Slowing Down

For many years now I’ve received Dr. Don Wilton’s The Daily Encouraging Word, or “DEW,” in my inbox every morning.  It’s a wonderful little daily devotional with a bite-sized chunk of Biblical Truth attached.

I’m ashamed to admit that due to both my busy schedule and my own spiritual recalcitrance, I do not read DEW daily.  Indeed, I have a massive folder in my Hotmail account (yes, yes, go ahead and laugh) called “DEW” with over 1200 unread issues.  Gulp!

I do a bit better with Audre’s blog, Words on the Word.  Even there, though, I could do better.

That’s all to say that it’s serendipitous that this week, The Daily Encouraging Word is going through a series called “Try to Slow Down.”

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Supporting Friends Friday: Local Churches

It’s Good Friday in the Western Church, so I thought I’d spotlight the friends that need our support the most:  our local churches.

Your local churches will obviously be quite different than mine, but I would encourage every Christian reader to give to your local church this weekend.  If you are not tithing to a church already, start doing so!  Only 5% of churchgoers tithe, but American Christians earn $5.2 trillion annually.  Imagine the transformative impact if every Christian gave ten percent.  That could feed, clothe, and shelter a lot of people.  It would also be an incredible witness to Christians’ commitment to their faith.

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Go to Church

Easter is just a few days away, and churches will be filled to bursting with twice-a-year “Christians,” people that still feel some vague sense that they should go to church on Easter and at Christmas, even if they can’t quite articulate why, and don’t attend for most of the rest of the year.

That church attendance is in decline is no mystery.  Sure, there are plenty of nominal Christians who attend church regularly for their own reasons—the social aspects, the opportunities for professional development and career advancement, etc.—who aren’t truly Believers, but since we cannot know the content of one’s heart, church attendance is a pretty good gauge for religiosity in the United States.

I live in the rural South, so there are churches on every street corner.  There are tiny cinderblock buildings in the middle of nowhere with names like “First Church of the Holy Apostolic Prophecy” that look like tool sheds that have been converted into places of worship.  There are decadent megachurches.  There are churches that date back centuries, and churches that were planted a week ago.

Yet even here, Biblical illiteracy stuns me.  Sure, I’m one of those guys who knows that something is “in the Bible,” even if I can’t always place exactly where it is (that’s what Bing is for).  But when I write “Biblical illiteracy,” I mean that people lack a basic understanding of the simplest Bible stories.

I’ve related this anecdote elsewhere, but I’ll never forget teaching a philosophy class years ago in which we were discussing Danish Christian existentialist philosopher Søren KierkegaardKierkegaard famously argued that attempts to prove the existence of God rhetorically, logically, or otherwise were the philosophical equivalents of building the Tower of Babel—man’s Gnostic attempt to “reach” God, not to be close to Him, but to challenge God’s Supremacy.

The Tower of Babel is Vacation Bible School 101—really, it’s Sunday School 101.  The Tower of Babel would be Track 2, Side 1 of The Old Testament’s Greatest Hits, if such an album existed.

Despite that, none of my students knew the story of the Tower of Babel.  Even a young lady who was a very committed Christian did not remember the story, and I know her parents, at the very least, had taught it to her!

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Supporting Friends Friday: The Sandwhich Press

As I’m working on Péchés d’âge moyen, my collection of short piano miniatures, I’d be remiss if I didn’t recognize the influence of Telegram user Goth Kilts.  She has been a huge source of encouragement as I begin dabbling in composing again, and a friendly sounding board for some of my musical ideas.

Kilts is herself quite a prolific commentator through her excellent Telegram page, The Sandwhich Press (and, yes, it’s spelled with the extra “h,” although the URL for her page spells “sandwich” the normal way).  It boasts over 500 subscribers, all of them richly deserved.

As such, I wanted to dedicate today’s edition of Supporting Friends Friday to The Sandwhich Press, and the insightful, humorous, and Goth-inflected TradCath [she’s actually Coptic Christian—oops!] commentary of Goth Kilts.

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Merry Christmas!

Here it is—Christmas Day 2021!  Here’s wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas.

It’s been a big year for yours portly, and I’ll be doing a full year-in-review recap soon.

For today, however, I just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, and share the Christmas Story from Luke 2:1-20.  I still remember my late paternal grandfather reading this passage to us every Christmas when we were children.

Before that, I have one other Christmas Day reading recommendation:  contributor and commenter 39 Pontiac Dream published an excellent piece at The Conservative Woman this week entitled “Have yourself a Cheesy Channel 5 Christmas.”  It’s all about the saccharine-sweet, predictable, but oddly satisfying Christmas movies that Hallmark puts out ever year.  Ponty does a great job of explaining why these picture-perfect, impossibly kindhearted films are so endearing (in part because they are picture-perfect and impossibly kindhearted).

With that, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.  Here is the Word of God (c/o BibleGateway.com; translation is NKJV):

Christ Born of Mary

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed [a]wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a [b]manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Glory in the Highest

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And [c]behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a [d]manger.”

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill[e] toward men!”

15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made [f]widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

Read full chapter

Footnotes

  1. Luke 2:5 NU omits wife

  2. Luke 2:7 feed trough

  3. Luke 2:9 NU omits behold

  4. Luke 2:12 feed trough

  5. Luke 2:14 NU toward men of goodwill

  6. Luke 2:17 NU omits widely

TBT^2: Christmas Eve

Well, it’s not exactly Christmas Eve—more like Christmas Eve Eve, which probably has some liturgical significance that my Southern-fried Protestantism doesn’t know or appreciate—but given the way Christmas is falling this year, as well as my own laziness, I thought it’d be worth looking back at this classic Christmas Eve post, with my timeless “Christmas and Its Symbols” post for Flashback Friday tomorrow.

That scheduling also lets me do my beloved “^2” addendum with the titles, adding another layer of Talmudic-esque commentary onto my past scribblings:  the ultimate in authorial self-indulgence.

Of course, the season isn’t about my half-baked musings about Christmas, Christmas Eve, or the rest.  It’s about the Birth of Our Savior, Jesus Christ.  As I wrote last year, Christmas Eve seems to perfectly capture the spirit of mystery of that night, “a night full of magic, mysticism, and wonder.”  Christmas Day is a flurry of activity:  opening presents, yelling at parents to wake up, cleaning up piles of wrapping paper.  Christmas Eve, especially Christmas Eve night, has always seemed more mystical, more reflective—the true celebration of Christ’s Birth.

It was also the night my Aunt Cheryl—the best one-eyed piano player in Aiken County—used to throw her big, bodacious Christmas Eve bash, featuring her incredible lasagna.  So maybe that’s why it fills my heart with a warm, fuzzy feeling (these days, it’d be a welcome dose of heartburn—totally worth it for a thick section of her lasagna).

This year, I think I’ll be spending Christmas Eve with my niece and nephews, waking up at their house Christmas morning for the second year in a row.  That’s always a fun way to spend the season.  Here’s hoping there’s some Christmas Eve Chinese food thrown into the mix.  God Bless General Tso—he was a bloodthirsty dictator, but his chicken is delectable.

With that, here is “TBT: Christmas Eve“:

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TBT: Baby Sea Turtle

It’s the last quiet week of summer vacation before returning to school.  It’s been a good summer, with a trip to Universal Studios; a grueling but successful move; and getting a dog.  The one thing I didn’t do this summer is see a baby sea turtle take its first, adorable steps into the sea.

But I did get to see that last summer!

There’s something magical and miraculous about witnessing a baby sea turtle leave his little egg and waddle into the ocean.  I thought I’d never see it in my lifetime unless I was specifically trying to see it.

Adding to the magic was that it was totally unplanned—wonderful happenstance.

With that, enjoy this treacly little post, 3 August 2020’s “Baby Sea Turtle“:

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Make-A-Death-Wish

UPDATE:  In case anyone missed it, The Make-A-Wish Foundation REVERSED their decision to require terminally ill children and their families to be fully vaccinated in order to receive their wishes: https://theportlypolitico.com/2021/06/29/decency-prevails-make-a-wish-foundation-rescinds-mask-requirement-for-children/

Read The Foundation’s statement here: https://wish.org/news-releases/reemergence

* * *

The Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants children with terminal medical conditions a “wish,” has announced it will require all wish recipients and their family members to be fully vaccinated against The Virus.

No vaccination, no wish fulfillment.

Naturally, this requirement is absurd, and represents a new low in the race to virtue-signal in The Age of The Virus.  At this risk of sounding macabre and insensitive, The Make-A-Wish Foundation is requiring children who are already dying to take a vaccine against an illness with a 99.5%+ survivability rate.

It’s a purely symbolic action that achieves nothing beyond making it more difficult for dying children to enjoy one last bit of whimsy before they cross over into the arms of Jesus.

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Hard to Swallow

A big H/T to Neo at Nebraska Energy Observer for the inspiration for today’s post:  in his latest edition of Sunday Funnies (“Sunday Funnies:  Juneteenth & Other Things“), Neo includes a tabloid-style headline that reads, “I Was Nearly Krilled!: Lobster diver says he was swallowed by humpback whale.”  The pun “krilled’ is circled in orange.

I looked it up, and it’s a real story:  Michael Packard, a fifty-six-year old lobster diver from Massachusetts, was briefly trapped in the mouth of a massive humpback whale.  According to Packard, he was in the mouth of the great beast for about thirty seconds, before the creature surfaced, shook its head back and forth, and spit Packard into the air.

Here is the relevant excerpt of Packard’s account, as quoted at NPR.org:

Packard told WBZ-TV that he was about 45 feet down in the water when he suddenly felt “this huge bump and everything went dark.” He initially feared he had been attacked by a shark.

“Then I felt around, and I realized there was no teeth and I had felt, really, no great pain,” he said. “And then I realized, ‘Oh my God, I’m in a whale’s mouth. I’m in a whale’s mouth, and he’s trying to swallow me.’ “

Packard was still wearing his scuba gear and breathing apparatus inside the whale’s mouth, which he said was completely dark. Fearing he wouldn’t make it out alive, he thought about his wife and sons.

After about half a minute, the whale rose to the water’s surface and began shaking its head from side to side.

“I just got thrown in the air and landed in the water,” Packard recalled. “And I was free, and I just floated there … I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe I got out of that.”

The story sounds incredible—and, according to whale experts, the odds of it happening are extremely rare—but it is within the realm of possibility.  Humpback whales lack teeth, and instead filter feed through baleen, long, hair-like “teeth” that filter out sea water and trap small prey, like shrimp and krill, inside.  Humpback whales often feed using lunge feeding, during which the whales “open their mouths, accelerate and ‘take in 10 SUVs worth of water and fish and then everything else,'” according to Iain Kerr, quoted in the same NPR piece.

Apparently, Packard just happened to be swimming in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the great whale accidentally sucked him up with tiny sea critters.

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