What Does St. Patrick’s Day Have To Do With Christianity?

Kiss me, I’m Irish!

Courtesy of morguefile.com

Wear green or you’ll get pinched.

Silly traditions associated with today, March 17. I am Irish (Scotch-Irish) through my maternal grandmother.

I don’t wear green; it makes me look half-dead.

As I helped my grandchildren choose clothing that ensured they wouldn’t be pinched black and blue today, my mind wandered to traditions and how they manifest over time. Many traditions come from a Biblical perspective, including St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, died on this day in 461. He brought Christianity to Ireland, so the Irish have celebrated this day for over 1000 years. That means this is a religious holiday.

Wait! What? But people have drunken parades and behave frivolously on this day. Yep. That’s true.

The original holiday, the Feast of St. Patrick, allowed the Irish to ignore their Lent observances for the afternoon. It gave them a break from fasting, but by the next day, they returned to their Lent observations.

Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost the religious aspect of this day. That may or may not be true everywhere, but I don’t recall any connection to the church with this holiday.

Why? Maybe it’s because the holiday is not a God-ordained holiday:

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? Matthew 15:3

In this verse from Matthew, Jesus and his disciples failed to wash their hands before eating. The Pharisees thought they had Jesus in the wrong and pointed out their lack of faithful behavior. The problem? God didn’t create the hand-washing commandment. Man did. Jesus pointed this out and took it a step further, implying they followed their traditions over God’s.  Oops!

Don’t get me wrong.

There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the spread of God’s word, if that’s what we’re doing. There’s nothing wrong with feasting, or wearing green, or giving a neighborly kiss…if that’s what we’re doing. But, when it steps on the toes of our faith, when it overrides the commands of God, we’ve got a problem.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:8

St. Patrick’s Day isn’t the only man-made tradition focused on our faith. Look at Easter and Christmas. God never commanded us to celebrate the birth of Christ. He did command us to celebrate the resurrection EVERY day, especially Sunday. It’s not a once-a-year celebration.

If you examine these well-known holidays, you can see how far we’ve strayed from the faithful plans of the people who first chose to celebrate them. When man establishes something, it’s easier to lose sight of the original focus.

Can commandments from God disintegrate? Absolutely! Just read the Old Testament, and you will see it over and over again. Still, thanks to the timelessness of the word of God, the people always returned to true faith.

So, today, if you wear green or kiss someone who’s Irish, it’s ok. Maybe, while you’re at it, give thanks to God that you can celebrate the life of a man who brought Christianity to Ireland. Just remember, St. Patrick is not who we should celebrate. The amazing story he brought to Ireland is the point.

Courtesy of morguefile.com

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Seeds of Faith

green plant breaking through the earth

Seeds fell on my soul for years before I began to understand the message of salvation and grace.  I can look back through my story and find seeds planted by a variety of people throughout my life.  For many years, the seeds lay dormant, waiting for water and fertilizer to make them grow.

He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.  All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.  As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29

I’ve attributed a lot of my salvation to the church I attended in my early twenties, but it’s not the church that saved me.  The church embraced me so I could accept the water and fertilizer and sunshine needed to help those seeds sprout and grow.  My revelations during the singles retreat  allowed the seeds to crack open, bits of green pushing against the soil.

From that point on, I chose to expose myself to the teaching and study of the Bible.  Even doing this, it took another year before I truly understood the crucifixion and resurrection. I had begun to study the Bible through other books as well as reading scripture.  One of the books I read was Max Lucado’s book about the time Jesus spent on the cross, Six Hours One Friday.

I remember vividly the moment I understood.  I often  read before bedtime and had reached the part where Lucado explains how Christ took on our sins and God, his father, could not look on him while he did this. This is why he cried out:

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).  Matthew 27:46

For the first time ever, God left Jesus.  He was completely separated from the father.

As a child I thought the point of the cross was to show that Jesus could return from the dead thus proving he was the son of God.  I did not understand that he took on all of the sins of the world. No one explained it to me before.  No one.  I guess everyone assumed that as a Christian I knew this.  I didn’t.

What a revelation!  Now, everything began to fall into place.  My little seedling pushed through the crust of the soil and reached toward the son in humility and joy.

I wonder how many people have seeds just waiting for those first drops of water, for that one point when the life inside their shell pushes forward to blossom  into a life of grace?

Domestic Violence: Blessings In the Nightmare

domestic violence

© Barbara V. Evers, All rights reserved.

Not every day is a nightmare while living with domestic violence.

Probably not what you expected to read in this post, but there are good times.  Times of value and joy and happiness.

Not every day brings a new form of terror to the abused spouse.  Yes, she walks on egg shells waiting for the next eruption, but in between those times, there can be peace.

I’m not saying the good times make the bad times forgivable. No one should live in fear of their spouse, but some of the blessings in my life came from my marriage to an abusive spouse.

I have two beautiful daughters from this marriage. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I would love to trade who I chose for their father, however.  Not possible, so end of story.

And…

In the midst of my messed up life, I found my faith.

Did you get that?

I found my faith in Christ during an abusive marriage.

I grew up in a church-going family, but no one taught me God’s plan of salvation.  I knew the story of Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection, but I didn’t understand the significance.  I saw the resurrection as Jesus’ proof that He was the son of God. No one explained it to me. No one told me what it meant when Christ hung on the cross as the perfect sacrifice.  No one explained to me about God’s inability to look on Jesus as he bore our sins. I didn’t know that Jesus bore my punishment and everyone else’s while His father turned away.

I didn’t know.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

My ex-husband’s family belonged to a non-denominational church.  They followed New Testament Christianity.  I didn’t know what that meant at first, but what they taught me made sense. After I almost died, I realized I needed to do something about my salvation. I chose to follow Christ, but I’ll be the first to tell you, I didn’t fully understand what that meant. What I did know was I was unsure about my eternity and chose to accept Christ based on fear.  Not the best way to do it, but it’s how I first stepped out on faith.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Several years later, when I did understand what it meant to follow Christ, I recommitted my life to him and was baptized again.  Some say it wasn’t necessary for me to do that, but my lifestyle and decisions changed after that second commitment. I didn’t change the first time.

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.Romans 6:4

Even in the darkest days, He provides blessings to each of us.  God can take any situation, even domestic violence, and find a way to work good through it: two beautiful children and a faith which gives me hope and eternal life.

When you meet someone who lives in the nightmare of domestic violence, remember some days bring blessings.  This makes it harder for them to leave.  They should leave, no one deserves a life of abuse and fear.  If this is you, if you are the person caught in the nightmare of domestic violence, please leave.  God can take the horrors, it you let Him, and open your heart to His love.

What will you do?