Posts Tagged ‘faith’

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 231: The Strange World of the Future

June 20, 2021

I was born Back When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth; almost exactly seven years after V-J Day, the end of World War II. My father was born in the last year of World War I. These sorts of dates have become more important to me in my ‘senior years’ [I still have trouble accepting the term].

Growing up with two working parents, Superman was one of my babysitters, along with Robin Hood, Zorro and the Lone Ranger and Tonto. I grew up reading Tom Swift Junior, and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. I brought home Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick and other less famous authors. Space Westerns when Science Fiction had those two words for the genre. I still enjoy reading old books with cloth bindings. I’m reading a set of Tarzan books printed during World War I [the War to End All Wars…sigh].

I was not prepared for the Strange World of the 2020s.

I was not prepared for an American population that became mean and attacked ‘otherness’ with such careless abandon.

p45 was not the cause of this hostility; he was merely a symptom, writ large because of his position, and his unmitigated gall. Never in my remembrance was there a public leader, on camera, who mocked those with disabilities, who threatened individuals with violence, and lying so often that news organizations started keeping count of the numbers [30,573 false or misleading claims in 4 years]. Nixon was an awful President; but he at least attempted to act as a gentleman on camera.

President Eisenhower called it:

As we peer into society’s future, we—you and I, and our government—must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow…

Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.

The White Evangelical Church says that the solution to our current problems is to ‘turn our eyes to Jesus; and he will heal this land’. The White Evangelical Church has a problem with taking verses at random from the Bible and turning them into doctrine. This is one of the passages in the Jewish scriptures [Old Testament]:

…6 I will keep My eyes on them for good and will return them to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. 7 I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the LORD. They will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with all their heart. 8 But like the bad figs, so bad they cannot be eaten,’ says the LORD, ‘so will I deal with Zedekiah king of Judah, his officials, and the remnant of Jerusalem—those remaining in this land and those living in the land of Egypt.…  Jeremiah 24:6,7   JPS Tanakh 1917

First of all, Jesus was Jewish, not Christian.

Jesus’ teachings came from Torah, the Jewish Bible [Old Testament]. During my 48 years in the White Evangelical Church, I was taught that Christians did not need to pay attention to Torah; Torah was for the Jews. Like Jesus.

I submit that Christians never had this world in the first place. Adam and Eve were tossed out of the Garden of Eden. They did not leave, voluntarily.

We have borrowed this world, and like a 60s/70s Rock Band on tour, we tore up the hotel rooms and threw televisions out of the windows. Like the criminals who tore up the Capitol Building on January 6th. They left excrement on the walls and floors, and a large contingency in the Halls of Congress refuse to admit this deadly demonstration of American resolve in 2021 ever occurred.

Humans have turned Planet Earth into an excremental nightmare. Like teenagers, humans need to learn to clean up their mess.

Dec 13, 2019 [CNN]  On Thursday morning, the President of the United States sent a tweet to his 60+ million followers blasting a 16-year-old girl with Asperger’s syndrome who has rallied efforts at fighting climate change around the globe. “Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old-fashioned movie with a friend!” Trump wrote of teenage climate crisis activist Greta Thunberg. “Chill Greta, Chill!”

In her speech before the U.N., she noted world leaders have “stolen my dreams, my childhood, with your empty words.” She noted that “we are in the beginning of a mass extinction;” and asked, “How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just business as usual and some technical solutions?” Trump’s comment is meant to undermine the very thing that makes Thunberg an effective activist: the impassioned moral clarity with which she speaks about climate change.

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/9/24/20881541/trump-greta-thumberg-tweet-un

The Galactic Core of the Milky Way

At the center of our Milky Way galaxy, threads of superheated gas and magnetic fields weave around each other to create a spectacular galactic display captured in a striking new panoramic image from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

This new image of the Milky Way’s core builds on previous observations from Chandra and other observatories. These newest observations stretch higher above and farther below our galaxy’s plane, or the disk where most of the Milky Way’s stars can be found, than previous imaging efforts have achieved…

https://www.space.com/milky-way-galaxy-center-chandra-photos-video

The Strange World of the Future

Somehow, the human race cannot translate the technological accomplishments of the 21st Century into making a better society. We can view the center of the galaxy we travel within—a presently impossible distance to travel. And we cannot stop destroying this world.

The image above, for me, is a representation of what we could become. The Creator of the Universe is probably still Creating. Alpha Centauri is the closest star system and closest planetary system to Earth’s Solar System at 4.37 light-years from the Sun. I don’t know that we will ever know what Creator created there, 5 years ago.

The first law of thermodynamics states that the total energy of an isolated system is constant; energy can be transformed from one form to another but can be neither created nor destroyed.

Think about this.

You are a brain with a body. All of you that is, your body, your ideas, your dreams, these happen in your brain. Your body provides transportation and nourishment to your brain. You theoretically are reading this on something that looks like a piece of paper. You do not have a screen in your brain. You cannot see a piece of digital paper. It’s all ones and zeroes translated into machine language. The light contacting the retinas of your eyes sends an electrochemical signals to nerve centers in your brain. What you are reading is a scientifically created illusion.

Take it a step further. Suppose that our current scientific understanding of the brain is missing what I believe is the key element: you are Energy. According to the first law of thermodynamics, you can be transformed; but cannot be destroyed. There is a YOU that is crafted by Creator and exists outside of our limited understanding of Life. I use the word ‘soul’ as many other people do. There are people who do not believe that the Soul exists because there is no evidence to prove it.

I have been following the Faith Walk, the Spirit Walk for 48 years. I cannot prove the existence of the Soul, but lack of proof does not mean lack of existence. The biggest problem I’ve had with my Faith Walk is religion. I have served in a variety of capacities in a number of denominations, and I am continually amazed at how people can take a few sentences out of their context, and then build a religious belief. I have also learned that I cannot change the minds of people whose minds are closed. The most I can do is provide an environment where change can occur, when someone wants to change.

You can be transformed; but cannot be destroyed.

This messes with the religious beliefs of many people.

I can’t help that.

The Chandra X-ray Observatory is the world’s most powerful X-ray telescope

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 230: It is as simple and strange as that…

May 23, 2021
lightning storm with undulating Asperitas clouds

It is the rock, the storm, the lion, the flood, the desert. It is the bear, the leviathan, the whirlwind, the barely audible whisper, the voice, the silence, the city strongly compact, the mother with abundant breasts, the tearful father.

There is a mysterious reality, at the borders and at the heart of ordinary experience, suffusing and yet transcending all that surrounds us, a reality that can be evoked both with a thousand names and that cannot, finally, be caught by any name. This mystery judges us and energizes us, frightens us and gives us inoperable peace, overwhelms us and captivates us. Like Melville’s white whale, it surges up from the depts and sinks our ships, and like Jonah’s whale, it draws us into itself and gives us protection. It is as high as the heavens are above the earth and as low as the caverns of Hell; it is as dark as a pillar of cloud and as luminous as a pillar of fire; it is the burning bush that is not consumed and is water from the rock. It is the sheer act of Being itself and is nothing at all; it is what is hardest to see, and it is what is most obvious.

Every great mystic, prophet or theologian know that this mystery cannot be spoken of adequately, that, like a wily fish, it escapes all the nets of thought and language that we now set for it. Thomas Aquinas—the most talkative theologian in the tradition—simply stopped talking at the end of his life, convinced that all he had said of the mystery amounted to so much straw. And yet, as my catalogue of traditional names suggests, we talk, almost compulsively and maniacally, of this power, pushed by some inner drive of the spirit. We cannot speak of God, and we must speak of God. It is as simple and strange as that.

Bishop Robert Barron

Creator is the Creator of the entire Universe, the Creator of galaxies and nebulae. This does not mean that Creator does not have time for us. Creator exists outside of Time and beyond distance, and beyond our understanding. And Creator is aware of all that goes on in our lives. Creator has known the entirety of our lives from the moment of Creation. We are unable to accept the idea because we are stuck living each moment of every single day. We are not yet eternal in our understanding.

Everyone wants to ‘go back’ to pre-COVID normal. It is not possible. I am not the same man I was a year ago. I’m not the same man I was, a week or more ago, when I started typing this. We cannot go back we can only go Forward. The world has changed dramatically in the last year. We cannot go back.

Creator does not control our actions—we are not puppets. We have free will, everyone we know has free will. If you do not believe in free will, you have never raised children. It’s called “the terrible twos” for a reason.

Whenever disaster strikes, in whatever form it takes, these words start appearing:

“I blame god for this…”

“How could god have allowed this to happen?”

“I’m a good person; how could this be happening to me?”

There’s a long list of these questions.

I must have missed the day when Creator was handing out immunity from the dangers of living on Earth. We are living on a giant rock that spins on its axis at something like 1,040 mph; and our Earth is orbiting the Sun at a speed of 67,000 mph. Our solar system is in a low-rent district in the Milky Way galaxy; and is orbiting around the Milky Way at 448,000 mph.

[the fine print]

Earth is unique among the known planets: it has an abundance of water. Other worlds — including a few moons — have atmospheres, ice, and even oceans, but only Earth has the right combination to sustain life.

Earth’s oceans cover about 70 percent of the planet’s surface with an average depth of 2.5 miles (4 kilometers). Fresh water exists in liquid form in lakes and rivers and as water vapor in the atmosphere, which causes much of Earth’s weather.

Earth has multiple layers. The ocean basins and the continents compose the crust, the outermost layer. Earth’s crust is between three and 46 miles (five and 75 km) deep. The thickest parts are under the continents and the thinnest parts are under the oceans.

The crust is divided into huge plates that float on the mantle, the next layer. The plates are constantly in motion; they move at about the same rate as fingernails grow, according to NASA. Earthquakes occur when these plates grind against each other. Mountains form when the plates collide and deep trenches form when one plate slides under another plate. Plate tectonics is the theory explaining the motion of these plates.

The mantle under the crust is about 1,800 miles deep (2,890 km). It is composed mostly of silicate rocks rich in magnesium and iron. Intense heat causes the rocks to rise. They then cool and sink back down to the core. This convection — with the consistency of caramel — is thought to be what causes the tectonic plates to move. When the mantle pushes through the crust, volcanoes erupt.

At the center of the Earth is the core, which has two parts. The solid, inner core of iron has a radius of about 760 miles (about 1,220 km), according to NASA. It is surrounded by a liquid, outer core composed of a nickel-iron alloy. The outer core is about 1,355 miles (2,180 km) thick. The inner core spins at a different speed than the rest of the planet. This is thought to cause Earth’s magnetic field. When charged particles from the solar wind collide with air molecules above Earth’s magnetic poles, it causes the air molecules to glow, causing the auroras — the northern and southern lights.

The reason our lives are devastated by Natural Disaster is not that Creator has stopped intervening in the stories of our lives—Creator is the same, now and forever. Our lives become devastated because we were given the opportunity to live on a planet that is totally unstable. It isn’t some sort of curse; it’s some sort of fact. Magical Thinking allows to believe that some people are ‘more special’ than others. Read World History. We have pushed Free Will beyond any and every boundary. Nonetheless, we still call this Normal.

I’ve invested a lot of time in the study of Creator in these 48 years of Faith; I haven’t found any contextual Bible verses that say Creator promises we will never suffer in this life. There are passages throughout the Older Testament [Jesus’ Bible] that state that Creator will never abandon us; but we aren’t promised safety.

One can find individual verses that say we will not stumble on a rock. There’s a verse in the Psalms that says, ‘happy is the man who bashes the babies’ heads on a rock’ [Psalm 137:9]; this does not show up in sermons very often. My guess is this verse is being used often in these times of ‘almost-war’ between Israel and Palestine. People take a verse out of context and derive a religion around that verse and all of the others that seem like it.

My point, once again, is not that those ancient people told literal stories and we are now smart enough to take them symbolically, but that they told them symbolically and we are now dumb enough to take them literally.”

John Dominic Crossan

I’ve long imagined that there are beacons in space, beyond our solar system, warning travelers to avoid us; because of the plague that human behavior can be.

We continue to lose thousands of people each week to COVID. So many deaths, that we cannot properly mourn their loss. As I write this [5/22/2021] there have been 589,670 COVID deaths in the U.S. and 3,449,399 deaths across the world.

The number of American military and civilian deaths during World War II, was 418,500.

COVID has surpassed World War II

https://www.nationalww2museum.org/students-teachers/student-resources/research-starters/research-starters-worldwide-deaths-world-war

More people in the US have died from COVID than were killed in World War II.

Politicians attempt to normalize this. They have agendas to pursue that aren’t necessarily for the public good.

As a nation, how do we honor the dead?

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 230: Changing the Way We See…

May 7, 2021

Back When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, and I became ‘serious’ about illustration, I became fascinated by the eye; particularly the human eye—this small ‘camera’ which defines the world for most people. I don’t have enough faith in Science to credit Evolution with the conversion of light-sensitive cells on a marine animal into a ‘device’ that becomes the model for the digital cameras currently located on Mars…

One aspect of the wonder that is the experience of sight is the Blind Spot. We all have a blind spot in each eye—the ‘hole’ in the retina where the optic nerve connects with the brain. So, find your blind spots—I’ll wait… 

You can’t find them, can you? The brain ‘fills in’ the hole in our vision with data that is adjacent to the blind spot. This should not be surprising, in that our experience of vision is a ‘construct’ created by our brain. Our visual perception of the world around us is created by ‘electrochemical’ signals that travel between the light-sensitive retina cells at the back of our eyes by way of the optic nerve, into to the brain. To make things stranger still, the lenses of our eyes flip the image upside down [represented by the candle in the image above]. So, not only is your visual experience of the world a creation of your brain, but the data your brain receives is upside down.

Close your eyes and the world is darkened; open your eyelids and you suddenly see the world as if you are watching television, or a streaming service to the screen in front of you. Stranger yet is the fact that each eye sees the world from a slightly different angle—this is how we perceive Depth—but again, the perception of depth is a ‘translation’ of the world created by the brain.

Back When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, and cameras were analog rather than digital, light traveling through a camera lens caused the light-sensitive chemicals on a piece of film to create a ‘negative’ image on that film, when exposed to a different set of chemicals. Shining a light through that film onto a chemically treated piece of paper produced a ‘positive,’ but invisible, chemical image on the paper. By applying other chemicals to the paper, seemingly blank sheets of paper became photographic images on paper.

Our concept of the world is essentially the analog process by which we perceive the world. Our perception the world is based on the ‘chemicals’/ideas that are in our environment. I grew up in Portland, Oregon—sometimes called ‘the Whitest city in America’. The original State Constitution specified that Oregon was intended to be for White people. The City of Portland was intended to be a place for White people to live. That idea was shattered by World War II [does it bother you that Wars get numbered/identified by decade?]. Portland had shipyards, which were converted for use in the construction of Liberty Ships to replace vessels lost at Pearl Harbor. Most of the White guys were in the War or preparing for the War; Portland’s ‘City Fathers’ had to allow brown-skinned people to move into the City for ships to be built [when the War ended, the City Father’s relocated the brown-skinned people into the part of Portland with the lowest property values].

My Dad, labeled 4-F after learning he was diabetic while nearly dying on a troop train, went to work in the shipyards. My Dad was relatively small and skinny; he knew how to weld, so he was hung by his feet and shoved into a ship’s funnel to weld the connection between the funnel and the ship. My guess is that the men on the rope, keeping my Dad from falling, were brown-skinned.

My Dad’s brother, when I was old enough to notice, was a racist, and a mean drunk. He served overseas during WWII. Prior to that, the two brothers were raised in the same environment. This is all conjecture on my part—I never had much reason to interact with the adults in my family. The problem was mine, not theirs.

I never heard a racist word come from my Dad’s mouth, my Uncle, not so much. I wonder if the difference came from my Dad working in the shipyards among brown-skinned men.  

If you’ve read my stuff before, you are probably aware of parts of my Faith journey. It doesn’t matter to me if that description has meaning for you; and my lack of concern isn’t judgmental. We all have our own faith journeys. Some more difficult than others. Some, more complex than others. ‘Seventy’ is a number that will have new meaning for me, in about 15 months. My world became entirely different in my twenties [last night I watched an older Doctor Who episode that revolved around one of the Doctor’s companions, and her decision to make a right-turn one day, instead of turning left. That single decision alters the entirety of Earth history from that point forward. Donna Noble thought she was nothing but a ‘Temp’—a person of no significance. She becomes the most significant person in Earth history. Fiction? Yes. And the analog version of our lives—we have no idea who we will influence. Faith was my ‘left turn’ [no, not that Left—my first turning was to the Right].

How do we see our world…

I’m listening to a song about how the Breath of God breathed dry bones into a mighty army. Factual? Probably not. Stories to provide courage to those without.

Today, this sort of story comes under the general heading of “Conspiracy Theory”—the explanations that certain members of the electorate, and those they support, as to what their ‘enemy’ believes, and is working to accomplish. Nonsense, that sells a message.

When did our two-party governmental system become war, with enemies?

Metanoia

Jesus’ opening speech in Mark’s Gospel: “repent and believe the Good News.” The word so often and misleadingly translated as “repent” is metanoia. This Greek word is based on two words, meta [beyond] and nous [mind or spirit], and thus, in its most basic form, it means something like, “go beyond the mind that you have.” The English word, “repent” has a moralizing overtone, suggesting a change in behavior or action, whereas Jesus’ term seems to be hinting at a change at a far more fundamental level of one’s being. Jesus urges his listeners to change their way of knowing, their way of perceiving and grasping reality, their perspective, their mode of seeing…

Robert Barron

“Christianity moved from the position of being a type of exilic community, existing on the fringes of society of the first cen­turies of the common era, to becoming the religion of the state. When this move was made, certain changes emerged in the com­munity which would alter the direction of faithful witness down to the present age.
“Previous to the year 313 C.E., Christianity was in a precarious position. Outlawed at various times by different rulers, enduring several waves of local and empire-wide persecution, the church had developed a way of being in the world that addressed the present culture in challenging and prophetic ways…

“All this changed when Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, a decree of toleration for Christianity. While the accounts differ, the impetus for this shift was Constantine’s victory at Milvian over an­other claimant to the throne of the empire. One account says that Constantine had a vision that showed the cross in the sky, accom­panied by the words, “By this sign you will conquer.” Whatever may have happened, it is surely the case that with the Edict of Milan the position of the church in the Roman Empire changed. No longer were Christians ostracized for their faith or persecuted to the point of death; rather, they entered into the agenda of the empire in a new way…

“…Once the cultural pretensions of the state were baptized with a Christian veneer, the results were mixed to say the least. When Christians held political power, they did not hesitate to use it to force conformity to their own beliefs and morals…

“And in the captivity to political powers conformity was always exacted to compel adherence to particular doctrines and pronouncements of the church. This history has been one of embarrassment to the church. Even though the church needed to have some discernment about what represented faithful witness to Jesus Christ, the exclusions and history of slaughter and murder carried out in the name of the church make a sorry spectacle. Indeed, the efforts of the church to assure conformity to its doctrines would lead to such a backlash that modernity would seek to deny the church any place at the table of the political process at all.

“The removal of the church from the political process and the founding of society on secular principles in the Enlightenment were ample evidence that coercion in matters of faith left a tragic legacy. It also called into doubt how the most central convictions of Christianity became the guiding factor for people’s faith. How could you trust something built upon the edifice of political power? Once Christianity let itself be identified with the aims of the state, how could anything be trusted that was a product, not of discerning consensus, but of who had the greatest political power?”

The Matrix of Faith Jeffrey C. Pugh

In this time of Pandemic, people keep waiting until things can return to Normal.

Normal is what got us here.

Normal is what inspired the deadly insurrection attempt at the US Capitol Building in January.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” 
Not Albert Einstein; no one seems to be really sure who said this first.

I would add, Normal is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

What would Not Normal look like? I have no idea; this is the task that presents itself to us. Much like Climate Change and CO2 emissions and a raft of environmental and social problems that need to be fixed.

There is no shortage of money to fix these things; there is a large shortage of Will and Imagination; and an excess of the desire for Power.

We need to change our way of knowing, our way of perceiving and grasping reality, our perspective, our mode of seeing…

BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 229: Easter Has Passed Over Us—So, Now What?

April 25, 2021

The Easter eggs have been found, and the chocolate bunnies have been eaten.
What’s next? In the Church calendar, Pentecost [May 23rd] is next, followed by Ordinary Time [my life seems to take place mostly in Ordinary Time].

Regarding the above images, Rubens gets the award for accuracy—Jesus was most likely naked when He came out of the tomb—His burial cloths Left Behind. Dürer gets the prize for most literal—Mary Magdalene was said to have thought the Resurrected Jesus was the gardener— Dürer gives Jesus a shovel. The ivory carving is probably the oldest; the one from the Byzantine School probably next oldest. The website that had the image on the far left seems to have misplaced its name and date.

You’re asking, ‘why does any of this matter?’

This morning I saw a reader board at a church:

“JESUS IS ALIVE AND HE IS LOOKING FOR SINNERS”

Maybe I’ve watched too many Westerns—to me the above phrase reminds me of ‘Wyatt Earp coming to clean up Dodge City’…

Jesus never went looking for sinners. Jesus went looking for those who had lost their way. When I was first introduced to Faith, in my twenties, I hadn’t lost my way; I didn’t even know a way existed.

The White Evangelical Church [a term of my preference] would say that Jesus’ Crucifixion means that your sins can be forgiven, and that the point of Jesus’ Resurrection is that Christians will be Resurrected, also.

A problem: This form of theology accepts the idea that 3/4 of all the people that have ever existed, are now burning in Hell; and further accepts the notion that Creator intended for this to happen when humankind was first Created; and that Creator is at perfect ease over the fact that 3/4 of all the humans who have existed burn in Hell. [It is possible that 3/4 is a low number]

And we Americans [rightly] demand that mass murder not occur on our streets and in our schools. If we are irate at wrongful death, why isn’t Creator angry about these wrongful deaths?

The White Evangelical Church misunderstands the reason Jesus was born.

=Ф=

Back When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, my sons were in Boy Scouts; during the summer there were Summer Camp events [including a lot of rain, here in Portland]. Once everyone was in their tents for the night, I would wander to the nearby lake, lie down on the dock and look up into the night sky. It never occurred to me to envision the ‘lights in the sky’ to be at the outer perimeter of our solar system, but apparently that is what a lot of people in America [the only country I’ve lived in] seem to think.

NGC 4380 is a spiral galaxy located in the constellation of Virgo. There are planets in the galaxy we know as NGC 4380; we do not know if these planets are inhabited. We may never know, here on Earth. However, if Newton’s Laws of Motion are accurate, these Laws will apply on NGC 4380. If not there, then Newton’s observations are not Laws, they are merely explanations.

If there are sentient beings on inhabited planets in the NGC 4380 galaxy, they too will have a ‘Jesus’ story. A story of the Creator who became ‘human’ in whatever sense ‘human’ applies there. The image below could be a photo of the ‘humans’ [bipedal is a presumption on our part] living on some planet in the night sky. In the movie, “The Arrival” most weren’t ready to attribute to these creatures the same ‘dignity’ we ascribe to humans [actually, perhaps that was the problem—they did not ascribe the qualities of White Privilege to these ‘aliens’ in the same way brown-skinned humans are treated].

If you can only see Jesus through a First Century lens, you may not understand your faith. If Jesus only has meaning for you in the story of the Nativity during the Christmas and Easter seasons, then you probably don’t understand your faith.

At Christmas we don’t hear of a fairy tale that takes place in a barn, witnessed by Angels and shepherds and cattle. We hear a story of the Creator of the entire Universe entering our time and space in the form of one cell implanted in the womb of a teenager named Mary. Nine months later, Mary gave birth to a boy named Jesus. Jesus grew up as a child grows, observing and learning what all human children observe and learn.

The Easter story takes place around 33 years after the story of the baby in the manger. The story of what happened between the baby in the manger and the day Jesus left his inherited [assumption] carpentry shop doesn’t get told at all, in the New Testament canon. There are a lot of religious texts that didn’t ‘make the cut’ in the Third Century, when Bishops voted as to what would make up that which we know as the Bible.

Jesus’ death was inevitable, from the Wedding at Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine. Everyone knew who Jesus was; small towns lacking newspapers. When the miraculous events began, those stories of Jesus’ colorful life became even more colorful. The Conservative Religious leaders of Jesus’ time began planning to shut Jesus up. Jesus was a troublemaker.

One of my favorite non-Biblical stories is about the boy, Jesus, who would mold birds out of the clay along the river, and then send them flying.

Who gave these Bishops the authority to make these decisions? Well, of course, they gave themselves the authority.

Jacob M. Wright

“Someone asked me if I believed that stories in the Old Testament about God killing people were made up. Here’s what I believe.

“I think it was made up, but out of ancient people’s conceptualizing the world as through mythology. This is literally how the ancients found meaning in the world, through mythologizing their experiences together, and passing these stories down through oral tradition. But I believe God was being revealed through it. Because a myth does not mean that something is entirely false, but that a truth is being revealed through a story that is endowed with sacred meaning.

“So, while people are mythologizing about God destroying nations or killing this or that person, it is taking events and endowing them with cosmic/theological meaning, and while they are not literally true, they are imaginatively attempting to get at meaning in the universe and this was part of the progression towards truth.

“This is being honest about the primitive times in which these texts were written. If the world was so supernatural back then that God would literally just endow a fruit with magical knowledge that would cause the entire downfall of the species, or confuse the languages at Babel to create different cultures, or rain down fire from “heaven” (outer space?) to destroy nations, and swallow up people in the earth, and supernaturally set altars on fire, and supernaturally drown the whole world, and supernaturally fight Israel’s enemies with angels and shoot them down with lightning bolts from the heavens, and supernaturally release plagues on cities by the waving of Moses’ rod, and turn rivers to blood, and part seas for people to walk through and then crash them down on Pharaoh, then why isn’t that the world we live in today? Why was the world such a magical fantasy world 3,000 to 4,000 years ago? It wasn’t. This is mythology typical of those times.

“After we’ve come to terms with that, we can see how the mythology is getting at a truth that is leading the way to Jesus. As CS Lewis said,

“Just as, on the natural side, a long preparation culminated in God’s becoming incarnate as Man, so on the documentary side, the truth first appears in mythical form and then by a long process of condensing and focusing finally becomes incarnate as History. Just as God is none the less God by being Man, so the Myth remains myth even when it becomes Fact. The story of Christ demands from us, and repays, not only a religious and historical but also an imaginative response. Thus, the question is not one of theology alone, but of the nature of myth: This involves the belief that myth in general is not merely misunderstood history (as Euhemerus thought) nor diabolical illusion (as some of the Fathers thought) nor priestly lying (as the philosophers of the Enlightenment thought) but, at its best, a real though unfocused gleam of divine truth falling on human imagination.” – CS Lewis (Miracles, p. 161)

“Jesus is where God actually breaks into history outside of myth.”

“My point, once again, is not that those ancient people told literal stories and we are now smart enough to take them symbolically, but that they told them symbolically and we are now dumb enough to take them literally.”

John Dominic Crossan

Creator is creating the entire Universe.

There is no evidence that the Universe is complete.

There are only theories.

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 228: What the heck is Holy Week?

March 27, 2021

This was my thought when, in my twenties,
I first heard of Holy Week.
Forty-eight years later, in a Pandemic, I still wonder about it.

This isn’t a painting of Jesus of Nazareth.

This is what is called an Icon [LONG before computers]. Icons began to be painted for use in the Orthodox Church, because Creator told the Hebrew people to not ‘make graven [carved] images. Being a painting, there is no engraving involved. Icons play a huge role in the Orthodox Church; they have almost no role in the Presbyterian Church [and many others].
There is an entire vocabulary involved in the creation of Icons. From this vocabulary, the Icon isn’t painted, it is ‘written’. The maker of the Icon is always left unknown, as far as history is concerned. There probably was a man who commissioned the writing of the Icon; but the writer is always named ‘Anonymous’. This Icon appears to show a Caucasian man; since “Christ Pantocrator” isn’t a painting of Jesus, his appearance does not reflect a theological statement.
Every “Christ Pantocrator” Icon that has been written has the same elements. Many are identical, century after century.

The White Evangelical Church tends to give the impression it’s beliefs are tied directly to the Apostles, uninterrupted.

Church history is entirely about interruption.

Holy Week is about ritual. Rituals that can help people be connected with a Creator that we rarely perceive. I haven’t participated in Ritual for over a year. I’m still connected to Creator.
 Holy Week begins tomorrow [as I am writing], with Palm Sunday; and ends next Sunday with Easter.

Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem for His last time there. He came in riding on a borrowed donkey as prophesied [following a passage of Scripture from the Older Testament]. There were people who were cheering Him on, who threw palm branches on the road.
Next Thursday [as I am writing], is called Maundy Thursday:

Maundy Thursday is the Christian holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter.
It commemorates the Washing of the Feet (Maundy) and Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles, as described in the canonical gospels.[1]
It is the fifth day of Holy Week, preceded by Holy Wednesday (Spy Wednesday) and followed by Good Friday.[2] “Maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum, or commandment, reflecting Jesus’ words “I give you a new commandment.”[3]               Wikipedia
A new command I give unto you: that you love one another. As I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are My Disciples, if there shall be love among you; one towards another.”

As this last Election Cycle has shown, the Church doesn’t do a very good job with this Command.
After Jesus and His disciples finished their Passover meal, Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, heads to the Chief Priests in order to betray Jesus. Judas ate with Jesus. The Religious leaders of the day knew of Jesus, but lacking the Internet, they did not know how Jesus looked. Having the Internet, neither do we. Judas was paid to point out Jesus to the Roman cops, so that Jesus could be arrested.
Good Friday is the day upon which Jesus was tortured, tried, tried again, tortured some more, and finally crucified. The Gospel attributed to Matthew paints a dramatic scene:

And, from the sixth hour to the ninth hour, darkness fell over all the land. And around the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”—that is, “My God, my God, why did you forsake me?”
And some of those who were standing there, hearing this, said, “This man calls to Elijah.” And one of them immediately ran and—taking a sponge and filling it with vinegar and putting it on a rod—gave it to him to drink. But the rest said, “Leave off, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.”
And Jesus, again crying out in a loud voice, gave up the spirit. And look: The veil of the sanctuary was rent in two, from top to bottom, and the earth was shaken, and the rocks were split, And the tombs were opened and many bodies of those holy ones who had fallen asleep were raised; And, coming forth from the tombs, they went into the holy city after his resurrection and appeared to many. And the centurion and those guarding Jesus with him, seeing the earthquake and the things that were happening, were extremely afraid, saying, “Truly this was a god’s son.”
The New Testament – David Bentley Hart

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sermon that included the dead rising from their tombs and entering Jerusalem, appearing to many, once Jesus died. It would be an interesting sermon and generally is not included in the White Evangelical Church canon.
I have heard at least one sermon about the ‘veil of the Sanctuary’ being torn in two, top to bottom. This ‘veil’ was a two-layered curtain, in a very tall space [approx. 30ft], that separated The Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple. Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and even he would only enter once a year on Yom Kippur, to offer the blood of sacrifice and incense; and a rope was tied around his leg, so that if he died while encountering the Almighty, he could be pulled out; leaving the Holy of Holies secluded.
The Temple was a very tall space; they didn’t have extension ladders. Therefore, the veil was torn by Someone who was at ceiling height, and my guess is that Someone wasn’t human. The Torn Curtain meant that there is no longer a separation between Creator and Mankind. This is far more important than what the churches I’ve belonged to hardly ever [never] mentioned. This interferes with the following:
Non-believers are very familiar with John 3:16—signs with this Bible reference show up at any sporting event that has people in the grandstands. The short translation is ‘anyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus is going to Hell’. This isn’t Biblical interpretation, it’s human interpretation.
People who pay a lot of attention to John 3:16 don’t talk much about John 3:17:

And whoever hears my words and does not keep them, I am not judging him, for I have come, not to judge the world, but to give life to the world.

My question is, “did Jesus fail in His mission?” Jesus came to give life to the world. He either did that, or Jesus failed. If Jesus failed, the Church has a big problem.

 Aramaic Bible in Plain English  
1 In the origin The Word had been existing and That Word had been existing with God and That Word was himself God. 2 This One himself was at the origin with God. 3 Everything was in his hand, and without him not even one thing existed of the things that existed. 4 In him was The Life and The Life is The Light of men. 5 And The Light is shining in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it. 6 There was a man sent from God; his name was Yohannan [John]. 7 He came for a witness, to testify about The Light, that everyone by him would believe. 8 He was not The Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 For That One was The Light of Truth, which enlightens every person that comes into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world existed by his hand, and the world knew him not. 11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not…

I consider myself fortunate, in that I was raised without Ritual. I came to Faith in my third year of college, kicking and screaming. I’ve spent most of my 48 years with Jesus in the White Evangelical Church; and I have been ashamed/angered over the beliefs that have been displayed in the last five years, in the news and on Social Media.
I have not gotten past my anger.

What I have learned is that Creator is not some sort of local ‘mystic fairy’ that grants our wishes. Creator has made/is making a Universe so large that we don’t even have the language to describe it. The Universe is likely Filled with inhabited planets; and I believe that on each of those planets there will either be a ‘Jesus Story’; or that the ‘Jesus Story’ was not needed—their “Adam & Eve” did a better job of parenting.

I don’t know what to do with people who believe Creator is responsible for the evil in the world—those people who believe that the Older Testament is God’s-Truth-Written-Down seem to forget why Adam and Eve got kicked out of the Garden. They had learned how to tell good from evil. We humans are fully capable of doing evil on our own. We don’t need Creator’s help to do that.

Our Creator is infinite, which does not mean ‘really, really big’—Creator is outside the Universe, working within the Universe. Creator is outside of time. Creator has known all about your life from the moment the Universe was Created. The good stuff and the shitty stuff and everything in between. While it may feel like you have walked away, you haven’t. You always will be taken care of, which does not mean, being spared from shitty stuff.

This life is only the beginning of your Real life. We are souls with bodies. We are all Eternal. We will one day realize that there was a better choice to be made at a given time, but that choice never separated us from the Eternal. Sometimes it’s a matter of finding a new definition. I don’t believe, any longer, that the new definition will come from a group of believers and a pastor–all of whom are flawed. I have been through too many churches to believe that any group of people has it all together. We do well in certain areas; but not in every situation.

You are always loved by Jesus, and by your Creator. The Spirit is at hand, even when you don’t realize it.

Christ of St John of the Cross by Salvador Dalí

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 227: We hold these truths to be self-evident…

February 27, 2021
Magical Thinking told me that the National Nightmare would be over.
Magical Thinking told me that [secretly] most Republican politicians in Washington would be glad to see him go. Foolish thoughts.
I should have been prepared; Magical Thinking has been an enemy for most of my life, in the form of FEAR [False Evidence Appearing Real] and HPtFtU [Human Propensity to Foul things Up] The latter phrase coined by Francis Spufford in his book Unapologetic, uses a slightly different phrase.
I followed the commentary on MSNBC nearly every weeknight for 5 years; after the second Acquittal, I sort of gave up. Six people were killed, hundreds were maimed or injured. The Vice President and the Speaker of the House, as well as other notable Democrats were targeted by the mob of Insurrectionists and marked for death. Excrement covered the walls and floors of the Capitol Building; personal property of lawmakers was stolen after office doors were broken down.
The man who said he could fire a shot at someone on Fifth Avenue, with no consequences, proved that he knew what he was talking about.
No Consequences.
The question then becomes, what happens next. Hopefully State and Federal charges will be made against trump; and he will end up in jail alongside his long-time personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who was indicted for crimes committed for the benefit of Donald J. Trump. Rape, Sexual Assault, Bank Fraud, Insurance Fraud and whatever else ends up on the docket will need to be enough.

Give a Damn
Noel Stookey
©1971 Songbirds of Paradise Music
You remember the song called “Give a Damn” Some group sang last summer?
About people livin’ with rats and things the paper couldn’t cover?
Well, it wasn’t very popular Nobody wanted to hear
And that’s a shame ’cause a pretty tune Was just what we needed that year
The first thing nobody wanted to hear was “damn” – that was on the label
I mean it’s okay if you just read it there, but you didn’t bring it up at the table
So the radio didn’t play the song Except on the FM stations
Until some looter worked his way Down to the United Nations
Then word got around that there’s this song All about the riots and stuff
So, they played “Give A Damn” on the noon report Just once, but that was enough
Some cameraman with groovy footage of glowing embers and charred remains
Put the pictures with the song on the six o’clock news Following the baseball game
Then everybody said it was a real fine song “Why didn’t we hear it before?
Let’s all blame the radio stations for bringing on the domestic war

Oh sure, we’d seen some articles We knew some people needed help
But social workers take care of that I mean, why give a damn yourself?”
Well, the reason that you didn’t and the reason that you won’t
Is you think you got a lot to lose and the other fella don’t
Oh, you give a damn, well so does he ‘You think the rest of us are just fakin’?
I mean what do you need that you got to give Less than what you’re takin’?
Where could you go? Who could you see? What could you do the best?
The book is in your left hand Your right hand knows the address
Address your questions, address your money Address your telephone number But above all else, please address yourself to give a damn this summer.

More than 500,000 people have died from COVID-19

Studies show that 40% of the COVID-19 deaths did not need to occur. Had the 45th president made any real effort to address the Pandemic, hundreds of thousands would not have died.

I consider this to be unforgivable.

Too many government leaders consider this to be ‘business as usual’.

My Give a Damn has broken.

but…

Do not be daunted by the enormity
of the world’s grief.
Do justly, now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly, now.
You are not obligated to complete the work,
but neither are you free to abandon it.
-The Talmud

From Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait
“Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history.”
That is what he said. That is what Abraham Lincoln said.
“Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. We, even we here, hold the power and bear the responsibility.” [Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862]
He was born in Kentucky, raised in Indiana, and lived in Illinois. And this is what he said. This is what Abe Lincoln said.
The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves and then we will save our country.” [Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862]
When standing erect he was six feet four inches tall, and this is what he said.
He said: “It is the eternal struggle between two principles, right and wrong, throughout the world. It is the same spirit that says ‘you toil and work and earn bread, and I’ll eat it.’ No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation, and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle.” [Lincoln-Douglas debates, 15 October 1858]
Lincoln was a quiet man. Abe Lincoln was a quiet and a melancholy man. But when he spoke of democracy, this is what he said.
He said: “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.”
Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of these United States, is everlasting in the memory of his countrymen. For on the battleground at Gettysburg, this is what he said:
He said: “That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. That this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 226: A New Year in Pandemica Part 2

January 6, 2021

January 3, 2021

President Trump urged fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia Secretary of State, to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat in an extraordinary one-hour phone call Saturday that legal scholars described as a flagrant abuse of power and a potential criminal act.
The Washington Post obtained a recording of the conversation in which Trump alternately berated Raffensperger, tried to flatter him, begged him to act and threatened him with vague criminal consequences if the secretary of state refused to pursue his false claims, at one point warning that Raffensperger was taking “a big risk.”

January 5, 2021

At 10:50 PST, ballots are being counted in Georgia. Jon Ossof leads David Purdue by 3500 votes. Raphael Warnock leads Sen. Kelly Loeffler by over 40,000 votes.
Tomorrow, Congress receives the Electoral Votes for the Presidential candidates.
On Wednesday, some of Trump’s GOP allies on Capitol Hill will attempt to block congressional certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-to-232 victory in the electoral college—two weeks before Biden is set to take the oath of office.
Trump’s strategy represents a brazen attempt to overturn or “steal” the election, historians and political scientists agreed. Some said he is tiptoeing toward an “autogolpe,” a Spanish term popularized in Latin America to describe a “self-coup” attempted by leaders who came to power legally and acted outside the law to try to maintain it. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-election-coup/2021/01/05/26afcfc0-4f6c-11eb-bda4-615aaefd0555_story.html

This is the America we live in for another two weeks. Meanwhile, 357,377 Americans are dead because the president refuses to do his duty to the country by leading a plan to fight CVirus. He does not know how. But it isn’t his fault or failure… For the first time in his 75 years, he has become what is commonly called, ‘a loser’.

Adoration of the Magi and a Time Lord based on a painting by Norman Rockwell

By the time I finish this, it will Wednesday, January 6th; and it will also be the Feast of the Epiphany. The feast of the Epiphany is celebrated on the 6th of January in Western tradition. This celebrates the coming of the Magi to the newborn infant.

The word epiphany comes from the Greek ἐπιφάνεια (epiphaneia) meaning to make manifest, to show forth, to appear. This was associated with the appearance of the Spirit at Jesus’ baptism and the voice of God making manifest the identity of Jesus as his Son (cf. Mark 1:11).
The gospel calls the men from the East who visited the Christ child μάγοι (magoi) meaning sage, wise or learned. They are first referred to as kings by the theologian Tertullian (160-220) who calls them fere reges (‘almost kings’ – because of their noble calling, representing the Gentiles paying homage to Christ and no doubt reflecting the Old Testament reference to kings in Psalm 71 (‘The kings of Sheba and Seba shall bring him gifts’) which is used at the Mass of the Epiphany). The gospel does not say how many Magi there were; this tradition seems to have started with the theologian Origen (185-254) who assumes there must have been three kings because there were three gifts (gold, frankincense and myrrh).

http://jesuitinstitute.org/Pages/Liturgy/Epiphany.htm

Historically, this is when my wife and I give presents to our children. I grew tired of Christmas as celebrated in the US, long ago. Creator entering Time and Space as a single cell inside the womb of a teenaged girl, has ALWAYS been the gift.

“The letters of the name of God in Hebrew are infrequently pronounced Yahweh. But in truth they are unutterable. This word {YHWH} is the sound of breathing. The holiest name in the world, the Name of Creator, is the sound of your own breathing. That these letters are unpronounceable is no accident. Just as it is no accident that they are also the root letters of the Hebrew verb ‘to be’… God’s name is the name of Being itself.”

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner

Your very existence, every breath, is an unceasing invitation to awaken to the reality of God. You inhale God and exhale God. Every breath is into and out of God. YHWH. Breathe, and your being calls out to the name of Being itself.
This also adds a whole new dimension to taking the name of God in vain. It’s about your life, your existence.

Jacob M. Wright

Historically, the three Magi are considered to be Kings. What better event for a Time Lord to attend…he is also a British Lord, in an investiture by Queen Victoria. Immediately followed by Victoria banishing The Doctor from Britain for consorting with that which should not be mentioned; and coinciding with the creation of the Torchwood Institute, dedicated to the protection of the Realm from Alien intrusion…

When life gets too crazy, I visit The Doctor.

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 225: A New Year in Pandemica

December 31, 2020

By Michael Gerson for The Washington Post December 24, 2020

“One of the stranger elements of the strange Nativity narrative is the way an angel addresses Mary: “You who are highly favored.” As a teen mother, pregnant before marriage and destined to give birth among barn animals, she might have been forgiven for regarding this as angelic sarcasm. Fast forward three decades, and the most favored one will see her son executed among thieves before a jeering crowd.
“The whole Christmas story is pregnant with enigma and violated expectations. The Creator pulls on a garment of blood and bone. Almighty God is somehow present in a fragile newborn. The deliverer of humankind is delivered, slimy with vernix, in a place smelling of dung. If God can come here, amid the shame and straw, he can come anywhere. If God came here, he has come everywhere.”

The dumpster fire that was 2020 will still spread into 2021. But it will get better. Fighting fires takes a long time.

If vaccination for the COVID-19 virus continues as it has so far, it is projected that it will take 10 YEARS for the entire country [only the US] to be vaccinated. “Operation Warp Speed” has produced the same sort of vaccine results that his administration has accomplished over the last four years. One might be forgiven for thinking that the Keystone Kops have been running the show. Or Larry, Moe and Curly. One doesn’t bankrupt himself five times for being skillful with deadlines or productivity.

How to end this year that has denied so much, and cost so much…

Words from Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

“The “Christ Mystery” is much bigger than Christianity as an organized religion. If we don’t understand this, Christians will have little ability to make friends with, build bridges to, understand, or respect other religions or the planet. Jesus did not come to create a country club or a tribe of people who could say, “We’re in and you’re out. We’ve got the truth and you don’t.” Jesus came to reveal something that was true everywhere, for everyone, and all the time.
“Many Christians have a very limited understanding of Jesus’ historical or social message, and almost no understanding of the Cosmic Christ—even though it is taught clearly in Scripture (see John 1, Colossians 1, Ephesians 1, 1 John 1, Hebrews 1:1). Christ is often taught at the very beginning of Paul’s and other New Testament authors’ writings, yet we still missed it. But you can’t see what you were never told to look for. Once you do see the shape and meaning of this cosmic mystery of Divine Incarnation, you’ll be able to see that the Presence is everywhere—and the archetypal Jesus will not be such an anomaly, accident, or surprise.
“God is saving everything and everybody, it is all God’s emerging victory, until, as Paul says, “God will be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). If Christ is truly the “savior of the world” (see John 4:42), then God’s shape, form, meaning, and message are all far bigger than any single religion. Talking to the intellectual Athenians, Paul is wise enough to say: “God is not far from any of us. It is in him [sic] that we live and move and have our very being” (Acts 17:28).”

For me, this has been a dismal Christmas season.

Social Distancing and Shelter at Home are my normal life habits. I miss being able to freely see family and friends; but I value these people so highly that I would not dare to infect someone simply because I wanted to see them in person.

A new Variant of CVirus is working its way across the globe. The Variant is significantly more infectious; so far, it does not seem to be any more deadly.

What has made this season so dismal is witnessing the callous disregard that the president and the senate has shown for the people they have sworn to represent. The violence that more-than-I-thought-possible have inflicted upon fellow citizens.

And worst of all, the Evangelical Church’s callous disregard of everything that Jesus taught about loving our neighbor and caring for the poor.

So as not to end this Chronicle on such a sour note, I offer the following illustration of what we need, moving forward:

Remember to hug, physically or symbolically, the ones we love; and carry a stick. My grandson loves sticks. They are useful tools for discovery.

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 224: Xmas in Pandemica

December 24, 2020

I don’t know when American Christmas lost its meaning for me.

When I was a child, Christmas [as I remember it] was about getting pajamas instead of toys. Our extended family met at my maternal Grandparents’ house and ate Norwegian cookies. There was dinner food as well, but I was a kid.

I did not understand the Meaning of Christmas until my 4th year of college.

I have, for most of my life, seen Christmas in America as something that does not resemble the story in the Gospels…
This scene…

…is the result of the image above:
A sculpture representing the Massacre of the Holy Innocents

But this image does not go well with Christmas in America.

Joseph and Mary were refugees, fleeing their home because they were told by an angel to flee to Egypt. After the Magi left, Herod ordered that all Hebrew children under the age of 2 years old were to be slaughtered. The Magi told Herod that they were seeking the new King who had been born, based on their analysis of the stars. Later, when Herod had died, an angel told Jesus’ family that it was safe to return home.

I’ve never understood how a star, no matter how bright or unique, would enable three guys to figure out where the star pointed. I’ll credit the navigation to heavenly beings. By the time the Magi showed up in Bethlehem, Jesus might have been 2 years old [see paragraph above]. I have trouble imagining that Joseph and Mary were still hanging around the stable. It makes a great story. The image above is based on a painting by Norman Rockwell.

Then there’s this guy:

My wife and I always taught our children about Saint Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra in the Third Century, as opposed to Santa Claus. The legend of Saint Nicholas is that he supposedly gave money to the poor and left treats in the shoes of children left on the porches. How Saint Nicholas became Santa Claus is problematic. Largely a product of the United States.

We did Christmas while our children lived with us, tree, lights, etc. I honestly don’t remember whether or not we did lights on the outside of the house. My Mom lived with us for the last year of her life; she did not really know who we were. In time, she seemed to have the idea that I was her father. My Maternal gene pool is very strong, so it’s possible I looked like the grandfather I never knew. She came to live with us on a Christmas Eve and we had a tree and decorations for her benefit; she went Home to Creator on the following Christmas Eve. After the morticians left, we went to church; and people were shocked. Where else would we be? Has this affected my feelings about Christmas? I don’t think so, but the human psyche is difficult.

My first experience of Christmas in church, the first time it began to make sense to me, was in an African American church I had not planned on going to. I missed the bus; and was more than a little annoyed. A woman at the bus stop invited me to her church. A very different church experience than I’d had previously. I did not know that church services could last for two hours or more. I left early.

I don’t know what the ‘correct’ way of doing Christmas is supposed to be in a Pandemic. As I’m writing this, there are 18,236,614 Americans with CVirus. My daughter is struggling with her recovery from a ‘mild’ case of CVirus. There have been 322,832 American deaths by CVirus. 322,832 empty chairs at Christmas time. The notion that there are people who still believe CVirus is a hoax.

Vaccines are coming, but it may be summer of 2021 before every American is vaccinated. Deaths will continue, possibly at the same rate as present.

This year, I think this is my image of Christmas.
The Gift of the Magi

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 223: Everything is Connected

December 15, 2020
12/5/2020: California certified its election results, bringing the Biden
Electoral Votes to 276; assuring his election victory.
In 2016, Trump had 306 Electoral Votes.
In 2020 Biden received 306 Electoral Votes.
Biden received 7 million more votes than Trump.
Attorney General William Barr has stated that
there is no evidence of election fraud.
12/15/2020: State Electors Vote for Joe Biden

I avoided Avatar for a long while, primarily because of the Jarhead Colonel and his total lack of comprehension for any life but his own.
Sort of like humans today.
We live in a world where everything is connected; and we are too blind to see it.
We live in a Universe where everything is connected; and we are almost totally blind to its reality.
For years, I’ve been trying to come up with an analogy that explains my understanding of the Universe, and a life of Faith. I found what I was looking for by watching Avatar the other day.
For those unfamiliar with the film, the story takes place on the far distant planet, Pandora, far in the future. As with all examples of Manifest Destiny, the planet Pandora contains an incredibly valuable mineral called Unobtainable; a name, and a metaphor. The largest deposit of Unobtainable on Pandora is located under a Great Tree in the center of a forest amidst floating mountains. As with all examples of Manifest Destiny, earthlings who have created spacecraft and machines of War believe they can plow their way through any obstacle to get to the Unobtainable and steal it. [Manifest Destiny is a term coined in the early days of the European Occupation of the lands on which the America’s Indigenous peoples lived. An expression of belief that their occupation of lands belonging to others was, ‘ordained by god’]
The Indigenous population of Pandora, the Na’vi People, resembles, in terms of technology, the Lakota Sioux of 19th Century Earth. Defending themselves from gunships with arrows. Each of the Na’vi People has a nervous system that connects with all life on Pandora, animal and plant. “There be Dragons” on Pandora. For Dragon Riders, the bond between Dragon and Rider is permanent, once made. The Rider communicates with the Dragon by thought and the physical neurological connection between them.  
Manifest Destiny on Pandora is occurring by means of mercenaries commanded by the Colonel Jarhead mentioned above. Since the Indigenous People do not use technology, they are considered to be ‘savages’ that are in the way of the human armed heist. A repetition of the histories of the Americas and of Earth.
In order to ‘encourage’ the Indigenous population to relocate, ‘Avatars’ have been created to infiltrate the Na’vi People. These ‘Avatars’—living robots to a large degree—are inhabited by a human intelligence and personality, linked to an individual’s DNA. The Na’vi refer to these Avatars as, “Sky People” and they are looked upon with suspicion. Enter Jake; a soldier whose legs have been blown off in battle. Jake relies on a wheelchair to get around; by inhabiting the Avatar of his deceased brother, a scientist working to better understand this mysterious culture, Jake once again has working legs. He understands his job as a soldier; he learns how to live as a scientist understanding a different culture. In the story, Jake has his own destiny, one which he does not understand—Jake will be the One who will inhabit both worlds—for he has become a Na’vi by will of the Creator—his own world, and the world of these people connected to their planet, as one entity. 
The Na’vi are victorious in resisting the attack of the earthlings, but at tremendous cost. Unlike the intentions of the mercenaries of Earth, the Na’vi allow the mercenaries of Earth to leave Pandora.
Since numerous sequels to Avatar are in production at this time, no doubt the mercenaries will return, and the battle will start again.

The Universe is so large that we don’t even have words to describe it. Some astronomers believe there could be two trillion galaxies in the Universe, spanning an unknown distance. Our Milky Way galaxy has perhaps 200 billion stars; many of these stars will have solar systems; many of those solar systems will have planets; a fraction of which will be located a distance from their suns where life can exist.
I’ve been a designer for close to sixty years. I don’t remember a time that I didn’t draw. Designing stick figures on a sheet of paper, telling a story in my imagination. In time, I designed furniture for my shop class; then I started designing houses; and in time I designed schools. When I worked for the City of Portland, I analyzed the designs of architects building high rises, to ensure that the buildings were compliant with the Building Code.
This all took place when Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth.
In this century, I started designing books and videos in addition to designing construction solutions for architects and building designers. In relatively recent years, I’ve had to design a new way to create illustrations, since my hands don’t work very well anymore.

After sixty years of exploration, I recognize design when I see it.

Creation is designed. I’m not referring to “Intelligent Design”—there is too much in Creation that defies logic—the appendix, for example. That open question that nearly took my life. The chicken and the egg. An Australian website claims to have solved the age-old question of ‘which came first’—”At some point, a different kind of egg began to evolve” as explanations go, that one is pretty lame. Why would a different kind of egg evolve? Do we owe our breakfasts to a evolutionary mistake?
There is no reasonable explanation as to how light-sensitive-skin cells in our genetic chain evolve into the wonder that is the human eye. I don’t have a problem with the idea that humans are incapable of understanding the intricacies of how we got here. The Human Genome Project has shown that the Human Genome has similarities to a wide variety of creatures on earth. As a designer, I use repetition whenever it is productive. Newly created things don’t have to be entirely original.
One of the problems that arise when people of Faith start talking about science, is that they let their religious belief system get in the way. Much of the theology of the White Evangelical Church is a system of theological ideas, mostly derived from an interpretation of Scripture, rather than Scripture itself. Frequently, these interpretations come from Prophecy; and seem to overlook the notion that, in Scripture, if the words of a Prophet did not come about, the Prophet was supposed to be stoned. I tend to think that some of the prophets were stoned, in the modern sense of the word.
Most people in the White Evangelical Church don’t do a lot of research through the historical documents that shape their belief systems. This practice is often discouraged by Pastors who seem to think that they have special powers of interpretation. The historical record—the actual documents that have been found, which shape these beliefs—is pretty sparse.

This above image is a photo of one of the oldest papyrus fragments that collectively became the Bible:
This page contains 2 Corinthians 11:33-12:9
There is no punctuation. There are no spaces between letters. There are no verse numbers. “Papyrus 46 is one of the oldest extant New Testament manuscripts in Greek, with its ‘most probable date’ between 175 C.E.  and 225 C.E.—two to three centuries after the events took place. The document uses the abbreviated version of common divine names and words, a type of writing that began in the first century C.E. and referred to as nomina sacra. Words such as God, Jesus, cross, mother, Israel, and heaven are shortened from their conventional Greek.” 
Another text, The Codex Sinaiticus, or Sinai Book, is an ancient fourth century C.E. Bible, handwritten in the Greek language. This manuscript contains the Septuagint, a version of the Hebrew Old Testament, that was adopted by early Greek-speaking Christians, as well as being the oldest complete copy of the New Testament. The pages are made of vellum parchment, or calfskin. The work is written in scriptio continua—without spaces between words.”

Hebrew script relies on a variety of added symbols for understanding. Greek does not include these added symbols. Therefore, the Septuagint is flawed, compared with the Hebrew text.
We live in a time unlike any other in the less-than-United States, one where objective truth is doubted by almost half of the American people. All because of an extremely successful propaganda campaign put into place in the last four years by the President of the United States [‘the President said it, therefore it must be true’]. Protests over the results of this year’s election occur every day, some violent, some threatening violence against State officials, the goal being an attempt to overturn a legitimate election, falsely described as ‘stolen’. The idea is held by 73 million voters. 80 million voters agree with the outcome.
This week, on 12/8/2020, the President’s hand-picked Supreme Court Justices, and all of the other Justices of the Court refused to hear the President’s suit to have the election overturned. Something like 49 other suits have been found to be without merit.
With Donald Trump losing the 2020 election and refusing to concede, and his ‘believers’ certain that COVID-19 is a hoax created by Progressive Liberal Democrats, it seems that there are a bunch of ‘prophets’ that need to be stoned.

 As I’ve watched the current election cycle unfold, I have seen what I’ve encountered for decades—people who seem to equate Creator with some sort of ‘fairy godfather’ who grants our wishes. This ‘fairy godfather’ apparently floats above the Earth, controlling the events on Earth. Despite help being called upon from ‘angels in South America and Africa’, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the election. Despite a belief system that says COVID-19 is a hoax that was perpetrated by Progressive Liberal Democrats, over 3000 Americans died from COVID-19 yesterday. That number will be exceeded tomorrow. More people will die from CVirus every day than died on 9/11; and the CDC predicts that this will continue for months. The number of deaths that will exceed 300,000, could have been greatly reduced if half of the population believed that the wearing of face masks was a tool for public health, rather than an imposition upon individual liberty.

Imagine, if you can, a Universe that is entirely connected to an invisible ‘neurological system’ located outside Time and Space, one that we usually cannot perceive through our normal senses. This ‘system’ is the Spirit of Creator, available to all who desire to be ‘connected.’ This description is what I believe, because this is what I have experienced. I have no ‘proof’ beyond my experience.
Creator exists outside Time and Space. The words, ‘eternal’ and ‘omniscient’ and ‘omnipresent’ are in our vocabulary because these words refer to an experience outside of our normal understanding. I believe that all of Creation has been known from the moment of Creation; in such a manner that everything that happens, and has happened, and will happen, is known by Creator. Creator is never surprised by the events of our life. Not because Creator controls these events, but because Creator has known these events since the moment of Creation. Does Creator cause bad things to happen to us? No. Creator has known about CVirus since the moment of Creation. Did Creator create the virus? No. Viruses are part of the nature of living things. Not all viruses are ‘bad’; viruses enable immunity to occur, and CVirus is a virus transmitted from bats to humans. CVirus does not seem to harm bats and a growing number of other animals; it does harm humans. About 2% of the humans that are tested Positive for CVirus die. Many people that have been infected with CVirus have serious physical problems that take a long time to recover. Some people seem to think that a virus that does not kill 98% of its victims as something that is not worth the effort to avoid.

Until the victim is a beloved family member or friend.

Does Creator intervene in our lives? I have to say, ‘yes’, because there are events in my life that I cannot explain in any other way. Do these events happen often? No. Do these events occur because I am in some way, special? No. I believe these occurrences happen in my life as a ‘side effect’ from some other intervention into Time and Space, some other place. Sort of like a cosmic ‘twofer’. However, I cannot prove this assertion.
Thirty-plus years ago, our 5-year-old daughter was subject to painful earaches; a not-uncommon phenomenon. We had ear drops that normally reduced the pain; but this night it wasn’t happening. I tucked her into her bed, still crying. I checked-in with her, an hour or so later, and she was happily playing in her room. I asked her, ‘what happened to the earache?’

‘I asked Jesus to take the pain away, and He did.’ The faith of a child. 
Do I believe these ideas make sense to the general population? No. They only make sense to those who desire to better understand Creator.

A lot of religious people believe that their experience of god is the only way to believe; as if there are multiple gods in the heavens, and you select the god you want. Happens a lot in the White Evangelical Church. ‘Our way or the highway.’ My explanation is that there is only One Creator; and people use different names/addresses to contact the same place. A ‘place’ that is outside Time and Space.
There are four centuries of silence between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Four hundred years with no Prophecies, no recorded interventions into human life. Creator apparently had nothing more to say to the people rescued from captivity. Believers would do well to remember this.

I am of the opinion that when Creator does attend to us humans, it’s more like picking up a rock in the yard and looking what is underneath that rock, than anything else. The Human Propensity to Foul things Up fills our millennia of warring upon each other. The savage warring that is occurring right at this minute; the abuse of children, the abuse of women, the abuse of those who do not have the power to overcome their adversaries. You and I are doing nothing to stop this savagery. We feel powerless.
Creator entered time and space in the form of a single cell implanted into the womb of a teenager; the young woman who gave birth to Jesus; the Man who came to us to show us a new way to live. Jesus ended the four centuries of silence and promised that through the Spirit of the Creator, we could change. And that we could stay in our brokenness, if that is what we want. Freedom from the jail cell that is locked from inside the cell.
The religious elite, who had power over the Jewish people, had Jesus murdered in the most shocking way that the Roman invaders had: Crucifixion. This death was to prove a point—Rome rules. Tyrants Rule. Autocrats Rule, unless they are voted out of office.
People want proof that there is Life on other planets, so that we will know we are not alone. Our knowing that we are not alone is one of the major accomplishments of Jesus’ short life on Earth. Creator entering Life on Earth. To prove we are not alone.


%d bloggers like this: