Mountain

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Along the Kicking Horse River – Golden B.C. (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

Mountain

“By Your favour, O Lord, You have made my mountain stand strong.” Psalm 30:7

The hill outside my Golden Motel
is a face of barren gravel
nourishing only weeds
though pines grow up
it’s angled backbone—
everyday grace from hard mercy.

The gunmetal peak
rising behind it
appears impermeable, immovable.
Now partly obscured
by morning vapours
it speaks of Your faithfulness
there whether I see it or not.

© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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Prompt – Inspiration
Scene from a window: I wrote this while on holidays in July 2013, looking at the mountain outside our Golden B.C. motel window.

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VintagePADThis April I’m celebrating National Poetry Month by posting some not-as-yet published poems from my files, along with what inspired them. If the prompt inspires you to write a poem of your own, you’re welcome to share it in comments. Whether you write or not, thanks so much for dropping by!

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Prayer Breakfast Reflections (NPM ’16-Day 6)

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What I experienced on Monday and Tuesday of this week was the perfect preparation to write about Bobbie Ann Taylor‘s one-little-word MERCIFUL.

My husband and I were asked to be part of our church’s delegation to the annual MLA*’s prayer breakfast, hosted at a hotel just steps away from B.C.’s Legislature in Victoria on Tuesday morning.

After the beautiful ferry crossing Monday afternoon, we arrived in Victoria in time for dinner. An MLA friend who attends our church joined us at Milestones. That began a fascinating time of learning as we conversed and he answered questions about how he navigates the tricky water of provincial politics. No novice (he was formerly the mayor of the town in which I live), he explained how has trained himself to ask questions, listen, and then when the time is right, explain his position. He told of interfaith gatherings where he has joined with Muslims, Sikh’s and people of other faiths in initiatives which they all support.

The prayer breakfast saw around 150 people eating breakfast together (18 tables, with one or two MLAs— representatives of both political parties—at each table). It was an eye-opener for me as I glanced across the room and saw, for example, the former leader of the NDP** party in B.C. who raised his hand when the organizer asked who of them had attended the prayer breakfast for each of the ten years it had been happening. I had no idea and realized I have make judgments while I didn’t have a clue!

The man who, those ten years ago, had the brain child to start hanging out with our politicians for the purpose of lending them spiritual support obviously loves them and is loved back. In this time when politics can be a divider of people, this event was a real encouragement to me.

We stopped for lunch on our way home where each one us (five in all) shared the significance of the event personally. My friend Joyce said she had texted the words of the hymn “There’s a Wideness In God’s Mercy” to her husband as a sum-up of her response. I found those old lyrics were also the perfect expression of my feelings.

As my poem for today (Wednesday—poem-a-day for National Poetry Month and my post for Spiritual Journey Thursday), I’m taking the liberty of using some of the lines of that old hymn as I reflect on MERCIFUL.

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Here I am standing in front of the Legislative Assembly. After Tuesday’s breakfast we  observed Question Period from the gallery (Photo by Joyce J.)

Prayer Breakfast Reflections

“There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
Like the wideness of the sea…”
We can live it out when peaceful
we agree to disagree,
when the members, left and right
share croissants, coffee, and tea.

“There’s a kindness in His justice
Which is more than liberty.”
Listen to opponent’s viewpoint
strive to understand and see
common path we walk together
while we guard integrity.

“For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of man’s mind…”
See the needs that make us human
not by party lines defined
while the prayers of fellow travelers
aid us in the daily grind.

“And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.”
On this servant-leader pathway
that by many is maligned
help us all to pull together
as we seek Your mastermind.

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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spiritual-journey-framed

Spiritual Journey Thursday is hosted each week by Holly Mueller at her blog Reading, Teaching, Learning.

*MLA: Member of the Legislative Assembly

** NDP: National Democratic Party – the left-leaning party in Canadian national and provincial politics, roughly equivalent to the Democrats in the U.S.

*** “There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy” by Frederick Faber (1814-1863)

 

Messy Grace – review

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Messy Grace: How a Pastor with Gay Parents Learned to Love Others Without Sacrificing ConvictionMessy Grace: How a Pastor with Gay Parents Learned to Love Others Without Sacrificing Conviction by Caleb Kaltenbach
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Caleb Kaltenbach’s story of how he came to faith in Christ while being raised by two lesbian moms and a closet-gay dad is fascinating in its own right. The biblical teaching on homosexuality and the church that he weaves through the telling make this a must-read for 21st century Christians grappling with current cultural norms of sexual identity.

Though Kaltenbach never strays from supporting what the Bible says about homosexuality (he spends an entire chapter reviewing what both the Old and New Testaments say), neither does he minimize the difficulty of living by its culturally unpopular position. The word “messy” probably occurs more than any other adjective in the book. Again and again Kaltenbach reminds us that God’s dealings with all us flawed, sinful people is a messy business and a church’s grace-filled response to people within the LGBT community will be no different:

“Messiness is what happens when you try to live out God’s perfect grace as a flawed person in a flawed world” – Kindle Location 212.

The book is easy to read. Kaltenbach’s tone is one of a fellow traveler who is on the road to the same place as the reader. The narrative and teaching parts are interspersed in such a way as to maintain the story’s pace and keep our interest.

In my opinion, several aspects of Messy Grace make it an important book:

* Kaltenbach’s unique perspective of having grown up in and thus understanding of the LGBT community. His mom and her partner routinely took him to parties, marches, and Gay Pride parades. Both sets of parents were devastated when he “came out” as a Christian—an experience he likens to what LGBT folks experience when they come out to their families.

* Kaltenbach’s exemplary treatment of his parents. Even though he didn’t approve of their lifestyle, he never broke off his relationship with them, but instead loved and supported them through their ups and downs.

* The pastoral perspective Kaltenbach brings to the issue. As a pastor himself, he makes a passionate and compassionate case for the church to welcome, love, and care for members of the LGBT community. In this department he also challenges pastors and church leaders to think through their responses to twenty questions that pose difficult but relevant scenarios: E.g.:

“Would you allow a same-sex couple to attend your church?”

and

“If a man who had a sex change to be a women started attending your church, could that person attend your women’s ministry?”

and

“What is the plan for the student ministry staff and volunteers when a teenager comes out or expresses same-sex attraction?” – Kindle Location 2365-2390.

Messy Grace is moving and timely. Kaltenbach’s insistence on supporting the truth of Scripture while maintaining a loving attitude toward LGBT individuals is an example of how the church can break down walls of denial, isolationism, verbal abuse, hatred, and fear—even though the process is guaranteed to be messy.

I received Messy Grace as a gift from Blogging for Books for the purpose of writing a review.

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Openness Unhindered – review

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Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with ChristOpenness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first came across Openness Unhindered’s author Rosaria Butterfield on a video where she told her story of coming to Christ out of a lesbian lifestyle. I loved the fact that my favorite book, the Bible, was instrumental in her conversion. Openness Unhindered testifies to how she has continued to engage with it at a deep and thoughtful level.

In the book, the second one she has authored about her faith since she left her old life around 1999, she alludes briefly to her conversion story. Then she goes on to talk about how she has wrestled with her past and come to a place of equilibrium as a home school mother and pastor’s wife. Passages like the following tug at the heart:

“I am and always will be Rahab—a woman with a past. So, what does a person like me do with such a past? I have not forgotten. Body memories know my name. Details intrude into my world unpredictably, like when I am kneading the communion bread or homsechooling my children. I take each ancient token to the cross, for prayer, for more repentance, for thanksgiving that God is always right about matters of sin and repentance” – Kindle Location (KL) 631.

She stresses the importance of her new identity in Christ and of repentance. Even the title of the chapter on repentance testifies to how foundational it is to her: “Repentance: The Threshold to God and the Answer to Shame, Temptation and Sin.”

In chapters titled “Sexual Orientation—Freud’s Nineteenth Century Mistake” and “Self-representation—What Does it Mean to be Gay?” she unpacks the history of the gay rights movement and explains how “gay” has become a term of identity. In fact, she argues, gay doesn’t even belong, as an adjective, together with Christian. She says:

Gay is a word that carries stigma because of God’s moral prohibitions against homosexuality. … Because the Bible is clear on the point that homosexual practice is a sin, and because gay is a synonym for the implied desire for or practice of homosexuality, the stigma of this term is an act of God’s love, because God uses it to convict his children of their brokenness” –KL 2111.

Another powerful chapter is the one on Christian community. Here Butterfield describes how their family’s hospitality toward neighbors and church members became a closely woven safety net for all involved.

This was a great read! Though I did find the theological chapters a bit of a slog (Butterfield was a university professor in her former life and in plumbing these challenging topics comes across somewhat professorial), for the most part I enjoyed the book and learned a lot. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“When we are owned by God, we are ruined for the world. And this marring of us for the world is one of the birthmarks of conversion” – KL 595.

“Temptation comes in many forms, but it is always personal, uncannily tailor-made for our individual moral weakness, and it takes aim at God’s character, seeking to ransack our faith” – KL 1343.

“Desires for things God has forbidden are a reflection of how sin has distorted me, not how God has made me” – Sam Allbery quoted on KL 2320.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is trying to understand where homosexual practice fits within the Christian life and the church. Openness Unhindered is a part of my own Kindle collection.

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Miracle in a Dry Season (review)

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Miracle in a Dry Season (Appalachian Blessings, #1)Miracle in a Dry Season by Sarah Loudin Thomas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Perla Long returns to Wise, West Virginia in 1954, the single 24-year-old has a five-year-old daughter Sadie in tow. Tongues are soon wagging and Perla wonders, will she ever find a place where questions about her past don’t run her out of town?

Casewell Phillips is charmed by Sadie and fascinated with Perla’s blue-eyed beauty. But at 35, he is not about to trade in his bachelor status for a relationship with a woman of questionable repute.

Sarah Loudin Thomas has combined the characters above with a church full of judgmental parishioners, egged on by hellfire and brimstone Pastor Longbourne, a rainless summer, and Perla’s wondrous way with food to craft Miracle in a Dry Season. It’s a story about passing judgment and extending forgiveness, recognizing and accepting grace, and how “a child shall lead them.”

I enjoyed Loudin’s often lyrical way with words in passages like:

“Casewell … lifted his hand and held it over the child’s head for a moment, hovering there like a hummingbird taking the measure of a flower” – Kindle Location 512.

and

“She bowed her head, and he felt peace radiating out from her. But like a kerosene lamp on an icy morning, it could not reach his core” – K.L. 626.

However, I did find Thomas’s style tentative with an abundance of adverb modifiers that sucked the life out of her prose:

“’We’re going home,’ she said, looking at her husband with a depth and rawness that somehow embarrassed Casewell…” K.L. 638.

“He could taste the air. It seemed cleaner, richer somehow” – K. L. 2091.

“The landscape was still desolate but it looked somehow hopeful this morning” – K.L. 2097.

“… in spite of the tears she somehow looked happy” – K.L. 2126.

All in all, though, I enjoyed this romantic and folksy tale with its elements of the miraculous and its message that all of us have secrets and sins in our pasts and none of us make fit judges.

A set of discussion questions at the end of the book completes the volume.

I received Miracle in a Dry Season from the publisher, Bethany House, as a gift for the purpose of writing a review (via NetGalley which, as usual, delivered a problematic Kindle file with illegible first lines of chapters and all “Th” units missing from the book).

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