Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 158: Do not abandon the work

July 8, 2018

IMMIGRATION SHAME 2_bw
Mama! [2]

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said Friday that Trump administration officials have told him and his staff that they view placing separated migrant children in foster care as an equivalent to reuniting them with their families.
“The secretary told us on a conference call they do not have an intention to reunify these children with their parents,” Inslee said on MSNBC’s “All in With Chris Hayes,” appearing to refer to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
“They’re going to call it good if they can find anybody else who can serve as a foster parent or anybody else who can serve as familial relationship, and these kids don’t even know these strangers,” he continued.
Inslee claimed that the Trump administration doesn’t plan on complying with a court order requiring that officials reunify all of the immigrant children separated from their families at the border under a since-ended Trump policy.
“It’s clear they do not intend to be humane and it’s clear they will continue on this course until he is removed from office,” the governor said, referring to Trump.
http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/395912-washington-governor-trump-admin-views-placing-immigrant-kids-in

What isn’t being said is that the children cannot be reunited with their parents because when the children were being removed from their parents, no one was keeping track of parents and children. There is no record. No one bothered to take notes. This has been pointed out in the Immigration process, to the outrage of Federal Immigration Judges.
I think we now know why the Nazis tattooed their prisoners. Better record-keeping.

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

To be honest, I am daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. I feel that my role, at this point in my life, is to be a Creative. To Create. I find it incredibly difficult to create something worthwhile when horror is being done in my name.

Do not be fooled; do not take this lightly: this work is being done in your name.

If you are one of my Norwegian relatives, reading this at home on your island, the inhumane efforts of the present American Administration to ‘protect our borders’ isn’t being done in your name. But it is being done in the name of your relatives who left Norway in the 1920s to find a new life in America. I know almost nothing about my Norwegian heritage—”the Old Country”. I never heard much about my family’s life in Norway [it’s possible that I didn’t listen]. There was a small Norwegian flag on my grandparents’ mantle; we had Norwegian cookies and lefse at Christmas. I heard Norwegian being spoken between Martinus and Esther; I watched Martinus shuffle around the floor of our family cabin, hands behind his back, listening to Norwegian folk songs. There were photographs of Norway on the walls of the cabin. There’s been a photo of the family house on our wall for a very long time.
Is it possible that when they arrived in America, my Mom and her sisters would have been locked in a cage, while my grandmother was locked in a different cage, somewhere else in the country? Is this only happening to people with skin that is brown, instead of skin that is pink?
How can this be happening at all?
The Greatest Generation fought a world war to ensure that this kind of behavior could not happen again.
The President, on his campaign tours is lying to the thousands of supporters who show up, telling them about all of the rapists, drug mules, thieves and murderers that are showing up at our Southern border; and that he is defending the country from this infestation… And the thousands cheer…

Medicine Bottle
Medicine Bottle, scheduled to be hanged
for the crime of being non-white [1800s]

I always start these thoughts-on-digital-paper with an illustration. I search through my files to find something that matches my thoughts. The most appropriate illustration tonight was the one below, a pencil copy of a Norman Rockwell painting. But I could not start there. Not tonight.

I am a democrat [i.e. a believer in democracy] because I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that everyone deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true. Whenever their weakness is exposed, the people who prefer tyranny make capital out of the exposure. I find that they’re not true without looking further than myself. I don’t deserve a share in governing a hen-roost, much less a nation. Nor do most people — all the people who believe advertisements and think in catchwords and spread rumors. The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows.

C.S. Lewis

Freedom of Worship-dwg

I believe in prayer.
Do I believe that prayers will enable all of the locked cages become unlocked; and that that those who are imprisoned simply because they, and/or their parents were looking for a better life, will be able to escape? It happened in the Book of Acts.

No, I don’t believe prayer will open the locks.

“It’s clear they do not intend to be humane and it’s clear they will continue on this course until he is removed from office,” the governor [of the State of Washington] said, referring to Trump.

Prayer can rouse a people from their slumber and cause them to speak up on the behalf of those who simply want their children to live in a land where they won’t be shot for the simple act of opening their door. Parents travel thousands of miles with their children and little else, because they believe they will be welcomed in America. Immigrants have been welcomed in America for generations.

Not any more, not in America today. America is closed.

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 156: It’s like a disease…

June 27, 2018

P45_mj

Today the anti-Muslim ban created on a third try by the President was upheld by the Supreme Court, thanks to the vote by Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was nominated by Trump and joined the court in April 2017.

Sonia Sotomayor’s dissenting opinion argued that Trump’s order was a violation of the establishment clause, which protects freedom of religion. The majority would have none of it. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote that the court is free to “uphold the policy so long as it can reasonably be understood to result from a justification independent of unconstitutional grounds.” In other words, if smart lawyers can concoct some rational excuse for Trump’s irrational acts, then the resulting executive order will pass constitutional scrutiny.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2018/06/26/the-supreme-court-joins-congressional-republicans-in-refusing-to-see-trump-as-he-is/?utm_term=.5b5858a3e391

A facility that holds abducted youth from Central America lies about a half-mile from my house. Having watched far too many action movies in my past, I want to stage a jailbreak. I lack all facilities for so doing.
Accusations that child detention facilities on the US-Mexican border are similar to Nazi concentration camps were always likely to be rebuked by the White House – but perhaps no one quite expected Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ line of reasoning.

“This is a real exaggeration,” he told Fox News. “Because in Nazi Germany they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country.”
Attorney General Sessions said: “We’re doing the right thing. We’re taking care of these children,” adding “they are not being abused”.

The concept that children being stolen from their parents aka ‘kidnapping’ doesn’t constitute abuse, because the children are being treated well, is mind-boggling.
Trevor Noah’s take: “Your children were just taken from the schoolyard! They’ve been kidnapped!”
“OMG! Call the police!”
“They were driven off in a Bentley!”
“A Bentley… well, never mind.”
What Attorney General Sessions seems to have missed, in his high school social studies classes [he’s 5 years older than I am] is the simple fact that Hitler instigated the killing of Jews simply because he hated Jews; and because the Jew was the ‘perfect scapegoat for all of the problems of Germany’.

C.S Lewis:
The Germans, perhaps, at first ill-treated the Jews because they hated them: afterwards they hated them much more because they had ill-treated them. The more cruel you are, the more you will hate; and the more you hate, the more cruel you will become-and so on in a vicious circle forever. Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.

Mere Christianity [1952]

Our world is filled with hate right now. It’s like a disease.
While I’m reluctant to put the blame entirely upon the man sitting behind the Resolute Desk, the nature of “The Presidency” has changed. It seems like the haters have taken P45’s behavior as an excuse to be as nasty as they want to be.

What saddens me is the realization that the ‘political correctness’ of 20-30 years ago apparently did not result in a greater respect for all people, as much as it was a mask people reluctantly put on.
Back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, and I worked for the Bureau of Buildings, I heard lots of complaints about having to be politically correct–which never was a problem for me, as a follower of Christ–but they changed their behavior. I had hoped that PC was some sort of ‘evolutionary improvement’–apparently, I was wrong.
It seems that the haters have decided they no longer need to be politically correct.

Tonight, on PBS Newshour, Ed Rendell, former Governor of Pennsylvania, pointed out that one person in this country has the responsibility and the authority to address the growing sense of outrage and hatred spewing between the Right and Left Wings—the man in the Oval Office; and he refuses to take up the challenge. I am of the opinion that the angry environment in America today is exactly that which the President wants to exist. An anger that will bring out the haters; and a defensive position by people who will refuse to vote for either Democrats or Republicans in the upcoming mid-term elections, because they can’t stand either party. That’s how we got here. Half the country refused to vote.

I am by nature non-confrontational. I am by nature asocial [my nature is to not require people in my life]. During my years in Portland’s Permit Center, I survived my years there with hyperventilating in the men’s room on my breaks. No one wants to get Building Permits. I calmed down over the years; medication played a large part in that. I finally burned out and went upstairs to primarily interact with large sets of construction plans.

Conceptually, for an INTJ, social media is a great thing. One can interact with people without having to actually interact with people. I find however, that connecting with people becomes more difficult as the kindness in our society erodes with polarity. I’m a follower of Jesus; Scripture is really clear how I am supposed to treat strangers in my life…how to treat immigrants like my forbears. I am the child of Immigrants: First Generation on my mother’s side; third on my father’s side. I find myself getting in digital arguments with people that seem to stem from the idea that only one response is possible in regard to moral questions, and that one idea is usually one that Scripture doesn’t address clearly.

A guy I know read a series of articles I posted about children being stolen from their parents, IN MY NAME [I assure you—when our government steals children from their parents, they are doing this in your name. It is your government]. Some of these abducted children are in a facility a few blocks from my home. The guy asked if I was willing to be as upset in regard to the area that he has committed his energy. I’m not, for a variety of reasons; one of them being that Scripture is silent about that particular issue. It’s an issue that began thousands of years ago and won’t ever be stopped by legislation.

A woman I know ranted about the evils of immigration and apparently watches a particular news channel I avoid; it being one of the sources of the ‘fake news’ its champion complains about. A woman I worship with on Sundays in the same sanctuary…

The entire world seems to be getting meaner. Or is it the same meanness there has always been; and social media and the 24-hour news cycle makes the meanness more available?
I often wonder if the billionaires of this world realize that the millionaires of this world won’t pick the crops. Nor will the upper middle class. There is no shortage of money in the world; there is a lack of will to use the money of this world for public benefit. At present, there is no shortage of food in the world; there is an extreme shortage of generosity.

I pulled this off of Facebook recently. This is the world that my parents taught me to expect…I can’t hope for this, for my children.

liberty cries

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 154: The Plan

June 15, 2018

Inconceivable

For decades, I have heard religious people say that “God has a plan for your life;” and the worst one, especially after some sort of calamity, ‘it happened for a reason; it’s part of God’s plan for your life’.
I am reminded of one of my favorite scenes from The Princess Bride:
Vizzini: He didn’t fall? INCONCEIVABLE!
Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

I think ‘God’s Plan’ is often used in the same sense as INCONCEIVABLE!

Some include ‘calamity’ in “God’s Plan”, as if somehow God desires to destroy the innocent. As if it is the Creator’s desire that homes are being destroyed by the eruption of Kilauea, that non-combatants in Syria are being destroyed by American missiles; that the Rohingya people are suffering tortuous persecution; that one of the foulest dictators alive at this point in time has just been given the legitimacy of being an equal to the President of the United States [something no other President has stooped to doing] and the list goes on and on, to the killing of individual students in schools and the murder of people-of-color carrying cell phones, by white policemen who aren’t punished…
These calamities are not designed by the Creator.

I have to interject here—I was raised by an authoritarian father. He was a good man; I don’t think I can go so far as to say he was a kind man. I doubt that he was ever taught much about kindness. In many ways, I feel as though my life ‘began’ when I left his house and went off to college.
Having been raised this way, I was never partial to simply accepting what some guy on a platform was attempting to teach about “God’s Word”. I struggled with some guy telling me what I was supposed to believe. I rely instead on critical thinking.

“God has a plan for your life.”
“Plan”
Isaiah 14:26
This is the plan determined for the whole world; this is the hand stretched out over all nations. …

Original Word: עֵצָה  [Hebrew]
Part of Speech: Noun Feminine
NASB Translation (instances used)
advice (11), consultation (2), counsel (52), counselor* (1), counselors* (1), counsels (1), designs (1), plan (8), plans (2), purpose (6), scheme (1), schemes (1), strategy (1).

Young’s Literal Translation
This is the counsel that is counselled for all the earth, And this is the hand that is stretched out for all the nations.

52 times in the Bible, the word translated as ‘plan’ means counsel; 11 times it means advice; nothing here implying ‘requirement’.

And then there is ‘God’s Will’
In Hebrew, that which is translated as ‘God’s Will’ in English, actually means ‘to inquire of God’. A question, not a statement.

When it comes to understanding Scripture, English sucks. Being the only language with which I am fluent, this is problematic. Other languages have better meanings. For another example, in Greek there are four distinct words [and meanings] that are translated in English as “love”. Statistically, we get it wrong 75% of the time.

This is a “plan”; I’ve been drawing plans for most of my life—over 50 years.
plan

I have no idea whether or not anyone actually followed this plan… the cabinet maker is a continent away from me. What’s more, I don’t know if this bizarre idea actually worked. A kitchen counter with something like a plank or a diving board off the end. I envisioned the possibility of some very large person standing on the end of that plank, at was about to be the end of a drunken evening… The plank attached to steel tubing attached to steel plating attached to the floor of the kitchen. I guess it was supposed to look cool. I wanted to design it to support a rhinoceros.
A very expensive ‘plan’ that may have had disastrous results.

I know a few people who probably snickered when they read the words above, I rely instead on critical thinking. To them, Faith is totally incompatible with Critical Thinking.

Some will ask if I believe that the Bible [however they define this word] is the Word of God. I believe that the Hebrew Scriptures, and teachings of the New Testament are the Word of God, in their original languages, for the purpose they were intended. The mere fact that one can find a verse in the  Bible that justifies their particular understanding of the world does not mean that this was the intent of the verse.
Do I believe that the King James Bible is the Word of God? No. The KJV is a translation/interpretation of the Word of God. The Word of God is so much larger than a shelf-full of books.

I came to an understanding of the Word of God, but not because some guy on a platform told me that the Book was God’s Word. I mostly came by way of C.S. Lewis, Os Guinness and Philip Yancey, to name a few. Moses Maimonides and Dr. Gerald Schroeder and Nadia Bolz-Weber to name some more… People whose writing, and whose understanding of the Universe shaped my understanding of Scripture.

One of the primary tenets of the Abrahamic Scriptures is that mankind was created with Free Will; and that this Free Will is an aspect of being created in the Image of the Creator—the Imago Dei.
Imagine a chess board. You can move your pieces anywhere you want, on the ‘chessboard’ of your life. Also imagine that you are playing chess with the all-time Great Master of the game of Chess. No matter what move you make, the Master will know what move to make, in order for the Master to win the game. For the Creator, ‘winning’ the Game of Life in which you play, has nothing to do with you losing. We aren’t playing with the President, who only counts his success as winning—the ‘zero sum’ game.

the chess game

The Creator’s greatest joy is for you to accomplish the purposes for which you were designed. That is why you were created.
This eventually leads to the next, highly understandable question: “If God loves me, how could he let [my loved one] die?” “How could he allow this calamity to fall upon us?”

There is no simple answer to this question.
Your life isn’t simply about you.

Your life is also about a thousand interactions with other people, with other creatures on this earth. Your life is about the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of interactions with people and creatures throughout the whole of your life. Everything you’ve ever done, ever read, ever seen, ever touched, is stored in the cells of your brain.
Your life is more than your life here on planet Earth. You have a soul; your soul isn’t limited to the days and months and years of your lifetime. Your soul consists of electromagnetic forces that are formed by all of the thoughts of your brain. You are more than a brain with a body; you are a soul with a brain and a body. Your soul goes on forever, in a form that the human brain can’t possibly understand, as long as we are trapped here in three dimensions, trapped here in space and time.

You are intended to live forever. Even the longest life, lived by the oldest person to have ever lived on this earth, is short, when compared to forever. The longest life will seem like the blinking of an eye, when we are on the other side of this Life. Even the shortest life, lived here on earth, will continue forever. Seconds or decades won’t have an appreciable difference when compared to forever. Life without the limitations of Time.

The most horrid lifetime on this planet will be but a moment in eternal time.

Does this mean we can ignore the most horrible of circumstances on this planet, because they are simply a moment in eternal time? No, because you are affected by everything that touches you. The most horrid experience that happens to someone else, once you know about it, also happens to you. How you respond. Whether it builds you or tears you down. You don’t really ignore the things you want to ignore. This is merely a fiction your brain creates. The reality is that you never forget the things you want to ignore. If you’ve heard it or seen it or heard of it; it is recorded in your brain.
This is part of the reason why we struggle so much with our past. It’s never really our past; it’s part of who we are now.

piggy back draft 5

My vocation, and my avocation [paid and unpaid] is the making of images. Sometimes, when ‘the streams of the Universe’ are running well, I am able to serve The Work. A lot of times I don’t serve the work well. The image above is from a work I didn’t serve well, because of time pressures. A Hiroshima Diary, the true story of a young woman who came to Hiroshima after the Bomb, looking for her niece and nephew. She found hundreds of children, wandering around, looking for their parents. Every child she encounters, dies in her arms from radiation poisoning. It was a story I wanted to tell; I didn’t have the time to serve it well.

We cannot ignore the suffering we bring to this planet by our actions or our inaction.

If you are not incensed by the results of the Summit between our President and the Dictator of North Korea, you may not be paying attention.
This is why it is so important that you vote in the next election; even if you don’t like the person you vote for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 153: Sh_t Happens

June 4, 2018

Die,Primitive
Die! Primitive!

One of the major problems in trying to live a life of Faith is the fact that shit happens. And because it happens, religious people feel compelled to attempt an explanation of ‘how could a loving God could allow this to happen?’ Most of the answers aren’t helpful. Some are just plain wrong.

A life of Faith is almost entirely an ongoing metaphor; and religious people want to make that life literal. Literal doesn’t work very well.

“A metaphor is a figure of speech that directly refers to one thing by mentioning another for rhetorical effect.[1] It may provide clarity or identify hidden similarities between two ideas… One of the most commonly cited examples of a metaphor in English literature is the “All the world’s a stage” monologue from As You Like It:
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances…”
William Shakespeare, As You Like It, 2/7[3] Wikipedia

The world isn’t a stage, in spite of all the time we in the Developed World spent looking at digital stages on video screens. Technology is such that we illustrators can create images that look so much like reality that one can forget they are watching a story; a play… We can learn from these stages, but we must not allow an imaginary ‘life’ to replace the actual life we have—even though there are many who dive into an imaginary world as a shelter from the world they live in.

All one needs to do is read the news agency headlines [most of it isn’t fake] for an hour or so and read occasional articles; do this in order to realize that humans treat each other horribly all the time. Individuals killing other people for some of the most absurd reasons; governments persecuting their own citizens, because the government doesn’t like what they do, or where their parents came from.
When I take a few steps back, so that I can look at the human race in a larger perspective, I can’t imagine why the Creator allows us to live. We humans are in the process of killing all of the life on this planet; without regard to the warnings being given to us by scientists of all kinds. In the ‘Developed World’, we mostly kill off this planet for our own convenience. When I look at the world my granddaughter is growing up in, I feel ashamed. I feel appalled that so many in this country [America—the only one I know] want to hide their heads in the sand.
This is not the world I grew up in. Were the people in that world more enlightened than we are now? I don’t think so. We knew far less about the world. People acted from cherished beliefs [some of them wrong] rather than media instructions. I mean, does it really matter what Kim and all of the other celebrities with opinions do with their lives? Do have a direct connection to their lives?

In an Emergency Room recently, I was talking with a nurse that grew up in Sandy, Oregon, when Sandy was tiny. Like me, her family had a cabin near Brightwood. She was the nurse that brought in all the Consent forms. She said, “I grew up rural. With rural people you had a handshake, a look in the eye, and that was enough. They knew who they were.”
My comment to her was that maybe the problems today are largely because people don’t know who they are.

The question about ‘why does this happen?’ needs to be re-framed—how could the Creator of the entire Universe possibly love one individual on this ‘little blue dot’ of a planet, located in a bad neighborhood in the Milky Way galaxy? How could the Creator of the entire Universe possibly love one individual in this mass of people so prone to violence and hatred? It’s absolutely absurd. On the order of picking up a large rock in the yard and looking at the squiggly things under the rock; and deciding that one of them is so worthy of Divine Love and Concern that the Creator of the Universe would choose to become one of those squiggly things.
Which is exactly what happened. The Creator of the Universe implanted one cell into the womb of a teenager; that cell fertilized another cell, and nine months later Jesus was born.
Thirty-some years later that same Jesus began a ministry that was almost entirely metaphor. He taught by telling stories; He did not teach by dropping sound bites. The Gospels were written decades after His death; His stories were remembered. There wasn’t a reporter following Him around to capture every word. There were people who dedicated their lives to remembering. There were no pencils and notepads. In order to write something down for posterity, one needed pen, ink, parchment, and something like a table to hold everything.

Literal does not work very well, especially in English; but that doesn’t stop some people. Jesus certainly did not speak King James English. Jesus spoke in First Century Aramaic, a dialect that most likely didn’t exist when the New Testament was compiled in the 2nd or 3rd Century. The dates are always under dispute.

It is generally agreed by historians that Jesus and his disciples primarily spoke Aramaic (Jewish Palestinian Aramaic), the common language of Judea in the first century AD, most likely a Galilean dialect distinguishable from that of Jerusalem. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_of_Jesus

Jesus was tortured, executed and placed into a hole in a hillside. Three days later Jesus returned. He promised that this could happen to everyone. Jesus didn’t die to save you from your sin; Jesus died that you might enter into Eternity with Him.

The story is about Redemption.
The story is always about redemption and nothing more.

“Following the tragic Amish school shooting of 10 young schoolgirls in a one-room Amish school in October 2006, reporters from throughout the world invaded Lancaster County, PA to cover the story. (You can read the full story of the Amish school shooting here.)  However, in the hours and days following the shooting a different, an unexpected story developed.

In the midst of their grief over this shocking loss, the Amish community didn’t cast blame, they didn’t point fingers, they didn’t hold a press conference with attorneys at their sides. Instead, they reached out with grace and compassion toward the killer’s family.

The afternoon of the shooting an Amish grandfather of one of the girls who was killed expressed forgiveness toward the killer, Charles Roberts. That same day Amish neighbors visited the Roberts family to comfort them in their sorrow and pain.

Later that week the Roberts family was invited to the funeral of one of the Amish girls who had been killed. And Amish mourners outnumbered the non-Amish at Charles Roberts’ funeral.

It’s ironic that the killer was tormented for nine years by the premature death of his young daughter. He never forgave God for her death. Yet, after he cold-bloodedly shot 10 innocent Amish school girls, the Amish almost immediately forgave him and showed compassion toward his family.

In a world at war and in a society that often points fingers and blames others, this reaction was unheard of. Many reporters and interested followers of the story asked, “How could they forgive such a terrible, unprovoked act of violence against innocent lives?”

The Amish culture closely follows the teachings of Jesus, who taught his followers to forgive one another, to place the needs of others before themselves, and to rest in the knowledge that God is still in control and can bring good out of any situation. Love and compassion toward others is to be life’s theme. Vengeance and revenge is to be left to God.          https://lancasterpa.com/amish/amish-forgiveness/

So, what…are we all supposed to become Amish?
No. The answer is to stop hating. Stop hating the totally unlovable.
Give every person a shot at redemption; especially those who deserve it least.

Like me.

The Prophet Isaiah_3

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 152: The Question that Doesn’t Go Away

May 17, 2018

Who are you?
Who am I?

watson's brain4

My old friend, Doctor Watson, contemplating the soul

An old guy that I know keeps asking the question, where is my soul? Someone once told him that the soul is “the breath of God”. His response is that it has to be more than a breath.

I can’t prove anything that I’m about to write; consequently, I won’t argue with you if you disagree.

In Chronicles in Ordinary Time 149, I wrote about Thought, and how the image below is a visual representation of a single thought, somewhere in the brain. The funny plant-root like things are the neurons in your brain, which are basically microscopic; they vary in size from 4 microns to 100 microns in diameter. Their length varies from a fraction of an inch to several feet.

thought_50

Every interaction you have with the world happens through your brain. You aren’t a body with a brain, you are a brain with a body. The sole purpose of your body, from a physiological perspective, is to enable your brain to function, and to tell you about your world.

I’m restoring an old picture frame for a client. Tonight, I was working on the creation of some of the decorative plaster ‘carvings’ that are attached to the frame. An experiment in how I can replicate the curlicue on the corners of the frame. I went out into the ‘debris pile’ that once was my workshop. To be honest, it hasn’t changed all that much—I have never been tidy with my work space. However, items are placed in certain places in the chaos, and I know where those places are.

One of the thoughts that crossed my mind is that I should really get rid of lots of the stuff that’s out there—ideally, given away to someone who needs it—and I asked myself the question why it’s been sitting there for 9 years. 2009 was the year that I realized it was no longer safe for me to work with sharp things.

The neurons above run throughout our bodies and provide the brain with information about our environment; my sensory neurons are deteriorating for no known reason. My sense of touch has been significantly reduced; and I can damage myself without knowing it—I first called it ‘leprosy’. Hansen’s Disease is a deterioration of sensory neurons. People can’t feel pain when injured, and can just continue working, while creating significant damage to the body. Left untreated, the injury becomes infected, and can cause parts of the body to fall off.

That workshop, and all of its tools and clutter are part of my life. Probably 20 years of my life, if I was to add it all up. I used to build things out of wood. Houses and furniture, mostly.

An amazing thing occurred in Oaxaca, Mexico, one night in 2008, when I was working with Medical Teams International. My fifth trip out of Portland to help build and repair things. My ‘high-functioning sociopathic’ personality had come to the realization that in spite of the noise and chaos of the Oaxacan night life below my balcony, in spite of the fact that I only knew a few words of Spanish and very few people in Oaxaca spoke English, I was willing to keep going on these trips. For a few days, I had a ‘vision’ of the life I could have in the years to come—traveling around the Americas fixing what man and nature had damaged.

Then came the Sensory Polyneuropathy [description, not diagnosis], about nine months later. It took a year for me to give up that carpenter ‘identity’  I had acquired; although I realized tonight that it’s not really gone…It’s just buried in memories. Memories scattered around my brain in connections between neurons, like data on a hard drive. I can clearly recall the buildings I worked on and the furniture I built; even though I haven’t seen them for decades.

To a large degree, what you are is the sum of your memories.

The other evening, I was talking to some friends about memories from my life. Memories, and absence of memories that have shaped my life and my faith. Faith is a huge part of my life at this time; although it doesn’t take the form that many Americans-of-faith share. Some things that people of faith consider crucial to faith don’t exist in my life; or they come with an entirely different package. My faith didn’t even come into being until I was in my twenties; it may not have come into ‘maturity’ until my fifties. I’m not sure what ‘maturity’ means when it comes to the subject of faith, because I don’t believe faith is a static thing.

To a large degree, your memories are patterns of electrons traveling through your brain. A connection between neurons. A pathway across which the electrons in your brain travel. Your memories don’t have a ‘structure’ in your brain. They are ‘recorded’ in connections between microscopic pieces of your brain.

‘Surely, our memories must be more than that.’ We think this because of our linear nature; at best we think in 3 dimensions, or possibly 4 [time]–what if the Universe is made up  with 5, or 10 dimensions? We talk about Infinity as if it means ‘really, really, long’; and we speak of Eternity as if it means, ‘a really, really long time.’ What if Eternity is an absence of time; and Infinity is an absence of distance, or an inclusion of all distance? I believe the world beyond this one defies our imaginations.

I believe that we communicate with the Creator of the Universe by way of a non-physical connection between our brains and the Spirit of the Creator. This is how a ‘high-functioning sociopath’ would ever conceive of the idea of spending time around people with unfamiliar customs and unknown methods of communicating. Working among the poorest of the poor, living in deplorable conditions. Being uncomfortable for days at a time; longing to return to my safe ‘cave’… Why would I ever consider this as something I would choose to do?

There have been a lot of these experiences in my life. Choosing to do things I would have never expected myself to participate in. I believe these experiences are the urging of the Creator’s Spirit. I suppose some will think that it’s indigestion.

This is my answer to the question, do I have a soul, and where is it.

My soul is in my mind; my soul can’t be weighed on a scale, because my soul consists of the connections between electrons. The day I die is the day when my soul is released from this very difficult body.

I believe I am a soul, with a brain. And a deteriorating body. The latter is the part that is temporary. The rest of my life is endless.

Stars [1926]sm

Stars [1926] Maxfield Parrish

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 151: I Saw Jesus Tonight

May 9, 2018

Voices of Our City Choir
Voices of Our City Choir, San Diego, California

Jesus is in the photograph. He doesn’t look like that picture that hangs on the wall in lots of churches. He never did. Jesus, on Earth, was a Jewish woodworker; probably with curling black hair, probably with brown eyes; skinned darkened by the sun, if not by melanin.

Jesus is in the face of nearly every person above; the homeless who have found a family amidst people broken like themselves; singing in a City Choir. The Veteran who sleeps on a bus bench, and does his homework for his Master’s degree in Neuropsychology. The guy who had a solid business when the economy got to him, and he ventured into drugs to keep himself working; and then couldn’t get out. The people who have lost their homes, their prized possessions and their entire way of life. Most of them are in the 40s and 50s, some in their 60s; they had ‘normal’ lives until life dumped on them. “If they don’t have PTSD when the get to the streets, they’ll have PTSD after a week.”

Their singing is showing them Grace; their singing is showing them Jesus in themselves. They mostly aren’t religious. They may not even understand the phrase, ‘showing Jesus in themselves’… I saw Jesus.

https://www.voicesofourcity.org/

http://ironzealfilms.org/homeless/

I saw Jesus in the lives of two women who would not want to be singled out.

My adult life has mostly been about seeing Jesus; I often do a crap job of it. It’s difficult to see Jesus in people when you don’t want to be around people. It’s taken 40 years, and I’m not done yet; but I’m better.

I honestly don’t expect to find Jesus in churches; I’ve missed very few Sundays in the last 45 years. Today, now more than ever in the last 45 years, it seems hard to find Jesus in a church. Our whole political culture, so NOT about Jesus, is so invasive that Jesus isn’t very welcome. One of my best friends left the professional ministry because people weren’t looking there to find Jesus. He will continue to find Jesus, just in different places.

After watching the PBS documentary, “Homeless Chorus Speaks”, I realized that Jesus is out in the streets of our cities. He left with the promise that the Spirit of the Creator would be with us; and the Spirit can be in many places at the same time.

21st Century humans are so anal… We don’t understand metaphor, and life is mostly metaphor. We protest violence in the schools and we watch violence at night when we get off work, in movies or in video games; we create violence in the latter—‘but it isn’t real’. I used to use that line with my children, when they were getting scared in movies—it isn’t real. My wife told me that our brains can’t tell the difference, and I didn’t understand. Movies and video games, 2D and 3D attempts to duplicate ‘real’—my whole illustration career has been about duplicating real—there is no screen in our brain. Light waves travel into our eyes; our retina converts the light into electro-chemical signals which travel into our brains via the optic nerves, and imagin-ary images—‘appear’ in our minds. Not through a screen, but through our brain; and its network of neurons.

Our bodies react to graphic images.
Any guy KNOWS this, whether or not they admit it. I presume there’s a similar response in women, but I’ve never know what goes on in any woman’s brain. Including my wife of 42 years, in June. I’m told that some of the connections between the two halves of the male brain are dissolved by testosterone, early in a boy’s life. I’ve never made the time to research the premise. Seems plausible.

We see the homeless every day in a metropolitan city like Portland. Neighbors in my ‘Neighborhood Social Media Bulletin Board’ complain about the homeless who live by a nearby creek, until the police chase them out. We who are far more fortunate and have roofs over our head—and only by hard work every day—earn enough money to pay rent, pay utilities, and find something to eat. Hard work isn’t always enough.

State of Oregon Facts
Minimum Wage         $10.25
Average Renter Wage $14.84
2-Bedroom Housing Wage   $19.78
Number of Renter Households      593,793
Percent Renters         39%

Affordable Rent for Low-Income Households
Minimum Wage Worker       $533/mo
Household at 30% of Area Median Income       $491/mo
Worker Earning Average Renter Wage    $771/mo

Fair Market Rent
1-Bedroom Fair Market Rent        $839/mo
2-Bedroom Fair Market Rent        $1,028/mo
http://nlihc.org/oor/oregon

People are out on the streets because working 50 hours a week at two minimum wage [extremely few minimum wage jobs pay overtime] jobs won’t pay rent, utilities and food. Do the math.

It appears to be very difficult to see Jesus roaming the marble and oak walls of Congress and the White House.

 

And then there’s this:
There are at least three world leaders tonight, probably more, who think that this can somehow be considered a win…

Ashes of Hiroshima
The Ashes of Hiroshima

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 148: Teach me to see that everything I am is not all about me

April 26, 2018

Scandal pg2

If you are familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator…
http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/home.htm?bhcp=1
…you may be able to understand how I relate so well to Sherlock’s self-definition: “high-functioning Sociopath”—I think if Sherlock was alive, he, like me, would find himself in the INTJ category. INTJs make up about 1% of the population—if I walk into a room of 200 people, statistically, there may be one other person who sees the world ‘through my eyes’—because we are both Introverts, neither of us will seek out the other. In my church, I have been led to one INTJ and one ENTJ; my guess is that I’ve used up my quota… however, new people arrive. This changes the odds.

I don’t particularly like being around people. It becomes more apparent to me, with age, and my greater willingness to express my feelings, rather than burying them.

I forced myself to be around [usually annoyed] strangers for 9 years while I worked in Portland’s Permit Center. When I burned out, I went upstairs and worked mostly with large sets of construction documents, and fewer strangers. But I burned out from that as well—too many chemicals needed to keep me ‘whole’. After 14 years, it had become far less painful to be around strangers, and I eventually taught groups of people about Building Code stuff.

For most of the last 20 years, my only consistent company has been my wife, and we are on different schedules. I love my children; and I am fairly content to be peripheral to their lives. There are a few individuals I meet with on a regular schedule. In church, my wife and I sit up front; ‘church’ for me is made up of the people in my visual field, mostly on the platform; I don’t hang around to talk with people. One of the current factors in my life and my behavior is that my Neurological issues affect my hearing and my ability to speak. Words come out about as well as my typing, these days; unfortunately, my mouth does not seem to have spell-check.

There are 15 songs on a CD that are the only music I listen to while driving; they are selected to remind me of attributes I long to have as part of my personality. One of the 15 songs is by Salvador—‘Aware”—”Teach me to see that everything I am is not all about me.”
‘Huh’, I thought, ‘it’s working’. The same methods I used to train myself to interact with strangers all day long, while working in the Permit Center. The reality is that I’ve never stopped feeding my brain; some of the ‘food’ has changed. Financial success isn’t an issue for me anymore. Not that I achieved it; we simply have too much stuff.

I have ‘begun’ to care about people outside my family; strangers are becoming important to me. It’s strange.
It is possible to change the way you view the world.

I had no inclination for sales, beyond wanting to be with the ‘upline’ people I met. I read from a specific list of books, and I listened to motivational tapes; every day, every opportunity—because I wanted to be with people who seemed to have a facility to go through life with more ‘ups’ than ‘downs’. I talked to groups of strangers as often as I could force myself to do.
I had no real ability to be a salesman; but the books and tapes helped me to function as a person of governmental authority in a world of strangers—many of whom had no desire to secure Building Permits.

The other night I was meeting with a group of truly exceptional people [I am the oddball] people who dedicate portions of their busy lives to total strangers; applying what some call, Redemptive Listening, to broken people [we are all broken at some time or other]. We listen; we don’t try to fix. In our training meeting, we were reading some material from a famous evangelical organization. This Biblical verse came up, in a somewhat ‘Universal’ context, as how people come to Faith:
Romans 10:17
New International Version
“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”

The Newer Testament was written in Greek and/or Aramaic; was translated into Latin; from Latin it was first translated into German; followed by Latin or Greek translated into Middle English. The Older Testament starts with Hebrew.

Nothing Biblical, in English, is quite what it seems. Nothing in the Bible was ever written in English. King James may have Authorized an English version of the Bible, but it’s accuracy has always been questioned by people who know the original languages.

The same verse, in a different translation:
Weymouth New Testament
And this proves that faith comes from a Message heard, and that the Message comes through its having been spoken by Christ.”
Nearly everything spoken by Jesus came from the Older Testament; and a lot of what He said was consistent with what was said by the early Greeks.

I did not come to Faith through the Bible.

As I’ve mentioned before, I started with The Man of La Mancha. Alonso Quihana/Don Quixote taught be about living for a purpose beyond myself.
‘Captain Bob’ Bonniwell at Benson Polytechnic School, taught me about Critical Thinking; Existentialist writers taught be about the concept of Faith, as a thing—and the problems of believing in Faith. Marcus Aurelius, Socrates and Plato taught me about having Faith, long before I got to a Bible.

A small group of college students taught be about communicating with the Creator of the Universe.

The other night, an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Darmok”, gave me greater understanding into the difficulties in communicating with the Creator of the Universe. In the episode, the crew of the Enterprise encounters a race of people, ‘The Children of Tama’ whose language is understood by the Universal Translator. The crew members heard words from these people in English [presumed]; but the wording made no sense. The Tamarian language is based on metaphor, rather than on specific words.

Lt. Commander Data: Their ability to abstract is highly unusual. They seem to communicate through narrative imagery, a reference to the individuals and places which appear in their mytho-historical accounts.
Counselor Deanna Troi: It’s as if I were to say to you… “Juliet on her balcony”.
Doctor Beverly Crusher: An image of romance.
Counselor Deanna Troi: Exactly. Imagery is everything to the Tamarians. It embodies their emotional states, their very thought processes. It’s how they communicate, and it’s how they think.
Commander William T. Riker: If we know how they think, shouldn’t we be able to get something across to them?
Lt. Commander Data: No, sir. The situation is analogous to understanding the grammar of a language, but none of the vocabulary.
Doctor Beverly Crusher: If I didn’t know who Juliet was or what she was doing on that balcony, the image alone wouldn’t have any meaning.

The Creator of the Universe exists outside of Time and isn’t encumbered by [only] three dimensions. While we are ‘created in the image of the Creator’, this definition is a metaphor. Throughout history, human beings have attempted to understand this metaphor as if the Creator is ‘made’ in the image of us. Consequently the ‘Bible-believing church’—this is a subset of Christianity as a whole—has established a male-dominated, binary society with a strict moral code—a shorthand definition of the Bible. The Twenty-first Century Church does not know how to deal with a non-binary, less-male dominated society, with a different sense of morality.

Curiously, if one begins with what Jesus taught, a non-binary, less-male dominated society with a different sense of morality is much easier to understand, than the ‘book of rules’ that describes the rest of the Bible.

The Pauline and Apostolic Letters of the Newer Testament were written to the ‘called-out ones’—ecclesia—‘church,’ in Greek—the people who heard something about living that they had never heard before; and they wanted to join their lives with the people teaching this new ‘Way’. It was first called The Way. These Letters from Jesus’ closest followers weren’t written to Roman society or to Jewish society—the Romans worshiped the Emperor; the Jews could not swallow the idea that the Creator of the Universe entered Time and Space as a man. The followers of Jesus were a tiny percentage of the national population. The Apostolic letters weren’t written for the general population.
Paul did not expect the average Roman on the Appian Way to live his life in the Way taught by Jesus.

At first, the followers of Jesus were Jews—as was Jesus—they were told by Prophesy that they no longer had to ‘live Kosher’; and that Circumcision was no longer a requirement for men to be identified as being of the People of God. Jesus turned many of the Jewish rules upside down, because the Religious leaders of His day had made the rule more important than the desired result of the rule. All of the rules were designed to lead to the Creator.
Remember, the Jews had lived in Slavery for generations. Moses led a people into the desert who hadn’t had to make a significant decision about much of anything for most of their lives. The Older Testament created a ‘road map’ for this People of God who had been released from Slavery. Most of the sayings of the Prophets are expressed-frustration by the Creator of the Universe, for this stubborn people who could never seem to get it.

Jesus wasn’t a Christian. Jesus was always a Jew. He probably had brown skin [if for no other reason than that He spent a lot of time in the sun]; and he probably had black hair and brown eyes—as do most of the people of the Middle East. Not many blue-eyed blonds at in Palestine at that time.

Followers of Jesus, followers of the Way, first began to be called Christians in the town of Antioch, a significant time after Jesus was Crucified. This event was recorded by Luke, some 30 years after Jesus’ Resurrection. The Newer Testament does not include dates; and many of the proper nouns mentioned in the Newer Testament are not included in other writings that have survived the centuries. There were no wire services.

Then came the people of other faiths, or of no faith at all. People like me.

Is the Bible irrelevant for the Twenty-First Century? Not at all. However, I apply the same Critical Thinking to the Bible as to all other works of literature. This does not make the Bible less True; it does make the Bible less Factual. To MANY this idea is heresy. I believe the Bible is the Word of God, but I also believe that it is more like the Journal of God. The Book of Job, for instance, is about 2/3 wrong, according to God, when God shows up at the end of that Book. For many, the notion of The Word of God containing ‘Wrong’ cannot be swallowed. Many Biblical Literalists really only read the portions they like, and they avoid the difficult parts.

One needs to take a step off of the soapbox and learn to listen.

Saul of Tarsus, a renowned persecutor of the followers of Jesus, was knocked off of his soapbox once, on the Road to Damascus; on his way to capture some of these hated renegades. Bright light; knocked off his horse; and blinded. There was a follower of Jesus named Ananias; the Creator appeared to him in a dream and told him to look after the feared and hated Saul. Ananias did; scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and the Apostle Paul was born again.
Me, too.

Saul draft2

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 147: Belief

April 23, 2018

P45_mj

I have been given the gift of new followers lately; I’m not sure why, but I appreciate the gift of your time.  However, this one may drive you away again…

Why am I writing this one?

My goal, with my Chronicles, is to help bring some sense, some order, to the nonsensical, seemingly random nature of the country as it has come to be. I use ‘country’ instead of “world” because I am nothing close to a ‘world traveler’ and know little about real life outside the US.

The character above keeps interfering with my thought processes; and I find it difficult to write something meaningful because of my anger and disappointment…

I’m an old hippie. When I was sitting around in college dorms, talking about what the world would be like after we had converted our parents to the concept of Love and Acceptance and an end to War, our current President, and his kind, did not enter our conversations. He is 5+ years older than I; he eventually received a high draft number [coming the long way in his avoidance of military service]. I, too, had a high draft number and did not serve in Vietnam. Nor did we enlist. I don’t think I would have found the nerve to head for Canada. I missed a Draft number in the twenties by about 6 hours—I was a 10-month baby [‘when the apple is ripe, it will fall from the tree’]. When I first understood the concept of Grace, I experienced gratitude for my birthdate.

The other morning, I was reading in CS Lewis’ The Problem of Pain [incredible book], and read the following in his chapter on The Fall of Man. He writes of primitive man, as he probably was, when Mankind became cognizant of the concept of “me”:

“…Hence pride and ambition, the desire to be lovely in its own eyes and to depress and humiliate all rivals, envy, and restless search for more, and still more, security, were now the attitudes that came easiest to it. It was not only a weak king over its own nature, but a bad one: it sent down into the psycho-physical organism desires far worse than the organism sent up in to it.”

The above was written in 1940, around 7 years before DJT’s birthday. So, Lewis wasn’t writing about him.
People who are offended by James Comey’s assessment simply weren’t paying attention.
I’ve been hanging around the “evangelical” community for about 45 years; having been introduced to Faith in college.

Disclaimer #1

I am a follower of Jesus.
I was an atheist, into my twenties; only I never used that word, because “faith” or “religion” was not part of my vocabulary. I was, at best, a Not.
I did not come to Christ because of the Bible.
I did not come to Christ because of a church.

I came to Christ because one guy who lived across the hall from me, became my friend. And he introduced me to his roommate, and a handful of other Believers; college students, like myself. Sane, fun-loving, seemingly well-educated, well-spoken college students. These people introduced me to the Creator of the Universe.

I had avoided Christians like the plague, because for the two years at my previous campus, I was told by people on street corners that I wasn’t living a ‘godly life’—these people didn’t even know my name. I was told that if I led a ‘godly life’ I could be ‘saved’. I had no desire to live a ‘godly life’, nor did I desire to be ‘saved’.

I came to Christ, ‘kicking and screaming’—CS Lewis describes his search for God to be like ‘a mouse searching for a cat’.

For 45 years I have heard men on platforms declaring to their congregations about how they should live and what it means to live a moral life. Not one of those men would hold up DJT as an example of a moral man, and a model for a young person’s life. Men like him were used as examples of what not to be.

I get sickened when I see “Leaders” in the Evangelical community standing firmly behind the President, and being willing to excuse him his indiscretions, because after all, he is a ‘baby Christian’ and he stands up for the pro-life agenda.

Hmm…Maybe Psalm 139:9 was written for these “Leaders”…
  Young’s Literal Translation
  O the happiness of him who doth seize, And hath dashed thy sucklings on the rock!
  New International Version
  Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.

Oh, the problems of being a pro-life Fundamentalist…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 147: Holy Saturday

March 31, 2018

My favorite frame in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ:

jesus leaves the tomb
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIS0IjLIjDc   [the last minute of the video]

Being the snarky person that I can be, the thought occurs to me—was Jesus naked when Mary thought He was the gardener; and then, why would Mary think that a naked man was a gardener?…
The American Church, of course, shudders at my suggestion that Jesus might have been naked when He left His tomb; American traditions don’t do well with nakedness. Motion picture history aside, indications are that those who were crucified were naked—compounding the shame.

Jesus, the ‘second Adam’ was naked, the new creation; and he was not ashamed…

Holy Saturday– “He Descended into Hell”
Somewhat to my surprise, these words in the Apostle’s Creed aren’t supported that well by Scripture [google: “He Descended into Hell”]. As with nearly all of Scripture, it can be used to prove or disprove almost everything. The concept of Jesus descending into Hell on Saturday appears to have been part of ‘popular culture’ in the centuries following Jesus’ death on the Cross; but there are a lot scholars who will say that this is a misinterpretation of Scripture. Nonetheless, the Apostle’s Creed is foundational to most Christian confessions.

I personally like the concept that Jesus preached release to those captured in Hell, on the day between His crucifixion and His resurrection; and in my thinking, Hell would have then been emptied—unlike politicians on earth who will preach freedom and allow captives to remain in bondage.

The reality is that ‘after death’ is something beyond our capability to understand. It is hard for modern humans to believe that anything can be beyond our capability to understand; it only takes a few steps backward from the drama to see that we aren’t nearly as sophisticated or accomplished as we imagine.

The concept that governments are considering the possibility of ‘winning’ a nuclear war is totally absurd.

Nuclear winter is the severe and prolonged global climatic cooling effect hypothesized[1][2] to occur after widespread firestorms following a nuclear war.[3] The hypothesis is based on the fact that such fires can inject soot into the stratosphere, where it can block some direct sunlight from reaching the surface of the Earth. It is predicted that the resulting cooling would lead to widespread crop failure and famine.[4] In developing computer models of nuclear-winter scenarios, researchers use Hamburg, Tokyo, and the Hiroshima firestorms in World War II as example cases where soot might have been injected into the stratosphere,[5] as well as modern observations of natural, large-area wildfires.[3][6][7] wikipedia

The ‘winning’ of a nuclear war is being discussed nearly every day in the news; and there are at least two world ‘leaders’ who believe that it needs to be considered.

Medical researchers realize that humans have the capacity to kill millions invisibly:

Disease X is the code name for an unknown pathogen which may cause disease and potentially an epidemic in future. It was added to the list of Blueprint priority diseases as a “known unknown” by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2018.[1] The purpose of this addition is to acknowledge the fact that a new epidemic might be caused by an unknown pathogen and to seek R&D preparedness.[2][3] Wikipedia

Genocide and ethnic cleansing exist today in a spectrum of assaults on nations or religio-ethnic groups. Humans apparently have a need to destroy ourselves.
The mere reading of news headlines on any day prove that humans in political groups cannot imagine living in peace in the world. For some, the need for power and control can outweigh all other considerations.

Easter proposes that the Creator of the Universe entered time and space in the form of a single cell, implanted in the womb of a teenager. From that womb a man grew, became a woodworker; and then began a three-year career as a teacher, a healer, and an outcast from the rulers of society. These rulers had this healer tortured and hung on a cross on the outskirts of town, with a sign calling Him “King of the Jews” nailed on His cross.
Easter proclaims that this broken body walked out of a sealed tomb, in the presence of Roman guards. Easter proclaims that He met with His disciples, ate with them, walked along the road with them; was present to hundreds of witnesses; and told the story about how death is not the end.

Forty-five years ago, He entered the life of a cynical, arrogant, atheist; and showed him that the world is more than we can see and understand. Thankfully, having seen, I cannot unsee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 146: An Unfundamental Easter Story

March 25, 2018

I’ve been writing this particular Chronicle for years; and have written versions of it in years past. In part this is inspired by Michael Gerson’s excellent narrative on Evangelicalism in America, featured in the April 2018 The Atlantic magazine:
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/04/the-last-temptation/554066/

Quoting Gerson:
A prominent company of evangelical leaders—including Dobson, Falwell, Graham, Jeffress, Metaxas, Perkins, and Ralph Reed—has embraced this self-conception. Their justification is often bluntly utilitarian: All of Trump’s flaws are worth his conservative judicial appointments and more-favorable treatment of Christians by the government. But they have gone much further than grudging, prudential calculation. They have basked in access to power and provided character references in the midst of scandal…

It is the strangest story: how so many evangelicals lost their interest in decency, and how a religious tradition called by grace became defined by resentment. This is bad for America, because religion, properly viewed and applied, is essential to the country’s public life. The old “one-bloodism” of Christian anthropology—the belief in the intrinsic and equal value of all human lives—has driven centuries of compassionate service and social reform. Religion can be the carrier of conscience. It can motivate sacrifice for the common good. It can reinforce the nobility of the political enterprise. It can combat dehumanization and elevate the goals and ideals of public life…

It is difficult to see something you so deeply value discredited so comprehensively. Evangelical faith has shaped my life, as it has the lives of millions. Evangelical history has provided me with models of conscience. Evangelical institutions have given me gifts of learning and purpose. Evangelical friends have shared my joys and sorrows. And now the very word is brought into needless disrepute.

This is the result when Christians become one interest group among many, scrambling for benefits at the expense of others rather than seeking the welfare of the whole. Christianity is love of neighbor, or it has lost its way. And this sets an urgent task for evangelicals: to rescue their faith from its worst leaders.

Evangelical faith has shaped my life as well. At Forest Home, a Christian camp in California, I stood by a plaque: “I sensed the presence and power of God as I had not sensed it in months. Not all my questions were answered, but … I knew a spiritual battle in my soul had been fought and won.” – Billy Graham, Forest Home.

I have been disappointed by religious leaders so many times during my 45 years as a Believer, that Franklin Graham’s fawning in the presence of the President doesn’t surprise me, but it saddens me…

“Holy Week” as many call it.
The week between Jesus’ “Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem” marked by the one man/one donkey ‘parade’ where cheering people paved the roadway with palm branches [Palm Sunday]; ending with Jesus’ tortured death, cheered-on by many of the people in the crowd earlier in the week [Good Friday]; and His Resurrection on the following Sunday [Easter].
At least, that is how the Church calendar has it laid out. Scripture can be a little loose, when it comes to dates and times. Dates and time weren’t the priority. The priority was Story. Story can be true; story can tell truth beyond ‘facts’. Would it have mattered if Holy Week actually went from Tuesday to the following Wednesday? Probably not. More difficult to schedule.

Michelangelo's Pieta_Omega Nebula
Michelangelo’s Pieta

When I write stories, it is required that I have an image to illustrate the story. The placement of Michelangelo’s Pieta against the background of a Hubble image is deliberate. Scripture refers to Jesus/The Creator as ‘the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end.’
I believe the story of Jesus’ last week is True; I don’t argue over ‘facts’. From the first chapter of the Gospel of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome a [Or ‘understood’] it.
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. [emphasis added]

The Greek word for ‘receive’ is λαμβάνω, transliterated as ‘lambanó’. It has many meanings. Generally, the definition applied to this passage is (a) I receive, get, (b) I take, lay hold of. There are a couple dozen different uses of the word, when translated from Aramaic to Greek to English.

I was raised as an atheist, although this wasn’t a word we used, because the subject was never discussed in our household. I knew that my beloved grandmother called us heathens—I did not know what it meant, but it didn’t sound good. It apparently had something to do with our not going to church; the confusing part for me is that she didn’t go to church either. On Sunday morning, she watched ‘hellfire and damnation’ preachers on television; her Norwegian Bible on her lap. She apparently grew up with ‘hellfire and damnation’ in Norway; and we didn’t have that particular Norwegian flavor in Portland.
I came to Christ in my third year of college; I ‘missed out’ on all of the Sunday School classes Christian children are sent to [including my own]. I was never confirmed. I was baptized as an infant; when I told my parents about this ‘new’ belief I’d never heard of, they told me they weren’t interested. I eventually was baptized as an adult. My church ‘upbringing’ was largely by way of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I think the ‘pilgrimage’ to Forest Home happened during the summer of my 4th year of college.

And here’s where I move into ‘heresy’.
I’ve been studying theology for 45 years. As happens so often in the Church in America, I think we missed the whole point of Faith. The Darkness that is now becoming Triumphant has not Understood.

nevernding

In the film, The Neverending Story, the Great Warrior [teenaged] Atreyu, attempts to defeat the Darkness and its minion, G’mork; the Darkness that is destroying the world of Fantasia.

But why is Fantasia dying then!?
Because people began to lose their hopes and forget their dreams. So, The Nothing grows stronger.
What is The Nothing!?
It’s the emptiness that´s left…it is like a despair, destroying this world. And I have been trying to help it.
But WHY!?
Because people who have no hopes are easy to control… And whoever has the control…has the POWER…!!!
Who are you really?
I am the servant of the power behind The Nothing. I was sent to kill the only one who could have stopped The Nothing. I lost him in the Swamps of Sadness. His name was Atreyu.
If we’re about to die anyway, I’d rather die fighting. Come for me G’mork! I am Atreyuuuuu!!!

Consistently through these 45 years, I have been hearing a message that the story of Easter is about Personal Salvation—that [only] those who are Christians will be saved from Hell. The odd thing is that Jesus never really says this; the idea is an interpretation of Scripture, from the whole of Scripture as it is read and interpreted.
From the Gospel of Mark:

Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So, he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

The ’faith’ mentioned here is on the part of the four guys who dug through the roof; and the passage does not spell out why the people were coming to see Jesus. Stories of miracles, perhaps; free food; always good entertainment. Jesus forgives the paralyzed man [He doesn’t mention the four], and basically says, ‘oh, by the way, you are healed.’ Then Jesus tells the guy to go home. No altar call. No Baptism. No promise to attend synagogue. No Four Spiritual Laws.
Most of the Evangelical preachers I’ve listened to and read, are consistent in their belief that the Creator of the Universe has known each of us from the moment of Creation. The real miracle of Easter is the Incarnation—the Creator of the Universe entered Time and Space in the form of a single sperm cell in the womb of a teenaged girl. Why do people have trouble believing that the Creator of the entire Universe created one cell? Yes, Stephen Hawking said that gravity is all that was needed for Creation to occur; a Creator is not needed. Stephen Hawking would be the first to admit that some of his theories had been incorrect, or incomplete. Gravity could mean that The Creator doesn’t need to constantly crank the starter…

Commentaries on the passage, Romans 5:6, are perplexed by the awkward language used by the Apostle Paul.

“For at just the right time, while we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”
Young’s Literal Translation
For in our being still ailing, Christ in due time did die for the impious;
GOD’S WORD® Translation
Look at it this way: At the right time, while we were still helpless, Christ died for ungodly people.
Aramaic Bible in Plain English
But surely because of our weakness, at this time The Messiah has died for the sake of the wicked.

Why it was the ‘right time’ has always puzzled me.
Substitutionary Atonement [dying for the ungodly] and personal salvation are simply added benefits for us, in the Creator’s decision to enter Time and Space. From the beginning of Creation, the Creator was aware that in creating Man, the time [Greek: kairos] would come when Jesus would be born, and the time would come when the Creator would experience the pain that comes from the loss of a child before that child’s time. In today’s world, parents experience the loss of a child every single day. The feeling of being shattered; the feeling of the world no longer making any sense. Parents are not supposed to outlive their children. It’s an unwritten Law of the Universe. Tens of thousands of children and adults marched today, across the world. The March For Our Lives. Children are not supposed to be killed for simply being children. Without Regard to Skin Color.
We are ‘powerless’ because of Free Will—we all have the choice to pick up a weapon of mass destruction and destroy, as fast as possible, the people standing next to us. Banning assault weapons will not stop school shootings; Free Will will always be in our makeup.
Banning assault weapons will reduce the carnage. Someone will still be able to pick up a rifle that shoots five or more bullets without reloading; or a hand gun that can shoot 32 bullets. Fewer people will be killed and the Second Amendment will still be in the Constitution. People will have the right to bear arms; they will not have the right to use rocket launchers for target practice, simply because they were invented.

The Creator volunteered to be shattered, when it could have been avoided by simply filling the world with ‘the lesser creatures’ as we call them. The ‘lesser creatures’ who kill for meat. Or to stop disease. ‘Lesser creatures’ do not kill for the hell of it. Only Man does that. The purpose of the Incarnation [enfleshment] appears to have been in order for the Creator to truly understand the nature of the Creator’s creation described as ‘a little lower than the angels—Mankind.

Why would the Creator do this? I really have no idea. Would I want the characters in one of my favorite illustrations to come to life? Probably not. Aspen and Grady [the two in the middle] are two of my favorite characters:

wonder

I dearly love my children. I am grateful that they are adults, with their own lives.

The Creator of the Universe, from the first moment of Creation, has known your entire life. Since the Creator is outside of time as we know it, the Creator can see today as it happens, while at the same time sees today as it already happened, ‘in the past’.
You always have a choice as to what you do, what you think and what you say. At the same time, you can NEVER surprise the Creator. ‘Never surprising’ is NOT the same as ‘having a plan’. The Creator does not plan destruction. We live on one of many stone plates, floating on a sea of molten rock, spinning at 1,000mph, orbiting the Sun at 67,000mph. Stability is an illusion. Here in Oregon, we’re about 100 years overdue in a ‘major geologic disturbance’ that happens about every 300 years. If the epicenter is in the ‘proper’ location, downtown Portland will slide into the Willamette River.
I live on the side of a volcano.
Stability is an illusion.

The Creator also knows everything about the great-grandchild of the baby sleeping in the other room. Think about that for a while.

At the right time, Christ died for those without God.
Your sins are forgiven; be healed.

 

 

 


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