Saturday, December 15, 2012
Thursday, April 19, 2012
My mother and I lived in a second story apartment in Wilmington, NC. Our landlady (a Mrs. Davis) lived downstairs. Both the upstairs apartment and the downstairs had a back porch which ran the entire width of the house. Judging from what I now know as an adult about the space required for certain pieces of furniture, I would judge the depth of the porch to be about eight feet. Ours had a wide staircase that went down to Mrs. Davis' porch. I used to lie across one step to talk to Mrs. Davis as she watered her plants. Both the upper and the lower porch was enclosed in white lattice.
One day, as Mrs. Davis was preparing for the summer canning season, she offered me the job of washing her canning jars. She set up a work station on her porch under the steps. She gave me a galvanized tub of warm soapy water and one of warm clear water. Behind that was a long narrow table which she covered with fluffy cotton towels. I remember being impressed with how fluffy her towels were because ours were so thin by comparison.
I sat down on the floor and filled the soapy tub with jars. I took each out and scrubbed it, then laid it in the clear water to rinse while I repeated the process with the next. When the rinse tub was filled with jars, I called her out to "inspect" my work. I can still see her holding each jar up to the sun to see if it was clean. If and only if it was spotless, she stood it upside down on the towel to drain and dry. When all of them met with her approval, I got paid.
She paid me a penny each. I was so proud of the quarter she gave me though there were some smaller coins as well. This was 1947 or 48 and it was the first quarter I had ever owned.
She taught me something important that day. In my desire to hurry and finish, I had to rewash several jars until I slowed down and paid attention to the work at hand. She taught me that, if I had time to redo the work, I had time to do it right the first time. That lesson has stood the test of time. I also remember the last tubful. That one, she did not refuse a single jar!
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Jesus gave us an example of prayer (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) which is more than an example of prayer. It is also instruction in our relationship with the Triune God.
Jesus used the equal possessive pronoun. He did not say “My” thus subjugating our (we humans’) claim on The Father. Many times the “number one son” in birth order) can be heard to say to younger siblings, “He was my father first!” Jesus did not do that. He brought us into the family of God with equal claim on His Father’s affections.
What are the expectations of a father? Protection against harm, unconditional love, sufficiency to provide for our needs and wants subject to his wisdom and his responsibility and authority over us, authority over our behavior with the expectation of discipline to help us grow in wisdom and discernment, commitment to bringing us up properly, setting limits beyond which there is a consequence, intimacy between a father and child which gives the child security and a sense of acceptance and well-being. The Fatherhood of God sets an incredibly high bar for earthly fathers. The relationship between a human father and a child will form the foundation for the child's relationship with God. What they see in the human father is what they will expect from their Heavenly Father and only Holy Scripture can make the corrections and repair the damages from that foundation.
“Who art in Heaven”
Where is Heaven? We talk about going there but where is it? Well, Jesus was “taken up into the clouds” beyond our ability to see. Since none of the satellites scientists have sent up into the inososphere have ever seen Heaven, it must be beyond what we call the ionosphere. The men who walked on the moon didn’t see it so it must be beyond our moon. We see stars in the sky that are beyond the moon so Heaven must be beyond those or It would obscure our view of the stars. That’s incredible that a God who is involved in our daily lives is in a place beyond the fartherest stars we can see. How incredibly awesome is that God!
“Hallowed be Thy Name”
“Hallowed” means set apart. So, if even God’s Name is expected to be hallowed, how much more must He be. The Jews left out all the vowels in their words for God so that His Name was totally unpronounceable by human tongue. We spell it Jehovah or Yahweh but think what that would look like without any vowels: Jhvh or Yhwh….totally unpronounceable. Yet, in today’s society, we do not hallow His Name. Even small children use It in vain.
“Thy Kingdom come”
God’s Kingdom is one in which there is no sorrow, no loss but there is also no sin. So, we are asking for a Kingdom to come in which we are freed from our sinful nature.
“Thy Will be done”
Another indication that sin will not be there.
“On earth as it is in Heaven”
All the inhabitants of the earth (as we now know it) will be sin free. We have no understanding of how that could happen. The best we can comprehend such a kingdom is to picture no more war or crime or sorrow. We cannot even comprehend a kingdom without evil.
“Give us this day”
From trying to picture a future with God totally in charge and all evil discharged, Jesus returns to His here and now. We’re basically taught to trust God completely for this day’s needs. This reflects what Jesus said about not worrying about tomorrow.
“Our daily bread”
Every culture has a form of bread as the staff of its diet. In some cultures, it is wheat, in some rice, rye, etc. This is daily sustenance the source of which is God.
“And forgive us our trespasses”
When I taught small children, I used to tell them what their consequence would be for having exceeded the boundaries of acceptable behavior. Then, after the consequence was completed, I would tell them, “You made a mistake. Now, you have paid the consequence, you have repented of your behavior so I forgive you. When I forgive you, it means it’s as though it never happened and it never must again. You need also to forgive yourself so that is is as though you never did it and you are determined never to do so again.” My idea was if I could teach them in human terms what forgiveness was, when they heard the Gospel, they would understand better what it meant for God to forgive their sins.
But, the term trespass (some translations use the word debt) is important, too. Both mean to violate an established boundary willfully and without respect for the person who set it. In property, trespassing refers to the boundary established by a deed which is recognized by some legal authority. The legal authority in this prayer is the Omnipotent, Righteous, Omniscient God.
A debtor can also violate a boundary set by a legal authority set in the mortgage instrument. Our sins are our mortgage instrument with God because He established the boundaries of our behavior, the limits we are expected to obey. Jesus cancelled that mortgage, removed the boundary that was set by God for sin and that leads us to the second part.
“…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive our trespassers”
Woops! Just like the wicked servant whose master forgave him, we must forgive those who trespass against us….who “owe” us. We cannot validly ask for forgiveness unless we have willingly offered it to others. We’re admonished if we come to the Communion table with any unforgiveness in our hearts, we must leave the table to go to that brother and forgive him before we can “worthily” (to the extent that we can be worthy) part take of the Lord’s Supper and accept His forgiveness for our sins. We have not limited God's Forgiveness. We have simply limited our own access to it. We have erected a barrier of unforgiveness between ourselves and our loving Father.
“lead us not into temptation”
God’s Word assures us that He will never tempt us but this supplication goes beyond His tempting us and asks Him to restrict our access to temptation. It also supposes surrender to whatever means is necessary for Him to lead us away from temptation. Sometimes we don’t much care for that because it means He says “no” or “wait” when we want to hear “yes.”
“Deliver us from evil”
Not only are we asking God to help us to avoid evil but to deliver us away from any evil which might seek us out. We’re told that Satan wanders the earth like a roaring lion seeking whom he might devour. We’re asking God to help us to escape from the clutches of Satan when he is successful in catching up to us and to take us away from his presence.
“For Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory”
All the things we have asked God to do in our lives from providing us with daily sustenance to forgiving us our sins to delivering us from evil….all these are done in acknowledgment that only HE can do it because all things are subject to His Kingdom and His Power and all Glory is His.
“Forever and ever”
Eternity is a ring with no beginning and no ending. Only the God of the universe who created all that is or ever shall be understands forever. When God began the creation, He looked upon a void, without form, without content….a vast nothingness the outer boundaries man still has not explored even with all our satellites and astronauts. He looked at it and He divided it into its opposites: the land and the seas, the light and the dark, plants and animals, male and female. He separated the opposites within the realm of forever. Forever by itself speaks to eternity. To repeat the ever is to emphasize the neverendingness of God’s Kingdom, His Power and His Glory.
Amen means “so be it.” It’s a proclamation of absolute agreement with no limitation from anything or anybody. Even very primitive cultures recognize the power of the spoken word to affirm an event, to establish a precedent. Sometimes, I wonder if perhaps the more primitive cultures with their restrictions on what can be spoken and what cannot understand better than we the power of the spoken word. “Amen” means the requests, assuming we have stayed within the boundaries God established, are hereby spoken into being.
Sunday, March 4, 2012
The following is a conversation which a friend and I had by email which began when she sent me this link:
She suggested I share it with my granddaughters and this is the best way I know how. I've separated the emails with ----------------. Enjoy.
This woman's talk inspired me. I hope you willl find it worthy of a listen.
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:11-12 NIV
Notice that she went to Australia as a refugee...not as an illegal. The differences are subtle but powerful. I have been blessed to know people who came here as refugees from Hungary, France, Austria, Germany, and Cuba. They have blessed my life by convincing me that "hardship is your friend." It is a "refiner's fire." They also taught me that "entitlements are slavery."
Entitlements are slavery is a huge statement and absolutely true from where I sit today having worked for the federal government and now working part-time at Wal-Mart as a cashier. I have seen entitlements from the perspective of the over-paid and pampered government employee who believes their position should be a guaranteed position simply because that is what they have come to expect and I see the entitlement of people in our communities who believe they must be supported by the government despite their obvious ability to work and care for themselves and their ability to care for their family members as they age and need the care. The prevalent belief system is that somone owes them something.
On the flip side I now work for a company that underpays their employees when there would be no harm to the company if they paid a living wage. This creates an environment in which many people at the Wal-Mart where I work are working two jobs to make ends meet. Interestingly enough they are not angry at Wal-Mart in particular. I think they are simply too busy and too tired to spend time discussing their plight. In fact, the women I know who are working two jobs are also raising families and often have handicapped and disabled family members yet do not even seem to have resentment. I just realized that when I started replying to your e-mail. They talk about their feet and legs hurting or their backs or how exhausted they are but they don't seem to connect that to the fault of anyone else. Believe me these are not saints. They just don't seem to be caught up in the blame game. Explain that one to me,please, Mary Lena!
They have assumed responsibility for the choices they made earlier in life which brought them to this stage. I worked with ladies very like that in the shirt factory the first summer after high school. We were paid on production and they very generously taught me how to increase my pay knowing all the while that it would mean more "time studies" as more of us made minimum wage. After each time study, the number of bundles we had to inspect, fold and pin to make minimum wage ($1.00) was increased. BUT, we lived where just having a job at all was a blessing and they were too responsible to sit on their backsides and whine. I never heard a bitter word from them.
When they learned (the day I turned in my notice) that I was headed for college, they treated me (out of their meager salary) to a bought lunch and then each gave me a bundle of their shirts to claim pay for. Each Fri, we would go to a cafe nearby. They each would buy one of the $1.25 lunches (meat, two vegies, bread and dessert and tea). Each Fri, I took my brown bag and bought tea. Because I was the only one at a table for 8 who brown bagged, the cafe owner let me sit with them.
During the months we worked together, they taught me much more than how to increase my output. They taught me gratitude for my opportunities and the value of education. They taught me to be generous with others however little I had. They taught me to think carefully about the unintended consequences my decisions might have. They taught me to take responsibility for ALL the consequences of my decisions. (This is one of the traits I must admire in our youngest son.) They taught me to have a grateful heart and a generous spirit. One of them told me, "You're never too poor to help someone else. When you think you are, you teach yourself to be helpless." It reflected my Grannsy's philosophy.
The first ten minutes after we clocked out each day, we had to get down on hands and knees and pick up all the pins we had dropped. Because they were silk pins, we weren't allowed to use magnets to pick them up for fear we might scratch the surface (they were bought in 20 lb boxes) and then we had to sweep the floors. We let the older ladies sweep because it was so difficult for them to get down on their knees. To prevent overtime, the owner would have us work 39 1/2 hours in three or four days and then "lay us off" for the rest of the week.
One of the ladies was 19 (two years older than I was). She had three young sons and had worked there since she was 14. She had a Jim Walters' home and her goal was to pay it off so she could save for a screened porch along the backside. Her only extravagance was the Fri. lunch. Another was 21, had worked there since she was 16 and had had to have a hysterectomy the year before because of the damage to her uterus from standing on concrete floors. Her goal was to pay off her new car so she could (surprise, surprise) buy another. Another was in her sixties and was working to help her grandchildren finish high school. None thought they would ever be able to retire voluntarily.
Another lady (50-60) was paying off medical bills from her husband's final illness.
We were always laughing or singing as we worked. We had to keep our voices soft because the owner's son would come over to "encourage" us to work harder. The lady who hired me was threatened with being fired for having hired "an upstart who thinks she can go to college. She'll be back in six months wanting her job back."