4/26/08

Lamentations...

The rain stopped for some hours last night but the wind was cold and raw diving through the river valley and swirling around the church. As the sounds of traffic and wind flowed around us the inside of our little parish was candle lit and warm. A good number for St. Elias were gathered around the bier and we began to sing the ancient songs of lament.

I cherish Holy Week, always have, even before I was Orthodox and just a guest sitting in the middle of things trying to make sense of it all. There is no feeling like being in the presence of holy things in these holy days and I understand why some Orthodox simply take the whole week off to immerse themselves in it. And to me there is no service to compare to the Lamentations.

It's technically an Orthos or morning prayer of Saturday and we celebrate it on Friday as the sun sets and liturgical dawn arrives. The melodies are haunting and the words profound as we stand about our little representation of Jesus' tomb covered in flowers. The cross is empty, the grave, for now is full, and we are carried back to that time of waiting.

One can imagine the pain, the struggle, the unanswered questions that must have filled these hours for those who loved Jesus. The sheer impact of things erasing everything he said about resurrection and hope and replacing it with loss and fear. Doors are locked as they wonder who is next. Women weep together as they gather items for Jesus embalming. If they could not change these events at least there was that one final act. The Virgin Mary, a sword piercing her heart as prophesied, in the care of John but torn by the loss of her only child.

We have the advantage of knowing the rest of the story. Even as we sing we know what is to come and so there is a certain melancholy joy in our voices. But they had no such hindsight, only the swirl of events over which they had no control. How lonely it must have been and how difficult to reach beyond themselves or even remember what Jesus had said. And with what wonder and sadness the angels must have watched these dear to Christ, his followers, as they huddled in the dark.

Yet even at the very moment of their darkness Christ himself was harrowing hell, revealing his glory to those who had died and taking with him all who would respond. Even as the faithful women prepared spices the body of Christ was resting intact because it was not possible, as the liturgy says, for the author of life to be held in corruption. And how different it would have been if they had known that undescribable joy was just two days away?

Beyond the beauty of the hymns that we sang there was a lesson for me. To often in my dark times I see only the darkness and my life becomes focused on just what I see. My vision is limited and because of it my struggle is magnified. If I could have been transported back to those times from the present I would have said to those people hiding behind closed doors, "Remember what Jesus said, he will rise in just a few days, so don't be afraid." Yet in the service of Lamentations the saints of those days have come to me, hiding behind my own locked doors, with that very message of hope.

So now on to Pascha.


4/25/08

Good Friday...

It's been raining off and on, mostly on, for the last two days. The services go on but the attendance has been small. Four last night for the Passion Gospels, one left early, and then a handful today for Vespers. A part of me understands because travel can be tricky around here when the rain falls, and fall it has with flood watches up and down the river. A part of me is sad, though, that these wonderful services are being missed. I think and pray and wonder what can be done to help people see the significance of this week and why taking time out for holy things is important.

I have this feeling that if I'd been giving out Packer's tickets I would've had people crawl through ankle deep mud and stand in the rain to get them. Compared to that two hours of Passion Gospels doesn't seem that exciting. Now I have no intention of jazzing things up a bit, doing one of those rock concert church services, a mile wide and an inch deep with the nurtional value of sugar water, because those things don't work in the long run. But this Holy Week has helped me understand one thing.

Before we Orthodox can expect people to want what we've undeservedly been given we have to want it ourselves. I can remember when the only people outside the chanters at Matins were visitors sitting in a basically empty church. What must be going through their mind as they are searching for a sustenance of soul that even those who "belong" don't seem to want? If all of this is not important to us why should it be important to them? The sad truth is that many converts come to Orthodoxy not because of but in spite of the lethargy of the Orthodox.

This all, of course, sounds pretty bleak. But I've not given up hope. So many Orthodox were horribly catechized and so many have learned the motions of their faith without any of its spirit and joy. They've been accustomed to going through the rituals but the spark of life inside is dim. In a small parish that's spent years in struggle it's even tougher because one could at least justify on asthetic grounds the value of coming to a full church with a full choir and all the smells and bells. But when the rain falls something else must provide the impetus to slog through the wet to gather with a handful of people. And I believe that something is coming.

I see it in the tiny groups of people who do come. They really do want to be there and to sing and serve and worship. There is, within them, that intangible flame in various degrees that gives them grace and energy and hope. And its what I pray for when I think of St. Elias. Everything a church need to grow can be taught, there are libraries of books on evangelism and outreach and finances and strategy. One thing, though, needs to be caught, that undefined and real presence of God that touches hearts and transforms people from within.

Every Sunday before I leave I ask God for revival in the hearts of the people of St. Elias. That is a gift of the Holy Spirit, a gift given like, as Jesus describes it, the wind which blows from one place to another. All we can be is open to it and ready for its arrival.

Soon, Lord, soon...

4/22/08

Holy Week...

Tomorrow I drive south and Holy Week begins in earnest. Busy times ahead.

Of course I've made the usual mental checklists. Book? Candles? Vestments? Anyone I need to call? But the truth is this week takes on a life of its own and carries you, like the Liturgy, by the sheer power of momentum. Whether every "i" is dotted and "t" crossed, whether we sing well or just get by, or whether every rubric is met with perfection matters, but not all that much in the larger scheme of things. We're together to pray through this Holy Week and celebrate the joy of Pascha when most of the rest of the world is still asleep.

It's been a fidgety Lent, one where I never seemed to quite get in the flow. Like New Year's I always seem to start out with a list of resolutions that somewhere along the line don't get met, at least not in their entirety. There are always things in Lent that are left undone and part of me would like to, just once, have a "perfect" Lent, whatever that is. Maybe, though, that's the point, there is no perfect Lent, just me trying to wade through a lot of stuff to get some place closer to Christ.

The good thing, of course, is that Lent is a concentrated form of what we should always be doing, living a life of repentance. If I didn't do everything I thought I need to in Lent I still have a new chance every day to get back on track. We Orthodox seem to be people who have the sheet music in front of us, know the tune in our head, but continually struggle to get our voice to match the notes. When we do its beautiful. Lately my voice has been, as they say on American Idol, "pitchy".

However, I hope to finish strong, serve well, and if I have not run the race with skill at least cross the finish line. I look forward to the days ahead when all the world seems filled with hymns and smells of incense. I love those services in the dark full of anticipation's light. I cherish that time when all is said and done we gather together with our little church is full of joyful conversation, the smell of food, and hope. And yes, that wonderful tired sleep of Bright Monday when everything seems new, that, too, is one of life's pleasures.

As you browse through this blog I hope that your Holy Week is blessed and you would find new joy, faith, and strength in the risen Lord Jesus. Time may not permit me to blog until all is done so until then may your Holy Week and Pascha be filled with grace.

4/21/08

Funeral reunions...

There was a reunion in LaCrosse yesterday and like so many it was a reunion at a funeral.

For the largest part of its existence St. Elias has had no resident Priest. Although founded by Saint Raphael of Brooklyn, the parish of Middle Eastern and Greek immigrants in the early 1900's never seemed to be able to take the leap from mission to church and the small body of believers sank into that horrible catch 22 where there was no support from outside to help them obtain a Priest and so no Priest could help them stabilize and since they were not stable they could not get a Priest...

In those days mission policy seemed to be all about gathering a group of people from the old country, sending them a Priest, and then stepping back to see if they sank or swam. St. George in St. Paul, Minnesota had the people to swim. Down river in the much smaller LaCrosse, they sank.
For decades after the founding of the church the only services at St. Elias were whatever could be provided by traveling Priests serving an occasional liturgy, celebrating marriages, and burying the dead. It was often too much for the small group of Orthodox to endure. Numbers dwindled.

Many of St. Elias first American born generation became Episcopalians. Before the ravaging flames of heresy burned through the Episcopal Church it was not uncommon for Orthodox to, in the absence of a local Parish, seek some sustenance from the Episcopal Church. And many of the first generation of American born Orthodox at St. Elias attended and then joined the Episcopal Church. It would be hard to blame them. People need a regular church life and there was none to be had at St. Elias. Had there been a plan. Had there been outside support to help the mission along in its earlier years. Would have, could have, should have.

And so now we have reunions at funerals, reunions where the scattered children of St. Elias come together, people from the same town, with the same names, and often the same baptism but a community sundered apart by the ravages of neglect. My heart aches. It aches for what could have been if just one person or group of people or Hierarch would have said "We need to make this Parish work, we need to help, we need to find a way." At every funeral I meet dozens of people who had been part of St. Elias but who are now lost to us, perhaps forever, and their children, because there was little for them in the years that followed the Parish's founding.

To the extent my heart aches for what could have been I admire the people who stuck it out, those who stayed Orthodox through it all. The people that restarted the Parish in the middle 1970's are warriors although they would probably not describe themselves that way, and martyrs of a kind, bearing witness to the Faith alone on the far edge of the diocese sustained only by faithful Priests who took precious time from their overwhelming schedules to bring life giving sacraments. May their memory, if just for that, be eternal!

And what can we do? For some the mission field is a far off land where people have never heard the Gospel but one part of our mission at St. Elias is to pray for and reach out to, those, who for whatever reason, have been lost to us over time. They are many and there will be things that cannot be undone. But in a way they are still a part of us, dear to our hearts, near to our prayers, our own flesh and blood.

Who knows what can happen in God's timing and will?

4/19/08

Palm Sunday


I try to imagine, sometimes, what it must have been like to be Jesus on the day we celebrate as Palm Sunday. What must have been going through His mind as He was surrounded by the crowds cheering Him on?

Who knows what the people in the throngs along the road to Jerusalem thought? Some were looking for a king. Some perhaps were full of religious fervor because of Passover. Others had seen the miracle of Lazarus’ resurrection. Perhaps more than a few were just curious about what the noise was all about. There were probably as many reasons for people to be there as people themselves.

But Jesus’ perspective must have been remarkably different. He understood what was going to happen. He knew that more than a few of the faces in the crowd, filled with hope or joy or the sense of pending victory, would turn dark and threatening in just a few days time. Those who were praising Him now would be mocking Him later; enjoying the fall of the famous has been a human occupation centuries before the National Enquirer. And His friends, those who had followed Him over the years and shared the closest moments, the people who walked beside Him and pushed the crowds back even as they basked in some of the reflected glory; one would betray Him, one would deny Him, the rest would scatter in fear. Jesus knew this would happen even as the rhythmic cadence of His donkey drew Him closer to the city gates.

If Jesus’ had been deceived one could make sense of why He continued on. How could He have known what was to happen? But He knew, every detail of every moment to come, how the people He served and healed and taught would turn on Him, how His friends would leave Him at His most critical time of need, and how He would suffer and die. One could have never faulted Him, knowing what He knew, if He had, with a touch of His hand, steered His animal off the road and away from Jerusalem into the wilderness.

But He kept on and I presume the only answer is that something larger motivated Him, some greater force allowed Jesus to transcend those usual emotions of fear, sadness, anger, or despair that would have overcome even the best of us if our places were changed with His. I believe it was love.

Jesus saw the crowds surrounding Him, those sheep without a shepherd, the thirsty of soul craving living water and saw through their fickle praise and their brokenness to the very core of each one’s soul and loved them. Jesus saw his disciples and even though He knew they could not endure the hard days to come He craved their salvation. In a mystical way He saw us too, each human that had been and each that was yet to be born, fragile, prone to sin and self destruction, captured, as our Liturgy says, by the delusion of idols. Love inspired the hope that some would be saved and set free, and because of love He chose to go ride on, even knowing that we would be in so many ways exactly like the crowds that surrounded Him on His journey to Jerusalem.

Our human ways of loving have no way of making sense of this, of love for its own sake, of love that reaches out infinitely beyond self interest for the eternal well being of another. It defies our categories, makes foolishness of our common sense, and the best of us can only develop of tiny fraction of it in our own lives. Yet it is real and today we’re faced with the full beauty, truth, power, and magnificence it all.

This love of God that we see in the Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, in His willingness to bear our darkness, pain, and death despite our unworthiness and betrayal is the truest love of all and the seed that can transform us. It can warm our cold hearts and turn them to God. It can grant us vision to see all that matters and lay aside what is less. Properly nurtured it changes how we see each other and the world around us, provides rest for our souls, and makes worship natural. To the extent we respond to it in kind we are made more human in the best sense of the word and eternity lives in our hearts. And as we see Jesus unflinching love in the face of death we begin to contemplate the meaning of the word Christian.

Lazarus Saturday


There is something terribly unsettling about death.

No matter how we look at it, whatever fa├žade we create within ourselves to try to make sense of it all, in the end it is still an enigma. We know we must all die at one time or another but that inevitability does little to help us make sense of it all. Most of us just put it out of our minds and hope that when death comes it arrives quickly without giving us much chance to ponder its implications.

But the thought of it doesn’t go away. It’s why the cosmetics business is a multi-billion dollar enterprise and gyms are filled with crowds of sweating, puffing, people. It’s why we all seem to be on an endless quest to cram as much experience into our time as possible and work feverishly to acquire things as if things were life. Timor mortis conturbat me, the fear of death confounds me, and this has been the lot of humans since the beginning of time.

Into this primal anxiety our Faith speaks words of truth and comfort.

The truth is that our anxiousness in the face of death is real because it reflects something we instinctually know. Death is not normal or natural and feels alien to us despite our feverish attempts to come to terms with it and that feeling is correct. We were not designed to die, we were not created to live mortal lives that end. We inherently know something is wrong with the idea that a being with the capability to ponder eternity lives for such a short time.

Our Faith tells us that this twisted reality is because sin, the human choice to reject the life of God came into the world through deception and the perversion of a primal innocence. Because of it humans are broken from the life of God and have become mortal, subject to the ills of a creation in pain. Death is everywhere and we do not escape it ourselves.

Yet on this Lazarus Saturday a greater truth emerges and in that truth is comfort. God, in mercy, chose not to leave us permanently in this despair. In the Liturgy of St. Basil, which we have been serving these past weeks, it is stated that even though our sins have banished us from that place of primal innocence and taken us from paradise into this present world where death exists God still has, in love, provided us with the salvation of regeneration.

Our Lord Jesus Christ has come into the world, God taking on humanity and bearing all of its ills, including death, but never being overcome by any of them. In doing this the ultimate power of death was broken. In union with our Lord we die, but we also rise again by the same power that Jesus exhibited in his own death and resurrection. The resurrection of Lazarus we call to mind today was a foretaste of this, an act of our Lord to demonstrate to those who have the eyes to see that He truly has the power to overcome death and that those who are joined to him share in this.

Knowing this, even though it is our lot to be apprehensive about our mortality and death, we still have hope. Death is an adversary but it’s a foe whose power has been broken. Death is not natural for us, but it is not final either. And in the week to come as we face the sufferings and death of Christ, and by doing so face our own struggles, mortality, and death, this day has been given to us as a preview of the resurrection to come, a ray of hope allowing us to face this ultimate challenge with a calm assurance of salvation.

4/15/08

The rush is on...

Holy Week is just a few days away and the rush is on. So many things to do in such a short time. But what a wonderful, holy, special, and exciting time it is. The next days will be spent in busy preparation, going over texts, cleaning, making bread, buying candles, and the challenge of praying well as once in a year liturgies are served.

Since I work and commute to St. Elias this time of year is a taste of things to come for me, the day when I can move down and be there and do what I need to do full time. I enjoy just being there and being not just John the Programs Coordinator, but Fr. John.

Come Bright Monday there will be a holy tired over our house.

4/10/08

On the advantage of dying young...

An interesting article on the topic...

To the ends of the Earth...

Russian Orthodox Priests celebrate Liturgy at the North Pole.

Times in hand...

The sleet is falling outside, with wind moving through the trees and thunder in the distance. A storm is moving through and they say there'll be over a foot of snow just an hour or so north of here. I wonder what things will look like when I wake tomorrow.

An interesting week is drawing to a close, a week of tension at work and calm at the altar, a new season of change and the timeless flow of faith. My instincts tell me a chapter is ending and something is yet to begin. There's no direction to it all yet, just instinct. Yet the feeling is strong.

My times, your times, the times of the world are all in God's hands. There will always be pressures. There will always be changes. There will always be some crisis. We're not required to be passive in the face of it all but we act rooted in assurance, the assurance that all things are somehow, somewhere in control and part of a larger plan. Right now there are decisions being made and who knows what they will be. I know what I will do. I will not panic but I will pray tonight and place my life in the hands of Mercy and go to work tomorrow and church this weekend to do my very best knowing the everything is in good hands.

Fiance...

Last Saturday a former fiance of mine was married up in Crookston, Minnesota. I was invited, with my wife, to the wedding but she was ill and weekends are kind of locked up for me. Although we couldn't come we sent along a card with some money and our best wishes.

The details are not important but things I had hoped for didn't work out between the two of us; too much distance, too many things that didn't make for longevity. It's okay, that's what these things are for, testing out the waters, seeing if a lifetime together is possible with the freedom to back out with less consequence then a divorce.

There is an ironic side in this all, of course, as my wife was supposed to stand up for my former fiance at the wedding. No, she didn't do anything to break things up but one thing leads to another and we've been married now for almost 23 years. I like to talk about it sometimes because it has the feeling of scandal in a lighthearted way even though our lives have been basically boring (if you count boring as contrasted with, say, the life of a movie star). People laugh and smile at it all when I tell them about how I married the Maid of Honor at what would have been my wedding had events not intervened.

Every once in a while you see a bumper sticker that says "You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your Prince" and I think its true. Very few people marry their first love and lots of us have to explore with our hearts exposed before we can find a love that endures. It's an awkward thing and there are a lot of mistakes along the way. Its not hard to step on someone else's toes when you're both stumbling around in the dark, as it were, looking for the light switch.

Still I wish them all well, and pray for them at times, these people who came in to my life as I looked for enduring love. I hope if I was their "frog" they found their prince. I hope they can forgive me for whatever I lacked and that their journey has been smooth. Most of them, of course, I've never seen or heard from because this is the way of things but I do hope one day we may see each other in heaven, recognize each other for an instant, and realize that all has turned out well.

Many blessings, Mary, on your wedding and may God grant you many years!

4/8/08

Apologetics...

Rooted in an Evangelical worldview crossexamined.org is a great source for basic apologetics (the defense of the faith). When you get there you'll see a significant number of resources to help you understand your faith and discover how reasonable and defendable your Christian faith can be.


Pay a visit and tell me what you think!

A personal note...

Tomorrow I will be serving the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy in replacement of the Priest at St. George Orthodox Church in West St. Paul, MN. It's the long one with the extra readings and as I have been traveling I have only served a few of these liturgies in my tenure as Priest. Please say a prayer or two!

Thanks.

Changes at work...

Another day of change at work today. Looks like things are going to get rearranged again. And although the truth is that I sometimes get exasperated by it all it's just part of the business.

The economy is supposedly down. I say supposedly because lots of media voices are telling us things are bad. But it's their bread and butter to keep people glued to the set and bad news is a great way to do it. An example; I was listening to the news on my way down to LaCrosse this past weekend and it turns out that around 95 percent of people with mortgages are paying them off on time, the "crisis" is about 5% or so of mortgage holders! But if you watch the television it seems like they portray the whole thing as millions of families just a visit from the evil banker away from losing their homes and starring in their own version of The Grapes of Wrath. But whatever level of truth are in those breathless reports by millionaire news anchors we're on the receiving end of it all in one way.

Our bread and butter, though, is all about seniors selling their homes and making the jump to retirement living with us. Parkshore Senior Campus is a high quality place with a lot of services but also a hefty price tag. Two kinds of people come to stay with us, people with money to begin with and people who've acquired money through the sale of their homes or other assets and are essentially drawing down on that investment by living with us. If people think there is a crisis in housing they hold on for as long as they can, especially the potential clients of our independent living apartments, and vacancies accumulate. Just a handful of openings can take a lot of cash out of the flow and we need to find ways to be creative to keep everything out of deficit

And it could get worse because the baby boom is expected to produce a lot of seniors but how much they've actually saved for their retirement is still in question. My generation, and I'm on the very tail of the baby boom, are not necessarily as thrifty as the WW2 folks who experienced the Depression of the 30's. There's a rush to put up senior apartments, condos, and residences of all kinds but the truth is they might, in just a few years, be scrambling for residents as there will be plenty of space chasing too few with the money to pay the prices.

So it looks like we're going to retool again, find ways to do more with less and make sure all things are lined up in that uniquely corporate way. Part of me is tired of the constant flux but another part understands that this is just the way it is, being nimble and anticipatory is part of the game. One thing is certain, I continue to gain a deeper empathy for those who's vocation lies outside of the Parish, people who work in countless jobs and try to do their best to be Christians while swimming in the corporate river. It is a kind of martyrdom to be able to know how to navigate the maze, be a person of integrity, and still be fresh and ready in a world where business change now happens daily and in some cases on the hour. Whatever else comes out of this these times will make me a better Priest and hopefully wiser as well.

The title picture...

Admittedly I get bored with my blog's design and change it every so often, well, just because. But I did find this picture of the Great River Bluffs State Park along Highway 61 and I thought to make a masthead of it because it gives you all an idea of the kind of country where LaCrosse, Wisconsin finds itself and the road I travel every weekend. These bluffs along the highway are my companions on every trip and these two in particular I get to visit on my right going south and my left going north.
The drive going south on Highway 52 to Rochester is faster but now you have an idea why I take my time and enjoy Highway 61.

4/6/08

This week's sermon in advance...

April 6, 2008

There are, among all the prayers of the Gospels, two very poignant prayers spoken from the depths of the heart whose words touch us over the centuries.

The first is the prayer of the blind man, Bartimaeus, from the side of the street in Jericho. Hearing that Jesus was near he shouted with his whole being “Jesus Christ, son of David, have mercy on me!” So fierce was his desire to be heard that his call for help drowned out even the noise of crowd and drew Jesus’ attention as he walked by.

The prayer was short and desperate and filled with both the sadness of years living in darkness and the fire of a slim hope undimmed even by the vulnerability of life without sight. His prayer became the basis for our Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”, our own cry from whatever constitutes our darkness and often filled with the same desperation of its author. When complex thoughts and deep meanings fail us those simple words uttered from our hearts speak paragraphs and verses and chapters.

In the gospel reading for this day we see another kind of prayer, short but full of the pain, struggle and need of a father for his son. “Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief…” and like the Jesus Prayer it’s often our own prayer as well.

It’s not difficult for our heart to go out to this father. Who knows how many cures he sought, only to have his hopes dashed each time? What pain must have coursed through his heart, what sense of powerlessness as his son was thrown about by demonically induced seizures? How many times did he ask why? How many conversations did he have with what he must have thought was empty sky?

And after all of this at the moment he faced Jesus he still wished to reach out one more time for something, anything, to make sense of it all, to cure his pain, and heal his son. But all of that hard experience and all the struggle had taken its toll. Faith was hard to come by, skepticism was there in quantity, and all he could do was ask for help to believe, just one more time.

Life can be very difficult sometimes. Often the pieces of the puzzle just don’t seem to fit. Pain and struggle come to us and the meaning of it all is elusive. The search for answers can be long and difficult and sometimes they never come. We try denying our pain, but the feeling pierces through this armor. We hope to anesthetize our struggles with a hundred different things but the anesthesia wears away. On the surface we’ve maintained our composure but underneath there’s a hidden river where faith and doubt, experience and hope,
flow together in a swift current.

There’s no condemnation in this because its our lot as human beings. In our lives we ‘re destined to be a mixture of faith and doubt, hope and despair. Something inside tells us that there is unimaginably more but it’s a kind of perfection that always seems to elude us in the end. Because of this every kind of joy in our life has a certain kind of melancholy in it and every struggle has its hope.

We carry on. And as we live this life we daily make a crucial decision.

We can let all the struggles and fears and pains of life wash over us like a river raging beyond its banks and be swept away in a kind of permanent cynicism and despair. Life can both be hard and make us hard and there are many who have chosen, in their own way, to take the advice of Job’s wife and curse God and die. The world is populated with jagged people, souls as cold as ice, humans who’ve tasted from the cup of struggle and become bitter from its contents.

Or we can, even in the face of intense adversity, see, somewhere in an inexplicable way, a ray of hope, a small bit of whatever it takes to push through dead end after dead end until our journey takes us to Christ. Bloodied, battered, and messed up, still struggling with the accumulated doubts that are the natural children of life’s struggles we can face God honestly, aware of the challenge, aware of the pain, but with just enough faith to reach for the master’s hand.

It would be good for all of us to be giants of faith, possessed of the courage of Saints. To struggle for that result is a notable thing. But for most of us the truth is it’s going to be a mixed bag, working our way through life as best we can, sometimes getting it and more often than not stumbling around in the dark. And if the truth was known even the holiest of people have had their moments. How good it is, though, in all of this, that our Lord Jesus still cares for us, still loves us, still embrace us, and still is, as our prayers say “…good and the lover of mankind” and not just when all is well but even in those times when the best we can hope for is a flicker of faith in the valley of darkness and our only prayer is “Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief…”

4/1/08

Close to home...

A story from Fox News about a student at Tomah High School who got a "zero" on his art project because it had Christian imagery. Tomah is about an hour from LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

A lawsuit, of course, is pending but I have a greater question. The Tomah school will lose this lawsuit because you cannot ban student artistic expression solely because it has a religious theme. The Courts have reaffirmed these rights hundreds of times in cases all over the country. Why is it, then, that these cases keep happening? Are school board officials, principals, and teachers so utterly unaware of these rulings that they keep on formulating policies destined to be shot down, again and again, in the Courts? Or are they so immeshed in PC they think the rules somewhere else simply don't apply to them? It's just frustrating to have to pound on this door over and over again.

Thankfully there are attorneys who will fight these rulings in the courts and preserve the rights of religious believers, especially Christians (and why does it always seem to be about Christians) to express their faith in the public square. We, too, must always be vigilant about these things because if we take our rights for granted they will, sometimes slowly and sometimes in a rush, be taken away.