All in Truth

Testimonies

Christians love to ask each other how they “got saved.” It’s never been an easy question for me to answer. If you ask, I’ll probably say that I am saved, but also that I am being saved all the time, that it’s a thing I’m working out with more than a little fear and trembling. I’ll say that my “testimony” involves a lot of stories, not just one. My personal history of faith is all bound up in my personal history as a writer and a reader. If you have time to listen, I’ll tell you some of the tales.

Picture Perfect?

 I know this puzzle has holes in it, yet I never throw it out. I like its scene, the kind of place you might escape to in a novel. I enjoy the safe and secure process. But I also value the reminder that our planet is marred, that this desire for a stress-free ordering of a perfect and predictable picture has its place as an amusement or diversion but is not part and parcel of this world, already redeemed but paradoxically not yet.

River of Disappointment

We never ask for disappointment, do we? It shows up uninvited like grumpy Aunt Lurleen, unexpected as a canker sore, as unwelcome as salt in a wound. It does not politely remove its hat upon entering our world, nor does it apologize. Disappointment never apologizes. Forgoing customary greetings, it barges in and sets to flooding the place. So what of it, Eric? Big deal. Grow up. Be an adult. Though indeed responses, they avoid the question:  What do we do with all the disappointment? Accept it? Get on with life? Love it? Hide from it? Pull it close? Push it away? Drown in it? Grieve? Take joy in it? Capitulate? 

Growing Up With Imogene Herdman

Indeed, I knew all about the Herdmans; I lived across the street from a real live set of them, and as we read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, fear started to fade and intrigue began to grow. This was the first time I rooted for the alleged bad guy.

A Romantic Celebrates Christmas

Driving home in the rain a couple of weeks ago, the red lights from the new Mexican restaurant mixed with the green traffic lights, creating a slick of holiday color. Instead of a wet mess, it felt like a gift, a cacophony of color for my damp drive home. I wondered if I would have seen it if I hadn’t been paying attention, keeping my eyes peeled for moments of wonder.

Song Dedications

Who am I to say how or when God communicates, or what a DJ has to do with the divine? But maybe this is the way of God, to hover over the surface of the waters, to speak something new into being. To speak something new when all is dark and cold, something that will penetrate the opaque substance of hull or hill or heart.

Retreat and Return: Hiking and the Desert Fathers

If retreat is about prayer, work, and solitude, then what is return? This is something I am still considering. What I do know is that we return from these quiet places changed. Some of these quiet places are literal, others spiritual. But when we go back to our jobs, our homes, our routines, how have these retreats changed us?

Key of David

Advent is not only about what has happened; it is about what we still need to happen. It is about waiting, about that quiet, anticipatory, mildly uncomfortable moment before the song starts up, the lights come on, the guests arrive. Advent takes place in the dark.

Holy Island in Loch Derg

This very witness of love intertwines and melds with the aesthetical gift of Inis Cealtra: indeed, the beauty of these ruins forms their ecclesiastical lessons. The stones attest to the labor and handiwork of disciples long ago; arches and elegant stonework attest to the creativity of worship; moss, ivy, and grass attest to the wild edge of praise. These ruins teach us through their longevity, beauty, wildness, openness, emptiness, quietness. They teach us something about the heart of the Church—it is long-lasting, shared, and beautiful.

Stalled by Grace

My dear Britney, I felt, take note of this: You should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. Not simply because it will end in less frustration and hurt feelings, but because it is how we are surprised by life, and grace, and God.

Bright Road

The best artists don’t do all the work. They drop the bread crumbs that lead down the path of discovery. Every day, we’re given glimpses of eternity if we’ll only be willing to look beyond our circumstances and to see with eyes of faith. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “The first demand any work of art makes upon us is surrender. Look. Listen. Receive. Get yourself out of the way.”

Small Things, Slow Work

To love our city and care about the arts and creativity has been about loving and caring for individual people. And I think for any of us it comes down to that. Loving a city and its people in general doesn’t mean a whole lot. Loving a city and its people in specific, however our callings lead us, means everything. 

You Are Here to Kneel

I decided that I was the wrong kind of person to visit a monastic order. I was too uncivilized and unlearned, too ornery and idealistic, and maybe even too Protestant. But during our final breakfast with Father Donovan, I scooped jewel-red currant jam I’d helped prepare onto homemade Irish bread and listened to the monk discuss theology, politics, and the proper method of a coffee press. I began to wonder if maybe I'm exactly the right sort after all.

Tell Me a Story

We can never overestimate the value of listening to someone’s story, for it takes great courage to share a hurt or even a joy with another person. The fear of rejection, misunderstanding, or criticism often keeps us from telling someone what has made us who we are. But when another person takes the time to sit with us and listen to what we have lived, our hearts grow stronger.

On Honest Art

For a day we considered our deepest disposition, sons of Adam and daughters of Eve that we are: we compartmentalize, we believe one thing to be true and behave as if another thing is true, we say “This matters most!” and then live as if it doesn’t really. This tendency has profound implications, for learning, for labor, for love, for liturgy—for all of who we are, for all of how we live.

How do we begin to find our way to coherence? Can we even imagine a way of seeing and hearing that honestly connects what we believe with the way that we live?

True-ing

I am no carpenter. But my doctor son, with a degree in tropical medicine, volunteers for a humanitarian agency in Burma, exercising his skills with bodies and souls. He is also a poet and artist. His hobby, and a way of calming his mind and expressing his sense of shape and beauty in the midst of suffering and destitution, is to find odd pieces of wood and fashion from them objects beautiful or useful, exposing the wood's inherent quality. Tables, chairs, bowls, spoons! He’s skilled with a scalpel, either on human bodies or on the striated muscles of something that used to be a tree.

Without knowing it, he has given me a metaphor to live by—the sizing up of my trajectory in life.

I will grow in the waiting and be stretched in the loving, and I will be there to smile and wave every time she emerges from this process of becoming. I will choose to bend towards trusting a God who is big enough to hold us both. Heart of my heart, flesh of my flesh, Grace will explore this world in her own way, just like I continue to do. 

Spaces for Hope in the Margins

I cannot make my neighbors less fearful, uncertain, or afraid. I cannot change the world or stop the violence. I can, however, in my little place on the margin of life, faithfully seek to live, think, and speak hopefully. Perhaps it will be a spark that will spread more widely and do some good—after all, hope is life-giving, generative. Perhaps not, but that is not my concern. My concern is to make culture faithfully, culture that will encourage people to flourish in this broken world. And being hopeful is culture making because creativity and art and flourishing is impossible without hope.