On the Hunt: Data or Hop?

frogForty-five years ago I dissected a frog.  I say that not by way of confession but to examine a paradox.  As is common in secondary science curriculum, during the unit on anatomy one  dissects something. At Lexington High School, Lexington, Alabama, we were not so exalted as to warrant fetal pigs so we tackled the more prosaic amphibian.

The lab reeked of thermaldohyde as we took up scalpels and performed exploratory surgery on the supine corpse.  The exercise was informative as to vascular systems and the ordering of bodily functions.  At the end of the smelly process by my station there was a small pile of frog parts.  I had learned a lot but the frog wouldn’t hop.

If you want to really know a frog you need to see it hop.

European Tree Frog

Dissecting a frog is analogous to studying scripture.  I have spent my adult life studying scripture: parsing, comparing, and dissecting Holy Writ in service of sermons, lectures and articles.  As illuminating as that has been there is a danger that what is gained in insight is at the expense of the living experience.  Experience is as we say, “hands-on” while reflection and theories of meaning are abstract.  When we begin to explain we are no longer experiencing, having moved from “hand to head.”

This brings me again to the knot I am worrying these days.  What is needed must move us beyond mere “frog data” to “frog hopping.”  How do we hop?  We take up those ancient practices that formed the first Christians in faith that the Holy Spirit that led them into truth will do the same for us.  JWS

Quiet Ticking

I was born in 1951 and reared in the nineteenth century. The houses of Elizabeth Leary prompt my memory. They remind me of my great-grand father’s farm house. I grew up a mile from this house where great uncle Byrd, his wife Lila and his unmarried sister Myrtie lived during my childhood. Uncle Byrd (named for Admiral Byrd) was a bugler in World War I.


As a child I remember sitting in the front room of the house visiting the old folk with my dad. Sitting there in front of the fire in Winter the conversation would trail off and a comfortable silence would settle in — the wordless communion born of long intimacy — the ticking of great-grandfather John’s clock marking the time. It is one of the powerful memories of my childhood. After years of looking I found a clock that added a ticking to my office. It is an old Ansonia clock that does not keep perfect time but does remind me of the sound of my childhood in that house in the country-side of Alabama.