God of Wonders

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Seven Wonders of the World

The Seven Wonders of the World have historically been a listing of the seven sites known by the Ancient Greeks as the most remarkable physical setting in their recognized world. However, since that time there have been many others who have developed various lists of the “modern” Seven Wonders of the World. It seems that the only list that has stood the real test of time is the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, produced by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The Original Seven Wonders of the World

  • The Colossus of Rhodes
  • The Great Pyramid of Giza
  • The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
  • The Lighthouse of Alexandria
  • The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
  • The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
  • The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

I remember being a grade school student and being absolutely enamored by the vision of the third wonder – The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. In fact today I am still drawn to images and renderings of what those gardens may have looked like! Maybe that is why I love my house plants :)

Other lists include: The “New” Seven Wonders of the World, New York’s Seven Wonders, Florida’s Seven Wonders, Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages, Seven Natural Wonders of the World, The Seven Underwater Wonders of the World,  Seven Wonders of the Industrial World and more. There are several countries that list their seven wonders and there are lists for man-made wonders, civil-engineering wonders and blunder wonders! In all of these lists, I wonder … what have we learned and I get slightly depressed. We are still trying to make ourselves bigger and better than the next guy in most of our Continue reading …

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An Advent Lesson ~ The Righteousness of Joseph (part 2)

Joseph’s Struggle (cont’d)

Read part 1 here ….. Today we continue with Joseph Davidson and the story of his struggle to be a righteous man and the earthly father of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. Let’s hear the rest of his story from his perspective. Joseph, please go on … 

Well, as I said, when Mary told me she was made pregnant by the Spirit of God, I just couldn’t believe it! And to tell the truth, I can’t say I reacted very well at first. I wanted to lash out; I wanted to hurt her as much as she had hurt me. The Law said that a woman found in adultery should be stoned to death. Now I understood that law in a way I never had before. I wanted to get back at her, for ruining our love, my faith and trust, for tarnishing my good name.

I had spent my life trying to live to a certain standard, to live so that people would respect me. A scandal like this would ruin me. Everyone would just assume that I was the father. Just think how far a crazy story about being visited and made pregnant by the Spirit of God was going to go down in the marketplace and at the village wells! Nobody would believe it. I knew I had to go public. I had to gather the elders and publicly dissolve the betrothal. I would tell everyone that I was not responsible. If nothing else came out of this mess at least, maybe, I could keep my good name.

But you know what? I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to have any harm come to Mary. I loved her, I completely, totally loved her. Even though she’d shattered my faith I didn’t want to make a public example of her. Of course, there was no way I could marry her, but the Law said it was up to the man what should be done in a situation like this, although there had never really been this kind of situation before or since! I could get a couple of my friends, give her a private bill of divorce and that would be that. Of course, the reason would soon be obvious, but without a complaint from me nothing could legally be done to Mary.

In the meantime, Mary had to get away from the village before the gossip started. The sarcastic, nasty gossip around the village well would be too much for her to handle. So she went south, to Hebron. She had relatives there, who would give her the support she needed and they had room for her to stay.

While she was away, I calmed down and I began to think. I spent a lot of time walking around in a daze and working at my bench. I didn’t care about eating. I didn’t pay much attention to what was going on in life. Then the dreams started. Always the same. Walking down a dark corridor and suddenly this blinding light and an angel would be there. How did I know it was an angel? Good question. I know that it may sound a little crazy, but sometimes Continue reading

An Advent Lesson ~ The Righteousness of Joseph (part 1)

Joseph’s Struggle

Today’s special guest comes to us all the way from Bethlehem by way of Nazareth. Most of you know him as Jesus’ father, or the husband of Mary, but let’s hear from him. Please, share your story …

Well, first of all, let me introduce myself.  My name is Joseph. Joseph Davidson. I’ve been quietly attending many of your celebrations of Christmas for quite a while but I suspect many of you don’t know me very well.  I’m sort of like the step-father of the bride at a wedding.  You see, nobody pays much attention to him until its time to start paying the bills!  I know how much many of you enjoy celebrating Christmas but I want to tell you, your Christmas celebration cost me a great deal!

I guess there is another thing that you should know about me. My neighbors call me a “righteous man”.  In my time that meant something very specific. You see, way back when, hundreds and hundreds of years before even I was born, God gave Moses the Law for our people. The Law tells us how we should live for God, the things we should do, the way we should eat, the people we should associate with and so on. One thing you should know about the Law though, keeping it is not always easy. It makes great demands on us. But I believe that if we’re going to be God’s people we must do what God tells us. Anyway, all that is to explain what people in my day meant when they called a man a “righteous man”. That’s me. I don’t go around preaching to people or looking down my nose at others. I just think if a person believes something they should live it.

Let’s see, what else would you want to know about me? Well, I grew up in Bethlehem. It’s only a few miles from Jerusalem and making a living there was difficult. So as a young man I moved to Nazareth. Nazareth was so small I’m always amazed when I meet people nowadays who have even heard about it!  It was barely a village then, the butt of a lot of jokes.  “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” people used to kid. Remember, I didn’t go to Nazareth for the night life or the excitement. I went because I needed to find work to support myself and my future family.

As for my family, it’s an old and honorable one – probably with more emphasis on the old than the honorable!  My ancestors include King David. I know that isn’t really much to boast about. He lived a thousand years before I was born, so by the time I was born, there were hundreds and thousands of Davidson’s. But I am still proud of my birthright and my family name. Some people today can trace their heritage back to settlers in their home country or even further. Well, it’s like that with me.

I’m carpenter by trade. I do things like make furniture, build houses, make tools and yoke for oxen. If it’s made out of wood, I’m your man! I see woodworkers like myself as practical people. I like things you can handle and see, something you can measure, cut and saw. I’m not someone who puts a lot of stock in ideas. Oh, I enjoy listening to the teacher when he comes to our local synagogue, but I prefer more practical things. Wood is honest. I understand that some folks nowadays have doors that are hollow in the middle – that sounds dishonest to me. I like things that are wood right through. I like things that are solid. Wood has integrity. I like that – I like that in people too.

Of course, the other thing that was important in my life was my Mary.

Life was pretty good for me in Nazareth.  I found plenty of work, saved some money and then I began thinking
about getting married. That’s when I met Mary. She was about 15 years old then, just the right age for us to become engaged. She was a wonderful girl, and she became a wonderful woman and a wonderful mother. And so, we became betrothed.

I want you to understand what that meant for us. When a couple becomes betrothed, it’s something like your engagement only it’s much more permanent. It lasts a year, occasionally even longer. During that time period the families have a chance to get to know one another. They work out a dowry. They search the records in the temple in Jerusalem because in a little country like ours, it’s really easy for relatives to get married and never even know that they’re relatives. Our engagements can only be broken by divorce. And getting a divorce isn’t easy. You have to show real reason. It’s pretty disgraceful.

That stage of our betrothal was a time for me to dream. I dreamed about all kinds of plans for our future. I dreamed about the home I would build for Mary and myself. I dreamed about the kids we’d have. I dreamed about a little girl that would look as beautiful as her mother. I dreamed about a son who I could teach the ways of being a carpenter, to make useful things with his hands and to build something from nothing with no more than scraps and pieces. I dreamed about the wonderful life we’d have and how wonderful that life would be.

It’s strange though, isn’t it, how quickly life can go sour. How quickly our dreams can turn into nightmares. How easily your most treasured plans can be shattered in a moment. Maybe you’ve also had that experience.

My dreams became a nightmare after I noticed that Mary had become very quiet and withdrawn. This wasn’t the Mary I knew and loved so I began to wonder if something was wrong. I tried to talk to her about it, but she said she couldn’t tell me about it. I had to go out of town to do a job and the whole time I was away I could hardly sleep because I was so worried about what might be going on. I wondered, had I done something to displease her or her family?  I worried that they’d found something in the Temple records that would prevent us from being married!  By the time I returned to Nazareth I was beside myself. I went to Mary and I begged her not to shut me out of her life, to tell me what was going on, but I was totally unprepared for her answer.  Continue reading

I am NOT alone …

“I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses.” ~ Taylor Caldwell

Criminal Justice: Ministry efforts not limited to people behind bars

       For more than 30 years I have observed the trends and public response to ministry in the criminal justice system. When this area of ministry became more personal and I became directly involved, I began to look more clearly at the impact that Christian faith can have in the lives of people within the system.
       What I found was that in order to respond and share our faith in Christ we must first more clearly identify who is a part of that system.
     Most people hear “criminal justice” and think “prison” but the definition is more far-reaching than the offender. Oftentimes programs are developed by the faith community that direct our energies to the conversion of the incarcerated while other members of society who have been impacted by the stress of the criminal act are left wounded along the road.
       A comprehensive ministry of criminal justice, from a faith-based perspective, requires us to include ministry and outreach to the victims of the offenders where there are victims, the families of those incarcerated, all levels of law enforcement that work within the criminal justice system, the confined prisoner, and the ex-offender as they are reintroduced to the community.
      According to a recent report released by the Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project, at the start of 2008 there were 2,319,258 adults being held in American prisons or jails. The latest published reports show that in the state of Georgia, the average daily population being held under supervision of the Department Of Corrections was 57,026 in state prisons, 106 percent of capacity.
       These numbers currently put Georgia in the upper fifth of increase in prison population; and among the eight largest correctional programs in the United States. These figures reveal that for the first time in history more than one in every 100 adults in America are in jail or prison — a fact that significantly impacts our state budget without providing a clear benefit on public safety.

Other facts:

  • One in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, that figure is 233% higher for men of color.
  • The female prison population is increasing at a much faster pace than it is for males.
  • One in every 53 adults in their 20s is behind bars (1.89%). InGeorgiathis number is 16,152 or 29. 53% of the total prison population.
  • The majority of all prisoners are held at the state and local level (not federal)
  • World Prison Brief lists prison population rates per 100,000 residents of each country ~ U.S.tops the list with 743 prisoners per 100,000 residents, followed byRwandawith 595, theRussian Federationwith 559.
  • Reports from the Bureau of Justice Statistics show an estimated 4.3 million violent crimes, 15.6 million property crimes, and 133,000 personal thefts were committed againstU.S.residents age 12 or older in 2009. This equates to more than 20,033,000 victims. **
       Although we can look at statistics and get a glimpse of the tragedy and heartbreak that surrounds our justice system, we are a people called to respond to the hurt and brokenness in the world and in our community. It is important that we note that prison growth and higher incarceration rates do not reflect a matching increase in crime, nor is there a corresponding swelling in the nation’s population at large.
       Instead, what we see is that more people are behind bars largely because of a wave of public policy choices that are sending more lawbreakers to prison. In addition, because of popular “three-strikes” measures and other sentencing laws, longer prison stays are being imposed on inmates.
       In some areas lawmakers are experimenting with a range of community punishments that are as effective as incarceration in protecting public safety. These include a mix of community-based programs such as day reporting centers, treatment facilities, electronic monitoring systems and community service. In addition, recidivism rates have proven to be positively impacted through faith-based programs.
       During the next few editions of the North Georgia Advocate we will have the opportunity to highlight the various facets of criminal justice ministry and how each of us can make an impact for Christ in these areas.
         In scripture we read, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord  require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” ~ (Micah 6:8)
     In this journey we will look at the many ways people in our churches and in our conference have extended the grace of God by doing justice, loving mercy and walking with God.
By: Rev.Pat

An Advent Lesson ~ Compassion

The Horse and the Ass

An Ass and rude horse were travelling together.
The Horse carried little beyond his own tether.
While the poor laden beast beside him did struggle;
So overburdend that he finally faltered.
He pleaded with the Horse to show him some pity,
Else he would die before reaching the city.
“My request after all is not impolite;
Half of this load you would still find light.”
The Horse he refused thinking himself clever,
But soon saw his comrade fall down forever.
He realized quickly he had been Continue reading

An Advent Lesson ~ Generosity

Growing Good Corn

There once was a farmer who grew award-winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair where it won a blue ribbon.

One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors.

“How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.

“Why sir,” said the farmer, “didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”

He is very much aware of the connectedness of life. His corn cannot Continue reading