No I’m not. I’m totally not.

Wednesdays are the worst this semester. They make me very complainy. Do you know what makes me less complainy? Knowing that my dad is coming to visit in a couple weeks and we’re going to pretend we are rich at The Broadmoor! The Broadmoor is the most beautimous hotel in all the world/Colorado Springs. It’s very fancy and gorgeous and way more sophisticated than we are. We are going to eat brunch in here. I will smuggle you some crepes.

Ok, y’all, let’s just calm down and have a moment of silence. Please show some respect. Jack, the Ingalls’ trusty bulldog … has died. He was such a good dog and always trotted faithfully under the wagon — from Wisconsin, to Indian Territory, to Minnesota. He protected the family, and he swam an overflowing creek in order to stick with them, and he helped herd cattle, and he was always there to greet Laura when she got home from school.

I may or may have cried the other night when he died, you guys. It was emotional. I don’t even like animals.

Speaking of emotions, I love Parenthood! I felt so sad for one couple and so happy for another one last night. I mean, Zoe and Julia killed me. But then Crosby and Jasmine made me feel all better. Also, I felt mostly just perplexed when it came to Sarah and Mark. What is their deal? They’re going to have a baby and then run off to New York right quick and pretend Sarah doesn’t have two other children and that Mark doesn’t have a creeper mustache? Is that their plan? Maybe they just want to hang out with the Hasidic Jews too.

So Lent starts today. Is anyone observing it this year? I’ve done it for the past few years, and it’s always a good learning experience for me. I like this season. There’s Lent and Passover and Easter Sunday. What I’m trying to focus in on for my thesis is the ways God asked his people to remember what he’d done through the holidays that he commanded. He didn’t just tell them to remember, he gave them celebrations and things to do, build, eat, not eat as ways of reminding them of his goodness. For some holidays you blow trumpets, and for others you eat unleavened bread or bitter herbs. Sometimes you fast and other times you eat and eat. These tangible things that God commanded are interesting to me. I like that God gives us ways to remember him. For me, Lent is one of those ways. I won’t talk a ton about it here, but I did blog about it over on Boundless this week if you want to learn more.

OK, I’ve got to go be crabby to everyone because it is Wednesday. See you tomorrow!

Christmas List Friday!

December 23, 2011

Oh, hello. FRIDAY!

1. My dad and I went to a Gophers basketball game last night! They played North Dakota State University from Fargo. So yes, there were a lot of farm boys on the team. Although Minnesota is D1 and in the Big Ten, they kind of suck right now. All their good players are hurt. So, the game was actually very close and tense, even though it shouldn’t have been. They squeaked out a victory in the end, though. Minnesota, Minnesota, yeah Gophers!

2. When my high school friends were over the other night, we sat around and talked about how we are old and gray and like sitting around in a living room drinking wine instead of going out dancing. This is our fate. We’re OK with it. We like sweatpants. Today I’m going to lunch with Kate, one of my college friends. We are also old. We’re meeting up for a nice little lunch at 11:30 so as to avoid all the rowdy crowds and such. Then we’ll take our Metamucil and head home to be in bed by a decent hour.

3. Minneapolis and St. Paul are actually pretty cool cities. There are lots of darling neighborhoods and cool shops and good restaurants. If it weren’t for the biting cold, it could be pretty awesome.

4. Jaci has informed me that we are all moving to Portland because it is fun and awesome. I’m only going if I can certify that all the chickens in the state have four acres to roam free.

5. So, this is darling. A telling of the Christmas story by little tiny people. That first sheep in the stable killed me. He didn’t seem to care much for Mary and Joseph. And that third wise man wasn’t all that interested in going to visit the baby Jesus.

6. Third night of Hanukkah last night!

They have eyes, but cannot see; ears, but cannot hear. They are rebels against the light; they are strangers to its ways, and do not stay in its path. For darkness is morning to all of them; for they are friends with the terrors of darkness. Indeed the light of the wicked fails; the flame of his fire does not shine. The light in his tent darkens; his lamp fails him. They grope without light in the darkness; He makes them wander as if drunk. And I will banish them from the sound of mirth and gladness, the voice of bridegroom and bride, and the sound of the handmill and the light of the lamp. All the lights that shine in the sky will darken above you; and I will bring darkness upon your land — declares the Lord God. Listen, you who are deaf; you blind ones; look up and see! — Psalm 115:5-6; Job 24:13, 17; Job 18:5-6; 12:25; Jeremiah 25:10; Ezekiel 32:8; Isaiah 42:18

7. I’m going to take a little bloggy break next week, you guys. Maybe not the whole week — I might need to give you up-to-the-minute updates about all of the happenings in Deer River, the 900-person town my mom lives in. But I probably won’t blog the first half of the week for sure. So, have a wonderful Christmas. I hope it is blessed with family and friends. Most importantly, I hope the birth of our savior — the one who brought light to darkness — will bring you joy this season.

Happy Christmas!

Tardy to the Party

December 22, 2011

Hi!

This post is very late today. I’m an irresponsible blogger. Mainly because I stayed up really late and my fingers were too lazy to type you a note.

I was up so late because some of my high school friends came over for dinner last night. And we got carried away with talking because now we are old and no one can tell us when to go to bed or when to be home. We had to make up for all those curfews of the past. It was so fun to catch up with friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen in years.

I’m about halfway through Catching Fire the second book in the Hunger Games series. I wish I had known they were such a quick read — I didn’t bring the third book to Minnesota with me. I’m in trouble.

The second night of Hanukkah was last night.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight. Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks, who acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent. Therefore, as tongues of fire lick up straw and as dry grass sinks down in the flames, so their roots will decay and their flowers blow away like dust; for they have rejected the law of the LORD Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel. — Isaiah 5:20-24

Who put darkness for light and light for darkness.

OK, I’ve got to go. My dad and I are going to a Minnesota Gophers basketball game tonight — I’ve got to get ready to cheer on the team!

Let There Be Light

December 21, 2011

Hiya!

There really weren’t any fascinating people at the airport. No mullets, no ugly Christmas sweaters, no people running around in Confederacy suits like I saw one year. There was a Santa at the Southwest terminal taking pictures with people. I shunned him in favor of reading The Hunger Games. Which I finished on the plane.

The Hunger Games was fascinating — and kind of horrifying. It’s basically like a modern take on the Roman gladiator battles. They’ve dressed it up — the combatants get television interviews, amazing costumes, good food. But it’s a barbaric fight to the death. I sometimes wonder if something like the gladiator battles could happen again, and then I flip by something like UFC on television and I sadly think, yes, yes it could. Yuck.

So I’m back home in Minnesota. My dad still lives in Minneapolis, and my mom is remarried and now lives in a small town up in northern Minnesota. I’ll be staying with my dad down here in the Cities for the next few days. My dad immediately made me help him set up his new Gmail account (he’s getting fancy) and update his LinkedIn profile. (This is my dad who didn’t update from DSL until two years ago.) Once that was settled, he opened a bottle of champagne, we toasted to my being home, and we watched a movie. Good to be home.

Last night was the first night of Hanukkah! My mom had a card waiting for me at my dad’s house. She is a good wannabe-Jewish mommy.

My dad indulged me while I lit the candles and said my Hebrew blessing. I also found a reading that goes with the first night of Hanukkah.

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. … And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. — Genesis 1:2-5; 14-18

Let there be light. And there was light.

Ok, I best be going. I’ve got Minnesota to explore, you know. Have a lovely times day!

Eight Crazy Nights

December 20, 2011

Hola!

I’m headed to Minnesota today  — I haven’t been home in a whole year. I bet so much has changed. Or not.

So Hanukkah starts tonight, you guys! The festival of lights! Adam Sandler loves this holiday. As does the holiday armadillo.

So Hanukkah is a holiday that commemorates an event that happened during the intertestamental period — the time in between the Old Testament and New Testament. After the people of Israel came back into their land after the Babylonian exile, there were other conquerors and nations to deal with. Eventually, the land of Israel was ruled by the Seleucid Dynasty. In 167 B.C. the Seleucid ruler Antiochus Epiphanes decided that the people he ruled were being way too Jewish and instead should become more Greek (Hellenized). Antiochus was pretty awful — he outlawed Sabbath worship, and he took over the temple and encouraged the worship of Greek gods and the sacrificing of pigs (a non-Kosher animal). He was the worst.

You iz mean, Antiochus!

The Greeks came to the village of Modi’in one day and set up an altar. They made the Jews bring a pig to the altar to sacrifice it. An old priest named Mattathias was so enraged by this blasphemy that he killed the Jew that was about to obey the Greeks. He and his sons (including Judah the Maccabee) then fought the Greeks in their town and began fighting all the Greeks using guerrilla warfare. They continued fighting and they actually drove the Seleucids out of Israel. They reclaimed Jerusalem and the temple so that they could worship the one true God there again. There was only a little bit of oil in the temple when they reclaimed it — enough to last one day. They lit the temple menorah, but it miraculously burned for eight days!

So, that’s Hanukkah! I have a menorah and I plan to light it for the next eight days. So there!

I’ve been too scared to read more of The Hunger Games. JK, I’ve just been busy. But I’m getting dropped off at the airport early today, so I’ll have lots of time to read and people watch. I’ll try to take pictures for you.

Talk to you soon!

Denisey

Movie Madness

December 19, 2011

Well, hello, friends!

I am feeling so cheery because of the NO SCHOOL FOR FIVE WEEKS!!!!

To celebrate, I apparently went crazy and saw two movies in the theater this weekend. I never do that. But both of them were great, so it was totally worth it. The Muppets movie was so good — cute and hilarious and clean. When those chickens bawked out “Forget You” I lost it. I think I like their version of the song more than Cee Lo’s. I also saw Sherlock Holmes this weekend and it was excellent. Hilarious and clever and good action. I want to marry someone funny and clever like old Holmes. Let me know if you know of someone.

ALSO, I saw a preview for the new movie Battleship. It looks fairly awful — it’s based on the board game of the same name, and it basically looks like a cheap copy of Transformers. However, both Tim Riggins and Landry from Friday Night Lights are in it, so I will be there with bells on. Literal bells.

A bunch of friends came over yesterday to watch the Broncos game. We ate chili and dang quesadillas and cheered for Tom Brady’s demise. The streak is over, but there’s still hope. That Broncos team wants to win and I think they’ll be pretty successful.

Umm, I read the first two chapters of The Hunger Games last night, and it’s super depressing and kind of makes me want to die. I mean, they’ve explained what the Hunger Games are, and in case you were wondering, they do not sound fun. And life is pretty depressing for old Catnip and her family. And for the continent formerly known as North America. Why do people like these books? Does it stay awful like that? I don’t know if I can take it.

Christmas is so soon, you guys! I wish I had bought at least one present. I blogged over at Boundless about the book Touching Wonder by John Blase. It’s a look at the Christmas story, and it’s awesome. I’m not kidding — for someone so familiar with the story, it’s been eye-opening and awe-inducing. You should definitely read it.

So, remember how I’m celebrating the biblical holidays this year? Three of them are in the fall, and four of them in the spring. However, we have a couple in between that aren’t technically biblical holidays, but I’m going to celebrate them anyway. Neither Hanukkah nor Purim (the holiday related to Esther) are commanded by God, but both are mentioned in the Bible, and both are still widely celebrated by Jewish people, so I’m going to look into them and do a little celebrating as well. I mean, who doesn’t like to celebrate?

Hanukkah starts at sundown tomorrow night — I’ve got my menorah all ready. I’ll blog more about the holiday tomorrow so that we can be all knowledgeable before we start lighting our candles.

OK, hafta go not do homework! Have a great Monday, friends!

That Torah Shuffle

October 21, 2011

Someday I would like to be skinny. But today I met my friends Kristy and Ashley for breakfast and I ate eggs benedict with corned beef hash and hollandaise sauce. So today will not be that day.

Also, I really like this quote. Don’t you?

“When I’m 80 years old and sitting in my rocking chair, I’ll be reading Harry Potter. And my family will say to me, ‘After all this time?’ And I will say, ‘Always.'” — Alan Rickman

Oh, Snape. Always.

So, today is Simchat Torah (rejoicing in the Torah). The synagogues follow a weekly reading schedule with portions of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible). Today ends the cycle — this past year, the Jewish community has read Genesis through Deuteronomy together. Simchat Torah is a holiday in which the last chapter of Deuteronomy is read and then the Torah reading immediately starts over with a reading from the first chapter of Genesis.

Simchat Torah is an extremely joyful holiday — God has given us his word, and we rejoice in it. In the synagogues, the people come up and recite blessings over the word of God, and then people grab the Torah scrolls and dance and sing together. The Jewish people have a joy and appreciation for the Bible that most of us have never experienced. They rejoice in the fact that God has revealed himself through his word — they literally dance and sing as they carry his word in their hands, close to their hearts. Can you imagine if we evangelicals started to dance and sing, while holding our Bibles? We’d probably be kicked out of church; we’d certainly be frowned at. But the Psalmist reminds us that God’s word is sweeter than honey, it’s our light, our heritage, the joy of our hearts. God and his word are worth cutting a rug.

These people love God’s word.

Well, it’s Friday, and you know what that means. Work and going to bed as early as possible. I hope you have a lovely times weekend (I suggest not watching the Vikings play any “football” in order to keep your weekend as joyful as possible).

Joves!

Aww, Sukkah Sukkah Now!

October 19, 2011

HI!

OK, you guys. I haven’t blogged in forty years but it’s because I took ill. I’ve been fighting the forces of death all week long. It was touch and go there for awhile. You know — head colds are really dangerous these days. So, really I’m fine, but I was sick last week and then I had to catch up with work and school, and old bloggy times suffered because of it. But now I’m back. Let’s make up and be friends again, OK?

I took a picture for you of the grilled cheese I made. Maybe I got distracted and forgot to check on it. Maybe. Anyone want to come over for dinner?

So, Sukkot ends todayish. As I mentioned before, it’s a week-long event in which you make a shelter (sukkah) in your yard and show hospitality to others. I didn’t spend much time outside (being sickly and all), but I did host Bible study one night and have my mentoring group from school over last weekend. I thought I’d share the joy of Sukkot and all my germs with everyone.

Sukkot is a holiday that looks forward to the messianic age when the Messiah will bring the final harvest and each person will enjoy peace and sit under their own vine and fig tree. The messianic age is related to Sukkot partially because Isaiah 4 says that in that day, God will create a canopy of glory over those gathered at Mt. Zion and it will be a “sukkah and shade from the heat of the day.”

As Christians, we look forward to that time when Jesus returns and makes all things new. John related Jesus’ first coming to Sukkot (the feast of tabernacles) as well. John was the hippie disciple, you know, (he was all about the love), and he felt the freedom to just make up words. In the original Greek, John 1:4 says that Jesus, the Word, became flesh and “tabernacled among us.” The first ingathering of Sukkot has already happened, and we look forward to the second — the age of peace when Jesus returns and our sukkahs are made from the glory of God, and our hospitality and fellowship is with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit forever and ever. Yeah!

OK, the fall holidays are over now, you guys! The next biblical ones come in the spring. But don’t worry. Simchat Torah is kind of cool, and that’s this Friday. And later we’ll take a look at Hanukkah and Purim. ALSO, I think we’ll have plenty to talk about because, clearly, I will continue to burn grilled cheese and like Jewish things and want to complain about my mild cold.

K, bye!

Sukkot!

October 13, 2011

Yesterday I sat on the couch most of the day, sniffing and coughing and watching old episodes of Parenthood on Netflix. I did get dressed around noon, which was a really proud moment. Please hold your applause. After I got dressed, I returned to the couch and ate a cough drop. Then I thought about how I really needed to write a lesson, but my hands were tired and as I’ve previously explained my computer screen was taken up with the Bravermans. Anyhoo, today is a new day, and whether I feel awesome or not, there are things to do, people. After all, we’re celebrating a holiday!

So, Sukkot (Sue-COAT) is the next holiday commanded by God in Leviticus 23:33-43. We sometimes hear it called the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Booths. It’s a harvest holiday that lasts for seven days; on the first and last days you are to rest and do no work (I took advantage of that command yesterday). God also told the people to live in sukkahs (booths) for those seven days because that is what they did when they wandered in the desert for 40 years. God wanted the Israelite descendents to remember that time — how God brought them out of Egypt and provided for them in the desert. The Bible also tells the people to take ripe fruit and leafy branches and green palm fronds and rejoice before the Lord in thankfulness. He provided for all their needs in the desert, and he brought them into the Promised Land!

People still celebrate Sukkot by building little shelters in their backyards. There are all kinds of rules for building a sukkah — certain parts must be made out of natural materials and you decorate them with festive colors. (If you don’t want to make your own, you can buy one here.)

Here’s what a sukkah looks like. Aww, sukkah, sukkah now.

Here is a tent-like sukkah.

But what if you live in an apartment and don’t have a backyard? No worries — sukkahs can be built on your balcony.

Or even on a boat.

A lot of people don’t sleep in their sukkahs, but they eat dinner in them every night. The sukkah is a place to have fun and enjoy being with friends. Because it is a joyous holiday, your sukkah should have a roof sturdy enough to keep you shaded and comfortable, but not so solid that you are prevented from gazing up at the stars at night.

Sukkot comes right after the serious Day of Atonement, and it switches the tone up completely. It is joyful — a time of gratefulness and thanksgiving to God. Sukkot is also a time of showing hospitality — you can invite your friends over to have dinner with you in your sukkah. It’s also a time to be generous — you give to the poor and share with those in need. Part of Sukkot is remembering that our possessions are temporary and can come and go; it is God who provides for us, and God whose love and grace is permanent.

So, there’s a good article in the Washington Post that really summed up what we can learn from the seven days of dwelling in temporary shelters:

If one has been blessed — our profits outweigh our expenditures, our portfolio has grown and our wine cellars are full and satisfaction and trust fill our soul — it is at that moment that the Torah tells us to leave our home and dwell in a sukkah. The frail booth teaches us that neither wealth, good investments, IRA’s or even real-estate are life’s safeguards. It is God who sustains us all, those in palaces and those in tents. Any glory or wealth we posses came to us from God, and will endure so long as it is God’s will.

And if our toil has not resulted in great blessing — our investments went south, we lost our job and nest-egg, our cellars are empty, and we face the approaching winter with mounting debt and bills, living off credit from month to month, forlorn and fearful for how we will survive— then as we enter the sukkah we find rest for our troubled soul. Divine providence is more reliable than worldly wealth which can vanish in an instant. The sukkah will renew our strength and courage, and teach and inspire us with joy and perseverance even in the face of affliction and hardship.

So, Sukkot started last night at sundown and continues for the next week. I’m planning some hospitality for the week, and, although I will not be building a shelter, I do plan to have dinner on my deck at least a couple of times. Any ideas for ways we can serve or help the poor this week?

There’s lots more cool stuff about Sukkot, but we’ll get to that tomorrow. Come back, OK? Bring your friends. Remember today that God provides for us because he is good. His love endures forever!

Atonement

October 7, 2011

It is Friday. Yes, we can. I’m not sure what that means.

Here is what I’m doing today.

Studying in front of a fire sounds peaceful, but in reality, I have to take a quiz. A quiz that, in order to pass, I need to listen to four lectures and know the contents of a 200-page book that I have not read. So, the fire is not helping my peaceful mojo all that much.

So, Yom Kippur starts at sundown tonight and ends at sundown tomorrow. Like we talked about yesterday, it is a time of atonement — a time when Israel was to make sacrifices and send away a scapegoat who would carry the sins of the past year into the desert. This obviously doesn’t happen anymore because there is no temple in Israel. However, Jewish tradition now has three main components of Yom Kippur — repentance, prayer and fasting.

In the days leading up to Yom Kippur, we pray, asking God to forgive our sins and reconciling with anyone we need forgiveness from or need to forgive. This need for reconciliation is something many of us still take into account before we take communion, the symbol of our atonement. I didn’t even know about this tradition, but it is quite fitting, because a friend and I had a talk this week and worked through some things that had separated us. We admitted and forgave, and it was a good preparation for Yom Kippur — the day we remember that God freely forgave us and provided a way for us to be reconciled to him.

The prayer part is done together. There is an evening Yom Kippur service on the night it starts, and then many people go to services for much of the next day. Often, people read the book of Jonah, which reminds us that we are quick to run from God’s plan in rebellion, but he is also quick to offer compassion. Part of the communal prayer time is to recognize that our sins affect others. All of our sin is against God, but the ramifications often spread to our family and friends. People pray, asking God to please forgive them and begging him to write their names in the Book of Life. As believers in Jesus, we know that we don’t need a yearly atonement any longer. Jesus paid the price fully and completely and victoriously through his death. Although it is a solemn holiday and people are asking God for forgiveness, there is also an undertone of joy. People wear white, as a reminder that God has promised to make our sins as white as snow. God is gracious and compassionate and always willing to forgive when we repent. It is his character — it is who he is.

The third part of Yom Kippur is fasting from sundown to sundown. Although many Jews and Christians fast, this is the one fast commanded by God in the Torah. Many people don’t eat or even drink water; they fast to demonstrate the seriousness of their sin, and the need for God to forgive.

Here is a confession: I do not fast. I like food. Not eating food makes me sad (and crabby). Every once in awhile I feel like I should do it — Jesus did say when you fast, and throughout Acts,  the Christians fast and pray often. But I don’t. Honestly, I’m scared to. It is uncomfortable, and I loves me some comforts. But I suppose that is the point. Atonement is uncomfortable; it requires a sacrifice, a penalty, someone willing to suffer. So, for Yom Kippur, I have decided to fast from food, not because I fear that God hasn’t forgiven me, but because I know many people who have not been reconciled to God. They have not recognized their need for Jesus’ atoning blood; their eyes are still blinded to the truth, and their hearts are still enslaved to sin. So, I will fast tomorrow so that I remember to pray for them, to lift up these people to the Lord, asking his Spirit to call them to him because Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.

So there we are — the Day of Atonement. Remember today and tomorrow that Jesus has atoned for us, that God is so willing to forgive when we turn around, when we repent. Remember it with joy, not fear, because our God is good to us! Consider fasting and praying for those in your life who need Jesus. I’ll be back next week, quiz done and well-fed.

Have a good weekend!