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Archive for January, 2010

Photo of the rarely seen author

The great author and mysterious recluse Mr. J.D. is dead.
Here’s the story from the N.Y. Times on the author of the great American classic Catcher in the Rye:

J. D. Salinger, Enigmatic Author, Dies at 91
Published: January 28, 2010
J. D. Salinger, who was thought at one time to be the most important American writer to emerge since World War II but who then turned his back on success and adulation, becoming the Garbo of letters, famous for not wanting to be famous, died Wednesday at his home in Cornish, N.H., where he had lived in seclusion for more than 50 years. He was 91.

Mr. Salinger’s literary representative, Harold Ober Associates, announced the death, saying it was of natural causes. “Despite having broken his hip in May,” the agency said, “his health had been excellent until a rather sudden decline after the new year. He was not in any pain before or at the time of his death.”

Mr. Salinger’s literary reputation rests on a slender but enormously influential body of published work: the novel “The Catcher in the Rye,” the collection “Nine Stories” and two compilations, each with two long stories about the fictional Glass family: “Franny and Zooey” and “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.”

“Catcher” was published in 1951, and its very first sentence, distantly echoing Mark Twain, struck a brash new note in American literature: “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

Though not everyone, teachers and librarians especially, was sure what to make of it, “Catcher” became an almost immediate best seller, and its narrator and main character, Holden Caulfield, a teenager newly expelled from prep school, became America’s best-known literary truant since Huckleberry Finn.

With its cynical, slangy vernacular voice (Holden’s two favorite expressions are “phony” and “g—–”), its sympathetic understanding of adolescence and its fierce if alienated sense of morality and distrust of the adult world, the novel struck a nerve in cold war America and quickly attained cult status, especially among the young. Reading “Catcher” used to be an essential rite of passage, almost as important as getting your learner’s permit.

The novel’s allure persists to this day, even if some of Holden’s preoccupations now seem a bit dated, and it continues to sell tens of thousands of copies a year in paperback. Mark David Chapman, who assassinated John Lennon in 1980, even said that the explanation for his act could be found in the pages of “The Catcher in the Rye.” In 1974 Philip Roth wrote, “The response of college students to the work of J. D. Salinger indicates that he, more than anyone else, has not turned his back on the times but, instead, has managed to put his finger on whatever struggle of significance is going on today between self and culture.”

Many critics admired even more “Nine Stories,” which came out in 1953 and helped shape later writers like Mr. Roth, John Updike and Harold Brodkey. The stories were remarkable for their sharp social observation, their pitch-perfect dialogue (Mr. Salinger, who used italics almost as a form of musical notation, was a master not of literary speech but of speech as people actually spoke it), and for the way they demolished whatever was left of the traditional architecture of the short story — the old structure of beginning, middle, end — in favor of an architecture of emotion, in which a story could turn on a tiny alteration of mood or irony. Mr. Updike said he admired “that open-ended Zen quality they have, they way they don’t snap shut.”

Mr. Salinger also perfected the great trick of literary irony — of validating what you mean by saying less than, or even the opposite of, what you intend. Orville Prescott wrote in The Times in 1963: “Rarely if ever in literary history has a handful of stories aroused so much discussion, controversy, praise, denunciation, mystification and interpretation.”

As a young man, Mr. Salinger yearned ardently for just this kind of attention. He bragged in college about his literary talent and ambitions, and wrote swaggering letters to Whit Burnett, the editor of Story magazine. But success, once it arrived, paled quickly for him. He told the editors of Saturday Review that he was “good and sick” of seeing his photograph on the dust jacket of “The Catcher in the Rye” and demanded that it be removed from subsequent editions. He ordered his agent to burn any fan mail.

In 1953 Mr. Salinger, who had been living on East 57th Street in Manhattan, fled the literary world altogether and moved to a 90-acre compound on a wooded hillside in Cornish, N.H. He seemed to be fulfilling Holden’s desire to build himself “a little cabin somewhere with the dough I made and live there for the rest of my life,” away from “any g—– stupid conversation with anybody.”

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“The thought that life could be better is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains.”
—- Paul “Rhymin” Simon, “Everybody Loves the Sound of a Train in the Distance”


“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. ”
— President and World War II hero Dwight D. Eisenhower

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.”
—- Jimi Hendrix

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
—- St. Paul the Apostle, Romans 12: 14-15

“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.”
—- Jesus Christ, John 14: 18

“I hate, I despise your festivals, and take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings, I will not accept them. and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like might waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
—- Amos 5: 21-24

“Here in America we believe that our ability to make nuclear weapons is tantamount to a right to make them. We also believe, in this land of Adam Smith, that our ability to make money is also tantamount to a right to make endless amounts of it.
But we have only the ability, not the right, to end life on this planet–only God has the authority to do that; and we have only the ability and not the right to gain more and more possessions for ourselves; that is if ‘the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,’ and we believe in a Lord who proclaims, ‘Let justice roll down like mighty waters.'”
—-William Sloan Coffin (Credo)

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
—- President & World War II hero Dwight D. Eisenhower

“I have long since come to believe that people never mean half of what they say, and that it is best to disregard their talk and judge only their actions.”
—- Dorothy Day

“Love in reality is a harsh and dreadful thing.”
— Father Zosima the priest in the Brothers Karamazov

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In the photos here: Mr Martin who wrote children’s books, and the reckless and irresponsible Pat Hardy of the Texas Board of Education, the board dominated by ignorant board members who continue to embarrass Texas and should be roundly denounced and voted off the board once and for all. Until then, if you agree that Ms. Hardy needs to be roundly denounced, you can contact her at:
Patricia Hardy (R)
900 North Elm
Weatherford, TX 76086
(817) 598-2968
(817) 598-2833 FAX
sboesupport@tea.state.tx.us
*In fairness to her, Ms. Hardy does vote independently at times, against the more hardcore “social conservatives” who seem to believe God created a flat earth. Still, we don’t need her or other “social conservatives” on the Texas Board of Education anymore. This blunder in denouncing Mr. Martin’s book without doing any “homework” was just too huge in terms of blunder.

Dear blog readers:
This is from Religion Dispatches and was written by Lauri Lebo. She’s the author of The Devil in Dover: Dogma v. Darwin in Small-Town America, a book about the 2005 First Amendment trial of Kitzmiller v. Dover in which intelligent design was ruled creationism.
We in Texas have got to make sure once and for all that these people dominating the Texas Board of Education for so many years now are voted off the board. These people seem to believe that the earth is flat because, after all, the bible speaks of the four corners of the earth. They fear science and evolution. They fear Communists and Marxists who don’t even exist. They fear Truth itself.
May the Truth set them free, and get us free of these reckless and irresponsible board members who we have the power to vote off the board.

The Texas Board of Education, armed with Google and ideological blinders, sees a communist takeover.
As the Board marches on with its dogmatic re-writing of history in its social studies standards, its members inadvertently gave students an important lesson on how not to do their homework
According to the Fort Worth Star Telegram Monday, the board voted to ban the children’s book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, written by Bill Martin Jr. and illustrated by Eric Carle, based on one member’s “research:”

In its haste to sort out the state’s social studies curriculum standards this month, the State Board of Education tossed children’s author Martin, who died in 2004, from a proposal for the third-grade section. Board member Pat Hardy (R-Weatherford), who made the motion, cited books he had written for adults that contain “very strong critiques of capitalism and the American system.”

Brown Bear, Brown Bear? Well, no, not exactly.

Apparently, one of the board members, Terri Leo (R-Spring), googled Bill Martin’s name and found out that he had authored a book called, Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation.

Leo emailed Hardy to let her know of the connection, but noted that she had not actually read the book. Hardy said that was good enough for her and made a motion to remove the book from a proposed reading list. Hardy has been trying to pare down the lengthy proposed reading list.

Except that it was a different Bill Martin, a DePaul University philosophy professor. The Bill Martin of the Brown Bear series? He never published anything political, unless you count, as the Star reported, a book he once wrote teaching kids how to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

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Mother Root

Art by Jan Richardson © 1998, from Jan’s book In Wisdom’s Path: Discovering the Sacred in Every Season (Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 2000)


We’ve published a blurb or two before from the Rev. Jan Richardson’s blog “The Painted Prayerbook” and simply can’t say enough in praise of her gifts and talents as a United Methodist minister and spiritual retreat leader and creative artist and writer.

In addition to being such a gifted artist, she meets yer Jitterbugger’s criteria for all creative types be they artists, writers, actors, poets, painters, musicians and candlestick makers and yes, even preachers, which is to say–she always has something to say. Always something fresh, something so incisive as to make you pay attention, something original or imaginative that will make you think. Something entirely free of cliches or platitudes or more of the same-old same-old that so many others have to say in warmed over ways. Her paintings and art are true works of originality, and she writes like an angel. If I were teaching creative writing to college students or anybody aspiring to learn how to write, she’d be a writer I would hold up as exceptional and I could lecture whole hours on the many reasons why she’s so exceptional and why an aspiring writer could go to school on her.

And best of all, she’s an ordained United Methodist minister. Her kind make me proud to be one of those.

With no further trifling ado, here’s her take on Luke 4: 21-30, from “The Painted Prayerbook,” such a mighty fine blog.


In an interview with Terry Gross on her radio program Fresh Air some years ago, author Stephen King commented on how it sometimes happens that the adulation he encounters among readers turns so quickly to animosity. Acknowledging that he has become a lightning rod that draws a certain kind of fan psychology, he described how it occasionally happens that, for instance, “they want your autograph, they want to tell you how much they enjoy your stuff, and if you say look, I’d love to sign your books, but I can’t right now, I’m taking my family out to dinner, or I really have to be over here…their reaction is, go to hell, you son of a…. Just like that, it changes.”

Although it’s pretty easy to spot this adulation-animosity dynamic in its more dramatic forms (“We keep files on them,” King says of some of his readers who live at the farther, scarier reaches of this spectrum), I suspect we each carry this tendency within us in some measure. There’s something in our human psychology—more pronounced in some folks, to be sure, but present to a degree in us all—that tempts us to either idolize or demonize others. In particular, those who are in the public eye become, as Stephen King put it, lightning rods for this kind of phenomenon. Seeing bits and pieces of the life of another—a politician, a movie star, or even—as we observe in today’s gospel lesson—a preacher, we extrapolate from those pieces, put them together in a picture of who we think that person is, often magnifying certain traits (real or imagined) and ignoring others. In the process, we create a caricature that becomes easy to laud or to vilify.

Such responses are rooted in our illusions, in our projections, in our failure to see another for who they are. And because these perceptions are rooted in such shaky ground, it can become stunningly easy to flip from one pole of emotion to the other, usually in the direction of lambasting the one we once lauded.

We see this in today’s gospel lesson, which continues the story from last week of Jesus’ return to his hometown, where he reads from the scroll of Isaiah—those stunning words of good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed—and proclaims to the gathering that these words have been fulfilled in their hearing. As Luke tells the story, Jesus’ teaching initially inspires awe, and then incredulity at what this hometown boy—“Is not this Joseph’s son?”—is speaking.

Jesus challenges their reaction with two stories. Again, as with last week, we see the power of how Jesus the Word carries the scriptures of his people within himself. The stories that Jesus tells to the gathering in the synagogue are stories of two people—one a widow, one a military commander—to whom God sends aid. God sees these people as they are. God knows their need. God meets their need in a way they don’t anticipate and, in the case of Naaman the commander, initially resists.

The subjects of Jesus’ two stories are also foreigners, strangers, people who live outside the covenant that God has with Israel. In telling these stories, and in observing that “no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown,” Jesus challenges his hearers to remember that God crosses all boundaries and borders, including those that exist only in our own minds and hearts. Jesus challenges the way in which we often construct our beliefs about others and how God works in them: not only do we carry assumptions about those who are foreign to us, we also grow fixed in our understandings of those in our midst whom we think we know well. In both cases, our illusions and presumptions can prevent us from seeing the person who is really there, and can hinder us from receiving the sometimes surprising ways by which God is working in the life of this person, and wanting to work in our own life.

The incarnation and work of Jesus, to which we give particular attention in this season of Epiphany, was God’s way of saying to us, I see you. I see you, I know your need, I so want to be with you in your need that I will come among you in your own flesh, a body meeting your body, to see you, to be seen by you. To know you and to be known.

Some of the most powerful moments in the gospels come on those occasions, fairly rare, when someone recognizes who Jesus is: really sees him, knows him, understands what he’s about, perceives him in a balanced way absent of the extremes of adulation or denigration. Think of Peter, proclaiming, “You are the Christ.” Or the women who anoint Jesus in his final days, perceiving who he is and ministering to him in anticipation of the suffering he will soon endure. Or Mary Magdalene on Easter morning, exclaiming “Rabboni!” after Jesus has called her by name. One gets the sense from such stories that these people recognize Jesus because he has recognized them, has truly seen who they are: without illusion, without projection, without judgment, and with the utter and complete love that calls them to move more deeply into the heart of God and into the person God has created and called them to be.

The other lectionary texts this week speak with such brilliance to the power of what it means to seek and be seen by this God who knows us fully. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” God says to Jeremiah, “and before you were born I consecrated you….” “Upon you I have leaned from my birth,” sings the psalmist; “it was you who took me from my mother’s womb.” “For now we see in a mirror, dimly,” Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians, “but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

The spiritual practices we find in the Christian tradition are treasures that help us seek this kind of seeing, this kind of knowing, even if partial: they help us to wipe at least a few of the smudges from the mirror. Amid what is strange and what is familiar—both of which can blind us to what is really present—practices of prayer, silence, spiritual direction, fasting, and the like help us strip away the layers of illusion and false perception. What we find through these practices can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful: who wants to have this kind of mirror, even a dim one, held up to ourselves?

And it is, in part, this experience of seeing themselves in Jesus’ mirror that infuriates the crowd in Luke’s story, flips them from amazement to agony, and prompts them to drive Jesus to the nearest cliff, intending to fling him over the side. We do well here to check our own assumptions and to heed the caution that Sarah Dylan Breuer offers in her excellent reflection on this passage: “And whatever we say about this Sunday’s gospel, please let’s not say that it is in any way about the small-mindedness of Jews in Jesus’ day or any other.” (She also suggests that “it can be dangerous to choose a pulpit too close to a cliff.…”) The impulse to switch from adulation to assault isn’t reserved to any particular group; instead, it’s frighteningly pervasive.

Yet when we allow ourselves to truly see and be seen—when the Christ in me meets and knows and is known by the Christ in you—there is nothing in the world that compares with that. When we can move past our assumptions, our projections, our impulse to build perceptions on paltry fragments and partial sight; when we can open ourselves to the ways that God comes to us both in the stranger and in the one we think we know so well; when we can recognize and respond to the presence of God in another and, in that reflection, recognize the presence of God in our own selves: well, that’s enough to change the world.

So where is God hiding out for you these days? How do you keep your eyes open to the holy that goes in the guise not only of strangers but also of those who are so familiar to you? Upon what do you build your impressions of others? Are there practices that help you see others and yourself more clearly, that help you move beyond assumptions and illusions and imaginings and to see what and who is really there?

In this Epiphany season, in the strange and in the familiar, may we see and know the presence of the Christ who seeks us. Blessings

—————
A native Floridian several generations over, Jan grew up in Evinston, a small community near the university town of Gainesville. The rural landscape, community traditions (including the annual Evinston Thanksgiving dinner in the park that has been taking place for nearly fifty years), and lifelong relationships fostered a rich sense of place, imagination, and ritual that continue to shape Jan’s life.

Jan received bachelor’s degrees in Religion and Creative Writing from Florida State University and a Master of Divinity degree from Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta. She was ordained as a United Methodist minister in 1991. In 1993 she returned to Florida to become the associate pastor of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando. After four years of congregational ministry, Jan received an appointment to a specialized ministry as the Artist-in-Residence at the San Pedro Center, a retreat and conference center of the Catholic Diocese of Orlando. Her appointment to San Pedro provided Jan with the freedom to piece together a creative ministry that includes leading retreats and workshops around the country, working as an artist and writer, and journeying one-to-one with folks as a spiritual director.

Jan’s first book, Sacred Journeys: A Woman’s Book of Daily Prayer, appeared in 1995. Growing out of her hunger for a contemplative book that both resonated with and challenged her experience as a woman, and drawing on the lives and writings of more than a hundred women around the world and throughout the centuries, Sacred Journeys became a unique contribution to the landscape of women’s spiritual writing. During the writing of Sacred Journeys, Jan had begun to discover the artist layer of her soul, and her next two books incorporated her artwork along with her writing. Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas was published in 1998, followed by In Wisdom’s Path: Discovering the Sacred in Every Season.

In many ways Jan’s journey has hinged on books, the reading of them as much as the writing of them. Roger Wieck’s book Painted Prayers: The Book of Hours in Medieval and Renaissance Art, picked up while browsing through a bookshop in Washington, DC, seized Jan’s imagination with its depictions of these remarkable books that incorporated text and images for the purpose of prayer and contemplation. The enchanting influence of these books began to appear in Jan’s work, first with her series The Advent Hours and more recently in the series The Hours of Mary Magdalene.

Her encounter years ago with Malachi McCormick’s edition of Deer’s Cry, published by his small press Stone Street Press, planted an idea that, more than a dozen years later, resulted in the founding of her own small press. Through Wanton Gospeller Press, Jan publishes handcrafted books that wed her elegant charcoal artwork with her writing.

Jan is the director of The Wellspring Studio, LLC, a company that incorporates her vocation as an artist, writer, retreat and workshop leader, and spiritual director. She serves as Visiting Artist at First United Methodist Church of Winter Park, Florida, where she and her sweetheart, the singer-songwriter Garrison Doles, lead The Wellsprings Service, a contemplative worship service. Jan is on the faculty of the Grünewald Guild in Leavenworth, Washington, and is an oblate of St. Brigid of Kildare Monastery, a Methodist-Benedictine community based in St. Joseph, Minnesota.

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Our research assistant and sometimes contributor L.K. the contemplative mystic lover of God and flaming librul (Old School, Joan Baez Div.) sent along this funny article from the venerable Christian Century magazine with this note: “You know, my Methodist friends have been telling me for years that there is no doubt that I am really a Methodist. While I am still holding onto my poly-denominational status (I am commitment phobic even when it comes to demoninations), if the Methodists serve dessert, they might get another look from me. Mmmm,,,,,,donuts!”
Wherever two or more Methodists are gathered, L.K., there will be chocolate chip cookies and donuts in plentiful abundance.


Christian Century
January 21, 2010
Clergy gathering rituals

by Lillian Daniel
I was speaking at a Methodist clergy gathering when a pastor told me that at first the hotel had not been excited about hosting the group, since its members weren’t going to run up any kind of bar bill. But then the hotel manager noted that they had more than made that up in how much was spent on dessert. The Methodists were welcome there anytime.

In my own denomination, the United Church of Christ, the clergy do their best not to leave those poor bartenders disappointed. It’s not that we like to drink, of course. It’s an economic justice issue. And we order dessert, too. Anything for the Lord.

Someone once said that when the Baptists come to town, the bars are empty but the liquor stores do very well. When the Episcopalians come to town, I suspect they’re both happy. Though maybe not the dessert makers: Episcopal clergy seem to be skinnier than the rest of us, and much better dressed in their clergy shirts and clerical collars. Plus, black is slimming.

And what about clergy fashion? When the UCC held a national gathering with the Disciples of Christ, we were amazed at each other’s dress code. The Disciples were dressed up as if for work—or, as they might see it, as if for church. They clearly hadn’t gotten the UCC memo about what to wear as a delegate to our General Synod convention: Birkenstock sandals with socks, Guatemalan vests, rainbow pins on hats, tee shirts with impassioned slogans, all of which should be covered with whimsical badges that say things like, “Kiss me, I’m a Congregationalist.” The only thing we could agree on was the denominational tote bag.

In the end, do any of these differences really matter? In Colossians we are advised, “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience… Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

One year at a General Synod limited only to our own tribe, I was shocked to ride down the escalator with three elegantly dressed women. Their high-heeled shoes, stockinged legs and beautifully cut skirts seemed so out of place in the UCC sea of sneakers, sweatpants and Birkenstocks that I wondered if they were missionaries from some other religion that only accepts tall women with a sense of style.

The mystery was solved when they appeared on the stage for worship and were introduced as members of the first-ever General Synod Transgender Choir.

Finally, someone with the courage to challenge the dress code.

Lillian Daniel is senior pastor of Glen Ellyn First Congregational UCC in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.

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How’s about some more Fred Astaire and him dancing this time, jitterbug people???
We saw him in still pictures with Rita Hayworth (be still, my heart) in that video we posted with the Andrews Sisters song yesterday, but to fully appreciate Mr. Astaire you have to watch him get his jitterbug dance legs going.
Wow. The man was the personification of style and grace and magnificent taste.

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Dorcas


(From the Episcopal Church-related Dailyoffice.org)

Lydia is mentioned in Acts 16:11-15,40.

When Paul on his second missionary journey carried his preaching out of Asia and into Europe, he began at the city of Philippi in Macedonia (north of Greece). His first European convert was a woman named Lydia, a merchant who dealt in purple-dyed goods. (Purple dye, made from a certain mollusk, was extremely expensive. One use of it was for the stripes in the togas of Roman senators. Lydia’s occupation suggests that she had considerable capital.) She and her household wer baptized, and she invited Paul, with Luke and his other companions, to make her house their headquarters in Philippi.

Dorcas (or Tabitha in Aramaic — both names mean “gazelle”) is mentioned in Acts 9:36-42. She was a member of the early Christian community in Joppa, a seacoast town of Israel, and noted for her acts of charity, in particular for making garments and giving them to needy widows. When she fell ill and died, Peter came to see her, and raised her to life. His words to her, “Tabitha, kumi,” (Tabitha, arise), are reminiscent of the words of Jesus to the daughter of Jairus, “Talitha, kumi,” (little girl, arise) as given in Mark 5:41. Whether this is anything more than coincidence is hard to say. If the Aramaic words of Jesus had been quoted by Luke rather than by Mark, one might suppose that Luke was underscoring a resemblance between the two episodes (the reader is invited to look up both stories, the former in M 9:18-26 = P 5:22-43 = L 41-56 and the latter in A 9:36-42). As it is, I am not sure that Luke (or Peter, presumably Mark’s source for his account) intends a connection.

Phoebe (the name means “bright” or “radiant”: Apollo and Diana, the god and goddess of the sun and moon respectively, were often referred to as “Phoebos” and “Phoebe”), was a Diakonos of the Church at Chenchreae, the eastern seaport of the city of Corinth. (Corinth was on a narrow isthmus that connected southern Greece (the Peleponessus) with northern Greece and the mainland of Europe. Attempts had been made to dig a canal through the isthmus in order to shorten shipping routes, but no attempt was successful till modern times. Accordingly many ships were simply dragged out of the water, put on rollers, and moved across the isthmus and into the water on the other side. Naturally, the crew got shore leave. Naturally, Corinth became famous as a port that accommodated sailors with shore leave. This may account for the fact that Paul has a great deal more to say about sexual matters when writing to the Corinthians than he does in other connections.) When Paul mentions her, she has left the vicinity of Corinth and is in Rome, so that Paul commends her to the Church there.

There has been some dispute about whether Paul means to say that she was a “deacon” in the Church (holding the same office held later by Athanasius in Alexandria and Lawrence in Rome), or whether he refers to another office, that of the “deaconess,” not the same as a female deacon (but in that event, one would have expected a feminine form of the word), or whether he is simply using the word in a non-technical sense to mean someone known for her helpfulness and service to the Church. He calls her a Diakonos, a word which the Kjv translates as “deacon” three times (Philippians 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:8,12), as “servant” seven times (including the reference to Phoebe) and as “minister” twenty times (including references to Paul himself). It is a word that originally had the meaning in secular Greek of “someone who is responsible for, attends to, ministers to, or waits on a person or group of persons or a task or area of responsibility.” Later, it came to be used in a technical sense to denote a certain office in the church. One has to guess from the context whether it is being used in the technical sense or in the older, descriptive sense. A similar problem sometimes arises with Angelos, which is Greek for “messenger, bringer of news.” The form Euangelos means “bringer of good news,” and gives rise to our word “evangelist.” When mysterious beings gave messages to men from God, and then disappeared, they were called “messengers of God,” or simply “messengers,” and so Angelos came to mean sometimes “messenger” and sometimes “angel.” Sometimes the context does not make it clear which is meant. Again, the Greek Martyros means “witness,” but came to refer to the particular kind of witness who says, “Jesus is Lord,” when he faces death for saying it. Hence, Martyros is sometimes to be translated “witness” and sometimes “martyr.” Similarly, Episcopos can mean “overseer” or “bishop,” and Presbyteros can mean “elder person” or “presbyter, priest.”

Phoebe was in any event a person of consequence in a congregation near Corinth, someone who had made a valuable contribution there.

PRAYER:
Almighty God, who didst inspire thy servants Lydia, Dorcas and Phoebe to uphold and sustain thy Church by their loving and generous deeds: Give us the will to love thee, open our hearts to hear thee, and strengthen our hands to serve thee in others for the sake of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

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I found this an interesting article about Christians, and Wesleyan Christians in particular, who are warming up evermore to veggie-ism. I’m like one of the pastors mentioned in this UM News Service article who says she eats meat and is gonna eat meat the rest of her life so there.
However, I’ve been on somewhat of a slow and steady inclination toward a lot less meat and chicken in my diet for many years now. And I’m not so sure I’m not moving all the way, eventually, toward the whole-hog vegetarian thing.
A big part of this move to veggie-ism has been ever-growing awareness of how food is produced in this country–turns out you really don’t want to know how sausage and the hamburger meat is made and packaged and prettied up for the grocery store. But it’s also been evermore enlightenment and awareness of how God-awfully animals are treated in the production of food in this country. (That’s a mouthful coming from me, who was raised in a Texas town and part of the country where it was just pretty much assumed that except for your horse–which you treated with greater reverence, respect, care and dignity than, say, your little brother and sister–animals were beasts and animalwelfare was not even a word.)
And yes, a big part of my awareness around animals and animalwelfare was raised by none other than John Wesley. I’m United Methodist clergy after all, and to get to be United Methodist clergy, you spend enormous numbers of days and hours of your life studying and reflecting on four persons: God the Father/Mother, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and John Wesley.
Not necessarily in that order. We Methodists do lionize our worthy founder, to say the least.
Brother Wesley, who was always light years ahead of his times about so many things, was all about animal welfare and eating less meat for health reasons way long and very long ago. I remember having this revelation on about my third day in seminary when I was in the library just browsing through all those scores upon scores of diaries of Brother Wesley and happened upon something he wrote about the salvation of animals.
Salvation of animals?
Like I say, he was always out there and always thinking about animals among all the other things he was thinking in that crazy genius head.
Well, with no further ado, here’s some various opinions from aforementioned Methodists of today on meat eating and plant food:

(For Michelle Knox McKay, beloved niece, the best friend animals of this world ever had.)——————-
Methodism founder inspires Christian vegetarians
By Susan Hogan*
Jan. 21, 2010 | CHICAGO (UMNS)

After becoming a Christian in the 1970s, something unexpected happened to Fred Hoffman.

His appetite changed. He stopped eating meat.

By the time he became a United Methodist minister in the 1980s, he’d given up dairy products, too. He felt bolstered in his views by John Wesley.

“Wesley advocated a plant-based diet,” said Hoffman, 80, of Coxsackie, N.Y. “He knew that animal products made people sick.”

Hoffman argues that Wesley was a sporadic vegetarian—a view that doesn’t always sit well with other United Methodists. They know Wesley as a great teacher, theologian and evangelist.

What he ate for supper isn’t the usual fodder of Sunday school.

But some United Methodist theologians who’ve studied the issue say Wesley did forgo meat occasionally for health reasons.

“There’s no doubt about it—he followed a vegetarian diet from time to time,” said Randy Maddox, a United Methodist theologian and John Wesley specialist at Duke University.

“He never made that a requirement, and it wasn’t his consistent practice,” Maddox said.

Until the last decade or so, many Americans dismissed vegetarians as faddists.

Now, plant-based diets are widely embraced in the mainstream, according to Dr. Stephen Kaufman, chair of the 6,000-member Christian Vegetarian Association in Ohio. While some people disavow meat for health reasons, many Christians are motivated by their spirituality, Kaufman said.

“They’re concerned for the welfare of God’s creatures, stewardship of the land and caring for their bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit,” said Kaufman, a member of the United Church of Christ.

In rural cattle-rich Mitchell, S.D., home of the “World’s Only Corn Palace,” the Rev. Donna Hillman McLaird said she’s never considered a vegetarian lifestyle.

“My folks raised beef and lamb; that’s part of our rural culture,” said McLaird, 68, a retired United Methodist pastor. “I remember my grandpa wringing the necks of the chicken.”

She plans to continue eating meat for the rest of her days.

The Rev. Rob Hamilton of Glenview United Methodist Church in Illinois said he, too, grew up on a farm.

“I can see the health benefits to being vegetarian,” he said. “There’s the whole justice issue about how meat is produced in our country, too.”

Still, he’s only had fleeting thoughts of going vegan.

“I eat meat out of habit,” he said. “I like it.”

Wesley stopped eating meat at times because it made him feel better, said Charles Wallace, a religion scholar and chaplain at Willamette University in Salem, Ore.

“He believed that what you eat makes you more or less healthy,” Wallace said. “I don’t recall him being exercised by that in any direct way.”

Hoffman said it wasn’t health, but compassion that drove him to become vegan. For the past 12 years, he’s called for the compassionate treatment of animals on his Web site, http://www.all-creatures.org.

“We encourage churches to be more sensitive to animals,” he said. “We don’t want ministers getting into pulpits on Sunday and talk about the deer they shot on Saturday.”

Maddox said Wesley ate animals while also crusading for their welfare.

“At one time, if an Anglican priest preached against cock fighting, they were accused of being Methodist,” Maddox said.

Wesley also broke from other theologians by arguing for the salvation of animals.

“I don’t think every member of The United Methodist Church needs to be a vegetarian,” Hoffman said. “I just want them to open their minds to what the founder taught.”

*Hogan is a freelance writer based in Chicago.

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That would be the late and the great monk and spiritual writer and abiding spirit who keeps us forever inspired in our own ministry Thomas Merton, of course.

Grace, which is charity, contains in itself all virtues in a hidden and potential manner, like the leaves and the branches of the oak hidden in the meat of an acorn. To be an acorn is to have a taste for being an oak tree. Habitual grace brings with it all the Christian virtues in their seed.
From Thoughts in Solitude. (New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1999). P 20
—–
Actual graces move us to actualize these hidden powers and to realize what they mean: Christ acting in us.
—- Thoughts in Solitude, also p. 20

—-
“Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.”
—- Merton letter of advice to a young peace and justice activist

—–
Thoughts in Solitude, Part Two, Chapter II consists of fifteen lines that have become known as “the Merton Prayer.”

“MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

– Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude”
© Abbey of Gethsemani

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Yes, jitterbuggers, Tuesday afternoon comes around every . . . well, Tuesday afternoon.

Which means you can count on jitterbuggingforjesus.com to get you over the afternoon hump at work with sweet music, which today is provided by the lovely and talented Patty Griffin of Austin, Texas, where we have now been permanently barred from several watering holes down on Congress Ave but nevermind that.

So happens that the divine Miss Patty has a new gospel album being released today. We’re sure she probably chose today because of course it’s yer old Jitterbugger’s birthday.

Thanks, Patty. Very sweet. Go to pattygriffin.net to hear great gospel music from “Downtown Church,” the new release of hers.

But with no further of that ol’ ado, here’s an oldie vid from her “Children Running Through” album because I love me some Patty Griffin and it’s my birthday and this gives me goosebumps and the visuals in this particular vid are heavenly.

(And of course, a birthday song from Sir Paul to this Paul his long lost cousin.)

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