Monday, June 21, 2004

131 Daily Devotions on the Net

Daily Devotions is a feature of A different book is featured each day (for sale, of course), but the passage featured fits that calendar day. Today's selection (June 21, 2004) is from the book Light for the Path by Selwyn Hughes. Tomorrow's selection is from Experiencing God Day by Day Devotional by Henry and Richard Blackaby.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

130 A tip for Tampico

I've been through Tampico, Il many times--especially before the interstate was finished we now use to return to my home town in Illinois. Noticed this item in last week's Time:
The streaking 747 was so far ahead of schedule that a swing over Tampico, Ill., Reagan's birthplace, was wedged into the flight plan. The pilot dipped the plane's wings, and Nancy called out, "Quick, get Ron and Patti to take a look." They gazed silently out the windows. The tiny cluster of buildings on a land-sea of vivid green summer corn quickly slid beyond view. "A lot of corn," said Nancy.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

129 The Father's Day Card

Picking out appropriate cards for a no nonsense, tough old bird like my dad was never easy--didn't golf, or fish, was never gushy or lovey-dovey, didn't do any of the stuff that Hallmark Dads did year after year in muted masculine colors. But this last Father's Day card, (selected on the day and hour he died) without giving credit, superimposed a Bible passage over a newspaper stock report, "spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge." I recognize that this passage refers to the Spirit of the Lord resting on the shoot from the stem of Jesse in Isaiah 11 because it is repeated in baptism in the Lutheran service. Still, it seemed to fit--particularly since I saw him many times pouring over the newspaper business section or working cross word puzzles. The words and art. I took the card along to Illinois and slipped it into the casket.

Most of us are "adult children" of our parents for many more years than we are "minor children," therefore it is never too late to be a good parent, or a grateful child. As a child I yearned for a dad that would give me a hug or attend my school functions or praise me for good grades (although I don't think I knew any fathers like that). Although I noticed he worked 12 hour days, visited his parents every Sunday, never missed church, and treated my mother with respect and love, it doesn't mean a whole lot when you are a typical, self-centered, moody adolescent. As an adult, it gives you strength and comfort.

It never occurred to me in the 1950s that he probably didn't enjoy driving a car-load of screaming teen-age girls to the roller rink on his only day off, or that he didn't have to let me pasture a horse in our back yard (which he personally rode home from the farm where I purchased him to be sure he was safe). And having my mother be the primary parent means I still remember the occasional ice cream treats he'd bring home, or that he would drive us 40 miles to see a movie once in awhile. But the memory that brings the tears is Dad with my sister Carol: first, carrying her out of our quarantined house to be admitted to the hospital for polio in 1949, and then standing beside her hospital bed to support her own children as the life support was removed after a stroke in 1996.

No, it is never too late to be a good parent or a grateful child.

Friday, June 18, 2004

128 Music Conservation--a New Movement?

Peggy Noonan wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, June 17, about President Reagan’s funeral:
One of the things not sufficiently remarked upon the past week: The music, from California to Washington and back to California again, was old music, old American music, and it was beautiful. We have abandoned so much of the core of American music. And then a state funeral comes and the death of a president, and suddenly we are allowed to hear the old songs. "Going Home," the hymn they played for FDR as they took him from Warm Springs, Ga., to Washington. All the stanzas of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"--"In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea." "The Navy Hymn," also known as "Eternal Father Strong to Save." "Abide With Me." "Ave Maria"--a great song of the Catholic Church, and yet they don't play it unless it's a special person's wedding or a special person's funeral.

This music is part of our patrimony, every bit as much as the trees and mountains. Our children, in our civic life, have for a generation been denied these songs. The moral and artistic equivalent of river polluters have decided we need to hear--I don't know, what songs do they play now in school, at events? "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head"?
We need a new environmental movement--a musical conservation movement aimed at saving and preserving the old songs. The rivers and mountains and plains are so beautiful and need saving. But what have you lost if you lose the sound of your ancestors' souls singing? Even more, I think.”
Oh, to be able to sing from a hymn book again and not look at just the impoverished words thrown on a screen.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

127 Is the United States a Christian Nation?

Yes, says Samuel P. Huntington in a Wall Street Journal opinion article today. And he doesn’t see things changing soon.

“The increases in the membership of some non-Christian religions have not, to put it mildly, had any significant effect on America's Christian identity. As a result of assimilation, low birth rates, and intermarriage, the proportion of Jews dropped from 4% in the 1920s to 3% in the '50s to slightly over 2% in 1997. If the absolute numbers claimed by their spokesmen are correct, by 1997 about 1.5% of Americans were Muslim, while Hindus and Buddhists were each less than 1%. The numbers of non-Christian, non-Jewish believers undoubtedly will continue to grow, but for years to come they will remain extremely small. Some increases in the membership of non-Christian religions come from conversions, but the largest share is from immigration and high birthrates. The immigrants of these religions, however, are far outnumbered by immigrants from Latin America, almost all of whom are Catholic and also have high birthrates. Latin American immigrants are also converting to evangelical Protestantism. In addition, Christians in Asia and the Middle East have been more likely than non-Christians to migrate to America. As of 1990, a majority of Asian-Americans were Christian rather than Buddhist or Hindu, and about two-thirds of Arab-Americans have been Christian rather than Muslim, although Arab Muslim immigrants have become much more numerous. While a precise judgment is impossible, at the start of the 21st century the U.S. was probably becoming more rather than less Christian in its religious composition.”

Complete article here.

Monday, June 14, 2004

126 A Service for Blessing the Animals

I answered a lot of odd questions when I was the Librarian of the Veterinary Medicine Library at Ohio State University, and I comforted many grieving pet owners who'd lost a pet or received bad news. However, I was never asked to direct anyone to a liturgy or service for animals. But there is one at a sermon resource page on the internet.

"Each year on or near the Feast Day of St. Francis, which falls on October 4th, there are requests for a liturgy of blessing for animals. The Rev. Robert P. Morrison of the Episcopal Parish of St. James in Lincoln City, Oregon responded to these requests in 1998 by posting a liturgy to those subscribed to Propertalk." His liturgy is reproduced at Sermon and Lectionary Resources with permission.

It includes some program suggestions: "A brief homily can follow upon the reading of the Lessons. Let the mood of the animals be a guide to length. Something appropriately Franciscan and short might be ventured. After all the animals are not going to be impressed by even the most eloquent of preachers. The two hymns chosen here are, of course, by St. Francis.

You may wish to have some form of meal at the Church afterwards for the humans. Beforehand, you might go to local pet stores whose owners, usually, are more than happy to give "sample" packs of dog, cat and bird food, so the animals get treats also. (Give them verbal credit as you pass out the treats at the end of the blessing.)"

Sunday, June 13, 2004

125 Living with Eternity in View

The Coming Day is an on-line magazine published by Searchlight Ministries to study the prophetic subjects of the Bible. The authors believe that much of the confusion among Christians is that much of the current literature on prophecy is caught up with events and speculations rather than concentrating on the Scriptures. To do this, the editors provide us with a selection of studies of various portions of prophetic Scriptures, some which may conflict with each other. For some of the older, pre-20th century articles, the editors supply helpful clarification.

There are 16 issues on the web with most topics focusing on Revelation.

Friday, June 11, 2004

124 The President's Funeral, Solemn and Tasteful

It was surprisingly pleasant to "attend" a funeral that wasn't slappy and clappy, rocking with music that resembles camp songs. Yes, funerals are victory celebrations for Christians, but they are also worship of a mighty God. The last thing Ronald Reagan gave us was beautiful music, familiar hymns, wonderful scripture, and homilies that proclaimed the gospel to millions watching.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

123 Saying Good-bye to the President

I watched with interest the almost wall-to-wall coverage of the Reagan events this Monday on Fox cable news. That’s because I was a Democrat during Reagan’s presidency and pretty much believed everything we were told in the media about that dumb cowboy-actor who didn’t know how to negotiate with Russians and wanted to give tax breaks to his rich friends.

I was very moved by the interview with his son Michael who, with tears streaming down his cheeks, told about deciding that his dad wasn’t going to hug him and tell him he loved him, so one day he took the initiative, hugged his father and said, “Dad, I love you.” From then on, both men did it--but someone had to be first. Michael said that even when dementia had stolen his father’s ability to say his name or recognize him as family, he remembered that Michael was the man who hugged, and would stretch out his arms when he saw him.

From all the problems President Reagan had with his children, I suspect he probably wasn’t the world’s greatest parent. He and Nancy seemed so devoted to each other that they shut out the kids, Ron and Patty. Likewise, they failed in honoring their parents and tried to pretend the parents didn’t matter. And Nancy, good caregiver that she was, especially during his final disease, never seemed to give his two children from his first marriage, Maureen and Michael, even a kind look.

His enemies are out in full force now, especially on the internet. Even those assigned to do a puff piece for the regular media, like Martin Kasindorf of USAToday for Monday June 7 got tangled up in a web of words, as he could only find positive things to say by quoting the Republican faithful, and even then slipping in snide remarks like “echoing his paid speeches for GE. . .,” “wringing emotion from public symbols.”

I don’t know who Tacitus is, but he pretty well sums it up in his closing paragraph about what Reagan meant to him, from the time he watched the first inauguration on his dad’s shoulders, to the funeral:
“So many hate Ronald Reagan, and in coming days and weeks, you will see them out in full force: unable or unwilling to deride a dying man, they will assault a dead one. They will do so by bleating about the gap between rhetoric and reality (Reagan was human); they will do so by denouncing starkness of moral vision and the inadequacy of simple truths (Reagan was common); they will do so by advancing a mechanistic, deterministic thesis of history in which inevitability is the iron law and heroes are mere spectacle (Reagan was irrelevant). Remember this -- and it is all you need to know about them -- these men and their prejudices would have left those hundreds of millions, and their children, and their grandchildren, in chains. Ronald Reagan did not. Ronald Reagan dreamed heroic dreams.” Tacitus.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

122 Descendants of slaves are settling in Columbus, Ohio.

The Bantu of Somalia were stolen from the shores of Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania and carried on Arab slave ships to Somalia two centuries ago. They were enslaved and persecuted until Somalia's civil war scattered them to refugee camps in the 1990's. Now many have been resettled in Columbus, Ohio.

In Somalia, the lighter-skinned majority rejected the Bantu, for their slave origins and dark skin and wide features. Even after they were freed from bondage, the Bantu were denied meaningful political representation and rights to land ownership. During the Somali civil war, they were disproportionately victims of rapes and killings. The discrimination and violence continued in the refugee camps, where the Bantu were often attacked and dismissed as Mushungulis, which means slave people. Health Beat of the Columbus Health Department explains some of the problems the new immigrants have.

Of all groups resettled in the United States in the last 25 years, this group faces the greatest challenges and will need the most assistance. And as with refugees and immigrants of earlier generations, it is the churches and synagogues that the government turns to for help.

Monday, June 07, 2004

121 The Lutheran Service Confessions, 1958 and 1978

I think I prefer the Confession in the green hymnal, "Lutheran Book of Worship," rather than the 1958 red hymnal, "Service Book and Hymnal." I don't have a copy of the black hymnal which I used as a child, but it is my recollection that it was similar to the red hymnal. When I first heard the service in 1974 after over 20 years of not attending a Lutheran service, it sounded very familiar.

The LBW reads:
We confess we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.
We have sinned against you in thought word and deed
by what we have done and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves.
For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us.
Forgive us.
Renew us and lead us,
so that we may delight in your will
and walk in your ways
to the glory of your holy name.
The Red Book order of worship and liturgy weren't terribly different from the 19th century hymnals with thees and thous, so the green hymnal was the first to use modern English. But I think this confession is also a wonderful sermon outline. If every sermon included these elements, then used the last line as the jumping off place for the advice and teaching of the day--"walking in God's ways to the glory of his name"--it would just be so refreshing. Some like to quibble that it has bad baptismal or conflicting baptismal theology--but I don't think so. It is a good reminder that it is because of what Jesus has done we are free of this bondage.

Of course, it would be refreshing just to use it in a Lutheran service, too.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

120 President Reagan

Many memorials and retrospectives today. Seems just a little odd on some of the mainstream media--people who couldn't find a good word to say in the 80s. But that's what time and being over 90 will do for you. My Dad played against the President in football in college. They were sort of neighbors--Dad in Pine Creek, Illinois and Reagan in Dixon, Illinois.

I never had a chance to vote for him--was a Democrat back then. I suppose I could've crossed party lines, but didn't until Clinton's second term. I noticed the following over at Volokh Conspiracy [June 5]:
When it comes to its infallible teaching on abortion, the Democratic Party is more than willing to exercise its power of excommunication and anathema for heretics and apostates. "I'm a good Democrat, but I'm against abortion" are the words of a Democrat not long for her party. And this hypothetical person would be drummed out, to switch metaphors, for what? For being intolerant, of course.
And that's quite right. You really can't be both a good Democrat and oppose abortion rights.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

119 How Bush has changed in 40 months

"One thing that's changed about George W. Bush during his 40 White House months is his short list of presidents he admires. He's still a Reagan and a Lincoln fan, but he now talks more of Lincoln's role as a wartime president. New to his list is Franklin Roosevelt, because of FDR's growing awareness that Hitler had to be stopped: "In the face of another 'ism' he saw the problems clearly." No. 43 is also learning more about No. 1, and particularly George Washington's thinking during the troubled Articles of Confederation period of the 1780s. President Bush uses history to make contemporary practical applications: Americans who expect Iraq to have an elegant constitution in one year's time should look to our own difficult experience."

You can read the whole article in World, June 5, 2004, which discusses Bush's meeting with Christian journalists on May 26.

Friday, June 04, 2004

118 Religion in the voting booth

“Voters who say they go to church every week usually vote for Republicans. Those who go to church less often or not at all tend to vote Democratic.

Forget the gender gap. The "religion gap" is bigger, more powerful and growing. The divide isn't between Catholics and Protestants, Jews and Gentiles. Instead, on one side are those of many faiths who go to services, well, religiously: Catholics who attend Mass without fail, evangelical Christians and mainline Protestants who show up for church rain or shine, some Orthodox Jews. On the other side are those who attend religious services only occasionally or never.” USA Today, June 3, 2004

The studies cited in the USA Today article were done by Gallup and the University of Akron. However, Barna Group research shows very little difference, unfortunately, between the behavior of Christians and non-Christians, so there must be something else going on here other than faith.

“Jesus taught that Christians would be recognizable by their behavior – the way they love others and the ways in which their lives reflect their spiritual values and beliefs (i.e., the “fruit” of their transformation). Our current research report explores 19 lifestyle activities and compares people’s behavior in relation to their spiritual leanings. People’s faith does not make as much of as difference as might be expected – especially among non-evangelical born again Christians.”

Thursday, June 03, 2004

117 A Chilling, but familiar description of a Mega-Church

"I was attracted to what New Life had to offer. At its base I felt like New Life was offering me security in itself. I want this. Immediately I am led to the question, "Is there anything wrong with a church that provides you with a sense of security?" Well no, but if I found myself at a church like New Life I would think that I would find more security in the fact that I went to New Life than I would in Christ being my savior."

The whole experience--the building complex, the booths, the power point sermons, the hip rock group with moussed hair, the sense that everything one needed was within the church building can be found here at Responsibility without Power (May 23).

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

116 Pro-Abortion Commencement Speakers

Here is a list of pro-abortion commencement speakers at Catholic institutions of higher learning. Seems a shame and an insult. And I'm not a Catholic.