Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Mild Defense of Happy Holidays...

Never one to let sleeping words lie...

Several years I switched to saying "Happy Holidays." I worked in a company that was largely Jewish. They never chided me for saying "Merry Christmas." But for them, it wasn't the joyous greeting I meant it to be.

I decided that it was kinder to say "Happy Holidays." It expressed what I wished to express to them. Political Correctness had nothing to do with it (though I KNOW that it does in much of the current debate).

Just another thought to muddy the waters :)


Saturday, December 17, 2005

Empty chairs at empty tables...

When we began to reclaim our lives from chaos, violence and destruction, the task seemed insurmountable. In over 10 years of living in this home, Whitney, my oldest, had never had a friend over. Ever.

One family surrounded her and supported her even before I awoke to the horror that we were living. Katie Retelle was Whit's friend from the time she was 6th grade. Whit would ride her bike down to their home on Joppa Road.

Sue, her mom, reached out to us, and especially to Whitney's mom. Though Tracy pretty much rejected the hand of comfort and support, Sue never wavered and always held our family close in heart and prayers.

When we began to wade through literally every path in the home covered with at least a foot of clothes, food, papers, cans, cups, Katie insisted she would help us. She came in and held trash bags. When we got down to the horribly stained smelly carpet, Katie was in there first, pulling, prying, ripping. Once up, the aged but pretty wood floors were a constant encouragement.

Katie was our first dinner guest, and became a regular welcome presence. She called Tighe her boyfriend. He glowed every time.

Oh my God, how can it be?

October a year ago, she began feeling really crummy. It didn't pass.

She had leukemia. But that's so treatable these days.


Today, must have been around 1 or 1:15 in the afternoon Katie Retelle, redhead goof, sharp-tongued loving Katie, Katie who would take nothin' from nobody, who hung on tight to her friends, Katie Retelle passed away.

I can't imagine the grief of her parents, her brother, her sister. I can't imagine the grief of Whitney or the rest of Katie's friends. I only know that someone special is no longer in this world, and I am poorer for it, and they, who were closer, are infinitely more poor than I today.

Katie, you were such a light to us. Thank you Katie. Godspeed.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Prayers please...

For Katie Retelle, 20. Katie has had leukemia for a bit over a year. It's been highly resistant to chemo. She's been waiting for a new treatment regimen.

She's taken a really bad turn today. Pray for her please.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Counting My Blessings...

These lyrics from the Diane Krall Christmas CD. The song is a lesser known Irving Berlin, recorded both by Bing Crosby and Eddie Fisher:

"Count Your Blessings Instead Of Sheep"

When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessing instead of sheep
And I fall asleep, counting my blessings

When my bankroll is gettin' small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep, counting my blessings

I think about a nursery
And I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them
As they slumber in their beds

If you're worried and you can't sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings.

So if you're worried and you can't sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings.

Nothing more need be said.

Well... after posting this, I realized something more DID need to be said:

I Stand In Awe

(Mark Altrogge)

You are beautiful beyond description
Too marvelous for words
Too wonderful for comprehension
Like nothing ever seen or heard
Who can grasp your infinite wisdom
Who can fathom the depth of your love
You are beautiful beyond description
Majesty enthroned above

And I stand, I stand in awe of you
I stand, I stand in awe of you
Holy God to whom all praise is due
I stand in awe of you.

Now THAT is complete...


Monday, December 12, 2005

Musings on the "Paganity" of Christmas...

Have any of you read Peace Child? It was a very popular book in the late 70s and early 80s.

It was a missionary/anthropologist telling of his experiences relating the gospel to a tribe in New Guinea. The tribe had never been exposed to the Gospel.

The author believed that God has put into every culture myths and stories as hooks to connect. Seeds of the gospel. Whispers and echos.

Paul did this on Mars Hill in Athens, relating God to the Unknown God. I think if many church goers heard that sermon with current Evangelical ears, they'd accuse Paul of being New Age.

That is what the early church fathers did when they came into an area. They are accused of "baptizing" holidays. Perhaps some did for ease and for purposes of diluting the gospel and increasing numbers.

But most of these people were sincere lovers of God, followers of Jesus. They longed to communicate their faith to a world that did not understand, just like we do.

But how to do it? Holy days and resident myths were perfect ways to do that, just as Paul had done.

Need to explain Christ's death and resurrection? Link it to the new life stories of spring and easter.

Need to explain light shining into darkness as Isaiah refers to the Messiah? In the middle of winter talk of Christ's birth. Link it to the Winter Solstice, a celebration of warmth and light in the midst of darkness.

The traditions got merged, yes. But at the HEART of what the church did is the Gospel.

I'm reminded of Narnia.

I had a favorite English pastor who would visit our Bible Conference, C. St. Clair Robinson (even his name was so veddy British). I asked him once about his opinion of Lewis. My favorite thinking writer then as now. He shocked me. He doubted Lewis' salvation. Narnia was a pagan erotic paean, so he said.

Sure, you could see Narnia that way. Apparently Tolkien saw Narnia that way. But with a baptized imagination (Lewis' term) you can see Christmas in all it's wonder, with the seminal myths that God wove into those very pagan cultures just SO Christianity could take root and flourish, and His Word come to us.

All truth is God's truth wherever it be found.


The Nature of Redemption...

The impending execution of Crips founder "Tookie" Wilson is prompting a firestorm of conversation over whether his "redemption" is enough to predicate his release from his death sentence.

I don't know the man's salvation status, I've heard very little about him. But the conversation had in it something which sparked a response.

A friend relayed that "Tookie's faith is getting him through."

OH man, I hope he has a stronger faith than mine!

My faith isn't enough. My efforts won't cut the mustard. I can't EVER hold on tight enough for what comes at me on a bad day.

It may just be an expression, I won't hold any man to what is said like that... but I hear that all the time, "His faith is getting him through." And I was struck... Our faith is NOT what gets us through, our FAITH is what is granted to us by our REDEEMER. Our REDEEMER gets us through.

So the conversation on redemption misses the point. It's the WHO of redemption, not the what. WHO has redeemed you?


Friday, December 09, 2005

My Starbucks Runneth Over...

So... Continuing on my Starbucks theme...

First off, I do not own stock in Starbucks. Yet.

Second, in my old Seattle days, I considered Starbucks inferior. Inferior to Stuart Brothers (later to become Seattle's Best Coffee). FAR inferior to Batdorf and Bronson in Olympia.

Still, all that was before my exile to New England, where coffee was unknown. They drink a brew up here they call "Dunkin's". It's not coffee, per se, but has a few coffee characteristics.

OH, how I ached for real coffee. And my tenacity has been rewarded. There is now a TRUE Starbucks within 10 miles of my home. Perhaps all this is why I object to a boycott? Naawww, it's strictly on principle grounds. Coffee grounds.

So yesterday as I sipped and noshed (OOOoooh their Gingerbread Loaf!!!!), I eavesdropped on a conversation behind me. Two Christian men talking about a book, Blue Like Jazz.

It sounded (and sounds) fascinating and I'm looking forward to reading it. It's author has founded a writer's community in Portland. So much is happening now in the Northwest with the Mars Hill forum at my alma mater SPU, and now this, the Burnside Writers' Group.

I urge you to check out http://www.donaldmillerwords.com. What I see blowing through the church is revolutionary and real. Embracing Christ and Him alone.

I fear a bit of antinomianism, and even see that in myself, but it may just be fear. After all, we're shredding decades of legalism.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

From whom should we buy?

A recent Focus on the Family pushed my buttons and really got me thinking. They were running the list of initiatives various major American corporations have which run contrary to family values. Primarily, these are gay-agenda hot button issues.

Their suggestion is that we withhold our business from Starbucks because of a couple of egregious statements on their cups. For those not Starbucks-addicted, for a time Starbucks featured phrases from customers on their cups. One phrase was a gay man bemoaning the waste of time during the length he was closeted.

Focus was discussing how much effort and time it had taken them to move their bank just recently from Wells Fargo to another. Wells is actively promoting a campaign from GLAD (Gay Lesbian something) to jointly raise money to counter organizations such as Focus.

I highly respect Dr. Dobson and the Focus ministry. But I think they've got it wrong on this one.

I think their move away from Wells is well and good, and moreso, simply the right thing. But I think that *I* have to cautiously look at any wide "boycott".

First, hotbutton issues are troublesome. They miss the broader sweep of things.

Second, if we remove ourselves as Christians from the world, where will be the salt and light of our witness? Jesus went to the sinners, shouldn't we?

Third, and most importantly, Starbucks is just now FINALLY bringing a GOOD cup of coffee to New Hampshire. How could I possibly turn away?

They say all politics is local... in fact, it's so local it's centered in my tastebuds.

Quite seriously though, attempting to sway with the pocketbook strikes me as worldly. Individual beievers must be moved by the Spirit where the Spirit will move.

It could be the pocketbook is one place that God will lead us to consider (He has moved on my heart that way). But I fear it may actually render us impotent to move with the power He seeks us to experience and wield in other occasions.

Food for thought...


Friday, December 02, 2005

writer's block...

It's been forever since I've posted. I love writing here, and I'll admit it, it's been depression rearing its ugly head.

I am just now realizing how under the influence of down-ness I've been...

Yes there's reasons, but bottom-line, I am saved at a tremendous price and have SO much to be grateful for.

AND I've been seeing God answer prayer after prayer. So many of them involve remaking me, gouging and shaping me into His image.

I'm back and I'm going to do better at posting. This is important to me and I value you who wander by.