Monday, November 28, 2011

Christ Church's Advent Devotional is online!

On the night before Advent  I updated a post of suggested resources for you and your family might enjoy using during these four beautiful weeks.  Here's one more update to the update!

I mentioned Christ Church of Austin's daily Advent devotional.  You can now access that online as a printable pdf or read each day's readings online.  Go here to access either option.  

I feel ridiculously privileged to share work with these other writers at Christ Church and thankful for their welcome.  (the piece I wrote is included on December 21, Seeing the Savior).

May God bless you with peace as you prepare Him room...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Monday Mix Tape: Advent 1

Welcome to Monday Mix Tape, in which I pretend I'm Ira Glass.  You know, I choose a theme and share with you several variations on the theme from the worlds of art, faith and culture.  To keep up the fun little facade of making a weekly mix tape, I label each of these finds as "track 1". "track 2" and so on (and just like the stack of mixtapes you've got hidden in a box in your attic, you never know when you might see some love song from Journey or Lionel Richie show up here).

Today's mix welcomes the liturgical new year, Advent 2011.  The next four weeks I'll be sharing many of the ways my family and I are trying to step out of our own tyranny of the urgent and step into the alternate universe of kingdom time.  I mentioned in my last post that I'm beginning to feel some of the benefits of the long obedience liturgical formation requires.  It seems very much like my experience with going to the gym.  Every single time I go to the gym I have a sensation of "wow, that felt good.  i need to do that more often."  My body informs me with some immediate gratification -endorphins and tiny glimpses of increased muscle tone.  But  the greater payoff -- the whole point, actually, of exercise -- is when I recognize greater all-around health in my everyday life:  I'm sleeping better, I'm not getting winded just walking to the mailbox, I'm emotionally healthier because of all that good adrenal activity, my clothes fit better, I'm not getting sick as easily because I'm not so run down.  This is when I know the truest reward of physical formation.  

Same thing for spiritual formation.  I've always felt immediate enjoyment of the spiritual practices in which I've participated.  But now, after three or so years of walking out the dailiness of the liturgical season -- albeit, quite imperfectly -- I'm beginning to feel more spiritually healthy in my core.  I have a larger perspective shaping all that is going on around me, I have less anxiety about my purpose here on earth, I feel less responsible to save myself and more able to partake of the daily graces of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I feel less lonely and more part of a whole, I feel more hope about God's work in all peoples at all times for His glory, I feel more equipped to steward the wide gamut of emotions that activate me and the people I encounter.  One way to say it is I feel more spacious.  Another is to say I feel more solid, grounded, peaceful and purposed.  

Normally I don't write so much in a mixtape post, but I didn't want the season to go by without marking this discovery of God's work in me.  I am grateful and hopeful.

On to the lovely tracks...

track 1:  visual art

Advent banners  made of quilted fiber pieces (cotton, silk and nylon), 31" x 47",
 created by Cindy Henry for Union Center Christian Church Endicott, NY

track 2:  music

track 3:  poetry

If not this year, some year, I want to dig into the "O Antiphons" I've read about in various liturgical texts.  Part of the intrigue I feel toward them is that connection to my most favorite Advent hymn, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel".  Each o antiphon holds a verse in the hymn which together serve as powerful litany of longing.  Before you read Malcolm Guite's sonnet below, go to his blog post which includes the traditional language in both English and Latin for O Wisdom (Sapientia).

I've included the audio widget if you'd prefer to listen to hear the sonnet read by the author.

I cannot think unless I have been thought,
Nor can I speak unless I have been spoken.
I cannot teach except as I am taught,
Or break the bread except as I am broken.
O Mind behind the mind through which I seek,
O Light within the light by which I see,
O Word beneath the words with which I speak,
O founding, unfound Wisdom, finding me,
O sounding Song whose depth is sounding me,
O Memory of time, reminding me,
My Ground of Being, always grounding me,
My Maker’s Bounding Line, defining me,
Come, hidden Wisdom, come with all you bring,
Come to me now, disguised as everything

track 4:  my favorite links this week 
on the subject of Advent
  • First Sunday of Advent at Sing for Joy For Listeners: a lovely narrated broadcast of thoughtful commentary and sacred choral music based on the common lectionary.

track 5: installation art

Salisbury Cathedral is a medieval English cathedral, situated 1 1/2 hours from London.  The Cathedral commences each Advent season with a traditional procession, "From Darkness to LIght."  Last year's service included an installation by Bruce Munro, lighting designer and installation artist.  

It's so beautiful I can barely watch the video.  (via Clayfire Curator)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Happy Advent Eve!

It's hard to believe that seventeen days have passed since I wrote this Advent post!  I'm updating some of the information and re-sending because tomorrow is the big day. Look for the updates in bold cranberry letters.

One note: You know that statement "I did not make it, it is making me"?  I'm noticing that the slow formation following the liturgical calendar is beginning to bear fruit in my life.  I'm positively giddy with anticipation for this season to begin.  It may also be that the trials and celebrations of this past year have developed my spiritual muscles, heightened my spiritual awareness, wizened me to know even better the tension we mark with Advent:  the Christ who has come, the Christ who is with us, the Christ we await.

May we come in and know him better, man! this Advent season.

"The liturgical year is the year that sets out to attune the life of the Christian to the life of Jesus, the Christ. It proposes, year after year, to immerse us over and over again into the sense and substance of the Christian life until, eventually, we become what we say we are -- followers of Jesus all the way to the heart of God. The liturgical year is an adventure in human growth, an exercise in spiritual ripening." (Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year) 
If you've ever considered following the ancient rhythms of the  liturgical calendar there's no better time to start than at the Church's New Year:  Advent.  Even if your church follows the civic calendar more prominently than the liturgical, you can follow along with your brothers and sisters in Christ across the globe from the quiet spaces of your own home.  You could create -- figuratively or, even, literally -- a family altar in your own home.  This does not have to be elaborate, time-consuming or expensive.  Simple tangible acts will impress themselves upon your hearts and minds as well as your children's for a lifetime:  a book or two filled with rich images and time-tested writings, mealtime prayers, a candle or two.  

"The liturgical year does not begin at the heart of the Christian enterprise. It does not immediately plunge us into the chaos of the Crucifixion or the giddy confusion of the Resurrection. Instead, the year opens with Advent, the season that teaches us to wait for what is beyond the obvious. It trains us to see what is behind the apparent. Advent makes us look for God in all those places we have, until now, ignored."
If it may be of help to you, I've included a list of favorite resources our family has used the past several years.  

Advent devotional books:
  • God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas:  This is my favorite, favorite, favorite advent devotional.  It covers the weeks leading up to Christmas, goes through the 12 days of Christmas and moves into Epiphany.  The full-color artwork is gorgeous and the writings include authors like Eugene Peterson, Scott Cairns, Luci Shaw, Emilie Griffin, Richard John Neuhaus and Kathleen Norris.  We put this book on an easel next to our nativity along with some Bibles for people to pick up and read when they have quiet moments. (see photo above)

  • Advent and Christmas Wisdom from G.K. Chesterton:  Alas, I left my copy of this book in a Panera Bread and was never able to find it.  I enjoyed it for the short time I owned it!  update:  Some kind benefactor anonymously purchased and shipped this book to me last week.  I keep staring at it with wonder at the grace of it all.

  • Devotions for Advent (Mosaic Bible):  We have both the Bible and the handy Advent and Lent devotional booklets.  The readings are the same, but the small booklet is great for carrying in a purse or sharing with a friend or family member.  The booklet is only $1.99 and includes the same full color artwork as the Mosaic Bible.  Wonderful resource for a family, small group, Sunday School class, or an entire church community.

  • My church is in the process of self-publishing an Advent devotional.  If they place it online, I'll update this info with a link.  update:  I have not heard whether we'll be posting this online, but will let you know!  

The Cradle to Cross Wreath handmade from the Voskamp family.
  All proceeds go to Compassion International. 

Advent wreaths:
  • The Cradle to the Cross Wreath:  I've mentioned before how much we've enjoyed using this wreath for our Advent, Lent and Pentecost celebrations.  You can go to Ann Voskamp's site to see how her family uses the wreathe for Advent.  We have enjoyed it so much, but also do recommend using dripless candles!  I'm not sure how many orders they've received and whether you'd be able to get yours in time for the beginning of Advent, but I encourage you to order it anyway.  Worst case, you'll be all prepared for Lent 2012!
  • Jesse Tree:  Ann has also made available a free Jesse Tree booklet with readings and printouts for your family to enjoy.  We've never tried this but I'm considering it for this year.  Never too old, I don't think.  update:  The free Jesse Tree Advent booklet is available when you subscribe to A Holy Experience via email or RSS feed to your reader.  Scroll to the bottom of the link I've given you here to get that information.
  • Make your own advent wreath!  A few pictures I've seen in my blog reader.

    I love the simplicity of this advent wreath by Sharon @ The Good, True and Beautiful.

    A super simple Advent wreath I saw at Like Mother, Like Daughter
    "Advent is about learning to wait. It is about not having to know exactly what is coming tomorrow, only that whatever it is, it is of the essence of sanctification for us. Every piece of it, some hard, some uplifiting, is sign of the work of God alive in us. We are becoming as we go. We learn in Advent to stay in the present, knowing that only the present well lived can possibly lead us to the fullness of life."

     Click here to visit a site with all sorts of Advent information and resources.

    Friday, November 25, 2011

    7 quick takes, Thanksgiving edition!

    --- 1 ---

    I snapped a shot of these fellows gracing our table before I got it set for dinner.  Last year, I managed to find them free in a stuff swap at our church.  Aren't they handsome?

    --- 2 ---

    I managed to find them a spot on the set table, too...

    --- 3 ---

    ...standing guard over the dinner rolls.  Also, those gorgeous napkin rings?  We purchased them from a young artist, Danielle Smith, at one of the art shows I curated at our previous church.  I am so happy we bought them -- they're stunning in real life.  I only wish I could get a few more!

    --- 4 ---

    Ahhh....the food.  THE FOOD!  My sister-in-law made the lion's share and we put her skills and labor of love right on the top of our thankful list.  

    --- 5 ---

    For what it's worth, I was especially grateful for her yummy, yummy, YUMMY spiced cranberries.  Delicious!
    --- 6 ---

    I'm not sure the last time Brian got to share Thanksgiving dinner with his sister.  We were all grateful.

    --- 7 ---

    Can't you tell?!?

    For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

    Thursday, November 24, 2011

    the sacrament of the unnecessary

    "[The] dinner party is a true proclamation of the abundance of being -- a rebuke to the thrifty little idolatries by which we lose sight of the lavish hand that made us. It is precisely because no one needs soup fish, meat, salad, cheese, and dessert at one meal that we so badly need to sit down to them from time to time. It was largesse that made us all; we were not created to fast forever. The unnecessary is the taproot of our being and the last key to the door of delight. Enter here, therefore, as a sovereign remedy for the narrowness of our minds and the stinginess of our souls, the formal dinner...the true convivium -- the long Session that brings us nearly home."

    (sharing this excerpt via mama:monk)

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011


    My highschool piano teacher politely declined to attend our wedding.  He was gracious enough to call and tell us his reason rather than write it on the RSVP note we'd sent in his invitation.  He made sure I knew that it wasn't because he'd be out of town for Thanksgiving or had a gig somewhere else that day.  It was just that he was, well there's no other way to say it, he was opposed to our marriage.  He went on to say he thought we were great people and he wished he could congratulate us but there was no way a nineteen and twenty-year-old could get married and stay married.  It just didn't happen and he didn't feel right sitting through a ceremony he thought was a farce.  I managed to thank him for calling and say good-bye without bursting into tears.

    And then Brian and I had the nerve to get married anyway.

    And stay married for twenty-one years.  Well, we still need to make it to tomorrow to claim a full 21, but odds seem to be in our favor. 

    There have been days, though, when I wasn't so sure.  Those days seem to be fewer and further between, but when they come they knock the wind out of us.   Thankfully, the good days are even better than the bad days are hard so it kind of works out.

    We've made it this far with hard work and sacrifice, it's true.  I think those attributes got us through the honeymoon.  After that it's been grace, the prayers of the people, some grinning and bearing it, a few romantic interludes thrown in there, too.  Also, Brian's sense of humor has saved the day more than once. 

    We are lavished in grace.  We have hurt each other deeply.  Loved each other inadequately.  Missed opportunities to say the kindest thing.  We've also learned how to fight well.  Given ourselves to loving and serving four amazing human beings, our children.  We've given ourselves to love Christ and His Church. Some days it's these two commitments only that keep us moving forward in the same direction rather than turning tail.  

    our honeymoon at Willow Valley, PA

    One of the fun things about getting married near Thanksgiving is that when we go away for the night, the hotels are usually putting up their Christmas displays.  We always pretend they're putting it up just for us.

    our 21st anniversary at St. Anthony's hotel in San Antonio

    After twenty-one years, we've decided to make a run at another twenty-one.  Who knows where we'll be then, what new struggles, celebrations, hurts and healings we'll experience in that time.  I do know that we'll still be loving our four children, Christ and His Church and doing our best to love each other.  And every year around November 24 I think of my old piano teacher and wish I could send him a thank you note for caring enough about the value of marriage to challenge us -- even unknowingly -- to take the vows seriously.  We've broken a few, but we're working on keeping the "death 'til we part" one.  We're working on that, but counting only on grace.

    P.S., I got curious if I'd written a post for each wedding anniversary since I started blogging.  Turns out, I have. If you're curious, too (or you're my mother) you can click on the links:  16, 17, (must be 18 wasn't a good year?!?), 19, and 20

    Monday Mix Tape: support artists, buy art (part 2)

    Welcome to Monday Mix Tape, in which I pretend I'm Ira Glass.  You know, I choose a theme and share with you several variations on the theme from the worlds of art, faith and culture.  To keep up the fun little facade of making a weekly mix tape, I label each of these finds as "track 1". "track 2" and so on (and just like the stack of mixtapes you've got hidden in a box in your attic, you never know when you might see some love song from Journey or Lionel Richie show up here). 

    This two-parted mixtape is inspired by this statement: 

    As we near the season for giving gifts to those we love, I thought I'd practice a little bit of street-marketing for my friends who make and sell art.  Hope you enjoy!  (also, don't be afraid to leave links to your favorite artists' sites via  the comments page).  Don't miss last week's post where I highlighted Shannon Newby, Laurel Rudd, Emily Theresa Wierenga, Erin L. McMahon, Raising Jane and ReMastered.

    track 1:  visual art
    original oil paintings and prints

    World's Smallest Seed
    print, 17" x 31" or 10" x 8"
    $40 / $25
    I haven't met this man in person but have appreciated his work through stories I've heard from David Taylor and from seeing his work in the CIVA exhibit Seeing the Savior that we displayed in my former church.  I've talked about his work here, here and here.

    track 2: music

    folk, americana, country-soul
    albums:  Christmas Hymns, Bright As You, Living In Skin

    He's one of my favorite singer-songwriters.  Not just because I've had the privilege to spend time with him, get to know him a little bit, put him up in our guest room.  Not just because he serenaded me and 60 of my closest friends for my 39th birthday.  But because he sings songs like this, this and this.  These would be great albums to purchase for family and friends for Christmas or download for your own enjoyment.  Seriously.  Do it today.

    alt-country, folk, pop

    I met Miranda at the 2011 Retreat for Ministers to Artists. She actually offered to pick me up from the airport and let me hitch a ride with her for the three-hour trip without ever having met me before. Crazy, right? Also, she's going to have her first baby soon, so buy her music willya?

    track 3: film

    Jeffrey Travis
    filmmaker: Flatland: The Movie (with voice cast including Martin Sheen and Kristen Bell)

    This is another man I have not yet, but owe my appreciation to David Taylor.  My family thoroughly enjoyed this half-hour animated film based on Edwin Abbot's classic novel.  May I recommend this as a great gift fort for people of all ages, math nerds, math teachers, parents raising children to love math and people like me who have no clue.

    track 4: links

    I wish I had time and energy to add more artist friends, their work and their shops to my blog.  Here's a partial bullet list of other links  to explore.  I have personally enjoyed work from all of these artists:

    I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes about the spiritual formation that comes with being a patron of the arts...happy gift giving!

    "The God who impoverished himself is also the God of abundance, and somehow, perhaps at times nonsensically, Christians are called to live out of an ethic not of scarcity but of abundance—an abundance that extends both to the homeless neighbor and to the artist neighbor. . . "  -- Lauren Winner, from her chapter THE ART PATRON: Someone Who Can't Draw a Straight Line Tries to Defend her Art-Buying Habit  in For the Beauty of the Church

    Linking: storytellers button blue
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