This is a continuation of a series of Advent ideas (see part I and part II). These thoughts are from my brother, Chris, published on one of his blogs in 2009. Please pray for the repose of his soul as you read.
I’m posting this under the patronage of St. Joseph, who with great quiet, obedience, love and humility, undertook the final preparations for the Word Made Flesh that very first Advent. St. Joseph, pray for us.
Mixing it all together…
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Advent ideas III (mixing bowls and taste tests)
December 7, 2009 by nobis77
Advent is a rich time of year, especially for catholics. Previous articles in this series were geared towards helping you conceive elements of this richness as ingredients of a genuine “soul-food”, and prepare to “cook” something with it all. But Sometimes all the possibilities are more daunting than anything else. This article may help you quickly get some test batches put together and out where you can sample and home in on the best.
Hopefully you’ve skipped ahead, finished something savory, and are already drawing life from it..
..but if you find yourself stumped you can help me make a mess with:
- Daily routines
- Advent calendars
- Scriptural meditation time
- Journey to Bethlehem
- Spiritual self-Gifts
1. Grab your list of choice ideas, a sketchbook or some paper.. whatever you find aids your brainstorming most surround yourself with as much festal richness as you can gather, and start dreaming and doodling…
What would be the ideal version of all these ideas?.. A version that I’d most love to find, finished and ready to go?…What would it look like?… What would working with it do?… What particular things would it have?…What solutions have I seen in the secular world to similar problems?…
Carry this thought train around with you for a day or two..
(For my ideas my version of the above looks like..)
- Daily routine – I guess by this I mean whatever most helps compose and frame the day, I’m a morning person, and have always loved desktop goodies like day-planners, calendars, and other levengeresque type items. Aids that you enjoy both starting your day with and returning to again and again. Polished touchstones..
- Advent calendars – What if instead of the usual chintzy (albeit lovable) chronological-candy-dispenser you had daily access to your own wall of heavenly post-office boxes, each one with a love-letter inside.. carved into marble.. inset with silver.. framed in gold.. punctuated with jewels.. and just for you..
- Scriptural meditation time – Lets face it, some verses you’ve seen or heard enough that you actually think you know-all-about them.. but then you see it in a slightly different light or hear it with a slightly different context or emphasis, and, whether incensed intrigued or inspired, if your not careful, you might wind up thinking about it off an on all day:
- “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us..”
- “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us..”
- “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us..
Some things have this “power”, but it’s rare, and probably more of something you pray and ask for of God as a gift than something you presume you can cultivate or hunt and gather..
- Maps – Not everybody finds a good map inspiring. I do. Not one that’s befouled with here-one-moment something-else-the-next political placenames, but one that shows God’s artistry in carving the earth with sun wind and rain.. with each locale it’s absolutely unique gift of “place-ness”. Such maps I find are perfect mental pegboards to hang otherwise dry (but important) spiritual or intellectual things on to keep them out of the oblivion of being mere factoids.
- Spiritual Self-gifts– To return to the divine bottom line.. Advent is not about parties or giving and receiving baubles or the sugar-frosted quasi-sacramentalism of religioussecular tradition, except to the extent that they help us become a living gift to the God who loved us enough to give himself. What’s odd is that this time of year they can help do this. How much more (hopefully, and prayerfully) can intentionally built traditions, humbly and prayerfully hallowed and designed do.
2. Take your “ideals” and mix into them some mediums you most love to see, build-with, and use..
.. Around this point a part of the creative process that uses abstract and mysterious faculties begins to predominate.
An outsider’s instructions, and even your own reasoning should start to fade into the background for awhile (though they should reapear later and begin to interweave again.)
For what it’s worth, this is what seems to “work” most consistently for me at this stage..
- Flash cards – If your stuck and get tempted to just keep plowing ahead with your active mind, don’t. Get the best, the very distilled cores of all your ideas written out on small papers or index cards, say a prayer and let go. Clip them together and start carrying them into various contexts..
- Rich materials – I’m the type of artist who always faces writers block, so I usually keep some bits of construction materials around to help in the development of ideas. When stumped sometimes just seeing these blank-slate samples in different lights and next to my ideas helps alot..
- Other’s work – I also keep a select few catalogs around for the same reason. It always helps to see what other’s have done that’s similar in some way to what your trying to do..
..Finally, never underestimate the power of music to help the creative process along (or corrupt and destroy it). Pre-eminently in J.R.R Tolkien’s, C.S. Lewis’ and many other creation legends the entire cosmos came into being bathed-in and by the use-of song. Make of that what you will, but rest assured, when your heart isn’t singing, the creative part of your soul isn’t moving.
Also, I have a couple of cd’s and artists that almost never fail to help at this, and their not the one’s I would have guessed back at the begining so keep your eyes, ears, heart, and mind open till you find your muse.
3. Make some mini batches, sample them and start homing in on what tastes best..
This is difficult to keep generic, I’ll just tell you what my batches were, and how they’ve developed..
Google earth assisted, web served, daily meditations at your computer – As I said earlier, I love maps, and in other bible studies I’ve most gotten most from “seeing” as much as possible of the surroundings and situation of the persons in the passsage. What if I could move around along the theoretical route of Mary and Joseph, seeing and traversing the hills of Judea with them.
Unfortunately, though the idea has potential this medium isn’t ready just yet (or maybe it’s just my mastery of it all). All initial work inevitably and quickly led to frustration and distraction. The terrain is that of a modern politcal landscape and the mechanics and learning curve it’s method of navigation uses dominated all attempted creative and spiritual efforts.
However the potential is still there to carry the core of this idea much further: perhaps a custom image of Israel-as-it-was could be brought into G’earth; perhaps the terrain elevation data could be exported to a more fluid modeling program like Google’s sketchup and eventually a web project could serve up daily batches of terrain and meditation to move and pray through..
Physical model of Holy-land – an analog version of the above that also has much to recommend it, I think. But again the work of building could dominate for too much time.
Although.. If you’ve got kids and some playdoh or one of the many wonderful recipes for such handy. What could be more fun than a little daily ritual of moving a pushpin Holy family along the plains and valleys, what a neat bible study aid.. “ah there’s Jerusalem!” .. “They just passed by where David slew Goliath!..” “Look there’s the river Jordan!”
Detailed topographic map and meditation aids to draw on – While being frustrated by google’s “..earth” I started looking into online topgraphic imagery, hoping to import it into Sketchup and atleast begin the long work of making a usable model of the holy land.. While putting together the big contour-lined image it occurred that the most fluid non-distracting polishable version of this devotion would have a web-project (blog) serving up daily/weekly printouts with the period’s topography map, and some meditation aids, like so..
* * * * * * Thank you for allowing me to share these treasured ideas from my brother. I’ve tried to end this in so many different ways, all of them coming up short. So, I’ll end this series exactly how he would: