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Day 15: What Do You Choose to See? (Contributed by Emily Rypkema)

Allow me to introduce to you a guest. It has been a decade since another voice has been given space on this blog. And today I am thrilled for you to see and hear from my friend Emily Rypkema:

Em is an advocate for aesthetic, she is attune to the depths of beauty which has allowed her to see and notice more than we'd usually see if we had not stopped to take in what is around us. As a result, she both captures and conveys beauty in her art and her life. She shares it with others. She, along with her 4 sisters create amazing things that you can share in at Legacy Studio. One of my favorite things about Em is she will not waste your time or make you feel like you've wasted hers, despite having a high value for how she spends it. And I, quite frankly like "wasting time," and even in that, she seemingly with ease finds a way to make all things valuable. I hope you enjoy what she has to share as much as I have.

Here’s a question for you:
Do you see only what you want to see?
I think so often we overlook the flaws.
How aligned is your perception with reality?


I’ve been thinking through this question as I sat by Colonial Lake and took in the view around me, pen in my hand ready to capture my view. Do you draw what you see or what you want to see?

So compare your ideal with the reality.
What do you get?
One part disappointment
the other, naiveté
choosing to see
only the parts
you want to see
ignoring the reality
of the world
around.

I dont necessarily think that will always mean that we will begin to see rainbows and butterflies, roses and lilies, laughter and joy. No, what I think is that, you’ll see those wildflowers, blooming from the gutter, the trashcans that litter the streets, you’ll notice the shadows they cast creating their own glimpse of beauty.

I’m learning now that I don’t have to see perfection nor do I have to be perfection in order to be seen, to be loved, to be chosen. Because it is in my flaws, my imperfections that my beauty shines through.

Maybe the most difficult thing is recognizing reality as it truly is and still seeing the beauty in the world around. Choosing to see the imperfections and flaws over ignoring them.

Day 14: Song of Solomon 3- Crunchwrap Crowns

Back and dreaming dreams in the song of songs in the blog of blogs in the November of Novembers.

V. 1 She dreams that she is looking for her lover, (the bed, the place where we think and drift and hopefully find rest or we spend our time being restless).

V. 2 In her dream presumably she goes out into the city searching, like a large scale game of hide and seek. But she does not find him which is sad face.

V. 3 She encounters the watchmen of the city, the ones that are on guard and she asks them for help. Surely they would have seen her lover.

V. 4 In this dream she finds her lovely shortly after encountering the watchmen. She clings to him, won’t let him go and brings him to her mother’s house. She shares him with her family or perhaps just brings her into a bedroom in their house. Interesting?

V. 5 And then the second refrain to not stir or awaken love until the right time. This comes up again later as if heeding this advice is an option.

V. 6 I don’t know if we are still in a dream or post dream now but we have an entrance the likes of a WWE wrestling superstar at Wrestlemania, columns of smoke, smells and powders!

V. 7 Don’t know what the litter of Solomon is? Domesticated Jackals? and an entourage

V.8 they have swords, are warriors and they are leading the way like groomsmen for….

V.9 Da da Ta Da King Solomon in a carriage that he made out of wood, not sure if he commissioned it or put some sweat into it. (Kings don’t do wood work or do they? Looking at you Jesus)

V. 10 describes what the carriage looks like and then we find out the upholstery is made by the daughters of Jerusalem, made with love like something you’d find at hallmark or etsy or one of those charming boutiques.

V. 11 a call to come watch the King Solomon parade while he wears a crown given him by his mother. I too should consider wearing a crown on my wedding day, the day of the gladness of my heart.

Summary of first 3 chapters: At this point, I still don’t think these two are married. I’m not sure if she was dreaming of marriage or she awoke from the dream and now we in chapter 3 have arrived at the wedding day or if she is already married and having a past dream about their wedding day. Maybe it’s not important at all. If I were to guess chapter 4 will not clear that up but we will see.

Day 13: Erasure (Audio Reading)

I think you found your name at the center and top line of this page

And as much as you loved being the subject

You would not bare (bear) that I wrote it.

So you’ve been erasing yourself,

Fervently rubbing away your name

To remove it from under my hand

From the words that were mine and are now yours.

You also might love the content

The words might move you but you won’t let them have you

You might even hope they will form you as a portrait

Of your most ideal self that you are saving for someone else

And then we come to my name, my signature

The part you cannot fully ignore and aren’t entirely sure what to do with

You fold the page over my name so you don’t see it

But you won’t remove it

It’s the last vestige of me that protects you 

from feeling like you crushed me

or ruined my name to those closest to you.

You can look at me favorably and say I was sweet or well intentioned

But someone you could not like enough,

The one you will fondly return to one day in your poor memory

And tell your children about how I loved you and you, in order to

Continue to preserve a version of you I never fully knew,

Will leave out how you all but murdered me from existence.

That’s the crime of poetry

For every one I’ve written for you, 

there’s a stack of blank notes left for me

And a string of convenient half-truths

That the ones who’ve never read me have only heard.

*Authors Note- A Poem about being erased from someone’s life.

Day 12: A Talk With Your Father: Actually Two and a Father’s Day Goodbye (Audio Reading)

I really liked your dad,

Admired his vulnerability

His clear care for his family

I was happy to have those hard conversations

I remember leaving my dad early to meet you in a park

On Father’s day, June of 2015. 

I wish I could have been there for him, my dad.

Instead of entering into an end I did not expect.

But it had to come to an end for your sake.

I wonder how he is, how you all are.

You all seem well. 

I seem to dream of you recurrently more than anyone else.

He was generous with his time. 

I could have been a father by now 

But the children I conceive don’t see the land of the living.

And this year was the last Father’s Day with my dad

Spent in the hospital, him thanking me for a greeting card 

Preparing for a long and tenderly agonizing goodbye.

*Author’s Note- A poetic reflection that I started on October 10th of this year. I edited 5 lines of the poem that didn’t seem to fit. These father conversation poems were a collection I wrote over a several day span, heavily reliant on memory and emotion.

Day 11: Mental Stillness, American Witness, and A People Taught How to Pray (From June 2020)

*Authors Note: This is something I wrote in June of 2020, again a social commentary on the Churches position in the world, or more precisely in America. 

In times past, I would attribute my inaction to feeling depressed or tired. And though I am tired some days, tiredness is not the reason I feel the urgency to be still. It feels somewhat defiant and perhaps unpopular to write about anything but race right now. It feels wrong to not give energy to it, and while I am trying to make the best use of my empathy, I think I feel mostly uncertain about my feelings. I am angry and sad about my own racial basis, racism in America, and unnecessary violence. I am sad about the broad brushstrokes being painted about entire colors (white and black and everything in between) and their posture and how they are perceveived.

Racial bias and racism is everywhere filling the earth with indifference toward the other. It is not a strictly American, nor strictly white issue, but it is still evident that the sowing of white male imperialist seed is still trying to reap an ugly demonic harvest.

We are still living under the American lie of an identity as a heavily armed world and national “freedom” police who invoke the clause of violence not when it feels threatened, but when it feels inconvenienced or challenged. It is the sin of pride and power. In the name of this lie, we have tolerated even celebrated all kinds of violence throughout our whitewashed history. America has appeared beautiful “but within is full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. She outwardly appeared righteous to others, but within was full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

“She built tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous,  saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ She witnessed against herself; she was the daughter of those who murdered the prophets. Therefore I sent her prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom she will kill and crucify, and some she will flog in your streets and persecute from town to town, so that on her may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom she murdered between the sanctuary and the altar, between the curbs and the incarcerated.”

Yet the Kingdom is coming and is here, still proclaiming liberty to captives, the promise of peace, reconciliation, resurrection of the dead. These are to be hoped in precisely because we do not see them yet. This is the message of the Church. Crucified and Risen Christ can empathize because He has been through the worst of it.

My empathy is insufficient if it merely wells up only when incited by events and the emotions of others. Perhaps momentarily helpful and righteous in appearance but ultimately worthless without transformation, which is why prayer and intercession is essential.

Thoughts and prayers have taken a hit in the last few years. In reality, it is not the prayer that is ineffective or inefficient, it is the rhetoric of prayers without actually doing so or without actually being transformed in the process.

Jesus rebuked people not for praying and fasting but doing so to be seen and heard rather than having their heart reformed and bent toward the suffering of the other. The only possible way I can be effective in prayer or effective in a march or protest is if I have cultivated posture of stillness in prayer, if it has been so internalized, that the cup is clean on the inside.

This is why Jesus had to teach his disciples how to pray. Go to a mountain or to a closet, commune with the Father whose heart is perfect and pure. Do it to be seen only by God, do it often and frequent, especially when you are tired or exasperated. Then pray together, corporately. If we can come together to march or protest, we probably can come together to pray and worship. Fine do both, but to do the former whilst neglecting or downplaying the latter lacks power.

It is unfathomable to me how in the last 10 years the Church in America can become more digital, invest tons of money in hiring media personnel, on their social media presence and seemingly have less power and influence.

Actually it’s pretty easy, churches hardly pray, focus extensively on building their brand or their building and often neglect ecumenical unity and intercession, focus more on discipleship resources than making disciples, by creating cool content than holding people accountable to Christlike character. It’s imperialistic expansion, sure it’s nonviolent but it’s still self-serving. It’s the Commodifying and the Capitalist Church that has replaced those Called and Chosen to be Ambassadors of love and servants of all.

Which is why I must be still. I must find the time to quiet my mind whilst motivating every fiber of my being to approach God to be transformed, to pray, to embody love and perhaps forsake all else in order to work out salvation in fear and trembling.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Day 10: Top 5 Comedic Fiction Novels I’ve Read

Perhaps some of you don’t know that over the last several years I have really been taken to reading and really have accepted 2 genres as my chosen genres to read. 1) Sci Fi and 2) comedic fiction. I guess a third would be biographies or memoirs. And then 4th poetry. I also have developed a curious collection of signed books. It may sound like I am boasting and perhaps I am, but I’ve started to really love books.

Anyway todays task is to give you my Top 5 comedic fiction recommendations. You’re welcome

5. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

This book is pretty controversial. It is also not a book for people who want like-able characters or clear resolution. The way John Kennedy Toole wrote his characters is not only funny but also deeply darkly human. It’s a dark comedy, and I don’t love sad stories, and this story is sad in the sense that the main characters life is tragic, not in an empathetic way, but in a self-defeating way. The book surprises you in how overbearing a character can be surrounded by other people with dark problems, but tonally it made me laugh a good bit. I read it in January of 2019 while I was a chaplain so maybe I had a greater tolerance for dark things.

4. The Ascent of Rum Doodle by W. E. Bowman

I many ways this is a perfect book for me. Just under 200 pages, very funny, about a hike gone wrong. The characters are great, the repetition is hilarious and the cirucmstances the characters get themselves into are preposterous. The best part of the book is where one of the main characters describes all the fiances of his fellow hiking compadres. It is very lighthearted and a very easy read.

3. To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

It is hard to entirely put this in best comedy only because it as an extremely great Sci-Fi book as well in regards to time travel. The main character is very endearing and the book is an homage to Three Men in a Boat which is also on my list. It won the Hugo Award for Sci-Fi but I laughed so much while reading it and had a smile throughout the book. There is a lovely cat in it who keeps reappearing as well. If you want Sci-Fi and comedy this is a great book. I read this book at the recommendation of Josh Ziefle. He really has me nailed down for books to read, and I love it.

2. Three Men in a Boat/Three Men on a Bummel by Jerome K Jerome

I read these books in March of 2020 during actually a pretty depressing and isolating time in my life. Despite that I loved these books. They were hilarious. I would literally look forward to reading them after 10-11 hour days of work coming home at night in the middle of winter to get a good laugh. Also these books were written in 1889/1890’s and still hold up as very funny so I think that says a lot.

1. Code of the Woosters/Summer Lightning/The Mating Season by PG Wodehouse

I will be honest. I love just about every PG Wodehouse book I’ve read. They are all funny and lighthearted. They are all pretty short and easy to read. The Jeeves and Wooster books will probably always be my favorite. Bertie Wooster is one of my favorite written characters ever and the mildly innocent trouble he finds himself in always makes me smile. I have been reccommending Wodehouse for years and hope to eventually read all of the Jeeves Wooster tales again in chronological order of when they were written.

That’s my top 5! Here are some runners up: Old Possums Book of Practical Cats (a poetry collection) by TS Eliot, Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis (read in college), Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (read it for book club, no one liked it or finished it, also has a sci-fi element)

Day 9: The Problem of Pastors and Platforms (Oct. 2021)

* Note this is a post I wrote in October of 2021 in the wake of the church in America figuring out what to do during Covid. I don’t think the opinions here are to groundbreaking or that my opinion has really even changed. I will say I think most people in ministry are just doing the best they can in trying to figure out how to reach people with the Gospel.

I’ve been wrestling with pastoral identity for over a year now. It has become more of an issue as of late as I’ve heard various individuals speak about their fortunate circumstances with mentorship and the coming alongside of shaping pastors. I will intentionally use the word pastor rather than leader because of the connotation.

Every time I see the word or vocation of pastor or shepherd in Scripture, the context is that it’s not enviable, outwardly desirable, nor a vocational activity that garners much attention. If the vocation would garner any following, it is found in its ability to protect, direct and instruct the sheep in hearing the voice of the shepherd Himself.

The role of a minister in Scripture is only regarded as fruitful in relation to how other people are equipped to do the work of ministry in order to pray in and become ambassadors of the coming and present, Kingdom of God.

Instead of the outwardly messy work of pastoral work, it seems that many have abandoned this work in favor of public speaking and the preservation of their own platform. I have a huge amount of respect for the ministry of preaching. Preaching the gospel is power unto salvation. As important as the spoken Word is, Paul is explicit that preaching is foolishness and primarily empowered by the Spirit Himself. What makes the Word of God powerful is the Word (Logos) itself which is why Paul can say of people who are using the Word of God for selfish gain, that he is happy that the Gospel is preached.

Why?

Because the message and work of Christ when proclaimed has far more power than the messenger, which is why anyone, in fact every believer, is called to proclaim the Gospel. Not every believer is called to pastoral ministry.

We often conflate the two because of our propensity to adore platform and power. If we asked a general populace who are the best pastors in America most people would name individuals with large platforms. To be fair a lot of people would also pick their own pastors. My theory is if you have that much of a platform, you probably don’t have time nor desire to do pastoral work, for all the reasons I previously mentioned above (not enviable, outwardly desirable, not garnering much attention and it being messy).

Furthermore, those that have large platforms, are likely missing the mark of how the church is meant to multiply. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians is stern in the issues that arise in following famous preachers, including himself, rather than Christ. The most prevalent is division. He goes on to say that his role is to remain faithful, humble and check it, have fatherly care for the flock. What’s that mean? That means neglect is not a characteristic of pastors. It also speaks to limitations. A person can only pastor so many people.

How would a large church solve that problem? I’ll give you a hint, it’s not financing a small scale graphic design and film company. It’s probably training up and equipping more pastors. If Covid taught us anything, it is that the Church was vastly wanting in its ability to equip the Church at large to do the work of ministry. It did show how quick we were to pivot to turning our local churches and pastors into televangelists. Instead, of going to my neighbor, it seems far more economical for the church to finance filming the pastor and worship team and tell my neighbors they can watch church from home.

I’m not so cynical to say that it’s all in vain. I am saying there is another way. A way that is far less appealing to the masses but more inclined to reach the masses. Reforming how we view pastoral ministry and the five fold ministry in the church. Equipping teachers, prophets and evangelists to the same degree, we willingly seem to equip a type casted pastor personality to the pulpit. Maybe less leaning into the conflict avoidant, passionate visionary or the bulldozing zealot and try for some empathy, sensibility, and humility. People who lead quiet and peaceable lives yet still let their light shine.

Day 8: Song of Songs Chapter 2: Lillies Galore

Today we have round 2 of walking through Song of Solomon. Day 8 of blogging. I’ll admit it is more of a challenge than I thought. But some days writing is simply discipline. Break out the book and song and lets go for a quick walk.

V. 1 she compares herself to a flower. Whenever I read the name Sharon, its hard for me to not hear it in the voice of Ozzie Ozbourne.

V. 2 He affirms this a lily among thorns which is a beautiful expression, among other women. It is an acknowledgment of choosing one out of the many and having been enamored by this person.

V. 3 she reciprocates with forest and tree imagery, shade and nourishment, the depiction of wanting to care for someone through food and shelter.

V.4 And it only gets better, a banquet table and another of my favorite expressions, “his banner over me is love.” I imagine a flag or one of those happy birthday banners or the balloons withe numbers except it is love.

V. 5 a plea to be fed with fruit and an admission that she is sick with love. It is a wonderful depiciton of yearning, perhaps it is one of the greatest delights of life to be lost in thought about love and like and wonder over a person with whom you are romanced by and considering romance.

V. 6 the description of a normal embrace posture before they are about to kiss

V.7 Then a familiar refrain or oath to not stir or awaken love until it pleases. This is the most repeated line in the song. And each time she gives this piece of wisdom to the Daugthers of Jerusalem her beloved comes to her.

V.8 she hears her beloved voice as he comes a leaping

V.9 He leaps and then he looks through the lattice, it would be creepy if it were not welcome

V.10 He waits by her window and calls her to come away with him. Lots of romance happens outside someones window. Maybe not as much in modern times. Now it is DM’s right? Who has time to go to someone’s window and potentially get arrested for trespassing?

V.11 changing of seasons, goodbye winter (yet the winter is coming, the cruel cold)

V. 12 more flowers, this is an interesting catch “the time for singing has come” is also translated “the time for pruning has come” both the noun zamir in Hebrew *note to self, do a deeper dive on that interesting word.

and the singing of turtle doves, between the turtle doves and the leaping, we got some of the 12 days of Christmas popping up.

V. 13 fig trees, Jesus curses one of those in the gospels, but this fig tree is ripe and smells nice, the beloved is still calling her to arise and come away.

V. 14 more interesting imagery, reminds me of Moses calling out from the rock to see God’s glory, Elijah on the mountain hoping to hear God’s voice, here the beloved calling to his dove in the rock to let him ee her face and hear her voice.

V. 15 And then a call to catch the foxes that ruin the vineyard, a call to take captive the things or thoughts or circumstances that prevent their love and romance from being fruitful.

V. 16 We come full circle in this chapter back to lillies but also to the recognition of the claim that both of the lovers have on each other. They are for each other. They are involved

V. 17 It seems like their is an implication that stayed together until day break, until the shadows flee and then he is off. And so are we today. We are off, it’s election day. Go out and vote. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t.

Day 7: Excerpt from “The After Light”

Good Morning!

Today I am sharing an excerpt from a story I wrote about lightning bugs. This is an intermission where the main antagonist Whinegard the Worm of the Illumi-Naughty interrupts the story to explain why he is trying to erase Lightning Bugs from existence. Enjoy!

Chapter 6 ½: An Illumi-Naughty Intermission Brought to You by Whinegard the Worm

Why hello there, kind or cruel reader whichever you prefer. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Whinegard, a representative of the most noble Illumi-Naughty. Quite frankly, we are misunderstood. I’m sure you wouldn’t understand, which is why I will attempt to explain the current predicament.

We did indeed dispose of Flickering, that mad flicker of a bug that had far too much fight in him. We were forced to collapse the ground beneath him along with several dandelions and proceeded to snuff out his light, a mild inconvenience in order to spare modern society of infestation. After all, he was trying to undo the convenient system we had developed to minimize the amount of lightning bugs polluting the air. 

It has been a concern of ours for quite some time. If they simply would just let the darkness be. When it is dark, the darkness wants to be dark, not to be polluted with speckles of light that try to obtrusively steal its glory. We also glow and it is rather disturbing which is why we willingly bury ourselves beneath the dirt, coating our luminescence with it so as not to disturb the darkness. The darkness has ever been our friend, but those lightning bugs had long claimed to beautify the night with their light. 

It has been blatantly obvious that no one else feels this way. No other species has shown so much dissidence against the darkness as the lightning bugs which is why we have offered our services inconspicuously and without desire for reward, underneath the surface. We have been quietly conducting a service to the masses. 

Not to mention lightning bugs are the dumbest species of any species on the planet. They are easily convinced, easily handled, rest during the daylight, are hideous and are completely unaware of larger species. For goodness sake they think a Hand floats in the sky detached from a human face. They haven’t the slightest clue about anything and only see so they can multiply. What selfishness! They want to spread, they want to grow. They want to eliminate the darkness which is why we have kindly devised ways to eliminate them, which up until now has slowly worked.

We convinced you dear reader to place them in tiny glass jars, and it has not been enough which is why we would like to begin phase 2. And thankfully because those bugs are dumb, and we tirelessly work to hide our GLOW and benefit all who love darkness, we have devised an additional plan. 

Your Welcome,

Whinegard.

Day 6: A Talk With My Father We Never Had (Audio Reading)

The only time we ever talked about love

Was the month following my heartbreak

Around Thanksgiving of my 24th year.

I did not think I could keep going quietly, honestly

And you did not have much advice to give.

In the wake of that winter you visited once 

And I had very little left to run on.

What followed was a decade

Of no progressing news of romance. 

I never even really mentioned to you my relationships

because I was ashamed of myself. 

At my age you had one child

And did not necessarily want me, who was to come, 4 years later. 

Maybe not so much me, as want the whole packaged

Uncharmed American dream. 

A wife and two kids did not mean you made something.

And for me I’m teetering on the precipice 

Of whether or not I can make something

I’d ask you now:

How do you configure the controls of love?

Is romance something you nurtured?

Did you fall in with the same fervor in which you fell out?

How do you make time for cherishing and being cherished?

I don’t know if you would have offered answers.

I should have given you the chance though, no?

Ultimately, I was just afraid these questions would scare you

Or worse yet it would sadden you

That the thoughts that gnaw at the deep caverns of my soul

Would continue to eat me alive

leaving me unable to exist contentedly enough to be happy for a moment.