“the world is not as it should be”

“Death reveals that the world is not as it should be but that it stands in need of redemption.”

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Got a minute? Here’s some context:

“In the face of death we cannot simply speak in some fatalistic way, “God wills it”; but we must juxtapose it with the other reality, “God does not will it.” Death reveals that the world is not as it should be but that it stands in need of redemption. Christ alone is the conquering of death. Here the sharp antithesis between “God wills it” and “God does not will it” comes to a head and also finds its resolution. God accedes to that which God does not will, and from now on death itself must therefore serve God. From now on, the “God wills it” encompasses even the “God does not will it.” God wills the conquering of death through the death of Jesus Christ. Only in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ has death been drawn into God’s power, and it must now serve God’s own aims. It is not some fatalistic surrender but rather a living faith in Jesus Christ, who died and rose for us, that is able to cope profoundly with death.”

Bonhoeffer wrote this in a letter to young pastors in August 1941. He faced his own death on April 9, 1945.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed in a German concentration camp for his part in a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. The camp was liberated by U.S. soldiers two weeks later. The camp doctor who witnessed Bonhoeffer’s execution later wrote, “In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”

On the morning before his trial, Bonhoeffer told a fellow prisoner, “This is the end. For me the beginning of life.”


Quotes are from Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas, pages 384, 528, and 532. (Emphases are mine.) For more information on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the climate within the German Christian community during WWII, I highly recommend Metaxas’ thorough book.


The most mysterious mystery

Happy October, folks!Bird pumpkin in birdbath

Here’s a mystery and a tragedy to start off the season of spookiness.

…or, as I like to think of it, the month of ambiguous decorations– “Can I make a Jack-O-Lantern soap holder count for autumn and Thanksgiving, too? Is my neglected landscaping finally acceptable as a spooky-house decoration? And, we’re back… a mystery and a tragedy.  Prepare yourself. This may be traumatic. Unless you’re an expert on Charles Dickens, in which case, read on for a good chuckle… and thank your English professors, your favorite Charles Dickens blog, or whatever it is that has preserved you from experiencing the repercussions of the mistake I made last month.

During a perusal of a few shelves at the library, I stumbled onto a pleasant surprise– a book that seemed to combine a beloved genre and a beloved writer. How had I managed to avoid the knowledge that Dickens wrote a mystery? I’m  no Dickens expert– clearly– but I didn’t think I was so oblivious as this discovery suggested.

I took a class on Dickens in college.

I took a Dickens-themed tour of London.

Yet, never had I heard of his forray into the world of straight-up murder mystery. That’s Poe’s realm, isn’t it? And Agatha Christie’s? And, of course, the Hardy Boys, and– you know you want to judge me– the Babysitter Club Mystery Series.

The sad, tragic point is this: I began reading The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens, with no clue [ha, ha, get it? clue?] that Mr. Dickens died of a stroke in June, 1870, exactly half-way through writing the book. Summary: After reeling you in for twenty-two chapters of mysterious motives, a missing (murdered?) character, and several other “loose ends,” nothing gets solved.I was on page 220 when I made this discovery through a careless glance at the synopsis on the back cover of the book. The paragraph began with something along the lines of,

“The most mysterious thing about the Mystery of Edwin Drood, is what happens in the 22 chapters Dickens didn’t write, sucker!”

After recovering my heartbeat… I kept reading the book. I sustained myself with the hopeful idea that the missing half of the book wasn’t really necessary for the story. I mean, I could confidently speculate on who did it and how he did it… what else is there? Um… plenty. My speculations could be wrong. That’s half the fun of mysteries.

And, this is Dickens, after all.

In fact, Chapter 18 (four chapters shy of the middle– which turned out to be the end) brings in a brand stinkin’ new character (although theories suggest that this is actually one of the other characters in disguise!).

All this is to say, if you crave resolution and are already slightly prone to getting caught up in the crazy in your own head, grab A Tale of Two Cities. You may cringe or cry, but you’ll put the book down with a sense of closure, and most likely be able to move on with your life.

But, if you’re up for a challenge, and can easily separate “real life” from “novel life,” you might be able to handle 22 chapters of engrossing Dickens-style spookiness, with no sigh of resolution at the “end”.

Just prepare your loved ones for the inevitable Chapter 22 “What? For real!? That’s It?” rant.

Happy October!

*First image is from www.bhg.com. Second image from www.amazon.com, cover design by Robert Mathias, cover illustration Hereford Cathedral, Floodlit at Night (1994) by Huw S. Parsons.

Permission to Speak Freely… in church (a book by Anne Jackson)

Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession, and Grace  -              By: Anne Jackson      Anne Jackson’s new  book, Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession and Grace, was released this week. She offers a coupon until noon today for the audio version (which makes it just $2.98) on her website. Because the topic is a personal one, hearing Jackson read it in her own voice brings a layer to the story that I didn’t anticipate. (I just like coupons.) However, art is a large part of the book, which features mixed-media contributions centered on themes of fear and confession. The audio version clearly falls behind when it comes to expressing the visual arts. I’m sure both formats have their own limitations, and benefits.

Also, seven essays from the book are available for free on seven different blogs. Begin by reading Essay #1 at Donald Miller’s blog (author of Blue Like Jazz, Through Painted Desserts, and more recently, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years). He’ll send you to the next blog to read Essay #2, and so on.

Jackson is probably best known for the transparency that shapes her writing. In Permission to Speak Freely, she considers how silence in the church has starved confession, and consequently, forgiveness and healing. The concept for the book began when Jackson asked the question, “What’s one thing you feel you can’t say in church?” on her blog. The responses, she says, were illuminating and heartbreaking.

Delving into her experiences with pain in the church, Jackson gives a sincere narrative of her own life in the first part of the book. She wanders through childhood hurt at the hands of church members, addictions and betrayals of trust. After being reconciled with God, she still found it difficult to reconcile with the church. Even while serving on staff at a church, she struggled as she was told by a church leader to keep silent about her questions about faith, the church, and her controversial past. However, her story– and her message– doesn’t end there.

In Part Two, she spends time looking at the parable of the prodigal son as she continues to explore the relationship between the church and the broken- and suggests, of course, that the church is comprised of the broken. Jackson describes the strength she received from the church, when she finally decided to stop hiding her depression. She writes,

Literally, I had no more strength. I needed to borrow some from others.”

But, she also heard another message when she openned up about her struggle.

I started to hear, ‘Me too.’ Other people were in the same Valley of Death I was walking in…”

And, it took someone first saying, “I’m broken” for the others to hear that voice and realize we were surrounded by others just as broken as we were. Just because somebody speaks out doesn’t instantly fix anyone, and that’s the way it is sometimes. We can’t always expect life to be perfect once we’ve confessed, or realized we’re not alone. But sometimes, that just enough to get us through another day.”

Jackson’s message is a call to bring back the idea of “sanctuary”- a safe place to confess and find forgiveness- to the modern Christian church. The narratives and essays are interwoven with poetry and art sent to Jackson through her blog and the website, www.permissiontospeakfreely.com.

If you’ve already started reading Permission to Speak Freely, or read Jackson’s first book, Mad Church Disease: Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic, let me know what you think. What do you like about her approach to what could be a sensitive topic for many Christians?

A Staycation to France

My Life in France

by Julia Child, with Alex Prud’homme, Anchor Books (a division of Random House), 2009 (2nd ed.)

If the movie Julie & Julia (or the book, by Julie Powell)  left you obsessed with Julia Child, her memoir My Life in France is your next step in book-stalking the amateur-cook-turned-professional-culinary-icon. Written in collaboration with her grandnephew, this book features the mishaps and “just-try-it-again” attitude that makes her cheese souffle look as easy to make as a grilled cheese sandwich.

In the “Foreward” Prud’homme explains that the book was produced from letters Paul and Julia Child wrote to Paul’s brother, Charles, and from memories Julia recounted to Prud’homme. The result can sometimes feel disjointed, and it’s difficult to follow an exact timeline. The stories, however, are enveloping. The scattered sense of time encourages the feeling that Child is fondly recalling story after story, with more consideration for memories’ associations than for chronology. Appropriately, the common element throughout the vignettes is always a fascination with food– French food, to be exact.

image courtesy Smith College, smith.edu

Clips of Child’s cooking shows can be found on YouTube, which will help to cancel out the picture of Meryl Streep (instead of the true subject/author of the book!) on the cover of the re-released edition. Not that Streep did a poor job of portraying Child– in a movie– but for the cover of a book, actually written by the real Julia Child, it would just be more accurate to use a picture of the real person. I would also recommend looking up a picture of Paul Child. The way Julia describes Paul clashed with my impression of the “movie-version” played by Stanley Tucci.

Traveling to France may not be in your plans this summer, but, in the meantime, reading My Life in France can be a decent consolation. Round out the experience with Child’s recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, courtesy of publisher Knopf Doubleday.

art pricing and a book review

Rogues' Gallery: The Secret Story of the Lust, Lies, Greed, and Betrayals that Made the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Rogue’s Gallery: The Secret Story of the Lust, Lies, Greed, and Betrayals that Made the Metropolitan Museum of Art

by Michael Gross

Gross discloses in the introduction that he received very little support from the Met while writing this book. And, perhaps, that adds to the sense of scandal running throughout the pages. The actual revelations, however, are tame, leaving me to wonder what a Met-endorsed book could have to offer. The most shocking information Gross reveals is the price of many of the Met’s paintings, which left me thinking about art pricing in general. (The art of pricing art?)

NPR recently aired the story “Nice Art! How Much?” by correspondant David Kestenbaum. Kestenbaum interviewed art gallery owner Ed Winkleman to find out how art is priced.

Winkleman gives 3 criteria for pricing art from new artists:

  1. scale (bigger art costs more than smaller art)
  2. intensity
  3. medium (the material used for the piece of art)

Winkleman pointed out, though, that the rules of supply and demand can override these criteria. When more than one person wants a work of art, the price goes up.

It’s all fascinating to think about, but for now, I’ll stick to etsy.com or local artists (specifically, Emily Pellegrin) for my art needs. For more insight into the world of art, and more particularly, art museums, Rogue’s Gallery makes a good read.

image courtesy amazon.com