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SHAME, VULNERABILITY, AND LOVE

SHAME, VULNERABILITY, AND LOVE

by Carmen Anderson

After reading books by Brene Brown, I have become quite a fan. Her books and TED Talks have certainly become widely read and watched. She is a research professor and social worker whose findings in her human nature studies have led her to see how the idea of vulnerability and the issue of shame can shape our lives. She uses these statements to explain the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt = I did something bad. Shame = I am bad. You can see the difference. In fact, I bet you can “feel’ the difference. Of course, when we do wrong, we rightly feel guilt, which can be helpful by directing us toward positive actions, but feeling shame puts us in a negative spiral that robs our lives of joy, purpose and connection.

Showing Courage in Vulnerability

In her book Daring Greatly Brown focuses on the need for us to learn to be vulnerable because in doing so we can then truly become our authentic selves. This certainly flies in the face of how we normally view vulnerability, which is as a weakness to be avoided. Brown amusingly mentions numerous occasions of traveling on planes and having a seat mate ask what line of work she’s in. Upon telling them that she studies shame and vulnerability, the seat mate would suddenly became disinterested in any further conversation!

She posits that only in allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, to be seen for who we are, by removing the masks we have been wearing, are we able to believe in our worthiness to be loved by and connected with others and thus banish the lie of shame. Brown goes a step further to say that she believes that being vulnerable is one of the most courageous acts that we can perform.

As a Christian, I feel that one reason for Brown’s popularity is because she has tapped into some of the issues that are at the heart of our need for God. Shame shuts down our ability to live the lives for which God created us. It causes us to withdraw and cuts off our interactions with others, isolating us. We then feel useless and bereft of spirit. Shame can also allow fear to permeate our being. We know that fear leads to anger and other negative behaviors furthering our disconnection with those around us.

Replacing Shame with Love

I believe that Jesus came to demonstrate to us our worthiness to be loved, to belong and to show us why we shouldn’t feel shame. He came to show us how to live authentic lives of love, truth and service to our fellow men by giving us example after example of forging loving connections with others, telling us to love others as we love ourselves.

When we can acknowledge our worth in God’s eyes, when we understand that we are beloved by God, then we are capable of loving ourselves. This must happen before we can love others. Knowing that we belong to God prevents us from fearing to be authentic.

It is at this point that we can choose to be vulnerable because through the grace of God’s love, we no longer fear being who He has intended us to be. The philosopher Albert Camus said it this way, “ Man is the only species who refuses to be what he really is.”

Being vulnerable with each other reminds us that we all feel the same emotions, the same fears, hopes and dreams and that we can give and derive comfort from that knowledge. It deepens our connections and strengthens our desire to love and to serve. When we are willing to show up in life, unafraid of sharing who we are and able to express our gratitude to God, who gives our lives such worth, we then can become pathways to others who need to know God’s love and grace.

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant and their faces shall never be ashamed.”         ~ Psalm 34: 4-5 ESV

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ASKING, SEEKING, AND KNOCKING

ASKING, SEEKING, AND KNOCKING

by Burt Waller

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 (New American Standard Bible)

Christmas 2017 is a fast fading memory, and our shift into 2018 is well underway.  By now most of our personal New Year’s resolutions have been abandoned, many of us have busily accounted for what we accomplished in 2017, and we have laid the groundwork for what we aspire to accomplish in 2018.  Before you know it “Tax Day in America” will arrive when we’re forced to literally account to Uncle Sam in financial terms.  Many of us have plunged into the New Year with a hope and determination to make it better than the past year while also continuing to complain about hurried and stressful lives.

Loss of Relationships

We all comment that it seems as we are living in a time when the pace of life is ever-increasing.  Often, we fault the intrusion of information technology into our lives with the accompanying bombardment of information we receive.  Other times we realize, as Becky Wilson wrote in her blog a few weeks ago, that as we age time seems to pass by at an ever-increasing pace.  No matter the cause, our reality is that our goal-oriented, problem-solving, consumer-driven culture can overwhelm and leave little time for building and savoring deep meaningful relationships.  There just isn’t a place in our lives for such a time-consuming effort such as fostering relationships.  For many reasons, old relationships don’t get sustained and new relationships never get cultivated beyond the superficial.

For those of us who are followers of Christ, our relationship with God can take the same back seat in our lives as our other relationships.  Neil Boggan wrote recently in this blog about the clutter in our lives and challenged us to make a commitment to declutter and make room for the important.  Neil made the point that we are so full that we don’t have time for deep relationships with family, friends or even God.  For many, this a sad but true reality.

Seekers of God

Even in our busyness, we find solace in the Gospels’ many reassuring statements made by Jesus to his followers.  One that is familiar to most Christians is recorded in Matthew 7 where we are told if we ask, search and knock, then we will receive.  It is fairly orthodox evangelical Christian dogma that we believe God will provide for us as Christ’s followers.  What we often overlook in understanding such promises is that we as individuals have a role to play in receiving God’s provision for us.  And, that role has to do with relationship.

Sometimes the English language fails to fully convey the meaning of ancient writings or the meaning that the original hearers would have understood. This familiar passage, Matthew 7:7-8, is just such an example.  We read or hear these words and understand that if followers of Christ take the actions of asking, searching or seeking, God will provide.  But, that isn’t really the only point!  What the original hearers heard is that these are not activities we are to simply pursue, but these are to become characteristics of our state of being.  We are to be constant, consistent, never-ceasing seekers, and when we transform ourselves into continual seekers of God, then we will most abundantly receive his grace and mercy.  What these verses tell us is that if we make pursuing what we need from God a central component of our state of being, then we will receive.  And, to aspire toward that transformation requires our time, our humility, and our willingness to cultivate a deep relationship with Christ.

 “Be asking, and it will be given to you; be seeking, and you will find; be knocking, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone asking receives; and the one seeking finds; and to the one knocking, it will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 (Disciples’ Literal New Testament)

COPING WITH CHANGE

COPING WITH CHANGE

by Joe Livesay

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” (George Bernard Shaw)

It has been said that there are two things that are inevitable – death and taxes. I submit there is a third thing that is inevitable – change. From the beginning of time change has been a part of our lives. Think about it. Without change things remain stagnant. Without change we may have never discovered the latest greatest invention since sliced bread. If change is inevitable, why do so many people resist it?

It is human nature to want consistency in our lives. We want to be able to rely on the things we have always relied on. After all, the “good old days” are always better than today (or so we think). The way “we have always done things” worked for us so they should work for those younger than we are. We need only look at our own history to understand this. I grew up in the 50s and 60s. It was a time of rebellion, a time of discovery, a time of the beginning of the technology age, and a time of that “devil” music (according to our parents). Our parents just didn’t understand us we thought. We had to face the constant resistance to change by our parents. As it turned out, my generation didn’t do so badly.

Current Resistance to Change

Having been on the side of change growing up and facing the resistance to change, I am amazed that so many people my age are saying the same things our parents said. The objects of the resistance may have changed, but the message hasn’t. The way we did things, the music we liked, the way we talked, and the way we dressed were better than the way our young people do things today (or so many of my generation believe). If it was good enough then; it is good enough now.

Unfortunately, resistance to change can stifle innovation. Stability is important, but it can also be crippling. Many of the greatest minds in history recognized this:

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”

~ Stephen Hawking

 

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”

~ Winston Churchill

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

~ John F. Kennedy

 

The resistance to change is found in all areas of our lives. People with certain bad habits often resist the need to change failing to recognize their shortcomings. A corporation that fails to recognize the ever changing technology, economy, or shopping habits can find itself on the outside looking in. Klaus Schwab, a German economist, when addressing an economic summit, said, “Change can be frightening, and the temptation is often to resist it. But change almost always provides opportunities – to learn new things, to rethink tired processes, and to improve the way we work.” This is prudent advice to the business world. It can also be prudent advice for many other aspects of life, including church life.

Change and Churches

I am not suggesting change for change’s sake. That is not productive. It is productive, however, for churches to periodically assess if there is a better way to do things, a better way to involve people of all ages, and a better way to present the gospel. Do millennials today or members of any age identify with the way we present the gospel? The message of the gospel never changes, but the way we communicate the message can change. It would be prudent for any church to have such a conversation. We are living in a rapidly changing world, and, as Church, we need to recognize the changes and respond positively.

Churches that dwell on the way “it used to be” or the way “we used to do things” and resist trying new things often wonder why the pews are not as full as before. Even at my church change has often been resisted. People can be very possessive of how they have always done things. It can be resistance to worship style, choice of music, robe for the preacher, and many other things that have nothing to do with the message of the gospel. These things are more tradition than anything else. Are we reaching the new generation of church goers, or are we ensuring that church remains the way we want it and thus risk being on the outside looking in?

Change can be frightening. How can churches cope with change? There have been volumes of books and material addressing this issue. I do not claim to have better answers. I would suggest two things a church can do:

  1. First: Recognize that change is inevitable and can be positive. To paraphrase the quote by Klaus Schwab above, “Change almost always provides opportunities – to learn new things, to rethink tired processes, and to improve the way we do church.”
  2. Second: In the midst of change focus on Christ. Hebrews 13:8 says, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (NIV) Keeping our minds focused on Christ gives us the stability we need in the face of inevitable change. Christ is our foundation. In a changing and challenging world we need to be rooted and grounded on this secure foundation. If we do, coping with change may be easier.

Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

~ Reinhold Niebuhr

ROOM IN OUR LIVES

ROOM IN OUR LIVES

by Neil Boggan

Yearning for a new way will not produce it. Only ending the old way can do that. You cannot hold onto the old, all the while declaring that you want something new. The old will defy the new; The old will deny the new; The old will decry the new. There is only one way to bring in the new. You must make room for it.    ~Neale Donald Walsch

…There is no room for solitude. There is no room for thought. There is no room for attention, for the awareness of our state…[This] is the time of demons who occupy the heart (pretending to be gods) so that man himself finds no room for himself in himself. [sic] ~“The Time of No Room” by Thomas Merton (accessed through https://thevalueofsparrows.com/2012/12/31/christmas-meditation-the-time-of-no-room-by-thomas-merton/ on 2 January 2018).

Have you ever been cramped on an elevator with too many people? Ever left a large public event such as a sports game and been shoulder to shoulder with thousands of other fans? Closet full of too many clothes? Car cluttered with an assortment of items that you have to shift around so that a passenger can ride with you? Same drive take twice as long as did 10 years ago because of the increased amount of red lights, shopping centers, and drivers on the road?

Schedule so packed that you can’t have a proper meal with friends or family? Time such a commodity that you feel you have to check e-mails and respond to texts while driving? So stressed that you electronically medicate yourself three to four hours an evening with your phone, tablet, computer, video game, or TV? Cannot sleep soundly because you’re consumed with all the things left undone?

Failure to Make Space

It is important to distinguish between the situations we can affect and those situations that we can’t affect. You and I are usually the biggest contributors to the amount of clutter in our own lives. We groan about how little room there is in our schedules. When it comes to making different choices and changing our behaviors, however, very few us are willing to do things in new ways.

Thomas Merton in “The Time of No Room” worries that we don’t make enough space for connecting to the deeper, life-giving aspects of our existence. At the same time, he believes that our clutter is so unfulfilling and unnourishing that the clutter itself becomes “demons who occupy the heart.” We are full, Merton believed, but full of things that disconnect us from friends, family, humanity, love, and God.

A New Year’s Resolution

In a new year, what are you and I going to do differently to create more room in our lives? Even though many of us have access to labor-saving machines, somehow we’ve filled the time we were supposed to be saving with other activities. As Merton lamented, we are so caught up in our daily schedules that we don’t even leave ourselves room to examine how little room we give ourselves.

Everyday feels like “just getting by.” Every unexpected inconvenience has us flying into a panic or a rage because it is one more thing to do that we didn’t have time for in the first place. Sooner or later, we’ve got no room left for our children, our significant others, our parents, our siblings, our friends, ourselves, our school work, our community, reading for pleasure, exercise, eating healthily, volunteering, remembering important events, being courteous to others, driving safely, imparting wisdom to the next generation, taking care of our environment, being an active part of a faith community, feasting on Scripture, meditating in quiet where we make room for Holy Presence, and for the giving and receiving of Love.

May we have the discipline in this new year to make decisions and choose behaviors that create more room for the most important things in this life. No one can make us give birth to new space. We have to actively participate in holy acts of creativity that bring new areas of Love into existence in our cluttered lives.

GUN VIOLENCE IN AMERICA

GUN VIOLENCE IN AMERICA

by Dr. Jim Lewis

The United States is a violent society with crime data suggesting that the South is our most violent region. I grew up in a small central Mississippi town with its own individualistic culture of violence. A nearby neighbor, a Sovereign Citizen forerunner, gave me a tour of his storeroom where he kept a large gun collection complete with a bullet mold. He was certain that at some point he would need to respond to an attack by federal agents. My father kept two old shotguns on his bedroom wall, one whose provenance dated to the Canton, Mississippi, yellow fever epidemic. The guns were rarely touched except on one occasion. One Saturday afternoon my father was walking down a nearby street and a dog bit his leg. He entered our house red-faced and grimly silent, retrieved the 16-gauge shotgun, and headed down the street. The subsequent mayhem was prevented by a smart dog and a brave owner. As my father approached, the dog positioned itself in front of a large bay window. My father was averse to shooting out the window so he waited with his gun until the dog moved. The dog wisely stayed put. Its owner walked out onto the porch and told my father she had arranged for the dog to be relocated “way out in the country.” That settled the issue, and my father returned home.

There is a paucity of reliable data on American gun violence since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had research funding jerked in 1996. Influenced by the National Rifle Association, Congress passed the Dickey Amendment that year stating that no CDC funds could be used to advocate or promote gun control. Congress then chillingly defunded the CDC by $2.6 million which just happened to be the amount designated for the study of gun violence. Scientific investigators quickly got the message, and research on gun violence tanked.

Data from Medical Journals

Here is reliable information published this past year in three major medical journals – JAMA, New England Journal of Medicine, and Annals of Internal Medicine: 1) gun violence takes 93 lives daily in America – many of them children; 2) most mass shootings like Sandy Hook and Las Vegas were done with semi-automatic weapons with large magazines; there has been a three-fold increase in the number of people killed in mass shootings following the lifting of the federal ban on assault-type weapons in 2004; 3) research funding and scientific publications about gun violence are miniscule (1.6% and 4.5% respectively) compared to other causes of death such as motor vehicle accidents which take a similar number of lives; 4) gun deaths are due to suicide in 61% of cases; 5) banning of semi-automatic weapons in the mid-1990s in Australia eliminated mass shootings in that country; and 6) gun violence in PG-13 movies has more than doubled since 1985.

Christianity and Violence

Can Christianity inform our opinions about the use of guns, weapons that did not exist for well over a millennium after the Bible was written? For the first three hundred years of Christianity, pacifism was the predominant interpretation of Christ’s teachings. The blood and gore of the early Old Testament.

were replaced by the Christian doctrines of peacemaking (beatitudes), non-violence (Christ’s admonition to Peter to put up his sword), and possibly frank pacifism (turning the other cheek). The Romans were reluctant to draft Christians into their armed forces for fear Christians would refuse to fight. As Christianity became the dominant religious faith, the “just war” tenets of Augustine and Aquinas replaced the pacifism of early Christianity. There are still Christian sects today who practice pacifism – Mennonites, Amish, and Seventh Day Adventists. Jesus consistently supported peacemaking and non-violence. Both Gandhi and King drew upon Christ’s example and organized their successful social justice movements around non-violence.

Public Policy and Gun Violence

Healthcare advocates for reduction in gun violence are realistic in confronting America’s proclivity toward violence. The following reasonable recommendations come from an acknowledgement of America’s individualism and the pro-gun interpretation of the second amendment: 1) support laws prohibiting the sale of semi-automatic weapons with large-capacity magazines; 2) require universal background checks for all gun sales; 3) prohibit gun ownership for people convicted of domestic violence; and 4) require insurance companies to offer mental health and drug abuse services comparable to other health services. With the exception of the semi-automatic weapons ban, the above proposals from a 2013 national survey were actually supported by a majority of gun owners. Finally research on violence prevention needs to be supported financially. There is no need to fear objective, scientific inquiry into a problem that gives us much to fear.

EXPERIENCING COMPASSION IN CIVIL DISCOURSE

EXPERIENCING COMPASSION IN CIVIL DISCOURSE

by Dr. Jim Lewis

December is the season of Advent, a season whose color purple symbolizes solemnity, repentance, and preparation. The color purple, according to Dr. Stephen Cook, also symbolizes Second Baptist Church where the polarization of Republican Red and Democrat Blue meld into a loving people of diverse perspectives and ideological positions. An audience of 200 people from all across the Mid-South heard Michael Gerson, nationally known columnist and political commentator, speak recently at Second Baptist. His topic was Cultivating Compassion in Civil Discourse. For those not present, here is a summary.

Introduced by Pastor Cook, Gerson described his own background: theology major at Wheaton College, participant in three presidential campaigns, and speech writer for President George W. Bush. He currently writes op-ed columns for the Washington Post and serves as a policy fellow for the ONE Campaign. He remains a Republican and a committed Christian.

Three Disturbing Trends

Gerson described the current political climate as possessing three disturbing trends. The first is deep polarization. We now live in homogeneous communities segregated by politics, culture, and media. We impugn each other’s motives and hold different value systems. We no longer have political parties, but alien tribes. Conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans are endangered species. Our media outlets supply only ammunition, not news. We see our fellow citizens as enemies, and collaboration is considered wrong. The solution is to adjust our attitudes and adopt the prophetic stance of “living on the edge of the inside.” We must act as a gateway or door for warring people to communicate. Our churches should become refuges inhabited by both groups.

The second characteristic of our political culture is using our brainpower to support our own ideology. We cannot argue our way to unity. We must show intellectual honesty and call out our own side when it is wrong. Senators Corker and Flake are good examples of this kind of courage. Confront the information bias in ourselves, and find friends who disagree with you. C.S. Lewis described this concept as Friend One and Friend Two. Friend One is someone who is our alter ego, who shares our beliefs. Friend Two, in contrast and even more vital, is someone who disagrees with you.

The third characteristic of our divided politics and its ultimate frightening outcome is dehumanization. Muslims are viewed as threats and Mexicans as rapists. In contrast, we must adapt a Christian anthropology that all are created in God’s image. Human worth is not diminished by poverty or ethnicity. Humane leadership is mandatory.

Love and Empathy

Reversing these trends depends upon the spiritual quality of mutual empathy. Empathy requires moral imagination. Loving our neighbors is the first step toward loving our country. Compassion and generosity can break down barriers. As Christians, we must love people more than our own principles.

America’s history has examples of love not hate, unifiers not dividers. George Washington in his letter to the Jewish synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, said, ” For happily the Government of the United States gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support .” Lincoln, in arguably the greatest speech ever written, his second inaugural address, encouraged “with malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds…” A partisan church violates both community and the gospel. Human dignity and the fact that everyone matters are fundamental aspects of Christian anthropology. The revivals of the nineteenth century contributed to a just society and to social movements. The fundamental tenets of Christianity argue against dehumanization.

Journalism Versus Commentary

During the question and answer period a variety of additional topics were covered. America was almost destroyed by the Adams-Jefferson presidential campaign. Political parties are now dominated by ideological extremes and purity with a discourse of blame rather than unifying ideals. Journalism must be fair, trustworthy, and accurate. We need journalists to be purveyors of facts, not commentators. It is wrong to undermine institutions such as the press. We need textbook, bulletproof journalism. A balanced, fact-checked newspaper presenting a variety of views is an excellent source of truth. Avoid news that only supports pre-existing views.

The audience, many wearing a touch of purple, filed out – intrigued and challenged by Gerson’s message. During the season of Advent, they would be meeting associates and relatives belonging to the Friend Two group. The admonition to love people more than principles was a timely reminder of what lay before them.

THINGS I FOUND

THINGS I FOUND

by John N. Avis

 “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.”

~ Psalm 24: 1 (KJV)

For the beauty of the earth, For the beauty of the skies, For the love which from our birth Over and around us lies . . .

from For the Beauty of the Earth; Folliott S. Pierpont, 1864

 

The wonderment of childhood,

To learn, to know,

to have more than a fair share of miracles

begins

with a series of firsts,

discoveries,

the simple joys:

 

Seeing lightning bugs glow,

getting that first taste of cotton candy,

melting,

dissolving,

disappearing

upon the tongue

like a snowflake

or that first sip of Coke,

bubbles tickling tongue and nose . . .

 

Seeing it rain,

while the sun shines,

marveling at the kaleidoscope in the sky . . .

 

Experiencing the first cool, crisp day of autumn,

not the one on the calendar,

no, the one

that follows the long, hot summer,

the jolt invigorating the lungs,

both then and now.

 

The eight year-old,

anticipating the crack of dawn,

not knowing if it would be seen or heard . . .

 

At fifteen there is the arrogance of knowing it all,

at least more than your parents.

But riding across the plains of eastern Wyoming,

there came a revelation:

like Keats and Chapman’s Homer,

from the white-capped purple mountain majesties that

seemingly, suddenly rose before me,

or was it while standing on the banks of the Lewis River,

praying for a trout to rise?

But there,

there it was – the declaration of His handiwork.

JAvis Dec 02

There it was, again,

just last week

not long after the first frost,

a reminder beneath the vines

laying under the rich, dark dirt,

Ipomoea batatas illusion,

but it was no illusion, just

the biggest sweet potato I ever saw.

 

And like the poet Blake,

who asked who made the little lamb,

and the fearful symmetry of the tyger,

I couldn’t help but marvel

at the Hand that created

the fulness thereof

and more so

the richness of such grace,

and love,

and beauty

that not only fills

but overwhelms.

 

7“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;  8or speak to the earth, and it will teach you and the fish of the sea will declare to you. 9Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?  10In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.

Job 12: 7 – 10 (ESV)

THINGS I LOST

THINGS I LOST

by John N. Avis

 

12 For now we see through a glass darkly: but then shall we see face to face. Now I know in part: but then shall I know even as I am known.

                                                                                         1 Corinthians 13:12 (GNV)

I cannot remember where they went –

All the DC Comics:

Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, the Flash . . .

Oh yeah, and the baseball cards,

a couple of shoeboxes full,

not including the ones wasted on the spokes of my bicycle . . .

 

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There was a time I met Don Newcombe

and got his autograph

on a scrap of notebook paper.

I was so excited . . .

I put it somewhere;

I just wish I could remember where.

 

Once I wrote a poem

with a line

I stole from Andy Rooney.

Maybe it was from Sixty Minutes;

Shoot, I don’t remember –

I just know it was some wintry night in the ‘70s, and

I was praying for a snow day

while he was talking about some old pick-up truck sitting in a field,

calling it the rusty shell of America

or something like that.

I jotted the lines in pencil

on a scrap of notebook paper.

 

I just don’t know where I put it.

 

Jack’s Sundry,

I think it was #3,

used to sit at the corner of Jackson and Manassas;

I’d pass it every day.

I thought it was a good subject for a poem and

wrote some lines about the pigeons that pecked the parking lot for crumbs

and sent them to a journal

at Austin Peay . . .

I don’t know what happened to Jack’s

or the rejection letter

that followed.

 

When my big sister moved out of the house,

she gave me a stack,

I mean, a really big stack, of 45s.

It was an odd mix of tunes –

Elvis and Pat Boone and Little Richard and the Brothers Four –

even the theme from Zorro . . .

But all that remains today

are those melodies in my head.

 

And now I think of Tennyson and Ulysses and Telemachus

and that which we once were . . .

 

Still, the Brothers sing,

“Where have all the flowers gone?”

 

I nod.

It has been

a long time passing . . .

 

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“That night I had a dream. I dreamt I was as light as the ether – a floating spirit visiting things to come. The shades and shadows of the people in my life ‘rassled their way into my slumber . . .

 

And still I dreamed on, further into the future than I had ever dreamed before . . .

 

But I saw an old couple being visited by their children, and all their grandchildren too. The old couple weren’t screwed up. And neither were their kids or their grandkids. And I don’t know. You tell me. This whole dream, was it wishful thinking? Was I just fleeing reality like I know I’m liable to do?

 

 

. . . And it seemed real. It seemed like us and it seemed like, well, our home. If not . . . then a land not too far away. Where all parents are strong and wise and capable and all children are happy and beloved . . .”

 

from Raising Arizona

 

 

 

#ME TOO! YOU SHOULD BE SAYING IT TOO.

#ME TOO!  YOU SHOULD BE SAYING IT TOO.

by Rev. Julia Goldie Day

A few weeks ago, when the Me Too movement went viral I participated. I retweeted and shared on Facebook this statement:

ME TOO.

If all the women/people who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Please copy/paste. ME TOO.

It wasn’t a surprise to me all the women who did participate. We live in this reality. Now as a wiser and more experienced woman I don’t feel defenseless, but there were times that I did when I was young. When I was a teenager no one was talking about this, at least not to me. I didn’t have the tools I needed to combat abuse and harassment. I was a victim like so many other women.

As I watch heartbreaking reporting of the women who are brave enough to share their stories, I can’t help but think how that will help. If I had heard those stories long ago I might have better protected myself or at least held my abusers accountable. More stories are coming. Undoubtedly a dam has been broken these last few weeks.

Harvey Weinstein, Louis CK, Al Franken, and Roy Moore to name a few. When will Christians stand up and denounce this behavior? If actions speak louder than words, then what convicted Christian could check a box beside the name of Roy Moore in Alabama’s election? There is enough evidence to not turn a blind eye.

Publisher’s Grave Error

But words are important too. Soon after the Me Too movement went viral I read an article in Children’s Ministry Magazine (Group Publishing) that illustrated this. Read what I wrote to the publisher about my concerns. Note the author is speaking about safe hiring practices – checking backgrounds and vetting potential employees who will work with children.

I am writing to express my concern about the “Walking a Legal Tightrope” article, specifically the section below:

 “A church-affiliated middle school interviewed Mitch for a teaching position. But, when asked why he’d left the field three years earlier, Mitch didn’t mention that he’d gotten a 15-year-old girl from his former church pregnant. The school learned of Mitch’s past a few months after it hired him.”

 The statement “he’d gotten a 15-year-old-girl from his former church pregnant” is irresponsible language on your part in the very context of keeping children safe in churches. 15-year-old girls don’t just “get pregnant” by an adult teacher. That is RAPE. While the age of consent varies from state to state, it is irresponsible on your part to use such casual language for sexual assault. Later in the article the author states that Mitch’s situation is not as clear cut because it’s “not criminal.” It is criminal even it was not reported. Unfortunately, this article is ill-informed and possibly harmful. Please take more care in in the way you speak about these very sensitive and legal issues. It is worth your time and effort to protect the children in our care. 

Please respond with how you will rectify this problem. 

The article has since been taken off their website, but I have been disappointed by the lack of response to how they will print a correction for readers who received a hard copy.

Silence or Me Too

Me Too. This is what we will continue to hear repeatedly if politicians, movie execs, comics, religious schools and even churches are not held accountable for their immoral and sinful behavior. Biblical references to the age difference between Joseph and Mary doesn’t excuse Roy Moore’s behavior; it only sullies our belief in a God who trusted a vulnerable woman with the savior of the world.

It is my responsibility as Minister to Families and Congregational Care at Second Baptist Church in Memphis, TN to keep children safe. To keep women safe. Brothers and sisters, it’s your job too.

A retired pastor who is also a friend of mine on Facebook posted this statement in response to the Me Too movement:

Me Too

People I know and love have been sexually assaulted and posted “Me Too” on their Facebook page. I have not been sexually assaulted, but I want to stand in solidarity with those who have. This simple post is my way of doing that.

I’d like to challenge you to think how you are contributing to or helping to solve the problem. Sadly, Children’s Ministry Magazine contributed. Sadly, politicians use bad theology to contribute. Some fifty pastors even signed a letter of support for Roy Moore. Have you contributed? Will you be silent? Or will you say Me Too somehow, too?

OPEN DOORS

OPEN DOORS

By Joe Livesay

“When the door of opportunity opens for you, let faith and hope enter first.”

Israelmore Ayivor

My wife and I both retired this year within 3 months of each other. I was first, and then she retired. The first day of our dual retirement was June 1. I remember sitting across from her that morning drinking coffee and thinking NOW WHAT? She was probably thinking WHAT HAVE I DONE? We had both finished the last chapter of our long and successful careers. No longer would we have to get up each day and go to work. That door was closed. NOW WHAT?

There is a line from my favorite song, Leann’s Womack’s I Hope You Dance, which says, “Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens.” That is what we were hoping would happen. As it turns out, it did. In fact, many doors opened. There was the door of more time to read, the door of walking each morning together, the door of time to volunteer, and many other doors. It was no longer NOW WHAT? It was which doors to walk through.

The truth is open doors scare us. Do I really want to walk through that door? What if I don’t like what I find on the other side? This thinking has probably been a part of every one who has become a follower of Christ. Once we have accepted Christ, the door of our prior life closes and a new door in Christ opens. It may be the most frightening open door we have ever walked through. The doors that Christ opens often challenge us in ways we have never experienced. It may be a door calling us to missions or a door showing us what it means to give back a part of what we have been given. It may require us to go into neighborhoods we would have never gone in before or encounter people we have not been with before. It may be a door asking us to accept different positions at our church. There are doors Christ opens that call us to many different types of discipleship. It definitely requires us to change the way we live our lives.

How sad it would be, if, when we come to a door that Christ has opened, we close that door. We say I’m not ready to walk through that door. I can’t do what is on the other side of that door. We do not understand that if Christ opens a door for us he goes with us. Philippians 4:13 (one of my favorite verses) says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” All the doors Christ opens for us are not easy. I have heard ministers say that Christ never asks us to do something we are not able to do. I am not sure I understand or agree. There is no way to know where a door Christ opens will lead and that is what scares us. What I do understand is that it requires us to step across the threshold of the open door in faith and hope

There are all kinds of open doors. When we walk through doors Christ has opened for us the result will be a more fulfilled life, a life that matters, a life that shines light on Christ.

Most important is that Christ told us he is the door that leads to eternal life (John 10:9 ASV). That door never closes. It is always open to us. We just have to enter.