An Evangelical Pilgrimage
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Category — Posts by John

Something Worth Having

Keizer, OR :: Marilynne Robinson is the author of “Housekeeping”, “Gilead”, “Home”, and a book of essays, “The Death of Adam.” She is one of my favorite writers, and I remember “Housekeeping”, especially, as a work of severe beauty.

In an August 31, 2009 interview for Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, Bob Abernethy asked Robinson, who is also an instructor at the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop, what are some of the most important things she wants her writing students to understand. I’ve never sat in one of Robinson’s classes, but I try to learn from her books and essays what it means be to a writer of faith engaging with the world. Her answer to Abernethy’s question is encouraging when I start to despair about whether the OTNR book will have anything new for the world:

That [the students] have their own testimony to offer, that if they think about what they perceive and what they feel carefully, if they watch other people closely and magnanimously, they will have something new to say, something that’s an actual addition to what has been said. That they have no obligation to be derivative or imitative in any way. That is absolutely not the point. I want them to know that if they are thoughtful people, if they have the courage to evaluate things independently and to enjoy the processes of their own thought, then they will give the world something new, something worth having.

September 29, 2009   4 Comments

Two Questions about Maps

Fingerprints of God

Keizer, OR :: Have you ever noticed how the isobars on a weather map (the lines connecting points with the same atmospheric pressure) look like the fingerprints of God?

Have you ever considered that the 57 boxes of books you are storing at your parents’ house make up a map of your life – where you’ve been, where you’re going, where you want to go?

September 28, 2009   5 Comments

Eight Days and Counting

Portland Sign

Portland, OR :: It’s hard to believe that in just eight days the slug-line for these posts won’t say “Portland, OR.” While we will spend the month of October in Salem, just 45 minutes south of Portland and no further from the Pacific Ocean; and while the bulk of the OTNR project won’t begin until November when we travel down to California (I want the project to end in Oregon, rather than start there) – I am already homesick. I pretend that when we get back next fall we will just jump right back into life, but it can’t be that way.  We’ll be strangers in our own city, at least for a while.

The more practical matter at hand is packing. I’m so busy with grants and my writing projects that Kate gave me just one responsibility – to pack my books – and a firm deadline: the end of August. Into the third week of September and my books are only half-packed. The issue is that I have been hand-entering the ISBN of every one of my estimated 1,000 books into a program called Bookpedia on my computer. “Very monk-like,” Dave says. And it’s true. I told the story in an earlier post about the monk who sold his copy of the Gospels and gave the money to the poor. Books may be my final test of salvation. I think they are an anchor for me, but they may also be dead weight. I have 200 books set aside to bring with me on this trip. Libby jokes that we will need to buy a second trailer just to carry them all.

September 17, 2009   6 Comments

Check Out the New Digs


The Burnside Writers Collective just launched it’s new site at a new address. I serve as Deputy Editor for the online magazine, and we are moving from a weekly to a daily publishing format. Beginning in October, I will be writing a regular column for the Writers Collective based on this blog.

September 14, 2009   4 Comments

Reflections on 9/11

Portland, OR :: Relevant Magazine asked me and a few other Burnside Writers Collective writers to briefly reflect back on the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and their aftermath. The article appeared today on Relevant’s website. It includes a short essay from Dave Johnson, but it doesn’t include a link to Dave’s blog, which is here.

September 11, 2009   No Comments