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Praying for Charlottesville

jeffersonstatue_04hr_utCharlottesville, Virginia,
l’il college town,
All the school year, full of UVA Wahoos,
going to football games, going to class,
going to pubs down at the Corner.
Just like everybody.

Come from Virginia and everywhere,
to Mr. Jefferson’s University,
to get a college degree and
to learn about life,
in the classroom and on the lawn,
from their professors and from each other.
The University in Virginia.

Charlottesville, Virginia,
Situated in the center, caught in the middle,
between north and south,
black and white,
slave and free.
Where combatants gather, Lee Statue
tempers flare
and the shouting starts.

“It’s my right to say what I want,” they say.
Unfurling words.
Words of unkindness,
words of disrespect,
words of damnation.
Words that pelt, pummel, and break.
More than rocks through a glass window,
words leave shards, lying on the pavement.

The war of words has come to Virginia.
We the people of the middle.
To Charlottesville, family home of a
man of great words. History remembers him.
Founding father.
Declaration author.
University benefactor.
Slave owner.

Charlottesville history sign

History belongs to no one.
The future belongs to someone.
Not you. Not me.
We.
We,
the People,
of the Middle.

Bold enough to see
that freedom is extended, as well as taken.
It’s not mine, if it’s not also yours.

chapel Charlottesville

If what I say hurts you,
I must strike that, not you.

Praying for Charlottesville …
Tender town in the center;
where the words
I pray for you
incline your heart
to pray for me.
In Thee,
We.

Did the Resurrection really happen?

Does it matter if the Resurrection actually happened?

This was the question we considered in my adult Sunday School class at a church I used to belong to. I was a regular at Sunday school, where we considered issues of faith and its practice as a matter of course. Sunday school was organized and led by the laity and always promised a lively discussion and discourse. But one Easter Sunday, a bunch of us who came for the sunrise service and stayed to participate in the other morning services had gathered for Sunday school only to realize nothing had been planned. So a class member took charge asking the question of the day: Does it matter if the Resurrection actually happened?

Our class leader didn’t think so. It’s so unreasonable, unrealistic, so hard to believe, she argued. My faith is in Jesus. If I follow him, that’s enough. Whether or not he was actually raised from the dead doesn’t matter.

I found my heart oddly soured when nods of assent went around the circle. Wait a minute, that’s Easter, this is Easter! I wanted to say. But I didn’t because I couldn’t. I couldn’t justify my response or defend it against this rising tide of head nodders satisfied with the Son of Man who showed us the way. This man healed the sick, cast out demons, calmed storms, silenced his detractors and regularly attracted crowds. Isn’t that enough?

Well, no. Because if that was enough, he’d still be here, healing and casting and calming and teaching. But, and I think all authorities agree on this, he is not. There are no longer sightings of Jesus, the good man. He did die. And scripture tells us that when they went looking for Him, He wasn’t where they put Him. Word was, they were looking in the wrong place. He had gone to Galilee and would be receiving people there. Go and see.

Easter, to me, is about the go and see. Could it be possible that a man has died and yet lives again? Not according to any text book I’ve ever read. And not, apparently, according to my Sunday school leader. She was taking the safe approach: let’s be satisfied with the Jesus we know. If we go looking for him as if he’d come back to life we might not find him, and then where would we be?

The thing is, we need more than the tame Jesus we find believable. Now more than ever, we need Christ who is beyond belief. One who works miracles, walks on water, and who accepts death on its own terms so we can know there is life for us beyond the death of all that is un-good, un-kind, un-fair and un-godly in us. Christ died so we can know that those things in us are mortal; we can live without them. We are better without them. He came to show us that life. Not just in eternity, but now during this one.

Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. (John 14:19)

Last week I visited an historic site on the western coast of Florida called Historic Spanish Point. It was filled with the stories of ancient peoples and settlers enduring hardship and trials. The most recent inhabitants considered it sanctuary and rest. The grounds were alive with story and layer upon layer of meaning.

IMG_0491The guide took us to see “Mary’s Chapel,”a tiny sanctuary that, in it’s day, was open to all who might come.

Next to the chapel was a centuries old graveyard filled with headstones proclaiming the inhabitants, pioneers and patrons who had found a home here. Oddly intertwined among the headstones was a trunk sprouting a few brown and dying ferns. “That’s the resurrection fern,” our guide told us. “It looks dead, doesn’t it? But in a few days, when the rains come, it will spring to life. No better place to have a resurrection tree than in a graveyard, eh?”

Oh my, yes. I’m so grateful there is such a tree in the graveyard of my life.IMG_0490

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (1 Corinthians 15: 12-14)

Are you leaving a margin?

IMG_7198What if we printed our books and wrote our essays right up to the very edges leaving no margin? Wouldn’t that be a much a better use of our space. Why waste all that good white paper around the edges?

I know. I know. The book publishers out there will tell me it’s easier on the eyes, better for binding, and cleaner for copy to leave a margin. But there is a better reason: it’s jotting room. A place to make note, respond, or converse with the author, whom you may imagine is sitting there with you, reading or speaking these printed words to you.

Apparently, I am not the first to discover this and even to value this. There is actually a project called Book Traces which is seeking books with notes in the margin or entries in blank space or even with things shoved in them for safe-keeping. As libraries go digital, these treasures are in danger of being lost. They are asking for help:

Thousands of old library books bear fascinating traces of the past. Readers wrote in their books, and left notes, pictures, letters, flowers, locks of hair, and other things between their pages. We need your help identifying them because many are in danger of being discarded as libraries go digital. Books printed between 1820 and 1923 are at particular risk.  Help us prove the value of maintaining rich print collections in our libraries.

Ironically, the books they are particularly trying to save – pre-copyright books published before 1923 – do not qualify as rare or fit for special collections, because they are considered damaged because of their marginalia. I would call them personalized, but to find their personality each has to be opened and examined.

A University of Virginia English professor found a tale of lost love in a 1891 copy of Longfellow’s poetry he pulled from the shelves at the Alderman library. In it, Jane Chapman Slaughter, one of the first women to receive a PhD from the University, wrote in a blank front page,

“Our readings together were in this book, ere you went to your life of work and sacrifice, and I remained to my life of infinite yearning for your presence, the sound of your voice; a yearning never to be satisfied in this world or the next.” (more here)

Ah, books are more than printed pages. There is printing, for sure. Words lived and spoken and acted out. But those margins have purpose:

  • So we can expand our thinking?
  • So we can share our thoughts?
  • So we can reach out to others?
  • So our eyes can rest from their reading?
  • So we can doodle during the Service?

Somehow, my creativity is meant to go there. I’m meant to be a bit more adventuresome, to try things out, squeeze it in, go sideways or up and down. Perhaps shade or circle, foot print, teardrop or floralate. (yep – just made that up) The margins let me be me, even when we are all looking at the same printed text. They let me put my signature flourish or quiet discontent in writing. After all, who will ever read them?

But what if someone did? What will they say to those who never knew me? Perhaps more than I would say, were I to be standing there wearing my most honest, politically correct and socially acceptable face. There, in the margins, I stand exposed.

Regrettably, so much of my life is pushed to the very edges, leaving no margin, no room for error, no padding, and no comfort zone. There is no room left for whatever might come along.

What if I treated margin as it’s meant to be treated, not as extra room to fill, but extra space for extending?

  • Time for someone who needs it.
  • Patience for a child who deserves it.
  • Calm for a body that rests in it.
  • Quiet for a mind that expands in it.

Then in the end, in the very end, there will be room around the edges, just enough for the affixing of our frames in the banquet hall of masterpieces. We will be not only justified by our typewriters, but by our Lord. Oh, our words do echo through the generations, perhaps because the Word Himself left a margin for us.

A letter from my dad to his parents about his first scout trip

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