All posts by Mary Stewart Anthony

God’s Dream

 

You know how it is among friends. It takes real intimacy and trust for someone to share their dream with you.

It’s an overarching vision that colors their world and drives the pistons of their soul to pursue that dream to fulfillment, and it becomes a reality (aka: “livin the dream”)

No one likes to appear foolish or radical or crazy, or be dismissed as just “a dreamer”. Yet they will risk everything to share it with you.

You hear the change in the tone of their voice, and watch them inching closer as if they are about to burst, and you can’t miss the firelight in their eyes. It’s compelling. They’ve seen into the future; a mystery has been pealed back, and seed is seen.

John and I have often asked Chinese students if they have a dream. In their study of English, they are required to read and understand Martin Luther King’s speech. It inspires them to have one of their own.

In First Century Ephesus, new born Christians definitely learned how to swim upstream early on. They lived in the center of Greek Culture and Commerce, surrounded by worshippers of the goddess Artemis, known also as Diana, patroness of fertility. They had to live out of sync with the values and goals of their society, just as we must do, plagued by the question of whether their little lives could make any real difference.

And then there’s the question of Jesus’ return. They may have been mocked, “Where is the time of His coming?” Then the aching heart’s response, “How long, Lord?”

Paul’s letter from a Roman prison reminds them of God’s ultimate dream through Christ…and convinces them that every detail of their lives [and ours] contributes (or not) to God’s Dream…A long range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in Him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth”. (The Message)

And …”that the energy of Reconciliation is the dynamo at the heart of the universe”. (Peterson’s Introduction to Ephesians)

“God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them”. (2Cor. 5:19)

Has God shared His dream with you?

Loved Back to Life, a review

Loved Back To Life: How I Found the Courage to LIVE FREE

By Sheila Walsh, Nelson Books, 2015.

 

“On the surface I had it made, and everything looked fine-except I was not fine. I had not been fine for a long time. Even surrounded by others, I felt isolated. Trapped by a suffocating anxiety. Restless, though I couldn’t say why. Numbed by a frantic pace. I felt as if I was slowly losing my mind.”(5)

 

This is a cautionary tale of how a Christian TV talk show host, a Women of Faith speaker, a well-known musical evangelist, and a popular author’s life spiraled out of control. Her sickness had no name. Her professional “friends” avoided her because they could offer no cure for what lay hidden deep in Sheila’s soul. Her public persona had been crumbling. Once during an interview, she suddenly became the one being interviewed, and started crying when her guest asked Sheila what was wrong. Her heart a burst with an unknown sorrow, and now her adoring public began sending letters of inquiry about the nature of her troubled soul.

 

Sheila finally did the unthinkable. She asked for help, and checked herself into a psychiatric hospital with the blessing of Pat Robertson, the 700 Club host. She had to face the demons of her depression brought on by childhood trauma. Her father’s violent and unpredictable anger had caused her to retreat from showing her emotions at an early age. At times she actually feared for her life as her father changed into this tormented man, full of rage, and finally was admitted into a mental hospital.

 

Sheila’s “confessional” has given hope to many as she struggled out of a deep pit of depression in order to regain equilibrium, and self-worth. Christ was always at the center of her being, and she never lost faith in His power to heal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crucibulum

A lovely Latin word for a “crucible, an earthen pot used to melt metals, or a night lamp hanging in front of a crucifix (i.e., fixed to a cross) or a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development, often creating something new in the process…” explains in part what happened to me from April 4th– May 21st (the time of John’s sojourn in China).

T’was not a pleasant season, but certainly a season of growth, exposure, purging, and a wellspring of beauty. It was all wrapped up in a project we shall call a “kitchen remodel”, that John and I had agreed would take place in his absence. And I got wrapped up in it as well.

old kitchen

Old Kitchen


old kitchen 2

He entrusted me with a myriad of financial and practical details.: 1) i.e., paid the workmen, 2) kept track of the bills, 3) choosing a new granite pattern after our first choice was sold out and having to go all the way to their Oakland factory, (a little bit of nail biting and hand wringing went along with that), 4) choosing the paint color for the kitchen, and the hardware for the newly painted cabinets (very vintage) 5) overseeing the new bamboo floor, and buying new baseboard which had to be stained to match the floor, 6) reattaching the living room carpet to the dining room floor, 7) choosing the color for lacquering the huge bookcase in the living room, 8) buying a desk and chair for our newly remodeled office, and I almost forgot, 9) faxing and scanning papers for our refinance transaction.

A huge sweep of newness came into our home, and I was swept up along with it.

It was like a river changing the course of our native habitat, creating a new landscape for us to enjoy, and cleansing it with more light. Lots of cleaning, changing and choosing ensued.

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New Kitchen with the lovely graniteIMG_1057

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Of course John and I were in communication almost daily by phone. We touched base, and touched hearts through it all. He was actually in a Chinese style crucible of his own remodeling a café for a missionary woman near Tibet.

Did I mention I needed help all along the way, and got it when I needed it? O my, the grace of God exhibited in my wonderful Christian neighbor who painted the kitchen hallway vestibule, and bookcase, AND who came back, touched up all the dings, and installed the new glass knobs on the cabinets, gratis!! An another friend who just happened to be there when John’s new office chair arrived, and gladly put it together.

And so it was….completed by the time John arrived home, the kitchen smelling of lasagne, his favorite meal. He walked around in a daze, hardly believing his eyes. “Is this the same house”? he asked. “Not really”, I said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like the First Morning

 “And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day”. Gen. 1:5

“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, Mary came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away…” John 20:1

Timing is everything in God’s calendar. Genesis is sometimes called the “Book of Firsts”, or “First Mentions”, where first things are indeed first.

God and man took their first steps together in the Garden planted for them by their Father, an exquisite place of beauty and harmony. God keeps this actual place on earth hidden from view, perhaps buried under the sands of time. It was taken from us, because we violated the first covenant between man and God. We long to return to this sacred place, this uninterrupted time of communion.

Satan boldly assassinated God’s character by accusing his creator of petty jealousy and power mongering. The lie sounded so good…”you will be like God”, and gain knowledge about all of existence, both good and evil. He was not promoting the desire to be “godly”, but rather the lust to have equality with God. Overarching pride, the ability to hide lies within half-truths, and an unquenchable lust for power all originated with him. He continues to rape the innocent who cannot yet discern between good and evil.

So we believed the lie. But all was not lost. God had another plan, another place, and another promise in mind.

The next time God and man walked together on the earth, they were inseparable. God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ, and made his home among us. The “seed of the woman”, the promised one, had come to crush the serpent’s head, and fully reclaim the earth for mankind.

Instead of a garden, there was a stable. Instead of freedom, beauty, and harmony, Jesus grew up in a harsh land dry as a desert, suffering under the heel of Rome. Then came jealousy, lies, betrayal, and murder. The serpent struck back with all his might, bruised the heel of the Redeemer, and brought him down. Or so he thought.

But God had done the unthinkable. He let his Son die. He allowed the “woman’s seed” to be buried in a garden cave, then did the unimaginable. He raised him from the dead, and from his death came a New Creation, a multitude of sons and daughters: the fruit of his soul’s travail, the birth of the church, his body on earth.

And like the first morning, God separated light from darkness, and the prince of darkness, that old serpent, will never be able to extinguish it.

Wolves of Worry, Hounds of Hell

 

The image of our blue planet passing before the sun

An editorial

Whether I choose to or not, I am in touch with this blue planet in every possible direction, every culture, every catastrophe, every political fallout, every new government uprising and takeover, all the while knowing the tapeworm of Wall Street will devour someone’s lifesavings if they trust in the bubble-hype again.

I lament

Having to live in the thicket of global awareness, walking the tightrope of decency through the dizzy media-maze, watching the ice sheets melt, the glaciers shrink, the poisoning of habitats, the loss of wilderness, the ocean breeding an island of plastic refuse we have made and refuse to see.

I lament

Having to view the extravaganza of bloody violence, of hearts breaking in disbelief and helplessness, of flags flagrantly raised in hatred and disregard for human dignity, of ancient towns pummeled into dust, of countries raped to death, of refugee camps growing exponentially to shelter the survivors.

I lament

Seeing the old stoned by mockery and deceit, the young sold as idols before they are cast into junk piles, older minds disintegrating under the weight of a senseless disease, younger minds bending under the torment of senseless tweets and shameless texts.

I lament

The rule of law being uncircumcised among us, and replaced by sound bytes, viral videos, and smart phones, of hands relegated to pushing buttons instead of pressing into another’s, of eyes glued down to nowhere and seeing no one, of ears plugged into another world, of gathering friends you don’t have to face, liking and un-liking them, liking pages, books, bands and movies instead, liking what should not be liked, and love dissolving into a hook-up, an intransigent noun, not an action verb.

I lament

The time when radios once told me the “rest of the story” and sold me the latest gadget or gizmo, before I let the Television camel into the tent, another kind of animal warning me “viewer discretion is advised”.

A long time ago Allen Ginsberg HOWLED for his generation. I LAMENT for mine.

Will somebody answer the phone?

 

 

 

 

Pounding on the 21st Century Church Door

A Review of “Building Civilization on the Bible” by Jay Grimstead, founder and director of Coalition on Revival, & Eugene Calvin Clingman, Administrator of the International Church Council Project, Nordskog Publishing, Ventura, California, 2014.

In the spirit of Martin Luther, Grimstead called theologians and Christian leaders to an “International Council on Biblical Inerrancy” (ICBI) in 1977. They included the following: Francis Schaeffer, RC Sproul, Norman Geisler, JI Packer, DJ Kennedy, Bill Bright and fifty others to form what he called a “theological army” to defend the inerrancy of the Bible.

This book is a compilation of 24 treatises written over a thirty-seven year period, the work of some three hundred theologians who met together and discussed how to combat the flood of false teachings currently sweeping through the portals of the evangelical church. These men wrote papers to deal with issues such as: the Kingdom of God, the Omniscience of God, the Atonement, the eternal fate of unbelievers, along with Socialism, Feminism, Abortion, and Homosexuality. They wanted to see the Bible applied to every sphere of life and ministry, i.e., in law, government, economics, the media, medicine, science, the family, evangelism, and discipleship, a monumental undertaking.

The crown of Grimstead’s life work  is promoting a vision for an International Church Council, modeled after the Nicene Council, to gather in Wittenburg, Germany in October 2017, coinciding with the 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses nailed to the Wittenburg Castle church door which sparked the Reformation. It will be interesting to see whether this will become a reality.

I am reminded of a scripture in Amos 8:11 where he warns of a “famine of the Word of the Lord” brought by a pastor who is burdened for young people attending Christian colleges, who are incredibly ignorant of the scriptures and have a very fuzzy idea of basic doctrines.

In lieu of the foggy climate in today’s Christian circles, I think this book has a lot of research to offer in reaffirming the Faith of our Fathers. And in the present age of renewed persecution against Christians by brutally zealous Islamic militants, the next generation needs to be able to give valid reasons for “the hope within us”.

 

 

 

 

 

A Valentine Meditation

 

 

 

 

GUARD YOUR HEART above all things, 

for it determines, the course of your life.

Proverbs 4:23

 

We guard what we treasure with our own life: someone or something so precious,  irreplaceable, or  invaluable.

But guard it from what? Oh my….so many things, events, people. Guard it from hatred and bitterness or you will poison your own soul and the souls of others.

Guard your own thoughts, ambitions, desires, and fantasies from selfishness and idolatries.

Your physical heart needs protection as well…from a dearth of exercise and a plethora of poor food choices. It faithfully beats 10,000 times a day.

Within and without: your heart is the centerpiece of your whole life.

Everything to do with life and health revolves around its core. You alone have the key. So guard it well.

There is an interesting history behind this holiday. On February 14, 269 AD, a young priest named Valentinus was beheaded by Emperor Claudius II because he refused to stop marrying young couples. Claudius wanted to keep his soldiers strong and valiant for battle, and thought marriage would weaken their resolve to die for Rome. Legend has it that Valentinus sent a note to his jailer’s daughter before his death, encouraging her faith, and signed it, “from your Valentine”.

A Poem for all my Valentines.

A Day of Many Loves

I cannot lump

My loves together

In a golden, honey pot.

 

My heart’s entwined

By singular threads

I will not fight to loosen.

 

Should I recoil

From sacred heat

That binds and seals with fire?

 

I will not ask

To be unwound and

Left unstrung to sing alone.

 

Each string I touch

Vibrates with song

My soul leans close to listen.

 

Fettered and free’s

The heart that sings

And dreams with wings unfurled.

 

Don’t forget to say I love you to those who least expect it, to those who hardly ever hear these words, and to those who find it difficult to believe they are cherished.

 

 

 

Living in the Selah!

A review of: The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski, W Publishing Group, 2014.

Have you ever read a book that took forever to read? This one surely did.

It was the opposite of reading some heavyweight scholarly treatise. Instead Yankoski threw out a spiritual gauntlet that challenged me to deeply and slowly read and reread his book. In other words, I had to learn about  Selah!  (loosely translated from the Hebrew, means, “Shut Up! And Pay Attention!”)

So I did.

“Selah! the Psalmist cries again and again. Notice!Look, see, listen, hear, touch feel, smell, taste! Be intentionally attentive to the world around you, attentive as a partner in a dance. Close. Warm. Intimate. Embracing for awhile and letting the sparks fly”. (p.25)

The Sacred Year,  Mapping the Soulscape of Spiritual Practice-How Contemplating Apples, Living in a Cave, and Befriending a Dying Woman Revived My Life” is the full title of his book. And that’s exactly what he did, and the resultant gift of his journey gives us more than the trite “food for thought”. He gives us a feast of Whole Healthy Food for the soul, and advice on holistic living in the 21st Century, even including a recipe for homemade bread. He and his wife Danae went through a purging of “stuff”, and adopted a simple way of living with less, so they could enjoy more time to explore the world around them. Yankoski was convinced that ADD motivates and sustains our society.

Yankoski had become a very popular motivational speaker after the success of his first book, “Under the Overpass” in which he chronicled living on the streets with a friend for 30 days, guitar in hand, in order to experience the life of homeless people. That catapulted him into a public arena that sucked him dry, and being in the limelight only turned the spotlight on the emptiness of his own walk with God.

He was desperate to experience God in a new way…using a variety of ancient spiritual practices. A monk named Father Solomon, who definitely had wisdom and experience in all these matters, guided his steps.

Yankoski was very intentional in his search,  which eventually took him to the ancient isle of Iona on the west coast of Scotland, where he lived in an old hermit’s cave., and practiced  Taize, a form of sung prayer using scripture in a great stone abbey. The profound depth of the prayer stunned him into silence. “Coming to prayer is like hiking to Yosemite’s Bridal Veil Falls just to get your heart rate up…instead of well…hiking simply [because] it’s worth being in the presence of”. This kind of worship began to shape his soul to invite and endure longer periods of silence, and not checking off a list of me-wants. (When he began he could only last five minutes before he had to do something).

He once dug his own grave in a local graveyard, and stayed overnight in it in order to stay close to the bone of his mortality. The gravediggers stood around him gasping at what they viewed as manifest insanity. Danae put her foot down when he wanted to bring home a skull and place it on his desk. She had endured his days of contemplating apples, and filling his pockets with hazelnuts a la Julian of Norwich, the great English mystic.

Yankoski’s “soulscape” is sprinkled with wise and witty observations about Christianity, and peopled with a variety of characters who helped him journey on. This is one of the reasons I have to keep rereading this book.

He and Danae began searching for a “formative, shaping” community and settled in Vancouver where they enrolled in Regent College, and are now pursuing their PhDs at Notre Dame.

Highly and Joyfully recommended. Selah!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Seamless Robe for Christmas

Wrapped as we are, body, soul, and spirit, in a seamless robe of being, we move from moment to moment, event to event, meeting others along the path of our pilgrimage, guided by the Light of His Presence. 

Jesus wholeheartedly consented to be joined with us: body, soul, and spirit; and we live a seamless life when we are connected to Him.

Seamless living is recognizing His hand, His voice, His touch upon each moment, each event, each meeting with another.

Imagine the God Man walking through Heaven this Christmas, and celebrated for His Birth, Death and Resurrection on earth. He still bears the wounds He received “in the house of his friends”. Angels can only look on those scars in wonder, as they radiate with the glory of His love for us.

The Incarnation clothed Jesus in the stained and broken cloth of frail human flesh, bonding us with Him as a forever family. He began a new line of humanity and His selfless act alters the universe, connects us to all of creation, and breaks down every social barrier erected by sinful man.

As the wrappings of Christmas are put away, it may feel like an ending, but John calls us to remember the very beginning. The uncreated Word, who created all things, became flesh and lived among us.

In this age of interconnectedness we realize this seamless robe in which we move and have our being is a priceless gift clothing us with health and wholeness.

We are healed as we walk in faith beneath this robe and no longer walk naked, broken, and ashamed.IMG_0988

“Let your work appear to your servants, and your glory to their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us…” Psalm 90: 16-17)

 

 

 

“Forgetting What is Behind”

 

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This is an exercise in the art of growing with the changing seasons, that we may continue to grow, and to change.

 

The first exercise is the hardest: forgetting those things that are left behind…those unfinished stragglers, those closeted dreams, those boxed disappointments, those scraps of paper illusions, in order to press into the promise of His Coming.

 

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remnants of autumn found on a recent walk

 

In Mark’s gospel John the Baptist warns us that something BRAND NEW IS COMING. The world as we know it will yield to the Reign of God and will require spiritual changes, some big, others small and seemingly insignificant. More importantly, John announces that SOMEONE NEW IS COMING who will FOREVER change human history.

We celebrate Advent (L. adventus, or coming) as the liturgical beginning of a New Year, while we normally view this as ending the calendar year. Beginnings and endings run together and often collide on life’s timeline.

The circular ADVENT WREATHE is likely the most popular tradition, adorned with candles that will be lit on each of the four Sundays.
The JESSE TREE is also a popular Advent tradition. A Jesse Tree, named for the father of David, is a tree that is decorated gradually throughout Advent with symbols or pictures of biblical persons associated with the gradual coming of the Messiah, Christ. This  also includes, among others, Joseph, Noah, Abraham, and Moses.
ADVENT CALENDARS have little windows counting the days leading up to Jesus’ birth, most often following the calendar month of December, not the four Sundays which can begin in November.

IMG_0951                                              Reflecting light and Beauty

A visiting preacher once described a wonderful pattern of growth:

Healthy things grow, growing things change, change brings pain, pains causes a healthy, wholesome reliance on God, so that we may continue to grow tall in Grace, until we reach maturity in Christ”.

Cycles, circles, seasons are the normal pathways to growth, naturally and supernaturally.

Christian calendars mark these cycles of birth, death and resurrection, and call us into seasons of preparation in Lent and Advent. They give us opportunity to stop our striving, step into the new cycle, and to steep ourselves in the truths each season represents.

Advent is a season that causes us to look forward with hope at the One Who is Coming, the One who changes everything, the flesh and blood One who will be born among us, the Son who will be given to us this Christmas as our own “Unspeakable Gift”.

And when He, the beautiful Christmas Rose, comes, Life will never be the same. Everything and everyone will be exposed in Him, the True light, that lights every man who comes into the world.

star of Bethlehem

 

We are those who look for His appearing in the final season of Advent. How different will that Second Coming be…(2nd Peter 3:8-15). The Father alone knows when that secret season will cover the earth.

Meanwhile, we keep our lamps of welcome burning to greet our coming King, clothed now in the humility of a little child.