What follows is a chapter I originally wrote for my book Practicing the Presence of People, but decided at the last minute to drop. Perhaps I felt, at that point in my life, that it was too personal to publish. But now here it is.
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.
“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.
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.
One of my favorite writers is John Muir: a Christian, a naturalist, and an exceptional wordsmith. What follows is just a sample of why I love him, from his book The Mountains of California. Makes me wonder: Instead of always singing hymns in church, maybe we should try a few folk songs?
Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan” has a fascinating story attached to it. It seems this poem came to Coleridge fullblown in a dream.