This is one of the best short descriptions of Wesleyan theology that I’ve seen. Dr. Witherington III makes the connections between love, grace, and changed lives. A connection that Calvinistic theologies fail to make. I’ve always viewed Wesleyan theology as optimistic and joyful, and Calvinistic theologies as pessimistic and dour. Watch and enjoy!
Successful basketball coach Bob Knight seems to think so. His new book, The Power of Negative Thinking: An Unconventional Approach to Achieving Positive Results, was recently reviewed on the Success.com website. Of the tidbits they share, this is my favorite:
Demand results. To win, you have to demand action and expect the upmost productivity out of your employees. “Successful leadership is [about] being hard to please.”
I also saw a preview of Knight being interviewed on the David Feherty show on the Golf Channel and saying, “A pat on the back gets some things done. A kick in the ass gets more things done.”
I’m not sure Knight’s approach would work as well today as it did in the past. I don’t think people, especially younger generations, are willing to be disciplined and critiqued to this extent. Success Magazine contributor Jason Dorsey writes about how Generation Y needs constant affirmation that they are super, duper. Could a Gen Y player stand the pressure of a Bob Knight-like coach? I suspect the answer is no.
What do you think about the Knight approach of going negative to get to the positive?
The Great Courses (The Teaching Company) has made available some videos with different information about various spring rituals, including one on a Botticelli painting and another on the spring sky. My favorite is Chaucer’s Spring Pilgrimage.
Cowboy was abandoned in a foreclosed home during the long, hot summer of 2012. No one found him until about 30 days after he had been left behind by his not so loving family. He weighed 3 pounds. All I can think is that there had to have been a water leak somewhere in that house that allowed him to stay hydrated and not die alone and sad.
Today Cowboy weighs a healthy 10 pounds. He lives in a loving home with playmates, regular meals, and a spot snuggled up at my feet each night.
Amazingly, he shows few ill effects from his abandonment. He still eats his food way too fast and sometimes gets choked up. He’s still cautious around strangers. For six weeks after I adopted him, he would pee all over the floor when I came home after having been gone a while — not surprising, since his experience was that people leave and never come back for you. He’s confident now that someone will always come back for him and doesn’t do the excitable wee-wee anymore.
Cowboy demonstrates an incredible level of resilience. He could have succumbed to death alone in that hot, abandoned house. He could have become a biter, fearful of all people. He could have become shy and fearful, afraid to trust again. But he’s not any of those things. He’s sweet. He’s smart. He’s funny. He’s happy. He loves to play. And he loves to be loved on.
Cowboy hasn’t let his past define his future.
We should all be more like Cowboy. Life can leave us feeling like we got left behind in a hot, barren wasteland. But we should never let the past events in our lives determine our outlook for the future. We don’t need to spend our lives hesitant and fearful. We need to stand up, move forward, and live life to its fullest.
The following video shows Cowboy playing with his new BFF. This is a never-ending activity around Candy Land. Cowboy believes in going after the biggest, hairiest adversary he can find. How about you?
Can you increase your creativity and productivity by daydreaming? This blogger seems to think so:
Originally published in 2009 on The Virtual Hermitay.
For easier reading, download this essay as a PDF.
Most Western Christians take for granted that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus. It’s all about manger scenes, shepherds in the field, and wise men. What most don’t realize is that celebrating Christ’s birth wasn’t even on the agenda of the early church. There are no indications in the writings of the New Testament or the earliest historical writings of the church that there was any interest in celebrating the birth of Christ. The emphasis was on his death and resurrection. Birthdays, in general, were just not that important. In addition, there were no corresponding feasts in the Old Testament (as there are for Easter and Pentecost). In fact, the very idea of observing a birthday was heretical to some believers. Birthday celebrations for long dead gods was an activity relegated to pagan cults. Christians, serving a living God, did not desire to emulate the popular culture of the day.
As late as the third century, Christian theologians such as Origen wrote that birthday celebrations of any sort were unseemly for believers. Arnobius, another early Christian scholar, made fun of the pagan birthday celebrations for their gods. In addition, Christmas (or the Mass of Christ) does not make the list of feast days for the early church as recorded by Irenaeus or Tertullian (Catholic Encyclopedia).
So how did the church get from an open hostility to birthday celebrations to the biggest birthday celebration of the year? Generally, we can surmise that two things led to the church gradually incorporated the observance into its calendar: 1) Christian scholars started trying to pinpoint a date for Jesus’ birth and 2) Emperor Constantine made the Christian religion the official religion of the Roman Empire. A condensed timeline looks like this:
- circa 200 – Clement of Alexandria notes that some Egyptian Christians have assigned a date for the birth of Jesus, placing it on what our modern calendars is May 20. Clement also records that others celebrate the Epiphany on or about what is now January 6.
- circa 273/4 – The date that corresponds to our December 25 was likely fixed as the birth date of Christ. Although this had less to do with an actual date (which no one knows) and more to do with the Christian church supplanting other traditions celebrating the sun/son god(s) of the Roman culture.
- Circa 336 – After Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the empire, we begin to see records of Christmas observances (often combined with the Epiphany, leading to what we now know as the 12 days of Christmas).
- 386 – Chrysostom delivers a Christmas homily in Antioch and uses language that indicates that the feast had been observed for a number of years.
- Fifth century – Pope Leo the Great writes, “For the birth of Christ is the source of life for Christian folk, and the birthday of the Head is the birthday of the body. Although every individual that is called has his own order, and all the sons of the Church are separated from one another by intervals of time, yet as the entire body of the faithful being born in the font of baptism is crucified with Christ in His passion, raised again in His resurrection, and placed at the Father’s right hand in His ascension, so with Him are they born in this nativity.”
Christmas, even after its institution as a major feast day for the church, was not without its detractors. English Puritans in the 1600s banned Christmas. They considered it an unholy concoction of the Catholic Church. These Puritan sentiments carried over to the American colonies; Christmas was banned in Massachusetts from 1659 to 1681. After the ban ended, colonists celebrated Christmas until after the American Revolution. Residents of the newly established nation sought to separate themselves from England on the religious front as well as the political front. American Christians rejected Christmas as a rite too-closely associated with the Church of England.
It was not until the 1800s that Christmas in the U.S. began to be widely celebrated in a form that we would recognize today. Washington Irving wrote a series of short stories in 1820 that depicted happy Christmas celebrations. Clement Clarke Moore wrote Twas the Night Before Christmas in 1822. Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843; it is from this story that we get the phrase “Merry Christmas.” The Christmas tree gained prominence in England in the 1800s and made its way to the U.S. as Americans sought to emulate the Victorian styles of the era. Some of our most popular Christmas carols were first popularized during this time period, including The First Noel, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, O Come all Ye Faithful, and We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Christmas was made a Federal holiday in 1870, and the first Christmas cards were introduced in 1875.
The more recent history is familiar to us all. From Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer to Bing Crosby’s White Christmas to It’s a Wonderful Life, Christmas traditions and stories have become embedded in our culture. It’s easy to confuse this modern, commercialized celebration for what the ancient Christmas observance was—a holy feast day honoring the birth of the Christ. Current vocal objections to the “war on Christmas” are deaf to the realities of history. Christmas began modestly as a pious celebration of the faith. It has had its proponents and detractors for 2000 years. Amidst the decorations, shopping frenzies, and yuletide parties, the basics of the season have been lost. The “reason for the season” has nothing to do with who says or does not say Merry Christmas. In the words of the good folks over at Advent Conspiracy: “The story of Christ’s birth is a story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love.” And to quote Leo once more: “For there is no proper place for sadness, when we keep the birthday of the Life, which destroys the fear of mortality and brings to us the joy of promised eternity.”
Want to skip next year’s Christmas rat race and restore reverence, joy, and love to the season? Try these resources:
…are we talking about the same guy?
The Jesus I know was a Jewish carpenter turned itinerant preacher with calloused hands who liked nothing better after a long day than to have dinner and a glass of wine with a large group of friends, acquaintances and anyone else who showed up. He very much enjoyed deep discussions about the meaning of what it meant to be fully human – to live with authenticity and compassion – to bring the “golden rule” to life every single day. He didn’t shy away from discussions about the plight of the poor or the oppressive rule of powerful authorities, whether religious or political.
Despite the fact that his words often cut to the quick of the soul of anyone listening, people were drawn to his authenticity and compassion. The Jesus I know definitely walked his talk, and folks wanted to follow him and be just like him – they craved to embody the same depth of humanity that he exuded.
Of course, those cutting words often cut the religious authorities the wrong way. Jesus never shied away from looking them straight in the eye and telling them they had missed the whole point of life – their rules bound people to misery instead of freeing them to live fully. They hated that he hung out with all the wrong folks, eating and drinking and raising the religious awareness of the lowest members of society. In fact, the hate was so deep they conspired with the political authorities (who were no less concerned about the unsettling impact this itinerant carpenter-rabbi might have on the masses) to kill him.
That is the Jesus I know.
I do not know the Aryan-ized, Pharisee-friendly, corporatist, nationalistic Jesus who laughs at racist jokes, proscribes narrow rules of morality based on sexual ethics, blesses profits while children go without food and water, and wraps himself in flags and endorses one political party over another. I do not know the Jesus who agrees that the lowest members of a society are “takers” or that food, shelter, healthcare, education, or any basic human need is a commodity best trickled down in measured doses via any economic system by the wealthiest to the neediest.
That Jesus I do not know. And don’t want to know.
Which Jesus do you know?