i believe in miracles

do you? why not add your miracles too?


1 Comment

10 Myths of American Culture

Spartan Helmet

“We hold these truths to be self-evident…”

When contemplated from historical and global perspectives—across times and cultures—as well as from a spiritual perspective, what becomes evident is that some of “these truths” are myths.

1. All people are born with certain inalienable rights, among them, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

If humans are born with any right, it might be that of a free will. Even that is suspect, as there is no specific mention of “free will” in the Holy Scriptures. We may wish it otherwise, but by virtue of being alive, we have no right to even the next breath.

2. Love matters.

Of course, it does. But here I am referring to the belief that love should be a factor in choosing one’s life partner—and that love in some way entitles two people the right to be together. This myth has grown out of the literature of Western Civilization, but Americans have taken this to a whole new level by basing major life decisions on it. How’s that working out for you, ‘Merica?

3. If you work hard, you can achieve anything.

This is the American dream. Now, time to wake up. Dreams aren’t real. This does occasionally happen, but certainly not as a rule.

4. Manifest Destiny

It wasn’t destiny, it was just human nature—selfishness and greed.

5. Land of the Free

That sounds nice, but Americans are much less free than almost any democracy in the world because of overregulation and over-litigation. In fact, we aren’t even free to enter a supermarket without shoes or a shirt. We are not free to ride in the back of a pick-up truck. Even our dogs aren’t free to run off leash. Inherent in freedom is the ability to take risks, but we have mitigated a great many of life’s risk with law, rules and policy—at the expense of our freedom.

6. Home of the Brave

A citizenry that curtails its own freedom to the extent we have cannot rationally or logically be called brave. Further evidence of our lack of bravery is the fact that to feel safe, we require something no other country requires—the world’s largest military, larger than next 12 militaries combined. We have a fighting machine that only alien power could overtake, and out of fear, fear, fear we continue to make it even more ridiculously large. A country’s fear factor may rightly be measured by the size of its military.

7. Loss of American life is tragic.

Would any reasonable person assert that one American life has more value than one Iranian life or one North Korean life? Is not all human life equally sacred? And yet, almost every film that juxtaposes loss of American life with loss of some other human life carries the overt or underlying assumption that “they” are expendable and “we” are not. In American media, our loss of life is deserving of more grief than the loss of their lives. In reality, Americans kill more Americans than anyone else. Just under 7,000 American lives have been lost in the Afghan and Iraqi wars from 2001 to the present. But last year alone, we murdered more than 15,696 of each other.

From 1775 to the present, Americans have lost approximately 2.2 million lives in wars with foreign powers. In the Civil War, we took 750,000 of our own lives—50 percent more than were lost in both World Wars combined.

And yet, these death tolls are miniscule compared to the number of American fetal lives we end each year. From 2005 to 2012, according to the CDC, women have ended the human lives of 6,336,511 fetuses. 7 years. 3 times the loss of American life in all military conflicts combined. Consider this:

Annual U.S. military spending: $600 billion. Military casualties: 400 lives a year.

Annual U.S. law enforcement spending: $100 billion. Murders: 15,000 lives a year.

Annual U.S. public funding for family planning: $8 billion. Abortions: 700,000 lives a year.

Loss of any life is tragic, but clearly, we are not concerned enough with loss of American life to allocate resource to our greatest hemorrhage.

8. [Disclaimer: I am about to piss off anyone I missed with #7.] Our service men and women have fought and died for our freedom.

This is surely the most sacred myth on this list—far more so than even our inalienable rights! Patriots, don’t hate me for speaking truth, but in most of the conflicts in U.S. history, our freedom was not at stake, national interests were. I feel it is important to be honest about the role of our military, particularly in the conflicts of our times. It does young men and women a disservice to glorify the role of our military as they endeavor to make the choice to serve or not. I am grateful for all those who have chosen to serve in the military (as I also did). Our military has played an incredibly important role on the world stage, most notably during World War 2. It is ALL THAT. We have fought for many good causes, where loss of our freedom has not been an imminent threat. We have also fought in conflicts that amounted to little more than land-grabbing. I love that the Civil War resulted in the emancipation of slaves, but even that war was not about freedom. Emancipation for slaves provided the North with a sorely needed moral high ground. One hundred and fifty years later, we are still invoking freedom as a sorely needed moral high ground.

9. [Giving politics a rest now.] America is a player in end times, and thus spiritually important.

This myth may not be so widely known, but let me assure you that in Evangelical Christian circles, it is commonly held that we are in the biblical end times and our country has some key role in that process. In fact, there is no biblical support for the United States having a role in end times, and no indication that our nation even exists in end times. Babylon probably thought it was pretty important to end times too—particularly because it is actually named in the Holy Scriptures. And yet it rose, ruled for 300 years then fell and, alas, life goes on. (Interesting side note: The Kassites conquered the Babylonians and ruled for 400 years. Who’s ever heard of the Kassites? My spellchecker doesn’t even recognize that as a word. Will spellcheckers of the future recognize “American”?) If I were a betting woman, my money would be on Babylon coming back a third time over the United States fulfilling the role of the Babylon of Revelations 18.

10. Happily Ever After

A lovely myth to end on. Again, this myth didn’t start with our culture, but we have embraced it in our storytelling, movies and life expectations, and if any country owns it now, we certainly do. Thanks, Disney, for building up in us a false expectation that everything works out in the end. Surely, everything will work out for the good of those who are called according to God’s purpose, but in the interim, just a whole lot of people will live and die without ever getting their happily ever after.

An afterword: Those who don’t know me probably think I must be some cynical, bitter old cow. The old cow part might be true, but I am actually a “glass half full” kind of gal. Further, I love my United States of America. I cannot sing the national anthem without choking up, and not out of blind nationalism, but out of an experiential knowledge of just how great this country is. I have lived more than four years on two other continents and travelled to many countries, and I could never see myself being so happy as I am in my motherland. I also love my fellow Americans. I so long for us to live up to our own ideals. We do ourselves a disservice to be anything but honest about who we are and what we believe. We are great; we can be better. God bless America.

 

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_military_casualties_of_war; https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/latest-crime-statistics-released; http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/18/health/abortion-fast-facts/; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_and_dependencies_by_number_of_police_officers; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_planning_in_the_United_States; https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/publicly-funded-family-planning-services-united-states?gclid=Cj0KEQiA3Y7GBRD29f-7kYuO1-ABEiQAodAvwPpwt3gvA73aqtRzEokeEeh-2z61jtqIcHxMHMSJHvoaAhfC8P8HAQ

Advertisements


Leave a comment

A Word for Today, Following the 2016 General Election

Could be storm clouds moving in. Could be sky starting to clear. We'll know which in the by and by.

Could be storm clouds moving in. Could be sky starting to clear. We’ll know which in the by and by.

Does anyone else out there think that God speaks to you through your daily devotional reading book?

Here is an excerpt from my daily devotion today, dated October 30, (I’m a little behind…). The book is Gleanings in Proverbs, by Robert Jones, written in 2000. I recommend it for a meaty daily devotional. Even though I’ve been off the calendar more than on in my reading, it always seems to bring a word fitting to that day. Today’s word was exceptionally fitting.

After reviewing the length of reign of Judah’s kings, which generally corresponded to this pattern: righteous kings had long reigns, wicked ones had short reigns, Jones states:

“It is a vicious cycle often repeated in history where a nation’s sins become magnified in a corrupt man who rises to power, who in turn by his evil example leads his people into even greater wickedness. The higher in authority a man is, the more devastating becomes his influence on the moral fabric of society when his life is unchaste and ungodly. Public restraints against sin are weakened in the same manner that they are lacking in the leader’s life. … Christian, regardless of the character of those in authority and conditions in the world around you, ‘Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.’ Matt 5:16”


Leave a comment

The Christmas Story

 

baby-jesus-in-mangerHere’s a highly readable version of the Christmas story. Great for families with elementary or junior high school kids, or those who haven’t grown up in church.

At just the time God had planned it from the beginning, He sent a messenger named Gabriel to the town of Nazareth, in Galilee, (in the country of Palestine, which is now Israel).  His mission was to see a young woman named Mary. Now Mary was a virgin—she had never been intimate with any man. She was engaged to marry a man named Joseph. Although he was an average guy, his family was descended from Israel’s most famous King David.

Gabriel found Mary and said, “Hello! You are one of God’s favorites.”

This was a highly unusual way to start a conversation with a stranger, and it freaked Mary out. But Gabriel said to her, “It’s OK, Mary, nothing to fear. God is quite pleased with you. So much so that you’re going to be the mother of a son who you’ll name Jesus. He’s going to be amazing and people will call him the Son of God. God himself will set him as king, like his ancestor King David. He’ll reign over all of your people forever—and I mean forever, like never-ending forever.”

“How exactly will this happen,” Mary asked Gabriel, “since I’ve never done anything to get pregnant?”

He answered, “Well, God’s Spirit is going to come and sort of hover over you, and God’s power will cause you to become pregnant, which is why the child will be called the Son of God. Oh, and, did you know that your relative Elizabeth is going to have a baby too—even though she’s supposedly too old to have a baby? Yep, the very one people called a barren old woman is now six months pregnant! God commanded it, so basically, it’s a done deal.”

“Well, I want to serve God with my life,” Mary answered, “so I’m totally on board with this.”

Gabriel left, and Mary got ready and hurried out to the town in Judea where Zechariah and Elizabeth lived. As Mary was entering their house, she called out a hello, and at that moment, the little unborn baby John that was inside Elizabeth’s belly jumped, and God’s spirit overpowered Elizabeth. She shouted out, “You’re the most fortunate woman ever, and your child will be fortunate too. And to what do I owe this great honor of a visit from the mother of our future leader? Do you realize that as soon as I heard your voice, my baby jumped for joy inside me? What an incredible honor, this promise from God, and how wonderful that you’re so accepting of it!”

Then Mary said: “I can’t tell you how grateful I am to God, and how happy I am that God has chosen me—even though I’m a nobody. Do you realize I will have a place in history? People will know my name—all because our powerful God has chosen to use me! He has so much compassion on all those—past, present and future—who love him like a Father. It’s amazing how he shows his power: He brushes aside people who are full of themselves. He can bring down an emperor in a skinny minute. On the other hand, he raises the rank of people who never considered themselves deserving of honor. He gives the best food to the hungry, and sends the rich off to beg. Just look at all he’s done for the nation of Israel, just like he promised our great, great… grandfather Abraham he would.

As time passed, it became obvious that Mary was pregnant, but only she knew it was with God’s child. Mary was engaged to marry Joseph. This was really embarrassing to him, but since he was a really nice guy and didn’t want to make a huge scene, he thought he would call off the wedding.

He was just about to do it when he had a dream in which an other-worldly being appeared to him and said, “Joseph Davidson, don’t be afraid to get married to Mary. The child she’s carrying belongs to God’s Holy Spirit. It’s going to be a boy and you will name him Jesus. And he’s going to rescue those who belong to him from the punishment they deserve.”

When Joseph woke up, he believed the dream and married Mary. However, he kept his distance from her until after she gave birth.

Around this same time, the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus issued a command that every person in the Roman Empire had to be counted–this included everyone in Israel, which was part of the Roman Empire. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was the governor of Syria, fyi.) So everyone had to go to their grandparents’ home to register. That meant that Joseph had to leave his present home in Nazareth, Galilee, and go back to Bethlehem, Judea, which is where all the Davidson’s were from. He took Mary along, pregnant as she was.

Bethlehem was packed with people and there were absolutely no hotel rooms. People were sleeping everywhere; Mary and Joseph found a barn to sleep in. While they were in Bethlehem, Mary went into labor and gave birth to a son, her first child. Lacking the proper supplies for a newborn baby, they just wrapped him in whatever cloth they could find and used the animals’ feed trough as a cradle.

On the night Jesus was born, there were some shepherds who were watching their sheep in the fields outside of Bethlehem. All of a sudden they saw something amazing surrounding them—not of this world—and then a being appeared to them. It was terrifying.

The being said, “Don’t be afraid. I’ve got great news that’s going to make everyone happy. Today, right over there in Bethlehem, the Rescuer has been born. He’s the one God has appointed to rule. You’ll know you’ve found him when you see a baby wrapped in rags and cradled in a feed trough.”

All of a sudden there was a whole military company of these beings in the sky and they were saying, “All the credit goes to God who lives in the highest places outside of time and space. Peace to the people of Earth who God favors.”

Then they were gone.

The Shepherds said, “We ought to go to Bethlehem and find this baby that… that… those things told us about.”

They rushed off and were able to find Mary, Joseph and the baby, cradled in an animal’s feed trough. After seeing this, they told everyone they could what had happened and who this child was. Everyone who heard their story was amazed. Mary took careful note of everything that was happening and she contemplated it—not with her head, but with her heart.

The shepherds eventually went back to tending sheep, but for a long time after, they marveled and were in awe at how God announced the child’s birth to them and how they found the child exactly as the being had described.

This all went down just the way God said it would hundreds of years earlier through the words of a prophet: “A virgin will get pregnant and give birth to a son who will be known as God with us on Earth.”

After baby Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, some scientists from somewhere farther east (possibly modern-day Iran, Iraq, India or China) arrived in Jerusalem wanting to know, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve been studying the stars and saw the cosmic sign that he was born. We want to honor him.”

This was news to King Herod, and not the good kind. In fact, it had all of Jerusalem in a clamor. He called together all the top dogs of the church and the law and asked where this appointed child was supposed to be born, according to the ancient texts.

“In Bethlehem, Judea,” they replied. “An ancient prophet wrote, ‘Don’t belittle yourself, Bethlehem. Stand tall among the rest of Judea because you are going to be the hometown of a ruler who will guide my people, Israel.’”

Behind closed doors, Herod met with the scientists from the east and got them to tell him the exact time the star they followed had appeared. He sent them on to Bethlehem with instructions to, “Search out the child, and as soon as you find him, send news to me so I can come and honor him too.”

With this, they left, and they were able to follow the celestial body right to the place where Jesus was residing. It just hung over the place. They could hardly believe their eyes and were overjoyed. When they entered the house, they saw Jesus with his mother, Mary, and they got down on hands and knees and pledged their confidence and service. Then they brought Christmas gifts: presents of gold, frankincense and myrrh—all really expensive stuff in those days.

That night, the scientists had a dream that warned them against King Herod, and wise men that they were, they decided not to go back the same way they came, so they could avoid seeing Herod.

Eventually, the happy little family settled down in the town of Nazareth, Galilee. Jesus grew up strong, he was full of wisdom and God made him gifted and talented.

That’s the end of the Christmas story, but that same baby Jesus grew up to be the reason we celebrate Easter too. All of this happened more than 2000 years ago, but Jesus is still important because he is the Son of God, and He lives in the hearts of people all around the world who know God as their Father.


Leave a comment

Christ Incarnate Fleshes out the Law: Matt. 5:17-26 (how I would say it)

“Don’t think I’m here to do away with anything you hold sacred—the Law of Moses or the prophets’ teachings. I’m not here to do away with them, but to complete them. The fact of the matter is that as long as there is a planet Earth with the sky above, every word of the Law is still valid—every dot on every “i” and every cross on every “t”—until it has fulfilled its purpose. Anyone who thinks it’s okay to disregard even the lightest of the commands, and goes around telling other people it’s okay too, will never advance past private in God’s ranks. But anyone who practices the Law and teaches other people how to live according to it rise to general in God’s ranks. You see, you have to be more just and fair than religious leaders and seminary professors to even make it into God’s ranks.

“For example, traditionally we’re taught that murder is wrong and if you murder someone, you have to face trial. But the principle is that even being angry with a brother or sister is wrong—and you will be held accountable for that wrong too. Likewise, if you slander someone, you can be sued for that action. But in principle, even calling them an idiot puts you in danger of God’s judgment.

“This is why if you come to the house of God ready to praise and worship and on your way in recall that you wronged a friend or family member, you should just do an about-face and first go and make things right with that person, then come back to praise and worship.

“Don’t let arguments fester—especially if it’s something that could end up in court. Don’t waste any time in reaching an agreement or apologizing. Otherwise, the matter could end up in court and if the judge rules against you, you’ll face fines or jail time. Then your only option is to pay the fine and do the time to the last penny and hour.”


Leave a comment

Salt and Light: Matt. 5:13-16 (how I would say it)

light path

You are the element that is preserving humanity. If that element loses its defining properties, how can they ever be restored? The element is rendered useless, no better than a common rock used to pave a path.

You are the light of the world. You can see a city on a hill from a long way off at night time. Tell me, would you walk on a dark path with a flashlight that’s not turned on? No. You would turn on the flashlight so everyone can see where they are going. That’s you—the flashlight. Shine light on the path that leads to God. People will be grateful for the light, but only because it shows them the way.


Leave a comment

Lucky Redefined: Luke 6: 17-19; Matt. 5:1-12; Luke 6:24-26 (how I would say it)

celebrity

Note: Can we suspend, please, for this reading, the idea that luck denotes godless coincidence? In my use of the word “lucky” below, I mean it in the sense of “blessed” and “fortunate”—both synonyms of “lucky.” But I chose to use “lucky” because of its prevalence—we use it all the time in the same way Jesus uses “blessed.”

Jesus was surrounded by a large crowd made up of his followers, as well as people from all over Judea, Jerusalem and the coastal regions of Tyre and Sidon. Everyone wanted to hear him speak and to be cured of what ailed them. People with mental illness were walking away sane, and people everywhere were trying to just get a finger on him, because he was oozing power that was healing them all. [He was a real celebrity.]

At one point, Jesus found a nice level spot to teach from and he said, “Let me tell you who’s got it good. You are truly lucky if you esteem others as highly, or more highly, than you esteem yourself. This is the kind of person who matters in God’s kingdom.

“You’re truly lucky if you’re concerned enough about people to grieve over them, because consolation will be in your future too.

“You’re truly lucky if you have learned to harness your strength and power, and you don’t abuse your position. You will be the last man standing.

“You’re truly lucky if you yearn for and work for justice, because justice is coming, and you will get your fill of it.

“You’re truly lucky if you have a heart of compassion for others, compassion is coming too, and you will get your share.

“You’re truly lucky when you have kept yourself pure—not giving in to greed, lust or cynicism. Through these “clear lenses” can see God in creation and working in your life, and one day you will see him in person.

“A person who tries to make and keep peace is truly lucky because this is the kind of person who calls God ‘Father.’

“If you’re willing to suffer loss for doing the right thing, you’re truly lucky. You can be assured of your citizenship in God’s kingdom.

“For that matter, you’re truly lucky when people insult you, treat you poorly and say all kinds of mean things about you because you believe in me. That ought to make you jump for joy because, not only are you in good company with God’s prophets who were treated the same way, but you’ll be handsomely rewarded for your loyalty to God’s kingdom.

“But you know who I really feel sorry for? I really feel sorry for rich people, because money is their only consolation.  I feel sorry for people who have everything they want, people who have never had to go without. A time is coming when they will, in fact, go without. I feel sorry for people who don’t take life seriously. Everything is a joke, life is a party. When the gravity of life finally hits them, it will be devastating. And I feel sorry for people who seem to have the perfect life—everybody loves them and flocks to be around them. You know the false prophets were celebrities too once.”