Category: Engaging Culture

Possibilities With God

In this poetic essay I engage with the idea that we need to get involved—with others—in what God is doing in our world. Will we listen to what the past and present are saying, so we can move together WITH our loving God now … stepping into the possibilities that call us to a renewed future?


WITH

When the angel said to Mary, “For nothing is impossible with God”

and when Jesus said, speaking of the rich young man, “With God all things are possible”

did they mean that God would single-handedly make seemingly-impossible things happen?

Surely not.

“With” means with. Possibilities are not actualities. But they can become so.

First, choices will be made . . . by God, by us. . . .

Choices matter in each

attraction or encounter

touch or grasp

reaction or response

intersection or dead-end

word spoken or thought silenced.

And, as in the case of Mary, life-giving choices and actions don’t happen alone but

WITH.

Whence comes this ability and necessity to choose, this invitation to respond and cooperate?

—From One who speaks potentiality, beauty, and creativity out of Love . . . connecting us as persons, relating us to all of nature, to every part of ourselves, and to God (through Christ who gives us life and the Spirit who is with us). We are image-bearers. Like it or not, believe it or not, we are in some sense

WITH.

Living here in time and space, each of our moments is thick with the past—and pregnant with the future—calling us to be creators, curators, visionaries, encouragers, healers, leaders, servants.

Will we

receive the breath

heed the voice

cleave to the nearness

of God?

Will we give birth to actions of faith, hope, and love

WITH?

Look up—attend, read, listen to the moment.

Look back—see the river of the past feeding into the now.

Look down—see that we are standing in an estuary of the potent, teeming present.

Look toward the horizon—see the future rolling and swelling. Which waves will break upon the shore?

Look around—all that surrounds us, that the river currents and ocean tides wash in, how it is mixing. At this time, in this place, what can we do to bring

  • clarity not murkiness
  • free flow not stagnation
  • sweetness not putridity
  • abundance not scarcity
  • hope that helps people know they are

WITH?

We are part of the becomingness of everlasting life!

Will we face the moment, listen to what it is saying about us, about the past that has influenced who we are, about the direction we are headed, what we are bringing into the future, and what the future may bring to us?

God—being revealed through Jesus, the Scriptures, and creation—is patient, persistent, longsuffering, even slow . . . convincing, helping, here

WITH.

Like compass needles, we seek, seek True North; and True North wants to, wills to, be found.

Yet, bent, we wobble and resist.

But God is not a faraway star. God is

  • the true atmosphere giving us breath
  • the true magnetism holding us together
  • the true dawn waking us again and again.

Does the needle think it is the true one and North should get in line?

God “strengthens the humble but opposes the proud.”—

This is to say, when we set ourselves in opposition, we cannot join hands

WITH.

No matter where we go, where we have been, where our feet stand now in time . . . we are not alone, never away from God’s influence, care, wooing. If “God with us” holds all our times past—keeps our “tears in a bottle”. . . . If God at every moment sees all the possible steps into the future. . . . If God imagines the myriad possible intersections of our path with the paths of others. . . . Then let us act, step out, take hold, clasp hands, join hearts

WITH.

Forces exist that would divide us, separate us, within, without.

God—Love—would bring us together.

In this estuary of the consequential, substantial present . . .

The young gambol in swirls of fresh water, thinking they’ll forever play among the land mammals, trees, and sunny grasses.

We who have traveled longer sense saltiness in the water and feel the undertow pulling away from familiar moorings. We will soon find ourselves in the waters of what from here appears to be dark swelling mysteries, unfathomed depths, and uncharted treasures . . . to a separation temporal, but a connection and communion everlasting.

Fresh water and salt water mingle here and now, but these waters continually recede, like breath and blood flowing in and out of lungs—rhythms of life attuned

WITH.

If we have a God who speaks and

who “holds all things together,”

then surely God is continually present to us and all creation?

And if God is manifest “wherever two or three are gathered,”

then surely God the Spirit is speaking and influencing there

WITH.

In this moment, are we thriving?

How can we continue to stand, let alone flourish, if divided against ourselves—lacking harmony in our inner lives, our families, our churches, our nations, our world?

We say we believe some form of:

“God created the heavens and the earth.”

“God called creation ‘good’.”

“God so loved the world. . .”

Then God isn’t against us but

WITH!

We may disagree on:

. . . Beginnings

a) A creation of potential, of possibilities and ongoing creation in which we participate

b) A controlled design with set time and space, limited and contained

. . . Endings

a) “All things made new” by a loving, relational, re-creating, and transforming God

b) Destruction of, and rescue from, a cursed and dying world by a just and vengeful God

But can we agree, in this in-between time, as we open our hearts and minds to the Alpha and Omega, to seek God’s reign and will “on earth as it is in heaven,” and work together

WITH?

This moment carries roots and leaves of past moments and seeds of all future moments. What we do—now—matters. Is this present mix of waters rich with life and health both ecological and societal? Jesus said, we are “the salt of the earth,” “the light of the world.” We are caretakers of creation and each other when we partner

WITH.

Why do we blindly and stubbornly waste personal and corporate energies on greedy squabbles and turf wars?

Can we

  • accept slowness; unplug, listen, “fear not”?
  • trust together in creation’s innate ability to heal and renew, and accept our part in that?
  • acknowledge our own need for healing and renewal?
  • choose a mindset of benevolence for all?
  • have faith and hope in goodness and salvation?

Surely our God of creative, gracious, relentless love, will help us to join

WITH?

We need each other.

Will we lead the way by giving up worn-out stances, protectiveness, fear?

Will we choose to hold lightly our distinctives, traditions, non-essentials?

Let us be conservative—conservers of the truly good.

Let us be liberal—truly generous and tolerant.

We can each take responsibility to do something to make a positive difference, to be life-giving, to partner with God and each other in what Love seeks to do and calls us to participate in, as co-laborers. This labor is not a heavy-ladenness, nor is it burdensome, when we are yoked

WITH.

I know some people who choose to listen to, love freely, and work with God to sweeten the waters where they stand:

  • A prosperous, conservative Christian couple who cultivate acres of gardens to grow produce for their local food bank.
  • An evangelical pastor who has organized a ministry of prayer, friendship, and outreach to Muslim refugees in his city.
  • A retired professor and writer who follows God in vulnerability, revealing her trauma and healing to help others.
  • Contemplatives and poets who listen to and articulate a language of the heart to reach and touch fellow longing hearts.
  • New theologians reaching across institutional divides with hopeful understandings of God’s essence and presence.
  • A quiet man who invites neighbors into his home, where he and his wife pray and care for them, and share life together.
  • Wounded healers who listen, love, and pray with all who come; inviting, seeking, finding Jesus in broken places.
  • My green-card holding friend who sits with people dying alone in hospital, so they will not die alone but know they are . . .

WITH.

We stand here in a richness of the influential past and the potential future

as hope enlivens the waters. Will we:

  • vision together a more healthy and happy future?
  • seek healing for wounds of the past we carry?
  • affirm the good in this pregnant moment?
  • join hands together and partner

WITH

God?

~Catherine Lawton

 


“With” (a poetic essay) was first published in the book Partnering with God: Exploring Collaboration in Open and Relational Theology. (SacraSage Press, 2021)

“With” was also published on the Web at: crort.com/essays/with.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

 

Reverence for Life

Since I believe “sanctity of life” applies to life at every stage, I offer this poem I recently wrote:


Reverence for Life

Abortion (for a choice-caused conception)
Senseless killing (is war ever necessary?)
Death penalties (where’s the capital in that?)

Euthanasia (euphemism for “Mercy Killing”)
Suicide (the traumatized need mercy)
Poisoning our food, air, water, soil, bodies…

Won’t we do what we can to minimize these?
Accepted and un-confronted, a culture of death
will affect who we are, alone and together

“Who and what do we want to be?”

“Free”
Free, you say?

Where’s the freedom of the pre-born?
Is all fair in love and war, really?
What about “vengeance is mine”?

Too complicated politically to fix?
Are Justice-and-Mercy scales broke?
Is life not sacred? Is death escape?

Will crumbling foundations give way in revolt?
Or, as we’re breaking and remaking will we find
that we’re breaking ourselves against bedrock?

Then what and where and who will we be?

~Catherine Lawton


Art © Cladach Publishing

Giving Thanks To “A Worthy King”

For Thanksgiving (this week) and Christ the King Sunday (which is today) I am updating this post, first published three years ago. So much has changed since three years ago. I have added more comments/questions/affirmations after this poem:

Worthy to Receive Glory

Made to honor, we give fealty,

We seek true north like a needle.

But to look for your king

in a pulpit, disappoints;

in a government, fails;

in the mirror, distorts.

Look instead with the eyes of your heart

to the Wounded who heals;

to the Throne that is true;

to the Lamb who was slain,

Christ the King.

–Catherine Lawton

© 2018, 2020

(Excerpted from the book Glimpsing Glory)

In Revelation Chapter 5, Christ the King is depicted as a Lamb who has been slaughtered. Yet all the magnificence of Heaven bows down and worships this Lamb.

In Isaiah 53 we are told “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”

Then why do we continually seek the pretty, the popular, the powerful, the persuasive, and the polished to emulate, venerate, and follow?

More questions: Have we ever given thanks to God for entering into our humanity and suffering with us and for us? Have we given thanks for the privilege of suffering with him and for him? Are we giving our hearts, our allegiance, our lives to the slaughtered Lamb who lives? the wounded one who heals? Are we willing to bring our wounds to the Lamb for healing? to transform us into wounded healers?

This Thanksgiving, even in the midst of pandemic fears, political uncertainties, and limited gatherings, I want to “virtually” join all those who “fell down and worshiped” the lamb. as they held aloft bowls filled with “the prayers of the saints” and as they sang a “new song”:

“You are worthy … for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed, for God, saints from every tribe and language and people and nation;…

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered …

“To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

He is our king and he is with us, even in our present sufferings!

Giving thanks,

 


Photo: Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

Photo taken in Rocky Mountain National Park

Current Buzz – Feb. 2020

Over a month into 2020 we’ve had some surprises as well as some planned happenings. In this post I’ll share with you some of the surprises. One of our authors has garnered increased media attention lately:

Hostage In Taipei : A True Story of Forgiveness and Hope by McGill Alexander

This memoir by now-retired South African ambassador and brigadier general tells the dramatic hostage story that occurred in Taiwan. A few years after the book was released, National Geographic TV broadcast a docudrama of this amazing story and testimony of the Alexander’s, which was re-enacted by a British production company. Now the “Locked-up Abroad” episodes, including this one (Season 1, Ep. 10: “Taiwan”), have become available on Amazon video. Viewers of the docudrama sometimes search for more about the story and land on Alexander’s Wikipedia page, which leads to info about Hostage In Taipei, which may lead to the interested party purchasing the paperback or ebook. One such viewer / searcher / reader was a Christian media person, who then invited McGill Alexander as a guest on his podcast. Find it in audio or video here:

 Artwork for Audio Mullet #35: How To Forgive The Man Who Shot Your Daughter Audio Mullet #35: How To Forgive The Man Who Shot Your Daughter  Or, even better, watch video of the episode on Youtube here.

Doug TenNapel and Ethan Nicolle welcome special guest McGill Alexander from South Africa, who was in an intense hostage situation many years ago while living in Taiwan. A notorious murderer and rapist held his family hostage for 26 hours, shooting McGill and his daughter – both survived. McGill and his wife later brought a Bible to the man who held them hostage and led him to Christ, forgiving him for what he put them through. This interview is all about that act – loving those who are your enemies, praying for those who persecute you. Why are we called to do it and what does it mean?

(In the 40-minute interview, McGill tells the story with such passion and freshness, you’d think it happened yesterday.)

Then, it so happens that one of the “Mullet” podcasters, Ethan Nicolle, also co-hosts the Babylon Bee podcast, which then hosted McGill on Jan 24. This one is probably even more indepth and thoughtful. You can listen to this 48-minute podcast segment on this page: Forgiving The Man Who Took My Family Hostage: The McGill Alexander Interview Jan 24, 2020.

You may know the Babylon Bee as a Christian / Political satire site. There are good vibes but no satire this time, as the story is deadly serious, has eternal ramifications, and has provided challenging, inspiring testimony to the world. In their interview, Kyle Mann and Ethan Nicolle covered these topics and more:

    • McGill’s story : How this hostage event happened and who the criminal was

    • McGill’s Christian faith

    • How did McGill get through this horrible event?

    • Forgiveness- what is it and what does it look like?

    • How long did it take to forgive, was this a process, and what was going through his mind as all this was happening?

    • Is forgiveness completely unconditional?

    • Does forgiveness condone the evil?

    • We live in a “show no mercy” culture nowadays, especially on social media. How does forgiveness shape how we approach this culture?

We at Cladach appreciate the length of these podcasts and the time they gave McGill to tell his story, as well as the excellent questions and subjects covered in the discussions. (Thank you, Ethan.) We are also pleased at the increase in sales we have noticed as a result of these media opportunities. And we are even more pleased that the Alexander’s story is reaching ever-widening audiences.

In another part of the world, McGill Alexander was invited to Indonesia by CNA, an English-language Asian news network, to appear in an episode of The Negotiators to tell his hostage-crisis story, which was also reenacted. The 47-minute episode can be viewed at:

 The Negotiators: Ep 2: Taipei Hostage Crisis (Updated: ) Taiwan’s most-wanted criminal holds a South African diplomat’s family hostage at gunpoint. Negotiators find themselves trying to do their work in the midst of a frantic media circus.


Even though McGill was ill while in Indonesia for this filming, he did a great job.

I thank God for continuing to open doors for this story and testimony to be told through both Christian and secular media.

 

Cladach Authors in their Communities

We love to see our authors out participating in their communities, sharing their expertise and their books, and meeting readers. These events happen around the country and sometimes around the world. We love to receive reports and photos of local author activities, such as the following:

John Buzzard

On Saturday November 2, John Buzzard, author of the Cladach historical novel THAT DAY BY THE CREEK, sold and signed copies of his books at the Empire Ranch Cowboy Festival in Sonoita, Arizona, along with other members of the Western Writers of America. Looks like a great time, John! And I like the cowboy hat.

Marilyn Bay

Last month, Marilyn Bay signed copies of her Cladach novel, PRAIRIE TRUTH, at Coffeehouse Ten24 in Eaton, Colorado. Marilyn says she enjoyed visiting with people “about books, writing and the rest of life.” Marilyn’s roots go deep in Northern Colorado farming soil, and all her books, including ALL WE LIKE SHEEP: LESSONS FROM THE SHEEP FARM, find eager readers near and far

James Troy Turner

James Troy Turner sold and signed copies of poetry books, POEMS and MORE POEMS during the downtown festivities for Sugar Beet Days in Sterling, Colorado. Troy enjoyed signing his books, showing off his dog, PJ, and visiting with both new and old friends and customers, some of whom remembered him from his farm-equipment mechanic days.

Dennis and Kit Ellingson

Dennis Ellingson, “The Herb Guy,” and Kit Ellingson, authors of three Cladach titles, set up their booth for the Master Gardener’s Fair in Central Point, Oregon. We’d love to have been there along with others of the public who stopped by to check out Dennis’s books and plants and Kit’s photography. Dennis and Kit are joint authors of THE GODLY GRANDPARENT and Dennis’s books include the popular Cladach titles, GOD’S HEALING HERBS and GOD’S WILD HERBS.

Don’t we have resourceful, ingenious, creative, and engaging authors!

A Story of Resiliency, Integrity, and Community

Each generation must find its way amidst cultural changes, clashes and conflicts. Carolina and Mauricio had to do this in the new novel, PRAIRIE TRUTH (just released). Reading a good historical novel not only gives the reader momentary escape, but paints a colorful picture and historical perspective that helps to clarify the conflicts of today.

Like the characters in PRAIRIE TRUTH, and like those who actually lived in the San Luis Valley of New Mexico / Colorado in the 1800s, I can look back at generations of my own family tree and find abundant examples of people fleeing persecution, oppression, and hardship to seek an identity, a living, and fulfillment.

My husband’s Danish forebears immigrated to America when Germany took over the southern section of Denmark on which their farm was located, and attempted to conscript their sons into the German army.

My Scots-Irish ancestors had earlier found their way to America amidst turmoils, persecutions, and deprivations in their part of the British Isles.

My great-grandparents found their way to a homestead in Eastern Colorado to seek new opportunities.

Members of my mother’s birth family found their way to the agricultural fields of California to escape the poverty of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression era in Oklahoma and southeast Colorado.

Another great-great grandmother, who is said to have been a Cherokee Indian escaped from the Trail of Tears, hid at the back of a tobacco farmer’s fields in Indiana and raised his illegitimate child. That child, who grew to be my great-grandfather, took the farmer’s name, avoided school, farmed steadily, and carved out a quiet life raising a family and serving the Lord, keeping silent about his parentage.

Fact can be stranger than fiction, and that makes fiction like PRAIRIE TRUTH believable. In this historical novel, a young woman born on the Colorado prairie to a white settler’s daughter and a Cheyenne Indian, never fully accepted by either culture, leaves home and rides her horse toward the mountains and high valleys southwest of Denver. There she learns the language and customs, and blends in, at least for a time. There she make friends, proves her abilities to contribute to the good of a community, and falls in love.

She finds out that her new community itself—the San Luis Valley of Colorado in 1888—is racially and culturally and religiously mixed also. Wars have been fought and won or lost. Borders of nations and states have been re-drawn. They must adjust to new language, new laws, and prejudices. But also, new opportunities present themselves.

The sufferings, traumas, and separations of the past were as real as those of today. The challenges of the present may feel insurmountable at times. But learning how resiliency, integrity, and community have carved paths of hope in times past, gives us courage to face into our problems today with renewed faith and hope for a better future.

~Catherine

 

 

A Worthy King

Worthy to Receive Glory

Made to honor, we give fealty,

We seek true north like a needle.

But to look for your king

in a pulpit, disappoints;

in a government, fails;

in the mirror, distorts.

Look instead with the eyes of your heart

to the Wounded who heals;

to the Throne that is true;

to the Lamb who was slain,

Christ the King.

–Catherine Lawton

© 2018, 2020

Excerpted from the book Glimpsing Glory

In Revelation Chapter 5 Christ the King is depicted as a Lamb who had been slaughtered. Yet all the magnificence of Heaven bowed down and worshiped this lamb.

In Isaiah 53 we are told “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”

Then why do we continually seek the pretty, the popular, the powerful, the persuasive, and the polished to emulate, venerate, and follow?

 


Photo: “Thanksgiving” Stained-Glass Windows used by permission of Library of Congress

Experiencing the People and Places of the Stories

I love hearing from our authors about their interactions with their readers.

Judith Galblum Pex (Judy) often forwards emails and vignettes to me.

Judy is an American-born Israeli Jewish Christian. From their home and ministry in Eilat, Israel, she and her husband, John, have a unique perspective on the Middle East—and the world—especially because thousands of travelers stay in their hostel (The Shelter) each year. And because the Pexes are “Trail Angels” who help people who are walking the 600-mile Israel National Trail. Judy wrote a book (Walk the Land) about her and John’s experience of walking the famous and challenging Trail from one end of Israel to the other.

Here’s one experience Judy shared in a recent update:

“Last night John and I slept out at a camp site on the Israel Trail. In the morning we met a group with 50 participants called ‘Walk about Love.’ They enable people to do the Trail by providing meals and taking their bags from camp to camp. One of the women, a Reform Jewish rabbi, from New York City [in the picture above with Judy] immediately recognized me from Walk the Land, and very excitedly told me she had read my book and wanted a picture with me. Another woman was eager to have a copy in Hebrew. The organizers of the group knew the Shelter. … In preparing for her trip she came across my book on one of the sites and ordered it on Amazon. She used a Yiddish word to mean “preordained” when she realized she was meeting the author.”

And here’s another recent experience Judy had, this time at The Shelter:

“A tour group with 25 people from New Zealand led by a couple we know and guided by a friend of ours came to the Shelter today to hear about the work here and we sold fourteen books, a mixture of all three books.”


Judy receives emails from readers all over the world who have read her book(s). Here are examples of recent messages she has received and shared with me:

“I have just enjoyed reading your book “Walk the Land.”  It was lent to me by Astrid and Craig who are friends at our church and who met at your Hostel and were saved through your ministry.  Like Astrid I am Jewish, in fact I am a child survivor of the holocaust.”

–(a reader in Australia)

“Shalom Judy. I am currently reading your book Come Stay Celebrate. I’m only on chapter 9 and I can’t put it down. Your stories have reminded me of when I first believed in Jesus in 1986. How my life changed and how exciting it was to learn and grow. It’s created a hunger in me to keep learning and growing! Thank you for writing this book and sharing your faith and leading so many to Jesus!!”

–(a reader in Las Vegas Nevada)


Judy often shares experiences like these on her Facebook author page. You can follow her there: https://www.facebook.com/Judith-Pex-author-280669071951952/

Judy’s books:

Grace in Horrific Times

Snapshot - 1

There are more than 65 million displaced people in the world today, more than ever before in history.

There are more natural disasters occurring than ever before in recorded history.

There is a growing spirit of division among people, as evidenced in current discourse, events, politics and elections. So much of this division seems fueled by fear, anger, and distrust.

There have been horrific times before in history. We humans like to think we have learned from those experiences and that we wouldn’t let such things happen again. Can we learn from history? Will we? Or must history repeat itself?

Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) And he said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Cladach has released books that feature true stories of God—and his people—at work even during the most horrific historical times. For instance:

  • Pol Pot’s genocidal regime in Cambodia (in the book, NO MORE FEAR).
  • A political terror-hostage crisis (in the book, HOSTAGE IN TAIPEI).
  • Christian and Muslim refugees in Africa and the Middle East (in the book,A PEOPLE TALL AND SMOOTH).
  • Spiritual hunger during the Communist revolution in Russia (in the book, PAPER POPPIES).
  • Jewish children and their pets during the Holocaust (in the book, FAITHFUL FRIENDS).

All these personal memoirs happened in extremely tumultuous times and circumstances. Each describes injustices, cruelty, and evil forces unleashed on nations, people groups, and individuals. Each of these stories also gives witness to God’s personal presence, providence, and grace.

We offer these stories in the hope that readers will find renewed perspective, faith, and love.

Showing Love and Offering Hope in the World

We can each do something this day to increase shalom, well-being, and flourishing in our world—to participate in “God’s kingdom come.”

I like the quote by Anne Frank, that I photographed summer 2017 when I was visiting Birmingham, Alabama. This monument was erected in the context of the Civil Rights struggles of that city, quoting a young Jewish girl hiding from the Nazis. If she could think and pen such words, shouldn’t we—as followers of the Messiah—who revealed to us God’s heart of Love and compassion—be looking for ways to “improve the world” that God created, Christ gave his life for, ever lives to intercede for, and is coming back to reclaim and re-create? “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.” John 3:16.

As a believer and follower of Jesus, the Creator and Redeemer, I want to reflect his character of holy love into this groaning, strife-filled world.

One way I seek to do that is by publishing books that offer hope. I believe that hope is what sets “Christian books” apart among general book publishing. Whether through fiction, nonfiction, memoir, or poetry; a story, essay, or poem may portray a context of brokenness, sin, and conflict. But into that milieu will shine a ray of hope that gives the reader renewed courage to reach up and take hold of “the helping hand at the end of God’s long arm of love.”

————

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