Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sleepwalking Advent

Shifting gears into Advent may take some time...but, please, don't lallygag too long!

Advent begins
In a fog of unreadiness.
As if by dull surprise
Or in a twilight zone,
We groggily hang the greens.

Hardly with awareness
Much less anticipation
God’s people sleepwalk
Through the prophecies
And Annunciation.

We may finally stir
By the time children sing
“Away in a Manger”
The Sunday before Christmas,
Their raised voices spark
A light in our slumbering souls.

Is it only children and prophets
Who grasp the urgency,
Sense the passion;
Whose hearts are rended
And readied by the
Promise of Light shining
In the darkness?

Is it only to them that Advent
Becomes no mere repetition
Of myth-laden past events,
But days of embracing
The living Mystery,
The basis of all hope?

By God’s mercy and grace
Children and prophets are
Only the first to hear,
The first to recognize,
To proclaim that
It is indeed Mystery.

The Light ever dawns,
Beaming its rays into the
Eyes of even the groggiest saints,
The hardest sleeper
Among us.

Only those who refuse to rise
Amid many urgent shakings
And light flooding their beds
Sleep through the
Incarnation.

“Wake up, O sleeper,
Rise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.”

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Eyes Wide Open


How my attempt at contemplative praying and living impacts my worldview, faith, and dailiness. 

I enjoyed talking with protesters at St. Paul's
Cathedral at Occupy London last month.
Glenna Thomas, one of my favorite old saints at the church of my childhood, was once looking around during congregational prayer.  After the “Amen” and when everyone else had raised their heads and opened their eyes, her granddaughter, who had spied Glenna’s eyes wide open, blurted out loud: “Grandma, you’re supposed to close your eyes when we pray, but you were looking around.”  Glenna laughed and, without missing a beat, retorted just as openly: “Honey, the Bible says to watch and pray, and I was watching!”

Impressed by the witness, practice and writings of Thomas Merton, I committed to try to become a contemplative a number of years ago.  It’s a spiritual practice deeply rooted in church and spiritual history.  Though most often associated with monasteries (Merton was a Trappist monk), contemplative Christian spirituality is just as well practicable in a fully engaged, work-a-day world.  Who knows?  You may be a contemplative and not even realize it.

The best way I can describe it is this: contemplatives live and pray with eyes wide open.  We pray with the newspaper in one hand and the Scriptures in the other.  We literally pray the news—and not just the news, but life as we experience it.  We try to take it all in—the good, the bad and the ugly—consider it, reflect on it as fully as possible, and then respond to it in light of what we can grasp of God’s story and Spirit of grace.

Contemplative living intentionally heightens awareness and sensitivity to what impacts life both near and far, small and great, personally and systemically, micro and macro.  Instead of narrowing one’s focus to one’s own particular vocational niche, organization, ideological preference, interests, direct responsibilities and assigned tasks, a contemplative dares to set one’s own limited responsibilities and small tasks in the context of all others--of systems, of networks, of powers that be, of relationships with known neighbors nearby and unnamed and not known on the other side of the world.  A contemplative takes the whole world, as it were, into one’s heart, and begins to see otherwise imperceptible connections and relationships across the whole spectrum.

This way of living refuses to pretend that what’s really evil or difficult or inconvenient isn’t really there, isn’t serious, or isn’t “my problem” and dismisses it.  Instead of using religion to label, avoid, or trump what’s difficult or oppositional, contemplatives dare to let the fullness of both light and shadow, both positive and negative, both what is soulfully uplifting and what is soul sabotaging to be revealed, felt, considered, discerned, lifted up, and then continue to be responded to in grace again and again throughout life.

Contemplative prayer doesn’t grant the option of ignoring or caring less about what is troubling or complex in our world.  Instead, it faces it (sometimes with trembling), takes it in, discerns it as fully as possible, and lifts it up to God.  For long periods of time, it sometimes seems, apparently irreconcilable paradoxes can weigh on one’s mind and heart.  One feels something of the impact of profound tensions--real sorrows and the agony of injustices, as well as the joys of breakthroughs and healings.  As the weight of paradox is felt, heaviness is lifted to God.  Contemplative pray-ers turn heartfelt anguish or awe inside out to God in a manner similar to the Psalmists.

So, I approached this Thanksgiving with an acute awareness of the profound paradoxes in our culture and world at the moment.  I hold in tension Thanksgiving and Tahrir Square, Black Friday frivolity and Occupy’s outcry, the desire for personal integrity and the reality of confounding social complexity (and my unavoidable complicity in it).  And I pray for a heart broken enough, a mind broad enough, and a faith buoyant enough to embrace these realities with a forward-looking, creative stewardship.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Litany of Thanksgiving

By Howard Thurman

Howard Thurman--African American, Quaker, pastor, writer, mentor to a generation of developing civil rights leaders--is an inspiration to me in many ways. I read his “Litany of Thanksgiving” each year and marvel at Thurman’s insight and humility. If you have not read him, find his books and take a soulful journey.

Today, I make my Sacrament of Thanksgiving.

I begin with the simple things of my days:
Fresh air to breath,
Cool water to drink,
The taste of food,
The protection of houses and clothes,
The comforts of home.
For these, I make an act of Thanksgiving this day!

I bring to mind all the warmth of humankind that I have known:
My mother’s arms,
The strength of my father,
The playmates of my childhood,
The wonderful stories brought to me from the
lives of many who talked of days gone by
when fairies and giants and all kinds of
magic held sway;
The tears I have shed, the tears I have seen;
The excitement of laughter and the twinkle in the eye
with its reminder that life is good.
For all these I make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

I finger one of the messages of hope that awaited me at the crossroads:
The smile of approval from those who held in their hands
the reins of my security;
The tightening of the grip in a single handshake
when I feared the step before me in the darkness;
The whisper in my heart when the temptation was fiercest
and the claims of appetite were not to be denied;
The crucial word said, the simple sentence from an open page
when my decision hung in the balance.
For all these I make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

I pass before me the mainsprings of my heritage:
The fruits of the labors of countless generations
who lived before me, without whom my own life
would have no meaning;
The seers who saw visions and dreamed dreams;
The prophets who sense a truth greater than the mind
could grasp and whose words could only find fulfillment
in the years which they would never see;
The workers whose sweat has watered the trees,
the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations;
The pilgrims who set their sails for lands beyond all horizons,
whose courage made paths into new worlds and far-off places;
The Savior whose blood was shed with a recklessness
that only a dream could inspire and God could command.
For all this I make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

I linger over the meanings of my own life and the commitment
to which I give the loyalty of my heart and mind:
The little purposes in which I have shared with my loves, my desires, my gifts;
The restlessness which bottoms all I do with its
stark insistence that I have never done my best,
I have never reached for the highest;
The big hope that never quite deserts me, that I and my kind
will study war no more, that love and tenderness and
all the inner graces of Almighty affection will cover the
life of the children of God as the waters cover the sea.
All these and more than mind can think and heart can feel,
I make as my Sacrament of Thanksgiving to Thee,
Our Father, in humbleness of mind and simplicity of heart.

From For the Inward Journey, selected writings by Howard Thurman, 1984, Richmond, Indiana: Friends United Press

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving from a Hospital Bed

A prayer of my Aunt Willie Mae Sheffield in the last year of her life 


A member of the Sheffield family gave me a prayer which my Aunt Willie Mae Sheffield typed out on portable word processor while in the hospital during the last year of her life. A life-long citizen of New Castle, Indiana, a graduate of Ball State University, a fourth-grade school teacher forever, a musician, a church leader, single, Aunt Mae became the buoyant center of the Sheffield clan--my mom's extended family.  Aunt Mae died immediately following Christmas in 1997, at age 63, of complications due to an extended bout with diabetes. This prayer followed an important eye surgery.


Dear God, 

I just wanted to thank you for letting me be happy. I really need some happy time right now. I do not exactly know why everything has happened the way it has, and I am not sure what kind of message You are sending me, but for some strange reason, I feel a lot smarter today than I did yesterday. And everyday I am getting stronger. Thank You for making me who I am. Thank You for helping me realize I am thankful for who I am. All I want is to be happy in my life, and to be a warm-hearted person. I really do not have a selfish agenda. I am so happy to have my family and my health. I feel so lucky to have ten fingers and ten toes, and a good mind. I am so thankful that when I put my head down on my pillow at night, I am at peace. I love You. And I love knowing that You have surrounded me with people loving me. I do not say or show You my thanks enough, but I really think it a lot. Thank You for allowing us to have beautiful things, and thank You for unclouding my eyes so that I see them. Amen.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gratitude

Gratitude comes from some place deeper than mouthing the words “thank you”



I penned this poem thinking of gratitude, which is a grace that runs much deeper than the socially-expected etiquette that surrounds “giving thanks.”  As important as it is to celebrate Thanksgiving and to take up the practice of saying “thank you,” finding gratitude reverberating authentically in one’s heart is the surpassing gift.  I hope you experience and express it this season.

Thanksgiving doesn’t live in a vacuum;
We do not pluck it from thin air.
We cannot be grateful on command,
Genuflecting at the drop of hat.

Talk is cheap when it comes to thanking,
Yet beyond courteous etiquette
Lies a deeper reality that beckons,
Inviting us to reckon with grace.

Native American graciousness
And Pilgrim hospitality,
Turkey and all the trimmings point
Beyond finely folded, praying hands.

Through and beyond these images
We glimpse a sacred connection,
As generations across time
Hail some gracious provision.

It’s not so much a debt we owe
Or tribute for posterity
As it is a virtue we receive
And reflect into eternity.

We deep-down know we are held
By sustaining, life-giving hands.
Not our own or on our own,
We belong and are lovingly known.

We cannot utter such mystery--
Tradition and rite fall short;
But these, and we, can point and say
“Thanks” for life and grace today.

Monday, November 21, 2011

London in our Eyes

Three Americans in London for four fast, full days



It was our first visit to London and we only had four days to try take in much of what have always heard of.  Our daughter Molly (who is in a study abroad program in Athens, Greece and whom we had traveled to Europe to visit) set the pace and we got to see quite a few of the things on our list...and then some.  We found Londoners friendly and helpful, for the most part.  These slides are some glimpses of some what we saw and experienced. I think we need to go back.

For This Curious Day

An attempted Thanksgiving (note his gratitude for country) by Ted Loder

Glorious God,
how curious
and what a confession
that we should set aside one day a year
and call it Thanksgiving.
I smile at the presumption,
and hope you smile, too.
But the truth is, Holy Friend,
that my words can’t carry all the praise
I want them to,
or that they should,
no matter how many trips they make.

So this day,
all is praise and thanks
for all my days.
I breathe and it is your breath that fills me.
I look and it is your light by which I see.
I move and it is your energy moving in me.
I listen and even the stones speak of you.
I think and the thoughts are but sparks
from the fire of your truth.
I love and the throb is your presence.
I laugh and it is the rustle of your passing.
I weep and your Spirit broods over me.
I long and it is the tug of your kingdom.

I praise you, Glorious One,
for what has been, and is and will ever be:
for galaxy upon galaxy, mass and energy,
earth and air, sun and night,
sea and shore, mountain and valley,
root and branch, male and female,
creature upon creature in a thousand ingenious ways,
two-legged, hundred-legged, smooth, furry, and feathery,
bull-frogs and platypuses, peacocks and preachers,
and the giggle of it--
and turkeys (especially, this day, the roasted kind, not the flops)--
and families gathered, and the thanking;
the brave, lonely one, and the asking;
the growling, hungry ones, and the sharing.

I praise you, Glorious One,
for this color splashed, memory haunted,
hope filled, justice seeking,
love grown country
and the labors that birthed it,
the dreams that nurtured it,
the riches that sometimes misguide it,
the sacrifices that await it,
the destiny that summons it
to become a blessing to the whole human family!

O Glorious One,
for this curious day,
for the impulses that have designated it,
for the gifts that grace it,
for the gladness that accompanies it,
for my life,
for those through whom I came to be,
for friends through whom I hear and see
greater worlds that otherwise I would,
for all the doors of words and music and worship
through which I pass to larger worlds,
and for the One who brought a kingdom to me,
I pause to praise and thank you
with this one more trip of words
which leave too much uncarried,
but not unfelt,
unlived,
unloved.
Thank you!

From Guerrillas of Grace

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving

Why we need this holiday - an original poem


This holiday is for all that we
Take for granted,
Assume as a given,
Absent-mindedly overlook,
Claim as our God-given right.


This holiday if for all those we
Unnecessarily criticize,
Agitate with our demands,
Impatiently rush,
Regularly impose upon.


This holiday is for all that we
By-pass in our drivenness,
Go out of our way to avoid,
Carelessly forget,
Thoughtlessly leave out.


This holiday is for all things we
Receive as gracious gifts,
Share as common ground,
Express as transcendent grace,
Return in praise to God.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Time to Face Another Way

A Wendell Berry poem of Autumn 

The summer ends, and it is time
To face another way. Our theme
Reversed, we harvest the last row
To store against the cold, undo
The garden that will be undone.
We grieve under the weakened sun
To see all earth's green fountains dried,
And fallen all the works of light.
You do not speak, and I regret
This downfall of the good we sought
As though the fault were mine. I bring
The plow to turn the shattering
Leaves and bent stems into the dark,
From which they may return. At work,
I see you leaving our bright land,
The last cut flowers in your hand.

From the ongoing series "Sabbaths" that continue through Berry's numerous books of poems.  This segment, written in 1984, is from his collection of poems titled A Timbered Choir (Counterpoint, 1998)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Graduation Reflection: 30 Years later

What I wrote on the back of my college graduation commencement program in 1981

I thumbed through volumes of my personal journals dating back to high school to find the following piece that I'd scribbled on the back of my college graduation commencement program as I sat in the sun-drenched quad in front of Benner Library on May 25, 1981.  Today, I will gather with fellow classmates of Olivet Nazarene University to celebrate our 30-year reunion (I'm really not that old; I was a child prodigy!).  Here's what I wrote that morning, unedited:


As I sit here in the thirty-seventh row
amidst a sea of caps, gowns and tassels,
it all seems a bit hazy now.
I guess, like most things in life,
the anticipation seems greater
than the actually occurrence.


However, the meaning is not in the occasion,
but rather in living out the preparation.
Pomp and circumstance isn't an end in itself,
not the "high"; more, a sending.


I like the idea of commencement.
Commence: start, begin, get going!


These gowns remind me of death itself!
But, I suppose they can also call attention to
hope for life after death, too.


O Lord,
in this hour of my life, I ask you
for your very close, abiding presence.
I have not placed my trust in men and their wisdom,
but have placed it in You, in whom is hidden
the treasures of all knowledge and wisdom.
I don't seek the applause of people,
rather, yours.
I ask for guidance and grace--
that will be sufficient for me.
Thank you, God, for your watch care, love,
and "still, small voice."
You have brought me this far.
Yielded, I continue to listen, to heed.
I ask for strength to serve your Kingdom.
Help me seek truth,
whatever it costs,
whatever it takes.
In you I put my trust.
Psalm 16.
Amen.


Photo: Jared Emmanuel Hay, the second of our four children, graduated from ONU in 2009.  Abby, our oldest child, graduated from ONU in 2007.  Sam, our youngest child, is now a freshman at ONU.  Becky graduated in 1983.  I finished in 1981.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Belfast to Boston (God's Rifle)

I just deciphered the lyrics to this James Taylor tune. Here's to all Vets and to all of us:


There are rifles buried in the countryside by the rising of the moon
May they lie there long forgotten till they rust away into the ground



Who will bend this ancient hatred, will the killing to an end
Who will swallow long injustice, take the devil for a country man
Who will say "this far no further, oh Lord, if I die today"

Send no weapons, no more money. Send no vengeance across the seas
Just the blessing of forgiveness for my new countryman and me

Missing brothers, martyred fellows, silent children in the ground
Could we but hear them would they not tell us
"Time to lay God's rifle down"

Who will say "this far no further, oh Lord, if I die today"





"Belfast to Boston (God's Rifle)" on YouTube

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

To the Person who Stole my Laptop and Moleskine

Dear...,

Hello.

You will likely never read this, but it's important to me to write it.  Bear with me.

You are welcome to return my 5-year-old HP laptop with a pretty cool array of stickers on the lid, my Swiss Army nylon messenger-style carrying case, cords, pin drives, leather notepad, and my little Moleskine notebook full of journal entries and notes from my recent 30th wedding anniversary visit to Greece and England.  I'd be most appreciative if you'd do this.  Soon.

I imagine those items don't mean a thing to you.  Likely, you just grabbed what you figured might be worth something after you broke out my VW's passenger-side door window.  I imagine you threw whatever wasn't considered sellable in the trash somewhere.  Too bad for you that I had my laptop locked and password-protected. And I immediately changed all passwords and deactivated any accounts you might have any remote possibility of accessing.  But what was easy-come, easy-go junk to you meant something to me.

By the way, your petty crime has cost me upwards of $900 (so far) to cover an insurance deductible and the cost of replacing the car window (which did not meet my car insurance deductible).  You are indebted to me for that.  But you also have cost me quite a bit of time, lost work, and emotional energy.  You are indebted to me for these, too.  What took you 15 seconds to steal has taken me days to recover--and I'm still not back to square one.

While I had most of my computer work backed up to an external hard drive, my most recent and open projects were lost. I was thinking about this as I carefully reconstructed a time-sensitive project today at work.  I made the project better than ever just to spite you.  But you don't care about any of that.

Really, of all that you stole, I will be able to recover most of it and your act of vandalism will soon be nothing but a footnote of mild grief.  I'll move on.

And you?  Will you just move on?  Or, will what you've done eventually haunt you?  Whenever I've done something wrong, it bothers my conscience and I usually come clean in confession and, whenever possible, restitution.  I know what it means to feel the weight of guilt, I know what it means to be forgiven, and I know what it means to make things right in restitution.  I hope you find that--sooner than later.

Only one thing of mine you took that I cannot recover.  My little black Moleskine notebook had precious things in it I will not be able to recover.  It had ideas.  It had insights.  It had reflections.  It had simple notes and prompts to myself.  It had four pages on which I wrote about walking through the ancient Agora in Athens, Greece.  It had several pages of reflections from my experience of being on the streets amid the Greek protests in Athens on October 20th and of talking with protesters at St. Paul's Cathedral in London a few days later.  It had three pages in reflection on visiting the home of 18th-century reformer John Wesley on New Road in London.  It had a few drawings.  It contained several poems I was working on (or that were working on me).  Even at that, my notebook wasn't even half full.  All that's stuff I can't reconstruct or recover.

So, again, if you should read this and if, per chance, you still have my little black notebook lying around somewhere, I'd appreciate you returning it.

I don't know what will happen to you.  I filed a police report.  The laptop serial number is in their files.  I suppose if you were careless or sloppy or novice in your thievery, law enforcement authorities will nab you sooner or later.  Though, I'm not sure they take this level of crime very seriously.  If they do find you and if you're interested in talking, I'd like that.  Contact me.

Whatever happens in the days ahead, I have a suggestion for something you can do with your time (assuming you don't work and assuming you can read): Read my stuff--both what's in my Moleskine and whatever you might find on the laptop (should you somehow gain access to its contents).  There's some pretty good stuff in there, if I do say so myself.  Who knows what you might learn and use for your own benefit?

Well, that's about all I have to say for now.  Gotta get back to recovering a bit more of what you stole.  I hope you eventually recover whatever it is you lost that you are trying to get back by taking other people's stuff.

Peace,

John Franklin Hay

Friday, November 4, 2011

Athens through Our Eyes

A few glimpses of Athens as Becky and I experienced it in October 2011



Our 5-day visit in Athens, Greece, was a combination belated 30th wedding anniversary celebration and an opportunity to visit our daughter, Molly, who is in a semester study abroad program there. We found the birthplace of philosophy and democracy both enchanting and gut-wrenching. 

We flew into Athens on one of the days of national strikes that were in protest to austerity measures taken by the Greek government to try to solve the nation's economic woes and please the European Union.  With transportation crippled, we walked several miles with our luggage in tow into the center of old Athens, only to find our way to the Amalias Hotel (which is across from the Parliament building) blocked by protesters and police.  Wading through tear gas, anguished protesters, burning debris, rock throwers, and stalwart police, some friendly Athenian protesters led us through the barricades to our hotel.  There, we had a "room with a view" of the stand-off.  Alas, the next morning, the street in front of Parliament as clean and business was back to normal, it seemed.  At no point were our lives in danger and we felt safe, free, and very welcome throughout our visit.

The photos reflect a range of our activity: strolling the Plaka and central Athens, climbing up to view the ancient Parthenon and other temples atop the Acropolis, browsing the New Acropolis Museum, taking in a few Athens beaches, climbing Lycabettus Hill, enjoying outdoor cafes and street life, and, finally, taking in the ancient Agora.

I will have more to write about this visit--and about London, the second half of our little October excursion--a bit later on Indy Bikehiker, but these photos capture something of our experience.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Few Disparate Thoughts on Education

Just examining the underpinnings and assumptions of schooling and education

A school in Haiti meet outdoors under a tarp since
the January 2010 earthquake. What motivates
the determination to teach and learn
even amid such displacement?
Working with an international child sponsorship organization that is engaged in Christian-based development in 30 countries, I spend some time considering not just the importance of education but underpinnings and assumptions of it.

If our organization supports a school with sponsors' money, it's just helpful to me to consider what's going on in that school beyond the assurance that children are being educated according to widely-accepted standards and for the sake of improving their lives and contributing to the advancement of their community and country.

Attending to the "why" of education--here and abroad and at every conceivable level and from every imaginable angle--might go a long way to helping us understand and direct its power in life-giving ways.  So, a few disparate, initial notes and questions I recently jotted down regarding education:

Education is a justice issue.  Basic knowledge, literacy, understanding, and empowerment are building blocks for meaning, community, cooperation and self-determination.  Denial of access to education, the quality of education, and nature of it are critically important in diversely contextualized settings.

What does a school in a developing country represent?  To an individual?  To villagers or neighborhoods or communities?  To the church?  To a given government or the regime that is in power at the moment?  To an elected government official?  To industry--local and global?

"What's in it for you?"  What's in schooling and education for the participant?  For me?  For us?  For the powers that be?

Look behind established and unquestioned norms and rigors and "givens" of a school's curriculum, priorities, pedagogy, and determination of "success."  At least know what leads to what.

Who is to benefit and how?  This determines to a great extent the shape of formal education.  Follow the influence and funding streams.  What are the assumptions and what are the hoped-for outcomes?

I think of Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed and of Parker J. Palmer's work in education.

What kind of education and teaching process liberates heart and mind?  And a whole people?

Consider unanticipated outcomes of schools and education (positively).  Consider unintended consequences.

A liberal arts education is to guide participants to learn to think and act critically and openly and expansively.

Consider the relationship of education to various dimensions of liberty/freedom.

What are the value added aspects of either assumed or intentional moral and ethical teaching in schools and education?  What are the impacts of specific religious instruction in educational settings particularly in developing countries?  Consider, also, the liabilities of this (fundamentalism, regimented thought and behavior).

Lots more related questions I am mulling over.

May education serve something greater than local and international economy and cultural interests, something greater than the interests of the church.  May education serve life.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Purity's Time is Always Now

This is one of my all-time favorite quotes


I've continued to be amazed and discomfited over the past ten years by For the Time Being by Annie Dillard. It's a book to grapple with, full of paradox and mystery. Reading in it always leaves me with a touch of wonder. I was listening to the following portion on audiobook while driving through the city recently and it struck me with fresh profundity:

"There were no formerly heroic times, and there was no formerly pure generation. There is no one here but us chickens, and so it has always been: a people busy and powerful, knowledgeable, ambivalent, important, fearful and self-aware; a people who scheme, promote, deceive and conquer; who pray for their loved ones, and long to flee misery and skip death. It is a weakening and discoloring idea that rustic people knew God personally once upon a time -- or even knew selflessness or courage or literature -- but that it is too late for us. In fact, the absolute is available to everyone in every age."

"There never was a more holy age than ours, and never a less. There is no less holiness at this time -- as you are reading this --than there was the day the Red Sea parted, or that day in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as Ezekiel was a captive by the river Chebar, when the heavens opened and he saw visions of God. There is no whit less enlightenment under the tree by your street than there was under the Buddha's bo tree. There is no whit less might in heaven or on earth than there was the day Jesus said "Maid, arise" to the centurion's daughter, or the day Peter walked on water, or the night Mohammed flew to heaven on a horse. In any instant the sacred may wipe you with its finger. In any instant the bush may flare, your feet may rise, or you may see a bunch of souls in a tree. In any instant you may avail yourself of the power to love your enemies; to accept failure, slander, or the grief of loss; or to endure torture."

"Purity's time is always now. Purity is no social phenomenon, a cultural thing whose time we have missed, whose generations are dead, so we can only buy Shaker furniture. 'Each and every day the Divine Voice issues from Sinai,' says the Talmud. Of eternal fulfillment, Tillich said, 'If it is not seen in the present, it cannot be seen at all.'"