A gauntlet with a gift

The Cobbler

God answers sharp and sudden on some prayers,
And thrusts the thing we have prayed
For in our face,
A gauntlet with a gift in it.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The real work of prayer

‘I realise that, although I have a tendency to say many things to God, the real “work” of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about me. This might sound self-indulgent, but, in practice, it is a hard discipline. I am so afraid of being cursed, of hearing that I am no good or not good enough, that I quickly give in to the temptation to start talking and to keep talking in order to control my fears. To gently push aside and silence the many voices that question my goodness and to trust that I will hear a voice of blessing… that demands real effort.’

-Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved

On Not Shirking Responsibility

Sitting down with leaders such as Saddam – or Bashir of Sudan or Gadhafi of Libya – is a responsibility you cannot shirk given what you’re trying to achieve. You need to deal with those who can make a real difference, those who can stop the bloodshed. You have to talk to the leaders, and get them to find a way to end the killing. Otherwise, how do you accomplish it?

[Kofi Annan – Interventions]

Discontinuity and Contradiction

“Art is about discontinuity and contradiction, which is how grace is experienced in the world, as an alien intrusion into a world that deceives us into believing that we are defined by what we do, not by what Christ has done. And so we are compelled to prove ourselves, to make something that justifies our existence. But art is not just doing and making, it is also receiving, and hearing. It is not just an achievement; it is a gift. It is devoting one’s life to something so futile, inefficient, and in many ways useless, that it becomes a means of grace. Cities, with their concentration of doers and achievers, full of those obsessed with going from good to great, can pose challenges to cultivating a passivity that is absolutely necessary for art.”

[Mako Fujimura, in Christianity Today]

How Will We Wait

How do we get to the morning, to the sunshine, to the joy?

There is only one way.

By waiting for it. We can’t hurry the dawn, no matter how many anxiously we pace the floor or how impatiently we watch the clock. And so the question is not do we wait or not wait, because waiting is all we can do. The question is, How will we wait? Will we wait well… or will we wait poorly?

[Ken Gire, The North Face of God]

Art & Imagination

“The Church needs artists because without art we cannot reach the world. The simple fact is that the imagination ‘gets you,’ even when your reason is completely against the idea of God. ‘Imagination communicates,’ as Arthur Danto says, ‘indefinable but inescapable truth.’ Those who read a book or listen to music expose themselves to that inescapable truth. There is a sort of schizophrenia that occurs if you are listening to Bach and you hear the glory of God and yet your mind says there is no God and there is no meaning. You are committed to believing nothing means anything and yet the music comes in and takes you over with your imagination. When you listen to great music, you can’t believe life is meaningless. Your heart knows what your mind is denying. We need Christian artists because we are never going to reach the world without great Christian art to go with great Christian talk.”

[Dr Timothy Keller]