Showing posts from December, 2016

Celebrity Deaths in 2016 and real news

This post from Christianity Today is provocative.  I agree--and don't (see my earlier post on nostalgia to get a sense of why).

Yes, it is silly for people to be saying, "Man 2016 sucked, all these people dying, let it be over."  No more people died this year than any other year, and probably not that many more famous people.  It's just who they are.  And less face it, some of them were old and were going to die soon anyway.  Yes, it's sad about Debbie Reynolds dying right after her daughter.   Maybe Carrie Fisher didn't take care of herself; 60 is young for a woman to die of a heart attack.  I don't know anything about George Michael.  Prince, David Bowie, Doris Roberts, Gene Wilder.  Nancy Reagan--a loss, but she was aged, and she missed her Ronnie.  Some were ill for a long time: Muhammad Ali (not a fan and not sure why I was supposed to b…

Nostalgia and Writing

The Chattanooga Writers' Guild has a Facebook page that often has links to wonderful helps, such as this one about why the movie A Christmas Story is so attractive to so many people.

The core reason is nostalgia.  Nostalgia, the writer claims, quoting a line from Mad Men, is "the pain from an old wound."  Since neuralgia means nerve pain, and analgesic is a medicine against pain, it appears that alge is a Greek root for pain.  So nostalgia originally had pain involved in it. 

The article says nostalgia is one of the three reasons the movie is so popular, along with humor and the payoff of a disaster.  It's worth reading if you like the movie, or even if you don't.  It's ok by me; it's not a Christmas necessity (A Christmas Carol is that), but it is a piece of Americana, perhaps more that for me than nostalgia.

This idea, however, that nostalgia involves memory of pain is fascinating to me.  Nostalgia for chi…

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I finished this novel yesterday after a marathon session.  I guess I am of the opinion that reading a novel should not be a life commitment, but apparently I am wrong in that opinion.  I have a copy of The Goldfinch that I would like to continue, but 800+ pages just daunts me after finishing Doer's book.

Not to say I didn't enjoy it.  I did, and usually found it hard to put down.  I am just reluctant to recommend a book that is so long (about 540 pages).  It is not dense, but it does take some getting used to because of the converging timelines.  I am not convinced it needed to be that long.

I read the criticisms people put on Amazon and I often want to say, "Ok, you are a reader, but have you ever really tried to write a real novel?"  I have, many times, and succeeded five, so I have a clearer sense, I think,of what he has accomplished here. And from a craft perspective, I am awed.  It was one of those books where I say to myself, "you really have no business …

Christmas Eve

I must think the world needs my blogging if I am doing it on Christmas Eve.

Actually, I am in a mischievous mood.  I have on the Hallmark Channel's "Yule Log" which is literally a video of a fireplace with Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra singing about snow.  They did play "Do you hear what I hear?" which is remotely Christian.  I was surprised.

Our church choir sang a beautiful rendition of "Little Drummer Boy."  We all have Christmas songs we just don't like. That one is mine.  Why in the world would Mary want the little boy to play a drum for a baby?  I think she had more sense than that.  I have a friend who can't abide "Go Tell It on The Mountain."  These personal pecularities--where do they come from?  It's like how much I dislike marshmallows or another friend despises mayonnaise (which I can't imagine cooking without). 

Another point:  fruitcake.  I make a delicious fruitcake.  I just had some.  Would rather eat it than…

Advent 14, 2016

Christmas gifts can come in all sizes.  God gave me one today.

Walking Nala the pitbull this Christmas Eve afternoon, taking a needed break between cooking wrapping cleaning errands Christmas Eve service, I appeased her by walking near the creek that snakes around the high school where we walk.  I heard a rustling noise and she stopped, I turned and saw the creature above rising through the trees and taking off southward.  The blue and gray was remarkable, not just a bland blend in with the dead trees color. 

Recently I was driving up our road to get out of our holler and onto where things happen.  Across the road rushed an animal--larger than a cat, not quite a dog.  He stopped and looked at me; a red fox.  A few days later I saw his crushed body on the same road, further down. 

It would be (fill in the blank) if somehow these creatures could coexist with us in suburbia (sometimes bears are seen here!).  Then, however, they might not be such a serendipitous occurrence. 

Seeing a grea…

Advent 13, 2016

I guess I need to remind myself that I do more than work.  Here is my baking production of yesterday:  Scottish shortbread (which my husband loves and hoards for himself--they are quite good), chocolate chip cookies that are out of this world (new recipe:  see here), my mother's peanut butter cookie recipe (make with Crisco, which I use about once a year), and candied pretzels (son devours them).  Plus a fruitcake soaked in rum but baked three weeks ago.  The clue to cookies is watching them like a hawk and taking them out sooner than recipes call for, also taking them off the sheets early. 

Advent 12, 2016

I hope those who come to read this are not annoyed by my numbering system.  In the past I have posted something every day for Advent.  That was not possible for me this year, so I opted for every other day or so. 

I am reading through Matthew and writing my observations, some of which are shared on this blog.  I came to his allusion to the Suffering Servant passage from Isaiah 42, which he quotes in Matthew 12:18ff.  I realize that a whole book could (an probably has) been written on Matthew's particular use of prophecy.  Let me correct myself here; Matthew isn't just making a loose reference here to the Isaiah prophecy; he is saying that at this point in his life Jesus fulfilled that prophecy. 

A bruised reed he will not break nor a smoking flax he will not quench.  I have read that for years and didn't have a clue what it means.  I may not now, but I have a better idea, maybe.  Jesus will not, does not, break what is already damaged or quench that which is trying to live…

Advent 11, 2016

This posting is going to seem more random and nonapplicable to Advent, but in the end it will be.

I read a number of sources about theology and Christian living.  They are from evangelicalism, mainstream denominations, Catholicism, and even Judaism. Recently sources have spoken more about suffering: the reality of it, the necessity of it for the Christian growth, the lack of it in the Western church, and how we should expect it. 

It would take a long theological argument to address this.  While suffering at the hands of governmental or other powers has been a part of much of Christian history and something that should not surprise us, I don't think we can argue that suffering of that kind is redemptive or even necessary for spiritual growth.  Suffering of the physical kind is part of being in bodies affected by the Fall.  Suffering in the sense of rejection from social groups or loved ones is another type, but every case of that type of suffering is different.  Some rejection is w…

Advent 10, 2016

This week college is out of session so I have more discretionary time (although not a lot--I have a report to the state due this week).  Perhaps I will post on the rest of Advent.  I have been blessed by the focus on the "candle themes" of Advent our church has done.

Since mid November I have been blessed to be part of our church's ESL ministry.  I work with advanced students trying to get their GEDs, although these folks are far beyond that level in intelligence and background.  What is holding them back is language.  I have 3-4 Iraqi students (2 beautiful women in hijabs come), four Sudanese young men, and a couple of Hispanics. 

Last night we used a reading on Christmas to talk about the holiday and gave them a small goodie bag.  I had them write on "What surprised them when they came to the U.S." since almost all of theme have been here about a year or less.  Their answers were funny, sad, intriguing:  everyone has a car; taxes are taken from you first (in …

Advent 9, 2016

In teaching my life group study this morning on Love at Advent, I wanted them to see the totality of God's character and that one characteristic doesn't replace, balance out, or outweigh another.  So I start by asking for words.  This is what they came up with--better than my list. 

I asked if one was more important.  They said that at times, one will be what you need to hang on to.  Interesting.  That doesn't make the others go away or be less important, but in our finite minds contemplating one characteristic of God at a time is probably the best we can do.

Advent 8, 2016 - LOVE at Advent

First, let’s look at the development in the use of the word love in the Bible.

In Genesis, it seems to be about family and food.  Abraham loved Isaac; Isaac loved savory food, Isaac loved Rachel.

In Exodus we have the first occurrence of love in reference to God, but it is humans loving God and obeying his commandments.

Love as a human responsibility appears in
Leviticus 19:18  You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
Leviticus 19:34 The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

In Deuteronomy 4:37 we have the first reference to God’s love:
And because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them; and He brought you out of Egypt with His Presence, with His mighty power,
Deuteronomy 7:7  The Lord did not set His love on you nor choo…

Advent 7, 2016

(Well, I am averaging one every two days of December.)

This article from Christianity Today was thoughtful and thought-provoking. 

Turbulence at Advent

I might take some personal issue with a few minor things.  There is a presumption that this time in history is more turbulent than others. No, we just know about the turbulence more due to 24/7 media coverage, which makes for a noisy culture. We need rest in the Hebrews sense (rest from labor, rest from unbelief), but not sleep, which is metaphorical in Scripture for bad things--death, apathy, unawareness.  We can sleep and lie abed and not rest.

But overall the point that there are seasonal and bodily rhythms that support the spiritual and we are in a time when repentance and rest are needed and welcomed.  What we repent of makes all the difference, perhaps.  

Cliche Come True

The cliche about passport photos being awful came true for me today.

I tried to get one made at the big box store with a blue and yellow logo, but after a twenty-minute wait I was told that the "technicians" hadn't taken the photo right and I'd have to do it again, but heh, I didn't have to pay for it (as if I would have!)  I sort of lied and said I would come back, but decided to go to a smaller chain that does photo processing and passport photos.

I did today.  He said, "don't smile," so I took him seriously.  It is the most hideous photo of me ever taken.  I look like a criminal coming off a three-day drunk with bad big hair.  My son said it looked like a five-day drunk.  My husband was horrified.  "Please tell me I don't really look like that" I begged.  He said I didn't.  He wouldn't have married me if I looked that bad. 

Sigh.  At least when one travels one usually looks bad and tired. 

Missing the Point of Christmas

Although I succumb and watch them in weak moments (and having just finished a bout with flu--despite getting a shot--I've had some weak moments in the last two weeks), I am the world's biggest critic of Hallmark movies.

1.  There is a scary lack of diversity in them. I can count the number of black people on one hand, and they are usually of the "magical Negro" or "passing acquaintance" or "mean boss" variety.
2.  Everyone lives in a $200,000 or much more home despite never really working very hard.  They also have beautifully appointed homes.
3.  The plots are pure escapism and the dialogue cringeworthy--although occasionally they are better and reach what the old Hallmark Hall of Fame standard meant.
4.  God does not exist but miracles, faith, hope, etc. do.
5.  Many of them are long advertisements for cards and ornaments.
6.  At least we don't have cursing or sex scenes or even the hint of extramarital sex.

And big hypocrite that I am, I wi…

Advent 6, 2016

As mentioned before, the real Advent passage is John 1.  I was listening to a podcast of Tim Keller yesterday and he said that the meaning of Advent is in John 1.  "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." 

Are there any more poignant words in the English language, spoken by one of the disciples in his older years? 

"The Word became flesh" means the expression of God became vulnerable and killable. 

At a college concert yesterday held at a church in Dalton, I saw the perfect Christmas display with the real Christmas tree.  A manger scene about a foot high.  Behind the figures, a cross of rough hewn branches towering above it.  I took pictures to show my husband.  That is what he wanted to put up but couldn't visualize.  The cross and the manger go together. 

A New Holiday Game: Make up Hallmark Christmas Movie Titles

Person Human state/action Physical object Date/Event/Place Santa Love Ornament Family Mrs. Santa Giving Bells Christmas Mother Greeting Tree HolidayFather Heart Gift/Present SeasonAngel Remember Card ReunionGrandpa

Christmas gift giving ideas for readers

Advent 5, 2016: PEACE, Third Sunday

--> December 11, 2016.PEACE at ADVENT
Four themes:Hope, Joy, Peace, Love—Christ, the pure white candle.
Simple words but not simple concepts.
Question:Peace—what does it mean to you?
I want to play two videos today.(Child one)
The angels’ message was “peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:8-14). The word peace is in the Bible 397 times, twice as many as joy.100 times in New Testament, especially in Paul’s writing.
“Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9) “The God of peace” (common greeting from Paul) Fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, (Galatians 5:22) The peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7) “For He Himself is our peace who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation” (Eph. 2:14)For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. (I Corinthians 14:33)Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. (Romans 14:19)“for the kingdom of God is not eating…

NaNoWriMo Finished

I wrote 47,500 words.  Due to flu and other life circumstances, I just couldn't get that last 2500 words.  If you don't get to it, the NaNoWriMo folks sort of ignore you.  I think I got one email of backhanded congratulations, but I was glad that I got written what I did at the absolute WORST time of the year (why November, people?).

I was able to flush out some characters and change the point of view and focus of the work, so I met my goals.  It's a good program as long as one understands its purposes and doesn't think their "novel" product is ready for prime time. 

Advent 4, 2016

This is a lesson I did last week about Joy at Advent.  I am working on Peace for tomorrow and Love for next week. 

Twelve things about joy I learned this week
A lot of ink has been spilled on the difference between happiness and joy.The best difference I have come across was this week in the lesson.Joy has depth.It is happiness with deeper roots.
1.Where does joy come from?Faith1 Peter 1:8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,
2.What is the opposite of joy?Fear?The Shepherds were having great fear, as they should have, because they didn’t know what was going on, but the Angel told them to have great joy.Luke 2:10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.BUT:Matthew 28:8So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.
The opposite of joy is sorrow from not under…