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An Easter Story

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Lee Van Ham’s new book, “The Liberating Birth of Jesus” came out in late fall.  The timing and the title might lead one to expect that it’s a story of Christmas.  It’s not, though there’s mention of how our culture crowds out the full meaning of Jesus’ birth.

It’s an Easter story.  Specifically, it’s about two Easter people, whom we know as Matthew and Luke, who wrote for Easter people, to help preserve for future generations the mind-blowing experience of encountering Jesus.

Why do we have these two birth narratives in the gospels of Matthew and Luke?  Because each writer is using different but complementary ways of making the case that the Jesus whom the early Christians encountered brought them to a new consciousness, a new creation.

Van Ham works through all the pieces of the story, the magi from afar, the shepherds close by, genealogy and dreams and angels, showing how they point to the arrival of a new creation.  For us today, this new way of seeing can lead us to living radical creation-centered lives.

Christmas as we know it came in with government-sanctioned Christianity in the fourth century of our era.  Over and over, the Easter message has been co-opted by human institutions.  Over and over, prophets arise to bring us back to the main point: the energy of Easter that is a new beginning.

“The Liberating Birth of Jesus” is a short but solid book that would make a good group study.  I highly recommend it.

Twyla Tharp Is My New Guru

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scan0001Last fall the News Hour had an interview with Twyla Tharp celebrating her new book, Keep It Moving.  Its subject is the importance of keeping yourself moving as you age. When I went to order it I discovered that she also has done a book called The .Creative Habit: Learn it and Use It for Life. I go for creative coaching books, so I ordered that one too.

They both looked so good that I read them simultaneously, a chapter in this one, then a chapter in the other.  Each book has twelve chapters.  Each book has exercises accompanied by episodes from Tharp’s career.  Keep It Moving is nicely organized, with one exercise per chapter.  The Creative Habit has thirty-two exercises, more about focus and mental preparation than the physical.

The television interview showed repeated images of Tharp exercising, with an energy and agility far beyond what most of us near her age can even think about.  Fortunately, the exercises in the book are not that drastic.  She includes jumps and endurance pieces, but it’s clear that what matters is to, as the title says, “Keep it moving.”

The first exercise is a particularly intriguing one.  She calls it “Take Up Space.”  Don’t start shrinking may be what she means, but she avoids the negative.  Stride when you walk.  Spread out your papers on the table if you’re at a meeting.  Is this real exercise?  Maybe not, but it’s a great opener.

Another is “Mark your day.”  She describes dancers waiting for the subway.  They keep moving though in small space, doing the movements of their dance with restraint but in real time.  Her challenge for the reader is to not separate “work” and “exercise” as you move throughout the day.  She writes: “Thinking of computer or desk work as one job and then exercise as another seems to me like holding two halves of a card deck in separate hands.”  Those cards need to be shuffled.

My favorite of the exercises I have so far put into my routine is “Squirm.” Like a worm, she says.  Starting with the torso she gives a sequence for moving, stretching, curling and arching, covering the whole body, and all of it to be done before getting out of bed in the morning and having to deal with gravity.

That’s only three of the recommendations in this elegant, short book.  But it’s time for me to leave the computer and get moving again.