124 thoughts on “Our Daily Thread 11-26-16

  1. So, Fidel Castro has died. I have known several Cubans whose parents fled the revolution. There is celebration in Miami this morning. My friend R posted this story this morning. He told it at his retirement party several years ago.

    “I saw the desperation caused by Fidel Castro first hand and I will never forget it. The Florida Straits’ innocent-looking coral blue waters conceal numerous threats that have killed an estimated 70,000-80,000 people since 1961. Sharks have little fear of snatching people from flimsy rafts. Rescue volunteers estimated that during the early 1990s, shark-related fatalities occurred monthly, and rafters have told tales of seeing blood-stained sea water, or detached human legs float past.”

    Lost at Sea
    It was a perfect day. It had stormed the night before, but calm had returned to the Atlantic Ocean. USS John L. Hall (FFG-32) was steaming home after spending over a month off the coast of Haiti. Candidate Bill Clinton said that any refugee who made it to the United States would be allowed to stay and would not be deported. Most Americans didn’t pay much attention, but the Haitian people did. When Bill Clinton won the election in November 1992, the Haitian people started building rafts. Thousands and thousands of rafts. The entire northern coastline of Haiti was covered with rafts of all shapes, sizes, construction, and colors. The Haitians tore down their own homes to build rafts and they were all going to take to the sea as soon as President Clinton was sworn in on January 20, 1993. However, President Clinton reversed direction on his refugee policy and ordered an armada of Navy and Coast Guard vessels to form a wall at sea within sight of the Haitian shores to convince them to stay home. I got the message on a lazy Sunday on board the ship in Mayport, Florida: Get underway within 24 hours and head to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and await further instructions. We did, and for months the U.S. Navy and the Haitians stared at each other across the surf.

    Finally, we were relieved of our staring duties and allowed to return home. It was a beautiful spring day, not a cloud in the sky, and there was just enough breeze to be refreshing. I took the watch as Officer of the Deck on the bridge, smelled the pastries baking in the galley, admired the sunrise to the east and the Miami skyline to the west. Life was good. A young Seaman fresh from boot camp broke the serenity by requesting to enter the bridge. I granted permission and he looked around as if it was the coolest thing he had ever seen. He asked about the skyscrapers peaking over the horizon and I told him it was Miami. “Can I look at them through the Big Eyes (huge pedestal-mounted binoculars on the bridge wings).” “Certainly, I replied.” Eagerly he started scanning the horizon. Then he stopped abruptly. “Sir, I see something….a man in the water.”

    I looked in the same direction with the binoculars hanging from my neck and could see some movement, but couldn’t make it out. Could be a pelican. “Let me look.” I gazed through the Big Eyes and clearly there was a person in the water waving his arms several hundred yards away – but ten miles from shore. “Man overboard, port side! I yelled.” I told the young Sailor to keep his eye on the man in the water and to point at him continuously. “Never lose sight of him!” I directed. My team had practiced this nearly every day while on our picket duty off of Haiti, so everything happened calmly, quickly, and precisely. The captain was on the bridge soon after the announcement was made throughout the ship. He knew this wasn’t a drill. By this time there were several Sailors pointing at the man as we changed course. We lowered the boat in the water and closed the remaining distance. I watched from the bridge as we brought the man on board. From his physical condition it was clear that he would not have survived if we had not rescued him at that very moment. “Who is he? Where did we come from? How long had he been treading water?” Everyone was murmuring the same questions. A chief yelled up to me “We need a Spanish speaker!” I made an announcement for all crew members fluent in Spanish to report to the boat deck.

    After treatment for exposure, exhaustion, and dehydration in sick bay, the man finally gained the strength to say a few words, “Where is my brother? My brother was with me.” We had been congratulating ourselves on our unlikely rescue and the entire time there was another man in the water nearby. We called away a man-overboard again, manned the boat, and launched the ship’s helo to search for his brother. While we were searching, we learned that the man we had rescued had left Cuba a few days before with his brother. They both had an inner tube and several gallon jugs of water. The night before there had been a terrible storm and the man had lost his inner tube and his brother. He never saw either again and had been treading water for hours. A Coast Guard Cutter and helo from Miami joined in our search. All crew members not on watch were topside scanning for the brother, the inner tubes, or any clue to what had happened to them. After a full day of fruitless searching the sun started to set behind the Miami skyline. We had delayed our long awaited return home, but we didn’t care. We felt like we were finally doing something useful and did not want to leave empty-handed. The man we had saved was transferred to the Coast Guard cutter which took him to Miami. He was probably returned to Cuba, but I will never know for sure. As for the brother, he was never found.

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  2. Fidel Castro was as old as my dad. Now he will spend his eternity suffering far worse than the people of Cuba have suffered for the past 60 years. ¡Que Cuba viva libre! (May Cuba live free.)

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  3. 😦 But we should hope not, one can’t really know the state of his heart at the time of death.

    I was interested, though, to see that some on my FB feed last night were saying things like RIP and expressing sadness at his passing — he was not considered to have been an evil influence by those on the left. Quite the opposite.

    Living in a parallel universe …

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  4. I just looked at a photo on Twitter of the Pope praying with/for an obviously ill Fidel Castro.

    The Pope’s eyes Re closed, Castro’s eyes are wide open staring with hunger from a ravaged elderly face at the Pope.

    I wonder . . .

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  5. My favorite memoir is Carlos Eire’s “Waiting for Snow in Havana,” the fantastic story of his childhood during the waning days of Batista.

    Gorgeously written, funny and poignant. I recommend it highly.

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  6. I’ve heard stories from Cuban tax clients who were saddened to see how our nation, where they had found relief, was swinging so far to the left and on a bad course with which they were all too familiar.

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  7. On Fidel Castro’s death: “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” (Ezekiel 33:11). Tyrannical world leaders are human beings like the rest of us, meaning that any one of us could act the same way given the opportunity – in fact many do, for the difference between a domestic tyrant and a national tyrant is only in the number of people affected – and, like the rest of us, the cruel and corrupt world leader will be eternally separated from God if he or she does not repent and follow Christ. Having pondered that eternal separation and what it means, I do not desire it for my worst enemy.

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  8. Amen, roscuro. Mercy over justice is what we should all desire for ourselves and others when it comes to eternity.

    We’re expecting rain both today and tomorrow — and the temperatures have dropped, this system is coming down from Alaska. But my heater is up and running again for the year (sure helps in the mornings) and I just took a brief hot “shower” in the Psycho tub that’s encased with heavy plastic sheeting to protect the exposed walls & floor. Hardly luxurious, but it’s amazing how wonderful getting a little splattering of hot water on you feels (as opposed to washcloth-sink cleanings). Hair washed and I feel so much fresher.

    I need to pick up some med refills for Tess this morning, which is a 30-minute drive to and from, and then make a casserole for church tomorrow, but otherwise I’m hoping to crash, read and nap today — it’s been a busy, hectic week.

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  9. Thanking God for my new roof as rain approaches.

    While the house remains in a state of utter upheaval and dysfunction, with a gutted bathroom, I’m focusing on the things that have gotten done since summer — a brand new roof, front porch & patio overhangs fixed, new sliding back door and 2 new windows.

    The rest will come.

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  10. It is not fair what is happening in Aleppo. It is not fair that I won’t let my daughter bring her new puppy into my house. It is not fair that I lied and stole in the past and have a future on golden streets. But it is perfect Love that redeems it. And justice will be met, either through eternity separated from God, or through His bearing the crimes and sins on His shoulders at the Cross.

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  11. Michelle, I happened across a used and much-tattered copy of “Waiting for Snow,” not a condition of book I’d usually buy but I remembered someone had said it was a very good book and I bought it and read it. My younger daughter spent five months in Costa Rica during her junior year of high school (it was in that time that her dad was lonely enough to go looking for a wife–he’d planned to wait until she graduated high school). Anyway, she lived with a local family and attended school in a Spanish-speaking school, and became quite fluent. She also fell in love with the country and the culture, and she speaks of going back or of finding another country to visit or minister.

    She talks periodically about Cuba, and I gave her that book. She too thought it was excellent. I didn’t want her to have false romantic pictures of the land, as someone who isn’t old enough to have heard very much about it. She may someday live and minister (likely nursing) in a harsh place, but she needs to know what she is choosing if she does.

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  12. Cheryl, I was trying to remember why you don’t care for nativity scenes? As a child I remember going out in the yard with my dad to gather sticks and things to make one from scratch. It is a wonderful memory. Is it the commercial aspect or that the artist’s rendering can never live up to reality that bothers you?

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  13. Our mail did not arrive until almost 9 p.m. yesterday. Maybe they should have just waited until today because that meant a lot of people left their mail in their boxes overnight and vulnerable to thieves. Maybe in small towns such considerations never come to mind.

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  14. Art has a virus with a fever. Two days in a row I have fixed chicken noodle soup with tofu for his breakfast. He is not happy with that. This morning I reminded him that at least it isn’t squash. Perhaps that thought helped a little. At least his incision site seems better. Since the virus has kept him less mobile that has meant a better chance for healing.

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  15. Kbells, men do that. Most of the time my father hardly notices how the house is decorated, but when a blind or curtain malfunctions when he is using them, then all of a sudden he has an opinion on window coverings 🙂

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  16. What happened is that we needed a new set of sheets and we ended up getting a new bedspread and curtains. He doesn’t like the way the curtains look and has gone to get something to fix it. Looks fine to me.

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  17. I was just reading World’s obituary on Castro. I found this section interesting and deeply ironic:

    In 1952, Fulgencio Batista staged a military coup and appointed himself president. The Washington-backed Batista suspended Cuba’s 1940 Constitution, eliminated most political freedoms, and brutally crushed all opposition. The following year, Castro tried to instigate a revolution, but the government captured, tortured, and killed many of his rebels. At his trial, where Castro was sentenced to 15 years in prison, he defended himself with a four-hour speech calling for various social and economic reforms. He concluded with a statement that became famous: “Condemn me, it does not matter. History will absolve me!”

    After 22 months in prison, Batista released Castro and his gang as part of a public-pressured amnesty. The moment he was free, Castro fled to Mexico. There he enlisted 81 comrades, including the Marxist Argentinean doctor Ernesto “Ché” Guevara, to sail 1,235 nautical miles on a rickety 65-foot yacht called Granma, loaded with food, water, and ammunition. The moment they landed, seasick and starving, Batista’s troops fired upon them, killing and capturing most of the rebels. Castro and his shrunken army vanished among the thick forests of the Sierra Maestra to regroup and plot.

    While the world assumed he was dead, Castro began crafting his public image with the help of a New York Times reporter who came to his camp at the Sierra Maestra. When the picture of a starry-eyed Castro cradling a telescopic rifle made the front-page, people ate it up. He had not yet won the battle, but he’d already won the narrative: Castro was the underdog, the symbol of resistance, moral citizen, courageous warrior.

    Sweeping local support enabled Castro to push his way into Havana and drive out Batista’s regime. Cubans greeted him as a savior, screaming, “Fidel, Fidel, Fidel!” But Castro merely replaced one dictator with another. He ordered more than 500 Batista allies publicly tried and executed. He crushed critical media, dissidents, prostitutes, homosexuals, and even his own moderate-leaning supporters.

    The obvious irony is that Castro was a oppressive as Batista was, but there are other ironies. Another is that Castro’s Communism included what would be called bigotry by progressives today. However, the deepest irony is that the beginning of all this, Batista’s coup and his dictatorship, was backed by none other than Washington. History repeats itself ad nauseum. I think that the story of Castro’s rise to power must have been what inspired Belgian author and artist Herge’s book Tintin et les Picaros (‘Tintin in the place of the Picaros’). I have several Tintin books in the original French (they are good practice) and this one tells an ironic little tale of how Tintin, Captain Haddock, Snowy (Milou in the French), and Professor Calculus (Tournesol en francais) help an old acquaintance, who has been languishing in the jungle of his native Latin American land, mount a successful coup against the dictator of his Lacountry. As Tintin and his friends leave for home, the last pictures and dialogue show that the new president is going to be the same as the old.

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  18. I like the drapes open so I can see the deer during the day, and closed to keep the heat in at night. He likes the drapes closed so the light does not reflect on his computer screen. We compromise. When he is gone, the drapes are open during the day. When he is home, they are closed.

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  19. Today I am watching mule deer bucks fighting. We live in a trophy mule deer buck area. I don’t know what that means. But the deer are fun to watch.

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  20. Janice, the issue with Nativity sets that many reformed churches have is the view that it violates the 2nd commandment

    https://pastorjoev.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/why-did-john-calvin-and-the-reformers-forbid-all-images-of-the-divine-persons/

    In SS last week, the issue of fairness/justice came up and our pastor recounted that story from RC Sproul.

    A paper was due in the class he was teaching on a particular day. He ended up giving an extension as so many didn’t have their work ready.

    Even more people didn’t have their work ready for the deadline on the 2nd class paper. Another grace period was granted.

    The third time, a lot of the students didn’t have their papers ready. Sproul said “no extension.”

    One of the students said “But that’s not fair.”

    Sproul agreed and checked back in his records to find that the student also had missed the first 2 deadlines. So he gave him Fs on all three. “That’s fair,” he said.

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  21. DJ – on the link about the Second Commandment: The thing about the idea that making images, even if they aren’t for the purposes of worship, is still violating the second commandment is that the rest of Scripture doesn’t bear out that idea. Take the golden calf that Aaron made for the purpose of worship – the making of that calf or later of Jeroboam’s golden calves or indeed the prevalent practice of making calf images to worship in the surrounding pagan countries did not make it wrong for Solomon to make the brass cattle that the great basin rested on in the Temple court. I have seen the teaching that making no images extends even to making a mental image. If that is the case, Ezekiel shouldn’t have given such detailed descriptions of the glory of God, because the words he uses to describe the vision certainly produce a mental image. The thing is we know from how idolatry is used in the New Testament – Paul says that it is synonymous with covetous – that one doesn’t need an image to be an idolater. The point that the disciples didn’t make an image of Christ means that we shouldn’t is irrelevant. Their original manuscripts didn’t survive, so if they had ever sketched Christ, such sketch would also not ever have survived and also, they didn’t leave any hymn tunes behind, but we don’t use that as an argument not to sing new tunes in church.

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  22. Mumsee, not entirely, since the only difference between Solomon’s cattle and the calf images were their purpose. The first point in the link says blockquote>The 2nd Commandment forbids not only the worship of man-made images of beings regarded as divine, but also the creation of such images. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image.” The tendency is to run this statement together with what follows (“you shall not bow down to them nor serve them”) to conclude that it is only the worship of such images that is forbidden. Yet the commandment has two imperatives and expressly forbids the making of such images exactly because it is in the nature of man to fall down and worship what he considers to be divine.
    By that argument, Solomon’s cattle, made in the midst of cultures which worshipped cattle images, should not have been made. If the risk of worshipping an image should prevent us from making that image, then Moses should not have made the brass serpent, because that was eventually worshipped as a god.

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  23. Well, it will not let me post a link, no matter what I try (even adding spaces within the link), but it let me post that. ????

    Re the nativity scene: My husband argues the second commandment, as noted above. I’m not sure how compelling that is, simply because I don’t know how close to “worship” nativity sets come for people. I don’t find it a totally worthless argument, however, simply because images do affect us. How many times have you heard people make references to someone or other “looking like Jesus” because artistic renderings of Him have much the same form? (In spite of the fact that we know Jesus did not have long hair–not only was He not a Nazarite but a Nazarene, but it wasn’t all that long after His death that Paul wrote that it’s a shame for a man to have long hair . . . which would have made no sense at all had Jesus worn His hair long.)

    Years ago I was awed by a particular Pieta done by Michaelangelo, of a marble sculpture of the crucified Jesus lying across Mary’s lap. Later I saw a small version of that piece in a catalog, and briefly debated ordering it, but realized almost immediately that I couldn’t order it–there was simply no way the piece would hold no religious significance for me, though I wouldn’t worship it. As a piece or art to briefly see and ponder, it was fine. As a piece to see repeatedly, it was not a good thing. We Protestants have long turned down religious art portraying Christ, whether it be sculptures or stained glass windows or icons or crucifixes . . . and yet we love nativity sets. I remember when I was a teenager, Mom mentioned that Catholics put a figure of Jesus on the cross and make it a crucifix, and we show the cross without Jesus on it because He is no longer there. But that made no sense to me–it isn’t the cross that saves, but Jesus on the cross. Without Jesus, the cross is just a piece of wood. When I found out that the Reformed frequently say “no” to using the Cross as a symbol (pointing out that Jesus gave us the bread and the wine, and water, as memorials, and not a replica of the cross), it made sense to me.

    Let’s see if this posts, and I’ll come back and add more.

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  24. All right, I’ve dealt briefly with the nativity set as “image” of Jesus, which to me is a secondary issue (not the one that has always bothered me, though not necessarily “less important” than mine). Here is mine: The incarnation is the most astounding event in history. Christ’s perfect life and His death and resurrection for mankind could not have happened without it. Prophets predicted it, but seemed not to understand the astounding reality of it: that this coming Messiah would be God Himself.

    Scripture tells us about the way Jesus came to earth, pretty much the same way the rest of us do (only with conception within a virgin preceding that normal birth). But there is very little emphasis placed on the birth. The emphasis in Scripture is on the incarnation, and on its results, not on the birth. When I went to teach a Sunday school lesson on it when I was 13, I was astounded on how little there is about it in Scripture. Only two of the Gospels even mention Jesus’ birth, and they spend more time in the genealogies than the birth.

    We’ve taken this amazing story, a marvel to angels and the death knell to Satan, prophesied for centuries . . . and we’ve made it cute. That is my problem with nativity sets (and with women angels), that we have taken the majesty and made it cute.

    One of our two nativity sets was a Precious Moments one. I was rather shocked when I joined this household that it had a Precious Moments nativity set. When I mentioned it privately to my husband, he admitted he couldn’t stand it either, but at that point it was simply part of the traditional trappings within the family decoration. But when last year we said we would no longer put up the nativity sets, one daughter expressed her happiness with the decision; one, her surprise and dismay. That makes three out of four of us who came to the same conclusion, separately.

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  25. I’m going to try the link again (which has nothing to do with the discussion above, but is something I found when looking up Castro): Good piece (long) on freedom and communism by Rose Wilder Lane (yes, Laura’s daughter): panarchy. org/ lane/liberty .html

    I took off the http and www (since those get added automatically) and added some spaces within the link (they’ll need to be removed) to see if somehow that will let it go through.

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  26. OK, it still won’t let me post a link, and the one I was trying has nothing to do with the above discussion. But in looking up Castro, somehow I ended up finding a booklet by Rose Wilder Lane (yes, Laura’s daughter) on American freedom and individualism and communism. It’s quite long (a booklet, not just a short essay) but fascinating. It’s called “Give Me Liberty,” and it’s available in its entirety online, or also in booklet form, but I just can’t post a link to it so you’ll have to goggle it yourself.

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  27. OK, I’ve got my goggles on, but I still can’t see it.

    Sorry — couldn’t resist. 😉

    I found it, but couldn’t copy/paste the link, either. The booklet can be found in its entirety if you google Rose Wilder Lane Give Me Liberty and click on the 2nd listing. (At panarchy.org.) Looks good — I’ll have to read it later.

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  28. Well, I daresay that Christ as a baby and small child was cute – very few children are not cute at those ages. Christ, from his Incarnation, was not only God the Son, but also the Son of man. His humanity was the means of our salvation, so recalling it is no dishonor to him.

    The Incarnation is wrapped up in the Birth. There may be only two accounts of Christ’s birth in the Gospels, but in those accounts, how many Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled. Every detailed is laced with significance, from the mysterious Magi to the lowly manger, from the angel’s announcement to the shepherds to the brief entrance of Anna, from the small fact that there was no room in the inn to the terrible slaughter of the infants of Bethlehem. If we are to rank the importance of events of Christ’s time on earth by how frequently and to what length they are related in the Gospels, we will not get very far. John’s Gospel is full of accounts and, more importantly, teaching which only appear in his Gospel. John is the only one to tell of Lazarus’ raising, for example, or the meeting with the Samaritan woman, or the healing of the blind man in the temple, yet those events have an enormous amount to tell us about who Christ was. Justin Martyr in c. 150 A. D. used the entire Nativity story in his dialogue with a Jewish philosopher, Trypho, in order to prove that Christ was the promised Messiah – it is a vital part of the Gospel.

    As for the Nativity scene itself, I regard it as I regard other illustrations of Bible stories, as a teaching tool. It is easy to say among a literate population that we should just use words, but I have seen the effectiveness of wetting the curiosity of the illiterate with pictorial illustrations.

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  29. I have to make baked spaghetti.

    Just got up from a 3-hour nap, what a treat. I was very tired.

    It started raining just as I dropped off but had stopped/paused when I got up. Figured I’d walk the dogs, but now it’s raining hard again. Poor babies.

    What a beautiful sound. 🙂

    (And I put out a small Nativity set in my house at Christmastime, I was just posting the link by way of answering the question about what the objection — commercialism? — to it would be. Our pastor feels strongly about it and won’t see movies that depict Christ.)

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  30. Personally, I’m somewhat agnostic on the issue though I lean more toward not promoting / using / hanging up depictions than not. The Nativity at Christmas (for me) doesn’t strictly fall within the graven image category.

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  31. Yep, 6 Arrows, the panarchy one is the one I was trying to post, too.

    This was interesting from Donna’s link on the second commandment: “6. Christians today need to be especially clear about these matters, given the growing number of popular films that portray Jesus. As well-made as “The Passion of the Christ,” “The Jesus Film,” “Jesus of Nazareth,” and “The Son of God” may be, they violate the 2nd Commandment in that they are riddled with graven images of an imaginary Christ, leaving in their wake a mental image of Jesus that is a gross corruption of the true Christ. We must especially resist the idea of using such films to promote Christian evangelism. Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17), not by watching graven images set to film.”

    Years ago I somehow got on the mailing list for “The Jesus Film.” And I’d get all this literature about how a conversion through them cost on average only fifty cents per capita. (They didn’t use that exact wording, but yes I think they did tell us people got saved for an average cost of fifty cents.) It was so icky to me, partly just thinking it through: you go to a culture that isn’t used to movies, and you show this video, where a man speaking your language does amazing things, and then he dies and comes back to life–and you see it all with your own eyes! How many of those “conversions” are simply misunderstanding the media (not faith in Jesus at all, but having seen the actor actually do those things)? God can use any means, and probably does occasionally use that one. But that doesn’t mean it’s a proper one–I believe we are to witness using the Word of God proclaimed, not video re-enactments of part of the story.

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  32. One of my concerns with the church we currently attend is the large “portrait” of the gentle long haired Jesus. But it hangs right above where I sit so I rarely see it. But now and then notice. They say they know it is not really Him and is not an accurate picture, but why is it there? What I like about the church is the focus on weekly communion. The center of the service is communion.

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  33. A local mega church near me where many friends through the years have gone — fairly orthodox/evangelical though definitely arminian theologically in its leaning — frequently presents plays, musicals and other artistic programs that sometime include an “actor” portraying Christ.

    Last time I attended one of those it was a very uncomfortable feeling, to be honest. It just seemed really odd. …

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  34. This is Justin Martyr’s account of the Nativity, which is interesting not only for the proof that Matthew and Luke’s Gospels had been definitely written and established as canon by the time of Justin’s writing, but also for proof of how little the interpretation of Scripture’s meaning by Christians has changed over the centuries. The Scripture passage that is being discussed at the beginning is Isaiah 7:

    ‘Then Trypho said, “I admit that such and so great arguments are sufficient to persuade one; but I wish [you] to know that I ask you for the proof which you have frequently proposed to give me. Proceed then to make this plain to us, that we may see how you prove that that [passage] refers to this Christ of yours. For we assert that the prophecy relates to Hezekiah.”

    ‘And I replied, “I shall do as you wish. But show me yourselves first of all how it is said of Hezekiah, that before he knew how to call father or mother, he received the power of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria in the presence of the king of Assyria. For it will not be conceded to you, as you wish to explain it, that Hezekiah waged war with the inhabitants of Damascus and Samaria in presence of the king of Assyria. ‘For before the child knows how to call father or mother,’ the prophetic word said, ‘He shall take the power of Damascus and spoils of Samaria in presence of the king of Assyria.’ For if the Spirit of prophecy had not made the statement with an addition, ‘Before the child knows how to call father or mother, he shall take the power of Damascus and spoils of Samaria,’ but had only said, ‘And shall bear a son, and he shall take the power of Damascus and spoils of Samaria,’ then you might say that God foretold that he would take these things, since He foreknew it. But now the prophecy has stated it with this addition: ‘Before the child knows how to call father or mother, he shall take the power of Damascus and spoils of Samaria.’ And you cannot prove that such a thing ever happened to any one among the Jews. But we are able to prove that it happened in the case of our Christ. For at the time of His birth, Magi who came from Arabia worshipped Him, coming first to Herod, who then was sovereign in your land, and whom the Scripture calls king of Assyria on account of his ungodly and sinful character. For you know,” continued I, “that the Holy Spirit oftentimes announces such events by parables and similitudes; just as He did towards all the people in Jerusalem, frequently saying to them, ‘Thy father is an Amorite, and thy mother a Hittite.’

    ‘”Now this king Herod, at the time when the Magi came to him from Arabia, and said they knew from a star which appeared in the heavens that a King had been born in your country, and that they had come to worship Him, learned from the elders of your people that it was thus written regarding Bethlehem in the prophet: ‘And thou, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art by no means least among the princes of Judah; for out of thee shall go forth the leader who shall feed my people.’ Accordingly the Magi from Arabia came to Bethlehem and worshipped the child, and presented Him with gifts, gold and frankincense, and myrrh; but returned not to Herod, being warned in a revelation after worshipping the child in Bethlehem. And Joseph, the spouse of Mary, who wished at first to put away his betrothed Mary, supposing her to be pregnant by intercourse with a man, i.e. from fornication, was commanded in a vision not to put away his wife; and the angel who appeared to him told him that what is in her womb is of the Holy Ghost. Then he was afraid, and did not put her away; but on the occasion of the first census which was taken in Judaea, under Cyrenius, he went up from Nazareth, where he lived, to Bethlehem, to which he belonged, to be enrolled; for his family was of the tribe of Judah, which then inhabited that region. Then along with Mary he is ordered to proceed into Egypt, and remain there with the child until another revelation warn them to return into Judæa. But when the child was born in Bethlehem, since Joseph could not find a lodging in that village, he took up his quarters in a certain cave near the village; and while they were there Mary brought forth the Christ and placed Him in a manger, and here the Magi who came from Arabia found Him. I have repeated to you,” I continued, “what Isaiah foretold about the sign which foreshadowed the cave; but for the sake of those who have come with us to-day, I shall again remind you of the passage.” Then I repeated the passage from Isaiah which I have already written, adding that, by means of those words, those who presided over the mysteries of Mithras were stirred up by the devil to say that in a place, called among them a cave, they were initiated by him.[Note by roscuro: The cult of Mithras, which involved a belief about a god who lived and died, was a popular one in Rome at this time.]

    ‘”So Herod, when the Magi from Arabia did not return to him, as he had asked them to do, but had departed by another way to their own country, according to the commands laid on them; and when Joseph, with Mary and the child, had now gone into Egypt, as it was revealed to them to do; as he did not know the child whom the Magi had gone to worship, ordered simply the whole of the children then in Bethlehem to be massacred. And Jeremiah prophesied that this would happen, speaking by the Holy Ghost thus: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and much wailing, Rachel weeping for her children; and she would not be comforted, because they are not.’ Therefore, on account of the voice which would be heard from Ramah, i.e. from Arabia (for there is in Arabia at this very time a place called Rama), wailing would come on the place where Rachel the wife of Jacob called Israel, the holy patriarch, has been buried, i.e. on Bethlehem; while the women weep for their own slaughtered children, and have no consolation by reason of what has happened to them. For that expression of Isaiah, ‘He shall take the power of Damascus and spoils of Samaria,’ foretold that the power of the evil demon that dwelt in Damascus should be overcome by Christ as soon as He was born; and this is proved to have happened. For the Magi, who were held in bondage for the commission of all evil deeds through the power of that demon, by coming to worship Christ, show that they have revolted from that dominion which held them captive; and this [dominion] the Scripture has showed us to reside in Damascus. Moreover, that sinful and unjust power is termed well in parable, Samaria. And none of you can deny that Damascus was, and is, in the region of Arabia, although now it belongs to what is called Syrophœnicia. Hence it would be becoming for you, sirs, to learn what you have not perceived, from those who have received grace from God, namely, from us Christians; and not to strive in every way to maintain your own doctrines, dishonouring those of God. Therefore also this grace has been transferred to us, as Isaiah says, speaking to the following effect: ‘This people draws near to me, they honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; but in vain they worship me, teaching the commands and doctrines of men. Therefore, behold, I will proceed to remove this people, and I shall remove them; and I shall take away the wisdom of their wise men, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent men.'”‘

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  35. Mumsee, I have been remembering my delicious gingerbread cookies. I use to make gingerbread turkey cookies for Thanksgiving. Or sometimes I used a cookie cutter in the shape of a gingerbread house for Christmas cookies.

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  36. Thanks to those sharing information about the nativity sets. I had not realized how they were viewed in the Reformed tradition. Are picture storybooks about Jesus not used with young children in Reformed churches? I do remember attending an Orthodox church and feeling quite shocked to see a huge icon, “The Mother of God,” who held the infant Jesus on the wall. My immediate reaction was to feel repelled by it. I have never felt that way about nativity sets. Since my church does a Living Nativity drive through each year, I guess that would be upon, too? This gives me a lot to think about and pray about.

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  37. A 2nd area code??!

    Is one now more prestigious than the other?

    I still remember the battle when they wanted to split the tony “310” area code and throw some 310 folks into a 323 zone. We were outraged.

    So far, we’re still in 310 (basically the westside coastal area).

    We all used to be 213, now that’s just for downtown areas (323 now takes in much of Hollywood).

    When I was kid, we still had letter prefixes on our phones — ours was OR (for Orchard)

    The politics of area codes.

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  38. I don’t care for the Jesus’ film myself, but I liked ‘The Nativity Story’ despite the rather random over dramatic interpolations. Perhaps that is because, unlike actors portraying adult Jesus, the fact that newborn babies are very ambiguous in their appearance (their looks change so fast as they grow) doesn’t really make any statement about Christ’s physical appearance. That is true for Nativity scenes as well, the baby in the manger is a very generic one. I’m all for making illustrations of Jesus as generic as possible. I don’t have problems with portraying Christ, since he did become flesh and dwell among us, but I don’t want the picture to be always the same. I like Michelangelo’s first ‘Pieta’ for that reason, the man in the statue has no hair or eye colour to stick in your mind, what you remember is the sorrow on the woman’s face as she bends over him. One illustration that a missionary said was very effective in provoking curious inquiries was a picture of a man’s foot with a bite mark on the ankle stomping on the head of a snake. The people of the place had good reason to fear snakes, and the image of a man who had been bitten crushing the snake was very stirring to them.

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  39. Janice, I’m guessing there’s a continuum of some sort in most churches – but you probably will never see a painting of Jesus hanging anywhere in the building. 🙂

    Of course, there’s also the U.S. flag issue (we don’t have one but interestingly my former Quaker church did) …

    And the Christmas decorations in general (greenery, etc. — former Presby church forbid most of all that, this one enjoys the season)

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  40. I do not like to see pictures of Jesus, particularly the tall, brown-haired blue eyed English- looking Jesus. Jesus was a Jew, so I’ve always thought it likely that he was shorter and somewhat darker. I find those anglicized pictures distracting at the least. My husband used to have a picture of Jesus walking on the water and the frantic disciples in the boat. He found that inspirational—and I guess it was in a way. It was lost in the move to TN.

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  41. Just checked the new, long slider window in the computer room at the back of the house — no leaks. 🙂 That was the old metal window that seeped from the top and required me to roll up towels on the bottom ledge to absorb the rain.

    This is very nice. 🙂 That’s the least “pretty” window I got (inevitable due to the long modern-style space), but how nice to have it sealing the water (and excessive temperatures) out. …

    The sliding door is interesting as it’s one with the double-pane glass (with gas in between, don’t ask me to explain that) and a filter on it to keep out the heat and glare & other effects of the sun. It almost looks like and “HD” view, everything this so crystal clear looking out (not necessarily a good thing with the patio in the shape it’s int, but … ).

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  42. Remember the pic of English Jesus laughing? 🙂 I remember that hanging at a retreat I attended in NY one winter (it was a Roman Catholic facility but the retreat was inter-denominational).

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  43. Donna, a couple years ago, one of my relatives posted criticism of certain innocent Christmas traditions, including the Christmas tree, claiming pagan origins. I pointed out the instruction in Leviticus 23:40 to use the branches of trees in the celebration of the Feast of Sukkoth to demonstrate that humanity could use greenery for godly celebrations. In much the same way that Solomon’s brass cattle bore a resemblance to pagan golden calves but had an entirely different purpose, so the use of greenery in a Christian and pagan festival may look similar but have no relation to one another. FYI: There is no clear link between ancient pagan festivals and the tradition of the Christmas tree. The first records of Christmas trees being used appeared in regions of Germany during the Renaissance, which was nearly a millennia after the first Christian missionaries brought the Gospel to pagan Germania, and were considered a Protestant tradition by Catholics.

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  44. Thanks to a bigger narthex (following our remodel a couple summers ago), our church Christmas tree now can be outside the sanctuary. …

    I’m thinking of decorating the live (humongous) Christmas tree in my backyard this year, as long as it doesn’t involve a too-tall ladder.

    We decorated the pine trees at the dog park when they were little and first planted years ago (2008). That was so fun. Now, they’re all too tall.

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  45. AX8 (Axtel) was our phone exchange. I remember when radio stations started getting the last 4 digits of their phone numbers as the call letters. Later on businesses got all 7 digits such that one could spell letters for their name.

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  46. Roscuro, I know something can be important and not much said about it–it’s just that “cute little baby” seems not at all Scripture’s emphasis. I’m sure Jesus as a baby was cute–but His babyhood wasn’t the “point” of the incarnation, but it’s often what we emphasize. And I have zero problem with pictorial representations to help people understand–maybe some nation has never seen sheep, for example, and you show them photos of sheep, or maps of some region if they understand maps. I think that’s different from a video of Jesus’ life, with an actor playing Jesus, where you are then asking for a life commitment to Jesus–especially among people who have never seen video and don’t understand the concept of “acting.”

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  47. Debra and Donna, the worst are the pictures of a blond, blue-eyed Jesus. That was one thing that was weird about the ‘Jesus’ film, since the extras in that film were cast from Israel and hence had dark eyes and hair, but the actor playing the role of Jesus was blond.

    However, blue eyes are actually not unknown in that region of the world, despite the prevalence of brown eyes and black hair. The Kurds of Iraq, Turkey, and Syria, and the Pashtuns of Pakistan and Afghanistan both are known for having blue eyes.

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  48. Oh yes, DJ I had a tiny drawing of the english Jesus laughing many years ago. It was about 2″ square and I had it on my desk at work. One day a little black lady came in the office for an appointment and as she was waiting she looked over at my picture and said “Who is that?!”. And I said oh, it’s a non-traditional drawing of Jesus laughing. And her eyes got fiery and she snapped: “That’s not Jesus! Jesus was BLACK!”

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  49. Ok, confession: I bought a copy of that when I came home from the retreat. But I never truly felt comfortable with hanging it anywhere, it was given away many years ago, shortly after I bought it.

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  50. Cheryl, one could argue that Christ’s ministry was also not the ‘point’ of his Incarnation, but that would be missing the point. Christ had to live as well as die for us to be saved. That our God was a baby is of enormous significance in emphasizing both his humanity and his deity. In order to be really Incarnated, like the rest of us Jesus had to start his life on earth as a baby, helpless and dependent on his parents; needing, as a Jew, to be circumcised eight days after his birth. His going to the Temple as an infant so that his mother could be purified after forty days was of enormous significance to Simon, who had been promised he would not die until he had seen the Christ, and also to us who read the words of Simon. Christ, in his ministry, was angry with his disciples when they turned the little children away and said that we must become as little children to follow him. Paul later picked up on the importance of children when he warned fathers not to exasperate their children. Christian teaching on the value of children has helped to improve the lot of children since the Incarnation – just as one example, the sexual abuse of children was common in the Roman Empire in much the same way it is still practiced in places like Afghanistan today, but in Western nations, such abuse is still considered abhorrent. That value of children is due to the Christ who was made of a woman.

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  51. Haha. Busted, DJ.

    Roscuro, my husband had cousins from the Caspian Sea area and they had blonde hair and blue eyes. And I’m told it’s not all that uncommon for the area.

    I was able to tolerate the laughing Jesus because of the unusual posture and the fact that it was a black and white sketch. But I put it away after the incident at work. I decided there were things worth offending for, but a questionable sketch of the Savior was not one of them….And, it was a Jewish law office.. 😀

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  52. It was when I was a Quaker and anything went 🙂 — it struck me at the time as a unique depiction of Jesus in his humanity.

    Spaghetti casserole in the works, on the stove …

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  53. I might add to what I just wrote, that it is the fact that Christ, God manifest in the flesh, was born to a woman which is so offensive to Jews and Muslims and that even those who claim to be Christian struggle with the idea of God being associated with human birth. The Catholic belief in the sinlesseness of Mary (a sinlessness which is attributed to a retroactive application of Christ’s blood) is due to the fact that they have a hard time with the idea of a sinful woman carrying the Son of God, and I once read a comment on a YouTube video of a Christmas song I was listening to, made by a Muslim, which said “How could God pass through the birth canal of a woman?” Oh yes, Christ’s birth was very important in establishing his humanity.

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  54. Birth is a messy process. Bloody and messy. I think that is largely lost in our sanitized celebrations of Christmas. (unless you count the mess created by all the opened packages).

    I have often looked for an angel figure that looks like a warrior rather than a girlie girl. Not having found one, I don’t usually put angels on the tree.

    I don’t usually have a nativity scene either. However, just this year I bought a nativity scene—-in a snow globe. I never expected to find a nativity I liked in such a place, so I was surprised. I looked carefully at it before I purchased. The features are not that distinct and the characters are all one color–so it’s like a shadow. But the symbol of the event, although very traditional, is beautifully depicted. Good symbols are important because they stimulate the memory.

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  55. Roscuro – YF, although considering herself a devout Christian, often shares things on Facebook that could also easily be shared by anti-Christians. A couple years ago, she decided to educate her friends on how our Christmas traditions were merely ripped off of pagan traditions. She wrote that pagans would bring evergreen trees (not only boughs) into their homes, insisting that calling our decorated trees Holiday Trees was more correct than calling them Christmas trees.

    Before I could reply, a friend of hers said that she herself was a pagan, knew what paganism is, & had never heard of that. I was glad to see someone other than me, the conservative Christian, trying to correct her.

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  56. I also don’t like pictures of Jesus. I don’t use books that show Him with my class.
    I do have a collection of Nativity sets. I have one from Africa and others. None of mine are cutesy, like the precious moments. Most are wooden. Still looking for a warrior angel, too.

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  57. Debra – You said it was sugar-free, so you can have it! (For anyone who wonders what we’re talking about, this is referring to a couple comments on one of Kim’s Facebook posts.)

    Do you remember Hood’s Ice Cream from when you lived in Connecticut? Their Golden Vanilla is my favorite vanilla ice cream.

    Before you started using your name on the WMB, didn’t you use initials? I was trying to remember, because seeing “DJ” reminds me of you, although I know it’s really that California reporter girl. 🙂

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  58. Roscuro, I’m not at all saying it was unimportant that Jesus came as a helpless baby. But the secular understanding of Christmas is a cute baby, nothing more. I have no problem with the idea of Christmas as celebrating the incarnation . . . it’s the idea of “little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes”–a cute little baby we can kiss on the head and go about our business without another thought–that troubles me.

    We are in a world that sees no conflict at all with using a cute baby on a billboard to sell random products, while we also rip babies from the womb and look askance at any mother who dares bear more than her allowed two children. Our culture doesn’t need the correction of “cute baby”: we have that in abundance (as long as that baby doesn’t cry or otherwise disturb us, and we know from the carols this baby doesn’t).

    But Jesus didn’t come to earth just to be a baby, or to remind us to treat children better, or any such thing. (I know you weren’t saying that.) My hunch is that the average completely unchurched unbeliever can associate “Jesus” with “baby in a manger” but perhaps not with “the Man who was raised from the dead.” Jesus as baby is basically Shirley Temple sweetness, not the God of heaven come to earth because our sins demand judgment, and He was taking our judgment. So celebrate the incarnation, but not just “Jesus as baby.” It’s like looking at a marriage by looking only at the wedding day. There’s more to it!

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  59. DJ was what I used for a time, then just Debra or DebraN. I noticed some had new names. I always prefer my name if it’s available and for some reason I didn’t think it was at first.

    Hoods Ice Cream was great! And if we hang around here long enough I’m thinking California girl will pull that spaghetti casserole out of the oven. I’d almost stick around just for the smell. :–)

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  60. I hadn’t looked at the LA area code map in awhile. It looks like there are 7 area codes now where it used to be all 213. If I remember right, it all remained 213 until shortly after I graduated from college, when the northern part of the area became 818. I see even that is now split in two. Who can keep up?

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  61. I use my nativity sets (yes, I have more than one) to bring my focus back to the why of Christmas and the wonder and salvation Christ’s birth brought to me. I would like to have a warrior angel for my main set.

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  62. The first phone number I learned was Dickens 32632, in Reseda. It was my parents’ phone number for 47 years, though I’m not sure my younger siblings remember the Dickens form.

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  63. Good early morning, fellow wanderers! I got home from Thanksgiving in Bandera yesterday. The Internet service is almost non-existent where my parents live–so that’s why I haven’t been around.

    I’m so thankful to be home.

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  64. Welcome home Ann — hope all went well.

    Michelle, I’ve seen the Terminal numbers on old ads. My editor remembers they had a party line when he was growing up but I don’t remember that we had one of those — but maybe.

    Everything’s wet outside this morning, so nice to see. And more rain expected through the morning, off and on.

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  65. Cheryl, throughout this province at Christmas time, major orchestras and choruses are putting on performances of Handel’s ‘Messiah’. Secular performers, such as the group Pentatonix, are putting out Christmas albums that contain traditional carols like ‘God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” and “Joy to the World”, carols which clearly state the gospel. Curious people from other religions come to Christmas events at churches because they want to know about this thing called Christmas that Christians celebrate. As Paul said, “Notwithstanding, whether in pretence, or in truth, every way Christ is preached, and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice” (Philippians 1:18). God sent angels to announce the birth of his Son and Magi with rich gifts to give to him. He marked the event in the first place. Like a wedding anniversary, we are simply setting aside a time to remember it and we have the ear of the world as we do so.

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  66. Besides, ‘Away in a manger’ isn’t even representative of the content of the majority of carols. Most carols are actually little encapsulations of the Gospel. They usually pull no punches, like this:

    Remember O thou man
    thy time is spent:
    how thou art dead and gone,
    And I did what I can,
    therefore repent!

    Remember Adam’s fall
    o thou man
    From heav’n to hell!
    How we were condemned all
    In hell perpetual,
    There for to dwell.

    Remember God’s goodness,
    o thou man,
    And promise made!
    How he sent his son, doubtless
    Our sins for to redress:
    Be not afraid!

    The angels all did sing,
    o thou man,
    On heav’n’s high hill;
    Praise to our hean’nly King,
    And peace to man living,
    With a good will.

    In Beth’lem He was born,
    o thou man,
    For mankind’s sake;
    For us that were forlorn,
    And therefore took no scorn,
    Our flesh to take.

    Give thanks to God always,
    o thou man,
    with heart most joyfully,
    For this is our happy day,
    let all men sing and say:
    “Holy, Holy!”

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  67. and that is why I will be happy to be relegated to the back forty. No way can my voice do any of those things. But it will be beautiful to hear!

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  68. I have two of my nativity sets out. I also have two trees up this year. One is my tree and one is Mr. P’s tree with his grandmother’s ornaments and his Alabama football ornaments. It also has colored lights on it. He is happy and I am happy.

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  69. Roscuro, I agree about having some opportunity to have culture’s “ear.” I was simply explaining (when asked) why I personally do not like nativity sets. I don’t object to other people using them. For me, they’re not helpful, and I was glad to find my husband feels the same way and we could forgo putting them up.

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  70. Though I don’t like pictures of Kjesus, I can imagine him laughing once in a while. After all, it’s hard not to laugh with children around.

    Surrounded by children this evening celebrating the 4th birthday of #3 grandchild. They stopped here on their way home from the other grandparents’ house. It’s a 5.5 hour drive from there to where they live, so our house makes a good stopping place for them.

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  71. Busy day for me today, after church I noticed that Tess had a nasty infection or something on the outside of one of her ear flaps — off to the vet ER where she was given an antibiotic shot & pills, but I’ll still need to get her in to see my vet first thing in the morning. Meanwhile, I’ll be juggling the bathtub deliver tomorrow …

    A rainy – turned blustery cold day for us today, it’s gorgeous outside.

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  72. I, too, thought about NJL the other day. I wonder if God is nudging us all to pray for her?
    I don’t understand Neapolitan ice cream.
    WIndsor 6 9045 (until i was 10).

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  73. Greetings to the night owls! I am trying to catch up on the blog. I have had a very event full couple of weeks. At work this evening, so have a few minutes to comment.

    I have a rub board and have used it quite a few times.

    We do put out nativity sets. I do not have any “cute” ones. I find it a good way to tell little ones the story of Christ’s birth. I have a small house, so wait as long as possible to put up decorations.

    I have an old “picture” of Jesus that hangs in the bedroom. My husband, who grew up Catholic, bou g ht me a new frame for it last year. I have no idea where it came from, but it hung in my bedroom all my life. I can remember waking from a nightmare, and receiving comfort from finding it on the wall. I have kept it all these years on the wall in the children’s bedroom, as a reminder to them that Jesus is always there.

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  74. At Thanksgiving, we always go around the group and everyone says what they are thankful for. My 9 year old grandson said “I am thankful Hillary did not get elected”. Daughter says his goal is to one day be president.

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  75. RKessler, my 12-year-old son would like to be president one day, too, he says. Maybe between your grandson and my son, one can be the running mate for the other. 😉

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  76. 5th and 6th Arrows did some Thanksgiving-related writing activities this month. One was to list some things/people you are thankful for. Some suggestions were given, and below them were several lines on which they could write their thoughts.

    Fifth Arrow (younger son), on a day very shortly after my older son moved out, simply wrote two words:

    “My brother”

    Those two boys are almost 14 years apart, but have such a neat bond. A blessing to see. God is so good.

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  77. My brother and his son came from the Seattle area for Thanksgiving. It is the first time my son remembers meeting him. For the last couple of days, his observations have included Uncle Johnny, such as “Uncle Johnny should be home by now”, etc.

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  78. No, he did not. It was a big disappointment for us. And, it looks like he will have to have knee surgery. ACL reconstruction.

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  79. I’m sorry he didn’t get the job. Praying for you as you wait for what the Lord has for you.

    Our nativity set was among the items I couldn’t find this year when pulling the Christmas things out of storage. We have a too-stuffed under-stairs closet where it could be, or it may have been taken out to the shed, which is where some items got put last year. If it turns up, we’ll put it on display; if not, we’re not going to spend time hunting for it.

    Christmas music: I played in a Christmas piano concert last December, and will do so again this Saturday. Most of the pieces on last year’s program were religious in nature, though we perform at a secular venue.

    And again this year, there are many religious pieces, about 2/3 of them: Jesu Bambino, Away in the Manger, What Child Is This, Silent Night, In the Bleak Midwinter, He is Born the Divine Christ Child, Go Tell It On the Mountain, and the three I’m playing — O Come O Come Emmanuel, Infant Holy Infant Lowly, and Huron Carol.

    Liked by 4 people

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