Incorporate the bullet point.

I know it is time to post something new on my blog. It has been a week and I still have the same Remembering Advent post. I have things tumbling around in my mind and a few of them would be good to write about. Sort-of air my thoughts out a little. The best way to do that is incorporating the use of the bullet point.

  • I have a terrible habit of using too many commas and having run-on sentences. I want to write like I talk and in my mind every time I place a period instead of a comma it interrupts the “speech” I am making. I have had a few people comment on my run-on problem and I just want to make a sincere apology to those people now since it’s probably not going to change anytime soon.

  • Dustin and I are looking into moving to Aurora from Lone Tree. Every time I watch the news it seems to have a story or two about some drive-by shooting, murder or gang related violence that just so happens to have taken place in Aurora. If Lone Tree is ever on the news it is to announce a new shopping center or future Ikea. Do you see the difference? Barnes and Noble at Park Meadows or Dollar Tree off Quincy? I don’t know if we are ready to tell people we are from Aurora. Even the people who are downtown-snobs and claim they like to live among the “needy” would think twice…
  • Aurora vs Lone Tree in pictures: aurora
  • lone_tree

  • I received Lost Season 4 from my dear mother in law for Christmas. Dustin and I got home on Friday night and finished the entire season by Sunday. It turns out I remember almost nothing from the last season so it was like watching it all new again. Because the writers strike made Season 4 shorter than the other seasons they loaded it up with some amazing special features. Why do they call John Locke Jeremy Bentham? If the island has disappeared how will the Oceanic 6 find it? Will Kate and Sawyer end up together? Is Daniel Faraday stuck on a raft with no ship or island to go to? Why didn’t Penny’s boat pick him up too? So many questions….good thing the 5th season starts on Jan. 21st. Editors note: if you haven’t ever watched Lost and you think you might like to start, at this point you might as well forget it. I can’t imagine trying to watch from Season 1. Good luck to you and sorry about the spoilers I just gave away.
  • lost_sawyer_reading

  • Yes, I am feeling feisty today.

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Remembering Advent: My favorite Christmas Verse

A while back I was given a book called Living Your Strengths which through a series of questions breaks down your 5 greatest strengths. One of mine is Empathy…yes, this will lead to the part about my favorite Christmas verse, just stick with me. Here is how the book defines Empathy:

Empathy

You can sense the emotions of those around you. You can feel what they are feeling as though their feelings are your own. Intuitively, you are able to see the world through their eyes and share their perspective. You do not necessarily agree with each person’s perspective. You do not necessarily feel pity for each person’s predicament—this would be sympathy, not Empathy. You do not necessarily condone the choices each person makes, but you do understand. This instinctive ability to understand is powerful. You hear the unvoiced questions. You anticipate the need. Where others grapple for words, you seem to find the right words and the right tone. You help people find the right phrases to express their feelings—to themselves as well as to others. You help them give voice to their emotional life. For all these reasons other people are drawn to you.

You might be thinking how exhausting it would be to feel all these feelings and sharing peoples perspectives, but I actually find so much joy in relating to others and meeting an emotional need.

Taking this into account about me I want to lead you to my favorite verse for Christmas:

Luke 2 :19

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” NIV

“But Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” NLT

Because I need to feel, sense and experience what others are feeling, sensing and experiencing I have often wondered what Mary must have been going through from the time she was young and in love then visited by the angel and told she would give birth to the son of God. I love how the author takes a moment to give us a glimpse into the heart of Mary. She was not an unfeeling robot like some weirdo from a cult that never questions or wonders what is going on. There was a stolen moment of time where she, shaking her head in amazement, purposefully tucked these precious things away in her heart. Saving them deep inside her to reflect on time after time all through her life.

The reason this is so sweet and so very special to me is because I have so many moments with Jesus that I have tucked away deep in my heart. Times of sorrow, times of deep questions and pure joy. Times of quiet walks on a English countryside, or a picnic bench surrounded by Aspen. Times of incredible friendship, or unmerited love. The 3 minutes alone, in my wedding dress staring at the sunset, before my dad came to walk me down the aisle to my future husband.  All of these poignant  times are special because they are only between Jesus and I.

All these moments I have treasured in my heart and think about them often, just like Mary.

Mary_and_baby_Jesus

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Christmas Party Pictures!

Saturday night Dustin (my husband) and I had the pleasure of celebrating Christmas with our amazing friends at Josh’s house. There was a little Arrested Development (the Christmas episode), a little burnt pizza, a little guitar and a whole lotta love.

and_josh_on_the_guitar

the_boys

For video of Mark singing “The Christmas Song” and Mark, Josh, Al and Dustin singing some country jamboree click here, wait not there, click HERE.

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What I’d Say to the Martians by Jack Handey

People of Mars, you say we are brutes and savages. But let me tell you one thing: if I could get loose from this cage you have me in, I would tear you guys a new Martian a-hole. You say we are violent and barbaric, but has any one of you come up to my cage and extended his hand? Because, if he did, I would jerk it off and eat it right in front of him. “Mmm, that’s good Martian,” I would say.

You say your civilization is more advanced than ours. But who is really the more “civilized” one? You, standing there watching this cage? Or me, with my pants down, trying to urinate on you? You criticize our Earth religions, saying they have no relevance to the way we actually live. But think about this: if I could get my hands on that god of yours, I would grab his skinny neck and choke him until his big green head exploded.

We are a warlike species, you claim, and you show me films of Earth battles to prove it. But I have seen all the films about twenty times. Get some new films, or, so help me, if I ever get out of here I will empty my laser pistol into everyone I see, even pets.

Speaking of films, I could show you some films, films that portray a different, gentler side of Earth. And while you’re watching the films I’d sort of slip away, because guess what: the projector is actually a thing that shoots out spinning blades! And you fell for it! Well, maybe not now you wouldn’t.

You point to your long tradition of living peacefully with Earth. But you know what I point to? Your stupid heads.

You say there is much your civilization could teach ours. But perhaps there is something that I could teach you—namely, how to scream like a parrot when I put your big Martian head in a vise.

You claim there are other intelligent beings in the galaxy besides earthlings and Martians. Good, then we can attack them together. And after we’re through attacking them we’ll attack you.

I came here in peace, seeking gold and slaves. But you have treated me like an intruder. Maybe it is not me who is the intruder but you.

No, not me. You, stupid.

You keep my body imprisoned in this cage. But I am able to transport my mind to a place far away, a happier place, where I use Martian heads for batting practice.

I admit that sometimes I think we are not so different after all. When you see one of your old ones trip and fall down, do you not point and laugh, just as we on Earth do? And I think we can agree that nothing is more admired by the people of Earth and Mars alike than a fine, high-quality cigarette. For fun, we humans like to ski down mountains covered with snow; you like to “milk” bacteria off of scum hills and pack them into your gill slits. Are we so different? Of course we are, and you will be even more different if I ever finish my homemade flamethrower.

You may kill me, either on purpose or by not making sure that all the surfaces in my cage are safe to lick. But you can’t kill an idea. And that idea is: me chasing you with a big wooden mallet.

You say you will release me only if I sign a statement saying that I will not attack you. And I have agreed, the only condition being that I can sign with a long sharp pen. And still you keep me locked up.

True, you have allowed me reading material—not the “human reproduction” magazines I requested but the works of your greatest philosopher, Zandor or Zanax or whatever his name is. I would like to discuss his ideas with him—just me, him, and one of his big, heavy books.

If you will not free me, at least deliver a message to Earth. Send my love to my wife, and also to my girlfriend. And to my children, if I have any anyplace. Ask my wife to please send me a bazooka, which is a flower we have on Earth. If my so-called friend Don asks you where the money I owe him is, please anally probe him. Do that anyway.

If you keep me imprisoned long enough, eventually I will die. Because one thing you Martians do not understand is that we humans cannot live without our freedom. So, if you see me lying lifeless in my cage, come on in, because I’m dead. Really.

Maybe one day we will not be the enemies you make us out to be. Perhaps one day a little Earth child will sit down to play with a little Martian child, or larva, or whatever they are. But, after a while, guess what happens: the little Martian tries to eat the Earth child. But guess what the Earth child has? A gun. You weren’t expecting that, were you? And now the Martian child is running away, as fast as he can. Run, little Martian baby, run!

I would like to thank everyone for coming to my cage tonight to hear my speech. Donations will be gratefully accepted. (No Mars money, please.)

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Remembering Advent

A Troublesome Joy

by Bill Wylie-Kellermann

In liturgical tradition, this is a Sunday associated with joy. However, we are not talking about the ersatz variety hawked by our own culture like a marketing device attached ephemerally to things. That joy, so called, proves itself empty and without substance, a commercial fiction. If these readings are any clue, however, Advent joy has content about which we may be scandalously concrete.

The “good news” of the Isaiah reading is a joy from beginning to end. It is like the very oil of gladness that blesses those who mourn in lonely exile here (61:3). Or like the smiles of prisoners who circle their outdate and see it now closely come. It is a joy outrageously specific in content.

For the exiles this litany of liberation is about homecoming. Hence, for example, the repair and rebuilding of ruined cities (61:4). It is the joy so concrete you purchase a hammer and a saw. Imagine this good news in Gaza or Sarajevo, south central Los Angeles or southwest Detroit.

It might be recalled that when Jesus preached on this text to inaugurate his ministry (Luke 4:16ff), he was driven not only out of the pulpit, but out of town. The plan was to stone him. We ought thereby to be mindful that not everyone shares this joy. The captors and binders and debtholders, the rich and the ruiners of cities, the mighty on thrones and the proud in the imagination of their hearts—in short, all those invested in the present order—find this joy to be a trouble.

Just so, the priests and Levites are sent out by the Jerusalem authorities to scrutinize and size up John (1:19). His vocational reply must surely mystify them, like a claim to be the voice of prophesy itself. And his troubling conviction, that the one who comes stands already in their midst, must drive them up a wall. Yet for us it remains a present and abiding joy.

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looking for some feedback. please help.

I recently read the article below on RelevantMagazine.com and had some mixed feelings. I deeply respect my friends and readers opinions and wanted to share the article with you in hopes of hearing your heart on Rob Bell’s views. Please read and let me know what you think.
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Rob Bell On Saving Christians

Rob Bell is no stranger to new ideas. In his new book, Jesus Wants To Save Christians, he and Don Golden examine the disparities between the message of Christ and the message of the modern, Western Church. RELEVANT talked to Rob Bell about the ideas he and Golden explored.

In the intro of your new book, Jesus Wants To Save Christians, you describe the specific theology you are trying to articulate as a New Exodus perspective. How is this approach to reading the Bible different from a systematic or biblical theology?

Systematic theology dissects the story, cutting the body of the text into separate pieces for the purposes of study. Biblical theology puts the pieces back together into a living narrative. Both do so from a particular perspective influenced by the reader’s history, culture, politics and economic status. The New Exodus is one perspective, taken from the side of the weak and marginal and the God who cares about them. We’re interested in the big story because that’s what the Bible is—a story that unfolds across history. Who are the major characters, what’s the plot, how do we take part in it? Perhaps this is why Jesus can be hard to understand. It’s hard to understand the later parts if you haven’t been brought up to speed on where the story has been so far.

The literal and metaphorical idea of Exodus is a key part of the story God is telling—why don’t we hear more about the connection of Exodus in our churches today?

The Exodus is about the oppressed-slaves-being rescued. Less than two hundred years ago in our country, people in churches owned slaves. Exodus would have been an awkward story to tell in those settings, because after all, the Pharoah character is the bad guy. Needy people talk about Exodus. Jesus said it. It’s hard to enter the kingdom of heaven when you’re content with the kingdom you already have. If we aren’t talking about Exodus it’s because we aren’t looking for one. That’s when we know we need the needs of others. Their Exodus can become our own.

In your book you say, “To preserve prosperity at the expense of the powerless is to miss the heart of God.” In what ways do you believe the church in America has “preserved prosperity” at others’ expense?

I think it’s wise to avoid generalities such as “the church” because whenever I hear people make sweeping generalizations about “the church” I always think “yes, but I know lots of churches where they are compassionate, where they are intellectually honest, etc…”Perhaps one obvious question a church can ask herself is “What percentage of our budget is spent on us and what is spent on others?

The Church has missed the heart of God by speaking out against abortion while keeping silent about war. Both are forms of violence used to preserve prosperity. Abortion is prenatal war against the powerless child. War is postnatal abortion that destroys innocent life. The kingdom is life for the fetus and life for the civilian. The church embodies this life in a world of expedient and preemptive killing.

It can be difficult to understand the plight of the powerless when we have so much, what can church leaders do to help connect their communities with the heart of God for those suffering right now?

The most powerful thing we’ve seen is when people make a friend from outside their bubble—through a tutoring program, a job skills training class, a Habitat for Humanity build project-when “the poor” has a name and a face and personality for you, everything changes. And check out http://www.thecommon.org. An eminently practical tool to help churches share needs and resources within the community.

The traditional mold for doing church has been to invite people to our churches and to build bigger programs and add more staff as we grow. As you describe, this inward focus is a luxury many international churches can’t afford. In what ways should we rethink our strategy for church success?

There are organizations (Look out, here comes a plug for coauthor, Don Golden’s work at World Relief) who connect western first world resourced churches with churches in the third world. When an entire church sees how just a little generosity on their part can seriously help another church, it’s intoxicating. They want to do more and it helps put their own blessing in perspective. We shouldn’t resist the tendency in our churches to launch building campaigns. Good things take place when Americans are unleashed in this sort of way. It rallies churches and gives them focus. People are energized, resources are shared and communities are served. We could, however, reconsider the kind of buildings we build. Ezekiel imagined a New Exodus people building a temple for the true worship of God. Only, the building he pictured was actually the people themselves. Imagine a church launching a million campaign to build up the poor, to house the homeless and to care for the sick? Peter saw Christians “like living stones, being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.” We should embrace the American gift of the grand and the great. Celebrate it and inspire it toward a more compelling vision of what it could be.

How can churches aid in subverting the myth of redemptive violence?

At a personal level, gossip and slander and divisive language is evil to the core. It causes stress fractures in us, our churches, and our culture that destroy any sort of common good. On the larger, national level, “question war.” The Roman Empire had this phrase “peace through victory” that is simply not true. Yet people still use it today. Jesus taught a third way—not passive acceptance because “that’s just how things are,” and not violent revenge, but a third way. Where are the experts in third way? Where are those Christians so thoroughly versed in third way that world leaders call them in when things get dodgy to give courageous, innovative, creative, freedom-loving (!) counsel on how not to resort to the same old guns and bombs.

As the title of the book suggests, Jesus Wants To Save Christians. In your opinion, what are the biggest things we need saving from?

Boredom. Which is really despair in its non-caffeinated form. And boxes. Where we live in fear and where we put those who unsettle us.

You describe the plan of God for the church to be a gift to the world. Many people today would say that the church is anything but. What are some crucial changes that our churches need to make to become a Eucharist that is broken and poured out for the world?

1. Master the art of doubt. Faith needs it to survive.

2. Surrender the compulsive need to constantly remind people that according to your worldview you’re going to heaven forever when you die and they’re going to burn in hell forever.

3. Celebrate the good and the true and the beautiful wherever and whenever you find it regardless of the label it wears or the person it comes from or the place you found it. All things are yours.

4. Remember that the tax collectors and prostitutes loved to feast with Jesus and the religious establishment gossiped about him and dissected his teachings and questioned his commitment to orthodoxy and eventually had him killed. There’s a lesson for us there.

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Marriage advice from…Will Smith?

I was watching Barbara Walters 10 Most Fascinating People the other night (lame, I know.) The first interview was with Will Smith, a guy that I hate to love. Anyway in the midst of his ego-stroking (his success and money, how it is guaranteed he could be President if he ever chose to run) he actually said something strikingly wise on marriage and this is what it was:

“Being married is the most difficult thing you’re ever going to do in your life.  And anybody whose married and divorce is an option, you’re getting divorced.”


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