Thirty-five years ago today, on a Sunday afternoon during Christmas break of my first year in college, I married Vicki Alfano my high school sweetheart. It took some wooing of her parents to allow their 18-year-old daughter to marry me but I pulled it off.
A couple of years ago Vicki's parents framed a letter that I sent them during my pursuit...
"Thank you for all the things you do for me and how you have opened your home to me... I love your daughter with all my heart and I want to marry her... it's a big step in life but I'm ready to take it with the help of God... I will always treat her right and take care of her because I love her so much... I'm sure times will be tough for us but I believe God will bless us..."
Well, they said, "Yes."
And God has blessed us. Vicki is an amazing woman, friend, mother and grandmother. We have been so blessed. I have been so blessed.
The two weeks before Christmas were filled with wonderful events and amazing opportunities. Here are some highlights (more for my remembrance than your interest).
The week before Christmas I spent three days with Jeremy, Larisa, Walker and Logan Affeldt, at their home in Spokane. Jeremy and I are working on some projects together (book and Feed the Hunger event). We worked 14 hours over two days along with hot-tubbing and playing with Walker. We also did a high school assembly where Jeremy challenged the student body to package 100,000 meals with him on January 22nd for the food banks around Spokane. Jeremy was so articulate and passionate and had a phenomenal response from the students.
Back in KC we had 28 friends and Youthfront staff members in our home for dinner and our annual party. We enjoyed great food, drink, stories and lots of laughter.
Vicki and I stayed at Crown Center overlooking the Ice Skating Terrace. Our granddaughter Lexi joined us for part of the day to enjoy the Christmas festivities going on.
On Wednesday night we gathered with our immediately family and my parents for our annual King Family "Irish Christmas" experience at O'Doud's in the Plaza. Our friend, Eddie Delahunt, a native Dubliner sings Irish Folk Music every Wednesday and Sunday nights. The pub is transported from Ireland. All of our kids have been with us to Ireland on a couple of occasions so we enjoy gathering for this tradition.
On Thursday night our kids came to our home for our Christmas celebration. We took Lexi ice skating before the festivities got under way. We all left with no broken bones unlike the grandma who broke her arm and hip just as we started skating.
On Christmas Eve Vicki's parents joined us for our service at Jacob's Well which was so beautiful.
On Christmas Day we went to Vicki's family gathering for our traditional Italian Feast of Spaghetti and meatballs. It doesn't get any better than that. We spent the late afternoon and evening at my families Christmas gathering for more great food and a late night dance off featuring the xBox Kinect. I still got the moves.
Yesterday, I went to the Chiefs shellacking of the Titans with son and daughter-in-law Micah and Anne and my niece Jenny and husband Ray. Too cold for Vicki. What a great game and a good day to clinch the AFC Western Division Championship. GO CHIEFS.
Kurt Rietema, who is a fellow Youthfront staff member and periodically appears here as a guest blogger, recently wrote about the best environments for learning which are situational and communal based. Situated learning occurs most effectively in places nurtured to create the space for honesty and safety to explore, discover and experiment. Here are some of Kurt's thoughts.
"We create space for students to express their honest opinions without fear of how they might be labeled by others in hopes that their limited perspective might be refined by the lived realities of others as we seek God’s truth together.
Timothy Radcliffe talks about the importance of this kind of space in our pursuit of what is true and just. “How can we ever think about anything if we never had the freedom to try out crazy ideas, float hypotheses and make mistakes? Meister Eckhart maintained that no one can attain the truth without a hundred errors on the way. We need the freedom for words for which we are not going to be held eternally responsible. Seeking the truth requires times of protected irresponsibility.”
This is a challenge and an opportunity for the church. Whether in the corporate world or politics, modernist reasoning has taught us to project an image of infallibility. One misstep, one careless word spoken and we will be held eternally responsible for them. Too often, the church has followed this faulty reasoning, thinking that if we are to be worthy of being followed, then we must have answers to the world’s questions; that the church must be the owners and protectors of truth. But maybe that’s not the most helpful way to conceive of who we are to be. Maybe instead of seeing the church as a dispenser of truth, which puts us on the same graceless plain where the rest of the world hurls accusations of hypocrisy, the church can be a sanctuary from that world that continually points to Truth. Here, we can create a healing, redemptive space that allows for a freedom of words for which neither presidents, nor peasants, nor preachers will be held eternally responsible. Seeking Jesus and his upside down kingdom requires these times of protected irresponsibility."
What do you think? Are you OK with the concept of "protected irresponsibility" and if not, why?
While I have now seen all three of The Chronicles of Narnia movies and enjoyed (not loved) them, it is now clear to me what is increasingly becoming the biggest irritation of the movie versions of C. S. Lewis' narratives, especially after the first movie The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Where is Aslan? Why is Aslan such a peripheral figure in the movies, especially Prince Caspian and now The Voyage of the Dawn Treader? For C. S. Lewis, Aslan is the center of focus throughout the The Chronicles of Narnia.
So I started looking around the internet to see if others felt like me about the Narnia movies. I guess I've missed this conversation. Some are quite happy to have Aslan take a back seat. Courtney Ferguson, a film critic for the Portland Mecury wrote an review entitled Aslan is a Prig. She writes, "Prince Caspian wages a war with his uncle to regain his throne. Here's where all Prince Caspian's battle sequences start going down, and here's also where Lucy starts getting all, "Where's Aslan? How come y'all can't see him? Where's your faith? I believe! What would Aslan do?" (To director Andrew Adamson's credit, he does away with much of the Aslan/Jesus business that plagued Wardrobe, and here gets straight to the savage battle scenes.)"
How do you go away from the "Aslan/Jesus business" and retell Lewis' story?
I also found this interesting critique that is worth a read from Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity. The article entitled "Narnia Invaded" was written by Steven Boyer, Professor of Theology at Eastern University.
In addition to my Executive Editor role, I contributed an article in the current edition of Immerse: A Journal of Faith, Life and Youth Ministry. Once again I used the controversial "M" word in the title of my article. No, it's not "masturbation," it's much more scandalous. The "m" word that freaks out many Christians is some variation of the word "mystic." For some, using the words mystic, mystical, or mysticism in any kind of positive manner is incontrovertible evidence that the user of the word has either signed a pact with the Devil or slipped into the deceptive grasp of a New Age demon.
I addressed the issue of mysticism last December in a post entitled "Where are the Mystics in North American Christianity" In Immerse my piece is entitled "Where are the Mystics?" and it appears in the Christian History and Thought column. Of course, this topic has resulted in me ending up on the Christian Conspiracy web sites as a Catholic, New Age, Dangerous, Subverter of Truth and All Things Truly Christian. You'd think I'd move on to another topic but I will not ignore this topic. One of the most profound books I have read this year (not once but I'm currently working through it again right now) is Philip Sheldrake's Spaces for the Sacred: Place, Memory, and Identity. The content in this book originated from Sheldrake presenting at the prestigious Hulsean Lectures he delivered at the University of Cambridge. Sheldrake shared great company as a lecturer with other notable lecturers of the Hulsean Lectures - Michael Ramsey, N.T. Wright, Alister McGrath, plus many more over the last two centuries.
I have always been careful to describe orthodox Christian mysticism as something connected to theology proper and not an existentially developed, untethered biblical, idiosyncratic revelation of some secret truth or loco prediction of the future. My Theology Professor in Seminary, John Knight, did his PhD under the tutelage of David Tracy. I'm sure that his influence has rubbed off on me. I think the following quote from Sheldrake concerning mysticism is a very important aspect of the "mystical dimension of theology." In this quote Sheldrake cites Archbishop Rowan Williams' thoughts on Apophases (emphasis below mine) as largely an attitude in which we should approach theology and theological discourse.
“In recent decades a number of major theologians such as Karl Rahner or Rowan Williams have re-engaged with the concept of mysticism, or better the mystical dimension of theology, in terms of a different way of knowing and learning beyond a purely intellectualist, abstract or systematic method. Because this way of knowing necessarily takes us beyond the boundaries of conceptual thinking and beyond definitive intelligibility, there has been a particular interest in the recovery of the apophatic dimension of mystical theology with its emphasis on the final impossibility of naming God as this or that. Williams understands this approach as ultimately normative within the overall theological enterprise. ‘Apophasis is not a branch of theology, but an attitude which should undergird all theological discourse, and lead it towards the silence of contemplation and communion.’[i] This view is reinforced by the journey of the American theologian, David Tracy, towards a belief that the apophatic language of mystical writers is where theologians must turn in the present, postmodern era. He writes of the ‘uncanny negations’ of mysticism as a form of theological release and, consciously aligning himself with the latter Thomas Aquinas, that intellectual silence may be ‘the final form of speech possible to any authentic speaker’.[ii]”[iii]
[i] Rowan Williams, ‘The Via Negativa and the Foundations of Theology: An Introduction to the Thought of V.N. Lossky’, in Stephen Sykes and Derek Holmes (eds), New Studies in Theology I, London: Duckworth 1980, p. 96.
[ii] See David Tracy, The Analogical Imagination: Christian Theology and the Culture of Pluralism, London: SCM Press 1981, repr. New York: Crossroad 1991, pp. 360, 385.
[iii] Philip Sheldrake, Spaces for the Sacred: Place, Memory, and Identity, Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press 2001, p. 120, 121.
Our Youthfront Staff Christmas Party was a blast. All 70 of us started out at staff member Kelsey Fuller's parent's home for appetizers before heading to the home of Cheryl and Randy Reinhardt. Cheryl is the Vice-Chair of our board. We had a wonderful time celebrating mile markers of various staff members. Dan Earl recieved a 5 year award, Fletch Kelly recieved a 10 year award and Tommy Thompson recieved an award and a cash bonus for 30 years of serving on the staff of Youthfront. With each reciepient we open up a time for story-telling, it's so good. Also, this year I completed my 35th year at Youthfront. I recieved a Waterford Crystal Limited Edition of a San Francisco Giants World Series Baseball, a generous cash bonus plus a lot of love from my fellow staff members.
After a wonderful dinner we partied late into the night with the live Karaoke band Separated at Birth. I got in a little Rod Stewart with Maggie May (this explains the picture with hair) and a finale with Erik Leafblad and Kurt Rietema and our rendition of One by U2. I'm just hoping no video shows up on YouTube.
If a temptation comes to you in the place where you live, do not leave the place at the time of temptation, for wherever you go you will find that which you fled from there before you. Benedicta Ward, The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers