The Truth of Our Stories – Frederick Buechner


Frederick Buechner quote

In the long run the stories all overlap and mingle like searchlights in the dark. The stories Jesus tells are part of the story Jesus is, and the other way round. And the story Jesus is is part of the story you and I are because Jesus has become so much a part of the world’s story that it is impossible to imagine how any of our stories would have turned out without him, even the stories of people who don’t believe in him or even know who he is or care about knowing. And my story and your story are all part of each other too if only because we have sung together and prayed together and seen each other’s faces so that we are at least a footnote at the bottom of each other’s stories.

In other words all our stories are in the end one story, one vast story about being human, being together, being here. Does the story point beyond itself? Does it mean something? What is the truth of this interminable, sprawling story we all of us are? Or is it as absurd to ask about the truth of it as it is to ask about the truth of the wind howling through a crack under the door?

– Originally published in The Clown in the Belfry

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Power of a Story – Frederick Buechner


Frederick Buechner quote

Every storyteller, whether he is Shakespeare telling about Hamlet or Luke telling about Mary, looks out at the world much as you and I look out at it and sees things happening—people being born, growing up, working, loving, getting old, and finally dying—only then, by the very process of taking certain of these events and turning them into a story, giving them form and direction, does he make a sort of claim about events in general, about the nature of life itself.

And the storyteller’s claim, I believe, is that life has meaning—that the things that happen to people happen not just by accident like leaves being blown off a tree by the wind but that there is order and purpose deep down behind them or inside them and that they are leading us not just anywhere but somewhere.

The power of stories is that they are telling us that life adds up somehow, that life itself is like a story.

And this grips us and fascinates us because of the feeling it gives us that if there is meaning in any life—in Hamlet’s, in Mary’s, in Christ’s—then there is meaning also in our lives. And if this is true, it is of enormous significance in itself, and it makes us listen to the storyteller with great intensity because in this way all his stories are about us and because it is always possible that he may give us some clue as to what the meaning of our lives is. – Frederick Buechner

More than Words at Stake


seeing what is sacred

Books in a way are sacraments that make the communion between an author and a reader possible. The white paper and black ink are the means through which one heart is revealed to another. But the paper and the words are merely the elements of the sacrament. What is sacred is the heart that writes the book and the heart that sits in silent communion to take and read what has been written.

The words that are read are small, waferlike things. But sometimes, on some page, God humbles Himself to come through some of those words and touch the reader’s heart. It is not the words that are sacred but God who is sacred . . . and the person to whom He comes.

In a sermon C. S. Lewis once said that next to the Blessed Sacrament our neighbor is the holiest thing presented to our senses. Most of us, though, are oblivious to that holiness except at rare moments …

“The awe that we sense or ought to sense when standing in the presence of a human being is a moment of intuition for the likeness of God which is concealed in his essence,” wrote the Jewish scholar Abraham Heschel. “Not only man; even inanimate things stand in relation to the Creator. The secrets of every being is the divine care and concern that are invested in it. Something sacred is at stake in every event.”

Something sacred.

At stake.

In every event.

A sobering thought, if it’s true. And if it’s true, it changes everything. Every moment of our day, every day of our life. Every dinner with the family, every breakfast with a stranger. – Ken Gire, in “Seeing What is Sacred”

 

Writing through the Search


forest pathSo many times we write of a door that was closed … only once it is opened. We only write of the seeking … once we have found. Of the searching once we know what it is we’re looking for. But it’s hard to write while in the midst of a search, in the midst of the silence.

Is it because I don’t know if I will find it? Is it because I’m afraid of looking like I don’t know what I’m looking for? Or even what I have found? Perhaps it is the fear of appearing unsure, that I don’t have it all together.

For so long my life had such a strong sense of purpose. And it does still, but at times, I can’t help but feeling as though I’m missing something. Not missing out on something, but actually missing something.

Is it an end in the road? Is it a curve? Is it a completely different road I’m meant to take? Or am I simply meant to continue on this path?

Somehow I feel this is what I am meant to do, so I continue walking. But there is no brilliant burst of sun in the grey sky. No moments of perfect clarity, with birds taking flight before of my eyes, or seeing the last leaf fall from a tree in a magical manner.

No songs or symphonic crescendo. Just a gentle near silence. Nearly, but not quite. This defines, in part, my journey these past months. Not silent, but no words or message clear enough to hear.

The Bible says something to the effect of, “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” That’s the verse that came to mind when I began my walk, wondering why at times he seems so distant.

Perhaps I have not really searched, not with all my heart. Or perhaps my eyes have not been opened. Am I waiting for something? For God? Is He waiting on me? Is it a little bit of both? Neither?

All I can say for sure is that it is part of the journey, and as long as the path continues to stretch before me, it is my destiny, my part, to walk forward. I am sure moments of brilliant clarity will burst through the gray. I am also sure that for the most part, I will gaze at life – past and present – through murky glass, not even considering future.

But I also know that I am not alone. And the One who walks beside me has a plan. A purpose. And as long as I trust in this, I can know it is not about the destination, the finding, the end of the search. So much is about the journey, and the One who walks with me each step of the way.

The Edge of the Wind


The air moves

In ways strange

It doesn’t explain

The winds change

From gentle to gale

From rushing to ripple

And I feel the urge

To clean out my house

Or my heart

Or even to disappear

Into the wind

And let it carry me

Far

A mountaintop perhaps

Or even a star

I can’t track the movement

Of the wind

Its cycles and cold fronts

Colliding with heat

Piling cumulus over nimbus

And stratus beneath cirrus

All I know is the rain

And the magic scent

Of sky before it falls

A smell like the sound of skittering leaves

Whispering the approach of a storm

This wind change

Will it be a storm

A calm

Perhaps a little bit of both

Settling and stirring me

At the same time

I don’t know

And at times

All I can do is close my eyes

To better feel the change

Skirting the edge of the wind

A Fleeting Glimpse of Gold (A Poetry Analysis)


A Comparison of “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost and “Storm Warnings” by Adrienne Rich

In “Storm Warnings” and “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” nature is an overarching theme. In both works, the poets write of nature as a powerful force that mankind cannot control; each writer uses different aspects of nature to bring out their theme in unique and poignant ways. Nature is portrayed as ephemeral, fleeting and unpredictable, yet also showing strains of predictability in its repeated cycles and seasons; the reader can infer the implications of nature bearing similarities to mankind as a whole as well as to the individual. Both Robert Frost and Adrienne Rich seem to respect the power and magnificence of nature at the same time that they recognize in its deeper elements certain parallels with humanity. True to the general personality of poetry, “Storm Warnings” and “Nothing Gold Can Stay” can be taken at face value or delved into more deeply to unearth symbolic truths of a figurative nature.

“Storm Warnings” by Adrienne Rich weaves together a message that nature cannot be controlled by writing of two related concepts – the weather of the heart and weather in nature at large. Neither form of weather is completely predictable, nor are they controllable. Weather in nature, the poem points out, has been charted and can be predicted by the dropping of the “glass” – the barometer – but it still cannot be controlled: “Between foreseeing and averting change / Lies all the mastery of elements” (ll. 15-16). Breaking the barometer cannot destroy the oncoming storm, just as destroying a clock cannot stop time, as Rich points out in the following lines: “Time in the hand is not control of time / Nor shattered fragments of an instrument / A proof against the wind; the wind will rise” (ll. 18-20). The poem seems to speak of the inability to have power over elements of nature, no matter how much humanity might make such attempts.

The narrator of the poem appears well aware of the weather that can sweep the land, and is wise to the knowledge that her only defense against the onslaught of nature is closing the doors and remaining protected or barricaded inside with the lines, “We can only close the shutters / … / This is our sole defense against the season” (ll. 21, 26). Even then, increment elements seep through the keyhole, an ominous portrayal that mankind cannot completely control any part of nature – neither weather nor time. Adrienne Rich writes of man’s learning to cope with the weather as a way to almost “settle” with mankind’s inability to control the elements of nature.

“Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost also speaks of the uncontainable authority of nature, yet brings out a different idea than Adrienne Rich’s poem. Frost’s work speaks of the ephemeral elements of life by using parallels in nature – its “gold” that is the blossom of spring and the perfect dawn of a day: “Nature’s first green is gold, / Her hardest hue to hold. / Her early leaf’s a flower; / But only so an hour” (ll. 1-4). The poem rings of the poignant character of all things earthly, which seem to fade almost before their time. The implication is not only those transient elements in nature, but also within the fleeting lives of humanity, which come and go so quickly.

The poem by Frost also brings in religious undertones when referring to the Garden of Eden and its perfection at the dawn of humanity; yet its’ eventual sinking to grief, bespeaking the fate of nature itself, with the lines, “Then leaf subsides to leaf. / So Eden sank to grief” (ll. 5-6). Nothing man can do would have the power to change this; the unspoken message of Frost’s poem seems to be that it would be useless to try to wrest nature to serve one’s own purposes, for “nothing gold can stay” (ll. 8). The poem seems almost sad in its portrayal that nothing gold within nature is lasting or eternal.

Both “Storm Warnings” and “Nothing Gold Can Stay” utilize similar themes of the power of nature and its pervasive influence upon humanity in spite of mankind’s manifold abilities and progressing technologies. The idea or message at first glance almost cheerless, yet an underlying significance can be wrought from both poems. This more hopeful undertone whispers of the ability of both nature and man to be recreated in a way that is also uncontrollable and almost beyond understanding. Nothing gold can stay, yet each new day another dawn rises; each new season welcomes the “gold” of blossoms and spring’s unique beauty. In “Storm Warnings,” although people who live in such “troubled regions” (ll. 28) batten down the hatches and hole up in protection against oncoming storms – of nature or of the heart – the unspoken truth is that the storm will pass. The sun will be seen once again … or hope will rise once more.

Although both poems convey the power of nature to destroy or be destroyed, to fail and fade with the passing of time, both can also be taken with the hope that nature always cycles around to rebirth and renewal. However, when the storms loom low and fierce, and when dawn gives way to a day that scorches the sky, it is difficult for anyone – poet and pessimist alike – to see beyond the harsh and inclement parts of nature. At such times, as Rich writes, one can only “Draw the curtains as the sky goes black / And set a match to candles sheathed in glass” (ll. 22-23). Her words give credence to the idea that – whether someone is facing the storms of nature or of the heart – there is always something to do to welcome a little bit of light, a fleeting glimpse of gold, into one’s life as protection against complete despair.

Not to Death


In the English class I’m taking, after reading and discussing “The Crucible” for our essays, we watched the movie. I remember when the movie came out. I didn’t watch it then.

When I watched it in class, of course I knew what to expect as the story line and dialogue was almost identical to the play by Arthur Miller.

But the end was a little different, and I’d have to say I enjoyed the ending of the movie more than the book. It showed how the perspectives of the townspeople had changed, if only slightly. And it showed three characters who remained fearless to the end.

And that’s when I wrote this short poem (yes, in the middle of class):

What happens when you know
You go
Not to death
But life

Then death is not
A thing
To fear

No shadow
No valley
No tunnel
Endless, dark

But hope waits
At the end
And light
This is why

When you know
You go
Not to death
But life

There is no fear
But clear
And open eyes