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Exodus

Desert rock formation, Israel, Author Tiia Monto (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Though He parted the Red Sea for them, the Lord did not lead the Israelites directly to the Promised Land. Instead, they spent 40 years in the desert learning to trust Him.

That is how it works. Over and over, we are drawn to Him in need. The more self-reliant we think we are, the less we have learned.

God uses our very needs as His tools. This is not abandonment – nor even “hands off” management – but loving care, based on an intimate knowledge of each of us.

Wherever we may be in our lives, He is with us, guiding our steps with the goal of bringing us home.

You in Your mercy have led forth the people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength to Your holy habitation” (Ex. 15: 13).

Lord God, You parted one sea and stilled the waters of another. Powers and principalities are as nothing before You. This is the strength You offer us.

Like Moses before us, we call on Your name. You have purchased and will plant us in the mountain of Your inheritance. We praise and thank You for all You have given us, and all we know You will accomplish in our lives.

Amen

Originally posted 8/5/12

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse  https://avoicereclaimed.com

Love Poured Out

“Jesus Carrying the Cross” by El Greco (16th Century), National Museum of Decorative Arts, Buenos Aires, Source http://www.mnad.org (PD-Art, Old-100)

The 18th Century rabbi, Israel ben Eliezer, wrote of suffering:

“Each prayer has its own meaning, and it is, therefore, the specific key to a door in the Divine Palace.  But a broken heart is an axe that opens all the gates.”

The sick, the needy, the desperate, the lost; the grieving; the persecuted and imprisoned; the abandoned and alone.  These understand suffering.

To the sick and those in pain, Christ is the Great Physician.  To those in need, the desperate, and the lost, He is the Way.  To the grieving, He is the Man of Sorrows. To the persecuted and imprisoned, He is the Advocate and Counselor.  To the abandoned and alone, He is the Beloved.

The source of all comfort, Christ is with us in all trials.  None of us is truly abandoned, for He is there.  In return, Christ asks that we extend a hand to the lost and less fortunate, that we reach out in love even when  we may be rejected.

Christ does not urge us to live cautious lives.  Love is not measured with an eyedropper, in safe increments.  It is poured out, as balm on the wounds of the world.  As His was for us.

Originally posted 5/26/12

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse https://avoicereclaimed.com

 

Prone to Wander

“The Prodigal Son” by Rodin, Author SLOWKING (CC BY-NC 3.0 Unported)

You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?
” (Ps. 56:8).

The old hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” was penned by Robert Robinson before the American Revolution.  It contains the aching lyric, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love…”

The Bible speaks again and again of man’s wandering from the throne of God.  For having murdered his brother, Cain was made a vagabond on the earth (Gen. 4:12).  Hagar was sent to wander in the wilderness by Abraham (Gen. 21:14), at Sarah’s jealous urging (Gen. 21:10).  Israel was caused to wander for forty years in the desert, for having offended God by little faith (Num. 32: 13).  The Book of Job and Book of Psalms both characterize the wicked as wandering about in search of food (Job 15:23; Ps. 59:15).

Some four thousand years later, this flesh of ours longs to wander still.  Read more…

A Secular Theology, Part 3

Demonstration for Planned Parenthood, Author The All Nite Images from NYC, Source flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/otto-yamamoto/21800708286/ (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

In an article from the Journal of Christian Legal Thought titled “The New Dignity”, Roberta Ahmanson makes this stark observation:

“Planned Parenthood executives bargain to sell aborted body parts, Bruce Jenner strikes a pose across the cover of Vanity Fair…and California Governor Jerry Brown signs a law allowing doctors to kill.

All in the name of dignity [1].”

Underlying all these events, as Ahmanson points out, is a radical change in our culture’s understanding of human dignity.

Professor Emeritus George Kateb of Princeton describes this new view of dignity as grounded in man’s ability to defy nature, to go beyond natural limitations and recreate himself.  That runs counter to the inalienable quality with which the Declaration of Independence described us as being “endowed by our Creator”.

Ahmanson defines the new dignity more precisely (if more prosaically):

“Dignity is no longer so much about who or what we are:  it is about what our unfettered will can do, and what it can forbid others to do.”

Freedom and Limits

Andrew DeLoach in “Our Cultural Counterdream” explores the pursuit of unconstrained freedom further.  DeLoach is especially critical of the law for supporting this pursuit.  He concludes that the desire to abolish all limits, in fact, arises from nihilism – a sense of boredom so extreme it finds no value in the norm.

DeLoach explains the Christian understanding of dignity this way:

“The imago Dei [image of God] is given freely to us so that, in response, we would be a living gift to others.  We are more truly human – and more truly free – when we trust in the Creator to orient our desires and actions according to the limitations He has given for our good.”

Read more…

A Secular Theology, Part 2

White supremacists clash with police, Charlottesville, VA, Author Evan Nesterak, Source flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/153804281@N02/36421659232/ (CC Attribution 2.0 Generic)

We continue our investigation of the cultural changes taking place in the world around us.  These carry many labels:  political correctness, intersectionality, neo-paganism, cultural Marxism, and social justice religion.

Thaddeus Williams in “A New Theocracy” has this to say about them:

“God…designed us to run and thrive on meaning.  We are wired for objective, not subjective, Creator-formed, not creature-fabricated, transcendent and God-centered, not transient and self-oriented meaning…Deprive a culture of transcendent meaning long enough and that culture will take to politics with the ferocity of an absolutist religious fanatic [1].”

Williams points out that the young men in post-WWI Germany who ultimately chose to follow Adolf Hitler were not searching for ideas, but personal meaning.  They were drawn toward violence; they thrived on hostility against Jews, Communists, gypsies, and homosexuals.

Former white nationalist, Christian Piccolini put this in context, while commenting on the recent racist demonstration in Charlottesville, VA:

“I believe that people become radicalized, or extremist, because they’re searching for three very fundamental human needs:  identity, community and a sense of purpose.”

That these same needs are feeding the secular gospel should give us all pause. Read more…

A Secular Theology, Part 1

Gay Pride Parade, Sao Paulo, Brazil (2004), Author Rose Brasil/ABr, Source Agencia Brasil (CC Attribution 3.0 Brazil License)

I would like over the next few weeks to discuss several articles from the Journal of Christian Legal Thought.  These address the profound cultural changes we see taking place around us, and the threats those changes pose – both to Christianity and humanity at large.

“…who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…” (1 Rom. 25).

“Drag has always served a purpose…We mock identity…We show people we’re shape shifters.   We are God in drag.  That’s our role — is to remind people of that.”

-Ru Paul, Time.com [2]

We begin with an article by Thaddeus Williams titled “A New Theocracy” [1].  Williams examines a secular theology which is rapidly gaining ground.  He terms this Contemporary Western Creation Worship to distinguish it from the Creator worship of historic Christianity.

Secular Belief System

Williams identifies four essential beliefs of this secular, postmodern theology:

  1. That man is autonomous from any higher authority.
  2. That man can define himself in whatever way he likes; that he determines his meaning and purpose on earth.
  3. That man was never fallen; that he is “naturally good” as the philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau maintained. Consequently, that humanity is continually evolving toward its ideal.
  4. That there is no such thing as sin.  Sin, if it exists at all, is to be attributed to “institutions” according to Rousseau; to the “oppressor class” in Neo-Marxist terms.

In sum, “Self has become a god and self-fulfillment our salvation,” as Paul Hiebert said.

After all, how can human beings be in violation of a moral law, if their desires are the moral law?  Never mind that past generations would have viewed this as arrogance of the highest order.

These beliefs are diametrically opposed to the beliefs of Christianity.  Not only do they constitute a false gospel.  The behavior which flows from them is deeply disturbing.

Disturbing Behavior

The assumption is made that human beings are guaranteed a life free of guilt, when God is removed from the picture.  But are they?

Without God and redemption on the basis of Christ’s sacrificial death and Resurrection, man is deprived of justification.  However, the desire for justification remains.  Without God, man turns to society, the law, educational institutions, the media, even entertainment sources, in search of it.

A constant imputation of guilt to others is required to shore up the sense of moral superiority.  Those not in accord with a personal assessment of blamelessness are viewed as the enemy.

All who oppose this secular theology are characterized as bigots, phobics, and fascists.  First demonized, they must in the end be silenced. Read more…

“Who art in Heaven” by Wendo Kenyanito

God the Father from “Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel (PD)

This is a profound and beautiful examination of the nature of God and our relationship to Him by the talented poet, Wendo Kenyanito.

“Cease not, your Highness, to remind me that I am made of so much beauty that i forgot when i decided that I am defined by the things I am not…

More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of i believe; wherefore, let thy voice rise like a fountain for me night and day.  For what are men better than sheep or goats that nourish a blind life within the brain, if, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer both for themselves and those who call them friend!

In such a world, your Highness, so thorny, and where none finds happiness unblighted; or, if found, without some thirsty sorrow at its side; cease not to remind me who i am.  I am not my age, nor the size of clothes i wear.  I am not my weight or the colour of my hair.  I am not my name, or the dimples in my cheeks.  Am i?

It seems the part of wisdom, (and no sin against the law of love) to measure lots with less distinguish’d than myself, that thus i may with patience bear my moderate ills, and sympathise with others suffering more.  Please remind me, children we all are — of one great father, in whatever clime.  And that nature or chance hath cast the seeds of life — all tongues, all colours; and neither after death shall we be sorted into languages.  Perhaps, i might doubt myself, (a habit i am trying to get rid of) plundering to pathetic penury; my stock of hopes and dreams.  When such moments occur, let me know that i am all the books i read, and all the words i speak.  That i am my croaky morning voice, and the smile i try to hide.  I am the sweetness in my laughter and every tear i have cried.  I am the songs i sing so loudly when i am all alone.  I am all the places i have been to and the one i call home.  I am the photos i treasure so much, and the future i dream of.  Cease not, your Highness, to remind me that i made of so much beauty that i forgot when i decided that i was defined by the things i’m not.

Children, we all are.

Of one great father, He whom we live and move
He, the indifferent Judge of all, regards
Nations, and hues, and dialects alike.

Amen.”

Wendo Kenyanito blogs on Letters Unsent at https://theselettersunsent.wordpress.com

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse  https://avoicereclaimed.com

Permanent Recession

Roaring Mountain, Yellowstone National Park, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park (NAID 520000), Author Ansel Adams (PD by US Govt. employee)

Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation
” (Habakkuk 3: 17-18).

Officially, the Great Recession is over.  There are more jobs now than when it struck in 2008.  The unemployment rate – which currently stands at 4.4% – is demonstrably lower.  The stock market has risen dramatically.

Yet millions are still struggling [1].  There are telltale signs of this:

  • Only 62% of working-age adults either have jobs or are searching for them.
  • The average household income of the bottom 20% of Americans fell $571 between 2006-2016.
  • Despite population growth, there are now 400,000 fewer homeowners (a drop of 6%).
  • The median income for black and Latino households has still not returned to 2007 levels.

The direct and indirect consequences of the Great Recession continue to linger.

Housing

Millions, of course, lost their homes [2A].  Some did not have the means to support home ownership.  Some were overextended, anxious to cash in on their piece of the real estate boom.  Others were the victims of fraudulent lenders.

Job loss, however, was the primary cause of mortgage default [2B].

Whatever the reason, some families became homeless, living out of their vehicles or moving from one cheap hotel to another.  Disconnected from community, the families of foreclosure had less help from friends and neighbors in finding work.

Foreclosure coupled with an uneven work history continues to keep credit ratings down a decade later.  Poor credit ratings continue to mean higher rents and less money for other essentials. Read more…

Mangers

Nativity scene by potter, Gerard Mosser, at Soufflenheim, Alsace, Author Claude Truong-Ngoc (CC by SA 3.0 Unported)

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.  So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2: 4-7).

Every day 2715 children are born into poverty in America alone [1].  And every day 22,000 children across the globe die from poverty-related illnesses and deprivation [2].

We are surrounded by mangers. Surrounded, yet 2000 years after that first Christmas we still decline to see.  Why spoil this festive season?  Isn’t there another sale, another party somewhere?  Pile those gifts high!  We need no encouragement to put Saturn back in Saturnalia.  We can manage that all on our own.

If pressed on the point, many of us would echo Scrooge’s sentiment:  “Are there no prisons?  Are there no workhouses?”  Who brought all these children into the world anyhow?  Why should we be saddled with their upkeep?  Who gave them the right to impose on our comfortable lives?

“…[W]ho made lame beggars walk, and blind men see[?]” to use Tiny Tim’s words.  As Christians we ought to know the answer to that.  We ought to live the answer to that everyday.  If we did, no billboards would be necessary urging that we put Christ back in Christmas.  He would already be there.
___
[1]  Children’s Defense Fund, Research Library, “Each Day in America,” http://www.childrensdefense.org/child-research-data-publications/each-day-in-america.html.
[2]  Global Issues, “Poverty Facts and Stats,” http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats.

Originally posted 12/22/13

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse  https://avoicereclaimed.com

Scandal…Yet Again

Scales of Justice with emblem of Holy See, Author Ktr101 (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Just when the dust appeared to have settled, the Catholic Church sex scandal has expanded to a new venue.  This time the setting is Australia.  The proportions are massive.

A Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has uncovered the widespread abuse of children by religious schools and other institutions [1].  Most of those suspected are Catholic priests and religious brothers.

Tens of thousands of children were impacted.  While the exact number of victims cannot be known, the abuse extended across generations.

The Commission’s official report reads, in part:

“It is not a case of a few rotten apples.  Society’s major institutions have seriously failed.  In many cases those failings have been exacerbated by a manifestly inadequate response to the abused person.  The problems have been so widespread, and the nature of the abuse so heinous, that it is difficult to comprehend.”

More than 4400 victims have come forward and more than 4000 institutions been implicated.  In numerous cases, the commission found those in leadership were aware of the abuse, but failed to take effective action. Read more…