New Year’s Resolution

It is not that I may not try out some new ways of being in the nearly new year, but, regardless, I hope and pray that I come back time and again in the new year to the resolution expressed in this hymn. I do not like all of the new tunes for hymns; I do like this one.
Whate’er my God ordains is right,
Holy His will abideth.
I will be still whate’er He does,
And follow where He guideth.
He is my God, though dark my road.
He holds me that I shall not fall
Wherefore to Him I leave it all.
Whate’er my God ordains is right,
He never will deceive me
He leads me by the proper path,
I know He will not leave me
I take, content, what He hath sent
His hand can turn my griefs away
And patiently I wait His day.
Whate’er my God ordains is right,
Though now this cup in drinking
May bitter seem to my faint heart,
I take it all unshrinking
My God is true, each morn anew
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart
And pain and sorrow shall depart.
Whate’er my God ordains is right,
Here shall my stand be taken
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,
Yet I am not forsaken
My Father’s care is round me there
He holds me that I shall not fall
And so to Him I leave it all.
Oh, and the banner? That is a shot of the lovely blanket my sister-in-law, Dawn, made me for Christmas from Wallace tartan cloth she got all the way from Scotland. The banner is up in her honor and the honor of the Dog House ladies in in Pakistan with whom our family spent many a Hogmanay with haggis, Scottish dancing, and prayers and soup at midnight.

A Very Happy Christmas to You

I was reflecting with my house church the other day about why there seems to be a collective longing at Christmas for peace and love and joy. What is it that songs like Silent Night, with its tune and words, are drawing out in us, in Christians and many non-Christians? And aren’t scenes such as those painted in Silent Night unrealistic? Wasn’t it, indeed, noisy and messy and harried. Aren’t our manger scenes with the shepherds and wise men all arriving at once un realistic? Aren’t they unrealistic with their sheer whiteness, as in my blog Christmas card above, with the pagan Yule tree in the background?
Yesterday, I made my traditional pilgrimage to the Mexican market in San Antonio and saw a dozen or more varieties of manger scenes, many in gaudy and riotious colors, with Mary and Joseph and Jesus and the shepherds and wise men taking on the flavor of the culture the manger scene came from. The Peruvian nativity is my favorite.
It was encouraging to be a little more patient with the Europeanized version of the manger scene and Christmas celebrations. Sure, sure because of horrible things like colonialism and cultural imperialism sometimes this version gets first billing, but this does not mean that those of us who have grown up with it have to forever beat ourselves up about its particular inaccuracies.
The historial record is not unimportant. It is not unimportant that we pay attention to our own culture’s syncretisms vis a vis Christmas and hold to our traditions somewhat loosely, perhaps even challenge our cultural emphases occassionally, as we need to throughout the year. Take for example our culture’s rampant materialism which kicks into overdrive this time a year.
Yet, in it all, in our gift giving, in our unrealistic creches and carols, in our imperfect attempts at goodwill, a longing is expressed, a longing for the peace of Eden, for its harmony to return. And we Christians know that, indeed what Christmas symbolizes is the beginning of the return of that peace, that Christ’s birth and life and death and resurrection is all about bringing that peace to individuals and communities who believe in him, even amidst a world which is still woefully unpeaceful. It is about more than that, though. Christmas is about Christ breaking dramatically into history to eventually bring peace and healing to all of creation.
Finally, a picture of a Christmas card from Pakistan arranged with a cross to illustrate the last verse of Silent Night:
Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.
In these thoughts, I pray that you may have a very happy Christmas.

Perhaps a Bit of a Momma’s Boy…

…but in the best possible sense. I am on vacation at my brother and sister-in-law’s house in San Antonio and found these today. I especially like the one below, because my brother Adrian (the one with the vinyl SAS bag which would be so hip today) has such a big smile on his face. See they got us into cameras at an early age as is evidenced by my eldest brother Virgil wearing one.
My mother was a saint in the protestant sense, perhaps a saint in the Catholic sense (she was incredibly charitable, though I don’t think she performed any real miracles), but definitely a saint in the proverbial sense, not the least reason being because she travelled numerous times from Pakistan to America and back with three little boys (my father needed to stay in Pakistan for his work).

The Blessed Virgin Mary::Theotokos “God-bearer”

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Here is an article about Mary by the poet Luci Shaw entiled Yes to Shame and Glory, which is quite good. Here are some excerpts:
Mary will need the exhilaration of these days to balance the pain of the next 33 years and beyond. For God’s trust of her is deep enough not only to fill her with his heavy glory but also to draw her into the agony of Incarnation, to share with her the inevitable clash of spirit with flesh, of infinite with finite. There was as much pain as there was promise in that moment when Mary became a mother-to-be.
Mary’s calling was to carry the body of God, and to bear not only her own pain but her son’s, feeling his anguish as intensely as all mothers before or since have felt with their children.

I have been looking into Catholic beliefs about Mary recently. I learned that the Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of Mary. According to the doctrine, Mary is conceived in the normal way, but Original Sin is removed from her from at conception, so that she can be a pure and sinless vessel for Christ. A second doctrine concerns Mary’s perpetual virginity, meaning that she did not have any children after Christ. Catholics say that the references to Jesus’ brothers either refer to Joseph’s children from a previous marriage and that he was a widower when he married Mary or that these are his cousins. Finally, the Assumption of Mary, which I have not looked into as much, says that Mary was assumed, body and soul, into heaven a bit like Elijah or Christ for that matter.
I do not know what Calvin and Luther believed about the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary, but they both believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary. That was very interesting to me. The Orthodox Church does not officially believe in the Immaculate Conception but does believe in Mary’s perpetual virginity. Not sure what they think about her Assumption.
At any rate, I have no conclusions at this point other than a desire to look into these questions further at some point, particularly the one about Mary’s perpetual virginity. I do think that we protestants, generally, do not honor Mary as we should.

The Last of the Ice and Snow…

…though, hopefully, we will get lots more of the latter; the former is pretty, but, my, it does create some havoc and misery.
I don’t know that it affected these shots very much, but I recently discovered that my camera has been on a “Cool” picture setting for several weeks. Not sure how it got out on that setting, but it is a rather promiscuous camera, leaving me for a few days every now and then, so who knows. It gave every indoor picture a blue tint, as if everyone was a member of the Fugate family, well at least the white folk : ) And white walls are also an icy blue. I was hoping the “Cool” setting would help to up the coolness factor in photos such as the one at the end, but no such luck.

Book Review of The Children of Men and a Poem and Photo–In catapult

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This issue of catapult is related to the incarnation and the importance of our bodies.
It includes an article describing some truly postmodern, yet not irreverend, takes on manger scenes.
And a wonderful article on learning the value and uses of touch.
My article is a book review of The Children of Men which is soon to be made into a movie. I would encourage you to read the book, though, as the movie looks to be reconfigured quite a bit and I am unsure as to how much of the Christian worldview expressed in the book will survive in the movie. Still, watch the movie too as it looks to be a good one. For a good review of that, check Jeffrey Overstreet’s blog some time after Christmas. Check it now if you want to get in on a thoughtful Christian examining the movies.
I also have an advent poem in this issue which is older and a bit archaic, but which I still like. And there is a photo from the previous issue of catapult taken on a wet and windy night, which first appeared on this blog.

Bolstered Up From Evil

Speaking of a burglar he has just apprehended while he was trying to steal money from him and his friends, Peter Von Holp declares:
“So he is my brother, and yours, too, Carl Schummel, for that matter,” answered Peter, looking into Carl’s eye. “We cannot say what we might have become under other circumstances. We have been bolstered up from evil since the hour we were born. A happy home and good parents might have made that man a fine fellow instead of what he is. God grant that the law may cure and not crush him.”
This is taken from the children’s novel Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates (Click here for full text of the novel) by Mary Mapes Dodge, which is evidently entirely spun from research and conversations with an old Dutch couple, as the author never visited Holland. Even if it is rather idealistic and perhaps unrealistic, the novel is sweet and good. Rereading it has made me realize that this book may be responsible a fair bit for my love of winter and ice skating, as there is a great deal of the latter in it, including day long ice skating journeys on the canals.
This novel also created the legend of the boy sticking his finger in the small hole in the dyke until help came to keep the dyke from giving way and flooding the countryside. It really wasn’t even a true Dutch legend before then evidently.
At any rate, I loved the quote and thought I would share.