"Wherever there is a jackboot stomping on a human face there will be a well-heeled Western liberal to explain that the face does, after all, enjoy free health care and 100 percent literacy."

- John Derbyshire
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From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Just Stop It, Writers

Barnabas Piper tells us to stop writing about writing, because we don't really have anything to say.

"When Stephen King writes a book about writing I read it cover to cover and then start over. And it is marvelous. When a thirty-something, barely published, Internet composer of public journal entries does so, it's uppity."

Yeah. Sorry about that.

From The Living Room
Martha of Bethany: Good Friday

It’s not Sabbath yet
(although the sun is swiftly setting today)
so I am making the bread
and sweeping the floor
and washing the windows
and trying to get dinner together
even though I am not hungry today
none of us are hungry today

I am doing the thing he told me
not to do: but today I want
to do everything I can
to ignore the news that came down
the road from the city
because otherwise everything will unravel
like the tears in our garments

So I keep brushing past the blood
on the doorposts
I keep not looking up at the darkening sky
because as long as I keep moving I can still believe

From Semicolon
K is for Kyrielle

“[P]oetry can do something that philosophy cannot, for poetry is arbitrary and has already turned the formulae of belief into an operation of faith.” ~Charles Williams

kyrielle: derives from the Kýrie, which is part of many Christian liturgies. A kyrielle is written in rhyming couplets or quatrains. It may use the phrase “Lord, have mercy”, or a variant on it, as a refrain as the second line of the couplet or last line of the quatrain. In less strict usage, other phrases, and sometimes single words, are used as the refrain. Each line within the poem consists of only eight syllables.

This poetic form, with its repetition of the “kyrie”, seems appropriate for this Good Friday when we remember the Lord Jesus in his suffering and death.

'Crucifixion by Mia Tavonatti' photo (c) 2011, Rachel Kramer - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/A Lenten Hymn by Thomas Campion

With broken heart and contrite sigh,
A trembling sinner, Lord, I cry:
Thy pard’ning grace is rich and free:
O God, be merciful to me.

I smite upon my troubled breast,
With deep and conscious guilt oppress,
Christ and His cross my only plea:
O God, be merciful to me.

Far off I stand with tearful eyes,
Nor dare uplift them to the skies;
But Thou dost all my anguish see:
O God, be merciful to me.

Nor alms, nor deeds that I have done,
Can for a single sin atone;
To Calvary alone I flee:
O God, be merciful to me.

And when, redeemed from sin and hell,
With all the ransomed throng I dwell,
My raptured song shall ever be,
God has been merciful to me.

Robyn Hood Black is hosting Poetry Friday at Life on the Deckle Edge on this Good Friday.

From internetmonk.com
Why the Change in the Crowd?

Palm Sunday Procession in the Streets of Jerusalem

A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:8-9

22″What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!”

23″Why? Whatcrime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” Matthew 27:22-23

(Originally posted May, 2008)

What a difference a week makes! In one week, the people have gone from shouting “Hosanna” to shouting “Crucify him!” Unfortunately, in almost every sermon I have heard on the topic, the pastor gets it wrong. (Not picking on any particular pastor here, I have heard this preached badly six or seven times.) The Pastor assumes that the crowd in Matthew 21 is the same as the crowd in Matthew 27. But this is not the case.

In Matthew 19 we find Jesus way north of Jerusalem, in Galilee, his home turf so to speak. This was where Jesus had grown up, based his ministry, and performed most of his miracles. Like most others he starts to make his way south to celebrate the passover in Jerusalem.

First he heads down to Judea, to the far side of the Jordan (possibly on the route that skirted Samaria.) He crosses back over the Jordan into Jericho, which we find him leaving in Matthew 20. He arrives at Bethpage and Bethany which he makes as his headquarters for Passover week (Matthew 21 & 26). Jerusalem was filled with pilgrims, and Jesus did what many others did who lived outside the immediate area, they slept in the towns surrounding Jerusalem, and then came into Jerusalem for the events of each day.

So when Jesus has his triumphal entry that we read about in Matthew 21, he is surrounded by his supporters from the north. They had also camped outside the city and were also coming in for the day.

In Jerusalem awaits the political elite, the leaders of the temple, who are quite happy with their lifestyle and the degree of autonomy that they have under Roman rule. Someone who might upset their applecart would need to be dealt with quickly.

So what does Jesus do? He drives the money changers and sellers from the temple, directly challenging the leadership of the temple. Then he heads back to Bethany for the night.

He comes back in the next morning, curses the fig tree on the way in, and then spends the day telling parables that insult the chief priests and pharisees. It is then that they decide to arrest him (Matthew 21:45-46). Note that the passage says that they were afraid to arrest him because of the crowd.

Christ continues to clash with the teachers of the law and the pharisees in Mattew 22 & 23. Jesus continues to teach in Matthew 24 & 25 and heads back to Bethany where we find him again in Mattew 26.

Meanwhilethe chief priests and elders meet to plot against Jesus.

3Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of

the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4and they plotted to arrest Jesus in

some sly way and kill him. 5″But not during the Feast,” they said, “or there may

be a riot among the people.” Matthew 26: 3-5

Notice that the plot involved getting Jesus away from his followers. That is the ones who camped outside the city.

Jesus comes back into town to pray on the Mount of Olives at night. It is at the Garden of Gethsemene that he is arrested at night (Matthew 26:47). Jesus himself comments (verse 55) that he was in the temple all day, why didn’t they arrest him then? Why, because his supporters were all in the temple area during the day!

He is immediately taken before the sanhedrin for his first trial. Again, this was still in the middle of the night, and the sanhedrin had gathered for the express purpose of getting rid of Jesus.

Matthew 27 opens by saying that “early in the morning” he was taken before Pilate. It is when he is before Pilate that the crowd shouts “crucify him”.

This is not the same crowd that shouted “Hosanna”. The “Hosanna” crowd are still camped outside the city or making their way in. The “Crucify crowd” is made up of the priests, elders, and pharisees, and those that they have assembled, who wanted nothing to do with Jesus and just want him out of the way.

So why the change in the crowd? Two different crowds. The second crowd planted at a time when the first crowd could not be there.

So why does this matter?

What struck me about this story is that the chief priests, temple leaders, and pharisees represented what society would have considered to be among the most spiritual people in society. Yet these people were the ones that were most threatened by the new wave of the Spirit that had come in the form of Jesus Christ. It is a natural inclination to be suspicious of change, to be resistant to ideas that might threaten your place in society, and to be wary of a new religious movement.

Then I thought of us today in our churches. Are we suspicious, resistant, and wary of new things. Do we like things just the way they are? “If it ain’t broke. Don’t fix it.” Over the last couple of years I have heard a couple of astute church leaders suggest that if the congregation is quite happy with the status quo, then some faith stretching exercises are in order. What happens when a new Pastor comes into our church (I am speaking generically here) and suggests that significant change is necessary in order for the church to move beyond its plateaued state? Are we part of the crowd that shouts “Hosanna!”, or are we part of the crowd that shouts “Crucify him!”

That is not to say that resistance to change is necessarily wrong.  I do think however it is important for us to examine ourselves, and make sure we are responding with the right motivations.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.

From such small hands
Truly Amazing

These days, a quick scan of Facebook, Pinterest or TV shows might convince you that the world is full of amazing things. Maybe some of those things really deserve to be called “amazing,” but most of them are not. They...

From The Living Room
Mary of Bethany: Maundy Thursday

All the women came back to our house,

So it’s just us. And our brother, laying low after

A month of miracles, and a few hangers-on:

All of us healed in some way, recipients of

Some gift. And we are chopping up the herbs,

Baking the bread. The men came back from the

Temple with the lamb and poured its blood on our house,

And now we eat.


But the twelve? And the Lord? In Jerusalem, and all I want–

Though I am grateful for this company, this family stitched together

Around my tired heart to keep it warm–all I want

Is to run into town and fall at His feet again, still scented

With last week’s perfume, and listen.

I fear that tonight, after a month of miracles,

The miracles may end for good.


From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
'Biblically Based' Author Argues Against Biblical Morality

Matthew Vines is not a new author. He has been around for a few years, arguing that Christianity and homosexuality are not incompatible. He has a new book coming out next week making the same arguments, but the bigger news may be who is publishing it. It's Stephen W. Cobb, the chief executive of both WaterBrook Multnomah and the new imprint Convergent.

Cobb says the two imprints do not have the same audiences and editorial guidelines, so they aren't the identical, but he does call the final shots for both. With Convergent, those shots are "nonfiction for less traditional Christians and spiritual seekers who are drawn to an open, inclusive, and culturally engaged exploration of faith," such as Matthew Vines' new book, God and the Gay Christian.

World Magazine makes a big deal about these imprints being unified under one corporate umbrella, but what strikes me as odd is Cobb's insistence that he isn't publishing heresy under the Convergent label. He claims Vines' "believes in the inerrancy and the divinity and the correctness of Scripture," so his book is "biblically based." He says he intends to publish only biblically based books through Convergent.

How orthodox does a "biblically based" book need to be in order to remain based on the Bible? The Book of Mormon and the Koran are literally based on the Bible, but would we call them "biblically based"? If this is the main criteria, then I would understand a wide variety of views being published, but we expect more, don't we?

How much orthodox stock do you put into this publisher or any publisher? Do you notice the publisher of a book and believe the topic, whatever it is, has been thoroughly vetted? Do you believe WaterBrook is still committed to "creating products that both intensify and satisfy the elemental thirst for a deeper relationship with God," as their marketing people say?

From internetmonk.com
Holy Thursday at the Tea Party

mad_hatter_teapartySometimes, I’ve got nothing.

Nothing to write about. No insightful words to impart. No interesting metaphors to spark the imagination. No provocative prose, no poetry to prime the pump. I’m sitting and trying to think, but everything is fuzzy, my mind full of inchoate thoughts, like bats fluttering around in an attic.

I get the sense that these are auspicious days, that we have important things to talk about, that if we don’t we might miss the moment and the parade will have passed us by. But I’m blank, bleary, and “I don’t find this stuff amusing anymore” (Paul Simon).

I’m like the disciples on Thursday evening.

There I am, in the upper room — right there mind you — but I haven’t a clue about what’s going on.

Jesus is washing our feet (what?) and Peter is complaining (of course!).

We recline around the table and though the tension is palpable, no one can seem to put a finger on it.

Between bites Jesus is saying something about going away.

There are whispered conversations between him and individual disciples.

Every now and then I suspect covert signals are being passed, but I’m apparently outside the loop.

John leans over and whispers to the Master.

Judas leaves the room.

I keep hearing mysterious words and combinations of words, like body and bread, paracletes and orphans, branches and vines, wine and blood, joy and tribulation, judgment and the ruler of this world — what in the world is Jesus talking about?

To see him is to see the Father?

To be hated by the world is to be loved by the Father?

For Jesus to go away is better than to have him with us?

I’m in over my head and feel as clueless as Alice at a tea party.

Alice_in_Wonderland_by_Arthur_Rackham_-_08_-_A_Mad_Tea-PartyThe Hatter opened his eyes very wide on hearing this; but all he SAID was, `Why is a raven like a writing-desk?’

`Come, we shall have some fun now!’ thought Alice. `I’m glad they’ve begun asking riddles.–I believe I can guess that,’ she added aloud.

`Do you mean that you think you can find out the answer to it?’ said the March Hare.

`Exactly so,’ said Alice.

`Then you should say what you mean,’ the March Hare went on.

`I do,’ Alice hastily replied; `at least–at least I mean what I say–that’s the same thing, you know.’

`Not the same thing a bit!’ said the Hatter. `You might just as well say that “I see what I eat” is the same thing as “I eat what I see”!’

`You might just as well say,’ added the March Hare, `that “I like what I get” is the same thing as “I get what I like”!’

`You might just as well say,’ added the Dormouse, who seemed to be talking in his sleep, `that “I breathe when I sleep” is the same thing as “I sleep when I breathe”!’

`It IS the same thing with you,’ said the Hatter, and here the conversation dropped, and the party sat silent for a minute, while Alice thought over all she could remember about ravens and writing-desks, which wasn’t much.

I suppose it will all make sense eventually.

I suppose I’ll find words to articulate this fog.

Maybe tomorrow, on Friday, things will be clearer.

From Semicolon
J is Just for Fun

“I shake the poems like doormats. Phrases tumble. Some are swept past the margins and stay there. A few find places in other poems. Some spots need a bit more mystery, and I nudge them around corners, away from the bright light, to let shadows do their work.” ~Jeannine Atkins

Ogden Nash is one of my favorite poets. I have a theory that making us laugh at ourselves and at the world we live in is one of the important functions of poetry. Mr. Nash certainly makes the laughter and the fun of poetry evident.

For instance, there’s this poem in which Mr. Nash volunteers his definition of marriage: humorous, insightful, and eminently debatable.

For pure fun, Custard has always been one of my favorites.

And here I posted about Mr. Nash’s poem, Very Like a Whale, in which he makes fun of Byron’s similes.

Now, here’s another Ogden Nash poem, just for fun during Poetry Month:

Portrait of the Artist as a Prematurely Old Man by Ogden Nash

It is common knowledge to every schoolboy and even every Bachelor of Arts,
That all sin is divided into two parts.
One kind of sin is called a sin of commission, and that is very important,
And it is what you are doing when you are doing something you ortant,
And the other kind of sin is just the opposite and is called a sin of omission
and is equally bad in the eyes of all right-thinking people, from
Billy Sunday to Buddha,
And it consists of not having done something you shuddha.
I might as well give you my opinion of these two kinds of sin as long as,
in a way, against each other we are pitting them,
And that is, don’t bother your head about the sins of commission because
however sinful, they must at least be fun or else you wouldn’t be
committing them.
It is the sin of omission, the second kind of sin,
That lays eggs under your skin.
The way you really get painfully bitten
Is by the insurance you haven’t taken out and the checks you haven’t added up
the stubs of and the appointments you haven’t kept and the bills you
haven’t paid and the letters you haven’t written.
Also, about sins of omission there is one particularly painful lack of beauty,
Namely, it isn’t as though it had been a riotous red-letter day or night every
time you neglected to do your duty;
You didn’t get a wicked forbidden thrill
Every time you let a policy lapse or forget to pay a bill;
You didn’t slap the lads in the tavern on the back and loudly cry Whee,
Let’s all fail to write just one more letter before we go home, and this round
of unwritten letters is on me.
No, you never get any fun
Out of things you haven’t done,
But they are the things that I do not like to be amid,
Because the suitable things you didn’t do give you a lot more trouble than the
unsuitable things you did.
The moral is that it is probably better not to sin at all, but if some kind of
sin you must be pursuing,
Well, remember to do it by doing rather than by not doing.

Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. ~Martin Luther

From internetmonk.com
Church: Not Where We “Find God”

BrightAbyssGeoffrey Hill:

What is there in my heart that you should sue
so fiercely for its love?
What kind of care
brings you as though a stranger to my door
through the long night and in the icy dew

seeking the heart that will not harbor you,
that keeps itself religiously secure?

- from “Lachrimae Amantis”

Religiously secure. A brilliant phrase, and not simply because it suggests the radical lack of security, the disruption of ordinary life that a turn toward Christ entails, but also this: for some people, and probably for all people for some of the time, religion, church, the whole essential but secondary edifice that has grown out of primary spiritual experience — all this is the last place in the world where they are going to find God, who is calling for them in the everyday voices of other people, other sufferings and celebrations, or simply in the cellular soul of what is…

My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer
- Christian Wiman

* * *

One great misconception about the Church is that is to be the place where people go to “find God.” It is natural to think this way in a consumer society, where it seems you can always go somewhere to find what you’re looking for. The Church is the place to go to find God.

Except — everything in the Bible protests against that notion. For God is Creator of the world, the Giver and Sustainer of life. In him we live and move and have our being, and he is not far from any of us. The idea that there are particular places where we go to access God, specific places where God “lives,” waiting for us to come and find him, is the essence of idolatry not genuine faith.

For spiritual seekers, churches and faith communities function (or should function) more like signposts, pointing their neighbors to the God who made them, who knows them, who is at work already in their lives, and who loves the ordinariness of their daily worlds every bit as much as he delights to hear praises in the sanctuary.

For people of faith, who have found a home in the Church, this means learning to view our gatherings as only a small part of the story. For God is with us, close to us, speaking and working as much when we scatter into our communities to work and play as he is when we come together. We do not “leave the world” to “come into God’s presence.” I am not denying that there is something special about how God meets his people in worship, especially in the Word and Sacraments, but I am protesting the common assumption that our services are somehow more “sacred” than our daily lives.

Unfortunately, local churches try to make hay on this bad theology all the time. In fact, they go further than calling people to “the Church” to find God. They then identify what is happening in their particular congregations and church programs with God’s presence and activity. That in turn unleashes the tendency to compare and compete with other churches, and the message easily becomes: God is here in a way that he is not in other congregations. Come here = find God. Go there = be disappointed (and risk your soul!)

All of which guarantees that Christian Wiman’s words will be verified. Church is the last place in the world where many people are going to find God.

Before you jump all over me (or Wiman) for promoting a kind of spirituality without religion and encouraging people to abandon the Church for a fuzzy, undefined “personal faith,” please know that Wiman dismisses that notion as a “modern muddle of gauzy ontologies and piecemeal belief.” He commends definite beliefs and practices as necessary, steady spots from which we may glimpse the truth, give some form to the mysteries of life and faith, and withstand the sufferings that threaten to uproot us. I agree, but religious practices, such as involvement in a church, are meant to enrich our lives, not take over our lives.

My big point is simply this: we don’t really find God anywhere but in life itself. Real life. Daily life. Not just “church life.”

If any church tries to tell you God is present in some special way among them and you need to go there to find him, smile politely but shake the dust off your feet. Hard.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
'Murder by Moonlight,' by Vincent Zandri

Vincent Zandri is producing a series of novels about Albany, NY private eye Dick Moonlight (I'm not kidding. That's his name). Murder by Moonlight was the first I've read, and although I read it through and enjoyed it a fair amount, I find I didn't really like it much.

Dick Moonlight is a private eye with a difference (aren't they all nowadays?). He attempted suicide a couple years back, leaving himself with a .22 bullet in his brain which the doctors can't remove. At any moment it might shift and kill him, so he lives with that.

In Murder by Moonlight, he is hired by Joan Parker, who was horribly injured in an ax attack in her home, one which killed her husband. At the time she told the police that her son Christopher was to blame, but now she's changed her mind and wants Moonlight to prove the young man innocent.

A number of things irritated me in this book. One is the present-tense narration, which doesn't actually spoil the story, but which I find an irritating affectation that adds nothing.

Secondly, the story wanders into the realm of ancient conspiracies, which I don't believe in. People aren't that good at keeping secrets, especially in large groups.

But most importantly, the hero/narrator, Dick Moonlight, got on my nerves. Many people in the story tell him he's a jerk (they generally use more colorful language), and they're right. He claims he has a built-in lie detector (again, he uses an earthier term), and feels that gives him the right to be insulting to anyone he doesn't like on first sight -- even when he needs a favor from them. That's just bad detective procedure. What he is, is judgmental and tactless.

So though the story kept my interest (in spite of some weak writing moments and needless complications at the end), I don't recommend it highly. On the other hand, it'll keep your interest on a plane, if that's what your needs are.

Cautions for language and adult themes.

From Semicolon
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The subject of Africa and Africans and the relationship of Africans to Americans is one of my fascinations. I read Ms. Adichie’s novel, Americanah, with that fascination firmly in place. But the book was just ironic, sarcastic, and insightful enough to make me a little uncomfortable. I don’t think I’d enjoy meeting the author, and I don’t think she would like me very much. (According to one character in the novel who may or may not speak for the author, “American conservatives come from an entirely different planet,” obviously not a good one.) I feel as if Ms. Adichie, assuming her characters speak for her in some respects, would have something sardonic and probably also uncomfortably perceptive to say about me and my interest in Africa and my WASP background and my conservative Christian worldview.

Through her main characters, Ifemelu and Obinze, especially Ifemelu, the novelist has a lot to say about Nigerians and “Non-American Blacks” (NAB’s) and American Blacks (AB’s) and American Non-Blacks and Brits and other Europeans and poor people and rich people and bourgeois middle class people and everyone else whose weaknesses and foibles Ifemelu manages to expose and ridicule and deflate. Thought provoking, yes. But Ifemelu is also self-absorbed, sometimes pitiable, and irresponsible and unreliable. In short, she’s a real person with a sin problem, although she wouldn’t use that term.

Ifemelu is a Nigerian immigrant to the United States. She leaves Nigeria partly to escape from the lack of choices there and from her dysfunctional family and partly to study in the U.S., the land of opportunity. She finds that when she comes to America, she suddenly becomes “black”, a category she never considered one way or another back in Nigeria. She is subject to the racism, overt and subtle, that American Blacks encounter and deal with all of the time in this country. And she also becomes “African” in the eyes of many Americans, black and white, who tell her about their charitable contributions to an orphanage in Zimbabwe or their trip to Kenya or their love for Mother Africa, as if Africa were one big country, and of course, she would identify with people and entities half a continent away from her own nation and culture.

Ifemelu, however, is an honest and incisive thinker, and she forges her own identity in the U.S. She eventually becomes a blogger with a widely read and profitable blog called Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black. She writes about race in America, about black women and hair, about subtle and not-so subtle racism, about Michelle and Barack Obama, about her own experiences as an immigrant to the U.S., and about the people and interactions she observes. Her blog posts about race in particular prick the consciences and destroy the pretensions of many of her readers. (The unrealistic part, of course, is that she makes quite a bit of money as a result of the popularity of her blog. How many rich bloggers are there?)

Americanah is a smart, penetrating, rather dramatic look at the immigrant experience and at the emigrant experience and at the experience of returning home. But it made me feel the way I feel when I’m in the company of intellectual people who spend their time mocking and pointing out the defects of those who are “beneath” them, outside their little clique. Americanah is an opinionated book, and it’s not a kind book. The characters in the book are honest, possibly right about many of their opinions and insights, but not very compassionate or forgiving.

“What are you reading?” Kelsey turned to Ifemelu.
Ifemelu showed her the cover of the novel. She did not want to start a conversation. Especially not with Kelsey. She recognized in Kelsey the nationalism of liberal Americans who copiously criticized America but did not like you to do so; they expected you to be silent and grateful, and always reminded you of how much better than wherever you had come from America was.
“Is it good?”
“It’s a novel, right? What’s it about?”
Why did people ask “What is it about?” as if a novel had to be about only one thing. Ifemelu disliked the question; She would have disliked it even if she did not feel, in addition to her depressed uncertainty, the beginning of a headache.

At the risk of being relegated to the realm of all the Kelseys of this country, despite my lack of “liberal” credentials, I will say that Americanah is about the Nigerian immigrant experience, both in the U.S. and Britain. It’s also about the issues and stresses of being a black woman in America, specifically in the Northeastern part of the U.S. And it’s a novel about romantic love, and lost love and recovered love. The ending, like the detail of the money-making blog, struck me as unrealistic and unlikely. But I did learn a lot along the way.

Warning: Self-absorption and sexual license abound in the novel, just as they do in the real lives of many, both Africans and Americans. That part of the novel is almost too realistic.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Yes, Even When He Is Silent

Here we have the St. Olaf Choir with Conductor Anton Armstrong performing "Even When He Is Silent" by Kim André Arnesen. It was recorded at Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim, Norway on June 16, 2013

The piece was commissioned by the St. Olaf Festival in Trondheim, Norway (Olavsfestdagene), using a text was found in a concentration camp after World War II:

"I believe in the sun, even when it's not shining.
I believe in love, even when I feel it not.
I believe in God, even when He is silent."

But, Lord, do not be silent or allow us to be deaf.

From internetmonk.com
Randy Thompson: The Church as a Hospice for the Dying

Extreme Unction (detail), Poussin

Extreme Unction (detail), Poussin

The Church as a Hospice for the Dying
by Rev. Randy Thompson
Forest Haven, Bradford, NH

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I recently read an interesting article over at Christianity Today’s Parse blog on why the popular metaphor of the Church as a hospital for the sick is wrong headed, despite the popularity of that concept and its antiquity. The article was thought provoking, but for me at least, the thoughts it provoked had nothing to do with the article’s point. I’m inclined to agree with the author about the church not being like a hospital for the sick, but for reasons completely unrelated to his argument.

It seems to me that it’s better to think of the Church as a hospice, rather than as a hospital. The purpose of a hospital is to help people get better. Too often, that’s exactly what many churches strive to do. They provide self-help treatments, complete with psychological anesthetics to numb the pain, dressed up in Biblical language. I’m normally dubious about people whose job description is “The Bible Answer Man,” but Hank Hanegraaf recently coined a wonderful word that captures what I’m talking about, “Osteenification,” which is a state of ecclesiastical affairs where God is stumbling all over Himself so we, His creatures, can grab all the gusto we can. In other words,  faith boils down to thinking happy thoughts, which, in turn, unleash the power of the universe, or, at least, make you rich and happy.  An old trite song sums it up pretty well:

So let the sunshine in face it with a grin,
smilers never lose and frowners never win

My point is, the aim here is to help people get better–better at living the good life as this world defines it, to become better people as this world defines it.  This is the modern version of the church-as-hospital.

I think a more Gospel-based view is that the Church is a hospice–a place where people go to die.

If you stop and think about it for a minute, this makes sense. The people who are most serious about church should be serious about death, too. They’re there in church every week because they know they’re going to die, and they wonder, “Then what?”  It’s that “then what?” question that keeps them in place every Sunday. As that wonderful man, Samuel Johnson, put it, “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

But the Church is like a hospice for another, better reason. There is only one reason why you are admitted to hospice care: you’re going to die, and nothing can be done about it. If you will, the price of admission is death. So it is with the rite of admission into the Body of Christ. In baptism, we die to self. We recognize that our sin-sickness is terminal. We arrive at the baptismal font as though at death’s door, which is exactly what baptism is supposed to be.

This isn’t all gloom and doom, of course, for the One with whom we die in baptism is the One who was raised from the dead.  As Paul said to the Romans, and to us too, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4). We like the resurrection part, but we tend to want to avoid the death part of what Paul describes here. But, we need to take seriously that the door to resurrection is death, and the way to Easter is Good Friday.

But wait, as any good infomercial advises, there’s more. The whole point of being in a hospice is to die. You’re not there because you’re going to get better; your life is over, and you’re waiting for the end. Isn’t that the whole Christian life in a nutshell? Isn’t this life lived between the “now” and the “not yet”? The whole point of being part of a church is to die a bit more every Sunday. “I am crucified with Christ,” Paul tells us (Galatians 2:20). If we “have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:5).  For Christ’s sake, Paul says,  “I suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him . . that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death that by any means possible I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:8b, 10).  And why do we die every Sunday? Because the more we die, the more Christ lives in us. The more we die, the more we experience the life on the other side of death, the resurrection life of Jesus. Good Friday is where we’re given the eyes to see the glory of Easter, which, for now, is our window to God’s eternity.

The Church as hospice makes good, Gospel sense. And, there are very practical implications in this metaphor as well. When people tell the pastor that they are leaving the church because their “needs” aren’t being met, all the pastor has to do is remind them of what the Church is, and point out that their “needs” are indeed being met: They’re being given an opportunity to die to their “needs” in order to experience more of the resurrection life of Christ. So, the church really is meeting their needs; they just don’t know it.

Also, commitment and membership are understood differently in a church which sees itself as a hospice.  Most churches survive because a small minority of hyperactive members keep the church’s ministries and committees going. The rest of the membership has too much to live for to get involved. You get a clear glimpse of this when you watch church families heading off to their kids’ sporting events  Sunday mornings rather than to church. If there’s a conflict between sports and Church, guess which one wins in most cases? But, when the Church is a hospice, things are different.  In Samuel Johnson’s words,

He that considers how soon he must close his life will find nothing of so much importance as to close it well; and will, therefore, look with indifference upon whatever is useless to that purpose.

In a hospice, the dying make time and have time to think about the Big God Questions. Youth sports and weekend ski vacations seem trivial and irrelevant in comparison. When you’re dying, you see things differently, and more deeply. In a church of dying people, they “look with indifference” at  trivia. They don’t go wandering off into Vanity Fair. They tend to stay put, which is another way of talking about “abiding” in Christ (See John 15:1-11).

And, then there’s the matter of spirituality. People who have many things to live for and be distracted by find that all these things have nibbled away at their life, and what’s left is a puzzle with pieces missing. What happened to my life? Where did it go? What did it mean? People in hospice care live moment by moment, for that’s all they have.  There are few distractions for the dying. But, as any spiritual guide will tell you, the only place where you can really encounter God and where you can deeply, personally know Him, is in the present moment–right here, right now.

The dying have a capacity to appreciate the present moment, and value it. Since they don’t know how many more moments they may have, they enjoy and enter into each one as best they can.  Each moment is a gift, each one a grace from God. Often, hospice patients, living fully in the present moment, unsure of how many more moments they have, are more alive than the rest of us, who live like we’re immortal. Christians who are the most “dead” are like this. When you meet them, you vicariously enter into a Presence that is both beyond them and greater than them, a Living Presence that is not somewhere in the unknown future nor a memory of past glories but which meets you now.

Finally, dying people treat other people differently than the so-called living people do.  When you spend time with the dying, it’s as though no one else on the planet exists except you. The dying have an astounding capacity to listen and pay attention to their guests. Although they may not be able to offer conventional hospitality, they offer a deeper hospitality, a hospitality of the heart. They’re not interested in talking about world issues or politics or religious theories. They’re interested in you; their focus is you. Often, meeting them is to come away with a deeper understanding of what Jesus meant by the “meek,” when he said,  “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).  It is the meek who are uninterested in power, influence and control over others. It is the meek who make room for others in their hearts, who do not see other people as obstacles to be overcome, as ciphers to be manipulated, or as bores to be ignored.

This hospice metaphor gives new meaning to the phrase “dying church.” It may well be that there are as many dying churches as there are because they never were dead enough to begin with. It may be that many “exciting” and growing churches look alive, but their life may well be only the twitches and convulsions of a sickness unto death. In pop culture, when someone or something is supposed to be dead but isn’t, you have what’s called “The Undead.”  Zombies, in other words. To refuse to take dying with Christ seriously is to end up Undead. And, instead of being neighbors and salt and light to the world, we end up like the walking dead, seeking converts among people who are doing their best to avoid us.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Swedish Book Review

"Hype is an overrated and overused tool, but the power of compelling narrative endures, hence the sprouting of new Swedish literary agencies with names like Partners in Stories and Storytellers. They have an eye to lucrative film rights, of course, but few would deny the seductiveness of a good plot."

The Swedish Book Review is out with several takes on books you may want to watch for. (via The Literary Saloon, the place to go for translated fiction.)

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
I love you this much….

“When we think of Christ dying on the cross we are shown the lengths to which God’s love goes in order to win us back to himself. We would almost think that God loved us more than he loves his Son! We cannot measure such love by any other standard. He is saying to us: I love you this much.

The cross is the heart of the gospel. It makes the gospel good news: Christ died for us. He has stood in our place before God’s judgment seat. He has borne our sins. God has done something on the cross which we could never do for ourselves. But God does something to us as well as for us through the cross. He persuades us that he loves us.”

~Sinclair Ferguson

From Transforming Sermons
Liked by God

I've always believed it's possible to love someone and not particularly like them. As a teenager, for example, I always loved my parents, but sometimes I didn't really like them. Looking back at my behavior in those days, I'm confident those sentiments were at times mutual.

As Christians, we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves. And we're especially called to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. But in both cases we aren't commanded to like them. In practice, that means we desire the best for those we love and sometimes work actively, at our own expense, to help bring about that good for them. And certainly it means being kind, whether we like someone or not. But it doesn't mean we have to enjoy their company or desire to hang out with them. In short, loving is a choice, but liking is a preference. The former has a strong, intrinsically moral element, while the latter is primarily a matter of taste.

All of which is merely an intro to what this post is really about: I want God to like me.

I know God loves me. That truth, in fact, may be the central motivating power of my soul's existence. Knowing that I am loved by God has been transforming me inside-out into his image for decades. Many of God's people have shown me love through the years as well, and I'm pretty sure not all of them liked me very much.

But I want not only to be loved, but to be liked, too--by other people, but especially by God.

You may say that liking or disliking are meaningless concepts with God, but I don't think so. When we read in the Word that David was a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22), I think what Paul is saying is that God really liked David. God loves everyone, but it seems he really liked David. In the same way, Jesus had lots of disciples and 12 apostles, but it seems Peter, James and John were the disciples he really liked. And from John's Gospel it appears Jesus really liked the "beloved disciple."

So I want God to like me. Granted, phrasing my desire in those terms may sound self-serving or naive. How about, "I want to be pleasing to God"? Call it what you will, but I want to be liked by God.

And when I take a look at who I really am and ask, "Does God like me?" I have to answer, "Probably not." That's because God sees not only my words and outward performance, but the real desires and darkness of my heart. And I know that, deep down, I'm not the man I like to think I am. I don't think I'm particularly unsual in this regard--we all have our shadows--but I still don't like what I sometimes see, and I'm pretty sure God doesn't, either.

So what to do? Well, I'm going to keep working to put off sin, put on Jesus Christ, and pray that I keep becoming a man whom God not only loves, but likes, too. And in the mean time, I'm holding on to these words I rediscovered this month from a song I wrote more than twenty years ago:

It seems I'm always running;
     It seems I run too fast.
Am I running the race with honor
     or letting it just slip past?
I've wounded and I've wasted,
     and my failures are a shame.
But I serve a risen Savior
     who loves me just the same.
Amen, amen, amen, and amen.

Copyright 1993, 2014, A. Milton Stanley

From such small hands
I'm Not That Girl

You know the one. The woman who always looks put together, who wouldn’t leave the house without makeup and earrings. I have been that girl. But I’m not right now, though at times I would like to be. Maybe it’s...

From internetmonk.com
Holy Week Thoughts: Another Look – Jesus and the Temple

Christ Cleansing the Temple, Mei

Christ Cleansing the Temple, Mei

Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves. He said to them, ‘It is written,

“My house shall be called a house of prayer”;
but you are making it a den of robbers.’

The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’, they became angry and said to him, ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Yes; have you never read,

“Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise for yourself”?’

- Matthew 21:12-16, NRSV

* * *

Much that happened during Passion Week took place in and around the Temple. In fact, according to N.T. Wright, the events of that week might be summarized by the question, “The Temple or Jesus?”

In the following video clip, Wright explains how Jesus’ ministry was designed to counteract “Temple” theology and how he pointed to himself as the One who would supersede the “signpost” of the Temple and bring to pass the reality to which it pointed.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Pilgrim's Hymn by Stephen Paulus

Pilgrim's Hymn by Stephen Paulus

Even before we call on Your name
To ask You, O God,
When we seek for the words to glorify You,
You hear our prayer;
Unceasing love, O unceasing love,
Surpassing all we know.

Glory to the father,
and to the Son,
And to the Holy Spirit.

Even with darkness sealing us in,
We breathe Your name,
And through all the days that follow so fast,
We trust in You;
Endless Your grace, O endless Your grace,
Beyond all mortal dream.

Both now and forever,
And unto ages and ages,

From internetmonk.com
Holy Week with Zechariah (2): Woe to Toxic Leadership

Zacharias, Michelangelo

Zacharias, Michelangelo

Zechariah 9-14 was a key passage for the evangelists who told the story of Passion Week in the Gospels. In volume two of his “Christian Origins” series, Jesus and the Victory of God, N.T. Wright gives an overview of the subjects addressed in this text:

The writer promises the long-awaited arrival of the true king (9:9-10), the renewed covenant and the real return from exile (9:11-12), the violent defeat of Israel’s enemies and the rescue of the true people of YHWH (9:13-17). At the moment, however, Israel are like sheep without a shepherd (10:2); they have shepherds but they are not doing their job, and will be punished (10:3) as part of the divine plan for the return from exile (10:6-12). The prophet is himself instructed to act as a shepherd, but in doing so to symbolize the worthless shepherds who are currently ruling Israel (11:4-17). There will be a great battle between Israel and the nations, in which ‘the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of YHWH, at the head’ of the inhabitants of Jerusalem (12:1-9, quotation from verse 8). There will be great mourning for ‘one whom they have pierced’ (12:10; a ‘fountain…for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity’ (13:1); a judgment upon the prophets of Israel (13:2-6); and judgment, too, on the shepherd of Israel, who will be struck down, and the sheep scattered (13:7). In another reminiscence of Ezekiel, this will have the effect of destroying two-thirds of the people, while the remaining one-third will be purified, to be in truth the people of YHWH (13:8-9). The book concludes with the great drama in which all the nations will be gathered together to fight against Jerusalem; YHWH will win a great victory, becoming king indeed, judging the nations and sanctifying Jerusalem (14:1-21).

As you can see, this is a remarkable, complex section of prophecy. Analyzing it all is beyond the scope of our purpose here. We are simply observing that these rich texts inform the narrative of that fateful week in Jerusalem as told by the Gospel-writers. Many of these themes became visible at the climactic moment of Jesus’ life and ministry.

I encourage us all to read through Zechariah 9-14 during this Passion Week. May its powerful images awaken our sacred imaginations and make what happened to Jesus during that week more vivid to our minds and hearts, awakening faith and gratitude.

From N.T. Wright’s description, you can see that the metaphor of “shepherd” is important in Zechariah. Here are three key passages:

Shepherd Tending His Flock, Millet

Shepherd Tending His Flock, Millet

Zechariah 10:2-3
Therefore the people wander like sheep;
they suffer for lack of a shepherd.
My anger is hot against the shepherds,
and I will punish the leaders;
for the Lord of hosts cares for his flock…

Zechariah 11:17
Oh, my worthless shepherd,
who deserts the flock!
May the sword strike his arm
and his right eye!
Let his arm be completely withered,
his right eye utterly blinded!

Zechariah 13:7
“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,
against the man who is my associate,”
says the Lord of hosts.
Strike the shepherd, that the sheep may be scattered…

Zechariah was called to proclaim God’s displeasure with the shepherds, the leaders of Judah after the exile. Zechariah 11:4-17 describes how the prophet went about doing that. He himself was commissioned to act the part of a shepherd over the besieged people, and his words and actions came to symbolize the toxic leadership of the day. [One interesting detail involves the shepherd's wages in 11:12-13, which were "thirty shekels of silver," which Zechariah took and threw into the temple treasury (cf. Matthew 27:3-5).] God describes the miserable state of the leadership in these terms: they do not “care for the perishing, or seek the wandering, or heal the maimed, or nourish the healthy but [they] devour the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs” (Zech. 11:16).

Passion Week was when Jesus similarly confronted the leaders of Israel in his day. Starting with the cleansing of the temple (Matt. 21:12-17) and the cursing of the fig tree (Matt. 21:18-22), Jesus used symbolic actions and strong words to express divine judgment on the “shepherds” in Jerusalem. Groups of them immediately began questioning Jesus’ authority to say such things (Matt. 21:23-27), and for the rest of the week until he cloistered with his disciples in the upper room, Jesus and the leaders went at it in the streets. They confronted him, debated him, and bombarded him with questions meant to test him. In return, he spoke to them in parables and answered them in ways that confounded and infuriated them. It was deadly serious.

In Matthew’s Gospel, this escalating conflict reaches a crescendo in Matthew 23, when Jesus utters seven “woes” upon Israel’s leaders (the antithesis of the seven beatitudes with which he began his ministry – Matt. 5:3-12). In the final “woe,” he makes specific mention of Zechariah the prophet:

You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.

- Matthew 23:33-36, NRSV

One theme of Holy Week is God’s rejection of toxic religion, practiced by unscrupulous leaders. Jesus went into enemy territory in Jerusalem that week. The Lamb of God entered a den of wolves dressed up like shepherds. And he called them on it. Over and over and over again. Nearly every word from his mouth that week was a direct or indirect critique of their leadership, the burdens they were placing upon God’s people, and the looming destruction that would come upon them. He pronounced judgment upon these leaders, as Zechariah had done earlier, for refusing to “care for the perishing, or seek the wandering, or heal the maimed, or nourish the healthy but [they] devour the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs.” Jesus made them face the truth: they were devouring the very flock they were called to care for.

I don’t think I need to make specific application here to our own day, do I? Taking up a religious vocation as a way of enriching oneself and gaining a place of power and status has always been a temptation. The body count of victims is as impressive as it is repugnant. The wolves you will have with you always, and you can still hear them howling today. Some of us here at Internet Monk have fled to the wilderness because we’ve seen the hungry look in a shepherd’s eye and had the uncomfortable feeling we were on the menu. One of the reasons this site exists is to speak the truth about toxic religion and its purveyors.

But that is not the end of the story. Zechariah ultimately speaks of a Shepherd who gets struck down and his sheep scatter (Zech. 13:7). The context indicates that this is the source from which a fountain will flow to cleanse from sin and impurity (13:1). Jesus applies these words to himself in Matthew 26:31, just before going out to Gethsemane to fulfill his calling as a different kind of shepherd.

The good shepherd knows his own by name and cares for them.

The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

On this holiest of weeks, Lord, save us from those who would devour us.

From The Living Room
Mary of Magdala: Palm Sunday

Tonight in Bethany my ears still ring
With loud shouts and the rustle of the palms;
Old men, young women, little kids would sing
Their loud hosannas like a victory psalm
To welcome in their conquering King and Lord,
The Victor over pagan rule–and then
You turned on them–You flipped the merchant’s boards
And moneychangers’ tables, and then when
The dust had settled, You cried out: “This place
Should be for prayer, you robbers!” Oh my Lord,
You set Yourself outside the priests’ good grace
Far more than prudence, wisdom would afford.
My Master, I gave up my life to go
With You–but will it bring us grief and woe?

From internetmonk.com
Holy Week Thoughts: A Cross-less Faith

Nailing of Christ to the Cross, Fra Angelico

Nailing of Christ to the Cross, Fra Angelico

…let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him.

- Matthew 27:42

* * *

At Mockingbird, they have this helpful entry on the subject of “Theology of Glory” in their site glossary:

Theologies of glory are approaches to Christianity and to life that try in various ways to minimize difficult and painful things, or else to defeat and move past them, rather than looking them square in the face and accepting them. In particular, they acknowledge the cross, but view it primarily as a means to an end – an unpleasant but necessary step on the way to good things in the future, especially salvation, the transformation of human potential by God and the triumph of the Kingdom of God in the world. As Luther puts it, the theologian of glory ‘does not know God hidden in suffering. Therefore he prefers works to suffering, glory to the cross, strength to weakness, wisdom to folly, and, in general, good to evil’ (The Heidelberg Disputation, Proof to Thesis XXI). This is the natural default setting for human beings. A theology of the cross, by contrast, sees the cross as revealing the fundamental nature of God’s involvement in the world this side of heaven.

That last sentence is striking. “The fundamental nature of God’s involvement in the world this side of heaven” is the way of the cross.

People don’t like that. I don’t like that.

I want a God I can see, not a God who is hidden.

I want a God who will convince me beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is living and active and on my side.

I want spectacular answers to prayer.

I want to witness remarkable events that can only be explained by God’s intervention.

I want tangible evidence that faith pays off, not only in the end but here and now.

I want a God who solves my problems, eases my pain, answers my questions, and makes me successful.

I want God to enable me to do good works so I can feel good about myself and my contribution to the world.

I want to be made strong, confident, optimistic, fit for the long haul.

I want insight into how life works so that I can follow the right steps and help others do the same.

I want a God who makes a way in the wilderness, not one who leads and leaves me there.

I want fulfillment in my work, health and happiness in my family, grace and cooperation among my neighbors, peace, security, and ample provision in my world.

I want to hear God speak. I detest silence.

I want God to show up when I need God. On time. Bringing what I need.

I don’t want a God who bleeds, who thirsts, who worries about his mother, who lets clueless, cruel people drive nails through his hands and feet, whose lifeless body is carried away by weeping women and timid men.

I don’t want a God who forgives people who do things like this. I want them to pay dearly.

I’m with the crowd here: “Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him.”

Show us, God. Prove yourself. Let us see, let us hear, let us experience your power and glory.

And the one on the cross says not a word.

From The Boar's Head Tavern

Huh. The quick edit ate the link. Also, why has the Publish button been removed? This makes the QE box completely useless.

From The Boar's Head Tavern

FP: The link doesn’t work.

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
Palm Sunday (or Ash Wednesday)

Palm Sunday…

By tradition, churches celebrate this day by having the children parade up the aisles of the church carrying palm branches, symbolizing the palms that the people laid before the donkey that Jesus rode into Jerusalem, on that day that began His last week on earth.

Also, by tradition, churches dry those branches, and burn them to ashes and save them all year, so that on “Ash Wednesday” the pastor/priest/man of the cloth can use them to trace the sign of the cross on the foreheads or hands of worshippers.

I’ve never done that – worn the sign of the cross, in ashes, on my forehead for the world to see. It’s not that I’m shy about wearing a cross, either around my neck, or on my shoulder as a tattoo.

I don’t know why.

The churches I’ve attended have been far out of the way from where I’ve worked, so it would have seemed easy to write off getting there before my early work time. Too inconvenient.

For a time, resisting “tradition” or the church calendar in such things felt too “traditional” or even “Catholic” so shying away for that reason could have been justified.

But at the end, I could have stopped at a church nearby work. I could have embraced history.

I think that the idea of the question…all…day…long…”why did you do that?” and “what is that for?” or “what does that mean?” felt too risky.

I love the Church calendar now. God created seasons, and changes, and the yearly rhythm. The church calendar embraces that rhythm and reminds us of the changing seasons. Each Holy Day reminds us of our redemptive history.

Anyway…this should have been written on Ash Wednesday…and this post should have been about Palm Sunday.

But that’s not what went through my brain. Regret at not having the courage to wear ashes on the first day of Lent…

From internetmonk.com
Holy Week with Zechariah (1): Mismatched Expectations

Entry into Jerusalem, d'Ambrogio

Entry into Jerusalem, d’Ambrogio

A book which, as we have already seen, was arguably of great influence on Jesus, and which contained dark hints about the necessary suffering of the people of YHWH, is of course Zechariah, particularly its second part (chapters 9-14).

…The underlying theme of the passage, as of so much Jewish literature of the period, is the establishment of YHWH’s kingship, the rescue of Israel from oppression and exile, and the judgment both of the nations and of wicked leaders within Israel herself….

…There should be no doubt that Jesus knew this whole passage, and that he saw it as centrally constitutive of his own vocation, at the level not just of ideas but of agendas.

- N.T. Wright
Jesus and the Victory of God

* * *

Zechariah, whose oracles are included as a portion of the Book of the Twelve Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, was apparently on Jesus’ mind during Holy Week (especially the part of his book we know as chapters 9-14). Reason enough that these texts might be a source for our own contemplation during these days leading up to the Passion.

Probably the most familiar passage from this prophetic book is the one that mirrors the events on what we call Palm Sunday. This was the day of Jesus’ “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem.

The Entry into Jerusalem, Limbourg Bros.

The Entry into Jerusalem, Limbourg Bros.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
  Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
  triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
  on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
  and the warhorse from Jerusalem;
and the battle-bow shall be cut off,
  and he shall command peace to the nations;
his dominion shall be from sea to sea,
  and from the River to the ends of the earth.

- Zechariah 9:9-10, NRSV

The Palm Sunday story is one of those rare events that is recorded in all four Gospels: in (1) Matt. 21:1-9, (2) Mark 11:1-10, (3) Luke 19:28-40, and (4) John 12:12-19. All four Gospels link the narrative with Psalm 118 (esp. vv. 25-26), another passage that plays a key role in the Gospel accounts of Passion week. It is Matthew and John that specifically mention Zechariah 9 (Matt 21:5/John 12:15), but it is obvious that each evangelist is drawing clear allusions to the prophet’s words in that chapter.

We can make the following simple observations from this text:

1. This was to be a day of great rejoicing in Israel and Jerusalem.

2. This day would mark the coming of their victorious king.

3. Their king would present himself to them in humility — riding on a donkey.

4. His victory would mean the end of warfare, his reign would mean peace.

5. His rule would be universal.

N.T. Wright calls Jesus’ enactment of this prophecy on Palm Sunday, “a mismatch between our expectations and God’s answer.”

Sure, we all love a parade, and the crowd on that day by all accounts was celebrating and feeling good about their prospects as they cheered on Jesus. Furthermore, they explicitly recognized him in “son of David” language — they identified Jesus with the Messianic King. He was the One who had “come in the name of the Lord,” and they blessed him and cried out to him, “Hosanna!” (Lord, save us!). They cast down their cloaks before him, as the people had done before Jehu, king of Israel (2Kings 9:13). They cut down palm branches and spread them before his way (the ancient way of giving the “red carpet” treatment). This was reminiscent of the welcome Simon of the Maccabees had received 200 years before (1Maccabees 13:51). (Simon also cleansed the temple like Jesus, but that’s a story for another day.)

Clearly, the people saw Jesus in terms of victory over their enemies and restoration of the Davidic dynasty. In short, they were hoping Jesus would bring an end to the “exile” experience that they had been dealing with for hundreds of years. On Palm Sunday, they thought the time had arrived when they were going to win.

This is what they were expecting. God, in Jesus, had something else in mind.

  • They wanted deliverance, but there were greater enemies than Rome ruling over them. This king had come to set them free from evil powers, not enemy peoples.
  • They wanted a king to bring them victory, but the one who came would win only by losing.
  • They wanted their pride and renown as a nation restored, but their king would call them to take up a cross and follow him.
  • They wanted a special place among the nations, in a promised land, ruling over the peoples of the earth. However, their king offered welcome, on an equal basis, to people from all nations in order that he might call them his sons and daughters as well.
  • They wanted change, security, power and control. He offered them a servant’s position, and life that can only be gained by dying.

What am I expecting during this Holy Week?

What words and symbolic actions will King Jesus use to speak to me of his ways, which are infinitely higher than mine?

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
Where the Son Shines Most


As I sat at a picnic table, one of my favorite places to stretch after a walk, and I heard a rustling in the trees behind me. Always aware that wild pigs hang out in this park, I always check those rustling sounds. I’ve never seen a pig, but lots of deer, and Phil and I saw a bobcat once. This time it was a wild turkey.

Anyway, I noticed the grass. The deer and other grass eaters that live here like the meadow areas, and this one has trees around for shelter from human (and predator) eyes.

See in the photo, the clear line of shade and sun…and how the grass stays short and a little sparse in the shade, but grows with wild abandon in the light.

The grass grows best where the sun shines most.

I had read in “Everyday Prayers” how we should start each day with the gospel, letting the Holy Spirit minister grace to us each day. Then came to mind “justification.” – the moment we are declared righteous by the blood of Christ, to become the righteousness of God. The grass is planted.

Tullian Tchividian says (roughly) that our sanctification is being pointed back to our justification. Partly, but I think that’s only part of the story. We use our justification as motivation for our sanctification.

I believe in a monergistic justification, but Scripture does speak of working out (not for) our salvation. It speaks of the works that are prepared for us in advance, it speaks of studying, of becoming more like Christ.

This is sanctification.

We will fail; we will sin. We should (and must) remain secure in the knowledge of our justification. This, the gospel, should stay in our minds each and every day.

We should have more than living in the past set in our sights. We are rooted in the past, our justification. Our justification – being found in Christ – causes our sanctification.

I believe in a synergistic sanctification. Growing in Christ takes our work – powered by the Holy Spirit, granted by God, grown by Christ.

Christians grow best where the SON shines most.

Only when we continually bask in the love of the Saviour, and yes, pointing ourselves back to our justification, only when we bring ourselves out of the shadows of our sin, only when we walk in His light, and His Word, do we have the basis for the works that He has prepared for us.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7 ESV)

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Poetry Reading with Aaron Belz

April is poetry month, as I said before, and I learned late that the poet Aaron Belz was in my home town April 4. Here's a video of his poetry reading in St. Elmo. Many of these poems are quite funny and contemporary. He even reads a poem he wrote the day before, which he slightly apologizes for. Belz got his undergrad at Covenant College, which is the Presbyterian (PCA) liberal arts college next to Chattanooga. He went on to get his Ph.D. at Saint Louis University and published several poems in several places. He pulls from common literary knowledge and daily life. His most recent book is Glitter Bomb: Poems.

Like I said, he's funny. One of the poems read in the video goes:

"There is no I in team,
but there's one in bitterness,
one in failure."

He also offers a few remarkable palindromes at 13:40. Enjoy.

From internetmonk.com
Saturday Ramblings, April 12, 2014

Happy Saturday, imonkers.  It finally feels a little like spring in the Midwest.  And, good news for Chaplain Mike, as of Friday afternoon the Cubbies are only four games out of first place!

Too soon?

Too soon?

Did you know there is a new documentary promoting geocentrism? Star Trek’s Captain Kathryn Janeway (aka Kate Mulgrew) narrates it, and it features snippets (pulled totally out of context) from previously published interviews with leading physicists.  The director is a holocaust denier and anti-Semite who believes there’s a NASA conspiracy to erase all evidence pointing to a geocentric universe. But we should still trust him, because got his Ph.D. in religious studies from “a private distance-learning institution located in Republic of Vanuatu”.  Sounds legit.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said this week that illegal immigration is not a felony, but “an act of love”.Bush is reportedly considering a run for the White House, and will start meeting with evangelical leaders.  First up: Southern Baptist Russell Moore.  Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee has been doing a lot of “value” speaking in Iowa, home of the first caucus, where , “Guys like to go fishing with other men. They like to go hunting with other men. Women like to go to the restroom with other women.” Ok, then.

1-195x293Utility workers in Israel discovered a 3,300 year old coffin in the Jezreel valley, not too far from Nazareth.  Thecoffin appears to be Canaanite, but it has strong Egyptian influences, including a small golden scarab seal bearing the throne name of King Seti I of Egypt.  And here in Indiana excavators once found an arrowhead…

African Christians will be killed if the Church of England accepts gay marriage: that was the message of the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. He said 330 Christians in Nigeria had been massacred by neighbors who had justified the atrocity by saying: “If we leave a Christian community here we will all be made to become homosexual and so we will kill all the Christians.” Welby added, “I have stood by gravesides in Africa of a group of Christians who had been attacked because of something that had happened in America. We have to listen to that. We have to be aware of the fact.” He also argued that if the Church of England celebrated gay marriages, “the impact of that on Christians far from here, in South Sudan, Pakistan, Nigeria and other places would be absolutely catastrophic. Everything we say here goes round the world.”  This leaves us with a very good question: To what degree should American or British denominations take into account the effect on global Christians when implanting change in policy?

Just to show I'm not making this up

Just to show I’m not making this up

Sometimes they just write themselves: “Bring the fun and excitement of America’s favorite family, the Robertsons from the hit A&E television show Duck Dynasty, into your church and teach your kids the gospel at the same time! Willie’s Redneck Rodeo is a simple and easy-to-use VBS program! Your vbs volunteers will enjoy acting out the antics of Willie, Jase, Jep, Phil, Godwin, Martin, Si and others as they teach kids five of the Bible’s most-beloved parables.”

Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis has put up a couple billboards in NYC about the “real Noah”.  The group’s Facebook page noted, “The new boards are designed not only to counter the anti-biblical Noah film that Paramount Studios released nine days ago but also to draw attention to the Creation Museum’s excellent displays about the reality of Noah’s Flood and Noah’s Ark…”.

The working title for the series is “The Young Pope,” and the director hopes to create “fictional mysteries and scandals within the walls of the Vatican.” This from a story about a new TV series chronicling the travails of a young, American Pope named Lenny Belardo in a scandal plagued Vatican.

Headline of the week: ‘Noah’ screening cancelled after theater floods’Wonder what will happen when they show Left Behind?

Shafqat Emmanuel and his wife Shagufta Kausar had their phone stolen.  That isn’t the bad news.  The bad news is that 1) they live in Pakistan and 2) they are Christians, and 3) someone used their phone to text a “blasphemous” text message.  They were tried in court, where their lawyer pointed out that the couple was, in fact, illiterate, and besides, the text message was in English.  They were convicted anyway.  And sentenced to death. 

BRANDEIS-master495Brandeis University has changed its mind.  Tuesday it said it will not award an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a campaigner for women’s rights and a fierce critic of Islam, who has called the religion “a destructive, nihilistic cult of death.” You will have to read her backstory to get why she feels so passionate about this. 

Chick-fil-A recently overtook Kentucky Fried Chicken as the largest seller of fast food chicken in America, and this despite having only about a third as many stores as KFC.  Now Chick-fil-A is attempting to expand beyond its southern roots, and its CEO has decided to focus on making money instead of making political statements.

th (2)This week’s “Unsealed: Alien Files” on the Science Channel (!!!) says “new evidence may prove the Vatican is hiding actual aliens from the public.” After quoting a Vatican official who mentions the possibility of extra-terrestrial life, we get the following voiceover: “Vatican officials have publicly acknowledged the likelihood of alien life. This dramatic reversal of Vatican policy demands an explanation. What does the Church know, or what have they found that causes them to reverse a 2000-year-old teaching?”  The Vatican has been arguing against ET for 2,000 years?  Who knew? But there’s more: “The Vatican secret archives is approximately 52 miles of shelving we’re told, and over 32,000 archives. But the secrets hidden within the Vatican can’t stay buried forever. Now new evidence may prove the Vatican is hiding actual aliens from the public.” The program also claims that skulls with elongated heads were found in 1998 under the Vatican Library. “Could these skulls be the remnants of aliens who once lived in the Vatican?”  Wait…elongated heads?



PETA had hoped to turn serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer’s childhood home into a vegan restaurant. They even had a cute name: Eat for Life: Home Cooking. Alas, party-pooping local authorities in Bath Township, Ohio, have nixed the plan.

My favorite listicle of the week: .  And, yay, it is all on one page!

Before I forget, here is your dog pic:

New Cubs third baseman

New Cubs third baseman

You remember the controversy a couple years ago about a business card sized of papyrus that has Jesus saying “my wife?  Well, it was tested for age, and 3 universities dated it to 400-859 A.D., while another dated it several centuries before Christ.  Seems like a pretty wide range, but at least its promoters can claim it is not a modern forgery.  However, Leo Depuydt, an Egyptologist at Brown University, is not convinced: “The papyrus fragment seems ripe for a Monty Python sketch,” Depuydt writes, noting that the Coptic language used in the papyrus contains “a couple of fatal grammatical blunders” that render it “patently fake.”

thED6O0C1KPassover starts Monday, and soon our Jewish friends will be experiencing Matzo fatigue.  Matzo is about the dullest food one can eat.  And it tends to bind up the digestive tract; It’s not called the “bread of affliction” for nothing. A common Passover joke: What do you call someone who derives pleasure from the bread of affliction? A matzochist.  With that in mind, we can only have one video clip to end this week’s rambling:

From Semicolon
Saturday Review of Books: April 12, 2014

““You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed . . . You’re also finding out something as you read, vitally important for making your way in the world. And it’s this: The world doesn’t have to be like this. Things can be different” ~Neil Gaiman


Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read. That’s how my own TBR list has become completely unmanageable and the reason I can’t join any reading challenges. I have my own personal challenge that never ends.

From Semicolon
Poetry Friday: I is for Imagery

The Destruction of Sennacherib
by Lord Byron (George Gordon)

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

Or if you don’t care for Byron’s use of simile and metaphor, try Ogden Nash’s send-up of Byron, Very Like a Whale.

Michelle H. Barnes has the Poetry Friday Round-up today at Today’s Little Ditty.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Friday Fight: She's Mine!

Do you remember the good ol' days when we posted a video of live steel combat every Friday? I'm pretty sure we shared this first one back then. It's two years old from the Høstfest. Lars quickly dispatches Philip Patton, who looks as if he can't fight in this video:

Philip shows he can fight here:

The woman over whom they are fighting (not really) is Kelsey, who has a Høstfest video of her own from this year's festival. Have you browsed her store? She has some great clothing there among other good things.

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
{this} for {that}

It strikes me as I sit at the end of a (nearly) four mile hike that my “diet walk” bears certain similarities to my spiritual walk.

This may ring a familiar tune: “Dear God, if you just grant {this,} then I will…{that.}

If I can {this} then I can {that}

If I do the Rotary Furnace loop in 1:30 or less, than I can sit and enjoy a smoke at the end. (by the way, I did the loop in 1:25, and yes, I’m enjoying a Partagas 1845.)

If mapmywalk says I burned 400 calories, I can eat 2 Cadbury Cream Eggs.

Some days it seems like a reward system, other days it seems like a bargaining system.

Maybe the reward system works: As long as the “treat” doesn’t impinge on my “bad foods” list (gluten, potatoes) maybe the system works. As a bargaining system, I think…not so much.

Does the mindset make a difference?

If I use {that} as a reward because I did so awesome on my workout (tomorrow’s plan is an 8 mile, Quicksilver end-to-end hike) then my goal is still the workout, with the treat at the end.

Turn that around…I want {that} so much, that I’m willing to do the difficult workout in order to get it. The goal is the treat, with the workout as the obstacle. The {that} is controlling my behavior.

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “ All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything” (1 Cor. 6:12 ESV)

I don’t know how to tell the difference. I might need to work on that.

From The Boar's Head Tavern

All you Christian pastors preaching a non-judgmental message of reconciliation and love on the subject of sex and the single Christian can sleep in peace tonight. You’ve gotten through to the young folks.

The important thing is to always remember that if you reject the world’s message of spending your most fertile, healthy years pursuing wealth and pride, you are a bigot, a hater, and demean women. People should NOT get married when their biological drive to reproduce is at its highest. That is oppressive. That is backward. That is what fundies who make their girls wear long hair and jean skirts do. They should spend those years acquiring things and, well, if sex happens, don’t judge. Who has that kind of self-control anyway?

The greatest commandment is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And the second greatest commandment is this: Use protection.

From such small hands
Social Media Diet

I gave up playing Mafia Wars on Facebook for Lent. The practice of “giving up” things for Lent is supposed to be a sacrifice, to remind us of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. It’s supposed to free up our minds...

From The Wilsonian Institute

"Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." (2 Corinthians 10:17 ESV)

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. (Psalm 20:7 ESV)

The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8 ESV)

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 ESV)

49 years ago today the Astrodome opened as the "Eighth Wonder of the World" hosting an exhibition game between the Houston Astros and New York Yankees. Today it is a mostly empty shell, hosting only fading memories. It's dwarfed by the newer, bigger, better and shinier Reliant Stadium. Oh, how the mighty has fallen.

I might not have taken much notice of today's Astrodome anniversary if I hadn't already listened to the Johnny Cash interview I posted earlier. In that interview Cash is asked if he sees himself as an icon, the "John Wayne of rock and roll." Cash thinks the question is ridiculous. He says when he looks in the mirror he sees pimples on his nose, a swollen and hurting jaw, and thinning hair.

As much as the interviewer wants Johnny to revel in the glory days of his youth, Cash keeps responding with humility and self-deprecation. I think Cash understood that new things get old, strong things grow weak, and shiny things dim as time passes on. He used to be one of the biggest and brightest stars, but it was all temporary.

Fleeting, just like the novel Astrodome of the 60s (Indoor baseball?! No way!). Temporary things have a way of disappointing over time because they, by definition, don't last. But that's what we always get caught up in, because this world is temporary.

"For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18b ESV)

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:17 ESV)

We are a culture consumed with the temporary. We don't consider eternity, let alone 40 years from now. But what might change if we did? Less spontaneous tattoos, probably, heh. But hopefully and way more importantly, people living now for a kingdom and a King that will stand forever. May we be a people who boast only in the cross of Christ!

From The Wilsonian Institute
The Man in Black Denies Being 'The Man'

Here's an excerpt from an interview with the late Johnny Cash. It's not excitingly revelatory, really, but it's refreshing to hear how down to earth Cash is. He denies being a hero or icon, denies being brave, and just plain keeps it real. I may be giving him too much credit, but I feel like his humble answers are heavily influenced by his faith and the rough times he endured (many as consequences of his own choices).

WARNING: Cash does drop an "S bomb." So be careful little ears what you hear.

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
with this ring…

Ah…the wedding ring. Many of our traditions concerning this symbol and token began in ancient Egypt.

The ring is a circle – the symbol of eternity. Never ending, always moving. The shape of things far away…the sun and the moon.

But it’s not just the “ring,” the hole in the center where your finger goes carries the symbolism of a gateway. Your finger going through that ring symbolizes an entrance to a new life, changes, opportunities and sorrows, known and unknown – but together.

Even the finger symbolized love. The Egyptians believed that the vein in the third finger on the left hand flowed directly from the heart. The Romans adopted this, calling that vein the “vena amoris” – the vein of love.

The first people who wore wedding rings made them out of hemp or some other kind of fiber…so the love might have been eternal…the ring, not so much.

Later, people used bone, onyx, or other easily carved stone. It was not until coinage became easily “mintable”, that metal rings became more common.

(Note: when silver was popular during the renaissance in Italy, engagement (or betrothal) rings also became popular. The wedding ring was added to the engagement ring; the engagement ring was made of silver and replaced with an identical (gold) ring during the wedding ceremony.)

For a time, in Ireland, people considered it bad luck for a wedding ring to be made from anything other than gold (the poor, prohibited by cost from wearing gold, would have considered themselves prohibited by superstition from wearing anything but gold — stayed ring-less?). The Church of England put a stop to that, teaching that the material didn’t matter, as long as a ring was present.

Contrast that with the Puritans, who believed that any jewelry, including a wedding ring was both vanity and pagan, hardening back to the Egyptian root on the practice, and banned the wearing of wedding rings. This practice stuck: an old friend of mine told that her parents had been brought up in a Pilgrim Holiness church. They were a scandal, since her mom wore a wedding ring.

Millennia later, the wedding ring remains a symbol of love and eternity; so much that the exchange of rings is part of most wedding vows

With this ring, I thee wed…

From The Wilsonian Institute
Like Sands Through The Hourglass...

I have the honor of teaching part of our church membership class and, during yesterday's, something occurred to me. I usually begin my section by introducing myself and telling the class that I joined the church back in 1991 when my family moved to Houston and that it's been really cool to see all the highs and lows and God's constant sustenance and provision here.

As I was "reviewing" that spiel in my head before taking the stage, our pastor was asking some of our LONG term (and one founding) members of our church how long they had been here. (Our church was planted in 1973.) It struck me in light of those 30+ year members, that some of the people in yesterday's class were JUST beginning their potential 20, 30, 40 years of membership!

It was such a cool moment to think that, in 1991, I was a knuckleheaded 7th grader running around with hardly any clues about anything and NO clue that 20 years later I'd be on staff, married and starting a family here. I wasn't thinking that, in my 30s, I'd be worshiping alongside other second and third generation members of our church that were knuckleheads like me in the 90s.

I encouraged yesterday's class that they might be sitting across the table or across the room from lifelong friends that they haven't even met yet but that God was leading to join our church just like them.

It's so cool to think about! God has given us a spiritual family in the Church! Becoming a church member, then, means SO much more than just agreeing with a statement of faith. Praying that our church continues to be a healthy expression of the body of Christ!

From such small hands
She's Getting Married!

My daughter’s going to be a bride — no, not just a bride, a WIFE. Her Mr. Right popped the question and she accepted him with joy. I’m bursting with happiness for them; my heart is so full, the word...

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
“The Liberal Goulag”

an article here

As I read Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals for the umteenth time, and as I read this article, I’m reminded that (Rule #5)

“Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”

“…you do what you can with what you have and clothe it with moral arguments.”

I put “false accusation” in that category.

Read this article quoting Mozilla, and consider Brendan Eich.

Eich co-founded Mozilla. His guidance got it up and running. Last week, he quit in disgrace. His “crime?” Eight years ago, he donated $1,000 to California’s Prop 8 (Constitutional amendment banning homosexual “marriage.” I’m not going to send any readers there, but find an article on the matter and read the comments.

No longer can “same sex marriage” be a matter of opinion – those who hold the view that marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman should be drummed out of the public square.

Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it. We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves.

Really. What standard are they not living up to…the one that the co-founder helped to set in place? If this is the “true to ourselves” that they want to live up to, the world, in one week, became a much scarier place for people of a more conservative faith.

We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.

How did we “expect” them to act? Obviously, liberals expected Eich to be forced out (or not promoted in the first place) much more quickly.

Oh…and “engage” must equal “get rid of all those who don’t toe the gay agenda party line.”

Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.

As long as “standing for both” means “getting rid of everybody who disagrees,” Mozilla is doing great at that.

Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness. We welcome contributions from everyone regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, language, race, sexual orientation, geographical location and religious views. Mozilla supports equality for all.

And some are more equal than others.

We have employees with a wide diversity of views. Our culture of openness extends to encouraging staff and community to share their beliefs and opinions in public. This is meant to distinguish Mozilla from most organizations and hold us to a higher standard. But this time we failed to listen, to engage, and to be guided by our community.

The rank hypocrisy makes me angry.

This week, not quite so diverse,

Not quite so open,

The beliefs and opinions of those who think that marriage should remain defined between a man and a woman…not quite so encouraged to share.

If their “higher standard” is anti-Christian, shutting down of conversation, and shutting out all who disagree, they seem as if they are on the right track.

As I write this, an alert came in telling me that SCOTUS has declined to hear Elane Huguenin’s case in New Mexico. The world can now force Christian photographers to either act against their conscience, or be forced out of the public square.

There can be no disagreement on the “SSM” issue, or you will be ridiculed, fired, sued, forced out, called vile names…

all for the sake of “tolerance.”

Welcome to the New United States of…

From The Boar's Head Tavern

I know it’s too much to ask angered bloggers to pretend to write like real journalists, so I’m curious if any one has read a piece on WorldVision’s loss of 10K sponsorships that includes data from Compassion or other organizations and whether or not their sponsor numbers went up during the same time of the WV news and reversal.

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
On Public Prayer

In a book that I’m reading (I’m not at a computer so I’ll add the link later) the author talks about public prayer.

Says that if you’re in any position of authority, no matter how small, you should brush up on public prayer.

I don’t like praying publicly, but have on occasion prayed in a public setting. It’s hard for me, and it was hard for my dad, so maybe I learned it from him.

I’m not sure how you pray, and pray *to* God, while also praying for the edification of those around you. I mean, I sort of get it, but where’s the overlap – how do you tell when you take your attention off God, and start worrying “more” about the people you’re with?

I don’t think that prayers should be a sermon with your eyes closed. They shouldn’t be used to guilt people into anything.

But…Jesus prayed for the benefit of His listeners. When He raised Lazarus, He prayed,

So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “ Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me

If we use the Lord’s Prayer as a pattern for prayer, shouldn’t we use this as a pattern for public prayer as well?

So yeah…authority or not, we should brush up on our public prayer.

From The Boar's Head Tavern


From The Boar's Head Tavern

Has it really been four years since Michael’s passing?

From The Boar's Head Tavern

What Fearsome said.

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
“Signature in the Cell”– Book Review

Signature in the Cell” was written by Stephen C. Meyer – a Cambridge trained philosopher of science.

Unlike previous arguments for intelligent design, Signature in the Cell presents a radical and comprehensive new case, revealing the evidence not merely of individual features of biological complexity but rather of a fundamental constituent of the universe: information. That evidence has been mounting exponentially in recent years, known to scientists in specialized fields but largely hidden from public view. A Cambridge University-trained theorist and researcher, director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, Dr. Meyer is the first to bring the relevant data together into a powerful demonstration of the intelligence that stands outside nature and directs the path life has taken.

The book is dense – the science part…I caught maybe half. Meyer,a philosopher of science, and writes like a…philosopher of science. If you can partly follow the writing about DNA, its significance, and why it’s important to the debate, the pieces of the book on the debate, stifling, and politics of science will fascinate you.

We live in a world where everybody assumes the “fact” of atheistic evolution – “everybody knows it’s true.” Meyer doesn’t know that and sets out to prove he’s right.

Meyer asks the answerless questions that atheistic evolutionists should be asking themselves. The world tells Christians that we must examine our beliefs against “known” science; “Signature in the Cell” examines atheistic evolution in that same way.

This is not a “Christian” book – Meyer may be a Christian, but religion has no place in this book. Meyer does not name the “Designer;” his purpose is to make a place FOR a designer.

That doesn’t mean the book doesn’t have religious implications: once a person is convinced by logic and science that there must be a designer, the next question is who that designer is. (I’m not saying it was aliens…~inside joke from “Ancient Aliens~)

The book leaves out the question of “literal six-day creationism” – we may ask that question another day, but not this one, not in this book.

Also absent is the question of theistic evolution. Did God create “as is” or did He direct the evolution of His creation? Also…a question for another day.

The purpose of the book is to make a case from DNA for a designer, and that he does.

The book is important because it gives a solid reference point of “Intelligent Design” that doesn’t get sidetracked by arguments against Christianity. The question stands: “Does DNA point to a designer?”

It took me a while to get through this book. One, it’s a big book. Two, I had to read a lot of things twice and let it sink in.

It took work to get through, but it’s worth the trouble. Like most books in this genre, you get out of it what you put into it.

Read this book if you want insight into the “Intelligent Design” debate and how the most basic pieces of the stuff we’re made of points to our Designer.

From The Boar's Head Tavern

I think what gets me is that some Christians really think the reason we don’t get along with the secular left is that we’re not nice enough and don’t “put enough emphasis on justice” or whatever. Like every time the left escalates its bullying over the gay issues, you’ll see a flurry of soul-searching articles from leading Christian voices over how we need to be more loving toward sinners and concerned about how we voice things and all that.

What you need to understand is that there is not a version of the future that ends with them tolerating us. They don’t want you to be open to listening to others’ experience. They don’t want you make sure your calls to repentance come from love rather than anger.

The reason we don’t get along with the secular left is that they hate us and want us to be purged from human society. They want to create an environment where it is impossible for you to even voice opposition to their agenda without being stripped of your livelihood and barred from all polite company.

If you still think there is some way you can frame your Christian beliefs that will appease them, that will satisfy them enough that they no longer see a need to destroy you, you’re not paying attention. While you’re fantasizing about finding the right words that will make Rick Warren and George Takei hug in a tearful embrace of brotherly friendship and mutual understanding, they’re fantasizing about finding a way to get teaching your kids the Catechism of the Catholic Church classified as child abuse.

If you believe nothing is so important as being liked by them, just cut to the chase and renounce your faith now.

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
On the subtle influence of “Sarah Calling”

Or a variation on the theme.

I’ve talked to a few people about the way language and thought patterns creep into the church little by little.

We may not be Pentecostal, but we accept the language of prophecy with not even a blink.

There is a very widespread belief that if God doesn’t talk to YOU, there’s something wrong with you. If you haven’t had a private, clear, and personal word from God, you may not even be a Christian.

Going beyond what Scripture says the Holy Spirit will do for us, we now have the “word” from Pentecostals that private prophesy is a “sure thing” and something we must have for a good walk with Christ.

Bringing me to what I saw on a sign in front of a church I pass every day on the way to work:

“Be quiet enough to hear God whisper.”

Assuming that

1) God cannot make Himself heard if we don’t have the correct amount of quiet (ask Paul about his trip to Damascus)
2) The correct amount of quiet will result in hearing God whisper
3) Hearing God whisper is a necessity.

I think this is just another example of Pentecostal creep.