I am slowly getting back around to blogs and reading online in general. Here are some of the posts and articles that have caught my eye.

There’s a lot going on this time of the year, and if your mind is cluttered with things to do before Tuesday, then Leo Babauta has an article for you. 15 Can’t-Miss Ways to Declutter Your Mind has several different ways to get things off your mind, so you can have some peace of mind:

Identify the essential. This one is practically a mantra here at Zen Habits. (Can you imagine it? All of us here at Zen Habits, sitting on a mat in lotus position, chanting slowly: “Identify the essential … identify … the essen … tial …”) But that’s because it’s crucial to everything I write about: if you want to simplify or declutter, the first step is identifying what is most important. In this case, identify what is most important in your life, and what’s most important for you to focus on right now. Make a short list for each of these things.

Eliminate. Now that you’ve identified the essential, you can identify what’s not essential. What things in your life are not truly necessary or important to you? What are you thinking about right now that’s not on your short list? By eliminating as many of these things as possible, you can get a bunch of junk off your mind.

Let go. Worrying about something? Angry about somebody? Frustrated? Harboring a grudge? While these are all natural emotions and thoughts, none of them are really necessary. See if you can let go of them. More difficult than it sounds, I know, but it’s worth the effort.

It’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas: Oh no not another war on Christmas! (Don’t people realize that Christmas is NOT the only holiday in December?) One of the battles on the supposed “war on Christmas” is a movie this year. Kathleen Falsani reviews The Golden Compass and comes to this conclusion: Golden Compass Doesn’t Point to War on Christmas.

I haven’t read Pullman’s books, which by all accounts include explicit anti-religious, and anti-Catholic in particular, themes. I have, however, seen the film and if those themes were present, they flew right over my head, not unlike the heroic witches who prophesied the birth of Lyra, a child who would someday decide the fate of the world.

The movie is a jumble of heretofore-unknown characters and existential ideas that don’t quite hold together and that are entirely lost amid the fury of big-budget special effects. The message of “The Golden Compass,” if there is one in its celluloid incarnation, was lost on me. And I would venture a guess that any child who would see the film — and with its PG-13 rating for violence, no young child should — would miss the point, whatever it is, as well.

I agree with Falsani’s assessment of what Christians should be doing:

The Bible tells us that in order to love a broken world back to wholeness, an omnipotent God decides to come to Earth, not as a king or a great warrior, but in the form of a helpless infant born in a stable to an unwed teenage mother from an oppressed religious and ethnic group. There are signs and wonders announcing the Christ child’s birth — miraculous movement in the heavens, angels appearing to shepherds in fields, three mystical magi traveling from the East with exotic gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, and prophesies foretold and fulfilled. Good triumphs over evil and love over hate, all through the birth of one baby boy in a backwater town in the Middle East more than 2,000 years ago.

I defy Hollywood to come up with a more powerful, enduring tale than that one.

Christians would be better served telling and retelling the real Christmas story, without wasting time on brickbats and boycotts. Make big-budget films about it, write powerful books, make beautiful music and create enduring artwork that reflects the spirit of that story, the greatest ever told.

Jesus didn’t get defensive about ideas and stories that paled in comparison to the one he was telling. His followers shouldn’t be, either.

So, next year, when December rolls around and nervous Nellies begin shrieking about the latest Operation Secular Menace threatening to upend Christmas and its true meaning, please stick your fingers in your ears and repeat after me: Fa la la la la la la la la.

Yes! Finally someone has written about this! Ben Witherington questions where Joseph and Mary stayed on that night when Jesus was born in No Room in the What?

When it came time for Mary to deliver the baby, the Greek of Luke’s text says, “she wrapped him in cloth and laid him in a corn crib, as there was no room in the guest room.” Yes, you heard me right. Luke does not say there was no room in the inn. Luke has a different Greek word for inn (pandeion), which he trots out in the parable of the Good Samaritan. The word he uses here (kataluma) is the very word he uses to describe the room in which Jesus shared the Last Supper with his disciples — the guest room of a house.

Archeology shows that houses in Bethlehem and its vicinity often had caves as the back of the house where they kept their prized ox or beast of burden, lest it be stolen. The guest room was in the front of the house, the animal shelter in the back, and Joseph and Mary had come too late to get the guest room, so the relatives did the best they could by putting them in the back of the house.


Bethlehem was a one-stoplight town, and we don’t have a shred of archaeological evidence that there ever was a wayfarer’s inn in that little village in Jesus’ day. All this silliness about ‘no room at the Holiday Inn’ for the holy family or the world giving Jesus the cold shoulder is not at all what Luke is talking about. It’s a story about no inn in the room! It’s a story about a family making do when more relatives than expected suddenly show up on the doorstep. It’s a story most of us can relate to in one way or another.

Not to mention Mary would have had a little more privacy in the back of the house than in the guest room. People always think it’s so horrible that Mary and Joseph had to be in the “barn” (and let’s face it, that’s the way most of us pictured it). But they were in the home of family or friends. Thank you Ben. I’ve been saying this for years, and Christians treat me like a heretic. Now I can say I’m not the only one who thinks this what really happened and can point them to Ben’s article.