Thursday, December 22

One Year Ago Sunday...

I married the most lovely of women. Kelly and I celebrated our very first anniversary this past weekend. The actual date was not the great celebration and tremendous feat of accomplishment that one would guess is reserved for such occasions. The real celebration lasted for the entire year and I may suggest will continue for the rest of our lives.

Marriage is a great mercy to me. I have learned more in one year from my beautiful bride than I had learned in five combined prior. She has taught me to love, to be selfless, to sacrifice. I have learned the aforementioned gifts not from her lecturing or badgering me, but from her example. In this one year of marriage I have asked her to pack up and move three times. She has complied with narry a complaint, and takes it upon herself to settle in to our new home as quickly as possible and form a new community around us so that we might settle back into a state of normalcy as quickly as possible. She continuously stays up late with me, helping me prepare for my flights, drilling me on my procedures, and urging me on when I fall back. She rises with me every morning, long before the sun rises and has my lunch made and breakfast ready even before I am out of the shower. She is truly an inspiration and a model to emulate.

Accordingly, it was not the wedding day, or the anniversary that has made the first year special. It was the year itself. I look forward with great anticipation to the coming years and cannot wait to see what else she has to teach me.

Sunday, December 18

Killing Christmas

It seems that we Christians have once again lost the forrest for the trees. Our current fight over the meaning of Christmas reminds me of a battle wherein the leaders have to ask, "what was the objective again?" I ran across this article and have found it to be the most clear thinking, forthright, and Truthful synopsis of this battle over the "meaning of Christmas."

As a Christian, I naturally see Christmas as more than a cultural tradition. It is also (or should be) the year's clearest display window for presenting that grand story of the long-ago O Holy Night.
And what is that story? God stooped down to enter and live on the Earth. That "stooping down" is what we call the Incarnation -- God became one of us. Luke gives a revealing little vignette of what God-with-us must have looked like:
As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out -- the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.
When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he . . . touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
They were all filled with awe and praised God. "A great prophet has appeared among us," they said. "God has come to help his people."
-- Luke 7:12-16

Think of it: People watched as God felt -- and then acted on -- compassion for an "Earthling." They saw him raise her son from the dead and then give the boy back to her. (He didn't try to recruit or exploit him for his "movement.") That did it -- they reached a conclusion that was both logical and astonishing: "God has come to help his people."

Sadly, that story -- "God has come to help his people" -- has almost disappeared from Christmas. It has been replaced by torrential capitalism, unmerciful stress and (worst of all) an irrational, seething anger from Christians toward the very people God came to help.
So it seems that every holiday season now carries another angry blast from prominent Christians. This year we have two (so far).

The reliably nutty Pat Robertson recently told the people of Dover, Penn., that God is so angry about their recent school board vote that they can just forget about his mercy. Short version: "Go to hell."
And Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, sniffed some anti-Christmas attitudes from Wal-Mart. He went a little berserk, demanding an "apology for insulting Christians" and calling a Wal-Mart statement "flatulent." He also asked 126 religious organizations to boycott the retailer. His news release went on to taunt Wal-Mart with: "Don't forget, we have the next six weeks to pull out all the stops, and we will."

Wouldn't it seem reasonable for Christian leaders to consult the Bible in order to form responses to perceived insults? Had they done so, they might have discovered classic Christian disciplines and graces.
For example, Jesus said, "Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me . . . Rejoice, and be glad." (Matthew 5:11-12)
And, the apostle Paul wrote, "When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly." (1 Corinthians 4:12-13)
Clearly, Robertson and Donohue did not rejoice, bless, endure or answer kindly.

I find it incredible that many Christian leaders are essentially saying that the Bible, our "constitution," is irrelevant and not to be consulted on these matters. They are taking the same position toward the Bible that they often accuse liberals of taking toward the U.S. Constitution.
Forget original intent. We cannot possibly know what Jesus and the other framers of our faith would do in these modern times. Therefore, the Bible ends up saying what we want it to say.
Christians have an annual opportunity to bestow a profound blessing upon our society. Especially at this time of year, in the midst of so much pain, conflict and poverty, we Christians could display healing graces that come from another world.

But some of us shoot right on past the heavenly attributes of love, blessing and kindness in our mad dash toward more modern tactics -- boycotts, marches, talk-show shouting matches, trading insults, etc. Many Christians now see themselves as merely another special-interest group, fighting for space on the airwaves, at funding troughs and at White House briefings.
This is part of what is killing Christmas. Some things are too deep, too profound, too mysterious to talk about. In a very real sense, they are beyond language. That's why some Christmas carols seem aglow with holy and awesome silence.

The woman at the heart of the Christmas story -- Mary, the mother of Jesus -- understood the silent interior rhythms of spiritual life. After glimpsing the spectacular majesties of that incredible "O holy night . . . of our Dear Savior's birth," she did not take to the streets to demand respect for Jesus; she didn't "engage the culture." She simply "kept and pondered these things in her heart" (Luke 2:19).
Sadly, the quiet, meditative life is out of favor these days. Even President Bush, a follower of Jesus, often turns to the louder and more divisive Christian voices for counsel. (Yes, I am concerned about the effect of angry and reactionary Christians on our public policy.)
I would like to read of him hosting a quiet dinner in the White House for the more insightful and contemplative "deep rivers" of spiritual leadership. I'd love to see a renaissance of "ponderers" such as Mary.

Call me sentimental, but I hope I live to see another "silent night, holy night [where] all is calm, all is bright." Think of it: a post-marketing, stress-free, heart-deep Christmas. Kindness to strangers, generosity to the poor, good will toward the earth.
To that end, it might be helpful if Christian leaders would go home to their families, read their Bibles and try to silently lay hold the exquisite truth of the Christmas story.
As for me, I'm going to Wal-Mart. It's certainly the time, and that's probably the place to spread some old fashioned Christmas cheer.
Ed Chinn is a free-lance writer who lives in Fort Worth.

Thursday, December 15

The Peeves that are our Pets

What is your pet peeve, in getting ready for Christmas?
I wish for lost time, when I could have gotten out Christmas cards. Moving mid-Christmas season requires planning ahead of time to get the gifts out that one wanted so cheerfully to supply, and planning ahead is a learned activity for me. I find that good things don't happen on their own. Thus, I am a bad girl--again!

Wednesday, December 14

3rd Advent Wednesday

"Our relation to God is unrighteousness. Secretly we are ourselves the masters in this relationship. We are not concerned with God, but with our own requirements, to which God must adjust Himself.

Our arrogance demands that, in addition to everything else, some super-world should also be known and accessible to us. Our conduct calls for some deeper sanction, some approbabtion and renumeration from another world.
Our well-regulated, pleasurable life longs for some hours of devotion, some prolongation into infinity.

And so, when we set God upon the throne of the world, we mean by God ourselves. In believing on Him, we justify, enjoy, and adore ourselves."
Barth: The Epistle to the Romans

Saturday, December 10

Icy Runways + Gunshots + Playmates = Entertainment

I have decided that these days the most exciting place to be is at an airport. Forget paying for movie tickets, concerts, or sports events. This is where the excitement is. For example, in the past week alone we have had a crazy man shot, a 737 run off a runway, and Playboy Bunnies fighting on an airplane and then "making sexual advances" on the officers who were arresting them. Talk about fun. You know where to find me on Friday nights.

Tuesday, December 6


The making of new recipes is a risky business. When deviating from the original, one must brace the tongue to be prepared for strange and curious assaults to its buds. The earth's caretakers cultivate numerous kinds of spices, which supply the lay cooks of the kitchen rich ingredients for their culinary imagination. I often make it my own mission to expose the house inmate to new and exciting flavours for the palate.

Take cardamon for example. This morning's experiment consisted of a a variation on a common Thanksgiving theme: pumpin pie. Adding a dash of cardamon to the crust turns into what tastes like a truck load of the "spicy, aromatic" Mid-Eastern seasoning. Pungent, I would add in the marginalia.

Sunday, December 4

The Shire

Kelly and I just settled into our new home down in Kingsville, Tx after our move from Enid, OK. Along the way we had the opportunity to spend about a week in our hometown of Franklin, Tn. I do believe that in all of the world there is nothing better than coming home.

In J.R.R. Tolkien's novel series The Lord of the Rings much is made about the Shire, the home of Frodo and all of the other Hobbits. The Shire is described as a safe place, a warm friendly environment where the community cares for itself. It changes little over time and remains constant in its atmosphere. It is for the safety of this sacred place that Frodo realizes he must leave it in order to preserve it.

Franklin is the Shire for Kelly and me. There are few other places where we truly feel safe and protected. There is truly a sense that nothing of remotely terrible consequence could or would happen to us there.

When you live a life that is dedicated to training in the art of making and waging war it is so comforting to come home to a place that (at least in recent history) has no idea of what war is. To a place where the community can enjoy evenings in a Pub, coffee on the corner discussing Chesterton, or shopping in one of the most affluent areas in the Nation.

Perhaps this why we left in the first place. Sometimes you have to truly understand how much you love a place, a person, or a principle before you are willing to fight to preserve it.