Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Advent Reflection #3

Advent calendars are blocks of wood or cardboard with December 1-25 marked.  Little doors in the wood or paper can be opened.  For some reason, you can buy them with chocolate behind the doors (nothing against chocolate, but why does everything at Christmas have to revolve around food?  Well, we are feasting in celebration of a birth, but ……)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Advent Reflection #2

Advent means, “He comes.”  Where does He come?  Into the world.  Into our homes.  Into our brains and hearts and beings.  Into our wills, or He should.  Christ in you, the hope of glory. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent Reflection #1

The message of the Old Testament is “He is coming.”  The message of the Gospels is “He is here.”  The message of the Epistles is “He has come and done the work of God ordained for this age.”  The message of Revelation is “He is coming again.”  As C.S.Lewis has his characters say of Aslan, He will make all things right.
Even the first time, Jesus made things right.  We just didn’t always see it.

Weather in North Georgia

The weather today is deluge-ional.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Republican Politics This Weekend

So now Newt Gingrich is at the head of the Republican pack.  Newt, who is from this part of Georgia, is a smart guy, an interesting speaker, an experienced politician.   And I agree totally with him about the immigration matter he is supposedly in trouble about now; some conservatives just don’t get it.  Latinos should be on our side; Republicans are running them off and slitting their own political throats. 

However, Newt cannot bring in the votes against Obama, if that is the issue.  I am not sure Romney can either, but Newt can’t.  And I don’t trust him to make good decisions.  But that’s just me.  I just think it’s funny the media are bearing down on him right now.  He would be a dream candidate for the Dems. 

Let it be said I do not consider myself a Republican, but a conservative.  I like most traditional, truly Republican Republican principles; it's the Republican politicans I have trouble with.

Have a Happy Hallmark Holiday: Just Don’t Bring Jesus Into It

The alternate title to this post would be:  The Hallmark Channel Christmas programming: Jesus Need Not Apply.

Hallmark has created some beautiful programming over the years.  Sarah Plain and Tall is one example I could give.  But they have also created some incredibly vapid stuff, programs that make the Lifetime network look Shakespearean.  I watched one last night while I was trying to make progress on my NaNoWriMo novel, which I still haven’t named.    Ten minutes in I was pretty sure where the made-for-TV-“movie” was going and how it would end; I was 90% correct.  I kept it on anyway, and the program was sweet and entertaining, if predictable.

However, it was supposedly a Christmas-themed program, like what they have already been running for three weeks (don’t get me started!  I won’t be putting up a tree for two more weeks.  I don’t like it being up for more than two or three weeks, really, but I know I am in the minority.) 
Apparently, in Hallmark world, Christmas consists of
Gingerbread houses and hot chocolate
“It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street”
Santa Claus
Shopping, but nothing ugly such as pepper spraying on Black Friday
Snow (if it’s a real Christmas)
Finding true love (again or for the first time)
Having wishes come true
Family reconciliation
Warm pajamas
Puppies or other fuzzy animals
What it doesn’t include is
Miraculous birth
True angelic messengers
Displaced persons and refugees
Anything Jewish
Roman oppression
Dirty shepherds
The temple and two old people who have waited decades to see the Messiah
A confused young couple
I think Hallmark movies exist to encourage shopping, especially at Hallmark stores.    
In Barbara Tucker’s world, Christmas consists of
Beautiful music
Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
Not really getting into it until the second week of December
Trying not to get sick
Being off
Baking cookies
Visiting friends and family
Remembering when our son was born and little
Trying not to overspend
Reflecting on how hopeful the holiday is, but not in a secular way.

In another post I wrote about the novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  It has much good writing, but there is one line that sticks with me.  “We trusted in the future too much.”  Such trust in the future brought the characters in the novel great disappointment.  Hope is not trusting in the future.  The future is a blank slate, amoral in a sense, an enigma at best, a possible tragedy at worst.  Hope is trusting the Person behind the future.    Hope is moral in nature.  This link will take you to another observation on hope by Vaclav Havel that I like.

Charity Time

I get lots and lots of solicitations from nonprofits for donations.  Sometimes they send me gifts; I got a tote bag yesterday that is really cute.  But if a charity can send out that kind of thing, that means to me they aren’t using the money correctly.  In the case of the charity that sent me the bag, they spend over 50% of their income on “fundraising,” not the mission of the agency.  Another group calls me up every year and I’m just hang up nowadays, because they spent 85% on fundraising and don’t even do what their name implies. 

There are several websites a consumer can visit to check out these agencies and nonprofits; recently I have used Charity Navigator, but there are others.  I am very concerned about stewardship of my resources because of reading a recent review of the book Toxic Charity.  Too much of our “charity” does the same thing we conservatives accuse the federal government of doing—causing dependence, not instilling work ethic, and excusing laziness.   This goes for faith-based nonprofits as well.  As Dennis Miller says, “I don’t mind helping the helpless, but I do mind helping the clueless.” 

I am a firm believer in personal mission statements, and I have one, although I must confess I have strayed from it a bit and now it is a good time to return.  I think we should have a mission statement for our giving, too.  Choose what you firmly believe in, what you know does truly important and needed work, and focus on that.  It might be just two or three above tithing, and that’s ok.  Everybody wants my money, and I don’t make that much.  I am getting older and don’t want to have to work overtime the rest of my life; at some point I will have to retire, although that’s far out.  I see the wisdom of saving my money and using less of it on what really matters to me than giving out random checks to every agency that claims a need. 

That sounds ungenerous, but it is actually more generous in the long run.  My point is, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves;  know what is done with your money and don’t trust someone who makes a claim on your finances for the unfortunate or “deserving.”

It's Christmas time and nonprofits love to invoke middle-class guilt to get people to give.  But middle-class guilt ain't what it used to be.

Text of my presentation at Southern States Communication Conference on Open Educational Resources

On April 8 I spoke at SSCA on the subject of Open Educational Resources.  Here is the text of my remarks. The University System of Geo...