The dragon sits by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon. -- St. Cyril of Jerusalem
I realize that I have not updated in a while, but now is not time for that, so I have just one sentence to let all y'all know I'm not dead or nothing and to tell you a little of what I have been doing and reading lately, namely, Schaeffer's Art and the Bible, along with The God Who Is There, both of which I have been teaching to Katy, who is going to Ole Miss and who has also become a huge Flannery O'Connor fan this year, due to our reading her short stories and now Wise Blood, which I would consider one of the strangest and best novels I have read, far outdoing, in my opinion, As I Lay Dying, which we just finished and which always underwhelms me, even though I acknowledge it as good, but far less preferred than Luther's Bondage of the Will, say, which Abi and Daniel have been reading and which I have found to be both a delight and a challenge, like many of the books we have read this year, including Dante's Inferno, The Canterbury Tales, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, over which my ninth graders will be tested in a couple of weeks, as we end school for the year May 21, which will leave me a little over a week to dink around Romania and do all those things I want to do here and see all the things I have yet to see before I go home to my precious feeawnsy who will be awaiting me at the Atlanta airport on the evening of May 31 with eager anticipation and whom I cannot wait to marry on October 11, a date that cannot come soon enough except that we lack a little planning still, though we seem to have decided on a location and are getting closer to knowing what kind of food we will have there, and our photographer, whose blog you ought to visit, named Caleb Chancey, has been decided since before I proposed to Melissa, who would want me to use this space also to tell you that I am doing pretty well, all things considered and am happy here in Romania, spring fever and all, and will actually miss this place very very much, since it has been a place that the Lord has used mightily to shape me and grow me and even to break me, the kind of work I have needed for some time in my life and which I will need (and, doubtless, receive) in the weeks and years to come, not that I think the process is fun or even pleasant, but it is good, which I think could be said of most of the Holy Spirit's work, or most of Christ's redeeming work, as Bill Mallonee says, "redemption don't come easy, but somebody's got to foot the bill," which I know I could never do but for which I am more than thankful and not thankful enough.
A few pictures...long overdue. No, I do not think that Ron Paul is more blog-worthy than Melissa Crain...at least not in the long run.
Here is a link to an excellent lecture on Flannery by Dr. Wood, given at the McLaurin Institute. I would recommend browsing the other lectures archived on the McLaurin site (www.mclaurin.org) as well. There are some good ones. After Dr. Wood gives his lecture, a professor from the University of Minnesota (with which the Institute is affiliated) offers a response that I think is not really worth listening to. But don't let that keep you from listening to the first 45 minutes. You ought to be able to download the mp3 file from the site by right-clicking (if you still haven't bought a Mac) or my holding ctrl while you click (if you are enlightened and liberated).
So. I am continuing to read from this book I have been mentioning and will be quoting from periodically, Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South, by Ralph C. Wood. In his essay on Flannery's personal favorite story, "The Artificial Nigger," Wood writes, "The staggering paradox is that God imprisons us, said Karl Barth, by flinging wide our cell door: the gospel 'accuses [mankind] by showing that all the charges against him have been dropped. It threatens him by showing him that he is out of danger.' Barth liked to tell of a Swiss horseman who became lost in a snowstorm and crossed frozen Lake Konstanz at full gallop before finally making it safely home. When told of the daring deed he had consciously done, the man broke down in horror and fright. Only after he was saved did he recognize his dire danger (emphasis mine)." That is the essential fact of the gospel, and the essential difference between knowing Christ and merely being a Christian (or the religion of your choice). The one looks back on what was done and lives accordingly: gratefully, graciously, humbly; the other does and looks forward to being repaid accordingly, which is a system doomed to fall flat on its face. In the story at hand, both the characters are a disaster to themselves and each other because each is only concerned with being entirely self-sufficient and with proving himself to be better than his companion. Read the story.
OK. So Flannery O'Connor is having a huge impact on my life right now as I am teaching her work to Katy. I have been reading and enjoying her for years, but I realize now that I have never really scratched the surface of her stories. Anyway, one thing that has been really useful has been Dr. Ralph Wood's recent book, Flannery O'Connor and the Christ Haunted South, which he recently sent me a copy of (long, but very cool, story, and one of the landmarks of my academic life). In one footnote, we have Flannery saying of not-liberal theologian Karl Barth, "I distrust people who have ugly things to say about Karl Barth. I like old Barth. He throws the furniture around the room." I could say much the same for Miss O'Connor right now. She is throwing the furniture all about what I have tried to keep as neat an intellectual space as possible. She is redefining Grace, or at least casting it in its intended light. She has overturned my understanding of what redemption looks like, the use of mercy, and the beauty of the fundamentalist South (she herself was a Christian Catholic). I just realized the other day that it is killing me not to have anyone to share this with (I think I tire Katy out sometimes, so I try to hold back), so y'all might be the (willing or not) recipients of occasional thoughts on Flannery.
I love it when I have a whole lesson planned (or even when I don't) and we wind up spending almost the whole class discussing the first question that I ask. When I taught eighth grade civics a few years back, we called those tangents, and I had a designated tangent-caller whose duty was to get us back on track. Any readers of my blog will believe that I have an affinity for such tangents. Anyway, here is the question we discussed for about an hour today:
The following is the most complete account of my proposal and Melissa's astonishing acceptance minutes in to the new year. There is a picture. I will post it when I determine if my camera is actually dead dead or only mostly dead.