Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Old Year

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The Old Year
By John Clare

The Old Year’s gone away
To nothingness and night:
We cannot find him all the day
Nor hear him in the night:
He left no footstep, mark or place
In either shade or sun:
The last year he’d a neighbour’s face,
In this he’s known by none.

All nothing everywhere:
Mists we on mornings see
Have more of substance when they’re here
And more of form than he.
He was a friend by every fire,
In every cot and hall–
A guest to every heart’s desire,
And now he’s nought at all.

Old papers thrown away,
Old garments cast aside,
The talk of yesterday,
Are things identified;
But time once torn away
No voices can recall:
The eve of New Year’s Day
Left the Old Year lost to all.

The year of our Lord two-thousand fourteen is almost over. I will not say that it has been an exceedingly good year, nor an exceedingly had year. It’s just been another year. I will reflect more on 2014 in my post tomorrow, but for now, let’s hope for a prosperous and healthy 2015 to friends, family, and my readers.

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Game of Thrones

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I am sure I am far behind on becoming a fan of the HBO series Game of Thrones, but I just got the first two seasons on DVD for Christmas. I spent much of the weekend watching the twenty episodes of the first season. If I subscribed to HBO, I’d probably have already seen the series before, but I don’t so I had to wait to get it on DVD. As soon as I watched the first episode, I knew I was hooked. Now I need the third season and can anxiously await the fourth season on DVD in February.

If you are not familiar with the HBO series, it is an adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin’s series of fantasy novels, the first of which is titled A Game of Thrones. I’ve never read the novels, but hope to one day. The novels and their adaptation derive aspects of their settings, characters and plot from various events of European history. A principal inspiration for the novels is the English Wars of the Roses (1455–85) between the houses of Lancaster and York, reflected in Martin’s houses of Lannister and Stark. Most of Westeros, with its castles and knightly tournaments, is reminiscent of High Medieval Western Europe. I am not an expert on Medieval Europe, but I have been fascinated by Medieval England since I took a class on it from a woman who I consider to have been one of the greatest history professors to ever live. She was also my mentor until her death, and she encouraged me to continue my study of history.

That being said, Game of Thrones has many redeeming qualities. There are a massive number of characters to keep up with, but the male eye candy is tremendous. With gay knights and nobles, there is a bit of gay sex thrown into the mix. The male nudity is not nearly as numerous as the female nudity, but each time it appears on the screen, it is well worth it. Amazingly, or maybe not so amazing, the most well-endowed actors tend to show frontal nudity, but there are plenty of male backsides to enjoy as well.

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Game of Thrones star Finn Jones stated the obvious in one interview: There’s “not enough hot gay sex” on the show. Jones plays Loras Tyrell (pictured on his back in the above screenshot), a rather unique character for American television. He is unreservedly gay, but fierce as any other Westeros warrior.

Actor Kristian Nairn is best known as the dim-but-loyal Hodor on Game of Thrones. His character carries a crippled child around and only utters the word Hodor. Hodor is said to have giant’s blood in him and by the looks of his nude scene in season one, he’s a giant in more ways than one. But more interesting than his prodigious member is that he is openly gay. In an interview he said of being a gay man, “I had an upbringing to respect other people’s privacy, and their right to be and choose what they want, and I expect—no, demand—no less for myself. It’s a very small part of who I am on the whole, but nonetheless, in this day and age, it’s important to stand up and be counted. I have and always will stand my ground. So, yeah, people have been great, on the show, but I don’t see why it would be an issue.”

If you enjoy semi-historical television with a mix of fantasy, Game of Thrones is well worth watching.


A No Fear New Year

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Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17

God’s Word brings us a comforting promise, along with an insightful command as we face a new year: “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

We can live this coming year without fear if we apply these four incredibly wonderful truths to our lives and root them deep into our hearts.

1) The Contentment of His Provision

Contentment is not getting what you want, but it is wanting what you already have. 1 Timothy 6:6-8 says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” If you know Jesus Christ, you have contentment. If you’ve got clothes on your back, something to eat, and Jesus Christ in your heart, you’re rich!

Do you know why we have fear? Because we think our needs or the needs of someone we love are not going to be met. Or we fear that the things we think are meeting our needs are going to be taken away from us. The deepest need of your heart can only be met in the Lord Jesus Christ. He will provide for our needs, and we should do our best to help Him provide for others’ needs.

2) The Companionship of His Presence

I don’t know what I’m going to face next year. But there’s one thing I know, He will never leave me. As children of God, He will never leave us. He is always by our side, and He is guiding us in the path of righteousness.

We are often afraid we’re going to have to face something we don’t understand, and we’re going to have to face it alone. When God’s Word promises that God will never forsake us, it literally means that He will never abandon us. He will not give up on us. We need to practice the presence of the Lord this coming year. If we believe He is with us, then nothing can stop us and we will never be alone.

3) The Confidence of His Promise

We’re going to zero in on a little phrase in our verses in Hebrews, “He has said.” A promise is no better than the one who makes it. Who says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”? It is the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God. This is the confidence of His promise.

In the coming year, when we say, “God, I just don’t have the strength.” The omnipotent God will answer, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” When we say, “God, I’m afraid of what is going to happen.” The omnipresent God says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” And when we say, “God, I don’t know what to do.” The omniscient God will respond, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” He therefore will not forsake us and will be by our side through all that happens to us in the coming year.

4) The Comfort of His Protection

Hebrews 13:6 promises, “So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'” Now, put that with verse 5, which says, “He has said.”

Like I said earlier, I don’t know what you’re going to go through this coming year. I do not know what joys and sorrows, trials and tribulations that I may go through this year. But I know you can boldly say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” When we find our contentment, companionship, and confidence in Jesus, then, we’ll find our comfort and courage in Jesus. Remember that The Lord is our helper, and we should not have fear. Ultimately, no man can harm us or judge us if we believe in Jesus, for God is our only judge and if we do God’s will and follow His Word then we will truly be blessed in the hereafter, and with courage and faith, we will be blessed in this life as well.


Moment of Zen: Reading While on Break

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While school is in session, I usually don’t have much time to read for pleasure. I do plenty of reading, but it’s usually school related reading. So when I have a break from school, I usually have a long list of books to read, which I love to do.


Post Holiday Post

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Let your imagination run wild with this lovely picture. To be honest, my internet connection is so limited at my parents’ place, where we spent Christmas night, that this post is by necessity brief. I hope that all of you had a very merry Christmas.


Silent Night

One of the most amazing events of the First World War happened 100 years ago today. As a historian of World War I, I can’t let the day go by without retelling this story, which is one of my all-time favorite Christmas stories, and by he way if you have not seen this commercial by Salisbury, you really should.  The picture above is from the commercial.  Click on this link to watch it:  http://youtu.be/NWF2JBb1bvM. It was made in partnership with The Royal British Legion and was inspired by real events from 100 years ago today. I cried the first time I watched it because it’s such an inspiring story of the spirit of Christmas.

During World War I, on Christmas Day 1914, the sounds of rifles firing and shells exploding faded in a number of places along the Western Front in favor of holiday celebrations in the trenches and gestures of goodwill between enemies. On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for the celebration of Christmas. Though Germany readily agreed, the other powers refused.Even without a cessation of war for Christmas, family and friends of the soldiers wanted to make their loved ones’ Christmas special. They sent packages filled with letters, warm clothing, food, cigarettes, and medications. Yet what especially made Christmas at the front seem like Christmas were the troves of small Christmas trees.

On Christmas Eve, many German soldiers put up Christmas trees, decorated with candles, on the parapets of their trenches. Hundreds of Christmas trees lighted the German trenches and although British soldiers could see the lights, it took them a few minutes to figure out what they were from. Could this be a trick? British soldiers were ordered not to fire but to watch them closely. Instead of trickery, the British soldiers heard many of the Germans celebrating.  They heard songs that were very familiar being sung in the other trenches:

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

The British responded with the song in their own language:

Silent night, holy night
All is calm all is bright
‘Round yon virgin Mother and Child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops sang Christmas carols to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.

At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer.

Some soldiers used this short-lived ceasefire for a more somber task: the retrieval of the bodies of fellow combatants who had fallen within the no-man’s land between the lines.

The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.

During World War I, the soldiers on the Western Front did not expect to celebrate on the battlefield, but even a world war could not destory the Christmas spirit.

The First World War is one of my favorite topics of study. It is so important for much of the history of the twentieth century, even though it is often overlooked. We, the GLBT community, also owe a great deal to the Great War. The First World War traumatised millions of men and challenged hegemonic conceptions of masculinity. In the post-war era, battles raged between competing socio-political groups over masculinity and the war experience. The homosexual movement posed one of the most significant challenges to pre-war gender norms. The war galvanised homosexuals to challenge social and cultural perceptions of gays as degenerate ‘enemies of the nation’. The movement was fragmented by rivalries and theoretical differences, but the memory of the war served as a central reference point for defining homosexual identity, masculinity and political rights in the Weimar Republic. The First World War was a turning point for Germany’s homosexual movement, as the war provided a central ideal – comradeship – that became a cornerstone for defining homosexual identity and justifying emancipation. An intensely militarised rhetoric permeated the language of gay rights organisations in the 1920s and, despite the differences among those organisations, the war gave homosexuals similar visions of a spiritually and politically liberated gay man who could use his training at the front to fight legal oppression and cultural prejudice.


Tracking Santa

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Each Christmas Eve people all over the world will log on to the official Santa Tracker to follow his progress through U.S. military radar. I remeber the local NBC station would break in with updates on Santa’s location. As a kid, I always thought it was so cool. Tracking Santa all started in 1955, with a misprint in a Colorado Springs newspaper and a call to Col. Harry Shoup’s secret hotline at the Continental Air Defense Command, now known as NORAD.

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The Santa Tracker tradition started with this Sears ad, which instructed children to call Santa on what turned out to be a secret military hotline. Kids today can call 1-877 HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) to talk to NORAD staff about Santa’s exact location.

Shoup’s children, Terri Van Keuren, Rick Shoup, and Pam Farrell, recently visited StoryCorps to talk about how the tradition began. Col. Shout had two phones on his desk, one was the “red” phone that only Shoup and a four-star general at the Pentagon had the number. Of course, this was the 1950s during the height of the Cold War. Shoup was the first line of defense against a nuclear attack.

The red phone rang one day in December 1955, and Shoup answered it. On the line was a small voice that asked “Is this Santa Claus?” Shoup was a serious, disciplined, and straight-laced colonel and was immediately annoyed at the call, thinking it was a joke. Then the little voice began to cry, Shoup realized it wasn’t a joke. So, Shoup went into Santa mode. He talked to the young boy, said a few “HO-HO-HOs” and asked if he’d been a good boy this year. Then Col. Shoup asked to speak to the boys mother. And the mother got on and said, ‘You haven’t seen the paper yet? There’s a phone number to call Santa. It’s in the Sears ad.’ Dad looked it up, and there it was, his red phone number.

That was the first of many phone calls that the Continental Air Defense Command received on the red phone. Shoup decided to assign a couple of airmen on the phones to act like Santa Claus. It became a big joke at the command center. Col. Harry Shoup came to be known as the “Santa Colonel.”

The airmen had a large glass board with the United States and Canada on it so that they could track airplanes in the skies. On Christmas Eve of 1955, when Shoup walked in, there was a drawing of a sleigh with eight reindeer coming over the North Pole. Shoup asked, “What is that?” The airmen replied, ‘Colonel, we’re sorry. We were just making a joke. Do you want us to take that down?’ Shoup looked at it for a while, and next thing you know, he had called the radio station and had said, ‘This is the commander at the Combat Alert Center, and we have an unidentified flying object. Why, it looks like a sleigh.’ Well, the radio stations would call him like every hour and ask, “Where’s Santa now?”

Later in life, Shoup got letters from all over the world, people saying, ‘Thank you, Colonel,’ for having a sense of humor. And in his 90s, he would carry those letters around with him in a briefcase that had a lock on it like it was top-secret information. The letters were important to him. He had been an important man for America’s defense in the Cold War, but he was also known as Colonel Santa.

Col. Shoup died in 2009. How many of you have fond memories of tracking Santa all thanks to this straight-laced military man who turned out to have a good-natured sense of humor?


A Christmas Carol

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A Christmas Carol
George Wither

So now is come our joyful feast,
Let every man be jolly;
Each room with ivy leaves is dressed,
And every post with holly.
Though some churls at our mirth repine,
Round your foreheads garlands twine,
Drown sorrow in a cup of wine,
And let us all be merry.

Now all our neighbors’ chimnies smoke,
And Christmas blocks are burning;
Their ovens they with baked meats choke,
And all their spits are turning.
Without the door let sorrow lie,
And if for cold it hap to die,
We’ll bury it in a Christmas pie,
And evermore be merry.

Now every lad is wondrous trim,
And no man minds his labor;
Our lasses have provided them
A bagpipe and a tabor.
Young men and maids, and girls and boys,
Give life to one another’s joys;
And you anon shall by their noise
Perceive that they are merry.

Rank misers now do sparing shun,
Their hall of music soundeth;
And dogs thence with whole shoulders run,
So all things aboundeth.
The country-folk themselves advance,
For crowdy-mutton’s come out of France;
And Jack shall pipe and Jill shall dance,
And all the town be merry.

Ned Swatch hath fetched his bands from pawn,
And all his best apparel;
Brisk Nell hath bought a ruff of lawn
With droppings of the barrel.
And those that hardly all the year
Had bread to eat or rags to wear,
Will have both clothes and dainty fare,
And all the day be merry.

Now poor men to the justices
With capons make their errands;
And if they hap to fail of these,
They plague them with their warrants.
But now they feed them with good cheer,
And what they want they take in beer,
For Christmas comes but once a year,
And then they shall be merry.

Good farmers in the country nurse
The poor, that else were undone;
Some landlords spend their money worse,
On lust and pride at London.
There the roisters they do play,
Drab and dice their land away,
Which may be ours another day;
And therefore let’s be merry.

The client now his suit forbears,
The prisoner’s heart is eased;
The debtor drinks away his cares,
And for the time is pleased.
Though others’ purses be more fat,
Why should we pine or grieve at that;
Hang sorrow, care will kill a cat,
And therefore let’s be merry.

Hark how the wags abroad do call
Each other forth to rambling;
Anon you’ll see them in the hall,
For nuts and apples scrambling;
Hark how the roofs with laughters sound,
Anon they’ll think the house goes round;
For they the cellar’s depths have found,
And there they will be merry.

The wenches with their wassail-bowls
About the streets are singing;
The boys are come to catch the owls,
The wild mare in is bringing.
Our kitchen boy hath broke his box,
And to the dealing of the ox
Our honest neighbors come by flocks,
And here they will be merry.

Now kings and queens poor sheep-cotes have,
And mate with everybody;
The honest now may play the knave,
And wise men play at noddy.
Some youths will now a mumming go,
Some others play at rowland-hoe,
And twenty other gameboys moe;
Because they will be merry.

Then wherefore in these merry days
Should we, I pray, be duller?
No, let us sing some roundelays
To make our mirth the fuller.
And whilst we thus inspired sing,
Let all the streets with echoes ring;
Woods, and hills, and everything
Bear witness we are merry.


Christmas Break

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It’s the first weekday of my Christmas Break. I’m gonna sleep in a little and then go and finish up my Christmas shopping. Wish me luck. I hate the crowds at stores during Christmastime, but I haven’t had time before now. I will smile, be cheerful, and wish people Happy Holidays.


In the Spirit of Christmas

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As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Romans 14: 1-12

This may sound odd, mainly because I love Christmas, but most members of the church of Christ do not celebrate Christmas as a truly religious holiday. Since the bible does not give us a specific time to celebrate the birth of Christ, we celebrate it everyday of the year. My family has always celebrated Christmas though, and it’s always been a special time of year for us.

We’ve always seen it as a good thing to observe Christmas day. The mere marking of times and seasons, when men and women agree to stop work, spend time together, and celebrate the joys of giving, is a wise and wholesome custom. It helps one to feel the supremacy of the common life over the individual life. It reminds us of the joy that surrounds us.

But there is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that is, keeping the spirit of Christmas.

Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you? Are you willing to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world? Are you willing to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground? Are you willing to see that your fellow-men are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy? Are you willing to realize that probably the reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life? Are you willing to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness? Are you willing to put aside your judgement of your fellow man, and realize that God does not wish us to judge one another? Are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep the spirit of Christmas.

Are you willing to consider the needs and the desires of of humankind young and old? Are you willing to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough? Are you willing to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts? Are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep the spirit of Christmas.

Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world–stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death–and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love? Then you can keep the spirit of Christmas.

And if you keep the spirit of Christmas for a day, why not always? We should open our hearts and minds to all of humankind and be blessed that we are on this earth another day. We should celebrate the love that Jesus Christ brought us each and every day of our lives, not just on December 25. I had planned to expand my post from Friday and discuss more about those who pass judgement on the LGBT community, but I chose to focus on the good that we can do as people. There will always be those who pass judgement on us, but as the passage above states, they will be held accountable for their actions.

At Christmastime we should rejoice and love our fellow man, whether he or she loves us or not. We need to be the better people, for as the angels declared to the shepherds who were watching their flock outside of Bethlehem:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Luke 2:14


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