Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Happy RamaHannuKwansMas

hee hee hee hee. My friend Jennifer used that phrase the other day and it really (as my mother would say) tickled me. So! Merry Christmas to our friends and family that read our blog! Sorry to have been away for so long (I'm sure you're all broken up about it, seeing as how everyone else is also miserably busy right before Christmas, and judging by the lack of comments to our blog as of late), especially after ending on such a negative note. I'm still wondering if anyone has anything to share on that topic...

I've published the "Reason for the Season" post even though I started it on the 7th of December, the link to the Washington Post article doesn't even work anymore, and I wasn't entirely coherent when I wrote it. Our list of posts is starting to get cluttered with stupid drafts so I figured I'd give that post a go anyway, just to be able to cross one more thing off the list. Sorry if it doesn't make much sense... it's more stream-of-conscienceness than usual... perhaps even "puddle-of-conscienceness," as Kennan likes to say. Feel free to hack it to bits, at least mentally, if not also by commenting . I'll probably agree more with you than I will with me, anyway.

I think I'll take a cue from Gaines and do a quick update now and then expound and expand more later. Things have been good, and I'm glad not only to be home with family, but also glad to not be in the car anymore! The 22 hour trip home to New Mexico is a doozy. And Texas NEVER ENDS. Bleghthh.

We saw Narnia before we left Atlanta and I cried quite heartily. I hurt for Jesus, and was so grateful, in a way that I think I may never have felt before. Allegory is a powerful thing, and even the dank basement of Hollywood cannot dim the power of the gospel that shines through C.S. Lewis' story.

I've also starting working retail. I'm grateful for the money... and I like my coworkers... but boy is the stuff shiny and rather overpriced. There are only so many times that you can gush about a sparkly Christmas tree ornament or a be-jeweled cheese knife before you start to doubt your sanity. There will defintely be more of My Life as a Salesperson later!

Christmas was nice, and the weather here is goofy. I'm not complaining, but there is something rather odd about 70 degree weather on Christmas day. Caroling the night before helped, and it did get chilly Christmas Eve, but by late Christmas morning, the weather had returned to being ridiculously and wonderfully warm. I enjoyed taking the tramway up to Sandia Peak today and hiking in the snow. Wow, was it cold up on the summit! The winds at 10,000 feet will definitely make a body grateful for the warm weather below.

It was also fun to relive memories since that is where the best boyfriend ever became the best fiancee ever, who is now, 5 1/2 years later, the best husband ever (for just over 4 1/2 years now). That story is pretty funny and sweet and is definitely a post all its own!

It's 3:30 am. Good grief! Despite the fact that everyone else was able to crash out as soon as we got home, I couldn't sleep... I'm feeling pretty sleepy now, though. It just hit me. So I think I'll say goodnight and have a very Merry New Year!

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Reason for the Season

That phrase tends to annoy me, because I've heard it tossed about rather flippantly. But it is a sad commentary on our society that a holiday (holy day!) celebrating the birth of my Savior has not only been commercialized (I NEED more things from the store! More candy! More nog! More, more, more MORE!) but also sanitized. Christmas has been hijacked, plain and simple. "Christmas break" has become "Winter break," and for some odd reason, a Christian holiday has been turned into a social event. What would other religions do if we took over their holidays? Could we please no longer have Ramadan? It offends me. And Hannukah? Scratch it. The Satanist down the street might feel marginalized. For that matter, let's turn Halloween into a "Harvest Festival" and leave out any mention of spooky things altogether.

Oh, wait. That IS what we've done. Hm. Christian hypocrisy. I'm sure good at that. So what's the difference? Is the difference in choosing to just do a sanitzed "Harvest" theme personally (not that I do, because I love Halloween and all the silliness that goes with it...) but not limit others who would like to have a ghosty and goblin-y themed celebration? Where do we draw the line? If the Satanists down the street want to have their solstice celebration (everybody watch your cats!), where should we as Christians stand on that? Today at Bible study we discussed Ephesians 4:29: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen," and Ephesians 5:4: "Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving."

I guess the question is, how do we live in the world, but not of it? How do we take a stand for our beliefs but not offend non-believers due to our pride and separatism? Please note here, that I am NOT advocating watering down the gospel... but rather that if someone is going to be offended, it should be between them and God--due to Jesus' claims, not due to the hypocrisy they see in me. The cross is offensive to those who don't believe, and my task (I feel) is to facilitate a non-believer in their search for God, to be real with them in the midst of their frustration and disgust at something they don't understand. But that's another discussion entirely.

These "sanitizing of Christmas" thoughts come from a Washington Post article that I read today about the President's Christmas--err--HOLIDAY cards. I'm still digesting the ideas presented on the overall topic, but I'll tell you one thing that I do know exactly what I think about: Jerry Falwell's comment. He said (in response to the outcry that Pres. & Mrs. Bush only put a generic holiday greeting, as well as an Old Testament verse from the Psalms, into their cards), "There's a verse from scripture in it. I don't mind that at all, as long as we don't try to pretend we're not a nation under God."

Ooh! It's that kind of comment that gets me all fired up. A nation under God? Please. The United States general population hasn't honored God's place of sovereignty in many years, if ever. Yes, we are indeed all under God's sovereignty, but I don't think that's what he meant. The real danger comes from deluding ourselves into thinking that America is a Christ-centered culture. I disagree. I think that the predominant religion is secular humanism, and the major gods worshiped are money, sex and self. Only when we truly realize what we are up against can we find ways to connect with our dominant culture and love them in a way that honors God.

That being said, I have to go Christmas present shopping! Sheesh.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Don't Read Me if You're Already Having a Bad Day

I'm feeling cynical today. I have all these posts I've started about churches closing on Christmas, postmodernism & Christianity, and the Emerging Church (part II). But somehow existentialism has snuck up on me and my thinking has gotten quite reductionist (how's that for some buzz words?).

What is the point of all this, anyway?!? And by this, I mean all of the brilliant, funny, intriguing, thought-provoking discussions that I am either a part of or hear/read about. I spend a good bit of my time these days engaging in intellectual conversations with friends or in reading the deep thoughts of others in blogland and sharing my own.

And yet.

A few Mondays ago, on one of the bitterly cold nights we had, I saw something that has been haunting my thoughts ever since. Curled up on a MARTA bench next to a shopping cart piled high with junk, was someone whose hat was pulled down so low that I couldn't tell what he or she looked like. And I thought to myself, "That person has no face. To me, it's just one more nameless, faceless, genderless, homeless person. Why, Oh Lord, have you seen fit to put me in this warm car with a family I love, when on the other side of the glass is someone who is cold, hungry and has no face?" It was a cry of anguish for that person but also a cry of frustration and anger at what all-too-often feels like senseless, mindless and arbitrary justice in the world. That person could have been anyone. It was as though, in his or her bundled state, he or she represented every person of every race, gender and religion. It seemed that I was seeing the very absence of grace, of hope, of peace. I felt as though if I were to peel away the layers of dirty cloth, I would see my own face staring back at me.

The next morning, when we drove past again, I saw that nothing had changed. The position of the shopping cart, the person, the hat, everything, was exactly the same. I felt the bile rising in my throat as I realized that person was now quite possibly dead. Again I found myself silently screaming at God: "Why? Why not me?" I felt angry at God for favoring me and not that person. I felt angry at myself for being angry with God and for not doing more with what he has given me. I ached to think how that person wasn't always faceless. I hurt for the person (EMT, police, I don't know exactly who) that would have to come and take the body away. That worker is another nameless, faceless person in my frame of reference, but not to everyone. I wondered if he or she would have the same thoughts of "This could be me," while doing his/her civic duty.

While I sit in a heated, comfortable home typing Very Deep Thoughts, someone down the street is cold and hungry. Someone in the suburbs is dying. Someone across the country is being raped, and someone halfway around the world is watching her child die of starvation. And here I sit.

How does God do it? How does he watch over his children fighting, killing, hating, not believing in him and not go crazy? Obviously, I'm attributing human weakness to an all-powerful being, but still... how did Jesus, who in grace allowed himself to be stuck in a weak human body, walk the earth for 3o or so years and not weep more often? Perhaps he did, and the Bible just doesn't record it. He paid the ultimate price and provided the redemption for all of the sins and resulting hurt of humankind. But although it's true that I'm called to die to myself daily, I don't have the weight of the world resting on my shoulders. I am not responsible for the fate of humanity... and it's a good thing, too, because I'd just screw it all up. But that's another topic for another day.

So where do we draw the line? Some people are called to live with the poor and minister to them, but are all? I'm learning the beauty and value of living as unto the Lord. When I post something , I do it for the glory of God and for the edification/education/entertainment of his saints. Yet this is time I could be volunteering at a homeless shelter. By American standards, we don't live extravagantly, we do have a Compassion and a Dalit student that we support, and we have gone with homeless folks to buy them a meal several times. Yet, we eat a nice variety of food, and I'll be making a cheesecake to take to Bible study on Thursday. Is this not money that could be used for the needy?

How the heck do we honor and enjoy the good gifts that come down from the Father of Lights without becoming greedy and nearsighted? I'm not proposing a rhetorical question, my friends. I am hopeful and prayerful that God will speak through you, for I am at a loss.

Monday, December 12, 2005

My Christmas List

Well, I'm pooped. But driving to Nashville and back in one day was so very worth it to see Andrew Peterson's Christmas show. It was beautiful. Behold the Lamb of God (the TRUE tall tale of the coming of Christ) is without a doubt my favorite album ever. (Maybe one of these days I'll finish the list of my favorite music, etc. that was passed on to me by Gaines...) It will probably remain my favorite album, too, because I only get to listen during Christmas time, so I can't get quite as burned out on it. I hate putting it away in January, but it makes it that much more fun the next November.

It's a darn shame that I managed to spoil the fun on the way home by being an absolute GRUMP (God Bless the people who put up with me and my moods!)... but things are better now that I've had (a little) sleep, my butt is no longer numb from being squooshed in the car, and I've apologized to all concerned.

I've been inspired by Allison to post my Christmas list. I think hers is more practical, though. Oh, well.

All I want for Christmas is:

The ejection of Athens, GA into space

A win at the Emerald Bowl

Your mom

Nice cats that don't attack for no good reason

well-behaved hair

Your mom's face

A million dollars, in a plain briefcase (unmarked, non-sequential, no higher than $50 bills)

sleep!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Going Bowling!

Well, we didn't get the Gator Bowl, but we're playing Utah in the Emerald Bowl, and I'm pretty pleased. There are only 2 other bowl games I wish we could have had a chance at: the national championship BCS game, and...

(From John Dvorak's rather odd little blog , a screamingly funny comment by Mike Cannali)

How about the Microsoft bowl:
1. It will be announced for the fall, but won’t actually occur until spring
2. Periodically all the players will freeze solid on the field and the game restarted from the beginning.
3. No security will be provided; others may give you viruses and/or may spy on you. It costs money to cry for help.
4. Your seat may be taken by someone assuming your identity
5. Ticket prices will be 5 times what they should be
6. You may not move to any other sports event from this one - but you can easily move from any other event to the MS Bowl.
7. You may upgrade, but the seat must be equal or better to the one you had last year. You cannot move to a lesser seat once you have attended any MS bowl.
8. You don’t actually own the ticket, just the right to possess it
9. After 15 minutes, you must verify your presence and identity to continue to attend.
10. Once you learn the rules for one MS Bowl, they will be changed and you must learn new ones all over again.

I'd better publish this post before this creepily smart computer reads what I'm writing, strikes me with lightning and erases everything!