Ruth Woodliff-Stanley

Year A

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

At the Uttermost Edge

October 4, 2020

Revised Common Lectionary

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to Paintbox. If you're new to the site, you can learn more by visiting the about page. Each week you'll find links to interdisciplinary lessons followed by my collecting question for the week and then my personal reflection.

This week, we've been talking in our family about our desire to help build capacity for people to think and communicate from a place rooted in an appreciation for the magnitude and complexity of the human experience.



Science & Nature

Ten Celestial Events You Don't Want to Miss in 2020

Jay Bennett

The Smithsonian

Description of ten stunning celestial events of 2020.

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Education & Communication

Stanford student examines bilingual behavior of children at Texas preschool

Alex Shashkevich

Stanford University

A study of the ways bilingual children develop and internalize rules about the use of their languages.

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What kind of communication and thinking do you long to engage?


The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork. One day tells its tale to another, and one night imparts knowledge to another. Although they have no words or language, and their voices are not heard, their sound has gone out into all lands and their message to the ends of the world. In the deep has he set a pavillion for the sun; it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber; it rejoices like a champion to run its course. It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens and runs about to the edge of it again. Nothing is hidden from its burning heat.—Psalm 19:1-6

Our present political landscape reveals, among other things, impoverished constructs of thought and speech. I am not referring simply to the range of one’s opinions or the extent of one’s vocabulary but also to our capacity to think beyond the boundaries of our present knowledge and our ability to communicate truly new experiences effectively.

The psalmist beckons us to awaken imagination in order to conceive of new ways of communicating. We have an acute need of metaphors, of the language of the stars—a need to see again the heavens declaring glory and the days telling their tales to one another in a line of endless succession. We have need to elevate and expand our ways of communicating. Beyond the limits of our present habitual language.

In the midst of a global pandemic, 2020 has brought us at least ten celestial events of note—speaking glory to us in a language no pandemic can erase or outdo. These are days to look to the stars, far beyond our own existence, for inspiration.

In today’s education and communication lesson, Alex Shashkevich tells how bilingual children begin to “police” one another’s language—to keep the lines clear between the two languages. This policing robs the bilingual child of the richness present when one is able to move without hesitation across linguistic borders. Such policing is rampant in our culture, not only where there are different languages spoken, but within the same language, where we have developed linguistic shorthand for views of opposing groups. We are fast losing our capacity to meet those with whom we disagree on a bridge above the chasm that divides us. This loss of capacity is showing up in diminished ways of thinking creatively as well as diminished ways of communicating.

We are in a deep and deadly rut in our attempts to meet one another on common ground. We have traded the language of the stars for paltry, polarized spewing of opinions. We are fast losing our interest, as a society, in wondering questions, in the discovery of nuanced truths that invite us all to take a second look at assumptions. And our diminished capacity to communicate has feedback loops that reinforce a diminished landscape of our thought life. We have unnecessarily confined ourselves to binary trajectories, such as agree-disagree, conform-disrupt, please-challenge.

We are in need of a new place to stand together in beholding the mysteries and challenges we face. Such a new place does not become visible to us from the vantage point of our couches, mired as we are in familiar, tired habits. Rather, it peeks through beyond the branches of old trees when we venture out under the night sky. It awaits us at the uttermost edge of the heavens. It is time to venture out; it is time to reach for more.