Hey Philly! I’m hosting an epic House Show on Friday. You should come.


I’ve been a little busy recently, but I thought I’d drop a quick post and let everyone in the Philly area know that I’ll be hosting a house show at my place this upcoming Friday at 7pm. There will be opera, fiddles, harmonies, sing-a-longs, food, drink, cider, cheer, and merriment. (Oh, and maybe a little celebrating for my recent engagement.)

It’s been far too long since the last time we had one of these shows, but each has been better than the last. It all started when I first moved into this house in Center City Southwest, and we noticed that there were some birdhouses nailed to our back patio fence (above). And so, The Birdhouse was born, and the music followed shortly thereafter. This time around, we’re having the following artists perform:

Come support the artists and have a good time. For all the info, check out the Facebook Event page.

For Advent 2013: a Free Liberti Prayerbook & Devotional


As of this past Sunday, the Christian Church finds themselves in the season of Advent. I don’t know about you, but this season has snuck up on me (admittedly, I was a little occupied). I’ve been working on a new Advent Mixtape, but it’s not done (you can find last year’s here). I have an idea for an Advent series, but I haven’t fully thought through the concept (see past series here). I’ve had devotionals and reading plans set up on my phone to do, but I haven’t done even one day of them all this week.

But one of the beauties of the Church Calendar is that it doesn’t depend on us. The realities pointed to in these weeks are objective realities that happened (and are happening) in spite of us, and not because of us. Another beauty of the Calendar is that it happens every year, so even if we don’t engage one year like we’d like or hope, there’s always next year.
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Weekend Photo Challenge: Illumination (of Richmond & my Soul)


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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Merry Christmas Season!!!


As of today, it is Christmas season!

Today, we turn our minds from the sin that required God to take human form in Jesus Christ, and we give ourselves the freedom to respond with unfettered joy to this fact. We give gifts in response to the gift that’s been given to us; we sing songs in response to the heavenly angelic song that inaugurated his birth; we eat good food with others in response to the body of Christ–the bread of life–having come among us.

Today begins the culmination of our thinking and meditating these past 4 and half weeks. This Advent, I’ve been trying to connect this time to parts of life that we may not usually associate with it. And so, if you have any time and interest, here are those posts from this year’s Advent series (and by the way, holy crap. I had no idea how much I had written this year until I made this list).

May they help you enter into this next Church season with depth and joy. (You can also check out last year’s series, if you want.) Continue reading

Advent Transition Music: Christmas Eve “Vespers” by Sergei Rachmaninov

vespers-1-art-sabawala-paintingPerhaps Sergei Rachmaninov’s greatest piece, All-Night Vigil (usually simply called Vespers) is a choral presentation of the texts used during Eastern Orthodox all-night vigils. These vigils are usually done on the Eve of major church festivals, such as…Christmas Eve!

As I said earlier today, Christmas isn’t simply a day; it’s an entire church season. It’s a season where we transition from repentance and meditation to celebration and joy. And to aid in that transition, many traditions have all-night Vespers to help us move from one season to the next.

And so, to encourage us in this transition time, I’d like to offer you my favorite recording of one of my favorite pieces ever, Sergei Rachmaninov’s Vespers, performed by the Swedish Radio Choir. You will need Spotify to play the playlist below (you can purchase the album as well). Have fun:

[image credit: “Vespers 1” by Jehangir Sabavala]

Advent & Christmas: they’re not the same thing (Ode to a Christian Calendar)

Munch-melancholyWell, it’s the Eve of Christmas season. Yes, that’s right, Christmas is not only an entire season in the Church calendar, but it’s a season that is distinct from Advent.

I know many in the global church know this fact, but I only learned it a couple of years ago, and each year it seems I have to be reminded. (Hopefully with this post, I can start internalizing it some.)

I find it interesting that we in the West have not only removed the “seasonal” aspects of the holiday, but have reduced this nearly two-month-long Advent/Christmas time into a single day on which we put most of our attention.

So why is the calendar structured like this? And what do we lose when we boil this down to one day?
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Art & Advent’s Intellect: Barnett Newman’s “Black Fire”

barnett-newman-black-fireIf you look at the top of every page on this site, you’ll notice there is a prominent header image. If you’ve paid any sort of repeated attention to the posts on this site, you’ll notice I have different headers for different themes and series. Lent, Easter, Women in Ministry, The Bible, Theology, Art, Personal, Political, Writing, and my upcoming Guatemala posts each have their own distinct headers.

Throughout this year’s Advent series, I’ve used a cropped version of the above piece as the header image. It’s called Black Fire by Barnett Newman. Until recently, it hung for many years in the abstract expressionism room in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I’ve spent much time sitting in the presence of this piece, contemplating it’s meaning.
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Advent & the Connecticut Shooting: Ross Douthat’s “The Loss of the Innocents”


In the same spirit as today’s earlier post by Austin Ricketts, I wanted to share with everyone this incredible piece by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat (one of my favorite writers), entitled “The Loss of the Innocents”. It’s a beautiful and haunting reflection on the human condition and the theological senselessness inherent in events like last week’s mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown Connecticut. He then concludes with these beautiful words of Advent hope in the midst of such darkness:

In the same way, the only thing that my religious tradition has to offer to the bereaved of Newtown today — besides an appropriately respectful witness to their awful sorrow — is a version of that story, and the realism about suffering that it contains.

That realism may be hard to see at Christmastime, when the sentimental side of faith owns the cultural stage. But the Christmas story isn’t just the manger and the shepherds and the baby Jesus, meek and mild.

The rage of Herod is there as well, and the slaughtered innocents of Bethlehem, and the myrrh that prepares bodies for the grave. The cross looms behind the stable — the shadow of violence, agony and death.

In the leafless hills of western Connecticut, this is the only Christmas spirit that could possibly matter now.

Read the full piece here.

Advent & Humor: stop taking yourself so seriously [casual fri]

santa-baby-jesusIn one of the posts in last year’s Advent series, I posed this question:

“Why [did Mary, Joseph, and Jesus] flee to Egypt? If they stayed and Herod killed the child Jesus, would that not still be Jesus, the Son of God–the Incarnate God–dying unjustly at the hands of a Roman provincial governor attempting to cement the reign of the powers and principalities of the world? Why go to all that effort to wait 30 years later for the same thing to happen on a cross?”

The answer we discussed was that Christ’s purpose for coming was much bigger than the cross. He did not come just so he could die. As St. Paul said, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of this Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

Jesus couldn’t die when he was so young, because the benefits we receive from his Advent are not limited to his death, but also his life. We receive his life of lived-out righteousness as our own when we come to know him.

I thought about this yesterday when pondering stand-up comedy.
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Herman Bavinck on the Advent Election of Mary [QUOTE]

In a comment on yesterday’s post on Mary, occasional blog contributor Austin Ricketts posted this quote, another gem by Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck:

[the] entire preparation of the incarnation in the preceding centuries is concentrated, as it were, and completed in the election and favoring of Mary as mother of Jesus. Mary is the blessed one among women. She received an honor bestowed to no other creature. In the undeserved favor granted her, she far exceeds all other people and all other angels. Rome was right in maintaining this; those who deny it are not taking the incarnation of God seriously…Among all Protestants who confess the incarnation of the Word, Mary is held in high esteem. She was chosen and prepared by God to be the mother of his Son. She was the favored one among women. Christ himself desired her to be his mother, who conceived him by the Holy Spirit, who carried him beneath her heart, who nursed him at her breast, who instructed him in the Scriptures, in whom, in a word, the preparation of the incarnation was completed.

Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3, pp. 274; 281-282

Advent, Evolution, & Absolution [RE-POST]

Today, I’m re-posting a piece I wrote exactly a year ago for last year‘s Advent series. During this year‘s, we’re seeing how the Advent event affects parts of our lives that we usually don’t associate with it. Today, it’s Advent and Evolution. You can follow the series here.

It’s Advent. A time where we especially orient ourselves towards rejoicing and celebrating the fact that God did not remain far off and merely create a “legal” or “dogmatic” satisfaction for the plight of his creation and creatures. Rather, he broke into it and came into his creation and among his creatures. In this year’s Advent series, we’re exploring how, in this Coming, Jesus took on our creaturely formcare-taking functioncomprehensive fallenness, and communal formation.

First, God took physical, human, creaturely form. In the study I did–and subsequent lecture I gave–on Beauty a couple of years ago, I defined “Beauty” as the attribute of something that expressed complexity simply. Is not this God-in-human-flesh (theologically referred to as the Incarnation) the most beautiful of all miracles to take place? The Infinitely Complex God inhabits the simplest of human forms: a child.

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Advent & Mary: Ordained as Prophetess, Priestess, & Queen


This Advent, we’re seeing how this season affects parts of our lives we usually don’t associate with it. Follow the series here. This post is also filed in the series “Catholics Aren’t Crazy” and “Women Leading Stuff in Churches“.

If a woman is revered by the church for giving the faithful their savior, then surely women are good enough for leadership roles in the church to save it. –Vishwanath Ayengar

I ran across that quote in some letters to the editor of Newsweek a couple of years back in response to a cover story arguing that if women were ordained as priests in the Catholic Church, there wouldn’t have been any sex abuse scandal. I don’t know if that’s true, but the quote is insightful and (hopefully) thought-provoking.

I can hear conservatives now: Well, God used a donkey to speak! He used Caiaphas the high priest to unknowingly prophesy about Jesus before sentencing him to death! He used Judas to bring about Christ’s crucifixion and therefore our salvation! It doesn’t mean that they were fit to be ordained pastors!

Yeah, yeah, I get it. This post isn’t necessarily meant as a “proof” or “defense” of women’s place in ministry (though it’s a part of my on-going series on the topic). I just want to revel a bit in some divine mystery. Can we all just put our swords down and marvel?
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Advent & Politics: The Government is on His Shoulders


This Advent season, we’re seeing how the Advent event affects parts of our lives that we usually don’t associate with this time. You can follow the series here.

The book of Isaiah is a minefield for biblical studies, mainly because of the development it seems its contents went through to get to its final form. It appears to be a strange stitching together of many writings, perhaps by many people, for several different purposes. But in all of its complexity and mystery, there is one theme that it consistently holds throughout its contents: politics. The political movements of the nation of Israel and the nations around it–and God’s movement in and through all of it–occupy most every chapter of the book.

Interestingly, this is also where many of the most dramatic and explicit messianic prophecies are found–specifically Advent prophecies. When telling the Christmas story, the gospels quote Isaiah (I believe) more than any other Old Testament book. Images of virgins, Emmanuel, Davidic lineage, “roots of Jesse”, and John’s “voice crying in the wilderness” all find their source here.

There seems to be an intimate connection between politics and Advent.
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Free Advent Mixtape Available Now!


Update: I got some inspiration and updated the Mixtape, changing the song selection/order a little bit from when this was originally posted. Sorry for the inconvenience.

A new church season, a new mixtape. You can find this year’s Advent Mixtape above, in the appropriately-named tab, or just click here. It’s free, and you can stream, download, or share it.

It’s very similar to last year’s except with some songs removed, added, and re-ordered. I definitely think this one is better. (Let me know what you think!) Be sure to read my post introducing Advent this year, including ways than you can more intentionally participate in this season. I hope this Mixtape can play some role in your time as well.

Here’s some more info, from the “Advent Mixtape” page:
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