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Political musings amid a pandemic (giving voice to vitriol) April 21, 2020

Posted by deshon in Messages, Musings, Presidential Recognition.
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(At) Least Her People Know the Choice Is…*

graphic mashup of Covid-19 illustration and Statue of Liberty photoLeast her people know the choice is…,
sounds from White House, how they sting.
Trump has mimicked FoxNews voices—
“crown him now, he is our king.
‘Four more years,’ repeat the mantra,
to him tribute we must bring.”

Fear of virus cannot stop us
from insisting Trump must go.
Forefathers empowered us
to guard this nation, not his dough.
So, with courage, donning facemasks,
cast we votes this fall for Joe.

Every day to us is Zoom day,
with its Covid-19 song.
When we hear the daily bluster,
fact-check Right, correct the wrong.
Dethrone Trump, vote for Joe Biden;
now in him our hopes belong.

*by Mark Deshon, with apologies to God and all Christendom (plus William M. James and Henry T. Smart, who wrote the words and tune to UMH 304, “Easter People, Raise Your Voices”)

A reflection of faith December 22, 2014

Posted by deshon in Messages, Musings.
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The Way of life, now…
…is a Gift that our Creator has already delivered and is waiting only for acknowledgment of receipt.

image of lighthouse and reflection of faith - Jesus is The Way

 

On Covenant Discipleship June 9, 2014

Posted by deshon in Messages.
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Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday. I presented the following witness to our church family.

Related scriptures for the day:  I Corinthians 12:3b-13 and Acts 2:1-21

photo of Mark Deshon by Stacey AltemusGood morning.

I believe most of you know who I am, but for those whom I haven’t yet had the privilege of meeting, my name is Mark Deshon, and you are part of my community of faith. I feel that, more and more as time goes on, you are indeed part of my family—my brothers and sisters in Christ who, like me, are on a journey.

You’ve already heard from two of my three Covenant Discipleship partners, Diane and Stacey. I’d like to take a few brief minutes to share with you what it is we do together and why.

Not too long ago, four of us entered into this venture in discipleship growth, which involved cooperatively drafting a covenant of intention to weekly engage in acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We meet weekly to pray together, report to one another our successes and failures with respect to our covenant, and encourage one another in our individual journeys in discipleship. This is what Covenant Discipleship is all about, and it is very simple.

This practice is a modern adaptation of the “band” meetings upon which the Methodist movement was built by John and Charles Wesley in 18th century England and upon which early Methodist societies thrived.

The words “intention” and “practice” are very important, because most anything we endeavor to do well in life takes a lot of practice, and it takes being intentional about it.

About 15 years ago, it became clear to me that God was telling me to begin doing that which I had learned and believed in my heart that Jesus wants us to do, not just continue to study and talk about it, which I had seemed more content to do in my earlier years. And because advancing age has a funny way of shaping perspective, I was feeling like I’d better get busy.

For me, though I have been a part of an accountable small group of one form or another for more than 33 years, I know I haven’t arrived yet at what John Wesley refers to as holiness of heart and life, nor have I done nearly enough of the doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with my God of which the prophet Micah said is what God really requires in response to his love for me.

I’ve found that Covenant Discipleship brings not only a weekly challenge but a very necessary balance of works of piety and mercy into my life as a follower of Jesus Christ. Moreover, I know that I need the support, the encouragement, and, yes, the loving reminders of my brothers and sisters in the faith in order to help shape me into the disciple that God wants me to be. And by the same token, they need me to do likewise for them.

I am not very good at daily prayer, which is one of our covenant’s acts of devotion. Some of my strengths tend to be in serving within our faith community, which is one of our acts of worship, and being a good steward of the earth’s resources, one of our acts of justice. Each of us seems to struggle with one or more of the acts in our covenant from week to week. I am reminded and encouraged each week to find ways to work at my weaker areas while not neglecting those things that tend to come more easily to me.

My current group members and I have differing gifts, and these qualities usually bubble to the surface during our respective reporting. It is within this framework of diversity that we help each other grow.

Indeed, it is this model that makes me believe that we, as a church family, would do well to move in the direction of reclaiming our Wesleyan heritage. Though not unique in this respect, Covenant Discipleship is a powerful tool for molding and shaping followers of Christ into faithful and mature disciples, and, in turn, leaders in discipleship themselves. And we do this together, not individually.

I pray that you will consider this method, not only for yourself but for building up the community of faith of which you are an important part. I’d like to end by quoting from a devotional reading [by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre from The Upper Room Disciplines] based on today’s retelling of the Pentecost story, which gets right to the point of today’s shared message.

In a consummate moment of community, Jesus’ followers are not only called but called together. The followers of Jesus still are called together. And life together requires more than private devotions, though they are as good and necessary as the food and rest we take. God calls us to engage in a shared life that binds us closer than brothers and sisters, whose common heritage is the breath of life and the bread of life and the spirit of life that is “poured out” in these latter days, more present and abundant than we can imagine. 

Amen.

Life is fragile indeed January 29, 2013

Posted by deshon in Messages, Musings.
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photo of votive candleToday I attended a visitation in a local funeral home for a running friend who died at age 62.  The photos in the looping presentation and those displayed around the rooms at the funeral home were nostalgic, for sure.  They also tended to visually bring to light the best qualities in Ken—his gregarious nature and his love for family and friends.  It is unfortunate that, as is true with most of us, Ken also battled a darker side.

Yesterday, Jo Anne and I received news in an email that her Belgian cousin Annette’s 30-year-old son Samuel had lost control of his car on an icy road and had died as a result of the ensuing accident.  We grieve for all the family in that country, whom we love so much.  Samuel leaves behind a wife, a two-year-old girl, and a boy who will be born into this world in June.  This brought back sad memories of the phone call I received from my Mom on New Year’s Day in 1986, informing me of my then 17-year-old cousin Scott’s death in a car accident.

Yesterday and today, I am reminded that we hold on to this life by such a small thread and that life itself is a gift.  Those whom we call family and friends are gifts to us from a loving God.  They are “ours” in name only but a short while in the grand timeline of eternity.  So, love them extravagantly and be ever thankful for the moments we’re given with each one.

“Do it like God—become human” December 25, 2012

Posted by deshon in Messages, Musings.
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graphic of wreath with bellsFor me, the stillness of this Christmas morning was gently broken by a mega-flock of birds, with its distinctive cacophony. Heralding yet another Christmas day, the birds were an aural reminder of God’s ever-present hold on the universe.

“Arise, shine, for thy light is come.”

Again this Christmas Eve, I took the opportunity, if only for a short time, to mingle with Newark’s homeless at the local Baptist church’s Christmas Eve dinner/shelter for those less fortunate within our midst. This year I tried to get to know some of the familiar faces while serving them as best as I knew how—trying to make them feel welcome, comfortable, and loved by God—despite their unpleasant circumstances.

Sharing even these few hours in the spirit of this loving God is, I believe, what I was called to do on this particular night. But it got me thinking more about the lot of those who have been largely disenfranchised by society and how important it is to lift them up. This is indeed part of Jesus’ mission as well as His marching orders to those who would follow and emulate Him.

“The people that hath walked in darkness have seen a great light.”

Later in the evening, our pastor’s homily centered on the incarnation. I appreciated the reference to the fact that the prophet Isaiah had pointed to this event in human history several centuries before. God becoming human is indeed a mystery, as is the concept of the trinity, and yet is no less real though not fully understood.

“Do it like God—become human,” was the quote Rev. Palmer invoked.  He went on to affirm God’s love for each of us as uniquely created—simply because we are.  For me, this means that God created me to reflect Godself, as I am, and that is a tall task. I understand it as my purpose for being and that after which I’m striving. God’s act of becoming flesh and dwelling among us in Jesus is quite the miracle and quite the statement by the Creator. In Jesus, God gave us the perfect model—God with us (Immanuel).

“For unto us a child is born; unto us a Son is given.”

Thanks be to God for this most precious gift. As I listen to Handel’s Messiah playing in the background and wait for our son to wake up, my prayer today is that this dark and confused world (which includes me) would learn and follow the ways and teachings of Jesus, no matter what faith is professed. If you’re reading this, may you be blessed this day and every day and be thankful, as I am, to God—the source of these blessings.

“Behold, thy King cometh unto thee.”

Time for gratitude, reflection, and reorienting December 17, 2012

Posted by deshon in Messages, Musings.
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> see our family’s holiday letter

photo of Mark DeshonThis time of year, the few weeks before Christmas (Advent), always make me want to slow down and refocus. Refocus on what’s important in this lifetime. The conclusions I come to are similar, but the feelings deepen with the addition of years.

Sitting here now with the auditory background of crashing waves on the beach, I feel perhaps more relaxed and at peace than normal. And yet, I know that out there in the world, all is not relaxed and at peace. The tragic slaughter of 27 in Newtown, Conn., last week at Sandy Hook Elementary School brought that point home vividly. My son’s girlfriend picked up on the fact that the name “Sandy” itself has come to mean a lot of death and destruction and upsetting of lives lately.

Unfortunately, this kind of thing is simply the most prominent tip of the iceberg in what a good friend of mine rightly attributed to ours being a violent society. While I don’t want to turn this piece into a rant about guns, I’ll simply say there are way too many guns available and in use in the U.S. Say what you will about the Second Amendment, what I’ve said in the previous sentence is categorically undeniable.

So, I wrestle, especially this time of year, with the promise of the season and the reality of the world in which we live. I read a good piece this morning that included some wisdom about how God has worked in the past and is working today. It talked about how God chose not the rich, powerful, and privileged, but the poor, invisible-in-society, and commonplace to “empty [Godself] of all but love” and become incarnate in Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem.

This alone gives me hope that I can still have an effect on the revelation of God’s kingdom here on earth.

And so, as this year 2012 rapidly comes to a close, I’m extremely thankful for my family and friends. I’m grateful for the time I have before Christmas to get away to a Florida beach and rest from the cares of my own routine at home, because this will help propel me into a time of reflection and reorientation as the reality of Immanuel (“God with us”) hits home once again.

“Are you gonna hurt us?” September 27, 2012

Posted by deshon in Messages, Musings.
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On Tuesday this week, I attended an event relating to repealing the death penalty in Delaware.  It was held at Ezion-Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church in Wilmington, Del., and featured world-renown Christian speaker/author and sociology professor Tony Campolo.

The point to Tony’s talk, which was much more like an informal sermon, was pretty simple.  He posited that, while capital punishment is a complex issue for our society and its government entities, it should be a non-issue for those of us who claim the name of Christ.  The death penalty is something antithetical to the life and teaching of Jesus, though He suffered it himself on a cross at Calvary.  “‘Love your enemies’ probably means don’t kill them,” Campolo wryly insisted.

What we Christians must do is look at Jesus’ life and teaching and examine what it means to sentence another human being, made and loved by God, to death.  After all, isn’t there enough inequity in this world, not to mention hate and death, that we needn’t add more?

Speaking of inequity, that night I experienced an interesting and telling reaction because of who I am culturally and where I happened to be.

Ezion-Mt. Carmel is an African-American congregation in urban Wilmington.  Inside the social hall, everyone was friendly, as we were coming together as a group of United Methodists, Presbyterians, Quakers, Episcopalians, and Roman Catholics—black and white.  As I left the building and walked across the front lawn of the church in the dark, I spotted two young African-American boys in the yard.  They must have been seven-to-nine years old.  I was simply cutting through the yard, but to them I appeared to be a white man approaching them with an unknown purpose.  After running away from me, one of the boys stopped and asked, “Are you gonna hurt us?”  “No!” I immediately replied, trying to reassure them while trying to get my head around their apparent fear.

When it comes to “hurting” (or worse) a brother or sister for any reason, let’s say “no,” with our actions and, just as importantly, within our minds and hearts.

Happy Holidays December 8, 2011

Posted by deshon in Messages.
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It’s that time of year once again—the advent of the holiday season and the Advent of the birth of Jesus into my consciousness once again.  Time to prepare.  That also means preparing to communicate with many friends and family all over, including those whom I don’t see but want to keep tethered to my life in some small but significant way.

See our family’s Christmas letter and photos, and have a wonderful new year.

Mark