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Begotten Not Made: An Advent Welcome

Advent: from the Latin advents, meaning “a coming, approach, arrival,” in Church Latin “the coming of the Savior,” from past participle stem of advenire “arrive, come to,” from ad- “to” + venire “to come.” (Source link.)

Welcome to Advent, the season in which we prepare for the coming of the Hope of the World. Are you following the shining star to the it’s illogical conclusion in the baby’s manger? Is your heart making room?

Today I’m sharing an Advent poem at Elizabeth Marshall’s site. Would you join me?

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Begotten Not Made

And though he birthed the star alight,
he took to manger underneath
the humbled cry of stifled speech,
of own begotten form.

He suckled there at woman’s breast,
the mouth of God on human skin
he spoke before the world began,
to birth begotten form.

Continue reading at Elizabeth Marshall’s site.

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A Hiatus

This is what word nerds do: pick a word to describe a particular thing. Consider the word; dig for its roots. Was it a Latin derivation? Italian? Did the barbarians use some distant cousin of the word while tearing meat from spit-roasted boar leg? What were the earliest forms of the word?

For instance, consider the word hiatus. Derived from the Latin, it is said the word finds its origins in the 1560s. In its earliest form, hiatus meant, “a break or opening in a material object,” or an “opening, aperture, rupture, gap.”  It stemmed from the word meaning “to gape, stand open,” and is kissing cousins with the Old English word used to describe a yawn–a tired, gape-mouthed yawn.

Yawn.

Am I a word-nerd? You bet.

This is the long way around saying that I’m taking a little hiatus. I’m checking out for 2-3 weeks (save for one Deeper Story piece) while I finish up a few longer writing projects. I have an article I need to wrap up, and a… well… sign up for my Tiny Letter to hear more about the even longer work.

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In addition to the Tiny Letter (a new addition is coming in November), jump on over to my Facebook Page, where I’ll be leaving periodical updates.

Thanks for stopping in, and I’ll see you in a few weeks. In the meantime, enjoy the mountain view.

 

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A Prayer for Musicians and Artists

Autumn in the Ozarks is an exercise in deciphering metaphors. Colors shift, and every tree seems a personification of a different truth. The modesty of the lady maples wanes, green giving way to a more inviting rouge. She mixes her wine for the mighty oak, who’s yellowing foliage is not a thing of cowardice, but rather of rarity. Neither saffron nor citrine are native to these hills; the autumnal oak is our gem.

The rivers overflow these days, saturated by the fall rains that wash through the region. The white bass have long-since made their run through the spawning grounds and have returned to deeper waters. The fishermen have moved to deeper waters, too, allowing these banks a sort of reprieve, a Sabbath. The squirrels sense the deepening stillness, and work double-time to gather a winter’s worth of acorns, walnuts, and Arkansas hazelnuts. One river’s rest is another rodent’s work, after all. They gather and gather under the eye of the bald eagle, who wonders whether a juvenile might make easy pickings for its young.

Maybe it’s a bold statement, but autumn seems an evidence of the thinness of the veil between heaven and earth. The colorful metaphors show a glory beyond the simple natural order. Here, glory turns and fills; here, it gathers and hunts. Here, it is.

This is my favorite season in the Ozarks. I see God everywhere in it.

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Today’s piece is inspired by the Prayer for Church Musicians and Artists from the Book of Common Prayer. It reads:

O God, whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven: Be ever present with your servants who seek through art and music to perfect the praises offered by your people on earth; and grant to them even now glimpses of your beauty, and make them worthy at length to behold it unveiled for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

  *Photo by Bhanu Tadinada, Creative Commons, via Flickr.

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OCTOBER’S TINY LETTER IS HERE!

Sign up for the Seth Haines’ Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. The Tiny Letter is a personal newsletter sent to subscribers once (sometimes twice) a month, and it highlights my personal projects, a few good folks, the places I go, and the things I like. In October’s Edition, I’m musing on the tiny acts of neighborliness, a new project, and a tiny prayer. In addition, the good people at Givington’s are generously offering a COUPON CODE for a discount on Nish Weiseth’s new book, Speak. Don’t miss it! (As a bonus, sign up and I’ll send you the inaugural edition in which I share some BIG NEWS!)

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Friday Journal: The World Keeps A’Working

It’s been a peaceful time here at the Tiny Farm. Last weekend, Titus and I walked the property with my camera, and we tried to capture the close of summer and the coming autumn. We are in a season of change, there is no doubt.

The pears have been picked–at least for the most part. The few stragglers cling to the trees for dear life, turn brown as the worms suck their life from the inside out, as the moths feast on the leathery, sun-tanned skin from the outside in. Every living thing eats; every living thing dies. In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, “and so it goes.”

Though a harvest-wasting pestilence, the pear-munching moths are a beautiful subject matter. Their wings resemble the inner-workings of a lava lamp. Waxy, round bubbles rise from the base of their wings. These moths find the deadest pears, the ones whose carcasses are easiest pickings for their winged-coyote jowls. A friend told me once that moths and coyotes should be dispatched before they reproduce. Call me a romantic, but I’d rather document than dispatch.

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One of the pear trees has been stricken by a blight. We intend to call the tree doctor and an arborist, but the truth is, this one has one root in the grave. Of dating relationships, my uncle used to say, “when the horse is dead, dismount.” I think the same analogy applies to sickly pear trees. I don’t expect to see this one next year unless it’s in the wood-burning stove.

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The hazelnuts have clustered up together like green, leafy grapes. Truth is, I’ve never had a hazelnut tree, and I’m not quite sure when to pick the fruit of its effort. I looked them over for pestilence, but they appear disease and bug free. This might be a minor miracle, but then again, it might just be the nature of this exotic shrub-like tree.

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The thistles have dried up and turned to prickly skulls atop wispy bones. Titus broke the skulls off, cracked them open to reveal what looked like hair growing from the inside down to the tufted seedbed. He scattered the tufted seeds to the wind and laughed without consideration of the fact that he is planting thistles in my yard. I let him have a go at it despite the fact that this will likely create weed control problems in the next spring season. The way I see it, though, the wonder of 3 is a once in a lifetime thing, and it only lasts for a year. I’d rather not crush that wonder.

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Past the thistles, the last of the flowers are hanging on. I don’t expect they’ll make it more than a few weeks. I tried my best to take them in, but in the process,  Amber called through the open window. “Seth, could you help me with…” she said, and Titus and I turned toward the door, turned to the practical nuts-and-bolts of maintaining a house. The insects and seeds to continued their small work on the Tiny Farm.

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This piece of Ozark land has been working itself for many years now; I expect it will keep working itself for many more. I’m grateful for it.

BOOKS:

I noticed a roughed up copy of Walker Percy’s Lost in the Cosmos, The Last Self-Help Book, on the bookshelf last night, pulled it down for sharts and giggles. If you haven’t read much Percy, I recommend it. According to the book cover, in 1983 the New York Times said that the book was “charming, whimsical, slyly profound.” Boy, were they right.

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As an aside, I’d love to package a novel in this old, pocket paperback style one day. There’s something about holding this book that conjures a sense of nostalgia, and the near-hieroglyphic artwork on the cover ushers you back to a time before the Kindle, Nook, and other e-readers. As an aside to the aside, let me encourage you to do a book a favor–visit your local used bookstore and pick up an old pocket paperback (perhaps of the Sci-Fi genre); you’ll be glad you did.

LINKS:

Next month, my good friend and fellow writer Preston Yancey is letting releasing his first book, Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again. I’ve read Tables and let me tell you something–that Preston Yancey can turn a phrase. Is this a book for those who struggle of fitting into their current church setting? Yes. Is it a book for the angsty, college student who’s processing his or her place within the church family at large? Yes. Is it a book for Anglicans? Most definitely. The truth is, though, it’s a journey book, a coming of age book, a book for everyone.

If you like a good story, fine word pictures, and some musings on the efficacy of holy icons, PREORDER TablesYou’ll be glad. I promise.

MUSIC:

There are few groups I enjoy this much.

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Viral Blog Posts or Local Liturgy?

There was a time when I hoped to write the great American novel, the one studied by students in universities forty years from now. There was a time when I hoped to write the definitive poem on the present American context. And if these were too much to ask, I harbored a secret hope to write at least one viral blog post, a post that took on a life of its own, one that was picked up by CNN, or The Huffington Post, or Christianity Today. It’s the goal of every writer, after all, to have his words recognized.

Make no mistake, I would love to participate in the success of larger-than-life novels, definitive poems, and viral blog posts. These days, though, my writing goals have begun a sort of slow shift.

A few months ago, I was reading the Wendell Berry essay, “Wallace Stegner and the Great Community.” The essay, as the title denotes, is a celebration of Wallace Stegner, a Stanford professor and author best described by Berry as a regional writer. Of Stegner, Berry writes that he was a “naturally… reticent man, not given to self-revelation or self-advertisement….” From that humble position, Stegner was content to focus his literary efforts on the exploration of his local context, and wrote primarily of the American west. Of regional writing, and the lessons learned from Stegner, Berry writes, “if one both lives and writes in one’s region, one becomes aware of good reasons to be more watchful and more careful.”

This leads me to the crux of it. Once I hoped that I could pen a few viral words, and on some days, I still nurse those hopes. Lately, though, I’ve been considering the concept of regional writing. I’ve been considering working within the local church to create and curate readable, relatable, yet stretching liturgical pieces. These aren’t the words that will make a man famous, there is no doubt. But this quieter work feels small and right. It is the kind of work that gives a congregational artist “good reason[] to be more watchful and more careful.”

In the last month, I’ve written pieces for my local church body and for an ecumenical gathering. The pieces grew from a particular American context–the Ozark region to be exact–and were offered to the people of that region. I’ve had the joy to both read, and watch the pieces be read over those congregations. I’ve felt the deep sense of connection between the words and the people. I’ve had conversations after both services about the words, how the participants enjoyed them, or disagreed with them, or felt the tension in them. These interactions were not comments in a viral blog post; instead, they were honest-to-God, in-the-flesh human interactions. There was give-and-take, push and pull.

I was privileged to share two poems at my home congregation yesterday. We were in the gospel of Luke, and discussing the concept of the Kingdom of God. Had you been there, this is one of the pieces you would have heard:

“Cash is King,” they say,
and if this is so,
the kingdom is the market
where we, princes and paupers
are made subjects.
It is an envious,
green king,
which bends us
only to our own desire.

“Democracy is King,”
the patriot says;
this is coarse metaphor.
By it, he means only
that most effective
rule is best centered
in the will of the
majority,
in the ability to
judge ourselves
as just.

“Elvis is King,”
the folks from Memphis say.
He was a man
fueled by fried
peanut butter
banana, and bacon,
by Rock and Roll,
by pills.
He was benevolent?
Maybe.
A slob?
Perhaps.

Come Kingdom, Kingdom Come;
not a green kingdom
that leads only to temptation.

Come Kingdom, Kingdom Come;
not the kingdom of liberty
that knows only men’s will.

Come Kingdom, Kingdom Come;
not the kingdom of suede,
of cardiac sandwiches.

Come Kingdom, Kingdom Come!
With reshaping power,
with glory to silence
all rock cries, come!

Come a conduit
from heaven’s coffers;
Come with a level
for the rich and poor
alike!

Come like the seed
of forgiveness,
the speck that’s
planted small and
sprouts into
the eternal tree of life
come!

Come with a new,
lasting language,
that bends every knee,
cypress and human alike.

It seems to me that the best use of our gifts is first within the local context. Perhaps those gifts will one day reach the masses, will spread far and wide and make our names and faces well known, but that isn’t the primary goal. The goal is something smaller, something eternally more humble, something that starts small like a seed planted in local soil (be it Ozarkan, Californian, or Appalachian) and grows into a well-rooted tree.

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If you haven’t heard the BIG NEWS yet, sign up for the Seth Haines’ Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. The Tiny Letter is a personal newsletter sent to subscribers once (sometimes twice) a month, and it highlights my personal projects, a few good folks, the places I go, and the things I like. The inaugural edition–the newsletter containing the BIG NEWS–has already been sent, but if you sign up for the newsletter, I’ll forward you a copy!

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