The Day Everything Changed

You would think
The day that changed your life would have at least been
noticeable

Instead you learned about it months later,
after the pieces had fallen,
when the towers cracked and facades fell

but the ripples just go on and on,
don’t they?

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Cost

Double checking the bills, counting the savings, setting aside even a bit more for the future…
Makes me wish a bit
Wish it were all a bit less, a bit easier.

Or did you forget that redemption is costly?

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Hope is Believing In the Seed of a Pine

Hello.

I’m just a tiny little thing. You’ve not met me before, probably never paid me much mind.

But that’s okay. I don’t take up much room.

but you’re full of me, my brothers and I

We make you tick. When we follow the plans we were given from the beginning we can do great things.

We can build a whole you.

But how quickly we are led astray, with ambitions to grow and grow and grow

Let’s be humble and obedient to the plans that were from the beginning.

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The Secrets of Sickness

I remember that day
in the car with Family
explaining, explaining, explaining

How the sickness grows
How it’s behavior is like a disobedient
child, a child who refuses to listen

Trying to explain plainly to a child
(and the adults, of course)
But does it make sense to anyone?

Don’t say too much, too vulgar
He’s young
The other one is young, but not that much

“Growing” we understand
“Misplaced” makes sense
“sickness” we see.
but the totality? The cost and effect?

He says “But why would it do that?”
Why, indeed.

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Flat White

Sometimes I wonder if coffee is
just a bit racist.
It’s either “black”
or “white”
but isn’t all coffee a bit brownish?

I remember that day in the ER
(Because when your oncologist says “Go!”
you go.)
And the buttons on the vending machine
asked if I wanted “whitener” for my coffee
not milk. not cream. not soy
just “whitener”

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Raw

My dad is an operations researcher. His field comes up with all these awesome tools for optimizing things – from industrial operations like cutting fabric to very intimate things like nutrition and time management. Personally, I think these tools are powerful enough to solve many of the world’s problems, from environmental ones to health related ones. Unfortunately, as my dad points out, getting people to use decision tools is hard. We don’t want to.

In my mind this is why a lot of people tend to simplify these things. “Just give up carbs, and your life will be wonderful” or “The solution to a good life is sleeping well.” or “Drink acai berry juice and solve all your health problems!!!” “Eat clean!!” “Eat Raw!!” “Go all natural!! It’s better for you!!!!!”

It blows my mind sometimes. I know science really does show that some types of modern developments are verifiably BAD. For example, chlorofluorcarbons catalyze a reaction that destroys ozone. Vinyl chloride is a known carcinogen. I can look at all of this, and say, woah, humanity has invented some pretty terrible things, that have all kinds of unintended consequences.

Okay – so I can see why this “natural living” back to the basics kind of movement exists. It’s even tempting, really. Get rid of plasics from your life, and decrease your exposure to endocrine disruptors like BPA. Sounds shiny.

Except.

I. Cannot. Swallow. This. Argument.

“natural is better for you!!” [and] “consider the placebo effect!!”*

Really?

No.

I might become a plastic-free, wooden toy, cloth diaper toting momma one day, but I will not be sold on the idea that natural is – be default and always – better. I’m sorry – really? Cyanide is natural. Arsenic is natural. Asbestos is natural. And I ain’t putting that in my house.

When my man or my family gets sick, I will not be sold on “natural is better” or “placebos are great!!” Disease is no lover of man, and cancer is a cruel trickster. When the rubber hits the road I want the best that modern medicine can give. And if that’s some synthetic compound, I, for one, will praise the artificial.

*This is quoted verbatim from a (legitimate?) home remedies website, which shall remain nameless.

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New new!

Hey All,

The City Theologist Blog has now migrated to: thecitytheologist.wordpress.com!

I will continue to post here, though the focus of the content may vary.

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Glorious Now, Behold Him Arise!

Ghost likes to give me a really hard time over the fact that I like to sing Christmas carols, well, any time of year. For example today I was listening to We Three Kings, (Birch Tree Project‘s version). But ultimately, the really good carols aren’t just about Christmas. Let me explain.

Why lies He in such mean estate
Where Ox and Ass are feeding?

Around Christmas we watched the Nativity Story at church. While not entirely historically accurate, it was a beautiful and poignant film.

One part that really stuck with me from the film was a bit with the Magi.

See, early on in the film, only one of the Magi, Melchior, is convinced they need to make the trip to Bethlehem. He finally convinces a second, Balthazar, to accompany him, but the third, Gaspar, flat out refuses.

Eventually he relents, and catches up with them in the desert, saying “You forgot the map.” He complains along the way:

    Melchior:How many days have you come with us on this journey?
    Gaspar: One hundred and four.
    Melchior: And how many days have you complained about it?
    Gaspar: One hundred and five.
    [Melchior looks at him confused]
    Gaspar: … I am counting tomorrow.

Anyway, when they get to the Christ-child, the first two Magi present their gifts with pomp and flouish:
“Gold, for the King of Kings”
“Frankincense, for the Priest of all priests”

But Gaspar. Gaspar gets choked up. He looks startled, as though he didn’t bring a gift for this party, this party for the High Holy King of Kings, God veiled in flesh.

In fact, he’s very near to tears as he offers his gift: “A gift of Myrrh… to honor Thy sacrifice…”

So many Christmas carols have great theology, and great poetry. Many are quote long, and nowadays we often omit verses. For example, I was listening to “We three Kings”

They sang both of these verses:

Born a king on Bethlehem’s plain,
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign.

Frankincense to offer have I.
Incense owns a Deity nigh.
Prayer and praising, amen raising,
Worship to God on high.

But instead of singing the verse about the third gift they spend a verse going “mmmhmmmm mmmmm”. Why did they skip the verse?

That last verse is this:
Myrrh is mine: it’s bitter perfume
Breaths a life of gathering gloom.
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding dying,
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

Why do we skip the Myrrh? One blogger calls this verse “grim”. And it is. If we talk about “grim” things, then like Balthazar, we’re at the wrong party. At least we feel like it. So maybe they skipped it because Christmastime is the hap-happiest season of all! Culturally, Christmas is about “sweet baby Jesus“, who of course “no crying makes”. It’s about remembering uh, stuff. And presents and ribbon. And celebrating FaMiLY!!

Ahem. No.

Why lies He in such mean estate? Why bring the Magi the gift of myrrh?

As Gaspar so aptly puts it: “Thy sacrifice”.

You see, the celebration of Christmas is about the Incarnation. God coming down, giving up His rightful place in the riches of heaven to be veiled in the flesh. And yes, that gives us great cause to celebrate! God became one of us, that He might take our place. Hence: Christmas.

But the Incarnation is not stand alone. Instead it builds up to the passion, death and resurrection of the Incarnate One. In his essay On Fairy Stories, Tolkien says that the Incarnation is the “eucatastrophe of Man’s history”, and the “Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation”. Ultimately Christmas is not about Christmas. Christmas is about Easter!

This is why the myrrh. This is why the grim carols say “Nails, spears shall pierce Him through, the cross be bore for me for you” or “Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding dying, Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.” Behold, the very Lamb of God, the Light of the World, slain and buried.

This is our LORD, our Suffering Savior, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the World. He’s our Man of Sorrows, and one familiar with suffering. I am reminded of in the Magician’s Nephew, when Aslan says to Digory “My son, my son, I know. Grief is great.”* He knows our deepest agonies, He took our sins and sorrows // and made them His very own // He bore the burden to Calvary // and suffered and died alone.”

The very God of Very God, great Deity and King of Kings humbled Himself to the point of death, and became the sacrifice that saved us. This is why we sing of the myrrh, the grimness, the death.

But that’s not all. The song doesn’t end there: “Glorious now, behold Him arise, King and God and Sacrifice…!!”

Behold, He has risen indeed.

Draft begun 20 Dec 2012, completed 19 March 2013

*The Slaughter of the Innocents was mentioned in the film, and seems to be an active topic of late, as in this blog post, or this poem.

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Flowers in the Road Cones

Right now my beloved Twin Cities church is heading out for their fourth annual retreat. They sent out myriad updates about the snowy conditions, and many cautions to drive carefully, much as they had to do two years ago.

Two years ago today I was at the south east corner of Davis and Sherman, walking with my mom to Argo Tea, to meet her friend Diane. My mom was in the area mainly to visit her sister, but she wanted to see some friends too. At least, that was the plan.


Two years ago today it was a Monday. The Wednesday previously my Mom had emailed me saying she was coming to Chicago the next day. Short notice. But, I told her I was already planning on being out of town, and it would be easy enough to come down for the weekend.

I came down on Friday night, must have arrived Saturday morning. We stayed in the Best Western on Sherman. My mom had already been there a couple days. She’d already been over to visit my brother, who was sharing a house with a bunch of guys, guys I was all friends with.

I distinctly remember when I got to the hotel, my mom said “Have you had a chance to see your friend [Ghost] yet?”

I hadn’t.

Two years ago I was in Evanston, because I had come out to be with my mom who was visiting her sister who was sick with cancer, and after we saw my aunt, I went to visit my brother because he lived in town, and the guys were having a game night. I liked to play games, and was friends with the guys.

Two years ago the one guy that I liked had tape over his glasses, not because there was something wrong with his glasses, but because there was something wrong with his eyes.

Two years ago today I was in Evanston, because I had come out to be with my mom who was visiting her sister who was dying of cancer, and I went to my brother’s place because the guys were having a game night.

At the hotel my mom had asked “Have you had a chance to see your friend Tom yet?” because she had, and she knew that he had tape over his glasses because there was something wrong with his eyes because he had had surgery for a brain tumor.


Two years ago I had just come out to Evanston for the weekend. I had come out to be with my mom who was visiting her sister who was dying of cancer, and I had visited my brother’s place because the guys were having a game night, and the one guy I liked had tape over his glasses not because they were broken but because he had cancer.

Two years ago just today I was in Evanston but I couldn’t get back to St Paul because they had had a big snow storm in the Twin Cities, and the Megabus was not running anymore that weekend.

So my mom and I were going to meet her friend Diane at Argo Tea. We were at the south east corner of Davis and Sherman, walking west.

My phone rang. It was my pastor from the Twin Cities. Strange, I thought as I picked it up.

He said “Have you heard about the earthquake in Christchurch?”

Have you… what?

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The Rings: “Remember when you were slaves in Egypt”

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My aunt tells me we come from a long line of preachers. I’m not sure quite how far back that line goes, but I do know that my grandma is a preacher up in the Upper Peninsula.

A while back we were up there for her birthday, and we stayed to hear her preach. Her sermon, I’m sure, had many points, but the main one I remember was a call to remember. In the Law there are many commands. I’m sure you know the litany of laws: “Do not steal”, “don’t eat such and such”, “avoid this and that”, and so on. Yet multiple times these commands are given with a reason: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today.”
Remember. Remember.


We were at a wedding recently where the officiant said something to this effect “As a circle has no beginning and no end, so this ring will symbolize your unending love for one another.” Let me straighten this out. I dearly love my husband. But I am not married to him forever – simply ’til death do us part.

The circular band is not a symbol of our eternal love for one another, for all flesh is grass, and all its beauty like the flowers of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, the wind blows and they are gone, remembered no more.

But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him. As eternal and endless as a circle, so is Christ’s undying love for us.


I remember the day my Ghost-man got down on one knee in front of me. He picked a fabulous ring: subtle and non-ostentatious, white gold, with three stones. So when we went to pick wedding bands it was natural for us to seek something in the same vein.

We went back and forth debating metals. He really liked the idea of titanium rings. I wanted platinum, or at least a stripe of it, because reasons. I reasoned that it was important that we remember what God had done for us, and platinum would help me remember. Ghost was mighty uncomfortable at first. I made the analogy to the Israelites remembering when they were slaves in Egypt. Remembering where we have come from helps us remember God’s goodness.

So we looked and looked at rings. Titanium ones, platinum ones, ones with platinum stripes. What we discovered of course, is that platinum is very expensive, and that most people don’t deal in platinum or titanium, and certainly not both in the same ring.

He warmed up to the idea of a ring with a stripe, and I was convinced away from platinum. After much scouring of EVERYRINGPLACEEVAR!!!, we finally discovered the Titanium Knights. This husband and wife team had more than enough rings for us to drool over. We didn’t have to search for striped rings, and instead could jump right to deciding which finish and which stripe style we liked best. We were ready to order the rings before we even had a venue secured!

So even though the pinstripes on our rings are not platinum they still serve as a reminder of what this mighty God of ours, who brought us out of our own Egypts that we might serve Him in freedom, has done. Stripes remind us of what He bore for our salvation. May we never forget His goodness to us.

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