Posts Tagged ‘Neuropathy’

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 152: The Question that Doesn’t Go Away

May 17, 2018

Who are you?
Who am I?

watson's brain4

My old friend, Doctor Watson, contemplating the soul

An old guy that I know keeps asking the question, where is my soul? Someone once told him that the soul is “the breath of God”. His response is that it has to be more than a breath.

I can’t prove anything that I’m about to write; consequently, I won’t argue with you if you disagree.

In Chronicles in Ordinary Time 149, I wrote about Thought, and how the image below is a visual representation of a single thought, somewhere in the brain. The funny plant-root like things are the neurons in your brain, which are basically microscopic; they vary in size from 4 microns to 100 microns in diameter. Their length varies from a fraction of an inch to several feet.

thought_50

Every interaction you have with the world happens through your brain. You aren’t a body with a brain, you are a brain with a body. The sole purpose of your body, from a physiological perspective, is to enable your brain to function, and to tell you about your world.

I’m restoring an old picture frame for a client. Tonight, I was working on the creation of some of the decorative plaster ‘carvings’ that are attached to the frame. An experiment in how I can replicate the curlicue on the corners of the frame. I went out into the ‘debris pile’ that once was my workshop. To be honest, it hasn’t changed all that much—I have never been tidy with my work space. However, items are placed in certain places in the chaos, and I know where those places are.

One of the thoughts that crossed my mind is that I should really get rid of lots of the stuff that’s out there—ideally, given away to someone who needs it—and I asked myself the question why it’s been sitting there for 9 years. 2009 was the year that I realized it was no longer safe for me to work with sharp things.

The neurons above run throughout our bodies and provide the brain with information about our environment; my sensory neurons are deteriorating for no known reason. My sense of touch has been significantly reduced; and I can damage myself without knowing it—I first called it ‘leprosy’. Hansen’s Disease is a deterioration of sensory neurons. People can’t feel pain when injured, and can just continue working, while creating significant damage to the body. Left untreated, the injury becomes infected, and can cause parts of the body to fall off.

That workshop, and all of its tools and clutter are part of my life. Probably 20 years of my life, if I was to add it all up. I used to build things out of wood. Houses and furniture, mostly.

An amazing thing occurred in Oaxaca, Mexico, one night in 2008, when I was working with Medical Teams International. My fifth trip out of Portland to help build and repair things. My ‘high-functioning sociopathic’ personality had come to the realization that in spite of the noise and chaos of the Oaxacan night life below my balcony, in spite of the fact that I only knew a few words of Spanish and very few people in Oaxaca spoke English, I was willing to keep going on these trips. For a few days, I had a ‘vision’ of the life I could have in the years to come—traveling around the Americas fixing what man and nature had damaged.

Then came the Sensory Polyneuropathy [description, not diagnosis], about nine months later. It took a year for me to give up that carpenter ‘identity’  I had acquired; although I realized tonight that it’s not really gone…It’s just buried in memories. Memories scattered around my brain in connections between neurons, like data on a hard drive. I can clearly recall the buildings I worked on and the furniture I built; even though I haven’t seen them for decades.

To a large degree, what you are is the sum of your memories.

The other evening, I was talking to some friends about memories from my life. Memories, and absence of memories that have shaped my life and my faith. Faith is a huge part of my life at this time; although it doesn’t take the form that many Americans-of-faith share. Some things that people of faith consider crucial to faith don’t exist in my life; or they come with an entirely different package. My faith didn’t even come into being until I was in my twenties; it may not have come into ‘maturity’ until my fifties. I’m not sure what ‘maturity’ means when it comes to the subject of faith, because I don’t believe faith is a static thing.

To a large degree, your memories are patterns of electrons traveling through your brain. A connection between neurons. A pathway across which the electrons in your brain travel. Your memories don’t have a ‘structure’ in your brain. They are ‘recorded’ in connections between microscopic pieces of your brain.

‘Surely, our memories must be more than that.’ We think this because of our linear nature; at best we think in 3 dimensions, or possibly 4 [time]–what if the Universe is made up  with 5, or 10 dimensions? We talk about Infinity as if it means ‘really, really, long’; and we speak of Eternity as if it means, ‘a really, really long time.’ What if Eternity is an absence of time; and Infinity is an absence of distance, or an inclusion of all distance? I believe the world beyond this one defies our imaginations.

I believe that we communicate with the Creator of the Universe by way of a non-physical connection between our brains and the Spirit of the Creator. This is how a ‘high-functioning sociopath’ would ever conceive of the idea of spending time around people with unfamiliar customs and unknown methods of communicating. Working among the poorest of the poor, living in deplorable conditions. Being uncomfortable for days at a time; longing to return to my safe ‘cave’… Why would I ever consider this as something I would choose to do?

There have been a lot of these experiences in my life. Choosing to do things I would have never expected myself to participate in. I believe these experiences are the urging of the Creator’s Spirit. I suppose some will think that it’s indigestion.

This is my answer to the question, do I have a soul, and where is it.

My soul is in my mind; my soul can’t be weighed on a scale, because my soul consists of the connections between electrons. The day I die is the day when my soul is released from this very difficult body.

I believe I am a soul, with a brain. And a deteriorating body. The latter is the part that is temporary. The rest of my life is endless.

Stars [1926]sm

Stars [1926] Maxfield Parrish

 

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Chronicles in Ordinary Time 147: Belief

April 23, 2018

P45_mj

I have been given the gift of new followers lately; I’m not sure why, but I appreciate the gift of your time.  However, this one may drive you away again…

Why am I writing this one?

My goal, with my Chronicles, is to help bring some sense, some order, to the nonsensical, seemingly random nature of the country as it has come to be. I use ‘country’ instead of “world” because I am nothing close to a ‘world traveler’ and know little about real life outside the US.

The character above keeps interfering with my thought processes; and I find it difficult to write something meaningful because of my anger and disappointment…

I’m an old hippie. When I was sitting around in college dorms, talking about what the world would be like after we had converted our parents to the concept of Love and Acceptance and an end to War, our current President, and his kind, did not enter our conversations. He is 5+ years older than I; he eventually received a high draft number [coming the long way in his avoidance of military service]. I, too, had a high draft number and did not serve in Vietnam. Nor did we enlist. I don’t think I would have found the nerve to head for Canada. I missed a Draft number in the twenties by about 6 hours—I was a 10-month baby [‘when the apple is ripe, it will fall from the tree’]. When I first understood the concept of Grace, I experienced gratitude for my birthdate.

The other morning, I was reading in CS Lewis’ The Problem of Pain [incredible book], and read the following in his chapter on The Fall of Man. He writes of primitive man, as he probably was, when Mankind became cognizant of the concept of “me”:

“…Hence pride and ambition, the desire to be lovely in its own eyes and to depress and humiliate all rivals, envy, and restless search for more, and still more, security, were now the attitudes that came easiest to it. It was not only a weak king over its own nature, but a bad one: it sent down into the psycho-physical organism desires far worse than the organism sent up in to it.”

The above was written in 1940, around 7 years before DJT’s birthday. So, Lewis wasn’t writing about him.
People who are offended by James Comey’s assessment simply weren’t paying attention.
I’ve been hanging around the “evangelical” community for about 45 years; having been introduced to Faith in college.

Disclaimer #1

I am a follower of Jesus.
I was an atheist, into my twenties; only I never used that word, because “faith” or “religion” was not part of my vocabulary. I was, at best, a Not.
I did not come to Christ because of the Bible.
I did not come to Christ because of a church.

I came to Christ because one guy who lived across the hall from me, became my friend. And he introduced me to his roommate, and a handful of other Believers; college students, like myself. Sane, fun-loving, seemingly well-educated, well-spoken college students. These people introduced me to the Creator of the Universe.

I had avoided Christians like the plague, because for the two years at my previous campus, I was told by people on street corners that I wasn’t living a ‘godly life’—these people didn’t even know my name. I was told that if I led a ‘godly life’ I could be ‘saved’. I had no desire to live a ‘godly life’, nor did I desire to be ‘saved’.

I came to Christ, ‘kicking and screaming’—CS Lewis describes his search for God to be like ‘a mouse searching for a cat’.

For 45 years I have heard men on platforms declaring to their congregations about how they should live and what it means to live a moral life. Not one of those men would hold up DJT as an example of a moral man, and a model for a young person’s life. Men like him were used as examples of what not to be.

I get sickened when I see “Leaders” in the Evangelical community standing firmly behind the President, and being willing to excuse him his indiscretions, because after all, he is a ‘baby Christian’ and he stands up for the pro-life agenda.

Hmm…Maybe Psalm 139:9 was written for these “Leaders”…
  Young’s Literal Translation
  O the happiness of him who doth seize, And hath dashed thy sucklings on the rock!
  New International Version
  Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.

Oh, the problems of being a pro-life Fundamentalist…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 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 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…

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 137: We need more Don Quixotes in this world

December 13, 2017

New Doctor images; new products at my online store: https://society6.com/mjartscom

I find the concept of a Time Lord trapped inside a wall clock amusing…

Steven Moffat, outgoing showrunner and writer for Doctor Who, once described the stories of The Doctor as being a fairy tale. To me, this is an accurate description; the series has always been aimed at children [I question the creators’ judgement on occasion]; The Doctor is a fairy-tale hero, spending his life saving the Universe—mostly.

I am once-again running down on my Doctor cycle of ‘going to bed’ stories… I find that the best way for me to end my day is watch an episode of The Doctor—here, I find sanity and hope. I remember the stories too well to continually run The Doctor every night—there are plenty of 20th Century episodes I’ve never seen—the cardboard sets tend to get in the way of the story.

 

We have just witnessed a remarkable election in Alabama—a former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court being accused of what amounts to being a pedophile—running for the US Senate, and being supported by a significant portion of the voting populating. I’ve read the documents in Doe vs. Trump court case, posted on the Internet; so I guess I should not be surprised that allegations of sexual misconduct are no longer cause for a political contender dropping out of the race. Over the 50 or so years that I’ve been paying attention, politicians have dropped out of Federal election races for far less scandalous allegations than are present now. However, after doing some google research for the last 10 minutes, I find that I’m apparently naïve when it comes to such matters. The list is huge.

Should we expect a higher standard of behavior among those who represent us in the three branches of our government? I was raised to believe that the answer is yes. We should hold politicians to a higher standard. The ‘subject’ is ethical behavior; clearly the concept of ‘ethical behavior’ in government is on a downhill slope. “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Corruption in government goes back as far as recorded history.

The question is what happens when unethical behavior is discovered…

For most of my adult life, I’ve encountered people I admired, who committed sexual misconduct; committed fraud; committed bigotry. Somehow, it has never occurred to me that I should set aside ethical behavior simply because others get away with it—they all ‘got away with it’, even when they were caught.

I was given the Grace Gift [I did not earn the gift; nor did I deserve it] of a ‘moral compass’—there are so many these days who have not been given that gift. Fear of consequences—running aground, to continue the nautical metaphor—always has kept me following the course…but it’s not because I’m good; I simply don’t want to bring anymore chaos to my life. It’s chaotic enough, even following the compass…

I have a 15-year old granddaughter who lives a thousand miles away from me. We see her for a few days, most years. Every day I ponder what to say to her. Sometimes I’m ashamed that this world is the one that she’s been given…

I keep coming back to The Man of La Mancha:

I will impersonate a man. His name… Alonso Quijana.
A country gentleman, no longer young.
Being retired, he has much time for books.
He studies them from morn till night…
and often through the night till morn again.
And all he reads oppresses him…
fills him with indignation…
at man’s murderous ways towards man.
He ponders the problem… how to make better a world…
Where fraud, deceit, and malice
are mingled with truth and sincerity.
He broods and broods and broods and broods…
and broods and finally his brains dry up.
He lays down the melancholy burden of sanity…
and conceives the strangest project ever imagined…
to become a knight-errant, and sally forth…
to roam the world in search of adventures…
to right all wrongs, to mount a crusade…
to raise up the weak and those in need.

We need more Don Quixotes in this world.

We need people who crave honor more than power. We need more people who put ethics before adulation.

Another commercial pitch:
Announcing the publication of:

Chronicles in Ordinary Time
An Illustrated Journey
Book One…

…being the mental musings of a man who tries to make sense of this world.

I started my ‘blog’ long before blogs existed [yes, I am a dinosaur, and there was a time when the Internet did not exist, and people were reduced to writing words on literal paper. These writings are mostly on the subject of self-discovery. They aren’t entirely consecutive in order, and my themes often don’t run across a number of chapters. They discuss matters of ‘progressive liberal’ politics [I call it ‘following Jesus’]; and they talk about Faith.

Available on Amazon Kindle:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07871XRHY

$4.00

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 135: The Consent of the Governed

December 3, 2017

the consent of the governed

America in Distress

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” The Declaration of Independence

“A Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 49 percent of people who were aware of the measure saying they opposed it, up from 41 percent in October.”  (Reuters)

“Half of Americans oppose the plan, a 6-point increase from September. Only 33 percent support it. Among Democrats, 79 percent oppose the plan, while 75 percent of Republicans support it.”  (ABC News-Washington Post)

“…independent analysts have concluded that this bill would add roughly $1.4 trillion to the deficit, according to estimates made by the Congressional Budget Office. In the Republican party as recently as 2010, that would have been considered an absolute non-starter. Pre-Trump, lowering the deficit by curtailing government spending was a central, unwavering principle of conservatism.”  (http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/02/politics/tax-bill-analysis/index.html)

The Founding Fathers must be ‘rolling over in their graves’.
People who read my ramblings probably think that I’m a Democrat; incorrect. I’m a ‘Progressive Moderate’ who believes that the role of Government is to promote the general welfare of its citizens; and where necessary, provide the funding for social improvement programs where the citizens refuse to do so. I believe that healthcare is right, not a privilege; I believe that homelessness needs to be dealt with by providing homes for those who are unable to support themselves. I believe that we need stop sending teenaged-‘heroes’ off to war in other lands; and to stop considering those returning home in boxes ‘heroes’, while ignoring those who were broken by our practice of Endless War.

I believe that the job of Government is to provide jobs, when the Private Sector refuses to do so; or in the case of National Emergency. We are currently in the midst of a National Emergency and have a huge potential workforce that can serve a new WPA or Civilian Conservation Corps.

So, what do we do about it?

We need to vote. We need to remove from office every Senator, every Congressman who put the needs of the already-outrageously-wealthy [not from work, but from hedge funds] above those who can only put food on the table by working 2-3 jobs.

The already-outrageously-wealthy do not need additional tax cuts; the Trickle-Down theory has never worked the way that President Reagan said it would; and as every Republican administration since, has so promised.

FDRr-fireside chat_mj

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 132: Katrina again.

September 28, 2017

P45_mj

Football.
Millionaires who play games for a living, funding an industry that derives hundreds of millions of dollars selling everything that can be sold under the guise of professional sports.

3.4 million Americans are stranded on Puerto Rico, victims of the most devastating hurricane in history, and American news is full of stories about professional football players, many of whom are incredibly wealthy, living in Privileged comfort.

Of course, the real story isn’t about football and flags; the story is about America’s shameful history of Race.

Let me repeat: 3.4 million Americans are stranded on Puerto Rico, victims of the most damaging hurricane in history. They are without food, they are without water, they are without power. FEMA has sent aid; and the aid is sitting on the docks.

President Donald Trump has made it clear his administration isn’t planning to allow any additional outside aid to get into Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
Speaking with reporters on Wednesday afternoon [9/27], the president cited business interests as the reason for refusing calls from lawmakers and activists to allow international organizations and governments to ship aid to the island.         Newsweek

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says food, water, and other supplies have reached Puerto Rico a week after Hurricane Maria plowed through the island, and Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and shipping firms concur. Most of the 3.4 million Americans on Puerto Rico haven’t gotten that aid, so CBS News correspondent David Begnaud went to find out what’s happening. He found some 3,000 shipping containers sitting at the docks in San Juan, the capital, he said on Wednesday’s CBS Evening News; most of them are filled with relief supplies, and some of them have been there since before Hurricane Irma hit, three weeks ago.
The problems, according to Rossellé and the shipping companies, are many and frustrating. Roads are still blocked or flooded around the island, truck drivers are tending to their damaged homes, their trucks were destroyed, they don’t have fuel, or they’re incommunicado because electricity and cellphone service are out across the U.S. territory, and the bus drivers Rosselló is trying to recruit to drive trucks in their stead have the same problems. In the meantime, nearly half the island doesn’t have potable water, food and water are scare, “gasoline has become like liquid gold,” Begnaud says, and there are lines for everything. You can watch his report below. Peter Weber

Katrina again.

The victims tend to have brown skin, rather than pink skin. Only the dead have white skin. And many are dead.

Instead of demanding that our Government solve the problems of distribution [we can], people are arguing all over the Internet about whether or not someone is disrespecting the flag by not standing; when the Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that Americans are protected by the Constitution when they decide not to stand during the National Anthem; and when they refuse to pledge allegiance to the flag:

West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943), is a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States holding that the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protected students from being forced to salute the American flag and say the Pledge of Allegiance in school. The Court’s 6–3 decision, delivered by Justice Robert H. Jackson, is remembered for its forceful defense of free speech and constitutional rights generally as being placed “beyond the reach of majorities and officials.”

I quit pledging my allegiance to the flag when I realized that America was built on the graves of the indigenous people who were killed so that the white population could practice their Manifest Destiny. As a follower of Jesus, I cannot in good conscious support a government that refuses to acknowledge the crimes that were committed to getting to this place in history.
This place in history where our President refuses to do everything in his power to rescue citizens of his country. Instead, he shames African Americans who protest the murders of African Americans by white police officers who receive no punishment.

Lynching, again.

The President uses language on global television that would have landed me in great trouble by my father, growing up. He uses language that should be an affront to every Believer in Scripture, regardless of the Scripture being read.
The depravity continues to make me ashamed of our government; and mocks every person who has died defending this country.

Liberty_mj

 

 

 

 


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