Easter Thirty-Five

Easter Thirty – Five
May 24, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend – Sat

There weren’t a lot of other choices. His friend at the blacksmith shop thought it would be exciting but really, he could either join the men going to help fight or stay home and work the land with his father and two brothers. He wasn’t the oldest or the youngest so it seemed like a good way to spend the summer. He had no special skills, could shoot a gun and steer a canoe, but that was more for fun than anything else.

His father did not want him to go but understood. His mother did not. She had known his dad as a lad and said that fighting with Gen Washington had changed him. He didn’t seem to smile much. His dad said freedom was good and he loved the new country but he had loved his brother more and his brother had died fighting for freedom. History was repeating itself and now it was his turn to go. He’d been named after his uncle and now he was following in his footsteps.

His cousin had joined his father in heading west after the death of his son. His wife had died from a broken heart, he said, and he no longer wanted to live in the state that represented death to him. The west had seemed like the end of the world but now the fight for freedom had followed them. His cousin said he’d told his son freedom wasn’t worth dying for but he now seemed to understand. Standing up for his country and the rights it guaranteed a man and his family was the best thing he could think of doing.

He’d returned from fighting to the Texas homestead but his cousin’s son had not. Now he and his cousin were on opposite sides of the war, a war fought not with a foreign country but with their own countrymen. His cousin’s grandson was eager to join the fight and others in the area were joining as well, though some would become the enemy. Families and neighbors were being torn apart and that was before the death toll was counted. When it was, more men had died.

His grandmother had made him promise to never ever fight but the government was drafting people so he had no choice. The family Bible listed the names of those who had died fighting for the country. She said she didn’t want any more names added. Another war and another draft and another name added. And then the first female of the family was killed, a nurse giving aid to the wounded of both sides.

The called the two unofficial wars “conflicts”, a weird name when the sounds of war were being heard in the two southern countries on the Asian continent. More families grieved, regardless of what the world deemed the battles. Dead was still dead as military statistics were counted, a result of yet another fight for freedom and human rights.

He looked through the pages of the family Bible as he sat idly on the couch, sent home from his job at the airport because the planes were grounded. After Vietnam, they’d had a generation that did not die in uniform although an uncle who taught at a college had been held prisoner for over a year as a hostage and died from his injuries. Then a cousin volunteered and was killed in the Middle East, killed as he slept in his barracks in a beautiful country whose landscape defied the political turmoil. His older brother had joined up after that and perished in his vehicle taking food to villagers in a Middle Eastern dessert.

The silence of the air outside his apartment seemed strange since usually he heard the planes taking off and landing. The television told of almost three thousand killed as they went about their jobs by the harbor and he knew another would be crying that night over the loss of a daughter, a son, or a spouse grieving their love. Children would grow up never knowing their parent who had perished. He picked up the phone and made an appointment. Another would volunteer to fight for freedom.

Through history, mankind has had to choose between living and dying. Americans have chosen to live with freedom and that has come at a cost. This weekend is the prelude to the day in which we honor those efforts, those decisions, and those lives that paid the ultimate price.

They say history repeats itself. While I fervently hope that violence does not have to repeat itself, I also fervently hope that the courage and bravery of all our American heroes does. Everything we do today is because of them. May everything we do honor them.

Easter Thirty – Four

Easter Thirty-Four
May 23, 2014

The Quiet Bully

Researchers have a consensus on what defines the act of bullying. It is not just a negative or hurtful comment or action but one that is comprised of our main ingredients. To be sure, the behavior is aggressive and negative, but it must be carried out repeatedly with intention or deliberate purpose. The behavior also must take place within a relationship where there is an imbalance of power between the parties involved – perceived or real.

Bullying is categorized as a form of youth violence but it also occurs between adults. In adulthood it is often given more legal terms like discrimination, harassment, or the lesser designation of being unprofessional. In 2011 at least twenty percent of all high school students admitted to having been bullied in the past twelve months. In 2007 parents identified over fifteen percent of children as bullies.

There have been a great many studies about the victims of bullying and the suicide rates of victims are real and tragic. What about the bullies, though? In the study “Association Between Mental Health Disorders and Bullying in the United States Among Children Aged 6 to 17 Years,” researchers reviewed data provided by parents and guardians on mental health and bullying in the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health, which included nearly 64,000 children. Overall, children with mental health disorders were three times more likely to bully other children. A sub-analysis by type of mental health disorder found that children with a diagnosis of depression were three times more likely to bully, while a diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) was associated with a six fold increase in the odds of being identified as a bully.

New research shows that parents are a key tool in the prevention of bullying. “Improving parent-child communication and parental involvement with their children could have a substantial impact on child bullying,” said Rashmi Shetgiri, MD, MSHS, lead author of a study presented at the May 3, 2010 Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Research indicates that African-American and Latino children were more often bullies than Caucasian children. Another indicator was that children with emotional, developmental or behavioral problems were more likely to be bullies. Additionally, children of parents with a poor understanding of child development and who felt children often acted up just to aggravate the parents were likely to be bullies to their siblings and peers.

Factors that decreased the likelihood of children becoming a bully included children that regularly did their homework, parents who shared ideas and talked with their children, and parents who met their children’s friends. Healthy parental involvement in a child’s life was seen as the key component in children not becoming bullies. It is also believed that previously accepted sibling rivalry may in fact be the first step towards bullying and should not be considered normal or acceptable.

There is still great debate on just how to define a bully, especially among students and researchers. Such a false dichotomy leads to students dismissing anti-bullying messages even though they themselves may be a bully. Swedish students recently surprised researchers by indicating personal traits and preferences led to more bullying than societal norms or cultural environments.
What is known is that bullying crosses over all socio-economic levels and children with mental health issues are three times more likely to bully than those without such. Children growing up without healthy parent interactions are also more likely to be both bully and victim.

The words of a bully are seldom disputed when heard but what about the actions of the surrounding populous? How does society create a bully? Australia is leading the world in fighting bullying, including defining it and in not over-reacting to it. After all, not all negative comments are bullying actions.

Quoting from their “www.bullyingnoway.gov.au” website, “The definition of bullying has three critical aspects ‐ a repeated pattern, the misuse of power within relationships, and behavior which causes harm; all three aspects need to be present in order for behavior to be called bullying. In a situation where there is a power imbalance, one person or group has a significant advantage over another, and if this power is misused, this enables them to coerce or mistreat another for their own ends. In a bullying situation this power imbalance may arise from the context (e.g. having others to back you up), from assets (e.g. access to a weapon) or from personal characteristics (e.g. being stronger, more articulate or more able to socially manipulate others).”

The key to stopping a bully is action. It may seem like the best thing to do is simply walk away but that has serious and long-term emotional, psychological, and physiological consequences for all involved and all witnessing the bullying event, in addition to any immediate harmful effects or physical harm perpetrated. A child witnessing a bully should tell a responsible adult as quickly as possible.

Adults, however, tend to hold back from taking action, especially those who do not witness the event firsthand. Taking no action at all or doing nothing is also a form of bullying because it allows the bullying to continue. Communities that condone negative behavior are simply creating an environment that encourages more of the same.

The answer to bullying is not silence. It is taking action. That action requires finding solution-based, effective ways that promote healthy relationships between everyone towards everyone. Interventions need to be matched to the particular circumstance of the bullying. No single approach to bullying is appropriate or effective in all circumstances or for all people. However, supportive bystanders can stop or diminish bullying and also aid the victim in recovery. Punishment is not the answer to bullying. Social disapproval is far more effective as is a positive attitude toward anti-bullying.

The first step in preventing bullying is positive interaction, healthy relationships, and involvement in a nurturing manner towards all. Then, what’s good will get a little bit better and what’s bad will be gone.

Easter Thirty-Three

Easter Thirty-Three
May 22, 2014

Shuttered Clutter

I like the idea of feng shui. Having read about it, heard it discussed, and seen countless decorating shows that reference it, I decided to look into it several years ago. I discovered that while many people talk about it and write about it and supposedly use it, very few define it. According to Wikipedia, not the most exact reference in my opinion but a good failsafe when nothing else works, “Feng shui is one of the Five Arts of Chinese Metaphysics, classified as physiognomy (observation of appearances through formulas and calculations).”

I am like many people when it comes to the arts and yes, home décor is an art form in my opinion. I know what I like even when I don’t know what I am talking about! I think the first rule for home décor should be that it is livable. Many magazines have gloriously beautiful rooms but they simply are not practical for daily living. I think the best compliment I ever received about my own decorating style was from a visiting rector who described his childhood home as a “museum” and then said he really loved my {messy, cluttered, laundry waiting to be folded on the couch] home claiming it was a “place someone could live and feel comfortable and loved.” Of course he might have just been great at putting people at ease when he made unexpected house calls, but I like to think he was being sincere.

I also think a home should reflect the interests and lives of the people living in the home. Consequently, my home has always been a mix of my family’s interests and never what was the current trend or style. I love the color values of the Renaissance painters but children’s toys tend to come in bright primary colors so I never really got to make the interior to my preferences. After all, neither da Vinci nor Rembrandt were known for their “Ode to Grass Green and Barbie Pink”! When a twenty-one year old came home from a yard sale with a plaster of Paris Greek statue (head only), I still wondered how long it would survive. [We are currently at four years and counting. Wow – Kids really do grow up!]

I am now in the middle of my annual spring cleaning but this year I am determined to finish….or at least make a valiant effort to finish. The garbage men are already complaining and I think our local charities think I have raided neighboring homes with all the stuff I am donating. Still, I can’t get rid of everything because, well, that stuff is us! So I pulled out all my feng shui books that did not make it to the collection or recycle bins to find a way to shrink the clutter, enlarge my house, and somehow make it all work.

Feng shui is a Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing the human existence with the surrounding environment. Used as far back as 4000 BC, it translates as “wind water”. Primarily used in selecting sites for religious temples, cities began being built according to local feng shui ideas and philosophies. There are many different styles but basically feng shui was a way to incorporate nature into the design, utilizing nature as a design feature. It became so much a part of the Chinese culture that it was banned in the mid twentieth century but has had its own renaissance of sorts lately.

The goal of Chinese medicine was to balance the yin and yang, the good and the bad. The goal of feng shui was to place someone in the best possible yin-yang fields for this to happen. Simply put, it was all about balance. The best feng shui design balanced the building within the environment and that purpose was taken indoors as well. While defining feng shui might prove difficult, no one seems to have any problems developing rules for feng shui. They all agree on one thing, though. You have to start with the clutter.

In the book “Ten Minute Clutter Control”, Skye Alexander uses feng shui as an organizational tool, not only for the home but for one’s life. After all, feng shui is about creating positive energy and is the best de-cluttering device ever invented. Or so the book claims. Alexander writes: “Feng shui’s objective is to create harmony and balance in your environment.” Then comes the best part of the book for me: “The most important factor in successfully using feng shui is your intent.”

That is a big “aha moment” for me. It speaks not only to the physical clutter in our lives but also the spiritual clutter. Let’s rephrase that statement. The most important factor in successfully believing and using one’s faith is your intent. Do we control our God or spiritual creator or are we willing to let Him/She/It control us? Are we constantly rearranging the tenets of our beliefs to fit what we want or is popular or are we willing to rid ourselves of the clutter of the outside world to be real followers?

When it comes to my house, I really wanted feng shui to give me the magic cure, a way to shutter my clutter without having to really change anything or make those difficult decisions of what to let go of and give away or throw away. After all, I was comfortable in my past with my clutter. Well, not really comfortable but it was familiar and that was comfortable.

Alexander also discusses our daily rituals, those things we do every single day. These rituals are what define our lives and help us define ourselves. “Rituals serve as guideposts and centering devices that help us establish a sense of order in our lives.” Our rituals, whether daily home-style or religious or spiritual are what give us meaning and balance, not the clutter. When we stop shuttering our clutter, we open ourselves up to positive things.

The clutter I keep will no longer be clutter but compass points of living, just as the tenets of our faith provide us the compass points of our beliefs. However, a compass on a shelf serves no purpose. A compass is made to be used and so is our faith, our spirituality of beliefs. Faith is you [or me], everything. And the clutter? It is nothing but something that shutters our future.

Easter Thirty – Two

Easter Thirty – Two
May 21, 2014

Growing Up

Josephus lived in the first century, 0-100 Common Era or the former A.D. He is often the historian or Jewish witness to a great deal of what we know of the time, the customs, the people, and the culture. Through him we know of three main Jewish sects, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. In later writings he mentions a fourth philosophy, the Zealots but then describes them as being very mich like the Pharisees. He also claims membership with the Pharisees, though he says as a youth, he would have been more closely aligned with the Essenes.

The Pharisees believed both the written and the oral Torah came from God, directly from God, but encouraged discussion and debate about its finer points. The Sadducees believed in only the written law and that it be observed unchanged. The Essenes were a radical branch of the Pharisees, utterly devout. They espoused celibacy as one form of purity and created a mystical order of devout and pious followers. Like other sects such as the Shakers, the celibacy vow was their undoing and they disappeared within one hundred years due to the inability to procreate and the lack of new converts. The Sadducees had a very narrow belief system centered completely on their temple and when the Romans destroyed it in 70 CE, the group quickly fell apart and ceased to exist. The Zealots were armed military believers who advocated propagating their faith with might. The Romans engaged them and defeated them and they also disappeared.

Parallels could be made with currently existing religions and denominations but one fact remains clear. A belief system must be defines but breathable in order to withstand the test of man and time. In his article “Jesus and the Pharisees”, Williams Varner writes: “Some of the most stinging rebukes Jesus issued were directed toward the Pharisees. Probably the strongest diatribe is recorded in Matthew 23. At least seven times in that chapter, Jesus pronounced the following condemnation: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” He condemned and illustrated their rapaciousness, their selfishness, their inward spiritual emptiness, and their emphasis on “scruple” while neglecting the “weightier” matters of justice, mercy, and faith.”

This week courts have struck down several state laws regarding same sex marriages. They have not addressed the religious aspects of this topic but have only issued opinions based upon state and federal laws and the Constitution of the United States of America. After all, it still is the primary core of living in this country and the basis for all other laws.

An argument will not be raised here regarding that core issue but the reader is being asked to consider the trinity of matters Jesus discussed – justice, mercy, and faith. Within the past fifty years, many states have elected to finance their educational systems with state lotteries and by participating in national lotteries. Other states view this as going against the morality of the state although none, to my knowledge, have ever issued an official state morality policy nor have the voters in those states been allowed to vote on such. Those states without such funding are also the state that have the lowest teacher pay, lowest teacher satisfaction rates, and the highest teacher turnover as well as low student overall testing scores. Additionally, college rates in those states are out of the reach of the average family income, forcing students who elect to attempt college to graduate with outstanding debt and increased anxiety because of the student debt.

Justice, mercy, and faith are a great trinity for action decisions. In a little sleepy delta town, a local minister quickly became well-known for his Nine Word Sermons. “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary” was one of them. The politician who campaigns not on his own merit but by propaganda and insults to his opponent has a very narrow, egotistical sense of justice. The business owner who fears taking money from someone he perceives to be different from himself shows no mercy, either to the customer or to his family dependent upon the success of his business. The group protesting a concept and ignoring that the funeral they are disrupting has little to do with that concept is not respecting any faith or their brethren; rather, they are illustrating the hurtfulness of false prophets and how easily mob mentality can affect the larger community which bears no connection at all to the protesting individuals.

Truth is a perception which is then proven correct by fact. Truth may start out as an opinion, a theory, but just as we had to prove those theorems in geometry class, truth must also be proven. It cannot exist simply because someone thinks it; it must have valid basis and evidence. Kindness is the opposite of pain. It has many forms and many uses but the one thing it does not do is cause pain or hurt. What is deemed necessary is much more difficult to define. Simply put, that which is necessary is that which is essential. It sounds so simple but when we start applying it to our lives and living our faith, it gets complicated. Love is essential. Jesus said, Buddha said it, the Dalai Lama says it.

Joseph Fletcher, an Episcopal priest, is considered the father of Situational Ethics. He once quoted a taxi driver in St. Louis as saying: ‘Sometimes ya gotta put your principles aside and do the right thing!” Situational Ethics is based upon four principles: Pragmatics, Relativity, Positivity, and Personal. Is it Practical? Is it right in this instance? Have you begun with a positive attitude? Are people your focal point?

We change. We begin as infants and then we grow. Sometimes, though, our faith doesn’t. Evolution is sometimes defined as change but what if it simply is getting better and becoming stronger. A narrow faith suffocates itself and a too rigid faith dies because it has nowhere to go, no matter how great it began. Such a faith does not grow and that which does not grow has nothing else to do but die.

The tides come in and go out, bring new life and taking out the old. We must remember that, no matter what we call it or how we definite it, the treasure of the afterlife, that eternity some call heaven, has a path. We were given the key to the treasure map in many different ways and tongues and yet, they all translate into the same thing: “On earth, as it is heaven.” We cannot live a different life from that which we expect to find in heaven. Sometimes you have to let go of that rigidity we needed in infancy to do the right thing as adults. The justice, the mercy, the necessities of showing God’s love to all should be our compass. He will help us walk the path, growing to show justice and kindness. After all, they are as necessary to life as air and water. It is the way to love, to grow, to avoid disappearing.

Easter Thirty-One

Easter Thirty-One
May 20, 2014

Beacon of Faith

I adore lighthouses. I collect them and have close to a hundred, not really caring if the ones in my collection are from the dollar store or if they are historical replicas of some value. I have a lighthouse jacket, tote bag, wall plaques, pillows, tea bag box, and once bought a Bible just because it had a lighthouse on it (It really is a nice study Bible!). I simply love lighthouses. I especially like to sit and look at them, marveling at all who passed by it, survived because of it, or simply have gone past it without even noticing it. Lighthouses to me are a beacon of humanity and hope.

The first lighthouse on record was built on the island of Pharos. Later designated one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, it was the only structure among these seven built for a practical purpose: guiding sailors safely into the harbor at Alexandria, Egypt. Alexander the Great founded this port city on the Mediterranean Sea in 332 B.C., and located it on the western edge of the Nile River delta to avoid the heavy silt and sediment loads deposited annually by the great river.

Ptolemy, ruler of Egypt after Alexander’s death, authorized the building of the Pharos light in 290 B.C. Alexandria served ships carrying Egyptian grain and armies to ports around the Mediterranean, and proved important to the extension and maintenance of the Roman Empire. The Pharos lighthouse was memorialized on Roman coins, and its name is the base for the word “lighthouse” in Spanish and Italian (faro), Portuguese (farol), and French (phare). Even in Britain before 1600, a lighthouse was called a pharos.

The first “lighthouses” in the Americas probably consisted of small fires on hilltops or lanterns displayed from the windows of houses overlooking harbors. In the territory that eventually became the United States, the Boston Light was the first structure generally accepted to be a true lighthouse. It was built in 1715 on Little Brewster Island in Boston Harbor and lighted for the first time in 1716. The British destroyed the lighthouse in 1776. It was rebuilt in 1783 and is still functioning today. Although the Boston Light is considered the nation’s oldest lighthouse, the tower itself is only the second oldest. The oldest tower in the United States is the Sandy Hook Light at the entrance to New York Harbor, built in 1764.

The appeal of lighthouses to me, though, isn’t their history or even the rocky coastlines they adorn. What they represent to me is the very best of humanity. They exist because of the efforts of a collective group of people to assist a group of strangers. After all, those familiar with the coast would know of its perils, tidal flows, hidden rock formations posing dangers to the hulls of incoming boats, etc. The strangers coming to the shore are the ones who benefit from the light, the strangers and those in need of a helping hand. The lights were to warn but also to inform of available resources that could be found near the area of the lighthouse. Often, the lighthouse keeper was called upon to shelter travelers from the storm or to give a hungry sailor a bowl of hot stew or dry clothes.

Lighthouses existed to warn but also to guide, much like the stories, traditions, and scriptures we have passed on to us. It is also much like the purpose of our corporate worship and collective prayers. We used to live within eighty miles of six lighthouses and I’d drive out of my way or make an unscheduled rest stop, often delaying my arrival home, to pass by one and embrace the sense that they give me. IT is easy to ignore one, though, if it on your regular route home.

The tenets of our faiths are like that, also. We become so used to them that we forget them, forget to study them, and neglect to use them. We have to allow the light of our beliefs to shine through us and we do that by living them their humanity and hope.

And now for Tuesday’s “light or not” recipe: Banana Bread
½ cup shortening (Crisco sticks work well) 2 cups sifted flour**
¾ cup agave or 1 cup sugar* 3 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs ½ teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas 1 cup nut meats, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Cream shortening and agave or sugar together. Beat eggs until light and add to mixture of shortening and sweet. Press bananas through a sieve and add lemon juice. Combine with creamed mixture. Sift remaining dry ingredients and mix quickly with bananas creamed batter. Add nuts and mix gently. Bake in greased loaf pan at 375-degree-f oven for approximately one hour or until fork comes out clean.
*sugar substitute may also be used.
**gluten free flour may be used but xanthum gum should be added per instructions on GF flour.

Easter Thirty

Easter Thirty
May 19, 2014

Knock, Knock – Your Vocation is Here!

A recent trend in Christian education, adult Christian education, has been the trendy word “calling” or the even trendier “vocation”. II Timothy 2:15 explains: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” One might say the education for such begins with acknowledging God’s existence and in wanting to love and serve Him. II Peter 3:18 helps to understand that growing in the knowledge of creation, God or your spiritual maker, and the teachings of Jesus or whomever your spiritual teacher is, helps us put our beliefs or theology into living.

“Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “You.” “You who?” “You who…Anybody home?”
Moses is often given an example of a Biblical character who received a call from God. Orphaned and a foster child, he grew up and left his comfortable palace home to later receive the Ten Commandments and lead the exodus of the Israelites to their promised land. Too busy with the tablets and commandments, there really is no word-by-word record of the conversation between Moses and God except that Moses was not happy and did not go willingly. We sometimes forget that.

“Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “Lord.” “Lord who?” “Can’t be. The Lord would know I’m too busy to come to the door right now!”
Working with teenagers, I once broached the subject of what they thought God wanted them to do with their lives. Many were seniors in high school and in the process of deciding whether to go to college, take a year off, work, or drive around town as much as they could, cruising for friends and free food. When I asked one enterprising student, a dean list’s scholar, his answer was swift and strong: “I hope God calls me to have seven Sabbaths in a row. Every week. Every year.” Another sitting nearby replied: “Yeah, man. I think that’s called death.” Still another, when finished, received a round of applause. “Whatever my calling is, I just hope God clears it with my parents. They have my whole life planned out for me.” We sometimes want God to work His plan into our own. It seldom works that way, I think.

“Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “You.” “You who?” “You who…Anybody home?”
Of course, in order to get the message, we do have to listen, to be open to such. Nowadays, Christian colleges are offering classes in vocation. One, north of Boston, has a year-long study that includes something called the Elijah Project. Educational institutions have long offered sabbaticals to tenured professors so that they might renew their focus, re-energize their calling. First, though, we have to hear the call.

“Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “Noah.” “Noah who?” “Noah a good place we can talk?”
Noah also answered God’s call. His family was to be the root family of a new world, a new generation of the faithful. Much has been made about Noah, especially in light of a recent movie, but historical fact seems to indicate that a man with that name in that time did live. Geologists have evidence of such a flood in the area believed to be Noah’s home. In fact, most any continent on earth has evidence of such a flood. Deluge myths are largely believed to be fanciful folklore and yet, they exist in everything from the ancient Chinese Nuwa to the German Louise and the Flea. Noah is evidence that a calling might be labor intensive.

“Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “Adore.” “Adore who?” “Adore is between us. Open up!”
Romans 6:11-13 gives us no excuse for being too literate to be religious. Knowledge is education applied, according to the Bible. One’s belief does and should integrate itself into all facets of our life. We cannot compartmentalize out faith into a nice Sunday or Friday evening ritual and then ignore it the rest of the week.

“Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “I am.” “I am who?” “I am the Lord thy God.”
It all comes back to defining one’s belief system. The word education does not actually exist in the Bible. Knowledge is often used and illustrated, both in the teachings of the faith and in the living of that faith. The Greek “paideia” is used for knowledge applied but it does not translate into our present day word education or a synonym of it. The Greek word translates as “nurturing”. We are to become educated so that we might nurture one another.

“Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “Ah.” “Ah who?” “Bless you!”
A website for women and house husbands, flylady.com encourages the homemaker to utilize one’s time wisely and joyfully. One way to do this is to “bless” one’s bathroom, living room, house, etc. Marla Cilley, founder of FlyLady, is an online personal coach to help people Declutter and organize their homes and lives. She has almost 700,000 subscribers to her website and email newsletters and her products have earned her over four million dollars. Her weekly home blessing takes one hour with tasks such as dusting and scrubbing allotted only ten minutes each. Her concept is simple – Declutter and organize your life to better enjoy it and don’t worry about being perfect. Like Moses, we tend to think we must be the perfect candidate instead of seeing what we bring to the table.

“Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “Tank.” “Tank who?” “You’re welcome.”
How do we answer a call? How do we complete the call? Are we capable? Isaiah 43:1 gives us our answer: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you…” The video for today is neither a slick package nor professionals. It features everyday people using their talents, answering their call.

“Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “You are.” “You are… [gulp]. Good Lord, help me!” “Of course I will.”

Easter Twenty-Nine

Easter Twenty-Nine
Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 18, 2014

The Raising of the Welcome

It was a popular Beatles’ song lyric: “You say goodbye; I say hello”. The song, “Hello, Goodbye” was begun in October 1967. In speaking about the song Paul McCartney, according to Brian Miles’ book “Many Years From Now”, said: “Hello, Goodbye was one of my songs. There are Geminian influences here I think: the twins. It’s such a deep theme in the universe, duality – man woman, black white, ebony ivory, high low, right wrong, up down, hello goodbye – that it was a very easy song to write. It’s just a song of duality, with me advocating the more positive. You say goodbye, I say hello. You say stop, I say go. I was advocating the more positive side of the duality, and I still do to this day.” Later McCartney would characterize the song as “three minutes of contradictions and endless juxtapositions”. In his book “All We Are Saying”, David Sheff quotes John Lennon whose song “I Am a Walrus” was the backside of the single release describing “Hello, Goodbye” as “Smells a mile away, doesn’t it?”

The art of the welcome has been around about as long as there have been cultures to extend such a greeting and often, it is a juxtaposition, just as in the Beatles’ song. The word itself is something of a juxtaposition as well. It referred to one who came and one who was received. IT also meant someone who was strong and therefore desired to be present.

The hospitality industry considers itself the king or queen of the welcome. Studies are done and great amount of cash are spent to make guests want to use certain establishments or venues, to feel welcomed. A free beverage, a mint on the pillow, warm, fuzzy bathrobes, bonus points or frequent-flyer miles are all tricks of the hospitality trade incorporated to make customers feel welcome and to keep them as returning customers. We do the same with family – offering the matriarch or patriarch the best chair, preparing favored meals, having favorite beverages on hand. In this century we call it courtesy and respect. We expect it and feel dishonored when we don’t receive it.

The lei custom is well-known in the Hawaiian Islands but actually originated with the Polynesian immigrants who traveled from Tahiti to Hawaii. The incredible journey was accomplished by navigating with the stars in canoes. They would greet others with the natural riches of their new home. Leis were constructed from flowers, leave, shells, seeds, nuts, feathers, and sometimes bone and teeth of native animals, all intertwined onto vines. The lei is properly worn draped across the shoulders to show respect for the coming and going, those present upon arrival and those newly arrived. The lei is another juxtaposition, honoring the visitor and the greeter.

In various faiths and beliefs, the welcome is a basic tenet of practicing the spirituality, the proof in the pudding so to speak. The Torah required the Jewish faithful to show kindness to strangers and by doing so, show and share the love of God. A traveler would enter a town and wait by the well for someone in the town to welcome them, feed them, and give them shelter. Rarely were these travelers known to the greeting townsfolk. They were foreigners, often from a different place with differing language, clothes, customs, and accustomed to different foods.

In her book Amazing Grace, Kathleen Norris tells the story of a nun who, although she has Alzheimer’s, still asks to be rolled in her wheelchair to the door of her nursing home so she can greet every guest. Said one nun of her sister in ministry, “She is no longer certain what she is welcoming people to…but hospitality is so deeply ingrained in her that it has become her whole life”. It can be scary in today’s world to show hospitality but really, it is no more a threat today than it was in ancient times. The act of hospitality is the first step towards peace.

The Red Dr Trace Haythorn of the Presbyterian Church USA wrote: “It is noteworthy that in the Greek, the word for stranger-xenos-is also the word for guest and host. In this age of contemporary tribal warfare, of Balkanization and gated communities, most of us are all too aware of the term “xenophobia,” or fear of the stranger. Such a fear leads to nationalism, racism and even genocide. As many scholars have noted, however, Jesus’ call to welcome another is a call to xenophilia, or love of stranger, the stranger who is also guest, who as the embodiment of Christ after a long walk on the Emmaus road-is also host.”

How do we greet people today in our communities of faith? Do we see the spirit within and say “Namaste”, which translates into “I greet the God within you”? The Episcopal Church (USA) changed their Book of Common Prayer in 1979 to include a ritual called “the passing of the peace”. The service stops and all stand, turn to each other, and simply say “The Peace of God” with the accompanying response “And also with you”. Parishes have taken this simple show of hospitality and made it an intermission of sorts. People traverse the entire church, hugging and speaking to others. It is a congenial thing to do but how does that leave the visitor feeling? He/She either ends up hugging a stranger which would make the greeting somewhat less meaningful or left out completely.

Rick Brown, writing for Heartlight.org, shows us that we’ve had the directions for the art of the welcome for ages. “Therefore, welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7. Brown explains that the first step is to welcome. “Welcome” means to “receive to oneself,” as in taking someone in as a friend or companion or to eat with them. The word is also an imperative. In other words it is a command, not a suggestion. We don’t have the option of excluding those who Christ has welcomed. Next we are to follow Christ’s example and welcome each other as He welcomed us. “When we welcome others as Christ welcomes we convey, as the Father did, that we delight in them. We smile and we speak words that affirm them. We listen intently to their lives.” Finally our welcome needs to glorify God and Brown reminds us that our actions speak louder than our words in doing that.

In other words, we need to show by our actions the Indian greeting, “Namaste”, which means I greet the god within you. Then we truly glorify God by Greeting and glorifying His children. The original title for the Beatles’ song written that October day in 1967 was “Hello, Hello”. That is what a welcome should be. When we greet someone, truly greet them, we validate them and ourselves. We raise up our faith, them, and ourselves: Hello, Hello, Hello.