On the Return of a Book Lent to a Friend

“I give hearty and humble thanks for the safe return of this book, which having endured the perils of my friend’s bookcase and the bookcases of my friend’s friends, now returns to me in reasonably good condition.  I give hearty and humble thanks that my friend did not see fit to give this book to his infant for a plaything, nor use it as an ashtray for his burning cigar, nor as a teething-ring for his mastiff.  When I loaned this book, I deemed it as lost; I was resigned to the business of the long parting; I never thought to look upon its pages again.  But now that my book has come back to me, I rejoice and am exceedingly glad!  Bring hither the fatted morocco and let us rebind the volume and set it on the shelf of honor, for this my book was lent and is returned again.  Presently, therefore, I may return some of the books I myself have borrowed.”

~Christopher Morley

Artists are often found at the margins of society, but they are, like the shepherds, often the first to notice the miracles taking place right in front of us.  Since sensationalism, power, and wealth dominate our cultural imaginations, we may not be willing to journey to the ephemeral, as the Japanese poets of old have, to see beauty in the disappearing lines or to see poetry in a drying puddle of water.  The world seems to demand of us artist-types that we be able to explain and justify our actions, but often the power and mystery of art and life cannot be explained by normative words.”

Makoto Fujimura
Refractions (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2009), 27-28

Meditations for the Second Week of Advent

Note: Here are the meditations for the second week of Advent.  You can find the first week’s meditations here.

Second Sunday in Advent

Meditation and Prayer

For Meditation:

  • Isaiah 5, 11
  • John 5:19-40
  • Rev. 20, 21:1-8 (optional)

Prayer for the Second Week of Advent:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation:  Grant us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Photo Credit: Markus Grossalber via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Markus Grossalber via Compfight cc

Advent Tree:  Catechism Review

Use this Sunday to review the Advent Catechism:

Beauty often resides in the peripheries of our lives.  We walk past such humble miracles, such as the babe in the manger in a little village of Bethlehem, all the time.  In the frantic pace of life, we need to slow down and simply observe natural forces around us and create out of that experience.  What makes us truly human may not be how fast we are able to accomplish a task but what we experience fully, carefully, and quietly in the process.”

Makoto Fujimura
Refractions (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2009), 27

Meditations for the First Week of Advent

Note: Several years ago I wrote a series of Advent devotions for my kids. I posted them on a different blog, along with Scripture readings and prayers. They helped a lot of people observe Advent more purposefully, so I wanted to share them with you this Advent season.

Welcome to Advent

American Christians have the unique advantage of ending the Trinity Season with a four-day feast.  Thanksgiving, the official feast day, requires a table so loaded with food that the leftovers last, conveniently, until the following Sunday—the first day of Advent.

The season of Advent, the four weeks before Christmas Day, has long been observed in the Church as a time of personal examination, repentance, and preparation for the first Great Feast Day of Christmas.   For this reason, Advent has often been called Little Pascha, or Small Lent, to signify the fasting, prayer, confession, and reconciliation that are to mark this season in the lives of Christians.

Photo Credit: Markus Grossalber via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Markus Grossalber via Compfight cc

Advent is also the beginning of the much longer season of Yuletide, the “long sequence of holy days, festal revelries, and liturgical rites stretching from the end of November through the beginning of January” (The Christian Almanac, 722). Yuletide begins with Advent, progresses through the feasting and gift-giving of Christmas, and concludes with Epiphany, a time of remembrance and thanksgiving.

It is very difficult for modern Christians who do not belong to traditionally liturgical churches to follow the Church calendar.  This year, to assist my faithful readers in better observance of Advent (and to give myself better accountability in my observance), I want to share with you some devotional readings I wrote for my family for each day of the Advent season.

Thanksgiving Special: The Love of Story Class

One year ago, I opened registration for my first online literature class: The Love of Story. In celebration of this one year anniversary, I’m offering this class again at a 40% discount until December 2.

This class studies the role stories play in shaping us, our work, and our vision of the world. We read and discuss works by Salman Rushdie, Oscar Wilde, and Wendell Berry.

I had a great group of students last year and some incredible discussion in this class. The best outcome of the class, however, was the way it changed the students. Here’s what one student wrote about it:

I really learned a lot from this class. A lot of the application hit me hard and that is good. Change is not a fun thing, but change is often a necessary thing. Working through these books has helped to remind me of the kind of person I need to become. I would be motivated to sign up for another class based on that alone.

The full price of the Love of Story class is $99. But until December 2, the tuition for this class is only $59. That’s a 40% discount!

You can learn more about this great course by visiting the course description page on my new website designed specially for my online students.

This course is self-paced, so it doesn’t led to any “purchased stress.” You can work your way through the books and videos in your free time. You’ll have immediate access to the entire course as soon as you register. You’ll also have lifetime access to the entire course, so even if life gets busy (or is busy now!), you’ll still be able to enjoy all the benefits this course offers.

The holiday time gets busy fast, and it’s easy to turn this meditative season into a time of stress and unrest. This class will give you some structured time this holiday season to read, think, mediate, and learn how to live a better story.

I hope you join me in the Love of Story class! Click here to learn more and register!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sam

The beauty of the world is Christ’s tender smile for us coming through matter. He is really present in the universal beauty. The love of this beauty proceeds from God dwelling in our souls and goes out to God present in the universe. It is also like a sacrament.”

Simone Weil
Waiting for God (New York: Harper Perennial, 2009)

The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton (New York: Mariner, 1999)

Sunday was the birthday of Anne Sexton, one of several brilliant but troubled poet-suicides of the 1970s.  Sexton’s poetry ranges in mood and symbolism and touches on everything from mental illness and the death of children to prayer and the soul’s search for God.

The titles of her books reflect this thematic range:  To Bedlam and Part Way Back, Live or Die, The Book of Folly, The Death Notebooks, The Awful Rowing Toward God, 45 Mercy Street.

Anne Sexton
Here are two of my favorite Sexton poems, both of which deal with gratitude.  The imagery of the second poem is more difficult, but worth the wrestle: