Saturday, December 23, 2006

Holiday silliness

Just some fun links (more de-stressing). Some from the comments last night, but I'm making this quick, so please excuse the lack of a "hat tip" to the appropriate person.

Jingle cats
Snow Globe
Elf Yourself
Season's Sculpting
Make-a-Flake Snowflake Maker
North Pole Dancing
My Holiday Sweater

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The work of Christmas

The image above is a woodcut by Margaret Adams Parker entitled Madonna, Angola.

I found the following poem on the blog, An Inch at a Time, and shamelessly lifted it, along with Susan's reflection on the poem, as our Advent candle reading tonight.

When the star in the sky is gone,
When the Kings and Princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost
To heal the broken
To feed the hungry
To release the prisoner
To teach the nations
To bring Christ to all
To make music in the heart.
— Howard Thurman

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Countering Anti-Muslim bigotry

Note: I started this post at the beginning of the month and then got very busy with Christmas preparations and various events for the kids. But today, after more recent developments, such as Virginia Represenative Virgil Goode's letter about the importance of tightening immigration restrictions to avoid an "influx of Muslims", I decided I'd better post it.

What I wrote earlier this month...

From Yahoo News: In U.S., fear and distrust of Muslims runs deep

When radio host Jerry Klein suggested that all Muslims in the United States should be identified with a crescent-shape tattoo or a distinctive arm band, the phone lines jammed instantly.

Another said that tattoos, armbands and other identifying markers such as crescent marks on driver's licenses, passports and birth certificates did not go far enough. "What good is identifying them?" he asked. "You have to set up encampments like during World War Two with the Japanese and Germans."

At the end of the one-hour show, rich with arguments on why visual identification of "the threat in our midst" would alleviate the public's fears, Klein revealed that he had staged a hoax. It drew out reactions that are not uncommon in post-9/11 America.
A video of news segment about this story can be seen at Crooks and Liars.

Here is a link to some columns by Dr. Asma Mobin Uddin, a Columbus area pediatrician and member of the Muslim faith. She makes public appearances (one at my church a couple years ago) to help people learn more about the misunderstood and sometimes mistrusted faith to which she belongs, has written columns for the Faith and Values section of the Columbus Dispatch, and has written a children's book, My Name is Bilal...
Bilal worries about being teased by his classmates for being Muslim. He thinks maybe it would be better if people don't know he is Muslim. Maybe it would be best if he tells kids his name is Bill rather than Bilal. Then maybe they would leave him alone. Mr. Ali, one of Bilal's teachers and also Muslim, sees how the boy is struggling. He gives Bilal a book about the first person to give the call to prayer during the time of the Prophet Muhammad. That person was another Bilal: Bilal Ibn Rabah. What Bilal learns from the book forms the compelling story of a young boy wrestling with his identity.
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Happy Winter Solstice

I don't plan to be around much today, but I imagine a lot of other people are busy too. Feel free to use this as an open thread, but if anyone has anything to share about Winter Solstice and how you celebrate it, that would be most welcome.

The unrelenting rain here doesn't convey a very Winter Solstice-y mood to me--or maybe it does. It certainly has me "longing for the light".

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

December 23 is HumanLight

In Western societies, late December is a season of good cheer and a time for gatherings of friends and families. During the winter holiday season, where the word "holiday" has taken on a more secular meaning, many events are observed. This tradition of celebrations, however, is grounded in supernatural religious beliefs that many people in modern society cannot accept. HumanLight presents an alternative reason to celebrate: a Humanist's vision of a good future. It is a future in which all people can identify with each other, behave with the highest moral standards, and work together toward a happy, just and peaceful world.

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What part of "all" don't these people understand?

Some disheartening stories I've seen recently...

Congressman Fears Influx of Muslims
Right Wing Questions Obama's Loyalty

I know I've posted these words from Bishop Desmond Tutu before, but apparently it's a lesson that needs repeating before it really sinks in.

And, God says, God says, "Yes, I do have a dream. Like, Martin Luther King, Jr." God says, "I, too, have a dream. I dream that my children one day will discover that they are family."

Now, that, actually, is not sentimental. It's one of the most radical things that Jesus ever uttered: "They are family." Family, you don't choose your relatives. Sometimes you wish you could. Family: a gift from God to you. And you: a gift to them from God.

And, in this family, there are no outsiders. Just all, all… all belong. It's an incredibly radical thing. All, all, all. You see, when Jesus spoke about… "If I be lifted up, I will draw…" he didn't say I will draw some. He didn't say I will draw some. He said, "I will draw all, all into this incredible divine embrace of love." All. Beautiful, not so beautiful. Tall; stumpy, like me. … Rich, poor, white, black, red. All, all, all, all. All belong. All. All. Gay, lesbian, so-called straight, all. [Laughter and applause.] All, all. All. All. [Applause.] All. All. All. All. All. Sharon, Arafat, all. Roman Catholic, Protestant in Northern Ireland. All. All. All. Bush, bin Laden. All. It's quite serious because, you see, God has no enemies.

By the way, one way to help those family members who are living in hunger and poverty, is through a donation to Heifer International. I've set up a page, with a modest goal of $250, here.

Update: I've created a new candle page

Light a candle for the intentions of the HEP community

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Cafe Press outage was Denial of Service attack

Just found this posted at Cafe Press:

Hi Shopkeepers,

The CafePress site was down for several hours yesterday evening due to a DoS attack. Our team was on top of it immediately and was able to make the system available as soon as possible. Service was restored at approximately 11:30PM PST and was running smoothly until approximately 8:30 AM this morning. The team is on it, knows the drill and service will be restored as soon as possible.

A DoS attack is a denial-of service attack, an attempt by someone to make our site unavailable to our users. A DoS attack is a computer crime and violates Internet proper use policy as dictated by the Internet Architecture Board.

Needless to say we are appalled that this has occurred because of what it does to our community. We hope that you understand that for your protection we are limited to what we are able to discuss regarding this as it is a security matter.
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Open Thread, holiday cuteness edition

Via Cute Overload.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A circle where we all belong

As I mentioned in the comments, yesterday was the day Daughter in Ohio sang with the choir at her school's Winter Festival. I suppose there are people who would be disgusted that they couldn't just call it a "Christmas concert" and be done with it. "We *used* to call them Christmas concerts, and sing Christmas carols, and act out the nativity story, and it was fine. Heck, there were even a few Jewish kids at the school, but they never complained about our Christmas celebrations. It just wasn't a big deal!"

There is, of course, a big difference between "nobody complained" and "everyone was fine with it". I was thinking about this the other day when a group leader was talking about an "executive decision" he'd made a few weeks earlier to postpone a discussion topic someone brought up. He said, "I really wasn't supposed to do that...but nobody complained!" I was thinking, "No, but we weren't especially happy about it," but I still didn't say anything. You see how that works? Lack of a voiced objection is *not* the same as everyone being happy with things. And I suspect that, back in the days where celebrating Christian holidays were celebrated in public schools, people weren't all "fine with it". But sometimes it's easier not to say anything--especially if you're aware that you're in the minority.

Back to Daughter's choir concert. There were songs for several different holidays, representing different musical styles, and parts of songs were in different languages. A (presumably Muslim) girl seated directly in front of me was wearing a head covering. There were kids in the choir who had two proud moms in the audience. All of these things, taken together, would probably make Bill O'Reilly's head explode.

But I thought, this is the way it *should* be. All traditions should be celebrated. Everyone should be included.

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

All of this makes me think of a song by Raffi, which was inspired by the Earth Charter. It is one of the songs on his CD, Resisto Dancing: Songs of the Compassionate Revolution

In this world of wonder
circle where we all belong
Voice of a thousand tribes
circle where we all belong … where we all belong
Pulse of the human heart
circle where we all belong … where we all belong
Circle where we all are free
circle where we all belong … where we all belong.

Every creature land and sea, every flower every tree
makes a circle, where we all belong.
Every bird every cloud, every raindrop that falls
makes a circle, where we all belong.
Every turn of the tide, every ocean wave
makes a circle, where we all belong.
Every breeze that blows, every grain of sand
makes a circle in the sun, where we all belong.

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Remaining peaceful at our center

When the world around you becomes more chaotic, how do you remain calm and peaceful at your center?

The image seen above is entitled Mother and Child Hands.

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Art, worship, and action

The image you see above is entitled "O War-Torn Town of Bethlehem", and it can be found at the Episcopal Church and Visual Arts Exhibition online. Click here for the entry page of the "Unto us a Child is Born" section. As I was paging through the gallery, I had a hard time deciding which picture I wanted to post. Different images can "speak" to different people. But I think art can touch us on a level that words can't.

And music can certainly be powerful, inspiring, and motivating. Long story short, I found myself irritated with The Daily Show's segment on the U2Charist. Yes, I get that it's a funny name. But having attended such a service this past summer, I know that these services are designed to help get people feeling inspired and empowered about going forth and helping to right some of the wrongs in the world. At the service I attended, there was a lot of emphasis on the Millennium Development Goals. That's something I take very seriously, and getting more people to care about things like "eradicating extreme poverty and hunger" is a *very* good thing. So I was a tad annoyed when the segment *only* portrayed it as something silly and laughable.

Anyway, I realize the job of the folks at the Daily Show is to make people laugh. But now I feel like it's *my* job to make sure people know what the U2Charist is really about.

Here's a page on the Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation web site that tells a bit about how the U2Charist might be used...

A U2charist is an Episcopal Eucharist service that features the music of the rock band U2 and a message about God's call to rally around the Millennium Development Goals. The U2charist is a great opportunity to reach out to the people in your congregation and larger community, especially young people. This service the music and message of U2 about global reconciliation, justice for the poor and oppressed, and the importance of caring for your neighbor. Led by the global MDG ambassador, Bono, U2 is calling people worldwide to a deeper faith and engagement with God's mission. The U2charist seeks to be an extension of this ministry.

Who knows...maybe Jon can make up for this by having Bono, or, better yet, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, on the program to talk about the Millennium Development Goals. (Why not--he had Bishop Desmond Tutu on the program!)

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Monday, December 18, 2006

I think something in my brain just popped

I just saw this excerpt from a Washington Times article over at Street Prophets:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told an audience in New Hampshire Muslim clerics pulled off a plane for praying should have been charged criminally.

Gingrich made the remark Friday night, as he delivered the keynote speech at the Manchester Republican City Committee Christmas dinner, the Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader reported.

"Those six people should have been arrested and prosecuted for pretending to be terrorists," Gingrich said. "And the crew of the U.S. airplane should have been invited to the White House and congratulated for being correct in the protection of citizens."
So, because the crew pulled them off the plan in error, because they thought the imans were terrorists, the only *logical* explanation must be that they were "pretending to be terrorists". *That's* how they made that mistake. Those devious, sneaky imams. Praying like that! Any *reasonable* person seeing several men praying together would just *naturally* assume they were terrorists. Or, you know, people openly practicing their faith.

But they were brown, so they must have been terrorists.

Disclaimer: while I don't flatter myself to believe that the So Called Liberal Media is actually reading my blog, one can't be too careful these days. So, just for the record, that stuff I just said? It was sarcasm.

You never know--someone from Greater Boston might be reading.

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At Father Jake Stops the World, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's closing remarks on an All Things Considered interview are posted:

I think my basic hope is that we remember that, as the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1940 said, "The Church is the only institution that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not members." Our focus needs not to be so much on internal politics, but on serving the world, on helping to heal a world that is broken.
My gosh, do those words ever resonate for me! When it comes to the "big questions", there is little that I know for sure. But I know that "helping to heal the world" is something that I need to do. So hearing those words from the new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church feels like one of those little divine nudges that remind me I'm exactly where I need to be.

Then, not long after reading what +KJS had to say, I stumbled upon an article about two parishes bolting from the Episcopal church.
Truro Church in Fairfax and The Falls Church in Falls Church plan to place themselves under the leadership of Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, who has called the growing acceptance of gay relationships a "satanic attack" on the church.
So much hate there. Well, fear, I guess. I keep trying to remind myself of that, because it really troubles me to read that sort of thing.

This evening was my EfM seminar, and we did a theological reflection on the Magnificat, which is in Luke's Gospel. It begins with these words:

My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

In addition to theological reflections, we have readings to discuss. Last year, my readings were about the Old Testament, and this year they focus on the New Testament. For the last couple weeks, the readings have been about the Gospel of Luke, so I'm a lot better versed in the attributes of this Gospel than I was before. From my readings, "Luke insists that the gospel is good news for the poor, the outcast, and the sinner." Later in the paragraph, the author mentions the Magnificat's "eager celebration of the reversal of roles as society sees them".

Anyway, it was a good discussion, and I was glad I pushed myself to attend tonight, because at the end of a hectic day I really wanted to rest. And in some of our informal chit-chat, I learned about a style of Nativity scene I'd never heard of before.

I submit to you that I can find this amusing but still be a person who takes her faith and calling seriously. On one level, it feels like I shouldn't have to say that, but I'm not sure that a member of this community who recently "shook the dust off his feet" accepts that particular paradox.

By the way, I hadn't read Underground Railroad for a while, but checked in on it this evening after reading Cat's comment about Oscar stating that he's considering ending the "blog exercise" of posting a weekly sermon in favor of "real world" activities.

Still pondering, and this post is not really finished in any neat and tidy sort of way. But the question that keeps nagging at me is this: How can we ever begin to tackle the big problems our country and our world face if we are not willing to remain in dialog, and in community, with people of good will who disagree with us?

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Open Thread

See "A duck's story" at Cute Overload for more pics.

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