When the Light Disappears

Today, multitudes of Americans converged on a long swath of land stretching from the Oregon coast to Charleston. After a great deal of hype and expenditure, they took turns sitting in the dark together for a few minutes per group. Then they turned to go home.

It’s funny, historically speaking, to see everyone so thrilled and eager about a solar eclipse—an event that used to be a harbinger of doom. Solar eclipses have brought rulers to their knees, armies to armistice, and if you believe Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, a timely end to a series of beheadings. They also offer a representation of the word syzygy, which earns at least twenty-five Scrabble points. The moon passes before the sun, occulting its light and revealing the wild-hair halo of the sun’s corona.

In the fallout from the disheartening events in Charlottesville, it is a blessing to have such a grandiose celestial reminder of the centuries-old motto of John Calvin’s followers: Post tenebras lux—after darkness, light.

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Rending the Veil

photo: Kristina Kupstienė | Flickr

About two weeks ago, well-known author, speaker, and pastor Eugene Peterson gave an interview that left many reeling from its implications. In the midst of a series of articles on Religion News Service, Peterson, who was announcing his retirement, gave his thoughts on topics from talking with the dying and megachurches to the president. In the course of the interview, he spoke to journalist Jonathan Merritt about homosexuality and the Church, stating that he would, under certain conditions, officiate a homosexual wedding. A little later, after some predictable hubbub from LifeWay Christian Stores, and after social media marshaled its respective forces in the Valley of Elah, Eugene Peterson returned to the mic via The Washington Post to clarify and retract certain of those statements, saying he “affirm[ed] a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman.”

That’s not what this essay is about, per se.

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Hiking, or The Reason to Abuse a Left Knee

A few years ago, my wife decided to give me a birthday present in the form of abandonment in the wilderness. To be clear, this was what I wanted. My version of a vacation is fairly Spartan. Give me a sleeping bag, a hammock, a tarp, and some basic necessities, and leave me to wander. This is distinctly different from my mother’s version of camping, which involves things with agitators—a washing machine, a hot tub, and cable television, for example.

My sweet wife dropped me off at Cosby Campground, where Cosby Creek churns down a mountain gully in fresh cascades of whitewater. The trail from there to Low Gap averages a thirteen percent grade. I was newly thirty-two years old. Surely sixty additional pounds up a mountain posed no problem.

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Lifeblood by Rote

1.

Three blue-distant hummocks mark southeast
If you stand atop the neighborhood
Imagining a compass rose
Limned in ink against the sky.

Hung below their bellies is a dark,
Horned buttress, clearer in its nearness.
The closer hill looks clean against
The wildness of its far-off brother,

Hunkered like a preacher with
A prophet weeping at his back.

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A Big Day of Small Things

Last Friday night, we held our first Foundling House brick-and-mortar event—a dinner and concert called Echo Hill, featuring the talents of Eric Peters, Janna Barber, Palmer Gregg, Ben Bannister, Bill Wolf, and Lorraine Furtner, plus an excellent feast by Sullivan’s.

This project had been more than six months in the making. The idea always seemed to be floating around in the back of my mind that we shouldn’t limit ourselves to virtual reception of art, to interaction by proxy. That kind of distance relationship, at least where art is concerned, suffers from a fan-based mentality. Good poems, stories, and songs drift into the territory of hagiography—that glowing writing full of miracles and merit that surrounds the saints of old. If we add the personal context of presence, our work takes on different and perhaps more holistic meaning*. I had mentioned the possibility of an event to our writers’ group multiple times, trying to gauge interest and, on a more subliminal level, hoping that if I talked about it enough, I would figure out how to pull it off.

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