Pastor Saeed Abedini has been in prison in Iran since the summer of 2012. His story is long and heartbreaking, and you can read the entirety of it here, but, suffice to say, all attempts to secure his release have thus far been fruitless. In the midst of deplorable prison conditions, he has written this Christmas message to his family, and it is absolutely worth your time.

These conditions have made this upcoming Christmas season very hard, cold and shattering for me. It appears that I am alone with no one left beside me. These cold and brittle conditions have made me wonder why God chose the hardest time of the year to become flesh and why He came to the earth in the weakest human condition (as a baby). Why did God choose the hardest place to be born in the cold weather? ... Dear sisters and brothers, the fact of the Gospel is that it is not only the story of Jesus, but it is the key of how we are to live and serve like Jesus. Today, we, like Him, should come out of our safe comfort zone in order to proclaim the Word of Life and Salvation though faith in Jesus Christ and the penalty of sin that He paid on the cross and to proclaim His resurrection. We should be able to tolerate the cold, the difficulties and the shame in order to serve God. We should be able to enter into the pain of the cold dark world ... It might be necessary to come out of the comfort of our lives and leave the loving embrace of our family to enter the manger of the lives of others, such as it has been for me for the third consecutive Christmas. It may be that we will be called fools and traitors and face many difficulties, but we should crucify our will and wishes even more until the world hears and tastes the true meaning of Christmas.

You can read the whole thing here ... Discuss

Up to 1 million residents of Iraq and Syria have been displaced in recent months following the spread of the brutal militant group known as ISIS. But, this week, 60,000 children who were forced to flee their homes got to receive a little holiday cheer—in the form of Operation Christmas Child boxes. Along with some toys, school supplies and personal notes, each shoebox also contains assorted hygiene items and was assembled by volunteers in Europe, the United States and Canada, organized by the group Samaritan’s Purse. On December 10, the boxes were loaded onto a jet to be delivered to a refugee camp in northern Iraq that is home to tens of thousands of kids. The project’s director told Christian Headlines, “They are doing the best that they can in a tent community, a tent city. These shoeboxes will just be additional forms of encouragement. These conditions are difficult. We are unable to change their permanent condition, but we are able to provide a moment of hope and a reminder that these children are loved” ... Discuss

In the United States, IQ scores of "approximately 70" are generally considered to constitute a level of mental disability severe enough to preclude the death penalty—the idea being that the person in question's mental level is too underdeveloped for execution to constitute a proper "punishment."

Those guidelines are clearly not set in stone, because they were defied twice on Tuesday. In Georgia, a man named Robert Wayne Holsey, who has an IQ of 70, was executed after a court denied his appeal on the grounds of his mental ability (and also the fact that it turned out his lawyer had been drinking "a quart of vodka a day" during the trial.) Holsey was executed for killing a sheriff's deputy named Will Robinson in 1995.

In Missouri, a man named Paul Goodwin with an IQ of about 73 was also executed. Goodwin beat a 63-year-old woman to death in 1993, and his execution marked Missouri's 10th execution this year, tying it with Texas for the most in America ... Discuss

Now that Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday have passed, there’s a day not dedicated to spending money to get a good deal—#GivingTuesday wants you to give back. The idea is pretty simple. Instead of focusing on consumption, on December 2, people can take some time to give—time, money, social media awareness—to a cause they believe in.

On the Giving Tuesday site, Facebook page and #GivingTuesday Twitter feed, companies and organizations are posting special campaign events: Adobe is giving $10 to the World Food Program for every #GivingTuesday tweet; The Gates Foundation will match donations made to Shot@Life; there’s even an “augmented and virtual reality” Giving Tower that shows how donations are “stacking up” (get it?) in real time; and much more. All that to say, if you are thinking about making a donation to your favorite charities, today would be a great day to do it ... Discuss

For a clothing company, Patagonia sure does dislike consumerism. And, they particularly hate the shopping free-for-all known as Black Friday. Every year, they try to prevent consumers from taking part in the retail madness with a new campaign, and this year, they’ve decided to just give clothes away in exchange for old threads. At eight of their stores around the country, you can bring your used Patagonia gear and exchange it for other lightly-used duds as part of their Worn Wear campaign. If you can’t find anything you like, you can go to the site Yerdle, and use a special card they’ll give you for the used clothes ... Discuss

A new video from Bono’s One Campaign features a ton of famous faces, not asking viewers to do anything—instead, it features no speaking at all. The PSA, eventually displays the caption “Talk is cheap. It’s time for action,” encouraging viewers to visit to sign a petition, letting the world leaders know we’re “counting on you to quickly make and deliver bold commitments and help end the Ebola epidemic now.” The video, and petitions underlying message to leaders and viewers, is that we initially waited too long to provide the proper resources and aid to the nations fighting the deadly virus, and more has to be done ... Discuss