Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Donna and Dan - 11

Another post in the countdown to Dan and Donna's 25th anniversary this coming June, which I began back in December. It is my plan to post a story, remembrance and/or poem once a week for 25 weeks leading to the big date.

So, here we were, a newly married couple living in a TINY apartment on campus at the Southern Baptist Seminary. This was a four room apartment. The kitchen was little more than a hallway between the door and the living room, with just a bit of counter space.

The living room was the largest room, maybe about 10 x 16' with enough room for a couch, a table and a small Christmas tree at Christmas time (but not much else). The bathroom was just functional with a toilet, shower, sink and just enough room for one person to maneuver between these. The bedroom was just that: a room with a bed filling it up, nearly wall to wall.

We took this apartment, which was basically a one person apartment, in order to save on money, of which we had none. I was working a 40 hour minimum wage job and, although Donna was busy with her seminary classes, she held some part time jobs while in school. On top of that, there was the one summer where I decided to become "self-unemployed" (as I aptly called it) and did lawncare. (I came up with this GREAT name for the business - Lawn Order, like Law n' Order, but with "Lawn," great, right?? - but beyond that, I was a pretty ineffective businessman.)

We were dirt poor and happy as a pair of loons.

Our major concerns during those first years were getting through school, arranging more opportunities for my Christian band to play, staying faithful to the church and being madly in love. I had some concerns because the Seminary, in those days, had a reputation for being too "liberal" which, in Baptist parlance at the time, meant basically that they were pretty traditional and conservative but thought maybe - just maybe - it would be okay for women to preach and otherwise be ministers.

For my part, I didn't much trust education. I thought that if you weren't reading the Bible and REAL Christian writers (CS Lewis, Corrie Ten Boom, Jonathan Edwards, Chuck Swindoll, etc), that you were opening up your mind to possible corruption. Seriously. I just didn't see much great advantage in going to school and I saw a lot of risks.

Of course, I trusted Donna to be discerning and not learn any "bad" education, only the "good" stuff. Still, it was a concern. After all, sometimes couples grow apart and develop different interests, priorities, beliefs, even! What if that happened??

As it turned out, we grew together, for the most part. We remained pretty traditional during those first few seminary years, but it was traditional with a deep concern for the poor, for children, for the disabled, for peacemaking. Donna had some desire to be a missionary of some sort, but I was pretty dedicated to doing ministry through my band and we weren't sure how that would work out.

It was in those first few years that we started talking some about living in Christian community. Some in my band were interested in having some sort of Christian retreat/camp setting where we kids and youth could come and we could have concerts and other ministries in that setting. It is a theme which has recurred in various forms throughout our life together.

The Bible and Economics...

Daffodil 2
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Part of an ongoing series looking at all the many passages in the Bible that deal with wealth and poverty issues. You can see the links to the other passages in the series under the heading "The Bible and Economics" below.

I began looking at the "wealth" of material (ha!) found in Psalms on this topic back in September, offering findings from the first ten Psalms. Today, I offer some passages from Psalm 24 to Psalm 37, which especially focuses fairly specifically on the notion of "the wicked" oppressing the poor...

The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it, for God founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters...

~Psalm 24: 1-2

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in God.

Fear the LORD, you saints, for those who fear God lack nothing.

The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

~Psalm 34: 8-10

My whole being will exclaim,
"Who is like you, O LORD ?
You rescue the poor from those too strong for them,
the poor and needy from those who rob them."

~Psalm 35:10 (Note: the whole chapter is about God delivering the Psalmist)

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.

For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.

A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found.

But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.

The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for God knows their day is coming.

The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright...

But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken.

Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous.

The days of the blameless are known to the LORD, and their inheritance will endure forever.

In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.

But the wicked will perish: The LORD's enemies will be like the beauty of the fields, they will vanish—vanish like smoke.

The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously; those the LORD blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be cut off...

I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.

They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed.

~Psalm 37: 7-22, 25-26

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Donna and Dan - 12

Wedding Day
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
June 1, 1985

On a gray rainy June day
Discomfort and noise and confusion
Rushing, final arrangements, frustration
Chaos, frayed nerves exposed,
Stepped upon

And then she says, "I Do,"
And we kiss
And sunshine sneaks in through the windows
And we embrace
And everything
For evermore
Is all right.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lord, Have Mercy...

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
In the news...

Washington (CNN) -- Shots fired at a congressman's campaign headquarters. Windows smashed at Democratic offices across the country. A coffin placed on a lawmaker's lawn. Hate-filled voice mail messages left on members of Congress' phone lines.

Those are just some of the incidents reported since the House passed historic health care reform legislation Sunday -- a bill that became the law of the land.

The issue has unleashed a deep-seated anger from those worried about a government takeover of health care, and what they deem as the process being "rammed through" Congress...

Republican House members encouraged protesters outside and inside the House gallery, some of whom carried messages like "Vote no or else" or "If Brown won't stop it, a Browning will" -- a reference to newly elected Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown accompanied by a silhouette of a pistol.

But the anger has boiled over into physical and verbal threats. Windows have been smashed at Democratic offices in at least three states, and federal agents are investigating whether a cut gas line at the home of a Virginia congressman's brother was related to the lawmaker's yes vote...



Let's pray for and/or raise concerned thoughts for our nation and our neighbors who are tempted to express their disagreement with violence and threats.


On a related theme to this and to update my earlier post about Glenn Beck, Beck has gone on the attack against Jim Wallis, apparently. Jim Wallis had raised concern about Beck's attack on "social justice" churches and asked Beck if they could sit down and talk things over.

Beck's response?

"So Jim, I just wanted to pass this on to you. In my time I will respond — my time, well, kind of like God’s time, might be a day, might be a week to you, I’m not sure. But I’m going to get to it in my time, not your time. So you go ahead and you continue to do your protest thing, and that’s great. I love it. But just know — the hammer is coming, because little do you know, for eight weeks, we’ve been compiling information on you, your cute little organization, and all the other cute little people that are with you. And when the hammer comes, it’s going to be hammering hard and all through the night, over and over…"


Why are these people just so darned ugly? Why can't they talk things over like adults? Instead, too many like Beck, like these violent protesters, choose to go on the attack. It is tremendously sad. Lord, have mercy on us all. Lord, soften the hearts of those who are so full of hate and bile. Lord, have mercy...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Context is Everything

Church: All Seats Free
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
So, I had cause to stop in at a local church other than mine the other day. It's a pretty traditional, conservative church in many ways, but it's also fairly hip, with lots of energetic and kind young adults and a beautiful emphasis upon the arts.

While I was there, I looked around at some of their very interesting art on the walls and I noticed a nice, professional-looking poster for a Bible study or something that included a quote from Revelation 21...

He who was seated on the throne said, "Behold! I am making everything new!"

The book of Revelations is not my favorite, so I didn't pay that much attention to it, I just went on to look at some of the other art on display.

After a while, nature called and I made a visit to the bathroom and noticed the same poster that I saw earlier, only this time, it was right above the toilet!

He who was seated on the throne said, "Behold! I am making everything new!"

But now, well NOW, I had a whole new image of the meaning of the verse.

Hadn't ever thought of it that way before...

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Dave Amos Working
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Regarding all this hubbub about churches that "push" social justice, my guess is that for some - like Glenn Beck - the term "social justice" IS a code word. They hear it mentioned at a church and they jump to they only (to them) logical conclusion: That such churches MUST be talking about socialism. When they have "social justice" meetings planned, they are actually figuring out ways to use our military to take money from the rich and give it to the poor, all the while sitting at a shrine of Joseph Stalin.

Of course, in the real world, that is just absurd. Such nightmare scenarios are all just part of the brainwashing that has happened amongst some on the Right who can ONLY imagine something like that must be happening at these churches. For this reason, it seems reasonable to them to tell people to "run" from such churches.

So, to that end, I thought I'd provide some real world examples of what we, at Jeff St, do to promote social justice, in our own words and actions.

We educate about the homeless, as we do here, here and here

We sing songs, as we do here or hymns that include these lines...

If you give food to the hungry
and set the oppressed free
then your light will rise like a light out of darkness
and the Lord will be your guide
you'll be like a well-watered garden
like a spring that never runs dry...

(...which the biblically astute will recognize as coming from the prophet Isaiah).

We preach sermons about it, as you can see here

For example. So, in any of our words, are there any actual problems, or just a people striving to be faithful to God's Way?

And yes, sometimes, we take what might be called political action. For instance, just this week, our church and about 20 others around Louisville will ask our school officials and state courts to implement a program called "restorative justice." The concept is that for many of our children, they get introduced early on to prison life for horrible mistakes they've made and actions they've committed. The problem is that, statistically, once that happens, these children will tend to become lifelong problems, with many repeat visits to prison and thus leading an unproductive life.

Restorative justice is a way of intervening early to stop that cycle of a school-to-prison pipeline. I won't go into the details here, because that's not the point. The point is, we have researched an existing justice problem, one we know well because of our own families and friends, and found a positive, productive solution. In this case, that solution can only be implemented by schools and courts. We can believe that restorative justice is a good idea, but it is only a good idea if the powers that be implement it.

And so we'll take political action, asking our elected and court officials to implement a positive change for justice.

Justice for some of the least of these, as is a repeated theme throughout the Bible.

But in any of these ACTUAL real world examples of what churches that "push" social justice do, is there anything that says, "This isn't a real church - you should RUN from it, leave it!"?

Even if someone disagreed with a particular song or action that we're doing, clearly these are actions taken in an effort to follow God. So, it would seem the most anyone could complain about is that we are mistaken. We are mistaken, some might say, to think that this "restorative justice" program is a good idea.

But even IF someone thought we were mistaken, well, churches are mistaken about things all the time. Shall we tell everyone to "run" from churches that ever make any mistakes? Obviously, that would leave our churches empty.

And so, I ask: Is there some problem with any of our actual words or actions - a problem that would call for leaving such a church? OR, is that a good, healthy, Christian political thing to be doing?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Donna and Dan - 13

Another post in the countdown to Dan and Donna's 25th anniversary this coming June, which I began back in December. It is my plan to post a story, remembrance and/or poem once a week for 25 weeks leading to the big date.

After the Big Kiss and my return to Donna's good graces, life was good. Of course, there was still the matter of another fella who was wooing her, but eventually, it was clear that Donna and I were made for each other.

[As an aside, one thing that made the difference between me and the Other Guy was that he would badmouth me, while I spoke kindly of him. While Donna was sorting things out and trying to decide if she could trust me again, that made a world of difference, she told me later.

Word to the wise - do unto others as you'd have them do unto you.]

The months flew by and Donna and I were head over heels in love again. Soon - in the fall of 1984, on a starry evening on an old bridge over the small creek that runs behind Donna's house in Arlington, I asked her if she'd marry me.

"Sure," she said, rather nonchalantly, as if it were a given.

For the most part, things went smoothly during these days. Our biggest problem was that we were still separated by a long four hour drive. Also, Donna had to finish up her bachelor's degree at Murray still.

At this point, she had decided she felt "called into the ministry," and had already started plans to attend the Southern Baptist Seminary in my hometown of Louisville to study Church Social Work.

We just had to decide WHEN to do the deed - should we get married AFTER she had finished her three years at the seminary (an idea I was strongly opposed to, for wholly selfish reasons) or after college and before Seminary (my preference - the sooner the better) or sometime in between.

Eventually, we agreed. The sooner, the better. And so, the stage was set for the Big Day, June 1, 1985.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly

Mountain Justice
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Recently, at another blog that was discussing the Beck snafu, an anonymous poster said they didn't understand why the emphasis on social justice. They asked...

"If we do what we do out of love for Christ, why not call it that? Why not call it Christian Charity? Are we so afraid of using the name of Christ that we have to hide under a thinly veneered humanistic term to accomplish His will? That makes no sense."

My answer to these questions...

First off, "Charity" can be a dirty word. It implies and, in the real world, often is a power hierarchy. We, the Good, Wealthy, Enabled Christians deem you, the Bad, Poor, UN-enabled needy, worthy of getting a gift from us. It places the recipient in a lesser place - more of a parent-bad child relationship than a brother helping brother equal relationship.

I don't know if the anonymous questioner is or has been a part of a church that engages in giving charity but if they are, I'd be willing to guess that probably not many of the recipients of charity are also members of their congregation. That is the typical situation, anyway.

If you are a recipient of charity, you are often shamed (I'm not implying any intent to shame on the part of the Giver, just a natural reaction) and it's hard to long be a member in equal standing in a congregation or group where one feels shamed - where one is in the needy child position.

At least that has been our experience over decades in our urban and "needy" setting of our church and the churches around us.

Which is not to say that there's not a need for traditional charity, just that it comes with a price tag attached.

Beyond that, we are told in the Bible (Micah 6) that God requires (requires) three things of humanity:

1. Walk humbly with God (our relationship with/worship of God)
2. Love mercy (ie, acts of mercy or charity), and

Typically, churches have been fairly good and mostly concentrate on the "walking humbly with God" (that being the focus of most churches) and relatively good at "loving mercy," (in most Baptist churches with which I was familiar, they tried to spend about 10% on missionary work which oftentimes includes "charitable" work), but VERY RARELY do churches talk about or engage in "Doing Justice." And yet, doing Justice IS an equal part of the three things that God requires of humanity.

So, there are some reasons for not limiting church work to simple charity. Biblically speaking, there's a whole lot more to it. And it has nothing to do with being ashamed of the name of Christ and everything to do with taking the Bible - and its demands for working for justice - seriously.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Beck Attacks the Church...

I saw a bumper sticker the other day that I liked. It said, Give me ambiguity or give me, you know, something else...

On the other extreme of certainty, we have Glenn Beck in the news, telling people to leave their progressive, Catholic, Anabaptist churches because they are communists or fascists or whatever it is he's saying. Beck's own words...

I'm begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year.

If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words.

Now... am I advising people to leave their church? Yes.

Now, first off, I rarely post comments from the lunatic fringe or from the court jesters of the Right (Beck, Limbaugh, Savage, etc). For the most part, I think they just say crazy stuff to get more listeners and, thus, it's best to just ignore them. But, since this is a recent theme around these parts, I thought I'd post his comments.

And I wonder how long before he'll back off his nutty call. After all, he's not only attacking the smaller Anabaptist and progressive types, he's striking at the heart of what many moderates and especially the Catholic Church feel are critical Christian teachings (ie, "Christian teachings" = actual teachings of the Christ, Jesus).

Jim Wallis has called for a boycott on Beck's show. If he turns off all the moderate, Catholic, Anabaptist and Progressive Christians out there, can his show take that kind of a hit? (Of course, the progressive and Anabaptist types probably aren't watching/listening to him anyway, but still...)

Wallis has also offered to go on Beck's show (or any place Beck is willing to meet) to discuss this matter reasonably. That would be interesting, if it were to happen. I sort of doubt that it would, but it might be interesting.

Oh, that Beck were interested in at least a little ambiguity and a lot less hostile attacks on people of faith.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Donna and Dan - 14

I've been busy and haven't had time to do the latest entry in the on-going post-a-week (roughly) countdown to our 25th anniversary this coming June, which I began back in December. It is my plan to post a story, remembrance and/or poem once a week for 25 weeks leading to the big date.

Lacking any time this week, I'll post a limerick I wrote to commemorate her 40th birthday not so long ago...


There once was a girl named Donna
Of whom I am kinda fonda
She's smart and purty
Even tho' she's now 40
So give her a hug, if you wanna.