Monday, November 30, 2009

Blog Strangness

I don't know what happened to all the links in the sidebar, nor why you can't comment. Something with Blogger? So I changed the template and the problem vanished. Hmmmm? Sorry if you tried to comment and couldn't.

What a Different December I'm About to Have!

What a year 2009 has been. So many changes have occured in my life in the last two years--after the tumult of 2008 I hoped 2009 would be serenely mundane. 'Twas not to be. Perhaps I will reflect on that a bit as New Year's Day approaches.

Meanwhile, those of you who have been visitors here for a while may recall that each Advent/Christmas season for the last several years I have featured an Advent theme and daily, or almost daily posts. Last year at this time I had just had a devotional book printed which took us from Advent till Epiphany, so I posted all of it here at The Owl's Song too.

Not this year. How strange it was yesterday to sit in a lovely sanctuary decorated for the season and to realize that I'd had nothing to do with it! No need to work with the worship team on the often difficult hymns we would use for each week in Advent and for the Christmas services. No need to ponder an Advent theme, or to find readers for the Advent reflections. No planning for my favorite worship time of the year, an annual Christmas Eve candlelight service.

I thought about continuing my blogging practice of a theme for Christmas and a daily post. I don't think I can do that. But I will share a few things as the month goes on--poems, devotions, and some music.

I wish you all the blessings of this season, and I hope you have none of the headaches!

Back soon.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Give Thanks to the Lord

I hope you enjoyed that great acapella choir as much as I did!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all who have stopped by this year--not an easy one for many of us--who have left comments, prayers, words of wisdom, funny things. You have blessed me and I thank God for you.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Little Big Foot: The Burger Bash

Dee Anna stood just outside the red doors on the stone steps of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, sniffing the savory aroma that wafted down the street on a film of smoke from somewhere downtown.  What was that?

It had been Dee Anna's first time attending the local ministerial group meeting, and she was feeling relieved and pleased with how it had gone.

The priest at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, Father Thomas O' Brien, had called her the day before to make sure she had received an invitation.   She had smiled to herself to hear his slight Irish brogue.  An Irish Catholic priest.  Was he for real?

He was, as it turned out.  He was short, round, and white-haired with an engaging smile and an affable manner. He had arrived a few seconds after Dee Anna, so he had introduced himself again, and after Dee Anna had taken a quick look into the church's beautiful old sanctuary, he had accompanied her down narrow stairs to a classroom off the kitchen.  There they had found the church's rector, Father Joseph, setting a coffee carafe on a polished wooden table beside some fragrent scones  and a dish of jam.  He was an elderly man, gracious and serious of manner. "He matches the buidling," mused Dee Anna, as she told him how lovely she found the  polished pews and stained glass. 

"We are one of the oldest churches in the area," Father Joseph said with a smile. 

The local Missouri Synod Lutheran pastor, Jeff Wilson,  and the Baptist pastor, Rodney Brach, both middle-aged, bearded and balding, had come in together, talking enthusiastically about deer hunting somewhere. Dee Anna wondered how they would feel about having a woman joining them in the group.  Next was the ELCA pastor, David Davison, whose contemporary church building was just a block away from the other Lutheran church.  He was a young man and had mentioned to Dee Anna that Redeemer Lutheran Church was his first charge.

They had chatted for a few minutes, sipping coffee and munching on the scones, which Father Joseph had made himself.   He had asked each of them to introduce themselves, and he had welcomed Dee Anna to the community.  Dee Anna knew there were at least two other churches whose pastors were not present, an independent church called "The Gathering" and a tiny Methodist church out in the country somewhere.  The Methodist church's pastor was a woman named Rosalie, someone Dee Anna knew slightly from her days at Eastside Methodist.  She had watched the door hoping Rosalie would arrive.  She hadn't.

After a short devotion from David, the meeting mostly was concerned with various plans for the upcoming Advent and Christmas season.  It was Monday of Thanksgiving week and Father Thomas had thanked them for the excellent response gathering food for the community Thanksgiving basket give-away.  Father Joseph, and Pastor Rodney were going to meet him on Tuesday at St. Peter's and they'd deliver them.  The Episcopalians were making progress on the annual drama, and they were all invited.  Pastor Jeff reported that the Lutefisk supper at St. Paul's Lutheran had gone well, as usual.  The usual kind of discussion, Dee Anna mused.  This was going to be fine. 

Now she stood with Father Thomas, who had asked that she call him Tom, on the church steps.  Pastor Jeff and Pastor Rodney came out together and Jeff sniffed the air appreciatively.  "Ah, smell that?  The Chamber of Commerce is at it again."  "Just in time," replied Rodney. "It's almost noon."

"Time for what?" asked Dee Anna.

The men all looked at her in surprise.  "Oh, I guess you don't know about the annual burger bash downtown," said Tom, grinning.  "You don't want to miss it."  They all stepped down onto the sidewalk.  "Come on, Dee Anna, let me show you how you how we do things up here in the north woods!" 

Squeezing his portly frame behind the wheel of a Volkswagon Jetta, he said, "Hop in and I'll drop you off back here in half an hour."

They drove the few blocks to downtown, but long before the source of the smoke was visible, Dee Anna saw a long line of people.  Many of them, mostly men, were dressed head to foot in blaze orange.  Those who weren't usually wore at least an orange hat.  Most of the men, like the two hunting buddy-pastors she had just met, were bearded.

Dee Anna knew about deer hunting, and she remembered her father once bringing home a big doe that he took off to the butcher.  She hadn't liked the venison that resulted.  And she had never imagined anything like this.  She turned to Father Tom, who was grinning broadly.  "What in the world is going on?  This is the biggest bunch of people I've seen in one place since arriving in town!"

He found a parking space in front of the Kwik Trip and beckoned as he opened his car door, "Come on, you don't want them to run out before you get one!  This is an event in Little Big Foot, Dee Anna." 

"Get one?  One what?" she asked a little impatiently as she followed behind him and got they got in line behind an elderly couple holding hands, both dressed in orange sweat suits.  "Is it venison?  Whatever it is it sure smells good."

"Hey, Pastor Dee Anna," called a voice from the line ahead of them, "I'm glad you didn't miss this." Tommy Halvorsen waved at her happily from about 40 feet away, and she waved back, remembering the scent of wood smoke when she had first met Tommy and his wife, Brenda.  She also remembered the sack of venison summer sausage he had given her after her first service at North Woods Chapel.   It was still sitting unopened on the second shelf of her refrigerator.

"Hi there, Tommy," she called, hoping he wouldn't ask her about it.  She noticed Brenda was off to the side with a group of women, and then she saw the Halvorsen kids in front of Tommy.  "Hi, Pastor," yelled the oldest one, a boy about twelve years old." 

"Hey Jeremy, how are you today?" she called. " How come you aren't in school, anyway?"

"School?" He grinned, "It's hunting season, Pastor.  Nobody goes to school during deer season."

Dee Anna looked questioningly at Father Tom.  "Really?  I did not know that.  Madeline said something about being out of school.  She is over at a friend's house today, but I somehow thought it was just something the elementary school was doing or..."  Tom nooded, "Yep, that boy is correct.  No one goes to school."

The noon whistle went off, startling her.  Tom grinned and added, "Lunch time in the North Woods.  And everybody that can manage it takes off of work too.  The paper mill lets everyone off a bit early today so they can come down here for the burger bash."

They had been moving forward as they talked, and now Dee Anna could see that a large area of the main street was sectioned off with ropes.  A vinyl banner stretched from one corner to the other.  "Welcome to the Little Big Foot Burger Bash"  it read in orange letters.  A group of about ten men wearing blaze orange hats and long white aprons that advertized the Chamber of Commerce were gathered around several smoking grills .  There was lots of laughing and loud talk among them, and one swore loudly as he flipped a burger too briskly and sent it sailing off the grill and into the street.  Along one side was a tent, and Tom told Dee Anna that it was a beer tent.  "A beer tent?  In the middle of the street?"  Dee Anna shook her head as loud polka music suddenly blared from the tent.  "I've never seen anything like it.  It's a big block party."

Moving a little closer she saw a long table with mustard, ketchup, bowls of onions and pickles, and cans of soda. 

"Hey, Father," called one of the men at a grill, "Who's that beautiful redhead you have with you?"  He laughed loudly and leered at Dee Anna.  "Too much time at the beer tent," she muttered.  "He's harmless," laughed the short little priest, moving to the table and picking up a paper plate for each of them.

"Step right up, sweetheart," called the man. "Grab a couple of buns.  Not Father Tom's buns, just the ones on the table."  He laughed as he waved them over.  "Here ya go.  Nice and hot off the grill!  Nothin' better!"  He shoveled a juicy hamburger onto her plate.  It was a little charred around the edges, but it smelled wonderful.

"Head on over and have a beer in the tent," he urged.  "Beer's not free though."

"Uh, no thank you.  I'll have a soda though."  She added mustard and pickes to the fragrent meat patty and popped the tab of a diet Pepsi.  She realized that Tommy Halvorsen had come to stand beside her, holding his youngest daughter by the hand.  "There you go, Pastor,  a free venison burger, courtesy of the Little Big Foot Chamber."    

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Final Thoughts on Healing Without Scars

As you hopefully understood, I was primarily (though not totally) speaking of the healing of our "hearts" and minds--our spirits. Emotional wounds are often more difficult to understand than physical ones. After all, they cannot be seen (though their effects often can be) by others. We may unwittingly inflict pain on someone who is in emotional or spiritual pain that we would never think of causing to a person who was physically wounded or disabled.

Sometimes what one person can rise above relatively easily may take another person a great deal of time and effort to begin to overcome. I believe that much of that is due to our innate personalities, our temperaments, our age at the time wounds were inflicted, and so on. It is futile to compare emotional and spiritual wounds with those of someone else.

The responses to these three posts, and also on Facebook (where my Owl's Song posts are cross posted) were so insightful and moving. It seems many people understood clearly that there was something "not quite right" about expecting oneself--or most especially others--to experience healing, deliverance and wholeness to a degree that leaves them unscathed.

Here is just some of the wisdom in what you all shared:

Maureen said, "Personally, I like the idea of scars. They are proof that something has happened and healing has taken place."

Auntie Knickers said, "I think any trauma has to leave scars, just as aging leaves wrinkles! And that's not necessarily a bad thing." I loved that analogy!

I think Tom might have had similar thoughts when he said, "But if we remain without scars would we have lived?"

Iris, who is a most excellent student and teacher of the scripture, said something I find very significant. "Jesus still had his scars even in his resurrected body."

Sophia is thinking of Jesus wounds too, and says, "And Jesus' scars, at least in Catholic devotion, are seen as blessed and glorious and sources of healing for us....So ours can be the same, I think."

And Gail was thinking about this too, when she commented, "Since we know that Jesus has nail-scarred hands, how can we expect any less?" And she agrees with Maureen when she adds, "Scars remind us of the hurt and pain, but they also remind us that healing has taken place. And I am grateful that the Lord uses not-so-perfect people."

Eija has written a song in Finnish, but I found her words (loosely translated into English) to express this so beautifully.

"Let your scars...nurture people as warmth from the Lord. You know how to comfort the broken and the crying, because the scars always remind you of your pain."


"Your pain has turned your weakness into strength, and now you can support others. You can walk with the crying because you know Who heals the wounds."

I wish I could hear you sing that, Eija!

Grady says this, "... in the spiritual realm, scars become a part of the structure of a person in a way that the physical does not mimic...the scars we gain here on this earth are merely reflections of His scars - they are a part of our becoming conformed to His image - not merely in the physical, but as His glory - a spiritual glory - is revealed in us.

Some mentioned the pain that unrealistic teaching of scripture can bring. This is the saddest part of all. Again, I have not read the book, "Healed Without Scars" but the title reminded me of a website I saw once. It was the site for a large, independent, Pentecostal church. The church's motto, emblazoned in bright letters on a banner at the top of the home page said

Welcome to _________ Church--Where Failure is Not an Option!

I have no doubt those church folks meant well. I wonder how many dear people have given up on church because they are think there is something wrong with them--since everyone else is so happy and blessed all the time!

The leaders at that church were probably trying to emphasize that we can be healed, we can be victorious, we can be what the Book of Revelation calls "overcomers." Praise God for that! God does heal! God brings physical healing, and God brings spiritual healing. How I praise the Great Physician, and the One who loves us always, that we can find healing, confidence, hope, and restoration as we abide in Christ and allow him, more and more, to abide in us.

But do you suppose that there is much open sharing of struggles and pain at that church? Their banner makes me shudder. The truth is, failure is very much an option. We all fail at times, and it is how we respond that counts. I am not yet perfect, and neither is anyone else--even preachers who tell you that you can walk in perpetual health, or that you can life your best life now.

I found myself wondering how a person who was not only blessed by God with emotional healing but who did not even have scars could "rejoice in suffering," as both Jesus and St. Paul tell us to do? Grady said, "I want to glory in my sufferings (which are incredibly light, compared to His), for they are a large part of what makes me more like Him!"


I am grateful for both the physical and the spiritual/emotional healing that God has brought into my life. Without the grace and mercy of a Healer God, I would be a very different person than the one I am today. I was not supposed to see and I do, nor walk and I do...and so on. I also am not, as I once was, spiritually wounded and bleeding to the point of desperation. God forgives and restores. But scars do remain. So do areas of greater tenderness or vulnerability, both physically and spirituality. So do some things that remind me I must guard my heart and be cautious--and that I must depend upon God!

If you have been damaged or discouraged by teaching that ignores the reality of living in a fallen, sinful world with fallen, sinful people--with sickness, pain, grief, tragedy, horror, abuse and death--take courage. Hope in God, dear ones.

While there are no promises of blissful existence while we are in this world, there are many scriptural assurances of a better time--a time when tears will be wiped away, all our diseases will be healed, and there will be no more death.

Meanwhile, continue to walk out your faith as a child of light. Allow God to bring you healing in whatever way, and whatever time, God decides. Like Paul, allow your difficulty to help you have compassion on others--other scarred and marred and frail human beings. Allow your scars to be a source of remembering that you are being conformed to the image and likeness of Christ.

The wounds of Jesus Christ bring us healing. As Sophia notes, that makes them glorious!

Our own scars will remind us of our own humanity. I do want to be healed. I am seeking healing of some things right now. But, truth be told, it probably would not be a good thing if I were healed and no scars, no reminders, remained.

The real victory of those who find peace and hope and faith in Jesus Christ is that we CAN be victorious, vessels for God's use, instruments of life and peace and hope for others in spite of our scars. The only way to do this is in dependence on God's grace.

I think that is just how God wants it.

John 20:19-21 That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”

Romans 8:17-18 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.

Isaiah 53:4-6 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering...But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Healed Without Scars -- or not

I recently heard a Pentecostal preacher say something about how we Charismatic types tend to look for the "short cuts" in life. We love to sing, preach and talk about how God blessed us some way, and too often in the last few decades this has become a conversation about how we can live in a spritual paradise of perfection (my words) and we can have what we say, live in total health, be blessed materially and so on. The "positive confession" camp has modified, thankfully, at least somewhat. Perhaps that is because too many people became dissillusioned when their fondest dreams did not come true, someone they loved remained ill--or died. Sadly, some who left the church have not returned, or continue to think that somehow the failure was theirs.

Even those of us who are not quite comfortable in that group can still find ourselves believing in a sort of spiritual magic thinking that says that if we are good we will be blessed, if we pray we will have what we ask for, and we are entitled to special consideration from Heaven.

Jesus followers do need to count our blessings, don't we?

I believe so, and I believe that the one who hopes in God will not be disappointed (in the end). We do need to be joyful people, people of confidence and enthusiasm, and so on. Scripture makes this quite apparent. Even in dark times, and he had many, the Psalmist held on to integrity, did what was right, and continued to hope in the Lord. Sadly, that did not always remain the case for David, and the results were tragic, but during the time he waits for God's promise that he will be Israel's king, we see him at his best.

Here is one example from Psalm 119.

Get out of my life, you evil-minded people,
for I intend to obey the commands of my God.
Lord, sustain me as you promised, that I may live!
Do not let my hope be crushed.
Sustain me, and I will be rescued;
then I will meditate continually on your decrees.

and one from Psalm 13

O Lord, how long will you forget me?
How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
because he is good to me.

Scripture contains many accounts of people who were far from perfect, people who the world might consider failures, or losers, or without hope--but who left a lasting mark on their world (and ours too). The list is long and contains many luminaries of the faith. Here are a few:

Abraham - liar, doubter, coward
Jacob - a deceitful mama's boy
Moses - murderer, shy, speech impaired
Job - self-righteous
Rahab - a prostitute
Hannah - childless in a day when that was seen as God's curse
Ruth and Naomi - grieving widows, poor, bitter
James and John - hot tempered opportunists
Peter - loud mouthed and impetuous
Paul - angry, proud, arrogant murderer
Timothy- quiet, physically frail
Mary Magdalene - demon possessed
Woman at the Well - either promiscuous or victimized, or perhaps both

and so it goes.

These people were chosen by God for great tasks, and all of them were blessed, transformed, and touched in some lasting way by God. Were they healed either physically or emotionally or spiritually--or all three?


Were they without scars?

I don't think so.

I'll share more about that soon.

Healed Without Scars

"Healed Without Scars." My mother had a book with this title. I never read it, and I think I dropped it off at St. Vincent de Paul (second-hand store) along with many other books I knew I would not likely read. So this blog post is not meant as a commentary, good or bad, on the book, which is by Bishop David Evans, who is a television evangelist. (That is not always a bad thing.) I think the book is fairly autobiographical in nature and tells of how God brought him out of a scarred and difficult past.

The title has bounced around my head, off and on, since I first saw it. That was a few years ago. I read some reviews at Amazon today and the book may be worth reading...meanwhile...I'll be back soon some thoughts about the concept.

Have any of you read the book? (That is, if anyone is still stopping by!)

Do you think genuine healing will leave us so totally whole that not even scars remain?