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    A Homemade Christmas?

    December 17, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    When most folks think about homemade Christmas gifts, they think brightly knitted scarves or painted cookies or glittery Christmas ornaments. I don’t know how to knit {yet}, but in the past years I’ve done my share of Christmas gift inventing. One year, women received jars of papaya chutney and men received three dozen homemade turkey breakfast sausages. My mom received the special bonus of “papaya pepper.”

    Did you know that, if you do it right, the seeds of the papaya can be used as a substitute for black pepper that is enzyme-rich and actually aids in the digestion of meat? How cool is that?


    This year, we gave a couple of our favorite people the gift of thinking. I can tell you this, because these particular people do not read my blog.

    So, how does one give thoughts to other people? Well, we came up with an idea that I hope will be successful. I’ll use an example of one particular recipient. We chose theological issues in which this person was interested. Then, we chose two or three opposing views on the issue that were still within the realm of orthodoxy. Then, I used some handy sources, such as SermonAudio, Grace to You, etc. to find MP3 downloads of sermons covering the issues from the various preselected viewpoints.

    So, for instance, if you have a person in your life who is interested in eschatology, finding three sermons on Revelation 20 {one postmillenial, one amillenial, and one premillenial} from respected speakers will give them food for thought.

    Most of us don’t actually explore the opposition {whoever they are} from the opposition’s viewpoint. Now, saying such a thing could get me into trouble if I used that broadly as an excuse for dabbling in whatever I was interested in.

    However, if I stay within the bounds of orthodoxy when I say this, I end up having a lot more respect for those with whom I disagree. In fact, I might even decide I’m wrong.

    This has happened to me before. I am a recovering dispensationalist, as I have mentioned before.


    Thought and growth are often forged in the fires of disagreement. That is what I love about blogging as compared to journalling. I have always written, but what I never had before blogging was someone else poking holes in what I was saying. The Bible speaks of iron sharpening iron, and I believe that would happen much more readily if we didn’t all lock ourselves in isolation over nonessentials.



    This Christmas we are giving a few of those we love the chance to explore some possibilities. We do this with love, knowing that when we have done this, our knowledge of Scripture grew, for when we disagreed with someone who knew the Bible better than we did, we had to meet that challenge by finding out what the Bible actually said about the subject. We do it for fun, because we know they will enjoy learning something new.

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  • Reply Mystie December 24, 2009 at 5:18 am

    Amil is actually the standard Reformed position, but there’s a lot of variation. If premil and postmil are on the ends of the spectrum, you can find an amil at every degree between them. My pastor calls himself an “optimistic” amil, meaning he does think the world is on a generally upward trend as the gospel spreads.

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts December 24, 2009 at 12:40 am

    Rahime, I will have to remember ‘Chung’s idea in the future. I could see Si’s grandparents appreciating something like that…maybe as an anniversary gift or something. The video has become a tradition, and it is fun to make and fun to send.

    Glad you enjoyed the card. I sent it so you would come visit me. I need ‘Chung to play Legos with E. again. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts December 24, 2009 at 12:36 am


    Yes…I guess you could say our eschatology has been “in flux” the past couple of years.

    I think one of the things that is hard is that not all folks using certain titles actually believe the same thing. It is crazy how much variation there is out there. So, to some extent, our solution is going to have to be to learn Greek.


    One of the things that enlightened me a bit recently, because I had a pretty good understanding of premillenial and postmillenial but not amillenial, was the Evening of Eschatology debate hosted by John Piper. (That link will take you to a summary of the positions, and at the top you can click to listen or watch the debate, which is two hours long, but doesn’t feel like it to me.) This was fascinating on so many levels, not the least of which was that the seminary where I studied in graduate school was premillenial and yet would have completely disagreed with the guy in the debate representing that position. So I even learned something new about something I thought I understood. πŸ™‚

    On the CDs I burned, let me see…well, if you Google Kenneth Gentry, he is postmil and contributed to a book I’m fond of called Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond. This was a text of mine in college. Oh! Found them. Here is a link to free Gentry sermons, many of them covering Revelation. John MacArthur is considered a good, solid premillennialist, and if you go to Grace to You and click “resources” you can even search by Scripture passage, which is really helpful if you are wanting to compare what a premil guy has to say about what a postmil or amil guy preached about. I had trouble finding free, downloadable sermons from amil perspective, and I didn’t want to pay because I didn’t know any of the speakers! But eventually I found some by Joe Morecraft, who sounded vaguely familiar to me, which I can’t seem to find now.

    Actually, if you go to SermonAudio and search by key words, that is pretty useful in general.

    A book I’ve been slowly working through which is “earthy amil” (meaning he is an amil guy who believes the kingdom is physical…most amil guys think it is only in the heavens) is available online for free: Plowing in Hope.

    Hope that gives you a starting point! πŸ™‚

    Oh. And let me know if you figure it out. πŸ˜‰

  • Reply Rachel R. December 23, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    What a cool idea!

    Does your eschatology example stem from real-life experience? ‘Cause that’s one of the areas we have studied a little, and would like to study more, but we’re having some difficulty finding information from opposing viewpoints that is understandable for a “newbie” to each particular perspective. If you’ve found some good resources for this, I’d love to know what they are. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Rahime December 23, 2009 at 9:28 am

    That is another great idea. ‘Chung did something similar for his parents, whom we find impossible to buy for. They see their grandkids weekly, so they don’t really need an update on their lives, but he went and took some nice (and some funny) portraits of each of the kids for them. They turned out great, and (I think) his parents will love the gift.

    I don’t know, I might very much enjoy a video of your family…BTW, the Christmas card was lovely, and even though I “see” you regularly on your blog it was fun to have the little year in review. Also, it reminded me that we have not actually seen you all in AGES. Must remedy that before your young ones are all grown up.

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts December 20, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Rahime, I agree. When we look at old books that the women are knitting scarves for the men, for instance, this is usually preceded by a passage explaining how badly the man needed said new scarf!

    My personal philosophy of gift-giving is an attempt to balance thoughtfulness and economy. What I mean is, I try to think of gifts that are fitting as well as within the realm of what we can afford. Sometimes this means making things and sometimes this means buying things.

    The gift I mentioned here would only work for a certain type of person.

    I think homemade gifts also work for people who are hard to buy for. For instance, Si’s grandparents. They are almost 90 and don’t really need anything. What can a grandchild buy? We decided on…nothing. Instead, every year we make a video (about an hour long) where they can really get a glimpse of their great grandchildren in their own home (they are too old to travel). A video like that would only work for a select type of person.

    You, for instance, do not want a video of my family. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Rahime December 20, 2009 at 7:05 am

    that last comment was me, not my hubby.

  • Reply chunger December 20, 2009 at 7:04 am

    I like this idea.

    I have to admit, although I love the idea of homemade gifts, I feel like few come off very well. My sister has done some yummy canning the past few years–apple butter and lemon curd–and I’ve gotten food gifts from several students that have been great, but really, when it comes down to it, how many knitted scarves does one need who lives in sunny CA?

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts December 18, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    Anonymous, That is the point. Ha. πŸ˜‰

    Mystie and Emily, Glad you like it. I forgot to mention in the post, though, that we burned these sermons onto CDs and affixed as nice a label as we were able to conjure to make it pretty.

    I can’t believe the men in your life don’t want a new bag, Mystie.

    Emily, by the way, I looked at your blog. I love all the fine art! One of the paintings you posted (Rembrandt…was it Adoration of the Shepherds?) was one I studied with my children this term. We are Rembrandt fans now.

  • Reply Emily December 18, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    Very cool idea, Brandy. I love it. You and Si sound like my husband and me. We are also “recovering” dispensationalists who meet with great opposition to discussion on eschatology and other theological matters. This is perfect!

  • Reply Mystie December 18, 2009 at 1:52 am

    That’s a great idea! I will put that idea in my back pocket, especially for the men on my shopping list who aren’t as thrilled about hats and scarves and bags. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Anonymous December 18, 2009 at 12:10 am

    It makes returns very difficult!

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