Jerod is really excited about a coffee-gift.
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The wrapping after-math. Mostly cleaned up...
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Close-up. Fun with the new camera.
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The Tannenbaum at Chez Jones. Avec Presents. I wrapped them all the Saturday before Christmas and put them under the tree just for photographic purposes. Then we packed them all in the car to travel.
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Post-Christmas Post

Ah. Family. Always good for laughs, easy silence, boisterous yelling over one another, stories, hugs, and a history of yourself that sometimes you'd sooner forget. I love when I can spend time with everyone at Christmas, both the "new" Joneses and the "old" Gileses, etc. My sister-in-law Jessica can shop like a fiend, for which I owe her a great deal of respect. I never thought I'd meet someone who could out-shop me, but I have. And add to that she is now a shopping fiend with a 3-year-old in tow, and you'll understand the immense awe I have of her. My mom-in-law seems ever-patient...managing the feeding of what seems like 25 of us at once...her home filled with extra dogs, extra toys, and extra voices from floor to rafter. But I don't think she'd have it any other way. She thrives on the hub-bub (I love the word "hub-bub"). My dear mom has decorated every space with ribbons and poinsettias and sparkly Christmas things...and seems intent on making each moment FUN. Dad is napping in the corner, waking occassionally to see if he's missed any of the fun. The cousins are vegetarian/organic/west-coasters who keep the mix very interesting, intellectually stimulating, and there simply isn't enough time to catch up with them between the baby-shower/Christmas game/Bingo (yes, Bingo!). We'll have to resort to emails again to keep the cousinly connection flowing through the year. What a blessing the email is! Then, there's that possibility of running into a dear friend in Target...that initial moment, of "hey, that looks like Tabitha's husband...wait, where am I again? Oh yes, Newnan! Hey! That IS Tabitha's husband..." And then you crowd the aisles of 50% off Christmas-land while you catch up with a friend you've known over half your life...who walked you through Calculus and Proms...and now lives all the way in Minnesota (I know. I'm shocked that anyone moves to Minnesota on purpose too).
Christmas. Lovely for so many other reasons than the obvious. I love the celebration of the birth of Christ. I love the music, the presents, the decorations, the lights in trees, the lights on houses and bushes and reindeer and Santas and nativities, and everything! (I do not, however, love the recent inflatable-decoration trend, but that's for another day) I love to see family and friends who have become family in their own way. I love to hang with the tall Joneses and the laughing Gileses, eating, drinking, and being merry...We are abundantly blessed. We are thankful for our friends, too, who have showered us this year with Christmas cards and letters from all corners of the U.S. I can't wait for 2008 to see what God does, mighty and great. Stay tuned.


Recovering from the Birth.

Now that's an odd title. Just a quick entry to give thanks for a unique opportunity I had to be part of "The Birth: A Reflective Celebration of the Birth of Jesus." A merry band of misfits and artsy-singer-musician-theatre types pulled off an intimate look at Christmas. Intimate...our crowds of 30 or so in a black-box theatre where you can really see the whites of their eyes and brush against people as you stand and sing. Exposed...how you feel sometimes when you're under the lights and there is not a big band with drums and bass to cover your vocal flaws and the decongestants you've been taking all week. Beautiful...in its simplicity. Marvelous...the acting! You are right there with the Inn Keeper, lost in the unenchanted forest of a million trees...the to do list that overtakes experiencing the presence of God (so often!)...in the palace with the Wise Man, who is surprised at his own response to the miracle of the Lord incarnate...laughing with the shepherd who experiences each moment fully IN the moment and fairly dances across the meadows to see what all the hub-bub is. Thankful...as I looked around the room...singing with folks I've known for years and years...and some I just met...and the audiences so engaged, some teary-eyed, some wondering if it would all be safe for them sitting so close. You could almost see thought bubbles above their heads at times...wondering if maybe it would get a little too artsy for their taste, and they would be stuck there just feet from the performers feeling awkward and looking for an interesting spot on the floor. Then the truly appreciative ones who got it and felt it and embraced it all. Performing is such an emotional ride. Thanks to all who bought tickets for the ride and committed. Thanks of course to Jesus, who became a miracle trapped inside such a dull, uninteresting body of flesh just to show us He wanted to be near, to touch us (thanks JM), to sing and cry with us...and to do theatre with us. He was there. Did you see Him?


How do we judge our art?

I have a few minutes before my friends come over and we set out to see 400,000 Christmas lights. I'm excited about that. AND, a dear lady at church today handed me a book of sELF-Help quotations by Buddy the Elf (from the esteemed holiday classic, ELF). That excites me as well.

Here's just a sample of the Buddy wisdom:
"If you see gum on the street, leave it there. It's not free candy." and "Singing is just like talking, only louder and longer and you move it up and down."

Good clean fun.

But that all doesn't fit with my title, so I will attempt to take a few moments to address the real issue.

The latest movie in the target sites of conservative Christians is "The Golden Compass." I was just invited to a Facebook group "Do not support The Golden Compass." There are almost 140,000 members. I have more questions than answers about this topic, but I will at least throw them out there.

How do we judge our art/media/music?

The issue at hand with this particular movie is the intent of the author of the books on which the movie is based. He is an avowed Atheist, who reportedly has blatantly stated that his books are about "killing God." As this little blog is a quick reaction, I haven't sufficiently researched that claim, but I have heard as much through various outlets, so let's say for the sake of argument that this is a true report of his intent. A friend of mine who has read the books and is a Christian says they are gloriously well-written, but do get progressively darker and more Anti-God/church as the story-line continues.

But do we judge all of our art on the artist's intent? Do I research the full beliefs and lives and fruit of every music producer, television writer (on the picket line these days), singer, and visual artist I support? I'd say many Christians would be shocked at the lives that "quote Christian artists/musicians" lead. We assume because they sing about God that they live in some sort of bubble with no temptation or sin. We take in and expose ourselves to art EVERY DAY that may or may not meet the impossible standards of matching up with our own moral/religious/Godly standards. So, you say that you will not support the movie because you would not like to support this artist. And yet you support artists whose lives are a wreck (by your standards) every time you watch television, stare at a piece of art at the doctor's office, purchase a picture at Target, buy a calendar full of cute doggie photographs, or many more high-brow forms of art. What does it mean to "support?" Is it with money...or is my time just as valuable in a spiritual sense? Do I support with my mind? What about lip service and anti-"insert item here" facebook groups? Don't those things draw attention?

Certainly, we should all be circumspect about what images and ideas we take in, but as discerning adults, I don't think we'll be easily swayed by ideas that run counter to what we hold dear. Certainly, too, we should monitor what children take in (duh!). But seriously, any fellow "conservative Christians" should use the same standards to judge everything, and not just jump on the "we don't like this..." wagon every time one comes along. The Holy Spirit can guide you to support, watch, purchase, and listen to quality works of art. And each person has something different s/he should avoid. I, for instance, can't watch violent movies...even movies like Braveheart and Gladiator, however redeeming the storylines...are bothersome for my mind. Someone else might have a different trigger. We need to learn our triggers, and protect our minds and souls.

I'm not telling anyone to see or not to see a movie. I'm just saying use your brain and listen to the still, small voice when you judge your art. Apply your standards across the board, and not just when "they" tell you to. Do your own research. Be a thinking Christian. And sometimes realize that you believe what you believe because it has been challenged and found true. Challenge is not evil. Challenge brings strength.