The Taser's Edge


Tuesday Reading Roundup 10: Madeleine L’Engle Edition

1. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle–Already read it way back when.  Read it again, and it is fabulous.  Far better than Philip Pullman’s Golden Compass/His Dark Materials series.  I think I’m going to have some kids just so I can read it with/to them.  I have mixed feelings about the fact that it seems unfilmable (despite the existence of at least one cinematic attempt).  Disappointed, because more people would get to know L’Engle’s creation.  Kind of glad, though, because I can pretend it’s my little secret, despite the fact that it won the Newbery Medal, sold millions of copies, and is read in classrooms across America.  Also, check out this 3-d image of a 5-d tesseract (those of you in the know know):

2. A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle–So I’m hooked and also already read this one, too.  Three cheers for kything and farondalae!  But I have to wonder at the lack of tesseraction.

3. A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle–Third in the series, it is in my sights this week.  For some reason, while the first two books are shelved in the children’s section at Durham Downtown Library, this one is in the Young Adult section.  I assume it must have frank, sexual discussion or a teenage angst-filled Charles Wallace.  (Holden Caulfield plus telepathy: a deadly cocktail.)  Maybe after I read all the Madeleine L’Engle that exists, I’ll return to Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain as well.

4. Great Lent by Alexander Schmemann–I think you’ve heard of it by now.  I couldn’t swear to having read a single page last week.

5. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank MillerIn my three years as a graduate student at Duke, I have only requested that Duke buy two books.  (You know Duke has some serious money, since this is an option, despite the fact that most books people want are at least available through Inter-Library Loan.)  And the two books are…<drum pum pum pum roll>…this one and Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore, the two comics most responsible for the Heath Ledger version of the Joker in The Dark Knight.  At least I know that a collections librarian is one person on this earth who has no room to judge me for my nerdiness.  Then there’s the fact that I only thought about requesting that Duke buy it after my friend Dave successfully requested that Duke buy the second half of the third season of Entourage (which, I will admit, is a darn good show by that point in its run).

6. Helping People Forgive by David W. Augsburger–Haven’t started it yet, but the title sounds descriptive.  The readings for Acolatse’s Marriage and Family class are amazing this week.  Christian healing and forgiveness, non-violent communication of anger, getting the local church to start talking/dealing with sexual abuse.  Terrific articles.

7. Random stuff from Kant, specifically his discussion of virtue.

Truly I’m back from Spring Break.  And truly I am checked out even more than ever.  Addicted to graphic novels, children’s novels, and computer games from my childhood.  My friend Samara told me today that we have 5 weeks of classes left.  Let’s see, on my schedule that makes…15 days of classes left.  Not going to help me stay involved.  I just need to divert my energy toward constructivity around the house instead of toward my ancient English civilization (which is now building railroads in 400AD, while destroying the Aztec and American civilizations simultaneously).

And then there’s my Application for Holy Orders.  It’s less fun than it sounds.



Lenten Devotion 1.2.2–Letting Go
March 7, 2009, 4:49 pm
Filed under: Bible, Life, Religion, Spirituality, Theology | Tags: , , ,

Letting Go: I don’t particularly like this terminology.  Schmemann talks about the possibility for a poverty of meaning and experience of God in Lent when we talk in terms of ‘taking up’ and ‘letting go’, because we can become so focused on the practices themselves that sight is lost of the reason for those practices.    Hopefully I’m avoiding that process, as I’m truly interested in being obedient to God in my Lenten disciplines.

1. Control–Giving up control.  What does that mean?  For me, the explanation is connected to how taking up spiritual disciplines is more natural to me than giving things up.  In my mind, taking control pushes away the feelings of chaos and anxiety and fear that I sometimes experience, but I think control is often an illusion which we buy into to make us feel more secure.  Disciplines come fairly easy to me, at least in comparison to most other Christians that I talk to.  But control quickly becomes not the fruit of the Spirit named as ‘self-control’ but the desire to control all kinds of circumstances which are beyond my control or my charge.  In short, ‘control’ is a type of worry.  I don’t need to worry, and I certainly don’t need or want to deal with more anxiety in my life.  So screw you, physiological, genetic, hereditary, etc. dispositions to anxiety.  I’m not in control, and that’s a good thing.

The practice of letting go of control is a practice of mindfulness, a constant, gentle, internal release of my claim over other things and even over myself.  Through this I come to see how little control I really hold.  This is not a fearful realization of abandonment to Fate (as much as it seems that it might be), but a realization of freedom, because a loving, redeeming God is cradling my whimpering, helpless form to his breast.  For me, the thought of being in charge, of being responsible for all those things around me is fear-inducing, even panic-inducing.  Also, I waste so much time, along with physical and psychic energy, on trying to control things that I both cannot control and which do not actually matter (trying to be on time to church, for one instance).  Finally, giving up control does battle with my perfectionism, and that battle is almost always a good thing, when done right.

2. Eating meat on M-W-F.  Finally, something that’s tangible.  It’s surprising, considering how little meat I usually eat (and how often my acquaintances assume I’m a vegetarian), how often this has already gotten in my way.  I’m just now thinking about meals on this coming Friday for Anglican Missional Pastor and whether there will be vegetarian options.  For all those vegetarians out there who have shown up at church potlucks and other social get-togethers only to have to skip every dish but the macaroni and cheese and the dessert tables, sorry I’m complaining.  But I do actually wonder if it would have been easier to just say “no meat for Lent.”  That way, I wouldn’t have to remember what day of the week it is.  I am certain that I will forget soon.  Also, I never craved meat before, and now I do.  On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Please converse with me on all this.  And have a happy solemn Lent!.



Lent Thoughts 1.2.1–Taking Up

I’ve been meaning to do this post everyday since Lent began.  And now it’s here.  I was feeling a bit odd about publishing my Lenten commitments.  It’s my non-Lenty past, I think.  Still playing on repeat the verse I talked about on Ash Wednesday in the back of my mind (Matthew 6 about prayer and fasting and giving alms in secret).

There’s another stream in my mind, however, and I think it came from Duke.  This second stream is the communal focus.  That is, self-examination is one thing, and it has its place.  But the work that God does in us, the process through which God saves and makes us holy and whole is accomplished with the help of others.  Not because God couldn’t do it any other way, but because God seems to want to do it that way, or so the church has discerned for centuries.  God wants us to need each other and to live with each other (and in one another’s ‘personal’ space and  on one another’s personal toes).  So I write these publicly so you can get on my toes and in my space (because a lot of it’s your space too), ask me questions about whether these somewhat weird things actually make a difference, and just plain hold me to these commitments.  I also think writing this post has something to do with practicing Taking Up #2 (see below).

Taking Up: Adding new things to my spiritual life is much more natural to who I am.  I like spiritual disciplines, perhaps just because they make me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile with myself and with my time.  This year, the things I added have as much to do with cultivating my mental health as cultivating my Christian character (and I really don’t believe that those two things are any longer separable in me).

1. Gratitude/Thankfulness–Lots of self-help/psychology/spirituality books prefer the first term, possibly because many of them are coming out of a Buddhist or other not particularly theistic (or at least not believing in a personal, loving, intervening-in-history-and-our-lives God) worldview.  For me, taking up the practice of gratitude is the other side of the thankfulness coin.  Gratitude is the manner in which I receive, and thankfulness is honoring the One from whom I receive.  Both gratitude and thankfulness mean that I truly pay attention to and enjoy what I have been given.  It is a different way of seeing the world.  The practice of gratitude/thankfulness quickly runs over into the practice of enjoying, or finding enjoyment, in everything around me.  Some of you know how serious I can be or seem to be, how much I sometimes need to remember what it’s like (and how important it is for my overall health) to play, how much I need to enjoy (and stop all this darn thinking).  I’m working on it.

2. Generosity–Although I certainly look up to other people for being more generous monetarily than I am (I’m thinking of my brother Zack and my friend Dave as particularly good models), I think that for me that way of being generous needs to come out of a different kind of personal generosity.  When I say that I want to practice generosity during Lent, I mean that I want to be more generous with myself.  I want to be more free in giving myself to God, to other people, and to myself.  All of these things involve personal risk, and that is something which I want to step forward into, as uncomfortable as it is.  I’m thinking of my CPE interns group from last semester and the CPE residents group which I will begin meeting with in June.  I’m thinking of my small group from church.  When I offer of myself generously, other people are freed to offer of themselves generously.  Everyone experiences freedom.

This, of course, also has to do with offering grace and forgiveness.  Personally, while I certainly can use some work on even admitting that I get angry at God (which I do–hoppin’ mad at times), let alone offering God the graciousness that God continually gives me; and while forgiveness of other people always takes some time and effort (and especially time…and effort), my unforgiveness is mostly focused inwardly.  If I were as quick to forgive myself as I am to forgive people who wrong me, I would be in a much better place mentally and spiritually.  So, I’m hoping that generosity will bring healing in several ways.

3. A Penitential Order: Rite II (p. 351 in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer)–It hasn’t been clear yet, but I am trying to practice all of these things everyday.  Still having trouble figuring out what that means with the first two, other than trying to purposely be generous and thankful a handful of times each day.  With this third commitment, it’s easier to know what I mean.  Each day I have been using this order as my morning prayer.  I’ll usually add a Gospel reading or something to it, but this liturgy forms the core of my morning devotions.  I’m intending to copy it out into the next post, so you can see what it is.  One thing that has been very powerful for me is in seeing how reading and meditating on the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments) can actually be a very real way in which God goes to work on my life.  I have always found it a bit weird that Christians still make a big deal out of the Ten Commandments, but submitting to this practice has helped me to begin to see how much worth there is in having our hearts investigated by the Spirit through them.



Tuesday Reading Roundup, Week 8

1. Cane by Jean Toomer–The back of the book quotes somebody saying, “Cane is an important American Novel.”  Personally, at just over half way through, it may well be great, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a novel.  Unless I’m missing something, which is possible, it’s more of a series of prose and poetry vignettes.  I began reading it months ago, and stopped in the middle.  I would like to finish it.  We shall see.  Spring “Reading Week” (Duke insists on not calling it Spring Break) is next week after all.

2. Great Lent by Alexander Schmemann–Still plugging away at it.  Marvelous book, but I have nowhere in my normal scheduling to place a book which is neither wholly for pleasure nor for school, and it’s getting to the point that the tag cloud to the right of my site is making it seem like I read a ton of Schmemann.  Not the case, visitors.  I have read very little of him over a very long period of time.  That cloud is also over-the-top with Hauerwas.  I’ve read less than a book by him, too.  Y’all will be hearing from Schmemann throughout Lent, just as I seem to be.

3. Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix–I was supposed to have read the first half for last week and then to finish it off for this week.  Clearly neither of those things is going to happen.  But, the tiny bit I have read is quite interesting.  The guy actually is a trained psychologist, after all.  That’s Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. to you.

4. The Lady, Her Lover, and Her Lord by T.D. Jakes–I said last week that I was surprised by how much I liked the book.  That ended at about 35 pages in.  Questionable biblical exegesis, overly conservative gender assumptions and gender role assignments, and terrible prose.  That’s not to say that there aren’t good points in it, because there are many of them.  And I’m still not finished with it yet.  I have to write a review on this or Hendrix’s book for Wednesday.

5. Upside Down: The Paradox of Servant Leadership by Stacy T. Rinehart–Rinehart (surprise: he’s a dude) is coming to speak at this month’s Anglican Missional Pastor training thing, at which I have to preach.  Eep.  At least if I don’t like his book and he doesn’t like my sermon, it will be a nice trade-off.  Self-psychoanalytical moment: Why would I be approaching this book with such a negative attitude?  For one, the president of Moody Bible Institute provides praise on the back.  What has Duke done to me?  I never even slightly considered Moody myself, but I have been good friends with a couple really good people who went there, and I never used to despise that brand of Christian conservatism.  It (this stance in me) is ideological, and I don’t like it.  And now returning to Tuesday Reading Roundup…I do have some hope–I’ve had good luck with the couple NavPress books that I’ve read, this book is with NavPress, and Rinehart was a vice president with the Navigators as of the writing of the autobiographical blurb.

6. Supreme: The Story of the Year by Alan Moore–This one’s as close to a normal superhero comic as I’ve read since I got a free issue of X-Men at BagelFest as a kid (actually, it might have been Zack’s issue, and I think it talked about the importance of recycling), or perhaps that Power Team comic in which they fought a gang with lots of paperclips in their faces, and in which the Power Team won over evil by wielding a bulletproof Bible (the same version, The Sword, that the Power Team would sell you).  Anyway, that’s not to say that it’s normal at all.  Apparently Supreme was an existing superhero (according to Amazon, a super-violent rip-off of Superman) before Moore took over in 1996.  Moore reinvented Supreme as a new revision of the old character who has to travel to his past in order to recover from his amnesia.  As a new version of an old hero, this Supreme doesn’t know about his past, because it’s not his past, but the past of a different Supreme.  As Moore tells the story, the book alternates between sleek and shiny computer-aided graphics and a retro look from the thirties or forties.



Bright Sadness

“A journey, a pilgrimage!  Yet, as we begin it, as we make the first step into the ‘bright sadness’ of Lent, we see–far, far away–the destination.  It is the joy of Easter, it is the entrance into the glory of the Kingdom.  And it is this vision, the foretaste of Easter, that makes Lent’s sadness bright and our lenten effort a ‘spiritual spring.’  The night may be dark and long, but all along the way a mysterious and radiant dawn seems to shine on the horizon.  ‘Do not deprive us of our expectation, O Lover of man!'”

-Alexander Schmemann, Great Lent: Journey to Pascha, p. 15



Tuesday Reading Roundup, Week 7

1. The Absolute Sandman, Vol. 3 by Neil Gaiman–Thankfully, after a somewhat disappointing second volume, this one is possibly as good as the first.  Check your local library, although this is really probably good enough to drop the $60-70 on Amazon.  It makes me hope that whenever they start making films, they do it right.  I vote Guillermo del Toro or Alfonso Cuaron to direct.  Courtney, you should get Max to grab Volume 1 from Lilly Library.  For some reason, I think you might like it.

2. Great Lent: Journey to Pascha by Alexander Schmemann–This thin volume will soon be finished, although I now doubt it will be finished before Lent begins tomorrow.  I feel like I get Lent, but I still don’t get Ash Wednesday.  I’ve still got 10 hours to figure it out, I suppose.

3. Souls on Fire: Portraits and Legends of Hasidic Masters by Elie WieselI haven’t actually started this book, but I randomly hoped that writing down that I was reading it would encourage me to read it.

4. The Lady, the Lover, and Her Lord by T.D. Jakes–Despite some ridiculous phrasing on Jakes’ part, at 25% through, I am surprising myself, but I actually like a lot of what Jakes has to say.  The fact that I have to read this book is what’s great about Dr. Esther Acolatse.  She has you read from all over the place–Karl Barth, the US Council of Catholic Bishops, T.D. Jakes, and the next author.

5. Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples by Harville Hendrix–This is a book along the lines of Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus.  Marriage/Self-help from somebody who is actually a psychologist.  Haven’t begun it yet, but I have to get halfway through by this time tomorrow afternoon (circa 2:14pm).

6. On the Freedom of a Christian by Martin Luther–Short and to the point.  This is, I think, the third time I have had it assigned at Duke.  But I’ve never read it as a work in the virtue ethics tradition, so we’ll see how that goes.



Tuesday Reading Roundup, Week 6

1. Night by Elie Wiesel–As I told Holly last night, I’m not quite sure why I haven’t read this yet.  It’s so short and so good that I read most of it in one sitting last night.  I also have to admit that I thought it was an autobiographical novel and not a memoir.  You’ll notice, as I did, that this is the only non-Christian book I’m reading this week.  That’s part of the reason that I chose to pick it up.  Of course, it still has to do with religion.

2. Great Lent: Journey to Pascha by Alexander Schmemann–Yes, I have started it.  And you will start seeing quotes from it in about a week or so.  I think I’m going to post something Lent-y each week (Wednesdays, maybe?) during Lent.

3. De Trinitate by St. Augustine–Okay, I only have to read chapters 5 and 6.  But, as much as I want to hate Augustine (and I’m not sure why, but perhaps sex and predestination), I love the guy.  I do think, however, (pretentious alert) that he could use some work on his understanding of the Spirit.  Give me more, Augustine, please.

4. Generation to Generation by Edwin H. Friedman–Such a fantastic and wise man.  Tomorrow I’ll give you a lengthy quote to chew on.  Having read less than half of this book, I would recommend it to almost anyone half-interested in psychology, counseling, or their personal interactions with their families.

5. Treatise on the Virtues by St. Thomas Aquinas–Got to love him.  So much brain grinding.  So much grace of God working.

Honorable mention: The Absolute Sandman, Vol. 3 by Neil Gaiman–I put this on here because I doubt I’ll be able to stay away from it this week.  Even though Vol. 1 was much better than Vol. 2, I’m still going to give this an honest try.  The chances of it being read are also helped by the fact that I somehow (!?!?!?!) finished all my school readings for this week today.