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Showing posts from February, 2014

book review: the silver chalice

just finished a really fun book (at least for me) called "the silver chalice" by one thomas costain, whom i confess to know nearly nothing about.  i had seen this book turn up on shelf after shelf of book sales and finally decided to give it a try, and boy am i glad i did!  it was a new york times best seller back in the early 1950's, and was subsequently turned into a motion picture, starring paul newman (in his film debut).

"the silver chalice" tells the story of basil, a young boy who, by a strange turn, enters into an entitled life of luxury and power, but has it all unjustly ripped away from him.  the book, then, becomes a story about his coming to faith in the first century after the death and resurrection of Jesus.  the story begins in antioch, but has significant sections in jerusalem, in rome, and in the areas between.  as a work of historical fiction, it is a wonderful little portrait of first century christianity, even if it does feel like its been…

through the lens of hope

"looking through the lens of hope" catawissa avenue united methodist church king's kids club mixed media collage on found window (glue, acrylic paint, newspaper, found papers) february 23, 2014
our 3rd, 4th and 5th graders at catawissa avenue umc call themselves the king's kids club.  this last week we got together to work on an art project.  we started with a thought-provoking conversation about how we look at the world with our own unique eyes, and even though we may see the exact same things, we all see them in distinctly different ways.  we talked about how our church has been called to try and see things through the eyes of hope.  to illustrate this we looked through several pairs of glasses, some of which had been painted in various colors and degrees of transparency, as a way to understand that the lenses we look through make a huge difference about how we see the world.  we looked at romans 8 to help us understand that we have the choice to look at the world thr…

sunday nights not the same

i'm in a period of grieving. for who knows how long now, my sunday nights won't be marked by a whimsical imaginative trip across the oceans of time and space to 1920's england. i will be lonely without robert and cora, carson and mrs. hughes, mary, edith, and especially anna and mr. bates. thomas i could do without.  i'll even miss mr. molesly. 
you see, downton abbey is over for another season (or series, as the brits say it). i don't care if they are two hours long, seven or eight episodes is not enough...it is unjust, i tell you!  seriously. i would be content just to watch the servants eat and work and talk. sort of like PBS's downton abbey meets CBS's big brother. i would watch that. 
but alas, i cannot. so i will mourn for awhile, and just count my lucky stars that this season didn't end with a terrible tragic death.   i only wish mrs. hughes were here to comfort me. 
long live downton abbey!  

burn, burn, burn

love this quote by jack kerouac.  i hear hints of Jesus in these words, as he sits over a goblet of wine with a bunch of ragamuffins, or leaves the home of the completely-changed zaccheus, whom no one wanted anything to do with.  Jesus loves the mad ones.  is that surprising to them?  to us?  perhaps what's most surprising to me is that Jesus loves every one, even those who refuse to burn like stars or candles, and who mostly just sit and sputter.  while we are still yawning, Jesus demonstrates unthinkable, unbelievable, unquenchable, untamable love, burning away every bit of dross, decay and detritus.  and we wake up.  we are made new.  and we burn with love.

thou shalt laughest

"it is pleasing to the dear God whenever thou rejoicest or laughest from the bottom of thy heart."  -martin luther. 
"take time to laugh; it is the music of thy soul."  -from an old english prayer book
if it is true, as martin luther said, that "you have as much faith as you have laughter," then my faith has been strong recently, or at least abundant.

because i have been laughing my rear end off.

i love to laugh, i really do, and i will probably agree with any study - scientific or not - that indicates that laughing increases productivity or longevity or accidental urination.  its all true in my opinion:  laughing is really good.

still, sometimes i struggle with laughter.  while i laugh, i wonder about those who cannot laugh.  those who are abandoned, abused, traded and used.  i think of those who do not moan with laughter but with hunger pangs, with grief, and with despair.  there are so many times when my laughter - as genuine and healthy as it is - ech…

heaven. for real.

we are currently in the midst of an exciting sermon series at our church, Catawissa Avenue UMC, called "Heaven: It's Not the End of the World," in which, among other things, we are challenging some of our traditionally-held views of heaven and trying to discern what the Bible actually teaches.  it has been a really great series for me to study and preach, as it seems that heaven is a topic that has been grossly ignored in my experience.  i think there may be a variety of reasons for this, but paramount among them is the fact that most of us, when we think of heaven, think of floating around on a cloud all day, flapping our newly-sprouted wings and playing a tiny harp, which we hold over our fat-cherub bellies. maybe i'm exaggerating a bit, but the vision that many of us have inherited of heaven, and the one we hold onto for the most part, is a bit less than compelling or inspiring.  and so we have often chosen to rather ignore it, except for those times when we are …

accepting winter (finally)

okay.  we get it.  we're all tired of winter.

i have personally used this digital space to do more than my fair share of complaining about the weather this winter.  i was hoping it would hold me over until i could start complaining about the heat, but i've come to the limit of my complaining.

i was made aware at several different moments today that there is still a month or so of winter remaining.  and i was thinking about how much i've complained already, and how ready i am for spring, for green, for the first unfolding flower to shock the frost out of me with its daring color.

and then i realized again that spring without winter is like a gloriously delicious meal, moments after you've already eaten a gloriously delicious meal.  it has lost its value.

and so i am resolving to appreciate these final ticks of winter, whether they be the lion that marches out of february, or a slow decrescendo into lighter evenings and warmer afternoons.  if we still have many more…

saturday song: dear true love

for your saturday song today, i give you "dear true love" by sleeping at last.

it appeared on his ep "february," which seems appropriate since it is the 15th of february and we are getting another 2-5 inches of snow this morning on top of the 10+ we already had.  it's time to just bunker down and sing love songs to your valentine (or clean up 'accidents' while you potty train your toddler...either way it's SUPER romantic).

looking at snowflakes, thinking of (baseball) diamonds

while i was outside yesterday, adding a couple of feet to my snow mountain (we had about 10 or so inches of snow), i was thinking of spring and training.  i was thinking of pitches and catchers.  i was thinking of leather and wood.  i was thinking of shortstops and long outs.  i was thinking about fastballs and slow curves.  i was thinking about round trippers and line drives.

i was dreaming of baseball.



why?  because it is here.  all over the south, baseball clubs have started gathering for the beginning of spring training.  and, though miles away, i can feel it in my soul.  i am ready for just this sort of thing.  ready for the pops of sizzling fastballs in catcher's mitts.  ready for the throaty growl of a homeplate umpire.  ready for the heavenly crack-sound of a double down the line.

i'm not really ready to say goodbye to derek jeter, but that is a whole 'nother story.

bugboy

we have a bug boy. 
with his birthday money he wanted to buy dead bugs. so we found a cool website that sells all sorts of bugs at what seems like good prices ("so, what's a near-mint dung beetle going for these days?"). as you can see from the progression in the picture above, they shipped them to him, he received the box while chewing his dinner, smiling with his mouthful. we opened the package, had to "rehydrate" the insects, "spread" them, then let them dry again before finally mounting them. what a process!  but he loved it and learned along the way. 
when i entered into fatherhood, i never realized i was going to have to be handling dead, wet tarantulas, scorpions, and giant amazon cockroaches. 
but i did.  and the results look pretty cool, right?  that giant one in the middle is a cicada, and the picture doesn't even do justice to that amazing blue/purple butterfly.  
and he's already ordered more bugs. 


hypocycloids in my brain

i was adding something to my amazon wishlist this morning, and i noticed that the logo looked pretty familiar.  so i thought i'd make a little comparison to see if anyone agrees with me.  you don't often see hypocycloids (particularly these astroids, which are hypocycloids with four cusps) in logos, and here you not only see them, but you see three of them.  and not only that, but in almost the exact same three colors.  and not only that, but if you rotate the logo, you see the hypocycloids are in the exact same order.  am i imagining this, or am i on to something here?

with the regular amazon logo being in black and gold, i feel like i am on a steelers high every time i put something on my wishlist.  then i started wondering, in a consumer's paranoia, if they tailor their wishlist logo to look like each shopper's favorite team's logo.  i hope this isn't true, but wouldn't necessarily be surprised.

a book review: the reader

i'm not sure how i ended up with a copy of bernhard schlink's "the reader" on my shelf, but there it was, and, looking for something to read this weekend, i picked it up and read it.  in one 24 hour period.

it's not that it is that gripping, but that it is indeed that short.  i don't know what the official literary distinction is between a novel and a short story, but this must be near the boundary lands.

however, just because it is short doesn't mean it doesn't pack a punch.  it does.  and, in my opinion, it lands said punch right to the gut with powerful force.

i knew nothing about this book going into it, but i must offer full disclosure at this point that the first part of the book details a love affair between a 37-year old woman and a 15-year boy.  while it is certainly consensual, the law doesn't allow for consensual sex with a 15-year old, and so it should be clear that this is an illegal act, and that sexual abuse, in any of its many …

new collage: right where you are

last week i wrote about the burning bush story in which moses starts talking to a shrubbery shrouded in flame.  the flame-engulfed enigma tells him that he should remove his footwear because the place where he is standing is holy ground.

"what, this ground here?" i can hear moses say, incredulously, in my imagination.  "this ground isn't holy.  i've been walking on it for ages!  its just rock and dirt.  it looks like this for miles, with only the occasional green spot and sheep mess to mark it.  surely you can't be serious."

"oh yes, i am serious," replies the smoldering small tree, in my imagination, " and don't call me shirley.  i know it doesn't look like much, but you need to open up your eyes and realize that every stone, every sheep mess, every nook and cranny and cell and atom is bursting with mystery and magic.  you need to step out from under the spell that the status quo has put on you, and look around, as if for the fi…

you can go ahead and be done now

we got a bit of snow this week, and since i had to shovel (again), i figured i might as well have fun doing it.  so i built a mountain.  this involves much more work than just shoveling snow, because i have to carry shovel-fulls of snow all the way from one end of the drive way to the other, making quite a spectacle of myself in the process.  no fewer than 5 neighbors stopped to gawk and/or question my sanity.  i tried to explain that i enjoyed the exercise, the crisp air, and the ability to construct something out of all this mess.

they didn't understand.


but jackson did.  he came out and "helped" me.  actually, cade tried to, but that lasted for about 2 shovels full.  jack just tossed snow onto the side of it, and ate about as much as he shoveled, but by the end of it, we've got a mountain that is at least 10 feet from bottom to top on the one side.  we'll still be playing on it in june.

speaking of june, winter can go ahead and be done now.  which is actua…

who are we? "the host" reviewed.

i just finished reading the 600+ page book "the host" by stephenie meyer, author of the twilight series, and thought i would share my thoughts on the book briefly.  "the host" is the story of a not-too-distant future in which aliens have taken over the earth.  these aliens are called souls, and they don't so much destroy the human population as "possess" them, in a way.  i won't give away too much about the process here, but you might be able to deduce on your own that the humans become hosts for the alien species.

in the case of our main character, the question becomes one of identity (among other things).  who is the person?  is she the human body and memories, or the animating spirit from another planet?  when elements of both show through, the question becomes the guiding conflict in the book, manifesting itself in all sorts of ways.

while i am fairly certain that this isn't the direction meyers was going with her work, as a Christ-foll…

right there the whole time

"burning bush" by isaac brynjegard-bialik
watching a rob bell "nooma" film (one that i've seen at least 5 times before), reminded me of a vital truth, and a critical cornerstone of my worldview.  and yet, even though this truth is so formative for me, it was clear that i had sort of lost the plot a bit, and needed to be reminded of it yet again.  i have written before in these pages that i know less and less as i learn more and more.  i think of bono singing, "the more you see, the less you know; the less you find out as you go; i knew much more then than i do now," in city of blinding lights.  i couldn't agree with him more.  but it isn't just that certainty begins to be eroded by wonder and beauty, but also that i forget more and more.  what i once learned, i need to relearn.  and what i have relearned hundreds of times, still needs to be learned again.  and so i keep saying the same things.  i keep preaching the same good news.  i keep writ…