Soul School-Lesson 60: What You Don’t Know About HOPE

Welcome to Spark My Muse!


Soul School Lessons
 are released each Wednesday
(that is on aka “Hump Day” or Midweek).

• On FRIDAYS I feature guests on a variety of interesting topics!

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EPS 42: Christmas COMEDY Special

Happy Christmas everybody!

If you’re late to hear this episode (and it’s not Christmas any more) or even if you don’t celebrate Christmas at all (I love you non believers very much-xo) you will still have fun hearing this episode that I do with my sweet sidekick Lori Neff.

Enjoy the bonus photo gallery of scary Santa photos, too!

• AND if you want to share a funny or horrifying Santa story or Christmas (or winter holiday of ANY KIND, New Years, Advent candle lighting gone awry, Chanukah hullabaloo, Kwanza craziness, whatever you want) story, or share photos, you can do that here at the Spark community page.


I will have some holiday time and I’ll need a break from consuming empty calories. Friends and fans will love to hear from you, see what you’re up to, and read of your tales.

Scroll down for detailed show notes with links and bonus material.


I’m so happy to welcome back as a co-host, Lori Neff.LoriNeff

After you listen, please visit her Website!




BONUS material! The Scary Santa Gallery!

(Get ready to freak out, kids)


Min 2:00

IS Santa scary? (usually yes)

Ugly Christmas Sweater Parties

The ironic side of Christmas.

The odd part of my childhood and never celebrating Christmas.


The RE-gifting phenomenon and a few horribly awkward re-gifting stories.

Tricky things about Christmas expectations


Favorite things about Christmas

Being drawn to the quiet (Lori)

Christmastide: The 12 days following Christmas

(another wikipedia entry 12 Days of Christmas)

Generosity and service and internalizing the Incarnation of 365 days per year.

Three Kings Day / The Epiphany 


The Church Calendar


(a perpetual wall calendar)

We tend to forget. Ritual and remembrance help ground us and keep us in greater intimacy with God.

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Safely Home

If you’re here as a new visitor from the Midday Connection blog, or elsewhere…welcome! I update 3-4 times per week, and some great things are in store. Please poke around and enjoy. If you want to, leave a comment, or use the contact form (lower black tab reading: “contact me”) to connect. I’m really glad you’re here.

For all of my regular readers, thank you for making it a joy to have a blog. I appreciate you.

Today’s Reflection: Safely Home

I’m preparing for a season of preparation. Strange, huh? I’ll explain.

Many Christians across the world observe the “Christian calendar” which begins at Advent, about four weeks before December 25th. (In 2012 it starts December 2.) Advent is a pre-Christmas time marked not buy consumption, decorating, cooking, and the usual things that busy us in the time before Christmas day.

Instead, it’s marked by a time of special spiritual awareness. Themes of waiting, longing, and  anticipation are the focus as we await the coming celebration of Light coming into the darkness: Jesus come to earth as a fragile baby.

But, it’s more then just a spiritual pre-season observance of an event in Christian history, it’s a recognition of a present reality that God has made a way safely home, to him.

The Incarnation is the coming of Immanuel (a Hebrew word meaning: God-with-us). It goes beyond the life, ministry, and death of Jesus of Nazareth as well…to the startling promise of God’s ever-abidding Holy Spirit that resides in us.

This is how God dwells among us, in the core of you and me. We are surrounded by his presence.

You are already home.

With God taking up residence within you, you are the home of God.

(He’s not sitting far off on a bright fancy, throne nestled in a cloud as  Michelangelo would paint it, or as Deists may believe. Remember some Theology 101: God is spirit and has no physical body.)

So, during this season, before the holidays kick into hectic full-swing, be mindful and awed by the Goodness and provision of God. Be aware in your body and mind that house the Spirit of God. A gift of unimaginable worth.

Make ready the manger of your heart for a fresh and rich ongoing awareness of God’s love, grace, and presence that will culminate in the joyful celebration of the arrival of God-in-flesh.

If you would like to continue learning about these seasonal themes and enrich your Autumn and early Winter season, keeping visiting. I’ll focus some of my posts on these themes, sometimes with reflections, scriptures, prayers, and such. This time also (soon) includes the 2nd annual Advent Project which is an effort create a space and format for giving and goodwill in the areas of art and other creative expressions.

So, now, it’s your turn…

What touched you about what you read today?

Do you currently observe a season of Advent each year? If yes, in what ways does it have most meaning for you?

photo source 

Featured Writer: Dr Doug Jackson on Trinity Sunday


I wanted to feature this fine Sermoneutics article because I’ll be bringing the concept of Trinity to my class this Sunday.


Sermoneutics is a weekly column authored by Doug Jackson. Before coming to South Texas School of Christian Studies, Dr. Jackson pastored churches for nearly twenty-five years. For more from Doug Jackson, check out his blog at
Click here for the Sermoneutics archive.

by Doug Jackson
Trinity Sunday,
2 Corinthians 13.11-14

The good news is that the Western church has conspired to disobey the clear command of Scripture. The bad news is that our disobedience obscures our doctrine.

Augustine warned that anyone who disbelieves the Trinity is in danger of losing his salvation . . . and that anyone who attempts to understand it is in danger of losing his mind! Actually the Trinity is one of those things, like fried crawdad tails or dancing or being in love, that one understands not by pondering but by experiencing.

“We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.” Athanasius puts it rather neatly but perhaps leaves us wondering how to pull off the tricky business of inhabiting what we believe. The doctrine makes us psychological heretics whose nerves don’t connect with our confession.

Paul takes a more practical tack, perhaps because he writes as a pastor and not as a theologian. Just before rapping out one of the clearest Trinitarian statements in all of Scripture, he lays a command on us: Greet one another with a holy kiss. That’s the injunction I am so glad the Church exiles to the exegetical antipodes along with head coverings for women and not boiling a kid in its mother’s milk.

I don’t like it when people hug me; you can imagine how I feel about kissing. And I claim apostolic authority on this one: C. S. Lewis shared my aversion. “It is one of my lifelong weaknesses,” he writes in his autobiography Surprised By Joy, “that I never could endure the embrace or kiss of my own sex.” But there it is, right in the Bible and everything.

See, the problem is that the Trinity states, not an abstract mathematical puzzle but a common-sense relational truth: God is love, and either the Almighty is the ultimate cosmic narcissist eternally self-involved, or God has eternally had Someone to love. And since only God is eternal it must be that the Father has eternally loved the Son, the Son has eternally loved the Father and the Spirit has eternally been that love. And therefore Christians can only study the Trinity by risking the sloppy business of loving one another. And because God makes us bodies we can only love with our bodies. Every hug that breeches my barriers brings me closer to inhabiting the unity of Trinity. Amplexo ergo creedo: I hug, therefore I get it.

In this light, it is interesting to note that this year Trinity Sunday falls on the same day as Juneteenth, a nationwide observance for African-Americans commemorating the day the Emancipation Proclamation actually took effect. Perhaps instead of breaking our brains over the complexities of cosmic calculus, we could study the Trinity by repenting of past segregations and handing out a few hugs across the barriers we have built throughout Christ’s body.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,



Father, Son and Holy Spirit, You are love from all eternity. Make us one as You are one, that in us the world may see the grace, love and fellowship of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.


May you be broken enough to help one another,
For wholeness comes from healing.
May you disagree enough to hear one another
For oneness comes from listening.
May you be lonely enough to hold one another
For touch defeats division and discord.
In the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
The love of God,
And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,

Copyright © 2011 South Texas School of Christian Studies, All rights reserved.

1st Day of Lent: Ash What-day?

“Oh…Sure, rub it in…”

Did Jesus get ashed on Ash Wednesday? Um. Nope. Duh…

This day in the Christian calendar has marked the beginning of the season of Lent for way over a thousand years. But, yes, it can be “observed” even if we don’t show the signs of charcoal. But, why bother? It’s pagan, right? It’s not in the Bible, right? It’s just kooky works-righteousness thing, right?

Well, here’s the thing. Let’s think about this. If something is not in the Bible does that mean it’s rendered useless and meaningless from Christian devotional practices? I doubt it. From the beginning God used known culture practices to help his people remember things in a physical/visible way that were connected with the the invisible Reality of him. Have you heard of circumcision? Of (Israelite) cleansing before temple participation? How about Baptism? Well, then you see what I mean.

Do you ever celebrate Christmas or Easter? Then, you’ve enacted what I mean.

Pagan Egypt (used for God’s purposes)
Nationally, Egyptian cultic practices were incorporated with the Israelite’s life of worship of the One True God. The Egyptian priestly practices, in particular, were employed. (Israel was a KINGDOM of priests. Quite an upgrade from slave status, right?)

God wasn’t threatened by the use of Egyptian priestly rites and rituals, the Israelites were familiar with, to help them remember and worship the Living God. On the contrary, God encouraged it. God commanded it. Similar sorts of things can help us today as well.

Still, we mustn’t ever forget–It’s not about the intricacies of the ritual itself, it’s about the condition of one’s heart. We can avoid false religion when we ask ourselves, “Does this practice draw me into relationship with the Living God?” If it does, keep it. If not, scrap it. You might want to read that again. It could be life-changing.

Challenge yourself, by asking God to reveal himself to you, to minister to you, and to awaken you in a new way in the days leading to Easter. What might God want you to look at more closely? What might God wish to make more like him in your life?

This could be very personal, and private, but I encourage you to share what findings you’d like to. It will help all of us journey together through this time of Lent, toward the great joy we celebrate on Resurrection Sunday! (a.k.a. Easter)

Thank you for coming here today! Blessing this holiday season.