Monday, January 22, 2007

AMATEUR BELIEVER

Patty Kirk was raised a Catholic, believing one must earn her way into heaven. In her teens, she turned away from her faith and became an atheist, traveling the world in search of meaning and happiness. Eventually, she returned to the U. S. to teach. She married a farmer. Not just any farmer, but a Bible-believing, praying Christian. Two children later, she was a Christian too.

In Confessions of an Amateur Believer, Patty Kirk writes, “What a joy it is to exchange fighting for rest!” She has reached the stage where she realizes she can not save herself and abandons the struggle. She has stopped fighting against Jesus.

This book describes her journey from the easy belief of a child to a restless non-believer and finally into a settled faith. Or, as she explains it, “This book explores how, having begun to believe as a child and lost sight of God for half a lifetime, I came not only to recognize him again, but, by struggling with scripture and my own habits of unbelief to acknowledge and celebrate his active participation in my life.”

www.mercyandpercy.com/

Monday, January 08, 2007

ARTIFICIAL REALITY SHOWS

ARTIFICIAL REALITY SHOWS

By Janice Price

It was a shock to accidentally catch the last half of a television program called Wife Swap. Evidently two women from opposite lifestyles trade families for two weeks. The first week the visiting wife lives by the house rules. The second week, she institutes her own rules. Controversy results and controversy translates into network ratings.

What caught and held my attention was a black woman called Big Mama telling a family of atheists the new house rules would be based on her family’s view of Christianity. The father and his children rose to their feet, threw Bibles she must have just passed out to them onto the floor, and left the room.

Meanwhile, Big Mama’s home was being stripped of all Bibles and religious symbolism by the other wife who sported a shaved head, a nose piercing and a multitude of tattoos. She let it be known she had not enjoyed having to attend their church service. One daughter was reduced to tears. The husband commented about their faith was not in things, but in Jesus.

I believe in God and his word, but not in shoving him into the faces of people who do not believe in him, which is what I felt was happening, even though Big Mama undoubtedly had the best of intentions. Her idea was to “save” them. There was a breakfast confrontation, where Big Mama tried to make the young son pray. His father stopped her and said she had no right to make a house rule the family must pray to a God they don’t believe in. And he is correct. Program rules or not, trying to force your religion onto another person is not biblical. There is no verse in my Bible that states, You will force feed the Word of God to anyone who is not ready or refuses to receive the Good News of Christ.

On the other hand, it seemed just as belligerent to force a religious family to pack up their Bibles for a week.

I am not trying to make either of these women sound like a bad person. I don’t know them or their families. I am not trying to condemn either one. I don’t even know the rules of the Wife Swap show. I merely want to point out how heavy-handed people can act to convert others to their own belief system – Christianity included. Jesus was often outspoken, yet even he did not wield a sledgehammer as a tool for converting those who opposed or disbelieved in what he taught.

Supposedly, something good did come out of these two weeks for each family, but I’m still at a loss why programs such as this are called “reality TV.” Is this type of wife swap a reality in your neighborhood? It isn’t in mine. Yes, we can learn positive lessons from one another, but trying to force one lifestyle, religion or lack of religion on others is not an effective means of evangelism for any belief system.

Artificial reality shows are becoming common fodder for mesmerized minds. Don’t let yourself be blinded to the wrong lessons and values they honor. I was dumbfounded that each woman’s main goal appeared to be to drive a bulldozer through the other family’s core beliefs. That is not the same as attacking the other’s housecleaning methods – or lack of same.

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1


www.mercyandpercy.com/

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A GOLD CASKET

Flamboyant to the end, entertainer James Brown died on Monday, Christmas day. On Thursday, he was transported in a 24-karat gold casket to the Apollo Theater in New York by a horse-drawn hearse for public viewing. The following day family and friends held a private funeral service at the Carpentersville Baptist Church in North Augusta, South Carolina. Celebrities and fans filled the James Brown Arena in Augusta, Georgia for a public viewing and service on Saturday. These occasions were marked with tears, but also with joy and music, more a celebration of his life than a time of mourning.

Gerald Ford, the thirty-eighth President of the United States, died last Tuesday, the day after Christmas. His body was transported from California to Washington D.C. in a flag-draped coffin. As I write this, his body lies in state in the Capitol Rotunda. President George W. Bush and his wife Laura, along with other dignitaries, have paid their respects. A military honor guard watches over his coffin. On Tuesday, his body will be flown to Grand Rapids, Michigan for a private funeral service on Wednesday. Mourners face the cameras with a stiff upper lip. There is no cheering or dancing for a former President, only somber and dignified ceremony.

Planning a funeral is often done at the moment of necessity. Customs and preferences differ, but basically people gather to show respect for the deceased and to support the bereaved. Sometimes there is a visitation at the funeral home and a large funeral service. Some families opt for quiet graveside services. Today there is the option of cremation – not the choice of many, but in certain situations a financial necessity. There is a wide range of casket types and colors. Although it does seem to befit the lifestyle of James Brown, a 24-karat gold casket is not one of the most popular selling models.

A former President often helps to plan his own funeral – in advance, of course – just as Gerald Ford did. Protocol dictated a certain amount of pomp and ceremony, but where possible he avoided some of the trappings of grandeur, such as the hearse that transported his casket to the Capitol instead of a caisson followed by a riderless horse with boots reversed in the stirrups and an empty saddle.

Planning and perhaps pre-paying for one’s own funeral is becoming more popular. In many ways this undoubtedly helps lighten the load on the family at an emotional time, but there can be snags in keeping the deceased’s wishes. Even in times of grief, families do not always agree on what to do or who is responsible for what, even when everything is in writing.

I could not afford a gold casket, but even if I could, I have no desire to be buried in one. That’s not my style. Neither is a somber public ceremony. I never gave it much thought before, but I think I would like a simple graveside funeral, attended by family and friends who might miss me enough to shed a tear or two, and yet love me enough to celebrate my life after the funeral with some good food and lots of laughter. A simple headstone will suffice. After all, I will not be there to enjoy the view. A dead woman does not live in her grave. It is only a place where her body returns to the dust from which God created it.

What is most memorable about a funeral is the outpouring of love and support displayed to the surviving family members. When they know with undivided assurance the loved one died in Christ, they have peace to accept the loss. For those in Christ, death is only the end of physical life. Christ conquered the grave when he died and was resurrected.

As a flesh and blood human being, I can not inherit the kingdom of God (I Corinthians 15:50), but I have hope in Christ of a resurrection to eternal life. That hope is much more valuable than a gold casket or a public funeral ceremony.

www.mercyandpercy.com/