Afternoon feasting

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With all the snow we’ve gotten it seems the various animals will gather closely where there is a bit of food to be found. For a little while I had 24 band tailed pigeons right outside, twelve of them on my small balcony.

Here’s a band tailed pigeon and a mountain quail. This pigeon seemed intrigued for a little while by the quail. The quail, for its part, seemed only a little bothered by the temporary crowd.

Band Tailed Pigeon and Mountain Quail

Blizzard of ’06

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So, when the weather report says there is a 100% chance of snow it’s a good sign there’s going to be a little more than a couple of flakes coming down. So there is. For where we’re at this isn’t a very common experience so I’m very much enjoying looking out at the white all around.

I went for a walk this morning, joined by my pop, and took some pictures. That was around noon, and it’s been snowing heavy since then, so there’s even more snow now.

eskimo chipmunk

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With it snowing pretty heavily all the seed I had thrown out this morning got covered. I was wondering what the wee beasties would do, and thought they would just have to wait. Then I saw a small head poking out of the snow. A chipmunk had smartly made a little temporary burrow, and came out to poke around for more seed before wandering back into his newly fashioned igloo.

Chipmunk in the snow

some pictures

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It’s been a fairly inactive month so far here on dualravens.com. Maybe it’s just one of those regular ebbs of discussion, which would generally push a person out of blogging if they’ve only been doing it a little bit. I’m committed however, just not very chatty recently. I have no idea why. Sometimes I like to share my thoughts, other times my thoughts tend to be shy and hide. It’s snowy and stormy and foggy and chilly outside today with white on the ground, and in the air, and everywhere. It’s a white world, with just hints of green around. The juncos and chipmunks are busy collecting seed, which I threw out earlier this morning when I saw the world bathed in white and the wee beasties looking a bit peckish.

As far as anything else, well, hopefully I get to be more loquacious in coming days. For now, howevever, I have pictures. Not from today. Just pictures from the last couple of weeks.

Some Flickers:

Flickers in a black oak

An icicle:

icicle

Snow in the front yard:

snow

Some rope, and a little patch of snow:

some rope

I speak for the trees

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Yeah, this makes sense:
Lorax
You are the Lorax!

Which Dr. Seuss character are you?
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Perpetua and Felicity

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According to my calendar of the church today is the day we honor Perpetua and Felicity, along with their companions who died under Roman persecution. These martyrs were fed to the beasts to sate a hatred for Christians, their deaths being a show for sinners, their deaths being a testimony for saints. Perpetua and Felicity were young women, one with a young child, the other gave birth after she was captured, and her daughter was raised by another Christian woman. I can’t help think of those tales told of Saddam’s tortures, in which young women also lost their children, or gave birth while in terrible prisons, and were otherwise treated shamefully merely because an evil man thought nothing of it.

Tertullian wrote, “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.” And so we remember that at a certain point after this, though not right away by any means, God did a work and made Christianity legal in the Roman Empire, soon to be superior. The testimoniesof these young women are left for us in a more accepting age as reminders of the hatred evil has for us, and encouragement that we might stand even as these young women stood in their trials. Fierce or subtle we are all called to stand, and keep standing, even when the leopard comes to tear out our throats. For this is not all there is, and the woman or man of faith lives according to this reality.

Tertullian also penned the following telling of their martyrdom, ending with these words:

O most brave and blessed martyrs! O truly called and chosen unto the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ! whom whoever magnifies, and honors, and adores, assuredly ought to read these examples for the edification of the Church, not less than the ancient ones, so that new virtues also may testify that one and the same Holy Spirit is always operating even until now, and God the Father Omnipotent, and His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, whose is the glory and infinite power for ever and ever. Amen.

Take a moment, read the whole thing, it’s a good meditation on life and faith, and overcoming all things:
Read the rest of this entry »

good theology

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From Jürgen Moltmann:

The all-important thing is to seek harmony with God afresh every morning, and to hold on to it a whole life long. It is in this harmony that the truth of a human life is to be found. But people who sanctify their lives in this way come up against the ethics of the society in which they live, for God’s will is more important to them than the demands and exactions of the people who have the power.

Harmony with God means confronting and confuting a world which runs counter to God and itself. For Christians, sanctification means the discipleship of Jesus and an inwards coming alive in God’s Spirit. The Beatitudes and the requirements of the Sermon on the Mount are orientation points for a life in sanctification. These are not arbitrary stipulations. Life in sanctification has to do with a kind of simultaneity with Christ, and this fellowship with Christ has to do with realizing the image of God from our own human side.

Harmony with God is called sanctification. Harmony with ourselves as God’s image and his children is called happiness. In this sense sanctification leads to true self-realization. People who are in harmony with God and themselves are holy and happy. They seek harmony with other people too, as God’s image and children, and harmony with everything living which God has created and in which his Spirit is present. Trust in God, respect for our own lives and the lives of others, as well as reverence for everything living, in which God is present: these are the things which characterize and determine the sanctification of life.

Lenten thoughts

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From Sacred Space:

Something to think and pray about this week:

Lent reflects the rhythm of our spiritual life, between Tabor and Gethsemani, the Transfiguration and the Agony in the Garden. There are times when God shows himself, as on Tabor: prayer is easy, our hearts are light. We feel loved and loving, on holy ground. J.D.Salinger used to say: All we do our whole lives is go from one little piece of holy ground to the next.

Then there are times of disagreeable growth. You remember the parable of the barren fig-tree (Luke 13,6), and the farmer who said: I need a year to dig around it and manure it. We can feel God doing this to us, feel the pain when our roots are struck by the spade. We feel useless, past our best, no good to anyone, a failure in the most important things we tried, whether marriage, vocation, rearing children, our job and career. Life loses its savour. We cannot pray. We sense that some people think the world would be better off without us.

St Ignatius called this state desolation; and he advised: remember that it will pass. Never make any change, but remain firm and constant in the resolution and decision which guided you before the clouds gathered. Make use of the grace God gives you, and you will be able to withstand your enemies. In consolation, think about how you will conduct yourself in time of desolation. And insist more on prayer (SE 317 ff). Then you come to see – gradually – that this same ground, however stinking, is holy, and we can find God there. He is wielding the spade, spreading the dung.

“The best of all is – God is with us!”

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According to my Church calendar today is the day we honor the Wesley brothers. Clearly, this is an ecumenical calendar to celebrate these two roustabouts. I have a wee bit of a headache this evening so I won’t be doing my usual saint inspired panegyric, even as I could honor these Wesleys as being key players in my own theological development. In college my discovery of John Wesley changed my understanding in a profound way, but they weren’t just important to me personally. My forebears, relatives going plenty far back were known to pass on the first name of Wesley, signifying the Methodist movement is in my blood.

So, as a slight way of honoring these I present a nice little psychological study of John Wesley which I wrote while in Seminary.

And a nice little hymn by Charles Wesley which is especially timely for me these days:

Come, Holy Ghost, Our Hearts Inspire

Come, Holy Ghost, our hearts inspire,
let us thine influence prove;
source of the old prophetic fire,
fountain of life and love.

Come, Holy Ghost (for moved by thee
the prophets wrote and spoke),
unlock the truth, thyself the key,
unseal the sacred book.

Expand thy wings, celestial Dove,
brood o’er our nature’s night;
on our disordered spirits move,
and let there now be light.

God, through the Spirit we shall know
if thou within us shine,
and sound, with all thy saints below,
the depths of love divine.

The Lenten Life

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I’ve never really thought a great deal about Lent. This isn’t unusual because for the most part only a small number of people really do think a great deal about Lent. But, given my own interest in things spiritual and churchy I guess it is unusual that Lent has never really grabbed my consciousness. Of course, I didn’t grow up in a Lent honoring tradition, so that’s part of it. But for the last fifteen years I have sought to fill in the gaps of my tradition with other historical traditions, filling in those places that lacked. Lent has not been included in this gathering together.

I think I have some thought why. Lent is a fast. Lent is a preparation for Easter in which we, for a season, consider our sins, consider our sinfulness, and mourn for that which we have done. It is a fast in that we give up something we treasure in order to focus our mind on mourning, letting our lack be worship, letting our setting aside be an offering. We give up so that we may take up. We mourn so that we might feast when Easter comes, as it did come and as it comes each year.

Lent is a season for fasting and yet there are those who lead Lenten lives of a sort, whose efforts are offered to God yet never seem to come to completion, whose lack of reasons to feast continue more than a mere season and extend into every part of life.

I’ve long had trouble with fasting because of my own spiritual immaturity and because I can’t shake the attitude of living a life of fasting so much already. When I walk as normal this is merely a consideration of future hope, when I am low it bowls me over.

I know others in this situation, the married woman who can’t conceive and who struggles with always finding dissatisfaction in all her employment. The person who yearns to have a purpose, yet has no idea what her passion is. The person who struggles with career, the calling profound yet the situation never opening up towards light. Or the many manifold wonderful people who never find a glint of romance, or honor, or approval, or delight.

There are people who live within the rhythms of the Church Calendar, alternating feasts with fasts, and joys with sorrows, and light with darkness. Then there are those who seem trapped within a particular season, the lucky feast, while the far more common never seem to come out of the fast.

These are Lenten lives, in which people pray and hope and work and struggle but do not seem ever come to their Easter. It is struggle, and heartbreak, and hopes gained then dissipating without fulfillment.

This isn’t without precedent, the Bible is filled with such people.

When he summoned famine against the land, and broke every staff of bread, he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph , who was sold as a slave. His feet were hurt with fetters, his neck was put in a collar of iron; until what he had said came to pass, the word of the LORD kept testing him. (Psalm 105:16-19)

For all those whose lives of faith reflect bounty and power…

For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets- who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. (Hebrews 11:32-35)

…there are those who had no less faith, whose lives reflected, to the end, the hope but not the blessings…

Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented- of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. (Hebrews 11:35-38)

Some Lenten lives like Joseph reflect slow moving seasons in which Lent is long lasting, but when Easter comes it radiates for even longer. Others, continue the struggle, continue the fight, always working never finding fruit, their work a work of faith for Christ, even if their work always seems to fall short.

I have lived a Lenten life thus far, and only the Spirit knows of which sort it will be revealed as. Which is why I have trouble adding to my troubles by letting a month of Lent treble my Lenten life. The one who is starving does not need to fast. The one who is lonely does not need to pursue solitude. The one who is humbled does not need to be taught humility. The one who has given up to Christ all important parts of life does not need to add a bit of chocolate or a cup of coffee to the list.

Such a person needs light, to be sure. I need light to be sure. And I also need thanksgiving, so that the Lenten life can be transformed whether or not Easter ever comes in this life, or whether it can only be expected in the life to come.

So having not noticed the month of Lent before I notice it now, because a Lenten life need be infused with thanksgiving even more than fasting and offered to God while enduring the lack not only when the lack is resolved. We are called to live lives of faith, not because of what we see now, or because of what we give up, or because of the blessings God has already given us in palpable ways but because of the hope that Christ has given us through the Spirit. This hope does not wash away the hurt and frustrations but it does infuse these with redemption, for in the struggles we can find wisdom, in the hurts we can find compassion, in the lack we can find thanksgiving, and in finding these counter intuitive responses we taste of heavenly wisdom, for the sake of this present, hurting world.

In seeking to discover Lent this year, I’m stepping back a bit and renewing an emphasis on regular, liturgical prayer by committing to the daily offices. Whether you are living a Lenten life, or just honoring this Lenten month, I think prayerful offerings are a way to redeem the fast into becoming something more, replacing the lack with purposeful faith and hope. Only in prayer can we see Christ. That is the goal of Lent, so that we are ready for Easter, whenever it might come for us.