Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Billy Graham's influence and legacy

© 2018 Christy K Robinson

I turned on the TV at 9:00 this morning and learned that the evangelist Billy Graham had died overnight. He was 99 years old and world-renowned for his integrity. Hundreds of thousands of people gave their lives to the Lord as a result of his enthusiastic (the word origin of 'enthuse,' en theos, is for God to enter in) crusade sermons.

Billy Graham in 1964
Religion News Service
My parents and I attended a Billy Graham crusade in Phoenix in April 1964 at the ASU Sun Devil stadium. I wasn't yet in first grade, so I don't remember much. But my parents admired him immensely, and were proud that their regular donations to the ministry got them a color photo of the Graham family and a Christmas card.

I admired him for a couple of things in particular:
1. He was relentlessly interdenominational, focused on Jesus instead of denominational creeds, and he did not recommend that new believers join a particular denomination but a Bible-believing church. This meant they'd have to make decisions based on visiting, fellowship, and Bible study.
2. He was in favor of the separation of church and state as liberty of conscience, for all people to worship their god as they were called to. Though he was frequently a counselor to American presidents and world leaders, he didn't offend people of other religions or denominations.

He wrote in a July 4 devotional thought,
"On this Independence Day we should be on our knees thanking God for all He has given us. The United States is a country in which everyone has an equal opportunity. Thank God for a country where there is no caste or class to keep a man from going to the top. If a man has a will to work and study, he can go ahead regardless of his background. In addition, thank God, He has given us freedom of religion. Whatever you may believe, no one can close your church because your religion does not coincide with his. A few people meeting in a small, out-of-the-way shack, worshiping God as they believe in Him, have the same right to religious freedom as the people who worship God in the great cathedrals on the avenues of our greatest cities."
However, regarding his visits to and influence on American presidents and politics, there's this regret.
"Inside the Beltway is a different world," Graham said to biographer William Martin, author of A Prophet with Honor. "That's the reason I don't go there anymore if I can help it. I'm glad I live down here on these mountains. I don't go to Washington much, and I don't go to the Hill much. I used to have lots of friends that I'd go back and see—congressmen and senators—but for years I haven't done that. I just don't want to go. I feel God has called me to a much higher calling."
"I came close to identifying the American way of life with the kingdom of God," Graham told Christianity Today more than 10 years after Nixon resigned. "Then I realized that God had called me to a higher kingdom than America. I have tried to be faithful to my calling as a minister of the gospel."

On Nov. 19, 2004, I was invited by a friend in our church praise group to go with her and her friends to the last evangelism tour of Billy Graham before he retired. I accepted, and it was wonderful. It was held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, and nearly every seat was filled, though the crusade ran for about a week. It was slickly produced, and I suspect not just for a Hollywood crowd, but for any city, anywhere.

The stage participants included George Beverly Shea ("How Great Thou Art"), actor Jim Caviezel, singer-songwriter Michael W. Smith, Billy's son Franklin, and several others.

The Rose Bowl sign
Unknown, Deborah Curbelo, unknown, and Christy Robinson
Billy Graham sermon
Singer-songwriter Michael W. Smith
Franklin Graham
George Beverly Shea and choir
Actor Jim Caviezel gives testimony
about acting in "The Passion of the Christ."
Thousands of people poured onto the Rose Bowl field to
accept Christ and be prayed for, while Shea sang "Just As I Am."
Billy Graham had his faults, including speaking words of anti-Semitism with Richard Nixon (he apologized when the tapes came out), and advising evangelicals to resist expanding civil and human rights for LGBT people. Some people think that back in the late 70s, he was the foot in the door for the religious right to take over the Republican Party.

But on the whole, he made the Son of God accessible and loving and full of grace, a contrast from what people had heard for hundreds of years.

His son, Franklin Graham, trained in business and not theology or ministry,
"has mocked both Islam and LGBT rights. He uses his following on social media to raise funds for "persecuted Christians," boycotts businesses that use gay couples in advertisements and blasts the separation of church and state as the godless successor to Cold War communism."

Regarding the revelation of Trump’s payment of $130,000 for the silence of a porn actress Trump slept with during his marriage to third wife Melania, Franklin Graham told MSNBC in January 2018,
“Now did he have an affair with this woman? I have no clue, but I believe that 70 years of age, the president is a much different person today than he was four years ago, five years ago, ten years ago, or whatever, and we just have to give the man the benefit of the doubt. He said he didn’t do it, so okay, let’s say he didn’t do it.”
Never mind that Trump himself said he does not confess his sins. Or that innumerable lies come out of that oral sphincter. That kind of statement about Trump, coming from high-profile evangelical leaders like Franklin Graham, Jerry Fallwell, and Tony Perkins, essentially gives him (and other Christians behaving immorally) a pass on sin. Take him at his word? His corrupt word? No.

"People conceived and brought into life by God don’t make a practice of sin. How could they? God’s seed is deep within them, making them who they are. It’s not in the nature of the God-begotten to practice and parade sin. Here’s how you tell the difference between God’s children and the Devil’s children: The one who won’t practice righteous ways isn’t from God, nor is the one who won’t love brother or sister. A simple test." 1 John 3:9-10.

When her uncle Franklin Graham portrays Trump as someone who was elected President by the will of God and upholding the cause of Jesus, Billy Graham's granddaughter Jerusha Armfield says he “diminishes not only my Jesus but all he stood for and came to Earth to fight against.” Washington Times.

Though Franklin Graham has done some good humanitarian work with Samaritan's Purse, he's proven himself a bigot and a political partisan that can't pass the sniff test of John 13:34-35: “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other." 

Billy Graham mellowed as he aged, and seemed to have compassion for sinners, though not approval of their ways. I hope that his son will similarly find humility and God's heart, rather than notoriety as a political commentator for the corrupt Right.

I know what it's like to lose both parents, and though I believe in eternal life, the grief of their loss in my world comes in waves, even years later. I pray that the Graham family finds comfort and joy in remembering the love among them, and that they take the legacy of Billy and Ruth Graham into their own lives, for generations to come.

Imagine what a thrill, what a ride, it is, to be en theos and know God is using you to effect change in this world. Billy Graham knew that enthusiasm and gave that gift to countless others.

Christy K Robinson is author of the books:
·          We Shall Be Changed (2010)
·          Mary Dyer Illuminated (2013)
·          Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This (2014)
·          The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport (2014)
·          Effigy Hunter (2015)
·          Anne Hutchinson, American Founding Mother (2018)

Friday, February 16, 2018

Thoughts and prayers -- and touch

© 2018 Christy K Robinson
Whether it's holding hands, massage, reiki, prayerful anointing (laying on of hands), acupressure, or another form of therapeutic healing, touch can be either a dramatic or subtle healing tool. The act of caressing a dog or cat can lower our blood pressure and heart rate. 

Many of us have seen videos of faith healing services with some notorious evangelist breathing on cloths, and smacking people on their forehead, or telling people their amalgam dental fillings have turned to gold as evidence of healing. The miracle healer struts around and hollers at God and the devil, and either the gullible are persuaded they're cured, or the hired actors walk away from their mobility aids.

But miraculous healing does occur daily around the world, and cancer goes into remission. People who were clinically dead for a few minutes or an hour rise again, alive. Doctors and scientists say they were baffled that the tumor which had been terminal just disappeared, or the person with no heartbeat comes back to normal rhythm. And people whose child had been near death with a fever believe in the power of prayer because their child survived.

Miracles, by their nature, are a surprise. But there are occasions when we can bring on a degree of healing or recovery, by our actions (living a healthier lifestyle, seeking medical intervention, surgery, a drug regimen, physical therapy), or by prayer. The recipient wants and needs change, whether or not they believe in God. The skin contact from touching the sick person, especially while praying, helps the spirit help the body.

And it's not only other humans. When my cat was 9 years old, she had a three-year vaccination administered to her, and a few days later became very ill. The emergency vet gave her fluids and a blood test, and said she probably had pancreatitis, which can be very painful, and can lead to cancer. My cat wouldn't accept the expensive pain meds I was supposed to rub on her gums. So I laid both hands on her and prayed that God would heal her. He did.

In the book of Isaiah, we learn that by the stripes laid on Jesus, we are healed. Whether healed from disease, injury, or the sinful condition, that's up to God.

When my mom was so ill with lung disease or internally injured from the side effects of so many drugs she took to stay alive, I'd lay hands on her arm, shoulders, or back and pray for her, and she said she felt better. She's been gone more than 25 years, but I don't regret the time I spent with her when she needed me, nor was I embarrassed by her request. There was no miraculous cure wrought by my prayer or my touch, but the fact that it was a touch of love was enough to give her a sense of well-being. And since both of us were Christian believers, we believed that God was present and providing a measure of relief and comfort.

There were several times when I spent the night at my mother's hospital bed, holding her hand and reading the Bible aloud to her. When she recovered, she said she'd heard me and loved it. The night before she died, I didn't get a verbal response from her, and her monitors didn't register a change, but there was a supernatural connection between us that I am convinced was comfort from the Holy Spirit given to both of us.

While the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on each one of them, He was healing them. Luke 4:40 

Jesus broke tradition and even the health laws of the Old Testament, and touched the untouchable and the unclean: the lepers and those with contagious skin disease, the woman who had been menstrually bleeding for 12 years, the dead daughter of Jairus, the immoral woman who washed and anointed his feet, foreigners and Gentiles, the demon-possessed, the blind beggar, and countless others not recorded. He even went out of his way to search out those who felt unworthy. Granted, that was Jesus--the Creator, the Son of God--healing people.

But he gave that power to his disciples when he sent them on short missionary trips. And he promised that when he returned to heaven, the Holy Spirit would come to us, and work greater miracles through us than he had through Jesus! 

I don't claim the gift of healing, but neither would I turn away a gift of the Spirit. 

Nigel Barber, PhD, in a Psychology Today article called Faith Healing Shouldn't Work, but it Does," writes that
"It is always hard to make much sense of such anecdotal phenomena to the satisfaction of scientists but faith healing seems to evoke a placebo effect, not unlike the use of drugs to treat people who are mildly depressed (and therefore experience no true pharmacological response to the medicine). ... Social pressure might also be a factor as we feel pressure to believe in the cure after the manner of The Emperor's New Clothes."
As a Christian, I believe that healing comes from God, sometimes miraculously and instantaneously, sometimes over the long term, and sometimes we see no change, and continue to suffer and die, and then are resurrected to eternal life.

But I also believe that the power of touch is real, no matter what your belief system is. Touch may be a placebo effect, or a belief in love, or a supernatural spiritual gift, but yes, it's powerful to the person being touched. It's a mantle of peace settling down over the shoulders.

But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.  But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 

Monday, January 22, 2018

The 17th-century Puritan who discovered love

© 2018 Christy K Robinson

"I do prize him above Kingdoms: I desire him more than Life."
If you’re been a Christian for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed the dramatic testimonies that are occasionally made in church: the Lord came into a person’s life and gave them physical healing, or strength to overcome an addiction, or willpower to overcome a particular sin. Or maybe they were trapped in gangs or crime, or a rebellious time of life until someone stepped in and introduced them to Jesus.

But what about the person who didn’t rebel, didn’t take illicit drugs or alcohol, didn’t dabble with the devil? What about the person who accepted Christ early and did all the “right” things? What if your testimony is nothing to make people say “Amen” to, or bring a tear to their eyes when you’ve contrasted your old life to your new life?
Richard Baxter, a Puritan minister in England, lived roughly
the same time span as Roger Clapp. According to Wikipedia,
"His views on justification and sanctification
are somewhat controversial within the Calvinist tradition
because his teachings seem, to some, to undermine
salvation by faith, in that he emphasizes the
necessity of repentance and faithfulness."

And what about the people—and they are many—who are trying and failing to be perfect, and agonizing that they won’t be saved for eternal life? They seem to live in Romans chapter 7, where they are sinful and a slave to the wicked flesh, but haven’t turned the page to Romans 8, which begins with, “But now, therefore, there is no condemnation…”

In most of my research into 17th-century Puritanism, which was more zealous in New England than old England, I read of people who were so distraught at not being admitted to church membership with the Elect (people predestined to salvation who showed their salvation by performing good works), that they took their own lives, or tried to kill their children. Not being recognized as a church member meant that they were not recognized as one of the Elect who would be saved. One man in Weymouth jumped from an upper-floor bedroom window into the snow and stumbled several miles in the deep cold, kneeling down to pray several times. They found his body the next day.

There was a ray of warm sunlight for a few years in the 1630s, when Rev. John Cotton, the teacher of Boston First Church, preached a “Covenant of Grace,” which offered some relief and comfort to the afflicted souls, in contrast with the other Puritan ministers in the colony. He seemed to allow parishioners to relax a little in agonizing over their sin, by preaching salvation by faith in Jesus—but in thanks for that forgiveness, they proved their love for God by scrupulously keeping the biblical Commandments and laws of the colony and reporting those who did not, thus setting up even more pressure to conform.

One of my favorite research finds was a man whose journal I ran across while in search of local “color” for writing my novels. I like finding peoples’ opinions about their culture or faith, and it’s even better if they’re name-droppers for people I know are associated with Mary Dyer or Anne Hutchinson, the subjects on whom I’ve written. And then if I’m related to them—it’s a trifecta of ice cream, cherry, and caramel sauce.

I thought for a while that Captain Roger Clapp, 1609-1690, was my uncle, about ten or 12 generations back, but as it turns out, he’s the father-in-law of my eighth great-grandfather (I descend from a second wife who was not a Clapp). No shared DNA whatsoever! However, he did write of Dyer and Hutchinson without naming names, so I’ve kept a copy of his memoir in my files.

One of the things that attracts me to this old Puritan was that the first chapter of his book was full of gratitude, which I’m actively cultivating in my life as a resolution from a few years back. I heartily endorse learning gratitude as a daily practice.

Good old Roger wrote of the succession of miracles God wrought in bringing him to Massachusetts, even though they’d suffered and nearly starved their first year. He exemplified the bromide, “If life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”
  It was God that did draw me by his Providence out of my Father's Family, and weaned me from it by degrees; It was God put it into my Heart to incline to Live abroad; and it was God that made my Father willing. God by his Providence brought me near [Rev.] Mr. Warham, and inclined my Heart to his Ministry: God by his Providence moved the Heart of my [employer] Master Mossiour to ask me whether I would go to New-England: It was God by his Providence that made me willing to leave my dear Father, and dear Brethren and Sisters, my dear Friends and Country: It was God that made my Father willing on the first Motion I made in Person, to let me go: It was God that sent Mr. Maverick that pious Minister to me, who was unknown to him, to seek me out that I might come hither. So God brought me out of Plymouth [England] the 20th of March in the Year 1629-30, and landed me in Health at Nantasket on the 30th of May, 1630, I being then about the Age of Twenty one Years. Blessed be God that brought me Here!”  

But the memorable paragraphs for me were a few pages later, when he wrote of meeting with churches in the Dorchester area from 1630 on, where its members lived in mortal fear of an eternity in hell. He said they lived in terror for their lost condition. But Roger heard Rev. John Cotton in Boston, when Cotton arrived in 1634, and gained hope that the prophecies of Revelations showed God’s people winning in the end, and that a small stream of godly sorrow (at their sins) was better than a flood of great horror. Still, the bottom line was that few would be saved, and most would be lost.

And then the light truly broke through for Roger: that if Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and Roger was a sinner, then why couldn’t he be saved? "Why not me?" And instead of trying to obey the harsh laws out of fear of hell, he could hardly wait for an eternity with his beloved Savior Jesus. He wrote: “If my Heart do not deceive me, I do prize him above Kingdoms: I desire him more than Life, and to be made more and more like him in Holiness and Righteousness all the Days of my Life.”

Here is a glimpse of Roger Clapp’s testimony (<--click) in his Memoir:
After God had brought me into this Country, He was pleased to give me Room in the Hearts of his Servants; so that I was admitted into the Church Fellowship at our first beginning in Dorchester, in the Year 1630. Jesus Christ being clearly Preached, and the way of coming to him by Believing was plainly shown forth: yet because many in their Relations spake of their great Terrors and deep Sense of their lost Condition, and I could not so find as others did, the Time when God wrought the Work of Conversion in my Soul, nor in many respects the Manner thereof; it caused in me much Sadness of Heart, and Doubtings how it was with me, Whether the Work of Grace were ever savingly wrought in my Heart or no? How to cast off all Hope, to say, and verily to Believe that there was no Work of Grace wrought by God in my Heart, this I could not do: yet how to be in some measure assured thereof was my great Concern: But hearing Mr. Cotton Preach out of the Revelations, that Christ's Church did come out of great Tribulation, he had such a Passage as this in his Sermon, "That a small running Stream, was much better than a great Land Flood of Water, tho' "the Flood maketh the greatest Noise: So, saith he, A "little constant Stream of godly Sorrow, is better than great Horrour: God spake to me by it, it was no little Support unto me. And God helped me to hang on that Text (and thro' his Grace I will continue so to do).

This is a faithful saying that is worthy of all Acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the World to save Sinners. God has made me sensible that I am a Sinner, and Jesus Christ came to save Sinners, and why not me, tho' a very-sinful man: Thro' the Grace of God I desire to rest alone upon Jesus Christ for Salvation.

In my saddest Troubles for want of a clear Evidence of my good Estate, I did on a Time Examine myself upon my Bed in the Night, concerning my spiritual Estate; putting my self upon this Trial, How my Heart stood affected to Sin. The Question to my Soul was this (pitching upon that Sin which I did confess my natural Corruption most inclined me to):
The Question, I say, which by God's help, I put to my very Heart and Soul was, Whether if God would assure me that I should be saved, although I should commit such a Sin, my Heart were willing to commit it or no. And my very Heart and Soul answered. No, I would not Sin against God, though I should not be damned for sinning, because God has forbidden it.

At that Time my conscience did witness to me that my State [of salvation] was good: And God's holy Spirit did witness (I do believe) together with my Spirit that I was a Child of God; and did fill my Heart and Soul with such a full Assurance that Christ was mine, that it did so transport me as to make me cry out upon my Bed with a loud Voice, He is come, He is come. And God did melt my Heart at that time so that I could, and did mourn and shed more Tears for Sin, than at other Times; Yea the Love of God, that he should Elect me, and save such a worthless one as I was, did break my very Heart. I say again, When I had most Assurance of God's Love, I could mourn most for my Sins.

The Scripture saith, He that Believeth shall be saved: I hope God has not only wrought Historical Faith in me, but also true Justifying Faith; Faith to receive Jesus Christ to be my King, Priest and Prophet: If my Heart do not deceive me, I do prize him above Kingdoms: I desire him more than Life, and to be made more and more like him in Holiness and Righteousness all the Days of my Life.

Oh the Riches of his free Grace to put any holy Desires in my Heart! I leave this with you, that you may plead God's free Promises, which are, That He will circumcise our Hearts and the Hearts of our Seed.

God's Covenant is unto the Faithful and to their Seed. Pray earnestly that God will be pleased to circumcise your Hearts, and cause you to walk in his Ways; so shall you be serviceable to him here, and be everlastingly Happy in the World to come.
Clapp headstone from Find a Grave.
 Roger Clapp spent an honorable life, and lived to see several generations of descendants. He was buried in the Kings Chapel Burying Ground at Tremont and School Streets in the heart of Boston, near the people he respected: Gov. John Winthrop, Rev. John Cotton, and Rev. John Wilson. But his own words tell me that Roger is “everlastingly happy in the world to come,” full of assurance that Christ is his, and he is Christ’s.

If you are a person who agonizes over confessing the sin you can’t remember, for fear of not being saved, take comfort from the revelation of Roger Clapp, that though you’re a sinner, you are loved by God—loved so much that Jesus died for you, that you would not be condemned, but would have everlasting life.

John 3:16-17: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

For MORE on Capt. Roger Clapp, see my other blog, 

Christy K Robinson, author of this and several other blogs, has written the following books. Click on the title to find them on Amazon.
·          We Shall Be Changed (2010)
·          Mary Dyer Illuminated (2013)
·          Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This (2014)
·          The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport (2014)
·          Effigy Hunter (2015)
·          Anne Hutchinson, American Founding Mother (2018)

Saturday, September 30, 2017

I'll take care of you

Sometimes you can read a scripture passage over and over, and then--then!--something different leaps off the page and into your heart.

This week, I was dealing with several problems related to health and finances, and my own were echoed in the national news, with the U.S. congress trying and failing at repealing the healthcare act that keeps me alive and may actually improve a condition that has afflicted me for years.

It goes beyond suspicion to certainty that the congress-critters are trying to impoverish and kill Americans, in order to fatten their own bank accounts. My district congressman has at least a net worth of $35 million, and he's gung ho for the president's tax change proposal that would enrich him by more millions, while my pitiful subsistence income would be taxed at a higher rate. Is that not a conflict of interest?

Further, I live in a state where the commission that oversees utility rate increases has been "bought" with dark money provided by the utility's parent corporation. When the Phoenix heat runs 110F for more days every year, the electric company not only charges a high rate, but they demand a surcharge for "surge" energy use. Even keeping my cooling at an uncomfortably hot 83F, my electric bill is crazy high, and if I don't pay it, they'll shut it off and add a reconnect fee. So you see, this is quite a nasty stress I'm stuck with. Paying this obscenely high bill means that other bills have to wait for a little more income to trickle in.

There was terrible news of people dying for lack of oxygen or dialysis in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and a man had been without diabetes meds for 10 days, still with little hope of getting them anytime soon. I wonder how I can help, when I'm struggling so hard to survive, myself. Since I can't donate money I don't have, and no one would ship the yard-sale-type-stuff from my garage, what can I do?

Many people would answer, "Pray." And I have prayed for those who are suffering, and for the unjust senators who want to be rich more than they want Americans to be well, and for my own financial situation. I also opened a Facebook fundraiser related to my soon-coming birthday, and several people have donated to the cause (not me) as a birthday greeting and a way of saying they care about me while they help the cause. (And two of them opened their own fundraisers.)

Last night, the church I work for as a musician posted a Facebook meme that made me stop and look up the larger scripture reference before I reposted the image. It was a love note from God. Poetry. I've italicized the words that leapt out at me.

You survivors in Israel,
    listen to me, the Lord.
Since the day you were born,
    I have carried you along. 

 I will still be the same
when you are old and gray,
    and I will take care of you.
I created you. I will carry you
    and always keep you safe. Isaiah 46:3-4 CEV 

I'm a survivor. I'm always-single, and my parents passed without leaving me anything of their estates.  I have no safety net except God, and through him, my church. And today, the elder who administers the benevolence fund called to tell me that the church would help me with those overdue bills. He said several times not to worry, and that it was their responsibility and privilege to help me, because I'm their Christian sister. I'm safe.

Financially, I'm a disaster. (It wasn't always this way--I had a home, savings, retirement investment, health insurance, etc., before the Great Recession.) But I am rich in other ways. I'm a daughter of the Most High God.  

So as I read that verse in Isaiah, embedded as it is in a chapter about war, something nagged me, like it was a love song I'd forgotten. But as I write this article at 1am, I remembered. It's this gorgeous song "I'll Take Care of You," by Steven Curtis Chapman. He wrote it for his wife, Mary Beth, and I don't know if he connected it with the scripture from Isaiah. But since I've never been in any danger of being married, I've always thought of it as God's love song to me. 

I'll Take Care Of You
I'll take care of you

Don't be sad, don't be blue
I'll never break your heart in two
I'll take care of you
I'll kiss your tears away
I'll end your lonely days
All that I'm really tryin' to say
Is I'll take care of you

I want you to know that I love you so
I'm proud to tell the world you're mine
I said it before, I'll say it once more
You'll be in my heart 'til the end of time

I'll take care of you
Don't be sad, don't be blue
Just count on me your whole life through
'Cause I'll take care of you 
Stop whatever you're multi-tasking, and listen to this song. And sigh. And know that God is singing a love song over you.

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!


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