Tuesday, January 17, 2006

our new home page ...

we have a new home page. We will be posting family updates there from now on. Here is the web link: http://web.mac.com/bradleygwright/iWeb

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Picture Update (Wright Kids ...)

Here are some Christmas pictures from the heart of Texas. It is actually cold right now (sub 35) but no snow of course. "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas", in the mall anyway.

Friday, November 18, 2005

We all like stories ...

Every night before the kids go to bed, they love to hear stories. Whether it is a story I create as we go or something they read, their little eyes glow with mystery and their expressions reveal their excitement to know "what happens nexy?". Over the past several decades, the Hollywood scene has painted "story" for us through epics such as Star Wars, Matrix, Lord of the Rings, and now Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia.

I remember having a conversation with a friend when Episdoe III came out earlier this year. We left the movie theater and I said, "Paul, all of my sequels are finsihed." I felt a little disappointment that I left that theater without the hope and excitement to know "what happens next". Today on the BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/film/4413668.stm), there is this article that talks about Harry Potter vs. Chronciles of Narnia. The question the writer proposes is will Harry Potter be something that lasts or will it fade in the wake of this "new" Narnia series? As I read the article, I could not help but notice the fact that we all long for stories. There is something deep inside of us that finds peace in knowing there is a beginning, ending, and present experience defined by both.

Now enter the season of Advent. The church calendar leads us now into a time of anticipation of the coming of Christ through the virgin birth. I am preaching over the "Skeptics of Christmas" starting next week and I think that part of the beauty of this season of Advent is that we relive the first who saw the infant Christ again, again, and again. If you are a Christian, you know that you question and ask yourself, "Is this real?" "Did God really become man?" "Did the virgin birth actually happen or is this all a hoax?" Valid questions. Questions God can handle. Questions God has handled through the sending His Son to dwell among us. We are forgetful people and need to be regulalry reminded of the severity of what took place in Bethelem so long ago. Celebrating Advent in anticipation of Christ's birth is a reminder of "what happens next". Wherever you are in your understanding of or valuing of the church calendar, take time to reflect on the fact that God has come to be with us. That he knows what it is like to grow up, to hit puberty, to long for relationships, to be tempted, to die, and to be raised from death. In other words, He knows us so that we can know Him. Pause with a spirit of anticipation of what comes next.

I can't wait to see Harry Potter and the Chronciles of Narnia. I am certain that both films will prompt many a post in the "blog-o-sphere".

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Halloween and my kids ...

Concerning Halloween

by James B. Jordan

It has become routine in October for some Christian schools to send out letters warning parents about the evils of Halloween, and it has become equally routine for me to be asked questions about this matter.
"Halloween" is simply a contraction for All Hallows' Eve. The word "hallow" means "saint," in that "hallow" is just an alternative form of the word "holy" ("hallowed be Thy name"). All Saints' Day is November 1. It is the celebration of the victory of the saints in union with Christ. The observance of various celebrations of All Saints arose in the late 300s, and these were united on November 1 in the late 700s. The origin of All Saints Day and of All Saints Eve in Mediterranean Christianity had nothing to do with Celtic Druidism or the Church's fight against Druidism (assuming there ever even was any such thing as Druidism, which is actually a myth concocted in the 19th century by neo-pagans.)
In the First Covenant, the war between God's people and God's enemies was fought on the human level against Egyptians, Assyrians, etc. With the coming of the New Covenant, however, we are told that our primary battle is against principalities and powers, against fallen angels who bind the hearts and minds of men in ignorance and fear. We are assured that through faith, prayer, and obedience, the saints will be victorious in our battle against these demonic forces. The Spirit assures us: "The God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly" (Romans 16:20).
The Festival of All Saints reminds us that though Jesus has finished His work, we have not finished ours. He has struck the decisive blow, but we have the privilege of working in the mopping up operation. Thus, century by century the Christian faith has rolled back the demonic realm of ignorance, fear, and superstition. Though things look bad in the Western world today, this work continues to make progress in Asia and Africa and Latin America. The Biblical day begins in the preceding evening, and thus in the Church calendar, the eve of a day is the actual beginning of the festive day. Christmas Eve is most familiar to us, but there is also the Vigil of Holy Saturday that precedes Easter Morn. Similarly, All Saints' Eve precedes All Saints' Day.
The concept, as dramatized in Christian custom, is quite simple: On October 31, the demonic realm tries one last time to achieve victory, but is banished by the joy of the Kingdom.
What is the means by which the demonic realm is vanquished? In a word: mockery. Satan's great sin (and our great sin) is pride. Thus, to drive Satan from us we ridicule him. This is why the custom arose of portraying Satan in a ridiculous red suit with horns and a tail. Nobody thinks the devil really looks like this; the Bible teaches that he is the fallen Arch-Cherub. Rather, the idea is to ridicule him because he has lost the battle with Jesus and he no longer has power over us.
(The tradition of mocking Satan and defeating him through joy and laughter plays a large role in Ray Bradbury's classic novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes, which is a Halloween novel.)
The gargoyles that were placed on the churches of old had the same meaning. They symbolized the Church ridiculing the enemy. They stick out their tongues and make faces at those who would assault the Church. Gargoyles are not demonic; they are believers ridiculing the defeated demonic army.
Thus, the defeat of evil and of demonic powers is associated with Halloween. For this reason, Martin Luther posted his 95 challenges to the wicked practices of the Church to the bulletin board on the door of the Wittenberg chapel on Halloween. He picked his day with care, and ever since Halloween has also been Reformation Day.
Similarly, on All Hallows' Eve (Hallow-Even, Hallow-E'en, Halloween), the custom arose of mocking the demonic realm by dressing children in costumes. Because the power of Satan has been broken once and for all, our children can mock him by dressing up like ghosts, goblins, and witches. The fact that we can dress our children this way shows our supreme confidence in the utter defeat of Satan by Jesus Christ we have NO FEAR!
I don't have the resources to check the historical origins of all Halloween customs, and doubtless they have varied from time to time and from Christian land to Christian land. "Trick or treat" doubtless originated simply enough: something fun for kids to do. Like anything else, this custom can be perverted, and there have been times when "tricking" involved really mean actions by teenagers and was banned from some localities.
We can hardly object, however, to children collecting candy from friends and neighbors. This might not mean much to us today, because we are so prosperous that we have candy whenever we want, but in earlier generations people were not so well off, and obtaining some candy or other treats was something special. There is no reason to pour cold water on an innocent custom like this.
Similarly, the jack-o'-lantern's origins are unknown. Hollowing out a gourd or some other vegetable, carving a face, and putting a lamp inside of it is something that no doubt has occurred quite independently to tens of thousands of ordinary people in hundreds of cultures worldwide over the centuries. Since people lit their homes with candles, decorating the candles and the candle-holders was a routine part of life designed to make the home pretty or interesting. Potatoes, turnips, beets, and any number of other items were used.
Wynn Parks writes of an incident he observed: "An English friend had managed to remove the skin of a tangerine in two intact halves. After carving eyes and nose in one hemisphere and a mouth in the other, he poured cooking oil over the pith sticking up in the lower half and lit the readymade wick. With its upper half on, the tangerine skin formed a miniature jack-o'-lantern. But my friend seemed puzzled that I should call it by that name. `What would I call it? Why a "tangerine head," I suppose.'" (Parks, "The Head of the Dead," The World & I, November 1994, p. 270.)
In the New World, people soon learned that pumpkins were admirably suited for this purpose. The jack-o'-lantern is nothing but a decoration; and the leftover pumpkin can be scraped again, roasted, and turned into pies and muffins.
In some cultures, what we call a jack-o'-lantern represented the face of a dead person, whose soul continued to have a presence in the fruit or vegetable used. But this has no particular relevance to Halloween customs. Did your mother tell you, while she carved the pumpkin, that this represented the head of a dead person and with his soul trapped inside? Of course not. Symbols and decorations, like words, mean different things in different cultures, in different languages, and in different periods of history. The only relevant question is what does it mean now, and nowadays it is only a decoration.
And even if some earlier generations did associate the jack-o'-lantern with a soul in a head, so what? They did not take it seriously. It was just part of the joking mockery of heathendom by Christian people.
This is a good place to note that many articles in books, magazines, and encyclopedias are written by secular humanists or even the pop-pagans of the so-called “New Age" movement. (An example is the article by Wynn Parks cited above.) These people actively suppress the Christian associations of historic customs, and try to magnify the pagan associations. They do this to try and make paganism acceptable and to downplay Christianity. Thus, Halloween, Christmas, Easter, etc., are said to have pagan origins. Not true.
Oddly, some fundamentalists have been influenced by these slanted views of history. These fundamentalists do not accept the humanist and pagan rewriting of Western history, American history, and science, but sometimes they do accept the humanist and pagan rewriting of the origins of Halloween and Christmas, the Christmas tree, etc. We can hope that in time these brethren will reexamine these matters as well. We ought not to let the pagans do our thinking for us.
Nowadays, children often dress up as superheroes, and the original Christian meaning of Halloween has been absorbed into popular culture. Also, with the present fad of "designer paganism" in the so-called New Age movement, some Christians are uneasy with dressing their children as spooks. So be it. But we should not forget that originally Halloween was a Christian custom, and there is no solid reason why Christians cannot enjoy it as such even today.
"He who sits in the heavens laughs; Yahweh ridicules them” says Psalm 2. Let us join in His holy laughter, and mock the enemies of Christ on October 31.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Astros and Longhorns ...

It is a good time for Jamie's and my teams ...

Friday, October 21, 2005

Community: Grey's Anatomy

"Sometimes reality has a way of sneaking up and biting us in the ass. And when the dam bursts, all you can do is swim. The world of pretend is a cage, not a cocoon We can only lie to ourselves for so long. We are tired. We are scared. Denying it doesn't change the truth. Sooner or later we have to put aside our denial and face the world, head on, guns blazing. Denial, its not just a river in egypt, it’s an ocean. So how will you keep from drowning in it?"

Grey's Anatomy is a show I began watching about half-way through the season last year. I have found the script/characters to be mildly interesting but the monologue after each episode is usually provocative. The quote mentioned above is one that was used last week as Grey reflects on the events of the day. There are several little dramas going on during this episode but one was particularly exposed by her reflections. One of the budding physicians has recently discovered she was pregnant but not before her lover (attending physician) broke up with her. Rather than tell him about the baby, she decides to have an abortion and keep it to herself. However, before she can follow through with the abotion she passes out and has to go into emergecny surgery. The baby dies but she will recover quickly, in the physical realm at least. After several hours of her coming out of surgery, she begins to try and busy herself with work in an effort to bury her pain but to no avail. Eventually, she is overcome by the loss of her child, a feeling of abandonment from her lover, and the conflict within of her wanting to abort the child. Here is the scene that I revealed her humanity best: she is in bed weeping uncontrollably. Her friends try to console her but are unsuccessful. Her mother attempts to comfort her but eventually gives up. Then her lover enters the room just before he heads home for the day. He is dressed nicely and has a jacket. As he enters, her mother says "She doesn't want anyone to touch her." in a condescending and prohibitve tone. And yet, he looks at the mother and then to his former-lover and you see his concern and desire to comfort her. He takes off his coat, scoots along side her, and holds her as she weeps and seemingly mourns the loss of her child. For the first time, you see her humanity and the reality that she has been trying to pretend was not real. The reality of her need for community.

If we are honest, none of us like the idea of being a loner. It is a bit romantic at first to have complete control over all your time, with only your appetite to guide you but we are not designed for this. We may try to pursue such a lifestyle but in the end we will be curled up in the sheets of longing. I am preaching over Colossians 2:1-5 this week and Paul models this kind of passionate concern for others so beautifully. Without preaching a sermon, let me just say that if you read that passage you see just how necessary it is for our own soul's health to be part of the covenant community. Church is not just a side kind of issue, it is the place where we see ourselves and others transformed. Denial is a powerfully destrucitve force that you may be able to rely upon for a season but it never satsifies the spirit. As Jamie and I have walked with William through his illness, we have lost the pleasure of being able to cope with the instrument of denial. Even as I write, William is in the hospital recovering from a surgery on his foot that is infected. I cannot imagine this joureny without the power of Christ in me and in the community that God has placed us in. They have literally been life-blood for us. So consider where and how community is part of your life. Or, I guess the question as Grey put it is, "The world of pretend is a cage, not a cocoon We can only lie to ourselves for so long. We are tired. We are scared. Denying it doesn't change the truth. Sooner or later we have to put aside our denial and face the world, head on, guns blazing. Denial, its not just a river in egypt, it’s an ocean. So how will you keep from drowning in it?"