I was a floundering English teacher in a boys secondary school at Musoma, Tanzania, 1966-1967. To restore fractured psychic poise, I often sat out under the flowering mimosa tree on weekends, my back to a school as regimented as a boot camp. There in leaf-flecked shade I gazed out over wide, quiet Lake Victoria, and read the Gospel of Mark and Dag Hammarskjolds Markings.
I brought with me to East Africa his posthumously published reflections as a mute Christian while in the United Nations courts of intrigue and diplomacy. In addition to English classes, my Aussie headmaster assigned me to teach Bible Knowledge, that year the Gospel of Mark. I was to prepare thirty-five Form IV boys for their Cambridge Overseas School Certificate "O" Level Examinations. Thus, over the past thirty-five years Mark and Markings are often joined when I recall that African classroom.
The arrival of Mark did not surprise me when I sat down to work that first morning of my early retirement. No excuses now for failing to practice anew some of the old spiritual disciplines: Bible study, meditation, prayer, contemplation, silence. (I deliberately excluded fasting. I did not eat lunches for twenty-seven years while at the college. Now I would give thanks for the noon appleobligatory and ubiquitous!) A more severe discipline for me is writing. Well, then, let me suffer. So, I added writing to my practice of these austere disciplines. To void spiritual narcissism, I focused, not on a withered heart, but on holy Scripture. Thus, Mark arrived, under whom I would make my own Markings.
I studied each episode in Marks Gospel (sixty-two, altogether), morning-by-morning-by-morning. And I let the past forty years of my lifeteaching literature at the college level, reading and writing, listening to music, walking in the orchard and woods, living in Africa, heeding one wise woman, rearing children, stumbling toward Godplay against the Markian episode. Then, under the influence of that episode I would writefour hours only, three pages only.
My musings are not commentary nor traditional meditations. Rather, they blend intellectual inquiry with confessional worship, meld poignancy, whimsy, grit, doubt, sorrow, and inspiration. A spiritual memoir. Since the topics change constantly, the style is deliberately eclectic, organic to the Markian text.
Here now are my own markings, personal musings on the spare but elegant Gospel of Mark. I hope it can be said of my writing, as did one British critic of C. S. Lewis: "He makes righteousness readable."
I write first to exercise my own soul. Then for my childrenKatrina and Michael, Maria and Brent, Lawrence and Melanieto aid them in owning an inherited faith. I write also for those former university students who keep in touch, who share with me their own "awful rowings toward God"or, sorrowfully, away.
If there are any thanks for what is written here, then let it be "Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam."
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