Posts Tagged ‘Living in the Real World’

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

This was seen last week on a billboard in Memphis, Tennessee. I’m so excited to be able to team up with Jessica LaGrone and Babbie Mason for a great teaching event this Thursday. I’ll be teaching from my new book, The Christ Centered Woman. If you’re in the area, click here to register! It would be great to have you join us!

 

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Christ United Methodist Church

 

4488 Popular Ave

Memphis, TN

 

Abingdon Women

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

1comments

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!

 

 

A Hard Path to a Better Place

 

Kim Reisman

Kim Reisman

I’m an Independent, not registered with any political party; although neither the Democrats nor the Republicans seem to know that based on the literature and surveys they send me – both parties clearly think I’m one of them. Go figure.

I don’t know who will win the election in November and I’m not trying to send any messages about who to vote for. But, I found the closing words of President Obama’s speech to the Democratic National Convention last night extremely moving:

…Yes, our path is harder, but it leads to a better place. Yes our road is longer, but we travel it together. We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up. We draw strength from our victories, and we learn from our mistakes, but we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon, knowing that Providence is with us, and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on Earth.

I know that was a word to the nation, but in some strange way it also felt like a word to the church.

 

 

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it may own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.            ~Philippians 3.12-14 (NRSV)

 

PostSecret Monday…

 

Please don’t wait…

 

Mom

PostSecret

 

Occasionally things happen in life that call us to pause. If we heed that call and pay attention, we often realize that we’ve been privy to something really special. That kind of thing has happened to me over the last several weeks.

Owl

Murdock the owl

We live in an ordinary suburban setting in West Lafayette, Indiana – nice front yard with neighbors a little over a driveway width away on either side. When we arrived in 1993 our back yard was lovely but our neighbors were in plain sight – no privacy whatsoever. In the years since, we’ve planted wisteria vines and built a pergola and our back yard turned into what our children have come to call the secret garden.

During good weather, we eat many of our meals under the pergola surrounded by wisteria and trumpet vines. A few weeks ago, as we were eating with friends we noticed a bird nestled in the wisteria – not the kind of bird we were used to seeing. It was a young screech-owl, about 12 inches tall, who had apparently been watching us for some time. We watched each other that night, and the next, soon naming him Murdock (after my grandfather who would also watch quietly, occasionally dropping some gem of wisdom or wit) and regularly checking for his whereabouts in the branches of the wisteria. Until one day he was gone.

That was a sad day.

owlet

Oscar the Owlet

But then another evening rolled around and John and I were out enjoying dinner in the shade of the pergola. John looked up and thought he saw Murdock! But no, it wasn’t him. It was a small owlet, so new he (she?) still had his fuzzy just-hatched feathers – and he had been watching us. So we named him Oscar (I’m not sure why) and began watching, checking every day to see where he might be nestled. Oscar lost his fuzzy feathers and fresh new, grown-up feathers took their place. He watched us and we watched him. And then Oscar was gone too. Another sad day.

But that’s when I realized that I had been privy to something special – nothing miraculous mind you, but definitely special.

Kim Reisman

Kim Reisman

An ordinary part of nature – owls – opened my eyes once again to the amazing glory of God’s creation. And it reminded me not to take things for granted, but to pay attention. So I am. Deliberately. Because I don’t want to miss meeting those who share my garden.

 

Then God said, “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.” So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird—each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply. Let the fish fill the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.”

…Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! 

Genesis 1.20-22, 31

 

MLM-splash-3

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 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.

 

Peace

Peace Camp Uganda

 

Aubrey and Patrick Woodson are two young Peace Corps volunteers I am blessed to call friends. They serve in Uganda and recently Aubrey worked with youth from the Greater North in a weeklong Peace Camp. She posted this on her blog:

We have been fortunate to grow up in an environment where people can argue about politics, the validity of eating at Chik-fil-A, Kony 2012…etc. None of them matter without peace. I know my campers learned a lot this week at Peace Camp but I also learned a lot from them about the power of forgiveness. It was truly inspirational to see the resilience of the youth, who have been through so much, and their willingness to learn about living in peace with themselves and with one another.

She went on to post a poem written by one of the youth:

Peace Peace Peace

Who are you?

Where do you stay?

Where were you born?

Who has ever seen you?

Peaceful Living UgandaSome people say that

you are love and joy.

Others say that you are happiness.

Others describe you as unity and respect.

To those who have read extensively

and widely, they think of you as a situation

or a period of time where there is

no war in a country. Yet others think of you

as a state of living in friendship with somebody.

How special are you?

You are too unique.

You are needed in our world now.

People are suffering and crying because you are not there.

Armies are fighting because you are not there.

Police are deployed where you are absent.

In the Greater North, many people were killed,

burnt, hammered and hung because you were absent.

Our children of this generation don’t know you.

Many people have lost their lives in the process of searching for you.

Many are still in the bush looking for you.

Many weapons were made to bring you back.

Married men and women have separated because you are nowhere to be seen.

Nobody can be comfortable without you.

Aubrey Woodson

Aubrey Woodson – Peace Camp 2012

It seems love is your father.

Happiness is your mother.

Joy, unity, and respect are you relatives.

Confusion and fighting are your greatest enemies.

Killing can chase you out of a country.

We cry, pray, and request

you humbly to stay in the

Greater North of our country

forever and ever.

-Omodo Boniface

 

Yes. Stay…but please, not only in the Greater North…

 

…If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.                                                  2 Chronicles 7.14

 

MLM-splash-3

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.

 

 

 

Emory - Brent Strawn

Brent Strawn ~ Candler School of Theology

Brent Strawn, Associate Professor of Old Testament at Candler School of Theology, Emory University, posted the following article on MinistryMatters.com. It also appears in the Justice in the Church (Aug/Sept/Oct 2012) issue of Circuit Rider. It’s an excellent reflection…

 

When God Seems Unjust

I make my living teaching the Old Testament, so I’m quite aware of its “problems.” You might say it’s a job hazard in my line of work. Even if people can’t cite chapter and verse, they often have a strong feeling that things in the first half (actually, the first seventy-eight percent) of the Bible aren’t quite right—that there are some disturbing things over there if you ever bother to read it (most don’t), and many of them have to do with God.

Just a week ago I was called in for something of an emergency “Save the Old Testament!” session for a Disciple Bible Study group at my own local congregation. There I heard yet again what seems to have become the standard interpretation among far too many Christians: “God is mean in the Old Testament, but everything changes with Jesus and the New Testament. What gives?”

This is a big question connected to a large number of others. I can’t solve the first, let alone the rest, not even if I had many times the space I have here, because the “best questions,” or in this case, the most difficult ones, simply don’t have any easy answers. That doesn’t mean we are relieved of having to try, however. The Mishnah has a famous saying to this effect: “It’s not your job to finish the work, but you’re not free to walk away from it” (Abot 2.21). So, here are four thoughts on the matter.

1. It’s Not Just an Old Testament Problem

The problem is not just an “Old Testament” one. It is, through and through, from top to bottom, a biblical problem in at least two ways:

(1) The New Testament also has its share of violence and wrath—“mean God” kind of stuff for short. One need only think of the Book of Revelation, or the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), or sayings of Jesus that are far from “meek and mild” to get this point clearly (e.g., Matt 5:25-26; 10:34-36; 16:2-3; 23:1-36; Mark 10:38; Luke 12:49-53; 13:3, 5; 14:25-33; etc.).

(2) The Old Testament has just as much “nice God” kind of stuff as the New Testament. Indeed, much of the New Testament’s “niceness” comes directly from the Old Testament: The Great Commandment concerning the love of God and love of neighbor, for instance (Deut 6:5; Lev 19:18), but also love for immigrants (Lev 19:34) and good deeds for one’s enemies (e.g., Prov 25:21; cf. Matt 5:39; Rom 12:20). Or, more directly to God’s wrath, consider Isaiah 54:7-10, which acknowledges God’s abandonment and anger “for a moment,” but now promises great compassion and everlasting love (vv. 7-8). It culminates in the statement that God will never be angry with Israel again—never, just as God will never flood the earth again (v. 9)! Then:

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,
says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” (v. 10)

What text anywhere else in the Bible could rival this one in raw mercy and unbounded grace?

Christians who advocate the “standard interpretation” mentioned above are revealing nothing so much as their ignorance on two fronts: (1) their lack of knowledge of the entirety of the Old Testament, including its many “good parts”; and (2) their lack of knowledge of the entirety of the New Testament, including its many “bad parts.” Once again, the problem of God’s violence or wrath is thoroughly a biblical one—not just an Old Testament one.

This means, in turn, that the solution to the problem cannot be only a New Testament one, since the New Testament itself has the same blemishes. The fact that so many Christians don’t know either side of this equation reveals profound biblical illiteracy. That problem, in turn, is especially acute because it prevents Christians from findingbiblical solutions to the very real difficulties posed by biblical texts concerning violence and wrath.

2. There Are Biblical Solutions

Happily, there are solutions to the problems of violence and wrath posed by the Old and New Testaments. Let it be underscored that these are biblical solutions, not restricted to one testament (invariably the New) over the other (inevitably the Old). These solutions will not satisfy everyone, and each difficult text deserves separate, case-by-case attention. It must suffice here, and speaking only of the Old Testament, to again highlight that it knows as much grace as the New Testament (recall Isaiah 54), and that it built into it what might be called “strategies of containment.”

One example: the problem of the conquest and settling of Canaan, and thus the problem of Holy War, bothers modern sensibilities. How could this be part of God’s purposes and plans in the world? Here again is a serious issue; it cannot be addressed simply or simplistically. That granted, it is worth noting that the Old Testament does not repeatedly enjoin this kind of military activity on subsequent generations of Israelites. Nor does it continually evoke the conquest as a metaphor for faithful life with God.

This should be quickly contrasted with the exodus, which is everywhere mentioned and used as a way to describe even much later acts of God, such as the return from exile. The point of comparison is that, in the very way the Old Testament speaks of these things, it suggests that the conquest of Canaan is a limited, time-bound phenomenon never to be repeated; the exodus, however, is the way God works, period (cf. Amos 9:7). That doesn’t fix all the problems with the conquest, but it is a start.

3. It’s Not a New Problem

The problems of violence, wrath, and the like—as well as the “standard interpretation” of these—are nothing new. They are very old indeed, running back at least to the arch-heretic Marcion in the second century.

Marcion was the first to articulate the standard interpretation in full-blown fashion and he ended up throwing the entirety of the Old Testament out (interestingly enough, his position also required jettisoning a good bit of the New Testament!). Marcion’s theology was predicated precisely on antitheses like evil/good, judgmental/merciful, old/new. The church declared Marcion a heretic and resolutely retained the Old Testament (and a fuller New Testament).

The early church father, Tertullian (ca. 160-225), wrote five books against Marcion. Among other things, Tertullian said that a God who disapproves of nothing (that is, who lacks the capacity or disposition to judge or discipline), is unable to approve of anything and thus cannot save or deliver those who experience injustice. Marcion’s “god” may be unambiguously “good” but this goodness makes no (biblical) sense and cannot provide justice for those who suffer. One must be very careful to define what one means by the word “good”—and it should take more than a sentence or two! Moreover, robust Trinitarian theology means the Three are One. To say that one (the Father) is mean with the other (the Son) nice is to introduce unorthodox distinctions into the Godhead. Anyone who believes that a “mean God” inhabits the Old Testament and a “nice God” lives in the New, is making divisions that are not only uninformed, biblically-speaking, but also far too simplistic—even, dare one say, heretical.

4. There Is No Simple Solution

Finally, the previous point means we must steward ourselves to prevent any speech or thinking about God that is too simplistic. God, the Infinite, can never “get said” quite right—not even with many words or even all the books in the world. If we can imagine a situation in which God appears to be as dumb as one of the Three Stooges, we aren’t thinking about God or the problem with sufficient complexity. It would be a mistake to think that we are smarter than God, or the book about God.

Again, that is not to say that the problems of wrath, violence, and so forth (and there are many of the latter!) aren’t real or significant. They are both, and just as they admit of no easy solution, they are not easily understood. Then again, maybe they aren’t meant to be solved or understood. St. Augustine said the following in a sermon:

“[Scripture] can only be understood in ways beyond words; human words cannot suffice for understanding the Word of God. What we are discussing and stating is why it is not understood. I am not speaking in order that it may be understood, but telling you what prevents it being understood. . . What I am saying is how incomprehensible is the passage that was read to us. But in any case, it wasn’t read in order to be understood, but in order to make us mere human beings grieve because we don’t understand it, and make us try to discover what prevents our understanding, and so move it out of the way, and hunger to grasp the unchangeable Word, ourselves thereby being changed from worse to better.”

Augustine wrote that about John 1:1-3! If it holds true for that text, then certainly it holds true for even more perplexing texts. And so it is that one finds a rich history of interpretation in both Jewish and Christian circles about the most difficult of texts—including and especially ones concerning God’s wrath and violence.

Much more could be said. Much more should be said. But this is a beginning. Perhaps if ministers spoke more about these texts, addressing them in ways like I have done here but adding to that and expounding upon it, the “intractable” problems of the Old Testament would suddenly become tractable after all, and people would find themselves confronted afresh and anew with the whole counsel of God, not just the last 22 percent of it. That would be a victory in more ways than one!