Beauty Walks

Let beauty drop her crystalled hand,

Its glittered touch upon the morn;

Sweetening minutes, coloring hours

Swaddling it – a babe, newborn.

 

In simplicity she walks,

Stopping here and moving on;

Bringing with her tireless watch

Mysterious knowledge yet unknown.

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A Prayer For The Church

Our Dear Heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus Christ,

We are before your throne, that throne that is higher than any other, that throne that is greater than we can imagine, and we are here to talk with you about the church. Your church.

Jesus, we’ve read your prayer – or what was part of a prayer – asking God to keep your church unified. You asked for all Christians to be unified. You intended your church to represent You until your return. You intend for your church to be your hands and feet, your mind and heart, your song and voice. You expect us to be bold and courageous and wise and righteous.

We are not.

So here we are, asking. That thin, weaselly, voice of ours will not do. It never has. Yet somehow that voice, that hesitant, faithless voice has become more and more the voice of the redeemed. We have fallen asleep. WAKE! US! UP!

We stand here, shoulders back, spine straight, voice strong, asking now – no, imploring – You for boldness in this time.

If our eyes are clouded with untruth, wash them clean!

If our minds have forgotten reason, teach us logic!

If our discipline is weak, make us determined and strong!

If our desire for You, for Your Word, for Your Truth, for Your voice has grown cold, ignite that fire! Change our lack of understanding to wisdom!

Make us, Father, not what we are, but what we should be. We have many voices, but raise us up in harmony as one church! We have many jobs, but, seen together, may those jobs be flaming candles of heaven’s intent. We have many avenues of influence, but make that influence be the ushering in of Your kingdom. Take over! We would be Your church! Your power! Your will on earth as in heaven!

Truly, truly hear our prayer. Truly, truly answer in Your might and power.

In the Name of Jesus, the Coming King,

Amen

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The Threshing Floor

You know how when some little speck that was floating around or, perhaps, the result of some rogue particle from something your were doing gets in your eye, it’s either irritating or killing? It suddenly it takes all of your attention whether or not you have time for it. Despite the pain and distraction, all of your attention is sometimes a necessary thing, possibly even a very good thing.

As we celebrate freedom this 4th of July, there will be picnics and flags, parades and fireworks. We can celebrate because others sacrificed. Through the heroic efforts of our American forefathers, our country liberated itself from the rule of King George III and founded a nation with representation of its citizenry in government. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor. I wonder if anyone’s hand was shaking when he signed that declaration? Those men, those women, those families, paid a steep price; a cost we would do well to consider.

They stood firm for what was right and true. Truth? Now there’s something that seems a bit slippery these days. The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence states, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. -That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Note those rights don’t come from government, they come from God. Government simply administers them. (So, as an aside here, things justly termed “entitlements” such as health care or even education are helpful and good to have, but to call them “rights” denigrates the true meaning of the word.)

Our nation has been on a journey for awhile now, traveling a twisting road of right and wrong, true and false. Words like justice, fair, right, tolerance, and even love have undergone a turn in the spin cycle. They’ve become twisted, ragged, and unrecognizable.

And, my fellow citizens, this nation under God finds itself at a well-worn place. We’re on the threshing floor where the grain is separated from the husks and chaff, truth from lies, if you will. Winnowing forks are tossing the mixture into the air where the chaff is blown away leaving only what is usable and good. I hope we get a little bit of something in our eye, even if it causes distraction or pain, and I hope that chaff in our eye draws our attention to the truth. I hope you and I are left on the floor rather than being swept away by the wind.

In 1861, Julia Ward Howe, after visiting a camp of the Union Army, wrote a poem. It was published in 1862. The Battle Hymn of the Republic says, in part: He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored and He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat.

This Independence Day I’ll eat barbecue, display the Stars and Stripes, and celebrate along with everyone else. But I’ll also be thinking: It’s great here on the threshing floor! Look! There goes another long-held assumption into the wind! Why, yes. I do see how some were blinded by this person or by that assertion; but things are clearing up now. The chaff won’t be here forever.

Stand firm for what is right and true. You’re in good company. And look up. You never know what you’ll see next.

Declaration of Independence; Luke 3:17, Hosea 13:3; The Battle Hymn of the Republic by Julia Ward Howe, public domain; Image: Wikimedia commons; public domain 800px-Era_agrícola-(threshing_floor)

Where’s Melania Trump When You Need Her?

Images of Melania Trump have traipsed through my mind lately, along with the wish I could call her, like the besties we are, and chat for awhile. I need some fashion advice, and I doubt I’m the only one.

I’m just a mother of the engaged, but soon I will be a mother of the bride, and I have been looking for a dress. I thought I’d pass along my own (very) little advice – not to brides nor grooms, not about ceremonies nor decorations; no, nothing nearly as important or interesting; but about shopping for a mother of the bride dress.

You don’t think you need advice? Listen, I’ve discovered an entirely here-to-fore invisible population of desperate mothers of the bride/groom out there; and – to the woman – they’re willing to share their opinions, asked or not. These women who, aside from contracting a helpfully violent case of dysentery and losing 15 pounds in a week, are simply hoping to find something that will make them look like they haven’t given birth x number of times and still have the metabolism of an 18 year old. Or 30 year old. Or 40 year old.

“That looks good,” said a helpful voice where I was trying on a few dresses last week.

“I liked the last one better,” said another.

I swiveled my head. “Which last one?”

“The navy.”

Oh yes, they’re out there. One mother explained the wedding of her son was going to be casual.

“I’ve waited all these years and – casual. What am I supposed to wear?”

I shook my head sympathetically.

I was flipping through a rack at another store and looked up to someone inquiring, “Mother of the bride?”

I nodded. “I’m exhausted.”

The daughter pointed to her mother and nodded back. The mother wore sweat pants, had her hair pulled back in a ponytail, and looked like she was badly in need of a long nap.

And online? Are you kidding me? First of all, who knows how something will fit; probably not like it does on the dear soul in the picture. Secondly, how do you even know if the site is legit or is a trap set for desperate women of a certain age? Thirdly, two words: shipping fees. Make that five words: return shipping fees.

Let me tell you about online shopping. If you type in the search word ‘dress – mother of the bride’ (mob, for short – I won’t take the bait, no I won’t), you will see either dresses with the obligatory jacket or low cut gowns that look like they just got back from the Oscars. When you’re at a point where cleavage is actually a thing, low cut isn’t as exciting as you might imagine. I appreciate the jacket idea. After all, sleeves are nice for someone (I’m sorry to say it, but that includes nearly all of us) whose arms resemble a chicken’s wattle. Some of the designers seem to know this; others haven’t a clue, or run with a crowd that spends time every day at the gym, or are under the illusion that the customer really does look like the 20 year old model.

I hate to break it to you, but I don’t think Melania will be available for wardrobe consultations any time soon. You’re stuck with me. Here’s some of what I’ve learned along with a little advice. Take it or leave it:

  1. Go to some stores and try things on even if they’re not what you want. You can get an idea of how a designer (*I use the term loosely – in my world JC Penney is a designer) sizes things. You’ll also get an idea of what you prefer.
  2. You will learn to speak designer whether you want to or not. Not Dolce and Gabbana, mind you, but you will find out who the usuals are. Addrianna Papell’s dresses (who, according to Martha Stewart are the holy grail of bridal party wear) feel heavier (sequins and beads will do that) than Komarov. I loved the Komarov I tried on. It was lightweight and looked washable and like what a normal person might wear. Until I saw the price tag. Alex Evenings claims to offer the perfect fit for real shapes with materials that stretch. Gee, I wonder who they’re talking to.
  3. Take a look around discount and consignment stores, including Ebay. Pat yourself on the back for trying to save money.
  4. Look online for the designers * you like, and find something that’s actually closer to what you want than what the stores had.
  5. Do not order it.
  6. Type in the search word ‘evening gown’.
  7.  You’ll find something that might more closely resemble what you were looking for in the first place, won’t be one of the few mob patterns offered in a variety of colors, and it will cost less.
  8. Go ahead and eat the cookie. No one’s going to be looking at you anyway.

The Day He Left

Evening was just barely touching the late May day. A tangy, sweet scent drifted lazily on the breeze like a sleepy teenager floating on an inner tube, dipping his toes in a quiet river. It reminded her of the flowers he had brought to her the day he left. They were an inexpensive bouquet of daisies, chrysanthemums, and baby’s breath – sweet, innocent, and tender, like the kiss he gave her before he turned and walked away.

She closed her eyes, playing with the ring on her finger as she let memory have sway: The funny thing that happened the day they met, their first tentative gifts to each other, quick lunches and long dinners, walks down a familiar country road, the surprise of comfortable conversation, and values and thoughts so in sync they could read them in one look of the other’s face.

“Mother! We should be going!”

Waiting at the car was her daughter, now grown, who knew her father through others’ stories, but not through her own.

How many years would it take to loosen the knot located somewhere underneath her heart? She had thought it would be gone years ago. She realized now that it never would be. She knelt and brushed her fingers over the name engraved in stone, engraved in memory, engraved in time.

She whispered three words: Duty. Honor. Country.

Then she picked herself up and walked away.

*MEMORIAL DAY IS MAY 29. REMEMBER.

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Living In Our Time

None of us is given the choice of the time in which we live. We might, depending on our mobility, decide which province or state or neighborhood to live in. Some of us, with enough freedom and cash, are even able to determine in which country we reside. But time? No amount of money, mobility, determination, or hard work can change the time in which we live.

The people who lived during the time of the Pharaohs or the Babylonian Empire might have been quite pleased or distraught to be living during those times, depending on who they were. Or what about the Medieval Period? Do you think those folks who lived during the time of castles and conquerors and feudalism were thrilled or disgusted to be living then?

I wonder what conversations were like around the dinner table during the French Revolution, a relatively few years following conversations around dinner tables during the American Revolution which followed the conversations around dinner tables during the Age of Enlightenment?

Perhaps the early settlers were happy to be breaking their backs digging and hefting huge rocks from the land because it allowed them to own it. Perhaps they were glad for the tiny cabins they built with their own hands. Perhaps the howling of wolves at night was a sweet lullaby. Perhaps not.

The folks who lived during the Great Depression might have been happy and content because they lived with a family that, despite deprivation, was sound and solid. Or maybe the hobos who wandered from town to town were glad for the freedom such a life afforded. Or maybe the soldiers of WWII were satisfied in the knowledge of fighting evil, of making every effort to prevent its spread.

Or maybe all of these people found good mixed with heartache. Because that is what life offers every single person. Every. Single. One.

Now we are living in our time. Some say it’s the end times. Others disagree. Whatever it is, it is a time of immediate information which, false or true, can spread as quickly and as heatedly as a California wildfire. We live in a time when we have a better idea than, for instance, the Medieval Period, of what is going on in other countries. Not the clearest idea, mind you; but more.

In our time we are tasked with the challenge of figuring out – from the plethora of information that comes at us like a freight train on a desperate mission – which information to believe and which information to discard. Not only that, we are tasked with which information to share, which personal opinion, which reproof, and which encouragement. Who we choose to listen to infuses our belief system. What we choose to believe – for there’s no mistaking it is a choice – determines our thoughts and our actions.

On Judgement Day we will not be given a pass because life was tough or confusing or unfair. Sure, Jesus will stand beside those He saves, but we will still need to own up to our own life’s decisions. Despite some arrogant points of view, I don’t think we are any better than anyone who lived in other times. I shudder when I think that maybe we are worse. And just maybe – if time itself is winding down – we have an extra responsibility to be faithful. Whether it’s done with scrappiness or desperation or bravery or poise, we work, for the night is coming. So here’s my unsought opinion.

No matter what century or decade we live in, we are responsible for dealing the hand that’s dealt us. No matter which era, each person has a lifetime, long or short, to do the right thing. Pray for insight. Pray for wisdom. And in order to do that – to pray – we need to turn off the ceaseless voices of “information” and go to the One who actually knows what’s going on. We need to ask Him what to think and whose voice to trust. We need to read His Word and pray always because without those two disciplines all hope is lost for any sort of clarity. I suspect those who’ve gone before us did the same.

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The Electives of Life (Conclusion)

Today’s guest post is by G.H. Cachiaras. He was for many years a college professor and the Dean of Minnesota Bible College whose building stood proud and strong across from the University of Minnesota. He was my grandpa. Most of all, he was a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. At this time of graduation from high schools and colleges, I thought it appropriate to share some of his words. The text he used is Hebrews 11:24-25. Read the following, if you like, with the sound of his Greek accent underneath his words. The post will be serialized throughout the month of May.

*Blogger’s note: You might be offended by some of what is said. If so, it is because you are offended by the viewpoint of those now passed through history, but whose perspective is every bit as valid as the ones held today. God help us when we are judged by those who come after us.

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Fourth, we will elect to SET OUR TASKS TO MUSIC. By music in life, I mean harmony. How fine and exquisite it is to see a life set to music, happy, contented, at peace with God and man! One of the greatest statements I have heard in a lifetime is that of Dr. Wm. S. Sadler: “No happy man ever has a breakdown in health”. Irrespective of our outward conditions and circumstances, we can elect to be contented, happy, and at harmony with God and man. And without that peace and harmony, we can never be happy, nor will our health hod up under the stress and strain. Even Paul and Silas in prison set their task to music.

Fifth, elect to MAINTAIN YOUR INDIVIDUALITY in the crowd. There is a strange tendency in every generation to “Join the Crowd”; to do “In Rome as Rome Does”, to “join the gang”, and do things that in our own mind we question, but we feel we must do them because everybody else does it.

The strong young man, the one who goes farthest and the one who makes a real contribution to human society is the one who will maintain his own personality, his own individuality irrespective of what the crowd does. One professor cannot copy another’s actions in the classroom. It wouldn’t fit! Is the child in kindergarten crying with true reason or because all the other children are?

Sixth, elect to become a CRUSADER FOR RIGHT LIVING AND FOR CHRISTENDOM. All of our best thinkers are agreed on this one thing today – that our living standards are lowered; that, in many respects, America has lowered her standards to those of ancient pagan nations. America is today at the crossroads. She will either have young men and young women who, of their own free will and volition, elect RIGHT LIVING and high standards, and the ideals of the Carpenter of Nazareth, or we face the prospect of going the way of Pagan Rome.

What nobler sight is there that the mind of man can conceive than the mental picture of the young Crusaders of the Middle Ages who, as they went forth to rescue Jerusalem from the hands of the Saracens, sang “God wills it; God wills it!”

And what nobler sight is there for tens of thousands of young Americans (or Canadians) as they face the future, than to see these youth elect high and noble ideals, choose character above riches, elect to set their tasks to music, to maintain their own individuality, and determine to be a Crusader for Right Living and for the ideals of Christendom, singing as they go forth along the great highway of life, “God wills it; God wills it!”

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The Electives of Life (Part II)

Today’s guest post is by G.H. Cachiaras. He was for many years a college professor and the Dean of Minnesota Bible College whose building stood proud and strong across from the University of Minnesota. He was my grandpa. Most importantly, he was a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. At this time of graduation from high schools and colleges, I thought it appropriate to share some of his words. The text he used is Hebrews 11:24-25. Read the following, if you like, with the sound of his Greek accent underneath his words. The post will be serialized throughout the month of May.

*Blogger’s note: You might be offended by some of what is said. If so, it is because you are offended by the viewpoint of those now passed through history, but whose perspective is every bit as valid as the ones held today.

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What are the electives of our lives today?

First, we will elect worthwhile IDEALS. Consider the ideals of two men: Al Capone and Robert M. Hutchins. Both men lived in the same city; but one had high ideals and the other, low. If you ask me, one of the weakest things about America today is lowered ideals. I have seen the day when no young woman would dare enter a saloon. Today one of the most painful things that can tear at my heart is the sight of a woman standing at a bar, drinking beer and whiskey like any drunken sot.

Second, we will elect for ourselves the development of a FINE NOBLE CHARACTER. Character is something that cannot be purchased for a price. Character is something that cannot be inherited from father or mother. It cannot be bequeathed to a son or daughter. It is something that must be elected, chosen, developed, grown, like a sturdy oak tree.

Third, we will elect to pay OUR DEBTS TO HUMAN SOCIETY. We are what we are today as the result of heritage. You have a written language as the result of heritage. You have countless inventions and conveniences and privileges, as well as human liberty, and a land where one may start at the bottom and the poorest of the poor, and go to the top – if he so elects as a result of a great price.

These things have not come by the wave of some man’s magic wand, but they have come from suffering, hardships, labor of both body and brain of countless ones in bygone generations. We have inherited these privileges and opportunities. After we have passed on, human society will either be richer or poorer because we have lived. But as for us, may we elect to pay our debt to society by making the world richer than it was when we came upon the stage of life?

to be continued . . .

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The Electives Of Life (Part I)

Today’s guest post is by G.H. Cachiaras. He was for many years the Dean of Minnesota Bible College whose building stood proud and strong across from the University of Minnesota, as well as a college professor. He was my grandpa. Most importantly, he was a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. At this time of graduation from high schools and colleges, I thought it appropriate to share some of his words. The text he used is Hebrews 11:24-25. Read the following, if you like, with the sound of his Greek accent underneath his words. The post will be serialized throughout the month of May.

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For 25 years and longer, I have tried to be a close observer of people, especially young people. I have liked to watch their faces, their personalities, their modulation of voice, their manner of expression, their reaction to things.

And I have enjoyed watching young people especially at Commencement time. And always as I have looked into their faces, there has come to my mind this question: “Which of these young people will succeed and which of them will fail?”

I have had thus far two outstanding surprises: First, the ones I have thought would go far in their work, often have made of most dismal failures. And second, the ones I have thought would fail outright or be very mediocre have attained outstanding success.

Not once, but again, again, and yet again, I have sought to find a clear answer for the failure of some young people and the amazing success of others. What is there that makes some young people a glorious success and what is there that causes others to fail?

We cannot answer this question by saying, “They had the right pull”. We cannot answer by the word “Environment”. We cannot answer it with “Home surroundings”. We cannot answer it by saying, “The quality of their teachers” for often in the same class, under the same teachers, one will succeed and the other fail.

No, none of these answers are correct in entirety. We must search further and deeper if we are to arrive at a clear, truthful answer to that question. What, then, is the answer, the right answer, to that perplexing and ever-present question, “Why do some young people succeed and others fail”?

I believe the true answer lies within each person, and not without (in outward surroundings, environment, etc.), but within one’s own mind, heart and soul.

That something that we call “Power of Choice”, “Power of Volition”, “The ability to accept or reject” – call it what you will, that something which elects or chooses, is the one determining force that makes or unmakes us, causes us to climb high on the ladder of success, or pitches us down into the dismal swamps of failure.

In High School and College, there are certain required courses. We must take these whether we like them or dislike them – we must take them. On the other hand, there are certain elective courses. We may take them or act as we choose. We call them “The Electives”.

In the University of Life, the electives are the things that make or ruin us. For after all has been said, the last word spoken or written, thought and the power of choice, our “Electives” make us. We build our future thought by thought.

Moses, the young ruler in Egypt, selected to suffer hardships with his own people – slaves, rather than enjoy the riches of Egypt when it meant slavery and rejection of his own people. Because Moses elected the hard thing, the thing that meant pain and suffering for humanity, in all ensuing generations he has been called one of the immortals of history.

Peter chose – elected – to go back to Rome and fight it out with paganism. Had he chosen the easier way, we may never have heard of him, but because he elected to go back to Rome, face the fires of persecution, do the hard but noble and right thing, all men, irrespective of color, will vote Simon Peter one of the really great characters of the first century of the Christian era.

What are the electives of our lives today?

to be continued . . .

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A Form of Godliness

He had always prided himself on his thoughtfulness of others; or maybe when they didn’t deserve it, at least his consideration of humanity. There was so much hurt in the world it blinded him. It made his heart ache. There were so many paths people walked and so many starting points, all different, how in the world could one human being judge another? How could one person speak to good and bad, right and wrong for someone else? How? He would not be one of those: one of the stiff-necked people who put all their little beliefs into organized little boxes and made judgments about wrong and right. That was one thing he knew. One thing he felt right to judge. Those people were wrong.

He worked hard to educate himself about all that was going on in the hurting world. He listened to trusted voices, lights in the darkness. He read essays by lauded thinkers and books by highly regarded writers. There was a cacophony of voices, but these voices – these voices were the right voices, the correct thinkers, the trustworthy ones who carried the torch. He acknowledged with humility that he was an intellectual. At least more than some.

Things weren’t nearly as cut and dried as some wished them to be. In fact, it was a rarity. Issues of law were just that: issues. What he knew was that law was made by humans – fallible humans. Obedience to a man-made construct seemed questionable at best. It wasn’t like law was written in stone. Take stealing, for instance. Sure, it could be seen as wrong; but it could also be seen as needful if the thief (a term used only for discussion here) experienced great need. Actions were relative. Truth, in fact, was relative. Nothing was static. Everything was fluid.

And when He learned of a person who had admittedly harmed someone else, he knew of one response. To consider the pain that person, himself, had experienced at some other time in his life. Surely hardship must be brought into the mix of criminality, blended together with forgiveness until there was no criminality at all; only sadness and loss. Responsibility should not equal guilt, and, even if it did, it should not equal consequence. There was no place in the world for harsh consequence because there was really no evil, only unfortunate circumstances. The Old Testament with its commandments must be seen in terms of mercy. The judgment of God had surely changed with time. God was love – the Bible said so. Whatever else He was didn’t matter.

Just today, for instance, someone had been sentenced to death. For what? Did it matter? Sentencing someone to death was taking a life, a life the same as every other, the same as the act of abortion those foolish people criticized. (And what of abortion? They knew nothing of the hardship of the poor woman seeking help to remove the thing that troubled her.) So putting to death a murderer equaled putting to death an infant. It must be so. The lauded voices asserted it was true. He knew they were to be trusted.

Sometimes . . . sometimes he caught himself wondering about it all, turning over equivalencies in his mind. What if one wasn’t enough like the other to merit the voices’ assertions? What if lack of consequence didn’t uphold life’s value, but diminished it? What if God was multi-faceted? What if consequence mattered for some reason he hadn’t thought of? But, no. The voices were trusted voices.

And the victims of the murderer and the innocents whose lives were taken with clinical precision called from the grave. But no one listened.

Image: wikimedia – commons.jpg; context: Exodus 34:4-7