773. Lifted Faces and Flashing Eyes

773. CreekWalkway.jpeg

From the blog archives (February 11, 2016), a post about the human spirit:

I’ve been reading a book by Elton Trueblood, Alternative to Futility. Trueblood, a Quaker theologian, wrote the book in the late 1940s in response to the prevalent sense of futility in society around him despite the end of World War II. In many ways he could have been writing today.

This paragraph jumped off the page at me:

“Joy has gone out of much of our lives. Millions go through the motions as though they were waiting for a catastrophe. What we miss, almost everywhere, is the uplifted face and the flashing eye. Men [and women] cannot live well either in poverty or abundance unless they see some meaning and purpose in life, which alone can be thrilling.”

Trueblood goes on to describe societal ways in which the human spirit can be renewed. While some of his suggestions and ideas are a bit dated, this key – and timeless– theme emerges: the need for communities to be a place of renewal for each other.

In a chapter called “The Habit of Adventure.” he wrote:

“Here then is our clue. The method which succeeded before must be tried again and we must not be dismayed by its amazing simplicity. The best chance for the renewal of the human spirit in the twentieth [read: twenty-first] century, as in the first, lies in the formation of genuinely redemptive societies in the midst of ordinary society. Such fellowships could provide a sense of meaning for the members within the societies and, at the same time, maintain an infectious influence on the entire culture outside.”

Through my little blog and my little books, I’m trying, in a small way, to offer this to you. A space of community and camaraderie in which we lift our faces and not only open our eyes, but flash them, as Trueblood wrote. I like that image of emanating light. It’s my hope, and assumption, you have other real-time spaces in your life for this renewal: churches, family, friends, book groups, special interest groups, and so on. There are also opportunities for such spaces online, and I hope you’re finding what you need wherever you can. Please consider letting me know how I can do better at providing such a space. Also consider letting me know where else you find community and and camaraderie that encourages you to lift your face and flash your eyes - if I get enough response to this I may include them in a subsequent newsletter or blog post.

Thank you for taking the time to read. As always, I appreciate it so very much.


[Photo: taken of a new walkway along a nearby creek. I love how the sun is flashing off the metal coils.]

772. A Sign Pointing the Way [to the Beach]

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One afternoon this past week I got up from my desk to take a walk. I walked down a street I'd never been before and something caught my eye and delivered joy. In the corner of a yard, just along the sidewalk, but nearly hidden by garden overgrowth, was a small metal sign that said "BEACH." The letters were cut-outs, which made the sign particularly hard to see given that the foliage behind it showed through (see the banner photo). My guess is many have walked right past it as I would have also if some unknown something hadn't caused me to look in the exact right place and in the exact right way. Above the word was a figure that appeared to be in motion, ready to leap from a board (diving or surf?) or simply from the sand into the water. Under the word was an arrow pointing the way.

I wondered about the arrow given as there was no beach across the street or on the next street over. It struck me first as wishful thinking, but then I thought some more and indeed there is a beach in the direction of the arrow if you go down a few blocks then find your way either to a walking path or the road alongside a lake and wind around a bit before coming to a rather small parking area and follow another path down to a nearly hidden beach.

The sign in the yard had a hint of something to be found. A sign of something good in the direction it pointed. A spark of joy, a promise, a silent companion on the road.

Keep your eyes open!


[Photo: taken of the BEACH sign. A spark of joy, yes?]

770. Faith, Hope, and Love in The Handmaid's Tale

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The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood, came out in 1985 and has become a modern classic in the years since, with a recent book-based television series on Hulu now entering its fourth season. Until the last few weeks, though, I'd never read it. I've also never seen even one episode of the Hulu show, although I've seen many commercials for it, featuring Elizabeth Moss in her long red dress and white bonnet with side wings so big she can't see what or who is coming up alongside of her. I've now finally read the book. Of course it is filled with terror, terror of the quiet variety. A fundamentalist, dystopian society has displaced American life-as-usual, and women bear the biggest brunt. I won't share anymore of the story, because you probably know it, but I do want to share a small thing that struck me when I read it, and it really is not so small.

Toward the beginning of the story, the main character, Offred, sits alone in her room at the window. Next to her is a little cushion with a petit point cover on which is the word "Faith." Later she wonders about the other two virtues, Hope and Charity (Love), and where their respective cushions have gone. After all, where Faith is, Hope and Love must be there somewhere. As Saint Paul wrote, “But now these three things abide: faith, hope, and love…” Indeed, if Faith is there, where are Hope and Love? Is Faith even there despite the survival of its cushion?  And so a nearly hidden thread weaves through the book.

I've not read any commentary about the book nor do I know what's already been written about this, but given my interest in recent years on the topic of hope, to me, the presence—even the mention—of these theologic virtues nearly at the start of a story so bleak suggests they haven't vanished but instead are waiting to again be found. Faith. Hope. Love. Waiting to be found.


[Photo: taken of boats on Lake Superior]