Michael Beckwith

A friend just wrote me, asking what I think of some guy named Michael Beckwith who is appearing on the Oprah show tomorrow. Here’s what I think…

He is essentially a Unitarian Universalist (UU) in disguise. “Jesus said… ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” (John 14:6) Beckwith says, any way is okay. He uses, I imagine, that tired old saying that there are many paths up the mountain. Jesus says that he himself is the path—indeed he is the mountain itself. I have seen in people’s lives that it’s possible to be on the wrong mountain altogether. In fact, I’ve been on mountains where some trails are dead ends. Beckwith and other UUs say that you can believe anything you want…that it’s all part of the same reality. The Bible teaches that there is knowable, absolute truth. Every UU I’ve ever encountered wants people to be able to believe anything and everything except that! The reason for that is that they want you to be able to follow the teachings of Jesus but everybody else’s teachings too. That just doesn’t line up with what Jesus says about himself—not to mention other statements in the scriptures.

So I guess what I’m saying is that picking and choosing what little bits and pieces of all the different religions, which Beckwith calls “reality,” makes him god. If you can choose what is truth and discount the rest—the rest being God’s revelation of himself to humanity—then that makes you smarter than God.

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The Twelve Days of Christmas

Happy New Year! Since we are at the tail end of the Twelve Days of Christmas, this one from the “Oh, What Times We Live In” department is still appropriate (if not more so):

INFANT DISCOVERED IN BARN, CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES LAUNCH PROBE: Nazareth Carpenter Being Held On Charges Involving Underage Mother
Bethlehem, Judea

Authorities were today alerted by a concerned citizen who noticed a family living in a barn. Upon arrival, Family Protective Service personnel, accompanied by police, took into protective care an infant child named Jesus, who had been wrapped in strips of cloth and placed in a feeding trough by his 14-year old mother, Mary of Nazareth.

During the confrontation, a man identified as Joseph, also of Nazareth, attempted to stop the social workers. Joseph, aided by several local shepherds and some unidentified foreigners, tried to forestall efforts to take the child, but were restrained by the police.

Also being held for questioning are three foreigners who allege to be wise men from an eastern country. The INS and Homeland Security officials are seeking information about these who may be in the country illegally. A source with the INS states that they had no passports, but were in possession of gold and other possibly illegal substances. They resisted arrest saying that they had been warned by God to avoid officials in Jerusalem and to return quickly to their own country. The chemical substances in their possession will be tested.

The owner of the barn is also being held for questioning. The managerof the Bethlehem Inn faces possible revocation of his license for violating health and safety regulations by allowing people to stay in the stable. Civil authorities are also investigating the zoning violations involved in maintaining livestock in a commercially-zoned district.

The location of the minor child will not be released, and the prospect for a quick resolution to this case is doubtful. Asked about when Jesus would be returned to his mother, a Child Protective Service spokesperson said, “The father is middle-aged and the mother definitely underage. We are checking with officials in Nazareth to determine what their legal relationship is.

Joseph has admitted taking Mary from her home in Nazareth because of a census requirement. However, because she was obviously pregnant when they left, investigators are looking into other reasons for their departure. Joseph is being held without bond on charges of molestation, kidnapping, child endangerment, and statutory rape.

Mary was taken to the Bethlehem General Hospital where she is being examined by doctors. Charges may also be filed against her for endangerment. She will also undergo psychiatric evaluation because of her claim that she is a virgin and that the child is from God.

The director of the psychiatric wing said, “I don’t profess to have the right to tell people what to believe, but when their beliefs adversely affect the safety and well-being of others—in this case, her child—we must consider her a danger to others. The unidentified drugs at the scene didn’t help her case, but I’m confident that with the proper therapy regimen we can get her back on her feet.”

A spokesperson for the governor’s office said, “Who knows what was going through their heads? But regardless, their treatment of the child was inexcusable, and the involvement of these others frightening. There is much we don’t know about this case, but for the sake of the child and the public, you can be assured that we will pursue this matter to the end.”

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Christmas Letter

This Year’s Christmas Letter
sent by traditional mail to family and friends about
a week ago and to the worldwide web today

We just finished up with our annual Open House here at the parsonage. That has to mean it’s time to get out the Christmas cards. The crowd at the Open House was larger than it has been in the past and that also means something: Good things are happening with the Rymans in Graham, North Carolina. Got a few minutes? Good! We’ll fill you in.

Dan Vines’ family was here for the Open House. Dan is Miriam’s fiancé. That’s right; Mim is engaged. They haven’t set a date yet, so stay tuned. Mim and Dan both work at Duke—he in the Graduate Studies Program and she in the Department of Education. She is the Staff Assistant as well as the Assistant to the Director of Undergraduate Studies. When they are not working at Duke, they’re raising Angus, Mim’s Black Lab mixed with a wild man. In fact, he’s whining and yipping upstairs as I type, anticipating her arrival home.

Cristin and Matthew are married over two years now and remodeling their home in Durham. She continues to work as Program Coordinator for Duke’s Information Science & Information Studies. She is also doing more photography and other arts and crafts projects again. Matthew has moved on from Duke and now sells real estate for Fonville Morisey Realty out of Chapel Hill. They have become members of Newhope Church in Durham. Though they live and worship in Durham, they still made it to the Open House and come to church here in Graham on special occasions.

Susan is in her 17th year at Duke, these past few years as Administrative Business Manager of the College of Arts and Sciences. She balances that with walking (a lot), playing piano for the church’s worship, sewing some again, helping a new friend get her wedding planned and accomplished, and making an even better home than ever. Who would have thought that was possible? Part of that were our excursions this year to High Point to find new furniture. We found beautiful, quartersawn oak, Mission furniture for our dining room and bedroom. The new dining room table sports drawers on each end where we are able to keep our devotional materials. As a result our devotional life as a couple has been enriched. Early most mornings, the light is on in the dining room, where we have had great conversations and prayer together this year. We mention this because it is something we looked forward to before we were married and are only just now really enjoying. Sometimes, we guess, you just have to wait a long time for some of the good stuff to happen.

Mark is enjoying his seventh year at Graham Friends Church where there has been a 70% attendance growth this year (speaking of being patient for things to happen), the average age has dropped from 68 to 41, and finally, there are lots of children and youth in church for him to play with and teach. He continues to love his cops and ministry as Chaplain to them at the local Police Department. Mark was also welcomed to the Rotary Club this year (a long-time aspiration).

You can understand why we had to kick the other kids to the garage and the upstairs bathroom when the 70 friends came to the Open House. What other kids? Baba, our Golden Retriever, and Gracie and Pax, our two cats. The many guests have left and the pets have joined us again in the living room—enjoying the scent of the prettiest tree we’ve ever had—where we sit, hoping you too have a happy and blessed Christmas.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
—Susan and Mark Ryman

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Freedom of Press and Soul

Jackie Mason, the comedian, withdrew a lawsuit against Jews for Jesus. They had created another one of their clever little tracts, asking the question: “Jackie Mason…a Jew for Jesus?” He was offended and sued. Jews for Jesus were gracious and attempted more than once to settle out of court, as the scriptures dictate (Matthew 5:25). Eventually Mr. Mason agreed but with patronizing airs.

It is unfortunate that Mason made a statement claiming Blacks being for the KKK is synonymous with Jews being for Messiah. I understand he does not believe Y’shua (Jesus) is the Messiah but his comparison remains ineffective—even if it does articulate his bile.


Click the toon for JFJ article.

     Let us consider: if Blacks were for the KKK, it would almost certainly bring about their re-enslavement or deaths. If however, Jews were for Jesus, then it would mean their freedom and eternal life.

Gladly, especially in this season, God sent his Son for both Jew and Gentile. May Mr. Mason become tender to Yahweh and learn that God is not the God of Jews only, but also the God of Gentiles. (Romans 3:29)

I commend Jews for Jesus for the way they scripturally handled a delicate and difficult situation. I also remember fondly the day David “Moose” Garrett of Jews for Jesus and I passed out similar broadsides at UNC-Chapel Hill. May God continue to bless their ministry as they reach out in love to Jewish people such as Jackie Mason. May he ponder with less vitriol the thoughtful words on the tract. (Yes, I was able to find a copy on the Web—though, to be sure, not at JewsforJesus.org!)

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The Anchor

“Whenever God closes one door he always opens another, even though sometimes it’s hell in the hallway.” I don’t know who said that; I searched but only found it quoted—usually as signatures in BLOGs—but with no reference. It resonates in my spirit, if in an amusing way.

A year ago, I made some prints for Susan’s office Christmas party at Duke University. They were a playful twist on an old saying: “There is a calm before the storm.” That saying however, is the reverse attitude of the faithful person. A person of faith knows there is a calm coming and so he calms and quiets his soul (Psalm 131:2) and knows peace in spite of the storms of life. Just so, I made the twist of phrase print for her colleagues. She says they all have them hanging in their offices. That’s a nice thought.

Last night she was speaking with one of those colleagues and made a little twist of her own. She accidentally said, “There’s end at the light of the tunnel.” So she wanted that made into some gifts for this year. I used a photograph (there was no copyright or photographer info on the site) from the inside of the “Big Tunnel” in Bedford, Indiana, to illustrate her turn-of-phrase. I think it illustrates a realistic hope.


Last year’s Christmas gift


This year’s Christmas gift

If you’d like high resolution prints, email me your name and address and I’ll send you one 4×6 of each (no charge).

We can know the Light that is God in this tunnel of life—this sometimes hellish hallway. That Light in the darkness tells us there is a promised end in sight. He is faithful to his promise to end the gloom; just so, we can remain faithfully at peace in the tunnel. We will emerge one day. In the meanwhile, despite the absence of “calm,” one may know perfect peace. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12, ESV)

In that original email that started this entry, was a portion of the Lawrence Chewning and Ray Boltz song, “The Anchor Holds.” It sums up what I’ve been trying to say. If you’d care to listen, click the “play” button below. Their song may remind you of the old hymn, “My Anchor Holds,” by William Martin, which says it even better.

“The Anchor Holds,” sung by Ray Boltz


2-CD set includes “The Anchor Holds” and “Thank You”

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1 Corinthians 13 (Christmas Version)

I received this by email yesterday…


From simple manger nativity to modern tack…


If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas China and table linens.

Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.

Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.

Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust. But the gift of love will endure forever!

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Open House

My daughters are here, helping their mother get things ready for the Open House that is today. Miriam was cleaning and is now topping the cherry-cheescakes. Cristin is decorating the Chrustmas Tree that I just put up and trimmed. Susan is setting the buffet. It’s a nice family feeling we don’t get much anymore. Everyone is working well together; they’re laughing; there’s Christmas music in the background and the tree smells wonderful. What’s not to like?

At four o’clock, over 80 guests will start to roll in to the parsonage: friends from the neighborhood, the police department, the church, and family. If only our family in other states could be here too, it would be complete. Hopefully we’ll get to see them in the New Year. It is getting harder and harder to get to Ohio though because the church is growing and needs more at this time of year…combined with Susan’s job at Duke needing her to be present for budgeting at the start of the year. We’ll figure it out though—and in the meanwhile, enjoy the family and friends around us here.

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