Monday, May 16, 2016

One Voice


Pentecost at Jeff St Baptist. 2016


In the Christian tradition, Pentecost is that time shortly after Easter, after Jesus had ascended into heaven and his disciples were sitting around figuring out, "What next?" The remaining followers of Jesus (about 120) were gathered together in a house in Jerusalem on a Sabbath when the Holy Spirit came upon them. This is where Jesus had just been crucified a few days before... these were no doubt very scary, dangerous times for his followers. When the Holy Spirit of God came to the disciples, it was like "tongues of fire" falling down upon them. After this happened, they went out into the city and began to preach about Jesus and, in spite of the dangerous political climate, these sermons served to bring people together.



At my church yesterday, some friends joined together to sing the song "One Voice," which you can see above. Here is what the book of Acts has to say about this special day (sometimes called the Birthday of the Church...)


When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.”

Peter’s Sermon

But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:

And it shall be in the last days,’ God says,
That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all HUMANITY;
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
And your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams;
Even on My bondslaves, both men and women,
I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit
And they shall prophesy.
And I will grant wonders in the sky above
And signs on the earth below,
Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke.
The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood,
Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.
And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved...’
~Acts 2

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Freedom!


There will come a day
when the very grains of sand
buried within the concrete sidewalks
will shake loose their bonds
and break down the structures that
imprison them
and be free.


I want to be there on that day
with a hammer in hand.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Condolences



Just a few thoughts on this Trump thing...

1. I don't think Trump is a Republican, not in the normal sense of the word. I don't think he strictly speaking holds to Republican or conservative values.

2. That is not to say that I think he's a Democrat or liberal... God forbid!

3. I think Trump is most likely a charlatan, a PT Barnum, loudly and proudly proclaiming "There is a sucker born every minute! And I'm here as living proof of that!"

4. That is, I think Trump is in this not for political ideals, just for himself. He'll say just about anything because he knows there's a certain apparently large percentage of the population that will believe just about anything, if you frame it just right and say it with enough bluster and demonize any who disagree with you.

5. This makes Trump potentially dangerous, because you just don't know what he'll do next and he's beholden to no groups, no community, no others but himself and that's all he needs, he thinks. It could well be this whole thing was a joke, to show how gullible a certain percentage of the population is, and how they'll go for anything if the right "leader" shows them the way. As Trump said himself, he could kill someone and his supporters would not stop supporting him. That's dangerous.

6. So, all that to say that the main problem in this Trump candidacy is not Trump himself, he's just an megalomaniacal con man. No, the problem is that so many people could fall under his spell. That's what is scary in all this.

7. Having said that, I'm not worried that Trump will win. I'm certain he's unelectable. Just because there is a large portion of the mostly "conservative" camp that will support him does not mean that there's anything like a majority who'd vote for him across the board.

8. Early on in this election cycle, when Trump was just beginning to establish himself, some GOP spokesperson said that he hoped Trump would be the nominee, just so that he'd get trampled in the general election and hopefully purge the GOP of this wing of their party. Not a bad idea, except that there's a chance that it might just kill off the GOP instead of rebuilding it. Sometimes, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, but sometimes, it kills you.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Happy Earth Day


     Softly, she whispers
and - leaning into the wind -
              softly, I listen

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

When I Walk...


When I walk
I do so not for the purpose of traveling
but for the purpose of
introducing my feet
to the world

Saying, with each step,
Hello path
where will you lead today?

I'd like to make my feet
world-wise
and hope that some of that wisdom
may pass on to me.

And so, I'll walk
until my education is complete
and then
when I've learned as much as
my feet can stand
I'll return home
and rest

and begin my studies again tomorrow

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Easter 2016


Easter at my church, above. Celebrating and embracing life and grace, below...

"The mockingbird took a single step into the air and dropped.

His wings were still folded against his sides as though he were singing from a limb and not falling, accelerating thirty-two feet per second per second, through empty air.

Just a breath before he would have been dashed to the ground, he unfurled his wings with exact, deliberate care, revealing the broad bars of white, spread his elegant, white-banded tail, and so floated onto the grass.

I had just rounded a corner when his incouciant step caught my eye; there was no one else in sight. The fact of his free fall was like the old philosophical conundrum about the tree that falls in the forest.

The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there."

~Annie Dillard

Friday, March 25, 2016

Beware the Bias


I recently heard and read in a few places people (conservative people) saying, "HEY y'all who support 'transgender' people and kids, you should look at what the EXPERTS are saying..." and they then proceeded to cite the American College of Pediatricians (ACP) who have come out with a study entitled, "Gender Ideology Harms Children..." and they begin citing some of the findings of this study.

Hmm, I thought. That's odd, I had not heard anything about professional doctors making this suggestion, not from the AMA or the APA... it struck me as odd that the professional organization for pediatricians was coming out with a study like this. But, having an open mind, I looked into what the experts were saying.

It was then that I realized that these were "experts," not experts. The ACP is NOT the big association of pediatricians that I assumed it was by the name. The well-recognized and long-lived pediatrician's association is the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP has been around since 1930 and has over 64,000 pediatrician members. They publish peer-reviewed research and have a staff of 390 people. The AAP has NOT come out in support of these "findings," that's the ACP.

And who is the ACP? They are a splinter group that formed out of the AAP to promote traditional and religious views of family. They were founded in 2002 and have between 60 and 200 members (not all of whom are pediatricians, I read). They have no peer-reviewed research. They welcome members who agree with their religious/moral views up front. Which is to say that their research is "validated" by people with an agenda to promote a specific bias.

This, of course, is not science. Scientific organizations have no faith creed you have to agree to at the outset. That is anti-science.

A TINY group (less than 1% the size of the AAP, mind you) with an agenda publishing "studies" that validate their pre-held biases is akin to tobacco-funded doctors coming out in favor of smoking, with "studies" that back up that bias. If you are dedicated to a religious/moral view going in to your research and your peers will only validate research that supports that pre-held bias, that is not science.

Beware groups that use science as a tool to further an agenda - especially so blatantly - and that does not have peer-reviews for their studies. That is not science, that is religion.

Also, beware any political groups/people who have traditionally decried "the so-called experts" who suddenly begin trumpeting "Hey! Science is right and validating what I believe!" They aren't dedicated to facts, science or truth. They are dedicated to an agenda. Which is fine if that's what they're dedicated to, but they should be clear on that point up front.

*Side note: I am not saying that scientists are free from bias. Of course, they aren't, they're human with human biases. But there's a difference between having a bias but still being dedicated to going where the data leads while being open to peer-review as a check against any possible biases... there's a difference between that and using science to try to validate your views. Again, that's religion (and in a negative sense), not science.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Answering a Question...



I'm striving to get away from arguing with people who do not understand my points so my point here is not to argue. I'm just answering a question because it's a reasonable question with a reasonable answer. Stan at the blog, Winging It, recently asked a question about those who'd say that conservative types sometimes appear to be speaking for God, presuming that their opinions are one in the same as God's Word.

He says he doesn't understand those who object to this. Here is my answer to his question. First, a bit of context. Stan wrote...

Oddly enough, it appears that those who are complaining that a straightforward reading of Scripture -- reading it like it is written and taking it as it appears to mean -- is not a reasonable means of knowing what God thinks are pretty sure that they know what He thinks ... at least enough to know you're wrong.

I'm trying to figure out what's being said here. When they complain that we read and feed back what the Bible says as true and call it "speaking for God", what are they saying?

What we are saying is clear and I call as my first and only witness, Stan Smith:

We are saying that YOU, STAN SMITH, DO NOT THINK THAT WE CAN KNOW WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS.

This is a simple, demonstrable fact. When I or folk like me read the Bible, strive to take it seriously, seeking to follow God and conclude that...

Genesis is clearly written in a mythic style;
That the Bible does not "define" marriage anywhere;
That the Bible clearly does not teach sola scriptura, that this is a human theory contrary to biblical teaching (or at least beyond biblical teaching);
That clearly Jesus teaches us that Christians killing people in wartime is contrary to his teachings;
That clearly we are to live simple lives;
That clearly Jesus would support gay folk loving and marrying;

etc... that when we conclude these as overtly clear and obvious biblical teachings, YOU DO NOT THINK we are reading the Bible correctly. We are telling you what we think the Bible "obviously" or "clearly" is teaching and you disagree with our hunches. So, the obvious fact of the matter then is that you, Stan Smith (and people like you) do not believe that all those who read the Bible understand it correctly.

The obvious follow up question then is, "Well, Stan, if you do not think we all read the Bible correctly, on what reasonable and consistent basis do you conclude that you and those who agree with you are the ones that are correct?"

The answer to THIS necessary question is that you have nothing. You have nothing other than your opinion. The one and only answer you have is, "Well, because I think it is clear that they are mistaken..." Which is to say, you have your opinion.

As a point of fact, your opinion is not provable (if you could prove it, you would do so. You can't.) It IS your opinion. And there's nothing wrong with that, so long as you don't conflate your hunches and opinions with God's Word or fact.

As a further reasonable conclusion then, we can safely determine that you (nor I) have a definitive way of knowing that your opinion is the correct one.

What are we left with then?

That Stan Smith definitively does not rationally believe that we can "know" what the Bible is teaching and say with authority that he (or we) have the authoritative answer.

The defense rests. Thank you Stan for your testimony. (And if I have misstated something or made a mistake about your opinion, by all means, correct me. I don't believe I have.)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Sharing an Excellent Post


I almost never do this, but I am sharing an excellent post from another blogger who has made some extremely salient points about the Trump candidacy. While I often disagree with Stan, over at Winging It, he is right on the money on this post.


Trump Card

Trump himself is, in my mind, not the problem. There are always crackpots out there and PT Barnum types (which is closer to what I think Trump is) and other loose cannons. That's life. So, it's not a problem to me that there is a Trump in the world. The problem is that he is receiving something like 20-40% of the GOP/conservative/evangelical vote in a race for the presidency.

So, while I appreciate GOP leaders stepping up and denouncing Trump, what it seems like needs to happen is for GOP leaders to step up and denounce the ~30% of their followers who support someone like him. Stan is in the right on this one. This is not a man to vote for.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

With Each Trail I Hike


with each trail I hike
 I gather stones in my pockets,
 twigs and moss in my hands
 
 and one day
 I will build a small home
 made up of all those trails.
 
It behooves me, then,
 to gather my stones carefully
 and my twigs and moss with wisdom
 
and grace

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Beauty in Grief, Comfort in Community


A few moments of grace, love and beauty from my wonderful father's funeral. Crowds of people from all corners (Baptists and pagans, Catholics and airplane model builders, old and young, conservative and not) came out to celebrate the joy and love and strength of his amazing life.