Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas!

For My Politically Correct Friends:

"Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. We also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the generally accepted calendar year 2007, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. And without regard to the race, creed, color, age physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishes. By accepting these greetings you are accepting these terms:

This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for herself or himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher."

For My Politically Incorrect Friends:

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

McClaren "The Politics of Joy"

Brian McLaren wrote this short article for Sojourner's. Very appropriate, and worth your consideration. Very well said...

Earlier this week, I was speaking to a group of Methodist ministers and we sang the Christmas carol "Joy to the World." Two moments in the song took my breath away.

The first came when I sang "let every heart prepare him room." If the carol is right, the way earth receives God's "prince of peace" is through individual hearts like ours. By making space, by opening our hearts to Christ, by letting our lives be the stable and manger into which good news quietly comes, by rendering the vacuum and vacancy within us vulnerable to the incoming of the Spirit ... we become, like Mary, "theotokos" - God-bearers.

That might sound kind of mystical, not political, and I guess it is. It is something that I believe we all can actually experience: the possibility of preparing room in our hearts so that Christ truly comes.

That brings me to the second transcendent moment in the carol for me this week: "No more let sin and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground. He comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found."

The coming of a good king in the ancient world meant a lot, and although kingly language may sound archaic today, I think we can recapture its meaning when we think of a thorny land, polluted by sin and cursed by sorrow, becoming verdant and fertile and healthy again - blessedness flowing over the land like a warm breeze.

And of course, this is where the personal and political meet. Thinking about justice, talking about peace, debating public policy, and working for social change are important ... but not as a substitute for the very personal choice to "prepare him room" in our hearts, so that (as the saying goes) we can be the change we want to see in the world.

The way "earth receives her king" (and the blessings he brings) is not by bombs and guns and wiretaps and coups; not by aggressive blog postings or passionate media pronouncements by pundits. Rather, the king (and the kingdom) come first to the quiet hearts of humble people who "prepare him room," and the joy flows to the world through them.

That's the language of spiritual formation, no doubt. But how can there be political transformation in the external world of thorns, sins, and sorrow if our inner lives don't become the manger into which hope, healing, empowerment, love, and joy are born?

What happens in the political realm - in the public world where people treat one another justly or unjustly, peacefully or violently, as neighbors or as enemies - can never be separated from what happens in the personal realm. And the reverse is true, too.That's the source of the politics of joy.

Brian McLaren is chair of the board of Sojourners/Call to Renewal. A former pastor, he is now an author and speaker. Rumor has it that his latest book, The Secret Message of Jesus, would make a great Christmas gift.

What Are You Going To Do With This Jesus?

I had a small devotional wrap-up at the end of a recent Christmas service. Following is the manuscript of what I shared. Thought it would be good to post it here. Some of the references relate to the Christmas service, but I think the main thrust of the piece can stand on its own. Hope something here is valuable to you.

"What are you going to do with Jesus? This human manifestation of God himself, leaving his Father’s side to come and join us in the human experience, born only to be sacrificed on our behalf. What are you going to do with Jesus? From the beginning of time, God has been laying the foundation for you and I to deal with this question.

It’s a question that generations of people around the world have faced since that night in Bethlehem. It’s a question whose ramifications have altered the course of history. What to do with Jesus.

Many have chosen alternate paths, finding other belief systems or perhaps the trappings the world offers that are begging for our allegiance and our faith. Others have chosen to simply ignore this Jesus, instead forging ahead with their own set of values, moral compass, or popular self-help thinking of the day. Truth is, in this universe that God has created, there is an undeniable reality known as free will. Frankly, you can choose to do with Jesus as you see fit. And we’ve all done just that.

Some have embraced Him, going so far as to make Him their Lord, which is another way of saying Master, or even Boss. If that’s you today, I hope this morning has been a sort of ‘holy reminder’ to you. Of a God who has loved you since the beginning of time. A God who knows what its like to walk in your shoes. A God who has never and will never abandon you. A God who gives you peace that goes beyond your ability to understand.

Some have decided to pick & choose which parts of Jesus we’ll embrace, and leave the other, more uncomfortable parts of Jesus to be picked up by someone else. If that’s you, I hope this morning you’ll reconsider Jesus. This baby who later died on a cross for you offers abundant life, yet so many of us are wondering when that kicks in.

Many, however, want little to do with him. Usually, it has little to do with Jesus himself. In fact, many non-followers of Jesus have high regard for his teachings. Jesus isn’t the problem - it’s the incompatibility that exists between His teachings and the lifestyle & behavior of some of his followers. As Brennan Manning says, "it’s what an unbelieving world finds simply unbelievable."
If that’s where you are this morning, I hope you’ll indulge me for a moment and look beyond our hypocrisy to the story we’ve told you today. Yes, sometimes those of us who claim to be his followers come up short and don’t live our lives in a manner that exemplifies this Jesus. We’re pretty good at being the vocal mouthpiece of the body of Christ, but not so good at being the hands & feet of Christ. But that doesn’t make the story any less true. It just makes us fallen human beings, in need of grace that can only come from God.

You see, from the beginning of creation, we were a part of the plan. Somewhere in the outskirts of this enormous universe, God saw fit to design one tiny speck that has the capacity to sustain life. We call that speck Earth. That tiny speck would be the home of many billions of other tiny specks called humans. Since the creation of the first of our type, God has been at work, all throughout history. The Prophets came along as spokespersons for God with a message that some day, God himself would come and a new arrangement would be instituted - not an empty system of religion based on rules, but rather a personal relationship with God himself, a relationship based on love.

A love that would come to us as a precious baby, climax by going to a cross on behalf of humanity, and continue to dwell in the hearts of millions. A love that’s available to you. Today.
This really is a choose your own ending story. We wouldn’t go to all of this trouble if we didn’t think there was good reason. Our troop of storytellers? We’ve each been changed by this Jesus who still does wonders. How does your story end? That’s up to you. Will you leave Jesus safe & sound in the manger, or will you welcome Him into your life as a personal God who still does wonders? Will you say to him these words - "You’re my king." This light of the world named Jesus who stepped down into our world to give us life."

Changing The World, One Person At A Time

Came across this article about Shaun Alexander, running back for the Seattle Seahawks. Had him on my fantasy team this year....and frankly, for fantasy purposes, really wish I had chosen Ladanian Tomlinson (I had my pick of the two! "I coulda been a contender..."). Just after I drafted him, I was made aware of the "curse" of the Madden games. If you make the cover, you have a subpar year. Look out Tomlinson! Anyway, great article....very short, but hope you'll check it out. We need not only more star athletes who do this sort of thing (that in itself is very refreshing), but we just need more people doing this kind of thing period. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas Reflections & Quotes

Found these at Christianity Today

Christmas Reflections
Quotations to stir heart and mind.
Compiled by Richard A. Kauffman posted 12/18/2006 08:33AM

CHRISTMAS has really become a hopeless muddle of confusion. The humility and the poverty of the stable are somehow confused with the wealth and indulgence and selfishness of gift giving. The quietness of Bethlehem is mingled with the din of shopping malls and freeway traffic. The soberness of the Incarnation is somehow mixed with the drunkenness of this season. Blinking colored lights somehow have some connection to the star of Bethlehem.
-John F. MacArthur Jr., "The Incarnation of the Triune God"

WHEN Jesus was born, the voice of God became flesh and dwelt among us. And what the voice said was, "Console, console my people." The consolation that God's anger is past … the consolation that our heavenly Father has a tender affection for us in our weakness … the consolation that our sins are pardoned and "cast into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:19).
-John Piper, "Looking for the Consolation of Israel"

REJOICE, you who feel that you are lost; your Savior comes to seek and save you. Be of good cheer, you who are in prison, for he comes to set you free. You who are famished and ready to die, rejoice that he has consecrated for you a Bethlehem, a house of bread, and he has come to be the Bread of Life to your souls. Rejoice, O sinners everywhere, for the restorer of the castaways, the Savior of the fallen, is born.
-C. H. Spurgeon, "Joy Born at Bethlehem"

THE ENTIRE human race had a place, and the Lord about to be born on earth had none. He found no room among men. He found no room in Plato, none in Aristotle, but in a manger, among beasts of burden and brute animals, and among the simple, too, and the innocent. For that reason, the Lord says in the Gospel: "The foxes have dens, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."
Jerome, Homilies on the Psalms

HE CHOSE a time of utmost peace as the time when he would be born, because this was the reason for his being born in the world, that he might lead the human race back to the gifts of heavenly peace. … He, as a kind mediator and reconciler, has made one house of God of angels and humanity.
Bede the Venerable, Homilies on the Gospels

WE KNOW full well that the work begun in that manger is not yet complete.Christmas is, for the time being, a feast of light juxtaposed with darkness. We brighten our sanctuary with candles, but the night persists beyond these walls. Though we wipe our tears away to join in the yuletide celebration, we are still a people who mourn.
Katherine E. Willis Perchey, "A Feast Juxtaposed"

WHAT you do not understand, treat with reverence and be patient, and what you do understand, cherish and keep.
Augustine of Hippo, Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany
Copyright © 2006 Christianity Today

Friday, December 15, 2006

They Speak For Themselves

Couple of political cartoons worth sharing....

Let He Who Is Without Sin

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. So here it can buy one. Of course, if you never need to throw it, its designed to be a handy paperweight for your desk! You can get one here for your very own, for only 9.95 plus shipping and handling...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Psyche Ward Christmas Carols

  • Schizophrenia --- Do You Hear What I Hear?
  • Multiple Personality Disorder --- We Three Kings Disoriented Are
  • Dementia --- I Think I'll be Home for Christmas
  • Narcissistic --- Hark the Herald Angels Sing About Me
  • Manic - Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Buses and Trucks and Trees and.....
  • Paranoid --- Santa Claus is Coming to Town to Get Me
  • Borderline Personality Disorder --- Thoughts of Roasting on an Open Fire
  • Personality Disorder --- You Better Watch Out, I'm Gonna Cry, I'm Gonna Pout, Maybe I'll Tell You Why
  • Attention Deficit Disorder --- Silent night, Holy oooh look at the Froggy - can I have a chocolate, why is France so far away?
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder --- Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle,Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells , Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

New Christmas Gift Idea?

Napoleon Jesus? Once again, Christian marketers (is that an oxymoron?) have managed to conjur up 'zero' creativity whatsoever, instead choosing to simply steal any creative idea or trend and make it their own. I for one am a big fan of all things Napoleon Dynamite. Mark me as not so much a fan of this kind of stuff...
(Of course, I'm more than OK with borrowing their stuff to make up for my lack of creativity on my blog....)

Evangelicals on 'Today'

The Today show, the bastian of truth and wisdom of the American airwaves (OK, so its not really all that bad), had a recent series, I think, entitled The Mystery of Faith. This clip deals with the Evangelical movement, also highlighting those within its ranks who are bucking the trend that most Evangelicals have blindly accepted. There is much more to say than a 2 1/2 minute highly-edited clip can give, so other study is a good thing too. Here's the clip.... I'm becoming a big fan of Jim Wallis, who is briefly quoted in the clip.

BTW, is anyone else getting a little tired of Joel Osteen? He's in this video clip, and last night was on the Barbara Walters special as one of the 10 most influential people of 2006. His whole Christianity-lite approach is just that. If you can watch his segment with Barbara, let me know if it leaves you scratching your head a little and saying 'Huh?'

Monday, December 11, 2006

All Is Right In The World

Saturday, my beloved Kentucky Wildcats avenged their last-season pummelling at the hands of the Indiana Hoosiers. Their victory makes me happy (and thusfar their season has been less than happy). But a win over IU is always a good fact, this is the 15th time they have played since I have been a resident of Indiana, and UK has won 12 of those matchups, I do believe. So my missionary work amongst the IU faithful marches on. Next up, in-state rival Louisville, with the coach any honest UK fan would tell you we wish was still wearing Blue. Now if the Colts can just recapture some of the magic. (Wonder if Pitino can tackle?)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

White & Nerdy

Funny video. "Weird Al" Yankovic's music video from his new album "Straight Outta Lynwood". I'm so non-hip, I'm sure its a take off on some popular thug rap song....I just don't know what it is. Song/video is funny anyway!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Give Life

Looking for a different Christmas idea this year? Something that might make a difference in the life of someone, rather than a gift just for the purpose of giving a gift to someone who needs litte? Check out this video from The Work Of The People and respond accordingly. You can download the video for free (I think), or you can simply watch a streaming version right there on the site. It's worth your time....