Bindings: Reflections on faith, life, and good books

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Posted 12/19/14 at 12:09 AM | Bindings: Reflections on Faith, Life, and Good Books

The Real Story of Christmas

Once upon a time, long ago, there lived a young lady named Mary. Mary was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph. Before they were married, and while she was still a virgin, Mary was found to be with child. God sent an angel named Gabriel to explain to Mary what was happening. Gabriel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. You will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.” Mary asked, “How can this be since I have not known a man?” And the angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”

Joseph, being a just man, and not wanting to make Mary a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” FULL POST

Posted 12/16/14 at 1:20 AM | Bindings: Reflections on Faith, Life, and Good Books

Fiasco Forward: The Future of Film

I sat in the back of the theater, wrapped in darkness, in shock. The credits of Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug scrolled up the screen as the theater came alive with murmuring din. What was that? I wondered. It certainly wasn’t the story I had read and loved. Driving away from the theater, I struggled to sort Bilbo’s narrative out of the film’s maze of action sequences. When were realistic, crucial friendships formed? Where was the drive of the plot, the drama of Lord of the Rings? Was not the last forty-five minute fight simply superfluous CGI?

I am not alone. Many moviegoers, especially Tolkien fans, have expressed similar confusion and dissatisfaction with Peter Jackson’s adaptation. In the words of one critic, “It’s a mess, and during that [final] fight [sequence] the whole production felt like a completely different film.” FULL POST

Posted 12/10/14 at 2:20 AM | Bindings: Reflections on Faith, Life, and Good Books

Do Business With These Until I Return

Church goers learn the parable of the Ten Pounds (or Talents) from childhood (Luke 19:11-27). A nobleman left his country “to get royal power for himself and then return.”

The nobleman gave money to his servants to invest in profitable enterprises while he left the country for a season. “Do business with these until I come back.”

When he returned, he called his servants for an accounting of how they had spent the money entrusted to them. One servant doubled his money and was given charge of a larger enterprise. Another servant had made a smaller profit and was given more responsibility in keeping with the ability he had shown.

One servant had done nothing with his money. Fearful of risking it in any way, even to open a bank account with it, he had buried it in the ground. The nobleman was displeased and ordered all the money that had been given the fearful servant to be taken from him. FULL POST

Posted 12/7/14 at 11:27 PM | Bindings: Reflections on Faith, Life, and Good Books

When Christian Charity Goes Bad: Ebola, Toms Shoes, and Haiti House Building

“There are some things you cannot and should not do for others, even for their ostensible good.”1 These are the words of Dr. Mark Amstutz, professor of Political Science at Wheaton College. Amstutz made this remark during a discussion about the role that Christians play in international aid and relief efforts, a role that is at times impractical and ineffective, and sometimes downright dangerous.

The problem with Christian aid and relief efforts comes down to two factors. First, too many Christians are in the habit of having compassion without action. These are the people who talk a big game about caring for those who are suffering without actually putting practical, purposeful action to their words.

For Christians, especially, this is an easy trap to fall into. It’s easy for a Christian to hear about a tragedy on the other side of the world and say, “I’ll pray about it.” Nothing is wrong with prayer, but the world is in dire need of pragmatic thinkers and determined people of action. The Liberian family mourning the loss of their child to Ebola today doesn’t need pity. They need help—tangible, practical help in the form of education about the disease, medical care, quarantine facilities, etc. The problem isn’t that Christians aren’t compassionate enough; the problem is that compassion doesn’t always produce real-life results. FULL POST

Posted 12/4/14 at 1:47 AM | Bindings: Reflections on Faith, Life, and Good Books

Abundance and Scarcity

Our island in the middle of the Northwest’s Puget Sound is a lush place, with abundant rainfall most years. During late summer and early fall, backyard gardeners bring produce to meetings—book groups, church groups, discussion groups—any excuse to give away their abundance.

The produce is free; the gardeners are giving it away so as not to waste it. Not just zucchini, either. Ripe plums. Cherry tomatoes. Blueberries. Kale. Apples.

We have two apple trees, a Gravenstein, good for eating or cooking, and a Wolf River, wonderful for making pies and applesauce. We take all we need and leave the branches still loaded. We invite our neighbors to take all they want. Gleaners gather all over the community for our food bank. Deer feed on ones that fall on the ground.

Others do not live in such abundance. I cannot send our apples away from the Island, but I can share my offerings of money to reputable charities. I can give money to agencies and policies that support agricultural experts to discover and encourage crops that will produce in different climates to eliminate food scarcity. FULL POST

Posted 12/1/14 at 12:29 AM | Bindings: Reflections on Faith, Life, and Good Books

Are Deer Season and Hornet Season Open at the Same Time?

Each fall ole Billy Bob Bohannon and his first cousin Booger Ray Latimer can hardly wait for deer season to open. They each have several mounts on their living room walls, along a number of largemouth bass,
as well as wild turkey beards.

They begin each year with bow season. Billy Bob has never been the most accurate with a bow but Booger Ray could shoot the eyes out of a gnat! Each year they plant clover and turnip greens in their hunting field. Billy Bob says even if he doesn’t get a deer he can at least bring home a mess of greens
for supper. One year he brought home a mess alright, but not a mess of turnip greens.

They had been sitting out in their blind since before daylight. The sun had been in full shine for a while and they had not seen or heard one single deer. Suddenly Billy Bob pointed at something up in the trees and said, “You see that?” Booger Ray answered, “I don’t see anything but a bunch of trees and I highly doubt there is a big buck up in them.” Billy Bob laughed and said, “No, but there is a big hornet’s nest hanging from that limb.” It was a big one alright; probably about the size of a basketball. Booger Ray lit up like a Roman candle. He said, “Boy wouldn’t that bad boy look good dangling from the antlers of one of my trophies?” Billy Bob answered, “Yeah, but how you gonna get it? That thing is probably twenty feet up.” Booger Ray grinned and asked, “You don’t think I can shoot that thing down?” Billy Bob answered, “Well I don’t know if you can or not but I do know you had better make sure that it is empty before you start shooting at it with an arrow!” Booger Ray said, “Ah, it’s too cold at night for there to still be any hornets in there. They’ve already died or gone in the ground. Booger Ray pulled out one of his razor sharp hunting arrows as Billy Bob fearfully said, “I don’t know.” It took ole eagle eye about a dozen tries and a few actual hits but he finally cut through the twig holding the nest up and
down she came. The two approached the nest cautiously but didn’t detect any signs of life. Booger Ray
grabbed up his trophy and said, “You ready?” FULL POST

Posted 11/26/14 at 1:02 AM | Bindings: Reflections on Faith, Life, and Good Books

Digital Gutenberg

The world was never the same after Johannes Gutenberg rolled off the first printed books in
Europe in the 1450s.

Cheap books, pamphlets, and tracts spread ideas that torched whole societies. Religious reforms followed in their path but also wars and revolutions. Religious persecution reached new heights.

Sometimes lunatics raised large followings.

The power brokers, the political and religious leaders, no longer controlled ideas. More people
learned to read. Ordinary folks read the Bible in their own tongue, not in the Latin of the elite.
Cherished beliefs crumbled. Power struggles ripped apart kingdoms across Europe, creating
hordes of refugees.

Yet, when greater stability took hold by the 1700’s, religious tolerance had increased. Though
established religions lost influence, many faith-based religious groups gained. They led
movements to block the slave trade, set up educational programs for the less well off, and send
missionaries to serve native peoples harmed by Europe’s desire for conquest and wealth. FULL POST

Posted 11/23/14 at 11:29 PM | Bindings: Reflections on Faith, Life, and Good Books

Who Invited Them?

When I was a boy growing up in northeast Alabama, folks treated the passing of a loved one much differently from how we do these days. By the time I came along visitation with the family, for the most part, had moved to funeral homes. Prior to this many people took their loved one’s body back home where they received guests for at least a couple of nights. I’m not sure why, but someone usually sat up all night with the dearly departed. I am sure why friends, neighbors, and church members brought in food for the family – lots of good homemade food. The funeral service was then held at a church or simply at the graveside.

A few years later we moved everything to funeral homes. Funeral home owners built chapels and some families elected to hold memorials or funeral services there. In those early years (at least on Sand Mountain) most of the practices that had been performed in homes simply moved to funeral homes. That included sitting up all night, two nights of visitation, and bringing in food. Some funeral homes had a dining room, and some even had a kitchen, where friends brought in food for the family members. A couple of brothers in my hometown, whom I’ll refer to as the Bryant brothers, frequented the town’s funeral home. You might have thought these ole country boys were related to everybody that died. They did not necessarily attend the funeral services but they regularly ate in the back room with the bereaved. You see, the Bryant brothers had never married. They didn’t have anyone at home to cook for them. Evidently, they couldn’t cook for themselves or if they could they didn’t care much for their own cooking. Some people called the brothers “Buzzard Baptist.” They explained that they were Baptist and they circled the funeral home waiting for someone to die. I’m not sure why the funeral home owner allowed the Bryant brothers to eat with all those families but to my knowledge he never discouraged them from such. Our town was small so everybody knew the brothers and expected their presence. Most folks didn’t seem to mind. FULL POST

Posted 11/20/14 at 1:19 AM | Bindings: Reflections on Faith, Life, and Good Books

The Generational Lies Women Believe and Why They Must End: One Woman’s Story

I remember the day my mom got liposuction. I was ten, and I’d walked into her closet. Her naked thighs, stomach, and breasts were covered in small bloodied gauze bandages. She walked stiffly and winced as she stretched her arm into the shirt she was holding.

I asked, aghast, what happened to her. She told me not to worry about it.

When her wounds healed, and her skin displayed small divet-like holes, I placed my finger against one and asked, again, what happened. She explained the process in a hurry and, annoyed, told me to stop fingering the divets.

My mother, I found out later, is not alone. Hundreds of thousands of women are caught up in an ideal that doesn’t exist. We don’t say “thin,” because now it’s more socially acceptable to say “healthy.” Women in my family are no exception. It is, frankly, a generational thing.

Let’s start with the matriarch. My grandmother never speaks well of her body. If she does, it’s coated in sarcasm. Every visit, she reminds me that I’ll look just like her and makes a rolling motion with her hands from ground to chest to imitate saggy breasts. Disturbing? Yes. FULL POST

Posted 11/19/14 at 2:01 AM | Bindings: Reflections on Faith, Life, and Good Books

Anatomy of a Strong Lady

The definition of a strong lady appears in newspapers, academia, and social media. Marching in lockstep you hear the same phrases repeated over and over. It’s shouted by some of the angriest ladies I have ever encountered. Not sure much of anything would make these ladies happy. They tell us we should demand respect, our rights and whatever we deem necessary for our existence. These ladies don’t encourage and inspire me they just make me weary.

It’s not those ladies I find strong. In fact if I wanted to have a girls night out, they aren’t the ones I’d invite. If I could, along with some of my best girlfriends, it would be two ladies who currently reside in heaven; my great grandmother, Ethel Bunger and my husband’s grandmother, Minnie Brock. Now those were some strong ladies.

Watching how they lived provided me with the best definition of what that looked like. Possessing every component needed; they exemplified on a daily basis without angst or effort what earned respect from those they encountered. FULL POST

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