Sunday, March 31, 2013

Dead Men Walking by Bryana Johnson

 Peter and John Running to the Tomb by Eugne Burnand 1850-1921

Dead Men Walking

(For Peter and John)

And we were dead,
stark in our trespasses,
your unseeing eyes wide,
--mine, too,
the smell of the grave on our lips,
It is the way of things,
the coursing of the world:
death begat death begat death begat death

We went racing,
our hearts and our toes
thudding in time together
--I beat you.
She said there was nothing,
and I found the nothing first.
There was nothing.
You and me, how could we understand that?

cracked into regrets,
sobbing, "I love you, I love you,"
--too late.
Me, spluttering
choking on the taste of deadness,
all my ideals spattered
into tears upon The Skull.

We went like that
dead men walking,
running, running, running!
How could we know
the missing One had come
to love all our corpses
into the land of the living?

by Bryana Johnson from her book Having Decided to Stay

Bryana is a talented young poet. Please visit her blog and purchase her book.
Her poetry is vivid, bold, and a delight to read. Highly recommended! 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Consider the Lilies

John Singer Sargent, Study of the Vickers Children

On Easter Day the lilies bloom,
Triumphant, risen from their tomb;
Their bulbs have undergone rebirth,
Born from the silence of the earth
Symbolically, to tell all men
That Christ, the Savior, lives again.
The angels, pure and white as they,
Have come and rolled the stone away
And with the lifting of the stone,
The shadow of the cross is gone!
~ June Masters Bacher ~

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Psalm for Good Friday

Good Friday Photography by Thomas York

The Psalms

A Cry of Anguish and Song of Praise
To the chief Musician upon Ai'jeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David.
1 My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
2 O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not;
and in the night season, and am not silent.
3 But thou art holy,
O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
4 Our fathers trusted in thee:
they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.
5 They cried unto thee, and were delivered:
they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.
6 But I am a worm, and no man;
a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
7 All they that see me laugh me to scorn:
they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
8 He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him:
let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. 
9 But thou art he that took me out of the womb:
thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts.
10 I was cast upon thee from the womb:
thou art my God from my mother's belly.
11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near;
for there is none to help.
12 Many bulls have compassed me:
strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.
13 They gaped upon me with their mouths,
as a ravening and a roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint:
my heart is like wax;
it is melted in the midst of my bowels.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd;
and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws;
and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
16 For dogs have compassed me:
the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me:
they pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I may tell all my bones:
they look and stare upon me.
18 They part my garments among them,
and cast lots upon my vesture. 
19 But be not thou far from me, O LORD:
O my strength, haste thee to help me.
20 Deliver my soul from the sword;
my darling from the power of the dog.
21 Save me from the lion's mouth:
for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.
22 I will declare thy name unto my brethren:
in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.
23 Ye that fear the LORD, praise him;
all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him;
and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.
24 For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted;
neither hath he hid his face from him;
but when he cried unto him, he heard.
25 My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation:
I will pay my vows before them that fear him.
26 The meek shall eat and be satisfied:
they shall praise the LORD that seek him:
your heart shall live for ever.
27 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD:
and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.
28 For the kingdom is the LORD's:
and he is the governor among the nations.
29 All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship:
all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him:
and none can keep alive his own soul.
30 A seed shall serve him;
it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.
31 They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness
unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.

This is one amazing scripture! Written a thousand years before the crucifixion, it chronicles with amazing detail the suffering of the Messiah upon the cross. It is instructive to lay this Psalm alongside the actual historical record of the crucifixion, found in the gospels: Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, John 19. According to Pastor Chuck Smith, "If you take just the prophecies of this one psalm alone and work them out with the law of compound probabilities, the chances of one person fulfilling them all would be one to 1 in 10 to 17th power (100,000,000,000,000,000). Yet Jesus fulfilled each one of these, in addition to over 300 prophecies concerning Him."

 I'm thankful that God left a prophetic footprint, one that satisfies the mind as well as the soul. I'm thankful for the sure word of prophecy and for the accurate record that has been passed down to us. Most of all, I am thankful for Jesus and that He willingly gave Himself to be crucified, to be buried, and to rise again the third day.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Michael's Prayer

Today I am remembering and reminiscing because my cousin, Michael, has crossed over to the other side in death. He was a trooper! Diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy at a young age, he endured years in a wheelchair, then an iron lung, and then in bed connected to a respirator. His Mother, my Aunt Alice, went to nursing school in the 1960s to learn how to take care of him at home. This she did with alacrity and she kept her nursing license current until just last year, when she turned 80. It is a credit to her amazing care that Michael attained the ripe old age of 61, while many muscular dystrophy patients die in their early 20s. 

Do you have a Michael in your life? Perhaps he or she is not plagued with muscular dystrophy, but is disabled in some other way. I have come to believe these people are a gift from God to us, but so often we don't recognize that. We do not know how to relate or how to help and we feel awkward around them. But we can learn. We can take the time to listen, to extend eye contact, to slow down and sit a while with that person. We can learn to love.

Michael wrote a prayer before he died, and I think it is worthy of a slow read. I offer it here in his memory, but also with the hope that it will increase sensitivity to those special people in our lives who are placed there by God to call forth our human compassion and understanding.

Michael's Prayer

Lord God, Father and Creator of us all, You made us male and female, so-called normal as well as disabled. We are all Your children and fearfully and wonderfully made. Lord, why do so many normal people look at me and not actually see me?

So many people have their eyes on my disability or their own feelings of sadness and fear, they can't see the person I am. I can sense their discomfort because they don't know where to look, what to say, or how to act around me. Instead of talking directly to me, they talk to my parents as if I wasn't there or as if I need an interpreter.

Some who do talk to me, speak in a loud voice as if I were hard of hearing or they explain something to me as if I were unable to understand. Others seem so preoccupied with their own lives, it is impossible to express my thoughts and feelings to them, or they seem too impatient to listen and hear me with my slow, measured speech.

Sometimes, Lord, I almost ache for an intelligent adult conversation about things that matter to me. I thank You for the gift of "special people" in my life who are interested in me, who I am, and what I have to say. Especially I thank You for the love, understanding, and tender loving care of my devoted family, for truly, they are, "The Wind Beneath My Wings."

Father, help everyone to see me and others like me in a  new and different light, give them a spiritual insight, a kind of vision of the heart, that looks beyond the physical appearance to the real person. Help us to see we are more alike than we are different. We all have much the same life experience as far as family, feelings, interests, hopes, and dreams are concerned. Everyone needs to love and be loved for who they are. Help us all to see one another as You see us.

Lord God, I praise and exalt Your holy Name for all Your mighty works. I thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to be my Lord and Savior. Through Him, I have the strength and courage to face the heartaches, disappointments, and trials in my life. Thank You for the joy, peace, and contentment I have found in Him. There can be no more "special person" in anyone's life than Him.

In Jesus' Name,
In Loving Memory, Michael Young 1951-2013

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How the Jesus Movement Affected a Non-Hippie Part II

The Jesus Movement (roughly 1970s and 1980s) largely took place outside of the organized church, though in time some churches and para-church organizations moved to embrace it. The Baptist church of my youth injected an occasional "Jesus song" into their traditional service, inviting hippie-types in as guest musicians. For me, this was always a breath of fresh air. Remember, there was no such thing as contemporary Christian music back then! It was being invented, born out of the spontaneity of worship fueled by the Holy Spirit.

The Missionary church in Shambaugh, Iowa embraced the movement by contributing a meeting house, an old two-room schoolhouse dubbed "The Shack." This was just one example of how churches moved to support the burgeoning sweep of the Holy Spirit that was happening all over the country. Churches that refused to embrace the movement found themselves missing out on the opportunity to disciple a whole army of new converts.

Pastor Chuck Smith, of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, is sometimes called the "Father of the Jesus Movement" or the "Pied Piper of the Jesus Generation" because he recognized the movement as a true revival and welcomed the hippies inside of the church. He initially met with some opposition, as the older members of the congregation worried that the metal rivets on the hippies' blue jeans would scratch the wooden pews. Chuck's response was, "then we'll remove the pews!" 

"Chuck Smith went out of his way to befriend hippies, to listen to them and try to understand them. He told his congregation: 'Our church lost a whole generation of young people with a negative, no-movie, no-dance gospel. Let us at Calvary not be guilty of the same mistake. Instead, let us trust God and emphasize the work of the Holy Spirit within individual lives. We want change to come from inside out.'" quoted from For the Love of Mike

"Our fellowship began with twenty-five members who represented mainline, traditional America. Yet God called us to share with the youth from the counterculture. This outreach took a miracle of love and acceptance. But as each group accepted the other, both sides grew in number. There was a vital sense of God stepping into the picture and as lives changed before our eyes. The sense of being in the middle of a miracle kept feeding itself like a bonfire. When some hopeless heroin addict throws away the needle and goes to the beach to convert three people to Christ in an afternoon, it's a pretty strong boost to the faith of everyone involved!" Pastor Chuck Smith, quote from Harvest

Word of the blossoming work at Calvary Chapel filtered back to my world, Iowa, in the late 1970's. My husband and I heard first hand testimonies of people who had experienced the massive ocean baptisms and the informal Bible teachings taking place in southern California. Their glowing accounts were summed up in the word "love." We were interested but also felt it to be just a Southern California phenomenon.

The music, however, was something we much more readily embraced. The first albums we owned as a married couple were "Sail on Sailor" by Mustard Seed Faith and "Love Song," groundbreaking Jesus People music. We heard that "Little Country Church" from the Love Song album was descriptive of Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa* and again, our interest was awakened but we would not experience the fulfillment of that awakening until some years later when the Lord would uproot us from our home and traditional church.

*Concerning the song, Girard explained, “Fred would bring me some amazing chord line with cool chords that I would never think of, and just leave me alone to supply the words and melody. The band was in Northern California, staying in a private home for the afternoon before a concert. Fred brought out the guitar, and began playing the chords to “Little Country Church.” I looked up on the wall and there was this sepia tone photo of a rural church that caught my eye. I began to sing "Little country church on the edge of town…”
“As I went on, I realized that what was shaping was really the story of Calvary Chapel. Calvary wasn't strictly a "country" church, but it was out in a field and I realized that this song represented the whole Jesus movement. It was about the open-minded attitudes of the pastors like Chuck Smith who had the courage to embrace the hippies and allow a new thing to happen in the church. They permitted new musical styles and didn’t judge the hippies for their look. They realized that God changed the heart.” 


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Our New Little Friend

Joy and her yet-to-be-named puppy

When our Yorkie died at the turn of the new year, we all felt a loss, but Joy felt it most of all because Mac was her dog. After a season of grieving, she began the search for a new puppy. She looked at a lot of dogs, but fell in love with this little Lhatese. Never heard of a Lhatese? That would be part Lhasa Apso and part Maltese. She is adorable. 

Gladys Taber sums up my thoughts nicely:

Some people do tell me dogs and cats are too much bother. We never found it so. When everything goes wrong with human relationships, which happens at times, there is comfort and restorative power in the soft muzzle laid gently on your lap, an ecstatic tail wagging, or a small head rubbing against your neck while a purr-song says, "How absolutely wonderful you are."
--from the book Country Chronicles

Monday, March 04, 2013

Welcoming the Light

". . . I think your windows are the most important part of your home. Whether your furnishings are Louis Quatorze or cast-offs, your windows overlook the matchless blue of the sky, the silver glow of a young moon, or the black-purple of piled storm clouds galloping. Looking out keeps you from fretting because the chores aren't done or the washing machine won't work or it is time to change the beds again (a chore I absolutely hate). The vast outside brings a sense of proportion to you and a kind of quietness."  -Gladys Taber, from her book Country Chronicle

When I read Gladys Taber, it reminds me of conversations I used to have with my mother-in-law. She could talk about anything and would meander from subject to subject in a soothing voice. I miss her and I miss those conversations. Gladys is a great stand-in, from the same generation and with eclectic interests. The only drawback is that it is a one-sided conversation! So I'll use my blog to "answer" Gladys and especially her comments about windows being the most important part of the house.

I'm thinking of the window in the 1890s Dutch Colonial house, where we lived when my children were babies. The wavy glass in the panes brought in so much light and pleasure to this tired mama. I nursed babies from a rocking chair and watched the huge old apple tree through the carousel of seasons. From pinkish-white blossoms to mature fruit, I took delight in it each and every day to the point of feeling it was my special friend. It also gave rise to much meditation, as I thought upon the budding personalities in my charge and the hope of one day witnessing their fruitful maturity. 

Upstairs, in that same house, we could view the top of the apple tree from my bedroom window. Squirrels would often leap from the tree to the rooftop and my toddlers enjoyed watching their antics. One day an especially violent thunderstorm rolled through and I remember my oldest daughter and my son sitting with me at that window, spellbound as we watched the hail fly and the wind bend the old tree. We were hushed as we watched, with the window open, and there was imparted a special something into our souls: the awe of the Creator who holds the hail in His storehouse. 

In our current house, we have a large window by our dining table that allows us to enjoy beauty each and every time we sit down to eat. Purple clematis, lilacs, and a peace rose may be seen blooming during the spring and summer. One year, I planted huge sunflowers right in front of the window and we delighted to watch the goldfinches alight on the huge blossoms, oblivious to our  presence. 

I've seen the replica sod houses that the pioneers lived in, especially here in Nebraska, and I wonder, how did the family make it through a long dreary winter without the light of a window? I shudder to think of how dreary that must have been. 

When I get up in the morning, early, before the rest of the family, the first thing I do is open the shades and curtains to let the light into my home. I love that job---welcoming the light. While it seems a small thing, it is indicative of the great opportunity I have as a homemaker: to be a gatekeeper for the light. Let it shine!

Friday, March 01, 2013

An Old Friend on Cooking

I've been revisiting Gladys Taber after a 15+ year absence. When I was housebound in the winter with young children, her nature descriptions were a breath of fresh air, the second best thing to being outside myself.

 It's funny that when you read a book a second time, many years later, you see it from a whole different perspective. This time around, the  author's opinions on cooking and food and hospitality are standing out.  Gladys has definite and strong opinions:

"I deplore a dinner where the hostess leaps in and out during the whole meal. Genuine conversation is impossible. And, after all, it is the talk that should nourish the spirit, no matter what is on the platter."

Homey recipes are sprinkled throughout the book, substantial Yankee food to be cooked in cast iron with fresh ingredients. "My Dutch oven is my best friend," she says. I smiled at what she had to say about Julia Child, who was her contemporary:

". . .I listen to Julia Child. By the time the hour is over, I am exhausted just watching her dice and slice and knead and roll and throw things around in a kind of Olympian abandon. Julia is the most vigorous cook I have ever observed. . .The only thing we have in common is that both of us have written cookbooks. . ."
Even though her recipes are dated---heavy by today's standards---her substantial offerings are infused with love. Her unhurried preparations remind me of my Mother-in-law, who always hummed while she peeled the potatoes.  I've honed my cooking skills through the years, and although I enjoy an occasional gourmet meal, I tend more toward "Gladys style" than "Julia style" cooking. But I think the highest compliment any cook can receive is to have her family or guests taste the secret ingredient: love.