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November 28, 2004

Waiting; watching

To many folks who celebrate Christmas, today might represent 26 more shopping days. And that it is; I went online today to get some ordering done.

But in the Anglican tradition that we're a part of in the Episcopal Church, today is the first Sunday in Advent.

Advent is a splendid season in the church year. The theme of Advent is expectation, waiting and watching. In theory, it's a season of penitence, like Lent, but in practice, we do well just to stem the tide of commercialism that starts rising around our heels before Halloween. It�s really a bit of split-personality dance, from Christmas parties, Christmas cookies, and all the rest of the things that we enjoy, to the asceticism that we are called to practice in Advent.

In church, I love the colors and signs of Advent. From the endless greens of the six-month season of Pentecost, we are plunged into deep blues and off whites. The first of five Advent candles are lit, young children sing �Light one candle to watch for Messiah..�, and we chant a litany.

Also a tradition in our church on the first Sunday of Advent: we make an Advent wreath to bring home. I say �we,� but today it was really my children: Jen was down in the choir, and I don�t do well with these crafty things. So the two younger children covered styrofoam with greens cut from the back yard mixed with a few fake holly berries, and in the evening we gathered around it, lit the first of the four candles, sang a brief hymn, and each shared what we�re looking forward to this Advent.

Christmas gifts on the contemplative/spiritual side

I alluded to the fact that my life has been in a more spiritual/contemplative place over the course of this year.

Here are a few things that I've received as gifts that have meant a great deal to me.

Continue reading Christmas gifts on the contemplative/spiritual side.

February 27, 2004

A couple of books for Lent

I always have lots of books in various states of progress; right now I've got stacks of partially read books because I have so much time to read. Mostly I read non-fiction, but Lent just started, so it's a good time for some reflective reading.

Just around the corner from the house where I'm renting a room in Pasadena is a bookstore called The Archives. Before I went in, I assumed it was a used bookstore; instead I found it was a store specializing in church history, bible studies, and theology. It's not really a Christian bookstore as such, but rather the kind of store where one entire aisle is devoted to "preaching," and where you wonder if the people you see in that aisle on a Saturday afternoon are looking for a little inspiration for the next morning. It's sort of a technical bookstore for those in the field of religion. (The Fuller Theological Seminary is just a few miles away.) And although it isn't the kind of bookstore I'd normally go in, it was a bookstore, so I looked.

I'm a relativist in most things: I try to take each person and situation as they come. What's right for me may not be right for you. So when it comes to faith, I don't do well with books that tend towards the absolute.

The first book I picked up was The Ironic Christian's Companion by Patrick Henry. The back of the book had a review that mentioned Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris.

So far, Amazing Grace is the better of the two. It's actually a book of short essays on words of faith: words such as silence, preaching, worship, anger, trinity ... It's an eclectic list, and each essay illustrates some part of Ms. Norris's journey. It's her combination of ambivalence, perseverance, and humility that touches me:

I find it sad to consider that belief has become a scary word, because at its Greek root, "to believe" simply means "to give one's heart to." Thus, if we can determine what is is we give our heart to, then we will know what it is we believe.
  --- from Kathleen Norris's essay on Belief, Doubt, and Sacred Ambiguity

The Ironic Christian's Companion isn't as compelling, but anyone that manages to combine references to Star Trek: The Next Generation, Monty Python's Galaxy Song, Edwin Abbott's Flatland, and Andres Serrano's photo "Piss Christ" in the first 50 pages has something going on. I'm still reading.

December 13, 2003

Christmas Music in the Hotel

Now that I have a reasonable pair of speakers I can listen to while I'm away from home, it's time to use them.

Last night I listened to number of my Christmas favorites - Carols from the Old and New Worlds, Robert Shaw's Songs of Angels, The Proarte Singers Traditional and Modern Carols, and especially, Anonymous 4's On Yoolis Night. Wonderful.

(See what I was listening to last Christmas eve.)