American Folk

Discovering new music is always an interesting journey -most of the time a new band is uncovered in relation to an artist that is already familiar (thank you Pandora), but sometimes the discoveries come out of left field like a glow in the dark lawn dart late at night. The latter best describes how I came across American folk musician Amber Rubarth, but I am getting ahead of myself.

A backwards story: hardware to music

Short of watching KEXP videos on YouTube, I typically rely heavily on Pandora and friends to discover new artists and genres of music. However, sometime around March of this year, getting an itch to upgrade my existing stereo system, I started researching speakers and the many sundry other things required to build a 2-channel system from the ground up. Now almost 4 months later I still do not have a stereo, but do have a much broader exposure, for better or worse, to the niche world of people who call themselves “audiophiles” (An audiophile is a person who is enthusiastic about high-fidelity sound reproduction). My research began purely to try and understand hardware related things like speakers, amps, etc -but one of the fun parts of this endeavor actually ended up becoming learning about the music used by these said “audiophiles” to evaluate the systems they were reviewing. I do not remember where I first saw Amber Rubarth mentioned, but I know it was one of Steve Guttenburg’s many videos, where he talked quite a bit about the amazing sound of her Chesky recorded albums. Chesky is a label based out of New York City, known for their uncompressed, live recordings which are often done in churches and other venues with naturally good acoustics. They also use binaural microphones for the recordings to simulate the way the human ear receives sound, giving the recordings a very natural signature and also making them pretty epic for headphone listening. After falling down the rabbit hole of research, I decided to see what Chesky and Amber’s albums sounded like.

Folk music is not foreign genre to me, there have been times when the Avett Brothers or Lumineers would cycle through my listening sessions, but it was never a staple. That being said, I have quite enjoyed the sound of Amber Rubarth’s music -acoustic with a heavy reliance on guitar and stringed instruments for many of the arrangements. The Chesky recorded albums “Sessions from the 17th Ward” and “Scribbled Folk Symphonies” both have a very real sound to them -with the instruments and vocals being reproduced with a sense of real presence in a room. If you enjoy folk music, or like bands in similar genres, then Amber Rubarth’s albums mentioned above are definitely worth checking out -relaxing to listen too with a beautiful sound. She has made many more albums than just the ones listed above; however, I tend to re-listen to the same basic pieces over and over and over and over after discovering something I like -so I cannot comment on her other discography since I haven’t actually listened to it yet.

Strive
Just Like a Woman
Ball and Chain
You Got Through

An Interview with Arrietty (#2 in a TMW Interview Series)

The weekend is here and that means it is time for another writer’s interview here on TMW. In case you missed the memo last week -for four consecutive Fridays TMW will be posting a new interview with each of the contributors here on the blog (scroll down a couple posts to see last Friday’s entry). This week’s interview is with Arrietty -ENJOY!!

Interview

  1. When you were younger, what motivated you to write?

My early writings were primarily poetry, and my two main sources of inspiration were my cat and rain.  I would say my general writing motivation was sharing things I thought were interesting that I learned about in books or school.  Poetry was a niche all to itself in my early writing life, and my motivation to write poems was trying to craft something beautiful that expressed what I felt about the people, animals, and nature around me.  And I also loved to make my poems rhyme, no matter how nonsensical it made the result, so rhyming was perhaps another motivation.

  1. In the beginning, what types of things did you enjoy writing the most?

Poetry was my favorite type of writing and in some ways still is, although I also really enjoy reviewing books and writing literary essays.  I wanted to write stories, but they were always a lot harder for me, so I generally found poetry more fun.

  1. Now that you have been writing for several years, how have those initial motivations to put pen to paper matured and changed?

Well, I don’t just write to rhyme anymore.  I have also developed a passion for nonfiction genres, from essays to reviews to personal reflections.  Fundamentally, my motivations to write have remained what they were when I was little: 1) writing to share information I find interesting and 2) trying to make beauty with words.  However, my subject matter and inspirations have broadened and matured.  I would say that a new, more mature motivation is my desire to help people through my writing.  I think that developed a lot because of my work as a university English tutor.  Sharing my knowledge about English and grammar and helping students improve their writing turned out to be a lot of fun.

  1. How have the types of things you write changed as you have grown more adept in your capabilities?

As I’ve grown more confident, I have tried to expand the topics I write about and push my comfort zone by trying different genres.  My work has become more focused on writing advice as I have grown more adept in my writing capabilities.  I have also learned to be more flexible about how I write.  I try to be more informal in some of my writing and create a more personable voice, even though third person is my de facto setting.

  1. Do you feel that worldview makes a difference in the approach an author takes to their writing?

Yes, I think worldview shapes every aspect of life, including an author’s writing.  What we think about and write about, how we think and write, our perceptions of other people and ourselves, and the topics and messages we choose to write about all stem from our view of the world and where our hearts lie.

  • Why do you think this way?

I think worldview influences an author’s approach to writing because worldview affects people at their core, and writing very often comes from the core of who we are—or at least aspects of writing do.  The way we see the world will shape how we portray it for others and our motives for writing in the first place.

  • If yes, how has your worldview shaped your approach to the craft?

As a Christian, I aim to bring glory to the Lord by showing the beauty of creation through my poetry, the image of God in my stories about people, the truth that God defines in my essays and devotional pieces, and the wonderful, God-given intricacy and loveliness of language both through my writing itself and in my essays and reflections about language.  To take a page out of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, I seek to “[r]ejoice in the Lord always” and cause others to do so too (4:4).  I also desire to bring to the forefront and cause others to think on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable,” for as Paul tells Christians, “[I]f there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).

All around us, but especially on blogs and other rabbit holes on the Internet, I see so much negativity, criticism, and plain meanness.  I rarely read comments but once got carried away scrolling through 200+ comments on a blog post because they were such nice, touching, uplifting notes.  It all felt a little too good to be true, and sure enough, by around the 150th comment, everything fell apart and people started giving know-it-all advice and then retaliating and name-calling.  I had to laugh a little because I needed this dose of reality, this sharp but sad reminder that sin can permeate even the “nice” things in life (for some reason, “nice” makes me think of that song from Into the Woods; what does that say about my worldview?).

While I cannot erase the blot of sin and should certainly not try to pretend it doesn’t exist, I think it’s important to fight darkness with beauty, light, and truth.  Helping readers grow as writers, sharing information that might be useful, focusing on the beauty that surrounds us even during challenges and sorrows, and bringing joy or laughter to others are a large part of what drive me to write.

  1. In your opinion, are there personal benefits to practicing writing beyond just exercising your creative outlet (let’s ignore writing for financially motivated reasons)?

Of course!  I think practicing writing has quite a few benefits.  For me personally, exercising my writing skills helps me clarify my thoughts and forces me to learn more about subjects that interest me so I can share more about them.  Writing opens up new horizons and lets us explore where our imaginations can take us, and if we never practiced, we would never go anywhere.  Few people accomplish anything great without practice, and I think that’s true for writing as well.  We need the trial and error, the writing muscle stretches and pain that come with regular practice if we are going to reap the rewards of sharing our ideas effectively or reaching our readers.

  1. You like to write poetry -what would be some advice you have for those interested in learning how to write poems of their own?

First, write about something you know well or that interests you.  Don’t just choose a topic because it seems poetic.  Also, you don’t have to always use a scorched earth strategy.  Some topics deserve to be poeticized countless times, like rain.

Second, do your research, whether it’s observing a bird or discovering what material the Statue of Liberty is made of and the fact that the green stuff that appears when copper oxidizes is called “verdigris.”

Third, focus on rhythm and strong word choices before you try to rhyme.  The former are usually much more important to good poetry than the latter.

  1. What poems would be in your top five of all time, and what do you find makes them particularly impactful/enjoyable/appealing?

That’s a really hard question.  I’m not overfond of superlatives, but I’ll give you five of my top poems (not necessarily the top five).

“I Never Saw a Moor” by Emily Dickinson.  I love Dickinson’s simplicity.  She captures in this tiny poem the essence of imagination and faith and the worlds waiting to be explored within the covers of a book.

“My Kate” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  This may seem like an odd choice.  Probably literary critics would call it old-fashioned or accuse Browning of supporting the Victorian patriarchal ideal for women, but “My Kate” has always touched me with its sincerity.  This tribute reminds me of people I know who do good for others in little, invaluable ways that leave an indelible mark and a hole in life that can’t be filled after they’re gone.  At its core, this poem feels to me like a tribute to ordinary people who change the world in their own important way.

“Daddy Fell into the Pond” by Alfred Noyes.  I’ve loved this poem since the first time I heard it.  It reminds me of my family and tells such a clear, funny story that makes me feel like I’m there.  I also have fond memories of this poem because I once used it in a Father’s Day card and had the best time pasting clipart raindrops all over the cover of the card.  Daddy probably didn’t appreciate the card all that much, but the poem was about a daddy, so I felt that it was appropriate at least in its main character, if not in its tone or general details.

“The Darkling Thrush” by Thomas Hardy is beautiful.  I love the picture of a tiny bird seeing joy and hope in a world that is dark to man’s eyes.  This thrush and its uncowed cheerfulness remind me of the Carolina wrens I enjoy watching.  God’s creatures are often wiser than we are.  Hardy’s religious beliefs are a matter of debate and he seemed to struggle with Christian ideas throughout his life.  But this poem is a reminder that even broken men can reflect God in their work, if perhaps unintentionally.  Hardy shows how he struggled with darkness and longed for a hope that a bird could see but he could not.  While this poem expresses the author’s doubt and struggles, it also reflects the beautiful Hope that really does exist and should elicit joy from our hearts as well as from little songbirds.

“Opportunity” by Edward R. Sill.  This is a very rousing poem and tells a story that rings with knightly romance.  My favorite part, though, is the theme about not making excuses but using that which is given to fight for a cause, even if winning seems hopeless.  Kind of reminds me of Gandalf’s advice to Frodo in Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring: “‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.  ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times.  But that is not for them to decide.  All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’”  When given an opportunity, even if it’s not the gleaming sword or the grand adventure we might have wished for, the real test of who we are is what we do with it.

  1. Who is your favorite contemporary author, and why?

If by contemporary, you mean someone who’s still alive and writing, I think N. D. Wilson is the winner.  His books are fun adventure stories, and I love his quirky writing style and creative twists on fantasy worlds in The 100 Cupboards series and The Ashtown Burials.  I think what makes his crazy stories feel real is that he draws on his own experiences as the initial inspiration for his settings, characters, and adventures.  This especially comes through in Leepike Ridge and Boys of Blur.

Some authors who are close contenders in their own way would be J. B. Cheaney, Brandon Sanderson, Gail Carson Levine, Robin McKinley, and Gary D. Schmidt, but none of the authors have quite the consistent pizzazz of Wilson, and I also don’t think they influenced my writing or literary tastes quite as much.  If Lloyd Alexander were still alive, he would rank up there too.

  1. What are you reading currently?

Glad you caught me on a good day!  My reading list varies quite a bit and might give people a weird impression of my taste in books if I were to answer this question on another day.  I’m currently listening to Howards End by E. M. Forster and reading Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber, Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller, and How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill.

  1. What does your continued pursuit of this craft look like going forward? Do you have any specific long-term goals or aspirations?

I want to write more stories and fiction in general.  One of my goals is to try my hand at new genres, gain more mastery over dialogue and character development, and build larger story arcs.  Mystery, romance, adventure, and fantasy are all genres that I want to explore, but we’ll see how brave I am.  For a more short-term goal, there’s a story sitting in my drawer that is covered in crossed-out sections and handwritten notes and is patiently awaiting an ending.  Another of my goals is to write a long poem.  Perhaps not an epic poem, but something with a larger narrative than my usual ones.  With my poetry and my fiction prose, I feel like I am more of a sprinter and need to train to become a long-distance writer.

Probably my biggest aspiration is to create a story and world that I believe in and feel is so real I can step into it and look around and just write about what I observe happening in it.  I’m discovering that being a writer takes a lot of believing, imagining, and suspending one’s disbelief.  And at least a pinch of something magical.

Toppi

Unique and well-executed art styles always make comic books more interesting to read in my opinion, and as much as everyone claims you should not judge a book by its cover, that is often my first criteria for deciding to read a comic book. While there are a plethora of incredible stylesranging from highly cartoony, to beautiful watercolor, to realistic—, inked linework has always captivated me, and artists such as Alex Raymond, Milton Caniff, Hal Foster, Mark Schultz, and François Schuiten are among my favorites.

While ambling down the rabbit hole that is YouTube a few months ago, I came across a video by Earl Grey reviewing a list of his favorite Euro graphic novels (he is from Germany)and among the list was “Sharaz-De: Tales from the Arabian Nights” by the Italian artist Toppi. The illustrations were entirely in black and white, with intricate texturing and hatching, all within pages that contained some of the most unique panel compositions I had seen in a comic format. As soon as the video was over I knew a trip to Amazon.com was in orderand a short while later a hardcover copy of The Collected TOPPI – Volume One: The Enchanted World was at my doorstep.

Toppi began his career in the illustration world during the 1960s and has since become well known in comic circles and influenced many other artists. The refinement of his artistic execution and composition definitely reflects his interest in illustration, and makes for a dramatic reading experience:

My specific book is a collection of short fantasy works Toppi created. The stories themselves read much like very dark fairytales, and while interesting in their own right, are overshadowed by the artist’s incredibly unique style. With this collection, the reader can simply look at the artwork and appreciate the whole book on that merit alone, without reading a single bit of text. There are many examples of his work on the internet, and some of his publications have made it to the U.S.albeit in limited quantities. But his style is unique throughout:

Comics from the European continent have become an area of interest for me as of latetitles such as Blacksad, When the Wind Blows, Samaris, and Matteo to name a fewall done with different styles and subject-matter. Toppi’s work is unique unto itself, and one of the few that can stand on its visual artistry alone. If you love well-inked drawings, and appreciate unique but effective composition, I would recommend looking into Sergio Toppi.

References

Earl Grey: https://youtu.be/yi6e4TQ7jC8?t=61

(all images are from the below)

Toppi, S., Melloul, J., Kennedy, M., & Sienkiewicz, B. (2019). The collected Toppi. Volume one, The enchanted world. Lion Forge.

Harmonica

Every day as the tracks were laid you could see him stand

Leaning against an old telegraph pole, harmonica in his hand.

As the hammers fell like rhythmic drums and train whistles blew

He drew from that harmonica a low, mournful tune.


He had followed the railroad as long as anyone could remember

Always watching and playing, in heat of summer and December.

Nobody seemed to know where, if anywhere, he called home,

But on the night breeze they could hear his mournful tune.


Somebody said he was a decorated calvary officer from the war,

Returning home to a burned home and three graves in 1864.

He stood in the sun, hot as wrath, gold glinting on his hand,

As it gently held and caressed the low, mournful tune.


Then came the day when his harmonica fell still,

And leaving his pole, approached three strangers on a hill.

A cry rang out, and glinting steel hinted at dark intent,

A Crack, crack -percussive melody’s staccato tune.


Out of the dust and smoke surrounding this man-made hell,

There remained no sharp silhouette upon the hill.

They found him there with a smoking gun in his hand

And three blackguards silently lying dead in the sand.


Hammers fall like rhythmic drums and train whistles blow,

Telegraph poles extend to the horizon row upon row,

And from time to time, nobody can seem to tell from where,

There comes that mournful tune upon the night air.

When the Wind Blows

“What’s the use of worrying? It never was worthwhile. So, Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag -And smile, smile, smile.”

Jim Bloggs singing to his wife Hilda

The Berlin Wall fell 31 years ago—the conclusion to a long and brutal struggle. It marked the end of an conflict that twisted the world for 42 years—dominating public policy, spending, and aggression, all the while casting the shadow of nuclear proliferation across the entire globe. Now, in all honesty, I had to look up when the Cold War started, and more significantly, when the Berlin Wall fell—and while there may be many out there who do know these dates, I would venture a guess that my experience is probably more normative than any historian would be happy with; but, for my own generation, and probably well before me, the Cold War is a fixed piece of history—not personal, but a story we read in a history book. It is equivalent to reading about the symptoms of cancer from a textbook, as opposed to having that personal relationship with a loved one or friend fighting for their life. One is impersonal/dispassionate, the other incredibly emotionally charged. It almost feels experientially as if the purported words of a top world leader of the mid-twentieth century ring true: “The death of one man is a tragedy; the death of one million is a statistic.”

Raymond Briggs, a British author and illustrator, is most famous for his children’s books, such as The Snowman. However, despite rising to fame related to his works for children, in 1982 he published the adult graphic novel When the Wind Blows. This novel stands in a unique place for fiction -humanizing an era that is often relegated to clinical analysis and anti-Vietnam diatribes. Set during the Cold War, the novel follows Jim and Hilda Bloggs, an elderly couple living in England. They have a single son, residing in the city, but are otherwise unattached and enjoying the retired life. Life is normal, that is until the USSR launches a nuclear assault on the West, spiraling England, and the Bloggs, into an apocalyptic unknown. Now, When the Wind Blows is unquestionably a critique of the effects of nuclear escalation and government bungling, but not in an angry or overly political way. Unlike the majority of media put out during the Cold War decades which relied on anger and fear as the primary emotions to drive change (give Black Sabbath’s classic song “War Pigs” a listen sometime), Briggs relies on pure, everyday, normal, humanity to drive his point home. As Jim and Hilda navigate a post-fallout reality, the reader is shown the little ways that they care for one another, fuss over each other, and love one another, even as the world around them is crumbling. Raymond’s time as a children’s illustrator really shines on these pages, combining his simple and pure illustrations with the broken and sobering subject-matter gives the panels an emotionally haunting quality that is unique and powerful.

When the Wind Blows is not a ‘happy’ story; in fact, it is the most beautifully tragic graphic novel I have ever read. Raymond did his homework whenever writing the 40 some-odd pages the story spans, and his depictions of such things as disaster preparedness, radiation sickness, and deprivation are eerily accurate and emotionally haunting when painted in his unique art style. However, the most impactful aspects of the story are easily the main protagonists Jim and Hilda: their interactions, and gentle, loving, ‘normalness’. Tragedy and destruction were not new in 1982 when Raymond Briggs published his book, and they are no stranger today either, but what When the Wind Blows forces us to remember is that catastrophe is never just a number -every number has faces behind it. If we forget that, then we agree with Josef Stalin that “The death of one man is a tragedy; the death of one million is a statistic.”

To Give an Account of One’s Stewardship with Joy, and not with Grief

While reading excerpts from various missionary writings for a class recently, the topic of Christian stewardship was raised. The Bible has much to say upon the subject of course: from Jesus’ parable concerning the talents (Matt. 25) to Paul’s admonishing the Ephesians to “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (5:15-16), amongst many others. In contrast to this, man’s culture is in most ways antithetical to the concept of stewardship; especially in the West, the idea of being beholden to anyone, or held responsible for something that you do not own, is viewed as reprehensible. However, the stewardship of the Christian is merely an extension of the Gospel and offers a freedom that no “individualism” or materialism can ever match.

During his time preparing for the mission field, Hudson Taylor was pointed by a friend to study the passages in the Bible pertaining to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Upon further study, Taylor became convicted. He writes in reference to his study of Scripture, “I learned, too, that it was their [new testament saints] privilege, from day to day and from hour to hour, to live as men who wait for the Lord; that thus living it was immaterial, so to speak, whether He should or should not come at any particular hour, the important thing being to be so ready for Him as to be able, whenever He might appear, to give an account of ones stewardship with joy, and not with grief” (320). Taylor goes on to describe how practical this hope was–and the ways that it drove him to, at various times throughout his life, give away earthly possessions that could be better used by others. While this specific example pertains to physical goods, it points to a deeper reality. Taylor wanted to give a good account to his Master of how he had used the ‘talents’ that he had received. This idea of stewardship, of wisely investing the resources God has granted us, has far reaching consequences for Christians–even to the point of life itself. The Psalmist says:

“My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,

    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,

    the days that were formed for me,

    when as yet there was none of them.” (Ps. 139:15,16)

I love those two lines “in your book were written […] the days that were formed for me”. The days of our lives are a gift, the number of pages that they span are determined, and nothing will alter God’s good providence in completing the story He has for them. What a relief that our lives will never fall short, nor overstay, God’s good purposes for them.

Christians stand at a unique point in the world. The reality that God has made us heirs with Christ (Eph. 2), who are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (10), frees us to pursue hard things knowing that 1) our lives are not our own and 2) we do not labor in our own strength. Christians throughout history have been able to face war, famine, persecution, death, and plague with a genuine sacrificial love for others. Having a loving Father, who will carry us faithfully to the term of our days, frees us to leave behind the fears and selfish motives of the world, and love and serve others without reservation. In light of the hope of the Gospel, and the certainty that the span of our lives exist in God’s merciful hand, let us not engage our time in unbelieving fear, but may the reality of the coming of our Lord cause us to pause and consider, as it did Hudson Taylor, how best we may use the time we have been given; that we too, as the saints who have gone before, may “give an account of [our] stewardship with joy, and not with grief” on that last day.

Works Cited

Taylor, J Hudson. “The Call to Service.” Perspectives On the World Christian Movement, edited by Ralph D Winter, Fourth ed., William Carey Library, 2015, pp. 320.

In Him, Life

The Incarnation is one of the most joyous, miraculous, and astounding events to happen in all of human history. Easily trivialized to little more than a sentimental gesture towards the birth of Christ, it represents with unreserved nakedness the love of God towards a people alienated from his presence.

A Fall and a promise

The Scriptures document thoroughly the fall of mankind. From the first sin when “the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate” (Gen. 3:6) to the first curse:

So the Lord God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.” (Gen 3)

The subsequent pages of scripture outlining man’s rebellion against his creator demonstrate man’s utter sinfulness in light of God’s complete holiness. However, almost as soon as man’s rebellion is revealed -a more powerful good is made known. Even as he is cursing the serpent, God makes a promise -the first of many -that culminate the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ:

15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel. (Gen. 3)

And down through the ages His promises continued. To Abraham, ” in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:3) and David, “And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” (2 Sam 7:16).

When Everything Became as Nothing

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1)

The incarnation is diametrically opposed to the way of the world: in a culture where success is measured by upward mobility in work, family, influence, power, etc -humbling oneself from a position of affluence seems unreasonable, if not unthinkable. After all, even Adam and Eve, in the fall, sought only their own elevation and glory. Not only that, but the incarnation represents a condescension of such magnitude that it cannot be fully understood or appreciated -no equivalent comparison exists within the observable cosmos. Returning to the quote from John 1, the implications are quite stark: Christ has been and will always be; he is the one who spoke and brought ALL things into existence -every star, galaxy, planet, creature, and atom. This is who it is who became a cold, poor, crying baby. The following passage from one of Augustine’s sermons is quite helpful thinking about God becoming man:

“Man’s maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey;
that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.”
– Augustine of Hippo (Sermons 191.1)

In Him, life

The Incarnation only makes sense inside the context of fall, promise, and redemption. As Paul says in Galatians 4, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” So this Christmas, as we consider the meaning of the day, let us wonder at God’s love for those who rejected him: that he would become one of them, suffer as one of them, be humiliated by them, and murdered by them -all so that “He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom 8:29).

A Prayer of Thanks

Christians are called to rejoice and give thanks at all times, and in all situations -and how can we not if indeed the Gospel is true? As Paul says,

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” ~1 Thess. 5:16-18

This Thanksgiving, the holiday can merely be a break from routine, a time eating lots of good food with family (not a bad thing!) -but it can also be more. While Christians are called to give thanks always, this day provides an opportunity to intentionally praise God for the ways he has worked during the past year. There are any number of ways this can look -but the following from the Book of Common Prayer has helped me as I’ve contemplated God’s working in the past year, and maybe it will be beneficial to you as well:

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have
done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole
creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life,
and for the mystery of love.

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for
the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best
efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy
and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures
that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the
truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast
obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying,
through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life
again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and
make him known; and through him, at all times and in all
places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

~Book of Common Prayer -Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all.