Monthly Archives: November 2009

The True Meaning of Thanksgiving

When I was really little my mom started a tradition that carried on all through my childhood.  Conventional Christmas pageants bored the heck out of her, so when she finally got her hands on running the thing she let the youth group do a skit before the normal pageant started.  It really was the most wonderful time of the year because the youth always took off with this idea in all kinds of creative ways.  That first year my mom started this, the youth group had a Wayne’s World theme.  There were a lot of “Party on!” exchanges, to say the least.  When I got old enough, we pulled off all kind of stunts.  My favorite year was the Reality TV Pageant, where Queer Eye for the Savior Guy came in and redecorated the Manger and Stable.

No matter how wild or seemingly sacrilegious the themes got, the Christmas Pageants always had the same moral: The world in which we live completely misses the true meaning of Christmas.  We need to take this time to get back to the basics.  Somehow, we managed to segue every year from our contemporary portrayals into the conventional nativity procession, baby doll Jesus and all.

It occurred to me as I ate my Thanksgiving meal this year that we don’t do enough of the “getting back to basics” for this holiday.  Earlier in the day, I stomached the actors in the Macy’s parade singing the sickening lyric, “I believe in the miracle of love because I believe in Santa Claus.”  Do you remember in A League of Their Own when Tom Hanks has a shaking fit in frustration with his girl ball players? Well, I looked something like that hearing them sing that song.   Over dinner, though, my dad read us the original Thanksgiving Proclamation given by George Washington in 1789 and I realized how far away from the original sentiment of the day we had come as a society.  It’s easy to rattle off some things we enjoy and feel thankful for, but reading that proclamation really reminds us of how much we truly are blessed.

I think Jim Gaffigan sums up Thanksgiving as we tend to think about it today:

Consider the contrast with Washington’s address.

General Thanksgiving

By the PRESIDENT of the United States Of America

A PROCLAMATION


WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANKSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;– for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;– for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;– and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;– to enable us all, whether in publick or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

(signed) G. Washington

 

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Muppet Love

I have a slew of procrastination sites I frequent, and one of them is Today’s Biggest Thing.  Every day there is a new video and most of them are pretty hilarious.  Today’s was no exception.

Get this:  Muppet…BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY!  I knew in an instant my day was about to get a whole lot better.  I thought for a moment my hopes were too high to be reached by the video, but praise be, my expectations were not dashed but rather exceeded.

Check it out at Today’s Biggest Thing.

 

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Happy Thanksgiving!

And what are we all thankful for today?  We should ask ourselves that every day, not just today.  Because, for goodness sake, we got plenty to be thankful for:

 

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Tales from Car Shopping

In preparation for my move back to Chicago, I made the decision that having a car in the city, and especially during the winter, would be too wonderful to do without again.  I’ve been through four winters in Chicago now, all carless and all bleak.  But, as time went on and more friends brought their cars, the less bleak it got.  On my last visit, I borrowed my grandmother’s car, and it was hard to miss the leaps and bounds in quality of life I experienced by having such a luxurious mobility.  Having a car there permanently would allow me to freely roam (provided I learned a few tricks about finding parking places) more than the CTA allows.  Though I intend primarily to continue using a bike, the car would do what the bike cannot: let me leave the city when its urban confines begin to induce claustrophobia.  Yes, I am certain buying a car is the right course.

And so, over the last few weeks I’ve been obsessively car shopping.  I’ve learned quite a few things in the process.  I began by looking at a sight my dad introduced me to called Edmunds.com.  It proved an invaluable resource.  It is helpful and entertaining.  Check out the essay series entitled “Confessions of a Car Salesman,” in which a writer describes his undercover work in the car sales industry.  His discoveries are illuminating and oh so helpful as the naïve shopper begins negotiations with these goons.  Reading that essay series was probably one of the best things I could have done in preparation for this purchase, because it increased my awareness of the things that motivate car salesmen and the ways in which they try, in some cases, to pull some shenanigans. I almost laughed at some of the stereotypes I’ve come across—they fit the author’s descriptions so well it seemed comical.  The white shirts, the firm handshakes, the expensive watches, the ways in which they try to milk more money out of you by telling you how low your monthly bill will be…it was all there!

Mind you, not all the dealerships fit the stereotypes the author describes.  Even he writes that not all dealerships are like that.  Just today I visited a dealership where the salesmen did not work on commission, and the change was drastic and refreshing.  But the reason I found today’s experience so comforting was because I had something to compare it to.  Car salesmen are characters.  How does one ever say to himself, “Hey, I’m pushy.  I’d make a great car salesman,” I wonder?

For one thing, they all had interesting names.  One guy had the last name Dragon.  I asked him if that were his real name.  I doubted it because Dragon seemed like a name a salesman would conjure up to make himself simultaneously more memorable and intimidating.  He swore it was his real surname.  Another guy’s first name was Luciano.  He had a thick European accent and clearly tried to appeal to the wealthier side of the Westchester public.  He wore shiny shoes and fluffy hair.  He donned a fancy sporty jacket that clearly cost way too much at outdoor apparel store.  I wondered if he had different jackets he would put on to make the buyer think that he had similar interests and tastes i.e. since I was buying an athletic car, he put on an athletic jacket; were I buying an Audi or BMW perhaps he would have put on something made of leather or goat hair.  I couldn’t help but feel like I couldn’t trust him from the beginning; he fit that snobbish Euro-chique stereotype so well.  Then, by contrast, there was the guy at the Bronx Honda dealership.  I won’t use his full name, but it was very similar to Michael Michaelson.  Now HE should have gone with Dragon.  He needed something to spiff up his act, because he was just dropping a bunch of lines all over the place in hopes of making a quicker sale.  For instance, when I said I needed to think about it, he said, “What’s there to think about?  Someone else might buy the car in the meantime.”  When I pointed out how that particular car had been on their lot for months already, he made up some BS like, “Well, it’s a funny thing.  Once one person looks at a car, a whole bunch of other people do too.”  I still wanted to go think about it (I wonder why).  Then he said, as many of the others had done, that he would go talk to his manager.  I had told him that I needed to finance the car if I bought it because I was on such a tight budget, going into ministry and all.  He originally didn’t think that the banks would do that since the car was older than 2004.  But when he came out of his manager’s office, he said, “You’re going into ministry?  Well someone must be looking out for you because we found a bank which will finance you.” Nice.

I still have this gut feeling that I will bump into someone who is selling their car real cheap.  Now I’m hoping for this even more so I don’t have to deal with any more of this.

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Thank you!

I haven’t checked my stats on this blog for a while, but today when I looked I was amazed!  A few days ago we hit 70 views!  Thank you all for reading!  I wish I knew more about who you are!  I will try to produce material more regularly for all of you. Thanks again!

Hallelujah!

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Stepping up our Game

No one doubts that today’s word changes fast.  We know, for instance, that there will be a new upgrade on the iphone, or any other gadget for that matter, available by the time we bring home what we thought to be the latest version.  We can get information faster than we ever have before.  But what of the greatest and most significant information?  What of The Good News?  How is Christ’s love communicated in our world of fast-paced communication?  Christians, let’s evaluate.

My dad showed me this video a few weeks ago and I just had to share it.  It’s long, I know, but it’s so worth it.  I’ve watched it twice, it moved me so.  I took a page and a half of notes.

 

Shifting Tides | Menlo Park Presbyterian Church

Shared via AddThis

 

In the video, Gary Hamel reaches out to Christians urging them to keep up with the times.  He is a creative consultant for Fortune 500 companies and has recently taken on a role of addressing Christian leaders about the need to develop new ideas and methods for sharing God’s message.  He suggests that if Dell can build a website where anyone can suggest ideas for improvement, why can’t the church?  God created us creative, and therefore we should apply it to evangelism with gusto.  We should think, as Hamel puts it, about evangelism from the outside in.  We should try to figure out how better to reach the people who need to hear.  We need to develop ways of outreach that are new, and not just for the sake of being new, but rather so that it changes paradigms and truly alters the way the world thinks of the Christian church.  Hamel reminds us that everyone thought there was only one way to buy furniture until Ikea.  Why should not the church be constantly evaluating and reinventing its approaches to best reach our audience?

Hamel says that churches ought to be this island of spiritual vitality in a sea of secular indifference.  Of course, we know this is often not the case.  He says, “We are not any different from our neighbors and non-Christians know it.”  We believers frequently want to outsource evangelism, so to speak, as if “evangelism experts” are the only people to pursue the great commission.  Hamel considers that the typical church go-er will go to his grave without introducing anyone to Jesus.  If we honestly reflect on our faith and our actions, most of us will end up asking ourselves why it is we feel so hindered in evangelism.  In all truth, why aren’t we busting to share the unconditional love offered to us by the creator of the universe?  This question is not meant as a guilt trip, but a motivator.  Let’s remember how wonderful a gift it is to have a relationship with Jesus.  The Kingdom of heaven truly is a treasure so great that we give all we have away just for the pure joy of being with Jesus:  44“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Matthew 13)

Hamel says that the greatest problem in the church is INERTIA.  I love this metaphor.  I feel it hits at the truth with precision.  We as a church body are indeed slow to change.  Our goal should be to sit at the forefront of culture making, and not to hold back wondering when ineffective methods might come back into fashion.  After all, as Hamel makes clear, “We do not worship tradition.  We worship the risen Lord!  Jesus still wants to challenge the status quo.”  He reminds us of the wineskins parable. The old must make way for the new if the old no longer functions.

In the video, Hamel articulates many practical routes churches should take in trying to be more innovative and creative about outreach and service.  He says churches should remember that renewal begins with us.  We should resist the temptation to take refuge in denial.  We can constantly generate more options, new ideas, and take advantage of new opportunities.  Prayerfully we will challenge old habits (NOT beliefs, mind you, but our outreach strategies).  Through it all, we should strive to be about acceptance, humility, honesty (we too struggle with doubts), courage (we can take a punch, ask a tough question), and vulnerability.  We should also bathe the whole process in prayer.

I highly recommend this video whether or not you are officially involved in a ministry.  God calls each of us to spread the good news to the ends of the earth, so let’s get going.

“18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” –Matthew 28.

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Halloween at 127 Hunter

Greetings!  It is a week after Halloween.  The hype has diminished,  the costumes are put away (or just lying on the floor of the basement), and the candy calories are settling on our hips in such a way that we may expect many trips to the gym in the near future.  Halloween enthusiasts have but to look forward to next year.

Growing up in my house with a creative and crazy mum always meant that Halloween was a big deal.  More than this, growing up in Sleepy Hollow where Legends ride by, ominous and headless in the moonlight, Halloween is REALLY a big deal.  This was the first year since college where I’ve been in town for the big event, and in honor of the occasion, we resurrected some old traditions.  I think Mom is proud.


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Ode to a Sandwich

Over the hills and yonder a ways sits a quaint New York 24 hour joint called Rocky’s Deli. Standing room only is an overstatement, as standing in line, even when the place is not busy, can be somewhat difficult: you eat in the car. And if it is a Chicken Parmesan sandwich, you will most likely eat it in the car, instead of waiting to get to your destination, since such a delicacy is way too delicious to save for later. Once such a treasure is in your possession it is all one can do, especially if one is hungry, not to rip open the paper wrapping and stuff its contents into one’s mouth, completely abandoning all traces of etiquette.

I know what you’re thinking: really, Emily, how good could it possibly be? It is just a sandwich after all. I will tell you, as I sat there eating my Chicken Parmesan on a roll today I wondered how anyone could ever consider becoming a vegetarian after tasting something so succulent, so full of flavor, and so tantalizingly satisfying as that meaty sandwich dripping with melted cheese and tomato sauce. I salivate just thinking of it. My brother thinks even more highly of it. He dreams of it while he is away at school. He says that the ten dollar bill is his favorite tender, as it buys him his dream meal: A chicken parm on a wedge and a Snapple. He goes out at all hours of day or night to Rocky’s just to get this sandwich when the craving hits, because when it hits it hits hard. I had that craving today, and since I was in the area, I indulged. It’s a miracle, that sandwich is. It has such a splendid balance of flavor: Not too spicy, not too oily, not too cheesy, not too saucy. (I like that word, saucy) The chicken is breaded and lightly fried, covered in melted mozzarella cheese and drizzled with a fabulously seasoned tomato sauce. The whole thing is served on a roll of your choice. Before the guys at Rocky’s hand it over, they cut it in half so that when you open it up later, the cheese stretches in strings across the gap as if in a tv ad. The steam rises, the aroma permeates, and the experience begins.

Even so, you may say, it is just a sandwich. Nay, I say to you. That sandwich is a culinary experience worthy of praise. It is the kind of thing you enjoy so much you get sad when it is almost gone. I slowed down eating it today, taking smaller and smaller bites to make the experience last longer. When at last I finished it, I admit I was tempted to gnaw on my fingers in case the sandwich had left remnants of flavor there. Over the top? Yes. Accurate? I’m afraid so. You will just have to try it yourself now. You will be glad you did.

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