Monday, April 28, 2014

The Poet's New Adventure

Luci Shaw is one of our favorite poets. We have followed her from Listen to the Green (1971) through A Widening Light (1984 in which she served as editor and poet), Polishing the Petoskey Stone (1990), and The Angles of Light (2000), as well as many other of her books of memorable poetry. At first, I thought her new book would be another enjoyable feast of poetry but the title invites us to an Adventure of Ascent, Field Notes from a Lifelong Journey, from “Ah, Luci, what are you planning for us today,” I thought as I opened this new treasure. And I soon found that it is that, a treasure to keep near, and to think about in our own situations, challenges, joys and sorrows, as we continue on our journeys to the end of our lives here on earth and in future.

Now in her eighties and as active as ever, Luci has a goal. She plans to keep on growing and to share her adventures with us, to “act as a scout” actually, and to move through new territory and to report back to all of us so that we may know what it’s like for her and for us, what to expect, and how to deal with whatever comes to us. Her poetry is there among her thoughts and plans and sharing of stories. Her purpose is to “document her life as it travels toward the summit.” To be really honest and to “shed a clean light on what it’s like to be edging, inevitably, toward....?” Who knows what?

She says she will be asking lots of questions, lots of whys, whens, wheres and hows. Not new questions but she will ask for her own personal answers, thinking maybe we will profit from thinking about them as well. I admit I did learn from this dear poet and woman I call friend because of her words, her concerns, her openness, her sharing. Some of her questions I hadn’t even begun to think about nor try to answer. But, I will. Thanks, Luci.

Her thoughts on “downsizing” were helpful. It’s something most of us probably need to do at a certain time. Hard to do though. What to do with favorite stones and pottery and books? She reminds us that “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:21). Yes, and those we love are really our treasures. And “they are not going away,” Luci says.

Luci is guessing “about future possibilities.” She feels gratitude for all she has been given, and she quotes “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name” (Ps. 103:1). Luci admits her “future is a surprise package full of questions without answers.” Her book ends with a poem, of course, as she asks: “when you go, will you go with a sizzle, or a sigh, will you leave with a bang, or quietly clinging, or will your bud of burning a wider light?”

—Lois Sibley

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Heart of Christian Faith

Alister E. McGrath is Professor of Theology, Ministry, and Education and Head of the Centre for Theology, Religion, and Culture at King’s College, London, and a prolific author. I have reviewed a number of his books over the last 20 years, and I have never been disappointed. Most recently, on November 1, 2013, on this blog, I reviewed McGrath’s bio of C. S. Lewis, published by Tyndale and called C. S. Lewis, a Life.

This time, McGrath is planning a five-book series to be called The Heart of Christian Faith. The first volume is called Faith and Creeds, A Guide for Study and Devotion, and is available now from McGrath begins by asking a basic question: What do Christians believe and why? And what difference does it make? He plans to explore basic themes of a “simple and genuinely Christian faith,” and he is writing primarily for “ordinary “ Christians like you and me. I know his writing and I am already convinced that I will like what he says and what he is doing with this series. And you may want to pay attention, too.

In this first volume, he plans to draw on the earlier writing of “three of the great lay theologians of the twentieth century.” That would be, of course, G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, and Dorothy L. Sayers. But before he brings them in, he explains how he himself in his growing-up years, as one who loved science and still does, was drawn into an “inflexible atheism,” and he counted himself one of those “intellectual and cultural elite, who knew there was no God, no meaning, no purpose. Only fools believed otherwise,” he thought then.

But now he is learning to look at “the big picture,” to realize we are all on a journey, trying to make sense of the world we live in. Perhaps we could find a “core theme” that would help us realize that this world is not our home. “If nothing in this world really satisfies us,” maybe deep down we know “that our heart’s desire is anchored elsewhere.” Let’s look and see what we can discover, he says. Let’s look at the map, the lens and the light, he says, and see what we can learn. Then he talks about faith, belief, and creeds.

McGrath encourages us to “step into the big picture,” and ask ourselves: “Why do we think this is true; How can we make sense of it and best explain it; and What difference does it make in the way we live our lives? There is a lot to think about here. Alister McGrath is the guide we need as we consider together the opening words of the creeds: “I believe.... we believe.....” Come join us in McGrath’s new series, The Heart of Christian Faith. Volume 2 is called The Living God.

—Lois Sibley