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Freedom From Terror: MLK JR’s Legacy


“Your father and his brother, the mayor, came into the kitchen with a rope. They said a black man had raped a white woman and they were going out hunting for him. I was terrified.”

Until I was an adult, my mother had told me nothing about her dashing, handsome husband, my birth father.

She asked me not to look for him because he was “dangerous.” I honored her request until I was forty-seven years old, when I searched for and found my father, an old man living in South Georgia.

Mom was a beautiful, small town Northern Pennsylvania school teacher who had spent years caring for her sick mother. He, a charming Southern soldier on leave, had swept her off her feet. They married on a whim. On their honeymoon, he took her to visit his traditional, southern family where she discovered his true identity.

With a flare towards the romantic, mom picked her china pattern, ‘The Georgian’ by Homer Laughlin,  learned to make Southern Biscuits, got on a train back to Pennsylvania and seldom saw the man she married until after WWII.

He returned to discuss divorce, disown me, and disappear. He never appeared in our family story until I found him in his kitchen forty-seven years later.

“I always wondered what happened to you, but I never did anything about it.” sad words from my elderly father, as I sat at his knee bawling.

We spoke on the phone several times and then three months later he died. The end.  Yet my work was just beginning. I needed to forgive the trauma and loneliness, depression and anger that remained in me.

When I read this article, I remembered him again and thought about the terror he was responsible for in that Southern town so many years ago.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/08/29/1011562/-Most-of-you-have-no-idea-what-Martin-Luther-King-actually-did

The Imam and the Pastor


National Church of Nigeria, Abuja

National Church of Nigeria, Abuja (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Abuja National Mosque

Abuja National Mosque (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some friends of ours work with this organization. We’re pretty impressed with their work.

They shared the following DVD with us. Tell me what you think.

Why the Trinity?


StJohnsAshfield StainedGlass Baptism

StJohnsAshfield StainedGlass Baptism (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Several days ago, I was reading the story of Jesus being baptized by John Baptist in the book of Matthew, chapter 3.  He writes in vss 16, 17: “At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

My first thoughts after reading went to our Muslim friends who always ask us if we think Jesus is God’s Son. It’s a painful subject and often a conversation stopper or an argument starter because they believe very strongly that Christians worship THREE Gods! WE DON’T, but trying to explain why we believe in ONE God who is Triune is very difficult and inconvenient.

I love and respect our Muslim friends and I understand their passion for the One True God…Allah and His purity, so I want to explain why we also worship ONE God.  But, I’ve never been successful in explaining our beliefs in the Trinity to their satisfaction.

As I understand it, a good many Muslims think we worship God the creator who had sex with Mary thus producing a son, Jesus.  Some believe we worship God, Mary and Jesus. Not True.

Others don’t believe this, but all believe that Jesus is NOT God’s Son.

And who can blame them? If we’re honest, it’s difficult for us Christians to understand much less explain.

That’s why I’m posting this article from Christianity Today about the Trinity, “Three is the Loveliest Number”. It may not persuade any Muslims, but it provided me with an “epiphany” about Christians (and perhaps why so many in our country expect more of the USA as a once/so-called Christian nation).

Christians are called to be culturally different from other cultures that do not believe in the Trinity.

We are called to a lifestyle of relationship, with God and with others:   Love, forgiveness, gratitude, joy, peace, patience and other qualities that always existed in God’s relationship with His Son are to be in evidence in our daily lives.

What a great challenge to begin the New Year!

I hope you enjoy this article as much as I did.

Three Is the Loveliest Number | Christianity Today.

Voice of the Martyrs’ Tom White’s Death a Sad and Lonely End


Jesus and the woman taken in adultery, miniatu...

Jesus and the woman taken in adultery, miniature, Hitda-Codex, Darmstadt, Hessische Landes- und Hochschulbibliothek, cod. 1640, fol. 171 References: Anna Maria Cetto: Mittelalterliche Miniaturen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tom White, Executive Director of the Christian Organization, Voice of the Martyrs, was accused of allegedly molesting a 10 year old girl and recently died of apparent suicide.

What a tragic end to the life of a man who had spent his years bringing attention to the poor, the abused, the neglected. We sorrow for the family, the child, the legacy.

“Who among you dares to cast the first stone?” That’s the question Jesus asked when the Pharisees were so eager to condemn a woman caught in adultery.

Here’s the situation quoted directly from our Holy Book: King James Version

“And early in the morning He came again into the Temple, and all the people came unto Him; and He sat down, and taught them

“And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto Him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto Him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the Law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest Thou?”

“This they said, tempting Him, that they might have to accuse Him.”

“But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground, as though He heard them not. So when they continued asking Him, He lifted up Himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground.”

“And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.”

“When Jesus had lifted up Himself, and saw none but the woman, He said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?”

“She said, No man, Lord.”

“And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (John 8:2-11)

It is a horrible thing to molest and abuse a child, of course. I think Jesus would call it a sin.

A sin is anything that separates us from God.

But, Christians tend to feel squeamish talking to each other about their sins. It’s hard enough to admit wrong, and say we’re sorry, let alone own up to “sins”.

We also tend to put people on pedestals: Political figures, Popular media stars, Pastors…Leaders of Christian organizations…failing to demand accountability from them.

If we identify as Christians then we align ourselves with a set of standards which are clear but never perfectly observed. Ironically,  though, anyone watching us from “outside” the Church can and often will, quickly point out when we deviate from these standards, it is rather uncool to do this within the Church. It should be just the opposite.

This shouldn’t be such a huge deal, because we have something in our lives called “Grace”, but it is often difficult to give to others.

Sometimes the Christian Community makes it difficult to be honest about our weaknesses. So we deal with our them in a number of ways. Two extremes might be…

We give up trying to live a life of faith…or act as if we are fine on the surface, while painfully struggling with problems desperately working to hide them with good works.

Because a small child helplessly suffers molestation by a grown-up, we see this type of abuse as worse than some others.

But, we may abuse and ruin people’s lives by the words we speak, the policies we embrace, the choices we make in our daily lives.

If Tom White was guilty, I hope he shared his mess with someone. Jesus makes it clear that we have company in our mess.  No one is “without sin” and we can open ourselves to Jesus who does not condemn us.  I’m sad that Tom White felt that the only way through his pain was suicide. What a lonely end.

Voice of the Martyrs’ Tom White’s Death an Apparent Suicide Following Molestation Investigation | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

Life Lessons


English: Photograph of Paul McCartney of the T...

Paul McCartney 1964

I turned 64 the other day and the lyrics from the Beatles’ song “When I’m 64” began to run through my brain as if they were programmed. The song was written by Beatle Paul McCartney when he was 16 in 1966. I was a senior in high school.  You’ll find the full song with lyrics below:

love_lyrics_125.htm

The full story can be found here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_I%27m_Sixty-Four

None of us imagine being “old” when we’re sixteen, but looking back we remember singing those songs as if it were yesterday.

I only had a few Beatles’ records and seldom listened to the radio. It wasn’t a part of my Christian culture.  My life didn’t revolve around music, but rather cruising the roads in boy’s hot rods piled full with friends, screaming myself silly at basketball games, and on Sundays going to Alliance Youth Fellowship at Church.

I spent a lot of quiet, interior time as well; roaming the woods and pastures, writing stories, sitting in trees, being in companionship with my many dogs and cats.

None of these times prepared me well for my future.

I found family life to be very stressful, though I had longed for it with all my heart.  I never imagined the demands that commitment brings, especially commitment to raising a family, and signing on to self-denial until your children are grown.

This wore me out pretty quickly, and unfortunately, the stress showed in ways that I was unprepared for.  Anger was the most comfortable for me, and most hurtful for my kids.

I learned early that I would be the kind of mother who needed to apologize and seek forgiveness often because I so often flew off the handle with my kids.

Once my husband asked me if I couldn’t “think” before I became angry.  My immediate answer was, “No”, because the anger never gave me time to think, it always just “appeared” suddenly and furiously.

I know my children bear scars from my unpredictability, and that they forgive me now, but it took years for me to accept their forgiveness and to forgive myself.

That I am a different person now is such a relief…and transformation was years in process.  I’m sure God was involved but I had so often asked God for help in the past, and then blown up in anger immediately afterwards, it took something more for me.

Why are some people just naturally better at coping with life, I’ve wondered? Do they not have these explosive tempers? It seemed to me that they never struggled as I did.

I had not realized that I was depressed most of my life, though I was also a pretty happy young person. I would spend dark times in college, suffering through what I know now are depressive episodes where I would question everything but God holding my hand.

“Why art Thou cast down oh my soul, why art Thou disquieted within thee?” Just one of the many Bible verses I would pray out loud as I walked to my Social Work assignment in South Philadelphia in tears of melancholia.

I so longed for, but never found any other person who truly understood me, or came along to help me deal with my intense emotions, though I always tried to be emotionally transparent.  I know I must have appeared capable, pleasant, funny and actually was all those things,  and possibly didn’t have words to ask for help.  I was always called upon to help other people, and did…which just added to my stress.

I could handle being an Resident Assistant, a Social Worker, living and working in a dangerous city in a foreign country, but at the least little unexpected stress in the privacy of our  home I was in danger of falling apart.

There was no formula that worked on me. It took years and(thirty plus) years of counsel, Bible Study, Discipline, and then medication, for me to finally be able to “think” before I become angry.

I’m a pretty calm presence in my home these days, even when the unexpected happens, and I think it comes from trusting that God will work things out for the best and that I don’t have to control everything. He’s still holding my hand.

Now I’m 64!

I would have benefited from more people sharing their life lessons with me. How about you?

Here’s an interesting website called “The Legacy Project” I found at Cornell. It’s a compilation of  the life lessons from 1500 older people.

legacyproject.human.cornell.edu.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/10/health/elderly-experts-share-life-advice-in-cornell-project.html?_r=1&src=tp&smid=fb-share

Politics and Forgiveness


Almost everybody has talked or written about Tucson this week. I’m very sad that it took these tragic circumstances to bring our nation to a public discourse that was long overdue.

I’ve heard “uncivil” language from both sides of the aisle for many years..it depends on which side you align yourself whether you tolerate it or feel offended by it.

I’m thankful that I have friends on both sides who talk to me, regardless of what I hear.

There are certain categories of “language”, however, that I feel are especially offensive; attacks on character and name calling are high on my list.

Whites calling blacks, “arrogant” is extremely offensive and recalls, rightly or wrongly, the era when blacks should know their place which was beneath the white owners. There are still many areas in our country where racism is a daily practice among whites.

I grew up in a gun culture in, where low paying jobs and lack of interest in further education often led to alcoholism, prejudice against the unknown, abuse and sometimes violence. Many, many people I speak to fear a government take over and most of all fear President Obama. Others, fear conservatives and their guns.

The most dangerous type of political language in my opinion is that which fosters fear and uses militaristic language appealing to an audience that is looking for someone to blame for their troubles.

Whether this one paranoid young man in Arizona had bought into extremist rhetoric or simply made up his own, we may never know, but there are others who hear it daily. Who is to know when the next paranoid person will rise up in anger blaming another politician for their troubles?

I really like what David Brooks wrote in the NY Times last week, about our need for modesty in all we say. The quote from Reinhold Niebuhr is a great reminder that none of us has the final answer within ourselves. Read his column below.

http://www.nyt

Op-Ed Columnist

Tree of Failure

By DAVID BROOKS
Published: January 13, 2011

President Obama gave a wonderful speech in Tucson on Wednesday night. He didn’t try to explain the rampage that occurred there. Instead, he used the occasion as a national Sabbath — as a chance to step out of the torrent of events and reflect. He did it with an uplifting spirit. He not only expressed the country’s sense of loss but also celebrated the lives of the victims and the possibility for renewal.

Josh Haner/The New York Times

David Brooks

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Of course, even a great speech won’t usher in a period of civility. Speeches about civility will be taken to heart most by those people whose good character renders them unnecessary. Meanwhile, those who are inclined to intellectual thuggery and partisan one-sidedness will temporarily resolve to do better but then slip back to old habits the next time their pride feels threatened.

Civility is a tree with deep roots, and without the roots, it can’t last. So what are those roots? They are failure, sin, weakness and ignorance.

Every sensible person involved in politics and public life knows that their work is laced with failure. Every column, every speech, every piece of legislation and every executive decision has its own humiliating shortcomings. There are always arguments you should have made better, implications you should have anticipated, other points of view you should have taken on board.

Moreover, even if you are at your best, your efforts will still be laced with failure. The truth is fragmentary and it’s impossible to capture all of it. There are competing goods that can never be fully reconciled. The world is more complicated than any human intelligence can comprehend.

But every sensible person in public life also feels redeemed by others. You may write a mediocre column or make a mediocre speech or propose a mediocre piece of legislation, but others argue with you, correct you and introduce elements you never thought of. Each of these efforts may also be flawed, but together, if the system is working well, they move things gradually forward.

Each individual step may be imbalanced, but in succession they make the social organism better.

As a result, every sensible person feels a sense of gratitude for this process. We all get to live lives better than we deserve because our individual shortcomings are transmuted into communal improvement. We find meaning — and can only find meaning — in the role we play in that larger social enterprise.

So this is where civility comes from — from a sense of personal modesty and from the ensuing gratitude for the political process. Civility is the natural state for people who know how limited their own individual powers are and know, too, that they need the conversation. They are useless without the conversation.

The problem is that over the past 40 years or so we have gone from a culture that reminds people of their own limitations to a culture that encourages people to think highly of themselves. The nation’s founders had a modest but realistic opinion of themselves and of the voters. They erected all sorts of institutional and social restraints to protect Americans from themselves. They admired George Washington because of the way he kept himself in check.

But over the past few decades, people have lost a sense of their own sinfulness. Children are raised amid a chorus of applause. Politics has become less about institutional restraint and more about giving voters whatever they want at that second. Joe DiMaggio didn’t ostentatiously admire his own home runs, but now athletes routinely celebrate themselves as part of the self-branding process.

So, of course, you get narcissists who believe they or members of their party possess direct access to the truth. Of course you get people who prefer monologue to dialogue. Of course you get people who detest politics because it frustrates their ability to get 100 percent of what they want. Of course you get people who gravitate toward the like-minded and loathe their political opponents. They feel no need for balance and correction.

Beneath all the other things that have contributed to polarization and the loss of civility, the most important is this: The roots of modesty have been carved away.

President Obama’s speech in Tucson was a good step, but there will have to be a bipartisan project like comprehensive tax reform to get people conversing again. Most of all, there will have to be a return to modesty.

In a famous passage,  put it best: “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. … Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.

imes.com/2011/01/14/opinion/14brooks.html

The New Leaf part II


Palestinian outside Palestine

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday, I titled my blog about our visits to the West Bank and our rubbing shoulders with real Palestinians, A New Leaf. What I tend to do is think way ahead of myself, and then when writing it down, fail to connect my thoughts with what I’m writing. So, I’m going to try to discipline myself here and write upfront about the title of this entry, and also finish my thought on yesterday’s entry.

This year, my decision to write passionately about Palestine, and post articles critical of Israel on Facebook, has sent some Christians up the wall. I’ve heard indirectly from one, who thinks I’ve turned against Israel by calling her to “account”.  Only one other person has written directly to correct me, and, while her assumptions about Arabs have been harsh, I’ve appreciated her “direct” approach! We’ve maintained our friendship, agreeing to disagree.

I wrestled for a while on what was divisive, and what was prophetic. What is calling forth Justice, reminding people of what Jesus actually was like.

I think the answer is on its way.

The New Leaf? My son talked to me the other night about not seeming so aggressively “anti-Israeli injustice” to the point that I cause a wound in the Body of Christ.

This is so cute because he’s not really that into church  right now, but he was passionate about winning more people to my cause through gentle persuasion than pounding them with facts. He said, “I don’t want to be like Christians who hit people over the head with Christianity!”  He made me think! I may learn that way, but others don’t.

Now, his talk came the same week that I sort of slinked into church feeling everyone, who hasn’t commented on my postings publicly, might feel the same way as that one person who thinks I’m anti-Israel.

I recognized my feeling, not as guilt but “shame”. Shame??? For speaking up about true injustice? I’m still thinking about that one, but I’m also considering putting more of my postings on this blog, and fewer on Facebook; being less “in your face”.

Most of all, I decided that after one year, to the day, of our first trip to Israel and the West Bank, I can, with integrity reevaluate my promise to the Palestinians; to present their dilemma to the Americans. I will continue to do this, but I’m also going to put this into a more prayerful mode.

Also, as soon as I decided to commit this promise to God, several other people wrote about this issue, one friend wrote saying how much they appreciate my postings, and  “my gentle yet firm responses”! This brought tears to my eyes.

On top of everything else, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Pres. Obama yesterday to hopefully discuss the settlements. Whether this will result in change I don’t know, but God is doing something.  I hope my writings will reflect more of that, as I abide in the “vine” developing my ‘New Leaves’.