Friday, January 21, 2011

Happy Epiphany

I am not concerned with gifts given in spite or fear, nor those gifts we accept out of servility or obligation; my concern is the gift we long for, the gift that, when it comes, speaks commandingly to the soul and irresistibly moves us."
- Lewis Hyde, “The Gift”

Dear Family and Friends,

This year’s letter is being written on the twelfth day of Christmas, The Feast of the Epiphany. Lots of wonderful busyness kept us from getting to it earlier, but, as we’re enjoying a heightened awareness of the church calendar, this seemed a perfect day for some reflection, a day to celebrate Christ’s divinity made manifest and acknowledged here on Earth. A number of these revelatory moments occurred in his early life, but the one I hear referenced most frequently is the visit of the magi, coming with gifts.

Beyond our recent Christmas morning, birthdays, and other celebratory occasions, the language of gifts, both tangible and intangible, has very much been a part of our home this year. We’ve received many, given some, discovered even more, and our hope is to be always moving through the day with an awareness of the gifts in motion around us, most often made manifest through each other in small, unforseen moments--epiphanies, if you will.

Brett’s work continues to be a gift for him. He’s engaging in rich conversations, creating new courses, and writing on topics of interest. This June, he’ll take a group of students to NYC for a summer course on the literature and culture of New York City. I enjoyed teaching two courses this past fall, one methods course and one writing. Watching my students discover their own gifts for writing was extremely rewarding, as was delving into the details of the craft with them. Now I’m directing a children’s after-school art program at our church, and I look forward to receiving the gift of art with the children of our community.

Olivia and Mae’s gifts are daily revelations for us. Olivia’s life-long fascination with books has now evolved into her reading them. Watching her crack that code has been sheer magic for us, and I’m humbled as I think about how she will use this gift of literacy. She’s also taken a great interest in the piano, regularly asking me to write out a particular song so she can add it to her repertoire.

Mae’s verbal development amazes us. Her ability to communicate has come so rapidly that it seems I’m regularly mistaking a comment from her as one from Olivia. And as has been the case since her beginnings two years ago, her general delight with life picks us all up several times a day. Her big sister has passed on to her the gift of song and dance, and now Mae can turn almost any item into a microphone and the slightest slip into a pirouette.

It’s been an exciting year. A lot has happened. Many opportunities have come our way. But at the end of this day, I recognize our most revelatory moments have happened not in the out of the ordinary, unusual moments, but in the most likely of occurances, when the common is transformed into something saturated with significance, and once again Christ is revealed.

Epiphany is a gift. It is the gift we long for, and when it’s received, really received, as Lewis Hyde explains, “it speaks commandingly to the soul and irresistably moves us.” We hope you will note your own epiphanies as well and treat them as James Joyce would have you treat them--“with extreme care, seeing that they themselves are the most delicate and evanescent of moments."

Happy Epiphany and Happy New Year.

Brett, Elizabeth, Olivia, and Mae Wiley

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

an unseen reality

I’m listening to On Being this afternoon. Today I’ve chosen the show, "Quarks and Creation" and am really enjoying Krista’s conversation with physicist and theologian John Polkinghorne. I’m also happy to learn the scientific term “quark” was borrowed from a line in James’s Joyce’s Finnigan’s Wake. Here’s a comment from Polkinghorne I found especially encouraging as I looked at the semi-ordely chaos that is my dining room table:

“There's a very interesting scientific insight which says that regions where real novelty occurs, where really new things happen that you haven't seen before, are always regions which are at the edge of chaos. They are regions where cloudiness and clearness, order and disorder, interlace each other. If you're too much on the orderly side of that borderline, everything is so rigid that nothing really new happens. You just get rearrangements. If you're too far on the haphazard side, nothing persists, everything just falls apart. It's these ambiguous areas, where order and disorder interlace, where really new things happen, where the action is, if you like. And I think that reflects itself both in the development of life and in many, many human decisions.”

Monday, January 10, 2011

One such as this...

"This triviality made him think of collecting many such moments together in a book of epiphanies. By an epiphany he meant ' a sudden spiritual manifestation, whether in the vulgarity of speech or of gesture or in a memorable phase of the mind itself. He believed that it was for the man of letters to record these epiphanies with extreme care, seeing that they themselves are the most delicate and evanescent of moments."
James Joyce, Stephen Hero (Ch. 25)