Monday, August 12, 2019

The Observer, by Rilke





The Observer
I can tell a storm by the way the trees
are whipping, compared to when quiet,
against my trembling windows, and
I hear from afar things whispering
I couldn't bear hearing without a friend
or love without a sister close by.
There moves the storm, the transforming one,
and runs through the woods and through the age,
changing it all to look ageless and young:
the landscape appears like the verse of a psalm,
so earnest, eternal, and strong.
How small is what we contend with and fight;
how great what contends with us;
if only we mirrored the moves of the things
and acquiesced to the force of the storm,
we, too, could be ageless and strong.
For what we can conquer is only the small,
and winning itself turns us into dwarfs;
but the everlasting and truly important
will never be conquered by us.
It is the angel who made himself known
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
for whenever he saw his opponents propose
to test their iron-clad muscle strength,
he touched them like strings of an instrument
and played their low-sounding chords.
Whoever submits to this angel,
whoever refuses to fight the fight,
comes out walking straight and great and upright,
and the hand once rigid and hard
shapes around as a gently curved guard.
No longer is winning a tempting bait.
One's progress is to be conquered, instead,
by the ever mightier one. 

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926)

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Turn

Turn me like a waterwheel turning a millstone.
Plenty of water, a Living River.
Keep me in one place and scatter the love.
Leaf-moves in wind, straw drawn toward amber,
all parts of the world are in love,
but they do not tell their secrets. Cows grazing
on a sacramental table, ants whispering in Solomon’s ear.
Mountains mumbling an echo. Sky, calm.
If the sun were not in love, he would have no brightness,
the side of the hill no grass on it.
The ocean would come to rest somewhere.
Be a lover as they are, that you come to know
you Beloved. Be faithful that you may know
Faith. The other parts of the universe did not accept
the next responsibility of love as you can.
They were afraid they might make a mistake
with it, the inspired knowing
that springs from being in love
-Rumi

Saying thank you





“In the same way that I am willing to thank my husband for a gift even before I have opened it—because I trust his love of me—I am willing to thank God for my life even before I know how it turns out. This is brave talk, I know, while I can still pay the bills, walk without assistance, and talk someone into going to the movies with me. My hope is that if I can practice saying thank you now, when I still approve of most of what is happening to me, then perhaps that practice will have become habit by the time I do not like much of anything that is happening to me. The plan is to replace approval with gratitude.”
-Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World



Saturday, June 08, 2019

Find the balm


“If you are looking for verses with which to support slavery, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to abolish slavery, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to oppress women, you will find them. If you are looking for for verses with which to liberate or honor women, you will find them.

If you are looking for reasons to wage war, you will find them. If you are looking for reasons to promote peace, you will find them. If you are looking for an out-dated, irrelevant ancient text, you will find it.

If you are looking for truth, believe me, you will find it. This is why there are times when the most instructive question to bring to the text is not "what does it say?", but "what am I looking for?" 
I suspect Jesus knew this when he said,

"ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened."

If you want to do violence in this world, you will always find the weapons. If you want to heal, you will always find the balm.” 

 Rachel Held Evans

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Bob Prichard and Tim Sedgwick





The Rev. Robert W. Prichard, Ph.D., joined the Seminary Faculty as an adjunct in 1980 and full time in 1983, retiring as the Arthur Lee Kinsolving Professor Emeritus of Christianity in America. Dean Markham has said of Bob, “His impact has been considerable. Generations of seminarians have been shaped by his rich understanding of American Christianity and the history of the Episcopal Church … All in all, Bob has been extraordinary. He is a giant in this place; his impact will continue to be felt in the Seminary and throughout the Episcopal Church.” Bob’s remarkable ministry will be highlighted in the fall issue of Virginia Theological Seminary Magazine.




Timothy F. Sedgwick, Ph.D. joined the faculty in 1997 and retires in August as the Clinton S. Quin Professor of Christian Ethics. From 2007-2013 he served as vice president for Academic Affairs. A scholar, teacher, and friend to countless seminarians, alumni, faculty and staff, Tim leaves a rich legacy of teaching, scholarship, and leadership as academic dean. The current issue of Virginia Theological Seminary Magazine includes a piece highlighting the many gifts Tim has offered to VTS, the Episcopal Church, and the broader Church through his extensive ecumenical work. Several reflections are offered by faculty colleagues that, combined, provide a comprehensive portrait of this gifted member of the VTS community.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Being a rose




…The last roses have opened their factories of sweetness
and are giving it back to the world.

If I had another lifeI would want to spend it all on someunstinting happiness…

I wouldn’t mind being a rose

in a field full of roses.

Fear has not yet occurred to them, nor ambition.

Reason they have not yet thought of.

Neither do they ask how long they must be roses, and then what.

Or any other foolish question.

-Mary Oliver, from “Roses, Late Summer”

Thursday, May 16, 2019

a god of flowers



“In every heart there is a coward and a procrastinator.
In every heart there is a god of flowers, just waiting
To come out of its cloud and lift its wings.”
-Mary Oliver, from “The Kookaburras”

Monday, May 13, 2019

Toward abundant systems - Seth Godin



Toward abundant systems

Industrialism is based on scarcity. So is traditional college admissions. In fact, much of the world as we know it is based on hierarchies, limited shelf space, and resources that are difficult to share.

This leads to a common mindset: if it’s yours, it’s not mine. Sharing is something we teach to little kids, but in real life, we’re much busier keeping track of who’s up and who’s down in an endless status game.

But some systems are based on abundance. A language, for example, is more valuable when more people know it. The network effect helps us understand that for connection-based systems, more is actually better, not worse. Interoperability is a benefit. Cultural connection is an asset.

Wikipedia is more valuable than a traditional encyclopedia. That’s because there are unlimited pages and room for ever more editors. The system works better when more people use it.

The cultural turning point of our moment in time, the one that’s just beginning to be realized, is that education is an abundant system, not a scarce one.

Space on the Harvard campus is highly valued and also scarce.

But if we can break education out of the campus/scarcity mindset and instead focus on learning, learning at scale, learning that happens despite status not because of it–then we can begin to shift many of the other power structures in our society.

The more people who know something, the more it can be worth, because knowledge permits interoperability and forward motion. Knowledge creates more productivity, more connection and then, more knowledge.

It’s not enough, but it’s a start.