This is the third year I’ve posted some variation of the following thoughts for Christmas. I’m tempted to come up with something more positive and inspirational. If you’re not personally enduring a long season of loss, I suspect I sound like Debbie Downer through these posts. Yet I remain convinced that nothing drives us to authentic faith in Jesus like desperation. And I know and love so many desperate people right now. The trial of our faith works patience. Patience. Endurance. Perseverance. These are as important virtues in the Christian walk as the more popular peace or temperance. The holidays each year draw our attention clearly to the passage of time and highlight our need for endurance. I have spent my fair share of Christmases crying under the Christmas tree in the dark, staring at the lights on the tree, dreaming of the Christmas I want rather than the Christmas I have.
This Christmas, it’s stressful (we just moved, and our house is still a chaotic mess), yet it’s a good stress, and I thank God that I don’t foresee crying under the tree this year. But I’ve had enough lonely Christmases in the past, longing for something different, to respect the fact that for many of you, the Christmas season puts a harsh spotlight on the losses in your life. Perhaps you lost something you had—a child, a spouse, a parent, a relationship. Perhaps you feel the loss of something you long to have but have not yet gotten to hold—a child, a husband. The holiday season makes it very clear exactly what we are longing for and exactly what we are mourning. It is especially hard to distract ourselves from our losses during this season. If you find yourself in this place, with the spotlight shining on your losses so you cannot escape the pain whether sitting under the tree, singing a carol, buying a gift or opening a present, here are some thoughts from someone who has been there before. More
Top Senate Democrats sent a letter Friday to the director of National Intelligence, asking for progress reports every 45 days on whether or not Iran is complying with the terms of an interim agreement reached with the P5+1 world powers last month in Geneva. The senators, heads of the Banking, Intelligence and Armed Services Committees, also asked James Clapper for a report by December 12 on any effect that new Congressional sanctions could have on negotiations with Iran. The P5+1 — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany — and Iran are expected to resume talks shortly to work out the technical details of last month’s agreement, which has yet to take effect.
If Tehran adheres to the inspection and verification system included in the Geneva deal, the letter by Senators Tim Johnson, Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin read, “this will help to build confidence that, at least in the short term, Iran will be unable to pose a credible military threat to its neighbors in the region, including Israel.” The Obama administration has urged US legislators to not impose further sanctions for the time being, warning they could be detrimental to ongoing talks. During negotiations over an interim deal in November, Iran agreed to significantly limit its nuclear program in exchange for an easing of crippling economic sanctions. More
SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: An enormous alien planet — one that is 11 times more massive than Jupiter — was discovered in the most distant orbit yet found around a single parent star. The newfound exoplanet, dubbed HD 106906 b, dwarfs any planetary body in the solar system, and circles its star at a distance that is 650 times the average distance between the Earth and the sun. The existence of such a massive and distantly orbiting planet raises new questions about how these bizarre worlds are formed, the researchers said. ”This system is especially fascinating because no model of either planet or star formation fully explains what we see,” study lead researcher Vanessa Bailey, a fifth-year graduate student in the University of Arizona’s department of astronomy, said in a statement.
[The Strangest Alien Planets (Gallery)] In the most commonly accepted theories of planet formation, it is thought that planets that orbit close to their parent star, such as Earth, began as small, asteroid-type bodies that clumped together in the primordial disk of gas and dust around the burgeoning star. Yet, this process operates too slowly to explain how giant planets form far away from their star, the researcher said. Alternative hypotheses have suggested that distant giant planets may form in ways similar to mini binary star systems, Bailey said. ”A binary star system can be formed when two adjacent clumps of gas collapse more or less independently to form stars, and these stars are close enough to each other to exert a mutual gravitation attraction and bind them together in an orbit,” she explained. More