“Damascus” (a poem for the Feast of Paul’s Conversion)


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A troubled heart troubled still as I walk in the valley of the shadow of death but Im the shadow of that valley as I strike them with one rod while another comforts them why wont they die as I strike them with My Left as your right upholds them all Ill kill them inhale Ill kill them exhale Ill kill them inhale so on and so forth I walk as the dust of My sandals covers their face while Mine is clean Mine is pristine following none but MySelf on this dusty Damascus road and
then—
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My Pilgrimage to Israel & Palestine: Day 1


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A couple of days ago, I kissed Philadelphia goodbye, boarded a plane, and began the nearly 24-hour process of traveling to the Middle East for a two-week long trip to Israel and Palestine. Today was Day 1 (I’m 7 hours ahead, so while I’m about to go to bed, most of my readers are probably getting this in the afternoon).

I’m part of a team of students in my seminary program who are engaging in this Intercultural Immersion trip, where we will be spending time throughout Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Anyway, I’m sitting here at the end of the first day. I’m exhausted physically, as well as emotionally. I had no idea just how disconnected my religious faith has been to the real world. I love historical things and enjoy walking in others’ footsteps and inhabiting their space once more. And yet, for the most important part of me, I have never had any material interaction with the physical, tangible stuff of my faith’s own story.

I realized today that I have learned to live my Christian life in such a way that I have no mental frameworks for how I’m processing this. I took for granted that I could have a thriving, deep, spiritual existence without having seen and walked the lands and places from which the beliefs were born. And yes, we can have such thriving spiritual lives without visiting this land.

But (to overuse a phrase people use all the time when they come back from this region), I feel like the Bible has transitioned from a silent, black-and-white movie, to a full HD Imax one. It’s crazy. I’m still processing it all. It’s surreal, to say the least.
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Welcome to Epiphany. (And a free Mixtape to celebrate!)


epiphany-mixtape-coverIf you’re just looking for the mixtape, click here for the official Epiphany Mixtape page.

From now until Lent, the Church Calendar is in the season of Epiphany.

Basically, this season seems like it’s sort of a Church Calendar “junk drawer” to meditate and celebrate on all the other parts of Jesus’ life that happened between his Advent/Birth and his Death.

And don’t misread that. In describing it that way, I hope that doesn’t diminish this season for anyone.

Perhaps the most precious doctrine of the Christian faith for me is that of the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness. That’s a fancy way of saying that Jesus lived out a righteous life, and his very own righteousness is given to me as my own. And so, with a complete and perfect righteousness in hand, I don’t have to bear the weight of shame or condemnation. This is so beautiful to me.

But this Righteousness in which I am dressed was not created out of thin air, nor was it created by Christ at the Cross, or even at his Resurrection. It was built throughout his life of obedience to His Father, as the light of his character and life grew brighter and brighter in the midst of our darkened world. It’s this part of his life that we celebrate and meditate upon in this season.

And this is amazing. As I’ve written before, if Herod had been successful in killing the infant Jesus, there would be an essential aspect of our salvation that’s missing. This is why Epiphany is so important.

And so, to try and help me spend some time meditating on this season, the best way I knew to think deeply about all this was to re-post Epiphany mixtape I first posted last year.

To read more about the specifics of Epiphany, the mixtape, and to listen/download it yourself, you can either read below or just go to the official Epiphany Mixtape page.

[cover image credit: the photo on the mixtape cover is used with the gracious permission of photographer and friend of the blog, David Schrott]

Epiphany: a great time to talk Magi & biblical errancy


advent-nativity-icon This Church season of Epiphany primarily celebrates the coming of the wise men to see the young Jesus. Now think of the popular conceptions of the “wise men”. I imagine the picture that comes to mind is much like the one above: a quaint manger, farm animals, some shepherds, and the three wise men, presenting their gifts to the newborn Jesus.

I’m not sure how many of us know how wrong this is.

The wise men did not visit Jesus in the manger, their paths did not cross at all with the shepherds (that we know of), and, contrary to some of the most well-engrained church and musical traditions, their number is not given–“three” is just a guess. This guess is probably based on the fact that three gifts were offered (though the 6th-century Armenian Infancy Gospel, the source of the Western tradition of the wise men’s names and ethnicities, lists far more than just three gifts). The Eastern Church tradition even says it was twelve.

And yet, for over a thousand years, on into the present day, these traditions concerning the Wise Men have persisted. We know the sources of these traditions, we know when they became popularized, and we know how they’ve been used in Christian preaching and church life through the centuries. Every Advent season, even the most cursory drive in the suburbs will offer nativity scenes peppered with three wise men adoring the manger-laden Christ.

This reminded me of Jannes and Jambres.
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The Door to the Holy of Holies: on Love & Epiphany [QUOTE]


Love is therefore a great good, and of goods the first and most excellent good, since through it God and man are drawn together in a single embrace, and the creator of humankind appears as human, through the undeviating likeness of the deified to God in the good so far as is possible to humankind. And the interpretation of love is: to love the Lord God with all the heart and soul and power, and the neighbour as oneself.

Which is, if I might express it in a definition, the inward universal relationship to the first good connected with the universal purpose of our natural kind. Other than this there is nothing that can make the human being who loves God ascend any higher, for all other ways of true religion are subordinate to it. This we know as love and so we call it, not divisively assigning one form of love to God and another to human beings, for it is one and the same and universal: owed to God and attaching human beings one to another. For the activity and clear proof of perfect love towards God is a genuine disposition of voluntary goodwill towards one’s neighbour.

For he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, says the divine Apostle John, cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20). This is the way of truth, as the Word of God calls himself, that leads those who walk in it, pure of all passions, to God the Father.

This is the door, through which the one who enters finds himself in the Holy of Holies, and is made worthy to behold the unapproachable beauty of the holy and royal Trinity. This is the true vine, in which he who is firmly rooted is made worthy of becoming a partaker of the divine quality. Through this love, all the teaching of the law and the prophets and the Gospel both is and is proclaimed, so that we who have a desire for ineffable goods may confirm our longing in these ways.

Saint Maximus the Confessor in a letter to John the Cubicularius (from Maximus the Confessor by Andrew Louth)

See other Epiphany thoughts here. Get the mixtape here.

Weekend Photo Challenge: Illumination (of Richmond & my Soul)


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This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “Illumination“. One of the biggest benefits of this weekly photo challenge is the chance to go through some of my old pictures and bring to mind favorite memories from the past.

The picture above was taken in 2006 in Richmond, Virginia while I was in college. It was after one of my favorite Richmond traditions: the Grand Illumination.

Throughout the winter holidays, the skyscrapers in Richmond are all lined with lights, lighting up the skyline in a way that it is not during the rest of the year. These lights are turned on all at once at something called the Grand Illumination, which takes place in early December. Not only are the skyscraper lights turned on, but the annual Christmas display at the Omni Hotel is turned on also. This display has lit-up mechanical reindeer, a giant Christmas tree, and the bell tower plays Christmas music on the hour.

After watching the Grand Illumination lighting from the bridge to Belle Isle, one of my favorite spots in all of Richmond (see picture below), we drove through the streets to see everything up close. The picture above was taken around the Omni Hotel as we passed their display.

But that’s not all this made me think of…

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Epiphany is here! So what? (And another free Mixtape!)


epiphany-mixtape-coverIf you’re just looking for the mixtape, click here for the official Epiphany Mixtape page.

From now until Lent, the Church Calendar is in the season of Epiphany. Up until this year, I had never really given much thought or focus to Epiphany. In fact, I hadn’t ever really understood Epiphany until this year. I knew it had something to do with light and with Magi, but beyond that, I didn’t get it.

Basically, this season seems like it’s sort of a Church Calendar “junk drawer” to meditate and celebrate on all the other parts of Jesus’ life that happened between his Advent/Birth and his Death.

And don’t misread that. With me saying that, I hope that doesn’t diminish this season for anyone. Perhaps the most precious doctrine of the Christian faith for me is that of the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness to me. And this Righteousness in which I am dressed was not created out of thin air, nor was it created by Christ at the Cross, or even his Resurrection. It was built throughout his life of obedience to His Father.

And this is amazing. As I’ve written before, if Herod had been successful in killing the child Jesus, there would be an aspect of our salvation that’s missing.

And so, to try and help me spend some time meditating on this season, the best way I knew to think deeply about all this was to make another Church season mixtape. If I’m being honest, these things are more for me than all of you out there. This one particularly, though, helped me think through Epiphany and try and create something from it. I hope you enjoy it.

To read more about the specifics of Epiphany, the mixtape, and to listen/download it yourself, you can either read below or just go to the official Epiphany Mixtape page. Let me know what you think!

Here’s some more info, from the page:
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