The first thing I do at the start of a new year is to clear off my desk—not just to find places for all the physical odds and ends that have accumulated, but to organize my ideas, sorting through the various notebooks and scraps of paper where I’ve jotted down thoughts that came to me on the fly.
Far in the future, a spaceship from Earth approaches a white dwarf star surrounded by clouds of gas from the time it went supernova. On board the ship are scientists, including a Jesuit astrophysicist, sent to investigate the reasons behind the supernova explosion.
On Christmas Eve, 1513, Fra Giovanni Giocondo, a Franciscan friar, wrote the following beautiful letter—what we’d now consider a Christmas card—to his friend and patron Countess Allagia Aldobrandeschi:
Advent is a season short in duration but long in distance. It is the journey of a soul from Nazareth to Bethlehem—a mere hundred miles, yet really the span from here to eternity.
The wishes of a dying man are not to be taken lightly. So when my friend Mark, lying in his bed at Hospice, asked me to write something about him and his son Geoff, I gladly agreed.
“I desire to speak to the Almighty and to argue my case with God” (Job 13:3). Job really believes that if he summons God, God will appear and answer him. This is astounding.
In Buddhist tradition, Gautama once preached what is known as the “Flower Sermon,” which consisted of simply holding up a single flower and saying not one word. Through this silent, direct pointing to reality, one of his disciples instantly attained enlightenment. It was this disciple who went on to bring Buddhism to China and so became the first patriarch of Zen.
My friend Bob Kirk is a former pastor in a large church. He once told me that there was one message he wished he could have conveyed to people in his congregation, and especially to leaders. Unfortunately he found that this one message was almost impossible to communicate. The very people who needed most to hear it, Bob said, seemed unable to grasp it.
Once there were four geese who didn’t always see eye to eye. One day, at the first sign of spring, when the time had arrived for embarking upon their annual northern migration, it so happened that a great wind arose, blowing toward the south.