Monday, July 25, 2016
Sunday, July 03, 2016
Judges 17:6 At that time there was no king in Isra’el; a man simply did whatever he thought was right.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty , and the pursuit of Happiness.
I still remember singing these words at Compton Junior High School at a Spring concert in 8th grade. At the time, those inalienable rights were assumed and not really questioned, at least in my mind. In the years since, however, much has changed. The USA is angrier, more polarized, and even the most basic assumptions of the Declaration of Independence are being questioned.
Never before in my memory has the issue of life been so controversial. From abortion laws to end of life rulings, the definition of life itself is under question. When is life valuable? When is life real? When is life? The abortion rights lobby has become so strong that even the Supreme Court of the United States obeys its commands, even when the end result is likely to mean harm to women who go to legal-but-unregulated centers. That is not health care. That is politics. Death with so-called dignity is glorified in pop culture books and movies, even as the laws in this country are altered to remove penalties for those who hasten the death of another. With the two extremes of life rendered unworthy, is it any wonder murder rates are alarming? If there is no value to life at its beginning or end, what gives it value in between? Why are we surprised at mass shootings or suicide bombings when as a culture we have so devalued life that some bizarre thought of personal gain is sufficient excuse to take lives from the innocent?
Personal liberty used to mean freedom to practice one's religion, speak in public, and engage in business. This is no longer the case. Religion, and the practice thereof is either banned from the public square or so belittled and scorned that practicing becomes difficult. When free expression of religion means not offending the non-religious, there is no longer free practice of religion. Freedom from religion was never part of the Founding Fathers' purpose. They were deists and theists, not opposed to religious expression. Liberty also meant civil discourse. Not sit-ins on the floor of the House of Representatives, not shout-downs of opposing views, and not being quieted by fear of reprisal or threat from an employer. None of these are liberty. As for commerce, once upon a time, if people wanted to make a statement about a business practice, they simply took their business elsewhere. Word of mouth was sufficient. Today, photographers and bakers lose businesses because they choose to hold their Christian moral stances above profit. I say Christian, because so far, only Christian businesses have been targeted. No other religious group or minority group is affected, even if they engage in the same practices. The laws passed to force Christian businesses to accommodate values systems with which they disagree are not essential services. In no case has there been no other option. And in no case has anyone suffered physical harm. It is political bullying, nothing more. And it is a denial of liberty for those businesses to practice according to their beliefs. There are still signs on doors saying, "No shoes, no shirt, no service". How long will those be allowed to stand?
Pursuit of Happiness
This is the first of the slippery slopes in definition changes. The pursuit of happiness does not guarantee an outcome of happiness. How is happiness defined anyway? Reportedly wealth does not equate to happiness, nor does power. Yet these are the two things most people seem to desire above all else. And when they don't get it, they cry for equality of outcome, saying that it isn't fair that some people have much and others have little. But if wealth and power aren't the keys to happiness, what does it matter? Granted, the past practices of government have limited the ways of pursuit for many, and that must be rectified. But how can it be made right when expectation is equality of outcome rather than the opportunity to pursue an individualized outcome? Happiness looks different for each individual; no amount of wealth redistribution can change that.
So what went wrong? Why is there such a feeling of unrest, distrust, and outright anger among Americans in 2016? I believe the answer is also in the Declaration statement: they are endowed by their Creator. When the idea of a Higher Power is removed from the minds of humanity, the chaos of culture always results. All the great empires of the world: Egypt, Babylon, Greece, Rome, Britain - each of these fell when the power of human will trumped the worship of god. The USA was founded on Judeo-Christian principles that included reverence and respect for a Divine Creator. Removing that ideal left a vacuum that is increasing filled with power-hungry people whose desire is for the self to become like god. When humans take on the role of the divine, truths are no longer self-evident. In fact, truth itself becomes questionable, and society returns to the chaos of self-determination without any idea of community. It is not new or unique to the US; it is what is common to humanity. And so it goes. Unless this nation returns to a reverence and respect for the Divine Creator, it is on a path to disintegration. Unless truth once again becomes part of the dialogue in the public square, deception will reign. Truth and justice must again become American ideals in order for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to once again become inalienable rights for each of us.
Sunday, May 15, 2016
Friday, March 25, 2016
It isn't often that my favorite Jewish festival, Purim, intersects with the most important Christian holiday, Easter. It makes me wonder how these two events are connected and what I can learn by considering them together.
Purim is the retelling of a great deliverance of God's chosen people from certain genocide under the King Ahasueres and his evil prime minister, Haman. Purim is the most joyful of festivals, with costumes, stories, food, and plenty of adult beverages. But the celebration is only possible because of the faith and obedience of one person who was willing to consider herself nothing in order to save her people from utter destruction. Since the strife between Jacob and Esau, the nation of Israel has been under attack from all sides. More than once the Enemy has sought to destroy the descendants of Jacob, and every time, God has protected them. He has allowed them to be enslaved, dispersed, and judged, but never annihilated. His hand rests on them because He has chosen them for Himself. When Esther went before the king without being summoned, she knew her life hung in the balance. But she went in after fasting and prayer, not just by herself, but with all the Jews in the region. This is what God wants of His people and His children: not to be reckless with life, but to be bold on a foundation of fasting and prayer that His will is done.
When Christians celebrate Easter, they too recall a great deliverance. It is the most joyful of Christian holidays, as it recalls the resurrection of the Messiah, Christ the Lord, called Jesus. Like Esther's story, it begins with a great betrayal that threatens more than the person directly involved. Since the Garden of Eden, Satan has tried to annihilate anyone who calls upon the Father as Lord. God has made Himself known throughout the ages so that hope and future rests with those who seek Him. In Jesus, however, God revealed His most complete deliverance. Jesus did not go to the cross under his human power; he went undergirded with prayer. This time, however, he did not have the prayers of all the Jews with him. His disciples ran in terror, and many who had cheered his entrance into Jerusalem just a few days before were now clamoring for his death. This, too, is a picture for us. When we are alone, God hears our prayers and sustains us.
Esther could not have imagined how her people could be redeemed. An edict of the king could not be rescinded. The call had gone out to massacre all the Jews, and even the king was powerless to change it. God, however, is greater than kings. He uses the intelligence and creativity of the faithful to make a way when there seems to be no way. In this case, Mordecai, Esther's cousin, and the second in command after Haman's defeat, was given permission to write a new edict. It would not cancel the original, but it allowed the Jews to arm themselves and avenge any wrong done to them. The net result? The Jews survived, Haman's plot was rebuffed, and Jews around the world celebrate that day.
Jesus did not avoid death. In fact, his crucifixion ensured that not only would he die, but die in the most horrific manner invented by evil men. Not only that, but the nature of humanity, with all its evil intent, selfishness, hate, and harm to others weighed down his shoulders. As he hung, nailed to the rough wood of the cross, he bore all the judgement of a holy God for all people in all of time. It is no wonder his death took only three hours instead of the usual days.
How could such a thing be overcome? There is no restoration after death for humans. That edict stands forever. Dead mean gone. But, God knew in advance and prepared. He spoke through the prophets of old of a resurrection from the dead that provided for the redemption of all who call on His name. The Jews of Esther's day had two days to avenge Haman's plot. Jesus spent only two days in that tomb and on the third day, He rolled away the barricade and emerged, having avenged Satan's determination to rise above God by destroying those who follow Him. When Jesus appeared to Mary, and then to those on the Emmaus road, and to the disciples, and finally to hundreds of people, the news spread: celebrate, for there is redemption and hope and future, not just for today, but for all eternity.
It never ceases to amaze me that the parallels of Jewish holy days and festivals to Christian life is so complete. Only God.
The story of Esther can be found here. The Resurrection account is in all four gospels of the New Testament, most expansively in John.
Sunday, January 10, 2016
Before I can respond, I must reflect. As these first days of 2016 pass, I find myself reconsidering my word for the year. Reflection has two meanings, both of which will be important to me as I continue this journey of education. In order to be a good teacher and researcher, I must reflect, not just on my own work, but on the work of others so that my own pedagogy is grounded on solid philosophy and based in reality rather than hypothesis. At the same time, I must always reflect my core beliefs that rest in the Gospel. No matter what is expedient or politically correct, my life must be a shining reflection of Jesus. In academia, that is a challenge, but Truth prevails over the wisdom of man. My goal this year is to be both reflection and reflective so that, when the end of the year arrives, I will have a clear sense of who I am, where I am going, and what I want to do with the second half of my life.
Thursday, December 31, 2015
|I learned a new poetry form: Tanka. It's related to Haiku, which I also developed a knack for composing.|
|Always time for photography - especially now that smart phone cameras are so improved.|
|Some time with my favorite model and Photoshop Elements|
|The sea is my happy place.|
|Had some time for fun art|
|A Connected Learning MOOC (massive open online course) inspired lots of art and poetry|
|Another Tanka proving that beauty is in the eye of the beholder|
|Favorite place in the world with my favorite guy.|
|Sappy and cheesy - that's us.|
|Home school exploration with Caroline and Abigail.|
|It was a long hike!|
|Corinne Loomis, BSN, RN|
|Mimi handed down HER nurses cap to Corinne|
|Ole Miss (HYDR)|
|Kennesaw State University has a new football program and a marching band.|
|Cutest Marching Owl|
|A (really short) visit with brother Mike and SIL Tomi. So much fun.|
|Hawks keep the rodent population under control. This one had a full meal as I watched.|
|My Thursday girls - since January 2007|
|Madalena Anne Cristancho. Born 5 weeks early on October 11|
6 pounds, 2 ounces.
|Carrie had a form of pre-eclampsia that kept her from her baby girl for 36 hours. This was their first family visit.|
|Corinne and Caty Mae were there when Maddie went home from the hospital after 13 long days|
|13.1 in Savannah|
|It's been a long time.|
|It was really hot (especially for November), but I finished!|
|Caroline - 9 years old!|
|Abigail - age 7|
|Thanksgiving in Savannah|
|Auntie Caty Mae|
|Christmas stories with Poppa|
|Loomis (and Cristancho) girls 2015|