Friday, April 30, 2004

92 Beck's Abortion

I was in the car again today--a little after 11 a.m. and switched on Glenn Beck, who was supposed to be broadcasting an abortion today. What was it? A clip from Al Franken's new talk show, which he ridiculed as "a radio abortion."

He defends his cruel hoax to his upset listeners, both pro-choice and pro-life, by saying he was trying to get people to think about the issues.
  • When your hoax gets people so excited they call the FCC and their local Clear Channel affiliates, you've overstepped.
  • When your hoax has you pleading with a mother who had an abortion years ago and plans to have her 14 year old listen, and you beg her not to, you've compromised a teen-ager's trust in her parents (which was probably shakey).
  • When your hoax makes a mockery of people's strongly held beliefs--pro and con--you're not mature enough to adopt a baby--which is what started all this--his plea for mothers not to abort.

    Yesterday I said he needed to be careful about the protestors. Today he just needs to apologize and fire his board of advisors, if he has one.
  • Thursday, April 29, 2004

    91 Broadcasting an Abortion

    I pick up and deliver the mail for our church on Thursday morning. I have to 1) remember to do it, and 2) remember to do the return run so I end up where I start. It's not rocket science, but mail delivery is not my spiritual gift (see # 89, 90).

    However, that is the one morning a week I listen to Glenn Beck, a rather loud, opinionated talk show host on Clear Channel Radio (I think he lives in Florida, is a divorced Catholic, and a convert to Mormonism). Last week I learned that he and his wife have given up on all the special techniques for creating a baby and have put their names in for an adoption. Tomorrow he is going to broadcast an abortion.

    Although abortion is a legal procedure, just removing fetal tissue, or a parasite in a woman's body (depending on whom you talk to), the FCC and local affiliates are getting a lot of calls. Apparently, broadcasting an abortion (I'm not sure how this comes across on radio) is more offensive to some, than taking the life of an unborn child. Some of his 6,000,000 listeners say they will no longer be listeners, some say he's doing it for publicity, some are calling Clear Channel, and some are applauding him--like a woman who had an abortion 15 years ago, and has never had a day's peace, and another who counsels post abortion women about forgiveness.

    Mr. Beck needs to be careful about the objectors. He's offending both the Pro-Choice and the Pro-Life lobbies (Pro-Life consider it a witness to a murder, therefore object to the broadcast). Dr. Laura used to be in his time slot, and she has virtually disappeared from all Clear Channel stations. What was her controversial topic? She objected to gays and lesbians adopting infants.

    Tuesday, April 27, 2004

    90 Personality/Ability Tests #2

    There is a website called Spirituality and Health that provides self-tests in various areas, including healthy eating. I scored a "good" on that one. But I also took the test on "What Archetypes Are Calling You?" This is based on attention, imagination, meaning and nurturing as revealed in the ways media and advertising affect the test taker. So how did I score on a secular test?

    I scored the highest on
    Sage--I have a curious, critical mind that wants to be stretched and disciplined;
    Jester--I want to lighten up and am tired of being serious (this was a surprise, especially sense I believe I have a great sense of humor). Answer suggested I make fun of people who take themselves too seriously;
    Hero--I want to face and overcome a real challenge. I am drawn to test what I am made of (must be why I'm doing nursing homes and dinner parties);
    Caregiver--I am drawn to being altruistic and helping others;
    Creator--I have a strong need to express my creativity and imaginative potential;
    Ruler--I am drawn to power and responsibility and want to be respected and admired. Now is the time to claim my authority and to take on and fulfill, important responsibilities.

    89 Personality/Ability Tests #1

    Two years ago I took a class at church which used a book called Network; the right people, in the right places for the right reasons, by Bruce Bugbee, Don Cousins and Bill Hybels (Zondervan, 1994). The concept is that believers glorify God and edify others if they serve in the areas in which they have both a passion and spiritual gifts, specifically those listed in various New Testament passages of 1 Corinthians, Romans, Ephesians, 1 Peter, 1 Timothy, and a smattering from the Old Testament (dealing with creativity, which seems to have been left out of the NT). Passion and spiritual gifts are enhanced by a personal style, according to the authors.

    There were people in our church who actually changed their ministries based on this book. My own "gifts" didn't come as a huge surprise to me or others, but just to be a little bit obstinate, I've been having great fun serving God in areas in which I barely register on these types of tests--hospitality and helps. My areas of strength are Wisdom, Administration and Prophecy, and my passion is purposeful, intellectual activity, and my personal style is unstructured tasks.

    Trust me, folks. Wisdom and Prophecy are not spiritual gifts to covet, assuming the various tests I took in this book are correct. You will not get invited to more parties, you will not be consulted about important issues more often, and no one will open your e-mail because of that. Even the gift of Administration will just get you dirty looks if you suggest a better way to organize something.

    No thank you. Serving God in the nursing home or by providing a small dinner party for people who need fellowship meets the criteria of Matthew 25:42-46 for meeting Jesus face to face in this life and eternal life.

    Monday, April 26, 2004

    88 Mother Was Right

    You start saying that more frequently as you age. I think it was a perception, maybe not a phrase, that crept into my mind when I was in college. In our high school years, parents can do nothing right. They really get smart when they become grandparents. By the time they are 80, you are convinced the world cannot survive without their wisdom.

    Specifically I'm remembering her comment about her parents' farm, which was in terrible condition by the time she took over and rolled up her sleeves around 1968. She had sold off most of her share of the land to her brother and sister so she could concentrate on the huge house, yard, garden, outbuildings, orchard, and small pasture. This amounted to about four acres.

    We four adult children fretted over her working so hard--digging up thistles, trimming trees, sweeping out the dirty barn, creating huge compost bins, tearing down dilapidated sheds, rebuilding the grape arbors, patching concrete walks, straightening fences, walking behind the mower and hand trimming--she was, after all, in her mid-fifties and should be taking care of herself. She'd smile, mop the sweat, and pick up her hoe. "I can't save the whole world, but I can restore four acres," she'd say. Smart lady.

    I think of that phrase everytime I get discouraged with the Christian church. Let's put aside for the moment the huge divisions among the denominations. When I was at Calvin College last week I picked up material from the various publishers that just skim the top of those controversies--but a look through Christian sites on the Internet makes the hair on my neck stand up. Yesterday I found one devoted to the 40 days of reading Rick Warren's book, but telling what was wrong with each day--and it was another Baptist site! Then I came across one that wants to dump our Constitution and create a Christian nation and economic system.

    Then I browsed the various materials I brought home just from the Reformed tradition publishers (Calvin College is Christian Reformed). I applaud much that I read. But I didn't have to rub shoulders very long with people of Dutch surnames to discover that the children of Calvin can't agree and get along any better than the children of Luther or Wesley.

    The February 2004 issue of Perspectives; a journal of Reformed thought has a wonderful article on "Curmudgeons: An Apologia" by Thomas B. Phulery that is just written for Christians like me. The pseudonymous author writes:
    Bandwagoners abound. Trained by advertisers and public relations professionals, most of us are willingly herded into one dubious venture after another. . . Nay-sayers are categorized, tolerated, and ignored more than they are cultivated and heeded. Prophets are okay for passing in the hallway. Nobody wants a long car ride with one. Our loss.
    And another on "Evangelical bookstores and the evangelical mind" by James R. Payton, Jr.
    A typical Roman Catholic bookstore offers books that encourage Christian thought and challenges one to ponder the riches of the Christian faith. This leads to an unflattering comparison.
    So I've decided to stick with my "four acres." I'm going to continue to comment, complain and expound that the Gospel is preached and taught so weakly, that it is seldom heard from many pulpits and hard to find inside the covers of many Christian books.

    Today I read a quote from "A New Kind of Christian" by Brian D. McLaren. First he laments that talking about "personal salvation" is exclusionary (and I would agree it is a poor disguise for the Gospel), but then he suggests we just settle for "God loves you. God accepts you. Are you ready to accept your acceptance and live in reconciliation with God?"

    OK. Line up here guys. This Gospel stuff is really easy. Wasn't really any reason for Jesus to die on the cross--probably is just a myth anyway. There are lots of ways God tells us we are loved--sunshine, golf courses, baked salmon, etc. [tongue firmly in cheek, here].

    So, I'll just keep reminding people--pastors, authors, Bible study leaders--there is a foundation on which we need to be building our faith and works, and without that solid base we're all lost and taking others down with us.

    Sunday, April 25, 2004

    87 Pro-Abortion Church Representatives March Today

    I can hear them. The marchers, fellow Christians, who would kill babies. They are on the living room TV and in Washington DC today.
    What do the American Civil Liberties Union, the Episcopal Church USA, Planned Parenthood of America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the National Organization for Women, and the United Methodist Board of Church and Society all have in common? Answer: Each is either an organizer or an endorser of Sunday's pro-abortion rights "March for Women's Lives" in Washington, DC.
    Full story here.

    Kerry pledges to support abortion.

    The smile of death.

    Sunday, April 18, 2004

    86 A Quaker looks at The Passion

    “Director Mel Gibson has taken his share of hits for daring to tackle the death of Jesus Christ on film, but so far he has escaped the wrath of religious watchdogs for a minor "act of heresy" that has somehow eluded their scrutiny: hiring a Quaker to serve as his cinematographer. "It's true, I was brought up as a Quaker," admits director of photography Caleb Deschanel, ASC. "The Quaker religion does not have priests or people in charge. Basically, everybody is equal, and you believe in the supreme being of your own thought process - whatever your own invention is. You just sort of let your conscience be your guide." " Read the whole interview (archives, March 2004, “A Savior‘s Pain“) in the American Cinemaphotographer; the International Journal of Film and Digital Production Techniques with the director of The Passion, Caleb Deschanel.

    Deschanel, who comes to the film as an outsider, a non-Catholic humanist, says:

    “Viewing it as a dramatic film, I found the story to be the antithesis of your average Hollywood film. In the typical American film about someone who is oppressed by tyranny, there's a clear-cut formula: the hero will escape and rally his friends, and then they'll gather weapons and go kill the bad guys. The catharsis for the audience [comes] when the horrible villain is finally killed.

    Christ's story, on the other hand, is about someone who recognizes that his fate is predetermined - that he's going to be condemned and killed - and totally accepts it. And once he accepts it, he views everyone who comes into his life as someone to forgive. In doing so, he imparts this understanding to everyone around him - his mother, the apostles, Mary Magdalene - in a way that makes them accept the trials that he has to endure. It's a phenomenal concept, which is probably why Christianity has survived for all of these years. Christianity may have lost its way during the Crusades, the Reformation and all of the horrible scandals of today, but it still has that amazing story at its core.”

    Saturday, April 17, 2004

    85 You can't outgive God

    My husband is attending a class for new or soon-to-be retirees at our church. Some of the discussion topics concern finances, of course. In the discussion about contributions, the issue came up about how to tithe. We have tithed our pre-tax income for years. So the money that went into our retirement accounts had already been tithed, but not taxed. When it comes out, it is time to pay the government both for what went in, and the taxes on the income. But what about God?

    This website provides 5 types of common retirement vehicles. Larry Burkett's view on the tithe and retirement benefits is here. He points out that although you may have tithed the money that went to Social Security, many people use that amount up in 4 or 5 years. A Baptist viewpoint is here.

    Coming up with a formula that would account for some of it having been tithed back in the 1970s or 1980s, and some of it new income, seems a bit silly to me when you're talking about God. Just tithe it, and be grateful that you have been so blessed that it even comes up for discussion!

    Friday, April 16, 2004

    84 Economic recovery and giving

    “(Ventura, CA) One sure-fire indicator that the national economy is on the path to recovery is found in new survey data showing that Americans donated significantly more money to non-profit organizations in 2003 than they did in 2002. A new report from The Barna Group shows that giving to churches and to non-profit organizations of all types jumped in the past twelve months, with the average dollars donated to churches hitting the highest level since 2000.”

    Whole story at

    Knowing the Good News doesn’t seem to open the wallets much wider, according to Barna Group. About 5% of all American households tithe their pre-tax income to churches and non-profits. “When the survey examined the behavior of born again adults – those who have made a significant personal commitment to Jesus Christ and who believe they will experience eternal life because of their confession of sins and acceptance of Jesus Christ as their savior – the outcome showed just 7% had tithed to their church.”

    Thursday, April 15, 2004

    83 Five things not to say at funerals

    A few years ago I wrote a poem about the verbs (or lack of) you see in obituary notices. . . “departed this world,” “entered his eternal rest,” “asleep with the angels.” Some poor souls simply “passed” and some died “at home” without a verb to give them comfort and direction. It appeared to me that the Baptists and Pentecostals had the best verbs. So when I saw the title, “Five things you should not say at funerals,” I thought perhaps it was about the cheap grace sometimes offered grieving family, such as “he’s in a better place.”

    However, Jeff Gibbs, the author is a pastor with some twenty plus years of experience. Gibbs approach is not humorous, it is theological. You can read the entire article online, but here are his five theological gaffs made in funeral meditations.
    1. “[He] has received the crown of righteousness, and he has heard the Lord say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’” No, actually, he hasn’t--not yet.

    2. “[She] has now entered into eternal life.” . . .both diminishes the significance of Holy Baptism and effectively eliminates the creedal hope of “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come.”

    3. “[He] has gone to his eternal home.” The hope Paul refers to in 2 Cor 5:1-10 concerns the resurrection body that will be given to him and to all believers. The Holy Spirit is the bridge between this mortal existence and that immortal, resurrection life.

    4. “[She] is with the Lord now forever.” Makes our bodily resurrection an after-thought. Things will change on the Last Day also for the dead--they will be raised and in that condition, “we will always be with the Lord.”

    5. “This is not a funeral--it’s [his] victory celebration!” You wouldn’t say this at a funeral of a child, or a young mother . . . death, even of a Christian, is always and only a sign that sin has not yet fully been abolished by the Lord Jesus Christ. Death does separate the deceased from those who love him, but does not separate the deceased from the love of God in Christ.
    Gibbs concludes that “in the face of death the pastor must proclaim the Good News of God’s solution to sin and all its effects. And God’s solution for bodily death is bodily resurrection! The resurrection of Jesus [which we have just celebrated] is the first fruits of the final resurrection on the Last Day--and this is very good news indeed for all who are in Christ Jesus.”

    Wednesday, April 14, 2004

    82 Jesus Saves in Dixon, Illinois

    Last Saturday we went to Dixon, IL for dinner. On the main street through the town, I noticed the Four Square Gospel Church. I think it was there, or possibly another church in that location, when I was a youngster and we would pass the sign, "Jesus Saves." I don't think I ever asked anyone, but I did wonder, "from what?" It was such a mystery to me. It is still a mystery to millions who may hear and nod in agreement about Jesus' words and deeds, may hear "Lamb of God," may hear the hymn "Amazing Grace," may hear about the Prodigal Son, or even the Empty Tomb, and still be clueless. No one told them about sin.

    81 Women not on Board

    The Ethical Investment Research Service reports that women make up only 7% of company directors in developed countries according to a snapshot in the USAToday April 14.

    So I went to the website of EISR--had trouble tracking this down, but finally found something close in an August 2003 press release. It reported that 5.8% of the directors of European companies are women; 53.6% of the companies have no women directors. I couldn't find a specifically "developed countries" category or article which would include USA.

    The glass ceiling is certainly in place in top leadership, however. Take a look at the annual reports you get from the companies in which you invest; look carefully at the names and photos. Women appear in fairly predictable areas, like vice associate CEO for human relations. There are usually more Asian and Black men on boards of directors than there are women, although sometimes there is a "two-fer" a Black Woman. Women, however, are the investors most concerned about ethical investing.

    There are 13 people, ranging from pastors to tech services, on the leadership team of our church--all men. So churches, at least this one, aren't showing much leadership in this ethical area.

    Open under new name

    The URL for this site is now When it was closed for repairs, the blogspot ad was for new floors. I think that is really amazing.

    Sunday, April 11, 2004

    Closed for Repairs

    Church of the Acronym is closed for repairs.

    Friday, April 09, 2004

    The old hymnal

    The note attached to the fragile hymnal of the father of my grandmother's cousin in 19th century script said it was the first Brethren hymnbook. That wasn't quite the story, but it may have been one of the first in English. It was published by Henry Kurtz in 1856 in Poland, Mahoning County, Ohio, A choice selection of hymns, from various authors recommended for the worship of God.These hymns probably weren't familiar to many of the Brethren unless they'd been to services or revivals of other groups.
    Alas, and did my Saviour bleed
    And did my Sov'reign die
    Would he devote that sacred head
    For such a worm as I?
    That wouldn't go over these days--calling yourself a "worm," even if you thought it, even if you knew you were a sinner. I found another one where the author refers to himself as a "clod." No, that probably wouldn't fly today. Today, the message must be positive--just look how far the church has come by being upbeat. How much better off society is. Yes, look.

    Thursday, April 08, 2004

    Wednesday, April 07, 2004

    80 Happy Easter

    My new blog on premiere issues is so much fun. Yesterday I pulled out the March 4, 1974 issue of People. The 30th anniversary issue to meet the needs of 3.7 million people interested in celebritology is about to hit the stands and mailboxes--and huge birthday celebrations are running from now through November.

    I’m 30 years old too--in Christ. My testimony doesn’t have interesting, salacious details or sins. No, I was 34 years old, had everything I’d ever wanted in life, and realized one day in March looking out my dining room window at the lovely homes on our street, that I had nothing. One morning at our church coffee hour a friend and former pastor in the Church of the Brethren, Joe Kimmel, said to me “I’ll bet you wanted to kick God in the knee,” after I’d told him about the deaths of our two oldest sons. Funny how a simple remark, intended as empathy (he and his wife had had some dramatic health problems with their children) can point you down the road to a life changing new birth.

    It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God--I knew he was out there somewhere keeping trains and planets from colliding--it wasn’t that I didn’t believe in Jesus, the great moral teacher I’d heard about all my life. The man who had lived a few centuries back telling people how to live. But close enough to kick him in the knee? That image rattled around in my head for days. A God so close I could personally be mad at him. What a concept.

    At the same time that Spring, I was in a women’s Bible study with Ruth Foster, a program director at a local Christian radio station. I tuned in to listen to her, and heard some really strange teachings and music. I started listening 24/7, although in those days, we didn’t have that expression. What I found so fascinating were two concepts I’d never heard in the main-line churches I’d been attending. 1) Jesus is God. 2) I personally was a sinner.

    You’d have to be there, I guess, because I can almost hear you saying, “So? What’s new?” Well, it was news to me! The guy I thought was a great teacher and moral leader who encouraged us to demonstrate for the ERA, hide migrants or set up food pantries was the God of the Universe. And sin wasn’t only OUT THERE in government programs, dishonest corporations, and the military, it was sitting right there on my heart, growing, developing, reaching out to all I touched.

    I listened to the solution--as presented by various speakers on WCVO--many times. I even took notes. It really sounded just too bizarre to be believed. If Jesus was God, (and I had about 30 seconds of wavering belief on that one), then his work on the cross could cover my sinfulness. Problem was--I couldn’t think of any sins to ask forgiveness for--I mean, none so big that I’d ask someone to die for them! I was, after all, a “good” person. Since the only sin I could think of was living my life without Jesus, that’s the one I finally confessed and asked forgiveness for. I got into the Kingdom on the Big One.

    It almost makes me smile now--the simplicity of my ignorance. Isn’t God great? He honored the 30 seconds of belief I had and he honored my thinking a huge sin was so little and insignificant.

    And that's one of the most valuable things I learned at that church, in that Bible Study where I met Ruth. The leader, Ad Carr, told us many times, God doesn't grade on a curve. Although I didn't learn it there, I now know big sinner, little sinner, we all need Christ's work on the cross to bring us into fellowship with the God who loves us.

    Sunday, April 04, 2004

    79 The Easter Season

    It is Palm Sunday. Praise the Lord. The children (we still call them that even though they are middle-aged) are going to church with us and coming here for dinner. The table is set with the good china, and the pork roast with orange cranberry sauce is ready to put in the oven before I step out the door. The Spring flowers--daffodils, forsythia--are everywhere, and early tulips are budding. And the Easter cards. Last year I wrote this poem for my Easter card after seeing so many pastel and chocolate goodies in the stores.

    The sweet story of Easter
    April 10, 2003

    Busy bunnies nestling on cards,
    Jelly beans so colorful,
    Candy shop shelves are emptying,
    Children grabbing by handful,

    Chocolate bunnies, lambs and chicks,
    Cream-filled eggs are tempting me,
    Easter baskets yellow and green.
    Why this way to honor Thee?

    “Somebunny loves you,” yes indeed.
    He died to set us all free,
    Was resurrected from the dead--
    Springtime’s sweetest victory.

    Thursday, April 01, 2004

    78 The final class

    We're finished now with our Monday night Outfitters class "What We Believe: A Study of Key Christian Teachings," and the final class was on--final things. After death, and end times. As in the other nine classes, we learned that Christians don't agree on much of this topic either. Christians generally seem to agree that in heaven, there will be no pain or suffering or tears, and we'll have indestructable, resurrected physical bodies, different and changed from what we have today, but Jesus' resurrection points the way.

    So I was thinking. I have the little book, 14,000 things to be happy about by Barbara Ann Kipfer. Just about that entire list won't be necessary in heaven. We'll be happy about something else--being in God's presence. A lot on the list is food, or food related, or celebrations that use food. I can't imagine that our resurrected bodies will need food, because food presently nourishes a corruptible body, and much of it is disposed of as waste. Some items on the list are about visiting or being at earthly places, a city, a lake, or a place of business, so we won't need that. Entertainment, wealth, status, ethnicity, relationships--none of those concepts is going to be terribly useful when everything is perfect in God's presence.

    Think about it--p.350-351.
  • Benton Harbor, MI
  • supper salads
  • sunlight infusing the atmosphere
  • window shopping in the fall
  • cooling off at the pool
  • strawberry-frosted doughnuts
  • watching a plant grow
  • identifying wildflowers or birds
  • dark wood floors warmed by Oriental rugs

    Although we live in a fallen world, there are thousands of things in it still good and wonderful--we just better not get too attached, because we won't be needing them.