Posts Tagged ‘family’

 

 

Yesterday’s RethinkChurch word for its photo-a-day Advent journey was wisdom (December 8). That reminded me of my Grandma Corie – not necessarily well-educated, but a wise, wise, woman. It also reminded me of a poem I wrote years ago.

 

Her Hands
Kimberly Dunnam Reisman

 

Cora Eliza Dunnam
Grandma Corie
Co-Bell

Wrinkled hands
grasp my own
squeezing her message of love.

So wrinkled,
the skin
standing up like a bridge
when pinched lightly
by a small child
engrossed in the game
that is being played
on the bridges.

But soft, those hands,
not the softness of youth
but the softness of age,
like my favorite shoe
whose leather is pliant
and wraps comfortably
around my foot.

The softness is not weakness,
for the hands are strong,
strengthened by years
of toting water
to the shotgun house
from the spring
at the bottom of the hill.

Hands,
strong enough
to tote the water,
yet tender enough
to cuddle
the tiny, new baby,
born not three hours
after the last buckets
had been brought up
from the spring.

Old hands now,
but still wearing
the ring
given by the young hand
of a beloved shipbuilder.
Old hands,
still loving that shipbuilder,
and five children,
and eleven grandchildren,
and ten great-grandchildren.

Old hands,
yellowed with age
like the pages
of the bible they hold,
smelling of snuff
and kitchen,
gently stroking
the smooth, leather cover,
offering a prayer,
the words wrinkled with use
yet soft and tender,
like the hands.

 

Cora Eliza Malone Dunnam ~ Co-Bell, circa 1980

Cora Eliza Malone Dunnam ~ Co-Bell, circa 1980

 

 

 

 

 

Abingdon Women

Friday, August 9th, 2013 | By Kimberly Reisman
Filed in: Kimberly Reisman

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IMG_0878Check out Abingdon Women for my most recent blog – Keep Your Eye on the Ball. While you’re there, take a look at The Christ-Centered Woman resources. It’s out and available for small group study. I think you’ll like it!

 

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Making Life Matter

Making Life Matter is a weekly 30 minute Christian inspirational and teaching program hosted by Maxie Dunnam and Shane Stanford. Next Step partners with Kingdom Catalysts to bring you MLM, which tackles issues of faith and life in order to deepen discipleship and encourage strong connections between following Jesus and living in today’s world. Mark your calendars to visit Next Step and listen regularly. Click below to hear today’s program.

 

 

Tattooed Love

Many of you know how important stories are to me – faith stories, family stories – they’re all significant in shaping us.

Steve Beard

Steve Beard

Here’s one I came across that made me smile. I can just picture my father chatting it up with a bunch of tattoo artists. Steve Beard wrote about it back in 2003 in Good News Magazine. Here’s what Steve wrote:

 

Bobby Doran is not exactly your typical evangelist. He spends most of his time poking people with sharp objects for a living. Ink, blood, rubber gloves—and a smile. Doran is an artist at The Tattoo Shop in Forth Worth, Texas, and recently garnered headlines by becoming the latest record holder for 30 hours of continuous tattooing.

Even though you won’t find his vocation listed in a seminary course catalog, Doran considers tattooing his ministry. “The church for years has looked at tattoos as a bad thing. We are trying to show a different side of it,” he told Knight Ridder News Service. “Ninety percent of the people who walk into a tattoo shop will never walk into a church. So if we can be the only church that they see, well, that’s good.”

Doran is no high-pressure preacher. “I don’t force anything down anybody’s throat, but when God says talk to them, I talk to them,” he says. His wife Tanya reports: “We’ve had people break down and cry and give themselves up to God. If it happens, it happens.”

Doran’s world record reminded me of a story I heard recently from the Rev. Jim Smith, pastor of St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church in Amarillo, Texas. It seems that a few years ago, Smith found himself in an elevator with an exotic couple. The young man’s hair was spiked, his sleeveless shirt displayed his ink-colored arms, and his eyebrow and earlobes were pierced. Her tattoos and piercings were displayed through her less-than-modest leather and denim outfit.

On the other side of the elevator stood Smith in his blue blazer, striped tie, and white starched shirt. He was, after all, on his way to chair the board meeting of the Confessing Movement, an evangelical reform ministry within the United Methodist Church.

In order to break the awkward silence, Smith said aloud, “Well, I don’t suppose we are going to the same meeting.” That sparked a laugh and began the conversation between the buttoned-down preacher and the inked-up couple. It turns out that they were at the hotel for the Old School Reunion—a tattoo artist convention. The couple even invited the pastor to check it out for himself; he thanked them for the invitation and went off to his meeting.

Maxie Dunnam

Maxie Dunnam

After the board meeting, Jim was invited by Dr. Maxie Dunnam, president of Asbury Theological Seminary, to grab a cup of coffee. Smith told Dunnam that he had already been invited to an event at the hotel.

“To what?” asked Dunnam. “To the Old School Reunion,” Smith responded.

The two of them scooted through the hotel in their business suits looking around for the tattoo convention. When they found the registration desk, they were greeted by an older gentleman covered in ink. He recognized that the two men were obviously not there to get a touch up on their dragon tattoos.

Bedecked in a sleeveless t-shirt, black leather vest, and rings wobbling off his earlobes, the man turned out to be the head of the convention and invited Dunnam and Smith to look around as his guests.

Jesus tattooAssuming the pair knew little about tattoos, he held out his right arm and showed the two visitors a picture of Jesus ascending into heaven. They both stared in amazement at the inked forearm.

Unsure if his new friends recognized the figure on his arm, the man said, “Jesus was the son of God. His Father sent him into the world to be our savior. He died on the cross to forgive our sins and was raised from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is praying for you.” He then winsomely asked his two guests, “Have you ever heard this story before?”

The two ministers had just heard the most succinct presentation of the gospel ever. When they confessed they were Methodist preachers, the tattooed man shouted, “Praise God! You’re my brothers!” He proceeded to hug his new friends right in the middle of the convention.

Kim Reisman

Kim Reisman

“That was the first time in my life I’ve been hugged by a man in a leather vest and earrings,” Smith testifies.

The three of them went from booth to booth as the man told his tattooed colleagues to “meet my two brothers.” Pierced ears. Crew cuts. Leather vests. Navy blazers. Sleeveless t-shirts. White starched shirts. Tattoos. Neckties. Two worlds collided and the grace of God settled in some unpredictable directions.

While he was on the elevator first surveying the tattooed couple, Jim Smith had wondered who would be able to witness for Christ to them. Culturally, he and they were from two separate stratospheres. But later as the three new friends went from booth to booth at the tattoo convention, Smith was reminded that God is never left without a witness—even a few colorful ones to keep us on our toes and remind us that he is covering all the bases.

 

God is never left without a witness. What’s your next step?

Kimberly Reisman

Kim Reisman

Stories for the Journey…

 

As my family has grown, I’ve moved the place where I study to various parts of the house. I started in a corner of my bedroom, then we were able to remodel & I got an actual room to myself (the smallest in the house of course). Then my son moved out & I was able to move into his old room. Now my daughter has ventured out on her own & I’ve just transitioned into her old room. I think I’ve reached my final destination!

At each stage of the game, I’ve gone through files & books, reading & remembering, reorganizing & discarding. The other day I came across an excerpt that my father sent me from one of his books. He had come across it in his own reorganizing & wanted to make sure I knew the story & that I passed it down to my kids as well.

Stories shape us. Our family stories. Our faith stories. We need to know our stories. This is a small one that shaped my father & me. It’s taken from his book Be Your Whole Self which was written in 1970:

 

…our deeds usually emanate from our values.

            In a folder of precious keep-sakes I have a Drew Pearson column entitled A Rabbi’s Kindness Didn’t Pay in Mississippi. It was written at Christmastime, 1964. The article begins,

Christmas being the anniversary of a Jew born in Bethlehem nearly 2000 years ago, I write the story of a Jew who lives in Mississippi today. His name is Rabbi David Ben-Ami of Temple B’nai Israel in Hattiesburg, and his trials and tribulations began when he befriended ministers of other faiths and incurred the wrath of modern money changers.

Drew Pearson goes on to tell the story of how Rabbi Ben-Ami visited clergymen who had been thrown in jail for their demonstrations against racial injustices, of his befriending a white Presbyterian minister who had been involved in the struggle for racial justice, of his assistance in distributing turkeys to needy Mississippi families of all races under the Dick Gregory “Christmas for Mississippi” program. This was too much for the Rabbi’s congregation. They insisted that he leave. They were not ruthless, as were the money changers of Jerusalem with another Jew nearly 2000 years ago. They were polite and sympathetic – but they pointed out that they had heavy investments in Hattiesburg which could be bankrupted by boycotts. Since the Rabbi had no investment in Mississippi, it seemed simpler for him to look for another congregation.

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Dunnam family circa 1963 - clockwise from bottom left: Kerry, Jerry, Freddy Davis, Maxie, Kim

            That article is meaningful to me because of an incident that occurred at Christmastime, 1963. We had two children then. With them, my wife and I were driving from Gulfport, Mississippi to Richton, my parents’ home, about 100 miles away. It was an unusually cold night. Ice was on the road and it was sleeting.

            We had left Gulfport following a church meeting where a lot of angry feelings had been expressed about the racial situation and my involvement in it. It was close to midnight out on a dark lonely highway when our car stalled. There was little traffic. The children were getting colder and we were getting anxious. After what seemed to be an endless time (and the passing of numerous cars) we were getting to the point of desperation, when an old model car came to a screeching halt beside us.

            I told the driver our plight, and without asking any further questions, he invited us into his car, helped us transfer luggage, and went out of his way to take us to a friend’s home in the nearest town where we could spend the night and attend to the car problem the next day.

            This man had an accent different than mine, and I knew he was not a Mississippian. I surmised, as we often wrongly do, that he was a Jew, and his warm ministry of love reminded me of another Jew and a story he told about a Good Samaritan. Before we reached our destination, I learned that I was right. He was a Jew. His name was David Ben-Ami, rabbi of Temple B’nai Israel in Hattiesburg.

            It was this man that Drew Pearson wrote about a year later. Not only to the disinherited and dejected of the Negro race, but to a desperate white Anglo-saxon Protestant Christian Minister and his freezing family, this man expressed love. I don’t know where Rabbi Ben-Ami is today, but wherever he is, I have an idea that he lives effectively with the nitty-gritty. He has experienced values that transcend religion or race, social or economic boundaries. His synagogue in Hattiesburg may have rejected his witness, but they couldn’t annul it. Mississippi and the world is different today, because of men like Rabbi David Ben-Ami.

            This is one way meaning comes – through experiencing values. That’s what religion is – the search for a value underlying all things. When we experience certain values – i.e. the value of persons, the relationship of love, the meaning of self-integrity – life takes on meaning, and we can live with the nitty-gritty.

People may reject our witness, but they can never annul it.

Stories convey values. Values provide meaning. Meaning empowers us to live with the nitty-gritty – whatever that nitty-gritty might be. What are your stories? How have they brought you meaning? Are you sharing them with those you love? 

Her Hands…

I’m going through a bit of transition these days with the nearing completion of my PhD. Given that the whole nature of transition is to move from one present to another, I’ve been trying to discern what that new present might look like. I often do that by looking back at the past. For whatever reason, is seems like the better handle I have on where I’ve come from, the better handle I can get on where I’m going. At any rate, I was going through some old journals & came across a poem I wrote in January, 1980 – Hands. It’s about my grandmother, Cora Dunnam.

 

Cora Dunnam

Cora Eliza Malone Dunnam, circa 1980

Cora Eliza Dunnam

Grandma Corie

Co-Bell

Wrinkled hands

grasp my own

squeezing her message of love.

So wrinkled,

the skin

standing up like a bridge

when pinched lightly

by a small child

engrossed in the game

that is being played

on the bridges.

But soft, those hands,

not the softness of youth

but the softness of age,

like my favorite shoe

whose leather is pliant

and wraps comfortably

around my foot.

The softness is not weakness,

for the hands are strong,

strengthened by years

of toting water

to the shotgun house

from the spring

at the bottom of the hill.

Hands,

strong enough

to tote the water,

yet tender enough

to cuddle

the tiny, new baby,

born not three hours

after the last buckets

had been brought up

from the spring.

Old hands now,

but still wearing

the ring

given by the young hand

of a beloved shipbuilder.

Old hands,

still loving that shipbuilder,

and five children,

and eleven grandchildren,

and ten great-grandchildren.

Old hands,

yellowed with age

like the pages

of the bible they hold,

smelling of snuff

and kitchen,

gently stroking

the smooth, leather cover,

offering a prayer,

the words wrinkled with use

yet soft and tender,

like the hands.

…………………….

My grandmother’s hands shaped me & that’s important to me as I negotiate this time of transition. Who’s hands have shaped you? As you look to the future, who is being shaped by your hands?

The View from Here

Thursday, December 29th, 2011 | By Joy Moore
Filed in: Joy Moore, The View from Here

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Looking Back, Looking Forward.

It’s what we do this time of year. The holidays bring us together with family and friends. We find ourselves cataloging who sent us greeting cards this year, what gifts we gave, who hosted the last Christmas dinner, and whose turn it is to host the SuperBowl party. The children are older, but they seem to already have the latest gadgets. The old folks are …us…when did that happen? Between preparing meals and packing up decorations, we pause to rewind a few photos and find tears welling up in our eyes as we laugh at the clothing we thought so cool and remember the moments we now realize were allowed to pass too quickly.

Time and Life magazines, USAToday and the TVGuide channel will rehearse the best and worst of the past year. The broadcasts will give us permission to demonize those whose political affiliations are different from our own, while raising our concern regarding national security, the global economy, and local eduction. Some will alert us to those who suffer in poverty, before inserting a commercial teasing us to upgrade to digital cable with additional movie channels. Between celebrity meltdowns, sports scandals, and divorce drama, we will be reminded of earthquakes, tsunamis, overthrown dictators,  and market crashes.  We will remember where we were when…and start conversations that recall relatives, friends, neighbors, and teachers who have stepped from this life to life eternal. And we we begin to make promises to ourselves this next year we will be different.

We will be different. But not in the magnanimous ways we imagine. Our January diets will be attacked by Valentine’s Day chocolate. Our recommitment to timeliness will be thwarted by an extra-long email that we pause to read or a cellphone call we take while remaining parked at the curb. Our pledge to study more will be forgotten as we accept one more Wii-challlenge or read one more Facebook update. Our efforts to feed the hungry, visit the sick, or support a charity will be forgotten after one Habitat weekend, writing a single check, or one youth sponsored spaghetti dinner. And this time next year, we will make the same promises, with the  same earnestness, and the same short-lived commitments.

If you recognize this pattern, dare I suggest you look back for something different. The best moments and fondest memories rarely were planned, organized, and designed. The pictures that captured the funniest moments were not posed. The most significant changes resulted from our response to things external to our control. Our best efforts in public mirror are habits from home. Who are you? Look back.  A consideration of who you are might impact what you do more that deciding who you want to become.  Looking forward from this vantage point can take a whole lot of pressure off some of our promises, resolutions, and  extreme makeover commitments.

Living with integrity is not always easy in a society that says we need one more device, another outfit, and to switch telephone carriers one more time. Look back at who you are: a daughter or son, a sibling, a spouse; A neighbor, co-worker, friend; the stranger in the grocery line, the person sitting in the restaurant booth, the guest in a hotel. Remember, what it means to be Christian is simply to be like Christ. Humanity was created to be reflections of the the Creator. Our very personhood is the opportunity to be a glimpse of the glory of God right where we are – a home, school, or office. Everything else is consequential.

Joy Moore

Joy Moore

Looking forward, instead of a major overhaul, what if you make one resolution each day for the next year. A single undertaking, that you recommitment to when you awaken each morning for the next year. Make it something that can expand to every aspect of your life, so you can achieve it whether you are driving the kids to school, or standing in a grocery line. Something that requires an authentic expression in every facet of your existence. Make a tangible decision that impacts what movies you will see, and the books you read; what jokes you laugh at, and who they tease; how you spend your money, on what; what meals you prepare, for whom; how often you work late, and why. Each day, for the next year, what if we simply tried to be what we already are and see how God can be glorified through our lives. Instead of being driven by the commercials, what if today our goal is to be a commercial for God.

Denominations as a Starting Place…

 

Several years ago I was near Quito, Ecuador on a short-term mission trip with a group from The Orchard.  We were staying in the dormitories at SEMISUD which is the largest South American Seminary for The Church of God of Cleveland denomination.  On the way to my room I met one of the General Secretaries of The United Methodist Church.  He was there as part of a World Council of Churches delegation who had come to South America to dialogue with Pentecostal churches about their unwillingness to participate with the WCC.  He was amazed to find a United Methodist Congregation doing what they had traveled thousands of miles to discuss.  Amazed, he asked me about how we, a United Methodist Church, were able to work out a partnership with the Church of God of Cleveland Seminary.  My reply was simply, “because we are both more interested in the kingdom than in the denomination.”

One of the principles of growth that stands out about vibrant congregations is that the denomination is a starting place, but it is not their final destination.

The stated mission of the Mississippi Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church is to equip the church to make disciples for Jesus Christ.  That is an outstanding mission, fully on target, one that is true to our call.  However, theory and practice can prove to be radically different, even in well-intentioned denominations.

Denominations, if not kept in their proper perspective, can demand so much of the pastor’s time and the church’s attention that they actually prevent us from accomplishing its and our stated mission—to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

The local church must be the primary location of ministry and transformation of the denomination must take place by the overflow of the local church.  This is not only the most effective way of transformation; it is also the most congruent with the call of the Gospel.  We are called first and foremost to be builders of Christ’s Kingdom, not our denominations.

In John chapter fifteen, verse sixteen, Jesus makes very clear the mission of the disciples.  They were to go and bear fruit that would last.  No one would argue that Jesus meant that the disciples would add people to the Kingdom (see John 4).  Somewhere along the way Jesus disciples began grouping and in grouping became more concerned with adding to their group than in fulfilling Jesus’ mandate.

In any community there is plenty of Kingdom work to be done.  Jesus himself recognized that the fields were ripe for harvest, but the laborers were few (John 4:36).  Statistically in any community of 50 to 5 million, 50 percent (or more) of the residents do not have a personal relationship with Jesus or a connection to a community of faith.  Some would argue that this is simply not so in their community.  My response is that they simply do not hang around the right kind of wrong people.

This statistic should inform our work in several ways.  First, if 50% of the people in our community do not have a personal relationship with Jesus or a connection to a community of faith I am not in competition with the other churches in town because there are plenty of people to go around.  The real competition is every other available use of a person’s time.  We are not competing with other churches in our community.  We are competing against soccer, t-ball, sitcoms, bunko groups and the like.  Any time people choose to be in a growing discipleship process it is a Kingdom win.

Secondly, we need to be supportive of the other churches in our community because we are not trying to make the next generation of Methodists (or Baptists, etc.).  We are trying to make the next generation of Christians.  This is not an idea that sits well with denominations.  But pastors or denominational leaders who lament a family the next church down the road instead of ours have a very narrow view of the Kingdom of Christ.  In Tupelo, there are 20,000 unchurched people.  If one person joins the local Presbyterian Church, then that only leaves 19,999 to go.  That is a Kingdom win.

The reason we so often miss this is that we are focused on who we do have—how many in comparison to the other churches in town or in our denomination.  We must stay focused on our target group, the group to whom we were sent—those in our community who are outside the Kingdom.

Third, we need to partner with the other churches in our community because if all the unchurched people in our community decided to show up at our church this Sunday, our church wouldn’t hold them all.  The only hope we have of reaching the whole community is if the whole Body of Christ is focused on this task.  Competitiveness among churches and between denominations is counterproductive to the Kingdom.  It only confirms to those who are outside the Kingdom what they suspected all along—that we are petty.

Finally, we need to help people find a place to belong, even if they belong at another church.  This is true because we are in the business of helping people find and enter into a relationship with God.  If they can do that better somewhere else, we should encourage them to do so. It should be no big deal if a family or 10 families leave our church.  If we are focused on the outsiders there are plenty of people there to replace them.

This is what it means to be the Body of Christ.  Just as within any community of faith (church) there are many and diverse gifts, within the church universal there are particular roles that each denomination plays.  There are appealing (and not so appealing) aspects to each of these groups.  But we need each other if we are ever going to reach our communities.  This will become more and more apparent to us when we are honest enough to admit to ourselves that by ourselves we will never reach everyone in our community—as bad as we hate to admit it—not everyone will like us or be attracted to Jesus at our church.  But if we remember that our primary task is building the Kingdom then we can work together to do so.

Maxie & Jerry Dunnam - 50th Anniversary

You can’t go back to where you have been, but you can look back & remember what you learned when you were there. This is a good word for us at any time, but it seems particularly appropriate as Next Step launches its website.

I couldn’t believe it. Jerry and I drove into a section of the Botanical Gardens in Memphis & there it was: a 1956 BelAire Chevrolet. Though I didn’t know where it had come from, I knew why it was there.

Our children had planned a celebration of our 50th wedding anniversary. They knew I had a 1955 BelAire “hard-top convertible” when we married. One of their friends had this ’56 – the closest thing to the ’55 they could borrow. Beside the car there were two manikins, one dressed in Jerry’s wedding gown; the other in a replica of the tux I had worn. Then there was a life size picture of us, leaving the wedding for our honeymoon. A second life size picture was of me standing by my prized ‘55 outside “Nubby’s Truck Stop” where we had spent our first night of marriage. (Only Jerry can tell that story, so I would never try.)

Family members & a few special friends were there, & it was a great “going back” time – a wonderful sharing of love & memories, extravagant affirmations that loving folks will be forgiven for, photographs from every period of our lives on the table, a photo-music video prepared by our grandson Nathan, & three hours of loving togetherness that defines what life is all about. Everything about it – from the flowers in Mason fruit jars hanging all around the pavilion to the catfish & hushpuppy dinner – was an expression of joyful memory.

I can’t imagine a couple having a richer, more beautiful, fulfilling, & rewarding fifty years than we have had. The celebration was a kind of climatic memory-gathering of it all.

The celebration continued the next day with out-of-town folks coming for brunch & more sharing. Then the next morning the call came. My oldest brother, Edgar, had died peacefully in his sleep during the night. We had had 48 hours of joyful celebration, now a different celebration – but no less a celebration – as we joined family & friends back in Perry County, Mississippi for his funeral. That’s where I grew up with Edgar, another brother & two sisters. We were poor, but for most of our lives we didn’t know it. Life was hard, but we were not too aware of that. It was simple, but we had not yet learned to value that. Our parents were loving & supportive. They didn’t read much, so were spared the misguidance that too many modern parents get from pop psychology.

With these two events coming so closely together I have reflected a lot on the fact that you can’t go back to where you started from but you can look back and try to remember what you learned when you were there. I learned “when I was there” that you can’t make it alone; we need others just to survive. There are many things that are more important than money & material things: loving parents, caring friends, a community where you are known by name, integrity of character (your word-your bond), wisdom from experience rather than “book-learning.” Persons are not to be used, but relationships are to be cultivated for the simple but profound enhancement of life. The Christian faith is not an insurance policy for something that comes after death, but the dynamic that shapes our life & guides the way we live daily in our work & relationships.

I wish I had learned the biggest lesson that I could have learned “when I was there” – that time is all we have & how we use it makes all the difference in the world. Today is all I have. Today is all I can handle. Today is all I need.