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Wednesday, 25 November 2015

What are we to do about refugees from this ISIL war?

Serious, thoughtful questions I have about how we are to respond to potential refugees forced out from war-torn extremist Islamist areas, by those determined to create an "Islamist State/Caliphate." :

As followers of Jesus, with the teachings He clearly gave in the Sermon on the Mount and other places in the gospels, how are we supposed to treat people who have been pushed from their homes and countries by the Islamist terrorists? What about those who are Christians? What about those who have other beliefs or are from another tribal group? What about Muslims who have a different view of Islam than the terrorists, and are therefore considered by them to also deserve death?

What, I want to know, based on the teachings of Jesus himself, are we to do? Are we to hate? To send them back where they came from so that the terrorists can kill them anyway? According to New Testament teaching, are we actually supposed to war in return as they war? Are we supposed to save our skins by spewing hatred in return?

Or are we to be "blessed because of being persecuted for Jesus sake"? To love as God loves (John 3:16) with all that infers--including being willing to "carry our cross" even unto death? To love our enemies and pray for them, and "give a cup of cold water" in Jesus' name?

I'm not arguing. I'm asking totally serious questions. It's one thing for politicians and even everyday citizens who are not Christians to hate and kill in return, for that is the system of the "world"--but what should be the response of true followers of Jesus?

I don't mean the response of "Christendom's" institutional churches, like those that took part in the Crusades, and in black slavery, and in forced conversion (or annihalation) of aboriginal "pagans." I mean true followers of Jesus who want to do what he said, and follow his example of be willing to go to death.  This is what I am really trying to understand.  Do you have an answer?

It's very hard to know what to do, especially in a world full of fear and hate. It's very hard, even in easy times, to do what Jesus taught, and follow the example He Himself gave. But I'm feeling more and more that God may be calling our very non-Christian western civilization to "choose this day whom you will serve" even if it leads to martydom--and that He is also separating the sheep from the goats in judgment of how far we have strayed...

How, oh how, do we deal with all that is happening if we are TRUE Christians? Seriously?


And I also posted this on my Facebook "notes":

I am a migrant. And so are you.

We are all migrants: personally, as well as in our family history, our heritage. Whether we've moved from one country to another, or one town or another, or even from one neighborhood or house or job to another, we've migrated.  And we've migrated for many of the same reasons "those migrants" are migrating right now: financial (moving up or down the economic scale), current home no longer available, family or other troubles, looking for a place that better fits our beliefs and our desired lifestyle, escaping violence or persecution of one kind or another, wanting to share our belief systems with others (and convert them to our way of thinking and living), and so on and on.

Surely, when we think about "those migrants," we should stop for a moment and really think about our migrant experiences, our reasons, our feelings. About how our leaving affected not only ourselves, but those we left behind--and how we affected and changed the lives of those where we migrated to. Have we been good new neighbors? Did we take a job someone else already in the community had hoped to get? Have our religion, traditions, ways of thinking and living had an effect on our new community, whether we planned for that or not? Do we assume we've had a good effect on our new place--but we haven't gotten to truly know all the members of the community, and we haven't really listened to their feelings about us? Are we really aware of how our well-meant ideas and our "superior" lifestyle have affected those living in the community before we arrived?

What have we done that has changed things, that has had a negative affect on others, without our even realizing it? Have we inadvertently pushed others out by taking jobs they hoped for? By building "bigger and better" homes and thus raising the local housing values so they are no longer affordable to those who lived here before us? Or perhaps we are living lifestyles that go counter to those formerly accepted, and so, in their viewpoint, have brought down the value of the community? Have we joined with others who "see things our way"--whether in terms of politics, religion, economics, education--and become a select clique that has closed itself off from being neighborly and community-minded to all? Or through our combined power, forced changes that have transformed the community to the ways we think are best? Have we tried to convert others to our politics, religion, beliefs, lifestyle--and pushed those we are uncomfortable with or look down upon, to the "fringes" or even right out of the community that was theirs before we arrived?

Have we ourselves done what so many of us demand new migrants do: assimilate and become just like those of us already here? If not, if we continued to favor "our ways," even to small degrees, after we migrated, are not we ourselves guilty at some level of what we fear from new migrants?

We have all been migrants to some degree at various times in our lives. All of us. What kind of migrant have you and I been?  Can we ask of others to do what we ourselves were unwilling to do--whether that means "going back where you came from" or "assimilating completely to the ways of the new community"? Can we refuse to others the great freedoms we ourselves hoped for and acted upon when we migrated?

Let us remember, too, how we were received in our new country, or town, or neighborhood, or job, or school. Were we welcomed with open arms? Or not? How did we feel about that? What kind of welcome did we hope for? Are we willing to extend that same open-hearted welcome we dreamed of? How will these new migrants feel about our attitudes toward them, about the kind of welcome (or not) we are offering?

I am a migrant. And so are you. Let's think about that, carefully.

What are your thoughts? What do the teachings and actions of Jesus Himself tell us? How do we follow Him?

Friday, 20 November 2015

Is intellectual assent real belief?

(journaled January 5 2014)

Is "intellectual assent" (to doctrines/beliefs) even assent if it doesn't result in repentance (changed mind - penitence - turning around) that results in a changed heart and mind, led by You?

Can we "believe we believe" but be fooling ourselves? Are there levels of belief? If so, at what level do You "accept" us? Mustard-seed size? (which is apparently all it takes for great, miraculous answers to prayer, so maybe it is all it takes for the greatest miracle of all - being accepted as righteous in Your eyes through Jesus' sacrifice - right?)

It is true - your voice is much clearer when we focus on You ... it is good to "practice your presence" all the  time - but we need focused time with You, too -- it's true in human relationships, too. It is too easy to just live "parallel" - be physically present together, be aware of each others' presence and be polite and all -- but not really focus on each other, listen to each other, care deeply for each other, truly serve each other ...

And that's how I have been living with You (and the trouble is, as time goes by, just depending on "parallel living" isn't enough, it turns out. Without keeping up focused, face to face, interactive relational conversational times together -- and worship, praise, prayer -- it is inevitable that even the "parallel" living just pulls farther and farther apart ... and disintegrates.

I have been there for so long. I am sorry. I want to truly believe.

Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good: And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

What way do we take in this crisis--the world's way or Jesus' way?

November 17, 2015

I am really wanting to resist the temptation to think about--and especially to write about--current events, especially anything that has to do with religious fights and wars. I'm interested in different viewpoints, but a lot of people sure are determined that their's is the only right one. I don't know, Lord. I just don't know.

"I will trust in the Lord." I guess so. No point in trusting in the wild and crazy ideas of people that they cling to and defend and knock others for disagreeing with. On the other hand, it is obviously true that I find some ideas "crazy and wild" ... but it is people's convictions that they are right 100%--and that I am "liberal," at least in their viewpoint ... all "liberals" are apparently evil, even those who would not particularly consider themselves "liberal" ... apparently if you aren't in the American Republican or Canadian Conservative camps, you are "liberal." And foolish. And, I sense, your Christianity is very suspect. Oh well, I have to admit I find their Christianity suspect, too ... or at least awfully wrapped up with the wealth-and-power-brokers of the State, and difficult to reconcile with what I know of You from the Bible.

Question: How do we reconcile the Old Testament God of wars and judgment and the Jewish theocratic state, with Jesus' message in the New Testament ... and Paul's messages which love Jesus but which at the same time (to me, anyway) seem pretty strongly influenced by his Pharisaic background (and okay, maybe by the "reality" in which he lived. Is it "unrealistic" to expect/even just try to follow Jesus' teaching in a world of war, war, war, and worship of empire, wealth, power, the Almighty Dollar?

Is it unrealistic to want to believe that You really do want us to "turn the other cheek" and submit to "persecution for righteousness sake"? To want to just live quietly in this world, to live out Your love the best we can day by day, and be ready to "give a reason" for why we live that way--and accept any persecution that comes from that?

I'm finding myself more "fought against" by believers than by non-believers. I mean, some of the latter might think I'm crazy ... but the former see me as wrong ... maybe even as a traitor and/or non-believer.

I really think I'm trying to seek and find You and Your way--and I'm even speaking out Your name more these days (thank You for helping me, for giving me courage ...). Well, maybe that's why I am making others angry. I say we need to listen to each other (and yes, it is hard), but I to some degree being brought back a bit closer to the God "I once believed in" but also finding more of You that I didn't know back then...

"Risen Lord, teach us to trust the power of your cross."

In Psalm 78, when the people railed against God, even after all the things he'd just done for them, because they decided they wanted bread and meat: "When the LORD heard this, he was full of wrath: a fire was kindled against Jacob, and his anger mounted against Israel; for they had no faith in God: nor did they put their trust in his saving power."

See--that's what worries me especially about the current situation. Are Christians putting their trust in God's saving power (including, I guess, "repenting in sack cloth and ashes," and really praying, and doing "the kind of fasting which God has chosen," and "keeping the Sabbath holy," and "being joyful in persecution," and "acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God" ... Goodness knows, I myself really fall short in those areas ... Or are they "trusting in horses and chariots"?  

"Risen Lord, teach us to trust the power of your cross."

Are we seeking to be part of God's heavenly kingdom, or are we focused too much on earthly kingdoms and powers, and trying to create a "theocratic" kingdom on earth--with ourselves in charge?

Are we really willing, even desiring--as the early believers were--to follow "the way of Your cross"? It's not an easy, pleasant, blessed way. We are in a world opposed to You. We are to remember to be "aliens" just passing through--in this world but not of it. When we take up the weapons of this world, are we actually deserting Your kingdom? Do we not believe that You are in control and that You are strong enough to fulfill Your eternal purposes (including for Israel) in Your time and ways? Do we really think that by fighting evil "with the sword" as Peter tried to do in Gethsemane, we are somehow helping You set up Your kingdom on earth? Aren't we thus putting ourselves in a place where You have to say to us, "Get behind me, Satan"? Don't we believe that You can easily send down legions of angels, if You wanted to ... but to accept that until the "fulness of time, of judgment" it is not Your way? Don't we believe in "Your will be done"? Don't we believe that You love all the world, and that in Your mercy, love, kindness, compassion, You allow mankind time to choose You--or not choose You?

If a Hindu like Ghandi can model his life on Your "Sermon on the Mount" and set an example that led to the end of apartheid systems in the USA and South Africa, why can't we as Christian believers not only follow Your teaching but truly believe that You are God, and that we can trust You to work it all out in Your time--and meanwhile trust You to uphold us with Your Spirit, even if it means we carry a heavy cross, even unto martyrdom, death?

Why are we apparently so convinced that if we believe in You, our earthly lives should be all beds of roses? Don't we realized that rose gardens look pretty on the surface, but in reality they are full of thorns? Like the thorns You wore on Your head ... and that we are to be prepared to wear also if we follow You?

Maybe the thorns and the cross are what we really, truly need. Maybe all these "terrible events" and persecution, murder, mayhem are really gifts from You to shake people out of their comfort and aparthy and selfishness and "rose-tinted-glasses-life, and really turn to You because there is no other alternative to the evil the world dishes up. Maybe our society's problem is that life has been too pleasant for too long. And we think it is because "You have blessed us" and even that somehow "we deserve a pleasant life because we're a Christian nation." But do we actually deserve it? Or is it because of Your unmerited mercy and grace? And if it is Your mercy and grace, why do we not appreciate it? Why do we not truly follow You? Why do we take up with the world's "pleasures" (and wars...) and act so surprised when things start falling apart--and when "those other false religions" see us as the epitome of evil? Because we HAVE slipped into the world's ways. We have.

And how can we even think that fighting the world's ways with the world's weapons and methods is somehow going to "win the victory" for God's kingdom? It is so wrong...

Again... "Rise Lord, teach us to trust the power of Your cross."

"Our Father who art in heaven ... thy kingdom come, thy will be done ... forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us ... deliver us from evil ... thinke is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever."

How can we be expected to be forgiven when we refuse to forgive?

How can we realize that Your kingdom is an eternal kingdom, not a kingdom of this earth? And that our "deliverance from evil" is in terms of Your kingdom, which is not of this earth? When will we stop aligning ourselves with earthly power structures, and start acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly?

If we do not make a huge about-turn, I fear we will richly deserve all the evil the world can throw against us--and we will deserve Your judgment.

Death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal: "Isn't it odd that Christendom ... claims to pray to and adore a being who was a prisoner of Roman power, an inmate of the empire's death row. That the one it considers a personification of the Creator of the Universe was tortured, humiliated, beaten and crucified on a barren scrap of land on the imperial periphery, at Golgotha, the place of the skull. That the majority of its adherents strenuously support the state's execution of ... the condemned [and, dare I say, the state war machine's execution of all those who dare follow another way, or are simply innocent people caught up in the earthly power struggles we choose to call "just war" (njh)]--claim to be followers of the fettered, spat-upon, naked God?"

"Lord, remind us that a servant is no greater than the Master."

Friday, 13 November 2015

I Resolve

(written January 1 and 2, 2014)

Because it is January 1, I guess I am supposed to "Resolve" ... but it has been years since I've had the courage (or foolhardiness) to do that...

Also partly because I am so pretty much convinced that "His purposes prevail despite the many plans in my heart" ... and that "My plans/ prayers/ resolutions," if I insist upon them, often turn out badly (whereas just walking along with Father, with no clue a lot of the time where we might be going--except in over-all "spiritual terms" -- seems in hindsight ... and often enough in the midst of it ... to be good, worthwhile.)

It seems that I don't really get "disappointed with, or angry at, or frustrated with God and His ways. I don't even really question/wonder about them anymore. I mean, I do often feel that "I don't get it" in the midst of circumstances -- but I'm okay with it. However...

What I'm not okay with is people (including myself). Why, why, why are we so foolish -- cruel -- evil -- thoughtless -- selfish -- etc.? I mean, yes, I know the sin explanation ... but I still can't for the life of me, figure out why, when we KNOW that selfishness and cruelty and ... sin! independence from You ... just inevitably ends up totally screwing everything up, why do we keep doing it?

I mean, even people who don't know you, and maybe don't believe in sin or morality and think we're just a sheer accident of evolutionary processes -- when they have the whole record of history to reflect upon -- and all the messed-up world that exists right now, right here, right in their faces -- why do they keep on doing the same stupid things anyway?

It is so obvious that riches, fame, power don't make life better, even for the people who have the most of them. They often have the most screwed-up lives of all, it seems to me. I mean, people flock after famous movie stars and sport heroes and other rich and powerful people -- when they know perfectly well that their lives are so totally messed up. Today's media makes sure we know. So what is the big attraction?

Psalm 22: Remember the deliverances, the stories of faith and trust, from the past. Recite. Tell them aloud to a new generation.

(Yes, I should write those down, the stories from my own life...) (I could!)

v 10: Upon You I was cast from birth; You have been my God from my mother's womb.

(And she from her mother's womb ... and my children from my womb ...)

What a heritage! My mom kept trusting You for me ... O Lord, help me to keep trusting You for my children -- and grandchildren -- because I've given them to You as much as I can ...

Thank you that you are present -- even when it "feels" like maybe you aren't. And thank-you that the assistance you give is not always what we expect or hope for ... but it is always right and perfect ... and always draws us closer to eternity with you -- that for which we were created, and that for which our souls long, even though we may not realize or understand it ...!

(Thank you ... Your voice, again! You ARE here with me. )

v 31: They will come and will declare His righteousness, To a people who will be born, that He has performed it.

Oh dear God -- that is what I need to do: to declare, to write! -- of You!

Please help me.
I'm afraid ... please take away my fear (she said, even while she was shaking in fear about it).

Saturday, 7 November 2015

relationship and fear of God

(This post originally written Dec 8 2013)

Sometimes I just want to believe, plain and simple. I think I feel like I would "follow You" better, more "faithfully," if I didn't have all these "wonderings." Maybe that's a "disadvantage" of living in a world where people so easily share their ideas, especially via internet, but also radio, TV, and yes, even so many easily accessible books.

But is lack of "thinking about, wondering, etc." and just accepting without much, if any, question at all, really "belief"? Or is it just default acceptance of the only thing you're ever known? Does that make it true?

(On the other hand, is that even possible, except perhaps by choosing it? I mean, what about the enemy? If the little one knows really is the Truth--would he not be trying hard to make one think otherwise?)

Which brings us back to "voices," doesn't it? How do we "hear" You? How, for that matter, do we hear the "enemy"? Where does our "conscience" come into all this? And all the things we've been taught as small children that are "bred" into us (and even things passed down genetically, as some would claim--the "old soul" types, and even some scientists...). and the things we've been taught in all our human institutions (church, school, politicians, scientists, etc.) and people just chatting, and all those entertaining "documentaries," and yes, all those "comments" at the end of internet articles (as well as the articles themselves, and all the other reading I seem driven to do...)?

Right now, I want to believe in You. I want to hear Your voice. I want to "be in a close relationship with You" (though, to be honest, I don't want it to be too comfortable and easy and "Oh, we just love each other" mushy... That really does scare me because how could a relationship between the God and Creator of the whole universe (with all which that huge, vast concept suggests) and a little, messed up, not too brilliant, individual human like me, ever be "simple friends" or "best buddies"?

Okay, I mean, I want wonderful relationship with You ... but I still want wonder and awe ... and yes, little bit (or maybe a lot!) of fear. Good fear, righteous fear.

In the Bible, some of the characters refer to You as their "Fear." I get that--and I worry that for far too long, I've missed out on that aspect of You, and in my relationship with You.

Might be that's a lot of what I've been "missing" from my "old beliefs"--that awe, wonder, "fear" ... and the mystery, the holding-my-breath, hardly daring to take a peek through the crack in the living room door on Christmas morning--the magic, that people like CS Lewis sometimes have managed to capture in some way (story, film, art, dance, etc.).

Wow, that's more writing in an hour than I have done in a long time...

It's nice to write a letter to You.

(There's something "magical" about letter writing, actually ... that I do miss).

COMMENT posted on Facebook by Rick Selinger:

My office is adorned with a few thousand books on religion, philosophy, mysticism, and other related subjects. I have put a lot of thought into the idea. My own impression is this: YOU are proof of God. Inflate your brain to the size of a football stadium, send in a team of scientists, they will never find Norma. She is a ghost in the machine. Want proof in spirits? Right there. Scientists would have us believe that life came out of a bunch of cosmic sludge and gases, and yet they cannot explain consciousness except to say that it just happened. They, in essence, want us to believe that something as magical as consciousness came out of nothing. I regard this as an unacceptable thesis. YOU are the proof, and You -- your consciousness -- is a spark of the Divine, which creates and sustains you. You cannot separate the micro from the macro and that is an important consideration -- one most know what that implies. Who looks out through your eyes? You alone? No. Think about it: God cannot be one place and you another, so where are you? The greatest mystics of antiquity pretty much all agreed. We are in a grand Divine Dream, what Isaac Newton called "Sensorium Dei", aka, the Mind of God, and you are his dream ... but careful, again, do not separate the micro from the macro). God does not speak in the usual ways; God speaks in dreams and what Jung called "synchronicity". I give you Sir Francis Bacon: "I had rather believe all the fables in the legends and the Talmud and the Alcoran, than that this universal frame is without a Mind. And therefore, God never wrought miracle, to convince atheism, because his ordinary works convince it. A little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion." Bacon says here that miracles are not required, for the existence of consciousness and the universe is proof enough in itself for the thoughtful. I concur. God's voice? God's voice is the Voice of Silence. God's voice is observing outward and inward at once and understanding the miracle of it all. THAT is the voice of God and it speaks clearly to those with open minds and hearts :-)
November 8 at 2:28pm

Sunday, 1 November 2015

struggling to believe

(originally written Dec 3-4, 2013)

I'm feeling so "failed" ... so far from You, Father, dear Jesus, Holy Spirit.
I feel so far behind in everything.

Psalm 12:6 : "The words of the LORD are pure words; As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times."
But my words are so totally impure.
And so is my heart.
Can I even consider myself a "believer" anymore?
Have I turned my back on You too much?
(Maybe not. You are still calling me, reaching out to me, holding me).
(I so don't deserve You.
But You love me. Period.)
(Thank You.)


Psalm 13. I feel like I should turn this Psalm around:

How long, Oh child? Will you forget Me forever?
How long will you hide your face from Me?
How long will you exalt other people and things over Me?
Consider and answer Me, O my child.
Allow me to enlighten your eyes, that you not sleep the sleep of death.
Do not allow the enemy to overcome you,
And to rejoice when you are shaken.
But come, my child, and trust in my lovingkindness.
Let your heart rejoice in my salvation.
Sing to me, your Lord,
who has dealt bountifully with you.

Yes, indeed. Time to turn back.
I am sorry, Lord for turning my back to your face
and following the thoughts of the world.
There are so many things I do not understand--but you know all and are all-wise.
Help me, please to trust and rest in you and in your wisdom and understanding!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

paradox disbelief and You

Lord, it was so much easier (in some respects) when the Adam and Eve story was, to me, true in a physical--fundamentalist--sense ... no doubts about the "facts" ...

I just wish right now that it was "that simple" ...I don't know why I feel that way ... maybe it just makes the effects of sin easier to explain, even accept ... and less likely to wonder about other things in the Bible ... And how, if it really is "God's Word," why does the "evidence" of life seem not to line up so well with it.

I do believe in Your wisdom and in You, I really do ... oddly enough, the more I have questions, the more I believe! But I feel so ... well, so paradoxical. Why is it that so much about You is paradoxical ... at least in terms of our human experience.

"The last shall be first." ... "Righteous through suffering." (And a 7 day creation story, with two original, specially created first people, in a world that from a scientific perspective seems to say something quite different. And yet ... I still believe the meta-narrative at least ... but I find myself more and more wanting to believe the "details" in a simple child-like way ... like I used to.

"Just believe." There was a time when I really liked to be a "rebel" and "question things." Now I just want to believe. Accept. You. Even when that seems to require that I somehow totally "suspend my disbelief" no matter the questions I have.

It's like there are different kinds of belief--and how they interact (or don't), I don't know. How is it that I can "believe the evidence of science" -- and of my senses, and of daily experiences, and the experiences of multitudes, throughout history even--on the one hand; and yet at the same time believe (or at least desperately want to believe... I think maybe I'm finally moving toward that mustard seed ... in You (and all that goes along with You).

"My kingdom is not of this world."
Indeed. Truly.
But this world is where You put us. The home You made for us (however that happened ... and yes, the 7 days and nights explanation sure does hold appeal, even if "scientifically" we scoff ...).

(Prov 3:19-20) I guess that's it ... the focus is You, Your wisdom and understanding ... so far beyond ... so OTHER than ours ... And yet, You created us "in Your image." Somehow, we have a share in You, in Your wisdom, in spite of our limitations (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) and our sin.

You are the meta-narrative, and we are so small within it. We really "can't see the forest for the trees" for the most part--but You allow us glimpses sometimes ... and mostly we prefer to scamper back into the "safety" of the darkness of the little patch of forest we "know."

So foolish--
When You want us to meet, encounter--embrace--Your wisdom. Embrace You.
Oh boy.

(from my journal, Nov. 11, 2013)