Like most people, I don’t particularly relish encounters with death. But, welcome or not, I’ve had my fair share. I’ve clasped a woman’s hand as her breathing slowed, became sporadic, and finally ceased. Through the cramped hallways of an ancient farmhouse, down which no stretcher could be maneuvered, I helped heft the sheet-wrapped body of a family’s matriarch to carry her to the waiting hearse. When a small Oklahoma church mourned a member who’d fallen asleep at the wheel, late at night, early in life, I was there, thinking of the joyless “Joy the World” the band of believers had choked out the day before that December 26th funeral. In each of these situations, the death of the young or the old, there was within me a desire to lighten the load of grief borne by the survivors, to shine a ray of life into the gloom of death.
Because of that desire, when I first heard about families opting to have a so-called “Celebration of Life” service for their departed loved ones, instead of a funeral, my interest was piqued. Perhaps here was a viable alternative. The name alone effuses a positive, uplifting appeal that “funeral” or “memorial service” can’t begin to match. Celebrations are good, right? And, life, well, who can possibly have any qualms about that? Perhaps this approach to confronting death, at least the ceremonial part of saying goodbye, would help alleviate some of the pain associated with, and expressed in, a more traditional rite. Maybe it was time to have a funeral for the funeral.
So what makes a Celebration of Life different? Rather than a focus upon the loss of a loved one, this service rewinds the present into the past, to draw the mourners back into the life lived by the deceased. It’s like a miniature, enacted biography of the person, with a focus upon those qualities, interests, and achievements that his family and friends found most endearing about him. Whereas a traditional funeral is structured around a liturgy, in this ceremony stories about the person—serious or lighthearted—take center stage. It is his funeral, after all, so shouldn’t it be about him?
Read on here.
It’s a chaotic world out there. But we’d better get used to it; this may be the new normal.
The Middle East is in flames, not only Gaza but Syria, Iraq and Libya as well. Russia is massing troops on the border of Ukraine. Central Africa is a mess, as are Afghanistan and Pakistan. Parts of Mexico and Central America are ruled by criminal gangs and drug cartels. And those are merely the crises big enough to command front-page attention.
“This is historically unprecedented,” former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski told Foreign Policy magazine recently. “Huge swaths of global territory are dominated by populist unrest, anger and effective loss of state control.”
Brzezinski’s point wasn’t merely that disorder is loose in the world; that’s happened in earlier periods of war and revolution (think of Europe in the aftermath of World War I, for example). His point was that chaos is breaking out simultaneously in many regions, and that governments are less capable of meeting those challenges than before.
Moreover, in an age of instant communication, conflicts can spread more readily…
Read on at the Irishanglican’s Weblog.
‘I am sending in a parcel, my pocket Bible and three shrapnel bullets, of which the following is the story’.
These are the opening words of letter 28 year old George Hever Vinall sent to his parents in July 1917 which tells the story of how he survived an artillery attack at the Frond and later found a bullet from the attack lodged in his Bible. It stopped at the verse in Isaiah which reads, ‘I will preserve thee’. George Vinall was so convinced that God had saved him, he became a Bible translator after the war.
It’s the 1970s. A 30-something man makes his way across the Golden Gate Bridge. He’s passed by pedestrians and cyclists, and steps around tourists taking pictures of Alcatraz, Angel Island, and the channel of water below that runs between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. He gazes up at the reddish-orange towers soaring above, and then climbs over the bridge’s four-foot safety railing. He steps out onto a 32-inch wide beam known as “the chord,” pauses, takes one last long look out at the bay, and then jumps. His body plummets 220 feet and violently hits the water at 75 mph. The impact breaks his ribs, snaps his vertebrae, and pulverizes his internal organs and brain. The Coast Guard soon arrives to recover his limp, lifeless body.
When the medical examiner later located and searched the jumper’s sparse apartment, he found a note the man had written and left on his bureau. It read:
“I’m going to walk to the bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump”…
It’s a great post. Do read it in full here.
What good will you do this day?
Just in case you were not aware, NATO has some 28 member countries that are supposed to protect themselves against Russia.
Warsaw—President Barack Obama said he would send more U.S. military equipment and increase joint exercises in Poland as he proposed a new $1 billion fund Tuesday to bolster European security.
The moves come as an extension of the White House campaign to reassure anxious Eastern European allies that the U.S. would act if what it sees as Russian aggression in Ukraine spreads to other parts of the region.
Mr. Obama also promised further deployments of American forces to Eastern Europe and said the proposed fund would pay for storing more military equipment and expanding exercises in Poland.
The fund—which the White House announced as Mr. Obama arrived in Poland at the start of a four-day visit to Europe—would require approval from Congress. It would pay for the increased military exercises and stepped-up U.S. presence in Europe, including further navy deployments to the Black and Baltic seas.
As Eastern European allies have grown fearful of Russia, the U.S. has sought to reassure them through an expanded series of exercises and deployments, including fighter jets and a company of about 150 soldiers in Poland.
Mr. Obama said shortly after arriving in Poland that European security is the “cornerstone of our own security and it is sacrosanct.”
“It is a commitment that is particularly important at this point in time,” Mr. Obama said in an airport hangar with U.S. and Polish troops.
Poland has been pushing for a larger deployment of U.S. forces as a deterrent after Russia moved to annex the Ukrainian region of Crimea and amid unrest in eastern Ukraine that the West accuses Russia of instigating. Russia denies starting the turmoil.
Polish President Bronisław Komorowski said the U.S. and Poland were “on the same page” and promised that his country would increase its military spending to 2% of its gross domestic product. The 2% GDP spending target is the official North Atlantic Treaty Organization standard, but few countries meet it.
A NATO military officer confirmed that most Russian troops have now pulled back from the Ukrainian border, a move the U.S. has said will help de-escalate tensions.
“Everyone is interested in developing as good a relationship with Russia as possible,” Mr. Komorowski said.
Mr. Obama agreed but insisted the U.S. wouldn’t be “sacrificing principle in pursuit of relations.”…
Russia didn’t immediately comment on the proposal, but officials have warned that any expansion of NATO military presence in Eastern Europe would constitute a threat to Russian security and lead the Kremlin to consider deploying more weapons of its own along its western borders. Russia has already been building up military forces in the Kaliningrad region, an enclave between Lithuania and Poland…
It seems every day we find more cowardly, compromised and carnal Christians caving in to various worldly agendas. Instead of taking a stand for biblical truth, many are simply capitulating to the other side – partly in order to be liked, to be popular, and to be trendy.
These folks will one day stand before their Lord and give an account of their cowardice and betrayal. And far too many Christian leaders are in this boat as well. There are sadly plenty of compromised and spineless wonders found in so many pulpits today.
That is why it is so refreshing, if not even shocking, to find some Christian leaders who actually stand up and be counted, even if it means getting plenty of hate and abuse. Two recent cases have just surfaced of some brave Christian leaders who would rather be true to Christ and biblical principles than to be accepted by the masses.
They deserve our praise and our prayers. The first leader worth singling out is pastor Charlie Hughes from New Zealand. This courageous Christian and his wife would rather face the wrath of the militants and the forces of political correctness than to trample on the truth of Almighty God. Their story has just appeared in the press, so let me pass some of it along to you:
An Anglican pastor has quit the church and is taking his congregation with him after the governing body moved ahead with plans to bless same-sex relationships. Charlie Hughes, the former vicar of St Michael’s in Henderson, says he cannot reconcile the decision of the church to recognise same sex relationships with his ordination vows. He said the vows were a pledge to uphold the constitution of the Anglican Church. The constitution states it is “not lawful to ordain anything contrary to God’s word written”.
“It’s not because we have a problem with people who are in a same sex relationship but because of the commitment we have to shaping our lives around the teachings of the Bible,” Mr Hughes said. “This isn’t an anti-gay issue. This is a pro-Bible issue. There are seven completely clear statements in the Bible about same sex acts which are all disapproving.”
The Anglican Church’s ruling body this month issued an apology to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. It also told clergy they could bless same sex marriages with a bishop’s permission and set out a path to formalising the recognition. The Herald is aware of intense debate in congregations grappling with how to accept the ruling of the governing body, the General Synod.
Mr Hughes said he knew of other churches in which rifts had formed. “There is a large body of Anglican clergy who are convinced this is the wrong way to go.” There was also a group of lawyers — including two QCs — who were working on a legal challenge to the church’s move. Two-thirds of St Michael’s board had also resigned as had half the staff, while Mr Hughes was in talks with a non-Anglican church to take over as minister.
Well done Charlie Hughes. Closer to home we have another leader who has decided that standing on principle is far better than compromise. Up in Queensland one college head has stood his ground, even though the forces of PC are now baying for his blood. The story begins:
The principal of a Christian College has come under fire for transferring two student teachers after they turned up for work dressed in traditional Muslim headwear. The two women, in their final year of a teaching degree, had started a work placement at Redlands College this year. In a newsletter addressed to the school’s parents on Tuesday, principal Mark Bensley outlined his reasons for dismissing the pair, explaining he had acted out of a “duty of care”.
“I have a duty of care to ensure that those teaching at the College are actively supporting the Christian principles, practices and beliefs of the College,” he wrote. “I see the wearing of the hijab as openly acting in a manner that is contrary to or inconsistent with these principles, practices and beliefs.” The principal explained that he had arranged for both students to transfer to another school to complete their respective field work. “While I respect their desire to wear a hijab, I feel it’s inappropriate to do so at Redlands College,” he wrote.
A statement issued to The Sunday Mail said, as a Christian school, Redlands College “respects and loves all people, from all backgrounds and religions”. “However we don’t hide our Christian values and we provide an important educational option for families seeking Christian education. “We are not aware that they (student teachers) had any concerns, and it is our understanding that all parties came to a mutual agreement for the benefit of all.”
Predictably, it was clueless Christians who made the biggest stink:
One Redlands College parent, Jennie Duke, took to social media to express her disappointment at the school’s decision. “So very sad that my daughter attends this school and my university sends our student teachers there,” Ms Duke wrote. While some have labelled Redlands College “Redneck College”, others have questioned Mr Bensley’s Christian faith. “It’s not very “Christian like” for a Christian school to tell student teachers that they are not welcome to teach and learn because they wear a hijab,” one user wrote.
Of course it is Christlike to stand up for Christian principles. If someone attends a Christian college, they should abide by the ethos and rules of the school. Just imagine if a Christian demanded to parade around a Muslim school with a cross and a Bible. It would never happen of course.
The TV news also got this wrong big time, siding as they usually do with the Muslim community. They even claimed that Muslim leaders said that Christians are free to do as they please in Muslim schools. Umm, no. Consider just one case. The headline goes this way: “Furious debate as teachers at Islamic College of SA’s West Croydon campus ordered to wear hijab or face sack”.
The February 11, 2013 story began this way: “A warning from South Australia’s biggest Islamic school that teachers – including many non-Muslims – will lose their jobs if they do not wear a hijab to school functions and outings has sparked outrage.” So much for Christian freedoms in Muslim schools.”
So well done to Mark Bensley for sticking to his guns. He and Hughes are champions in my books. I sure wish we had more Christian leaders like them, instead of all the invertebrates we find all over Western Christendom today. It is time for those who name the name of Christ to stand and stand strong.
Hopefully this is just the beginning.