Mar 28, 2005

The Dogwood

While growing up, I was told about the dogwood tree, and how it was the wood the Jesus' cross was made out of (not true). As the story went, the dogwood tree would blossom for Easter with white flowers that had red centers... like the wounds on Christ's hands and feet. Of course, being in Texas with our early springs, the dogwood trees always blossomed closer to Ash Wednesday than to Easter.

But this year, we had an early Easter, and the dogwood in our backyard bloomed. I thought I'd share it with you.

Mar 26, 2005

At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow.


At the name of Jesus

every knee shall bow.

Christ Jesus was in the form of God,

but he did not cling to equality with God.

He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant,

and was born in our human likeness.

Being found in human form he humbled himself,

and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.

Therefore God has highly exalted him,

and bestowed on him the name above every name.

That at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth;

And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2.5–11

At the name of Jesus

every knee shall bow.

Holy Saturday: Jesus' Descent into Hell.

"One of the most veiled events surrounding the triumph of Christ is His Descent into Hell. The tantalizing Scriptural references leave us to ponder its theological significance. One aspect of the Descent is that the victorious Savior went to Hell, as if to stand behind enemy lines, proclaiming the defeat of the devil.

More sobering is that Jesus’ Descent somehow seals the fate of the damned. Their agony is forever multiplied by the clear knowledge that they could have been saved by the same hand of justice that must also condemn."

Another explanaton, one put forward by the Orthodox Churches, is that Jesus went into Hell to proclaim the Good News to all who have died. To ALL who have died.

A personal reflection of my own is just to remember how Jesus came to me with the Good News while I was trapped in a hell of my own making, and how he set me free.

More Terri, less Terri.

Last night at Good Friday's Tennebrae service, we read Psalm 22 (a meditation on which by Wm. Stringfellow I had read earlier in the day). I couldn't help but think of Terri Schiavo as we read these lines in the darkening church:

12 Many bulls surround me;

strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.

13 Roaring lions tearing their prey

open their mouths wide against me.

14 I am poured out like water,

and all my bones are out of joint.

My heart has turned to wax;

it has melted away within me.

15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd,

and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;

you lay me in the dust of death.

16 Dogs have surrounded me;

a band of evil men has encircled me,

they have pierced my hands and my feet.

17 I can count all my bones;

people stare and gloat over me.

18 They divide my garments among them

and cast lots for my clothing.

I thought and prayed about her dehydration, cracking lips, and Terri's body as broken potsherds. I thought and prayer about the needles and I.V.s that have pierced her hands. If you've followed my comments on this, then you know that I do not see any heros here, with the possible exception of Terri.

Mar 25, 2005

The Seven Last Words of Christ

Father forgive them

"Father forgive them for they know not what they do," (Luke 23:34). This is Jesus re-stating the message of forgiveness as He was nailed to the cross. The Old Testament "eye for eye and tooth for tooth" (which was a huge step forward for its time based on an even retribution) was surpassed with the concept of Christian forgiveness. It was practiced to the end by Christ. Forgiveness is what distinguishes Christianity from any other ‘religion.’ It is said that religion is man’s search for God, Christianity is God’s search for man.

Paradise today

"Today you will be with me in Paradise," (Luke 23:43). These are Jesus’ words to the good thief, who, even as a condemned man, recognises the kingship of Jesus. He is saved by his faith and present for the re-opening of Paradise, which was ‘closed’ at the expulsion of Adam and Eve. Paradise regained. The passage is used by Luke to denote the Kingship of Jesus, whose kingdom is not of this world. Those who espouse salvation by faith alone like this passage. The good thief had no chance to do ‘good works’. He was saved by faith alone.

Motherhood and the home

"Woman, this is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "This is your mother," (John 19:26-27). Some traditions link Mary at the foot of the Cross to the new Eve, mother of all believers in a new creation. She is present when creation was ‘restored’ at the crucifixion. Without spouse and family Mary would be alone after the death of Jesus and considered ‘cursed’ in Judaism. Jesus entrusted her to John and also entrusted John to Mary. The Christian Community Bible states: "Through this last deed of Jesus, the church discovered something about the mystery of the Christian life. The believer is a member of the spiritual family…" Many Catholics are criticised for allowing Mary too central a role in their belief system. The reality is that a true understanding of Mariology does not, in any way, attempt to make the creature equal with the Creator. Mary always points us towards Jesus.


"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matt 27:46). These are words of abandonment but not of despair. They are the opening words of Psalm 22:1, a lament which turns into a prayer of praise. Jesus, like all devout Jews would have known the Psalms (150 of them) by heart. Reciting the Psalms was an everyday occurrence for Jews. Here at the point of complete and utter human desolation a prayer is uttered amidst the brokenness. It is a plaintive cry but it is a prayer. It is, perhaps, the greatest declaration of faith. The darkest hour is right before the dawn. Death is not the end.

Thirtsting for what is right

"I thirst," (John 19:28). Crucifixion is gruelling. Thirst is obvious. But Christ also thirsts for the will of the Father, not just for Himself, but also that it will be done in the world. The words also echo Psalm 22:15 and Psalm 69:21. For some believers the offering of vinegar on a hyssop stick is seen as a hostile act. Others see it as a ‘fulfilment’ of Exodus 12:22 when hyssop was used in the Passover feast. The blood of the Passover lambs ‘saved’ the chosen people, the blood of Christ saves all mankind. Jesus is the new Passover Lamb of God.

Beginning of the end

"It is accomplished," (John 19:30). No one has ‘taken’ the life of Jesus, He has handed it over Himself. Jesus has fulfilled all that He set out to do – the will of His Father. He dictated the time of His death. Traditionally when people were crucified their legs would be broken to hasten death. To breathe on the cross one had to drag his body up using pressure on his hands and legs which were nailed to the wood. The pain is unimaginable. With their legs broken they would be unable to raise themselves up to breathe. Not one of Jesus’ bones was broken, thus fulfilling Scripture, "Not one of his bones will be broken," Psalm 34:20 and Exodus 12:46.

The new beginning

"Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit," (Luke 23:46). This is an echo of Psalm 31:5 and is a prayer of serene confidence. Redemption is rampant, salvation is secured. History enters a new phase. What seemed lost is won. The depths of abandonment mask the core of love.

Death gives way to the resurrection. That is why we declare in the present tense "The Lord IS risen." It is only through the resurrection that the death can be understood. Death has lost its power. It will come knocking for each of us, when is unimportant. The only time that matters is now – the eternal present.

- written by Liamy MacNally

Create in me a clean heart, O God.

Psalm 51 (ESV)

Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

1Have mercy on me,[a] O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

3For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right[b] spirit within me.
11Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

13Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

18Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Mar 23, 2005

A Chance to Explore the Meaning of Life.

Whose will be done?

A statement issued Feb. 25 by Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod President Gerald B. Kieschnick.

"Judging from various news reports, it does not appear that Ms. Schiavo has entered irretrievably into the dying process," Kieschnick's statement reads. "Therefore, administering food and hydration would belong in the realm of ordinary care and should not be withdrawn. Removing Terri's feeding tube will not allow her to die, since she is not dying. Removing her tube will, in fact, cause her to die."

The court struggle, Kieschnick says, "has the potential effectively to legalize and set a dangerous precedent for this type of killing in our country -- a precedent that would have profound effects on our culture as a whole. Our society is shaped by the value we place on human life. If we believe that the life of every human being is of special worth, we will choose to treat each person with care and respect. As we face often-difficult end-of-life issues, our aim must always be to care, never to kill."

A statement from Johann Christoph Arnold: Spiritual Leader of the Bruderhof Christian Community.

As a culture, we have become too reliant on science and technology. We have also become dangerously dependent on the State to make decisions for us. Shouldn't we rather try to discern what God would have us do? In Terri’s case it should not be the end of the world to remove a feeding tube. Where medical knowledge and capability end, there God can begin to work. And if it is God’s will for Terri to recover, she will: for Jesus is truly the only physician who can heal the sick and raise the dead. If Terri should die, it will be painful, but no cause for despair: we all have to die one day.

We are too afraid of death and dying. We forget that those who are dying are stretched out between earth and heaven, between the physical and the spiritual, between the finiteness of life on earth and the eternity of life beyond. Every dying person has a message to the living. Even in her current condition, Terri’s living is not in vain; all who come in contact with her have an opportunity to be taught love and compassion to others.

That an intensified struggle over Terri’s life is occurring right at Easter highlights the message of Good Friday, when we think of the death of Jesus, who longed to reconcile everything in the universe. His crucifixion remains the supreme example of suffering that was not in vain.

-- I respect the opinions and guidance of both these men, and I agree with them both... even in contradiction. I have signed two DNR orders for dying relatives: my father and my god-mother. In my god-mother's case, I also had her feeding tube removed, as she was being kept in a state of agony by artificial means. I've seen both of my parents quit eating as they prepared to die, not by their own "choice", but by their body's design and readiness for the end.

Based upon my own experiences, I fear that Terri Schiavo's body is being denied the ability to implement its own transition to death.

A Christian friend recently remarked to me that he views death as a "graduation" to new-life. He's not afraid of death, but he also said that he just doesn't want a long "graduation ceremony".

Mar 22, 2005

A River in Egypt

What the e-mail from a Republican asked:

1) The Dixiecrat party was made up of Southern
a) Democrats
b) Republicans

2) Jim Crow laws were passed by legislatures controlled by:
a) Democrats
b) Republicans

3) When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led the civil rights efforts in the South, the governing powers that opposed him were of which party?
a) Democrat
b) Republican

4) In Arkansas, the governor who stood in the door of a schoolhouse to block integration was a:
a) Democrat
b) Republican

5) The president who ordered in the National Guard to dislodge the above-mentioned governor from the above-mentioned door was a:
a) Democrat
b) Republican

6) George Wallace was a:
a) Democrat
b) Republican

7) Lester Maddox was a:
a) Democrat
b) Republican

The correct answer, in all cases, is "a) Democrat".

What a person who was serious and truthful about US History might ask (don't take my word for it, you're sensible people, look it up):

1) When LBJ got the Voting Rights Act of 1964 passed, the members of the Dixiecrat party joined the
a) Democrats
b) Republicans

2) The people who passed Jim Crow laws now belong to which party?
a) Democratic
b) Republican

3) Which party do those who opposed Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights efforts in the South now belong to?
a) Democratic
b) Republican

4) If a governor were to stand in the door of a schoolhouse to block integration today, he/she would be a:
a) Democrat
b) Republican

5) If today a president were to order in the National Guard to dislodge the above-mentioned governor from the above-mentioned door, he/she would be a:
a) Democrat
b) Republican
c) Either

6) If he were starting in politics today, George Wallace would be a:
a) Democrat
b) Republican

7) If he were starting in politics today, Lester Maddox would be a:
a) Democrat
b) Republican

The correct answer in all cases, except for #5, is "b) Republican". The correct answer to 5 would be "c".

Bear Baiting

is a blood sport that was a popular entertainment from at least the 11th century in which a bear is secured to a post and then attacked by a number of dogs.

In the most well known form there were purpose built arenas for the entertainment, called in England bear-gardens, consisting of a circular high fenced area, the pit, and raised seating for spectators. A post would be set in the ground towards the edge of the pit and the bear chained to it, either by the leg or neck. The dogs would then be set on it, being replaced as they tired or were wounded or killed. For a long time the main bear-garden in London was the Paris Garden at Southwark.

In England, from the 16th century, many "herds" of bears were maintained for baiting. Henry VIII was a fan and had a pit constructed at Whitehall. Elizabeth I was also fond of the entertainment; it featured regularly in her tours. In 1575 a baiting display for her had thirteen bears, and when an attempt was made to ban baiting on Sundays she over-ruled Parliament. A variation was "the whipping of a blinded bear" and certain other animals were also baited, especially bulls but also on one curious occasion a pony with an ape tied to its back was baited and a spectator described that "...with the screaming of the ape, beholding the curs hanging from the ears and neck of the pony, is very laughable". With bulls, the animal's nose was usually blown full of pepper to enrage the animal before the baiting. The bull was often allowed a hole in the ground, into which to thrust his vulnerable nose and lips. A variant of bull-baiting was "pinning the bull"; specially-trained dogs would be set upon the bull one at a time, a successful attack resulting in the dog fastening his teeth strongly in the bull's snout.

Attempts to end the entertainment were first made in England by the Puritans, with little effect. But by the late 17th century "the conscience of cultivated people seems to have been touched", but it was not until 1835 that baiting were prohibited by Parliament, a ruling that was soon extended across the Empire. Baiting is banned worldwide but can still be found in parts of the Middle East and Pakistan.

Compare Bull-baiting, cock-fighting, dog fighting

The term is also used for the hunting practice of luring a bear with food, bait, to an arranged killing spot.

-- This describes what I feel politicians have done to Terri Schiavo. It is simply evil to compound this tragedy and suffering for political gain. But then, from a group that has asked for (and received) legal opinions allowing torture, why would I be surprised that they would extend tragedy and suffering just for political gain?

God will not be mocked, and there will be Hell to pay.

Mar 21, 2005

The Switch Pitcher

I believe YWH throws as well from His right as from His left.

The Donkey

When fishes flew and forests walked,
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born;

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things;

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me--I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet--
There was a shout about my ears
And palms before my feet.

G. K. Chesterton

Mar 19, 2005

Tragedy and Statistics

A feeding tube has been removed in Florida, a baby in Houston was removed from a respirator by the State, and a friend of my daughter had her mother removed from life support yesterday here in Dallas.

I am Pro-Life, and all three of these events effect me. Terri Schiavo's case certainly, but also the 5 month old infant in Houston who suffered birth defects. Against the mother's wishes, the hospital decided to terminate life support, as a law passed by the Texas State Legislature and signed into law by then Gov. George Bush, allowed (the law basically allows hospitals to "pull the plug" when the insurance money runs out). The infant could not live without a respirator, but might live indefinitely on one. The Corporate/State partnership pulled the plug. There were no protests.

My daughter's friend's mother was brain dead following a car accident. Does the soul escape the body when brain functions cease?

In all three cases, only medical technology was able to keep the heart beating and the lungs breathing. In Florida, that technology was fairly basic: a feeding tube. But in all three cases, remove the technology (artifice), and the individual dies (quickly in the case of the infant and the mother, slowly in the case of Mrs. Schiavo). As we used to say, "Nature has run her course."

100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians (presuming anyone is innocent) have died in our war to bring freedom to Iraq (remember, we've changed our rational for going to war. "No WMD's? Let Freedom march!").

100,000 dead, and no protests from the Religious Right. One severely brain-damaged woman in Florida, and thousands march, but not for an infant in Houston. But then, Texas isn't a "swing" state.

It was Joseph Stalin (The "Liberator" of Eastern Europe) who remarked, "The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of thousands is a statistic."

And for a baby dying in his mother's arms, gasping for breath? Silence.

Mar 18, 2005

The Trickleship Down Society

With great anticipation, I volunteered to work as a counselor at Dr. Billy Graham's Metroplex Mission rally in Dallas in 2002.

The first night, with 75,000 people in attendance (most of them young people), I heard and saw an event that broke my heart.

Dr. Graham had his good friend former President George H.W. Bush on stage to give his personal witness. Mr. Bush never once mentioned Jesus. He mentioned speed boats, and power, and praying with Dr. Graham before invading Iraq (the first time)... but he never mentioned Jesus. Not once. No witness, just chuminess. That was bad, but it wasn't the worst.

Dr. Graham preached on the story of the Wealthy Young Man who wanted salvation. As you know, Jesus told him to give away all he had, and to follow Him.

Then Dr. Graham said something that I couldn't believe. He said (paraphrase), "The Rich Young Man turned away, saddened, because he couldn't part with his riches. Now, those were probably ILL-GOTTEN riches, and that was why he couldn’t part with them."

My wife turned to me and asked, "Did Graham just say the young man couldn't part with his riches because they were ill-gotten?" I told her I wasn't sure.

But TWICE more in his address to these thousands of young people, Dr. Graham stated that the reason the Young Man couldn't part with his wealth was because they were "ill-gotten".

I was, and am, stunned. That's not in the Text anywhere, nor is it even hinted at. The all too clear meaning is that "the love of money is the root of all evil", not the love of illegal proceeds, and not just money, but the "love" of money. But I fear that Dr. Graham, by associating himself almost exclusively in the last few years with those who would rather rain down fire than see mercy reign, with those who's primary concern in all things is that their taxes be reduced, has been seduced into worshipping the god Mammon, and serves in his court as yet another Pharisee.

I pray that Dr. Graham and BGEA will repent of this error, stand back from the trappings of wealth and power in this country, and turn back to the Cross of Christ. May God open the eyes of His faithful servant, and restore him.

(This entry has been reposted from another blog, Beware the Leaven.)

Mar 17, 2005

St. Harry's Day

10/21/1918 - 3/17/1994
Previously known as St. Patrick's Day.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgement of Doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of the Cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of the resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In prediction of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendour of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak to me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me,

From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From every one who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in a multitude.
I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,

Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body
and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poising, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So there come to me abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye of every one who sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

The Lorica, Saint Patrick (translation by by Kuno Meyer)

  • A comment by James Kiefer: An aspect of Patrick's thought that shows very clearly through his writings is his awareness of himself as an unlearned exile, a former slave and a fugitive, who has learned the hard way to put his sole trust in God.
And I would say much the same about my father, Harry Summer.

Mar 9, 2005

The Dubya Cross.

The original title of this post was "The Cult of the W", which has a sort-of Arthur Conan Doyle-ish ring to it. But the new title better represents what I think is going on here, a kind of "double-cross", where People think they are voting as Christians, but in reality, they are participating in a clearly "Anti-Christian" movement. And no, you can't wave the bloody flag of abortion or pictures of homosexual couples kissing on the court house steps as a justification. Pointing to the Sadducees in outrage only solidifies your position as a Pharisee.

A couple of books I'm reading have an interesting crossing point. "
Hitler's Cross: The Revealing Story of How the Cross of Christ Was Used As a Symbol of the Nazi Agenda" by Erwin W. Lutzer , and "A Private and Public Faith" by William Stringfellow. The crossing point (Intended pun? You decide) is the public misuse of religion for political gain. Lutzer points out how Hitler bent the church to his will, even as he bent the Cross into the Nazi Swastika. Hitler grabbed the appeal of the Law, combined with exploiting the economic insecurity of the middle class, to subvert the Gospel. Stringfellow faults John F. Kennedy for responding to Republican claims that the Pope would run America (if Kennedy were to become President) by stressing the "Seperation of Church and State" principal as understood to be in the US constitution. In both cases, "christian" religion was used as a political weapon against Christianity.

If the opening paragraph in Lutzer's book (where he describes Rudolph Hess' plan and search for a new German Leader) doesn't make you think of Karl Rove, then you aren't paying attention. And if the realization that the Democratic Party's over-secularization is a direct result of the GOP's anti-Catholic attacks on John Kennedy, then you are clearly irony deficient.

I make bumper stickers, and have been doing so for a number of years, in varying quantities (from one to one hundred thousand). I noticed several years ago how many members of my denomination at the time (since repented) would line up on Ash Wednesday for a pious show of ashes, but whose cars would seldom have any identifier as to who was their Lord (picky point, I know). Oh, they might have an Episcopal Shield on their rear window, but that's not quite the same as an icthus (little silver fishy), or some clear statement of faith. The Episcopal Shield was more like a parking permit at the Dallas Country Club.

I have a dear Christian friend who just so happens to be a highly partisan Republican. But he has a strick "no stickers" rule for his car. He broke that rule for a small, subtle, and tasteful "Jesus Prayer" bumper sticker strip (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on Me a Sinner). When he got his new car, he didn't want to put a sticker on it. Understandable. But he put a "W: the President" sticker on his car. No Jesus Prayer, no icthus, so outside indication or witness as to who his Lord is. Or is there indeed a unintended witness to an unintentional lord?

"Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can't go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bankrobbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It's obvious, isn't it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being."
-- Luke 12:33-34 The Message

The worship of Mammon.

The Cult of the W.

Mar 2, 2005

Texas Independence Day

Today is also Texas Interdependence Day, the 19th anniversary of my marriage to the lovely, sweet, exciting Lura Linden Baker, a true gift from God for a wayfaring stranger.