Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day: How my distant cousin became a cat

© 2017 Christy K Robinson
Looking at the photos of friends' cemetery visits this weekend, remembering their immediate families, reminds me that it was a ritual of my godparents to do the same. (They weren't godparents, really, but they were designated as our caregivers if our parents died while we were kids. The man was my grandmother's cousin, fairly close to her age.) Dale and Adrienne Hall would take flowers to Adrienne's parents' graves and have a picnic there, and remember them in stories with the other cemetery mourners. 
The circa-1924 photo is of my great-great grandfather,
Martin Friend Hall, an attractive dog, and Martin's grandson,
Dale Hall.
My immediate family didn't have that custom, as we were 2500 miles from our living grandparents, and the great-grandparents' graves were also far away. Because of our Christian faith, we believed we should honor one another in life, and anticipate seeing them one day in heaven. 
So today, I'd like to introduce you to my godfather, Dale Hall, 1923-2008. He was born on the Fourth of July, so his birthday cakes were often adorned with blueberries and strawberries on white frosting, in the form of a flag.
He was a veteran of World War II, went to my college (La Sierra, in Riverside, Calif.) on the GI Bill, kept my mother as a ward in sunny California during her teenage years when the Minnesota winters threatened to kill her, was a high school business teacher, and very opinionated on church matters. The church forbade coffee, tea, and other caffeinated drinks, but Dale was half-Swedish and from Minnesota, so coffee ran in his veins.
 He was an elder in his church, devoted to his two successive wives, was a total sucker for little dogs, a gracious host whenever I wanted a weekend away from university, and he envied the lifestyle of my cats, saying that when he died, he wanted to come back as my cat. So now, when my cat Smetana, born the year Dale died, bites me, I have to wonder about reincarnation... 
Dale was a grumpy old man, but most of that was from being a drill sergeant to those high school students. He loved the Bible and he loved the Lord, and I have no doubts of his eternal destiny.
Dale didn't have a biological child, though he and Adrienne adopted a son who is lost to the family. Unless a distant cousin laid flowers on Dale's Minnesota grave, I'm the one remembering him today. Adrienne rests in San Diego with her parents and brother, but she was the last of her line.  
There. That's Dale Hall, Army veteran, remembered with a grin. I'll see him again, even if he is a cat. 
1969: Among other family members, Dale is the one in the
green shirt, and his wife Adrienne is in the purple top. Their
son may have been away fighting in Vietnam.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

God with us at the table has sat down

©  2017 Christy K Robinson

When I was a couple of years out of university and recovering from a life-changing injury, my mother and I went walking as good exercise in a controlled, safe environment: the shopping mall. In the housewares department, I found white porcelain plates, cups, and serving dishes with ink drawings and watercolors of wildflowers. I started buying them, a few pieces at a time. Later, I discovered some crystal goblets that were heavy and felt smooth to the touch, and I collected those, too.
Church friends having lunch on my patio.

I was single, and shared a house with my brother. We had separate social lives, but an understanding about entertaining company either separately or together. We had pool parties and barbecues, and hosted my Christian singles group many times. I had friends over after church, having made special foods and laid the table with my wildflower dishes, crystal goblets,  candles and music.

My thought was, Why save my beautiful things in a china cabinet or hope chest, toward a wedding, husband, and children that might never come? (And they didn't!) I should use and enjoy my pretty things instead of hide them away for "special" times.

My dad and his wife, having
chimichangas on my patio.
Time moved on. After I moved from Arizona to California for my job, I had a different set of friends over, and they loved the Friday night dinner for two, or the after-church lunch on the patio under the wisteria, always with the china. They loved my dinners, but they rarely returned the invitations, and after a while, I stopped going to the trouble and expense.

I found a new set to collect, though: blue and white English castles. Some were souvenirs I'd bought in England, and others were from California antique shops. Nothing matched, but everything coordinated, if you know what I mean.

Twelve years later, I moved back to Arizona. I donated my silver-plate serving pieces and candlesticks. I decided to sell my wildflower set, but could find no buyers. It seems that everyone uses plastic or paper plates for meals, even at Thanksgiving or Christmas. I must be the last person with lovely dishes.

But it's not just "everyone else." I've been using the same inexpensive, plain blue plates and cobalt glasses for 20 years. I don't use plastic or paper, but I've settled for routine and indestructible. In the 2000s, no one entertains at home--we meet for Starbucks coffee, or go out for Mexican food. In fact, people tell me they don't want a fuss made, that it's easier to eat out. My wildflower plates stay packed, and my blue and white castles get dusty in the china hutch. If I offer a cold drink, people think it's formal for me to pour their bottled water into a glass. And when I eat meals, I don't lay the table. I eat by the computer while I'm writing. Because who's going to care or notice?

Oh, no. I've fallen into the trap that I escaped in my twenties! I think it's time to hide my serviceable, thrifty plates, and bring out the china, the tea lights, and crystal. When it's pretty, I'll be mindful of the blessing of good food, and I'll remember to give thanks. And I'll remember that I've asked the Lord to be present, and he deserves the best.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

That scary word, evangelism

An online magazine, Adventist Today, published my article on evangelism.
If you click this link, the article will open in another tab. 

St. Vladimir (the statue subject) was the prince of
Novgorod and Kiev. In 988, he marched his subjects into
the Dnieper River at the point of spears and swords
and pronounced them baptized Christians. He was
canonized for his evangelism techniques!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Sabbath and The Book of Sports

I wrote a feature article for Adventist Review in March 2016, and it was published in March 2017. 
Clicking the link (title) will open a new tab. 

by Christy K Robinson

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Holocaust Remembrance

© 2004 and 2017 Christy K. Robinson

Holocaust Remembrance Day is kept every year, in thoughtful commemoration of a very dark period in human existence, the 1930s and 40s obliteration of more than 13 million people, six million of them European Jews. We particularly remember the attempt to exterminate the Jews, because it was a war on their religion and culture. 

Though we think such a hideous, inhumane atrocity might never happen to us in modern times, we have only to remember the Bosnian genocide of 1992-95, where 8,000 Muslims of Yugoslavia were massacred in a sanctuary town by Serbian Orthodox Christians.

We live in a frightening, blood-soaked, war-crazed world, even now, decades after the Holocaust. It’s one thing to read the news of war and genocide in another hemisphere or era, but it’s another thing to realize that there’s warfare all around us: police officers and children are shot to death because of drug trafficking or domestic violence; pension funds are lost and home mortgages swallowed up by bankers because of callous greed. Crazed shooters rampage through schools and businesses. Dare we say that we’re living in a spiritual Holocaust now? The flames feel pretty hot, don’t they?

In 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 NIV, God “anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” The Holy Spirit guarantees our salvation and protection of our souls. The seal of God is the Holy Spirit Himself!

Christians and others of many faiths pray every day for those with family problems, for relief from pain and sickness, that people will get a job or victory over addictions, or that they will discover God’s will for their lives. There are battles going on all the time. We don’t have divine promises that we’ll have miraculous deliverance from these temporal pains and struggles.

But Jesus has won the war. He loves us so much that He voluntarily laid down His life for our salvation. He came to live in our skin, and paid the death penalty of sin so that we could have an infinity of forevers, living with Him. We live this life with hope of eternal salvation because Jesus rose from His tomb, triumphant and victorious over sin and its effects.

So while we soberly remember the Holocaust, and vow that its evils should never be repeated, we must remember that we are living—right now—in the spiritual Kingdom of God, as citizens. Our Savior has promised that one day soon, He will return and personally wipe away our tears. We will spend eternity with Him, in perfect peace and joy.
“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
There is none other commandment greater than these
Mark 12:31

UPDATE, 2017:
I wrote this article in 2004, for a daily devotional book called We Shall Be Changed. At that time, we were saying, “Never forget” so another Holocaust would be impossible. In solidarity with Jews around the world, we mourned the loss of millions, and try to recognize the seeds of racism, oppression, and fascism, to root them out before they can flower and produce seed. We thought a repressive, fascist regime could never come to America. Even if we were not of the same political party as the President or Congress, we all trusted that America had a good system of checks and balances; prejudice and bigotry, virulent hate, and ignorance would be overcome by the rule of law and the Constitution.

And then came Donald Trump. In his army of admirers he counts white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, those who fear and/or hate Muslims and foreigners with brown skin, those who impose their narrow religious beliefs on all people, those who gravitate to a powerful leader, violent thugs who punch black people at Trump rallies, those who shame women for their appearance, those who tear off a Muslim woman’s hijab and threaten her life, and sexually assault women and then laugh about it. Perhaps most surprising is that millions of right-wing Christians support Trump and his policies.

The Christian Right are unconcerned about Trump’s lies and “alternative facts” because some fundraising mega-millionaire religious leaders (James Dobson, Jerry Fallwell Jr., Franklin Graham) say Trump is born again, God is still working on him and we need to give him a chance.

The proof of change is in a changed life, changed speech, changed behavior. Trump hasn’t changed a bit in the year and a half since they decided he was born again. He said himself that he has nothing to confess! The lies, the insults, the threats and the dog-whistle incitement to assassination say he hasn’t changed.

On the one-week mark of his new presidency, Trump signed an executive order that was almost certainly written by his adviser, Steve Bannon, a white supremacist. The order bans Muslim refugees (including women, children, and the elderly) from the war-torn Middle East, and it favors Christians, which violates the Constitution’s first amendment, where the US government can’t establish or favor one religion over another. Even permanent residents with “green cards” will be exiled if the Supreme Court doesn’t stop it.

The order seeks to prioritize refugees fleeing religious persecution, a move Trump separately said was aimed at helping Christians in Syria. That led some legal experts to question whether the order was constitutional.
One group said it would announce a court challenge on Monday. The Council on American-Islamic Relations said the order targets Muslims because of their faith, contravening the U.S. Constitutional right to freedom of religion.
"President Trump has cloaked what is a discriminatory ban against nationals of Muslim countries under the banner of national security," said Greg Chen of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Trump and Bannon are planning to deport millions of Hispanic people who were born elsewhere but brought here by their parents, and who know no other country or home but this one. Homes and lives will be ripped apart so Trump can build a fence or wall that’s easily tunneled or flown over.

On the same day as Holocaust Remembrance, January 27, 2017, the anti-abortion March for Life was held in Washington, DC. Vice President Mike Pence was there, and said triumphantly, “Life is winning in America.”
A Syrian refugee weeps at the loss of one of his children.

But it’s not winning in Syria for those fleeing war and death, the same grieving, horrified, helpless people we were told by Jesus that we must visit in their confinement, tend when they’re sick, feed, and clothe because they were the “least” of his brethren (siblings). He said to love the “stranger” (foreigner) among us as we love ourselves. He said that those who do care for the helpless will enter his kingdom. 

Many conservatives claim to be Christians who are pro-life for fetuses (and that's fine), but when it comes to their own countrymen, much less the foreigners among us, they’re remarkably callous and cold. Because their health insurance is high-priced, they’re angry that they have to help subsidize other peoples’ health insurance. “Let ‘em die!” they shout at political rallies.

In addition, Trump and his temporary ally, Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan, are overturning the Affordable Care Act, to drop 30 million Americans from healthcare. Without diabetes or cancer meds, how many millions will wither and die? Without care for burns, or small tumors, or without flu shots, how many people, how many seniors in delicate health, will die? The mind boggles. These people who care only for themselves are not worshiping the real Jesus Christ—they’re following the money idol, and false messiahs. "Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.” Matt. 7:15

Here's a verse you may have learned as a child, and thought it was only about cursing: "Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord your God in vain." That's not about cursing. It's about the way you represent God's character ("name") to the world.

You know what, conservatives? The world is watching you. They’re observing your testimony of Christianity, and they’re rejecting it. Atheists are sickened by your attitudes and your false prophets, and they throw your false Christ on the dung heap. Who else is sickened? The liberal (which means "generous and open-minded") Christians who do follow Jesus’ commands. And it’s highly probable that without a change toward Love, you won’t be found in the Book of Life.

It may require a change of local church or denomination, and deprogramming the lies you’ve been taught on TV and radio. It may mean changing party affiliation. But ask yourself if the conservative ethos is biblical, if your eternal life is worth following such unloving fake Christians off the cliff.

For there is a holocaust waiting for people who are not loving others in the same way God has loved you. There's a four-letter word for that.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Those with whom he is pleased

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:14

With whom is he pleased?

"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." 1 John 4:10,11

That means you. God is pleased with you.

Friday, December 23, 2016

All We Like Sheep

© 2016 Christy K Robinson

Every December, I listen to hours of Christmas music in a mix of styles on an mp3 player hooked up to my speakers. I have a huge variety of artists, from Celtic bagpipes to Mannheim Steamroller, James Taylor and Steven Curtis Chapman, Brooklyn Tabernacle and Casting Crowns, Harry Connick Jr. and Point of Grace, Sting and Barbra Streisand, and probably 20 other soloists or groups. I don’t like the Santa, snow, or “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” party music, but I do have medieval to contemporary music from numerous countries, so it doesn’t get stale or repetitive.

But as beautiful and touching as the songs are, the best are the choruses from Handel’s oratorio Messiah. One album is a traditional choir with soloists and string ensemble, and the other is an album from the traveling show in the late 1980s, Young Messiah. The latter has Christian contemporary artists doing the solos and duets, with a choir singing the choruses. (When the show came to my city, I sang in the chorus, and it was fabulous!)

I love the Messiah’s choruses for their majesty and drama, and how their repeated phrases allow us to think of familiar scripture verses in different ways.

One of them is “All We Like Sheep.” The chorus parts, so merry and cheerful and unmindful, chase each other around like spring lambs—let’s do whatever we want because we have no cares, and no one's the boss of us. “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way.”

Then the tragic consequence of selfish hedonism, and the sudden change of tempo and mood. It’s like a lightning bolt, or a sudden death: “and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all."

Instead of running off the cliff onto the sharp rocks below, we are saved, pulled back by the crook of the Shepherd. But he saves us by taking our rebellious sins upon himself, being separated from the Father in death, and then rising from the tomb to assure us that he is victorious over death.

Handel wrote the oratorio in three weeks’ time. That doesn’t seem humanly possible. Many people, including me, believe that the music was given to him by the Holy Spirit. And for 30 years, I’ve had a sort of time-space continuum notion that when Jesus returns in clouds of glory, the victorious trumpet sound (predicted by John in 90AD) we’ll hear will be from Handel’s oratorio, “The Trumpet Will Sound.” And then we millions and billions who are changed into glory will sing Hallelujah from Handel’s pen.

It may be a fanciful notion, but one never knows… 


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