Showing posts from December, 2013

Stop Saying These! Or Not?

Interesting blog about cliches.

I often post things here I find of interest.  I hope others do, too.  

TCM Remembers

I have always enjoyed the TCM Remembers Tributes at the end of the year.  This website lets you look back at some of them.  The music is always so interesting.  Kudos to this blogger. 

The song being sung this year is "In the Embers" by Sleeping At Last.  (I am amazed by all the indie bands and their creative music, and then we are bombarded by the Lady Gagas and Katy Perrys and Kanye Wests, who seem more about celebrity hood and outrage than interesitng music.)  Here they are.  I found them touching.

We live and we die
Like fireworks
Our legacies hide
In the embers
May our stories catch fire
And burn bright enough
To catch God's eye

We live and we die

Like fireworks
We pull apart the dark
Compete against the stars
With all of our hearts
Till our temporary brilliance turns to ash
We pull apart the darkness while we can

May we live and we die
A valorous life
May we write it all down
In cursive light
So we pray we were made
In the image of a figure eight

May we live and…

Jesus Christ, Shine Into Our Night

Two Poems for Reflection

In reflecting on my life, I think I need more poetry.

I read two poems today,  both on themes of death, and both referenced on an NPR show today. 

The Mole by Christian Wiman.  This poem, which is posted elsewhere and I will not infringe on copyright by posted to my blog, is about death from cancer.  It has some startling images and figures but since the poet himself is living with cancer, it is real and human and not an experiment in word play.

Sunday Morning by Wallace Stevens.  Again, posted elsewhere and well known, I read it for the first time this afternoon.  Despite having a M.A. in English, I have huge gaps in my literary knowledge and poetry is one of them.  I am a novelist and tends toward that genre, regretfully or no.  This poem fascinates me because it clearly is saying that the pull of Christ, and the cross, and the church is strong despite the poet's own advocacy of some sort of neo-paganism or earth/nature worship.  That gravitation pull of the traditional faith ta…

Old Age and Death?

Big Night

I was pleased to find this film on NetFlix last night and watched it, finishing up at 1:00 a.m. It was worth it.  I had wanted to see it for years. 

It was worth the wait.  It was very much like Babette's Feast in its "foodiness" but the enjoyment of food is not the center of the film.  It is about lost dreams, longing, and the power of sibling relationships.  It is about paying for one's mistakes as well, and it is a feast to look at with all the '50s props and clothing.  The actors, except for Ian Holm (who could have calmed down) were perfect and understated.  And I was impressed with Monk's ability to speak Italian.  (Sorry, I know his name is Tony Shalhoub, and he's Lebanese). 

The last scene is priceless.  In one long tracking shot (meaning that the camera doesn't move and the actors move in front of it, restrained in the space) the brother with the dreams (Secondo) comes in and finds the waiter, the only employee, asleep after the debacle, the…

Advent Reflection #23: Real Oppression Vs. Fake

For the last week all I have heard is Duck Dynasty this, Phil Robertson that.  Oppression this, hypocrisy that.  Cracker Barrel this, A&E that.  Free speech this, bigotry that.

I've written about this already and haven't changed my view, except to say that there is more of opinion than oppression in this whole matter. 

It is probably safe to say that almost every evangelical in the country has heard about this matter and has expressed an opinion, probably on Facebook.  I can see why Bobby Jindal weighed in, since the show takes place in the state of which he is governor (and the state probably makes a lot from the tax money).  Why every other conservative did, I am not sure.

In the last post I quoted the lyrics to "O Holy Night," "Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease."  We Americans have two views of oppression.  There is the oppression we consider inappropriate for us to endure. Our oppression…

Advent Reflections #22: Deep Christmas

I have skipped a day on these reflections, and will share a hymn below.  As this is the day before Christmas, I feel as if I am deeply in the Christmas season.  It is too late too shop, too late to send cards (I have not sent any but will send a letter on Thursday, too late to do much but eat and watch movies and visit.  Fortunately, we can attend Christmas Eve service, which I will do at 6:00 at my church.  

Deep Christmas reminds of the two songs about "night."  "O Holy Night" and "Silent Night."  I love to hear a good soprano sing the first.  However, I doubt most churches where it is sung really listen to the words.  They are political.  The night wasn't really divine; at best it was sanctified.  And we have no reason to think Jesus was actually born at night.  The lines "Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother./And in his name all oppression shall cease."  Do we really believe that? Are we obliged, commanded to make sure the …

Advent Reflections #21: Art of Christmas

As mentioned earlier, sometimes lyrics come to my mind that work against the spirit.  The main one I think of is a song we used to hear when I was a kid, "We three kings of orient are, smoking on a rubber cigar." 

Therefore, I have never been a fan of that song!

The identity and actions of the "three kings" has been one of the myths that moderns like to bust about Christmas.  There weren't necessarily three (they just brought three gifts), where were they from (the East, so were they Persian, African, East Asian, etc.), where they pagan astrologers, etc.  I like to think of them as a down payment on the ultimately nonJewish nature of Jesus' extension of salvation.  He's for everybody, and from his birth that was true.

But, clearly, they weren't at the manger a day after his birth, as Matthew clearly says, but in a house, and it must have been within two years of his birth. 

So, since I like Rembrandt so much, I'll post a link to his painting but…

Advent Reflections: Hymns and Art

I missed yesterday because we were traveling.

My favorite artist is Rembrandt, so I will share one of his paintings, the Adoration of the Shepherds, below.

It has occurred to me that there may not be any Christmas songs about the shepherds.  Perhaps it is time to write one? "While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night"

1. While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.
"Fear not," said he, for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled minds;
"Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind.
2. "To you, in David's town, this day,
Is born of David's line
A Savior, who is Christ the Lord;
And this shall be the sign:
The heavenly Babe you there shall find
To human view displayed,
All meanly wrapped in swaddling-clothes
And in a manger laid." 3. Thus spake the seraph,--and forthwith

Ducking Questions

Why do I feel compelled to weigh in on this manufactured controversy over Duck Dynasty?  I guess I feel like this blog is my own little free speech zone, my little turf in Cyberspace, so I'll say my piece.

A Christian can simply say, "The Bible (and give verses) says that some kinds of sexual behavior are wrong."  And leave it at that.  No comparisons, no gradations of right and wrong. No need to defend it; the Bible is a lion and defends itself.  He stepped in it.  An experienced hunter should have watched where he was walking.  Anyone who knows about conservative Christians knows their views on this.

If A&E wants to censure (as opposed to censor, a governmental action) him, I have no problem with that because they are a company giving them a platform.  Of course, A&E will also suffer because of all the show's fans.  A & E is no friend to wholesome programming.  If they have made a stupid business decision, they'll pay for it.  The Robertsons will pr…

Advent Reflections: Art of Christmas

These are the words of the Polish carol, Infant Holy, Infant Lowly Infant holy, infant lowly, for his bed a cattle stall; oxen lowing, little knowing, Christ the babe is Lord of all. Swift are winging angels singing, noels ringing, tidings bringing: Christ the babe is Lord of all. Flocks were sleeping, shepherds keeping vigil till the morning new saw the glory, heard the story, tidings of a gospel true. Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow, praises voicing, greet the morrow: Christ the babe was born for you.
This an early depiction of the nativity.  I got this from

Advent Reflection: Hymns of Christmas, Venid Fieles Todos

I posted the Spanish title of this one because for some reason, lodged in my brain, those are the words that come to me when I hear the tune, just like "Noche de paz, noche de amor, todos duermen endoredor" is what comes to me when I hear "Silent Night."  I took Spanish for years and regret that I have not kept up with my conversational skills in it. 

The original title was Adeste Fideles as it was first written in Latin and translated two centuries ago.

O Come All Ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

O Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing all that hear in heaven God's holy word.
Give to our Father glory in the Highest;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy …

Advent Reflections: Hymns of Christmas

These songs are typically called carols, which has its origins in Britain and before that, the word "choros" from which we get choreography; the original meaning was a song to dance to.

Many times we think of the term Christmas carol as referring Dickens' wonderful novella.  I have a student from China who did not know that work, and I told her she had to read it to understand Christmas in America.  I would have given her my copy but couldn't find it.

I tried to write a similar Christmas novel, which is available on Amazon.  

Here is my song for the day.  As with the others, we only sing some of the verses and the most interesting ones are left out in our public worship.  I have noticed that more traditional and liturgical churches sing all of the verses, and Baptists leave them out.  HUMMMMMM.

Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation’s story
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth.
Refrain Come and worship, come and worship,

Advent Reflections: Hymns of Christmas

The following is not totally a Christmas hymn: I've heard it sung at other times of the year, but it mentions Bethlehem.  It is a good old one, dating from the 1800s.  Singing about the first coming with the second seems to be a theme of these old hymns. 

Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.
Refrain O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.
Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming Thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth,
And in great humility.
The foxes found rest, and the birds their nest
In the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God,
In the deserts of Galilee.
Thou camest, O Lord, with the living Word,
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary.
When the heav’ns shall ring, and her…

Advent Reflections #16: Hymns of Christmas

Wexford Carol

Good people all, this Christmas time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done,
In sending His belovèd Son.
With Mary holy we should pray
To God with love this Christmas Day;
In Bethlehem upon the morn
There was a blest Messiah born.

The night before that happy tide
The noble virgin and her guide
Were long time seeking up and down
To find a lodging in the town.
But mark how all things came to pass:
From every door repelled, alas!
As long foretold, their refuge all
Was but a humble oxen stall.

Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep;
To whom God’s angels did appear
Which put the shepherds in great fear.
“Prepare and go”, the angels said,
“To Bethlehem, be not afraid;
For there you’ll find, this happy morn,
A princely Babe, sweet Jesus born.”

With thankful heart and joyful mind,
The shepherds went the babe to find,
And as God’s angel has foretold,
They did our Savior Christ behold.
Within a manger He was laid,
And by His side the virgin maid

Advent Reflection #15: Hymns of Christmas

One of my favorites.  We usually only sing verses 1 and 3, but the others are meaningful.  

Day-Spring is a reference to the dawn, Luke 1:78, the Dayspring on high has visited us.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's heigh…

Advent Reflections: Personal Thoughts

A break from the norm here.  Yesterday I finally got my tree up.  Two weeks of a tree is usually enough for me.  It looks good.  I have two kinds of ornaments:  "secular" and "religious," broadly speaking.  This year I went with the secular ones, snowflakes, bows, balls, etc, rather than angels and manger scenes.

However, I have far too many Christmas decorations.

I have far too many of everything.  Two closets of clothes.  Not enough places to put my kitchen utensils.  A basement full of everything imaginable.

I want for nothing, and therefore I want nothing for Christmas.  Not really.  I want the CD player in my car fixed.  I want a DVD of the noir classic Laura.   Mostly, I want time to tackle the pile of work I have to do.

Academics seem to think that once they get the grades done, they can disappear for three weeks until class starts again.  Or that is the party line.  I will be working 8-10 hours a day every day except Christmas and Christmas Eve.  I have a r…

Advent Reflections: Art of the Nativity

"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the father, full of grace and truth."

This is of course from the first chapter of John, but it is also a Christmas verse.

However, "he came into his own, and his own received him not. . . "

I like the image below, a modern equivalent of the standard nativity.  

Advent Reflection #13: The what of Advent: Theme of New Beginnings

Today is the birthday of my son.  I won't mention the year because of privacy issues.  He is out of town on a business trip.  But my theme for the day in terms of Advent reflections is "new beginnings," because birth is just that.  Surely his birth was a new beginning for us.  I was going to text him happy birthday with "Happy birthday from the people who made it possible," but his father said no.  I was an obedient wife for once on that score.  Actually, God and God alone made it possible. 

I have posted below a depiction of the nativity that I believe is from Chartres Cathedral or looks as if it is.  Perhaps not. I like it because it is more historically accurate than depicting the visiting kings at the manger, since the Bible says the family was in a house at the time and Jesus was older. 

Birth is a new beginning.  That might be the point of being "born again," that we begin anew.  We are to believe, as the angels proclaimed, that something mome…

Advent Reflections #12: The What of Advent--Truth

Advent Reflections #11: The What of Advent: Peace