Friends


I frequently tell anyone who will listen, that this is the day of opportunity for those working for peace and unity in our fragmented and increasingly polarized society. Against the usual backdrop of ugliness, almost any demonstration of togetherness across the barriers that divide and separate us from oneanother is bound to shine forth as a candle in the darkness. Here is an example that is just full of implications-

Only about a dozen Jewish residents remain in Natchez, a city of about 16,400 best known for its elaborate plantation homes. As younger generations moved away, the congregation hasn’t had its own full-time rabbi since 1976.

With a circuit-riding rabbi visiting on this Friday night, about 80 Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists joined their Jewish neighbors and helped fill the wooden pews of the 105-year-old temple. Read more. . .

Rabbi Marshal Klaven reads Torah

When I blogged last week about genuine community and mentioned the Mennonite faith tradition, I could never have imagined how soon the nation would see first hand how this actually is demonstrated in time of tragedy.

More than 3,000 mourners, most of them Mennonites or Amish, traveled by the busload Tuesday to pay their respects to nine Mennonites killed when a tractor-trailer struck a family’s van in south-central Kentucky.

The family’s pastor, Leroy Kauffman, urged the audience to trust in God, even in the face of tragedy. He said he had faith the family did that when they saw the headlights of the tractor-trailer on Interstate 65 before dawn Friday as the van traveled to Iowa for a wedding.

As news traveled quickly through Mennonite communities in the U.S. as well as in foreign countries, there were out-pourings of love and concern for this small community in southern Kentucky. Many traveled great distances to show their solidarity and join the mourners today at the funeral.

When I see this kind of expression among Christians and glimpse the mutual love and concern for oneanother I find myself  longing for everyone to belong to such a genuine human community. The Mennonite Christian tradition is one of the great stories in the history of the Christian church.

From Saint Paul’s Philippian letter:

2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

What a way to welcome in the new year.

By far the most memorable new year’s eve celebration my wife and I ever participated in was in the 80’s in the interior of the State of Sao Paulo, Brasil. There is simply no better way to experience the first moments of the new year than to be on your knees in the presence of God and His people.

So here is my New Year’s eve prayer -for myself and all those I love in this world, and for all of you that stop by to read the e4Unity blog: sung by a congregation in Wales. May the Redeemer Himself guide your every step throughout 2010.

The Book of Revelation, chapter 21

” And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.  But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

The American Legion in Atmore, AL is our Santa!

Aimee Todd nearing her 12 birthday visits Santa

” Judy Todd’s husband, Lt. Commander David Todd, is serving in Iraq, so their nine children were chosen with seven being able to attend the event.

Victoria, Micah, Aimee, Rebecca, Christian, Daisy and Lily Todd ranging from 15 years to 22 months were on hand to receive gifts from Santa.

Tammy Fullbright, who made the trip with her mother Debbie Fullbright also got to sit on the jolly ole fat man’s lap along with Abby Kate Helton, who’s grandfather is Staff Sergeant Richard Stuckey is posted in Afghanistan.

Judy Todd said the Legion was very generous for giving gifts to her children as well as the others involved.

“It was all just a generous and sweet thing that they did,” she said. “My husband was extremely grateful that they did this for our family.”

With such a generous event having a tremendous impact, the Legion is already looking to next year. (Read more…)

Aimee is our grand-daughter who is about to celebrate her twelveth birthday. The American Legion post 90 is only one of thousands who deserve our thanks for doing what Santa gets all the credit for at this time of year! This is truly the “secular” spirit of Christmas in America and has been tremendously influenced by another Giver and His audacious Gift to humankind some 2,000 years ago. Merry CHRISTMAS to my blogging friends. 

 

Alternative music great for Advent.

One of the things that has occured to me as I get ready to celebrate the most joyous season of the Christian Year, is that there is some incredible music out there that we may not think of as “Christmas” music but in terms of the uniqueness and finality of the Incarnation is just perfect. Here’s just one example from Michael Card

“You and me we use so very many clumsy words.
The noise of what we often say is not worth being heard.
When the Father’s Wisdom wanted to communicate His love,
He spoke it in one final perfect Word.

He spoke the Incarnation and then so was born the Son.
His final word was Jesus, He needed no other one.
Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way Divine.
And so was born the baby who would die to make it mine.

And so the Father’s fondest thought took on flesh and bone.
He spoke the living luminous Word, at once His will was done.
And so the transformation that in man had been unheard
Took place in God the Father as He spoke that final Word.”   (One final Word from the album “Joy in the Journey”)

The song captures the essence of the event and is indeed most fitting for Advent. Michael is a very talented artist not only in writing verse but in the music as well . His songs are laced with Biblical themes and characters such as Mary and Joseph. His well known Immanuel is another song perfect for Advent. These songs for me capture the true spirit of the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus.

Listen to the title song from JOY in the JOURNEY.

Largely unknown in the west, the Ancient Persian empire which pre-dates the Islamic State of Iran by thousands of years, is crucial for understanding the proud heritage of Iranians. I was fortunate enough early in this blog, to discover a blogging mate from Iran who would remind me of this Persian heritage. Tragically, the armed assault on political resistance of large numbers of Iranians this summer has delayed that profitable inter-change.

After observing the veneration on Persia1 blog of Cyrus the Great, I was able to share my own admiration for the one in the Hebrew Bible who is referred to as “Anointed of God”. Now, there is an exposition of Ancient Persia in the British Museum and much available on the internet for all in the west to learn of this heritage and give it the respect that it deserves.

from Meditation 17, By John Donne
Nunc Lento Sonitu Dicunt, Morieris

 
Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill as that he know not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me and see my state may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that.
The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does, belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated. God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another.

(posted in memory of Sandra Cathryn Overby Ward-1942-2009)

 

 

 

Gleening truth fom the Jewish faith

My wife and I were having a wonderful time of noting the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah and reviewing the heritage of the Old Covenant in the Christian Bible. This was the day after we had the joy of studying in our Bible classes on Sunday, Psalm 105 and 106      which close Book IV of the Hebrew Psalter.

Give Thanks to the Lord, for He Is Good

106:Praise the Lord!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord,
or declare all his praise?
Blessed are they who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times!

The Ram's Horn announces the New Year

The Ram's Horn announces the New Year

Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people; help me when you save them, [1]
that I may look upon the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation, that I may glory with your inheritance.

Both we and our fathers have sinned;
we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.
Our fathers, when they were in Egypt,
did not consider your wondrous works;
they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,
but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
that he might make known his mighty power.
He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry,
and he led them through the deep as through a desert.
10 So he saved them from the hand of the foe
and redeemed them from the power of the enemy.
11 And the waters covered their adversaries;
not one of them was left.
12 Then they believed his words; they sang his praise.

13 But they soon forgot his works;
they did not wait for his counsel.
14 But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness,
and put God to the test in the desert;
15 he gave them what they asked,
but sent a wasting disease among them.

16 When men in the camp were jealous of Moses
and Aaron, the holy one of the Lord,
17 the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan,
and covered the company of Abiram.
18 Fire also broke out in their company;
the flame burned up the wicked.

19 They made a calf in Horeb
and worshiped a metal image.
20 They exchanged the glory of God
for the image of an ox that eats grass.
21 They forgot God, their Savior,
who had done great things in Egypt,
22 wondrous works in the land of Ham,
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
23 Therefore he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

24 Then they despised the pleasant land,
having no faith in his promise.
25 They murmured in their tents,
and did not obey the voice of the Lord.
26 Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them
that he would make them fall in the wilderness,
27 and would make their offspring fall among the nations,
scattering them among the lands.

28 Then they yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor,
and ate sacrifices offered to the dead;
29 they provoked the Lord to anger with their deeds,
and a plague broke out among them.
30 Then Phinehas stood up and intervened,
and the plague was stayed.
31 And that was counted to him as righteousness
from generation to generation forever.

32 They angered him at the waters of Meribah,
and it went ill with Moses on their account,
33 for they made his spirit bitter, [2]
and he spoke rashly with his lips.

34 They did not destroy the peoples,
as the Lord commanded them,
35 but they mixed with the nations
and learned to do as they did.
36 They served their idols,
which became a snare to them.
37 They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to the demons;
38 they poured out innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
and the land was polluted with blood.
39 Thus they became unclean by their acts,
and played the whore in their deeds.

40 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people,
and he abhorred his heritage;
41 he gave them into the hand of the nations,
so that those who hated them ruled over them.
42 Their enemies oppressed them,
and they were brought into subjection under their power.
43 Many times he delivered them,
but they were rebellious in their purposes
and were brought low through their iniquity.

44 Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress,
when he heard their cry.
45 For their sake he remembered his covenant,
and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
46 He caused them to be pitied
by all those who held them captive.

47 Save us, O Lord our God,
and gather us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
and glory in your praise.

48 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!
And let all the people say, “Amen!”
Praise the Lord!                          –  The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. 

Anyone who has read and studied the Biblical narrative of the Old Testament at all, has noticed a distinct theme that seems to be a recurring pattern-a cycle, as it were in the history of Israel. The birth of Israel as a people/nation is often taken to be the great deliverance from Egypt under Moses. The pattern then looks something like this: Deliverance- Rebellion- Judgement- Confession/repentance and cry to God to save- followed by a new deliverance. I personally believe this cycle is embedded in the very heart of the Jewish calendar and the holy days.

I have gleened so much through the years, and now more than ever, by listening to those who live and practice the Jewish Faith today. It has taught me the richness of my Hebrew heritage which I have ” been grafted into” (using the words of the Apostle Paul) in Christ Jesus of the Christian Faith. In fact this is one of those themes that many of us are re-visiting, the Jewish context of Jesus and his first century followers.

I found a great post on my favorite Jewish blog which I hope you will visit. Shalom. For my Jewish friends, may you have a truly blessed holiday season leading up to and including Yom Kippur. Roshgreeting

For those who are not Jewish, would you like to guess the location of “The Third Oldest” Jewish congregation in America? Visit this link.  How about 275 years!

Stirring up the pot in the blog world

One of the blogs I occasionally check out to see what’s going on is internetmonk.com. On May 27th he posted about something he evidently had mentioned before. It really struck a nerve in his followers and he has had over 175 comments posted. Because I think the subject and the interest represents a very real wrestling going on with one particular theme with religious people today, I want to say something about it myself. (who knows, someone might actually post a comment or two)

“It still concerns me. Not whether all things are centered in, related to, dependent on, destined for and exist to glorify God, but whether some expressions of Christianity can become so God-focused that the significance of what is not God- including all things in human experience– are devalued and even distorted to the point of confusion in the minds of God loving/God believing people.” (emphasis added)

The crux of the discussion centers on this sincere concern that Michael has, a concern that finally led him to put it on  the net. By the way, he enjoys a pretty large audience and is said to be one of the most recognized bloggers in the “Christian” community. I think if I understand him at all, the main point of his concern is the phrase, “some expressions of Christianity” that place such an emphasis on God-centerness (as in the Calvinistic resurgence within Southern Baptist churches and others), that ” all things in the human experience” are neglected or even distorted. Because I too recognize the reality of this danger-a danger that for that matter, has always existed in Christianity, I am very interested to know what your own first-reaction is.

First, I will place here one of the responses to give you some idea of just how some were able to dialogue from their own life-situation.

30 May 2009 at 6:09 pm grimtraveller
To Patrick Lynch at post 105 {or thereabouts}

“I’ve been thinking about your response and I have a couple of thoughts in reply. First off, while I understand the analogy with one’s lover {and scripture points to it sometimes}, it has certain limitations. Personally, I don’t think in those terms. I dig being with my wife but there’s never been a time when she was the only thing on my mind. When you’re part of one another’s world and being, for me such a thought just can’t be quantified. And so it is with our Lord. He wants to be our all in all. But what does that mean exactly ? I think good relationships ebb and flow. They bounce from weak to strong to intense to slow to fast to complacent to still to whatever else, you know ? Whatever my struggles, doubts, joys, frustrations, etc, I know he’s always with me. I really mean that.

“There’s this song that’s been kicking around church circles for yonks, called “Draw me close” and it has this chorus of “You’re all I want – You’re all I’ve ever needed”. I love the melody, the way the chords interact with the lyrics and the build up and all that……but I can’t stand the words because for me, it’s simply not true. I’ve been causing a bit of a ruckus over the last 12 or so years when I say things like “I don’t like the words of that song. I find them shallow or not steeped in real life” in relation to many of the big church hits. For the record, I do that with all songs ! Those lurve songs that declare “limitless undying love” or “I would climb mountains and swim across oceans for yooooooouuuuu!!!” are lyrically ridiculous to me, even though I might love the actual song. But going back to “Jesus, you’re all I want”…..for me that’s not true. Paul the apostle gave the impression that was how Christian life was meant to be lived, but then, we don’t really know what he thought of many things because in the letters of his that we do have that are part of the NT, feelings on art, politics, and a whole range of other things weren’t his brief.

“I might want lots of things. I wanted a wife, kids, friends, family, recording equipment, a job, albums, the list is endless. None of that is incompatible with being in Christ because he is number one. None of the things I want or like or have to do are the centre of my existence. I can make loads of decisions myself – that is not incompatible with being led by the Spirit. I can dig many things in the world and equally detest many things in the world. Hating horror movies or porn doesn’t mean that I’m God centered. Not subscribing to the standard Christian norms of daily bible study or one hour prayer or whatever doesn’t make a person a reprobate. It’s been hard, but I’ve learned over the years to cultivate a relationship with the Lord on the move and in the stillness and quietness and in the hubbub of company. I’ll talk with him anytime and anywhere about football, music, war, sex, his church, history, my kids, my wife, buses, the shower, politics, pain, things I understand, things I don’t, telly, friends, attitudes, work, riding a bike, you name it. Nothing is verboten. I’ll talk and try to listen as I drive, walk, watch TV, listen to music, joke with the kids, play the guitar, read, argue, work – you name it. Is that God centered ? Sometimes, we won’t chat extensively or with depth for days and days. That does not mean that he plays second fiddle or that “the world” has or is crowding him out. In fact, I think that when we have to think of life with the Lord in this way, maybe we’re the ones who really haven’t really grasped what it is to be led by him. There is one powerful NT example {among many} that stands out to me and that’s when Paul brought back to life the kid that fell out the window and died. In the record written, there is no mention of God. But that Paul simply went and confidently prayed for the guy says something. He often moved in the life of God within him. But this is the same guy who, when the disciples in Tyre urged him through the Spirit not to go to Jerusalem, he ignored them and went. This indicates to me that being led by the Spirit is what the Lord truly desires for us because I doubt many of us would argue that Paul wasn’t God centered. But he was a bloke like half of us and human like all of us and didn’t get it always right. I also realize that for the rest of our days we’ll be learning, ebbing, flowing, but hopefully closer to and more led by our God. I don’t want “Heaven” to be the place where I tell him I love him and know I mean it. I want Kingsbury in London or wherever I am at the time {regardless of what I’m doing or how I feel} to be that place.”

Excellent related post: Get Human!

 

Meet My Beloved Mother-DAISY Born in the Methodist parsonage in the village of Pleasant Hill,LA, and into a family of boys, Daisy grew up in a loving and godly home of parents dedicated to the Christ of the Gospel. All her life she made friends everywhere she went and tried to share a little “sunshine” ever chance she got. fl04daisyirene At 99 (2014) and counting, she is legally blind which prevents her from doing some of her favorite things: reading her Bible, writing cards and letters to all her extended family, and seeing pictures of her cherished grand-children and great grand-children. Mother was able to go to College with hard work and the help of friends that recognized her talents and gifts of music. She attended Mary-Hardin Baylor and graduated in Voice. She dedicated her musical life to Christ and His Church serving for many years as pianist, choir director, soloist, as well as in private instruction. She served her community too, active in missionary groups, DAR, and civil clubs and organizations promoting social causes. dp68th But perhaps her greatest legacy she will leave to me is that of her role as faithful WIFE to her husband Paul of 68 years, til his death in 2005. Her loyal support through the good times and the not so good, made his life complete in so many ways. So here’s to you Mother Daisy on this Mother’s Day 2009. May the Good Lord continue to be your Good Shepherd through each new day, knowing that we all love you and thank you for being the best mother you could possibly be.

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well” – The Apostle Paul writing to Timothy

Your son, John Paul

Mother’s early ancestors in America

My Dad’s story of Todd Farm History

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