Tuesday, March 31, 2009
KEEPING SUNDAY IN THE MODERN AGE
What do you do on Sunday? Do you and your family dress up in your best clothes and attend church on Sunday morning?
Do you enjoy lingering to visit with your fellow parishioners after the service?
Perhaps on nice days the grown-ups chat while the children play outside?
Do you have a big Sunday dinner with the whole family,
followed by a lovely nap, or a Sunday drive?
Perhaps you take a walk to the park and linger over a good book on a park bench.
All of the foregoing activities give honor to our Lord on His day, while giving us our much needed rest and break from the routine. Human beings were designed with a built-in requirement for intermittent rest; those who try to exercise seven days a week reap diminishing returns on their fitness, for example. And psychologically, a seven day work week will eventually unravel one's psyche; even the thought of it unravels mine!
Yes, God is so serious about us using our Sabbath to worship Him and to rest from our work routine that He made it one of the Ten Commandments! So, as Christians do we faithfully follow the Sunday admonitions, and in so doing, set ourselves apart from the World?
Or does Sunday revolve around this??
That's a bit more realistic, isn't it? I think this is so because most all the homemakers are out of the house all week at work. When I started working full-time I caught myself getting extremely irritated when a young family, friends of my oldest son, stopped by unannounced on the weekend. I had X amount of time to shop, clean, and do yard work, and I panicked at the thought of having to just STOP and entertain company! The young people had no idea that they were a huge inconvenience because in the past I had always been home, cooking, dabbling in something interesting or just relaxing (dirty word, sorry) and would be glad to have company to visit with and ply with food and drink!
Wow. What a revelation. These new, palpable feelings of annoyance and stress really upset me. So this is what life is like for the vast majority of Americans in this day and age. Living by the stop watch, under the gun, and prioritizing life to the point where it loses its soul. I decided one thing.
I don't like it and I'd rather have to go without some stuff in order to live life at a reasonable pace, with meaning and purpose. Yes, I said I would rather go without some stuff and be considered weird or lazy, and still have time to build and maintain home, relationships and family. And of course to give the Lord His due on a Sunday (and one hopes, all days). Am I a Christian or not?
Speaking of Christians and Sundays, even we can uphold the form of things while scamming a bit. How many of us cannot wait to get through the service so we can head out to Panera's for lunch, get to the Sunday afternoon movie matinee, or otherwise engage in some kind of buying activity which requires someone else to labor on Sunday for our benefit? Or run by Walmart or the grocery store to pick up that little something that we really need that day, when if we had planned a bit better or at all we could have bought it on Saturday?
Is this being nit-picky? Legalistic? Judgmental? Condemning? After all, even Jesus rebuked the Jews for accusing Him of working on the Sabbath by healing the man with the withered hand, or disapproved of his hungry disciples plucking grains of wheat to eat as they walked through a field.
In Luke 14:15, KJV, Jesus is quoted as saying " . . . Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?".
Well, in my own humble estimation, I think the Lord was saying we must never put the sabbath rest above doing what is good (e.g., healing, rescuing) or necessary (e., eating to keep up our health and strength). God is all about common sense. But we must not give ourselves permission to take these truths and run with them to the point that we start rationalizing ourselves right out of Sunday. Keeping Sunday sacred is the rule to which there exist a few exceptions. But it is the rule, nevertheless, and one of the TEN BIG ONES, right up there with "Thou shalt not murder".
In the next post, I hope to develop a few ideas about how we can take back Sunday as for the Lord in ways that make sense for the times in which we live.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Finding Our Way Home
What is it about these pastoral scenes that evokes such a longing in us? We wish we were part of the picture, walking the pleasant path toward our little cottage in the village. This is nostalgia, which in the Greek means, "homesickness". Is it genetic memory or something hardwired into us by our Creator, that simply impels us towards that simple dream of a peaceful respite among flowers and quiet lanes, amid nature's sounds? The the distant lowing of the cattle in the fields, the breeze coarsing through the meadowgrass, the feel of the warmed earth under our bare feet, all seem irresistible to the frayed nerves and the worried brow of our present-day existence.
Perhaps these scenes speak to us of simple manual labor, which exercises the body, makes one truly thankful for one's daily bread, and frees the mind to talk with God, to contemplate the cosmos and meditate on one's own life in ways that lead to true answers. I believe that so much of the malaise and soul-sickness of the young and not-so-young could be healed by the balm of honest, daily work done out-of-doors.
Then would the little cottage suffice, the simple meal shared beneath its roof be taken in health, and the sinking into one's cozy little bed come early, with blessed sweet sleep soon following.
Perhaps it is time to create lives in harmony with the paintings and ideas we love. It can be done anywhere there is a desire to create true home and purposeful living.
Through naivete and poor planning, I once lived in a very run-down section of Philadelphia in a huge apartment building. The air outside stank, there was a railroad track running right past the back of the building, and beyond that, a giant refinery of some sort, with a stack from which a huge ball of gas burned night and day. It was a daily battle to keep the roaches out of our living quarters, while rats could be seen running down the streets at night and prostitutes carried out their trade just down the hall from me. I often found myself in the unenviable position of riding the elevators with the johns, usually dirty, sweaty men just fresh from their jobs at the local construction site.
Our firstborn, a son, was about a year and a half old at the time and I was pregnant with our daughter. The lease was unbreakable, and there was no way out of this situation for almost a year. The Lord showed me that I must go through the experience and bloom where I was planted, and no amount of tears and supplication would change things, so I knew I must resign myself to my fate and come up with a plan to make life bearable. But, no, before I could plan, I must have a vision of what kind of home atmosphere we could nurture inside our four walls.
So I quite simply decided that I lived in a charming little farmhouse at the end of a sunny lane. That is the vision I kept inside of me which soon bore fruit in that squalid place.
The first thing I began and maintained continuously was to keep an immaculate home, free of clutter, in order to make life more pleasant for us and less attractive to the vermin. My windows were clean and the curtains open during the day to let in the natural sunlight. Our possessions were few and mostly older, hand-me-down "treasures", which suited me fine. I had an old chenille bedspread on our bed and the furniture was draped with homemade afghans and lace doilies. Little knick-knacks and a few homey pictures and paintings brought charm and beauty into the otherwise plain rooms.
I did not want to store any unnecessary food in the place so I took my little boy shopping for fresh food almost daily. Along with searching out parks or places to stroll with him, I managed to give us both the exercise we needed and daddy, mommy, baby and baby-to-be got plenty of good fresh nourishing food.
Altogether, I determined that our home would be a haven of joy and beauty. I knew I had succeeded when my neighbor right below me, (a single mom with two little children, with whom I became acquainted) came to visit me one day with one of her friends. Now my neighbor's apartment was the exact duplicate of mine, but hers was kept dark, dirty and cluttered. During their visit, though, they both commented that I must have a different, roomier and more beautiful model than the one in which she lived. No amount of reasoning with them could convince them that we had the same apartment! I knew I had succeeded in my plan!
Please understand that living in that place did not become less difficult. I had to continually contend with the insects, and the bad things that went on in and around that building. I was even stalked a couple of times and had someone making almost daily anonymous, weird phone calls (this was in the days before caller ID), which continued until we moved away.
We were also disappointed that we could not find a church home there and finally ended up driving a good distance each Sunday to attend church in Delaware. Before we found that place, I had tried a few, including one which turned out to be "home" to the local gay Episcopal population. As I sat in the pew, vastly pregnant, I began to notice that most of the congregation arrived in the form of male couples who sat really close to one another! I'm sure they were quite horrified to have me there. I think its kind of funny now, but I was so desperate for a church family that I didn't really put this all together until after the service, and after the coffee hour which was less of a coffee hour and more of a wine and cheese party!
I do thank the Lord, however, for that year in Philadelphia because it showed me His provision and mercy. And I was able to do one thing for Him. The night before I moved out of there, I took my baby girl in my arms and a couple of bible tracts and went down and knocked on the prostitutes' door. The seventy-five year old madam answered (we often were in the laundry room together, making small talk. Oh, man!). Anyways, I prayed really hard, and knocked on the door.
She opened it, and I am not making this up, it looked like there was no apartment, nothing behind her. Just impenetrable black, black, black! Like you cut out a person from a photo and place it on black velvet - the total absence of light - Hell itself! I began to tremble, but I had come this far, so I said the following: "Eleanor, please know that I have nothing to gain by doing this, and in fact I am moving out of here tomorrow, but I want you to know that God loves you, He has His hand on your life, and I thought you might want to know more about this so I brought you these little tracts with some information. God bless you".
She just stared at me, and then tears formed in her eyes. All she said was "Thank you very much", and she took the tracts, and I pray that my little action had some good effect on her and possibly others. Needless to say, I turned on my heel and bolted away as fast as I could.
So I would just encourage anyone who finds themselves in a living situation that is less than ideal: Get busy, roll up your sleeves, and get to work! The forces of darkness may be arrayed against you, but you can always clean and pray while you are doing it. Ask the Lord what His vision is for your home and then do what He tells you. Then with the psalmist (and me) you can truly say,
"Blessed be the LORD, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was beset as in a besieged city." Psalm 31:21
May we continue to envision our homes as little colonies of heaven, walk in the good works He has prepared for us, and rejoice in the Lord daily!!!!
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
"Home Sweet Home"
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I am so delighted to be home! And its Spring and we can start pulling and raking and digging and planting!! My oldest boy has moved back home so now my house is a busy hub, with our four sons sharing the space with four cats, one dog, four fish, one happy mama and one returning papa, who himself has been out of town working for three weeks.
My seasonal, temporary job has offered me the opportunity to work from home this Spring, and I am hoping my computer will test out as being sufficient to do this.
Life is good and God is great! He is on the throne and gives us all we need to live a victorious and joy-filled life.
I have been slowly sprucing things up around here, re-organizing spaces and putting little touches of seasonal beauty around the place. I hope to begin organizing my recipes, but especially want to pull out the ones for our traditional, Italian Easter goodies. Though this is the season of Lent, a time of repentance and reparation, the Lord seems to be using it in my life to renew and regenerate my relationship with Him. And as goes our relationship with our heavenly Father, so goes our relationship with everyone and everything else!!
I have realized that, in any given age, at any particular time, we might have reason to fear or mourn or rage about something. If we focus on those things, however, we become enslaved and powerless. Better to dig in and do our work with diligence and hope, and face each day determined to make it a better day for ourselves and the world around us. And be thankful.
Besides, prayer changes things and the problems we have in our personal lives and in our corporate life must yield to the Holy Spirit when He is invited in to intervene. So, instead of yelling, screaming, whining and complaining or being fearful, we can seek to lift it up to the Lord and go about our business doing the work He has given us to do.
Therefore, for the remainder of Lent, and hopefully beyond, I will abstain from hanging on every word that proceeds from the mouth of Fox News, and will cease reading or disseminating e-mails that deal with government, politics, church problems, declining morality, oil, global warming or non-global warming, etc. I know that things are a mess, and that certain evils are gaining traction, but its like a soap opera; you can miss the show for a year and then tune in to find that things are pretty much in the same state as when you tuned out. For me, I will find it more effective to spend my new-found time in prayer and supplication regarding the problems of this fallen world, of which I am well aware. And as for the rest of the time, boy do I have a lot of work to do, plus a girl's got to sleep sometime, ya know???