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Making the Move to My New Site

Well, it’s been a fantastic run here on my wordpress.com blog. It’s been my home through name changes, merged secondary blogs, changes in content, and periodic redesigns. I even owned the domain name at one point. But I needed to have a web site for business, so it was time to own my own real estate.

You can now find me here: amleibowitz.com (that’s my author name—it’s a combination of my first name and married last name initials plus my birth name). Today’s post, my WIPpet, can be found here: http://amleibowitz.com/2014/08/06/drumroll-please-and-a-wippet

Thanks for sticking with me, and I hope to see you over at my new home!

Christmas Songs Part 2

Last week, I asked my friends to share their least favorite Christmas songs.  A few days ago, I followed that up with asking for people to list the songs they love.  My husband and I noted with interest that while the majority of our friends hate the same four songs, there was no consensus regarding favorites.  We wondered at that.  Is song badness universal?  Is there really that much diversity in what people think is good?

Maybe.  But I suspect that it’s a little more than that.  After talking about it with several people, I noticed a few things.  First, not everyone hates the songs that got top votes.  But neither does anyone list them among favorites.  So there is definitely something to the idea that they simply aren’t great songs to begin with.  Second, all the songs people disliked are non-religious songs, with the notable exception of the Christmas Shoes.  However, none of them are actual Christmas hymns, and even the Christmas Shoes song doesn’t refer to the Christmas story.  That suggests to me that in all of those songs, for most people, there is something missing.  Finally, nearly every person I spoke to could attach some specific memory or other emotional connection to favorite Christmas songs.  The bad songs evoked a feeling of intense dislike, but no other emotions.

Perhaps that’s why there’s such diversity when it comes to songs people love.  As it should be, they stir something within us.  We are moved by the melody or the lyrics or both.  When we hear the strains of a familiar carol, we recall the sense of wonder we experienced in Christmases past.  The songs remind us of people and places we love.  I suspect that’s what’s missing from the songs we don’t like.  They simply don’t stir our souls.  Some, like the novelty songs, are just for fun.  But we can’t make any spiritual connection with them, and the interest quickly wears off.  Others, like the Shoes, might be trying too hard.  We’re supposed to connect with them at some deep, personal level, but we don’t.

As for me, give me songs that remind me what this season is all about.  Not the presents, or even the joy of giving.  Not the reindeer, stockings, Santa, and “magic.”  Not even the sappiness of the Christmas Shoes.  No, I want to be reminded of the humble servants who took on the role of parenting the Savior, the shepherds’ terror turned to joy, and the reverence of the wise men.  I want to recall the longing of a nation waiting for its messiah, and the glory of his arrival.

May this last week before Christmas give you the opportunity to hear the songs you love, and may they draw you into the miracle of Jesus’ birth.

Opening the Lid

Welcome to Part 3 of the series on challenging our thinking.  Up next: People of other religions.

I was excited to read a recent post by Brian McLaren (I will feature him in the next post in this series).  His latest book, due out in just under a year, is about how we can maintain strong faith yet hold deeper respect for other faiths.  This is something I care about deeply.  As a person raised in an interfaith family, it was always awkward when the subject came up at my first church.  After hearing for several years that my family of non-believers were all essentially condemned to Hell, I recall vividly the desperation I felt when my Jewish grandfather passed away.  One of the adults made some lame comment about Jews being God’s chosen people.  I understand that he was trying to offer a sliver of hope, but it fell somewhat flat, because of the constant contradictory message.

It was a long time before I could co-exist with non-Christians before feeling defensive.  I had been taught that we would be “hated” by “the world,” which included people practicing other religions.  Not surprisingly, I had also learned that Catholics were considered to be in this category, that they were not “saved” and that we were at odds with them.  After all that, it’s no wonder I viewed religion as a competitive sport.

Some years ago, I let go of the need to win.  Perhaps it was because of my family, almost none of whom are Christians.  Perhaps it was being away from the insular bubble that is high school and college life.  I’m sure that making friends of all sorts made an impact.  In any case, I realized that it wasn’t up to me to make any sort of proclamation about someone else’s eternal soul.

Over time, I’ve gained valuable insight from many sources.  Social media is great for interacting with a variety of interesting people.  Outspoken Christians are now urging us to open ourselves to dialogue about faith and listening to each other.  We may not agree, but we can be respectful and honest.  We shouldn’t be afraid to hear what others have to say about our religion, either.  Just as we need to have open hearts when interacting with our GLBT brothers and sisters, we need to listen to our fellow humans with different spiritual beliefs.

That said, let me highlight a couple of my favorites.  First, if you don’t know who Queen Noor is (she’s the Queen Dowager of Jordan), then you should make the effort to find out.  Although I knew of her, I didn’t know much.  I will let this web page speak for itself.  She has done much to educate people about Muslim culture and politics.

Second, here is a fantastic article by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.  Love him or hate him, he’s not to be ignored.  In this article, he talks about Jacob wrestling with God.  Some of what he says is controversial, but I appreciate that he doesn’t shy away from that.  There’s a lot to chew on, and we Christians would do well to consider what he says.

It’s one thing to read words on a page.  It’s another thing entirely to build relationships.  I encourage you to make friends with other beliefs.  Do this without an agenda to “convert” them.  Just listen, love, and learn the value of mutual respect.

Welcome!

One last post about this big move and the changes that are coming.

I’m not redefining myself.  I’m still me, and I’m still going to post about the same kinds of things.  But I wanted to reflect the changes I’ve experienced since starting my previous blogs.

Hence the title: Unchained Faith.  That is how I want my life to be—not shackled by anything in this world or this life, including the -isms of tired doctrine.  Just me, in my own words.

Come in, everyone’s welcome at the table.

Changes

I’ve been thinking about a lot of things.  What else is new?  My brain tends to be in a constant state of overdrive.  It’s one of the reasons I don’t usually post more than a couple of times each week.  I often have far too many thoughts to organize them properly.

Things in my own life seem to be changing.  Right now, I’m feeling the burn of a busy schedule, between the kids’ activities, my husband’s work schedule, and our volunteer work.  It’s not bad; I don’t feel pressured or crunched.  It just leaves me with less emotional energy to devote to things like this blog.

I don’t want to leave things in that state.  I’m ready to take the next steps.  I’ve spent time developing healthy spiritual habits, discovering my theological bent, and honing my writing skills.  It’s time to move to the next phase.

That doesn’t mean I’m abandoning my blog—far from it!  What I’ve seen is that I’ve been limiting myself, selling myself short.  But some encouraging words and some good advice mean that I need to make some changes.

Stay tuned, it’s going to be an adventure.

I Need a HazMat Suit

My kid is home again today, so I have a few minutes to rant.  I think the tally this year is as follows: 3 stomach bugs, strep twice, and 4 head colds.  And it’s only March.

I really wish people would keep their kids home when they are sick, and stay home themselves when they are sick.  I used to work as a school nurse, so I saw firsthand how many people sent their kids to school with obvious illness.  I would arrive at work at 8:45, the kids came in at 8:55.  I frequently sent kids home before 9:30.  A few times, I arrived to find a kid waiting for me because he or she had come to band practice before school and was already sick.

I just don’t think there is a good excuse.  So keep your kid home.  Both your kid and mine will thank you.

Mommy Wars, Part II

Yesterday I mentioned an exchange about breastfeeding and formula feeding.  As I turned it over in my mind, I realized that using formula itself really doesn’t bother me.  What bothers me when it comes to any type of infant feeding is negative attitudes.  Unfortunately, they abound on both sides of the equation.

What I’d like to see in place of the negativity is a change in the way we think about infant feeding.  I’d like us to see it as just that–feeding a baby.  No judgment about the method a mom uses.  No restrictions on where she can do it.  No pressure from family or friends to do it their way.  No rude comments about the age at which a child should be weaned or how they will be unhealthy because of the way they were fed.  Because, frankly, it is none of anyone else’s business how I, or my sister, neighbor, cousin, or friend, feed our babies.