30 November 2010

Advent Resolutions...

It started even earlier this year--the rush to the malls and big box stores, the rush to grab, to get, to buy.  Merchants couldn't wait for Black Friday profits and Americans could not manage to devote even one day to family and giving thanks.  [Although my family enjoyed a "Norman Rockwall" Thanksgiving at my cousin Natalie's lovely home.] 
In the world around us, the next few weeks will be driven by materialism, consumerism and overindulgence. "These are things the heathen run after... set your mind on God's kingdom and his righteousness." {Matthew 6:33}  Christians are called in all seasons to live lives that proclaim the-already-come-and-coming kingdom, to live each day in expectation of Christ's coming, to proclaim that Jesus came and Christ is coming. We are called be awake to what is truly important, to live worthy lives, and to walk as children of light even in a season of darkness.  We must keep Christmas without falling prey to the temptations which abound in the world during the holiday season.
 Some advent resolutions:
  • I will exercise the discipline of good stewardship.  I will give gifts without making debts.  I will remember that a gift is given; it is not exchanged.
  • I will focus less on myself and more on the redeeming work of Jesus and how I can continue that work in the world.  I will speak and do those things that point the way to the coming of Christ.
  • I will find time to remember stories of Christmases past, people who have blessed my life, people who have blessed the world.  One of the blessings of 60+ years is that there have been many Christmases and many blessings. 
  • Even in remembering, I will not dwell in the past but will seek wisdom and joy in the present.
  • I will be grateful for what I have rather than coveting what I don't.  I will say "Thank you." 
  • I will weep with those who weep.
  • I will share with others in the name of Jesus.  DMP & I love the Salvation Army bucket & bell.  We will give anonymous gifts to those who are in need who will not be able to thanks us and so will thank God.   
  • Worship, prayer, study, meditation will not be pushed from my life by the frantic rush, false deadlines, and intrusive noise of the world's celebration.
  • I will keep Christmas because the world and I need reminders that Jesus came and Christ is coming. We need encouragement to remember and to prepare for His coming. This season, with the natural world's shortening of light & increasing night and the fleshly world's temptations, is a season to seek spiritual renewal and to help other seekers find it.
Yes, I will keep Christmas while remembering that the point is not the rituals but the meaning they proclaim. If I am not awake to the meaning then I am in danger of turning precious rituals into just one more thing the pagans run after and joining in the chase.  I want to be wide-awake while I decorate an evergreen tree in red and gold to symbolize royalty, sacrifice, and eternal life.  When I arrrange my ceramic wise men, I want to be fully aware that "the wise still seek" and that the world's wisdom bows before that babe in a manger.  I want to light candles and shine light into darkness.  I will greet my friends, my family, and the whole wide world with peace and joy and love. 

Longer ago than I can imagine, the Prophets promised Messiah would come and Jesus came:  “In Him was life and that life was the light of men.  The Light shines in the darkness…”  and there is hope.

04 November 2010

What I'm Reading...

Politics, politics, too much politics.  Now that the election is over I intend to take a hiatus from politics.  "...a pox on both your houses" unfortunately puts a pox on my house, too.

I've started preparation for the annual Medicare Part D (prescription drugs) assault.  I've got to do it for my parents and it's a ministry to offer my help to the Keenagers at church.  2011 plan data is now available at the Medicare Plan Finder . Enrollment in 2011 plans is from November 15, 2010 to December 31, 2010.

The last month has seen lots of time devoted to wind energy information and contracts and letter from our attorney... Daddy signed the contract on Monday so now we wait and hope to reap the wind.

Home repair/maintenance considerations.  I'm  thinking of replacing my dishwasher before it breaks (it's old enough to be near the end of its expected life span) because I seriously covet a Bosch dishwasher with its leak guard and enclosed heating element.  This unthrifty fit was brought on by what I thought was a leaking dishwasher but what proved to be a leak in the 53-year old plumbing behind the wall.  I love my 1957 ranch but...  While I've got a handyman here to replace that small piece of pipe, he's going to repair the minor water damage, reinforce the cabinet base, and replace the kick board.  When all that's done and my kitchen is back in good working order, I really don't want to have to deal with another water-leaking dishwasher, so I'm trying to convince myself that it's really an sound economic decision to get the thing I want to get now. 

It's not only the autumn season,  it's catalog season.  Every day brings a half dozen catalogs, slick glitterings to tickle my materialism.  I just can't resist browsing through them although I'm such a procrastinator that I really don't indulge in actual buying very often.  I always think I'm going to find perfect gifts for everyone on my list without having to go out into the crowded malls.  It's so much fun when UPS brings stuff to me.

An American ChildhoodIn my Annie Dillard Reader I'm enjoying large selections from An American Childhood.  Kindle I'm fascinated by comparing her growing up as a town kid in a northeastern city (Pittsburgh) and my own American childhood on a farm in West Texas.  My days were filled with many more chores than hers but we each had ample time to think during our days and nights.  Like me, she had an entertaining mother.  Her mother told jokes; mine sang and danced around the kitchen, and read and recited poetry.  Like me, she was pretty much allowed to choose her own reading and to pursue her own interests with minimal parental supervision.  Libraries and baseball are common to both of us.

Wright, N.T.: Surprised by Hope.  Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, previously blogged, continues to surprise me.  I'm surprised at how easy it is to highlight on my Kindle and retrieve references and I'm surprised by how very much I needed to rethink.  2413 "Bodily resurrection is not just one odd bit of that hope.  It is the element that gives shape and meaning to the rest of the story we tell about God's ultimate purposes."  2855 "As with God's kingdom, so with its opposite, it is on earth that things matter..."  2996 "...heaven and hell are not, so to speak, what the whole game is about.  This is one of the central surprises in the Christian hope....  The New Testament, true to its Old Testament roots, regularly insists that the major, central, framing question is that of God's purpose of rescue and recreation of the whole world, the entire cosmos."  Wow!  anyone with any interest at all in matters eternal needs to read this book.  I'll have to buy hard copy to share with DMP because he absolutely refuses to even try to read my Kindle.

Chiffolo, Anthony F. & Hesse, Rayner W. Jr.:  We Thank You God, for These.  Blessings and Prayers for Family Pets.  New York:  Paulist Press, 2003.  Illustrated by Andrew Lattimore.  I got this book back down from the shelf to search for a quote for a sympathy note when a dear friend lost her beloved pet and have been enjoying it.  I love to read the dog quotes aloud to Miss Mandy Whitepaws.

The Literary Guide to the BibleThe Art Of Biblical PoetryAlter, Robert: The Book of Psalms. A translation with commentary. New York:  W.W. Norton & Company, 2007.  DMP gave me this book for Christmas and it was forgotten and buried in my stack.  In fact, I had already put it back on my want list before I found it.  Christmas all over again.  [The image at left is a clickable link where Amazon will let you look inside and browse this book.  I sampled this book on my Kindle and read the introduction there before I put the book itself on my list.  For reading the psalms, I found this one of those rare instances where the Kindle just didn't work.] This is my current bedside book.  I read a couple or three psalms each night before sleep.  Robert Alter, Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at U. Cal. Berkeley, is a formidable scholar from whom I have learned much having read both The Literary Guide to the Bible and The Art of Biblical Poetry.  Alter is enriching my understanding of the Psalms and expanding my Hebrew vocabulary.  His translation attempts to be readable poetry in English while maintaining much of the psalmic poetics.  I think he succeeded brilliantly.  Introduction xxix  "Biblical Hebrew is what linguists call a synthetic language, as opposed to analytic languages such as English."  In his introduction xxxi, Alter described his translation process from the Hebrew as  "emulating its rhythms... reproducing many of the effects of its flexible syntax, seeking equivalents for the combination of homespun directness and archaizing in the original, hewing to the lexical concreteness of the Hebrew, and making palpable the force of the parallelism that is at the heart of Hebrew poetry." 
While the introduction and commentary are excellent and of great interest to a scholar of the Psalms, the translation itself is wonderful devotional reading.  From the 4th Psalm, v 6-8: 
"Offer righteous sacrifices
and trust in the LORD.
Many say, "Who will show us good things?"
Lift up the light of Your face to us, LORD.
You have put joy in my heart
from the time their grain and their drink did abound.
In peace, all whole, let me lie down and sleep.
For you, LORD, alone, do set me down safely."
Alter's use of "lift up" in v. 6 as a "gesture of divine favor (as in Priestly Blessing)... common in biblical idiom" is one example of a better reading to be gleaned from his translation.  Most, perhaps all, other English translations say "let" which is a far weaker, less evocative phrase. 
Alter found the "syntactic link" of grain and drink in v. 8 "obscure." My knowledge of Hebrew is certainly not strong enough to enable me to comment on syntax but I suggest a connection to v. 6 "righteous sacrifice" since both grain and wine are offered in joyful harvest festivals and as individual sacrifices of thanksgiving.    As a Jewish scholar, Alter would not approve my Christianizing the Psalms but this translation recalls to me the Eucharistic moment when the host and the cup (grain and wine) are lifted up.  This book is full of such tidbits to keep me happily reading for a long, long time.