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When my dear friend and frequent collaborator Jane Zwart recommends something, I listen. Particularly when it comes to poetry–because, as an accomplished poet herself, she knows whereof she speaks.

We’re teaching together during Calvin’s January term, a class on Faith and Literature to prepare our student for this April’s Festival of Faith and Writing. (By the way, have you registered? It’s going to be amazing–and tickets are going fast!). Jane brought in this poem, along with Herbert’s “The Windows,” on the first day to begin our month-long classroom conversation. We wanted the students to begin the class by thinking about all the ways what John Calvin calls “sparks of glory” reveal themselves into our everyday, to pay attention to delicious moments of revelation.

And by discovering anew a God who uses everything to hand–even us and our quotidian labors–to provide us a feast beyond our imagining.

If God Made Jam
-- Sarah Lindsay
 
If God made jam the jars wouldn’t necessarily glow
like Christmas lights or the new home of seventy fireflies,
the berries wouldn’t have to be so divine
they dribbled rainbows and healed the sick,
each pip released a Gloria when it
cracked between your teeth,
and God’s jam would never refuse to touch earthly bread—
 
Aunt Lydia has worked out this much
since Cousin Bobby told her about a comma
he skipped long ago while learning his catechism.
Now, on a rainy morning, spared the news
that lay in her grass and is too wet to read,
she’s flexed her stiff hands and found them able
to slice the bread baked by a friend
and twist the lid from a royal-red jar,
and with the first crusty, raspberry bite
she’s ready to affirm God does make jam.
It still counts if people figure among
the instruments that have been put to use,
and Bobby catechized wasn’t wrong
when he pictured a deity, willing to work in the kitchen,
who made preserves and redeemed us.

“If God Made Jam” from Debt to the Bone-Eating Snotflower, copyright 2013 by Sarah Lindsay, used by permission of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

Jennifer L. Holberg

I’ve taught English at Calvin College since 1998–where I get to read books and talk about them for a living. What could be better? Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture (and yes, I realize that that is a very long subtitle). As an Army brat, I’ve never lived anywhere as long as I’ve now lived in Grand Rapids, a city I've come to love. I count myself rich in friends and family. I collect cookbooks (and also like to cook), listen to all kinds of music, and watch all manner of movies and tv shows. I love George Eliot, Jane Austen, Marilynne Robinson, Dante, E.M. Delafield, Tennyson, Hopkins, and Charlotte Bronte (among others). And I used to have a bumper sticker on my car that said: “I’d rather be reading Flannery O’Connor.” I don't have the car anymore, but the sentiment is still true.

5 Comments

  • Jane says:

    I love the it, and as a raspberry jam maker, totally agree!

  • Rodney Haveman says:

    “They dribbled rainbows and healed the sick,”

    “It still counts if people figure among
    the instruments that have been put to use,”

    That poem is about as lovely a way to start my day as I can imagine … and now back to work as an instrument being put to use … thank you.

  • Mary says:

    I must admit I laughed out loud; for here too we sometimes have so many berries that we both bring them to work and pass them out to any neighbor who will open the door, and still have jars & jars of jam for family gatherings and friends in need. And having just clicked on the Literacy Site that gives free books to children, I can’t help wondering what the world would look like if we were known as the jam and book merchants of the world.

    • Jan VanKooten says:

      I join Mary in laughing out loud, here in my quiet off-office room with the lights dim and my screen glowing — what a lovely picture of ordinary stuff brought fully to a Gloria!

  • Jim Dekker says:

    Wonderful way to redeem a skipped comma. Thank you Bobby, Aunt Lydia, Jane, and (with reverence to the Oxford comma), Jennifer.

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