Beauty for Ashes

Beauty for Ashes

“Ultimately, genuine holiness attracts people more than clever publicity.”

This is a quote from my Commonplace Book. It is also the line that summed up for me why the book Beauty for Ashes, by Stephen R. Lloyd-Moffett should be required reading for everyone who intends to become part of the leadership of a church in any denomination (or pre-denomination). The Subtitle for the book is The Spiritual Transformation of a Modern Greek Community. This is the story of one bishop who transformed a community through authentic holiness. The jurisdiction had suffered neglect and sin. It was a broken and worldly community that had fallen into a pattern of seeing the world as sacred and secular.

This is often the season where Church leadership for the next year is chosen. Communities choose council members who will guide them for the next year, or two. Thoughtful spiritual guidance is needed by everyone in leadership roles. The path to wholeness is not found in plans. What this book recounts is that true Christian practice is not found through sophisticated and elaborate plans.

Fabulous programs can be implemented. But, “…the spiritual struggle of the Church is everywhere and always the same.”  Programming will not make a Church whole. Each person participating in the worship life of the community with integrity is the only path to holiness.

The Church, “…does not rely on propaganda or publicity but on emptied wills  and quiet hearts.”

Every member of a Church should be sharing the Good News. We should all gladly “share” on social media the events of our communities. If we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God we should be living like it is true!

“Church leaders should…act as conduit or vessel of the divine, not marketing arm of God.”

This necessitates that all the parishioners of a congregation act like members of the body of Christ, and allow the flow of divine love and activity of the organism pass through them. We have fallen into a slothful habit in our society of “leaving everything to the experts.” We hire people to serve the Church, which is wonderful. Then we fail by expecting the “professionals” to do all the work. That is no more effective than a human body relying solely upon the heart to circulate all the blood.

May God grant us mercy to grow in grace and holiness!


The Sweet Stuff

The Sweet Stuff

I like a good salad in the summer. June strawberries are unlike strawberries of any other season. There are and endless variety of tasty garden treats available in the summer. I change my salads with the season choosing whatever is fresh and well-priced at the market. A salad in our household can take on an amazing variety of dishes. The primary request to have a salad enjoyed is homemade dressing. I once ate a salad without dressing. It was at a church function and those who were working in the kitchen were somehow under the false impression that everyone like Italian bottled dressing. Well, it actually tasted good. I had consumed the above mentioned bottled dressing at a previous event. It left me hard. It didn’t leave me, would be more accurate. I endured two days heartburn from that encounter and promised myself not to make the mistake twice. I ate a salad without dressing. Once. So that totals two times I ate a salad made a particular way at church before I decided to skip the tossed salad. A more prudent decision would have been to buy a reasonable bottle of salad dressing and keep it in the church refrigerator. I wonder how long it will last? I noticed there are a fair number of people not eating the tossed salad at church suppers.

I like a good salad dressing.
I make my own at home. It is astoundingly simple. Some lemon juice, vinegar, oil, salt, sugar (or honey) are all that are needed. You can make a good dressing plenty of other ways, but those ingredients make a delightful sweet dressing.
The key to making salad dressing is that you must mix the vinegar and oil thoroughly. It is really simple. A wire whisk will mix a creamy dressing in no time. You can pour the ingredients in a jar with a good lid and shake to achieve the same results.
The reason the mixing is key lies in the fact that vinegar and oil do not like to mix. You shake a bottle of salad dressing before each use because the oil and vinegar separate, quickly, on their own.
You may think I have changed the focus of this blog.

Did she convert this to a cooking blog?
No, friends. I am just keen on analogies for talking about the things of the Spirit. Eternal things are hard for me to get my brain around without an analogy or as Jesus used a parable.
Salad is like the Word of God. There is much good fruit in the bowl. You get different good things the savor overtime you come to the table. My favorite part is the sweet stuff that binds it all together. God is like a sweet salad dressing. I fear I may have shocked some of my readers. The law bites like vinegar and the gospel soothes like oil.
I once served salads at t church dinner sprinkled only with balsamic vinegar. I read that you could do this. I did not make the idea up. It was in a cooking magazine. They must have anticipated a really good balsamic vinegar be used. It did not work very well for me. We cleaned quite a bit of uneaten salad off the plates at the end of that meal. It seemed like a good idea. It came from a fancy magazine. We were pressed for time and help. I’ve been to worship experiences that tried the same thing. The law and our sinfulness is important. But without the gospel mixed in it is also depressing. Some people think that you can scare people into religion by drawing attention to sin. You can frighten people into a religion, but not into a relationship with Christ.
Another group runs the opposite direction and fears the mention of sin. They hold that all we should talk about is Christ ‘s love. In this congregation you will never hear sin mention. Sin is viewed as too harsh and discouraging. As an enlightened group they postulate that right and wrong are to vague and variable to quantify. 
Yet another segment of Christians believe that the most effective message is focused on other people’s sin. This group focuses intently on specific sins, particularly those that the majority have no desire to commit. In this church you will never hear a word about selfishness, greed, gossip or over-consumption.

In my humble opinion the best salad dressing is well-mixed. A good blend of all our shortcomings along with a hearty dose of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. We need reminded that there is definitive truth and that it is Christ who should judge, not us. A summer fruit salad is best dressed in the “sweet stuff”, the loving, valid Word of God.

Closed Doors

Closed Doors

Today I am thinking about cats, dogs, doors and summer Sunday School.An odd combination, I know. Years ago we had a wonderful Persian cat named Lorelei. She taught us in no uncertain terms that cats don’t tolerate closed doors. Now, as a house-cat, she had no problems with the doors to the outside being kept closed, but she objected heavily to inside doors being closed tight. She was spoiled as only a really good cat can be. She would actually meow at my sisters’ closed closet door and my sister would stop what she was doing and go, open the door, and give Lorelei a boost so she could climb into the overfull closet to play.Lorelei
Living with cats all my life I am sensitive to their needs to have doors left open enough for a cat to open. When my Maltese, Daisy was a puppy she liked to climb into the windows and bark at anyone she could see. We live in town, so this could be a problem. During dinner we combatted incessant, uncorrected barking by shutting her into the dinning room with us. She cannot see out of the dinning room windows. We had peaceful dinners. We still have cats. You see the issue developing.image
We also live in an 1870 cottage with some of the original hardware. No one needs a catch that actually catches on the door to the dinning room. It pleases cats that they can push the door open even when it is closed. In the beginning Daisy was too tiny to push the solid 1870 door open even though the catch was broken. She lives with and learns from cats. She figured out how to push the door open. So we push a chair up against the dinning room door every evening for dinner. The door is closed. There is no barking. Daisy lies quietly on the floor next to my chair. It is still nap time for most of the cats. All is good.
Daisy is now three years old. There have been humorous incidents where she has accidentally been shut out of the dinning room for dinner and eventually cries at the door to be let in. What dog looks out the window when your people are in the dinning room without you?image
We have a cat named Pussywllow. He is beautiful! Yes, he is. And he is very macho since he looks so lovely and has such a name to overcome. He no longer sleeps through the dinner hour. He comes every evening just before I get up to serve desert and pushes the door open to come into the dinning room. It takes a couple of hearty shoves, but he can push the solid wood door, and chair aside and strut into the room. He swaggers into the room! At 15 pounds he’s no little cat. He is three times Daisy’s diminutive stature. We have opened the door for him only to receive a look of disgust. He wants to prove he can push that door open. Daisy leaves, checks the windows and returns. We still close the door and pull the chair in front to hold it in place.image
Pussywllow was in the dinning room when I served dinner last night. I am enough of a traditionalist that I went ahead and closed the door and pulled the desk chair in front. That is just how we do things now. This is the dinner tradition. We all wondered what would happen at the time Pussywillow usually comes in to proves his prowess. Dad thought I should get up and open it for him when he arose and walked over to the door. My sister and I agreed that he did not want our help. We all watched as he “pulled” the chair out-of-the-way and then “pulled” the door open with his paw. He left. Came back and strutted around the room and then went off to cat nap. Daisy checked the windows and returned.
I am left thinking about the doors that we close out of tradition. They don’t keep anything in or out, but we “do it that way.” I have a little cat of six pounds, who is almost sixteen years old. She sleeps though our dinner but I doubt she would be able to come into the dinning room with the door/chair closed. Are we inadvertently keeping some shut out because of our traditions?image
These are questions I am asking. I am a traditionalist. I love liturgical worship. Sunday School may be another matter. I love Sunday School!!! I’m just not sure we need to do things they way they always have been done.
In my Church we hold children’s Sunday School all year through. I believe that is a good thing. I also think it is a sin to bore a child in Sunday School. I’m asking my committee if they think that we might schedule a special Sunday for the kids and their families to meet at McDonald’s for breakfast and the lesson. Our Church is right down the street from the Golden Arches. When I told my idea to my senior citizen father, he balked that it wasn’t really Sunday School if we met somewhere other than Church. I value my families’ opinions. I’m still presenting the idea to my committee, now I realize how I will have to go about it in a better way. Sometimes we close doors out of tradition. I don’t want to leave the outside doors open to strays and dangers, but I’m willing to rethink some of the doors I close. What about you? Do you close doors out of tradition? How might you open appropriate doors at your Church?