The Appearance of Belief 
Monday, February 27, 2006, 09:28 AM - Extra Christy
Our choir put on their special stoles yesterday. It was Transfiguration Sunday, where we celebrate the glory of God in Christ. The name comes from Jesus' appearance changing during the event. While it has never caught on in the society at large (too long a name?) it is a big deal in some church traditions. It is the last Sunday before Lent, so you can think of it as a sort of a mardi gras for the robe and stole crowd before the somber time of Lent.

<p>The gospel writer Mark has a story right after the spiritual high of the transfiguration recorded in first nine verses of chapter nine. It seems while Jesus and the inner circle of disciples were on the mountain with Moses and Elijah in presence of God, the rest of the disciple team were unable to heal a boy.

It seems Jesus takes this as evidence that there isn't enough belief. Hearing doubts from the afflicted boy's father he asks him if the father believes that his son can be healed. The boy's father says words that may be true for all of us:
Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" -Mark 9:34
The tension of holding both belief and unbelief at the same time is a theme in one of my favorite movies, Secondhand Lions. Trying to help him be a man, Hub tells his young great-nephew:

Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love; true love never dies. You remember that, boy. You remember that. Doesn't matter if it's true or not. You see, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in.
I don't know if I completely agree with Hub, but I do know (and believe!) in the power of belief. As Jesus tells the boy's father just before he heals his son, “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

Hoping that believing changes what appears in your life,

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Would You Like Punch 
Thursday, February 23, 2006, 04:27 PM - Humor
I went to the Color Our Rainbow Mardi Gras tonight. I wanted to try the Kings Cake and see the little ones having fun. As I was eating the pastry, (a sort of sugar frosted sweet roll) I chatted with a boy who told me "this" was good as he pointed to the punch bowl.

I innocently asked, "Oh so you like punch!" Thinking I was helping the tyke with his vocabulary.

He eyed me suspiciously and clarified "I like the punch you drink. Not a punch in the face."

His vocabulary skills are just fine. I may need to work on mine.

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Going Home 
Monday, February 20, 2006, 07:20 AM - Extra Christy
The church I serve is in Ohio, but my family's home is still in Pennsylvania so I travel between the two. I am constantly forgetting to put a “1” in front of the “other” area code, going to a store that is in the “other” mall and last week I ended up going west instead of east on the turnpike because I forgot which state I was sleeping in that night.

Home is a place that is familiar. There is a shared history between you and the place, it agrees with you. You're at home when you know where everything is and who everyone is. You can be yourself at home.
Wandering without a home is a common yet under diagnosed affliction. I'm not talking about the problem of actual homelessness, but of not have a home for one's heart. Individualism and a flurry of choices have had the unintended effect of making us feel like strangers everywhere as the social landscape changes around us. Like yours truly on the turnpike, we end up going the wrong way because that way led to home just a little while ago.

Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O Lord”. One thing I've learned while I've had my call in Ohio and my family in Pennsylvania is that my true home, where I can be myself, where all is familiar and in the right place, is ultimately in heaven.
For us, our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the Savior we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ. -Philippians 3:20
For Christians, earth just doesn't fit right. The sadness, evil, disappointment, injustice unsettle us. The best work for goodness and justice, and I believe that no Christian is ever truly at home in our fallen world, maybe that is why Jesus said he had “no place to lay his head”. His home and ours is in heaven where every tear is wiped away and death is no more.

Can't wait until I get home,

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Presbyterian Handbook 
Wednesday, February 15, 2006, 03:55 PM - Church

Let me add to the chorus recommending The Presbyterian Handbook for new members and old hands. This book has a entertaining and helpful mixture of serious and lighthearted Presbyterian topics from How to Pray to What to Bring to a Church Potluck! (defined by geographical region!)

This is great for old hands to remember what is like to be new to the strange and wonderful world of church in general and Presbyterian in particular. New Presbyterians can painlessly catch up while smiling their way through the cartoons, diagrams, and helpful hints. There is history: “History Six Most Notorious Heretics” , theology: “How to Explain Predestination to Your Friends”, and Bible Study “Five Grossest Bible Stories”.

Excellent book to buy and give to someone as you invite them to church or to give to make that new visitor feel welcome. If you are a Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church member or visitor, a copy is in our library for your enjoyment.

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Prettier Than a Picture 
Monday, February 13, 2006, 07:18 AM - Extra Christy
Our family had portraits taken Saturday. The church is preparing a new church directory and all the families are getting photographed for it. My good wife corralled our college daughter and our high school son and herded them over a hundred miles to Akron for the pictures. (We are waiting until our son graduates from high school to move.)

There were lots of preparations. My wife put make-up on me and my daughter fixed my son's hair. (We had no choice in the matter, which is probably a blessing to all those who will look at the pictures in the years to come.) The pictures were taken with a minimum of fuss and by the wonder of digital photography displayed on the computer in a few minutes for us to choose among. We negotiated who looked best in which pose and found ones we could all agree on to have printed.

My wife surprised me later when she said that she didn't picture herself the way the pictures showed her. I said I had the same feeling looking at my pictures, I know that is me in the picture, but I still “see” myself as my favorite college picture from 25 years ago. My sweetheart said that is how she sees me too.

The image we have in our mind differs from the picture that the camera takes. Genesis tells us that humans were made in the image of God (1:26) and Christ is also referred to as the image of God in Colossians 1:15. A part of the understanding of image of God is that there is more than meets the eye in both humanity and in Christ.

When I look at my wife, I see not just what the camera records, but a quarter century of life and love shared something that can't be captured by pixels and bits. I hope I can look at other people with the same eyes, certainly not with the same detail, but seeking all the same to see not just the portrait, but the image of God in them.

Getting a little romantic before Valentine's day.

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