Admiration of Creation

Sunday Soliloquy 8.4.2019

How is it I can see so much beauty in mystery while others are bound to the sound of their own voices and the choices they make in life, which seem to blind them to so many wonders?

Of all the blunders I’ve made in life, and despite my faults and failings and shortcomings, my soul has never failed to contemplate Life and appreciate this grand Cosmos that forever demonstrates just how we are really very small.

All in all we only stand tall in our own vain imaginations in some insane notion that the whole of the Universe revolves around each of us, as if our petty determination might somehow alter the very course of stars and moons and planets.

Yet when I peer deeply inside my own self there is something very unique, invaluable, even priceless ~ certainly not weak ~ wrapped in eternal mystique, and in truth something purely divine.

So again I look into the Cosmos in awe ~ to reverence, to be blessed, to learn ~ and my passion burns, yet it is to my own soul that I turn to discover what is most fundamentally true and to uncover the simplest answers to the simplest, most profound questions.

“When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon,” said Mahatma Gandhi, “my soul expands in the worship of the Creator,” and I might only say, too, that when my soul expands and my worship deepens, so also does my wonder and admiration of all of creation.

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Infection and Random Thoughts

Well, as said before, my hernia surgery went well enough, but then yesterday (August 2nd) the doctor/surgeon informed me that the area of surgery has become infected with some fluid build-up. Of course, I knew something was not quite right because the surgical area had reddened considerable and the incision was beginning to ooze … not to mention increased pain and burning. Anyway, my doctor/surgeon prescribed a fairly strong antibiotic and scheduled me to return Monday morning. She said she might have to drain the fluid and also run a couple of tests … Possibly!

Encouragement or Not

Why would anyone discourage someone from continuing their education? Most everyone in my immediate family has taken the opportunity to try to convince me not to take online courses in pursuit of a Master of Arts degree. I truly fail to understand, but my eldest sister told me the other day that it was only because they love and care about me… Huh? I don’t get it!

Yes, I already have an M. A., but it is in an area that is rather obscure and really doesn’t amount to much more than one bright spot on my resume. In other words, I really can’t do very much with an M. A. in Christian Studies. I know because I’ve tried. So, yes, I’m quite pleased that I obtained that Master’s degree. It’s a symbol of accomplishment; however, it doesn’t really qualify me for very much at all.

No, I’m not shaming myself or belittling the degree, but I’d like to move into some truly rewarding profession, be it counselling or teaching (on the college level) or whatever… Consequently, I’ve decided to retool, plain and simple. And this is a good, healthy goal, so if I have the time and obtain the necessary financing, why should my own family come around telling me I don’t need to do it, and therefore shouldn’t go for it???

Come 2020 It’ll Hurt: Talking Impeachment

More and more Democrats are yelling for the impeachment of Donny Trump, and there is certainly good reasons for this; however, it’s unrealistic to think he’ll actually be thrown out of office. On top of this, the American people, by far, are really quite tired of hearing about it, and just want to move on. The Dems would be better off focusing on important issues, offering the American people a sensible, well-balanced agenda for the coming decade. Getting bogged down in the quagmire of possible impeachment might just cost them come 2020.

On Leviticus 19. 33-34

The word “alien” is also sometimes translated as “foreigner” and “stranger,” with the clear idea being that such a person is not a member of the community of Israel. Consequently, divine laws are established regarding foreigners (singular or plural!) who either visit, pass through, or reside within the land. Generally speaking, the same Law was to apply to both native-born and aliens (or strangers); however, when the Law did make some distinction, “the obligation to love and treat aliens like fellow citizens is a striking aspect of the Mosaic code.” (Revell Bible Dictionary, 44 – 45)

Along these lines, it is important to note that over and over again, “no fewer than 36 times,” the Hebrew scriptures warn Israel about the just treatment of foreigners, as well as orphans and widows, which ought to be especially inspired by their collective memory of having been strangers (or aliens) in the land of Egypt. (A. Noordzij, Bible Student Commentary: Leviticus, 207). The point here is really rather clear and simple: Israel endured oppression and injustice in Egypt. They ought to remember this “and seek to overcome” oppression and injustice “in (all of) their relationships …” these ethical demands “flowing from … concern for the weak,” the marginalized and disenfranchised, “such as the resident alien.” (W. H. Bellinger, Jr., NIBC: Leviticus, Numbers, 120; NISB, 174)

Good, solid research goes much further in fostering good, solid understanding than memes and/or opinions any day. The implication(s) of the Word of God regarding foreigners, strangers, the oppressed and marginalized, orphans and widows, and the poor is very, very clear and straightforward. It’s simply up to us as Christians to decide whether or not we will follow the divine mandate so forcefully laid out in Holy Scripture.

Crisis, Constitution, and Bible Classes

It is an attempted power grab, no two ways about it, and no one should really be surprised that President Trump actually went ahead by declaring a national emergency at our southern border. What should, perhaps, surprise us is that the Republican Party is almost completely silent, if not complicit, with this unconstitutional move. And, no, the 1976 National Emergencies Act does not give the President the authority to do what he is attempting. As the Brennan Center for Justice pointed out recently, nearly all cases of declared emergencies have involved foreign governments, outside terroristic threats, and gross human rights violations, never the President of the United States circumventing funds already appropriated by Congress and signed into law by the Executive Branch.

Of course, one could argue the finer points of the law, and sooner than later the Courts will decide the proper interpretation and possible application of the National Emergencies Act, which will in all likelihood make its way to the Supreme Court where we can only hope and pray a majority of Justices are faithful enough to the Constitution, not to mention frightened enough by the prospect of giving the President so much power, that they will rule Trump’s attempted move illegal. In the meantime, we might ask some simple but very sensible questions about all this … questions that, really, any good Republican should be asking him/herself right now, such as:

  1. Why did President Trump fail to get his billions of dollars in border wall funding during his first two years of office when the GOP controlled both chambers of Congress, especially if it was so imperative?
  2. When Trump did not receive adequate funding for the Wall, why did he not declare a national emergency in 2017 or 2018? Did this “national emergency” just suddenly arise in 2019, after the Democrats took back control of the House? Hmmm …. suspicious at best.
  3. If there really is a national emergence at the southern border, where’s the proof? No, we mean good, solid evidence rooted in reality, which begs the question: Why is illegal immigration at a nearly 50-year low if there really is a crisis along the Mexican border?
  4. Does this crisis primarily have to do with narcotics and other contraband? But studies and reports have consistently shown that most illegal drugs come into the United States through legal ports of entry… So how does this allow President Trump to declare a national emergence along our southern border?

The most important question I have for Republicans ~ and I’m really kind of frightened I even have to ask this ~ is, “Why in the world would you stand idly by and allow, if not support, any President so obviously circumventing the Constitution? Why would you … how could you support someone striking at the very balance of power we have enjoyed in our country since its foundation? Do you not realize that this sort of action threatens to erode the very foundation of our nation?”

We can only hope and pray the challengers to Trump’s power grab are successful, that they prevail. Even back in the 1930s, good ole FDR had to be challenged for his own attempted power grab, and he was … and his challengers were, thankfully, successful. However, bear in mind that many of his challengers were, as a matter of fact, from his own party. Sadly, this is seemingly not the case today!

Bible in the Classrooms?

Some states evidently have proposals on the table to offer Bible classes in public schools. Proponents offer all kinds of arguments for doing this, such as: Judeo-Christian Scriptures contain good teaching to which children need to be exposed, especially in character development. Also, the Bible constitutes some of the great literature of the world, and it has also been an integral part of the history and heritage of the United States.

Besides all this, the Bible class would only be offered as an elective, not as a requirement, so parents should not be offended because their children would not be forced into religious instruction. So there should presumably be no problem, and President Trump is evidently all for it … and at this point we might make the salient observation that he himself could use a good class or two in biblical competency! At any rate, the real question is: Would this be a good idea assuming it is not ultimately deemed unconstitutional. (And, of course, if state legislatures pass bills for Bible classes, even as electives, there will be court challenges.)

Well, there are probably many objections. For instance: Why offer an elective in the Bible and not, say, the Qur’an? Or the Upanishads? Or the Bhagavad Gita? Or the Analects of Confucius? One can easily argue that these religious writings also comprise part of the world’s great literature, and that they offer good teachings conducive to character development. Of course, they have not, perhaps, played a major role in the history and heritage of America, yet it is also true that many of these important spiritual/religious works were studied by educated Americans as part of a classical education, including many (if not most) of the Founding Fathers. (Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, for example, had personal copies of the Qur’an.)

But one additional concern, fairly simple and straightforward, is the question of just who would write the curriculum, and who would actually teach the class. Imagine offering a Bible class in southeast Alabama created by, say, Paulist Press and taught by the local, Roman Catholic priest! This would not go over at all, of course, even if the class were an elective and even if the priest received no monetary compensation. Most folks in this area of the country just would not put up with it, their attitude being: “How dare you when the overwhelming majority of us are Southern Baptists, and we don’t believe in prayers to Mary and the saints, the real presence of Christ in Holy Communion, etc. etc.!” So you see, this could be a problem: Who would end up teaching these classes?

Personally, I would not really object to a comparative world religions class offered as an elective to, maybe, juniors and seniors with curriculum produced by, say, MacMillan or Oxford and taught by an astute PhD in Religion (with said PhD eared from a fully-accredited institution of higher learning.) Such a course would possibly further expose students to the various cultures and belief systems of the Earth, which could be very helpful, indeed … especially since we live here in the “melting pot of the world.”

By the Book: Assessing Trump by Evangelical Standards

Since recently writing (for the second time) about evangelical Protestant support of Donald Trump and their unflinching defense of (seemingly, at least) everything he does and says  ~ or, at least, their very noticeable silence ~ I wondered just how well Trump lines up with biblical doctrine, especially since evangelicals consider the Bible the inspired, inerrant Word of God.

Mulling this over a good bit, I’m wondering just how much conservative Protestant Christians (and, I suppose, some Roman Catholics, too) are left with of Donald Trump to defend. Of course, I have to say I’ve been prompted to this by some vitriolic reactions on Facebook, and one reactionary pointedly said, “I’m willing to bet you’re not perfect either!”

Well, no I’m not perfect … but neither is the whole evangelical world defending me as both an awesome President and respectable Christian (with, perhaps, some “rough edges.”) Besides, there are some important comparisons to be made, as I did in my recent blog, for example: G. H. W. Bush professed to be a Christian; however, he did not shamelessly use his religion to gain the support of an entire block of voters.

Also, and importantly, Bush simply lived a life of upstanding character and integrity, and he was a truly patriotic (not nationalistic) public servant, who was an excellent husband, father, grandfather, war hero, statesman and gentleman. I also think of “the buck stops here” President, Harry Truman. He was an outstanding statesman and family man, honest, patriotic, and unwavering in his commitment to God and country.

Naturally, our 39th President, James Earl Carter, comes to mind, as well as his 1976 opponent, then-President Gerald Ford. Many great women come to mind, too, of course, such as: Elenore Roosevelt, first lady for a little over 12 years and, later, an ambassador to the United nations, who helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Dixie Bibb Graves, the first female senator from Alabama, and the first married woman to serve in the Senate. Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush also quickly come to mind.

But I digress… Back to my original question: How does Trump line up with the biblical standards evangelical Protestants claim to hold so dear (as the inspired, infallible Word of God)? Well, let’s take a quick look. What do the holy Scriptures of Judeo-Christianity say about:

Strangers, Sojourners and Immigrants?

You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 22. 21, RSV)

You must never do wrong things to a foreigner. Remember, you know what it is like to be a foreigner because at one time you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 23. 9, ERV)

Do not mistreat any foreigners who live in your land. Instead, treat them as well as you treat citizens and love them as much as you love yourself. Remember, you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19. 33 – 34, CEV)

Then the king will say to those on his right, “My father has blessed you! Come and receive the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world was created. When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me… (The Gospel of Matthew 25. 34 – 35, CEV)

The Poor?

You shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19.10, ESV)

And this next passage is particularly poignant:

If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted towards your needy neighbour. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be… Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake.  (Deuteronomy 15. 7 – 8, 10, NRSV) 

Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, was very plain spoken when it came to riches on one hand and poverty and the poor on the other:

Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ (The Gospel of Matthew 19. 21, NRSV)

And also, of course, this famous statement:

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. (The Gospel of Mark 10. 25, NRSV)

If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? (Epistle of James 2. 15 – 16, RSV)

Care for the Environment?

The LORD God put the man in the Garden of Eden to work the soil and take care of the garden. (Genesis 2. 15, ERV) In other words, to be the steward of creation. 

And God shows just how much he cares for creation by condemning those who “defile” it, and turn it into an obscenity:

I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in you defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination. (Jeremiah 2. 7, RSV)

This next passage is particularly appropriate for our day and age, and one must justly wonder what bearing (if any) it has on the horrible practice of fracking, on damaging oil spills, on air pollution and global warming, deforestation, and so much more … and also the fact that Trump has not only denied the scientifically proven fact of global warming, but also refused to sign the G 7 Agreement on Climate Control:

The earth dries up and withers; the world languishes and fades away; heaven fades away, along with the earth. The earth lies defiled beneath its inhabitants; because they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore the curse keeps on consuming, and its inhabitants are declared guilty. Furthermore, the inhabitants of earth are ablaze, and few people are left. (Isaiah 24. 4 – 6, ISV)

Scripture makes it quite clear that one day God will take vengeance on behalf of this tortured earth. Has Trump considered this? Is he even familiar with the verse of Scripture?

‘We give you thanks, Lord God Almighty, who are and who were, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath has come, and the time for judging the dead, for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints and all who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying those who destroy the earth.’ (Revelation 11. 17 – 18, NRSV)

On Speech and/or Conversation?

Donald Trump said, “You know, it really doesn’t matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.” And he also said, “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well been documented, are various other parts of my body.” But what do the scriptures say?

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Epistle to the Ephesians 5. 4, ESV)

But now you must get rid of all such things–anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. (Epistle to the Colossians 3. 8, NRSV)

These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm; for them the deepest darkness has been reserved. For they speak bombastic nonsense, and with licentious desires of the flesh they entice people who have just escaped from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for people are slaves to whatever masters them. (Second Epistle of Peter 2. 17 – 19)

Donald Trump falsely claimed, “There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down.” In so doing, he slandered an entire segment of our population. What does the Bible have to say about this?

Beware then of useless grumbling, and keep your tongue from slander; because no secret word is without result, and a lying mouth destroys the soul. (Book of Wisdom 1. 11, NRSV)

Promiscuity/Adultery

Did he really say this? Yes, indeed he did: “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the p**sy. You can do anything.” On top of this, and paying off at least two women with whom he fraternized, he is on his third marriage… Wonder why? But what do we read in Scripture?

You shall not commit adultery. (Exodus 20.14, NRSV)

But he who commits adultery has no sense; he who does it destroys himself. (Proverbs 6. 32, NRSV)

Let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. (Epistle to the Romans 13. 13, RSV)

Lying and/or Bearing False Witness

“From a moral standpoint, I believe in it. But you also have to get elected,” Trump said. “And there’s no way a Republican is going to beat a Democrat when the Republican is saying, ‘We’re going to cut your Social Security’ and the Democrat is saying, ‘We’re going to keep it and give you more.” And he said this privately to explain to Paul Ryan why he supported cutting Social Security even though he was saying the opposite in his public campaign. This is but one of many examples of outright lying, but what does the Bible say about deceit? 

Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are his delight. (Proverbs 12. 22, RSV)

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. (Exodus 20. 16, NRSV)

For such boasters are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness. Their end will match their deeds. (Second Epistle to the Corinthians 11. 13 – 15, NRSV)

For perverse thoughts separate people from God, and when his power is tested, it exposes the foolish; because wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul, or dwell in a body enslaved to sin. (Book of Wisdom 1. 3 – 5, NRSV)

Well, perhaps this is more than enough. I will only finish by noting that it was the evangelical Protestant community that berated Barak Obama so fiercely and unrelentingly, falsely accusing him of being Muslim, and even referring to him as the anti-Christ. Funny, though, he conducted himself in a far more presidential way, has always been a family man, still married to his first wife, and during the funeral for G. H. W. Bush, he could be seen and heard, along with Michelle, reciting the Apostles’ Creed ~ so much for his being Muslim ~ and singing the hymns! But has the evangelical community cut him any slack yet? No, of course not … but, thank God, they now have an authentic, evangelical Christian as POTUS, right???

Qoheleth: Part A

An empty breath is life with vanity heaped upon vanity,
And all seems insanity as we march forward into death

One generation fades into oblivion as another fills its place,
But the world eternally remains in earth and sea and space,
And the face of the sun shines along a fine circuit by design,
Always to rise, always to set — to begin again once again —
As the wind blows south, then north, turning and churning,
Returning to burning land, seas and hills with terrible trills;
And rivers flow all into the ocean, yet the ocean never fills,
And then the ocean delivers its waters to the rivers to flow
And to show how mighty are they below surface so serene;
Yet are all creatures ever turbulent, creation insubordinate,
And the eye of man is never sated, but by temptation baited,
While the ear has truncated voices of virtue created by God,
Animated and articulated for all of humanity so devastated;
Yet whatever has been will be so again — time without end —
Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun,
For what was begun before will begin again;
Indeed, some say, “Look at this! Look at that!” but what of it?
We covet creativity and a birth of something worth our life,
But we have only some short time before the last bell chimes,
And there will be no memory of our lifetimes upon this earth,
And there is no expectation of some to come in coming days…

An empty breath is life with vanity heaped upon vanity,
And all seems insanity as we march forward into death

And Heaven Weeps

Let compassion reign o’er malice as we drink from the chalice
Of love and peace from above, even in the face of vile rancor,
And may we stay the course set before us even when reviled,
And let us weep in keep with the tears of heaven for the child
Once meek and mild, now gone wild, where faith once lived
But now only ruins remain to mark the place of dead belief,
And may we pray for the day that hope is revived in his soul,
But above all, let us carry on in cadence with the song of truth
Under the banner of compassion every day along life’s way. . .
Though heaven may weep in keep with all the strain and pain
Of her pilgrim children marching onward through this world
To gain the Promise of the Ages from the torn pages of history

Sonnet of the I AM

As the wind topples trees, mountains fall into the seas
I am here for thee, for thou art mine and I am thine,
As surely as the bright light doth belong to radiant sun,
And when all is said and done we have but only begun
To sing my song of love written long ago in ages past,
For I AM with thee and will be from the first to the last
And ere beyond into eternity in an infinity of union
That bespeaks the nature of our bond of communion;
And dost thou possess words enough to praise my love
That comest not from this world but from high above?
As the rain beateth against thy house I am steadfast,
And thou art safe since with me thy lot hast been cast,
For I AM thy beginning and thine ending forevermore,
And ye shall mount up like unto the eagle and soar,
As in me do ye find thy joy and thy final completion
In the perfect love of who I AM . . . thy one redemption!

Fruit of the Spirit

Envy, strife, deadly thoughts and frenzy fill the world,
But there is another way, some say, for a brighter day:
Love from above, and joy, peace and increase of charity
Without disparity in clarity of the knowing of equality
Among all without recall of division and cruel derision

Love is the wellspring from which flows the life stream
In dream of better, brighter days, new and lighter ways,
As the Spirit fills the vacuum with the values of heaven
To leaven the loaf of humanity in calamity of confusion
And profusion of lies that fly by day and night to blight

Florid garden grows among horrid weeds of wickedness,
Flourishing along the stream that nourishes new life
Amid the strife of earth, strong and true under blue
Of sky so high where we may now mount and freely fly,
Liberated from cancer of death in answer to the call.


Note: Originally published in June 2016, now being republished for the enjoyment of new reader-followers. Blessings to one and all!

Renewed

Rushing like a mighty wind bending trees of men,
Filling lungs with the power of heavenly tongues
In flames of fire devouring every earthly care,
Flowering the soul in all that’s fair and right
And bright and true for an whole new worldview,
As statues crumble and tumble hard to the ground
Without sound; what was lost has now been found;
And the Wind blows where She will…
And where She will … to fill us anew

Renewed

Who Will Wake These Bones (Recast)

Dark valley, shadow of death, haunt of jackals, rugged stones;
Skeletal remains of a battle fought, cursed soldiers slain;
Pilgrim of the underworld, prophet of God, who will wake these bones?
Journey through the night into heavenly light, and will they breathe again?

And here we lie to say goodbye to earthen treasure, diabolic pleasure,
To rise again, to begin again without chain and the only pain to live

Bone to bone, sinew and flesh, and restless sleep in sand;
Bodies on bodies, row upon row, fallen damned on desert plain;
Sightless eyes, no life in blood, no peace of soul for the warrior band;
Who will wake these dead men now and let them breathe again?

And here we lie to say goodbye to earthen treasure, diabolic pleasure,
To rise again, to begin again without chain and the only pain to live

Thunder claps and lightning bolts, swift wind moves across the plain;
Eyes open and bosoms heave, fair faces in the light of day;
Life rushes in, the Spirit flies, and Death holds her broken chain;
Here now an army stands where before only dead, dry bones did lay.

And here we lie to say goodbye to earthen treasure, diabolic pleasure,
To rise again, to begin again without chain and the only pain to live

We Live…

Note: Based on the story of the Valley of Dry Bones found in the Book of Ezekiel (of the Hebrew scriptures) 37. 1-14