Sunday

a long december {& link-up, giveaway}



...and there's reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last." --Counting Crows

Oh, I love me some Adam Duritz. I still do, although that video is unbearably depressing, what with Courtney Cox moping about and kicking trash. Or wait, this Soul Asylum one featuring angsty Claire Danes is even better. The 90s were kind of emo before emo was a thing, huh?

I'm getting a little distracted. December's been like that. I mailed all of zero Christmas cards, but since they have photos and say 2012, it's not like I can send 'em next year. I should get on that.

So, this year on the blog I started capitalizing sentences! (mostly.) I pulled off an entire 31 Day series on Practicing Peace with incredible help from my friends DanielleSTara PohlkotteBecky MacKenzieKelly ChadwickAmy Lepine PetersonBristolLuke HarmsKristin Tennant, and Kamille Scellick. I joined the team of writers at my favorite A Deeper Story and turned online friends into real ones at the Festival of Faith and Writing and Allume.

And I wrote some stuff. Blogger doesn't really keep great stats, but I can tell you that my most popular post (a deodorant recipe, natch) by about a million clicks is not even from this year. The rest of my writing? Not quite so pin-tastic. (But good on you, green/DIY bloggers!)

These were some of my favorites. Play along and link your own best-of or favorite at the bottom, won't you?

faith, church, and culture
a church disarmed | struggling toward love
youth exodus & consumer christianity
consume, critique, create | culture & the Kingdom
on disagreement & hate (& chicken)
making peace with feminism

personal narrative
unsilencing eve | part 1part 2

poems

elsewhere
of exile and home | A Deeper Story
the sacrament of yes | for Micha Boyett, This Sacred Everyday
laughing at the days | for Emily Wierenga, Imperfect Prose
ministry, mentors, & holy imagination | for Ed Cyzewski, Women in Ministry Series
this is my body, broken (only say the word) | for Preston Yancey, At the Lord's Table

I'm raising a new year's glass of bubbly (Emergen-C, but whatevs) to you, friends o' mine, for sticking with me. You leave the smartest, kindest comments that encourage my heart to no end. Love ya to the moon and back.

(giveaway closed. congrats to brenna megan with comment #4 #16 who is the winner.)

AND! Imma send one of you a copy of Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, because it's my favorite and so are you. Leave a comment by New Year's Day at midnight EST, and I'll that get that out to you post-haste so you can get liturgical in 2013. xo

this giveaway is sponsored by me and a deal on hardcovers that was too good to pass up:)

Tuesday

the fruit of empire


My heart breaks again every time the news comes on. It's monstrous and maddening, and the tears spill fresh every time.

We don't know why. And we can't presume to speak for God, the children, the shooter, or the shooter's mom.

I only speak for me.

---

My daughter is Dylan. My son is James. Another Dylan and James died in that school that day, alongside Charlotte, Daniel, Josephine. Olivia, Ana, Madeleine. Catherine, Chase, Jesse. Grace, Emilie, Jack. Noah, Caroline, Jessica. Avielle, Benjamin, Allison. Dawn, Anne Marie, Rachel, Lauren, Mary, and Victoria.

Their families plan funerals instead of Christmas.

I can only imagine. I don't want to; the horror makes my breath catch. This isn't how it should be.

---

My husband is a hunter. My father was in law enforcement. But I don't recognize our family in the militant pro-gun rhetoric that feels more than a little callous in the darkness of our mourning.

I don't care that they were his mom's guns or that she was licensed for them. Civilians have no need for military style assault weapons. It shouldn't be easier to get a gun than a car--or a counselor.

Our founding fathers never intended this.

---

In a culture that instagrams lunch and overshares sex, mental illness is one of our last taboos. A persistent stigma keeps many suffering in silence.

Tom Cruise's Scientology isn't the only religion shaming post-partum moms for taking anti-depressants. How many Christian laypeople and professionals insist that Jesus, prayer, and faith are all that's needed to achieve victory against depression--or addiction? (The ugly flipside suggests that those who struggle are to blame for their lack of faith.)

Mental health medical and community resources are modest--and dwindling (although perhaps this will be a bright spot of Obama's new health coverage?). It's no secret that we need more and better access to support for individuals and families.

But having this conversation only in the wake of a shooting can be counterproductive. We don't know if the shooter was in fact mentally ill, and mental illness (which encompasses a broad spectrum of disorders) is NOT a predictor for violence. In fact, people suffering from mental illness are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crime.

Can we talk about these things in a way that doesn't equate mental illness with violence, reinforcing existing stigmas that already prevent people from getting the care they need?

---

Many fools speak for a small God made in their own image. I understand Christians wanting to distance themselves from such hate and judgment. But must we give them our spotlight? 

They don't speak for me. They never did.

---

I don't know why those children are dead. We may never have the answers we seek or know what this is really about. But our lack of surety is not a blanket gag order against speaking at all.

There is a time for silence and mourning, yes. But there is also a time to speak. So let us speak. Let us speak with humility. Let us ask questions and admit we don't have every answer. But let that not be an excuse to shuffle our feet and accept that "this is just the way things are."

The way things are is violent. And violence is the way and the fruit of Empire.

As Christians, will ours be the way of escalation, power, and violence? Is ours the way of Herod who slaughtered the innocents and Pilate who put Jesus to death?

Or is ours the way of the Kingdom of God, of peacemaking, and the last-shall-be-first? Is ours the way of loving the "least", laying down lives and arms, and picking up the cross? The way of resurrection, redemption, and all things made new?

If Jesus is Lord then Caesar is not. 

Change begins with me.

shared with imperfect prose

Friday

the scandalous presence of death


Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight, and give Your angels and saints charge over those who sleep. Tend Your sick ones, O Lord Christ. Rest Your weary ones. Bless Your dying ones. Soothe Your suffering ones. Shield Your joyous ones, and all for Your love's sake. Amen.



Lamb of God
You take away the sins of the world.
Have mercy on us.
Grant us peace.

For the unbearable toil of our sinful world,
we plead for remission.
For the terror of absence from our beloved,
we plead for your comfort.
For the scandalous presence of death in your Creation,
we plead for the resurrection.

Lamb of God
you take away the sins of the world.
Have mercy on us.
Grant us peace.
Come, Holy Spirit, and heal all that is broken in our lives, in our streets, and in our world. In the the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

(Death of Someone Killed in the Neighborhood from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals)

The whole meaning of the Christian community lies in offering a space in which we wait for what we have already seen. Christian community is the place where we keep the flame alive among us and take it seriously so that it can grow and become stronger in us. In this way we can live with courage, trusting that there is a spiritual power in us that allows us to live in this world without being seduced constantly by despair, lostness, and darkness.

That is how we dare to say that God is a God of love even when we see hatred all around us. That is why we can claim that God is a God of life even when we see death and destruction and agony all around us. We say it together. We affirm it in one another. Waiting together, nurturing what has already begun, expecting its fulfillment—that is the meaning of marriage, friendship, community, and the Christian life.

Thursday

the radical gifts of christmas


He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21)

These are the gifts of Christmas, the ones delivered to us from God by Mary's son. There are more: 

comfort for all who mourn
provision for those who grieve
a crown of beauty (instead of ashes)
the oil of joy (instead of mourning)
a garment of praise (instead of a spirit of despair)

you shall be called by new names:
oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor
priests of the Lord, ministers of our God

you shall receive a new purpose:
rebuild the ancient ruins
restore the places long devastated
renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.

(instead of your shame) you will receive a double portion,
(instead of disgrace) you will rejoice in your inheritance.

“For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness 
I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them."

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my GodFor he has clothed me 
with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. (Isaiah 61)

---

The radical, reconciling, redemptive gifts of Christmas won't fit under any tree, (and I don't mean that as a "The true meaning of Christmas isn't found at the mall!" cliche).

Freedom from chains of shame and despair. Freedom to become the community that lives out salvation together.

Comfort. Joy. Justice. Praise. Meaning. Mission. Restoration. Righteousness. Healing. Shalom.

A gospel that is good news for the grieving and worrisome to the empire's halls of power. The upside-down kingdom of our God-with-flesh, born in a barn, who lived to set a broken world aright.

These are the gifts. This is the Giver.

Unto us a child is born. Emmanuel, who lights our way.


Updated: I wrote this before the shootings in Newtown, but this scripture seem even timelier now. Apologies that the giveaway, (now closed), seems out of place. 
---
DaySpring wants to cheer one reader with a Reversible Tree Skirt and Advent Tabletop Devotional which they kindly sent my way, too. U.S. shipping only, please. (Affiliate links.)

To be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment sharing something about how are you celebrating Christmas or what are you meditating on this advent. We'll pick a winner at random on Sunday at 11:59 PM EST, so please make sure you leave an email to get in touch.

Wednesday

the waiting is the hardest part


Four hundred years was the echo of time between prophesy and that first advent.

Four hundred years of silence, of waiting.

Of hope.

Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her.

I'm over at A Deeper Story today. Come by and read the rest.

Saturday

incarnation


Unto us a child is born of a woman,
nursed at her breast; the government is upon
him who shouldered the cross. Within world of sight
salvation springs up, enfleshed: rough hands hewn,
broke bread and washed feet. Water to wine, L'chaim,
by his body, we're healed. Trembling, she

touched his robe, yoke shattering, bleeding
shame, too. Daughter, he named, esteemed:
Go in peace. You are clean.

King in a cradle, born in a stable, Mighty God
traded heaven for here. Man of sorrows, stricken,
his blood-soaked shroud and ours are fuel for the fire.
From ash he rose, disarming darkness; with nail-
scarred hands and empty tomb, the Word revives
ancient tale. Another birth, grim curse reversed. Behold,
bending low what the Son of Man hallows:

Emmanuel makes all things new.


Shared with Imperfect Prose and the #progGOD challenge (even though Tony called poetry easy and suggested it might be a bit anemic theologically. Imma let you finish...)
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