Wednesday, December 23, 2015

#AdventUs Birth


Birth.  The waiting is over.  It’s not called labor for nothing.   Giving birth is work.  Hard, dangerous work.  It is a work of love.

All creation requires labor.   God worked so hard in bringing for creation, he needed a day of rest.  

Whether it’s giving birth to a child, or bringing forth a work of art, a piece of writing, putting legs on a good idea, cooking a delicious nutritious meal, fixing a car, tying a child’s shoes, combing mats out of an abandoned pet’s fur, staying up all night weeping with a grieving friend….it is all labor, bringing forth life.  

It is hard work.  But it is also a work of love.

Perhaps the greatest gift God has given us is this ability to share in the work of creation. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

#AdventUs Truth


Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’ Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’  John 18:36-38

The above confrontation between Jesus and Pilate is not what it appears on the surface.  

That’s kind of how John is.  Nothing is ever as it appears to be at first glance.  It appears that Jesus is on trial before Pilate, but the truth is, Pilate is on trial.  It appears that Jesus is disavowing any political power, but the truth is, he is turning political power on its head. 

When Jesus says his kingdom is not from here, he is not saying he has no power or authority here.  

He is saying his power and authority is greater than what can be found here.  His power is greater than Pilate’s.  His kingdom is not from here but it is overcoming this kingdom.  

That is the truth to which he testifies.  Pilate scoffs at that truth but that is the truth that will turn his kingdom upside down.  

That is the truth that will bring justice rolling down like a river and righteousness as an everlasting stream. 

I’m usually impatient with John.  I don’t like all the symbolism and layers beyond the surface.  I’m kind of a just give it to me straight person.  

But we need to be able to see beyond the surface.  

Especially in times like these when it seems that Pilate’s truth, Pilate’s kingdom is prevailing.   

We need to look beyond the surface to see that Jesus’ kingdom is so very near and with it God’s justice is rolling down like a river and righteousness like an everlasting stream. 

Monday, December 21, 2015



It’s a common theme to use pregnancy as a metaphor for Advent.  They are both full of hope and joyful anticipation.

But pregnancy is also damned uncomfortable.

Inconvenient.  You give up stuff you like, like coffee and wine. You give up sleep many nights.  You give up your body. You complain a lot but they are sacrifices you are willing to make for the child.

I don’t hear that side of it when pregnancy is spoken of during Advent.  It’s kind of a romanticized version of pregnancy. 

Nobody ever mentions the danger of pregnancy during Advent.  

The fear.  The fear that it won’t turn out well.  Because it doesn’t always turn out well.  

What are the dangerous and uncomfortable aspects of Advent we could lift up during this time?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

#AdventUs DEATH


What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,‘For your sake we are being killed all day long;we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:31-39

This text is commonly read at funerals.

They read it at Michael Brown’s funeral in Ferguson. And as it was read, something remarkable happened. People began to clap and cheer and weep.

And as I heard the words “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord," I was not all surprised at this reaction.

In fact, I wondered why this text does not ALWAYS elicit applause and cheers and tears.

In the face of oppression, injustice, grinding poverty, suffering, and unnecessary death we dare to look evil in the eye and say “none of this will have the last word.”

This not pie in the sky in the great bye and bye. 

This is a firm faith and hope that empowers action to work toward justice today.

As Rev. Al Sharpton said at the end of his powerful sermon as he picked up a bible,

“I've read the end of this book. The first will be last. The lion will lay down with the lamb. There will be justice.”

And all the people said amen.

Friday, December 18, 2015

#AdventUs WAR

#AdventUs War from Joelle Colville-Hanson on Vimeo.


Ever since Tommy, the undisputed head of the cat household died, Freddy and Tally, the two boys who were left have been fighting over the head of household position.  

Sometimes fur flies and awful screeching sounds are made.  But no one is ever really hurt.  

No one wins.  No one loses.  No one is the head of the household.  

And the girls ignore them anyway.

I wish we could wage war the way the cats do. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Time To Make the Sandbakkels. Again.

I wrote about Sandbakkels before.   

Time to Make the Sandbakkels

I'm going to write about them again because I've been baking them.

Sandbakkels are the Norwegian treat I decided to learn to master.  

They seem simple enough.  Butter and sugar.  What could be so hard about that?

Well they are not for beginner bakers.

I am a good cook.  Baking is different.  Baking is more of a challenge for me.  The way I like to cook is to change up the recipe.  Or even forgo the recipe entirely.  

That kind of cavalier attitude toward the recipe will get you in trouble with baking.  

You have to stick with the recipe when you bake.

 It has something to do with science. 

But what I like about sandbakkels is that there is some intuition involved.  

You can measure out the right amount of butter and flour but when you get them in your hands, after years of making them, you can feel that it is too greasy and will need more flour.  

You can set the timer, but you had better spend the last few minutes just looking right into the oven to make sure they are the right color. 

If they are too light, they will not pop out of the tins.  Wait too long and they will burn and they will pop right out of the tin into the trash.

I have my mother in laws tins.  One of the tricks to keeping the cookies from sticking to the tins is to never wash them with soap. Just rinse off the crumbs stuck.  It's kind of like your cast iron skillet. The years of seasoning beats any teflon.

So here is the recipe:

  • 1 Cup Butter, softened - this you will want to use all butter, real butter - no substitutions.
  • 1  Cup Sugar
  • 1 Egg yolk
  • 1 tsp (or capful) Amaretto or almond extract
  • 2 Cups Flour

Oven 350

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, beat. Add Amaretto. Add flour.

Take about a teaspoon of dough and roll into a ball, then press into the tin. Thinner is better.

Lay the tins out on a baking sheet.  

Set your timer for about 10 minutes.  When it goes off, stand in front of your oven door and watch.  When they are just tan around the edges, take them out.  

If you did it right, they will pop out fairly easy.  Some will break.  They will taste fine.  

If they are not done enough or don't have enough flour they will not come out of the tin.  If you washed your tins too well they will not come out. 

Don't get discouraged.  Try it again.  Your tins will be greasy and they will probably come out this time.  

#AdventUs NAME


My mother was from the south.  She left Texas with her family during the great dust bowl migration and came to California in the early 30s.

She carried with her a deep hatred of everything about the south.  Wanted to wipe every part of it from her.  Including her name.  Mamie Jo.  It’s a very southern name.  

So she made up a new name, Joelle 

She actually legally changed her name to Joelle.

My father liked the name so I was named Joelle.

My husband and I like the name as well but naming my daughter Joelle seemed a bit much so we named her Sarah Joelle. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015



In the Miriam Webster Dictionary the first definition of redeem is to make something that is bad or unpleasant better or acceptable. 

I hate winter but I love bulb flowers that will only grow in winter.  

So you could say that blue hyacinths are my redeemer.  They make winter better. 

We usually us a different definition of redeem for Christ.  Some might like the definition “to buy back”.  Christ "bought us back from the devil” 

I prefer “to free from captivity, to release from blame or debt”

Blue hyacinths don’t take winter away.  They make winter better.  When they begin to show through the sometimes still snow covered ground, they give me hope that winter will not last forever.  Even though it’s still cold.

Christ frees us from sin, death and the devil as the catechism teaches.  But I still feel cold from sin death and the devil.  

I have Easter and blue hyacinths to give me hope that I won’t be cold forever.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

#AdventUs SEX


Evolution and sexual selection

Charles Darwin first theorized in On the Origin of Species that the peafowl's plumage had evolved through sexual selection. This idea was expanded upon in his second book,The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex.

The sexual struggle is of two kinds; in the one it is between individuals of the same sex, generally the males, in order to drive away or kill their rivals, the females remaining passive; whilst in the other, the struggle is likewise between the individuals of the same sex, in order to excite or charm those of the opposite sex, generally the females, which no longer remain passive, but select the more agreeable partners.

Sexual selection is the ability of male and female organisms to exert selective forces on each other with regard to mating activity. The strongest driver of sexual selection is gamete size. In general, eggs are bigger than sperm and females produce fewer gametes than males. This leads to eggs being a bigger investment, and therefore to females being choosy about the traits that will be passed on to her offspring by males. The peahen's reproductive success and the likelihood of survival of her chicks is partly dependent on the genotype of the mate.

Females generally have more to lose when mating with an inferior male due to her gametes being more costly than the male's.

From Wikipedia

Monday, December 14, 2015

#AdventUs BITTER


I like dark chocolate.  They call it bittersweet because it has less sugar.  

The lives of many chocolate farmers are bitter.  

Chocolate is a very labor intensive crop.  According to the non-profit Oxfam America, cocoa farmers around the world on average typically make even less – about three percent of the price of a chocolate bar.  Human trafficking is involved in the chocolate trade.  Knowing that can take all the sweetness out chocolate.

Fair trade chocolate benefits small farmers who run their own co-opts and profits are put make into the community. 

You can buy Fair trade chocolate through Lutheran World Relief

Sunday, December 13, 2015


Caravaggio (1571-1610), (detail) Rest on the Flight into Egypt 


Mary is so tired.  

So much traveling.  So much upheaval.

Mary is every mother who has had to gather her children and leave her home.

Less than a year ago she was still a girl.   Faithful, yes but I also think it was her innocence that allowed her to accept the words of the angel so easily.  “Of course I’ll have the Son of God.  Why not?”

Mary is every weary mother who left her girlhood behind sooner than she would have liked.

Mary has grown up a lot in the past months.  Faced the possibility being divorced, shamed and forced to raise a child alone.  Traveled away from home while heavy with child. 

Giving birth without her mother and aunts in a cave with only her husband.  In a time when men had nothing to do with childbirth.

Mary is every woman who has given birth in dangerous circumstances with little support.

Mary is every woman who has had to rise too soon from her childbirth bed, still bleeding and sore, still so very tired. 

Mary is every woman who has had to grab her children, put them in boats on dangerous waters and carry her child on foot so many miles.  

Mary is everyone woman who has heard of the carnage and death that took place after she left.

Mary is so very tired.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

#AdventUs FAMINE


There was a time when famines were only caused by crop failure and national disasters.  We have crop failures and national disasters in the United States.  We never have famines.  

There’s another cause of famine.  

War and political unrest and government policies.  We have the knowledge, technology and resources to make famine nothing more than something we read about in history books.

What we don’t have is the will.

Especially when the famine takes place in Africa.  Did you know there is a famine in Somalia right now?  At least 3 million people face starvation.  

I get that there is so much suffering and need in the world and it’s hard to know how to respond to even one part of it, much less keep up with it all.  And I am tired of the “How come you care about these people but not these people?!” scolding on social media. 

But we can’t avoid some honest soul searching to face the fact that suffering among white Europeans gets more attention than in Africa. 

And work on changing that.  

Friday, December 11, 2015



Whenever I am confronted with someone who seems so evil I wonder how I can quell my hatred and muster up any forgiveness or compassion, let alone Christian love I remember:

They were once a child.  

They were innocent once.