Thinking Out Loud

December 22, 2016

Christmas Alone

cd-on-cd-editedI’ve mentioned elsewhere on the blog that each Christmas Day our family has assisted, in varying degrees, with a project started here over a decade ago, the Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day.

The December 25th noontime meal — a full turkey-and-all-the-trimmings dinner — originated in a community that my wife co-founded, the purpose of which was to serve people on the margins, people living on welfare, or working people unable to have good, nutritious, tasty food.

But as we engaged people in conversation, we realized that many people attending were people of means. There was a donation box if people cared to help out, and some of these people had no hesitation in dropping a $20 bill or even $50. The reason is simple: They just didn’t want to be alone on Christmas Day. They wanted to feel part of a community.

Many of these accomplished this by serving as volunteers. There was no shortage of people willing to help in the kitchen — where my oldest son served as lead cook — or as table hosts. If pressed however, they would confess that their need to be with other people on the 25th was equal or greater to the poor people we were serving, but it was social, not financial.

cd-on-cd-generic

Alone on Christmas Day.

That’s something I can’t imagine. In her later years, transporting my mom to our place simply got too complicated. As I stated, my wife had been a co-founder of the organization from which the Christmas Dinner was a spinoff, but we hadn’t attended the earlier iterations of it because of my mother staying with us. But when that ceased to be an option — we then visited her on the 26th — she told us how the seniors’ home pretty much cleared out on the 25th, with only a core staff and a handful of residents. I would imagine some of her fellow residents felt rather melancholy. At least my mom got a couple of phone calls and knew we’d be there the next day.

Well…all that to say this…

I came across something on social media that arrested me in my tracks earlier today. A group of people for whom the holidays means loneliness and isolation, because they can’t go home. The writer posted:

A shout-out and lots of love and good wishes to LGBTQ members who can’t go home for the holidays because of hate and misunderstanding

Wow.

So…told not to come home, or choosing a self-imposed exile?

In the former case, I can’t imagine saying to one of my kids, “We don’t want you here.” But it happens. I’ll bet it happens many times with Christian parents, too.

In the latter case, I can’t imagine one of my kids feeling so unwanted — feeling so strongly that going home is not an option — that they would prefer to stay away. Sad to say, I’ll bet some of those are Christian homes as well.

But this isn’t an issue in my family. That’s why the social media post shocked me, I guess.

Thankfully, another group in a nearby community is doing the Christmas Dinner this year. It’s actually the town where the first one started, but then the event was split into two locations. While I don’t know the serving team — and we’ve opted to stay home this year — I’m glad there is a place for people to go on the 25th.

Clearly, the above example illustrates we don’t always know why people show up for something like this, and in the case of a younger person who simply isn’t welcome with the rest of their family, they’re not likely to want to share the whole story.

But we can be thankful that people organize events like the Christmas Dinner. If there’s one in your community, contact them and ask if they’re in need of any last-minute food donations or kitchen help. Sometimes it’s just a matter of peeling potatoes the day before and you can still do your own Christmas thing on the day.

It will bless you as much as it blesses them.

 


A disclaimer: Sadly, among readers here will be those who have no sympathy for this situation at all, and others who may assume that by posting this I have strong gay sympathies. I hope instead you will reconsider the teachings of Jesus in general and in particular the Parable of the Prodigal Son and realize that our only response in a situation like this is love and acceptance. Heck, even countries at war will announce a cease-fire for Christmas Day. How can we not do the same?

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March 21, 2015

Weekend Link List

Spring Retail Comic

Tony Campolo Speaks Candidly About Bart Campolo – “I really could have done a better job of nurturing my son in the ‘nurture and admonition of the Lord.’ I could have spent more time listening to him and answering his questions. Sadly, what is done in time is irrevocable.” But then there’s this: “He brings to that humanist community all the zeal, and then some, that I have tried to bring to the preaching of a holistic gospel all the many, many years of my life. He pointed out that the secular humanists on campus had very little in the way of community, and he hoped that something of the sense of community that he felt as a teenager in an evangelical youth group might be evident among these University of Southern California students. He unashamedly declares that he wants the secular humanists to have something of a sense of mission, which he sees as all too absent among them.”

The First Church of TED – New York Times: “I grew up among Christian evangelicals and I recognize the cadences of missionary zeal when I hear them. TED, with its airy promises, sounds a lot like a secular religion…A great TED talk is reminiscent of a tent revival sermon. There’s the gathering of the curious and the hungry. Then a persistent human problem is introduced, one that, as the speaker gently explains, has deeper roots and wider implications than most listeners are prepared to admit. Once everyone has been confronted with this evidence of entropy, contemplated life’s fragility and the elusiveness of inner peace, a decision is called for: Will you remain complacent, or change?

We Have More Contact with Social Media, But We’re More Lonely – “Mental health providers have noticed a significant uptick in ‘skin hunger.’ This is basically the adult version of failure to thrive and the core issue is that so many of us go all day without any meaningful physical or emotional contact with others… Once I started digging I found lonely women in every demographic… I identify several ‘modern day Trojan horses.’ These are things we think are a gift, so we wheel them into the gates of our lives, but eventually they turn and attack the things we most treasure, mainly our relationships. Technology is one of these Trojan horses, but certainly not the only one.”

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? We Do! – “Never mind the outspoken Christian leaders who reject the Big Bang and human evolution; nearly 70 percent of rank-and-file evangelicals in the United States say they don’t see religion and science as being totally at odds, a new survey found… Among evangelical Christians, about 48 percent said they see science and religion as complementary to one another, while 21 percent think science and religion refer to different aspects of reality and see them as entirely independent of one another, the survey found.”

Facebook Bans Christian Organization’s Ad – All the advertisement said was, “I Am A Christian – Join the movement at: http://www.YesIAmAChristian.com”.  But Facebook replied, “Your ad wasn’t approved because it doesn’t follow Facebook’s Advertising Guidelines for language that is profane, vulgar, threatening or generates high negative feedback. Ads can’t use language that insults, harasses or demeans people, or addresses their age, gender, name, race, physical condition or sexual preference.” Wait, what? Pressed for clarification a website official replied, “Your ad wasn’t approved because it doesn’t follow our language policies. We’ve found that people dislike ads that directly address them or their personal characteristics such as religion.”

Why The Dones are Done – Small church advocate Karl Vaters copies a list of reasons people are leaving their place of worship, then notes: “None of the things people usually leave the church over are things that actually define the church. The church is two simple things – neither of which almost anyone wants to be done with. The church is people loving Jesus and loving others. When former churchgoers say they’re done with church, they’re seldom actually done with loving Jesus or loving others. What they’re done with is the extras we’ve attached to Jesus and people – often at the expense of the two essentials.”

A Never Ending Supply of Made-Up Words – “Though I myself find most doctrinal disagreements to be a major snoozefest…I have managed to acquire over the years a small set of really interesting tidbits that for me represent the highlight of the Calvinism-Arminianism debate. It’s the Calminians and the Arvinists! If you take a close look at those two words—Calminian and Arvinist—you’ll see that they are basically the two halves of the words Calvinist and Arminian that have been chopped and glued back together with their rival halves. This right here is the kind of Christian slang that moves me to the edge of the proverbial seat and makes me literally push my glasses higher on the bridge of my nose. This is linguistic gold, ladies and gentlemen.” Then, the author at The Dictionary of Christianese, pursues this in a depth greater than many doctoral theses.

For Those Who Say They Don’t Want a Funeral – “I wanted no funeral. I didn’t want people standing up to testify to what a great guy Stan was. ‘He served Christ so faithfully, for so many years.’ ‘What an example of a godly man!’ If only they knew. If they saw the laziness and self-centeredness and waywardness and mixed motives and mean-spirited thoughts, their accolades would be silenced. I didn’t want hagiography. I didn’t want people testifying to a man they thought they knew, extolling virtues that would be dwarfed by vices. Not having a funeral would avoid a sideshow. But I have changed my mind—for two reasons. One, a friend died. The family decided not to have a funeral, nothing to acknowledge him or his death.  At first I took it in stride, but then it occurred to me that something was not right with that. In not acknowledging his death, they did not acknowledge his life.”

A Defense of Infant Baptism – Kevin DeYoung: “One, the burden of proof rests on those who would deny children a sign they had received for thousands of years. If children were suddenly outside the covenant, and were disallowed from receiving any “sacramental” sign, surely such a massive change, and the controversy that would have ensued, would been recorded in the New Testament… Two, the existence of household baptisms is evidence that God still deals with households as a unit… Three, children are told to obey their parents…Children in the church are not treated as little pagans to be evangelized, but members of the covenant who owe their allegiance to Christ. Four, within two centuries of the Apostles we have clear evidence that the church was practicing infant baptism.”

One for the Road – Last week, Julie Roys’ Up For Debate radio show looked at how Lent has spread beyond its mainline roots with this opener, “Protestants observing Lent is like the English celebrating the 4th of July.” Guests on the one hour program are Bryan Litfin and Carl Trueman.

Top Image: Retail a comic by Norm Feuti (click image to link)
Lower Image: Classic Archie Christian Comic by Al Hartley (click to link)

Archie Al Hartley

 

 

September 3, 2010

Greetings from the French Riviera

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:50 am

Long before I started this blog, I was following other bloggers for several years, and one of the things that absolutely frustrated me was the size and scope of their summer vacations.   I wondered what some readers — many of whom haven’t left their hometowns in years — think of these elaborate holiday travels, and accompanying pictures and videos.

Christian blog writing is, apparently, very upper middle class.

Rob Bell told a story years ago about taking some kids from Grand Rapids about an hour west to go to the beach on Lake Michigan.   Both the children and their adult chaperones were overcome by the seemingly limitless stretch of water.   Clearly, some of the adults had never seen Lake Michigan, even though it is only an hour away.

For those of you who can empathize, let me say for the record that we are not on the French Riviera.   This is a post I wrote a few days ago because I expect today to be in a place where — while I’ve been promised electricity — internet access is hard to find.   Nothing too elaborate.

But I feel for people for whom even the weekend is hardship, who are then forced to read about the ‘beautiful people’ going down waterslides or hiking the Appalachian Trail.   Too much of that — when you’re stuck in a hot apartment with no air conditioning — can get downright depressing.

Statistics confirm that blog readership does drop significantly on weekends, and many bloggers don’t put in the effort.  In the summer especially, there’s what Canadians call a “cottage mentality” or Americans could call a “cabin mentality” that assumes everybody has better things to do at week’s end.

But statistics also show there are people — good numbers of them — who surf the blogosphere on weekends in search of something to read.

So if that’s you; this post is for you.  While other blogs shut down on weekends, this one actually ramps it up on Friday thru Sunday.   In fact, some of my best posts over the past years have been on weekends that statistics show fewer people were reading.   (Feel free to browse the archives.)

Of course, churches often have a summer shutdown mentality that parallels this.   But again, there are good numbers of people who are seeking and searching in the summer months.   They deserve the same quality of worship and teaching in July as the church offers in January.

So if you’re sitting a room somewhere, clicking around the blogosphere, wishing you were somewhere else; let me tell you that I can relate.   We went about eight years never taking anything resembling a holiday.  And not all the ones since then would rate mentioning, except as an exhibit in the “Do Not Do This” showcase of travel.

I pray your opportunity will come.   In the meantime, be a tourist in your own town or city.   Take a walk in the park and talk to someone you’ve never seen before.    Treat yourself to dessert, even if it’s just a grocery store item you wouldn’t normally buy.   Call someone you haven’t spoken with in a long, long time.

And thanks for taking the time to read all this.   Don’t let the people flaunting the Florida, or Grand Canyon, or Rocky Mountian vacations get you down!

May 18, 2010

Community: At Church versus Online

This first appeared here a year ago, but for new readers, I thought it was worth a second look.

If your background is mainline

At a certain part of the service there is a time set aside for “the passing of the peace.” You greet one another with a hug or a handshake (or in a few places, a “holy” kiss) and say, “The peace of Christ,” or “The peace of Christ be with you.” In reply the other might say the same, or say, “And to you also;” or “And to you also, the peace of Christ.” If the church is smaller, you know these people, at least by name, but if it’s larger or it’s tourist season, you may not know them at all.

After the service there is a time when coffee and juice is served and you can engage people conversationally for about five minutes; usually people you already know. For an extended time like this, don’t miss the pancake breakfast and the strawberry tea held each year.

To get to know people a little deeper, or other people, you can join the choir, or volunteer for a host of guilds or committees that are always in need of help. You’ll also find a lot of the same people serve on civic projects and thereby will run into them in other contexts outside of the church itself. Don’t expect to break into the core community until you’re a “regular,” which occurs after you’ve attended and been involved for a gazillion years.

If your background is Evangelical

At a certain part of the service there is a time set aside for “greeting” or it may be formalized as “the ritual of friendship.” You greet one another with a hug or a handshake and say, “Good Morning;” or “Did you happen to catch the game yesterday?” In reply the other might say the same, or say, “Is that a new car I saw in the parking lot?” If the church is smaller, you might know these people, at least by name, or if it’s a mid-sized church, you can look them up in the photo directory when you get home.

After the service there is a time when coffee and juice is served and you can engage people conversationally for about five minutes; usually people you already know. For an extended time like this, don’t miss the annual potluck lunch and the annual bowling night.

To get to know people a little deeper, there isn’t a lot to volunteer for, since everything is done by the paid staff. The mens’ and womens’ retreats would help, but that’s $120 and $130 respectively. Better to join a small group. That way you’ll get to spend time in at least one person’s house each week, and get to know them and about four other families (or eight other singles) more intimately.

If your option is blogging community

There is a possibility that there will be people in your fellowship who you do not have any idea what they look like, or exactly where they live. However, you don’t have to wait for an opportunity to engage conversationally. Those opportunities occur at any time and may produce a variety of responses from a variety of people.

Through those conversations you will learn about their likes and dislikes, events in the life of their family, where they stand on a variety of issues, and what challenges and needs they face. You’ll possibly learn the names of — or see pictures of — their kids or their parents, be given insights into their job, and you’ll almost certainly know a little about every book they’ve read since they started blogging. And they’ll know the same about you.

You may find very quickly that their prayer requests become your prayer requests; you feel drawn to the needs of these people as one might with someone in their church family. If Twitter enters into the picture, you’ll know even more about their daily routine, the various thoughts and challenges that burst into the brain brought about by various stimuli. And if you Twitter, they’ll have that input from you also.

Plus, they will introduce you to their online friends, and you might pick a few of those to subscribe to or at least bookmark, and over time, perhaps their friends will become your friends also. It’s not unusual to pick up e-mail addresses from comments you’ve received and send out some off-the-blog messages. (In fact, two weeks ago, I sent out about 60 such e-mails about a project I wanted to get going that needed an off-the-blog start-up.)

Finally, if you want to get really hardcore, you might find yourself contemplating attending a bloggers event which sometimes take place in conjunction with other events, and at other times are stand-alone events. Not because online fellowship is insufficient, but simply because the relationships are already well established. (And nobody’s pretending to be a 17-year old girl from Ohio; at least I hope not!)

So at the end of the day, online community isn’t better or worse than Sunday church fellowship; it’s just different. And I would argue it’s a good different. One can’t entirely substitute for the other, and hopefully people using online community as a surrogate for a physical community that is currently absent from their life would, over time, find themselves drawn back to something resembling a church or house church; and then maintain a balance between the two relational paradigms.

A year later, I’m convinced that one of the problems in the Body of Christ is that we truly don’t know each other. You can attend a megachurch and be in a crowd of thousands yet feel completely alone. There is a desire to know others and be known. Or, as the theme from Cheers reminds us, “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name / And they’re always glad you came.”

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