Linus and His Blanket at Christmas

The Thanksgiving to Christmas period is a favorite time of year.  For me this is in large part due to the annual reruns of the wonderful Charlie Brown videos.  I love Charlie Brown and his pals, even Lucy, and appreciate the subtle messages of gratitude, faith, hope, and love they contain.  Following is an article about a message that was so subtle that I missed it although I had seen it many times.  Perhaps you missed it too.  Anyway, thanks to Jason Soroski for sharing his observation regarding Linus’ blanket.  His article appeared at: www.crosswalk.com as: Just Drop the Blanket: The Moment You Never Noticed in A Charlie Brown Christmas.  And, as a bonus, there is a sequel written by Jason which follows in this post.  RMF

Just Drop the Blanket: The Moment You Never Noticed in A Charlie Brown Christmas

by Jason Soroski

Jason Soroski

This week A Charlie Brown Christmas aired on national prime time television for the 50th time. In a world where the latest greatest technology is outdated in a matter of months, and social media trends come and go in a matter of days, 50 years of anything becomes quite meaningful.
I am a fan of all things nostalgic and all things Christmas, and so when the two are combined I am hooked, and the Charlie Brown Christmas special falls squarely into that category.
I was in the first grade back when they still performed Christmas pageants in schools (less than 50 years, but still a very long time ago), and our class performed a version of the Charlie Brown Christmas. Since I was kind of a bookworm and already had a blue blanket, I was chosen to play the part of Linus. As Linus, I memorized Luke 2:8-14, and that Scripture has been hidden in my heart ever since.
But while working so diligently to learn those lines, there is one important thing I didn’t notice then, and didn’t notice until now.  Continue reading

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Sequel to Demon Dialog

The following is another insightful and sharp-witted article by Regis Nicoll. My original blog post on the topic was on November 17, 2018 and contains background on my appreciation for Mr. Nicoll’s writing. The full caption of the earlier article was Demon Dialog and Serious Spiritual Satire Screwtape Style. So, here is a similar article which I just encountered today. It contains practical wisdom regarding religion and how it may take a person down a path of destruction.  The article by Mr. Nicoll appeared at: www.crisismagazine.com  as:  Hell Relishes a Useful Religion.   RMF

Hell Relishes a Useful Religion
By Regis Nicoll

Regis Nicoll

Dear Swillpit,

The next best thing to a religion that is ignored or marginalized is one that is found useful, a means to some practical end. Thus, the minute a creature is drawn into religion, help him to see its utility in something important to him.

The something can be as personal as self-improvement or as global as world peace, as specific as saving the snail darter or as general as environmentalism, and on either side of a cultural issue like abortion. All we care about is that “it” becomes a cause, a thing to which they devote their entire life, exclusive of all else. Yet, even there, danger lurks.

A worldling who has taken up a cause, is one whose sensitivities to fairness, justice, or fellow-creature feeling have been stirred. It won’t strain your imagination, I trust, to see the threat in such untoward arousals. Instead of moving him closer to becoming the kind of being we’re after—a self-absorbed, other-devouring creature—it can inspire him to qualities that our Adversary values: courage, compassion, sacrifice, and, worst of all, love. Continue reading

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‘The Signature in the Cell’ Book Review

Neat article on the origin of life and intelligent design.

Regis Nicoll recently posted this incredible article in the All Things Examined column at BreakPoint.org.  The article is a book review of Dr. Stephen Meyer’s new book The Signature in the Cell.  This looks to be a landmark publication in its contribution to the design/evolution conversation. I encourage you to read this insightful review and then exercise the intellectual rigor to examine Dr. Meyer’s evidence for yourself:

The Signature in the Cell

All Things Examined

By: Regis Nicoll|Published: June 3, 2011 5:04 PM

One of the most vexing and long-standing mysteries of science is the origin of life: that is, how did the building blocks of matter (atoms and molecules) lead to the building block of life: the biological cell? As recently as 2008, Richard Dawkins (who believes that everything is the product of evolutionary processes) confessed, “No one knows.”

Up until the nineteenth century, leading scientists generally assumed that an organizing…

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Wasting Time Productively

Here is a wonderful reminder of our need to slow down, think deeply, and experience beauty in all its many forms.  The article is by Tiffany Schubert who teaches in the Trivium and Humanities Tracks at Wyoming Catholic College.  Her research interests include the relationship between liberal education and happiness. This article appeared at: The Imaginative Conservative *** as: Liberal Education, the Wasting of Time, and Human Happiness.

Liberal Education, the Wasting of Time, & Human Happiness

By Tiffany Schubert

Tiffany Schubert

 

Human beings are not simply producers; they are also lovers of beauty and contemplators of truth. They are wasters of time. The liberally educated person has a rich inner life that allows him or her to waste time well…

 

liberal education:  As an undergraduate, I went for walks in rural Michigan. Sometimes alone, sometimes with others. Romantic walks, friendly walks, philosophical walks, beautiful walks. On one memorable walk, I delighted in the loveliness of the effect a streetlight can have on green leaves in the dark. I wasted time on those walks, and it shaped my soul.  Continue reading

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Demon Dialog and Serious Spiritual Satire Screwtape Style

Two of my favorite Christian books are CS Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters and Randy Alcorn’s Lord Foulgrin’s Letters.  The Lewis book is a classic masterpiece of religious satire that portrays  human life and foibles from the perspective of Screwtape, a highly placed assistant to “Our Father Below,” aka the devil himself, and his nephew and understudy, Wormwood.  The book is hilarious but also very instructive in its depiction of the devil working in subtle ways to tempt humans and distract them from God, who Screwtape refers to as “the enemy.”  This “devilish” indirect approach is far more useful than a blatant, head-on show of force in diverting folks from the path of righteousness.   If you are a Christian and at all serious about your faith you have certainly noticed this to be true.

My other favorite book of this genre is the Alcorn book.  This book is essentially a brilliant sequel and repackaging of Screwtape for modern readers.  Like Screwtape, which Alcorn admittedly patterned on Lewis’ book, it deals with deep issues and provides important insights into life that are easily missed.  And, it has an engaging plot that displays the clear and very biblical reality of a spiritual realm and warfare  just outside of our senses.  While Alcorn’s premise is the same as Lewis’ the format is different.  Lewis presented his story of his human subject only through the content of the Screwtape letters.  Alcorn’s format uses a series of brief chapters in the life of the main character,  Jordan Fletcher, each followed by a letter or two from Lord Foulgrin, primarily to his disciple, Squailtaint, setting forth attack strategies, observations and critiques.

Like Lewis, Alcorn recounts how the seemingly “small” sins are the ones that can get us in the most trouble. Few of us will commit murder, but our pride, resentments, lies, and so forth, can rob us of our effectiveness for the Lord, and do injustice to the reputation of  the One we should be glorifying through our actions.

So, what is this leading up to?  Well,  I just ran across a brief article by Regis Nicoll which reminds me of Screwtape and Foulgrin.  Mr. Nicoll is a retired nuclear engineer and a fellow of the Colson Center who writes commentary on faith and culture.  The article appeared at: Crisis Magazine   as: The Making of an Apostate.  It also appeared at: Crosswalk.com.  I believe you’ll like it.  RMF

The Making of an Apostate
REGIS NICOLL

Regis Nicoll

Dear Swillpit,

Interesting, how humans can go through life without giving much serious thought to their faith. Oh yes, they may believe in a supreme Being and an afterlife. They may be members of a church, even leaders or clergy. They may have mouthed their allegiance to our Adversary. But beyond the sanctuary walls, they live as if he and his teachings are largely irrelevant. You have your demonic forebears to thank for this.

After generations assailing their spiritual yearnings, we learned that allowing them a small space for religion is better than allowing no space at all. Surprised?

I know it sounds strange, but the more adamantly they reject religion, the more it occupies their thoughts and conversations. In fact, a hardened atheist is apt to spend more of his mental energies pondering “God” and religion than the most ardent believer.  Continue reading

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Imagine That

I love articles that are challenging to fully comprehend, that stretch my intellect, and yet which are, at last, something I can comprehend, unlike many articles on physics, astronomy, philosophy, and mathematics.  I also enjoy articles which are written in such a fashion that the language of the article, apart from the substance, is nicely crafted.  I also love articles whose subject matter is enjoyable expands my store of knowledge and understanding.  For these reasons I found the following article by Eva Brann particularly satisfying.  And, the subject, imagination, is one which I had never really considered very much — certainly not at the depth developed in this article by Ms. Brann.  It  appeared at: theimaginativeconservative.org as: On the Imagination.  This essay was originally published in The St. John’s College Review (Volume 29, No. 4, 1978).  I hope you will enjoy it.  RMF 

On the Imagination
by Eva Brann

Eva Brann

The imagination invests the world with that richness and resonance which makes it an attractive dwelling for the intellect. But the imagination is indispensable to action as well. For the real world is worth our exertion only when the visionary imagination sets the scene for action…

Tonight I shall commit the deliberate indiscretion of trying to say what may be, all in all, unsayable. Let me, therefore, begin with a little disquisition on ineffability.

First, there often exists an insuperable inner resistance to speech. We may declare something to be unspeakably terrible, or unmentionably shameful, or, again, unutterably beautiful or inexpressibly deep. We do not mean that we have made a laborious effort to find the right words and have failed, but rather that we do not want to speak, that we do not want to rekindle or precipitate, tarnish or dissipate, amplify or diminish our inner experience by exposure. (Of course, there is also the trivial reluctance to find language, expressed in the routine adjectives “incredible” or “unbelievable” or “fantastic,” which stems from mere indolence.)

“Figures in a Hudson River Landscape”
by Albert Bierstadt

Second, and at the other extreme, it is conceivable that, as the very consequence of the most faithful and methodical pursuit of speech, it may come to its own end. For by speaking thoughtfully and searchingly it may be possible to talk oneself, as it were, to the very edge of the realm which speech intends, there to confront immediately that which speech is about—whereupon there would be only the silent passage into being.

Third, the outer world, in its multifariousness, may outstrip speech, which is, for all its copiousness, inadequate to the infinity of appearances. Speech not only expresses and searches, it also describes, weaving itself around things in their inexhaustible variety and detail and failing for lack of world enough and time. For we live, as one of Pascal’s Thoughts observes (I, 72), in a double infinity between the minute and the enormous, which makes our researches endless and our speech incomplete. I might add that the bulkiness of the most characteristic modern novels is the consequence of a strenuous effort to master the appearances in words.

Fourth, it is barely possible that there are experiences which are inherently private, ineradicably internal, ultimately unique, and hence incommunicable.

And fifth and finally, I come to the kind of ineffability with which my discourse tonight may be afflicted. There may be a realm which solicits speech but never yields to it, not by reason of being itself the object of speech or by being affected with infinity, but because it is the other of what is sayable, that which always absconds from speech. It is what Valery intends when he says:

The beautiful perhaps demands the servile imitation of that which is indefinable in things.   Continue reading

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Randy Alcorn and His Nanci’s Battle with Cancer

I have experienced facing cancer with several loved ones including both of my parents, Mayo and Norma Furgerson, my brother Bill, and the bride of my youth, Marjorie.  In none of these cases was it easy but their faith in the Lord’s providence in their lives made their battles much more bearable, both for them and for me.  There was never any questioning of God’s motives with regard to the cancer affliction but a dependance on Him in facing it as persons of faith.  

The following article by Randy Alcorn is one of the best pieces I have read on the topic of dealing with cancer and it may be useful and encouraging to you now or in the future.  The article appeared at: http://www.epm.org as: Delighting in God and Trusting in Him through Cancer: An Interview with Randy Alcorn.  Mr. Alcorn is a gifted Christian writer whose works I have followed for years.  RMF

Delighting in God and Trusting in Him through Cancer:

An Interview with Randy Alcorn  

Randy Alcorn

In January 2018, Nanci Alcorn was diagnosed with colon cancer, and has since undergone several months of treatment. In this interview, Randy shares what the Lord has been doing in their lives during this challenging season.

Randy Alcorn
Eternal Perspectives Ministry

Were the two of you surprised or even bitter when Nanci was diagnosed?

We were definitely not bitter or resentful in any way. Why would we be? We never ask why God would allow this to happen to us. He often allows hard things to happen to His people, so why not us? Job was the most righteous person on the planet, and look what he went through. Both of my parents had cancer, as did my best friend from childhood, Jerry Hardin, and we’ve known many others who’ve had it.

Were we surprised by the cancer diagnosis?  

Yes, in the sense that, like most people, we didn’t see it coming—though Nanci had a lot of pain over an eighteen-month period, due to an undiagnosed hiatal hernia, and there were times when she wondered whether she had cancer or something else since there was clearly something wrong with her body. It turned out that the pain had nothing to do with the colon cancer, though cancer was discovered while trying to figure out the cause.

We have never bought into the prosperity theology mentality that says, “Why’s this happening to us? We go to church. We give regularly, and we serve the Lord. Shouldn’t we be exempt from trials like these?” I think of 1 Peter 4:12, which says, “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery ordeal you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.”   Continue reading

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