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A Silent Epidemic for Women

When you have 52 minutes, watch this film. One of those things that no one ever talks about, that affects so many women. Even women in the Bible. I wish I had a million dollars so I could give it to this hospital that helps these women who are shunned and despised.

If you want to help or find out more information, go here.

Virginia: Guns welcome, Women Not So Much

So, as a woman who lives in the Commonwealth of Virginia, let me say I am puzzled.

I can now go buy a handgun, its sole purpose being to kill human beings, then continue to buy as many handguns as I want in a single week or month. Without any psychological or physical screening. Because the 2nd Amendment says, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

But, if my doctor and I decide to do a legal procedure, the state can ignore my 4th Amendment rights, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…” and force a doctor to perform an unnecessary medical procedure on my body.

Basically, Virginia, with its tragic history of handgun violence, trusts people with guns more than it trusts women with their own bodies.

Just wanted to get that straight.

About: The Fundamentalist History…

Since this post is getting more attention than the norm on my blog, I want to make something very clear.  I am not angry. I am tired. I personally experienced some of the history here. I’m tired of it being misrepresented.  My only motive in writing this was to hope that people would investigate this on their own. Don’t accept every word you hear on television, or from politicians, or from other leaders. Don’t blindly accept what I write here.  There are many historical sources out there for you to follow. I chose a few (sometimes the ones that were easiest to google…because there is a lot of phlegm out there on these topics). Take quotes from the text and google them. See what others have to offer in commentary. Then decide.

And that’s it.

The Fundamentalist History They Don’t Want You To Know

There is a funny thing about history. Even though there are countless books waiting to be investigated and read, myriad articles from the times, and an abundance of other evidence, we human beings would rather have someone else — one of our contemporaries — tell us what it is.

It boggles my mind when I hear evangelicals claiming that our founding fathers in the United States did not really intend for there to be “separation of church and state.” Evangelical leaders and politicos say, “No! They didn’t mean that! They were Christians. They did not actually use that phrase.”

If you should decide to do the research for yourself, the case becomes abundantly clear.  And I’m going to help you along a little with some history that I have researched. I will even give you places to look for yourself.  Then you can decide for yourself what is clear and what is agenda riddled falsehood.

Let’s start with the Baptists. That’s my own personal heritage. Born and raised in a Virginia Southern Baptist Church. The granddaughter of Primitive Baptists from Missouri.

The first Baptists in the colonies crossed the Pond in order to escape persecution by the Anglican Church in England. They set up shop in South Carolina (1682), Virginia (1715), and North Carolina (1727).  They were a simple lot. They eschewed finery and laziness. And they really ticked off the gentry.

You needed a license to preach back in those days. Of course, those were only handed out by the Anglican Church in the South. (There were similar issues with the Puritans in the North.)  You paid taxes that went to the Anglican Church. You could be prosecuted/fined if you missed too many Anglican Church Sunday services. The “AC” was the center of society. You had to be a member in order to hold political office. So, they liked to arrest Baptist preachers for things like disorderly conduct.  If you read this article from the July 1974 of the William & Mary Quarterly, you can get a good idea of how much the Baptists ticked off the AC establishment.

The Baptists did other things that annoyed the AC folks. They went around evangelizing everyone. Even slaves and freedmen. They accepted them into their churches and made them preachers.  And they called for the abolition of slavery as they believed all men were equal in the sight of God.

The Baptists were really good at organizing and motivating people to condemn the powers that be for their sinful ways.  The First Great Awakening in the 1740’s only gave them more fervor. They grew by leaps and bounds without any political power whatsoever. When their preachers were arrested, they were defended by men like Patrick Henry and James Madison.

And then came the American Revolution.

Once all those AC power guys were gone, the Baptists (and other evangelicals) were determined to prevent another society where something like the Anglican Church ruled. Therefore, they were firmly on the side of separation of church and state. Pay taxes that go to a church? No way. Let the church control the government? Nope. Require people to be church members to hold political office? No.

A prime example was the Baptist pastor John Leland.  Patrick Henry proposed a bill in the Virginia legislature that would impose a tax to encourage religious institutions. You could earmark it to go to whatever denomination you preferred.  Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were vehemently opposed to it. So were evangelicals.  Leland worked tirelessly to see the bill defeated.

Contrary to the myth of revisionist history, our Founding Fathers were very much divided about “separation of church and state.” And you can see it in their letters and writings.

Once the United States of America existed, however, things in the evangelical community took a turn, especially in the South.  The preachers and church members who had been banned from political office and from social status, suddenly became wealthy.  The church, which had always been the center of social and political events, was still center, but it wasn’t the Anglicans anymore. It was the evangelicals.  Now, they found ways to extol slavery. This new generation of pastors liked the status quo. And they wanted to protect it.

In 1814, the Baptists “united” nationally under the Triennial Convention.  Unfortunately, it was dominated by northern churches and pastors who still cried out for the abolition of slavery. They would not appoint missionaries who were slave owners.  The South rebelled. So, in 1845, they broke from the national convention and formed the Southern Baptist Convention.

And then, the South lost the Civil War. What to do?

Flash forward to the Civil Rights era.  And the Roe v. Wade era.

When the Roe v. Wade ruling came down, there was very little protest from the religious right.

Although various Roman Catholic groups denounced the ruling, and Christianity Today complained that the Roe decision “runs counter to the moral teachings of Christianity through the ages but also to the moral sense of the American people,” the vast majority of evangelical leaders said virtually nothing about it; many of those who did comment actually applauded the decision. W. Barry Garrett of Baptist Press wrote, “Religious liberty, human equality and justice are advanced by the Supreme Court abortion decision.” Indeed, even before the Roe decision, the messengers (delegates) to the 1971 Southern Baptist Convention gathering in St. Louis, Missouri, adopted a resolution that stated, “we call upon Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” W.A. Criswell, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, expressed his satisfaction with the Roe v. Wade ruling. “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person,” the redoubtable fundamentalist declared, “and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.”

Abortion just wasn’t an issue, except to some Catholics.

But segregation was.  Green v. Connally was.  In 1972, the Court ruled “that any institution that practiced segregation was not, by definition, a charitable institution and, therefore, no longer qualified for tax-exempt standing.”  The IRS was going after private schools that practiced segregation. Schools like Bob Jones University. Private schools like the ones Jerry Falwell launched in response to desegregation.

In 1958, Falwell had made his position clear in his sermon, “Segregation or Integration: Which?”
“If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made,” Falwell boomed from above his congregation in Lynchburg. “The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line.”

Go do a little research on all these private Christian schools in the South. See when they were founded.  Look and see when they began (were forced) to accept non-white children.

The bully tactics used by fundamentalist Southern Baptists, beginning at the 1979 Southern Baptist Convention, have become standard practice.  At the 1979 convention (which was attended by my parents), anyone who wasn’t part of the takeover was silenced. If you disagreed with the fundamentalists, your microphone was turned off. You were escorted out. Baptists were suddenly being required to follow a creed, something that went against everything in their history of independence and the “priesthood of the believer.” Women were silenced.

Some of those who were part of that takeover have now recognized how un-Christian it was and have denounced the politicalization of the Southern Baptist Convention.  The Moderates were forced to break away and form the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. (The Baptist Joint Committee that signed on to the recent call for taking religion out of the current political debates is part of the CBF.)

Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.  The Civil War was fought over slavery. No other issue, despite attempts of revisionist “history.” Every single issue, “States’ Rights,” economics, everything — it was all about slavery. The States’ rights to make slavery legal, the States’ rights to re-introduce the slave trade, the economics of slavery.  If you read any of the newspaper accounts from 1859, after John Brown’s Harper’s Ferry raid, you can see exactly what the issue was. Slavery.

Likewise, the corruption of the right wing evangelicals can trace all of its roots back to slavery.  They can use whatever code words they want: States’ Rights, Religious Liberty, Patriotism…every action they take, every thing they protest is rooted in discrimination. And they have brainwashed new generations into thinking it is everything else.

If abortion was such an issue to them, where were they when Roe v. Wade was passed down?  Why did their leaders say such nonchalant things about it? The same leaders that now use it as a rallying cry?

Hidden agendas.  They depend on their followers to blindly follow.  The Bible hasn’t changed over the years, but these politicians in the pulpit have learned to change their language.

But insiders remember and know the truth.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I know for a fact that there are good, decent, non-racist churches and members out there in the evangelical community. But your “leaders” are lying to you about their own history and yours. Ask yourself, “Why?” Why would they keep trying to ignore and re-write history? Look at their “fruit.” I am in no way “for” abortion.  But I do not want to see the church dictate laws. It is not about morality. It is about power. And you are supporting that with your money and your voice.

O, Holiday Tree, O Tree with Sparkly Things On It…

There’s a new photo making the rounds on Facebook.  It is a picture of a U.S. soldier in full combat gear, including rifle, with the words, “We fight and die for your freedoms including the right to say… Merry Christmas.”

Oh, my Christian brother and sisters, are we really so persecuted? Last time I checked, I can go open my front door and yell out “Merry Christmas.” In fact, I just did. Really. It made my Hindu neighbors smile. Meanwhile, in many other countries, yelling those words would land you in prison (or worse).  I’m pretty sure “Merry Christmas” is not one of the things God wants us to defend with a gun. But this is not even an issue of freedom. We’re upset because governments and groups that represent people of many different cultures don’t want to show favoritism.

If you’ve read my previous posts, then you would know that many of our Christian forefathers in this country (the evangelical ones) fought very hard for separation of church and state. And I would guess that they would not have a big problem with government buildings not housing nativity scenes or trees with ornaments or other modern trappings of the season. The Puritans would have us all in stocks for the things we consider cherished traditions. And when non-Christians choose to put up their own protest to the season (through “art” or parody), instead of reaching out to them in Christian love and starting any kind of meaningful dialogue as we are called to do, we scream at the top of our lungs and generally make fools out of ourselves, driving even more people away from hearing the true message of Christ. We sound like a bunch of Pharisees and Sadducees. It’s all about our rules and not the person. We’ve become bullies.

If there is any “war on Christmas,” then we are the ones waging it. Where in the Bible do you see Christmas trees, ornaments, turkeys and hams, pumpkin pie, Wii games, toys, ginormous Christmas pageants that cost oodles of dough, Christmas wardrobes in red and green, “White Christmas,” wrapping paper and bows, Christmas cards, Black Friday mobs, cookies (and cookie exchanges), last minute shopping trips, Rudolph with his nose so bright, Frosty, eggnog, and hollering out, “Merry Christmas!”? Most of these “cherished traditions” have pagan roots.

And this year, Christmas has the audacity to land on a Sunday. How many houses of Christian worship will be closed on Christmas Sunday? We can’t disrupt traditions for Christmas morning! (I’ll give a little break to those churches that meet in places like schools – some of them might not be able to have access to the buildings.)   And then, there are the arguments about when to have the Christmas Eve service – can’t be too early or too late or it will mess up Christmas Eve dinner and present unwrapping plans!

Maybe I’m being harsh, but I don’t think so. When did Christ become the afterthought of the CHRISTmas season? And, out of guilt, we scream about the secular “War On Christmas.” It’s estimated that this year we spent $55 Billion on Black Friday weekend. Some 220 million shoppers. $55 Billion in one weekend. The American Research Group reports that shoppers say they plan to spend, on average, a total of $646 each on Christmas gifts. Do that math.

It’s estimated that in all of 2011, we will spend $50.84 Billion on our pets.

According to Charity Navigator, in 2010, we gave $100.63 Billion total to churches/religious organizations. For the whole year. Some 118 Million claim to go to church regularly. That works out to roughly $847 per person, per year (or $71 per month, or $17.75 per week). Which means, if they are actually tithing, those 118 million only earn $8,470 per year…of which $646 apparently goes to Christmas presents.

In November 2010, missionaries’ salaries ranged between $20,051 and $32,614. (from Simply Hired)

It is estimated that we spend $7 Billion on cosmetics each year. We spent $12.4 Billion on cosmetic surgery. 4.6 Million people used Botox.

We only need $8 Billion to ensure that everyone on the planet has safe drinking water.

This year in the U.S., it is estimated that the Federal government Family and Children food and nutrition assistance program will spend $107.2 Billion total.

It costs 25 Cents to package a Stop Hunger Now meal (that has 6 servings) and send it off to starving people in Haiti or Africa. Ten thousand of those meals (that feed 60,000) cost a whopping total of $2,500.

There is a very interesting account in Jeremiah 22 about the king, Jehoiachin. In it, God tells Jeremiah to tell him, basically, “How many windows of cedar do you need?” God has blessed us with many things. And it’s okay to enjoy some of them. But not at the expense of our neighbors in need. He blesses us so that we can bless others. Because I’m pretty sure I haven’t earned any of these blessings. And I’m pretty sure that starving 4-year old in Somalia hasn’t done some abominable thing that caused their hunger.

There are times I wish we really were persecuted in this country, because persecution of the Church causes explosive growth. (Check the Bible and other histories on that. Look at what is happening in China.) But since we aren’t persecuted, maybe we need to start understanding the concept of “sacrifice.”  Maybe, just maybe, we could start thinking outside of our cultural box (read: prison), and say something like: “Why don’t we do something different this year for Christmas? Instead of spending $646 per person, why don’t we limit that. Say we agree to only spend $25 on each person in our family? Maybe limit our total to $200 or less. And then we give the remaining $446 to our church, or to Stop Hunger Now, or to a group like Doctors Without Borders who use that Plumpy’Nut stuff that can bring starving people back from the brink of death for a dollar a day…

And what would happen if we stop making excuses for ourselves, like: “It would ruin our economy if I didn’t spend all this money” or “my kids deserve all these toys and clothes…” If we had one ounce of faith, we would know that God would take care of things if we obeyed His Word and took care of our neighbors. Every single time I have stepped outside of my selfish wants and sacrificed even a pittance, He has provided for me. Every. Single. Time.

Two thousand years ago, God sent us His only son. He was born in a humble stable. He didn’t rub elbows with the rich and famous. He spent his time with the poor and despised. He said things like, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” “The meek shall inherit the earth.” “Blessed are the peacemakers.” “Love your enemies. Pray for those that persecute you.” “…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” He was despised and rejected by men. And so will we be if we follow Him. Sacrifice.

So, can we Christians just stop the War On Christmas and put Christ back in the center of our lives this season? Nothing else matters.

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? (Fear, Beck, and Christianity)

If you’ve spent any time recently watching television or surfing the internet, there is one thing that has been made abundantly clear: we live in a nation of fear.

I confess, I do have some “fears.”  I really hate spiders and have been known to voice a kind of Brenda Vaccaro-esque squeak when surprised by one. (See my early blog posting on this topic.)  I am also really not digging the whole cockroach genre. And I’ve ridden out earthquakes, tornados, and hurricanes. Not a big fan of any of them.  Looking at the list, there is a theme there.  There are definitely things in nature that can give me fear.

Man made stuff.  Not so much.  (Except for those moments when unexpected company shows up and I haven’t cleaned my apartment in ages… That’ll make me hide and pretend not to be at home.  Yes. I have done that. No. I won’t tell you who it was ’cause you might be reading this.)

But, if you listen to all the news and the talking heads and so-called “experts” on the tube, and apparently a whole lot of “Christians” do, we are afraid of:  Muslims, “Muslim” President Barack Obama, Muslims taking over the world, unions, budget deficits, Muslim clerics, Muslim 7-11 clerks, blacks, women, gays, fat, drinking soda, gays getting married and destroying the sacred institution of marriage, getting old, losing our jobs, global warming, Intelligent Design, the theory of evolution, Al Qaeda, Planned Parenthood, gun control, the poor, getting robbed, having our home invaded, having our country invaded and taken over by “illegal immigrants,” atheists, liberals, socialists, communists, China, terrorism, abortion doctors, Google, Rachel Maddow, caliphates, the end of the world, the Anti-Christ, and Justin Bieber’s hair.

Okay. I’ll admit there are a very few things in this list that merit our thoughtful consideration.  But, if you are a Christian, no matter what any pundit says, there is absolutely NOTHING on this list that you should fear.  And here are just a few reasons why:

Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Romans 8:31 “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Philippians 4:6-7  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

1 Peter 3:13-17  “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”

When you fear man or anything be creates, you have taken your eyes off of God and all of His promises.

When you fear, you take un-Christian action.

When humans fear, they do one of two things: they huddle alone in their cave (like the survivalist), or they band together with people who fear the same thing and lash out in “fight” mode.

The only thing we are told to fear is God and His awesome power.  Not just in a crime and punishment kind of way, but in a “God created everything in the universe and is beyond my full comprehension, but He still loves me!” way.

Let me address one kind of “fear” in particular: Armageddon, the anti-Christ, and the Tribulation.

No matter how many times the Bible (and Jesus) tells us not to try and guess when the “end” will happen, and to even run away from anyone who says they “know,” we still persist.

I am not entirely unsympathetic to those who are intensely interested in the end times.  I grew up just outside of Washington, D.C. in the 60’s and 70’s, when we still did “duck and cover” drills and were certain the bombs were going to drop some day.  I read everything about nuclear war and Armageddon that I could get my hands on.  Heck, my church even had a designated “Fallout Shelter” in its basement.  And I read “The Late Great Planet Earth” and my youth group saw the original scare-fest “A Thief In The Night,” about the Rapture.  (Which, by the way, you can see on youtube now.)

There is a magnetic pull in Revelation for many. First, it’s just a great “story.”  There’s drama, angst, big battles, good vs. evil, visions, blood and guts…the whole bit.  And we, ever believing (or wanting) that our lives have a music soundtrack playing in the background, like to imagine what we would do if we were “left behind.”  Would we persevere and resist the anti-Christ and the “mark of the beast?”  Then, there’s the whole “solving the mystery” element of Revelation.  John wrote using allegory and symbolism.  Our human minds can’t resist a mystery.  Which is why we get “Murder, She Wrote,” and “CSI.”

But it’s too easy to become obsessed with Revelation and fall into the trap of fear.  Christ warned us repeatedly about trying to guess when the Rapture and the Tribulation would occur.  Not even the angels know. Only the Father knows.  To see all of these so-called prophets online and on television, spouting their “facts” and theories…  Christ has already told us what these people are: false prophets.  It is the height of mankind’s egoism to believe that, suddenly, God has decided to go against what He gave us in His Word, and now He’s going to reveal the time to one man or woman (who usually has no Bible education and very little evidence of being a mature Christian).  But, apparently, they manage to say what many itching ears are wanting to hear.  In recent days, Glenn Beck has had some modern-day “prophet” on his show who he calls an “end times expert.”  The “expert” says he is an expert because his girlfriend had a vision saying she would meet a man who would have insight into the end times.  Right.  So, this man who has no knowledge of the Bible (which is really evident if you listen to him for more than five seconds), is now the “end times expert” on a television network.  You think there might be a reason that Beck has to use this guy, instead of the many learned and wise men of God that do live in our country? What about the authors of the “Left Behind” series?  I might not agree with them on everything, but they would seem to be better prepared to discuss the issue.  But, then again, I suspect they wouldn’t go along with the agenda of the show.

When someone says they know when Christ is coming again, they are calling God a liar and they are saying that the Bible is a lie.  Plain and simple. Run. Away.

When we listen to this junk, all we are doing is lining the pockets of the fearmongers among us. The men like Glenn Beck, who constantly warns of impending doom with the Anti-Christ-du-jour and tells us to buy gold (which, by the way, he is reportedly paid to promote).  He makes his money by sowing dissension and lies.  We have no business as Christians supporting this.

And, more importantly, when we fear our neighbor, we cannot love him.  We have lost sight of our job, our Great Commission.  If you’re stockpiling gold and food and weapons (laying up your treasure on earth), then you aren’t serving your neighbor and sharing the good news of Christ with them.  You cannot serve two masters. Pick yours. Fear or Christ.

Are hard financial/political times coming?  Perhaps.  And it doesn’t take a “prophet” to see it. But we must remember what Jesus told us:

Matthew 6:25-34 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 
 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 
 “Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or “What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Either you believe this, or you don’t.  Christ has made a promise.  Hedging your bets by storing things in your bomb shelter shows no faith and reveals what you really believe in your heart.

Fear is a trillion dollar industry.

History has shown us repeatedly that Christianity thrives under persecution.  It goes astray in prosperity.  If anyone had a human reason to “fear,” it would have been Christ and the disciples.  With the exception of John, they were all brutally killed for the message of hope that they brought. Christians in the early days were persecuted, fed to lions, tortured, pulled to pieces by horses.  Christians today, in other parts of the world, are brutally beaten, tortured, and killed for their beliefs.  Meanwhile, in the U.S., we spend so much time trying to legislate morality, we have completely forgotten the Great Commission.  I’m sorry. Can’t help my neighbor because I’m busy protesting the removal of the Ten Commandments from the court house.  Christianity does not rise or fall on the placement of a plaque on a wall. If we did what we were called to do, there would be no need for the plaque.  Christianity only rises on the person and authority of Jesus Christ.

Fortunately, because God gave us Christ, the Word, there is no reason for fear. I can tell you the end of the story right now.

Jesus wins.  What else do we need to know?

A Wagon Train Parable

I’ve got a little story to share today.  I’ve been pondering again and I’ll let you figure out this little “parable.”

Once upon a time, there were three groups of people who decided that they would make a journey.  They were like many others who felt the pull, the “calling,” to move West and start a new life in a foreign land.

As fate would have it, and as I would have it since I am telling the story, each group was composed of ten families.  Men, women and children of all ages and stations in life. Some were educated, some were not. Some had money, some did not.

But, they hitched up their wagons and possessions in different parts of the East and headed for the point where all of their stories would converge: St. Louis, Missouri.

Picture yourself in the frontier town of St. Louis, Missouri.  The jumping off point for the adventurous souls who were bitten by the “Go West!” bug.  Groups, big and small, would stop off here, after crossing the Mississippi River, to re-supply before heading off across prairies and mountains. Heading to their new promised land.  It was a dangerous trek and not everyone would make it.

Let’s meet our groups.

First, there’s the Red Wagon Train.  They’re very worried that they have gotten to St. Louis too late and winter is going to hit before they can cross the mountains and get to California.  They are worried they will run out of provisions. So, they hit all of the stores in the town.  Even when it looks like their horses will never be able to carry the load.  In the evening, they sit with their maps and argue about what course to take. Which will be easiest? Or should they take the quickest route, even though there are more perils?

Then, there’s the Yellow Wagon Train. They’re pretty comfortable with their supply situation. The load is heavy now, but will lighten as they go. They’re ready to head out tomorrow, not overly worried about beating winter.  They’re confident in their abilities.  And they’ve got maps and compasses. All the latest navigational stuff.

Last up is the Green Wagon Train.  They’re not worried about supplies.  They come from the mountains of Virginia and are used to making do and hunting, fishing, and gathering.  They don’t really have any maps other than hand drawn ones in letters written to them by people who have already made the trek, telling them what to expect.  And they got a lead on a really good guide.  They’ve heard others talk about the guide and understand he will get them to their destination.  He met them last night. He doesn’t say much, but any concerns they had were allayed by his calm. He told them that the journey would be hard, but it would be beautiful. And he told them he would get them to their new home. They’re heading out in the morning.

So the move date came…

And went, for the Red Wagons.  They all kept bickering about supplies and leadership and horses…and anything else they could find because they didn’t trust one another. It turned out that half the group did not want to leave the East and most of them did not even believe that anyone had ever succcesfully made the trek. They liked what they already had and didn’t want to have to change.  So, most of them returned East. A few members stayed in St. Louis, thinking that maybe “next year” they would hook up with the right group to head West.

Things started out well for the Yellow Train.  They stayed up most of the night before to elect leaders for the trek. They even signed a pledge that said they would work together and share.  They started out with their heavy laden wagons in high spirits. Their route was clear for the first two weeks and they made good progress.  But, then the weather changed.

The arguments started. Some questioned their leader, Tom.  Tom had assigned Ben to navigational duties because he had the nicest compass.  But, Ben seemed to have trouble reading the compass. They’d start out in the morning, thinking they only had to travel twenty miles, but then end up going forty to find the next fresh water.  They argued over the maps and could not agree on what each squiggle and mark meant. Some said that a squiggle meant “water.” Others said it meant “hills.” They spent a lot of time backtracking when they ran into obstacles.

When they were stopped by an unexpected snow squall, panic set in.  They argued over provisions and said that Tom was giving the best food to his own family.  They voted for a new leader, Sam.  Sam had everyone divide all the supplies equally among the families.  But, within a few days, some felt cheated because they felt they did the most hard work and should get more food.  They were too scared to go out and hunt because someone in St. Louis said the natives would kill them.  They were stuck on the open prairie with no fire wood.  So, they were cold and hungry.

They argued over how to make the best shelters and how to start a fire. Each one had their own tradition, their own way of doing things.

Four of the families pled with the others to get along and keep moving forward, but the others wouldn’t listen.  One family got sick.  When they crossed paths with some trappers headed back East with furs, most of the group decided to turn around and go back with them.

The four families decided to keep going.  With help from the trappers, they set a better path and continued on, helping one another.  They had to stop before they reached the mountains and set up a winter camp where they stayed until the next spring. It was a hard winter and a few were lost to the cold or to illness, but they finally reached the West the next year, battered and bruised.  And sad because so many were left behind.

That leaves the Green Team and their guide, Old Eli.  Before they left St. Louis, Eli had told them that there were only two rules to follow: Trust him to get them West and take care of each other along the way.

They travelled light, so they made good time. Eli had crossed these trails many times before and knew where to stop and rest. He knew where the water was. He knew where to stop and collect fire wood for the days ahead.  He knew where friendly native tribes lived who would trade food for goods.

They would look at their maps together and discuss what they showed…and marvel at how far they had already travelled. As long as they stayed focused on taking care of one another, there was no need for rules because selfishness, the cause of discord, wasn’t around.

Occasionally, one or two of the families would insist on building a shelter or setting a trap their own way, instead of listening to Eli’s advice.  They quickly learned that the ways they thought were best, the traditions that had served them well in Virginia, were not the only way and were not always the easiest or the best.  They adapted, even though it was hard to give up old habits.

Eli knew the snow squall was coming before anyone else had any inkling.  He stopped them in a sheltering valley with trees, even though the sun was still shining.  But, the families didn’t complain or argue. They had learned to trust his instincts.  They set up their camp, chopped wood for shelter and fires, and hunted.  So, they were ready when the storm hit.

When they crossed rivers and streams, Eli always seemed to know the easiest and safest place to cross, even though, sometimes, some of the men thought it would be faster to go another way.  But, they remembered everything Eli had gotten them through so far and followed.

Along the trek, each member of the group found new talents and skills they never knew they possessed. They weren’t looking for them, they were simply found by necessity.  When Annie, an older woman who did most of the good cooking, had a bad case of gout, a man too old to hunt, Jeb, stepped up and made some amazing stew and biscuits.  Some found they were very good at fixing wagons, some could entertain the children with stories and games when the weather was bad.  Others were excellent at making sure the hunters were well dressed and fed.  Everyone found new gifts when they were needed.

They adapted to new terrain and watched Eli for cues on how to speak with the different native tribes they met.

When they reached the mountains, they were afraid, but had learned to simply rely on Eli.  The skies looked ominous, but Eli told them the storm would pass by. They travelled on. They crossed the mountains safely and arrived in California to begin their new lives.

So, the question is, which group represents your church?  I’ll leave it to you to figure out what all the details mean.  (Or, maybe we’ll talk about that in my next post.)