Friday, December 23, 2005

The Cedar Room: We Are Thoughts On Slavery And Jesus.

We Are Thoughts On Slavery And Jesus. Continuing my trend of posting stuff that other people have written, I present this article for your consideration. "While I see it as more important to present Jesus as high priest, prophet and king, I don't think it's invalid to present Him as friend, companion and buddy- but these offices are only possible because of the first mentioned offices."

Still no room in the inn?

O Come, O Come Emmanuel (redux)

According to Professor Robert Greenberg of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one - Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia - the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and whom we have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to us, “Tomorrow, I will come.” So the “O Antiphons” not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, but bring it to a joyful conclusion.
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:8-9)

Antiphon, December 23 (O Emmanuel)

O Emmanuel, God with us, Our King and Lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Saviour: Come to save us, O Lord our God. Amen. O Emmanuel, Rex et legisfer noster, expectatio gentium, et Salvator erum: veni ad salvandum nos, Domine Deus noster.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Antiphon, December 22 (O Rex gentium)

O King of the Gentiles and their desired One, the Cornerstone that makes both one: Come, and deliver man, whom you formed out of the dust of the earth. Amen. O Rex gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unem: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Antiphon, December 21 (O Oriens)

O Dawn of the East, Brightness of light eternal, And Sun of Justice: Come, And enlighten those who sit in darkness And in the shadow of death. Amen. O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae: veni, et illumina sedentis in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Antiphon, December 20 (O Clavis David)

O Key of David, And Sceptre of the House of Israel, Who opens and no man shuts, Who shuts and no man opens: Come, And bring forth the captive from his prison, He who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death. Amen. O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel: qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

Monday, December 19, 2005

My overactive imagination

I know that this is the Christmas season, and tales of fear really don't fit with the holiday. Nonetheless, I haven't been getting enough sleep, so.... My bedroom window overlooks the backyard and the back alley. With the snowfall, the entire backyard appears to be lit by a spectral light. And so, when I awaken in the middle of the night, I look out my window at this scene. For some reason, I always check to see if the trash cans are still there. And sometimes, I can imagine a tall, black-cloaked figure step from behind the garage and stare up at the window. And I know that he is looking for me. Then, sometimes, he opens the gate and begins to walk towards the house. And that's why, when Justice wakes up in the middle of the night, I don't look out the window anymore. I'm not getting any sleep as it is.

Antiphon, December 19 (O Radix Jesse)

O Root of Jesse, that stands for an ensign of the people, before whom the kings keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication: Come, to deliver us, and tarry not. Amen. O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur; veni ad liberandum nos, iam noli tardere.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Antiphon, December 18 (O Adonai)

O Lord and Ruler of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come, and redeem us with outstretched arms. Amen. O Adonai, et dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Antiphon, December 17 (O Sapientia)

O Wisdom, Who came from the mouth of the Most High, Reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: Come, and teach us the way of prudence. Amen. O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter, suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

from Jeff Myers' blog:
How do we pray for his first coming? How can we pray for what has already happened? We can't. He’s already come. So when we sing "O Come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel" we are not playing a game, acting like we are Israelites living before the birth of Jesus. This hymn is a corporate prayer. We are the new Israel. And we are asking Jesus to come again and again to deliver us from sin and the curse. We use the language and imagry of his first coming, but the prayer addressed to our faithful God in reference to our mourning in lowly exile.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Flogging Fritz: Heights of Hypocrisy

Flogging Fritz: Heights of Hypocrisy Have I mentioned recently that I love my brother? You know, in a lot of ways, there are parts of me that wish that I could write like this. No matter how angry I get, it still seems to come out too polite. I just can't seem to master the art of the truly angry rant. But "Fritz" has this one nailed. Go get 'em!

Friday, December 09, 2005

More on loss

Seems like a common theme around here, huh? A little history, first, to make sense of all of this. The lead singer of P.O.D., Sonny Sandoval, was a gang member in San Diego. His mother was a devout Christian who died of leukemia. Sandoval says that, while she was on her deathbed, he saw God in her eyes. Soon after her death, he became a Christian. Sometime after that, he started P.O.D. Now, some family history. At my mother's funeral, my brother Jonathan read some lyrics from a P.O.D. song, written about Sandoval's mother's death. I hadn't heard the song at the time. Well, recently I was listening to an album by P.O.D., and I found it.
Full Color I cry why O' why did my mommy have to die? Too many questions, no answers confuses my mind Like what did I do, what did she do, who's to blame No one understands what I'm going through So how can I trust what I can't touch and can't see Believe in love and she's in front of me Silence in your eyes, my heart so cold No time for goodbyes, then you leave me alone So what do I do accept it and carry on? Or release my anger, until it's gone Show you and this world exactly how I feel death in full color It's never been so real, It's been me and you, It's always been me and you No matter what we faced, we always made it through Get out of this dream, do what I gotta do No one can take your place and I don't want them to If I could take your place, I would, I would take your pain Just to see you smile and say my name, Just to hear you laugh and hear you cry I don't understand, I don't know why I've never been it this state of mind, life just don't make sense With you I could move mountains, right now I'm helpless I guess, you always knew what was best Believed in your God, til the very last breath You showed me how strong you can be If Jesus saved your life, could he do it for me? I'll lay down my life for you and for Him Believe God's promise, I'm gonna see you again Lord here I am, but I am no one, Believe in Your name Believe in your Son, if you meet me here I will wait on you Sacrifice and serve, do what you want me to I'll take it day by day, and sit at your feet You are strong when I am weak I seek to keep from going under Until I hold you again, I'll always wonder Why did my mommy have to Die? [repeats]
And lo, upon listening to another album by the same band, I stumbled onto another song with the same theme.
Thinking About Forever Time goes by and God knows I try to carry on with life Decide not to hide feelings inside, even though they hurt Sometimes, I forget to remember you It's easy to lock away the pains, don't want to relive it through But I stay strong, you taught me how to move on in this world I married my sweetheart, even got a little baby girl I wish you could see her, I swear she looks just like you If you can hear me, show me a sign, please send her a butterfly or two [chorus:] I'm thinking about forever (missing you) I know you're so much better (we made it through) Now I know what it means to live for someone else To give up yourself Things have changed, at times it gets kind of strange Your love remains the same Do I make you proud? Mama, can you see me now? Whatever is good in me is because you showed me how to take love by the hand And so now I can share you with my baby So that she can understand [chorus] [ending chorus:] I'm thinking about forever (missing you) I know you're so much better (we made it through) I'm thinking about forever (missing you) I'm tripping on whatever (hearing you)
Very different songs. Very different feelings. The first is quite heavy and intense. The second is more reflective and wistful. (There is an interval of several years between the two albums.) Of course, listening to this man's story, I could easily tell you one of the reasons that his mother died: it was to bring him to the Christ that he clearly loves. So, from that perspective, it is quite possibly the best thing that ever happened to him. And, somewhere inside, I know that the same is true for me. My mother's death has made me more compassionate, more empathetic, more easily able to see heaven breaking through into the world. And yet. Mom never met Noah. She never met Justice. I wonder how much my other children will remember her. Holidays seem so empty now. It's been two years, and it's only now that I feel like we are beginning to return to something resembling a new normal. And I wonder if Mom can see us. I don't know what sort of connection the saints who have passed beyond have to this fallen realm in which we still live. I know that we will all see her again, and that will be a joyous reunion. But sometimes, when no one is looking, I pray to God that He would tell my mother that I love her very much and that I miss her. And every time, I pray that this isn't a wrong thing to ask. It's not, is it?

Another Polaris session

(The previous report is here.) (This account was also posted on The Forge. You might find the responses from the folks there to be interesting.) Okay, no procrastinating this time. Our group played on Wednesday, and I’m going to get the actual play written up quickly this time. (Not like last time.) So, let’s get into it, shall we? Long ago, the people were dying at the end of the world. Quotable: "Our funerals tend to be interrupted by demons." Pregame Discussion Even though there’s no GM in Polaris, the social dynamics of the group still push certain people to the fore. I’m usually the GM, and I own the game, so I still tend to have the role of “rules-monger” and “whip-cracker” in our group. So, before beginning play, I convened the group to discuss various issues. I discussed how I had discovered that we had been shorting the Moons of their Guidance of certain characters. Gabrielle asked how precisely we would end the game. And, finally, we spent some time providing Crystal with some “look-and-feel” for the setting. That was an interesting chunk of the discussion, actually. I didn’t want to make a list of setting items that would then need to be enforced during play. Instead, I suggested that we all discuss the mental images that we had and try to get them synchronized. Raquel said that she didn’t have any ideas on what the setting looked like, aside from some fuzzy notions, but it hadn’t mattered, since she understood her character. So Gabrielle and I waxed eloquent about how we saw the setting. Here are some selected excerpts, drawn from memory: “There is more city than is needed by the people. There is this sense of emptiness everywhere. Certainly there are many inhabitants in the remnants, but they always seem to be somewhere other than where the action of the story is occurring.” “The remnants are always quiet. The falling snow muffles the sounds, of course, but just in general, everything is quiet.” “The people are living in the shadow of ancient greatness.” “It’s like Minas Tirith and Mordor. Once the men of Gondor were great, but now their strength is waning, and their Enemy is growing strong.” “Everything is in shades of white and ice-blue.” “The demons are red and orange. Bold colors are demonic.” “The people only die from violence or a broken heart.” “Knights are capable of wuxia-like feats in combat.” All in all, it worked. Crystal asked some questions, which we answered, and I think that it made all the difference. She seemed much more engaged in the game this session, although I still don’t think that it is nearly as gripping for her as for the rest of us. An aside regarding ritual space: we sat in the family room (our living room) to discuss these matters and then moved into the quiet room for gameplay itself. It seemed important to me to keep the spaces distinct. Talking about the game is not the same as playing the game, and I wanted to maintain that distinction by keeping the area set aside for gameplay “sacred”. The discussion was quite helpful, but it did not belong in that specific space. Once the preliminaries were complete, we moved into the quiet room and began play. Overview We had two of the protagonists achieve Veteran status in this game. Bellatrix had (somehow) been told that Mintaka had murdered Arcturus and proceeded to confront him in the street. She was prepared to execute him, when Captain Sargas (the commander of these knights) walked around the corner and saw Bellatrix knock Mintaka sprawling. Both Bellatrix and Mintaka assured the Captain that it was merely a training exercise, which he then insisted on observing. Bellatrix again threw Mintaka to the ground and put her blade to his throat. Mintaka then pushed the blade away with his hand and punched her in the stomach. Then he stood and walked away. However, the attack on another knight required an Experience check from Bellatrix, which pushed her to Veteran status. Mintaka then went to Heka’s house. It had already been established that Heka had given birth to a demonic creature which burst through the window and escaped. In this scene, Gabrielle established that Mintaka had been standing outside, hearing Heka in pain, yet he did nothing to help her. The Experience check that Mintaka earned pushed him into Veteran status as well. This, of course, necessitated that the knights meet either the Solaris Knight or the Frost Maiden. I took advantage of being next in turn order to narrate Bellatrix’s encounter with the Solaris Knight. Gabrielle was able to narrate Mintaka’s encounter with the Frost Maiden. The two scenes were very different. I narrated Bellatrix walking down the street, when an unnatural blizzard springs up. As she walks down the street, another knight meets her, coming from the other direction. His eyes blaze with fire, and she knows that it is the Solaris Knight. He draws his sword and salutes her, nodding his respect. Then he passes by, taking the blizzard with him. On the other hand, when Mintaka returned to his quarters, he found a fire cheerily burning in a hearth, the table set with food, and the Frost Maiden standing before the open window, strumming a lute. She turns to him and smiles. Then everything vanishes before his eyes. Bellatrix confronted Heka, demanding that Heka tell her what is in her womb. Heka tells her that she sees evil. All the while, the demon within her is taunting her. So, Bellatrix drew her sword and stabbed herself in the belly, trying to kill the demon. But she failed. The demon crawled out of her, smiles and says, “Mother” before running off. However, Bellatrix is able to pull herself together, stagger off, and rescue Heka’s son. After exorcising him, he is completely fine. So she returns to Heka’s home with the child and places him in the house. Then the demon child of Marfik beckons to her from an alleyway. “Come with me, Mommy,” he says. So she takes his hand. “Daddy is waiting,” it says. So they walk out into the wilderness. In the meantime, Na’ir confronted his brother and killed him, revenging his father’s murder. Before he died, though, Na’ir’s brother claimed that they were not really brothers. Along the way, Na’ir earned the Fate that he would be accused of both his father and brother’s deaths. As Na’ir dragged his brother’s body out into the wasteland to hide it, he found Arcturus’s body lying by the wall. So, he brought it into the city. Heka came to see the body of her dead husband. While she stood by the cold slab, she spoke to the demon that constantly tormented her, “You win.” Mintaka awoke to find a scroll, ordering him to the funeral of Arcturus. Instead, he packed his things and left the city, questing into the South to find the Flame of the South. Bellatrix once again came to the Mistake. Her child led her deeper into its bowels, and, as the light faded, memories of the torment that she endured the first time began to return to her. Finally they came to a door which opened on a room of flame. “Enter,” boomed a voice, and they compelled her to enter. And that’s where we wrapped up for the night. Thoughts on Veterans I had a couple insights of Veteran status that I thought were quite interesting. First, I found that the scene where a character gained Veteran status seemed to grow in importance, relative to other events in the game. Technically speaking, Bellatrix gained Veteran status when she struck Mintaka in the face. That act seemed to take on additional resonance, because that was her turning point. There has been plenty of other Knight vs. Knight conflict going on, including an out-and-out murder. Yet, this one strike had added resonance and weight, simply because this one pushed her over the edge. I felt the same about Mintaka’s scene. In some senses, he didn’t do anything. But, that was the point of the scene. Here, Mintaka has essentially turned his back on his love for Heka. The rest of the session bore this out, as Mintaka decided to run away from everything at the end of the session. The scenes with the Solaris Knight and Frost Maiden bore this out. The Solaris Knight salutes Bellatrix as a fellow warrior against the people, and the Frost Maiden offers a counterfeit of the happy home life that Mintaka wanted. Each is a corruption of the essential nature of each character, and I thought that both were quite powerful. I also gained some insight on game strategy, especially being the Mistaken. Now that Bellatrix is a Veteran, she can die, but this can only be the result of a “But Only If…” statement. So, when Bellatrix stabbed herself with her sword, I immediately grabbed for “And Furthermore…” specifically to remove the possibility of allowing Bellatrix a noble death at that point. At that point, I realized that, as Mistaken, I can make the Heart’s pursuit of a tragic death very, very hard. Evil laughter ensued. A Couple of Random Observations Both Raquel and I have noted that we are looking forward to this particular run of Polaris to wrap up, in part because we would like to try it again, from the beginning, applying all the various insights that we have learned up to this point. I’m finding that there are more depths in this game than are immediately apparent. This is a Very Cool Thing. I’ve also noticed that each play session has been quite good, even though I don’t think that we have really been “in the zone” for any of them. I credit at least a portion of this with the solid game design. It seems like it would require a lot of work to have a bad Polaris experience. This is also a Very Cool Thing. I still maintain that the candle is not optional. Actually, if we start a new “campaign”, even if it’s with the same people, we are going to get a different candle. It would be sacrilegious somehow to use the same candle. I’m also planning on finding a crystal clear d6 to use as the official “game die”. I’m such a geek for props. As always, this is a great game, and we are all greatly enjoying it. But that was long ago, and there are now none who remember it. (The next report is here.)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Last night, we watched “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. This is the movie rendition of the first three books of the series entitled (oddly enough) “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. Given the subject material and style, I should have enjoyed the movie. In fact, Crystal had begun watching it earlier and thought that I would like it. I didn’t. In fact, I went to bed depressed. And that’s the odd part about all this. I’ve watched equally surreal and depressing movies before. For instance, I rank “Edward Scissorhands” as a favorite movie of mine, and I think that “The Nightmare Before Christmas” was a hoot. Granted, “Edward Scissorhands” still makes me cry every time I see it, but still I find a certain satisfaction in the story. What was so different about “A Series of Unfortunate Events”? So, this morning, I was trying to put words to my feelings. Normally, I don’t have a problem with this, but this was one of those exceptions. Finally, I figured out what was bothering me. The plot of the movie was one tragedy after another afflicting these three children. Just as an example, two of their relatives are murdered by the villain, one of them being abandoned in the middle of a lake to be eaten by leeches. This is, of course, in addition to the “unfortunate event” that kicks off the story: the death of their parents when their house burns down. Early in the movie, the narrator (nominally Lemony Snicket, the author) says, “If you have ever lost someone very important to you, then you already know how it feels; and if you haven't, you cannot possibly imagine it.” But, see, I have lost someone very important to me. This is serious stuff, and I expect that any story about such a thing be serious. Instead, I felt that the movie was flippantly horrible. In many ways, it reminded me of the Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey. The events being portrayed were awful, and the story understood that they were awful, but, still, the surreal world in which they occurred seemed to make light of the tragedies that beset these three children. Even the dreary tone of the narrator seemed to suggest that the gloom and doom is really all just part of the joke. And still, I don’t feel like I’ve really explained myself. A wise person once said, “Never judge a book by its movie”, and I try to abide by this adage. Maybe the books are different. Maybe the books handle this material with more care and respect than the movie. But I don’t know. I really don’t know. All I know is that, every day, children all across the world lose their parents to tragic accidents. And it’s not funny. No, not funny at all.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Joseph, son of Yahweh | Joseph, son of Yahweh You know, I was going to write a bit about this, but Peter Leithart beat me to it. So, I'll just let him talk about it instead. We tend to focus on Mary so much that we forget the price that Joseph paid to be a faithful follower of his God.