John R. Mott — January 31

Bible connection

But what does it say?

“The word is near you,
    on your lips and in your heart”

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. — Romans 10:8-17 

All about John R. Mott (1865-1955)

John Mott stood before the fabled 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference and said, “It is a startling and solemnizing fact that even as late as the twentieth century, the Great Command of Jesus Christ to carry the Gospel to all mankind is still so largely unfulfilled. … The church is confronted today, as in no preceding generation, with a literally worldwide opportunity to make Christ known.”

His evangelistic passion made Mott his generation’s most popular evangelist to university students and the promoter of the emerging ecumenical movement.

Mott was born in New York but raised by parents who settled in Iowa. They nurtured his faith and duty. While he was in college at Cornell University, C. T. Studd, the famous cricket-player-turned-evangelist struck him with these words: “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not. Seek ye first the kingdom of God.” That same year, at the 1886 Northfield Student Conference led by Dwight L. Moody, Mott stepped up and became one of the 100 men who volunteered for foreign missions.

Mott’s destiny, however, lay not in foreign missions but in evangelizing college students and inspiring others to foreign mission work. He became college secretary of the YMCA in 1888, when the organization was consciously evangelical and aggressively evangelistic. That same year, he helped organize the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions (SVM), which he led for thirty years. By the time he spoke at SVM’s 1951 convention, over 20,000 volunteers had gone to mission fields through its efforts.

Mott’s energies could not be bound by one or even two such organizations, no matter their scope. In 1895 he helped found the World Student Christian Association and traveled some 2 million miles to further the federation’s dream: to “unite in spirit as never before the students of the world,” and so hasten the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer, “that all may be one.” On every continent he visited, he established immediate rapport with students and church leaders, who flocked to hear him speak. His reputation for irenic yet impassioned appeal for dedication to the kingdom of God grew; heads of state sympathetic to his mission honored him upon arrival and consulted him in private.

In 1893 he helped found the Foreign Missions Conference of North America, and in 1910, he helped pull together and chair the massive Edinburgh Missionary Conference—its 1,200 delegates represented 160 mission boards or societies.

All these movements, and a few more with which Mott was involved, eventually blossomed at the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam in 1948. Mott was not only officially named honorary president at the inaugural session, he has come to be remembered as the “father of the ecumenical movement.”

By the time Mott was 32, he was called “Protestantism’s leading statesman,” at 58, the “father of the young people of the world,” and at age 81, in 1946, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In an era when liberals and fundamentalists debated fiercely, Mott took a middle view: “Evangelism without social work is deficient; social work without evangelism is impotent.” Still, evangelism was his first love. The title of his bestselling 1900 book is The Evangelization of the World in This Generation, and in his last public appearance, he said, “While life lasts, I am an evangelist.”

More

Mott used as an object lesson for the men’s group: you must rest:

A participant’s description of John Mott’s chairmanship at the 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference:

When he himself addresses an assembly, [he] knits and kindles the craggy tender face; the voice vibrates with fierce emphases and stresses. … The single words seem literally to fall from his lips (the trite expression is for once justified), finished off with a deliberation that never slurs one final consonant, but on the contrary gives that consonant the duty of driving its word home. And as for the sentences also—the conclusion of each, instead of dropping in tone, increases to a sort of defiant sforzando, which, when his earnestness is at its height, can be terrific.

History from the Nobel Committee:

Friendship among Christians Brings Peace

The Peace Prize for 1946 was awarded to the head of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), the American John Raleigh Mott, who according to the Nobel Committee had contributed to the creation of a peace-promoting religious brotherhood across national boundaries.

Mott grew up in a settler family in Iowa, strongly influenced by Puritan ideals, and took a bachelor’s degree in history at Cornell University. As a student Mott received a religious call to spread the Gospel, after which he devoted most of his life to the YMCA, to missionary activities, and ecumenical work.

As general-secretary of the International Committee of the YMCA and president of YMCA’s World Committee, Mott sought to advance understanding and reconciliation. He organized youth exchanges, set up study groups, and arranged international youth camps. Mott was at the same time a leading figure in the field of international Christian student and missionary cooperation, and took part during both World Wars in relief work for prisoners of war. He criticised the oppression of colonial peoples and was a pioneer in the struggle against racial discrimination.

Founding of the YMCA

History of the World Council of Churches from their site.

What do we do with this?

John R. Mott crossed all sort so lines to forge alliances. He carried a gospel of reconciliation all over the world and became famous for his good will and trustworthy character. He is a good example of the best of Evangelicalism and the “muscular” Christianity of the early 20th century. Mott was a tireless proponent of a vision that “all would be one” in Christ. What do you see as a vision worth devoting your future to?

Menno Simons — January 31

Menno Simons

Bible connection

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. — James 1:27

All about Menno Simons (1496-1561)

At the height of their persecution, one convert survived to give form and future to the Anabaptist movement. Menno Simons  was a Catholic priest born in modern day Netherlands. While studying the Scriptures for the first time (even though he had been a priest for over a decade), Simons realized he was in conflict with church leaders  about transubstantiation. A few years later, around 1531, Simons heard about “rebaptizing” when Sicke Snijder was beheaded, the first Anabaptist martyr in the Netherlands. He was moved to study the scriptures and found that infant baptism was not in the Bible. He began having more contact with Anabaptists, and while the date of his own adult baptism is not known, those who harbored Simons were arrested for the offense.

The Mennonites, a religious group descended from the 16th century Anabaptists, take their name from Menno Simons. His moderation, after the militant excesses of the fanatical Anabaptist Kingdom of Munster (1534 – 35), restored balance to the movement.

As Simons’ influence increased over the years, the Dutch Anabaptists became known as Mennonites. They developed a distinctive focus on evangelism. The most celebrated of Simons’ work: Why I Do Not Cease Teaching and Writing (1539) reads,

True evangelical faith is of such a nature it cannot lie dormant, but spreads itself out in all kinds of righteousness and fruits of love; it dies to flesh and blood; it destroys all lusts and forbidden desires; it seeks, serves and fears God in its inmost soul; it clothes the naked; it feeds the hungry; it comforts the sorrowful; it shelters the destitute; it aids and consoles the sad; it does good to those who do it harm; it serves those that harm it; it prays for those who persecute it; it teaches, admonishes and judges us with the Word of the Lord; it seeks those who are lost; it binds up what is wounded; it heals the sick; it saves what is strong (sound); it becomes all things to all people.

The Mennonites rejected infant baptism, the swearing of oaths, military service, and worldliness. They practiced strong church discipline in their congregations and lived simple, honest, loving lives in emulation of the earliest Christians. Because Mennonites refused to assume state offices, to serve as police or soldiers, or to take oaths of loyalty, they were considered subversive and as such severely persecuted. These persecutions led at various times to the emigration of Mennonite groups, such as one group’s escape to the American colonies (1683), where they settled in what came to be known as Germantown, now a neighborhood in Philadelphia. At the end of the 18th Century, merging this Anabaptist stream with influence from the Pietist movement, the River Brethren (later to birth the Brethren In Christ) were formed.

Menno Simons died a free man of natural causes on this day in 1561, 25 years after he had renounced his priestly vows. He was buried in his personal garden.

More

Here is all you might want to know from the Mennonite history website. 

Online collection of Simons’ writings.

What do we do with this?

Read through the excerpt from the writings of Menno Simons again. Maybe we should all take a “dormancy” test. Are there an elements of the true evangelical faith that are less active in you or us than they ought to be? Does our relative lack of persecution quench the Spirit among us?

Mahalia Jackson — January 27

Mahalia Jackson

Bible connection

Yes, all who are incensed against you
    shall be ashamed and disgraced;
those who strive against you
    shall be as nothing and shall perish.
You shall seek those who contend with you,
    but you shall not find them;
those who war against you
    shall be as nothing at all.
For I, the Lord your God,
    hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear,
    I will help you.’  Isaiah 41:11-13

Mahalia Jackson singing live in Chicago. She was a favorite of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Mahalia sang this song at the March on Washinton just before King gave the “I have a dream” speech. (Rod loves her).

All about Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972)

Mahalia Jackson was an American gospel singer. She had a powerful contralto voice. Even more, she had a powerful spirit that led people to name her “The Queen of Gospel.” She became one of the most influential gospel singers in the world and was known internationally as a singer and civil rights activist. She recorded over 30 albums during her career (mostly for Columbia Records), and her 45 rpm records included a dozen “golds”—million-sellers.

At the March on Washington in 1963, Jackson sang “How I Got Over” and “I Been ‘Buked and I Been Scorned” in front of 250,000 people. That was the same event in which Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous I Have a Dream speech. She sang to crowds at the 1964 New York World’s Fair and was accompanied by “wonderboy preacher” Al Sharpton. She sang “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” at Dr. King’s funeral after he was assassinated in 1968.

Earlier, in 1956, she met Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King, Jr. at the National Baptist Convention. A few months later, both King and Abernathy contacted her about coming to Montgomery, Alabama, to sing at a rally to raise money for the bus boycott. Despite death threats, Jackson agreed to sing in Montgomery. By the time she got there, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in Browder v. Gayle that bus segregation was unconstitutional. In Montgomery, the ruling was not yet put into effect, so the bus boycott continued. The concert was a success, but when she returned to the Abernathy’s home, it had been bombed.

Mahalia Jackson once said: “I sing God’s music because it makes me feel free.” Asked about her choice of gospel music, she said, “It gives me hope. With the blues, when you finish, you still have the blues.”

Jackson’s last years were a mix of heartbreak and great success. Through friends, Jackson met Sigmond Galloway, a former musician in the construction business.  To the surprise of her closest friends and associates, she married him in her living room in 1964. A few weeks later, she had had a heart attack. Her recovery took a full year during which she was unable to tour or record, ultimately losing 50 pounds.

Galloway proved to be unreliable, leaving for long periods during Jackson’s convalescence, then upon his return insisting she was imagining her symptoms. He tried taking over managerial duties from agents and promoters despite being inept. They argued over money; Galloway attempted to strike Jackson on two different occasions, the second one was thwarted when Jackson ducked and he broke his hand hitting a piece of furniture behind her. The marriage dissolved and she announced her intention to divorce. He responded by requesting a jury trial, rare for divorces, in an attempt to embarrass her by publicizing the details of their marital problems. When Galloway’s infidelities were proven in testimony, the judge declined to award him any of Jackson’s assets or properties.

Her doctors cleared her to work and Jackson began recording and performing again. When not on tour, she concentrated her efforts on building two philanthropies: the Mahalia Jackson Foundation which eventually paid tuition for 50 college students, and a nondenominational temple for young people in Chicago to learn gospel music. She worked toward the latter for ten years.  As she organized two large benefit concerts for these causes, she was once more heartbroken upon learning of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1968 and 1969 Jackson toured Europe. In the next few years she had successful tours of the Caribbean, Liberia, Japan, and enjoyed a U.S. State Department sponsored a visit to India. While touring Europe months after India, Jackson became ill in Germany and flew home to Chicago where she was hospitalized. In January 1972, she received surgery to remove a bowel obstruction and died in recovery. Her body was returned to New Orleans where she lay in state at Rivergate Auditorium under a military and police guard while over 60,000 people filed through to view her casket.

More

Branching out into business, Jackson partnered with comedian Minnie Pearl in a chain of restaurants called Mahalia Jackson’s Chicken Dinners and lent her name to a line of canned foods.

Remember Me: The Mahalia Jackson Story (2022 film)

“Sweet Little Jesus Boy” on the  Ed Sullivan Show (1960)

 

What do we do with this?

Right now, let yourself be happy. Let the blues be lifted because God is with you.

If you really want to follow Mahalia’s example, sing! Try it right now. If you are in public, or with someone else in your home, do it anyway. That would be even more like her.

Thomas Dorsey — January 23

The Father of Gospel Music Wanted to Be a Secular Star

Bible connection

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. — Ephesians 5:18-20

All about Thomas Dorsey (1899-1993)

Thomas Dorsey was 33 years old and had a flourishing career in secular music. In the previous fifteen years, the Georgia native had moved to Chicago, completed his musical studies while picking up an endless number of side jobs, and eventually found a way to support himself and his expectant wife as a full-time musician. But it wasn’t to last. In the next months Dorsey lost his wife and newborn son, a tragedy which spurred him to heed the advice of those closest to him. He left the secular music scene behind and fully dedicated his musical gifts to the church.

Over the next 60 years, Dorsey became known as the “Father of Gospel Music,” writing hundreds of songs and redefining the genre in beat, rhythm, and tempo. As The Voice reported, the Chicago musician dubbed his work “songs with a message.”

Here’s the full story:

Thomas A. Dorsey was born in Villa Rica, Georgia, a small town outside of Atlanta, in 1899, the son of an itinerant Baptist preacher. When his father and mother married, his mother brought a significant amount of land. But within a few years, the family lost their property, allegedly due to back taxes. Thomas’s father, a respected teacher and preacher, was forced to work as a sharecropper on the very land formerly owned by his wife’s family. In 1908 the Dorseys moved to Atlanta where both parents worked to help the family survive.

The adjustment wasn’t easy for Thomas. He was placed a year behind his classmates in the Atlanta public school system and his peers often made fun of his speech and clothes. Thomas dropped out of school at the age of 10 and began working at a prominent black vaudeville theater, carrying water and doing other odd jobs.

As a young boy, Thomas learned to play the piano from his mother, for whom music had been a significant part of her own family life. After the family moved to Atlanta, he walked 30 miles a week to take formal music lessons. As his musical ability improved, he began playing for churches, house rent parties (parties organized by tenants to pay for their rent), bordellos, and women’s teas to help supplement his family’s income.

In 1916, at 17, Dorsey moved north to Chicago to pursue a musical career. Success was initially hard to come by. He soon learned he couldn’t earn union scale wages as a musician without a card, and he couldn’t obtain the card without a formal music education. To pay for his education, Dorsey worked days at a steel mill in Gary, Indiana, attended school at night, and established his own nightly rent-party circuit . In 1919, Dorsey completed his musical studies at the Chicago College of Composition and Arrangement and obtained his union card. Now he was free to play anywhere in Chicago and performed with various groups, including the Whispering Syncopators and a jazz orchestra.

Dorsey also joined Pilgrim Baptist Church. A preacher’s kid who had confessed faith in Christ as a child, he had also been influenced by his father’s flamboyant style, which he often imitated on the family porch. But faith wasn’t a serious priority in Dorsey’s life until his early 20s. Initially, Dorsey’s conversion spurred him to end his secular music career, and he began playing for a storefront church. But the salary wasn’t enough to pay his bills. So, once again, Dorsey began to work in jazz and blues clubs. In 1924, Dorsey, with the Wild Cats Jazz Band, debuted with Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, at the Grand Theater in Chicago. Performing with Rainey was a significant career break for Dorsey — she was known as the “Mother of the Blues.”

Despite personal success, depression plagued Dorsey throughout his career. He appeared on stage one night with Ma Rainey and was unable to play. He said, “I could move my fingers. I just couldn’t play. Think of that. I have the muscular ability to move, but I can’t play. In other words, I can’t make music. I can’t create.” Some of those close to Dorsey, however, believed something else was at work. His wife and sister-in-law were unhappy that he had continued to pursue a secular musical career. Dorsey’s wife, Nettie, whom he married in 1925, believed that God had called him to write and sing gospel music and that the source of his inner turmoil stemmed from ignoring God’s calling.

Yet his secular career was rising. In 1928, Dorsey and guitarist Tampa Red released, It’s Tight Like That—a national sensation and a religious scandal. The song’s bawdy lyrics described lovemaking between a man and a woman. It was an instant success, selling over 500,000 copies.

Things began to change for Dorsey in the 1930s when influential church musicians began championing his music. A performance of Dorsey’s composition of If You See My Savior during a morning devotion left people “slain in the spirit.” Two NBC musicians gave Dorsey permission to set up a booth at the 1930 convention where he sold more than 4,000 copies of that song. For his part, Dorsey continued to play secular music while he visited churches and asked pastors to listen to his religious compositions.

In 1932, Dorsey’s battle between secular and sacred reached a tragic resolution. The musician had gone to St. Louis to sing at a revival. During his trip, he received a telegram telling him to return home—his wife had just died in childbirth. His infant son died the next day.

Initially, Dorsey was angry with God, believing God had wronged him. In his grief, he refused to do anything for God; he only wanted to pursue his secular career. But God had something to say to him, as Dorsey later recounted in The Precious Lord Story and Gospel Songs: “You are not alone. I tried to speak to you before. It was you that should have gotten out of the car and not gone to St. Louis. … I said, Thank you, Lord, I understand. I’ll never make that same mistake again.”

The following Saturday after Nettie’s death, Dorsey met up with his friend Theodore Frye. There, he later said, God gave him the words and melody for Take My Hand, Precious Lord: “Something happened to me there. I had a strange feeling inside … a calm—a quiet stillness. As my fingers began to manipulate over the keys, words began to fall in place on the melody like drops of water falling from the crevice of a rock.” The popularity of Precious Lord throughout the country helped revolutionize the worship atmosphere and later, inspired many in the civil rights movement. Frye introduced the song to Martin Luther King Sr.’s Ebenezer Church. On the day he died, Martin Luther King Jr. requested that Precious Lord play at a future event. Aretha Franklin sang it at his funeral. (In the documentary Say Amen Somebody Dorsey tells the story behind the song).

Ebenezer Gospel Chorus

Dorsey dubbed his music “gospel blues” due to the similarity of his gospel rhythms and vocals to those heard in blues and jazz clubs. He employed the “call and response” pattern in his songs that also reminded pastors of songs composed and sung by their enslaved ancestors.

Eventually, Dorsey’s style of worship took hold. In 1931, the established “silk-stocking” Ebenezer Baptist Church organized a gospel choir, marking the beginning of gospel music’s acceptance by mainline churches. The energy from the Great Migration also impacted this social musical revolution. Blacks relocating to the North from the South wanted a type of singing that reminded them of home—songs with rhythm, hands clapping, and feet tapping. Frustrated with the Northern worship style, newly arrived Southern blacks who had joined large churches left and began to join storefront churches where worship services resembled the ones they left in the South. Pastors at traditional churches began to take notice.

At Pilgrim Baptist, Dorsey’s own pastor was encouraged by the success of Ebenezer’s gospel choir, and he soon hired Dorsey to serve as the church’s gospel choir director and musician in 1932. Dorsey held that position for more than 50 years. Ebenezer and Pilgrim’s acceptance of gospel music as a religious genre helped to fuel gospel music’s prominence in church worship not only in Chicago but also across the country.

Thomas Dorsey published and performed his own music for decades. He earned his nickname as “The Father of Gospel Music” because of his impact on traditional gospel from the 1930s to 1950s. For most of his life, when he wasn’t playing or leading music in Chicago, Dorsey traveled around the United States demonstrating his music, conducting workshops, presiding over music conventions, and occasionally writing.

More

From The Hisotry of Gospel Music

Dorsey recording

What do we do with this?
For what will we use our talents? For what will we strive? It is a question in every era of our lives, from childhood to old age? So there is probably a choice for you today. Sit back and ask what needs to be done. Are read the circumstances, as Dorsey read the tragedy of his life, as see how they inform your choice, knowing Jesus as you do.

Sit back and enjoy inventive, relevant music from Dorsey’s era.

Amy Carmichael — January 18

Amy Carmichael

Bible Connection

The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.
He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.
Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.
The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate. — Psalm 34:18-22 (KJV)

All about Amy Carmichael (1867-1951) 

Amy Carmichael was a well-known missionary during the first half of the 20th century. Her 35 books are loved by thousands.

She was born into a well-to-do, Northern Ireland, Christian family. In her teen years, she was educated at a Wesleyan Methodist boarding school and, at age 13, while still in boarding school, she accepted Christ as Savior. When she was age 18, her father died, leaving the family in difficult financial circumstances, as he had given a large personal loan that was not repaid. The family moved to Belfast. There she became involved in visiting the slums, and seeing the terrible conditions under which many women and girls worked in the factories. She began a ministry with these women. It was unpaid work based on faith in God alone, and the Lord met her needs in remarkable ways.

She became acquainted with the Keswick Movement, and it was there that she learned of a close, deeper walk with the Jesus. The founder of the movement, Robert Wilson, a widower, asked her to come and live in his home and be his secretary. She learned much from that employment. She remembered on one occasion at a Keswick meeting when D.L. Moody preached on the prodigal son. Afterwards, he was talking with Robert Wilson and stopped in mid sentence. He was struck with the moment when the father says to the older son “Son, thou art ever with me and all that I have is thine.” Moody said, “I never saw it before. Oh, the love of God. Oh, the love. God’s love.” Tears rained down his cheeks. Amy never forgot that spiritual truth—”All that I have is thine.” It reinforced her faith that God knew her needs before she asked and wanted to supply them by faith.

She received a “Macedonian call” in 1892 at the age of 24. The following year, she became the first missionary appointee of the Keswick’s missions committee. She went to Japan. But there and elsewhere her missionary efforts met with disappointment. She left Japan for Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), went back to England, and then India, where she caught dengue fever.

In India, she saw that the missionary community was very active but there were no changed lives. She detested the meetings with the other missionary ladies—drinking tea and gossiping, showing very little concern for the salvation of those about them. She felt very alone. In reflection, she wrote:

Onward Christian soldiers,
Sitting on the mats;
Nice and warm and cozy
Like little pussycats.
Onward Christian soldiers,
Oh, how brave are we,
Don’t we do our fighting
Very comfortably?

One day as she fell to her knees in despair, a verse she had learned long before floated into her memory: “He that trusteth in me shall never be desolate.” From there on she found that to be true throughout her long life of ministry in India.

She left Bangalore for South India and with the daughter of her host family and several Christian Indian women, began an itinerant ministry through the villages of Tamil Nadu. They were dubbed the “starry cluster,” because the Indians recognized their sincerity and the light shining from them. The members of the band had no salary but looked to God to supply their needs. Their attitude was, “How much can I do without that I may have more to give?” It was during this period of time that Amy took on the habit of wearing Indian dress, which she continued throughout her lifetime.

A life-changing experience took place in 1901. A little five-year-old girl, named Pearl Eyes by Amy, was brought to her by an Indian woman. Her mother had sold her to the temple, and there she was being prepared for temple prostitution. Twice she had run away only to be caught, carried back, beaten, and subjected to sexual service there. Little Pearl Eyes told her story as she sat on Amy’s lap playing with the rag doll she had given her. She described what was done to her in the temple, demonstrating with the doll.

Amy never forgot that day nor the child’s story. It was the beginning of her work to rescue children who had been dedicated to the temple gods. To do so, she founded the Dohnavur Fellowship. In 1918, they began to also rescue baby boys who were also dedicated to the temple gods and goddesses. Other areas of the work over the years were added such as a hospital, schools and publishing house. Amy was not understood by many of the missionaries in India. She was also greatly resented by the Hindu priests and was frequently taken to court on charges of being a kidnapper.

In 1931 Amy had a fall that left her an invalid for the remainder of her life, and she seldom left her bed. It was during this period of her life that she was most prolific in writing. Occasionally someone would wheel her in a wheelchair out onto a veranda where her children could gather to greet her and sing to her.

Amy was very self-effacing. She rarely allowed her photograph to be taken and never referred to herself by name or personal pronoun in her writings.

Upon a life I did not live,
Upon a death I did not die,
Another’s life, another’s death,
I stake my whole eternity.

More

BBC2 video

Fan video bio focusing on prostitution

Hour-long English bio

Goodreads quotes pages

What do we do with this?

Amy Carmichael’s life reflects a conviction that we should give our “utmost” for God’s “highest.” Her convictions led her to do very unusual things, especially unusual for a woman in her time. She would want you to ponder whether you are receiving the sanctification from God that sets you apart for your best work on the Lord’s behalf. She would want her example to move you to consider how you should shine God’s light and be a conduit for God’s compassion. The whole world is your mission field, even if you end up in a wheelchair!

Anthony of Egypt — January 17

Hieronymous Bosch, Triptych of Temptation of St Anthony (right wing), 1505-06, Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon

Bible connection

Read James 4:1-12

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

All about Anthony the Great (251-356)

Today is St. Anthony of Egypt’s feast day.

The Roman Catholic Church developed an elaborate system of celebrating the lives of “saints.” Early on, these great people were often the martyrs who gave all believers courage to keep their faith in difficult times. Later, these people were thought to play an intermediary role between Jesus and humanity. Their shrines were thought to be healing, powerful places, and they were thought to be praying for us and taking advantage of their special relationship with God on our behalf. Even though these practices have been  excessive and even heretical, we still recognize how notable Jesus followers got to be “saints.” The Bible calls everyone who has been set apart for God in Jesus a saint, so you probably deserve an entry in our list. But some people are so inspiring we don’t want to forget them. The Body of Christ has  great history.

The word “saint” means “holy one.” When Paul writes to the church in Rome, he starts his letter: “To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” If you follow Jesus, you are a saint, right along with Anthony.

Anthony was one of the first Christian monks.  A “monk” (from Greek: μοναχόςmonachos, “single, solitary” and Latin monachus) is a person who practices strict spiritual discipline to be close to God and serve the Lord’s purpose, living either alone or with any number of other monks. They voluntarily choose to leave mainstream society and live an alternative life, usually according to a rule.

Anthony lived for 105 years! At the age of 20, he was inspired by a passage in Mark: “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor” (10:21). So he made sure his sister was well provided for and gave away a large inheritance and all his possessions. He then pursued a life of solitude in the desert, away from a Church which was quickly becoming dominated by the world. In many ways, he was the “anti-Constantine.”

Anthony was illiterate but he became very wise.  He went further into the desert than his ascetic contemporaries in search of an undistracted life with God.  He spent time in an old tomb and eventually he shut himself up in an old Roman fort for twenty years.  In his solitude, he had frequent run-ins with the devil, but triumphed.  His life was written down by the famous bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius, so we know a lot about his struggle and his influential successes. [Link to Athanasius’ Life of Anthony…]

The Emperor Constantine and his two sons, Constantius and Constans, once sent Anthony a joint letter, recommending themselves to his prayers. Noting the astonishment of some of the monks present, Anthony said,

“Do not wonder that the Emperor writes to us, even to a man such as I am; rather be astounded that God has communicated with us, and has spoken to us by His Son.”

Replying to the letter, he exhorted the Emperor and his sons to show contempt for the world and to constantly remember the final judgment.

The holiness Anthony achieved in his solitude ended up being very influential. People came to see him and formed a community around his example. Plus, the leaders of the church called him out of his separation to add his wisdom to the development of the church.

Perhaps the best movements are those begun by people not trying to start them. The monastic movement that Anthony inspired is still inspiring further descendants in the faith today. Many believers in these troubled times honor the spirit of separation from the world and practice that separation invasively.

More

You might appreciate a bio of Anthony from the Coptic Church [link].

Expoza Travel tells you why you should go to the desert with Anthony. [link]

Interesting documentary about monks inthe desert: Desert Foreigners [link]

What do we do with this?

Here are some ways you could experiment with Anthony’s discipline. You might hear from God yourself!

  • Spend half a day (or more if you can) in the “wildereness,” in silence, some time in the near future
  • Have a silent day at home. Make a deal with your spouse or roommates that you are going to be silent (maybe get them to do it with you).
  • Unplug completely for at least two days.
  • See if a five-minute alone time of listening during your workday allows you to connect with God in any way.

Martin Luther King National Holiday — January 15, 2024

A national holiday rarely intersects with the Christian calendar. But Martin Luther King is so precious to us that we are including his national “birthday” as part of our observances.

Image result for mlk day

Bible connection

Read Deuteronomy 15:1-15

However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you.

All about the Martin Luther King Jr. National Holiday

In 1983, Ronald Reagan signed into law the legislation that made a day honoring Martin Luther King Jr. a national holiday. Reagan did not support the legislation. He opposed the King holiday because he thought King did not deserve to be so honored. Plenty of people at the time shared that opinion, and plenty of people still do.

There is, after all, exactly one other American so honored, and that person is George Washington—not Lincoln, not Jefferson. (The third Monday in February, the day we call “Presidents Day,” is officially, as it has always been, in honor of Washington). Giving Martin Luther King Jr., a man who never held public office, an honor that had been reserved exclusively for the father of the country, was a  very loud statement, one that a very conservative president preferred not to make.

Reagan objected because he believed that another federal holiday would just create more government bloat. The King holiday would become the tenth national holiday that came with a paid day off for all federal workers, the cost of which the Congressional Budget Office estimated at $18 million per holiday in 1983 dollars. To those who objected to the cost of the new holiday, Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas, whose conservative bona fides were no less than Reagan’s, said: “I suggest they hurry back to their pocket calculators and estimate the cost of 300 years of slavery, followed by a century or more of economic, political and social exclusion and discrimination.”

Reagan Shaking Hands with Coretta Scott King after Signing Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Bill | Robert and Elizabeth Dole Archive and Special Collections

Luckily for the president, the legislation was passed with veto-proof majorities, making his threatened veto a non-issue. So on Nov. 2, 1983, in a Rose Garden ceremony, Ronald Reagan signed the legislation into law with Coretta Scott King, King’s widow, by his side. This is often listed among his accomplishments.

Reagan’s point was not without logic. The original impetus for the holiday came from labor unions with large African-American memberships that sought a paid day off on MLK’s birthday in contract negotiations. And though legislation creating the holiday was a landmark in American racial relations, all the creation of a federal holiday practically does is give a paid day off to federal government workers. It does not give the day a spirit or a meaning.

Many of the people who had worked diligently for years collecting signatures and petitioning legislators to create the King holiday must have experienced a “What now?” moment when they achieved their goal. They had insisted on having an “official” holiday. They were not interested in Reagan’s counter-suggestion that the King birthday be observed like Lincoln’s, which is to say, without closing government offices. But if the King holiday were to keep true to the spirit of the man whose life inspired it, then it had to become more than just another three-day weekend.

Image

In 1994, Sen. Harris Wofford of Pennsylvania and Congressman John Lewis of Georgia authored the King Holiday and Service Act, with the intention of transforming the King holiday from a vacation day into a day of civic participation and volunteerism; from what had been a “day off” to a “day on.” President Bill Clinton signed the legislation into law on Aug. 23, 1994.

The Greater Philadelphia King Day of Service has often been cited as the nation’s largest King Day event: (website). There is no doubt Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King left his mark on Philadelphia. His journeys to this city are noted and marked and his wife Coretta authorized the only chapter of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Association for Nonviolence in Philadelphia.

More

PBS Studios: [link]

Here is a recent article that gives some perspective on King’s reputation [link]

What do we do with this?

Pray through the Deuteronomy passage, whether you are “rich” or “poor.” What is God saying to you?

Get involved in one of the many service projects being planned!

Epiphany — January 6

Bible connection

Read Matthew 2:1-12Matthew 3:11-4:4 .

“The Journey of the Magi” (1894) by James Jacques Joseph Tissot

When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him….

epiphany at the baptism

At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

All about this day

Epiphany is a Greek word that means “manifestation,” a “revelation.”  The holiday celebrates two manifestations of God:

  1. The magi rejoice when they see the star and worship Jesus to whom the star leads. They present gifts to God, who is revealed, born in the baby. God is with us in our bodies. 
  2. When Jesus is baptized and John the Baptist reports hearing the voice of God naming Jesus as his own Son. Jesus is public revealed as God with us. God is with us in our sin.

In the history of the church, the holy day called Epiphany went two routes. As the church became  separated during the turbulent time after the fall of the western Roman Empire in the late 400’s, the churches in the eastern and western parts of the Mediterranean developed separate identities. You can trace them through the Eastern “Orthodox” churches and the Roman “Catholic” church. In the Roman Catholic Church, Epiphany is usually celebrated on the Sunday between January 2-8. If you want to follow the traditional twelve days of Christmas, you celebrate it on January 6. The orthodox Churches have the same idea but on different days.

The different days came about like this. In the late 1500s Pope Gregory declared a new calendar to correct the inaccuracies in the old Julian calendar (which dated to Julius Caesar in 45BC). The Gregorian calendar added 12 days to the year and reset the functional spring equinox to March 21 so Easter could be properly observed. Most civil authorities eventually adopted the calendar, although it took 300 years for Greece to conform.

Some Orthodox Churches still date events according to a revised Julian calendar. It is part of their identity. So many, but not all, Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas Day on or near what is January 7 in the Gregorian calendar. As of 2012, there is a difference of 13 days between the modern Gregorian calendar and the older Julian calendar. Those who continue to use the Julian calendar or the equivalents mark December 25 and January 6 on what, for the majority of the world, is January 7 and January 19. For this reason, many people in Ethiopia, Russia, Ukraine, the Republic of Macedonia, and the Republic of Moldova celebrate Christmas on what is, in the Gregorian calendar, January 7.

All this goes to show that being revealed is not that easy for God! Being born among humankind is subject to our politics and science. We might consider the date to celebrate  Epiphany to be more important than the reason for the celebration! We might divide up the church over an obvious change that needs to be made in the calendar just because we do not respect the person who suggested the change. It might take us a long time to get to the place we should have started: worshiping at the manger and hearing the voice of God at the baptism.

More

An article with a lot more: http://www.crivoice.org/cyepiph.html

Young man tells us to look for the “hidden” Jesus on Epiphany. [link]

A priest describes the manifestations, or “epiphanies” of the Lord we celebrate during the Epiphany season

Taylor Swift’s pandemic nurses/Guadalcanal soldiers song could easily have Jesus getting born and baptized into our mess. She often has wisps of faith in her music. “Soon You’ll Get Better” from the Lover album voices her feelings about her mother’s health crisis: “Desperate people find faith, so now I pray to Jesus too.” What do you think? 

What do we do with this?

Appreciate the epiphanies experienced by the wise men and John the Baptist. They happened a long time ago, but that history is yours, too. It happened to the whole human race when it happened the first time! We are invited into what God did in Jesus when we remember and allow ourselves to be part of the story.

Appreciate your own personal epiphanies. God has become known to you in many ways, large and small. The Spirit of God is revealed in creation, in the stories about how others know and serve her, in teaching and practical applications of the Bible, in the people of the church, and in our personal experiences with God spirit to Spirit. Maybe you could write an account of how you had an “Aha!” moment, how you came and worshiped or how you heard the voice of God.

Twelfth Night — January 5

“Adoration of the Shepherds” by Gerard van Honthorst (ca. 1622)

Bible connection

You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead he puts it on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven. — Matthew 5: 14-16 (TEV)

All about Twelfth Night

The twelve days of Christmas traditionally end with the celebration of the eve of Epiphany on Twelfth Night, January 5th. The church generally begins its feasts on the eve of the day (like Christmas Eve or Hallowe’en). Epiphany is the celebration of the revelation of Jesus as the Savior of the whole world as first shown by the coming of the magi. Twelfth Night is the time to remove the festive decorations, leaving just the lights on the tree for one final evening to emphasize the Epiphany theme of Jesus as the Light of the World.

Sing this song with your family or roomies as you take down the decorations!

In England in the Middle Ages, Christmastide was a season of continuous feasting and merrymaking, which climaxed on Twelfth Night. Often a Lord of Misrule was chosen to lead the Christmas revels. In Tudor England, Twelfth Night was forever solidified in popular culture when William Shakespeare used it as the setting for one of his most famous stage plays.

On this last day of Christmastide, we finally get to the last verse of our song! On the 12th day of Christmas my true love sent to me… Twelve drummers drumming.

According to the thought that this song has a secret meaning for Catholics to use in catechizing children and converts, the “twelve drummers” stand for the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles’ Creed, which is a short summary of the points of faith a person should affirm before they are baptized.:

  1. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
  2. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
  3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.
  4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell [the grave].
  5. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
  6. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
  7. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
  8. the holy catholic (universal) Church,
  9. the communion of saints
  10. the forgiveness of sins
  11. the resurrection of the body
  12. and life everlasting.

Kazimierz Sichulski, “The Homage of the Three Kings,” 1913
Kazimierz Sichulski, “The Homage of the Three Kings,” 1913

What do we do with this?

Pray: Fill me and my home with light. Make me and our church the light of the world this year.

Some people eat their Epiphany cake as part of the Twelfth Night celebration. Baked into the  cake are three hidden coins, nuts, or beans. Sometimes they give crowns to those who find the objects hidden in the cake, making them “kings” or “queens” for the evening. They can “rule” over the party. I’d ask them to grant crowns to everyone as one of their first acts. If you follow the Austrian custom of burning incense (an ancient symbol for prayer) to “welcome the three kings,” the “king” can lead a procession throughout the house as you ask God to bless your life this year in the various rooms. Take the procession outside, if you like, and bless the whole neighborhood!

We don’t need to perfectly know how to pray. But we do need to trust the Spirit to pray in ways that are deeper than we understand. We can surrender to the connection God is making with us and others as the light of Jesus floods the world with hope and goodness. The Quakers have specialized in that kind of silent, trusting prayer.  Like they often do, meditate through your acquaintances and spend a good amount of time lifting individuals and whole groups “into the light.” 

11th Day of Christmas / Elizabeth Seton — January 4

Bible connection

Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. – Luke 6:12-16

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever.  So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:31-36

Image result for mother setonAll about Mother Seton (1774-1821)

On the eleventh day of Christmas, many Catholics and Episcopalians honor  Elizabeth Seton, or Mother Seton, who was the first native-born American to be canonized as a saint. [Info from the shrine]

Elizabeth Ann Bayley was born in New York City on August 28, 1774 to a prominent Episcopal family, and lost her mother at the age of three. In 1794, at the age of 19, Elizabeth married William Magee Seton, a wealthy businessman with whom she had five children. William died in 1803 of tuberculosis, exacerbated by his financial misfortunes, leaving Elizabeth as a young widow. After discovering Catholicism in Italy, where her husband had died after an attempt at convalescence, Elizabeth returned to the United States and entered the Catholic Church in 1805 in New York.

After a number of difficult years, Elizabeth moved in 1809 to Emmitsburg, Maryland, where she founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s, the first community for religious women established in the United States. She also began St. Joseph’s Academy and Free School, planting the seeds of Catholic education in the United States. Her legacy now includes religious houses in the United States and Canada, whose members work on the unmet needs of people living in poverty in North America and beyond.

Mother Seton, as she is often called, was canonized on Sunday, September 14, 1975 in St. Peter’s Square by Pope Paul VI. Her remains are entombed in Emmitsburg in the Basilica at the National Shrine that bears her name.

The Fifer — Édouard Manet (1866)

Also, according to the song, on the 11th day of Christmas my true love sent to me… Eleven pipers piping

The “secret” meaning of the song supposedly notes the eleven faithful apostles: Simon Peter,  Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of  Alphaeus,  Simon the Zealot, Judas son of James (Luke 6:14-16). The list does not include the twelfth disciple, Judas Iscariot, who gave over Jesus to the religious leaders and the Romans. Being faithful disciples is a lifelong matter and could be costly, as Elizabeth Seton experienced. On this day, however, it is kind of fun to imagine them marching through as pipers.

What do we do with this?

Pray: Thank you for choosing me. Reassure me of my calling. May I be free to live as my true self in your presence.

Want to learn more about the apostles? Here is a video narrated by a nice British accent. It has some disputable assertions, but is interesting.

Mother Seton was undoubtedly a good woman. However, she may have been canonized because the Roman Catholic Church needed an American saint. Regardless, she models a life of service to oppressed women and the poor. And she represents a person who stuck with her convictions when it was not easy to do so. None of us need to be sainted. But we will have a reputation and a legacy of one kind or another. What is yours? Journal a prayer about that.