Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Posted on the family white board: "Despretly need chocolate sauce." Only to find it in the pantry.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

M is for Margaret

Margaret. The under-appreciated classic that has it all. Margaret. Can you ask for a classier name? Unfortunately, Margaret has been left by the wayside for the past half-century. Over that time, it got an old, unfashionable image. Margaret. That old librarian who smelled like ben-gay and fifteen-year-old books. Use Margaret for an adorable baby? Absolutely not.

Despite unfortunate opinions like these, I think Margaret's day is due. It's the name of queens, saints (including one called Margaret the Barefooted), and prime ministers. It sounds upright, impeccable, and strong. It's nickname selections range from spunky to super-cute. Consider:

Mago (pronounced MAH-go, I think)





And if Margaret's not your pace, how about it's international variations?






Mairead (MAU-reed)

Makelesi (MAH-ka-lee-see)















And, if I haven't mentioned it before, Margaret is my very favorite name.

The "True Meaning" of Christmas

I admit it: I love, love, love Christmas. That is an established fact. My reasons for loving Christmas are more difficult to define. I'm sure cookies play a role, albeit a small one. Is it a decorated house? Presents? Or that enthralling pine smell? The biggest factor in my love for Christmas might just be the family time.
Above you see a quintessential list of Christmas cheer. But, good heavens, what about the true meaning of Christmas, that Jesus came down to earth to die for us? It may seem like a struggle to find a balance between a fun and joyful holiday and a pious, humble spirit.
Historically, Christmas has swung like a pendulum. On one side is a day of gluttony and frivolity, (Yes, I know I sound like Scrooge here); on the other side a serious and may I even say joyless holiday.
There is no more cliched Christmas phrase than the dreaded "true meaning". Twisted to mean humanism, selfishness, or shopping at Wall-mart, it can do all kinds of mischief.
Today, many Christians may feel guilty because their Christmas festivities seem Godless. "Be a light at Christmastime"; "Put Christ back into Christmas." Such reminders are well-meant. It's all too easy to have a worldly holiday. But sometimes it seems like we are dragging Christ into Christmas. This should not be. He should be a part of our lives all the time, not just another ornament we pull out on the 1st and put away on the 26th. We should ponder the mystery of the incarnation all year, not just between Thanksgiving and New Year's.
Furthermore, who's to say that a traditional American Christmas centers only on materialism? What about those family movies we laugh our heads off watching every year? What about lengthy tournaments of Rook and delicious home-cooked meals?
This does not mean we should forget about the Christmas story. We should consider it as a central and integral part of our holidays. Every holiday: Valentine's Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving. Considering the end as well as the beginning; that the happy nativity scene was the first step on a walk to die and ultimately rise again for us, we should remember the Christmas story all year. And don't worry. Go ahead and open some presents.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Homemade Rifftrax

A favorite pastime of my family's is especially prevalent at Christmas: to make fun of dumb movies. When many people are doing it, it turns into a sort of homemade Rifftrax, only better, because you feel satisfied after making a clever snide remark. Since there are many silly Christmas movies (think Hallmark), it's easy to do this now. This happened Thursday night, when we gathered around the television to poke fun at a sappy but beloved old favorite. Comment example:

"I've only known you for four days, but we went sleigh-riding together, and I love you."

This is quite a fun hobby, especially when others are around to spur on the critiquing spirit and appreciate your brilliant jokes.

Friday, December 11, 2009


The Bible has a lot to say about laziness. Contrast the attitudes of the idle man in Luke 12 to Phinehas in Numbers 25:

"and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' 18And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'"

"When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose and left the congregation and took a spear in his hand 8and went after the man of Israel into the chamber and pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman through her belly. Thus the plague on the people of Israel was stopped. 9Nevertheless, those who died by the plague were twenty-four thousand. 10And the LORD said to Moses, 11"Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy. 12Therefore say, 'Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace, 13and it shall be to him and to his descendants after him the covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the people of Israel.'"

The first passage is important because it labels the cause of laziness: we are thinking about ourselves. The second passage, while it does not address laziness directly, shows us the opposite of thinking about ourselves: putting the Lord above ourselves and fixing our eyes on Him. In fact, the passage is labeled "The Zeal of Phinehas" in the ESV version.

If laziness is a form of self-centeredness, zeal for the God must be a proclamation of His worthiness. Notice that Phinehas was not angry for his own sake, or Israel's. (Also, notice that he was angry.) He is jealous for God's name to be praised in the camp. Phinehas ends up turning God's holy wrath away from Israel and preventing the Lord from consuming them.

We can also see that God rewards zeal and despises laziness through the reward and punishment each man gets. God kills the rich man during the night. He makes a covenant with Phinehas and gives him and his descendants perpetual priesthood.

Laziness is not God-honoring. In contrast, zeal for the Lord is a virtue. It is even prophesied about Jesus: "Zeal for your house will consume me,". Our lives are clearly too short to spend being lazy.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas Names

Time was that Carol was a smash hit. Back then, it was chosen particularly often during the Christmas season, obviously because of the association with Christmas carols. While that's a rather cheesy way to tip your hat to the season, there are plenty of better options, such as names that mean Christmas, and names connected with Christmas. Names that mean Christmas:

Natalie/Natalia - popular names with a well-known--but not too well-known Christmas meaning

Noel - For a girl, pronounced Noelle and sometimes spelled that way; for a boy, pronounced NO-uhl

There are also Christmas cultural icons to consider:


Norman (Rockwell)

Irving (Berlin)

George (Bailey)

We all have things we love most about Christmas, and some of them have quite lovely names related to them:

Holly/Hollis (holly)

Celyn (holly)

Oren (pine)

Douglas (like the fir)

Nousha (sweet, like cookies)

Miela (sweet)

Edur (snow)

Eira/Eirwen (snow)

Nevada (snow)

You could acknowledge your real favorite thing about Christmas and choose a name that means 'gift':







Or, you can just go for Mary or Joseph. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Unconventional Heroine

Anyone who has ever read Mansfield Park has been surprised at its heroine, Fanny Price. A typical heroine is physically vigorous; Fanny is weak and sickly. A typical heroine is strong-headed and stubborn; Fanny is compliant. A typical heroine Fanny Price is not. Her character remains the most debated point in the book, more debated than the seemingly two-faced Sir Thomas Bertram or the slaves the family owns in Antigua.

In many ways, Fanny is mystery. She dislikes the woman who is courting her cousin, but she doesn't try to stop her. She cares about her cousin, but never attempts to inform him of his love interest's mercenary tendencies. The obvious reason for this is that Fanny thinks that he knows already, but, in that case, what was he doing winning her affection? And why doesn't she tell anyone about her engaged sister's flirtation? The character appears extremely reticent, not even giving her reasons for not joining in the play everyone else puts on.

While Fanny appears unconventional, she adheres strictly to the rigid laws of society for women at that time. She is astounded by the behavior of Mary Crawford--not just because she is flirting with her cousin, but because she is improper.

Fanny rises in the reader's opinion when she emphatically refuses to marry the unprincipled Henry Crawford. While her will-power here seems to come out of nowhere, she has actually been preparing for this moment during the whole of the novel. Like the proverbial "bump on a log" Fanny refuses to budge, despite the fact that many of the characters see this marriage as a duty for her.

One of the most universal points about a typical heroine is that she is, or thinks of herself as, an unconventional heroine. She's headstrong; she's athletic; she's outdoorsy; she questions society's rules. Why shouldn't she be unconventional? Because "unconventional" has become a convention, and of course, all of the poor "unconventional" heroines have become conventional.

Which means when we meet a truly unconventional heroine like Fanny Price, we're sure surprised.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Flying In Circles

A few years ago my dad brought up the subject of my sister (who was not there) at family dinner,
"She's pretty right-winged." My brother piped up,
"She can only fly in circles."

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Yesterday, while Christmas shopping, I saw a poster broadcasting what one store supported in its charity efforts. One surprising item on the poster was "volunteerism". Now, seeing such a vague "-ism" is rare as they are usually quite succinct: abolitionism, Judaism, McCarthyism. Which, of course made me wonder, what exactly is volunteerism? Like any self-respecting modern citizen, I googled it. From what I discerned, volunteerism must be a movement of people towards volunteering.

That made me remember Friday, when I spent about three-and-a-half hours inspecting boxes for Operation Christmas Child. ( For those of you who have never heard of it before, Operation Christmas Child is a wonderful ministry that delivers the gospel to children in hurting countries in a tangible way: shoe boxes filled with small toys and necessities. Not every shoe box is perfect; some have "inappropriate items" or are not full enough. That's why I was inspecting them. It's tiring work. After just a few hours I was ready to go home and take a nap. But the invisible pay check for this volunteer work is huge.

Wikipedia lists the benefits of volunteering as:
1) economic benefits (for the country or company, not the volunteers)
2) social benefits
3) individual career benefits
But I got a whole lot more out of working at the OCC processing plant: rather than economic benefits to the company, all the things in the small box go to increase the joy and welfare of a poor child. Rather than "help[ing] to build more cohesive communities", I got to help make an eternal impact advancing the gospel of the Lord.

Can you think of any better benefits?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Random Thoughts

Welcome all Random Sententia readers! As you might have guessed from the title of this post, Random Sententia means random thoughts in Latin. I have created this blog to help me organize and share my thoughts. Thank you for visiting. You keep this blog alive. A brief outline of my labels:

Religion: This is where I will be blogging my thoughts on Christianity. It will include passages of scripture I have recently read. Please feel free to comment and correct on these and all posts.

Books: This is the label for posts I have made on works of classic literature. Examples of books I might post on include Mansfield Park, A Tale of Two Cities, and Hamlet.

Overheard: Most of these posts will not, in fact, be overheard. They will be funny lines not jokes. Jokes are so unoriginal.

Miscellaneous: This will be a hodge-podge of posts that I could not decide what to post under.