How goes it, November?

The On Living monthly digest from Jonas Ellison

Photo by Aswin Sreenivas

It is November. Fall, my favorite season, is well underway. Here in Chicago, I’m already wearing my full-length down parka and the rest of the winter gear (and it’s not even December).

With colder weather and shorter days comes the season of creativity. We (at least us out West here) now have an excuse to hole ourselves up with coffee (mixed with a little whiskey?), books, and our favorite writing device(s). I hope this letter finds you warm and in a creative mindset wherever you are.

This week, my wife and I will be heading out to Belfast in Northern Ireland to celebrate 10 years of torment and joy together as a married couple. While we’re there, we’ll be attending a creative retreat with Pete Rollins, one of my favorite authors and thinkers.

That being said, I’ll probably be going dark for a week as we sip gin in an old inn that sits on the edge of the forest that inspired C.S. Lewis’ Narnia (yes, I’m beyond blessed and fortunate to be able to do something like this — I’ll let you know how it goes).

The Halloween Series

With October being the month of Halloween in the States, I was inspired to write a week(ish)-long series on the theme of All Hallows’ Eve and how we might be able to get more out of such a globally sacred holiday.

If you look at the traditions, rituals, and ceremonies from around the world (remembrance of the deceased, celebrations of the harvest, a readying for darker days, and authentically terrifying tales) and compare them to the modern American holiday (bad candy, sloppy drunks, and rape-fueled slasher movies), it’s embarrassing.

As much as I ranted about how these sophomoric results are the results of a culture that has an unhealthy narrative around sex and discomfort with death, I also provided some ways that you can bring the sanctity back to this blessed holiday in your home.

Here’s the Halloween series from On Living…

The cheapening of All Hallows’ Eve

What scares me about The Exorcist now is a lot different than it once was

How to bring the sacredness of All Hallows’ Eve into your home

Stumbling on a Sister: Memento Mori

Why Halloween is more Christian than Christmas

Top Posts From October

5. You don’t really need god
4. How do you know it’s true?
3. The unmarketable
2. We’re all sinners (and we’re all saints)
1. Jesus as wisdom teacher rather than personal savior

Things I’m Reading Now

Any Body There?: Worship and Being Human in a Digital Age

by Craig Mueller

Click above to view on Amazon

Craig Mueller is my pastor (yep, the one in-person here in Chicago). One of the kindest, most passionate people I’ve ever met, he’s been the one who’s welcomed me and my family into the progressive Lutheran world. He’s also a personal mentor and spiritual advisor.

Assigned to his current congregation 20 years ago (!!), Pastor Craig has taken it from a failing church to the thriving inclusive community it is now — not an easy task in today’s world where churches are closing faster than Sears department stores.

In this book, he lays out his observations about how traditional church can remain profoundly relevant to the modern progressive tech-fueled American. I’ve highlighted this entire book and think you might too.

The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind — A New Perspective on Christ and His Message

by Cynthia Bourgeault

Click above to view on Amazon

Cynthia Bourgeault is one of the leading voices in the Christian contemplative world. Having worked with the likes of Fr. Thomas Keating and Fr. Richard Rohr, she’s devoted her life to teaching this ancient sacred practice to us laypeople. This book frames Jesus in a whole new light pulling from The Gospel of Thomas and the Nag Hammadi scrolls. It’s a complete paradigms shift that shows Jesus as a radical mystical wisdom teacher rather than a divine personal savior.

Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God

by Lauren F. Winner

Click above to view on Amazon

I wasn’t familiar with Lauren F. Winner until about a month ago when this book was recommended by Sarah Bessey (please, check Sarah’s work out too if you haven’t already). An Episcopal Priest and Associate Professor of Christian Spirituality at Duke Divinity School, Winner brings the perfect cocktail of head and heart to her work. Let me just say that this book has been the best, most soothing morning read as she vividly describes the notion of God as clothing. It’s a beautiful read that’s written in the most lucid way by someone who’s clearly lived what she’s written.

In Closing

Thanks so much for being on the other end of this letter. Thanks so much for being on the other end of this letter. It means the world to know that someone as weird as me enjoys the stuff that I do (and actually reads what I write).

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Godspeed,
Jonas