The Common Good

Blog Posts By Cathleen Falsani

Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 38 weeks ago
is it appropriate — nay, even encouraged, both socially and spiritually — to turn up at your house of worship in full costume, make a boisterous racket, and proceed to get drunk as a lord?Well, if you're a Christian (or a Muslim or a Buddhist) the answer is never.But if you're Jewish, it's Purim!
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 38 weeks ago
Eugene Peterson has written more than 30 books on theology and the life of faith in his 80 years, but he is perhaps best known for the one book he didn’t write: The Bible.Peterson’s “para-translation” of the Bible, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language, was published over a span of nine years, from 1993 to 2002. And even a decade after its completion, critics still are debating the merits and missteps of his translation of Holy Writ into idiomatic, sometimes colloquial, modern English.  To date there are more than 15 million copies of The Message in print.During the two-day Q Practices gathering in New York City this week, Peterson talked about the epic translation project he says he still can’t believe he actually managed to complete.“I didn’t feel it was anything special when I was doing it,” Peterson said. “I can’t believe I did this. Reading it now I think, ‘How did I do this?’ It truly was a work of the Holy Spirit.”
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 39 weeks ago
NEW YORK CITY — Today and Wednesday, I have the privilege of attending a private gathering here in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan with Eugene Peterson, the 80-year-old theologian and prolific author best known for his para-translation of the Bible, The Message.The two-day event, Q Practices, is part-retreat, part-seminar on the theme of how we might cultivate our inner lives in an age of epic distractions.I'll be reporting more fully later, but wanted to share with you a few gems from Peterson, who recently published a marvelous memoir titled, simply, The Pastor, from this morning's sessions.Peterson, who is a Presbyterian minister (now retired from the pastorate after 30 years), grew up in Montana in the Pentecostal Christian tradition. His mother, in fact, was a preacher who later founded and pastored her own church.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 40 weeks ago
Editor’s Note: At 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 27, 2004, when I was the religion reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, I met then-State Sen. Barack Obama at Café Baci, a small coffee shop at 330 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago, for an interview about his faith. Our conversation took place a few days after he’d clinched the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat that he eventually won, and four months before he’d be formally introduced to the rest of the nation during his famous keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Conventio. We spoke for more than an hour. He came alone. He answered everything I asked without notes or hesitation. The profile of Obama that grew from the interview at Cafe Baci became the first in a series in the Sun-Times called “The God Factor,” which would eventually became my first book, The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People, in which Obama and 31 other high-profile “culture shapers” — including Bono of U2, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, the author Anne Rice and President George W. Bush's speechwriter Michael Gerson — are profiled. Because of the seemingly evergreen interest in President Obama’s faith and spiritual predilections, and because that 2004 interview remains the longest and most in-depth he’s granted publicly about his faith, I thought it might be helpful to share the transcript of our conversation — uncut and in its entirety — here on God’s Politics. ~ Cathleen Falsani

Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 41 weeks ago
"You and I have the power to change someone’s day. And so I am going to challenge you, on this Valentine’s Day, to not only tell family members you love them, but also others whom you care for. "In a world where people are beat up and put down, God gives us the ability to completely turn negativity, criticism and rude opinions around. “Encourage one another and build each other up,” says 1 Thessalonians 5;11. That is one of the most significant verses in all the Bible because when we do this it sets off a chain reaction of blessing.” You become the voice of God’s mercy and grace in the lives of others."
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 41 weeks ago
The Vicar of Dibley's Mother Geraldine is one of my all-time favorite television characters. Apart from her various entertaining antics, she also has a beautiful pastoral touch and way of communicating the grace and mercy of the gospel with honesty, passion and great humor — not unlike many of the women clergy I am blessed to know and have known over the years.While women clergy are a given part of the life of the church for many of us, their presence in the Great Conversation remains a point of contention and controversy for not a few of our brothers and sisters in Christ. I was reminded of this Monday while reading the latest blog entry from our God's Politics contributor Nadia Bolz-Weber, pastor of the House for All Saints and Sinners church in Denver.On Sunday, Nadia, an ordained minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Churchin America, received an email inquiry from a friend of a friend informing her of some less-than-love coming her way from her more conservative cousins in the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) who are aghast at something that went down at House for All's post-Easter Vigil party a while back. As part of their celebration of Jesus' resurrection, House for All's Easter party included a three-tiered chocolate fountain set up in the church's baptismal font.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 41 weeks ago
“There is no distance in the Spirit.”After 30 years as a believer, I experienced the truth of that statement — powerfully and indelibly — in an unlikely place: online.Like so many of more than 500 million (and growing) members, I signed up for Facebook, the social networking site, a few years ago out of pure curiosity -- to check in with old friends, boyfriends and former colleagues from a safe distance. With its plethora of personal photos, videos and regular “status updates” from members, it was a voyeuristic paradise, not to mention an excellent place to kill time.I am by vocation a journalist, author and blogger and had grown accustomed to sharing glimpses of my life in print and online. Facebook was just another venue to do that, but little more.That is, until early one morning in April 2008 when I signed on to my account, wiping sleep from my eyes with coffee in hand, and noticed the status update of a friend from college: “David is really sad that Mark died today.”
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 42 weeks ago
The Fray's Isaac Slade on life lessons from the president of Rwanda and Bono, who turns up in Timbuktu singing in French. (Really. We have video.)Who's your favorite on-screen Jesus? Why one author thinks the CCM should change it's name to "Caucasian Christian Music." Vintage Steve Carell. New The Lorax. A Supreme Court justice on Sesame Street. Madonna kicks off her world tour in Tel Aviv. (Natch.) And the First Lady kicks Jimmy Fallon's tush in a potato sack race.  
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 42 weeks ago
Editor's Note: At the beginning of February, the United Nation celebrates World Interfaith Harmony Week. To mark the occasion the Tony Blair Faith Foundation asked people to share their stories of finding friendship and connection with someone of a different faith tradition. This is my story.When it came time to read from the Torah — handwritten scrolls containing the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures that are kept in a special ark in every synagogue — something happened I’d never seen or experienced before. The Torah scrolls, which are kept in a blue velvet cover with gold embroidery, were taken down and passed to the congregation. I’d seen men in synagogue hold the scrolls, but I’d never seen them passed this way, from person to person, like the collection basket or the little trays of wine or bread in some of the churches I’d attended over the years.I’m not Jewish, and in that little gathering of a dozen or so people, I think everyone there knew it. Still, when the scrolls got to me, the woman next to me, without a moment’s hesitation, placed them gently in my arms, like a newborn baby.I’ve yet to conjure up the words to describe how that moment of inclusion felt. Sacred, yes. Grace-filled, absolutely. But also ancient — tying me to a whole history of a people whom I’d never before thought of as “mine.”But they are. The Sechers are. The other people at the Bozeman synagogue were. The strangers at the supermarket where we bought matzo and wine were. The people who are reading these words are.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 42 weeks ago
"The Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look on his appearance ... for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.'"~ I Sam 16:7 (NRSV)Now, this may come as a great disappointment to a few Tim Tebow fans out there, but apparently the star quarterback of the Denver Broncos will not, we repeat, will NOT be stripping down to his skivvies for one of those famous (or infamous, depending on your tastes) Jockey undewear ads.Tebow is the new spokesman for Jockey. But unlike '70s baseball heartthrob Jim Palmer (the relatively hirsute gentleman in the white Jockey briefs to your right) or soccer god (and father of four) David Beckham in his smoldering Emporio Armani undergarment spreads, the quarterback known as much for his Christian faith as his agility on the grid iron will not be posing in his underwear for the, well, underwear company.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 42 weeks ago
week, George Beverly Shea, Gospel Music legend and longtime musical companion of Dr. Billy Graham on his many revival meetings around the world, celebrated his 103rd birthday!A native of Canada, Shea, who now lives in Montreat, N.C., not far from that whipper-snapper Graham (who turned 93 just recently), is still going strong.“Karlene and I rejoice in the Lord’s overwhelming grace to give me 103 years of life!” Shea gushed on Monday (his actual birthday) according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's website.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 42 weeks ago
"‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven.'"~ Matthew 5:21 (NRSV)Because it's never too late to say thank you, I didn't want to let the best news I heard out of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last week go unnoticed or unacknowleged.Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, announced during the forum that they would inject an additional $750 million into the United Nation's Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a public-private organization founded a decade ago to combat three of the world's most devastating diseases that have claimed millions of lives, particularly among the poorest of the poor in the developing world.The Gates' new gift joins more than $650 million the couple already has given to the Global Fund since its inception. And their latest gesture of epic generosity couldn't come at a more opportune time, especially after news (a few days before the Gates' announcement at Davos) that the fund's executive director, Michel Kazatchkine, was stepping down from his post early, amidst allegations of misuse of funds and cutbacks in funding.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 43 weeks ago
During her brief career as star of stage and screen in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Dolores Hart won a Theater World Award, was nominated for a Tony Award and gave Elvis Presley his first on-screen kiss (in the 1957 film Loving You) when she was just 19 years old.Now 73-year-old Hart — better known for most of the last 40 years as Mother Dolores, Prioress of the Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Conn. — has a new claim to fame: Oscar nominee.Last week, God is the Bigger Elvis, a short documentary film about her journey from Hollywood starlet to cloistered Catholic nun, received an Academy Award nomination for best short documentary film.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 43 weeks ago
Oh, how I love the Irish. Sure, I'm biased, being half a Celt myself with legion cousins still living on the old sod. (Shout out to the Bradys and Caffreys in Ballyjamesduff!)As a self-confessed Gaelophile, I've been following the various Irish Occupy groups on Facebook for several months now, and they are endlessly entertaining — and interesting. The Occupy movement in the States is, largely at least, missing at least one key component: A sense of humor. The Irish Occupiers seem to understand that you can catch a few more flies with honey — and a good laugh — than you can with angry chants and somber rhetoric.When I heard about a surprising turn of events at the County Cork occupation last month, I thought, That's brilliant. On Christmas Eve, members of the Occupy movement in the southern city of Cork found a present underneath the Christmas tree in their Peace Park encampment. It was a package containing a letter from "Santy" Claus, which read in part, "Dear people of Cork: Inside is a present, a gift from me to you, from all of us here at the North Pole."The gift package also held the key to a padlocked, vacant, seven-story office building in the city center, and a list of instructions.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 43 weeks ago
When Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis departed on his three-month sabbatical at the beginning of January, I sent him a list of books, films and music that I thought would nourish his mind and spirit in, perhaps, different ways than the media he normally consumes do.Jim's sabbatical — a true Sabbath in the literal sense — is designed to be a time of rest and, more importantly, rejuvenation. It will also be a creative time when he will be working on a new book.Jim is a creative. A writer. A visionary. He regularly digs deep into his heart and soul, breaks himself open and pours out his passion, hope and faith for the edification of others. If creatives aren't diligent, though, we can work ourselves into the ground. Our wells can run dry.In sending Jim this list of what I like to think of as "soul food," I hoped to inspire his imagination and give him new fuel for the fire, if you will.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 44 weeks ago
On the floor of the House of Representatives Wednesday afternoon, a year and 17 days after she was shot in the head by a would-be assassin's bullet, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle "Gabby" Giffords tendered her resignation as representative of Arizona's 8th Congressional District.An unusually emotional scene unfolded in the House chamber, with many members of Congress struggling — and failing — to keep their composure as Gifford's close friend, Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, tearfully read the resignation letter on Gifford's behalf.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 44 weeks ago
In the nearly 20 years I have been a working journalist, occasionally I have been tempted to intervene in the stories I have been assigned to cover. Most of the time, I have not, and that was probably the right choice. But once upon a time, about four years ago, I crossed the line. In a big way. I intervened because the life of another person was at stake and I knew that my calling was to be human, to react, to help, to do whatever I could to save a life. It's the best decision I've ever made. Hands down.As I read a remarkable story in the Toronto Star newspaper, I wondered if the paper's veteran foreign correspondent, Paul Watson, now feels the same way.Earlier this month, Watson, who is Canada's only Pulitzer Prize-winner, arrived in Toronto from Kandahar, Afghanistan with a very special package: a 17-year-old Afghan girl  forced to flee her homeland, in the reporter's care, to escape certain death at the hands of Taliban assassins.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 44 weeks ago
As someone who self-identifies as an evangelical Christian, often I begin to feel like the subject of a Discovery Channel documentary, particularly in the midst of a heated presidential election cycle.It’s Evangelical Week here on Discovery! Travel with us as our explorers track the elusive evangelical in its native habitats. Watch as evangelicals worship, work and play, all captured on film with the latest high definition technology. And follow our intrepid documentary team members as they bravely venture into the most dangerous of exotic evangelical locations — the voting booth!I understand the interest in us evangelicals, I really do. The way much of the mainstream media covers our communities in the news can make us seem like a puzzling subspecies of the American population, not unlike the Rocky Mountain long-haired yeti. Are we really that difficult to comprehend?In a word, yes.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 45 weeks ago
A fascinating new study by the Public Religion Research Institute found that two-thirds of all Americans identify with both the "pro-life" and "pro-choice" labels simultaneously.The PRRI reports that 7-in-10 Americans say the term “pro-choice” describes them "somewhat" or "very well," and nearly two-thirds simultaneously say the term “pro-life” describes them "somewhat" or "very well.""This overlapping identity is present in virtually every demographic group," the report said.In one of the largest public opinoin surveys ever conducted on the subject of abortion and religion, PRRI's study, "Millennials, Abortion and Religion Survey," uncovered "large generational differences on two issues that have often been linked in political discourse: abortion and same-sex marriage."According to the survey, Americans ages 18-29 (a.k.a., "Millennials") strongly support legal access to abortion services in their local communities despite being conflicted about the morality of abortion itself.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 45 weeks ago
On a recent trip to the African nation of Ghana, Bono of U2 and economist Jeffrey Sachs spoke to the U.K. Guardian newspaper about their hopes for the future of foreign aid."There's one thing that might help with aid cynics. Because clearly no one likes the culture of dependency," Bono said. "No one's arguing for it. We're arguing to end it. I think there's something a bit funky about aid as it stands right now. The two most important parties involved in the transaction – the taxpayer who's providing the resources and the person who needs those resources to stay alive or keep their family alive – are the two people who know the least about what's going on. So that has to change."
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 45 weeks ago
Fifty years ago, not long after his graduation from Brandeis University, Rabbi Allen Secher became a Freedom Rider, joining Dr. Martin Luther King's historic fight for equality in the South. In Albany, Georgia, Secher, who served congregations in Mexico City, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago before relocating to Whitefish, Mont., several years ago (where he was, for a time, the only resident rabbi in the entire state), was jailed for a week along with a number of other Freedom Riders.Inside, watch Secher, aka "The Naked Rabbi," tell the story of the Freedom Rides and his encounter with King.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 45 weeks ago
Many cinephiles have a short list of virtuoso actors who are so graceful and true we'd watch them read a phone book. For me, the list includes Jeff Bridges, Helen Mirren, Diane Keaton, John Mahoney, Christopher Plummer and that great icon of American cinema, Oscar-winner Robert Duvall.So when a publicist for Seven Days in Utopia contacted me recently about the Christian-themed film and asked whether I'd like to interview Duvall, I jumped at the chance. A loudhailer of a film, long on message and cliché but woefully short on subtlety or artistry (save for Duvall's charmingly folksy performance), Seven Days in Utopia — set in rural Texas, it's an exploration of redemption and golf — is not a flick I'm going to be urging you to run out and see or rent, unless you, like me, would watch Duvall read the proverbial White Pages.In the film, which opened in theaters last fall and was released on DVD at the end of last year, Duval plays Johnny Crawford, a golf-pro-cum-cowboy who helps a young pro golfer, Luke Chisolm (Lucas Black), reclaim his game and his faith. Duvall's Johnny is like Yoda with a five iron and hearkens back to many of the archetypal characters the Oscar-winner (who turned 81 years old last week) has played throughout his storied career.Duvall, who began his career on the New York stage in the early 1960s (as a struggling young actor at The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, he roomed with fellow students Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman), has appeared in some of the most spiritually eloquent films of our time, often playing the role of ersatz sage and spiritual counselor. He is a workingman's working actor with about 150 performances in film and television productions under his belt buckle since his premiere in an episode of the Armstrong Circle Theater television series in 1959.From "Boo Radley" in 1962's To Kill a Mockingbird and "Tom Hagen" in The Godfather (parts 1 and 2) or "Lieutenant Kilgore" in Apocalypse Now and "Bull Meechum" in The Great Santini, to "Mac Sledge" in Tender Mercies (for which he won the best actor Academy Award) and "Gus McCrae" in Lonesome Dove or "Wayne Cramer" in Crazy Heart and "Felix Bush" in Get Low, Duvall has created indelible characters who are authentic, honest and transcendent.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 46 weeks ago
You might not have a clue who Bieber is. Or, if you are aware of the existence of the crown prince of Stratford, Ontario, you might not give two hoots about him. But I’m guessing that there is a young person in your life who does.So, for the sake of the children, please hear me out....He is, in a sense, laying the groundwork for an awareness of the social gospel for a generation that will, sooner than we realize, become leaders in our society and our world.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 46 weeks ago
Just after midnight Tuesday at The Balsams, an historic, grand hotel nestled in the foothills of the White Mountains, the entire population of tiny unincorporated town of Dixville Notch, N.H., cast the very first votes in the 2012 New Hampshire primary — all nine of them.Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney tied former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman with two votes each, while Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich both received a single vote. President Obama also won his first votes — three.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 46 weeks ago
The Great Conversation that we invite our readers to join here at Sojo.net must, by definition, be both civil and respectful. Our comments sections should be a safe harbor, different from the comments sections of any other websites and blogs that deal with the busy intersection of religion, politics and culture.To that end, during the last few weeks Sojourners staff and management have had a great many discussions about how we might best address the issue of incivility in our comments sections and correct it. We are committed to preserving the comments sections as a vital part of our community and that Great Conversation, but not at the cost of hearts and minds that have been wounded by their experiences here.We can disagree, and we must when our conscience so demands, but we must do it with kindness, open minds and open hearts.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 46 weeks ago
"How was all of this created? If the answer to that question is God created everything, there was a creator, than I say, great! What a great job. And I like the idea. I find it very, I don’t know, I find it comforting in some way. But if the answer to that is there is no God, I don’t feel like, well, what a jerk I’ve been. I feel, oh fine, so there’s another answer. I don’t know the answer. I’m just a speck of dust here for a nanosecond, and I’m very grateful." — Paul Simon in an interview that will air this weekend on the PBS program Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. Watch the interview in its entirety inside ...
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 46 weeks ago
A California vicar I know likes to describe the life of faith — the Church — as “The Great Conversation.” It is a conversation to which we all (and what part of alldon’t you understand?) are invited. When followers of Christ share their faith with others, they are inviting them to join the sacred conversation.This is evangelicalism in its truest sense. This is what we are called to do. By the One, by Emmanuel, “God with us.”My dear friend, (and most recently my boss), Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis, said recently that the 2012 presidential election is expected to be the most mean-spirited and vitriolic we’ve ever seen.That may be true, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it must be that way.We can solve that problem one conversation at a time.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 47 weeks ago
The Rev. Pat Robertson. Bless his heart.In an appearance on his 700 Club program Tuesday, while Iowans were heading to their caucuses, Robertson, the 1988 Iowa Caucus runner up, told viewers that he had a long conversation with the Almighty recently about the 2012 presidential election and the state of affairs in these United States of America (God bless it) in general.Apparently, God told Robertson, 81, who the 45th President of the United States will be. But it's a secret.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 48 weeks ago
On this Christmas Eve, as you gather with "kith and kin" on the threshold of the Christ Child's birth, we give you a moment of familial rejoicing from the Clark W. Griswold family of Chicago's North Shore and the great Christmas light miracle of 1989.JOY TO THE WORLD! (Drum roll, please...)
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 48 weeks ago
Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.Today's entry is a traditional orchestration and performance of Handel's famed chorus by The Cathedral Choir of New Jersey. The video is taken from the 66th rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" performed by the choir on Dec. 5, 2009 at Hawthorne Gospel Church in Hawthorne, NJ.Hallelujah Chorus from RVR Video Productions on Vimeo.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 48 weeks ago
Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.Today Handel's "Hallelujah" is brought to you by the junior high students from Oostburg Christian School in Oostburg, Wisconsin.Oost!The OCS kids stated their own tween version of a "Hallelujah" flash mob in the school cafeteria. The resulting video of their impromptu-ish performance is heartwarmingly earnest and awkward. Just like junior high itself (in its best moments.)Watch the video inside...  
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 49 weeks ago
Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.Today, a classic, rousing rendition of Handel's chorus from the choir of Westminster Abbey from 1982.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 49 weeks ago
Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.Today's installment comes from the POTS Chorus of Kenya who performed Handel's famous chorus on the African choral music competition, Kwaya.See them take "Hallelujah" for a spin inside.... 
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 49 weeks ago
Forget about that creche on the town green or the menorah outside the public library that the nice folks from Lubavitch Chabad will light for the first time tonight.Now the Special Ops Humbug Unit of the War on Christmas has come for ... our flowers. Well, our shrubbery, technically.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 49 weeks ago
I can name any Innocence Mission in two notes or less. Half a second if the song begins with Karen Peris' voice. If you're a fan of the Innocence Mission, which is comprised of Karen Peris, her husband, Don Peris, and bassist Mike Bitts, you know precisely what I'm on about. Karen Peris' voice is what I would imagine one of the Sirens (the nice one) might sound like, or perhaps the voice of a selkie — those mythological beings the Celts believed were seals who could shed their skins and become human for a time. Karen's voice is sweet, but never saccharine. Earnest, certainly, but never straining toward pathos or reaching for an emotional response.It's light and full of delight. Simply (and it's simplicity is part of its great charms) beautiful.The Innocence Mission's rendition of "Away in a Manger" is a prime example of what Karen Peris' voice can do. It's in high rotation in my Christmas 2011 mix on iTunes and rarely fails to put a lump in my throat or a tear in my eye — signs that the Holy is drawing nigh, according to the great sage of Vermont, Frederick Buechner.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 49 weeks ago
Shoppers at Lancaster, Pennsylvania's Central Market got a festive surprise Saturday when a flash mob of more than 125 people broke into the "Hallelujah Chorus" by the bread aisle.And watch the flash mob from the heartland inside...
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 49 weeks ago
Editor's Note: Rob Bell, 41, the founding pastor of Mars Hill church in western Michigan, bid adieu to his congregation in a 5,000-word epistle about grace and peace, which he preached on Dec. 18 to thousands in the converted strip mall that has housed the "Jesus community" for a decade. He said, in part: "this church, this place, this community, was once simply ahunch. a dream. a vision. a picture in the mind of a new kind of church for the new world we find ourselves in. a church that was fearless in confronting the injustices and systems of oppression that lurk around every corner and at the very same time deeply committed to the personal, intimate experience of following Jesus, of experiencing the joy and peace that transcends space and time. a church that found the stale, old categories of liberal and conservative boring and irrelevant because we'd experienced resurrection, which includes and affirms anything and everything that brings liberating, new life wherever it's found irrespective of whatever labels and categories it's been given because of an abiding conviction that thetomb is,after all,empty.a church where the main thing was actually the main thing."
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 49 weeks ago
The first time I heard Jason Harrod sing was more than 20 years ago at a coffee house at Wheaton College outside Chicago where we were both studends at the time. He sang Neil Young's "Sugar Mountain," and his tenor voice was so pure, so perfect and sweet and heartbreakingly earnest, I ended up crying in my mochachino.We're both now in our 40s, Jason is stil singing like an angel, and I'm still listening (occasionally in tears) along with many other fans who have discovered the unique charm of Jason's Smokey-Mountains-meets-Brooklyn-subway sensibilities and ever soulful wordsmithery.Jason and his former musical partner in crime, Brian Funck, recorded "Lion Song" on their self-titled second album, Harrod & Funck that, while not a Christmas song per se, has always felt like a winter tune and tale to me. Seeking shelter from the cold and finding it. Getting lost and being found. The great gift of grace in all of its myriad forms — in relationship, in a light in the darkness, a glimpse of the horizon in the storm, or in the first toddling steps taken by a baby boy sent as a gift (to ALL) to heal and reconcile the world.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 49 weeks ago
Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.Today's offering is a group effort that comes compliments of the clever folks at Pavone Advertising in Harrisburg, Penn., the even-more clever designers of the Melody Bell app for iPhone and iPad, and the cleverest of them all, the late great Steve Jobs (for it is he who blessed humanity with the iPhone in the first place.)In its 2011 Holiday Greeting, Pavone employees perform Handel's timeless Christmas favorite — entirely using their iPhones, iPods and iPads.Watch their epic peformance inside ...
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 49 weeks ago
Ken and Meredith Williams have been waiting 79 days for the Bank of America in Georgia to close on their home loan.The bank has delayed the closing three times. And the Williams, who live outside Atlanta and want to buy a modest home in the city nearer to their work offices, have grown frustrated with the hold-up and ... clever couple that they are ... their ire turned to humor.They started a blog chronicling their misadventures with the banking behemoth, created a Twitter account to bombard the bank with message through it's @BoA_Help account, and then made a music video — Ken plays the guitar and sings while Meredith, in one scene, dances in the background in the parking lot of the Bank of America branch in Lawrenceville, Ga.It's hilarious and, they hope, effective.See the video and read the Williams' tale of woe inside...
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 49 weeks ago
Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.Today we bring you season's greetings and aquatic Hallelujahs from the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.Sure they call it " Sin City," but at Christmastime, the famous fountains at the Bellagio Hotel wow tourists from around the world with their syncronized musical water shows, including sacred music. The fountain's Christmas show — seen multiple times each day — includes the Mormon Tablernacle Choir's rendition "Hallelujah Chorus"  along with Placido Domingo's "O Holy Night" and Johnny Mathis singing "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year."Not everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. See for yourself...on the blog.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 49 weeks ago
Sam Phillips is achingly honest.Whether she's singing about relationships — with loved ones, the world or God — politics, art, the church, Aimee Semple McPherson or Christmastime, you can count on Sam to bring her singularly pure voice and the truth. She is true blue (and one of her favorite guitars is as red and shiny as RudolfOn her new album, Solid State: Songs from the Long Play, Sam has two songs that have quickly become new favorite Christmas tunes for me. One is explicitly about Christmas, and the other is not, but both speak eloquently (and truthfully) about the mystery and melancholy that the season brings to many of us.In "It Doesn't Feel Like Christmas," Sam talks about missing someone special during the holidays. The lyrics are sad, her voice is sweet, and the juxtaposition of the two strikes a deep chord in my heart. True. Difficult. Beautiful. 
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 50 weeks ago
Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.Today we bid you a heartfelt Hallelukulelejah! (Say that five times fast, I dare ya.)Last year, the Corktown Ukulele Jam of Canada joined forces with the Corktown Chamber Orchestra for a rousing Uke, Strings and Choral performance Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" as part of the orchestra's annual Christmas Concert.Experience a very ukulele Hallelujah inside ...
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 50 weeks ago
In this season of expectation as we await the incarnation of God-with-us, my heart turns to a song that, to me, captures the spirit of Christmas. It has no jingle bells or chestnuts roasting by an open fire. There is no explicit reference to mangers, magi or a baby boy. But Asheville, N.C.'s favorite son, singer-songwriter David Wilcox, nails the heart of the Christmas story in his song, "Show the Way." The sense of expectation, pearched on the edge of our seats waiting for something to happen — waiting for the divine surprise — is palpable in the song David first recorded on his 1994 album, Big Horizon.  And while David's tune "Miracle" — a whimsical retelling of the story of the Three Wise Men (whom he calls the "Three Wise Guys") — is also a Christmas favorite, it's "Show the  Way" that I return to in Advent, as we abide with joy, waiting to hear the cry of a tiny baby in a stable in a backwater town in the land we call "Holy."
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 50 weeks ago
Last night on "The Daily Show," host Jon Stewart and "senior Muslim correspondent" Aasif Mandvi took a few clever swings at the Florida Family Association and Lowe's for their opposition to the new TLC series "All-American Muslim," which depicts Muslim-American families living in Dearborn, Mich.The Daily Show with Jon StewartGet More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,The Daily Show on Facebook
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 50 weeks ago
Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.Today's installment comes from Maggie, Terre and and Suzzy Roche, aka The Roches, that iconoclastic folk sister act from Park Ridge, N.J. The Roches have been performing their quirky musical stylings since the 1970s. Their rendition of "Hallelujah Chorus" comes from a performance at the 1982 Improv.You can enjoy The Roche's high-pitched Hallelujah inside...
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 50 weeks ago
The Mother of God as friend had never occurred to me. Not in the human sense, at least.Surely Mary is a spiritual companion and, in that sense, “friend,” but when she walked among us, Mary was and had friends.She also had a soul sister — her older cousin, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. When Mary realized the truth of her pregnancy, she “made haste” to the welcoming, non-judgmental, grace-filled friendship of her loving (and also pregnant) cousin’s arms.Perhaps because I’m a new mother myself, as we enter this Advent season, I find myself looking at Mary the woman — the girl, really — with new eyes. 
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 50 weeks ago
In her inimitably lovely way, Carrie Newcomer, the Quaker singer-songwriter, tells the story of June and Emmett and their children gathered at their Christmas table to sing carols and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in her should-be classic, "Long Christmas Dinner." It's a celebration of simple pleasures and the powerful quotidian blessings of family, hearth and home.It's a quiet, soul-stirring tune with images so vivid and familiar they stay with me throughout the year. asked Carrie what her favorite Christmas song was and this is what she said...
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 50 weeks ago
Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.Today's installment comes from a YouTube user named JazzMary and her friends, who, apparently, have an annual gathering for kazoo lessons and carols.So we give you, Kazoolalulia!Watch it on the blog...
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 2 years 50 weeks ago
Hands down, without a doubt, my favorite Christmas song comes from Canadian singer-songwriter and longtime Sojourners friend Bruce Cockburn with his "Cry of a Tiny Babe" from his 1991 album Nothing But a Burning Light. The verse, "Redemption rips through the surface of time in the cry of a tiny babe," puts a lump in my throat every time I hear it. asked Bruce, 66, who said he's "full of joy and wonder" these days celebrating the birth of his baby daughter, Iona, last month, what his favorite Christmas tune was and his answer is characteristically unpredictable and wondrous.