Sunday, November 30, 2008

Christmas Movies That Move Me

Seems like several movie channels are already running the holiday classics. Here are a few lines from some of my favorites. These stories never fail to move me, some with laughter, others with a lump in my throat. Feel free to add your own choices.

"Charlie Brown, you're the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy's right. Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Browniest."

"Rats. Nobody sent me a Christmas card today. I almost wish there weren't a holiday season. I know nobody likes me. Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?"

"NOW it was serious. A double-dog-dare. What else was there but a "triple dare ya"? And then, the coup de grace of all dares, the sinister triple-dog-dare."

"Some men are Baptists, others Catholics; my father was an Oldsmobile man."

"Aunt Clara had for years labored under the delusion that I was not only perpetually 4 years old, but also a girl."

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."

"Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer. Cheer to all Whos far and near. Christmas Day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp. Christmas Day will always be, just as long as we have we. Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand."

"Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about... they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they're cattle. Well, in my book he died a much richer man than you'll ever be."

"Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends."

"A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town."

"Look, Daddy. Teacher says every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings."

"It is required of every man," the ghost returned, "that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and, if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death."

". . . for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself."

"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Tough Time for Turkey

This year celebrating Thanksgiving has a different feel for me. Maybe it's because I'm feeling a little bit worn out and worn down lately. So much time with hurting people, grieving people, people in crisis, can turn the brightest rainbow to dingy gray. And, with the economy in the tank, so many jobs disappearing, and our 401k's stuck in a nosedive, it seems like bleak pessimism has settled in for a long stay.

Last year about this time I shared with you my "I'm thankful for" list, and it wasn't a hard list to compile. And, of course, I am still grateful for all those good gifts, but this year just feels different. My thanksgiving feels deeper, grittier, more tested and seasoned than before. So, here's my earthier approach to Turkey Day:

I am thankful for the . . .
  • Peacemakers, those daring saints who bravely venture into that no man's land between angry antagonists and hoist a white flag, surrendering in both directions.
  • Volunteers, those eager hand-raisers who have somehow cut themselves free from their natural self-centeredness and freely give themselves to a worthy cause.
  • Caregivers, those sons and daughters of God who have learned to enlarge their own hearts by patching up the hearts of others.
  • Extra Milers, those relentless runners who set no boundary or limit on their faithfulness, who pay no heed to their own fatigue, and who carry us far beyond our expectations.
  • Encouragers, those perpetual cheerleaders whose words get us back on our feet and ready to fight for another round.
  • Ungrossoutables, (I think I just invented a new word.) I'm talking about those children of Mother Teresa whose desire to comfort and heal is so strong that even a squeamish eye, a faint heart, and a queasy stomach cannot keep them from acting in love.
  • Protectors, those modern knights who still defend the helpless and the innocent, the weak and the vulnerable, laying down their lives in the face of violence and evil, fire and storm.
They are all heroes, are they not? Each one brings to mind the names and faces of very special people who have "been there" for me, and I am genuinely thankful. And I want to be more like those heroes in the future. Maybe that's the best "thank you" we can give.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Give Me a Full-Size Jesus

Michael Spencer at Jesus Shaped Spirituality has written a powerful piece called, Do You Trust an Abbreviated Jesus? Let me encourage you to take a look. Do you agree with Michael's indictment of much of contemporary Christianity? Does he make his case?

Monday, November 17, 2008

For King and Country

I do not often agree with the words of columnist Cal Thomas, sometimes but not often. But his recent editorial after the presidential election was something to behold, words I never thought he would write, words I could wish I had written myself. Here's a taste of it:

Thirty years of trying to use government to stop abortion, preserve opposite-sex marriage, improve television and movie content and transform culture into the conservative Evangelical image has failed. The question now becomes: should conservative Christians redouble their effort, contributing more millions to radio and TV preachers and activists, or would they be wise to try something else?

I opt for trying something else. . . . Too many conservative Evangelicals have put too much faith in the power of government to transform culture. . . . Too many conservative Evangelicals mistake political power for influence.

If results are what conservative Evangelicals want, they already have a model. It is contained in the life and commands of Jesus of Nazareth. Suppose that millions of conservative Christians engaged in an old and proven type of radical behavior. Suppose they followed the admonition of Jesus to "love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison, and care for widows and orphans" not as ends, . . . but as a means of demonstrating love for the whole person in order that people might seek Him?

Such a strategy would be more "transformational" than electing a new president, even the first president of color.

You can find the entire editorial here. I wish more Christians, blue and red, liberal and conservative, really believed in the power of the Gospel we preach and teach. Christ alone is the truly transformational Leader this world desperately needs.

Doing the work of the Kingdom is the best thing we can do for the country.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What a Day for a Daydream

I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge,
That myth is more potent than history.
I believe that dreams are more powerful than facts
That hope always triumphs over experience
That laughter is the only cure for grief
And I believe that love is stronger than death.
- Robert Fulghum, Storyteller's Creed

I confess. I have always been a daydreamer. I was the kid in class sitting there with glazed eyes gazing out the window, startled when the teacher suddenly called my name. "Uh, what was the question?" And even today, I sometimes like to let my mind wander to unexplored worlds and imaginary scenarios. Most of the time, like you, I am pinned down to dealing with realities, the needs and responsibilities staring me in the face. But every now and then God seems to call me out of myself and beyond myself, to count the stars and the grains of sand on the shore. Sometimes I find myself far above the mundane duties of the day, catching a glimpse from the lofty heights where the fog clears and I can see the distant miles stretching out ahead. God gives the best daydreams.

It doesn't happen often, mind you. Not nearly so often as I would like. But sometimes, in unscheduled sacred moments, I can see far beyond the range of my bifocals, I can begin to see a path and a promise for me, my family, my people.

And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
(Joel 2:28-29 NIV)

"How about today, Lord? Please let it be today."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Punched Out By a Priest

Here's a Monday morning headline for you: "Monks Brawl at Christian Holy Site in Jerusalem." There, in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Armenian monks and Greek Orthodox monks came to blows and had to be separated and cuffed by Israeli riot police. I've been in a couple of Baptist business meetings that were nearly as bad.

Six different Christian groups are supposed to share possession and administration of this church, believed by many traditions to be the holiest site of the Christian faith, built over Golgotha and the tomb of Christ. But things have never gone smoothly. These Christians can't seem to agree on anything. Here's part of the story:

The feud is only one of a bewildering array of rivalries among churchmen in the Holy Sepulcher.

The Israeli government has long wanted to build a fire exit in the church, which regularly fills with thousands of pilgrims and has only one main door, but the sects cannot agree where the exit will be built.

A ladder placed on a ledge over the entrance sometime in the 19th century has remained there ever since because of a dispute over who has the authority to take it down.

More recently, a spat between Ethiopian and Coptic Christians is delaying badly needed renovations to a rooftop monastery that engineers say could collapse.

You can read the rest of the story here. What a odd place to get punched out by a priest. And what a shameful testimony to the cause of Christ. It may well be true that Jesus of Nazareth laid down His life in or near that very spot. And He died and lives for the cause and purpose of reconciliation, our coming together with God and with one another.

Any time in any place in any church, when we put turf and influence before grace and love, we have disgraced the Gospel and sent Christ back to His cross.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Top Ten Things I Have Learned from Government

Our friends over at High Calling Blogs have asked us to write down our thoughts on the subject, "What I have learned from government." This writing project is hosted over at Middle Zone Musings and you can find the post here. So, here goes.

Please forgive my heavy sarcasm, but any honest look at how our government functions these days can turn the most optimistic Tigger into a gloomy Eeyore.
  • Truth, like lemon juice, must always be diffused and diluted, never taken straight.
  • A press conference is not unlike feeding time at the zoo.
  • Reporters are bright, ambitious persons who used to be human beings.
  • Post election speeches represent grace and forgiveness in its highest form, as both candidates express great appreciation and respect for the opponent they have mercilessly trashed for six months.
  • History has a remarkable way of putting our leaders in perspective. Some big people get much smaller with the passing of time, and a few little people may take on a stature and breadth that we never noticed when they were around.
  • Politicians are becoming more and more like pets – they are all owned by somebody. They may prance and parade their pedigree in public, but they still tend to fight and bite and make messes in private.
  • No matter what the job may be, there has to be a way to make it take longer and cost more than you ever dreamed possible.
  • Terms like revenue enhancement, fiscal evaluation, and tax assessment all mean the same thing – you and I are picking up the check.
  • People are fickle, flying wherever the winds of self-interest may carry us. Every conviction is negotiable it seems, except the ultimate truths like Ford is better than Chevy.
  • These days it’s not so much government of the people, by the people, and for the people. It’s more like government to the people, use the people, and confuse the people.
Cynical as I may sound, I do believe that we can do better, we must do better, and we will do better. I do not propose that we return to some past age of bliss, because we have never really had one. We can begin to listen, to learn, and to understand each other. We can practice the art of compromise without betraying our deeply held convictions. We can rediscover the noble work of citizenship and help create a culture of civility, leaving plenty of room for those unlike ourselves who are part of our common community.

I don't feel like bouncing like Tigger just yet, but I am hoping for better days ahead.