Saturday, August 24, 2013
What will we do on this light dappled day?
What shall we do my friend?
What will we do with this light dappled day,
Knowing that dappled days end?
Let’s love to the fullest, my darling friend.
Let’s love from the depths of our heart.
Let them say when this dappled day comes to its end
That we did even more than our part.
That we drank the sweet sunlight
That we danced in the breeze,
That we gave all we had- then gave more
That we sang at the top of our lungs in the night
That our home had an open door…
For dear one, I remind you that dappled days end,
And the sunshine retreats to his bed
Even so, there is hope, my sweetest dear friend
There’s no reason to give in to dread.
As the dapples grow dimmer, and the sunbeams recede
There’s a secret I want to impart
Tho’ the night skies come quickly and cold settles deep
The warmth will remain in your heart
So live life to the fullest
Give all that you have
Today is a gift with an end
Knowing that, my dear one, I must ask you again:
What will we do today, friend?
Tracy Byrd Dickerson, 2013©
Thursday, February 14, 2013
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, the 2013 Valentine’s Day Spending Survey conducted by BIGinsights, the average person planning to spend $130.97 on candy, cards, gifts and more? That's up from $126.03 last year, which is remarkable, given that state of the economy. Total spending will reach $18.6 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?
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent in the Western Christian calendar. According to Church tradition, the day is scheduled 46 days before Easter. The day varies every year and falls somewhere between February 4 and as late as March 10. This practice is common in much of Christendom, being observed mainly by Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, and Methodists.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent- the "40-day" liturgical period of prayer and fasting (abstinence). Actually, there are 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, but the six Sundays that fall in between are considered to be "feast days" and do not count as "fast days," becasue aaas "Sabbath days" they are considered days when participants "rest" from fasting.
Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of adherents as a reminder and celebration of human mortality, and as a sign of mourning and repentance to God. The ashes used are typically gathered from the burning of the palms from the previous year's Palm Sunday.
The use of ashes to signify mortality is derived from this passge in Eccestiastes...
Thge message and symbolism of Ash Wednesday is simple and sraighforward:
We are human,
We are mortal.
We will die,
We have no say in this, but...
We do have a bit of a say in how our souls are formed.
We can make an intentional decision to either stretch outward- Toward God, or
We can decide to curve inward on ourselves.
We decide to do one or the other,
and we choose to participate in practices that help us to find new ways
to keep this Major Choice in the forefront of our minds.
It is through the intentional practices that we initiate during the lenten season
that we find new ways to move the reality of this choice
from the forefront of our minds to the depths of our heatts.
For the next "Forty-Or-So" Days...
Join me on a journey to do just that...
Saturday, January 5, 2013
Today is January 5th (Also Known as “Twelfth Night”) - Happy "Twelfth Day of Christmas"!
Today we think about the “Twelve Drummers Drumming” which represent the Twelve Points of Doctrine in the Apostles' Creed:
1) I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
2) I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
3) He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
4) He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell [the grave].
5) On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
6) He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
7) I believe in the Holy Spirit,
8) the holy catholic Church,
9) the communion of saints,
10) the forgiveness of sins,
11) the resurrection of the body,
12) and life everlasting.
Today we contemplate the importance of a sound doctrine (orthodoxy). Yet we also recognise the necessity of having a sound Christian walk (orthopraxy), as evidenced by love of God and love of others (by Jesus' own definition).
We contemplate the importance of showing those inside the family of Christ and those NOT YET inside the family LOVE.
We ask ourselves: “Do I live the Gospel I claim?...and…
"If they came to arrest me for being a Follower of Jesus- would there be enough evidence to convict me?” ...and...
Among all the "truths" that we seek to memorize and understand,
Friday, January 4, 2013
Today we think about the “Eleven Pipers Piping” which represent the Eleven Faithful Apostles. (The list does not include the twelfth disciple, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus to the religious leaders and the Romans.):
1) Simon Peter,
3) James bar Joseph (Jesus' brother),
9) James bar Alphaeus,
10) Simon the Zealot,
11) Judas bar James.
Today we contemplate our God's faithfulness to us and out utter inability to be so toward him.
We also think of how his love for us never fails, despite our lack of faithfulness. We looks at Christ's response to Judas and to Peter.
He is ever-loving, ever-forgiving, ever-calling us back to himself, and ever-giving us a million second chances.
We ask ourselves: “How can I live a life that’s faithful to the call of Christ on my life?”
…And we seek to live intentionally in Him, by His Spirit.
Heavenly Father, thank you for being our TRUE LOVE...
Help us to remember that we are so easily capable of unfaithfulness toward you.
Help us to remember that it is only through Your Grace that we remain close to you,
and that it is only by YOUR Faithfulness to us that we are saved
(not the opposite way around).
Be the tie that binds us to You,
Be the tie that binds us to each other,
For you are in all things and through all things and because of You...
All things hold together
Thursday, January 3, 2013
Today we think about the “Ten Lords A-Leaping."
They represent the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20:1-17:
1) You shall have no other gods before me;
2) Do not make an idol;
3) Do not take God's name in vain;
4) Remember the Sabbath Day;
5) Honor your father and mother, and you will live long;
6) Do not murder;
7) Do not commit adultery;
8) Do not steal;
9) Do not bear false witness;
10) Do not covet.
Today we contemplate our inability to follow these commands…
We acknowledge our ineptitude at perfection, yet rejoice in the knowledge that we have been created with the ability to lean into The One Who is Perfect...
The One Whose Power Perfects Our Weakness...
The One Who Came to take away the sins of the world…
Today we remember that Jesus instructs us to
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind & strength; and love your neighbor as yourself,” and shows us that following this simple rule makes is easier to live a life that promotes human flourishing.
Today we reflect on how we can stay in this frame of mind throughout the coming New Year, and how we can promote human flourishing (ours and that of others) in order to glorify God.
Father, Thank You for being our True Love,
Help us to remember that our sufficiency comes from you,
As does any ability to love you and others.
We lean into you and ask for your Holy Spirit to
With a Love for You that is
That it demands
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Today we think about the “Nine Ladies Dancing.”
They represent The Nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22:
Today we contemplate how we are being continually Spiritually Formed, and we ask ourselves these questions:
How have I been receptive to the Holy Spirit’s workings in and through me throughout the past year, and does my life bear spiritual fruit?
How can I be receptive to the Holy Spirit’s workings in and through me more fully throughout the coming year, so that I can more fully bear spiritual fruit?
Father God, Thank You for being My TRUE LOVE.
Thank you for giving me the ability, through your Spirit, to bear spiritual fruit.
Help me to remember that the "fruit" is of you, not of me...
That bearing this fruit is about You, Your Kingdom...
And Not about me.
As I look out at the winter trees that have...
May I be ever reminded that when they appear thus,
I cannot tell what kind of tree they are.
Let their bare branches be a stark reminder to me of
How I appear to others when I do not embody Your Spirit of...
Help me to look more like an evergreen tree this coming year...
Help me not just to "act" in these ways...
Help me to embody the Spirit of these ways
in Jesus' name,
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Today we think about the “Eight Maids A-Milking”-who represent the Eight Beatitudes:
1) Blessed are the poor in spirit,
2) Blessed are those who mourn,
3) Blessed are the meek,
4) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
5) Blessed are the merciful,
6) Blessed are the pure in heart,
7) Blessed are the peacemakers,
8) Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake. (Matthew 5:3-10)
We reflect upon these things and we and we contemplate what it means to be “blessed” using Jesus’ frame of reference...
No doubt, at one time or another over this past year- you have been "blessed" according to Jesus' definition. And as surely, as I type these words...during the next year to come, either you or I will experience poverty of spirit, mourning, persecution, humiliation, or degradation. But not to worry, for along with these things, according to The One who knows, comes blessing. This is my prayer for you as we enter a new year: that God will bless you despite, and even 'because of' the negative things that may assail you during this coming year. Additionally, I pray that God will mightily bless you by making you hunger and thirst after Him, and by growing you in righteousness so that you may become more kind, more merciful, more pure in heart, and one who walks in and relentlessly "wages peace." I hope you will pray the same for me...
MAY YOU BE RICHLY BLESSED THROUGHOUT THE COMING YEAR!