4/13/15

More Than Stones


We stop and stare at the handiworks of time.
The delicate features and the skills so fine;
We contemplate the effort and the hours paid-
Creating such a wonder from the first stone laid.
 
Listen close, listen long, as you wonder in its shade;
There is more here than a building finely made.
Here is life, hope, and friendship when alone
Because this church is more than merely stone.
 
It rose above the streets with a purpose clear;
To call out a welcome and bring people here.
It rose to open arms wide and a message to proclaim –
“Come and meet one who cares!” Jesus is his name.
Stone and wood and glass fade away from view;
Time progresses replacing old with new.
A church is more than brick and glass alone;
A church is  people; a church is more than stones.
 
--Marilyn A. Hudson, 4/2015

4/12/15

Light Our Way - M.A. Hudson

In the darkness
We wait and pray.
Give us guidance,
Light our way.

Lead our footsteps
Through valleys long.
Replace our mourning;
Give us a song!

Still the tempest
When fears assail.
Share your strength;
It never fails.

Peace in morning
As stars fade away.
Stay with us Lord -
Through this day.

Into the unknown
We follow your light.
Lifting high your name;
We keep you in sight.

--Marilyn A. Hudson, (c) December 2014

2/11/15

We Dance Too Little

I have come to think that people are like trees: some bend and some break.  Some face down the fiercest of blows to spring back, tousle their hair and rise to new heights.  Others stand rigidly straining against those fearsome forces and finally, their centers dry and brittle, they crack and crash to the ground.  Then to lay rotting in the dirt to be forgotten and forlorn.
 
Let me dance! As the winds tug and push against me, Let me dance!  I may, with advancing age, feel the need to waltz instead of jig, but Let me Dance!  Let me scream rebellion to the storms that would see me topple over to never rise again, Let me Dance!  Let me feel the sap flowing in my branches, have the experience to sense when it will be a gentle storm and strength to face the onslaught of the fiercest gale. Let me Dance!
 
Let me sway in the gentle warm arms of a sunny day. Let me reach up to touch a moonlit sky. Let me weep as rains washes over me. Let me laugh as butterflies and birds play among my branches.
 
LET ME DANCE!

12/28/14

RENEW: Rediscovering the 12 Days of Christmas

RENEW: Rediscovering the Twelve Days of Christmas
Something worse than a war on Christmas has been lapping at the heart and soul of the Christian church for many decades.  It is an acid tinged liquid that burns away the real things of value in this season of glad tidings good will and peace on earth. This persistent current of decay comes from the influences of  a materialism that has crept into the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ that leaves people feeling empty once the gifts are unwrapped.  The joy of the season comes, not from reliving the greatest gift of all time in Jesus Christ, but in “stuff”.   We too often equate the amount of “stuff” with the level of our joy.  The culture of economics has been allowed to drive this season and as a result it has become more secular, material and unsatisfying.
 
It is tine to strip the decades of misuse and abuse from the time when the Christian Church celebrates something that the world often simply cannot understand.  Like the sisters of Cinderella who chopped off parts of their feet in order to fit the glass slipper, the Church has accepted what the world has had to say about Christmas.  We have chopped off the sacred elements, modified the scope of the time, and tried to fit ourselves into the world's glass slipper of "Christmas."
 
Traditionally, the 12 Days of Christmas were celebrated beginning with day after Christmas, or December 26.  Then, counting began, and it ended with the celebration of the Wise Men bringing gifts to the Christ Child (usually around Jan. 6).  The period from January through the start of Lent is commonly known as the "Season of Epiphany". 
 

Day 1 – Family
The day after Christmas (Dec. 26) use this time to focus on the family both near and far. Create traditions and activities that build your family unit, however, you define that unit. Maybe it is lounging around in your pajamas and watching your favorite movies; maybe it is working on family history; maybe it is reading to each other selections from favorite books over a cup of fragrant tea.  Whatever it is, do it with joy, do it together, and make memories.
Day 2 – Service
As a family unit, volunteer to serve in a mission, delivery meals, shovel snow, check on the shut-ins in your area. There are so many other projects that create memories and model the values your family holds hear.
Day 3 – Devotion
Pick a theme scripture for the year, learn about it, understand it by discussion and then return to it through the year.  It need not be a dull spiritual endeavor either. Make this devotional time come to life by making it an active time. Try creating a memorial stone for your yard, a piece of art to which each person contributes, or something similar.  Place it somewhere prominent as a reminder for the year.
Day 4 – Games & Play
“The family that plays together-stays together” is more than a mere slogan.  Play generates bonding, encourages teamwork, inspires laughter, and is fun!    Keep the competitions to a minimum and encourage participation and laughter. Parent Fun has many clever game and activity ideas.  See also P & G Everyday for ideas across many topics.
Day 5 – Music
An afternoon or evening of family music is a great tradition to start. A great way to encourage musical appreciation, practice skills with various instruments, and just have fun singing along with favorite tunes. Make it a weekly event to enrich your year's theme and move the quality of life from endless hours of television to making memories and drawing people together around a common interest.
Day 6 – Service
Do something for someone else.  Surprise a friend or relative with a task completed for them.  Volunteer as a family to help with a local charity or mission work outreach. Put together disaster kits, homeless hygiene supply bags, clean up a park, or something similar to meet a need.
Day 7 – Exploration
Pack a backpack and go for a walk (weather permitting); go explore the different styles of architecture in your community, learn about your town by finding the historic points of interest; take a nature walk; look at the stars; explore a science museum.  Find a museum nearby by using the Museum association website.
Day 8 – Art
Everybody grabs a drawing pad, works in clay, paints, or creates something using some form of art.  Maybe make something for a handmade gift. Families with small children may find the ideas at Child Fun useful as well as Artful parents.
Day 9 – Learning
Visit a museum, go to the library, fill out your family tree, visit a ethnic or cultural space and learn about something never before explored.  Encourage children to learn by retelling what they learned or saw, do a “advertisement” on the visit and what they learned or draw a poster.  Older youth can participate in discussions about what was learned and make connections through comparisons and contrasts.
Day 10 – Friends
Spend time with friends. The family can go their separate ways to visit and enjoy time with friends building positive relationships to last a lifetime. Here are some great ideas for adults and teens to use in developing and strengthening friends.
Day 11 – Family
Spend the day with the family, doing things for one another and end with a favorite’s meal and handmade gift exchange. Some clever and not so ordinary ideas can be found here.
Day 12 – Celebration
Gather with friends to top off the 12 Days through celebrations, singing, devotionals, and similar activities designed to remind of the theme the family chose for their year and to remind all of the strength and gift good family and friends make to life. Go to church or meeting and share the joy of the season in a brand new way and look forward as you continue your journey through the Christian year with new zest and meaning.
 
---Marilyn A. Hudson, c2014

6/19/14

Veins of Gold. Marilyn A. Hudson


In Japanese culture is the art of Kintsugi or the repair of broken pottery by joining the broken pieces with gold or silver. The breaks do not distract but add to the history and beauty of the object. Sometimes in life people get broken and how they view that brokeness can mean all the difference to their future.


I am filled with veins of gold;

glistening treasure in each fold;

I pass my brokenness through the flame;

molten wonder burns away the pain;

I arise, fresh, new and bold;

I am filled with veins of gold.



--Marilyn A. Hudson, 2014

5/9/14

"Dance with me Darlin'"

She was fancy free the first time he came into view.
Her  heart skipped a beat ,
Butterflies fluttered when she first saw
those eyes
that smile
that tuft of hair dipping down
"Dance with me darlin'", he softly said -
And she melted.
Round and round the floor they'd roam
safe in a special world that was all their own.

They flirted and they broke up, just the way lovers do.
He asked, she answered and
When they were wed-
Butterfies fluttered anew when she saw -
those eyes
that smile
that tuft of soft hair dipping down
"Dance with me darlin'"...
And she swooned.
Round and round the floor they'd roam
safe in a special world that was all their own.

Days came, days passed by, bringing ups and downs.
Angry words and cold shoulder meals.
Butterflies fluttered, how she hated how they fluttered, at
those eyes
that smile
that tuft of soft hair dipping down
"Dance with me darlin'..."
And she'd relent.
Round and round the floor they'd roam
safe in a special world that was all their own.

The two became one and then some more
She was no longer the only dance partner
Butterflies fluttered as he bounced a baby on his knee-
those eyes
that smile
that tuft of soft hair dipping down
"Dance with me darlin'"...
And she would smile.
Round and round the floor they'd roam
safe in a special world that was all their own.

Times were tough and times were hard and oh, how they suffered.
Good times, bad times and bad choices all around.
The butterflies were silent - how she hated that silence -as the looked at
those eyes
that smile
that tuft of soft hair dipping down
"Dance...with me, darlin'?"  The question hung in the air...
She made her decision...
And she loved.
Round and round the floor they'd roam
safe in a special world that was all their own.

The years have flown by and there have been a lot of changes.
The road they traveled had its ups and downs.
Butterflies  still fluttered as she looked at
those eyes, just a little faded
that smile, just a little different
that tuft of soft hair didn't hang down anymore...
They paused and looked at each other -
Then asked together, "Dance with me darlin'?"
And they lived.
Round and round the floor they'd roam
safe in a special world that was all their own.

[a song written by Marilyn A. Hudson, 2014-- dedicated to her husband]

I Miss Mama

For Mother's Day --

I miss Mama
There are times, now and then, when the feelings wash over me-
I may be shopping, I may be lonely, or maybe sitting on the porch just sipping tea.
Then, and now, seem to overlap and sweet memory comes to call.
As I see her face, I hear her voice, and the way the light danced in her hair.
In moments like those, I feel the loss, and remember she’s not there;
I miss the smiling woman in the picture hanging on the wall.
I miss Mama. 

I miss Mama
She wasn’t perfect, just a woman, she was trying the best she could
But she loved her family, did her best, and always taught her kids to be good.
Then, and now, seem to overlap and sweet memory comes to call.
Her eyes twinkle and I hear the echo of her laugher as her arms open wide.
Wrapped up in her warm love; you knew nothing could happen with her by your side.
I miss the smiling woman, the always smiling woman, in the picture hanging on the wall.
I miss Mama.

--Marilyn A. Hudson, 2014
Velma D. Cochren Terry and her sister Elva Cochren Merry, ca 1990

12/2/13

"Show Towels":The For Specials of Life


All through my growing up years we had two types of towels: the towels for everyday use and the "Show Towels."  The first might be plain, threadbare or inferior quality.  The show towels only came out when company came or it was a special time. They were as the family rationale coined from a German-Irish grandmother, "for special" and "for show."
 
They might replace the normal ordinary towels in kitchen and or bathroom so that only a nice, new, fancy life was shown to guests. Some said it was to honor the guests and others that it was to wordlessly express the success of the family.
 
Sometimes they were slipped over the ordinary towels to hide the thinner, cheaper daily use towels.  What was important was that they were in place to present a certain 'image.'  The image was important even if the reality they claimed might not be absolutely accurate.
 
They came from a time when women were 'house proud' and had their worth determined by how white the wash was, how clean the house, and how many pretty things adorned your existence.  It was important because no matter how 'hard scrabble' life might be daily when company came, and you could pull out the show towels from storage, a woman was vindicated.  She could provide for her family and even 'for special.'
 
House proud though was one of the first things extreme poverty and hardship and depressed economics assaulted.  When children are hungry the 'for special' must often be sold to buy food.  When there is no water the water may not be as clean.  When there is too much to do, and not enough money or help, the energy can be too easily depleted to do many things once thought essential.
 
House proud sometimes led to a fear and a hoarding of the items once brought out 'for special' to serve as the show pieces of homemaking industry and value.  Items lost through depressed times were replaced but guarded with the explanation they are too special for normal use.  We will keep them for something important or a special occasion.
 
The 'show towels' were there in storage closets, chests, and on shelves.  Unused they waited for a day that never came.  One never "special enough" to impress or honor with the good things ever seemed to arrive.  House proud had become fearful and maybe a little weary.
 
The world had changed. The needs had changed. The ways had taken a casual turn where 'for special' seemed merely quaint and a lot of work.
 
When my mother died the cedar chest she had kept in her bedroom - and all its contents - were mine.  Opening it up, the aroma of cedar and perfumes wafting up, I found it filled with 'show towels'.  There were aprons, quilt tops, pillowcases decorated long ago when I was still at home, and other treasures saved by generations before her and ones she had collected herself.  The evidence of 'for specials' that never came...
 
We all have a tendency to put things back 'for special.'  We all have that need to display the prosperity of the home, the skills of the homemaker, and the honor given a guest.
 
You may not have a stockpile of Pennsylvania Dutch inspired 'show towels' but do you keep something back 'for special'?   Do you, like I have done, try to impress and hid the threadbare, next-to nothing threat count towels of your life with a false front 'show towel'?
 
Do we all place so much emphasis on some 'future' special thing we ignore the specialness and unique richness of that time that is now?  Open that cedar chest in life and determine to no longer live a 'show towel' existence of hoarded joys and laughter but one filled with many special times and special people. 
 
 
 

8/19/13

Sacred Space

In this special, sacred space -
gentle music fills the air.
Like whispers of love, they are everywhere .
Shards of colored light paint vistas for my eyes;
In the stillness, the feel of heavenly bliss,
Gentle as rain on a soft spring day comes your grace.

Soaring melodies of infinite beauty, speak to a restless heart.
The feel of your majesty and presence is everywhere.
Loving, comforting, so rich in scope.
Your warmth spills out covery every part.

You are God above all creation -
Lord of every city, land, and nation.
In my heart, you build a sanctury of sublime grace.
You still the tremors of my fears and give me your peace.

Let my heart burst forth to sing!
Let all voices swell and ring!
A melody of haunting and infinite praise;
Raise faces, all creation, linger to rest in his merciful gaze.

Chorus:
In this sacred space-
In this fragile moment -
I can see your loving face,
While all around I feel your arms of love.
I know my hope comes from above;
Here, heaven and earth meet in special grace;
Here, now, in this sacred and holy place.

(c) Marilyn A. Hudson, 2013
Permission granted to set to music, if the above credit line is used and a notification is sent to marilynahudson@yahoo.com   A link to online renditions appreciated!

8/5/13

Forgotten People: Bias Toward the Older Person

Psalms 71:9 - Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth.

Our culture worships youth and vitality. Strength, youth, beauty, and energy are the standards by which we measure the worth of people. Poor or wealthy, if you are young and able bodied, you have the edge.

Is it a symptom of our own slanted and distorted values?  A century ago and more, elders lived with their families, died with family clustered around, and in the process taught much to their descendents.  Everyone seemed to recognize and value the truth of Psalms 71:18 , "Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto [this] generation, [and] thy power to every one [that] is to come." Now, even churches value only the young and some churches are even targeting a totally youth-centric congregation. Who is there to show them God's strength and power?  Who to show them the wisdom of years?

Somewhere along the way, we eased them out of our lives into 'institutions'.  We became more self absorbed and in the process excluded the wisdom and dignity of our elders from our lives.  We forgot the wisdom of Proverbs 20:29 - "The glory of young men [is] their strength: and the beauty of old men [is] the gray head."

We became distainful of their frailities, impatient with their slowing gait, irritated by their experience, silenced the wisdom that would have served as our check and balance to avoid dumb mistakes, and resentful of what they represented as shadows of our own creeping mortality.

In the present, in our so sophisticated and worldly society, the bigority and prejudice of the elderly continues to grow.  "Ageism" is like racism only predicated on age.  Where once society said 'don't trust anyone over thirty', the present reality is that if you are older you are discriminated against merely because of the natural condition of age.  The irony is that many of those people faced with this truth had themselves chanted and repeated that dictum of not trusting those over thirty. Now, there are some chickens that have come home to roost!

The elderly, senior citizen, golden ager, the new "fifities": whatever they are termed represent a significant junk of society.  They are better skilled, have more experience, more education, and wisdom than probably any generation before them and yet they are not wanted. Employers see them only through the glass of increased health costs, shorter career time, more training, or a dozen other excuses.

The truth is that they are biased against the elderly, the mature, and the physically challenged.  They represent what they do not want to face....everyone is going to grow old, weak, and slow.  So they run faster laps, have that botox treatment, get a younger wife or husband or lover, increase their risky life to feel the rush and the buzz they associate with their younger self.  

As morals collapse and society becomes more relative in its ethics questions of human worth are becoming more fragile.  Abortion has already paved the way for looking at life based on issues of convenience, quality of life, and control.  Ethicists are already arguing for applying those same criteria of abortion up to and including the years post-birth!  Is it too long a distance to looking at end of life issues the same way?  You are no longer a productive member of society and so here is your pill to end your life.  You no longer qualify for the expensive health care needed to keep you alive and so here is your ticket to the next life.  Who decides when you are no longer a viable contributing member of society?  At what age will they apply these criteria?  Will they too become flexible?  Will decisions about life quality see young people crippled by accidents unable to fulfill the life quality criteria or bean counter cost effectiveness lists?

Atrocities begin among forgotten people who have no voice: the pre-born, the infant, the elderly, the terminally ill or handicapped.  The flexible standards and ethics of a society, freed from any moral absolutes about the value of life or the nature of existence, are free to do much evil in the name of science, progress or social improvement.  Look to Hitler, look to the eugenics movement that spawned Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood, look to all the ethical relativity growing in our midsts.  

Forgotten people - the elderly now but tomorrow they may be the homeless, the handicapped and....you.   

6/11/13

Getting The Mix Right

recent trend is emerging to bring men back to the church, to destroy the feminized church which drives away red-blooded men, and to create 'men-friendly' congregations.  The proponents point to 'foo-foo' decor, sensitive emotional music, and services and ministries designed to get in touch with the softer side of God. This attempt to 'man cave' the church is not a way to dominate women, they say, but to liberate men.


"Ten Ways to Man Up Your Church" offers some interesting ideas but also infers some interesting things as well. What is required is a "manly pastor" - therefore no woman can be a pastor of men simply because they fail in the "manly" category. This also infers that most male pastors are lacking in the testosterone category as well. An insult to many fine male pastors. Next, things should be done excellently or not at all. Another slap in the face of any group anywhere. Also, an easy "out" to not do it. Reminds me of someone whose idea of "picnic" was always so over the top, you would have had to cook for a week to prepare for it, and save a month to pay for it. Simple sandwiches and fun would not do. How many picnics did the family take? None. This may not be the end result of the strive for excellence but it could be. It could also lead to a competitive approach to church..."Now, I want you to go out there this morning for this service, and give a 110%!!!" Issues of giving men "space" and "speaking plain prayers" are valid and needed regardless of gender! The imperative to respect men's time and avoiding services which drag on and on....are equally applicable to either gender. Women probably enjoy long drawn out services no less than men. There should be equal respect and honor of time.

The basic issue is what have we made of church?

What would a church decorated by men look like? A military barracks or monk's cell devoid of anything of the arts or comfort? Would it look like a ubiquitous sports bar? Or, the teenage boy's never cleaned room? Would it be finely appointed or mimalist? Would it, most importantly, appeal only to men?

Would every sermon be filled with sport metaphors and stories? Every prayer time take on the look and feel of a huddle? Would the sanctuary evolve into a men's area around a large screen TV with recliners with women in kitchen or out shopping?

Barna research group indicates, though, women are also leaving the church. It may not be just a gender issue, but a relevance issue. It is not easy to manage, program, and plan for a church of both men and women, young and old, rich and poor, and the like. Too many churches have become like cruise ships offering diverse entertainments and activities to fill the time. We have built long traditions of what has to be in a church service.

Instead of genderizing church even more, even in the name of balance, perhaps the emphasis should be on reshaping church into a more relevant, New Testament place of worship, training, and community.

The 'Love' of Money


In recent months there has been a lot of protest about the rich vs the poor. The people who have a lot and those who wish they did. The people who are guilty at having things and those willing to increase their guilt. The issue is something else.

A recent television program looked at lottery winners - ordinary people who suddenly found they has 3 to 93 million dollars. Some were even near homeless when they won. As one might expect they immediately rewarded themselves with their new found wealth. Yet, as one man went through his mansion casually tossing off spending $80,000 dollars on a set of dolls for his wife, $160,000 for two chests, buying 24 classic cars and providing them with space. All the toys and self-indulgence was a little cloying. 

Excess is, after all, excess. 

The problem with wealth is never acquiring the wealth (if done legally) but in what is done with the wealth once acquired. 

For all the bad reputation of the old "Robber Barons" of the late 19th century they left a legacy of hospitals, libraries, churches, schools, parks, opera buildings, and many other things.

It was called "noblesse oblige", the idea that if you had been blessed with financial riches or other advantages, you were obligated to enrich your world through good deeds. 

When it is considered - each of us is blessed with something and some advantage - we too should feel obligated to enrich the world through service and contribution to those in need. To begin working to help improve life for all. It is a cycle of mutual support, skill building, self-sufficiency, and giving. Instead of demanding what others have, or hoarding what one has, the goal of life should be to do the best you can and be willing to help others. 

As the saying goes - 'live simply so others may simply life. The Bible had two important sentiments - the love of money is the root of all evil and it is more blessed to give than to receive. Balance those two and there is a recipe for a successful and happy life.

False Witness

One of the commandments enjoins people of God to not bear false witness against another person. Fingers are pointed to Potipher's Wife as examples of this sin. Today, could be added the thoughtless forwarding of emails whose sole desire is to discredit a politician or political party.

These are forwarded often with barely concealed glee at having "caught" someone or in having gotten the "upper hand". Yet the Bible tells us to do something very different: (Proverbs 27:17) "do not delight when your enemy falls"; 1 Cor. 13:6 urges people to avoid delighting in evil or when one is caught in evil; As I have loved you, so you must love one another(John 13:34). ... Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse (Romans 12:14).

For example the President's birth certificate. Challenges to the birth certificate released by the White House is based on three things: 1) The name of the hospital, 2) the name of the birth country of his father, and 3) the use of the term "African" to refer to his father. Passing this type of information along without verifying the truth or in order to delight in error is not the act of a person of faith. People can question, can learn, and can be silence.

What is the truth? The hospital name was in use at the time of the birth, 2) the name "Kenya" can be found on a 1924 World Atlas and so it is evident the name was in use in the early 1960's, 3) and the term "African" was sometimes used for people born in Africa as opposed to those born in North America.

So stop and think before forwarding some of those posts. More are incorrect and generated in order to malign or bear false witness. Do not contribute to that.

Faith and Learning

Sometimes in life people try to keep their spiritual life and professional life apart. They are like two rooms kept for opposing and specific purpose. When we wish to be "spiritual" we go to the Bible. When we wish to be professional we go to readings addressing professional development.


Many Christian institutions of higher learning are committed to the idea of integrating faith and learning. This means that the two rooms are open and connected allowing a free flow of influence. Spirituality informs how we understand and apply the knowledge we gain. It provides the values, motives, and behaviors for the professional life.

Francis Schaeffer in Art and the Bible argued that the true soul of the artist is always visible in the art they produce. The same came be said of the academic process when learning and faith are engaged together in consideration of any academic subject.

The lessons and values of scripture are the measuring stick by which we can evaluate and interpret decisions, processes, and in historical or political studies, explore how it influenced those making social or political history.

Rather than being two separate compartments, or rooms, in the integration of faith and learning the two have a healthy and solid relationship.

Scripture is the base and is used to measure the values, actions, problems, and challenges expressed in the text. Spiritual life is personal but it is lived in a highly public and political environment.

To adapt Schaeffer's words: "the true soul of the Christian will be seen in the life they live; the true soul of the nation will be seen in the laws and society it creates."

"The logic and knowledge from every discipline is built upon a set of presuppositions. All such presuppositions must be examined and informed by the truth derived from the revealed Word of God and Christian thinking founded on a Christocentric epistemology, so as to create a coherent body of knowledge, i.e., faith informs all of learning’s presuppositional thinking.” (RW, 2009).

Key Biblical Texts: Romans 12:1-2 and Colossians 1:17.

A Facebook Kind of Faith


Social networking is a vital and dynamic element in modern 21st century society. We Facebook, we email, we text, we instant message, we Twitter, we Google+ and probably something else which has not yet been invented! Christians tend to be very purpose driven in their use of these tools. Christians post scriptures, positive motivational posters, and communicate on religious themes or social issues via a spiritual lens.

This "Facebook Faith" is also frequently lacking in any humor, narrow in its tolerance or acceptance of people with different beliefs, and unable to communicate beyond that bumper sticker-hit and run faith communication. Like emails which delight in catching "them" (whoever they might be) out, these posters often seem to also approach communication via a Teddy Roosevelt inspired evangelism...type ponderously and sling a super sized Bible. 

Just sharing a Bible verse may satisfy some inner drive to 'share the gospel' but few outside the faith will even read those posts and de-friending will commence. Sharing a frustration or common experience and reflecting a dependence on God is a better witness. Some will complain, some may leave, but your cyber witness will leave a memory of someone in life who reaches out in faith and not just someone spouting verses and dispensing Bible thumping answers.






The Bible invited..."come let us reason together" which infers a discussion, a meeting of disparate minds and varied attitudes.

Idols


"Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me!"

Idolatry? That is only in pagan nations. That was only in the Old Testament. That does not happen today!

Yet, every season is now consumed by some athletic competition of one type or another. Church and worship services are displaced or turned into events celebrating the seasonal event. School budgets are consumed by the demands of supporting the space, uniforms, coaches, and travel for sports teams even when the academic programs of those schools go begging. Many sports programs have lowered entrance requirements just so students can "play." 

Young people are taught to live, eat, breath athletics. Older people eternally chase past or imagined glory by following a game. Professional players earn more than most doctors, educator, or pastors. What was at one time a way to enjoy fresh air and activity has become a cult where periodically the devout feast, share fellowship, and stare at players and a ball for hours on end. They adorn themselves with colors, styles and words reflecting their chosen deity. They make great sacrifices, enduring every discomfort, and supporting their teams even through the tough times.

Once, idealist aspirations abounded and banners of "sportsmanship!" waved high and proud. Now, drugs, ethics, sexual misconduct, greed, and dishonesty are the shadows of professional, and even amateur, athletics.

Now, to demonstrate how far this cult has moved, when a Christian ad has run in one of their worship festivals there are cries of it being inappropriate. Gods are jealous. They want their faithful ones to themselves. The cult is calling!

All worship the ball!

It Is All About the Shoes: Reflections Between Generations

Maturing as a woman, creeping into that "Wise Woman" classification based on both age and experience, I must admit to being a bit troubled by what I am seeing among young women. Surfing the 'Net I see blog after blog by women under thirty filled with images based on fashion. 

This tendency to define your life through the clothes you purchase has troubling overtones. It reflects the clout of society to mold character based on values that have nothing to do with life. The purses, the shoes, the clothes; is this all women are? Is this all we have allowed society to create for us? Is this the only message being given to our daughters and granddaughters? Media highlights over-indulgence, self-adoration, and consumption as normative aspects of modern life. We see ethics of manipulation, self-service, and relativism employed as models of normal behavior. We see celebrity status bestowed on people simply because of their wealth, their profession, family, or their notoriety.

Personal achievement is contained within shopping expeditions and life punctuated by the ability to acquire things.

Is this life? Is it what should be life? It is a merely a generational shift emerging as the women of my generation mature and the generation arises to take our place? Or is it the intensifying eradication of the progress made in the 20th century to bring dignity, equality, and value to the human specifies by the inclusion of women? For a woman who came of age watching her older "sisters" marching, burning bras, and demanding equal pay I have a different perspective on things. I remember the blatant sexism which said I was a woman and so I could not be paid the same, I was a woman and what I said had less value than a male, and I remember the way women were treated like children incapable of caring for themselves or making decisions. I remember the way women were valued only for their cooking, cleaning, and baby making skills. I remember the way women were seen only as sexual parts and pieces.

I remember the first time I felt the brunt of being a 'second class citizen' simply because of my gender. I remember because I am seeing it all over again in a new generation of women who think they are defined and limited by their biology. 

It highlights the need to answer one simple question : what have we done to and for women to bring about a generation of loving, courageous, women able to love themselves and be themselves as women of God?

I fear the answer is - nothing.

I fear that the answer is we have allowed society and its shallow substitutions of woman hood and its strength to be hijacked by narrow definitions of woman.

The evidence is clear.

The echoes of another time can teach us well if we heed their lesson. Look around and see how women are being defined today. They are baby makers, wives, fashionistas, and house fraus; the same formula in place which led to the female awakening and rebellion of the late 1950's and 1960's. Such definitions are shallow substitutes for real self-actualization and real spiritual relativity. The inevitable outcome will be another cultural upheaval as the shackles of that reality again become too much for both men and women to bear.

The messages are clear from society: women can be strong, intelligent, and independent only as long as they are attractive, sexually exciting, or domestically inclined. As long as they mold themselves to the dictates of fashion. As long as they mold themselves to narrow, fundamentalist definitions of what makes a Godly woman. As long as they accept their role as bitches, nags, victims, baby makers, or sexual objects. As long as they allow their own intelligence to be restricted to the stereotype or their own goals of achievement sidelined in favor of another based merely on gender.

Women - hear the voice of the prophet - it is all about the shoes! 

The shoes are symbols of the sickness and will define and reveal the motives and values you incorporate into your life. The shoes will reflect the control you allow others to have over and in your life. The killer high heels inspired by sex trafficking and designed to maximize physical sexual assets or the comfortable yet stylish shoes of a woman who has accepted who she is and demands society accept her as she is or not at all! Which will you choose: The vixen or the warrior; the vamp or the saint; the girl or the lady; the caricature or the real woman?

Advice for Preachers...and Others

John Wesley's 'Letters,' To John Trembath CORK, August 17, 1760.
"I pray be exact in this; be a pattern of truth, sincerity, and godly simplicity.

What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear to this day, is want of reading. I scarce ever knew a preacher read so little. And perhaps by neglecting it you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety; there is no compass of thought. Reading only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this.You can never be a deep preacher without it any more than a thorough Christian. 

O begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have not; what is tedious at first will afterwards be pleasant. Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way: else you will be a trifler all your days, and a pretty, superficial preacher. Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. 

Take up your cross, and be a Christian altogether. Then will all the children of God rejoice (not grieve) over you, and in particular Yours, &c."

Source: The Wesley Center Online, The Letters of John Wesley, Edited by John Telford -- London: Epworth Press, 1931.

Skaking the Dust Off

SHAKING THE DUST FROM YOUR FEET

And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. (Matt. 10.14, KJV).


"As he walked down the long drive, his briefcase in one hand and a book of papers in the other, he paused as that verse came to his mind.  He had a strong desire to do something ritualistic.  His pain and hurt was so deep he felt pretty raw as he tucked his tail and left the institution he had given so much of his life to and with so much blind faith.  A religious institution, it claimed to be, and expected its people to be good, kind, wise, spiritual and grace-filled.  Yet, the governing body...and the people in charge...were devious, lying, cheating, and petty individuals who made a kindergarten class look mature.  Yes, he longed to do something demonstrative, filled with ritual, and significance.  A stomping of his foot, a dragging off of his loafers to wipe the dust of the place off his foot, and a fist raised as he spoke some Old Testament curse inspired by his pain and disappointment. He was too hurt, though, and his shoulders sagged as he trudged on down the drive and his uncertain future."

Those in ministry - pulpit, classroom, or other forms - are often particularly subject to being abused, maligned, and ignored.  The truth is sometimes the blow from the sinner is the kindest blow; it is the blow from those who claim to also be Christ followers which leaves the harshest scar.  

Too often business - even Christian business - is too much a thing of balance sheets and bottom lines. People are used and tossed away like garbage with no concern for their life.  This is especially disturbing when the wise voices are the ones silenced, when those with spiritual discernment are the ones shown the door, and the one who has a vision is blinded.

Let those with ears - hear.

How Do You Fight Evil?


The legend of the Phoenix is one of utter destruction but eventual renewal. The great bird that rises from its own destruction to live a new life. Unfortunately. the story is just a myth and a lot of things can be destroyed without any chance of renewal. Some people are destroyed, trodden down under the heel of evil or burned in its flames.


Edmund Burke noted that all that is neeed for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing. The problem is, can we identify evil (or negative and destructive) forces when seen? We like to say there is no evil but reality begs to differ: corporate criminals, political dishonesty, mass shootings, child pornography, domestic abuse, bullying, intimidation, lying, dishonesty, war, murder, and greed. These are little foxes nibbling at the healthy plants of which a productive and happy life are made.

There appear to be three common reactions to preceived evil, as defined by Burke,:

1) To do nothing and hope some divine force will intervene. This path is a down hill coast into fatalism where inaction becomes a virtue and results never our fault. It was - fate. So we watch the flames absorb the Phoenix.


2) To be repeatedly waiting, evaluating, judging, and giving the benefit of the doubt. This path allows the evil to become more deeply entrenched and people to be come more used to it and allow it to continue unchallenged. There is no one around to stop the winds of misfortune that scatter the actions destroying the chance of renewal.


3) To act and take a stand. To speak out against the evil, the lies, the hypocrisy, and the negatives which eat away at the good and the productive. To work for peace, to correct negative situations, to decry injustice, and to fight for human dignity. This path, however, is a hard climb on treacherous paths facing sudden danger at every turn. It requires us being willing to burn with the Phoenix and become part of the rebirth.

Dietrich Bonhoffer was a pastor in WW2 who was faced with a compelling challenge. To see his country destroyed or take action. To follow pacifist Christian belief or to take up a sword. To be acted upon or to act.

Perhaps the problem is waiting until those little evils, those "little foxes" which destroy the vineyards of life, have grown and have become tolerated, entrenched and impossible to remove.

Perhaps it is time for people to speak out against injustices and those evils of life while they are nascent buds. To present twice as many positives as any negatives in overcome evil with good forces of love and care.

When we see evil and do nothing to stop it, our silence is approval.

When we are silent, we allow the evil to grow...and grow...and grow.

Sometimes the greatest act of peace, is to raise a hand and say, 'stop.' Sometimes the most courageous act of pacificism is to speak out. Sometimes the strongest force of justice is to assert truth and demand action.

When do we start to fight evil? When it is first discovered it should be resisted with courage, with dignity, and with grace. Most importantly, however, it should be resisted with determination.

Setting Aside




The words of the psalmist rang out about the sense of liberation felt by the bird held captive in the snare who was now released. The door flew open and out the bird sailed into a clear sky. Such jubilation! Such freedom!

Sometimes in life we find ourselves trapped in situations like that snare. We are prisoners of circumstance. Our wings no longer work. Our song is silenced. The other birds strut past in their freedom and denounce us as less than bird. They make fun of our cramped, withered wings. We cannot fly! We are nothing! We are not like them! Why do you not sing with joy to be in your cramped, painful, and dark little cage?

When the snare is opened...

Oh, the fear! Wings so cramped and ill-formed from lack of use. Skills of flight nearly forgotten for being diminished in the cramped cage and laughed at and belittled by the other birds who roamed free. The lack of sleek, healthy feathers from no food, no companionship, and no help. The fear...waddle to the opening. It is so big. It is so frightening. The cramped cage is familiar. The cramped cage is....a sort of home. The opening, though, how it calls out. The open sky, how it whispers to come fly!

That first feeble, awkward circle into the open spaces.... Fear keeps the bird close to the ground...what if I fall, it wonders? The vast sky is so big...

Finally, the bird darts higher and higher into the sky. Such jubilation Such freedom! The snare is open and the bird is free at last.

Look around you - there are people trapped in snares all around you. They are cramped, marginalized diminished, laughed at, and made to feel they are less than what they truly are. Look around you and set the captive free.

Worship



WORSHIP



Worship is the hurting heart turning to God's arms.


Worship is where the confused and alone go to find answers.


Worship is where the proud and over-confident are reminded of God's majesty.


Worship is where the poor and wanting find the richness of God.

Worship is where the weak and struggling find God's strength.


Worship is where the heart finds itself in knowing God.


Worship is where God pours out His love and grace.


Worship is where God smiles to see His children face to face.

5/26/13

A Faith That Creates Laughter

Browsing the shelves at a second hand bookstore, I ran across a book in a happy yellow dust jacket.  The color and the snappy title caught my interest.  I would recommend it for anyone who wants to explore life, faith and the balancing of the two with a fresh tone. "Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?" by Rhoda Janzen is an honest, witty, and thought provoking look at what it means to be human and a person of faith.

As a woman raised in the Mennonite church she explores and contrasts church in  various traditions: Episcopal to Pentecostal.  The lens of her conservative background, her liberal arts education (she is a PhD who teaches literature), and her natural inclination to see things through a glass twisted enough to be a fun house mirror all unite to create a fun and meaningful read.  It is a spiritual book but it is not a religious book.  There is too much honesty in it for the later and too much willingness to accept that people are less than perfect even if they are trying to live a Christian life.  For Janzen, however, that is okay.  She has seen her own fun house reflection and come to terms with herself as the unique and gifted person she is and can become.

What truly attracted me to the book was the willingness to aim at sacred cows, to examine this thing we call church and Christian life and take a pea shooter to it as needed, and finally, to say I am who I am, the person God must have intended me to be, and so there!  Having begun my own life in one faith group and then later in life migrated into another faith group, I understood many of the observations of the experiences.  In such situations you meet wonderful people, but see things about them with a different eye and the choice is to ignore, minimize, patronize, or recognize the messages and lessons they provide.


This ability, and willingness, to laugh at who we are is refreshing because Christians can be so boring, so deadpan, and so serious.  We apply a heavy varnish of sacred holiness to so much of life and live in fear that we are not somber minded enough.  We live from extreme to extreme.  In the middle space is the ability to laugh at ourselves, accept the foibles, and tolerate the humanity we see in the mirror everyday.  This, in turn, allows us to accept those same things in others around us.

The grim faced, everything is a sin or provides a slippery slide to one, mentality is one that attracts no one to a life of faith.  The pious inability to laugh at our own human weakness as weaknesses and move on is not one that Jesus would recognize.  The illogical and wrong headed thinking that says we will not do X, W, Z but turn around and do L,M.O should be recognized as the human nature it demonstrates. 

We are illogical, inconsistent, demanding, hypocritical, hypercritical, superior, fearful, fearmongering, and hopeless at times.  All people are and the fact we claim a relationship with  God should not make us more so but should make us humbly aware of those faults and grace filled enough to make allowances and help one another to be better - in love. 

The title question is a good one.  Does this church (my faith, my life) make me look fat (complacent, self-satisfied, inactive).  I say we all start focusing on finding the laughter in life and in our faith.  Yes, there are deadly serious aspects to life but moping and be melancholy do not help the situation and actually show a decided lack of faith.  

If your God is not big enough to laugh and cause you to laugh at life - maybe you need to reexamine the nature of your God, your faith and yourself.







4/28/13

Like if You Believe

Anyone using social media is familiar with the graphics (memes) with a message.  Christians have a tendency to post ones that say "Like if You Believe Jesus Saves" or "Share if God is Good".   Most feel they are doing the work of the evangelist and sharing their testimony.  They are spreading the good news and giving strength to the weary souls.

Wait a minute, though.

Most Christians also seem to keep their friends on social media in the same religious view or unique heritage that they have.  They often delete anyone who does not share their religious faith, denominational affliation or their personal understanding of what it means to be a Christian.

They are evangelizing the already evangelized, or in the words of an old sayings, they are preaching to the choir.

While these graphics are often lovely, inspiring and carry a Bible verse - they are also a form of passive aggressive behavior.  We hold this up to say - this is what I believe and no others need apply!  It reveals that deep seated suspicious ingrained in many Protestant groups.  Can you, they really want to know, prove you are the 'right kind' of Christian?  Do you measure up to my yardstick?  Are you one of 'us'?

This is not evangelism, this is not even witness, because it has a certain 'in your face' sense to it.  It is not being strong for your faith or prophetic in the discipleship of others. It is simply short sighted, loveless, intolerant, and narrow focused.  Often Christians  have difficulty discussing their faith, or the challenges it faces, without a retreat to fidiasm or a collection of cliches that mean nothing to people who are not believers.

Creatively use social media, express your faith but find ways to do in ways that are construction instead of simply challenging.  It is how Jesus did it...
www.christianmemes.com 

4/24/13

Old Wisdom - New Days

I was riding in the car as a child and father behind the wheel. I do not recall all that was being said but do remember he launched into a recitation...


Bucket Of Water (There Is No Indispensable Man)


Sometimes when you're feeling so important

Sometimes when your ego's in bloom

Sometimes when you take it for granted

Your the best informed man in the room

Sometimes when you think that your going

Would leave an unfillable hole

Just follow these instructions

And see how it humbles your soul




Take a bucket and fill it with water

Put your hands in it right up to the wrists

Pull them out and the hole that remains


Is a measure of how much you'll be missed

You may splash all you please as you enter

You may stir up the water galore

But stop, and in a moment

It looks just the same as before



The moral is quite simple

Do just the best that you can

Be proud of yourself and remember

There is no indispensable man.



I recalled this recently when something happened to remind me people can be - people. I was invited to attend a small gathering and when I arrived at the location at the appointed time - it was locked up. Attempts to contact the person who had invited me provided futile. I was a little hurt; rejection is never kind. Coming as it did at the end of a long string of rejections - I was a little numb to its most forceful impact.


It came in the spring, while all around the flowers and shrubs were struggling to shake off a winter that would not die. Those plants wanted to grow, they wanted life and light. I too wanted the harsh killing field of the winter to fade, to slink away and something good to rise victorious in a gloriously hopeful spring. The long winter was too harsh.

There had been attempted murder of my soul. Hit and run on the security of my life. Willful aggression on my spirit and assault and battery of my self-esteem.  A winter where I found more kindness, openness and support from pagans and heretics than people who called themselves people of faith. I was the body tossed out of the speeding truck to fall bloody to the side of the road and only the despised Samaritan seemed to see, to care or tend my wounds. Yes, a harsh long winter where I had learned friends were few, kindness rare, and loneliness as painful as a knife. 


I often recalled those gloomy words of my father that day in the car. Oh, yes. Dad, I understand now! That is how much I am missed! That is how much I matter. That is how much any one cares about me! Pity me! Feel sorry for me!!


Then - I found the anonymous poem and saw the final lines "do the best that you can/be proud of yourself and remember/ there is no indispensable man." What others thought did not matter - it was what you thought inside. The only measure was that you used on yourself. As long as you lived up to your own ethics, your own standards, your own values and lived to your own expectations....what others said or did meant nothing. Everyone was subject to the same eventual fate of being forgotten and cast aside. 


So that a bucket if you must....I will empty mine, and no longer measure myself against others.  "Don't be so naive and self-confident. You're not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it's useless. Cultivate God-confidence." (1 Corinthians 10:12 MSG)


3/30/13

Where Were You?

In the sacred moments of this sacred season, Christians can boldly proclaim what their actions during the passion drama would have been.  They would not have hidden, they would not have run and they would have died for their Lord.
It is easy to look back and be courageous, thoughtful, caring, and concerned.  It is easy to look back and be smarter.

Those sacred moments and opportunities come every day though and the question is, "Where were you?"

Judy lived her life alone, she went to church, she worked with Christians but she had no friends among them. They never asked about her, got to know her or tried to be her friend.  When her relatives died it was her non-Christian, sometimes Pagan, friends from work who supported her, paid attention, and showed her that someone cared.

Where were you?

Dan's marriage was falling apart, his wife was leaving him and his children hated him.  His friends at church turned their backs on him and drove him from their 'holy communion.' As a divorced man....he was not welcome.   He soon found his friends at the local bar where he was accepted, loved, and even cared for by his friends.  He missed his family, his church but felt rejected and hurt and so terribly alone.  One morning, in the cheap hotel where he lived he ended his life.  At his funeral were his friends from the bar but none from his church.

Where were you?

Look around and see the opportunities to be Christ to a hurting world. We cannot be everywhere but we can be somewhere.  Look around and see the needs only you, and others like you, can help fill.  Look around....

When someone asks 'where were you?' when I was hurting, naked, in need, alone,in need of prayer, strength, you can tell them, "I was the one right over there..."

3/19/13

Three Simple Things! Dr. Marvin J. Hudson


In a few short weeks graduating classes will sit in tight and airless auditoriums and on their heads will sit  the cap and tassel so representative of their achievement.  The culmination of effort, accident, and parental dreams.  The hard won finish line to the first great race of any student's life.  Take a deep breath, that is not the flower arrangements in the air, that is the stuff of dreams and hopes.


It is a time when wise and sage advice are sought and so occasionally given.  Were I able to be at each and every one of those events I think I would tell them this...

Dream! If you can find what you love and then do it.  Your biggest barrier is your own belief or lack of belief in yourself.     Remember  these important things - 


  • Never stop learning. The wise store up knowledge but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.  Prov. 10:14
  • Keep a gentle spirit all your life.  A kindhearted woman gains honor, but ruthless men gain only wealth. Prov. 11:16
  • Choose your companions carefully.  He who walks with wise becomes wise, but a companion of fools comes to a bad end. Proverbs 13:20. 
The gathered crowds at all those events will finally toss those caps high in the air, give a rousing cheer and slap one another on the back.  Those students, friends and parents will pose for photos and then go out to celebrate the milestone achieved.

When the dust has settled and life looks them in the face....I hope they remember those three simple things.  They make life a lot easier when all is said and done.  Because...when all is said and done  - that is what you made of your life.