Friday, December 23, 2011

in the snow globe with the light

It's a snow globe morning. It wasn't supposed to snow today, (or Wednesday, for that matter) but it is. I don't have to drive anywhere today, though, so I am not too concerned. I'm sitting in the coffee shop in a nice squishy chair near a warm fire with a mocha, watching the snow swirl out the large windows. There is something mesmerizing about watching the snow fall, floating and swirling and drifting. The view I have now, with some trees and the house across the street, makes me think this must be what it's like to live in a snow globe.

I'm reading over my sermon, getting ready for Christmas worship, and enjoying a calm morning where things seem okay. It isn't supposed to be a white Christmas, but I've never had one before so that's okay. My sermon is about light, the light of the world that has overcome darkness. I kind of like it. I often like to wander in darkness for a while, ending up there before I realize it. I find it comforting to know that the darkness does not win, that the light has overcome and come to dwell with us and give us his light.

I like this quote by Anne Lamott: "Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up."

Sometimes you wonder, while in the darkness, if the dawn really exists anymore. I've heard it's always darkest before the dawn. Maybe that's partly true just because of the contrast the dawn brings. Either way, the light that created light took on our darkness and took away its power, and the light and life it has given cannot be taken away.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

fleeting moments of sanity

I am pretty terrible about keeping this up to date, I admit. However, I also want to say that I think it takes a certain amount of bravery (or indiscretion, but I hardly suffer from an overabundance of that) to put thoughts out for the imaginary people that may or not read them. In that regard I am much in line with the cowardly lion. So here's a fresh attempt at bravery. Courage!

I have been struggling lately again with self-worth and how I'm ever going to make it in this world. Some days I just don't know what to do, and the call of despair is enticing. Today I had another of those moments when I realize that I've stopped paying attention to the little things going on around me. I preach and talk about it, yet I often forget (which is one reason I keep preaching and talking about it- I need to hear it, too!). So I remembered again. Now that the snow is not immediately threatening my health and sanity (it hasn't snowed in several days so the roads are mostly dry), I can appreciate the admittedly fascinating aspects of winter, such as icicles and how pretty the snow can be (when it's safely on unpaved areas). While it was pretty dang cold outside today, the sun did come out nicely and the sky was clear and blue.

I can get caught up in worrying about the things I've never done before, or all the things that still have to be done, or all the ways I simply feel inadequate as a human being. I am naturally disposed, to a certain extent, to take life and the world very seriously, which can sometimes lead to a rather cynical outlook on life. If not tempered, this can get draining. I try to maintain my ironic sense of humor, at least, which helps, but even so I need to remember to take things in smaller doses. The world, unfortunately, is never going to be the way I wish it would, and people are different and do stupid things, and so do I. There seems to be an interesting balance in keeping the self sane yet involved, and one that is easily tipped.

So here's to slowing down and paying attention more often. It's the little things, the easily overlooked things, the lowly and humble things that save the world.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I want to believe

I've started watching the X Files again. I own the mythology series and seasons five and six, so I started at the beginning and am close to halfway through season six. It is probably my favorite show ever, for many reasons. After cartoons when I was a kid, I haven't been much of a tv watcher. The X Files was the most captivating, the only show I've really ever waited for every week. I like the characters, and who doesn't like a little government conspiracy? I guess the biggest appeal is the premise. The truth is out there. They are looking for the truth. But in that search there are many encounters with lies, deceit, and the unexpected. Some people are pretty simple, and like to think that life is, too. Some people never were granted that luxury. There is still so much we do not know, and I do think the world, the universe, is bigger than we can know. Faith, magic, mystery, the paranormal: all these things have captivated many people, people who think, or know, that there is more to this world than meets the five senses. In some ways we are all mysteries. We want to know, we want to find the truth. I want to believe the truth is out there, but maybe we are not quite meant to find the whole of it yet, or maybe the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


This is probably going to be short and pointless. (and now you've been warned)

I was in such a productive state the last few weeks of school, with tests and papers and studying and working and cramming in social engagements to hang out one last time with all the people that are leaving, and now that I'm home for holidays and don't have lots of studying to do I feel restless and unproductive. It's a little annoying, actually. I realized I had downloaded several free books to kindle for iphone, which I think I will read. It is still a weird feeling, though. I suppose I should have picked up the books for my summer class, but I really did not have time to go find the bookstore (temporarily relocated for renovation). I may regret that come the first day of class, but that's okay. I'm pretty sure this restlessness happens every break. Alas.

Off to read!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

the end of all things

Sorry, guys, the semester got more than crazy as the end drew near, and between homework, studying, going to class, working, and trying to squeeze in as much social time with people who are going separate ways after this year, there was not a moment to spare. Since it seems a little pointless to update three more classes worth of Revelation at this point, I will just point you to the book Revelation and the End of All Things by Craig Koester, which is basically the same summary of the class since it's the prof's book. It is a good read if you are interested in Revelation.

In other news, I'm home for a few weeks of summer break before I take a summer class and get ready for internship. The end of the semester flew by, and it's hard to believe that year is over. It's been busy and sometimes stressful, but it's been a good year.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Reflections on Seasons

Growing up in south Texas, it basically never snows, and thus the concept of winter melting into spring is a foreign one. Some joke that the four seasons are almost summer, summer, still summer, and Christmas. Some years that's pretty accurate. So, moving to Minnesota, where there are more obvious and traditional movements through the seasons, has given me some new experiences. I've been pretty busy, with my mind in a lot of places (like homework and what to do with my life), but the artistic (or spiritual?) side of me has not failed to notice the subtle changes and beauties occurring around me outside, and I thought it appropriate to reflect on them here.

While it did not take long to get tired of and frustrated with snow, fresh fallen snow does have a certain beauty, and fields of white, dotted with houses, barns, and trees covered in snow, is definitely captivating (though more so when viewed from someplace warm..). It was fascinating to watch snow fall, slowly or quickly, but silently, large flakes or small, covering everything indiscriminately and making it sparkle. The brightness of it, even at night, was also fascinating.

Melting snow can get fairly disgusting, truthfully, but as the snow melted (and then came back, and melted again...grr) and the ground appeared again, mushy and muddy, but still with grass, I was kind of amazed at everything that had just paused underneath the snow. Evergreen type plants were still green, though much of the newly exposed flora was now dead and brown looking. A few days later, walking to breakfast one morning, I noticed the grass was suddenly much greener, and buds had appeared on trees and bulbs had begun poking through the ground again. It really was amazing how a switch seemed to have been flipped so that everything knew to come to life again. I even noticed, today, that the buds on the trees are becoming tiny leaves, bright green.

Texas also has spring (at least when it's not in a drought), and the flowers every spring have always been my favorite. I missed those this year, and didn't realize how deeply embedded that was in me until I was driving back from church Sunday and passed the first flowers I had seen on the side of the road, and something inside me leaped for joy. Minnesota flowers are different, and they can grow them all summer (some of the same flowers Texas grows in winter!), but I will be glad to see flowers blooming everywhere. I suppose this was a good year to miss Texas spring, since the state is so dry it's not a good year.

I have one more season to see unfold in Minnesota. While I'm not convinced that having such explicit seasons is a necessity (though the hymn In The Bleak Midwinter makes a lot more sense to me now), I freely admit the interesting form of creation present in the cycle of the seasons and appreciate the experience.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


I know I've said this before, but I love to write. I think I always have. There is something immensely satisfying about writing, be it finishing a paper for a class, working on some writing project, journaling (though I am abysmal at that habit), and had I ever been set lines to write for punishment, I might even have enjoyed that (at least until my hand got tired). I have a dear friend who has told me on several occasions, 'writers write', so I'm writing. Either that makes me a writer, or just means I want to be one. That was what I wanted to be in elementary school when we had to write our career choices: author and illustrator. Honestly, I still harbor some half-fantastic dream of someday being a real author of a real book. As JP on Angels in the Outfield said, 'It could happen'.

Really, I just wanted to write something tonight, and this is it. It snowed yesterday, which by all rights and purposes makes no sense to me. Minnesota is definitely not the worst place one could end up, but there are still times I wonder why anyone thought this was a good place to live. Alas, one could say that about Texas in August, I suppose. I had a good conversation with another friend today about the random ups and downs of life, and the unforeseeable future. I know I, at least, like to make meaning out of just about everything, so when I can't it frustrates me. Things make sense in hindsight...sometimes. I think half the time we don't really know what we're doing, but hopefully we get up and do the best we can. The funny thing is, the people that are good for some are not good for others, but we connect in random ways anyway. So sometimes we have to leave a place so we can get the chance to stretch our wings again and start fresh, because all the learning and growing can sometimes make things crowded. Here's hoping the adventure's a good one.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Revelation part 3

The third week of my Revelation class. Hard to believe that's halfway!

Revelation communicates frequently through picture language. Rev. 5: the scroll with God's writing-must be important. John hears the promise of the lion of Judah, but when he turns, there is a lamb. The power of God is unleashed through the sufferings of the lamb. The question is not if God will keep the promise, but how. Beginning in Rev. 5, the most common reference to Christ is as a lamb.

Rev. 6: 4 horsemen. Even the most literalistic interpreters acknowledge some use of symbolism in Rev, the question is what the symbolism means. When you read Revelation, if it doesn't take you to the lamb, you've missed something. The first horseman, on the white horse-conquest is what happens on the border. This raises questions of national security (e.g. did Rome have the largest army because it felt so secure, or because it felt insecure?). The second horseman, on the red horse, gets to violence people do to each other, bringing the insecurities a step closer to home, in your own communities. The third, on the black horse, is economic insecurity and vulnerability, another step closer, into your own home (whether you can put food on your own table/clothes on your family). The fourth, the pale horse, brings all insecurities to a very personal culmination in death. Those were real threats in John's time, and the power of the imagery is that it portrays something real then and now. These visions are designed to unsettle-- who can stand? This is one of the big questions in Revelation, and exactly the question you should be asking if you've been following the readings.

Rev. 7: those who are claimed share the inheritance of Israel. John hears the promise that God will redeem 144,000 from the 12 tribes, but when he turns to see, there is a countless multitude from every tribe, tongue, and nation. God promised to save 144,000, but isn't stingy and doesn't stop there. This becomes a great vision of God's hope for the future. Rather than meeting the question of who can stand immediately with judgment, there is an intermediary word of promise, then a word of praise. Revelation does not move in a straight line: it threatens, unsettles, then brings you back to God and the lamb.

Rev. 8-9: They start with incense going up and fire being thrown down- what if the prayers go up to God to be thrown back as wrath- the prayers of the saints become the wrath of God? The plagues did not lead to repentance. Rev. 9:20-21 :wrath alone does not bring repentance. You can't blast the people of the world into repentance.

Rev. 10: it's the same thing again. Wrath, no repentance, he tells John to prophesy again- interrupts judgment yet again. This is why the church is called to prophetic witness, because wrath alone does not bring the world to repentance. God has made space for the church to carry out its place in prophetic witness. This pattern of interrupted judgment is repeated so that we know it is not an aberration and to make sure we get it.

Rev. 11: What does it mean for the church to be the temple, a worshiping community in a world with constant threats to its well being? The witnesses personify prophetic witness throughout Israel's history -like Moses, water turns to blood; Elijah, no rain; Jeremiah, fire from the mouth; Joshua and Zerubbabel, lamps and olive trees; Jesus, killed and resurrected. Even after all that, nothing changes. The great city is many cities combined: this is more like a parable. What does it mean to preach and then suffer like the prophets/Christ? If these witnesses have hope, it's in God's power to give life, which will be integral to their witness and the witness of the power of God- it's what finally gets the world's attention. 11:13- the "rest" give glory to God, and this is what God wants. Read as a vision of the church's vocation, it's what it means to serve God.

Revelation part 2

(Sorry it took me some time to post again, things got crazy busy)

Week two of my Book of Revelation class we talked about how the first word of the book tells us John has something he wants to tell us: "revelation", which means, if it's being revealed, it's not hidden. The difference is between what must soon take place, not how soon the world will end. The professor said 1:3, "Blessed is the one who reads it" tells us the goal of Revelation. If you aren't blessed after reading it, try again.

Prophecy in popular culture has come to mean 'history written in advance', but the prophets in the Bible are more concerned with bringing God's word to people in the present.

Revelation follows the typical form of a letter (another clue that it's meant to communicate something!). The prof told us John takes the rules of Greek and bends them because God does not bend to Greek grammar (spec. 1:4); there's a counter cultural hint to the language that signifies the counter cultural message (basically, he uses the nominative case in a reference to God where grammar dictates differently). John also uses much Old Testament imagery, but never quotes word for word. Revelation was written from John's exile on the island of Patmos (in the Mediterranean), which had a fishing/sea village and nice harbor. Christianity fit under the Roman classification of 'superstition', and those convicted where usually just exiled, taken out of mainstream culture.

From the beginning Revelation was meant to be a meaningful word, so how can it continue to be a meaningful word?

Rev. 1:12-13: Jesus is in the middle of the lampstands- Chrsit is already present among the churches. John addresses the 7 churches in Asia. Each of these churches are in different locations with different social conditions and problems. Smyrna and Philadelphia were struggling under persecution, Ephesus, Pergamum, and Thyatira were struggling with questions of assimilation, and Sardis and Laodicea had become complacent. Revelation was written to all these different groups, which means Revelation was written for all types of people (everyone).

Many of our Christian hymns and liturgical pieces come from Revelation (more than most people realize). Revelation brings you into this circle of people praising god, casting their crowns, and when it does this, it has the effect for which it was written.

Friday, April 8, 2011

sin as discourse

I heard a lecture the other day from queer theology (Mary Lowe) about how our selves are constructed through social discourses. It comes from the works of Foucoult and Derrida, who I feel like I need to read now. These constructed selves do not really have a static center according to the French theorists, although that is where I have some trouble, because if there is nothing but a constructed self, how can one explain those who have been raised in the same social structures but who do not fit where others do? I feel like there has to be some core something that feels a tension when a constructed discourse truly does not fit, because if everything is constructed it seems that we should all be able to be constructed to fit into various discourses, but there are some people that just don't fit in ways that I can hardly see were constructed by anything except a core something. I do think this is a very valid analysis of social structures, however.

I wish I didn't have so much homework...I have too much else I want to read/think about, too. Alas.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Revelation (book of)

I had promised a friend at church I would start writing about my Book of Revelation class when it started, so here's the first class summary. The class seems like it will be a good one, which is exciting.

Here are a few things I learned in the first class session:
Victorinus wrote the earliest commentary on Revelation in the late 3rd century. He said Revelation is not a linear progression, but repeats its message over and over, like a series of loops, similar to the way Jesus told many parables. Jerome edited this commentary in the 5th century and brought it to mainstream reading. Origen, also in the 3rd century, was fascinated by Christ on the white horse, and said it was a question of how, not when, and the power of the Word to conquer sin (this is the battle of Armageddon).
Augustine said Jesus bound Satan (1000 year binding of Satan) when he appeared, casting out spirits and healing. "Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man?" (Matt. 12:29). In the Middle Ages, though, 1000 years had passed and people began to wonder if they'd missed something. Joachim of Fiore (12th century) came up with a new interpretation, saying Revelation is a map of all time. He named the 7 heads of the dragon (Herod, Nero, Constantius, Mohammad, Mesemoth, Saladin, Antichrist). Since then people have been naming the Antichrist.
John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) is the creator of the theological system that has taken hold in many Christian spheres most recently. He started the Plymouth Brethren, created the idea of the rapture from I Thess. 4 rather than the previous image of the final resurrection, and said the world is only getting worse and salvation is one's only hope from the destruction the world is facing. Dwight Moody (1837-1899) was a former salesman who became an evangelist and took Darby's work and spread it to many people, saying the earth is a wrecked vessel but there are souls to save. Darby's notes were put in the Scofield Reference Bible (1909), and then in 1970 Hal Lindsey came out with The Late Great Planet Earth, combining newspaper headlines and Darby's framework. Most recently, the Left Behind series has continued this work (1995-2004).
Dispensationalism measures the blocks of time (dispensations) we have left before the end of the world (from Daniel 9), and we are on pause, waiting for the prophecy fulfillment clock to be restarted.
Is this a good way to read Scripture, piecing stuff together like a jigsaw puzzle? (probably not)
It has been said that Revelation was written about the persecution of Domitian against the Christians (81-96), but more discoveries have shown us that the persecution during this time seems no worse than persecution at other times. Revelation was written by John, but the author does not claim to be the apostle, so many say he wasn't (why give him the title if he didn't claim it?). Revelation does not work well as code, and is actually not even very good Greek (the prof said it would be as if a skater style dude wrote it-Greek slang). Better questions to ask are: what do the word pictures mean? what does it reveal about God, us, and the world? be continued...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

school requires thinking

Okay, yes, that seems like a given. I suppose I've always known that, really. But it's been three years since I was a full time student in the classical sense, and wow, it requires a lot of thinking, and homework. My brain gets full. I am enjoying the learning, but there really is just a lot to think about, and I'm always busy, going from assignment to assignment.

I did get to have real Mexican food the other day, which was very exciting. I'm also getting better at ping pong, which I feel to be a significant achievement (I'm still not good, but I'm less bad..).

The snow is starting to melt. It even rained today. Winter seems to actually be on the way out. I don't quite know how I feel about this. The wetness is also kind of gross, and the melting snow freezes over the sidewalks every night, so I get to ice skate to breakfast every morning. There is a spring-ish feel to the air, though, and the lows are always double digits now. I've pretty much forgotten what this place looks and feels like without snow, so I think that will be an interesting transition.

I don't remember much else to say, but it gets difficult to extract things from my mind when it's this full. Peace.