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Oh Little Town of Bethlehem

English: "(...) Entry of Pilgrims into Be...

English: “(…) Entry of Pilgrims into Bethlehem at Christmas time. It was taken in 1890.” (text from same source) Note: At the source of this picture, several pictures portray Christmas in Bethlehem in 1898 (not 1890). This picture seems to be the only exception. It could be that the indicated date is actually a typo… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Autograph manuscript of first stanza ...

English: Autograph manuscript of first stanza of O Little Town of Bethlehem. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On December 21st, our family will be gathering with others in worship for the seventh annual joint simulcast Christmas service with the people of Bethlehem at the Washington National Cathedral.

Prayers, readings, and hymns alternate between Washington, D.C., and Palestine via the Internet, bringing together people of different lands, languages, and ethnic backgrounds in celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace.

In this age of turmoil and religious strife, it may be a surprise to some to know that Christians have religious freedom in Palestine and that Christmas and other Holy Days are celebrated vigorously!

The carol, “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem”, was inspired by a pilgrim’s first visit to Bethlehem many years ago. This year it will acquire new meaning for me as we join in song with the “Living Stones”, as the descendents of the first followers of Jesus call themselves today. Let me encourage you to visit and attend church services in Palestine when you make your pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Inspiration awaits.

Learn more about the writer of “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem”, Philip Brooks and his journey, below.





triangles (Photo credit: ikarusmedia)

I tried to make some appetizers for a dinner we were going to last night, it did not end well.  Often, I like to buy baked goods rather than make them. The things I bake often turn out, welll…not so attractive.

I found a simple recipe on Pinterest which uses three ingredients: Phyllo dough, cranberry sauce and Brie. *posted below

When I went to the store to buy the only ingredient I didn’t have, the Brie, I sideswiped a car’s back bumper as I left my parking space.

I was tempted to drive away, but I left a note on the car’s windshield with my phone number. It’s in process.

Getting home, I begin my prep by making myself a small cup of coffee.

After everything was laid out, (I am good at making Baklava so I knew how to keep my Phyllo moist) I spilled my coffee over everything. After sopping up my preparation site, I began the process of folding up the turnovers.

Alarmingly, I couldn’t figure out how to fold the dough into triangles.  Even guided by pictures in the recipe, I couldn’t figure it out.

So, back to the computer to look up how to fold a triangle on paper. No help.

I began experimenting as the dough started drying out and cracking while I made peculiar square and odd shaped “pockets” of dough.

After they baked, they were much larger than normal appetizers, and overly flakey.

I fortunately had some crab puff pastries (five) in the freezer which I baked while I dressed.

Why didn’t I just ‘make do’ with them? I honestly thought I could handle the appetizers.

I felt humilated and I was wondering if I should say anything or just present the giant, crappy turnovers and the tiny puff pastries as an ensemble and keep my mouth shut.

Then, my dogs came to my rescue. I took out the crab puffs, and set everything out in a nice serving dish on the kitchen counter while I went upstairs to finish getting dressed.

As I came downstairs to get my coat, I found all the appetizers on the kitchen floor with our two small dogs happily finishing them.

They had jumped up and tipped them off the counter.

In the end, I didn’t have to take my appetizers to our friends, but I felt bad that I had wasted so much emotional energy on the project. This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced a similar tension between wanting to do something that I think I “ought” to be able to do, having it turn out badly, and having (God, circumstances, even dogs) save the day!

All in all, It felt like a giant relief. Will I try again someday? Probably, but, I’ve learned some lessons and I’ll probably not make turnovers.

*Below is the delightful recipe. I varied the ingredients using Mozzarella cheese, Brie, Cranberry sauce (homemade by someone else) Pesto from Italy (a gift) and some hot pepper jelly from a neighboring farm to fill them.  I’m sure they are delicious if they are small and compact.


Why Do Our Medications Cost So Much?

Drug questions

Drug questions (Photo credit: Ano Lobb. @healthyrx)

Why do some Doctors choose the more costly medications when there are others available that are equally good?

Here’s a thought from an article in MotherJones.

Curing Blindness the Cheap Way vs. the Very, Very Expensive Way

| Sun Dec. 8, 2013 9:56 AM GMT

The Washington Post has a long piece today titled “An effective eye drug is available for $50. But many doctors choose a $2,000 alternative.”

It’s the story of Avastin vs. Lucentis, and it’s been making the rounds

for years. Oddly, despite the length of the story, the writers never

clearly explain precisely what’s going on.

You may recall the name Avastin because it’s been the subject of

numerous unflattering news stories. It was introduced in 2004 as a

cancer treatment, but it turns out to be mega-expensive even though it

usually provides only a few months of extra life. For an average-size

person, a single injection runs about 500 mg or so, and injections are required

every two weeks. Genentech sells Avastin in vials of 100 and 400 mg

priced at around $6 per mg, so a single dose costs around $3,000 and a

full treatment can end up costing anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 or


It turns out, however, that the Avastin molecule seemed like it might

also be promising for treating Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration

(AMD), which can cause blindness in older patients. So Genentech created

a modfied version of the drug and started testing it. While that was

going on, however, a few opthamologists got impatient a decided to just

give Avastin a try. AMD treatment requires only slightly more than 1 mg

of Avastin, so they’d buy a 100 mg vial and then have it reformulated

into smaller doses. It seemed to worked great, but the evidence of a few

one-off treatments wasn’t as convincing as a full round of FDA clinical

testing. So when Genetech brought its modified drug to market under the

name Lucentis, it quickly became the treatment of choice for AMD. And

even though the required dosage was even smaller than the equivalent

Avastin dose, Genentech priced it at about $2,000.

Genentech, for obvious reasons, was very aggressively not

interested in testing Avastin for AMD. But others were, and over the

next few years several clinical trials were run. The results were pretty

clear: Avastin worked great. Genentech claimed that the clinical trials

showed that it was less safe than Lucentis, but virtually nobody bought

that. In some of the smaller trials, Avastin showed a slighly higher

incidence of adverse effects, but they were things that seemed

completely unrelated to the drugs themselves. It was most likely just a

statistical artifact. The opinion of the medical community is almost

unanimous that Avastin works just as well as Lucentis.

Last year, Medicare’s inspector general released a report on this subject

and concluded that the average physician cost for Lucentis ran to about

$1,928 vs. $26 per dose of Avastin (including drug and compounding

costs). Needless to say, since Medicare is prohibited from negotiating

prices or turning down treatments, there was nothing much they could do

about this. If Genentech wanted to sell Lucentis for $2,000, it could do

it. If doctors wanted to prescribe it, they could. And even though

Avastin worked just as well, Medicare couldn’t insist that it be used


You can draw your own conclusions from all this. In one sense, you

can sympathize with Genentech: they spent a bunch of money on clinical

trials for Lucentis, and they want to see a return on that investment.

The fact that AMD requires only a tiny dose doesn’t do anything to lower

their research and testing costs. On the other hand, they could have

done those trials a whole lot more cheaply using Avastin, but chose not

to since that would make it clear that Avastin worked just fine—and

Avastin, unfortunately, was already on the market at a price that was

very low in the small doses needed for AMD. Likewise, doctors could have

rebeled and refused to prescribe Lucentis, which would have benefited

their patients since Medicare beneficiaries pay 20 percent of the cost

of pharmaceuticals. But why would they? Lucentis is more convenient;

doctors don’t bear any of the higher cost themselves; and, in fact,

since Medicare reimburses them at cost plus 6 percent, prescribing

Lucentis earns them about $100 more per dose than prescribing Avastin.

Quite the pretty picture, isn’t it? And here’s the most ironic part:

Avastin continues to be widely used for cancer treatment, where it’s

extraordinarily costly and of only modest benefit, but isn’t used for

AMD, where it’s quite cheap and works well. This is lovely for

Genentech, but not so much for the rest of us. Isn’t American health

care great?

Here’s the link to longer article referred to in the Washington Post.


Raising Kids To Be Thankful


thankful (Photo credit: bondidwhat)

Our kids grew up in a developing country where they knew they were privileged and daily experienced the economic contrast between their lives and our friends. They learned qualities of generosity and gratitude from the example of their friends and neighbors who, despite their poverty, shared their possessions willingly and appreciated small gestures of friendship.

I never remember our kids demanding things that their wealthy friends had, though they may have wished for them. We often encouraged them to look at the neighbors living in the shacks around us, and to compare their lives with them rather than the ex-pat kids from the oil companies.

Living in the United States presents different problems, however. I wonder how we would have managed to raise thankful children in this age and culture?
While everyone has their own opinions, here are some ideas from an article I just read from Slate Magazine.
Advice for parents
Nov. 26 2013 11:45 PM

How to Raise Thankful Kids

It’s gonna take a lot of work.

Happy girl at Thanksgiving Dinner table
How do you teach your child gratitude?

Photo by Thinkstock

A few nights ago, after cleaning up from the play date I had organized for my 2½-year-old, changing his diaper, and refilling his water, I was about to start cooking him dinner before giving him a bath when the subject of Thanksgiving came up. He didn’t know what it was, so I tried to explain it to him. But somewhere between It’s a special day when we all think about how grateful we are for what we have and So, basically, it’s all about giving thanks, my son took off to terrorize our dog, and I was left stirring pasta that, five minutes later, I had to remind my son to thank me for. Continued:

Thanksgiving Dinner as Communion

Thanksgiving is on our minds this week here in the USA and many of us look forward to it as a time with family. I have not been one to enjoy any holidays since I grew up and began to work up a sweat and develop painful muscles to celebrate them. I also struggle with how to fit into other people’s kitchens and how to make food that will “pass” other cooks’ high standards! Pies are big at holidays, and I don’t do pies well.

Flanders, Netherlands

Flanders, Netherlands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But this year will be different.

Last month another of Henri JM Nouwen’s books, ‘Life of the Beloved’ transformed my rough and negative thinking about Thanksgiving dinner. Here are the words that spoke to me.

“Isn’t a meal together the most beautiful expression of our desire to be given to each other in our brokenness? The table, the food, the drinks, the words,the stories: Are they not the most intimate ways in which we not only express the desire to give our lives to each other, but also to do this in actuality? I very much like the expression “breaking bread together,” because there the breaking and the giving are so clearly one. When we eat together we are vulnerable to one another. Around the table we can’t wear weapons of any sort. Eating from the same bread and drinking from the same cup call us to live in unity and peace. This becomes very visible when there is a conflict. Then eating and drinking together can become a truly threatening even; then the meal can become the most dreaded moment of the day. We all know about painful silences during dinner. They contrast starkly with the intimacy of eating and drinking together, and the distance between those sitting around the table can be unbearable.

On the other hand, a really peaceful and joyful meal together belongs to the greatest moments of life.”

Originally, I had urged my husband to join the extended family at Thanksgiving imagining that I would just be thankful to be at home enjoying a nice Swanson’s TV Turkey dinner as I relaxed alone with our dogs, avoiding the stress and confusion of what I should be doing each and every moment of that festive day.

But, I had a paradigm change when I realized that we are a family who gets along pretty well and we have an opportunity to break bread together with three generations, modeling love and friendship to our grandchildren. This Thanksgiving won’t be about my feeling minor discomforts, but about sharing love and of course, Thanking God for all His provision!

Remarkably, my worries about what food I’ll offer this Thanksgiving have subsided. Everyone else loves this holiday and they are super cooks, so I get off easy and I’m accepting this gracefully!  I’ve concluded that most of my worries about fitting in were just a lot of insecurity, anyway. I’m too old for that!

Why Ted Cruz is losing my generation of evangelicals

I’ve been scanning the internet for pundits and bloggers who express a Moderate point of view in these polarizing time and here is a young(er) person, Morgan Guyton, who does it very well. I’m thrilled to present his article (and blog) to you!

Mercy not Sacrifice

ted-cruz-AP When you grow up evangelical, you view everything about politics through the lens of your religious experience. Other people are shaped most fundamentally by their connection to military culture or their work with the poor or their passion for science or something else. I honestly cannot think about political issues from an objective rational perspective; I’m almost entirely a reactionary. There is one analogy that shapes the political landscape for me: I am rabidly opposed to anyone who reminds me of the fundamentalists who have questioned the validity of my Christian faith throughout my life. The problem for the Republican Party is that Ted Cruz and the “constitutional conservatives” holding them hostage fit this analogy perfectly, and that’s why I suspect they are completely alienating what might be dubbed the Rachel Held Evans bloc of twenty-to-thirty-something moderate evangelicals like me who hate fundamentalism and hate being called “liberal.”

View original post 922 more words

Chris Brown and A Nation of Raped Boys

Something to think about

Olivia A. Cole

chris brown rape

Yesterday I read an article in which Chris Brown discussed the age at which he lost his virginity. He was 8, he says, and the girl was 14 or 15. He mentions that in “the country” he and his cousins watched a lot of porn, so by age 8 he was “hot to trot.” Maybe so. Children can have sexual feelings at 8, but whether they can consent to sex at age 8 is an entirely different subject. Sex at age 8 is rape, especially given the fact that the girl involved was significantly older, a teenager. Chris Brown was raped, but to hear him tell it, that experience was positive, healthy. Something to brag about. “At eight, being able to do it, it kind of preps you for the long run, so you can be a beast at it.”

And the worst part? This isn’t the first time I’ve…

View original post 551 more words