Sunday, October 23, 2005

Oblation

Isaiah 40:15-31 (King James Version)

15 “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.
16And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.
17All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.
18To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?
19The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains.
20He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved.
21Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:
23That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.
24Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.
25To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.
26Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.
27Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?
28Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
29He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
30Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
31But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Emphasis added)

I’ve spent the past week doing a couple of things that kept me away from the blogosphere. First, I am in the process of preparing to attend a writer’s conference in Glorietta, New Mexico this coming week. I’ve got two book proposals put together, one a book of essays titled “Prairie Fires – Essays from the Heartland” and an autobiography titled “A Grace Full Life.” So, in addition to putting query letters together for prospective publishers and agents, I’m also going over the material I’ve written to this point to gather the samples I believe best reflect my craft. It’s tedious, but necessary work. About the only thing I’m unsure of is the title of the autobiography. If anyone has any hints or suggestions I’d be very grateful.

I’ve also taken some time to reflect on the year or so I’ve been blogging. In the past couple of months things have taken a turn that I didn’t see or intend. Like most bloggers I would like an audience, and to that end I’ve had some success. I’ve found some kindred souls out there, like Clive Allen, Scot Cunningham, the team at Letters from Babylon, and others. It seems, though, in the past month that I’ve taken on some other readership that has pulled me in a direction I really don’t want to go. In short, my blog has become far more political than I ever wanted it to be. While it’s gained me some audience and comments, it’s also pulled me away from what I want most.

I’ve now realized that, politically, I’ve said all I need to say about my beliefs. Commenters, especially those on the extreme poles, have also said all they need to say. They’ve made their positions clear and I’ve done the same. Our lines are drawn; the die is cast. We’re poles apart and I suspect it will remain that way.

Not long ago I heard something about television that I also think applies to the blogosphere. Television is a medium that, if abused, allows a person to invite someone into their home that they never would answer their doorbell for. I think that what I may have done a couple of months ago was to allow too many shrill voices into my airspace. The end result has been a series of long, contentious dialogues with Noam Chomsky acolytes that have taken a toll on what I’d like to believe is my purpose in life. I’ve answered the doorbell when I shouldn’t have.

These times of reflection have come periodically for me. About a year ago there was a “grand” movement among Christian bloggers to gather together under larger tents so that we could “get the word out,” to catapult ourselves into success under the leadership of the successful, powerful voices. It seemed appealing to me at first, but in the end I decided it wasn’t for me. I saw that what it would mean for me and other independent bloggers was that we would get swallowed up by the larger, more influential blogs, the Hugh Hewitt’s and others. I had two questions when I saw this – “who’s going to be Father Blog, who’s going to have editorial power over the rest of us?” The answer, it seemed to me, was clear. Thus, I opted out. I didn’t want my thoughts subject to a thought editor nor did I want myself to fall into the subtle trap of molding my beliefs and convictions into some sort of groupthink, however noble they might seem to be. The loss of independence, I believed, was far too high a price to pay to gain an audience.

That’s where I think I am today. There are those I’ve come to value as electronic comrades, not because our philosophies are monolithic, but because they are people who seem to want to express in words the life that God has put in them. I suspect that as I chart a bit of a different course in the days to come those relationships will become even more valuable and meaningful.

To that end, Another Man’s Meat is going to once again steer by its original star, to express in words life seen through the prism of the Kansas Flint Hills. My hope is that in so doing my writing will continue to strike some deep chords in the hearts of fellow pilgrims. That’s the course I originally set out upon and that’s the course I’m re-charting now.

This morning I read a devotional piece from Frederick Buechner’s “Listening to Your Life.” The words reflect the high aim that I have. They now follow:

“Finding the Words”

“At the level of words, what do they say, these prophet-preachers? They say this and they say that. They say things that are relevant, lacerating, profound, beautiful, spine-chilling, and more besides. They put words to both the wonder and the horror of the world, and the words can be looked up in the dictionary or the biblical commentary and can be interpreted, passed on, understood, but because these words are poetry, are image and symbol as well as meaning, are sound and rhythm, maybe above all are passion, they set echoes going the way a choir in a great cathedral does, only it is we who become the cathedral and in us that the words echo.”

“Ethically, politically, religiously, the prophets say what they ought to say, to use Shakespeare’s phrase again, but beyond and even more crucial than that they say what they feel in a language that even across all the centuries and through all the translations and mistranslations causes us to feel them, too. At their most truly prophetic they speak things that my guess is that even they themselves did not entirely understand because they are things that are of the truth itself rather than of particular truths, truth which cannot finally be understood but only experienced. It is the experience that they stun us with, speaking out in poetry that transcends all other language in its power to open the doors of the heart. The man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. The one with the cauliflower ear and the split lip. By whose swollen eye and ruptured spleen we are somehow healed. Who can put a word to him and who needs to? They simply hold him up to our gaze. At their most poetic and powerful they do not say something as much as they make something happen.”

John, the Apostle, said of Jesus that He was “the word become flesh.” For close to two thousand years scholars, theologians, skeptics, rogues, seekers, wise men, fools, children, priests, prophets, mothers, and fathers have tried to plum the depth of that statement. How could God, in the life of one man, sum up everything, concrete and abstract, He had to say to all of humanity? “The word became flesh! I believe they may be the most powerful words ever spoken.”

I’ve spent part of this week pondering the meaning of those words to me. I’ve wrestled with them and have come to see that beyond the lesson of Divine love and salvation I’ve known for years there is also the message of Divine expectation that the “words” also become flesh in those who embrace them. While I cannot speak to their practical application in the lives of others, for me believe that they mean that my craft is meant to, as Buechner said so beautifully, “not say something as much as it makes something happen.”

I’ll be back a week from Monday with that vision in mind. See you then!

8 comments:

Gone Away said...

Good news, Phil, and the right decision I think. I look forward to reading more of your powerful essays in the days to come. Here's hoping, too, that a good publisher has the sense to take on your work so that it may reach the wider public you deserve.

James Fletcher Baxter said...

Your pursuit of the truth He is, is singular, in that it is pursued by you, an individual. It is not to be found in a group-think but in fellowship with other individuals pursuing truth in His Word - and finding personal fulfillment.

His Word awaits our action even as we attempt to influence action in others.

He said, "If I be lifted up..."

Be blessed in the name which is above every name, JESUS. selah

Marti said...

To thine own self, be true.

Peace and good fortune be with you, friend.

Broken Messenger said...

I’ve now realized that, politically, I’ve said all I need to say about my beliefs. Commenters, especially those on the extreme poles, have also said all they need to say. They’ve made their positions clear and I’ve done the same. Our lines are drawn; the die is cast. We’re poles apart and I suspect it will remain that way.

Phil, a decison I can understand and wholeheartedly support. Looking forward to new direction here, though I must say that I have also greatly appreciated your past musings.

Brad

Mark Daniels said...

I really appreciated these words and the honest wrestling they represent. Although I have a deep interest in political matters, I too, have lately felt what I consider to be God's tug away from being too political. I'll continue to analyze leadership decisions. But I don't think that I'm called to be a player or a pundit on the political stage.

By the way, I love Buechner!

Blessings in Christ,
Mark Daniels

JrPM Rector said...

Amen.

Marti said...

Wishing everyone on my blogroll a boo-tiful day! LOL!
Happy Halloween!

Peter Porcupine said...

Blessings from Cape Cod, Phil.

I'm still down there in the arena (Mass. GOP), but I respect and nderstand your choice.