Saturday, May 28, 2005

Rant and Rave

Boy, I need to lose weight. When I was 30, I had a waist to match my age. Now at 57, the trend has continued - I'm not 57 around the waist - not yet anyway, ha! - but to look at me you might think I was trying real hard to get there. When I was 30 and thought about being 57, I only imagined being wiser and perhaps richer; clothed in grandchildren; house paid for. But now that I'm here, I can see that my imagination ran amuck. There is so much when you're there that you cannot see until you're here - guess that's the wisdom part - but I am certainly not richer and I rarely see my grandchildren - I suppose that's because they live 800 miles away - and "house paid for," I moved two years ago from the house I had lived in for 20 years. It was paid for, but falling down - so now I have a new, smaller house and am in debt up to my ears.

If this sounds like a complaint, it really isn't. Though I am very busy, Eric and I live a simplistic lifestyle that is, for the most part, fun filled and stress free. My job takes up a lot of time, of course, but in between I do a lot of church stuff. I mean a lot of church stuff! I serve on three boards for three different ministry organizations, teach Bible study on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Then, of course, there is Sunday where I support the administrative side of the church - doing the Power Point slides and order of service for the Minister of Music. Sometimes I do the bulletin and help count the offering and make the bank deposit. Even though this a "bunch of business" I'd rather be busy than not.

Eric and I love the movies and get to go almost every week - that is, if I'm not too poor and if there is something out there we just can't live without. I do not consider myself a picky movie-goer, but I am not above walking out of a lousy film either. We don't do horror or slasher films - we're more into comedy and action - James Bond is perfect and Spiderman was to die for. But the truth is we like to stay at home and grill, watch "Everybody Loves Raymond" or "The Golden Girls" or "King Of The Hill" or "Keeping Up Appearances."

I'm really into gay drama. I have a considerable collection of gay-themed movies and shorts. For the most part they are about "coming out" and the struggle of being gay in a homophobic society. Movies like "Maurice", "The Edge of Seventeen" and "Get Real" touch something in my soul. I really like "Queer As Folk!" I know it's not realistic - afterall it's TV - but it does portray many of the struggles we face. I didn't like it at first because of its portrayal of gay men as animalistic mindless sex machines always on the prowl - even unfriendly stories about gays do that, but as a late night soap opera, it does a pretty good job of keeping my interest. "Six Feet Under" is also a good one. Compared to what they show on TV, if the truth be known, in reality we're kinda drab. All the right wing conservative Christians can say about our "lifestyle" is that it is an "abomination to God!" But in reality, I'm just tired and need to get to sleep by 10:30 so I can get up and go to work the next day and pay my bills like everybody else.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Bible Study Last Night

We looked at the story of Jericho last night in our Bible study starting off in the final verses of Joshua, chapter 5. This is where the "Commander of the Lord's Hosts" visits Joshua just before the battle of Jericho. This must have been an awesome moment for Joshua when he was told by the Lord to take off his shoes because the place on which he stood was holy. The next day, they began their seven day "seige" of the walls of Jericho. They were to march around the city once a day for six days and keep silent except for the rams horns. It must have been an awesome sight with the warriors, the horn blowers, the Ark of the Covenant followed by the entire population parading around the city. The real challenge for the people was to keep quiet as they marched. Someone said last night that the true miracle was not that the walls fell down, but the ability of the people just to stop talking. There was the constant blare of the rams horns which would have been unnerving; and the people of Jericho, waiting to be conquered, watching this parade and wondering what the Israelites were doing; perhaps feeling a little anxious, and perhaps overly secure behind their legendary walls.

It turns out that Jericho is the oldest city in the world with carbon datings of its ruins dating back as far as 7,000 BCE (that would be 9,000 years ago). This predates the pyramids. It is also the lowest city on earth at 825 feet below sea level. The most escavated city in Israel, with good archeological evidence to back up the story in Joshua about its defeat in the 13th century BC and how it all happened. Archeologists found a collapsed wall and pottery jars still filled with grain with obivious scorch marks from being burned. This is in complete concert with what the Israelites were told to do to the city and its inhabitants according to Joshua chapter 6.

On the seventh day of marching, Joshua instructed the people to march around the city seven times and when he told them to, the rams horns were to be played and the people were to all shout - at which point the walls of Jericho fell down and the warriors went right into the unprotected city and destroyed its inhabitants. It was clear that the battle of Jericho was God's victory. All of the booty of Jericho was devoted to Him and was under a ban. The precious metals (gold, silver, bronze and iron) were to be put into the treasury of Israel and everything else was to be destroyed by fire. Nothing was to be kept as spoil at the risk of a curse (Of course someone did keep some of the spoils, but that's next week's lesson).

The story of Joshua is a big analogy. The symbolism is on every page. The sudden appearance of the Commander just before the battle to Joshua is a parallel to the revelation of God to us through the Holy Spirit. He brings with Him the assurance that the battle is already won - "just follow my instructions," He says. I have such a hard time following instructions . . . . and what were those difficult instructions? They had to walk and be silent for six days. I have a very difficult time being silent. In fact this blog is all about letting out what is rushing around inside me trying to get out. But sometimes just being quiet is what I really need to do. Then there is the ban on the spoils. This is also difficult because with the battle finally won, it seems the victory makes it alright to relish in the success and perhaps foolishly spend money that was gained - or - I just think that since the victory has been won, that all is well and I needn't worry anymore - but I forget that the discipline that got me to the point of victory has to be maintained, or I'll end up losing all that I had gained.

God wants us to be victors, not victims; and He has promised that we are - but we have to follow His instructions to the letter or we open ourselves up to anything. He is jealous and the credit for what He has done must not be given to anyone or anything else.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Other Day

It was our anniversary - six years (yeah!). We decided to go on an exploration trip to a nearby town and walk around in the mall there. When we arrived, the parking lot at the mall was somewhat crowded - guess everyone was trying to get in out of the heat - but I found a parking place fairly close to the Barnes & Noble entrance door. In fact there were two open, side by side. Before I turned off the engine, I spotted yet another place even closer (another 30 feet). So I backed out and headed toward that spot only to find it was occupied by a motorcycle that I could not see until I got closer. No problem - "I'll just go back to the one I just was in."

I circled around to go back and when I arrived, one of the parking spots was taken, so I slipped into the other one and did not notice a woman waiting in another car. She apparently thought that place belonged to her. As I exited the car, still oblivious to my infraction, the woman in the car next to me, who had also just parked, began to chide me for sneaky unfairness in getting her friend's parking place. At the same time the lady in the car who I had apparently cut off pulled in behind me, rolled down her window and was shouting out, "Guilty! Guilty!" I was stunned by the sudden attention I was getting from these two irate ladies. Obviously neither one knew the whole truth about this situation. I attempted to explain, but the woman in the car next to me was almost shouting pointing out how her friend had been waiting for that spot and I had just cut her off and it was not right and "blah, blah, blah!" I could not get a word in edgewise. Through the noise of their ranting I shouted, "I DON'T CARE!" And we headed toward the store feeling a little uneasy about leaving the car with hostiles about.

We poked around for a few minutes in the store; I was still riled from the encounter - then we both decided that we could not leave the car with the possibility of harm - so our "mall-walking" adventure was curbed in favor of a drive through the countryside. So we left. Making our way along a country road, I began to reflect on what had just happened - I realized that I had blown an opportunity. Hadn't Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers?" The truth, I reasoned at first, was that that parking place was rightfully mine. Those women were in the wrong. But then I began to see that the real truth was that I was a stubborn ass and in the crunch of the moment, belligerence came easy. The real me came out because my focus was not on what Jesus would have done, but on the fact that "I was right and they were wrong." I blew the opportunity that I had been given to show compassionate mercy and love and instead demonstrated hateful indifference; and over something that did not matter in the least.

Oh God, I am such a sinner. Change my heart from callous uncaring to compassionate concern even in the small things of life. I felt so ashamed of my behavior. The words of the Psalmist came to mind, "Unto Thee O LORD, do I lift up my soul! O my God, I trust in Thee; let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me!" (Psalm 25:1-2)

Thursday, May 19, 2005

What's Really Cool

I've been a Christian since I was four years old. I received Jesus one night when my mother told me about Him during the bedtime prayers. That was 53 years ago; I am 57 now and can still remember that night when He came to live in my heart. Of course, I didn't understand what had happened completely at the time, but looking back over the years of my life, I can see the hand of God protecting me and His presence guiding me all the way.

The church I was raised in taught me the Bible. By the time I was in high school, I was well versed in both the Old and New Testaments. I knew all the stories of Moses and David and the Kings of Israel and the Prophets. I was familiar with Joshua, Ruth, Samson, Esther and Jeremiah. The teachings of Paul, Peter and John were all part of who I was - and at that time I believed everyone around me had the same knowledge. It was an era when everyone went to church, but I could not have been more wrong about the biblical education of others; in fact, by comparison, I've found that most people are ignorant of what the Bible is really all about. So my appreciation certainly goes out to the teachers who guided me in those days and gave me the biblical foundation I have today. For this I am indebted to the "Organized Church."

But it was the believers of the "Body of Christ" that were gifted to preach and teach who, in response to their calling, gave me the instruction that I received. They acted in the capacity of the offices they held at that time in the "Organized Church." So the "Organized Church" acted as a conduit, connecting those with nurturing gifts with those who needed the nurturing. And so it is today, the true "Body of Christ" ministers through the auspices of the "Organized Church" to reach those in need.

While this arrangement seems naturally accomodating - it does not always work smoothly. The "Organized Church" sometimes trys to over control and regulate what the ministry gifts of the "Body of Christ" are doing. What's really cool is that despite the efforts of the "Organized Church" to hinder the work of the Spirit - it will continue to manifest itself as needed to bring the nurturing ministry to those who need it. A good example of what I mean can be found in Nazi Germany when the "Organized Church" was coerced into bowing the knee to the dictates of Hitler; forced to vomit his propaganda of hate. The "Body of Christ," however, continued underground to minister redemption, freedom and the love of God.

Today, the same conflict exists. For myself, I find that I am constantly challenged to compromise my message to fit the political culture of the "Organized Church." The ministry that God has given me will not be heard by the "Organized Church" because the culture that exists right now is not that different from Nazi Germany - the predominant message coming forth from the "Organized Churches" is one of hate and intolerance, while my message is about unconditional love of God for every person.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Church Stuff

I went to church this morning. Today was Pentecost Sunday - you know the birthday celebration of the church. It is on this day in probably 33 AD that the church came into being when God sent the Holy Spirit to the 120 believers that had gathered at Solomon's Portico, the outer court of the 2nd Temple in Jerusalem. The book of the Acts of the Apostles tells us that 3,000 people believed in Christ that day and since that day until now, God has related to the people who love Him through the indwelling Holy Spirit, which is given to those who place their faith in Him.

Since that day, how would you evaluate how well we have done? Of course we must make a distinction between the "Organized Church" as opposed by the actual body of Christ's believers, "The Body of Christ," which is what is referred to in the New Testament as The Church. They perhaps started out the same that day in the late spring of 33 AD, but somewhere along the way they each found their own path, and at times have gone in opposite directions.

Today, many confuse the two or perhaps don't even realize their are two - or when you refer to the two they think you are talking about Catholic and Protestant - oh please! Or they think there is a true church and a false church, the identification of each depends on who you are talking to. Then there are denominations - oh my God! While the historical information behind the formation of these groups is somewhat fascinating - the reasons given for their existence only confirms the insanity that followed the birth-day in 33 AD.

After the death of the last original disciple of Jesus (probably John Zebedee) in around 90 AD, the organized church began to distinguish itself from the simple body of Christ. But they seemed to hold on as long as they were persecuted. But when Constantine embraced Christianity in 312 AD as the state religion of the Roman Empire, the Organized Church seemed to emerge at last victorious over its "weaker" sibling. It was then that it became politically expedient to agree with the "church fathers" or find yourself on the outside looking in - or - perhaps in a jail cell or worse. The Organized Church "came out," but the Body of Christ remains hidden from that day 'til this.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


A new movie is out, The Kingdom of Heaven. It stars Orlando Bloom. I haven't seen it yet, but will. It's subject: the Holy Crusades - a period of about 300 years (11th-13th century) when Christendom went completely mad and thought that possessing the Holy Land, which meant killing thousands, was their mission on earth. From the write-ups and radio spots I gather that in this movie, they try to make sense of it all and give heroic status to at least some of the Crusaders. No wonder the Islamic world sees Christianity as their enemy - in the Crusades, Jesus is pictured as a conquistador - slaughtering all who will not submit to Him.

Like I say, I haven't seen the movie and this is not about that - it is the irritation of being misrepresented. I am a Christian and have been for over fifty years. I know that the Crusades did not in any way represent the ministry of Christ on earth (many don't). I also know that today, those who claim to represent Christ on earth; speaking daily through sattelite transmissions on TV - do not necessarily represent Him either. What it seems to me that they are doing is waging their own modern Moral Crusade. Their strategy: to blot out anyone who disagrees with them. Their narrow interpretation of the Bible and their brand of Christianity is much like the feared fundamentalist factions of Isalm - its main tenant is intolerance. Any and all who disagree with them, must be crushed.

In the last few years, these right-wing fundamentalists have been able to win considerable influence in the government of the United States and now that they are in power, they hope to undo many of the freedoms of expression gained in the last century. They want to re-establish and legitimize discrimination and hate as a way to deal with the homeless, abortion, homosexuality and illegals aliens - and call it "morality" and do it in the name of Christ. They play on the uncertainty of those who are less judgmental - using fear to bring them up as supporters of their Crusade of "morality."

Liberals, for the most part seemed stunned by the exuburance and vitality of the right-wing fundies. Though they were evidently taken off guard, I hope they wake up soon before too much damage is done. It is my hope and belief that the American people, who generally believe in "live and let live," will finally grow weary of judgmentalism and will recall the Crusaders next opportunity.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Welcome to Mercy To All blog!

We're just setting this up and trying to get everything ready for a conversation with those who would like to aire their Christian perspectives, but are really tired of the conservative right-wing crap posing as Christianity.