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“Going Forth” by Joseph Veneroso

“Moses Viewing the Promised Land” by Frederic Church (1846), Photographer/Source Art Renewal Center (PD-Art, PD-Old)

“Exiled from Eden eons ago
Sojourning with Abraham
Delivered from slavery
Wandering around the world’s wilderness
Taken into captivity in Babylon
Till we return from whence we came
Each of us is called to leave
Behind familiar faces and places
And go forth to foreign lands
To find our way back home
To God.

We follow in the footsteps
Of him who left heaven’s glory
To dwell among the poor
And oppressed of the earth
And set them free with the truth
That they as sons and daughters
Of God in whose image they were made
Are thus deserving of all help, hope
And dignity, for they too are called
To go forth from poverty and despair
To dwell in the Promised Land.”

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

Dry Spells

Aramaki Rose Park, Itami, Japan, Author 663highland (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Below is an excerpt from Barriers by Ann Aschauer who blogs at Seeking Divine Perspective https://seekingdivineperspective.com.

Barriers examines prayer from a biblical perspective.  I recommend the book to anyone who wants a closer relationship with God.

“…when roses…[are] watered just a little every day, their roots spread out just under the surface of the ground.  Then when winter …[comes] and the top soil…[freezes], the roots …[freeze] with it and the roses…[die].  However beautiful they were during the warm weather, because their roots were shallow, they couldn’t survive the winter.

However…when roses are soaked heavily just once a week, the water sinks deep into the ground.  Then when the weather gets hot and dry between waterings, the roses will stretch their roots down to where the water is.  When winter comes and the top of the ground freezes, the roses’ roots remain safe deep underground, ready to send up new shoots in the spring.

In other words, the dry spells are what help the roses survive the winters.”

Read more…

Human Rights Violations in Asia

Map of signatories to International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, Author IdiotSavant (PD)

The following is excerpted form “Healing wounds one story at a time” by Maria-Pia Negro Chin, published in the August 2019 edition of Maryknoll Magazine.

“One morning a man wakes up, hugs his children and kisses his wife goodbye before walking to work.  But, he does not come back home.  His wife calls her husband’s job and hospitals…Finally, the family goes to the police.  Then they start an uncertain journey, fearing they will never see him again.

Maryknoll Sister Marya Zaborowski [who is 86] says the families of people like this man often struggle to find answers as they desperately search for their loved ones.  ‘The government does not know who took him.  You don’t know whether they were taken as a slave, they are being tortured or if they were killed,’ says Sister Zaborowski…

Once she started working for the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), an independent non-governmental organization based in Hong Kong, Sister Zaborowski realized that the situation described above was an all too-common reality.  According to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, countries in Asia account for over 25,000 outstanding cases of disappearances, about half of the disappearances worldwide.” Read more…

The Shoes of Haman

“Punishment of Haman” by Michelangelo (1508-1512), Sistine Chapel, Vatican (PD).

On October 16, 1946 a group of Nazi war criminals was hanged as a result of the Nuremburg trials [1].

Included in the group were Alfred Rosenberg, one of the primary authors of Nazi racial policy with its persecution of the Jews; Julius Streicher, publisher of the anti-Semitic newspaper Der Sturmer, an essential vehicle of Nazi propaganda; and Hans Frank, the governor of occupied Polish territories following the German invasion in WWII, and directly involved in the mass murder of Jews.

Hermann Goring, creator of the Gestapo secret police and Nazi concentration camp system, as well as an infamous “collector” of valuable artwork confiscated from Jews during the Holocaust; and Martin Bormann, the commandant of Auschwitz, had already committed suicide.

Individually and together these powerful political and military leaders had formulated and implemented the so called Final Solution, its goal the extermination of every Jewish man, woman, and child on earth.

With the help of God, that goal was not accomplished. Read more…

Debt Traps – Finance and the Poor

Urban decay in Camden, NJ, Author Phillies1fan777, Source English Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_decay (PD)

The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower is servant to the lender” (Prov. 22: 7).

There are financial traps into which the poor routinely fall.

Affordable Housing Crisis

Over the first of these traps, excessive housing costs, the poor have little or no control.  The lack of affordable housing is at crisis levels, nationwide [1][2].  Low income families (already living paycheck to paycheck) run the constant risk that a single unexpected expense will topple their fragile financial structure.

Recurring Bills

Even recurring bills such as those for gas and electricity must frequently be paid in part or on a rotational basis.  The gas bill is paid this month, the electrical bill next month, the water bill the following month.

Despite the federal government’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), many of the poor spend 25% – 30% of their income on utilities [3].  Interruptions in service are common.  Meanwhile, debt from overdue bills and associated late fees mounts.

Phone Bills

The poor may be forced to relocate frequently, so cell phones are viewed as an essential means of maintaining contact.  Phone bills, however, can run as high as rent.

Vehicular Expenses

The argument that the poor should not own a vehicle is likely to fall on deaf ears.  A vehicle is often viewed as housing of last resort.

With a vehicle, of course, come maintenance and repair costs.  In an effort to economize, some will “scrimp” by failing to pay vehicle insurance and/or registration.  This can result in substantial fines.

Unexpected Expenses

Unfortunately, life regularly throws curveballs.  The washer breaks down.  The roof develops a leak.  The car needs a new transmission.  There is downsizing at the factory, and the primary breadwinner in a family is laid off.  These events can be catastrophic for the poor.

Predatory Lending

It goes almost without saying that the poor are targets for predatory lending [4].

  • Payday loans with their exorbitant interest rates are a great temptation to those living paycheck to paycheck.
  • High late charges are common on the credit cards marketed to the poor. The “teaser” rates on such cards routinely skyrocket after a single late payment.
  • The poor are lured into signing installment contracts and balloon mortgages they do not properly understand and cannot afford.

Read more…

Idolatry – Tarot, Astrology, and Crystals

Tarot cards, Author Roberto Viesi (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

According to a 2017 Pew survey, a growing number of millennials describe themselves as atheists or agnostics, often using the phrase “spiritual but not religious” [1].  They reject traditional religion in favor of astrology, tarot, meditation, crystals, and so called energy work.

Generic “Spirituality”

A combination of factors has contributed to the shift toward generic “spirituality”.

Whatever their particular background may be – Jewish, Protestant, or Hindu – young people today feel that organized religion does not fully represent (or satisfy) them.

Their faith of origin does not provide the guidance, purpose, or sense of community it once provided parents and grandparents.  And it does not align with their beliefs about the LGBTQ community, women, or the environment.  Religious and political scandals have further disillusioned them.

A Menu of Beliefs

Instead, young people select from a menu of beliefs – keeping what they like, and discarding the rest.  Seductive affirmations like “I love myself”, “I am beautiful”, and “I am powerful” round out the mix.  This spiritual version of fusion cuisine requires little commitment and no sacrifice.

The internet allows groups of like-minded individuals to connect.  That provides validation. Read more…

Fair

We often grumble that life is not fair.  An Ohio boy recently turned that complaint on its head.

Having won $15,000 in livestock premiums at the Huron county fair, 7th grader Diesel Pippert promptly donated his winnings to St. Jude Children’s Hospital [1].

How many of us would have done the same?

St. Jude, it should be noted, is a leader in the prevention and treatment of catastrophic illnesses in children.  It is the pre-eminent pediatric cancer hospital in the nation.  Because of donations like Diesel’s, no child is denied treatment there based on a family’s ability to pay.

And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give” (Matt. 10: 7-8).

[1]  WLWT News, “Ohio boy donates $15k in fair winnings to St. Jude Children’s Hospital”, 8/19/19, https://www.wlwt.com/article/ohio-boy-donates-all-dollar15k-in-fair-winnings-to-st-jude-childrens-hospital/28745737.

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

Screen Culture, Part 5 – The Surveillance State

Central London mural by Banksy, Author ogglog Source Flickr.com (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

This concludes our series on the spiritual implications of today’s computer culture.

In [the novel] ‘1984’ [by George Orwell] the dictatorship was always surveilling you.  Now, young people want to be surveyed.  They want people to know where they are at all times.”

-Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy

Surveillance and State Control

All the information collected is used to influence our choices – whether commercial or political.

But choices that may seem innocuous now can have enormous repercussions down the road.  Jews in Germany did not expect to be persecuted by the Nazis.  Urban residents in Cambodia did not expect to be persecuted by the Khmer Rouge.

Under the guise of democratization, screen culture has actually created a powerful means of centralized control – a mechanism easily subject to abuse, whether by profit-driven corporations, bureaucratic forces, or the military state (including some future dictator). Read more…

Screen Culture, Part 4 – Privacy

NASA supercomputer, Author NASA Ames Research Center/Tom Trower, Source https://www.nas.nasa.gov (PD)

In this series, we examine the spiritual implications of today’s computer culture. 

“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”

-Edward Snowden, whistle-blower who leaked confidential NSA information

Data Collection

Cell phones encourage a lack of respect for other people’s boundaries.  But computers are not always so obvious about invading our privacy.

Everything we do on a computer – whether on a laptop, ipad, or cell phone; using a credit card, ATM card, or electronic toll booth pass – produces a transaction record.

Every page with a Facebook “like” button we browse is collecting data, whether we hit the “like” button or not.  The millions of websites running Google ads or using Google analytic software all track information.

Our political leanings, church membership, medical concerns, and sexual interests are recorded and catalogued. Read more…

Screen Culture, Part 3 – Addiction as a Marketing Tool

Laboratory rat, Author Janet Stephens, Source http://visualsonline.cancer.gov (PD as work product of federal govt.)

In this series, we examine the spiritual implications of today’s computer culture.

“Devices like iPhones and BlackBerries invite (demand!) constant use.  They are like packets of cigarettes that ask us never to leave them alone or bottles of pills that seek to change our minds and punish us when we try to withdraw from them.”

-Richard Watson, Future Minds:  How the Digital Age Is Changing our Minds, Why This Matters, and What We Can Do About It (2010)

Intermittent Reinforcement

Behaviorist BF Skinner discovered that we respond better to intermittent reinforcement (rewards).  Marketing which targets the individual employs such behavior modification.

Programmers use intermittent reinforcement along with confirmation bias (our tendency to feel good about information that confirms our existing beliefs) as marketing tools – some might say weapons.  We click on more of the things that make us feel good than those that do not.

Screen culture deliberately induces addictive, obsessive/compulsive behavior.  The technology, in effect, enslaves us.

Freedom in Christ

This is not what God wants for us.  “…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3: 17).  “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5: 1).

This series continues next week with Part 4 – Privacy

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