Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Diabetics: Beware cold products

Decongestants and some other cold remedies contain sugar or else a chemical that causes and increase in blood sugar warns the American Diabetes Association.

Stay informed. You can't treat your body like a temple if you don't know what's trying to pull down your pillars of health.

WWF 2006 Annual Report

The 2006 annual report by the World Wildlife Federation is interesting for all who want to be good stewards of God's creation. But it's also kind of neat to look through.

The WWF report uses a special online report viewer program that lets you flip pages, zoom in or out on a page and even use hyperlinks to jump to sections of the report. Maybe I should call it nerd and nature nurture.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Language of God

America's top genetic scientist, Francis Collins, is also a devout Christian. His book, "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief", is generating some buzz. He defends evolution as well as stem cell research and finds harmony between science and religion.
"...the point of Scripture was not to teach science"
Collins believes that most of the people who strongly oppose evolution do so not because of politics but because they have unfortunately been taught that evolution and faith are not compatible.
"If we've done a poor job of explaining science to the public, is it any wonder that it has political consequences?"

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Christian and moderate

PBS has an interesting story about Christian moderates. Here are a few comments by people in the article:

"I hope that we're not entering a time where Christians are interpreted as being evangelical Christians alone."

"We evangelicals can sometimes become too dogmatic and legalistic."

"It seems unlikely to me that God working in the world is delivering contradictory messages to me in my church and to the white evangelicals in their churches."

Christians divorce Jesus from Judaism

In her article in "The Christian Century" magazine, Amy-Jill Levine criticises Christians for misusing Jesus -- incorrect portrayals of Jesus in regards to Jews and Christians, social issues, and more.

Jesus, she reminds us was:
  • Not against the Torah (Law)
  • Not against the Temple, but rather its leadership
  • Not the only one concerned with social issues
"This divorcing of Jesus from Judaism does a disservice to each textually, theologically, historically and ethically."
To disregard history, she says, is to be unfaithful to both Judaism and Christianity.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Pot luck

"We are never more at home than around the table", said a former pastor of mine. And the friendly warmth of people gathered in a joint luncheon or dinner is almost palpable.

I do confess, though, that sometimes my system is later disturbed by what I have fed it. "Why is it that people eat food in church that they wouldn’t eat anywhere else?" asks Lillian Daniel in her Theolog posting, "Potluck Gourmet". Garrison Keillor said Methodists had a secret longing for macaroni and cheese. Me? I like food. Someone once asked me if there was anything I did not like to eat. I paused only slightly and replied, "Well, there's a very bitter Filipino green vegetable ..." Laughter ensued, though I was serious.

The word "potluck" can have either a positive or negative connotation, you know. If you arrive too late at a buffet, you have have to be content with "pot luck".

I am reminded of my wife's shrewd coining of the phrase "'Choose your own' dinner" for a meal of leftovers. The kids got to select exactly which leftovers they wanted. Of course, the first to choose had the best array of the potluck offerings. But all of them seemed to relish the idea of getting a choice in what they ate. Clever, very clever, she was.

Lillian, pastor of a Congregational Church, says when she gets to heaven, she'll want a good old Midwestern Congregational Casserole.

So ... are there any types of food that you just will not eat at a Pot luck supper? Or do you arm yourself with an antacid tablet? Do you tend to "pig out", eat reasonably sized amounts of just a few dishes, or take small portions of as many dishes as possible?

Should a future posting be about treating our bodies as temples?

UMC should clean house

Rev. Mark Schaefer, in his sermon-containing blog, daydreams about the United Methodist Church swooping down on American University, dissolving the board of trustees and just starting over.

His sermon, "Grapes and Vineyards", starts out with that musing. But the musing points out the denomination-owned aspect to many Methodist properties.

... Something to think about ... but it assumes that the denomination administrative structure has the "cure". It sometime seems that the administrative structure makes secular decisions when spiritual ones are needed.

We seem to have an undue emphasis on protecting the "job security" and "pay" of clergy. The UMC denomination leadership sometimes appears concerned more about district, conference, and denomination politics than members themselves. Maybe if we were all concerned more about the spiritual health and needs of congregations and their surrounding communities, we'd be growing in numbers as we grew in faith and saved souls.

Presidential religion

Ever wonder what religion our past presidents have been?

Wonder no more. South Carolinian Charlie Wilborn, author of the "Religion Class" blog, has spelled it all out for us in "Presidents and Religions".

Who is going to Hell?

People of faith hold no common answer as to who goes to Hell and who does not. Christian denominations have differing views, and those differ from Jews or Universalists.

Louisiana's Herald-Argus newspaper posed the "Who is going to Hell?" question in an article and got a lot of comments. Feel free to read them and even add your own.

Methodists may be interested to know that the denomination's belief in prevenient grace might mean that God may allow anyone to escape an afterlife in Hell, according to Dean William Lawrence, SMU Perkins School of Theology.

Prevenient grace is divine love preceding any conscious action, a concept that John Wesley wrote the concept into Article 8 of the Articles of Religion he adapted for American Methodists.

Doomsday clock creeps nearer to midnight

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has announced that the time of its symbolic Doomsday Clock is now two minutes closer to midnight -- the time representing global cataclysm. It now stands at 11:55pm.

This is only the fourth time since 1948 that the Bulletin, which focuses on manmade threats, has moved the clock forward. When started in 1947, the clock was set at 11:53 pm. The furthest from midnight was in 1991 (11:43 pm), when both the U.S and Russia were pulling back tactical nukes. The closest, 11:58pm in 1953, was in the era of U.S.-Soviet tensions.

The two main factors causing this they say is mankind's threats to human civilization posed by global warming plus nuclear tension related to Iran and North Korea. Director Kennete Benedict says the dangers of global warming are nearly as great as those of nuclear weapons.

Our challenge is to be good stewards of God's earth, even if it "costs" a little more. A legitimate Christian concern is whether a government administration's actions have eased or worsened the dangers posed by global warming and nuclear weapons.

Related article: Nuclear Doomsday: Is the clock still ticking?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Some Dove messages not so sweet

I like chocolate, especially dark chocolate. One Christmas present this year was a basket of varied chocolates, among then some individually wrapped Dove dark chocolates.

The Dove chocolates came individually wrapped with foil that has "PROMISES Messages" printed on it. Cute, I thought, but maybe a bit too much "New Age" for me. Then I came across some that wiped the smile clean off my face.

The candy maker appears to have no compunction about using phrases that are harmful to our society. For example:
  • "There's a time for compromise --
    it's called "later"
  • "Temptation is fun ...
    giving in is even better."
It's as if the company executives are from Mars and have no clue TWIXT right and wrong. They seem full of Snickers at the problems they foster. The anti-Christian Messages continue, full of empty PROMISES. There are no Kudos here.

Should Christians stop buying Dove candy and encourage the manufacturer, Mars, to clean up its Dove wrappers? This is one candy I find not so sweet.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

About the new UMC Web site

The United Methodist Church's denomination web site is undergoing some significant changes. Unfortunately, the phase-in of those changes is not as smooth as I'd like to see. There are many disconnects, pages with a lot of "This feature is still under development" pop-up balloons, and broken links.

I was always taught to never use "under construction" type web pages. Make the development on a development server, then go public all at once. The current UMC method may be the result of a desire for feedback while development proceeds, which might also mean that the denomination is still unsure of what the final outcome will be. But maybe this method will get the massive changes done faster.

The new web site has a fresh new look, more color, more animation (for those that like that sort of thing), and either access to lots more information or else links that make the old information easier to find. Of course I do cringe at the heavy use of green in the navigation menus. My web development training has been to try to avoid red and green colors due to people with the most common form of color blindness.

The "Pastor: Overview" page has text overlap problems (at least in IE7) in the right-side "Related information for" box. But you can tell the type information that will eventually be there.

A few new features:
  • A horizontal menu and a horizontal submenu that changes with the top menu item selected. Some studies show that people prefer left-side vertical menus, but this one works, though it takes a bit of getting used to.
  • The home page has a link to a new "Methopedia".
  • Role-based (some say "personality" or "profile") sections of links, in Leader Resources, for example. Four common role-related links appear at the right side of the main horizontal menu: Pray, Give, Serve, Connect, Lead.
  • Added syndication capability for webmasters
  • Personal Profile pages, "similar to MySpace, FaceBook, and similar social networks", the site says. Sure, go ahead and add a nice sharp photo of yourself and some juicy personal information that an identity thief would love to get his grubby little hands on. Parents need to keep track of this area if their kids use it.
  • "Our World" has a collection of feature "stories of faith".
  • Most main menu index pages have a nice, medium size color photo. The overall page design is attractive.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

IRS: 2007 charitable contributions need proof

National Public Radio reports that, "The IRS will begin requiring documentation to deduct cash donations of any amount next year [2007]. That means church-goers who put cash in collection baskets may have to switch to checks if they want to claim it on their taxes. "

The same will apply to monthly cash donations by United Methodist Women sub-unit members to special projects, donations through Sunday School classes, and similar donations that most people have done by cash in the past.

Perhaps this is a good opportunity for churches seeking to assist members to offer an automatic withdrawal from checking accounts and/or credit card donations capability. An alternative would be to offer giving envelopes to all, letting the giver write their name plus their address on the outside and then the church providing all such people with donation receipts at the end of the year.

As for Sunday School classes and the like, the treasurer will have to make detailed receipts for each member or else members will have to write checks. Bummer.

The automatic withdrawal from checking accounts is relatively easy. It also might be a good way to ease the summer problem of dropping contributions as people are out of town on vacations. Some people just forget to "catch up". Automatic withdrawal eases that problem and helps members meet their pledged amount.