MW Cook

An illiterate scribe

A Sub-Cosmic Quest

Part of the power of the christianly life is the belief that it’s a quest that cannot fail. I was part of the company of the arbitrarily beloved, tasked to the Kingdom of God, and indiscriminately inviting everyone to the journey,

From Destruction to Glory
Death to Life
Hate to Love
Self to God

What’s the big story I’m trying to cast now? Can the year of living christianly reach for something beyond an experiment? I probably can’t cast the path as the high-fantastical cosmic quest it was, but it’s still a quest.

To cultivate the spiritual fruit–
from love to self-control–
against such that there can be no law.

To deny the spirit of fear,
and accept
the spirit of love and of power and of a sound mind.

To work toward an impossible kingdom
where wolf can dwell with lamb,
children lead lions and cattle,
and no one has to preach because we already know.

And maybe even to figure something out about that peace that passes understanding these old traditions keep talking about.

Unaltering Love–Happy Birthday Ruth

Sonnet 116 William Shakespeare
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
admit impediments.

They say that you tend to be with someone similar to yourself. I suppose it’s true most of the time. We’re pretty narcissistic people, so we seek ourselves in the people we love.

                     Love is not love
which alters when it alteration finds,
or bends with the remover to remove:

They say unless two agree, they cannot walk together. And that if they start to disagree, they probably are going to have to go off in different directions. Alteration, they imply, alters love.

O, no! It is an ever-fixed mark,
that looks on tempests and is never shaken;

Ruth and I have changed. A lot. I’m not the person she married. I have different goals, different convictions, a different sense of morality. Different ways to love.

It is the star to every wandering bark,
who's worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

We change each other and change by each other’s changes. Our love isn’t based on our personality traits. The thing that holds us together is not ourselves. It’s a kind of transcendent love.

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
within his bending sickle's compass come;

For about 123 days of the summer, Ruth and I are the same age. Tomorrow she’s older than me again. We’re in the midst of so much change, but we still love.

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

It does not matter how much we grow. It doesn’t matter how much we change. It doesn’t matter that we aren’t the people we married. Love that alters with alteration is not our kind of love.

If this be error, and upon me prov'd
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Happy birthday Ruth. I love you forever.
Love
Matt

Christianly Cultivation and the Five Years’ Fallow

A new video where I talk about Jim Elliot, spiritual cultivation, and what it’s like to be fallow after plowing and harrowing for Christ.

 

 

So now I’m making videos

 

 

Partly because it’s often easier to talk about spiritual matters,
than type.

Partly because I like the sound of my own voice.

Partly because it’s a bit like preaching,
and preaching is christianly.

Partly so I can buy a sexy looking logo
and microphone.

And because when you write about things you think a certain way,
and it’s different from when you talk about things.

The God-Shaped Whole

(I’ve been slowing down on the blog posts because of other projects. Gonna have a new thing starting up soon. Stay tuned.)

I still love the Bible. Heck, I still have a thing for reformed theology, and the precise and careful application of a christianly spirituality. Evangelical Christianity features powerful mythos, ritual, and ethics.

But it also features a slow-to-anger-abounding-in-lovingkindess God who considers religious pluralism to be so heinous as to warrant occasional genocide and eternal hell.

And if God, who is love,
is willing to eternally immiserate
the overwhelming majority
of sentient beings
over a defect they cannot remedy
without His direct intervention

well, that could certainly mess up a person’s idea of love, couldn’t it?

If it were swallowed whole.

I’m thinking about the ex-evangelical hashtags and the harsh, brazen, and deeply important stories and conversations attached to them.

#ChristianAltFacts
#EmptyThePews
#HowToEvangelical

There’s a lot of people hurt by the church–not just by the people, or specific conflicts, or isolated incidents–by the whole thing of it because Evangelicalism is a whole life. If you’re unsure what could be wrong with the church, please read some of the threads with these hashtags. And if people seem unduly agitated about the faith we hold dear, consider what could have made them that way.

Christianly Spiritual Disciplines

You will hear from the pulpit that the Gospel is simple–so simple a child can understand. You’ll hear that Jesus wants nothing from you but belief, that all the work has already been accomplish through his life, death, and resurrection.

Just as I am thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve.

It’s theologically accurate (according to those who consider it accurate), but it’s not the full picture of the Christian(ly) life. After regeneration comes growth in grace and knowledge, conformity to the image of Christ, slow transformation into the ideal version of oneself. This happens by the work of the Spirit, through the spiritual disciplines. The disciplines are how Christians abide with Christ.

Some Christianly Spiritual Disciplines: 
Scripture (reading meditating memorizing)
Prayer (habitual liturgic fasting)
Worship (private public artistic)
Agape (love without condition)

From a secular point of view the disciplines exercise certain cognitive mechanisms that seem to help people overcome obstacles and thrive at life. Quite a few studies suggest interesting benefits from habitual mediation, for example. There aren’t a lot of studies on the effects of Christian disciplines. I think “eastern” practises appeal to the secular west because they don’t carry the baggage of being part of the religion of our forefathers.

Also, you don’t need to believe in Buddha to do Anapanasati.
Maybe you don’t need to believe in the Christian stories to partake in their disciplines, either.

I like the idea of sanctification–slowly but surely growing into a wiser and more virtuous version of myself. I often wonder if this transformation is the essence of spirituality. I sometimes hear people disparage those who don’t chose a religion but still call themselves spiritual. I don’t think you need to be religious to be spiritual, but the runner trains for the race, working daily to refine and empower their performance. Surely some discipline is involved in any spiritual path.

Morning Devos: Moses and Resistance

In Exodus chapter 4, Moses has Pressfield-style Resistance. He saw the impossible: the unburnt burning bush. It was a perspective-widening experience that changed how he sees everything, and he knows, more or less, what he’s supposed to do next. But he’s afraid and doubting.

Doubt 1: They will not believe me (my contribution won’t be respected or validated and thus will not matter)

Stick into a snake (and back again)!
that cool thing you do where a thing turns into something else–you’ll be able to do it again

Hand all leprous (and back again)!
that time it looked like it was all over but then it got better–that happens too

Water into blood (it isn’t coming back)!
failing all else, pouring your heart out onto the sand should be convincing

Doubt 2: I am not eloquent (i’m so dumb when i talk it’ll invalidate my whole thing)

Who hath made man’s mouth?
the complex wirings and intricate circumstances that have arisen to form your supposed deficiencies are part of the same system that makes up even your most treasured conceptions of self

I will be with thy mouth.
trust the soup

Doubt 3: Send by the hand of whom thou wilt (i can’t think of any other excuses at the moment but just please not me)

The Levite your brother can speak well. #angerkindled
you don’t have to do it alone but you do have to do it

“OK”

And Moses took his wife and sons,
and set them upon an ass,
and he returned to the land of Egypt
and took the rod of God in his hand.

Morning Devo: Habakkuk and Colonialism

We have an overwhelming tendency to read ourselves into the good guys of our myths. We identify with heroically flawed characters like Peter and Paul before Judas. We’re Jacob instead of Esau. We’re Job, not his three idiot friends. But sometimes the text is just so jarring we can’t help but apply it to our own selves.

Because thou hast spoiled many nations, all the remnant of the people shall spoil thee; because of men’s blood, and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein. Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil! Thou hast consulted shame to thy house by cutting off many people, and hast sinned against they soul. For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it. Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity. Habakkuk 2:8-12

The house that is built on oppression and the spoiling of other nations sits under the judgement of God. Even though I don’t believe, it unnerves me. Colonial legacy is a blinding log in the eye of the Christendom. It hasn’t been thoroughly repented of.

On that note, here’s some angry-sounding ska to start your weekend:

Making the CBC Short Story Longlist

My story, And a River Went Out of Eden, made the 2018 CBC Short Story Contest longlist. Cheers and mead all around! I’m super honoured to have a story make it this far, and excited to read the others on the list.

And a River Went Out of Eden is the product of more than a year of composition and rewriting and critique and rewriting. It wasn’t written in a vacuum. I’m thankful for the input of incredible writers: Robert McGill and all my peers at ENG389, where the story was born, and J. Marshall Freeman and A.M. Matte who helped nurse it to strength.

Writing can be very solitary, and it’s often like singing alone: you really can’t tell what you sound like unless you have someone to listen. If you’re serious about writing and looking for a tip to grow with, consider getting a group of writerly friends and sharing your works in progress. It helps!

Resurrection Stories and a Resolution

At my parents’ church on Easter Sunday we heard stories of lives changed by the resurrected Christ. Broken relationships mended. Addictions overcome. Courageous rising to meet heart-shaking challenges. All this because Jesus was killed on a tree, and rose from the dead, breaking the power of self-destruction and hate, and empowering those who believe to walk in newness of life. It’s an incredible story. It’s an unbelievable story.

Resolved, never to be so cynical to deny the real power of stories I don’t believe in.