#MoralStory: The Golden Slippers

It was only four days before Christmas. The spirit of the season hadn’t yet caught up with me, even though cars packed the parking lot of our local discount store.

Inside the store, it was worse. Shopping carts and last minute shoppers jammed the aisles. Why did I come today? I wondered.

My feet ached almost as much as my head. My list contained names of several people who claimed they wanted nothing but I knew their feelings would be hurt if didn’t buy them anything.

Buying for someone who had everything and deploring the high cost of items, I considered gift-buying anything but fun. Hurriedly, I filled my shopping cart with last minute items and proceeded to the long checkout lines. I picked the shortest but it looked as if it would mean at least a 20 minute wait.

In front of me were two small children – a boy of about 5 and a younger girl. The boy wore a ragged coat. Enormously large, tattered tennis shoes jutted far out in front of his much too short jeans. He clutched several crumpled dollar bills in his grimy hands. The girl’s clothing resembled her brother’s. Her head was a matted mass of curly hair. Reminders of an evening meal showed on her small face.

She carried a beautiful pair of shiny, gold house slippers. As the Christmas music sounded in the store’s stereo system, the girl hummed along, off-key but happily.Read More »

Be Born In Me (Mary’s Song)

*

Everything inside me cries for order
Everything inside me wants to hide
Is this shadow an angel or a warrior?
If God is pleased with me, why I am I so terrified?
Someone tell me I am only dreaming
Somehow help me see with Heaven’s eyes
And before my head agrees, my heart is on it’s knees.
Holy is He. Blessed am I.

Be born in me. Be born in me.
Trembling heart, somehow I believe
that You chose me
I’ll hold you in the beginning,
You will hold me in the end

Every moment in the middle,
make my heart your Bethlehem
Be born in me
All this time we’ve waited for the promise

All this time You’ve waited for my arms
Did You wrap yourself inside the unexpected
So we might know that Love would go that far?
Be born in me, be born in me
Trembling heart, somehow I believe

that You chose me
I’ll hold you in the beginning,
You will hold me in the end
Every moment in the middle,
make my heart your Bethlehem
Be born in me

I am not brave
I’ll never be
The only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy
I’m just a girl
Nothing more
But I am willing, I am Yours
Be born in me, be born in me
I’ll hold you in the beginning,
You will hold me in the end
Every moment in the middle,
make my heart your Bethlehem
Be born in me

#ShortNews: Survey: 74% of US Catholics say cohabitation is acceptable

As more U.S. adults are delaying marriage – or forgoing it altogether – the share who have ever lived with an unmarried partner has been on the rise.

Young adults are particularly accepting of cohabitation – 78% of those ages 18 to 29 say it’s acceptable for an unmarried couple to live together, even if they don’t plan to get married – but majorities across age groups share this view. Still, even among those younger than 30, a substantial share (45%) say society is better off if couples who want to stay together long-term eventually get married. Roughly half of those ages 30 to 49 say the same, as do majorities of those ages 50 and older.

Views about marriage and cohabitation are also linked to religious affiliation. About three-quarters of Catholics (74%) and white Protestants who do not self-identify as born-again or evangelical (76%) say it’s acceptable for an unmarried couple to live together even if they don’t plan to get married. By contrast, only 47% of black Protestants and 35% of white evangelical Protestants share this view. And while half or more across these groups say society is better off if couples who want to stay together long-term eventually get married, white evangelicals are the most likely to say this (78% do so). Among those who are not religiously affiliated, fully nine-in-ten say cohabitation is acceptable even if a couple doesn’t plan to get married, and just 31% say society is better off if couples who want to stay together eventually get married.

Source: https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2019/11/06/marriage-and-cohabitation-in-the-u-s/

#ShortNews: Persecution of Christians in Europe ‘much closer,’ says Hungarian premier

Hungary’s Prime Minister has warned that Europe’s religious, cultural and demographic nature is changing so rapidly that the kind of persecution of Christians taking place in such countries as Syria, Iraq and Nigeria is “much closer” than “many people think.”

In a forthright speech at a major international conference on persecuted Christians in Budapest, Viktor Orbán said the “only thing” that can save Europe is if it “reverts to its real Christian values” along with its “Christian roots and Christian identity.”

Hungarians believe Christian values lead to “peace and happiness,” Orbán continued, which is why the country’s Constitution states that “protection of Christianity is an obligation for the Hungarian state. It obliges us to protect Christian communities throughout the world suffering persecution.”

As Hungary lies on a “pathway” of Muslim migration, Orbán said they feel obligated as Christians to defend their culture, especially as religious, demographic and cultural changes have been exacerbated by “illegal migration that results in uncontrolled migration into Europe.”

Source: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/christian-persecution-in-europe-much-closer-than-many-think-warns-hungarian

#ShortNews: Violence against Christians steadily increasing in India

275 episodes of violence against Indian Christians reported (from January 1st to October 31st 2019) on the toll-free number activated by the “United Christian Forum (UCF) and by the “Alliance for Defending Freedom”( ADF), organizations committed to defending the life and rights of Christian communities in India. As announced to Agenzia Fides, of the 275 episodes of violence reported on the toll-free number, 192 were intimidation and threats by a crowd of militants. We are talking about 27 accidents per month, compared to the average of 20 accidents in 2018. According to data from Fides, 145 women and 106 children were injured in cases of mass violence.

Among the most recent episodes, recorded in October 2019, on October 24, 2019, in a village in the state of Orissa, a group of militants broke into the homes of nine Christian families, burning Bibles and other Christian literature in front of the statue of a Hindu god.

According to data recorded by the “United Christian Forum (UCF) and “Alliance for Defending Freedom” (ADF) since 2014, attacks on Christians have steadily increased: they were 147 in 2014, 177 in 2015, 208 in 2016, 240 in 2017; 292 in 2018.

Source: http://www.fides.org/en/news/67011-ASIA_INDIA_Violence_against_Christians_the_growing_trend_is_confirmed

Advent Week-1 (2019): The Candle Of Hope

The Advent season is a beautiful reminder to prepare our hearts as we prepare our homes — to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus! At the start of this week, we light the first of the four candles in the Advent wreath: the candle of Hope.

Is your heart filled with hope? Do you have a confident expectation of your tomorrow? What happens when the road ahead is filled with loss and stress weighs your shoulders down? When confident expectation for tomorrow dwindles, what can you do? How can you walk in hope when you feel hopeless inside?

In one word, the answer to confident expectation is “JESUS” — the Jesus of Christmas.

Hope in Jesus comes from more than just a belief that He was once a baby in a manger. This hope in Him has been called “an anchor for the soul.” It is something deep within that secures you through the storms of life.

HOPE FOR HELP

We are invited to come to Him and confidently ask for help. Hebrews 4:16 tells us, “to come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

HOPE TO OVERCOME

Things that leave one feeling powerless and hopeless come in many forms. With Christ’s strength you can overcome great obstacles, and faith in Jesus gives hope and help to overcome: “and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).

HOPE FOR POWER

Sometimes in life we find ourselves with a task that simply looks too big for us. We do not just need a cup of God’s strength added to our own; rather, we need His strength in us to do what we need to do. He will give it! 2 Corithians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Seeing our weakness as the entry point of God’s strength gives access to His power!

HOPE FOR ETERNITY

Read More »

A Visit and a Song (Part 01/04)

By Debie Thomas

The angel Gabriel leaves, and Mary runs. “With haste,” the Gospel writer tells us on this fourth Sunday in Advent, a newly pregnant teenager makes for the hills, not slowing down until she reaches the home of Elizabeth, her also-pregnant cousin. When her kinswoman welcomes her, she bursts into song — a song so subversive, governments twenty centuries later ban its public recitation.

love this Gospel story. I love it because it’s one of the rare narratives in the Bible that is female-centered. (The priest Zechariah — Elizabeth’s husband, and the man-presumably-in-charge — is literally silenced throughout.) I love it because its setting is domestic, intimate, and earthy. But most of all, I love it because it allows me to view the mother of Jesus as a whole person. To view her, in Nadia Bolz Weber’s language, “without sentimentality or cynicism.”

This is no small achievement, because we (the Church) have buried Mary under so many layers of theology, piety, and politics, she’s nearly impossible to excavate. Some of us pray to her. Others ignore her on monotheistic principle. Some call her “Theotokos,” the God-bearer. Others champion her as a model of holy femininity — ever sinless, ever virgin, ever mother. To some, she is a child prophet extraordinaire. To others, the victim of divine manipulation.

Would the real Mary please stand up? Well, I think she has. I think Luke’s account of the Visitation gives us a portrait of Mary that cuts through most of our assumptions and stereotypes. A nuanced portrait that balances fear with courage, doubt with faith, vulnerability with strength. Along the way, it gives us a portrait of ourselves — of what we, the Church, might become at our very best. Here, then, are three gifts I believe the Visitation story offers us for our Advent meditations.

The gift of community: As soon as Mary says “yes” to Gabriel’s astonishing request, she goes “in haste” to see Elizabeth. She doesn’t isolate herself. She doesn’t keep God’s revelation a secret. She doesn’t play Lone Ranger and attempt to go it alone. Instead, she seeks out a fellow-traveler

Although Luke doesn’t elaborate on Mary’s reasons for visiting Elizabeth, it’s easy to imagine why a girl with a story as crazy-sounding as hers might make such an urgent journey. Tradition tells us that Mary is only thirteen or fourteen years old when the angel Gabriel appears to her. In her cultural and religious context, her pregnancy is a scandal. At best, it renders her an object of scornful gossip. At worst, it places her at risk of death by stoning.

Needless to say, she needs safety, affirmation, empathy, and companionship. She needs someone to recognize, nurture, deepen, and celebrate the work of God in her life. Someone who will receive, not reject. Love, not judge. Nourish, not condemn.

Could there possibly be a better job description for the Church? A better prototype for Christian community? What would it be like if we sought each other out with the trust and openness of Mary? What would it be like if we (like Elizabeth) received with tenderness the marginalized and vulnerable people who dare to come to us, seeking refuge and nurture? What would it be like if our communal worship echoed the full-throated call-and-response of these two kinswomen who find themselves caught up in God’s bold, risky, world-changing work, and decide to find strength in each other’s company?

In this Gospel story, Luke essentially describes the first Christian worship service in history. Mary and Elizabeth — the young and the old, the unmarried and the married, the socially established and the socially vulnerable — finding common ground in their love for Jesus. As Henri Nouwen describes it, “God’s most radical intervention into history was listened to and received in community.” What a gorgeous and challenging example for us to live up to.

to be continued…