Sunday, December 30, 2007
Matthew 2:13 – 23
Now I’m not sure if the message this morning is going to rub the wrong way with some people because it sounds cliché, or if people are going to throw insults my way because I’m going to say that our work of Christmas is not over?
I mean, I know that Christmas really is a lot of work, and so if I suggest that it’s not over, I guess I’m just glad I’m still a student minister and that I can blame it all on not knowing any better. Maybe then you will forgive me for suggesting that this crazy holiday season is not over, that there is more to be done, and that there are more tasks to be completed.
I also fear that this message may not reach some, because it has become cliché. It has become cliché to remind people that we should keep the Christmas spirit all year long. It has become something we write in our Christmas letters, or that Hallmark writes on their Christmas cards, and we generally mean it, be we rarely think about that prospect past…oh probably January 3rd? We live in a world of Wal-marts and Targets where the day after Christmas we sell off Christmas at half-off, and for buy one get one free, and where as soon as the stores open up, despite the mad rush to make all the after-Christmas sales, we are also asked to look forward to the next commercial holiday and start thinking about Valentine’s Day, complete with end caps and special displays offering candy and miniature hearts. As we sit in our living rooms full of green bean casserole and the weird Jell-O thing that our second-cousins brought this year, we watch commercials on TV that remind us we have to start thinking about New Years, we have to start thinking about our New Year’s resolutions to start working out and eating right. Even the church this year, Lent and Easter are very early this year, and the church is asking you to think about Lenten Bible Studies and 40 days of discipline as we prepare for Easter morning.
Is it all just too much to take in? In that sense, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that we keep celebrating Christmas. In that sense, you should be thanking me that I’m asking you to stay with Christmas and celebrate, rather than moving on to all that faces us in the new year.
We almost have to say something in that manner, something, that keeps Christmas around a little longer, that keeps the spirit of Christmas at least for a few more days. Don’t we? We’ve all been waiting and expecting and preparing during the season of Advent, putting in order, arranging and getting ready for Christmas day and then it happens and we wonder where it went. We make plans and drive hundreds of miles, prepare food for what seems like days, and then its all over, in a matter of hours. Depending on the children in your house, presents may be opened, and Christmas may be over in a matter of 2 minutes and 27 seconds, complete with the wonder of where the additional presents are that need to be opened, because these on the floor just didn’t last long enough.
As many of you know, I was able to travel to Kansas City Christmas this year, and I spent a lot of time with my 5 year old niece and my 3 year old nephew. And part of me wondered the same thing when my nephew Charlie sat on my lap and asked, “is it over? Are we all done?”
Someone once compared Christmas to skydiving. After I heard this comparison, I thought back to my own experience sky-diving and even got out my pictures as I reminisced. Now once you get over the fear that you are jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, and falling thousands of feet to the ground with a backpack that is intended to save your life and make it all better…Christmas really is like that sense of freedom you feel when you jump out of the airplane & are free-falling through the air. You feel the wind on your face & you can see the beauty of God’s world – seemingly the entire world. You can in fact see the curvature of the earth when you are up that high – it is an absolute beautiful sight.
But just a few 45 seconds later, after the brief 45 second free-fall you are reminded that the earth is rushing toward you, so you pull the ripcord. Your parachute jerks open and it’s over. Soon you hit the ground, most likely without much grace or poise, with a jolt that possibly makes you tumble all the way to the ground. For a few brief moments you felt a wonderful exhilaration & then "plop." You are on the ground, facing reality once again, back to the realities of everyday life.
If this is what happens with Christmas – then someone needs to remind us to keep Christmas in our hearts all year long. Someone needs to remind us that Christmas does not have to end with a jolt that brings us back to reality. We need to remember that reality is in the Christmas we need to hang onto.Just how do we hang on to Christmas? How do we respond faithfully to God’s desire for us to continue these feelings and proverbs of “Peace on Earth, Good will to All?” Especially in our world where war continues, poverty groans, hatred runs rampant, and it seems like struggle defines us, how do we respond faithfully to this message of Christmas and Christ’s coming?
I’m convinced that we are ideally supposed to respond to these things the way Joseph appears to have responded in Matthew. We read that after the hoop-la of Jesus’ birth, and angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream instructing him to ‘get up and take his newborn child, and his recovering wife, and flee to Egypt, where he knows no one, and simply wait for the Lord to tell him what to do next.’ Scripture says, “Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt. “ Now granted, I haven’t taken my New Testament studies class just yet, so I haven’t studied this explicitly, but something tells me, we have the abridged version of this story. That an angel of the Lord appears to Joseph, and after telling him he should still care for his pregnant fiancé, who society has probably looked down upon, for being a pregnant, unwed, teenager, and in whom he has to regain his trust after she tells him that God is the one who has made her pregnant, this angel now tells him to take his family to unknown lands for an undetermined amount of time, and that Joseph obeys with one stroke of the pen, saying “Then Joseph got up…” I think they took out the part where Joseph said, “this is enough. You know, I’ve listened to your crazy idea that I should trust my fiancé that she has is carrying the son of God, I’ve traveled to Bethlehem with a 9 month pregnant wife, I’ve delivered a baby in a barn, I’ve let strange shepherds come see my son, and I’ve been greeted by strangers who claim to be kings bringing gifts to pay respect to the king that I call my son. And now you want me to do what?” I think we missed that part of the story.
“I’ve been planning for Christmas since Halloween ended, I’ve been to the mall 137 times, I’ve written 276 Christmas cards and addressed and licked all their envelopes, I’ve worked extra hours to pay for the gifts, I’ve cleaned my house from top to bottom, I’ve made 17 pies to feed the 76 members of my extended family that will came to my house, I’ve gone to Christmas Eve service, lit Advent Candles and sang ‘Silent Night,’ I’ve woken up at 5:30am to open gifts from Santa, put together 1,692 toy pieces by reading an instruction manual that came in every language EXCEPT English, washed 238 dishes, rang the bell for the Salvation Army, directed a Christmas Pageant, bought gifts for the Angel Tree, donated to the “Toys for Tots” drive, made cookies for shut ins, and now you want me to keep “Christmas” with me throughout the rest of the year?
A preacher’s family started to put up a nativity scene in their front yard. All of them were carrying out the little statues to put in their nativity scene and finally everything was in place – Mary, Joseph and the manger and the baby, the angels and shepherds and all the barnyard animals. Then their youngest son came out of the house carrying one of his favorite toys, the figure of the fierce Tyrannosaurus Rex, king of the dinosaurs. It was one of those plastic figures that you inflate, & in comparison to the other figures it was an enormous thing, towering over them all, apart from the obvious fact that it had no place in a nativity scene.
The Dad said to his son, "You have to take that back inside the house because it doesn’t belong there. Dinosaurs existed thousands of millions of years before the baby Jesus, & it just doesn’t belong in a nativity scene.’"But his son insisted, so they finally put it there behind all the other figures - a fierce dinosaur hovering over the Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.
The preacher said, "As we stood back & looked at it, we realized that maybe that dinosaur says more than we realized. For over each of us there is this menacing character that threatens to rob us of all our joy & peace & cheer." "But Christmas reminds us that the baby in the manger is stronger than all the dinosaurs in our lives."
The baby in the manger is stronger than the dinosaurs that tell us to forget about Christmas and start on the next holiday.
The baby in the manger is stronger than the dinosaurs that tell us Christmas is the only time when we should pray for peace.
The baby in the manger is stronger than the dinosaurs that tell us we only need to be religious during the big holidays like Christmas and Easter.
The baby in the manger is stronger than the dinosaurs who steal our Christmas spirit away because of grief, depression, stress, or loss.
The baby in the manger is stronger than the dinosaurs that force Christ’s family to flee to safety because of political unrest brought by news of a new king.
The baby in the manger is stronger than the dinosaur of uncertainty which we face in our lives as we try to keep Christmas with us into the future.
The baby in the manger is stronger than the dinosaurs which threaten the hope in our Christmas story.
The baby in the manger is stronger than the calendar which tells us Christmas is over.
Christmas is not over. And dare I say the work of Christmas is not over. Christmas has just started.
Howard Thurman wrote, “When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flocks, then the real work of Christmas begins.” [Personal emphasis added]
To find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to visit the imprisoned, to forgive a neighbor, to listen to an enemy, to affirm an individual, to rebuild a nation, to bring peace among brothers and sisters – this is the real work of Christmas. And the list could go on forever.
We’ll take down our Christmas tree and put the decorations back in storage for another year. All the presents have been unwrapped, and the suspense of Advent and Christmas morning have ended. But may we listen to the lingering of Christmas. May we listen to the call to respond faithfully, as Joseph did, to the Christmas story. May we remember that the hope and peace, the love and joy, provided in the babe in the manger, are stronger than any of our dinosaurs which threaten to end Christmas according to the calendar.
Woodland Christian Church
December 30, 2007
Sunday, December 16, 2007
I am not going to ignore our past
or how much I cared for you
or how much my life changed because you were in it
but I am done letting it revolve around you
especially since you're not in it any more
I deserve better than you
I deserve the best
and you could never give me that
you could never give me enough
and I didn't ask for too much
I asked for what I deserve
and now I'm done
I'm done with you
I'm done letting you affect my life in any way
I will grow
I will change
I will be better
because I experienced life
but I will give you no credit for any of that
it is because I am a strong woman
I am an intelligent woman
I am a desired woman
and I will make someone very happy
and it will not be you
first it will be me
I am happy with me
and I will make sure I am happy with me
and never let anyone else do anything like you did to me
because I am stronger than that now
I am better than that now
I am moving on....
I am growing...
I am changing....
I am moving on...
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
but I don't love you for being selfish... because you were so selfish, that you couldn't ever think of us... it was always you...then me... and it never became us.... I instantly gave myself up for you, and thought of us...
I gave you everything I had, and I would have given more, had you shown the slightest interest in sharing your life with me... but you made it clear that would never happen...
and it wasn't right for me to neglect my calling to what I am supposed to do in life, because you were selfish and sucked everything out of me...
So now I am trying to figure out who I am without you... but that must be easy for you... becuase you never let me in...
and you never will find someone that will give themselves to you as much as I did...
and now its' too late for you...
it's too late...
Sunday, December 09, 2007
i'm not sure why i can't hate you like i want to
i'm not sure why i know it was the right thing to do
but i do know that i miss you so much it makes my stomach turn in knots
i want to hate you so much
because maybe then i can let you go
but for some reason i can't
and i still wonder or not you ever loved me the way i loved you
i wanted the world for you
i wanted the best things in life for you
i wanted you to be the happiest you could be
and i tried
i tried so hard to give you what i thought you wanted
but now i realize that because i was so wrapped up in you
i forgot about me
i forgot about me
i forgot about what i'm supposed to do in life
and now i do hate you
i hate you because i love you still
and because i did love you
and because i gave myself to you
i hate you because i gave everything of myself to you
i gave you all my energy and neglected my own things
i neglected school
i neglected my jobs
i neglected my family
i neglected my friends
i neglected myself and who i am
but i still want you
and it makes me hate myself for wanting you
why aren't you hurting too?
why aren't you falling apart too?
why are you so excited about moving on with your life?
how are you so easily consoled?
maybe its because you never gave me your heart in the first place
so you've had no trouble finding it again
but i have to find all the pieces of mine
and you still have some of them
alot of them
and i feel like you won't give them up
i want them back so badly
i want to be whole again
and i used to be whole with you
but now i'm just broken
i want to hate you so badly
but more than anything i hate myself for still loving you
Monday, December 03, 2007
around me before
- lots of times,
for lots of reasons -
usually other people.
And most of the time
I was fortunate enough
to have a large lump of
that life hit me on the
head and render me numb
to the pain and desolation
And I survived.
And I lived to love again.
this slow erosion from below
- or within -
it's me falling down around my life
because you're still in that life
- but not really.
And you're out of that life
- but not quite.
I do all right
I do very poorly
I do much,
I do more,
I only transfer
pain to paper
in gigantic Passion Plays
complete with miracles and martyrs
and crucifixions and resurrections.
Come to stay
This series of passion poems
is becoming a heavy cross to bare.
To give you up.
What a bell of freedom
that rings within me.
No more waiting for
that never happened.
No more creative energy
in conversations never had
in emails never sent
in journals never shared.
And, after awhile,
no more insomnia,
no more insanity.
Some more happiness,
some more life.
All it took was giving you up.
But that took quite a bit.
What do I do
now that you're gone?
Well, when there's
nothing else going on,
which is quite often,
I sit in a corner and
until I am
for a while, nothing
inside or out.
Then I think
how much I miss you.
Then I feel
until I am
Interesting way to pass the time.
the sun will rise
in a few minutes
i'ts been doing it
- regularly -
for as long as I
maybe I should
pin my hopes
not on such relatively
trivial matters as
whether you will ever
or whether you
because I'm still not sure
I must conquer my loneliness
I must be happy with myself
or I have
Two halves have
when they coincide...
For those of you who don't know, Michael and I broke off our relationship and the future we had planned a month ago, (today actually). It's been quite difficult the last few weeks, but I have amazing family and friends who have been here both physically in person, and emotionally who have helped me through. It helps that I'm such a crazy busy person, which I know can also be a detriment, but has been helpful lately because I don't have much time alone to contemplate the what-ifs and such. I finally do have just enough time alone to start reflection and start the growth process, which I know still includes some mourning and some pain, but I also know I can handle it to a certain extent now, without it being the end of my day. I don't believe that "everything happens for a reason" in the sense that "this" happened to teach a lesson, or to make me a better person, but I do believe I will find reason in what happened. I believe that the only way to "survive" this is to grow as a person, and become a better person because of what happened. I do know however, that I still need help, and still need support, especially because of the holidays, and because of various anniversaries coming up. I know that God is good, and that I am loved. And I trust that there are many better things to come in life.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Says Fred Phelps...."Like the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, et al., the so-called Christian Church-Disciples of Christ (generally, Congregational Churches) are sodomite churches. They are not true churches of Jesus Christ." -- "Filthy Fags Own Australia," WBC "News Release,"October 14, 1996
I'm glad to know we think mutually of one another. I don't believe that his church, the Westboro Baptist Church, is a true church of Jesus Christ. I don't know that Disciples are THE church of Jesus Christ, but I am confident that we are much closer to demonstrating the love of God demonstrated through Jesus Christ, than he is.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Written by Religion News ServiceOctober 8, 2007
Young people have graded Christianity, and so far, the report card doesn't look good.
Majorities of young people in America describe modern-day Christianity as judgmental, hypocritical and anti-gay. What's more, many Christians don't even want to call themselves "Christian" because of the baggage that accompanies the label.
A new book based on research by the California-based research firm The Barna Group found that church attitudes about people in general and gays in particular are driving a negative image of the Christian faith among people ages 16-29.
"The Christian community's ability to take the high road and help to deal with some of the challenges that this (anti-gay) perception represents may be the ... defining response of the Christian church in the next decade," said David Kinnaman, Barna Group president and author of the book, "UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity."
"The anti-homosexual perception has now become sort of the Geiger counter of Christians' ability to love and work with people."
The findings were based on surveys of a sample of 867 young people. From that total, researchers reported responses from 440 non-Christians and 305 active churchgoers.
The vast majority of non-Christians -- 91 percent -- said Christianity had an anti-gay image, followed by 87 percent who said it was judgmental and 85 percent who said it was hypocritical.
Such views were held by smaller percentages of the active churchgoers, but the faith still did not fare well: 80 percent agreed with the anti-gay label, 52 percent said Christianity is judgmental, and 47 percent declared it hypocritical.
Kinnaman said one of the biggest surprises for researchers was the extent to which respondents -- one in four non-Christians -- said that modern-day Christianity was no longer like Jesus.
"It started to become more clear to us that what they're experiencing related to Christianity is some of the very things that Jesus warned religious people about," he said. "Which is, avoiding removing the log from your own eye before trying to take the speck outof someone else's."
Kinnaman said some Christians -- including those in the entertainment industry -- preferred to call themselves "followers of Jesus" or "apprentices of Christ" because the word "Christian" could limit their ability to relate to people. Even Kinnaman, 33, described himself as "a committed Christ follower," though he has called himself a Christian in the past.
In addition to reporting on the negative statistics, Kinnaman used the book to also give advice -- from himself and more than two dozenChristian leaders -- on new approaches.
"Our goal wasn't simply to say here's all the problems, but to hopefully point a way forward," Kinnaman said. "When Jesus pursued people, he was much more critical of pride and much more critical of spiritual arrogance than he was of people who were sinful. And today's Christians, if you spend enough time looking at their attitudes and actions, really are not like Jesus when it comes to that."
Megachurch pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., used the book to say he hopes the church will become "known more by what it is for than what it is against.
"For some time now, the hands and feet of the body of Christ have been amputated, and we've been pretty much reduced to a big mouth,"Warren wrote. "We talk more than we do. It's time to reattach the limbs and let the church be the church in the 21st century."
Andy Stanley, senior pastor of North Point Ministries in Atlanta, suggested that churches should not focus solely on converting people, ashas been the emphasis for generations.
"If we were able to rewrite the script for the reputation of Christianity, I think we would put the emphasis on developing relationships with nonbelievers, serving them, loving them, and making them feel accepted," he wrote. "Only then would we earn the right to share the gospel."
The research reported in "UnChristian" reflected larger Barna Group studies with about 1,000 respondents as well as the specific study of young people. The sample of 440 non-Christians had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points and the sample of 305 active churchgoers had a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Where does the time go? Where do I fit in anything else? Where do any of us fit in anything else into our lives? Soccer practice, board meetings, bath time, kitchen remodeling, rush hour traffic, doctors visits, countless emails, deadlines, homework, business trips, dining out, selling or buying new homes, and the constant nag of our cell phones, PDA’s and Blackberries…
Not only do these things stress us out, wear us out and tire us out. But, these things also leave us all broken…out of order….defeated…. and hungering for wholeness, as still more is demanded of us and still more pulls us apart in different directions.
On average, parents are working longer hours, for less pay, than 20 years ago and the absence of family life, exhaustion, and anxiety about money is taking a toll on all our lives. We have trouble showing self-restraint, forgetting the ever so important word…NNNNOOOO… and we have trouble prioritizing our time and lives on what WE really need, rather than responding to what society is telling us we need, or need to do.
Where do we find rest? Where do we find our refuge? How do we maintain balance?
Yoga? Reading a favorite novel? Time with family? Taking a nap? Meditation? Time in prayer?
When do we find time to recover from the week? Or make ourselves ready for the next week?
We meet up with our scripture lesson for this week, in the book of Matthew, in the chapters of Matthew that specifically focus on conflict. The stories in chapters 11 and 12 focus on, and teach about CONLICT WITH THE KINGDOM OF THIS AGE. And more importantly, they focus on the radical reorientation of the lives of the disciples, and the radical reorientation of our lives, to which Jesus calls us all, in response to the conflict with the “kingdom” of this age.
The story depicts a conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees: the Pharisees were concerned with what Jesus’ disciples were doing on the Sabbath…the Pharisees were concerned with the outward things –such as not healing a man on the Sabbath – and Jesus is concerned with the heart. We have to be careful in looking at this text though. It is misleading, superficial and too simplistic to try and understand this text in terms of a conflict between Jewish legalism and Jesus, or the church’s freedom from the Law of the Old Testament. So in order to try and avoid these mistakes of treating this text superficially or simplistically, we must first get a good sense of the meaning of “Sabbath,” from where it was first used and understood.
Now at this point, I could bore you all to tears with an epistemology of the word “Sabbath” in both Greek and Hebrew, citing their first uses, root words, and various conjugations, and show you how much I’ve been studying! But something tells me that you all might be asleep by the time I am finished.
Instead, let’s just think to two very important uses of the word Sabbath, two stories that we are all aware of, that we all know, and that both have very significant implications on this story in Matthew. Observing a Sabbath day was not only commanded by God as part of the Ten Commandments, the fundamental, covenantal law of the Hebrew people, but was also observed and blessed by God at the beginning of creation. And in this sense, keeping the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath was not, and still is not a superficial or casual thing. In times of duress, faithful Hebrew people would rather die than break God’s law by misusing the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a joy, a delight, and a pleasure, not a burden.
And even still, when the Sabbath is mentioned in the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath has an ingredient, and aspect of social justice expressed in it. Servants and slaves of the day received a much needed rest, of which they could not be deprived, because it was commanded by God, and the poor and the hungry joined in eating and drinking, because a feast of eating and drinking was a huge part of observing the Sabbath. The Sabbath was just, and it was divine. Sabbath was supposed to be a radical reorientation of people’s lives. It was supposed to reorientate ALL people towards rest and rejuventation, re-creation of themselves really.
Sabbath is divine, because not only did God command that we observe the Sabbath, but because God also observed Sabbath. And we don’t observe it just because God did, on that seventh day of creation… monkey see monkey do. We don’t do it, simply because we SEE it being done. But instead we do it, we also observe Sabbath, or NEED to observe Sabbath, because we are created in the image of God. Because in God’s very image, we are created and made, and as creatures of God’s image, we too need that chance of respit. We need that chance to practice self-preservation, to say NO, to slow down and refocus ourselves. We need that chance to rebel against what the rest of society is telling us, to ignore Sunday as any other day, and to practice this thing we call… wait, what is it? This thing called….rest.
Now, as we return to the story in Matthew, we see that the religious system of that day had mainly become concerned with measuring up to a bunch of external criteria – a very long list of things to do and things not to do. The laws surrounding the keeping of the Sabbath had become extremely burdensome, and time-consuming with explicit rules about how far you were allowed to walk, what you were allowed to do around the house, even what help you were allowed to offer someone in need. They had even made a rule that you could provide aid to save someone’s life, but anything less than imminent death had to wait until the Sabbath was over. This man in Matthew with the shriveled hand was not in immediate danger, so Jesus’ healing him was a violation of the Sabbath laws.
What this tells me about this time period, is that the religious leaders had lost touch with the original purpose and calling of the Sabbath. They had become preoccupied with outward adherence to the requirements of the law without regard for the heart. Obedience to the forms of religion had become the most important thing, and the heart of the people didn’t matter. THIS is what we see Jesus confronting. God’s will in observing the Sabbath is that human good, and human mercy, is to take precedence over laws, even over those laws that concern God’s honor. In fact, setting aside these laws that concern God’s honor, in order to show human compassion and mercy, is even a way of honor God.
But, just like the Pharisees, we too are in danger of missing this purpose, the initial will of God for observing the Sabbath. There is a danger that we come to a point of just going through the motions – showing up at church week after week, singing the songs, sleeping through the sermon – without putting any heart into it without putting any thought into how this is affecting our own relationship with God. We can get lazy, take our focus off God and onto the details of our lives, and forget what it is we are really doing and why we are doing it. We sing instead of worshipping. We day-dream instead of praying. We just write a check instead of focusing on our tithing. We listen to be entertained rather than to understand and experience God. We look for “Jesus-tainment” that makes us feel good and happy, warm and fuzzy inside. And we become afraid of hearing a prophetic word about what it is that God is asking us to do in our lives and in this world. There is a danger of our relationship with God becoming nothing more than routine. We get so caught up in this routine, that we fear God breaking us out of this routine, and asking us to love God’s children, asking us to show mercy and compassion to ALL God’s children, and to do more within this community of Christ, than just coming to church once a week.
On February 11, 1962, Parade Magazine published a brief story, titled: “Still Munching Candy.” It says…
At the village church in Kalonovka, Russia, attendance at Sunday school picked up after the priest started handing out candy to the peasant children. One of the most faithful children was a pug-nosed, aggressive boy who recited his Scriptures with proper piety, pocketed his reward, then fled into the fields to munch on it. The priest took a liking to the boy, and persuaded him to attend church school. And this was preferable to doing household chores from which his devout parents excused him. By offering other incentives, the priest managed to teach the boy the four Gospels. In fact, he won a special prize for learning all four by heart and reciting them nonstop in church. Now, 60 years later, he still likes to recite Scriptures, but in a context that would horrify the old priest. For this prize pupil, who memorized so much of the Bible, is Nikita Khrushchev, the former Communist czar. Nikita Khrushchev who lightly mouthed God’s Word as a child, later declared God to be nonexistent -- because the cosmonauts had not seen God in their journeys through space. Khrushchev memorized the Scriptures for the candy, the rewards, and the bribes, rather than for the meaning it had for his life. He knew the words, but knew nothing of their meaning or of the life that comes through knowing God.
Jesus confronts that exact attitude in this story. Like the prophets of the Old Testament, Jesus gets in the face of the religious leaders, and says in verse 12 that doing good is lawful on the Sabbath. Caring for a fellow human being, actually caring and ministering to their needs, is more important that living up to some external requirements of the law.
Yet among all of this, we want to make sure and emphasize again, it would be superficial and simplistic of us to understand this conflict in terms of Jesus versus Jewish legalism. It would shallow of us to pin humanitarianism against ritual. We are doing no such thing. In the same way that the Pharisees simply needed help, and further understanding of God’s covenant, of God’s commandment, we too need that reminder. There is nothing wrong with the laws of God’s covenant, rather what is wrong is us. The problem is when we get caught up in the rules and the regulations, rather than the meaning behind them.
And this challenge is still here for us today.
Are we just going through the motions? Did we come to church today just because that is what you do on Sunday morning? Did you show up just so that others would look at you and think you are doing the right thing, that you are a moral person, when really you have spent the rest of the week doing things that you know are wrong? Have we come to practice the ritual, while forgetting the mercy we are called to embrace every day of the week? Have we come on Sunday to make up for not remembering the compassion we are called to Monday through Sunday?
Let me turn that around and phrase it positively. Did we come to worship God today?
Now like I said, one of the many things I did this week was attend a preaching conference for two days at the seminary. If you can imagine “rock stars” of preaching, then this was it. The celebrities of preaching, on America’s Preaching Idol. We jokingly called these men, the “Fab 5.” And while offering amazing insights on preaching, it was a story from one of them that stuck with me the most. As has happened many times before, this “celebrity preacher” had been “booked” to preach in a local church, and had brought out huge crowds. Hundreds had come to see their favorite celebrity preacher at this particular church service one Sunday morning. However, this celebrity preacher was unable to make it. He had been detained by some airline issues and some flights. And after realizing that he was not going to show up, one of the local ministers was going to have to announce this to “the crowds” and let them know this celebrity would be unable to make it. Of course, it was the new student minister at this local church that would draw the short stick, and was picked to announce in front of the congregation that the preacher in the bulletin would not be preaching this morning, but that worship would go on as usual. This student minister steps up into the pulpit, something she was fearful of doing in the first place, and says, “I am sorry to say that (your celebrity preacher) will not be able to be here this morning. However if you have come to worship God, worship will still begin at 10:30am. Thank you.”
Did you come because you love God, and couldn’t imagine letting an opportunity to bring the Almighty an offering of worship slip by without taking advantage of it?
Or did you come because you are hurting, and you knew that by bringing yourself here you would find strength, encouragement, and power to change the hurt into healing?
Maybe you came to dive into God’s Word, to see what message might be provided for you today?
Did you come out of love, for God and for all God’s people that are gathered here? Did you come to serve God, sharing the gifts, given to you, to share with the rest?
Jesus quotes the prophet Hosea in verse 7, saying “If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent,” Jesus reminds the Pharisees, and us of where God had expressly told the Israelites that mercy – an action which flows out of a heart of love – is what God desires far more than an empty sacrifice. Compassion for God’s children is what God desires more than ceremonial worship. God wants our hearts. God wants mercy for fellow children of God. God wants love, regardless of race, creed, sexual persuasion, gender, age, economic standing, or doctrine. God wants forgiveness, even if it means forgoing a commandment which honors God. God wants us, when we come to worship, when we come to the Sabbath, God wants us to truly understand the words, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
For some of us, our experience of church, our upbringing, our encounters with Christianity in general have been very much like the Pharisees – lists of rules and expectations pushed upon us, which sometimes we accepted just to please those around us, with understanding them or seeking understanding of them. But that isn’t what God is asking. That is not God’s desire. God wants our love. God wants our worship as a response to God’s grace, as a result of what God has done for us. We run the risk of “cramming” God into those busy lives of ours, because it is something that must be done, just something that we have to do. But God does not want emply presence, nor an empty, meaningless slavery to ritual. Rather God wants a relationship where we interact with Him on a personal level, because we have been invited to do so on a special day, on this our Sabbath day.
Friday, October 12, 2007
"No statement, theological or otherwise, should be made that would not be credible in the presence of the burning children."
Until you have stood in a gas chamber, or seen the grass grow a different color green because there are ashes of human beings burried underneath.... or stared at a pile of human ashes the size of a football field... or felt the overwhelming, heavy, burden of simply walking into a concentration camp.... just please stop talking ann.... I beg you.
Ann Coulter on CNBC Show: Jews Need 'Perfecting'
By E&P Staff
Published: October 11, 2007 12:15 AM ET
updated 1:30 PM ET
Appearing on Donny Deutsch's CNBC show, "The Big Idea," on Monday night, columnist/author Ann Coulter suggested that the U.S. would be a better place if there weren't any Jewish people and that they needed to "perfect" themselves into -- Christians.
It led Deutsch to suggest that surely she couldn't mean that, and when she insisted she did, he said this sounded "anti-Semitic."
Asked by Deutsch whether she wanted to be like "the head of Iran" and "wipe Israel off the Earth," Coulter stated: "No, we just want Jews to be perfected, as they say. ... That's what Christianity is. We believe the Old Testament."
Deutsch told E&P's sibling magazine, Adweek, today, "I was offended. And then, and this was interesting, she started to back off and seemed a little upset."
Asked to gauge her reaction, Deutsch said, "I think she got frightened that maybe she had crossed a line, that this was maybe a faux pas of great proportions. I mean, did it show ignorance? Anti-Semitism? It wasn't just one of those silly things."
A transcript, provided by Media Matters, follows.
DEUTSCH: Christian -- so we should be Christian? It would be better if we were all Christian?
DEUTSCH: We should all be Christian?
COULTER: Yes. Would you like to come to church with me, Donny?
DEUTSCH: So I should not be a Jew, I should be a Christian, and this would be a better place?
COULTER: Well, you could be a practicing Jew, but you're not.
DEUTSCH: I actually am. That's not true. I really am. But -- so we would be better if we were - if people -- if there were no Jews, no Buddhists --
COULTER: Whenever I'm harangued by --
DEUTSCH: -- in this country? You can't believe that.
COULTER: -- you know, liberals on diversity --
DEUTSCH: Here you go again.
COULTER: No, it's true. I give all of these speeches at megachurches across America, and the one thing that's really striking about it is how utterly, completely diverse they are, and completely unself-consciously. You walk past a mixed-race couple in New York, and it's like they have a chip on their shoulder. They're just waiting for somebody to say something, as if anybody would. And --
DEUTSCH: I don't agree with that. I don't agree with that at all. Maybe you have the chip looking at them. I see a lot of interracial couples, and I don't see any more or less chips there either way. That's erroneous.
COULTER: No. In fact, there was an entire Seinfeld episode about Elaine and her boyfriend dating because they wanted to be a mixed-race couple, so you're lying.
DEUTSCH: Oh, because of some Seinfeld episode? OK.
COULTER: But yeah, I think that's reflective of what's going on in the culture, but it is completely striking that at these huge megachurches -- the idea that, you know, the more Christian you are, the less tolerant you would be is preposterous.
DEUTSCH: That isn't what I said, but you said I should not -- we should just throw Judaism away and we should all be Christians, then, or --
COULTER: Well, it's a lot easier. It's kind of a fast track.
COULTER: Yeah. You have to obey.
DEUTSCH: You can't possibly believe that.
DEUTSCH: You can't possibly -- you're too educated, you can't -- you're like my friend in -
COULTER: Do you know what Christianity is? We believe your religion, but you have to obey.
DEUTSCH: No, no, no, but I mean --
COULTER: We have the fast-track program.
DEUTSCH: Why don't I put you with the head of Iran? I mean, come on. You can't believe that.
COULTER: The head of Iran is not a Christian.
DEUTSCH: No, but in fact, "Let's wipe Israel" --
COULTER: I don't know if you've been paying attention.
DEUTSCH: "Let's wipe Israel off the earth." I mean, what, no Jews?
COULTER: No, we think -- we just want Jews to be perfected, as they say.
DEUTSCH: Wow, you didn't really say that, did you?
COULTER: Yes. That is what Christianity is. We believe the Old Testament, but ours is more like Federal Express. You have to obey laws. We know we're all sinners --
DEUTSCH: In my old days, I would have argued -- when you say something absurd like that, there's no --
COULTER: What's absurd?
DEUTSCH: Jews are going to be perfected. I'm going to go off and try to perfect myself -
COULTER: Well, that's what the New Testament says.
DEUTSCH: Ann Coulter, author of If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans, and if Ann Coulter had any brains, she would not say Jews need to be perfected. I'm offended by that personally. And we'll have more Big Idea when we come back.
DEUTSCH: Welcome back to The Big Idea. During the break, Ann said she wanted to explain her last comment. So I'm going to give her a chance. So you don't think that was offensive?
COULTER: No. I'm sorry. It is not intended to be. I don't think you should take it that way, but that is what Christians consider themselves: perfected Jews. We believe the Old Testament. As you know from the Old Testament, God was constantly getting fed up with humans for not being able to, you know, live up to all the laws. What Christians believe -- this is just a statement of what the New Testament is -- is that that's why Christ came and died for our sins. Christians believe the Old Testament. You don't believe our testament.
DEUTSCH: You said -- your exact words were, "Jews need to be perfected." Those are the words out of your mouth.
COULTER: No, I'm saying that's what a Christian is.
DEUTSCH: But that's what you said -- don't you see how hateful, how anti-Semitic -?
DEUTSCH: How do you not see? You're an educated woman. How do you not see that?
COULTER: That isn't hateful at all.
DEUTSCH: But that's even a scarier thought.
Monday, October 08, 2007
This is sad but true.... what do we pride ourselves on knowing these days? People make millions off TV Shows that capitalize on the fact that the American public is becoming among the stupidest individuals in the world. Not for lack of resources, but for lack of trying to stretch beyond the crap that plays in front of our eyes on our nightly televisions. Because we are fed crap each night by media that dictates what we are and are not supposed to know. And this "epidemic" is not simply going on in "typical" America. Even our presidential candidates don't know that we were founded on the standards that no one should have to suffer religious persecution. Nor does he apparently know that Barack Obama is in fact a member of the United Church of Christ.... a CHRISTIAN church Mr. McCain....
McCain: I'd prefer Christian president
Presidential hopeful says nation was founded on ‘Christian principles.’
WASHINGTON - Sen. John McCain said in an interview published Saturday that he would prefer a Christian president over someone of a different faith, calling it "an important part of our qualifications to lead."
In an interview with Beliefnet, a multi-denominational Web site that covers religion and spirituality, the Republican presidential hopeful was asked if a Muslim candidate could be a good president.
"I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles ... personally, I prefer someone who I know who has a solid grounding in my faith," McCain said. "But that doesn't mean that I'm sure that someone who is Muslim would not make a good president."
Later, McCain said, "I would vote for a Muslim if he or she was the candidate best able to lead the country and defend our political values."
Asked about Republican rivals Mitt Romney's Mormon faith, McCain said, "I think that Governor Romney's religion should not, absolutely not, be a disqualifying factor when people consider his candidacy for president of the United States."
The National Jewish Democratic Council called the Arizona senator's comments repugnant.
The American Jewish Committee issued a statement saying that McCain should know the United States is a democratic society without a religious test for public office.
Amid the criticism, McCain has sought to clarify his remarks. In New Hampshire Sunday, he said the most qualified person could be president, regardless of his or her religion.
The Arizona senator was also asked about the confusion over which Christian denomination he belongs to. "I was raised Episcopalian, I have attended the North Phoenix Baptist Church for many years and I am a Christian," McCain said. He added that he has considered being baptized in the Baptist church, but he does not want to do it during the presidential race because "it might appear as if I was doing something that I otherwise wouldn't do."
I want to end by again quoting a fantastic preacher named Fred Craddock... "The American people have more knowledge of and exposure to Britney Spears' navel than to the 13 million children who go to bed hungry each night." What are you going to read/watch tonight?
Friday, September 28, 2007
Please take a moment before reading this to visualize hate.
The Virginia Tech massacre.
I would imagine that none of you defined hate in a very positive way. Merriam-Webster defines hate as a feeling of extreme enmity or hostility towards someone, or something. Hatred is also used to describe feelings of prejudice, bigotry or condemnation against a person or group of people, such as racism, and intense religious or political prejudice. The term "hate crime" is used to designate crimes committed out of hatred in this sense.
Did anyone picture Fred Phelps when I asked you to visualize hate? Who is Fred Phelps? He is a man that does not use the word 'hate' casually. He intentionally spreads a message of hatred wherever he goes. You may have seen one of the many stories in the national news or magazines about the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. Fred Phelps is the pastor at this church. Phelps and the 71 confirmed members of his church (63 of whom are family members) travel the country to "warn" the rest of us. According to Phelps, homosexuality and its acceptance have doomed most of the world to eternal damnation.
The members of the WBC, an independent Baptist church, are known for preaching with slogans and banners denoting phrases such as "God hates fags", "AIDS cures fags", and "Fags Die, God Laughs", and they claim that God will punish homosexuals as well as people such as Bill O'Reilly, Coretta Scott King and Howard Dean, whom their church considers "fag-enablers." Phelps has also held up signs thanking God for the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.
Phelps subscribes to John Calvin's doctrine of Unconditional Election, the belief that God elected certain people for salvation before birth. Phelps says that almost nobody is a member of the elect, and furthermore that he and the members of his congregation (mostly his family) are the only members of the elect, because they are the only ones unafraid to publish the current relevant application of the Word of God – in particular, that "God hates fags."
Phelps and his followers frequently picket various events, especially military funerals, gay pride gatherings, and high-profile political gatherings. Phelps stated political views and activities are primarily driven by his view that the United States of America is "a sodomite nation of flag-worshipping idolaters."
Gay rights activists, as well as Christians of virtually every denomination, have denounced him as a producer of anti-gay propaganda and violence-inspiring hate speech. The Westboro Baptist Church is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an American, non-profit, legal organization whose stated purpose is to combat racism and promote civil rights through research, education and litigation.
Fred Phelps and the WBC will be right here in Lexington, Kentucky this weekend, protesting the University of Kentucky. Just seven days ago, the UK board of trustees overwhelmingly approved a new benefits package that will take effect on July 1, and will extend its employer paid benefits to university employee's domestic partners, including same-gender partners. The WBC will be protesting this recent action at the UK graduation ceremony on Sunday, May 6, at Rupp Arena.
When asked about the upcoming protest, a Westboro Baptist representative, Shirley Phelps-Roper, said that "we are trying to help this nation connect back. These children have been taught defiance against God, and now these children are dying. That's why the shooting at Virginia Tech happened."
The same group was in Kentucky in December, protesting a military funeral in Stanton. Before protesting UK, the group plans to picket the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. "We've had a lot of dealings with Kentucky as of late, and we know they're in some trouble," Phelps-Roper said.
The group will have a designated area outside of Rupp Arena where it can protest out of the way of pedestrian traffic.
We must let this group know that their message is not welcome in our state any day, but especially on a day when the focus should be on the 2007 graduates and their accomplishments. Please join me and others outside of Rupp Arena at 12:30 on Sunday, May 6, to peacefully protest the message of hate brought into the Bluegrass state by this group of extremists. In order to keep the focus away from hate, I ask that you do NOT come to attack Fred Phelps. Instead, we should convey a message of acceptance and equality for the groups that the WBC will be targeting, namely the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community. Furthermore, we MUST come with a message of congratulations for the 2007 graduates of the Univ. of Kentucky and their families.
I hope to see some familiar faces outside of Rupp Arena on Sunday.
CALL, EMAIL, OR MESSAGE ME FOR SPECIFIC INFORMATION ON HOW TO JOIN US IN A "NO HATE TAILGATE"!
Friday, September 21, 2007
"Doctors graduate at the top of their classes at college and then spend nearly a decade in grueling work at medical schools. Most doctors don't make a dime until they're in their early 30s, just in time to start paying off their six-figure student loans by saving people's lives. They have 10 times the IQ of trial lawyers and 1,000 times the character. Yeah, let's go after those guys. On to nuns next!"
How about on to the ministers next Ann, ever remember us? We have comparable amounts of student loans and most of us don't start school until after we're 30, because our culture doesn't support people who are going to follow their heart and their calling simply because no one understands why you would want to work and never make a dime. We don't listen to our calling because we grow up in a consumerist society that doesn't support that, because our calling won't make us rich. So we work in corporate america, and when we finally decide to follow God's calling on our life, we end up NEVER making a dime because whatever we make goes to those same student loans to put us through school. (Or at least those of us who aren't out to work at a mega-church with theology which disgraces God and God's will for justice of all, and a mega-church which is disgracing the radical political message of Jesus' life)
Ann, have you ever heard of a liberal minister? Oh that's right, someone, actually a very close, long time friend, told me once that they don't exist. Again, my skin is crawling off my body... I AM A LIBERAL MINISTER. I EXIST. So how can you say Ann, that the church of liberalism is Godless? Granted, I haven't read your book Ann, because I refuse to give you any of my limited disposable income, I'd rather buy crack cocaine, but I would just like to respond to the title of your book.... The church of liberalism.... is "the church." Jesus' message was a radical message of love, which calls on us to respond to God's calling on our life, not the calling most of us hear of our capitalist society. God calls us to fight for and stand in solidarity with those in the margins of society. The individualism that conservatism is calling our society to live in, is killing us. The church of liberalism is one of community, which is what we are called to live in. We are not called to live as a group of individuals who claim community simply because of proximity, but we are called, by God, in our liberalism and all, to live in community, and I believe that is what this dreaded word, liberalism is calling us to do. So how is liberalism Godless? Capitalism is supporting this growth in modernity and individualism, and it is killing us.
Larry Rasmussen says...
“More precisely, [modernity] remains powerful and active though badly hurt, like a wounded giant floundering about on a series of realities we have only begun to recognize as interlinked: capitalist and socialist economies so totally out of sync with nature’s requirements for regeneration as to quietly threaten ecocide; the destruction of indigenous cultures and peoples; the breakdown of close community and organic traditions; the disintegrative effects for society, psyche, and nature of living out the image of mastery and control as the primary image for humanity itself; the development of weapons of apocalyptic destruction; the mountain of debt incurred by maintaining civilization and paying for its debris, costs far exceeding those needed to build it in the first place; the immiseration of the growing urban poor and the evacuation of many rural areas in the manner of “Appalachias”; the recognition that while different, the forms of oppression of women, many minorities, Third World, and indigenous peoples are linked and arise from forces that oppress land and nature as well; and the onset, amid self abundance itself, of frazzled nerves, addiction, stress, rootlessness, chronic fatigue, and depression as serious diseases of a scattered soul and a restless, impoverished spirit.”
Individualistic society is not serving a large portion of the population well, and something must be changed. What must be changed, is that we must commit to living in community, standing in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in the margins, and we must commit to listening to the God that calls for radical liberal change. Being a Christian, listening to the God I know exists is what calls me to be a liberal....So I ask you Ann Coulter, how is liberalism Godless?
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Let me propose a little scenario... You are a law student. You feel like something in your life has finally pushed you or prodded you to go to this school, put your life on hold and pay all sorts of money to go to graduate school. So you go. And at first, everything is hunky dorey (sp? whatever....) And your classes are insanely interesting, they make you think, they make you excited about what you're doing. Then you get to your second semester. Now the classes are different. Now you are learning about the origins of law in this country, in wherever you grew up, but you're learning about a different kind of law than you are used to. You are learning about the laws in such a way that they no longer feel like they apply to you, like maybe they don't have any value to you any more, because how are the even relevant to today's society? So then you also start learning about other systems of law around the world. And those seem to also work nicely, but some of them also seem to suck beyond all belief. But all of them seem valid. All of them also seem like they are useful, and could apply to society around the world. And some of them also seem to say that they are the ONLY way to run a country's system of laws, or otherwise your country doesn't even deserve to exist.
Now you're to the point that you are questioning the existence of laws anywhere. Do they really exist? Who teaches them to us? What makes them important? Meanwhile, why you are questioning them, you realize you are questioning the very reason you even came to law school. If you believed in this country's system of laws so much, then why would you even be thinking these things? Or why are you thinking these things now that you know all of this about the rest of the world, and the rest of these systems of thinking.
But in the mean time, you also have a full-time job that they label as only a "student" position. Which the pay still puts you under the poverty level, could qualify you for section 8 housing, and can qualify you for food stamps, but you also worry about "working the system" so you don't take advantage of any of them, you just take a second job. But in this first job, this first "student" position, you are expected to act as if you are a full-time lawyer. You are expected to know everything that someone who has passed the bar exam would know, while at the same tim still learning those same things. You are also expected to guide your clients in the right direction, giving them advice on how to follow the law, on what to do when they are in trouble, and to defend them, well because they ARE your clients. But this is in only one type of law. You are only practicing one kind of law, but are expected to be gaining experience in all types of law, through something... maybe your dreams?
So... somehow, you manage to make it through school, through your school work. You try to separate your personal feelings about the law, whether or not you even believe in it any more, from the academic side, and also be a law scholar. So you manage that... all while still wondering if "laws" even exist. What's the point... what do laws actually do? People break them all the time, and never pay attention. They half-ass pay attention, like when they put a seat belt on, just because they pass a copy.... but you are still supposed to interpret, understand, uphold, and teach this law to your clients when they come to you.
Now.... let's say you are studying for the Bar. Granted, that is a hard task. But on top of that, you've also been going through an interview process that has taken up the entire time you are in graduate school. A group of 5 - 15 people have been selected, pretty much at random, and are going to determine whether or not you are going to be a good lawyer, and reflect what they understand your job to be. Never mind what you think your job should be, even if you intend to explain it to them.... even if you pass the Bar.... these people are going to determine whether or not you receive your license to practice law. But instead of them being just random people, they are your "clients." They are going to "partake" of your services, of all kinds. They expect you to know all about their specific needs and to answer those needs at some point in this three year interview process. And all in all, whether or not you become a lawyer, is dependent on them. They have a final interview. Some of them may be professional mothers who don't understand constitutional law from Nemo, their son's favorite cartoon. But they care about you, and your journey... so you are expected to relate that to them. Some could also be lawyers themselves, or maybe they've taken a few law classes, or maybe they are professors of law at a different school. Or maybe they are the wife or husband of a lawyer, so their view of lawyers is a little jaded. Or maybe they know something about law, somewhere in the middle. But all in all... THEY determine whether or not they will support you and "recommend" you to be a lawyer. It doesn't matter how much or how little THEY actually understand law... but they determine if you are capable of doing that for others. They determine if you actually understand it, even though they might not.... think they do, or have no idea one way or another.
Now you graduate.... and you are going to be paid less than 15% of what most people around the world, who also have a graduate degree are making. Yet, you also worked this other ridiculous second job while you were in graduate school, and you most likely have the most student loans out of anyone you know who went to graduate school.
So YES, we do pray.... A LOT.... but welcome to a little of my experience.... :)
Monday, August 20, 2007
Why? I know the truth can be hard, and that you may not want it all at one time, all in your face, but why would you rather NOT know the truth? Why would you want to be lied to? If the point of religion is to find true meaning of life, or truth in the gospel, or just truth in general, why are there certain things we would rather be lied to about? Why would you want to be lied to in general, but also, why would you want to be lied to about certain things, and not about others? What happened to "the truth will set you free?" I "understand ignorance is bliss," because yes life is easier when you are ignorant to truth, but is your life really free if you live it in ignorance? How is your life authentic if you live it in ignorance? Authenticity...why would you want to live a fake life, just because it feels better and is easier? How can you feel like you've ACTUALLY lived life if you live it in ignorance, or in lies, and in non-truth?
Friday, July 20, 2007
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
....OK - so maybe its not for another 22 months - but I'm still T-H-R-I-L-L-E-D!!!
JAMIE AND HANNAH ARE ENGAGED!!!
Jamie is my New Zealand brother... our parents have been friends since before I was born, he came to live with my family while he was in HS, I went and lived with his family when I studied abroad in NZ and now our families are all very close. I have two NZ brothers and a set of NZ parents, and shortly I will have a NZ sister-in-law! ;)
They are planning to get married in March 2009 - allowing everyone enough time to plan to get down there to NZ - and they've asked ME to perform the ceremony! HOLY COW!! How cool is it that I will have performed the wedding ceremonies for two of my three brothers' weddings?!?!
At any rate - I couldn't be more excited - I absolutely loved EVERY minute of my time in New Zealand and I will probably resort to selling plasma if I need to in order to get the money to return down there. Not to mention that now we have to figure out how to get Michael down there too! Can we both sell plasma? So maybe that's a little drastic - but seriously, we will be there - one way or another! :)
Congrats to Jamie and Hannah - I couldn't be more excited!!
Friday, May 18, 2007
I'm really looking forward to this summer, to the trips I'm going on for church, and the opportunity to "settle in" gradually. I'm glad I can focus more on my work at church and make up for this last semester. I feel like I let my kids down a bit at church because I was so busy at school, so I'm really glad that I'll only be taking three classes in the fall.
Random and probably unexciting news I'm sure - but my life has been random and crazy lately, so it seemed like an appropriate blog.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Monday, April 30, 2007
Anti-gay church to picket graduation ceremony at Rupp
by Alice Haymon
Issue date: 4/30/07
In an effort to convince Kentuckians of America's damnation, members of an extreme religious organization plan to picket UK's graduation commencement ceremony on Sunday.The protesters from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. will be holding signs displaying messages such as "America is doomed," "God hates fags" and "Thank God for the shooter," in reference to the Virginia Tech attacks, said Shirley Phelps-Roper, a church representative. They have been peacefully picketing around the nation for the last 16 years because they are opposed to the message American Christians generally teach - the lesson that God loves everyone."We are trying to help this nation connect back," Phelps-Roper said. "These children have been taught defiance against God, and now these children are dying. That's why the shooting at Virginia Tech happened."The same group was in Kentucky at the end of December, protesting at a military funeral in Stanton. Before picketing UK, the group plans to picket the Kentucky Derby on Saturday."We've had a lot of dealings with Kentucky of late, and we know they're in some trouble," Phelps-Roper said.After hearing rumors of this demonstration late last week, UK administration met with Lexington Police, UK Police and Lexington Center administrators to set up a plan that will maintain order, UK spokeswoman Kathy Johnson said.The group will have a designated area outside Rupp Arena where it can protest out of the way of pedestrian traffic. Lexington and UK police will be present to keep things from getting out of hand."This group is not confrontational in and of itself, but they will try to get a response from people around them," Johnson said. "We would hope people would focus on the commencement and not the picketers. This day should be about the graduates, not about the picketers and their message."The message the group brings is one that will offend a lot of people, including homosexuals - who the group targets - and Christians who have a different interpretation of the Bible, said Susan Matsubara, the student director of UK's OUTsource."The group thrives on attention and they get it through their hateful message, which the media covers and chooses to acknowledge," said Matsubara, a gender and women's studies and political science senior. "The commencement is about the students, we should focus on the 2007 graduates and their accomplishments instead of allowing this disruptive group to destroy our day."The same group protested in Lexington in 2002 when the Cathedral of Christ the King baptized triplets who would be raised by two gay men. The Lexington community rallied against the protest at the Lexington Arts Place in a Hate-Free Lexington rally."Any hateful group or ideology can negatively impact a community, but that's why it is so important for our community to come together and show our strength and solidarity against hate," Matsubara said.Although there is nothing definite planned, Matsubara said there probably will be a response to the protest. She predicted it will be a celebration how the community can unite against hate.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Regardless - click here if you would like to view his obituary, or the "guestbook" of the many friends and family, he had quite a life! He was my biggest fan when I told my family I would be headed to seminary, so it makes me want to succeed and do my best all the more, and makes the stress of catching up on my school work even greater! Ah! But it is with great thanks and appreciation for the prayers and support from my friends and family like you, that I know I can do it! ;)
My Dad gave the eulogy at the funeral, and although you may not want to read it because you don't even know my grandpa, it's quite interesting to read some of the things my grandpa experienced in his 94 years... such as, my grandpa lived during the terms of 40% of US Presidents...or witnessed the widespread use of the telephone, from the "shared" and "community" phone lines, all the way to recently cable telephones!
Here it is....
What makes a Great Man? Some might say that a man’s greatness is measured by his wealth, a single major life achievement, lots of headlines or numerous titles either before or after his name. But, I don’t think a man has to have a bestselling book written about him to be called Great. To me, a great man is one that lives a life filled by good examples and the highest morals while positively impacting the lives of a lot of different people along the way.
By this measure, and many others, our Dad, Carl Phillips, was a Great man. He was solid like a rock and a great living example of humanity. Always willing to lend a helping hand, a warm heart and a tender ear. He always stood up for what is right and was one that held his ground when it came to doing the right thing. One of his frequently heard by-lines was “Just use common sense”. He was resilient, fair and above all consistent.
In honor of Carl Phillips today, it seems appropriate to recall and celebrate some of his life attributes that made him who he was… Carl Phillips, son, brother, uncle, husband, Dad, (I called him “Pop”), Grandpa, Great Grandpa, Great-great Grandpa…and trusted friend.
He was a remarkable person who lived in remarkable times. He is a classic example of the “Greatest Generation” coined by the newscaster & author, Tom Brokaw, in his book of the same name. I did a little research about the significant events and developments that occurred during our Dad’s lifetime. Even a short list reveals some astounding historical events that he has seen or experienced since the year of his birth–(just listen to these)
The widespread use of telephones, mass produced cars and machinery, first manned airplane flight, sinking of the Titanic, 2 cent postage stamps, talking movies, construction of Fenway Park in Boston , Woman’s Suffrage, the Great Depression, Social Security, 40% of all US Presidents (17 to be exact), the addition of four new states into US statehood, the first transatlantic flight, two horrible World Wars, countless national conflicts and regional wars, two Russian Revolutions, air conditioning, transistors, ball point pens, sneakers, the atomic bomb, television, credit cards, the extinction of polio and small pox, breaking of the sound barrier, the four minute mile, computers, space travel, a man on the moon, a tripling of the US population…(whew) I could go on and on.
In his adult years, he was a living history book which impressed nearly every one he knew. Just after Mom passed away in 1993, he agreed to accompany Pat, Laura and I on a vacation to Washington DC. Of course, we spent quite a bit of time touring the Smithsonian Institute. If you’ve ever been there, you may recall that the American History pavilion has thousands of notable classic American artifacts such as Betsy Ross’ first American flag and thousands of relics that paint a picture of early America. Repeatedly, Dad would point out to his young and amazed 11 year old granddaughter, “Laura, …I used to ride in a car just like that one over there and my uncle had a farm tractor like this one here”. He provided for Laura, and many others, a priceless living connection to American history that no textbook could ever achieve.
He was born in 1912 on a small family farm in southeast Kansas. He came from a long line of modest dirt farmers. Countless times, he fondly recalled many stories of the simple life growing up on the farm. You could almost feel the hot summer sun in the fields, the dust from the dirt roads and the chill of the night during a walk to the outhouse. He and his four siblings attended a nearby one room country school house, Pleasant Hill School. Some of the mainstays in his early farm life were a tiny two-bedroom farm house for a family of seven, outdoor plumbing, kerosene lanterns, a wood burning stove, dirt roads and a lifetime of love and warm memories. Until he was an adolescent, the family got around only in a horse & buggy. Later as an adult, he had these little ridges on the top of his head. He always explained them as “buggy tracks” caused by when he supposedly fell out of the family buggy as an infant and got ran over. I think he said he was in fifth grade when he was allowed to ride Goldie, the family horse, to school. He was just a boy during World War 1, but he remembered neighbors and family friends that went “over there” to fight the Great War, some never to return.
He and Mom met at their county high school in the 1920’s. Their first date was an ice skating party on a local farm pond. Mom must have been quite a catch for Dad. Her high school senior yearbook listed her desired future occupation as a “necking teacher in the school of experience.” Neither one of them ever offered an explanation on just what that meant! He, and much later his three sons, all married their high school sweethearts. The Great Depression was in full swing when they first lived and worked in Manhattan KS and then followed job opportunities to Kansas City where he spent the last 70 years of his life.
Perhaps some of his strongest qualities came from the fact that he rapidly grew into adulthood during the Great Depression. We learned a lot about the Depression ways of life from Dad, such as learning to make do with whatever decrepit possessions you had rather than just going out to buy something new all the time. Even the folks who had jobs during the Depression learned to repair stuff rather than replace it. As a trained auto mechanic, he had a great mechanical knack of how to fix stuff…. Just about anything. Nails, tacks, screws, wire, glue, a soldering iron and an old set of wrenches & sockets could go a long way towards making something that broke a whole lot better. For many years, he was a saver. His basement workshop had 2 or 3 dozen old coffee cans and baby food jars full of rusty bolts, clamps, screws or fasteners. And he usually knew right where he had deposited one of those thing-a-ma-jigs needed to repair something. But, his fanaticism for fixing things sometimes went a little too far. He always insisted on gluing back together a shattered coffee cup or special china dish or re-wire the toaster so it could burn toast again. Not too many years ago, his old initial ring that he had worn for eons, cracked through on the back side. But rather than spend a few bucks at a jeweler for a proper repair job, he used his workshop soldering iron to repair his gold ring. When he was finished, it looked like you-know-what. But he was mighty proud that he could fix a broken piece of jewelry. I also remember a time when I was serving in the Army and while away Pat was using my old car during one of her nursing school rotations in Topeka KS. The old car broke down and Pat was terrified. She called Dad, who drove 75 miles to rescue her and he repaired the broken carburetor with nothing but a simple paper clip. He trusted his repair so much that he even swapped cars with Pat and drove my old Volvo back home to KC.
Was he a cheap-skate? No, just a guy that the Depression taught him how to get by with what you had.
He was always working on some kind of unique, home-spun project, thinking he might be able to invent something big. There was the special carburetor injection additive he invented to make a car engine run cleaner and more powerful only to have his little sideline business get trampled by the giant STP conglomerate. He was always seeking something new out of nearly nothing….like a homemade leaf compactor that he tried to make a hay-bail out of fallen leaves from the yard so he might burn them in the fireplace in place of normal firewood. One time he paid money to the local Midwest Research Institute here in Kansas City to try and come up with some kind of beneficial use of the hapless hedge tree hedge apple. After a failed project, he later declared “the hedge apple is the most worthless natural item in the world.” I don’t think he ever watched the movie “Caddie Shack”, but the Bill Murray gopher segment could have been written about him. Dad always enjoyed feeding the birds in the backyard but was incensed by the squirrels who repeatedly raided his bird feeders and scared away all the beautiful birds. For several winters, he was nearly possessed with a self-appointed mission of inventing ways to keep the squirrels out of his bird feeders. Suspension cables, creative squirrel guards, greased support posts and countless other defense techniques kept him occupied for several years. He would laugh at himself just as hard as we would laugh with him.
I share these little anecdotes about our Dad because he would want us to reflect on his lighter side as well as his more serious and productive endeavors. His priorities were always his family and the church. He was a life-long, devoted member of the Methodist church, starting with the little one room church in the country where they had to appoint their own teachers since the itinerant preacher only came around one Sunday each month. His faith in God and his commitment to service was solid and exemplary during his entire life. For many of his Adult years, he touched many lives as a devoted Sunday school teacher of either teenagers or adults. When we close today, we are going to read a prayer he wrote and repeatedly shared with his Sunday school students. Except for the church Women’s groups, he served on every church committee ever created. He always loved church dinners, except the ones put on just by the Woman’s groups. As a farm boy, he was a simple “steak and taters” kind of eater but he would never eat church casseroles because they were just “women’s luncheon food” he would say. Some of his dearest and most trusted friends throughout his life were Methodist preachers. He and Mom would often have their preacher friends and spouses over for dinner and introduce them to the sinful games of Canasta, Hearts or Scrabble.
He was truly a wholesome and dedicated family kind of guy. He was proud of his three sons, but he always had to out-think what kind of trouble we might get ourselves into. We were probably about 21 years old before we realized that Dad was also a teenage boy once. When we turned 16, he would let us drive a car if we had a job. But, he would never allow us to get a motorcycle… ”just too dangerous”. Of course, he repeatedly rescued us from our own car mishaps, or scrapes with the law, even in the middle of the night. He always wanted Mom’s place to be in the home caring for her family. He expected a hot meal every evening and always enjoyed her home cookin’…especially her special deserts (except when she went just a little too far with her new “grape pie” recipe)
He was a passionate guy. He loved his family but never trusted doctors, hospitals or evangelists. Even though he had some strong views, he would forgive hypocrites, Republicans and sons who sometimes would make dumb decisions (remind me sometime to tell you how he had to talk me out of buying a piece of Florida swampland). He was well-read and could talk about almost any subject with ease. On most any weekend, you would find him helping one of his sons warm up for a baseball game or his head under the car hood trying to figure out where that noise was coming from. Because of his early work as an auto mechanic, he was always fascinated by cars. Especially Buicks….I think he owned something like 16 Buicks in a row…”I like the ride” he would say. Unlike his sons, he was a careful driver and never had a serious car wreck in 80 years of driving. And, he could mill the heads of an old flathead V8 motor with his eyes closed.
Dad worked at trying to stay in touch with a lot of distant family members. If you ever wanted to know how so-and-so was doing, chances are he had probably just seen them or talked to them. For decades, he would make the annual trek every Memorial Day (he called it “Decoration Day”) to about 5 family cemeteries with fresh flowers in-hand. Oh, did I mention his family devotion? Many of us called him a Saint as he served as Mom’s full time caregiver during her 9 years with Alzheimer’s.
Now we celebrate the life and remember this Great man. But, we don’t want to remember him as he struggled over the last 3 months of his 94 years. We want to remember him as a great living example of the legacy he left us which was truth, trust, faith and devoted love and support. Lyle, Dave and I were blessed to have such a high quality Dad. All of you know him in your own special way. He impressed many with his unwavering set of high values and friendly demeanor. If you needed help, he was there to support and comfort you. If his sons needed a good talkin’-to, to straighten them out, he seldom held back. We are all blessed to have shared in the life of a Great Man who lived a great life during the greatest of times. We say goodbye to him as he now joins his high school sweetheart to once again enjoy her delicious lemon meringue pie. If there was ever a great example of a Great man for all of us to look up to, it was indeed Carl Phillips.
Friday, April 20, 2007
Alcohol may make fruit more fruitfulA splash of ethanol boosts antioxidant levels, researchers sayA fruity cocktail may not only be fun to drink but may count as health food, U.S. and Thai researchers said on Thursday.Adding ethanol - the type of alcohol found in rum, vodka, tequila and other spirits - boosted the antioxidant nutrients in strawberries and blackberries, the researchers found.Any colored fruit might be made even more healthful with the addition of a splash of alcohol, they report in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.Dr. Korakot Chanjirakul and colleagues at Kasetsart University in Thailand and scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture stumbled upon their finding unexpectedly.
They were exploring ways to help keep strawberries fresh during storage. Treating the berries with alcohol increased in antioxidant capacity and free radical scavenging activity, they found.Any colored fruit or vegetable is rich in antioxidants, which are chemicals that can cancel out the cell-damaging effects of compounds called free radicals.Berries, for instance, contain compounds known as polyphenols and anthocyanins. People who eat more of these fruits and vegetables have a documented lower risk of cancer, heart disease and some neurological diseases.
The study did not address whether adding a little cocktail umbrella enhanced the effects. :)
Sunday, April 15, 2007
It is interesting to consider that in the other three gospels, we actually read very little about Thomas. He may be mentioned, but it’s only in John that he emerges as a distinct personality among the rest of the disciples. But even then, there are only about 150 words about Thomas.
There just isn’t much about the disciple Thomas.
Among those 150 words however, there is more than one description, but we rarely hear about the others, or even hear about anything except for Thomas’ doubt. Let’s take another look at the Gospel of John, and see what he has to say about Thomas.
In John 11, when Jesus was looking toward Jerusalem, the disciples thought that it would be certain death for all of them. Of all the disciples though, it was Thomas who said: “Then let us go so that we may die with him.” It was a courageous statement, but we hardly ever remember Thomas for it.
Our next view of Thomas is in the same story that we normally think of him as doubting, but I want to take another look at this story. We normally fail to point out that in this story, we have one of the very few, if not the only place where the divinity of Christ is bluntly and without question stated. The same story that gives Thomas his infamous nickname is the same story that has Thomas making an earth shattering confession of faith. Thomas’ confession in verse 28 of our passage this morning, responds to Jesus, saying “My Lord, and my God.” Thomas doesn’t say teacher, Thomas doesn’t say just Lord. Thomas doesn’t say Messiah. Thomas says GOD, G-O-D, GOD. Jesus is called God without qualification of any kind. Thomas say it with conviction as if he were simply recognizing a fact, like 2 + 2 = 4, or the sky is blue, or the grass is green. Thomas confesses, you are my Lord and my God! But still, we continue to only remember the words of someone who doubts.
Unfortunately, history has only remembered Thomas for the other part of this scene that we read today. The resurrected Christ made an appearance to the disciples in a home in Jerusalem. Thomas wasn’t present, so when he finally heard about the event, it’s not surprising that he refused to believe it. Maybe Thomas was the forerunner of a modern day cynic. Maybe the news simply sounded too good to be true. I’m sure we know that feeling, things are just too good to be true. It simply isn’t surprising that Thomas said, “Unless I feel the nail prints in his hands I will not believe,” And it isn’t surprising that that we always remember Thomas for this “doubt-filled statement.” Maybe it isn’t surprising, because it’s exactly what many of us might say; had we just seen Jesus killed on the cross, and now our friends are telling us that he is alive and that they have seen him again, many of us might have doubt as well.
Heck, I’m from the Show-Me State. It’s in my blood that I don’t believe anything unless you show me. Maybe Thomas was really from Missouri?
That phrase, “the Show-Me State,” it has many myths as to how it came to be. But most of them center around the same principle. The most well known story, is that of a United States Congressman who was speaking to a group of people in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. When he stepped up to speak, he wanted to begin by questioning the accuracy of an earlier speaker’s comments. He made his questioning known by saying, “Good sir, I come from a state that raises corn and cotton, cockleburs and Democrats. Your frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.”
I can only imagine Thomas saying, “Your hopeful and eloquently told story does not convince me. I have SEEN Jesus die on a cross. After all that I saw him go through, after the pain of the experience on the cross, I am unconvinced that he is NOT dead. You are simply going to have to show me.”
Of all the stories surrounding the origin of the “Show-Me State” phrase, regardless of what the stories are, most all of them imply a certain “self-deprecating stubbornness and devotion to simple common sense.”
Now while I will ignore the part that just called me stubborn, I’d like to focus on the “devotion to simple common sense.” Maybe that sounds like some of us. While some of us might never have completely doubted God or our faith, sometimes it is easy for our doubt to creep in.
As we learn about dinosaurs in grade school, it was easy to let a little doubt creep in, while we wondered how dinosaurs fit in with the Bible?
Or when we hear about ALL the different animal species of the world, maybe we wonder if there ever was a boat large enough to hold ALL of those animals?
And even with the resurrection story – is it all that hard to see a little doubt? We all know the story, and know how gruesome the story can be told, it’s not surprising that someone might have a little doubt.
Some of us grew up in an atmosphere that said, to doubt was almost equal to being anti-Christian, or….pagan, even. Some of us still live in that reality every day, being questioned by other friends and family, who say that doubt, or question, proves a lack of faith. When we try to learn about or support the teaching of evolution in schools, some of us are told that we have no real faith, because we may have doubts about scientific nature of the creation stories of Genesis. We don’t doubt that they are in our Bible for a reason, that they still speak the word of God, that they still provide us with truth, but maybe it’s not SCIENTIFIC TRUTH?
Maybe doubt is a good thing? A theologian and scientist of the 19th century said, “A doubter is a person who searches for God with a thousand questions; while an unbeliever is apathetic to God.” In our day and age, a doubter struggles with God and living the godly life, and all the questions that come with how to do that, while an unbeliever may just struggle in life, struggle to pay the bills, make a way or simply live life. A doubter may struggle with questions and the search for God among those questions, but we are not unbelievers simply because we have questions.
Alfred Lloyd Tennyson also says “There lives more faith in honest doubt, than in half the creeds of any religion.”
We encounter some kind of doubt, some sort of questions in our faith all the time. Doubt is what helps us to grow our faith. If we never question our faith, our understanding of God, or something in our religious framework, then we will not grow. If we never question ANYTHING about our religious lives we run the risk of ending up stale, aching and empty. It is the questions that help us to find answers. It is our doubt that leads us to a greater faith. It may be a long, hard journey, but in the end, it is hard for a strong sturdy faith to have never encountered any kind of doubt or question. The encounter with questions is what makes a faith strong and sturdy. Some say this is how faith works. The more you doubt and question, the more you eventually come to understand, and the more you understand, the more you embrace your understanding of what that faith means in your life.
This is not to say that we all need to turn into cynics, questioning everything we encounter about our faith. This is not to say that we need to leave our faith behind and turn to doubts and questions in order to find our faith again. This IS SAYING that the doubt Thomas embodied, the doubt that Thomas represents, is not necessarily a bad thing. Since when did questions become bad? What happened to “there are no silly questions?” Since when is it wrong to admit that we don’ understand everything, or to ask God to clarify something?
Thomas’ story is not about doubt. Poor Thomas, who has been the scapegoat for some 2000 years now, Thomas did not show great doubt. Thomas was the disciple who showed great faith.
Faith is what happens when we are willing to embrace the doubts, ask the questions, and then to face the answers. Faith is believing in something that is beyond our ability to comprehend it, but it is not afraid to try, nor ask more questions and show a little doubt if necessary.
We have all been doubting Thomas’ at some point in our lives. But it is into our doubting and searching hearts where Jesus breaks in and reveals himself to us. God knows our need for a first-hand encounter. That’s why Jesus came to Thomas in a first-hand encounter and that’s why God came to us in the person of Jesus . We have been given a vision of God’s sacrificial love in the person of Jesus. We’ve been given a personal encounter of Jesus to help us with our doubts.
We have all been doubting Thomas’ at some point in our lives. We have all had doubts and questions. But it is in these doubts and questions that we open our lives to the presence of God. It is in these doubts and questions that our faith becomes stronger, that we encounter God. Thomas’ story was not told to remind us of the danger of doubt. The story of Thomas is there to remind us of what great things, what great faith can come from simply relying on our instincts, and asking a few questions
– even if that means having a little doubt.