Friday, December 28, 2012

DOOMSDAYS COME AND GONE

It is always interesting to reflect on the end of another year, but especially when it was considered by many to be the end of all ends. If 2012 did not bring about the end of the world, at least it gave inspiration for a few decent movies and a highly rated TV show, and countless History Channel pseudo-documentaries.

I thought you'd find these websites below fascinating. Here ABC News, Discovery Channel and TIME Magazine look back at several failed doomsday predictions, and I think you'll be surprised at how often they have occurred through history.

These otherwise amusing prophecies become particularly menacing, however, when they are made by leaders of nontraditional religious groups (i.e., "cults'), because such people are rarely content just to sit back and wait for the final curtain, but rather feel compelled to help bring that curtain down (with finality and fatality).

You may recall such was the case with Jim Jones, David Koresh, Shoko Asahara and Marshall Applewhite. Elizabeth Clare Prophet (1939-2009) was also of concern to many given she required her followers to purchase guns as she preached the imminent collapse of civilization. Fortunately for her followers (and perhaps others), she acquired Alzheimers before she could give any command to begin using their weapons.

Now that 12/21/2012 has come and gone, we all patiently wait and wonder as to where and when the next doomsday prophet shall arise. But in the mean time, here are a few amusing lessons from history. (Potential doomsday soothsayers and prognosticators – please take note).

TIME: "Top 10 End-of-the-World Prophecies"

ABC News: "Mayan Calendar and Missed Doomsday Predictions"

Discovery News: "Doomsdays that Never Happened"

For more on this topic: Wikipedia: "End Time"

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

ACCOMPLISHING YOUR GOALS IN 2013

These are not original (a wise man once said "there is nothing new under the sun"). These are just a few things I jotted down while skimming through a few books on goals and time management at Barnes & Noble last summer.

IDENTIFYING YOUR MOST IMPORTANT GOALS:

(1) Make a list of 10 - 15 goals this year. No more than that, otherwise you'll lose focus and won't accomplish much.

(2) Rank each to-do item according to number (aside from the "must-do" things that you will do anyway). Most important is 1, really important is 2, kind-of important is 3, etc. After you've done that, eliminate everything without a number 1 ranking.

(3) Take all the items ranked number 1, and order them according to their priority (ranking them 1, 2, 3, etc.). Concentrate time and energy on the first item first, and work slowly on other top items when you have time.


CREATING OR SAVING TIME:

1. Abstain from all digital connections (except work-related) for 1 month out of the year. See what you can accomplish in that month.

2. Beware of information overload. Go on an information diet. Set a timer and read headlines on the web, or watch TV news (or Facebook, if that's your addiction) for just 15 - 30 minutes at most per day.

3. Abstain from "virtual worlds." It disengages your mind and your life from all that is really meaningful. The real world is where it's at! Computer games powerfully distort your sense of time, and the hours (days, years) go by with little notice, and nothing of value is accomplished. So unless you have a career reviewing computer games, just say no! They freeze your existence like a self-induced coma, as time and the rest of the world goes right past you.

4. Use a timer often. (Buy some cheap timers at the dollar store.) Set the timer for bursts of cleaning, writing, finishing a project or whatever you want to do. You're more apt to work harder, faster and more efficiently when you set a timer. You can put up with just about anything if you know it's only for a short time.

5. Organize your workspace for useable space! Having space that is continually covered and overwhelmed with piles of stuff just does not count as "useable space."

6. Throw out 50 things (and a stack of paper items count as just 1 thing).

I wish you all the best in accomplishing
your most important goals in 2013!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

HOW CHARLIE BROWN SAVED CHRISTMAS

For decades I've heard the usual complaining of Christian believers, grumbling about how Christ has been taken out of Christmas. I'm one of them. That is one reason every year I look forward to watching, "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

The story has been gradually written on our brains since childhood. Many of us can perfectly quote lines from the show, and hum along with the soundtrack of Vince Guaraldi's melancholy, light jazz tunes.

As we know, the story revolves around Charlie Brown’s frustration with how Christmas has become all about money and materialism. "Even my own dog has gone commercial," he moans when Snoopy wins a Christmas lighting contest. All the artificial glitz and sparkle of the holiday has left feeling him empty.

Finally, during the climactic scene at a Christmas play rehearsal, Charlie Brown hollers, "Does anyone know what Christmas is all about?" This is the story’s turning point.

Linus responds to his friend’s frustrated cry. Dragging his blue blanket, he quietly walks to center stage. Lights are dimmed and a spotlight focuses upon him. Raising his hand, Linus begins to recite these famous words from the book of Luke in the King James Bible:

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:8-14).

Linus then walked back to his friend and said in his low-key, matter-of-fact way, "That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown." With an unrestrainable smile stretching across his face, Charlie picks up his puny-looking Christmas tree and skips joyfully home, with the knowledge that Christmas is not about perfect performances, fulfilled wish lists or store window glitz. Christmas is about the love of God who sent a Savior into the world for imperfect, unglitzy humanity.

As the show was being made in 1965, this particular scene was at risk of being cut because it was "too religious." But Charles Schulz, creator of Charlie Brown, insisted it remain. "If we don’t do it," he told the producer, "who else can?" The scene was left in. The show won an Emmy Award, became a TV classic and an annual family tradition.

As times continue to change, I hope those who hold the Christian faith will continue to keep Christ at the center of this beautiful holiday. After all, if we don’t do it, who else can?

Merry CHRISTmas to you all!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

DID THE GRINCH ARRIVE ON THE MAYFLOWER?

Christians from different traditions celebrate Christmas in countless different ways, but do you know how the Pilgrims celebrated Christmas in the 1620s? Considering how devoutly religious they were, you may be surprised to know that the Pilgrims did not observe Christmas. The holiday was not found in the Bible, and therefore was not authorized by God. This was the Puritan view, which was therefore inherited by the English Separatists, including the Plymouth Pilgrims.

What did they have against Christmas? Remember that the Puritan movement (from which the Pilgrims were an offshoot) was a religious reform movement. In their view, the Church of England was far too saturated with the remnants of Catholic ritual, and Christmas would be counted among such practices. To "purify" the church, they encouraged leaving behind anything that smelled of "popery" (Catholic influence).

Christmas day is mentioned in William Bradford's journals, and the above insight helps explain the way they treated that particular day in December. The first mention of it is shortly after the search party found a suitable place to settle in mid-December of 1620. Over a week later, on December 25th, Bradford says they "began to erect the first house for common use to receive them and their goods." One could argue that there was far too much to do to take a rest on a religious holiday, but just a few sentences above, Bradford makes a point of documenting how the search party rested on the Christian "Sabbath" (Sunday) before going back to the Mayflower to tell the others they found a place to build.

To the Pilgrims, December 25th was just an ordinary day. If the Catholics and other churches were to celebrate the pagan-derived custom (with it's roots in pagan Winter Solstice observance), they would be all the more determined to let the day pass by with no fanfare whatsoever.

But of course, the settlers in Plymouth were not all cut from the same religious cloth. There were also the "strangers" – those English settlers who still identified with the Church of England. And there were even more settlers sent over one year after the Mayflower landed. To them Christmas was a deep-rooted cultural and religious custom, which was cause for conflict in 1621.

Bradford remembers that, "On the day called Christmas day, the Governor called them out to work, (as usual), but the most of this new company excused themselves and said it went against their consciences to work on that day. So the Governor told them that if they made it a matter of conscience, he would spare them until they were better informed."

So the Pilgrim settlers went out to work on that morning, leaving the unenlightened strangers to their pagan customs. However, when Bradford and the others returned for lunch, they were appalled at what they saw. "He found them in the street at play – openly. Some were pitching the bar and some at stoolball [now called "cricket"], and such like sports. So he went to them, and took away their implements, and told them that it was against his conscience that they should play as others work. If they made the keeping of [Christmas] a matter of devotion, let them observe it in their houses, but there should be no gaming or reveling in the streets. Since that time, nothing has been attempted that way, at least openly."

The story above makes one wonder if William Bradford may have been Dr. Seuss' original inspiration for the Grinch.

The Christmas holiday was indeed banned for many years in several Puritan-dominated New England communities. I find this all even more interesting in light of the arguments (and court rulings) over the public observance of the holiday today.

Merry Christmas, everyone! (Just don't tell Governor Bradford I said that.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

MY NON-ANSWER ANSWER

A friend of mine on facebook desperately pleaded with me for an answer regarding the tragic horror of Sandy Hook Elementary. I know this was not what he was looking for, but here is my response:

Wish I could [give you an answer], George. One thing I know, there is no easy answer. Where evil is concerned, you can fill a small library (no exaggeration) with books on the big "why" questions. The book of Job in the Bible addresses that very issue, and was written perhaps 3000 years ago. There are answers, but no answer makes us feel better after such tragedy, and no good answer can ever be shrunk down to a size that would fit this space. It's like a kid asking you "What's the universe made of?" Easy to ask, but I challenge anyone to do justice to the question without writing a 500 page book (or more).... I do know this -- so many of the tragedies today can't be pinned on God. Guns, bombs, planes, skyscrapers, cars, nuclear plants, meth labs, off-shore oil drilling (or on shore) -- none of those were God's ideas. The world as he created it didn't contain any of that. That doesn't begin to answer the question, but for nearly all the garbage that happens in this world -- we are our own worst enemies.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

WHERE WAS GOD IN THIS TRAGIC SHOOTING?

I appreciate the comments of former Arkansas Governor (and Christian minister), Mike Huckabee, on Neil Cavuto's (Fox News) TV show, on the day of the sickening shooting of innocent school children in Newtown, Connecticut. Here is a portion of their conversation:



NEIL CAVUTO (HOST): I'm going to try to have the preacher in you, the man of God in you, who could help us with this [to] help us with this.

From "Your World, With Neil Cavuto" (FoxNews)
FORMER ARK. GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE: Well... there is no human rationale or explanation.... The biggest, maybe, aftermath of something like this is that people are going to look for, okay, "Why did it happen?" Well, the answer is inexplicable. And, "What do we do to stop it?" ...When somebody has an intent to do incredible damage, they’re going to find a way to do it.... People will want to pass new laws, but unless you change people’s hearts (there our transition... to the pastor side) – this is a heart issue.... Laws don’t change this kind of thing.

CAVUTO: You know, invariably people ask, after tragedies like this, "How could God let this happen?"

HUCKABEE: Well, you know, it's an interesting thing, we ask why there's violence in our schools but we've systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage? Because we've made it a place where we do not want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability, that we're not just going to have to be accountable to the police if they catch us, but one day we stand before a holy God in judgment. If we don't believe that, then we don't fear that. And so sometimes when people say, "Why did God let it happen?" -- you know, God wasn't armed. He didn’t go to the school. But God will be there in the form of a lot of people with hugs and with therapy and a whole lot of ways in which I think he will be involved in the aftermath. Maybe we ought to let him in on the front end and we would not have to call him to show up when it's all said and done at the back end.



A day after the shooting, Mike Huckabee said on his own show (on Fox News), "Well maybe it's simply the attempt to express our collective shock when we say, 'We're trying to make sense of the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.' But we're not gonna make sense, not from that which is totally disconnected from the cognitive capacity of any rational human being. The Governor of Connecticut, Dan Malloy, got it right when he said, 'Evil has visited this community.'"



Days earlier there was a shooting at the Clackamas Mall food court in Portland, Oregon. Our daughter, Sarah, and a friend were just downstairs from there, about to go up to the food court when they stopped for tea and heard the shots. They immediately hid, and stayed hidden for about 15 minutes before they were escorted out. Three died that day (including the gunman), and at least one teenage girl was taken to a trauma unit. We pray for those who have suffered such nightmarish loss (including the shooter's family). And we give thanks to God for our law enforcement and medics. Thank you God so much for the safety of our Sarah and her friend!