Sunday Bulletin Inserts
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Urban legends. Most areas have their own. However, some have spread over the years to receive a popular mention in a lot of different areas and media. They range from rumor to seemingly well supported fact. Some have even become so famous that, even though they have been debunked, they get dusted off and dressed up and paraded around anew. And people get sucked in again. I'll share one with you here as a sample of what can happen and how official it can look.
Bea Maggio is an actual person who got caught in one of the more believable urban legends of recent years. Bea Maggio worked for Allstate Insurance and received the famous "spunkball" email of a few years ago. If you've never heard of spunkball, it comes from the supposed practice of a gang initiation wherein teens drive around looking for a car sitting at a traffic light with a window rolled down. They yell, "Spunkball!" and toss a gasoline soaked rag with a lit firecracker attached to it through the open window in an attempt to start a fire inside the car. Sounds dangerous for unsuspecting motorists, right?
That's what Bea Maggio thought. When she received her email from a friend describing how it was done and how the practice was growing all over the United States, she decided to let a few of her friends know. Her email, with the very official looking tag of Bea Maggio, FCLS, Allstate Insurance Co., was the one that got passed around the most. Though she was not doing it in an official capacity, the email as it was circulated gave the impression of validity with her name attached. Allstate officially denied any part in the email.
Like any urban legend the truth came out concerning spunkball. It was debunked and has not been seen in quite some time. What made spunkball work was not Bea Maggio's name associated to it, but the shear believability of it. Many people have commented, related to the spunkball email, that they could actually envision teenagers doing such a thing. So let me ask you something. How believable is it to claim that your religion is based on a man resurrecting from his grave?
Hope that didn't rattle you too much. But we must be steadfast that what we believe is not the stuff of urban legend but the report of eyewitnesses. The apostle Paul, in reporting concerning the Christ, wrote "that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me."
We all know what Faith is. It is the certain knowledge of the things hoped for, evidence of the things not seen...
The light gradually grew brighter. I tossed the light covering aside and slipped on my robe. The cold stone felt refreshing to my feet only for a short while then the cold crept up my legs into my bones. Oh, it wasn't the cold stones. It was despair. I had passed depression long ago. Despair gathered the corners of darkness and wrapped it around my whole being. Defeat tied the knots. One day had melted into another without any relief from my hopeless situation. because, tohorah or family sacredness decrees that when the secular world-things tum'ah such as menses begins it takes the mind off the Holy Things and makes a person Unclean. My beloved could not touch me. There was some disagreement among the Sanhedrin about this. Torah said not for seven days. Did one count from the first flow or begin counting after the flow ceased? But regardless, we could not express our love for each other that night because that would mean we would be cut off. No going to the Holy Temple. My beloved could not minister there. No sacrifice, however expensive, would cover the sin. So we abstained: I in my chamber and he in his. It was a lonely state, but it was only for seven days. So many women of my acquaintance cherished these days of separation. I could never understand that until I realized they must not love their husbands as much as I loved mine. I was young. I was in love. I had so much passion for him and not just his body. His smile lit up the room. His soft voice sent velvet peace through me as he read the Torah or the prophets or the songs. He was the mountain rock that protected me from the storms of life. It would only be for seven days.
But the red river did not stop flowing. I tried the remedies handed down from mother to daughter for centuries. I thought it would stop. It went on for months.
The day my husband came in with a bit of paper with writing all over it, my heart drained of all joy. What little hope I had cherished was ripped from me as I read that paper. It wasn't my fault. I was released from my vows. He required an heir. I could not give him a most hoped for son. I was divorced.
That day, I hated the sun more than anything. It kept shining. My world had suddenly gone dark but the sun kept shining and it kept rising day after day, cheerily glowing, warming, setting the evening sky on fire all while darkness filled my being to the marrow of my bones. My beloved walked out the door, his broad shoulders and his rich brown hair reflected the cheery sunshine whilst inside blackness ascended the throne of my heart.
I resolved to find a doctor that would make me well. I sent out servants to the four corners of the earth in search of learned physicians to heal me. The servants came back one by one with physician after physician who tried recipe after recipe of the most vile concoctions and still the red river flowed. Each smiling man held out his hands. One clutched a new medicine and would only let go of it when the empty hand was filled with gold. The bag that used to merrily hit my leg as I confidently strode the streets of town grew lighter and lighter. Year after year passed by and loneliness crept closer, sidling up, craving a cold friendship.
At first the days were filled with hope. The next physician would have the cure. The next caravan would bring the medicine that would heal. At first, I didn't notice as one acquaintance after another quit inviting me to social engagements. I had to turn them down so often. I was unclean. Of course I didn't spread the news. That sort of thing is just not done. But women talk. We gather at the well. We share recipes, cures, hope, gossip. That last one… oy vey !
The gossip wasn't noticeable at first. But then the hands quit dropping to the task at hand but stayed over the mouths as eyes followed me down the street. The sound of whispers touched my ears as I passed groups of twos and threes, either pity or scorn on their faces. I despised both. That served to push them further away. I was shunned. I was cut off.
This morning I awoke to a sky pale in the east, the sun not ready to break the day. I leaned on the window, a cramp dropped me to my knees. In that moment I decided I could not carry the load another second. "God," I cried out. "God, remember me this day," I begged, forgetting pride and self esteem. I had nothing left to bargain with. I had nothing to offer Him except a shriveled and tattered heart. "Remember me like you remembered Rachel and she became pregnant. Remember me like you did the countless times you remembered Israel in the travails before the kings. Remember me, oh Adonai, as you remembered Hannah."
The golden sun stretched over the horizon and warmed my cold face. A tiny spark of hope lit a single corner of my heart and I was able to face that day. A peace settled in my being. I knew I would be healed. Where, or how, or when wasn't important in that moment. The hope of healing took my breath. I knew. It was as if a giant hand picked me up from the floor, rushed me into my dress and hurried me out the door. Where I was going I had no clue. Then I heard the whispers. He is here today. He is coming today. He will pass along this way for He is teaching. He has healed hundreds. That demon-possessed man out by the cemetery was cured! He heals the lame and the feverish.
My heart leaped. I dare not let them see my face for then they would hush and cross to the other side of the street. I would never hear more of this Man. I must hear more...hear it all. "Who?" I wanted to scream. I wanted to grab an arm and shake until I heard the whole of the story. Jesus of Nazareth. Finally. I heard the name. It melted over me, sinking into me, peace washing over me like the waters of the mikveh which I had not felt in twelve long years. Hope gave spring to my step. I followed the crowd and when it became so close I used elbows and heels to break through. Closer I pushed.
I heard one of the synagogue rulers, Jairus, as I recall, had approached a man falling at His feet. I watched and then I knew in my heart that it must be He… the Jesus that would save me… the Man that would heal me… God's remembrance. I crouched down and crawled forward. I knew that if I just touched his talit, just one tassel on the corner of His talit, I would be healed. He had healed hundreds; the tassel was all I needed. He was Holy. I was unclean. He was of God. I was filthy. He was kind, for I saw Him start to follow Jairus to go heal his daughter. I was shunned and cut off. How dare I touch Him and make Him unclean? I could not. I dare not. But His prayer shawl I could dare to touch. I reached out. The tassel brushed through my hand… the barest of touches.
Darkness fled. Despair became a wisp, blown away by a puff of breeze. The red river ceased and I was well. The filth of twelve years disappeared just as if it had never been.
"Who touched Me?" His voice was full of compassion, love, and the waters of His words washed me clean. The first time in twelve years I was clean.
I could do nothing but fall at His feet. I poured out twelve years of grief and He replaced it all with such joy I could not contain it all.
"Daughter," He said, daughter a term of endearment such as I had not heard in years, "Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be whole from your plague."
I rejoiced, Ah, Lord God, thou hast saved me this day. I could not help but sing the Psalm of David
Jehovah is gracious and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.
Jehovah watches over the simple; I was low, but He saved me.
Return to your rest, O soul; for Jehovah has blessed you.
For You have delivered my soul from death, my eye from tears, my feet from stumbling.
I will walk before the face of Jehovah in the lands of the living.
I believed; so I speak…
I read a quote from Gandhi once that said, "It's the action, not the fruit of the action, that's important." He added that it may not be in our lifetime that any fruit will come from our actions.
This is hard for me because I am goal-oriented and even more results-oriented. It's even harder to accept in the Christian life, as I want to see people come to Christ and grow in spirit and wisdom. Then I want to see them bear fruit.
But God has his own growing season and it's not on our human scale. When the numbers don't increase in our youth group, I have to rein myself in and remember to pray for spiritual growth in those who are attending.
God's ways are not my ways -- they are higher. I keep coming back to that thought and scripture in many of my readings and meditations. I guess that would be the action of the Holy Spirit working to refine me and perhaps I will show some fruit from it!
'London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down . . .' - we all know this children's song.
Could that fall have been prevented? Perhaps. Could the bridge be put back up? No. It had to be rebuilt. This probably elicited many moans and cries from the people as the King or Queen of the day (yes, it was rebuild several times) taxed the people to pay for it. The original London Bridge was not called by that name, as the city was under Roman rule and called Londinium. The first bridge was wooden and constructed in 46 A.D. It was repaired and replaced through the years, but after it was burned by King Ethelred in 1013 to divide invading Danish forces and then rebuilt and destroyed in a storm in 1091 and fire again in 1136, someone decided a stone bridge might be worth looking into. (Duh.)
The first stone bridge was completed in 1209 and was the site of shops, houses and even a chapel. The bridge hosted several battles and displayed heads of executed heroes from William Wallace to Thomas Cromwell. Sections of the bridge collapsed at various times (prompting the song, no doubt) and by the end of the 18th century the 600-year-old bridge was deemed a hazard. A new one was built in 1831 but it began to sink at one end about 70 years later and was replaced by a new bridge.
The old bridge was dismantled and in 1968 sold to an American entrepreneur and reconstructed in Lake Havasu, AZ. Leftover pieces of the granite were cut down and sold as souvenirs. My great-aunt bought one and it now takes up space in my house. Another side note: the new London Bridge, opened in 1973, had a close call when a British war ship collided with it in 1984. It did not fall down.
Why the history lesson? Perhaps to show that the London Bridge really did earn the right to be sung about even hundreds of years later 'across the pond' because it fell over and over just as we do. When children fall down they often moan and cry, but eventually get back up again. I have one of each - a crier and a 'duster-offer'. My older son moans and carries on to rival the greatest stage actor of all time. (We're trying to find him an agent.) My younger son brushes off whatever part hit the ground and takes off at full speed as if nothing happened. He doesn't want or need my comfort.
When I fall down into sin I need to display the qualities of both of my sons. I need to cry out my repentance and request forgiveness from God. Then I need to get right back up and keep running the race. If I lie around and wallow in my misery I won't get over it and I won't get on with it. But if I get up and run on too quickly I miss the chance to have a loving Father forgive my wrongs and help me to my feet to try again.
David fell into almost every sin trap imaginable, yet he always cried out to the Lord and allowed himself to be hauled up to his feet again. In David's own words: 'though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.' -
Each time I fall I can remember how the bridge was rebuilt, time and again, and allow the Lord to reconstruct my life again and again.
Wouldn't it be nice to be related to someone famous? According to all the family legends and the way back ties, my family in Ireland were direct descendants of King Miletious of the Celts. Of course, they ate the people they conquered and were basically known as being well down the evolutionary ladder. However, my grandfather did tell me, on several occasions, that the famous clown, Emmet Kelly, was a distant relative. When I would ask how distant, Pawpaw would wink and say, "Way out in California, I think."
Several stars are related to each other. Actress Holly Hunter is a cousin of baseball player Tim Salmon. Actor William Hurt's ex-wife (wow, there's a surprise, an actor with an ex) Heidi is the daughter of TV band leader Skitch Henderson. Actress Anjelica Huston (this one is a bit of a reach) was the half-sister-in-law of actress Virginia Madsen. My personal favorite is Matt Dillon. His great uncles were both cartoonists. Uncle Alex Raymond created "Flash Gordon" and "Jungle Jim" while Uncle Jim Raymond drew "Blondie" for Chic Young for forty years.
Some celebrities have really famous family members. Actress/dancer Ginger Rogers's grandmother on her mother's side was a descendant of George Washington. Ginger's aunt also married Rita Hayworth's uncle. Elvis Presley and Abraham Lincoln share a common relative in Lincoln's great-great grandfather, Isaiah Harrison. Meanwhile, Tom Hanks is on the other side of "Honest Abe's" lineage as he is a direct descendant of Abe's mother, Nancy Hanks.
Over the years I have known, or known of, various people who have laid claim to the lineages of famous people or who have married into famous families. It basically provides bragging rights and fodder for conversation during parties. What about we Christians? Have we seriously thought out our current family status? We are a part of a family that is not just famous but very tied to the ongoing providential care of the world as well as its origins. As part of that family we have some rather attractive benefits.
"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, 'Abba, Father!' Therefore, you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then and heir of God through Christ."
I used to think that my family was exceptional, as in exceptionally dysfunctional. I would look at some of my friend's families and think, "Wow they are like the perfect family, and they don't seem to have any issues at all." Eventually I learned that weather overtly or covertly, all families have issues. No family is perfect because they are all composed of imperfect people. Out of all the people in my life, my immediate family can press my buttons the hardest and send me to places Jesus just doesn't go. Some of my deepest insecurities and vices are rooted in my childhood experiences as pertaining to my family upbringing.
My relationship with one parent in particular can at times reveal things in my character that I legitimately need to address and change; while at other times the interactions can send me into an abyss of guilt and rejection. As a result, in the past I have not been able to get away from family fast enough. I could go months without contact and have absolutely no compulsion to call or check in with them. I could get so easily caught up with other busyness including my 'new' Christian family by studying the bible with people, serving, helping friends while all along neglecting the family God gave me and the parents who brought me into this world. These actions are seemingly good but when not directed towards my immediate family they are worthless in God's sight. Now don't get me wrong, I love my family dearly and think about as well as pray for them but in some of my interactions with certain members there can be a feeling of tension and burden and so little common ground that it seems as though we are literally speaking in different languages.
My family relationships can reveal to me how truly unloving I can be. Our parents, like God, have plans for us and want the best for us, but unlike God, can put pressure on us if they feel like our lives are not going along their plans. I recently had a conversation with a parent that just didn't go well. It left me feeling guilty and like I had failed yet again, failed this parent and failed God in being an example. It made me want to go back to running away from interacting with this parent and go back to safely praying for them and caring for them from a distance.
Ouch. This means that if I see needs in my family and do not meet them I'm worse than those who do not believe in God. Seriously? Well, apparently! So I thought to myself, "well what if I just don't know what those needs are? Or what if I don't deem what they express as needs as real needs?" I have not come across this scripture in a long time. Yet, this time it cut deeper than it ever had before because I realized that I will constantly need to work on this. As I get older this scripture will call me out more and more as my family gets older and their needs increase. In efforts to protect myself I can neglect my parent.
There have been times in my life where I felt like I would be able to reach my family or have a closer relationship with this particular parent when I myself have my own family. In the past, I made efforts that were discounted by my parent as not good enough and I wondered if God took that into account when he placed that scripture in the bible? Maybe this scripture was only for those who had 'normal' families, for those who's family members didn't hurt them, or maybe it only works one way as in I have to take care of the family I myself have some day and therefore omits my parents, grandparents and older generations of the family all together. I tried really hard to not make this scripture apply to me and failed as the truth is, God knows all the pain and anguish our families can cause us. They are the ones that can cut us the deepest just as we cut God the deepest.
Yet, it is my family relationships which push me to love so much more than any of my other relationships as an example of how Jesus loves me. After all, I only get one family, no exchanges. I am who I am because of their influence- the good and the bad. In neglecting to care for them I am like someone who does not believe in God because I deny who God is in my life. When I refuse to give to them I deny God's power and I miss out on His ultimate love for me.
I hurt Him the deepest and He accepts me back into His family every time. I haven't quite figured out how to meet my families needs all the time but I am learning to try to actively make more of an effort to at least meet their relational needs. So, despite the last encounter and the temptation to change my phone number, I picked up the phone this week and I called and we talked and it was good and I couldn't believe it. It was like riding a bicycle for the first time, it was a bit wobbly and it took all my effort to keep my balance as I felt that the bike would tip any minute and I would break the fall with the skin of my knees but for a moment their I had momentum and it was good and my faith increased. We talked until someone called in on the other line and I 'had to go' so maybe next time I will believe a little more and talk a little longer.
I don't know about you but if I reflect on my favorite Christmas gift ever it's not what I expected. I sifted back through memories and brushed aside cobwebs searching for the most expensive or spectacular gift I'd ever received. I tried to remember a year when I had wanted something so much I would just die if I didn't get it. I came up empty. But tucked away quietly in one of those memory pockets was a doll house I received in fourth or fifth grade.
It seems strange now to think I was that old. Today girls barely play with Barbies past Kindergarten. (Not that that's a good thing - it's just another column.) This doll house was not something I had asked for or even realized I wanted. I had a smaller metal doll house with all plastic furniture very much like one my mother had when she was young. My grandparents got me the first one when I was about seven. This new and improved version was much bigger. The box my grandparents brought with them when they arrived on Christmas morning was so big I couldn't imagine what was in it.
It was a two-story wooden doll house about two feet tall and three feet long. My grandfather had made it and my grandmother decorated it, laying real carpet, papering the walls and even putting tiny plastic flowers in the flower boxes on the front windows. Then there was the furniture. No longer plastic stuff, but real miniature furniture. I didn't get much of it for Christmas because my grandmother wanted to take me shopping and let me pick it out myself. I chose Victorian sofas for the parlor and a formal dining table for the formal dining room, all presided over by a grandfather clock. The kitchen was cozier with wooden cabinets and a small family table. The nursery had an adorable swinging cradle, a crib and a child's bed, all out of wood with checkered blankets and cute little accessories. The bathroom had real porcelain fixtures - a claw-foot tub, pedestal sink and toilet with the suspended flush tank. The master bedroom I furnished with a four-poster bed and matching accessories.
My friends and I played for hours with that house, mostly setting it up and rearranging it. Sometimes the beloved furniture was relegated to the closet while the Barbies moved in. (The rooms were large with high ceilings, so the Barbies could live there as long as they didn't try to get through the doorways.)
This certainly was not the most requested gift I ever received. It was not the most expensive. But it was the most special and that's what I remember.
When I think about God's gifts to me I also remember the most special - His son. For him it was the most expensive and I have since requested the benefits of that gift. I hope my children will have memories of special Christmas gifts through the years, but I hope that the Christ will remain most important to them and to you. Have a merry and blessed Christmas!
'For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given . . .' -
I remember a lot of my years playing Little League baseball in my home town. I remember the kids and even some of the coaches. I remember Don Morrow telling us to count the hops on ground balls. Not so we could actually know how many times the ball hopped, but so we would be concentrating on the ball enough to field it without missing it.
I remember one particular practice where Mr. Morrow was hitting ground balls to us infielders. I was surrounded by my friends; Bobby Thornberry, Terry Baker, Todd Johnson. We were all working at the thirdbase side of the infield. Mr. Morrow hit a hard bouncing ball to Terry Baker. Terry started counting the hops and prepared to field the ball and throw it to first base. Then something happened.
The ball hit something in the infield and took an unfortunate hop, hitting Terry right square on the nose. The blood began to flow almost immediately. Mr. Morrow came rushing out brandishing a handkerchief. This was not the day of cell phones or even C. B.'s. Mr. Morrow told Terry to hold the handkerchief on his nose while he drove the boy home. Practice was over.
Terry was different after that. He was afraid to get in front of a ground ball and started playing everything from the side. Needless to say he was moved to the outfield. Fear can do that. Fear of injury, fear of the unknown. It can make a ballplayer tentative. It can make a ballplayer make errors. Same in life. One bad experience and people are gunshy, especially in the church. Fear is the church's greatest enemy. It reduces strong saints of God to immovable and uncooperative servants.
There is a remedy. "Love has been perfected among us in this; that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love."
'Sometimes the fear of loss and of pain makes us avoid risks by staying away from love, by not giving of ourselves, by living in a defensive way.'
I believe that fear is really a byproduct of a deep mistrust in the heart of God toward me. This applies to not only relational fears, but any decisions in my life. As I have been reading John and Staci Eldredge's, Captivating, the book has helped me to see how I mistrust in God's heart towards me in different areas of my life and what I can do to conquer that mistrust.
I am currently faced with a life decision that requires a great risk and although it is a wonderful opportunity it definitely involves a bit of the unknown. I need to decide whether I want to travel to a foreign country to volunteer for five months. On the one hand it really is a great opportunity that can open many doors for me in the future in my career, as well as an answered prayer since I can finally work in the field doing what I love. It is also an adventure- which I am always up for. On the other hand it's a volunteer position which means no substantial income as well as five months in a third world country with many issues. It's safe , but it's not a highly sought after vacation spot or anything and there is the whole it's five months away from people I know and care about. I can also fear missing out on some other opportunities while I'm away, not that I have any clue what these would be, it's just a fear of the unknown. However, it is only five months. Either way I am faced with dealing with my fears of being alone (I won't really be alone, I'm part of a program with other people- not to mention the country is well populated). I never said my fears are rational, but I don't feel stability or control over this situation (again more of a personal issue).
So where is God in all of this? Oh, He's right here. I just have been too scared to approach him because I'm scared the answer will not be what I want it to be. (Are you seeing a pattern yet?) In all honesty, this is an answered prayer it just has not been answered the way I wanted it to be and that scares me. It also shames me because it exposes my mistrust in God and His heart toward me. But reading scriptures on His love for me has been a tremendous help.
I'm falling in love with God again and letting him pursue me and court me, take care of me, protect me and that has made all the difference. I think too often we look to people to do these things ; I know I do. Whether it's people I know or the people who are possibly giving me a job that is exactly what I do.
According to John and Stasi Eldredge, the authors of both Captivating and Wild at Hart- women struggle with not trusting in God's heart for us and giving into our fears, often resulting in controlling behavior. While for men the fear of failure may result in passiveness.
Well that's harsh, but I see the truth in it. Because God is love-all abounding love. When I give into any kind of fear I'm turning my back on that love, I'm not trusting in that love and it prevents me from not only loving others , but also letting God love me! The one thing He desires for me to do, the first thing He commands me to do ( is to love God with all that I have . So how about you? What is your greatest fear?
When I believe that I am passionately loved by the God of the Universe and passionately hated by his Enemy I am able too overcome my fears and step out on faith. I'm very grateful to Stasi Eldredge for driving that point home for me because it is only then that I am able to embrace God's love and the love of others. I'm able to take risks because they are only opportunities to see God work and to allow Him to show His love for me . (also see: Ish 62:1-5,
 Huffington, Arianna. On Becoming Fearless. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2006., p 160
 Eldredge John, Stasi. Captivating, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc, 2005., p 48
There is a time to rely on feelings and a time to ignore them. Someone said, I know there are times when I'm not saved because I don't feel saved. Pooh! John wrote the believers so that we could be assured of our salvation. There are several things that give us that assurance. ing or not believing does not make it so or not so. God did it. That settles it. This is how we know beyond any doubt, beyond any question that we are saved. These things are outward indications of the inward change that the Holy Spirit caused to happen. Amen and Glory be to God.
the Second Week after Epiphany