Wisdom’s Stance

Owl“The Owls” by Charles Baudelaire

Among the black yews, their shelter,

the owls are ranged in a row,

like alien deities, the glow,

of their red eyes pierces. They ponder.

They perch there without moving,

till that melancholy moment

when quenching the falling sun,

the shadows are growing.

Their stance teaches the wise

to fear, in this world of ours,

all tumult, and all movement:

Mankind drunk on brief shadows

always incurs a punishment

for his longing to stir, and go.

“Mankind drunk on brief shadows / always incurs a punishment / for his longing to stir, and go.”  In what ways do you find yourself “longing to stir, and go”?

Proverbs 1:7 claims that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”.  Charles Baudelaire, although a troubled soul, finds that owls teach “the wise / to fear, in this world of ours, all tumult, and all movement”.  What connection do you find between the spiritual practices of silence and stillness and growing in wisdom?

In this season, how might you resist the tendency to constantly be on the go and create margin in your life for stillness?

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The Door

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Spend a few minutes with the above photo.  To see more detail you may want to expand it by clicking on it.  What do you notice?  What are your eyes drawn toward?  Pay attention to the carvings in the wood.  The leafy branches.  The rooster handle.  The glass window.  What might God be trying to say to you through this image?  What does your imagination anticipate you would see if you were to open the door?

Jesus said to his disciples, “I assure you: I am the door [gate] of the sheep…If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.”  Additionally, in his book, Silence and Beauty, Makoto Fujimura shares some insights into beauty from a Japanese philosopher.  “[T]he ideogram of “beauty” is made up of the sacrificial sheep on top of an ideogram for ‘great,’ which I infer means ‘greater sheep.’  It connotes a greater sacrifice…This greater sacrifice may require sacrifice of one’s own life to save the lives of others…This is what is truly beautiful.” 1

How have you experienced a connection between sacrifice and beauty in your own life?  How might accepting the invitation of an open door require a sacrifice on your part?  How might it be a sacrifice on the part of the one extending the invitation?  Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us, his sheep.  Have you or will you accept his open door invitation?  Where in your life might he still be extending invitations to pass the threshold?______________________________________________________________

1 Tomonobu Imamichi, “Poetry and Ideas,” Doyo Bijutsu 2, no. 114 (1994): 42, cited in Makoto Fujimura, Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering  (Downers Grove, IVP Books, 2016), p. 66.

“You Also”

Vineyard Workers near Rüdesheim am RheinSpend a few minutes with the above photo.  With this picture, you will want to expand it by clicking on it.  What do you notice?  What are your eyes drawn toward?  Notice the vines.  The workers.  The containers.  The retaining walls.  What might God be trying to say to you through this image?

In the Good News of Matthew, Jesus tells the parable of the vineyard workers.  He compares the kingdom of heaven to a vineyard, where the landowner went to a marketplace several times during a day and invited those without work to work in his vineyard.

“Then about five he went and found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day doing nothing?’

“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they said to him.

“‘You also go to my vineyard,’ he told them” (Matthew 20:5-7).

Reflect on that passage for a moment.  How does it speak into your life?  How does it change your view of the photo above?  How might the knowledge that “you also” have been invited to join in the exciting promise of God’s kingdom affect how you see your Monday mornings?

A little later, as Jesus continues his parable, the vineyard “told his foreman, ‘Call the workers and give them their pay, starting with the last and ending with the first'” (v. 8).

I like to think of “the last” as being “the least”.  Seen in that way, how might the knowledge that you also have been called impact how you treat the least in your life?  At work?  At church?  In your home?