Monday, December 31, 2007

Balance, Gratitude and Truthfulness

[via Charming, But Single in this post]

Not to overdo this resolution thing or to put too fine a point on it, but I have narrowed my broad desires for self improvement in 2008 into three main goals. And not to become the Single Female Blogger version of “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” they are:

1. I resolve to pause before buying (or consuming) anything (yes, fatty foods included) and ask myself, “Am I buying this to fill some imaginary void in my life or satisfy some fleeting emotion?” If so, I will put it down.
2. I resolve to show gratitude for the kindness showered upon me each day by friends, colleagues, family members, adversaries (real or imagined) and strangers on the street.
3. I resolve to stop hiding behind humor, sarcasm, cynicism and electronic devices and to introduce myself to two new people each month.

...Hundreds of actions correspond with each of these goals and I know I will not succeed 100 percent of the time. But I will no longer let fear of failure and imperfection cause me to consciously (or subconsciously) ruin positive things in my life. As I told a friend who is making major life changes when we were talking the other day, “Sometimes it is easier to mess up the good things than to forgive yourself for your flaws and accept that you are deserving of contentment and happiness.”

Monday, December 24, 2007

Reduce Guilt, Reduce the Excess

Guilt is the biggest source of overspending.
[via Fabulously Broke in the City]

On the Grand Scale

Christmas is almost upon us, with all the expectations that brings. (Actually, in my book, Christmas Eve is Christmas too.) Those expectations can be good—spending time with family, celebrating a pivotal moment in Christian history, showing people that we love them, and giving.

Giving in its uncoerced form is certainly a virtue. At Christmas, however, certain expectations build up about giving and spending...

So if, as you look around this Christmas (or other holiday you celebrate) you find yourself thinking “I probably could have bought more or better,” remind yourself that your decision has made life better (or at least not worse) for those around you.

Your kids will be much happier on the grand scale if your family doesn’t have to worry about grocery shopping or living comfortably throughout the year compared to any disappointment they may feel in not receiving expensive gifts.
[via Mrs. Micah: Finance for a Freelance Life]

Bringing Home

There are many reasons for grieving, not all of them related to physical death. Some grieve the death of hopes and plans, as the years of singleness, childlessness, or chronic illness accumulate. Others grieve the families they once had, now divided by divorce. Still others miss the ease of family celebrations before this new, blended family arrangement hit them.

Christmas often staggers under the weight of human emotion and expectation — just as it has from the very start.

From a human perspective, the first "Christmas," so to speak, was simultaneously crowded and lonely. Dispirited Jews shuffled around the region, required to be part of a new, universal Roman census for possibly the first time. (Previously Palestine had been excluded from the Roman census because Jews were exempt from serving in the Roman army.) Among those sojourners was a young couple with a whiff of scandal about them. {more...}
[via Boundless, HT: Solo Femininity]

Man protests commercialized Christmas by crucifying Santa - literally
[via N.Y. Daily News]
Protesters picket 'Living Negativity Scene'
[via Wittenburg Blog]

Participation in Wonder and Love

The local ballet company of my small hometown puts on a very good staging of the Nutcracker Ballet, to which I take the kids every year. (My favorite character is Mother Ginger, portrayed as a vain French courtier with her many children dashing in and out of her voluminous skirts.) But what really caught my attention this year, in light of all I’ve been thinking about relating to gender issues, was the love story between Clara and the prince. It is based not only on archetypal longings, but on a mutuality of help and of respect. Not only did the valiant Nutcracker Prince win the battle with the mice, but Clara’s courageous act was integral to his success.

A secular story, yes, and one perhaps more of infatuation than depth, in which dreams are based upon earthly beauty and the wondrous pleasures of life. But the hopes and longings of men and women, young and old, go much deeper than mere pleasure, and wonder is not merely for the young. If people love one another truly and continue to grow in love, with all the courage, valour, and tenderness required, then there is never an end to wonder. What happens between Clara and the Nutcracker is archetypal indeed.
[via Intellectuelle]

Yes, Virginia, there is a St. Nicholas
[via GetReligion]

Two Kingdoms, One Dilemma

Mike Huckabee gave two sermons today at John Hagee's (mega) Cornerstone Church in San Antonio.

They were basically Christmas sermons, and by all accounts, fairly apolitical.

But it's a bit strange. {continue...}
[via The Thinklings]

Beauty In The Story

There IS beauty to this story. Not a stained-glass beauty, but a stained-soul beauty, still, a beauty nonetheless.

The Virgin Birth is about an unwed pregnant teenager. And her fiancĂ© KNOWS that the baby isn’t his. There’s nothing sexy or spiritual about this. This is a capital crime. Mary could be put to death for this. And it wouldn’t be a sanitary needle in the backroom of a jail. This death would involve rocks, lots and lots of rocks.

Joseph could have led the charge, rock in hand. That would have been his right as the injured party. Or he could have grabbed the first bus out of town. “Why should I be saddled with someone else’s kid?” A perfectly legitimate question.

But instead of exacting revenge on this helpless young woman by crushing her under the full weight of the law, he was going to cut off the engagement quietly so Mary wouldn’t be punished. At least not by any legal means; she still had to deal with the baby. But then the angel in a dream tells Joseph that the baby is God’s child, so Joseph just shrugs his shoulders and marries the girl.

That’s the story of the Virgin Birth. Bare bones: a scared young woman, an angry, but compassionate man. It’s so earthbound it bleeds. To my ears, it makes the high minded theologizing sound silly.
[via The Word Proclaimed, HT: Kevin G Powell]

Pleasure in the Giving

For a glimpse into the psychology of giving, researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University recently studied gift giving by pet owners, finding that it stemmed from a desire to make pets happy and offer gifts that would improve a pet’s comfort and care. The research, to be published next year, may seem frivolous, but it also gives insight into the self-serving nature of giving, since pets can’t reciprocate, the researchers note.

“When you’re giving to another person, you have this pressure of reciprocity, but it’s not there with a pet,” said Tracy Ryan, an associate professor of advertising research at Virginia Commonwealth. “It shows that a lot of the pleasure is in the giving, knowing you’ve taken care of someone.” {full post}
[via The Situationist]

Saturday, December 22, 2007

No Crystal Teddy Bears

George Bailey's Maoism also illustrates why the politics of envy is anti-family. What kind of father keeps his children in a drafty, dilapidated old house just because he's too morally smug to accept Potter's perfectly reasonable offer of a higher salary? A bad father. The kind who poses a danger not only to his own children, but also a grave public danger to all the world’s children.

And if all of that is true for George Bailey, it goes double for Ebenezer Scrooge. So no crystal teddy bears for Jimmy Stewart or Michael Caine. {the rest}
[via slactivist]

What's Wrong with Christmas Consumerism
[via Kruse Kronicle]


True story: a guy here in a Texas suburb wants to teach his children something about poverty in America, and about their own blessedness. He somehow finds a needy family at Christmastime, and decides that he and his children are going to shower them with gifts. The guy gets his friends and their children involved. They descend upon the house trailer of an impoverished family, bearing gifts. All 30 -- 30! -- of the beneficent visitors pile into the trailer to watch the scraggly urchins open their gifts. And the guy leaves satisfied that his children now know the True Meaning of Christmas.

The friend who related this story to me was nauseated by it, as was I. {continue...}
[via Crunchy Con, HT: ThinkChristian.NET]

The Same, Old Story

What could be better for the Christmas spirit than one of those books that tells us Jesus may or may not have been born in Bethlehem, Mary may or may not have been a virgin, the wise men from Babylon following a star is a real stretch, the dates are all wrong, those shepherds are only out in the fields between March and November, and Herod slaughtering the young children (admittedly, not one of our favorite episodes from the Christmas pageant) is not very probable? When the whole thing is written by Geza Vermes, our favorite Hungarian ex-Catholic-priest turned Jewish Oxford professor, you know that Paige Patterson won’t be sending any of these out for gifts this season.

Still, I’m a sucker for “historical Jesus” books like The Nativity: History & Legend (Doubleday, 172 pp., $17.95), even though the arguments are always the same:

1. Here’s what the gospels say.
2. They don’t agree with each other.
3. They don’t agree with other contemporary sources.
4. We don’t have much to go on, but here’s a little tiny bit from Philo and Josephus.
5. Each gospel writer was probably shaping his story for a particular audience.
6. The gospels aren’t history.{continue...}
[via The Wittenburg Door]

Worship the Baby, Resist the Empire
[via Revolution in Jesusland]

An Atheist Christmas Homily
[via Rumblings]

Friday, December 21, 2007


What would happen if three gaming geeks had visited the Babe in Bethlehem instead of the Three Wise Men? {continue...}
[via The Wittenburg Blog]

Scrooge in Reverse
[via SoMA Review, HT: Ponderings on a Faith Journey]

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Subversive Influence of Christ on Christmas
[via ThinkChristian.NET]


Reconciling The Feast And Compassion For the Poor
[via The Thinklings]


Project Angel Tree is a Good Thing. Or it would be a Good Thing if the people running it would just get out of the way.

The program, part of Charles Colson's Prison Fellowship, collects and distributes Christmas presents for the children of prisoners. This is heartwarming and noncontroversial. It's also a fine example of Matthew 25-style Christianity in action: "I was in prison and you came to visit me." What's not to like?

PatWell, it turns out there's a problem. The folks at Prison Fellowship want to help these little kids at Christmas, but not quite as much as they want to spread the Gay-Hatin' Gospel.{continue...}
[via slacktivist]

NOT Conceived by Holy Ghost

This past Tuesday, December 11th, the House passed a resolution recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith. The link will take you to read the entire text of the resolution. Congress voted 372-9 for its passage....

The passage of this resolution came quickly on the heels of two other resolutions passed by Congress, one honoring the Islamic holiday of Ramadan and then another recognizing the Hindu celebration known as Diwali. King presented the resolution in response to those resolutions and BP News records King's tirade on Fox News regarding the inconsistency and his reasoning....

My simple question is, "Why?" Why the necessity of affirming Christmas and the significance of Christianity? {full post}
[via The Rambling Prophet 2]

Rare Xmas export

[found via slacktivist in this post]

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Infallibility For Everyone

A Vatican has announced that this year's Christmas message to the world's faithful from Pope Benedict XVI will be released in a novel new format....

"His Holiness thinks this breakthrough could silence centuries of criticism about the Catholic church's authoritarian structure, bring a breath of fresh air into the Vatican and-- as an incidental side benefit --confer Papal infallibility on everyone... at least those with Internet access."

Visit Pope Benedict's wiki at

A sample wiki of the encyclical from last year has been provided to give the faithful some practice in expressing their views. Go ahead -- indulge yourself. Ex Cathedra.
[via The Wittenburg Blog]

Accounting For Faith
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) dropped a bomb on a small segment of the church world in the United States on Nov. 6. But it has the potential of creating shock waves that may have long-term effects for many congregations in church-state relations, financial accountability and understanding of clergy income and taxes.

The ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, Grassley requested the records of six megachurch ministries that happen to be television-based and generally identified with the "word of faith" prosperity gospel movement. The six pastors and their respective ministries and some spouses were requested to provide a variety of documents to the committee by Dec. 6. The ministers are Paula and Randy White, Creflo and Taffi Dollar, Joyce and David Meyer, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Benedictus (Benny) Hinn and Bishop Eddie Long. Since two of these ministries are located in Atlanta, the media of this city have been saturated with both reports and commentary on the issues involved.

As of the date of his deadline for response, each of the ministries has replied in some form with Creflo Dollar and Bishop Eddie Long announcing they will not comply unless subpoenas are issued. {continue...}
[via Ethics, HT: For God's Sake, Shut Up!]

Need to keep track? Check out Televangelist Scorecard via The Wittenburg Door

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Redemption Draweth Nigh
Blessed are the empty wombs
[via Randall Friesen]

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Not Kosher During Hannukah?

In the wake of the British teacher jailed in Sudan for allowing a teddy bear to be named "Muhammad," an American evangelist, Bill Keller, has launched a deliberately offensive attack on Islam. He filmed a video where he named a toy pig after the Muslim leader. In his very low-tech video, he provided the voice for the pig and explained why the toy pig converted from Islam to Christianity. Although I am a fan of parodies, I am afraid that this piece is problematic for a couple of reasons...{continue...}
[via For God's Sake, Shut Up!]

Sunday, December 02, 2007