How Much God Loves Us

By John Bryant
waterHe was born with cerebral palsy and he has it all the way up until he is completely underwater, when, he says, his whole body is pleasantly different, his limbs smooth and loose and elegant. I hold him under his arms in the pool and he can walk and tell me everything.

He takes three quick steps and can feel the surprise in the way I hold him, and his whole body shakes like a bird in your hand. I’ve never felt a whole body pulse with joy—all hair and fingers and toes—like he is still in the furnace of creation.

When he is done, we float him to the edge of the pool, and I leap out and dig under his arms and we lift him out into his great quivering weight and into the wind and the sun, and the length of his body contracts like a drop of water back into what is wrong. We lay him on his chair and towel, his great knobby knees and his furled, funny, complicated posture.

We push him in his wheelchair back to the cabin, wheels caught and muscling through gravel.  We feel him slip in his chair. We stop. My friend holds him at the knee, and I hold him from the back under the arms, and on three I lift him up to my chest, high as I can, up to the sun like an offering, then back into his appointed place.

I pause, take a step in front of him, just to see him. The sun is in his eyes. His face wide, flat, simple. I tell him we’re close and his spine curves out like a plant growing to the sun, leaving a hollow space between his back and the chair. I push him, tell him about my wife. He smiles, his head tilted at the crook in his neck, his eyes always turned up in reference to something coming up over the hill no one else can see. [Read more...]

What Shall I Know at the End of My Days?

Vacant Urban StreetWhen I come to the end of my days, what shall I say I know of life in this world?

And what shall God say, when the world comes to the end of days, that God has come to know of life in this one of all created worlds?

Carolina chickadee, Kafka, vocoder.   

I know fear that comes before the world opens its eyes, raises its hand not to welcome but to threaten.

I know fear that blazes in on a horse to torch the village of my bed: the pogrom of things-to-do that attacks and might attack again at any moment while I attempt, desperately, to sleep through night.

Fear, whose distant, dearest cousin is terror that flies on newsprint wings to my morning doorstep.

I know my investment in an actuarial table, my fear of the personal rate of return if I retire as a 65? 66? 67?-year-old white, Jewish male with such-and-such physical, emotional, and social health problems, weighing and not getting any taller.

I think I know love. [Read more...]

Listening to Simone

By Christiana N. Peterson
lady-in-pewThe woman stands in the entryway of our common building just before Sunday worship begins. It’s not a sightly place, but it has every necessity for common intentional community life: a kitchen, a large meeting space, tables and chairs for worship and meals, a bathroom and a prayer room.

At first, the woman seems to fit right in with our unfussy crew: round spectacles, hair in a frizzy bob, a shapeless dress, oversized shoes. I immediately feel an affinity with her.

But I am also wary of her. Something tells me that she has intentionally obliterated anything outwardly lovely in her appearance. This both draws me in and annoys me.

Because I think I know her type. They come through intentional community sometimes: idealistic, stringent in their belief system, radically unusual in their dress. Community hoppers who bounce from church to church, intentional community to community, never satisfied with what they find and always criticizing. Not one of those again, I sigh. [Read more...]

The Glory of the World


By Alissa Wilkinson

The Glory of the World—now running at the Brooklyn Academy of Music—is about Thomas Merton in the same way The Big Lebowski is about the Gulf War—almost inscrutably. Few plays about pacifist monks need a fight choreographer, a giant rhinoceros, a sprinkler, a ukelele, two air mattresses, and a remote-control helicopter.

The original story sounds almost as wackadoodle as the play, which took shape at the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, Kentucky, home to the Humana Festival of New American Plays and near the Abbey of Gethsemani, where Merton lived.

On his way to work every morning, director Les Waters walked past a plaque that reads “On this site, Thomas Merton had a spiritual revelation.” And he got curious. He contacted the playwright Charles Mee about collaborating on a project to celebrate Merton’s one-hundredth birthday in 2015.

The result was The Glory of the World, which features a cast of seventeen men in a warehouse-like space who are holding a centennary celebration for the monk, who never appears on stage. They are men of all sorts, each toasting what they consider Merton’s “fundamental” quality: his Catholicism, his Buddhism, his pacificism, his communism, his contemplative life, his books, his scandals.

The production made its way to Brooklyn when it was spotted at the Humana Festival by former Episcopal monk Roy Cockrum, who won the $259 million Powerball in 2014 and has devoted the money to producing theatre. [Read more...]

Honey, I Want a Tattoo

By Brad Fruhauff

Matching TattoosIf Katie had had a tattoo when we met, I probably would have married her thinking it quirky or even, perhaps, kind of cool. But when we married her only unusual body mod was a tasteful nose ring.

Fast forward twenty years. Out of the blue she says to me: “I want a tattoo.”

My first response was not, “Oh, that would be quirky and even, perhaps, kind of cool,” but something more like, “What, aren’t you happy in our marriage?”

The response in my head, at any rate. Out loud, I did what I usually do when I’m uncomfortable: grunted noncommittally and changed the subject.

My reaction surprised me. When I thought about it, I didn’t have moral objections, and I wasn’t convinced myself by the social objections. Why was I so uncomfortable?

Working out the answer took me on an unexpected psycho-spiritual and theological journey. [Read more...]