Tomorrow, India

Tomorrow, India.  Today, the plane.

This destination is  farther in mind

than body as this

duty, and that


hamper, but cannot finally recall, this fall

into happy circumstance.  And soon I will

be where I am in India – not lost between

duty and destiny

but instead in an

auspicious moment, a place along the

way which is my life.

Not all that I expected,

but more.

Dear Readers, a wedding beckons in Mother India.  Friends of ours who have made us their own have invited us and so we go.  It will be a very different Christmas the year and I may have tales to tell.  My pen will be close at hand, but my computer at home, and so I bid you now a blessed season, and look forward to our interaction in the Newest Year.

Awkwardly, Grace

There he is: words made flesh.

Vulnerable, his smile a

little uncertain, naïve, nervous and

yet not without purpose.  A man

with a question.

His curiosity piques mine as

his perseverance presses me past

points aware.  His lumbering

echoes are a kind of grace too, nearly not

known yet shown in an

awkwardness that takes me in.

Advent Won

This last week we lit a candle in church.  Most weeks we light candles, but for those in certain Christian traditions, this last week saw the lighting of the first candle in the Advent wreath of four.  Each candle lit marks one more week of our path to Christmas.  Advent has been variously described in the church, but I like those descriptions pointing to it as a time of deep yearning: for peace, for love, for hope, for joy, and above all for the arrival of God in our lives.  In the season of advent we note that our will for what is well points us to that deepest of desires – God’s desire to be with us in even our darkest moments.

I like it that Advent occurs before the winter solstice in northern climes.  As the sun makes its way further and further down the horizon, we begin to mark these days of yearning.  In my walk home these days, I start in the light, but by the time I make it to downtown Kitchener the streetlights are on.  What I find most intriguing, however, is the number of businesses that “arrive” for my observation.  In the summer, when I walk home, many of the windows of the businesses do nothing more than reflect my image.  When I look in the windows, I see me.  But in this season of Advent, in this time of darkness, the lights in the shops flick on and when I look in the window I no longer see me, but the inner workings of this storefront or that.  I suddenly discover that there are apartments above shops; there are people busy in businesses some 5 metres from my path.  A world is at work on the other side of that mirror come window.

I suppose, in a way, this pilgrimage is a parable for faith’s journey.  It starts in the light where I see me in the mirror, and ends in the dark where I see the other as my focus becomes outward-focused.  We meander towards home, and along the way the darkness comes – but not the kind of darkness that extinguishes the light, but rather the kind that makes it finally visible.  Or better yet, it isn’t so much the light that becomes visible as what the light enlightens.  The other person, the unknown place now before my eyes as I slide from self-reflection to contemplation of God at work in the world.

Of course, I do not mean to romanticize darkness.  There is a darkness that is dangerous.  But there is also a darkness that eases the eyes, that slows the pace and focusses the gaze.   This time of the sun’s slippage is a transition time.  As the sun crosses the border of the horizon we are allowed to look into another world, and so see our own world in a new way.  I imagine that the experience of Advent in the Southern Hemisphere is rather different: rich, I am sure, in its own way.  But for me, these days of darkening are precious indeed.  I feel a little like we experience the reversal of birth.  As we light the second candle next Sunday, I will hold my breath and listen for my soul being nudged further along into the shadows, into another corner where I will see yet another sight.

Eternal Springs Hope

Last Wednesday evening my GC 101 (Christianity and Global Citizenship) class went to hear two speakers dialogue on the topic of Truth and Reconciliation after TRC.  The TRC is a commission established by the government of Canada to address the horrid legacy of Indian Residential School system and began shortly after the formal apology by the Canadian government in 2008.  The commission’s mandate was extended but will soon be complete.  Many of us are asking “What next?”  The dialogue was a propos to the topic of the class that day: Where do we find hope?

I had helped organize the dialogue, and so had some hosting responsibilities after the dialogue proper.  Consequently I had one of my colleagues take over my class until the point came when I would be able to get back.  It took twenty minutes or so and she had, in the interim, written the word “Hope” on the blackboard, and then invited students to come to the board and write words to respond to the theme of hope.  You can see the results:


When I came into the class she told me it was now up to me to make some poetry with these words, so here it goes:

How can we sing hope?

Where will we find strength to suffice?

Whence reassurance and solace for our spirit?

How can faith forge a future?

Is it possible apart from forgiveness and its revelation of revolution:

a refusal to render eye for eye?  A freedom to

love the neighbor no matter what,

no matter where?

How can we love?

Love’s continuities, love’s capabilities, love reliabilities

escape me.  I fail to love even me.  I am undone

and so only won by the One whose

promise, whose

plan place me

in the divine palm.

And there, there in the nail scars

God’s trust in me thrusts even me

into love divine,

into faith fleet of foot

into holy hope.

Sharp and Wide

These days I am working on a book proposal.  The book is based on my sabbatical project from a few years ago and is academic in nature – although not overly technical.  The proposal is really a series of questions, posed by the publisher.  Writing a book proposal is a bit like writing a book, but rather different in certain ways.  The like bit includes an overlap of subject matter.  The proposal, insofar as it succeeds, reflects to the reader of the proposal what they will read should the book see the light of day.  There are usually questions about table of contents, competing works in the market, etc that allow the author of the proposal to draw on his or her work in writing the book itself.

But then there are the other questions; the different questions, well really, the different question.  “What are your plans for promoting the book?”  This question is then split into a series of sub-questions asking about social media, conferences and conventions, as well as professional connections that can be leveraged in order to sell your book should the publisher choose to take on your project. This bit is hard for me.  My guess is that it is hard for many if not most academics.  After all, our training generally is subject specific, and while we may know a lot about theology, or geology, or philosophy, not many of us have taken courses in marketing.  Consequently this question can be a bit vexing, but as with most things vexing, it reveals something about the self and invites authors to do at least two things.

First, it invites us to ask the question: Why does this book matter?  For those who aren’t steeped in the sometimes arcane disciplines of academic writing, this question seems like a no-brainer.  But academics, by nature of their craft, often have to put on blinders so they can focus on the topic at hand.  But the marketing question also forces us to step back and ask the “So what?” question.  Sometimes this question results in re-writing, or fine tuning, or re-casting our projects.

Second, the marketing question pushes us to think about the market itself.  Once upon a time academics lived at a kind of arms-length distance from the market.  Entrance to the academic guild meant that you worked with editors who were sympathetic to your discipline, and the paper market allowed them some sense of where your work would fit in the academic world.  But the market is now virtual as much as paper, and authors who care to think about their place in the virtual world are forced to think through the market.  What does it mean that my work has to vie for a place in an internet search?  What does it mean that there are readers visiting forums looking to find a free electronic version of my book?  How do I relate to the market, and how will I engage it?

It is easy for authors to lament these new challenges, but it need not be paralysing.  For those who rise to the occasion, their writing can be both sharpened and widened despite fear of losing sight of the subject matter in concentrating on the audience.  Moreover, those who bridge subject matter and audience receive a rich reward: that peculiar joy that attends being a way rather than a destination.

Tedium Knocks

Amidst beauty,

tedium knocks at my door.

Others’ trials tire me.  I

shrug.  This too will pass so why

doesn’t it pass me by?

Why do I find myself victim to

his oversight, to

her schedule, to

their, to their lives’ lunacy.

Yes, that is it: life.

Life raises its head in

dim din and beauty both.

A beauty such as this:

A sky cracked by tree’s bared crown

surrounds me, and I, I revel

in what is petty,

in poverty, even

in plenty.

Winter’s Reach

Not far from here,
sequestered in
forgotten cracks of
hidden boards below
decks scattered across
this city, winter
awaits. At just the
right moment
reaching out with
a tentacle of frost –
slipping across graying
once green grass – it will
Midas in silver and we will
awaken in a diamond.
And then, with purity, it will pounce
and pronounce us its subjects –
for a time,
for a time.