2014 Blog Favorites

Hard to believe that 2014 is at an end. To celebrate I am listing some of my favorite posts.
January :: Note to My Younger Self

February :: Miracles - All or Nothing?

March :: Fonzi Scheme

April :: Absolute Relativism

May :: Remembering Ellen

June :: Religious Schism

July :: Chasing Francis

August :: Silent Sufferers

September :: Politics and Church Attendance :: Which comes first?

October :: When they are not sorry

November :: Hysterical Bob

December :: The Bible Isn’t a Magic Book
Thanks for reading my blog. Wish you the happiest of New Years.

The Bible Isn’t a Magic Book

I recently came across a thought provoking post titled: "5 Things I Wish Christians Would Admit About the Bible"
(read it here). Here are the bullet points with my commentary.
  1. The Bible Isn’t a Magic Book. We all know this. We understand that the scriptures were never meant to be used to pronounce blessings or curses. Yet sometimes we do seem to focus on things miraculous and mystical when we read it. In doing so we tend to make infallible popes out of the authors instead of seeing them as inspired men.
  2. The Bible Isn't as Clear as We'd Like It To Be. Hard to argue with this one as there is so much diversity in what each of us believes that it says. Some hold dogmatic black and white views about it while some embrace a grayer view. Many divide over the way that they read the bible while others see it as a means to love, peace and unity.
  3. The Bible Was Inspired by God, Not Dictated by God. I love the idea that God inspired people to write the scriptures. He certainly could have written it, as he did the Ten Commandments, in stone tablets. Yet he chose to write it in a less perfect manner using fallible people. This helps me to appreciate the complexity of the bible.
  4. We All Pick and Choose the Bible We Believe, Preach and Defend. All of us disdain the ways that the Bible was once used to defend things like slavery. Yet knowing that those folks held an erroneous view many of us seem to hold fast to our interpretations and choose to divide rather than unite on common ground.
  5. God Is Bigger Than The Bible.
 Bibliolatry is defined as the worship of the bible. None of us believe that we do that yet many of us do not see a difference between God and the Bible. In contrast, some see the Bible as a book that reveals both the Creator in Jesus Christ and the ones that He created and loves.
Care to share a few thoughts? Perhaps we can learn from each other? Maybe even find a bit of common ground?

The Beggar at the Door

I resonate with this quote. When I hear "God with Us" or "God loves You" I think of how God is with me through the presence of a friend and how He loves me through the compassionate people in my life.

I am that beggar at the door. I am the one in need of your presence and your love. I am not in need of a religious meeting. I am in need of you. I am the beggar at your door. And you are the beggar at my door.

How you respond to the beggar at your door says so much about you and whether you see yourself as a fellow beggar. Jesus agreed with this idea when he told us that great love comes from great forgiveness.

O Holy Night

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
'Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.

Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
O night divine, O night, O night divine

Good News in any Language

Joyeux Noël

Mele Kalikimaka

Nizhonigo Keshmish

Meri Kirihimete

Chag Molad Sameach

Wesołych Świąt

Crặciun Fericit

Nollaig Chridheil

... extra Credit if you know the Israeli phrase. Answer is here.

Matching Socks

“One can never have enough socks," said Dumbledore. "Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn't get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.” -J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

“When I was young I found out that the big toe always ends up making a hole in a sock. So I stopped wearing socks.” -Albert Einstein

“Granny always said finding justice was as tough as putting socks on a rooster.” -Jessica Maria Tuccelli, Glow

“I buy all my socks with holes in them. Otherwise, how would I get my feet in them?” -Jarod Kintz

“Women speak because they wish to speak, whereas a man speaks only when driven to speak by something outside himself-like, for instance, he can't find any clean socks.” -Jean Kerr

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

My long time blogging buddy, and Middle Earth expert, Bill Baugher wrote this great review today on Facebook.

I went to see the new Hobbit movie last night. I was going to wait to see the movie on my birthday or Christmas but I couldn't resist the temptation to see the movie on the opening day. I rationalized seeing the movie last night by reminding myself that I generally go see these movies multiple times...I wouldn't say I was disappointed but this film is my least favorite film, by far, of the entire LOTR and Hobbit series. I'm not disappointed because I do appreciate and understand the Herculean efforts by the director Peter Jackson and all involved to bring these books to the big screen...and...I do realize how difficult, maybe impossible it is to follow up on Jackson's masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings....I don't think my disappointment is due to unrealistic expectations but rather I found the script/plot really weak. From what I understand Jackson was working with material that had gone unpublished by Tolkien so I suspect the unpublished material was unedited, thus, Jackson probably had to wing it and I think it showed... The film is dominated by CGI special effects with one fighting scene after another which bored me in the end. If you are a Lord of the Rings fan/geek you will probably appreciate one last victory lap by the cast of Bilbo, Legolas, Gandalf, Galandriel, and others but if you are a film critic type who isn't wowed by special effects you will probably be bored out of your mind. It grieves me to say such things but in the end a hobbit must be true to himself and I'm sure Peter Jackson and Bilbo would agree! PS, despite my lack of enthusiasm for this film I did really like the way the film ended and I'll always cherish many great moments and experiences from this series of films and for that I am grateful at the end of the day.

Catch my mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

Theme Park Builder wants your Tax Dollars

Always interesting to talk about how religious groups are under attack by the US government. I recently had a Facebook discussion about tax breaks for a religious theme park in Kentucky. According to Charisma News:
"By letter on Dec. 10, state officials told the theme park's developer, Answers in Genesis (AiG), that the only way AiG could participate in the rebate program is if AiG would agree to two conditions: 1) waive its right to include a religious preference in hiring, and 2) affirm that it will tolerate no "proselytizing" at the theme park."
Some religious folks are upset because they feel that the government of Kentucky is persecuting the theme park builder. Here are a few comments and responses that I made about this on Facebook.
In my view, a tax rebate is not a right or entitlement. If a religious group takes funds from the govt they should be aware that strings come with those funds. Best that religious groups steer clear of govt funds/entitlements and rely on the generosity of religious people instead of govt tax breaks.
I am not a fan of 501.c.3 groups that use tax deductions for things that are not charitable in nature. Many of these groups spend huge amounts of money on ornate buildings and inflated salaries. In contrast other 501.c.3 groups help the least of these as they minister to the poor, the hungry, the homeless and the imprisoned. So it is hard for me to have empathy for a theme park builder who is wanting tax-funded monies to offset his costs to entertain religious folks.
I am all for "the furtherance of the Kingdom" but struggle to see how most of the things that go on in religious groups have much to do with the kingdom that Jesus preached. Instead of inspiring humble compassion some religious groups seem to breed arrogant self-righteousness. It is time that folks stop whining about tax breaks and begin to passionately help the least of these in our country.
What do you think about non-charitable religious groups who want your tax dollars?

The Reality of You

Saw this on Facebook this morning. Made me think. Think about how much I love the idea of unconditionally loving "You" but struggle with the reality of that idea. Perhaps, as the image indicates, it is all about maturity. I do seem to be more accepting of "You" than I once did but often struggle with the reality of you.

Can you relate to this struggle of loving in general and loving in specific? How do you deal with loving the reality of you? Do you find ways to embrace the imperfection in others or simply close your eyes to them? I have no answers but know that I often struggle with the reality of unconditionally loving "You".

Remembering My Parents' 9/11

Today is the 73rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor by the nation of Japan. It was to my parents' generation what the al-Qaeda attacks of 9/11 were to our generation. Looking back to that day I am amazed by the way that our relationship with Japan and Germany has evolved to where it is today. My hope is for a similar future reconciliation with the countries who supported the heinous acts of 9/11. I look to a day in which we are friends and not enemies.

... originally posted in 2012

I used to think I was a "Morning Person" ...

This image has me wondering if it is good to be a "Morning Person".

    Morning is wonderful. Its only drawback is that it comes at
    such an inconvenient time of day. -Glen Cook

    I'd say I'm not a morning person but I'm really not sure
    I'm an evening person either. -Tony Tran

    I'm a dog person and an evening person because people and
    mornings had their chances to win me over and blew it. -Unknown

Quotes aside, are you a morning or evening person?