Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mystery Man--Angel?

A “mystery man” or “a good Samaritan” saved the life of a North Carolina woman, Shanena Martin, yesterday. She fell asleep at the wheel of her car and ran off Spencer Mountain Road near Ranlo, NC. Her car was wedged against a tree, half buried in brush and leaves. A woman who saw the wreck said Martin was trapped inside the smoldering car, appearing to be pinned by the dashboard.

A middle-aged man passing by stopped, assessed the situation, and managed to get the passenger door open. The witness said the man was “calm” and “focused.” He pulled Martin out of the car about 90 seconds before it burst into flames. Before anyone could get his name, he left, saying he had to get to work.

Todd Lewis, the Ranlo assistant fire chief, said Martin had a guardian angel watching over her. Does God send angels to protect us? I believe he does. And I believe he often arranges circumstances so calm, focused human beings are in the right spot at the time desperate help is needed. The Bible says those who love God and depend on him will “rest in the shadow of the Almighty,” and “he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Light Half-Believers

About a hundred and fifty years ago, Matthew Arnold wrote a poem called “The Scholar-Gypsy.” In the poem, he says we are "Light half-believers of our casual creeds."

Today, many of us are only light-weight half-believers, and we are casual about our beliefs. In fact, we often twist around the texts on which our beliefs are based—to suit ourselves and to make our lives more comfortable. If we adjust our creeds, we don’t have to suffer from guilty conscience.

I believe that is one of the main reasons membership in mainline church denominations has been shrinking in recent years. This shrinkage takes place mostly in physically comfortable places like America and Europe.

According to statistics, the Christian church is growing fastest in third-world areas like Africa and in places where it is dangerous to be a Christian, such as in China.

What does that say about us?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Mary Oliver

I love the poetry of Mary Oliver; I have read several of her books, and so far, I love Red Bird best. She is seventy-three years old, and as she tells us in her poem “Self-Portrait,” she is “still in love with life. And still full of beans.” It’s true. In this book, there’s a melancholy I have not seen so much in the others I’ve read. But her love of nature seems deeper than ever, as well as her love and reverence for God.

To Mary Oliver, the precious creations of God are everywhere in nature. Here is her poem “Red Bird”:

Red bird came all winter

firing up the landscape

as nothing else could.

Of course I love the sparrows,

those dun-colored darlings,

so hungry and so many.

I am a God-fearing feeder of birds.

I know He has many children,

not all of them bold in spirit.

Still, for whatever reason—

perhaps because the winter is so long

and the sky so black-blue,

or perhaps because the heart narrows

as often as it opens—

I am grateful

that red bird comes all winter

firing up the landscape

as nothing else can do.

To read her poetry is to drink fresh spring water, to wade in the ocean, to experience the soul-deep colors of sunsets and bird feathers, to leap with deer and fly with geese. It is a celebration of life.

Oliver, Mary. Red Bird. Boston: Beacon, 2008.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Last week I wrote about, more or less, the legalizing—or not—of various aspects of marriage, abortion, and homosexuality. A couple of days later, I saw a letter to the editor of our regional newspaper about homosexuality. While I’m in that mode, I decided, I will write about that—throw out some more opinions.

The letter, entitled “Understanding needed; homosexuality is not an abomination,” was written by H. Rudy Pace, a retired United Methodist pastor. He says, in part, that in the 48 years since his ordination, he has “seen the savagery of homophobia take its toll on many fine young people.”

Pace says “we live in a time now when there is no doubt that homosexuality is ‘who they are,’ not how they have ‘chosen’ to relate. The misunderstanding of the dark past persists . . . . many societies and religions continue to perpetuate the lie that homosexuality is an abomination.”

As a member of the United Methodist Church for almost 38 years, I have seen our international church almost split several times during its global conferences of recent years. The issue is homosexuality. I believe Pastor Pace is denying the truth of the Bible when he says religion perpetuates “the lie that homosexuality is an abomination.” In a way.

That would be examined.

What exactly is an abomination? Encarta lists these definitions:

1. something horrible—an object of intense disapproval or dislike

2. something shameful—something that is immoral, disgusting, or shameful

3. intense dislike—a feeling of intense dislike or disapproval toward somebody or something

Synonyms are outrage, disgrace, scandal, eyesore, atrocity, hatred, dislike, and repugnance.

Here are some of the things the Bible calls abominations:

shedding blood or using power to shed blood; creating idols; lying; killing animals in cruel ways; treating our parents with contempt; oppressing foreigners; mistreating or neglecting orphans and widows; committing adultery and unnatural sexual acts (and it lists a number of those, including involvement of family members and people of the same gender); cheating for financial gain; practicing sorcery and divination; consulting mediums and spiritists; and forgetting about him.

I would like for us to take note of something important here. All these things listed above—these abominations—are acts committed by people. No person is an abomination. He hates anything that separates us from him; that’s the abomination, the effect. And we commit many acts that separate us from him.

God loves all people, as the Bible says—over and over—with a love that is sufficient for all our needs, a love that can fill us with new life.