A 2009 Benediction

It is no secret that there has been little activity here this past year. It has been a year of great transition, and I have found myself in a more quiet, internal place as I find my footing in life’s new landscape. I have not always known how to speak freely here, and as anyone who knows me will attest, I struggle to speak without transparency.

But I also do not feel finished with blogging, and in this new year hope to discover what it is I have to offer and say from this green, wet land I again call home.

Tonight the house is strangely still. The kiddos were asleep hours before what normal has been these past days in a large house filled to capacity with family and friends. Doug is driving the last of our guests to the airport and the silence feels thick after the sudden departure of so much chaos and activity and noise.

Snow White is resting next to the animals inside the Playmobil Pet Clinic Mercy got for Christmas, and a hearty stash of Aaron’s Hot Wheels are nested in the couch cushion beside me. Baby Jesus safely sleeps next to a brown bear beneath the lip of the coffee table with John Goldingay’s last volume of Old Testament Theology offering him shelter. The stack of metal folding chairs borrowed for Family Feast 2009 are stacked in the doorway ready to be returned to the church building and I am simply ignoring the laundry reality of piles of sheets and towels in every room.

As I sit in tonight’s quiet, I offer this New Year’s Eve benediction:

Elijah received a cool drawing pad from his grandparents, and it is the kind where you have both magnetic shapes and a magnetic pen that “color” on the white tray and can be erased by sliding a little yellow lever along the bottom. It’s a bit like an etch-a-sketch only without the shaking. At one point yesterday, Doug came up to me and said: “Your daughter has a story to tell you.”

I came out from the bathroom where I had been changing Elijah and found Mercy on the couch with Elijah’s drawing pad on her lap. “Mercy, tell me your story”, I said sitting down beside her.

Taking the blue square, she quietly and steadily began shading in the entire right side of the tablet. Her little hand moved quickly, side to side, until everywhere she had colored was grey.

“This is death,” she said, finishing her last swipe across the board.

Putting the blue square down, she moved her hand across and reached for the yellow lever. Sliding the lever across, a line of white took over from the left, pushing every last black pixel away until the tablet had been swept clean.

“And this is what God did,” she said in a sober voice, her own eyes glistening.

Tonight I remember the loss of a friend’s wife and son two years ago, and the loss this past year of a dear member of our community here, and I cling to and celebrate the truth my daughter shared with me yesterday.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…”


  1. That is beautiful. Kids are such a gift and sometimes reading about other’s children reminds me to appreciate my own. Thank you!

  2. I look forward to more too. Breaking free is hard.

    But I’m pretty sure God is big enough to save honest people. Or at least, people trying to be more honest :^).

    Grace abounds.

    Grey abounds too.

    Not sure why you think grey is death.

    Grey is the best life has to offer in this world. Faithful and intense efforts keep us from the black. There’s no white in this life.

    Trying to make life white in the here and now is what leads to religious fundamentalism and all the everyday evil that comes from that kind of orientation. I think we should leave the cleansing job to God.

    If Mercy is a metaphor here for God’s work over eternity–I know you love metaphors and particularly Mercy as a metaphor :^)–I guess it works. If she’s a metaphor for the church in the here and now, your thinking isn’t much better than the Taliban’s, if admittedly more sophisticated.

  3. My use of white, black and grey to denote varying values in the last comment was meant to be metaphorical and based on the kinds of color values the bible uses on a consistent basis. No racial or sociological meaning intended on my part. When commenting in Rome, just trying to do as the Romans do.

  4. Tom…I think it would be good for you to re-read Erika’s post because I feel you missed the message here entirely.

  5. I love the quiet, internal place and tend to reside there myself without apology. I also think honesty is a great gift to the Kingdom, when the Spirit moves. I have no context to know whether this suggestion helps, hurts, or remains neutral, but I do think it can be a very legitimate decision to blog and disable the comments if that makes any difference going forward.

    I’m wishing you peace and joy in the year ahead. I continue to thank you (big time) for turning me on to Miroslav Volf. I read something in one of his books over the holidays that comforted me immeasurably, and I would not have received that comfort if you had not blogged in the past. Whatever your decision, I’m deeply grateful for what you have already given us in this space.

  6. Hi vtq. From what I can remember you seem to be part of the family, so I appreciate your comments. I’m sorry that somebody died. That’s always hard.

    But I don’t think I missed the message ‘entirely’

    Fundamentalism–which is what even the brightest evangelicals mostly really believe in–traffics in fairly extreme metaphors on a regular basis.

    I just think that leads to unfortunate outcomes and consequences which are pretty obvious if you take a look at the what’s going on among fundamentalists of every stripe around the world (including American evangelical/fundamentalists).

    Metaphors have their place (in prophetic and religious scripture?), but a steady output of them on a blog reveals somebody that refuses to speak or (perhaps) even think clearly.

    I just think too many of us religious people hide behind language and metaphors. Particularly when we’re skilled with words.

    As for the rest of the string, I think it’s funny that sophisticated fundamentalists always quote Volf.

    God bless him. He’s provided a lot of cover for people that don’t deserve to associate themselves with his life story.

  7. Tom, I’m going to intuit from your last lines that you took my suggestion to disable the comments personally. In retrospect I can see how you might have drawn that interpretation but, quite honestly, I was responding to Erika’s original post about feeling unsure what place for honesty in her blog going forward. I am a longtime reader who does not know her personally and I was only hazarding a guess, but at the time I penned my response I was thinking back to several posts last year when comments became a bit messy and her original posting slowed shortly thereafter in a way that caused me to wonder about a causal connection.

    My opening lines echo her exact words in a way I hope will make clear I intended to respond to her without slight to you. My goal was to encourage her to keep writing this blog that I love, and to do so with as much honesty as possible, and I’m very sorry apparently to have caused you some pain in the bargain. I have endured my share of hurts and disappointments within the body of Christ and, knowing how I have felt at times in the past, I try to be gentle with people and not to personalize points of theological disagreement. I do believe that thinking people can disagree and that some level of debate is a very healthy enterprise, since not a one of us has a lock on anything as complex as God’s eternal truth. Please accept my apology and well wishes.

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