• GRACE NOTES 07/17/2010: Blessings in messiness

    When I was 16 or so I made sand candles.

    A hole in damp sand acts like a mold that you pour hot wax into. When the wax dries, you lift out a candle and brush the sand off. Voila!

    A friend taught me how to make them while we were at the beach one day, and I decided it would be fun to try it at home. So, we loaded up my mom’s car with boxes of sand and once home, I set out to show Mom what I had learned by putting huge hunks of wax and red crayons in a pot on the stove to melt. Mom loves candles and I was eager to present her with a waxen masterpiece.

  • ON RELIGION 07/10/2010: A wake-up call that worked

    It wasn’t hard to connect the dots when, after decades of lurid news about the sexual abuse of the young, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger delivered a Good Friday sermon bemoaning “how much filth” was in the church, including “the priesthood.”

    Weeks after that signal in 2005, the cardinal became pope. Then at World Youth Day 2008, he said, “I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured. ... These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation.”

  • Wisdom of experience

    “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”

    — 1 Timothy 4:12

    From the early days of the Christian church, older pastors have taken young pastors-in-training under their wings, just as the Apostle Paul did with Timothy, his “son in the faith.”

  • JUDI'S JOURNAL 07/03/2010: Historic synagogues of America

    Twenty-six years after the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, a group of Jews from Recife, Brazil, landed in the Dutch city of New Amsterdam. The year was 1654, and the Jews were Spanish and Portuguese refugees fleeing the persecution of the Inquisition. They left Brazil when the Inquisition reached the South American shores, and were seeking a new life here in America.

  • GRACE NOTES 07/10/2010: Just asking...

    This morning I noticed a teeny frog hopping around my bathroom.

    My first thought — I hope my husband doesn’t see it because he’ll give me that I-told-you-to-keep-the-door-shut look.

    My second thought, however — You poor, dumb frog, so teeny. You’re probably just a baby and I don’t have any froggy food in my house and if you don’t get accidentally stepped on, you’ll surely die from hunger unless you find your way back outside.

  • Namaste, ya'll!

    BRANDON, Miss. — With 16 tiers of Hindu script inscribed into its concrete ceiling, the ornate, cream-colored temple is an incongruous structure at the end of a winding road near Brandon, a growing bedroom community just outside Mississippi’s capital city.

    Members of the Hindu Temple Society of Mississippi hope the new 3,500-square-foot structure, built according to ancient rules of temple design called “agama sastra,” will draw throngs of worshippers and tourists to the site in the heart of the Bible Belt.

  • Christian-based recovery group offers hope to those in distress

    It’s all too common.

    Children of alcoholics become alcoholics. Women who saw their moms being abused by men grow up to be abused themselves and raise daughters who will be abused and sons who will be abusers.

    LaVerne Patricoff’s goal is to stop the cycle of dysfunction in families. On Monday nights, Patricoff leads a Christian-based 12-step recovery program at the New Church Without Walls in Hernando, using material from Alcoholics For Christ.

  • GRACE NOTES 07/03/2010: Learn to listen for God's whisper

    It’s a foolproof tool of kindergarten teachers, mothers of preschoolers, preachers — and God.

    To get someone’s attention, don’t shout. Whisper.

    Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Church in South Barrington, Ill., has a new book, “The Power of A Whisper,” about how God speaks to people, how he spoke to them in the past and how he still speaks to us today. (Download the first chapter for free at www.thewhisperwall.com.)

  • God Bless America!

    Calling it “the most memorable epoch in the history of America,” John Adams said of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence: “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

  • ON RELIGION 06/26/2010: Baptists confront the oil spill in the Gulf

    Like most people born and raised in Biloxi, Miss., theologian Russell Moore grew up about 10 minutes from the Gulf of Mexico.

    It cost too much to live near the water, but that didn’t really matter since the sights, smells and rhythms of the coast defined the whole community. Driving away from his hometown has always been emotional, but the last time he pulled onto U.S. Highway 90 was different.

    Hurricane Katrina was terrible. Now, the locals are facing what some writers have called “Katrina meets Chernobyl.”