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Welcome the Kingdom with Song by the Rev. Wayne Barnett

Isaiah 35: 1,10

images35:1 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; … For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;  35:10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Did you ever wonder way we sing Christmas Carols? One year I put a sign on our outside church bulletin board that read we sing Christmas Carols. I did it because in most U. S schools children are not allowed to sing Christmas Carols

When Israel suffered complete destruction, when the land was barren, when the temple lay in ruins Isaiah promised a complete reversal. When outward circumstances offered no hope, Israel hoped. The Judeo-Christian hope is different from a wish. When I buy a lottery ticket I have the wish my number will win, but I do not start spending the money. But when my dad was living he often told me he would send a check to Transylvania for my living expenses. With his promise I could start spending the money even though I didn’t have it. You cannot count on a wish, but you can base your life on hope. Christians and Jews do not wish, they hope even when all seems hopeless.

Christians believe that the highway into the heart of God comes when a person lets Christ into their life. When a person’s life is touched by the finger of God, dryness and dust are replaced by moist, fertile soil. In place of living death life blooms.

You and I have seen persons who had no vision, no hope, no direction, and who lived in hopelessness find a highway into the heart of God and that highway was Christ.

We have seen Christians crushed beneath seeming unbearable burdens, and yet those Christians have gone on believing that good can come out of evil, believing that a birth in a stable is the sign that God is with us no matter what because that stable is the cross – resurrection from another perspective. We believe that the suffering and death of Jesus Christ has conquered all suffering and death. We trust the angels had good reason to sing for joy in the skies over Bethlehem. We believe that beneath the wounds and scars that life inflicts on us all, deep at the heart of eternity, joy still awaits us in the presence of God. On the cross as Jesus was dying he said, “Father into your hands I commend my spirit.” On the Cross, Jesus let us know even as he died he experienced God’s love but also looked forward to the heavenly banquet that he promised his disciples when he said, “This is my blood of the covenant poured out for the remission of sins. I tell you I will not drink it againimagesuntil I drink it anew with you in the Kingdom of God.” It is that kingdom that lives in us now and that we look forward to in eternity and that is the reason we sing Christmas Carols. Joy to World, The Lord is come. Let earth receive her king let every heart prepare him room.

Advent blogs

imagesI asked two special friends from George’s and my long-ago days in seminary to write a blog for Advent for another point of view than mine.  Both of these men were George’s roommates while he was in seminary.

Wayne Barnett and George were friends from CYF Conference (summer church camp) and all through college.  Wayne and his wife LaDonna were parts of our lives for many years.  George performed their wedding and Wayne was George’s best man.   He retired from a long pastorate in Kentucky but still keeps busy.   His blog will be up this afternoon.

Roy Martin lived down the hall from me in seminary until he moved in with George and Wayne.  We lost touch but with the magic of Facebook discovered each other–and Roy’s wife–two or three years ago.  Roy retired from years of ministry but keeps busy by going back to school, picking up degrees and learning things he shares.   His blog will be up December 16.

I cannot tell you the joy I feel that these two ministers and dear friends agreed to write a blog for Advent.

Advent 1

imagesI’m not the best little homemaker in the country.   I seem to have a very high threshold for clutter.  Although I keep my home clean, there may be (and usually are) stacks of papers or unfinished projects or notebooks filled with books I’m editing on tables and chairs and even a few in baskets on the floor.   For that reason, before anyone enters the house, I have to clean, clear the clutter, sweep out the corners where dirt seems to collect,  use a feather dust to get rid of cobwebs on the ceiling.

This is what preachers do: we tell a story, then say something like, “This reminds me of why we celebrate Advent.”

For many years, George and I hosted a Christmas open house for church members and neighbors and, yes, I had to plan and clean and cook until the time came and we opened the door to our guests.

This reminds me of why we celebrate Advent.  Christmas doesn’t start with the hanging of the greens and shopping.  That’s Advent, the period of preparation.  Christmas starts withimagesthe birth of the Savior, when the prophesy comes to pass and the miracle is shared, but even with the joy of the season, there is a reason for Advent, those days before Christmas.

Exactly as I prepared for our guests weeks before we welcomed them, Advent is the time we prepare ourselves for the new birth, the light, the appearance of God made human.  And, yes, I do this before He arrives because I have clutter in my brain and unpleasantness lurking in the corners of my soul and cobwebs covering my often unused commitment which makes me less able to receive God’s gift to us.

What is the clutter in my mind? Can I admit to the racism I attempt to pretend doesn’t exist there?  What about my certainty that my beliefs are the only true beliefs–the clutter I hide behind a smile?  What about that ugliness hiding in the corners of my mind, jealousy and pettiness?  And my uncertain and wavering commitment to love and spread the good news?  I need to sweep all those away before the arrival of our Savior so I can welcome Him with open arms.

Preparation:  this is why we celebrate Advent.





Honor code

Because there is great concern that the Rolling Stones article about a rape victim at the University of Virginia is falling apart, I am making changes to this blog.

I was brought up to be honest.   I shoplifted a box of Jell-O when I was four because I loved raw Jell-O.  My mother took me back to the grocery store.  She made me apologize to the manager and pay for it out of my five-cents-per-week allowance.  Thanks, Mom.

George always said I was a twit.  Although he was very honest, he thought I made too much of it.  Whenever I noticed I was undercharged for an item, I always brought it to the attention of the store.  I won’t go on with other examples but, yes, I am a twit.

In 1969, we moved to Charlottesville, VA, where I started  work on a master’s of education at the University of Virginia.   In those years, the campus was segregated by gender.  Women could only attend classes in the School of Education and no other departments because–well, I don’t know why not.  However, all students had to attend a meeting about the HONOR CODE which was very important then.    We listened to a speaker explain honor for thirty minutes, then had to sign an honor pledge.  I was married with a small child and had only cheated on a test once in my life, in sophomore general science and have felt shame for years.  This is the only time or place I’ve confessed that.  But, very simply, when working on a master’s degree, I wasn’t going to cheat on a test or do anything dishonorable and felt a little insulted I had to listen to an explanation of honor as if it were a virtue I’d never understood or considered, then sign a pledge that I would be honorable.

Those who already plan to cheat are not going to be stopped by signing a pledge.  They’re perfectly willing to lie if they plan to cheat.

I reflect on this because of what we’re hearing about the great number of rapes on college campuses that are not investigated, are covered up, when the woman is encouraged not to call the police or to rock the boat or to open herself to the inevitable attacks that come when a woman cries rape.

And in the midst of all this is the University of Virginia.  I wonder if a campus leader still discusses the importance of being honorable, the need to be an honorable gentleman and Cavalier.  Does that leader realize there are men in the audience who don’t consider rape to be a dishonorable action?  Obviously there a few young men who haven’t been taught what honor really means, didn’t learn during the required meeting about the honor code that all deserve to be respected, even women.  Seems to me that many universities ignore those offenses because they believe the reputation of their institution is more important than the protection of all their students. Or perhaps they believe boys will be boys.

NBC News said tonight that since 1998, 180 UVa students have been expelled for honor code violations.  None of those infractions were for sexual assault.  Does this suggest that as long as a man doesn’t cheat on a test, whatever else he may do is just fine?

Which brings up my question:  Why bother with an honor code?

What a difference

imagesThe other day, I asked a woman how she met her husband.  “I worked for the government in DC at the end of World War 2. While I waited for transfer to France, I went to a small store to buy clothes.   The owner said she had a nephew there with the FBI and gave me his name and phone number, telling me to call him. I did. We went out and got married a few months later.  I always wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t gone to that store or told the owner my story.”

I ended up teaching Spanish for thirty years because my mother didn’t like the French teacher in high school and enrolled me in Spanish.   Because a huge percentage of my life and income has been based on speaking Spanish, I can’t get my brain around the imagesdifference in my life because of a chance remark from the French teacher to my mother.

In your life, do you see a place where you might have been a different person if one tiny event had been different?

Do you see a way chance or coincidence changed you life?  I wonder what I’d be like today if I’d majored, for example, in PE.

The tiniest difference

imagesAs I imagine you all know, the First World War began one-hundred years ago when Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand.    During the years of the war, nineteen million soldiers died.  19,000,000.  Nineteen million.

What we don’t realize is the inciting incident of the war to end all wars happened due to chance and bad communication.  Several nationalists had planned to assassinate the Archduke that morning but following a plan riddled with mistakes, didn’t get closer than one grenade that missed the car of the Archduke and his wife.  Later in the morning and after that initial incident, the driver of the Archduke’s car took a wrong turn because no one had told him the route had been changed.  The car stalled only a few feet from where Princip stood.   He took out a gun and shot both the Archduke and his wife from five feet away.

Would history have changed if the driver had been given the correct information or if imagesPrincip hadn’t been released by the police?  Probably not because nations determined to go to war will find a context.   Remember the Gulf of Tonkin  Resolution? Weapons of mass destruction? However, the spark probably would come at a different time and a different place.

My challenge for you:  think of a moment in history that could have gone one way or another if one tiny event had changed.  What if Columbus had headed north?  Or if President Lincoln had had better security or gone to bed early?   I’d love for you to share that.


Baseball and my lack of a moral compass

10610469_10152750714193373_7906439356951706763_nI loved baseball all my life–until the strike.

My father loved nearly all sports and started taking me to games when I was three or four.  My family spent cool autumn Saturdays in Lawrence, Kansas, attending University of Kansas games and drove from Kansas City to Lawrence once a week during basketball season to watch the Hawks.

In the summer, we went to Kansas City Blues games–minor league baseball–until the Athletics came.  I even interviewed the manager of the A’s for my high school newspaper.  When the A’s left for California, I became a Royals fan and, because we lived in Hays, Kansas, for five years, we went to several games every summer.  I was in the stands when George Brett was hitting .385.   During tornado warnings–which came weeklin in Western Kansas–we sat in the basement and listened to games.

George’s favorite story was when I was sitting next to two men who were keeping score and arguing about a play and if a player should get an RBI.  I leaned over and said, “The run scored on an error so it was an unearned run and no RBI.”

Then the strike hit in 1994 and  World Series was cancelled.  I was irate.  Furious.  I mean, really, really angry.   I vowed, “If you’re going to take away my World Series, I’m not going to another game.”   I kept that vow for  years.

For years, once a week George would look at the standings in the newspaper and say, “You don’t want me to tell you about the Royals.”   I didn’t ask.

Then, last year, the Royals started doing well and hooked me only to break my heart.  This year, I got interested after the All-Star break although I could only watch games with Texas teams.  Others were blacked out.

And I discovered something terrible about myself.   I had not stopped being a baseball fan due to a moral stand.   I no longer watched baseball because the Royals were a terrible team.  Yes, I have to confess this:  I am a fair-weather fan.  I also want to confess I’m having a lot of fun this post season!

My life by tote bags

toteIn an earlier blog, I mentioned my problems with organization, how I use baskets and notebooks and colors to keep track of all my stuff and what I should be doing.   In THE MATCHMAKERS OF BUTTERNUT CREEK, Gussie uses different totes for the various sections of her life.  Yes, I took that from my life.  I had one tote for school–a very large one–another for church, and many others for volunteer activities.

Today, I mostly use my totes for shopping and realize anyone looking at them would learn a great deal about my life.   One is from an anniversary of the founding of my college sorority at Kansas State.  Whenever I carry that, I make sure my hair looks good, my shirt is clean, and my shoes don’t look too ugly.  I do that because living here in Austin, I fear a young collegiate Theta will see me and think, “I didn’t think alums looked that bad.”

I have another with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) logo on it.  This is a communion chalice on a St. Andrews Cross.  That cross is on its side and looks like the letter X which causes people to ask me if I’m a member of the temperance league.

Another tote has this written on it:  “My  hero can kick your hero’s . . .”  Well, I’ll allow you to fill that in so I won’t insult any readers.   I have totes with Romance Writers of America conference themes and one with the symbol of one of my publishers, all of which might tip people off that I’m a writer.

Many years ago, my dear mother-in-law gave me a tote with “Cats and Books” on it.  That pretty well fills in my other interests:  pets and reading.

What’s your favorite tote?  What does it tell people about you?

Cats do the darndest stuff

When I moved into my new apartment, I realized there is no ceiling fan–the first room I’ve seem without one since we moved to the South nearly thirty years ago.   I bought myself a small fan to put on the table next to me.,  Oddly, this fascinates the cats when it’s on.  Of course they like to have the breeze blowing in their faces but, even more, they love the taste of the fan.  It’s plastic.  When it’s on, they lick it and lick it.   Fortunately, they can’t get their tongues inside the grill–well, until Maggie, the timid, quiet cat, attempted to bite off the plastic grill.    I don’t allow that.  For her safety, I turn the fan off when I’m out of the room.   When I see her chewing, I give her a little push and say, “No”–cats always respond so well to “No”–but this does not deter her.

Okay, all you cat people out there, please help.  Why does she do this and how to stop her?   Please do not lecture me on the danger involved–I understand this.  I’d just like some insight into her tiny brain.

Seven years ago, George made a rope at one of the craft centers in Vacation Bible School.  He brought it home and gave it to Scooter, his gorgeous and self-centered cat.  Scooter loved it.  Why would a cat like a six-foot length of handmade rope?   This soon became like worry beads to Scooter.  When he’s upset or feels abandoned, he drags the rope around the apartment and makes the saddest, most heart-rending meows you’ve ever heard.  When I’m gone, I can tell if he’s felt alone because the rope has been moved from one room to another.

So, another questions for you cat people:  Why does a cat drag a rope around when he’s sad?

Many thanks to all for helping me understand feline behavior.

Next week. . .

I have moved.  The apartment is a mess.  I’d planned to write a blog this week about what I’ve learned through this move.  As you may notice, I didn’t get that done.

Next week, I promise.  If you have any thoughts about what you’ve learned about moving, let me know.  Maybe I’ll include them.  Maybe they’ll must make me feel better that we are all united in this.