Doug Talks Torah

Reflecting on all the ways Torah builds the world.

Advent in the Midst of Christmas Rush


We call the weeks prior to Christmas, “Advent.” We order this time for intentional watching and waiting on the coming of the Lord. And yet, during these same weeks we feel the pressure to buy, celebrate, and feast. How do we live into the call to watch and wait while juggling Christmas shopping, decorating, multiple parties, and the ongoing challenges of work and home?

Advent devotion can feel like one more pressure in the midst of a never-ending rush. Advent guilt hardly seems like a proper way to prepare for the coming of the Lord. For those who struggle to enter into Advent disciples of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, it might help to adopt for small, incremental actions of rest and reflection.

Here are a few simple ways to move toward the disciples of prayer, fasting and almsgiving during the weeks of Advent.

1. Prayer

Breath prayers – The season is focused on the coming of the Lord, so we might rehearse short breath prayers that look toward His coming as we move through the day. Here are two possibilities: “Even so Lord come quickly” (from Revelation 22:20) or “I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior” (Micah 7:7).

Prayerful reading – Start the day with five to ten minutes of reading. Listen for one thought that you can reflect upon and pray throughout the day. Try reading or listening to Scriptures from the Daily Office Lectionary or also from Advent devotional books (for a suggested list see Advent Resources).

Walk or drive – If you can find ten to fifteen extra minutes at lunch or some other point during the day, take a short walk to offer thanks for God’s goodness and to ask for grace in learning the way of watching and waiting. It might be helpful to try driving in silence and use that time to quiet your heart before the Lord. Sometimes I take an hour to drive back roads and quiet neighborhoods, so I can pray and listen.

Prayerful listening – Listening to meditative music might also be a way to pause and pray while driving or even while working (for suggested music see Advent Resources).

Prayerful celebration – Times of decorating, shopping, gift wrapping, card-writing, and cooking can all be infused with breath prayers or reflections upon the gift of God in Christ and the gift of God in the people around us. When shopping, I have sometimes prayed for all the shoppers I see. I might also pray for those working in the stores, those who helped make or ship the products and those in need. I might watch and wait and look for the coming of the Lord even as I interact with co-workers, attend parties and spend time with family.

2. Fasting

Most Christmas parties are scheduled in the middle of Advent, so fasting seems like an almost impossible challenge. Rev. William Cwirla suggests setting modest goals of fasting meat, cheese and deserts on Wednesdays and Fridays. Read his thoughts on Fasting for a helpful approach to fasting.

I also might think of modest fasting of other senses like silence while driving, spending evenings without television in the candlelight with soft music, and limiting online interaction to only one time of the day.

Eastern Orthodox theologian Paul Evdokimov speaks of a fast of the eyes that prepares us to behold the beauty of the Lord. By fasting our senses even in modest ways, we might prepare our hearts and minds to encounter the Lord afresh in all five senses.

3. Almsgiving

Giving is a vital discipline throughout the year. During Advent, we might look for ways to extend giving in our normal day to day activities. I might plan to increase tipping in restaurants. I might seek to complement my Christmas shopping with giving to ministries in my community and abroad. I might look for ways to better serve my co-workers, family members, and friends in word and deed.

Most of us cannot take the weeks leading up to Christmas as an extended retreat. We must continue working and raising families while also adding the seasonal obligations of parties, family gatherings, gift giving and more. These added pressures need not prevent us from turning toward the coming of the Lord through small acts of quiet prayer, moderate fasting, generous giving. Let us ask God to grant us grace to practice a way of watching and waiting for the glory of His coming that we may learn to behold Him even now.

Image by Jonas Tana (via Creative Commons).




Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 3:3

Words unfold.
Like the night-blooming cereus, words
open to the patient listener. A treasure
unveiled in the dark night of waiting
and watching. Words like
love and faithful
fragrant the soul with sweetness:
a surprise of hope in the midnight hour.

Love pulses its mystery in giving
and receiving: the Father running
like a child to his prodigal grown old;
the squeals of delight
echoing from the boy and his pup;
sisters’ embrace through the howls
of hard rain coming down.

Faithful takes shape
in a world of pure gift:
water running, roaring, rushing
forward to cracked, parched ground;
last year’s apple tree split by lightning,
bursting with more fruit than ever before;
sunrise rippling across land and sea,
ending the endless night.

Love and Faithful bind me like
the Akedah. Isaac climbing to
his ending and beginning.
Following the bloodstains
to the place of skulls,
I am planted in the Savior’s grasp,
blooming briefly
with love’s light
in the dark of night.

Doug Floyd

Image of Night-blooming Cereus by Cristóbal Alvarado Minic (used by permission via Creative Commons).

Torah and Worldview


Note: I may use this blog to think out loud about the relation of torah and worldview as part of a larger project called, “Discerning Culture: Wisdom and Worldview.” I welcome thoughts and challenges via email or comments.

How might we speak or think about torah and worldview? We might first ask, “What is worldview?” In James Sire’s classic text, “The Universe Next Door,” he suggests that a worldview might be understood as follows:

“A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) that we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.” [1]

Instead of beginning with philosophical propositions of Christian worldview, I’d like to peer at worldview via the periphery.  As Sire uses the language of story, David Naugle talks about narrative signs,

I suggest that a worldview is best understood as a semiotic phenomenon, especially as a system of narrative signs that establishes a powerful framework within which people think (reason), interpret (hermeneutics), and know (epistemology).[2]

These narrative signs surround us from birth. We are born into a world of language, story, song, jokes and more. The idea of worldview speaks to the compulsion of the mind to grasp our world as a whole. James Orr, one the early writers on worldview, suggested that Christian faith provides a standpoint to view the world as an ordered whole (see Naugle for a good summary of Orr’s thought).

Our worldview is shaped in the family, in the church, in the culture. In other words, it is shaped in the background, on the periphery. Michael Polanyi suggests that “we know more than we can say.” [3] From the moment of birth, we enter a field of knowing. Our view of the world, our standpoint begins being shaped long before we can speak.

With this brief overview in mind, we can begin to think of torah and worldview. Torah is God’s Word sounding forth in this world, his people and the surrounding cultures. It comes as judgment, deliverance, instruction and fundamentally as relationship. Torah is a set of commandments and instructions as well as a set of prescribed rules for worship and sacrifice. It is communicated in law but also in story and song. The Old Testament tells a grand story of a people that God’s calls to Himself and promises to bless all families of the earth through these people.

By reading and reflecting on the stories and songs and wisdom and even laws of the ancient Hebrews, we can find a way to consider worldview through a family, a culture, “a system of narrative signs.” By re-flecting upon these stories, we might be able to see hints of worldview in our own stories, our own family, and our own culture.  In our peripheral vision, we may also catch glimpses of patterns of thought that are enslaving, dehumanizing, anti-creational and more.

[1] Sire, James W. (2009-08-20). The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog (p. 20). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
[2] David K. Naugle Jr.. Worldview: The History of a Concept (Kindle Locations 146-147). Kindle Edition.
[3] Michael Polanyi. The Tacit Dimension. London, Routledge. (University of Chicago Press).

Image by Dirk Knight (used by permission via Creative Commons).

Advent – To the Wonder

advent wonder

In some ways, the journey into Advent is a journey into wonder. It begins with the people living in great darkness and ends with the birth of Jesus, the Light of the World. As we look and long for his coming, we turn toward Him in our thoughts, meditations upon Scripture, and songs of the season. We sing, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Continue reading

Advent – Into the Light

advent light

“I don’t know what to do!” cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath…I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man.”

After Scrooge awakes from his night with the ghosts, he is overjoyed to be alive and greets the day with laughter and merry-making. He steps out of the dark and into the light. During Advent, we rehearse the hope of stepping out of the dark and into the light. We are reminded, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). Continue reading

Advent – Prepare the Way of the Lord

St_John_the_Baptist_Preaching_to_the_Masses_in_the_Wilderness_oil_on_oak_panel_by_Pieter_Brueghel_the_Younger copy

A voice cries out, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord.”

Come all you saints and sinners, prepare your hearts for the coming of the Lord. Come you weak and weary. Find rest for your souls. Come you strong and full of vigor. Behold the source of your life. For the King approaches. Come you poor and rich alike. Offer your lives in worship. Come you hungry and full, behold the feast has been set before us. Come you joyful. Come you grieving. Put on the garment of praise for the Comforter stands among us with healing in his wings. Let us all come before the throne of mercy and grace, to watch and wait together for the Lord, the Savior, the Redeemer who brings salvation to His people and to His world. Continue reading

Advent – The Day is Coming

candle at dawn
The day of the Lord is coming. Advent resounds the promise of His coming: His justice, His glory, His light that overcomes all darkness. We step into the season of Advent like a child awaking before the dawn and exclaiming that the sun is coming. He cannot see the its piercing fire; he cannot feel its blanketing warmth, but he knows that it is coming. The day is ready to burst forth into newness. Continue reading

Rejoice in the Lord


Paul commands us to rejoice. Echoing the ancient Psalmist, he rehearses the call to “Rejoice in the Lord.” How can joy be commanded?

After several days at the beach, my siblings and I were growing weary with play. We started complaining, arguing, and expressing general discontent. Suddenly my dad’s voice boomed into the mix, “I paid good money for this trip and you had better enjoy it!”

Half fearful of the consequences of not enjoying the vacation, we quit complaining and stiffly tried to enjoy. Somehow joy under command seems odd, if not impossible. It seems inauthentic. Continue reading

Remembering Home

Sabbath is like remembering home.

remembering home

image courtesy of Thomas Hawk (via Creative Commons)

Singsong voices ringing in the air. Running through the house, out the back yard and circling round again. Burnt leaves lining the sides of the streets. Aromas of autumn float in the air. Rolling pastries to the hum of Christmas songs. Family and friends crowded around the dinner table. Long stories. Loud laughter. Drooping eyelids.

Longing for an innocence, a wonder, a place before.

Abraham Joshua Heschel tells the story of a prince sent away from his home, his father. He wanders the world alone, longing for his Father’s love and approval. One day a messenger arrives outside the lodging of the prince and announces, “Prepare to come home.” Filled with joy, the prince runs through the village and into the local tavern. “Food and drinks for all. Today is a day of great joy for I’ve heard the call to come home.” Heschel says that Sabbath is a day of great joy for we are going home to see the Father. Continue reading

“If we are not able to rest one day a week, we are taking ourselves far too seriously.” – Marva Dawn

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