Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, Martyr; 1170

When Thomas Becket was a young man he was an unlikely candidate for Martyrdom.  

Chancellor of England and good friend of King Henry the II, he lived the good life (for medieval times anyway) He enjoyed the wealth and power that came with his high position.

Then Henry II decided to make him archbishop.  At this time there was a power struggle going on between the King and the church and Henry no doubt thought putting his good buddy in such a position would strengthen his position.  He thought Becket would take his side.

The King was in for a surprise.  

Perhaps Thomas Becket surprised himself.  He rose to the occasion.   As he described it he changed from being “a patron of play actors and a follower of hounds to a shepherd of souls”.  He led a much more austere life, looked after the interests of the church and did not take Henry’s side in his quarrels with the church.
Becket became such a throne in Henry’s side that in a rage he is said to have demanded “Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?”  There is always someone to indulge the king and on December 29, 1170, four knights murdered the archbishop in front of the altar in his cathedral.

The people were shocked by this brazen murder of their Archbishop. Beckett was soon declared a saint and King Henry subjected himself to a public whipping by monks of the abbey as penance.

You just never know what you are capable of until you are called.  

And if God puts you in a position, God must figure you can handle it. 

Almighty God, you granted your martyr Thomas the grace to give his life for the cause of justice: Keep your household from all evil and raise up among us faithful pastors and leaders who are wise in the ways of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ the shepherd of our souls, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Michael Vick the Poster Child for Employing Rehabilitated Convicts?

Pardon me while I gag!

I started a post on Vick a while back when I heard he wanted a dog.  As a condition of his probation he is not allowed to have a dog.  But he wants a dog "So the public can see that I really love animals"  That statement alone tells me he should not have a dog.  

I'm all for forgiveness.  But I don't send wives back to live with abusive husbands and NO DOGS for Micheal Vick.

That's what I was going to say about that.  But I think I had to go work or something annoying like that.  

Now I'm all for forgiveness. 

I'm not like a lot of animal lovers who want to tie Vick up in chains and treat him the way he treated his dogs.  

Back then he didn't know it was wrong to slam a dog's head against the wall.  Now he knows it's wrong so he won't do it anymore.  Good for him!  I don't even begrudge him his job back with the Eagles.

But seriously President Obama calling Eagles owner, Jeffrey Lurie and CONGRATULATING him for giving Vick his job back because convicts have such a hard time getting jobs? 


 I want to smack our president up side the head for that, not Vick.  

Micheal Vick had the job he dreamed of, a lot of money, everything and he chose to entertain himself by abusing animals.  Now he has the job he has dreamed of, is going to make a lot of money again and will probably talk a judge into letting him use another animal to rehabilitate his public image.  

WHAT THE HELL DOES HE HAVE IN COMMON with your average convict who cannot get a job?  

I could just spit.  

In the words of Mr. Knightley to Emma, "Badly done, Mr. President.  BADLY DONE!"

The Slaughter of the Innocents

Massacre of the Innocents Léon Cognie

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. ~ Matthew 2:16

You know, I don't really care if this particular act of oppression actually happened.

 It symbolizes the reality of the evil that occurs when human beings put their lust for power above all else.   This is the world God entered.  A world where the weak and vulnerable are sacrificed for the sake of the powerful.

Why did God allow this to happen? 

 Why didn't God save the babies of Bethlehem?  Why doesn't God save the children who are stolen and sold into sex slavery today?  For that matter why doesn't God just snap his fingers and make everything all better?  

Why do we have to even bother with a baby born in a stable, with wisemen and stars and a crucifixion for that matter?

Who knows?  But here's a clue.  

The world where babies are killed on the whim of a power hungry king is the world that we humans create.  So what makes us think we have a better idea than God how to save it?

This I know.  

The world where innocents are sacrificed for the powerful is coming to an end.   

Perhaps the purpose of throwing this dark story at us at this time is to keep us from turning Christmas into our own private little family time.    

What does it mean for us today to worship one who came “throw down the mighty from their thrones”?  While we wait for Jesus to return and establish his Kingdom of justice, love and compassion, what can we do today for those who suffer from oppression, loneliness and unkindness? 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Joyeux Noel

Sleeping Virgin with Infant~Deborah Sorrentino

To me there is no greater consolation given to mankind than this, that Christ became man, a child, a babe, playing in the lap and at the breasts of his most gracious mother. Who is there whom this sight would not comfort? Now is overcome the power of sin, death, hell, conscience, and guilt, if you come to this gurgling Babe and believe that he is come, not to judge you, but to save.
~Martin Luther's Christmas Sermon

Monday, December 20, 2010

Oven Barbecued Country Ribs

It took me a long time to come up with a barbecue sauce I liked.  I like it sweet and smokey. With a little spice.  

This is a picture of tonight's ribs which are boneless but that's only because they didn't have the bone-in ribs.  It is SO MUCH BETTER with the bone.  Much more taste and gets more tender with the marrow.

I use Penzeys Barbecue of Americas spice which is a mixture of nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper and ginger.  I shake that on the ribs, a little granulated garlic, salt and pepper and about a half cup of Chardonnay.  Stick that in the crock pot and cook it for  a few hours.  My crock pot cooks too fast - only 4 hours - You should be able to put this in the morning and have it ready when you come home from work.

Then melt a couple of tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan.  That's REAL butter.  NOT margarine.  Add a cup of your favorite barbecue sauce and a cup of ketchup.  Add 1/4 cup of brown sugar,  a few shakes of liquid smoke, a few tablespoons balsamic vinegar.  If you have some peach or apricot jam, put a couple of tablespoons in too, plus bout 1/4 cup white wine.  A few shakes the Penzeys's spice or a little cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.  A few shakes cayenne pepper.  Simmer on low for about 10 minutes.

Take the ribs out.  If they are on the bone, it will just fall off the bone at this point.  Put the ribs in a pan.  Smother them with the barbecue sauce.  Bake at 325 for 30 minutes.  We always have this with baked potatoes.  You know you can nuke your potatoes in the microwave for 4 minutes, then stick them in the oven for only about a half an hour and they will taste baked.  This is a family favorite.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Christmas Tradition I was Unaware of

Until last night I was unaware that Isaac would always point his storm trooper toward one of Sarah's skaters or Barbies on the tree...

Friday Five - Christmas Past

Pretty simple task from the RevGalBlogPals-  Tell us about five Christmas memories you have.

1,  My parents were divorced.  We didn't have a big family so we didn't have those big crazy get togethers.  One of my first memories that I have is telling my mother I wanted a certain doll and telling my father I wanted a different doll and I got both dolls.  Now they made a big thing of that like that was something sneaky I did to get two dolls.  But it never occurred to me they would get me the same present.  They didn't do anything else together why the hell should they get together to give me one present?  
2.  One more childhood Christmas story.  Because most of them were just not that memorable.  One year my mom decided instead of us staying home and feeling bad that we were alone on Christmas we should go to Disneyland.  On Christmas Day.  That was fun.

3.  Fast forward to my first Christmas in Wisconsin with my soon to be husband, Loren.  1985 I believe. I bought a little tree.  A real one.  I just bought some gold thread covered balls, gold lights and tied gold ribbons on it.  Loren gave me diamond earrings.  I don't remember what I gave him.    I did go to his family's house and had Ludefisk which I didn't think was so bad.  That night I threw up all night.  After midnight service we (well I) went ice skating on a pond in 17 below weather.   Loren watched from his truck.  He said it was the best Christmas he ever spent.

4.  Fast forward to several years later and Loren and I were married.  You had to hide presents from him because he would peak.  He would shake and guess.  I could never surprise him with a gift.  Then one year we were at a toy show and he saw a Ertl toy version of an Allis Chalmers tractor he actually had when he was younger.   We were dirt poor those days.  It was $30.  He could not justify paying $30 for a toy tractor.  

I took the guys card, called him the next day, had him mail me the tractor and told him it was a surprise.  When it came I put it in doll box and put that in another box and wrapped it.   THIS was the year I was going to surprise him for Christmas!

Well the box threw him but it just so happened he had called the guy later about the tractor and the guy who was usually very talkative said "It's sold" and hung up on him.  Based on that alone, Loren guess I bought for him.  But the box threw him off.  After that I gave up trying to surprise him.

5.  Our first Christmas after Loren died.  It was five months after he died.  I don't remember much about it other than it was not sad.  I think I spent a little too much on gifts and decorations trying to make up for it but mostly I decided I was going to be joyful about what I did have and I did.  I got the church youth group - mostly football players to get up on my roof and hang LOTS of lights around the house.  It was late in morning and my daughter Sarah remembers being scared to death looking outside her window and seeing a kid with a ski mask on her roof.  But what I remember is how much difference making up my mind to think about all the things I DID have and not what I'd lost made.  It was a lovely Christmas.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rita Nakashima Brock on "The Importance of Mary's Virginity"

There is an interesting piece in the Huffington Post on how Mary's virginity is more about resistence to the Roman Empire than Mary's "purity:"

Rita Nakashima Brock writes:

We might describe the story of Mary as a powerful rejection of patriarchal family systems and imperial powers that oppress everyone subject to them. By blessing her and trusting her with the Spirit in human flesh, God challenges the rich, proud, and haughty, which means those who love her story and follow Jesus ought to be doing the same. 

I wish she had fleshed this out more and spent less time on a history lesson.  However, this is a blog post in the Huffington Post, not a religious journal.  

But the idea intrigues me as it goes along with my theory that at the heart of many of the stories and legends the virginity and chastity of the early women saints and martyrs are a protest against a culture that gives women no say over who has control over their bodies.  I said more about this when I wrote about Santa Lucia last year.

In another life I'd write a doctoral thesis on this subject.  Someday someone will or write a book and I will bemoan the fact that I thought of it first but then remind myself I did nothing about it and be glad someone else fleshed it out.  Hopefully.  Or maybe I will write that dissertation.  I'm not dead yet, as my late husband used to say when I nagged him about things he hadn't done.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

It's a Wonderful Life (As Long as you are not an Old Maid)

 Don't get me wrong.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE "It's a Wonderful Life".  I watch it every year.  I know it by heart.  I just love the message of how every single person impacts their world.  As we get more and more into a culture that encourages people to just follow their dream, whatever the consequences, I like the message of learning to appreciate and love the life you are "stuck with" even if you never fulfill your dream of traveling the world.

But even when I was a kid, there was one scene that bugged me.  It's when, after discovering all the terrible things that happen in a world without George Bailey, Clarence has to break the news to George about the worst thing that happened to poor Mary.  And he can barely choke the words out..."She' OLD MAID" 

An OLD MAID? OH NO!  Worse than the town being ruined by Potter.  Worse than poor old Mr. Gower accidentally poisoning a child in his grief and going to prison.  Worse even than his own brother drowning because he wasn't there to save him.   Poor Mary has turned from a vibrant, happy, clever woman into a fearful, dried up old maid.  Who needs glasses now!

To be fair, perhaps it's just a way of making it clear to George, who always thought Mary could do better than him, that no, he was the one she loved and wanted.  But I see a more sinister message.

This is 1946.  Right after WW2  women dropped their children into daycare and went about the business of holding the country together without the menfolk just fine thank you very much.  Perhaps the women needed a not-so subtle message that they really did need the menfolk?

Or maybe I've just seen this movie too many times and am overthinking it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Kelly Fryer's Note to the Church "STOP HOGGING CHRISTMAS!"


Okay that's not her exact words, that's my take on it. Kelly Fryer is always trying to get the church to stop hogging the Gospel to itself. Now she's taking on the Advent Conspiracy in A Renewable Holiday Season And I agree with everything she says.

I've been thinking along these lines for awhile now.  I even had a throw away line in my sermon about how we need to stop being so judgmental about the shopping malls at Christmas as those shopping malls give people jobs so that they can fix a nice Christmas dinner for their families.  A lady in the congregation who owns a store thanked me.  

Just think how she feels with all the scolding about shopping that goes on for Christmas?   

To quote Fryer:
Here's a message that would make more sense this year: SPEND MORE...wisely.
If you've got it, by all means friends, use it to do what matters. Give it away to help the poor. But, also, go spend it at your local florist, bookstore, or clothing shop. Invest it somewhere that will give life and make a difference.
The truth is I've given lip service to this "advent conspiracy" - don't spend money, make your own gifts, be simple gospel, but I never lived it or believed it. 

I LOVE Christmas decorations and lights and SHOPPING for presents.

I've had light up reindeer in my yard. 

Our first Christmas, we were pregnant and poor and my husband and I saw this SILLY USELESS "Santa's band" - where Santa and his elves played 50 Christmas songs on bells.  

It was $50.  $50 was a LOT of money in 1987.  No self-respecting advent conspirator would buy thatIt had nothing to do with Jesus.  But it made my husband and I smile.  And that was our Christmas present to each other.   

Today Santa's band is hopelessly tangled up, it takes up way too much space, the bells are broken so the carols sound pretty weird but the kids insist I get it out every year.

Fryer also challenges us to stop with the "them vs. us" thinking and this "take Christmas back" mentality.   

She's got the nerve to suggest that we stop insisting people can only have Christmas if they come to church.  

She suggests we get out there and celebrate THEIR Christmas with them.... 

And, in whatever way you can think of, be more Ho-Ho-Ho and a lot less Holier-Than-Thou.

Amen sister!  Now I need to go out and BUY MORE LIGHTS!