Archive for the ‘Examined living’ Category

This is Love   Leave a comment

When Jesus was asked to love the world composed of individuals, He carried His own cross the Calvary. For those of you who think God is a cosmic meanie who delights in abusing mere mortals, just take a pause and consider that for a moment. Jesus was God Incarnate – God in the flesh — and He chose to go to the cross for your sake, even if you hate Him.

In 1945 Roddie Edmonds, a 26-year-old US Army Master Sergeant, was the highest-ranking soldier among the 1292 American POWs in the camp. Circumstances had made him their commander, responsible for their well-being. He’d been in the camp for a month when the German commandant ordered all Jewish American soldiers to line up outside the barracks the next morning.

Edmonds told his men “We’re not doing that. We’re all falling out.”

Image result for image of grocery checkout hellThe commandant knew all 1300 men could not be Jews. He knew there were about 200. When he ordered Edmonds to identify them, Edmonds, an evangelical Christian, insisted they were all Jews. The commandant put a pistol to his head and again demanded that he identify the Jews.

 

Somehow, when most men couldn’t think, Edmonds rattled off his name, rank and serial number. He then reminded the commandant that if he shot Edmonds, he’d have to shoot the entire 1300 and that would assure that the commandant would be tried for war crimes since everybody knew it is was just a matter of time before the Americans won the war. The commandant walked away. Months later, Edmons and his men were rescued.

We’d all like to think we would show the same resolve as Edmonds did in similar circumstances. I suspect I’d wet my pants. Would I have started identifying the Jews? I don’t know. Survival is a pretty high ideal of mine. With a gun to my head, I’m not sure if I could have thought so clearly.

Pastor Chris Edmonds, who only recently learned of his father’s bravery, points out that none of the men under Edmonds’ command pointed out the Jews. “They all stood together.” Chris Edmonds adds that his father’s story “is a clarion call to love one another regardless of our choices or faith. He stood against oppression. He stood for decency. He stood for humanity. This thing we call life – it’s about all of us, not one of us.”

Jesus gave up His human life for all of us, though we still come to Him as individuals. In the Western world, we think of love as a personal relationship with another person, but that “love” appears dependent upon what the other person does for us. The Greeks had a whole vocabulary for “love” that included mere lust, friendship love and agape love, which is the big expansive love for our fellow human beings that can express itself as caring for the well-being of another group of people without thought for our own well-being. It’s more than a personal love. Edmonds showed that love in practice.

That day in 1945, Edmonds’ decision was to love the men under his command with his own life. He didn’t choose to be an individual that day, but to live or die as a member of his troop. Maybe the commandant was actually bluffing that day, but I suspect the authority of agape love somehow overwhelmed his own authority. He couldn’t pull the trigger because he too recognized the love that Edmonds was representing.

Agape love doesn’t just happen on the battlefield. Christians are called to express it in every circumstance. Yeah, the world is full of jerks, but that doesn’t mean we have to become jerks ourselves. Brad absolutely hates to go through the checkout line at the market because there’s always someone there doing something stupid. They can’t figure out how to scan one item or they are in the “less than 15” line with 30 items or they can’t find their POS card. He gets himself all worked up inside his head and he carries that anger with him after he leaves the store. He tends not to say anything aloud. That would be me, but I’m irritated far less often … not that it makes a bit of difference to our relationship with Jesus, our fellow shoppers or with ourselves. The thing about sin is that it occurs within us before it leaks out to the surface. It’s our thoughts and actions that cast a shadow on our day, not the actions of the other shopper. Oh, yeah, we justify our irritation. We were right and they were wrong.

And yet, as we drive away, we may be tense and fuming, causing damage to our own bodies. We blame the world for not yielding up the perfect set of circumstances. We comfort ourselves that the other shopper was at fault, not our weakness of character. We tell ourselves that people like Roddie Edmonds are special and that the range of human choices is different for us than for them.

People like Edmonds will seem rare until more of us honor our mutual interdependence as we encounter the small things in life. When faced with a big challenge our self-serving behavior may kick in because our muscles to practice agape are flabby. There’s no reason to hate ourselves for that. We just need to learn to see the world through Jesus’ eyes. When we give into the anger that the world seems to bring about, then we only hurt ourselves and our witness as Christians.

Take a moment. Take a deep breath. Resolve to do better next time. Remember, we’re all in this world together … and God no doubt had a reason for doing it that way.

Posted January 15, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Examined living

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Civility not too much to ask: Comments a forum for discussion of issues, not abuse and threats – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Editorials   Leave a comment

There you go. Pretty much what needs to be said.

Civility not too much to ask: Comments a forum for discussion of issues, not abuse and threats – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Editorials.

Debate does not need to become a hate-filled shouting match. I will continue to post controversial ideas until such time as I am imprisoned or dead, because I believe people ought to THINK and entertain ideas contrary to the societal zeitgeist. You want to debate it? Good. If you want to use it as a forum to abuse others — you pretty much are making my points for me.

On Conformity   1 comment

Sometimes it hits you, as did the article I reposted a couple of minutes ago.

There are so many people who advocate for conformity and they do it with the best of intentions. Why shouldn’t the United States use the Celcius Scale or the metric system? Every other country in the world is on board with these systems. What is wrong with us?

I’m not disputing the arguments for adopting those system. I’m disputing the notion that conformity is good. It’s not! If everybody else is doing it, you should probably ask why and if maybe you should stop, go another way, avoid the unseen cliff the rest of society is rushing over.

 

Am I Ready for the Zombie Apocalypse?   4 comments

Are you?

Well, okay, I’m not actually expecting a real zombie apocalypse. I’m thinking it’s more likely to be a second Great Depression, second Civil War, second American Revolution ….

Basically, I think the world’s going to hell in a fruit basket and it’s past time to start preparing for it.

What about you? And, how do you prepare for a zombie apocalypse? Or even just the natural consequences of loading too much straw on the camel’s back?

What If Syria is Serious?   Leave a comment

I know a lot of people don’t think messing around with a little bitty country like Syria is that dangerous, but ….

A couple of years ago, I read “One Second After”, which tells the story of a North Carolina college town that must deal with the aftermath of a electro-magnetic pulse that takes out pretty much every bit of electrical generation in the nation. The end of the book leaves the perpetrators unidentified, which drives home the message that the US is extremely reliant upon our technology and would not be capable of retaliating should something like this occur.

So, when I hear Syria saying they will retaliate if the United States and/or the United Kingdom attacks them, I sort of wonder ….

They don’t need ICBMs to hit us. They just need a ship and a SCUD missile. Those are already available. Iran probably already has them.

Have you ever thought about what you would do if you couldn’t flip a switch to turn on the lights long-term? How would you see at night? Wash your clothes? Wash your dishes? Get your news? Heat your home? Get to work? And where would you like to be when it happens?

I’m finishing up a series and throwing some ideas out there, but then I think I’m coming back to this because if Syria is serious, we may all be in trouble and we’d better start thinking ahead so some of us can live through the consequences.

Posted August 29, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Common sense, Examined living

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Magic Words   Leave a comment

There’s a line in The Game of Thrones that I love. Tyrion the dwarf is talking to John Snow, the illegitimate son of Ned Stark, about the word “bastard”. Today, we know that word as a swear for someone who is a jerk, cruel, abusive, etc., but in former times, it meant an illegitimate child. Tyrion notes he’s called Imp by those same men.

“It’s only a name. If someone calls you a name, make it your own and then they have no power to hurt you with it.”

On June 24, local radio host Michael Dukes used the word “nigger” on his show. He was quoting Paula Deen, the food maven who famously lost her sweet gig for having used that word decades before. Yeah, Paula Deen was born in 1947, which means that she was a young adult in the South prior to the Civil Rights movement. I’m not surprised that she used the word “nigger” in the past. It was a common word for black people in her culture. Has she used it lately? I doubt it. In fact, I would hazard to theorize that she has not used a racial slur more recently than our president has.

Michael Dukes was reporting on the case and discussing freedom of speech. He called it the “n-word” several times before a caller called in and said the actual word. I couldn’t tell the race of the caller, but he actually brought up the use of the term “nigga” in rap music. It was at that point that Michael Dukes stopped pussy-footing around and used the actual word “nigger”.

A few days later, the following letter to the editor ran in our local newspaper.

http://www.newsminer.com/opinion/letters_to_editor/dukes-word/article_9ad8e612-df02-11e2-a4ff-001a4bcf6878.html

It was a clear attempt to embarrass the sponsors of the Michael Dukes Show into dropping their advertising. I hope they don’t do that.

Black people have followed a fine tradition of taking the sting out of a slur by claiming it for themselves. Christians did similarly centuries ago. When people started using the term “Christian” it was a slur to try and demean those who believed in following Jesus Christ rather than the Greek and Roman gods. It was first used in Gentile regions. Christians took the name for themselves and took the power of the word away from those who would wield it as a weapon.

Later, Catholics used the term “anabaptist” to describe and demean those who did not believe in baptizing infants, holding instead to believer’s baptism, which infants are incapable of. Those who rejected infant baptism took the term for their own name and became Baptists. So much for the slur having power over them.

Words do not have a magical ability to make us less than what we are inherently. The only power words have are what we give them. Black people took that power away from white people when they started using the term “nigga” to describe one another. Good for them. Tyrion the Imp would approve.

The power of the word “nigger” remains only so long as we continue to grant it power. I’m not saying white people should use it to describe black people. I am saying that we should stop all the reverse racist bullshit that insists that it’s fine for black people to call each other “nigga”, but it’s  career destroying in 2013 if a Southern white person said “nigger” back in 1968.

And, by the way, if you want to call me a “red skin”, go for it. Fairbanks Alaska is having one of the longest stretches of hot sunny weather that I can remember and the other day, my husband noted that I indeed have a reddish-brown hue to my skin. I’m not sunburned. My tan simply has a reddish undertone. So I emailed several of my cousins who are as much Wyndake as I am and asked them about their tanning habits.

We’re “red skins”. There’s no pain in that because we take the description as our own and take all of its power away.

Can we stop giving magical power to words now?

Sacred Space   Leave a comment

The other day I happened to be reading an article on urban planning, in which the author wrote at length about what is wrong with suburbia and, by extension, rural communities. He spent a considerable amount of space lamenting the lack of “sacred space”. I thought was strange since most urbanites I know are not all that into going to church while, conversely, rural and suburban dwellers go fairly regularly. Then I read his definition of “sacred space”. To him, it was not a place to worship God so much as it was a building with breathtaking architecture. Think St. John’s Episcopal in New York City or the Crystal Cathedral, which is now a Catholic church. He lamented that evangelical Christianity “infests” the suburbs and evangelicals just don’t know how to worship God. We inspire good works, but not great ones, he said.

Wow! Color me embarrassed in mediocrity.

First, we’re guilty on the architecture charge. Evangelical churches are rarely grand affairs and when they are, they’re usually big not beautiful. Are we just architecturally challenged or is there a reason for this austerity?

I can’t speak for megachurches because I’ve never been a member of a megachurch, but I’ve been a member of some small Great Commission (aka Southern) Baptist churches. They were simple affairs, rows of pews for sitting, hardwood or low pile carpet for floors, a low stage in the front with a simple pulpit for the preacher to put his notes on and a Lord’s Supper table before it. My husband was raised Catholic and his first question upon seeing my church was “Where are the statues?” Now he understands that we consider statues in God’s church building to be idolatry, but more we structure our chapels so as not to distract from the worship of God. He’s center-stage, not the building.

This is partially because evangelicals do not consider our church buildings to be “sacred space”. The heart of the believer is God’s holy temple. The building where we hold Sunday service and teach English and citizenship to the foreign born is … well, a building. It’s convenient that we own it, but its main purpose is to house the congregation in collective gathering. I don’t feel the loss of a glorious space to worship in because I don’t worship God in that building. I worship God where I am at the moment – in my home, at work, driving through traffic, and sometimes in the church building. Biblical Christianity started in people’s homes and in the streets of Jerusalem. It didn’t need a glorious cathedral then and it doesn’t need one now. So, if our church buildings are uninspiring it may be that we’re spending our collective money on more important things.

Great works versus good works? What constitutes a “great” work? Evangelical Christianity was responsible for two “Great Awakenings”. The first one ended slavery in England and the second one was headed toward ending slavery in America when it got derailed by the Civil War, though some used it as an excuse for the Civil War. Evangelical Christianity sent missionaries throughout the known world to spread Christianity throughout Mediterranean Europe, Africa, the Middle East and as far as India while Christians were being persecuted by Rome. Modern Evangelical Christianity sent missionaries to the third world with the good news of Christ. Congregationalist evangelical Christianity’s church polity undergirds the American system of federalism. Evangelical Christianity drove German, Danish, and Dutch Gentiles to smuggle Jews out of Nazi controlled areas (google Corrie ten Boom). Evangelical Christianity smuggled Bibles into communist-bloc countries. Evangelical Christianity sends thousands of emergency workers to natural disaster sites with food, clothing, reconstruction experience (google Southern Baptist Disaster Relief). So,

I guess it depends on your definition of “great works”. It’s true that Evangelical Christians did not build the great cathedrals of Europe, but my spiritual ancestors were busy being the victims of the Inquisition and then, when they got to the United States (escaping religious persecution, by the way), we (in our loosely affiliated congregations) felt it best to concentrate on things we’d already excelled at – like, evangelism, prayer, Bible study, and convincing people that the wholesale slaughter and/or enslavement of your fellow human being is not a godly thing to do. We left the building of great edifices to denominations with more monetary resources and less important things to do.

I love great architecture. There’s not a lot of it in Alaska, so one of things I like about traveling to other places is poking around looking at aesthetically pleasing buildings – including churches. That is “glorious space”, but if you require awe-inspiring architecture to “get your God on”, there is something lacking from your relationship with the Divine. There is a portion of me – call it my heart, call it my spirit – that is “sacred space” that goes with me wherever I go, so that I am never out of touch with God unless I choose to be. That is worshipping Jesus in “spirit and in truth” and not creating “high places” where we bow down to the idols of God of our own design and hierarchal superstructure. In this way, we walk in the dusty footsteps of great past believers like Abraham, Moses, the prophets, Saul who would become Paul, Mary of Bethany, the church at Philippi, and Peter.

For a true believer in Jesus Christ, God is always right here with us and we need no more “sacred space” than our own heads.

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