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One Thousand Words - Stories On The Way
15 minutes | May 17, 2022
S4:E8 – Only the Lover Sings: Matthew Clark – I want to see what she saw
This week on the podcast, I'll share an excerpt from the introductory essay to the new book, tell you more about the project, and read a favorite related psalm to close. Over the next weeks, the amazing essayists who wrote for the book will share excerpts from their essays written in response to the songs and the woman at the well. The post S4:E8 – Only the Lover Sings: Matthew Clark – I want to see what she saw appeared first on Matthew Clark.
21 minutes | May 10, 2022
S4:E7 – The Fragrance of the Blessed Realm
I just released my own book and album "Only the Lover Sings" last Friday, but this week I want to tell you about another book: "Wild Things and Castles in the Sky: A Guide to Choosing the Best Books for Children" by Square Halo Press. I'll share the essay I wrote for the book about George MacDonald's "Sir Gibbie". The post S4:E7 – The Fragrance of the Blessed Realm appeared first on Matthew Clark.
16 minutes | May 2, 2022
S4:E6 – Amelia Freidline, What is Poetry for?
This week, writer, poet, photographer, and editor Amelia Friedline asks, "Are quiet little thumbnail sketches of my particular corner of the universe worth anything when the world is rent by war, injustice, and all other kinds of evil?" Find Amelia at www.innocenceabroad.com The post S4:E6 – Amelia Freidline, What is Poetry for? appeared first on Matthew Clark.
16 minutes | Mar 21, 2022
S4:E5 – What superabundance affords us
It is costly to love, isn't it? But, because of what Christ has revealed about reality, we can afford it. This is what I'm looking at this week on the podcast. Also: I've got a new single releasing this Friday, March 25th! Visit matthewclark.net and click the pre-save on Spotify button! The post S4:E5 – What superabundance affords us appeared first on Matthew Clark.
20 minutes | Mar 7, 2022
S4:E4 – Like a tree planted by the streams
It's no small thing to keep doing the small things. Last night, our small group started reading Richard Foster's "Celebration of Discipline" and I was reminded that willpower will disappoint us, but keeping at the little practices that keep us close and open to the Lord, cultivates healing by keeping us in contact with the Life of our life. The post S4:E4 – Like a tree planted by the streams appeared first on Matthew Clark.
19 minutes | Feb 21, 2022
S4:E3 – Why is it so hard to apologize?
Why is it so hard to apologize? by Matthew Clark | One Thousand Words https://www.matthewclark.net/mcwordpress/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/OTW_S4-E3-Why-is-it-so-hard-to-apologize.mp3 One of my favorite things is to hang out with my friends who have families. Some of those friends have teenagers now that I remember as newborns just coming home from the hospital. Being a traveling musician allows me to make the rounds and stop in to catch up with folks I’ve come to love over the course of many different seasons of my life, and I’m thinking of how good it has been to see, in my friend’s homes, so many wonderful examples of what families can look like. I’ve seen and heard much of the pain and difficulty, and I’ve seen some very beautiful things. One of the most startling and beautiful things I have seen over the years has been families that model humility and, more specifically, apologizing. Apologizing is a funny thing, isn’t it? There is something about it that feels incredibly dangerous. Why is that? Why do we feel so much resistance to it? I know it doesn’t come naturally or comfortably for me. It’s really been the experience of seeing other people do it well that has made me want to learn to do it, too. I remember one of the first times I saw an adult parent apologize to their child. It was a bit of a shock to me, honestly. Maybe it did happen in my family, but I have no memory of it ever happening. Admitting you were wrong and apologizing is not something I remember being modeled for me growing up. Not at school or at home. So you can imagine how startled I was to hear my friends admit a mistake, say they were sorry, and ask for forgiveness from their child. And then to see the child respond with grace; to see parent and child build trust, vulnerability, and peace together through humility. It was beautiful. But it also made me a little uncomfortable, and that made me curious as to why I felt those two apparently contradictory emotions. Why did apologizing feel dangerous and beautiful at the same time? I’d like to start with the most basic human need, which is to be loved. Belovedness is what we were created for. To be wholly known, seen, welcomed, and delighted in by another (any other, but ultimately God) is fundamental to what it means to be alive. We die a little bit when some part of us remains unknown and unseen, quarantined from access to love. We die a little bit when someone rejects us and we feel unwelcome and unwanted in the world. We die a little bit when we experience ourselves as a disappointment and a cause of displeasure in someone else’s eyes. We so deeply require the seeing, knowing, welcoming, delight of another soul. The threat of being unseen, unknown, unwelcome, and displeasing to others is genuinely terrifying. It’s terrifying because it gnaws at us in the very deepest places, right down at the roots of our being. A threat to that place is a threat to the legitimacy of our very existence. It can be hard to find a reason to live, if you feel fundamentally unloved or unloveable. This might be where some of the sense of danger comes from as we approach apologizing. To apologize is to expose a deep place of vulnerability where we are admitting there’s something frighteningly reject-able about me. I’m giving someone else a kind of unguarded access to the root of my being, and that can go in two directions. One: they can say that my offense has, for them, absorbed their entire sense of who I am, and that they can’t see me without seeing the wrong. They can throw us out of their life, baby and bathwater. Or Two: they can say that they see a friend who has done something wrong and hurtful, but that they know you are so much more than the sum of your failures. They can hose down the baby in the yard, wrap it in a towel, and bring it inside the warm house. If we’ve experienced that kind of forgiveness and welcome from a love that is not blind, then the core of our being is safe in the knowledge of our belovedness. We can be wrong, and it won’t kill us. We can apologize and know that the baby will never be thrown out, though it’s certain to need regular changing and washing. That frail, tender creature at our core will grow a little more secure as it grows up in a climate of love. However, I’ll speak for myself, that I have a tendency to defend myself when first begin to hear the call to apologize. Rather than admitting I was wrong, surely the better thing to do would be to explain the situation so that you understand the (most) good intentions I had. You see, there were extenuating circumstances, I see there was a right thing to do, but you can understand why I couldn’t do it, and on and on. In short, I opt to protect myself from the possibility of rejection. If I can soften the offense, then I can lessen the vulnerability. Here’s the thing, if that becomes a habit, it creates all kinds of blindspots; and in the long run, a really pervasive practice of self-protection makes way for the justification of any number of despotic cruelties. It’s dictators who become paranoid that someone is out to get them, tyrants who silence anyone who might speak against them, abusers who prey on the vulnerabilities of others so that their own vulnerabilities are not exposed. Cain’s murder of his brother Abel was the wrong response to an invitation to admit he was wrong. Similarly, Jesus’s blood is spilled by a race who have followed Cain’s habit of protecting ourselves against the vulnerability of admitting that we are wrong. Cain shows us that Murderous Pride and Debilitating Insecurity are are two sides of the same coin. We’re afraid Jesus will reject us if we apologize, so we reject him. But nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus’s every intention as he approaches us is to see, know, welcome, and delight in us, if we will see, know, welcome, and delight in him. Ironically, though God has no sin to apologize for, he chooses the way of vulnerability. Jesus chooses the same kind of unguarded exposure to our potential disgust that feels so dangerous to us. We are allowed to throw him out with the bathwater. To spit on him, hate him, beat him, reject him. And yet there he is again and again bending down to wash our feet – an embrace that brings life and blessing at the very roots of our being where we most need to know that we are known, seen, welcomed, and delighted in. Because he knew he was loved by the Father, he didn’t have to defend himself. He could afford to wash the babies, wrap them in his towel, and bring them in to live in the house. When I cease trying to protect myself from God, and allow him to touch those most tender places with his gentle and complete acceptance, I can forgive myself, and I can forgive others. When I am safe in Jesus’s vulnerability, I can afford to be vulnerable myself. There is another good conversation to be had about safe and unsafe people, but here I’m talking mainly about my own desire to get better at apologizing. Because growing in our ability to apologize is key to loosening the grip of fear on our hearts, allowing our thirsty roots to stay near the Living Water – like naked toes in Jesus’s washbasin, where God in vulnerability and humans in vulnerability meet in a place that feels so dangerous. But that is the place and those are the conditions where we discover we truly are known, seen, welcomed, and delighted in. The post S4:E3 – Why is it so hard to apologize? appeared first on Matthew Clark.
16 minutes | Feb 14, 2022
S4:E2 – Open System/Closed System: Welcoming New Hope
Open System/Closed System: Welcoming New Hope by Matthew Clark | One Thousand Words https://www.matthewclark.net/mcwordpress/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/OTW_S4-E2-Open-SystemClosed-System-Welcoming-New-Hope.mp3 I don’t think I was tall enough to even reach the stovetop at the time, so I stood on a little stool. Ruby B. had taken down a small cast iron skillet, and was teaching me to cook eggs. Long before I was born Ruby B. had worked at my granddad’s cabinetry factory. Grandad died before I was on the scene and that business had been closed not long after he passed away. Everybody knew Ruby B., she was a town fixture. She even wrote a regular social column for the local newspaper where she reported on all the goings-on each week. She used to write me letters at summer camp, and sometimes our family would show up in her newspaper articles. The day I’m remembering now, she had taken this little toe-headed boy as her apprentice in the kitchen. I was blessed to grow up around a lot of great cooks, my Mom and Grandmothers included, and Ruby B. was a great cook too. A great cook in the southern tradition where any real concern for health is right out the window. Bring on the bacon grease, bring on the butter. Don’t skimp, we’re going for flavor here. My parents still have that little cast iron skillet that Ruby B. brought out that day. She put a generous portion of bacon grease in it (we always kept a little jar of bacon grease aside. You’ll find one in my kitchen right now, in fact). She showed me how to scramble and fry. How to add a little milk, salt and pepper. She taught me that eggs cook fast so you don’t want the heat to be too high. Cook them slow and easy and don’t let them dry out. And if you’re making a big breakfast with other components, the eggs should be the very last thing, because they cool as fast as they cook. That was a threshold moment for me. Before it I didn’t know how to cook eggs, and after that day, I did. An experience was interjected into my life that changed what was possible for me. It changed me from a regular kid to an egg-cookin’ kid. To this day, I love to cook. In fact, it’s one of life’s big joys for me. It may sound silly, but spending some time in the kitchen cooking a really good meal is often the cure for a really stressful day. That particular day in the kitchen with Ruby B. was one of the early experiences of my childhood that put that love for cooking in me. I’m so thankful. Last night our small group met to finish the last in a series on Nehemiah by Dr. John Oswalt. Oswalt described the return of the Israelites from Exile to the ruined city of Jerusalem. The temple had been obliterated by the Babylonians and the wall around the city had been torn down. The Lord calls Nehemiah to organize a rebuilding campaign to restore the wall and its gates, and to reconstruct the temple. But what’s really going on, Oswalt points out, is that God is rebuilding a people whose identity has been demolished. How will God rebuild his people after exile? How will he reconstitute their sense of themselves as a people belonging to Yahweh? How will he restore and fortify their imaginations with hope and purpose, after they’ve been so deeply ruined by exile? Oswalt’s answer was fascinating to me. God will give them a concrete, tangible task. He will rebuild the people, through the process of having them rebuild the city. There’s a clue here to how people grow – how people are transformed. Abstract pronouncements don’t tend to transform us. We wish they would, because that would mean simply explaining the facts reasonably to our upset friend would flip a switch and solve everything. Similarly, sheer willpower doesn’t typically transform people. That’s likely very relatable here at the beginning of February, now that those new year’s resolutions have fallen by the wayside. Mere information and mere willpower don’t usually get us all that far. We need longer processes of creative and relational growth. Israel’s understanding of themselves has been almost completely obliterated, yet here they are back in the old promised land. Look at it; it’s a dump. And God says, clean it up. The slow, concrete practice of putting the city back together is the exterior work through which God will work a corresponding inner healing. It is mysterious, but that’s one major way that people actually become different. What we labor at, what we practice, what we pay attention to, molds and shapes our souls. And we have to start doing this kind of thing long before we feel like doing it, and we have to do it with other people. One more thing, we need a leader from the outside (like Nehemiah) to break in and demonstrate the new possibility. Some years ago, I had a great counselor who explained the idea of open vs closed systems, and it has stuck with me. (Much of Proverbs is about the wisdom of open-systems) She said that in a closed system, nothing new is allowed to enter, and so change is not possible for that person. The Closed System person seeks no advice, tries nothing new, listens to no one, deflects consequences, blames and takes no responsibility, and so on. They become like a stagnant pond that has no inlet and no outlet. Eventually, the closed system becomes so cut off that they become stuck in their own little world of muddy, stagnancy where nothing can live or grow. That’s hard-heartedness. On the other hand, the Open System person seeks counsel, is willing to try something new, takes risks, takes responsibility, listens and learns from failure, and so on. They recognize that they need other people – that some resource from outside of themselves to break into the circle and bring new possibilities that they can’t simply generate on their own. This open system person has access to a flowing inlet of fresh water, and they have an outlet whereby they can let go of what needs to be let go of. This is just what we see across Scripture as God repeatedly knocks on the door of the world and enters into the otherwise closed-system to introduce new possibilities. He steps into the most stagnant of situations and brings fresh water. He digs an outlet trench so that certain things can be washed out. In the Old Testament, God steps into a world stagnant with pagan cruelty, the anxiety of idolotry, the terror of human sacrifice (even child sacrifice), and begins to introduce a new way of life to Abraham, and later to rabble of rescued slaves who he transforms into a people. In the New Testament, the inflow of possibility exponentially increases with the arrival of Jesus who introduced unimaginable hope. It turns out, anything is possible with God, the closed-system is blown so wide-open that even death is flushed right through the outlet into the abyss. Then the Holy Spirit steps in at Pentecost and the system opens even wider – anyone from any nation has access to this newly introduced transformative hope of forgiveness and resurrection in Jesus. And on it goes. Like Ruby B. introduced the possibility of cooking to me when I was a kid, something new has entered the world for us, and we can practice it and find ourselves tasting new and wonderful things. Like Israel rebuilding Jerusalem, discovering that as they work, God is showing them what good things are possible in their own beat up hearts. If this world had remained a closed-system nothing could change for us. But that is not the case. The system has been opened and the world’s creator has entered into it and offered himself as its healer. Any good thing is possible now. The only thing that remains is whether we will be open or closed? Whether we will remain stagnant or be refreshed? Shut our ears and eyes or open them to new songs and new visions of hope. The Caged Skylark BY GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS As a dare-gale skylark scanted in a dull cage, Man’s mounting spirit in his bone-house, mean house, dwells — That bird beyond the remembering his free fells; This in drudgery, day-labouring-out life’s age. Though aloft on turf or perch or poor low stage Both sing sometímes the sweetest, sweetest spells, Yet both droop deadly sómetimes in their cells Or wring their barriers in bursts of fear or rage. Not that the sweet-fowl, song-fowl, needs no rest — Why, hear him, hear him babble & drop down to his nest, But his own nest, wild nest, no prison. Man’s spirit will be flesh-bound, when found at best, But uncumberèd: meadow-down is not distressed For a rainbow footing it nor he for his bónes rísen. Source: Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems and Prose (Penguin Classics, 1985) The post S4:E2 – Open System/Closed System: Welcoming New Hope appeared first on Matthew Clark.
15 minutes | Feb 8, 2022
S4:E1 – The Furious Love Song of a Dying Man
The Furious Love Song of a Dying Man by Matthew Clark | One Thousand Words https://www.matthewclark.net/mcwordpress/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/OTW_S4-E1-The-furious-love-song-of-a-dying-man.mp3 Can you guess what one of the very last things is that Moses does before he dies? Here’s the setting: Forty years ago, the Israelites had been brought to the very brink of the Promised Land, but they got cold feet and refused to trust God and go in. They’re sent to wander in the wilderness for forty years, and the next generation is finally brought back to the same spot where their parents stood back then to give this another shot. Moses walks them through the covenant agreement that God had made with their parent’s generation (that’s Deuteronomy). His point is to make sure they understand that this covenant wasn’t just for their parents, it is also for them. Even though they weren’t there or were too young to remember what happened at Mount Sinai, they are bound to this agreement as well. Now, here they are, they’ve taken up the covenant, and it’s time to cross over into the Promised Land and claim it. But Moses won’t be going with them. Joshua has been appointed to make the transition into this new life. Moses has a few last things to wrap up before he climbs a mountain and dies. He does two things before dying, and I was surprised to see what they are. Can you guess? The very last thing he does is pronounce blessings over the people tribe by tribe. But the second to last thing he does really surprises me: He teaches the people a song. Imagine if you were about to die, and you’d gathered all your family around you. Then you say, “Ok, somebody get out a notepad and write down these lyrics. It’s critical that you memorize this song I just wrote for you.” Isn’t that interesting? As a songwriter myself, I perked up when I read that this is basically what Moses does. What’s this about? First of all, songs and stories have long been among the ways that cultures preserve a sort of social imaginal fabric. Songs, liturgies, festivals, traditions – these are things that humans from time immemorial have made as containers to hold their social self-understanding. When we forget who we are or what we’re about, we revisit the songs and stories of our people. Think of the book of Psalms, and the Bible, in general. It is a richly crafted record that preserves for us the truth about us, according to God, and in large part it is in poetry, lyric, and story form. So Moses is writing a song for this people to help them preserve an understanding of themselves. And it may be that this song will unfold its meaning more and more as the generations unfold. Songs often do that, because the best art always means more than the artist him or herself could possibly have consciously meant for it to mean. The truer the artwork, the more naturally and deeply prophetic it will tend to be, whether the artist knows it or not. Very occasionally, I’ve experienced myself that a song I wrote will confront me with meanings I had not intended or foreseen. That the one of the very last things a major shepherd of God’s people like Moses would do before he dies is write a song, is wonderful to me. However, the song itself is no pep-rally cheer. It’s actually quite sobering. It’s more of a warning song, really. There’s quite a lot in it about punishment of those who reject God, even when it’s his own people. On the other hand, by the end of the song, God is fighting on behalf of those who have sought his face, he’s redeeming, and atoning the land and his people. He even calls for the nations (those who are not his people) to rejoice with his people. As a side note: Paul quotes this last song of Moses several times in the last part of his book to the Romans, as he is talking about salvation being offered to the whole world and not just the Jews. What struck me this morning as I was reading the song itself, is something that is very hard to talk about. This is a song to help this people understand themselves as God’s people, and it’s also a song of warning to those among them who don’t take that call seriously. I’m not going to lie, this is one of those places folks might point to and say, “See, the God of the Old Testament is so mean. How can you possibly reconcile that with the loving Jesus in the New Testament?” What is going on here? Is there a problem? How can we better understand the position God is in as he works to save the world from the onslaught of death? Because those are the stakes, and the stakes are high beyond our ability to imagine. That may be part of why God’s sternness feels a little over the top – because we’re like a kid stooping to pick up a penny on the asphalt and we don’t see the speeding bus heading our way. Meanwhile, our feelings are hurt by the red-faced guy on the corner screaming at us. Why’s he yelling at us? It’s just a penny. What’s the big deal? There’s a certain hilarious meme with pictures of screaming toddlers with text describing the things about which they are throwing a fit. In every one of the photos, the parent has prevented them from either doing something impossible like holding the moon, or something dangerous like playing with the kitchen knife. It’s funny because we can relate, and it’s relatable because it’s true. We still find ourselves surprised to be hurt by something we thought we wanted so badly. I hope I’m not the only one who experiences that almost daily. Something is going on in this world that is so incredibly important to our well-being that it’s worth God getting really mad about. Because, as Henry Cloud and modern psychology, in general have pointed out: if you want to know what really matters to someone, pay attention to what makes them angry. If they blow their top because you spilled mustard on their shirt, they may love their appearance more than they love you. If they’re ready to punch somebody because they insulted you, maybe they love you more than they love their own bodily comfort or safety. That leads us to follow the line through anger to suffering, then. If someone is willing to disregard their own safety and comfort for your benefit, righteous anger and willingness to suffer may be related, they may be on a continuum. If that’s the case, then the God whose wrath flares up when his people shirk their responsibility as collaborators in the redemption of the world in the Old Testament, is the same God who completely disregards his own comfort and safety when it comes to the fulfillment of that same work of redemption in the New Testament. In other words, anger over a threat against a loved one and an almost crazy willingness to suffer for a loved one, are two sides of the same coin. Our God loves us enough to get angry in our defense, and he loves us enough to face our enemies and lay down his life for us. And so, in the tradition of Moses, Rich Mullins can sing (without a hint of sarcasm) of the “reckless, raging fury that they call the love of God.” The post S4:E1 – The Furious Love Song of a Dying Man appeared first on Matthew Clark.
17 minutes | Aug 3, 2021
S3:E30 – Season 3 Finale: The Light of a Face
The Light of a Face by Matthew Clark | One Thousand Words https://www.matthewclark.net/mcwordpress/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/OTW_S3-E30-The-Light-of-a-Face.mp3 ….Christ plays in ten thousand places, Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his To the Father through the features of men’s faces. G.M. Hopkins, As Kingfishers Catch Fire What is a face? When you think of a face, you may first think of a physical object, an arrangement of features. Its eyes are said to be windows through which we may glimpse the soul, something beyond the material world. From its mouth come words that can kill or give life, curse or bless; from its lips may emerge the mystery of song. The human face is an invention along with the human body and the rest of creation. But, what makes the face what it is is a reality beyond the physical that manifests through it. The face is a chink through which passes the sunlight of personhood from the vast outdoors of Reality into the garden toolshed of human experience. Gerard Manley Hopkins may have said all I’d like to say in his poem, As Kingfishers Catch Fire. He describes how each mortal thing “deals out that being indoors each one dwells – selves”, and he lands this whole idea on the last word of the poem: faces. The instant a kingfisher emerges from the water to catch the fire of the sunlight and flickers for one bright moment, we see a brief glimpse of a face from beyond nature crossing the threshold of creation. A few nights ago, I sat by a campfire in Wisconsin as the Milky Way emerged above me through the dark pine crowns. A constant thrum of cricket and frog voices melded with the crackle of branches amidst the embers. The Mississippi River, early in its long journey down past my home state to the gulf, below conscious hearing, whispered in the night not far away. I sang quietly before going to bed, “Praise Him, all creatures here below.” If Hopkins is right, then everything God has made, by “acting in God’s eye what in God’s eye [it] is” manifests in this world something of God’s immaterial ‘face’. And God has invented in the human face a wondrous resting place – a habitation – for his glory. In its features, Hopkins says, we see Christ at play to the Father’s glory and for his revealing. Ultimately, this truth is fully realized in Jesus, where we discover, “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” “Face”, then, is an uncreated relational reality from ‘before all worlds’; the incarnation of Jesus and its consummation in him is the deepest fulfillment of the human face. The members of the Trinity face one another: Jesus is the son because he faces the Father, and so on. To turn and face the God who is facing us in Jesus Christ is to be ratified; to see him seeing us is to learn to see ourselves truly, as well as to be given our true self in Him and in the shining light of his face. And what is a shining face? It is a face that is bright with the gladness of a smile. The Samaritan woman at the well experienced such a shock of discovery by the end of her conversation with Jesus in John chapter four. What did she see in his face? I wonder, because once she’d seen it, everything changed for her. Exploring that encounter at Jacob’s Well is the focus of the album I’m recording right now called “Only the lover sings”. That title comes from St. Augustine, and the chorus of the title track says, Only the one who dares to look the Lord full-on in the face finds out the shocking good news. The Samaritan Woman, after finding God’s face turned in love toward her, drops her jar and runs off knocking on doors, singing, “the Messiah has come!” She is astonished to discover she is the Lord’s beloved. With all I’ve done and been through, how can it be? Isn’t it always a shock to turn toward God, bracing ourselves for the worst like the returning prodigal, only to find God’s face bright with joy at our approach? The woman at the well is lit like a candle and she goes door to door singing, “the Lord has made the light of his face to shine upon us. Come and see!” And her story is our story too. In his book “The Face of God”, Roger Scruton says the face is a threshold over which passes into the immanent material world the transcendent immaterial personal presence. You search a face to discover whether you’re looking at a thing or a person. Here, says Thomas Howard, “the distinction between spirit and matter disappears, as it does in the Sacraments. For here I experience the oddity that flesh is the mode under which I apprehend the truth of the thing. It is the epiphany of the thing… the human body is the epiphany of personhood.” When I look at a giraffe, I can see traces of God’s personality; “Someone has been here,” I say to myself laughing, though the animal itself is not a person. But with a human, I say, “Someone has been here, and someone is, in fact, here!” The Creator God has left his coinage, and a new person stands before me. We see that face across all that he has made and given, in all of creation and in the Church’s Sacraments. Even humanity’s experience of sex is a shadow analogy of the real appearance of Jesus to his Bride, by which the bride’s true personhood and humanity are ratified and realized. “When he appears we shall be like him” means that we will finally be really and truly human. Recently, my friend Jessie, who walked the Camino in Spain, told me that her favorite Spanish word is mirada, which means “the look in one’s eyes.” Often a single word can germinate into a rich range of connotations. I wondered whether Jessie’s favorite word might branch out in some fruitful ways with regard to the idea of facing. And lo and Behold (as we say in the South), it did! It turns out that mirar sprouts out into: mirror, miracle, wonder, even to look and to contemplate, to regard, to smile or laugh. I got excited watching this one word harmonizing so many ideas across this essay. Now, hold mirar one hand, and open your palm to hold another word: gentleness. Gentleness is a word that has to do with inheriting the likeness of those from whom you were generated: your parents. Gene– is the root of genesis, generate, generations, genteel, gentle. These are words about origins, birth and family patterns. Gentleness is handed down by birth and fostered by family. Maybe it’s a basket-word that cradles all kinds of good family fruit. We are made in God’s image; called his sons and daughters; gentleness means to bear the family likeness as we carry on the patterns of loving as we have been loved. In one hand mirar; in the other, gentleness… Mirar: When we turn to face Jesus, then we have beheld ‘the look in God’s eyes’ toward us. Seeing his face mirrors back to us the truth about who and what we really are. Something we thought was impossible suddenly becomes wondrously, miraculously possible: new birth from apparent barrenness into God’s Family. Enter gentleness… Gentleness: When we turn to face Jesus in faith, we are re-generated (born again) into a new family. The Word who became flesh and dwelt among us makes available for us a new generative reality. Each of us is faced with the miracle of a second genesis, where we are forgiven in the light of his face and called “very good” again. God offers this gladdening light to us, and like a candle lighting a candle, we offer it to each other and the world as we face others with the reality that God has made his face to shine upon us and that shining face is Jesus Christ himself. Closing Prayer Lord, “with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light”. But, though we are thirsty like the woman at the well, we are afraid to turn from darkness and face your shining face. Maybe because your light is a light that reveals even as it heals, and we are afraid to face ourselves and be seen by you. What if it’s a trap door and you don’t really love us? But, Lord, your face is bright with delight over every prodigal that turns toward the father’s house. Give us the courage to answer your proposal, to look you full-on in the face, where we will be astonished to discover that you are looking upon us with delight, claiming us as your Beloved. Oh Lord Jesus, to see you seeing us in love is the only thing that can truly set us free. Help us to turn our faces to you and trust in your love for us. Amen. The post S3:E30 – Season 3 Finale: The Light of a Face appeared first on Matthew Clark.
12 minutes | Jul 19, 2021
S3:E29 – Maribeth Barber, The Defiance of Laughter
Maribeth Barber “I’m a small-town Southerner captivated by the tales of underdogs, homebodies, and royalty. When I’m not blogging or writing novels, I’m reading, gardening, and collecting figurines of my favorite fictional characters on my family’s hobby farm in Louisiana.” Online presence: A Writer’s Tale (blog): maribethbarber.com “The Movie Score” podcast with Maribeth’s brother, Ben Current/upcoming projects: You can find all of Maribeth’s articles for the The Cultivating Project here, and her debut novel, Operation Lionhearted, will be released on October 13, 2021. Follow her on instagram @maribeth.barber The Defiance of Laughter by Maribeth Barber | One Thousand Words https://www.matthewclark.net/mcwordpress/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/OTW_S3-E29-Maribeth-Barber-The-Defiance-of-Laughter.mp3 The Defiance of Laughter “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…” Thus Wendell Berry—author, poet, farmer, and rebel—begins his famous poem, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.” Long before I read any of Berry’s novels, I read this poem—and something about it settled deep into my soul, especially the way he introduces his solution to the dismal chaos of modern American life: “So, friends, every day do something that won’t compute.” As a homeschool graduate who chose to live at home with my family and pursue my writing career, I’m no stranger to nonconformity. An introverted homebody from childhood, I was the little kid who burst into tears one day and begged my parents not to send me away to a college campus. I knew by that point that what I really wanted to do was write stories…yet the older I grew and the more I knew of the world, I came to the sobering realization that this meant I’d probably never meet certain, traditional expectations. This was a terrifying revelation, made all the more unnerving by pointed comments, worried questions, and subtle pressures to reconsider from well-meaning friends and family. On the one hand, I was eager to make my own choices and live the simple, creative life I desired. But on the other, I was determined to make my small rebellion worthwhile. I would never be idle at home, I would publish my books and keep a blog…and I would succeed, no matter what. I wouldn’t discover Wendell Berry’s poignant turn of phrase until well into my late twenties, yet I can say that I deliberately and happily chose to “do something that won’t compute.” Over the years, that decision has given me the freedom to enjoy and serve my family, keep a weekly job, self-publish my first novel, and contribute to various ministries and collaborative writing projects. In many ways, this is the quiet, peaceful life my little hobbit soul always wanted. And yet, despite the joy and fulfillment I have experienced, doubt and fear have always plagued me. More often than I care to admit, I worry that my lifestyle is insignificant and unsustainable. That’s why I resonate so strongly with Kathleen Kelly in the iconic film, You’ve Got Mail, when she writes: “Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life—well, valuable, but small—and sometimes I wonder: do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave?” I’d love to tell you that I’m always confident, that I no longer care what people think of my choices, and that I’ve never looked back. The truth is that I’ve wrestled my entire life with a frantic need to show the world that I’m just as tough and relentlessly productive as everyone else. I’ve craved the opportunity to wave my accomplishments in all my skeptics’ faces and say, “You see?! I don’t have to look like everyone else! I can do things my way and do just fine, thank you very much!” But do you hear it? The insidious, arrogant, activity-driven striving? How is this attitude of mine any different from the kind of life I’ve actively tried to avoid? In my high-and-mighty dudgeon, I hear echoes of the frenetic “busy-ness” that Wendell Berry describes at the beginning of his poem. “Not even your future will be a mystery anymore,” he warns—and I know that if I wallow in an embittered struggle against modern expectations, my resentful self-justification will define my future. But perhaps there is a more excellent way…a more peaceful way that has less to do with looking different and proving myself, and more to do with living well, loving well…and laughing well. If Wendell Berry had ended his poem with his dreary account of modern society, his Manifesto would be a depressing one, indeed. But thank goodness, the poem isn’t over yet! Berry goes on to describe what it means to “do something that won’t compute” every single day of our lives. “Love the Lord,” he writes. “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…Invest in the millenium…Expect the end of the world. Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts…Practice resurrection.” I think Berry is proposing here that “a life that doesn’t compute” stems not from rebellion for rebellion’s sake, but from love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Living a life that doesn’t compute—one that quietly and joyfully defies our chaotic culture—means that I choose to see my life as a lavish feast given to me by the God Who Sees Me…and not Exhibit A of my self-sufficiency in the court of public opinion. This choice is transformative. When I truly believe that my small life is seen and cherished by the Lord God Almighty, I don’t need to strive for anyone else’s approval. And when I am free, then I can laugh—not in derision, but in immeasurable merriment. I can invest my time and toil in our garden even as I expect the end of the world. I’m even free to consider hard facts such as this one: writing will probably never make me rich. But I also know the joy that comes when my characters leap off the page and sweep me into their adventures—and I wouldn’t miss that delight for all the money in the world. So…do we live our small lives because we like it, or because we haven’t been brave? Well, I would propose to Kathleen Kelly—and to anyone else walking this road less-traveled—that your small life is the brave life. But you aren’t brave just because you’re different. You are brave because you love well, work well, think well…and rejoice well. This is the holy defiance of laughter. This is the beauty of a life that doesn’t compute. “To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion, to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly, to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart, to bear all cheerfully, to all bravely await occasions, hurry never. In a word, to let the spiritual unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony.” William Henry Channing The post S3:E29 – Maribeth Barber, The Defiance of Laughter appeared first on Matthew Clark.
19 minutes | Jul 12, 2021
S3:E28 – Erling Rantrud, There Was a Garden
This week we'll welcome a guest essayist from Norway, Erling Rantrud. A trained gardener, husband, father, and pastor in Sandefjord, Norway, Erling will share about God's life-giving invitation to both His work and His rest in a place where heaven and earth meet. And he'll sing a benediction for us in his native tongue! The post S3:E28 – Erling Rantrud, There Was a Garden appeared first on Matthew Clark.
18 minutes | Jun 28, 2021
S3:E27 – Showing Up in Spirit and Truth
Jesus says, “The Father is seeking worshipers who worship in spirit and truth.” What does that mean? What kind of relationship does God hope to have with us? I'm looking at Psalm 88 and John 4 for clues about life, God, and real connection in love. How do the (often uncomfortable things) God chooses not to edit out of his book demonstrate his vulnerability and invite us to be vulnerable with him? The post S3:E27 – Showing Up in Spirit and Truth appeared first on Matthew Clark.
17 minutes | Jun 21, 2021
S3:E26 – Your Place in the Story, Pt. 4 – Virtues: The Heartbeat of Reality
I just finished reading Stanley Hauerwas’ “The Character of Virtue: Letters to a Godson”. In it, he describes the virtues as the characteristics formed in us by practices that accompany a particular narrative in which we have been located. How then does inhabiting the Christian story transform us as we bear that story out in our very lives - our bodies, decisions, and so on? The post S3:E26 – Your Place in the Story, Pt. 4 – Virtues: The Heartbeat of Reality appeared first on Matthew Clark.
17 minutes | Jun 8, 2021
S3:E25 – Your Place in the Story, Pt. 3 – Here’s the Script; Have Fun!
In Part 3 of "Your Place in the Story", having already talked about the necessity of church participation, I’m looking at how saturating ourselves in the Scriptures and in Prayer gives us the wisdom to joyfully and beautifully improvise... to enact this storyline on the stage of our lives alongside others, to jam along with the song God is singing over us, or to join the Trinity in their conversation of holy love. The post S3:E25 – Your Place in the Story, Pt. 3 – Here’s the Script; Have Fun! appeared first on Matthew Clark.
19 minutes | May 24, 2021
S3:E24 – Your Place in the Story, Pt. 2 – A Beautiful New Name
How do we find our place in the Story Jesus is telling? Beginning last week, I started a series of episodes exploring that theme. In part one, I talked about how, broadly speaking, liturgies are simply a human phenomenon (even apart from religion) that work a story into our bones. And this week, I’m jumping off from there exploring how the unnoticed narratives we involve ourselves in name us - for good or ill. Names are how we understand our essential relation to things, the truth of our being. The post S3:E24 – Your Place in the Story, Pt. 2 – A Beautiful New Name appeared first on Matthew Clark.
16 minutes | May 17, 2021
S3-E23 – Your Place in the Story, Pt. 1 – *or Anybody Want a Peanut?
Everybody does liturgies - inside and outside the church. I’m thinking of a liturgy as any shared practice or discipline that situates us within a particular narrative that gives our life context and meaning. Liturgies provide language, images, events, and storyline. They work that stuff down into our bones, until whatever story we’re practicing becomes the measure for everything. The next few weeks, I'm exploring things that help us find our place in The Story Jesus is telling. The post S3-E23 – Your Place in the Story, Pt. 1 – *or Anybody Want a Peanut? appeared first on Matthew Clark.
20 minutes | May 3, 2021
S3:E22 – Nicole Kelley, “Peter and His Personal Record Swim Time”
This week, we welcome singer/songwriter Nicole Kelley. Her disarming and wise way of talking about Jesus made me think how much I’d love to get her to share something here, and this week she’ll be talking about Peter’s faith and failures and how Jesus’s steadfast grace gives us permission to let go of regret and "press on toward the prize" as Paul says. Nicole's new album "Canyon Wide" is available everywhere online. Visit her website: www.nicolekelleymusic.com The post S3:E22 – Nicole Kelley, “Peter and His Personal Record Swim Time” appeared first on Matthew Clark.
16 minutes | Apr 26, 2021
S3:E21 – God’s Friends Getting Stuff Done
Sometimes we forget that God works through regular people to get things done. The Bible didn’t just magically appear out of nowhere; God invited real people throughout history to join in his long redemptive work. In the Bible, we see evidence of it. This week, I’ll share how I’ve experienced that personally, and some thoughts on how God provides for us through Creation, wisdom, and friendship. The post S3:E21 – God’s Friends Getting Stuff Done appeared first on Matthew Clark.
16 minutes | Apr 13, 2021
S3:E20 – Dear Friend, A Letter
This week, I wanted to read a letter I wrote almost exactly one year ago today. I was feeling all the dismay and bewilderment of that moment as lockdowns began, and I wrote this piece for the Spring 2020 Issue of The Cultivating Project. The Lord can enter into and redeem absolutely anything, if he can transform the cross and the grave. So, though I don’t see how, I know he’s not dismayed or bewildered. Jesus will bring life and eucatastrophe in a thousand little ways as we continue our Pilgrimage toward the Joy set before us. The post S3:E20 – Dear Friend, A Letter appeared first on Matthew Clark.
19 minutes | Apr 5, 2021
S3:E19 – Easter: Secret Strength and Deeper Magic
...But wait, there's more! It's still Easter, or Easter-tide, all the way till Pentecost on May 23rd! So, today I'm sharing two interrelated readings on the theme of Easter Joy. One from Alexander Schmemann that I'll read, and one from Lewis's "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" read beautifully and joyfully by Kirstin Jeffrey Johnson. We may weep, yes, but since Christ has come we have a "secret strength" and participate in a "deeper magic". This changes everything. The post S3:E19 – Easter: Secret Strength and Deeper Magic appeared first on Matthew Clark.
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