The Road Goes Ever On…

Note from CM: This will be the last discussion post on Internet Monk. I will post one more administrative post tomorrow, with information and links about the new archive site and other sites of interest that I will encourage Internet Monk readers to check out. I will also have information about an email list so that readers of the blog can keep in touch with one another in days to come.

• • •

It is thus, if there is any rule, that we ought to die–neither as victim nor as fanatic, but as the seafarer who can greet with an equal eye the deep that he is entering, and the shore that he must leave.” (E. M. Forster)

This was Michael’s final post on Internet Monk: Feb. 10, 2010.

A brief word from Michael

The ultimate apologetic is to a dying man.

That is what all those “Where is God?” statements in the Psalms are all about. They are, at least partially, invitations to Christians to speak up for the dying.

All the affirmations to God as creator and designer are fine, but it is as the God of the dying that the Christian has a testimony to give that absolutely no one else can give.

We need to remember that each day dying people are waiting for the word of death and RESURRECTION.

The are a lot of different kinds of Good News, but there is little good news in “My argument scored more points than you argument.” But the news that “Christ is risen!” really is Good News for one kind of person: The person who is dying.

If Christianity is not a dying word to dying men, it is not the message of the Bible that gives hope now.

What is your apologetic? Make it the full and complete announcement of the Life Giving news about Jesus.

• • •

• • •

This is adapted from one of my earliest posts on IM: November 2009.

My precious Internet Monk friends,

In the classic work, The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan pictures his travelers arriving at the “Delectable Mountains,” where shepherds tend their sheep. These mountains have gardens, orchards, vineyards, and fountains of water from which the pilgrims drink and wash themselves. While not the final destination, the Delectable Mountains are described as Immanuel’s Land, standing within sight of his City, a place of relief for pilgrims who are weary and faint on the way.

Joy must not be reserved for the end of the journey. We must also find vistas “within sight of the City,” where we can get some respite from our toilsome trek, where we can anticipate the celebration to come and rest for the journey’s final leg.

Internet Monk has been such an inn on the journey for me, and I’m thankful so many others have joined me here over the years. Here at IM, many have found an oasis in the wilderness, a place of respite and recovery from bad religion and other stresses of life on a long and winding road.

I have learned something of my own propensity for wanting to give up when the journey gets long and hard. My energy wanes. I get discouraged and angry, feeling defeated and hopeless. I withdraw into a cocoon of self-pity. At times I self-medicate with food, naps, alcohol, or time-wasting mindless diversions. The simplest task sometimes appears as if it will require a gargantuan feat of strength. The darkness can get deep, the road long, prospects for arriving at the destination dim.

At such times I need a glimpse of the City. An inn at the side the road. A warm welcome, a hot meal, a pleasant conversation, a friend’s embrace. A few moments of “gaudete.” A song to lift the heart. An encouraging word. A scenic overlook that puts this small patch of difficult trail in perspective.

Thank God for this community that Michael Spencer started and handed off to me in 2010. Thank God for each of you, my fellow pilgrims, who have stayed, who have left and returned, who have popped in occasionally, and who have contributed to the ongoing conversation about what it means to live a fully human life shaped by Jesus.

Inevitably, however, it is time to move on, to embark on the next leg of the journey, to move ever closer to the Celestial City. It is not easy to arise, to say farewell to this hospitable place, to open the door and step onto the path once more. But this we must do.

The Apostle Paul packed a few words to help us on the next stage of our pilgrimage:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

In the midst of all the imperatives in this text, you’ll find a sweet center of promise — “The Lord is near.” There is a word to keep us going to the end.

So, on this bittersweet day, join me in taking a few moments to rejoice. Be gentle with yourself and others. Cast your worries on the Lord. Say a word of thanks when you pray. Receive his gift of peace. Above all, recognize that no journey is taken alone. Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.

Breathe. Take a quick look back and give thanks. And then, let us move forward in the peace of God that guards our lives in Christ.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.

• J.R.R. Tolkien

57 thoughts on “The Road Goes Ever On…

  1. I’m a longtime occasional reader, and even more occasional commenter here at imonk. This site, now that I think about it, was very important for me as I underwent the deconstruction of my evangelical faith, around ten years ago. I am grateful for being gifted the term ‘post-evangelical’, and for the knowledge that there were others for whom the evangelical church did not work.

    Since then, I have appreciated the sanity expressed here, on the blog and in the comments, and will often scroll down to find the comments, and distinct voices of a number of commenters.

    Like

  2. “All I want is one
    To take me home
    From the high road to the low
    So many roads I know
    So many roads – So many roads”

    Thanks Ted. Your words are very kind. And yes this song pretty describes my life. But now the only one I need is the one that takes me home. And sometimes I think I hear the voices and see the lights — not so far away,

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  3. Serena, after my sister. I’m just seeing photos now. My wife is there running herd with 2-year-old big brother Johan.

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  4. Thanks. I haven’t posted as many photos recently because I haven’t been out to photograph as often. I have some spinal stenosis that also affects my legs. Both have their origins in chemo and radiation 20 years ago. I haven’t given up however, and still have hope for the future. Plus I’m processing some older pictures now.

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  5. Thanks; I have both domains and told the .com to forward to the .org; it was working yesterday…

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  6. I think I’d rather be quiet today. But I’ll leave you all with 3 Marcus Aurelius quotes:

    “It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”
    ? Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

    “Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”
    ? Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

    “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”
    ? Marcus Aurelius

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  7. That’s mysteryandmeaning.org.

    You will be able to see this on tomorrow’s final admin post. Internet Monk will stay up (with no discussion) for a few weeks for access to this link and other things.

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  8. I have read the postings everyday for about nine years. Thank you, so much, for the concepts of Jesus shaped living, the Bible being about Jesus, the Kingdom of God on earth right now, personal brokenness, loving others regardless of who or what they are, liturgy, word and sacrament. I found the post as a very frustrated independent, fundamentalist Baptist in a terribly depressed state of mind. The fight in my soul can be agonizing but I know now that I am not alone. We pray often, “Lord have mercy!”. Many days He has answered that prayer here. May God bless you Chaplain Mike, We are all grateful for your life and work.

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  9. David, thanks for all of your wisdom over the years.

    I don’t know if you’re a Grateful Dead fan (it’s never too late, and becoming one would not preclude wisdom) but this song by Jerry Garcia, only a few weeks before he died, works for me.

    “So many roads I tell you, so many roads I know. All I need is one to take me home.”

    I hope you continue with your photography. Some of your images are astonishing. Could you remind us of your web address before we close up shop?

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  10. Thank you, Robert. The previous year was tough on everyone. It did end up pretty well for us, though, with a brand new granddaughter three days ago.

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  11. Hi all. For what it’s worth, I have started a new blog at mysteryandmeaning.com. Just an introductory post so far, but brunch tomorrow.

    I believe CM will mention this tomorrow, but I thought I should post it here in case some of you do not see it.

    Geologist Mike and Mike Bell will also take part.

    I don’t write as well or think as deeply as Chaplain Mike, but I hope it nonetheless becomes a community.

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  12. One of the people who helped me earlier on in my faith journey shared that his favorite words in Scripture were “But God…”. These mere two words have ironically often served as a source of encouragement over the years, perhaps because of their utter simplicity. In particular, in the context of Ephesians 2:1-4, where a seemingly hopeless narrative is building about being dead in sin, etc., , to then see verse 4 begin with the words “But God” is such a reassuring sight; a source of light in the midst of darkness. May it be for everyone else going forward on their journeys from here, being reminded that this is not the end and the best is truly yet to come.

    [v. 1-7: And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.]

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  13. Hi, Danielle. Those words as I have them in my English translation are, “Grace is everywhere.” But I had read in a secondary source about Georges Bernanos, the novelist who wrote Diary of a Country Priest, that the entire translation is deficient; the British critic who wrote that book gave as an example this line, but without providing a translation of it his own. Somehow I knew what he meant, though I know only English; so, without any French, I translated the words in a way I was certain must be true to the novelist Georges Bernanos’ intent. Can you imagine the foolish temerity it takes to translate from a language one knows nothing of! Yet I stand by my translation. Lol!

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  14. The other CM bids his leave and offers this famous quote:

    We are not now that strength which in old days
    Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
    One equal temper of herioc hearts,
    Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
    To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

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  15. A few years ago now, Robert F. once quoted to me the line, “All is grace.”

    The line is from Diary of a Country Priest. The one who spoke in the novel was dying, in a little out of the way place. So perhaps this is a fitting final post.

    But they are also true at all times. They did me some real good. So I’ll repeat them back, and let them echo the halls:

    All is grace. All is grace.

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  16. Great verse. Not sure if your title of The Journey is set in stone, but you might consider “A Wisp of Where You Went” instead. A tad more provocative/intriguing to this music fan.

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  17. CM, and others, thanks for keeping things going for an additional ten years. This is the only blog I have ever regularly commented on and I will miss the interaction and discussion of topics I don’t get to discuss much anywhere else. Again, thank you.

    “So, on this bittersweet day, join me in taking a few moments to rejoice. Be gentle with yourself and others. Cast your worries on the Lord. Say a word of thanks when you pray. Receive his gift of peace. Above all, recognize that no journey is taken alone. Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.”

    That’s a beautiful word to end things on. I pray we all have a better 2021 and find ourselves drawing closer to Christ with every step we take.

    Like

  18. “All the affirmations to God as creator and designer are fine, but it is as the God of the dying that the Christian has a testimony to give that absolutely no one else can give.

    We need to remember that each day dying people are waiting for the word of death and RESURRECTION.

    If Christianity is not a dying word to the dying, it is not the message of the Bible that gives hope now.”

    “If for this life only we have hope in Christ, we are the most to be pitied.”

    Something vital (pun intended) to remember as the virus continues to rage.

    Like

  19. Deep into the night, silence pronounced and clear
    Vision turns to fright, a heart of wonder feels a pang of fear
    But you speak without a word, pure intent known by intent
    A quantum shadow of you here, felt in a wisp of where you went
    Where you went

    That’s the first verse of a song I’m writing called The Journey. It reflects my first encountering of Christ. Oddly enough, it seems appropriate for the end of this particular journey. An echo of you all will be felt in the occasional heavenly wisp. Adieu. Farewell. Bonsoir. Aloha. Vaya con Dios. Goodbye my friends. Thank you Mike and company. Till we meet face to face.

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  20. 2020 is behind us. I trust God to see me thru to my appointed hour. Have care I-monk friends.

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  21. “There is a Hand to turn the time,
    Though thy Glass today be run,
    Till the Light that hath brought the Towers low
    Find the last poor Pret’rite one…
    Till the Riders sleep by ev’ry road,
    All through our crippl’d Zone,
    With a face on ev’ry mountainside,
    And a Soul in ev’ry stone….”

    — conclusion of Gravity’s Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon

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  22. Slaughterhouse-Five (or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty Dance with Death): Another road, making with Tolkien’s Road a dual routing on the same path across the same terrain, seen with different eyes. Tell me: which way of seeing is correct? Which eyes have it? Even if we had a seance to contact William Blake (that great cartographer of paradoxes) , and put the question to him, he would give us a question back:

    “Tyger tyger, burning bright,/ In the forests of the night;/ What immortal hand or eye,/ Could frame thy fearful symmetry?….What the hammer? what the chain,/ In what furnace was thy brain?/ What the anvil? what dread grasp,/ Dare its deadly terrors clasp!/ — When the stars threw down their spears/ And water’d heaven with their tears:/ Did he smile his work to see?/ Did he who made the lamb make thee?”

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  23. “The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous ‘turn’ (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially ‘escapist’, nor ‘fugitive’. In its fairy-tale – or otherworld – setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.”

    J.R.R. Tolkien, On Fairy-stories

    _____________________________________________

    The wheel is turning and you can’t slow down
    You can’t let go and you can’t hold on
    You can’t go back and you can’t stand still
    If the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will

    Won’t you try just a little bit harder
    Couldn’t you try just a little bit more?
    Won’t you try just a little bit harder
    Couldn’t you try just a little bit more?

    Round, round robin run round, got to get back where you belong
    Little bit harder, just a little bit more
    A little bit further than you gone before

    The wheel is turning and you can’t slow down
    You can’t let go and you can’t hold on
    You can’t go back and you can’t stand still
    If the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will

    Small wheel turning by the fire and rod
    Big wheel turning by the grace of God
    Every time that wheel turn ’round
    Bound to cover just a little more ground

    The wheel is turning and you can’t slow down
    You can’t let go and you can’t hold on
    You can’t go back and you can’t stand still
    If the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will

    Won’t you try just a little bit harder
    Couldn’t you try just a little bit more?
    Won’t you try just a little bit harder
    Couldn’t you try just a little bit more?

    ______________________________________

    Again, thank you CM for keeping the legacy alive. Thank you to all of you who through the years through your interactions have made this place alive and wonderful.

    tom

    Like

  24. “So, on this bittersweet day, join me in taking a few moments to rejoice. Be gentle with yourself and others. Cast your worries on the Lord. Say a word of thanks when you pray. Receive his gift of peace. Above all, recognize that no journey is taken alone. Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.

    Breathe. Take a quick look back and give thanks. And then, let us move forward in the peace of God that guards our lives in Christ.”

    Thank you Chaplain Mike for these two farewell paragraphs of blessing and commission which bought a lump to my throat (and I don’t cry easily). Thank you as well for everything else you’ve written here, and for the hours of work behind the scenes that you must have put into running Internet Monk. You’ve earned your rest now.

    Like

  25. I’ve been an occasional visitor and occasional commentator to Internet Monk for a while; it’s been good and I will miss it and everyone. So long and thanks.

    Like

  26. My senior year in high school we read a brief passage from Pilgrim’s Progress for a lit class. I liked it so well I checked out the book and read it during my lunch periods until finished. In some ways it helped form me spiritually for next milestone in my life, my freshman year in college.

    It’s funny because I always find myself drawn to roads and paths in my photography. A narrow trail for tractors and farm implements up through the corn to the top of the ridge with white clouds billowing against the deep blue. Or the country road where we lived for a while — snow covered woods on one side and a lawn and fields on the other showing the snow covered stubble of the last corn harvest.

    Many of my dreams have been about roads. But these journeys are not always pleasant ones because I walk and walk and never seem to arrive — until I wake up later feeling the frustration.

    Roads take us places and away from other places. A few days ago I had some moments of intense clarity. I was thinking of the ways I could have gone in life, when suddenly all the roads I’ve taken came before me. The cut-offs; the dead-ends; the branches that led in a slightly different direction. I felt no guilt for the errors in direction because they were corrected and headed in a different way. It was an immense relief and as Marge would say “we’ve done good David.”

    This road is ending at a good place. We will find new ones to travel. And someday we will probably all meet up again.

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  27. To my friend, We will keep in touch.
    I will write soon.
    I have found Nov-Dec very trying.
    I am hopping to reset myself very soon.
    Susan

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  28. Chaplain Mike, you started the Tolkien quotefest.

    “I don’t want to leave. All the same, I’m beginning to feel that if we’ve got to go on, then we’d best get it over.”

    Namarië, dear friends.

    Like

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