Monthly Archives: February 2010

Atomic Weapons—a Drop in the Bucket

Posted by David –
Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness Area

Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness Area

Lenten Reflections

As the popular song goes, “I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross…” But how much did it really cost for Jesus to go to the cross? There have certainly been many people throughout the ages who have died horrible deaths for the sake of others. What was so different about Jesus?

To answer this, I find myself remembering the warbling chatter of a flock of pine siskins in the top of a tall stand of ancient Douglas-firs. I step back and watch my family and friends enjoying each other’s company. I remember the bright quarter moon on a clear winter evening with stars speckling the deep blue sky. I close my eyes and think about the reality of the most distant galaxy.

In John’s gospel he begins, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

But when Jesus died, mustn’t everything that was made through him die also? And not only that, but Jesus was also said to have descended to hell (Acts 2:31, 1 Peter 3:19). What does that mean for all of the universe that was made through him?

The sad truth is that, in our pride and jealousy, we executed the author of our beloved universe. We sent all of nature to hell—including ourselves. Nothing we ever do will compare to the damage we’ve already done by sending Jesus to the cross. We think our atomic weapons are destructive. They are nothing.

Our only hope is to be raised again with Jesus. Proclaim it from the rooftops. It is that real.

“In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake the nations, and the best of all will come, and I will fill this house with glory. The silver is mine and the gold is mine. The glory of the present house will be greater than the glory of the former. And in this place I will grant peace,” declared the LORD of all Creation.

Haggai 2:6-9

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Twelve Umbilical Cords

Lone Pine on Bailey Range

Posted by David—

Someone looked at me quite puzzled the other day. She is an elderly lady who I know from simple chats and conversations. She seems very sensible and kind. We were having a conversation at Sunday School and I was trying to explain how I am similar to the person who does or has done the most horrific acts known to man, simply because I am in the body of Man. We are all branches of the same tree. I should have said something like, “because we are connected historically, socially, and relationally, are we really any different?” I did go on to explain something about us all being connected. But as you might expect, the puzzled face intensified. My explanations and justifications didn’t seem to do much good. Her puzzled face did fade and I don’t think it was because she suddenly ‘got it’. She may have been thinking that I was fit for the loonie bin or the correctional facility in comparing myself to Adolf Hitler or Saddam Hussein. I suppose I could keep my mouth shut more often.

But seriously are any of us all that different? The only thing that separates me and you are probably less than 12 umbilical cords if you’re caucasian, maybe only Six Degrees of Separation, as was popularized by John Guare’s play.

I do think each of us are distinct persons, but not as different as most of us would like to imagine.

The people know the salt of the sea
and the strength of the winds
lashing the corners of the earth.
The people take the earth
as a tomb of rest and a cradle of hope.
Who else speaks for the Family of Man?
They are in tune and step
with constellations of universal law.
The people is a polychrome,
a spectrum and a prism
held in a moving monolith,
a console organ of changing themes,
a clavilux of color poems
wherein the sea offers fog
and the fog moves off in rain
and the labrador sunset shortens
to a nocturne of clear stars
serene over the shot spray
of northern lights.

Carl Sandburg, The People Yes

I can honestly say that I feel no different than the horrors of this earth. If there’s a man that you can point to and say, “He is a wicked man.” That is me. Or if you can say, “Can you believe that she did that?” I am her. We are all more alike than is imaginable.

So, that was Sunday. Today, I walked into the Dentist and was immediately told that upon leaving “I’d be fully Sanctified.” It was a quippy remark probably based on our past discussions. And the sanctification he spoke of didn’t have anything to do with my smile. I think he wanted me to really know the truth to what John Wesley spoke of when he spoke about our “new birth” and our “entire sanctification.” And there’s truth to it, even though we may be 12 umbilical cords away from Saddam Hussein, Christ has promised us that we, his disciples, will be cleansed completely. The Hitler in us will be washed away. I can trust and should fully trust that promise and feel entirely sanctified. It was a good thing more me to hear.

So, oddly enough, I did leave the dentist’s office feeling fully sanctified. I can proudly say that I’m no different than the great Joy of this earth. For yes, in the great horrors I will die forever, yet in the great Joy I will be raised with for eternity. The spiritual umbilical cord that I have with Jesus will never be severed.

For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.

Romans 6:5

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The 2009 Civies

Guest Post by Alan Gibson—

Somebody’s got to recognize conspicuously civilized behavior, decided civility advocate Alan Gibson, author of the twelfth annual list. And the 2009 CIVIES go to:

ERNIE HARWELL — The Washington, Georgia, native broadcast Detroit Tiger baseball for 42 years with such gentlemanliness that he actually befriended the grimly efficient Ty Cobb.

GENERAL STANLEY McCHRYSTAL — The U.S. commander in Afghanistan, tasked with suppressing the Taliban, observed that his job is to “convince people, not kill them.” A thinking man’s soldier if you ask us.

THE BEER SUMMIT — Harvard prof. and Cambridge cop hash out differences at White House. Now that the format’s established, try it out on health care.

CATHLEEN FALSANI— The Chicago Sun-Times columnist roams the globe in search off grace—”gracespotting” she calls it—and thus becomes its avatar.

TIMOTHY KELLER — Civility among competing faiths—in Manhattan? Minister Keller takes a pastoral tack, advocating quiet, respectful dialogue.

CAPTAIN “SULLY’ SULLENBERGER — After landing on the Hudson, he handled heroism as smoothly as he’d handled his aircraft.

THE CITIZENS OF TEL AVIV — The Israeli city’s sophisticated ambiance embraces cafés where Arabs and Israelis can meet and talk. Left to tolerant Tel Aviv, there could be hope.

CHRISTOPHER PORTER —  Operating near Palm Springs but world’s away, the California activist, 55, found Hidden Harvest, feeding hundreds with crops left unharvested.

THOMAS ARE — the courtly Georgia theologian posits that we can best neutralize the Taliban by sending phalanxes of teachers to Afghanistan. Wouldn’t it be nice to think so.

CAMERON BROWN and BRAD WESTCOTT — The Purdue University sophomores advertise “Free Compliments” and toss verbal bouquets to campus passersby. Sophomoric? Yeah, in the best sense.

Gibson is co-found of Americans for More Civility and a columnist for the Pickens County (Georgia) Progress as well as hosting TV’s Civility Hour on Comcast Atlanta. His phone contact: 770-893-2578.

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Long Time No See

Posted by Mike

So I was talking to David on Skype and he said we’d lose our readership if we didn’t put something here and he couldn’t do it all himself – so why don’t I write something –and I thought that it’s not really a blog, because we really write short essays. And he says write about what I think Fundamentalism is, because I said he was a Fundamentalist. And the truth is that I don’t really know what one is, except that they don’t seem to be very open regarding skepticism, which is what I am about. And he said something about “eons,” and Peter (who is three) was there (on Skype, that is) and we tried to explain to him what it meant. And I used several other expressions that we had to explain to Peter. David said we’d lose our readership (I know I said this before) and we tried to explain what THAT meant to Peter (just imagine being three and somebody saying “readership”; you might have some idea that reader relates to read and that ship relates to something big that holds people and things and is driven across the water. Must be quite confusing to be three and to have to listen to strange grown-up talk). And I then used another expression that would mean nothing to Peter – with David saving the day (see there’s another one) by saying to Peter that it was like him saying, “Rats!”

The Long Time No See relates to how long it’s been since I wrote anything here. It’s an expression that my father who was not Czech at all but was raised in Houma, Louisiana, and was more French than anything else used whenever he came across someone he hadn’t seen in a long time. When I was about 12 my family of four was going through the Marianna Caverns near Tallahassee, Florida. I guess this was in about 1948. At some point in the tour one of the men in the crowd turned to my father and said, “That sounds like ‘Check’ (my father’s nickname)?” It turned out that the man was blind, but had recognized my dad’s voice from 30 years before when they had been in school together in Houma. He was one of the few survivors of the Bataan Death March from 1942, had been a prisoner of war during the Second World War and had lost his sight due to starvation during and following the March. That was really a Long Time No See.

I said Fundamentalists were literalists who believed in the objective accuracy of the stories in the Old and New Testament as opposed to their reflecting mythology and subjectivism and revisionism (I didn’t say it quite like that, but you’ll have to accept this as a close representation). David said he believed that the universe wasn’t just 14 billion years old but that that was probably just a drop in the bucket – and that he didn’t believe the “red shift” reflected the expansion of the universe as the distant galaxies tend to have the same shape as the nearer galaxies – 2004GravitationalLens.jpgif I wanted to learn more about this I could Google Alternative Theories to the Red Shift. Peter by this time was repeating over and over “eon, eon, eon,” so I thought that we might home in on him again and we explained that eon or eons was/were a very, very long time. So as I said before, “Long Time No See.” And if I can consider you one of our “readership,” you can see now what you are up against.

Well, I am reading more and enjoying it less – [laughter] – and so on, but I have not complained nor do I plan to make any general complaints. I read and talk to myself about it.  – John F Kennedy, press conference, May 9, 1962

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The Roar and the Whisper

Sunlight on the Bogachiel River

Posted by David—

It came from a call, wild as a roar and quiet as a whisper in the night. From one hemisphere of the universe to the other an echo resounded and remained the heartbeat of life.

Was it with a bang or was it with a rosy evening in one hemisphere and a husky blue morning in the other that the universe began? Was the light hot like the summer or did it shine like that of Saint Elmo’s Fire—as if water and fire could be one? Must have light travel from one end to reach the other or did it appear from everywhere at once? One thing is certain, the light dawned in the beginning.

I can imagine then all at once that everywhere in the great expanse bubbles appeared, small and large, bubbles of sky and water, each in its own family, in their own tribes, and in His own collections. Not one of the churning, mixing, self-illuminating bubbles were alone, each were moved by the presence of the other. From among all bore life: green life, red life, colored life—for out of life comes life.

Next I can imagine that a new type of light broke forth, not the rosy light of dawn nor the pale blue light of a misty morning, but white light, bright light, light of the sort which breaks your gaze. The new light began by congregating muted colors. First one popped, then another and another until everywhere sparkled in the great expanse. Early on it was like sparkles in fresh, fluffy snow in the sunlight, but as more and more of the pale light popped into sparks, darkness emerged amid the tiny pinpoints, swirls, threads and mycelia of brightness. These lights forever changed the texture of the great expanse. Eddies, waves and tides covered the heavens. Light danced from one hemisphere to the other. Deep within and among this light river dwelt life, ever-changing and alway the same, ever-seeing and always abounding.

In one special place, so infinitesimal, so humble, and so ordinary, it was decided, that life should take on special meaning. Life was given special breath to speak and special eyes to see and special hands to create. It was right here that this happened long ago, long before memory can reckon. To this life was also given a special sense. This life could love and befriend his Creator. To those wide, fresh eyes, life was most certainly paradise.

Along with this special creation came responsibility, not like that of drudgery, but like that of royal discernment. For this new form of breath who could tell living stories also had the potential to slander. This new form of eyes had the potential to covet. This new form of hands had the potential to murder. A special rule was given, unlike any law of nature, to keep danger away.

But such a regal status for such a lowly form of life was envied by one great and charismatic light. A crafty conspiracy ensued to trick the one who was loved into unfavored status, if that were possible. In perfect freedom, the special creation was deceived. In perfect freedom, the special creation ate death. In perfect freedom, guilt was pronounced.

Immediately, a counter-conspiracy began for the special creation was deeply loved even still—to the horror of the great and charismatic light.

But with death now on the beloved creature’s mental horizon, the creature could no longer bring forth life, but instead could only propagated war, for breath still brought forth the mind’s manifestations. The battle began for power over who rules where the victor rises in the depths of Hell—a battle of words and lies, deceit and lust, bludgeon and fire.

For centuries, this one-time battle ensued. There were those within the special creation who understood the tragedy and foretold the joy. As pronounced, their story came to life when the same roar and the same whisper that formed all of creation from the beginning was born into the body of the special creation—into the creature. The roar and the whisper took on the cloak of death, during which he spoke of the true life to be. Unloved and unbelieved, he was abandoned and in jealousy he was assassinated by those he held dear. And with him, so must die all of the universe too, for all that came from his roar and whisper went with him in his descent into Hell.

But like the Phoenix, out of the ashes arose the Roar and the Whisper, for infinite sacrifice begets infinite life. And from his mouth comes a new roar and a new whisper which conjugates light once again. You cannot yet hear this roar with your ears. You cannot yet see the new light of his voice with your mind. You can only know it through the eyes of hope, for we are still of the Phoenix’s ashes. So fix your eyes, fix your hands, and fix your mind on the Roar and the Whisper, for we are still a special creation. And what we love, who loved us first, will never ever abandon us. “Out of the ashes, arise!”

When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

John 11:43-44

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Lose the Argument

Licorice Fern

Licorice Fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza)

Part 4 – How to Stop an Argument

Posted by David—

“Look! If you-know-who was such a great president, then why…”

“You see, it’s clear that the earth is 4.5 billion years old…”

“Come  on, you know it’s on Route 441 rather than HWY 28, we need to get off at the next exit not this one…”

Stop for a moment and seriously consider losing the battle. Try submitting to your opponent for a moment and see what happens. If you’re not 100% certain or at least 100% riding on faith in your perspective, then submit to your opponent. If you are certain, then there’s no need to argue. Just say the truth with authority and move on.

“I never thought about it that way.”

“I suppose that I’m basing my facts on ideas which I’m really not all that certain about.”

“Okay, let’s try your way.”

But be honest with your statements. If you say you’ll think about it, really do take the information and digest it.  The bomb will be diffused. See where it takes you.

Please note that I’m not talking about capitulation here. It’s not really possible to compromise truth. Don’t water-down your belief here. Just be humble where humility is appropriate. This form of submission is like saying, “Wow, the universe is an amazing, complex, yet simple, and gloriously beautiful place, more so that I can imagine. I’ve been wrong before. I could be wrong this time.”  

And if you find out you were right all along, you can have a fight—a fight with yourself. Fight very hard to not let yourself even think, “I told you so.”

If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.

Luke 6:29

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