Monday, December 24, 2007


Merry Christmas from

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


I've always enjoyed Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegone stories so in honor of the season, here are links to a couple of essays Keillor wrote about Christmas.

We sat in a sort of triangle, two couches at a right angle, a line of chairs, a window looking out at the snow on Amsterdam Avenue, and talked about the rather improbable notion that God sent Himself to Earth in human form, impregnating a virgin who, along with her confused fiancé, journeyed to Bethlehem where no rooms were available at the inn (it was the holidays, after all), and so God was born in a stable, wrapped in cloths and laid in a feed trough and worshipped by shepherds summoned by angels and by Eastern dignitaries who had followed a star.

This magical story is a cornerstone of the Christian faith and I am sorry if it's a big hurdle for the skeptical young. It is to the Church what his Kryptonian heritage was to Clark Kent -- it enables us to stop speeding locomotives and leap tall buildings at a single bound, and also to love our neighbors as ourselves. Without the Nativity, we become a sort of lecture series and coffee club, with not very good coffee and sort of aimless lectures.

On Christmas Eve, the snow on the ground, the stars in the sky, the spruce tree glittering with beloved ornaments, we stand in the dimness and sing about the silent holy night and tears come to our eyes and the vast invisible forces of Christmas stir in the world. Skeptics, stand back. Hush. Hark. There is much in this world that doubt cannot explain.

There are people who feel "excluded" by Christian symbolism and are offended by the manger and the angels and the Child, but there have always been humorless, legalistic people. Complaint is an American art form, and in our time it has been raised to an operatic level. To which one can only say: Get a life. When you go to France, you don't expect a stack of buckwheat pancakes for breakfast or Le Monde to print box scores. You're in France. Now you're in America. It's a Christian culture. Work with it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Podcasts of "Christopher Closeup" interviews are finally available online. If you'd like to check out interviews with actress Genie Francis (General Hospital) or singer Michael W. Smith, visit:

Friday, December 7, 2007


If you've been following the hubbub (or is it a brouhaha?) about "The Golden Compass," read what author and film critic Jeffrey Overstreet has to say at As opposed to the torches-and-pitchforks approach to movies that offend Christian sensibilities, he suggests a more rational way to counter the movie and its message.

Should Christians be afraid of The Golden Compass?
Mercy, no. Let's not be afraid. Discerning, yes. But not afraid.
God is not threatened by Philip Pullman. And people who stop to think through Pullman's story, and how he "refutes" Christianity, will see what a feeble "attack" against Christian beliefit really is. Pullman has painted a picture of the church—represented by "The Magisterium" in his stories—that basically reflects only those ways in which the church has abused power. And he has used that selective reflection as an excuse to write off Christianity as a whole. That's sort of like condemning the entire produce section in a grocery store because a few of the apples were bad. (And "Magisterium" is not something Pullman just made up. It's a very real word referring to the church, particularly the Roman Catholic Church. So he's not trying to cloak his intentions here.) It's interesting to note that Pullman's dismissal of Christianity skips over one little detail: Jesus. Pullman's story never makes any attempt to explore or refute the claims and ministry and person of Christ. He has, in effect, set up a "straw God" rather than a "straw man," and his fans are congratulating him for knocking down Pullman's flawed perception of God rather than the God of Christianity. He's not really undermining Christian belief as he thinks he is; he is undermining the abuse of authority, something altogether contrary to the gospel.
Okay, maybe we shouldn't boycott and complain. But what should Christians do?
These recommendations come from my humble opinion, and you're welcome to disagree.

Essentially, don't behave in ways that the Magisterium in Pullman's books would behave. You'll just make his stories more persuasive, by confirming for the culture around us that Christians only really get excited when they're condemning something.

Instead, respond with grace and love. And truth. Admit that, yes, Christians have committed grave sins in the name of Christ, and that those shameful misrepresentations of the gospel have made many people fearful of, and even repulsed by, the church. But Christians have been called to serve the oppressed, proclaim freedom for the captives, bring healing to the sick, to seek justice, to love mercy, to walk humbly, and to bring good news of "great joy." And by God's grace, many are living out that calling. They paint quite a different picture than what Pullman has painted.

Monday, December 3, 2007


If you only had minutes to live, what final message would you want to share with your loved ones?

That’s the question at the heart of the new Hallmark Channel film “The Note” premiering Saturday Dec. 8 at 9pm Eastern/8pm Central.

“General Hospital’s” Genie Francis stars as Peyton MacGruder, an advice columnist who fails to connect with her readers because her own heart is shut tight due to mistakes and pains from the past. Peyton’s problems, however, pale in comparison with what’s going on in the real world at the time – namely, a plane crash that kills everyone on-board. While jogging near the beach one day, Peyton discovers a note in a plastic bag that has washed ashore. After some investigating, she deduces that it’s a final message from a father on the doomed airliner who wrote it when the chance of a crash became real. Peyton sets out to find the person to whom the note was written. In the process, she faces the demons from her own past that have haunted her for years.

In her role as Peyton, Genie Francis conveys the pain of a person who needs to deal with guilt and tragedy, but who’s tried to suppress it instead. Her depth and maturity are no doubt shaped by the struggles she’s faced in her own life, from drug addiction to self-image & self-esteem problems. Like the talented actress she is, Genie taps into those feelings and delivers an outstanding performance that should touch anyone who’s ever found themselves in a similar situation.

The payoff in the film, of course, hinges on the content of the note. There’s quite a buildup so I wondered if the filmmakers would be able to deliver effectively. The substance needed to be more than a simple “I love you,” after all. I’m happy to report that “the note” does deliver on its promise. The words are few but they speak volumes that are especially appropriate for the Christmas season. It’s a message from beyond the grave that anyone would welcome, and that allows all the characters to move forward with confidence, courage, and humility.

“The Note” does suffer story-wise from some divine coincidences that usually only take place in the movies. But it’s overall effect is positive due to characters and situations that I came to care about.

Reminiscent of stories by Nicholas Sparks and Mitch Albom, “The Note” leaves viewers with a greater appreciation for their loved ones. It also encourages them to think about their lives and relationships in a way that can lead to new beginnings in this season when we celebrate the birth of the Christ-child and the promise He brings.