Winter Issue 4
By Mike Evanson
A few years ago, I was in a church service and there was a technical problem; all the instruments and microphones cut out. The power was restored moments later and a pronouncement came from the stage, “Nothing can stop the praise of God’s people.” The congregation cheered. A great victory had been won.
Yet something seemed amiss. Not the congregation’s dependence on technology, nor their corporate worship practices. Nor even, the assumption that hostile spiritual powers were behind the glitch. No, something subtler and, dare I say, more diabolical existed behind the assumption made by everyone in the room: If spiritual forces were behind the mishap, they must be evil; interruptions are necessarily an affront to God.
Now I don’t know that this incident is attributable to anything more than the typical antiquated sound equipment most churches possess, but if it is, I propose the cause is more likely to be God himself, not the evil one. It is the evil one who aims for us to have our routines; God tends to interrupts us.
I am hungry for routine. I want things. I want to be able to pursue what I want. And I want comfort and stability. I want to be able to count on things and to earn things. How desperately (after x number of years at Regent), I want to be able to earn something other than grades! And having earned something I can then say, almost defiantly, “This is mine. I worked for it. I have a right to have it! You obviously don't really love me if you want to take it away from me!”
Even if we get beyond such selfishness and genuinely desire to serve God, we still tend to assume that the Kingdom of God will gain ground as we gain control. We foolishly think that as we come to control more and more, Jesus will become more and more. When put thusly, such thinking is obviously fallacious, and anyone could identify it so. But in the moment, our desire for orderliness, for control, and for comfort assaults us. We guard our ministries, our schoolwork, our efforts to serve God, as holy things. And we defend them relentlessly: We are doing them for God, so anything that disrupts them must be an assault on God . . . right?
I said before that it is the evil one who longs for us to be locked in routine. We are greatly mistaken if we think that he doesn't want us to have stability; perhaps nothing gets him closer to everything he wants, than when we have everything exactly as we want it.
Jesus once had a brief conversation with a scribe. The scribe offered to follow Jesus, and Jesus replied, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” The scribe will have to live as Jesus did. To follow Jesus required a terrible disruption of the man’s life.
The cynics and disillusioned among us might be heard to be cheering Jesus on. They would gladly see the privileged, the ones who think all is well, have their perfect little world be disrupted. Yet the cynical, and the disillusioned are often wholly unwilling to accept that God might also be interrupting their lives. Their lives might be some degree of misery, but at least they are stable. Speaking as a cynic: We don't want things to turn out well; we want to be right about how bad they really are. And the disillusioned prefer equivocation to settling, because settling is the most unsettling thing in the world. People are curious creatures. We fear change and disruption more than most evils, even change for the better.
Wherever you are at right now, it may be that God is going to interrupt you. He is far too committed to his people to allow comfort and stability to remain in the way of His purposes. He is liable to interrupt you, your vocation, your family or any number of aspects of your life. Let him. When he interrupts our lives, it is usually because His intrusions put us in a place of instability where our priorities can become His priorities, and where healing of past hurts can occur.
Did God provide a technical disruption at the worship service I mentioned earlier? I suspect if it can be attributed to spiritual forces at all, it wasn’t perpetrated by forces hostile to God. These forces would probably have preferred a comfortable, routine worship service where people felt they were in control. Providing routine and stability simply aren't God's typical modus operandi. He has far more in store for us if we will stop resisting divine interruptions.
“Do Not Play with Words!”
By David Coias Raimundo
In every home and in every childhood there is at least one overemphasized forbidden toy. “Do not play with fire devices,” some parents say repeatedly. “Do not play with kitchen knives,” say other zealous parents. These are only two of the most frequent examples, but we can certainly find such recommendations for all tastes and they are usually quite pertinent: “Do not play with mom’s sewing kit”; “Do not play with fake weapons” (much less with the shotgun inherited from the great-grandfather, which is securely locked inside that old ark upstairs in the attic); “Do not play with food”; “Do not play with electrical sockets,” and so on. A long list of reasonable and cautious warnings!
But I happen to know a home where there is a strange forbidden toy. And in this particular case, it is fair to be skeptical about the pertinence of the warning …. In this particular home, the child is not authorized to play with words. When the child began to speak and, especially, when the child began to form compound sentences—any phrase made of more than a lone vocable—the parents quickly applied some measures to ensure that the child would not use words in vain or in excess. They rebuked any type of verbal rambling and taught the child how to use only the strictly necessary terms to communicate.
To prevent the contamination that happens in formal education institutions, the child has been homeschooled to this day. And very successfully, at least according to the parent’s standard! The child quickly learned the rules and the rigour of grammar. While same-aged children were still mixing up subjects and predicates without any vestige of shame or awareness (and often making their own parents laugh), our child was already applying sound syntax—on the rare occasions a long sentence was necessary, of course.
The dictionary has become the most cherished tool to this child; perhaps it has even become an object of devotion. By paying close attention to the proper definition of each single word, the child wants to avoid, at all cost, the capital sin: to use a word or an expression out of its due context. Moreover, when interacting with other children, deeply shocked by their unworthy use of words, the child admonishes them vehemently by replicating the warning so heard at home: “Do not play with words!”
The parents are extremely proud of these early achievements. They have established an organization that fights for the cause of monosyllables and one-word sentences, and they hope that their child will be equipped and determined to run the organization in the future, so continuing their pioneering work. They have truly dedicated themselves to this odd activism, but, they are also conscious that their work requires much time in order to bear fruit—especially since they use so few words to promote their cause. They recognize that, perhaps, only the next generation will be able to appreciate and adhere to their cause. Nonetheless, I have seen them trying to gain attention in the media recently, making efforts to broadcast their great affection for short and pragmatic sentences and championing for the abolition of all types of verbal adornments.
The father and the mother are perfect soulmates. I believe that, for any other couple, metaphors would be a key component of a proper love story. But within this couple, both spouses regard metaphors as the supreme heresy. Literalism is the anchor of their marriage. If some day one of them uses euphemism, hyperbole or even anaphora, their relationship will be seriously threatened. But such danger is merely theoretical, since they employ extreme vigilance and caution to preserve untainted literalism in all their affairs.
And that same tireless caution is precisely what they expect from their child. Until today, and as far as I have been able to witness, the child has remained loyal to their cause. But we don’t know what lies ahead. It is indeed a possibility that the child will fully assimilate and even develop the doctrine of the progenitors; it is possible that the child will one day be the president of their organization and the responsible for a major breakthrough for their cause. But life isn’t always a linear path, and one can easily imagine—and hope for—a different future for this child. Either moved by a healthy dose of rebellion or by the unconscious suspicion that something richer is hidden beyond literalism, isn’t it possible that this child may slowly deconstruct their doctrine and abandon their cause? Isn’t it possible that this child may eventually play with words? Isn’t it possible that the worldview of this pragmatic child may be turned upside down and that the child may even become a poet?
Lessons from a Billy Goat:
By Bryana Russell
Two days before Christmas, we awoke early in our Bethlehem accommodation. The electricity was out again, and so we made final preparations for the impending journey by the light of our iPhone flashlights. A modern lantern, perhaps. We rushed through the cold showers and said our goodbyes, filled equally with anticipation and anxiety. I wondered aloud, did Mary and Joseph feel this way too?
My husband, eldest son Joshua, and I embarked on the final days hike of the Nativity Trail. Dropped off at Sea Level, we would make the journey through the Judean Mountains into Bethlehem for Christmas Day. In its entirety, the hike takes 11 days, but recognizing our lack of conditioning and the length of my 10-year old son’s legs, we negotiated a two-day trip with the Bedouin guide, Jamil. I assured both husband and son of the easy arrangement. A mere 10-15 kilometers, I told them. Upon introduction, Jamil quickly provided a map, for we couldn’t rely on GPS in these parts, and our expectations were instantly shattered. Joshua, aghast, announced we had to walk 25 kilometers to reach our night camp.
I anticipated learning and praying through the Nativity trail, and it did not disappoint. The journey was beautiful; our eyes and souls feasted on a seemingly untouched landscape. Jordan and the Dead Sea in the background, the sand coloured peaks melted into each other, allowing us to truly experience our smallness, even in retracing the greatest story told. Jamil collected dry wood and moss along the way, and we stopped to build a fire, eating lunch across from one of the oldest working monasteries in the world. The experience, though hard, was surreal.
Now, in a particularly hard and busy season of responsibility, I find myself remembering not only the stunning etched landscapes of our trip, but the lessons of perseverance we took from the hike. Jamil was, and I say with admiration, part billy goat. We followed no beaten path, but a zigzagging, intuitive trail of travel. As the elevation gain grew, Jamil’s steps remained constant. He never slowed or hurried, but as the incline increased, he leaned in. He would check in frequently, wondering if our unaccustomed feet needed a rest. He would sense when our photographic pause was actually a breathing break, and reassuringly he would sit or lay down and light a cigarette. When you rest, he said, you must really rest.
My imaginings and reflections of Mary’s journey stick with me too. Her discomfort and difficulty marking those miles whilst heavily pregnant made me forget, if only temporarily, my aching legs. (I know she had a donkey, but have you ever ridden a donkey?) Did her comfort come from feeling and touching the babe she carried within her?
As I struggle to ascend my final project, I will try to lean in. I will rest—really rest—when I can, breathing in the view of privilege that comes from graduate studies; and I will hold tight to He who gives purpose and direction to the journey. And I pray, you will too.
Please rest with me on Monday, February 11, 2019 at 7 pm as I share more about our time in the Holy Land courtesy of the Conway Bursary. There will a sampling of Palestinian delights following the brief presentation.
Morning Bus (II)
By Alice Hodgkins
Poets say that strange things appear out of the fog,
Especially at dawn when it lies thick and white
In certain ownership of the whole invisible world.
They say we must stand and shiver to think,
Feel the approaching presence:
Beasts of great size,
Armies with weapons clanking restless in the quiet,
Or a single cloaked figure bearing life in his palm.
But this morning the thing which emerged from the fog was us,
Surging forward into day on plastic seats,
Lips set and ready.
January 15, 2019
Solution to Previous Crossword
Crossword by Embolus
1. Vivaldi’s recipe for pizza? (7,8)
9. Identical strand of DNA is no mere sequence (7)
10. Peer got in a pickle over talented apprentice (7)
11. Chinese Premier’s heard, understood and acknowledged (3)
12. Warming soup after we shivered in desperately cold March (4,7)
14. Vatican wafer? (7)
16. Hat? Not applicable separating parents (6)
18. Bat one used to augment rhythm (2-4)
20. Crazy grandmother sitting in reversing car (6)
24. Stop at a root cooking tuber in oven (5,6)
26. Chimney lost its end in severe cold (3)
27. I consumed Ivy League School containing counterfeit (7)
28. Linked in the direction of horse went first (7)
29. EU lamented moral collapse over Swiss cheese cake (8,7)
1, 17. Rich one cooking quail or baking dish (6,8)
2. Apricot vitamins offer certain advantages denied other first-fruit (7)
3. Rattle crate, rattle! Sweet, sour sweet? (7,4)
4. Bush leaves Raegan without first amendment between two rounds (7)
5. Subject of incognito picture (5)
6. Google half-unstuck became sticky stuff (3)
7. The unitary preoccupation of the single-track mind? (3,4)
8, 23. Sweet concoction menaced a cruise (8,6)
13. Capital where the French thrice captured Turkish general, good and dead (11)
15. Crowd of crows do this (3)
19. A lamb is sacrificed in idolatry (7)
21. Come to terms with alternative transformer (7)
22. Alfred twice lost revolutionary and a cash crop (7)
25. Singing a long time after surgery (5)