Sunday, December 31, 2006

snow on New Year's Eve

admonition for the New Year

from today's Epistle lesson:
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
-- Colossians 3:12-17

another thought as you plan for the New Year

If you need to get motivated to do something, then you're not motivated to do it.
-- David Allen

Saturday, December 30, 2006

one more from Mark Twain

Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions.
Small people always do that, but the really great
make you believe that you too can become great.
I need to add something to this quote also, and that is -- a clarification of what it means to be great. According to Jesus:
Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

-- Matthew 5:19
Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
-- Matthew 18:4

more thoughts about the New Year

The past few days I've spent some time planning the New Year and thinking about resolutions, which I will soon share with you. The following quote from Mark Twain seems appropriate as we do this annual exercise:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
I would only add: . . . as you seek God.

as we think about the New Year

Jesus said: "So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own."
-- Matthew 6:34

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

God's art

Short-eared Owls continue to put on shows at or after sunset at the Carlos Avery Refuge. Even though lighting is poor, it is hard for me to resist heading up there to take more pictures.

I have become like an owl in desolate places.
Psalm 102:6

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Fear not

And the angel said unto them,
"Fear not: for, behold,
I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people.

"For unto you is born this day
in the city of David a Saviour,
which is Christ the Lord."

Luke 2:10-11

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas lights

The Christmas Creed

I believe in Jesus Christ and in the beauty of the Gospel that began in Bethlehem.
I believe in Him whose spirit glorified a little town, of whose coming only shepherds saw a sign but for whom the crowded inn could find no room.
I believe in Him whom the kings of the earth ignored and the proud could never understand, whose paths were among the common people and whose welcome came from people of hungry hearts.
I believe in Him who proclaimed the love of God to be invincible, whose cradle was a mother's arms, whose home in Nazareth had love for its only wealth, who looked at people and made them see what His love saw in them, who by His love brought sinners back to purity and lifted human weakness up to meet the strength of God.
I confess our everlasting need of God, the need of forgiveness for our greed and selfishness, the need of love for hearts grown cold.
I acknowledge the glory of all that is like Christ: The steadfastness of friends, the blessedness of homes, the power of compassion, the courage of those who dare to resist all passion, hate and war.
I believe that only by love expressed shall the earth at length be purified. And I acknowledge in Christ a faith that sees beyond the partial fact, a trust in life redeemed that looks beyond our present evil, and I pray that this redemption may begin in us. Amen.

Christmas Day

Beaver Lake Lutheran Church
Maplewood, MN

Christmas Eve Candlelight Service

St. Anthony Park Lutheran Church, St. Paul, MN

Christmas Day

Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! For lo, I will come and dwell in your midst, says the LORD. Many nations shall join themselves to the LORD on that day, and shall be my people; and I will dwell in your midst. And you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. The LORD will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem. Be silent, all people, before the LORD; for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.”

-- Zechariah 2:10-13

God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.

-- 1 John 4:9-12, 16

When this old world drew on toward night,

you came; but not in splendor bright,

not as a monarch, but the child

of Mary, blameless mother mild.

-- hymn at Vespers during Advent

Thank you, LORD, for the gift of your son, the Messiah; thank you, LORD, for the salvation of our souls through him, the Christ. Amen.

This is the last of our Advent/Christmas e-mails & postings. However, we hope that you will continue participating in our journey of seeking God through our blog at:

We wish for you a Blessed Christmas and Joyous New Year centered in the Lord our God.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Word from heaven

For while gentle silence enveloped all things,
and night in its swift course was now half gone,
your all-powerful word leaped from heaven,
from the royal throne.

-- Wisdom of Solomon 18:14-15

Reading for Christmas Eve

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.

Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

for the Mighty One has done great things for me,

and holy is his name.

His mercy is for those who fear him

from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm;

he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,

and lifted up the lowly;

he has filled the hungry with good things,

and sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,

in remembrance of his mercy,

according to the promise he made to our ancestors,

to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

-- Luke 1:46-55

God of love and mercy, help us to follow the example of Mary, always ready to do your will. At the message of an angel she welcomed your eternal Son and, filled with the light of your Spirit, she became the temple of your Word, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Liturgy of the Hours

morning of Christmas Eve

Friday, December 22, 2006

Yes, we finally got snow!

Advent reading for December 23

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

-- Luke 1:30-33

We are not simply to believe, but to watch; not simply to love, but to watch; not simply to obey, but to watch; to watch for what? for that great event. Christ’s coming!

-- John Henry Newman

God be in my head and in my understanding;

God be in my eyes and in my looking;

God be in my mouth and in my speaking;

God be in my heart and in my thinking;

God be at my end and at my departing.


-- Sarum Primer Prayer

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Advent reading for December 22

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

-- John 3:16-17

I shall not die, I shall live

and recount God’s deeds.

You are my God, I thank you.

My God, I praise you.

Give thanks to the LORD who is good;

for God’s love endures for ever.

-- Psalm 118:17, 28-29

Sever me from myself that I may be grateful to you;

may I perish to myself that I may be safe in you,

may I die to myself that I may live in you;

may I wither to myself that I may blossom in you;

may I be emptied of myself that I may abound in you;

may I be nothing to myself that I may be all to you.


-- Desiderius Erasmus

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

picture for the previous post

This is the photo from my new stole that belongs with the previous post. Blogger was acting nervous tonight.

+ pax

Advent reading for December 21

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”
-- Matthew 11:2-6

This is the good and happy news, that Christ has paid for our sin, and through His suffering has redeemed us from eternal death. It is His kingdom and His ministry, to preach the Gospel to the poor; that is His purpose. For to the great and holy He cannot come. They do not wish to be counted sinners, and therefore do not need His Gospel.
-- Martin Luther

As thou wast before

At my life’s beginning,

Be thou so again

At my journey’s end.

As thou wast besides

At my soul’s shaping,

Father, be thou too

At my journey’s close.


-- Prayer of the Celtic Tradition

P.S. We apologize that Blogger will not accept our stole picture tonight; we will attempt to repost it tomorrow.

favorite cup

Each of us has our favorite cup or mug for coffee. Thank you, kp, for the following:

A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life. Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups - porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite - telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: "If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves that is the source of your problems and stress. Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some case seven hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups... And then you began eyeing each other's cups. Now consider this: Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of Life we live. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us.
"God brews the coffee, not the cups.... Enjoy your coffee!
"The happiest people don't have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything."
-- Dr. Jamie Higley, D.C.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Advent reading for December 20

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,

who will prepare your way;

the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:

‘Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight,’”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
-- Mark 1:2-4, 7-8

Father, may the coming celebration of the birth of your Son bring us your saving help and prepare us for eternal life. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
-- Liturgy of the Hours

Monday, December 18, 2006

Advent reading for December 19

The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

those who lived in a land of deep darkness—

on them light has shined.

-- Isaiah 9:2

The LORD is my light and my help;

whom shall I fear?

-- Psalm 27:1

Almighty God, we give Thee thanks for the mighty yearning of the human heart for the coming of a Saviour, and the constant promise of Thy Word that He was to come. We bless Thee for the tribute that we can pay to Him from our very sense of need and dependence, and that our own hearts can so answer from their wilderness, the cry, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” O God, prepare Thou the way in us now, and may we welcome anew Thy Holy Child. Amen.

-- Samuel Osgood

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Advent reading for December 18

So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.

-- Romans 10:17

I have called to you, LORD; hasten to help me!

Hear my voice when I cry to you.

Let my prayer arise before you like incense,

the raising of my hands like an evening oblation.

-- Psalm 141:1-2

Give yourself to me, my God; restore yourself to me. I show you my love, but if it is too little, give me strength to love you more. All that I know is this: that unless you are with me, and not only beside me but in my very self, for me there is nothing but evil; and whatever riches I have, unless they are my God, they are only poverty. Amen.

-- Augustine, Bishop of Hippo

3rd Sunday of Advent

Lighting of the Advent candles at Beaver Lake Lutheran Church in Maplewood. I will be preaching there
January 7.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


I had heard that Short Eared Owls had been observed near Pool 10 of the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area. So, of course, I had to go since I had never seen nor photographed this particular owl. As the sun was setting, sure enough, about a half-dozen of them were flying about, like playing tag. But their game was a very serious one, namely, to catch food. One after another they would dive into the clumps of dead prairie grasses -- nine out of ten times coming up with nothing. But no doubt it was their hunger, that kept them going. I left only after it got too dark to take pictures; they were still at it.

I wish I would have that same desperate determination in seeking God. It is too easy to forget my need for his constant presence -- until I have gone too long without his guidance and done something quite stupid -- only then do I seem to wake up and get back to my search. Let us have that determination of the owl before it is too late.

Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call upon him while he is near.
Isaiah 55:6

Third Sunday of Advent, December 17

Thus says the Lord GOD: Repent and turn away from your idols.

-- Ezekiel 14:6

John the Baptist appeared … proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

-- Matthew 3:1-2

Lord, hear our voices raised in prayer. Let the light of the coming of your Son free us from the darkness of sin. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Liturgy of the Hours

Friday, December 15, 2006

Advent reading for Saturday, Dec. 16

For darkness shall cover the earth,

and thick darkness the peoples;

but the LORD will arise upon you,

and his glory will appear over you.

-- Isaiah 60:2

The night is far gone, the day is near.

Let us then lay aside the works of darkness

and put on the armor of light.

-- Romans 13:12

Lord, let your glory dawn to take away our darkness. May we be revealed as the children of light at the coming of your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Liturgy of the Hours

trust & prayer

The following are some exercises to help you put into use some of the suggestions from our December 12 post, trust & prayer:

1. For 3 days, begin your day with 15 minutes of sitting silently in the presence of God. Do the days go better for you?

2. Can you think of times in your life when God did not give you what you asked for, but gave you what God wanted for you then?

3. It has been said that "music lifts the soul." Do you have any special interest (art, music, writing, activity) that lifts your soul? Have you ever thought of this activity as prayer? Resolve to spend at least 2 hours each week pursuing whatever special activity lifts your soul.

4. Contemplation can lead you to action. And, at times, action can lead you to contemplation. Consider this.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Advent reading for Friday, Dec. 15

The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.

-- 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10

I beg of you, my dear brother, to live among these books [of Scripture], to meditate upon them, to know nothing else, to seek nothing else. … “Every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Mt. 7:8). Let us learn upon earth that knowledge which will continue with us in heaven.

-- Jerome

All-powerful God, help us to look forward in hope to the coming of our Savior. May we live as he has taught, ready to welcome him with burning love and faith. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

-- Liturgy of the Hours

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


This stole is a gift from a dear friend of mine, John, who got it while studying Spanish in Guatemala. I will be wearing it for the first time when I preach at Beaver Lake Lutheran Church, Maplewood, Minnesota, January 7, 2007. During the coming days I will post pictures of the various symbols on the stole. Thank you, John!
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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

trust & prayer

St. Teresa of Avila tells us that trust is very necessary for people who aspire to contemplative prayer. I used to wonder about her emphasis on that, but as I grapple with dryness in prayer, her words mean more and more to me.

Ten seconds into prayer, I find myself thinking about work that I did or did not do. When I realized why it is so hard to let go of these thoughts, this planning, even when I am reminded that I am distracted, I understood why trust is so important. I need to trust that the time I give to prayer is time that God will "work on" me, and continue to create me, and this seeming loss of my work time will not hinder the quality of what I do. St. Teresa says that contemplative prayer, which spawns a contemplative attitude, actually enhances one's efficiency.

So my prayer plan is a little like the TV ad for real estate. While I am doing what I am supposed to be doing during the hour of prayer, God (my Agent) is taking care of everything else that impinges upon my life. I can trust this, for as the ad suggests, "Our Agent knows life."

Pray the News

Monday, December 11, 2006

more of Heschel

Food for thought from tonight's lecture:

God's dream is not to be alone, to have mankind as a partner in the drama of continuous creation. By whatever we do, by every act we carry out, we either advance or obstruct the drama of redemption; we either reduce or enhance the power of evil.

Abraham Heschel

Sunday, December 10, 2006


My indifference toward your coming,
I confess to you, Lord.
My desire to control time and seasons,
I confess to you, Lord.
My failure to be alert to signs of your presence in our midst,
I confess to you, Lord.
My lack of concern for those who come after us,
I confess to you, Lord.
My injustices toward people you came to save,
I confess to you, Lord.


God's art

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Could this be why Islam is the fastest growing religion?

The first service that one owes to others in community consists in listening to them. Just as love for God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God's love for us that He not only gives His Word but also lends us His ear ... Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and, in the end, there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Friday, December 08, 2006

more of Heschel

I cannot remember when I've been so eager to get back to a lecture. Monday will be the second of three lectures at Temple Israel by John C. Merkle. One of Herschel's best known books is God in Search of Man. Isn't it hard to believe sometimes that God could really be reaching out to me? -- wanting to speak to me? Here are just a few sentences from the book:

Resistance to the idea of biblical revelation comes from a popular conception. Of one thing we seem to be sure: God dwells at an absolute distance from humanity, abiding in deep silence. Is it meaningful, then, to speak of communication between God and human beings?

There is such a distance between the sun and a flower. Can a flower, worlds away from the source of energy, attain a perception of its origin? Can a drop of water ever soar to behold, even for a moment, the stream's distant source? In prophecy it is as if the sun communed with the flower, as if the source sent out a current to reach a drop.

If there are moments in which genius speaks for all people, why should we deny that there are moments in which a voice speaks for God? that the source of goodness communicates its way to the human mind?

True, it seems incredible that we should hold in our gaze words containing a breath of God. What we forget is that at this moment we breathe what God is creating, that right in front of us we behold works that reflect God's infinite wisdom, God's infinite goodness.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

respecting the enemy

Some suggestions from Pray the News for respecting the enemy:
+ Make a sign for your desk, or where you see it often: No One Is My Enemy
+ Listen to the news tonight being conscious of stories or terms used that color your feeling toward the other or some group. Then pray the news.
+ Write dow everyone's names in your family or your circle of friends. Beside every name write something good about that person. Think of that positive part the next time you are tempted to be angry with them.
+ Make a positive gesture toward someone who irritates you.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Oh, that we should be so concerned about how God sees us:
At 20, I was obsessed with what people were thinking about me. At 40, I'd stopped being obsessed with what people were thinking about me. At 60, I finally realized that nobody had ever been thinking about me at all.

John Derbyshire

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

the nature of religion

As I was thinking about one of the comments mentioned in yesterday's blog, "Religion is not the end but the means," I was reminded of the following by Thomas Merton:

[I]t is true that religion on a superficial level, religion that is untrue to itself and God, easily comes to serve as the "opium of the people." And this takes place whenever religion and prayer invoke the name of God for reasons and ends that have nothing to do with Him. When religion becomes a mere artificial facade to justify a social or economic system — when religion hands over its rites and language completely to the political propagandist, and when prayer becomes the vehicle for a purely secular ideological program, then religion does tend to become an opiate. It deadens the spirit enough to permit the substitution of a superficial fiction and mythology for the truth of life. And this brings about the alienation of the believer, so that his religious zeal becomes political fanaticism. His faith in God, while preserving its traditional formulas, becomes in fact faith in his own nation, class or race. His ethic ceases to be the law of God and love, and becomes the law of might-makes-right: established privilege justifies everything.


Monday, December 04, 2006


Tonight I attended the first of three lectures on Abraham Joshua Heschel at Temple Israel. Our teacher is Dr. John Merkle from St. Benedict's & St. John's. I wish I had recommended these lectures to you earlier; but, if you have the opportunity, I believe you could still register for Dec. 11 & 18. If you would like more information, just drop me a note. A few worthwhile quotations:

Religion is not the end but the means. Religion is not God.

Religion needs to be constantly reevaluated.

When we think with all our mind, with all our heart, with all our soul; when we become aware of the fact that the self cannot stand on its own, we realize that the most subtle explanations are splendid enigmas, that God is more plausible than our own selves, that it is not God who is an enigma but we. When all our mind is aglow with the eternal question like a face in gazing on a mighty blaze, we are not moved to ask: Where is God? for such a question would imply that we who ask are present, while God is absent. In the realm of the ineffable, where our own presence is incredible, we do not ask: Where is God? We can only exclaim: Where are we? How is our presence possible?

Sunday, December 03, 2006


If you’re discouraged, that’s your choice. You have chosen to be discouraged. Discouragement is always a choice. It comes from thinking discouraging thoughts – and you can change your thoughts any time. You have a choice of what you’re going to focus on: either your purpose or your problems, God’s power or your weakness, Christ or your circumstances. It’s your choice.
Rick Warren

Saturday, December 02, 2006

December wedding

May the Lord bless you, Ruth & Kirk!

Friday, December 01, 2006


Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of a new church year and a time set aside for us to prepare for the return of Jesus. This year we will again send daily e-mails during Advent to our mailing list. It is our hope that in the midst of all the onslaught of commercialism they will help you pause and reflect on the spiritual aspects of Christmas. If you would like to be added to our list, please send your e-mail address to

We can never take too much time for Scripture and prayer. I cannot remember the source of the following, but I thought it worth sharing:

How much time does it take to read from Genesis to Revelation? If you would read the Bible at standard pulpit speed (slow enough to be heard and understood) the reading time would be seventy-one hours. If you would break that down into minutes and divide it into 365 days you could read the entire Bible, cover to cover, in only twelve minutes a day. Is this really too much time to spend reading about God?

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