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Chronicles in Ordinary Time 147: Holy Saturday

March 31, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chronicles in Ordinary Time 146: An Unfundamental Easter Story

March 25, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michelangelo's Pieta_Omega Nebula
Michelangelo’s Pieta

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

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

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

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

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

nevernding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

wonder

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 145: Life is difficult.

March 18, 2018

rain clouds

Back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, there was a comic strip the dinosaurs read, called “Lil’ Abner”. The series took place in somewhere called Dogpatch and would probably be considered as highly inflammatory in today’s culture. One of the characters in the strip was Joe Btfsplk, a fellow who carried a black cloud over him all the time, and unfortunate things continued to happen to him all the time. The other two characters above should be far more familiar; they too had misadventures.

This has been me for the last two months…

MJ cartoon2

Only the problem has been a desktop computer, rather than a laptop. First World problems, rather than Real problems. I have 5 computers, which is why I only carry a semi-smart phone. If one wants to connect to the Internet, it’s possible, but one REALLY needs to use the Internet, to make it worth the trouble.

In mid-January I edited what was to be the first of four classes that I had filmed. My editing computer of several years died on me. Since the local company that built the computer has gone out of business, I didn’t make the effort to have it repaired. I instead ordered a computer from the only computer store of size left in Portland. It turned out to be the first of four desktop towers I purchased in six weeks. The first was inadequate to my needs, I broke the middle two, and almost broke the one I’ve decided to keep. The story is long, and includes dinosaur-Firewire technology…

I’m a control freak.

In the last six weeks, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my life, waiting for computers to restart and load and restart. Not particularly liking the world I’ve found surrounding me, I attempt to create a space where I am in control—fully realizing that I’m never in control of my circumstances—the thought is merely an illusion. Nonetheless, I’ve been aware of a black cloud raining on my First World parade. Mostly it’s a black cloud because it’s something I can’t control…

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
M.Scott Peck


For the most part, I can only tolerate reading headlines from news stories; perhaps reading only three or four articles on any given day. We seem to be living in a time of cruelty; and the cruelty seems to have escalated to a large degree in the last year. Lies and deceit have become common, and accepted, which is the part that baffles me. Why do we tolerate such behavior?

I read an article about a dying whale on a beach, which was used as a selfie prop; people standing on this dying creature; people carving their graffiti into its side, the whale’s eyes moving around as all of this bestiality is taking place. But bestiality cruelly dishonors the beasts of this world…

Canticle above

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”
Henry Beston, The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod

I fully believe and cling to Grace and forgiveness in Christ; the Creator’s choice to enter time and space and experience life as a human being—a life ended in torture. When we experience pain, a feel a need for healing, we have a Creator who knows exactly how we feel.

At the same time, I feel that we humans will have much to answer for when we arrive Home. The way we have squandered the wonder of this world. Yesterday, as I write this, was the 50th Anniversary of the My Lai Massacre, which took place on March 16, 1968. American soldiers decimating the population of a Vietnamese village, with hundreds of deaths including women, children and the elderly. A shooting that occurred for no reason beyond that they could. A massacre stopped by one man, Hugh Thompson, an Army helicopter pilot who threatened his fellow soldiers with death if they continued the massacre.

We humans have much to answer for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 144: Yet, still I persist…

February 27, 2018

valley of the shadow_crop

Today [Monday, when I started writing this] is my birthday; at least the one that really counts—the day I realized that I had been born again. Not in some crazy religious way; not the kind of being born again that makes for really bad headlines and bizarre comments from the ‘religious right’. Instead, the kind of being born again that Jesus talked to Nicodemus about [third chapter of John’s Gospel—BTW, verses 16 and following are not usually printed in red ink, for those who understand the jargon]. Seeing the world in a new way—the real meaning of that poorly-used word, “repent”—not some word to use for beating others; a word that simply means, ‘change the way you see’.
I find it difficult to write without images. At present, my life is largely about struggle—not only my own, but also the struggles of the people who are part of my life at this time. One died recently. People struggling with that awful C-word; and the even more awful treatment for that word. People who hate their life; people who fear the results of the life they’ve made for themselves. I created the image above for someone I’m close to, and also for myself. I feel as though I’m picking myself up, all of the time; lately I’m even more aware of the ‘wolves’ that are hounding me; and the ‘Fear Not and Behold’ angels that follow me. I know that they are the reason the wolves stay out of reach. Metaphor.

I never expected to be living in this world. This world is very different from the world we lived in a year or so ago, when we actually had a President, rather than some guy who only knows how to run a business [bankrupt six times, called, “smart business decisions” [http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/jun/21/hillary-clinton/yep-donald-trumps-companies-have-declared-bankrupt/]; and giving enormous tax breaks to billionaires while cutting off the ‘safety nets’ for the poor. A guy who only understands ‘zero-sum’ business decisions. A guy who has shredded most of the protections that his predecessor managed to put in place, so that the country could be closer to that which we’ve advertised in movies for decades…

A Civilization that Spends More Money on Warhttps://me.me/i/a-civilization-that-spends-more-money-on-war-than-education-13669421
Must be some sort of ‘sh**hole kind of country’…

Image2

However, these aren’t the images I like to be known for [I did not create the above two images; part of me wishes I had].

This is the kind of image I want to be known for:

greentree3

One of my favorites—a tribute to Vermeer; and the client didn’t like it. Too often, the story of my professional life as an illustrator. I found it amusing that I was contacted a few days ago about being part of a listing of “Top Artists To Watch in 2018” or something like that… I told them that while I appreciated the compliment of their interest, I didn’t consider 40 years as a ‘starving artist’ as qualifying me for their list. Fortunately, in 1984 [the other 1984], I was led into a job that I didn’t really want; one that has provided me with an income for the last 34 years. Life is full of surprises.

My intention was to become a full-time Children’s Book illustrator. I grew up with Classics Illustrated, and magazines illustrated by such artists as N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle, Frank E. Schoonover, and my hero, Norman Rockwell. They were ‘merely’ illustrators at the time they created their images.  [http://www.artcyclopedia.com/history/golden-age.html]  Life is full of surprises. Rockwell never considered himself as an Artist. Commercial art was always the bane of Fine Art.

When I decided to ‘get serious’ about becoming a Children’s Book Illustrator, I started collecting images [pre-digital] that I wanted my work to be like. I metaphorically put my head down and focused on my illustrations for about 10 years, when my health caused me to make a new career choice. I had been involved with SCBWI for most of that time, and considered the ‘rejections’ at Conferences to be the particular tastes of the editors who were looking at my work. Eventually I looked up from my work and discovered the illustration world had changed— Children’s Book illustrators were becoming cartoonists, and photographers were becoming illustrators like those found in ‘the Golden Age’. I have a pile of rejections that basically say, ‘we really like your work, but it’s not what we’re looking for’. Somewhat soothing to the ego, but hard on the checkbook. Sometimes I feel like I’ve specialized in illustrating Edsels…

Another image that I’d like to be known for:

tattoo

Due to my particular personality [INTJ for those who understand the jargon], ‘whimsy’ is something I lack in my work. I can copy ‘whimsy’ but I don’t find myself creating it. This is about as close to whimsy that I create—the tattoo above is on her back:

woman_with_the_dragon_tattoo

I consider my Doctor Who obsession to be a form of whimsy…

Doctor images

A friend of mine described science fiction as helping him to believe that the impossible is really possible.

However, Children’s Book editors have a different understanding of whimsy…

Yet, still I persist.

Different context from Elizabeth Warren’s.

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 143: The World of Tomorrow, Redux

February 22, 2018

Watched Tomorrowland again tonight…
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1964418/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

In the Light of the students in Parkland, and across the country:

From the film:
Nix: “Let’s imagine… if you glimpsed the future, you were frightened by what you saw, what would you do with that information? You would go to… the politicians, captains of industry? And how would you convince them? Data? Facts? Good luck! The only facts they won’t challenge are the ones that keep the wheels greased and the dollars rolling in.

“But what if… what if there was a way of skipping the middle man and putting the critical news directly into everyone’s head? The probability of wide-spread annihilation kept going up. The only way to stop it was to show it. To scare people straight. Because, what reasonable human being wouldn’t be galvanized by the potential destruction of everything they’ve ever known or loved? To save civilization, I would show its collapse.

“But, how do you think this vision was received? How do you think people responded to the prospect of imminent doom? They gobbled it up like a chocolate eclair! They didn’t fear their demise, they re-packaged it. It could be enjoyed as video-games, as TV shows, books, movies, the entire world wholeheartedly embraced the apocalypse and sprinted towards it with gleeful abandon. Meanwhile, your Earth was crumbling all around you.

“You’ve got simultaneous epidemics of obesity and starvation. Explain that one! Bees and butterflies start to disappear, the glaciers melt, algae blooms. All around you the coal mine canaries are dropping dead and you won’t take the hint! In every moment there’s the possibility of a better future, but you people won’t believe it.

“And because you won’t believe it you won’t do what is necessary to make it a reality. So, you dwell on this terrible future. You resign yourselves to it for one reason, because *that* future does not ask anything of you today. So yes, we saw the iceberg and warned the Titanic. But you all just steered for it anyway, full steam ahead. Why? Because you want to sink! You gave up! That’s not the monitor’s fault. That’s yours…”

Everyone thinks of changing the world; no one thinks of changing themselves.

Tolstoy

Doctor Who: “It’s not just work, it’s your life. And it’s a human need to be told stories. The more we’re governed by idiots and have no control over our destinies, the more we need to tell stories to each other about who we are, why we are, where we come from, and what might be possible. Or, what’s impossible? What’s a fantasy?”

Last Christmas [2015]

Thomas Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence. At age 33, he was one of the youngest delegates to the Second Continental Congress beginning in 1775 at the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, where a formal declaration of independence from Britain was overwhelmingly favored.33

wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 142: all of those who take up swords will die by swords

February 21, 2018

angel.grief_mj

Dear Kat-

In the world that I grew up in, largely guided by television shows that showed families who ate meals together; and kids that could go to their grandparents when they had big problems, and the grandparents always had an answer. Now I’m the grandfather, and you live in a world that no kid should ever half to live in, and I don’t have the answer.

Based on one Facebook page I visited yesterday, the problem with our society is a lack of Jesus. That same Fb page says that the other problem in our society is the lack of assault rifles… a video with a 10-year-old, like I was, who stops his bicycle; jumps off, and pulls a pistol out of his holster. He takes a shot or two—I didn’t see a muzzle flash—and then pulls an assault rifle out of his backpack and begins ‘firing’ again. The video was filmed from far enough away that I couldn’t see if the weapons were real, or artfully crafted toys. Another video with a girl around 10 or 12, almost hysterically joyous that she’d been given the gift of a rifle…

So, apparently, the solution is Jesus and assault rifles. Everyone should be allowed to carry a weapon, including the children in schools…and we can all shoot each other to death; where we will go and meet Jesus… right?

A little Bible teaching: Matthew 26:52, from the “Aramaic Bible in Plain English”
Then Yeshua said to him, “Return the sword to its place, for all of those who take up swords will die by swords.”
Today, the verse probably needs to be updated: ‘…all of those who take up assault rifles will die by assault rifles.’

I was in my early twenties when I first heard of Jesus. He didn’t come with assault rifles, back in the 1970s. A good thing: there was a girl murdered in the dorm I lived in, by an immature, angry teen who wanted to have sex with her. The whole campus was on alert for what seemed like weeks. There was a ‘security’ team who prowled our hallways at night—stoners who wandered the hallways armed with .22s from home. I didn’t have a God to thank, that they weren’t carrying assault rifles.

The world is broken. It’s always been broken—this is the inheritance of being human beings who have the power to choose. People choose to do evil. Fortunately, not all people; not all of the time. Some days I think America is more broken than many other societies.

gun homicides in Americahttps://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/mar/15/so-america-this-is-how-you-do-gun-control

Although a lot of people refuse to see it, according to the graph above, guns are the answer to the mass-killing problem. The countries listed make it very difficult for someone to acquire a weapon designed to kill people. Fb friends of mine are having debates on whether or not people should have guns. Our Constitutional Right; of course, healthcare isn’t included in the US Constitution…

I’m not ‘Grandpa Walton’ [the analogy probably has no meaning for you—it might have meaning for your Mom]; and I don’t have a team of scriptwriters deciding what kind of answers to give you. My 45th re-birthday—the day that, as Jesus called it, I was ‘born again’—is on Friday. Forty-five years of studying the nature of the Creator; and I still don’t have answers. People do stupid things; especially in large groups. You don’t have to be like them.

Treat people in the same way that you want to be treated.
Be kind to everyone. Even to the stupid, abusive ones.
Don’t return harm for harm.
Be grateful for everything you are given.
Most importantly, search for the signs of the Creator in your life.

By nature, I’m a recluse; I don’t like to talk with strangers. I have a ‘persona’ that I can ‘strap on’ and talk to groups of strangers. There are techniques that one can learn; but that guy isn’t the real me. I avoid people, which makes it easier to follow the above suggestions. You are a more outgoing person. Listen to your Mom.

Jenn_Katelina 1-1002

I believe that we are born with the Spirit of the Creator in our soul; and that our soul is ‘standard equipment’ in human beings.  You have the Spirit of your Creator within you.

It’s entirely possible for someone to spend their entire life ignoring the Spirit of the Creator. The Spirit never forces herself upon us. It is also possible to ‘open a door’ in your mind; create a new neural pathway in your brain—to be more scientific; and to realize that your understanding of the world is so small; and the world of the Creator is so large.

There were lots of people, during my first 2.5 years of college who wanted to ‘save’ me. I didn’t want to be ‘saved’. I wanted to be loved and appreciated—which is an entirely different skillset and requires effort on the part of another. Forty-five years ago, I was ‘saved’—it’s taken much of my adult life to realize that I was saved all along; I was simply unaware of it.

I know a guy who fears that he is going to Hell because he swears. Some people taught him that God doesn’t allow swearing in Heaven. I continue to tell him that what happens after he dies has nothing to do with the words he uses when he’s angry [he’s angry a lot of the time and refuses to admit it].

The Creator of Time and Space entered life on Earth in the form of a carpenter in a backwater town. He became a ‘street preacher’ for three years, afflicting the comfortable, and comforting the afflicted. The religious leaders of His day had Him tortured and killed, so that He’d shut up. Three days after He died, He came back. He talked with hundreds of people; and then disappeared, an unspecified time later. Those hundreds changed the entire world.
A lot of their descendants made life horrible for lots of people—they became like the religious who had Jesus killed.

Treat people in the same way that you want to be treated.
Be kind to everyone. Even to the stupid, abusive ones.
Don’t return harm for harm.
Be grateful for everything you are given.
Most importantly, search for the signs of the Creator in your life.

I would love to tell you that this advice will protect you from all of the people who wish to do you harm. I would be lying to you if I did. Shit happens; even to those who devote their lives to following the Creator. If you read ‘the news’ on any given day of the week [and I’m glad you don’t], you’d find that shit happens to people of every faith, nearly every day. The Creator doesn’t shelter us from pain and grief; if that was so, people would think that the Creator is magical. The Creator isn’t magical.

Whatever happens in your life, good days and bad days, you are never alone.

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 141: The World of Tomorrow

February 12, 2018

Today’s List:
Unrestrained Fiscal Irresponsibility among the Republican Congress—that part of our government that complained so LOUDLY about ‘tax and spend Democrats’ during the previous Administration. Shame should be rampant.

What we are leaving for future generations to deal with? Do they even care?

From the film, Tomorrowland:
Nix: Let’s imagine… if you glimpsed the future, you were frightened by what you saw, what would you do with that information? You would go to… the politicians, captains of industry? And how would you convince them? Data? Facts? Good luck! The only facts they won’t challenge are the ones that keep the wheels greased and the dollars rolling in.

But what if… what if there was a way of skipping the middle man and putting the critical news directly into everyone’s head? The probability of wide-spread annihilation kept going up. The only way to stop it was to show it. To scare people straight. Because, what reasonable human being wouldn’t be galvanized by the potential destruction of everything they’ve ever known or loved? To save civilization, I would show its collapse.

But, how do you think this vision was received? How do you think people responded to the prospect of imminent doom? They gobbled it up like a chocolate eclair! They didn’t fear their demise, they re-packaged it. It could be enjoyed as video-games, as TV shows, books, movies, the entire world wholeheartedly embraced the apocalypse and sprinted towards it with gleeful abandon. Meanwhile, your Earth was crumbling all around you.

You’ve got simultaneous epidemics of obesity and starvation. Explain that one! Bees and butterflies start to disappear, the glaciers melt, algae blooms. All around you the coal mine canaries are dropping dead and you won’t take the hint! In every moment there’s the possibility of a better future, but you people won’t believe it.”

Tomorrowland

“And because you won’t believe it you won’t do what is necessary to make it a reality. So, you dwell on this terrible future. You resign yourselves to it for one reason, because *that* future does not ask anything of you today. So yes, we saw the iceberg and warned the Titanic. But you all just steered for it anyway, full steam ahead. Why? Because you want to sink! You gave up! That’s not the monitor’s fault. That’s yours.”
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1964418/?ref_=nv_sr_1

Everyone thinks of changing the world; no one thinks of changing themselves.
Tolstoy

Doctor Who: “It’s not just work, it’s your life. And it’s a human need to be told stories. The more we’re governed by idiots and have no control over our destinies, the more we need to tell stories to each other about who we are, why we are, where we come from, and what might be possible. Or, what’s impossible? What’s a fantasy?”
Last Christmas [2015]

Image1

If I invited people to ask, I’m sure someone would wonder why I spend so much time and energy on Doctor Who…
…because the Doctor brings hope. We need hope so much, right now.

The above image is one I created some time last year; having watched Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. As I usually do, I got caught up in the details of the space ship, and created a poorer image. Getting rid of some of the literal improves the result.

Now that I have my Editing/Graphics computer running again, almost ready to get back to editing videos, I decided to use the Doctor as my ‘desktop’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 140: The Strangest Year

January 19, 2018

portland spring

The problem with being busy at work is that I don’t have time to write about the things I think about during the day. Doing work with my hands leaves an opening for my brain to fill ‘thinking time’ with stories I want to tell.

The above image doesn’t have much to do with how I feel the moment; except that I’m listening to a concert by John Denver, in London, back in the October of 1982

[ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bg7pfxxMAk ]

If you aren’t familiar with John Denver, you might consider learning about him. A prophet of peace, one might say. He entered the music scene during the Seventies when the US was going to hell. And here we are again…

John Denver – Peace Poem Lyrics

There’s a name for war and killing
There’s a name for giving in
When you know another answer
For me the name is sin

But there’s still time to turn around
And make all hatred cease
And give another name to living
And we could call it peace

And peace would be the road we walk
Each step along the way
And peace would be the way we work
And peace the way we play

And in all we see that’s different
And in all the things we know
Peace would be the way we look
And peace the way we grow

There’s a name for separation
There’s a name for first and last
When it’s all for us or nothing
For me the name is past

But there’s still time to turn around
And make all hatred cease
And give a name to all the future
And we could call it peace

And if peace is what we pray for
And peace is what we give
Then peace will be the way we are
And peace the way we live

Yes, there still is the time to turn around
And make all hatred cease
And give another name to living
And we can call it peace

John Denver was on a commission one time, looking at the problems of hunger in the world. Hunger in the world could be completely eliminated. The problem isn’t a lack of food being produced; the problem is the lack of political will to make it happen.

Our government does not need to add one dime to its Defense/War budget—we outspent every country on earth, when it comes to ammunition of War. The President wants to increase the Defense Budget to create more nuclear weapons—‘low-yield’ weapons that can be used on individual cities… Like the ones used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  1. WE HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO NEED, WE BEING THE ENTIRE WORLD, TO EVER USE NUCLEAR WEAPONS AGAIN.
  2. THE U.S. ALREADY HAS A HUGE SURPLUS OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS IN STORAGE.

The President is said to have asked a General, before the man became President, ‘why do we have nuclear weapons, if we aren’t going to use them?’

America used to be a model of democracy for the world. Imperfect, but slowly improving. We have taken such a downward turn that even George W. is concerned about where we will end up.

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 139: On a New Year

December 31, 2017

milky way

Our Western New Year is an artificial construct.
In the Hebrew calendar, December 31, 2017 is the 13th of Tevet, 5778
The Chinese New Year for 2018 is Friday, February 16
“The Chinese calendar has over 100 variants, whose characteristics reflect the calendar’s evolutionary path. As with Chinese characters, different variants are used in different parts of the Chinese cultural sphere.” Wikipedia

In the Maya calendar, “…transformative events would occur on or around 21 December 2012. This date was regarded as the end-date of a 5,126-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar…” WikipediaIn Iran, the Solar Hijri year 1396 goes from 21 March 2017 – 20 March 2018

For a long list of world calendars, go here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_calendars

Even though I know that our calendar date is an artificial construct, I’m glad that 2017 is nearly over. The last few months have been difficult.

We like beginnings and endings; we are people of story…
The reality is that tomorrow may be exactly like today, dependent upon hangovers, etc.

All the same, tomorrow can be the beginning of something new. The beginning of new growth, the beginning of change. For Portland, Oregon—not relying on the Weather Channel for accuracy—our sunny weather today could well be ice in a few weeks, as it was last week at this time. My wife and I live on the side of a volcano; when our driveway ices over, we generally stay inside, watching DVDs. Appreciation to my son, Rob, for removing limbs that threaten our electrical connection to the larger world.

greentree3

I’m reminded today that growth requires time. Like most of the Western World, I lack patience, and I want my goals to be accomplished tomorrow, or maybe the next day. I have a head full of ideas; if I knew all of those ideas might take years to complete, I might quit. One of my recent disappointments is a Grant that I applied for, but did not compete adequately. There were 200 applicants for a fixed amount of Grants, and my project didn’t compete well with the other applicants.

One of my illustration acquaintances, someone I wish I knew a lot better, has invested two years of drawing and painting, on a contract, for a book project that recently died. I hope that the contract included some sort of payment for that amount of time, but money doesn’t necessarily address the loss one can feel when a project that has taken time to create, suddenly won’t be created.

How we deal with difficult loss can be a measure of strength. Sometimes our strength fails; and the ‘strength’ then, is getting back up.

There’s a passage in the Newer Testament that talks about putting on the ‘armor of God’—in order to stand. That’s it; stand. Any good motivational speaker would go on about ‘getting back on track,’ ‘setting new goals,’ ‘wiping off the dust;’ or like in the Rocky saga, getting back up in order to be pummeled again.

Getting back up, fully-armored, in order to stand. Much of the Apostle Paul’s ‘armor’ is mental; feeding the brain with the stuff that strengthens. Even if all we ever do is stand, we’ll find the world coming to trample us, without much effort on our part. If we keep standing, keep doing the stuff we know we need to do, for our own mental health, we will find that the difficulties we FEARed* will eventually be behind us.

* False Evidence Appearing Real

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 138: God Didn’t Have to Come

December 19, 2017
Sketch of a Man by François-Guillaume Ménageot (1744–1816)
Other art images weren’t credited by those who posted them

I’ve written this many times before; I was raised as an atheist; and came to faith while in college. To paraphrase CS Lewis, I was looking for faith in the same way that a mouse looks for a cat. Total surprise, totally changed my life. Truly God-smacked.

I’ve also written that I really don’t like this time of year, particularly in contemporary America. Amidst the shopping, the battles over the nature of Christmas decorations; the battles between Fundamentalists and those who aren’t—often their own family; amidst Christmas pageants and incessant Holiday movies on the tube, the whole point of the first Advent has been lost.

The Creator did not have to come.

Many don’t think He did.
There are those who accept the concept that a Creator began the Universe, and then walked away.

Think of every war, every dictatorship, every moment in history when discord and brutality ruled the Earth—that part of Creation devoid of God. We probably wouldn’t be here now; our ancestors destroyed in the nuclear war that could have happened.

At that moment in time when the timeline was split into two portions, the Creator of the entire Universe entered time and space in the form of a single cell. People get so bent out of shape about the “Virgin Birth”—seemingly overlooking the wonder of the births that happen each day, all over the planet. We lose the wonder of the miracle because it happens all the time, all over the Created world. Cells are fertilized and expand through a process called cellular mitosis. We grow, largely in the dark for 9 months, breathing liquid. And then another wonder happens—we start breathing air. Or not.

To quote Steve Brown, one of my mentors:
The first prayer any believer ought to pray is “Thank you.” God didn’t have to come.
Who would have thought that God—the God of the universe, the Creator and Sustainer of all that is—would have come as a little baby?
God surprises us in our lives. The principle is this: Whatever you think God is doing in your life right now, he probably isn’t. That principle helps me live with the paradox of trying to put God in a box. You see, he wants us to learn to trust him no matter what happens. Meaning isn’t to be found in having all questions answered, all problems solved, all ambiguity resolved. Meaning is found only in the fact that Jesus has come.

The Creator did not enter time in space so that all of your problems would be solved. The Creator did not enter time in space to bring judgement upon the world. The Creator did not enter time and space in order to create new religions. The Creator did not enter time and space in order for one religion to prove that it is better than other religions.

The Creator did not enter time and space to die on a cross so that you don’t have to.

The Creator came to let you know that your Creator knows exactly what it’s like to live in this world. To be an outcast for much of His life—everyone in the community knew the stories—the angels, the shepherds; the wise men that came from the east when Jesus was something like two years old, bringing extravagant gifts fit for a King. If the apocryphal stories have any truth in them, everyone in the village knew about the boy who could do miraculous things…Jesus was an ‘outcast’—He was different from everyone else, and every Junior High kid knows how awful that can be. When Jesus was 12 He went with His parents to Jerusalem, and was left behind by His parents, because He wasn’t paying attention to anything but what the Rabbis were teaching…and what He was teaching them. Everyone knew how the caravan had to turn around, and Jesus’ parents were hunting through Jerusalem to find Him. Everyone in the community learned that story…

When He finally found His Calling, He had three years before the religious leaders of the community had Him falsely arrested, tortured and hanged on a cross like a common thief. He died. The sky split, as did the two-story tall curtain in the Temple—the one that separated God from the people—split from the top down. He was placed in a borrowed tomb; and rose three days later, walking out, in front of Roman guards. For the next several weeks, Jesus appeared before something like 500 people, many alive when the Gospels began being written. Then He left. And then He returned in the form of Spirit—the Spirit that inhabits every person on Earth.

Richard Rohr:
God saves humanity not by punishing it but by restoring it! We overcome our evil not by a frontal and heroic attack, but by a humble letting go that always first feels like losing. Christianity is probably the only religion in the world that teaches us, from the very cross, how to win by losing. It is always a hard sell—especially for folks who are into strength, domination, winning, and enforcing conclusions. God’s restorative justice is much more patient, and finally much more transformative, than mere coercive obedience.
We are not separate from Christ. We are his incarnation, his body. So, our suffering is not separate; it is a continuation of the suffering of Christ that still endures for the life of the world. Much of Christianity has still not dealt with that. We still act as if Christ were “over there,” and we are praying to Christ and pleasing Christ and trying to get Christ inside of us
.
That’s why I dislike such language as “I have accepted Christ into my heart as my personal savior.” The implication is that we are actually separate and our brave decision changes all of that. The truth is that we are already in Christ by the power of the Spirit. We are his flesh, we are his body, we are his children. It’s all a matter of recognition and response, which we call faith.

Advent crrop

That ‘ex-‘ the one you don’t communicate with, but can’t get out of your mind. She’s still in my mind; and I still don’t know what happened. I think of her every day, because I keep her in my prayers. I don’t pray for anything specific—I simply remember her, and hope that good things are happening in her life.

Such is the Spirit of the Creator within us. When I got God-smacked in college, ‘nothing happened.’ The day of realization was just like the day before; I merely became informed that nothing had to happen; I simply had to ‘open a door’ in my mind. No ‘rushing wind’, no ‘tongues of fire’. What changed was me. As I trusted in the process, trusted in the new information, new things occurred in my life. Some good, but not all. Eventually the emptiness I’d felt for years left. The Spirit of the Creator was already in me; I’d never paid much attention before. For most of my life I’d totally ignored the Spirit within me; except for those moments when ‘conscience’ told me I’d made a wrong choice. Or my Dad.

Every person on Earth has the Spirit within them.
Fundamentalists are looking for pitchforks and torches…

There are a lot of people in this world, a lot of people in this country–many of whom hold political office–have a really hard time distinguishing between Truth and Fact. Truth can readily exist in the absence of Fact. Sadly, Fact doesn’t always mean Truth.
Some people have a hard time understanding that the Americas are absent from the Bible. The Americas didn’t ‘exist’ until a couple thousand years after the Abrahamic Scriptures were written. Scriptural principles can apply everywhere;  it’s a bit of a leap to claim that our present governments are ‘clearly’ written about in Scripture…

 

 

 

 


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