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Author: Daniel

Why I am silent on issues of race

During this first week of June, riots and protests erupted in cities across America, sparked by the brutal death of George Floyd, an African-American man, at the hands of a cop in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The video of this arrest and death was shocking, and soon after protestors across the country hit the streets, and rightly so.

Sadly, however, these protests were quickly overshadowed by violent looting, rioting, destroying property, and even death. The sadness over Floyd’s death quickly evolved into anger as I thought what is happening now is no longer about George Floyd.

Yet I said nothing.

Among the reports and photos flooding the internet, I noticed a sign held by a protestor that read: “White silence = white violence.” read more

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The safest place in a storm

On my office wall hangs a vivid photograph entitled, “Phares dans la Tempete, La Jument.[1]” It shows a lighthouse keeper at La Jument reef, standing in the door of his lighthouse just as a towering wave nearly engulfs the structure from behind.

Original photo by Jean Guichard, http://www.jean-guichard.com/

As retold later in Celtic Countries magazine,[2] the story of the shot goes as follows.

On December 21, 1989, a powerful storm smashed into the area, hitting the lighthouse with gale force winds and with waves reaching up to 30 meters (nearly 100 feet) high. During the night, the massive waves crashed through the lighthouse’s lower windows, flooding its living quarters and forcing the keeper to escape to the lantern room at the top of the lighthouse. read more

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That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown

A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS (1965)

On November 30, 2015, the ABC television network aired the 50th anniversary special of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” This annual animated TV show, based on Charles Schultz’s comic strip “Peanuts,” has traditionally aired shortly following the Thanksgiving weekend to kick off the Christmas season. It tells the story of Charlie Brown’s depression and angst at Christmas as he tries to find the point of it all amidst the shallow emptiness of commercialism.

The show is a big deal for me—so big, in fact, that I consider it the start of my Advent season. My tradition is that my Christmas tree and lights must be up and glowing before the program airs.

I want to kick of my Christmas celebration with the whole Peanuts gang. read more

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Bring on the schmaltz, hallmark!

I just watched my first Hallmark Christmas movie for 2019.

It’s not the first one I’ve watched. Last Christmas, somehow [the Christmas elves did it?] my television got glued to the Hallmark Channel, and I am pretty sure it is again. I freely admit that I am addicted to these movies; I cannot get enough of them, which is odd given that just days ago before Halloween, I was discussing the theological profundities of such movies as “The Conjuring” and “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.”

For the life of me I don’t know how I got hooked on Hallmark Christmas movies, or why they melt my butter the way they do. They are sappy/goopy and clichéd and have only one or two storylines that usually goes something like this: Just before Christmas, a beautiful businesswoman from the big city, highly successful but missing something, gets stuck in a small town – sometimes even her hometown – in a quaint little community that looks like Thomas Kinkade threw up on a Norman Rockwell painting. read more

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Dear Lord, help me not to be a jerk today!

This week, while preparing to teach in a new state, at a new school, for a new school year, I taped a poignant prayer to my computer monitor.

It wasn’t the masterful, insightful words of a Francis of Assisi, or Teresa of Avila, or even an average pastor on an average Sunday morning. It did not ask God to glorify himself through me, or to make me a better man, better teacher, or better Christian.

It was far more basic and less spiritual:

“Dear Lord, help me not to be a jerk today.”

That’s all. I wish it were something more profound, but the truth is – sometimes I can be a jerk.

There are a number of reasons my jerk nature erupts. Sometimes it’s because I just disagree with someone about something. Or I’m ticked off about the way something went. Or – here’s a big one – some authority over me (say, my employer, or my local government) implements a policy that I hate. read more

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A tale of two miracles

There are two occasions in the Bible when God miraculously parted the waters:[1] the more famous Exodus account (Exodus 14:21ff), and the lesser known Joshua account (Joshua 3:7ff).

The Exodus account gets all the acclaim, primarily because it was none other than Charlton Heston standing at the banks of the Red Sea majestically holding his staff over the water. Thus far, the best we have come up with to portray Joshua is a cucumber from Veggietales.

Still, both miracles fall into the category of “something that doesn’t happen every day.” Both go against the laws of physics, Both defy explanation. And both result in making a way for God’s people, sending them from the old into the new. read more

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One day every knee shall bow…including Google’s

“Knowledge is power,” Sir Frances Bacon wrote in 1597. Three centuries later, English historian Lord John Acton added, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority.”

Hmm…

So, if “knowledge is power,” and “power corrupts,” then one might conclude: “Knowledge corrupts.”

Granted, this is a syllogism – not the most valid form of argument.

Still, the world seems hell-bent on proving it true.

Knowledge seems very squishy these days. Each of us considers our own perspective to be based on “facts,” and opposing perspectives on “alternative facts.” Even “fact-checking” has lost credibility—especially when it exposes the fact-checkers’ own biases. Yet most of us tend to find and believe “facts” that support our preferred narrative, with no further thought or research at all. read more

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In a world of vitriol, a breath of fresh air

We live in a world of ugly vitriol. We spew hatred online toward each other, and we seem hell-bent trying to top ourselves every day. Social media websites, who claim the purpose of their companies is to bring individuals and communities together, are the primary tool we use for tearing each other apart. Facebook and Twitter have become poison. Although we tend to personally deny that we are a part of the problem, a quick search through our own social media accounts probably would reveal otherwise. Sadly, we all contribute to the fast-moving poison.

So what brings out this poison, this vitriol and hatred? Simple. We have different opinions.

Apparently, having a different opinion is justification enough to warrant personal attacks, prejudiced generalizations, character assassinations, and wishes for harm to befall our opponents in order to teach them a lesson. read more

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Battling demons and finding God on the ash heap

2017 finally comes to a close, and I am ringing in the new year firmly ensconced upon a pile of ashes.

This is definitely not the place others flock to when welcoming in a new year. Dusty, bleak, a place of exile and uncertainty. You don’t count down the final seconds of 2017 on the ash heap; instead, you wrestle with endless questions about how you got there with a God who seems more interested in the annual ball drop in Times Square. You wait, trying to understand the rationale of another who is infinitely above your pay-grade.

Kind of like Job after the Accuser chopped him off at the ankles. As part of what looks like a mysterious cosmic bet, Job loses his children, his livestock, his wealth, and eventually his health over a short period of time. He retreats to the mound of ashes where he sits quietly with friends, saying nothing for a week. Then the characters engage in a misguided debate about the cause of suffering and its relation to sin before God himself finally enters the discussion with one of the most beautiful and frustrating responses to humanity’s suffering in the entire Bible. read more

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Being thankful when the storm comes

God has an infinite number of ways he answers our prayers. There’s the gentle nudging or the still small voice whispering in our ear. Personally, I prefer God uses these methods to answer my prayers: it is more pleasant and, frankly, has less drama. Then there is the prophetic word uttered from a loved one—more confrontational yet still tolerable enough.

But then there is a catastrophic method of answering prayer. This is exactly how it sounds:  prayer gets answered, but it takes the form of a broadside where God kicks our wheels out from under us until we find ourselves completely out of control, sliding sideways across the road toward a retaining wall. Everything becomes blurred. there’s a lot of screaming and shrieking. Occasionally, someone breaks out in a chorus of “Jesus, Take the Wheel.” Eventually, everything rocks to a stop, leaving behind a trail of bent metal and shattered glass. Clearly, this method is my least favorite, although I have a sneaking suspicion it is God’s preferred go-to. read more

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