Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Who Are the Beautiful People?

I have been mulling something around in my mind for several days now--a spin-off from conversation  concerning what has become known in Christian theology as the "prosperity teaching."  I believe it is referred to in secular circles as "The Secret." I've observed the growth of this whole idea during my now-quite-long sojourn in different sections of the Christian community, and it seems to have morphed--from what used to be a fairly sensible teaching on the positive power of faith, into what some tongue-in-cheek wags have dubbed the BLAB IT AND GRAB IT theory.  In its most jubilant, banner-waving form, this theology/philosophy appears to be urging us as follows:  "God says He wants us to PROSPER!  Do you want a 15-room house? a maid? a gardener? a Rolls Royce? Decide what you want and CLAIM IT! Why should a child of the King have to dress shabbily and eat macaroni and live across the tracks?  In fact, why should you ever get sick, work at a hard job, or indeed have ANY problems at all on your way to Heaven?"

There are a kind of "Beautiful People" one sees propounding this attractive theory.  I realize this is a stereotype, but vizualise the pastor of a totally prosperous mega-church, married to a beauty queen, with three or four children all on the honor roll at school.  It has been possible for them to accumulate unto themselves money, possessions, and popularity.  Oh, yes, and this family has all those things you think you want.  Now you are being told you can be as smart, as rich, and, yes, as BEAUTIFUL--as they are!  God WANTS this for you.  You may react as did my friend Sally.  Sally was a single, middle-aged gal who owned a decent-enough mobile home in a semi-respectable mobile court.  She worked as a very good attendant in an assisted-living complex.  She loved gardening, crocheting and trying special recipes.  By dint of hard work and careful stewardship, she had kept her financial affairs stable.  But she'd always wanted a big, beautiful house and garden.  Now that Rev. Jones said God had given him those things and could prosper everyone, she was going to expect the same, she said triumphantly!

As you may readily enough guess, Sally failed in her ambition and no longer attends the church where she got those ideas. She's going to a small, loving church where she furnishes rides in her car to other ladies.  She is retired from her job now, and participates in many senior activities out in the community, as well.  She might wax a bit sarcastic if you asked her about Rev. Jones and the prosperity teaching.  I don't know; we don't discuss it.  We go to the same little church Sally does.  The pastor and his congregation are indeed beautiful people, but not because they are rich, famous or liberally endowed with houses and lands.  We think they are beautiful because of their unconditional love.  God's love is unconditional, too, by the way--that's why He knows it would not be kind, after all, to give us everything we want!" 


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Who Are the Beautiful People?

Starting Over: Deborah Jean's Pilgrimage

In her book ALL THE WAY TO HEAVEN, Elizabeth Sherrill looks at life as a pilgrimage.  Before reading that book, I'd thought of it more as a picture to be painted over the years.  I think this is a valid analogy, too; but found that the pilgrimage idea appealed to me more.   When I began to think of writing a blog, I saw it as being about my journey--its valleys, rivers and mountains; its straight and crooked roads; its sunny, dark and rainy days; the people I travel with.  Most of all, it would be about following our Guide.  In the words of a very old song, "...the path of that lone Galilean with joy I will follow today; and the toils of the road will seem nothing, when I get to the end of the way."  Not that I've been hankering to get to the end of the way any time soon; my journey thus far (83 years) has had its sorrows and losses, but these have been far outweighed by the blessing--and, yes, just plain fun--of walking with the Lord and with the fantastic crew of fellow-travelers He's given me in the way of family and friends!

I've titled this present blog chapter "Starting Over: Deborah Jean's Pilgrimage" because in resuming this writing after a hiatus of some months, I managed to lose my original introductory piece somewhere in the mysterious realm of cyberspace. (I presume things like this are to be expected when one who has spent her life as a mechanical moron tries to get technological in advanced old age!)  I've learned in the process of "Googling around" in pursuit of myself (so to speak) that there is another Deborah Lapp (my pen name), and she seems to be on a pilgrimage as well--surprising since I didn't think this combination would be that usual!  And so I've given Deborah Lapp a middle name.  As I explained previously (in the lost piece), a workshop I took as a freelance writer included choosing a pen name.  Mine is taken from  Deborah the judge in Israel, whom I admire, and her husband Lapidoth, who I believe did some kind of work in the temple.  Actually, this may all be somewhat unnecessary, since all the folks I know of who read my blog (not many, to be sure)  know who I am, anyway.  But it seems most bloggers do use pseudonyms...enough of that for now.

When I determined to go back to blogging, I had a particular subject I wanted to mull around in my mind, but it will have to wait till tomorrow or the next day now, for I want to pursue this topic of following that Man of Galilee.  I had a conversation with my youngest granddaughter this afternoon in which we discussed an important decision she will have to make soon involving her senior college year, her finances, and her future marriage plans with her "intended," who was here during the last of our discussion. This is a totally great young Christian couple, beautifully supportive of each other and united in their very firm faith.  But when I questioned her as to whether she'd asked God to show her what He would have her do about this one decision, she said an honest "No," as if she hadn't thought of that.  When she asks Him, it will be clear, I'm very sure.  Sometimes we forget just to come right out and ask Him and expect an answer.  This pilgrimage is a walk of faith, and He promised that His Spirit would guide us into "ALL TRUTH. "My mom used to quote a poem about following on when we can't see ahead.  I can't remember it all, but it ends, "So on I go, not knowing; I would not, if I might; I'd rather walk with Him in the dark than go alone by sight."  Yes, He'll show the little girl what to do.       

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Several years ago, I heard a minister give an illustration that I have never forgotten.  Here is the story as I
remember it:

A little boy is told that his big sister desperately needs a blood transfusion.  Their blood type is the same, and the little fellow is asked if he will give his sister some of his blood to save her life.  He looks a bit scared, is silent for a moment, then says yes to the request.  The procedure is soon over, and of course the child is in no pain.  But he's awfully quiet.  At last he ventures to ask, in a small voice, "When do I die?"

The boy thought he was being asked to give his life to save his sister!  And after only a few moments' consideration, he decided to do so.  Reminds you of Abraham and Isaac, and of God sending His Son to die for us, of Christian martyrs "who loved not their own lives" but were willing to die for Him who had given His life for them.  Jesus told His followers, "He that would come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me."

That is not a verse for us to quote glibly.  Songs like "Take up your cross and follow Me" are not to be sung for the pretty harmony and forgotten as we leave the church and go about our business  Most of us who've worked in Sunday School, church and/or Bible clubs have used the "sinner's prayer" to lead someone in praying to receive Jesus for the first time. A version of this prayer that I especially like ends with the words, "...take me as I am, and make me what I ought to be. HELP ME TO DO RIGHT, NO MATTER WHAT IT COSTS."

I once knew a young woman from a Muslim country, who was here in the U.S. for Bible college.
I asked her if Christians in her country faced persecution. "No," she said, "Not those of us who have been raised in Christian households and are already part of the Christian community; but Muslims who convert are
 definitely persecuted."  She went on to say that she herself had friends who had converted to Christ but still went to services at the mosques.  "They say that when they pretend to bow down to Allah they are really bowing down to Jesus.  I can't judge them, because the consequences of  admitting to being Christians are so drastic!"

 My immediate reaction was to think that this really wasn't right, and was not what the early saints did.  When the choice was presented, did they "pretend"?  But then immediately I knew that we people here in the good old U.S.of A.--well, many of us, maybe most, would be poor candidates for risking actual persecution, let alone martyrdom!  Sometimes we can't even face the hard decisions life hands us just from day to day!  I was going to introduce some generic examples of this, but maybe you and I both know what our "waterloos" are and have been.  It won't do any good to conjure up mental pictures of heroism in the face of death and wonder if we could "come through"!  But it might truly be life-changing if our next small choice, and the nexr and the next, were made after praying, "HELP ME TO DO RIGHT, NO MATTER WHAT IT COSTS."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I was four and a half years old when (I'm told), I made the above proclamation to our entire family, standing upon a strange piece of furniture that we called "The Big Box"! It was, I believe, originally a wooden box that had held a coffin for shipping--whose? I wouldn't know; we used it as a gigantic storage container for all manner of things. At that moment it served as my "soapbox" for announcing to the world that I was no longer disappointed not to have a baby sister!

The day's excitement had started that morning when Grandma and I were alone in the big old farmhouse. Dad and Mom had gone to furnish music for a church service which Grandpa (a retired pastor) had been asked to conduct in a small church somewhere in the area. It didn't occur to me to wonder why we didn't ALL go. What I didn't know was that my grandmother was staying home to listen for a very special phone call that might come--that DID come, it turned out.
The big old wall phone rang our ring. Grandma answered, talked briefly to someone, and hung up.

"Who was that?" I queried eagerly.

"That was the hospital up in Salem," Grandma explained. "They say they have a little baby brother for you!"

That afternoon, I rode with Mom and Dad from Corvallis to Salem to bring home this baby boy who would be adopted into our family. A clothes-basket had been carefully lined with soft blankets; on them lay a long-legged, bright pink baby! It was in the days before seat-belts; I rode in the front seat on my knees the whole journey home, gazing in fascination at this little speck of humanity who would become my six-feet-four bachelor brother and the best Uncle George our three children could ever have had to take them on fishing trips, carnival rides and you-name-it!

George is gone now. If anyone ever walked on "into the Light," he did, when God called him home. He wasn't just adopted into OUR family; he had that "spirit of adoption" the Bible talks about, whereby we become children of the Kingdom through Christ our Lord. So it isn't goodbye, George, it never was; it's so-long, "till we meet at Jesus' feet"!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"They Grow up too Soon!"

Since I've been communicating with many wonderful friends on Facebook, reading people's comments about the seasons of their lives, I've been mulling around in my mind (especially now as school starts) the reactions of mothers/grandmothers to kids' GROWING UP. 

One time when our Max,Jr. was in Mexico still with the Mission, I had the neatest dream about him--or rather, about the baby boy he'd BEEN.  There he was, sitting up against a pillow on the bed, smiling delightedly at me!  He was 6 or 7 months old, and wearing his little white terrycloth pj suit.  I was so glad to see him!  I looked into his twinkling blue eyes and exclaimed, "MAXIE!  I haven't seen you in such a long time!"  That was the whole dream. 

I told him about it later.  Somehow, I said, it had seemed I was communicating with him on a level of  his consciousness where that little boy still lived. I sensed a spiritual connection, as though this child were included in my prayers for my grown-up missionary son.  That's too deep to go much farther into, isn't it?  But there was truth there, and it was beautiful. When we were all praying up here for the young orphanage director with a burst appendix, we were praying also for little Maxie-boy!  Psychologists talk about the "inner child" in each person; it's there, a part of us. In a way, we are all we've ever been.  And if that "all" is redeemed, God can use every bit of it for His glory!

But I have something of a problem with saying, as our "young sprouts" shoot up, "They're growing too fast"!  No, they are growing according to God's perfect timetable.  We need to affirm that, and them.  We need to enjoy who they are at every turn of the road, not wish they were babes playing at our feet again.  For if indeed they were, even at age fifteen or twenty, our sorrow would know no bounds! That person's development would be warped and stunted, and we'd always wonder what he/she might have become if
things had progressed normally. So when we see them at one more milepost, let's cheer them on, as I saw one mother recently do, with "Congratulations!  I'm so proud of you!"

One time my little mom was asked, "When was the happiest time of your life?"  And she answered, "I  think it was when I had my two children small at home."  I remember being a little disappointed to hear that response.  It sounded as if she hadn't wanted us to grow up and live our own lives.  But later on she wrote a poem that corrects my one-time misapprehension.  I can't quote it all, but the last quatrain goes like this:

The loving father slipped away;
The mother is old and bent and gray.
She draws from her children strength and joy--
Her wonderful, grown-up girl and boy!

Well, thanks up there, Mom!  George and I were truly blest kids!