A Whole Lot of Adorableness

I got to spend part of the day with Samuel—his first Easter. It was a bit of a challenge to get through the second verse of our closing hymn this morning. How could I not think of this beloved child, and the good God who gave him to us?

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!

Refrain
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

Below are a couple video clips and a picture of SamJam in his Maundy Thursday outfit. He’s getting so chatty! Yes, it’s a whole lot of adorableness for one post. But, hey, today is a holiday. Thanks for indulging me. 🙂

Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed.

God’s Love in Slow Motion: A Few Odds & Ends before Holy Week Begins

Holy Week can be one of the most significant times in a believer’s worship year. During these days, we clear our calendar to focus exclusively on the events of Jesus’s suffering, death, and resurrection, which are at the heart of our faith. Our attention during this special week is directed toward the person and work of Christ as:

  • the triumphant yet humble King (Palm Sunday);
  • the servant of God and mediator of the new covenant (Maundy Thursday);
  • the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Good Friday); and
  • Christus Victor—the risen Savior of the human race (Easter Sunday).

Holy Week itself grew out of the simple observation that 28 of the 89 chapters in the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)—32 percent—are devoted to the period of time between the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and his ascension into heaven. Yet this period is less than 1 percent of Jesus’ entire three and a half years of public ministry. 

In terms of literary style, then, such space allocation suggests that while the birth, life, teachings, and miracles of Jesus were important to the authors, it was the passion of Christ and his resurrection from the dead that were centrally important to their purpose in writing. It’s almost as if each of the four Gospels is a Passion Narrative with an extended introduction!

By way of analogy, modern writers and filmmakers often arrange for the action of their stories to slow down when they reach their most critical moments, using techniques such as freeze frame, slow motion, and extended coverage. The technique of slow motion is used, for example, in the important race scenes in the movie Chariots of Fire, where the director captures and accentuates each runner’s agonized expression before the finish line. The impact is significant. 

The amount of application of such techniques in storytelling is proportional to the importance of any given scene to the larger work. It’s no exaggeration, then, to say that the Passion Narratives present to us the incomparable love of God in slow motion. Believers seek to revel in that love during Holy Week, changing up our routines and realigning our schedules to Gospel-centered considerations.

As such, I won’t be posting chuckles and other items along those lines during the coming week. Anything appearing here will be topics and themes associated with Holy Week. Therefore, below are a few odds and ends before I sign off for a bit.

First, Samuel’s nephrology appointment is this coming Tuesday. Hopefully, we’ll get to see if his kidneys are improving and learn if any advanced treatments will be necessary. Thanks for praying!

Samuel at 4.5 months.
A piano player in the making?

Second, we found out earlier today the gender of Samuel’s new cousin. There’s a little girl on the way! My nephew’s wife is scheduled to have her baby in August, and we’re all over the moon.

SamJam and Aunt Rachel, who will give him a cousin in August.
Bethany and Samuel; Rachel and ?; and Amy and Jamie.

Third, I had a blast at the Phillies’ game yesterday. I went with a theology prof who loves the game of baseball as much as I do (even as we lament the politicizing of professional sports in this country). Neither of us had ever been to Opening Day before, so that was a real treat for both of us, especially since the weather was perfect and the Phillies won. Below are some snaps of the opening ceremonies.

Opening Day 2022 at Citizens Bank Park.
My baseball and theology buddy, Ken.
Batting practice comes to an end.
A paratrooper descends into the ballpark.
Thankfully, a safe landing.
Even the Phillie Phanatic parachuted into the park!
The staff and players are introduced for the new MLB season.
The massive flag for the national anthem.

Finally, the Dutch Apple’s production of Singing in the Rain was very well done and well worth seeing. We went today with a family friend who likewise loves the arts. 

The Dutch Apple dinner theater in Lancaster.

Blessings to all—whether you observe Holy Week or not!

Cuteness Overload (Again!)

Micah and Bethany are such good parents. They’re diligent about Samuel’s feeding time, tummy time, play time, reading time, and so much more. It’s fun to watch them grow into their new role as parents. They’re killing it, even though it’s a big adjustment and a lot of hard work! I’m so proud of them!

In this clip, I think SamJam is trying to talk to me. 🙂

* EDIT *

Some bonus shots for SamJam’s 1-month anniversary:

Always Christmas but Never Winter

* Ramble Alert! * I tend to get pensive, ponderous, and poetic at the end of the year. So, there’s no need to read further, as you probably have better things to do with your time. I’m just processing my own musings as the calendar gets ready to flip again. 

1. I shaved off my December goatee. As I was doing so, I had flashbacks to some hurtful insults I received during my school days. I once was described as having a “beaver chin” and “a weak, unmanly profile.” Because of a “face-plant” fall I had as a young child, I developed an overbite that was only partially corrected by my (terribly uncomfortable) retainer. My classmates in fifth through seventh grade were particularly cruel about how I looked. Only one kind girl out of hundreds my age thought it made me look cute. Even when I was at peak physical condition in college, a photographer doing a local hairstylist’s spread featuring a few of us chiseled swimmers kept telling me to grind my teeth or somehow produce a stronger jawline since mine was too wimpy. (Why, then, did you ask me to be in the picture in the first place?) The good news is that these insults no longer sting like they used to. But I do wonder sometimes why I remember them so vividly. Maybe it’s because they led to so many insecurities that would later cause me to overcompensate in other areas of life (e.g., athletics, academics, etc.). Whatever the psychology behind it, it’s a good reminder for us to speak kindly to one another, especially those who are in their early formative years. Let’s not allow our careless words to do unnecessary damage. Lord knows, I’ve had to repent of many unkind things I’ve said over the years.

2. It’s always been our family tradition for me to read the story of the Magi from Matthew 2:1-12 on Christmas morning before we open our gifts. It’s our way of trying to keep the focus on what the day is all about. Problem is, my family always takes bets as to how far I’ll get in the passage before getting too choked up to read any further. (The Incarnation never gets old, and it wrecks me every time I ponder it.) I knew in advance that there was no way I’d be able to get past the first verse with a newborn in the room this year. Samuel wasn’t even a month old on Christmas Day, so it just wasn’t going to work for me to read the text without brutzing. So, this year I carved up the passage and gave each of us a few verses to read. It went well, and everyone enjoyed doing it that way. I think we’ll do something similar in future years. No more betting against me! 🙂

P.S., I got to take SamJam on a walk in his stroller yesterday. He was curious about the world around him, and I was overwhelmed with delight in watching him! (Yes, we got him the hat. Totally appropriate, right?!)

3. The 20th-century British novelist and poet Robert Graves once said, “There is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.” That’s why I find the process to be both exhilarating and exhausting. I’m seldom happy with what I’ve written. “It can always be better, sharper, clearer,” I tell myself. And maybe this perfectionistic tendency is rooted in what I (imperfectly) wrote above in #1. Either way, it’s a great hinderance to finishing an academic dissertation. We’re trained to anticipate objections and opposing views as we write, and the “lawyerly disposition” in me always wants to create an unassailable argument. That’s not humanly possible, so please pray that I get over myself and write something defensible, even if not incontrovertible. The best dissertation is a done dissertation. Thanks!

4. I recently finished my latest binge, How to Get Away with Murder. The story arc spanning six seasons was engaging and unpredictable. The progressively expanding flashbacks—while confusing at first—were intriguing and captivating as the episodes unfolded, serving as teasers to keep watching and assemble the pieces yourself. The screen writing was sharp overall, and the plot twists were uncliched. Moreover, the casting was brilliant, the acting was superb, and the emotional impact was notable. As was the case with Scandal, the scene cuts were a bit hyperactive at times, though they were much more manageable. Ironically, the hyper-talented Kerry Washington from Scandal made a few appearances in Murder, which was a welcome addition. Aja Naomi King made a strong case for being the new generation’s Kerry Washington. Her portrayal of Michaela Pratt, an ambitious and overly confident lawyer in the making, was one of several acting standouts in the production. It will be fun to watch Aja’s career unfold. Unfortunately, some of the moral values promoted in the series were disappointing, and part of the socio-political agenda was executed in selective and prejudicial ways. But that’s what Hollywood does these days in their “ends-justifies-the-means” approach to progress. Create a straw man and then give yourself high fives for ripping it apart with ease. We tend to write fiction to suit ourselves because it’s much easier than honest debate. The West Wing and other shows of that ilk often follow the same playbook. In an attempt to get back to cinematic sanity, where I don’t have to keep fast forwarding past the raunchy parts, I may return to Endeavor next (since I’m a Morse fan, and the series was filmed in charming Oxford), but there will be no more guilty pleasures until the dissertation is finished.

5. C. S. Lewis described pre-Aslan Narnia as “always winter but never Christmas.” That is, a fallen world without a Savior is devoid of hope. It’s just an icy darkness that shatters the soul and renders people zombie-like until they breathe their last. But because there is a Savior in this world—one whose magnificent mane was shaved in humiliation on our behalf, only to grow back in resurrection glory after the stone table cracked—eternal life can now be described as “always Christmas but never winter.” Believers bend but never break in a world where Aslan is on the move. Here is a poem about how this particular image helped me through a difficult time in my life. It’s not great art by any means, but it’s an honest portrayal of what I was feeling at the time. Here’s the context:

On Saturday, July 1, 2000, my father-in-law, Rev. Keith Moore, resigned as pastor of Baker Heights Baptist Church in Martinsburg, West Virginia. He was only six months away from retirement, but he could no longer shepherd the flock. The awful effects of radiation and chemotherapy had rendered him virtually lifeless, nearly brining him to the point of death in order to spare him from it. It was a painful time for the whole family. That same day, Pastor Keith got a haircut. It turned out to be his last one. The clippers came out and the hair came off. “Better to do it myself,” he said, “than to let the chemo do it.” I was present for that awful event, and when it happened, I sobbed. I was no stranger to the humming of the electric razor. In the 1980s I would often shave my head as a high school or collegiate swimmer to prepare for the big meet at the end of the season. But those silly haircuts had a purpose. They helped me swim faster. But this haircut was nothing but shame and humiliation. It had no purpose at all. Or did it?

Razed to Life

Before the chemo waged its war on blood and scalp alike,
The ravenous razor snarled away, leaving a head full of spikes.
In the other room I lost my nerve and filed a complaint with the Lord;
Comforting words I had given to others suddenly felt like a sword.

“Why, dear Lord, this man of God, who faithfully fed your sheep—
“The same day losing his pulpit and hair, craving nothing but sleep?”
“He’s frail and weak, Lord, wracked in pain; what does the future hold?”
“Where is your power, God; where is your love, if I may be so bold?”

And then in my gloom a beacon of hope fastened upon my soul:
“Aslan’s razor,” came the reply. “That’s all you need to know.”
Aslan’s razor—what could that mean? Where have I heard that before?
A gem by Lewis, for children, and me, where a Lion loses his roar.

Where they crop off his mane and stab at his heart and leave him for dead in the mud;
Naked, ashamed, and lonely he dies with scoundrels mocking his blood.
But why was he captured and horribly killed, and strapped to a table of stone?
The witch said, “For justice,” but Aslan, “For love—for a treason not my own.”

Well, the world, like Narnia, has children around with questioning tears in their eyes,
Yet the world, like Narnia, has a table that cracked, and a Lion who knows how to rise.
So the death of death in the death of Christ laces every trial with hope,
And the empty tomb declares to us all that the grave will not be our home.

While some use pain to bludgeon our souls and scratch away at our faith,
God in his infinite wisdom and love uses faith to scratch at our pain.
So even today a Lion is heard whenever the gospel is shared,
Telling the story of Christ and his love, showing that God really cares.

“Come!” says the Lion to children of faith. “Ride on my back, and we’ll soar.”
“Come!” says the Lord to children of grace. “Enter my heavenly door.”
“I have a surprise especially for you: I’ve built you a grand destination.”
“A land of delight with no more tears—and evil’s humiliation.”

“Look at my mane! Touch it again! Only one scar remains;
“I keep it around to let people know that death has lost its claims.”
“And look at his hair, flowing again; the razor bows to its glory.”
“Yes, I let you feel pain, but only on earth, to maximize your eternal story.”

6. Here’s a good word from Jon Acuff to end the year. Let it be a micro-motivation for us all: “If you picked up any bitterness this year, don’t miss your chance to put it down this week. Don’t carry last year’s rocks into next year’s garden. Don’t paint next year’s canvas with last year’s colors. Don’t write next year’s story with last year’s words. You might need to choose it 100 times, but leaving bitterness behind is always worth it.” Amen.

7. Two albums today for me to finish out the year in mellow reflection: John Michael Talbot’s Simple Hearts and Enya’s Shepherd Moons. “God Alone is Enough” in the former is a great place to park the soul (as Teresa of Avila captured the best and wisest approach to life), and “Marble Halls” in the latter is a fun place to unleash the imagination (as there’s so much more to this life than riches and material wealth). Love is everything. So, perchance to dream. Also appropriate today is Enya’s “My My! Time Flies!” though we’re way past 2010. 🙂

Stay safe tonight, and Lord willing, we’ll see you in 2022.

Edit: Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem are outstanding as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in Becoming the Ricardos. Watched it last night on Amazon Prime after our company departed and the house got quiet for the first time in a long time.

Not Sure How Santa Got This Down the Chimney

I’m not sure how Santa got this thing down the chimney, but I’m glad he did. I’ve never had a power recliner before, but this is a high-end Bassett that’s super sturdy and comfy. 

This wonderful piece of furniture was for yours truly. “Hers truly” got a silver Bach Stradivarius trumpet. This top-tier instrument is stunning and is supposed to be played only with gloves or a hand cloth.

Both are kingdom tools. One is for reading and writing. The other is for praising and worshiping. 

As nice as these things are, the best Christmas present this year (besides Jesus) was the new addition to the family. Samuel didn’t make a peep during the entire Christmas Eve service—even with our brass team belting it out during the opening carols. And, yes, he slept through the sermon! 🙂

Today I got to babysit him for a couple hours while Bethany went to a doctor’s appointment. What a blessing that he lives less than 15 minutes away. I’m utterly smitten with this little munchkin and have to share a few snaps from the past few days.

Cookie Monster Heaven

Apparently, I can “stand the heat” because I spent all day in the kitchen yesterday making 35 dozen Christmas cookies! If my math is correct, that’s 420 total. The Cookie Monster would love it here! The house smelled great, and now we’re ready to take some goodies around the neighborhood for Christmas caroling.

First were the peanut butter blossoms. (They had to be first.) Each is topped with either a milk chocolate or a dark chocolate Wilbur Bud. They turned out great, and they’re quite slammable. 🙂

Next were the sugar cookies. Each one features red, green, or red and green sugar on top. For the most part, they turned out o.k., but I had too much variation in temperature and/or bake time to get the consistent look and texture I was aiming for. They’re still tasty, though. Next year I hope to have more time to do cutouts and icing.

Finally, I did the chocolate chips. They’re the old standards, and they’re delicious, too. Fortunately, I didn’t repeat last year’s blunder (something involving baking powder as I recall). Nom! Nom! Nom! Nom! Nom! 

I was fighting a head cold the whole time, but I’m feeling slightly better today. I’m ready to get horizontal and listen to some soft, dreamy music. After that, It’s time to go caroling and work off some of the cookie dough I may have snuck yesterday. 🙂

Working now on a Christmas devotional post for next week. Sorry it’s only one this year. Hopefully it will still be informative and encouraging for you.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Cookies, Stockings, and All the Holly Jolly

1. It’s cookie making time chez nous. On the menu this year are decorated sugar cookies, peanut butter blossoms, and chocolate chip cookies. We may even try a batch of pizzelles on our new iron. We’re a bit behind in decorating and baking this year because of the recent new addition to our family, so we’re trying to keep it simple. Fortunately, we’re catching up fast, and we’re almost back on schedule. Alas, red and green sugar sprinkled on round sugar cookies may have to suffice this time around in lieu of the shapes and the icing.

2. Speaking of the new addition, I had to add a stocking to the mantle over the fireplace this year. The occasion was just another opportunity to shed a few more tears of joy in the process. (Yes, we INTJs can extrovert our F; we just tend to do it privately. But it’s no less deep than folks with other MBTI combinations.) Samuel could probably fit into his stocking at this point! Talk about a great gift!

3. With the dissertation, the end-of-semester grading, caring for a relative with Alzheimer’s, and helping a new mother adjust to the new normal, it can feel a bit overwhelming at times. But I’m choosing to keep the jolly in the holly at all times. What’s the alternative? Besides, the gift of new life has provided great joy this year and a certain re-orientation to priorities, so some deadlines will just have to wait—especially those I impose on myself. I’ll get stuff done when I get it done. 

4. Sadly, I won’t be able to write and post a bunch of Christmas devotionals this year like I did last year, so I’ll probably just write a single new one and post it next week, perhaps Wednesday. I may also re-post the one that got all the hits last year (“Have Yourself a Snarky Little Christmas”). We’ll see. If the cookies turn out o.k., I may post a few pictures of those as well. Other than that, I’ll just look at all the wonderful posts you supply this year! 

5. The Christmas Eve sermon this year is called, “The Mirror in the Manger” from Luke 2:35. What a night it’s going to be. My family always joins me at the front for the closing hymns in the candlelit darkness, and this year we’ll have a new singer. (We should probably teach SamJam that line about Jesus—“no crying he makes”!) The beauty of the Christmas Eve service is rivaled only by the majesty of the Easter morning service. Both convey the earth-shattering love of God to a world that has lost its way.

6. Speaking of love, it really does make the world go round, doesn’t it? It can manifest differently in different seasons of life, and it and can certainly deepen over time, but it never goes away (1 Cor 13:8a; 13). Thank God for that. 💙

Be well, everyone. And have yourself a merry little Christmas.

He Gives Me Breath…and Takes My Breath Away

“Yahweh.”

It’s the personal name of God (Exod 3:14). 

It comes from the Hebrew verb “to be”—the verb of existence.

In context, it refers to the true and living God—the self-existent God who rescues his people and owes his dependence to no one and no thing. 

God just is.

And was.

And always will be.

God says, “My name is I AM.”

You are not a God created by human hands
You are not a God dependent on any mortal man
You are not a God in need of anything we can give
By Your plan, that’s just the way it is

You are God alone from before time began
You were on Your throne
You are God alone and right now
In the good times and bad
You are on Your throne
And you are God alone

We’re not really sure how “Yahweh” was pronounced—and it was seldom pronounced out of reverence for ha shem, “the name.”

But it was something approximating breath.

The sound of breath.

Breathing.

To say God’s personal name is to sound like you’re breathing.

Like you’re being.

Like you’re being a human being. 

So, go ahead. Take a breath. 

In and out. 

Do it again. 

In and out.

It’s something we do about 24,000 times a day—unless you’re just a few days old. Then it’s even more.

I was reminded of that when I got to hold Samuel for the first time last week. It was an indescribable joy to hear him breathe and watch him sleep.

Short rapid breaths.

In and out.

Each one softly stating the name of God—“Yahweh”—the God who knit him together in his mother’s womb (Ps 139:13).

Every single breath is a light movement of air, wind, spirit, ruach, pneuma—praising the self-existent God who is.

The self-existent God who beautifully creates in his own image.

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken

Great are You, Lord

It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only

Even better is watching Samuel when he’s awake. Looking around. Watching me. Watching others. Watching his fingers. Exploring his brand-new world.

Crying.

Oh, there’s lots of crying. 

Stronger movements of air, wind, spirit, ruach, pneuma—praising the God who is.

The God who beautifully creates in his own image.

The deepest praise can come through the hardest tears.

And all of it comes from the breath of God.

“The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Gen 2:7).

Every moment thereafter, we say his name.

“Yahweh.” 

“Yahweh.” 

“Yahweh.”

In and out. 

Out and in.

In our waking and our sleeping.

In our coming and our going.

“Yahweh.”

“Yahweh.”

“Yahweh.”

This is life.

And when I think about all this, it takes my breath away.

But only for a moment.

To stop breathing permanently is to stop saying, “Yahweh.” 

To stop breathing permanently is to die.

Think of it! Death is so pathetic it cannot praise God. It cannot say his name.

Even a newborn can do that!

Poor death. He seems so strong, but a baby can best him.

Little Samuel can best him.

But death gets all of us in the end, doesn’t he? 

He comes to where we are, and we stop breathing.

So, is Death the final victor? Will he succeed in getting us to stop saying “Yahweh” forever?

Will he prevail in getting us to stop praising God just by breathing?

Will the silence of the grave mock the God who is and was and will be? The God of life?

No.

“With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last” (Mark 15:37).

But then—in resurrection life—Jesus breathed again.

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia! 
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia! 
Dying once our souls to save, Alleluia! 
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia! 

The Son of God is still breathing today.

In fact, he will never not breathe again. He is life itself. 

“Before Abraham was born,” said Jesus, “I AM” (John 8:58). Like Father, like Son!

Indeed, Jesus breathes on his creation to give us new life.

Eternal life.

“Jesus breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22).

The holy air, wind, spirit, ruachpneuma—that which praises the self-existent God who is. 

The self-existent God who beautifully RE-creates in his own image.

That’s why Samuel takes my breath away, too.

He’s being, and breathing, and praising the God of life.

So, I breathe in.

And I breathe out.

And with every breath, I praise the Lord.

I just can’t help it.

A New and Glorious Morn

Samuel James White 
Born: Wednesday, December 1, 2021 at 7:40 a.m.
Reading Hospital, Reading, PA
7 lbs. 10.8 oz.
20.5 inches
Blonde hair and eyelashes

The pediatrician says, “He’s perfect,” but we already knew that. 🙂

Can’t wait to meet you “SamJam.” You’re just the third blood relative I have on the planet (that I know of).

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

– Bill and Gloria Gaither

Labor Day(s)

I have permission to share that Bethany is at the hospital right now (as of Tuesday, November 30 at 9:45 a.m.). It looks like Samuel James (“SamJam”) is on the way. Prayers for mother and child (and daddy, too) are much appreciated.

You can send up a quick prayer for me, too, as I’m melting into a puddle of tears right now.

Thanks!


Early Afternoon Update:


Mid-Afternoon Update

Contractions every two minutes. Now discussing pain management. (3:53 p.m.)

Hospital COVID protocols have forced me to wait at home, so I’m just praying, texting, and “brutzing.” I’m told Bethany is still calm and has had no tears yet. Thank you, Lord.

She’s still able to smile and laugh periodically, but it’s about to get real. (4:42 p.m.)


Late Afternoon Update

Samuel’s head is in a good position. No cord issues. (4:42 p.m.) 🙌

Oh my word. Bethany just FaceTimed me to make sure I was o.k. How selfless is that? (She knows no father wants to see his little girl in pain.) She looks terrific and is in great spirits. (5:23 p.m.)


Evening Update

Pain meds slowed her down for a while, but she’s back to steady contractions and excellent vitals. I guess the little guy will come when he’s good and ready! (8:36 p.m.)

Breaking her water now. (10:09 p.m.)

And it just got real. Praying, dear one. (10:27 p.m.)

Epidural. (11:25 p.m.)



In the meantime…

HT: Sara Gummo
HT: Sara Gummo

Early Morning Update

The epidural is now done, and the small crew at the hospital is getting a nap. This adventure is a lot like my son’s birth. It’ll be a while before we get to pushing. (12:05 a.m.)

Translating a Latin text (Pseudo-Cyrpian) as I await the news. LOL. (12:53 a.m.)

9.5 cm. (1:27 a.m.)

Crowning. (4:05 a.m.)

Still pushing. She would like to be done. But she’s having all sorts of conversation between pushes. (6:14 a.m.)

This guy really wanted to be a December baby.


Welcome, dear child!

Just got the call of a lifetime!

Samuel arrived at around 7:41 a.m. (official time TBD).

I could hear him crying in the background. Loveliest thing I’ve ever heard.

I’m told he has hair, and Daddy cut the cord.

Physically and emotionally drained right now, but waves of joy are rolling in.

Signing off now for some badly needed sleep.

More details later.

💙

Emerging from the Food Coma

1. Since my MIL doesn’t travel well anymore, most of the family came to our place for Thanksgiving this year. We have a perfectly sized family room to accommodate the whole crew, and we had a lovely day together. I smoked one of our turkeys (now my favorite way to prepare it), and the other one we baked and then crock-potted. Both were delectable.

2. All the menu items turned out great (especially the Polish potatoes) except my feeble attempt to replicate “Cope’s Corn,” a dried corn that happens to be a local holiday favorite. Our stores couldn’t get any in stock this year because of the economy. So, I got regular corn and dehydrated it, but something didn’t work right in the re-hydration process, and I had to throw it out. C’est la vie. Maybe next year the cans will be back on the shelf. (The corn isn’t that great; it’s just a delivery system for butter and brown sugar. It’s also a childhood memory, so it’s a necessity at Thanksgiving.)

3. I had my annual sob-fest in the parking lot a few days ago as I was loading Thanksgiving groceries into the car. I didn’t even see it coming this year. It just hit me, yet again, that I am blessed while too many people in this world are still hungry. I had an overwhelming sense that the Spirit was saying to me, “Remember the poor.” That’s a mega-theme in Scripture, so clearly it’s something perpetually on the heart of God. It should be perpetually on our hearts, too.

4. In between meals and family laughs, I was able to work through all the primary sources containing Greek, Hebrew, or Syriac words for “veil” or “curtain,” the cultic tapestry separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place in the Jewish temple, which is the focus of my second dissertation. I successfully made it through the Babylonian Talmud, so ancient Jewish Apocalyptic is the last block of texts to consider. That’s where things get weird. It’s not unlike the book of Revelation, an odd (to us) genre of literature that has its own set of rules for interpretation. 

5. Here’s a lament from this former newshound: The mainstream media has become the journalistic equivalent of professional wrestling—mildly entertaining in the campiest of ways, but only people with severe learning disabilities take it seriously. There’s no greater source of misinformation, disinformation, and polarization in this country than CNN and MSNBC. They’re both contemptible organizations that need to whither on the vine and become utterly irrelevant. ABC, CBS, and NBC are close behind. The NYT is beyond redemption. The View is hell on earth. FOX is less annoying to my taste, but they don’t cut it straight, either. I spent a couple decades lamenting the growing bias and spin of the media, but that turned out to be a big waste of time and energy. Now I just mock them whenever I can. The Babylon Bee has the right approach. Make fun of them every single day. They deserve it. (O.k., rant over.)

6. My daughter is two centimeters and counting. If Samuel doesn’t arrive in the next several days, she’ll be induced on Wednesday. Question: How am I supposed to read the Infancy Narrative on Christmas Day this year with a newborn in the room? That’s just a puddle waiting to happen. 

7. My son is in final preparations for his appearance in the Reading Civic Theatre’s production of Grease (December 10-12). It’s a fun musical, and I may or may not have been an Olivia Newton-John fan as a teenager.

Have a great weekend, everyone. And welcome to Advent.

The Frost Killed My Zinnias (and Other Updates)

  1. 1. I started watching Chernobyl with my son. It’s a heartbreaking mini-series about the accident that took place in 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine. It was the worst disaster of its kind in terms of cost and casualties. The slow release of information (and misinformation) made it hard to know what was really going on. I was too young (or maybe too aloof) at the time to care, so this series has been a real eye opener. In three and a half decades, the mainstream media in this country have managed to surpass the wretchedness of the old Soviet propaganda machine. Three cheers, then,  for the internet—although this medium can feature its own heartbreaks from time to time. At least we can filter it out as needed.

2. I recently read that Tony nominee Andrea McArdle, who starred as Broadway’s original orphan Annie, has joined the cast of NBC’s Annie Live! I wasn’t enamored with that particular musical, but I was a major McArdle fan back in the day. She was amazing in Rainbow, where she played the incomparable Judy Garland in the star’s early years breaking into the entertainment industry. After hearing McArdle sing, “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows,” I became a fan for life. Maybe it was the mood I was in at the time, but it struck a chord. There’s a low-quality clip of it below, but it still illustrates “the little girl with a big voice.” I’m struck by the nuance and restraint she demonstrates in the piece, knowing she can belt with the best of them. McArdle will play the role of former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt in the live musical, set to air on December 2 (SamJam’s anticipated birthday).

3. I dropped major hints to my MIL (via my daughter) about a gift book I’d love to read over Christmas break. It’s The Mystical Nature of Light: Divine Paradox of Creation by Avraham Arieh Trugman. I’ve always been tantalized by the ontology of light. What exactly is it—a wave or a particle? Physicists tell us it displays the properties of both; hence, the wave-particle duality of light theory. Science can take us little further than that. Relatedly, one can ask, “Is Jesus human (a particle) or divine (a wave)?” Scripture says he displays the properties of both. No wonder, then, he called himself “the light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5). If scientists can propagate their duality theory of light with impunity, theologians can have our hypostatic union without fear of any justified riposte. Moreover, Einstein showed us that waves and particles are related. I suspect that’s why ontology always breaks down at some point; this world is a relational word, created by a relational God. Things only exist in relation to other things. Interestingly enough, George Whitefield once said, “Jesus was God and man in one person, that God and man might be happy together again.” Spot on. (Oh, that all the waves and particles in this world could relate to each other as they were meant to!)

4. They say that doctoral students start resenting their dissertation topics after a while. I’m not there yet, but I can understand the sentiment. I spent the day translating passages from the Mishnah, and tomorrow I need to make an attempt at translating a certain Syriac text. (I’m using the word “translate” very loosely here, as my Syriac is pretty dreadful.) It’s just the price of doing a deep dive on a single issue. The research is fun, but pulling it all together in an academic way is tedious and tiring. After it’s all finished, I’ll share some of my findings. I am blown away by the new things I’ve been learning.

5. My Thursday students loved our MBTI unit. Their favorite part—of all things—was the Jane Austen chart. They also appreciated how the instrument explains, to some extent, the different Christian spiritualities we find throughout the Body of Christ. (See below.) In the end, MBTI can be a helpful tool, but there’s more to who we are than these 16 categories. Tastebuds come to mind—but that’s another post. 🙂

  • The SP Temperament = “Artisan”
  • The SP Spirituality = “Franciscan”
  • The NT Temperament = “Rational”
  • The NT Spirituality = “Thomistic”
  • The SJ Temperament = “Guardian”
  • The SJ Spirituality = “Ignatian”
  • The NF Temperament = “Idealist”
  • The NJ Spirituality = “Augustinian”

6. The frost killed my zinnias. R.I.P., beautiful ones. See you next year—in another form. Hope springs eternal.

7. We’ll be singing a new (to us) worship song this Sunday, “King of Kings” by Brooke Ligertwood and Hillsong Worship. It’s rich and beautiful.

‘I’m Getting Closer!’

When my daughter was a little girl, I drove to meet her one weekend at her grandmother’s house in West Virginia. I had been away for several days, and I was looking forward to reconnecting with her. I wanted to make our rendezvous special, so the closer I got, the more frequently I called her on my cell phone, telling her with great delight, “I’m getting closer!” She giggled every time I said it. When we finally saw each other in person, we exchanged a ginormous “squeezie hug.”

Over the years, that phrase, “I’m getting closer,” became something of a family meme and mantra. Today we say it to each other in a variety of situations, and always with a twinkle in our eye. It’s a phrase that captures the joy of loving embrace. It represents the thrill of anticipated connection. It articulates the love of a father for his precious children.

Bethany had an ultrasound earlier today, and her son smiled for the camera. When I saw the picture, all I could think of was that my grandson is saying, “I’m getting closer!” Just a few more weeks, and we’ll get to see him face to face—chipmunk cheeks and all. (I may have gotten a little choked up today looking at him sleeping in utero.)

Thankfully, Bethany’s placenta previa is totally gone, so she is cleared for delivery. Thank you, Lord! And thank you—all who have prayed. Samuel (“SamJam”) is about 6 lbs. right now and may reach 8 lbs. by the time of delivery. He may still grow another inch or so, too, putting him close to 20 ins. long.

Is there someone you’re longing to embrace? Is there someone in your life you’re eager to connect with? I know the feeling! 💙 So does Christ. Someday soon he’s coming back to be with his people. Forever. Eternal squeezie hugs—and so much more—await us.

I think I hear him saying even now, with great delight, “I’m getting closer!” 

Are you ready?

Hint of a smile. 🙂

Snapping through Fall

Yesterday’s walk revealed that our neighbors are killing it this fall when it comes to their plants, flowers, and decorations. What a pleasant place to live.

Here are a few shots from my “That’s Cool” fall folder.

Mrs. Mosby loves my daughter’s baby bump!

And finally, here’s a creature that needs a match to complete the heart shape…and some inspiration to believe it can happen!

O.k., back to dissertating!