Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine's Day Missional Musings

As Valentine’s Day approaches, the television commercials, newspaper ads and mailbox flyers seem to be becoming increasingly insistent. Demanding, even.

I’ve been becoming increasingly convicted over the past several years with regard to our culture’s hyper-consumerism, and so perhaps I am more sensitive to it- but am I right? Is it out of control, or what?

I am a hopeless romantic, so it seems kind of funny that I, of all people, would be writing this piece, but here I am- thinking these ‘crazy’ thoughts, nonetheless.

So, it seems that as I am being transformed from glory to glory, so are my thoughts with regard to this revered “holiday.” I want any new response that I form to be consistent with my Christian values, but in order to do this; I want to make sure that my values are those of authentic, historic Christianity rather than the things we modern American Christians co-mingle with Christianity (prosperity, consumerism, capitalism, etc.)

And so, I go back to St. Valentine, himself. Who was he? What did he do? What did he stand for? How did he live out the gospel in his time as an example to the people of his day?

What we know of St. Valentine remains elusive, at best. It seems there may have been more that one Valentine, and for this reason, his ‘feast day’ in the Roman Catholic Church was removed from the Catholic Calendar of Saints.

The story I find most compelling and romantic is found in a book called the Legenda Aurea, written by Jacobus de Voragine around 1260 A.D. in the Middle Ages. In it is this very brief account of our beloved St. Valentine:

Valentinus was a priest and physician in third century Rome (the 200’s). According to church tradition, he was known for performing acts of compassion, mercy, and kindness amongst the poor. He took seriously Jesus’ admonition to care for and heal the sick, and as a physician, this was a focus of his Christian ministry.

During the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus, Christians were being persecuted and he was arrested for practicing Christianity by Claudius and personally handed over to the magistrate. While in custody, he healed the adopted daughter of the magistrate of blindness. As a result, the entire family of the magistrate was converted to Christianity (as were many others) while Valentinus was imprisoned. This enraged the Emperor Claudius, who ordered his immediate execution. Prior to the sentence being carried out, legend tells us that Claudius demanded a retraction/denial of Christ from the unfortunate physician. Valentinus, true to his name (‘one of valor’), refused to deny Christ and was beheaded on February 14, 280.

The feast day of St. Valentine commemorates his life of selfless service, Christian charity (love) and ministry to those in need. Interestingly, romantic love was not incorporated into the legend until much later in around the 14th century (1300’s) by people such as Geoffrey Chaucer.

Whether the above account is 100% factual is less important than recognizing that this information is true in the sense that the story it tells is much more in line with what we understand of Christianity and Christian love than the more recent Hallmark™ Greeting Cards’ version. Christian love is not the same as romantic love, at its best- it supersedes romantic love in that Christian love is unconditional, unapologetic, and unfailing.

We all have learned that the loved practiced by the members of the early Christian church was agape, a sacrificial act of will first demonstrated by God to us (God’s love toward us is known as hesed love, or loving-kindness- and denotes a covenantal, pursuing love) and reciprocated by us to God, and then also offered to our neighbors (both friend and enemy) as a result of an outpouring of our gratitude toward God for loving us. Agape is another word for “love” but it is not indicative of emotion as much as it is a word describing an act of will or an intentional way of behaving toward others. Jesus describes the greatest form of love as being one that is sacrificial to the point of dying for another if need be (John 15:13). What’s more, He demonstrated this highest form of love to us, even though we didn’t deserve it (Romans 5:8).

Romantic love can be a wonderful thing, and certainly has its place, but since it can lead to irrational, irresponsible and idolatrous behavior we need to remain cognizant that it is but one of the many ways in which we are capable of loving. Additionally, we need to be aware that it is not one of the ways that we are commanded to love. Yet, our missional call in this regard is clear- offering sacrificial love is an expectation of our call Philippians 2:5-9 (esp v. 5)

So…What would happen if we Christians decided to expropriate Valentine’s Day- I mean, it was ours in the first place, after all anyway- wasn’t it? Did you know that According to the National Retail Federation’s 2010 Valentine’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, couples will spend an average of $63.34 on gifts on each other, (it was $67.22 in 2009). The average person will shell out $103.00 on traditional Valentine’s Day merchandise this year ($102.50 in 2009). Total holiday spending is expected to reach $14.1 billion.*

What can we do within our spheres of influence/communities to promote this more accurate and uniquely Christian understanding of the day? An even better question is this- What would happen if we decided to use that day, or the season (like at Christmastide) to be agents of God’s hesed love. What would happen if we could re-direct even 10% of that money toward showing God’s love…Christian love to the 30,000 children who starve to death every day on this planet?

So I wonder…Can we find a way to enjoy this holiday of love in a way that is both fun and which also rightly honors the man for which the day is named?


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pathetic Pooches

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Snow, Beautiful Snow!

Stranded at home all day without my beloved hubby, I hunkered down with the boys and dogs and made the best of it by being creative. I made making peanut butter and birdseed pinecones, hung them on our re-purposed Christmas tree (which is on our back deck for the birds to enjoy) and then took pictures of the birds enjoying my handiwork. Then I went outside with my camera and enjoyed God's handiwork (His is MUCH better than mine...)

Here's a video...

Lastly, I baked...YUM!(see above)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

It’s A Wonderful Snowy Life

by Anonymous, revised by Tracy B Dickerson

November 23:
Well, we just got into town and are settling into out new retirement home here up North. We are excited to spend our last years together here in this quaint little village. We saw an adorable café on Main street and are having dinner there sometime in the near future.

November 25:
Just had dinner at the cute café on Main St. Went tonight with the couple across the street, Bob and Emily Bailey. Everyone in this town is so warm, friendly, and they seem so honest, and trustworthy. Best of all, they make us feel like we're part of the family and that we've lived here forever. Honestly, this town and its citizens are so charming, I feel like we’re living on the set of “It’s A Wonderful Life!” Can’t wait to see the town covered in snow- it’ll look just like Bedford Falls.

December 8:
It started to snow. The first snow of the season and the wife and I took our cocktails and sat for hours by the window watching the huge soft flakes drift down from heaven. It does look just like Bedford Falls or a Currier and Ives print. It’s so romantic we felt like newlyweds again. I love snow!

December 9:
We woke to a beautiful blanket of crystal white snow covering every inch of the landscape. What a fantastic sight! Can there be a lovelier place in the whole world? Moving here was the best idea I've ever had. Shoveled for the first time in years, felt like a boy again. I did both our driveway and the sidewalks. This afternoon the snowplow came along and covered up the sidewalks and closed in the driveway, so I got to shovel again. What a wonderful life!

December 12:
The sun has melted all our lovely snow. Such a disappointment. My neighbor, Bob, told me not to worry, that we would definitely have a white Christmas. No snow on Christmas would be awful! He promised that we’ll have so much snow by the end of winter, that I'll never want to see snow again. I don't think that's possible. Bob is such a nice man, I'm glad he's our neighbor!

December 13:
Watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” tonight after dinner with Bob, Emily, and the wife. How idyllic to watch the charming movie in this charming town while more flakes began falling again outside the window. I knew I could trust Bob- he’s already ‘made good’ on his promise about the snow. He does have a funny sense of humor, though…yeah, right…I can tell you one thing he’s NOT right about- we’re never going to get tired of this lovely snow!

December 14:
Snow, lovely snow! 8" last night. The temperature dropped to -20. The cold makes everything sparkle so. The wind took my breath away, but I warmed up by shoveling the driveway and sidewalks. This is the life! The snowplow came back this afternoon and buried everything again, but how can I be upset- the snowplow guy is just as affable as everyone else here in this lovely town. He even waved at me as he went by! Sure, I had to do a bit more shoveling after he went by, but I'll certainly get back in shape this way. Was bone-tired and went to bed was chilly, but snuggled with my honey all night.

December 15:
20 inches forecast. Sold my van and bought a 4x4 Blazer. Bought snow tires for the wife's car and two extra shovels. Stocked the freezer. The wife wants a wood stove in case the electricity goes out. I think that's silly. We aren't in Alaska, after all. More shoveling but thank goodness for the snowplow guy- he may plow us in, but at least the road is clear once we “dig out”. Will have to remind my wife to bake him some cookies.

December 16:
Ice storm this morning. Fell on my butt on the ice in the driveway putting down salt. Hurt real bad. The wife laughed for an hour, which I think was very cruel.

December 17:
Still way below freezing. Roads are too icy to go anywhere. Electricity was off for five hours. No electricity and no phone and no way to get out make for a limited social life and not much to do. Doesn’t help that the wife is peeved at me for not getting the wood stove. She’s punishing me by giving me the “cold shoulder.’ Had to pile the blankets on to stay warm, and there was nothing to do but stare at her and try not to irritate he further. Guess I should've bought a wood stove, but won't admit it to her. I hate it when she's right. I can't believe I'm freezing to death and starved for human contact in my own bedroom.

December 20:
Electricity's back on, but had another 14" of the dang stuff last night. More shoveling. Took all day. The freakin' snowplow guy came by twice. Forget about him being affable. He’s nothing but an irritating overachiever. Too exhausted to try to dig out after the second pass, so tried to find a neighbor kid to shovel, but they said they're too busy playing hockey. I think they're lying. Called the only hardware store around to see about buying a snow blower, and they're out. Might have another shipment in March. I think they're lying. Bob says I have to shovel or the city will have it done and bill me. I think he's lying. I’ll never dig out at this rate. They’re all against me because I’m an outsider.

December 22:
Bob was right about a white Christmas, because 13 more inches of the white crap fell today, and it's so cold it probably won't melt 'til August. Took me 45 minutes to get all dressed up to go out to shovel, and then I had to pee. By the time I got undressed, peed and dressed again, I was too tired to shovel! Tried to hire Bob, who has a plow on his truck, for the rest of the winter; but he says he's too busy. He’s a liar!

December 23:
Only 2" of snow today, and it warmed up to "0". The wife wanted me to decorate the front of the house this morning. What, is she nuts!?! Why didn't she tell me to do that a month ago? She says she did, but I think she's lying.

December 24:
Six more inches! Snow packed so hard by snowplow, I broke the shovel. Thought I was having a heart attack. If I ever catch the guy who drives that snowplow, I'll drag him through the snow and beat him up with my broken shovel. I know he hides around the corner and waits for me to finish shoveling and then he comes down the street at a 100 miles an hour and throws snow all over everywhere I've just been! Tonight the wife wanted me to sing Christmas carols with her and open our presents, but I was too busy watching for the dang snowplow.

December 25:
Merry Stinking Christmas. 20 more inches of the dang slop tonight. Snowed in. The idea of shoveling makes my blood boil. Gees, I hate the snow! Then the snowplow driver came by asking for a donation and I hit him over the head with my shovel. The wife says I have a bad attitude. If I have to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" one more time, I'm going to stuff her into the microwave.

December 26:
Still snowed in. Why the heck did I ever move here? It was all HER idea. She's really getting on my nerves.

December 27:
Temperature dropped to -30, and the pipes froze. Plumber came after 14 hours of waiting for him; he only charged me $1,400 to replace all my pipes.

December 28:
Warmed up to above -50. Still snowed in. The woman is driving me crazy!!!!!

December 29:
10 more inches. Bob says I have to shovel the roof or it could cave in. That's the silliest thing I ever heard. How dumb does he think I am? I think he’s out to get me.

December 30:
Roof caved in. I beat up the snow plow driver. He is now suing me for a million dollars; not for only the beating I gave him, but also for trying to shove the broken snow shovel up his rear end! The wife went home to her mother. 9" more predicted.

December 31:
Electricity went out again, seemed a perfectly reasonable thing to me to set fire to what was left of the house- it was toasty warm, and the crackling sound it made while burning was positively charming Also threw the shovel handle onto the more shoveling for me…

January 8:
Feel so good. I just love those little white pills they keep giving me. Why am I tied to the bed?