Thursday, December 27, 2007

Anne Rice: Supporter of Clinton

Here is an open letter from Anne Rice to her readers, found on her blog. In it she explains in a “soft voice” why she supports Hilary Clinton for President, even though Clinton believes in abortion as a woman’s right.

And here is a link to an equally soft-voiced response, written by Dr. Robert George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University.

Rice has been a committed Christian since a few years ago when she returned to the faith. Ever since, she says nothing but Jesus Christ is worth writing about—faith, rather than the search for meaning, which is what she had always explored in her earlier novels. If you haven’t read her powerful novel Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, you must do so at once! When I first heard about the book, I was skeptical; I wrote this commentary about it.

The picture of Anne Rice comes from her web site, .

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Virgin Birth

The book of Luke tells us that the angel of God said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” And so she became pregnant with the baby Jesus.

Soon after that, Mary went to spend several months with her relative Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah, who lived in the hill country, some distance away. The angel had also told Mary that Elizabeth was six months pregnant; beyond the child-bearing age, Elizabeth had been unable to conceive until then.

As soon as Mary greeted Elizabeth, the baby in her womb, she said, “leaped for joy.” This baby, from the womb, recognized the Christ child in Mary’s womb. He was to be John the Baptist, who would prepare the way for the Messiah. The Holy Spirit within him saw the Christ and communicated joy to his spirit.

My friend and Sunday school teacher, whose name happens to be Mary, said this reaction of the unborn baby John to the unborn baby Jesus is a picture of what happens when we accept Christ. The Holy Spirit comes inside us to give us the mind of Christ so that we can discern truth. And so the Holy Spirit in us recognizes Jesus and causes our spirits to leap with joy.

On a previous Sunday morning, a man in our class said he wasn’t so sure all that was possible. Well…in human terms, it is not possible.

Do I believe God can do anything—that he is omnipotent? If my answer is “yes,” then how can I question a pregnancy that happened without human intercourse? How can I question the pregnancy of an old, barren woman? How can I question one unborn baby’s reaction to another unborn baby?

Luke 1:37 says, “For nothing is impossible with God.”

*The picture comes from

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Lonely at Christmas?

A few days ago, I heard on TV news that the Christmas holiday suicide rate is actually not the highest of the year, as we previously thought. According to recent research, December is the ninth on the list of months.*

That’s good news! Why, you may ask, would that be true? Here are some ideas from a suicide information web site:

--Gatherings of friends and relatives surround and protect vulnerable people.

--Christmas celebrations may evoke positive memories, hopefulness, and a renewed outlook for those in distress.

-- A growing awareness of community resource-type safety nets available especially during this period may bring hope and lessen despair, agencies like food banks, shelters, and outreach programs.

I think there’s a spirit of giving that rises and swells in our hearts this time of year. It makes us think of others, maybe more than ourselves. Maybe we are more prone to pay attention to other people with compassion, more willing to listen and give comfort. That’s how we’re meant to be—not buried in loneliness, but reaching out to others.

Stephen Burns, author of a Discipleship Journal article called “What’s a Lonely Person to Do?” says, “In my loneliness I had become unwittingly self-centered; everything revolved around me.” Through experiences with an elderly woman called “Aunty Lila” in his church, he learned that instead of being self-centered, he could have something to offer, to give comfort to others as he had been comforted.

He quotes 2 Corinthians 1:3-5--

“Praise be to . . . the Father of compassion and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”

We are often lonely and feeling alone; we are strangers in the world. Sarah Davis writes, in a short sidebar story attached to Burns’s article, “In many ways, I feel loneliness exists to remind us we’re not at home in this life, to help us see that there is longing within all of us, and to drive us to the cross. The cross is a profound expression not only of sacrifice and salvation, but loneliness, too. So much of what makes us feel lonely is feeling that we are enduring alone, which Jesus did and He took our sin on Himself.”

Concluding the article, Burns acknowledges that all people feel lonely at times in their lives—it’s part of us. His prayer is this:

“In such seasons, may God give us the courage to open our hearts to those around us and to extend our hands to those who need us. Then, even when the times grow lonesome, we won’t be lonely.”

May these thoughts grow in our hearts this Christmas season and lead us to draw near to the Christ child, to be hopeful, to reach out to other people in love and compassion.

*August was found to have the highest incidence of suicide, and September, the lowest.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Denzel Washington: A Spiritual Life

This month’s Reader’s Digest features an interview with Denzel Washington. “For Denzel Washington, it’s not about fame and fortune.” says a banner at the top of the page, introducing the title. “It’s about ‘Keeping the Faith.’” The author is David Hochman.

I have always thought there was a special something about Denzel, and now I understand better what it is. He and his wife of 25 years, Pauletta, are devoted to God, to each other, and to their four children. He says he is definitely a spiritual person.

Hochman asked him, “Do you ever see a conflict in Hollywood, Godless Hollywood, as a spiritual person?”

Washington answered, “Well, wait a minute. Stop. That’s broad. Godless Hollywood? What is that? First of all, Hollywood is a part of Los Angeles, not a way of thinking. When you say Godless Hollywood, are you including me? Are you saying everybody in Hollywood is Godless? That’s like saying Godless Reader’s Digest. No such thing. Right?” War and violence and Godlessness occur everywhere, he said, “not just in Hollywood.”

When asked if his beliefs influence his acting roles, Washington said it is who he is and as such, it will be instilled in every part of his life. He said you can’t do life on your own. “He’s got you covered. My faith helps me understand that circumstances don’t dictate my happiness, my inner peace.” He reads the Bible every day; he’s on his second pass through the whole thing.

“What are you most proud of?” Hochman asked.

Washington’s answer: “God, family, work. When our children were born, I was like, my work used to be my life. Now my work is making a living. They’re life. My children are. So what I am proudest of is all of the above. In that order.”

Here’s a link to their site, where you can hear the interview, or at least part of it. The picture comes from the site.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Spiritual Formation--Hillary Clinton

The Christianity Today web site features an interesting article called “Hillary’s Spiritual Formation,” which explains the early spiritual development of Hillary Clinton. Here is a link to the site. The article, by Paul Kengor, is an excerpt from his book, God and Hillary Clinton: A Spiritual Life.

As responsible citizens, we need to find out all we can about the Presidential candidates so we can make an informed choice, come next November.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

E-Mail: Ecclesiastes

This is an interesting e-mail exchange I had with my friend Maxey after my two entries about Ecclesiastes, “Ecclesiastes: Futility” and “Ecclesiastes: Meaning and Purpose.”

Maxey wrote:

Your information about Ecclesiastes was very good. As a matter of fact, I read the book first period, while my freshman students were watching THE ODYSSEY. I have always enjoyed Chapter 3:1-8. I guess we do live in a world of checks and balances, the good and the bad, the positives and the negatives---hopefully with more good people than bad ones.

We must realize that all of us must accept the truth, fear the Lord, and be accountable for our actions. It's too bad that we must FEAR so often in order to act properly.

Will you please explain Chapter 10:19 (A feast...)? I don't understand the part about the money.

Judy wrote:

I looked up Ecclesiastes 10:19 in several different translations, and here is the one that seems most likely to me--it's the NIV Readers version:

People laugh at a dinner party.
And wine makes life happy.
People think money can buy everything.

So it's probably not that money actually is the answer to everything, but that people think it is. What do you think?

Maxey wrote:

I understand now. The verse deals with man's thoughts, not God's. We often resort to food, alcohol, and the lust for money as an escape and alleviation for mundane problems. Instead, all we have to do is follow God and His ways, for He is the answer to everything. Sounds simple, doesn't it?

Judy wrote:

Yes, it does sound pretty simple. If only we could wrap our minds around this simple truth!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Ecclesiastes: Meaning and Purpose

The second week of the study of Ecclesiastes in the Disciple Bible Study is different from the first. I feel much more comfortable with it. This week, we are asked to read it through the viewpoint of hope and love—through sure knowledge of the grace of God and faith in him through Jesus.

The assignment says this:

As we discovered last week, many people see only futility, even despair, in Ecclesiastes. Now, look for the good things in life. Look for the joys, modest though they may be.

The human condition statement in the lesson describes us accurately, as they do in all the lessons:

Only five more days till the weekend. Only eleven more months till vacation. Only twenty more years till retirement. We’re preparing. One of these days, we’ll be able to enjoy life.

The writer of Ecclesiastes began to see life as meaningless, because it will just end in death. He hit an existential void of sorts, letting himself get weighed down by Satan’s messages of cynicism, depression, heaviness of heart. He tried all kinds of things to see if he could find meaning and purpose to satisfy his heart—huge projects, wealth, possessions, women, pleasure, work. But it all ends in death, no matter what.

He realized that happiness is found only in knowing and loving God. Some of his important conclusions are these:

God has put eternity—a sense of it—in people’s hearts, so they are capable of knowing God. People can comprehend that even though human endeavors all eventually end, what God does lasts forever.

There is too much evil and oppression in the world. Even so, there is strength in our connection with others; “a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

It is important to stand in awe of God, to seek wisdom, to avoid love of wealth. Joy comes from following him.

Whatever you do, he says, do it with all your heart.

Share with other people; “cast your bread upon the waters.” It will come back to you, multiplied.

Remember God all your life.

Just because God often connects things for me, I looked up today’s (Dec. 2) My Utmost for His Highest entry by Oswald Chambers, and sure enough, it ties in. Ecclesiastes is timely:

Christian perfection is not, and never can be, human perfection. Christian perfection is the perfection of a relationship with God that shows itself to be true even amid the seemingly unimportant aspects of human life. When you obey the call of Jesus Christ, the first thing that hits you is the pointlessness of the things you have to do. The next thought that strikes you is that other people seem to be living perfectly consistent lives. Such lives may leave you with the idea that God is unnecessary— that through your own human effort and devotion you can attain God’s standard for your life. In a fallen world this can never be done. I am called to live in such a perfect relationship with God that my life produces a yearning for God in the lives of others, not admiration for myself. Thoughts about myself hinder my usefulness to God. God’s purpose is not to perfect me to make me a trophy in His showcase; He is getting me to the place where He can use me. Let Him do what He wants.