February 28, 2014

No.

Generally one of the first words we use as children – mostly because parents say it so often to us. 🙂  Makes you wonder how often God had to say it to us when the world was new. 🙂

People tend to generally understand that when God says no, or not right now, it’s because He has a greater plan for us, or it’s not something that would be good for us in the long run, or perhaps it’s as simple as – God’s time is not our time.

So the question then becomes, how do you know when it’s God saying no, or the “Church” saying no – and is there a difference for the average parishioner?  Today’s commemorations at morning prayer were about Anna Julia Haywood Cooper and Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, two educators (eventually) associated with the Episcopal Church.  Interestingly, Cooper was the fourth black woman to ever achieve the degree of doctorate in the United States, although she had to get it at the Sorbonne in France.  She believed that you should expect excellence, and your students will achieve excellence.  It was that belief and refusal to accept substandard materials from which to teach that got her sacked as principal of a black high school run by the Episcopal Church.  She continued to educate throughout her life.  Wright, on the other hand, developed a program and got donations for starting a college (Voorhees College) for negroes before becoming associated with the Episcopal Church – all about the same time.

So, in this instance, it was the Episcopal Church controlling those decisions, but I have to believe that both women likely prayed about their paths and goals.  Was the Episcopal Church’s “no” to Cooper the reason that she was able to go on and get her doctorate, later becoming head of a university that helped to educate older, adult, employed blacks to improve their lots in life, not to mention her work for helping women to advance in society?  Would those things have happened without a human no?  Was God’s hand guiding there, or was He simply making lemonade from lemons, since humans have free will?

Obviously, it’s something we’ll never know – but it is interesting to contemplate.

And no – I don’t refer to people as “African-Americans” in the same way that I don’t refer to “Irish-Americans” or “Chinese-Americans”.  Unless, of course, they are here on visa from one of those countries and have decided to stay.

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February 27, 2014

For some reason this morning, the phrase, “The Word of the Lord” and the response of, “Thanks be to God” got my attention.  Interestingly, it led me to a very good, concise explanation of a liturgical service.  Even as liturgical churches are known for their dogma, liturgy and tradition, everything they say is actually from the Bible or biblically based.  So I’m uncertain whether separating “liturgical” churches from “Biblical” churches is actually fair.

The affirmation by the leader (be they priest, deacon, lay minister or reader) that “This is the Word of the Lord” is much more than lip service.  It’s a statement that the Bible is God-breathed – written down by man, but the Words of God.  Through the Word, all things on this Earth were created, so that’s a really powerful statement when you think about it.  “This is the Word of the Lord” is a statement of pure belief.  Likewise, the response by the congregation, “Thanks be to God,” is an affirmation that all there believe the same, and give their thanks to the God who gave them the gift of His Word.

Very cool concepts – now we just need people to actually think about that when they say the words.  Imagine what that would do to the spirit level of every person there.

February 26, 2014

It’s always interesting to me to read portions of the MP, and to see portions of the Bible that I interpret in a completely different way today than I may have the first or second or third time I saw it. 🙂  God keeps reminding me that while there are four (or five, depending on the rabbi) levels of how Jews look at the Old Testament, all of which hold their own very interesting concepts, there’s still things to learn in English as well, every time I read.

So, today, it was Proverbs:

16 There are six things that the LORD hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that hurry to run to evil,
19 a lying witness who testifies falsely,
and one who sows discord in a family.

Several things came to mind when reading this – the first of which was, how do you know?  Are we attributing to God those things that humans find heinous, in order to give the morality a boost to the Divine level?  But then, it’s Solomon, who probably actually did talk with God, and has a fairly good idea. 🙂

Next was the concept of “hate the sin, not the sinner.”  Well, that works for everything except those two mentioned in Verse 19.  In that case, it’s not referring to the sin, but is referring to the sinner, at least by the way it’s worded.  It actually astounds me that this can be part of a religion that is split 30,000 to 40,000 different ways.  Did no one pay attention to the fact that God prefers unity?

This sermon actually does a good job with commentary on this particular passage.  And points out that we are also to “hate” (tough word for me – and one I rarely use) the same sins, but only as it applies to ourselves – it’s not an excuse to go pointing fingers about other people’s sins.  Plank/splinter – remember?

And for some reason this brings to mind the Catholic concept of the 7 deadly sins and 7 heavenly virtues (which have actually changed over time, depending on who the pope is <grin>).  It’s where the whole “cardinal sin” and “venal sin” come from.  I don’t know enough about them to actually comment intelligently as yet, but thought I’d put the links here so I know where to go when/if I do decide to learn more about them. 🙂

February 25, 2014

So this morning dawned bright and chilly, with just one cat still sick, but at least coming out of the closet now, so he’s on the mend.

robertsOur commemoration for the Episcopals is about John Roberts, a priest known for his missionary work among the Shoshone and Arapahoe Natives, who began two boarding schools and a variety of congregations. Having recently read about Natives who were forced to attend boarding schools to improve their “modern” education, I was quite ready to doubt the “history” being provided, but actually found a book from the Native perspective that showed that John Roberts was one of the few missionaries who honored the traditions of the Native tribes, finding the commonalities with Christianity, without eliminating the culture, language and traditions in the process.  That would be my kind of priest. 🙂

Moving forward, we are coming up on times important in a couple of religions. 🙂  Tomorrow begins the time of Ayyám-i-Há (okay, that’s cool – I ayyamihacopied the word to get the accents in the right place, and if you hold your cursor over the word, it tells you what the holiday is) for the Baha’is.  These are the intercalary days which are spent as a time of service to the community, gift giving and celebration before the time of the Fast.  The Fast begins with the Baha’i month of Alá (meaning Loftiness), which goes from the Julian calendar from March 2 through March 20.  During this time, Baha’is fast from sunrise to sunset (with lots of very practical rules and exceptions as needed – i.e., construction workers may not go without water; pregnant and nursing mothers are not to fast, but to say extra prayers; women on their period are to eat as they need and substitute days at another time of year for those days missed, travelers are to ensure they have at least water to drink, etc.), spending the time in contemplation and prayer, “feasting on the love of the Divine.”

Similarly, liturgical Christians have the time of Lent, the timing of which is determined by when Easter falls.  Some people are not aware that Easter is determined to be the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox lent(generally some time around March 21).  Once easter is determined, Lent is determined to begin 40 days prior to that.  This year, Ash Wednesday will begin March 5.  HT will be following the Lenten program sponsored by the Society of St. John the Evangelist, which is a daily 2-minute video, followed by a question to contemplate throughout the day and write down answers at the end of it.  I’ll be keeping the daily blog for the church so people who want to participate but can’t make Sundays to take part in discussions can do so.  This program seems a bit more on the positive side of Lent than others I’ve seen in the past.

I’m one of those strange people who appreciate the extra focus on the spiritual, knowing that there are others all over the world doing the same thing at the same time, and, for a time, changing the energy and focus of the Earth to one closer to God.  Christianity is both the most widespread and populous religion in the world, with the Baha’is being second in most widespread (although nowhere near as populous ) – so to me, there are people in every nation and place on earth focusing on God with all their hearts, minds and spirits.  That’s a pretty humbling thought to realize.

February 24, 2014

Yesterday, I was asked a question that, for once, I gave a knee-jerk response to, rather than thinking about my response, and interestingly enough, it was probably the absolute truth. The question was, “Why don’t you become a priest?” And my response was, “Because then I’d have to choose just one religion.”

I attend both a liturgical and a Biblical church here in Troy.  I can appreciate the history, traditions and majesty of a Catholic service.  I can understand (although not appreciate quite as much) those who attend churches simply because they have an undefined need for something in their lives, but they really aren’t interested in exploring it to an extent that they actually commit to something that would be too much of an effort.  These are the ones I think have an undefined God gene – which is a topic that fascinates me entirely.  I can see where Biblical churches have an appeal to both the hearts and minds of their congregations, where people are there because they believe, and not because they’re expected to be there, or because their parents dragged them to church all their lives and they don’t know any better.  It’s where people will stop and pray with you, rather than for you, and that’s a completely different feeling of belonging.  It’s also where there is a great deal of patriarchy involved – and the role of women tends to be confined to certain areas.  Not a bad thing – simply what is.

I have explored both Judaism and the Baha’i Faith with classes, deepenings and exploration of belief; I’ve touched on Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism (that a bit more because of my college roommate, who is also my son’s godmother), the Babis, Shinto, Sikhism and Jainism.  I’ve explored a variety of the philosophy of Druidism, and overviews of many pagan religions – and appreciate the awareness of God that can be found in daily, everyday, ordinary activities and things.  Other than Shinto (an ancestor worship), I can see the paths that lead to God – one Supreme Deity that reigns over all.  They’re not all my path – my path tends to be through Christianity (with the occasionally appreciation for and incorporation of other words and traditions that speak to me), but again – how do you choose just one?  My path has always been this hodgepodge of tradition and spirit found in many different denominations.  Who am I to say – this is the “one true path,” and there is no other?  Not my job – by any means!

My role in life has often been that of catalyst – I’m here to make you think.  And oftentimes, that thinking is not comfortable, but it will help you to find the path that is absolutely right for you.  And I often wonder if that isn’t how the God gene activated in me – to explore that variety of paths, and be able to talk with each person in the place where they are, as they figure out where they need to go to feel that gene fulfilled in their lives.  I don’t know.  I do know that I enjoy my own explorations. 🙂

February 23, 2014

There have been a lot of topics that talk about shepherds and sheep within the biblical context.  So, I want to talk about them first.  We, as Christians, are compared to sheep being led by the “Good Shepherd” (Christ).  The discussion today was on Psalm 23, but also included the characteristics both of sheep and “good” shepherds.

So, rather than re-listing, I’ll use a couple of links here.  Sheep characteristics in a Biblical sense (speaking of humans) – generally listed in a negative fashion.  Sheep behavior in a bit more positive fashion (speaking of actual sheep).

So, this would be an actual job description for a shepherd.  And this would be the one for the good shepherd we identify as Christ.  This latter one matches what Pastor Craig at Door of Hope has been discussing.

Part of what struck me this morning is that often times, particularly from one political group to another, people today are referred to as “sheeple“, and the link leads to the urban dictionary to discuss those more negative characteristics of people who behave in the mindless manner of sheep.

So, it rather makes me wonder if, at the same time that the Good Shepherd is caring for us, watching over us, guiding us, etc., if He isn’t also looking down at us for being ignorant lemmings who, despite being given brains by God, refuse to use them in any constructive fashion.  Are humans also divided into sheep, sheepdogs, shepherds, wolves categories?  And if so, which is the best category to be in?  Are all needed to keep life in balance?

Yes, strange things go through my mind at the times of sermons – and when I don’t have paper to write them all down – you get stuck with them here, more’s the pity.

On a completely different note, this link talks about the strength and attributes of the care of one’s hair.  It’s a very cool concept on being aware while tending to a normal, daily task, while giving a different perspective on it.

February 22, 2014

This was a discussion I attempted to have with the supply priest we had for a couple of years at HT, brought about by the mentions in Pastor Craig’s (DoH) sermons:  Theophanies (appearance of God) and Christophanies (pre-incarnate appearances of Christ) within the Old Testament.

A couple of the following links are for Anglican references, but most tend to be within the Evangelical churches or scholarly studies. I couldn’t find any that were specifically Episcopal or Catholic in nature – which is part of what I find interesting:

http://theologica.ning.com/profiles/blogs/christophanies-in-the-old – interesting post by a regular guy with no particular “qualifications”.

http://philorthodox.blogspot.com/2009/10/christophanies.html – Anglican priest’s blog.

http://ichthys.com/mail-Christophany%20in%20Genesis%203.htm – bit more of a scholarly look at Christophany, but through the lens of an evangelical.

http://www.gotquestions.org/theophany-Christophany.html – general overview with connections to Bible verses.

Book – interesting article from The Methodist Quarterly Review in 1858, from the “Methodist Episcopal Church” (would be interested in finding out more about what that is ).

http://www.ancientlight.org/Theology/Cook/cook_th_031W.htm – Interesting outline regarding the states of Christ, with citations.

In my discussions with Dustin, he (in consultation with a more experienced pastor at his Church) indicated that with Pentecost (Starting in Acts 1), it seemed that Jesus had to leave before the Holy Spirit could arrive (something else rather interesting). With the arrival of the Holy Spirit, there could therefore, *not* be post-incarnation appearances of Christ, as we had the Holy Spirit here to guide us. This directly addresses a main concept in the Baha’i Faith, and is setting up an interesting dichotomy in my mind, as to what exactly my beliefs are or should be.

I know that God speaks through others at times, and it feels like I should be paying attention. 🙂  I haven’t yet formed an opinion on this fascinating concept.  People whose opinions I respect have said that whether we interpret the Bible as mentioning pre-incarnate appearances of Christ or whether we take it at face value, if God thought it was something we needed to focus on, He would have made it much clearer.  What we focus on now is being filled with the Holy Spirit in our thoughts and actions, and not look for specific “appearances” of God in whatever form.

Interesting to me was that only the evangelicals attempted to answer my questions.  None of those from the liturgical churches were even interested in addressing it.  I often wonder if I ask too many questions for their comfort. 🙂

February 20, 2014

Today is a beautiful day. It’s snowing. 🙂 And I realize that oft-times, my attitude is different from those of others, who are at a higher elevation and get a whole lot more snow, I am still very appreciative of snow and the beauty it creates.  I count it as being among some of the greatest blessings God has provided us.

At some point, I’ll do more research and write out where “the Word” is mentioned throughout the Bible.  It is fascinating to me how often that actually occurs.

For today, however, I need to request God’s wisdom in responding to a lady elder to me who sometimes asks for my advice.  At one point, her husband was quite ill, and not expected to survive long (he’s doing much better now).  And she asked me, “How do you get through the days without them?”  Okay, yes, I’m a widow, and yes, I was devastated when Richard died, but how I get through the days without Richard (having only been with him for four years), and how she is going to get through the days without her husband, with whom she’s been for over 50 – are two completely different things!  Although, after thinking about it, the advice is pretty much the same – you get through it day by day, hour by hour, or minute by minute, with God’s help and grace.

Yesterday, she asked me about getting rid of anger.  Now here, I actually have an abundance of experience. 🙂  I was born a true red-head, with a horrible temper.  My mother’s solutions to almost anything, was books.  For my anger difficulties, I got Little Women, with a suggestion that I pay close attention to Jo, and how her anger led to consequences she really didn’t like, and the methods she used to calm herself and think things through rationally before flying off the handle and saying things she would later regret.  I learned to channel the rather more violent tendencies into cleaning – same amount of energy, better results. 🙂  (I really do need to get angry more often these days, I think. <g>)

Interestingly, when I was learning to become a mediator, we had to learn to redirect anger expressed by the parties to more useful places.  Since I worked with non-violent juvenile offenders and their victims, it was always interesting, dealing with teens angry at the world, their parents, their schools, rules, society in general, etc.  Anger isn’t actually an emotion by itself.  There are things that *cause* anger – generally fear, jealousy and pride – and those are the emotions you must deal with first, in order to calm what you are choosing to express as anger.  I found a great site on dealing with anger from a Biblical perspective that ends with wonderful prayers that put things into perspective.

Anger can also oftentimes be the result of miscommunication – that whole perception and intent thing that I probably talk about too much.  Realizing the miscommunication and attempting to communicate clearly can often clear up the misunderstanding and make you realize that there wasn’t actually a need for the anger in the first place.  Letting go of anger can be difficult, but it is ultimately quite rewarding.

February 18, 2014

I’m out-of-order – I realize this, but I did finally remember what I wanted to mention on here from yesterday (half the time I write these blogs in my head throughout the day – forgetting that I haven’t actually put fingers to keyboard to get it out of that black hole).

Yesterday’s second reading came from 1 John 2:1-11.  What I loved about it was that it basically said in a nutshell that if you don’t walk your talk, you may as well not talk at all, because it’s not true.  (Obviously terribly paraphrased)  So, actual verses:

3 Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. 4 Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; 5 but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: 6 whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked.

This connects wonderfully with the concept of “good fruit”.

Is this journey of mine good fruit?  Or is it sewing seeds of confusion and chaos with others who are perfectly happy in their paths as they attempt to understand mine?  Should this journal be something private, rather than something where anyone can stumble upon it (it’s not actually hooked to search engines, so pretty much you have to know me to find it – although someone in England looked at it, so that has me confused).

I had a conversation with my son (the pastor) last night, and we discussed – well, a wide variety of religious topics, as is the norm for either of my children and me – but specifically, that if one holds anger or hatred against another, we are advised not to take communion until we have settled that in our hearts.  Both D and I have experienced such occasions.  We also talked about how certain liturgical churches will not allow you to take communion if certain events had occurred in your life (in my case, divorce and remarriage), and how if you go up to receive a blessing while others are receiving communion, you tend to get “attitude” from the priest, and if you stay in the pew, you tend to feel judged by others who are wondering what venal or mortal sin you must have committed.

In any case, the rest of the reading talks about your own attitude.  Likely what is needed is assistance from the priest or pastor is to remind people that hatred has no place at Christ’s table, and if someone is struggling with anything that keeps them from the table, as Biblically advised, we should pray that they find wisdom and the ability to work their way through whatever that is – it’s between them and God.  We really don’t need the specifics.  God has them.

It all always seems to come back to walking your talk.  Back to the new Pope, his advice here seems to be saying the same thing. 🙂  I think the Catholics have a good representative here on Earth at the moment. 🙂