Monday, November 24, 2008

My Advent newsletter article:

Throughout my time on internship at Messiah, I have constantly found the Arby’s sign across the street from the church intriguing. In case you hadn’t noticed the sign before, it is a giant, iridescent, flashing cowboy hat located directly across Kingston Pike from our prudently lit Messiah Lutheran Church sign. Every day as I sit in my office, I can see the sign. In the evenings when I leave the church, as the sun is setting, the Arby’s sign brightly illuminates the landscape and draws my attention.

The sign’s prominence has grown as we have adjusted our clocks for daylight savings time. The days are becoming shorter, the darkness comes earlier and earlier each evening. Darkness is becoming more and more a part of our reality. As the days get shorter and the nights longer we will head into the season of Advent. In Advent we will gather together on Wednesday evenings for a meal and for a vespers service. And as we gather each week, we will do so in the midst of the darkness. Normally when we gather to worship we do so on Sunday mornings with the sun shining. But during Advent we will gather after the sun sets.

And as we gather to worship, across the street the Arby’s sign will be glowing, flashing, and blinking. In fact, all the way up and down Kingston Pike, bright lights will dominate the darkening landscape. Due, in no small part, to our culture and society’s aversion to darkness. In the darkness there are unknowns, it limits us, we find it fearful. When home alone I find myself turning on more lights to avoid the darkness. Even our Lutheran and Christian traditions historically play into the metaphor that light is good and the darkness is bad. We spend a great deal of time running from the darkness, seeking out the light.

Yet as we head into this Advent season, our liturgy begins to accept that darkness is a part of God’s created world. Darkness becomes a predominant theme in our worship. We acknowledge that sometimes we live in darkness. Throughout the Advent season the dichotomy of Arby’s brilliantly lit sign and Messiah’s humble sign will grow more apparent. We will gather in the darkness and worship in a much darker space than we are used to. I have to admit that I enjoy the acceptance of darkness in Advent, because I find that darkness is a part of our reality. We live in the darkness of faith. We accept the darkness because it is a part of our world, of God’s world.

There is great evidence of God’s presence in the darkness. In John, Jesus meets with Nicodemus in the middle of the night. Luther writes in a commentary of Exodus and the tabernacle that, “God dwells in the darkness of faith, where no light can overcome it.” To live in faith is to live in darkness. There is an aspect of uncertainty with faith. On some levels God remains a mystery to us throughout our lives. At the table and in the world we proclaim a God whose actions are mysterious to us.

Yet in the midst of the darkness, in the midst of uncertainty, we gather together in hope to proclaim a certain truth. The truth of a God who comes and dwells in the darkness of the everyday world we know. It is because of this truth that we are able to gather together in the darkness and the uncertainty of the world. While the rest of the world squirms in the darkness seeking out the light, take comfort during this Advent season that God is active and present in this world, even though it may be dark. As the Arby’s sign lights up the night sky, we gather in the darkness across the street, confident that God is here in this place.

God's Peace,
Vicar Zach

Edit: For more on the darkness, see this recent National Geographic article, Why We Need Night. In particular:

Living in a glare of our own making, we have cut ourselves off from our evolutionary and cultural patrimony—the light of the stars and the rhythms of day and night. In a very real sense, light pollution causes us to lose sight of our true place in the universe, to forget the scale of our being, which is best measured against the dimensions of a deep night with the Milky Way—the edge of our galaxy—arching overhead."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Sunday Afternoon...

Sunday mornings are busy for us (duh). I sing in the choir at the early service. Zach assists and/or preaches at both services and teaches a Sunday School class in between. And in the evening I'm working on schoolwork and usually going to the Tyson House with Zach.

So you can imagine that we like our Sunday afternoons to be a little lazy. Here's a little peek:

Zach in comfy clothes does a little pickin', either before or after a nap on the couch.

Mr. W does his best to get cheese as I make some nachos. There is no real cooking on Sundays.

Zach gets pumped to watch some soccer (note his awesome new Chicago Fire early birthday present from me)!

I don't have pictures of me, but I stopped by the mall for a charity shopping event with some pretty good discounts and entered into a couple of drawings...fingers crossed.

Have a happy Sunday!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Morning at the ZOO!

We spent a wonderful, very brisk morning exploring the Knoxville Zoo. While some of the animals were inside because of the cold, it was awesome to have the place almost all to ourselves. Here's Zach about to check out Black Bear Falls.

Some of the falls at Black Bear Falls are frozen, but very pretty!

Look at those sleepy bears!


My very favorite of the day, the Red Panda. These guys were so cute and friendly, and probably the most active of the animals we got to admire.

Our friend the Raven. We kept saying "Nevermore" to him. He replied, "Tom". We're still not sure what he meant.

Hee hee.

Why hello.

Zach compares his wingspan to that of the Andean Condor.
Condor wins, but Zach's way taller.

Winner of the cutest zoo animal. Turn around baby!

Not the winners of the cutest zoo animals.

See ya later!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mr. Wilson

There are two things you should know about our funny little dog.

1. He has a love affair with cheese. He will do ANYTHING for even the smallest morsel or grated shred. I believe it began when he had an extended stay at my parents' house where dogs get LOTS of treats and meds were (formerly) hidden in bits of cheese. My sweet mother couldn't leave the other pups out, so she served all of them. (love you mama!)

I personally do not give Mr. W 'people food', but he can have what falls on the floor if he gets to it before I do. But I happen to know that Zach sneaks him some snacks when making himself a sandwich. The one really great thing about this whole cheese deal is that when we need him to come with us (say, into the bathroom where he stays while we're gone) all we have to say is CHEESE in a sing-song, high-pitched voice and he comes runnin'.

2. Mr. W is fiercely loyal and sweet. I know that some of you experience him while he's growly and grumpy, but that is usually when he is out of his element. The picture below is proof of his devotion to Zach (maybe because Z gives him cheese??). Some days I open the door around the time I know Z will be returning home. As soon as Mr. Wilson hears Zach's car pulling up he runs to the door and looks out. And as soon as Z gets out of the car, Mr. W is trying to push open the glass door so he can jump on Z and lick him. It is too precious. I love them both, my boys.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Arts and Crafts

So I have this beautiful, multi-colored lamp that I adore. But lately I noticed that it was lacking something...I decided it needed a boost. I rarely have a set plan when I start a project, but I couldn't stop thinking of placing books under the lamp for some needed height and more visual interest. And why shouldn't I use books in my decor; afterall, I am a future librarian. But I didn't want to store my own treasured books under the lamp...oh no, those stay on the bookshelf unless I'm reading them, and then they follow me all over the house so that I can read a bit here or there.

Well then, what to do? Since I'm too cheap to buy hardbound tomes to simply lift up a lamp, I searched the free bins at a local used-book warehouse for discards that the store couldn't sell. While I originally thought that a couple of thick volumes (maybe shabby old dictionaries) would be best, I quickly changed my mind when I found 4 or 5 books in different colors and sizes. But the titles, save for one, weren't exactly ones that I wanted to display as part of my decor, so while at Target for some other errands I stumbled into the scrapbooking aisle. Bingo! I found some ribbon and some vintage-inspired metal labels.

Unfortunately I don't think the pictures that I took of the finished project do it justice (thanks, old camera), but here they are anyway.

Parental visit

Mama and Daddy came for a short visit this weekend, but they had to go back before Sunday since Daddy had to preach. Zach preached, too, and did a super job...I was a big fan of his sermon today. Anywho, here are a few very silly pictures from the weekend. Daddy spent most of his time here being Mr. Fix-it, which I really appreciate right now as I sit next to our now-working fireplace! We also chilled out on the porch for awhile and admired the beautiful leaves. Mama attempted to eat an apple with no hands, but quickly realized that it wasn't very practical. And Zach showed off his portable grill on wheels. Fun was had by all.

Monday, November 03, 2008

more pumpkins

The Tuesday before Halloween Zach and I went to the Tyson House to carve pumpkins with the whole group. It was loads of fun, laughs and pumpkin guts. Here is my pumpkin all lit up, a freehand paisley design:

And Zach with Tyson House's Episcopalian half, Michelle. They each did their denominational seal...and talked a lot of trash in the process... They are all about being ecumenical, but evidently all bets are off when pumpkin carving is involved!

PS. I heard a rumor that Zach might have a new post in the works for ya'll, but don't tell anyone I told you.

Also, thanks to Jackie Young, the student from whom I stole the pictures!