Support the Café

Search our Site

Trickster’s Advent

Trickster’s Advent

Daily_Sip_695This originally appeared at the Daily Sip, a ministry of St John’s Cathedral in Denver, CO


by Charles LaFond


These are our Cafe au Lait bowls, a candle, some notes and conversation-diagrams- the result of hours of early morning conversation about friendship, life, love, work, God.  We each ask the other “Shall we talk about …?” and then we proceed, changing topics only with permission.  It was conversation as rich as warm caramel on a cold night. It’s how we do friendship; me and this friend I am visiting these days. We talk, for hours, hands wrapped around clay cafe au lait bowls – steam on faces, wonder in eyes, friendship in hearts. Might God’s self-offering be mostly about “being with”?  About friendship with humanity?

Elizabeth Gilbert, in her stunning book on creativity and writing called “Big Magic,” invites the reader to fail.  Not just to fail but to fail huge.  Risk it!  Just do something new and risk massive failure – or seeming failure – like a divine entity ending on a cross, and then, not.  But what if we were simply to do something?!  Get out there and make something new and risky.  She says there are two kinds of creators.  One is the passionate pious and the other the mischievous trickster and she says the second will win every time.

The passionate are the ones who take themselves so seriously that their ego drives what creativity they can muster and their need for perfection.  These may be creative, but they will not make new things possible with the same gusto and success as the mischievous “tricksters” will, since they are willing to be silly and foolish and even playful in their pursuit of something new.  And they are willing to fail robustly. I love this book and I love this notion.

I am with a friend for a few days.  We spend the days together repeating the same schedule patterns.

6:00 rise and talk over something hot (this time, big steaming bowls of coffee with hot milk)
10:00 meditate together
10:30 discuss what we saw in our meditations and our previous night’s dreams
Then walk, think, nap, work, talk and spend the evening hanging out. Sleep.  Repeat.

After some days of this I have noticed a pattern.  My favorite conversations are after he says, after a long pause, something like “Would it be crazy if …?”

And usually whatever followed that question intro, we do.  It’s a fun friendship – one of the most dear in my garden of friends.  We like to push envelopes.  We like to dream big.  We like to charge at windmills and then laugh uproariously when we land in a pile of tumbled mess.  We get up, brush off and try again.

It is possible to be quiet, exact, careful, calculated and offer the world the impression of centered silence when in fact the quiet is little more than a lack of willingness to act, lest the results be imperfect.   But I would rather imagine what’s possible even if it is unlikely, what’s new even if it fails, what’s imaginative even if it is rejected.

Thomas Merton the great monastic ecclesial activist once said:

“I stand among you as one who offers a small message of hope…there are always people who dare to seek on the margins of society, who are not dependent on social acceptance, not dependent on social routine, and prefer a kind of free-floating existence under a state of risk.”

What God did that night in Bethlehem was different and creative and risky.  “Would it be crazy if we joined them as a human…?” What Jesus did was on the margins, was rejected by society, flouted routine and floated into cross-hairs even to a cross.

What if our discipline of Advent was not so much to get ready for Christmas?  What if our Advent work was not beauty or solemnity or even longing?  What if our Advent work were to… in our own way… in our own lives… in our own place… ask that great question:  “Would it be crazy if……..?” and then, instead of doing something holy, we did something mischievous, tricky, creative, marginal, fun and new? Like a God becoming a man.


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Leslie Marshall

…about Bethlehem… what I find intriguing is that when the Magi arrived in Jerusalem and asked, ‘where is the one that has been born King of the Jews? (Matt2:1) no one was remotely interested in their inquiry, except Herod. And he wasn’t that interested, because he let them go alone to Bethlehem (only 5 mi away), and trusted them to ‘report’ back to him.

(I think that God blinded the Jews in Jerusalem to the star that led to Jesus in Bethlehem, and that He only allowed the Magi to see it–‘when they saw the star they were overjoyed. and when they saw the child with his mother, they bowed down and worshipped him.’ Mt2:10)

Catherine Jo Morgan

Ah….God has been telling me to “get out of the damn boat! And…just accept the prospect of getting fished out of the water over and over.

My priest keeps telling me that Advent is all about waiting, not action. Does anyone see how these two messages synergize?

Ann Fontaine

your priest is wrong? The seasons of the church year do not always coincide with our internal sense of seasons.

Philip B. Spivey

Sigmund Freud once said that our sense of well being can be ensured with adequate amounts of work and play.

Western protestant-ethic-capitalist mores typically sacrifice one for the other. The beauty—and radicalism— of the semi-structured menu outlined above in the ‘Trickster’s Advent’, is that it flouts the consumption of anything, but a warm beverage bowl and a deep nearness to another. This is not about a quick fix.

I define’play’ as follows: Spontaneous activity, alone or with others, that has no prescriptive outcome. That means that we permit our feelings and our spirit to lead, and our intellect to follow.

Unfortunately, many activities that pass today as ‘play’ are really competitive games for supremacy (and money) or opportunities for consumptive display.

On the other end, ‘work’ has become a source of idolatry; a modern icon of piety and privilege: Those who are privileged to work, work insane hours, have no personal life and are rewarded with gobs of money. Others who work long hours, in subhuman conditions, can barely scrape by. And there are others, who would work but cannot as a result of a myriad of institutional roadblocks. In each of these situations, ‘work’ has taken on inordinate power and importance in each of our lives and has separated us from God, and our opportunities to play with Him.

I especially enjoyed this meditation because it gently urges me to let go of a long-held life script that is heavily annotated, typed single-spaced, both sides, and laminated.

God IS a trickster! Would we, or could we, be here without a Creator who is willing to engage in some measure of risk, has a good sense of humor and—- has infinite patience?

Most children have this ability; I’d like to recover some of that.

Tenneson Woolf


Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café