Posts Tagged ‘christianity’

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So, I’m reading along in the second day of the M’Cheyene Bible Reading Plan (that I wanted to start in January and totally messed up on but moving on) and it happens that one of the chapters to read is Romans 12.  I’m reading along, and I’m reading along, and I’m reading and I’m all innocent and making notes ‘gifting, yes that’s nice, Pastor Riddell touched on that last week and that’s kinda cool to be here again’ I’m la-laing along as I do when I’m reading and enjoying the Scripture and then this happens:

Bless those that persecute you; bless and do not curse

*wthwap* right between the ole’ eyeballs, it hits like a pebble.  So I rub the bridge of my nose, and continue onward, a little more cautiously this time.  I know better than to be running pell-mell through the chapter once one verse hits. Conviction and these suckers travel together, and where one convicting little pebble verse is, there are sometimes, most times, others.   So I continue reading, rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep, nothing too pebble-of-conviction like there. And then, it avalanched  straight onto my soul.

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to hat is honorable in the sight of all.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written ‘Vengence is Mine and I will repay’ says the Lord.

To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry feed him;

If he is thirsty, give him something to drink;

Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.

Ow. Ow. Ow. OW. Ow.

Yeah, apparently there’s going to be more to this “loving my enemies” for six days than I thought. Oh, I’m all ready doing it, but the way. Through gritted teeth, and  with labored breath with sweat pricking along my forehead, but I am doing it. It’s not pretty taking a long sobering look at the ugliness of my own flesh (I’ll spare you,  no need to  terrify you)

I do think, however, Jesus is pleased with His Valentine’s Day gift. And really, that’s all that matters.

What about you, scribes, when was the last time you OUCHED over something in the Bible or the Holy Spirit pricked your spirit with an admonishment? C’mon now, I’ve shared some of my ugliness. I promise, no one will be surprised at yours. We all share the same nature, sadly.

Coram Deo.

Bought By Blood T-Shirt

In exactly six days, the dreaded “V” day will be upon us. People will scramble dreadfully to remember to get cards, and chocolates, and flowers. The level of commitment in relationships will be measured out in gifts and tokens, and those that forget this day will have some rough times ahead.

It is rather glaringly hard, to miss the fact that Valentine’s Day is coming. Stores are chock full of red, white, and pink stuffed animals, and piled with boxes shaped like hearts holding chocolate bonbons. But, who or what is Valentine?

(Other than a rather well-developed character of mine with his own fan base who hates his own name)

The name Valentine means  “Strong, vigorous, healthy” according to Behind the Name

A little bit of research on St. Valentine will bring you into a swirling, whirling vortex of controversies. Some people will claim that he married lovers in secret, in Rome in the third century when marriage was being outlawed. Others will tell you that he was a tutor to a wealthy Roman patron’s daughter and dared to share his Christian faith with her as well as teaching her to read. He was summarily executed but left her a note farewell signing it “Your own Valentine”.

While there is precious little evidence for any of these stories, I like the last one, best. However, there is proof that Valentine or Valentine’s existed according to the Catholic Church record of martyrs.  You’ll find a synopsis here, of what I think is closest to the truth.  Chaucer is mentioned in this history of Valentine and also in the Wikipedia entry on him.

While people will probably never agree on the origin of the day, or why it came to mean expressing romantic love, one to another, I have been doing some thinking of my own over the idea of Valentine’s Day. I’ve never had a sweetheart to run madly around, trying to find the perfect gift for on this day, and it really has never bothered me. In fact, it’s been a bit of a relief to not have the pressure I see others struggling under on February the 14th, but it’s also a bit of a pain to tell to those who ask on the 14th “No, I don’t have a Valentine” and then smile tiredly through their assurances that “One Day You’ll Have One, Dear.”

Last year, I bought a  t-shirt from a new t-shirt company called Bought By Blood, and I love it. In fact, I’m planning to wear mine ON  Valentines day this year. It features the image at the top of this post. Those words got me thinking which is always dangerous. The thought ran along these lines.  Since Jesus is my True Love, and He has given me all of Himself as a life-long Valentine, what can I give Him as a Valentine?

Immediately, the words What good are you if you only love those who will love you in return, even the heathen do that? I yelped, and grabbed for my Bible.

The whole passage runs like this in the ESV: Luke 6:32-35

If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those that love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend expecting nothing in return and your reward will be great and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful even as your Father is merciful.

And then of course I had to go looking at the cross-reference which is even MORE specific.

Matthew 5:43-48

You have heard that it was said  ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’ But I say to you  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those that love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Talk about asking for a specific thing. I shut my Bible and said “There is just no way I can give this to you for Valentine’s Day. You’re asking for the impossible here. And I know You, You want this gift for more than just a day.”  I could almost feel Jesus smiling. Waiting. Oh, there are days I know His eyes twinkle when we talk.

So, here is the resolution I have come to: From now until Valentine’s Day (six days) I am going to live and on purpose love those who don’t love me. I’ve selected several I know would like to see me vanish completely from their lives (like you don’t have those people in your life) and not only am I going to pray for them, react in love when they attack me, but I’m going to actively seek their best. For six days. Only six.

I’ve also roped my True Love into helping me with this project. His idea, He gets to help me pull it off. That’s how it works with He and I.

If want to join me on this insane journey which will, I’m certain, make Valentine’s Day very memorable, leave me a comment below. Loving enemies has got to be the hardest thing to do, for me. I’d appreciate prayers. On Valentine’s Day, I’ll repost this, with an update. Also, if you’ve got any interesting ideas about Valentine’s Day I’d love to hear those too. Stick them in the comments.

Coriam Deo

Top 5 Christmas Songs.

I started hearing them in the car on the way to work, and gave a mental groan. I like Christmas songs,  but I also work in retail so I hear them all day long from the middle of November to the end of December.  There are some tunes  I won’t get tired of hearing,  no matter how long they are on the radio or playing over head in the store.  My top 5  are :

Hark The Herald Angels Sing:   I love this one because when it’s sung correctly, the singer’s voices sound as a trumpet with their reverberations. The  story it tells Hark the Herald Angels Sing/ Glory To the Newborn King/  Peace on Earth/ and Mercy Mild/God and Sinners Reconciled/ Joyful all Ye Nations Rise/ Join the Triumph of the Skies/ With Angelic Host Proclaim/ Christ is Born in Bethlehem is also one of my favorites. My heart never fails to leap when I hear that.  There’s such a breathless expectation, and such wonderful news to share contained in this  carol.

We Three Kings or Quest of the MagiThis is a favorite because of the music. The slow, deliberate pace makes me think always of the ships of the desert sliding from side to side over a sea of white sand, with a silver star overhead to light the way.  Each Magi sings too, sharing in the lyrics  of the song,  what they’re bringing and  telling why they are bringing that to the little One.  It’s a somber song laden with word pictures, and referencing another part of the  Nativity story, the Star.

Birthday of the King:  I love this one, because it was introduced to me by my Dad’s mother, MomMom.  She recorded it onto a cassette tape for me, in the 1980’s from  a record she had from her girlhood.  Her father would play it for her Christmas morning as she came down the stairs. When I found out, I used to crouch at the foot of the stairs in our house  with my trusty Fisher Price (TM) tape recorder on Christmas Morning,  and play it for her again as she walked down the stairs.  It always made her laugh through her tears, all those triggered memories. And I’d get a big hug and a “Merry Christmas” from her. It was our special tradition.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen: This is a favorite because of the military sound of the music and the rhythm of the words. I love the bold stepping sound of the song. While the meaning of the first line of  it has been debated back and forth for years,  the clearest  understanding in my mind is “God make you merry, Gentlemen”  (merry meaning not mighty rather  to gladden the heart and be boisterous). What could make a heart gladder than remembering the truth contained in the rest of the song?

For Jesus Christ our Savior
Was born upon this Day.
To save poor souls from Satan’s power,
Which long time had gone astray.
Which brings tidings of comfort and joy.

Silent Night:   I love this carol because of its ethereal, lullaby quality.  It’s one of the last songs that we would sing at the Christmas Eve candlelight service when I was growing up. It always started at 11:00 and went until just after Midnight so that when we sang this song, it really was very early Christmas Morning.

I remember bundling up in the narthex of the church, shivering into my coat, and walking over the cold pavement in church shoes that pinched the sides of my feet slightly (they always did that)  to the van. I was so tired, and as I watched my breath make dragon-curls in the dark morning I would continue to sing  the song. Everyone and everything seemed to be asleep. Snow or frost would glitter brittle bright under the church parking lot lights, and there would be a wonderful flipping in my stomach as I realized it wasn’t quite time for presents yet. That sleepy giddiness is forever linked in my memory with Silent Night, and is one of my fondest childhood memories.

What five Christmas Carols top your list?  Why?  Tell me in the comments below, or reblog this post. 

You’d think that after all the years I have spent with Jesus I would be more like Him. I thought I would be more like Him by now.   Don’t get me wrong, there’s been progress, but not as much as I would like. Tonight was a brilliant reminder of how petty, shallow, judgmental and blind I am. Tonight  I got to look at my heart in a great flaw-reflecting mirror and I flinched. I did not like what I saw.  You aren’t  going to like what you see of it either, but bear with me.

It all started at Wal*Mart.

I won’t say which one because the beauty of Wal*Mart is that one is pretty much like another; four walls, a roof, the Smiley Mark Down Guy (he’s watching ALWAYS watching) and deals on everything  from toothpaste to tractor batteries.  I was there for several things (shampoo, cotton swabs, jellybeans, and pen refills) and I went after work. That made it somewhat worse, as I was tired and the later you go to Wal*Mart, the stranger things you are going to see and here. This is a well documented Wal*Mart rule of thumb.

In the toothpaste aisle (I was cutting through on my journey to shampoo) I ran into Wal*martian #1 “Inappropriately Dressed Girl” and quickly pressed on but not before texting a friend what I’d seen and sniggering  to myself.

I thank you Lord, that I am not like that girl~I dress appropriately and modestly.

Down in the stationary aisle, I ran into Wal*Martian #2  “On Probation & Proud Of It Girl” who was, at the top of her voice, recounting how she had “played the system” and “Gotten out of sentencing for counseling” to a friend who she hadn’t seen in a while.  I moved on, cut around the corner, texted my friend again, my eyes wider than before, and decided to head to the video section and see if there was anything I wanted on sale. Anything to get away from “On Probation” who was discoursing on the loop holes in the justice system for anyone who was interested in hearing.

I thank you Lord, that I am not like that girl~I obey the law and have  self-mastery.

Not finding anything, and wanting just to go home (though I hadn’t found the pen refills, jellybeans, or cotton swabs) I turned and walked through the kids section to the front. I like to look at the LEGOS and grin over some of the strange things that pass for toys today.  There I met Wal*martian #3  “Faux Gangbanger” who was swaggering down the aisle, using all manner of language as he talked to someone on his pay-as-you-go-phone and tried to keep his trousers from dragging on the floor.

I thank you Lord, that I am not like that guy~I work for a living and there is no vile word found in my mouth, nor do I ape the fashions of murderers and thieves.

I got to the check out line, got through it,  and high-tailed it outside.  Where I walked nearly into Wal*martian #4 & #5 “Poster Girl For Lung Cancer” and “That’s Not Cigarette Smoke  Boy”

I thank you Lord, that I am not like them, I am not an addict. I keep my body, Your Temple, pure.

I got home, put my things away, and sat down. Oh, it had been a long day but I’d really helped people at work and felt satisfied. It had been a long day, but a good day.

You mocked My children I knew that voice, I’d know it anywhere.  It rang inside my head and made every last hair on my arms stand up. But it was  infinitely sad, the kind of sadness that makes tears prick in my eyes, that makes my breath catch, and makes my throat burn. What? I asked Him When did I do that today? When?

All the those that I’d labelled at the store sprang up in living Technicolor before me.

You named her Inappropriately Dressed Girl, but I know her as Longing to Be Loved He said quietly.

You named her  On Probation Girl, but I know her as  Does Anyone Care for Me? He continued.

My chest was beginning to ache.

You named him Faux Gangbanger, but I know him as Trying to Count. He wasn’t finished  Poster Girl for Lung Cancer you called her, but I know her as The Pain is too Great and he is not That’s Not Cigarette Smoke Boy, I know him as Desperate for Hope.

I love them with the same fiery infinite care I have for you.

I had judged and labeled them all! I had weighed out their worth and pinned price tags to them.  I  seen only temporal and pinned the wrong price tags to them.

Worse than that, I had priced my worth above them as I devalued them.

Here is my prayer for tonight.

God have mercy on me, a sinner. God have mercy on me, a sinner. God have mercy on me, a sinner. And oh Jesus, please, don’t let me do it again. Next time I’m in Wal*Mart, let me see with Your eyes, and remember that I’m a love letter from You to them, no matter where I go.

And the reason I’m sharing this with you is two fold. One, I don’t want to do that again so now that you know, you can keep me accountable.

Two, it is so easy to do that.  It is so easy to fall into the trap of judging others and sniggering at them up our righteous sleeves.  Take my ugly sharing as a warning and be mindful of where your thoughts go, where your heart is, when you are out and about in the wide world of those that Christ loves with “a fiery infinite care.”

Encourage one another, Scribes.

Tomorrow  is St. Patrick’s Day,  which will be celebrated by people getting drunk and acting the fool while wearing green and yelling “Kiss me, I’m Irish”. What does this have to do with St. Patrick?  Not a single thing, and that is what makes me so sad,  and more than a little angry.

Here are some things that the world at large will not tell you about St. Patrick; most likely because they don’t know themselves.

1.) Patrick of Ireland wasn’t Irish. He was Welsh, and the son of a Noble family

2.) Patrick of Ireland was taken  by Irish raiders when he was 16 years old.  He was stolen away from his grandfather’s estate.

3.) Patrick  of  Ireland was a slave  for six years.  According to Patrick he was “naked, hungry, abused, and in terrible want” during that time.

4.) Patrick of Ireland found Christ through suffering. Later he would write that when he was tending sheep as slave, he prayed to the Lord more than a hundred times a day.

5.) Patrick of Ireland was rescued by God’s miraculous intervention.  Patrick had a dream where the Lord told him what route to take, and when to leave his master. There was a ship going back to Patrick’s home, but at first the sailors wouldn’t take him aboard. After he prayed and moved back to where he had hidden/stayed in the harbor, they called out for him to come that they would take him after all. 

6.) Patrick of Ireland was not educated. He trained  as Bishop to take up orders in the church but the Lord interrupted his schooling and he never completed his formal education (he could barely write in Latin).

7.) Patrick of Ireland was slandered  by those in his own church. In several of his letters he writes to tell them that he isn’t coming home to answer the charges they have erroneously brought against him. They can figure out what he is (a Bishop or not), and when they know they can write and let him know.

8.) Patrick of Ireland spoke out about injustice he was very vocal about the mistreatment of women, children, and slaves in Ireland.

How do I know these things? Well for one thing I’ve read about Patrick in books like How The Irish Saved Civilization  by Thomas Cahill and St. Patrick of Ireland by Phillip Freeman. I highly recommend both. However, I’ve gone one further than that, I’ve read what Patrick said about himself That’s right, some of Patrick’s words remain today. The most common one you can usually find at the library is called Confessions of St. Patrick. Don’t worry, it’s not some true-crime tale (which is what I thought it had to be when I first heard of it ).  In Patrick’s day, when you wrote your  Confession it was your testimony you were writing. At that time, confessions were usually penned towards the end of a  Christian believer’s life with the intention of encouraging and exhorting those you were leaving behind. Rather a sweet tradition, I think.   Patrick also penned it as a last defense against those who were slandering him.

Here’s part that really struck home to me, I’ve taken it from St. Patrick of Ireland, and this is Philip Freeman’s translation of the Latin. I love the frank and earnest tone he gives Patrick. In Philip Freeman’s notes on his translation, he says that is really what he wanted to come across to the readers; Patrick’s Latin isn’t high Latin of the Church, it’s “street Latin” if there could be such a thing.

Here’s  Patrick, in his own words:

I am Patrick, a sinner. The most unsophisticated and unworthy among all the faithful of God.  .. .I am very ashamed and afraid to show just how awkward my writing is. I am not able to explain things in just a few words like those who can write briefly. My mind and my spirit can’t even work together so that my words say what I really feel inside….Listen to me well, all of you, great and small, everyone who has any fear of God–especially you wealthy landowners so proud of your education—listen and consider this carefully: God chose foolish little me from among all of you who seem so wise and so expert in the law and so powerful in your eloquence. He picked ignorant Patrick ahead of you all—even though I am not worthy—He picked me to go forth with fear and reverence—and without any of you complaining at the time—to serve the Irish faithfully.

St. Patrick of Ireland, pgs 144-145

Now, I don’t know about you, but this is the kind of Christian I’d like to meet, and buy a pint and the local pub.  He loved Christ greatly. His words and his life agree with one another, and he had no grand airs.  Remember this Patrick, not the too-serious saint you might see in pictures, nor the strange fellow beating a drum and chasing out the snakes (that never happened), but this Patrick.

This is Patrick of Ireland.

Lent Not Lint

Posted: February 22, 2012 in Musings
Tags: , ,

Lent not Lint

Today is Ash Wednesday, the traditional beginning of Lent for the Western Liturgical Churches. Because I’ve had a number of questions about Lent, I’m going to attempt to give a casual explanation of where Lent came from, what it is, and my personal thoughts on observation of it.

I’ll be doing this through my Lutheran/ Moravian understanding of it.

You’ve been warned.


Lentin Time Line

How old is Lent?

The earliest Church tradition holds that those seeking baptism into the Christian faith were asked to fast for forty hours in preparation of the event, as it was held that Christ was forty hours in the tomb.  Interesting, isn’t it? A fast of forty hours, tied in with the death and resurrection of Christ, tied in with being His disciple.  But I don’t have a solid date for this. And it’s not a seasonal thing; it was done when the seeker felt ready to make a commitment to Christ. So, I’ll move on.

The earliest date   for a reference to something that is like Lent, a Lent ancestor if you will, is 130-200 AD. It comes from writings of Irenaus of Lyons, an early church father. He sites in his letters that the early church observes a time of fasting in remembrance/preparation for Resurrection Day.  This early Lent ancestor wasn’t forty days; it was two or three days.   It is related to Lent, as the underlying idea behind it, is the same. It was a time of introspection (soul-searching) contemplation (thinking about Christ and all that He did and was doing for them) and penance (chance to show a truly contrite heart over sin).

In 313 AD there was the Edict of Milan, which allowed religious freedom, and the persecution of Christians slacked off. Because of this, there was a great influx of curious people who wanted to incorporate Christianity into their own religions. It was a case of “Jesus and” and the early church fought against this by introducing study, fasting, and mentoring of those that wanted to be baptized. Here it begins to be a time of roughly forty days but it is still only for the new believers or seekers, it’s not for the ecclesia yet.

Where’s the proof of this?

It can be found in the writings of the council of  Nicea in 325 AD.   They talked about a forty day season for fasting in the spring (Lenten) to prepare the hearts of those contemplating Baptism at Resurrection Sunday.

At some point, after 325 AD and before 400 AD the entire church began observing this time of introspection, contemplation, and penance.   If anyone has a more exact date, please feel free to tell me in the comments.

So I think it’s safe to say by 400 AD  it was a common church practice to observe Lent.

This is the year 2012 and ignoring all of the jiggery-pokery with calendars I am going to say that Lent is a church practice 1,612 years old.

But it is also a tradition of men and is not, as someone asked me recently, found anywhere in Scripture.


Terms/ Words to Know.   

Ash Wednesday*:  The first day of Lent, a solemn and holy day usually marked by attendance to a church service of some kind, and the wearing of ashes on the forehead in the shape of a cross.  The ashes remind us that we are all mortal, and that once we were under penalty of death, marked convicts with no hope.

Lent: comes from the Anglo-Saxon word,  lencten, meaning “Spring.” This makes sense of a sort, as Lent always falls in the Spring, and usually starts somewhere in March. This year, it’s early.  Lent officially starts on Ash Wednesday and some churches observe a Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday before it

Quadragesima*:   is the Latin term used for Lent. It means “fortieth”.  It was to be the ‘fortieth’ day of Lent. At this point, it seems the church counted backwards towards Paschal/ Resurrection Sunday.  The Roman Catholic Church in some regions  still celebrates a Quadragesmia Sunday (the Sunday after Ash Wednesday) with special services.

Shrive/Shrove: comes from the Old English scrifan (to write) and today means to administer the rite of reconciliation, to free from guilt.  Shrove is the past-tense of shrive.

Shrove Tuesday: Is the day before Ash Wednesday, and traditionally one where people eat pancakes. Why? Because the sugar, fat, eggs, and flour in pancakes are things which you are to abstain from during the Lentin fast.  Think of it is one great big last hurrah before the fasting season.  For Catholics, it is also a traditional day to go to confession.   I could go into more detail and the good the bad and the ugly of Shrove Tuesday (where Marti Gras comes from) but I want to keep on the topic of Lent.

Now, what is going on with Ash Wednesday and Quadragesmia Sunday?

*When does Lent really start during the week?

It starts on Wednesday, and the reason that it starts on a Wednesday and not on a Sunday is because of a gentleman name Gregory the Great (540AD-604AD).  During the 600’s  there was already a laxing of the rules regarding Lent and the fasting of the faithful.  Sundays were excluded from the days counted in the fast, and since they were excluded and since the church still wanted to observe the forty days of fasting, Gregory the Great backed the start of Lent up to Wednesday, and named it Ash Wednesday.

So, there’s the closet I can get to the origin of Lent.  You’re welcome.