Merry Christmas – Fear Not! Peace! Hope! Joy!

Yes, this blog has been silent for quite a few days. I fell behind in assessing and publishing my sophomore students’ blog posts (for both their midterm and before it) and vowed to not post on my blog until I completed theirs. I tied the bow on their posts a few minutes ago, so it’s time for my Christmas wishes.

While it’s the season of peace, hope and joy, there’s been a lot of fear going around this year – even during the month of Advent. As a reminder about why a follower of Christ shouldn’t fear, here’s the beginning of Bishop Robert Barron’s reflection for today, Christmas Eve:

The first Christmas homily ever given was spoken on the Judean hills surrounding the little town of Bethlehem: the annunciation of the angel to the shepherds on Christmas night.
The first thing the angel said was “Fear not!” How that phrase echoes up and down the Scriptures! When a being from a higher dimension breaks into our world, he typically says, “Do not be afraid.” Paul Tillich, the great Protestant theologian, commented that fear is the fundamental problem, that fear undergirds most forms of human dysfunction. Because we are afraid, we crouch protectively around ourselves; because we’re afraid, we lash out at each other in violence. If Christmas means that God is with us, that God is one of us, that God has come close, then we no longer have to be afraid.
How can we experience peace during a time of conflict, strife and “terror?” Taking a different view of our home helps me to rest in faith about the peace of creation which was “In the beginning” and to which Christ is returning us.
I feel moved and inspired by the stunning image of the earth rising from the moon which NASA released today (pictured above). Please take a moment to visit the link as there’s more to the image than I could capture above.
As for hope, I’m inspired by this story which was making the rounds on the internet this week. I quote it here in full from Time:
A group of Kenyans traveling by bus refused Islamist terrorists demands that they identify themselves as either Christian or Muslim in an act of defiance that reportedly saved lives.

According to BBC, militants boarded a bus in a small border town and requested the passengers divide themselves up by religion. The passengers refused, the BBC reports eyewitnesses say, telling the terrorists to “kill them together or leave them alone.”

Officials are looking into whether the militant group al-Shabab is responsible for the attack. Two people were reported to have been killed in the attack, but officials say the militants ultimately left after the passengers banded together.

Also today President Obama and Vice President Biden released on Spotify their “Holiday Playlists” While listening to President Obama’s, I discovered this wonderful song of hope by the legendary Stevie Wonder, which was originally released way back in 1967.

Here’s the lyrics, composed during another time of fear, anger and uncertainty:

Someday at Christmas men won’t be boys
Playing with bombs like kids play with toys
One warm December our hearts will see
A world where men are free

Someday at Christmas there’ll be no wars
When we have learned what Christmas is for
When we have found what life’s really worth
There’ll be peace on earth

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime

Someday at Christmas we’ll see a Man
No hungry children, no empty hand
One happy morning people will share
Our world where people care

Someday at Christmas there’ll be no tears
All men are equal and no men have fears
One shinning moment my heart ran away
From our world today

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime

Someday at Christmas man will not fail
Hate will be gone love will prevail
Someday a new world that we can start
With hope in every heart

And for the joy….so much to be joyful for today. But for me (huge listener of Spotify), here’s my top reason — I CAN FINALLY STREAM THE BEATLES!!!

I hope your Advent of waiting was fruitful and rich.

May your days of Christmas (the season continues until January 10th) be blessed and full of much faith, peace, hope and joy!

Stuff You Should Know – Winter 2015-2016 Predictions

Hi, my name is Rick and I’m a weather junkie. And I’m embarrassed to say exactly how many weather apps I have on my iPad and smartphone

Yet, for your perusal and edification, here’s one of the best infographics I’ve seen which shows a prediction for this winter’s weather. I’ll try to find another one in April 2016 which shows how the winter actually was. It will surely be interesting to see.

Stuff You Should Know: The European Refugee Crisis and Syria Explained in Just 6 Minutes

I’m starting a new feature which I’ve been thinking about launching for a while. The name comes from an excellent little book by the highly esteemed John L. Allen Jr. – “The Catholic Church: What Everyone Needs to Know.”  Typically any book with the subtitle “everyone needs to know” should be taken with a measure of suspicion – who is this author and why does he think I need to know this? Of course John L. Allen Jr. is an expert on today’s Catholic Church and thus I’ll trust his judgement.

So here I am posting about what I think you should know. Pretty presumptuous, right? Perhaps.

But hear me out. I’m a fellow teacher to readers, many of whom I imagine are teachers, connected to the world of education and/or people of faith. I peruse the web daily to learn and discover information, links, and resources which inform both my teaching and my life of faith. So, what I’m sharing in this category are only the items which I think are most valuable for my personal and professional life. Perhaps you’ll find them valuable too.

We’ve been praying daily in my classes for relief for the continually escalating refugee crisis in Europe. Pope Francis asked us to pray for this as one of his monthly requests (last June) and he’s used particularly strong words to exhort people of faith to hospitably welcome refugees.

Before class prayer yesterday, I showed my students this graph, which I think speaks for itself:

Refugees - 1

Tomorrow, as a companion, I’m going to show the photo at the top of this post.

But today, I showed this excellent video. It covers much ground in about 6 minutes and is a must-see for anyone who wants to understand this crisis. I particularly like how it notes and summarily dispels some key objections that many in Europe and elsewhere are using to block the entrance of refugees. Really, please take 6 minutes and watch this now. It’s that important…