Light, darkness, & the Cross

god-1979750_640S. J. Masson, a new Patheos blogger at Hawkeye, has written a wide-ranging, thought-provoking post that you should read for Good Friday.  He begins by pointing out an allusion to the Cross made by J. R. R. Tolkien in a footnote to Lord of the Rings.  He then reflects on the symbolism of this time of year, just after the equinox, when light begins to prevail over darkness.  And he then explores the meaning of the darkness that came over the land when Christ was on the Cross.

I have some excerpts after the jump, but you need to read the whole post.

Photo from Pixabay, CC0, Public Domain [Read more…]

Bob Dylan archive opens for researchers

800px-Joan_Baez_Bob_DylanIn more Dylan news, the Bob Dylan Archive here in Oklahoma is now open for researchers.  It won’t be open to the public for another two years.  It will then be housed in the Woody Guthrie Museum in Tulsa.  (Read our earlier post on how Oklahoma got Dylan’s archives.)

But the collection has been sufficiently organized and curated to give researchers access to the more than 6,000 manuscripts, tapes, instruments, memorabilia, and unreleased songs.

An article about the opening, including information on how to gain access to the collection, is after the jump. [Read more…]

Why April is the cruelest month

A_view_across_the_desert_landscape_of_Big_Bend_National_Park,_Texas“April is the cruelest month.”  That snatch of poetry always comes to mind when the calendar turns to April Fool’s Day.  But surely April isn’t the cruelest month!  April showers bring May flowers!   April marks the time when Winter is over and Spring has sprung!  So why would the poet T. S. Eliot say that April is the cruelest month?

Well, that is the first line of a long, difficult poem called “The Waste Land.”  It plays off of the legend of the Holy Grail.  When the chalice Christ used for the first Holy Communion was lost, due to a terrible sacrilege, the whole country turned into a waste land.  Vegetation died, turning the land to desert.  Nothing would grow.  Animals stopped giving birth.  Life became barren, sterile, dry.

Eliot was using that legend to explore what he saw as the spiritual wasteland of modern times.  Here too we have lost what is sacred.  He describes our emotional wasteland.  He writes about the sterility and lifelessness of the Waste Land in terms of uncommunicative marriages; a bored typist and a house-agent clerk who engage in unloving, dehumanizing sex; a woman who casually talks about her abortion.

April is the cruelest month, to people like that, because they don’t want the new life that Spring heralds.  They are happy to be spiritually dead.  They don’t want to be born again.  They feel threatened by the rain that could bring new life to the desert of their lives.  They think the prospect of new life is cruel.

In the course of the poem, amidst many other patterns of imagery, we find the motif of “death by water.”  At the end of the poem, a quester is walking in the desert towards the ruined grail chapel.  He has the sense that someone is walking beside him.  (Eliot’s footnote identifies the allusion as pointing to Christ on the road to Emmaus.)  At the very end of the poem, it is thundering and starting to rain.  Soon after he published the poem, T. S. Eliot was baptized.  Water brought life to Eliot’s own personal wasteland.

The most acclaimed, innovative, and radical poet of the modernist movement, who knew the waste land in his own heart, converted to Christianity.

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Dylan will pick up his Nobel Prize this weekend

NobelPrize1Bob Dylan, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, shocked the Swedish Academy by not attending the ceremony in December to receive the honor.  But he is doing some concerts in Sweden this weekend, so he has arranged to pick up the prize.

He will not, however, give the traditional lecture.  The thing is, in order to get the $903,000 that goes with the medallion, he has to give the speech within six months of the December 10 award.  So he has until June 10.

The Swedish Academy, which bestows the honors, says that it expects him to turn in a videotaped lecture before the deadline.  That apparently counts.  But it would be like Dylan to blow off the money.  He may think it would be worth nearly a million dollars to avoid giving a speech.   I suspect many people with a fear of public speaking can relate to that.

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St. Patrick’s confession

5692057805_2a4b7d530b_zInstead of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day by just wearing green, making a big deal about being Irish, drinking green beer, or marching in parades, try reading the works of St. Patrick and reflecting on his Christian faith and convictions.

Observe St. Patrick’s Day this year by reading the great missionary’s own story, as he tells about his life and confesses his faith in Christ.

Read “The Confession of St. Patrick” after the jump.

Also read his beautiful poem/meditation/hymn “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” also known as “Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me.”

And read our earlier post The True Meaning of St. Patrick’s Day.  Note the link to How the Irish Saved Civilization and reflect, who is going to save it today?
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The decline of Christian bookstores

FamilyChristianStoresAppletonWisconsinThe biggest Christian bookstore chain, Family Christian Stores, is going out of business.  Then again, mostly what it carried was Christian knick-knacks.

As for books, the top 20 Christian bestsellers last year included, the words of one observer,  “three versions of Sarah Young’s controversial Jesus Calling, two kids joke books, two adult coloring books, titles by HGTV stars and athletes, and, of course, the latest from Joel Osteen.”

Better Christian books are still selling, largely on Amazon, but they often aren’t even carried by Christian retailers.

Then again, all brick and mortar bookstores are having a rough time.  Having put small mom and pop shops out of business, the big chains are now struggling against online sales.  Borders is gone, and Barnes & Noble is having a rough time, kept alive mainly by its own online offerings.

I regret the closing of bookstores.  There are still some excellent Christian bookstores, such as Wichita’s Eighth Day Bookstore (which also sells books online).  But Christians and the general public are still reading, helped too by Kindle and other readers that can download books instantly.

An article in Christianity Today, linked after the jump. argues that the end of Christian Retail that trades mostly in “Jesus junk” is not necessarily a bad thing.

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