Monday, September 09, 2013

30B















Half sixty years ago, conceived and born
Fellow traveller - and my better half,
I’ve seen you blessed, and by sorrow worn,
(For of three tens I’ve shared the last).
What is a year? What is thirty more?
God counts, but will he ever cease?
You have found what years are given for:
To at the great unveiling feel the peace
Of years well spent in that great service,
Which we both entered through belief.
All your years were dearly purchased
Each one –though touched with trying grief
Shall open up in resurrection
And in Christ find more than relief.
With you, in the same true direction,
I’ll walk with you; yes, towards that day.
Through landmark years and ordinary
We’ll love together, and together pray.
A covenant between us we’ll carry,
With joy each year, and joy each day.




A Comparison of Abortion to Slavery and Genocide.


Here's an article I published on Wordpress:

THE ABOLITIONIST: The Comparison of Abortion to Slavery

The Abolistionist Header
The comparison of abortion to slavery/genocide is usually dismissed for purely visceral reasons (are those really reasons?), so I thought it would be worthwhile to examine how the comparison is accurate and in which ways it may not be.  Let’s begin with genocide.
Genocide is the systematic murder of a people group, and abortion belongs in this category inasmuch as there is a subgroup of human beings, those still in the womb, who have been dehumanized in order to justify their destruction.  How is abortion unlike other genocides? Well, firstly the preborn aren’t part of a different ethnic group from their attackers, and secondly they have no means of resistance.
Next we come to slavery.  With slavery the “owner” was free to choose whether or not a slave had value and would survive.  Slaves were a commodity, and usually their lives weren’t ended unless the “owner” thought it would be more lucrative for the slave to die.  Likewise, babies en route to birth are treated as items for the auction block.  If unwanted, they are judged by society as having no value and are likely to be killed.  If they are wanted, society decides to treat them as human beings after all and act accordingly.Negro Fetus
Is human worth based on nothing more concrete than a community’s estimation?  Are you only what other people think you are?  Do individual members of society alone determine the value of life? Is perception truly reality?
Thank God this isn’t so!  There is a reality that exists and to which all perceptions must conform or be revealed as delusions. The author of reality is not you, or I, but the God who made us both and all else. You bear his image, the divine impression – however marred – and so does the human being now developing in her/his mother’s uterus.
To play at costs and benefits in deciding whether or not to kill such a being as you, I, or our counterpart in utero is no different than a slave owner deciding whether or not to sacrifice the lives of his human “property.” The mass-murder of the pre-born population accompanied by a campaign to dehumanize the victims and cover up the aftermath is no different than genocide. Allow your conscience to be informed by reason, and then let conscience dictate your actions. And if, like us, you accept the revelation that God made human beings in his image; welcome to Abolitionism.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

"Manipulation"

What IS manipulation?  Or, at least, what do people mean when they say it?  It's usually used in a negative sense,  to discount a person or their behavior.  I am motivated to write this after a local pastor said that my friend and I showing images of children killed by abortion came off as "manipulative and unloving".

First off, we ought to acknowledge that it is much easier to accuse someone of manipulation than to clear oneself from the charge of being manipulative.  But why is it so hard to prove innocence here?
I think it's because the word like others (i.e., "hate", "extremism", "sensationalism" "uneducated") is used far more often than it's understood.
So, let's try to understand it.

Firstly, it doesn't (or shouldn't) mean simply "deception", or similar words.  If that's all we mean, then we should just say deception and stick with words we know the meanings of.

I think what people mean most often when they say "manipulation" is close to the neutral definition: "to handle or control".  We don't like the idea of being "handled" or "controlled", of course, but this definition is problematic.

Why?

Well, because almost every effort to persuade, including every argument, story, and every educational talk is meant to bring about or control a state of affairs in the listener's mind and behavior; i.e., to "manipulate" a situation for good or ill.  We seek to get people to see things a certain way with argument, to bring them to the state of being entertained, intrigued, or enlightened by a story, to thinking along a common line by "education".

If someone is arguing or telling a story for the sake of arguing or telling a story, we'd barely bother to listen; (they may as well be speaking to a wall if the listener's response to their words doesn't matter.)  I honestly don't think this happens very often.  Usually when people speak, it's to elicit a response from their hearer, and the speaker usually has a specific desired response in mind.  If the speaker is successful in bringing about the desired change, they have "manipulated" their hearer (for good or ill).

So, the mere fact that we attempt to move the people on the receiving end of our communication can't be what we mean (or think we mean) when we accuse someone of manipulation.  Here's what I think we mean, or ought to mean, when we cry foul and object to "manipulation":

In a word, we mean behaviorism; or rather two words: "Mere" behaviorism.
When someone uses the predictable laws of psychology to get desired behavior out of you
(and here's the clincher), without regard to whether or not you:

a.) Are being motivated by the truth
b.) Understand what's causing you to behave in the desired way (the methods used to persuade you)
c.) Are helped or hurt (that is, without regard to you as a person).  



"Manipulation" is an umbrella word then, which could entail deception or facts, intimidation or kindness, appeal to emotion or reason.  (I include c.) because parents do "b.)" to their children pretty often; when they offer them rewards for doing beneficial things (e.g. reading, going to the dentist) they do not fully understand the worth of, or punish them for the converse.  The same goes with societies and economies (carrot/stick methods), and I don't think without "c.)" most people wouldn't consider this kind of thing manipulation.)

But allowing what I've written above is true, does that mean that manipulation is always wrong?  If I'm hiding Jews from the Gestapo, and the Gestapo shows up at my door, I'm not terribly concerned with engaging them as authentic human beings.  My aim is to get certain behavior out of them: i.e., leave -without discovering my Jewish friends.  Whatever I say afterward, true or untrue, is by our definition manipulation.
Or, say I'm on a bus and I see a young girl getting aggressively and unwelcomely hit on by a Very Large and Threatening Man. There are few other passengers on the bus.  I could a.) confront the man, get pummeled most likely, and in an unconscious state not be able to help the girl any further. Or b.) attempt to distract him. So I attempt to engage the man in harmless conversation, asking about the time and the weather.  I don't care terribly about him, the time, or the weather, I'm just trying to get some behavior out of him; i.e. stop harassing that girl.

Both of these scenarios involve manipulating a dangerous person or persons, but most people would rather congratulate the manipulator in these cases on his/her "quick thinking", rather than turn the nose up at the method.  Yet even this must be a desperate method, since Paul (in Acts 24) seems a little conscience stricken at his use of manipulation (recounted in Acts 23) to get out of a mock trial where he was beginning to get slapped around.  Perhaps this is because he was doing it merely to save his own hide, or perhaps I've misinterpreted his words as a confession of guilt. Either way, it seems that it's the same sort of thing as violence or outright lying: methods only excusable when we're trying to save innocent parties in our care from evil ones and have no other recourse.  Acts of virtue at its wit's end.

On a tamer note, don't we "manipulate" all the time?
For instance - I'm nice to service staff for two reasons.  One, sympathy and recognition of their humanity, in God's image (so far so good). Two, because I am convinced of the maxim "you get more flies with honey than vinegar" (manipulation). Now is this properly wrong?  It's obviously not ideal, but it's hardly something most people would object to. And we do this constantly in our human interactions.  How many of you act deferentially to your supervisors because you pure-heartedly honor their position of authority?  How often do you act in a certain way to supervisors/co-workers in ways calculated to win acclaim/security without all that much thought to their individual God-given value?

Or, take the military.  A commander isn't terrible concerned that the units under his command understand why they're falling back now or attacking this spot or advancing there.  He isn't even (with exceptions I'm sure) ultimately concerned with the individual soldier's well-being as much as the outcome of the battle/war. In fact, a lot of basic training is specifically to ready men to be "manipulated" by commands; and most soldiers know this to be the case, even as it's happening - it is (if it were possible) consensual manipulation.

But what's my point in all this?  What am I trying to get you to do or think?

Precisely this:  Be careful, please, when you use the words "manipulation" or "manipulative"; that you're using them appropriately and fairly. Don't just use it to point out that someone wants a specific response from you, (because everyone does, and that's nothing remarkable).  They might even want a good, right and true response from you, and your objecting to that response doesn't justify calling it "manipulation".  Rather explain why you disagree with the rightness of that response.

If someone IS using predictable laws of psychology to get desired behavior out of you without regard to whether or not you:
a.) Are being motivated by the truth
b.) Understand what's causing you to behave in the desired way (the methods used to persuade you)
c.) Are helped or hurt (that is, without regard to you as a person).

Then, by all means object to it as manipulation, and even do them a favor and explain where they crossed the line.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The first breath of Galatea
as a coal first taking flame,
to see through eyes that see an author
to feel a presence through the frame,
Patient are the patients,
being born from tin to flesh;
who would have thought by crucifixion
we could become immune to death?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Prayer.

Indwelling fire from a higher plane
You who hovered over first waters
intercede, please, for me.
You will funnel me towards
the well's living mouth
to see His words.
But now, I am trying to speak
break through my frail utterings
and carry my thought to God
tempered with salt to rise
acceptable, pure,
something worth saying
with weight and draw-
nothing vain;
to turn your ear to me
my Father, Father,
to hear.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Peace when there is no peace.

Why is it that peace in most situations means simply "people not bothering me"?  As long as the wheels of an organization are turning, anyone that points out an injustice are labelled disturbers of the peace.  If you're at work and point out harassment to or from coworkers, it might be forgiven by management once, but any more than that and you'll be labelled as "not a team player."  A government can fine you for something you didn't do, and place the burden on you to prove you didn't do it or else you're stuck with the fine.  And this is peace, as long as they aren't bothered by your protests.

As long as the powerful aren't feeling bothered, there is "peace".  If the weak protest against abuse, they have disturbed that peace.  This is not "peace".
Was reading and interpreting some of T.S. Elliot's "Four Quartets" to the kids this afternoon before work.  They've memorized the ending line, which reads as follows:

"And all shall be well

and all manner of thing shall be well
when the tongues of flame are infolded
into the crowned knot of fire
and the fire and the rose are one."

(Which I take to be referring to the great Restoration of All Things/Descent of the Heavenly Jerusalem to the New Earth.)

So today we were working on a passage previous to that which reads:

"Ash on an old man's sleeve,

is all the ash that the burnt roses leave
dust in the air suspended
marks the place where a story ended."

Jaelle already knows that bit pretty well,  I've explained it to her as the resolution of the human body (after death) into dust/ash, the end of the story of our bodily life on this present earth.  As best as I can figure out what Elliot was writing about, the quartets are about creation, fall, redemption, death, and re-creation.   The rose seems to be a symbol for human bodily life, and the fire is a symbol for God's power of life (in the spirit of "our God is a consuming fire").   

We also read and recited together a really neat section (as we threw a medicine ball back and forth) which I take as describing the Spirit's work in death to self/life to God (preempting the "final death" of the lake of fire), referencing the "fire" Jesus said he came to cast on the earth.  We read through that bit too.


"The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre-
To be redeemed from fire by fire."


Prior to all this my mind was really cloudy, not sure if that was because I'd slept too long, or eaten too much last night; but somehow the poetry cleared it up considerably.  It's been a while since I've gone through any poetry aside from constantly reciting "Jabberwocky" with the kids. 

Speaking of which, we just finished "Jabberwocky" by Daniel Coleman.  It was really good, surprisingly so - especially for a young-adult novel I got free on Kindle.  He's since re-published it on paper and there's no more kindle edition.  It's $15, but very much worth a library trip.

But back to the poetry - or at least the clarity of mind it lent...

My presence of mind was restored enough to deal with Josiah's crisis on the porch, as the contractor's little terrier/terrorist charged him as he was playing near a tree.  It was all bark, but did its best to act threatening, and didn't respond until the owner had spent some fifteen seconds calling it off.  It had scampered off before I figured out what was going on and came over to the scene of the crime.  Josiah was pretty shaken up, which surprised me because when I'd arrived he kept up a brave front and was smiling.  Brandy could tell he wasn't quite all right though and as soon as mommy started asking if he was all right the tears came.   I talked with him for a while, asked if there was anything he'd like me to do about it, and he hesitantly suggested I ask the owner to put it on a leash. I thought that was a very reasonable idea and asked the owner to put his dog on a leash, and he complied.   I reminded Josiah he could easily kill an animal that small if he picked it up and threw it or gave it a good kick, and I had him try and work it out on a punching pad until the shock of dog-attack wore off.  It's rough being a kid.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Urge of Him Who Lives Forever & Ever.

"Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created."

What is the meaning of life? Why did God create the Universe? Who made God? What's it all about?

All these questions are shadows, haunted hollows.  It is these and more that the vision given to John on Patmos fills and answers with fire.

"You Created all things" 


This is Divine data, written on the fabric of the Universe like a watermark and received by  all, though suppressed by some.  This is the "what".


"...by your will they existed and were created."


What is deeper, further back, more fundamental than the will?  When we speak of causes, reasons, and the like ("I did this because I was low on sleep/had too much coffee/grew up in a broken home/didn't take my meds etc...), we aren't talking about the will.  


The will is uncaused, it doesn't exist as a cog in the mechanical cause & effect realm (though it dialogues with it).  The will perceives possibilities, and chooses.  God's will, the source of all created wills, is infinitely more so uncaused.  There is no sense in asking what caused God to will the universe, seen and unseen, into existence.   


This is not to say that God's decision to create was arbitrary or frivolous.  We call decisions without thought arbitrary, and decisions without serious purpose or value we call frivolous. But this cannot be applied to God, and may be misleading even when speaking of human wills.  God is personal, and is the ultimate ground and source of thought and purpose.  If such a being has a desire, it will not (by nature of its source) be thoughtless or purposeless in the sense connoted by "arbitrary/frivolous". 


The will (θέλημα, in Greek as used in the verse above), is synonymous with desire. And persons desire. Mechanical flowcharts (of the kind many neuroscientists and psychologists want to reduce us to) do not.  The will is a fundamental thing, which is a source of other things - it is not a product,of other things. Our wills are informed and presented with possibilities by the external created universe, but God, at the point of Creation, was limited by no such externals.  Only the council of the Father, Word, and Spirit.  The desire of God.  His Love - for what is Love but a fundamental preference, or desire?

As God showed Julian of Norwich:
"He showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, in the palm of my hand; and it was as round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding, and thought: what may this be? And it was answered thus: "It is all that is made". I marveled how it might last, for I thought if might suddenly have fallen into nothing for its smallness. And I was answered in my understanding: "It lasts, and ever shall last, because God loves it."


Or as George MacDonald says it:
"We do not, I mean, to speak after the manner of men, come of God's intellect, but of His imagination. He did not make us with His hands, but loved us out of His heart."


And as such things loved into existence - or even, thank God, more than things: persons with wills in God's own image! - what can we do but say with those in the vision:

"Worthy are you, our Lord and God,

to receive glory and honor and power!"

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Job 19


There will be a day when scarred feet stand
upon my dust and say the word
and every cell that burst, each broken strand
will stir as if it heard
My own eyes will see the one who lives
my own eyes, and not another’s
No transmigrant soul slipped through a sieve
of flesh -
I'll be me; my brothers, brothers.
Who can pay the price to reverse decay?
pull us back from event horizon?
could the shimmering red of the primal Way
bleed the strength of a new sun rising?
And like a sun, that burning one
as an elemental forge
tests with pain
those born again
til we pass
through New world's doors.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Debridement

As the time gets closer to a fill year from when our much loved Elias's spirit left us to be received by Christ, I (we) have a lot to remember and think about.  It's very difficult not to think about his dying, and the struggles of his body; not to let those thoughts rule and blot out all else.  My sky grows dark like the hour of the Lord's death whenever I remember those things.
So, along with that, we remember all the wonderful days we were given.  We remember what a great blessing and gift it was to have Elias with us.  We try to remind ourselves that he is still ours and will be with us again someday soon.
Also, I do remember regrets.  I regret my sinful hesitation in giving thanks for Elias' healing earlier, when in answer to prayer his serious liver issues disappeared in an hour at church.  I regret not more eagerly and fully fulfilling my vows when we returned from the tests showing that his liver was functioning properly. I regret every hint of complaint at how tiring it was to be in suspense over his respiratory problems.  I have asked for forgiveness for these things, and know that the blood of Christ has washed away those stains, but still I hope and pray that the lesson was learned.  I ask for a pure and grateful heart that doesn't betray God's generosity with reservation in thankfulness or hints of complaint.
I'm not saying I know that God took our son because of my sin.  I don't know that, and unless God were to tell me clearly and specifically, I wouldn't say it.  But I do know that my hesitation to fulfill vows, to pour out generous thanksgivings from a pure heart for such a great and precious gift as the life of my beautiful son was sin.
Sure, we were "victims of a tragedy", and I know many people who would rush to reassure that it wasn't our fault, wasn't my fault, or even that God doesn't work that way.  But being party to great suffering doesn't make anyone guiltless, and our 21st century ideas of how a perfect father ought to act does not supersede the revelation of the real Father's apostles and prophets.  While I confess and greatly regret my sin, I trust in a God who forgives sin, and puts away iniquity.  I trust in a God who does not punish the guiltless and who holds my son in His hand still.  I trust in the resurrection of the dead by the power and work of Jesus Christ the Son of God.  I trust that I will see my son again and hold him.
Until that day, I do hope and pray that I wouldn't repeat my failings, and I give thanks that despite our failings we have the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life.
Thankful, always.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Where to Stop the Buck?


Short note.  In Philosophy class, we were going over Descartes' Mind/Body dualism and the question posed by Princess something-or-other to Descartes: :"By what means can a pure thinking substance (mind) cause a material substance (body) to move?  After some banter back and forth, and progression on to Malebranche's occasionalism, I noticed that there's always the next question.  What I mean is, you can continue asking "why" and "how" of every explanation given for any state of affairs ad infinitum.  As some atheists love to do in the following manner:
Q. "How did the Universe come to be"?
A. "God made it"
Q. "Who made God?"

You see what I mean.  But here's the thing: The Scientific endeavor that is now in progress won't take "just because" for an answer on anything.  There must be an explanation for everything, every process, every motion, every force, EVERYTHING.  Yet Science is in search of a "Theory of Everything" (T.O.E.).  But if Science remains consistent, it can never have a TOE, because the moment it decides that everything reduces to strings or whatever, then there is still the inevitable question "what causes those thingamajigs to exist and act that way?" and the search must go on infinitely.

So it seems to me, as useful as this habit of questioning has proved to be, there must be at least one place, possibly many, where the buck stops, where the questioning process itself is meaningless, where we have something, someONE, of Whom when asked "Why does He/It exist and function in such a way" the only answer possible will not be "because of this or that internal mechanism/thingie" but must simply be "just because" - NO FURTHER EXPLANATION POSSIBLE.

Something like when you have a guy who sees a flaming bush that tells him to take his shoes off and go tell the Egyptian dictator to let the Hebrews go, and the guy asks "Who should I say sent me", gets the answer:

I AM THAT I AM.

Alzheimers, Identity, Covenant.


What if I don't remember God?  What If I stop being "me"?

That is, what if I get alzheimer's?

A conversation with a fellow student/co-worker @ SPU who's been assigned this book for her psych class made me think about something I once wanted to write a blog about.
One of the chapters in the book talks about Alzheimers, and asks "if you have a soul, how come neuron degradation causes you to lose your memories and sense of God, and even your recollection of being a Christian?" I don't know what the book says in reply, if anything (from her description, it sounds like it just presents several accounts as challenges to the idea that we have souls and non-material memories).  That's not necessarily what I had to say.  But I have thought about this before.

A couple months ago I was listening to a John MacArthur sermon on being a pastor and he mentioned his old mentor Charles Feinberg who had died of Alzheimers.  He told (in brief) the story of how this ridiculously intelligent and holy Messianic Jew had deteriorated to the point where he no longer remembered that he had believed in Jesus as Messiah, and thought he was still a rabbinic orthodox Jew.

Needless to say, that thought troubled me quite a bit.  Macarthur didn't seem to think of it as a problem, but to me it was a horrible thought...that I (or anyone) could possibly because of a degenerative disease reject and disregard God?  Wouldn't God keep that from happening?  Apparently not.  So, disturbed, I searched for other stories of people with alzheimers who had during that time lost their memories of God/scripture, prayer, became nasty and foul-mouthed, etc...

But after having thought about it, I realized that there are many temporary times that I "forget God' - when I'm waking up after a hard school/work week and no sleep, and it takes like 5 minutes to remember my own name.  Am I no longer "me" then?  Have I lost my salvation?  How about when I'm asleep?  Obviously, the "real me" is more than whatever consciousness is getting processed through my neurons at any given moment. Well then, what am I?

Scripture says that "Your life is hidden with Christ in God"  "We know that we are children of God, what we shall be is not yet known." "You are seated with Christ in the heavenly places"  It sounds as if the real you, the real center of you-ness, is in the hand of God somewhere, safeguarded despite whatever nasty things might happen to your body or mental acuity.  So you being you doesn't depend on any absolute continuity of mental function - thank goodness!  Otherwise you would constantly be blipping in and out of existence every time you zoned out, were on heavy medication, fell asleep or got hit on the head.

And as far as "losing your faith" via Alzheimers, I recalled that our relationship to God is based on a covenant, like a marriage covenant.  And that made me think of the movie "The Notebook" (yes, yes, I know.)  In the story, a man cares for his wife who has alzheimers and doesn't remember him, even telling him to get lost at some points  of the movie.  The husband, of course, doesn't leave her but continues to care for her very lovingly.  If a human being responds in such a way to the other member of a covenant when they contract alzheimers, then how could we think that God, who allowed his creature to contract the disease, would do any less?

Alzheimers is terminal, but just like zoning out after a hard day's/night's work, it's temporary.  It doesn't last forever.  God will raise you from the dead and renew your body in the pattern of New Creation - all neurons intact - and you won't have alzheimers' any more.  Yes, it lasts longer, but it is ultimately just as temporary of a condition as any other we experience.

All that to say,

1.) our "souls", our authentic selves, are in God's hands and are being formed by a process connected to our lives here on earth but in a way so little revealed it's difficult to speculate how it works until the day "the sons of God (you &I) are revealed".  Therefore, we ought not to be bothered by the conundrums of consciousness here on earth.
2.) God's in a covenant relationship with us, like marriage.  There are certain conditions to covenants (if we deny him, He will deny us), but inherent is the fact of God's faithfulness even if we lose faith for some time (if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself).

The prospect of Alzheimer's or other Dementia is still pretty terrifying, but it is comforting to contemplate that they are not the end, that even if we forget Him, God does not forget us - that we are in a large and compassionate Hand.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Walk by faith.

"How can a man be pure?" So says Bildad.
Yet Job maintained his innocence, and when God appeared, Job responded not with repentance for previous sin, but repentance for uttering what He didn't understand concerning God's judgements, though God says that Job spoke of Him "what was right".

I'm reading through the historical books, and just finished up the last several chapters of Judges. To think of all the rape, lies, cowardice, and slaughter of innocent women and children! And much of it by "the good guys"! Even when they inquire of the LORD as to whether they ought to fight their brothers, and He says yes, they're still slaughtered by the evil Benjamites.
There is no explanation, no apology. God does not say whether or not He approves of them slaughtering the mothers and babies of Jabesh Gilead along with the men. These things hold true, and we see them. We see the victories, too, when we're told, like the Israelites, to fight, and are slaughtered when we do, but in perseverance see the victory even though it's not what we expected. Defeat even in victory. And even Phineas was there! The priest who stayed the Judgment of God by spearing the Israelite and midianite woman in the Torah.

What can we say? I came across some verses of Job's:

"Behold, I go forward, but he is not there,
And backward, but I do not perceive Him..."

We don't see Him at work, so often. Yet does this mean He is not there?

"...on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him;
He turns to the right hand, but I do not see him..."

So he IS at work. Though we might not, most of the time, see it. We don't see God at work, but does he see us? Even if not seeing, are we at least seen?

"...but he knows the way that I take;
When he tries me I shall come out as gold..."

But how? How to follow an unseen God, when we don't hear a bell of approval for good actions, a thunder of heaven when we do badly, Nor a vision of angels when we need guidance? How can we please a God shrouded in such mysterious silence if he will not show himself?

IS He silent?

"...I have not departed from the commandment of his lips,
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food..."

So He Is there, He is not silent. He has spoken to us with certainty in His words, his revealed commandments. And this is enough for faith, and faithful walking. Enough of a word to pass the test.

But does He care? Are we only rats in a test, some sort of experiment? Who is this tester, and what are his intentions towards us? Are we only pawns, disposable lab rats, small bit and unmemorable players on a great stage? Who thinks of us?

"...for he will complete what he appoints for me,
And many such things are in his mind..."

He is there. He is not silent. And he watches. With great care and with much thought towards you, towards me, towards all.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Thoughts on Samson::Or, Not just a hoormonger.

 It is an odd thing to think, sometimes, that Samson's mentioned as a man of faith in Hebrews 11.  Reading over Judges 13-15 though, I saw a lot that didn't really stand out to me before.  For one, Samson was announced as being in special covenant with God "from the womb".  This means that babies are ALIVE, not potentially, (whatever that means) but actually, in there. Not only alive but in relationship to God. And there's recognition that what a mother eats affects her baby, since Samson's mom ('the woman', we're not told her name) is told not to eat any grapestuffs.
Interestingly, the Angel of YHWH only seems really interested in appearing and talking to Samson's mom.  Manoah has to go where she is to talk to Him.

Then once Sampson's out and about, he chooses the uncircumcised Philistine woman.  We could chalk this up to "the heart has reasons which reason does not know", but in this case, that reason is "It was from the Lord".   Granted, how could his parents know that, especially since it was against general policy to intermarry with pagans. Doesn't mean it was a good idea maritally though.

Then, Samson tears lions like young goats (nobody I know of tears young goats though, so maybe "like a bag of potato chips" would be a culturally appropriate).  But the oddest thing about this, aside from the fact that he just tore apart a lion, of course, is that HE DOESN'T TELL ANYONE!  Think of any young man you know.  If they tore apart a lion, would it not appear in their facebook feed? I mean, guys make a big deal about killing a fish!
Is this modesty? It would seem like it, since there doesn't seem to be any other reason for him not to tell.     So, plus one for Samson.

Next, one normally gets the impression in messages about Samson that he's an uncontrollable womanizer. But when he storms out of his own wedding, and leaves and comes back to find that his wife got given to another man, he doesn't just say, "meh, sure, I'll take her younger sister - she's even prettier!"  If he were "that guy", we would expect him to do just that.  But he doesn't.  And he still doesn't seem to have given up on that girl, either, because he takes the Philistine's attack on her (some kind of 'honor killing') as an attack on him.  So there was some real attachment there, he wasn't (it seems) just after anything with a certain curve to it.

Then his own people come to arrest him, but he doesn't blow them off or fight them.  He could have easily said: "Forget you guys, just try and arrest me and see what happens" but he lets them save face before the Philistines by their act of submission before he goes to town with the jawbone. So he seems to have a concern for his people, and a certain humility about his own strength.

Then, exhausted from cracking Philistines over the head with Donkey-parts, he does a bit of improv spoken word, a Hebrew Haiku of sorts.  Not my taste, maybe, but it's good Hebrew poetry and done on the spot.  So most likely not a mere meathead.  I don't know many football players that compose witty limericks after scoring touchdowns, usually they just jump around and slap someone's butt (don't they? I guess I haven't watched anyone score a touchdown in ages, so maybe this is just my own stereotyping at work.)  Anyway, Sampson's doing pretty well.  AND his following prayer acknowledges that the great salvation was granted not by Samson's awesomeness, but by the LORD.

OK, so next he's at a prostitute's place in Gaza.  And probably not for tea and conversation. And it doesn't seem that a whole lot of thought or confliction went into this decision.  So hence the title "Not Just a Hoormonger.  But sadly, he does seem to have been that.  At least this once. In his favor though, he does show some strategic thought and humor in waiting wil midnight when he could've just run out swinging, and carrying off their gates.

And then he pretty much goes down.  Delilah doesn't seem to have liked him, but he seems to have genuinely liked her.  And for all his whacking people with whatever came to hand (fists, foxes, temples), he never seems to have hit a woman (well, except with the temple).  This is something in his favor characterwise.

Is it sin to tell another Christian they're wrong in front of pagans?

Here's a late night conversation Brandy and I had over whether it's lawful for Christians to do something like, say, go to a church that supports and donates to abortion clinics and hold signs calling for them to repent.

See very low quality video HERE.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Mere Christian...On Faeries and Goblins!

Began reading through Richard Baxter's "The Certainty of the World of Spirits" and quickly came across an interesting passage:

"...Yea, we are not fully certain whether these Aerial Regions have not a third sort of Wights, that are neither Angels, (Good or Fallen,) nor Souls of Men, but such as have been there placed as Fishes in the Sea, and Men on Earth: And whether those called Fairies and Goblins are not such.
But as all these, and more such, are unknown to us, so God seeth it meet for us that it should be so, and we should not so much as desire or endeavour that it might be otherwise."

That's certainly in line with a lot of my own personal speculation (and my reading of the bible!), both in the possibility of what might be, and what our reaction ought to be to it all.  As much as I love fantasy, I can only wonder.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

This is why I am sending you prophets, sages, and scribes.


If no prophets' heads were filled with sights
had they not eaten the Maker's scroll
those gifts from the Father of all Lights
would not have planted in our souls

Who can hear without a messenger?
Who has ever lassoe'd God?
those who cast aside the primal word
were cast from Eden into Nod.

with eyes drawn by the founding Word,
the Spirit of the King,
prophets wrote bright times to come
times which blood would bring.

Do we not hear the voice of prophets?
Are apostles turned away?
can we reject His every messenger
but tell the Lord himself to stay?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

"You are not of an age to have thought much" said Reason.


The giant bent forward in his chair and looked at her."Who are you?" he said.

"My name is reason", said the virgin.

"Make out her passport quickly" said the giant in a low voice.
"And let her go through our dominions and be off with all the speed she wishes."

"Not yet" said reason. "I will ask you three riddles before I go, for a wager."

"What is the pledge?" said the giant.

"Your head", said Reason.     -C.S. Lewis, Pilgrim's Regress.

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In conversations and disputes with others I'm often (well, I used to be) surprised with how reticent people are to actually dispute anything.  They get uncomfortable and flustered and often angry, and often after I ask them a question say something like "OK you're right, are you happy?"  Or "you win" as if they're worn out and trying to get me off their back.  Granted, I never wanted to be "on their back" to begin with, and I don't get why people treat approach discussion like a pacifist approaches a fistfight or a fat man approaches a flight of stairs.  My discussion partners and I often seem to have two completely different assumptions about what we're doing.

Rewind 2.5 thousand years, and you get back to some Greek guys called Sophists.  After devoting themselves to philosophy, they decided there was no truth and the real use of reason and language was as a weapon, an instrument of power to exercise your will over others.  Many sold their services to train young men in the used of language and rhetoric this way, as if they were teaching them swordplay.
Socrates disagreed, as did his disciple Plato. They believed that there was truth to be gotten to, a god to be served, and that was the point of language and reason to expose falsehood and seek truth.

In our day, or a few decades back, postmodern philosophers said basically the same thing as the Sophists, and said that anyone that gave an account of anything was on a power trip, trying to get people to buy into and fit into his story.

So, when I'm talking with people, it feels like I have to explain myself often.  I'm not trying to "win".  I haven't invited you to fistfight, or even to spar.  Reasoning is more than fighting.  They have some overlap, I won't deny that, but the fight of reason is hopefully against the common enemy of the combatants.

When I engage you in discussion, my aim is to combat untruth.  It may turn out to be in me.  It may turn out to be in you.  But either way that's what the blade of truth and reason was forged for.  The bladework of language is meant to serve that end. I don't want to "beat" you.  I want to serve both you and I and  even more centrally to serve the God of Truth.

Night Visions

Early last year I began reading through the bible on a general sort of program.  I placed tabs for Law/history, Wisdom/Poetry, Prophets, and New Testament, and then started moving to the right one chapter each.  In the past few weeks I've noticed a few common themes.  One is visions, i.e. dreams.  Most of the visions that I've seen in scripture are dreams.  Or, if not dreams properly, they seem to happen at night when the person is sleeping.  Daniel calls them "Visions of the night" (Dan 7:13).  The one I'm reading now, about the vision of the Ram (Persia) & the male goat (Greece/Alexander) is interesting.  The angels in the dream (well, maybe they're not angels, they could just be saints, it says "holy ones", so they could be holy angels or holy men) explain some of it to Daniel, but really he wouldn't have any way to know what it was about specifically, so he says that

"When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it."

Which made me wonder.  If this were a dream you or I had, we might have dismissed it as just plain weird, a product of bad cheese or a busy day, probably not as a prophecy about raising up kings and deposing them.  But Daniel thought it was significant, and sought to understand.  Of course, in Daniel's case a voice tells Gabriel the angel to explain the vision to him, and Gabriel does.  That would be nice.  But how often to those sorts of visions come along?
Maybe more often than we might think?  Daniel sought to understand when we might seek to fix breakfast. Maybe there is a lesson here.  I don't know.

I do know that prophecy throughout the bible is very important.  It saturates every book I'm reading through.  God chooses someone to speak to and through, and speaks to them through angels or dreams, or personally. Isaiah 3:2 mentions prophets as an aside, like a normal vocation like soldier and judge.  He even lists is with unsavory occupations like diviner and skillful magician (druggist?).  This and lots of other verses seem to indicate that there were always lots of prophets, just many of them were false, and few of them were prominent. We know there were lots of prophets who are barely mentioned or not mentioned at all by name, like the one in Judges 6:8 who comes out of the woodwork, sent by God to answer the people's complaint. This seems to imply that there were many true prophets not even mentioned in scripture.

So why not today? Especially in this dispensation of the Holy Spirit by whom we were sealed for the day of redemption?  So much of God's work has to do with His Spirit. "The Spirit of the LORD clothed Gideon".  Daniel is often recognized with the words "The Spirit of the Holy God/s is in you".

Don't really know, but I am asking and praying for a restoration.  We know that God is with us, but Gideon's question remains:
"Please sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us saying "Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?" But now the LORD has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.

And the LORD doesn't really answer, well, I suppose He does, but He answers by showing Gideon some of His wonderful works, and delivering them from Midian through Gideon.  He doesn't explain why He waited until that moment to do it.  Maybe that's what He's going to do with us? I hope so.  In the meantime, I am listening.