Showing posts from December, 2017

Year-End Pop Culture Roundup 2017

While putting the finishing touches on this post, I decided to take a look back on past Year-End Roundups. One thing that struck me about my older lists is how embarrassing some of them are. More than once while perusing, I said to myself, "Why'd I like that so much?" But I guess that part of the fun of doing this is seeing how tastes change over time. There could be things from this list that will make me cringe a few years from now, but this list reflects who I am and what I've been struck by while in this season of my life. This year I've finally added a category for podcasts, which I've been enjoying for years but I finally decided to give them special mention.

My Top Books from 2017

1.The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander - Alexander analyzes how the "War on Drugs," began by the Reagan administration in the early '80s, has contributed to incarceration and stigmatization of black people. She carefully analyzes how the criminal justice system…

Christmas Eve Prayer

God of dawning, we see the glow brimming on the horizon as the birth of a baby signals a new day beginning. As labor pains subside and as this child grows in strength and stature, so may we attend to what the light reveals as it exposes what we would rather hide away. Refocus our lives toward your truth; reorient our entire selves toward its good news sung by angels, proclaimed by shepherds, guarded by Joseph, treasured by Mary. Overcome the world's darkness with promises embodied, including our own, and may the glory of its shining ever expand as we strive to live by its guiding. Amen.

Christmas Weekend: Twelve

Previously: Blueberries, Tubas, Tires

Last year, I took down my decorations too early.

I am always quick to remind people that Christmas is longer than a day; that it's a season of a dozen days that goes all the way through the New Year to January 5th. If you've ever wondered where the concept behind that song about turtle doves and lords a-leaping comes from, there you go.

And so I try to honor this as best I can, allowing our tree, oversized stockings (seriously, nobody wears socks that big), garland, and lights to remain in place until early January, the full season as those who developed the liturgical calendar intended.

But every year, or nearly so, I become antsy. I want to reclaim the space these things take up in my house, and they hardly ever make it to the 5th before finding themselves stuffed back into boxes and shoved into our crawlspace for another 11 months.

Last year, I once again couldn't muster the patience, and everything was gone before Twelfth Night…

Book Review: The Zombie Gospel by Danielle Strickland

I have a new review up at The Englewood Review of Books. This time I reviewed The Zombie Gospel by Danielle Strickland. An excerpt:

“We are the walking dead.” This line, uttered by main protagonist Rick Grimes in both the TV show and comic versions of The Walking Dead, sums up what the real focus of this popular series is. While the presenting conflict that frames the characters’ experiences and problems is the zombie apocalypse, the true focus is their reactions and sense of identity as a result of everything they know collapsing.

Early on in The Zombie Gospel, Danielle Strickland notes this as well.

Read the rest at The Englewood Review of Books.

Third Week of Advent: Tires

Previously: Blueberries, Tubas

I don't remember which year it was. It may have been the winter of 2009 or 2010. I remember that my son was very young and we still lived in the house prior to the one we live in now.

By that point, our van had been in desperate need of new tires for months. The front ones were quite bald, but for reasons now lost to me--likely a combination of finances and scheduling--we hadn't yet made it a point to replace them.

I was home with my son for the day, so it was a Monday. We made our weekly trip to the town where my parents lived just for something to do. Grandma and grandson loved hanging out together, so I made it a part of our Monday mornings in those days. After our visit ended, we began the drive home, during which a snowstorm started to kick up, quickly covering the roads.

I thought we'd be fine before conditions became too bad. I was mistaken. We probably would have been okay had the semi truck in front of us not slowed to a stop on an …

Vintage CC: Dark Night of the Soul

While browsing the archives I came across this post from way back in December 2005. This time of year exacerbates dark nights for many people, and whatever light we can find can be a blessing. I recall the person mentioned in this entry's story and how critical visits and human connection were for her by this point in her life. So may it be for many of us.

Lately I've been encountering a couple references to the 'Dark Night of the Soul,' a phrase coined by St. John of the Cross in reference to the moment one has of doubt...not just doubt, but they find their faith crushed by any number of factors. The Preacher talks about his Dark Night of the Soul in his book. I described mine a while ago. Thinking more about my own I might call it a Dark Year of the Soul, or perhaps the Dark Year that led to the Dark Night.

The term is flexible. No one comes to their Dark Night suddenly. Life is not rosy one day and rocky the next. Things pile up and weigh one down: a death, the n…

Second Week of Advent: Tubas

Previously: Blueberries

I first heard them around the middle of October.

My church has a tuba group that uses one of our classrooms as a practice space. Once a week or so, there are a few extra cars in the parking lot, and I have a good hunch to whom they belong. Even as I am still walking up the sidewalk, my suspicion is confirmed by the faint sound of low brass emanating from their designated room. I can't make out what they're playing from there, but once I step inside their chosen piece will become clearer.

Most mornings I observe a routine of walking from my office to the kitchen where I find a coffeemaker ready to dispense caffeinated brown liquid into my waiting mug. My purposeful stroll always takes me past the room where the tubas practice, and I am serenaded to and from my intended destination.

In mid-October, their chosen selection was "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear."

Of course it was.

Our area boasts a large and well-attended Tuba Christmas event, but…

Small Sips: Infinity War

It's a fair question. In the aftermath of the shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Martha Spong's son asked, "Why would anyone go to church now?" She had to think about that:
Why would anyone go to church now? Our boy doesn’t drop his questions until he gets a satisfying answer, and he usually asks them again, just to be sure. We will go because it’s what we do, just like we ride on a bike path, or go to the movies, or attend a concert. We will go because most of us cannot maintain the kind of hyper-vigilance required to be on watch at all times. We will go because we want to be with the people we know and love. We will go for solace, and solidarity. I mean, his question is an honest one, and worth considering more deeply than pat answers. Martha names the tension between desiring safety but also connection, and the latter always involves some form of risk. I imagine that as churches consider their options, they will faithfully weigh for themselves how…

First Week of Advent: Blueberries

My grandmother used to make muffins from scratch. She made a lot of things this way; she wasn't much for processed or frozen food. But for whatever reason, I especially remember the muffins.

Her way with ingredients was to use real stuff with every step: butter instead of margarine, actual eggs instead of that yellow stuff that comes in a milk carton. In her kitchen you weren't going to score much that was low-fat or that had the words "substitute for..." on the package.

You come to Grandma Nelson's house, you better come expecting to gain some padding for the winter. Hashtag sorry not sorry.

Blueberry seemed to be a favorite of hers. To be honest, I don't remember her making other kinds of muffins very often, if at all. The pans she used had cup sizes that allowed you to eat one or two in a few bites, and the berries themselves tended to sink to the bottom of the mixture as they baked, so once you got to those last few mouthfuls your taste buds were awash …