Sunday, February 29, 2004

54 The Passion of the Christ

I saw the movie Saturday morning with about 1,000 other members of our church and their guests. Was not unlike a worship service in that context. Complete silence as we all left the theater.

Gibson only focused on those 12 hours. People who despair that Christ's teaching about peace or the poor aren't covered, or that it doesn't provide the hope of the resurrection, are missing the point. Have they never been to a "passion play?" My husband said the message he came away with was of forgiveness. The resurrection is beautifully depicted, but for someone unfamiliar with scripture, it would be completely missed because it passes so quickly.

The teachings about the poor in the NT are clearly from the OT--Jesus added nothing to the basic moral and ethical teaching of the Jews. To find what is unique, you have to go to the final week of his life, his death and his resurrection.

I closed my eyes during the most violent parts as I probably would have had I been in the crowd shouting "crucify him." (And in reality, the crowd is us.) Only because I can understand Latin did I know what was going on.

I may actually go again because there are many subtleties and nuances that I missed. For instance, the part of Satan is played by a woman but has a male voice-over. Making Satan genderless, beautiful and eerie, almost irresistible to look at, was brilliant. Mary, Jesus' mother, is the only one in the crowd bold enough to stare down Satan. Having Judas hang himself with the rope tied around the head of a dead, rotting donkey was another one--a flash back to Palm Sunday perhaps? The cheers and accolades are dead and dying and the crowd that praised him now ask for his death.

Every scene had much to ponder. In response to the critics who say the violence isn't depicted that way in the Gospels, I say look at the OT prophecies and do your own research on crucifixions--there were thousands. Read Foxes' Book of Martyrs if you think cruelty of torture shouldn't be any more graphic than what the four gospels depict. Pick up a newspaper and read about African children having their arms and hands chopped off by warring ethnic groups--could words really tell the true horror you would see in person?. The gospels also don't describe clothing or pottery, but that doesn't mean they are left out of the story.

The actor playing Jesus has the initials J.C. and was 33 when the film was made (I heard him say that in an interview).

Saturday, February 28, 2004

53 Honor your father and mother

Honor your father and mother--which is the first commandment with a promise--that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. Eph. 6:1-3
This morning I had a piece of apple pie with a slice of cheese to honor Mom. She made fantastic pies, and a slice of pie was her favorite breakfast! I wrote this poem for her when she was 85.
Pie for Breakfast

My favorite breakfast,
(Twinkle in her eye),
Must certainly be a
Piece of apple pie.

Doughnut, toast, cereal,
All of those are good.
But I'm feeling hungry
Is it understood?

Oil, flour, water, salt,
That is all it takes,
Crust so light and tender,
Easier than cakes.

Cherry, lemon, pumpkin,
Green tomato, lime.
Sour cream or Shoo fly,
If you have the time.

Bagels, biscuits, gravy,
They don't make me sigh,
Nor jelly on a roll:
Give me apple pie.

Freedom, wild abandon,
Oh, I love it so!
And now I'm Eighty-five,
Who can tell me no!
I'll honor Dad, who always seemed to be dieting after he gave up smoking in 1949, at lunch with a can of Slimfast.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

52 The Means of Grace

Another great class last night from Pastor Dave. I can't think when I've enjoyed a class at church this much, and how nice that we are doing it together and can discuss the readings. Also, since my husband grew up Presbyterian (Calvinist) and I was Church of the Brethren (anabaptist) we both have our own ingrained assumptions.

Dave did his usual moving back and forth across the room to demonstrate various positions from Roman Catholic to Baptist in Baptism and Holy Communion, and again placed himself in the middle to represent where the Lutherans stand on God's giving believers the Gospel with something 1) visible, 2) instituted by Christ and 3) connecting us to forgiveness.

He gave two interesting examples on baptism. He noted that the Lutheran view is about 1) what God has done, not human decision, and 2) relationships. He compared a baby's ability to respond to God's initiative to her ability to bond with her parent--we don't ask a baby to speak her affection and interest in her mother, or to choose her.

Next, he told us that he has baptized adults by immersion while a missionary in Africa. In Cameroon, where he was a missionary and pastor, Christian refugees from Chad had settled temporarily in his area (he noted that the different Christian missionaries had different areas in an informal agreement). Under the teaching of a Lutheran pastor, they understood the Lutheran baptism views of sprinkling with a small amount of water. However, the elders came and ask him if he would baptize by immersion so that when they went home to Chad, as they all intended to do, their baptism would be recognized by their church. Pastor Dave agreed, knowing the amount of water isn't the issue--rejoicing with new Christians in their baptism was.

Monday, February 23, 2004

51 Geography and the Internet

Today I received a letter from the Chair of Graduate Studies, Department of Geography, The Ohio State University, asking me to participate in an "Activity-Internet Diary Survey" sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The researcher wants to understand the effects of Internet and Non-Internet use on women's daily activities and travel patterns, and its relationships with those of men, if there are any, within a household. The letter says I was randomly selected, but I suspect Dr. Kwan knows I have three blogs.

Then Nathan Bierma at his weblog at Books and Culture also writes about geography, or rather counters the futurist Thorton May's "Geography is Dead." He writes:
Never before have people had such access to such resources to measure and explore the dimensions of physical space. Besides, the awe of our ability to connect digitally requires something meaningful to connect in the first place. If, as May foresees, we evolve into a singular, generic cosmopolitan world, it won't really matter whether we talk to someone down the block or across the globe—everyone will think and act essentially the same. Until then, the allure of sending an e-mail to Paris or dialing up a map of the Amazon River makes global communication enticing.
I guess that explains why the Department of Geography is checking around to see if my internet use is affecting my travel patterns. They only want 2 days--if I do Monday and Tuesday, I go to 2 different coffee shops. If I do Thursday and Friday, I am mail courier for the church and go out to eat with my husband. This looks like fun! I haven't made it into a major research study since the pig poop guy at the Iowa hog farm acknowledged my help.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

50 Don't call us--we'll call you--maybe

Jody Brown at Agape Press recently wrote about a survey done by Barna Research that found through a sampling that 55% of Protestant churches don't have a human being to answer the phone during normal business hours! During December Barna called 3,400 randomly selected churches, at least 5 times in a 2 week period during different times of the day. Sadly, most churches don't answer their phone. Full story here.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

49 Jesus on film

With all the publicity about Mel Gibson and his Passion of Christ film, it is a good time to look at what else is said about Jesus in film. Over at the blog The In Season Christian Librarian Linda writes:
“If you receive updates from Librarian's Index to the Internet, then you will have noticed the bibliography Jesus: Real to Reel: Bibliography and Web Resources for Religion/Theology and Film. I've mentioned some of the links before such as Hollywood Jesus, but this is great for those who want a complete, if not exhaustive resource. LII states it "has been set up to collect into one place resources for studying the historical Jesus through modern cinematic presentations of Jesus' life and teachings." It features journal article citations and links to online articles and Web sites on the portrayal of Jesus in film. Includes related citations to the Bible and film and religion/theology and film." “

Friday, February 20, 2004

48 I think she'll make it

Sherri Williams in the Columbus Dispatch Thursday has a story about the struggles of a single mom with two children and two minimum wage jobs. At one time she had been a medical records specialist, had quit her job to take another one, but that fell through. After a period of unemployment, she was squeaking by with two jobs.

It was a thoughtful story emphasizing her exhausting schedule. Apparently by the time the story ran, she had changed jobs again and was cleaning at the OSU Medical Center for $2 more an hour and full benefits. However, what I found interesting was the photo of the dry erase board in her home that listed all her payments and when they were due, like rent, electric bill, cable bill, car payment. . .and tithe. I think she'll make it.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

47 If you've ever wanted to take back anything you wrote that is in print . . .

. . .[I beseech you] to read my earliest books very
circumspectly and with much pity, knowing that before now I too was a monk, and one of the right frantic and raving papists. When I took up this matter against Indulgences, I was so full and drunken, yea, so besotted in papal doctrine that, out of my great zeal, I would have been ready to do murder -- at least, I would have been glad to see and help that murder should be done -- on all who would not be obedient and subject to the pope, even to his smallest word. . . .

I tell these things to the end that, if thou shalt read my books, thou mayest know and remember that I am one of those who, as St. Augustine says of himself, have grown by writing and by teaching others, and not one of those who, starting with nothing, have in a trice become the most exalted and most learned doctors. We find, alas! many of these self-grown doctors; who in truth are nothing, do nothing and accomplish nothing, are moreover untried and inexperienced, and yet, after a single look at the Scriptures, think themselves able wholly to exhaust its spirit.
Dr. Martin Luther, 1545

Published in: Works of Martin Luther Adolph Spaeth, L.D. Reed, Henry Eyster Jacobs, et al., Trans. & Eds. (Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Company, 1915), Vol. 1, pp. 10-11.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

46 God's Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

My husband missed a board meeting Monday night so he could attend our class at church. The topic was predestination. Pastor Dave first announced that there is no unity on this topic in Christendom. The class was spellbound as Pastor Dave would shift from the left side of the room to the right side to illustrate the "landscape," gesturing as he explained the positions of Pelagius (God would not command what we are not able to do) and Augustine (Command what you will, but grant what you command) in the early centuries of the church. Then he jumped ahead 1000+ years to Jacob Arminius, 1560-1609 (humans are free and the offer is for all) and John Calvin, 1509-1564 (God pre-determined and chose those who believe) during the Reformation. Then with a big smile he placed himself in the center of the room and said we Lutherans live in the tension between God's sovereignty and our free will to believe. He provided us with a long list of scripture using the words chosen, elect and predestine.

After the class I was looking at a website called Reformation Ink, and found a link to an Arminian creed (based on Jacob Arminius' belief and followed by many Christian denominations). It is a parody, probably not considered funny by many, but I think it does illustrate the Arminian view of the human's choice and decision in faith, with a few pokes at the rapture and "miracles aren't for today" crowd:

“I believe in God who once was Almighty, but sovereignly chose not to be sovereign; and in Jesus, my personal Lord and Saviour, Who loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life, Who came into my heart when I asked him to, and is now seated at the right ventricle of my belief in Him, Who walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way, and tells me I am His own, Who shall come again with secrecy to rapture us out of here, Whose Kingdom shall last one thousand years; And in the Holy Ghost, who did some weird stuff at Pentecost, but doesn’t do much more anymore except speak secretly to the hearts of individual believers. And I believe in this local, independent, and powerless church, insofar as it is in line with my personal interpretation of the Bible and does stuff I like; in one believer’s baptism for the public proof of my decision for Christ; and in giving my personal testimony for soul winning. And I look for the identity of the Antichrist, and know that the Last Days are now upon us. Ay-men.”

Lewis Loflin of TN has a website that says otherwise--he loves Pelagius and Arminius and hates Luther and Calvin, and he writes about TN and VA as third world Banana Republics. It's worth taking a look.

Monday, February 16, 2004

45 Family Disagreement

The Southern Baptist Convention may withdraw from the Baptist World Alliance, a global fellowship of 211 Baptist unions and conventions with about 47 million members. SBC claims the group embraces "aberrant theologies" that include support for women as pastors and also is not happy that the Baptist World Alliance voted 75-28 to accept the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship into the alliance last year which split from the SBC in 1991. Story at the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

44 Lutheran Midwives and the Doctrine of Vocation

The Journal of Lutheran Ethics Vol. 4, no.2, February 2004, has a fascinating article on Lutheran midwives in the 16th century, and their specific responsibilities which included praying for the women and children in their charge, providing services regardless of ability to pay, emergency baptism, hearing confession if the mother were on her deathbed, and absolution.

"The case of midwives in early Lutheran Germany thus illustrates the spread of Lutheran theology from the pulpit into the laws and institutions of early modern society, preserving early Protestant claims about lay prerogatives even in the midst of the institutional forms of the later sixteenth century. To the debated question of the effect of the Reformation on women for good or ill, the study of Lutheran preaching and law about midwives encourages a positive answer. In the face of countervailing trends in early modern educated society and gender relations, the doctrine of vocation was used by Lutheran pastors and councilmen to defend and define midwives' work as a praiseworthy Christian calling of service to the neighbor."

Saturday, February 14, 2004

43 Happy Valentine's Day

Yesterday I stopped by the church to pick up some books and to fill out some room reservation forms so The Visual Arts Ministry can hang two art shows in April and May. The volunteer at the desk recognized my name and said she had been in an exercise class with my husband. Then she told me this story. About five years ago she was widowed and left with two young children. My husband brought flowers to the class for all the women on Valentine's Day, which was the first holiday without her husband. She said it meant so much to her and was the only Valentine she received. She never told him how she treasured his thoughtfulness, so passed it along to me.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

42 For Phil

Love, trust, obey to the end
Beautiful Savior, special friend.

Jesus is living and real
No matter what today I feel.

In spite of feelings or pain
and when I so loudly complain.

When away from Him I swing,
or those days when in close I cling.

He is always at my side
For my deep hidden sins he died.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

41 The wedding

We're using a Max Lucado title in our women's group at church, "Experiencing the Heart of Jesus." On p. 77 he describes a dramatization used in his church to illustrate how we ask others, instead of Jesus, to help us with our burdens.
"A wedding is reenacted in which we hear the thoughts of the bride and groom. The groom enters, laden with luggage. A bag dangles from every appendage. And each bag is labeled: guilt, anger, arrogance, insecurities. This fellow is loaded. As he stands at the altar, the audience hears him thinking, Finally, a woman who will help me carry all my burdens. She's so strong, so stable, so . . .

As his thoughts continue, hers begin. She enters, wearing a wedding gown but, like her fiance, covered with luggage. Pulling a hanging bag, shouldering a carry-on, hauling a makeup it, paper sack--everything you could imagine and everything labeled. She has her own bags: prejudice, loneliness, disappointments. And her expectations? Listen to what she is thinking: Just a few more minutes and I've got me a man. No more counselors. No more group sessions. So long, discouragement and worry. I won't be seeing you anymore. He's going to fix me.

Finally they stand at the altar, lost in a mountain of luggage. They smile their way through the ceremony, but when given the invitation to kiss each other, they can't. How do you embrace someone if your arms are full of bags?
Lucado leaves this scene and continues, "There are certain weights in life you simply cannot carry. Your Lord is asking you to set them down and trust him. He is the father at the baggage claim [seeing the 5 year old] trying to drag the family trunk off the carousel. . .'Set it down, child. I'll carry that one.'"

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

40 Festering Feston

I missed the article in the Wall Street Journal in which Tom Feston, CEO of MTV, expressed his outrage that MTV staff have been maligned by the opinion that they make their living peddling soft core kiddy porn. But I did see the letters to the editor Tuesday (Feb. 10) commenting on his outrage. To the last comma and period, they ridiculed him:

Letter 1:
  • leading edge of producing outrageous, offensive material
  • he seemed satisfied that the show was appropriate for 8 million children between 6-11, which simulated sex, lyrics, goping.
  • used the juvenile, “everybody’s doing it” excuse
  • suggested MTV help the youth culture grow up.

  • Letter 2:
  • tastes and morals of the 18-24 demographic can hardly be considered representative of the culture
  • Feston needs to expand his circle of contacts

  • Letter 3:
  • comments on Feston’s “self deluded sophistry”
  • says he achieves ratings through titillation and glorification of sybaritic, salacious and inebriated behavior
  • No thinking person believes that “claptrap” about reflecting current values

  • Letter 4 : The program was a burlesque show put on by a hypocrite--the Cliff Notes version of MTV programming

    Letter 5: Feston doesn’t get it that the Super Bowl is viewed by millions of little kids--it was not HIS audience--the one attracted by constant emphasis on sexual innuendo.

    "The Cliff Notes version of MTV." Now that’s good writing.

    Sunday, February 08, 2004

    39 Lift High the Lord

    This morning in church there was a processional of three people, one with the cross, one with the Bible and the third with a huge multicolored banner with a white dove on it on a long pole 8-10 ft. tall. She stood and waited up front holding the banner high while the congregation sang, “Lift High the Lord, Our Banner.”

    I could see from the back she was quite small and admired her strength and steadiness as she held the banner high. When the first two came down from the altar area, she began to swing the banner around her head in rhythm with the music. Swoosh. Swoop. Around and around. I held my breath--would the banner hit someone if she faltered or lowered her arms if they weakened? Her strength was amazing. When the music ended and she turned around to walk back down the aisle, we could see it was Pam--my husband’s aerobics and weights instructor for 10 years. My husband whispered, “She’s the only person in the congregation strong enough to do that.”

    Saturday, February 07, 2004

    38 Remembering Mom

    There isn't much of my Mother in me, but I noticed just a bit today. A group of women at church have decided to formalize their relationship and will begin meeting for study and fellowship. At this time, there are about 9 and they haven't all met. I offered to fix dinner for them at our home on Valentine's Day so they could get acquainted and do some planning, and as far as I know, the inaugeral event is on schedule.

    As I was running through the routine in my mind--preparing the food, setting the table to look festive and welcoming, clearing the table for dessert--I thought of the years my mother offered her farm home in the country as a religious retreat for small groups (she didn't live there). She would set the table with white linen and china and prepare delicious "comfort" food to serve in the large, gracious dining room with a fire place and floor-to-ceiling, built-in china cabinets designed by my grandmother in the first decade of the last century. Mom thought it was great fun--particularly the way people enjoyed family style eating in a lovely setting. When I was younger I didn't quite see my mother's joy in this, but I think I'm starting to catch on.

    Friday, February 06, 2004

    37 How to Meditate

    In Rick Warren's book The Purpose Driven Life, he writes:
    When you think about a problem over and over in your mind, that's called worry. When you think about God's Word over and over in your mind, that's meditation. If you know how to worry, you already know how to meditate!" p.90

    Thursday, February 05, 2004

    36 Shopping for Christmas

    This is a good time of year to shop for next year's Samaritan's Purse shoebox gift. Plastic shoe boxes were on sale for $.99 a few weeks ago. Monday I was able to buy long sleeve turtle neck t-shirts for about $1.20--50% off the 50% price at Meijers. Also found a cute little two piece jogger suit, and got it for $4.50.

    I need to loose my birthweight--about 10 lbs. If I'm successful, I could name it, and buy clothes for it instead of feeding my face.

    Wednesday, February 04, 2004

    35 Sold out for God

    "All About God is a small group of sold-out believers serving Christ on the Internet. We place compelling websites at the top of the world's search engines to reach a skeptical and hurting world with powerful evidence for the Christian faith. In a nutshell, we view the Internet as a primary mission field of the 21st century.”

    Although not affiliated with a church or denomination, you’ll recognize some of the names supporting the site, Saddleback Church/Purpose Driven ministries, Campus Crusade for Christ/Jesus Film Project, International Bible Society, and Sowing Circle/Blue Letter Bible.

    They are taking the Great Commission and the greatest commandment to the Internet, and it is a very handsome, well-organized site, with information for the skeptic to the scholar.

    Tuesday, February 03, 2004

    34 “I’ll be there in Spirit”

    How often have we heard THAT one--from Christians and non-Christians, from members of the choir who will be on vacation during that important performance, and from co-workers who were just too over scheduled to make that final meeting of the task force?

    Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Life writes on p. 105: “Do you know what that means? Nothing. It’s worthless! As long as you’re on earth, your spirit can only be where your body is. If your body isn’t there, neither are you.”

    I chuckled when I read that. And seriously, that’s God’s plan for us after our death on this earth. Our body and our spirit will continue in another realm. It’s the Christian’s hope. Unfortunately, Easter seems to be the only time it is emphasized.

    Monday, February 02, 2004

    33 The Winter Quilt Show

    The Quilting Ministry at our church is rather young, and has its second show hanging through February 14 sponsored by the Visual Arts Ministry. The Ministry encourages and instructs new quilters, offers workshops and gets together once a month at the church to work together. Although their primary ministry is to be a support group for each other, they made a quilt for a new owner of a Habitat for Humanity home as a housewarming gift, created a quilt to be raffled at a senior center, and other items for donations.

    Yesterday was the reception for the quilters. We actually signed up three more potential quilters. One woman about 50 stopped to pick up a donut hole and asked me if I were a quilter, but I told her I was with the Visual Arts Ministry and didn't know anything about quilting. She told me it was something she'd always wanted to learn, and thought she might do it when she retires, some years away. "Why not start learning now," I suggested. "Think of it in the same way you do your investments. Your skills can be growing and will bear fruit when you retire." "I never thought of like that" she said and she picked up the pen and signed her name and phone number.

    We asked visitors to sign the guest list, and our choir director mentioned that last week he was teaching at an in-service day for public school teachers held at our church. He had trouble getting the women to come in from the hallway where they were examining the quilts. So after his name we wrote "+400 teachers."