Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Something for the end of the year

Always a good time to re-evaluate who you are and what you're doing. Guess I'm doing Ok but a little exercise and plate discipline would probably help.

This Is My Life, Rated
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Peace and Happy New Year

Monday, December 19, 2005

A Christmas thought

I take a moment to rise to the defense of a beloved part of my personal Christmas celebration. It has nothing to do with God and my spiritual life except that it brings me joy and it is a shared work within my family that draws us together at the holidays.

It's also one of the most universally derided parts of the season.

Yes, it's fruitcake.

Let me state from the outset that what most of you know as fruitcake, a sugar encrusted lump with a density just slightly less than lead is an abomination before the Lord. Do not send these things to one another, do not accept them from others. I refuse to even sniff such offerings.

Fruitcake in my family is home made. The cake exists only to the extent that it holds the fruit together. The fruit (this is the ONLY time that pineapple enters my mouth) is soaked in brandy then baked for hours in a batter of flour and spices. The result is a heavy cake (there's about 4 pounds of ingredients in our recipe) that is just brimming with flavors. The cake is then wrapped in cheese cloth and aged for about a month (I'm behind schedule this year so we're going to see if vacuum packing pulls more flavors out) occasionally sprinkled with more brandy. Then it is sliced and savored.

My brothers and I love it. Our wives and children haven't come around on it yet. That's fine, there's more for us!

When my mom passed away in October I realized that our loss could be compounded since she had taken on the fruitcake baking duties for the last several years. Please don't think that I'm saying the lack of fruitcake is somehow equal to losing Mom, it's not. But the first Christmas without Mom will be hard enough. I think it's vital that we maintain our traditions, the traditions that we were taught by our parents. In doing so they will continue to be with us. So over the weekend I broke out the monstrous mixing bowl she used and peered at the stained, hand written recipe.

The fruitcake's done now and beginning it's aging process. My mom and dad will be remembered in part this Christmas as I slice off that first piece of fruitcake.

So you can just take your fruitcake trash talk somewhere else. That don't play at my house.

In case I don't get a chance to blog again this week. A Merry Christmas to you all. Remember what the holiday is really about - God caring enough for his creation to become part of it. To walk with us, laugh with us, cry with us. And maybe even enjoy a bit of fruitcake.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

My perpetual dance

A couple days ago I offered "A Few Thoughts at Advent". In that post I took to task several mega-churches who have chosen not to have a Christmas morning service. I mounted that high horse of mine again (will no one relieve me of this cursed horse?)and made some slighting comments about congregations who would choose to do such a thing.

I need to step back from some of that today. This seems to be the dance that I am perpetually involved in. Two sharp steps forward, one slow step back. I can only hope that in the end I will be found to have progressed through the steps.

First to acknowledge some personal biases. I'm not a big fan of mega-churches nor of the kind of worship commonly (though not always) found there. Having been raised an Episcopalian I like worship in groups up to a couple hundred, I like vested choirs and much (though not all) of the music of our Hymnal, I love the liturgy of our Book of Common Prayer. Contemporary Christian music is fun but it does not inspire in me a feeling of communing with the divine. My lady wife on the other hand loves it. With that in the background I tend to look a little askance at much of what goes on at places like Willow Creek. That is my failing not theirs and I need to own up to that.

After reading through a discussion on the subject elsewhere I find myself uncomfortable with my previous position. First because I think the attitude ill befits a Christian and second because it makes me a bit of a hypocrite. While I must say that personally I find the idea of "closing" church on Christmas morning inexplicable it doesn't give me the right to look down my nose at my brothers and sisters who have chosen to do so. As pointed out there is a significant body of history of the church that even supports such a decision. Christmas has not been universally celebrated throughout our history. Who am I to say "That's wrong", especially when I am known to resent the hell out of other Christians doing the same thing to me about MY piety? While I can't imagine it I change my stance to:
May God bless them in what they do that day, and
May God open my heart to greater compassion.

And the dance goes on.


Scariest test yet

This is the scariest of these online quizzes I've ever taken. Why? Because Math has been my bete noir since the fourth grade. I have deep seated resistance and fear issues when it comes to math. This is why I don't balance my own checkbook!

So this is entirely Len Evans fault (Len's blog Once I finished it and hit the button I wasn't sure if I wanted to know if I could pass 8th grade math. How embarassing would that be? Trusted with all these funds for youth ministry and can't do junior high math.

So here's the results:

You Passed 8th Grade Math

Congratulations, you got 9/10 correct!

Yeah baby! Na, na na na nah, na na na nana na nana nah! I dance the dance of joy! I am victorious! My life is justified (in a non-theological way of course!)

I have faced my fear and whupped it!



Monday, December 12, 2005

A few thoughts at Advent

Two big stories in the news the last week or so having to do with preparations for Christmas.

First you may have heard that there's a campaign to "force"stores that have dropped Merry Christmas/Christmas sale for Happy Holidays/Holiday sales to go back to using Christmas.

If you see or get a copy of such a petition do me a favor - delete it, destroy it, throw it away.

The underlying logic seems to be that we need and want Christmas to associated with sales and shopping and gifts.


In fact I would ask ALL the retailers - leave Christmas out of it. While you have every right to run big sales this time of year the close association between merchandising and Christmas is destroying our religious holiday. I want Christmas back. If you're not celebrating the birth of the savior of the world please find something else to celebrate. What the heck, it's already been created. Festivus! Festivus sales and parties and whatever. Then maybe we Christians can really start focusing on the Christ child again.

And in a related story...

We have the various mega churches around the country (mega-churches if you're not familiar with the term are humongous congregations with membership in the thousands. They do everything BIG! That works for some folks but I'm personally not a fan) Several of the better known ones have decided NOT to have a Christmas morning service (which would be Sunday morning) because Christmas is a "family day". Apparently going to church isn't something you do on a family day.

Am I missing something here?

My home congregation WILL have a service Christmas morning (one instead of the usual two, and there's a baptism scheduled!) I'll be honest with you normally I'd be 50/50 on going that morning. Mostly because we do a midnight service and I do a live "narration" of it on a local radio station(being doing it for almost 20 years now). So I won't get home till about 1 AM and technically I'll have been at church on Christmas morning. This year my wife and daughter have duties that morning, and the family will probably like to get a video tape of the baptism service (I and a couple youth take turns operating our video system). We talked about it as a family and have decided that we're just going to sleep in, go to church and open presents AFTER!

Kind of a family day set of activities. I think the churches in question out to be ashamed of themselves and reconsider.


Friday, December 09, 2005

Just some filler

A silly spiritual test. Link is in the title above.

You are a Sage, characterized by a thinking or head spirituality. You value responsibility, logic, and order. Maybe that's why you were voted "Most Dependable" by your high school classmates. Structure and organization are important to you. What would the world be like without you? Chaos, that's what! Your favorite words include should, ought, and be prepared. What makes you feel warm and fuzzy? Like Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof it's tradition! tradition! tradition!

Because you love words, written or spoken, you enjoy a good lecture, serious discussions, and theological reflection. Prayer for you usually is verbal. You thrive on activity and gatherings of people, such as study groups. Sages on retreat likely would fill every day with planned activities, leaving little time for silence or solitude.

We need Sages for your clear thinking and orderly ways. You pay attention to details that others overlook. Sages make contributions to education, publishing, and theology. You often are the ones who feel a duty to serve, give, care, and share with the rest of us.

On the other hand, sometimes you seem unfeeling, too intellectual, or dry. Can you say "dogmatic"? You may need to experience the freedom of breaking a rule or two every now and then. God's grace covers Sages too, you know!

I don't think most of this is particularly true but what can you say? It's just filling up space!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Go Navy!

I'm not a huge college sports fan. Basketball interests me very little (I wait till March Madness then root for all the little teams to pull upsets) and college football is much the same.

With one exception.

The Army Navy game. If it is at all possible I'm parked for that one. Sports the way it was meant to be played, for pride and honor. Disciplined athletes striving with one another for supremacy. I love it.

Plus I'm a Navy brat, sort of. My dad was on active duty on an aircraft carrier the day I was born. He was stationed in the Mediterranean so he was a long way away. (This is also why my family does not financially support the Red Cross, but that's another story). I didn't grow up with an active duty father, he went reserves by the time I was about 3 but I love the Navy and I have a big soft spot for the families back home.

Navy made it four years in a row. That means this years graduating class from West Point has NEVER been on a team that had beaten the Naval Academy. I've never been to Annapolis but I'd love to visit. My dad was an Officer's Candidate School graduate rather than a "ring knocker" (I know that's not necessarily a nice phrase but it's ingrained) but I still have the greatest respect for the Navy and Marine officers who come from the Academy.

Can hardly wait for next year.

2005 Navy 42 Army 23.

Go Navy! Beat Army!