Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thursday Thinking - Dealing with Your Inner Grinch

Today, I'm sharing a short piece by Amena Brown Owen posted on Donald Miller's Storyline Blog. Christmas comes rolling around every year whether you're ready or not. So what happens when your inner Grinch seems to be stealing the joy of Christmas? What can you do? Owen has some thoughtful suggestions.

How to Deal with Your Inner Grinch
by Amena Brown Owen

The Advent season is a time of remembering the miracle of birth, how Jesus entering the world became the greatest plot twist ever written. It’s a time of turkey, family, sugar plum ferries, ornaments, Christmas trees, and Charlie Brown. But sometimes the actuality of our life looks more like charred turkey, out of tune Christmas carols, and scantily clad tinsel. Sometimes life threatens to make a Grinch out of us. Sometimes pain, grief, hurt, disappointment, and loss, snuff out any candles of joy we had lit in our hearts. What do we do when we find it difficult or nearly impossible to be thankful during the season of gratitude?


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wednesday Words - The Hands that First Held Mary's Child

The hands that first held Mary's child
were hard from working wood,
from boards they sawed and planed and filed
and splinters they withstood.
This day they gripped no tool of steel,
they drove no iron nail,
but cradled from the head to heel
our Lord, newborn and frail.

When Joseph marveled at the size
of that small breathing frame,
and gazed upon those bright new eyes
and spoke the infant's name,
the angel's words he once had dreamed
poured down from heaven's height,
and like the host of stars that beamed
blessed earth with welcome light.

"This child shall be Emmanuel,
not God upon the throne,
but God with us, Emmanuel,
as close as blood and bone."
The tiny form in Joseph's palms
confirmed what he had heard,
and from his heart rose hymns and psalms
for heaven's human word.

The tools that Joseph laid aside
a mob would later lift
and use with anger, fear, and pride
to crucify God's gift.
Let us, O Lord, not only hold
the child who's born today,
but charged with faith may we be bold
to follow in his way.

“The Hands that First Held Mary’s Child” by Thomas Troeger from Above the Moon Earth Rises, © Copyright 2002 by Oxford University Press.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday Tomes - Notable Children's Books 2014

New York Times: Notable Children's Books of 2014
The best in picture books, middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction, selected by the children’s book editor of The New York Times Book Review.

BABY BEAR. Written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. 
THE BABY TREE. Written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall.
THE FARMER AND THE CLOWN. Written and illustrated by Marla Frazee. 
HANNAH’S NIGHT. Written and illustrated by Komako Sakai.
HANSEL & GRETEL. By Neil Gaiman. Illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti.
THE JACKET. By Kirsten Hall. Illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova.
THE RIGHT WORD: Roget and His Thesaurus. By Jen Bryant. Illustrated by Melissa Sweet.
SAM AND DAVE DIG A HOLE. By Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Jon Klassen.
THE STORM WHALE. Written and illustrated by Benji Davies.

ARCADY’S GOAL. Written and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin.
BROWN GIRL DREAMING. By Jacqueline Woodson. 
EGG & SPOON. By Gregory Maguire.
EL DEAFO. Written and illustrated by Cece Bell.
HEAP HOUSE. Written and illustrated by Edward Carey.
THE MADMAN OF PINEY WOODS. By Christopher Paul Curtis.
THE PORT CHICAGO 50. By Steve Sheinkin.
RAIN REIGN. By Ann M. Martin.
THE RED PENCIL. By Andrea Davis Pinkney. Illustrated by Shane W. Evans.
SISTERS. Written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday Music - A Cradle Hymn

Elizabeth Mitchell's "The Sounding Joy" is one of our most-loved Christmas records. It's magical and deep and rich and fun. If you like old hymns and folk music presented with simple beauty, you will love this album. Especially if you like singing along.

Here is a of live performance of "Cradle Hymn" which features just three stanzas from the much longer hymn text by Isaac Watts (1674-1748). Watts is most famous for the text of his Christmas hymn, "Joy to the World."

Hush, my dear, lie still and slumber,
Holy angels guard thy bed!
Heavenly blessings without number
Gently stealing on thy head.

How much better thou art attended
Than the Son of God could be,
When from heaven He descended
And became a child like thee!

Soft and easy is thy cradle:
Coarse and hard thy Saviour lay,
When His birthplace was a stable
And His softest bed was hay.

Hush, my dear, lie still and slumber,
Holy angels guard thy bed!
Heavenly blessings without number
Gently stealing on thy head.

from The Sounding Joy: Christmas Songs In and Out of the Ruth Crawford Seeger Songbook...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Supplication - Recognizing Christ as King

O Lord, move in our hearts with your great might. Work in our lives with your power. Through your boundless grace and mercy, deliver us from the sins that entangle and destroy us.

Thank you for the forgiveness and renewal you have given to us through Christ Jesus.
Help us as we extend that same forgiveness to others who have sinned against us. Help us to be a community of grace. Make us a church that has a redemptive and healing impact on the world around us.

Thank you, O God, for the forgiveness and life we have through Jesus. You have promised that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life. May all who seek you find you, O God. Help us to recognize Christ as King. Help us to make room for his saving and shaping work in our lives.

It is in his Name that we pray all these things. Amen.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Saturday Smile - Make it So

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Favorites - The Cactus Blossoms

My favorite outing this week was a chance to hear The Cactus Blossoms on Wednesday night. The Turf Club was packed and the boys sounded great.

The Blossoms sure are having busy month! This week, they're wrapping up work on a new record (which I cannot wait to hear), and then heading out to the east coast for another week of tour dates opening for Nick Lowe. I'm looking forward to hearing some good stories when they get home for Christmas.

"A Dollar Short of Happy" is a Nick Lowe Christmas song I'd like to hear the Cactus Blossoms cover. I think it would be a great fit for them, and it would serve as a nice souvenir to bring home from the tour. Maybe they'll sing it to old pappy on Christmas day...hint...hint.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thursday Thinking - Let Every Heart Prepare

Today I'd like to share a thoughtful post by Jim Friedrich, Ten Ways to Keep a Holy Advent, from The Christian Century Blog. Friedrich gives some practical ways to draw attention to the deeper meaning of Christmas and cultivate awareness of God's presence and work in our lives. These practices include interrupting, silencing, waiting, listening, watching, praying, reflecting, loving, giving, and receiving. You probably won't be able or interested in doing all ten, but you may find a few of them to be a good fit for you this year.

Ten Ways to Keep a Holy Advent
Dec 08, 2014 by Jim Friedrich

Advent is a time to keep watch for the unexpected comings of God, to prepare our own hearts to make room for the Blessed One, and to be ourselves signs to the world around us of divine compassion and justice.

In a month that is already far too busy and rushed, these ten general practices are not offered as one more to-do list to work through, but as ways to slow down, take a breath, pay attention, and make room in our lives for the birth of the Holy.

These practices do not begin to exhaust the possibilities, but I hope they may stimulate your own thoughtful and prayerful responses. If anything here speaks to you, or prompts your own variation, try it out—for a minute, an hour, a day, and leave the rest to God. Let every heart prepare him room.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wednesday Words - Disturbed by the Light

Disturbed by the light
while fighting sleep,
their eyes half closed,
half watching sheep,
the shepherds might
have turned away
and rested till the break of day:

Why risk the night,
the winds that blow?
Why risk the way
we do not know?

Disturbed by the light
that marked the sky
where dark alone
once met the eye,
the magi might
have paused to test
the wisdom of their star-born quest:

Why risk the night,
the winds that blow?
Why risk the way
we do not know?

Disturbed by the light
that draws us past
the world we grip
so hard and fast,
we might delay
our starting out
until we answer every doubt:

Why risk the night,
the winds that blow?
Why risk the way
we do not know?
except our hearts
refuse to slow
and every beat insists we go.

"Disturbed by the Light" by Thomas H. Troeger, from Above the Moon Earth Rises, © Copyright 2002 by Oxford University Press.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Tuesday Tomes - Thomas Troeger

Back in October, a friend of mine sent me a poem by Thomas Troeger he thought I would enjoy. He was right, and I have since purchased and read two books of Troeger's collected poems and hymn texts. There is much to appreciate in the way of insights and themes for Christians, and Christian community. Add to this the delightful possibility of being able to pair some of these contemporary texts with traditional hymn tunes for use in congregational singing.

Below are the titles and descriptions for the two books I have. Tomorrow, I'll share a sample of Troeger's writing in my Wednesday Words post.

Borrowed Light
Borrowed Light includes all the texts from Troeger's prior collaborations and other prayers and poems which he has written. There are 134 texts (poems, prayers, etc.) in all, grouped by images and patterns of association: Borrowed Light, Hidden Water, Wind and Flame, Melody Alone, A Spendthrift Lover, A Single Unmatched Stone, Fragmentary Prayers, and Disturbance of the Solid Ground. Endnotes and indices according to meter, theme and image, scripture, and first lines will aid clergy, church musicians, liturgists, and composers. An afterword provides further material for the creative process by exploring the literary and theological understandings that shape the texts.

Above the Moon Earth Rises
Above the Moon Earth Rises is an inspirational gathering of fifty-nine new hymn texts, anthems, and poems by the author of Borrowed Light (OUP, 1994) and co-author, with composer Carol Doran, of New Hymns for the Life of the Church (OUP, 1992), and New Hymns for the Lectionary (OUP, 1986).

Thomas Troeger is one of the most important American figures in the liturgical renewal movement and is in great demand for workshops, lectureships, and special worship services. His poems and texts for music are widely used by composers, even more widely adapted to standard hymn-tunes by parish musicians, and used by individuals and groups for private devotion.

This powerful new collection covers the entire church year along with a broad range of contemporary concerns and issues. The texts are conveniently indexed according to meter, theme and image, and Scripture.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Monday Music - Go Where I Send Thee

Here's a new version of the old Christmas gospel song, "Go Where I Send Thee," from Nick Lowe's Quality Street: A Seasonal Collection for All the Family.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Sunday Supplication - Shining Demonstrations

Merciful God, we thank you every voice you’ve sent into our world to preach repentance and proclaim the way of salvation. Give us contrite hearts and help us to turn away from sin. And give us open and receptive hearts that joyfully welcome the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer.

Help us in this Christmas season to honor Jesus in thought, word, and deed.  Help us to follow him and to walk in the light as he is in the light.  We confess our sins, trusting that you are faithful and just to forgive us and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Thank you for the forgiveness and renewal you have given to us through Christ Jesus.  Make us able and ready to graciously forgive those who have sinned against us.

Restore and renew us today, O God. And make our lives a testimony of your power to restore and renew us. Help us to live by faith. And make our lives shining demonstrations of your promise to save and restore.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Saturday Smile - Just Sing the Song

Give it a few minutes. Sing the song. You'll get it.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Friday Favorites - Nick Lowe Holiday Revue

I just learned about Nick Lowe's new holiday record, Quality Street. If you've got Amazon Prime, you can add it to your listening library for free. It's a lot of fun. The first track is my favorite song on the album, "Children Go Where I Send Thee."

Nick Lowe is currently touring the country with his holiday concerts. It started in the Twin Cities with a performance on Prairie Home Companion and a concert at First Ave. The tour then heads to Madison, WI, then Chicago, and then off to the east coast where winds up in Brooklyn, NY on December 20.