Archive for category Christianity

Dear Tradition

RE: An Anthropology of Traditions

I’m a traditionalist. I like traditions, I believe they bring people together and allow the current or future generations to connect to their past and history.

When I look at tradition, there are a few different types that are easily observable. Namely, religious, family, and ceremonial.

There was one time a few months ago that I was sitting with my boyfriend for dinner and we were discussing the tradition of marriage, or rather a wedding. I was telling him about how weddings have lost a lot of their traditional aspects with the changing times. It used to be that women would live with their parents until they got married and then “leave and cleave” to their husbands, and a wedding was the ceremony that marked that occasion. However, in today’s society people can’t seem to make a commitment to each other to spend the rest of their lives together until they are sure that they can live together first. This whole consept of ‘shacking up’ is throwing the concept of a wedding right out the window. What used to be a beautiful ceremony and a right of passage has now been turned into just another big party to throw for all of our friends.

This disregard for past traditions saddens me. And it’s seen in more places than just weddings. Look at religion for example (my religion of choice is the Judeo-Christian belief, but I’m sure you can see the withering of traditions in any major religion). Let’s look at a major holiday shall we? Let’s go with the latest, Easter. Traditionally a time to celebrate the resurrection of Christ from the grave. A great holiday really. But do you know what came before this holiday? Before Christ? Passover. Now, any good Jew would know about the Passover, it’s one of the staples of Jewish belief. In fact it’s made its way into the Christian realm as well. Anyone ever hear of the Lords Supper? Also called Communion? It’s like a mini Passover. How exciting!

You see Passover is the holiday where the Jew’s remember God’s deliverance from the hand of the Egyptians. You know, with the 10 plagues and parting of the Red Sea and all. Yep. Traditionally Passover is the holiday to remember what God did for the Israelites. And this tradition was followed all the way to Jesus’ day. I personally believe (although some would say no) that Passover was in fact the Last Supper that Jesus partook in. I say this because if you look at the Passover and what it represents it’s pretty easy for a believing Christian to see that Jesus fulfilled everything talked about in the Passover. Thus the name sometimes given to Jesus, “Jesus the Passover Lamb”. For you that don’t know, at the original first Passover the Israelites were to take a lamb and kill it and put the blood on the door post, then the Angel of Death would pass over the house and spare those inside. Along the same lines Jesus took the fall for our sin and protects us from death and destruction.

Religion lesson aside though, my point was that Easter is celebrated around the same time as Passover every year, and yet, most Christians don’t know much about Passover, if anything. Not only that but look at the modern twist on Easter! Bunnies that poop eggs? what the heck? Of course it came from the pagan spring festival that celebrated life. I know this, but this pagan celebration has wormed its way into Christian ritual… Traditional breakdown…sad.

My third point is on family. I have been blessed to be in what most people would consider a ‘normal’ family. Honestly looking at American society it seems like we are rather abnormal, but none the less we are traditionalists and we generally like it that way. Born and raised in good Christian homes, raised in the Biblical Tradition, tested and walked through the faith, my family sits at a high point on the mountain of family tradition. However most families aren’t that way. I don’t really know how I feel about that.

Let’s take an example from a 1968 pop song by Diana Ross and the Supremes, “Love Child”. This song is about a woman who won’t sleep with her boyfriend because she doesn’t want her (love) child to be shamed by being a ‘bastard’ (if you will) because that’s how she grew up and it wasn’t very pleasant. Now fast forward to today. How many people do you know that have a child out-of-wedlock? I can think of a good few. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not condemning anyone who is in that situation. It’s not shunned or thought down on now-a-days’. And I’m not about to condemn you for those actions. My point is to simply point out the changes in the culture and society over the years. It’s interesting isn’t it?

The term Globalization has come up a lot in my Anthropology classes lately. As someone who is interested in other cultures, I find the idea of Globalization scary. We’ve already lost thousands of cultures, millions of languages and I’m sure unnamable amounts of traditions since the beginning of history and before. What more will we lose in the next 100 years? Which race and language will be wiped out next?

I suppose my point in writing this is to tell you to get in touch with whatever culture you’re from. The largest part of me is Finnish, and I’ve been discovering that history in me for the last year or so. It’s one thing to study a culture that you’re not a part of, in some ways that’s good because you get to see what the people of that culture are blinded to. But it’s also amazing finding what’s culture is a part of you, what you are made of, who you are and your history and traditions. I encourage you Reader, get in touch with your most dominant culture. Learn about them, some of the language, some of the holidays, some of the traditions. You’ll be surprised to find how interesting you really are. 🙂

Dana

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Dear Stressors,

For the past few weeks I’ve been stressed. This to me is interesting because the only time I almost ever get stressed is when I’m in an argument with someone (which  rarely happens) or if I have a 8-12 page paper due in two days and I have no idea what to write about. Now, both of these issues are generally self-induced, and I have no one to blame but myself for my lack of self-control.

But the stress that’s come upon me lately is due to two specific things. Number one, the passing of my grandparents. And number two, my impending trip to Israel.

In April, when my Grandma passed, I wasn’t horribly stressed out about the situation. My main concern was for my Father, Aunt and Grandfather, and also for my missing a full week of school. But overall the trip was pleasant, aside from the circumstances, and my life continued, all be it I was a little bit sadder, and I was a little easier to distract.

But with this past trip to the U.P. there was more stress involved. However, this stress could be translated into sadness/mourning/regret. You see, I’ve never really had to deal with death before. Although I’ve been to the funerals of both my Uncle and my Grandmother, this funeral was different. Looking over it, I would say my sadness is more for the lack of communication and contact with my Grandparents while they were alive. Although I often prayed for them, and even enjoyed talking to them on the phone, there wasn’t a relationship there like I would have liked to have. I didn’t really know who my Grandparents were, aside from what people have told me about them.

There’s always a point when you reach a certain age, where the gap between you and your older relatives begins to narrow. Where your Grandparents or Aunts and Uncles become more of older wiser friends than someone who is just your Aunt or Grandparent. And although I’ve had the privilege to get to know my mom’s side of the family relatively well, I missed out on that with my Father’s side of the family. I regret this. So my sorrow doesn’t come necessarily from the passing of my Grandparents. I know that they are in Heaven and are happier now with Jesus than they ever were down here. No, my sorrow comes from not knowing who my Grandparents were, and not taking the time to get to know them as people. As I was up there I realized that there was all kinds of family history surrounding me, and I wanted to know about it. But those that could tell me the stories were gone.

switching subjects, my second cause of stress is, as stated before, my trip to Israel. I take flight two weeks from today. And with this impending trip comes all the lovely worries and stress of foreign travel, but added on to that is the worry and stress of taking a class. What fun!

I’ve never been on a trip that caused me so much stress, not only do I need things for the dig, but also for the weekends, oh and I also have books and articles to read, a presentation to plan AND a paper to write. Now, all of this together, really isn’t that stressful, and I’ve had time to do almost everything I need to do before I leave. I’m sure everything will get done, it’s just a wee bit stressful with the loss of a week while I was in the U. P. Please don’t get me wrong, I am extremely excited to go. 

 My overall intent in telling you this was not really to bitch about my problems. It’s just whenever I sit down to write about something here, these are the two things that clog my mind. So I figure if I write about them, maybe it will help me feel less stressed. Perhaps perhaps…I don’t know.

So I guess when I sum it up, I have excitement and stress for my trip, and an odd feeling of loss and regret for my relationship with my Grandparents. I suppose I just don’t quite know how to deal with all these feelings at the same time.

With mixed emotions,

Dana

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Dear Hands and Feet

RE:1 John 3:18

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth”

Yesterday, when I was doing my Daily Bread reading I decided to go beyond the suggested reading and continue through more of 1 John. I don’t normally have much extra time in the morning, so I don’t often wander away from the short basic lesson that is set out for the day. But I happened to wake up earlier than normal and I was in need of something to cling to for the day. You see, this past week has been hard with the passing of my Grandfather, and I’ve been feeling distant from God. So I wanted to find something to draw me back. As I read I got to the verse above, 1 John 3:18, and found it interesting, but not really what I was wanting. I spent the rest of the day feeling a bit off with God, and wanting more of him in my life.

Today however, I had some free time in the morning, and figured I would see if I could find that verse again. I looked around for a few minutes and then found it. Now this verse isn’t that profound or earth-shattering really. It’s just a simple instruction that John gave to the receiver of his letter. But as I thought about this verse it reminded me of my heart for missions, and what kind of missions I want to do. So here I will explain:

When people ask me what I want to do when I ‘grow up’ I tell them I’m interested in missions. They then either say “oh that’s cool, have you been anywhere interesting?” or “oh…ok”. I feel that when most people think of missionaries (those that don’t know any personally) they tend to think of people preaching on a street corner or handing out tracks. Or maybe planting churches in crazy jungles in South America or Africa somewhere. Although there are missionaries like that, it’s not really what I mean when I say I want to do missions.

My interest is in helping people get out of the harsh situations they are in. Not to change who they are or their culture per se, but to show them a better way to live. Whether that is manifested through emotional, physical or spiritual support. My aim, whenever I’ve been on the mission field, has always been to help people in the name of Jesus. I’m not and Evangelist. I don’t necessarily feel a deep need to shout Jesus from the rooftops. My way is a little more personal, a little more quite. So when I read this verse ‘let us not love with words…but with action’ I found it a bit refreshing. I always felt like I only showed the love of Christ in this way because I was afraid. And honestly in some cases I am. But generally speaking I am better with actions  than I am with words so it makes more sense that I would use my hands and feet to serve the Lord rather than my words. (not that words aren’t important, that’s not what I’m saying here)

However, the first thing that came to my mind when I thought about this was how people tend to read the Bible how they want to read it. They find verses that support what they believe and ignore the verses that tell them they need to change. I don’t want to do that. I want to be willing to change if it will better myself and the Kingdom of God. So one of the things I’ve been thinking about is if  there are any of my beliefs or thoughts about things that need to be changed to line up with the whole word of God, and not just that one obscure verse that I cling to to try to justify myself. I don’t know. It’s something I’ll have to think and pray about.

The second thing that came to mind with this verse is the last two words “in truth”. To love in truth. I asked myself what this meant, what does John mean to love in truth. The best explanation I could gather on my drive into work was that he means to love honestly or sincerely. Not to pretend, but to actually love those you are serving. This one’s a little hard to swallow. It’s one thing to love someone, kind of, because Jesus told you to. But it’s another thing when you have to mean it. To truly love your brothers and sisters in Christ, and not only that but to truly love your enemies and those you dislike. This is what Jesus taught, and it’s something I’m honestly going to have to work on, because sometimes I just don’t want to love someone, sometimes  it’s easier to not serve, to not be like Jesus. But this is where the Holy Spirit comes in, and the Spirit will help when asked. The hard part is chosing to go against your nature and ask for help to serve and love your enemies. 

These are some of the things that I’ve been thinking about for the past 48 hours. I don’t know if they will help any of you readers at all. But I’ve found that when you tell people what God is teaching you, it’s more exciting to see what God is doing.

Have a blessed day,

Dana

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Dear Reader (#2)

You know what? Sometimes there is nothing I want to write about. Sometimes, I just want to scribble down my thoughts here without having to focus them in on one particular thing. Although I like my posts generally, sometimes it’s just to hard for me to focus my thoughts on one particular subject long enough to write about it. So this post is a break. I focused in on a few posts, and now it’s time to get my thoughts out of a funk. Perhaps I can clear some stuff up with a review of my thought life…

Welcome to my thought life.We shall begin on the left, where you’ll see some major decisions I’m balancing in my mind. The largest part of that section is the thought: “what am I going to do after I graduate”. But this thought hasn’t been getting much attention lately, because there are other things for my brain to focus in on.

To the right you’ll see my thoughts about Israel. ‘What else do I need to buy’  ‘what do I want to see’  ‘who will I miss’  ‘how will I cope’. These are some of the thoughts rolling around over there. They generally take up much of my time and at any given second, if you see me in a pensive state, I’m probably thinking about Israel in some form or another.

Related to these thoughts about Israel are the thoughts about my walk with God. This is located right below of my thoughts about Israel. These thoughts have been more weighty, thus they are below my thoughts of Israel, lest thoughts of God crush thoughts of Israel. These are thoughts such as, ‘perhaps I should read my Bible more’ ‘I know that I’m going to need to get back into that habit before I leave, because I won’t have church for four weeks, and that’s not good’. These types of thoughts plus the things that I’ve been talking to people about have led me to feel like I need to stop watching so many shows, and start cracking open my Bible instead.

Along with all of this is obviously the daily madness that I find myself dealing with, these thoughts are located right over there by the boredom section of my thoughts. These thoughts deal mainly with doing Weight Watchers and thinking about the points that I’m consuming. Nothing to fancy or fun is in this section of my brain, just the basics.

The above section is actually split in two, one section is near the boredom section as I mentioned, and the other is by the loved ones and interests section. This division of my thoughts doesn’t get enough attention, especially not the loved ones section. I tend to forget about those that I love, I don’t think about their needs or how what I’m saying may affect them. this is one that I should pay more attention to. Hopefully if I begin increasing my attention on the God section of my thoughts this section will automatically get a little more attention.

There are other sections of my thought life that I have not detailed here, but like an old home on display, there are always rooms that are closed for repair, or are just to private for the public to go into. So I’m sorry dear Reader, but those rooms are off-limits to you. My apologies.

It’s interesting taking a short tour of your thoughts. Makes you realize where your mind choses to go, and how things should be moved around…

I hope you enjoyed your tour,

Dana

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Dear Job

RE: Holy Tongue Lashing – Job 38-41

Hello, how is life now that you’ve been justified through God? I must admit, I’ve never read your book of the Bible all the way through until today. You see, yesterday, in my Daily Bread readings I was directed to Job 38:1-11,31-33. This was a very interesting passage that I read, but it made me question why God was responding to harshly to you. So I decided to read through the your book today to see what all the commotion was about.

To recap, (incase you forgot) you were a holy roller in the eyes of God, but Satan (who is footnoted as the Accuser, which I liked a lot better) asked if you would be so righteous if you were not so blessed by God. With this, God allows Satan to destroy everything you hold dear and even cause you physical aliment. With this destruction you begin questioning God, you tell your friends that you are justified, you were a righteous man, you did no wrong in the eyes of God. After your friends and Elihu try to tell you that you are unjustified with no avail, then God steps in. So this brings us to Chapter 38.

He begins thusly: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” Holy Moses. I wonder what your thoughts were when God finally answered you. This initial response from God is, to put it simply, powerful. “Brace yourself like a man”? There is a joke that’s gone around for several years in this century, I don’t know if you had it in your time, it’s simply the phrase “man it up”. Coming from ones friend this doesn’t seem that threatening. But to have the Creator of the Universe come to you in a whirlwind and basically say, ‘prepare yourself for the wost tongue lashing EVER’ is about 7 trillion times more intense than anyone in this century could fathom. And this verse is just the beginning, this speech goes on for four whole chapters. Gulp!

My general question for you is what on earth were you thinking when God came down and spoke to you? When he confronted you about things you knew nothing about? Questions such as, “Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place…?” or, “Do you send the lightning bolt on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?” He confronts you with question after question, all of which are meant to show his power, might and glory, and are meant to show you exactly where you stand, and that isn’t in the holy presence of God.

There is so much in these verses that I could not begin to do justice to. But reading your book, the story of your being humbled by God, it gives me hope. It’s an answer to the questions that people ask about you all the time. Questions like, “why do good thing happen to bad people?” God explains himself, he doesn’t leave you hanging, waiting for an answer. Although his answer seems harsh, and without love, the truth is this response is exactly what you needed to hear, and like a parent, it is full of love, it’s just hard to see that through the punishment. You thought yourself justified before God, you though you had no sin in your life. And the truth is, you were wrong. We were wrong. As a Christian there have been times that I have felt holy and righteous, feeling like it’s my good works that got me there. Not so. The only reason we are justified is because God allowed us to be that way. I feel you would have agreed with Paul in his New Testament writings, “I am but a sinner saved by grace”. You seemed to learn your lesson well, and with that, you were blessed more than you could have expected.

I think there are a lot of lessons to learn through your book. I honestly didn’t think there were, this is why I haven’t read it until today. But reading through the story, through your long monologues of woe, and especially through God’s response you your woes, there seems to be answers to those big questions that people ask.

I think a lot of people see Christianity only as Jesus, the ‘kinder’ of the trinity. But they shouldn’t be so swift to overlook God the Father. Most people believe that God the Father is the mean one of the group, but the truth is he’s extremely quick to forgive. He teaches lessons, but those are necessary for his people to grow. To see God as the Ogre of the religion is a gross mistake, he’s the one who initially reached down to us  humans in our weakness. He provided the out whenever we needed it. Whether it be through sacrifice of animals in the Old Testament, or through the sacrifice of Jesus in the New Testament.

Job, you were a screwed up man for a while there. But your willingness to listen and learn from the voice of God is a great example to all who follow the ways of God.

Enjoy your justification,

Dana

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