Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Tag: Wendell Berry (Page 1 of 2)

September 6, 2017 — Our Abiding Questions

Today’s Bible reading

“I know full well what you are thinking,
    the schemes by which you would wrong me.
You say, ‘Where now is the house of the great,
    the tents where the wicked lived?
Have you never questioned those who travel?
    Have you paid no regard to their accounts—
that the wicked are spared from the day of calamity,
    that they are delivered from the day of wrath?
Who denounces their conduct to their face?
    Who repays them for what they have done?
They are carried to the grave,
    and watch is kept over their tombs.
The soil in the valley is sweet to them;
    everyone follows after them,
    and a countless throng goes before them.
“So how can you console me with your nonsense?
    Nothing is left of your answers but falsehood!” — Job 21:27-34

More thoughts for meditation

Our faith is often shaken in times of great despair. We also question the Lord when we generally feel disconnected or that we cannot see the big picture of creation. A bleak picture pervades our thinking.

In Elegy, Wendell Barry writes:


All day our eyes could find no resting place.
Over a flood of snow sight came back
Empty to the mind. The sun
In a shutter of clouds, light
Staggered down the fall of snow.
All circling surfaces of earth were white.
No shape or shadow moved the flight
Of winter birds. Snow held earth in silence.
We could pick no birdsong from the wind.
At nightfall our father turned his eyes away.
It was this storm of silence shook out his ghost.


We sleep, he only wakes
Who is unshapen in a night of snow.
His shadow in the shadow of the earth,
Moves the dark to wholeness.
We watch beside his body here, his image
Shape of silence in the room.


Down the wind the winter rain
Spirals about the town
And the church hill’s just of stones.
Under the mounds, below
The weather’s moving, the numb dead know
No fistfuls of wind

On the road that in his knowledge ends
We bear our father to the earth.
We have adorned the shuck of him
With flowers as for a bride, burned
Lamps about him, held death apart
Until the grave should mound it whole.

Behind us rain breaks the corners
Of our father’s house, quickens
On the hill slope into noise.
                                                              Our steps
Clamor in his silence, who tracked
The sun to autumn in the dust.
                                                                       Below the hill
The river bears the rain away, that cut
His fields their shape and stood them dry.

Water wearing the earth
Is the shape of the earth,
The river flattening in its bends.
Their mingling held
Ponderable in his words;
Know.edge polished on a stone.


Earth and water and sun and wind disjoint,
Over his silence flow apart. His words
Are sharp to memory as cold rain,
But are not ours.

Suggestions for Action

Acknowledge the frailty that we experience in loss and struggle. We are human. We find ourselves lamenting, questioning. Know that these questions arise and this bleakness clears the way for the fullness of God. Job is about Patience. Consider what questions you have. Ask them out loud. Seek the answer. Be patient.

May 22 — What is Health?

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt:

1 Thessalonians 5:5-6

You’re sons of Light, daughters of Day. We live under wide open skies and know where we stand. So let’s not sleepwalk through life like those others. Let’s keep our eyes open and be smart.

More thoughts for meditation:

Wendell Berry defines healing and health with the following words,

“The task of healing is to respect oneself as a creature, no more

and no less.


A creature is not a creator, and cannot be. There is only one

Creation, and we are its members.


To be creative is only to have health: to keep oneself fully alive

in the Creation, to keep the Creation fully alive in oneself, to see

the Creation anew, to welcome one’s part in it anew.”

These two writers are telling us that health is to be fully alive, to be continually filled with the growth and new life of Creation or the Creator and to be fully awake to our part within it all.

Health is not be be whole or perfect or unbroken, but it is to be aware and present, mending and growing, resurrecting and becoming new. It is to see ourselves as one creature in communion with an entire creation and its Creator.

Suggestions for action:

Pick a sentence or word from above that sticks out to you, close your eyes and let your imagination explore it. Maybe you want to see yourself as a son of Light or daughter of the Day. Maybe you want to meditate on Creation or Christ being fully alive within you and the healing that follows.

Try sitting with whatever image comes to mind and pray, “I want to be awake and alive.”

April 21, 2017 — Everyday habits of resurrection

Today’s Bible reading

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

Let Israel say:
    “His love endures forever.” — Psalm 118:1-2

More thoughts for meditation

For some people thinking about the miracle of Jesus rising up from the dead is common practice on Easter Day. As a child I thought it was mandatory for everyone to exclaim “He is risen!” to each other on this one day each year. Thank Jesus the resurrection is so much bigger than that! Thank Jesus that his love endures not for a few days, weeks, months or years, but forever!

Of course there is nothing wrong with celebrating EasterDay, but I wonder what would happen if we started creating habits based on the resurrection in our everyday life. Wendell Berry gives us a glimpse into his day-to-day practice of resurrection in the Mad Farmer Liberation Front:

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready-made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head. 
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you 
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something 
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor. 
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias. 
Say that your main crop is the forest 
that you did not plant, 
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns. 
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees 
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion — put your ear 
close, and hear the faint chattering 
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful 
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child? 
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields. 
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go.

Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction. 
Practice resurrection.

Suggestions for action

Use part of today’s Bible reading as a prayer as your go throughout your day – “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His love endures forever.” Allow the possibility for the practice of prayer make a difference.

If you’re able to find some time today get out your journal and write down a poem about what your daily practice of resurrection would include. If you’d prefer to skip the poem you could write a simple list. Choose one of the practices you’ve written down and try it out today.

Today is Anselm of Canterbury Day! Consider his example at Celebrating Our Transhistorical Body.

March 30 — Prayer and poetry

Today’s Bible reading

Listen, you heavens, and I will speak;
    hear, you earth, the words of my mouth.
Let my teaching fall like rain
    and my words descend like dew,
like showers on new grass,
    like abundant rain on tender plants. — Deuteronomy 32:2

«Escuchad, cielos, y hablaré;
oiga la tierra los dichos de mi boca.
Goteará como la lluvia mi enseñanza;
destilará como el rocío mi razonamiento,
como la llovizna sobre la grama,
como las gotas sobre la hierba. — Deuteronomio 32:1-2

More thoughts for meditation

Today’s Bible reading is a nice bit of poetry. The Bible is full of it, books of poetry. After the Reformation, it became common to read the Bible as a text full of principles that could be reassembled into larger theories.  Scholars searched the poetry, even, for factoids. C.S. Lewis objected, saying about the largest collection of poetry, the Psalms:  “The Psalms must be read as poems; as lyrics, with all the licences and all the formalities, the hyperboles, the emotional rather than logical connections, which are proper to lyric poetry. They must be read as poems if they are to be understood; no less than French must be read as French or English as English. Otherwise we shall miss what is in them and think we see what is not.”

Today’s poet reminds himself to remember that his poetry is poetry. The poet has a responsibility to identify the sacred in ways that communicate the uncommunicatable with the respect and awe it deserves. Wendell Berry tries to get as far away as possible from the intrusion of machine noise and screens until he can hear the reality on the other side of silence. Then he can write poetry.

How to Be a Poet (to remind myself) by Wendell Berry

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

Suggestions for action

Try some poetry. It does not need to be beautiful or complete. it is the “little words that come out of the silence.” Be silent and collect the little words.  Maybe you will feel like working them into a verse of some sort. You don’t need to publish it, or even tell anyone about it. But why not?

Remember Berry’s reminder to himself as you travel through this day” “There are no unsacred places: there are only sacred places and desecrated places.” That includes you, your family, you neighborhood.

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