Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Murder in the Cathedral (continued)

At 4:07 of the video (T.S. Eliot):

We praise thee, O God, for thy glory displayed in all the creatures of the earth.
In the snow, in the rain, in the wind, in the storm;
in all of thy creatures, both the hunters and the hunted.
For all things exist only as seen by thee, only as known by thee, all things exist
Only in thy light, and thy glory is declared even in that which denies thee;
the darkness declares the glory of light.
Those who deny thee could not deny, if thou didst not exist;
and their denial is never complete, for if it were so, they would not exist.
They affirm thee in living; all things affirm thee in living;
the bird in the air, both the hawk and the finch;
the beast on the earth, both the wolf and the lamb;
the worm in the soil and the worm in the belly.
Therefore man, whom thou hast made to be conscious of thee,
must consciously praise thee, in thought and in word and in deed.


Murder in the Cathedral

One of my favorite authors is T.S. Eliot (perhaps most famous for Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, the basis for the musical Cats). I was introduced to him in junior high and have been intriqued by his poetry ever since. Several years ago I had the pleasure of reading his play, Murder in the Cathedral, based upon the life and death of Thomas Becket.

I had been introduced to Thomas Becket by my English history professor in college and I was also intriqued by him. As a friend of the King of England (Henry II), he was elevated to the position of Archbishop of Canterbury as a way for Henry to have more control over the Church. However, Thomas took his position seriously and seems to have grown in his discipleship and prince and bishop were frequently at odds. He was assasinated on this day (December 29th) by one of Henry's knights, while praying Vespers at the Cathedral.

The following is from T.S. Eliot's play, "Murder in the Cathedral," and is a wonderful example of  the price and privelage of dicipleship. (The words are Eliot's, of course, and not Thomas.)
"The Archbishop preaches in the Cathedral on Christmas morning, 1170...

Dear children of God, my sermon this morning will be a very short one. I wish only that you should ponder and meditate on the deep meaning and mystery of our masses of Christmas Day. For whenever Mass is said, we re-enact the Passion and Death of Our Lord; and on this Christmas Day we do this in celebration of His Birth. So that at the same moment we rejoice in His coming for the salvation of men, and offer again to God His Body and Blood in sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. It was in this same night that has just passed, that a multitude of the heavenly host appeared before the shepherds at Bethlehem, saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men"; at this same time of all the year that we celebrate at once the Birth of Our Lord and His Passion and Death upon the Cross. Beloved, as the World sees, this is to behave in a strange fashion. For who in the World will both mourn and rejoice at once and for the same reason? For either joy will be overcome by mourning or mourning will be cast out by joy; so that it is only in these our Christian mysteries that we can rejoice and mourn at once for the same reason. But think for a while on the meaning of this word "peace." Does it seem strange to you that the angels should have announced Peace, when ceaselessly the world has been stricken with War and the fear of War? Does it seem to you that the angelic voices were mistaken, and that the promise was a disappointment and a cheat?

Reflect now, how Our Lord Himself spoke of Peace. He said to His disciples: "My peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you." Did He mean peace as we think of it: the kingdom of England at peace with its neighbors, the barons at peace with the King, the householder counting over his peaceful gains, the swept hearth, his best wine for a friend at the table, his wife singing to the children? Those men His disciples knew no such things: they went forth to journey afar, to suffer by land and sea, to know torture, imprisonment, disappointment, to suffer death by martyrdom. What then did He mean? If you ask that, remember that He said also, "Not as the world giveth, give I unto you." So then, He gave to his disciples peace, but not peace as the world gives.

Consider also one thing of which you have probably never thought. Not only do we at the feast of Christmas celebrate at once Our Lord's Birth and His Death: but on the next day we celebrate the martyrdom of his first martyr, the blessed Stephen. Is it an accident, do you think, that the day of the first martyr follows immediately the day of the Birth of Christ? By no means. Just as we rejoice and mourn at once, in the Birth and Passion of Our Lord; so also, in a smaller figure, we both rejoice and mourn in the death of martyrs. We mourn, for the sins of the world that has martyred them; we rejoice, that another soul is numbered among the Saints in Heaven, for the glory of God and for the salvation of men.

Beloved, we do not think of a martyr simply as a good Christian who has been killed because he is a Christian: for that would be solely to mourn. We do not think of him simply as a good Christian who has been elevated to the company of the Saints: for that would be simply to rejoice: and neither our mourning nor our rejoicing is as the world's is. A Christian martyrdom is no accident. Saints are not made by accident. Still less is a Christian martyrdom the effect of a man's will to become a Saint, as a man by willing and contriving may become a ruler of men. Ambition fortifies the will of man to become ruler over other men: it operates with deception, cajolery, and violence, it is the action of impurity upon impurity. Not so in Heaven. A martyr, a saint, is always made by the design of God, for His love of men, to warn them and to lead them, to bring them back to His ways. A martyrdom is never the design of man; for the true martyr is he who has become the instrument of God, who has lost his will in the will of God, not lost it but found it, for he has found freedom in submission to God. The martyr no longer desires anything for himself, not even the glory of martyrdom. So thus as on earth the Church mourns and rejoices at once, in a fashion that the world cannot understand; so in Heaven the Saints are most high, having made themselves most low, seeing themselves not as we see them, but in the light of the Godhead from which they draw their being.

I have spoken to you today, dear children of God, of the martyrs of the past, asking you to remember especially our martyr of Canterbury, the blessed Archbishop Elphege; because it is fitting, on Christ's birthday, to remember what is that peace which he brought; and because, dear children, I do not think that I shall ever preach to you again; and because it is possible that in a short time you may have yet another martyr, and that one perhaps not the last. I would have you keep in your hearts these words that I say, and think of them at another time. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."






O God, our strength and our salvation, who didst call thy servant Thomas Becket to be a shepherd of thy people and a defender of thy Church: Keep thy household from all evil and raise up among us faithful pastors and leaders who are wise in the ways of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ the shepherd of our souls, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

A Blessed Christmastide

We continue to sing with joy, as our Christmas celebration is not even haf way through! Today is the 5th Day of Christmas, with those famous 5 golden rings from the song. Since I cannot afford five gold rings at this time, I think I'll enjoy 5 golden onion rings for lunch! Anyway, here's a classic from 30 years ago:

Monday, December 28, 2009

Holy Innocents

How can one continue to say Merry Christmas on a day that remembers the Holy Innocents? We remember today the baby boys that were slaughtered by King Herod in his attempt to eliminate the Christ child. It is the fourth day of Christmas, but it feels more like a day for penitence.

There are so many wonderful stories in the Christmas saga that we love to hear. We love the story about the sheep, the shepherds, and the angels above them, singing “Glory to God in the highest.” We love the story of the shepherds going to the stable and visiting the baby Jesus who is lying in a manger. We love the story of the wise men with their gold and frankincense and myrrh. These are wonderful Christmas stories that bring joy to our hearts

But so quickly the story turns ugly and evil. Christmas Eve is such an idyllic, holy night, but it is followed so quickly by chaotic, profane evil. Herod the beast, Herod the murderer, became insanely jealous for his own reign, and he decided to murder all the baby boys two years and under. The mothers began to wail in pain. In one moment, we hear the beauty of the songs of the angels from heaven, and before the week is out, we hear the wailing sounds of mothers whose children had been slaughtered by soldiers. And so Mary and Joseph need to flee from the murdering soldiers to Egypt, into hiding for two years. By then, the cruel and insane Herod finally died. But King Archelaus rose to power in the southern region of Jerusalem, and so Mary and Joseph traveled up north and settled in Nazareth. The whole story of the first Christmas starts off so beautifully but it quickly takes an ugly detour.

The Holy Innocents intrudes upon these joyous days to remind us that God came to confront the reality of evil and sin. Jesus was not born into an idyllic, peaceful world, but into a very real world of sin and death. The good news for us, however, is that the “light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” For that reason, we can continue to say, “Merry Christmas.”

We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by order of King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims, and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (Lutheran Book of Worship)

 

Christmas Re-gift

From a very funny blog, That is Priceless, comes this picture with the caption below. Enjoy!


Baby Jesus Accusing Wise Men of Re-Gifting the Frankincense

The Coventry Carol

I never realized the Coventry Carol, frequently sung at Christmas, refers to the Holy Innocents. I was doing looking through an old church year handbook and discovered the following:


This beautiful English lulaby carol originated in the Coventry Corpus Christi Mystery Plays performed in the 15th century. In a play called The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors, the women of Bethlehem sing this song just before Herod's soldiers come to slaughter their children. It tells the story of the murder of the Holy Innocents, and is sung on December 28, the feast of those tiny martyrs.

Lully, Lullay, thou little tiny child.
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Lullay thou little tiny child
Bye, bye, lully, lullay

O sisters, too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day;
This poor Youngling for whom we sing
Bye, bye 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.

Then woe is me, poor child, for thee,
And ever mourn and say;
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Bye, bye lully, lullay.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sherlock Holmes

Katy and I saw a fun movie tonight, and I was going to write my own review, but came across a better one on Christianity Today.

The movie is smart, funny, and well worth watching. I loved the scenes of 19th century Victorian London. Looking forward to the sequel!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Here's a quote from Dickens to complement last night's sermon (looking at A Christmas Carol):

"I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys." ~Charles Dickens

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O King of the Gentiles and the Desired of them, Thou Cornerstone that dost make both one, come and deliver man, whom Thou didst form out of the dust of the earth.

Antiphon for December 22

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Advent Quotes: Cornelison

"Advent is a time for taking stock of our lives and actions in light of the kingdom of God which entered human history with Christ, but still awaits completion."
--Robert T. Cornelison

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dog Quotes: Rooney

"The average dog is a nicer person than the average person."

-- Andrew A. Rooney



Advent Quotes: Hays

Advent, like its cousin Lent, is a season for prayer and reformation of our hearts.


Edward Hays

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Boston Tea Party

This comes courtesy of one of my favorite blogs, Flintlock and Tomahawk

It's the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, so here's Disney's Johhny Tremain*



* Disney's Johnny Tremain is not the same as the book. The book is so much better. Find the book. Read it and enjoy. (It was the first book I ever bought with my own money.)

Dog Quotes: Eliot



I've enjoyed finding and posting Advent quotes, so I thought I would post a few dog quotes. Our greyhounds bring us so much joy and love that they truly are a blessing of God.

"We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults. Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment." ~George Eliot

Advent Quotes: Norris

"Mary's story … tell[s] us that if the Scriptures don't sometimes pierce us like a sword, we're not paying close enough attention."

--Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk

Monday, December 14, 2009

Creator of the Stars of Night

A favorite Advent hymn, frequently sung at Vespers.



"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...."

Theotokos

O Mary,
In awe we come to you:
Praising,
Beseeching,
(Perhaps cajoling);
Sancta Maria. . .Ora pronobis,
Holy Mary. . .Pray for Us,
Mater Dei, Theotokos,
Mother of God, Bearer of God.



Yet when you sing
You seem not so distant,
Not so Lofty.
In your song we hear no hint
Of Latin piety,
Or Greek abstraction
Or mystical echoes.
In your song we hear the
Raw, Exuberant, Beautiful
Passion of a Hebrew woman,
Just weeks,
Maybe just days,
Beyond being a child.



O Daughter of David,
Your song is as grand
As your ancestor's best.
Of all the great Prophets only Isaiah,
Mighty seer,
Saw as clearly as you
The Light to come.



O Mary,
Sister of all in Christ,
Break out of the marble,
Come down from the canvas,
Teach us hope
In the midst
Of despair.



O Mary,
Our Lady of Inversion,
Teach us to sing
Of the proud cast down
And the lowly raised high.



O Mary,
Perpetual catechist,
Teach us to trust
The Promise
And the One who promises.


 
(From my good friend, Fr. Gregory Singleton)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Advent Quotes: Wangerin

God is coming! God is coming!
All the element we swim in, this existence,
Echoes ahead the advent. God is coming! Can't you feel it?

--Walter Wangerin Jr., "The Signs of the Times" in The Manger Is Empty

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Born in a Barn



The feet of the humblest may walk in the field
Where the feet of the Holiest trod,
This, then, is the marvel to mortals revealed.
- Phillips Brooks

Advent Quotes: Moltmann

The context for understanding the meaning of Advent is to be found in the expectation of the second coming of Christ. For Christians, Christ’s (first) coming only makes sense in light of his promise to come again.
--Jurgen Moltmann


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Advent Quotes: Book of Common Prayer

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armour of light,
now in the time of this life, in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; So
that, at the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the
dead, we may rise to the life immortal.

The Book of Common Prayer, published in 1662

Monday, December 7, 2009

Veni, Veni, Emmanuel

Advent Quotes: Isaiah

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.


Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Isaiah 9:6-7

Advent Quotes: Lewis

"He came down from heaven" can almost be transposed into "Heaven drew earth up into it," and
locality, limitation, sleep, sweat, footsore weariness, frustration, pain, doubt, and death are, from
before all worlds, known by God from within. The pure light walks the earth; the darkness, received
into the heart of Deity, is there swallowed up. Where, except in uncreated light, can the darkness
be drowned?

C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Advent Quotes: Auden

He is the Way.
Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;
You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.

He is the Truth.
Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;
You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.

He is the Life.
Love Him in the World of the Flesh;
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.

(Christmas Oratorio)

(W H Auden – 1907-1973)

Advent Quotes: Bonhoeffer

A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes...and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1943

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembering the "Great War"

What Veterans Day was originally all about. "The war to end all wars." A reminder that all our peace is temporary, unfortunately, this side of eternity. God is our only lasting peace.

Remembering the Great War


For Dad




"For those whose vocation it is to bear the sword in defense of others, grant your benediction and blessing, O Lord of Hosts, that they may serve honorably in the cause of justice and peace. Receive our thanksgiving this day for all our veterans who have served to defend us. Hear us for Thy Name's sake. Amen."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Saints

On this All Saints Day I am remembering fondly all those who have gone to their eternal rest and who had such an impact on my life. In the past, this could be a rather melancholy day for me, but today is filled with joyful memories. Praise God for his constant love toward us.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Reformation Day!


A mighty fortress is our God,

a bulwark never failing;
our helper he amid the flood
of mortal ills prevaling.
For still our ancient foe
doth seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,

our striving would be losing,
were not the right man on our side,
the man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth, his name,

from age to age the same,
and he must win the battle.



And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers,
no thanks to them, abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours,
thru him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
the body they may kill;
God's truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Haiku Revisited

In honor of the clueless parents who let their small child run free in the dog park.

Little boy runs in park
“It looks like prey”, thinks Rocky
A tasty dinner

Fortunately, Rocky veered away at the last moment, realizing it was not a hart to be taken down.


Waterloo: From the Orange County Register

This is my wargaming group with whom I hardly ever wargame! (Pastors are busy on weekends.)


Happy Birthday John Adams!

On this day in 1735, John Adams, the son of a farmer and a descendant of Plymouth Rock pilgrims, is born in Braintree, Massachusetts. He enrolled in Harvard University at16 and went on to teach school and study law before becoming America’s second president.


Adams did not fight in the Revolutionary War, but was instrumental in crafting the foundation of the American government. In 1776, he anonymously published Thoughts on Government, which proposed the three-tiered system upon which the United States government is modeled: a bicameral legislature, independent judiciary and strong executive. In 1783, Adams brokered the peace treaty with Britain that ended the American Revolution. Fellow founding father Thomas Jefferson once referred to Adams as "the colossus of independence." The two men developed a deep friendship during the Revolutionary era and both served in George Washington’s first cabinet--Adams as vice president and Jefferson as secretary of state.

Adams, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and James Madison articulated the basis of the Federalist policy— featuring above all a strong centralized government and favoring an economy based on manufacturing--that dominated the Washington and Adams presidencies. Jefferson, a Republican, favored stronger states’ rights and a primarily agricultural economy. Following Washington’s retirement in 1796, Jefferson and Adams ran against each other for the presidency. Adams won and, due to a procedure that gave the next highest vote-getter the vice-presidency, Jefferson became his adversary’s vice president. In personality as well as politics, the obstinate and hot-tempered Adams clashed with the genteel, diplomatic Thomas Jefferson and the two grew increasingly alienated during Adams’ presidency.

As president, Adams lobbied for and signed the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which many observers, including Jefferson, feared would give Adams despotic powers. In Jefferson’s opinion, the acts threatened to compromise the constitutional right to free speech and severely limited the definition of citizenship. In the election of 1800, Jefferson again ran against Adams and, under the guise of a pseudonym or using ghost writers, published vicious denouncements of Adams’ policies and character in the press. Jefferson won and though Adams retired to Quincy, Massachusetts, to write his memoirs, the bitterness between the two former friends endured.

Throughout his political career, Adams was steadfastly supported—and sometimes challenged--by his wife, Abigail. The couple’s correspondence, which has been preserved, thoroughly catalogued and published, provides insight into their private lives and early American culture. When Abigail learned that Jefferson was behind the newspaper attacks against her husband, she too felt betrayed. Nevertheless, it was she who initiated contact between the sworn political enemies when she wrote a letter of condolence to Jefferson upon the death of his daughter in 1812. After that, Adams and Jefferson resumed their long-halted correspondence and repaired their friendship.

Adams lived to see his son, John Quincy Adams, become president in 1825. A year later, he and Thomas Jefferson died on the same day, July 4, 1826, only hours apart.

History of Halloween

Blame the Irish!

History Channel Video

Greyhound Haiku

As the sun comes up
A sound breaks the morning peace
My dog is rooing!

I forget where I found this, but this is my morning (and all night) ritual. Becuase of some construction we have going on, the dog door is closed and the dog yard is not usable. Therefore, whenever one of our wonderful pets needs to use the bedroom at night, they whine on my side of the bed, or Rocky (the youngest, nutty one) barks at me. No matter how cold it might be, I stumble out into the dark, eager to crawl back into the warmth of my bed. (Please know that I do not usually do so with a cheerful disposition.)

The dogs used to wait until we woke up to feed them, but Rocky and Junior changed all that. Now, the sun comes up and they need to eat! Now!

"A sound breaks the morning peace...(no matter how many times I put my head under the covers)...My dog is rooing!"

Who needs an alarm clock?


And now for your daily dose of Haiku

masquerades embark
alligators fade roughly
singing fables howl

Courtesy of the Genuine Haiku Generator

A Couple of Those Famous Theses

27. They preach man who say that so soon as the penny jingles into the money-box, the soul flies out [of purgatory].

28. It is certain that when the penny jingles into the money-box, gain and avarice can be increased, but the result of the intercession of the Church is in the power of God alone.




Posted by Martin Luther (on a door somewhere) on October 31, 1517

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Great Site for Wargamers

Just discovered this site, where you can find what you need on E bay without looking through a bunch of goofy stuff first. The software engine weeds out the chaff.

Lead and Dice


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Worth Watching Again

Especially during this Reformation Week. This is a very well done film. You can download the film or purchase the DVD on the bottom right (Slideshow).

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Is Halloween a Witches Brew?

Here is a thoughtful Christianity Today article from a few year's back, that helps Christians who have some ambiquity about Halloween. I was Confirmed on Halloween (which, for Lutherans, is Reformation Day), so I always enjoy it with a few thoughts about what I pledged to Christ so many years ago.
Halloween


The Forgotten War

This looks intriquing. I hope it gets a wider broadcast than just New York PBS.

Cyber Church

Here, courtesy of Cyber Brethren, is a good discussion of social networking and the internet. Worth a look.

why social media and social networking?

Stewardship Thoughts: Fund Raising or Faith Raising?

It’s that time of year again! It’s Fall and the church has to talk about “Stewardship.” (“Not again! Why are they always talking about money? We are in a recession. I don’t have much to give!”)

I am indebted to The Rev. Dr. Harry Wendt, an Australian pastor, for much of my fuller understanding of Stewardship. He emphasizes that the stewardship issue is NOT about raising funds for the year to come, but is rather about raising faith for “every minute of every day of every week of every month of the year. It is to empower God’s people to see that God owns all things, and that we can own nothing. We cannot give – we can only manage.”

In fact, stewardship is NOT a church program, but the management of our everyday lives with Christ at the center. In the parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21), Jesus teaches that the very ground we walk on belongs to God. It is the land that produces God’s provision for us, and even our lives are on loan to us from God. In fact, God can demand the return of that loan at any second, and he is not regulated by the FDIC!

While we prayerfully consider the amount we give to the work of God through our congregation, we should also prayerfully consider the amount we keep for ourselves. How much do we need to feel “blessed?” According to Jesus, being blessed has nothing to do with what we possess.

The story of John Wesley is a wonderful one for all of us to ponder, and his wisdom continually challenges me.


John Wesley (1703-1791) was a Church of England clergyman, evangelist, and cofounder of Methodism. After graduating from Oxford University, he became a priest in 1728. In 1729, Wesley was part of a religious study group in Oxford organized by his brother Charles (1707-1788). The members of this study group were called “Methodists” for their emphasis on “methodical study and devotion.

During his 50 years as an itinerant minister, Wesley rode 250,000 miles on the roads of England, Scotland, and Ireland to preach 42,000 sermons. He worked tirelessly to reform the nation and the nature of its religion. His efforts included legal and prison reform, the abolition of slavery, civil rights, and popular education. His “desire to furnish poor people with cheaper, shorter and plainer books” caused Wesley to write over 233 books and education treatises.

While attending Oxford University in the early 1700s, Wesley shared his spiritual discipline with those at the local prison. When Wesley learned that people were imprisoned simply because they could not pay their debts, he was inspired to cap his living expenses and use the rest to purchase the release of debtors.

As his income increased over the years, Wesley continued to live frugally so he could use most of his money in ministry to others. When a tax collector asked Wesley why he had few material possessions, he replied that buying silver spoons, which he considered a luxury, was out of the question when the poor still had no bread, which is a necessity. Wesley gave away so much that at his death his monetary worth amounted to only a few coins.

How does our use (or abuse) of money reflect our faith?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Dodge is An Awesome Dodge! (Tim Hawkins is a funny guy)

Fighting Sioux?

As any college hockey fan can tell, you the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux are a perennial powerhouse on the ice. However, the mascot has been a source of some controversy recently. Follow this link for a thoughtful and interesting article about the use of Native American names for team mascots:

UND Fighting Sioux

Comments?

Vote for the Goat!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

This is for Monty

Christian connection? I have no idea, except you don't want to be part of the undead. Numbers 16:48


Zombie Time Waster

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Classic

I miss Gary Larson. This is one of Katy's favorites.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Happy Birthday US Navy


Establishment of the Navy, 13 October 1775


This resolution of the Continental Congress marked the establishment of what is now the United States Navy


"Resolved, That a swift sailing vessel, to carry ten carriage guns, and a proportionable number of swivels, with eighty men, be fitted, with all possible despatch, for a cruise of three months, and that the commander be instructed to cruize eastward, for intercepting such transports as may be laden with warlike stores and other supplies for our enemies, and for such other purposes as the Congress shall direct.

That a Committee of three be appointed to prepare an estimate of the expence, and lay the same before the Congress, and to contract with proper persons to fit out the vessel.

Resolved, that another vessel be fitted out for the same purposes, and that the said committee report their opinion of a proper vessel, and also an estimate of the expence."

How Some Celebrate Columbus Day

From the AP:

In McDonald, Pa., 30 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, fourth-grade students at Fort Cherry Elementary put Columbus on trial this year — charging him with misrepresenting the Spanish crown and thievery. They found him guilty and sentenced him to life in prison.


"In their own verbiage, he was a bad guy," teacher Laurie Crawford said.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Columbus Day

I know it's not pc to say, but Happy Columbus Day!

Here's a good perspective:  Columbus: Man and Myth

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Theirs Not To Reason Why, Theirs But To Do and Die

As mentioned above, I am a "gamer." The simple definition is someone who likes to play games. In my case, it usually boils down to historical and fantasy miniature wargamming (in 25mm). My favorite opponent is my son Dylan (14), as a mater of convenience, and I cannot recall the last time I beat him in a contest! I buy the figures, paint the figures, assemble the landscape, read the rules, then proceed to ride into defeat.


An example is this picture, where my Warq riders (from The Lord of the Rings) attempted to ride over the river, and met an inglorious end. I think I started with six, and as you can see, only two made it across the river. Even those two failed to make it to the front line of the dwarves. Dwarven arrows are deadly!

Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell...

Damn dwarves!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

St. Francis


Probably the most popular thing that most people know about St. Francis is his love of animals. His image is placed in countless gardens to watch over the birds, butterflies, gophers, and rabbits. And that part of his life is true. He had an amazing ability to appreciate the joys of creation. Indeed, his most popular hymn is “All Creatures of our God and King” in which he extols all of God’s good creation to sing out in praise of her creator.

One of my favorite stories of Francis concerns his interaction with a rabbit (written by a contemporary in the 13th century):

One day a brother brought a rabbit who had been caught in a trap to St. Francis. Francis advised the rabbit to be more alert in the future, then released the rabbit from the trap and set it on the ground to go its way. But the rabbit hopped back up onto Francis’ lap, desiring to be close to the saint.

Francis took the rabbit a few steps into the woods and set it down. But it followed Francis back to his seat and hopped on his lap again! Finally Francis asked one of his fellow friars to take the rabbit far into the woods and let it go. That worked. This type of thing happened repeatedly to Francis—which he saw as an opportunity to praise the glory of God. If the simplest creatures could be so endowed with God’s wonder, how much the more so we humans!

There are other numerous stories about Francis’ encounter with animals, and how he loved to preach to the birds.

What is less well known is how Francis was born into a wealthy family, and was, for his first 25 years or so, a “happy hedonist.” He spent his days gaming, drinking, carousing, and cavorting. He fought in wars and aspired to be a knight. It was while he was heading out to participate in one of the Crusades that Christ began to work on Francis’ heart and bring about a conversion that would influence the world.

As one author put it so well,
“Francis de Assisi followed his calling gladly and without resentment. His Earthly sacrifices were not seen as a burden to him but as a natural path towards oneness with creation and the Creator. His story is perhaps most powerful in that he was a young man with every worldly thing going for him - his family was wealthy, his friends saw him as a fearless soldier, he was a natural leader, and he enjoyed the pleasures of the earth. Yet he sacrificed everything for his heartfelt beliefs and took it upon himself to care for all creation….By doing so, he gained much more….
He is a heroic example of sacrifice, of selflessness, of humility…”

We will remember St. Francis at Redeemer in Bakersfield on Sunday, October 4th, with a blessing of the animals at Noon. Bring your dogs, cats, birds, guinea pigs, mice, rabbits, horses (whatever!) to remember God’s love toward all his creatures.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Admissions Day


I mentioned Pastor Tibbets last post, and I want to thank him for reminding me that today is Admissions Day for proud Californians. I remember, when I was younger, that banks and a few other public offices were closed. (That's not the case any longer.)

The Golden State has become tarnished of late, and there are numerous problems to be solved (financial solvency, failing schools, a dysfunctional government, immigration issues...), but this is still a beautiful place to live and work.

My younger brother Grant is the only "native" Californian among us (born in Monterey), but this has been my home since the late 60s (San Diego) and again in the mid-70's through 1988 (San Diego, Riverside, Oakland, Berkeley, Long Beach, San Luis Obispo). I came back after a sojourn in Pennsylvania, lived in Ventura, and I am happily ensconced in the San Joaquin Valley (Bakersfield).

Little known fact about California: "While a few Americans might know that shipments of gold from California helped keep the Union solvent during the Civil War, almost no one knows that California had more volunteers per capita in the Union Army than any other state."

So, it's a good thing we joined the Union.

Eureka!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

SSB


See that good looking fellow over on the right? That's Pastor Stephen Tibbets, a fellow Southern Californian, now serving in Peoria, Illinois. Recently he has been to Vadstena, Sweden to celebrate with other members of the Societas Sanctae Birgittae (Society of St. Birgitta) during the week of her commemoration (July 23).

SSB is a renewal society within the Church of Sweden (Lutheran), which is a church in desperate need of renewal! According to official Church of Sweden statistics: "Somewhat less than 4 percent of the Church of Sweden membership attends public worship during the average week; about 2 percent are regular attenders." The reasons for that are many (the Lutheran Church was the state church for centuries, and required little committment), but there is a lesson to be learned for us as well.

Christianity does not grow "naturally." That is, two Christian parents do not neccessarily produce a Christian child. That child will certainly be exposed to the faith and (if the parents follow their baptismal vows) will know the Creed, Commandments and Holy Scriptures. However, we can turn away from faith and reject the claims of Jesus Christ. The Christian faith is always just a generation away from going extinct. Christianity only grows "supernaturally," through the activity of the Holy Spirit, convicting and converting us to be disciples of the Lord.

We can never rest on our laurels. No matter how much a church grows, it must always be making new disciples, reaching out to others in love, sharing the faith, and helping people find meaning and direction in life. "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest," (Matt. 9:37-38).

Like the Society of St. Birgitta, we pray for renewal in our lives and for the renewal of the church:
"Lord God of our salvation, it is your will that all people might come to you through your Son Jesus Christ. Inspire our witness to him, that all may know the power of his forgiveness and the hope of his resurrection. We pray in his name." (Lutheran Book of Worship)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

GREAT VBS!

We had a wonderful week at Vacation Bible School with wonderful, energetic children and creative, committed adult volunteers. I'll post some photos when I get them. I'm always amazed by the passion and faithfulness of our parents and others who give so much to share the faith with children and youth. This week has inspired me! (I think the kids got something ot of it too.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Prayer

Yes, pastors have trouble praying, too. Sometimes I feel very connected to God and sometimes I wonder if he is listening (or even cares). I struggle with doubts and wonder “why bother?” when it comes to prayer, just as I suspect many of you do. Sometimes my prayer life is vibrant and alive and sometimes it feels like I just go through the motions.

What do I do when I have trouble praying? I go back to the tried and true and pray the Lord’s Prayer and the Psalms. I take great comfort of the words of St. Paul in Romans: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27)
So, even when I have trouble praying or don’t feel like praying, the Holy Spirit is there to guide me and even offer up prayers on my behalf, and a prayer like the Lord’s Prayer helps move me out of my prayer doldrums and back on course. In fact, in my prayers today I cam across this wonderful meditation by an anonymous author:

I cannot pray Our, if my faith has no room for others and their need.
I cannot pray Father, if I do not demonstrate this relationship to God in my daily living.
I cannot pray who art in heaven, if all of my interests and pursuits are in earthly things.
I cannot pray hallowed be thy name, if I am not striving, with God’s help, to be holy.
I cannot pray thy kingdom come, if I am unwilling to accept God’s rule in my life.
I cannot pray thy will be done, if I am unwilling or resentful of having it in my life.
I cannot pray on earth as it is in Heaven, unless I am truly ready to give myself to God’s service here and now.
I cannot pray give us this day our daily bread, without expending honest effort for it, or if I would withhold from my neighbor the bread that I receive.
I cannot pray forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, if I continue to harbor a grudge against anyone.
I cannot pray lead us not into temptation, if I deliberately choose to remain in a situation where I am likely to be tempted.
I cannot pray deliver us from evil, if I am not prepared to fight evil with my life and my prayer.
I cannot pray thine is the kingdom, if I am unwilling to obey the King.
I cannot pray thine is the power and the glory, if I am seeking power for myself and my own glory first.
I cannot pray forever and ever, if I am too anxious about each day’s affairs.
I cannot pray Amen, unless I honestly say, “Cost what it may, this is my prayer.”

So, keep on praying, even if you don’t feel like it. The Spirit will help you.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ascension

An acquaintance introduced me to a new poem (new for me) from J.R.R. Tolkien, entitled Mythopoeia, part of which appears below. Thanks be to the Ascended one that brings us to the Blessed Land. May all our stories, myths, and legends point us to the Truth.



Blessed are the timid hearts that evil hate,

that quail in its shadow, and yet shut the gate;

that seek no parley, and in guarded room,

through small and bare, upon a clumsy loom

weave rissues gilded by the far-off day

hoped and believed in under Shadow's sway.



Blessed are the men of Noah's race that build

their little arks, though frail and poorly filled,

and steer through winds contrary towards a wraith,

a rumour of a harbour guessed by faith.



I would that I might with the minstrels sing

and stir the unseen with a throbbing string.

I would be with the mariners of the deep

that cut their slender planks on mountains steep

and voyage upon a vague and wandering quest,

for some have passed beyond the fabled West.

I would with the beleaguered fools be told,

that keep an inner fastness where their gold,

impure and scanty, yet they loyally bring

to mint in image blurred of distant king,

or in fantastic banners weave the sheen

heraldic emblems of a lord unseen....




In Paradise perchance the eye may stray

from gazing upon everlasting Day

to see the day-illumined, and renew

from mirrored truth the likeness of the True.

Then looking on the Blessed Land 'twill see

that all is as it is, and yet may free:

Salvation changes not, nor yet destroys,

garden not gardener, children not their toys.

Evil it will not see, for evil lies

not in God's picture but in crooked eyes,

not in the source but in the tuneless voice.

In Paradise they look no more awry;

and though they make anew, they make no lie.

Be sure they still will make, not been dead,

and poets shall have flames upon their head,

and harps whereon their faultless fingers fall:

there each shall choose for ever from the All.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Barbarians in the Gates

I came across an interesting, and ultimately sad, article. I spend the vast majority of my time trying to figure out how to attract folks to our place of business (the church). I never thought of Bach, the "Fifth Evangelist", in this context. It's a crazy mixed-up world we live in.



Theodore Dalrymple
When Hooligans Bach Down
Strike up Johann Sebastian and watch them scatter.
29 January 2009

Staying recently in a South Yorkshire town called Rotherham—described in one guidebook as “murky,” an inadequate word for the place—I was interested to read in the local newspaper how the proprietors of some stores are preventing hooligans from gathering outside to intimidate and rob customers. They play Bach over loudspeakers, and this disperses the youths in short order; they flee the way Count Dracula fled before holy water, garlic flowers, and crucifixes. The proprietors had previously tried a high-pitched noise generator whose mosquito-like whine only those younger than 20 could detect. This method, too, proved effective, but the owners abandoned it out of fear that it might damage the youths’ hearing and infringe upon their human rights, leading to claims for compensation.

There is surely something deeply emblematic about the use of one of the great glories of Western civilization, the music of Bach, to prevent the young inheritors of that civilization from committing crimes. The barbarians are well and truly within the gates. However, in these dark times it is best to look on the bright side. Our prime minister, Gordon Brown, has told us that we must expect crime to rise along with unemployment (which has already reached more than 13 percent of the labor force, if one takes into account those whom the government dishonestly counts as sick). If proprietors all over the country follow Rotherham’s lead, therefore, we may hear much more Bach, and less rock music, than we did previously. Hegel was right when he said that the owl of Minerva flies by night....

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Happy Eastertide!


Wow. How do those daily bloggers do it?! I guess if one is a good writer it isn't difficult to post witty, thoughtful, interesting things. But, since I'm none of those things, I'll just wish you a Happy Easter and try to write more than once a quarter. :-)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Happy New Year?

I suppose I can still wish good will and blessings for the New Year, even though we are 17 days into it already!

I do pray that this year brings all of us happiness and peace.