Jan 5 2016

The Epiphany Blessing: 20+C+M+B+16

Adoration of the Magi, a Beuronese painting at Conception Abbey

Adoration of the Magi, a Beuronese painting at Conception Abbey

Epiphany (Greek for epiphaneia, manifestation) is the holy day remembering Jesus Christ’s revealing to the world and has been celebrated since at least the mid-fourth century on January 6th. It remembers the revealing of Jesus as King and Messiah to the magi (and thus, to the Gentiles); the revealing of Jesus as the Son of God at his baptism; and the revealing of his ministry with his first miracle: turning water to wine at the Cana wedding.

Ethiopian Magi, Patrick Comerford

Ethiopian Magi, Patrick Comerford

Since the Middle Ages, people would go from home to home singing and enjoying each others’ hospitality. Using chalk, they would write the letters C+M+B on the doors or lintels of houses, blessing them as places of Christ’s hospitality.

CMB Epiphany

The initials represent Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, traditionally the names of the three Magi, as well as the Latin phrase, Christus Mansionem Benedicat, May Christ bless this house. In the Anglican tradition, Epiphany begins its own season, Epiphanytide, focusing on the ways Christ is revealed to the world. The season ends on February 2nd, with the celebration of Jesus’ presentation in the Temple.

Auch diese drei Heiligen Könige sind gestern durch Sölde gezogen.

In researching the practice, I found out that there is whole tradition in Europe that celebrates Epiphany and the CMB blessing. It is called the Star Singers, or sternsinger. Over 300,000 boys and girls in Germany alone dress up as the Magi and sing from house to house raising awareness and money for issues regarding the suffering of children globally. Last year, they raised $48 million. This German movement is now in its 58th year and for 2016 is highlighting poverty in Bolivia under the motto “Respect – for you, for me, for others.”

If you are looking for a way to close the Christmas season, and look ahead into the new year, find some chalk and write the Epiphany blessing 20+C+M+B+16 above your front door as you pray for God’s blessing on your home and all who enter. Even more, gather some friends, kiddos, and family and chalk each others’ doors, praying and singing as you go! I will be inviting my seminary students to don crowns and carry stars, pray and sing, as they chalk the doors of the classrooms and offices. Maybe we can start Star Singing in our communities, bring some beauty, fun, music, and blessing, while raising awareness of the needs of children worldwide.

Adoration of the Magi, Russian icon

Adoration of the Magi, Russian icon

Mar 23 2012

Friday Florilegium

I’ve been immersed in Karl Barth on prayer for the past 6 weeks, gearing up to write another dissertation chapter. Here are two tidbits:

“[There is a] tendency to omit, to leave aside as not too important, the question of what the Christian is commanded to be and to do in his personal life, and to turn instead to what he is to be and to do outside, in the church, and the world, in answer to the problems that await him there. This procedure usually avenges itself. What we are or are not in the innermost circle, what we do or fail to do there, what we do rightly or wrongly, will always be ultimately decisive for what we are and do in the outer circles. Faithfulness or unfaithfulness, seriousness or lack of seriousness in the one will sooner or later bring about the same in the others.” [And I would add, joy or joylessness.]


“God comes as the Holy One. He comes and creates righteousness, zealous for his honor as Creator and burning with love for his creature. He creates the righteousness which is the right order of the world that belongs to him.

He comes, and in creating righteousness, he abolishes the unrighteousness of people both in their relationship to him and also in their relationships to one another.

He comes and sets aside not only unrighteousness but also the lordship of the lordless powers, scattering them to the winds like the mists of the hypostatized fictions that they are, restoring to man the freedom over his abilities of which they robbed him, re-instituting him as the lord of the earth which he may and should be as the servant of God.

God comes, and with him comes that “peace on earth among men with whom he is pleased” (Lk 2:14), that is, among those who are elected, created, loved, saved, and kept by him. This peace on earth, actualized when God himself comes as King and Lord and creates and establishes it, is the kingdom of God.”

Mar 24 2011

Living in the Peaceable Kingdom

Each Thursday during Lent, I offer a vegan recipe as I learn to cook and like vegetables, and as I contemplate what it means to live non-violently.

In my heart, I’m a shieldmaiden of Rohan.

In the third Lord of the Rings movie, when Eowyn confronts the Witch King in battle, standing between the beast and her father, my heart pounds.

The Witch King taunts her, “You fool. No man can kill me. Die now.”

Eowyn pulls off her helmet and cries, “I am no man!” stabbing the the creature that has rained down death and destruction upon so many.

When I first saw the scene on opening night, a loud cry escaped my lips. (I don’t tend to make noise in movie theaters.)  But I wasn’t alone. The entire theater erupted in whoops and shouts and applause.

I’ve seen it countless times now, but it never fails to stir up a sense of power and fierceness and rightness in me that I rarely experience in daily life.  And I wish I could experience it more often.

My response to this scene has been one of the main reasons I’ve never considered myself a pacifist.

Of course, one could say that the Witch King, as evil incarnate, is the proper recipient of Eowyn’s battle rage.

But as I began reflecting on my reaction to the scene and praying about how to reconcile it with the part of me that is broken-hearted by the violence and the destruction of life, God brought a question to mind:

If I lived in a world without violence, where peace was not defined by the absence of violence, but a richer, deeper experience of peaceful life that had only itself as the reference point, how different would my personality be? How different would the world be?

The Kingdom of which Jesus gives us a glimpse is our world almost unrecognizably transformed, its DNA reordered so that love and peace are not defined as opposites of hate and war, but only with reference to themselves.  Christ loves us with this kind of Love–a Love whose reference point and definition is God’s very being.

A world of Shalom, life transfigured with peace and health and wholeness.

Being a shieldmaiden of Rohan would have no meaning in such a world.

It’s truly impossible to imagine.  I can only catch it faintly out of the corner of my eye. But that’s okay. Just trying to imagine it fills me with wonder and hope and trust. It also fills me with a sense of anticipation: who Christ is forming us to be will be both the same, yet different than who we are now at some level, because how we define ourselves will change as the world is transformed.

And every time we love another as Christ has loved us, something happens that is more powerful, more fierce, more right than Eowyn’s triumph over the Witch King. The shalom of the Kingdom is near. The world is healed.

Then the heart of Éowyn changed…’I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy…in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren.’



Few weeks go by when this soup is not on the menu at the Contemplative Cottage. Originally based on a recipe from Molly Wizenberg’s food blog, Orangette, I’ve made some changes, adding chickpeas to raise the protein content, as well as making it vegan.

Red Lentil and Chickpea Soup

4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 large yellow onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
Pinch of cayenne or more to taste
2 quarts vegetable broth
2 cups red lentils

1 14-oz can chickpeas

Juice of 1 lemon, or more to taste

In a large pot, warm the oil over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering. Add the onions and garlic and cook until golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne, and cook for 4 minutes longer. Add the broth, 2 cups water, the lentils, and the chickpeas. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Continue to cook until the lentils are soft, about 40 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice.

Jan 28 2011

Friday Florilegium


As the birds build nests, as the furry catkins bud on the willow, new bright green leaves open in the sunniest places, and cherry blossoms begin to pink-tinge the trees, I begin this Florilegium with my most favorite quote, from the book Christ the Tiger by Thomas Howard:

“Here from this stable, here, from this Nazareth, this stony beach, this Jerusalem, this market place, this garden, this Praetorium, this Cross, this mountain, I announce it to you. I announce to you what is guessed at in all the phenomena of your world. You see the corn of wheat shrivel and break open and die, but you expect a crop.

I tell you of the Springtime of which all springtimes speak.

I tell you of the world for which this world groans and toward which it strains. I tell you that beyond the awful borders imposed by time and space and contingency, there lies what you seek. I announce to you life instead of mere existence, freedom instead of frustration, justice instead of compensation.

For I announce to you redemption. Behold I make all things new. Behold I do what cannot be done.

I restore the years that the locusts and worms have eaten. I restore the years you have drooped away upon your crutches and in your wheel-chair. I restore the symphonies and operas which your deaf ears have never heard, and the snowy massif your blind eyes have never seen, and the freedom lost to you through plunder and the identity lost to you because of calumny and the failure of justice; and I restore the good which your own foolish mistakes have cheated you of.

And I bring you to the Love of which all other loves speak, the Love which is joy and beauty, and which you have sought in a thousand streets and for which you have wept and clawed your pillow.


If you would like to contribute to the Friday Florilegium, please share a quote or scripture verse that has been meaningful for you in the comments or in a blog post.

Friday Florilegium 1

Jan 24 2011

Defining Moments


They came through the doors, two or three at a time. Wrote name tags and found a place in the circle.


Thirty eight middle and high school students from three Seattle churches gathered for a Saturday of defining words, learning history,  and wrestling with issues.

Laughter from icebreaker games filled the fellowship hall–like guessing the names of famous people stuck to our backs and “shuffle your buns” (a new one that left me quite thankful to be photographing, rather than playing)…..


…turned  into serious discussion as students tackled writing definitions for five words:






institutional racism


Afterwards, we went to the Northwest African American Museum and then heard Rev Dr Samuel McKinney speak about his life and experiences–a close friend of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the person who invited King to visit Seattle in 1961. We learned how King had to speak in a different location after the reserved venue cancelled at the last minute without reason. Students learned that much has changed, but so much remains to be done.


And at the end of the day I listened to the students share thoughts and questions and frustrations as they reflected on hard history that began before their birth, that continues to today. I marveled at their energy and  conviction, and hope filled me…these are the next generation. Bless their efforts, Lord.

Grateful for…

361. Museum Without Walls, which gives students and adults opportunities to hear from living witnesses to times such as the US civil rights movement, Japanese-American internment after WWII, and the Holocaust.  

362. Suzzanne, MWW Founder and Executive Director.

363. Rev McKinney and his willingness to share his story and memories with us.

364. The wonderful team who facilitated the day.

365. The students and youth leaders and churches.

366. Laughter

367. Sunshine

368. Glimpses of a community being formed on this, the first of three Saturday Multicultural Scholars’ events.

369. The happy-good tired at the end of a long, but amazing day.

370. That God, who so loves this world, is already working.


Dec 6 2010

Sword Fighting


Sometimes I’m sure I rattle when I walk or think or talk or simply stand, paralyzed.

Chains, binding and heavy, clank about me.  Doubt. Worry. Fear. Sadness.

I read about children in Ethiopia, whose home is a pile a trash, who drink rain water that collects among the garbage and eat whatever they can scavenge.  I pace my apartment, feeling the weight. I read the article and unmistakable rattling echoes under the words. My heart hurts. All is not well. The chains are not only on me, but on the world.

Clanking and whispers. What good can an easily-tired introvert do?

I can pray. Love and pray. For the children, for people who can go and give homes and food and water and love. For the strength to do something myself.

Amid the whispers and rattling, I wish I had one of those awesome magic swords like in the stories I love.  High King Peter’s Rhindon. The Sword of Griffyndor. Frodo’s Sting. Arthur’s Excalibur.  With it, I would go to work breaking the chains that bind, myself, the children, the world.

Clank, rattle. Those swords don’t exist.


Then, suddenly, surprising me, my thoughts change. A real sword breaks a chain, out of the blue.  Snap!

“Take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Eph 6:17)


Jesus answered Satan’s temptations with scripture as he fasted in the desert (Luke 4:1-13). So today, I pray Ephesians 1:16-23 for you, me, and the world:

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give us a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of our hearts enlightened, that we may know what is the hope to which he has called us, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Jesus, may we live the power of love you have given us. May we hear the sound of chains breaking.


In gratitude today for…

The Word of God and the words of Ephesians.

The bible found in the garbage by one of the Ethiopian children, and his ability to read it and share the Word with others. A person threw away the Word of God and God used it!

For the YWAM team who visited the children and brought help. For the photographer who makes these young faces real and present to me thousands of miles away.

God’s faithfulness as I wrestle with words to write.

Tim Dearborn’s sermon of hope yesterday.

Advent wreath making at Holiday Magic.

Reconnecting with my friend Amy.

Watching young Jack create a aluminum foil suit of armor so he can play High King Peter.

Music, especially “Of the Father’s Love Begotten.”

holy experience

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