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The Journey from Innocence to Character

As with many new mothers whose bodies have gone south on them, swimsuit shopping can be a nightmare. In a dressing room that makes a phone booth seem like the Biltmore, I squished two young children, myself, and all their circus gear. I chose a conservative one-piece, black and fully functional. The girls were still and focused, no escapees this day. After the sheer miraculous act of getting in the suit, I stood looking in the mirror, uncertain of the outcome.

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O Taste and See: Meditations on Shoshannah Brombacher’s Yaakov Blessing Ephraim and Menasheh

It doesn’t go without saying that age confers wisdom; from King Lear to Captain Ahab, literature offers
us images of old men who make colossal and foolish mistakes. “Do not let me hear of the wisdom of
old men,” T. S. Eliot writes, “but rather of their folly.” His reminder not to sentimentalize the archetype of the wise elder, or to reduce it to cliché, reiterates an ancient truth: that wisdom and folly often look strangely alike. Joseph’s effort to correct Jacob as he reaches to confer his blessing on the younger grandson is the kind of intervention any of us might attempt when we witness the momentary confusion of an old person whose vision or memory or clarity of mind is unreliable. We redirect them. We lead them back into the safe bounds of propriety, trying to cover over their unruly and wayward behaviors. We give them diagnostic labels that sometimes serve only to relieve us of the more subtle and arduous effort to interpret the logic of the dreams they inhabit. Certainly clinical evidence attests to the literal, tragic loss of brain function that afflicts many elders. But it behooves us, if only to err on the side of dignity, to honor the humanity and inquire into the hopes that underlie their foolish mistakes. Some of them speak more than they know. Some of them know things that cannot be contained within the limits of convention.

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Growing Older: Struggling with Doubt, Alive in Community, Moving Toward Wisdom

Years ago, noted behavioral psychologist B. F. Skinner, then in his eighties, presented a speech at the American Psychological Association’s annual conference titled “Growing Old Gracefully as a Psychologist.” Skinner’s understanding of the human condition, reflected clearly in his remarks, revolved around two assumptions: the empty box and control by reinforcers.

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Journey Into Joy: Celebrating the Wisdom of Dallas Willard

The question began a journey into joy. Dallas had asked me to comment on The Divine Conspiracy as he wrote it. Every few months there would be a newly finished chapter in the mailbox. The explosive themes of the first two chapters- the invitation of Jesus to experience external living right now, the integration of our little kingdoms with the big kingdom of God, the limitations of the gospels of sin management- challenged me deeply. But the opening theme of the third chapter did not. It evoked tremendous resistance.

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The Blessings of the Bitter

A few weeks ago, my husband attended a workshop on Scottish food and drink. It was a recreational class, and he went to enjoy new cuisine and learn a little more about the culinary history of the Scots (for example, how in the world did haggis come about?). After an afternoon of learning about the geography and its effects on the various products that come out of Scotland, the instructor said something fascinating: “Our palates don’t fully develop the ability to appreciate a range of bitterness until we’re in our late thirties or early forties.”

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Contemplative Prayer for Everyone