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It is a simple garment, this slipped-on world.
We wake into it daily—open eyes, braid hair—
a robe unfurled
in rose-silk flowering, then laid bare.

And yes, it is a simple enough task
we’ve taken on,
though also vast:
from dusk to dawn,

from dawn to dusk, to praise, and not
be blinded by the praising.
To lie like a cat in hot
sun, fur fully blazing,

and dream the mouse;
and to keep too the mouse’s patient, waking watch
within the deep rooms of the house,
where the leaf-flocked

sunlight never reaches, but the earth still blooms.

“The Task” by Jane Hirshfield, from The October Palace. © Harper Perennial, 1994. Reprinted with permission.

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O Christ, the healer, we have come

to pray for health, to plead for friends.

How can we fail to be restored

when reached by love that never ends?

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From every ailment flesh endures

our bodies clamor to be freed;

yet in our hearts we would confess

that wholeness is our deepest need.

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In conflicts that destroy our health

we recognize the world’s disease;

our common life declares our ills.

Is there no cure, O Christ, for these?

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Grant that we all, made one in faith,

in your community may find

the wholeness that, enriching us,

shall reach and prosper humankind.

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Given the upheaval and highly negative feelings on both sides of the women’s ordination debate currently flaring in the Seventh-day Adventist church, this poem I found a few years ago seems apropos.  Like any hot topic, both sides are convinced that they are Right and the other side is Of the Devil.  Unfortunately, no matter which side one espouses, it is clear that unless cooler heads have some say in things, there is going to be a split in the church.  A split over something that is at the moment a policy debate, not a “rebellion”, nor yet even a “heresy”, but an interpretation of a minor point of Scripture.  Not even doctrine.  Certainly not a salvation issue, but those “in power” (using the term much more loosely than they have been flinging it about this last week) seem to feel that espousing women’s ordination is not only a slippery slope (leading to ordaining gay people and advocating evolution, to reference some Facebook conversations I’ve read), but also apostasy and a clear call to the “head of the church”, “God’s supreme authority on earth,” to “purify” the church of negative influences through “reformation and reform”.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, reading that.  I’ve been settling for shaking my head in utter disbelief that the church I grew up in, that taught me about standing for what I believe in “though the heavens fall”, is now poised to bring stars and planets raining down on my head.

Not only was the initial language of the disagreement upsetting to me (as per a previous post), but this new flareup has even more distressing overtones.  Words like “heresy”, “apostasy”, and “rebellion” seem terribly serious charges to fling at people who, at the core, are trying to serve God by preaching His Word, as commanded in the Bible.  Not worshiping idols, breaking commandments, or denying the truth of the Bible.  Those are what I would call heresy, apostasy, or rebellion.  Telling someone they are a heretic because they are preaching the word of God? Can we say Sanhedrin? or Inquisition?

Let’s not forget the other, loaded terms: “head of the church”, “God’s supreme authority on earth”, “purify”, and “male headship”.  Last time I checked, those terms referred only to Jesus Christ.  He is the one the Bible says is the head of the church (Col. 1:18).  He is the Supreme Authority (Matt. 28:18), and did not pass His authority over to the General Conference president!  It is His job to purify the church by aligning our hearts more fully with His heart, not by throwing people out who disagree on minor points of doctrine (Mal. 3:3).  And, again, the Bible text that refers to male headship refers to the husband being head of the wife “as Christ is the head of the church” (Eph. 5:23) and says nothing about a (male) pastor, priest, bishop, or pope as being the head of the church.  In fact, Jesus says to refer to no believer as over another (Matt. 23:8-9).  For the SDA General Conference president to use language such as this is truly frightening, not just because it smacks heavily of Catholic usage and doctrine, but because it goes against Biblical teaching that is, to my mind, much more clear in how the church should be run than the disputed neighboring texts about women keeping silence in the church. “In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9).

It is plain to me that the General Conference president and his staff are cherry-picking verses to suit themselves, as they also use words from a woman (Ellen G. White, who was herself ordained) to chastise faithful believers for “rebellion” because they seek to gain legitimacy through the church to do what God has called them to do — share the gospel (Matt. 28:19-20).  If the leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist church truly believes that such people are heretics and apostates, then this church has become the instrument of persecution we were warned against as children.

I expected the persecution to come from secular government.  I did not expect it to come from my church.

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Unfortunately, instead of being the instrument that brings Christ’s healing to the world, those in charge in the General Conference are becoming instruments of pain, lacking mercy, and acting as a wedge to drive the people of God apart.  Those on both sides believe strongly in their stance; there seems to be no way to compromise or change people’s convictions.  But those in power don’t seem to realize that these convictions, again, are on a minor point of church policy, not a salvation issue, not a point of doctrine.  Those on the side of women’s ordination are cognizant that this is not a major point of salvation; those on the other side blow it up until they believe it is.  There is no grace for someone with a differing viewpoint.  There is no thought that, by trying to silence someone preaching Jesus, they are themselves working against the One whose authority they claim to wield.

I have no call to preach except here, but if I were told to be silent, I would echo Peter’s words to the Sanhedrin: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). And reading further in the same chapter, it would be well for the General Conference heads to heed Gamaliel’s advice to the same Sanhedrin: “Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these [wo]men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these [wo]men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God (Acts 5:38-39). 

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I pray that Ted Wilson and the rest answer the door and let the true Head of the church speak to them about mercy, healing, and true unity.

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“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10).

“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Eph. 2:14-16).

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Prayer and Cookies

BmK7APgCUAEpgGw I just got back from a Christian women’s meetup in Edina, sponsored by (in)courage .  It’s called #inRL and it’s meant to help women connect in community, both on- and off-line.  To create a network of support and mutual growth. Most of all, to remind us we’re not alone in this mess called life, dealing with all our “stuff” in a vacuum.

So we met, with snacks and a craft, music and videos and stories of how people just like us are walking through life with their hands in each other’s, and in God’s hands.

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We shared tears and stories of our own, finding out that we’re not so very different after all, and that each of us has a story to tell.  They’re not all finished, neatly tied up and pretty, but just the fact of sharing our stories ties us together and helps something beautiful grow.

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One of…

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Every summer
I listen and look
under the sun’s brass and even
in the moonlight, but I can’t hear

anything, I can’t see anything—
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,

nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
And still,
every day,

the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker—
green gowns lifting up in the night,
showered with silk.

And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing—
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves,

the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet—
all of it
happening
beyond all seeable proof, or hearable hum.

And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in dirt

swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?

One morning
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn’s beautiful body
is sure to be there.

“Little Summer Poem Touching the Subject of Faith” by Mary Oliver, from West Wind. © Houghton Mifflin, 1997. Reprinted with permission.

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Dirge without Music

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.

So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, — but the best is lost.

The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

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My mother-in-law sent this to me yesterday, thinking of my family after my grandfather’s death earlier this month.  I couldn’t say it any better, honestly.  I believe that Pop-pop is sleeping in the grave, waiting for the Second Coming when we will all be reunited with loved ones and spend a glorious eternity in heaven with God (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).  I believe this with all my heart, and thank God that he is out of pain now.

But we are left to remember the crinkle in the eyes as he showed us a puzzle, or the timbre of his voice singing or reading the Bible, his wisdom and wit as he led his family (even to the great-grandchildren!) in godly lives, the hands that did many honest days’ work, and the approval shown to any of us who achieved even a small victory.  We remember. We know. And — I am not resigned to their loss.

It seems like a contradiction, really.  But God forbid I, as a Christian, should be resigned to death! Death was not in God’s plan, and He has done everything possible to erase it for us.  The promise of Easter (and Pop-pop died not quite a week after Easter) is that death has no hold on us.  Death is conquered.  It is not forever.  So we should not be resigned, not in that way.  We should fight against death, not in the way Dylan Thomas said — “Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” but fight death every day in our actions, our speech, even our thoughts.  We should strive for heaven– a closer relationship with God, and work to bring His kingdom sooner.  That is how we fight death. For when “death is swallowed up in victory” then John Donne’s poem will also ring true for our hearts — “One short sleep past, we wake eternally,/And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.”

I am not resigned. Praise be to God.

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Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

Crossing the Bar — Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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This post in memory of Richard Nash, Oct. 19, 1927-Apr. 6, 2013, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great and godly man. Rest in peace, Pop-pop, until Jesus comes again!

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Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow, dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you waiting at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.

“Up-Hill” by Christina Rossetti, from Poems. © Everyman’s Library, 1993. Reprinted with permission.

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One of my favorite poems by a Rossetti.  Promise of strength for the journey, and a reward at the end.  Most poignant right now as I think my grandfather may be coming to the end of his journey…

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