Tuesday, July 26, 2005

More strawberries

Strawberries make wonderful ice cream. Mmmm mmmmm. I'm eating strawberry ice cream and fisnishing up things so I can go off on a vacation--the first one in almost three years to last more than a couple of days. I need it. I'll be here when I get back. If I come back. I might get lost up there in "da nort."

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Anticipating Sweet Fruit

Mmmmm...fruit is wonderful. Yesterday I purchased strawberries, plums, peaches, nectarines and grapes. I couldn't help myslef. But as I stood looking at the fruit in our local grocery store, I thought of my sermon series and of how love, joy, peace, patience and the rest are sweet, lovely to see, nourishing and delicious. And they take time, but the do come, if things are right.

I have a strawberry patch in my backyard. I watched as our cold winter receded and the leaves slowly came on the plants, turned green, got larger...then blossoms came. Many lovely white blossoms. I was anticipating a nice feast of strawberries. But such was not to be. The birds came and pecked all the tiny berries. I put up a net, but it was too late, apparently.

The growing season here in Wisconsin is not long, unlike some places that may get two harvests, or even three, in one season.

How disappointing to anticipate fruit and then not get the benefit from it! I think the same thing is true in the realm of "spritual fruit." It is disappointing, and it may be a while before the chance for growth comes again.

I am not sure why I am thinking of this, except that I feel an urgency inside about missing opportunities to grow. I don't want to miss even one! Who knows when the chance may come again?

I love my friend Maureen's comment to the post about dirt. I can have about as much of God as I want to have. I've been pondering that as I watch lovely fruit growing in the lives of some around me. Some of it has been a long time coming, but I see it. Thank you, Holy Spirit. I want a rich, ripe, sweet, nourishing harvest. Baskets full! I'm watching for it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Importance of Dirt

That' s the title of a sermon from two weeks ago. I am doing a series on the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

In the process of preparing for the series I was struck in a new way that I could not just start expounding about the fruit! Not when I can look around me and see stunted, deformed, shriveled or non existent "fruit" in the lives of many believers. What is wrong?

I don't think I have ever heard anyone talk about the spiritual root system that grows the spiritual tree (us) that produces the fruit.

"May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's love." That's from Ephesians. In Colossians we are told that Jesus Christ himself is the soil, and we must be planted in, and drawing nourishment from, Him. What does this mean? How do we do this? How are we, in a spiritual sense, "planted" into love? Is our lack of fruit connected to a lack of awareness of the love of God in our own lives? Is it something else that stops us from being "nourished" by Jesus Christ? How does this happen? I gave everyone in church a little bag of good rich soil with the Ephsians verse printed on it. I asked them to pray both for themsleves and for others to be rooted in God's love.

Last week I talked about the water and the air (the Holy Spirit), and gave everyone a balloon. Next week I will start with the first fruit, LOVE and everyone will get a valentine. But I'm still pondering the root problem.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Sexual Crimes and Gifts from God

I am angry. Here are pictures of Shasta and Dylan Groene, the two children who watched their brother, their mother and her boyfriend being murdered and then endured weeks of sexual and emotional abuse before Dylan was also killed.

Shasta says that Duncan showed them the hammer with which he beat their mother to death as he bragged about his actions and intimidated them. Can you imagine?

I want to remember those precious faces...my heart is aching for little Shasta, who was only recently told that her 8-year old brother was dead. Poor little girl, what an enormous amount of pain and shock and grief she will have to deal with. It is truly unthinkable and more than I can comprehend. As for the perpetrator, Joe Duncan III, I took a look at his blog. A brief look.

What has me writing this is not his comments. He's a clearly sad, confused, twisted and evil man, who was apparently the victim of numerous incidents of sexual abuse and rape in his childhood. Wiser heads than mine have pondered the ins and outs of sexual deviance and pedophilia in particular. I'm not going to try to do that. I hope the day comes when we understand and can help more than seems currently possible.

As a prison chaplain's wife, I probably have had more interaction with convicted felons than most people. I do see them as people who are loved by God, and I do understand that Duncan is quite correct when he says the "system" is deeply flawed. No kidding. Futrthermore, if I ever cease to believe that humankind still contains, however dimly, the image of God in which we were created and that Jesus Christ came "to save sinners," as the Apostle Paul said, I'll have to turn in my clergy card and go sell insurance or something. Paul was ever mindful of his dark past and very grateful to God for rescuing him from that darkness.

Nonethelses, it is the comments section on Duncan's blog that has me shaking my head in disbelief and dismay. Christian people can be SO unbelievabley foolish and inane. Duncan apparently had at least some realization of his messed up (to put it mildly) state. He speaks of demons, and of confusion and of prayer and of crying out to God. He was on the run from the law towards the end for sexual actions with a child (before stalking the Groene family). Why did no Christian urge him to stop running turn himself in to the police before worse happened? Now, I don't know what drove him, or seems to have destroyed his mind and spirit and conscience, but I know this much--it is stupid to say to such a twisted and tormented man, "Just ask God to help you," or even worse, "God will never give you more than you can handle." Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!

May I have chapter and verse for that one, please? (Hint: Don't bother looking. It aint in the Bible.) That non-existent Bible verse has been quoted to me more times than I can say. I never can resist saying (hopefully graciously) that there is actually no such scripture.

Whatever causes us to believe that GOD gives torment? What a horrible picture of God! Such misery does not come from God! What the scripture does say is that every good gift comes from God. Not confusion. Not lies. Not narcissistic drivel. Not evil. Not torment. Not abuse, not using people as our playthings, not murder, not hatred, not total disregard for human life, not scarring an innocent child, nor plunging a family into unimaginable grief.

Please, fellow followers of Jesus, don't make Christian people look like idiots! How does God stand humanity sometimes? I really do find God's love quite inexplicable!

Which, in the end, makes me ever more grateful for what scripture actually does say -- which is that with temptation God will provide a way of escape. I often wonder if people look for it. No excuse for Duncan. None. I'd end my own life (not something I approve of or recommend) before disregarding other human beings in the manner he did.

To those who are not Christians who may read this, not all believers in Jesus are Bible quoting (misquoting) saps. Really.

God, help us, your well-meaning and often misguided children to be loving and kind and gentle without being fools.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Dr. Debbie

That sounds funny, doesn't it? That is what Dr. Deborah Menken Gill prefers to be called. It says a lot about her. She is a fellow member of Christians for Biblical Equality and was the morning Bible teacher at family camp last week. I was so happy that she was invited to be the speaker--the first woman ever to speak at our camp, and she is a gem. That is Dr. Debbie on the left, and Dr. Barbara Cavaness on the right. They coauthored "God's Women Then and Now." It is availiable here.

Her credentials are impressive. She is fluent in ancient Greek and Hebrew, has some sort of music degree as well as her theology degrees, taught at the undergrad and grad level, was a missionary, a pastor, currently serving at a top level in the Assemblies of God. All that, and yet when you meet her she can best be described as perky. IMO, a perky intellectual is a rare bird indeed! (Dr. Debbie...says it all.) She is funny and articulate and bright and yet so down-to-earth that a child could have understood her presentations at camp. I have been around her several times, though not "up close and personal" till last week, but the woman NEVER stops smiling! She has a perpetual look of anticipation on her face....as if she expects to discover something wonderful at any moment! It can't be faked...would be exhausting.

At one point she was on one side of me, and Pastor Carol Vetter (pastors a deaf church in Chicago--another gem!) was on the other and our arms were around each others shoulders as we each prayed for the other. Tears were streaming down my face, and I wondered why. I think I understand a little now. It was an unusual thing to have three women preachers in the same place, praying for each other. Those are two wonderful, strong, intelligent and compassionate women. Strong women! It is good to be STRONG in the Lord! For so many years I deliberately tried NOT to be strong.

Thank God for grace and mercy and freedom to be! I am inspired!