Monday, December 25, 2006

All is Calm, All is Bright

Like a stone cast in a still river
Pushing the ripples out forever
Redemption rips through the fabric of time
In the cry of a tiny babe (Bruce Cockburn)

God bless us every one.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Book Review

Second Coming Attractions, by David Prill.

This book takes place in the Christian entertainment industry, and follows the struggles of a family-friendly, Christian film company trying to keep up with changing times and tastes. It is a satirical look at the Christian subculture by one who is clearly not a part of it -- this is not a "Christian" book in the sense that neither Prill nor the publishers are part of the evangelical world. It is not a "CBA" book, to use the industry jargon.

As satire, it exaggerates the eccentricities of the Christian sub-culture, and is certainly not an accurate portrayal. But for what it is, it is intriguing -- I think it often good to get a fresh "outsider's" perspective on the little world we inhabit. I don't have enough free time in my life to be able to spend all of it reading things that I already know, or otherwise agree wtih. Art is to be challenging, and some books that I read, I read to be challenged.

I enjoyed this book until a very uncalled-for scene late in the novel that turns the Christians from lovable weirdos to dangerous weirdos. It's a shame, because the work is otherwise a very worthwhile read, if you don't mind your own community's shortcomings being pointed out.

Friday, December 15, 2006

More Than an Icon

This is a work of mine that was published in my church's advent devotional:

There is a 14-inch statuette on my mantle that has been in family since my parents visited Brazil nearly 50 years ago. It’s a statue of Mary, holding her newborn babe. At this time of year you may think that is not unusual; plenty of people display similar pieces of art for the holidays. But this statue is not surrounded by Joseph and donkeys and angels and shepherds. And it doesn’t get put away in early January. Mary retains her place of honor in our house all year round.

I love Mary.

She is my favorite character in the Bible, and there is no close second. There are times I wish I were a Catholic so I could even more open in my respect and admiration for Our Lord’s mother. Mary speaks to me of faith, trust, and belief. My own character pales in light of hers.

Consider the arc of her faith walk. As a young woman, she has a powerful encounter with God that changes her life, and then never doubts what happened. Every moment of her life seems to flow with the will of God. I like to think that if I had had such a powerful experience, I would have responded the same way. Yet I have had a personal encounter with the King, and his Holy Spirit lives within me, supposedly beating in time with my own heart. And still I question, still I waver, still I doubt.

As the events at Cana show, Mary did not always understand what Jesus was doing, but she never doubted His authority: “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5). Is there a better summation of what it means to be a follower of Christ?

In so many ways, Mary is my model. She received Christ in a way that transformed her as completely and radically as I hope my own encounter with Christ will one day transform me.

I love Mary.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Book Review

The City of God, by Saint Augustine.

This tome is considered a classic work of theology, and as I read it I understand why. So much of what we think of as orthodoxy derives directly from this work, and is really the template for Christian apologetics. In this case, much of what Saint Augustine is arguing against is the Roman gods (Zeus and that bunch), and so is not directly applicable today. But the idea of taking on the "gods of the age" and comparing the truth of their claims to the truth of Jesus taught the Church how to face the claims of the false gods that have arisen to challenge Christ in the 1600 years since.

The work is much longer and more academic than The Confessions, the other great literary contribution of Saint Augustine. That is the template of the spiritual biography, and is probably the place to start with Saint Augustine.

I am not recommending that others read this (it is long, and some parts are not applicable and others are dry), but it is important work, and we should know that it is an important work.