Saturday, May 30, 2015

Helping Unravel The Revelation Riddle

The name of the last book of the Bible, "The Apocalypse (Unveiling) of Jesus Christ", suggests a revealing of things in the realm of the unseen and unknown. But often we find the book less revelatory than just plain bewildering, if not a bit weird and scarey.

I've found the following background to be helpful:

Historical Context

The Revelation is believed to have been penned by the apostle John, who in his later life was stationed in Ephesus and served as overseer of seven churches in Asia Minor. It was written at around 95 A.D. from Patmos Island, a barren prison colony on the Aegean Sea where John was exiled for his faith.

The end of the first century was a time of great tribulation and stress for Christians. The emperor Domitian demanded that everyone pledge supreme allegiance to him as lord and god, and many who refused to do this faced martyrdom as a result. The letter was meant to encourage and strengthen believers who were going through persecution, and the use of a kind of code language may have been deliberate.

Type of Literature

The Revelation, unlike most of the Bible, is in the genre of apocalyptic literature (like parts of the books of Daniel and Ezekiel) and is thus far less familiar to us than it was to first century readers. With their familiarity with this kind of writing, they would have more readily sensed what these collages of word pictures and images might mean.

Here are some of the distinguishing characteristics of apocalyptic writing:

1. It represents a message to be written, and then read and spoken, rather than being a collection of prophetic or poetic messages that were first spoken orally, then written.

2. It contains visions of dramatic and cataclysmic scenes--of conflicts, judgments and suffering, of cosmic behind-the-scenes struggles between forces of good and evil, and of God's ultimate and final triumph.

3. It is highly visual and visceral, with repeated references to "I saw...". "I heard...", and to experiencing such things as incense, sulfur and smoke one can almost smell.

4. It employs a lot of symbolic code language and "political-cartoon-like" images

a. heavenly: 
living creatures, angels, radiant woman, elders, thrones, crowns, stars, lamp stands

b. demonic: 
serpent, dragon, false prophet, Babylon, the great harlot

c. political:
beasts, eagle, bear, lions, horses, Gog and Magog, Armageddon

d. numerical: 
• 3, 4--and especially 7--suggest wholeness, completeness, harmony, the number of God
• 6 and 666 (or 616) represent what is evil, false, deceptive and counter to God
• 12 seems to represent the people of God, under both covenants
• 3 1/2 years (42 months, 1260 days) suggests a half way point in time
• 1000 suggests a vast number, or a very long time
(so 144,000 could represent the full number of God's people, 12 x 12 x 1000)

5. Like other prophetic texts in the Bible it had immediate relevance to its contemporary readers, while also revealing patterns that are repeated and are being fulfilled today and in every age.

Here's a link to another post that shows just how relevant the Revelation is for today.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

JusticeWatch #2: Is This How We're Filling Our Jails?

What kind of person comes to your mind when you see this picture?

Now close your eyes and imagine this same man in ordinary attire at an ordinary social event. How does your impression change?

To my knowledge, this individual, in his late 50's, has never committed a crime that makes him a physical danger to the community. His hearing at the local Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court this Monday has to do with the fact that he owes $461.35 in very, very late child support payments. For this he has already served nine months of a year-long term. Yes, that's a twelve-month sentence.

He is not guiltless, of course. Fathers should pay all child support to the fullest extent possible, and in as timely a manner as possible. (Perhaps timely is the operative word here, in that the "child" in question is actually 32 years old!). But even without knowing anything about the circumstances of the case, I am altogether on the side of his paying up.

My concern is about judicial overkill at taxpayers expense. Couldn't the man have been made to go into some kind of mediation to work out a payment plan? Or couldn't we just garnish his wages, appropriate some of his property, or directly access his bank account? (The latter is what happens when people withhold some of their IRS payments, for example).

As it is, we taxpayers have to provide $26,000 worth of free annual room and board for someone who owes us less than $500. We also deprive him of any means of earning anything toward paying the $461.31, of course. Does this really make sense? Do we want our jails to become 18th century-style debtors prisons?

Sadly, civil contempt cases like the above are increasingly filling our local jail, along with multiple (and sometimes minor) probation and other so-called "technical violations". This means that large numbers of our neighbors are being held, not for committing new crimes, but for failure to properly fulfill the court's requirements for old ones. Probation can often become, as someone has said, a "very large sticky net".

Yet I totally agree that offenders should make every effort to comply with the terms of their sentences, and I know there are no easy answers here. But before we keep investing in more and more jail space, we local citizens, along with members of our Community Criminal Justice Board, should advocate for ways of better distinguishing between people who simply exasperate us and people who are a danger to us--and then respond proportionately.

Because when we simply keep locking up the same people over and over for the same things, and for ever longer periods of time, it may mean we are just running out of more creative and less costly alternatives.

And meanwhile it's costing us millions.

Here's a link to an earlier sad story on using jails as debtors prisons.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Child Abuse--An Incredible Darkness

I attended a conference some years ago on childhood sexual abuse where one of the presenters, a seminary graduate who should have known better, stated with a straight face that the Bible has little to say about the value of children--about respecting their rights or protecting them from abuse, or giving them much of a place in general.

I wanted to ask her what Bible she’d been reading, and whether she’d ever read the story of the infant Moses, protected in the marshes of the Nile, watched over by God and jealously guarded by his sister and parents in defiance of Pharoah’s order. Or how about the Christmas story, in which we’ve almost overemphasized the infant Jesus in comparison to the attention most give the rest of his life? And how about the absolutely clear cases of Jesus making statements like, “Don’t ever dare offend or harm or abuse any child, or you will be judged and condemned by God Himself, who has each one under constant watch by special angel guards?”

To Jesus, the most disempowered, the least of these, the most defenseless, are his first priority. “Let the children come to me, before anything and everyone else,” he says. “And if any of you put a stumbling block in the way of one of these little ones, it would be better for that person if a great millstone were hung around their neck and they were drowned in the depths of the sea.”

This is strong language indeed.

In my work as a counselor, I am often reminded of the long term effects of childhood trauma. In several studies I’m aware of on sexual abuse in communities of faith, the abusers were less likely to be either strangers or parents or grandparents of children or teens, but reveal a disturbing number of cases of younger adolescents being abused by older teens or by other trusted church or family friends.

But no matter who the perpetrators are, it’s hard to overstate the damage this kind of abuse can inflict on victims, who may tend to blame themselves, live with a sense of profound shame over their experience, and have increased issues with trust and with self esteem.

One middle age adult I worked with a number of years ago had extreme problems with displaced anger he frequently vented on everything and everyone around him, which he was later able to trace to his experience with an older man, a neighbor, who sexually abused him for years while he was of early elementary school age. For decades he had felt unable to tell anyone about what had happened.

It is also important to recognize that there are cases where parents and others have been falsely accused on the basis of so called “repressed memories”, so I have known victims on both sides of this issue. But my prayer is that we can create a climate in which children and teens, especially, are safe, and where any and all victims can feel free to share their abuse experiences with others who will stand by them and help them heal.

Here's a link to a good piece by a friend of mine on children and adolescents being sexually abused by other minors older than themselves.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Remembering Another Army Of Heroes

I felt a profound sense of sadness as I counted the names, 259 in all, on the front page of yesterday's Daily News-Record. They represent all of the young men from our area who were sacrificed in the prime of their life in our past five US wars, from 1914 to the present.

Some WWI objectors were tortured
The God who deeply loves the whole world must surely want people everywhere to courageously say No to this travesty. Certainly followers of non-violent Jesus should affirm that no matter what the cause, the cure should never include inflicting bloodshed and carnage on fellow human beings. Yet so-called Christians on all sides have continued to defend war and take part in it, and those who object have often suffered as a result.

On this Memorial Day, and near the 101st anniversary of the start of World War I, we should take time to remember the sacrifices of anti-war heroes who believed, like the Christians of the first century, that war was wrong and refused to take part in it.

WW I, which indirectly or directly spawned many of the wars that followed, is seen by many historians as one of the least defensible and most regrettable waste of life and resources of all time. I remember Barbara Tuchman's well researched book, The Guns Of August, having a huge impact on me when I read it over 50 years ago. How could human beings be so shortsighted, so blinded by their own nationalistic aims, as to engage in the kind of insanity that resulted in the deaths of more than 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians?

Looking back, it seems unimaginable, but at the time, US Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, who declared that the war was "the purest mission that a nation ever espoused," believed that those who failed to see it as a  sign of the "upward pattern of democratic civilization" must be mentally and morally defective.

There were no special provisions made for conscientious objectors in the US a hundred years ago, and many young Mennonite, Hutterite, Quaker and Church of the Brethren men were either sent to detention camps, federal prisons or forced to show up at boot camp against their convictions. When they refused to put on a uniform and drill with the rest of the recruits they had to endure unbelievable hardships.

According to James Juhnke's book, "Vision, Doctrine, War--Mennonite Identity and Organization in America, 1890-1930", many of those who followed their conscience against obeying military orders were "beaten with hoses and fists, scrubbed down with stiff brushes in cold showers, forced to stand at attention for hours in the hot sun, reduced to bread and water diets in guardhouses, threatened with various forms of execution, and mistreated in other ways."

Lloy Kniss, a native of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, who retired in this area, writes in his memoir I Couldn't Fight: The Story of a C.O. in World War I (Herald Press, 1971) about how he and others were physically assaulted and had their lives threatened repeatedly at the military camp where they were stationed.

I also recently read the dramatic story of the tragic deaths of Hutterite objectors Michael and Joseph Hofer in the July 2014 issue of the Plough. They had been hung by their wrists at Alcatraz with two other objectors and died soon afterwards at the Leavenworth federal prison in Kansas.

Here's another link for more information on World War I conscientious objectors.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Celebrating St. Juniper: A Facebook Share

Special thanks to Shane Claiborne for his recent fascinating Facebook post, as follows:

Brother Juniper is one of the Church's wildest and wackiest, and most marvelous saints. We remember him today in Common Prayer.

A companion of St. Francis of Assisi, Brother Juniper is often called "God's jester". There are all sorts of wild stories of his antics. He was notorious for constantly giving his possessions away, and living with a winsomeness that sometimes got him into trouble. At one point, he was ordered by a superior not to give away his outer garment to the beggars anymore. But it wasn’t long until he met someone in need who asked him for some clothing. He replied, “My superior has told me under obedience not to give my clothing to anyone. But if you pull it off my back, I certainly will not prevent you.”

Here's one more of my favorite lesser-known Juniper stories. On one occasion, Brother Juniper was left in charge of the cathedral by the caretaker. (Not sure what he was thinking.) Some beggars came to the door asking for food and money. Juniper had little to offer, but he mentioned that there were some silver bells in the cathedral they could have, since it was God’s house. So he helped them with that. When his superior, the bishop, got word of this, he scolded Brother Juniper. Legend has it he yelled so loudly that he lost his voice. Brother Juniper, feeling remorse for having angered him so badly, made some porridge that night to take to the bishop. He carefully carried it by the light of a candle to the bishop’s house. When his superior answered the door, he was irate, having been awakened from his slumber. He wanted nothing to do with Juniper’s gift. So Juniper, with the innocence of a child, asked the bishop if he would mind holding the candle so Juniper could eat the porridge before it got cold. At this point, the bishop was so taken aback, he fell apart with laughter at the absurdity of this simpleton. He held the candle, and they finished the porridge together.

At one point Francis is said to have joked about how he wished for a forest of Junipers.

There was also a great quote in morning prayer ( -- from John Chrysostom:

'Tell me then, how is it that you are rich? From whom did you receive it, and from whom did he transmit it to you? From his father and his grandfather. But can you, ascending through many generations, show the acquisition just? It cannot be. The root and origin of it must have been injustice. Why? Because God in the beginning did not make one person rich and another poor. He left the earth free to all alike. Why then if it is common, have you so many acres of land, while your neighbor has not a portion of it?'

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Local Believers "Wade In The Water"

Amos 5:24
Representatives of nearly two dozen congregations met at the Muhlenberg Activities Center last night to consider ways of "doing justice" together, along with faith-based practices of "loving mercy and walking humbly with God".

The meeting was led by a newly forming group called "Faith in Action", which is organizing a network of local congregations that would adopt one issue per year as a special focus for exercising the power of prayer and persuasion toward creating a more just community. The effort is modeled after similar networks in other localities, such as IMPACT Charlottesville, for example.

At the conclusion of last night's lively conversation, participants sang "Wade in the Water" as they brought written lists of concerns and dreams for their local community and placed them on a table, one made to represent the surface of a flowing river.

All of the concerns raised will be considered in future congregational and community meetings held to discern what issue or issues might receive priority.

The following were among the ones named:

Homelessness, affordable housing
Poverty, living wages
Criminal justice, alternatives to incarceration
Employment, more job training and job opportunities
Improved mental health and substance abuse treatment
More family-friendly visitation policies at our local jail
Racism, discrimination, welcoming diverse groups of newcomers

Here's a link to the Faith in Action website, with steps for congregations becoming charter members.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Inmate writes: "I don't know what else I can do"

Coffeewood Correctional Center, Culpeper County, VA
Nathaniel Painter, 73, a native of Winchester, Virginia, has been in the Virginia prison system for over 20 years. He has been infraction free for decades and is eligible for both parole (under the pre-1995 law) and for release under the Geriatric Release Statute.

This spring, Mr. Painter was turned down for release for the 13th time, in spite of the following:

• He met all of the requirements for his entire treatment plan in 1997 and has completed three additional programs and taken four vocational classes since being incarcerated.

• His institutional parole representative has met with the Parole Board three times on his behalf.

• The Winchester City Sheriff has met with the Board three times in support of his release.

• Multiple members of his family, his church family and his friends have met with the Board in his support, along with his former supervisors at his place of employment.

• He received nearly 50 Christmas cards in 2014 from people who would welcome his return to his community.

Meanwhile, The Department of Corrections has the benefit of having an older person of character who has a stabilizing influence in the facility, a valued worker they need to pay less than $1 an hour, and someone for whom the US Treasury doesn't need to pay any Social Security income.

His most recent computer-generated rejection letter, mechanically signed by the chair of the Parole Board, was like that of countless others, listing the following kinds of reasons which the inmate is powerless to do anything about: 

■ Release at this time would diminish the seriousness of the crime;

■ The board considers you a risk to the community;

■ Serious nature and circumstances of your offense[s];

■ The board concludes that you should serve more of your sentence prior to release on parole.

In this way, the Parole Board is addressing the issue of the original conviction, acting in both a judicial and legislative capacity, rather than actually judging the person's behavior since being incarcerated, which is their primary mandate.

If the purpose of the Department of Corrections is to "correct" rather than to simply punish, then inmates like Mr. Painter could be a poster child celebrating the DOC's success.

If you agree with the above concerns about parole, express them to your State Senator, State Delegate, and to the following:

Ms. Adrienne Bennett, chair
Virginia Parole Board
6900 Atmore Drive
Richmond, VA 23225
(804) 674-3081


The Honorable Terrence McAuliffe, Governor
Office of the Governor
Patrick Henry Building, Third Floor
1111 East Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219

The Honorable Brian Moran
Secretary of Public Safety
Patrick Henry Building, Third Floor
1111 East Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219

Here's a link to some more posts on parole reform.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Welcome To Faith in Action Spring Assembly!

Come help support the launch of a network of local congregations working and praying together to "Do justice, show mercy, and walk humbly together with God"

Muhlenberg Lutheran Community Building
281 East Market Street 

7 pm Tuesday May 19, 2015

6:50    Opening Drum Circle            Matt Carlson, Stan Maclin and friends

7:00    Welcome                    Stan Maclin
           This is a celebration of people of faith coming together to work for justice
7:10    Introductions w/Litany              Jennifer Davis Sensenig
Timeline for Typical Faith in Action Year

7:25    Hopes and Dreams Intro            Harvey Yoder       
Activity:  Writing our own hopes/dreams for Faith in Action and for City/County

7:40    Hopes and Dreams Sharing Circles

7:50    Music c/o Matt Carlson

8:00    Reporting from Hopes/Dreams Circles   
           With all these hopes and dreams in view, we pray:
May God bless you with discomfort
at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships,
so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger
at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people,
so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears
to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war,
so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and
to turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness
to believe that you can make a difference in the world,
so that you can do what others claim cannot be done
to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

8:15    Starter Kits.                    Evan Davis

Faith in Action vision
Role of congregational reps.
Listening Campaign May-August
 Next Steps

8:25    Sending Ritual                    Matt Carlson

Come, and bring other members of your congregation with you!

Here's a link to Faith in Action's website
and Facebook page.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Preventing Truth Decay

What’s wrong with the following statements you might hear parents or spouses make (beside their being rude and disrespectful)?

1.  “You are the worst slob in the world.  This room’s like a pig pen!”

2.  “You think you’re so perfect.  I’ve never met anyone so better-than-thou.”

3.  “Why do you have to be like this?  Don’t you ever think?  Won’t you ever learn?”

4.  “You’re always tripping over everything.  Why do you have to be so clumsy all the time?”

5.  “I get no respect whatsoever.  All I’m good for is to do everyone’s dirty work.”

The main problem with all of the above?  They’re just not true.

Take the first statement:  “...the worst slob in the world?”  Among the world’s seven billion people, can even your son/daughter/spouse really be that outstanding?  And “ a pig pen?”  Really?

Statement two assumes that the speaker, like God, knows exactly what someone else is thinking and feeling (amazing mind reading ability), and the “I’ve never met anyone so...” is an obvious exaggeration, a judgmental statement for which there is clearly no valid proof.

Number three is a series of barbs having nothing to do with what real questions are for--to ask for information.  In reality, they are poorly disguised put downs.

In number four, the use of “always”, “everything” and “all the time” represent generalizations that are almost always untrue, and only invite defensiveness on the part of the hearer.

And number five represents a self-pitying, self-put-down more likely intended to produce guilt  than to describe how the speaker really feels about him or herself.  And the phrases “no respect whatsoever,” “All I’m good for,”  and “everyone’s dirty work” are exaggerations and generalizations almost anyone can see through.

In short, there’s no substitute for just offering good, unembellished, information-giving truth.  That means simply describing a situation, and our own feelings about it, as accurately as we can, using good, plain “I-messages” instead of finger-pointing “You-messages”.

But wait, isn’t it the truth that hurts?

Not if offered in a spirit of care and respect.  What hurts are inaccurate distortions of the truth, statements that have little to do with letting someone know (information), but a lot to do with letting someone have it (accusation).

There’s a big difference. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Good Reason To Spend More Time In Bed?

 O God, my vindicator!
Answer me when I call!

When I was distressed, you set me free;
now have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.

Understand that Adonai sets apart
the godly person for himself;
Adonai will hear when I call to him. 

You can be angry, but do not sin!
Think about this as you lie in bed,
and calm down. (Selah)
from Psalm 4:1-4 (from the Complete Jewish Bible)

According to a lot of pop psychology the first and best thing to do when you're angry is to ventilate and get all your frustration out, yelling or breaking things if that helps you feel better.

Ancient Hebrew wisdom may point us in another direction. The above psalm, a part of our recent Bible study at church, suggests that a better way might be to take a time out and take to our bed. In other words, reflect on it and sleep on it. 

Then in the morning, if we still need more help to get over whatever is bothering us, we might consider other options. These could include expressing our feelings in some journaling (as the psalmist is doing here!), finding someone to confide in or to pray with, or going directly to work things out with a person with whom we have a problem (as taught by Jesus in Matthew 18:15-20).

But no need go off on someone, or to take it out on any of your china. First try going to bed and see if that won't help you cool off and calm down.

According to the last verse of this "Evening Psalm" (v.8), the psalmist sees this working well:  

I will lie down and sleep in peace;
for, Adonai, you alone make me live securely.

Here's another post on the psychology of  anger.

Friday, May 8, 2015

"Arise then ... women of this day!"

Julia Ward Howe, 1819-1910
Mother's Day as we know it was first celebrated May 9, 1905, at the St. Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, south of Morgantown.

Anna Marie Jarvis is the person most credited for promoting this special day, first held in memory of her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, who had for years had promoted "Mother's Friendship Day" in an effort to reunite families that had been divided during the Civil War.

However, some years before Julia Ward Howe, who had written "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" in 1861, initiated a series of annual Mothers' Day celebrations as an expression of the peace convictions she had developed after the American Civil War.

Here is the little known but powerful "Mothers' Day Proclamation" Howe issued in June of 1870:

Arise then ... women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.

As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace ...
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God—

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace. 

P.S. The above photo of Julia Ward Howe reminds me so much of my dear Amish mother, also a plucky woman to be reckoned with. I deeply miss her, and want to honor her every day of my life.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Thank God, Not All Power Corrupts

Sir John Dalberg-Acton (1824-1902)
"All power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

I've always endorsed this saying based on all the examples in history that seem to verify it. But is it universally true?

The original statement is found in a letter by The Right Honourable Lord John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, Catholic historian and member of Parliament, which he penned to Bishop Mendell Creighton in 1867, as follows:

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.”

This view of power blends well with our Mennonite emphases on virtues like "Demut" (humility) and "Gelassenheit" (yieldedness), along with whatever belief we may have that humans are essentially bad. But how might that overlook our need for having a healthy sense of personal and communal empowerment?

Power in its essence, is simply the wherewithal to accomplish things. Without it we would be as useless as a vehicle without an engine, an engine without fuel, or a light bulb without a power source. So having effective power is not only a good thing but an absolutely necessary thing.

I've found it helpful to identify three categories of power, as follows:

Harmful (Evil) Power (never acceptable):


Note: These are often things we often resort to in a state of desperation and weakness.

Human (Universal) Power (may be used in either acceptable or unacceptable ways):

Education and experience
Age or maturity
Wealth and possessions
Intelligence, knowledge
Status, titles, degrees, positions
Race, ethnicity or national origin
Physical stature and strength
Gender, marital status
Charisma, personality traits
Talents, skills and special abilities

Note: We all have plenty of assets and benefits with which we can accomplish great things--or we can use in self-serving ways (note the kinds of human power Lord Acton himself undoubtedly had!).

Holy (Godly) Power (always acceptable and appropriate)

Love, joy, peace, patience and other "fruit of the Spirit"
Christ-like influence and example
Prayer and intercession
Ministries of kindness and mercy
Acts of justice and liberation
Peacemaking and reconciling
Appealing and persuading
Being unselfishly hospitable and invitational

Note: We can all be transformed into having these "super-natural" expressions become a more natural and powerful part of our everyday lives.

Here are some favorite texts that celebrate having lots of good power:

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.... And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.  
Ephesians 3:16-20 (New Living Translation)

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 
Ephesians 1:19-20 (NLT)

Here's a link to an earlier post expressing my frustration at our tendency to see ourselves as powerless.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

FLRC Fundraiser Features Storytelling And A Special Tribute

Dr. Judy Mullet
Family Life Resource Center's annual banquet will feature EMU psychology professor Judy Mullet sharing "Stories of Relationship and Restoration" at 6 pm Saturday, May 16, at the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community's Hartman Dining Hall.

Mullet received her Ph.D. from Kent State University, and  was a school psychologist before coming to EMU. A member of the faculty since 1986, Dr. Mullet specializes in restorative discipline in schools, conducting workshops across the USA.

James R. Glanzer1949-2014
The evening will also highlight the memory of James R. Glanzer, LPC, a much loved counselor at the Family Life Resource Center who passed away December 29, 2014.

Call 540-434-8450 (by Thursday, May 7) or contact FLRC at

We look forward to seeing you. And invite your friends to join you!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Peacemakers

Here are some practices and attitudes of people who manage conflict in a creative and transforming way.

Habit One. They accept conflict as inevitable, but see combat as optional, as being a sign of fear and weakness rather than strength. 

Conflicts are seen as a normal part of all human relationships, experiences that can result in positive learning and growth. 

Habit Two. They celebrate differences as potentially helpful and useful.

The opinions of both change promoters and change resisters in families, congregations, work places and communities are heard, respected, and welcomed. 

Habit Three. They seek to equalize power in relationships, and to empower (rather than to dis-empower) others with whom they differ.

They realize that any perceived imbalances of power in relationships increases the likelihood of instability and hostility, and recognize that power and privilege are better used to help others gain a more equal sense of stature and influence rather than to try to gain dominance over them. 

Habit Four. They observe the rule: Listen first, discuss second, decide last.

They don’t come to a negotiating process with their minds already made up and intent only on arguing for their position, but begin by carefully and non-defensively listening to others' interests and concerns, and when it is their turn, respectfully expressing their own. They actively encourage as many ideas being brought to the table as possible. Then (as a separate part of the process) they work collaboratively to work out a win-win solution based on the best ideas they’ve been able to come up with. 

Habit Five. They show a high level of respect both for other people and for their opinions.

They remember to keep their respect for others high, their expectations of others medium or moderate, and their anxiety low. They recognize that anxiety is usually the emotion that contributes to escalating anger and defensiveness.

Habit Six. They seek to recognize and address underlying needs and interests in conflictual relationships.

Examples of such needs are:
      1. Need for recognition, acceptance, respect (the love need)
      2. Need for influence, power, a “say” in the relationship
      3. Need for getting even, for ventilating anger and frustration (especially if first two needs are seen as not being met)
      4. Need to withdraw, give up, retreat in hurt and helplessness (if  nothing seems to be working)
      5. Need for change, challenge, shakeup of status quo 

Habit Seven. They acknowledge and maximize their own faults rather than being highly focused on the wrongs of others.

They don’t ignore problems in a relationship, but pay primary attention to their own part in those problems, then respectfully work at reconciliation and negotiation with others. They also invest time and energy in the positive, “no-problem” area (with relationship problems temporarily set aside), in order to build up a reservoir of goodwill that helps facilitate good problem solving.