Grace Notes

August 25, 2018
by Lissa Eggleston
1 Comment

I was attending a committee meeting at church this week. We began by introducing ourselves. A pattern unfolded in the introductions that has stayed on my mind all week. I introduced myself as a church member who had been in the church since 1994. Another committee member smiled and said, “We have been in the church since 1987–we began coming when our children were born.” Another committee member said, “I shouldn’t take pride but I am proud that I was on the board that started this church.”

Does all that church attending have any meaning or add any value to this life?

A young man in the group described how he wrestled with the idea of  being a part of the church and whether it was necessary for a life of faith.

When examined from an earthly perspective, church participation can seem like just one of a thousand choices we make in life of how we spend our time. It may seem very unnecessary if you are looking for an earthly pay off. After all, what have I got to show for 24 years of church attendance?

James K.A. Smith has helped me ask this question from a God perspective.  His book helped me see what God has been up to over the years of my church attendance. Smith argues that we are essentially desiring creatures driven more by what our hearts truly love than thinking creatures driven by information, ideas or arguments.

So in the week in and week out repetition of worship, Smith sees God training our desires and reordering our love.

“Being a disciple is not primarily a matter of getting the right ideas and doctrines and beliefs into your head in order to guarantee proper behavior; rather, it’s a matter of being the kind of person that loves rightly.”

In The Worship Pastor, Zac Hicks writes that worship because it is full of “rituals of ultimate concerns“serves as a habit forming practice that aims our hearts toward the right end–Jesus and His Kingdom. It should not surprise us that God uses with our heart training the same method that we use for learning things on earth –repetition aimed at habit formation.

All of this made me grateful for every Sunday –some weeks dragging and some weeks delighting — that I have spent in church!

 

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August 26, 2017
by Lissa Eggleston
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I have listened to John MacArthur’s response to a question about what the Bible would say about Charlottesville 3 times. He gave a masterful biblical explanation of how desperately wicked the human heart is.

The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

 

While his explanation of why people would act as they did in Charlottesville was on target, his summary of the implications rang hollow.  Mr. MacArthur’s summary of the Charlottesville event was that it was just an opportunity for “angry, hostile, self willed, selfish people to explode.”  From his perspective, what was on display was a proud angry mob expressing itself. In fact he said of the entire event, “All I see in that is the justification of anger.”

I wonder if Mr. MacArthur was given the opportunity to think further about what the angry people were exploding about whether he would be so quick to say, “This is  not about race.”  

The PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) in 2004 defined it as follows: “Racism is an explicit or implicit belief or practice that qualitatively distinguishes or values one race over other races.”

The people who were there exploding with anger have given testimony about what their anger was directed toward and they seem to know very well it was all about race!

Mr Spencer is one of a number of white nationalist leaders who have given voice to a legion of angry white men who feel that their status in America is being eroded by multiculturalism, feminism, global trade and affirmative action.

“Our people are subjugated while an endless tide of incompatible foreigners floods this nation every year,” the group says on its website Vanguard America.

“If current trends continue, White Americans will be a minority in the nation they built.

“Our America is to be a nation exclusively for the White American peoples who out of the barren hills, empty plains, and vast mountains forged the most powerful nation to ever have existed.”

“We’re never backing down. The fact that you treated us this way, the fact that you treated American citizens who are peacefully assembling this way is an absolute outrage.

“I have never been so offended in all my life … You think you won? You looked like complete fools.

“And we’re going to make even more of a fool of you when we’re back here because we do not give up.

“Our movement is about our identity and our future and we’re not going to give up.”

It is crucial for Christians to understand that the heart of our problems resides in the evil hearts of mankind. However, that was and is not the only truth on display in Charlottesville and our society at large.  Please let more of our pastors and ministry leaders step forward and not minimize what was also on display in Charlottesville on August 12th — ugly, hostile, dehumanizing, treacherous, hateful racism.

We have this future to look forward to and to work toward!

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” Rev. 7:9

August 25, 2017
by Lissa Eggleston
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The First All Girls Brass Band in Africa!

A friend sent me this link to an all girls brass band in Mbale, Uganda. She knew my love of Uganda and how delighted I would be to see this beautiful land again even through YouTube. I am so proud of these young ladies! Mbale is about 152 miles northeast of where we lived near Kampala, Uganda. The director of this piece is a ten year old girl.

Here it is! The first all girls Brass Band in Africa!

It won’t come as a surprise to most of you to learn that girls are often discriminated against in Uganda. This is especially so in music. A girl asking to join a local brass band will often be met with a sneer and the usual comment of “girls are too weak to play a brass instrument – you go and play a side drum”.

In Mbale Schools Band we take the opposite view and encourage as many girls as possible to play an instrument. More than a third of our players are girls. So to all other Ugandan brass band leaders we say “look what you are missing out on”!

The march the girls are playing is called The Villager by Maurice Raynor.

August 24, 2017
by Lissa Eggleston
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This lighted pear with the church design was a gift from a friend. I loved seeing it this morning and thinking about the ways it teaches the role of the church in the world.  Our purpose as members is to get out of the four walls and shed light to others.

At a time when the numbers of religiously unaffiliated is growing rapidly, my sense is that I have been rescued from a shallow and frivolous life not just through affiliation but commitment to the church which is the Body of Christ.

 

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

1 Cor. 12:27

John Calvin would not endorse our casual thinking about what it means to be part of a church.

The church is the common mother of all the godly, which bears, nourishes, and brings up children to God, kings and peasants alike; and this is done by the ministry. Those who neglect or despise this order choose to be wiser than Christ. Woe to the pride of such men!”

A summer studying the letter of Ephesians with other women has renewed my love and commitment to the church that Christ loved and gave Himself for.


February 7, 2017
by Lissa Eggleston
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Hillbilly Hard Times

Pawpaw, Daddy, Doris, Granny (man with hat unknown)

I talked to Daddy’s sister recently and she said, “Lissa, we weren’t put here for a good time. We’ve been through hard times.”  I waited quietly as she walked her way back through 80+ years of life experience to recall her stories of hillbilly hard times. My father was born June 13, 1929 the year that the Great Depression began. Doris, his sister, was born in 1933. Both children were personally familiar with the concept of “food insecurity” as a result of being born during economic hard times.

 

The USDA defines food insecurity as a state in which “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.” 

Dad remembered both the challenge and the privilege of growing up in the mountains relying on fish,

PawPaw with a string of trout

wild game and gardens to see the family through. He often talked about the evening times when his father worked 3-11 shift at the silk mill in Buena Vista. On many of those evenings dinner was made up of hunks of cornbread broken up in a glass of buttermilk. As the Depression worsened, Paw Paw lost his job at the silk mill and times got harder. He was forced to leave Amherst County and headed to Norfolk looking for work.  While successful in finding a job, he didn’t stay very long because it was too hard to be away from his young family. Things did not get better until he got his job back when the silk mill began producing parachutes for WW II.

Doris told me that as a young girl she and Dad were always hungry. Walking to the little mountain school in the morning, they raced to see who could get to the teaberry bush near the church first. They picked and ate as many as they could to fill their bellies before starting the school day. On the way home, Doris said that she would tell her brother to go on into the house ahead of her. When I asked why she did that she laughed and said, “You won’t believe it if I tell you but I would sneak into the barn where we kept the cow and I would dip my hand into the “chock” which is the ground up grain that we fed the cow and eat as much as I could hold. The only problem was that that grain was dry and I would stuff so much in I would about choke!” When Granny found out what I was doing she said, “Girl, if I ever catch you in that bucket again I will wear you out!”

 

Granny providing food for her family

Of all the stories Doris told me, the Christmas story touched my heart most. She said, “Of course we knew Mamma didn’t have any money for food much less gifts.” She could tell that that particular Christmas was going to be an especially lean one because Granny prepared both her children not to expect anything. Doris said with a smile in her voice, “Don’t you know, that year may have been my favorite Christmas because Daddy made it back from Norfolk and he came through the door carrying a ham!” I was tickled.

Dad never forgot what it was like to be hungry all the time. Even in his last days he loved to carry snacks up to his bedroom in case he woke up hungry. My mother hated to send him to the grocery store because he would always “over buy.” When Dad talked about his childhood, he didn’t talk like one who had tasted severe deprivation, in fact his deepest yearning to the end of his days was to be standing in a trout stream fishing for the elusive native fish.

January 31, 2017
by Lissa Eggleston
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Is America becoming great again…by accident?

In the past 6 months it has become trendy for folks on Facebook to express what a downer it is to see so many political posts clogging up their news feed. Some have been so turned off that they left social media all together. We all understand that what is happening is that they do not enjoy anyone saying “Hello, from the other side!”

Having taught U.S. Government for a few years, I sense that this election has accomplished something that I had long since thought impossible. Back in the day, I would beg my seniors in high school to become engaged in the process of democracy as a way to make it more healthy, vibrant and responsive to the people being governed. More often than not they would look at me with their dull eyes and say, “I am only taking this class so I can graduate Ms. E.”

The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and under-nourishment. 

(Robert M. Hutchins, 1899 – 1977)

Things have changed with the 2016 election and I say “Hurrah!” Have you ever seen so many people with strong stands on any number of issues willing to go to press (you know, Facebook) or the streets to share them? That is the definition of a healthier democracy when citizens leave their apathy about government behind and begin organizing demonstrations, donating money to causes, holding the other team accountable and caring about their country in deep visceral ways. I say, the election accomplished what I thought was gone from our country–deeper engagement with the values and goals that we all hold dear.

The democratic ideal in local government implies that active participation of the citizens in local affairs is both a goal in itself and an instrument for strengthening democracy in society at large.

(Kjellberg, F. 1995. ―The Changing Values of Local Government‖ in Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol 540, 40)

Maybe we can read our “friend’s” posts with gratefulness knowing that freedom of expression is a value we all hold dear. Testing our own beliefs by listening to the other side is a tried and true way of growing in understanding of how complicated and multi layered are the difficult issues our country faces. It just seems senseless to withdraw into a small, isolationist “unfriending” world. After all, we don’t need government to graduate…we need it for community well being!

January 15, 2017
by Lissa Eggleston
2 Comments

First World Problems!

Why does it seem that people in developing countries trust God and praise Him with more passion than people in the western world?

That was the question raised during a recent women’s Bible study on Psalm 33. Asked another way, does possessing more “stuff” dull our desire to worship God with all our heart, soul and strength?

That question reminded me of an article written by Calvin Miller in The Disciplined Life in which he makes 9 drastic suggestions to help westerners who have grown numb and comfortable to increase their appetites for worshiping God.

According to Miller, the following are “nine rather drastic steps wealthy Westerners would have to take to truly identify with the developing world”:

1. Take out the furniture: leave a few old blankets, a kitchen table, maybe a wooden chair. You’ve never had a bed, remember?

2. Throw out your clothes. Each person in the family may keep the oldest suit or dress, a shirt or blouse. The head of the family has the only pair of shoes.

3. All kitchen appliances have vanished. Keep a box of matches, a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt, a handful of onions, a dish of dried beans. Rescue the moldy potatoes from the garbage can: those are tonight’s meal.

4. Dismantle the bathroom, shut off the running water, take out the wiring and the lights and everything that runs by electricity.

5. Take away the house and move the family into the tool shed.

6. No more postman, fireman, government services. The two-classroom school is three miles away, but only two of your seven children attend anyway, and they walk.

7. Throw out your bankbooks, stock certificates, pension plans, insurance policies. You now have a cash hoard of $5.

8. Get out and start cultivating your three acres. Try hard to raise $300 in cash crops because your landlord wants one-third and your moneylender 10 percent.

9. Find some way for your children to bring in a little extra money so you have something to eat most days. But it won’t be enough to keep bodies healthy—so lop off 25 to 30 years of life.

In reality, giving up our stuff is no guarantee that we will draw closer to God. Our relationship with God is not really a matter of what we give up but of who we are devoted to. Still, the growing discomfort I felt when reading each item on this list makes me know there are things that I am more devoted to than the One who provided those things.