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The 3rd Gift of Christmas in New Guinea, Indonesia, 1964

Peace Child by Don Richardson tells the story of Christian missionaries Don and Carol Richardson and their attempts in the early 1960′s to bring the gospel of Jesus to the Sawi people, headhunting cannibals of New Guinea. Fro the Sawi, treachery was an ideal, and the only way to make peace between enemy tribes was to give the sacrifice of a “peace child” to ensure the treaty between warring groups.

“You want Hurip to die?” I asked.
“Yes!” Amio hissed.
Anxiously I rose and faced Amio, “Why?”

Amio’s voice choked with emotion as he replied: “Remember I told you my father Hato once gave a tarop child to the Kayagar, only to learn later that they had killed the baby and devoured it?”
I nodded, and Amio continued, “The man lying in this canoe is the man to whom my father gave that child! He is the same man who killed and devoured my little brother! Tuan, I’ve been waiting for years for a chance to . . .”
Now I was trembling, too. The Christmas spirit was not coming easily to the banks of the Kronkel that day. . . . was I really being realistic in hoping they would forgive their enemies for Christ’s sake?
For a moment I stood speechless before Amio, praying for wisdom. Then an old memory stirred in the bad of my mind. Reaching out with both hands, I gripped Amio by his earlobes. He was stat led, but he did not draw away. He listened carefully while I said: “Tarop Tim titindadeden! I plead the Peace Child!”
Amio shot back, “The peace child my father gave to Hurip is dead! Hurip himself killed him!”
“But the Peace Child God gave still lives! I countered. And because He lives, you may not take vengeance against Hurip. Forgive him, Amio, for Jesus’ sake!”
My fingers still gripped his earlobes.

Today’s Gifts from Semicolon
A song: Moon River, music by Henry Mancini. OK, it’s not a Christmas song, but it’s vintage Andy Williams. Enjoy.

A booklist: Barbara H and 31 Days of Missionary Stories.

A birthday: Andy Williams, b.1930. We always used to watch Andy Williams’ Christmas special on TV, back in the day.
Joseph Conrad, b.1857.

A verse:
Moon River by Johnny Mercer.

Moon River, wider than a mile,
I’m crossing you in style some day.
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker,
wherever you’re going I’m going your way.

Two drifters off to see the world.
There’s such a lot of world to see.
We’re after the same rainbow’s end–
waiting ’round the bend,
my huckleberry friend,
Moon River and me.

A Christmas idea: Redeeming Christmas, Kindness-Bombing by Juanita at Once Upon a Prairie.

Thanksgiving

'Thanksgiving Postcards 1' photo (c) 2010, Minnesota Historical Society - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/“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.” ~Abraham Lincoln, Proclamation of a National Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer, March 30, 1863

Some hae meat and canna eat, -
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.
~Robert Burns

“For, after all, put it as we may to ourselves, we are all of us from birth to death guests at a table which we did not spread. The sun, the earth, love, friends, our very breath are parts of the banquet…. Shall we think of the day as a chance to come nearer to our Host, and to find out something of Him who has fed us so long?” ~Rebecca Harding Davis

“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.” ~Henry David Thoreau

Psalm 150

Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.

Unexpected Gifts: Discovering the Way of Community by Christopher L. Heuertz

This book was an unexpected gift. I was in the mood for something nonfiction, inspirational, and thought-provoking. And Mr. Heuertz delivered.

I know nothing at all about Word Made Flesh community, the community that Mr. Heuertz lived in and among and from which he takes his examples in the book. I know nothing of the jargon that Mr. Heuertz uses in his book: “contemplative activism”, “transitional awakening” and “prophetic community”. I am skeptical about the pantheon of heroes of whom the author has pictures pinned up in his office: Gandhi, Romero (who?), Che (?), Mother Teresa and Bob Marley(?). I got lost in the “progressive” new monasticism that Mr. Heuertz espouses and the sometimes dense, esoteric language he uses to describe his insights into community. I don’t think the author and I are on the same page, theologically speaking.

And yet . . . Mr. Heuertz has deep experiential understanding and wisdom about how Christians can and should live in community. I found a lot to think about and mull over, especially in relation to my church family, my immediate family and my homeschool co-op family, all of which make up the community where God has placed me. The chapters in the book talk about eleven “unexpected gifts” of living in community: failure, doubt, insulation, isolation, transition, the unknown self, betrayal, incompatibility, ingratitude, grief, and restlessness. All of these would seem to be issues and problems rather than gifts, but as we allow God to redeem our failures, doubts, griefs, and restlessness, we can receive these things as gifts to spur us on to greater growth and deeper relationship with Him and with others.

Failure: ” . . . let restoration become a journey toward brokenness. For in brokenness, our woundedness is best addressed, our fears are calmed, our shame is lifted, and love is extended.”

Doubt: ” . . . very real times of doubt lead both of us to places of lament—the grieving of the things that are fundamentally broken in the world—even as we simultaneously hope for more of God’s justice, presence and nearness. . . . in our community, when one of us has been down or experiencing doubt, we have found that the faith of those around us helps carry us.”

Insulation: “Our communities won’t always be able to offer us everything we need, nor will we be able to give back all that they need from us. . . That’s often when we need to step back, to refocus.”

Isolation: “The exclusion of the weak and insignificant, the seemingly useless people, from a Christian community, may actually mean the exclusion of Christ.” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Transition (or change): “Avoiding blame, not picking sides, speaking honorably of the communities we leave or the people who transition from our communities are all parts of a bigger process–one that must also include space for grieving and room for celebrating.”

The Unknown Self: I must admit that this chapter about self-image and identity didn’t speak to me, and I didn’t understand what the author was trying to say. Self-discovery is found in self-denial which allows us to be free and whole people? Or something.

Betrayal A powerful meditation on betrayal and forgiveness. “Our response to betrayal can be a powerful force, setting our life trajectories toward grace or bitterness.”

Incompatibility: Subtitled “When Together Is Too Close,” this chapter explores the difficulties and blessings of incompatibility or the flip-side of too much “chemistry” between people who need to maintain some emotional and physical distance (members of the opposite sex, for instance). I’m not sure I agreed with Mr. Heuertz in his simplistic solution, that we all just act like mature people and get along but not misbehave. I think it is more complicated than that and that there is a place for drawing “artificial” boundaries, such as two people of the opposite sex not being alone together or avoiding intimate communication with people who are immature or abrasive. Heuertz seems to sy that we should just exercise common sense and grow up.

Ingratitude: More powerful stuff. “Many of us hadn’t considered the ways in which ingratitude had created subtle distances among us–forgetting to say thank you when someone stayed late, pitched in, or helped complete a big project, or merely thanking each other for common courtesies such as opening a door. Sometimes not saying thank you when a meal tab was covered by a community member or failing to express gratitude for well-prepared meetings caused some of us to judge each other as entitled or ungrateful.”

Grief: “Grief must be accepted. We can’t control it; we have to experience the depths of grief. In a contemplative posture, we are able to receive the pain as a gift filled with healing and lament.”

Restlessness: I think I liked this chapter best of all because it spoke to my temptation to devalue and become tired of the daily-ness of my life and my calling as a mother. “Most of real life consists of living in the ordinary, in-between times, the space and pauses filled with monotony. Most of real life is undramatic. The challenge is to be faithful and consistent, ‘praying the work’ when no one is looking or when there’s no recognition of our contributions.”

“Becoming the best versions of ourselves often requires that we stay. Stay when things get hard. Stay when we get bored. Stay when we experience periods of unhappiness. Stay when the excitement wears off.Stay when we don’t like those we’re in community with. Stay when we fail or are betrayed. Stay when we know who we can become if we have courage to be faithful in the undramatic.”

Unexpected Gifts was sent to me free of charge by the publisher, Howard Books, for the purpose of review. I am grateful to them and to the author for the opportunity to review and reflect on the ideas that Mr. Heuertz presents in this testimony of difficulties transformed into gifts.

The Rest of the Story: Eric Liddell

The late Paul Harvey had a feature on the radio called “The Rest of the Story” in which he would tell familiar stories of well-known people and events or commonplace tales of ordinary people–and then tell “the rest of the story”, the part that not many people know or the part that gives the true story an ironic twist. I’ve been reading a lot of unusual stories myself lately, and I decided to share a few of them with you here at Semicolon.

Olympic gold medalist Eric Liddell is featured in the movie Chariots of Fire. If you’ve never seen the movie, I highly recommend it. In this video of his medal-winning race, Eric Liddell is in the outside lane:

In the movie and real life, Eric Liddell refused to run in a qualifying heat scheduled on Sunday because he believed in keeping the Sabbath holy. He had to withdraw from the 100 meter race, his best event. Liddell began to train for the 400 meter race instead, and he ran the race in the Olympics and won. Eric Liddell broke the existing Olympic and world records in the 400 meter race with a time of 47.6 seconds. After the Olympics and his graduation from Edinburgh University, Liddell continued to run in track and field events, but he always refused to compete on Sunday, citing his desire to please God above all else.

In 1925, Eric Liddell returned to China where he had been born and where his parents were missionaries. He served as a missionary there until 1941 when he was captured and interned by the Japanese who were invading China during World War II. It was there in the internment camp that “the rest of the story” of Eric Liddell’s allegiance to God’s principles above all else took place.

Joni and Ken by Ken and Joni Eareckson Tada

Even the title and cover picture says it: there are issues related to being married to a famous Christian author, artist, speaker and quadriplegic who heads a world-wide ministry to disabled persons. Whose name (and ministry) comes first? Ken Tada knew about some of the difficulties when he married Joni, but the “daily-ness” of Joni’s physical needs plus the annoyance of always living life in Joni’s shadow was enough to wear down Ken’s dedication to Joni and to their life together and transform their marriage into a series of tasks that had to be done instead of a joyful journey.

In case you don’t know, Joni Eareckson Tada is the founder and CEO of Joni and Friends, an organization that provides practical support and spiritual help to special needs families worldwide, and equips thousands of churches in developing disability ministry. Joni is the author of numerous best-selling books, including When God Weeps, The God I Love, Heaven: Your Real Home, Joni, and A Step Further. Ken Tada recently retired from thirty-two years of teaching school. He and Joni have been married for over 30 years.

Joni and Ken is a great “anatomy of a marriage” kind of memoir that probes deep into what it means to love someone consistently, daily, and sacrificially. Ken knew what he was getting into when he married Joni. She was already a bestselling author and a quadriplegic when the two of them met, began dating, and eventually married, believing that they could serve God together better than apart. Ken knew, in a sense that he would have to take care of Joni physically for the rest of their lives, that there would be difficulties in their marriage that able-bodied spouses can only imagine. He knew, but mostly on an intellectual level. He didn’t know how exhausting the quotidian tasks of caring for Joni, supporting her emotionally, and following behind her in her calling would become. After many years, Ken seems to have done what many spouses who are in difficult marriages do, both men and women: he checked out emotionally. He And in response to his distancing himself from her, Joni began to pull back, too. It happens in many (most?) relationships, even those with far fewer challenges than Joni’s and Ken’s marriage.

This book would be a good read for someone who is caregiver for a disabled spouse or parent or child. The narrative could have been improved with a more chronological organization of the story and with more information from Ken’s point of view about the couple’s struggles. However, the lack of particulars about how Ken was feeling and what he was thinking may come from a difference in the personalities of the two people involved. I get the idea that Ken tends to keep his thoughts and feelings more hidden and unspoken whereas Joni comes across as the more emotive and dramatic of the pair.

Marriage is an endlessly fascinating subject. How do two people get married and stay married? What makes a good marriage? Do all marriages go through seasons of aridity and apathy? How does a married couple go about renewing their passion and love for one another? Where does the ardor for a lifetime of mutual submission and servanthood and love come from?

The answer to that last question: the Holy Spirit himself who is the Maker and Sustainer of any marriage, even, I believe, non Christian marriages. But no one ever said it was going to be easy. Worthwhile, yes, but not easy.

The Hidden Art of Homemaking, ch. 4, Painting, Sketching, Sculpturing

I have zero, zip, nada, no talent or ability in the areas of painting, sketching, sculpturing or creating visual artwork in any form. Nevertheless, I love this chapter of Hidden Art.

“Ideas carried out stimulate more ideas.” So true. My most recent obsession, other than watching K-dramas, is opening a small library for homeschoolers in my area who could use the books and curricula that I have collected over the years, much of which my own children have outgrown. I have a LOT of books and curriculum materials. I would like to gather these resources into one room in my house, and allow homeschool families to pay a small yearly fee to become “members” of my library. (This idea has almost nothing to do with the chapter we’re reading, but everything to do with where God is leading me in the area of hidden art. My giftedness, such as it is, has to do with reading and recommending “living books” and other educational resources.) Anyway, my idea of opening a full-fledged library is thwarted right now by the season my family is in and by the logistics of devoting an entire room to the purpose of a library. Still, I need to figure out a way to start small, and to carry out my idea in some limited way until I can get to the complete vision of a private homeschoolers’ library.

“A sermon can be ‘illustrated’ and thereby ‘translated’ at the same time, to a child sitting beside you, provided the child has any interest at all in understanding.” I used to do this , despite my lack of artistic ability, with my older children when they were preschoolers. I also sometimes had them draw a picture of what the pastor was talking about in his sermon. In fact, as they got older I had a page long form for their “sermon notes” that had a space for the date, the pastor’s name, the Biblical text, a sentence or two about the sermon, and a picture illustrating the sermon. Sometimes on the back of the sheet I drew stick figures, or Engineer Husband drew more detailed illustrations, helping the children to understand the sermon.

How the Semicolon family is expressing “hidden art” this week:
Engineer Husband is designing the program for the upcoming production of Singin’ in the Rain that two of the urchins are starring in. One of my adult children, Dancer Daughter (23) has done much of the choreography for the production.

Karate Kid (16) is in the living room playing the guitar for his sisters to sing along, as they record a a birthday gift song for a friend whose birthday is tomorrow. They’re singing this song by the group He Is We.

Betsy Bee (14) has been decorating and straightening up her bedroom, ironing the pillow cases (?!) and generally making her space beautiful.

My 80 year old mom, who lives in an apartment behind our house, makes beautifully designed cards for birthdays and anniversaries, using her computer and the artwork that she finds or purchases on the internet.

I continue to write my little blog and to try to figure out how to start a library without a designated space.

I’m looking forward to reading the posts that others write about how they incorporate the visual arts into their lives and homes.

Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield.

“In the pages that follow, I share what happened in my private world through what Christians politely call conversion. This word–conversion–is simply too tame and too refined to capture the train wreck that I experienced incoming face-to-face with the living God.”

This conversion story, written by former lesbian professor Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, contains wisdom on a lot of different subjects. Here are a few quotes that illuminate some things that God taught Mrs. Butterfield.

Fear-based parenting:
“I believe that there is no greater enemy to vital life-breathing faith than insisting on cultural sameness. When fear rules your theology, God is nowhere to be found in your paradigm, no matter how many Bible verses you tack on to it. . . . We in the church tend to be more fearful of the (perceived) sin in the world than of the sin in our own heart. Why is that?”

Sermons:
“I came to believe that my job was not to critique and ‘receive’ a sermon, but to dig into it, to seize its power, to participate with its message, and to steal its fruit.”

Conversion:
“I didn’t choose Christ. Nobody chooses Christ. Christ chooses you or you’re dead. After Christ chooses you, you respond because you must. Period. It’s not a pretty story.”

Betrayal:
“Betrayal deepens our love for Jesus (who will never betray us). Betrayal deepens our knowledge of Jesus and his sacrifice, obedience, and love.(Jesus was betrayed by his chosen disciples and by all who call upon him asSavior and Lord by our sin). Finally, betrayal deepens our Christian vision: The Cross is a rugged place, not a place for the squeamish or self-righteous.”

Church community:
“I think that churches would be places of greater intimacy and growth in Christ if people stopped lying about what we need, what we fear, where we fail, and how we sin. I think that many of us have a hard time believing the God we believe in, when the going gets tough. And I suspect that instead of seeking counsel and direction from those stronger in the Lord, we retreat into our isolation and shame and let the sin wash over us, defeating us again. Or maybe we muscle through on our pride.”

Sexual sin:
“Sexual sin is not recreational sex gone overboard. Sexual sin is predatory. It won’t be ‘healed’ by redeeming the context or the genders. Sexual sin must simply be killed. What is left of your sexuality after this annihilation is up to God. . . . Christians act as though marriage redeems sin. Marriage does not redeem sin. Only Jesus himself can do that.”

Adoption:
“Because we are Christ’s, we know that children are not grafted into a family to resolve our fertility problems or to boost our egos or to complete our family pictures or because we match color or race or nation-status. We know, because we are Christ’s, that adoption is a miracle. In a spiritual sense, it is the miracle at the center of the Christian life. We who are adopted by God are those given a new heart, a ‘rebirth.’”

I have been thinking a lot lately about the recent controversy over “missionary adoption” and the idea that adoptive parents must have the “right motives” before they adopt. While I understand the cautions and caveats that Ms. Headmistress of the Common Room and Ms. Butterfield both repeat and the issues involved with foreign adoptions in particular, I hate to see us as a culture discouraging adoption and the ministry of orphan care.

I believe Ms. Butterfield and the Headmistress when they say that adults who adopt out of selfishness tend to reap trouble and disappointment, just as those who have selfish motives when they give birth to children tend to have parenting and family issues. However, our motives in anything we do are difficult to discern and usually mixed at best. Why did I give birth to eight children? Because I enjoy having children and parenting them and homeschooling them (most of the time). Because I believe children are a gift from the Lord. Because it makes me happy to see my children serving the Lord and glorifying Him. Are these selfish motives or unselfish? Am I less likely to deal well with the disappointments of having some children who are not serving the Lord right now because I expected them to all follow Him? Do I love them less (or should I not have had them in the first place, God forbid) when they are not making me happy? These are all good questions to ask yourself in regard to your children, whether they’re adopted or not. The answers can give Christian parents insight into the growth that the Holy Spirit wants to bring about in their lives so that they can better serve Him as parents.

Being a parent is complicated, whether you birth the children or adopt them. Adoption has its own joys and pitfalls. Yes, I am going off on a tangent here. Rosaria Butterfield has written a great story with insight about homosexuality, Christian conversion, the gospel, and adoption. I recommend the book—and I recommend having children, too, however you go about it.

The Hidden Art of Homemaking, ch. 3, Music

I know a lot of musically talented people. My church is full of musical talent, and our worship leader and pianist, Hannah, encourages many people to express their musical abilities in worship and in other venues as well. It seems to me that people within the church can find many avenues for the expression of musical art without much difficulty and usually with much encouragement from others within their particular church body.

I often wonder what non-Christians who are musically gifted or people who just enjoy singing or playing an instrument do to express themselves in this way. I’m not particularly gifted in music, but I love to sing. What would I do without the opportunity to sing every Sunday in a lovely congregational choir full of people of all ages singing together? And then there’s the singing and piano playing that goes on around my house every day. Oh, I would miss so much “art” in life if I were not a Christian. With whom do non-Christians sing?

Of course, the book also talks about introducing your children to good music: classical music and hymns. I feel I used to do this with my now-grown children, but I’ve lost the habit. Now, my older children and my teens are interested in a very eclectic mix of music, everything from Les Miz to Celtic Thunder to Switchfoot to show tunes. They sing the songs of these artists and listen to them. They don’t listen to much classical music because they prefer lyrical music, as do I.

My oldest daughter is a singer with a beautiful voice, and she recently became confirmed as a Catholic. I have several questions about and issues with that decision, but one of the minor things I’ve wondered about is whether or not she’ll have an opportunity to sing, either with a congregation or a choir or as a soloist, giving the gift of her musical ability to others and in worship to God. I don’t feel as if Catholics do much singing (corporately, in worship), but you can correct me if I’m wrong about that. Anyway, I liked the ending sentences of this chapter on music as hidden art because it applies to all of us, Catholic or Protestant, musically gifted or just average, together or alone:

“For Christians, there is no need for alcohol to release our inhibitions in music-making. The reality of the Holy Spirit should free us to joyous expression in the form of melody and song. This is what is meant to be now, and what will continue in eternity. Creative creatures on a finite level, made in the image of the Creative God.”

I like the way each of reads the same chapter on music, and rather creatively, we all go off in different directions in our thoughts about the subject. Check out the linky at Ordo Amoris.

The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer, ch. 2, What Is Hidden Art?

Because I have read about Edith and Francis Schaeffer’s son, Franky Schaeffer, and because I am old enough to know that there are no perfect Christian families, I can’t read Mrs. Schaeffer’s words in this book without thinking about the imperfections and cracks in her family—and in mine. As I write this post, I am listening to the sounds of a violent, not-very-beautiful video game that my teen son is playing in the living room with a friend. I can be unhappy about the disruption this game causes in my ideal “beautiful home environment”, or I can be thankful that my son is at home playing a game with a friend, that we have an opportunity to show hospitality to his friend, that my daughter was able to perform in a play this afternoon, that my other daughter was able to go to a ballet class, that those of us who are here will have a meal together, that my home is filled with books and art and music and laughter.

Of course, those things I list that I am thankful for also have elements that work against them, things that I am not always thankful for. I have to drive a lot, something which is abhorrent to my senses, to get the girls to their drama and dance classes and performances. We’re not all here as a family to share the meal this evening. In addition to the books and other good things that fill my home, I also have lots of junk and counter-artistic piles of stuff. Sometimes the yelling and the coarse joking (and the video games) drown out the music and the laughter.

Hidden Art encourages us to hold two truths in tension:

“A Christian, above all people, should live artistically, aesthetically, and creatively.”

“Without sin, man would have been perfectly creative, and we can only imagine what he would have produced without its hindrance. With sin, all of God’s creation has been spoiled to some degree, so that what we see is not in its perfect state.”

The perfect is the enemy of the good. If I wait until I can make a perfect home or even a perfect meal, there will be no one left in my home to enjoy it. Children and teens make messes and don’t cooperate with my “perfect” plans. Sometimes, even I don’t cooperate with my own plans for beauty and order and hidden art.

Nevertheless, as another wise Christian woman, reminded us, “Do the next thing.” And as Mrs. Schaeffer so aptly says, “‘If only . . .’ feelings can distort our personalities, and give us an obsession which can only lead to more and more dissatisfaction.”

Hidden Art preaches a lifestyle of doing small things to create an environment of artistry and creativity, no matter how imperfect and incomplete it is.

Go to Cindy’s blog, Ordo Amoris, to read what others have to say about chapter 2 of this inspiring book.