Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent daybook, 2: many nations will come, neither shall they learn war anymore

My Advent daybook for these 24 days of waiting.  Join me, won't you?

(see all Advent daybook posts from 2014 here)


Flight to Sinjar Mountain


Micah 4:1-5: the mountain of the house of the Lord will be lifted up and many nations shall come, neither shall they learn war anymore

{all readings for the day: Psalm 79; Micah 4:1-5; Revelation 15:1-8}

In Jesus, you are the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. You are the root and descendant of David, the bright morning star: I believe you are coming soon. Today, O Lord, I come to your mountain, to the place of your presence, so that you may teach me your ways and I may walk in your paths. Amen. (source)


Pie Jesu
Future of Forestry

Advent calendar via Ambrosium


Advent daybook, 1: God of heaven come down

My Advent daybook for these 24 days of waiting.  Join me, won't you? 

(see all Advent daybook posts from 2014 here)


The Expectation
Richard Oelze, 1936


Isaiah 64:1-9: O that you would tear open the heavens and come down


God of justice and peace, from the heavens you rain down mercy and kindness, that all on earth may stand in awe and wonder before your marvellous deeds. Raise our heads in expectation, that we may yearn for the coming day of the Lord and stand without blame before your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.  (source) 


Song of Hope (Heaven Come Down)
Robbie Seay Band

light candles

Advent calendar via Ambrosium


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving party-in-a-post

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.  I'm grateful for you all!
  Here's a little party-in-a-post as my gift to you today.

Pray & Sing




Until the day we feast at one table together,
God's blessing on you and yours.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Paying Attention (22): celebrating monotonous monogamy

In this season that my time is called for in places other than writing new posts, I've been following an idea my good Father gave me to  ponder and notice again the words I've already written once.  I've discovered this practice allows me to keep praying the beads of memory in this sacramental life.
On Monday Brian and I celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary.  Unbelievable. I am the first person to understand the unearned favor and fragile nature of this gift . 
In honor of long-love, here's a little compilation of posts I've written on the subject.

in honor of monotonous matrimony (originally posted 06/02/2010)

June 5, 1970 was the day my parents made vows.  That's forty years of obedience in the same direction.  As the oldest child -- and precociously perceptive at that -- I noted each dip in the ebb and flow of long love. The romantic hilarity and teeth-gritting shouldering on the vows demanded.  As an adult, I've walked with Brian nearly twenty years in their footsteps.In the same way they've followed in the 64-year-old worn-down path my grandparents are travelling.

Sometimes the love is fierce as hate and sometimes it is supple as a half-awake midnight caress. It is hard-fought and exhausting in its familiarity.  It is insistent to remember one face, one form, one essence only, and no other.  It is cisterns and wells of living water and tromps through vineyards. Pomegranates and gazelles and all that.  My beloved is mine and I am his.  

Glorious monotony.

My grandmother said, "My back doesn't bend anymore!"  
My grandfather said, "Mine does!"

when did you first notice the one you love? (originally posted 10/16/2013)

A little video from the time I was talking with my grandparents on their 67th anniversary and being really nosey about their love and marriage business. 

-- Three Generations of monotonous monogamy --

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Kids these days: Parsing that interview with Jaden and Willow Smith [sharing at Think Christian today]

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
Just playing devil’s advocate here: maybe Will and Jada Smith are just like any other good parents who believe their children possess a particular brand of genius. Let’s be honest, if the New York Times style magazine wanted to feature our kids’ accomplishments and precocious personalities in an interview, we’d let them. Otherwise why are we all filling the Internet up with the videos, photos and daily commentary of our children? Let’s not even get started on the number of times we ask our friends to applaud our kids’ talent. 
So what if we looked at the interview, which appeared Monday and has been dissected throughout the week, in this way instead? Jaden and Willow Smith are two teenagers speaking the native language of most teenagers: an angsty mix of idealism and legalism. Yes, they’re privileged and that adds a somewhat unpalatable flavor to many of their responses. Yes, their family values include some unorthodox views about basic assumptions of reality. Still, I would prefer to read a kid who can throw in a few multi-syllabic concepts to spice up the typical 140-character fare (although my daughter assures me that Willow and Jaden are also quite fluent in tweet speak). I see the irony in their angsty criticism of angst, but if my high school self got the attention of major media, I’d be hunting down and burning those transcripts. 
And really, the Smith kids echo (what I assume to be) the beliefs of their parents in a way that struck me as quite familiar to the methods my church friends and I used growing up.

    Bonus feature
    One of my childhood journal pages I let the blogging world see:  Speeches I Would Make If I Ever Got the Chance -- Woman Politicians (1980/9 years old)

    Saturday, November 15, 2014

    7 quick takes from a cozy week in Austin (!) + other good things I found online

    --- 1 --- 
    We had the house to ourselves this weekend, but Brian had a paper to write. I tried to work on a writing assignment. Also we were really, really tired.  Season Two of The Newsroom is available now to stream.  We watched quite a lot of it, snuggled up on the couch.  It's amazing how comfy this activity can be when you used to have a lot of kids taking up couch space and now you don't.  We laughed at ourselves because The Newsroom is classic Aaron Sorkin-formula -- sometimes almost word for word.  But we love Aaron Sorkin formula and really wouldn't have it any other way.

    --- 2 --- 
    After some interesting conversations in the office about the problems of Nationalism and what wars are just wars and what is our military responsibility around the world and here at home, I found instruction and encouragement in Sunday's collect:  
    O Judge of the nations, we remember before You with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines. This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN
    Also, today, I re-posted from 2009 the story of my friend Margaret saying good-bye to her mother.  I never want to forget watching my friend and her father care for her mother during the last days of fighting off cancer.  And I never want to forget the clarity of relationship -- friendship -- that comes in those moments:  Paying Attention (21) - remembering Margaret's mom 

    --- 3 --- 
    Spent most of my lunch breaks this week finding a quiet place to read this book.  I borrowed it from the library because, you know, that's free.  And it's like a week overdue because I want to read every paragraph twice.  Sorry to any of you who might be on the wait list.  Clearly, I need to go ahead and own this book.

    --- 4 --- 
    Today my daughter sent me this.  She kindly added a note that "almost always" when this happens it's a "good thing".  

    --- 5 --- 
    More lunch break, more book reading shots.

    It's entirely possible I'll be transcribing whole pages of this book into blog posts because I'm that struck by Christian Wiman's writing.  Consider yourselves warned...

    --- 6 --- 
    This was one of those mornings when I just didn't wanna.  You know what I mean?  And the day ended up being as hard as I imagined.  Just normal hard stuff and then learning about friends and co-workers facing harder than normal stuff and it all kind of piled up into a big wad of sadness that came out as tears down my face.  For quite a long time I sat at my desk, working away, tears just streaming down my face because of the sad things.  I guess that's OK.  I'm also glad none of my co-workers noticed.  Crying helped.  Kind words from kind people helped.  And Thursday night small group (women's night) helped. 

    So did a cozy fire and a room full of women talking about both good, hard and funny things.  

    Also, today I posted writing inspiration I've been trying lately to paste in my mind: 5 of my favorite quotations on writing: Kenyon, L'Engle, King, O'Connor, Berry

    --- 7 --- 
    It's hard to believe that 2 weeks ago today I was in PA trick-or-treating with my niece and nephews.  And 2 weeks from now we'll be hanging out playing games and making left-over turkey sandwiches.  

    Here's a slideshow of my PA/NY trip.  You would rightly gather from this presentation that my trip home was to see nieces & nephews, apples/cider, doughnuts and the rest of my family -- in that order. I've added sappy music because I can't help myself.

    Fall trip to Pennsylvania & New York by Slidely Slideshow

    --- Other good words online this week ---

    Merry Little Christmas Project: 3 Ways to Save Time This Christmas - My sister's got this beautiful plan to make November her season to prepare for Christmas so that the first weeks of December can be set aside for savoring instead of stressing.  This post is one one several great tips she's sharing this month.  Join her Merry Little Christmas Project and make sure you sign up for her Christmas newsletter!  ("one email a day for all the best deals")

    Giving each other the space to be authentic by Katie Fox at The Art of Simple:  Wise insight by my friend Katie.  "When I start out a conversation by assuming that someone is “so excited” or “so happy” or so anything at all, I’ve already created a barrier that might prevent him or her from feeling like they can actually be honest with me."

    Where Are All the Good Stories About Marriage? by David Taylor at CT:  I had the privilege to read Dr. Taylor's earlier drafts of this piece and was even more impressed with the final draft published at CT this week.  "If a Christian community were willing to invest in those who are called to produce such television and movies, then I believe we might be looking not at the failure of the Christian imagination in the public square, but at the gift of a vision of marital love, in all its complexities and pleasures. God willing, viewers may yearn for much more of where that came from." May it be so.

    Sesame Street Week at The A.V. Club - Everyone's favorite children's television show turned 45 this week.  I've had fun reminiscing with the daily columnists at The A.V. Club.  What clips and songs do you remember?

    For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

    Thursday, November 13, 2014

    5 of my favorite quotations on writing: Kenyon, L'Engle, King, O'Connor, Berry

    5 faves: quotations on writing

    For a long while I've dreamed about going back to school. It's not the right time (as I like to say "Not all 6 of us can be in school at once!" -- which is probably a cop-out) In the meantime, I'm excited to pursue another goal. I saved up my pennies and signed up for the Glen Online Creative Non-fiction Writing Course.

    I'm really excited to learn and thankful for Glen Online and Image Journal's hospitality and encouragement. So to celebrate (and to rouse to the task at hand) here's some writing pep talks from five of my favorite authors.


    Jane Kenyon, at a 1991 literary conference in Enfield, New Hampshire, from A Hundred White Daffodils:
    "Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off  the hook. Work regular hours."


    "As soon as Bion, our baby, was in nursery school, I dropped out of the group of mothers who occasionally gathered together to drink coffee and gossip. This was writing time. Nobody else needed writing time. And I felt that I was looked at askance because I spent so much time at the typewriter and yet couldn't sell what I wrote. I certainly wasn't pulling my weight financially. In my journal I wrote: 'There is a gap in understanding between me and our friends and acquaintances. I can't quite understand a life without books and study and music and pictures and a driving passion. And they, on the other hand can't understand why I have to write, why I am a writer. When, for instance, I say to someone that I have to get home to work, the assumption is that I mean housecleaning or ironing, not writing a book. I'm very kindly permitted to be a writer but not to take time in pursuing my trade. Nor can they understand the importance of music or why an hour with a Mozart sonata at the piano is not wasted time but time spent on a real value. Or really listening, without talking, to music. Or going for a walk simply to see the beauty around one, or the real importance of a view from a window." 

    Stephen King in On Writing:

    “Put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”

    Wendell Berry on 

    How To Be a Poet

     (to remind myself)
    Make a place to sit down.   
    Sit down. Be quiet.   
    You must depend upon   
    affection, reading, knowledge,   
    skill—more of each   
    than you have—inspiration,   
    work, growing older, patience,   
    for patience joins time   
    to eternity. Any readers   
    who like your poems,   
    doubt their judgment.   

    Breathe with unconditional breath   
    the unconditioned air.   
    Shun electric wire.   
    Communicate slowly. Live   
    a three-dimensioned life;   
    stay away from screens.   
    Stay away from anything   
    that obscures the place it is in.   
    There are no unsacred places;   
    there are only sacred places   
    and desecrated places.   

    Accept what comes from silence.   
    Make the best you can of it.   
    Of the little words that come   
    out of the silence, like prayers   
    prayed back to the one who prays,   
    make a poem that does not disturb   
    the silence from which it came.
    Source: Poetry (January 2001).

    Flannery O'Connor

    Any favorite quotations like to share?  
    Do tell!

    *Linking up with Jenna today

    Sunday, November 09, 2014

    Paying Attention (21): remembering Margaret's mom

    In this season that my time is called for in places other than writing new posts, I've been following an idea my good Father gave me to  ponder and notice again the words I've already written once.  I've discovered this practice allows me to keep praying the beads of memory in this sacramental life.
    In the past few years, the first week of November has become a memorial week, appropriately ushered in by All Saints Day.  One year ago during this week we said good-bye to our dear friend Trey.  Five years ago this week I watched my friend Margaret say good-bye to her mother.  I am grateful for the lessons I've learned watching dear ones grieve.  Today's post is what I learned watching Margaret and her father say good-bye to Peggy.
    on grieving again (originally posted November 14, 2009)

    I'm thinking about grief again.  In fact, the subject keeps coming up everywhere I turn. Several of my friends are mourning the loss of a loved one, some are mourning the loss of relationship and a few are mourning the loss of certain childhood privileges - for example unconditional love from a parent or ever hearing the words I love you from any trusted adult in their growing up years.

    Our nation grieved the loss of thirteen soldiers last week.  We lose soldiers all the time, but we sit up and take notice when they are lost on our own soil at the hands of one of our own countrymen.  This waste of life haunts us and we try to figure out how to lament nobly and adequately without upsetting our entire emotional landscape.

    My friend Margaret lost her mom this week.  For over six years since her mom's diagnosis of ovarian cancer she has tried to imagine what these days would be like -- when would they happen, how would she respond, what would moving forward without her mom cost her family?  I wonder if she'll really ever be able to answer those questions?

    A week ago -- on a Friday morning -- we visited Margaret's parents, Toby and Peggy.  We arrived at their home and tried to enter the reality of their long goodbye.  We walked around their house and behaved as if we'd been invited over for a spaghetti supper -- noticing pictures on the wall, wandering around the space, making small talk.  To me the whole house seemed lopsided, almost dizzying in its architectural imbalance.  None of the weight of lovely furniture, books, china, or beloved piano could balance the floors that seemed to literally slope down the hall toward Peggy's bedroom.  For many long months the entire center of their universe was located in that bedroom, their energies absorbed in the tasks of comfort and homely care, love and unexercised grief.  It's as if the gravity of their weighty love drew us in.  We walked the long hallway into Peggy's room and encircled her with hymn-singing, small talk, Scripture-reading, prayer, laughter. 

    We are rusty in our hymns, the four of us friends.  But we worked through The Church's One FoundationGreat Is Thy Faithfulness, and others, trying to read the old black notes moving up and down between sharps, flats and naturals on the page.  We laughed to ourselves that we'd be in a position to sing these great old songs to the man and wife who'd mastered them their whole lives.  Peggy was certainly humble to receive our gift with no look of horror at our missed notes in her lovely, large blue eyes.  I noticed her eyes most when they were fixed on Toby while he spoon-fed her ice chips.  I'm not sure I've ever seen such naked trust in an adult face before. 

    The whole love between this husband and wife -- its gritty, imperfect reality -- was far better than any movie story of love I've ever seen.  I'm thankful I got to tell Peggy how much I'd learned from her dying.  How much I learned about the value of long years with my husband.  About the charity that suffers through horrors as well as delights.  The charity that causes one spouse to sleep in a recliner chair next to his wife's bedside for night after long night.  I also learned -- again-- the violence of death.  The sturdiness of our insistence on living is one miserable bugger to someone who is suffering and ready to go to her true home.  Everything is ready, everyone is ready but that body that insists on trying to cope with suffering and go on living.  Eventually, death comes and does it grim work tearing families apart.  I learn each time to embrace the glory of Christ's resurrection more. 

    I'm thankful for last Friday morning with Peggy and Toby and Margaret and Lori and Andrea and two-year-old Katie.  Eventually we swum back out of the gravity of that room and walked back up the hall toward the piano.  We sang more.  I'm thankful for my new friend Brian Moss who gave us his sheet music to the Psalms that have been sustaining Margaret all these long days.  We were asked again later that week to sing another Brian Moss song at Peggy's funeral.  Between that and an old Don Wyrtzen anthem that Toby requested, once again, we novices felt humbled to sing for this musical family.  And we slid back and forth between the extraordinary extremes of grieving and giggling at the absurdity of it. 

    Margaret, I'm saving up some funny stories for you.  It's occurred to us that your mom might have been able to laugh along with our fumbling, stumbling attempts to sing for her family this week.  I know the day will come for you to laugh, too. 

    In the meantime, tears.

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