Edited by Andrea Wells Miller
Reflecting on the Eternal one day at a time. That is exactly what The Eternal Present offers in 365 days of scriptural reflections. This contemporary devotional teems with the published essays, memoirs, fiction and poetry of fifteen inspiring Christian writers, all of whom are members of the Chrysostom Society. Each vignette invites the reader into deeper contemplation with a scripture passage and prayer that corresponds directly to the theme of the day’s reflection.
This book should not to be mistaken for the kind of devotional writing that sentimentalizes scripture into a Hallmark jingle. The prose here grapples with the complexities of scriptural wisdom and tests that wisdom against the pressures, heartaches, and anxieties of everyday life. As a result, reflections that are short enough to savor over a cup of morning coffee linger in the mind long after reading.
There are myriad tales contained within The Eternal Present, each with a voice and message as distinct as its writer. Virginia Stem Owens rediscovers the wildness of the Holy Spirit as she watches wind ripping through the Wyoming heartland, fierce and implacable wind that blows where it wills, “oblivious to the entreaties of the lowly, earth-gripping creatures.” One cannot mumble platitudes about the Spirit, she explains, just as Job could not challenge the force of the whirlwind from which God spoke, and just as Jesus could not resist the Spirit that drove him into the wilderness with roars, blasts, and bellows. Those inclined to tame the spiritual, she adds, should first pay a visit to Wyoming to see what Jesus was talking about when he compared the Spirit to a wind that “blows wherever it pleases.”
A few months (or pages!) later, Philip Yancey paints a portrait of God from a different angle, derived from Isaiah’s vision of divine mercy: “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back” (Isaiah 54:7-8). Yancey marvels at the abiding hope that we find among prophets and fairy tales alike, that deep down human urge to persevere through suffering with confidence that “the world will not end in ‘universal defeat,’ but in Joy.” It is an inclination preserved among children, who are pure enough to believe in happy endings, despite harsh evidence to the contrary. It is found among mothers, consoling their crying babies in a war zone of terror with lullabies and coos that, “it’ll be alright.” This hope, Yancey writes, does not deny the existence of real suffering; rather, it denies that this pain will have the final word. The prophets, like all enduring fairy tales, insist upon an ending of ineluctable joy.
Beyond Virginia Stem Owen’s god of whirling rapture and Philip Yancey’s prophetic fairy godmothers, The Eternal Present captures multiple refractions of the divine life and our mysterious participation in it. Among the classical themes of community, grace, prayer, forgiveness, and laboring love, are compelling stories of a child’s penetrating grasp of communion, encountering the cross in the “Mondayness of Things,” ecological stewardship in a nation of unchecked consumption, and Peter’s gift for failing successfully.
As a collection, The Eternal Present covers a wide range of themes and spiritual motifs that characterize the human experience. Yet, each story burrows deep into the Christian imagination to challenge, galvanize, and render the heart increasingly tender. To read these reflections is to encounter an authentic vulnerability, without which, Madeleine L’Engle writes, “we are not alive.”
The Eternal Present yields a rich sampling from leading contemporary Christian writers:
This entry was posted on Friday, April 22nd, 2011 at 10:07 pm
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.