Wednesday, June 26, 2013

New Guest Post at Everyday Liturgy

I had another guest post go up today at Everyday Liturgy titled, "A Romance It Certainly Is." Here's a snippet:
We cannot avoid the reality of this world. We see its dark underbelly in everything from the news to human trafficking to the person who pushes past us in a crowd without apologizing. This world, and we people in it, are broken, cracked, and bloody.
But as believers, we have a second sight of sorts. We see this world as it once was and as it will be again. 
Check out the rest over Everyday Liturgy!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Boy Blue's Birthday

When you have family living on the far side of the world, and you have a tendency to be forgetful about birthdays, you run into two specific issues:

1. Just sending the requisite "belated" birthday card loses its appeal, because it won't get there for a few weeks after the date. Belated cards are fun and all when they arrive within about a week of the day, but 2-3 weeks and you're pushing it.

2. You feel the need to do something more exciting than just a card because you haven't seen these family members and given them hugs in quite some time.


Birthday Videos!

Smartphone technology being what it is, I can now make terrible videos with the best of them. And I have taken full advantage of this form of art in all its cheesy-ness to celebrate the birthdays of family members across the globe.

Today is June 19, the day my nephew Zach, aka. Boy Blue, was born to my sister and brother-in-law five years back. I got to enjoy quite a few of his birthdays in person as they lived not far from here for about four years. But now they've traipsed across the globe again, and so, his birthday video:

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Fall of the Sparrow

I love the idea that God cares about the fall of the sparrow. It's one of those passages of scripture that is pure poetry. As He reminds His disciples they have no reason to fear, Jesus says, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father" (Matthew 10:29, ESV). 

The fall of the sparrow. It represents so much more than just a bird falling to the ground.

The fall of the sparrow reminds us that nothing, neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).

The fall of the sparrow reminds us that the hairs of our head are numbered (Matthew 10:30), that God clothes the lilies in all their beauty (Matthew 6:29-30), that the ear of a servant is of value even when He's about to be dragged away to His death (Luke 22:50).

The fall of the sparrow is an image laden with meaning.

But sometimes, sometimes we have to be reminded to dredge up the image. To pull it out again and examine its many facets and consider the way the light plays in its depths.

In those moments when we've forgotten to consider the fall of the sparrow, God cares to remind us. We become the sparrow ourselves.

And He shows us, vividly, the truth of His character. He shows care about the fall of the sparrow.

Photo by Loren Warnemuende
Monday a week ago, my nephew Jon lost his Brown Bear. My sister wrote about it on her blog, and shared the sorrow this had brought - not just for Jon, but for everyone in the family. But God, in His grace, also showed kindness and the power of His gift of imagination as they grieved the loss.

It's a beautiful post, and it brought tears to my eyes as I read it. I knew I would miss seeing Brown Bear tucked under Jon-boy's arm the next time I see him. I knew the sturdy little chap would survive, but that losing Brown Bear was a deep pain for him.

And I began to pray. And others prayed, too. For a little boy and his mother. For comfort in the loss. And I prayed that God would bring back Brown Bear.

And God cares about the fall of the sparrow.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Stories I Rub Shoulders With - New Post at Everyday Liturgy

I have a 1938 edition of Webster's Students Dictionary: Upper School Levels on my shelf. It's my go-to resource for the definitions of words I find in old books. Some of them are words we still have today, but so often their connotation has changed.

Take "charity" for instance. Today, the first definition most people would think of is an organization or system for giving to the poor. It's not a wrong definition at all, but it's not the main focus the word has always held. "Charity" is an old-fashioned word, one that in my 1938 dictionary is primarily defined as "Christian love."

That's a challenging definition. I'm not sure that we could all agree on what "Christian love" looks like.

The secondary definitions begin to give it focus: 2. An act or feeling of generosity or benevolence. 3.The giving of aid to the poor and suffering. 4. Leniency in judging men and their actions.

Interestingly, the organization or institution for aiding the needy doesn't get mention until definition #5.

I've been thinking a lot about charity of late. I've been pondering through the idea, and particularly focusing on the "benevolence" and "leniency in judging men and their actions."

I've been thinking about kindness.

Some of these thoughts formed themselves into a guest post for Everyday Liturgy. Here's a snippet:
Photo by Loic Parent
I read a social media post recently in which the author chastised himself for making snap judgments about the people he was seeing in the airport. I can’t remember who posted it or where, but the author challenged his readers to extend grace rather than judgment toward those we see around us. It was a good challenge, a gentle reminder. But as I thought about it, I realized that my observations of those around me rarely lead to what I would consider judgment.
Read the rest over at the site.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Race That Knows Joseph

“They’re our kind of people,” Julie said.

It’s the sort of phrase that could be cruel. It could be unkind, exclusive, evasive. But the way she used it, it was none of those things.

"Couple on Two Benches"
George Segal
She was referring to what Anne Shirley, as a child, called “Kindred Spirits.” Later, when she grew up, she adopted the term her friend Miss Cornelia used, “The race that knows Joseph.” I have no idea where L.M. Montgomery came up with that phrase. I presume she is referencing one of the biblical Josephs, but I honestly don’t know. I only know that she somehow found the perfect description for “our kind of people.”

The race that knows Joseph are actually a fairly broad and diverse lot. They like all kinds of different things. There does tend to be a bookishness about them, but they’re not limited by those books. There are scientists, athletes, English professors, historians, sea captains, and doctor’s wives…all who belong to the race that knows Joseph.

It’s a bit of an intangible descriptor. There are, after all, two biblical Josephs. I think an argument could be made for either one to be him who is referenced. The Old Testament Joseph, Jacob’s son – he of the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat – was a dreamer and an old soul. He was a gifted manager and strategic planner. Through his life he learned to see the big picture and to glimpse things from God’s perspective. I’d wager this is the Joseph that Montgomery’s Miss Cornelia is referring to, but I often wonder if maybe, just maybe, it’s the other one.

The other Joseph, the New Testament Joseph, of the house and line of David, is a quieter character than the Dream Coat Joseph. We only get a few chapters’ worth of glimpses into this Joseph – who also had a father named Jacob – but they are telling glimpses. He is a man who speaks with angels. A man who rises up and takes his pregnant fiancée into his home, marrying her despite the whispers of the people around them. He is a man who raises a Child he knows is not his own, a Child whose depth and wisdom are confounding to the carpenter. He works hard, and – it seems – he dies early, before seeing how the Boy he raised turned the world upside down.

I think both Josephs would be “our kind of people.” I think they both would find that chord of resonance with the other. But Technicolor Joseph would be up front leading the group, laying out the plan of events, and Carpenter Joseph would be working hard behind the scenes.

Whichever Joseph it is that we know, “our kind of people” all know him. 
“You’re young and I’m old, but our souls are about the same age, I reckon. We both belong to the race that knows Joseph, as Cornelia Bryant would say,” said Captain Jim. 
“‘The race that knows Joseph?’” puzzled Anne. 
“Yes. Cornelia divides all the folks in the world into two kinds– the race that knows Joseph and the race that don’t. If a person sorter sees eye to eye with you, and has pretty much the same ideas about things, and the same taste in jokes–why, then he belongs to the race that knows Joseph.” 
“Oh, I understand,” exclaimed Anne, light breaking in upon her. “It’s what I used to call–and still call in quotation marks ‘kindred spirits.’” 
“Jest so–jest so,” agreed Captain Jim. “We’re it, whatever it is. When you come in to-night, Mistress Blythe, I says to myself, says I, ‘Yes, she’s of the race that knows Joseph.’ And mighty glad I was, for if it wasn’t so we couldn’t have had any real satisfaction in each other’s company. The race that knows Joseph is the salt of the airth, I reckon.”*
*Montgomery, L.M. Anne’s House of Dreams. New York: Bantam Books, 1992. p. 38. (©McClelland and Steward Limited, 1922.)

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Hopkins, Kingfishers, and Identity

Photograph by Charlie Hamilton James
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.

I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.
 -Gerard Manley Hopkins
I am what I am, and what I am is Christ.

Source: Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems and Prose (Penguin Classics, 1985)