O 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.


O 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.


O 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.


O Antiphon (December 17)—O Sapienta

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.


It’s time for the O Antiphons!

I’m not going to lie; I wasn’t originally going to do this. Yesterday I decided that it was time to let this blog go, to continue to slowly disappear from the Internet, to stop maintaining my presence here. Because it all seemed like too much work.

But today, I decided that maybe that was the wrong way of thinking. Maybe I should consider if I want to wrap up my blog…but a day that I’m feeling tired and draggy is probably not the right time to do it.

So, as an act of faith–in more than one way–I’m posting the O Antiphons.

For those of you who don’t know, I have a rule for this blog (that I’m pretty sure I’ve successfully maintained) that I may only use text. No pictures, no YouTube embeds, nothing but text.

So, when it’s time to decorate for Christmas, I decorate using words. Specifically, the O Antiphon prayers that are the basis for the carol “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”.

I’ve already scheduled the appropriate posts, and they will appear around 5:00 pm (CST), which would be around the time of Vespers, when these prayers are offered. Each prayer goes with a particular day, and they lead up to Christmas Eve. Each is a reflection on a particular aspect of what Jesus came to do in his first advent and what He will do in His second advent.

I’m also including links to the various antiphons being chanted. Click on the Latin version, and you’ll be able to hear the chant. (Thanks to the Fish Eaters website, where I found these files.)


In which I brag about my wife

It’s Thursday morning, and I’m up really early. I’ve been coordinating the arrival of a CPR instructor at my workplace, and I need to meet him to ensure that he sets up without a hitch. I’m rushing around, trying to get ready, when I discover that all my work shirts are gone. I panic. I don’t have time for this. And, wait a minute, didn’t I check the night before to make sure that I was ready? Did I make a mistake?

I really don’t want to be late.

But already there were little nagging indicators that something was up. Crystal was up early. She made an excuse, but there had been an alarm. And the shower head had been swapped out, and there was a card….

So, when I came rushing downstairs, wearing the least dirty shirt I could locate, in a full-on panic, maybe I should have expected Crystal to be waiting for me with breakfast, smiling and telling me that I wasn’t actually going into work today after all.

That’s how my birthday weekend started.

Over this weekend, Crystal and I played disc golf, played a couple of games, and hung out at our favorite restaurants. Crystal also threw me my planned birthday event, which was a cocktail party with friends, plus cooked a meal for our family birthday party.

Sometime at the cocktail party, she mentioned in passing to someone else that she tends to go overboard for my birthday.

It’s true. But it makes me feel so loved.

So, thank you, Crystal! Thank you for my birthday weekend.


BREAKING NEWS: Dirty Secrets featured in current Bundle of Holding

So, the newest Bundle of Holding is out. If you don’t know, this is similar to the Humble Bundle for video games: pay a small amount to get a collection of roleplaying games, but if you pay above the average, you get a larger collection. Well, the current bundle is noir-themed, and it includes Dirty Secrets!

You should totally check it out!

Other games in the package:

  • The Big Crime
  • FASTLANE: Everything, All the Time
  • One Last Job
  • A Dirty World
  • Killshot: The Director’s Cut
  • Secrets & Lies: Hardboiled Triple Feature
  • Streets of Bedlam

In particular, I want to call out A Dirty World and Streets of BedlamA Dirty World is Greg Stolze’s noir game using the One-Roll Engine (ORE) which was popularized in Godlike and Wild Talents. It definitely skews to the classic noir period piece, like The Maltese Falcon or The Big Sleep.

Streets of Bedlam, on the other hand, is inspired more by Sin City by Frank Miller. Written by my friend Jason Blair, it’s powered by the Savage Worlds engine, most famously used in the newest edition of Deadlands.

All this, plus Dirty Secrets, for just a few bucks. If you love hardboiled fiction or noir of any kind, you simply can’t pass this one up.

Check it out, and please spread the word!


The chain

Recently one of my children came to talk to Crystal and me. He (or she!) was struggling and wanted to talk. So we sat down with him while he unfolded his concerns. One of the biggies: how do you know that there’s a God?

In early March 2015, my family stood in front of the church, asking for prayer. In a couple of weeks, we would be going to the doctor in Chicago to discover if our children were going to go blind. Our church gathered around us and prayed for us. In the wake of that, many people spoke to us, offering comfort or council or just hugs. But a common theme in what was said: we saw your family caring for each other and carrying each other. And it’s true. I saw my children caring for each other. There were hugs and care and concern expressed by my children to each other. I saw that my children have learned how to love each other in suffering and sorrow. And so did my church.

Dad told my brother and me, “The two of you will stand next to me. That way, if I start to collapse, you can catch me.”

It was the day of my mother’s funeral.

Many of you know that I wrote a game called A Flower for Mara (freely available here), which is an exploration of grief and healing. You might not realize that I dedicated it to my father. I wrote:

To Leon Ben-Ezra, my father. You showed me that, truly, there is life after death. 

Look at me, being all clever with my words. I wasn’t talking about heaven or the coming resurrection primarily. I was talking about seeing hope in the here and now. I saw my father grieving. I saw him in such agony and sorrow as I’ve never seen him in before. And I know that, somewhere in his heart, parts of that pain remain. At my sister Gabrielle’s wedding, there was a vacant seat in the front with a white rose on it. A seat for Mom. Dad was performing the ceremony, and when he recessed, he stopped by the chair, picked up the rose and walked out with it. And those of us who understood were crying.

It’s not like it stops mattering. It’s not like any of us expect that it’s supposed to hurt any less.

And yet….

Even in the immediate aftermath, I saw hope in my father, which gave him strength. When I finally arrived from Peoria, exhausted from having driven all night and grief-stricken, he was the one who comforted me. In the midst of his grief, which he gave full expression to, he also cared for his children. He offered us words of comfort. He hugged us and cried with us. And he maintained before our eyes the truth that our God raises the dead.

If you own A Flower for Mara, you can see my father. That’s his hand in the picture on page 29. That’s his face on page 32.

And that’s him, on page 40, worshiping God in the cemetery.

My Grandma Anderson turned 90 this year. She’s back in Pennsylvania, and so I haven’t actually seen her in years. The last time we were there, Crystal and I both got violently ill, and I didn’t want to infect my grandmother.

The last time I saw my grandmother was in the hospital. I don’t remember why she was there; it doesn’t matter to the story. But she was sick and looked so frail.

My grandmother has not had an easy life. Over the course of her life, she has buried her husband and two of her three daughters, one of whom died as a teenager. How can you bear up under such a load?

But, while we were visiting Grandma, something happened which has lodged in my memory. someone arrived with my grandmother’s dinner, while were visiting her in the hospital. And she paused, folded her hands, and thanked God for her food.

If there’s anyone I know who has reason to be deeply bitter with God, it is my grandmother. And yet, she’s not. She still turned to Him in gratitude, trusting Him and quietly continuing to hold on to His goodness.

Why do I believe in God? And why should my child believe in God? I offered a few answers that day, but the one that felt the most powerful to me was sharing that story about Grandma Anderson. And, now that I have the time to assemble all my thoughts, this is what I would say.

We are all part of a great chain, linking backwards in time, back to the very beginning. It’s what we confess in the creed when we say that we believe in the “holy catholic Church”. It’s what it means to have brothers and sisters, throughout space and time, who are bearers of the same hope as ours.

why do I believe in God? From one perspective, it’s because my father does, and my grandmother does, and because John Calvin did, and because St. Francis did, and because the Apostle Paul did, and Mary, and David, and Ruth, and Moses, and Noah, and Adam, and Eve. And more. So many more, all links in the great chain that binds us all.

And if they saw God, if they could carry on in hope, then maybe I can, too. And maybe I can be the next link in the chain, reaching down from here to the end of time, drawing us all together into glorious union with each other and the One Who loves us all.


Equal ultimacy

One of my favorite blog names was created by a former co-worker of mine. He named his blog “Me and you and God…makes five.”

Oh, theological humor, when are you ever note funny? (I’m not looking for counter-examples, people!)

I laugh, because his title exposes a common problem in Christian thinking that is probably valuable to bring up and discuss. (And when I say “common”, I mean “thing I do too often”.)

So, the doctrine of the Trinity is that God is One God in Three Persons. Truly One. Truly Three. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one God, but they’re not the same. They are really three. Check out the Athanasian Creed sometime to watch someone circle the concept in a lot of words. It’s fun…if you’re a theology nerd like me.

Another example of this is the hypostatic union of the human and divine natures of Jesus. Basically, the doctrine affirms that Jesus has both fully God and fully man. Yes, that’s the theological equivalent of saying 1+1=1. But that’s what the doctrine says.

A while ago I dubbed this kind of paradoxical relationship equal ultimacy. It crops up all the time in Christian theology, and I think it’s so very important to get comfortable with it.

I mean, we shouldn’t be surprised that there is mystery at the core of our religion. This is a mystical religion with a transcendent God. Should we really expect to comprehend the totality of His works?

But we try to resolve these tensions by collapsing one item into the other, and this leads to problems.

For example, I think that, practically speaking, many Christians collapse the human nature of Jesus into His divine nature. In other words, Jesus gets extra superpowers or whatnot because He was God. He wasn’t really a human, just like me, with aches and pains and bad nights of sleep and indigestion and heartbreak and sorrow and confusion and frustration and failure and death. That feels…disrespectful or something. So we shy away from embracing the humanity of Christ, and, as a result, we shy away from the comfort that can be present. The comfort that Jesus truly understands and can empathize with your suffering, while being truly empowered to act on your behalf.

So, here’s one that I’m currently wrestling with. The book of Proverbs presents a worldview that says that life can be mastered. It’s possible to develop wisdom–skill at living–and maybe even to get good at it. But the book of Ecclesiastes has a fundamentally different worldview. It says that life cannot be mastered. Progress is impossible. Life is basically unjust–meaningless and vaprous. Wisdom will not save you. Pleasure will not rescue. Wealth will not satisfy. Shit just happens sometimes, and it’s not fair, except that it sure does seem like the bastards come out on top. And then you die.

Now, let me be clear. I do think that Ecclesiastes presents hope. It points to a God who knows what’s up. But that’s it. It offers no hope that any of us will comprehend meaning in anything that happens to us. Instead, it urges a form of hedonism. “Seek joy, not meaning,” Ecclesiastes seems to say.

Have we collapsed the harsh pessimism of Ecclesiastes into the optimism of Proverbs? Are we afraid to sometimes say, “Shit happens, and I don’t know why”? Is that a threat to our faith?

Should it be?



A serious thought for April Fool’s Day

When it comes to April Fool’s Day, I’m a bit of a Scrooge. I honestly don’t like walking through life trying to figure out if I’m being scammed and tricked, even by well-meaning folks. Clever is okay, but clever is hard, and most pranks aren’t all that clever.

All that preface to say: the following is a serious suggestion.

Sorry to do this to you, but…how are those New Year’s resolutions coming?

Yeah, mine too. And while I’m willing to blame some of that on the specifics of my recent life, there’s a larger problem that impacts many of us, I’m thinking.

February.

I’m just going to say it: February sucks. I live in Illinois, and the winter wasteland that the Midwest becomes in the dead of winter is a hard place for my soul. And, even if you love winter, I doubt that it’s a season that energizes you to do new work. (Hey, if I’m wrong, tell me about it in the comments! People are all different, and I’d love to hear from an alternate viewpoitn on this.)

So, if February is a source of major soul-suck, why do we schedule our major life changes–New Year’s resolutions–in January, when they will be immediately tested by the brutal soul-suck of February?

This makes sense, at least to my own psychology.

Wouldn’t it be better to acknowledge that winter is a hard time to muster much energy? Wouldn’t it be better to wait for “New Year’s” resolutions until a later time in the year?

Say, April 1?

No one is totally sure why April Fool’s Day came to be. One theory has to do with March 25 being observed as New Year’s Day with a week-long festival that would have ended on April 1. I don’t know if this is true or not. But, for our purposes, it doens’t matter. Maybe, for creative work or forming new habits, April 1 could be a better day to begin. Maybe this would set us up for success, by drawing on the increasing sun and the energizing of spring to power our ambitions, instead of trying to stoke passion in the coldest, hardest months.

For me, I’m going to give this a go. I know that there are practices that have been languishing. I’m willing to set aside the last couple of months and write them off as a loss. Time to start again.

And next year, I’ll allow my winter to be a time of hibernation, of lying fallow beneath a blanket of snow. Spring will arrive soon enough, and there will be time to sow when it is warm.