|Has Someone Stolen Christ From You?|
From "SHARING" #012, January 2000
HAS SOMEONE STOLEN CHRIST FROM YOU?
In an article in Life magazine last year (December 1999) about Christianity it said "Two millennia later, two billion people call themselves Christians. It is the world's largest religion, and in more than 20,000 sects and denominations it offers an astonishing variety of ways to worship." Later, I will share some other interesting quotes from the article, but first I would like to address the above question, in light of this statement.
Because so many have come to call him the Christ, the anointed One, son of God, savior of the world, you would think that this is a success story of unparalleled magnitude. And, in one sense it is, in spite of how it all plays out on the streets. In the book of Matthew, in the Bible, Jesus was teaching about prayer (Matthew 6:5-13). At about verse 9, He starts what has come to be called "The Lord's Prayer." I don't read Greek or Hebrew, but in every English translation of the Bible I have (roughly 7 or 8) that prayer begins with the words "Our Father." "Our" would mean you and I, and everybody. Wouldn't it? It's pretty inclusive for such a small word. Think of it. He didn't say Father of true believers, or even just Father of believers. He didn't say Father of those who will come to be known as Lutherans, as Baptists, or even Jehovah's Witnesses. He didn't even use the terminology used in the most recited creeds in Christian churches, which would be Father of "the one catholic and apostolic Church. Just "Our." Unfortunately, that's not necessarily the way Christians truly present Him.
When talking with Native Americans this past year, I have often said that it wasn't stealing the land that was the worst thing the European settlers did to indigenous peoples, it was stealing God from them. The Son of God, the Christ (Jesus), came to set us free. All of us -- everybody. The missionaries came to deliver the message to the Indians. But it didn't exactly get related that way, it sort of came out more like, if you will become just like us, you can share in OUR God. The "our" here seeming more like ownership, than inclusiveness. Almost as if white Europeans were the chosen ones, who would benevolently allow a tier of second class Christians to come into being, IF they could emulate their "saviors" well enough. But there is no second class status implied in the words "Our Father." And we, nor anyone, owns or even possesses sole rights to God, Father or Son, as if He were a commodity to be traded. Indeed, it is just the opposite. But, this can still be seen today -- everywhere.
If you listen to most anyone speaking from a denominational perspective long enough, you will eventually hear something which sounds like the above. It may not be as blatant as some, but sooner or later it comes across as if you joined us, you too could become closer to God. It can even go so far as expecting you to look and act like them. I am amused when someone is blatantly trying to convince me to shift to their denomination. I sometimes wonder if they think they will get a spiritual "commission" by making this "sale?" Of course, there are those who sincerely think they are saving someone by doing this. That theirs is the only way. In essence, that they own exclusive rights to God, or Christ. But it is not about them. It is not about a denomination. Being Christian is about a relationship with Jesus, the Christ. About a relationship with God.
I think it is a natural human tendency to believe that if we can convince others to see things our way, and maybe even act like us, then we must be right. It's kind of a self-confirmation. This is, of course, pure fallacy. History is full of examples where multitudes of people have been lead down "bad choice" roads. And most of us, perhaps to a lesser extent, have stumbled down a few of these ourselves.
So I ask my question again. Has someone stolen Christ from you? Has someone given you the impression that the only way to a relationship with Christ is to become just like them? If you want a relationship with Jesus, the Christ, you do not need to give up everything God created you to be, and do, and become like some Sunday go-to-meetin' white man (even if you are of European descent). You need only to seriously ask God for the relationship. He's perfectly capable of working out the details of your life with you, without someone else telling Him how to do it.
("The Lord's Prayer" and my poems "As I
Grow" and "How Can Christians Do That"
WHY A RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST?
In an article by Tim Dearborn, he says, life can be reduced to three basic questions:
Why are we here?
Where are we going?
How do we live in the meantime?
Not many people can truthfully answer the first two with any absolute certainty. They're more the arena of faith. If they do, they probably haven't given much thought to the matter. So that leaves us with the third. At first glance, most of us are content to answer the third question for ourselves, especially in light of not having a clue on the first two. But what if there was someone who really did KNOW the answers to the first two. Would such a person be worth a few minutes of your time to see what they had to say on the last one. Seems reasonable to me.
FROM TWELVE TO TWO BILLION
Not quite two thousand years ago, twelve men became so convinced they had met someone who knew these answers, that they gave up their lives, both figuratively and literally, to proclaim that fact. Some of what that person did and said had been done and said before. But one thing He did, had never been done before, in all the history of mankind, and has not been done since. He rose from the dead. A Catholic priest once told me, "Jesus is either who He says He is, or He is the greatest con-man of all time. Either way, He is probably worth following." I don't know if I totally agree with that or not, but He is certainly worth checking out. Unfortunately, looking and listening to those who say they have a relationship with Him, is frequently not a good way to find out what He is about. You have to look at Him. Listen to Him. What did He do? What did He say? He spent some time playing out question #3. What does He say today? He's closer than you think. But for those who have a little trouble with the metaphysical side of things there are some more tangible places to start. Like movies, or in books. Or, in books that are in a book. Commonly called the Bible.
If you're a movie person, go for a movie first. If Jesus of Nazareth (my favorite) is too long for you (3 - 2 hour parts), the movie Jesus is pretty good too (both are available to borrow here at the Center). If you are a book person , there are all sorts of them around about Jesus. But eventually, everybody should take some time to read about him in the Book about Him. Actually there are four books about Him in the Bible. And it's not nearly as intimidating as everyone thinks. For one thing, the four books, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are a pretty small part of the Bible at the beginning of what is called the New Testament. You can learn an awful lot about Jesus in those few pages. They even have some that put His personal words in red. I still think it helps if you see the movie first, but hey, I'm a movie person.
IS THE BIBLE A WHITE MAN'S BOOK?
So what's in the rest of that big book, if the main stuff about Jesus takes up only a quarter of an inch? An article appeared in the Lansing State Journal last year entitled "New version of Bible aimed at blacks." In it a professor of history at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, Dennis Dickerson, said "People get the idea that the Bible is a white man's book. But God didn't dictate it to us in the king's English. The Bible is a multi-cultural document that derives from a part of the world where there are many people of color." OK, so what's the point?
Well, one point is that Caucasian Europeans have been painting pictures of Jesus for years as if He looked just like them. And Hollywood seems to follow suit by casting Him as light haired, pale skinned, and blue-eyed. When the truth of it is, someone in that part of the world is just as likely to look like the Native Americans we found here than anything. It's a good bet He didn't look like those who act like they are the keepers of His Holy image. Nor even like most of the images they use.
That big thick part in front is all about Jewish (Israel) history, culture, and religion. I'm always amused when some overzealous Christian seems to forget that Jesus was Jewish, not Norwegian, nor German, nor English. And no, He didn't speak in King James English. In fact, I find it interesting that apparently the letter "J" does not exist in the Hebrew (Jewish) language. So, Jehovah, Jesus, Joshua, John, James, Jeremiah, etc, are all someone's translations of the actual names. Makes you wonder why some people get so bent out of shape if you suggest using something other than their traditional versions of a Holy name.
In a conversation I had with my pastor a few weeks back, he presented an interesting perspective on that last quarter inch. That's the rest of what is called the New Testament. His suggestion was that this particular piece of Scripture might indeed be able to be referred to as a white man's book. Since this is the story of how Christianity spread from Jerusalem toward, and on into, Europe. But, he also pointed out Christianity spread, at about the same time, into Egypt, Ethiopia, and even India. But we're not told those stories in the Bible. This would give us a better multi-cultural example of what happened in the early history of the Church, as it spread into Africa, and east into Asia.
DO WE ALL NEED TO BE THE SAME?
At one point in the story, in the Bible, about how Christianity spread toward Europe, a fellow named Paul starts talking to non-Jewish people about Jesus. This stirs up a controversy as to whether people who come to believe in Jesus need to accept the traditions, beliefs, and ways of doing things of the Jews. The conclusion was, NO! (Acts 15). A Bible study book called Mission 90 Witness, put out by Augsburg Fortress, has this to say about that chapter. "The agreement cited in Acts 15:20 is apparently intended to facilitate fellowship between these mixed ethnic groups by encouraging respect for each other's cultural traditions." (I added the italics)
The Life Application Bible has this to say:
"When we share our message across cultural and economic boundaries, we must be sure that the requirements for faith we set up are God's, not people's. . . . . There is something of a "Pharisee" in each one of us. We may unwittingly mistake upholding tradition, structure, and legal requirements for obeying God. Make sure the gospel brings freedom and life to those you are trying to reach."
A NEW CREATION IN CHRIST?
The Bible does talk about a believer becoming "a new creation in Christ." But, this does not mean we have to become like someone else, worship, or do things their way. It means you will become a new you, something that will occur from the inside out. Not something put on us from the outside. And be prepared. That IS something which will happen. Such things as hate, prejudice, greed, cheating, lying, gossiping, stealing, etc. etc. will become difficult to hold onto if you really let Christ get close.
But, does it mean no golf, no Cherokee ceremonies, giving up motorcycles, movies, dancing, swearing, or who knows what else some people indicate is necessary to become Christian. Not likely. But that's between you and God, and it's really none of my business to say one way or the other.
When we finally figured out the earth goes around the sun, and that we were not the center of the universe, that was a pretty profound truth. It shook things up some. But we didn't start trying to transplant trees upside down, or plow fields backward as a result. We simply learned a little more of the truth about ourselves, and reality. I think Jesus is just Who He said He is. This too falls into that category of profound truth. The "Our" He spoke of means all of us - everyone. It's a BIG family. And we should all want to learn about what it means to be a part of the family. But, don't let one of the other members tell you it means being just like them, in order to belong. That's bull! Go to the One Who's the oldest and the wisest, the One we lovingly call the Christ. He'll help you find your place at the family table. It's one that's uniquely yours, and uniquely you.
WHY SHOULD ANY OF THIS MATTER TO YOU?
Because you are here! It's too late to opt to have never existed. And something is the Truth. Ignoring whatever that might be, won't make it go away. It would appear that we have some choice on how it impacts us though. That's good news. If Christ (Jesus) is the Truth, then there's more Good News. He took care of the really big problem for us. But, we still have a part to play. Even more good news: He's willing, able, and wanting to help with that too. But, He's not as pushy as some of the other family members. He patiently waits for you to ask Him in. I think He's worth paying attention to. Go for it!
Wow. That was kind of long, wasn't it? It felt long writing it . . . . .
By the way, I want to say thank you to those of you who called after reading page 7 in my last newsletter. You don’t remember? It was only a year ago. That was where I asked to find out how many actually read that far. Now I don’t remember – well, exactly – but about one-third to one-half of you called. That was pretty cool.
I do need to apologize to some of those who called long-distance. I intended to mention that you can press the star key and go directly to the beep, bypassing the message, but I forgot. A couple of you chided me for the length of my answering machine message. Sorry. However, that also tells me some of you didn’t actually listen to what I said on the answering machine, because I tell you about the star key right at the beginning of the message. Ahem, ahem.
And I plead innocence. The fact that so many of you responded is not why this newsletter is longer (as I suspect it will be). I set a lot of stuff aside between writings, and there’s quite a pile to decide upon this time. But it really was a special gift to hear so many of you read it through.
In light of the fact that my first page turned into four, perhaps I should reiterate here a favorite concept of mine. I do not expect, or even wish, people to believe something just because I said it.
You should never accept anything I say as truth unless you can validate it from within yourself.
God didn’t shortchange any of us.
If I convinced the whole world to see things my way, but turned out wrong, I have done nobody any favor, including myself. God isn’t going to change reality because I make a good point somehow. I am not the one to focus on. God is.
Give Christ the chance to make the difference, not me. I’m just bumbling along like everybody else. Trying to find what is uniquely me.
Kind of along this same line, I want to talk about a problem I collided with recently (last fall). Well, no. Actually let’s do some fun stuff first!!
QUOTES WHICH CAUGHT MY EYE
SOME MORE INTERESTING STATISTICS
From the book Finding Happiness In The Most Unlikely Places by Donald W McCullough:
"Lou Harris tells us 86% of Americans are chronically stressed out. . . . Americans consume twenty-eight TONS of aspirins, tranquilizers, and sleeping pills every day."
"No one ever has enough money to buy happiness . . . Of those who earn less than $15,000 a year, 5% say they have achieved the American Dream; of those who earn more than $50,000 a year, only 6% say they have achieved the American Dream." (1990 income)
Except: "It takes about ten years to get used to how old you are." (Unknown Source)
GENERAL RULES FOR GETTING ALONG WITH PEOPLE
A Lansing church puts out a booklet for new Christians in which this heading
appeared. They listed 14 items with Scripture references (I didn’t check the
2. Never resort to cheap flattery to win a person’s favor. (1 Thessalonians 2:5, Proverbs 26:28)
3. Never rebuke an older person harshly.(1 Timothy 5:1)
4. Avoid foolish and stupid arguments.(2 Timothy 2:23)
6. Never embarrass another human being for any reason.(2 Samuel 10:4-5)
11. Always be sincere, not phoney.(Romans 12:9)
12. Say much to encourage and strengthen others. (Acts 15:32)
13. Don’t be unjustly critical of others. (Luke 6:41-42)
14. Don’t talk too much. (Proverbs 20:8,10,19)
I may be in trouble on that last one if it includes the written word . . . as in long newsletters.
TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS
Contributions totaled $836.23 which was 7.4% of what was spent. Primarily, contributions went toward clp library items ($269.57) and basic supplies for the Center ($593.80) such as candles, paper, stamps, etc.
TEACHING & SHARING CENTER
Over the last few years I’ve been talking a little bit about the different aspects of a touch of william. The next in line is the Center itself. It was the fourth aspect to come into being.
All of a touch of william comes together at the Center, and that makes it the most confusing of the various aspects. Why confusing? Because it was never intended to be the primary focus. And that is difficult for people to understand who look at the Center and see it as what I do. Unfortunately, I too, have contributed to that misperception.
When I left my career with State Farm five years ago, I wasn’t really all that clear on exactly what it was I thought God was asking me to do. People expect you to have an answer when they wonder why you abandon 20 years at something. It simply became easiest to point, or refer, to the Center, with its library, products, prayer room, and classroom. It was something tangible. It certainly beat the looks I can imagine if I said I write poems, take pictures, put them into little books and give them away. Which is, in a nutshell, the real heart of a touch of william. But, is far more likely to provoke thoughts of how long have I had a developmental disability. After all, from this societies perspective, who in their right mind gives up career security, income, and a little community prestige, for cutting paper and stuffing photos?
Well, I bought into the question too. So for the first few years, much of my effort did focus on the Center and the various features within it. Trying to see if one or another of them was what I, my work, was all about. That was a lot of brick walls to run into. And, a long way to travel, only to come back to where I started. The Center is an aspect, not the feature. It is putting the materials I’ve used on my journey onto shelves available to others, rather than away in a closet. It is having the prayer room I built for my own use (while still in the insurance business) open to anyone. It is having a limited product area, for items which supplement the other aspects of a touch of william, as well as my personal works. But supplement is the key word. Each feature of the Center, or any one of the atow aspects, could be a full-time job in and of itself. For a while things got kind of crazy around here, as I kept expanding each one wondering what was the key, to allow me to feel valid. Five years later it turns out the key was not to try to feel valid, as this society deems it. But to find what felt most harmonious and balanced. What felt genuine.
Good things happened to the Center as a result of that journey. Some just settled down. The library is still here, but I do not rush to expand it. There is a distinct product area, but only for things which come to my attention and relate. I do not speed around trying to fill it. The prayer room is still the most used, but that’s because I use it daily. The classroom is kind of in limbo. Yet, there is a feeling of peace around here these days, which has been a long time in coming. I don’t rush over to get it opened, or to get things done. There is a time for every thing and every purpose under heaven. There is a priority, and a new perspective.
POETRY & PICTURES BOOKS
As you may have surmised from the previous article, my poetry and my photography have resurfaced as my primary activities and focus. At the center of this are my P&P books. They have developed into both an evangelism tool and a personal growth support item. They are also used to give comfort, share joy, and celebrate the bounty of life God has given to us. Depending on the circumstance in which I am lead to share.
In 1999, I produced and gave away close to one hundred books or more. Several were offered and selected by people attending a Christian Camp Meeting I was invited to by friends. More than a dozen went out to individuals both during (I had some with me) and after Donna and I traveled to Montana late last summer. And more than two dozen were selected as gifts at a gathering of public library directors I was invited to after serving on a local co-op board. But mostly, they are given away, here and there, one or two at a time.
I finally found a wholesale source for the books. And, the poems are typed, printed, copied, and cut right here. It’s pretty time consuming, but low cost. I now have my pictures developed at Wal-Mart (after switching from Meijers). They are the least expensive I’ve found. Even after everything is ready, it takes about 45 minutes to an hour per book to select and assemble them. Specific themes, and books for particular individuals or circumstances take the longest.
I try to keep a supply of completed books ready in Cherokee Bill’s Trade Center (product area here) in case I need some in a hurry. You are also encouraged to stop and look through them, or to create one yourself from my supplies, if you need one for a friend, or even you.
CUTE, CUTE, CUTE
"New babies often create some minor confusion along with excitement. When Bob and Cindy Bergstedt of Carlsbad, Calif., informed their children about an upcoming family addition, David, their youngest, may not have grasped the concept, but he did have a positive outlook. Cindy asked him, ‘How would you like to not be the youngest in our family anymore?’ The 4-year -old looked thoughtful and replied, ‘Well, I guess I could go live with Leo’s family.’"
"Denise Gore and her husband, George, of Mount Joy, Pa., are parents of three and foster parents of two younger children. The youngest foster son, only 8 days old, arrived while the older children were at school. Denise wrote, 'The children had specifically "ordered" children from other races, and I explained that he was Hispanic. My son responded, "That’s cool. When he grows up he can teach us Spanish."'"
"Lynn Aseltine of Westerville, Ohio, shared a ‘Say That Again?’ story. ‘My 5-year-old, David, and I drove past an adult book store on the way to the mall. The black paint with embedded sparkles caught David’s eye and he asked, "Mommy, what do they do in there?" I took a deep breath and tried to explain that some people do things other than what God wants them to do, including what goes on in that store. I rambled on about how important it is to do what the Bible says until he seemed satisfied with my answer.
A while later, David took the same route, only this time with his father. So, he asked, "Daddy, what do they do in that store?" My wise, articulate husband answered concisely: "I don’t know, David. I’ve never been in there."’
"You can ask Mommy," the 5-year-old replied. "She knows all about it.""
"When I was trained as an English teacher, I was taught to use objective criteria in grading papers. That meant laying out a specific list of standards for each assignment: perfect spelling, use of four vocabulary words, subject-verb agreement, and so forth. The good thing about this approach is that students knew what was expected. The bad thing is that they did what was expected – and little more. They fulfilled the assignment, but they usually lost sight of the purpose: self expression, creativity, communication.
God seems to understand this problem. We humans like things laid out clearly. The problem is that when they are, as in the Ten Commandments, we get caught up in doing what’s expected, and lose sight of the purpose: living in relationship with God and with others."
– Marcia Bates
Decided to include a couple of poems since it has been a while. As always the back is left blank so it can be cut out for a P&P book if you wish. The Lord’s Prayer on the first page is now the first page (after the cover page) in each of my books. I hope I didn’t already say that. It feels like ages ago since I wrote those first pages. Anyway, I left the back of that blank too. Most books now have as standard, the five information pages, front cover, back page, 13 poems, and 16 photos
I suppose I really shouldn’t encourage violence, even to computers. But, ever since I discovered that graphic in my computer (previous page) I’ve been tickled by it. I really did have a lot of trouble with the computer on that last page. The only way I could figure out how to solve it was to leave a space blank. Immediately I remembered I had the perfect cartoon to paste into the empty spot. Computer users will understand completely.
Might as well return here to the problem I alluded to on page five. As many of you know, I am pretty much willing to talk about any subject openly and honestly. Such openness has the potential for problems even when people hear correctly, let alone when someone misinterprets what you are saying, which is what happened last fall to me here at the Center.
I will not get into the details since the person is from the church I attend and would be known to some of you. But as a result of a conversation, I was subjected to an extremely violent verbal attack. The reason for bringing this up is because some of the things said, left me a little shell shocked and wondering if others had similar perceptions. In the process of accusing me of being completely hypocritical, this person told me that he had known right from the first time he had met me that all my hugging and saying "God’s peace" was a complete facade and artificial. A wolf parading around in sheep’s clothing.
Those of you who know me well can imagine how much I enjoyed being called hypocritical. It is the one thing I agonize over with each decision I make for a touch of william, and personally. But it was not the first time someone interpreted my "God’s peace" greeting as religiosity. Yet, it is the first time I became privy to the possibility it is seen that way within the church. So I’d like to share how those two things came about.
Our standard American greeting seems to be: Hi, how are ya? Or any number of variations of that.
But how many people asking that actually care how you are? And is your conditioned response, "fine" or "good" or "OK," just like mine. No matter what kind of day I am having, "fine" frequently comes out, without thought to it at all.
A while back I decided I wanted to stop greeting people with "hi, how are ya," and departing with "take it easy" (which replaced "have a good day") but I knew the replacement would likely become routine as well. So I wanted something that even as a routine could somehow be a sincere wish. "God’s peace," short, simple, and something I could legitimately wish for everyone, seemed to fit the bill perfectly. So, a few years back I started using it, and like expected, it just became routine, without any thought to the situation, or how it might be received by someone else.
There seems to be no way around wishing for someone that their life would be filled with the peace of God, without people seeing you as religious. Or, as someone trying to be seen as religious. Which is trouble either way, in my mind, because that means they’ve just applied a whole set of their expectations onto you, which you are now supposed to live up to (or down to, depending on their perspective).
It might surprise some of you that I don’t see myself as religious at all. Though I know others see me that way. I am equally as comfortable by a pool table as in a pew. As I discover what I believe to be the truth, I try to live it. I believe in God. And since I believe in God, it only makes sense to me, with His broader perspective on things, to involve Him in all the aspects of my life. Religious pretense and posturing is just bullshit to me (sorry, but BS didn’t seem strong enough). So like the games in the rest of society.
OK, what about hugs. I try to remember when I meet someone for the first time to ask if they prefer a handshake. But, hugs are my routine. I never object, or feel slighted, if someone wishes not to be hugged. It just doesn’t always occur to me. Why?
Only some of you were around fifteen years ago when I had a breakdown, or as the psychologist called it, my total stress collapse. If you’ve never been there, you can’t begin to imagine. But, in those deepest, darkest places you can think of, a genuine hug was sometimes the one thing that kept me out of the abyss. I say genuine, because those polite, artificial ones didn’t help at all.
Truth is, in our society, you can’t always tell when someone is walking along the edge, needing a hug. So I told myself I was never again going to be afraid to give genuine hugs. And, until last fall, I did pretty well with that promise. While always trying to remain respectful of those, for whom hugging just isn’t their thing. I’m not sure what I will decide about this. I’m not as self-conscious about it as I was a few months ago, but it still catches me off guard at times. So, if I seem a little tentative, don’t worry about it. Just give the biggest best hug you want. My heart will be doing the same, regardless of how cautious my brain has become.
Along this same line (but more complimentary), in a conversation early last year, a friend remarked, "if you’re having a problem with this, what hope is there for the rest of us," referring to the quasi-spiritual topic of the discussion.
Please don’t separate me out from others. Whether you’re putting me up, or putting me down, it’s not good for the growth of either of us.
My ego (as a balance to low self-esteem) eats that stuff up (the overly positive), and starts me off-track. And when it gets out of proportion it’s a long way to fall. We all struggle with the same journey. The details might vary, but it is surprisingly similar for each and every one of us.
"Now, I think most of us have begun to hunger and thirst, though we may not know exactly what we want. What we do know is that unfulfillment gnaws at our insides; we desire something more out of life. So, with a nutritional ignorance about things of the spirit, we often seek relief by eating junk food. We try to satisfy our longings with new relationships, or larger houses and sportier cars, or with greater professional achievements, or zippier sex lives. These things are potato chips. Nothing wrong with potato chips – in their place. But you can’t live on them. They might quiet the gurgling noises of hunger for a while, but they won’t keep you alive in the long run. You need something more nutritious."
– Donald W McCullough
IS YOUR HUT BURNING?
"The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming.
Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few possessions. But then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky. The worst had happened; everything was lost. He was stunned with grief and anger. ‘God, how could you do this to me!’ he cried.
Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship, which was approaching the island. It had come to rescue him. ‘How did you know I was here?’ asked the weary man of his rescuers. ‘We saw your smoke signal,’ they replied.
It is easy to get discouraged, when things are going bad. But, we shouldn’t lose heart, because God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of pain and suffering. Remember, next time your little hut is burning to the ground, it just may be a smoke signal that summons the grace of God."
SPEAKING OF THE INTERNET
Don’t get too excited, I am still not connected to the Internet. Someone gave me the above piece. Several of you have urged me to connect, and a few have suggested I should have a web site. I listen, and do check things out. But, each time, I have not at all felt that was the direction I am supposed to go.
Last year I gave permission to one tpc member to reproduce my work on his web site if he so wished. In light of the fact that I do not feel lead in that direction, I would like to extend that offer to any of you who have web pages. If you wish to set up an a touch of william room (is that the right terminology?), or otherwise use my work, feel free to do so. I have always given permission for the non-commercial reproduction (sharing) of what I write (ever notice that little message on the bottom left of the first page?). Should anyone choose to do this, I ask that you would respect the following guidelines:
Please to not try to sell my photography or poetry on the Internet. However, since I assume there are costs involved in even adding stuff to a site, indicating an acceptance of contributions is not a problem.
Please do not use my photography independent of my poetry, or other writings. Basically, don’t just use it by itself. However, if you wish to use a photo of mine along side of your own information, that’s OK, if you will simply tag it: photo by william, and somewhere provide the P.O. Box 1, or 417 S Bridge St, address (see front page bottom).
Please do not reproduce any photograph of mine that has my signature on it. I prefer you use ones out of P&P books, etc. My work is meant to be passed on. But, I do still sell some of my photography separately. If anyone wishes to add my work to a product related site, get with me and we’ll discuss the details. I really am sincere about freely sharing my work as much as possible, but, I do need to be respectful of those who have purchased "limited edition" signed prints in the past, or might do so in the future. The Internet is a quandary for artists, writers, and photographers everywhere.
John Two Hawks, a tpc member showed me his site when I was visiting last year. It’s really nice, especially if you have sound on your system. It’s focus is Native American. If you have an interest in this you can visit at www.nativecircle.com (as long as he’s set up. He just moved to Arkansas).
If any other tpc member wants a related site mentioned sometime, just let me know.
I think we’ve entered the homestretch now. The piles around me are starting to disappear. There are three excerpts though I’d like to share, one from an article in Decision magazine by Skip Heitzig titled Wisdom, and two from the book Finding Happiness In The Most Unlikely Places by Donald W McCullough. One is humorous, one tragic, and one pretty much as expected, but they all relate to being too focused on a single thing, and forgetting about the bigger picture.
"It was an exciting day for the young Naval ensign as he embarked on his first voyage across the ocean from England to the United States. This was the ensign’s first opportunity to demonstrate his abilities in handling the ship. He confidently issued orders, and decks buzzed with men performing their tasks. In record time, the story goes, the ship left the bay and cruised toward open sea.
A young officer handed the ensign a folded piece of paper. Was it perhaps a message of congratulations from the captain? The note was a radio message that read, ‘You have completed the exercise according to the book and with amazing speed. In your haste, however, you have overlooked a vital though unwritten rule: Make sure the captain is aboard before getting underway.’ The note was signed, ‘Your captain.’"
"In April 1988 the evening news reported on a skydiving photographer who had jumped from a plane in order to film other skydivers as they fell and opened their parachutes. Suddenly, as the last parachute opened, the picture on the telecast went black. The announcer reported that the cameraman had fallen to his death. It wasn’t until he reached for his rip cord that he realized that he had jumped out of the plane without his parachute. So intent was he on his goal of filming the other skydivers, he neglected something crucial for saving his own life."
"Jesus told about a Samaritan who was good because he did what he could. The traveler interrupted his journey, bathed the victim’s wounds with oil, put him on a donkey, took him to the inn where he was known and promised to reimburse the innkeeper the cost of nursing him back to life. He was a merciful man, this Samaritan.
Not everyone who stumbles over a need is that helpful. A few years ago two researchers conducted an experiment with forty Princeton Seminary students. Each seminarian was instructed to walk to a nearby building and dictate an impromptu talk into a tape recorder. Some were told to talk on the Good Samaritan parable, others on their career concerns. Unknown to the students, the researchers had planted an actor along the pathway who, as a student approached, groaned and slumped to the ground.
Human Behavior magazine reported on the experiment: sixty percent walked right by, and some who were planning their talk on the Good Samaritan literally stepped over the slumped body. There was no significant difference between those who had the parable on their minds and those who were thinking about future careers."
HAS SOMEONE STOLEN CHRIST FROM YOU?
I said at the start of this newsletter I would share some other quotes from the Life magazine article.
It was pretty long but I found these particularly interesting:
"Some argue that the modern face of Christianity can’t be judged by a census of the pews. Says William McKinney, president of the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif.: ‘Today millions consider themselves to be followers of Jesus but find no compelling need to be members of traditional churches.’"
"If anything, the quality of Christian faith in the modern age is improving because, in many cases, it is a considered faith, judged against rationalism and the shock of the real world. ‘In the past we have had masses of conformist Christians,’ says Andrea Riccardi, professor of the history of Christianity at Rome University. ‘In the 20th century there are conformists, but the Christianity of living faith and living charity has had to be a personal choice. I think this will continue. The Church will be a church of choice. You are not born Christian, you become Christian.’"
Elaine Pagals, professor of religion at Princeton University mentioned several ways Christianity has impacted society over 2000 years including:
"‘Before Christianity, physicians provided care to those who could pay. Christianity’s conviction was that caring for the sick and dying was a service to Christ. I don’t think we’d have hospitals or hospices without that notion.’"
"Says Thomas Cahill, author . . . ‘Many Christians, especially higher clergy, are concerned only with the strength of Christianity as an institution – something Jesus showed no interest in. They show little concern for the success of the Gospel of peace and love.’ He continues: ‘Christianity comes in two different packages, official and real. Official Christianity is doing pretty well, with a head count that is several hundred million more than its nearest competitors, Islam and Buddhism. But there is the question of what the content of Christianity is, and whether Christians truly subscribe to this content – Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, comfort the afflicted. Here, the results are much more spotty.’
Karen Armstrong, a former nun . . . author . . . agrees. If we ask how Christianity is doing today in terms of Saint Paul’s ultimate virtue, love, the answer is, Armstrong says, ‘Not very well. Western Christianity has been the most intolerant religion toward other faiths. Some Christians, if they got to Heaven and found everybody there, would be miserable: Heaven wouldn’t be Heaven if you couldn’t peer over the celestial parapets and see other people roasting below. It’s a very unpopular virtue, love, and I think this is because the ideal is so difficult.’"
A new tpc member shared with me a list of how he has been moved in prayer during 1999. It included: "I respect and reverence the image of God in all people." I wish I could say I was there. It is a worthy goal for all of us.
Let me close with another item from Finding Happiness:
"In an old Hasidic tale a rabbi asks his students, ‘How can we determine the hour of dawn, when the night ends and the day begins?’
One student suggests, ‘When, from a distance, you can distinguish between a dog and a sheep?’
‘No,’ the rabbi answers.
Another student wonders, ‘Is it when you can distinguish between a fig tree and a grapevine?’
‘No,’ the rabbi again answers.
‘Please tell us, then,’ say the students.
‘The hour of dawn’ says the wise teacher, ‘is when you have enough light to look human beings in the face and recognize them as your brothers and sisters. Until then the darkness is still with us.’"
God’s peace, william
I had intended on mentioning something about the book Born Fundamentalist Born Again Catholic by David B Currie. As I approached the end of my newsletter I realized I had not said anything, so I decided to do it as this insert.
Why? Because the road goes both ways. Catholicism has been around for the full 2000 year ride in Christianity. Along the way, it’s picked up plenty of critics, but many of them, today, criticize in ignorance of what the Catholic church actually teaches, or stands for. In my 12 years as a baptized Christian, going where I feel God leading me, I spent three as a member of St Michaels parish in Grand Ledge. When I was going through the nine months of Catholic instruction, I was amazed at how much misperception I had held, picked up along the way, in my own critical views of Catholicism. That doesn’t mean there aren’t legitimate areas of question and disagreement which still remain, but it has given me a whole new perspective when I listen to those being critical, who have no real concept of what they are talking about.
This book was originally loaned to me by a tpc member. I have since obtained a copy for the lending library here, and given a copy to the Grand Ledge Public Library (if you would like to read it). If you have ever wondered about what some deem as those peculiar Catholic beliefs, this book does an excellent job of explaining the basics in a straightforward easy to read way for those outside the Catholic church. And even some in it, for that matter.