Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

I wish that each of you has a blessed Christmas, full of family, joy, peace, and love.
I offer up the words to a Shaker Carol from The Rose Ensemble's latest, and beautifully done, Christmas CD "And Glory Shone Around"

Give Good Gifts - Annonymous
Give good gifts one to another
Peace, joy and comfort gladly bestow;
Harbor no ill 'gainst sister or brother,
Smooth life's journey, as you onward go.
Broad as the sunshine, free as the showers,
So shed an influence, blessing to prove;
Give for the noblest of efforts your powers;
Blest and be blest, is the the law of love.

It's difficult to be more simple and honest than that. May God's grace and understanding shower down upon you this and every day. May your travels be safe.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Enculturation has been a thread running through the Christology class I'm currently taking - and will finish this afternoon. I was getting things ready for our family Christmas cards and found the one we chose this year to be a fitting end to the semester. It's from Fr. Guiliani, a Conneticut-based priest who does some very interesting iconic-like work from a Native American perspective.
Advent Peace,
(you can find more of this work at

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Beginning to Take Shape

On Thursday morning I was able to discuss my future plans with Don Saliers, a meeting I wish I would have had months ago. One of the distinct disadvantages of being at St. John's is that Don is probably the only faculty member with any knowledge of the UMC ordination process and requirements and he is only in Minnesota a few months of the years. We looked at some of my goals and interests, chatted about 45 minutes. He not only advised me on a variety of aspects of my studies, he also challenged me to truly define what it is that I want to do with my studies. The later is something I've been struggling a bit with lately. I had initially wanted to get my degree, work towards ordination as a deacon and then work in an area of ministry that dealt with environmental issues and creation care (a term that I'm really beginning to dislike, but that's a topic for another time). However, since I started school, I've learned to love exegetical work and scripture and I'm growing more interested in liturgy as well (sometimes I definitely feel like a kid in a candy store!). That's something that an MDIV or a PhD would be more appropriate for but would require more schooling. What came out of the meeting was certainly a series of more questions but also a game plan. I'm planning on visiting Candler School of Theology at Emory University in March to talk with some UM folks there and get a feel for the ethos of the place. This summer perhaps a trip to St. Paul Seminary in Kansas City for the same. I'm also going to work at developing a relationship with the BOM at the Annual Conference.
All in all a very good week here. It's an interesting journey and I'm glad you're along for the ride.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Top Ten

I've mentioned before that the drive to and from campus, about an hour each way, generally gives me time to think. Lately I've been trying to figure out the next step in my theological studies, trying to figure out if I should continue (which would be required for ordination) or give them a little rest for a bit. I've been looking at some other schools and last night on the way home I was thinking about why I've come to really love St. John's. I mean, I've driven by the place hundreds of times prior to starting my studies there and never gave it much of a thought. So, here's my top ten list:
10. Tradition - Whether it's the liturgy, lectio, feast days or what have you, it's interesting to see and participate in such a rich tradition. Jeanne (my wife and former Catholic) refers to me as Catholic-light these days.
9. St. John's Bible - it took me a bit to get used to the iconic nature of this work, but having one of the artistic directors for an instructor really opened my eyes to the relationship between art, music, and scripture. The image of Creation (above) is among my favorites.
8. "Old Campus" - including Luke Hall, the masonry and the ivy covered walls are awesome.
7. Oratory at the Episcopal House of Prayer - One of the best places to pray ever!
6. St. Benedict - The Rule is fascinating and fits so wonderfully well with Wesleyan Theology.
5. The Legacy of Virgil Michel - the ground breaking work, that the liturgy and the Body of Christ are the basis for all forms of social justice is still strong today.
4. Bernie and Bobertz - All of the faculty are great, but I'm awestruck by these two gentlemen.
3. The Arboretum - The monks walk the walk with regard to sustainability. The forests surrounding campus are managed on a 100 year cutting rotation - that's long-term thinking! - and much of the prairie and oak savannah have been restored.
2. Morning Prayer - great way to start the day. There's something pretty cool about participating in a ritual that's been ongoing daily since the 6th century.
1. Community - based on the monastic tradition, we learn in community. We support each other. Unlike other academic settings I've been in, there's a true spirit of wanting everyone else to succeed.

Friday, December 5, 2008


Liminality. It's a term that tends to get tossed around a lot this time of year. I guess I remember hearing/talking about it in the past, but this year it seems to be particularly striking. Maybe it's the election, we certainly stand on a threshold of some potentially huge changes in our political being. Maybe it's the economy. I don't think anyone has a clue where we stand in respect to that ... which in itself is somewhat liminal. I'm certain that one reason it has been more prevalent this year is just the weather, it's been cold and gray, basically winter but here we're still waiting on any kind of significant snowfall. We're past fall but haven't fully found winter yet. I'm also getting some "liminal feelings" about my studies. I'm really on the cusp of finishing things up at St. John's, one more semester and my coursework is done. I've been exploring what to do next and that's lead to some anxiety, some ambiguity, some limbo. As I sat in the choir at morning prayer Thursday it dawned on me that I only have a few more opportunities to do what has become a fairly regular routine for me (next semester I have an afternoon and an evening class). In any case, there seems to be a great deal of uncertainty these days.

Advent is certainly liminal. We look for light to provide us with hope from the darkness that surrounds us. Of course that light comes in the birth of Christ, a monumental light-filled event. As the season progresses and we reach a crescendo on Christmas, I wonder if we too often expect the same kind of light event in our lives. It's as if we expect God to send angels, shepherds, and wisemen to let us know where we're supposed to be. I'm fairly certain God is more subtle than that. Maybe that's what Jesus is saying in Mark when he tells us to be prepared. Be patient. Being prepared requires being in synchrony with our surroundings and our own being. It takes being quiet enough and open enough to let the Spirit reach us in ways that we might not even imagine. How often do we look externally for a sign or message? The news of Advent reminds us that there is a light within each of us, that rises in our hearts and provides that illumination. It takes courage and hope to stand on a threshold, willing to take the step that moves us from our current state of being to one of fully participating in the Kingdom, regardless of the time of year.
Advent Peace,

Monday, December 1, 2008

New Link

I've added a new link to Jan Richardson's Advent Door, a series of reflection pieces for the season. Enjoy.