his head while he sat at the table and I kissed him.  I reminded him that it was only two weeks until his vacation.

“Our new home had just been finished, and we were moving everything into it.  As I think of it now, it seemed like he was in an awful hurry to fix it all up, like he knew something was going to happen.  We had been decorating it and dreaming of many years together, and hoping for new grandchildren since our daughter had just gotten married.

“I feel almost like it’s my fault, and that I should have made him stay home, or done something different.”

She described the children crying themselves to sleep at night in their rooms, and how she was torturing herself inwardly. Mother Foster shared her anguish at church openly on several occasions, and Elder Foster suffered more privately. Seeing the grief that this family suffered made me realize that we have to cherish those that we love, because we never know what can happen.  I will always remember Deacon Wayne as a great father and husband and man of God.

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(From “A Cloud of Witnesses)

“Let your speech be always with grace…”  Colossians 4:6

I especially remember Mother Gladys’s straw hat, her faded dresses, and her wooden walking cane. I loved it when she would strike the tambourine and begin singing, “Oh I want to see him, look upon His face…” or “It’s gonna be the crowning day…”  She had a resonant voice, passion for the Lord, and a sweet and humble spirit. She was tall, slender and stately with a broad smile, and it was obvious that she was lovely in her younger days. She had tremendous faith in God and had an air of holiness and grace about her.

After Mother Gladys retired from her job at the school for the deaf and blind, she became the “nurse” of her neighborhood.  People say that she would walk house to house taking care of people who were sick or elderly.  She was always poor, but if you visited her she would go straight to her garden, and give away some of her fresh vegetables.  She never refused anyone the help that they needed.

She was a great encouragement to me personally.  After we had been having tent services for several nights and I had testified a few times, she was the first one to approach me with a warm smile and a hug, and say, “There’s that missionary.”  I felt honored by the way that she said it to me.

Mother Gladys was diagnosed with cancer, but she never lost her faith.  When I went to visit her she said to me, “If the Lord wants me to get up, I will get up, and if He doesn’t, I won’t.”

Whenever people visited her, she would say that she just wanted to “have church”.  Sister Doris says that when people would ask her what songs she wanted to hear, she would say, “Anything with blood in it” (referring to the blood of Jesus).  She never complained about her suffering, because she did not want to cause her family or friends more grief.  So she just stayed in her bed at home, and gradually stopped eating and speaking.  She was a sweet and godly woman her whole life.

I did not know her for long enough, because she died soon after I joined the church. It will be amazing to see her again someday in the Kingdom of God.

~♥~

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“At 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand and sing and Christ has no east or west, we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

~♥~

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(From “A Cloud of Witnesses”)

“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.”  I Peter 1:23

I had heard Minister Robert Burney speak about his father and the second stroke that impaired him with almost complete paralysis.  He said that while his father was in the hospital bed a fellow preacher sent a message to him saying, “Don’t forget that you still have a tongue.”

At that time, I had never heard the Elder Burney preach, but I finally did during the January district service.

 ~♥~

Elder Burney is a broad-shouldered and well-dressed man with a warm and wise face, sitting in a wheelchair.  I have never seen such a paradox of weakness and strength in one man, and I was totally unprepared for that mighty tongue.

The elder began speaking in a gentle voice about the woman with the alabaster box of ointment who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.  He explained how the men who were present when she did this began to mock her and assault her character, but she was so in love with Jesus that she didn’t care.

In only a matter of a few minutes, I felt something stirring inside of me.  A sudden tide of joy rolled over me like an ocean wave. Before I could catch my breath, another one struck, and then another. I looked over my shoulder and realized that I was not alone. It was high tide. The waves were rolling over the congregation with such force that many people could not remain seated or keep silent.  Elder Burney said quietly, “I don’t believe in interfering with the Spirit of God.”  He sat silently as the Spirit burst forth like a tidal wave and flooded the entire room.

 ~♥~

I attended another district service a few months later, and I noticed on the program that Elder Burney was the speaker again.  I thought to myself that it couldn’t possibly be the same as the last time.  Lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice.

This time, the elder began speaking about the woman at the well, and how Jesus told her He would give her living water, and that she would never thirst again, and that it would be a well springing up into everlasting life.  Without warning, water began to flow from my eyes.  I was surprised by this, and wondered what was going on, because I was not sad.  Then the elder said, “When the Spirit gets ahold of you, water is gonna come out of your eyes when you’re not even sad.” I began to laugh with surprise.

It’s very difficult to explain but it seemed as if the Spirit flowed like waves out of the elder’s mouth as he spoke, and began to fill up the room, and then tears sprung out of my eyes.

~♥~

One great mystery is the way that the elder’s preaching lingers with me for a long time afterward.  He plants a powerful seed that germinates and flowers into a deeper understanding of God.  It reminds of the story of Jack and the beanstalk. Someone gave Jack some magic beans, and he found himself in an amazing adventure. He climbed into the sky to a new kingdom, where he slew a giant, and won an amazing treasure.  Elder Burney’s preaching is like those magic seeds that have somehow given me a new identity and purpose.

Once he preached a message about the City of God.  He said that there are twelve gates to the city, and that he believes we will enter at the Southern gates and the streets will be pure gold.  He spoke about the Tree of Life with the twelve fruits that would heal every kind of disease, and the crystal river that flowed from the throne. He said that he had resolved in his mind that he was going to go to that city, and that the power of Hell could not stop him from making it there. He said, “I look forward to seeing my mama and daddy when I get there.  But they’re gonna have to step aside so I can see Jesus.” Soon after that, I dreamed that I was searching for a city, and I saw a familiar man by side of the road.  I asked him the way to the gates of the city.  He did not speak but simply handed me a key.

In another service I attended, Elder Burney cried out, “I am rich beyond measure! Praise God, I’m rich!”  Those words began to sprout within my mind. I knew that he was speaking of heavenly riches. I read the scripture that speaks of how I belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God, so I am an heiress.  I found myself beginning to identify with Christ, and not with the world, and it began to transform my whole way of thinking. I realized that I had no need of anything, that the world had nothing to offer me. I became less worried about success and worth in the eyes of other people.  I only wanted to please Christ and bless others.

I recognize that Elder Burney has planted some divine seeds in my heart.  I am overwhelmed and humbled by the way God has used him as instrument of power and mercy in my life.

 “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field: which indeed is the least of all seeds, but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree…” (Matthew 13:31-33)

~♥~

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(Song Lyrics from Tim Peters)

Tim was one of my favorite musicians at a Christian coffeehouse when I lived in Oregon.  He had a delightful folksy style with a mix of humor and spirituality that I immensely admire.  I previously posted another one of his songs.  He is a very gifted and introverted fellow, and I have enjoyed singing his songs for many years.

Please see the “PAPER ANGELS” page or category for more songs and poems by friends of mine.

~♥~

I’ve been rich, I’ve been poor.

I’ve been thrown out head first through a closed door.

But I decided a long time ago

Aint gonna worry ‘bout it no more.

I’ve seen fools who could pass every test

And crooks that no one could arrest.

I finally took it to the Lord in prayer.

I said “Oh Lord, why must it be

Crooks in high places get off scot-free?”

He said, “Cast all your cares on Him.

Don’t worry about it, Slim.”

~♥~

But I’ve seen cheaters who were doing fine

And good men who had to walk the line.

I asked the Lord, I said, “Will it always have to be this way?”

He said, “I’ll be coming soon.

It may be in the morning, maybe on the first of June.

Don’t worry about some other guy.

He’ll get his by and by.”

I said “Oh Lord, if you’re a loving God,

Then why won’t you give me what I crave?”

He said, “Slim, what do you want with all that worldly trash?

You’ll only end up as its slave.”

~♥~

I said, “Lord, I know that you’ve said

That we must love our enemies,

Forgive if we want to be forgiven.

That’s why I’m down here on my knees.

And though I don’t know the reason why

Little children sometimes have to die,

I know they are with You in Paradise,

Don’t have to worry about it no more.”

~♥~

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“What is the Meaning of the Person of Gandhi the Indian?”

As a man of faith, you are troubled by the thought: what will Providence do with Gandhi? And what is the meaning of the appearance of this strange person among the statesmen and politicians of our time?

A warning from God. That is surely the meaning of the leader of the great Indian nation. Through that person, Providence is showing politicians and the statesmen of the world, even Christian ones, that there are other methods in politics than skill, wiliness and violence…

Fasting, prayer and silence! There is hardly a statesman in Europe or America who would not ironically see these three secrets of the Indian statesmen as three dry twigs pointed on the battlefield against a heap of steel, lead, fire and poison. However, Gandhi succeeds with these three “spells” of his; he succeeds to the astonishment of the whole world. And whether they want to or not, political lawmakers in England and other countries will have to add a chapter into their textbooks: “Fasting, Prayer and Silence as Powerful Weapons in Politics.”…

Those are the three sources of great spiritual power which make man victorious in battle and excellent in life. Is there a man who cannot arm himself with these weapons? And which crude force in this world can defeat these weapons? Of course, these three things do not include all of the Christian faith, but are only a part of its rules, its supernatural mysteries.

Sadly, in our time, among Christians, many of these principles are disregarded, and many wonder-working mysteries are forgotten. People have started thinking that one wins only by using steel, that the hailing clouds are dispersed only by cannons, that diseases are cured only by pills, and that everything in the world can be explained simply through electricity. Spiritual and moral energies are looked upon almost as working magic.

I think that this is the reason why ever-active Providence has chosen Gandhi, an unbaptized man, to serve as a warning to the baptized, especially those baptized people who pile up one misfortune on another upon themselves and their peoples by using ruthless and harsh means.

(This letter was written by St. Nicholas Velimirovic to a British Noble named “Charles B.”)

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I came across these lovely quotes while reading Twice-Told Tales today, and they really spoke to me:

 The mother’s character, on the other hand, had a strain of poetry in it, a trait of unworldly beauty- a delicate and dewy flower, as it were, that had survived out of her imaginative youth, and still kept itself alive amid the dusty realities of matrimony and motherhood.

…for all through her life she had kept her heart full of childlike simplicity and faith, which was as pure and clear as crystal; and, looking at all matters through this transparent medium, she sometimes saw truths so profound, that other people laughed at them as nonsense and absurdity.

From “The Snow-Image”

English: Twice-Told Tales by Hawthorne. Printe...

(For more of Olive’s favorites, click on the “QUOTES” page or category- look above or in the sidebar)

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Natural Cathedral – Lars van der Goor – Featured Photographer – PhotoBotos.com – Providing Superior Photos and Product Reviews One Day at a Time!!.

This is one of the most exquisite photographs I’ve ever seen to illustrate the extraordinary beauty of God’s sanctuary!

Please click on the link above to read more about it…

Peace and Grace,

Olive Twist

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This message really fed my spirit today, and I wanted to pass the nourishment on to my readers…

Milk & Honey

By: St. Silvanus the Athonite

The Lord greatly loves the repenting sinner and mercifully presses him to His bosom: “Where were you, My child? I was waiting a long time for you.” The Lord calls all to Himself with the voice of the Gospel, and his voice is heard in all the world: “Come to me, my sheep. I created you, and I love you. My love for you brought Me to earth, and I suffered all things for the sake of your salvation, and I want you all to know my love, and to say, like the apostles on Tabor: Lord, it is good for us to be with You.”

Source

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Simply Orthodox ☦ – In order to enter Paradise….

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John 11:35

~♥~

It’s the shortest verse in the Bible, often memorized by children looking for an easy passage to recite in Sunday School.  But those two words are full of meaning for me.  The writer put them together tightly in a separate verse to make the reader stop and take notice, to make an impression.

I’ve read many beautiful scriptures and sayings over the years, but I can’t say that I’ve ever read that “Buddha wept” or “Krishna wept” or “Zoroaster wept.”  I admire all of these people and their ideas, but for me it’s never been the same as Jesus.  I’ve seen the depictions of Krishna with royal blue skin sitting serenely in the lotus blossom, and the golden statues of Buddha so wise and noble.

But I’ve never read of mobs plotting to kill them. I’ve never noticed any of them appearing anguished, wounded, or sweating even one drop of blood or tears. Jesus is the only one who ever seemed genuinely human to me, with no jewels or rich garments or palaces or chariots.

If that isn’t enough, He is the only one who proved His divinity to me with miracles, the greatest of which was overcoming death itself by rising after three days in the grave.  He fought an amazing and painful battle on Earth.

He is my own personal Braveheart- the only One that ever could connect with me through my own personal pain, minister to my homeless soul or shed a tear with me.  I cannot speak for others, but for myself, there is no one like Jesus.  Because Jesus wept.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Statur - St. Peter's Chu...

~♥~

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Awhile back, I was trying to remember someone’s name, or should I say the daughter of someone.  My friend, Doris, has a daughter who is woken up each day by the voice of the Spirit.  He will say her name gently, and ask her to wake up and then He will say “This is what I want you to do today…”  At least that is what I’m told.  Okay, okay, it sounds delusional, I know.  But if you really want to go there, that makes me delusional- and you might as well throw in Moses, Elijah, Daniel, and the apostles, Peter, John, and Paul just for fun.  But anyway, that’s not the story I’m telling.

So, I couldn’t remember the name of my friend’s delusional, er, spiritual daughter, and it was bugging me a lot. I was so impressed with the story of her leadings that I wanted to write it down, but I couldn’t think of her name.  I pondered it all day, and it was on the tip of my tongue-  Lolita, no, Laverne, Lucinda, Lavidia, no, no, no.  It was driving me insane.  I finally stopped thinking about it and went to work that evening.  At Hallmark.

That night, as I was bored to tears with no customers, a woman and a little girl came in.  The woman went off to look at musical cards and painted wine glasses and polka-dotted key chains.  Her daughter came over to the counter to play around. I can’t remember what she was wearing.  I only remember the sweetness of her little face with freckles across her nose, and the soft wispiness of her brown hair, and the way her voice jingled, and most of all her playfulness.

First she took the beanie toys and lined them up by categories on the counter, and pretended the birds were jumping upon the row of bears.  Then she set them all neatly back into their bins with her small dimply hands.  Then she took out all of the foil-wrapped balls of candy and sorted them out by colors on the counter. Then she took the stuffed bunnies and lambs from the shelves and pretended they were talking to each other. After she played with each item, she politely put them away. She skipped around the carpet and did a few dainty little twirls.

About this time, seismic waves were starting to reverberate through the dry crust of my exasperated soul.  Her joy was so contagious that within a matter of minutes, living water began to spout its little undercurrents through my bedrock.  I was thinking that I was beginning to understand what Christ meant that we must be as little children to enter the Kingdom of God.

I must admit I was irritated when her mother finished shopping and brought her merchandise to the counter.  As I scanned the stationary and wall plaques and photo albums, I wondered if her mother knew what a prize God had given her. I placed everything into the purple bag and passed it to the woman and leaned over the counter.  I asked the little girl “What is your name?”

“Lydia,” she replied with a voice that skipped down the sidewalk of my mind into the sunlight.

That was the name I had been struggling to remember. God had reminded me of it in such a way that I could never forget it again.  He sent me a delightful little messenger to play with me because I am His child.  Just for fun.

~♥~

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I’ve had several experiences in my life that made me think of the verse “He who sits in the heavens laughs,” and this is one of them.

I was on vacation with my family one spring and we traveled to Lexington, Kentucky.  We liked visiting there from time to time to see the horse farms and the art galleries and the Henry Clay estate and other sites. We also enjoyed the lovely arboretum by the university campus, and I loved to play hide-and-go-seek with the chipmunks and rabbits. Especially the chipmunks. We didn’t have them in Florida. It sounds silly, but these little creatures were a big deal to me.

Well, during this particular vacation, I did not spy any chipmunks in their usual places.  I looked in the branches of the twisted crabapple trees and throughout the vines covering the gazebos and among the flowers.  But there were none.  I complained and complained about it several days in a row.

So, Sunday arrived and I decided to visit a Wesleyan church in the area. My son and I got all dressed up and drove to the church, and timidly we walked in and sat down among strangers. Someone handed me a program, and I started to read, when something caught my eye.  On the top of the program, it showed the pastor’s name: Chip Monck!  I pointed it out to my son and we were chuckling quietly together about how I was finally going to see a chipmunk.  But alas!  Someone stepped up to the microphone and announced that Pastor Monck was on vacation. I was destined to see no chipmunks that season…

I imagined that God was having a good laugh over the situation, and I felt a rather spooky feeling come over me…I know it sounds unbelievable but this really happened.

~♥~

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I thought some of my readers might enjoy reading the script from my 30-minute graduation lecture that I delivered in November of 2011 for my Master of Fine Arts degree.  I hope that you gain something from it, as I certainly enjoyed studying and preparing for it. I have posted the bibliography for you and it can be found in the sidebar under “Olive’s Pages.”

The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani

~♥~

Madmen, Mystics, and Monks:  Memoir as a Spiritual Journey

In this lecture, I intend to focus upon how authors use literary devices to persuade readers to travel with them on a mystical journey and contemplate their concepts of truth.

Mystical writers face a unique set of challenges. Richard Goodman, author of The Soul of Creative Writing says that spiritual authors use words as soldiers to captivate readers and lead them into another reality. In Flannery O’Connor’s essay “The Grotesque in Southern Fiction” she writes:

…if  the writer believes that our life is and will remain essentially mysterious, if he looks upon us as beings existing in a created order to whose laws we freely respond, then what he sees on the surface will be of interest to him only as he can go through it into an experience of mystery itself.

The spiritual writer must avoid clichés in their language, and walk a tightrope with the reader in order to perform their delicate art of persuasion. The voice must be one of compassion and humility and three elements must be present in order to retain the interest of the doubter:

  1. The writer must establish a rapport with the reader immediately.
  2. The mystical writer should illustrate abstract ideas with realism.
  3. The writer must leave the reader with a sense of longing and mystery, to make them want to embark upon their own spiritual journey.

If these three ingredients are measured out carefully, the writer may succeed in this precarious art of persuasion. In this lecture, I will provide some examples of writers who successfully use these methods to disarm the skeptic and take their readers on a spiritual journey.  The passages I am using in this lecture are on your handouts, so that you can follow along if you wish. For the benefit of our poets and fiction writers, I am including a poem by contemporary poet Luci Shaw and a fiction excerpt from Pulitzer prizewinner Marilynne Robinson.

~♥~

Let’s Begin with the first step of Establishing a Rapport with the Reader:

Dianne Aprile, author of several books including The Abbey of Gethsemani: A Place of Peace and Paradox, lectured once about the similarities between writing and walking.  As a writer, I am trying to persuade the reader to walk with me, so that we can have a conversation. In order for a skeptical reader to willingly go on a spiritual journey with an author, the narrative voice must be magnetic in some fashion that causes doubters to let down their defenses and open a friendly dialogue. Without establishing a rapport, it is impossible to be persuasive, so this is the most important element in spiritual writing.

Several methods are very effective to establish rapport. Vulnerability engages the emotions of the reader with a sense of empathy.  Reflection causes the reader to think back upon their own experiences of a similar nature.  Humor makes the reader laugh and enjoy the conversation.

The first two examples I will use are writers who make themselves accessible to their readers through vulnerability.

Black Elk Speaks, translated by John Neihardt, is the memoir of Black Elk, a famous holy man of the Oglala Sioux and second cousin of Crazy Horse, who extends his hand to the reader in such a way that one cannot help but continue with him. His voice is clear, humble and inviting:

My friend, I am going to tell you the story of my life, as you wish; and if it were only the story of my life, I think I would not tell it; for what is one man that he should make much of his winters, even when they bend him like heavy snow?  So many other men have lived and shall live that story, to be grass upon the hills. 

One of the most compelling aspects of Black Elk’s style is the sorrow of his voice, and the sense of great longing.  This is a common element in mystical writing, because it creates a sense of the helpless human condition.

Rabi Maharaj describes his own helplessness in his memoir The Death of a Guru, which was written in 1977 and translated into over 60 languages.He describes being born into the Brahman caste in India and being groomed to be a guru.  He longed to interact with his father, a renowned guru, who spent the last eight years of his life in a trancelike state.

We never shared anything in our lives.  Because of the vows he had taken before I was born, not once did he ever speak to me or pay me the slightest heed.  Just two words from him would have made me unspeakably happy.  More than anything else in the world I wanted to hear him say, “Rabi! Son!”  Just once.  But he never did.  For eight long years, he uttered not a word, not even a quiet confidence to my mother…

The writer immediately invites the reader to share his heartbreak, to have a sense of his pain and vulnerability as he continues to describe his father:

How often I stood in front of this extraordinary man, staring into his eyes until I became lost in their fathomless depths.  It was like falling through space, reaching out to grab something, calling for someone, but meeting only silence and emptiness. (15-16)

By using language referring to space and fathomless depths, the reader is able to feel that his pain defied description or quantification.  Like space, his loneliness knew no boundaries. In a style similar to Black Elk, this author has expressed his pain to establish rapport with his reader.

Another common device is the use of existential reflections, in which an author recalls the time he first questioned how he fit into the scheme of things. The next two excerpts are examples of this kind of reflection.

In Robert Finch’s article called When You Wish Upon A Star: On the Evolution of Spiritual and Moral Thought,” the author reflects upon the first time he wondered if he really had any control of his life or destiny:

When I was a boy, I read a lot of science fiction. It seemed to me the most exciting and imaginative literature of the day—and to a boy of twelve, it probably was. I have forgotten most of what I read, but there is one story, Isaac Asimov’s “Nightfall,” that made a deep impression on me…

The author has already created a tone of mystery by mentioning the story called “Nightfall” and the strong feelings that were evoked when he read it, and the reader is interested in continuing this mysterious journey:

For a long time I didn’t know why I had been so affected by it, but now I think that reading the story provided my first inkling that our lives, our deepest selves, our collective psychological identity might be shaped and controlled by stars and other manifestations of the physical universe in ways we did not understand, or even suspect…

In this passage, the writer invites the reader to identify with his early moments of questioning, and to contemplate the mystery surrounding their own lives. Doing this in the context of science fiction adds to the sense of a great void and feeling insignificant within time and space.

Neela Vaswani writes of her childhood spiritual quest in You Have Given Me a Country.  She writes about her mother being a Catholic and describes her father’s religious heritage from India.  Listen to how she sets the stage in this passage:  “He was a traditional Sindhi, part Muslim, part Sikh, part Hindu, part Buddhist, and had been educated by Jesuits.” (22)  Because of the depictions of her parents, the reader is naturally curious as to where this will all lead. Then she proceeds to describe her anxiety about being unbaptized in a later chapter: “Baptism.  Such a small motion.  Water dropped onto the head.  I decided I would baptize myself.  I didn’t want to be Catholic.  I just wanted to be rid of the word heathen.  The way it hissed and bit.” The snake metaphor at the end is very effective to describe the questions and fears she felt about being a heathen. (76) After this,  she describes her own inquisitive nature and her visits to the library:  “I took out books.  A children’s Torah, heavy as a stone.  A Koran, river-blue.  The graphic Mahabharata in Amar Chitra Katha form- two frugal staples per comic spine.  The New Catholic Bible, martyr-red, in a sleeve of thick plastic.” (79) Instead of just stating that she was preoccupied with matters of religion, Vaswani allows the reader to go with her on her search and to see and feel the sacred texts, by using colors, weight, and texture.

It is important for the spiritual author to show their pathway to truth, and not just their arrival at a specific destination.

Some spiritual authors season their writing with touches of humor to make the reader comfortable with them, and the next two authors do this very artfully.

Andre Dubus grapples with the topic of injustice in his collection of memoirs entitled Broken Vessels, and he sets the tone with an allusion to a verse in the Psalms which says, “I am forgotten as a dead man, out of mind:  I am like a broken vessel”.  Then in his first story, Out Like a Lamb, he describes being called to watch over a farm and some sheep for some friends while they are away.  He expresses surprise at how unmanageable the sheep turned out to be:

And Christ had called us his flock, his sheep; there were pictures of him holding a lamb in his arms.  His face was tender and loving, and I grew up with a sense of those feelings, of being a source of them: we were sweet and lovable sheep.  But after a few weeks in that New Hampshire house, I saw that Christ’s analogy meant something entirely different.  We were stupid helpless brutes, and without constant watching we would foolishly destroy ourselves (4).

In this playful story with heavier undertones the sheep are a metaphor for humans, and the author makes the reader feel both brevity and pity for the sheep throughout the story, portraying them as helpless victims and describing the various ways that they “destroy themselves”.  The author artfully juggles humor and heaviness.

Marilynne Robinson also mingles humor in her 2005 Pulitzer award-winning novel Gilead, describing a group of religious children who decide to baptize a litter of kittens:

…They were dusty little barn cats just steady on their legs…I myself moistened their brows, repeating the full Trinitarian formula.

Their grim old crooked-tailed mother found us baptizing away by the creek and began carrying her babies off by the napes of their necks, one and then another.  We lost track of which was which, but we were fairly sure that some of the creatures had been born away still in the darkness of paganism…

Two or three of that litter were taken home by the girls and made into fairly respectable house cats…The others lived out their feral lives, indistinguishable from their kind, whether pagan or Christian no one could ever tell…

I still remember how those warm little brows felt under the palm of my hand… (22, 23)

This passage is rich with tactile detail that allows the reader to touch the furry warm brows of the kittens and feel the moisture of the creek water. The narrator of the story reflects in a believably childlike manner about this incident and wondering what the cosmic implications were.

In each of the passages so far, the spiritual writer has effectively created a rapport with the reader through vulnerability, reflection, or humor.

~♥~

The second step that I mentioned is that the spiritual author must “Illustrate the Abstract with Realism”:

Once the spiritual writer has established a rapport and lured the reader into a conversation, they can start to gently impart their concepts of truth. Realism is a valuable tool in the hands of a mystical author, because it allows the doubter to contemplate and vicariously experience the metaphysical. Personification, analogies, and recounting of events are far better than abstract statements of theology.  I will be using a variety of different authors to illustrate this point.

Transcendental poet Luci Shaw uses images and comparisons to cause the reader to make connections between objects and ideas, in her poem called “Royalty.”  She enables the reader to envision things, with her use of rich imagery.

He was a plain man
and learned no latin.

Having left all gold behind
he dealt out peace
to all us wild men
and the weather.

He ate fish, bread,
country wine and God’s will.

Dust sandalled his feet.

He wore purple only once
and that was an irony.

Shaw contrasts rich and poor through condensed images such as the plain man with dusty feet who left all gold behind, hung out with wild men, and wore purple only once. She cleverly lists God’s will with the foods and drink in the stanza about what Christ ate.  This allows the reader to make associations between food and drink and God’s will and to recognize all of them as sources of nourishment and strength.

Rabi Maharaj also uses physical detail as he writes about his mother in Death of a Guru, allowing the reader to fully experience the altar room:

Quiet, meditative, and deeply religious, she was not only father and mother to me but my first teacher in Hinduism.  How well I remember those early lessons learned as a little child sitting close beside her in the family prayer room in front of the altar with its numerous gods!  The heavy scent of sandalwood paste freshly marked upon the deities, the flickering deya flame attracting my eyes like a magnet, and the solemn sound of softly repeated mantras created an aura of holy mystery that held me spellbound…

Those unblinking eyes of clay and wood and brass and stone and painted paper seemed to watch me when I was not watching…(20)

The author allows the reader to smell the sandalwood paste, to see the flickering deya flame, and to hear the sound of the mantras. The images of the deities on the altar seem somewhat terrifying with their “unblinking eyes.”  By describing tangible objects, the author allows the reader to experience the intangibles.

F. Kefa Sempangi is the author of A Distant Grief which is his story of being the pastor of “The Redeemed Church” in Uganda in the 70’s during the brutal reign of Idi Amin.  He describes a church having an identity crisis because of western leadership. Sempangi beautifully depicts one of their prophetic leaders becoming frustrated.  In some sense, he uses the character of Katongole to personify the Holy Ghost:

On this day, Katongole wore the long white traditional robe of the Baganda men and we talked together for several hours about the present crisis in the Ugandan church.  The longer we talked the more angry Katongole became.  Finally, he could contain himself no longer.  He stood up from his chair and, glaring with wisdom, delivered an impassioned lecture.

“The church has made many mistakes,” Katangole said, pronouncing each word distinctly. “We have had political independence for 10 years and the church is not yet free.”

The physical description of Katongole is powerful with rich phrases such as “glaring with wisdom” and the way that he was “pronouncing each word distinctly.” The image of a stately black man in a long white robe is in itself compelling and the reader can almost hear his voice. The deep sigh of the prophet is important because it causes the reader to pause, and adds drama to his message.

Katongole took a deep breath and continued speaking.  “We are like Samuel and Eli in the Bible,” he said.  “For all of Samuel’s life he worked in the Temple and all his life, Eli stood between him and God… Samuel could not believe that God wanted to talk to him alone…

Instead of hearing God’s message to us as Africans, we have heard an enculturated gospel.  We cannot believe that God wants to speak to us in our own language. (40-41)

Rather than merely writing a factual narrative about the identity problem in the African church, Sempangi paints an exquisite portrait of a spiritual event. The reader can see and hear the leadings of the Spirit in Africa at that moment.

Black Elk also uses strong images and metaphors in the telling of his spiritual journey. He awakens all of the reader’s senses and his writings pulse with creatures and plants and landscapes. Here he describes a vision in which he saw the son of Wanekia, the Great Spirit:

They led me to the center of the circle where once more I saw the holy tree all full of leaves and blooming…Against the tree there was a man with arms held wide in front of him.  I looked hard at him, and I could not tell what people he came from.  He was not a Wasichu (white man) and he was not an Indian.  His hair was long and hanging loose, and on the left side of his head he wore an eagle feather.  His body was strong and good to see, and it was painted red…while I was staring hard at him, his body began to change and became very beautiful with all colors of light…He spoke like singing:  “My life is such that all earthly beings and growing things belong to me.  Your father, the Great Spirit, has said this.  You too must say this.”  (188)

It is appropriate for the visionary to use elevated language and vivid imagery. The serenity of his voice shows the enormity of his faith and adds credibility to his belief in a parallel earth where he and his people will finally dwell in peace.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian and Lutheran pastor who was executed for his resistance to Hitler and the Third Reich.  In his collection of essays entitled The Cost of Discipleship he uses analogies to explain theological concepts.  In this passage, he writes about the difference between what he calls cheap grace and costly grace:

Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares.  The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices…grace without price, grace without cost! 

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again…the door at which a man must knock.   (Bonhoeffer, 43, 45)

These analogies allow the reader to understand Bonhoeffer’s assertions.  His usage of metaphor is effective because it is easy to understand that something priceless should not be sold at discount prices. Anyone can understand that you must knock before entering someone’s house, and that if you found a treasure hidden in a field, you would happily sell your belongings to purchase the field and acquire it.  That is why realism works so well to describe complex philosophical ideas.

Saint Augustine artfully juxtaposes physical description with the metaphysical in his Sermon for Christmas # 13, in which he describes the birth of Christ:

He nudges the stars, but nurses from the breast.

He fills the Angels, speaks in His Father’s bosom, says nothing in His mother’s lap…

Look at how he miniaturized Himself so that He could lie in that manger.  That doesn’t mean He had to leave something behind in order to fit.  He just received what He wasn’t while remaining what He was.

Augustine presents the impossible so casually and physically that it almost sounds logical and scientific, presenting the notion of the divine presence being in many settings at once.

In each of the examples in this section the writer uses realism to depict the spiritual realm, allowing the intangibles to become tangible to readers.

 ~♥~

Now we come to final step, which is to Leave the Reader with a Sense of Longing and Mystery:

An effective spiritual writer will leave the reader with questions and a desire to embark upon their own truth-seeking journey.  The writer must present their pilgrimage as an ongoing process as opposed to a creating a sense of finality.

Luis Bunuel, the iconoclastic Spanish filmmaker and surrealist writer expresses his dislike of those who become too smug about their religion in his autobiography:

I have always been on the side of those who seek the truth, but I part ways when they think they have found it.  They often become fanatics, which I detest, or if not, then ideologues:  I am not an intellectual and their speeches send me running.  Like all speeches.  For me, the best orator is the one who from the first phrase takes a pair of pistols from his pockets and fires upon the audience.

This illustrates why it behooves the spiritual writer to be open about all of his human frailties, and leave the reader with a sense that he is still progressing, but has not arrived. There must be an air of mystery in order to stimulate the reader’s desire to seek truth on their own.  I will use very different sources to demonstrate the importance of ending with a sense of mystery.

Saint Augustine describes his limited capacity to understand the divine in one of his sermons about the incarnation, remarking:  “Well, how should I know?  I’m only a human being.  I don’t know why God was begotten.  I’ve labored to find out, I must say.” 

Donald Miller writes in his book Blue Like Jazz that he used to dislike jazz because of its lack of structure and the fact that it doesn’t resolve.  But he ends his memoir with a comparison between spirituality and jazz music:

The first generation out of slavery invented jazz music.  It is music birthed out of freedom.  And that is the closest thing I know to Christian spirituality.  A music birthed out of freedom.  Everybody sings their song the way they feel it, everybody closes their eyes and lifts up their hands.

He implies that everyone finds spirituality in their own way, not through conformity with traditions. He invites readers to seek God in their own style.

I will close with one final example of how C. S. Lewis successfully leaves the reader with a sense of longing, in this passage from The Four Loves.  Lewis uses a voice of humility, admitting that we humans often delude ourselves into thinking we are closer to God than we really are:

Those like myself whose imagination far exceeds their obedience are subject to a just penalty; we easily imagine conditions far higher than we have really reached.  If we describe what we have imagined, we may make others and make ourselves believe that we have really been there…

Then the author proceeds to describe the unfulfilled longings we carry around in our innermost being, using beautiful similes, and an analogy of dreaming and waking:

If we cannot “practice the presence of God”, it is something to practice the absence of God, to become increasingly aware of our unawareness till we feel like men who should stand beside a great waterfall and hear no noise, or like a man in a story who looks in a mirror and finds no face there, or a man in a dream who stretches out his hand to visible objects and gets no sensation of touch.  To know that one is dreaming is to be no longer perfectly asleep.  But for news of the fully waking world, you must go to my betters.

OLIVE TWIST ©2011

~♥~


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I’ve been having a few mysterious health problems, and have had some blood work and other studies lately.  I also have a phone service that transcribes my voice mail and sends it to my email.  The transcription service is not the best, but it gives me a good laugh when I need it most.  Here’s one of the messages from a doctor’s office that came to me a couple of days ago:

“Hello, this is Dr. Bishop’s office. If you could please call me back well I can just leave you a message. Your vitamin D level is very low, normal, but he does want you to start on some vitamin D and beach whales. Okay according to your hormone levels you are in the park. Or I could kill you.  Actually, your vitamin D you need to take 2000 units every day and you can buy that over the counter. I’m gonna call you and that to see.”

Wow, he’s gonna start me on some vitamin D and beach whales-  sounds a bit too heavy on the medication! Or they could kill me…that might be the cheapest solution.

Now, here’s a message from another doctor:

“Hello this message is from Dr. Johnson’s office I got your message about wanting your ultrasound results and the doctor has reviewed them and signed off on him and he says there is a small TV down on the ride. I thought your call butter’s okay and if you have any more questions give us a call.”

So I have a small TV down on the ride…that actually sounds rather serious, and I want surgery immediately.  But my call butter is okay- whew, that’s a relief!

Anyway, you get the idea.  I had to call the actual voice mail to decode the messages.

All joking aside, please pray for me and my health, and I will continue to post as much as I can.  I hope all of you out there are well.

Peace & Grace, Olive

~♥~

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I wrote this essay during the time of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  It was a terribly sad time for the planet Earth, and I still recall watching the news coverage showing the dolphins and birds and turtles drenched in oil.

Many Christians have unfortunately become “so heavenly-minded that they are of no earthly good.”  There are many contradictions in western Christianity these days, and one of them is that many believers don’t seem a bit concerned about the beautiful garden that God created for man to live in.  It says in Genesis that after each day working upon His creative masterpiece, “He saw that it was good.”

~♥~

I am the Earth (and I am Bleeding) 

My children, my children, what have you done?  I am bleeding, and there is no one who can help me now.  A blood vessel in my heart has broken, and no one can seal it.  I have given all that I can.  I am old and tired, and my wisest sons cannot find an answer to my sickness. 

You are unruly and selfish children, and you have never loved me as you should.  You only care what I can do for you.  All of your wealth and comfort has sprung from me, and you have glutted yourselves on my generosity and goodness. Now you have wounded me, and I cannot find a healer among you. 

Who will give me a transfusion when my blood has clotted and my veins are hardened?  My heart is full of sorrow for you…What shall become of you when I am dead?  When I become a dry crust of bread with no water, what will you do? 

 

We, your children, watched as your heart chamber erupted with fire and thundering and red smoke, and you began to cough up blood.  You gagged and sputtered and eleven of your children died. Your amniotic oceans are bloody and infected with yellow mucus and plasma. 

            We have violated you, like a cheap harlot.  We have thrust tubes and great spikes into your bloodstream so we can draw out your blood and sell it, and we have fought great wars over the ownership of it.  We have bludgeoned your bones with great hammers and drills, until it is pulverized into powders and dust.  With great fists, we have struck down your hills and mountains until they are flat.  We have ripped out your green thickets and vines by the roots, and tattooed you with hot black tar. We have choked you with giant concrete cigarettes puffing arrogantly in our cities.  Our greed is like a bottomless pit.

            We have become our own enemy, for we have sickened our mother. Is it too late?  You have hemorrhaged for over forty days and nights.  You cough sputum and blood onto the shores which threaten our homes and crops.  Will your infection scab over and dry up, or will it catch fire in the feverish summer heat?  We are afraid for you, but mostly for ourselves.

            A pelican dives in and gobbles up poisoned fish.  A seagull’s wings are heavy with sludge and never fly again.  Dead fish rise to the surface, cloaked in your blackened blood. 

What have we done, dear Mother?  Are you mortally wounded?  Now we are afraid.  If our mother dies, shall we all perish?  Who will sustain us?

Forgive us, Mother, for we don’t know what we are doing.

~♥~