Breathing the Word and Feeding our Souls

Then the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person. Genesis 2:7, NLT

Man shall not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4, ESV

The Bible tells us that God breathing into Adam conveyed life to him. The Bible is the Word of God. We can’t speak a word without breathing. But when we read the Bible, God breathes life into us.

The Bible is the fresh air of our reading. But to live fully we need food too.

The Bible gives us life. Other books feed our souls.

The world holds a smorgasbord of worthy literature. Some of us pick from different books at once. Some of us consume them one at a time.

The first school reading I remember enjoying was Lilies of the Field by William E. Barrett. Lilies of the Field.

Barrett melds the individuality of Homer Smith, an everyman Baptist, and the community of a convent of Catholic nuns.

Smith, an African American man, and the nuns, refugees from Eastern Europe in the 1960s, represent those society rejects and oppresses. Smith drives a station wagon with a mattress in the back, his bed for the nights he might be turned away from the hotels of the early 1960s in America.

My eighth-grade mind missed the reasoning for his innovative preparations for rest on the road. When I teach the book now, I make sure students understand that many hotels would have turned Homer away because of his race.

The nuns invite Smith to join with their community to achieve a quest–a chapel for the local community.

The community remains. Homer Smith moves on to a “settling down place.” He goes on to find his home where he can build community.

Their encounters change him and them. Us too–as all good books do.

An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. Proverbs 18:14, ESV

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5: 22-23, ESV

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Tilling Good Ground

As a college junior, she was a latecomer to my freshman English class. The subject of our discussion was the 2001 book Peace like a River by Leif Enger. Filled with allusions to the Bible, historic events, and Zane Grey westerns, the book has plenty of fodder for discussion in a college-level class.

What caught this particular student’s eye was a line that repeats throughout the text as the narrator/main character, an 11 year old boy, advises the reader to “make of it what you will.” The it he refers to is Christian faith, faith in the miraculous works that come only from God. The narrator isn’t pushy about faith. He simply unfolds the miracles and invites the reader to draw his own conclusions.

My student found that very appealing. She explained that she had rejected faith because it had always been a source of contention in her home. Her father had come from one denomination, her mother from another. They had never been able to find the peace that Christ offers and Enger depicts.

My experience growing up as the product of a ‘mixed marriage’ was quite different. Continue reading “Tilling Good Ground”

No Brotherly Love in Philadelphia

“True it is, They that are born of the flesh, hate and persecute them that are born of the spirit.” William Penn, Chapter One, VII~
His statue stands atop the great structure in the center of Philadelphia–City Hall. William Penn understood what many of us are just figuring out. The world will never understand nor appreciate our deeply held, uncompromising convictions.
And their disdain for our views trumps even the appearance of compassion. A voice of false compassion casts aside victims unrelated to its intended target.
The Daily Signal reports that days after making an urgent plea on behalf of 300 homeless orphans of the opioid crisis, Philadelphia ended its placement relationship with Bethany Christian Services and Catholic Social Services. Because those agencies hold Christian convictions and will not place children with unmarried or LGBT couples, they can no longer place children at all.
In the Keystone State in 2015, more than half of the 16,000 kids in foster care had been removed from their homes because of “parental drug use.” Philadelphia ranks second in deaths by overdose out of 44 counties in the US with populations greater than one million.
The need is indeed great, and there are many, but not enough, ways to meet it. Continue reading “No Brotherly Love in Philadelphia”

Agony and Betrayal–Part One

They’re stories that have happened everywhere–and more often than we like to think.
In the 1990s, I was a radio news reporter. A huge story at the time was the Francis Luddy trial. Luddy had been a respected priest until someone accused him of sexual abuse and sued him. Luddy admitted that he had abused boys. But this particular boy, he said, “wasn’t my type.”
The jury didn’t believe Luddy. After all, if someone could abuse children, he could lie about it too. They called upon the local diocese to pay up.
Luddy’s victim died in 2012 at the age of 44. Few questions surround this case.
Such is not the case regarding Jerry Sandusky of nearby Nittany Valley–Penn State.
Despite Sandusky’s ongoing denials, too many believable accusers won their day in court.
A cloud of accusation and doubt encased the final days of beloved Coach Joe Paterno. But national news coverage of Sandusky has neglected what could be an important factor. Continue reading “Agony and Betrayal–Part One”

Shining Light on the Long, Dark March

“These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.” Acts 17:6 ESV
As I teach rhetoric classes, it amazes me how much more I have to explain every year. College students know little or nothing of America’s founders. For nearly every speech or book we read, I have to provide more and more background information because they don’t know basic history. Who Patrick Henry was. What happened at the Alamo. How Neville Chamberlain appeased Hitler and fantasized that he had secured “peace for our time.” Continue reading “Shining Light on the Long, Dark March”

Rome, ISIS, and the Prophetic False Church

Be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
Yesterday I watched an online news report via CBN about refugees flooding into Europe from North Africa.* Men, women, and children, fleeing ISIS. Some have walked (walked!) across multiple countries to get to escape the terror. Many die in the journey.
The reactions of Europeans is mixed. Some responses mirror early civil rights protests in the 1960s in the American South in their violence toward the refugees. Hungary is building a wall on its border with Serbia to keep refugees out. Italy has built camps to accommodate the influx. Right wing parties hoping to stop the influx are growing all over Europe.
There is another reaction. There is admiration for the heroic quests of pregnant women. Envision another women “great with child” on a long journey.  There are mothers of newborns. Imagine giving birth during an escape and continuing onward. There are men with their wives and little children. Imagine trying to protect those you love the most. Continue reading “Rome, ISIS, and the Prophetic False Church”