I Hope I Never Forget:

“Anything that one imagines of God apart from Christ is only useless thinking and vain idolatry.”- Martin Luther

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


The new site isn't completed, but it's far enough along for me to make the jump. Please come find me at the New Dappled Thoughts.


Friday, January 25, 2008


I’ve been reconsidering the two diagnostic tests I offered below; I’m concerned that they may be misunderstood. It would be especially ironic if a test, which was meant to encourage “spiritual health,” sent people down the most popular bad habit in Western Christendom: transactionalism.

We put all sorts of prices on God’s favor. The check-ups weren't meant to say “Those other guy's costs are ridiculous; Come see our more enlightened rates!” No; not at all. The items listed were meant to be included in the Owners Manual- not on the Sales Sticker.

In each of the quizzes, God’s preemptive love and forgiveness are assumed. They both came in Jesus Christ.

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people." Titus 2:11 (ESV)

It seems to me that Spiritual health isn’t about securing or keeping his love and forgiveness. Rather it’s about more fully enjoying and understanding that love and forgiveness. Spiritual growth is about truly knowing the one God-Who-Is and the creation that reflects his eternal existence as Giver, Gift, and Gifting. The proposed check-ups were meant to help me discover whether growth in that "awareness" was taking place.

Spiritual maturity is about seeing reality as it really is… and feasting in it. It is not about having the right change for the Divine Vending Machine. Knowing (in the most biblical, incarnational, nuptial sense) is the point, not obedience.

Thank you Michael for reminding me.

Monday, January 21, 2008


If anyone's interested in more quackery, then I've come up with another "diagnostic tool." Caveat Emptor !

I think I can whittle the 28 Question Exam down to three.

The first would borrow a memorable phrase from Walter Brueggemann. I’d ask, “Are you striving to be a poet in a prose-flattened world.” Then I’d follow up with, “Is all of your poetry cruciform?” And that would be that.


Where’s the third question?

Well, it’s not a question, really. It would be the circumstance of asking the previous two, just like I wrote them, without any further explanation. Then we’d watch to see how the examinee responded- with frustration or awakened curiosity.

That ought to tell us everything we need to know about the pith of their soul. Maybe not, but it sure ought to tell you something about my view of a pithy soul.


A good friend asked me a good question. He wanted my opinion: What sorts of inquiries might be helpful in determining how an individual is doing spiritually?

There are short exams out there that claim to do just that, but I've not been impressed. My deep seated idolatry would likely make it past the diagnostic filter of those things. That's a problem.

Of course, I'm no expert, but I think the questionnaires that are typically circulated in our churches reveal a very serious compromise with the spirit of this age. Their sensors are searching for the wrong contagion. They focus on efficiency and quantifiable progress. They assume the superiority of busyness and business.

It seems to me that instead of enquiring about the number of tracts a person has handed out or how many small groups they've attended, the truly helpful exam would question how consciously we are attempting to be formed in and by the gospel, and how aggressively we are struggling to resist the counterclaims of those powers who would usurp Christ's throne. Incidentally, I'm not talking about those manifestations of idolatry that "others" are exposed to, but the ones we Americans constantly swim in- radical individualism, reductionistic rationalism, traitorous nationalism, a gnostic disregard for the body, sensual obsession with the body, the commodification (and consequent dismissal) of all things human, mysterious and awful, and ...summarizing it all- chasing after the American dream of rabid consumerism.

My check up might look something like this:

1. Do you regularly eat with God and his people?
2. Do you immerse yourself in the four Gospels?
3. Do you find ways to plant the flag of the gospel in your own "small yard?"
4. Do you regularly ask yourself what those flags might look like?
5. Do you resist the salvific claims of Mammon, Mars and Aphrodite, which are present in the American Dream?
6. How?
7. Is your identity clearly rooted in your Baptism or your American Heritage?
8. Do you draw on the rich cultural distinctives of the church to enact and strengthen your identity?
9. Do you forgive your enemies?
10. Do you gossip?
11. Do you hold grudges?
12. Do you strive to see Christ in everyone that you meet?
13. Do you strive to be Christ to everyone that you meet?
14. Do you keep a Sabbath?
15. Do you strive to rid yourself of a deistic two-storied world?
16. Do you try to cultivate an attitude of astonishment and wonder?
17. Do you resist the need to explain everything, tightly?
18. Is The Faith confusing and challenging?
19. Do you prepare yourself to notice when “God makes a pass at you?”
20. Do you worship God with your body, as well as your heart and mind?
21. Do you Fast?
22. Do you Feast?
23. Can you tell the stories of God’s people?
24. Does the doctrine of the Trinity appear to be immeasurably practical?
25. Are you struggling in all these things?
26. Do you make regular confession?
27. Have any of these points gotten you in trouble?
28. Lately?

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Christians believe that god- the one, true, living God, was most clearly revealed by allowing himself to be tortured, bled and stuck dying to a tree by his enemies….and all for their sake. It puzzles me when people who claim to represent and speak for this God mock humility, attempts at reconciliation, understanding and forgiveness.

Apparently Christ had it wrong; a life typified by self sacrificing love isn’t the mark of true godlike humanity, rather the distinctive characteristic is the compulsion to conjure up a bull’s-eye just between the eyebrows of everyone who disagrees with you.

The disagreement might be over the most tremendous question imaginable: which god is God, and the ways of interacting are as varied as the answers given. While Christ allowed those who disagreed with his answer to slaughter him and in so doing enacted his faith- “God,” he said before dying, “Is like this towards his enemies,”- Pastor Chuck O’Neal believes that the gospel requires that we refuse to accept overtures of discussion and entreaties of grace, and in so doing enacts his own answer: “God is the one who has no time for people who are wrong.”

Surely such a response reveals a vision of God closer to ancient Rome's Mars than the prodigal father of the gospels.

These hawkish Christians don’t need life or death disagreements to justify the bull’s-eye, either. It's just as likely to appear on the foreheads of brothers and sisters who disagree with them over issues that have remained unresolved since the church began. It might even happen at a conference, between men voluntarily sharing a podium for ostensibly the same gospel cause.

The occasion, big or small, doesn’t matter; or rather it does, because every disagreement, every offer of discussion, every difference of opinion is an opportunity to enact the “god-as-Mars gospel.”

“Can we talk…” draws a resounding “Those are fighting words!”

“It believe…” elicits an abrupt “Those are fighting words!”

“Don’t you think…” Fighting words!

“I’m sorry.” Fighting words!

In response to a group of brave Muslims who offered to begin a conversation, the signatories of A Christian Response extended a presumption of sincerity, asked forgiveness for failing to live up to the faith they proclaim, and encouraged these fellow human being to live up to their own faith commitments.

Did the signatories deny the uniqueness of Christ? No, they recognized the common ethical injunctions of the distinct faiths.

Did the signatories affirm Mohammed’s claim of prophetic legitimacy? No, they pointed out explicitly that both faiths teach the same ethical requirements of love towards God and neighbor. They affirmed that the bombing of innocents is not the way the battle should be fought.

Must their words be interpreted to affirm the identity of the Gods’ of Islam and the Christian church? If the word "god" indicates an abstract category of transcendence, yes. There can be but one ultimately transcendent being. But in regards to which personal transcendent deity, no.

Muslim murders attacked their Western opponents with planes and violence. There is a declaration of a particular vision of God in that.

After failing to take the initiative in working towards the reduction of bloodshed, the church embarrassingly extended grace to the enemy who asked for it. There is a particular vision of God in that.

There’s little doubt that a great war is on. I suspect that none of the signatories of the Christian Response would deny it. The real question is about how the battle should be fought. Which weapons should fall most readily into our armored hands. What default response should an adversary...or an impressionable disciple, expect from us. An individual’s conception of the God they worship will determine the answer.

I’m loosing patience with “Christian” leaders whose constant apocalyptic battling, morph the God of the cross into a weaker version of a violent Allah, and I’m ashamed when those who do not know my God, seem to image him more clearly than his own ambassadors.

Grace is not compromise. Respect is not denial. Measured comments are not universal affirmations, and the gospel doesn’t rule out attempts at charity.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


This is an odd topic for Epiphany, but C. Michael Patton is treading where few dare to go. He asks, "Do you believe in Ghosts?" I'm so glad for his honest question.

I’ve often wondered at how strongly those in the tradition of my childhood affirm that Ghosts can not exist! It was also a surprise to find how distinctively Evangelical such a commitment seems to be.

It seems to me that the few affirmations of scripture regarding the intermediate state leave a lot of room for further activity. Surely to be present with the Lord doesn’t necessarily imply that we are inactive, sedate or unconcerned with this world. The whole of classical Christianity seems to think otherwise.

Might our Lord have work for us to do in the mean time? Might there be something to learn? My Anglican tradition affirms that believers who have passed continue to exist somewhere, and so we pray that they continue to grow in love, grace and knowledge. And what does any of this have to do with those who die apart from our Lord’s covenantal claim. We believe they suffer somewhere; do we know for sure this has no manifestation in the realm of our sense?

How do we know?

That’s the point of wonder for me: we act so sure about that which we know very little- especially when we have the testimony of so many people and cultures. Do we know from the paltry number of verses available that the thousands of experiences of honest people must be wrong?

The whole question of "Are there ghosts here?" also seems to be built on a two-storied view of creation- earth is here, heaven and hell are way over there, and never the twain shall meet. But if heaven and earth are further dimensions of reality so that we are constantly surrounded by an unseen reality, might the question of whether those who died in the Lord are still “here” be a moot one? Wouldn’t the answer be “Of Course! And sometimes they step out and say hello.” Likewise, should we be surprised if we wander into a part of the landscape where those who died lost (and so continue to be so) congregate.

Perhaps Heaven is up, but not North; Hell is down, but not South.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth. Thou didst divide the sea by thy might; thou didst break the heads of the dragons on the w aters. Thou didst crush the heads of Leviathan, thou didst give him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
Psalms 74:12-14

Dragon meat is expensive, and it has a “grown up” sorta flavor, too. If for no other reasons than these, we only serve it twice a year. You can be sure that if dragon is on the menu, something big is going on at the James’ house.

Michaelmas is marked with a roasted tongue of the defeated foe. And a few months later Theophany makes stewed Dragon Jowl an appropriate celebration. We like ours over rice- preferably Jasmine.

Seeing that in Christ’s baptism the serpents, leviathans and dragons of the deep had their heads crushed, we will glory in the victory by consuming the vanquished enemy. There is very little that is edible on the head of the dragon- too much bony plate and grizzle. But the jowl muscles are plentiful and quite good. There are of course the brains- usually service scrambled in eggs, but I don’t like ‘em and they’re really bad for you. The jowls, on the other hand, are just the thing.

I’ve ordered a single slab of jowl from our Romanian source. There are cheaper sources, but bottom line: I trust their butchering.

Skill, experience and a concern for those who will be eating your work are necessary when preparing Dragon Jowl. Years spent next to the creature’s fire gland guarantee an intensely hot and spicy dish, but you don’t want any (and I mean any!) of the gland itself. Oh no! A particularly painful death, there. The point being that you need to know your Dragon monger.

I know a good one, if anyone is interested.


I can remember a particular afternoon. I was walking with my son towards the pond; we had fishing on our minds. He was grinning up at me because I was singing St. Patrick’s breastplate, and he thought that was funny.

I'm sure it was.

The connection with this older brother seemed precious at that point in my journey, so I was making the effort to learn the hymn that bears his name. I had the lyrics in my pocket and needed to refer to them often. I can still see the muddy “worm dirt” of our bait smeared on the white sheet.

Fishing poles, afternoon warmth, St. Patrick, and my boy . It's a special memory.

Anyway, I can remember meditating on the words of the first cycle. Everything made wonderful sense- chiefly for the catholic (and so evangelical) concern of the prayer. Everything clicked with one exception- the line where I claimed Christ’s Baptism as my own. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with that. Perhaps, you can see what I mean. Leave it out and what is lost?

My upbringing and then current religious tradition had prepared me for claiming our Lord’s incarnation (though inadequately, for sure), his death and burial and triumphant ascension and glorious return, but baptism in the Jordan river….?

The answer lay in a full and firm affirmation of the third cycle of the hymn. Starlight, sun’s ray, moon’s luminance, wind’s deep howling, lightning’s flash, rocks of earth and salty seas are each included in my blessing for the sake of the mystery of the Christian gospel. I read this as poetic…fluff. It was a colorful way of saying that God works all things together for my good- even using stuff to do it.

Of course that is true, but I think it makes a smaller utilitarian point about something that is much more grandly the case. God loved the cosmos! He loved it enough to dream it up and call it into existence. He loved it enough to put it on. He loved it enough to take it into himself for all eternity. The gospel is more than a proposal to be hawked to the mere acceptance of individuals. The gospel is a proclamation to be shared with every creature. Rocks, worms, stars and mankind are radically affected by the truth it proclaims. Jesus, the crucified and risen king of Israel, now sits on the throne of all of creation.

This matters for you and me and our families. That's for sure.

But it also has meaning for the lawn outside, the animals in our homes that we call by name and those outside, who are made strangers to us by Eden's curse. The farthest nebula and deepest oceanic ravine have a Sovereign, and this champion has promised their final perfection and deliverance.

The feast of Epiphany/Theophany completes the declaration of Christmas morning’s promise: No more let sins nor sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground. He comes to make his blessings flow, far as the curse is found!

The early church saw Christ’s baptism as the beginning of the undoing of the triumph of the curse. Water was the most basic element of creation. The story in Genesis affirms that everything was called forth from its depths. In the curse of the great flood, God unmade all that he had made, and returned creation to a formless and void expanse of water. It was an anti-creation occasioned by the sin of men and women. With mankind’s rebellion came the sting of death, and the water over which God had hovered in creative love, became a symbol of chaos, destruction and the very enemies of God and his people.

It was with this context in mind that God stepped down into the dirty waters of the Jordan. Through the primordial element, God himself entered into our afflicted and bent world. From this point on we read of demonic opposition in the ministry of our savior. Apparently, the dangerous proclamation of Christ’s baptism in the Jordan was understood by the demonic forces that had usurped heavens rule in the good creation that began in our God’s prodigal mind.

So often we see the gospel accounts of Christ’s healings and provisions as simple instances of compassion towards hurting individuals, and they were certainly that. But there's a greater fullness in seeing them as a working out of his baptism. The rule of chaos, evil, disease and pain was being rolled back. A shock wave of purity was issuing from the ripples that his holy toes caused in the muddy water. A miracle was occurring…and continues to occur. The kingdom of God was advancing. Satan’s kingdom must make way.

This transformation was otherworldly and not according to the principles of this world. In the land of Adam, corruption was the contagion. Like my dirty fingers on the whiteness of St. Patrick' hymn, filth contaminates purity. Lay a clean cloth in the mud and the cloth becomes dirty. Touch a putrid piece of rotten meat to a table and the table becomes unclean. But with the coming of the kingdom, this was stood on its head. An unclean woman touches the hem of the Lord’s garment and his cleanness washes over her defilement. How can this be? Purity as contagion. Health and life flowing into the heart of darkness and death. What must it mean that our Lord descended into the depths of creation? Satan and his demons knew, it is our responsibility to make sure our children know.

This is why we will bless the waters this coming Sunday…Lord willing. We will fulfill the charge given to us by St Mark to preach the gospel to every creature. By speaking clearly to the foundations of the world, the entire cosmos will hear the good news of Christ’s victory.

Friday, January 4, 2008


All: + In the Name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! Amen!

Leader: Peace be to this house!

All: And to all who enter it in this jubilee year of God's favor and grace!

Reader: A reading from the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

All: Glory to you Lord Christ

Reader reads Matthew 2:1-12

All: Praise to you Lord Christ!

Leader: The Wise Ones came from the East to worship the Lord Jesus.

All: And falling at his feet and beholding the radiance of his glory, the glory he had with the Father before the world began, they gave him precious gifts of mystic meaning.

Leader: They presented him with gold because he is the world's only true King, the one merciful Lord worthy of our gifts, our service and our vows! They blessed him with incense that sweet-smelling smoke might evermore rise up from our altars to the Throne of his majesty, worshipping and blessing and magnifying him, the one, true God! They offered him myrrh because it would soon anoint his immaculate body, preparing it for his burial.

All: Our Father, who art in heaven....

Leader: Gracious God, you revealed your Son to the nations by the brilliant Star of Bethlehem! O Uncreated Light, Morning-Star of Epiphany and the world's New Dawn, lead us, warm our hearts, fortify our wills, enkindle our devotion to you, enlighten and illumine our inward vision! Lead us, guide us all the days of our earthly pilgrimage until we are received into your glory. We implore your great mercy through Jesus Christ our Lord!

All: Amen


Bean Queen or King: Lord Jesus, through your Incarnation and birth in true human form, you have made all the earth holy. We now ask your blessing upon this simple gift of your creation — chalk. We use it as a tool to teach our children, and they use it as a tool in their play and games. Now, with your blessing, may it become a tool for us to mark the doors of our home with the symbols of your wise servants who, so long ago, came to worship and adore you in your first home.


With chalk, the Bean King or Queen makes this inscription on the lintel: 20+C+M+B+01. The letters stand for both the traditional names of the Magi- Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar- and "Christus Mansionem Benedicat," meaning "May Christ bless this dwelling." The numbers are for the year of our Lord.


Leader: Eternal God, + bless this home. + We thank you for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your son received the baptism of John and was anointed by the holy spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life. Sanctify this water to be a sign of our baptism, a token of our consecration to Christ's service. May this water + made holy on this Day by the baptism of Christ + drive far from this house and all who enter it all snares and assaults of the enemy. Wherever this water is sprinkled may safety be guarded and hospitality be made manifest. Grant that faith, charity, and good health triumph over evil in this house. May your Word always be cherished and obeyed here. We give praise and thanksgiving to you, and to your Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

All: Amen

The leader blesses him/herself with the Epiphany water and then all who are present. Exchange the sign of peace. All move through the other rooms of the house, sprinkling the rooms, blessing God, and singing the very Anglican “We three Kings of Orient Are.”


Christmas is drawing to a close. It’s always a bit sad, but I’m so thankful for the extended period the church has provided for this celebration. I need to remember that it’s not over yet, and it ends with a bang. Twelfth Night and Epiphany morning are approaching. Theophany will follow days later, and we’ll get to bless the waters beneath which crushed dragons lie! There is still much to look forward to before life returns to its normal pace and tenor. Though not part of Christmas.

Epiphany forms the bookend to this side of Christmastide. It is a celebration of God’s revelation of the gospel to those who were once afar off- the Magi. It’s the proper time to place the wise men around the manger. More ancient than Christmas, this celebration is known as Theophany by our Eastern brothers and sisters. It commemorates three “in your face” revelations of Jesus as Christ and Lord: the magi’s worship, Christ’s Baptism and the miraculous transformation of water into wine by our Savior’s thought. This feast day brings to fruition the awesome gift of the Nativity by making manifest the word made flesh.

There is simply too much to squeeze into a single day, and so our family celebrates the Magi’s worship on Epiphany morning and our Saviors baptism on the following Sunday.

I’ll try to give you a heads up on what we do on Theophany Sunday so that you can play along with us, if you want, but there is plenty to prepare for this coming Epiphany morning.

This is how we do it: Christmas ends on it’s twelfth day-January 5th. This is called Twelfth Night and was once the biggest party of the year. We’ve often talked of planning such a party, but it’s never materialized. Anyway, this means that Epiphany morning (January 6th) falls one day outside of Christmas. Doesn’t bother us, though. We have saved gifts for opening on this blessed morning. Our way of doing this has been to open stockings on Christmas morning and any gifts from the grandparents that may have arrived. Gifts from brother and sisters are opened throughout Christmastide. For example, Bekah has an evening to distribute her gifts, Hannah has another, etc. This makes the season truly exciting for the children and keeps the generosity of the giver from being swallowed up in everyone else’s giving.

We’ve always kept the children home from school to celebrate on January 6th, and they’re up early for the gifts under the tree on Three Kings Day. Later in the day, we’ll have a celebratory meal (though not as large as Christmas. We’ll save that for next Sunday and the celebration of our Lord’s baptism) where the significance of the day is discussed. The one requirement for the meal in our home is that we finish it off with a Bean Cake. This is a cake into which Sandi has baked a bean. Whoever finds that bean in his or her slice is crowned Bean King or Queen for the year. Their services are required through the coming year’s celebrations in various ways. Basically the rule is that whenever someone has an honored role in a family celebration, it goes to the Bean Queen to preside or appoint. But we don’t have to wait for later in the year; there is an immediate task to perform. This is the traditional time to bless our homes. We do this by chalking our doors. By that I mean we write a blessing in chalk above the door of the house. Gathering by the front door we look at last year’s visible blessing, still smeared across the lintel. We then recount the blessings and protections God has provided in answer to the chalky prayer. The blessing is then erased by last year’s monarch, and a new one is drawn by the newly crowned bean king. Hear is a suggested liturgy for chalking your doors; you might wish to create your own. Here is another. This is getting a bit long for a post, so I’ll put the liturgy we’ll use up as a separate post

The blessing itself takes this form- 20 + C + M + B + 08. The year for which we are asking God’s blessing (in this case, 2008) is interrupted by crosses and the letters C, M and B. These letters bring to mind both the traditional names of the three Magi- Caspar, Melchior and Belthazar- and the request that we are making- “Christus Mansionem Benedicat,” Christ bless this dwelling.

Some people might have trouble with the likely fictitious names (dating from the 9th century), but I believe this is part of the heritage that belong to my children. Every people has their own legends and yarns. Think of George Washington cutting down the cherry tree. Whether his axe ever hit wood isn’t the point of telling the tale. It’s simply a story every American child should know; and its knowing helps form them into Americans. The same is true of our kingdom’s stories.

The blessing of homes used to be commonplace and more elaborate. I’ve read of Epiphany being called a smoke night because incense was carried through the house and every room blessed. Seems like a cool idea. We might try it this year. I think the kids would remember me going through the house with a smoking shovel of incense. Here is a liturgy for those who would like to ask for God’s blessing on their home in this explicit way,

Here is a family tradition I’ve recently heard about. I’m sure our children would enjoy it. I’ll post it just as I found it on this site:

“About an hour ago I celebrated the second annual 'placing of three cards' on our front sidewalk.

On the front of the card: A picture of the Magi and 'To you who pass by our house: Please take one—just one'. There's a quarter taped on each card and each is sealed in its own clear zip-locking small plastic bag.

Inside the card: 'There's an old Pennsylvania Dutch custom that on the eve of the new year, three silver coins are placed outside the house where the Magi can find them and cast their blessings as they travel toward Bethlehem seeking the Babe. The blessings of the Magi are peace, love, and health to all who live therein. Please take one of the quarters. It's unlikely that the magi will be coming through Winston-Salem on their way to Bethlehem, and maybe you can spread the blessings of peace, love and health in your life, at home or work or wherever. And by your taking the coin, the Magi will leave their blessing at our house, too'.

I just peeked out the front door. They're all three still there. That's the way it was last year, but when I got up (customarily late) on New Year's morning, one was gone, and by the time I had fixed us a celebratory breakfast and eaten it, the other two had gone. The blessing of the Magi had been spread abroad."

Like I said, this is getting way too long. Let me encourage you to get your bean, cake mix and chalk ready, because the Word was made flesh and we beheld his glory- the glory of the only begotten of the Father!

Thursday, December 27, 2007


We're two days into the celebration of the incarnation of our God, and this year's feasting has been particularly poignant and enjoyable at our home.

The first three days of Christmastide- after Christmas day- are spent in honoring the Comites Christi or Companions of Christ. Yesterday was devoted to the first Christian martyr- St. Stephen. His story is found in the book of Acts. You might remember this feast being mentioned in the Christmas Carol, Good King Wenceslas. We spent it together at home and dedicated the evening meal to this murdered deacon.

Today is the day of the beloved disciple-St. John. Sandi and the girls are going to an English tea room for lunch. They have a small gift exchange among themselves. Tommy and I will have a “boy’s afternoon out.” It’s traditional to bless wine on this day. That’s the plan for this evening- here is the blessing we will use.

The Blessing of Wine on St. John's Day

Lord Jesus Christ, Thou didst call Thyself the vine and Thy holy Apostles the branches; and out of all those who love Thee, Thou didst desire to make a good vineyard. Bless this wine and pour into it the might of Thy benediction. Grant that every one who drinks of it may, through the intercession of Thy beloved disciple the holy Apostle and Evangelist John, find courage and strength to pursue the Way, be renewed in the Truth of the Word made flesh, and at the last enter into Life everlasting, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

A glass of wine is then passed around the table. As it is passed, the giver says:

"Drink to the love of St. John."

And the recipient answers:

"For where love is, there is God."

In addition to the Merlot, I’ve started fermenting six gallons of pepper wine this Christmas season. It's only four days into the primary fermentation stage- an appropriate time to ask for God’s blessing on it, me thinks.

Tomorrow those children who were murdered by King Herod will be remembered. On Holy Innocents Day we hope to thank God for each of our children, blessing them:

"O God our Father, whose Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, once embraced the little children who were brought to him, saying, "Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, and their angels always see the face of my Father;" Look now, we beseech thee, on the innocence of these children: Bless them and protect them this night and throughout their lives; (the parent makes the sign of the cross on the forehead of each child) in thy grace and goodness let them advance continually, longing for thee, knowing thee, and loving thee, that they may at the last come to their destined home and behold thee face to face; through Jesus Christ, the Holy Child of Bethlehem, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."

Then, taking the head of each child in both hands, a parent says to each one: May God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit bless you and keep you both now and for evermore. Amen.

Here is a wonderful resource for those who wish to keep the fullness of the Christmas Feast.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Loving God,
we thank you for
the example of St Nicholas,
who fed the hungry,
brought hope to the imprisoned,
gave comfort to the lost,
and taught the truth to all.
May we strive to imitate him
by putting you first in all we do.
Give us the courage, love and strength of St Nicholas, so that, like him, we may serve you through loving our brothers and sisters.

—by Amy Welborn