Mountains, Mallo Cups, and Train Whistles

“When a community loses its memory, its members no longer know one another. . . How can they know one another if they have not learned one another’s stories? If they do not know one another’s stories, how can they know whether or not to trust one another? People who do not trust one another do not help one another, and moreover, they fear one another. And this is our predicament now.” (Wendell Berry, qtd. by Rod Dreher)

When I wake up in my brother’s house, eight counties away from my home, the sound of train whistles reminds me of home. But those rails are so close, the sound so much louder, I know I’m not home. An early morning visit to the deck off his dining room confirms the conclusion. No mountains. A low horizon.

My older brothers were the adventurers. The eldest did a stint in the navy that took him to the Mediterranean. He settled in Texas. My next brother only moved across those eight counties that separate us.

I have traveled. But my zip code never changed.  My residence remained where the mountain ridges surround me, the train whistles serenade me as they have since my birth, and the Mallo Cups are as fresh as fresh can be because the Boyer factory is right in town.

I can’t say I made the better choice. They journeyed with opportunity. My roots grew deeper. But my brothers planted roots too. They became part of new communities. It isn’t just the sights, flavors, and sounds of home. It’s community. It’s people.

Americans are famous for being movers. Horace Greeley admonished the adventurous to “Go west!”  And westward we turned. But today most of us stay put. Fifty-four percent of us live near the place where we grew up.

Thirty-five percent of us left and then came back.

Rod Dreher is one who came back. The author had hit the big time in large northeastern cities. But after his sister died from cancer, home beckoned to him. He penned The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, chronicling her life and death as well as his journeys away from home and back.

But Dreher had another book to write. Coming home was not what he hoped. In How Dante Can Save Your Life, he recounts that the return from his odyssey did not produce the peace he sought but instead brought him a stress-related illness.

Dreher found peace partly through the pages of Dante’s journey through the eternal regions. But even more important, resolution came through the relationships that developed through his faith in Christ. Companions walked with him through the stress and illness to eventual healing and wholeness.

He told his sister’s story. He shared his own. He learned the stories of others. He found those he could trust. And those who could trust him.
Dreher says, “I came back to Louisiana looking for my family and my home. I found God and this church” (278).

Dreher traded in his professional quest for a personal one. He ended up on a journey he did not foresee. He did not get what he hoped to find.

What he got was so much more.


Restoring the Shattered: Illustrating Christ’s Love Through the Church in One Accord now available in e-version on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Photo Credit: Joe Calzaretta, Blue Knob Mountain, Central Pennsylvania

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Prayer and Action or Action and Prayer

“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” Mother Teresa
Some Christian traditions–or just individual Christians–emphasize prayer and contemplation along with Christian action. Others emphasize action along with prayer and contemplation.
In no tradition–and I would hope, with no individual Christian–is either mode of expressing our faith exclusive. It’s a matter of emphasis.
I was struck by this point while reading Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option. In the chapter about the monks of Norcia, Dreher talks about how their days are structured around prayer, then work. Continue reading “Prayer and Action or Action and Prayer”

Hank Hanegraaff's Distortionist Critics

“While there are many secondary issues genuine believers will continue to debate this side of eternity, I have and will always champion what C.S. Lewis called mere Christianity. ‘In essentials unity, non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.'”  Hank Hanegraaff
Hank Hanegraaff recently joined the Greek Orthodox Church. His change of congregation has caused a great gasp in some corners of evangelical Christianity. A voice of evangelicalism through a syndicated apologetics radio program, Hanegraaff and his wife on Palm Sunday were accepted into the Greek Orthodox Church.
He’s walked away from Christianity! He’s gone from grace to works! That’s the view many have of anyone who moves from evangelicalism to a liturgical tradition–especially to Catholicism or Orthodoxy.
But lately, many have changed pews, some, like Hanegraaf, moving from evangelical to liturgical and others from liturgical traditions to under the steeples of evangelicalism.
My two favorite authors illustrate this point. Eric Metaxas came to evangelical Christianity from Greek Orthodoxy. And Rod Dreher came to Eastern Orthodoxy from Methodism.
Now Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man, has followed Dreher’s route–to Orthodoxy. And some are horrified. Continue reading “Hank Hanegraaff's Distortionist Critics”

Rod Dreher's The Benedict Option: A Review

“[T]he Benedict Option is a call to undertaking the long and patient work of reclaiming the real world from the artifice, alienation, and atomization of modern life. It is a way of seeing the world and of living in the world that undermines modernity’s big lie: that humans are nothing more than ghosts in a machine, and we are free to adjust the settings in any way we like.” Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation (236).

If you’re a Christian, don’t read this book unless you are truly willing to face the deep realities that Rod Dreher presents within its pages.

But if you are a Christian, you really should read this book.

It will move you to change your life.

And you will find it is not the same book some critics have described.

The Benedict Option is not a call for the faithful to cloister ourselves in a monastery or don white robes and sit on a mountaintop awaiting the Apocalypse.

Dreher calls us to a more focused faith walk, to “be the church, without compromise, no matter what it costs” (3, emphasis Dreher’s).

He calls us to a deeper prayer life. A life steeped in community with other faithful Christians. A life that looks very different from the lives many of us lead–pursuit of consumerism and busy-ness with splashes of church sprinkled between. Continue reading “Rod Dreher's The Benedict Option: A Review”

Do Christians really want to help?

A reader on niume.com responds to my recent post about Congress proposing a cut to the Meals on Wheels program:
“What will happen with medicaid? Are churches ready and able to serve the people who depend on this program as well? Half of all medicaid dollars go to help the elderly and disabled who need long-term care. If medicaid no longer is available to pay for these folks to stay in nursing homes, are churches and Christians going to step up to provide this care? If so, I suggest they start with the thousands upon thousands of disabled people who are waiting for medicaid waivers to become available in each state across our nation. In Kentucky alone, there are 7,000 people on the waiting list for the Michelle P. waiver, a medicaid waiver that serves individuals with developmental disabilities like autism. I keep hearing from the Christian community about these great opportunities for service, but in my mind I am thinking they don’t want to do it. If they did, they would already be doing it because unmet needs are tremendous.”
That critique is a bit stinging. Probably so stinging because it is so true.
We have gotten used to government having programs to fix problems. We forget that government fixing problems often makes them worse. We forget that government isn’t tasked with solving these problems–meeting these needs. We are.
Where to begin? First, we work to overcome the isolation that is so prevalent today. Continue reading “Do Christians really want to help?”

Barronelle, Belief, and Benedict

“The Christian life, properly understood, cannot be merely a set of propositions agreed to, but must also be a way of life. And that requires a culture, which is to say, the realization in a material way–in deeds, in language, in song, in drama, in practices, etc.–of the propositions taught by Christianity. To be perfectly clear, at the core of all this is a living spiritual relationship with God, one that cannot be reduced to words, deeds, or beliefs,” Rod Dreher (emphasis his).
With little fanfare from the mainstream media, the Washington Supreme Court last week unanimously sided against Barronelle Stutzman, a 71-year-old florist who refused to provide flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding.
Stutzman has been battling the legal challenge, which threatens to relieve her of her life’s work and earnings.
She is appealing to the US Supreme Court. A ruling favorable to religious freedom seems unlikely since the court has already refused to hear an appeal from a New Mexico photographer, also sued for refusing service for a same-sex wedding. These cases are a harbinger of things to come.  Continue reading “Barronelle, Belief, and Benedict”

Warm in Winter: All We Are Meant to Be?

“The [Benedictine] monks went into barbarian areas to evangelize, and if the barbarians killed them off, the mother house would send more brothers out. Slowly, these men laid the ground for the rebirth of Christian civilization in the West,” Rod Dreher.
“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home,” Edith Sitwell.
There is a warm feeling in the frosty cold. Oxymoronic, I know. A chill allows me to wrap a blanket around myself, snuggle a grandchild closer, warm the kitchen with sweets from the oven.
Warm cookies and hot tea. Maybe a movie. Or a great book. Maybe a circle or two around the park on my skis. Swish, swish and an occasional car going by.
Peace. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Even those who know me best don’t always realize my yearning to be home. To be in quiet. To feel the warmth of my own hearth. But: Continue reading “Warm in Winter: All We Are Meant to Be?”

Abortion: The Issue that Never Dies

“The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships.” ― Mother Teresa.
Forty-four years after Roe v. Wade and  America finds that the issue will just not go away. There was an expectation that a generation or two growing up with this “right” would not be able to find its way back. The issue would dissolve into acceptance. The procedures would be legal, safe, and rare.
Many did not walk down that road of thought.
But rare it is becoming. We have looked through the window of the womb and many of us have found ourselves.
The shift in thinking today seems to spring from a scientific view–not a religious one. An accusation in the early days of the argument was that those who opposed abortion sought to impose a religious view on the non-religious. Continue reading “Abortion: The Issue that Never Dies”

Election Update: Cubs on Brink; What's Next in This Crazy Year?

“Good pitching will always stop good hitting–and vice versa.” Casey Stengel.
The 2016 World Series is a pitchers’ duel, except when it’s not. The Cubs have Theo Epstein, who orchestrated the Red Sox win in ’04. But the Indians have the former Sox manager Terry Francona. Only one team will find the magic mix of pixie dust.
Hillary Clinton’s mix of magic dust now has more dust than glitter.
Media accounts were calling it an October Surprise. But the surprise didn’t come from the Trump camp. It came from the FBI.
Before the FBI announced the reopening of the Clinton email investigation, Peggy Noonan opined that Trump’s purpose in history  would end short of winning the White House. Continue reading “Election Update: Cubs on Brink; What's Next in This Crazy Year?”

Election Update: Chicago Cubs still alive; the GOP, not so much

A few weeks ago, I pointed out that the Cubs could win the World Series for the first time in 108 years and that the presidential election had gotten crazy.
The Cubs are still in the chase. And the election is even crazier.
In Utah, a gentleman (You get to use that term so seldom today) named Evan McMullin is polling at 22 percent with both Clinton and Trump tied at 26. I didn’t know he existed two days ago–even after a pollster called to ask who I would vote for. Yesterday, I found out that, in that one state, he is at least close to the margin of error. Continue reading “Election Update: Chicago Cubs still alive; the GOP, not so much”