Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Susie Meme

What you want for Christmas... if your friends were millionaires: umm... not hard. a Quad G5 with a 30 inch Cinema Display and all the other bells and whistles, like the full Adobe suite, Final Cut Pro and Motion, a digital tape deck, DVD burner thingy that can burn several at a time, and assorted camera/video equipment to go with it. And a new house to put it in. On 300 acres of land that has multiple anntennas for the LH and a maid service and a personal assistant. On the beach, near the mountains.

What you want for Christmas... for real: Uh, a Quad G5 with a 30 inch Cinema Display.

What you want for Christmas... in abstract: hmm... I don't know. Maybe a Quad G5 with a 30 inch Cinema Display.

Year of the first Christmas you can remember: I was 4 and in the Christmas pagent.

Ever in a holiday play? When? When I was 4, I was in the Christmas pagent at church.

An early Christmas memory? Hmmm.... I was in the Christmas pagent when I was four.

Favorite holiday ornament (Past and present) All the ones my kids have made with their own hands.

Classic Christmas song you never get tired of: O Come All Ye Faithful.

Classic Christmas song you loathe: Hmmm, I can't think of one.

Modern Christmas song you never get tired of: That one that Amy Grant did.

I have traveled many moonless nights,
Cold and weary with a babe inside,
And I wonder what I’ve done.
Holy father you have come,
And chosen me now to carry your son.

I am waiting in a silent prayer.
I am frightened by the load I bear.
In a world as cold as stone,
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now.
Be with me now.

Breath of heaven,
Hold me together,
Be forever near me,
Breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven,
Lighten my darkness,
Pour over me your holiness,
For you are holy.
Breath of heaven.

Do you wonder as you watch my face,
If a wiser one should have had my place,
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of your plan.
Help me be strong.
Help me be.
Help me.

Breath of heaven,
Hold me together,
Be forever near me,
Breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven,
Lighten my darkness,
Pour over me your holiness,
For you are holy.

Breath of heaven,
Hold me together,
Be forever near me,
Breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven,
Lighten my darkness,
Pour over me your holiness,
For you are holy.
Breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven.

Modern Christmas song you loathe: The "Christmas Shoes" song will drive me screaming from the room.

How many languages can you say "Merry Christmas" in? Can I include Computer Languages?

Naughty or Nice? Naughty is a whole lot more fun.

Favorite Christmas Ghost: Marley, Bob.

Favorite Misfit Toy: Deluxe Jesus Action Figure with Glow in the Dark Miracle Hands

Can you wrap presents well? NO!

What tops your tree? an entire flock of angels.

If you were a Christmas elf, what would your name be? Sleepy?

Purple Chicken

Today we had what Entropy calls purple chicken.
The recipe:

You need about a pound of prosciutto or a pound of bacon. Place 3 or 4 slices on the bottom of a baking dish. Place 4 to 6 chicken breasts, NOT boneless and skinless, but with the bones and skin on top of the prosciutto, skin side up. Sometimes I use an entire cut-up chicken, sometimes boneless, skinless chicken breasts. If you use the latter, make sure you do not over-cook, as it can get dry. Slice into wedges two or three onions and put wedges on top of the chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover generously with the rest of the prosciutto or bacon. Pour a couple of cups of wine on top and cover tightly with a lid or foil. Bake for an hour or until done at 350 degrees. Remove cover/foil at the end and broil until top is nice and brown. It creates quite a bit of broth. Remove the broth and make rice with the broth -- either minute rice or the real thing.

I had to substitute red wine the other day -- it turned the chicken a purple color, hence Entropy's name "Purple Chicken." It's great with steamed brocolli, fresh yeast rolls and a dry white wine or iced tea.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas Hymn of the Day

Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.

O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor Youngling for Whom we sing
By, by, lully, lullay?

Herod the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.

That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever morn and day
For Thy parting neither say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Recipe for Rev Mommy's Grillards

Just for St. Casserole
There are certain foods that I cook by the TLAR (That Looks About Right) method. Grits, cornbread, greens, gumbo, grillards, vegetable soup, chili. I just cook them. So here is a TLAR kinda recipe.

Marinate about 1 to 1 and a half pounds of round roast/steak in red wine, Lea & Perrins, pepper and onion salt for a couple of days in the refrigerator. Cut the meat into 2 inch cubes and pound the meat until it's about a quarter inch thick. Pound using a rolling pin or smooth rubber mallet -- don't use one of those meat tenderizers, because they cut the fibers instead of loosening them up. Brown the meat off in a hot pan with olive oil -- searing the flesh, not cooking. Put the meat in the crock-pot. Saute now 1 large or 2 small onions, some celery and a bell pepper (The Trinity). Right before it's done, add in your garlic to taste (one clove to 5 cloves, crushed). Don't add too soon or the garlic will be bitter. Add this into the crock put when a little more than transparent. Since you are doing this right after breakfast, and since you either made bacon or sausage, add the drippings in the pan. Add a stick of butter or so until you have, uh, enough. Probably about 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup. Add flour in equal amounts -- from 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup. Cook this mixture until it is dark brown, stirring constantly. (This is called a brick roux.)

Add a can of tomatoes, diced. Then fill the can with wine and pour it in. Stir this mixture -- it will be very thick. Put it in the crock pot with the meat and aromatics. Cook in the crock pot on high for 3 or 4 hours, then on low for 3 to 4 more hours. IF it seems too thin, after 3 hours, make another roux and add it to the pot. It tends to thin as it cooks. It's done when it is a uniform brown color and the meat is falling apart.

Cook some cheese grits -- start with 4 cups water to 1 cup quick grits -- then put in a dash more grits. Fresh stone ground is best. Make sure you have a dash of salt in the grits. Cook covered, stirring frequently until it gets to the volcanic bubble stage. Cut the heat and add about 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream. Add a half a stick of butter. Stir until they are done, then add 1 cup of grated cheddar cheese and stir until melted.

Ladle out grits into a bowl until half full. Let them set up for just a little while. Then ladle up some of the grillards -- a more or less equal amount onto the grits. It should look like a pool of brown gravy on with a thin rim of grits around. Ummm....

Hot sauce on the side with salt and pepper -- a fresh green vegetable like snap beans or asparagus. Iced tea. Red wine. Fresh yeast rolls. Umm, umm. Yes.

Christmas Hymn of the Day

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes;
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle til morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray;
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And fit us for Heaven to live with Thee there.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Just a couple of things.

Jazz Nativity
Too cool. Of course, we just watched Ken Burn's Jazz -- finishing up last night with part 10.

Can you bear it?

An offensive picture of Bubba Claus. (warning: those of delicate sensibilities Do Not Click).

Advent/Christmas Hymn

All my heart this night rejoices,
As I hear, far and near, sweetest angel voices;
“Christ is born,” their choirs are singing,
Till the air, everywhere, now their joy is ringing.

For it dawns, the promised morrow
Of His birth, Who the earth rescues from her sorrow.
God to wear our form descendeth;
Of His grace to our race here His Son He sendeth.

Yea, so truly for us careth,
That His Son, all we've done, as our offering beareth;
As our Lamb Who, dying for us,
Bears our load, and to God, doeth in peace restore us.

Hark! a voice from yonder manger,
Soft and sweet, doth entreat, “Flee from woe and danger;
Brethren, come; from all that grieves you
You are freed; all you need I will surely give you.”

Come, then, let us hasten yonder;
Here let all, great and small, kneel in awe and wonder,
Love Him Who with love is yearning;
Hail the star that from far bright with hope is burning.

Ye who pine in weary sadness,
Weep no more, for the door now is found of gladness.
Cling to Him, for He will guide you
Where no cross, pain or loss, can again betide you.

Hither come, ye poor and wretched:
Know His will is to fill every hand outstretchèd;
Here are riches without measure,
Here forget all regret, fill your hearts with treasure.

Blessèd Savior, let me find Thee!
Keep Thou me close to Thee, cast me not behind Thee!
Life of life, my heart Thou stillest,
Calm I rest on Thy breast, all this void Thou fillest.

Thee, dear Lord, with heed I’ll cherish;
Live to Thee and with Thee, dying, shall not perish;
But shall dwell with Thee for ever,
Far on high, in the joy that can alter never.
Forth today the Conqueror goeth,
Who the foe, sin and woe, death and hell, o’erthroweth.
God is man, man to deliver;
His dear Son now is one with our blood forever.

Shall we still dread God’s displeasure,
Who, to save, freely gave His most cherished Treasure?
To redeem us, He hath given
His own Son from the throne of His might in Heaven.

Should He who Himself imparted
Aught withhold from the fold, leave us broken hearted?
Should the Son of God not love us,
Who, to cheer sufferers here, left His throne above us?

If our blessèd Lord and Maker
Hated men, would He then be of flesh partaker?
If He in our woe delighted,
Would He bear all the care of our race benighted?

He becomes the Lamb that taketh
Sin away and for aye full atonement maketh.
For our life His own He tenders
And our race, by His grace, meet for glory renders.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Memo from Santa

Found in my inbox this morning:


I regret to inform you that, effective immediately, I will no longer serve the States of Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas, and Michigan on Christmas Eve.

Due to the overwhelming current population of the earth, my contract was renegotiated by North American Fairies and Elves Local 209. As part of the new and better contract, I also get longer breaks for milk and cookies so keep that in mind.

However, I'm certain that your children will be in good hands with your local replacement, who happens to be my third cousin, Bubba Claus.

His side of the family is from the South Pole. He shares my goal of delivering toys to all the good boys and girls; however, there are a few differences between us.

Differences such as:

1. There is no danger of the Grinch stealing your presents from Bubba Claus. He has a gun rack on his sleigh and a bumper sticker that reads: "These toys insured by Smith and Wesson."

2. Instead of milk and cookies, Bubba Claus prefers that children leave an RC cola and pork skins (or a moon pie) on the fireplace. And Bubba doesn't smoke a pipe. He dips a little snuff, so please have an empty spit can handy.

3. Bubba Claus' sleigh is pulled by floppy-eared, flyin' coon dogs instead of reindeer. I made the mistake of loaning him a couple of my reindeer one time, and Blitzen's head now overlooks Bubba's fireplace.

4. You won't hear "On Comet, on Cupid, on Donner, and Blitzen..." when Bubba Claus arrives. Instead, you'll hear, "On Earnhardt, on Andretti, on Elliott and Petty."

5. "Ho, Ho, Ho" has been replaced by "Yee Haw" And you also are likely to hear Bubba's elves respond, "I hear'd dat."

6. As required by Southern highway laws, Bubba Claus' sleigh does have a Yosemite Sam safety triangle on the back with the words "Back Off."

7. The usual Christmas movie classics such as "Miracle on 34th Street" and "It's a Wonderful Life" will not be shown in your negotiated viewing area. Instead, you'll see "Boss Hogg Saves Christmas" and "Smokey and the Bandit IV" featuring Burt Reynolds as Bubba Claus and dozens of state patrol cars crashing into each other.

And Finally,

8. Bubba Claus doesn't wear a belt. If I were you, I'd make sure you, the wife, and the kids turn the other way when he bends over to put presents under the tree.

Sincerely Yours,

Santa Claus

Advent/Christmas Hymn

Jesus, our Brother, strong and good,
Was humbly born in a stable rude,
And the friendly beasts around Him stood,
Jesus, our Brother, strong and good.

“I,” said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
“I carried His mother uphill and down,
I carried His mother to Bethlehem town;
I,” said the donkey, shaggy and brown.

“I,” said the cow, all white and red,
“I gave Him my manger for His bed,
I gave Him hay to pillow His head;
I,” said the cow, all white and red.

“I,” said the sheep with curly horn,
“I gave Him my wool for His blanket warm,
He wore my coat on Christmas morn;
I,” said the sheep with curly horn.

“I,” said the dove, from the rafters high,
“I cooed Him to sleep that He should not cry,
We cooed Him to sleep, my mate and I;
I,” said the dove, from the rafters high.

Thus all the beasts, by some good spell,
In the stable dark were glad to tell
Of the gifts they gave Emmanuel,
The gifts they gave Emmanuel.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A poem, not my own

Some of us walk into Advent
tethered to our unresolved yesterdays
the pain still stabbing; the hurt still throbbing.
It’s not that we don’t know better;
it’s just that we can’t stand up anymore by ourselves.
Dearest Lord, On the way to Bethlehem, will you give us a hand?
-- Anne Weems

Avdent Hymn

Note: this is NOT the Peter, Paul and Mary version (which I posted earlier in the month) but a much older version. Click on the first line for the melody.

Joseph was an old man,
And an old man was he,
When he wedded Mary
In the land of Galilee.

Joseph and Mary
Walked through an orchard good,
Where was cherries and berries
So red as any blood.

Joseph and Mary walked
Through an orchard green,
Where was berries and cherries
As thick as might be seen.

O then bespoke Mary,
With words so meek and mild,
'Pluck me one cherry, Joseph,
For I am with child.'

O then bespoke Joseph,
With answer most unkind,
'Let him pluck thee a cherry
That brought thee now with child.'

O then bespoke the baby
Within his mother's womb
'Bow down then the tallest tree
For my mother to have some.'

Then bowed down the highest tree,
Unto his mother's hand.
Then she cried, 'See, Joseph,
I have cherries at command.'

O then bespoke Joseph -
'I have done Mary wrong;
But now cheer up, my dearest,
And do not be cast down.

'O eat your cherries, Mary,
O eat your cherries now,
O eat your cherries, Mary,
That grow upon the bough.'

Then Mary plucked a cherry,
As red as any blood;
Then Mary she went homewards
All with her heavy load.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Another Favorite

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

*note: click the first line for the music.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

My Absolute Favorite Advent Hymn

Click the first line for the tune -- Holst, of course =o)

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Section in Which I Posit a Question

The Modern Age begins around 1650; interestingly enough it is a break away from the end of the European Renaissance, but has its roots deeply within it. Everything changes around this time. Politics change; technology changes; economics, transportation, industry, science, medicine and culture itself changes around this time. The Renaissance is the age of enlightenment; from the dark ages to the modern age. The Modern Age then reaches from this time to our own times, to the 1960’s to the 1970’s when we begin to speak of ourselves being in a post-modern time. The age of enlightenment also began an age of reason, where reason reigned supreme. Ancient forms of logic are resurrected; for the first time since the ancient Greeks logic and rhetoric become available to the common man. Politics themselves change; no longer are nations ruled by feudalism, but modern forms of government emerge that can involve an individual’s voice with out retribution. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 ends feudalism in England – and it is ended in France in 1789. One might consider the printing press the cause of all this, causing a free flow of information, or one might consider the works of Kepler and Galileo, causing man to view the natural world through different eyes.

It is an age of industry, the height of this industry being in 1950. Three hundred years of scientific discovery and tremendous industry. The face of the world itself begins to change; smokestacks for all this industry begin to clog the air by belching huge gouts of smoke. The population explodes over the countryside, causing more and more of the land to be disturbed for the use of us humans. The quality of life changes; people begin to live for longer periods. People are more educated. The face of warfare itself changes; we now can destroy the entire world in a matter of hours. Religion changes from a governing institution to a personal relationship. David Hume begins work on causality; the problem of synthetic knowledge that is not based on empirical observations. Hume concludes that knowledge is empirical at its root. Immanuel Kant rejects Hume’s ideas stating that analytical reasoning can only state truths about things that are self-evident. Kant begins to argue for things that we cannot have previous knowledge, that we can have a priori truths that are synthetic reasoning. In short, Hume argues for empirical knowledge, things that we know exists; Kant argues for experience – that we talk about what is experienced and how it is experienced.

However, both of these men depended on pure reason. Logic is strong in their argumentation. They argue about knowledge and experience; essentially they are arguing about how we learn and how we understand our world. Others of this period would argue that we learn from scriptures only; others from how things were in the past. From this volatile mix comes the basis of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral; Scripture, Reason, Experience and Tradition. Equal legs most would boast; yet are they? I myself am seduced over and over again by reason. I love logic; I love the study of logic. I am seduced by wanting to state theologies in symbolic logic – using my skills to analyze the great doctrines of the church in propositional calculus. To reduce a statement into a “p” or a “q” and place them on truth charts that have absolutes of true and false. To measure and weight and determine their truth or validity.

Logic began its life in ancient Greece as a way of thinking about and making order of the natural world. It has been co-opted by multitudes of scientists, philosophers and theologians for centuries. Branches of logic have formed: formal, informal, syllogistic, modal, predicate and symbolic. Currently the trend has been toward symbolic logic, which resembles mathematics much more that it does the traditional forms of rhetoric. The rise of symbolic logic has come about in the last 30 years. Its roots only go back to the 1890’s. Undergraduate courses in symbolic logic were not important until the 1970’s – primarily because it is extremely useful in computer design. It is a discipline of absolutes – on and off; true and false. Interesting to note that the rise of this logic is parallel to the rise of post-modern thought, where reason starts to take a back seat. Note that this form of logic is extremely mechanistic – yet post-modern thought is becoming less and less so. As absolutes in our language, philosophies and theologies become less and less important and postmodern thought dwells in the grey areas between the absolute black and white, becoming less and less mechanistic, our most important technological tool requires and depends on this mechanistic thought. We no longer speak of absolutes in theology or religious experience; most liberals will actively make fun of biblical literalists. Yet we are continually seduced by the desire for absolutes, and this desire has set up a dichotomy between theology and science. No longer can we absolutely know anything. I have heard and I have actually used the phrase in counseling sessions “It’s not what the truth is, but what is perceived.” We do indeed act on our perceptions, what we perceive to be truth. This is in essence moral relativism.

The questions I posit then would go like this: What does it mean that we are allowing our machines to think mechanistically? Does it follow that it allows us to think more humanly (whatever that might look like)? What does it mean for our theologies that our logic has become so mechanistic? What does it mean for our educational system that we have become so relativistic? What does it mean for our spiritual transformation that our philosophies and theologies have so diverged? We have created from a single branch of thought to discover the meaning of life, the universe and love multiple branches – some of which cannot even begin to describe the totality of the problem. How do I state the meaning of love in symbolic logic? How do I state in the language of theology the workings of an internal combustion engine? How can we experience true spiritual transformation – a transformation back; a restoration into a whole and complete and unfragmented being made in the image of God when our philosophies and theologies are so fragmented themselves? When on one hand we yearn for absolutes; and on the other hand reject them? True spiritual transformation would need embrace both science and religion to express a fraction of what we call Imago Dei.

Advent Hymn

As Joseph was a walking, he heard an Angel sing;
His song was of the Coming of Christ, our Saviour King.
The good man, long dejected, had knelt to Him Who hears;
The blest refrain now swelling, removes his doubts and fears.

"Be no afraid when hearing the Choirs Seraphic sing;
This Night shall be the Birthtide of Christ the Heavenly King:
He neither shall in housen be born, nor yet in hall;
Nor bed, nor downy pillow, but in an oxen stall.

"He neither shall be clothed in purple nor in pall,
But in the fair white linen that usen babies all.
He neither shall be rocked in silver nor in gold;
But in a wooden Manger, that resteth on the mould."

As Joseph was a walking, thus did an Angel sing;
At night the Mother-maiden gave birth to Christ the King.
The Blessed Virgin wrapped Him from nightly winds, so wild;
The lowly Manger held Him Her wondrous Holy Child.

And marshalled on the mountain, the Angels raise their Song;
The Shepherds hear the story in anthems clear and strong.
The Herald-hymn obeying, nor loth, nor yet afraid,
They seek the lowly dwelling, and there the Child is laid!

Then be ye glad, good people, this Night of all the year;
And light ye up your candles, His Star it shineth near.
And all in earth and Heaven, Our Christmas Carol sing: --
Goodwill, and Peace, and Glory! and all the bells shall ring.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Advent Hymn

These that lean over the golden bar,
Strong as the lion, pure as the dove,
With open arms, and hearts of love?
They the blessèd ones gone before,
They the blessèd for evermore;
Out of great tribulation they went
Home to their home of Heaven content.

What are these that fly as a cloud,
With flashing heads and faces bowed;
In their mouths a victorious psalm,
In their hands a robe and palm?
Welcoming angels these that shine,
Your own angel, and yours, and mine;
Who have hedged us, both day and night
On the left hand and the right.

Light above light, and bliss beyond bliss,
Whom words cannot utter, lo, who is this?
As a King with many crowns He stands,
And our names are grav’n upon His hands;
As a Priest, with God-uplifted eyes,
He offers for us His sacrifice;
As the Lamb of God, for sinners slain,
That we too may live, He lives again.

God the Father give us grace
To walk in the light of Jesu’s face;
God the Son give us a part
In the hiding-place of Jesu’s heart;
God the Spirit so hold us up
That we may drink of Jesu’s cup;
God Almighty, God Three in One,
God Almighty, God alone.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Advent Hymn

Once in royal David’s city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little Child.

He came down to earth from Heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior holy.

And, through all His wondrous childhood,
He would honor and obey,
Love and watch the lowly maiden,
In whose gentle arms He lay:
Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He.

For He is our childhood’s pattern;
Day by day, like us He grew;
He was little, weak and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew;
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love,
For that Child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in Heav’n above,
And He leads His children on
To the place where He is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him; but in Heaven,
Set at God’s right hand on high;
Where like stars His children crowned
All in white shall wait around.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Things that make you go Hmmmm....

Interesting Calendar
And another
And another
And another

I find this trend vaguely disturbing. OK, more than vaguely. Yes, it is legal and yes, it is for fundraising. But....

Advent Hymn

O what shall I do my Savior to praise,
So faithful and true, so plenteous in grace,
So strong to deliver, So good to redeem
The weakest believer that hangs upon Him!
How happy the man whose heart is set free,
The people that can be joyful in thee!
Their joy is to walk in the light of thy face,
And still they are talking of Jesus’ grace.

Their daily delight shall be in Thy Name;
They shall as their right Thy righteousness claim;
Thy righteousness wearing, and cleansed by Thy blood,
Bold shall they appear in the presence of God.

For Thou art their Boast, their Glory and Power;
And I also trust to see the glad hour,
My soul’s new creation, a life from the dead,
The day of salvation, that lifts up my head.

For Jesus, my Lord, is now my Defense;
I trust in His Word, none plucks me from thence;
Since I have found favor, He all things will do;
My King and my Savior shall make me anew.

Yes, Lord, I shall see the bliss of Thine own,
Thy secret to me shall soon be made known;
For sorrow and sadness I joy shall receive,
And share in the gladness of all that believe.

Egg Nog

12 eggs, separated
1/4/ to 1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 c Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum
1/2 cup brandy --or more Captain Morgan's
6 cup milk
1 cups heavy cream
Nutmeg and cinnamon

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar and beat them until they are thick and lemon-coloured (about fifteen minutes).
Add alcohol, one tablespoon at a time, to mixture. Make sure the alcohol is good by tasting. Ummmm. Cover and chill.
In the meantime, chill a 5-6 quart punch bowl. About twenty minutes before you will be serving your egg nog, stir together the yolk mixture, milk, and spices to taste in the bowl. In a smaller bowl whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Using a whisk, stir whipped cream, and yolk mixture just until blended. Serve cold.

I forget what I did with the egg whites -- I think I made divinity?


12 cups granulated sugar
3 cups light (not dark) corn syrup
3 cups water
1 tsp salt
12 egg whites (room temperature)
3 cup pecans, dry roasted and chopped
3 tsp vanilla

Combine sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt over the stove and cook and stir constantly over medium heat until mixture starts to boil. Cook until mixture forms soft ball when tested in cold water. Meanwhile, beat the eggs whites until stiff. Then pour 1/2 cup of syrup over whites, beating as fast as you can. Drizzle it onto the egg white, don't dump it all in at one whack.
Continue to cook remaining syrup while beating egg whites, until syrup reaches the light crack stage when dropped in cold water (this will happen quickly). Pour remaining syrup over egg white mixture, beating all the while. Continue beating until candy begins to hold its shape. Stir in vanilla and nuts. Drop by teaspoonsful onto waxed paper.
Makes 150 pieces.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A prayer based on the antiphons of "O Come, O Come Emmanual"

O WISDOM, God breathed You, He spoke You, You reach from end to end. You bring me forth from my chaos, You order all things mightily and sweetly: thank You for teaching me the way of prudence.

O LORD AND RULER of the all the Houses, the Houses of Israel and Judea, the Houses of all the world, but especially the House for those who cannot find harborage, the House for those who yearn for Home, the House for the homeless -- O Lord and Ruler who appears to me in the flame of the burning stars, in the gentle breath of a baby, in the breaking of the bread: thank you for redeeming me with arms flung open wide.

O ROOT OF JESSE, You spring forth again and again from this brusied reed, You spring forth from the stump of my felled trees, You spring forth in the broken rose cane again and again. Before You I can only keep the silence and before You I shall be waiting in anticipation and supplication: thank you for delivering me.

O KEY OF DAVID, and Sceptre of the House of Israel, You open and no one can shut, You shut and no one can open: thank You for bringing forth this captive from her prison, for bringing light forth from darkness and the shadow of death that always haunts me.

O EMMANUEL, God with us, My King, My Lawgiver, My Saviour, My Lover, My World -- the Word made flesh -- thank You for Your gift of life, thank You for Your gifts of bread and wine, help me to hold the baby close to my heart this Christmas, help me treasure Your Word in my heart and be a witness to Your light. I pray in the name of my Holy Infant, my Holy Child – Amen.

Why, oh why, oh why?

Did I ever think that cataloging my books was a good idea? I've done 24 shelves -- about 2000 books. One shelf was CDs, one was photo albums and one was DVDs, so I would say that I have probably about 5200 books in the living room. 8 shelves of non-fiction to go and then 20 shelves of fiction. Why did I think this was a good idea? I've bins of books to be filed away in the living room, meaning that I had to put the tree in the dining room. Which worked out because now you can see the tree from the street through the front windows. But between the baskets of laundry in the living room, the 5 big bins of books, the 3 give away boxes and the 8 bins of Christmas stuff I still haven't put up, there is no room to swing a cat. If she would allow me to swing her.

Actually, I've asked for a kitten for Christmas. Another piece of evidence that I've lost my mind. I want a Maine Coon, like my Muffin was. I love Maine Coon cats. Entropy wants a Munchkin. I've been looking for a young adult to adopt out of the shelters -- I don't dare go to the shelter -- I'd end up with a half dozen because I am a yutz.

I've been snapping at the kids and the Loving Husband. I know why -- I've got to have a biopsy today and it's making me anxious. After one brush with breast cancer (which was pre-cancerous, but required a lumpectomy) -- biopsies make me anxious. And then the waiting after the biopsy is taking is just as bad.

Anyway, the girls will be out next week. I plan to have the non-fiction done and wait on the fiction until after Christmas. I plan on doing a big push to get the laundry done. I plan on getting the Christmas boxes put back up this weekend. I plan to get them to karate every day that the studio is open. I plan on getting some work done in the garage. And I am going to measure for a new desk/countertop in the kitchen for the mess in there. Plans, plans, plans.

UPDATE: I had biopsies from three sites in embarrassing places but am now quite uncomfortable now that the numb-juice is gone. I'll be sore for a while. I also had a 2-hour glucose tolerance testing at the same time. Total of 4 needle sticks. Bad results off that one -- it were elevated. Which means that I'm insulin resistant, not a diabetic, or so I was given to understand. We'll get the results form the biopsies later.

Advent Hymn

The God Whom earth, and sea, and sky,
Adore, and laud, and magnify,
Who o’er their threefold fabric reigns,
The virgin’s spotless womb contains.
The God Whose will by moon and sun
And all things in due course is done,
Is borne upon a maiden’s breast,
By fullest heavenly grace possest.

How blest the mother, in whose shrine
The great Artificer Divine,
Whose hand contains the earth and sky,
Vouchsafed, as in His ark, to lie!

Blest, in the message Gabriel brought;
Blest, by the work the Spirit wrought:
From whom the Great Desire of earth
Took human flesh and human birth.

All honor, laud, and glory be,
O Jesu, virgin-born, to Thee!
All glory, as is ever meet,
To Father and to Paraclete.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Another Day

Spent at home with a sick child. Entropy is much better from the pseudo-rheumatic fever, but now has bronchitis and a stomach bug at the same time. All my plans for today have been canceled, but now we both get to rest and recover a bit. I've got a cold, too. I'm behind with the Christmas stuff, behind with my cataloging project, behind with the laundry. But all will be well, and all will be well and all manner of thing will be well.

I've sold a few books on Amazon -- I think I've made back about $100.00 and will probably list a few more. I haven't even listed the fiction yet. But I think I only get a penny for most of the fiction I own; I'll do better at the used book store. It's still funny to me which of my books are valuable -- and which are not. Funny weird, not funny ha-ha. My most valuable book is "The Continuous Wave" which is a history of radio. Strange. More valuable than the signed first editions.

I'm off to make oatmeal for the sicky-poo. Crackers and ginger ale have stayed down, so maybe oatmeal will be OK without the milk.

Advent Hymn

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as those of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright, she bore to us a Savior,
When half spent was the night.

The shepherds heard the story proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of glory was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped and in the manger they found Him,
As angel heralds said.

This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True Man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

O Savior, Child of Mary, Who felt our human woe,
O Savior, King of glory, Who dost our weakness know;
Bring us at length we pray, to the bright courts of heaven,
And to the endless day!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Christmas Eve Last Year

When I looked up, he had come in the sanctuary. All day he had lurked, hanging out around the back in the narthex. Earlier in the week he had asked if he could paint a mural on the large panes of glass in the Narthex and Wednesday I was amazed by the explosion of color and the detail. He had painted an angel – a large masculine angel that would need to tell me to “be not afraid.” There was a column of light streaming from the Angel’s mouth to an extremely well painted and detailed homeless man lying on a park bench. On the side panels, much smaller he had painted the traditional nativity scene and a Christmas tree. He surrounded the base of the painting with poinsettias and they made the painting looked oddly three-dimensional and as if it were floating on a sea of crimson.

Christmas Eve is always very difficult. Five worship service – 1500 people, communion, candles, acolytes canceling, acolyte substitutions, clergy canceling, clergy substitutions, ill-prepared lay readers. Spilled communion cup, the unexpected “screeeeech” of a tray being drug across glass during a prayer. And he lurked – all day, never entering into the sanctuary. I didn’t know his story – still don’t know the complete story. Fifty-ish, unmarried, slow to speech, grizzled, one squared off yellowed tooth broken off – perhaps a fight, yet a paradox – he seems a gentle man. His best friend in the world died of cancer in October and the grief is raw – perhaps too raw since his friend’s favorite holiday was Christmas and had a Christmas themed funeral.

He lurked during the first service. We left the doors open to the Narthex and I saw him stand in the doorway, shifting from foot to foot. Slowly shifting, then rapidly. Then slow again. I watched him from my seat in the Chancel. I could sense his alienation. He wrung his baseball cap in his hand. I’ve read that phrase before, but never really ever saw it. He twisted it between his two hands distorting its shape. I could feel his emotions – strong, even at a distance. At 4:00, during the children’s nativity, I was a shepherd with a large crook in the children’s do-it-yourself nativity and I watched him skitter away from the children’s constant motion and activity. At 6:00, he was in the parking lot, then the children’s hall, then the parking lot – always moving. At 8:00, he took up his post at the doorway, shifting from foot to foot.

At the communion service at 11:00, when I looked up, he had come into the sanctuary. He sat in the very last pew, close to the door. I didn’t really expect him to stay, but he did. He didn’t sing – during the carols, he just stared and clenched his jaw. He didn’t join the responsive readings but he did join the line for communion. My friend Jack gave him bread. I offered the cup – when he dipped his bread I covered his hand with mine and said, “The blood of Christ, given for you” and looked into his large expressive eyes. He went and knelt at the rail, covering his face with his hands. Later, when he left the church, I shook his hand. In one jerky motion, he hugged me. I felt his hot tears on my cheek when he laid his next to mine. I asked him where he was going tomorrow.

“I’m going to my brother’s house. He is dying of Leukemia. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

I hugged him again and told him I would be thinking of him – praying for him. I couldn’t let him go. Others streamed out of the church and I had to split my attention. Oh, God! Where did he go? I looked for him and waved across the parking lot. He shuffled slowly away.

There are days that I shift from foot to foot, not feeling welcome in the sanctuary. The are days when the alienation seems too great. But we can be healed. The body of Christ can hold us in their arms – the body and blood can nourish and we can be healed. A year later, his brother has died and has been buried. But God does provide. He has a girlfriend and rumor has it that there will be a wedding in the near future. Love has reached across centuries and with the birth of one small baby, light and love have come into this world. Hold the baby close this season; hold the baby close to your heart.

Advent Hymn

Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
God appears on earth to reign.

Every eye shall now behold Him
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold Him,
Pierced and nailed Him to the tree,
Deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.

Every island, sea, and mountain,
Heav’n and earth, shall flee away;
All who hate Him must, confounded,
Hear the trump proclaim the day:
Come to judgment! Come to judgment!
Come to judgment! Come away!

Now redemption, long expected,
See in solemn pomp appear;
All His saints, by man rejected,
Now shall meet Him in the air:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
See the day of God appear!

Answer Thine own bride and Spirit,
Hasten, Lord, the general doom!
The new Heav’n and earth t’inherit,
Take Thy pining exiles home:
All creation, all creation,
Travails! groans! and bids Thee come!

The dear tokens of His passion
Still His dazzling body bears;
Cause of endless exultation
To His ransomed worshippers;
With what rapture, with what rapture
Gaze we on those glorious scars!

Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee,
High on Thine eternal throne;
Savior, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for Thine own;
O come quickly! O come quickly!
Everlasting God, come down!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Physics, Maths and Higher Theologies

There’s an old joke that is passed along in aviation circles about a flight attendant who just about had enough with stupid questions. She goes down the aisle to deliver a round of drinks and one of the passengers starts asking. She runs through the usual gambit when the passenger noticed a very long, straight, dark shadow, running across the ground that had been cast by a contrail overhead. The passenger asked what that dark line was. Without missing a beat, the flight attendant chimes in with, "That’s how they mark the state lines." The passenger responds with "I didn't know that. I'm going to wake up my daughter -- I think she'd really enjoy seeing that too."

Most people expect strong dark lines between fields of study. Obvious lies of demarcation showing where Geometry stops and Algebra begins – the genesis of Chemistry and the revelation of Biology. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), it is just not that easy. In most fields of study and in life in general, there are large areas of overlap. In fact I operate under the belief, as known and believed by many medieval scientists philosophers like Aquinas, that science and theology completely overlap – they are not mutually exclusive. Both are concerned with the ultimate questions – why are we here? What is the meaning of life? How does this universe of ours work? All endeavors of study – art, math, science, theology – are ultimately connected to questions much like these. I wonder if science and mathematics can inform our theologies and our theologies can inform our science and math.

I jokingly call my children Chaos and Entropy. Chaos can be defined as condition of great disorder or confusion. Specifically physicists define chaos as the disordered state of unformed matter and infinite space as supposed in some cosmogonic views to have existed before the ordered universe. Older forms of the word imply an abyss or a chasm. Entropy is defined as a measure of disorder or randomness in a system and the tendency for all matter and energy to evolve toward a state of inert chaotic uniformity if not acted upon by an outside source. Chaos and Entropy – physics vocabulary that somehow in a very interesting way describe the effects of children on the household. In fact, many of the great theorems of science and mathematics can uniquely describe states of life.

The Bible uses the concept of Chaos to describe “the waters of the deep.” The word in Genesis translates usually “the deep” or “the abyss” but might be better translated chaos or extreme disquiet. We hear echoes of this complete disquiet from the Psalmist when he cries out “Out of the depths I have cried unto Thee.” For a person of faith, God makes order from chaos. God spells the end to Entropy. God is the ultimate outside force.

I began to contemplate spiritual transformation a few years ago. A lot of people talk about spiritual formation and transformation – without a clear definition of what is meant by such terms. In fact, if I were to ask a person what spiritual transformation is I get a bunch of blank stares, a lot of “don’t YOU know?” statements and a few warm and fuzzy platitudes. What is spiritual transformation?

As usual, I start with what I am most familiar – Math. In Mathematics, transformations are a very specific phenomenon – a geometric concept. Geometric figures can be transformed in different ways. First is a simple Glide transformation. You pick the figure up and just move it to a different spot. You can rotate or flip it, but the figure remains essentially the same. Another transformation is a dilation transformation -- you make the figure larger or smaller. Non-isometric transformations are more interesting. They are equations that change the essential shape of a geometric figure, warping and bending and shaping it into something wholly different. This is interesting place to start, but transformation is more.

We could start with the basic words – a spiritual forming, conforming, transforming. A shaping of the spirit of a person – that which is God breathed out of chaos, dealing with the bit of a person that deals with the sacred. Shaping this sacred bit, forming it, shaping it into a form similar to or identical to the shape of God, the shape of Christ; to be obedient and compliant to that shape. A changing of the shape of a person until the very nature of the person is transmuted in to a higher and different condition.

We can take our cues from scripture itself:

And so YHWH ‘elohyim formed the human from the humus; and breathed the breath of life, YHWH’s own breath into the human’s nostrils, and the human became a living soul.
--Genesis 2:7 (Coleman Translation)

But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' 1Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
--Romans 9:20-21 (NIV)

Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you. My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!
--Galatians 4:17-20 (NIV)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
--Romans 8:28-30 (NIV)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
--Romans 12:1-3 (NIV)

But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
--2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NIV)

In these passages, what should we notice? First, humans are formed by God, brought to life by God and en-spirited by God. We are made in the image of God. In God are the essential roots of our being. This is the doctrine of Imago Dei. Second, we are shaped as God wishes to shape us; God is the potter, we are the clay. Who is the vessel to question it’s own shape? Some are made for noble purposes, some for common, however we all have a purpose. Third, we are made to be conformed to the likeness of Christ. We are made to not shape ourselves after this world, but to renew our minds and strive to know the Will of God. This is a more that a just moving our position; more than just making ourselves smaller or larger. This is an essential change – a change in the essence of a person. Or better stated a re-forming of a person back to the original Imago Dei – the condition of the human race before our alienation from God some call original sin. And this alienation is at odds at that deeply rooted Imago Dei that resides within each and every one of us – causing a deep hunger for order, for reconciliation, for a restoration of that Image in each of us.

This is at the heart of Christian spiritual formation and transformation. Much of this is implicitly understood in Christian circles. Yet in certain venues, it is never explicitly stated. Nor are Christians universal in what exactly this Christ-like shape would be. Depending on Christologies and Soteriologies, the practice of this might look very different among wildly divergent Christian denominations.

Advent Hymn

Come, ye children of the Lord,
Let us sing with one accord,
Let us raise a joyful strain
To our Lord, Who soon will reign
On this earth, when it shall be
Cleansed from all iniquity;
When all men from sin will cease,
And will live in love and peace.

O, how joyful it will be
When our Savior we shall see!
When in splendor He’ll descend,
Then all wickedness shall end.
O what songs we then will sing
To our Savior, Lord and King!
O what love will then bear sway,
When our fears shall flee away!

All arrayed in spotless white,
We will dwell ’mid truth and light.
We will sing the songs of praise;
We will shout in joyous lays.
Earth shall then be cleansed from sin.
Every living thing therein
Shall in love and beauty dwell;
Then with joy each heart will swell.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Advent Hymn

Advent Glory
The day is fast approaching when the Savior shall appear,
And every eye His glory shall behold;
The tokens of His coming fill the loyal heart with cheer
Though strife abounds and love is waxing cold.


We’ll see Him as He is,
And the brightness of His glory we shall share;
We’ll see Him as He is,
And the likeness of His image we shall bear.

In all His Father’s glory, clothed in majesty unveiled,
With myriads of the shining angel band,
The King descends triumphant in Whose might we have prevailed,
And all the ransomed rise at His command.


Oh, may we all as sons of light be watching unto prayer,
For surely our redemption draweth nigh;
With holy zeal and patient faith, let every soul prepare
To join the advent chorus in the sky.


Saturday, December 10, 2005

Here's our Confirmation Class

We confirmed them at the end of last month -- 30 young people. I am so proud of them!

Advent Hymn

The angel Gabriel from Heaven came,
His wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame;
“All hail,” said he, “thou lowly maiden Mary,
Most highly favored lady,” Gloria!

“For know a blessèd mother thou shalt be,
All generations laud and honor thee,
Thy Son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold,
Most highly favored lady,” Gloria!

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head,
“To me be as it pleaseth God,” she said,
“My soul shall laud and magnify His holy Name.”
Most highly favored lady, Gloria!

Of her, Emmanuel, the Christ, was born
In Bethlehem, all on a Christmas morn,
And Christian folk throughout the world will ever say—
“Most highly favored lady,” Gloria!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Taking a risk

I'm writing a seminary paper about Christian Education. I'm taking a risk. I don't want to write yet another paper in "seminary-ese." I'm going to write like I want to write. No focused thesis statement, no jargon. No detached third person voice -- all in first person. So here is the first installment. Let me know what you think.

I watch cats. It’s a cheap form of entertainment and probably healthier than watching TV. I have been honored by the acquaintance with two different cats who are little gluttons – always eating more than they need. Squeaky tops the scales at 25 pounds and Hercules at 31 pounds. When these cats play with wadded up balls of paper, it’s not the little pitter pat of tiny cat feet that drum across the floor, but the thud-thud-thud of baby elephants. I had always been told that animals could regulate their own caloric intake. Why then did these cats get so very large? Why didn’t they know what was enough? Fascinated, I watched them for a while and took a “history.” Squeaky had been lost at one point, slipping away from my father-in-law’s car when they were at the vet. He had a collar and eventually was found and brought home, but not until Squeaky had suffered terrible deprivation – he lost more than half of his body weight until the normal 12-pound cat was 6 pounds. For the next year or two, Squeaky ate. Everything that was placed in his bowl and then he would beg for more. After two years of unlimited food, Squeaky topped the scales at a whopping 25 pounds – twice what he weighed as a normal adult cat and four times what he weighed as a lost waif.

Hercules, on the other hand, has always been large. He was born to an inside kitty and he himself is an inside kitty. His weight as an adolescent was a nice big number, but as he became more spoiled and petted, he began to eat. Again, there were unlimited amounts of food in his food bowl and he was bored. As an indoor cat, he had no prey. Cats are predators. Their essential nature is one of a hunter. To stimulate their body and mind they chase paper balls and milk-cap rings off our gallon milk jugs, but indoor kitties are thwarted. They cannot express their essential nature. They cannot fulfill their God-given purpose. So Hercules ate. Perhaps I am anthropomorphizing the cat, but maybe Hercules is trying to fill the void left by eliminating his routes of expressing his essential nature – his God-given purpose.

Our society is a society of gluttons. We never have enough. We don’t have enough information. We saturate ourselves with CNN, internet news services, newspapers, magazines, periodicals. We purchase every book that is published. We consume information. We never have enough information. We also don’t have enough money. We never stop to consider the essential nature of money – what money is and what it represents in our lives. We are greedy for more – trading away essential parts of our nature for the pursuit of little bits of cold cash. We are an overweight society, a self-anesthetized society, drugging ourselves with food and alcohol and drugs both legal and illegal. We try to fill the void. Some great theologian called this void a “God shaped hole” – I don’t remember who, I’ll have to look it up. Some try to fill that hole with a God shaped after their own image – this is the way I think of some Evangelicals and Fundamentalists – and the way I think of some Liberals, too. A God-shaped God might be too radical. A God-shaped God might require more than mere consumption. This sort of God might call for formation and transformation of ourselves and a transformation that is uncomfortable and one that is alien to our society.

A radical God might require radical transformation. Radical is a funny funny word. On one hand it comes from the Latin word “radix” meaning root or source. So a radical God would be a God that is rooted – one that is rooted in creation, rooted in the nature of the universe, rooted in something perhaps we cannot express except in blinding flashes of art or poetry – a God that is truly the source of all that is. On the other hand, radical means departing from the usual or customary. A radical God would require radical transformation. Transformation that is neither usual or customary – a revolutionary change in the way we do business, even the business of doing education and church.

We are a society that over indulges. Squeaky and Hercules occasionally both overindulge to the point to which they vomit. Most of the food they eat comes right back up, mostly unchanged. Moistened a bit, chewed a bit, but unchanged. The little that does make it to their digestive system does become changed. The food becomes transformed into energy for the cat’s bodies, changing the raw elements of the food into raw elements of transformation itself. The food nourishes the cat and becomes transformed into chemicals and sugars that course around in the Cat’s bloodstream, imbuing change in every part of the cat. Fueling the cat, giving the cat life.

We consume. How much of what we consume becomes something that transforms us? How much is spewed back out essentially unchanged? Moistened a bit, chewed up a bit, but unchanged? How much of what we gorge ourselves on is essential to life? How much is not even capable of being digested? Are we filling ourselves up with things that can truly nourish us? What does this mean for those of us who are ministers? What is essential for spiritual growth? What is needed for true transformation of life and spirit? How do we feed our people? Who should we try to feed? What do we feed them? Do we give raw information? Are we facilitators, educators, force-feeders? How do we communicate?

This exercise is one to explore these questions and probably more. This exercise in and of itself is not transformation but is one that I hope can move me along the path a bit. There are some ultimate questions I will tackle here – How can a Christian Educator, a Christian Minister or Preacher or Pastor approach the task of Christian Education as transformation? Especially, how can we move our people along this path of spiritual transformation in this age of overindulgence? What shape then is our vocation as we, ourselves, move along this path? Join me as I indulge in information -- perhaps some will reach us at our core and maybe, just maybe, we can encounter the transformative power of a radical God.

Places to go from here:
Richard Feynman – map of a cat to A critique of Candler to American Education System to Richard Foster
Digestive system – waste products – As I Lay Dying
Bobo’s in Paradise/ 7 deadly sins to Your Money or Your Life to Wesley
Circle of Simplicity
Nature of God/ Westminster Confession to Rick Warren – Purpose driven life to Wesley
Communion – theologies of/ discussion of free will etc.
Spinning into Butter and discussions on life/world views
Discussions of theory vs. practice I.E. What do you call a prayer study that doesn't pray?

Advent Hymn

To a maid engaged to Joseph, the angel Gabriel came.
“Fear not,” the angel told her, “I come to bring good news,
Good news I come to tell you, good news, I say, good news.

“For you are highly favored by the God the Lord of all,
Who even now is with you. You are on earth most blest,
You are most blest, most blessèd, God chose you, you are blest!”

If everyone else were jumping off a bridge....

You are one magnificent person! You are the night
of Christmas. You are a beautiful, good-hearted
person who enjoys the best for others. You are
probably very sentimental as well. You don't
believe in material objects for making you
happy, but in things more important. You truly
live out the spirit and meaning of this
holiday. Being around the ones you care about
most is enough to make you content. The thing
is that most people may either really love or
unfortunately hate you for your beautiful
nature. Merry Christmas =)

What Christmas Figure Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Advent Hymn

Hail to the Lord’s anointed, great David’s greater Son!
Hail in the time appointed, His reign on earth begun!
He comes to break oppression, to set the captive free;
To take away transgression and rule in equity.

He comes in succor speedy to those who suffer wrong;
To help the poor and needy, and bid the weak be strong;
To give them songs for sighing, their darkness turn to light,
Whose souls, condemned and dying, were precious in His sight.

By such shall He be fearèd while sun and moon endure;
Beloved, obeyed, reverèd; for He shall judge the poor
Through changing generations, with justice, mercy, truth,
While stars maintain their stations, or moons renew their youth.

He shall come down like showers upon the fruitful earth;
Love, joy, and hope, like flowers, spring in His path to birth.
Before Him, on the mountains, shall peace, the herald, go,
And righteousness, in fountains, from hill to valley flow.

Arabia’s desert ranger to Him shall bow the knee;
The Ethiopian stranger His glory come to see;
With offerings of devotion ships from the isles shall meet,
To pour the wealth of oceans in tribute at His feet.

Kings shall fall down before Him, and gold and incense bring;
All nations shall adore Him, His praise all people sing;
For He shall have dominion o’er river, sea and shore,
Far as the eagle’s pinion or dove’s light wing can soar.

For Him shall prayer unceasing and daily vows ascend;
His kingdom still increasing, a kingdom without end:
The mountain dews shall nourish a seed in weakness sown,
Whose fruit shall spread and flourish and shake like Lebanon.

O’er every foe victorious, He on His throne shall rest;
From age to age more glorious, all blessing and all blest.
The tide of time shall never His covenant remove;
His Name shall stand forever, His Name to us is Love.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Advent Hymn

How can we sinners know
Our sins on earth forgiven?
How can my gracious Savior show
My name inscribed in heaven?

What we have felt and seen,
With confidence we tell,
And publish to the ends of earth
The signs infallible.

We who in Christ believe
That He for us hath died,
We all His unknown peace receive
And feel His blood applied.

Exults for joy our rising soul,
Disburthened of her load,
And swells, unutterably full
Of glory and of God.

His love surpasses far
The love of all beneath,
We find within, and dare
The pointless darts of death.

Stronger than death, or sin, or hell,
The mystic power we prove,
And conquerors of the world we dwell
In heaven, who dwell in love.

We by His Spirit prove
And know the things of God,
The things which freely of His love
He hath on us bestowed.

The meek and lowly heart
That in our Savior was,
To us that Spirit doth impart
And sign us with His cross.

Our nature’s turned, our mind
Transformed in all its powers,
And both the witnesses are joined,
The Spirit of God with ours.

His glory is our sole design,
We live our God to please,
And rise with filial fear divine
To perfect holiness.

The Spirit of my God
Hath certified Him mine,
And all the tokens showed,
Infallible, divine.

Hereby the pardoned sinner knows
His sins on earth forgiven,
And thus my gracious Savior shows
My name inscribed in Heaven.

Because Pictures Are Worth 1000 Words

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Advent Hymn

Savior of the nations, come;
Virgin's son, here make thy home!
Marvel now, O heaven and earth,
that the Lord chose such a birth.

Not by human flesh and blood;
by the Spirit of our God
was the Word of God made flesh,
woman's offspring, pure and fresh.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Worship Chair

A bachlor's degree in Bible. A MDiv. Years and Years of experience. Did you know that Donkey wrassin' was in the job description?

Advent Hymn

Creator of the stars of night,
Thy people’s everlasting light,
Jesu, Redeemer, save us all,
And hear Thy servants when they call.

Thou, grieving that the ancient curse
Should doom to death a universe,
Hast found the medicine, full of grace,
To save and heal a ruined race.

Thou cam’st, the Bridegroom of the bride,
As drew the world to evening-tide;
Proceeding from a virgin shrine,
The spotless Victim all divine.

At Whose dread Name, majestic now,
All knees must bend, all hearts must bow;
And things celestial Thee shall own,
And things terrestrial, Lord alone.

O Thou Whose coming is with dread
To judge and doom the quick and dead,
Preserve us, while we dwell below,
From every insult of the foe.

To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One,
Laud, honor, might, and glory be
From age to age eternally.

There has always been

There has always been a Joseph
There has always been a Mary

He was born a dreamer in a family of practical men.
He was loved, he was betrayed and
By chance, by fate, by design
He rescued his betrayers.

She watched the savior of a nation float down
A foreign river.
From the rushes she watched and waited.
Protector of the destiny the world,
She waited and watched him grow into manhood.
She waited and watched him kill and flee.
She waited and watched as he spoke to the bush
That burned with the Presence
And as he grew into greatness.
Then she danced and sang with abandon as he
Fulfilled his calling.

He was born in poverty to a people of oppression
Yet he was a man used to working at honest labor,
Used to working with his hands.
A man of principle
A man of strong belief
Father to a son not his yet
He raised the child with integrity.

She was young and trusting, faithful.
Too young to be the mother of God.
Too young to understand what it meant,
But old enough to remember and store up wisdom in her heart.

He was an old man, not used to change.
Shifting political climates meant little to him.
He took risks only at the end of his life,
Burying a young radical from the country in a new tomb,
Bringing expensive perfumes and aloes to the grave.

She was a woman of mystery.
But He loved her.
She was the first after the Sabbath to go to the tomb.
She was the first to see the risen God.
She was the first to run and proclaim his resurrection.

Is there a Joseph today? Is there a Mary?
Could it be you? Ah my Lord, could it be me?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Advent Hymn

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Advent Hymn

Watchman, tell us of the night,
What its signs of promise are.
Traveler, o’er yon mountain’s height,
See that glory beaming star.
Watchman, does its beauteous ray
Aught of joy or hope foretell?
Traveler, yes—it brings the day,
Promised day of Israel.

Watchman, tell us of the night;
Higher yet that star ascends.
Traveler, blessedness and light,
Peace and truth its course portends.
Watchman, will its beams alone
Gild the spot that gave them birth?
Traveler, ages are its own;
See, it bursts o’er all the earth.

Watchman, tell us of the night,
For the morning seems to dawn.
Traveler, darkness takes its flight,
Doubt and terror are withdrawn.
Watchman, let thy wanderings cease;
Hie thee to thy quiet home.
Traveler, lo! the Prince of Peace,
Lo! the Son of God is come!

Friday, December 02, 2005


We did something really fun with the kids last night. At church we had a children's event we called "Meet me at the Manger." There was pizza and singing and a storyteller and crafts -- but my contribution to the event was to take family pictures in a stable with live animals and a manger. There were costumes to wear and I broke out my studio lights so that I knew we would have sufficient light. We had a calf, 3 sheep, a goat and a donkey. I'm emailing the pictures to the families this afternoon.

I downloaded the pictures this morning and I thought I was going to laugh so hard I was going to fall out onto the floor. Trying to get 4 or 5 family members and all the animals to look in the same direction at the same time was so very very hard -- and the donkey kept turning around and showing his "south side." There was chaos at the costume boxes, goats nibbling on the Baby Jesus doll, infants placed in the manger screaming their head off, toddler angels wandering off. It was so much fun! The very first family scared the sheep so badly they tried to leap out of the way to no avail. One of the kids noticed that one of the sheep voided his bladder. There were screams "Mama, mama, mama, the sheep TEE TEE'ed!!" across the parking lot.

It was just so funny! Our worship chair had the responsibility to handle the donkey. He actually had to pick the silly thing up two or three times to get it looking the correct way. And the adults had fun saying things like, "Jack, get your Ass out of the way!"

I did get a picture of the family. So here's a picture of the church's littlest angel and our family. Enjoy!

Because you Asked

• Act of Ministry – New 9:00 Communion Service
• Identification of need
o xxxxxx UMC is a very active and diverse congregation. We have gained 750 new members in 4 years. Many of our services are overcrowded. As we grow, our needs are evolving. There are many ways we are taking care of the over-crowding. First, we are building a new building which will be open before January 2006. Secondly, we are look at ways to expand our worship. There are several ideas bouncing around.
- 9:00 Communion Service in new Chapel
- 5:00 Prayer Service Sunday night for older Adults, Camp meeting style
- Clone the 11:00 worship service. One 11:00 service will be a blended service in the new worship space where the 9:39 service is being held. The new service will be a traditional service in the Sanctuary.
- 7:00 Saturday Night service with an African-American flavor.
- The only one of these 4 that has been seen as feasible at the moment is the 9:00 Communion Service.

o United Methodist stance on the Communion service: The authors the document released earlier this year, “This Holy Mystery,” start their work of many years and interviews with a story:
- The story is told of a little girl whose parents had taken her forward to receive Holy Communion. Disappointed with the small piece of bread she was given to dip in the cup, the child cried loudly, “I want more! I want more!” While embarrassing to her parents and amusing to the pastor and congregation, this little girl’s cry accurately expresses the feelings of many contemporary United Methodist people. We want more! We want more than we are receiving from the sacrament of Holy Communion as it is practiced in our churches.

o xxxxxxx UMC’s stance on the communion service: Our church does indeed want more. One of the things we are contemplating is a regular weekly communion service. This fits well with the Wesleyan teaching. John Wesley believed that the Lord’s Supper should be taken as often as practicable. He taught and Methodists believe that Communion is a powerful means in which God’s divine grace is conferred to His people. John and Charles wrote in their sermons and hymns of the wonderful love, grace, sacrifice, and forgiveness present for God’s people in communion, about the presence of Christ, mystery, healing, nourishment, and holiness. In a smaller church offering communion once a week might be onerous, but in a church the size of xxxxxxx it is something we are committed to.

• Ministry Goal – xxxxxxx UMC is thus developing a 9:00 am Sunday Communion Service in the Heritage Chapel.
o This service will run concurrently with the 8:30 worship service in the Sanctuary and therefore will have special needs to be addressed, as resources will not be able to be shared. It is meant primarily for persons who will be attending Sunday School at 9:45 or the Contemporary service at 9:39, not for the members of the 8:30 service. We are anticipating 30 to 70 persons. If we have more than that, a second service can be added at 12:15 or 12:30 after the 11:00 service. xxxxxx, the senior pastor will be preaching in the sanctuary therefore the celebrant for the communion service will be selected in a rotation between myself, Pastors A, B and C. Once a month communion will be served simultaneously in the Sanctuary and the Chapel, causing certain logistics problem.
- We will need at least one other Chalice and paten, if communion is being served by intinction. The communionware of individual cups is available for use currently.
- We will need another set of white paraments, as the paraments from the chapel are now being used in the main sanctuary along with more napkins.
- Currently because we need 4 servers at the 8:30 and a celebrant and a chalice bearer in the 9:00, we need to consider a new Lay Eucharist Minister guild and training consisting of approximately 4 to 6 members. They may need albs/robes eventually.
- The communion stewards who prepare the elements need to set up a schedule for baking bread and providing the juice and clean up afterwards for every Sunday.
- The altar guild will need at least one additional member each Sunday to prepare the Chapel for use and to clean up. Because we will be using three separate spaces on Sunday instead of one, we may need at least three altar guild members.
- An order of service needs to be written that will fit within the time constraint of 30 to 35 minutes.
- An accompanist and/or musician will need to be scheduled.
- And acolyte will need to be scheduled.
- The offering plates from the chapel need to be located, as does the altar cross and candles. New oil filled candled need to be ordered, as the old ones broke. The acolytes’ candlelighter that was in the chapel needs to be located. The baptismal font needs to be found, as well. (In other words, the chancel needs to be set up officially. Will the space need to be consecrated?)

o The flow of the service.
- The Chapel doors will open at 8:30 to allow for a time of silent prayer for a half hour before the service (this was a need that was discussed by the prayer ministry team).
- A prelude will begin at 5 to the hour.
- Call to worship of is said from the Chapel doors.
- A small procession of acolyte, celebrant and LEM (Lay Eucharist Minister) will process during an opening hymn.
- We will follow the orders of worship found in the UMH, Word and Table: Service I, II, III, or IV. A 10-minute homily will be prepared from the RCL readings for the week. We will take an offering. There will be one piece of special music during the serving of the elements. Renewed worship at the service of the table is breaking away from the funeral dirge approach of music and thus is recovering the fullness of the cycle found in early church worship – i.e. an emphasis of dying and being raised to newness of life. We will be stressing that this is a time for thanks, a time for healing and time for intimate relationship with God. Hopefully, the music and be both uplifting and traditional at the same time. As we settle down into this service and it develops on its own, we can perhaps be more experimental in our approaches and try different sung liturgies from other traditions, as well as some Taize music. However, in the beginning we should stay within the rubric set forth by our Hymnal.
- This new service will be an ideal time to educate our people about communion. One thought I have had is to not just preach on the RCL for the week, but to examine each of the sections of the service and discuss it either formally or informally so that we can better understand the tradition behind communion and the symbols that are used in the service. However, in the beginning, we are going to keep it simple. This can be done during the service or as a special class after the service.
- At the end of the service, depending on the use of the space at 9:45 (we may use the space for Sunday school or special lectures) we can sing a hymn and either encourage the participants to stay in prayer for a while or leave and attend Sunday School.
- The first communion service will probably be after the Advent season. The building is nearing completion, but we are uncertain when we will actually be in the building. However, many of the logistics can be worked out beforehand.

o One concern has been echoed a few times -- Will the service become “matter of fact” or “routine”? This is a question that I believe can be addressed by using all 4 of the services in the UMC hymnal, as well as the sung liturgies in “The Faith We Sing.” Another thought is to select music that serves in place of the sursum Corda, the sanctus, the dominus vobiscum and the agnus Dei among others, to add variety. Rotation of the voices of the celebrant is another way to keep it fresh and meaningful, as well as reflecting the liturgical season. In fact, I do not believe this will be an issue at all for a creative celebrant.
o If we have great demand for communion between the 9:39 and 11:00 and after the 11:00, we could have a Lay Minister administer the elements. In that case, perhaps a sanctuary light could be use to indicate the presence of consecrated elements.

Advent Hymn

Prepare the way, O Zion!
Ye awful deeps, rise high;
Sink low, ye towering mountains,
The Lord is drawing nigh;
The righteous King of glory,
Foretold in sacred story.


O blest is He that came
In God the Father’s Name.

O Zion, He approacheth,
Thy Lord and King for aye!
Strew palms where He advanceth,
Spread garments in His way.
God’s promise faileth never,
Hosanna sound forever!

Fling wide thy portals, Zion
And hail thy glorious King;
His tidings of salvation
To every people bring,
Who, waiting yet in sadness,
Would sing His praise in gladness.


He cometh not with warriors,
And not with pomp and show,
Yet smiteth He with terror
Sin, death, and every foe.
The Spirit’s sword He wieldeth,
Not e’en to death He yieldeth.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Advent Hymn

On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry
Announces that the Lord is nigh;
Come, then, and hearken, for he brings
Glad tidings from the King of kings!

Then cleansed be every breast from sin;
Make straight the way for God within;
Prepare we in our hearts a home,
Where such a mighty Guest may come.

For Thou art our Salvation, Lord,
Our Refuge, and our great Reward.
Without Thy grace our souls must fade
And wither like a flower decayed.

Stretch forth Thine hand, to heal our sore,
And make us rise and fall no more;
Once more upon Thy people shine,
And fill the world with love divine.

To Him Who left the throne of Heaven
To save mankind, all praise be given;
Like praise be to the Father done,
And Holy Spirit, Three in One.