You are currently viewing archive for April 2007
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
Yesterday evening, Wednesday, was beautiful--spring temperatures, green grass from recent rain, and only light breezes (for which Okies give thanks). The town was full of people walking in the streets, often arm-in-arm. (We don't have a lot of sidewalks, but also not a lot of traffic.) Many were headed uptown to view the chalk art on the sidewalks (we do have sidewalks there)drawn by local high-school students. Until dusk settled people sauntered past the storefronts, heads down, looking at the drawings. Many paused before the street and vacant lot where the carnival was setting up.

We do this every year, just before Rattlesnake Festival, our big town celebration. In the hills west of town, and further afield, rattlesnakes are caught during the weeks before the Festival. If long enough, they will be butchered, and their meat sold (cooked or raw to take home with you) on main street. Many will be kept in a cooler to be brought out into a pen in the street for shows. Our local "snake man" will stand inside the pen Friday and Saturday and Sunday, ankle deep in rattlesnakes all rattling furiously, and tell the crowd what wonderful creatures of God these snakes are. By this time the snakes are warm and active and not in a good humor. Some he will pick up and hold. Some he will milk the venom from. Even though he wears high-topped boots he has been bitten three times over the years. Antivenom is kept in a refrigerator nearby.

Vendors today were setting up their stands on the roped-off main street. Yard sales have sprouted around town, giving a sort of gypsy-camp look to the place. The ladies of our church are preparing for an all-you-can-eat free-will donation breakfast on Saturday. One of our church members is in charge of the Festival Pow-Wow and is even busier than usual as she makes sure that everything goes well. Dancers both local and from out-of-town will dance, drum, and sing. Early on Sunday morning I am to conduct a church service uptown before the stands and carnival opens--rather than my usual congregation of local Indians I'll be leading vendors and carnies in worship. (more below)

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Category: From the Heart
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
This excerpt from the President's remarks at Cassell Coliseum on the campus of Virginia Tech yesterday are worth noting:

THE PRESIDENT: Yesterday began like any other day. Students woke up, and they grabbed their backpacks and they headed for class. And soon the day took a dark turn, with students and faculty barricading themselves in classrooms and dormitories -- confused, terrified, and deeply worried. By the end of the morning, it was the worst day of violence on a college campus in American history -- and for many of you here today, it was the worst day of your lives.

It's impossible to make sense of such violence and suffering. Those whose lives were taken did nothing to deserve their fate. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now they're gone -- and they leave behind grieving families, and grieving classmates, and a grieving nation.

In such times as this, we look for sources of strength to sustain us.

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13/04: Hallelujah!

Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
Today is the anniversary of the first perfomance of The Messiah done in Dublin April 13, 1742; music by Handel, words by Jennens. Story here.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
Doubting Thomas was convinced by the wounds (or scars) on the risen Christ. When I am tempted, because of the worldliness of the church or the unChristian actions of Christians, to doubt the faith, I think of those men and women who have faced persecution bravely. They embody the truth that God works in the lives of human beings.

Today we can remember Watchman Nee, the most famous modern Chinese Christian martyr. Through years of imprisonment the communists failed to break him. Story here.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
Johnny Hart, of BC and Wizard of Id fame, died recently. Here is an interview done a few years ago by the Presbyterian Layman. You'll need to follow the link to the article.

08/04: Easter

He lives! From Death's long uncontested place
The Son of God comes forth in regal grace.
G.E. Hoffman

Near the dawn Mary went,
Grief-led, to serve the Dead;
Though the Miracle seemed spent,
Ye stricken know why Mary went.

Through the dawn Simon came,
For him, the mock of a distant cock
Coiled anew a lash of flame;
Ye faithless know why Simon came.

Down the dawn angels sped,
Radiant flight out-winging light.
"Christ lives!" they sang. "He that was dead!"
Ye deathless know why angels sped.

Miriam LeFevre Crouse

07/04: Holy Week

Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
From Mileto of Sardis (2nd century)

"For as a sheep he was led to the slaughter" but a sheep he was not; and "as a mute lamb," but a lamb he was not. For the figure is past the the truth has been revealed: in place of a lamb it is God who has come, and in place of a sheep, a man. And in this man, Christ, who contains all. Thus the immolation of the sheep, and the rite of Pascha, and the letter of the Law are accomplished in Christ Jesus. For the Law has become Logos, and the old has become new, coming from Zion and Jerusalem. The commandment has become grace, and type has become reality, and the lamb the Son, and the sheep, a man, and the man, God.

From The St. John Passion by J. S. Bach.

No. 11 Aria
From the bondage of transgression to give me freedom is my holy Saviour bound;
From all taint of deadly sickness fully to heal me, doth he bear this grievous wound.

06/04: Holy Week

Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
From the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), the questions covering that part of the Apostles' Creed "suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried

Q.37 What do you understand by the word "suffered"?
A. That throughout his life on earth, but especially at the end of it, he bore in body and soul the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race, so that by his suffering, as the only expiatory sacrifice, he might redeem our body and soul from everlasting damnation, and might obtain for us God's grace, righteousness, and eternal life.

Q38 Why did he suffer "under Pontius Pilate" as his judge?
A. That he, being innocent, might be condemned by an earthly judge, and thereby set us free from the judgment of God which, in all its severity, ought to fall upon us.

Q39 I there something more in his having been crucified than if he had died some other death?
A. Yes, for by this I am assured that he took upon himself the curse which lay upon me, because the death of the cross was cursed by God.

Q40 Why did Christ have to suffer "death"?
A. Because the righteousness and truth of God are such that nothing else could make reparation for our sins except the death of the Son of God.

Q41 Why was he "buried"?
A. To confirm the fact that he was really dead.

Q42 Since, then Christ died for us, why must we also die?
A. Our death is not a reparation for our sins, but only a dying to sin and an entering into eternal life.

Q43 What further benefit do we receive from the sacrifice and death of Christ on the cross?
A. That by his power our old self is crucified, put to death, and buried with him, so that the evil passions of our mortal bodies may reign in us no more, but that we may offer ourselves to him as a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Love him or hate him, George Bush is the most evangelical president of our age. During his run for the nomination, he famously offered Jesus Christ as his favorite political philosopher.

At the convention in 2000, he explained further:

"I believe in tolerance, not in spite of my faith, but because of it.

"I believe in a God who calls us, not to judge our neighbors, but to love them. I believe in grace, because I have seen it ... In peace, because I have felt it ... In forgiveness, because I have needed it.

"I believe true leadership is a process of addition, not an act of division. I will not attack a part of this country, because I want to lead the whole of it."

May the peace of Christ be with him.

06/04: Holy Week

Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
Invisible in his own nature he became visible in ours. Beyond our grasp, he chose to come within our grasp. Existing before time began, he began to exist at a moment in time. Incapable of suffering as God, he did not refuse to be a man, capable of suffering. Immortal, he chose to be subject to the laws of death. Leo the Great

Take thought now, redeemed man, and consider how great and worthy is he who hangs on the cross for you. His death brings the dead to life, but at his passing heaven and earth are plunged into mourning and hard rocks are split asunder. Bonaventure

Out of love the Lord took us to himself; because he loved us and it was God's will, our Lord Jesus Christ gave his life's blood for us--he gave his body for our body, his soul for our soul. Clement of Rome

As through a tree we were made debtors to God, so through a tree we receive cancellation of our debt. Irenaeus

05/04: Holy Week

Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
From the French existentialist philospher, social activist, and mystic Simone Weil who died in London while working for the Free French during World War Two. These quotes are from her notebooks, a collection of thoughts (pensees) collected in the volume Gravity and Grace.

Christ healing the sick, raising the dead, etc., that is the humble, human, almost low part of his mission. The supernatural part is the sweat of blood, the unsatisfied longing for human consolation, the supplication that he might be spared, the sense of being abandoned by God.

The abandonment at the supreme moment of the crucifixion, what an abyss of love on both sides!

"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" There we have the real proof that Christianity is something divine.

Adam and Eve sought for divinity in vital energy. A tree, fruit. But it is prepared for us on dead wood, geometrically squared, where a corpse is hanging. We must look for the secret of our kinship with God in our mortality.

God crosses through the thickness of the world to come to us.

The cross as a balance and as a lever. A going down, the condition of a rising up. Heaven coming down to earth raises earth to heaven.

05/04: Holy Week

Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
From the 16th-century Spanish mystic, poet, monk, and reformer, St. John of the Cross.

The Young Shepherd (El Pastorcico)

A young shepherd is alone and grave,
alien to joy and happiness,
and thinking of his shepherdess
his heart is sorely hurt by love.
He doesn't weep at being lost
in love or wakening to pain,
although his heart is sorely maimed;
he weeps thinking he is forgot.

Merely the thought that his sweet friend
forgot him is a painful sword;
letting himself be hurt abroad
his wounds of love can never end.
The shepherd cries: O misery of
her distance from my love, and she
no longer cares to be near me!
My heart is sorely hurt by love!

A long time passed: he climbed the branches of
a tree and spread his lovely arms,
and dead lay hanging from his arms;
his heart was sorely hurt by love.
This past weekend I was invited to attend the prayer meeting of one of the local chapters of the Native American Church.

The Native American Church arose as a movement among Apache, then spread to many tribes in the late nineteenth century. Traditions from various tribes come together in ritual form centered around the religious use of peyote, a hallucinogen. Prayer meetings typically begin on Saturday evening and conclude Sunday morning. The ritual is done by men.

This local chapter is mostly made up of "Jesus Men," that is, Native American Church practitioners who confess Jesus as Lord, and recognize God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So I said yes. The man who invited me told me that he knew I could not stay up all night and preach the next day, so asked me to come to the teepee at sunrise. (more below)

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