Monday, March 26, 2007


I have been rather ill recently and done the 'visit the doctor' thing. I had a bad pain in my stomach and the doc sent me off for scans and you never quite know what they might find. Happily, all seems sort of OK for the time being but I am waiting for some tests so a prayer or two would be great.

I confess this has awakened me to having taken my health for granted and all of this has got me thinking about living and dying. Granted not a happy subject, but this brief incident has made me realise I will not be here forever. Nor will any of us as it happens. Only yesterday, did I learn of Costa's news (who is at Wycliffe with me doing a Phd), and he got knocked off his bicyle and is badly hurt. These things so often come from nowhere.

Accompanying me through these last couple of weeks has been a novel called Gilead (see 'A book I just read' on the sidebar) . It is the story of a letter that an elderly Pastor writes to his young son. It is a book packed with wisdom and insight and seems to have taken the author about 20 years to write. It's worth the wait. Usually the fact that a book won a Pulitzer Prize would put me off, but it really isn't that scary. Thanks go to Steve for putting me on a novel of such peace, gentleness and goodness.

The 78 year old Reverend reflects....

" I have been thinking a lot about existence lately. In fact, I have been so full of admiration for existence that I have hardly been able to enjoy it properly. As I was walking up to church this morning, I passed that row of big oaks by the war memorial-if you remember them- and I thought of another morning, fall a year or two ago, when they were dropping like acorns hitting the pavement so hard they'd pass my head. All this in the dark, of course. I remember a slice of the moon, no more than that. It was a very clear night, or morning, very still and then there was such energy in the things transpiring among the trees, like a storm, like travail. I stood there a little out of range, and I thought, It is all still new to me. I have lived my life on a prairie and a line of oak trees can still astonish me" (p64)

Isn't it true how quicky we cease to be astonished. By a tree, a child, a piece of music, a sunset or simply a moment of tranquility in the midst of a busy day. There is so much that resonates with those words 'It's still new to me.' Perhaps it does with you too.

He concludes his many thoughts with:

" Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must be also a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave-that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm. And therefore, this courage allows us, as the old men said, to make ourselves useful. It allows us to be generous, which is another way of saying exactly the same thing. But that is the pulpit speaking. What have I to leave you but the ruins of old courage, and the lore of old gallantry and hope? Well, as I have said, it is all ember now, and the good lLord will surely someday breathe it into flame again" (p. 281)

Don't we all need a bit more grace and courage? I certainly do. This made me think about what I might write if I were about to die and what, if anything, I might want to say. Now may I hope not be the time to dwell on such things but there will come a time when it might be necessary. I suppose the challenge for all of us is to have led the sort of life that might warrant having something to pass something on to another. As our culture becomes increasingly consumed by things and their pursuit, my concern is that it will have less and less to say and less and less to pass on. Fortunately, this book is a staying of the tide.

" The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him be eternal praise" Ps 111:10

This morning I read these words of the Psalmist and oh how we should all desire and chase after more wisdom. Let us try to do it now before it is too late.

I hope this novel may help you, as it has me, seek after wisdom once again, so that I might have the mereist thing to give away.


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