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Robinson Jeffers, burnout and beauty

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My friend Honestpoet Robinson Jeffersencouraged me to look into the poetry of Robinson Jeffers. I looked for him in Wikipedia, and found some pretty compelling comments:

…Jeffers continued to explore the questions of how human beings could find their proper relationship (free of human egocentrism) with the divinity of the beauty of things.

Mankind was too self-centered, he complained, and too indifferent to the “astonishing beauty of things”.

In January of 2002 I had what we used to call a “nervous breakdown.” Utterly disabled, off work for months, I could feel almost nothing but loss.

Beauty was the path that opened the possibility of healing. It started with a counselor’s suggestion that I learn about delight (which, in those parched beginnings, meant a cup of coffee and a newspaper at the health-food co-op).  Eventually, I came to agree with Joan Chittister, who wrote, “A loss of commitment to beauty is the surest sign that we have lost our way to God.” (Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of God).

Much has happened since then. But as I read this poem of Jeffers this morning, I felt called again to the life of healing-by-beauty, thus permitting (what seems to me to be) one gentle, feather’s-weight sensitization to its inventor’s whispers.

Thanks, HP – you have helped me.

Love The Wild Swan
“I hate my verses, every line, every word.
Oh pale and brittle pencils ever to try
One grass-blade’s curve, or the throat of one bird
That clings to twig, ruffled against white sky.
Oh cracked and twilight mirrors ever to catch
One color, one glinting
Hash, of the splendor of things.
Unlucky hunter, Oh bullets of wax,
The lion beauty, the wild-swan wings, the storm of the wings.”
–This wild swan of a world is no hunter’s game.
Better bullets than yours would miss the white breast
Better mirrors than yours would crack in the flame.
Does it matter whether you hate your . . . self?
At least Love your eyes that can see, your mind that can
Hear the music, the thunder of the wings. Love the wild swan.
Robinson Jeffers

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Written by Monte

April 18, 2007 at 12:16 pm

Reading Job, Watching Jesus [sermon of 10-8-06]

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This one proved to be full of surprises!


MissionProper 22 (27)
Given at New Oaks Church of the Nazarene, Washington, IA, USA, on October 8, 2006

Job 1:1; Job 2:1-10; Psalm 26; Hebrews 1:1-4; Hebrews 2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16


Call to Worship – Georgann Haeffner

then we sang:

Every Move I Make, Blessed Be Your Name, God of Wonders, Healing Grace

Prayer – Pastor Sharon

Welcome – Evie Richardson

Financial report: Terry Hagedorn gave, at my request, an overview of his newly designed Excel-based monthly report, so all could understand it.


I asked for a volunteer to write (on a flip chart) the things learned about Jesus from reading the following Hebrews verses. [Thanks, Nicole Kitchen!] We recorded the things I’ve highlighted here in yellow:


Hebrews 1

1-3Going through a long line of prophets, God has been addressing our ancestors in different ways for centuries. Recently he spoke to us directly through his Son.


So how has the revelation of God changed “recently?” How would that be different? Wouldn’t it be much clearer, seeing Jesus “directly”?


Let’s see what we find out as we look:


By his Son, God created the world in the beginning, and it will all belong to the Son at the end. This Son perfectly mirrors God, and is stamped with God’s nature. He holds everything together by what he says—powerful words!


This is really important, partly because of these questions: Who wrote the Bible? What did they know? When was what they knew the clearest? Why? You’ll see how these shape our approach to the Bible.


The Son Is Higher than Angels

3-6After he finished the sacrifice for sins, the Son took his honored place high in the heavens right alongside God, far higher than any angel in rank and rule [examples:]. Did God ever say to an angel, “You’re my Son; today I celebrate you” or “I’m his Father, he’s my Son”? When he presents his honored Son to the world, he says, “All angels must worship him.”


Hebrews 2:5-12

The Salvation Pioneer

5-9God didn’t put angels in charge of this business of salvation that we’re dealing with here. It says in Scripture,


What is man and woman that you bother with them;

why take a second look their way?

You made them not quite as high as angels,

bright with Eden’s dawn light;

Then you put them in charge

of your entire handcrafted world.


When God put them in charge of everything, nothing was excluded. But we don’t see it yet, don’t see everything under human jurisdiction [looks like God is gradually reversing the results of the fall of man]. What we do see is Jesus, made “not quite as high as angels,” and then, through the experience of death, crowned so much higher than any angel, with a glory “bright with Eden’s dawn light.” In that death, by God’s grace, he fully experienced death in every person’s place.


10-13It makes good sense that the God who got everything started and keeps everything going now completes the work by making the Salvation Pioneer perfect through suffering as he leads all these people to glory. Since the One who saves and those who are saved have a common origin, Jesus doesn’t hesitate to treat them as family, saying,


I’ll tell my good friends, my brothers and sisters, all I know

about you;

I’ll join them in worship and praise to you.

Again, he puts himself in the same family circle when he says,

Even I live by placing my trust in God.

And yet again,

I’m here with the children God gave me.


Wow. Family of Jesus Christ. [And we reviewed the list]


Now, let’s turn back a thousand years.


For the next four weeks, we’ll be reading in Job, so here’s a little background:

– Probably happens at least 1000 years before Jesus

– In Uz – east and outside of that which was Jewish territory

– Contains prose and poetry: dialogues, laments, hymns, proverbs, legal argument

– Among the most difficult for translators: contains technical vocabulary of words from astronomy, mining, hunting, and law – many of which are not used anywhere else in the Bible. Early translators apparently left out large sections that they just couldn’t figure out.

– And it is about suffering.

Here’s how it was presented:

JOB SKIT [thanks, Creation Station actors!]




NARRATOR on floor at stand.

GOD on platform, standing in center.

SATAN is off stage by costume shop door.

JOB sits cross-legged on piano bench on platform, stage right (unaware of God and Satan).

WIFE is off stage by baptistry.





NARRATOR: Job [gesture toward Job] was a man who lived in Uz. He was honest inside and out, a man of his word, who was totally devoted to God and turned away from evil.

One day when the angels came to report to God, Satan also showed up. God singled out Satan, saying,


GOD (looks suspiciously at Satan): And what have you been up to?


SATAN (deviously): Oh, going here and there, checking things out.


GOD (with fondness, gestures toward and looks at Job): Have you noticed my friend Job? There’s no one quite like him, is there—honest and true to his word, totally devoted to God and hating evil? He still has a firm grip on his integrity! You tried to trick me into destroying him, but it didn’t work.


SATAN (with contempt): Phaw! A human would do anything to save his life.


(pause – an idea occurs to him – he lures God in) But . . . what do you think would happen if you reached down and took away his health?

He’d curse you to your face, that’s what!


GOD (thinking): Hmmm. . . . All right. Go ahead—you can do what you like with him. But mind you, don’t kill him.”


SATAN rubs his hands with glee, walks over to Job, and waves his arm as if scattering seeds on Jacob.


JACOB: Aaah!! [and begins to scratch all over.]


NARRATOR: Satan left God and struck Job with terrible sores. Job was ulcers and scabs from head to foot. They itched and oozed so badly that he took a piece of broken pottery to scrape himself, then went and sat on a trash heap, among the ashes. [JOB grabs something nearby and scrapes himself with it]


SATAN laughs and runs off.

GOD exits toward costume shop.

NARRATOR: Then Job’s wife came by.


WIFE [walks slowly up steps, looks over Job with disgust, circles around him, ends up facing audience but talking to him.]

[Taunts him:] Still holding on to your precious integrity, are you?

[now she demands:] Curse God and be done with it!


JOB [still scratching]: You’re talking like an empty-headed fool. We take the good days from God—why not also the bad days?”


NARRATOR: Not once through all this did Job sin. He said nothing against God.


What do you know about what the writer of Job knows – or doesn’t know – about God? [Let them ponder this, then refer to the Hebrews list again]

This God of Job does not sound very much like Jesus. He makes Job suffer to prove his point. And in Hebrews, we see God more clearly and know he is [read flip chart]. Which writer knew more about God, given his place in history?


So, with Job, we can say this is how it seemed to the writer that this must have happened, given what he knew about God. Perhaps his description of the interaction between God and Satan is a literary form. [A history teacher in the group later commented that it sounded like a Babylonian story. Of course! That might well be the writer’s view of God, given his time and place in history.]

The Bible, to Christians, is a story of the light of God becoming ever-brighter. We can rejoice that he got it at all. And when push comes to shove, when I see God cast in a way that doesn’t seem to square with who Jesus is, I’m going to shrug my shoulders and trust the Bible’s view that Jesus Christ is God’s clearest disclosure of himself.

And he is [review the flip chart list again]

[At this point, someone raised a hand and talked about how they had often gotten snagged on issues like this, and how freeing it was to see Jesus as the best representation of God ever given to us. Others chimed in, questions were raised, and we had quite a discussion about the inspiration of the Bible, the inerrancy wars, and learning to read some parts of the Bible through different eyes than other parts are read. (Which would make a good blog post sometime.)]

[This was not what I had planned! But it seemed like a useful moment. By the grace of God, I was able to set aside the rest of the sermon and reflect with earnest friends about the nature of the Bible. What a blessing it was! Something important took place!]

[The point of it, as I recall, was that we can believe the Bible to be “God-breathed” (also translated “inspired by God”) without being boxed-in to insisting that all parts of the Bible are equally authoritative in every way. For in each Bible book, God spoke through a human being, allowing his nature to be expressed despite the preconceptions of God each individual brought. Scripture, from a Christian view, makes a great crescendo to Jesus Christ, and declares him to be the perfect representation of God. So, if we want to know what God is like, our “gold standard” lies in the accounts of Jesus himself.]

[That discussion was enough for one week, so I decided to use this Sunday’s time to finish the message rather than press on into the next set of Scriptures. Tomorrow (Sunday the 15th), I’ll review just a bit, then plunge into the gospel scheduled for the 8th, as Jesus talks about divorce and about children.]


Blessing – Pastor Sharon

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Scripture is from The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Written by Monte

October 14, 2006 at 2:47 pm

Wise enough to trust

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Third Sunday in Lent March 19, 2006
Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Cor. 1:18-25; John 2:13-22

SINGING All About You
How Great Is Our God
Be the Centre

PRAYER Sharon Armstrong
WELCOME Evie Richardson

MESSAGE Wise enough to trust
Monte Asbury

What did Jesus say was the first and greatest commandment? To love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And the second? That we love our neighbor as we love ourselves. And that’s where New Oaks gets its mission statement: growing relationships with God, self, and others.

I want you to see it in the Ten Commandments.

Picture the Israelites, recently escaped from Egypt and a lifetime under Egyptian law, and following this God they’ve just met. He wants them to understand some boundaries. And watch for things about relationships with God, self, or others here:

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Written by Monte

March 19, 2006 at 10:00 am