Thursday, November 26, 2015

Dance of the Innocents

I closed my eyes as the gifted fingers of our pianist brought to life "Amy's Lullaby." With the world around me shut off I envisioned the lullaby. Jesus is standing on a hillside covered in a blanket of daisies. To his right the hillside slopes away and the flowers converge into a blanket of white, as bright as the purest snowfall. The daisies seem to be dancing as a gentle wind moves up the hillside. Up to his knees in the dancing and waving of the petals he is smiling. He is not grinning or cracking a little smile, like one who is trying to be restrained or respectful. He is smiling with his mouth open wide, for all the world to see.

As the breeze moves and the petals dance I am captivated by the sound of giggles and laughter. It is the laughter of children, the music of the soul, giggles and squeaks, and the beautiful blending of the glee of boys and girls. Up the hillside they come, some running, some skipping, some falling and tumbling in the field of dancing flowers. Jesus is standing there with his arms outstretched, with such a smile that he is expecting all of the children to jump into his arms.

As the children run and dance and skip their way up the hill they take no notice of the language, color or clothing of their partner in the dance. There is no language in laughter, for it is universal, there is no disdain of clothes for all are wearing the same white, white as bright as the snow, the same white that Jesus is standing in. Theirs are the colors of every nation and every tribe that has ever graced the earth.

As they dance and laugh I can sense that these precious children are the Innocents. Fragile and helpless sons and daughters of the land. Innocent ones taken from the earth, from the arms of their mothers and the sheltering strength of their fathers. Taken by the evil design of men. Taken by the greed and envy and lust of those whose hearts are consumed with the thirst of power and rule.

Many of the dancing Innocents move towards Jesus and I can tell by the purity of their smile that they are laughing and dancing by the grace of God, as their lungs never filled and their feet never felt the earth. I know as a certainty that these that are dancing the Dance of the Innocents are so happy to see Jesus and feel his embrace that they sense no wrong has been done and wish for the day that all mankind will join them in the Dance of the Innocents.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A tribute to Tanner, Alexander, and Andrew Skelton

It has been five years since the boys disappeared. The emotional toll on a family is beyond comprehension. The toll on the small town of Morenci will continue, even after the boys are brought home.

The clear single notes of the piano had me whispering the words to, " Silent Night." The candles on the altar table represented Jesus and our missing boys. A blue candle for each of the birthdays the boys celebrated. Five candles for Tanner, seven candles for Alexander and nine candles for their big brother, Andrew. In the darkened sanctuary the soft glow of the candles was a gentle yet gradually overpowering image of the love held in the hearts of every parent gathered to pray.

I read a Psalm that spoke of stillness and waiting on God. Words of hope that we know and acknowledge that He is the giver of peace and comfort. So many questions fill my mind and trouble my spirit. It has been almost four days, how could the boys survive the elements if they are out in the cold? Why would any parent leave their children with a person who is almost unknown? And unthinkable is the question of suicide; leave your boys with a stranger because you don't want them to witness you hang yourself. I had to get the questions and haunting thoughts out of my mind.

As I led the gathering in prayer it was a time of acknowledging the plan of God. His plan, to bring us together as family, the wonder of love and children. In times of pain and loss how we come together as community. We unite together to bring encouragement, love, support and that as community the bond goes deeper than words. And we were united in one purpose; to pray, find a sense of comfort, and demonstrate to the family support.

One by one every person came to the altar table and held their candle into the life-candle of one of our boys. The process took almost twenty minutes and I watched as members of the media and law enforcement held a candle of hope. At the conclusion of the service silence kept us in our seats and looking at the altar. It was as if leaving the service was leaving Tanner, Alexander and Andrew.

This Thanksgiving please remember the Skelton boys in prayer and their mother Tanya.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Aboard the Mayflower- Determined Faith

Aboard the Mayflower- Determined Faith

By the spring and summer of the first year about half of the Pilgrims had died. Many parents had buried their children and death had claimed a life from almost every family. The food supplies had barely lasted through the winter. As I think about the Pilgrims, what was it that enabled those people to endure such harsh conditions? There are a lot of things to think about when I consider the entire time of preparation and the voyage.

Consider the sister ship, the Speedwell. Twice she was delayed due to taking on water. This put the schedule weeks behind. Next, the cargo and some of the passengers from the Speedwell were put aboard the Mayflower, back in England. Some of the passengers did not continue on. What would inspire some to continue on when others quit? What factor did faith play in the individual decisions.

If the Mayflower had sailed on her original schedule she would have reached the colonial coast long before the Atlantic storms and bitter cold. Reaching the coast a storm forced the Mayflower to abandon the Hudson River landing and return to the safety of Cape Cod. The crew and leaders of the Pilgrims spent almost a month exploring the area for a place to begin building.

After a devastating winter, spring brought hope and their first real contact with the native peoples. What are the chances that the first real contact would be with an English speaking native? There are so many things that happened it would be hard to believe that all the circumstances were coincidental.

The personal and group theology of the Pilgrims was in fact a very pragmatic and strict Calvinist view. They were convinced that God in His sovereign design had all things planned and ordained. This faith gave them great resolve and a determination that would enable them to endure great hardship and heartache.

The time of Thanksgiving had more to do with spiritual certainties than with temporal blessings such as food and shelter. Moms and dads knew they would be reunited with children, children knew they would be reunited with a mom or dad. That inner knowledge was the real reason for the season.

Happenstance or the Divine Hand of God. I know who and what I believe.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Mayflower is Off Course- or is She?

After sixty six days at sea the Mayflower  and her weary and cold travelers were looking at their new world. Due to the weather the Mayflower was off her course and instead of dropping anchor near the mouth of the Hudson River, she was north near the entrance to the bay of Cape Cod. The crew and passengers decided to sail south to the mouth of the Hudson.

Sailing south the ship encountered such a violent storm that both crew and passengers feared shipwreck and almost certain death in the cold Atlantic. In desperation the Mayflower came about and headed back north to the relative safety of the harbor of Cape Cod. Still damaged the ship made it to the bay and dropped anchor. The bay, almost an enclosed refuge, would become home to the Mayflower and the staging point of the Pilgrims exploration of the area.

For the next weeks the crew and a small number of the Pilgrims made numerous landings along the shore. The search for water was rewarded with the, "sweetest pools of water ever imagined." Juniper wood was gathered and taken aboard the Mayflower. The aroma from the burning conifer was a sweet relief from the stench of five months under sail. The crew also was able to re-supply the wood for cooking and cleaning.

After a time of exploring a site was chosen for the beginning of the settlement. It was defensible against any attack and within an easy distance of good water. On December 23, the majority of the Pilgrims left the ship and began building their new lives. As Sunday was the 24th the Pilgrims didn't work but spent their first Sunday in worship and praise. Work began in earnest the following day. As Separatist, Pilgrims  did not celebrate Christmas day as they thought it to be a "pagan tradition."

During the construction of the meeting house and various homes many of the Pilgrims continued to sleep aboard the Mayflower. The frigid wind off of the Atlantic forced the settlers to build as fast as possible. This meant that the days were long and the blowing winds and snow would begin to take a very deadly toll.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Genocide- Not

I am going to continue to post the series on Thanksgiving that I wrote some time back but, I must respond to some stuff about the holiday.
First- The early settlers did not commit genocide against the native people. Merriam-Webster defines genocide as, the deliberate killing of people who belong to a particular racial, political, or cultural group. Those who sailed aboard the Mayflower had noble and pure intentions. They wanted a free land in which they could worship God according to their conscious.

Second- Disease was spread but not from those aboard the Mayflower. Smallpox and other disease were constantly spread across the globe. The black death killed one third of Europe. Smallpox was not intended to be used as an agent of death. So, even in the case of settlers later on spreading the disease it can not be considered genocide, the spread was not intended to kill the native people.

Third- Much of the current stuff that calls our settling the land genocide is pure politics. Why are so many people trying to demonize the American people and her history? Our history is not perfect and we did treat many people groups very abusive and criminal. But, not the original settlers. They came with the intention of finding freedom and free worship.