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Last Minute Gifts for that Hard-to-Please Calvinist on Your List

By December 17, 2011 2 Comments

As usual, these December days are zinging by us at twice the speed of other months.  No doubt you’re earnestly surfing the internet for gift ideas—or maybe you’re brave enough to engage in that quaint, historical practice of jostling around actual brick-and-mortar stores.  Either way, perhaps you would appreciate a little help finding distinctive gifts.  Here are some promising items I’ve discovered lately in my own investigations: I hope they make your season a little brighter.

Calvinist Snow Shovel.  God created winter so we can learn to suffer in quiet resignation.  Enhance your winter gloom by shoveling the walk with this torturous beauty.  Iron shaft increases overall shovel weight to 30 lbs.  Extra-small scoop means you shift only a few flakes per heft.  Ergonomically designed handle guarantees hand cramps and backaches.  You’ll barely make any progress, but hey, it’s not about works, buddy.  The sooner you learn that, the better.

Radically Reformed Creche Inflatables.  Any pagan can display nice barn animals and a sweet baby.  Shoot, half the courthouses in the Bible belt have a harmless, life-size crèche on their front lawns.  If you really want to make an impression in the neighborhood, put some sizzle in your stable scene with these inflatable Reformers: Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and Knox.  Posed to look like magi, they present the Christ-child with gifts he can actually use to build the true church: commentaries, sermons, and Psalms.  Also available: Menno Simmons dressed as a poor shepherd.

Frankincense and Myrrh Candles.  Holly, cranberries, and pine are hardly biblical smells.  Opt instead for candles that fill your home with the pungent stink of ancient Near Eastern medicinal customs.  The point of these resins and spices: to cover up bodily odors of all kinds.  Especially helpful if you’re hosting the relatives this year.  (These are actually easily available.)

Terminate boring sermons with The Serminator.  Discrete ear bud device allows you to get through dry, doctrinal disquisitions while maintaining an expression of concentration and piety.  Comes with an mp3 playlist of preaching dynamos like Billy Graham, John Stott, Tim Keller, and Rob Bell.  (Women preachers by special request only.)  Also available: audio John Grisham novels and soft rock of the 70s.

Liturgical Purist Organ Bomb.  The perfect gift for the pastor or worship leader weary from years of arguing with parishioners about the importance of observing Advent during Advent and saving the Christmas hymns for the 25th (or at least the 24th).  This harmless device can be mounted in the hidden recesses of the organ.  The instant Mrs. Bouwkamp peals out the first glorious chords of “Joy to the World” or “Hark the Herald,” the Organ Bomb will shut down all stops: the congregation will hear only a strange screech, like a stylus being ripped from a vinyl record.  Then, in a plaintive sotto voce flute register, the organ will begin playing “O Come O Come Emmanuel.”  A timing device releases the organ on December 25.

Worship Wars Legos.  Don’t forget the covenant children!  Why should they fiddle around with Star Wars or Pirates Legos on Christmas morning when they can be practicing for adult church responsibilities?  This kit includes traditional, tall-steeple church architectural pieces with pews, organ, and chancel.  These can be dismantled and reconfigured to create a multi-purpose space with screens, drum kit, and 24-channel sound board.  Includes older generation Lego people as well as a five-person aging baby-boomer worship band.  Expansion kit: grunge-rock hipster figures.

Heidelberg-n-Me!  At last, a version of the Catechism for the tween set.  This slick, updated, Kindle-based edition of the Heidelberg—or “HC,” as it’s referred to throughout—features the text of each Lord’s Day surrounded by full-color photos and eye-catching sidebars designed to impress upon your tween just how cool and relevant the HC can be.  What could illustrate sin and misery better than celebrity gossip and hair-styling tips?  

Apps from Reformtronics Inc.  For the iphone addict on your list, some goodies to fill the virtual stocking.  (A percentage of the profits goes to various kingdom-building charities.)

  • ·         Name that Hymn Tune: Earn points and compete with other players in the cloud.  Also available in a praise song edition.
  • ·         Dooyeweerdia: A bubble game in which you must keep various spheres from swallowing each other up–very addictive!
  • ·         Earthy Piety Restaurant Guide: Helps you handle those awkward moments just after the food arrives.  Is it OK to pray out loud?  How about silently?  Are the covenant children welcome?  Sunday hours?
  • ·         Redeem This!  An action game in which you earn points by integrating faith into various professions.  Starts easy with ministry and nursing, but then you move up to the tougher levels: law, entertainment, etc.  Actually, you don’t earn points at all.  They just come to you by grace, and the outcome is preordained.
  • ·         Providence/Total Depravity.  Everything boils down to one or the other.  Ask your iphone any abstract question—Why is it snowing?  Why isn’t this traffic moving?  Why does my mother-in-law still hate me?—and this app instantly produces a cogent, step-by-step theological analysis, winding up at one or the other of these classically Reformed destinations.  Fun at parties!

 Hope this helped you cope with your gift dilemmas.  Blessed Christmas to all!

Debra Rienstra

I am a writer and literature professor, teaching literature and creative writing at Calvin University, where I have been on the faculty since 1996. Born and bred in the Reformed tradition, I’ve been unable to resist writing four books about theological topics: beware the writer doing theology without a license. My most recent book is Refugia Faith: Seeking Hidden Shelters, Ordinary Wonders, and the Healing of the Earth (Fortress, 2022). Besides the books, I’ve written well over two hundred essays for the RJ blog as well as numerous articles, poems, and reviews in popular and scholarly contexts. I have a B.A. from the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and a M.A. and Ph.D. from Rutgers. I am married to Rev. Dr. Ron Rienstra, and together we have three grown children. Besides reading and writing, I love classical music, science fiction, fussing in the yard, hiking, and teaching myself useful skills like plant identification and—maybe someday—drywall repair.


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