len on December 21st, 2014

“Clearly we have to inhabit the world of immediate bodily experience, the actual terrain in which we live, and where our engagement with the world takes place alongside our fellow human beings, and we need to inhabit it fully. Yet at the same time we need to rise above the landscape in which we move, so that we can see what one might call the territory. To understand the landscape we need both to go out into the felt, lived world of experience as far as possible, along what one might think of as the horizontal axis, but also to rise above it, on the vertical axis… One needs to bring what one has learned from one’s ascent back into the world where life is going on, and incorporate it in such a way that it enriches experience and enables more of whatever it is that ‘discloses itself’ to us (in Heidegger’s phrase) to do just that.”

McGilchrist, Iain. The Master and His Emissary (Kindle Locations 619-626). Yale University Press, 2014.

len on December 20th, 2014

“Into the Darkest Hour,” a poem by Madeleine L’Engle

It was a time like this,
War & tumult of war,
a horror in the air.
Hungry yawned the abyss —
and yet there came the star
and the child most wonderfully there.

It was time like this
of fear & lust for power,
license & greed and blight —
and yet the Prince of bliss
came into the darkest hour
in quiet & silent light.

And in a time like this
how celebrate his birth
when all things fall apart?
Ah! wonderful it is
with no room on the earth
the stable is our heart.

— from Winter Song, Christmas Readings by Madeleine L’Engle and Luci Shaw

len on December 18th, 2014

This African Christmas art represents a much older understanding of why God became human..

len on December 16th, 2014

An original Canadian Christmas carol — and from roughly 1643? Jean de Brebeuf penned the words while working among the Hurons in what would later become Ontario.

This version by the Elora Festival Singers is beautiful.

This version by Bruce Cockburn is more authentic but less appealing. When Betty and I were up around Penetanguishene last summer we saw the original artwork by Frances Tyrrell in the museum there – very beautiful work.

The words below represent the translation by Edgar Middleton made in 1926. The WIKI article details the history.

‘Twas in the moon of wintertime when all the birds had fled
That mighty Gitchi Manitou sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim and wondering hunters heard the hymn,
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

Within a lodge of broken bark the tender babe was found;
A ragged robe of rabbit skin enwrapped his beauty round
But as the hunter braves drew nigh the angel song rang loud and high
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

The earliest moon of wintertime is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory on the helpless infant there.
The chiefs from far before him knelt with gifts of fox and beaver pelt.
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

O children of the forest free, O seed of Manitou
The holy Child of earth and heaven is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant boy who brings you beauty peace and joy.
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

THIS version of the carol is sung in three languages, including what I think is Cree. I added the illustration panels from Frances Tyrell’s beautiful book and uploaded at 1280x720p.

len on December 14th, 2014

O Come O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel..

This prayer is still ours as we wait for the return of Jesus. We are God’s people in exile, a broken people, at some times worshipping the true God, at other times worshipping an image of godness, self-created, a dead idol that will not confront our compromise. Walter Brueggemann writes,

“As I reflect on ministry, and especially on my ministry, I know in the hidden places that the real restraints are not in my understanding or in the receptivity of other people. Rather, the restraints come from my own unsureness about this perception… I, like most of the others, am unsure that the alternative community inclusive of the poor, hungry and grieving is really the wave of God’s future. We are indeed “like people, like priest” (Hosea 4:9). That is likely the situation of many of us in ministry, and there is no way out of it. It does make clear to us that our ministry will always be practiced through our own conflicted selves…

“We ourselves shall move in and out [of certainty, of our convictions about the nature of the kingdom of God and His body, our awareness of what God is doing] precisely because of our poor capacity to grieve the death in our own lives and so be amazed at the new futures. We are not more skilled in that than all the other children of the compromised community, and therefore we must engage in the same painful practices of becoming who we are called to be. I have come to think that there is no more succinct summary of prophetic ministry than the statement of Jesus: “Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh” (Luke 6:21), or “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt 5:4). More..

Audio: Vineyard Singers O Come, O come…

len on December 12th, 2014

Scot McKnight once noted that one of his favorite Christmas hymns is, “O Come, O Come Immanuel,” a 12th Century hymn originally penned in Latin. It wasn’t until 2008 that I heard the Latin version and since then have heard two more renditions in Latin – the most recent being a version sung by Enya, “And Winter Came” .. an album that is rapidly becoming an Advent season favorite for us).

It’s not just that the poetry or the raw beauty of “Veni, Veni Emmanuel,” but the way it evokes both the joy of Jesus coming, and the longing for the arrival of the new world. We live in between the times. Some days we feel the presence of the kingdom in our friendships, at a table with family, or sitting in front of a warm fire while the snow is falling. At other times, we long for the arrival of the new world.. aware of our own failures, the darkness in the world, the hunger and loneliness and pain. Read the rest of this entry »

len on December 11th, 2014

Every year we attend Christmas events. Most years they are sentimental and soft and romantic. And generally, also humorous. Nothing wrong with that, right? We need some of that in our lives. I know I could use more laughs!

But when these events are supposed to represent the most dramatic, dangerous, life changing event in history — they come up rather short. The Incarnation is one of those things that has been ravaged by sentimentality, drained of danger and drama. It needs some recovery. These beautiful lyrics by Andrew Peterson — link at the end to the song sung by Jill Philips and set to a video clip from The Nativity. There was another version of this a few years ago but I didn’t care for the sequence of video and it was only 640 wide.

imageThis slide is from the series I created for Sunday – from Luke 1, a tale of two kingdoms.

It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David’s town

And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
Had no mother’s hand to hold

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love..

LINK – 1280 wide.

len on December 10th, 2014

Creation waits now for the gardener to speak:
And the eager weeds await their release
From the bondage of being weeds.
Eden and Zion lie far apart
But atom and ocean, beasts and plants
Wait for the one who will grant them peace.
Then the planet will spin in a sabbath dance
(And the dancing place will be the heart).
Fruit will burgeon from scattered seeds
And garden and town be clean as a fleece
Early in the morning, on the first day of the week.

Loren Wilkinson

len on December 7th, 2014

I do not know if you feel the throbbing of the land in your chest … you may not feel the spiritual anguish as I see the earth ravaged… but you can no longer escape my fate as the soil turns barren and the rivers poison. (Grand Chief John Kelly, 1977) The Comeback, 2014, 220

The legacy of European style governments and white, Western mission toward First Nation peoples is well known. One could wish it were only a memory, but colonial and paternalistic attitudes still exist, particularly within government policy and practice. John Ralston Saul argues in The Comeback that Canada’s government is colonial and racist, while the majority of Canada’s people are not. I wish this were less obvious.

Saul also argues that this experiment in pluralism and cooperation we call Canada would never have been possible without the generosity of spirit of our FN peoples. He argues that something of the way they see and engage with the world was agreeable to many of the first European settlers – particularly the French — and made this pluralist and democratic experiment possible. We genuinely learned from and embraced something of aboriginal generosity and humility, moving beyond the competitive and possessive self-interest that characterize Western cultures.

Saul’s claim is fascinating because it’s about more than land. I’m not a social historian, but it is clear that FN peoples readily extend the privilege of family to strangers in a way that white Westerners do not. They are an enormously generous people. The boundaries of family are more porous and for our aboriginal peoples.

It appears that, as the years go by, the circle of the Ojibway gets bigger and bigger. Canadians of all colors are entering that circle. You might feel that you have roots somewhere else, but in reality, you are right here with us. I do not know if you feel the throbbing of the land in your chest … you may not feel the spiritual anguish as I see the earth ravaged… but you can no longer escape my fate as the soil turns barren and the rivers poison. (Grand Chief John Kelly, 1977)

Read the rest of this entry »

len on December 6th, 2014

Ruth Haley Barton writes,

“Any leader who cannot endure profound levels of loneliness will not last long. In his book A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, Dr. Edwin Friedman identifies five universal and essential characteristics of those who are leading toward something that is genuinely new. One of those characteristics is a willingness to be exposed and vulnerable relative to our fear of being alone. He says, “One of the major limitations of imagination’s fruits is the fear of standing out. It is more than the fear of criticism. It is anxiety at being alone, of being in a position where one can rely little on others, a position that puts one’s resources to the test, a position where one will have to take total responsibility for one’s own response. Leaders must not only not be afraid of that position; they must come to love it.”