To What Do You Pledge Allegiance?

I try to stay away from political posts because my goal for this blog was to encourage, and maybe make someone smile.

However, our current political scene is so chaotic, and our politicians are contributing, not to unity, but division. What makes me sad is to see the church trading its beliefs to gain political power. So when I read this today in my study, I must share it.

These are not my words. The following is taken from the book “The New Testament in Its World” by N.T. Wright.

When Paul says that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20) he is emphasizing that the Messiah, who reigns in heaven, and who will one day return from heaven, is the object of our hope and loyalty. There was nothing wrong with being a citizen of Rome, just as there is nothing wrong with being a British or an American citizen. But when the gospel of Jesus is unveiled it reveals the true empire, the true citizenship, the true lord and in that light all the pretensions of empire, not least the arrogant and blasphemous claims of the emperor himself, or the propaganda of power-hungry presidents, are exposed as folly. The church’s vocation is not to bless the power, policies, and pantheon of civic leaders, but to measure them by the standard of Christ, to pursue the things that make for peace and justice, and to proclaim that all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. The church was never intended to be the religious department of any empire, but always to be building for the true kingdom, setting up an embassy for the one true lord, living lives according to his symbols, his teaching, his story and no other. If that means suffering, that will mean following the pattern of the Messiah, and confidently expecting his rescue and reward. The church’s loyalty cannot be auctioned off to those who promise it political influence; not can its core convictions be pummeled into submission to fit the reigning zeitgeist. For citizens of heaven, the gospel should be declared, not domesticated.

Friday’s List – Honoring Our Veterans

In honor of those who have faithfully served our country.

My father who served with the Navy in the Pacific during WW II. My mother was left at home to care for three small children. (I was not born until after the war.)

My first husband who was with the USMC in Vietnam. Wounded while there, he earned the Purple Heart and was given 10% disability for problems from his injuries there. Sadly, when he came home, he was met with protesters who called him “baby killer.” After he was discharged from the USMC, we came home with a USMC sticker on our car. One night in St. Louis we were followed by a car full of young people yelling obscenities at us. It was a scary time. He survived Vietnam and then was killed in an accident working on our car in our front yard. He never lived to see the Vietnam vets finally given some respect. I hate that!

My second husband is a 20-year veteran of the United States Air Force. He served in Thailand, France and Germany overseas and in Texas and California here at home.

My two sons (stepsons but still mine) also served in the USAF. The oldest one was disabled as a result of his time in the service. He was a disabled veteran who died over seven years ago.

The youngest served at the Pentagon while in the USAF.

Friday’s List of Quotes – from our Founding Fathers

As election time draws near, I often wonder what the founders of our nation would think about the people we have become.

  1. The God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are a gift of God….Thomas Jefferson (This from a man who went through his Bible and cut out all the things he did not agree with. )
  2. We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalianable rights; that among these are life, liberty and pursuit of happiness….Thomas Jefferson (All men – not women. And while saying all men, he continued to hold black men and women as slaves.)
  3. Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased as the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!….Patrick Henry (How ironic. Give me liberty or give me death and talk of slavery while he owned slaves and would deny them the right to declare – give me liberty or give me death.)
  4. I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever….Thomas Jefferson
  5. Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by a difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society…..George Washington
  6. And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together. …James Madison
  7. We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this Land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition, and that every person may here worship God according to the dictates of his own heart. In this enlightened Age and in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States…..George Washington
  8. No sooner has one party discovered or invented an amelioration of the condition of man or the order of society, than the opposite party belies it, misrepresents it, ridicules it, insults it and persecutes it….John Adams
  9. Hence it is that democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and in general have been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths … A republic, by which I mean a government in which a scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect and promises the cure for which we are seeking….James Madison, Federalist Papers No. 10.
  10. Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos….John Marshall

I Can’t Believe I Did It!

It has been a month now since I finished my physical therapy. My therapist warned me that I would need to keep doing my exercises at least two to four times a week if I wanted to remain strong and have less pain.

So far, I am exercising every day. Eventually I will probably move to just two to four times a week, but I am so glad to be free of pain that spending a few minutes each day in exercising is a small price to pay for this new life.

One of the things I struggled with beside the pain was just being able to walk any distance. It has been so great to be able to shop for groceries or go to the mall and walk with my husband.

However, we recently attempted a walk that was probably not one I should have tried. We went to Ludington, Michigan to see one of the lighthouses there. Since moving to Michigan four years ago we have made it our mission to see as many of the lighthouses here as we can. This was the beautiful lighthouse, Big Sable, located on the shores of Lake Michigan.

French explorers first called this place Grande Point au Sable. This area, approximately nine miles north of Ludington was a landmark for sailors on Lake Michigan. In 1856 Congress gave $6,000 and the Michigan Legislature donated the land for a lighthouse. However, it was not until the end of the Civil War that Congress again gave money – this time $35,000 – and construction began in 1866. The lighthouse was completed in 1867.

We were all prepared to drive to see this lighthouse. However, on entering the park that surrounds the lighthouse, we discovered we would have to walk to the lighthouse. The walk is 1.8 miles. The rangers assured us it was a level walk with benches along the way. Knowing this would be quite the challenge, we nonetheless decided to do it.

At first it was nice. A beautiful sunshiny day with a cool breeze from the ocean, we enjoyed the beginning of the walk.

My husband climbed the sand dunes to get a closer look at the Lake
Although the path was level, believe me walking in sand is not an easy thing to do.

About halfway up the trail I began to have strong doubts about the wisdom of attempting this. My husband offered to turn back. But I had committed to this, and I was determined to finish it. I stopped at every bench along the way to catch my breath. Just when I thought I could not go on, the lighthouse appeared in the distance.

Finally, we made it! I was proud of what I had done but was scared at the thought of making the walk back. My husband, who is 82, was tired but confident he could make it back. I was not so sure that I could.

This man is amazing! Still full of energy when we reached the lighthouse.

We sat by the lake and enjoyed the view while I gulped a bottle of water and ate a candy bar. After almost 30 minutes it was clear I was afraid I would not be able to make it back the 1.8 miles. My husband asked some of the workers at the museum and gift shop if someone could drive us back. Their response was: “The only way you get a ride out of here is in an ambulance.”

Faced with no other choice we started back down the trail. Although there were benches along the way, there were several places where the benches were very far apart. My legs were holding up fine, but my poor heart was not. About halfway back I began to have difficulty breathing. At one point I leaned on my husband and tried hard to get a breath. Other walkers on the trail asked if they could help me, but unless they were willing to carry me, I did not know what they could do.

Just when I thought I could not go on, we saw the end of the trail. Exhausted I sat on a picnic table for almost 30 minutes before I could go on.

We calculated our distance when we got back to the car. It was 1.8 miles there and back but when you added in the distance from the parking lot to the start of the trail we had walked over four miles.

Looking back I am not sure that was a smart thing for us to do – but I am so proud of the fact that I did it.

Before my physical therapy there is no way I could have done that. I was in pain for a couple of days afterwards – more sore than pain – but I recovered and I DID IT!!!

Righteous Laws Do Not Make a Nation Righteous

I posted this a couple of years ago – but as we head into another election season and as the rhetoric again heats up as to our need to be a “Christian” nation, I thought I would share it again.

Grandma's Ramblings

For many weeks this post has been on my mind.  I have hesitated in writing it because the last thing I want is to offend anyone or cause more divisiveness than we already have in our nation.

But as the past few days have become so bad with clashes between different factions in our nation, I feel I must share what is in my heart.

First, a disclaimer here:  I am not pro-Trump or never-Trump.  I am not here to promote any political party.  I am also not here to even promote the Christian faith.  If you are Muslim, Jewish or atheist I am not speaking to you.  My words are to those who, like me, call themselves Christian.

When Trump ran for president he was strongly embraced by many in the evangelical world.  One of the main reasons for their support was that Trump promised to promote Christian principles…

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How Well Does Your Yoke Fit?

Jesus gave an invitation to put on His yoke.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

What did He mean by that? Exactly what is a yoke?

A yoke is a wooden crosspiece fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to a plow or cart that they are to pull.

A yoke allowed two animals to share a load and pull together. Most of the wagon trains bringing people to settle the west were pulled by oxen using a yoke to keep them working together and to help them pull the wagons which could weight up to 2,500 pounds. In our own country before the modern tractor and farm implements, a yoke was used to help the farmer plow the fields for planting.

Two Oxen ready for work.

The Bible references for a yoke often referred to a heavy burden or duty. When King Solomon died and his son, Rehoboam, became king he warned his people that he would rule them with a “heavy yoke.” Their response was to desert him and create a separate nation with another king (1 Kings 12). The prophet Isaiah used the symbol of breaking a yoke to speak of freedom for the Israelites from foreign rulers. The prophet Jeremiah wore a yoke around his neck as he warned the people of Jerusalem of their coming capture by the Babylonian empire.

So why would Jesus use the image of a yoke to invite followers to come to him and take on a yoke? How would submitting to His yoke give us rest?

If we think of life as an allegory to plowing a field, we begin to understand how His yoke would give us rest. The oxen wearing a yoke help the farmer get the field plowed. But it is the skill of the farmer that directs the oxen so that the furrows are straight and at the right depth for the seed. So, as we allow God to direct us, we can rest in the knowledge that He will lead us in ways that are best for us. We can spend less time worrying and more time trusting in His direction.

He says we will learn from Him as we wear His yoke. I did some research on oxen and found that they are trained for months, even years before they are able to do the heavy pulling expected of them. Their owner spends time teaching them to respond to verbal commands like:

  • “Step Up” – go forward
  • “Gee” – turn right
  • “Haw” – turn left
  • “Whoa” – stop
  • “Back” – back up

As we take up the yoke of Jesus, we begin to learn from Him. Through prayer, Bible study and just learning to hear the Spirit’s prompting we gain knowledge of God and grow in spiritual maturity. Just as it takes time to train an ox, our walk with God requires time for growth.

I like to think that when I accept the yoke of Jesus, I am now walking alongside Him. The daily burdens of life are easier because He is pulling with me. Thus, His yoke becomes “easy” because I am not facing life’s difficulties alone.

Doing research on oxen I found that owners must adjust the size of the yoke as the oxen grow. Doing this keeps the oxen from being hurt by bad-fitting yokes. Jesus’s yoke is “easy.” He knows us well and when we trust Him, the yoke He places on us is not restrictive but rather helps us in our work for His kingdom. I don’t pretend to understand all the physics, but I am told when an ox allows his owner to put the yoke on him, it actually helps him pulling the load. When we submit to the leading of God and His direction for our life, our yoke will fit perfectly. If we resist the yoke (the direction of God) then the load will become too much for us.

Does your yoke fit? Are you seeking God’s direction and willfully obeying Him?

Cross in the Woods

Getting off the beaten path on a recent trip north led us to another special attraction. In the unincorporated area known as Indian River we found the Cross in the Woods Shrine.

This wooden cross was made from a 2,000-year-old California Redwood tree. The tree was found in the state of Oregon and the timber from the tree arrived in Roscomon, Michigan in 1953. The cross weighs 14 tons and is 55 feet in height (77 feet above the mound) with the crossbeam 22 feet. The cross was erected August 5, 1954 and the dedication took place August 22 of that year.

Declared a national shrine by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on September 15, 2006, between 275,000 and 325,000 people visit the shrine each year. There are outdoor and indoor churches and smaller shrines throughout the location.

Saint Frances of Assisi

This statute of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus was called “the Holy Family.”

Our Lady of the Highway

A few years after the dedication of the cross, the body of Christ was added. The corpus weights 7 tons. It is 28 feet from head to toe and the arm spread is 23 feet. The body of Christ was attached to the cross on August 9, 1959, and dedicated on August 16 of that year.

There is a large church where masses are held everyday year round. The windows inside are large giving the congregation an excellent view of the cross. There is also outside seating where masses are held outdoors just below the cross.

I found it interesting to learn that the man who designed the Corpus, Marshall M Fredericks resided in Michigan (where I now live) but he was born in Rock Island, Illinois (the area where I used to live). There is a Marshall M. Fredericks Sculptor Museum in Saginaw, Michigan featuring his works as well as other sculptors.

Fredericks said he wanted to “give the face an expression of great peace and strength and offer encouragement to everyone who viewed the Cross”. He imagined his sculptor as portraying Christ at the moment when he says, “Father into your hands I commend my spirit.” The Vatican gave him special permission to omit the crown of thorns and the wound on the side of Jesus.

I know I am being opinionated here, but I found leaving the crown of thorns and the wound on his side as somehow minimizing the whole message of the suffering Jesus endured for us.

We did explore the bookstore also and found many beautiful paintings and tapestries. There were a couple I would have loved to have – but with my husband painting more and more – our home is filled with his paintings with no room for anything else.

Discovering this site now leads us to another road trip – to Saginaw to check out the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculptor Museum.

Hard Work U

On one of our trips south we visited the College of the Ozarks. This Christian, liberal arts college is located near Branson, Missouri. Presbyterian minister, Rev. James Forsythe, founded the school in 1906. Called The School of the Ozarks, it was first a high school and became a junior college in 1956. Nine years later it became a four-year college and in 1990 took the name College of the Ozarks.

The students at the college work on campus to help pay for part of their tuition. They work 15 hours a week during the school year and do two forty-hour weeks during that time. Scholarships provide the rest of the tuition, so students do not graduate with a large debt to be repaid. This does not include room and board, but students can choose to work during the summer and that will cover their room and board for the next year.

When they first arrive, students are assigned to a service-oriented job for the first one or two semesters such as working in the cafeteria or the restaurant that is open to the public, or mowing and keeping the lawns and gardens in good repair.  After the first two semesters they may apply to work in an area more suited to their career plans.

For example, students seeking a degree in agriculture work to produce the dairy, beef, fruit, and vegetables used in the kitchen at The Keeter Center, C of O’s restaurant, ice cream shop, and bakery.

They have a beautiful art gallery where students seeking a degree in Art Education can also work helping with the many events the gallery has each year.

Students seeking other degrees are offered jobs in areas where they can apply what they are learning to real life.

The campus is beautiful. Set in the beautiful Ozark Mountains the views are breathtaking.

We watched one of the students demonstrating the use of a loom. Her major was in Arts and she was working in the museum area as part of her job to pay for tuition.

There was also a mill where they made their own wheat and bread (again students working off their tuition and also learning a trade).

We loved all the water fountains on the campus.

We ended our visit with a delicious meal at the Keeter Center and enjoyed the view in the distance.

If you are ever in the Branson area it is a beautiful and interesting place to check out. While the free tuition is great, it is a very conservative college and would not be a fit for anyone who does not lean very right on the political scale.

I Have My Rights!

Probably no country in the world has been more adamant about the rights of its citizens and the role of government in maintaining those rights. When the U.S. Constitution was written, three delegates to the Constitutional Convention did not sign it because it lacked a bill of rights.

Created in 1787 the Constitution became the official foundation of the USA in 1788 when New Hampshire became the ninth state out of the 13 to ratify it. Many states agreed to ratify it with the understanding that a bill of rights would be quickly added.

In 1789, 19 amendments were submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives. James Madison is given credit for writing them although it is believed others, including George Mason, who had refused to sign the Constitution without a bill of rights, had given input. Seventeen of the 19 amendments were approved by the House and sent to the Senate. The Senate approved 12 of them and in December 1791 the states had ratified ten of them.

Throughout the history of our country these amendments and the rights they gave have been debated and challenged in our courts. Today it is the Second Amendment that has produced so much disagreement and arguing.

The point of this post is not to argue for or against exactly what that amendment meant in regards to our right to possess guns.

But what distrurbs me is the role many evangelical leaders are taking in pushing an agenda of the “rights” of Christians. Many have been very hostile in speaking against those who do not agree with the “Christian” point of view. Sadly they seem to feel that their viewpoint is the “Christian” viewpoint and anyone who opposes that is clearly not a Christian.

The contrast between this militant voice of many evangelicals and the voice of Jesus shows that the Christian “right” has lost its Biblical connection.

Listen to the words of Jesus:

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Jesus said we need to become a servant. To be a follower of Jesus does not mean you have no rights. It means you give up your rights freely in order to bless and help someone else.

Hear how Jesus was described:

“Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.”

Although Jesus had a “right” to be treated like royalty he gave up that right and make himself “like a slave.” In doing so He modeled exactly what He meant when He said “If any man desires to be first, let him be last and servant of all.”

Jesus ministered in a country that was under the rule of another nation, the Roman Empire. There was much that was unjust in that time. But Jesus said nothing about trying to change the political scene. He said his kingdom was not of this world. He had a plan that was much bigger and greater than any government, any nation, any political party.

The issues we as Christians face in our country today do need to be faced and legislated and thank God because we have rights, we have the right to express ourselves. But we must not invest so much of our time and energy in trying to make our nation Christian by trying to force our beliefs on others that we fail to introduce them to a different kind of kingdom, one based on the love of God. (Laws may change behavior, but they will never change hearts.)

“Passing laws to enforce morality serves a necessary function, to dam up evil, but it never solves human problems. If a century from now all that historians can say about evangelicals of the 1990’s is that they stood for family values, then we will have failed the mission Jesus gave us to accomplish; to communicate God’s reconciling love to sinners….Jesus did not say ‘All men will know you are my disciples…if you just pass laws, suppress immorality and restore decency to family and government,’ but rather ‘if you love one another.’ “

He made that statement the night before His death, a night when human power, represented by the might of Rome and the full force of Jewish religious authorities, collided head-on with God’s power. All his life, Jesus had been involved in a form of “culture wars” against a rigid religious establishment and a pagan empire, yet he responded by giving his life for those who opposed him. On the cross, he forgave them. He had come, above all, to demonstrate love: “for God so loved the world he gave his one and only Son…”

Philip Yancey in his book “the jesus I never knew.” i highly recommend this book

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The Wesley Garden

One of the favorite places I ever visited on our road trips is St. Simons Island. If I won the lottery (which I don’t play) I would have a home there. It is not only beautiful with the old oak trees and Spanish moss, but full of history.

One of the attractions there is the Wesley Gardens. Named for John and Charles Wesley, founders of the Methodist movement, the garden is filled with native trees and plants and is a beautiful place to just sit and enjoy God’s creation.

The oak trees are so massive and beautiful.

There are over 4,000 azaleas in so many different colors.

In the middle of the garden is an 18-foot Celtic cross honoring the ministry of John and Charles Wesley.

Charles Wesley came to the colony of Georgia in 1736 where he served as secretary for Indian Affairs to Georgia’s founder, James Edward Oglethorpe. He was also the chaplain at Fort Frederica on the island. This fort was built to protect the colony from Spanish attacks from the south (what is now Florida). Charles’ work as minister at Frederica did not last very long. His very strict rules did not sit well with the colonists and he left after only a few months. His brother, John Wesley, served as missionary to the colony of Georgia from February 1736 to December 1737. He also returned to England discouraged about his work there.

However, both brothers went back to England and continued a successful ministry there. John established a movement that later grew into the Methodist Church. Charles was a prolific hymn composer, and many churches even today sing some of his hymns. Here is a list of some that I remember singing as a child.

  • Christ the Lord is Risen Today
  • Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
  • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  • Jesus, Lover of My Soul
  • Oh for a Thousand Tongues to Sing