Category Archives: In the News

Thoughts on St. Patrick’s Day: Saints or Sinners?

Have you ever wondered what St. Patrick’s Day is all about? What are we celebrating? Who was St. Patrick anyway, and why was he made a “saint”? And what does his “sainthood” have to do with the way St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated: parties, costumes, parades, leprechauns, shamrocks, boozing it up, etc.?

What is “sainthood” all about? The term “saint” carries both admiration and stigmatization. We sometimes think of a “saint” as someone who is above reproach, but not quite human. Not someone you can tell a joke to, or pat on the back, or engage in conversation about fleshly struggles we are experiencing. A saint is thought of as someone who can’t be tempted to do something sinful, like you and I may be. But is that what being a saint really means?

The Catholic Church has granted “sainthood” to more than 10,000 former inhabitants of planet earth. Usually it happens after the person is dead, when he or she can’t be here to enjoy the honor accorded to them. Some of the saints have universal Catholic acclaim and others have only locally ascribed “sainthood”. One of those 10,000+ saints has been granted a memorial day celebrated all over the western world – St. Patrick of Ireland, who is perhaps the most well-known of all the officially recognized saints.

Though St. Patrick’s Day is usually associated with and celebrated by those of Irish descent,  St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland was born in Scotland, at Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, in the year 387; he died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland  March 17, 493 at age 106. His father, Calphurnius, was a member of a high ranking Roman family, and his mother, Conchessa, was a near-relative of St. Martin of Tours. So it appears that Patrick came from a family of saints and sinners, just like you and me.

At age 16 Patrick was kidnapped by Irish marauders and sold as a slave to a chieftain in Dalriada, a territory of the present county of Antrim, Ireland, where for six years he tended his slave-master’s flocks. In his “Confessio” (his confession of faith, written in his old age) Patrick relates how this captivity put him in a place where he had time to realize his own sinfulness and his need for a relationship with God. This time in slavery led to his spiritual re-birth. His testimony is well worth the time to read it.

After a series of visions, dreams, escape from his captors, deliverance from roughneck sailors, and finally a return to his family, Patrick received a call from God through a vision, to return to Ireland to minister to the Irish people. He was then in his mid-twenties. Response to this call was the beginning of the rest of his life. Even though other missionaries had sought to Christianize Ireland, Patrick is credited with converting Ireland from pagan Druid demon worship to Christianity, almost single-handedly.  He was known as a gentle, soft-spoken man whose life was marked by long periods of prayer and fasting; out of that committed lifestyle was born a powerful force against the kingdom of spiritual darkness in pre-Christian Ireland. His “Confessio” summarizes his life and his beliefs.

There is much myth surrounding St. Patrick that has grown up over the centuries, such as his driving the snakes out of Ireland. But if snakes and scorpions are symbols of demonic spirits, as in Luke 10:19, then he indeed drove the snakes out of Ireland.

“I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.”

The promise in this verse was evidenced in St. Patrick’s life: he was subjected to frequent trials at the hands of the Druids and other enemies of the Faith. No fewer than twelve times he and his companions were seized and carried off as captives; on one occasion in particular he was loaded with chains and sentenced to death. But from all these trials and sufferings he was liberated by God.

Saint Patrick’s day was made an official feast day in the Catholic tradition in the early seventeenth century, but has gradually become a celebration of Irish culture in general. That which started out as a commemoration of the life of a saint, has devolved into a cultural celebration of mere “sinners”.

Even if St. Patrick had not received the “sainthood nod” from the Catholic Church, he would have still been a saint in God’s eyes; as is every Spirit-born, regenerated believer in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.

In all of his New Testament writings, the apostle Paul refers to followers of Christ as “saints”. There are at least 45 references in the NT to the “saints”: Luke’s book of Acts, John’s book of Revelation, and each of Paul’s letters – all refer to God’s people as “saints”. If you are a regenerated believer in Christ, God considers you a “saint”.

Does this mean that we as saints never sin, never do anything wrong? No. Even the 10,000 “saints” of the Catholic Church were not perfect people. St. Patrick referred to himself as “a sinner . . . the least of all believers”.

We are not yet perfect “saints”. However, the Biblical designation of believers in Christ as “saints” sets a standard for us to live up to. Even though we still may sin and still occasionally do sin, we should not refer to ourselves as “sinners”, nor intentionally engage in sin – for this degrades what Jesus accomplished on the cross by dying to set us free. “Sinner” is not how God views His blood-bought children.

As Gal. 4:6-7 says:

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”

Perhaps we should each view ourselves as St. Marcy, St. Mike, St. Roland, St. Bruce, St. Susan, St. whoever you are – members of God’s family, called to be “saints”, who re-present our Heavenly Father as we pass through life here on earth.

I hope this gives you something to think about today. And, oh, yes, Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

©2012, Marcy Alves

re-posted 2013

Related Post:

St. Patrick Was a Protestant!!

Honoring Our Veterans: Appreciating Our History

Have you taken time on in the past few days to think about our nation’s veterans? About their past and present service to protect not only our nation, but many people around the world from tyranny and despotism. Have you thanked a military person for watching your back, standing in the gap for you?

Veterans Day honors all who have served or are currently serving in the various branches of our military – Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and National Guard. Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who serve – not only those who have died – have sacrificed and done their duty.

While studying a chapter in the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians, I did some research on the history of the city of Corinth. It was at one time a very important Greek City. When Greece was taken over by the Romans in 146 BC, the residents of Corinth were killed or deported. About 100 years later Corinth was colonized by Roman “freedmen”.  Later Greece came under the power of the Ottoman Empire and finally became independent again in 1832. Greece and the city of Corinth have survived, but not without a turbulent history.

As I read this brief history of Corinth and of Greece, I wondered how many contemporary Greeks are aware of their country’s history.

Then I wondered: ”How many Americans are aware of the history of the United States of America and its on-going fight for freedom?  First, its fight for independence from Great Britain, culminating in the Declaration of Independence, signed in 1776? How about the war between the North and the South (the Union and the Confederacy), which established the “United States” of America?

What do current generations know of our stand against the spread of Nazism across Europe, to stop Hitler’s dream of dominating the world, including the USA? Or the role of the U. S. in stopping the Japanese from attaining their goal of international rule as the imperial power of the world? Not many of the veterans who fought in those wars are around to remind us that our freedom has not been free.

How many of our uneducated and under-educated youth, who have never taken a U.S. history course, are aware of the historic development of our great nation? How many of the aliens and immigrants (legal and illegal) -many who don’t even speak English – have knowledge of the history of the USA? Yet many of them have exercised the right to vote in our national elections.

As I read the Old Testament books, I am again aware of how repeatedly the prophets in Israel recalled to the people their history; reminding them that God had set them apart for Himself.  And how in the New Testament, Christians are reminded of the history of ancient Judaism, out of which came our Savior, the Lord Jesus.

When we have no sense of our nation’s past, personal values can become irrationally selfish, as in the expectation of entitlements in exchange for support of a political candidate. This was demonstrated in the chants by the college students gathered outside the White House on our last presidential election night – as they shouted such remarks as “Karl Marx! Karl Marx!”, “abortion rights”, “ birth control”, “cell phones”, and “socialism”.

When our wounded and disabled vets, who have fought for the continuation of freedoms for U. S. citizens and others around the world, cannot even find jobs to support their families, I find such immature expectations of entitlements mentioned in the preceeding paragraph, reprehensible.

The expectation to get for free what past generations paid for with their hard-earned money makes me very nervous for the future of our nation. The guarantee of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is not a guarantee for free birth control, free abortions, free cell phones, or even free education.

Without a sense of personal identity with our national history, our young people can easily be manipulated and misdirected by whoever offers to meet their “felt needs”. They don’t yet understand that you don’t get something for nothing.

I can’t help but wonder if there will be young adults willing to join the U. S. military in the near future, or to pursue public service jobs, or to become teachers and doctors (I feel sure there will be those who become lawyers).

Will there be any U. S. military veterans in years to come? Or will we be absorbed by another nation, diabolically guided by another Hitler, Stalin or Marx who promises a loaf of bread and a chicken in every pot, for free? A sharing of everything, by all, for the common good?

For now, we still have an Army, a Navy, the Air Force, the Marines, and the Coast Guard policing hot spots around the world where individual freedom is swallowed up by top-down mandates; ideologies and cultures in which domination by “the few” dictates to the masses such things as, who will receive an education and who will not (ie. women in strict Islamic cultures), what religion can be followed and which cannot, and which personal opinions can be freely expressed without threat of imprisonment or death.

I pray there will be men and women in the USA whose innate sense of service, out of grateful hearts and concern for preserving personal freedoms, will overcome self-preservtion and give their lives for people who may not understand the preciousness of such a gift.

The freedoms we still enjoy here in the USA have a price tag.

Thank you, veterans of every age, color, rank, sex, and duration of service, for your part in paying the price in the battle to maintain our national freedoms, and to secure those freedoms for others around the world. We salute you.

©2012, Marcy Alves (edited 2015)

Labor Day: Honoring the Working Class

One of my favorite national holidays is Labor Day – a special day off to honor the working class and extend a weekend to give people time to catch their breath. It closes the curtain on summer and welcomes autumn to end the summer heat.  It means town parades, backyard barbecues with family and friends, and the last hurrah before school gets into full swing.

For me Labor Day creates a lot of nostalgia, going back into childhood. As a child growing up in Virginia, the day marked the end of summer freedom and the beginning of the school year. It was also the end of fun times with my dad, taking us to the swimming place (a freshwater mountain pool) and playing softball with me and my 5 brothers in our backyard. It meant mornings began earlier and nights got dark sooner.

My nostalgic memories of Labor Day also include adult years. My husband and I enjoyed Labor Day weekends for about 30 years with my spiritual parents at their lake cottage in the Poconos Mountains of PA. The cottage had to be sold several years ago. I often feel the longing to return to the quiet of that cottage, with the sun shining off the lake, the sound of motor boats, the wind in the sails of our sailboat, and the the feel of the floating dock as it rose and fell with the moving water caused by the wake of motor boats entering the cove. I miss our annual lobster dinner shared with close friends and family.

According to the history of Labor Day in Wikipedia, this day to honor the American workforce was proposed by either Matthew Maguire, a machinist, who served as secretary of the Central Labor Union of New York and/or by Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor, in May 1882, influenced by the annual labor festival held in Toronto, Canada.

Oregon had the first official state Labor Day, followed by 30 other states. Then in 1894, Congress, under President Grover Cleveland, proclaimed the first Monday of September as the official national Labor Day.

I think that God would approve of the original intent of Labor Day, because He approves of labor. When He created the world and placed Adam and Eve in the garden, He gave them work to do:

Gen.1:28  “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

That’s a pretty big job! And it was assigned to Adam and Eve and their offspring. He first told them to be fruitful (i.e., have lots of children), then to have dominion over everything that moves on the earth. Taking care of the earth involves a community effort, as it does today.

It really bothers me when David and I go for a walk on one of our local community streets and find trash that someone has left behind along the road or in the nearby creek or river. God’s creation deserves our care.

Gen. 2:8-9 “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

Gen. 2:15 “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

God instituted the work ethic. He approves of the labor force. There are many verses in Scripture that deal with the benefits of honest labor, in contrast to the fruit that comes from laziness or putting your labor into the wrong things.

  •  Labor That Honors God

Psalm 128:2  Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.

Isaiah 3:10 “Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.”

  •  Fruitless Labor

Psalm 127:1 “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”

Isaiah 55:2 “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”

  •  Abusive Force on Laborers

Habakkuk 2:12-13  “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice! Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?

  •  Results of Laziness

2 Thess. 3:10 “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’ ”

Prov. 12:24 “Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor.”

  •  Working for God Pays Off

1 Cor. 15:8 “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

I was raised with a “hard work pays off” ethic: that if I want something badly enough, I had to be willing to do the work it takes to get it; that I should not expect something for nothing; that if I take care of what I have it will last longer; that work is honorable; and that I should share with those who are willing to work, but are less fortunate with skills or have less opportunity than I have.

I have learned that in both temporal and spiritual labor, anything done to bring glory to my Heavenly Father is not done in vain, but I will see the rewards either in this life or in the life to come.

Happy Labor Day! May the Lord reward you as you seek to honor Him with the work of your hands.

©2012, Marcy Alves

Pastor Appreciation: Saying “Thanks”

When is the last time you said, “Thank you” to your pastor or priest? Or have you ever done it? October is “Clergy Appreciation Month”. It’s a time to say, “Thank you for your service,” as we stop to think about the pivotal role of “pastor” in the life and health of the local church body. This is a national awareness month, a time when we honor those men and women whose vocational ministry and spiritual calling is to nourish, instruct, and shepherd the sheep in their appointed area of God’s spiritual pasture.

These are men and women who have been called by God and have responded to that call by committing their lives to training disciples of Jesus and equipping their congregants to do the work of the ministry in their individual areas of gifting.

This is no easy task.

There are many sheep whose inclination is to wander off from the flock and become prey for predators, to be obstinate and un-teachable, to butt and bite the other sheep, to become “cast down” so that they can’t get up without help, or to become sickly from eating the wrong food.

My husband, David (who is a pastor) and I have been watching ABC’s documentary on the tape recordings of First Lady Jaqueline Kennedy, wife of John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the United States. On those forty+ year-old recordings she spoke of the terrible loneliness her husband experienced as he tackled the affairs of State, his sleepless nights, his doubts and fears over decisions he had made, and the tears he shed over the failure and loss of life resulting from such decisions gone bad, such as at the Bay of Pigs.

My heart is drawn to Mrs. Kennedy in her obvious compassion for her husband.  I identify with her sense of the weight of the burdens he bore, and with her desire to ease his distress. Although the responsibilities of the pastor do not compare with the weighty decisions of the President of the USA and their possible consequences of national importance, like the President, that’s where the buck stops if something goes wrong. And though the pastor is not involved in international wars, the spiritual impact of a pastor can have eternal results in the battle for good over evil.

Anyone who has not been a pastor cannot imagine the stresses and energy drain of pastoral ministry and the on-going spiritual warfare that is part of such ministry. Pastoral ministry can be an extremely lonely existence for the pastor, and for his wife and family.

I have watched my husband (my pastor) agonize in prayer over the course our church body should take and when things didn’t work out, to wonder about his ability to hear God. I’ve seen him flounder under undeserved criticism and misunderstsanding, fight against feelings of rejection or failure when families have left for greener pastures, wonder if he’s in the right place and if he should leave the pastoral ministry, puzzle over the lack of comprehension when he’s preached and taught what he believes is the heart of the Father – with sometimes little visible results. I’ve seen his struggle to accept a phone call when he’s already exhausted.

No one in his right mind who knew ahead of time about the temporal and spiritual challenges of pastoral ministry would choose such a vocation. Most of us who have been personally involved for any extended length of time (say, more than a year?) can no longer be casual or callused about the struggles inherent in pastoral ministry.

I have been a pastor’s wife for 20+ years now. Four of those years we were in local church youth/family pastoral ministry while also in part-time itinerant ministry. We also spent about 10 years in strictly itinerant ministry. Neither the years of youth-pastor ministry, nor the years of itinerancy,  during which we ministered to many pastoral couples, prepared us for the role of full-time local pastoral ministry.

We blush a bit now at the presumptions of some of our early “Come Away” ministries – four-day weeks of small group outreach to pastors and their spouses. We were encouraged as we watched their tensions lessen and their tired faces reflect some easement of their ministry stress.  But we did not know by personal experience the feelings of defeat and futility that pastors and their spouses often felt over their local church ministries. We now know it firsthand.

Besides the smile of our Heavenly Father that we feel in His presence, the warmth of His love that drains off the stress and exhaustion of pastoral ministry, there is one other thing that keep us going:  the expressions of gratitude from our church family.  There are things that make it all worthwhile: words of appreciation, the “ah-ha” reflected on the face of a congregant who “gets it” as he/she opens like a flower to the work of the Spirit, a simple “Thank you for that message”, or a sincere hug as someone leaves the worship service. And once in a while a card, or a gift, or a dinner invitation. Or we hear the pride in a voice as it says, “I’d like you to meet my pastor,” or, “You ought to visit our church sometime.”

If you are a member of a church, I’d like to challenge you – this month, this week, today – to think of a way to thank your pastor for his commitment and service to the Lord, to you, and to the rest of the church body. And if there is a clergy person from your past who positively affected your life, take a moment to contact him/her and say, “Thank you for caring about me and having an influence on my life. I’m a different person because of your influence.”

If you have a pastor for whom you are thankful, how about jotting down a few sentences and sending them to me. I’d like to include them in a post before the end of October. Also, share this post with others and remind them to thank their pastors.

Thank you!

©2011, Marcy Alves

This post is a re-post of an article from October of 2011. There is a sequel coming this week on ideas to express thanks to your pastor(s), entitled How to Say “Thank You” to Your Pastor.

A Longing Heart

LongingHave you ever had a strong longing for someone or something? An unrest that says an essential element is missing? That things are not quite right in the space/time in which you live?

For the past week my husband has been baby-sitting a cat named Norma – at her house, not ours. Norma’s family is away for the week.

This cat-sitting interlude is rather miraculous, as David really does not like cats – at all. But, Norma is a rather shy cat and only comes to him for a little head-rub affection once a day or so. She is not a lap-sitter, let-me-sharpen-my claws-on-your-pant-leg and sleep-on-your-pillow kind of cat. She’s low-maintenance – fill her cat-food dish and change her litter box twice a day and she’s all set.

Which gives David time to work on his new book; so I opted to stay home and work on some of my own projects.

The house feels empty and rather lonely when David isn’t here, especially at night. He has come home several times to take care of some business and to check on me.

He left again this morning, and even though I know he will return in two days, I really miss him. He’s the kind of man whose presence fills whatever room he’s in. And since his office is in our home, I’m used to the sense of his being in easy reach.

I sat watching the birds at our feeders shortly after David left, and suddenly felt a surge of longing for his return. So, I began my morning personal quiet time, partly to distract myself.

After reading a portion of Scripture, I began to pray for the needs of family and friends, for our country and its leaders, and for Christian brothers and sisters around the world. As so often happens while praying for persecuted Christians living in global hotspots, a groan came to my lips, “How long, Lord Jesus? How long before you return to make things right on the earth?”

As I prayed that prayer, the thought struck me, do I long for Jesus’ return as much as I long for my husband’s return? While praying for Christ’s return, is there a yearning inside me that says “things in this world don’t feel right and won’t be right until you’re back?”

In contrast to the political strategies of the UN and various coalitions of nations around the world, I believe that only Christ can end the crises in the Middle East – and in Africa, Asia, Russia, the Ukraine, North Korea, Southeast Asia, Europe, South America and North America.

It seems that the world is in an uproar as the enemy of the cross and of God’s people causes humans to clash and fight and destroy one-another. I believe this spiritual enemy is behind the militant factions in the Middle East and elsewhere, no matter what “religious” cause they fight under.

As Jesus said:

John 8:44 You belong to your father, the devil. You want to obey your father’s wishes. From the beginning, the devil was a murderer . . .”

ISIS is not the only crisis. The real crises come from the clamber in the hearts of men, the darkness in their minds, the in-bred hatred for opposing ideologies – these inner “devils” create world crises. Nations won’t change, ideologies won’t change, people won’t change until men’s hearts change.

Matt. 15:19 “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”

Ps. 140:1-2 “Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men; preserve me from violent men, who plan evil things in their heart and stir up wars continually.”

There is only One who can bring light into dark, war torn places and push out hatred with an overwhelming love.

John 1:4-5 “In him [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

No other religion and no other “god” has ever even offered to do the things that our Heavenly Father, the God above all gods, has done for us through His Son, Jesus. And only Jesus’ return to this earth will make things right.

We long for changes in our circumstances, in our health, in our relationships, but do we long for His return? We want world peace – to get along, to live next to people of other nationalities, languages and cultures, without fear. But this will never happen through the United Nations, international unions, peace treaties, or political promises. It will never happen through a one-world government. Because none of those things can change human hearts.

Only total defeat of the real enemy will do the job, and that enemy is a spirit-being, competing with God for world rulership. As the Scriptures tell us, a day of deliverance is coming when all darkness will be driven to the pit of hell, to be destroyed in a lake of fire. This will happen when Christ returns. Meanwhile:

Psalm 42:1 “As the deer longs (pants) for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, oh God.”

Do you have a passionate longing for the return of the Son of God? Or are your passions dissipated with lesser longings: marriage, a family, a successful career, a recognized name, an overflowing bank account?

As for me, I will continue to cry from the deepest passion of my heart, “How long, Lord Jesus, how long must we wait for your return?”


©2015, Marcy Alves

Death of a Salesman

grave markerRobin Williams was a real salesman. As an actor he convinced us to feel what the characters he portrayed were feeling. As a comedian, his facial expressions, voices, dialects, accents and insanely funny interpretations of ordinary things were delivery genius. I checked on the word “salesman” in the online Free Dictionary by Farlex. One of the definitions was, “one who sells goods, services, etc.” As I said, Robin was a real salesman. He sold us laughter.

We laughed at him in the TV series Mork and Mindy (’78-’82), Mrs. Doub­­tfire, and Aladdin; agonized with him in such films as Awakenings, and perhaps felt his personal loneliness in Good Will Hunting. We’ll always remember his iconic radio sign-on as the disc jockey in Good Morning Viet Nam. These and other film roles, as well as public comedy appearances endeared him to the hearts of many Americans and many others around the globe.

Williams was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times, and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Good Will Hunting. He also received two Emmy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and five Grammy Awards.

However, despite his versatility and success as an actor, and his amazing comedic wizardry, Williams suffered from depression throughout his life, and also struggled with drug and alcohol addictions. Though he was gifted to make others laugh and outwardly laughed with them, there was little laughter on the inside; little internal joy to offset the dark shadow which hung over him most of his life. On August 11, 2014, Williams was found dead, after committing suicide by hanging, at his home in Paradise Cay, near Tiburon, California.

People can surmise as to why a man, who by most reports was a kind and sensitive human being, who seemed so intent on bringing laughter to others, would make the selfish decision to end the struggles of his personal life in such a grotesque way? Why not just take sleeping pills or some other quick acting drug? Why leave this horrible picture for his family and friends to grapple with? Was it to shock the sensibilities of the world so that they would take notice of those who are in such chronic depression as his life record seems to indicate? Or was it something else? In an earlier interview with Diane Sawyer, Robin said that through his life there was a voice that would pop into his head telling him to “jump”, “kill youself”. This time he listened to the voice.

What kinds of things unchained the “black dog”, as Winston Churchill used to call his own bouts with depression? Was it the pains of the world that Williams took on, or his own personal pains, disappointments, rejections, discouragements; or was it the exhaustion of human energy in his fight to survive? We do know that he had a short time ago received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease.

Someone reported that Williams was a member of a Christian church. I wonder, had he heard in his church about the One who was called “man of sorrows”; the man who came to reveal to us the heart of God – to flesh-out our heavenly Father’s love for us?

This man, Jesus, also died a grotesque death – not at his own hands, but at the hands of those he came to save. He didn’t take his own life, but he did say, “I lay it down” (John 10:18). According to the Gospel of John, Jesus came to save us – the lost (Luke 19:10). To save us from what? From sin, from Satan, and from ourselves – our attitudes, our dilemmas, our perplexities, and concerns. He’s the one who said,

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:28-30

I realize that there are Christians who suffer from depression; most often it is related to something specific: abuses, losses (the death of a loved one, loss of health or youth or a job) a divorce, other disappointments or discouragements. Some people get depressed out of discontentment with where life has dropped them with seemingly no way out. Others develop depression out of an unforgiving spirit and ensuing anger.

I’ve never heard of a baby being born with depression, though it can develop early on in life. From my personal observations of acquaintances who are currently or have been in depression, most have arrived there because of life trauma – sometimes a personal sin. I don’t believe that “mental illness” is an adequate explanation of depression, without tracking down the route the depressed person has traveled along the way to depression.  There are causes – often multiple causes. You can medicate the symptoms – but you can’t cure depression with medicine. However, I firmly believe it can be cured.

We are physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual beings – all in one. That’s why we are taught in Scripture (Deut. 6:4-5, Mark 12:29-30) to love the Lord our God with our heart (emotional), soul (spiritual), mind (mental) and strength (physical). As we surrender our whole being to Christ and take proper care of those four parts of our human self, it will affect our state of mind.

If anyone had reason to be depressed by life circumstances, it was Jesus. He was poor all of His life. His life purpose precluded marriage. He was often hungry and tired. He wept, he got angry – He had emotions. He was misunderstood and accused of having demons. The crowds that applauded Him later turned away. He was betrayed by a “friend”. His closest followers abandoned Him in His greatest time of need. He suffered an unjust death of humiliation on a public cross. Yet, while hanging on the cross He asked the Father to forgive His enemies – He didn’t hold grudges, didn’t pledge vengeance.

Don’t think it was easier for Jesus because He was God’s Son: Heb. 4:15 says

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Though Jesus experienced human suffering, He was a joyful man – little children loved being around Him.

What a salesman Jesus was! His life convinces us to live as He did. His death paid the price for healing in every area of our lives. And His resurrection guarantees delivery on the product. He offers us a gift greater than laughter – He has promised us joy.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11

When we surrender to the presence of His Spirit within us, we find the ability to walk in that joy in spite of our life circumstances.

The Scriptures lay out a plan for a achieving and maintaining a healthy mind:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Philippians 4:4-8


©2014, Marcy Alves

Surrogate Fathers

There are many awesome fathers who are not birth-fathers; there are many birth-fathers who are no more than sperm-donors. I don’t mean to ignore all the great fathers out there who are birth-fathers, but I’d like to pay homage to those men who have filled the gap for many “fatherless” kids.

There are many reasons why you may not have produced any children of your own:

  • You are not married and know that to bring a child into the world without a committed relationship to the child’s mother would not be what is best for the child, for the mother, or for you.
  • You have not met a woman that you would choose to be in an on-going relationship with.
  • You and your wife are both so intent on your career that it would be a disservice to any children you might produce.
  • You and your wife have not been able to conceive for physical, emotional or providential reasons.
  • You and your wife have felt that God’s plan for your lives would be hindered by having children of your own.

For whatever reason, you are not yet a birth-father. But somewhere along the way, God has put children in your life through your work, your church, your extended family, your neighborhood, or your volunteer positions.

God has put kids in your life whose own fathers cannot be there for them due to extended military service, death, or sickness; or who are present, but are abusive or negligent in their father role; or those who don’t know how to father their kids, because of their own lack of a good father role model.

Many a messy divorce has resulted in distance between kids and their birth-fathers, who don’t know how to bridge the gap. Perhaps a child you know is merely a product of a sperm-donor and has never had a father in his/her life.

For whatever reason, God has placed you in the life of a fatherless child, and you care about that child. You have used your opportunity to be a father to someone else’s child. You are a surrogate father and you deserve honor as we celebrate Fathers’ Day.

The Bible reveals God’s heart about surrogate parenting:

James 1:27 “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction . . .” (ESV)

Psalm 68:5 “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” (NIV)

Being a father is no easy task, but even the smallest efforts at being there as a surrogate father for the kid(s) God has put in your life can result in fantastic rewards, both for you and those children.

My husband, David, is a surrogate father – and he is a fantastic dad to many kids whom God has brought our way over the years. We are one of those couples that God chose not to have our own children. When we did conceive, there were miscarriages. We chose not to go the route of mechanical medical means of conception – we wanted children from God, not science.

And the Lord has brought many such kids into our lives over the course of our 33-year marriage. We have worked with youth groups, as Sunday school teachers, as speakers and counselors at youth camps, and informally with kids – children of our friends, relatives, and church members and others. We love children.

The Lord put several kids in our lives who have become “family”. We have heart adoptions that are as real to us as if they were our own kids. We have one special daughter whom God brought into our lives through our youth group ministry over 20-years ago, who is still in our lives today.

David has both a human and a Godly influence on our “kids”. He does fun things with them, just to have fun. He also gets into deep conversations with them on matters of the soul – the way they live their lives – and on their relationship with God. He truly has a “father-anointing”, which is recognized not only by young children and teens, but also by young adults – matter of fact, he also “fathers” older adults who are “spiritual children”.

My husband amazes me with his ability to know when and how to do certain things with his “kids” – fun things; work projects, in which he instructs as he works with them; pizza or coffee times that lead to deeper discussions. He has that uncanny ability to know when to press in and when to lighten-up.

These “adopted kids” – who are not from government programs, but were placed in our lives by a higher office – know that David loves them with the right kind of love, that he is interested in them, that he accepts them. They also know instinctively when the lifestyle or action they choose at any given moment would hurt him or betray the values he has shared with them – at those times they distance themselves – David does not pursue, he waits for their return to God and to relationship.

I have witnessed the effects that my husband’s life has had on so many children and adults; I know that both he and they have grown from those “father encounters”, those times of confrontation and encouragement to be all they can be as children of God.

If you have not yet had the joy of surrogate fatherhood, extending God’s love, offer yourself to the Lord God for that purpose.  Trust Him to give you all you need to be a father to the hurting, the lost, the fatherless, the confused – those who just need a father-friend.

If you have allowed God to use you in this way as a father in some child’s life, you are in the place where God has positioned you. Continue to persevere, to reach out, to befriend those fatherless children, and to love them with God’s love. Don’t give up on the kids He has placed in your life. Hold them in prayer continually before the ultimate Father of all fathers.

Happy Fathers’ Day, surrogate dads.

©2012, Marcy Alves

Dancing in the Light

lightdancer2A couple years ago a friend gifted me with a small plastic penguin with a solar panel on its stomach. When the penguin was placed in the light, it danced. A few weeks ago I noticed that even though the penguin had not been moved from its place in front of the south-facing window in my kitchen, it was no longer dancing.

I was reflecting today on the events of the past few weeks in the Boston area – the bombs that were planted at the end of the Boston Marathon route; the resulting devastation; the destruction of life and limbs. The trauma and amazement created by reports of the catastrophe on TV. Daily words of the on-going investigation; the car chase, the shoot-out; one suspect dead and the other on the run, then found hiding in a boat in someone’s back yard; the continuing revelation of a larger ring behind the bombing event.

Most of us by Tuesday after the bombing , had already stopped dancing.

Truly we are living in dark times. But, is there more wickedness now than in times past, or simply more exposure of the darkness, due to mass media and social net-working? Hasn’t the darkness been spreading since the first violation of God’s love in the Garden of Eden – Satan’s first attempt at achieving “godhead” and destroying life as the Creator intended it to be?

In such times of cultural darkness, I am reminded of a passage of Scripture found in the Gospel according to John, chapter one:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. . .  In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5  EST)

In an earlier post I shared that a certain brand of tea which I prefer has pithy sayings on the teabag tags.  One of my tags recently said, “walk in the light, take in the light, reflect the light, be the light.”

Good advice. Which I believe is what these dark times call for from followers of Christ.

  • “Walk in the light”

Expose yourself to as much of the light of the Lord as you can. Get into the Scriptures. Memorize the promises of God. Study how God has always been there for His people.

Be in a place of fellowship with other believers – share problems, prayers, victories.

Keep yourself in a place of blessing from God by spending time in prayer and meditation on Scriptures; learn what they reveal about the character of God.

 “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7 

  •  “Take in the light”

Let the light of God’s creation saturate your spirit; the beauty of His awesome designs in flowering plants, colorful birds, ocean waves, towering mountains, glorious sunsets, starlight and moonlight.

Find a private space where you spend time before the throne of God, allowing the light of His presence to penetrate your spirit.

Let the light drive out all darkness from your spirit, washing away stains, and dispelling shadows of fear, doubt and disappointment.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6

  • “Reflect the light”

It has been observed that a married couple who live together for many years, spending time together face to face, begin to look like each other – to reflect what they have observed in each other’s faces, whether peace and joy, or doom and gloom.

Keep looking at Jesus.  Keep your life clean by observing His life and obeying His teachings and commands, so that your face can reflect His light.

  • “Be the light”

 Jesus said:

You are the light of the world.  . . . let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matt. 5:14,16

“. . . for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light  . . .” Ephesians 5:8-9

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world . . .”  Phil. 2:14-15

­­­­Back to my penguin in the window; I picked it up, intending to toss it into my recycle bin, when I noticed that the solar panel had a coat of dust on it. I wiped off the dust and placed the penguin back in the sunlight and it began dancing. It has been dancing ever since.

Sometimes the dust of our lives coats our solar panel and blocks out the “Son-light”. Sickness, disappointment, failed dreams, unanswered prayer, unfulfilled expectations, and tiredness, all leave their particles of dust on our spirit’s solar panel.

Jesus said to his followers: “You are already clean by the word that I have spoken to you.” John 15:3

If you find that you’ve stopped dancing, take the cloth of God’s Word (His promises), dust your solar panel, and believing Him, allow the light of the Lord to re-energize you. And, just like my little plastic penguin, you’ll find yourself once again “dancing in the light”.

PS I just checked on my plastic penguin, he wasn’t dancing. I dusted him off and immediately he began dancing. Keep yourself well dusted. 

©2013, Marcy Alves

Religious Defenders or Opportunists?

There has been quite a stir in the news for the past several days regarding the militant Islamic uprisings at various American embassies and on military compounds in Muslim-controlled countries in the Middle East and North Africa, purportedly over a B-rated movie made in the US by an Egyptian immigrant. Militant Muslims in other countries, such as France and Australia have jumped on the bandwagon. The movie, entitled Innocence of Muslims, depicts the Islamic prophet Muhammad in a negative light.

Although there is rationale to support that some of the attacks by militant Muslims were not spontaneous, but pre-planned to correspond with the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City and other places in the US in 2001, the “feet on the ground” in Egypt, Afghanistan and Tunisia belong to mobs who attribute their anger to the defamation of their prophet, the writer of the Quran.

I have thought a lot about this totally illogical reasoning that has led to the terrorist attacks by these Islamic radicals. If they really believe that Allah is God and Muhammad is his prophet, why do they, mere humans, have to defend them?

There have been quite a few movies in the past few years which have depicted Jesus Christ the Son of God, as a mere man with a God-complex, a homosexual, a lustful man fantasizing having sex with a women, a self-seeking radical; a family man who married the converted prostitute, Mary Magdalene, and probably other films that I, thankfully, am unaware of. Though I am troubled by hearing of such depictions of my Savior, and saddened that there are demonized people making such movies, I have never thought of becoming violent over those films, nor with the ones who made them. I simply chose to boycott the movies and to influence others to do the same.

That a large number of Muslims would become violent over the film about Muhammad is totally lacking in reason. And to blame a whole nation for the deeds of one man is incomprehensible. That’s why I believe that these militants who are making such a fuss are using the movie as a smokescreen for a festering hatred of America that has been smoldering for a long while under the surface. Several mid-eastern countries seem to have a love/hate relationship with America – they accept our help and our financial and military support to gain their freedom from long-term dictators, but take vengeance on America with very little provocation. It seems they resent us for having accepted our help.

I am a Christian. I worship and serve the Creator, the Master of the universe, the God above all gods, and his Son, my Savior, Jesus the Christ. He is a big God. He does not need me to defend Him or to threaten others who try to defame Him. He is God and He is in control. He does not need me to do His work. In fact, He tells me to forgive others, to pray for them.

Here’s my dilemma, why would the followers of Muhammad feel that they have to defend their prophet or Allah, their god? What makes them think that he is not enough of a god to defend his own honor? Is he a god of fear? Are they afraid of him? Is he a god for whom men and women have to kill themselves and others in order to please him? Is he a god of hate? Is he a god of violence? Who would want to follow a god like that? Are we getting an accurate picture of Muhammad and of Allah through these militant Muslims? If not, why aren’t the peaceful Muslims stopping such violence in the name of their god?

I would honestly like to dialogue with a committed Muslim to find out how they see their god and how they see their relationship to him. It sounds quite different than my Christian belief in my loving Father God. Is love a part of Allah’s kingdom? If not, how can a person follow a god who does not love them as his children?

I would be glad to hear from anyone who is a committed Muslim to discover how you think about your faith and your god. If any of my other readers have a personal relationship with a sincere Muslim who would care to comment, please refer them to my blog site.

In the meantime, anyone can discover my faith-basis by reading the New Testament – particularly the 4 Gospels, the book of the Acts of the Apostles, and the book of First John. The other NT books are also important, but the ones I mentioned will give a good picture of the God of love that I both worship and adore.

Meanwhile, Hebrews 12:14 offers some good words for all of us:

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

©2012, Marcy Alves

World View: How It Affects Our “Opinions”

Have you ever thought of where your opinions come from? Do they come from your parents? A favorite teacher? What you watch on TV or listen to on the radio? The evening news? Celebrity pronouncements or movie star worship? We all are affected by people and events that have influenced our lives in both negative and positive ways. They all contribute to our basic belief system. Out of our belief system comes our worldview.

Worldview “ . . .the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual, group or culture interprets the world and interacts with it.”  “A network of presuppositions which is not verified by the procedures of natural science but in terms of which every aspect of man’s knowledge and experience is interpreted and interrelated.”   Wikipedia

In other words, your relationships and experiences have influenced your basic belief system which forms your worldview, and out of your worldview come your opinions.

I often say to my husband that almost anyone’s opinion is logical if you start from the base of their worldview. The problems arise when we have different basic belief systems. Many misunderstandings come from variant worldviews.

All of the current debates on issues ranging from national healthcare, to the sanctity of marriage, to the value of human life from it’s inception, to right-to-work (i.e., not have to join or pay dues to a union), to a strictly Constitutional government, to the extension of amnesty to illegal aliens by Presidential fiat, all are dictated by personal worldview.

For the “re-born” Christian (as introduced by Jesus in the Gospel of John chapter 3), many of these hotly debated issue opinions are influenced by a Spirit-birthed relationship to God the Father and by the teachings in God’s Word. A reborn Christian’s opinions are not merely his/her personal ones, for his spirit is now linked to God’s Spirit, or he/she is not really a “Christian”:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. . . .  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:3-8

The Apostle Paul also speaks of this relationship with God in Romans chapter 8, in which he refers to Spirit-born Christians as “sons of God”:

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in youAnyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you . . . For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”  Romans 8:9-11, 14-15

Response to Negative Disqualifyers

Very often, from pro-entitlement, pro-choice, pro-amnesty, or pro-same-sex marriage supporters come charges against those, who for conscience sake, (often stemming from religious and/or Scriptural values), are opposed to these more liberal viewpoints. Such charges as “bigoted, hateful, unloving, unkind, and judgmental” are leveled against anyone who dares to express a personal opinion that is anything but status quo and politically correct.

Often Scriptures are used to support these negative charges; such as, “Didn’t Jesus say to love everyone and not to judge others?” I find it interesting that often those who use these two particular words from Scripture, have no interest in going any deeper into the Bible or into a dynamic relationship with Jesus themselves – just Scripture to disqualify opposing opinions.

Isn’t it “unloving and judgmental” to declare someone else is unloving and judgmental, when we don’t know them personally? Is love being shown toward those whom we judge as “bigoted, hateful, unloving and judgmental”? Or do we apply the words of Jesus only to win points in a debate?

Isn’t it self-serving to use convenient catch phrases from Scripture to “judge” those whom we feel are being “judgmental” because they disagree with us?

Your opinions about the value of human life, the origin of the created world and the sanctity, purpose, and acceptable form of marriage, all stem from your belief system about God, His creation, and the Holy Scriptures which reveal God’s will for mankind – in other words, from your basic worldview.

Belief in and a relationship with the God of the Bible affects our opinions and choices.

Those who support marriage between a man and a woman only, and those who are pro-life – from the womb to old age – frequently base that view on the beliefs that there is a supreme holy God and that the Bible is the Word of God. They believe the teachings in the book of Genesis, that God is the one who created human life (it was not an evolutionary process that produced this highest created being), that God is the one who gave human life value; that God is the one who originated marriage between a man and a woman and that this was His plan for perpetuity. Their opinions on such matters are honest, kind and loving, based on their worldview. And to judge them as “bigoted, hateful and unloving” is unfair.

Loving Others                                                                                                                                                                                                                     What does it mean to love others? If I love my neighbor as myself, will I not warn him when I see him about to step off the edge of a 100 foot cliff as he is sleep-walking? Or try to wake him up when I see his house is on fire?

Does being loving mean that I shouldn’t warn those who perhaps don’t know what God’s standards are for His children, nor the fact that they will one day have to stand before the judge of the universe and account for their decisions that are contrary to God’s laws, whether or not they believe in God?

It’s important in this age of “anything you want to believe is okay” to examine what our worldview is based on. Do we have a solid foundation of beliefs that will withstand time, no matter how fickle public opinion is? Do we really believe what we say we believe, or are we swayed by every twist and turn of public opinions that swirl around us?

Is your “tolerance” really love for others, or are you taking the easy way out, doing what you need to do in order to be perceived as broadminded and tolerant? Is it possible that you perfer to overlook the sins of others so that you feel better about your own sin?

Jesus called his followers to walk on a narrow path: the people on that path are to base their worldview on the Scriptures and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and to lovingly warn and hopefully rescue those who are standing on the edge of a cliff.

How firm is the foundation for your worldview?

©2012, Marcy Alves

%d bloggers like this: