Author Archives: jantom6

About jantom6

I am a woman 'of a certain age', not religious, but serving God with all my heart. I live on a farmette with my adorable husband, a bear of a deer-chasing dog, a Miniature Dachshund who rules, and sweet outdoor kitties who mostly avoid the deer-chasing dog. I am a contemplative person of many interests and my amateur photos accompany my writings.

Can We Please Return to the Days of Christmas Past?

When I compare Christmas in America today, with the Christmas of my youth, I find it a very different holiday than it once was. Let me share some cherished memories to give you some perspective.

Though I did believe in Santa, I had much to help me ponder the mystery of Christmas in the divine coming of Christ to Earth. Our Town Council decorated the streets of our town, hanging large, red candles from each light pole, the candle a common symbol of Christmas that stood for Jesus as ‘the light of the world’. Everywhere you heard, “Merry Christmas!”. Carols played in every store, and children in every school sang them. There were nativity plays in schools, or school principals read aloud the biblical Christmas story, without recrimination- imagine that! It was NORMAL.

In our family life, December days were rich with Christian emphasis. We used an Advent Calendar to help us to think about the Lord’s birth, opening a tiny calendar window for each date that advanced towards Christmas Day.  Though we didn’t have a lot, our mom and all the children prepared food and presents for days to give to friends and family. Our mother taught us that, as God in Heaven freely gave Jesus to us, we were to give to others. The house rang with Christmas carols from the stereo all season long, and we were loath to stop them until after New Year’s Day. We had just three TV channels, and one of them played The Ten Commandments on the Sunday after Thanksgiving as a religious start to the Season. We had a rather large, musical family, and we enjoyed bundling up against the bitter Pennsylvania night to go caroling around our neighborhood, sharing the beauty and joy of the Season with our neighbors. We didn’t need sheets with words; we had heard the carols in church, in school, at home, in town, so often that we knew them well, and could sing most all the verses. Our Dad set up a life-size outdoor nativity silhouette in our yard on the corner at the entrance to the neighborhood, and he lit it with a large spotlight that stayed on through the night. We completed it with one of our dolls playing Baby Jesus.

Christmas Eve was the culmination of the preparations, and it remains in my mind an especially sacred time, devoted to the evening Candlelight Service in our beautiful old church. In the quiet, dimly lit sanctuary, we listened to time-honored hymns and  classical Christmas music. There followed the thoughtful, annual re-telling of “The Tale of the Innkeeper”, written and delivered by our humble minister. I looked up at the huge stained glass window behind the altar, depicting the Annunciation to the Shepherds, as I listened. We left the sanctuary with full hearts and reverent hushed voices, thinking about all that we had seen and heard. We rode home talking about it all.

Once home, the children slipped away in secret to plan our re-enactment of the Christmas story. Out came the bathrobes and bath towels for the cast of characters from shepherds and angels, to the Holy Family, to the Wise Men, amidst much giggling and whispering. The sheep, camels, and other animals of the nativity we replaced with stuffed animals, and bath salts and perfume became the gifts of the Magi. Our oldest sister was the narrator. The rest of us played multiple roles as she read from the account of Christ’s birth in the Book of Luke 2:1-18. We performed this retelling for our parents with dimmed lights and much solemnity, and an occasional slippage of halo, as an older sibling scolded in whispers a little one who missed a cue in awe of it all. Our parents were at once slyly amused and proud, and praised our rag-tag troupe. This remained a tradition until there were too few actors left to sustain the play.

There was an emphasis on Santa in our community, the hints of the takeover to come, but Jesus was still honored in our time. We never knew if anyone was incensed that we had a life-sized nativity in our yard for all to see as they passed by on the main road. We worshiped in safety, with no thought at all that someone might enter the sanctuary of the church to do us harm; this was entirely unheard of. Jesus was honored in our schools, taught and celebrated. The America of my childhood was still considered a Christian nation. Those who did not espouse the Christian faith were not the norm, but, for the most part, they were good enough to honor our choice, and not harm us or take us to court because our beliefs differed from theirs.

Yes, things are different, these memories make me yearn for the simple Christmas days of my childhood. The changes we witness in the secularization and removal of all things sacred from Christmas are symptomatic of a growing intolerance toward Christians throughout the land. Though I alone cannot change the world, I can pray to the God of heaven who sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. For my part, I can continue to be an instrument of change in my own circle of influence, determining to honor Christ with my daily contacts. As a stone causes a ripple that extends to the very edges of the pond, so my kind words and deeds and my unflinching faith can have an effect, more than I will ever know.

The greatest change will occur, the one most desperately needed, when all Christ-followers choose to live as Christ would have us to live, to humbly repent of our own sinful shortcomings, to seek to know God more, and to teach our children the same. Only then will God listen to our prayers and begin the work of healing our land.

Then once again, Jesus will be honored at Christmas, and every other day. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

“If my people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek My Face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven,  and I will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light….

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.

Isaiah 9:2, 6-7

 

The Prudent Response

I’ve been deeply affected by the news events of the last week. We expected the upset of the political scene, since it became clear during the weeks up to The Election that we are not one nation, but two. One side wants to move further away from the tenets of the past, towards a new progressive wave of the future. The other wants to challenge traditional politics and make America great again with less politically correct ideals, and more business-like running of this country. The tension I expected. The lawlessness and hatred I did not.

Where did we get the idea that violence and ill will wins people to our position? When did we lose ‘good sportsmanship’  that accepts, “You win some, you lose some”?  This puzzles me, and troubles me not a little.

What disturbs me most is that protesters act as though they have no hope. They act as though life as they know it has suddenly ended because their candidate didn’t win, that they will not be happy unless they can somehow force it not to be so.

In the words of  Star Trek’s The Borg, “Resistance is Futile”, it is not going to turn out that way.

Someone wisely said about this election, “Neither party ended up with what they wanted.”

I have had the privilege, no, the honor, to vote in every election since I became eligible to vote. I study the candidates to become informed, and I take my right to vote very seriously; my great-grandmothers never had that right, and I am sure it rankled their intelligent minds that they didn’t have the choice. I took my children with me into the voting booth from a very young age, and I taught them that their vote is important, that every vote counts, and that it is their duty to carry out their responsibility with prayer and careful consideration. If you don’t vote, you have no say. Those who are protesting may be surprised to know this, but there were many in their party who did not vote in this election. They were so certain of the outcome that they stayed home.

My candidate of choice didn’t always win. I had serious reservations about some whom I didn’t back. I was disturbed, but not concerned that our country would collapse. I had a ‘trust-but-verify’ view of the process, knowing that we would still carry on. And I was right; our country survived despite these officials who were not my candidate, but they were my president.

The success of our government is that it was developed by the wisdom of our Founding Fathers to ensure that whoever is elected cannot have free reign to institute his policies. The system of checks and balances ensures a right to vote against changes that are unacceptable. That means if we didn’t win, we still have a say; the members of our party  vote on our behalf in the Senate and the House. It’s a beautiful system, and has stood us well for 140 years, and there is no reason to believe that it will not work well under the new administration in 2017.

So what should we as proper citizens do?

First of all, don’t trust in a person; trust God. Have faith  our government will function as it should and you too will carry on. Second, keep your peace. Be an agent for change, but go about it legally and sensibly through proper channels. Strive for unity in all you do. Thirdly, turn from evil and do good. Repent and turn to God. Choose the path He has given for you to live. This is the only way that God will bless us as a nation. We greatly need His blessing and His favor.

Finally, respect the office of the President of the United States. Pray for the men and women of this new administration, that they will use wisdom of God, and not of man.

When all is said and done, when he is inaugurated in January, he will be our President.

And we will survive. Others in the past were saddened seeing those they backed lose, but they accepted it and moved on.

Besides, it’s the season of love and thankfulness. It’s about time we got over it.

 

 

 

Sunday Made All the Difference

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The disciples were in hiding. The most agonizing day in their lives happened three days ago on the eve of Passover.

It was a day like no other. When Jesus died, the ground shook, the sun was swallowed up in a furious black sky. It was said that the great curtain in the temple, some thirty feet high and four inches thick, was torn from top to bottom, a feat no man could do. Many said that even graves were opened and the dead were seen walking around. (Matthew 27:51-53)

The disciples were afraid that they too would be arrested, and most certainly put to death in the same manner as they had seen done to their Lord.

Surely they talked about Jesus. They spoke in hushed tones of the authority by which Jesus ministered to people in the three years that they had lived together with him. And the things they had seen! The Apostle John tells us that all the books in the world could not contain everything that he said and did. Most certainly, they talked of the raising of their friend Lazurus after he had been dead for three days. Someone may have wondered aloud why he could not save himself. As they discussed all the things they had heard him say and do, they all had to wonder what it had all meant.

Now that he was gone, where were they to go? What should they do? They couldn’t brave being out in the open by returning to their jobs, for they feared that would make them easier to find. Even their families were in jeopardy if they returned.

There was a pounding at the door. The disciples shrank back in fear. But it was only Mary. As she burst in the room, she seemed bewildered and agitated.

“The stone is rolled away, and the grave is empty! Someone has taken our Lord and I know not where they have laid him.”

Silence was shattered as the disciples leaped to their feet, speaking all at once. It may have gone something like this:

“Impossible! Who would do such a thing?”

“We are all together and we didn’t do it!”

“You are dreaming!”

“Your  grieving has made you crazy!”

But John and Peter looked at each other. Neither spoke. They broke into a run. Racing each other to the tomb, they found the answer they had been seeking. As they observed the empty grave clothes, they began to remember the things he had told him the last few weeks he was alive. The scriptures say they went away, marveling at what had happened.

For the next forty days, Jesus appeared to the disciples and to many others. With each appearing, a refrain began to appear; He is Risen! He went so far as to invite Thomas to touch his hands and side to prove that it was he.

At his last appearing, he gave them his final instructions, giving them purpose and a future. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”(Matthew 28: 16-20 NIV)

As he rose from their sight, the stunning truth penetrated their souls. Nevermore alone! No more to fear! These final words gave them comfort and peace. They wondered no more what it was they should do with the rest of their lives.

The eleven who had hid themselves now spoke boldly. Those who had cringed in fear of death went to their own deaths proclaiming the gospel. Never again did they hide or turn away from speaking the truth.

It was a life-changing truth that could not be silenced.

And it has made all the difference.

He is Risen! He is Risen indeed!

 

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Mother’s Day is a difficult time for me. My mom died in 2006 after a short hospitalization, and I still think of things I want to tell her.

Mom was the rock of our family. Our dad traveled four out of seven days a week when we were little, and she manned the fort while he was gone. She was courageous, strong, and able, never showing us how hard it was to raise the five of us alone while he was away. She became a Christian when my older sister was 4, and she became a strong woman of faith.

I have often thought how very hard it must have been to care for our household on her own, yet she never showed resentment, or asked that Dad take some of the load when he was home. On the contrary, when he was home she deferred to him and spoiled him with his favorite foods and a special hot sauna bath that she devised for him, serving him with her incredibly lovely smile.

Most people who knew this joyous woman would be surprised that she came from a dysfunctional childhood. Her parents divorced when she was seven, in 1936, so I can imagine how ashamed and bewildered she must have felt. Her mother moved 500 miles away to the north, leaving her and her little brother behind with their father. He and his mother and his maiden sister raised her in a wealthy, yet stern existence. She suffered abuse in the household growing up, yet she never spoke of it. She ran away when she was 17 to live with her mother’s sister up north. It was there she met my dad.

She loved books, and became a librarian so she could work among the stacks, breathing in the smell of the lovely old volumes, finding treasures she could take out and read later. One day after work, she climbed aboard a crowded bus. Standing there up front, looking for a seat in her unconscious beauty, she caught the eye of two service men seated on the bus. After a quick coin toss to see who would have to surrender his seat, one lucky fellow won the honor of sitting beside this gorgeous, shy brunette. On this ‘chance’ encounter, they struck up a long-distance relationship. Thus started a love affair that lasted a lifetime. That man became my father, and their love has surpassed even her death.

She wasn’t perfect, but with God’s help she did the best she knew how to do. She and my dad raised five rascals who all turned out to be strong, Christian people, all benefitting society.

I received from my dear mom so much. I love books. I love to get my hands dirty in the garden. I love being a mom, cooking and spoiling my husband and family. I especially love the outdoors, and life on the farm. Best of all, the older I get, people who knew my mom say I look just like my her. Those are sweet words.

With the approach of Mother’s Day this weekend, I really miss my mom. I want to send her a card, call her on the phone, hear her laugh and words of encouragement. I want to invite her to dinner and spend time together.  I want to look in her pale, green eyes and tell her what a wonderful mother she was to me. But it is not to be. The comfort that I have is that Jesus promised never to leave us, so I know that she is right  there with Him. I’ll just have to tell Him how much I love her and miss her, and ask Him in His infinite mercy to tell her and give her a hug for me. For now that will have to do.

So here’s to you, Mom. You were the best.

Emily June Morrison Ogden 1929-2006

A Question of Modern Christianity

I have found a soulmate in Søren Kierkegaard, a Christian thinker who lived in the mid-19th century. When I think of the time in which he lived, before electricity, before automation, before modern transportation, I am tempted to think it was a simpler time, easier to focus on living for Christ, not to be distracted by so many of the worldly passions that consume us today. In reading his later works, Purity of the Heart is Doing One Thing, and Works of Love, written in 1838 and 1840 respectively, I find this isn’t so.

What I find is that the distractions may be different, but it is the human condition to think that the distractions, the busyness, the Doing For God,  that all these things can be enough in the relationship with God. Kierkegaard points out that these things we are so busy doing, unless they further ours or another’s relationship with God,  are really just “fighting for something earthly” and not furthering our relationship with God at all.

How radical would it be if each of us considered each day to filter our activities in light of our relationship to God? To cut out the expedient, the wasteful, the comfortable, and embrace the long-suffering, purposeful, uncomfortable existence, and give it all to Christ?

Luke 9:23

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

What are trials for, anyway?

I heard an interesting thought on the radio yesterday, and it set me to thinking. The author stated that we all experience trials, even Christians. What would the Christian life be worth if it meant no trials, heartache, or defeats? Wouldn’t it be a life that everyone would want? Wouldn’t that cheapen conversion because release from trials would be the appealing factor, not salvation in Christ? It has been my experience that my life was relatively rosy until I gave my life to Christ, and that’s when the trials really began.

I have wondered about that, and here’s my take: before we know Christ, we are oblivious to the wiles of Satan, and he can lead us where he wills, most often quite painlessly. He doesn’t really have to hurt us, because we are his anyway. After Christ enters our lives, the Battle for All Time begins. We are no longer his, so he must throw everything he has in his arsenal to try to get us to curse God and abandon faith in Him.

If you’ve read the book of Job, you know that Satan must ask permission from God to throw us into a tailspin (see Job 1). God sets parameters for Satan. He is not allowed to take his life. You think, now isn’t that wonderful? Then you read on and realize that if all those things happened to you, you would have wished he’d let Satan take your life. Such sorrow, such great loss. Even Job’s friends blamed him, and his wife told him to curse God and die (Nice. She must have been the original Contentious Woman). The difficulty is in understanding that everything happened with God’s permission.

Wow. That’s heavy. How could God sit back and watch such cruelty?

In my own life, I am not the person I was before Christ, before trials. I’ve had many, and with each one,  I’ve questioned less, depended on Him more, and received a stronger faith in the bargain. How is this possible, when trials can be so devastating?

The answer comes in Luke 22: 31,32. Jesus is speaking with His disciples at the Last Supper. He tells them that,”Satan has asked to sift you all as wheat, but I am praying that when you turn back, you will strengthen your brothers.

There are two things you can take away from this. First, God did not spare his own Son, so that we might be saved. Two, in times of trial, we should remember that God is always with us, always on our side, and in fact, Jesus is always praying for us. Hebrews 7:25 says, “Therefore, He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.” That’s an awesome thought.

So when those trials come, and they will, remember that though the cost is great, God saw this coming. He is on your side. He will get you through.

John 16:33
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”