Posts Tagged ‘sacred’

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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One of my all-time favorite albums is Late for the Sky by Jackson Browne, and this song really “speaks to my condition” as the Quakers used to say.

Here are a few lines from it:

I’m just one or two years and a couple of changes behind you
In my lessons at love’s pain and heartache school
Where if you feel too free and you need something to remind you
There’s this loneliness springing up from your life
Like a fountain from a pool…

Fountain of sorrow, fountain of light
You’ve known that hollow sound of your own steps in flight
You’ve had to struggle, you’ve had to fight
To keep understanding and compassion in sight
You could be laughing at me, you’ve got the right
But you go on smiling so clear and so bright

-Jackson Browne

 

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A garden statue of Francis of Assisi with birds

~♥~

Today is my birthday, and I will always remember that Pope Francis was elected on 3-13-13! He also chose the name of my favorite saint.   Saint Francis is known for humility, poverty, wanting to “rebuild the church” (in spiritual terms), and the love of animals.  How fitting that the “Sistine Seagull” perched patiently upon the chimney.

According to reports, this Pope has practiced the teachings of Saint Francis in several ways.  He chose to live in a small apartment downtown rather to dwell in the palace offered to him, he rode on the bus instead of in the limousine, and he cooked for himself when he could have had a servant.  Sounds like he tries to imitate Christ as well!

We need humble spiritual leaders in the Christian community, and Pope Francis appeared to have a contrite spirit, when he stepped onto the balcony and asked the crowd to pray for him.  I am thankful that my prayers were answered so speedily today!

Peace & Grace,

“Sister Olive”

P. S.  Interestingly, last year on my birthday, my sister sent me the book “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” based on the famous prayer of Saint Francis!

~♥~

https://olivetwist.wordpress.com/scribbles/shaken-not-stirred/

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57574120/sistine-sea-gull-joke-or-symbolism/

Pope Francis: Humble leader who takes bus to work (worldnews.nbcnews.com)

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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 came across this article from the Wall Street Journal, and it echoed with my own sentiments, so I wanted to share it with my readers today.  I am not sure of Mr. Lewis’s views on Christ, but we certainly agree on this particular issue. 

I have found many of  the “shepherds” in God’s house to be glorified con-artists, who are destroying God’s flock for their own personal gain. Jesus is very dear to me, and I have no doubt He is also appalled by the misuse of His followers. 

If you wish to read more of my editorials on this topic, click on “The Twisted Cross” page above.

Here is the link to the article by Mr. Lewis, if you would rather read it on the site:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303425504577354161756441588.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

From The Wall Street Journal

  • AL’S EMPORIUM
  • April 21, 2012, 8:25 p.m. ET

Prophets, Not Profits

  • By AL LEWIS

God does not want you to be rich.

Every so often, he raises up a prophet to teach wayward profiteers about the sacrifice he demands.

Ephren W. Taylor II, who called himself “the Social Capitalist,” may be one such prophet.

This son of a preacherman sold investment schemes at megachurches from Bishop Eddie Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church near Atlanta to Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston. The Securities and Exchange Commission recently charged Mr. Taylor with running a Ponzi scheme. His victims are now congregating in a class-action lawsuit. (Read more about Mr. Taylor on my blog, tellittoal.com.)

“There’s more fraud in the name of God than anything else,” says Ole Anthony, president of the Trinity Foundation, which has been investigating religious fraud since 1987.

Fleeced flocks have long herded onto the victim hotline Trinity provides, their finances and their faith sheared. “It’s so incredibly damaging,” says Mr. Anthony, who has made plenty of enemies among members of his faith and even been accused of running his own cult.

Every religion provides fertile fields for fraud. The SEC also recently charged an alleged Ponzi schemer targeting Persian Jews.

But the “Prosperity Gospel” has made Christians especially vulnerable. Plant a seed, reap a harvest: Many preachers and televangelists promise a hundred-fold blessing for every dollar donated to them—something not even the Prince of Darkness, Bernie Madoff, had dared.

“It’s totally infected American churches,” Mr. Anthony says. “But the saddest thing is that with satellite TV it’s infecting the poorest parts of the world. People who barely have enough to eat see their pastor flying in a jet and living in a mansion. And if they don’t get it, it’s because they have secret sin in their lives. It’s always the victims’ fault.”

Anyone peddling insurance, real estate, sales opportunities or investments at church has probably not read the Bible. Anyone preaching wealth and prosperity is twisting its verses for a quick buck and making a mockery of their faith.

I have taken the liberty of actually reading the Bible throughout my life for those who will not. Here’s what it says: Love of money is the root of all evil. Blessed are the poor. Store your treasure in heaven. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. Hand over your possessions to the poor and follow. Love your enemy. Turn the other cheek. Don’t lie. Don’t cheat. Don’t steal. Don’t hit up your neighbor’s wife. And my favorite: It is easier to shove a Fat Cat through the eye of a needle than it is for a camel to go to heaven—or something like that.

Jesus was not a capitalist. When he turned water into wine, he did not open a liquor store. When he multiplied loaves and fishes, he did not establish Wal-Mart. When he miraculously healed the sick, he did not bill Medicare or start an HMO. Somehow, profiting richly from the sick and infirm was considered unjust back in those days.

He worked as a humble carpenter, an itinerant preacher and sometimes helped fishermen for free. The only business transaction he was ever reported to have completed was taking a whip to money-changers for turning his Father’s house into “a den of thieves.” In the end, he took up his cross and demanded his followers do the same.

“The central message of Christianity is giving your life away,” says Mr. Anthony. “I live on $55 a week, plus room and board.” If that sounds too much like socialism, there’s always another temple where everyone is free to worship. It has even more Ponzi schemes, and a really convenient address, too: Wall Street.

—Al Lewis is a columnist for Dow Jones Newswires in Denver. He blogs at tellittoal.com; his email address is al.lewis@dowjones.com

 

 

 

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(From the Iris Diaries)

The woman who loves the wind is always dreaming of a road.  Though it is tiresome and lonely at times, she senses that the path is ascending gently under her soft little feet.  It rolls out like a divine scroll before her, with new words and new mercies each day.

She knows that the end of the path holds great rewards and secrets that her natural eyes are too dim to see.  She has spiritual eyes that have beheld a few shadows of glory beyond the veil.  She told a close friend about one of her most memorable spiritual dreams:

In one of my dreams, I was the innkeeper of an old rustic lodge by the side of a lonely road, and I provided hospitality to many travelers.  I worked hard to make people as comfortable as possible when they came. I always stayed very busy preparing food and cleaning out rooms and decorating with flowers and candles and art.

There was a certain man who visited the inn on several occasions. He was kind and gracious, and I always felt awkward in his presence. Each time he came, I felt more of a bond of friendship with him, but I often felt as though my services were inadequate.  He was always grateful, but I was always looking for ways to improve.  Each time the man returned to the inn, I felt great joy about his coming.

During one particular visit by the man, I felt that something was about to happen and our interaction was different, because my heart began to flutter unexpectedly and I sensed that he had come for a special purpose.  He was especially warm and gentle in his demeanor and it made me even more nervous and concerned than before. 

I was bustling around anxiously, when suddenly he stopped me and ordered me to sit down.  He asked me how I was doing and how I felt.  I replied that I was fine, and he startled me by sitting on the floor in front of my chair and massaging my feet!  His eyes were searching my face with concern.  I was astonished and confused.

Then the man got up and said, “Wait here.  I have something to show you.”  As he went outside I rose and stood in the doorway to watch, and I saw him returning.  I realized his hands were full of huge diamonds glowing in the sunlight! The light was pouring out of them like rivers as he strode up to the doorstep. I have never seen such large and brilliant stones. One gigantic diamond was set in a ring he wore upon his hand and light was flowing out of it in colorful strands. 

The man stepped inside and spread the gems out on the table, and spoke these words:  “I am a stone-cutter and I only work with the purest diamonds because I want to bring out the brightest light from inside of them.”  As he talked, he picked out particular ones from the table and held them up to show me. 

Then he removed the fiery diamond ring off of his own hand and held it up before my eyes, and said  “You see, I would never dream of giving anything but the most perfect stone to my daughter, or to my…” I woke up before he could say the last word.  But the word “bride” hung in the air like a moment that is never forgotten. Tears sparkled like diamonds in my eyes- tears of holy and eternal love.

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My father told me a beautiful story of how they celebrate and reenact Good Friday and Easter in Mallorca, Spain where he lives.  First, they choose a young man from the village to portray Christ.  Then they choose other villagers to play the Roman soldiers and the two thieves and other important characters.

The young man in his complete costume with his robe and crown of thorns carries the cross throughout the village and he pauses to reenact the stations of the cross.  When he arrives at “Golgotha” he is crucified between the two thieves, and when he dies, all of the village churches darken their lights until Sunday morning.  On Easter morning, the bells chime and all the lights are cut on for sunrise services.

When I heard this story, I thought how sad it is that in America, which is known throughout the world for freedom, we are restricted from religious festivities in public places, and how much I would love to see such a beautiful event in my own country.

I want to wish everyone a meaningful Good Friday and Easter, as we commemorate the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ in our own hearts.  These events are so inexplicable and unspeakably beautiful that I will not even attempt to compete with greater minds on this subject.  I will simply ask that you contemplate the force of divine love behind these events this weekend with me and others around the world, and give thanks for all that was accomplished by Christ for every one of us.

As it says in one of my favorite hymns:

They bound the hands of Jesus in the garden where He prayed,

They led Him through the streets in shame,

They spat upon my Savior, so pure and free from sin,

They said “Crucify Him! He’s to blame.”

 

Upon His precious head they placed a crown of thorns,

They laughed and said behold the King,

They struck Him and they pierced Him, and they mocked His holy Name,

Alone He suffered everything.

 

(Chorus)

He could have called ten thousand angels

To destroy the world and set Him free.

He could have called ten thousand angels

But He died alone for you and me.

~♥~

 

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