Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Book 2 of 2016 -- Every Time I Find the Meaning of Life, They Change It

This one was a Christmas gift.  Not likely something I would have bought for myself, not likely something I ever would have happened upon when browsing through books. And that would have been a shame.

It is a collection of reflections on quotes from various philosophers, from the ancient Greek to a couple of Scripture passages, to 20th century folks.  And the author himself has studied philosophy and so has the ability to explain a bit about the school of thought surrounding the quote.

Some of the quotes are great, some of them leave me bleh. But there is something to think about in almost every quote and reflection.  And there were some I thought "I could use this in a sermon". I think this is a book I will use as a reference from time to time...assuming I remember which pithy quote I am looking for of course.

Book 1 of 2016 -- Volume 3 of Les Miserables

Whew, it will take forever to get this book finished (partly because I keep interrupting to read other things).

This volume was called "Marius".  As with other characters we have an in-depth introduction to him. We learn about his grandfather and his father. The father who served at Waterloo...who was  in that description many pages ago and met a scavenger named Thenardier.

WE learn how Marius meets the students led by Enjolras and are given a full introduction to each student.

We learn that Marius has a strong predilection for helping others, a charitable heart.  Then again it is obvious in this book that to be a heroic character one has a charitable caring heart

We learn how Marius first becomes besotted with this beautiful  girl whose name he does not know. And how he pretty much stalks her.

ANd then we learn that Marius lives next door to the Thenardier clan, and we watch with him as Thenardier once again meets an old friend.

IT is interesting reading.  But sooo long, and sooooooooooooo much detail that seems extraneous to moving the plot forward.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Book 8 of 2015 Charles Dickens: Some Short Christmas Stories

I found this when looking for A Christmas Carol and since it was free I decided why not take a look.

IT is a set of 6 short stories (though some of them are decidedly short on narrative) and only some of them are Christmas-y.  I liked the last three stories best personally.  For a free book it was ok. But while A Christmas Carol iz certainly a classic, these stories are pretty much forgettable.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Christmas Snail

Each year the girls buy Christmas Tree ornaments at the Ten Thousand Villages sale here in town.  This year Eldest bought a snail, and dad was given the challenge of writing the story of the Christmas Snail.  Here is what developed:
They didn't even see me. But then I am used to that. Nobody ever sees us snails. Or when they do the make rude noises and squish us or run away as if we were some disgusting monster. I think only spiders get treated worse than us.

At any rate I saw it all. From beginning to end I was there. Unlike those uppity other animals you might hear about I don't think I had anything to do with what happened. I just watched it. And I will never forget it. I don't really understand, because I am only a snail. But I will never forget it.

It almost made me run and jump. But, well, you know, snails aren't really great at that.

Do you want to hear my version of the story?

It was a strange day. There I was in Nazareth, creeping along, trying to stay moist, when this foot just missed me. It was a man leading a donkey. Then the donkey hoof just missed me on the other side. Around then I decided maybe I would stay still. You know, to recover from the fright. But fate, it seems, had other plans.

As the donkey's back hoof came by it kicked me forward. At the same time a bundle of cloth fell off the donkey's back. The bundle and I landed together in a heap. Grumbling about how far they had to go and the delay and the time, the man stopped and bent over to get the bundle of cloth, and of course I got scooped up along with it. Before I knew it I was stuck on the back of the donkey, heading who knew where.

That was a horrible journey. Day after day in the hot sun! I was sure I would get fried. Luckily there were lots of nooks and crannies in the baggage so I could find a place to hide. And between the morning dew and the donkey sweat and the occasional splash of water while the man and woman were drinking I got just enough moisture to keep from totally drying out.

I had no idea where we were going. It appeared they did not want to go but they said that they had no choice. The woman was very pregnant. The man was very worried. The donkey was smelly and tired. The woman was tired. The man was getting anxious. The donkey just wanted to stop, the man had to keep urging it forward.

Finally we came to another city. Bethlehem I think the man said its name was. It was late in the day. Thankfully the sun was almost down and it was getting cooler. I was starting to shrivel up. The man sounded much more relaxed when he said:
“Tonight we will have a real bed in a real building. No more sleeping on the hard cold ground. And maybe a real meal for a change. I still have family here, I am sure one of them can take us in.”

In her gentle voice the woman said:
“That will be nice.” Then suddenly she groaned with pain. “Joseph, I think the baby is coming, my water just broke.”
By that point I had started to slide down the donkey. And suddenly I was almost washed off by this rush of fluid that came at me. I was able to hold on, and to be honest I was very happy for all that refreshing moisture.

The man made the donkey go even faster then. He led us from one house to another, asking if he and the woman could stay there. They all said no. Finally he turned to the woman and said:
“Its no use Mary, none of my cousins remember me or my father. I guess we will have to try that inn over there”
And so he led the donkey across a square to an old inn. It sounded very busy. There was lots of light pouring out the windows and doors. The man left us on the walk and went up to the door. I could just barely hear him pleading with the innkeeper, saying that his wife was having a baby and they needed a place. He was gone a long time. All the while the woman kept groaning. It seemed she was about to fall off the donkey.

Finally he came back. He didn't sound happy.
“Well they say they are full, and I don't have enough money to change their minds. But they told me we can go out back and stay with the animals.”

The woman said:
“That will be better than the middle of the street. Hurry Joseph, I need to get off the donkey. It is almost time.”
So the man Joseph led us around behind the building. There was a little shelter back there with a few animals tied up inside. Joseph helped the woman off the donkey and settled her on a pile of straw.
“Is that ok Mary? Are you going to be alright?”
All the woman could do was grunt.

Then there were voices approaching. Women were coming. When they got to where we were one of them said:
“Thee innkeeper sent for me. I am the local midwife. I am here to help. Let me see how things are going.”

I sort of lost track for a while then. Joseph started to unload and brush off the donkey and in that process I got flung off into a corner. But at least there I was safe. Nobody would step on me over there. While I couldn't see anything, I could hear everything.

It appears the woman was having her baby. It seems much easier to just lay eggs like us snails do. But apparently that is not how it happens with humans. There was a lot of screaming. The woman who called herself midwife kept trying to calm Mary down. Meanwhile I found a nice little puddle in my corner and settled in.

Still I listened. I heard Mary say that this was a special baby. She talked about a visit from an angel who told her that the baby was God's baby. It didn't sound like the midwife believed her. Joseph talked about a visit he had from an angel who told him the same thing. They talked about how this baby was going to change the world. I have to admit I didn't really know quite what they mean. After all, I am only a snail and really don't know much about the world.

Then it was done. The baby was born. Did I mention that laying eggs seems much easier? Anyway everybody was very happy. The baby let out a loud scream and then quietened down. But there was something odd.

From my corner I saw this bright light shining. And I was sure I could hear music. And for some reason I felt just so happy. Everybody's voices had gone quiet, and all the animals too. At that point I knew I had to see the baby. So I started to move over toward the light.

As I crept over toward the manger two things happened. The light got brighter and the music got louder. At first I thought it was just music but as it got louder and clearer I could hear voices. Sweet soft voices singing the baby to sleep. The pigeons in the rafters joined in the song. I can see why. You just couldn't help but sing when you heard that song. It drew you in somehow.

And the light. How can I describe it. Normally when you spend your life so close to the ground you see a lot of shadows. All the lights are up high and blocked by people or objects. But this was different. The light seemed to just be there, no shadows. I think it was coming from the baby but even then there was no shadow from the manger. The light just shone through everything and everybody.

Just as I started to get closer to the manger, almost close enough to start thinking about climbing up one of the legs, there was a new noise. A bunch of shepherds came rushing up yelling and shouting. They were very excited. And they had big clumsy feet. I had to slide under a piece of wood to avoid getting squashed.

The shepherds rushed in, but as soon as they saw the baby they stopped dead. They just stood there in silence for a while. Then they told a story. They talked about angels appearing to them. They said they had been told that this baby was the Messiah. They said that they had been told to find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped up in bits of cloth – just like this baby here.

The shepherds started to sing “Glory to God in the Highest! Peace on earth, good will to men”. They said this is what the angels had sung to them. They stayed and watched the baby sleep for a while. Eventually the sheep came wandering in and laid down beside the manger. Then the shepherds gathered the sheep and headed back out of town. I could hear them singing and shouting as they went, telling everyone what had happened that night.

Still there was the music and the light. Making things seem so calm, so special.

Just as dawn was breaking I finally got to the top of the manger. And I could see the baby. Even with all that light shining, light that should have blinded me, I could see him. And looking at him I was sure that somehow things would be alright. Even for us snails.

I slid down into the hay he was lying on. And just sat there looking at him, listening to the song, and feeling very content. But it was exciting too. I knew why the shepherds had been singing and shouting. I wanted to dance and sing! Sadly I can't do such things. So instead I sat there and watched and listened.

After a few days the family left. I stayed behind. I had had enough traveling for the lifetimes of many many snails. But every time a new animal comes in, as we rest in the night, I tell the story of the Baby. And sometimes, as I tell it, I hear the song again and the manger seems to glow a little bit...

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Book 7 of 2015 -- A Christmas Carol

Many years ago (like 36) I was in a play for the first time.  The play was A Christmas Carol and I was playing Scrooge.

Over the years I have seen various productions of the story -- everything from Alastair Sim's classic to Henry Winkler in An American Christmas Carol to Mickey Mouse to the Muppets.  And a few years ago I took art in a staged reading of it.

ANd then I found a free copy of it for my KOBO. (I also found a free book of short stories for Christmas by Dickens which is next in my reading plan)

So I thought that maybe I should start a new tradition of reading it each year.

It is a nice little read.  ANd there are bits that you always miss when it is put to the stage/screen.

A story of redemption, a story of what we might do if we knew for sure how people would remember us after our death, a story of social conscience.

Maybe I should broaden my new tradition to not only read it but read it to the girls....

Sunday, November 29, 2015

NaBloPoMo -- Favourite Advent Hymn(s)

Today's RGBP prompt is:
NaBloPoMo Day 29: Best Advent carol and why
ANd what does best mean????  Who decides?

So I am going with some favourites.

My long-time favourite is one called Tomorrow Christ is Coming.  Some people would say it is depressing.  But it is real.  It talks about the darkness in the world.  Best sung in a minor key to mark the tone of the lyrics.  But I don't push for it to be sung in worship every year -- I can sing it for myself.

A more recent favourite is People Look East, which apparently is a challenge to play -- particularly at the speed at which it is intended to be sung.

And this coming Sunday we are singing one that I have always wanted to sing.  She Walked in the Summer by Miriam Therese Winter

And finally, as the Magnificat is a common Advent reading I have to mention my favoured musical setting of it -- the Canticle of the Turning

NaBloPoMo -- Book 6 of 2015 Accidental Saints

This is actually the third book by Nadia Bolz-Weber that I have read. The first was Salvation on the Small Screen and the other was Pastrix.  As it happens this is not what I was looking for when I went to the KOBO site that day, nor was it the only volume I bought, I also got an Anne Lamott and the Rachel Held Evans that I went looking for.

I loved this book.  I mean it is one of those books where the title alone is a good reminder.  Because we do find God in all the wrong people.  And thankfully we are also the wrong people ourselves.  But the content is wonderful.

I have come to believe that we are definitely people of story.  And Bolz-Weber is a great storyteller. This is a book that I may suggest as a study group project in the new year.

Friday, November 27, 2015

NaBloPoMo -- Names

Here is the RGBP prompt for today:
NaBloPoMo Day 27: Explain the name of your blog or regular writing venue.
10 years ago I started this blog. At that time there were lots of blogs with clever names out there, partly because many bloggers were sort of kind of pseudo-anonymous,  And so I needed to choose a name.

As readers of other posts this month may have noticed, my favourite book by a country mile is The Lord of the Rings. At the same time I have long thought that the image of a quest works well (not perfectly but well) as a metaphor for life.  And thus arose Following Frodo.

In fact at one time I tried to change the html for the comment line to say how many "Fellow Questers" there were rather than how many comments there were.  Almost got it to work too.

As it happens, when I did a paper on Christology in LOTR I noted that Frodo is one of the Christological characters (along with Aragorn and Gandalf) in the maybe Following Frodo has a subconscious meaning as well?

Other blogs I have started have had much more mundane names.  I started one for the church in Atikokan (Riverview United) and called it "Riverview Rolls On".  After all, as the web-presence for the congregation it needed to be linked to the congregation.  Then about 7 years ago I started a blog to post worship resources I had written and called it simply "Worship Offerings". And then 5 years ago when I moved here I created a new blog, because I had gotten into the habit of blogging stuff specifically for ministry, like early sermon thoughts, and called it "Ministerial Mutterings" because that is what it is (and Mutterings sounded better than Mumblings).

NaBloPoMo -- Christmas

Every year there is a challenge for the worship leader (or at least this worship leader).

What do you do with a story that had been told so often? How do you keep it fresh when everyone knows it? WHat is the thing that people need to hear about Christmas this year?

ANd here we are, 4 weeks away and I have yet to find my hook for the year.

Which troubles me. Because I would like to feel more planned than that.

BUt I think I might have it.

What would happen if we heard the angel today?  What would Christmas look like if it happened in 2015?

This Sunday, to talk about hope, I am going to ask what the causes of our despair are.  What do we need the angel song of hope to conquer?  What does the birth of Jesus bring to this struggling, warring, broken world today?

YEars ago the an angel visited the congregation of Riverview United to share his account of witnessing the Christmas story.  He may have to come back, only this time not only to witness to a birth 2000 years ago, but also to bring a word of hope and promise to the present.

For unto you is born this day in the City of David.....glory to God in the highest, and on earth -- peace.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

NABloPoMo --- Advent

The world grows dark
Despair fills the news
What leads us forward
What keeps us trying
We light a candle and pray for --

Or at least the Prince thereof
We look for it in vain.
Racism, injustice, whose lives matter?
A second flame flickers into life
We look for the Kingdom
We await the Kingdom, and pray for --

A world filled with tears.
Laughter that sounds hollow
We look for something beyond.
Great tidings, for all the people
We sink into trust.
We live by faith, by prayer,
and our eyes reflect the candle light of --

One flame waits to burst forth
One great driver lies penned up in our hearts.
Dare we let it out?
Can we live its richness?
In the face of fear and hatred
One thing stands alone
And so we commit ourselves to --

A young couple
A full inn
An Imperial edict
And a baby
Shepherds and angels
Great news of great Joy.
THe Prince of PEace
The Child of Love
The Source of Home
Born in the midst of fear and suffering

Thanks be to God.