Be careful how you cast your crowns- somebody could get hurt!

Milk & Honey

By: Elder Paisius the Athonite

A Christian must not be fanatic; he must have love for and be sensitive towards all people. Those who inconsiderately toss out comments, even if they are true, can cause harm.

I once met a theologian who was extremely pious, but who had the habit of speaking to the (secular) people around him in a very blunt manner; his method penetrated so deeply that it shook them very severely. He told me once: “During a gathering, I said such and such a thing to a lady.” But the way that he said it, crushed her. “Look”, I said to him, “you may be tossing golden crowns studded with diamonds to other people, but the way that you throw them can smash heads, not only the sensitive ones, but the sound ones also.”

Let’s not stone our fellow-man in a so-called “Christian manner.” The person who…

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“And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.” (Luke 8:1-3)

Of all of the women in the New Testament, I most identify with Mary Magdalene, the woman who was about to be stoned for committing adultery.  Most of you already know the story of how Jesus rebuked a group of men with stones in their hands and said that whoever was without sin should cast the first one, and they all walked away.

Jesus was not only defending the woman, but acknowledging that a woman cannot commit adultery by herself.  “Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.” After everyone had left, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you? She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”[1]

After saving her, one might have expected Him to say, “Now go and get married and be a dutiful wife from now on.”  But He released her in that moment, and she henceforth became a witness and a disciple in her own right.

After this, the Pharisees came arguing with Christ that He did not have authority to do the things He was doing.  He answered them saying, “You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.”[2]  He said that He had the authority to judge, but chose not to exercise it.  If Jesus did not hasten to condemn, then why must Christians be so judgmental?

He told the religious leaders “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.  If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed…”[3]

After she was liberated by Christ, Mary traveled everywhere that Jesus went and offered financial support for His ministry.  She was a very important figure who witnessed His earthly ministry, crucifixion, and burial.  She was the first person to see the resurrected Christ.

Consider the story of the woman at the well.  She was a Samaritan, and Jesus was a Jew, and by law they were not supposed to interact at all.  But Christ chose to interact with her when He humbly asked her for a drink of water.  At one point Jesus asked her to call for her husband.  She said, “I have no husband” and He replied “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”[4]

Again, if one of the religious leaders had been there, he would have ordered her to get married or fulfill her expected role in society.  But Christ did not do this, and she also became a disciple.  She could not wait to tell everyone she knew that she had met the Messiah.  “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’”[5]

Mary the sister of Lazarus was another great woman of God, who loved to listen to Jesus teach.  When Martha tried to get Jesus to make Mary work with her in the kitchen instead of spending time with Him, He rebuked Martha saying “Mary has chosen the better part, and that will not be taken from her.”  He clearly allowed Mary to fulfill her own heart’s desires, and this Mary also became a powerful disciple.

On one occasion, at a feast in the home of a wealthy man named Simon, Mary came in and washed Jesus feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and poured expensive perfume on his feet.  The men in the room were appalled and made mockery of her, and whispered among themselves that Christ did not know what kind of woman she was.  He knew their thoughts and harshly rebuked them.  He said that the woman would always be remembered for this act of affection that she bestowed on Him, and told Simon that he could learn a lot from her behavior about how to treat the Lord. Christ had a pattern of showing love and dignity to women, and He could not endure to see them mistreated by anyone.

In the eighth chapter of Luke, Joanna and Susanna are mentioned as women who take care of Christ’s needs “out of their substance.” A friend of mine and I had once discussed the fact that Christ had no house, chariot, money, job, or any comforts that most people enjoy, and we had wondered how His clothes were cleaned and things such as that.  Then we found our answer in this passage with the women who cared for Jesus.

Imagine the bravery of Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward, to be helping Jesus after the male babies had been slaughtered and John the Baptist had been beheaded by this same king!  In many ways, she showed more courage than the twelve disciples did. But she considered it a privilege and a joy to take care of the Lord.  Women were always coming forward to take care of things that the men were unwilling to attend to.

When the rich young ruler came and tried to argue with Christ about the law, I don’t read that he offered to contribute money to help with the ministries of Jesus and the disciples.  There are other men who said that they wanted to follow Christ, but after He told them that He was homeless, they lost interest in following Him.

But the women were always there.

After Christ was crucified, the scriptures say that the women were still lingering around the tomb weeping for Jesus when the men had given up and were complaining that Christ had not saved them from the Romans. In John 20 and 21, the disciples didn’t even recognize Christ after He appeared to them several times, and they all went out fishing.

In the early church after the resurrection of Christ, women continued to play an important role in furthering the gospel.  The apostle Paul mentions Priscilla and Aquila in his epistles, and scholars say that he mentions Priscilla first because she was recognized as being more gifted in the ministry than her husband.  Lydia the purveyor of purple cloth helped support the work of the apostles, and Dorcas was so important in one community that Paul raised her from the dead.

Kathleen Norris writes in her book The Cloister Walks that theologians have never forgiven Christ for coming through the body of a woman.  She states in her chapter about virgin martyrs that the men could not bear to kill holy women without raping them first, because they thought of them only as devices for the pleasure of men.

Today we still see this attitude within the context of Christianity, that a married woman is expected first to serve her husband and then God.  Women are considered second-rate citizen in the Kingdom of God by many denominations, and leaders take scriptures out of context to support this errant view.  As a result, women in some churches are not permitted to speak or to lead, because it is believed that their only suitable roles are child care and baking cookies.

This subject was addressed in an article entitled “The Head of the Epistles,” which appeared in Christianity Today in 1981. The writers explain that the “head” was a metaphor for the enabler of the body, not the ruler:

Paul’s word order also shows he was not thinking of chain of command: Christ, head of man; man, head of woman; God, head of Christ.  Those who make it a chain of command must rearrange Paul’s words.  In fact, Paul seems to go out of his way to show that he was not imputing authority to males when he said, “For as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman.  And all things are from God. (1 Cor 11:12)

     …As Christ is the enabler (the one who brings to completion) of the church, so the husband is to enable (bring to completion) all that his wife is meant to be.  The husband is to nourish and cherish his wife as he does his own body, even as Christ nourishes and cherishes the church. (vs.29)

It is very clear to me from reading scripture and particularly the “Parable of the Talents” that we are expected to use all of our gifts to promote the Kingdom agenda. No one should be hindered in doing their best work for Christ.

OLIVE TWIST ©2012


 http://www.godswordtowomen.org/head.htm

The Head of the Epistles was written by Berkeley and Alvera Mickelsen, professors at Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, MN.  It originally appeared as an article in Christianity Today, Feb. 20, 1981.

Scripture Passages:

[1] John 8:10-11, ESV

[2] John 8:15, ESV

[3] John 8:32-36, ESV

[4] John 4:17-18, NKJV

[5] John 4:39

“Love all God’s creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything.  If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things.”  Fyodor Dostoevsky

 I once saw an amazing film by Spanish filmmaker Luis Bunuel entitled “Simon of the Desert” and one scene touched me profoundly.  The pure ascetic Simon bent down to bless a tiny grasshopper.  When asked about the scene during an interview, Bunuel said that a really pure person will want to bless everything around them.

Animals have always filled me with awe and a sense of mystery. These pictures of bears and tigers hanging around with monks convince me that even wild beasts can perceive purity of heart, and that Isaiah Chapter 11 is truly a glimpse of a world to come…

“For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God…For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” Romans 8:19, 22

OLIVE TWIST ©2012

Photo credits:  http://simplyorthodox.tumblr.com/

http://www.lmao.com/acting-like-animals-share-the-lunch/

https://www.google.com/search?q=tigers+and+monks&hl=en&prmd=imvns&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=0atLT5GwFNDMtgeXlL3uAg&sqi=2&ved=0CFQQsAQ&biw=1024&bih=596

I am humbly grateful to In Blue at http://makebelieveboutique.com/ for nominating me for The Sunshine Award.  Please visit her site and see her artistic medley of photographs and searching words and other expressions of her spiritual meanderings.

It always gives me great joy when I learn that someone has been affected by something that I have written. I strive in everything that I write to give praise to the First Artist who created the most amazing masterpiece of life and a way for humans to have constant communion with Him.

As part of accepting this nomination, I am required to answer these questions, so here they are:

Favorite colors:   Violet and Green

Favorite animal:  Fox

Favorite number:  Twelve    

Favorite non-alcoholic drink:  McDonald’s coffee

Prefer Facebook or Twitter?  Not using either.

My passion:  Letting my tears mingle with my ink and flow onto paper, to heal myself and others.

Prefer getting or giving presents? I like both equally (unless something goes wrong in the process- wrong size, not liked, etc).

Favorite pattern: Medieval designs

Favorite day of the week: Every day that I wake up alive!

Favorite flower:  Morning glory

The hardest part of accepting this award is choosing who to pass the nominations to, because I’ve been blogging for such a short time. These are a few of the blogs that I have enjoyed:

http://dreamprayact.com/

http://mirjamfels.com/

http://thehandmaid.wordpress.com/

http://photobotos.com/

http://maggiemaeijustsaythis.wordpress.com/

http://grandfathersky.wordpress.com/

http://scoolyswaxpoems.wordpress.com/

http://boldwandering.wordpress.com/

http://awritersprocess.wordpress.com/

http://flamidwyfe.wordpress.com/

Thanks again to In Blue for this nomination!

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You shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:13

When I was very young, I read  the writings of George Fox for the first time, and I admired how this young seeker gave me permission to seek God for myself.  And I did.  To me, no one could portray his journey quite like George Fox (1624-1691):

“As I had forsaken all the priests, so I left the separate preachers also, and those called the most experienced people.  For I saw there was none among them all that could speak to my condition.  And when all my hopes in them and in all men was gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could tell what to do, then, O then, I heard a voice which said, “There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition,” and when I heard it, my heart did leap for joy.  Then the Lord let me see why there was none upon the earth that could speak to my condition, namely, that I might give Him all the glory.

For all are concluded under sin and shut up in unbelief, as I had been, that Jesus Christ might have the pre-eminence, who enlightens and gives grace and faith and power… My desires after the Lord grew stronger, and zeal in the pure knowledge of God and of Christ alone, without the help of any man, book or writing.  For though I read the Scriptures that spake of Christ and of God, yet I knew Him not, but by revelations, as He who hath the key did open, and as the Father of Life drew me to His Son by His Spirit.  And then the Lord did gently lead me along, and did let me see His love, which was endless and eternal, and surpasseth all the knowledge that men have in the natural state or can get by history or books; and that love did let me see myself as I was without Him…”

From The Journal of George Fox

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Pin Cushion Heart

Here is one of my favorite poems that Sparrow used to recite while thumping on a wall or drumming with a stick on the porch of Isabel’s apartment.  It really sums up the time period and the lifestyle we experienced together:

It’s just like the old days

Down in the old tin room,

Thumping out sounds on the jugs and jars,

Answered by the scratchy straw broom.

Cold as sweat was the night outside;

Our thumbs were as hot as tea.

We all looked red in that little tin shed,

Now it all comes back to me.

I was down on the ground sniffing gumshoe,

Pain in my pin-cushion heart.

The steam machine was rolling

Like a chimney falling apart.

I remember the old blue haze

Like the mothball roar of a clam;

I had a prefix color on my face

Like the edifice pipe exam.

The sink would shrink

And the lights ignite

And the soup fall over the plow.

In that mix I was getting prolix

Like I think I’m getting now:

I was down on the ground sniffing gumshoe,

Pain in my pin-cushion heart;

The steam machine was rolling

Like a chimney falling apart.

It was damp as a roach in the coal room

As we painted our names on the wall,

Till the wall did hide and the words collide

And there wasn’t no names at all.

The lamp had a cramp

And the hose was froze

And we cried when we heard the bell.

In these days I am quite amazed

That it all turned out so well.

I was down on the ground sniffing gumshoe,

Pain in my pin-cushion heart.

The steam machine was rolling

Like a chimney with a broken heart.

(by Sparrow)

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Paper Angels

(The Iris Diaries)

The wind began sending messengers to Iris when she was very young.  Wandering artisans always surrounded her, giving her poems and art and stories. One day as she sat in a café filled with smoke and laughter, a man with faded denim pants and a worn plaid shirt approached her.  He had a familiar mystical flame about his brow, and his reddish hair was curly and matted.

Iris had been inking a picture of a snake climbing up a tree in her sketchbook when he approached her, pointed at her drawing, and said, “Get rid of that snake.”  Then he handed her a piece of dirty folded up paper and went out into the street, as the wind blew open the door.  She unfolded the paper and found these words written in blue ballpoint pen:

So long on this road back to the wall,

I’d pray I’d die before I’d fall;

Death wish in a land of hell,

Don’t want to cry, search for the well

That gives to me the truth of truth;

In it’s sweet light (don’t need no proof).

Walking middle ground

I found my song in a silent sound

Where eyes don’t hide behind

Masks that make you laugh when you should have cried,

That let you live when you should have died.

So long on this road but I hear the call,

I see the truth and with it walk tall.

It aint the stand I’m afraid to make,

It’s the illusion the world wants me to take

That sees the light and clouds the truth

With its lack of faith and search for proof.[1]

She could feel soft flowing air and a rustle of wings.  There was something comforting and kind about the man.

A mysterious long-haired lady with wintery eyes handed her a poem scribbled on aged brown parchment:

The one who weaves the wind

Stood grey before me.

The woods were dawn-grey

Dripping, soft, and so quiet.

The wind-weaver

Was catching shadows and mist

For her loom…[2]

A young man wearing a purple tie-dyed shirt gave her a little poem as he passed her one day, and she sensed that protective spirit again:

Love is the vine

Given mankind

To help him find

His home divine.[3]

One breezy morning while she sat upon a squeaky porch in the ghetto, a man with soft green eyes and glasses approached her and offered her a poem:

The flowers open

At thy feet

Beads of

Dew

Wonderful and new

O

Angel of light

How many dawns

Have I drunk from your cup?[4]

The affection that the Iris evoked from strangers was disconcerting. Why did poets pop up like flowers wherever she went? She felt that someone was calling for her and wanted to be her friend.

A young man handed her this poem on a small piece of white paper with only his name “Sunrise” on the bottom:

The princess in purple

Carrying her guitar…

She shares her music

With all who’ll listen

Her gentle ways could be an inspiration to all

If only they would take time.

Even her ring is purple.

I’ve seen her on the streets

I’ve seen her in the parks

Always ready to share her music

And her heart…[5]

Iris knew that people were drawn to her, but she wondered why all of the writings were spiritual in some way.  Did people see something that she could not see at the time?

Now she can see how the wind loved her long before she knew him. He had been loyal to her in a sorrowful land, and had filled her life with meaning.

One morning she talked to a man in the donut shop where she worked.  He wore glasses and had curly blonde hair and a beard. She told him of her dream of meeting Christ in an elevator.  A few days later he visited and as she was cleaning the counter, she found a story written which he tucked under his napkin:

Immediately and noisily the doors opened, a mild shock far exceeded by the presence of a man, dressed in a loose white robe, staring directly at her out of the elevator—so directly as to imply he knew in advance where she would be standing…And so it was, and the surrounding city with it, corners dissolving into a blizzardy whiteness, glowing brilliant for a moment and then fading, edgeless as the voice of this prophet, into gray, into black, into liquid- no light, no sound, no scent, no feel, no taste- only absence, vacancy, and peace:  only the consciousness of a smile, the smile of God.[6]


[1] “Back to the Wall” by Jude

[2] “The Weaver of the Wind” by Margaret

[3] By Kelly

[4] From Michael

[5] By Sunrise

[6] By Al

OLIVE TWIST ©2012

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(The Iris Diaries)

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

Iris follows the wind. She loves the comfort of encircling breezes and her hair being tossed about.  The wind whispers in her ear when she is resting in her bed and calls her secret name when it is time to awaken. She loves being like a leaf, with no knowledge of where he will carry her each day.  She clutches a stick in her right hand when she walks, and sometimes she uses it as a wand to weave the strands of air into shadowy shapes.

She seems to be a drifter, but Iris is always at work.  She inquires of the wind about where to go, and what to do.  She is like a flute that he plays in the canyons. Her ears are filled with music, and every day is an adventure on the windblown path.

The woman who loves the wind has many dreams. In one of them, she is wandering down a long misty road in search of a city, and she sees a familiar man by the wayside.  She asks him, “Can you tell me the way to the gates of the city?”  Without speaking, the man hands her a key.  He never gives her directions, as if she already knows the way.

“And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.”  (John 14:4)

OLIVE TWIST ©2012

I found this sweet photo on Simply Orthodox ☦

See the little black and blue bird on the end?  Well, I can identify with this fellow.  This happens to me all the time.  Whenever I try to fit in with the gang, it never works…

 

So, you’ll just have to deal with it…

Love,  Sister Olive

An old friend sent me this poem in the wee hours of the morning, saying it was on a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap and she thought of me. Good ol’ Dr. Bronner!

I almost cried when I read it along with a brief  history of the author.  It really “speaketh to my condition” as the Quakers used to say.

On the last line, I wanted to see some words about invincible women too, but I’ll deal with it somehow…

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‘if’ by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master,
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

(Well, I must concede that “you’ll be a woman, my daughter” wouldn’t rhyme or sound quite as good…)

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Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

“Rudyard Kipling’s inspirational poem ‘If’ first appeared in his collection ‘Rewards and Fairies’ in 1909. The poem ‘If’ is inspirational, motivational, and a set of rules for ‘grown-up’ living. Kipling’s ‘If’ contains mottos and maxims for life, and the poem is also a blueprint for personal integrity, behavior and self-development. ‘If’ is perhaps even more relevant today than when Kipling wrote it, as an ethos and a personal philosophy…

“The beauty and elegance of ‘If’ contrasts starkly with Rudyard Kipling’s largely tragic and unhappy life. He was starved of love and attention and sent away by his parents; beaten and abused by his foster mother; and a failure at a public school which sought to develop qualities that were completely alien to Kipling…”

Thanks again, Dr. Bronner!

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“A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”  John 13:34

As a newcomer to the world of blogging, I am surprised and delighted about being nominated for the Versatile Blogger award.  The love was passed on to me today by transcendental Indonesian poet Subhan Zein at: http://subhanzein.wordpress.com/.

Subhan has a radiant and sweet spirit, and when I read his works, I feel as if I am sprouting wings like a butterfly.  The experience of his poetry is like a dance, because his writing creates a sense of stirring and movement.  I particularly admire his poem entitled “Millions of Candles.”

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As part of accepting this award, I am required to tell you seven things about myself:

1.   Olive Twist is my pen name. I don’t like to talk about myself too much, but I used to entertain the idea of being a nun.  I have always loved Christ, but I have an unusual perspective on religion for several reasons. If you are curious about this, you can click on the tab that says “Olive!!” above.

2.   I love foreign and classic films, and anime by Studio Ghibli, particularly “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Whispers of the Heart.”  I am very excited about the newest movie, “The Secret World of Arrietty.” I love Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, because they kept me afloat upon the tempestuous seas of my childhood.

3.    I have a Master of Fine Arts degree in Writing, with my concentration in creative nonfiction.  I did my graduation lecture on how spiritual authors use literary devices to persuade readers to travel with them on a spiritual journey.

4.    My illustrious father published some science fiction stories in his younger days.

5.    I try to live according to the fifth chapter of The Gospel According to Matthew and particularly The Beatitudes.  It is not easy to walk a pure path in a crazy world.  But then again, some might say I am crazy and the world is sane.

6.    I love to read about spiritual journeys of other people, and my unfinished list of favorite books is posted under the “Essays” tab above.

7.   People often admire my “strength” when they learn of the things I have suffered, but I often think of the words of Christ:  “Don’t worry about tomorrow, because each day has enough trouble of its own.”  His teachings are the source of my “strength.”

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Now, in keeping with the spirit of this award, I wish to nominate the following people for the next Versatile Blogger Award.  I had a difficult time choosing fifteen of you, because I have only been blogging a short time and have not communicated for very long with any of you. Although I may not know you that well, the instructions say to pick recently discovered blogs, and I have tried to include writers with unique perspectives and styles.

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For this award you will have to do a couple of things as follows:

  1. Thank the award-giver and link back to them in your post.
  2. Share 7 things about yourself.
  3. Pass this award along to 15 recently discovered blogs you enjoy reading.
  4. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.

I am so appreciative to Subhan Zein for this award, and to all of you that are taking your valuable time to follow my blog and communicate with me.  I am quite humbled and honored by your expressions each day.

Peace and Grace be with you,

Olive Twist

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Reverend Catfish

(The Iris Diaries)

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

I had seen him before. On the way into McDonald’s he had approached my son and asked him for a hamburger to eat.  With some hesitation, I had bought him a burger and fries and sent my son to his table outside to deliver it to him.

“Why don’t you take it to him, Mom?” he asked me.

“Because I feel uncomfortable about it” I said.  My son carried the brown tray to the man and came back inside.  He said he overheard a man walk by and call him “Catfish”.

But on this day, Catfish came inside and wandered in a large loop around the restaurant without ordering any food at the counter.  As he passed me, I handed him a dollar. He wobbled to a stop and looked at me with fierce squinting blue eyes, and he almost fell forward. I realized he was drunk and I felt terribly naïve.  “It must be destiny!” he bellowed, tucking his straw-like hair under his ball cap.  He swerved to the left and staggered toward the counter, when I noticed he was digging in his jean pockets for change.  I remembered that the cheapest item on the menu was one dollar, and he would need change for tax, so I stood up to hand him one more dollar.  I didn’t know what else to do, because he would not have been able to eat otherwise.

After ordering a sandwich of some kind, he plopped on the chair at the table nearest to me and took off the wrapper. With a voice like Yosemite Sam, he leaned toward my table and yelled “What’s yer name?”

“Iris,” I replied softly.

“I’m Reverend Catfish,” he growled much too loudly.

“Nice to meet you, Catfish.”
“Ah said Rev-er-end Catfish!  From Meridian, Miss-iss-ipp-i.  I’ve married people out on them boats and everythang.”

“Really?” I asked sheepishly.

“Er you married?” he asked in a low growl with a grin on his face.

“Yes,” I answered firmly.

“Darn!  All of the good ‘uns are taken” he shouted, snapping his hairy fingers.

“What nationality er you?” he bellowed.

“Irish and Cherokee,” I replied.

“Wull, we have a lot in common!  I’m the same thang-  Arrish and Cher-o-kee!” He punched his chest with one burly fist.

I noticed a tall man with glasses getting up from the booth he was sitting in and moving to a table closer to me.  I knew he was trying to keep an eye on me, and he was watching the situation.  I was grateful for this.

“Well I know all o’ my parts is workin’ on me, and all o’ yer parts is workin’, or you wouldn’t be married,” he said laughing boisterously.  I looked down at my coffee cup, and he got up to get something from the counter.

“Hey James!” he bellowed to a stocky black man behind the counter.

“Yo, Catfish, what’s up?” asked the worker calmly.

“Ah’m talkin’ to a beautiful woman!  What er you doin’?” he said with a loud slurring sound.  He staggered back with some packets of catsup.

“Do you have any children?” I asked.

He looked into my face intensely with a mischievous expression and growled, “Yer lookin’ at a hound dog!  Ah’ve got nine dawters and five gran-dawters!  I’ve brought fourteen bee-utiful women into this world!”

The man who had moved to a closer table got up and walked by slowly, glaring at Catfish as he went, but the drunken man did not seem to notice.  Suddenly Catfish moved his chair next to me and his shoulder touched mine, and he smiled, and I shot up from my chair ever so politely, saying “Have a great day.  It was nice meeting you.”

“Ah like you!” he rumbled.

I quickly stepped to the trash can to throw some napkins in, and he was waving for me to come close.  “I wanna tell you sumthin.” He curled his finger and smiled flirtatiously, and I told him I was in a hurry.

He shouted, “You tell yer husban’ that if he aint good to you, ah’m gonna be the next one in line!” I shook my head and laughed and bolted out of there.

My son had a hearty laugh when I told him the story, then he advised me to stay away from there for awhile until Catfish disappeared. He reminded me that my style of ministry does not work with everyone.

OLIVE TWIST ©2012

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These are some of the most truthful and poignant words I have read describing the state of Christianity today! I am so thankful for such “voices in the wilderness!”

Salt of the Earth

What have we done? What have we done? Christ has left us. We have driven him away. Our hatreds, our pride, our pharisaical self-sufficiency have driven out the Spirit of the Gospel. And Christ has gone. Christ has gone. Oh, how satisfied we are with ourselves! We are the pure, we possess the truth, and we condemn others! But life and history go on. They are knocking at the doors of the Church, and putting ultimate questions to us. Everything is changing. The scientific revolution is advancing, it is modifying and not only man’s environment, but man himself, his education, the relationship between the sexes, his psychology, and tomorrow perhaps his heredity and character as well. Not that science and technology necessarily build a world without God, as is sometimes said. But they force man, and they will force him more and more to ask where all this is going…

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Remembering Opal

In the first sermon that Jesus delivered, He said “Blessed are the merciful.” This true story illustrates how we Christians do a lot of damage when we become too smug about our views, and place our doctrine above the souls of desperate people.

(The Iris Diaries)

I asked a nurse with cold white sterile hands scribbling on a chart to direct me to Opal’s room.  Before walking in, my eyes scanned the name on the brushed aluminum nameplate with apprehension.  I stepped in quietly, wondering what to say to her.

Opal was dying.  I knew it as soon as I looked at the old woman. A sense of urgency rattled me like unexpected thunder. It was dreadfully cold in the room.

Opal was lying thin and pale on her bed. Her face was tight like pale yellow parchment and her whole body seemed to be laboring and exhausted under the cold white sheets.  Tubes were in her nose and needles in her bruised trembling arms. Her lips and eyelids were purple, and the oxygen machine breathed like a slow steam train in a dark tunnel. Her fearful eyes opened like hollow caves when she heard me walk in. It was difficult even to look at her in such agony.

I sat down in the stiff plastic chair next to the bed and drew my shawl around my shoulders.  Focusing on the woman’s frightened face, I introduced myself and asked Opal how she was feeling.  The poor woman began to speak between heavy breaths, with the disturbing rhythm of the oxygen in the background:

“I have emphysema and I don’t expect to live long.  I smoked for most of my life, and that is why I am ill.  I have been in this hospital bed for several months, and I am scared of dying.  I am worried about my soul, and I have been asking how I can find peace with God. I rarely have a visitor since I have been here.”

(Opal has to pause for deep breaths.)  “My brother is a Mormon and he came to see me once, and I asked him what I needed to do about my soul.  He said that I would have to do missionary service for the church.  I told him that I was too sick to do anything, and he seemed very sorry that he couldn’t do anything for me.” 

“I also asked a priest who came down the hall one day to come and talk to me.  He came in and sprinkled some holy water on my forehead and made the sign of the cross over me, and told me that I was saved.  But I knew I wasn’t, because I didn’t feel any different when he left me.  I cried and cried.” (I touched her hand and asked her to rest for a moment, since speaking is exhausting for her. She pauses for a few minutes then continues.)

“The other day, a group from some church came in to visit my roommate and pray with her.  I called out to them to ask them what I needed to do to be saved, and they said I would have to be baptized.  I explained that I cannot be immersed in water, because I would die if I did.   (Opal coughs deeply.)  A man in the group apologized to me, saying that there was nothing they could do for me, and then they continued visiting my roommate and praying with her.  I felt so terrible and hopeless, and I have been so scared.”

Tears came to my eyes as the old woman was talking.  I had learned about Opal from the man who told her she would have to be baptized.  I worked with him at the office downtown. He always wore polo shirts and tortoise-edged glasses and spoke in a heated voice.

I had hoped to find Opal before it was too late.  I told her that the thief hanging on the cross next to Jesus did not have time for any rituals.  He simply asked Christ to remember him when He returned to His Kingdom, and Christ had promised “Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise.”  I explained that faith is all God requires, and asked her if she would like to pray.  Opal was very eager to, and we prayed quietly together.  Opal asked God to forgive her for everything that she had done wrong, and asked if she could be His child.

I asked Opal if she would like to have some Bible verses read to her, and she said yes.  We talked for a long time and read scriptures together, and the old woman was noticeably comforted.  Her face looked more restful and calm. I offered to come regularly and visit and study the Bible with her, and Opal was very pleased.  We did not get to be friends for very long.

After a few weeks, I went to see Opal, and the nurses said that she could no longer talk or communicate because she had lost oxygen to her brain. I asked to go into the room with her anyway, and the nurses consented.  I had heard that people can still hear others even after they can’t speak anymore, so I stood near Opal’s bed for awhile, twisting the corners of my shawl in my fingers and dabbing my tears. The oxygen was puffing loudly inside the translucent tent where Opal lay serenely.  I spoke gently and reminded her that she was a child of God, and that Jesus had promised to never forsake those who love Him. I left Opal alone in the cloudy tabernacle with God.

The next time I went to see Opal, the nurses said she couldn’t visit and that they couldn’t give any details, because I wasn’t a member of the family.  I knew then that she had left this world, and I was glad that her suffering had ended.  Opal is breathing easier now.

“To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.“(Revelation 2:17)

OLIVE TWIST ©2012

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I wanted to share the titles of some of my favorite books and other writings with you, many of which I read during my graduate studies.

Please let me know if you have any recommendations to share with me. 

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Augustine, Saint. The Confessions of St. Augustine. New York, NY: Barnes and  Noble, 1999. Print.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. Trans. Chr. Kaiser Verlag Munchen by R.H. Fuller. New York: Simon & Schuster (Touchstone), 1959. Print.

Buxbaum, Yitzhak. Jewish Tales of Holy Women. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002. Print.

Claiborne, Shane, and Chris Haw. Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals. Grand Rapids, MI: The Simple Way, 2008. 150. Print.

Claiborne, Shane. The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2006. Print.

Dubus, Andre.  Broken Vessels:  Essays by Andre Dubus.   Boston, MA:  David R. Godine Publisher, Inc, 1991. Print.

Edwards, Jonathan. The Works of Jonathan Edwards. Vol. 4. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1972. Print.

Elliot, Elisabeth. The Path of Loneliness. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988. Print.

Finney, Charles G. The Autobiography of Charles G. Finney. Condensed and Edited by Helen Wessel. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1977. Print.

Fox, George. The Journal of George Fox.  Edited by Rufus Jones. Richmond, IN: Friends UP, 1976. Print.

—.”Selected Epistles of George Fox.” Renascence Editions. U of Oregon, 1998.Web. 4 Nov 2010. <http://www.luminarium.org/renascence-editions/foxep.htm&gt;.

Graves, Michael P. “Functions of Key Metaphors in Early Quaker Sermons, 1671-1700.” The Quarterly Journal of Speech 69.4 (1983): 364-378. MLA International Bibliography. EBSCO. Web. 24 Nov. 2010.

Hosek, Dr. Pavel. “How Does C.S. Lewis do apologetics?.” (2003): n. pag. European Leadership Forum Research Center. Web. 20 Dec 2010. <http://www.euroleadershipresources.org/resource.php?ID=76&gt;.

Jarman, Mark. “To Make the Final Unity: Metaphor’s Matter and Spirit.” 301-318. Southern Review, 2007. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 24 Nov. 2010.

Kierkegaard, Søren. Kierkegaard Spiritual Writings: A New Translation and Selection by George Pattison. New York: Harper Collins, 2010. 57. eBook.

. Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard. Ed. Charles E. Moore.  Farmington, PA:  Plough, 2002. Print.

—.  The Present Age. Trans. Alexander Dru. New York: Harper Row (Torchbook), 1962. Print.

—. The Journals of Kierkegaard (edited by Alexander Dru. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959), 324.

Lewis, C. S. The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics. New York: Harper One, 2002. Print.

—. The Four Loves. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1960. Print.

Maharaj, Rabindranath, and Dave Hunt. Death of a Guru: A Remarkable True Story of One Man’s Search for Truth. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House, 1977. eBook.

McKeever, Dr. Joe. “Why We Need Parables.” (2009): n. pag. Web. 20 Dec 2010. <http://www.biblestudytools.com/pastor-resources/11610729.html&gt;.

Merton, Thomas. The Seven Storey Mountain. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1948. Print.

Miller, Donald. Searching for God Knows What. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004. Print.

Miller, Donald, and John Macmurray. To Own a Dragon: Reflections on Growing Up Without a Father. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2006. Print.

Moody, Dwight L. The Best of Dwight L. Moody. 6th Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1971. Print.

Mouw, Richard J. Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World. Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2010. Print.

Neihardt, John.  Black Elk Speaks: as told through John Neihardt by Nicholas Black Elk.  Lincoln, NE:  U of Nebraska P, 2000. Print.

Nouwen, Henri J. M.  The Inner Voice of Love:  A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom. New York, NY: Image Doubleday, 1996. Print.

—. The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society. New York, NY: Image Doubleday, 1972. Print.

Norris, Kathleen. The Cloister Walk. New York: Berkley Publishing, 1996. Print.

Savant, John. “Follow that Metaphor.” Commonweal 132.20 (2005): 17-19. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 24 Nov. 2010.

Sempangi, F. Kefa. A Distant Grief. Glendale, CA: Regal Books, 1979. Print.

Spurgeon, Charles H. Finding Peace in Life’s Storms. New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1997. Print.

—. “Songs in the Night.” Spurgeon Collection on Bible Bulletin Board.  Tony Capoccia, 2004. Web. 4 Nov 2010. <http://www.biblebb.com/files/spurgeon/2558.htm&gt;.

Ten Boom, Corrie, and C.C. Carlson. In My Father’s House. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1976. Print.

Vaswani, Neela. You Have Given Me A Country. Louisville, Ky: Sarabande Books, 2010. Print.

I found these beautiful gospel precepts on the “Interrupting the Silence” blog by Father Michael K. Marsh, and they really summed up my philosophy about how to live in a Christlike way. They are not just useful for monks, but for anyone trying to imitate Christ.

Interrupting the Silence

These are the seven rules of a monk:

In the first place, as scripture says,

“Love God with all your soul and all your mind.”

Then, love your fellow human beings

as you love yourself.

Fast from all evil.

Never pass judgment on anyone, for any cause.

Never do evil to anyone.

Discipline yourself and purge yourself

from material and spiritual evil.

Cultivate a modest and gentle heart.

If you can do all these things

and see only your own faults, not those of others,

the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

will be with you abundantly.

– Sayings of the Egyptian Fathers

It would be a mistake to read these rules as applicable to only “monks.” Too often we speak as if there are different spiritualities according to one’s state of life – lay, married, single, celibate, priest, monk. The truth is there is only one spirituality, that of…

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(From The Iris Diaries)

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”(Hebrews 13:2)

I walked in to have coffee at McDonald’s and saw a very unusual young man stroll in.  He appeared to be homeless, but more youthful than other wanderers that I had seen.  A stuffed pink heart hung from a string on his backpack.  Small teddy bears clung to his shoelaces and a large seashell dangled from a cord around his waist.  Hearts were painted on the outer edges on his black-rimmed glasses.

I overheard him asking someone for money for food, and heard another man speaking to him.  I handed him a dollar. He waited in line to get breakfast, and then sat in a corner with his tray. I paid for my coffee and sat down on the other side of the dining area, but I wanted to approach the young man.  I was apprehensive because he looked so different, but I finally walked over and said hello, and asked him how he was doing.  He nervously handed me a small photo of himself, which I found rather odd, and I sat down to visit.  He told me that his name was Luke.

His fingernails were painted black with pink hearts on the index fingers, so whenever he pointed at anything, I saw them. He began to show me a scrapbook that he was keeping with cutout photos and clippings and handwritten notes. I began to turn the pages and saw poems scribbled here and there and pieces of torn paper and small paintings.  I felt as if I was reading into his soul. His artistic drive was apparent, and I was happy as he began to talk.

“There are so many negative things in the world,” he said.  “I cut out articles from newspapers and magazines that represent evil things, and then I write or draw something that offers a possible solution.”  He took a pair of scissors and a glue stick from his pocket and quickly cut out a picture from the paper, then dabbed some glue on it and stuck it in one of his sketchbooks.

“I am amazed how God always provides for me.  I scarcely think of something I need before I receive it.  The other night as I fell asleep in the park, I thought of how nice it would be to have a bicycle.  When I woke up, there was a bike just laying there with no one around.  People should trust God more than they do.”

As we talked a man came over and handed him a few dollars.  After the man left, Luke turned to me and said, “Could you use some of this money?”

“No thank you,” I said.

Luke leaned his chin on his hand thoughtfully, and said, “If we receive things, we should also give, because we must keep the cycle of grace flowing.  We should not cut off the grace by our selfishness.”

Then he began to tell me that people often seem offended by his presence and act as if they despise him for no reason.  “I am kind to everyone and I’m no threat, but people act like they hate me for no reason, just for existing.  People have trouble with anyone who is free and is not ensnared by the world.”

“That is because when we love others and are not attached to the worldly system, we will be despised like Jesus was,” I replied. “The Devil can’t stand to lose control of anyone.”

“You’re very advanced,” said the young man.

I mentioned to him that I had written my story and many stories about others in my manuscripts, but they are not published.  He suddenly said, “But they will be.  I assure you.”

“May I write about you too?” I inquired.

“Of course,” he answered.

He stroked his thick black hair for a moment and stated, “I have a word for you.  You are a midwife and a healer.  You have the ability to nurture children until they are ready to survive on their own.”  I was quite surprised and said, “That’s odd. Someone told me before that I am a spiritual mother who can labor and birth children into the kingdom of God, and nurture them. You are my confirmation.”

“Wow, that’s heavy” he said.

“Luke, you have a great mind and a pure heart,” I said.  “Is your mother like you?”

“My mother is very intelligent and is very easy to talk to. She is a midwife.” I perceived that I reminded him of his mother. I told him it was encouraging to see a young man speak well of his mother.

“I try in my own way to offset some of the evil and darkness around me,” he replied. “Most people my age talk about the terrible things happening in their families and in the world, but they don’t try to fix anything.  These little hearts I wear are just symbols of the love I am trying to spread.

“A huge demonic invasion occurred in the seventies and this is why young people have it worse than ever before.  Some people made deals with Satan before they were even born and have already lost their souls.  Some people are fallen angels, and many of them are in our government.”

I answered, “We are on the verge of a spiritual awakening and you young people will lead us into it, because your minds are still pure and they have not been polluted by money and ambition.  You still see God in terms of Spirit instead of in terms of an institution.”

We discussed how the sacred things of God have been ruined by capitalism and greed.  “Jesus did not teach capitalism”, Luke said.

“You are right”, I answered.  “I have to leave now, but this has been wonderful.”  We grasped hands tightly before parting.

 

OLIVE TWIST ©2012

Favorite Quotes

Here are some of my favorite poems, speeches, letters, sermons, and sayings. New passages will be added from time to time.

 

“With visible breath I am walking.

A voice I am sending as I walk.

In a sacred manner I am walking.

With visible tracks I am walking.

In a sacred manner I walk.”

Song of the Sacred Woman from Black Elk Speaks

 

“Sing and rejoice, ye children of the Day and of the Light, for the Lord is at work in this thick night of Darkness that may be felt; and Truth doth flourish as the rose, and the lilies do grow among the thorns, and the plants atop of the hills, and upon them the lambs do skip and play.  And never heed the tempests nor the storms, floods nor rains, for the Seed of Christ is over all and doth reign.”

Epistle #227 of George Fox

 

“We must free ourselves to be filled by God. Even God cannot fill what is full.”

Mother Teresa

 

“I like your Christ.  I do not like your Christians.  They are so unlike your Christ.”

Mahatma Gandhi

 

“At 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand and sing and Christ has no east or west, we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

 

“The Bible is very easy to understand.  But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers.  We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly…Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament”

Kierkegaard, Provocations 201

 

Letter from Birmingham Jail

“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate…who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”…Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Songs in the Night

“If it is daylight in my heart, I can sing songs touching my graces—songs touching my sweet experience—songs touching my duties—songs touching my labors; but let the night come—my graces appear to have withered; my evidences, though they are there, are hidden; I cannot clearly read my title to my mansion in heaven. And now I have nothing left to sing of but my God. It is strange, that when God gives his children mercies, they normally set their hearts more on the mercies than on the Giver of them; but when the night comes, and he sweeps all the mercies away, then right away they say, “Now, my God, I have nothing to sing of but you; I must come to you; and to you only.”

Anyone can sing in the day. When the cup is full, one draws inspiration from it; when wealth rolls in abundance around them, anyone can sing to the praise of a God who gives an abundant harvest.  It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but the skillful singer is the one who can sing when there is not a ray of light to read by—who sings from their heart, and not from a book that they can see.

Let all things go as I please—I will weave songs, weave them wherever I go, with the flowers that grow along my path; but put me in a desert, where there are no flowers, and how will I weave a chorus of praise to God? How will I make a crown for him? Let this voice be free, and this body be full of health, and I can sing God’s praise; but stop this tongue, lay me on the bed of suffering, and it is not so easy to sing from the bed, and chant high praises in the fires…confine me, chain my spirit, clip my wings, make me very sad, so that I become old like the eagle—ah! Then it is hard to sing.”

Preached by Charles Spurgeon in the late 1800’s

 

A Cloud Of Witnesses: Portraits of Faith

“He spoke as one having authority, and not as the scribes and the Pharisees.”

Deacon Proctor has been like a spiritual brother to me for many years, and we have enjoyed deep mystical communion.  He is tall and broad with a flat top haircut and a severely twisted hand.  His black hair has an ever-widening section of white on one side, and he has suits in an array of various colors.

Once I remember him teaching about the verse in Isaiah which says “Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.”  He looked at the arms of his suit and shrugged his shoulders and said, “It’s funny, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to wear this suit today, because it has a bleach stain on the side, but it illustrates this passage. “  The suit was appropriately wine-colored, with the white spot near the pocket.

The deacon’s movements are marionette-like, the tilting of his head, the raising and lowering of his arms and shoulders.  Affectionately known by Elder Foster as “Brother Love”, he is a tremendously gifted teacher and man of faith.  He was the Sunday school teacher before I was appointed to the task, and I was quite terrified about teaching after him.

I have never heard anyone teach as Deacon Proctor does. He is like a great waiter at a restaurant.  A bad waiter can ruin even the best food.  A professional waiter can make any meal even better, by presenting it with grace and style and timing. This is how Deacon Proctor serves the Word of God.  He presents it with love, simplicity and clarity so that even a child could understand it.  It is evident that he is a man who loves to study in order to gain more wisdom.

I asked Deacon Proctor one day about his deformed right hand.  He smiled and shrugged his shoulders and said, “It was from an accident a couple of years ago.  I was working on someone’s car motor with a rag in my hand.  I got distracted while I was talking and the rag was pulled into the fan belt along with my hand. It tore my hand up but I never felt any pain. In the hospital, the doctor kept saying ‘Why don’t you quit being so macho, and let me give you some morphine?’ and I kept telling him it really didn’t hurt.  I know that God kept it from hurting.

“Two weeks before the accident happened, I had a vivid dream about a cat clawing up my hand, and I asked Mother Foster what she thought it meant.  She avoided me for a week or so after that, like she thought I was weird,” he said chuckling. “After this happened, we all understood it.  The Spirit was warning me in advance.”

Another deacon from the church told me that it was incredible to him how Deacon Proctor never complained about his hand being mutilated, or about having to live with the inconvenience of it from then on. He behaved almost as though nothing had happened.

Deacon Proctor was also in a terrible wreck while driving a huge concrete truck, and he struck the driver side of a small vehicle.  He says he jumped out and checked the man’s breathing and pulse, and he was sure the man was dead.  He said, “I began to weep and kept pointing at the man and crying, ‘You can’t die, no, you can’t die.’  The ambulance came and the medics couldn’t revive him, so helicopter came and took him.  I found out later that the man lived and he is doing fine,” he said shaking his head.  “I really believe the Holy Ghost raised the man, because I kept pointing at him and saying he couldn’t die.  He explained how Jesus told His disciples that they would do greater miracles than He did, and the scriptures say God quickens the dead and calls those things which are not as if they are.”

The deacon frequently has dreams and visions and hears the voice of the Spirit.  On one occasion when I was feeling great anxiety, I had heard an inward voice say “Trust in Me.”  I went to church the following Sunday and Deacon Proctor said to me, “The Lord told me this week that I just need to trust Him.”  This surprised me, because I had not told him about the voice that told me the same thing.

Here is one of the most interesting dreams that the deacon told me about:

I dreamed that I was at a crowded fair surrounded by games and noise and music and bright lights. A man walked up to me and said, “Follow me” and then began to walk away.  I decided to do what he said so I walked right behind him.  The man kept talking to me over his shoulder, and I kept trying to get a look at his face and to hear him better.  With all of the noise and confusion of people around me, I could hear his voice, but couldn’t understand his words.  I never got a look at the man’s face, but I kept following anyway.  The man kept walking in all different directions, and I stayed right behind him the whole time.  The moon was really large up in the sky, and it had a face on it, which seemed to be watching me.

The next day, Deacon Proctor mentioned the dream to a co-worker at his job, because he wondered what it meant.  The co-worker said quickly, “It looks to me like God just wanted you to follow him, and he wanted to see if you would or not.”  The deacon almost cried when he heard it, because he knew that it was true. I added that I thought the face on the moon was the face of God watching from above the whole time while Deacon Proctor was following Him on the ground. Even with all of the distractions and amusements that could have lured him away, he did not turn aside.  I thought the fair represented the worldly temptations that can keep us from following God.

The deacon says he was talking with Elder Foster one day when the Spirit told him to go to his son’s house and pray.  He and Elder and Mother Foster walked to the house and no one was home. So they returned to the church where coincidentally, the deacon’s son pulled up a few minutes later with his girlfriend in the car. The deacon told him about his sense of urgency to pray for him. His son was not a believer, but he accepted the prayers of the three of them.

About a week later, a sense of heaviness came over the deacon during street services, and people noticed that he was acting strangely and pacing about.  Right after services were dismissed, Deacon Proctor learned that his son had been stabbed in the neck by the girlfriend that had been in the car when they prayed for him, and he had been rushed to the hospital. The deacon hurried there to see his son and the bleeding was so bad, that the family did not think he would make it.  But miraculously he did survive, and Deacon Proctor says that it was because of the prayer of intercession that had been offered a few days before, prompted by the leading of the Spirit. He said he shudders to think of how it would have ended up if he had not obeyed the Spirit and prayed.

Deacon Proctor has encountered many trials at work and the Lord has been faithful to protect him.  He told us one day at church about a series of events that happened to him.

One of his knees was hurting very badly one day at work and he mentioned it to one of his co-workers.  The man began to mock him and said that he was just faking it to get out of working.  Deacon Proctor ignored the man, and didn’t say anything.  The next day that man came in with his knee in so much pain, that he could barely walk on it for several days.

Then one day his elbow was hurting and he complained about it to someone, and they began making jokes about it.  That person developed a pain in their elbow that became so unbearable that they ended up having surgery on it.

Then a supervisor was bragging to people about how he was going to get the deacon fired and give his job to someone else.  The next day that man was fired, and Deacon Proctor was promoted into his job.  When reports got around about these events at work, the other employees became afraid because they realized that the deacon was under divine protection.

Deacon Proctor and I talk from time to time about the need for a true revival of the church, and he told me about one that occurred years ago in Saint Augustine.  Tent services were held outside, and an evangelist named Walter Camps came to lead them.  The revival went on for a month, and the Spirit moved so intensely that all of the bars in the surrounding area had to close, because they had no customers.

The deacon said he used to mock people who fell down when touched by preachers on television and other services he had attended because he thought it was a pretense.  But at this revival he went to the altar for prayer, and Reverend Camps asked him what he wanted prayer for.  Deacon Proctor told him that he wanted prayer for his mind.  The evangelist gave him a peculiar look then he put his hand on the deacon’s forehead, and Deacon Proctor fell down unconscious.  He testifies that ever since that day, he has never been the same and he has no more of the problems that he had at the time.  He also doesn’t doubt God’s power.

I feel immensely honored to know a great man of faith such as Deacon Proctor who is so wise, and yet so humble before God and man.

OLIVE TWIST ©2012

 

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OLIVE TWIST ©2012

There was once a girl who lived on the streets.  She had quit school at the age of thirteen.  She lived in Florida where it was hot and sultry most of the year.  She always seemed to be sweating and exhausted.  Her long flax-colored hair was tangled and sweaty, and her skin was warm and tan from the sun.  Her jeans were covered with hand-sewn patches of various shapes and colors.  She loved tie-dye and shades of purple.  Sometimes she wore a tapestry headband or a bandana around her brow.  She was very thin and sometimes felt very weak and shaky from hunger and hangovers.  She stood on street corners asking for money, so that she could buy a bowl of rice and a cup of tea at the natural foods restaurant nearby.  Sometimes the pretty waitress with dimpled cheeks there would give her some free bread crusts or a piece of carrot cake that had crumbled and could not be sold.

The girl had large wilting blue eyes, which blazed wildly from the drugs she was taking.  Her friend had an apartment next door to a drug dealer who knew that she liked LSD and mescaline.  He needed someone to try out his samples before he bought very much of it, so she would try them out for him.  The drugs seemed to carry her like a feather into the wind, and her senses were awakened in other worlds where she thought perhaps she could find God or a white light or something that would make sense of her existence.  She was hurt very deeply, as if a thorn was in her that she couldn’t dig out.

She was often hungry and wandering and hitchhiking to other states.  Once she had been picked up by an old redneck farmer with a Southern accent who raped her and left her by the side of the highway in the cold winter.  She was thankful to be alive.  She always seemed to be in some kind of danger, but she didn’t seem to value her life very much.

She was taken in by men from time to time who gave her food and slept with her and used her.  Many times she didn’t even know their names, and she would wake up the next morning and find that they were gone.  She fell in love a couple of times, but she found out she was only a toy, and her heart broke like a porcelain doll.  Then she decided to avenge herself, and when men loved her, she played with their minds as if they were marionettes and sometimes had three or four of them dancing in her hand at one time.  She enjoyed watching them suffer on her account, until they grew weary of it and gave up on her.  She had become prettier and more experienced and knew how to lure them.

She loved fairy tales with happy paradoxical endings, and medieval style art. She always had a little bottle of ink and a quill pen and a little sketch book with her and she would sit on a park bench or in the grass against a tree and draw.  She would recite this poem as she scribbled:

I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth

And laid them away in a box of gold

Where long shall cling the lips of the moth

I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth.

I hide no hate, I am not even wroth

Who found the earth’s breath so keen, so cold

I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth

And laid them away in a box of gold.

She drew angels and gentle hands and faces of ethereal people she never met, and magical trees and flowers and birds she never saw.  She often sketched cities and forests and lovely places that she imagined existed somewhere outside of her grasp.  At one point, someone gave her a little lavender bicycle with a basket and she put her art supplies in the basket when she rode around town.  It was nicer than walking in the heat, but someone stole her sketch book out of the basket and eventually her bicycle was taken as well.

She sometimes felt that someone she had once known was calling to her, someone who truly loved her.  In one instance, she was lying on the grass in the park and she had a vision that she was standing at the foot of a gigantic wooden cross that reached into the clouds.  She was trying to see the top of it, when suddenly she felt something wet and warm like summer rain falling on her.  She held out her hands and looked at them, and they were covered with large drops of blood.  She could not see the one on the cross because the clouds were shrouding him in the sky.  But she suddenly realized that the blood was for her in particular, that she caused the death of the one who was bleeding.  She knew that his pain was even greater than her own.

She dreamed once that she was walking through the snow in a long white dress and that she was wounded somehow, and the blood was flowing onto her white dress and dripping in the snow.  She wondered if it meant that someday she would give her life to the one who gave his life for her.

Another time, she dreamed that she was wandering through a huge city and did not know where she was.  She was filthy and barefoot, and she wandered into a huge building with green glass windows.  The polished marble floors were cold under her feet.  As she walked in, she saw people staring at her with disgusted looks and hatred, but she ignored them and went straight to the elevator.  She pressed the button to go to the top, but she didn’t know why.  When the bell rang and the door opened, she stepped in, and the door shut again.  Then she realized she wasn’t alone.  A man with a long white linen robe was looking at her.  Tears were gathering around his eyes as he searched her face.  She tried to look at the floor, but she could still feel his eyes upon her.  No one had ever looked at her like that.  She felt filthy and pitiful, but she felt his love burning a hole in her chest.  She woke up before the elevator got to the top floor.  She never forgot about the man who loved her and wept for her.

This young girl was constantly overshadowed by trouble but always felt someone calling to her on the inside.  She heard him and felt his presence many times, and she loved him but was afraid of him at the same time.  She knew that one day, she would have to give in to him, but she was still bitter and angry at the world and wanted to lash out.

You may wonder how I know this girl so well.  It is because that little ragged girl was me.  I can still see her in my mind’s eye, and she will always live inside of me.

I finally became acquainted with the One who kept calling me, and realized that I am His daughter, and He has always loved me since the beginning.  Even more amazingly, He is a King and I am an heir to everything that belongs to Him, so I no longer have to live in pain and sorrow over the things that happened to me.  He has established His covenant with me, and has placed a Comforter and Counselor inside of me, so that I can always have joy and peace within, no matter what my circumstances are.

(Endnote:  Poem by Countee Cullen)

A Cloud of Witnesses:  Portraits of Faith

Elder Foster is graceful with hands that swim like fish around him as he speaks. He bows from his slender waist and lowers his head slightly, greenish brown eyes looking up to others with humility.  His caramel-colored suit is well-tailored, his shoes polished, his white shirt crisp.

Mother Foster has amazing hats and weathered hands and I have seldom seen her silver hair.  She braids it tightly against her scalp and tucks it under her hats.  Her waist is nicely trim for an elderly woman, the collar of her dress edged with white lace, her black ballerina slippers small and cozy.  Her smile is broad and warm and her eyes always seem to look upward and inward to invisible things.

Elder and Mother Foster are my spiritual parents, and I am just one of their clumsy and confused children.

Elder Foster has ministered to his church for almost forty years, and he is still the most energetic pastor I have ever seen.  He seems much younger when he preaches because he jumps and shouts and runs down from the pulpit into the congregation.  His agility is amazing at these times.

He can be so fiery during his sermons, yet he is so gentle and humble afterwards, when he shakes my hand and says, “Are you behaving yourself, Sister Olive?” or “Be encouraged, Sister Olive.” I guess this is why one preacher who visited our church refers to him as a “Gentle Giant”.

Many times Elder Foster speaks directly to me about things in my life that he has no way of knowing, and he encourages or corrects me with great gentleness. I recognize in those moments that the Spirit is speaking to me and that I have to be obedient, if I want to grow spiritually.

Elder Foster once remarked, “You know the trouble with many of us is that we trust the mailman more than we trust God. When we address a letter and put a stamp on it and place it in the mailbox, we have confidence that the mail will arrive where it’s supposed to go.  We don’t call the mailman or the postmaster to keep track of the letter, or call to make sure it arrives at its destination.

“But when we address a prayer to God, we don’t have confidence that it will get to God, or that it will accomplish the thing that we are asking.  Our lack of faith is why many of our prayers are unanswered.”

Elder Foster puts more money into the offering plate than he receives from the district for his services.  He is always speaking about people who exemplify the life of faith.  He tells of a poor preacher who had no money, but went to the grocery store and got a cart and put the food he needed in it, and he prayed and trusted God to take care of him. The preacher walked up to the cashier lane, and a man stepped up with his wallet open and said, “Pastor, let me take care of that for you.”

Our elder also speaks of a minister who heard that someone in his church had died.  The minister went to that house and the man’s wife had covered him with a sheet as she awaited the mortician.  The minister said “The Spirit didn’t say anything to me about this brother dying.”  Then he pulled back the sheet and the man got up.

One Sunday a strange man came into our church to leave an offering envelope for a family member.  As he came down the aisle, I noticed the intensity of his face and eyes as he looked around nervously.  He hurriedly handed the envelope to Sister Shirley near the altar and left.

Elder Foster was preaching later in the service, and told us that he had had a dream the night before, about being down by the fish creek and meeting a man who was demon-possessed and that he had cast the demon out of the man.  When he awoke he thought that he must have eaten something the night before that caused him indigestion and strange dreams.  But then the man from his dream walked into church and left the offering.

The elder often speaks about the importance of preaching the gospel “in season and out of season”, because you never know when that Death Angel will come around and take someone.  He says that one night a phone call came for Mother Foster from a woman that she worked with at the paper mill.  Elder Foster did not want to disturb his wife while she was sleeping, so he told the woman to call his wife another time.  Mother Foster went to work the next morning and the woman had died.

Elder Foster also recounted this story with great sorrow:  “A man came up to me one Wednesday night after the service was over, asking how to get saved.  I was in a hurry that night, and asked him to come and see me on Sunday.  When he didn’t come on Sunday, I inquired about him and found out that he had died.  I have learned never to make anyone wait again, because the Devil will try to cut them off beforehand.”

Mother Foster is an amazing spiritual leader as well.  She diligently taught all of her children about prayer and faith while they were young.  Several of the Fosters’ sons are preachers now.  Mother Foster says that one of her boys, Aaron, used to preach through the open window from his high chair when he was a baby, and would tell people about Christ.  She says she used to have terrible migraines until one of them put his tiny hands on her and prayed, when he was only a little baby boy.

She says they have never had a lot of money but they acknowledge that God always provided for their needs.  Mother Foster once testified about a woman with five children that lived down the street from her years ago. Sometimes the woman would come to her door and tell her she didn’t have any food for her children.  Mother Foster said that she always bought just enough food for her family for seven days at a time, but she would open her refrigerator, and give the woman some meat and vegetables and bread for her children.  As Mother Foster gave the bag of food to the woman, she would say to her, “Now, come back around here this evening, because I want you to see what the Lord is going to do for me, because I gave you what you needed.”  She said that without fail, someone would show up before dinnertime, and knock on the door and say, “I just caught some fish, and I have more than I need.  Would you like some?” or someone would bring her greens and vegetables from their garden.  She says that God always provided whenever she was obedient.

Mother Foster told me an amazing story about a woman who asked her to come to her house:  “I went to visit this poor woman and she told me that her husband had been abusive to her for many years, and I told her ‘God would never want anyone to place themselves in danger. So we are going to take this problem to God, and pray that your husband will leave and never come back.  First I need you to go to the closet and get a pair of his shoes, and bring them here.’ The woman went and got his shoes, and I told her to put them right in front of the door, with the toes pointed as if they were about to walk out.  She did this and then we started to pray out loud.  We prayed and prayed with all our hearts, until I had a clear feeling, and I told her that it was done.  I told her she had to believe that God was going to do answer our prayers.  I said, ‘It might not be today or tomorrow or even this week, but you have to trust God.’  Well, it turned out that her husband came home that very night, and took all of his belongings and left, and he never returned home again.”

Mother Foster taught me to pray earnestly on my knees until I sense that the work is finished, and then to believe God.  My prayers were never answered until I learned to pray in the proper way.  Mother Foster taught me that God loves to act of our behalf, when He knows that He will be glorified in it.

I have learned so much from the Foster’s about living by faith, and “pressing on” until death, and I am eternally grateful for their testimonies, and their examples.

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.”  (I Timothy 6:12)

OLIVE TWIST ©2012

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Olive!!


I have chosen this pen name, because I lived in orphanages and foster homes during my childhood years. I am a writer of spiritual memoir and character sketches, and consider myself to be sort of a “wounded healer”.  I have a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.

I have been writing my memoirs and other true stories for many years, in order to encourage other “seekers” who may be feeling confused and hopeless. I am just beginning to post my writings and I hope that they will enable someone to find inner strength and meaning in the chaos of their own life.

I am inexperienced in blogging, so I will probably make lots of mistakes.  Please be patient with me while I am learning.  Thank you.

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The Calling

OLIVE TWIST ©2012

“His voice was like a noise of many waters…” (Ezekiel 43:2)

A lady in lavender is summoned by the sea.  She steps to the shore in silver sandals.  She is alone and yet never alone. His voice rises like a wave. Only His voice can quench the fire in her bones.  She waits in peace for words from the depths of the ocean.  No one can see what she sees or hear what she hears.  A laughing gull cries, and the waves swirl around her ankles.  The sand beneath her pulls her inward.  She knows never to resist, but only to stand and wait and yield.  The sandpipers come closer and tip their heads.  The angel shells nod as they sink back into the sand.  The lady’s fingers search the sea breezes for strands and she weaves them into whispers.  “Yes” she says in reply to the ocean king.  The taste of salt is in her mouth. The waters recede and gifts are sprinkled around her feet.  She picks up crystalline shells and seaweed as intricate as ancient lace. Three seagulls cry together and she hears her secret name, given to her by the sea.  She slips her feet into her sandals and leaves the wind at her back.  Her silver hair reaches its tendrils forward, and her eyes see the path beyond the sea oats that are waving in the same direction.  “Ye are the salt of the earth, says the sea breeze.

The lady stops outside the prison door and sees herself in the two-sided glass.  She pulls her lavender shawl around her neck and shoulders to prepare for the coldness inside.  She waits for a beep and pushes the cold metal door open. She goes to the faceless woman behind the dark glass and asks to speak to the director.  A husky black man with oval glasses and a flat top haircut comes to the lobby and calls for her. He is wearing a navy blue polo with the facility name embroidered on the chest and matching khaki pants.  He talks into his walky-talky as he leads her over the scuffed floors and through bland bone-colored halls to his office.  She takes out her mother-of-pearl pen and fills out papers on his desk.  The two speak quietly in his carpeted cubicle and he shakes her hand softly.  She writes down some names of prisoners to visit, and he tells her what days she can come.  She rises from her chair and nods in gratitude to the man who opened the doors to her.  She knows the Voice who caused him to open the doors, but she always respects earthly authority. “He that is true, He that hath the key of David, He that opens and no man shuts, and shuts and no man opens…”

As she drives away, three mourning doves flutter over her windshield and light in the grass by the lake.  She smiles at the messengers and drives away.

Iris returns to the prison and is sent into a classroom with cheap plastic chairs and one grey table.  On the wall is a poster of a spreading green tree.  She remembers this tree from a dream.  She waits in silence.  An echo of footsteps and voices in the hallway makes her heart pound.  She twists the mother-of-pearl on her finger, and then rests her right hand on her knee.  She prays for power and grace. The heavy footsteps shuffle outside the doors, then a key turns the lock and in they come.  Young men in uniforms trudge in with hands behind their backs, heads low and weary.  Their brown plastic sandals scratch like chalk on a chalk board. One inmate is wearing red.  This means he could erupt in violence.  One boy is wearing orange.  This means suicidal. She sees tattoos and wrists carved with unknown symbols.  Her heart is grieved. What will she say to them?  The taste of salt comes to her mouth.  The young men sit down.  Their eyes startle her.  They seem so weak, so sad, so desperate.  She had not expected this.

Iris speaks softly with the prisoners, and the voice is inside of her.  The taste of salt is always on her tongue.  She is surprised how the young prisoners search her face, and look upon her as a mother.  She learns that it is not her, but the tides of the ocean are pulling upon them, and the living water is flowing out of her mouth and sometimes it trickles from her eyes.  Sometimes the prisoners cough up disfigured and unclean creatures upon the floor, where they writhe and squirm in their slimy grotesque forms.  When the salt water touches them, they cry out and die in agony at the lady’s feet.  The ocean king does the cleansing, yet the lady is rewarded as if she had done it herself.

Sometimes the water flows gently and softly. Sometimes it rumbles and powerful waves strike someone, and they are cast down and broken before the cleansing.  The will of the ocean determines the way the waters move and work on the souls in the room.  When the waters recede, the work is done and it is done well.

As Iris steps outside, a Great Heron watches her with one eye, from among the rushes.  The lady and bird nod reverently at one another.

The lady knows the power of stories.  If she can get a person to tell their story, a door cracks open and a sliver of light comes through, and suddenly she can touch their soul.  She has learned that anyone in the right moment, in the right place, in the right state of mind, can be persuaded to open the door of his soul.  She has learned to watch for the crack in the door.

It is a wonderful thing to be in the presence of stories.  It is a great net for catching souls. She watches the young inmates compete for a chance to tell their story.  They all rush in like seagulls with fierce eyes that spot a fish in the sea foam.  With eagerness they wait for their chance.  Her heart ripples with waves of joy at moments like these, when souls come out of their shells so raw and open.  They are all washed together in the tides of stories and passion and pain and love. Tears and smiles and songs come bursting forth, like hidden fish and shells from deep in the waters. This is the time when one might pluck a drowning soul from deep waters, like a luminous pearl.

In a room full of stories, a door springs open and God glides right in and glory takes place.  She witnessed it and it makes life worth living because souls make their statement and find their place of belonging.  It is priceless and it is real and it is satisfying beyond all words, in that realm where all souls fall silent.

“The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

OLIVE TWIST ©2012

“It had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels… And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl…” (Revelation 21:12, 21)

These twelve fables are based upon true stories of incarcerated young men who wanted their stories to be told. Their names have all been changed and they are all adults now.

I am Iris or “the lady in lavender.”  She wears lavender because purples denote royalty. She is a daughter of “the King,” and has been divinely commissioned. The Ocean King represents God, the flowing waves are the movements of the Holy Spirit, and the salt is the healing and cleansing power that He bestows upon the lady.

 

A Cloud of Witnesses:  Portraits of Faith

OLIVE TWIST ©2012

“It is nothing extraordinary to be holy.  You must believe it is a normal thing for everybody.” –Mother Teresa

A professor once referred to these stories as “hagiographic portraits,” and I agree with that assertion.  I am pleased to introduce my spiritual family in this fashion.  These profiles deal more with the mystical realm than the natural, but I have made every effort to enable you to see my friends in both worlds.

For those who have never had the privilege of observing holy people going about their daily lives, I am delighted to share this treasure.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

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