Simpsons Christmas Village

If anyone is already shopping for next year's Christmas gift for me, here is an idea. Thanks to Anthony for pointing this out to me.

ps. Please don't really buy this for me.

The Lord of the Rings: Spiritual Themes Part II

This post was written before I became an atheist and does not represent my current views. You can find more up-to-date posts on religion in my faith/skepticism category.

In the story of the Lord of the Rings, Frodo Baggins was trying to destroy a ring. It was an object of unspeakable evil, created by the dark lord Sauron to dominate all of Middle Earth. Some people thought the ring could be used for good, to fight Sauron, but others thought it had to be destroyed because it was utterly evil. Whether their intentions were good or bad, everyone who came in contact with the ring was tempted by it. Tempted to steal it, tempted to use it, and tempted to make themselves the ruler of Middle Earth. How these people reacted to the temptation of the ring may just tell us a few things about dealing with temptation in our own lives.

The first person in the story to be tempted by the ring was Isildur, the prince who cut it off of Sauron's hand three thousand years before Frodo was born. He was on the slopes of Mt. Doom where he could have easily destroyed it. [Video:

Elrond: Isildur took the Ring. I was there the day the strength of men failed. Elrond: Isildur hurry. Follow me.
Elrond: I led Isildur into the heart of Mount Doom, where the Ring was forged, the one place it could be destroyed.
Elrond: Cast it into the fire! Destroy it!
Isildur: No.
Elrond: Isildur!!!
Elrond: It should’ve ended that day, but evil was allowed to endure.]

Isildur failed because of his pride. He wanted to keep the ring as an heirloom, a trophy of their victory over Sauron. He was so proud that he didn't believe the ring would hold any temptation for him. But everyone is tempted, and temptation is not a thing to ignore or take lightly. Proverbs 11:2 says, "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." Disgrace found Isildur when he tried to use the ring and he was killed. Pride can make us blind to the power of temptation in our lives. Don't be so proud as to think that it won't affect you. Take it seriously. Deal with it humbly. If you think that there isn't anything that you're really tempted with, then you're probably missing something. It may be subtle, but take a humble look at your life and see.

Isildur should have know that everyone is tempted. Even Gandalf, the wisest person Frodo knows, the one that he trusts more than anyone, even Gandalf can be tempted by the ring. [Video:

Frodo: Take it Gandalf! Take it!
Gandalf: No Frodo no.
Frodo: You must take it!
Gandalf: You cannot offer me this Ring!
Frodo: I'm giving it to you!
Gandalf: Don't tempt me Frodo! I dare not take it. Not even to keep it safe. Understand Frodo, I would use this Ring from the desire to do good. But through me, it would wield a power to great and terrible to imagine.]

The power of the ring would corrupt Gandalf, but he resisted it. Power can corrupt us, too. Why do you think the Bible talks so much about submitting? Submit to the authorities, submit to God, submit to each other. Submission is the opposite of power. Why do you think the Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil? Because money is basically a form of power. To love money is to love power and to love power is to be corrupted by it. We have to be very careful about this. Power corrupts, that's why it was one of things that Satan offered to Jesus in the temptation in the desert.

Matthew 4
The Temptation of Jesus
1Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
4Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
5Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6"If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:
" 'He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"
7Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9"All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."
10Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"
11Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

When he was offered power and wealth by the devil Jesus, like Gandalf, knew that all the power in the world wasn't worth compromising with evil.

I want you to notice something here that is important to our understanding of temptation. Being tempted is not a sin. We know that Jesus never sinned, but he was tempted. I don't know how many times I've been tempted to do something wrong, I start thinking about it, and then I go ahead and give in because I feel like I've already sinned just by considering it. But temptation is not the same as sin. Temptation is a moment of choice, an opportunity to do the right thing. And that's what Jesus did.

He showed us a great way to resist temptation. He quoted scripture. When you hear the lies of Satan in your ear you can respond with words from God's truth. Of course, you've got to have a few things memorized to be able to do this effectively.

Along their journey through Middle Earth the fellowship of the ring stays in the elf-realm of Lorien. The queen of that realm is Galadriel, one of the most beautiful and wise elves in all of Middle Earth. Frodo talks with her about his quest and then offers her the ring. That scene in the movie is a little scary, so I'll read you the passage from the book.

'You are wise and fearless and fair, Lady Galadriel,' said Frodo. `I will
give you the One Ring, if you ask for it. It is too great a matter for me.'
Galadriel laughed with a sudden clear laugh. `Wise the Lady Galadriel may
be,' she said, `yet here she has met her match in courtesy. Gently are you
revenged for my testing of your heart at our first meeting. You begin to see
with a keen eye. I do not deny that my heart has greatly desired to ask what
you offer. For many long years I had pondered what I might do, should the
Great Ring come into my hands, and behold! it was brought within my grasp. The
evil that was devised long ago works on in many ways, whether Sauron himself
stands or falls. Would not that have been a noble deed to set to the credit of
his Ring, if I had taken it by force or fear from my guest?
`And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of
the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful
and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the
Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than
the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair! '
She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued a
great light that illuminated her alone and left all else dark. She stood
before Frodo seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond
enduring, terrible and worshipful. Then she let her hand fall, and the light
faded, and suddenly she laughed again, and lo! she was shrunken: a slender
elf-woman, clad in simple white, whose gentle voice was soft and sad.
'I pass the test,' she said. `I will diminish, and go into the West and
remain Galadriel.'
(Fellowship of the Ring Page 410)

Galadriel is using another great method for resisting temptation. She makes herself aware of the results of her sin. She knows that if she takes the ring she will become a dark queen, just as evil as Sauron. I use this method a lot. Something comes up, I'm tempted to do something that I know I shouldn't and I think about what the consequences will be. And that helps me fight it. For example, just this week I was about to say something really sarcastic and mean to someone and I thought for a minute about all of the times that I've done that and then had to wonder if they're mad at me, then apologize, then feel like a jerk for a couple of days, so I just kept my mouth shut. Think about your weak spots. What are the negative results when you give in to that temptation? Now keep that in mind when you face the temptation and it may help you make the right choice. If you need some help on this, consider this passage: James 1:14-15 "Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." The final result of giving in to temptation is death. But there is hope. Romans 6:23 says "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." There is hope for us when we fail, and we all will, but considering the results of our failure can help us make the right choice.

One of Frodo's companions was the human prince Boromir. He suggests that the ring should go to his country, Gondor, where it can be used to fight Sauron. His idea is rejected, but he keeps thinking about the ring until it drives him mad. [Video:

(Frodo looses his footing and falls, rolling down the slope towards Aragorn)
Aragorn: Frodo! (helps him to his feet. Frodo searches himself for the Ring. Finding it missing, he looks back up the slope. Boromir, sees the Ring on the snow and picks it up by its chain)
Aragorn: Boromir.
Boromir (looking at ring): It is a strange fate we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing... such a little thing.
Aragorn: Boromir! Give the Ring to Frodo.
Boromir: (hands it to Frodo) As you wish. I care not.
. . .
Boromir: None of us should wander alone, you least of all. So much depends on you. Frodo? I know why you seek solitude. You suffer; I see it day by day. You sure you do not suffer needlessly? There are other ways, Frodo, other paths that we might take.
Frodo: I know what you would say. And it would seem like wisdom but for the warning in my heart.
Boromir: Warning? Against what? We're all afraid, Frodo. But to let that fear drive us to destroy what hope we have. Don't you see that is madness?
Frodo: There is no other way!
Boromir: I ask only for the strength to defend my people! If you would but lend me the Ring...
Frodo: No.
Boromir: Why do you recoil? I am no thief.
Frodo: You are not yourself.
Boromir: What chance do you think you have? They will find you! They will take the Ring and you will beg for death before the end!
Boromir: Fool!
Boromir: It is not yours save by unhappy chance. It could have been mine! It should be mine! Give it to me!
Boromir: Give it to me!
Frodo: No!
Boromir: Give me... Give me the Ring!
(Frodo slips the Ring on and disappears. He kicks Boromir and runs away)]

Frodo escapes and then Boromir is killed in the forest by a band of orcs. Later Frodo and Sam meet up with Faramir, brother of Boromir. Faramir has a chance to take the ring. It would make his father proud and it could help him save his country. [Video:

Faramir: So, this is the answer to all the riddles. (He advances on Frodo who backs up to the cave wall.) Here in the wild I have you, two Halflings, and a host of men at my call. (Faramir lifts the ring on its chain with the tip of his sword.) The Ring of Power within my grasp. A chance for Faramir, Captain of Gondor, to show his quality.
. . .
Faramir: Take them to my father. Tell him Faramir sends a mighty gift. A weapon that will change our fortunes in this war.
Sam: You want to know what happened to Boromir? You want to know why your brother died? He tried to take the Ring from Frodo. After swearing an oath to protect him, he tried to kill him! The Ring drove your brother mad!
. . .
Faramir: I think at last we understand one another, Frodo Baggins.
Madril: You know the laws of our country, the laws of your father. If you let them go your life will be forfeit.
Faramir: Then it is forfeit. Release them!]

He was able to learn from his brother's mistake. Other people's mistakes can teach us a lot, too. 1 Corinthians 10:6 says that the stories of the Old Testament can teach us what not to do. "Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did." We can even learn what not to do from the people that hurt us.

Now we come to Gollum. He has spent 500 years saying 'yes' to temptation, and it has nearly destroyed him. He is a good example of what happens when we habitually give in to temptation. It begins to take over our lives, demanding more and more of our attention until we can think of nothing else. Today we call this addiction. Gollum was addicted to the ring and he wasted away physically and emotionally. He learned the hard way that sin is progressive. Ephesians 4:19 describes this: "Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more." A continual lust for more. When we start to give in to a small sin, it's exciting for a while and then we get bored with it. So we try something a little worse, and a little worse, giving in gradually until we've lost all self-control. If we don't do something to stop the progression of sin it will destroy us. There are ways to overcome addiction. If you have a serious problem with addiction, whether it's pain-killers, pornography, heroin, alcohol or eating, don't be afraid to get help. Addictions are tough to beat, and almost anything can become an addiction if it gets a firm hold on us. But there is hope. There was even hope for Gollum. We'll explore these things more in part III.

All of these people dealt with the allure of the ring, but the one who bore the most temptation was the simple, ordinary hobbit, Frodo. He is constantly tempted to put it on. In time it begins taking hold of him like it did with Gollum. Every step Frodo takes toward Mordor is a choice. He chooses to humble himself and realize that the ring is tempting him. He chooses to give up the power that the ring could give him and destroy it rather than use it. He chooses to learn from what happened to those that gave in to the ring, especially Gollum. And then when he finally reaches the mountain of fire and looks down into the pit where the ring can be destroyed . . . I won't give it away right now. I'll give you one more week to see the movie if you haven't, and then I'll tell what happened. I'll just say that Frodo discovers the truth of 1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."

God always makes a way for us to stand up under temptation. This doesn't say that God keeps us from ever being tempted, but that he always gives us a way out, the ability to choose what's right. This is a great thing to remember when you're in a moment of temptation. There is a way out. I hope these ideas from the Bible, illustrated by Tolkien's story can help you overcome some temptation in your life, but we also need to understand that we all fail. None of us is capable of winning 100% of these battles. We all mess up, but Jesus made a way for us to be right with God anyway. Roman 3:23 says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came through Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood." Put your faith in him, it's our only hope.

Films © 2001-2003 New Line Cinema
Books © J.R.R. Tolkien

Dare2Share

This post was written before I became an atheist and does not represent my current views. You can find more up-to-date posts on religion in my faith/skepticism category.

Friday and Saturday I was at Dare2Share with 8 students and 3 other adults. On Saturday afternoon the groups at the conference went all over the city collecting canned goods for City Union Mission. We went door-to-door in an Overland Park neighborhood asking for cans and then asking if we could share our faith. I was really nervous about this and a little unsure if it was even a good idea (does it just turn people off? does it really do any good?) But the approach they told us to use was really nonconfrontational and friendly. When people weren't interested, we just moved on. When people were interested, we were very brief and simple. Doing something that made us uncomfortable was a good growing experience. I'm proud of the kids; they were really brave and kind.

Celebrities whose names I would like to remember, but can't

This post was written before I became an atheist and does not represent my current views. You can find more up-to-date posts on religion in my faith/skepticism category.

There is only so much room left in my brain, and, while these 5 actors deserve a slice of my gray matter, Elmo's World and Dora the Explorer must take precedence. (I'm the mother of a 2-year-old.)

1. John Hannah
I have a strong attachment to "Sliding Doors" (Danny and I watched it on our oft-disputed first date); he was also in "Four Weddings and a Funeral" where he read the W.H. Auden poem, "Funeral Blues". Beautiful.

2. William H. Macy
"Magnolia" (yeah), "Pleasantville" (boo) and "Fargo", which Brendan can't believe I haven't seen yet.

3. Philip Seymour Hoffman
Also in "Magnolia", he cracked me up as 'Lester Bangs' in "Almost Famous". And I would love to see him in "Love Liza", if I can convince someone to watch it with me.

4. Steve Zahn
In "That Thing You Do", but my favorite role is 'Sammy' in "Reality Bites". (Can anyone forget his dazzling performance in the "PFLAG" skit with Jeanane Garafalo?)

5. Topher Grace
(Can you blame me? What kind of a name is "Topher"?) Probably best known for his role in "That 70s Show", he made his film debut in "Traffic." His character in the movie is much more interesting.

New Poster

This post was written before I became an atheist and does not represent my current views. You can find more up-to-date posts on religion in my faith/skepticism category.

One of the cool features of my new Movable Type blog is that I can add Sara as a blog author. She's looking forward to posting some top 5 lists (a la High Fidelity). It is my pleasure to introduce to you the lovely and talented Sara.

Spirit rolls out

This post was written before I became an atheist and does not represent my current views. You can find more up-to-date posts on religion in my faith/skepticism category.

JPL engineers played Baha Men's "Who Let the Dogs Out" in the control room as they watched new images confirming that the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit successfully rolled off its lander platform early Thursday morning.

from the Mars Moblog

Vanilla Ice + Tammy Fae + Scientology = TV

This post was written before I became an atheist and does not represent my current views. You can find more up-to-date posts on religion in my faith/skepticism category.

Faded rap star VANILLA ICE has become the latest celebrity to be drawn to the teachings of the Church of Scientology.

The ICE ICE BABY rapper, 35, joins a star-studded list of devotees - including TOM CRUISE, JOHN TRAVOLTA and LISA MARIE PRESLEY - and even enjoyed long discussions about the religion with former TV evangelist TAMMY FAYE MESSNER as they filmed their upcoming reality show THE SURREAL LIFE 2.

Messner says, "Vanilla Ice reminded me of my son; he called me Mom. He's into Scientology, and he and I had lots of discussions."
09/01/2004 19:34

from Contactmusic NEWS

Wish I was there

This post was written before I became an atheist and does not represent my current views. You can find more up-to-date posts on religion in my faith/skepticism category.

This is one of my favorite pictures from the Mars Moblog. I think it could make a cool title banner at the top of this blog.

"What does he said?"

This post was written before I became an atheist and does not represent my current views. You can find more up-to-date posts on religion in my faith/skepticism category.

Emma is always saying silly things that make me laugh, but I noticed that one of them actually makes a lot of sense. When she wants you to repeat what someone said, she'll say "What does he said?" It sounds very strange, but it's actually pretty smart and shows that her language aquisition is advancing admirably. Consider the process that she must have gone through to reach this point. First, she would phrase it this way:

What he say? Then she added the past tense inflection
What he said? Then she picked up the strange aspect of English wherein we add the helping verb 'do'
What does he said? But she is placing the past tense inflection on the verb instead of the helping verb. So she is only one step away from the correct SAE usage:
What did he say? To me that seems pretty smart.

Now if only she could stop pooping her pants.

The Answer

This post was written before I became an atheist and does not represent my current views. You can find more up-to-date posts on religion in my faith/skepticism category.

I worded the question very carefully so there would be no correct answer. I asked for the name of a person, but the poem was written by a computer program called Ray Kurzweil's Cybernetic Poet. Follow the link to see more poems by the program, and you can download the free version to run on your own computer. I tried it and couldn't get it to run. The site says it only works on Win95 and 98, which sounds pretty lame. So there's no right answer to my question and there's no certificates to be given out. I would like to congratulate, however, Dave and Brandon for finding out where the poem come from (and yes, google searches were allowed). Sorry to disappoint, but I'll give you something even better than free music: knowledge (ok, free music probably is better, so try this link).

I learned about the poetry writing program in a book I'm reading, The Age of Spiritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil. The author was been a pioneer in the tech industry. He worked on things like the CCD flat-bed scanner, text recognition software, speech recognition software, music synthesizers (the Kurzweil is still a popular brand) and in 1988, he predicted that a computer would defeat a world chess champion in 1998, he was one year off. So this guy is pretty smart. The book I'm reading now contains predictions for the next 50 years. It's very interesting, and occasionally scary. Click here to learn more and read some more recent articles from Kurzweil.

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