Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Rushing Wind of Pentecost

While it isn’t as well known and understood as some others, Pentecost is one of the most important holidays in the Christian year. Why, if it weren’t for the events of one particular Pentecost a couple of  thousand years ago, our individual lives would be forever changed.

To some, Pentecost is simply the “Birthday of the Church.”  Yes, it is, but this isn’t just like the anniversary of the founding of a company or something – it’s much more. To say it’s the birthday and stop at that leaves out the reason and the impact on our lives!

But the amazing thing is that it wasn’t even “supposed to be” a Christian celebration at all! The Jewish people observe Pentecost, remembering the time when Moses was given the 10 Commandments, 50 days after the original Passover. There were about 120 people gathered in an Upper Room to celebrate this traditional celebration. Scripture tells us that this included the disciples and many women. Jesus’ mother, Mary, was specifically listed as being there.  As you recall, Jesus had appeared to them after the Resurrection. He was with them for 40 days but had recently gone up into heaven, so was not there.

Did you notice a connection to another important milestone in our Christian experience? On the night before He was betrayed, Jesus met with His disciples to celebrate another Jewish tradition, a Passover meal. It was held in an Upper Room. (Some sources say it was the same place as their Pentecost observance!) It was a traditional Jewish celebration, one they didn’t expect to be any different than the many they had celebrated in their lives. Yet, during this Passover meal, Jesus spoke of being betrayed and reminded us to love one another. He compared the bread to His body and the wine to His blood, paving the way for the communion we celebrate today. As recorded in John 14:26, Jesus told them that the Holy Spirit would come. Of course, this meant nothing to them at the time.

 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you

So what happened that made this Pentecost celebration different and important to Christians?
As the worshippers gathered in the Upper Room, the Holy Spirit came to them. It was described as a rushing wind sound that could be heard throughout the city! At the same time, there were flames on their heads. They began speaking in other languages that they didn’t even know! But the amazing thing was that others could understand it as if it had been in their own language! We call this speaking in tongues.
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem, Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.  
Acts 2:1-6

Crowds of people from the city of Jerusalem heard the commotion and came to see what it was. Peter spoke to them about Jesus and the need to repent of sins. He said it was for Gentiles and Jews alike. 3,000 people became followers of Jesus right then and were baptized. They then went out and shared with others and the number of believers grew.

Many call this the birth of the Christian Church. It’s certainly worth celebrating! We often decorate the church and wear red to remind us of the flames shown. Others also use the symbol of a dove.

The Holy Spirit wasn’t just there for a day and then moved on. It is here, for each of us, if we take the time to look and listen, bringing peace and comfort, encouragement, and guidance.  Today, we celebrate the birth of the church and especially, the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Christian Nation?

Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation.”
So, what do you think of that statement? Is it true? False? Can you see elements that go both ways? Not only that, what do you think it should be, NOT, what do you want it to be? There IS a difference.
Please read the entire post before making a decision.

In a world of no prayer in schools, holiday trees rather than Christmas trees, bending over backwards to not disturb any non-Christians, no Christmas carols allowed in "Winter Concerts" and a debate about removing "In God We Trust" as a motto; with so-called Christians murdering people, stealing, cheating, etc. how can we truly say we are a Christian nation? It's a sad thing to admit, but it's getting harder and harder to claim that "the nation" as an organization represents my faith.

In a melting pot, a culture of many nations and many religions, and those without religion at all, what is the proper way for our country to be? Again, I'm not asking what your religious affiliation is... unless you feel that no one else has a right to feel differently than you. Then, I suppose it might be relevant.

What about this statement? "Given the increasing diversity of America's population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers."

If you disagreed with the first statement, is this easier to agree with? Indeed, can you even really disagree?

I purposely did not identify who said this, though I'm about to. I wanted you to first read it and consider it. Do not put political layers on top of it and say "yeah" or "nay" based on whether or not you like the person that said it. This is especially true if the only reason you dislike the person is because of party affiliation so it really would not matter what was said, only which party's person said it. In other words, a sheep, not someone with a brain.

This all came about because I read an article about Mitt Romney being critical of Barack Obama's remark. However, he used the first quote, the one at the top of the page that left out the word, "just" and somehow forgot to mention the rest of it as well. (Could we pretend he wasn't trying to twist the truth and start problems? We could, but I'm not.) The omission of the word "just" changes the meaning. However, when I read the statement, I still agreed with it, even though I saw both sides. But when I saw the actual quote, then of course I agreed.

The second quote was in the printed (prepared) remarks for a keynote address to a "Call to Renewal" conference sponsored by the Christian magazine, Sojourners on June 28, 2006, before the presidential election.  It is a call for unity, and warns of the dangers of division by religious differences. When he presented it, he stumbled a bit and said, "Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation – at least, not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers."  Obviously, while not word for word to his prepared speech, the meaning is completely the same.

Where do we go from here? I think we DO need to acknowledge the changing face of the country. Just today, I read that according to the latest Census, minorities (combined) make up the majority of the population under age one.  This impacts religion as well.  I'm disappointed that this statement from six years ago is being twisted into something different. It speaks volumes about the person doing so.

this video of his speech, posted on YouTube by the Obama campaign.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

In Honor of Those that Nurture - "Mother's" Day

It's Mother's Day, a day I actually used to dislike for many years.  In the "Hallmark World of Special Dates," we are brainwashed to celebrate that cherished image of perfection - and how better? with a card, of course. I didn't start off that cynical and thought it was a nice idea for awhile... and then I became a mom.

At first, there is the warm glow of motherhood when you cradle your perfect infant and you feel all maternal. Then the baby talks, walks, makes messes, has siblings, forgets to mention projects until the night before they're due and next thing you know, motherhood isn't about sitting around with a "Madonna and Child" glow; it's hard work and is often frustrating!

For many years, I actually hated Mother's Day. It started with a rush to get everyone dressed and out the door in time for church. This might or might not go smoothly, and at the very least, was exhausting mentally as well as physically. Once at church, the oldest moms, serene mothers with the most kids and grandkids, and other such women, were honored. Of course, I was never one of these moms, and while I didn't personally resent it, grew to realize how ridiculous this practice was! It made me think of all the moms with just a few kids, or women in the role of "moms" that were really aunts or close friends.

Then we had the "Mother's Day Message," one that seemed to be designed to take away any morsel of confidence I might have had left. Some perfect Biblical woman was held up as a role model of saintly serenity in the midst of disaster. Generally, as the pastor talked, I reflected on my own morning, my frustrations as a mom, and how completely inadequate I was. The day didn't improve a whole lot as my children somehow never got the "let's honor Mom today for being so wonderful" memo and the day passed as any Sunday would. There were occasional cards, but for the most part, dinner still had to be prepared, laundry still had to be done, and work had to be done for the school week ahead.

I lucked out in the mom department, having been raised by a kind women with a caring heart, a great sense of humor, and a knack for being unusual. She made all sorts of everyday life events seem like a great adventure. But once I had children of my own, most of our mother-daughter time was spent over the phone as I lived out of state. It is the conversations I miss with her the most.

While my own mom wasn't nearby, there were other women that together, filled this spot. There have been many women, some moms of others, some childless, that have nurtured me and my family. Generally, they were just in the role for a few years at best, but it was the combined effort of all of these women that have molded me into the person I am today.  They have been role models, shoulders to cry on, extra hands when needed, and surrogate grandparents/aunts for our kids. Above all, they've loved me unconditionally, but have been willing to tell me what I needed to hear, not just what I wished to hear.

It would be most appropriate to call this "Nurturer's Day," but that might upset the apple cart too much. Our lives are enriched by those that nurture us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In some cases, a mom has that role. But it is too big a position for just one person to fill.  I think this is the way God intended us to live, with the love and care of not only our physical moms, but all those others that guide us and love us over a lifetime. As we are being nurtured, this strengthens us and allows us to be available for others as well.

 Now that my children are grown and are starting their own families, I feel better about motherhood. As the family grows, I gain new children, taking them in as I would my own. It is easier to be at peace seeing the strengths in your children as adults. While I was their mom, I realize that I didn't do it alone. I am grateful for the many special women that have been in their lives and will be in the future. Knowing I can't be there on the job, it is good to know that they'll have people that will take them under their wing and guide them.  For my children living out of state, I am at peace knowing that there are nurturing women that take care of them just as others did for me over the years.

Our Children and Grandchildren
The absolute best thing about motherhood is when your children have children of their own. Suddenly they are thrust into the overwhelming world of having to deal with a child. Inside, you can laugh at them a little, but at the same time, appreciate how they feel.  But being a grandparent brings all the joy of loving a child without the day-to-day responsibilities. It is the very best of motherhood, all wrapped up in a smile and a hug.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Miss E's Big Day

Of course this baby would be a boy - that's just what Creasys have. Except that this baby was a girl. Half an hour after the doctor declared I wouldn't be going into labor anytime soon, I went into labor. Another half hour found us holding our daughter. That determination is a trait she continues even today. As soon as they cleaned her up, the nurses put a pink bow in her hair and she's been "all girl" ever since.

We named her Elizabeth, following the family tradition of naming the first daughter that. She is Elizabeth VII. It wasn't until the hospital insisted we give them the rest of the name for the birth certificate that we finally came up with the rest of her name three days later. Emma Elizabeth, named after my great-aunt and a special woman that took us under her wing in college.  We had a boy name picked out, but had never discussed the possibility that it could be a girl!

"Miss E" was "Daddy's Little Girl" as well as "Angel-Girl" to her grandma and "Prissy Miss" to her granddaddy.  Yes, she was spoiled, and relished her position as the only girl amongst all the boys for a long time. We kept saying, "Wait until she starts school and sees the whole world doesn't revolve around her. That'll be an eye-opener."  Well, on the first day of school, like all the other little girls, she wore her favorite pink outfit and had a pink back-pack.  But alas! The teacher pinned on a YELLOW school bus with her name on it to her dress! That would never do - it didn't match her outfit at all! But did the teacher say, "But Elizabeth, everyone else is wearing a yellow bus and that's just the color the buses are?" No, she made her a special pink bus.

It's been a long time since that first day of school, with many lessons, both a part of the curriculum or a part of life. Along the way, she started going by Emma, and added a husband and an adorable son. Today she completes a big step, participating in the commencement exercises at the University of Louisville. She's earning her degree and has already been accepted into graduate school. When she did her internship last fall, she was impressive enough to be hired to fill a position that opened up, even though she did not yet have all the qualifications. She enjoys her work in the Homeless Prevention Program, helping people get their lives back on track. I'm just glad she enjoys her work, though also love that she's doing something that will make a difference to others. Now that she knows her calling, hopefully, she'll enjoy future jobs as well.

Congratulations, "Miss E!" We are all so proud of you!

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Luminaria; A Relay for Life Reflection

Many towns will be having the "Relay for Life" tonight, a fund-raiser for Cancer. For the participants, it is a night to show support to others, and for many, a night to celebrate a victory over this disease.  A year after my father died of pancreatic cancer, I wrote a book about his, and our, journey and the impact on our lives, called Cancer Can't Destroy Love. The selection shared today is a section lifted from a longer piece called, "Reflections on the Night."   Click here for this week's Fabulous Friday reading. The Luminaria; A Relay for Life Reflection


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Creation of a Teacher

Today's message is not something I wrote, but something I read. It touched me and thought I'd share it with you. Most people have at least one teacher that made a difference to them. In my case, Mrs. Adams, Mrs. Keas, and Miss Marshall come to mind.

The Good Lord was creating teachers. It was His sixth day of "overtime," and He knew that this was a tremendous responsibility, for teachers would touch the lives of so many impressionable young children.

An angel appeared to Him and said, "You are taking a long time to figure this one out."

"Yes," said the Lord, "but have you read the specs on this order?"  

• must stand above all students, yet be on their level
• must be able to do 180 things not connected with the subject being taught
• must run on coffee and leftovers
• must communicate vital knowledge to all students daily and be right most of the time
• must have more time for others than for herself/himself
• must have a smile that can endure through pay cuts, problematic children, and worried parents
• must go on teaching when parents question every move and others are not supportive
• must have six pair of hands

"Six pair of hands," said the angel, "that's impossible."

"Well," said the Lord, "it is not the hands that are the problem. It is the three pairs of eyes that are presenting the most difficulty!"

The angel looked incredulous, "Three pairs of eyes...on a standard model?"

The Lord nodded His head. "One pair can see a student for what he is and not what others have labeled him as. Another pair of eyes is in the back of the teacher's head to see what should not be seen, but what must be known. The eyes in the front are only to look at the child as he/she 'acts out' in order to reflect, 'I understand and I still believe in you,' without so much as saying a word to the child."

"Lord," said the angel, "this is a very large project and I think you should work on it tomorrow."

"I can't," said the Lord, "for I have come very close to creating something much like Myself. I have one that comes to work when he/she is sick, teaches a class of children that do not want to learn, has a special place in his/her heart for children who are not his/her own, understands the struggles of those who have difficulty, and never takes the students for granted."

The angel looked closely at the model the Lord was creating and said, "It is too soft-hearted."

"Yes," said the Lord, "but also tough. You cannot imagine what this teacher can endure or do, if necessary."

"Can this teacher think?" asked the angel.

"Not only think," said the Lord, "but reason and compromise."

The angel came closer to have a better look at the model and ran his finger over the teacher's cheek. "Well, Lord," said the angel, "your job looks fine but there is a leak. I told you that you were putting too much into this model. You cannot imagine the stress that will be placed upon the teacher."

The Lord moved in closer and lifted the drop of moisture from the teacher's cheek. It shone and glistened in the light. "It is not a leak," He said. "It is a tear."

"A tear? What is that?" asked the angel. "What is the tear for?"

The Lord replied with great thought, "It is for the joy and pride of seeing a child accomplish even the smallest task. It is for the loneliness of children who have a hard time to fit in, and it is for compassion for the feelings of their parents. It comes from the pain of not being able to reach some children and the disappointment those children feel in themselves. It comes often when a teacher has been with a class for a year and must say good-bye to those students and get ready to welcome a new class."

"My," said the angel, "the tear thing is a great idea. You are a genius!"

The Lord looked somber. "I didn't put it there."

from the book, The Heart of a Teacher, by Paula Fox

Friday, May 4, 2012

Fab Fri: Temptation

It's Friday already? It's been a good week, but I've had a lot on my mind.  This week, I'm sharing something from one of my favorite books, He Shall Be Called Jesus, an Advent Devotional written for 2010. It looked at the life of Jesus through the Advent lenses of hope, peace, joy, and love. 

Today's writing shares about Jesus' experience in the wilderness, tempted by the devil as He prepared for His ministry. This speaks to me right now, as I am also wandering in a mental wilderness, not sure of my direction.
Here's the link:  Temptation

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Season of Change

The earth is displaying a bounty of green, from the trees that have burst forth with leaves overlooking the grass below, to the plants that sprouted from the ground.

It is the season of change, as lives are on the brink, wavering between the past and the future. Lives stretch out beyond us with an uncertain future. We don't know where the path may lead, how long it will continue, or the twists and turns along the way.

Students, have worked hard with the goal of graduation standing like a beacon before them. They've reached it, so now what?  While the graduate, from high school or college, expects to be at this point, often, others are hesitating on their journey as well. Surprisingly, there are as many questions by those nearing the end of their lives as those starting out.

Questions fill the mind, as possibilities dance through the mind. Some thoughts come in and wait, while others flit through with abandon. Each one is an opportunity for growth, for contribution, for service, or of receiving... and any of the options could be the correct choice for the moment.

Ah, that's the significance, isn't it? The "for the moment" nature of the possibilities, our choices, and our actions propel us along our path.  What seemed so right at one time, and indeed, probably was, is not necessarily what is right for all times. Seasons change, and with them, the needs of the moment.

My own "for the moment" situation finds me wrestling with this just as urgently as I have at other turning points in my life. However, the options do not flood my mind, but dangle just out of reach, as I pray for discernment. They peek out seductively, yet scurry back before I can grasp them.

There is a time for everything, 
and a season for every activity under the heavens.  
He has made everything beautiful in its time.  
Ecclesiastes 3:1 and 11.  

For this reason, I am sure that it is the time for something, yet I do not know at the moment, what that something is.
 Turn, Turn, Turn

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die, 
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,  
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, 
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, 
 a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 
a time to search and a time to give up, 
 a time to keep and a time to throw away, 
a time to tear and a time to mend, 
 a time to be silent and a time to speak, 
 a time to love and a time to hate, 
 a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8