Biblical material pervades the works of English literature. Bible stories have been retold, recast and reinterpreted. Biblical images have lent their resonance and biblical phrases their rhetorical power to works as various as George Herbert’s devotional poems, John Dryden’s acerbic political commentaries and T. S. Eliot’s verse dramas.
I love Don Juel’s description of Jesus as a “master of surprise.” The ways Jesus reveals himself to his followers in the post-resurrection stories testify to his delight in surprising those who love him, and whom he loves.
Jesus’ moments of self-revelation are not only world-shaking but intimate, relational, invitational and even clever.
One of my favorite lines in Hamlet is the prince’s reminder to Horatio, who is uncertain what to make of a ghost, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” I’ve spent much of my life among academics, Christian and otherwise, many of whom are skittish about references to mystical moments, prescient dreams, “thin space,” telepathy, visio
Not long ago I had a small epiphany at the airport. I was removing my jacket and boots, attempting to unzip my carryon and extract a laptop while checking my pockets for metal and nudging gray plastic bins toward a conveyor belt. I was trying not to hurry the person in front of me or delay the person behind, who waited grimly with shoes in one hand and an iPad in the other.
Disobedience came hard for a nice girl like me. I was taught to respect authority, which I did, despite bumper stickers urging us to question it. I did my homework, kept to the speed limit and came home on time. I rarely got in trouble, though I admired those who did, like the people who joined picket lines or burned their draft cards.
she said her mother was waiting could I take her there she was waiting and would worry she asked how my mother was and I said you are my mother she looked amused then she leaned over and took my arm she said does mother know where we are I said yes mom she knows she's waiting will you tell her I'll be there she said as soon as I can get to the bus I'll tell her I said she patted my arm and hummed give your mother my love she said
The opening lines of Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground (1864) can hardly be described as inviting: "I am a sick man. . . . I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased." Yet generations of readers have been engaged by the writer's exquisite self-awareness, his extreme ambivalences and his complex understanding of life in a dysfunctional society.
When I first moved to one of California’s beautiful seaside cities, a friend from a less self-consciously glamorous part of the country asked as she watched the young and fit lounging on the grass under palm trees, “Where are all the ugly people?” The question tapped depths she hardly dreamed of.
James Boswell is a hard act to follow. His Life of Johnson, written at close range after more hours in pubs and miles of travel with his eccentric subject than most could have withstood, is detailed, witty, literate and still engaging over two centuries later.
In his sonnet “On His Blindness” Milton laments the loss that impedes “that one talent which is death to hide,” now “lodged with me, useless, though my soul more bent to serve therewith my Maker.” God gave him, Milton reasons, not only a talent for words, but an urge to use them that seemed to him as essential as a heartbeat.
Ignorance is the opposite of love,” writes the father of a young man with schizophrenia, reflecting on his efforts to understand his son’s delusional behavior. Most of us have heard similar, more obvious claims: hate is the opposite of love; fear is the opposite of love; indifference is the opposite of love.
Prayer serves many functions: it brings our attention to the fact that God is present. It makes the spot of ground on which we stand holy ground. It quiets and focuses the mind, clarifies intention and awakens the imagination, opening up the heart and lungs as we breathe more deeply and relax into this most intimate of encounters. As a communal practice, praying creates consensus and convergence of focus, teaching us how to be the body of Christ, and how to speak with one voice and one hope.
Being sick is more complicated than it used to be. Medical technologies that offer new hope also lead to a bewildering thicket of options. The complexities of being sick may account for the rising number of books telling the story of illnesses.
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