Again I say rejoice

More is at work than we can see

by Ken Sehested

It’s been a bit more than a week since the Christian community celebrated “Gaudete (“Rejoice”) Sunday.” More properly, a Gaudete service should be observed every 22 December, the longest dark night of the year, Winter Solstice (in the Northern Hemisphere—six months later in the Southern). As a way of testifying to the conviction that what is promised is more than what is evident; more is at work than we can see.

Truth is, People of the Book share some values with our Pagan friends in their earth-based spirituality. Christians’ most distinctive conviction is that of the Incarnation, the materiality of the Creator in Creation’s flesh and blood.

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Fear not the dark

On the Feast of St. Stephen, inaugural Christian martyr

by Ken Sehested

For when lawless people supposed that they held the holy nation in their power,
they themselves lay as captives of darkness and prisoners of long night,
shut in under their roofs, exiles from eternal providence. —Wisdom 17:2
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Electoral ambiguity

Why don’t I feel happy?

by Ken Sehested

It was a leisurely Saturday morning. I promised a friend I’d help move some furniture and boxes, but he called the night before to say he needed to reschedule.

So, I said to myself, you no longer have an excuse for delaying your flu shot. Plus I needed to shop, since the kids were coming for dinner.

Upon my return, barely in the door, Nancy hollers, “Biden’s just been declared the president elect.” Read more ›

What’s up with “Signs of the Times”?

Renovation underway

by Ken Sehested

Unless you’re a new reader, you likely noticed that my (almost) weekly “Signs of the Times” column (“news, views, notes, and quotes) took a long hiatus. An explanation is in order, especially to you who contribute.

Late last year I sent a note saying that, as my Nana used to say, “I’m all tuckered out.”

Shortly after that, my Mom’s health took a nosedive. She passed in February. Read more ›

Rejoinder to election day blues

3 November 2020

by Ken Sehested

Anxiety is loose in the land here in the US; and abroad as well, since our nation’s cravings reach around the globe.

Today’s polling deadline—whose results will likely not be determined before the bewitching hour of midnight—may very well lead to the donning of sackcloth and ashes for many.

The predictions on the outcome run the gamut from a landslide for Biden to a narrow electoral college win, despite another loss in the popular vote, for Donald Trump. Read more ›

Precious memories

An All Saints Day meditation

by Ken Sehested

Like most, my early memories of holiday festivities are varied and (mostly) pleasant. But Halloween stands out, with the most distinct memories, since it involved an evening of roaming (without adult supervision) in homemade costumes throughout the small town where I lived, collecting sweet treats in decorated paper bags.

Then came the much-anticipated sorting of the evening’s haul: the keepers (the really good stuff), the give-aways, everything else for trading with friends, which could go on for a week or more.

In deep-water baptist territory, All Saints Day—following "All Hallows Eve" (part of the origins of Halloween)—was never mentioned, much less observed. We didn’t believe in saints. Though we did have Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon, namesakes of bi-annual mission offerings—a surprisingly feminine pantheon for a body with severely circumscribed leadership roles for women. Read more ›

Voting – What it does and does not do

13 suggestions to help clarify decisions

by Ken Sehested

As has been said,
if you think you're too small to be effective,
you've never been in bed with a mosquito.

From all appearances, we in the United States are at one of the most dangerous moments in our nation’s political history. We have a president who thinks that “when someone is president of the United States the authority is total.”  Someone who winks at white supremacist terror plots to assassinate public officials. Who repeatedly suggests that he won’t leave office voluntarily—and by so saying may in fact unleash a hail of street violence after the election. Read more ›

Hearts over heads

A Reformation Sunday ordination story

by Ken Sehested

My wife Nancy and I were jointly ordained on Reformation Sunday, 1981, at Oakhurst Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia. As you might guess, the choice of the date was intentional—not simply to align ourselves to that dissenting ecclesial movement of a half-millennium ago, but to affirm that the community of faith is always and everywhere called to reform and refine its vision and mission, to realign itself at the intersection of the abiding Word and the ever-shape-shifting words whose purpose are to confuse and deceive and vandalize the common good.

The days leading up to that Sunday were glad ones, with one misgiving. My parents made a long car trip to be present for the occasion, and we didn’t know how my traditional-minded Dad was going to take being present for a woman’s ordination.

There was no doubt that he adored Nancy—elegant, funny, generous, not to mention beautiful. In fact, Dad’s opinion of me improved significantly when we married. He would never say as much, but I imagined him thinking, “If a quality person like Nancy thinks he’s pretty good, my boy must be OK.” Read more ›

Labor’s bread and lovers’ roses

A Labor Day meditation

by Ken Sehested

My primary Labor Day memory comes from seminary days. I was assistant pastor at a church in New York City [Think: Typing a stencil and mimeographing the Sunday worship bulletin, etc., etc.], and for several years running I was the designated preacher on Labor Day weekend. The congregation shrank to 8-10 people that Sunday, given the New Yorker tradition of leaving town in August, returning on September’s first Monday evening.

Right: Art by Ricardo Levins Morales

My favorite Labor Day tradition (unfortunately cancelled this year) is also a churchly affair. Members of my congregation hike in the Black Mountains east of Asheville, then convene under a picnic shelter in a nearby park for a leisurely, intergenerational potluck dinner and conversation, with plenty of playground equipment and a gentle stream for wading. Read more ›

Testifying on my beloved’s birthday

On the occasion of her 7 August 2020 birthday

by Ken Sehested

Once a year in August my beloved catches up to me. For 14 weeks from late April, I maintain seniority in the house of age. But then, in the dog days of summer, I lose my precedence. To be truthful, though, neither of us relish the accumulation of candles on our cake.

Oh the joy of these decades of trips around the sun, and these near-50 years (counting the courtship) of pledged troth, our wedding topped off with a make-your-own-banana split reception: Me in my burgundy red velour suit, frilly shirt, and bow tie; she in a breathtakingly gorgeous gown handmade by my Mom.

Much bread and plenty of roses are in the rear view mirror. Beautiful babies and more beautiful grands. I was able to cut the umbilical chords of most of those. It was, comparatively, lightweight work. Read more ›