NT Wright for Lent

I've been hearing some odd things bandied about regarding NT Wright lately, mostly by people who haven't read him. I have my own opinions, and they vary, and they're personal. But regardless, I find the best thing to do whenever anyone has an Opinion that is being Bandied regarding a particular writer or thinker is to read the person for yourself, to get to know them and their ideas. Bandy about your own opinions for a change, and be right to do so.

There's nothing to opinion regarding NT Wright's Lent for Everyone. The title is right - the book is for everyone, whether you observe Lent or not. It's a perfect way to walk through the season if you do, and a wonderful resource of thoughts on the Gospel of Mark when the season is through.

The words for Ash Wednesday are (suitably) a good starting off point. "We sometimes think of 'repentance,'" he writes, "as being about going back: going back, wearily, to the place you went wrong, finally making a clean breast of it, and then hoping you can start again.... But John [the Baptist]'s message of repentance was essentially forward-looking."

There follows a darling metaphor involving the Queen and Victoria Beckham, but I will save you the details for your own reading. Only let me finish with this:

"But the point, of course - this is Ash Wednesday, after all - is that you need to get ready. When God arrives; when the king knocks on your door; when you're about to be plunged in the holy spirit - what is there in your life that most embarrasses you? What are you ashamed of?... Mark is taking us on a pilgrimage this Lent, to the place where, he believes, God has come into our very midst - that is, to the cross of the Messiah. It's time to get ready."

Read my brief review of the book over at Goodreads.

A Toast

As promised, my poem to the writer's workshop:

A Toast 
(variations on “An Appeal” by Czeslaw Milosz)
To you, O Church, to you I lift this glass of cheap grape juice.
I lift it in irony, because I am deeply flawed.
I lift it in sorrow, because so are you.
And I lift it in brave, bold hope. To you,
bored bride, wherever you are.
In the creaking building, by the heartless fountain,
sitting in the last bright light above the hazy port.
I drink to you with no better question 
than the far better poet asked some sixty years ago:
“Whether you really think that this world is your home?”
That the skin and bones are stretched as they ought around
the mortal-heavy embers of your heart? 
That the words and the songs are the first and the last
and they signify nothing but the certainty of this hour?
Probably you know very well the hot objection of injustice.
That every tumor and scar, barrenness and hunger, mewling,
limping life states otherwise.
But it is more than brokenness. 
It is the hope of our tongues.
“If one day our words come so close...”
is the promise of the resurrection―
not of the dead, but of the man in the cave,
watching shadows of what he would be,
if he would but be right.
This is why we write. Why we put the pen to page.
Why we speak the great Amen in ink and keyboard clicks
again and again.
Because before Adam fell, God gave him a work.
This is why we name things. 
“If one day our words...”
I call you brother, sister, that you might be that to me.
I call this wine and blood, and so it also is.
For what we bind on earth, and what we name, are sealed so―
not in our hearts, but here, at this table,
in the creaking building, by the heartless fountain,
sitting in the last bright light above the hazy port.
It is our words that prove us wanderers.
We wait for the creed to be-come before us,
and we flit solemnly from phrase to phrase meanwhile.
Because at any moment, whether the light streaks hallowed
between celestial cloud banks or not,
whether the waves crash just so, 
or a strain of music happens to waft
over a wall of climbing honeysuckle, regardless,
the word becomes flesh.
And dwells among us.


An Appeal

I promised a while ago to share something of the poem I brought to the writer's workshop last month. Beforehand, I should first share at least part of Czesław Miłosz's poem, "An Appeal." You will see why.

You, my friends, wherever you are, 
Whether you are grieving just now, or full of joy,
To you I lift this cup of pungent wine
As they often do in the land of France.
From a landscape of cranes and canals, 
Of tangled railway tracks and winter fog,
In the smoke of black tobacco, I make my way
Toward you and I ask you a question.
Tell me, for once at least laying 
Caution aside, and fear and guarded speech,
Tell me, as you would in the middle of the night
When we face only night, the ticking of a watch,
The whistle of an express train, tell me
Whether you really think that this world
Is your home? That your internal planet
That revolves red-hot, propelled by the current
Of your warm blood, is really in harmony 
With what surrounds you? Probably you know very well
The bitter protest, every day, every hour,
The scream that wells up, stifled by a smile,
The feeling of a prisoner who touches a wall
And knows that beyond it valleys spread,
Oaks stand in summer splendor, a jay flies
And a kingfisher changes a river to a marvel.
In you, as in me, there is a hidden certainty
That soon you will rise, in undiminished light,
And be real, strong, free from what restrained you.
That above the mold of broken flagstones,
Above memory and your transformation
Which is like the flight of birds when ice
Crumbles in the traces of hooves―above everything
It will be given to you to run as celestial fire,
To set sails ablaze with your flame at dawn
When ships trail smoke and archipelagoes
Wake up, shaking copper from their hair.

No, I address you here, from the ashes of winter,
In the simplest words, not to induce doubt
Or to call melancholy, for instance, the sister of fate.
On and on. The heart is still beating.
Nothing is lost. If one day our words
Come so close to the bark of trees in the forest,
And to orange blossoms, that they become one with them,
It will mean that we have always defended a great hope.

You should of course read the rest of the poem on your own. Along with everything else he's ever written. My copy is in this anthology.



Not to overdo it on Pinterposts, but the recent onslaught of friends, acquaintances, and everyone-else on Pinterest has led me to think of some rules. In pirate fashion, these are actually guidelines, and the purpose is to ensure that Pinterest is useful and interesting for you - because, quite honestly, it's not really a social network. It's a network, and a society, but it's mostly a silent one. Pinterest comments are rare, and the best followers and followeds are more often than not complete strangers. It's about meeting one another in the places your aesthetic tastes lie. Who you are behind your tastes is secondary. I will never meet Mary Beth Burrell, but I love her outrageous 433 boards. I will never meet Maia Then, but we swap typography pins on a regular basis, without overt acknowledgement.

1. To begin with, you shouldn't join Pinterest just because "everyone else is doing it." You can browse your friends' boards without making your own, so don't feel like you have to make an empty profile unless you start seeing pictures everywhere that you don't want to lose!

Because that is the ultimate point. To keep all the pretty things you see together in one unforgettable place. It has nothing to do with how many followers you have, or how often you are repinned. Those things are nice affirmations of your style-sense, but if you have 100 followers and five pins, you're missing the point.

2. There are three things you can do to someone else's pin (other than commenting or ignoring, which would make five...). You can report it, which you should do if it is inappropriate, the guidelines for which are outlined under Pin Etiquette, which you should read before you begin. Seriously. My mother's on Pinterest. Let's keep it clean.

Other than that, you can "like" it, or you can "repin" it. Liking a pin does more than just stamp the pin with an effervescent symbol of your approval. It stores the pin in one big folder of your very own that says "Likes." The pins you like do not show up in the feeds of pinners who follow you, so it's a wonderful way to quickly collect little things here and there that you don't want to forget (a recipe or how-to-clean-with-lemon-slices tutorial) but that you also don't necessarily want cluttering up your follower's home pages.

You should have a code concerning what you pin, an internal guideline, a sense. You should pin the things you don't want to live without. The things you want to somehow, with or without effort, incorporate into your life. Things that make your eyes widen slightly, or a smile form, or even the tenderest tear fall. They should be things you want to look at again in five years, and in ten. Pin what moves you. Pin what you care about. Because you are amassing a collection. And if you collect a load of crap, it will be your pinterburden for all time.

3. When pinning from a website other than Pinterest itself, try your darndest to pin from a solid original webpage. One that will not change its content. This is called a permalink. Be careful of this especially when you pin from Tumblr or other similar sites. I cannot tell how many times I have tried to locate the original source of a pin only to find myself trolling through dozens of pages on someone's Tumblr or blog. It's not just about convenience, though. It's about crediting your sources. A photographer should be findable from his/her photograph. A designer should be findable from his/her quirky logo. This isn't just a guideline, either. Pinterest asks you to do it, and plenty of artists, designers, photographers, companies in general, etc. are legitimately worried about the implications of Pinterest when the sources of things are not maintained. Honor the artist.

These are only three pinterules, but they should be all you need, at least as you get going. In the meantime, here are some other great pinners to follow:

Have fun!

*Note, graphic above came from here.
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