In the valley of the shadow

Reflections on the trauma of 11 September 2001
(reprinted on the anniversary of that horrid day)

by Ken Sehested, with Kyle Childress

"How lonely sits the city that was full of people!
How like a widow has she become, she that was great
among the nations! . . . She weeps bitterly in the night. . . ." (Lamentations 1:1)

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Olive Tiller remembrance

Olive Tiller’s name will not be recognized outside a relatively small circle. But she is legendary in my universe. She died recently, at the fulsome age of 102.

Below is a short meditation on her luminous presence—written not simply in her honor but as tribute to the countless, faith-full people who will never have a Wikipedia page tribute. Theirs are the arms that uphold the universe day after day.

Let it be said of her as the Sufi mystic Rabia testified: Neither threat of hell or desire of heaven, but love’s longing alone animated by delight in the Beloved’s promise and presence and provision. Or, as Augustine wrote, “We imitate whom we adore.” —Ken Sehested, August 2023

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The ministry of encouragement

Recently Marc Mullinax helped me videotape a word of encouragement to the Forum for Naga Reconciliation. Next week they will be commemorating the 15 anniversary of their founding, in an ongoing effort to undo the harsh antagonism—to heal the wounds of animosity and mutual recrimination—that have gripped their people for many years.

A little background. The Naga people of far North-East India are indigenous to that mountainous region. Their written history is less than 250 years old, but they are thought to be ethnically related to the people of Tibet.

The British colonizers of India were never able to exert control over the Nagas, a fiercely independent people who, prior to the coming of missionaries, carried on a cultural practice that included headhunting. Missionaries arrived in the area in the mid-19th century. Within a couple generations, the majority of Nagas identified as Christians, and—oddly enough—most of the Christians are Baptists.

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My favorite Mother’s Day songs

An unconventional list

Ken Sehested

While it’s true that mothering songs often emphasize comfort, it’s not at all true that songs of comfort are flaccid, limp, or weak-kneed. Lullaby is not quietism. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is both an animator (think “tongues of fire”) and a comforter.

Comfort is the sustenance given in the midst of trouble and travail. I would go so far as to argue that such steadfast endurance, the capacity to keep on keepin’ on, is the decisive virtue in Scripture.

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Hear the prayer of the mothers

A Mother’s Day reflection

Ken Sehested

Invocation. “Holy Mother, where are you? / Tonight I feel broken in two. / I've seen the stars fall from the sky. / Holy mother, can't keep from crying. / Oh I need your help this time, / Get me through this lonely night. / Tell me please which way to turn / To find myself again.” —Eric Claption, Luciano Pavarotti, and the East London Gospel Choir “Holy Mother

Call to worship. Bread-baking, kitchen-dwelling, breast-feeding God / We return to your lap and to your table because we are hungry and thirsty. / Fill us again with the bread that satisfies, with milk that nourishes. / Drench parched throats with wet wonder; / feed us ‘til we want no more. —continue reading “Bread baking God

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