Baby Jesus Lies in a Manger in the Ford Car Showroom

So yesterday I take my car in for an oil change at the local Ford dealership. The air is really bad in the waiting area – it has the same smell as rubber glue. It takes an hour and a half for them to accomplish the oil change. At some point – wanting to get away from the bad air – I wander onto the sales floor. You probably all can imagine what this looks like – shiny new cars, shiny floors, shiny windows. And in the middle of all this is a huge nativity scene. It’s unexpected and takes me off guard. I stop and look it over – trying to make sense of a nativity scene in the middle of all these shiny new cars. It does not compute. And there’s Mary and Joseph and the wise guys kneeling next to Baby Jesus. And Jesus has a full head of hair and is half as big as Mary, and I’m trying to imagine her birthing this humongous “infant.” I’m thinking “let the poor woman lie down, for crying out loud – she just gave birth to a fifty pound Jesus.”

Anyway. It was an odd experience. Had to share.

Merry Christmas!
Karen

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Guess the Quote: Carter or Trump?

Karen’s quick quiz: How well can you match the quotes below to the person who said them? You only have two people from which to choose your answer – Jimmy Carter and Donald Trump – so you have a fifty-fifty chance on each one. How hard could it be, right? You get five points for each correct answer.  If you score 50 points you are, like, a genius, or something. If you score less than 50 points you are something, for sure. (Answers at the bottom.)

  1. We should live our lives as though Christ were coming this afternoon.”
  2. Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game.”
  3. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other’s children.”
  4. We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.”
  5. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
  6. “Human rights is the soul of our foreign policy, because human rights is the very soul of our sense of nationhood.”
  7. “I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me —and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”
  8. “I think there ought to be a strict separation or wall built between our religious faith and practice of political authority in office. I don’t think the President of the United States should extol Christianity if he happens to be a Christian at the expense of Judaism, Islam or other faiths.”
  9. “…complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
  10. “…we have to go and see Bill Gates, and a lot of different people, that really understand what’s happening. We have to talk to them, and maybe in certain areas closing that internet up in some way.”

Answers: 1) Carter 2) Trump 3) Carter 4) Carter 5) Trump 6) Carter 7) Trump 8) Carter 9) Trump 10) Trump

Quick Survey (a highly scientific study, taking into consideration the demographics of our readership, and correlated with the general population – not at all): In your opinion, which of the two men below best demonstrates the teachings of Jesus? Which would you rather see sitting behind the President’s desk in the Oval Office? Which, do you think, has most shown compassion, empathy, honor, generosity, and kindness towards his fellow citizens, and mankind?

carter and trump

 

 

Protecting our right to be bigots – does it get any better than this?!

Just when you think the world can’t possibly get any crazier, some new insanity pushes itself through the crowd to claim the Grand Prize. So… did you hear the one about Gov Pence of Indiana signing into law a bill that protects the right of bigots to practice their bigotry? Yeah. It is now legal in the state of Indiana for businesses to reject gay customers. If a bigoted restaurant owner, hotel owner, or grocer, or barber, baker, or candle-stick maker doesn’t want to serve homosexuals, he can now refuse to provide them with goods and services. I mean… heaven forbid that we should discriminate against people who want to discriminate against people for… well… having been born different. Because that would just be wrong… right?

And I’m thinking – let’s not stop there. Let’s put a bill in front of Pence that will protect the right of people to discriminate against other people who were born “different” – red heads are in the minority – let’s put them on the list; and left-handers – they are way scary; and really tall people because they consume too much of our earth’s resources; and people with freckles – those freckled folks should all be discriminated against, for sure.

Of course, I’m not exactly sure how any of this is going to help anyone. The businesses can’t make money off of customers they refuse to serve, right? And the customers can’t help keep the economy going, if people refuse to serve them. AND I’m not sure how, exactly, hating on any of God’s children is showing reverence to God…am I missing something…?

– Karen Molenaar Terrell

come from love

Note to Self: Turn off the News and Wake Up

Last night as the family sat around the television watching the evening news, our son Xander suddenly stood up – like he’d just awakened from a dream or something – and, shaking his head to clear it, said, “What the hell just happened there? We went from, like, 20 reports of death and mayhem to winning a prom date with Seth Rogen…”

Adventures of the Madcap Christian Scientist

Last night as the family sat around the television watching the evening news, our son Xander suddenly stood up – like he’d just awakened from a dream or something – and, shaking his head to clear it, said, “What the hell just happened there? We went from, like, 20 reports of death and mayhem to winning a prom date with Seth Rogen…”

We all started cracking up, but after we’d stopped laughing, I started thinking about what Xander had said, and it gave me pause.

Lately it’s felt to me like… well, like our society is under some kind of mass hypnotic spell or something – like there’s this sort of slow-boiling rage and fear continually swirling around us now. I’ve felt it in myself when I’m trying to negotiate traffic to get to work on time – this impatience with the drivers around me who aren’t doing what I think they should be doing…

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Humoristianity

The “one true fallacious faith” (as our “Grand Inquisitor” the Right Ribald Reverend JL soon dubbed it) immediately took off and had an almost instant following. Our ragtag little congregation of hooligans covered the globe – including people as far away as Australia and Europe and an army base in Afghanistan – and was comprised of atheists, a couple Mormons, an hilarious evangelical preacher’s wife, a Methodist , a Buddhist, a Catholic-Methodist-Celtic language aficionado, a nuclear physicist Trinitarian, a couple of agnostics, a pagan, an atheist Jew, and at least one Christian Scientist (moi). We seemed a kind of unlikely little fellowship, I guess. But we all had one really important thing in common – we knew how to laugh at ourselves…

Adventures of the Madcap Christian Scientist

In the summer of 2007, as a response to what I saw as an over-abundance of people who took themselves WAAAY too seriously,  I started a new “religion” on a discussion board about religion…

* I’ve decided to create a new religion. People belonging to this religion will call themselves “Humoristians.” Here are the 5 tenets: 
1) You must be able to laugh at yourself. 
2) You must be able to recognize how ludicrous your beliefs might appear to others. 
3) You must want nothing but good for everyone, everywhere in the universe. 
4) You must have a natural aversion to meetings, committees, and scheduled events (as we will be having none of those). 
5) You must enjoy the humor of Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert, Tom Lehrer, and Jerry Seinfeld (if you’re a Jerry Lewis kind of guy, you might want to think about starting your own religion – although…

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The Christmas Dog

“This is the doctrine of Christian Science: that divine Love cannot be deprived of its manifestation, or object; that joy cannot be turned into sorrow, for sorrow is not the master of joy; that good can never produce evil; that matter can never produce mind, nor life result in death.”

From Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures

by Mary Baker Eddy

***

Christmas Eve, 1988.  I was in a funk.  I couldn’t see that I was making much progress in my life.  My teaching career seemed to be frozen, and I was beginning to think my husband and I would never own our own home or have children. The world seemed a very bleak and unhappy place to me.  No matter how many batches of fudge I whipped up or how many times I heard Bing Crosby sing “White Christmas,” I couldn’t seem to find the Christmas spirit.

I was washing the breakfast dishes, thinking my unhappy thoughts, when I heard gunshots coming from the pasture behind our house.  I thought it was the neighbor boys shooting at the seagulls again and, all full of teacherly harrumph, decided to take it upon myself to go out and “have a word with them.”

But after I’d marched outside I realized that it wasn’t the neighbor boys at all.  John, the dairy farmer who lived on the adjoining property, was walking away with a rifle, and an animal (a calf, I thought) was struggling to get up in the field behind our house.  Every time it would push up on its legs it would immediately collapse back to the ground.

I wondered if maybe John had made a mistake and accidentally shot the animal, so I ran out to investigate and found that the animal was a dog.  It had foam and blood around its muzzle.  She was vulnerable and helpless – had just been shot, after all – but instead of lashing out at me or growling as I’d expect an injured animal to do, she was looking up at me with an expression of trust and seemed to be expecting me to take care of her.

“John!”  I yelled, running after the farmer.  He turned around, surprised to see me.  “John, what happened?” I asked, pointing back towards the dog.

A look of remorse came into his eyes.  “Oh, I’m sorry you saw that, Karen. The dog is a stray and it’s been chasing my cows.  I had to kill it.”

“But John, it’s not dead yet.”

John looked back at the dog and grimaced.  “Oh man,” he said.  “I’m really sorry. I’ll go finish the job.  Put it out of its misery.”

By this time another dog had joined the dog that had been shot.  It was running around its friend, barking encouragement, trying to get its buddy to rise up and escape.  The sight of the one dog trying to help his comrade broke my heart.  I made a quick decision. “Let me and my husband take care of it.”

“Are you sure?”

I nodded and he agreed to let me do what I could for the animal.

Unbeknownst to me, as soon as I ran out of the house my husband, knowing that something was wrong, had gotten out his binoculars and was watching my progress in the field.  He saw the look on my face as I ran back.  By the time I reached our house he was ready to do whatever he needed to do to help me.  I explained the situation to him, we put together a box full of towels, and he called the vet.

As we drove his truck around to where the dog lay in the field, I noticed that, while the dog’s canine companion had finally left the scene (never to be seen again), John had gone to the dog and was kneeling down next to her.  He was petting her, using soothing words to comfort her, and the dog was looking up at John with that look of trust she’d given me.  John helped my husband load her in the back of the truck and we began our drive to the vet’s.

I rode in the back of the truck with the dog as my husband drove, and sang hymns to her.  As I sang words from one of my favorite hymns from the Christian Science Hymnal– “Everlasting arms of Love are beneathe, around, above” – the dog leaned against my shoulder and looked up at me with an expression of pure love in her blue eyes.

Once we reached the animal clinic, the veterinarian came out to take a look at her.  After checking her over he told us that apparently a bullet had gone through her head, that he’d take care of her over the holiday weekend – keep her warm and hydrated – but that he wasn’t going to give her any medical treatment.  I got the distinct impression that he didn’t think the dog was going to make it.

My husband and I went to my parents’ home for the Christmas weekend, both of us praying that the dog would still be alive when we returned.  For me, praying for her really meant trying to see the dog as God sees her.  I tried to realize the wholeness and completeness of her as an expression of God, an idea of God.  I reasoned that all the dog could experience was the goodness of God – all she could feel is what Love feels, all she could know is what Truth knows, all she could be is the perfect reflection of God.  I tried to recognize the reality of these things for me, too, and for all of God’s creation.

She made it through the weekend, but when we went to pick her up the vet told us that she wasn’t “out of the woods, yet.”    He told us that if she couldn’t eat, drink, or walk on her own in the next few days, we’d need to bring her back and he’d need to put her to sleep.

We brought her home and put her in a big box in our living room, with a bowl of water and soft dog food by her side.  I continued to pray.  In the middle of the night I got up and went out to where she lay in her box.  Impulsively, I bent down and scooped some water from the dish into her mouth.  She swallowed it, and then leaned over and drank a little from the bowl.  I was elated!  Inspired by her reaction to the water, I bent over and grabbed a glob of dog food and threw a little onto her tongue.  She smacked her mouth together, swallowed the food, and leaned over to eat a bit more.  Now I was beyond elated!  She’d accomplished two of the three requirements the vet had made for her!

The next day I took her out for a walk.  She’d take a few steps and then lean against me.  Then she’d take a few more steps and lean.  But she was walking!  We would not be taking her back to the veterinarian.

In the next two weeks her progress was amazing.  By the end of that period she was not only walking, but running and jumping and chasing balls.  Her appetite was healthy.  She was having no problems drinking or eating.

But one of the most amazing parts of this whole Christmas blessing was the relationship that developed between this dog and the man who had shot her.  They became good friends.  The dog, in fact, became the neighborhood mascot.  (And she never again chased anyone’s cows.)

What the dog brought to me, who had, if you recall, been in a deep funk when she entered our lives, was a sense of the true spirit of Christmas – the Christly spirit of forgiveness, hope, faith, love.  She brought me the recognition that nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible to God.

We named our new dog Christmas because that is what she brought us that year.

Within a few years all those things that I had wondered if I would ever have as part of my life came to me – a teaching job, children, and a home of our own.  It is my belief that our Christmas Dog prepared my heart to be ready for all of those things to enter my life.

– from *Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist* by Karen Molenaar Terrell

Christmas Songs: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Yes, it is that time of year when the melodic and not-so-melodic strains of holiday music once again fill our supermarkets and shopping malls.  Some of these strains bring back tender memories of Christmases past, and some instantly have me wincing and cringing in horror.

Probably my least favorite of all Christmas songs is Twelve Days of Christmas. That song is a never-ending nightmare.  And I cannot describe the pity I feel for the poor victim whose lover gave to her a partridge in a pear tree, maids milking cows, lords leaping all over the furniture, turtle doves, French hens, calling birds, and geese – I mean – can you imagine the mess?! The song doesn’t say anything about her lover giving her a zookeeper to feed these many creatures, or to clean up the mountains of crap that will surely accumulate in the poor woman’s home.  Her house is going to look like the bottom of a hamster cage – only bigger.

Even the five gold rings – unless they have sapphires, emeralds, and rubies the size of ostrich eggs attached to them – do not make up for the trouble caused by the other “gifts.”

I also cringe at songs sung by pop stars that talk of grandmas getting run over by reindeer, and drunken daddies. They just don’t capture the spirit of the season for me.

My favorite religious Christmas song is Silent Night.  Whenever I hear that song I picture the British and German soldiers singing it to each other across the trenches of World War I in a moment of determined peace one Christmas Eve. I picture rosy-cheeked children’s faces lit by the soft golden light of hand-held candles in a church somewhere in Switzerland, cozy and warm inside while snow falls softly outside the church. I picture the night of a baby’s birth – any baby’s birth – and the sacred innocence and promise of new life. Silent Night is a song of hope.

In the category of non-religious Christmas songs, I really enjoy John Denver’s Aspenglow  (what can I say? I really liked John Denver – so call me “schmaltzy”), Sarah MacLachlan’s Song for a Winter’s Night, and any Christmassy song by Lareena McKennitt.

But maybe my favorite Christmassy song is Dar Williams’s Christians and the Pagans. You have to admit, these lyrics are pretty hard to beat:

“So the Christians and the pagans sat together at the table,

Finding faith and common ground, the best that they were able,

And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said,

Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses…

And where does magic come from? I think magic’s in the learning,

‘Cause now when Christians sit with pagans only pumpkin pies are burning.”

Yes, ready or not, like it or not – the Christmas season is upon us – and coming with it, in elevators and supermarkets everywhere, will be  the good, the bad, and the ugly in holiday music.