Friday, December 25, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The birth of Jesus - Luke 2 - The Message

1-5About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David's town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.

6-7While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.

An Event for Everyone

8-12There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God's angel stood among them and God's glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, "Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger."
13-14At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God's praises:

Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

15-18As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. "Let's get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us." They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

19-20Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they'd been told!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

That's Christmas...

Like this british short film about the true meaning of Christmas. Makes me a bit "home sick" for the UK really.

That's Christmas (Short Film) HD from St Helen’s Church on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Embryo of Hope

Found out today that a job that I thought was going to come through, didn't.   The waiting is frustrating and seems to make no sense really.  I know I'm qualified for each of these "near misses" so I'm not sure why a role hasn't come up yet. 

There are moments when hope seems so hard to come by.  It feels like employment will never happen, even when I know full well it will.  It always does....

In the meantime, I'm hanging on to hope.

Cheryl Lawrie at Hold this Space has a great advent post that brilliantly describes what that's like...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mary Did You Know?

Another one of my favorite Christmas songs.  Haven't heard this Clay Aiken version before, but this video is beautifully done.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


God’s revelations are always pointed, concrete, and specific. They are not a Platonic world of ideas and theories about which you can be right or wrong, or observe from a distance. Divine Revelation is not something you measure or critique, but Someone you meet!

All of this is called the “mystery of incarnation,” enfleshment or embodiment if you prefer, and it reaches its fullness in the incarnation of God in one ordinary-looking man named Jesus. God materialized in human form, so we could fall in love with a real person, which is the only way we fall in love.

Richard Rohr - Adapted from Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality, p. 17

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Mary's Song - Luke 1:46-55

And Mary said:

"My soul glorifies the Lord

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has been mindful

of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,

for the Mighty One has done great things for me—

holy is his name.

His mercy extends to those who fear him,

from generation to generation.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;

he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones

but has lifted up the humble.

He has filled the hungry with good things

but has sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,

remembering to be merciful

to Abraham and his descendants forever,

even as he said to our fathers."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Psalms 148 Reflection

I put this video (my first) together after reading Psalms 148 during a daily advent reading time.
Working on the project became my meditation time on the wonders of creation that we enjoy.

Some creative and generous friends allowed me to use their images and music.  Special thanks to Erin, Mark, and Andy!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Advent Conspiracy

My brother called me last night to ask me what I wanted for Christmas.  I told him, really I don't want anything.  I'm trying to get rid of things, not bring more stuff in the house.
He came up with the perfect solution and said he would send me a gift certificate so I could get stuff for my "projects"! 

This coming up year, we have a goal of distributing 120 backpacks full of school supplies to kids in New Mexico and I'm also going to begin a campaign to get 100 sleeeping bags out to homeless people across the nation (more on that later). 

His gift card will go towards purchasing backpacks, school supplies, or material for bags and will help support people in need!  Best present he could have come up with by far!

Fits right in with what the Advent Conspiracy is all about...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tis the season of joy....and sorrow

For many of us, there's sorrow, as well as joy, in this winter season.

I spent this past weekend in Houston with family mourning the passing of my Uncle Mike.
I haven't really sorted out all the emotions I'm feeling yet.  These kinds of family events are a mixed bag of emotions.  I'm sad because he's gone and because his family is hurting so much at the same time, I'm grateful and happy I got to see my cousins after 13 years.  I'll miss talking with my uncle this year and hearing him wish me Merry Christmas. 

Today would have been my Dad's 81st birthday. Later today, my mom and I will go put flowers and a wreath on his grave to remember him.   Being with this particular part of my family, made me realize just how much he's missed too.

This year, as I'm intentionally practicing advent, I've become much more aware of what it means to wait.  Waiting is painful and exciting at the same time.  Another mixed bag of emotions. 

As Christams Eve and Day approaches, it makes me more aware of the loved ones that are no longer here to celebrate with us.  It makes me sad while at the same time happy I'm waiting to welcome home those who still are.

This year, be aware of those around you that may be grieving a loss.

Offer them some comfort and hope.

From the writings of the late John O'Donohue, poet and scholar, in Eternal Echoes:

                               A Blessing

May you know that absence is full of tender presence and
   that nothing is ever lost or forgotten.
May the absences in your life be full of eternal echo.
May you sense around you the secret Elsewhere which
    holds the presences that have left your life.
May you be generous in your embrace of loss.
May the sore well of grief turn into a well of seamless
May your compassion reach out to the ones we never hear
   from and may you have the courage to speak out for
   the exclueded ones.
May you become the gracious and passionate subject of
   your own life.
May you not disrespect your mystery through brittle
   words of false belonging.
May you be embraced by God in whom dawn and twilight
   are one, and may your belonging inhabit its deepest
   dreams within the shelter of the Great Belonging.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Emmanuel - Amy Grant

One of my all time Christmas favorites

Sunday, December 13, 2009

3rd Sunday of Advent

Today's reflection is from the Church of England's online advent calendar

Be sure to scroll down a bit to see the reading and the challenges for the day.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

CS Lewis Xmas and Christmas

“Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus,” by C.S. Lewis

And beyond this there lies in the ocean, turned towards the west and north, the island of Niatirb which Hecataeus indeed declares to be the same size and shape as Sicily, but it is larger, though in calling it triangular a man would not miss the mark. It is densely inhabited by men who wear clothes not very different from the other barbarians who occupy the north western parts of Europe though they do not agree with them in language. These islanders, surpassing all the men of whom we know in patience and endurance, use the following customs.

In the middle of winter when fogs and rains most abound they have a great festival which they call Exmas and for fifty days they prepare for it in the fashion I shall describe. First of all, every citizen is obliged to send to each of his friends and relations a square piece of hard paper stamped with a picture, which in their speech is called an Exmas-card. But the pictures represent birds sitting on branches, or trees with a dark green prickly leaf, or else men in such garments as the Niatirbians believe that their ancestors wore two hundred years ago riding in coaches such as their ancestors used, or houses with snow on their roofs. And the Niatirbians are unwilling to say what these pictures have to do with the festival; guarding (as I suppose) some sacred mystery. And because all men must send these cards the marketplace is filled with the crowd of those buying them, so that there is great labour and weariness.

But having bought as many as they suppose to be sufficient, they return to their houses and find there the like cards which others have sent to them. And when they find cards from any to whom they also have sent cards, they throw them away and give thanks to the gods that this labour at least is over for another year. But when they find cards from any to whom they have not sent, then they beat their breasts and wail and utter curses against the sender; and, having sufficiently lamented their misfortune, they put on their boots again and go out into the fog and rain and buy a card for him also. And let this account suffice about Exmas-cards.

They also send gifts to one another, suffering the same things about the gifts as about the cards, or even worse. For every citizen has to guess the value of the gift which every friend will send to him so that he may send one of equal value, whether he can afford it or not. And they buy as gifts for one another such things as no man ever bought for himself. For the sellers, understanding the custom, put forth all kinds of trumpery, and whatever, being useless and ridiculous, they have been unable to sell throughout the year they now sell as an Exmas gift. And though the Niatirbians profess themselves to lack sufficient necessary things, such as metal, leather, wood and paper, yet an incredible quantity of these things is wasted every year, being made into the gifts.

But during these fifty days the oldest, poorest, and most miserable of the citizens put on false beards and red robes and walk about the market-place; being disguised (in my opinion) as Cronos. And the sellers of gifts no less than the purchaser’s become pale and weary, because of the crowds and the fog, so that any man who came into a Niatirbian city at this season would think some great public calamity had fallen on Niatirb. This fifty days of preparation is called in their barbarian speech the Exmas Rush.

But when the day of the festival comes, then most of the citizens, being exhausted with the Rush, lie in bed till noon. But in the evening they eat five times as much supper as on other days and, crowning themselves with crowns of paper, they become intoxicated. And on the day after Exmas they are very grave, being internally disordered by the supper and the drinking and reckoning how much they have spent on gifts and on the wine. For wine is so dear among the Niatirbians that a man must swallow the worth of a talent before he is well intoxicated.

Such, then, are their customs about the Exmas. But the few among the Niatirbians have also a festival, separate and to themselves, called Crissmas, which is on the same day as Exmas. And those who keep Crissmas, doing the opposite to the majority of the Niatirbians, rise early on that day with shining faces and go before sunrise to certain temples where they partake of a sacred feast. And in most of the temples they set out images of a fair woman with a new-born Child on her knees and certain animals and shepherds adoring the Child. (The reason of these images is given in a certain sacred story which I know but do not repeat.)

But I myself conversed with a priest in one of these temples and asked him why they kept Crissmas on the same day as Exmas; for it appeared to me inconvenient. But the priest replied, “It is not lawful, O stranger, for us to change the date of Chrissmas, but would that Zeus would put it into the minds of the Niatirbians to keep Exmas at some other time or not to keep it at all. For Exmas and the Rush distract the minds even of the few from sacred things. And we indeed are glad that men should make merry at Crissmas; but in Exmas there is no merriment left.” And when I asked him why they endured the Rush, he replied, “It is, O Stranger, a racket”; using (as I suppose) the words of some oracle and speaking unintelligibly to me (for a racket is an instrument which the barbarians use in a game called tennis).

But what Hecataeus says, that Exmas and Crissmas are the same, is not credible. For first, the pictures which are stamped on the Exmas-cards have nothing to do with the sacred story which the priests tell about Crissmas. And secondly, the most part of the Niatirbians, not believing the religion of the few, nevertheless send the gifts and cards and participate in the Rush and drink, wearing paper caps. But it is not likely that men, even being barbarians, should suffer so many and great things in honour of a god they do not believe in. And now, enough about Niatirb.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Advent Reading Dec 11th

Psalms 25:1-5

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;
in you I trust, O my God.
Do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.

No one whose hope is in you
will ever be put to shame,
but they will be put to shame
who are treacherous without excuse.

Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Human Rights Day Prayer

We pray for those who have been exiled from their native land, refugees, who have been forced to leave behind their heritage and possessions, their families and their friends, and those who have had to begin life anew in a foreign culture and among strangers.

Lord, let justice run down like rivers.

We pray for those who are discriminated against on grounds of their race or sex, who offer the gifts of their presence, culture and personality, but find them despised or rejected.

Lord, let justice run down like rivers.

We pray for those who at this moment are being tortured in their bodies or in their minds because of the convictions they hold so dear, that their pain may be eased and that the peace of God may bring them release even in the midst of suffering.

Lord, let justice run down like rivers.

We pray for all rulers and those who hold positions of authrity in the state and in all the powerful institutions of our society that they may use their power for good and not for evil, that the rights of men and women may no longer be abused.

Lord, let justice run down like rivers.

We pray for all whose basic needs for food, shelter, clothing and healing are not met.  Stir up the consciences of peoples and governments, to re-arrange the world's unjust systems; teach us all to live more simply, that others may simply live.

Lord, let justice run down like rivers.

We pray for the nations of the earth that you in your mercy will save them from their folly and humankind from its sin, that people will be set free from vindictiveness and fear, that forgiveness will replace revenge, that none shall be in bondage to another and none shall hold another country in contempt, and you alone will be worshipped all over the earth.

Lord, let justice run down like rivers.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Do you have room?

Today's advent offering is a free down load from my friend Chuck Elmore called "Do you have room?"
I met Chuck and the guys from his band on my latest journey to the UK. He is the youth director at New Life City in Albuquerque, a church my buddy pastors. Had a great time hanging around with them on a mission trip this summer.
The photo on the banner of the site is one I took of Chuck in a 11th century church graveyard. The lighting was amazing and the day was spectacular. One of my favorite places we visited.

While you're on the site, have a listen to some of his other songs and enjoy.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Advent Story - part 2

The 2nd part of the Room28ministries series

Advent Story

Really well done and creative advent video from Room28Ministries

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Matins - John O'Donohue - Eternal Echoes


Somewhere, out at the edges, the night
Is turning and the waves of darkness
Begin to brighten the shore of dawn.

The heavy dark falls back to earth
And the freed air goes wild with light,
The heart fills with fresh, bright breath
And thoughts stir to give birth to colour.


I arise today

In the name of Silence
Womb of the Word,
In the name of Stillness
Home of Belonging,
In the name of the Solitude
Of the Soul and the Earth.

I arise today

Blessed by all things,
Wings of breath,
Delight of eyes,
Wonder of whisper,
Intimacy of touch,
Eternity of soul,
Urgency of thought,
Miracle of health,
Embrace of God.

May I live this day

Compassionate of heart,
Gentle in word,
Gracious in awareness,
Courageous in thought,
Generous in love.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

15 sites for Creating your own Products

List from Mashable of 15 sites where artists, photographers and creative types of all kinds can use to create products from their work.

Create away!

Art of the Nativity

Some beautiful paintings of the nativity scene.

Art of the Nativity

The Justice Project - book review

For my first book review for Viral Bloggers, I read “The Justice Project” edited by Brian McLaren, Elisa Padilla and Ashley Bunting Seeber.

The book is a compilation of essays from 35 authors. The variety of voices and perspectives is by far the major strength of the book. Men and women from many different countries and ministry groups contributed towards answering “What is Justice?” from a mostly Christian perspective.

Since there are too many essays to review individually, I thought I’d focus on just two:  Richard Twiss’ “Reading the Bible Unjustly: How Has the American Church Read the Bible Unjustly” and “Just Perspectives: How Can We Become Just Global Citizens?” by Ashley Bunting Seeber.

Richard Twiss, a Native American, works in Washington but I particularly liked his essay for the insight it provided into some of the issues of my Native Alaskan friends and family.

Twiss’ tells of the history of the colonizing of America which led to European people “viewing Native people through the lens of Scripture, [they] people saw idolaters who were spiritually deceived, lost in rebellion, and hell-bound. While it is true that all peoples and cultures are stained by sin and the rejection of the Creator’s path of beauty, and desperately need reconciliation to God, it is also true that European enlightenment thinking colored their understanding of Scripture that manifest destiny and biblical mission became indistinguishable; one appeared the same as the other.”

His essay is a strong reminder to work with culture groups to find ways they can express their Christianity through their own cultural norms, instead of insisting it be replaced with “church culture”.

I think this book would have benefited from some more practical examples of how to live justly. A better balance of pragmatism and theory would have made the book more complete for me. It does a tremendous job of explaining what justice is and why we should care, but doesn’t often enough tell us how.

One exception was “Just Perspectives”. Seeber tells about some of the interactions she’s had with various cultures outside of the US. She goes on to provide a list of 10 practical things we each can do to make sure we, as US citizens, make for better global neighbors. Some of these ideas can be done in your own hometown and include: eating new ethnic foods, helping refugee families settle in, read news from other perspectives, pray the news, and help your children learn geography.

Overall, I think the book provides a broad view of people’s thinking on Justice, with well written, thoughtful essays. It’s a good reference book for a study on the subject of the biblical aspects of justice, but is not a how-to handbook.

Friday, December 4, 2009

God of the waiting

Love this beautiful advent prayer from Cheryl Lawrie, Director for Spirituality, Culture and Context in the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania   She blogs at hold this space. 

god of the waiting
for worship next week in Port Phillip prison

Not all anticipation is hopeful,
and not all waiting is good;
so we pray for those for whom this season brings only despair.

We pray with those here in prison who long
for a decision from the parole board
for any news from a lawyer
for a phonecall from a loved one that never comes:

God of the waiting, turn anxiety into peace.

We pray with those we know who long
for a diagnosis and healing
for death
for life:

God of the waiting, turn fear into joy.

We pray with those in the world who long
for bombs to stop
for gunfire to cease
for wars to end:

God of the waiting, turn hatred into peace.
We pray with all who long
for arguments to be stilled
for a new way to be made clear
for justice to be made real:

God of the waiting, turn dread into love.

And we pray for those of us who no longer wait,
because our dreams have been shredded by the razor wire that surrounds us,
our hopes lie crumpled under the weight of systems and structures,
and our courage has been mocked by the reality of life:

God of the waiting, can you wait for us?
In this Advent, turn our despair into hope.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Waiting for the Savior

Advent is a time of waiting for the savior, a time to acknowledge that a savior is needed.

A savior is needed because something is wrong with the world. The whole created order is not functioning as God intended, not living into its fullness. Humanity is not living out its calling to be stewards of all creation and to be part of a society that places the other before the self, and recognizes God as the giver of all things. This problem is cosmic in scope.

A savior is needed because we cannot fix it ourselves. Constantly distracted by our own desires and ways of life we cannot see our own need and the need of the world. We are too busy with life…earning, collecting, hoarding. Too busy to slow down and see the signs that help is needed. Even if we paid attention our first response would be a sense of helplessness. The struggles are so many, the difficulties so large. I can see why we would be paralyzed by those things that we actually see in the world.

Hurrying to Christmas is not what is needed. What the world needs is for the Christian community to stay alert and proclaim the need for a savior. And so, we proclaim:

+ A God who breaks into history to provide for its redemption.
+ The continuing need to resist injustice, oppression and evil in whatever forms they present themselves.
+ That creation continues its groan for the day of salvation.

In Advent we wait in hopeful expectation of God’s in-breaking for the healing of the world. We depend on God’s help to help us “stay the course” and we depend on each other as a community of faith to continue discerning and calling each other to accountability, keeping one another watching, seeking and actively rehearsing the realm of God in the world.

God has brought, is bringing and will bring salvation to the world. We wait in that hope and in waiting we realize that Advent is a “wonderful time” after all!

rest of the article is here

Get back to basics for improved composition

Good tips here for better photographic compostion.

Cotton Patch Christmas

From the Cotton Patch Bible by Clarence Jordan

1. When Jesus was born in Gainesville, Georgia during the time that Herod was governor, some scholars from the Orient came to Atlanta and inquired, "Where is the one who was born to be governor of Georgia? We saw his star in the Orient, and we came to honor him." This news put Governor Herod and all his cronies in a tizzy. So he called a meeting of the big time preachers and politicians, and asked if they had any idea where the Leader was to be born. In Gainesville, Georgia," the replied, "because there's a bible prophecy which says:
'And you Gainesville, in the state of Georgia,
Are by no means the least in the Georgia delegation;
From you will come a governor,
Who will wisely guide my chosen people.' "
7. Then Herod called in the scholars privately and questioned them in detail about the exact time of the star's appearance. And he sent them off to Gainesville with this instruction: "Go and find out the facts about the child. Then tell me what you've learned, so that I too may come and honor him." They listened to the governor and left. And you know, the star which they saw in the Orient went ahead of them until it came and stood above the place where the child was. (Just looking at the star flooded them with great happiness.) So they went inside the house and saw the baby with his mother, Mary. They bowed down and honored him, and opened the presents they had brought him–gifts of jewelry, incense and perfume. And having gotten the word in a dream not to revisit Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.

13. After they had checked out, the Lord's messenger made connection with Joseph in a dream and said, "Get moving and take your wife and baby and highball it to Mexico. Then stay put until I get word to you because Herod is going to do his best to kill the baby." So he got right up, took the baby and its mother and checked out by night for Mexico. He stayed there until the death of Herod. (This gave meaning to what the Lord said through the prophet: "I summoned my son from Mexico.")

16. Then it dawned on Herod that he had been duped by the learned men, an he really blew his top. He gave orders to kill all the babies in Gainesville and thereabouts who were under two, on the basis of the schedule which he had obtained from the scholars. (Then the saying of Jeremiah the prophet was given meaning:

"A noise is heard in Ramah,
Great weeping and anguish;
Rachel is grieving for her children
And there's no consoling her,
Because she has lost them.")
19. Now when Herod passed away, the Lord's messenger contacted Joseph in Mexico by a dream. "Get moving," he said, "and take the child and his mother and return to the South, for the people who were trying to take the boy's life have died."

21. So he packed up and took the child and his mother, and returned to the South. He heard that Herod's boy Archelaus was governor of Alabama and so he was scared to settle down there. He was given instructions in a dream to go on over into south Georgia to the city of Valdosta. (This gave meaning to the prophet's word: "He shall be called a Valdostan.")