Monday, November 26, 2012

20/20 Hind-sight?

20/20 Hind-sight:

The sin of wallowing in your past life, as if you could re-do it—Rather than rejoicing in the life God has given you Right-Now.

Did God Forgive your past?  Then why not ask him how you should live Right-Now.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Song: "Don't save it all for Christmas"

Just in case you might need a reminder...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

What I am Thankful for

Sunset over the Front Range

Things that I am thankful for:

v Salvation
v Books!!!
v Philosophy
v Being an artist!
v Being a student at CU Boulder.
v Having professors in my life that care about my education.
v Any time I am able to have table fellowship: to share a meal with other people.
v The beauty of the world around me: both the natural world and the beauty I see in the faces around me.

Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable [noble or beautiful], whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think  about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Stained Glass, Deacon Ned, and the "Least of these"

I was fortunate to attend the Evangelical Theological and Philosophical Society's national convention this year in Milwaukee Wisconsin.  The lectures were amazing and enlightening. I felt privileged, listening to some of the world’s foremost Theologians, Biblical scholars and Christian philosophers. It was great to re-connect with friends and see “newer” friends face-to-face.  But that’s not what I’m going to feature in this post.
(c) Lisa Guinther 2012

Across from the Milwaukee Public Library is a beautiful old church.  St James Episcopal church is a late 1800’s era church which once was attended by the worthies of Milwaukee; but now, although apart of the historic register, this church is a fading jewel. But as I came to discover, this is a church with many vital and important ministries. 

I love to explore old churches: for their history, their art, and the amazing people who carry on ministries for the Kingdom of God.
"Blessed are the Pure of Heart"
 Photo (c) Lisa Guinther 2012

The old sanctuary was a revelation.  Contained within the worship area are what appear to me as two sets of Tiffany windows, along with stained glass from studios in Philadelphia, and a couple of windows signed by a studio artist from Boston.  I do suspect the clearstory windows and the alter triptych are from studios in either Great Britain or Germany.

But on the side of the main sanctuary is a plain red door where the homeless of the city come for a hot breakfast Monday through Friday; in fact when I stopped in the first time Friday morning, the men in charge asked me if I wanted a breakfast.  On the other side of the building is another red door that twice a month they give away clothing to the needy. 
Deacon Ned
(c) Lisa Guinther

I walked up the steps to the clothing room and found Deacon Ned who let me into the sanctuary this particular Saturday morning.  I thanked him for letting me in to photograph the windows, told him I turned off the lights and made sure the doors were locked behind me, and then I asked him about the ministries at St. James. 

Go here to the church web-site

He told me about the breakfast offered, and that the Saturday dinner was the only hot meal in the city.  The clothing giveaway was twice a month, and I watched him take names of the people coming to pick out clothing and hand them their slips, then he began to tell me of the most amazing ministry, one very close to his heart; Indigent burials.

St James Episcopal cares for the last service on this earth for those who have no one; no family, no friends, no one to stand by the grave site at the potter’s field; the burial site for those who cannot afford funeral services.  Deacon Ned told me that before this ministry, people with no next of kin would be collected from the county and placed in “…a cardboard coffin and dumped in a hole.”  He told me of the difficulty of getting this ministry started, but related to me how vital he felt this was to the kingdom of God. St. James began to offer this ministry in 2009 for individuals who are indigent, who die unclaimed by anyone, and whose death would otherwise go unnoticed.

This ministry isn’t always to the poor and homeless, but once the church was notified when a still-born baby was left in a box at the local hospital.  Deacon Ned said “I named the child Michael Gabriel, and we buried him with a teddy bear.”
          We need to remember these inner city churches that offer vital but sometimes overlooked ministries to people in need…even in death.  Although our Lord Jesus Christ related in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats what we all know so well “ …Whatever you did for one of the least of these…you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40) but to serve the dead is also serving the Lord.  Remember the ministering women at the tomb.

These once vital congregations have dwindled in the inner city.  These churches were once attended by the influential of the municipalities, but as in many cities the wealthy moved to the suburbs and left their home congregations behind.  Regardless of your thoughts of the state of the so-called liberal “main-line” denominations; there are those who remain faithful to the call of God to a particular church and its moving tide of needy humanity. These men and women stay to continue offering help and solace to those who fall through the ever widening crack (or chasm) of depersonalized governmental aid.

Here is a video of the “Gathering of Southeast Wisconsin” the separate 501c3 that feed the poor in the 4th poorest city in the nation.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

It Is Well With My Soul

Today at church we sang the song “It is Well With My Soul” and I’ve been thinking today of what that means.

The longing for love was what drove me to seek God in the first place.  It’s hard to understand what real love is when you’ve never known it.  I knew that people always let me down, and trying to find love from worthless relationships only ended in pain and abuse. But how can I sing the song “It is Well With My Soul” and mean it?

            Although I went to church as a child, when I started going to church again as a young adult, it was all about the acceptance in a faith community.  The emotional “high” in singing worship songs in “one voice” with a congregation, or in a choir was fun, but my understanding was pretty shallow. I spent time reading my Bible; for that was what one was supposed to do as a Christian.  Then there was all the time spent at Bible studies, hearing what other believed about passages of Scripture, and the importance of learning Bible verses, memorizing them to recite when things went wrong in your day, to be a sort of portable encouragement.

            For years, I claimed to be a Christian, but there really wasn’t any change in me.  I was working so hard trying to please everyone I didn’t have time to change.  Church was ok as long as it didn’t annoy my husband…after all, the churches I went to told me I had to submit to my husband, so pleasing him came first.  But when things got worse for me, and there was no one that seemed to care, I stopped going to church. I figured it was all God’s fault for the troubles in my life.

            But many years later, after much abuse, grief and emptiness, sitting on my sofa alone, I apologized to God.  In other words, I repented.

            At that point I felt nothing, but there must have been some outward change for the next day a co-worker asked me what was different about me, and when I confessed my belief in Jesus to her, my life really began to change. (Love you Tamara!)

            I had been a reader all my life, and of the Bible as well; but it seemed like it all just “made sense” now. All the history, poetry and art came together. I started seeing things with different eyes.  No longer was I looking for love from others, but I was now able to give love, or that I was learning how to let God love others through me.  I was able to explain to others that this book, the Bible, is an integral part of history, and that there really was a Jesus of Nazareth, and historical markers point to an empty tomb, and over 500 eye-witnesses that saw him alive after his horrid crucifixion at the orders of an actual Roman Procurator named Pontius Pilate.

            Church was no longer just a fun hangout on a Sunday morning. It was about worshiping God in thankfulness for the gift of love, salvation, healing and peace. I began to study to understand what the writers of the Bible meant, to understand the history of Christianity, concepts of theology which deepened my faith, and changed how I thought. If all truth is God’s truth, then I needed to do more study and thinking about what I was reading.  So with all of my study and thinking, this led me to study philosophy. Somehow, the “Mustard seed” faith I was given in that gift of grace has begun to grow into a huge tree of learning and knowledge.

            This walk is not an easy one.  I’ve had to sacrifice a lot, but the abundant life I have now is amazing.  I am honored to have remarkable friends, both Christian and non-Christian alike.  And to deepen my understanding of philosophy, I am now surrounded by some truly great professional philosophers who are interested in me learning and growing. It is a true gift from God to be invited to a philosopher’s home, to sit at the dinner table enjoying amazing discussions ranging from world travels,  philosophy of religion, and even symbolic logic, and I am not only allowed to comment, but I feel like my comments are welcomed.

            There has been a lot of darkness and pain in my life, and I feel as if I am finally walking into the light. I don’t know if what I have written here has answered the question; but yes, it is well with my soul.

Why not listen to the story of how the hymn It Is Well With My Soul came to be written.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Two Poems by Emily Dickinson


Far from Love the Heavenly Father
Leads the Chosen Child,
Oftener through Realm of Briar
Than the Meadow mild.

Oftener by the Claw of Dragon
Than the Hand of Friend
Guides the Little One predestined
To the Native Land.
c. 1865


Tell all the Truth but tell it slant-
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lighting to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually 
or every man be blind-