According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Monday, December 26, 2011

Charley Honey - Remarkable Stories of the Christmas Season

Published: Saturday, December 24, 2011, 6:47 AM
Updated: Saturday, December 24, 2011, 12:51 PM

A remarkable man passed away three weeks ago, though you probably didn’t mark his passing. His name was Fred Ritsema. Mr. Ritsema was not a newsmaker. But he once told me a Christmas story that was, of the many I have heard over the years, the most remarkable.

He returned home from World War II on a Friday. The following Monday, he stuck out his thumb on Chicago Drive SW to hitchhike to Australia, where he’d met Edna May Shute at a dance. Nearly three months of trains, trucks and steamers later, he showed up at her doorstep on Christmas Eve 1945. They married and came back to Grand Rapids, where they lived a good, non-newsmaking life.

christmasornaments.JPGJesus, Heavenly Father, bring us together in heaven once more, unending,” read his final prayer in his obituary.

Now that’s what I call true love, the kind that inspires songs crooned over an old radio while Mom and Dad dance around the living room. Ardent, devoted, sacrificial love. A Christmas kind of love.

My dad’s story

Different story, different man, same kind of love: Christmas Eve, early 1950s. My folks have just made the two-hour drive from Toledo to my grandparents’ house in Detroit. Hugs and kisses, kids wide-eyed, taking in the old-fashioned tree and dishes of candy. Secretly, my folks unpack our gifts.

Uh-oh, no BB gun. My brother Mike’s biggest present, missing in action. I don’t know if it was a Red Ryder, but it definitely could put your eye out. That Christmas, Mike wanted it more than anything in the world.

So, after we kids are tucked in, Dad gets in the car, drives back to Toledo, gets the gun, drives back to Detroit. Early Christmas morning, Mike gleefully opens his gift. Dad manages a bleary-eyed smile.

[Insert here your favorite family story of Christmas craziness. Crazy distances traversed, church pageants gone awry, 2 a.m. runs to Meijer for batteries. All because families love each other, and because Christians love this certain baby who showed up in a box of straw.]

Mary’s story

The latter event had been preceded by a long trek to Bethlehem, a pretty crazy hike for a pregnant teenager. But Mary had been assured by an angel, so Scripture says: Fear not, God favors you, and nothing’s impossible with God. OK then, says Mary. Whatever you say, angel.

Her ready acceptance of this rather spooky news set the pattern for all crazy Christmases to come. The unexpected happens, things change, the world turns upside down. And the angels say, fear not.

My family’s loss

Christmas changed in a big way for my family this year, back in July. That’s when my mother, a rather boisterous angel in her own right, left this life. But that was just the beginning.

Seven weeks later, Dad’s legs went out from under him. Spinal stenosis had finally caught up, choking off his walking nerves. Still deep in grief and in no particular mood to battle, he went under the knife.

This is when God and his angels really went to work — just as they had in Mom’s heart surgery 10 years before — through the skilled hands and caring hearts of physicians and caregivers.

The surgery went off without a hitch, the doc coolly clearing backbone from nerve while we kids sweated bullets. Then followed three weeks of rehab at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, where small miracles were performed on Dad’s 89-year-old body, and six weeks at Clark on Keller Lake, a United Methodist assisted-living facility where the caring staff and autumn leaves healed his spirit.

The angels throughout this stretch were way too many to fit on the head of a pin or in a newspaper column. At Mary Free Bed, therapists cheerfully pushed him onto his feet with help from a really cool walker, doctors expertly guided his recovery, nurses shamelessly babied him, a psychologist listened to his broken heart and social workers held his hand every painful step of the way. One particular social worker close to my heart brought him yogurt and his morning paper.

At Clark, caring nurses and aides attended to his every need, cooks prepared delicious meals, friendly residents chatted with him about their respective journeys into walkers and wheelchairs. Meanwhile, back home, neighbors watched the house and watered the plants to prepare for his return.

Dad came home in early November, driven by my brother who wouldn’t touch a BB gun now if you paid him. He stayed with Dad for a month, I stayed for a week, and now my sister is home for several months. Mom’s special chair is empty, but her spirit still dances through the house.

Dad has accepted her passing bravely though sorrowfully. Nothing can ever be the same, and this sure isn’t the Christmas we expected. But it is Christmas nevertheless, and we will celebrate it in a new way.

And all these angels in the wings whisper, “Fear not.”

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