The Ebola Concerto

A student challenged me that I couldn’t write a song about Ebola. This was my response. It may also be found on YouTube. Enjoy.

All over the news and with thousands of views

Comes word of disease from the DRC!

It’s scary and silent, incredibly violent,

And it spreads so easily.

This virus, you see, goes through blood and pee,

Or travels in air since ’round ’76.

In your flesh it stays up to twenty one days

Until you’re in pain and morbidly sick.

You’ll stay in bed with a burning fever of 103.

Your aching head will spin like it wants to get free.

In Dallas one died. The CDC sighed.

Now there’s a public outcry!

It’s media sensation all over the nation.

But on the other hand there are those who understand:

That soon you will be goo and be gone without a trace!

A hemorrhagic fever will melt your bones, muscles and face.

There’ll be bleeding from ears and eyes all over the place.

To restore order, try closing the border

Like Reagan or Clinton or Bush.

Don’t be apathetic and non-energetic

Just sitting around on your tush.

Ebola and our health are linked.

If unstopped, let me be succinct:

We may soon be going extinct!

Witnessing While Wondering

It is rather ironic that a book so teaming with life should start off with a simile involving death. Yet so begins Annie Dillard’s collection of essays, Teaching a Stone to Talk: “It had been like dying, that sliding down the mountain pass. It had been like the death of someone, irrational, that sliding down the mountain pass and into the region of dread.” (Dillard 9) Later in this same essay, “Total Eclipse,” Dillard notes “it”—the eclipse of which she writes—causes the mind to want “to know all the world, and all eternity, and God.” Of course, she follows this with the quip: “The mind’s sidekick, however, will settle for two eggs over easy.” (Dillard 24) To some readers, this could be taken as a rather common and perhaps even disappointing ending to a potentially grand metaphysical statement, or some such nonsense.

Like it or not, this occasional flippancy is quite typical of Dillard. One moment she will be in the midst of a poetic philosophizing of Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet, and the next she will recount that “During communion, the priest handed me a wafer which proved to be stuck to five other wafers.” (Dillard 38) As it so happens, this particular reader, me, does like style of telling, as I see something of myself in it. While I can often see and love the depth and wonder in the world, I tend to focus more on the little amusing things in life. Thus, I appreciate the fact that Dillard occasionally does this well. But all that said, it is the Dillard of her more serious moments that I consider to posses the most fruitful attitude. She has a way of seeing the world that I really ought to remind myself to adopt more frequently.

In a nutshell, I see Dillard as trying constantly to find God in the world. That is the simple explanation. The way in which she does this is more complicated. This is not theological tome, though every once in a while she does come close: upon one occasion she instructs her audience to “Quit your tents. Pray with out ceasing.” (Dillard 94) But usually, she most often seeks God in eclipses, and then in weasels, and later in a dying deer and in solitary walks and lonely farmsteads. Rather than constantly looking for the bad in the world—though there is so much of it—she most often sees the good, sees God, in all the wonder of creation.

Now, I can’t always say I agree with the particular God that Dillard finds (as an orthodox Christian, I would not condone addressing one’s prayers to “world,” as she suggests in the conclusion of one composition). But I suppose that what I really admire is Dillard’s attitude: she has wonder. She possesses a sense of the miraculous and of the odd in all the things she writes about. She recounts all her ruminations through avenues that can seem curiously random, sometimes to a fault (I’m looking at you, An Expedition to the Pole, fond as I was of you). In reality, I have little doubt these essays are meticulously constructed. Most writing is, after all (with the exception of last minute college essays, of course). I particularly admire the fact that she can be so crafted and so particular without the serious stiffness many authors end up cultivating. But again, it is her wonderment at creation that I so admire.

Harsh as this may sound, I have little interest in nature, in the sense that you would not find me studying finches’ beaks on a remote island, as Darwin does in her essay, Life on the Rocks: The Galapagos. I love forests and seeing the leaves change color: I just have little desire to investigate the cells of those leaves, or look closer at the lichen on the trees, as Dillard does. As a result, science isn’t my forte. I don’t care for investigating the intimate details of creation. But from now on, whenever I pick up a great big science textbook with a long-suffering sigh, I ought to accompany it with this light paperback, Teaching a Stone to Talk, so that I can remind myself that God can be seen in all this meticulous creation.

I wonder if the very title of the book (and of an essay inside it) is a veiled reference to Luke 19, the part where Jesus will not shush the children praising him, but instead says that if their voices were silenced, then even the stones would cry out his praises. All nature witnesses, just as we ourselves are called to do. I think Dillard herself does a fair job of it.

 

Dillard, Annie. Teaching a Stone to Talk. New York: Harper Perennial, 1982. Print.

A Child’s Prayer

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” – John 15: 7-8

Three weekends ago Pastor Bob Alums taught a Praying Life Seminar near where I live. 99% of what I have written here is the result of his teaching, and I would highly recommend reading some the resources produced by Praying Life Ministries.

In John 15 and in many other passages in the Bible, God commands his people to pray, to ask of God, to come before him as children—being honest about their desires and shortcomings. Pastor Alums observed that there are two typical pitfalls surrounding prayer. Sometimes God’s children ask for things they shouldn’t ask for (clearly wrong—James 4.3), but more often, the problem is not asking at all. Pastor Alums observed that in both our experience and in the relative frequency of admonitions in the Bible, the problem with most Christians’ prayer lives isn’t asking wrongly but simply not asking at all (Luke 18.1, 1 Thess. 5.17, Phil. 4.6, Eph. 6.18-19, and many other passages).

Because, of course, we shouldn’t bother God with our longings—that’s selfish. So when we pray we ask God for the things we’re supposed to ask him about—which may be good as far as it goes, except that a sort of “holy dishonesty” can creep into our prayers.

Asking God for what we really want makes us feel guilty. We say “I’m really worried that I might not be able to go to the college I want to attend, but I should learn to be content no matter what happens instead of bothering God with this” when a truly honest prayer would be “Father, would you please allow me to go to the university I want to attend?” Whether or not God chooses to answer this prayer the way we expect isn’t the point—the point is that God wants us to be honest with him.

And remember, this is for posterity so be honest. How do you feel?
And remember, this is for posterity so be honest. How do you feel?

Our prayers for both ourselves and others should be driven by this honesty. As trite as it sounds, God wants us to come to him as little children to a loving father (an analogy that, even though it is becoming increasingly lost in our culture, is still appropriate). He “meets us where we are” in our walk with him. As we mature in Christ that will change—we are going to grow as Christians and our prayer life will reflect that. But right now we need to be honest with God—not dressing up prayers and thoughts to be “holy enough,” but praying honest, heartfelt prayers.

“but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.'” – Matthew 19.14

Boys of Blur

“When the sugarcane’s burning and the rabbits are running, look for the boys who are quicker than flame…Out here in the flats, when the sugarcane’s burning and the rabbits are running, there can only be quick.  There’s quick, and there’s dead” (1).  And with these first words, Boys of Blur by N. D. Wilson is off like a shot.

Boys of Blur CoverFields of sugarcane and miles of swampland engulf the tiny town of Taper, Florida.  One sweltering day, twelve-year-old Charlie finds himself in this backwater place at a funeral for his stepfather’s high school football coach.  Following the funeral, a boy approaches Charlie and introduces himself as Cotton, Charlie’s step-second cousin.  “You scared of snakes?” he inquires.  When Charlie declares he isn’t scared, Cotton whisks him away into the cane fields to show him a secret.  As a result, Cotton unknowingly leads them both into a dangerous adventure that will test their courage, friendship, and speed.

Though born and bred in Idaho, Wilson has successfully captured some of the “southern feel” in Boys of Blur.  The sweaty days of high humidity, the rural fields of sweet cane, the small town atmosphere, and the matter-of-fact “cousins is cousins” (even when they’re step-second cousins) approach towards family all combine to make Boys of Blur into a book that carries the flavor of the south.

With its interesting characters, imaginative plotline, and well-executed setting, Boys of Blur by N. D. Wilson is an excellent addition to the children’s literary world.

Something to Look For

In all of his books, N. D. Wilson alludes to epic literature, history, and mythology.  See how many of these allusions you can find in Boys of Blur.

Author Biography

N. D. WilsonNathan David Wilson is a Christian author who writes predominantly for children.  Some of his most famous books include Leepike Ridge, the 100 Cupboards series, and the Ashtown Burials – a four-book series he is currently working on.  He lives in Idaho with his wife and five children.