Holy Curiosity: Encountering Jesus’ Provocative Questions

Are you being willfully stupid? is just one of the interesting questions Jesus asked when he lived on earth. The book Holy Curiosity: Encountering Jesus’ Provocative Questions has been challenging and blessing me over the past few weeks. I’m reading and discussing a chapter each week with some family members. Lately the chapters have inspired us to also write poems. The chapters, each with a different question, include:

    • Who condemns you?
    • Why are you afraid?
    • How much bread do you have?
    • Are you being willfully stupid?
    • My God, why have you abandoned me?
    • Are you confused?
    • Do you believe this?
    • Why do you doubt?
    • What do you want?

From the chapter “My God, why have you forsaken me?” with a quote from Elizabeth Barrett Browning: “Earth’s crammed with heaven” I wrote this golden shovel poem.

A Golden Shovelful of Heaven

the mystery of sweet earth’s

bliss and beauty is still crammed

full of crude confusion, with

scandalous prayers to heaven

From this week’s chapter, “Are you confused?”, I created a found poem, this type called a zentangle, based on the following page of text from the book. I was struck with the use of the word incarnate both as an adjective (Jesus, the Incarnate One) and verb (We are to incarnate Jesus.).  Wow!

But what if Jesus came, not to keep us from hell, but to invite us into hell? What if Jesus came to invite us to enter, with him, into the terrors of brokenness and sin and misery in our world? In the scandal of the Incarnation, Jesus took on human form and immersed himself into his world spun off course. On the cross, he was drenched in our sin. During his three days entombed in darkness, many traditions teach that Jesus descended into the depths of Hades to confront Satan and his hordes. If we as God’s people are now called to incarnate Jesus in our world, how could we possibly think Jesus’ ultimate aim is to make sure we are always comfortable, that we get our piece of the American dream?
Jesus invites us into the reality of his work, bringing redemption to the earth and speaking revolutionary Jesus-life to a dead, broken world.

Collier, Winn (2009) Holy Curiosity: Encountering Jesus’ Provocative Questions Paperback, Baker Books. Kindle Edition.

Incarnate Jesus
Jesus to invite
Us into hell,
Into terror of brokenness.
Scandal of Incarnation–
Human
Immersed
Into
World
Off
Course
Drenched in our sin
Entombed in darkness
Descended into the depths
Called to incarnate
Jesus, our ultimate aim.
Redemption
Jesus-life to a
Broken world

From the same chapter, “Are You Confused?”, Collier quotes Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Here are the words spoken by Petrovich that touched me: “fling yourself straight into life without deliberation; don’t be afraid.” That quote along with a story of Jesus and Peter walking on the water in Matthew 14:25-33 inspired this golden shovel poem:

To Peter
How long do I have left in this life to fling
Open the door of doubt for myself? How did you give yourself
Permission to balter straight
Into walking on the sea and into
A fearless and direct life?
A life of joy and singularity without
Standing around for deliberation
About whether you do or don’t
Have enough faith to be
Free to live, believe, and love–not afraid.

We Need to Write a New Chapter

How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith is a book that has the power to transform us. I pray it does. As Ibram X. Kendi said, “We need this book.” I hope everyone who reads this will get a copy and read it too.

I have known Clint’s work because I listened to the Justice in America podcast, which he did the first two years with Josie Duffy Rice. This week I’ve learned more about his poetry. Here he is reading two of my favorites: “Counting Descent” and “History Reconsidered.”

“History Reconsidered” is a powerful poem that I’ve been thinking about all day. I wrote this golden shovel poem using Smith’s line: “Oppression doesn’t disappear just because you decided not to teach us that chapter.”

We Need to Write a New Chapter

We were lied to when we studied oppression
of enslaved American people. It doesn’t
count that we vaguely learned slaves disappear
when Civil Wars end. A moral, righteous and just
country would repent and repair wrongs because
white supremacy is evil. Truth. But you
can see from what’s happening today that many decided
to nurture white supremacy, and not
dismantle it in order to create a more perfect union. Some want to
halt the telling of truth, the new books that can teach
our children and adults that some Americans indeed proclaimed us
to be the land of equality and freedom, while simultaneously living the lie that
they owned other human beings. We need to write a changed chapter.

Smith’s book is full of new (and some known) content that is so heavy and difficult to hear, but Clint’s love and respect for people and his poetic language contribute to making the book a readable treasure that in fact we do need.

Here are just a few of the old quotes Smith includes that show some of the truths we were not taught:

“And if any slave resist his master, or owner, or other person, by his or her order, correcting such slave, and shall happen to be killed in such correction, it shall not be accounted felony.” Virginia Slave Code, 1705 (Footnote iv, Loc 1274)

“So far as history reveals, no other slave society, whether of antiquity or modern times, has so much as sustained, much less greatly multiplied, its slave population by relying on natural increase.”  ~C. Vann Woodward, historian, 1983 (Loc 364)

“Louisiana looks to the formulation of a southern confederacy to preserve the blessings of African slavery.” ~Louisiana’s commissioner in a speech at the time of secession, 1861 (Loc 833)

Follow along and join us in the Virtual Book Club on How the Word is Passed.

Voice

Today: I was purging and deleting from my blog post DRAFTS, dozens inadvertently abandoned over the years. I found something, though, that I stopped to read. It was last edited November 13, 2011, but I thought this one still deserves attention. Did we change anything in the form of grading in those last ten years? The importance of student voice has been emphasized more lately, but do grades continue to get in the way of our young people being able to fully use their voices?  The questions at the end are still apt today. Here is the post I wrote then:

November 2011: Another one of those “ah ha” moments occurred this week when I gave a writing assignment– a “This I Believe” essay.

I gave a mini lesson on VOICE–the ability to connect emotionally with the reader, to put one’s special mark on the writing. Papers with great voice will sound like the author really is.

We talked of ways to help their voice come out in this piece: speaking in the first person, telling a specific story that illustrates a belief they have, and keeping the writing in the present–not about dreams they believe will happen in the future.

We listened to lots of examples and got started writing. The only thing I would be grading on this assignment, I explained, was the writing trait of VOICE.

When I read the first drafts, I was amazed at the range of success in writing with voice in this assignment. Some were rich and personal, authentic and fresh. Others were banal and bland.

I know it’s not easy for any of us to open ourselves and share our beliefs, so I didn’t have great expectations for our first attempt. However, what surprised me is, in general, is that the best VOICE papers were by the students who don’t typically get the best grades. Are they more willing to take risks?

The opposite was true for the typically “A” students. Many of those who care most about doing well grade-wise were the ones who played it safe, struggling to express themselves with a personal story so they could convince the reader they really believed anything. Theirs were well-written and organized, with meticulous conventions, but so lacking in VOICE, passion, heart.

Just another reason why my heart breaks when we have to give grades.

Are we snuffing out the creativity of our students who feel a need to get it “right”?

How can we reach students who seem overly-enamored with getting A’s?

“We’re all gonna die!”

Today’s Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers.org 15 June 2021

We had just been married a few weeks. Keith was on a camping trip with the youth group. On Friday morning, my only day off of the campout, I drove the two-hour trip to enjoy the day with them at the state park.

It had rained the night before, and everything was damp. We spent part of the day dealing with wet camping gear, but also swimming, hiking and other fun.

When dinner time approached, my husband tried to start a campfire for the hotdogs and s’mores. He had a metal can of Kingsford Charcoal Lighter Fluid, the kind you squeeze onto the wood. He tried to start a fire with this damp wood and kindling, throwing matches on that would not fully catch on fire. He doused it some more, then threw another match.

The lit match-squirt pattern continued until finally the fire took hold and shot up during the squirt phase. Our previously non-existent fire leapt from the ground up to become a flame thrower’s masterpiece–a flaming river flowing up from the ground. He instinctively threw the flaming bottle up and out of his hand. “We’re all gonna die!” he yelled. In that split second he pictured the metal can had sucked the fire into the fuel and became a bomb ready to explode (as we had seen on recent news warnings).

Being the brave fool I was, I grabbed not a handful of dirt, but someone’s sleeping bag that had been drying on a makeshift clothesline. I smothered the fire, which had spread out of the fire ring.

I don’t recall where or if it was spreading really; it was damp there in this forest and obviously not a fire tinder box ready to create a forest fire. Fortunately the charcoal fluid bomb fizzled, but the scorched and ruined sleeping bag now needed to be replaced. So, instead of sitting around the campfire, I drove to Target in the nearest town and bought a new sleeping bag so the teenager could sleep that night.

Fast forward 38 years. Last week was our anniversary, and we reminisced about some early memories, this one included. At the time he yelled “We’re all gonna die!” I wondered what I had gotten myself into. He may have wondered about me too.

Today Keith is known in meetings and groups as the non-anxious presence–a wise leader, looked to for surety and strength.

It’s good to not look too soon for the final person another will become–this wisdom is not just for children, but for partners, as well. Thanks be to God that we have hung onto each other through all kinds of exposing behaviors, and I am so grateful.

Image by LUM3N from Pixabay

Inspiration today was from The Isolation Journals, Prompt 151, by Ashley C. Ford taken from a portion of her memoir Somebody’s Daughter, which is a beautiful memoir and this month’s Book Club Pick.

“Think of a memory related to fire. How did it impact you then? What meaning do you forge from it now?”

Week 2 – 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge

Decorative image about the

This post is week 2 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators. It’s not too late to join us! Click to check out the challenge.

Collaboration has become easier this year than in previous years. For one thing, at our school teachers used to be in our own classrooms. We sometimes could be there all day with children coming and going, but very little time to see or collaborate with peers. This year, the pandemic required a different arrangement for the classrooms. The children were divided into small groups of 8-10 and each had their own space. The students stayed in their classroom all day; the teachers would move into the rooms when it was their turn to teach them.

For the teachers, since we didn’t have our own room, each department was assigned a room. After five years of being in our own rooms and traveling up or down stairs and through the hallways to be able to talk to each other, this was a delightful new development. It was  a breeze to get consensus on something or to teach each other new little technology insights we figured out in our Google Classroom and Zoom programs, which were new for us this year. That set-up really improved collaboration for us.

In addition, having meetings became so easy from home or school, with Zoom. It didn’t matter where people were working. It was simple to attend or call a meeting. I noticed people tended to be more on time and there are fewer disruptions in Zoom meetings.

Of course, I miss the maskless laughter, dates, chocolates and Arabic coffee from in person meetings!