Thursday, December 31, 2009

Teetering on the brink of a new year

Every year, the week after Christmas is filled with advertisements for products and services that promise to help you get in shape, get organized, get out of debt, and quit smoking.

(Which means every year I get to feel a little smug that there's one group of products I can ignore.)

But this post isn't the typical list of New Year's resolutions.

In 2009, things happened in my life that threw me for a loop. 2009 held up a mirror and showed me I have some stuff to tackle.

The biggest thing 2009 showed me is that some things are completely outside my circle of control, or even influence.

So I've decided 2010 is the year I begin picking my battles more carefully.

Because those things that are outside that circle of influence?

They're not my battles to fight.

Basically, I'm praying the Serenity Prayer. All year long.


Friday, December 25, 2009

The Nativity

Giotto di Bondone, Nativity, c. 1305-1315

The Nativity
C.S. Lewis

Among the oxen (like an ox I’m slow)
I see a glory in the stable grow
Which, with the ox’s dullness might at length
Give me an ox’s strength.

Among the asses (stubborn I as they)
I see my Saviour where I looked for hay;
So may my beastlike folly learn at least
The patience of a beast.

Among the sheep (I like a sheep have strayed)
I watch the manger where my Lord is laid;
Oh that my baa-ing nature would win thence
Some woolly innocence!


Thursday, December 24, 2009

How we see(k) Jesus

Today is Christmas Eve.

Though gifts may still need to be wrapped (or purchased!), chances are good your Christmas decorating is done.

For many of us, our seasonal décor includes a well-lit Christmas tree standing proudly in the living room, stockings hanging from the mantel, and a nativity scene set up in a quiet corner.

In that crèche, Joseph stands tall enough to bump his head on the stable's doorway; Mary's fair hair is complemented by her pale blue wrap; Jesus' skin is the color of a glass of milk with a single drop of strawberry Quik.

I confess, I struggle with artwork that portrays the holy family as if they were Nordic, rather than middle-Eastern. I hope this is more a concern for historical accuracy than it is pride in my own Jewish ancestry, though I can't say for sure.

Does our depiction of Jesus in artwork influence how we see Him?

I recently ran across an article that takes a different look at this issue. In the article, Elrena Evans tells how a Bible was produced in Mumbai last year which was "the first to be produced by Indians, for Indians in simple English."

Evidently the illustrations, including one depicting the holy family as poor Indian villagers, offended some groups. Their outcry resulted in revisions being made prior to the Bible's second printing last month.

Sidenote: A second printing, a year after the initial print run, in a country whose Christian population is 2.5%! That deserves some celebration, don't you think?

Evans points out:
Remaking Jesus to look like us isn’t a new phenomenon. Any number of famous Madonna-and-child paintings depict the Holy Family looking about as historically accurate as I look fastening a head covering over my red hair to play Mary in my church's Nativity play. Mary in a sari isn’t any further from what the actual Mary probably looked like than I am.
She's right. A trip to a decent-sized art museum will show that painters throughout history often rendered biblical characters to look more like the artists' contemporaries than robed-and-sandaled middle-Easterners.

Maybe we need to think of it another way. Have a listen to the song posted below (lyrics below the video) — especially the final verse.

Some Children See Him
Wihla Hutson & Alfred S. Burt

Some children see Him lily white,
the baby Jesus born this night.
Some children see Him lily white,
with tresses soft and fair.

Some children see Him bronzed and brown,
The Lord of heav'n to earth come down.
Some children see Him bronzed and brown,
with dark and heavy hair.

Some children see Him almond-eyed,
this Savior whom we kneel beside.
some children see Him almond-eyed,
with skin of yellow hue.

Some children see Him dark as they,
sweet Mary's Son to whom we pray.
Some children see him dark as they,
and, ah! they love Him, too!

The children in each different place
will see the baby Jesus' face
like theirs, but bright with heavenly grace,
and filled with holy light.

O lay aside each earthly thing
and with thy heart as offering,
come worship now the infant King.
'Tis love that's born tonight!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmastime is here

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Growing up, I didn't hear much Scripture.

My family didn't attend church, didn't read the Bible, didn't pray, and didn't discuss God.

But every Christmas, two things happened:

We watched A Charlie Brown Christmas, with the famous scene where Linus recites from Luke 2.

And we played Harry Simeone Chorale The Little Drummer Boy, an album that connects songs using narrated passages from both Old and New Testaments.

Though we ignored Scripture the rest of the year, these two traditions put biblical truth in my head.

Last Sunday afternoon, we had some friends over for lunch. After the meal, we sat in the living room chatting while Christmas music played in the background.

At one point in the conversation, one person said he wasn't sure how he felt about non-Christians singing sacred music like Handel's Hallelujah chorus, since they don't really believe the words.

I responded by pointing to my own experience of hearing God's word within these two annual traditions from my childhood.

Now, when I listen to either album, I'm immediately reminded that I heard His word over and over as an unbelieving child. Although it would be several years before I picked up a Bible and began to believe its words, somehow I didn't reject them in that setting.

More importantly, I'm reminded of the truth that God's word will accomplish what He sends it to do, even if we don't believe the words at the time.


Monday, December 21, 2009

God bless us every one

I love the story of A Christmas Carol.

We own at least five versions of the movie, and have seen several more renditions of the story on stage and screen.

Each version emphasizes different points — some take a more humanistic approach (i.e. Scrooge had it in him the whole time), and others focus more closely on the story's supernatural aspects (i.e. it took a spiritual awakening to force Scrooge to give up his greed and think of someone other than himself).

Some versions do a better job than others at setting the stage for Scrooge's redemption, unshrinkingly depicting the poverty, filth and horrors of London during the mid-to-late 19th century.

Still, we stubbornly cling to an idyllic, Department 56-like vision of Victorian London.

For example, the 1980 movie Ordinary People contains a line that captures this notion of idealized perfection. The scene shows Beth Jarrett (Mary Tyler Moore) trying to convince her husband Cal (Donald Sutherland) that going away to England for the holiday is the right thing to do: “You know what I think? I think Christmas in London would be like something out of Dickens.”

I've seen the movie a few times, and every time I hear that line I think, "Huh?" I mean, what part of his work, exactly, would make one want to vacation in Charles Dickens’ London? Is it the air filled with coal smoke and soot, or the streets full of starving orphans and excrement? Puzzling.

In a recent article entitled The Darker Side of A Christmas Carol, Lisa Toland points out that Dickens' London was "a world more brutal than we sometimes imagine," and that his work was actually a "social tirade" intended to "awaken Britain's collective conscience."

We're far removed from Victorian London. Content to see only the charms of Dickens' writing, we may miss the application in our own day.

Who is Tiny Tim in our time? Toland answers compellingly:
While poor children in developed nations are mostly those living in former industrial centers, worldwide poverty and exploitation have even more faces. These are the modern-day Tiny Tims....

The culture of workhouses still exists, though under a different guise. Exploitive child labor and abuse are alive and well. And human trafficking, which preys especially on children, is a reality. For these children, the workhouse may be a house of prostitution. All of these things make our society look much like Victorian London. Fortunately, many governments, relief organizations, and the church—through various ministries and local congregations—are actively combating these hidden injustices.

Between the horror of reality and the fanciful coloring of his characterization, Dickens's classic maintains the power to awaken our social conscience. Yes, we are drawn to the romance of the Victorian Christmas, but we are also gripped and moved by A Christmas Carol's dark portrayals of real life, then and now.

For Scrooge, the ultimate moment of self-examination comes on the third night of his haunting, when he is visited by a silent, grim spirit. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come leads him to a forgotten graveyard and points to a plain slab of stone engraved with Ebenezer Scrooge. At that moment, sinking in his own grave, Scrooge experiences the desolation of death without the promise of redemption.

Then, having glimpsed the ultimate terror, the spirit returns Scrooge safely to his bedroom, where he bursts with joy, immediately calling out his window to arrange the delivery of an enormous turkey to Bob Cratchit's home—one tangible fruit of Scrooge's regeneration.

It's an ending filled with hope and implicit moral exhortation. Scrooge's newfound compassion pushes Dickens's readers of every age and culture to pursue their own courses of charity. For there will always be faces pressed against our windows.
If the Spirit of the One who is Christmas Past, Present, and Future is leading you to make a difference in the life of a Tiny Tim, here are a few organizations to consider:

Compassion International
Heifer International
Women At Risk, International
World Relief
World Vision


Friday, December 18, 2009

7 Quick Takes: Volume 3

Even though this is supposed to be 7 Quick Takes on unrelated things, a theme seems to have emerged today. See if you can pick it out.

(The idea of 7 Quick Takes Friday comes from blogger Jennifer Fulwiler, who hosts it weekly at her site, Conversion Diary.)


This may seem odd in light of my recent post about Santa, but one of my favorite Christmas songs is Kay Starr’s classic jazz tune (Everybody's Waitin' For) The Man with the Bag. This song is so fun, and Starr’s rendition of it can’t be beat (like Etta James’ At Last — often imitated, but never duplicated). Her style is laid-back and perfect, and the band is spot on.

Here it is, set with a slideshow of vintage Christmas cards. Enjoy!


Have you noticed how music affects your mood? It’s like it bypasses the thought process and takes a direct path to the mood center of the brain. I haven’t read any research on this (yet), but I’m convinced there’s a connection. And I’m surprised that connection isn’t being tapped more in the mental health field.


Last weekend I sang in my church’s Christmas program, as I mentioned in takes #4 and #5 here. Although I’ve been singing in choirs for years, this was only my second time performing Hallelujah from Handel’s Messiah. This was a contemporary arrangement, with electric guitars and a rock beat, but still very much the classic Hallelujah chorus.

This time, I discovered something I'd never noticed before. I sing alto, and generally really enjoy it, even though alto parts are notorious for being dull. (Look up Alto’s Lament on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean.) Many composers and arrangers seem to like having the alto section sit on one note for long periods. Handel (or at least this arranger) was no exception — toward the beginning, our part rides on an A for a couple of pages.

But later on in the piece, the altos become the utility players. Near the end, we sing “King of kings” with the men, and while they’re holding out their notes, we jump up and sing “Forever, and ever” with the sopranos (on our notes, not theirs, thankfully), and again on “Lord of lords”… “Forever, and ever.” You’ll hear it beginning around 4:57 of the Silent Monks’ video I posted Wednesday.

It’s very fun, and made me think Handel may have appreciated altos for more than our ability to ride a single note forever… (and ever… Hallelujah! Hallelujah!).


If you asked me about my favorite Christmas album of all time, I'd have to say it's Vince Guaraldi Trio A Charlie Brown Christmas. Even though the kids are pretty off-key in places. Even though it's played in restaurants and stores beginning before Thanksgiving. I just never get tired of it.


I often joke that when they start playing “your” music in the grocery store, it's a sign that it’s time to make a reservation for the home. Yeah… my grocery store has been playing my music for a while.

So this week I ran across another sign of my age. (Who am I kidding? I didn’t “run” across it. At my age, I walk carefully and methodically, lest I stumble and fall and break a hip.)

On Tuesday I went to see my doctor for a checkup. My husband had an appointment for his annual physical at the same time. (It’s a group practice.) As we were waiting for the receptionist to check us in, he pointed out a doctor he’d met on a previous visit, one of the practice’s newer members.

Now, when I say “newer,” I want you to know I mean it in every way. This doctor is young. Boyish. I wanted to ask him if he’s shaving yet.

My husband (evidently reading my thoughts) murmured, “I think he’s in his thirties” as I silently mouthed, “He’s twelve.”

Hopefully I won’t get sick when he’s on call. I’m not sure I'm ready to be cared for by Doogie Howser, M.D.


On the plus side of this whole aging thing, I’m looking forward to being able to holler at kids taking a shortcut across our corner lot, “Hey, you, get offa my lawn!” (And yes, I believe that’s exactly what Mick Jagger yells at trespassing youngsters.)


I’m totally kidding about #6. My husband already has that territory covered.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Happy Holidays...

Have you ever wondered what the connection is between Hanukkah and Christmas?

"OK, Pam," you're thinking, "I'll play along. Let's see... they're both December holidays that involve candles and gifts."

Yes, excellent observations. Thanks for humoring me.

Of course, because of my Jewish heritage (my dad's side), I come to this question with perhaps more interest than the typical Christian. And still, I'm just discovering the connections myself.

I'll give you a few hints:




This year, Hanukkah is celebrated from sundown Dec. 11 through nightfall Dec. 19. May I challenge you, during this season of celebration, to find out a little more about the link between these two holidays?

Here are a couple of articles to help out:

Do They Know It's Hanukkah? Christianity Today
No Hanukkah, No Christmas Chosen People Ministries

Happy Holidays. And I truly mean that.


Friday, December 11, 2009

7 Quick Takes: Volume 2

Last week, I tried my hand at a 7 Quick Takes post. Let me know in the comments if you like this feature enough to see it every Friday.

(The idea of 7 Quick Takes Friday comes from blogger Jennifer Fulwiler, who hosts it weekly at her site, Conversion Diary.)


I’m realizing how many of my post titles are taken from songs. Not that there’s anything wrong with that… but I wonder, is it a cop-out? Or does it make a nice lead-in to the post?

Your opinions are welcome.


A couple of weeks ago was the anniversary of the death of C.S. Lewis. He died a week shy of his 65th birthday, on Nov. 22, 1963.

Most people are astounded when they learn that Lewis died on the same day as John F. Kennedy. I know I was.

It’s been said that Lewis was a very private man who didn’t want a big fuss made over his death, so the fact that media attention was elsewhere would have suited him.


I considered posting to mark the anniversary of Lewis’ death. (Is there a less cumbersome way to express that? Deathday — too morbid. Death anniversary? Yikes.)

Two things stood in the way of that (or any) blog post that week: first, a school project and exam prep for the final week of my addictions class (see take #7 here); second, extra rehearsals and the annual concert of the community choir I sing with. The performance fell on the anniversary itself.

Blogging definitely takes a back seat with all that going on, but I feel bad not to have acknowledged the date, since C.S. Lewis is probably my favorite author of all time. I hope to do better next year.


Tonight and tomorrow, I’m participating in my church’s Christmas program. It’s set up as a dessert theatre, and the production includes seven songs with the main choir, as well as several solo and ensemble pieces. It’s intended as an outreach, and I’m praying people will see and hear the real Person who is Christmas. (And I don’t mean Santa.)


Prior to the main part of the program, our small a capella group will be dressed in Victorian-era costumes, portraying Dickens carolers, roaming from table to table, singing for the guests in each part of the room. We’ll be singing contemporary arrangements of traditional carols.

For some reason, I'm finding it very amusing to sing a 21st century arrangement of an 18th century carol while wearing a 19th century outfit.


If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you know I have issues about poor punctuation. (If you know me personally, you know I could have ended that sentence before the final phrase.)

I will confess to a fondness for all things spelling- and grammar-related. (Note: I do not claim to be perfect at it.)

Of my (many) pet peeves, homonym misuse is near the top. I’ve even thought of launching a Web site that would guide visitors through their homonym confusion.

(I mean, come on, people… my Slovak friend figured out the difference between threw and through; surely a native English-speaker can get the difference between sight and site.)


One great thing about reading people’s blogs is this: I get to develop tolerance. Every time I see someone use it’s when they mean its (or vice-versa), I get a chance to take a deep breath and demonstrate grace by not blasting that person in the comments.

Although maybe I'm not growing as much as I think I am. To quote one of my favorite bloggers, Jon Acuff, “If you make a point of telling someone you ‘took the high road’ in a situation, you're probably already off it.”


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

I need a little Christmas

I've had a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this year. It's been a rough year in some ways, and I'm just not feeling it.

Not feeling like decorating, shopping, baking, putting up a tree... nothing. (That beautiful wreath-decked door in the picture? Someone else's house.)

Even my bright red sweatshirt — screenprinted with Mickey Mouse wearing a Santa hat — isn't doing it for me.

(Yes, I am that woman — the one who wears something seasonally appropriate every day from Thanksgiving through Christmas. Or at least, I was once. The sweatshirt is a souvenir of those days.)

In the movie One Magic Christmas, the main character is a woman so discouraged and beaten down by her circumstances that she can't even bring herself to wish "Merry Christmas" to those around her.

It's a twist on the It's a Wonderful Life story. Unlike George Bailey, who got a chance to see what things would have been like for others if he'd never been born, Ginny Grainger gets a chance to see what life would be like for her without those she loves. Just like George, Ginny's outlook changes, even though her situation doesn't.

George's attitude adjustment came courtesy of an angel named Clarence, a man who died in the 19th century and had been awaiting his wings ever since. Ginny is also visited by an angel, a cowhand from the old West who drowned while rescuing a child.

When I watch movies like this, I wonder: where did we get this idea that angels are actually people who've died? Every Bible passage about angels is clear they are a creation entirely separate and different from human beings. Yet the myth persists.

Obviously, screenwriters are taking their cues from somewhere other than Scripture.


And just like that, I have the solution to my problem.

I think I'll go read Luke 2.


Saturday, December 05, 2009

Stocks: still a good investment

This is the life-changing recipe I promised in yesterday's post.

This is not, nor will it ever be, a food blog. But I like to cook. There's one thing I make all the time that makes me feel like a rockstar in the kitchen, and it couldn't be simpler: stock.

(You might call it "broth" at your house, but there's a difference.)

In fact, I'm amazed more people don't make their own stock. In this age of conserving resources (or recycling, pick your favorite term), stock is the ultimate conservation project.

You're basically taking stuff you'd normally throw away and making more food out of it. (OK, that didn't sound right...) When you buy stock in the grocery store, it will set you back at least $3 for a quart. And for what? Water that's had bones and vegetables and herbs and spices simmering in it.

It couldn't be easier to do: take the remains of a roast chicken (it doesn't have to be homemade — a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store works well too) — bones, skin, wingtips, etc. — and toss them into a slow cooker. Scrub a couple of carrots and a rib or two of celery, cut them in two or three pieces, and throw them in with the carcass. Wash an onion — no need to peel it, but do remove the label if it has one — cut it in half, and throw it in. Add a few whole peppercorns, maybe a bay leaf and some thyme. Cover the whole thing with water, slap the lid on, and cook it on low for several hours or overnight.

(Edited to add: I prefer to use a slow cooker because I don't have to monitor it. Traditional stock recipes instruct you to periodically "skim the foam" off the top. For whatever reason, that instruction put me off the whole idea of stock for a long time. But with a slow cooker, foam doesn't happen — a bonus for those of us who like our cooking low-maintenance.)

(Sidebar: I once read that fancy restaurants have a stock pot going all the time, and they toss in various peels, ends and trimmings of vegetables and herbs as they're prepping. Carrot ends, onion skins, fresh herbs that are a little past their prime, even salad greens... as long as it's not too strongly flavored and there's not too much of one thing, it goes into the pot. I adapted that approach, and gather that stuff in a ziploc bag for stock-making day. If we haven't had a roast chicken that week, I make vegetable broth. Same process, shorter cooking time.)

In the morning, turn off the heat and let the cooker and its contents cool down a bit. Strain out the solids (you'll be discarding them) and pour the liquid into a large container. Refrigerate for several hours, then strain the solidified fat off the top.

Violà — chicken stock! (The method works for turkey, too.) You'll note that you just made about $10 worth of stock for the price of a few veggies. Not only that, but you're in charge of how much salt and other flavorings are in it.

You don't have to use it right away — stock freezes well. I'll sometimes pour it into ice cube trays, freeze, then pop the frozen stock cubes into a freezer bag. This makes it easy to grab exactly as much as I need.

What's stock good for? Well, besides the obvious applications like soups and sauces, stock is a great way to add flavor to a lot of things you might otherwise use water for (like rice or couscous). And some dishes (like risotto and polenta) usually call for stock.

So make your own, and you can be a rockstar in the kitchen too!

If you're here from the link on Fiddledeedee, welcome!


Friday, December 04, 2009

7 Quick Takes

Lately I've been struggling to find blog fodder. Well, not really struggling to find it as much as struggling to piece together a coherent train of thought that leads to a single conclusion, instead of a random smattering of unrelated weirdness that leads nowhere.


7 Quick Takes.

The idea here is to take the stumpy little ideas that are floating around in a blogger's head, gather them into a tidy group of seven (why seven? Well, why not?), throw a number above each one, and call it a post. The beauty of this is, it doesn't have to lead anywhere. In fact, it's almost better if it doesn't!

Well. As all my friends know, I have no trouble coming up with pithy observations about random stuff.

So I'm giving 7 Quick Takes a shot. Sing out in the comments if you think it should be a regular Friday feature.

(The idea of 7 Quick Takes Friday comes from blogger Jennifer Fulwiler, who hosts it weekly at her site, Conversion Diary.)

OK, enough introduction. In the words of Peter Pan, "Off we go!"


Somehow I overlooked the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall on November 9th. I really should have blogged about it. I'm still amazed that it happened.

I visited Europe as a kid, and in my mind, I can still see that horrific wall standing as tragically solid as it did in 1972. But there's a section of it permanently installed in the lobby of our local public museum that reminds me that it's down. It's a surreal experience every time I see it.


And speaking of walls...

I've blogged about removing the wallpaper in my master bathroom. I haven't, however, blogged about finishing that project. That's because I haven't.

I stalled out partway through the project and haven't been able to bring myself to get back to it. Which means the walls look like an unholy mess. (My fingernails, however, look great!)

It seems the original paper was applied to walls that had not been primed first, so removing it has taken hunks of the drywall paper off. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to get the walls smooth enough to look good under semi-gloss paint.

But I may have found the solution in... more wallpaper. This time, it's paper that looks like old-fashioned beadboard, which is a look I've always liked.

Maybe this project will eventually be completed!


I've been reading the archived entries of a blog called The Julie/Julia Project. This is the blog that became the book that became the movie Julie & Julia (...that lived in the house that Jack built).

It's interesting to see the blog page, formatted just as it was in the movie. Reading the blog is almost like being there and watching the whole thing unfold. But that by itself wouldn't be enough to keep me interested. Julie Powell is just a really good writer.

Here's the link to the first post in The Julie/Julia Project. (If you follow it, be forewarned that Julie uses four-letter words as liberally as Julia Child used butter.)


Speaking of food... and blogging... and blogging about food...

This isn't a cooking blog, but there's something I make all the time that is so simple, so basic, so fundamental, and yet so mysterious to most people, I feel I must share. It's life-changing.

I'll post a recipe soon. Like maybe tomorrow. Stay tuned.


And now, for something completely different.

Christian psychologist Phil Monroe recently blogged about psychological testing. He observed that people tend to either: 1) overestimate the value of tests, or 2) dismiss them altogether.

I've seen several tests used in different settings, and of the two camps Monroe talks about, the people in the first camp scare me the most.


I went to the library last week. That in itself is no surprise — I go there often. But when I looked at my stack of books, I realized I had unintentionally gathered no fewer than five books on self-improvement in various forms. Evidently I'm gearing up for some serious New Year's resolutions.


I just completed my first course toward an addiction counseling certification (CAADC). Since I've worked and done research in that area, I felt like I already knew quite a bit about addictions and substance abuse. Oh, how wrong I was.

The class I just finished dealt with some of the physical aspects of substance use. I've been away from that aspect of the counseling field for several years, so it wasn't a surprise that much of the information about stimulants (or uppers) and depressants (downers) was new.

But when we got to the chapter on alcohol, I thought I was in familiar territory. I was in for a shock. I knew about alcohol's effect on the liver, but I was stunned to read about the toll long-term heavy drinking takes on the heart. (Trust me, you're glad I didn't post a picture here.)

I also had no idea about the dangerous potential of heavy alcohol use in combination with seemingly safe over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen, ibuprofen... and aspirin. It seems the first can lead to liver failure, and the other two can lead to serious intestinal bleeding.

And yes, armed with these new bits of information, I'm a wonderful party guest. All set for New Year's Eve.


Monday, November 30, 2009

He knows if you've been bad or good

The season of Santa is upon us.

He's makin' a list...

What I am about to tell you will make me sound like a Scrooge-y countercultural extremist weirdo.

Checkin' it twice...

But of course, I'm no stranger to that title. And I'm OK with it.

Gonna find out who's naughty or nice...

My son grew up not believing in Santa Claus.

Yes, it's true. My husband and I, both red-blooded Americans and Christmas-celebrators from childhood, opted to raise our son without the myth that Santa brings the presents.

Matt never wrote a letter to Santa. We didn't take him to have his picture taken with the jolly old elf, nor did we decorate with Kris Kringle's red-suited image. We even stayed away from Santa-themed carols.

When Matt was old enough, we cautioned him against spoiling his classmates' belief in the big guy. We taught him about St. Nicholas, the historical figure upon whom Santa Claus is (very loosely) based. And we told him that Santa himself, along with his flying reindeer and sack of toys, is make-believe.

Why did we go to all that trouble, when going with the flow of the culture would have been so much easier?

Because truth is important.

He sees you when you're sleeping...

Even before I met my husband, I decided I wanted to raise any and all future children without benefit of the typical childhood myths — not just Santa Claus. My main reason was that I wanted to be able to look my kids in the eye and say, "I never lied to you."

He knows if you're awake...

And I figured if we taught our hypothetical children about Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Jesus, and they gradually came to realize the first three members of that ensemble weren't real, what would they conclude about the fourth? And what would they conclude about their parents' honesty?

He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness' sake!

(I had to do a little campaigning on this point. My husband is quite the traditionalist, with fond memories of his own Santa-believing years. Once Matt was at the age when his peers had stopped believing, we began enjoying a few Santa-themed traditions, but they're a little more neutral now than they were back when he was small. Less emotionally charged for everyone.)

Our son is now 24 years old. Yesterday, he thanked us for raising him without Santa. (He had just been to the mall earlier in the weekend. Thanksgiving weekend. Poor soul.)

His feelings about the issue were more passionate and well-reasoned than my own were when I was his age.

He pointed out how the Santa myth encourages greed, and getting more than giving.

More importantly, he went on, the idea of an omniscient being who brings rewards and punishments based on behavior flies in the face of the truth which Christian parents ought to be teaching their children.

I think Santa would be pleased.


I guess I'm not the only Christian parent who has struggled with this issue. Last Christmas, blogger William Pike wrote a great post about addressing the Santa question with his four-year-old son.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans' Day, or Who Is My Neighbor?

Today is Veterans' Day, a day set aside to honor and thank our U.S. veterans for their service.

I have several friends and relatives — including the man I married — who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

I'm sure you do, too. Please take a moment today to thank them.

Regardless whether they served in wartime or peace, in support roles or on the front lines, our servicemen and women are ready and willing to put themselves in harm's way.

But ready and willing doesn't necessarily mean prepared for everything.

Poster by Ilona Meagher
 You've probably heard of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — the phenomenon earlier generations called "shell shock." PTSD is a debilitating condition that can follow one's experience or observation of terrifying events — including natural disasters, violent attacks, serious accidents, and battle experiences.

Symptoms include reliving the trauma (nightmares or flashbacks), sleep problems, depression, emotional detachment, irritability, and difficulties on the event's anniversary.

People who struggle with PTSD report relationship difficulties, failed marriages, chronic unemployment and substance abuse at rates far higher than average. Their rates of attempted and completed suicides are also far higher than average.


Edited to add: I ran this post by a friend who's an Army chaplain. He made some important points about different levels of post-traumatic distress:

"I think that PTSD and other post-traumatic stress management are going to be keeping our chaplains busy for the next few years. I might emphasize that not all post-traumatic stress problems actually constitute the disorder we call PTSD. That's a medical diagnosis. You can have some of these symptoms without it being debilitating and without it constituting PTSD. I think that's a common misconception, that ALL soldiers who struggle with traumatic memories from war are suffering PTSD. About 30% of our soldiers suffer from some kind of Post Traumatic Stress, but only about 5% (if I remember rightly) actually qualify as suffering from PTSD. It's a distinction of number of symptoms or reactions and the severity of those reactions. Again, it can only be correctly diagnosed as 'PTSD' by a mental health professional."

My chaplain friend is right. With this and many other diagnoses, the DSM-IV-TR says symptoms must be sufficient to cause "clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning." So a person struggling with some symptoms (or with less severe symptoms) can fail to meet the diagnostic criteria for full-blown PTSD, and still suffer fallout from a trauma.


In the recent Parade Magazine article Helping Soldiers Heal, former senator and wounded veteran Max Cleland encourages veterans to seek counseling if they are suffering.

Cleland's memoir Heart of a Patriot begins with an open letter to veterans, in which he describes PTSD from the inside:
Some of the deepest wounds we suffer may be inflicted without leaving so much as a scratch.... The soldier's lot is to be exposed to traumatic, life-threatening events — happenings that take us to places no bodies, minds, or souls should ever visit. It is a journey to the dark places of life — terror, fear, pain, death, wounding, loss, grief, despair, and hopelessness. We have been traumatized physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
As more veterans return from combat, the church needs to be willing to help them and their families cope with the effects of their memories of war. Christianity Today recently ran an article on some creative ways churches and Christian organizations are helping with this issue.

Two books that could prove helpful in ministry are The Combat Trauma Healing Manual: Christ-Centered Solutions for Combat Trauma and When War Comes Home: Christ-Centered Healing for Wives of Combat Veterans.

Maybe our best example for helping the wounded comes from Jesus' parable of the good Samaritan.

May we be as willing to go out of our way to help hurting vets.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Diet of Worms: not just another weight loss plan

It's Hallowe'en.

Tonight, American children will dress up as princesses and pirates and knock on neighbors' doors for candy.

It's also Reformation Day.

On Oct. 31, 1517, Martin Luther dressed as a monk (although he wasn't technically dressing up, since he was, in fact, a monk) and knocked on the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Using a hammer and a nail.

Luther wasn't asking for sweets, but for reform. He was calling the Pope out. He had seen too much corruption in the church of his day, so he posted a list of 95 statements of contention on the door. Those statements came to be known as The 95 Theses,* and they caused quite a stir.

(That may be the biggest understatement I've ever made.)

Ever since I learned about the Hallowe'en/Reformation Day connection several years ago, I've wanted to dress up as Martin Luther and go trick-or-treating through the neighborhood.

It'd be a simple costume: brown robe, sandals, rope belt... hammer, nail, parchment...

But I realize it would be one of those jokes that's only funny to me.

Plus, it would take years to grow my hair out.


If you haven't seen the movie Luther, I'd highly recommend it. Here's a short clip to whet your appetite:

*The 95 Theses Rap gives a more contemporary (though probably less accurate) look at the Reformation.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Excuse me, do you validate?

There's a really cute video on YouTube called Validation. It's the story of a parking garage attendant whose mission in life is to make people smile by offering them words of encouragement. It's an uplifting little film that really makes you think about how powerful your words are.

But looking for validation in the eyes of other people is ultimately a hollow pursuit.

I've finally figured out that when I look for validation from other people, I'm really looking for validation from myself.

It turns out that's a bottomless pit.

Insecurity looking for validation is a greedy child on Christmas morning, surrounded by toys and torn wrapping paper, asking "Isn't there any more?"

Recent events have convinced me that this whole search-for-validation thing leads to every manner of trouble. Affairs. Addictions. Overspending. Eating disorders. Job struggles. Relationship struggles.

I'm seeing how connected these issues are to the insecurity-fueled drive to find worth in the eyes of another person, thinking once that person tells me I'm OK, then I'll be OK.

In his blog Stuff Christians Like, Jon Acuff wrote about seeing the beginnings of this in his 6-year-old daughter. She had been called a cruel name at school, and in her retelling of the event, Jon sensed the question "Is it true?" hanging in the air:
That’s a tough question and I wish it was one that we all left in childhood.

But it’s not, is it?

If I’m being honest, I ask myself “Is it true?” sometimes when I get a negative comment on this site or a hateful email. Someone tells me I’m a horrible writer or a horrible Christian or a horrible anything, and I start to wonder, “Is it true?”

Have you ever asked yourself that question?

Has someone ever told you that you were fat? Or untalented? Or unqualified? Or hopeless? Did a divorce try to tell you that you were broken, a job loss tell you that you were worthless or a parent that you were less than the child they hoped for?

Have you ever found yourself asking the question, “Is it true?”

We all do at some point and the challenge is that we often try to find the answer to that question in the wrong place....

Maybe you go to a memory, and try to relive a time in your life when you felt popular or loved.

Maybe you ask a new car or a new pair of shoes or a new anything your question.

Am I old? Is that true sports car?

Am I ugly? Is that true new outfit?

Am I dumb? Is that true new laptop?

And we ask and ask and ask, but regardless of the answer, regardless of if our loved ones provide a temporary salve to a question that hinges on our true identity, something gnaws at us.

The only thing I think we can do in that moment is ask the only one who really knows the answer to the question, “Is it true?” And that’s God.

He, unlike your friend, unlike your boss, unlike that shiny new toy you purchased to try to beat back the feelings of inadequacy, He knit you in the womb. He knows you like no other and He loves answering questions like, “Is it true?” and “Who am I?”
So my sense of my own worth needs to come from the One who made me, who loves me more than anyone else can, who died in my place, who drew me to Himself.

Validation from anywhere else is counterfeit.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Happy (new)birth-day to me

If a time-traveler had visited me in 1980 and told me how I'd be spending this day, I would have laughed until milk (or possibly something more intoxicating) came out my nose.

Twenty-nine years ago today, I put my faith in Christ.

Today, I'm doing two things I couldn't have predicted prior to that day: in the morning, I'll be at the pro-life organization where I volunteer; in the afternoon, I'll be helping serve an appreciation lunch to the staff of my church and their spouses.

I didn't plan to spend my "faith anniversary" this way — it just happened.

But I can't think of a better way to celebrate.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Of David Letterman and relationship ethics

Author and seminary prof Mike Wittmer wrote an excellent post about the David Letterman debacle. In it, he questions the genuineness of Letterman's repentance, since the comedian continues to mine the situation's comic potential.

In making this point, Wittmer posits that Letterman "used his position of power to receive sexual favors from some of his female employees. Obviously they are not pure either, but Dave is more culpable because he held by far the most power in their relationship."

One of his commenters questions this assumption of Letterman's culpability: "How do you know that Letterman used power as leverage in these relationships? How are these women who used sex exploitatively more vulnerable than men? ...I can’t connect all the dots between our facts, conjectures and judgments."

I understand the commenter's concern regarding our assumptions of power and exploitation and vulnerability. After all, haven't women spent the last forty years proving we are powerful? Who's to say the female staffers weren't, in fact, taking advantage of Dave?

Maybe another perspective will help "connect the dots."

Take Letterman's fame and gender out of the equation — he is a boss. As boss, he was in a position of power over these women even if they consented. Regardless of whether job threats are ever actually uttered, a boss is in a position of power over his employees. That's why sexual harassment laws exist: to protect the more vulnerable (the employee) from the more powerful (the boss).

Although a similar argument could be made regarding the relative social (and physical) power of the two sexes, the fact that Letterman is male and the staffers are female is not the main issue here. The main issue, I would say, is that he took advantage of his position. As their boss, he is already one step above them on the power ladder.

Now, add his fame and his gender back into the equation, and the power gap widens. Letterman is at least three steps above his staffers on that ladder, towering over them in terms of relative power. Are they really in a position to decline his advances?

In the counseling profession, ethical codes expressly prohibit counselor/client sexual relationships. Like sexual harassment laws, ethical codes protect the more vulnerable (the client) from the more powerful (the counselor). The associations responsible for these codes (ACA, APA, AAMFT) emphasize this point because they understand the power gap between the counselor and client.

Even secular governing bodies understand the potential in human nature for the powerful to exploit the vulnerable.

Jesus understood it too:
Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin." Luke 17:1-2

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Carry each other

My friend Miriam recently helped launch a ministry and posted this introductory video:

We'd like to encourage you to find ways to help the women and children of broken families. Support can come in many forms — but what really matters is your willingness to give of yourself. For more information please visit our website at

Carry Each Other
Aaron Niequist

Life is not meant to live, on shoulders and shins —
All alone. It’s too heavy to hold.
We need the arms of a friend, again and again —
To be strong, and walk with us ahead.

Love is not meant to live, on tongues and on lips —
All alone, we need to let our love show
In how we give and we hope, and make His way known —
Redemption’s calling!

If we are a temple — then I am a stone
If we are a body — then I am a bone
If we are community — then I’m not alone
I’m not alone, and you’re not alone,
We’re not alone...
We've gotta carry each other!

God has made us to be a new family —
Of His blood, for eternity.
From every nation and name, the call is the same —
Love and unity!


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Follow-up to Wordless Wednesday

For yesterday's Wordless Wednesday, I posted a picture of my latest book purchase with a title that proves I don't really know what "wordless" means.

Yes, I'm addicted to books. And I'm enrolled in an addictions counseling program. Which requires the purchase of books. Hence, the program is feeding my addiction. Oh, the irony is rich... well, to me, anyway.

For another perspective on the power of books, check this out.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sex, lies, and the pro-choice movement

I'm pretty sure anyone who knew me in high school would be stunned to hear that I volunteer for a pro-life organization. As a teenager, I was staunchly pro-choice, and vocal about it. (The last four words of that sentence will come as no surprise to anyone who has known me longer than five minutes.)

But my change to a pro-life stance is not the subject of today's post.

Instead, I'd like to talk about the mindset behind the pro-choice position. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it's important to understand the philosophy on which the pro-choice position is based. Without that understanding, it's impossible to have a real discussion of the issue.

In an article entitled Sex, Lies, and Abortion, author Dinesh D'Souza points out the philosophical conflict at the heart of the pro-choice movement. (You'll want to read the article — he makes an excellent point. OK, I'll give you a hint: it has to do with social justice.)

D'Souza asks, "Why then, in the face of its bad arguments, does the pro-choice movement continue to prevail legally and politically?" The answer, he writes, is that "abortion is the debris of the sexual revolution... [and] is viewed as a necessary clean-up solution to this social reality."

He continues:
In order to have a sexual revolution, women must have the same sexual autonomy as men. But the laws of biology contradict this ideology, so feminists who have championed the sexual revolution—Simone de Beauvoir, Gloria Steinem, Shulamith Firestone, among others—have found it necessary to denounce pregnancy as an invasion of the female body. The fetus becomes, in Firestone's phrase, an "uninvited guest." As long as the fetus occupies the mother's womb, these activists argue, the mother should be able to keep it or get rid of it at her discretion.

D'Souza hits the nail squarely on the head. By the 1970s, feminism's original cause (professional and social equality) had bled over into relationship ethics.* If men could have sex with impunity and without commitment, women should be free to do the same; there was no equality without sexual freedom — so went the party line. That philosophy fueled my own worldview, and that of many of my friends.

A generation later, even that twisted rationale is lost. Many girls and young women seem to passively accept and even willingly participate in the hypersexualized culture that demeans and objectifies them. They accept it without question, in the same way my peers and I accepted our right to vote, never pausing to consider that it had not always been this way.

(However, unlike the vote, the last few decades' transition in values has actually made women more enslaved to the dominant male culture, rather than less. Need proof? Just look at the exponential increase in pornography, both in volume and demeaning-ness. I doubt that was what the suffragettes were fighting for.)

D'Souza concludes his article by pointing out that, in light of this reality, pro-life arguments that focus only on fetal humanity and viability are unlikely to make much headway, because they address the wrong issue:
Rather, the pro-life movement must take into account the larger cultural context of the sexual revolution that invisibly but surely sustains the triumphant advocates of abortion.

It won't be easy, but somehow the case against abortion must include a case against sexual libertinism.

As I reflect on my own philosophical evolution — no, more like revolution — on this subject, it strikes me just how misguided was that aspect of the feminist ideal. I can't argue with the goal of gender equality. But the "freedom" that feminism held up as the standard for both sexes has turned out to be nothing more than irresponsibility.

Equality may have been second-wave feminism's goal, but it seems to me its method has resulted in a further devaluation of women, and a loss of dignity for both sexes.

And we are less free than ever, because we're looking for freedom in the wrong place.

"...through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:2

*Carolyn McCulley gives an excellent overview of first, second, and third-wave feminism in this short video.


Thursday, September 03, 2009

Bluer than blue

Depression has been called the common cold of mental health.

If you've ever struggled with depression (or you know anyone who has, which is more likely than you may think), you owe it to yourself to watch the PBS documentary Depression: Out of the Shadows.

You don't need to buy it — I found a copy at my local library.

The documentary covers quite a bit of territory in 90 minutes:
  • It looks at depression in various populations from executives to gang members, from teens to new moms to the elderly.

  • It discusses the connection between depression and various other problems, including anxiety, heart disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, even insomnia.

  • It talks about various treatment options and the stigma attached.

  • And it describes what depression is like, from the perspective of those who have battled it.

You may not agree with all of it, but I promise you will think differently about depression after watching.

Edited to add:

Another PBS documentary, Men Get Depression, focuses specifically on men's experience of depression, its symptoms, and some of the issues that can get in the way of seeking treatment for men in particular. It also touches briefly on the conflict some people find between treatment and faith.

If you're a man struggling with depression, I highly recommend both these videos.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The sometimes hard grace of God

"It basically says God will work everything together for good."

I was 18, a first-semester sophomore at a college five hours from home. I had long considered myself an atheist.

Yet here I was, having a conversation about God and the Bible with a new friend, a fellow student, at the restaurant where we both worked.

Her name was Lisa, and she was a patient and compassionate listener. I was involved with a guy who was thousands of miles away, and I was worried his feelings for me had cooled.

I needed to talk about it. A lot.

After listening to several minutes of my verbal handwringing, Lisa responded in a way I never could have expected. She told me about Romans 8:28, and how God works everything together for good.


When I got back to my room that night, I found my roommate's King James Bible and looked up the verse Lisa had directed me to. Then I read the verses before and after. I didn't understand much of it, but I remembered her paraphrase.

She introduced me to an idea — really, three ideas — that shook my narrowminded atheism at its core:

God exists.
God cares for me.
God is in control.

To understand why these were such revolutionary ideas for me, you need to know some of the background of my atheism.

My dad, though he was raised in an Orthodox Jewish home, abandoned his religion when he couldn't reconcile the idea of a loving and all-powerful God with the suffering he saw in the world.

He was born in 1930. Think WWII. Hitler. Death camps.

So he came to the conclusion at age 18 that either God couldn't help, or that He wouldn't. Either God was loving but powerless, or He was powerful but unloving. Given those choices, my dad chose instead to believe in no God at all.

(I've phrased it that way intentionally. Atheism is not disbelief, or the lack of a faith. It is really a faith, although the object of that faith is human reason rather than a divine being.)


I was in elementary school when Dad told me about his decision. By that time, he had lived with his belief for over two decades, and his commitment to it was unwavering. It was around that time I decided I, too, was an atheist.

Romans 8:28 introduced me to a God who not only existed, but who also cared for me (despite the fact that I had never looked His way except to scoff at the naïveté of His followers), and who was powerful enough to work in situations and circumstances over which I clearly had no control (despite all my best efforts).

Without knowing any of my background, Lisa had pointed me to a verse that countered the very foundation of my atheism, point for point: He exists, He is loving, He is powerful.


A few weeks later, after many more conversations with Lisa (and with other Christians who suddenly appeared in my life), I put my faith in Christ.

A few weeks after that, the long-distance guy broke it off.

At the time, I was crushed. But I look back now and see God's hand doing the actual breaking. The relationship wasn't good for me, and it didn't honor Him; He broke it off, because I never would have.


I've been reading Girl Meets God, Lauren Winner's memoir of her own conversion to Christianity. In a section about prayer, she writes:
Augustine wrote that God sometimes does not give us what we ask in prayer. "Of his bounty, the Lord often grants not what we seek, so as to bestow something preferable."
Less than a year after the breakup, I met the man who would eventually become my husband.


Right now, I'm in the middle of a struggle that feels similar to that breakup. This time, it was a job instead of a guy. Back then, it took me a while to see that God's hand held something better than what I was clinging to.

I'm trying to remember that.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Poetry in (e)motion

Today it occurred to me that I haven't written a song or a poem in a long, long time.

Aside from an occasional silly haiku or limerick — which doesn't really count — it's been well over a decade since I've written anything other than prose.

The last several years have been taken up with lots of academic writing (and a little blogging). Currently I have some other writing projects percolating — but all prose, no poetry.

I seem to have relegated poetry to my past, like well-loved jeans that no longer fit.

Some of that is good and right. As a teenager, I poured every hope and dream and fear onto paper, writing poems and song lyrics that were filled with teen drama and angst.

If I came across them today, I would blush with shame and embarrassment at their raw display of hormone-driven emotion... not to mention the wild imagination that had me picturing myself as a singer/songwriter with Something To Say.

I'm glad I went through that time. I think it gives me compassion and understanding for the young adults in my life. But I'm really glad I've grown less emotionally volatile, and have moved on from needing to express myself in that way.

At the same time, I wonder if I've lost something.

David wrote psalms throughout his life. If ever there was a singer/songwriter who exposed his heart, David was it. And he truly had something to say.

Maybe I just need a new subject.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The man in the middle

The other day, my son and I were driving together.

Or, I should say, he was driving, and I was in the passenger seat. Which is almost like driving, when you're the driver's parent and you have control issues. (There. I said it.)

As often happens when the two of us are in the car, we were discussing something he had been thinking about. These are always great times of conversation for us, and have been ever since he was two or three years old. (Back then, I was the one driving.)

And, as often happens when he's involved in a story, his focus was more on the story and less on his driving. As we motored through our subdivision, I noticed his choice of lanes was somewhat... approximate. So I interrupted him to pose a question:

"Matt, why are you in the middle?"

Without missing a beat, he replied:

"Well, there are issues on both sides that I sympathize with."


Thursday, August 06, 2009

Two pink lines and the heroes in our midst

The second pink line changes everything.

I volunteer as a counselor at Pregnancy Resource Center. Every week, I talk to women who may be facing an unexpected pregnancy.

These women come from every background, age group, marital status, family type, belief system, and ethnicity. They have two things in common: they are female, and they are sexually active.

We offer free pregnancy tests. As counselors, we use this interaction with a woman to explore other areas of her life (such as relationship violence), to offer assistance and referrals when needed, and to introduce her to the notion of God's love for her and His interest in her life.

Pretty intimate topics to tackle over a cup of urine.

Sometimes women come to us hoping the test is positive, and are disappointed when it is not. Often, they are fearful of the results, and burst into tears when the second pink line makes its appearance.

One young client was in the second category. She and her boyfriend already knew she was pregnant when they came to our office. In fact, they had an appointment at an abortion clinic, but cancelled it at the last minute and came to our office for counsel instead.

As the couple sat in the counseling room with me, he kept his arm around her protectively as she spoke through tears of the reaction she expected from her parents: "They're very conservative Christians... they would throw me out... I don't know what I'd do."

As I listened, I had to fight back my own tears — not tears of fear like my client's, but tears of mourning that the message she'd received from her parents' Christianity was one of harsh judgment rather than one of grace. And this message was louder than the pro-life message they also preached. (I'm not saying that's what her parents taught her; I'm only saying that's what she learned.)

Several years ago, a family we know was in the same situation. The parents had raised their kids in the church, and had taught them about God's love and His provision of Jesus for their sin.

And then one of their teenaged daughters got pregnant.

When the girl fearfully told her mother, the mom knew her own reaction at that moment would determine the tone of their relationship for the rest of their lives. So she opened her arms and wrapped her daughter in a hug that said, "You're still my child."

Exactly as God does when we bring Him our sin.

Both mother and daughter knew things would be different, that this new life would require both of them to change their plans. But that mom followed up her hug of acceptance by sticking by her daughter and helping her in every way possible.

Sometimes, people look at me like I'm some kind of a hero for volunteering a few hours a week with a pro-life organization.

If you ask me, my friend who demonstrated grace to her daughter, and her daughter who demonstrated courage by owning up to her mistake — these women who are living out their beliefs every minute — they are the real heroes.


Monday, August 03, 2009

Haiku contest WINNER!

After an arduous selection process,
we have a winner of

Canine Crusade Hymn:
"Just as I am, without one
I see that paw.

Congratulations, Gerald Longjohn!

+ animal awareness
= pure awesome!

I'll drop your Coldstone Creamery gift card in the mail this week!

Other terrific entries came from...

Julie Weston:

Creedence Clearwater:
“There’s a bathroom on the right!”
Not like a bad moon...

(Thanks, Julie — CCR was one of my favorite bands when I was a kid!)

Matthew Westerholm:

Strength will rise? "You're the
Defender of the week" — um . . .
A football award?

(Football and worship choruses — what could be more American?)

...and one "Anonymous" [cough Pete Muir cough]:

Tomlin likes to golf
We raise up holy hands to...
praise the hole in one?

(What? Don't you raise your hands when you get a hole-in-one?)

You can read these and the other submissions in the comments of the original post.

Thanks for playing, everyone — you were great!

Next haiku contest: regional expressions!