Chronicles in Ordinary Time 49: Odd Things

April 4, 2014

This is a two-part post; the second half of which is too long for a blog. I have a link at the end of part one that will take you to the second half…

42; or, Jesus in the Garden

In Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, [if I recall correctly] one of the characters ask a supercomputer for the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything. Time passes [this was in the days when a Megabyte was huge], and eventually the supercomputer spits out the answer: “42”.
Being somewhat confused as to the nature of this answer, the character then asks the supercomputer, ‘What is the Ultimate Question?’ Time passes. The supercomputer eventually spits out the result: “What is 7 X 8?”

The nature of the Universe.

I have this tendency to think about the odd things in the Bible.

Not having been raised with “Bible Stories,” I don’t have any “Bible Answers” coursing through my veins. I didn’t learn Bible Stories as a child. My first hearing of Bible Stories was as an adult [Bible Stories, first heard as an adult, can often be strange]. I had been accustomed [thanks to my Senior English teacher in high school—another interesting coincide-ence in my life] to critical thinking by the time I left high school. Critical thinking was part of my college years, although not as much as in that one year of high school—“Appearance vs. Reality as viewed by Pirandello and Kafka” or some such title—at least that’s my recollection, four decades on. All of my careers required/have-benefitted-from critical thinking. The practice of critical thinking has affected my ‘walk of faith;’ I’m rarely satisfied by simplistic answers to difficult questions. So the odd things in the Bible have always attracted my attention, and I have trouble settling for simplistic Church explanations for odd things…

Jesus prayed by Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before His crucifixion. His buddies, who were supposed to be praying with Him, were asleep; twice. Buddies often are. The Bible says that Jesus shed drops of blood due to His internal anguish. Anguish over what? His upcoming torture? I’m not convinced, now that I think about it.

I’ve lived with chronic pain for four decades, more or less. Migraines [starting in 1979, continuing into the 2000s], fibromyalgia/rheumatism, a ruptured appendix, a bone chip in my ankle joint from a torn ligament as a kid, trampoline accident in high school; three ‘totaled’ vehicles from which I walked away [‘any landing you walk away from is a good landing’]. A consistent back pain, every day of the last 40 years, except for a brief period when it mysteriously disappeared, after attending a Crusade [would the back pain have remained gone if I had made that experience a key element of my life and faith? I don’t know; some would say that it would have]. That particular back pain has mostly been superseded by other back pains; and the damage is visible in an MRI. Pain is a fact of my life; but I work at not making it a big deal.

It’s hard to say which of the pains has been the worst. We are blessed that we don’t remember pain clearly. I remember the fact of those past pains, I can remember some of the feelings associated with those pains; but thankfully I can’t reenact the past pains. The migraines were probably the worst in terms of effect on my life, and were pretty continual from age twenty-eight into my early fifties. I remember “lost weekends” as I called them. Weekends spent in the dark with my head packed in ice. I never lost consciousness because of pain; I frequently let go of consciousness in order to sleep; and get away from the pain. I don’t know how similar the two are. I certainly never sweat drops of blood because of my pain. Nevertheless, it’s really hard for me to imagine Jesus sweating drops of blood because of the pain He probably knew was coming at the hands of the Roman military government. We Christians have a tendency to focus on the suffering that came with the Cross; I think it’s more appropriate to focus on the suffering that came with Jesus taking on the punishment that was rightfully ours in history; the punishment He accepted for what followed His Presence here on earth.

As I think about it now, I can imagine Jesus sweating drops of blood over all of the hatred and evil that was going to be done in the centuries ahead, all in His Name. Suppose, for a moment, that Jesus was given foreknowledge of the martyrdom in Rome to come in the next decades and the following centuries; the Crusades; the Inquisition; the Nazi death camps [in a not consistent way, the slaughter was done in His name] the lynching by the KKK [also done in His Name, to a degree]; the martyrdom that continues today, two millennia after His death on the cross. Blaming Jesus for all of the torture and brutality and evil that was going to come; evil that had nothing to do with Jesus and His teachings; yet was going to occur because His followers down through the millennia would get it wrong… To have entered time and space from Eternity and Infinity, in order to teach these pesky humans how to live in tune with their Creator; and to find that not only was the teaching going to be ignored throughout history, but that He was going to be blamed for the cruel death of tens of millions in the centuries to come… I think this might be a reason for Jesus to have been in anguish to the point of shedding blood.

The first thing Jesus did, upon being arrested, having spent hours dripping blood, was to heal the ear of Malchus, a servant who got in the way of the Peter’s sword…

garden gethsemane rev2

The second part of this ‘Easter meditation’ can be found here in a separate pdf file which will open on a new page…

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 48: That Old Man

March 22, 2014

I’ve always enjoyed Science Fiction. Granted, I’m more inclined toward ‘cowboys in space’ than I am toward the many other genres within science fiction. Science fiction is one place where morality and philosophy can be discussed without some of the claptrap that religion often brings to the table. I think the ability to analyze ‘who I am’ is probably the most significant aspect of being a human being, Created in the image of the Creator [Lost some attention right there].

I’m also a big fan of Stargate SG-1. The episode I watched tonight deals with the issue of war crimes and redemption. Teal’c, the ‘bad guy’ turned ‘good guy’ [and in my opinion, the hero of the series], stands trial for the murder of the father of a boy grown into manhood. At the end, after all of the dust has settled, and the SG-1 team helps take out the bad guys, Teal’c turns himself over to his accuser to be executed.
“I am the Jaffa who killed your father.”
“No, you are mistaken. That Jaffa is dead; he was killed by you.”

MALCHUS 2.5Malchus’ Ear [detail]

I created this image some years ago, inspired by part of the Easter Story, a part that is somewhat underplayed. The part about Jesus choosing to die, as opposed to being betrayed by Judas. When the Roman guards come to arrest Jesus, a servant named Malchus is attacked by Peter, using the sword that Jesus told him to bring. The more famous part is ‘those who live by the sword shall die by the sword;’ overlooking the idea that this apparently was planned; or at least, not a surprise.
Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? Mt 26:53
Jesus wasn’t worried about a few Legionnaires.
I’ve always wondered about the ear… The Gospels teach that Jesus healed Malchus. So, did He ‘glue’ the ear back on; create a new ear; or somehow reverse time, as far as the ear is concerned? We don’t know. My favorite mental image is of Malchus’ mantlepiece and this shriveled, mushroom-looking thing lying on a special cloth or plate. The ear that was lopped off. Maybe an ear ring in his new ear…
Peter was no doubt confused about the whole thing. Why was he supposed to bring a sword if he was going to get chewed out for using it?
When did Jesus know that he had more than twelve legions of angels at His beck and call? The whole time? That night in the Garden?
There are apocryphal stories of the boy Jesus molding birds out of mud, and watching them fly away…

………………………..

Through the Creator’s Grace we have the ability to become a new creation. To become a new person.  Some would say that it’s because of evolutionary development, psychology, or the power of positive thinking, or any of a number of explanations; and I suppose those explanations are accurate in terms of the means by which redemption takes place.
I look back at the last 40+ years of my life, and the guy I was in my first years of college. I try to imagine what my life would have been like if not for the ‘simple’ decision as to what I was going to choose as my major; once I found out that ‘my plan’ didn’t exist at Oregon State. At the time I didn’t realize how momentous a decision that was; it was simply choosing how I wanted to spend the next 4 years of my life. A couple years later I discovered that the number was really 5… It’s only from the perspective of 40 years that I see how my life could have been entirely different.

I look at my adult kids, wonderful people, and I can see who I would be, if not for an encounter with Brad. Brad opened a door into the world of Grace, which led to another door, and innumerable doors that followed. I made a decision to change my life, and become the person I wanted to be, rather than the person I was being led into becoming.
Because Life has a way of making us take a left turn when we’d planned on going right, ‘the person I wanted to be’ is not the person I’ve become. A person for whom the Creator is more important than I could ever have believed; and a person who realizes that what I believe is a Mystery… I will continue exploring the Mystery and probably never get closer, in this life.

Joni Mitchell is singing Judy Collins’ “Both Sides Now,” as I type.  I don’t really believe in “random” music selection. Joni is probably in her 50′s at this time. An adult voice singing a song I listened to a lot in college, when the song was new.
The apostle Paul talks a lot about ‘shedding the old man,’ and becoming a new person.
The ‘old man’ that I was has been replaced by this old man…

Mikey avatar 3

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 47: Black Care

March 14, 2014

scan0004Draft image for a book about a dying man

NARRATOR: Theodore Roosevelt embodied America at the turn of the century — the confidence, the exuberance, the aggressiveness. It was all there, all in him. ”Roosevelt,” someone said, ”was a steam engine in trousers.” Cowboy, soldier, explorer, scientist, a world authority on large mammals and small birds, the author of 36 books and more than 100,000 letters, he made himself president by the age of 42.
None of it was easy. Shadowed by illness, haunted by the deaths of those most dear to him, he learned early, he said, that ”Life was one long campaign where every victory merely leaves the ground free for another battle.” ”Black care,” he wrote, ”rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough.”

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/transcript/tr-transcript/

My pace apparently isn’t fast enough. This has been a crummy week. Black Care at my back.
Why would I be telling anyone about this? It’s certainly nothing I want to brag about; and I don’t have any solutions. I also don’t really have any explanations as to why this week has been worse than others. Part of it is the pain; but the pain hasn’t been any worse than at other times. It hasn’t been any better, either.
I seem to be communicating with folks who are dealing with difficult stuff. A woman who has just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s; a man who may be dying from a damaged liver; damaged by the doctors who were supposed to be treating him. So much grief…

I listen to music all day; much of which is what I’ve labeled, “songs for broken people.” Lyrics that I want feeding my brain, an alternative to the stuff that my brain wants to shove out into my thinking.
I have a small heater blowing hot air on my feet all day, and they feel painfully cold. They can’t be cold, but that’s what the damaged nerves are telling me. Having spent much of my life living on aspirin and barbiturates, and having toxicity/self-poisoning the only likely suspect that hasn’t been ruled out; I’m working at avoiding pills to deal with the pain. It’s possible to be addicted to ‘non-addictive’ meds. One merely has to hurt bad enough, often enough. I see the pain doc in a couple of weeks; not a lot of expectations.

People don’t talk much about pain; I suppose this is mostly because we all hate it; and people feel they should have answers. I don’t have answers. My belief is that this life is short compared to Eternity. While I would never have wished for 30+ years of pain, it’s the hand I’ve been dealt, and my Creator understands why. I believe that every one of my 61+ years has been known by my Creator since before my birth. And all of the days I have left. My Creator has known about the lost weekends in dark rooms, with my head packed in ice. All of the time I wasn’t able to give to my family; and if I’m honest, time I wouldn’t have spent with them, because of other stuff.

Why would the Creator allow pain in our lives? Wouldn’t a loving God want his children to live without pain and suffering? Most of the world’s pain is caused by Man. Where would He start in changing the way a person behaves? I spent a lot of the time I had, visiting as a kid in an Eastern Oregon town of 3 digits in population, killing ants. I was bored stiff and there were a lot of ants. Not really damaging anything as far as I could tell; they were mostly doing what ants do all day. It sort of bothered me, but they were only ants and it was something to do…just ants…
Created by my Creator.
To my Creator, I may not be that much more significant than an ant. Made in the image of my Creator, and I’m not really sure what that means. I doubt that it’s my mind; the image probably refers to my ability to choose how I live my life. What I do with what I have.
Americans waste so many of our choices.
I shot a bird once; I was aiming at it, but never imagined I’d actually hit the thing. Dead by one BB. I am aware that I have the capacity for violence; and I’ve avoided it as an adult.

Natural disaster. The Earth moves. We feel as though we have some sort of protection from natural disaster, but it happens. Thousands of people, every day, damaged in their bodies or their souls by stuff they couldn’t predict.

The only answer that makes any sense to me is that we are Eternal beings, and this lifetime however, long and painful it may be, is only an eyeblink in the span of Eternity. Watching my children growing up, comforting them in the everyday pains that children encounter, I realized I could not protect them from hurt; and that if I could, I wouldn’t be helping them. We learn through pain. It’s a really lousy answer, but it seems to be the one that makes the most sense.

So I rant at the Creator. Whine and grumble, more than rant. I was given a Gift this morning, during my mostly-daily walk through the cemetery up the hill from us [I live on an inactive volcano, one of several that surround Portland]. Three deer came out onto the road ahead of me, one at a time. Watching me as they came out of the creek bed, and continuing on their morning adventure. The one in front seemed to be the most daring, the most adventuresome…projection on my part. While I realized that seeing the deer was a Gift–it’s been close to a year since I’ve seen any deer at the cemetery–I was also aware that I was still bitching about how I felt; frustrated with the state of my business; frustrated that a large check I received from a potential client was fraudulent. I already had the check half-spent, in my mind. Frustrated that I can’t be everything I want to be; frustrated that my time for being that person is being cut short.

Time for another hero movie. Time for some more drawing, while I still can.

American Heroes

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 46: Everything’s Amazing And Nobody’s Happy

February 27, 2014

My apologies for stealing the title. Source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2014/02/25/282516865/everythings-amazing-and-nobodys-happy
Watch the video, also.

This is the first map of radioactivity in a supernova remnant, the blown-out bits and pieces of a massive star that exploded. The blue color shows radioactive material mapped in high-energy X-rays using NuSTAR. Heated, non-radioactive elements previously“The new view shows a more complete picture of Cassiopeia A, the remains of a star that blew up in a supernova event whose light reached Earth about 350 years ago, when it could have appeared to observers as a star that suddenly brightened. The remnant is located 11,000 light-years away from Earth.” http://www.nustar.caltech.edu/image/nustar140219a

picture of Cassiopeia A
whose light reached Earth about 350 years ago
located 11,000 light-years away
If these aren’t OMG phrases, I’m not sure what are. And we are so complacent.
I am so complacent.

People are walking around with more computing power in their pocket than any of the Apollo astronauts had, traveling to the Moon. And it drops, and the glass cracks and you have to pay a huge amount of money to replace it; even though it’s still in its “trial/return period” which does not replacement of damaged phones… Because 3-digits-before-the-decimal may be a large chunk of a paycheck that is already stretched to breaking…

When I was a kid, I used to get up early to watch the Mercury and Apollo launches. On a fuzzy black and white cathode-tube television that Einstein only dreamed of [slight exaggeration for Albert]. I remember NOT watching the launches, because they had become more commonplace.

Pulp-O-Mizer_Cover_Image

Today I carried on almost-simultaneous conversations with a client in London, a couple somewhere in Mongolia and a client in California… OMG

One of the ‘spoilers’ is money. Smart phones cost a lot of money, as do utilities, food and the other stuff that fills our lives. I don’t have a smart phone; I only have a dumb phone that I often forget to take with me on those rare days when I leave my office. Of course, I also have two desktop computers and a laptop computer, all of which run 24/7 for most days of the year. I also have two other laptops mostly in disrepair, and a stack of dead ones, as well as two or three desktop computers that don’t- or barely run.
Money means employment; employment comes with its own headaches.

The cares of life beat the ‘wonder’ out of us. Jesus, my mentor and my example, teaches that wonder can be part of our life every moment; but I haven’t learned that teaching very well. My children, now adults, have been some of my best teachers of ‘wonder’ and they mostly don’t remember how to do it; due to their own cares and concerns.
My recollection of the adults in my life, growing up, is that they mostly were wonder-proof. I remember telling my father that he worked too much, and was missing out on too much of life. I have become my father. Fortunately, my own kids are somewhat wiser.

I wonder if, as a child, I was ever a teacher of wonder.

wonder

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 45: Seeing the World with New Eyes

February 27, 2014

February 26th is the anniversary of my “re-birth”; 41 years since I decided that to enter into a journey I did not particularly want, but could not explain in any other way. I gave my life to the Creator of the Universe. Four decades and I still haven’t figured it out. It isn’t religion, it’s ‘faith;’ but that in itself isn’t really an explanation.
Robert Barron in his “And Now I See” describes it in this manner: “metanoiete. This Greek term is based upon two words, meta (beyond) and nous (mind or spirit), and thus, in its most basic form, it means something like ‘go beyond the mind that you have.’”
I believe that we can touch a HUGE world that exists beyond our understanding, and that we continually try to reduce its size to something we can manage. To understand the Infinite with minds of the finite. I’ve had two conversations of depth with people who have a challenge with Belief, based mostly on the behavior of believers.

And I’m not sure what else to add to this, tonight.

greentree3an homage to Vermeer

We are living a time when we need to see the world with new eyes. The world is broken, and seems to be getting more broken. Looking inwards to our own hearts to find the answer sees not to be working too well.

My brain doesn’t appear to be flowing with words tonight. Time to draw.

people collage 2

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 44: The Art of Changing the World

February 9, 2014

Clapton_King_2_sm“Blues Kings” Eric Clapton, BB King    [graphite]

Watching “The Night that Changed America”–the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles’ first performance on Ed Sullivan…
It’s amazing to me how much the Art of Paul, John, George, and Ringo has changed the world. 4 blokes from Liverpool, filled with all of the faults and failings of the rest of us; whose combined efforts rewrote the soundtrack of the world. Art that is much larger than the sum of the individuals.
Like the music of Sugarman, living in the slums of Detroit, whose music was instrumental in the overcoming of Apartheid in South Africa. As far as Sugarman was concerned, he was a failed musician; bootleg copies of his two albums gave the young people of South Africa a view of a world they could only imagine; and that imagination changed a country forever.

I have come to realize that my own art will probably not have the impact on the world that I hoped it would. I think this is probably the fear of all of us who dare to express ourselves by ‘performing’ [all displays of art are 'performances'] in front of an audience, whether live or in some other media. But my art has changed me…

…and in changing me, my art has changed all of those my life has touched– my wife, my kids, my granddaughter, some people in Mississippi, some people in Mexico; and possibly others I’ve never heard about.

 

Banjo player

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 43:

January 20, 2014

valley of the shadow
A friend of mine was describing the images that came to mind as he read the 23rd Psalm–”The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…surely Goodness and Mercy shall follow me all of the days of my life…” He described angels watching over him. This is the image that came to my mind, as he described his image.

I have always been partial to “fear not and behold!” angels as opposed to the Hallmark kind. If one reads the descriptions in the older parts of Scripture, one doesn’t find Clarence Oddbody nor the cute little angels found at Christmastime. I’ve always figured that angels must be fearsome to behold, since fear seems to be the first reaction the angels have to deal with.

For much of the 40 years that I have been following the Creator I’ve heard this continual subtext–that good things will happen to the Believer who is following the Creator closely; that trouble will stay away. This hasn’t necessarily been the overt text, but it has been the subtext, and I’ve always found it confusing. 1] it isn’t Scriptural–if nothing else, Scripture assures the Believer that there will be trouble; 2] I’ve been battling chronic pain for half of my life–something like 30 of my 60+ years.

I’ve never been very religious; just can’t force myself into that mold.  Part of me has found this notion to blame; but then I read the Book of Job–the oldest part of the Bible, which basically says that being religious has nothing to do with a life that pleases the Creator [it seems that serious acknowledgement is central to a faith that pleases the Creator]. “shit happens” seems to be the best explanation as to why bad things happen to good, and not-so-g00d people. It’s a part of Life.

I’ve also come to believe that there is a part of Life that is much harder to figure out. The Apostle Paul writes that we are like players on a stage, performing for an unseen audience. Physicists postulate that there are 11 dimensions, rather than the four we know about [length, width, height and time]; I have come to the conclusion that if there are 11 dimensions, then one of these dimensions is a dimension of the Spirit; or that the correct number is at least 12.

There has been so much of my life that has pointed me to the Creator; events that have happened to me, or to my family, that have been so personal that I can’ t prove them to anyone. There is no proof; and at the same time, there is little room for doubt.  Mostly in the context of a middle-class [and sliding], non-adventurous life. Not much drama; nothing from which to make an interesting movie. Crises, an ample number of them; from which we mostly survived fairly well, although not cheaply.

Through all of my life I have felt that I was in the presence of unseen Presences; formidable angels seem to qualify. Amidst the crises, there is much that happens on filmed stories that have never happened to us. Burglaries with minimal damage; car wrecks without death; accidents without death; deadly illness that hasn’t. There are unseen wolves that have been held back by Guardians we cannot see. Perhaps.

pilgrim col

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 42: Christmas and Grinches

December 25, 2013

Christmas graphicA Christmas graphic I designed several years ago, but hadn’t finished. I see now that it still isn’t finished; the proportions are wrong. But it’s closer.

I’ve been The Grinch at Christmas for the last several years. Our kids are out on their own. My Mom died this night, 9 years ago; I don’t know how much that has to do with the malady. The Mom I grew up with, and then finally ‘met’ several years after my Dad died, had started dying not long after she was able to begin blossoming. Dementia started dismantling the surprising woman I discovered, after ‘romance’ had entered her life, as she approached the age of 70. By the beginning of her last year, the year she lived with us, she was sort of back in her teen years. Being ‘a teenager’ she wasn’t married, and from her culture, could not possibly have a son. Having gone grey in my 40′s, Mom had the feeling that I was her father… mirrors probably didn’t make much sense to her.

In that I’m aware that Mom died on Christmas Eve of 2004, there is probably some level of subconscious grief associated with Christmas. In that I know she is at peace and joy with her Creator, I’m not aware of being haunted by her death. That was the last time we had a tree and decorations; they were mostly a lot of bother…

As our culture heads further down the road of materialism, and further away from the teaching of Jesus, the anger I have toward my society probably plays a bigger part in my dislike of American Christmas in the 21st Century. Having been raised with Santa Claus as the focus of Christmas [yeah, I'd heard about 'baby Jesus' and the manger...], I looked forward to my First Christmas, my 4th year of college. And I met Jesus there, in an unexpected place. I went to a Gospel service, having been invited there by an African American woman I met at the bus stop; having missed my intended bus. As the second hour of the service was well underway, and it didn’t appear to be stopping any time soon, I finally left, having had more Christmas than I could handle.

We did “Christmas” as the kids grew, and I delighted in their wonder. I told them about Jesus, and I told them about St. Nicholas, who many called Santa Claus. And I still remember the two strange parallel lines in the cement covering of our asphalt driveway, and small oblongs amidst the lines. Not unlike the tracks that might have been left by “a sleigh and 8 tiny reindeer…” Seriously. I did not put them there. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio…

I believe that we are supposed to keep Christmas, the miracle of the Infinite and Eternal Creator’s entering into Time and Space, in our lives all the time. Not just a few weeks out of the year. I haven’t been doing that very well, lately. For several latelys…

The house is a mess. We seem to have an aversion to flat spaces; consequently, we cover them with stuff. We always have. Since we have become a storage facility for stuff owned by friends/family, it hasn’t gotten better. For the year Mom was with us, it was clean. It wasn’t, within a few months of her Home-going. Business as usual.
“Business as usual” is one excuse I could use, but like all excuses, they are like armpits. We all have two of them, and they both stink. I’ve been spending a lot of time looking for work, since there hasn’t been much of it coming my way lately. A lot of the time that I have been working hasn’t been for pay, apparently, although that wasn’t my understanding at the time. That’s one excuse for a lack of gift-buying. We don’t have any excess for anything beyond groceries and bills, most of the time. We’re in the process of packing stuff to send to Colorado, including stuff of ours that we aren’t going to use anymore, and might as well give to another generation. ‘In the process’ also means ‘in the middle of the floor’ since ‘packing space’ is now filled with other people’s stuff…

Tonight we were on the way to church for our Christmas Eve service–a planned, but forgotten ['today is Christmas Eve?] interruption of my excuse for not working on packing.
Yesterday was a colonoscopy–a totally delightful experience, if one has never had it done before. The procedure is a breeze–I slept through it; it’s the gallon of garbage one has to drink in order to eliminate the other garbage. And now, my damaged taste buds are offended by the chemicals. Coffee once again tastes like burnt water. It tasted great on Saturday.
Back to our 10 minute drive to church: 4/5 of our way there, we passed a car with flashers and an open hood. Me, being me, I was willing to assume that they had a cell phone and that help was on the way. Judy, being Judy, did not agree with that decision.  Me, being me, let her drop me off at church while she went back to check on the stranded motorist. What was the Message tonight about? About “my will be done…” from a current ‘#6 on the charts’ song. Not the Creator’s Kingdom come; instead, my stingy, self-serving kingdom.
So I realized that I had made the poorer choice. Having watched a lot of cop shows in recent years, I couldn’t help but wonder how I would explain my decision if the stuff that happens on cop shows happened tonight–why did I ever let her go by herself? Because I wanted to get to church and hear about Jesus and the love and joy He brought to earth…
Fortunately, the stuff that happens on cop shows didn’t happen; Judy came back and got help for the stranded motorist from Trustees of the congregation. Even better, I know that the Creator knew, from the beginning of Creation, that I’d make the wrong decision tonight; and loves me anyway.

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 41: Daddy

December 15, 2013

I haven’t checked the following numbers for accuracy, but they are in the ballpark of what Pete, my Pastor, talked about this morning. “Father,” in relation to the Creator, is used about 15 times in the Old Testament [about 80% of the Christian Bible]; Jesus used the term “Father” around 160 times in the four Gospels that tell the story of Jesus [about 20% of the New Testament in the Christian Bible]. Jesus also used the term, “Abba”–the English equivalent being, “Daddy,” when His disciples asked Jesus how they should pray. Jesus said, “Our Daddy, who is in Heaven…”

Our Daddy, not my Dad. Pete then showed a video clip of a girl running to her father at the opening of a baseball game. Her Dad was hiding behind a catcher’s mask as she was throwing the opening pitch of a baseball game. She thought he was still serving in Afghanistan. She sees him and automatically runs to him, her arms open to hug him…

My Dad:

Dad_3 Three ages of Robert C. Jones

   A good man, an honest man, an excellent provider for his family. He could also be harsh and unwilling to change, or to accept new ideas. He disciplined me with words, because [as legend has it] he lost his temper while spanking me, once, as a young child. He vowed he’d never strike me again. I’m inclined to think that he also decided never to touch me again. Probably not true, but recollections of ‘touch’ don’t come to mind.

I can’t even imagine running to my Dad, open-armed, for a hug. I can’t imagine this for my Mom, either. I don’t even remember ever being hugged by my parents. Good parents, emotionally-distant parents. Mom was Norwegian by birth, Dad was half-Swedish.
My understanding is that Scandinavians are often distant, by nature; but that’s mostly anecdotal. I haven’t ever been to Norway or Sweden. I have come to the conclusion that my parents did not know, because they also had not experienced.

So Pete’s teaching of how we are to approach our Heavenly Father does not match anything in my background. I have tried to model  for my children, by the Creator’s Grace, what I have only seen in others. To be the kind of father I wanted, but didn’t have. My adult children still come to me for ideas, solutions and help; I guess the modeling has worked. During the early years of our marriage, my wife and I created in my parents an expectation that the only time we came to visit was when we needed money.

Advent: the season of waiting. Expectant waiting. I talked with a young couple this morning; my kids’ ages, although I didn’t sense that I was talking with anyone a different age than myself. They are missionaries in Central Asia, among the Uyghur; a 15 million-strong ethnic-Muslim people. They are there to demonstrate the love of Jesus to a people that have never really heard of Jesus. The Uyghur understand the concept of Law; they don’t know the concept of Grace. Sadly, not unlike many in the US ‘Bible Belt.’

I asked them how in the world they ever ended up in Central Asia amongst people who, in theory, aren’t receptive to Christianity. The short version of their answer is, “it’s a God Thing” [my translation]. I understand God Things; I was raised as an agnostic/atheist; I finally surrendered to the Creator during my third year of college. It was God Things that brought me to Christ; things that happened only to me, that defied all laws of probability. A God Thing was the only ‘logical’ explanation-’How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?‘ [Sherlock Holmes]. The annoying thing being that I couldn’t demonstrate my evidence to anyone, except by my life.

I live ‘in my cave’ most of the time; probably in the 90+%-of-my-time range. Doing everything is more painful and more difficult to do, compared with my life 4+ years ago; one way of dealing with the pain is not going anywhere I don’t need to go. A dear friend wants me to come to a Gospel Christmas performance; going there means ‘going there;’ which means discomfort. ‘Going there’ also means entering into the world of American Christmas, which, in spite of the caroling and good spirits, has very little to do with the life Jesus modeled.

I have trouble believing that Jesus really wants His birth [nor His death] celebrated; I think He’d prefer having His life celebrated. From the book of Micah, in the Older Testament: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God

For me, one of the ways I have tried to demonstrate this concept is to model for my children a love that I never really felt as a child. Where the modeling has worked well, it is probably by the Grace of the Creator; where it hasn’t worked well, it’s probably due to a history of ignorance. It’s hard to give what one hasn’t received. Where one hasn’t received it, there is a need for God, the Creator of all, to make up the difference.

 

Freedom of Worship-dwgcopy of Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom of Worship”

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 40: Advent- the time of waiting

December 4, 2013

AdorationAdaptation of Norman Rockwell’s “Adoration of the Magi”
Acrylic/Colored Pencil 27 X 17 -
The inspiration for this painting comes from a painting created by my Illustrator hero, Norman Rockwell. – See more at: http://www.mjarts.com/port_1a.htm

I don’t create many of specifically “religious” images. There are two, at present. One for Christmas, one for Easter. I’m not entirely sure why I don’t create more “religious” images. Probably because I’m not very religious, in spite of the fact that I gave my life to the Creator in 1973…forty years ago. This isn’t entirely accurate; in fact I’ve given my life to my Creator several times, as I’ve grown in my understanding of what a Christ-centered life means. Mostly it’s not about religion.

Advent. The word had no meaning for me until my 4th year of college. I came to the realization that Christmas mostly isn’t about what Americans seem to believe Christmas is about.  It’s not about giving presents, and more importantly, it’s not about receiving presents. It’s not about supporting the American economy by shopping, since there seems to be so little of the American economy that isn’t dependent upon shopping.

Christmas is about Grace. “Unmerited Favor.”  For a moment in time [thirty plus years is less than an eyeblink, compared to Eternity], the Eternal and Infinite Creator entered time and space and lived in the form of a human being; starting as a totally helpless infant born to an unwed mother, sheltered in a barn. One really can’t get much further away from “modern American Christmas” than that image.

There’s a Roman Catholic radio station here in Portland that does not play Christmas music until Christmas Day; in spite of the fact that the rest of the media world has been ‘celebrating’ Christmas since a few days before Thanksgiving. The station does play Advent music, along with it’s regular playlist; but not Christmas music. “Advent” to me is best described by the unwritten journey of the Wise Men coming West to find the newly born Messiah–the Savior of Mankind. Jesus apparently wasn’t born in December; He was probably born in the Spring [another good symbol, if one wanted to use it]. The Wise Men probably didn’t show up at the manger. If memory serves, one thought is that Jesus was about two years old when they arrived. Unfortunately, no one thought to write this stuff down at the time; it would have saved a lot of arguments. Surprisingly, no seems to have kept any of the gold, myrrh and frankincense the Wise Men brought. Would have been great souvenirs…

Advent is a period of anticipatory waiting. Probably ‘anticipatory journey’ is a better description. Joseph and Mary journeyed in to Egypt, because they’d been warned that Israel wasn’t a safe place for them to birth Jesus. So they journeyed to an inn that had no vacancies, and Jesus was born on the floor of a barn, and was placed in a feeding trough for the shepherds and angels to see. In theory, there was a pile of smelly stuff that Joseph probably moved, about 6ft away from Jesus’ bed… that’s what happens in barns.

My wife and I journeyed rapidly in our car, to the hospital, early one morning on a 9th of January. I was prayerfully ignoring red lights and was determined that our second kid was not going to be born in the car. Our new son was admitted to the hospital 4 minutes after Judy was admitted [Rob was born in the ER, on a gurney, on his mother's bathrobe...]. The ‘no-frills,’ 2-door, 1979 Blazer does not have a sliding passenger seat; the seat is connected to a stationary hinge, allowing it to tilt forward to allow passengers access to the middle seat. It does not move backwards to allow birthing mothers to exit gracefully. The medical staff had to lift Judy up to the ceiling of the car, and bring her out head-first, since she couldn’t put her legs together… Rob is still driving the Blazer he was almost born in.

While I am not very ‘religious’ [kind of depends on one's definition of the word], I hang around with people who are. After 40 years, I’m not as perplexed about religious behavior as I used to be; but there are aspects of this season that are mystifying to me. My understanding is that the religious leaders of the day decided to turn the pagan mid-winter holiday into something “Christian” and consequently, we have Christmas Trees. I don’t have a problem with that; “A Mighty Fortress”, Martin Luther’s famous hymn, uses the tune of a beer-drinking song from the taverns of his day. I taught my kids about Saint Nicholas [Sant-a _Claus], the bishop who would leave gifts at the houses of the poor in his parish. However, the birth of Jesus has nothing to do with evergreen trees and packages and jolly old fat men in red suits.

I recently watched a Dr. Who episode in which an “earthologist” tour guide was explaining to the interplanetary tourists about the Earth celebration of Christmas… a celebration of war, where the inhabitants of UK went to war with the inhabitants of Turkey, and the people of UK ate the dead Turks…  I wonder if the Followers of the Way [of Jesus], from the First Century would be just as mystified at how  skewed our practices of Advent and Christmas have become.

Jesus was a Jew, and he was raised in the Jewish tradition. Most of his followers were Jews. One of His statements was that He did not intend to change one letter or punctuation mark of Torah; and yet.. somehow we Christians have the Church traditions [in their almost endless variety] of today. We have starving fellow citizens of our planet, brothers and sisters in Faith, living in boxes and typhoon-tossed shacks, across the world; while we “First World” citizens spend hundreds of millions [billions?] of dollars on toys. “Jesus wept;” and I think He’s still weeping. Yes; I realize that when I point my finger at others, there are three more pointing back at me.

Jesus came to earth as an infant human, and lived the same sort of life that so many of us have led, to let us know that He knows what it’s like to be human. He was arrested and convicted of a crime He didn’t commit; He was brutalized in prison; and was spiked to a wooden pole with a crossbeam, hung out to die. He knows about Indignity and faithlessness. He also showed the world that this wasn’t the end of the story. He came back.  He left again, so He wouldn’t be hampered by human limitations; and left us His Spirit; that Spirit that enables us to occasionally recognize Grace, when He shows us that there is better stuff ahead.

Remember the victims during these holiday days. All of the victims. Perhaps especially those victims that we have helped to create, in the name of Peace.

Ashes of Hiroshima


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