Monthly Archives: February 2009

The Suspense is Over for Dog Lovers The Obama’s New Pet Will Be a Portuguese Water Dog

This post may seem a bit atypical for W@C blog but under the “Just For Fun” category, I thought some of you dog lovers out there might be interested in the lastest “first family” news.  Hot off the presses,  according to the CNN Political Ticker

“First Lady Michelle Obama told People magazine that her family has decided to adopt a Portuguese Water Dog.” 

The First Lady pointed to the breed’s medium-size and good-natured reputation as the main reasons for the choice.  She also added that  the breed is also hypoallergenic — a must, given daughter Malia’s allergy to dogs.

The Baltimore Sun quoted an American Kennel Club representative Michelle Barlak in reference to inquiry about the breed.  Barlak stated, “The Portuguese Water Dog is a fun-loving dog with a lot of energy, it’s a great family dog, but they have to understand the dog will require quite a bit of exercise. … Two young girls who are very active are good companions for the dog.”

Many of you out there are dog lovers, what do you think about the Obama’s choice?  Do any of you have any experience with this breed? 

It seems like an unusual choice to me since the breed currently ranks 62nd in popularity amongst all dog breeds in the U.S., but then on the other hand IMHO anything Portuguese has got to be great!

Just for fun,

Maryellen Stipe

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Jesus is all about relationship–Are you willing to go there?

Making contact with God and maintaining a meaningful relationship with Him is at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian. The primary purpose for Jesus’ mission to this planet was to pay the way for reconciliation of relationship between God and humankind.  The capability of people to make unhindered and lasting contact with God was a high ticket item for Jesus—He gave his life for it.

 

When Jesus walked this earth He vehemently condemned the religion without relationship he found amongst the Jews. At every opportunity He openly opposed the empty faith of the Pharisees.  The Pharisees who were the professional religionists of the time were not in the least bit concerned with “How can I seek to know God?” They had long before degenerated to an obsession with “How can I look good for God?” They were preoccupied with image, reputation and prideful practice and Jesus had little patience for their self-focused religion. It is not surprising that God Incarnate could not tolerate their brand of “man-centered worship.” With righteous indignation Jesus took on the Pharisees again and again.  And at every encounter with “all authority” He turned the tables on them. His teachings redefined God the Father and true religion and it upset their status quo.

 

The early church was also infiltrated by “man centered religion.” In the third chapter of Revelation, Jesus rebukes the church of the Laodiceans for their self-focused ways, “…you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.  He chastised them in the strongest terms to repent and refocus their lives.  In the end, His prescription for this ailing church was short and sweet—make contact with your God again.  Get your focus off yourself and connect with Me.  He unashamedly held out the invitation to relationship… Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

 

As believers we all have the option of distancing ourselves from the God who loves us. It is within our power to rudely keep Jesus on the other side of the door of our heart knocking while we are otherwise occupied.  Many Christians today have become “Neo-Pharisees,” a breed who flock to church to put on a good show.  They dutifully practice the external intellectual elements of bible study, go through the motions of worship and make eloquent prayers.  But just like the Pharisees it is all to be seen by men.  On the inside they are making little real relational contact with the transforming power of the “Living God” and as a result they are actually starving, miserable, and perishing souls. 

 

Why do people who once said “yes” to Jesus, do such things?  Because down deep they want a God of their own making, a God who obeys them, making them look and feel good at all times.  They want a God who gives precedence to their priorities.  The problem is Jesus doesn’t work that way. When Jesus comes into a heart to intimately dine with its owner He requires a few things.  Unfortunately, in the eyes of many wanna-be disciples the requirements he deems necessary are so inconvenient.  Dying to self, dealing with sin, changing attitudes and behaviors and receiving God’s directions for your life can at times be “not fun.”  Uninformed Christians do not always like the initial aftermath that making contact with God brings.  So they pull back, shut the door, and let Jesus keep on knocking.  They are unwilling disciples.  They are followers who have not counted the cost that a vital relationship with the Creator of the Universe rings up.           

 

The problem is many are also guilty of not measuring the benefits that making contact with Jesus can bring.  Jesus promises to come into your soul and dine with you.  He wants to share a feast and He’s bringing the provisions. Come and dine, come and drink, come and rest—are all very familiar invitations that our Savior issues.  He wants to satisfy the true deep needs of our souls.  He is not concerned with the “bling” or the status of this world.  As our maker he wants to meet our real needs and come to us in ways that truly satiate the hunger and thirst of our inner being.  All the great saints of the Bible were accomplished at making contact with God.  Moses, David, Daniel, Paul, Mary of Bethany and John to name a few majored in friendship with God.  They recognized the benefits relating on a regular basis with the God of the Universe could bring.

 

If you’re going to be a Christian making contact with God is not optional. It is mandatory.  Don’t call yourself a Christian unless you are willing to open the door of your heart to Jesus on a regular basis.  Don’t call yourself a Christian unless you are ready to deal with the internal issues, the issues of the heart that Jesus deems important.  Realize that He wants to make contact with you and that if you let Him in He will bring His life transforming power to meet the deep needs of your soul.  Realize that by His power He is willing to change you from the inside out.  God has the power to affect your life beyond all your expectations and in ways you could not even dream of. 

 

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man

 The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”  1Cor. 2:9

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Please feel free to share any effective tools that you have utilized to help you stay in contact and build relationship with the Lord? How do you remain true to your commitment to make Him number one in your life?

Do you know Christians who are all about religion and yet seem unaware of relationship and intimacy with God?  How does the “pharisee” routine look in 21st century churches.  Share your experiences and please feel free to vent!  

 

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President’s Day: Celebrating the Legacy of Two Outstanding Christian Leaders

Abraham Lincoln and George Washington are the presidents whose birthdays we celebrate annually on President’s Day. Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809 and Washington was born on February 22, 1732.  

This year, February 16th, is the date set aside to commemorate the great contributions of these outstanding leaders of our country.

Time has not tarnished nor years decayed the reputations of this duo who represent the finest of U.S. statesmen. 

In fact, CNN annouced this weekend the results of a recent survey constructed and given by C-SPAN that reported that Lincoln and Washington still rank first and second at the top of presidential ratings among historians.  CNN reported “It’s been 145 years since Abraham Lincoln appeared on a ballot, but admiration for the man who saved the union and sparked the end of slavery is as strong as ever.”

Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley, who helped organize the survey of 65 historians for the cable television network stated, “As much as is possible, we created a poll that was non-partisan, judicious and fair-minded”  And he added, “It’s fitting that for the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln that he remains at the top of these presidential rankings. Lincoln continues to rank at the top in all categories because he is perceived to embody the nation’s avowed core values: integrity, moderation, persistence in the pursuit of honorable goals, respect for human rights, compassion”

In the ranking by historians of the 42 former White House occupants Abraham Lincoln finished in first place.  Founding father George Waxhington finished second, followed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, and Harry Truman, in that order.

In my opinion it is no coincidence that both Lincoln and Washington were also devout Christian men.  Lincoln in his second inaugural address communicated the following paragraphs which I believe are particularly fitting considering the context of the challenges that our nation faces today.  Lincoln spoke candidly from a clearly Christian mind mind set and called for a repentance amongst his fellow country men.  We still need that repentance today, let’s reflect on the truth Lincoln penned so long ago.

“It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, and to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in Holy Scripture, and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

And, insomuch as we know that by His divine law nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisement in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which has preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.

Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended power, to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.” [March 30, 1863]

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2Chronicles 7:14

Do you have any comments, prayers or opinions as you contemplate President’s Day please share them with us!

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A Lesson from Lucy–What not to do on Valentine’s Day!

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A Valentine’s Day Mystery

This week on February 14th Americans across this nation will celebrate the holiday known as Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is the annual holiday honoring love and romance and as you probably know it is celebrated by the custom of sending greeting cards or gifts to express affection. The cards, known as valentines have become big business in the U.S.  According to the National Greeting Card Association, 25% of all greeting cards sent this year will be valentines and that will amount to over a billion dollars in profits.

What you may not know is the history behind the holiday, the background of the saint for whom the holiday is named or the origin of the custom of the cards themselves. So for you who enjoy a little history as I do, I did some research, compiled the facts and I invite you to please read on.

The historic roots of Valentine’s Day are found in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration that was enjoyed annually by the ancients on February 15th .  In 496 A.D., Pope Gelasius I recast this pagan festival as a Christian feast day by declaring it Saint Valentine’s Day.  It had become customary as Christianity came to dominance in Europe that pagan holidays were recast and changed to reflect Christian values.  Celebrations such as Lupercalia were frequently renamed for early Christian martyrs and the festivals became feast days instead. It was in accordance with this tradition that the Pope renamed Lupercalia for Saint Valentine. These are the clear facts about the holiday.

But who is this mysterious saint and why has the honoring of love and romance become synonymous with his name? That is where the topic becomes interesting because the history of Valentine’s Day and its patron saint is surrounded by obscurity.

The reason that the holiday’s history is so unclear is because there were at least three Catholic Christian Saints in the early history of the Christian church by the name of Saint Valentine. Exactly which Saint Valentine this early pope intended to honor has been lost in history and remains a mystery.  According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, concerning the history of the three Saint Valentines: one was a priest in Rome, another a bishop in Terni and the third was a virtual unknown except for the fact that he met his end in Africa. The astonishingly fact however, is that all three Valentines were chronicled as to having been martyred on February 14.

Most scholars believe that the “real” St. Valentine whose name the holiday bears was the priest in Rome. It is thought that the priest attracted the disfavor of Roman emperor Claudius II around 270 and that is where his fame and his trouble began.  Credence is given to this Saint Valentine being the one Gelasius honored because of the amount of myth and legend surrounding his name.  The Legenda Aurea, a collection of stories recounting the lives of the saints, which was compiled around the year 1260 and was a medieval best seller, contained several entries about the Saint Valentine of Claudius II’s reign.

Wikipedia states,

“According to the Legenda Aurea, St Valentine was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by Roman EmperorClaudius II in person. Claudius was impressed by Valentine and had a discussion with him, attempting to get him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Because of this, he was executed. Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of his jailer.

The same Legenda Aurea, also portrays Valentine as a priest who refused an unattested law attributed to Claudius II, allegedly ordering that young men remain single. The Emperor supposedly did this to grow his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers. The priest Valentine, however, secretly performed marriage ceremonies for young men. When Claudius found out about this, he had Valentine arrested and thrown in jail. On the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he wrote the first “valentine” himself, addressed to a young girl variously identified as his belovedthe jailer’s daughter whom he had befriended and healed. It was a note that read “From your Valentine.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentines_Day

On February 14, 270 AD, Valentine was executed and that is a documented fact. While the legends may be embellishedthe combinations of these stories—represent the most plausible explanations of how Valentine became a Patron Saint, and spiritual overseer of an annual celebration of love. Early in the history of the Saint Valentine Feast Day it became linked with a custom which involved young Romans offering women they admired, and wished to court, handwritten greetings of affection on February 14.  This is presumably how the greeting cards acquired Saint Valentine’s name and by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.

The custom of the Valentine’s Day card spread with Christianity, and the holiday is now celebrated all over the world. One of the earliest cards that museums have on display was sent in 1415 AD by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was a prisoner in the Tower of London. The card is now show cased in the British Museum.

Whoever Valentine actually was and whatever the circumstances of his death actually were may have become a mystery cloaked in myth and legend, but one thing we know for sure is that he was an actual person who was martyred for his faith.  His existence cannot be denied because archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to him.

In 1836, relics that were exhumed from the catacombs on the Via Tiburtina, then near (rather than inside) Rome were identified with Saint Valentine and placed in a casket. These remains were transported to the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland where they reside today.  Many tourists visit the remains on Saint Valentine’s Day, when the casket is still carried in solemn procession to the high altar for a special Mass dedicated to young people and all those in love.

Catholic or non-Catholic it does not change the facts about the origins of Valentine’s Day. Do you have any opinions or comments about the great Valentine’s Day Mystery?  Please feel free to contribute.

As for me, I like to focus on the fact that it doesn’t really matter which of the three early churchmen was the real Saint Valentine, they were all martyrs for the Christian faith and that makes all three of them worthy candidates for the respect and honor of fellow Christians.  It is just too bad (IMHO) that the meaning of the holiday could not have remained focused on, or even become inclusive of; honoring love for God, which is the one thing we know with a certainty that all three Saint Valentines had in common. I guess the bottom line is–what can we expect in a society that has worked over time to even eliminate God from Christmas and Resurrection Day celebrations–it is the way of the world.

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