Posts Tagged ‘gospel’

My father lives in a different world than me.

He lives in Mallorca, Spain and the traditions are different in many ways. I always like to hear of the festivities for different occasions, so I sent an email asking him about Christmastide, and whether they decorate Christmas trees.  I received this long message which I want to pass on to my readers, complete with links and photos.  I am especially amazed by the snowflake lights.  At the bottom of the post you can listen to the song my father refers to in this message, sung by a child.

I hope you all have a meaningful Christmas celebration in honor of the Son of God who came to Earth to save us all.

Shalom,

Sister Olive

~♥~

Dear Dottir,

In the last decade or so, yes, Christmas trees, Santa Claus, elves and any commercialization possible has taken over.  Even here in this small village, in the little plaza up in town there is a Christmas tree with decorations.

Before this northern invasion, Christmas Eve was celebrated in the church, or quietly in the home, no tree, no gifts just a celebration of the birth and the mother.  Here on Mallorca and in Catalunya, they had another very strange custom. A young child sings the Sybila, a song of the Judgment Day. You can read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Song_of_the_Sibyl 

I have heard it sung many times over the years, because when I directed the church choir we were up in the organ loft, waiting for our turn to sing various Christmas songs from the region.  It is a haunting melody, very difficult for a child to sing, so they practice it for weeks before, no accompaniment of any kind, just that pure “white voice” as they call unchanged voices here. Here it is sung in a little church by a woman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfirOs1RGIc

In the Cathedral of Palma they make a real production of it, with full choir, organ and a young woman singing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aYV_Kqv44g– these may be beautiful, but I prefer the single child in the Deya church, innocently singing about the end of the world.  Every year a different child is chosen.

Before also, the decorations were basically “nerulas” or white paper cutouts like snowflakes, hung across the nave of the church and in houses.  The streets still are blazoned with lights, as traditionally – I first saw them in Barcelona in 1969 and was amazed. Take a look https://www.google.es/search?q=christmas+lights+in+Barcelona&hl=en&tbo=u&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ei=nZfRULDuGOyY0QWeuICoBA&ved=0CEMQsAQ&biw=1024&bih=614

As for myself, you know me – Stephanie and I would sometimes walk and look at the world, especially the stars which are exceptionally bright in winter, just appreciating Creation, perhaps lamenting its ultimate passing…

I will be doing that alone this year for sure, and will send my love to you all.  What I see from my balcony is this:

 Poppy's Window View

Where Chopin stayed in 1838 for the winter, so I have good company.

At night it is lit up, blocking the stars until late, when they are turned off.

 Poppy's View at Night

What will you be doing?  Have you found a compatible church where you can enjoy the songs of Christmas?

Lots of love,

Poppy

~♥~

Here is the link for the solo sung by a child, my favorite of the versions so far:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nANDw8XOHhU

 ~♥~

The Song of the Sibyl

On the Day of Judgment
The good go to heaven for their services.

An eternal King cometh
Dressed in our mortal flesh
He certainly will come from heaven
To judge the century.

Before the judgment is passed
A great sign will show itself
The sun will lose its shine
The earth will tremble with fear.

Then comes a mighty thunder
The sign of a great anger
In a hellish confusion
Rays and cries resound.

A great fire will fall from the sky
In a stench of sulfur
And the earth will burn furiously
And a great terror afflict people.

Then comes the terrible signal
A major earthquake
The rocks will break
And the mountains will collapse.

Then nobody will have gold pieces
Silver or wealth
And all await sentencing.

Death will leave you penniless
And all collide
Only men remain crying
And sadness will cover the world.

The plains and peaks are all the same
Good and bad will be achieved
Kings, dukes, earls and barons
They will have to account for their actions.

And then comes, unexpected
The son of God Almighty
He will judge the living and the dead
The good go to heaven.

The Unborn
Cry from the wombs of their mothers
And with her cries say
“Help us God Almighty”

Mother of God, pray for us
You, the Mother of All Sins
You have the judgment merciful
You have that paradise is open to us.

You who have heard it all
Pray to God with devotion
With all your heart and fervor
That should save us.

 ~♥~

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Black Elk SpeaksI love this description by Black Elk of his vision in which he saw the son of Wanekia, the Great Spirit:

“They led me to the center of the circle where once more I saw the holy tree all full of leaves and blooming.

…Against the tree there was a man with arms held wide in front of him.  I looked hard at him, and I could not tell what people he came from.  He was not a Wasichu (white man) and he was not an Indian.  His hair was long and hanging loose, and on the left side of his head he wore an eagle feather.  His body was strong and good to see, and it was painted red…while I was staring hard at him, his body began to change and became very beautiful with all colors of light…He spoke like singing:  “My life is such that all earthly beings and growing things belong to me.  Your father, the Great Spirit, has said this.  You too must say this.” 

~♥~

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Page 100v: Healing of the blind man of Jericho...

Page 100v: Healing of the blind man of Jericho, Lc 18:35-43 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was digging through some old Bible study notes, and came across a series by a very humble pastor in our community named “Brother Bob.”  This series was about seven of the miracles of Jesus from the Gospels which proved His divinity.

I occasionally meet people who follow other spiritual teachers. I can’t imagine why someone would prefer any leader over Jesus. Sometimes I argue my case in a gentle way, and Brother Bob gave me a bit more evidence to show that Jesus was God in the flesh! Here are a few of the miracles that Brother Bob talked about one night:

First, the Bible says in John 20:30-31 that not everything is written down, and that these things were written so that the reader might believe that Jesus is the Christ.

Here are some of the miracles that were recorded in The Gospel According to Saint John:

1. Water To Wine (Chapter 2):  Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast when all of the wine had run out. He did this to increase joy and to show that He has power over nature.

2. Healing of Nobleman’s Son (Chapter 4):  Jesus healed the young man to show that He has power over disease.

3. Healing of the Lame Man on the Sabbath (Chapter 5):  After this miracle, He told the man to avoid sin so that nothing worse would befall him. He did these things to show He can heal both body and soul, and that He has more authority than the Law.

4. Feeding of the 5000 men plus women and children (Chapter 6):  To show that God is compassionate and to prove that He is the Bread of Life.

5. Walked On Water (same chapter):  To show that He has power over Nature and over Fear (Be Not Afraid)

6. Healed the Blind Man on the Sabbath (Chapter 9): To illustrate that He is the Light of the World and that He is not subject to the Law.

7. Raised Lazarus from the dead (Chapter 11): To show that He has human compassion (Jesus wept) and power over Death and that He is the Resurrection and the Life.

Peace and Grace be with you,

“Sister Olive”

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(Excerpt from The Twisted Cross:  Distortion of the Gospel)

There was a crooked man,
And he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence
Upon a crooked stile:
He bought a crooked cat,
That caught a crooked mouse-
And they all lived together
In a little crooked house.

What has become of the humble country ministers who lived in little cottages next door to the church, and received allowances for their travel and other needful expenses so that they could go to the jails and hospitals, and visit the elderly members who were confined to their beds?  They sought out every opportunity to further God’s Kingdom within their communities, and worked for little or nothing because they wanted to finish all of their work on Earth before they departed.

Charles Finney writes in his autobiography that after his conversion in 1821, he left his career as a lawyer to “plead the case for Christ.”  He writes of how he lost all interest in worldly pursuits:

…I had no desire to make money.  I had no hungering and thirsting after worldly pleasures and amusements in any direction…Nothing, it seemed to me, could compete with the worth of souls, and no labor, I thought, could be so sweet and no employment so exalted as that of holding up Christ to a dying world.

So, when did the Gospel become such a highly profitable business in America, and the churches so corporate and greedy?  What makes religious leaders today feel entitled to get rich when Jesus, the Son of the Most High God, did not abuse His position for personal gain?  Does anyone truly believe that Jesus lived as a poor man and suffered and died on a cross between two thieves so that Christians can drive a Mercedes Benz?

A year or so ago, I watched one of the senate hearings regarding mega-churches and tax-exempt status, and one senator confronted a wealthy preacher, saying “Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.  So why do you feel entitled to have so many cars and private jets?” I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea.

I know a church mother who told me that her husband often said, “Ever since people found out that they could make a lot of money off of Jesus, they have made a shipwreck of the Gospel and the church.”  I have also heard people say they can’t afford to join a church.

One Sunday I was asked to speak at a church, and I remarked that God is not going to pay us if we keep getting paid by people for every service we render, because Jesus said that we only have one payday- on Earth or in Heaven. After the service was over, the secretary approached me and offered me some money for speaking. I told her that the Lord would bless me some other way. I knew that the leaders wanted to catch me in some hypocrisy.

The following Sunday, the minister approached me at the altar in front of everyone, and put his hand on my head and said, “Lord, break that rebellious spirit.”  I knew then that he wanted to undermine me and what I had said the week before.

When the recession had really become serious in 2008, I clipped an article from the religion page in the newspaper about how the churches were dealing with the financial “crunch.”  It said that one church had cut out all of its outreach ministries.  Another church started a “Kingdom Seeds” program to try to get people to raise more money for them.  But one lone priest in a Catholic church said that he would not accept any money for his services until his congregation had stabilized financially. I found it shocking that most churches were trying to keep the income of their leaders intact, while cutting out the ministries that represented the whole purpose of the Body of Christ in the community. It seemed strange to me that the leaders did not simply pray and trust God to bless the business of the Kingdom.

One church I attended threatened to publicly humiliate those who were unable to afford the offerings, by listing their names or having the financial reports read out loud.  They knew that many contributions could not be accounted for, because many members only gave in cash without envelopes.  Jesus said not to let the right hand know what the left hand is doing, and not to brag about what we do for God, but this church was pressuring people to disobey His teachings.

I have also seen people forced to stand in front of the church to request financial help for their household. I suspect this is to discourage people who need assistance. No one should have to be publicly humiliated because they are in need of money.

Religious leaders are quick to accuse people of robbing God, when they themselves have no accountability and seem to have no shame about it. One common practice in some churches today is for a preacher to start off an offering with, for instance, a twenty-dollar bill of their own, and to ask each person in the congregation to match the amount they put in.  They don’t reveal that a large percentage of that same offering is being given back to them behind closed doors, and that they are receiving instant returns. Technically, they are giving nothing, and they promise people hundred-fold blessings for giving to the church. Why do leaders ask their congregation to trust God to take care of their bills, when they don’t trust Him to take care of the church and its ministries?  That is hyprocrisy in its purest form.

If I give ten dollars, and immediately receive back one hundred dollars, have I paid my tithe?  Why is it necessary to lie to God’s people, instead of just collecting a love offering at the end? And why is there so much secrecy about the money? It obviously is more profitable to be deceptive.

An elder that I know once told me that he has seen preachers put money in the offering and tell the usher to give them back their money after the service is over.

Years ago, at a church I attended, a missionary couple trusted God to supply their financial needs so that they could go to Africa to spread the gospel, and they refused to take up offerings or ask anyone for money.  They just talked to friends and prayed and money started coming in their mailbox.  The pastor of their church heard about it, and said, “It is true that God supplied the money that you needed without any manipulation on your part?”  They were dumbfounded that their pastor had so little faith in God’s ability to provide for someone who was seeking to do His will.

Nowadays, many religious leaders will do whatever it takes to keep themselves comfortable while others suffer, and they never seem to have enough.  The money-raising goals for pastor appreciations and conferences get higher every year, because many leaders expect a pay raise every year, regardless of the struggles of their congregations.   If they were at a regular job, they might have been laid off or gotten a pay cut, but they think that the money should continue to flow no matter what.

Everyone questions why the church is so ineffective today, why miracles and true revivals don’t happen anymore. It’s really quite simple. God is a Holy God, and He cannot dwell in an unholy place.

It is time to return to the old ways, so that we can see miracles and spiritual power as we did in times past.  I would like to see this in my lifetime, but first we need some good old-fashioned humble country ministers.


[1] The crooked man and other rhymes, from Aunt Mary’s Little Series

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I’ve always thought of Bob Dylan as a prophetic voice for our times. I listened to this song today for the first time in years, and the words rang so true about the dead oceans and sad forests, and guns and swords in the hands of young children.

Listen to him sing “It’s a Hard Rain Gonna Fall”:

My favorite lines in the song are:

I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’

Here are the complete lyrics:

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/bobdylan/ahardrainsagonnafall.html

Pray for me that I may walk softly on that “highway of diamonds.”

Shalom,

“Sister Olive”

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But of that day or hour no man knoweth, neither the angels
in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father. 
(Mark 13:32)

I visited an Episcopal church recently, and I asked a lady the meaning of the last line of the Doxology that says “World without end.”  She was a bit embarrassed and said she wasn’t sure, because she wasn’t really “up” on theology.  Then she approached a Sunday school teacher who didn’t seem to know either, although he tried to wing it.

I guess I’m funny that way.  I like to know exactly what I’m singing and saying in my prayers.  Whose world are we referring to?  Surely it doesn’t mean our world will never end.  Or does it?  Everyone thought the world was going to end yesterday, but it didn’t! Big surprise…

Jesus said He doesn’t even know when the end of time will be, so it strikes me as funny that people keep trying to figure it out.  Why do we play these guessing games? If only Christians would read the Bible more. Christ said the end would be like a thief in the night, and that’s a pretty straightforward analogy.  He said if you knew when a thief was coming, you could bust ’em quick.  But it’s not like that…we don’t know, so we’ve got to always be prepared. It’s aggravating, I know, but that’s just how it is.

P.S.  If you know what “world without end” means, please tell me…okay? I love to learn new stuff.

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“And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.”  Genesis 32:25

An angel simply touched Jacob’s thigh and dislocated it. Perhaps some angel touched our brows and dislocated our memory of why we had to come here and what we have to do.  Thomas Merton implied that this earth is Purgatory in his book Seven Storey Mountain. I sometimes think that we are fallen angels sent to Earth to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.”

The scriptures say a lot about what becomes of us after death, and what we are to do while in our bodies, but very little is said about why we came to this planet in the first place.  God told Jeremiah “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” (1:5)  The birth of the Messiah was predicted in the TaNaKh.  But I am pretty sure that most of us were not appointed to any sort of greatness.

I remember the seventies when my friends and I would smoke pot and drop LSD and sit around for hours asking questions like, “Why are we here?” and “Where did we come from?”

I don’t believe that all of us are simply the result of a big bang between two people.  Our flesh came about that way, but our mind and our spirit were designed for something higher. We are spiritual beings living in mortal bodies. No two of us are the same, and we all have this amazing potential to commune with the Divine.

Even Christ said very little about why each of us was born in the first place. He said we have to be born again of the Spirit.  He said “He that liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11:26).  He said, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  He talked about the rich man and Lazarus going to separate places after death.  But He never told us why we came here, to a certain country and a certain time period and certain parents.  He never said it was all an illusion or a dream.  I find it somewhat surprising that none of His disciples asked Him about this.  They addressed so many subjects, but not that one.

I read somewhere that the rich are here to help the poor, and poor are here to save the rich. I also have read that good and evil angels are constantly involved in the affairs of men, and often wear disguises.  For me, one of the most terrifying stories in the Bible is of Nebuchadnezzar being spied upon by watcher angels because of his arrogance and his judgment finally being pronounced. For the whole story, read Daniel chapter 4, but here are a few verses:

I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven; He cried aloud, and said thus…Let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him. This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men…The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.

I wonder why this doesn’t happen more often…we certainly have enough evil dictators. It is interesting to me that in the Bible many of the military and political figures are fallen angels. Ezekiel writes about the King of Tyrus “Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God (28:13).”  Daniel reports about the Prince of Persia who battled with a messenger angel for twenty-one days before being defeated by the archangel Michael. (10:13)

People laugh at me sometimes for believing “this stuff” but I find it much more imaginative to be an atheist. I felt terribly sorry for Hunter S. Thompson, even though he was a fantastic writer.  Take this statement of his:

“I have never seen much point in getting heavy with stupid people or Jesus freaks, just as long as they don’t bother me. In a world as weird and cruel as this one we have made for ourselves, I figure anybody who can find peace and personal happiness without ripping off somebody else deserves to be left alone. They will not inherit the earth, but then neither will I.”

How would he know about my inheritance, anyway?  Only the child knows what the father has prepared for him or her.  It’s a personal affair.  That’s why the scriptures say:

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.  (Deuteronomy 29:29)

Should I believe the promises of Jesus or or the ramblings of Hunter S. Thompson?  That’s a tough one. Let me ponder that. Everyone who met or knew Jesus found Him to be faultless. He loved everybody, even the people that no one else understood or liked. (He would have loved Hunter S. Thompson.)

Jesus walked on water. He fed five thousand men (and their families) with five loaves of bread and seven fish. He ordered a storm on the ocean to calm down and it did. He healed people of all kinds of diseases. He raised Lazarus and others from the dead. After His crucifixion, He raised His own body from the tomb, and met His disciples down by the sea. He cooked fish for them after His resurrection! He wasn’t a ghost! His whole body went into heaven.

I think I’ll believe Jesus. I can’t see what there is to dislike about Him. I understand if people don’t approve of His so-called followers, but that’s a whole different matter.

There are lots of things I don’t know, but I know I am in good hands with Jesus, and I will understand it all someday.

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (I Timothy 3:16)

~♥~

Work Cited:

Hunter S. Thompson, The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time

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