The Food of Love

by Bensiamin

Chapter 3

Jackson's been doing a really good job of typing for me, so I didn't forget and miss everything that happened about the bike wreck and during my concussion, and then soldiered on while my arm was in the sling. I finished the physical therapy ten days ago and have been doing pretty well without the sling. I even started working on typing proficiency and finally Jackson was watching me the day after we went to Multnomah Falls. He came up behind me and ran his fingers through my hair and then leaned down and rubbed his nose in my hair the way he does, and said softly, "You know what, Babe? It's time."

He'd caught me off guard, and I said "What?" He kept rubbing his nose in my hair and kissed the top of my head and then said, "It's time for you to take back doing the typing on your journal. You've got your typing skills back even if you're a little slower than you used to be. And it'll be good practice for you."

I tried to protest about how good it was working out the way we were doing it, but he wasn't having it. "Let me see, I think it was your journal, wasn't it?" He kissed the top of my head again, and then started stroking my neck, whispering, "and you need the typing practice."

"But I can't type for long without my shoulder getting sore."

"So? You just need to do it in small chunks, and you'll be able to do more and more. Isn't that the way the physical therapist said you needed to go at it?"

There was no arguing with that, and so I'm resuming the typing. I'd learned something really important, though.

When I found out that Jackson had continued my journal so a big chunk of my life wouldn't get forgotten and left out, he told me he'd read it all, to kind of get up to speed. And, at first, I was kind of embarrassed about some of the detail, especially the sex detail and how explicit it was. When we talked about it, he said he wasn't embarrassed at all, in fact since he'd been part of it and loved every minute of it, what was with the embarrassment? That was true. I also learned that along the line of our commitment to each other of no secrets, if it was going to be honest and true this needed to be "our" journal. As much about him as me, and I'm going to try and write it that way going forward.

The next day we had our third book discussion in the afternoon, but it had warmed up, so we were sitting on the back porch. He wanted me to go first this time, which was fine by me. The Fellowship had been formed at Elrond's council and heads south aiming to transit the Misty Mountains, but snow and rockslides force them through the Mines of Moria, and there they lose Gandalf who falls into a rock crevice while protecting them from the demon Balrog.

I glanced at him, "So, put yourself among the Fellowship, and you know you've got a wizard with you, one of the good guys, and you lose him on the first event of your journey. That would be pretty scary and depressing, right?"

He started to smile, and I could see it coming, so put my hand over his mouth. "Don't say it! You've read the book. I don't want to know."

I could feel his lips wiggle on the palm of my hand as he started giggling. So, I leaned over and kissed him. "Your lips get so soft when you giggle. Did you know that?"

He giggled some more. "Alright, moving right along, the rest of the Fellowship make it out of the mines and make it to Lórien, the forest of the Galadrim Elves where they meet Lada Galadriel, and after she tests their hearts, she gives them gifts to help on their quest. And here comes an amazing event, when Frodo is spellbound by how wise and powerful, she is and offers to give her the Ring, and she refuses because she knew it would corrupt her and she would end up replacing Sauron. That is real insight into the power of evil, and the power to corrupt."

I smiled at him as I put the book down, and he picked up his. "So, speaking of corruption, Faber is on the run, being chased by MI5, remember? But his first duty is to find out the truth about the invasion of Europe, and he gets direct orders to find out about that Army Group, and he manages to get there, to the base and realizes it's designed to look real from the air, but from the ground he can tell it's all fake. So now he knows that the invasion won't be at Calais, it will be further east…probably at Normandy. So, the last Nazi spy in England has just figured out what's really going to happen, and then he gets intercepted by a bunch of officers, but kills them all with his stiletto and makes a beeline for Scotland where a U-boat is supposed to pick him up and get him back to Germany."

He paused and glanced at me. "That guy must be pretty handy with that stiletto if he can take care of a group of soldiers with it."

"Yeah," he said, "he's lethal with it. Anyway, he's heading for Scotland, and knows he's being chased and almost gets caught a couple of times, but kills the dudes and gets away. But that means that MI5 can follow him with the trail of bodies, and they do to Aberdeen. But Faber has beaten them there and gets away in a sailboat to meet the sub, but…there's a storm and he ends up where?"

He looked at me expectantly. I raised my eyebrows.

"Storm Island, of course! Actually, that was the name of the book when it was first published in England. They changed the name for here. So, he lands on Storm Island, barely making it, and clambers up to a house where David and Lucy live and passes out. They find him and Lucy takes care of him. Can you see where this is going?"

"You mean, she plays nurse?"

"Well, yeah, but not just that! Don't you have any sense of romance? Her husband's a paraplegic, he's depressed, probably can't get a hard on and she's like lonely." He was wiggling his eyebrows at me now.

I chuckled, "Oh, I see. A liaison is in the making, right? You know I don't have any experience. Before I met you, I'd never had a liaison with anyone, so I don't know much about them."

He grinned at me. "You're still Okay. I think I'll keep you even though you're inexperienced. Anyway, David…that David, the one on Storm Island…finally figures out that Faber and his wife are getting it on, and he looks through his stuff and finds the photos of the fake base. When he confronts Faber, guess what happens? Yep, Faber kills him too, but pushes him and his wheelchair over a cliff and claims it was an accident."

I must have been smiling, because Jackson said, "Hey, the dude's a bad ass, and he's a spy on the run. At least he didn't use the stiletto, cause that would have made it obvious. Anyway, now he's there alone with Lucy. Waiting for a submarine. You know, the tension is building. Will she find out? Will he leave her? And that's as far as I've gotten!"

"Talk about leaving me hanging!"

"Well, yeah. It's a shorter book than Fellowship of the Ring , and it moves faster. Anyway, you were right, I haven't been this caught up in a story since Frankenstein . I mean I know it's fiction, but the set-up, that the whole Normandy invasion could be at risk, is awesome!"

I stroked his forehead and said softly, "Can I tell you something else that's awesome?"

He looked a little surprised and raised his forehead expectantly.

"Plain and simple, you're not just my Lover Boy, you are an awesome person. I love you so much I worry I don't do a good enough job letting you know. I also want to say that I've realized in the last week or so that we're back on track sexually, and that means I haven't been on track for a few months, since the bike wreck. I want you to know I know that. If I've let you down, or frustrated you, it wasn't intentional."

He smiled that innocent and intriguing Jackson smile, and tried to tell me he knew it wasn't intentional, and not to worry about it.

"But I want you to know that I have been worrying about it. And, maybe more importantly, for the last couple of weeks, something new has been happening?"

He raised his eyebrows.

"I think about you a lot during the day. I don't just mean you. I mean think about parts of you. And how those parts fit with my parts. And how desirable they are. And how much I love you and want to make love to you. I think it means I'm pretty well back to being a decent boyfriend again."

I could see his eyes soften, and he hugged me and said, "You've always been a decent boyfriend, David. The passion has been coming back, but I knew it would take time, and it was worth the wait."

I grinned at him. "Well? May I ask then what we are waiting for? I'm hard, and I can see you're hard, and there's much better things we could be doing with these two hard cocks than laying in here talking about it."

We'd started our plan to hike in the Cascades two days before when we went to Multnomah Falls, and on Thursday we headed out to Spirit Falls, a beautiful waterfall on the White Salmon River up the Columbia Gorge. The trail is short, less than a mile, but the 33-foot-high falls pour turquoise water into a beautiful pool. There were other hikers, but it was so cool…literally, the water was really cold, so we weren't wading in the pool long. Then we had our mind blown as we heard some cries from above the fall and a couple of kayaks came over! It turns out that the White Salmon River is a small white-water river and sees a lot of kayakers.

We were back at the town of White Salmon by noon and had some lunch, and then decided to also hike the Beacon Rock Trail at Beacon Rock State Park, located on the north side of the Gorge. There were a lot of hikers there, but it's an easy hike that resulted in great views up and down the Columbia River.

On the way home we talked about the beauty and how much fun we'd had, and the amazing surprise with the kayaks came over the waterfall. We also decided we needed to upgrade our footwear from sneakers if we were going to do as much hiking this month as we planned on. We fell silent for a minute, and I saw Jackson's hand move, and then come to rest on my thigh, and slowly start making lazy figure-8 patterns on it through my shorts. I glanced at him, and he smiled at me and then said, "You were a wonderful lover last night."

I glanced back smiling, but felt a little caught off guard. "Really," he said, "you were on top of your game and working to make me happy, and you did." As he said this, his fingertips slipped down over the cuff of my shorts, and tucked underneath, and began sliding up my thigh. The shorts were kind of tight on my leg because of the way I was sitting, but I involuntarily raised up, and he was able to release some fabric, and in just a few seconds his fingertips were in the valley between my thigh and my abdomen, lightly stroking the edge of my pubes. "I've been thinking all day about how good it was. In case it wasn't, tonight I'm going to make sure it's that good for you."

I glanced at him again, almost certainly grinning, and said, "I won't argue with you about that, but right now you better pull your hand out of there so I can concentrate on driving. We are on an interstate highway, you know!" He reluctantly withdrew his fingers, dancing them on my thighs and grinning wildly.

I had my first meeting with the Director of the Campus Ministry Center scheduled for the following week to start planning for the new job, and we talked about what that might entail, and then about what we'd do this weekend when Lois and Gary came to visit. I suggested a couple of gardens in Portland I'd been reading about, and Jackson thought it was a good idea.

There are some people, even if you don't know them well, who are so open and friendly and engaging that you can pick up with them like you last spoke two hours ago. It doesn't matter if you last spoke a month ago or two years ago. Fred was one of those kind of people, and he was already at a table in the restaurant when we arrived and got up to greet us like old friends.

I started out trying to apologize for not staying in touch, and he wouldn't hear any of it. He dismissed it with a "we're all busy, and by the way, I dropped the ball during the summer" comment. He asked about our summer, and I said I'd been hors de combat for a while and turned it over to Jackson to fill him in. That got us through buying the house and moving in, and here we are. I asked him about seminary, and class work, and we talked about hermeneutics classes, and his anticipation of systematic theology his last year. I could see Jackson getting bored even though he was trying to be part of the conversation.

He then asked what advice I'd give him for his last year now that I had a year in the saddle as a church pastor. I smiled wryly, looking at Jackson and then back at him. "That one's easy. First, you're intelligent and well spoken , so I have no doubt you know how to prepare a sermon and deliver an eloquent and engaging one. That said, my recommendation, and I want Jackson to weigh in because he can give you an objective observer voice, is that you want to take as many counseling and psych and leadership development courses and as many practicum or internship placements that you can, because the odds are you will spend most of your time in that space, instead of in the theology space."

He didn't act shocked, but a touch surprised. He looked at Jackson and asked with his eyes, "Well?"

Jackson didn't hesitate. "He's right on, and that's even setting aside that when he got to Newberg he had to deal with a teenage church member who fell in love with him and was all over him like," he looked at me, "what did you call it that time that was so funny?"

I grinned. "You mean 'like lint on a sweater?"

He grinned and Fred laughed. "Geez guys, I figured it was something like that, but now I'm starting to form interesting images in my mind of what it might have actually been like."

He'd gotten Jackson going now, and he said, "Sometime I'll tell you about jumping his bones in the El Camino the first time we were alone together." Fred giggled and so did Jackson. I zipped my lip.

Jackson went on, "Seriously though, he's right. I mean, like he said about you, he's really good at sermon prep, gives good and engaging sermons that people learn a lot from, all of that stuff. But where was most of the time spent last year? Intervening in a family in crisis with a criminal father, an enabling mother and abused children. Organizing summer church camp and youth fellowship, which is where the leadership stuff comes in, then dealing individually with all the people and especially the youth with their problems like about bullying at school, personal identity, sexual identity, and all of that. Yeah, take those counseling courses, or you'll be on the phone with David all the time!"

We talked some more about the practical realities of pastoral ministry as we ate, and suddenly time was up, and Fred had to get back to work at his summer job. I promised we'd be in touch soon. I dropped Jackson off at the house since I had to go by the hardware store for some picture hangers and stuff, and then said I'd go by the local market and pick up a few things for dinner.

When we got back, I needed to make some phone calls, and he said he was going for a bike ride to check out the neighborhood and Sellwood. I told him to be careful, and off he went. One call I made was to Spencer, to catch up, and learned he expected to have my insurance payment to replace the bicycle any day now. "I've got some business I've been putting off up in Portland, waiting to receive the check. As soon as I have it, I'll bring it up if you guys are available for lunch." We agreed, and then I called my brother Michael to confirm the details of their trip out to visit. Then I called Paul, to let him know we'd moved into the house, and that I'd almost completely recovered from the concussion and he and his partner were welcome to visit anytime. He said he was pleased to hear from me, and reminded me to call him if I needed to, but that he sensed I was no longer in need of his psychological services.

"Well, for now, maybe. Once school starts and I'm probably the only gay faculty-type on campus, that might change. But for now, it's all good."

That night we saw Saturday Night Fever at the local theater in Sellwood, The Bee Gees music was great, and John Travolta's dancing was wild. We both agreed he was damn sexy in that suit he wore to the clubs!

Saturday, we headed for a sporting goods store and both got some medium weight hiking boots and walked around the immediate neighborhood in them and then we planned a longer walk Sunday morning to start breaking them in. Over lunch I told Jackson I had to run to the store to do some shopping for dinner.

He looked at me smugly and said, "Oh no you don't!"

I was momentarily confused and started to say something about the things we needed for dinner when Lois and Gary arrived, and he cut me off, "You don't think we all have amnesia do you?"

That got me, but I had to say, "What are you talking about?"

"You, my Sexy Man. It's your birthday today, and Lois and I have been talking and we knew you'd try to act like it wasn't happening, but we're all going out to dinner to celebrate. I found a nice-looking restaurant here in Sellwood we can all walk to, and then we're coming back here for cake afterwards, and there's no arguing about that. Got it?"

Well, he was right. There was no arguing about it! I nodded. Then he handed me two envelopes. One was from Michael and Jane, the other from his Dad. "I'm pretty sure they're birthday cards. They came in the mail today."

Gary had arranged to take Saturday afternoon off, and they arrived around 1:00 PM. We got them settled in the guest room and then set off for Hoyt Arboretum. I was pretty certain that the afternoon we had planned would kind of wow Gary. Hoyt Arboretum is spread across the top of a ridge in the west hills above Portland. It's referred to as a museum of living trees, and is home to over 4,000 trees from over 100 families and with lots of rare species too. The Arboretum not only has a world-class collection, but is an education and research center, with trails laid out through the collection which are arranged by evolutionary groupings. There were just over a mile of trails, so we were able to walk it all, and Gary was amazed, especially to learn that it had been laid out by a landscape designer named John Duncan in 1930. It was gorgeous and Gary was full of comments about not just seeing new and exotic trees for the first time, but being amazed at how the right trees, planted the right way made striking plantings in and of themselves. Gary and Jackson walked and talked together, which was a pleasure to see, and Lois and I kind of follow behind them, just enjoying the scenery.

By my reckoning we only had an hour and a half at the Arboretum before we had to drive both vehicles two miles down to the Portland Rose Test Garden. While it's technically a test garden for new rose varieties, it is, also, a huge garden of international rose varieties. For someone interested in landscaping, getting a vision of what a rose garden could and should look like was a big deal, added to by the very large variety of rose types on display. An added bonus was that on the west side of the rose beds, set into the hill side are a series of walls and steps, that provide an awesome view to the east, over the roses and down across the city to the Willamette River and then on east across east Portland and the foothills to Mount Hood. Jackson and I sat and just took in the view while Gary and Lois wandered the rose beds. They eventually came back, hand-in-hand, looking very much the couple in love strolling through a garden of English roses.

From there we headed up the street to the Japanese Garden which came into being in 1963 after Portland became the sister city of Sapporo, Japan. It is authentic and was designed by a professor at the Tokyo University of Agriculture. The contrast of our two previous stops was quite amazing, and we spent time between the Strolling Pond Garden with its creek flowing between ponds under a moon bridge, and then a Natural Garden with ferns and mosses growing alongside ponds and waterfalls and streams, and finally the Sand and Stone Garden with weathered stones that rise up from beds of rippled sand. The natural beauty of the first two was expected, but we were all struck by the beauty and serenity of the raked patterns in the sand, and the peace and quiet that accompanied the visual presentation.

I knew I was pushing them, but had us all out and on our way by a little after 5:00 so we could get home, freshen up and then walk to the restaurant Jackson had selected. It was a pleasant neighborhood restaurant with a menu having a surprising breadth of offerings, from meat and potatoes to Italian pasta to seasonal seafood as well as house specials. The food was good, and the prices were moderate, but the best thing was finding out this little gem was less than ten blocks away.

After we got back from dinner, we all settled in the living room, and then Lois and Jackson headed to the kitchen to get the birthday cake and some ice cream. I could see they'd been thick as thieves all evening, planning this all out. We ate and appreciated the dessert. I asked about putting some music on, and Jackson said, "Not just yet, but we will. We've got something to do first."

Lois had slipped out of the room and then came back in holding a moderately sized box that was nicely wrapped. She handed it to me and said, "This is from Gary and me." I gave her a hug and gave Gary a big grin. Upon opening it I found myself holding a soft-sided leather briefcase. "Wow, this is really nice. You didn't have to do this."

"We know we didn't, but we wanted to! My Dad has a friend who's a saddle maker, and he does other leather work too, and when we were talking about this idea, I thought of him. It's pretty cool, being soft-sided and all, with a shoulder strap. It won't make you look like some prim and proper lawyer or something."

Gary grinned, "Yeah, it'll make you look cool You know, like the cool dude on campus!"

Lois added, "I don't know about the cool part, but at a minimum it will make you look so much more mature and serious."

She was keeping a straight face, but Jackson and Gary were snickering and barely holding themselves from cracking up.

I told them that I thought it was not just really nice, but very thoughtful, and when I'd recovered from that, Jackson stood up and walked over and picked up a gift from the back of one of the bookshelves and brought it over to me. It was nicely wrapped, and he handed it to me with a loving smile.

He leaned over and kissed me on the forehead and said, "Happy Birthday, David," and then sat down next to me. I carefully removed the gift wrapping and then the top of the box. What was inside was a Pendleton Mills Shetland wool vest in a lovely gray tweed color with flecks of brown in it. It had really soft leather lining inside the collar and on the edges of the two side pockets. It was beautiful, and warm, and classy.

"Wow! This is astounding. I mean, it's beautiful and lovely. Where did you find it? Between this and the briefcase, I'm going to look like some kind of very hip college professor!"

He grinned, those wonderful dimples flaring, and leaned in for a hug. "There's a store here in Sellwood that sells Pendleton Mills products. You need to get around the neighborhood more! Anyway, I didn't know about the briefcase, but I saw this, and it had you written all over it. I know you're going to look very classy in it and be warm too. So, Happy Birthday."

I hugged him to me and kissed the top of his head.

He didn't stay in my grasp long, saying "Let me go for a minute, I've got something to do." He got up and walked over to the stereo. When he lifted the lid on the turn table, I could see he already had a record on it. "So, a week or so ago I started going through your record collection again. I decided there was probably too much good stuff in here we never listen to, and it's time to change that. Like there were probably some hidden gems that I didn't know about and needed to. I really liked that Dave Mason album Alone Together, and I found this George Harrison album called All Things Must Pass that he recorded in 1970. Did you remember you had this one?"

I nodded and smiled. He went on, "I was like ten years old when it released! Anyway, I loved the cover, with the gnomes and stuff, and I listened to the whole thing while you were out running errands the other day. And I found the gem. At least for me it's The Gem, and I'm going to play it for you now because it says just what I'm feeling. It's going to seem all mushy, but that's cool. Cause these feelings are for real."

He looked directly at me. "Are you hearing me? These feelings are for real, Babe."

Then he lowered the stylus onto the record and as he came to drop down next to me on the couch, I heard the strains of the George Harrison cover of the old Bob Dylan song start.

If not for you
Babe, I couldn't find the door
I couldn't even see the floor
I'd be sad and blue
If not for you
If not for you

Babe, the night
would see me wide awake
The day would surely have to break
It would not be new
If not for you
If not for you
My sky would fall

Rain would gather too
Without your love
I'd be nowhere at all
I'd be lost if not for you
If not for you

The winter would hold no spring
Couldn't hear the robin sing
I just wouldn't have a clue
If not for you
If not for you
My sky would fall

Rain would gather too
Without your love
I'd be nowhere at all
I'd be lost if not for you
If not for you
The winter would hold no spring

I just wouldn't have a clue
If not for you
If not for you

Listen to the of George Harrison cover of Bob Dylan's If Not For You

I was in tears when it was over, tears of joy, of course, but tears none the less. So were Lois and Gary. I also knew it would be a while before I'd be able to talk without being emotional, so I just hugged him to me and let the album keep playing.

Finally, when I looked up, Gary caught my eye, and he was holding Lois' hand and said, "You know, you're not my boyfriend, but I feel the same way. About Lois, of course, but about you too."

"I can't tell you how much having you all say that means to me. Seriously, I know we've helped each other a lot over the last year. I may give the appearance of Mr. He's-got-it-all-together, but I'm not. So being told I played an important role like that in your lives is amazing. Just know it works both ways, I'm a much better person today because of your three, and it wouldn't have happened "if not for you."

Jackson gave me a hug and I just said, "Thanks, Love."

Lois looked at Jackson. "When did he start calling you that?"

"He started calling me Love," Jackson said, "after I started calling him Babe. You know why?"

She was all eyes. "Because calling him My Sexy Man in public seemed a little bit of a stretch!"

She smiled and Gary cracked up. "That's for sure!"

Lois was still on it, looking at me. "You noticed Babe matched the words in the song, right?"

"Oh, I did, I didn't miss that."

Now it was my turn. "Make him tell you what Love is short for."

Jackson didn't even flinch. "It's short for Lover Boy, I'm proud to say."

When it quieted down Lois looked at me and said, "Since we've been talking about love and stuff, we want you guys to know that we've decided to get married. We've talked to my folks about it, and we want you to marry us and we want Jackson to be best man." She was holding Gary's hand like there was no tomorrow.

"I'd be honored. That's the best news of the week!"

All Jackson said was, "Finally!"

We slept in on Sunday. Our love making had purposefully been quiet, with guests in the next room, and we hadn't heard anything from the guest room…but what went on in there was their business. We had a leisurely breakfast and just enjoyed each other's company. The conversation included talking about wedding details, and they were already thinking later in September while the weather was still good. When I asked where, Lois said they were still talking about that, if it would be at the church in Newberg which her parents wanted, or someplace more natural and neutral which Gary preferred.

They asked me what I thought, and I decided not to influence the decision. I could go either way. When they looked at Jackson, I expected him to say something against the church wedding idea since his memories of it weren't all that good. He surprised us all when he said, "I think the church would be neat. It would make your parents really happy. It would be cool for David to marry you there, in the church he used to pastor, and yeah, it'd be kind of conventional, but," and he was looking at Gary now, "maybe it would be some kind of positive closure for you in that place."

Gary didn't say anything immediately, but slowly a smile crept on his face, like he could see the logic of his little brother's comment. "You're probably right. Mom's funeral turned out really well, and I don't feel so negative about the place anymore. And, making Lois' parents happy would be a good thing to do. We're both only nineteen, even though I'll be twenty soon, so doing some independent kind of thing would probably not be smart at this point."

He leaned over and kissed Lois on the cheek, and said, "And I like your parents a lot and want them to be happy and be happy for us too."

Sunday afternoon after Lois and Gary left, we did a short walk around the neighborhood to start breaking in the new hiking boots. When we got back, we were sitting on the back porch before starting dinner and Jackson asked how I felt about not having to plan a service and prepare a sermon. I told him honestly that I was enjoying the break, but that I'd probably have the itch to do something before long. He wiggled his eyebrows and said, "Can I ask you something?"

I nodded, and he said, "The weekend of the move you said you were in a post-Christian phase. I think I know what that means, but can you, kind of like, tell me what it means to you?"

I smiled at the sensitivity and the diplomacy with which he asked the question. "I'm still solidifying the details, but for sure it means I'm solidly in the metaphorical camp, like Campbell says mythology was meant to be. That throws all the historical and so-called factual stuff in the Bible and any other religious book into question, but I'm discovering that also like Campbell said, I was raised with Christianity, so that's my natural religious frame of reference. At this point I'd say mythological frame of reference or maybe worldview. Last time Spencer and I were talking I told him about the Red-Letter edition of the New Testament. Do you know what that is?" He shook his head.

"It's a version of the New Testament that only has the words of Jesus. All the other history and stories and writings of St. Paul and Peter are gone. When you read it that way, it suddenly changes the whole perspective, because instead of all the dogma and doctrine, it's Jesus talking to sinners, healing the sick, presenting the Beatitudes where he talks about 'blessed are the meek and the peacemakers' and stuff. It's not a bad model to have."

"Does metaphorical mean you're an agnostic or atheist?"

I knew he was curious, not being accusatory. "I guess that's the way some would define me, but I'm not there. The reason why is that both of those words start with an 'a' which in Greek means absence of, or no…like absence of knowledge or no knowledge, or absence of god or no god."

He was quiet. "Do you see what I mean," I asked?

"I think so."

"Let me put it this way, Love. You remember when we talked about Campbell's work, he made the point that one of our biggest problems is that we still have or are stuck with a 5,000-year-old mythology from ancient times?"

He nodded. I went on, "And his point was that we need a new mythology for the 20 th Century, one that is based on or at least accommodates what we now know about life and the universe and everything else. My problem with being agnostic or atheist is that NO is not a solution. If Campbell is right, we need a new solution. I don't know what it is, that's for sure, but I know we need it. So, for now I'll confirm that I don't think there is all all-powerful creator in the sky, and that Jesus might have lived like the Buddha did, and was a good enough man that his teachings come down to us, and I'll try to live by them. Does that give you the answer you were looking for?"

"Yeah. That really helps a lot and is a really cool way to put it. It sounds a lot like I feel too."

Monday, we went grocery shopping in the morning, and then took another walk to break in the new boots. This time we walked west to the Willamette River, and explored Oak Bottom Park. It lies between Sellwood and the river, and includes a shallow lake, open grassy areas and some woodlands with a hiking trail through it. We were thrilled to find something this cool within walking distance of our house, and the trail gave us a good chance to break in the boots and be ready for the next day.

After dinner we settled down in the living room on the couch to continue our book discussion. It had been a busy weekend with Gary and Lois visiting, but we'd had time to read yesterday, and I knew Jackson was totally hooked on the end of Eye of the Needle .

"Alright, Lover Boy, you get to go first because I think you've finished the book and it wouldn't be fair to keep you waiting."

He grinned, his dimples flaring and eye's sparkling in the light from the chandelier. Then he sat down cross-legged at the end of the couch, the book in front of him. "Okay, so remember that Faber was chased from London to that fake base and then across England and up to Aberdeen in Scotland, leaving a trail of dead bodies. Then he steals a fishing boat aiming to sail out to meet the U-boat, but a storm blows him onto Storm Island, and then that what did you call it, the relationship with Lucy happens. What's it called?"

"You mean liaison?"

"Yeah, so then there's the liaison and her husband finds the photos and confronts Faber, and he kills him by shoving his wheelchair off the cliff and claiming it was an accident."

I nodded, encouraging him. He smiled conspiratorially. "Well, there's a couple of twists now. Faber has been this lonely spy and guess what? He's falling in love with Lucy. But Lucy discovers her husband's body and figures out what happened. So, now she's having to deal with having a liaison with a killer, and he's having to deal with figuring out if she's figured it out. Tense, right?"

"I can imagine it's tense. I bet this would make a good movie!"

"Yeah, me too. So anyway, that's the new situation…and don't forget that he knows MI5 is close behind him, and as soon as they can get in boats and out there, they'll be on him. So, Faber decides he's got to risk radioing the info about the fake base to Germany, and Lucy realizes what he's doing and stops him by short-circuiting the electricity in the house. And the wild part is what love does."

"What? Did I miss something? She's just figured out he killed her husband. He's a killer himself even if he has been getting it on with her. Where's the love in this?"

"That's the point. He's the last Nazi agent in England and he's made it because he's so cold and logical, but he broke one of his own rules. He fell in love with this woman and he should have killed her, but he couldn't do it. So, he's compromised his mission, and the radio doesn't work, so he's got to try and get to the submarine. His only option is to climb down the cliff and swim to the U-boat. But, Lucy nails him with a rock and he falls off the cliff and dies. Then, wouldn't you know it, the good guys arrive, meaning the MI5 dudes, and they figure it all out and send a fake radio message to Germany confirming the invasion is going to happen at Calais."

I wasn't as caught up in the action and tension as Jackson had been, but I could feel it, and imagine some of the scenes. It was a pretty cool story. "Are you glad he didn't get away with it? It seemed like you appreciated his abilities."

"Yeah, I did, but he was a bad guy, and he killed a lot of people, and he was a Nazi, and this would have been a huge deal in the war, right?"

I nodded.

"So, if I was reporting on this for English lit, I'd center it on irony. The irony that the cold and calculating killer is also lonely and falls in love and then compromises his own rules and does himself in."

"Great point. A pretty telling tale of human nature too, then, isn't it?"

He nodded. "Yeah, love can either make us or break us, right?"

"That's a pretty profound observation, you know. It kind of speaks to how love works in the lives of different kinds of people as well as the effects it can have. I mean in a normal person changing your own rules is expected, it's normal, as two people come together. But for certain types of people it doesn't work so well. In other words, love can extract a severe cost."

He grimaced. "I hadn't thought of it that way. But, you're right, that's the obvious extension of it."

He was quiet, thinking, then smiled and said, "Okay, your turn. The Fellowship has left Lórien right?

I nodded, "Yes, as you remember well, Lady Galadriel tests their hearts and gives them gifts to help them on the quest. Then the next round of action starts, that brings us to the close of the first book in the series. And to me it's striking because Tolkien ends this volume with a kind of existential dilemma instead of a cliff-hanger type of end that would set up the next book."

I could see a little frown on his forehead. "I mean," I went on, "if this was Ken Follett writing a three-volume book for the Eye of the Needle , the first one would end with a real cliff-hanger, wouldn't it? Spies with knives fighting on a bridge, or the U-boat being strafed, or whatever. To me, that's not what happens here. It's a much quieter ending that sets up the next book but forces the reader to ponder what's happening in a deep way."

"Go on, I'm with you."

"So, the fellowship continues, even though they've lost Gandalf, but they have the gifts given to them by Lady Galadriel and then they come upon Gollum! Or, rather, they realize that Gollum is following them. The creature that once had the ring, the one Bilbo got it from, is following them. Like he's on the scent, on their trail. Then when they reach the Falls of Rauros, the Fellowship must decide whether to head toward Mordor on the east or toward the safety of the city of Minas Tirith to the west. So, here's the first major test of the Fellowship and their quest. They have been commissioned by by the Council. Now they have to decide face danger going toward Mordor or safety going toward Minas Tirith."

Jackson was nodding, recalling the events. "Then we get a little side action, when Boromir, overcome by the Ring's power and wanting the Ring for himself, confronts Frodo. Frodo fends off Boromir, but that encounter, probably coupled with what Lady Galadriel said to him when she refused the ring, coupled with the wound he suffered, means Frodo is a changed hobbit. The guy who was saying 'Why Me' at the outset now decides that he must go on to Mordor rather than to the safety of Minas Tirith. All of a sudden, Frodo can't bear the thought of imperiling his friends on the dangerous journey or allowing the Ring to corrupt them, so he aims to leave secretly and continue the quest alone. Think about that, it's like the Campbell example of the hero who is so free of ego that they put others first. His example was people risking their life in battle for fellow soldiers. It seems to me this is what Frodo is doing here, however, he doesn't manage to elude Sam, who catches up with him, and the two of them set out together for Mordor."

"It's pretty heavy when you put it that way. I hadn't thought about how it wasn't a cliff-hanger, but you're right, the question being asked isn't obviously, what do you call it, explicitly being asked. The reader has to infer that and ask why Frodo is suddenly doing his own thing. That's a great point."

"Tolkien was a great writer. I'm realizing that more and more as I go. And that's on top of creating Middle-earth, and the languages and all the peoples and their culture. Like, wow!"

Tuesday, we drove east up onto the south shoulder of Mount Hood, to the Zigzag Ranger Station where the trail to Hunchback Mountain starts. The first couple of miles were steep and slow, but the forest was beautiful, and as we got to the top of the ridge began to include meadows of wildflowers. We made it to a viewpoint with an astounding view up Mount Hood to the northeast, and decided to turn around since that would put us at nine of ten miles of hiking, and we were in new boots. Blisters from new hiking boots was not in our plan!

My meeting the next day with Ian Davis got off to a funny start. I'd parked on campus and walked across the street to the Campus Ministry & Counseling building. It was a large turn-of-the-century type home that had a large entrance hall with a living room to one side and a dining room to the other, and the kitchen in the rear. When I walked in, he was waiting for me in the living room, and after showing me the ground floor we went upstairs to the office—which was converted from one of the three bedrooms. As we were making introductions and small talk, I said something like "So, you're my new boss and the Director of Campus Ministry and Counseling?"

He looked at me funny, then broke into a grin and said, "No, you're the Director of Campus Ministry and Counseling. I am your boss, but I'm President of the non-profit that funds this operation."

I'm sure I looked shocked, and he said, "Don't worry about it. Titles are highly over-rated. You're a staff of one plus our secretary until you enlist some volunteers. Anyway, it's about the work that gets done, and the people that get helped, not about the titles. So, where do you want to start?"

Suddenly I knew I was going to like Ian as a person and like working for him too. I said it made the most sense to start with a job description so I'd understand the range of responsibilities, and then I wanted him to talk practically about how it went with whoever had the job the last couple of years, what was right and what was wrong, and the kinds of things he wanted emphasized going forward.

He walked me through the relationship with the college. It turned out he was on the Board of Trustees, and because Lewis & Clark had begun as a Presbyterian school, the Trustees and Administration wanted to maintain that dynamic where they could, but they were now no longer a religious institution, they were a liberal arts college. So, it worked best all-around if the campus ministry part was at arms-length and not formally part of the college. But functionally it worked, he said, "like we're all one happy family, because we are. I'm guessing that's the kind of thing Carter told you, and I know he wouldn't have recommended you so highly if he didn't fully believe you'd understand that kind of dynamic and could work with it."

"Okay," I said, "flexibility is required. I can handle that no problem. Carter said part of this will be non-denominational services. Would they be here or in the campus chapel? If on campus won't there be a problem using or scheduling the chapel since I'm not a college employee."

"The campus chapel doesn't have regularly scheduled services, and is used for special events, music performances, occasional weddings, and the like. The best location is here, and an option is to convert the dining room downstairs into a small chapel. The biggest problem at the chapel is keeping out the students who want to go in there and play the organ and turn it into some kind of practice facility! Okay, here's the job description"

I looked it over and it had a pretty long list of responsibilities

The Director of Campus Ministry works with students both on and off campus to promote faith and provide guidance.

You will conduct a variety of religious and administrative tasks to build relationships with students as well as on- and off-campus organizations that serve students.

You will be providing a variety of religious services to students, staff and faculty. These include offering spiritual counseling, organizing and conducting regular inter- or non- denomination services (including preaching) and conducting religious rites, including communion.

You will also oversee and might conduct weddings, visit individuals in hospitals, and promote spirituality. The responsibility includes conducting Youth Fellowship meetings and supporting students who attend in terms of their faith needs, adjusting to campus life, and dealing with the types of problems young adults commonly encounter at this stage of their lives.

Additionally, responsibilities include administrative tasks such as working with school administrators and/or church leaders to develop messages and events, engaging with secular and interfaith organizations to improve a campus community.

You will maintain a budget, organize campus ministry finances and participate in fundraising efforts.

You will be responsible for recruiting and supervising volunteers and employees.

Your counseling responsibilities include coordination with the College counseling department to assist with those students who have a religious background as they go through the application and admissions process and matriculate into the Lewis & Clark academic environment.

My heart was actually resonating as I read it, it felt so right. I didn't want to give too much away, so I looked at Ian and said, "Good thing there isn't a lot to it!"

He smiled. "Well, I guess that depends on how you look at it. I know you can do the job. I've been around the track once or twice, and so has Carter. We've talked to the Chair of Session in Newberg, and he was unhappy to see you leave, but had nothing but good things to say. He was especially positive about Youth Fellowship, that Harvest Fair event you organized, and also handling some family in crisis. It seems to Carter and me that if you could do all of that successfully in your first year, you should be able to handle this."

He waited for me to respond. "Well, I'm glad you do your own research, and appreciate the kind words all around. The answer to the question 'Do I think I can handle the job and the responsibilities?' is yes. It's not that different, really, from a church ministry, and I enjoy working with youth."

I paused. "So, while we're on the subject of youth, I want to make something clear to you now that couldn't be part of the application process. I'm gay and I have a boyfriend and he's starting here this Fall. In my mind we need to have that on the table to start with, so if you have any concerns or problems with it, we can address them now."

I just looked at him as neutrally as I could. He took his time, then said, "I like you, David. You're a no bullshit kind of guy. That's what I thought when you were in for the interview. That's what Carter told me too, in addition to praising your abilities. Here's what I'll say. I'm not gay, I'm happily married with two kids and no one I know of in my family is homosexual. That said, being gay is not only legal in this state, it is a protected civil right. So, do I have a personal problem with it? No. Is it something I really understand? No. Is it something we need to incorporate into our approach to students on this campus? Yes. I've looked at the statistics, and if they're right, at least five percent of our students are gay. Maybe more. That means they may not be getting the help they need. I'm an attorney, and I take the rule of law seriously, and homosexual people have civil rights and they're to be protected, and they have needs and they need to be helped like the rest of us."

"That's very encouraging to hear. How come you didn't talk about gay civil rights during the interview?"

"Because the college is in process, but not there yet. Institutions take time to change. It's like turning an oil tanker. There are no tight, sharp, fast turns. One of the advantages we have since we're arms-length is that we can adapt faster if we need to. We don't need to secure administrative approval to have a meeting of gay students, if that's needed. We don't need approval to counsel gay kids on their sexuality. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"I do, and I'm thrilled. But I'm not letting you off the hook. If you don't have any family members who are gay, then why are you so open about this? Why are you trying to expand in this direction, rather than trying to prevent it?"

"That's easy too. It's because until I retired two years ago from the law firm in which I was a partner, I got to know a lot of people and work closely with a few. One of our partners is gay. A couple of our legal assistants were gay. One of our admins is gay. Well, I guess you'd correctly call her lesbian, but it's the same thing, and the point is the same. I learned something about the obstacles they face. It's real and it's a problem, and if it's a problem for them as adults in the workplace, then it has to be a problem for them in school. It's no more complicated than that. I'm not trying to save the world, David. I just want us to have an open door and do what we can."

I smiled broadly. "I can assure you not only that I can do that, but that I'll do everything I can to make it a success."

He smiled broadly. "That's good to hear, because in answer to your other questions, your predecessor in this job had a great deal of difficulty understanding that and doing anything about it. I think you understand that we're not turning this into Portland's main homosexual counseling center, but alongside the campus ministry and counseling roles, we want to make sure we're inclusive and focused on addressing this need among our students."

That was pretty much the meeting. Classes started on the 5th of September. He said the Center secretary was on vacation but would be back the week before classes started and I could move in and set up. The meeting was in what was to be my office! We said our goodbyes, and I was smiling all the way home.

Jackson was also pleased when I described the meeting with him over dinner. "He sounds really cool, like he'll be easy to work with. I mean, I think I know what he wants to happen, but it's not like he's going to be giving you orders or hanging over you all the time. Is that right?"

I agreed, recalling how my father would have described that as micro-managing. "Yeah, I'm more than pleased. In fact, I'm a little blown away. On top of that, he said we're a staff of two, meaning me and the secretary, until I recruit some volunteers. So, there's another goal."

Jackson looked me straight in the eyes. "I'll volunteer right now. This is a big deal. The way he said what he did was amazing. I'm in, I want to help…I mean, help how I can, going to class full time and being in two choirs and stuff, but I want to be part of it."

I had no choice but to kiss him, and it became passionate. "It's things like this about you that make me love you so much. You are amazingly mature and just have such a good heart."

After we cleaned up, we retreated into the living room for our book discussion. Jackson was now starting Ordinary People , and had the copy in his hand, but said since he had just started it that I should go first with Fellowship .

I grinned and said, somewhat sardonically, "Okay, so, I got started on The Two Towers and it's been going slow with my other reading."

He looked at me with that brat smile I'm starting to love more and more, and said, "And?"

God, he sounds more and more like me. I probably sound more and more like him too. And if so, I'm happy with that. It means we're getting closer and closer. Is merging too strong a word?

I brought myself back to the matter at hand. "Like I said last time, we're off to a fast start, and now the remaining Fellowship have a decision to make: Frodo and Sam or Merry and Pippin. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli decide to let the Ringbearer go and instead rescue Merry and Pippin. That's pretty amazing and wasn't an easy decision to make. Okay, Love. Your turn about Ordinary People."

He looked at me, with those beautiful hazel eyes, and the daylight and the lights in the room together were reflecting off them, making them seem lighter in color and more alive. "This may be more me asking questions than describing the first chapters. Is that Okay?"

I looked at him, a little caught off guard. "Of course, it's alright. There are no hard and fast rules. We're sharing what we're reading and learning. Ask away."

He smiled at me, that deep, almost sensuous smile that sucked me into his heart when I met him a year ago. But I could tell he was serious. "What does it mean to say your life has to have a guiding principle?"

It didn't feel like a left-field surprise, but I hadn't expected it. "I think I know what you're asking, but you'll have to give me a little more info, some context. Is that question from the book?"

He nodded. "Well, indirectly. The first line in the book is ' To have a reason to get up in the morning, it is necessary to possess a guiding principle.' That seems kind of unusual to me, but it gets the book going with a punch. But I want to talk about guiding principle. I mean I'm not dumb, I know what the two words mean, and we've talked about identity a lot, but what do you think she means? She is Judith Guest, the author, by the way."

I thought for a second, "Okay, on the surface, and using a standard definition, it should be straight forward that we all live our lives as human beings animated by certain things. Those certain things are what give us direction and motivation. If you don't have a guiding principle, then you don't have that thing that provides motivation and direction. My sense, though, since this is the first sentence in the book, is that she's making a bigger or a deeper point. You know, context is everything, so I need to know more. How about you fill me in on the first chapter or two?"

He smiled and said, "That's cool, and thanks for that. I wanted to make sure I wasn't missing something major. So, the main character is a seven-teen year old high school student named Conrad. That statement is either what he's thinking, or a statement about him, as he's lying in bed one morning. He's got this notion about bumper stickers, like short statements that may give him a guiding principle, and it ends up all about what he has to do. Like, it says:

He rolls onto his stomach, pulling the pillow tight around his head, blocking out the sharp arrows of sun that pierce through the window. Morning is not a good time for him. Too many details crowd his mind. Brush his teeth first? Wash his face? What pants should he wear? What shirt? The small seed of despair cracks open and sends experimental tendrils upward to the fragile shim of calm holding him together. Are you on the Right Road?

"So, the chapter goes on with Conrad, take a pee, washing his hands and face, brushing his teeth. It's about keeping moving, keeping busy so everything holds together. Then following routines, like lining up towels in the bathroom, eating breakfast, going to school. Get the motions right. Motives will follow. That is Faith . He can't remember his guiding principles anymore, he's just going through the motions and that seems to work."

"Wow! That's some way to start a book! I guess I can understand that he's doing what he thinks he needs to do in order to move forward. Is that it? What else do you know from what you've read?"

"Well, what we find out as the chapter unfolds is that Conrad has been home for a month after spending time in a hospital to recover after a suicide attempt. He gets up, thinking about how his psychiatrist told him he would have some bad days, you know, good days and bad days. Then he does that routine stuff because he's sure that everything will fall into place, like it always does. But he's also thinking he doesn't have a life purpose, a guiding principle, like he used to have. I've only gotten through the first chapter, but that's most of it."

"Pretty heavy start, I'll say that! And a lot different from Eye of the Needle . But I'll add this, don't get spooked about the use of the word faith. I'm no therapist, but I did do some suicide counseling in seminary, and that line about Get the motions right. Motives will follow. That is Faith, is what I'd call a behavioral model of faith. For people coming back from depression or suicide attempts, often it's important to just get them doing the right things—no questions asked. If you do the right things often enough, they become habits and then you figure out they're good for you. Often, it's ordinary stuff we take for granted, like you were talking about, washing your face, brushing your teeth. At the most basic level, maybe that's the guiding principle: doing what you have to do in order to get through the day. Does that make sense?"

He was quiet, then said, "Yeah, it does, but it seems so, basic, so…I don't know, so…mechanical."

"Sometimes that's what it is. People who get into those states come back in phases, and we need to help them move up stage by stage. So, Conrad is home after time in a hospital for a suicide attempt. Something pretty heavy probably happened to set that off, either that or he's pathological. Maybe it's too early to know or tell, but something significant happened to rock his life."

"It is too early to know. The way Guest writes, the story moves back and forth from Conrad to his parents, so all the characters get built out, but I'm guessing it'll take a while to get the full back story. Still, that statement about needing to have a guiding principle hit me hard. It made me ask 'do I have a guiding principle?' Do we?"

I looked at him directly and could tell he was serious and even a little troubled. "I have a guiding principle, and it is very simple: that I will do all I can to make you happy so that we can be happy together."

I was silent. He just looked at me, and then I could see tears slowly start to appear in his eyes. "Me too. I just freaked for a while that maybe we didn't have the same guiding principle. I'm sorry."

I reached out for his arm and pulled him to me, grasping him into the warmest and most affectionate embrace I could manage. I kissed the side of his head, nuzzling my lips and nose into the hair above his temple, whispering, "As far as I know we have the same guiding principle. And you don't need to worry about it. You know why?"

I heard him gasp, like he was trying not to get emotional, and he said "Why?"

"Because questioning is a good thing. It's only by testing that you confirm your suppositions are true. So, don't feel bad for a second about asking if we have the same guiding principle."

I felt his arms go around me, and he was kissing my neck. "I love you so much, I feel exactly the same way. I can't imagine how I'd be happy without you, without us being happy together."

I pulled him tighter and whispered, "So you can stop worrying about it. We've on the same wavelength."

He was quiet. Finally, I asked, "Now, what's really bothering you?"

I felt him sobbing. "That Conrad lost his guiding principle. It takes me right back to that night when I sang the Beach Boys song God Only Knows, remember the line goes 'God only knows what I'd do without you,' and realized what it was all about, that what we've got could all end and I don't know what I'd do if that happened."

I recalled the conversation we had over dinner after the performance. "Do you remember what I told you that night?"

I felt his head nodding against my cheek. "It still stands. The only way that'll happen is if I get run over by the proverbial bus. I'm not going anywhere. At least, not without you. So, it's only a theoretical possibility. Trust me on that."

He leaned against me and hugged me tight, and I pulled him in close too. When I heard his breathing return to normal and there was no more sniffling, I said softly, "Talking about this reminds me of a book I read by Paul Tillich called Dynamics of Faith. He was a Lutheran minister and taught at the University of Marburg and then at Union Theological Seminary after he fled Nazi Germany and finally taught at Harvard, so the guy had credibility. It was written back in the 1950's, and it was kind of a breakthrough at the time because of the way he talked about faith. He asked questions about the ways we order our lives and the hungers that we have."

"That sounds like a different approach."

"It was, especially for the time. He didn't accept the simplistic identification of faith with religion or belief, but was looking deeper at a more universal dynamic, and was challenging readers to honestly ask themselves what values have the centering power in their lives. That sounds to me a lot like the concept of guiding principle that Guest is raising. Tillich's point was that regardless of what we say or if we go to church or say we believe certain things, the actual values, what he called 'god values' in our lives, are the things we're most concerned about. In other words, they're what we really seek and are devoted to and are most concerned about. I think I've got a copy of the book and will dig it out if you think it'll help."

He whispered back, "That'd be great. I want to understand this because it's so…what was the word you used a few minutes ago when you were talking about the Fellowship's decision at the end of the first book."

"You mean existential?"

"Yeah, this seems to existential, like really, really important to understand and get right."

"It is, and we will." I kissed his ear and said, "Speaking of getting things right, I can show you just how much I love you and why I'll never be very far away from you. If you're interested, that is?"

I heard him cough softly and then snicker. He leaned back and looked at me. "I don't suppose that has anything to do with the bulge in your pants does it?" He was smiling now.

"Oh yes, it has everything to do with that bulge, which contains a rapidly hardening cock, and there's only one place one this earth and in this life that that cock has been, besides my hand, and it is very desirous of going to that place again tonight, to show you just how well it fits inside you, and how much it loves you and how much I love you. Are you hearing me, Lover Boy?"

He smiled, wider now than before, "Oh yeah, I'm hearing you, and feeling you, and I like every bit of it. I'm sorry if it got maudlin. That's a word I learned in English lit I never thought I'd ever use again, but here I was being maudlin. But, that's over. What's doing now is that I love the feeling of this."

His palm was rubbing my cock through my shorts, "And, I am totally enthralled with your comments about a perfect fit between your cock and my ass, and your promise of how much it loves being there and how much you love me."

His smile kept widening as he said that, eventually becoming that full grin with the flared dimples that I loved so much.

"May I ask then, Kind Sir, why we are still dallying here in the lounge, when we could be a'bedding and exploring the promise of those sweet words?"

He giggled and I knew the fear had passed, and I took his hand to lead him to our bedroom.

The next morning, I dug around in my library and found Tillich's book and gave it a quick thumb through before Will and Kevin arrived. I'd give it a deeper read later, but it was enough to remind me that Tillich was both a theologian and a philosopher, and he developed a theological approach that correlated Christian revelation with philosophical and psychological understanding. I remember being impressed when I first read the book and then studied his systematic theology because he seemed to be unfearing about engaging in concepts and questions outside the usual norms of theology---in other words, he didn't shy away from engaging with philosophy and psychology.

I looked over the introduction and it reminded me that in his view, it was the job of philosophy and psychology to ask the questions and the job of theology to provide the answers. Of course, he also thought that the Christian theological view was a priori , was the right one. Of course, he would, as a Christian theologian, but he didn't shy away from pointing out that the challenge is asking the right questions in order to achieve relevant and meaningful answers. Avoiding deeply existential questions and focusing instead on the Bible as history or biblical literalism is poor theology and doesn't do justice to the subject. Instead of advancing faith, it abets ignorance and conformity.

I knew there wasn't time to dig deeper this morning, but I would. Jackson's questions and concerns warranted it. Right now, we needed to get ready to go for a hike with Will and Kevin.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead