A Christian Nation?

As we hear a lot of debate now about whether or not we are/we should be a Christian nation, I would like to share the words of The Rev. Joseph Farnes, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Boise. I think he gives us much to consider.

“But let’s ask a question: What would a Christian nation really look like?

A nation that gives access to health care to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay? Jesus healed a lot of people. He didn’t even ask whether they were employed or able to work.

A nation that supports education for all? Jesus taught the crowds openly and freely, and his disciples provided for material needs. Good thing Jesus wasn’t working on a teacher’s salary!

A nation that supports families and children — with access to nourishing food, clothing and community support? Where kids can go to school in safety, without fear of being murdered by someone with a gun? Imagine being eager to take care that there is no stumbling block for one of these little ones.

A nation that is slow to anger and abundant in steadfast love? Love toward neighbors and even enemies?

A nation that is quick to forgive crippling debts and burdens? “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors!” Uh-oh, what about personal responsibility?

A nation that embraces refugees, remembering that Jesus, Mary and Joseph sought refuge in Egypt when despotic Herod targeted them?

A nation that prizes goodness and righteousness over wealth? “You cannot serve God and wealth,” as it says in Matthew 6:24.

Now that’s an interesting image of a Christian nation. Even so, I wouldn’t want the nation to be conflated with Christianity. As a faithful Christian, I want all these things for people, no matter their religion, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, abilities or lack of economic power. An America for all Americans.

Christianity should always push for greater goodness, greater justice, greater mercy, not greater power. That’s a Christianity worthy of the name of Christ.”

Friday’s List for Wisdom and Laughter

  1. Pride always demands that “I’ be in the middle.
  2. Let us pray not for lighter burdens but for stronger backs.
  3. In God’s kingdom there are no undesirables.
  4. By loving the unlovable, you made me lovable….Augustine
  5. Married life: telling your husband something ten times only to have him say “You never told me that.”
  6. You are only as pretty as you treat people.
  7. Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clear to the bone.
  8. One day you will wake up and there will be no more time to do the things you wanted to do. Do it now….Paul Coelho
  9. Don’t save anything for a special occasion. Being alive is the special occasion.
  10. Don’t worry that your children are never listening to you. Worry that they are always watching you….Robert Fulghum

How Does Blood Make Me “White as Snow?”

The Christian religion puts a lot of emphasis on the blood of Jesus. Depending on what church you go to, you are asked to remember the death of Jesus by taking communion daily, weekly, monthly. Again, depending on what church you go to, you will told that this wine actually becomes the blood of Jesus – or is just a representation of the blood of Jesus.

Growing up in my church we often sang songs about the blood of Jesus.

What can wash away my sins, nothing but the blood of Jesus.

There is power in the blood of Jesus.

Oh the blood of Jesus, oh the blood of Jesus, oh the blood of Jesus. It washes white as snow.

To be honest as a child I wondered how blood could make something white as snow. In our culture, we see blood as a stain. If we cut our finger and get blood on our clothes we immediately try to wash it out before it leaves a stain.

The Old Testament is full of the concept of using blood to cleanse. All the animal sacrifices were said to cover the people’s sins. Blood was to be sprinkled on a person with leprosy and on homes with mildew or mold. It was sprinkled on the priests as they began their ministry in the Temple.

The New Testament speaks often of the blood of Jesus making us clean and in the last book of the Bible we are told

they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

While I never understood how blood makes something white, I did believe that the death of Jesus somehow cleansed me from sin.

Recently I read a wonderful book called “In His Image.” The book is co-authored by two doctors who worked in India, one of them with the leprosy colony. Their description of the function of blood in our body is amazing.

When the writers of the Bible referred to the cleansing properties of blood, they had no knowledge of our body and how blood serves us. But, of course, God did.

Modern medical science has shown how using blood as a symbol of cleansing is so accurate when seen in our body.

The writers of the book suggest if you want to see the power of blood as a cleaning agent to put a blood pressure cuff on your arm, pump it up until it is as tight as possible and wait. After a few minutes of being uncomfortable, try to pick up a pencil or cut a piece of paper. They note that after a few minutes you not only will not be able to do those tasks, you will be in terrible pain. When you release the cuff and the blood comes rushing back in, you will find relief from the pain and you can function again.

The pain, they say, comes because you forced your muscles to keep working without any blood supply. As our muscles work, they produce waste products that are flushed away by the blood. When the blood was not allowed to flow through your arm, these waste products began to build up and you had pain from the toxins not removed by the blood.

The authors describe how our blood circulates through our body carrying toxins to our liver and kidneys to be removed and to our lungs so we can exhale the carbon dioxide and rid our body of this poison.

This example of how blood cleanses our body from toxins, is a great example of how the blood of Jesus does “wash us white as snow.” As we accept the forgiveness of Jesus, his sacrifice on Calvary cleanse us from the waste products we call sin. These sins are to our spirit like toxins to our body. If we do not get rid of them we will be poisoned spiritually just as our body would be if blood stopped flowing through our system.

The writers say:

Too often we tend to view sin as a private list of grievances that happen to irk God the Father, and in the Old Testament He seems easily irritated. But even a casual reading of the Old Testament shows that sin is a blockage, a paralyzing toxin that restricts our realization f our full humanity….Pride, egotism, lust and covetousness are simply poisons that interfere with our relationship to God and other people. Sin results in separation from God, other people, and our true selves.

I would encourage you to get this book “In His Image” by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey. They share more insights into how marvelous our body is and how it points to the image of God.

Friday – Time for More Wisdom or Laughter

Well I appear to be on a row. Love sharing quotes I see and hear and Friday seems to be the day to do that. Hope you laugh or have a moment to reflect on a statement.

  1. The greatest of all faults is to be conscious of none.
  2. Swallowing of pride seldom leads to indigestion.
  3. A pessimist is a person who is seasick during the entire voyage of life.
  4. A person becomes wise by watching what happens to him when he is not.
  5. You are only young once, but immaturity can last a lifetime.
  6. Do not have your concert first and tune your instruments afterward. Begin the day with God.
  7. Man sees your actions, God sees your motives.
  8. Isn’t it interesting how people are not too busy to stop and tell you how busy they are?
  9. Criticism from a wise person is more to be desired than the approval of a fool.
  10. Love is the forgetting of one’s self in the service of others.

Such a Peaceful Spot!

Driving along Route 21 in Wyoming we spotted a sign saying “Ayres Natural Bridge.” The sign was small and from its appearance did not indicate anything of importance. Still, we love to get off the main road and so we decided to take the secondary road and see what this was all about.

What a great discovery! It was one of the most beautiful and spectacular sites I have seen in our many road trips.

Surrounded on three sides by sharp bluffs there was only one way into this beautiful park. The road in was narrow and I was having a panic attack afraid of what would happen if we met a vehicle coming down as we were going up. Fortunately that did not happen.

Ayres Natural Bridge is one of the few natural bridges in the world that has water flowing under it. Part of the Casper Sandstone Formation laid down during the Pennsylvanian Age, time and water eroded a hole in the rock and the stream flowing there now is call the LaPrele Creek.

The arch is 50 feet high and 100 feet long. Surrounded by lots of trees with a picnic area, playground, hiking paths, a sand volleyball court, fishing areas and horseshoe pits, it was the perfect place for a family outing.

Indian legend said that an Indian brave was struck by lightning near the bridge and was killed. An evil spirit, “King of Beasts” lived beneath the bridge and had swallowed the life of this brave. From then on, Indians would not go near the bridge. It became a sanctuary for those fleeing from the Indians. If they could make it t the bridge, they would be safe because the Indians would not come near the bridge.

The bridge and the park are named after Alva Ayres. Ayres was an early day freighter who settled on the lland. In 1920 his son gave a deed for 15 acres of land to Converse County. This land included the bridge and so it became known as Ayres Natural Bridge. Later, others donated more land to the county and the park was established.

The creek running the park and under the bridge had such a peaceful sound. Standing there by the water surrounded on three sides by the high cliffs, seeing all the majesty of God’s creation it was to me a moment to worship the Creator.

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the Lord is the great God,
And the great King above all gods.
In His hand are the deep places of the earth;
The heights of the hills are His also.
The sea is His, for He made it;
And His hands formed the dry land.…..Psalm 95:1-5

We are not campers but at that moment I wished we had camping gear because I would have loved to camp by that creek and go to sleep listening to the water running under the bridge.

We have been blessed to see much of the USA on our road trips. This place will always be one of my favorite memories.

Once again, getting off the main road always leads to great discoveries.

Who’s Your Authority?

Heard a great sermon today on the principle of authority and respect. Pastor mentioned three sources of authority we can choose.

  • Our own authority. We can say “No one is going to tell me what to do. I am going to do what I want. I have my rights”
  • Other’s authority. We can decide to do what everyone else is doing, what is popular, what our crowd believes.
  • God’s authority. We can choose to follow the teachings of Jesus.

Hmm. You mean things like “pray for those who persecute you” or how about “But I say to you that everyone who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice against him shall be guilty before the court; and whoever speaks [contemptuously and insultingly] to his brother, ‘Raca (You empty-headed idiot)!’ shall be guilty before the supreme court (Sanhedrin); and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of the fiery hell.”

Or, how about A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Jesus spoke these words to His disciples as they had their last meal together just before He went to the cross. He said it was a new commandment. Yet He had told them before that they should love others. He had said that all the Law and the Prophets could be summed up in two commandments: Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.

What was new about this commandment?

It appears to me that Jesus was giving us a standard by which we could judge how we love our neighbor. It was more than just how we love our self. It was as He has loved us.

As we listen to the social and political world right now, we see little of love and kindness. But what disturbs me is that many of our evangelical Christian leaders are as guilty as non-believers in this battle of words.

Following the authority of Jesus is not easy. I am afraid I have failed a lot on that one. My prayer today is that God will help me put a watch on my tongue.

And I pray that those who claim to speak for the church will also return to following Jesus rather than following the example of the rest of society.

More Wisdom or Laughter

Continuing with my Friday’s list of quotes to bring wisdom or laughter (this one I confess will be more laughter than wisdom), here is a list of things you will NEVER hear in church.

  1. Hey! It’s MY turn to sit on the front pew!      
  2. I was so enthralled, I never noticed your sermon went over time 25 minutes.      
  3. Personally, I find witnessing much more enjoyable than golf.      
  4. I’ve decided to give our church the $500.00 a month I used to send to TV evangelists.      
  5. I volunteer to be the permanent teacher for the Junior High Sunday School class.      
  6. Forget the denominational minimum salary: let’s pay our pastor so he can live like we do.      
  7. I love it when we sing songs I’ve never heard before!      
  8. Since we’re all here, let’s start the worship service early!      
  9. Pastor, we’d like to send you to this Bible seminar in the Bahamas.      
  10. Nothing inspires me and strengthens my commitment like our annual stewardship campaign.

If you like the laughter, check out my other lists.

Legend of the White Buffalo

Located in Jamestown, North Dakota is the National Buffalo Museum. They state that their purpose is “to advocate for the restoration of the North American bison through education and outreach.” It was an interesting stop on our road trip out west. The museum’s website states:

The National Buffalo Museum opened in June of 1993 and has since been dedicated to preserving the history of the bison and promoting the modern bison business.

In 1991, the North Dakota Buffalo Foundation (NDBF) (d.b.a. the National Buffalo Museum) formed to start a herd of bison that would graze in the pasture just below the “World’s Largest Buffalo” monument in Jamestown, ND. Around the same time, the National Buffalo Foundation was looking for a facility to house and display numerous accumulated bison-related objects, artwork, and historical memorabilia from the bison business. Thanks to tireless advocacy from the founding board members of the NDBF, many of whom were themselves bison producers, the first five animals in this herd came from Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the site of that first small herd became the home of the National Buffalo Museum.

Paul standing below the “world’s largest buffalo”

We saw three white buffalo. The first one was White Cloud born in 1996. She gave birth three times before giving birth to Dakota Miracle in 2007. The next year another buffalo gave birth to an albino buffalo named Dakota Legend. These three very rare animals were quite a draw for the museum in Jamestown.

I wanted to get closer for this picture but decided I should probably stay outside the fenced area after I saw this sign.

This very rare animal is seen as sacred by many Native American plains Indians. The Lakota believed that the White Buffalo Calf Woman brought them the first sacred pipe. There are apparently different versions to the legend but this is the one we were told.

The legend states that two scouts were out looking for bison when they saw a white cloud coming toward them. As it came closer, they saw a young Indian woman dressed in white buckskin and carrying a bundle. She was the most beautiful woman they had ever seen.

One of the scouts had bad thoughts about her and shared them with his companion. He responded “That is a sacred woman; throw all bad thoughts away.” She knew their thoughts and said “If you want to do as you think, you may come.” When the scout with the bad thoughts came close to her a white cloud covered them both. The young woman came out of the cloud, blew it away and at her feet lay the bones of the foolish scout with the bad thoughts.

She then told the other scout to go home and tell his people that she was coming and they should build a big tipi for her. Four days later she came to the village. As she sang, a white cloud came from her mouth that was good to smell. She then gave the Chief a pipe with a bison calf carved on one side to mean the earth that bears and feeds us, and with twelve eagle feathers hanging from the stem for the sky and the twelve moons.

She told the Chief, “With this pipe, you will be bound to all your relatives. All these people and all things in the universe are joined to you who smoke the pipe. With this, you shall muliple and be a good nation.”

She stayed with them for four days showing them how to prepare the pipe and how to smoke it. This is how the pipe came to the Lakota tribe.

When the left she promised to return in times of need. She walked in the direction of the sun stopping to roll over four times. The first time she got up as a black buffalo. The second time she became a brown buffalo, the third time a red buffalo and then finally a white buffalo. The white buffalo walked on, stopped, bowed to each of the four directions and then disappeared over the hill.

This legend also led to the white buffalo umbilical cord pouch. When a baby was born, the umbilical cord was dried and put in a beaded pouch which was often turtle or lizard shaped. They believed the cord was the connection to life before birth and after death. When the person died, the pouch would be buried with him/her.

I recently discovered that Dakota Miracle died from injuries he sustained when he fell down a ravine. The Museum said his lack of pigmentation included poor eyesight and they believe this contributed to his fall.

If you make a trip to North Dakota this museum is worth planning a stop to see.

Overheard in an Orchard

As I sit in my easy chair and watch the birds in my back yard – robins, cardinals, flinches, blue jays and doves, this poem comes to my mind.

Said the Robin to the Sparrow;
"I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so?"

Said the Sparrow to the Robin;
"Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me."

Elizabeth Cheney

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29–31 — New Living Translation (NLT)