Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Starry night

Beyond the shadows
of a thousand blackened trees
one billion stars shine

for Paris

Monday, November 9, 2015

...and now, for something a bit different...

This is, I believe, a 1920s era Stromberg Voisinet tenor guitar. It has no markings identifying it as such, but this shape (called "Venetian") was unique to them, so far as I've been able to figure out. If you're familiar with Kay Kraft guitars, Kay is the more well known company that bought out Stromberg Voisinet about 1930).

I got this at a junk store for a few bucks, had it restored for several more bucks and found out may be worth several hundred dollars, were I interested in selling, which I'm not.

The tenor guitar is similar to the octave mandolin, but with only four strings (whereas the octave mando has four courses of two strings, or eight strings all together). It's a very fun instrument to play. Unfortunately, I'm quite the amateur.

Here, I'm playing "Cluck Ol' Hen," a traditional tune. A third of the way in, I add in a guitar layer to round out the sound some.

Visit more junk stores. Enjoy.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Some questions for Marshall

Frequent commenter here, "Marshall Art" said recently, at another blog, that people like me are mistaken in how we portray Marshall (et al). He said....

I am "speaking for God" by restating the exact words that appear in Scripture, as if I made it up myself and merely claimed it is what God says, means or thinks. There's simply no need to do so when Scripture states things so clearly.

Nor is it "opinion" when having re-typed the words of Scripture, or even copy/pasted it from an on-line site that presents multiple Biblical version (KJV, NIV, ESV, etc.)

Now I'm told I am "assigning meaning" to words whose meanings are well known and easily verified by a look at any dictionary.

Just a few very simple clarifying questions, Marshall.

I. First of all, in spite of our disagreements, I am assuming the best of you, that you are a good and decent man, trying to do the right thing. I am assuming that  you would not intentionally misrepresent those who disagree with you.

Am I correct in my assumptions about your good will and honorable intent?

II. Proceeding on, then, I would posit that you do not believe what you just said. I would posit that you, like me, would agree that we need to and do interpret Scripture all the time. It's what reading is, for rational adults.

So, for instance, no one is disputing that Genesis 1 says "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." and all the rest of the text that sits in the book of Genesis in its various translations. The text says literally what it says. That's just a fact.

Do you recognize that we all agree with that fact?

III. From that point, then, we all use our reason - taking into consideration the source, the text and context, the apparent writing style, the time period, etc - to sort out, for instance, the genre involved. You (or others, if not you) look at the text and reason out that "this literal text that sits there waiting to be read is written in a style that is a literal history.

Others, also using their reason and taking into consideration all the same things, reach the conclusion, "this is NOT a literal history... it reads more like a mythic or figurative genre, given what we know of the text and given the data at hand..."

That is simply another observable fact: That both/all "sides" look at the text and use our reason to decide on the figurative or literal nature of the text, on the genre, on the meaning - if any - of the text involved.

Do you recognize that we all use our reason to sort out those sorts of conclusions?

IV. When you say, "I am "speaking for God" by restating the exact words that appear in Scripture, as if I made it up myself " do you recognize that we are, as a point of fact, NOT saying that when you quote Genesis 1 or any other passage, that we are claiming by that quote in and of itself, that you are speaking for God?

No, we do not say that when you say, "Genesis 1 says.. X" That is a demonstrable fact. Why would we? Clearly the text says what it says. No, we say that when you go from what the text literally says to what the text means. Thus, when you say Gen 1 says what it says and then proceed to say, "Therefore, it is a literal history..." THAT is when we say you are presuming to speak for God?

I know you've been busy lately, but hopefully, you'll find the time to answer these questions so that we can clarify your mistaken impression.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Teachings of Jesus

I was reading a conservative brother encouraging us to take Jesus at his word. To that, I can only shout, Amen!

Let us, please, take Jesus ExACTLY at his word, not adding to it things like "virgin birth," "sola Scriptura," "penal substitutionary atonement," "sometimes, it's okay for governments to bomb cities and kill innocents," "inerrancy," "you must take Genesis to be a literal history," "you must be opposed to gay folk getting married" and other nonsense that Jesus NEVER one time even mentioned, much less made an "essential"  component of his teachings (something that is never discussed by a teacher can not reasonably be called "essential...").

But let us please take Jesus at his word and take THAT word seriously, IF we are going to be followers of Jesus.

To that end, Jesus' words (some of them), as reminder:

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.

But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

[D]o not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  ...Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Do not store up treasures here on earth.

You cannot serve God and money.

Sell your belongings, give to the poor.

When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.
Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
No one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.

I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.

And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.

Neither do I condemn you.

Sabbath was made for humanity, not humanity for the Sabbath.

Come to me ALL you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps, he must give up all right to himself, carry his cross every day and keep close behind me. For the man who wants to save his life will lose it, but the man who loses his life for my sake will save it. For what is the use of a man gaining the whole world if he loses or forfeits his own soul?

Anyone who accepts a little child in my name is really accepting me, and the man who accepts me is really accepting the one who sent me. It is the humblest among you all who is really the greatest.

You must not stop him. The man who is not against you is on your side.

Yes, and I do blame you experts in the Law! For you pile up back-breaking burdens for men to bear, but you yourselves will not raise a finger to lift them. Alas for you, for you build memorial tombs for the prophets - the very men whom your fathers murdered. You show clearly enough how you approve your father's actions. They did the actual killing and you put up a memorial to it...

Alas for you experts in the Law, for you have taken away the key of knowledge. You have never gone in yourselves and you have hindered everyone else who was at the door!

Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right?!

If your brother offends you, take him to task about it, and if he is sorry, forgive him.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

I have loved you just as the Father has loved me. You must go on living in my love. If you keep my commandments you will live in my love just as I have kept my Father's commandments and live in his love.

There is no greater love than this - that a man should lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I tell you to do. I shall not call you servants any longer, for a servant does not share his master's confidence. No, I call you friends, now...

May your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day the bread we need, Forgive us what we owe to you, as we have also forgiven those who owe anything to us. Keep us clear of temptation, and save us from evil...

Don't criticise people, and you will not be criticised. For you will be judged by the way you criticise others.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; ...He will do even greater things than these...

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,

For I deserve mercy, not sacrifice.

Follow me.

...for starters.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

I Can Do No Other...

I was recently asked to explain my objections to the theological theory of Sola Scriptura. Sola Scriptura is the Protestant theory that the Bible is the sole or primary source of authority on matters of faith and morality - with some general debate about what specifically that means, but that's the gist of it.

It originated with the Protestant revolution and with some (in my opinion) good reason. The Catholic Church believed/believes that "Scripture AND human Tradition (specifically, the teachings/traditions of "the church," which can then be debated futher) are equally important. With the Protestant Reformation, the protestors were saying that some popes and church leaders were making up tradition out of whole cloth, contrary and apart from what the Bible had to say. Thus, in protest to these abuses of the church leaders, they cried "Sola Scriptura!" meaning that the popes couldn't just make up doctrine willy nilly. As an attempt to get away from abuses, it isn't wholly irrational.

Consider: At one point, the Catholic Church demanded that Martin Luther recant from some of his positions. His response...

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony from scripture or by evident reason - for I confide neither in the Pope nor in a Council alone, since it is certain they have often erred and contradicted themselves - I am held fast by the scriptures adduced by me, and my conscience is held captive by God’s Word, and I neither can nor will revoke anything, seeing it is not safe or right to act against conscience. God help me. Amen.“

Thus, sola scriptura was a noble attempt to defend religious liberty (or at least could be seen that way) from those who presumed to speak for God. But, I would argue that sola scriptura ended up being a way of just establishing a NEW and different tradition that wasn't the Catholic Church making the call, but that, in practice, still demanded that people heed what others thought the Bible was saying.

Because I object to sola scriptura theories, I was asked to espouse my alternative theory, and so...

An Alternative to the Human Theory/Tradition of Sola Scriptura, a Theory Never Espoused in the Bible or by Jesus or in any way called "essential" in the Bible, because it is not espoused in the Bible:

My Theory is what I will call the Rational Theory of Godly Inspiration

I. Regarding "sola scriptura..." theories

1. In the Bible (for those of us who take the Bible seriously as a book of wisdom), we find that God reveals God's Self and Ideas in many ways...

a. through Creation,
b. through God's Spirit,
c. through Jesus' direct teaching,
d. through "scripture" (almost always speaking specifically of OT teachings)
e. through "God's Word" or revelation (here, not speaking specifically of Bible books, but the over-arching notion of "every word out of God's mouth..." or the idea of God's Ways)
f. through God's Self revealed in our hearts, minds and/or being,
g. through our God-given reasoning,
h. through "special" or direct revelation (God speaking to someone, directly, audibly - and sometimes inaudibly)
i. through tradition,
j. ...and possibly others I'm not thinking of at the moment

2. At NO time in the Bible, do biblical authors, God or the text give one of these methods of revelation a priority over the others. It never happens.

3. At NO time in the Bible - and for followers of Jesus, more specifically, in Jesus' teachings - do we read about any direct notion of "sola scriptura," or the human theory that the 66 books of the Bible have a special, primary place of authority, in matters of theology or practice. It never happens, not for the 66 books of the Protestant Bible, nor for "Scripture," in general.

4. At NO time in the Bible is the notion of "sola scriptura" - never being directly taught by anyone in general or Jesus, specifically, not literally - called "essential" to Christian teaching. It never happens.

5. Given all this, at a minimum, we need to start with the recognition that, as a point of fact:
a. sola scriptura is a human theory/tradition,
b. it is not an essential teaching of Jesus (or of the essence of Jesus' teachings)
c. that believers of good faith can disagree on this and that's okay

II. If not "sola scriptura," then what?

1. First of all, if we have no rational or biblical reason for Theory A, we are under no obligation to espouse an Alternative to Theory A. It is sufficient to say, Theory A is not sound or can not be supported by data in the real world. For instance, if someone says that we can "know" all Biblical inspiration comes from God via an alien race named Thetans and we can know this because of Ezekiel's story of the spinning wheel and a few other verses, it is sufficient to say "that is not a rational conclusion..." and if they respond, "then via what source do we receive God's inspiration?" we do not need to come up with an alternative theory to Thetan revelation. It is sufficient to say, "that is not a sound theory."

2. But, to answer the question, If not the theory of sola scriptura, then what? I respond: No theory at all, just Reason. Period.

But human reason is not perfect, is it? Hardly. The suggestion is laughable.

Understand, I'm not making the suggestion we should choose to embrace reason in questions of morality, faith, theology and religion. I'm saying that it's what we have. Plain and simple. It's not like we have a line of choices (Do we want to use the Bible, the Koran, Sagan's "Cosmos" or human reason to settle these matters? Let's use... hmmm, option A!") and must choose one and, if not one, then the other.

No, it's not like we have a choice and one answer is the best answer. Rather, we have our reason to sort through ALL the available data out there and do the best we can on matters that are not provable. If we like all or part of what the Bible has to say, we use and have used our reason to understand it. Without reason, it's just a bunch of text that is undecipherable gibberish. Whether we're speaking of the Bible, the Koran, Cosmos or Playboy.

If we highly value the Bible as a source of wisdom on matters of faith, then we hopefully used our reason to reach that conclusion and didn't just start off with "I highly value the Bible because someone else told me to do so..." That wouldn't be a very solid rational starting point for faith.

If we highly value the Bible as a source of wisdom, then we use our reason to sort it out. THIS passage is literal history, it seems to me based upon my best reasoning and the data I have available... THAT passage is likely more mythic in nature, based upon my best reasoning... This OTHER passage seems solidly poetic (as opposed to being a list of literal rules, for instance, or a model for perfect living, for instance). We all do this, beginning with our reasoning, because it's what we have. Those who embrace sola scriptura begin not from the Bible, but from reason, as do the rest of us.

Thus, the answer is, as a point of fact and not preference, that we all begin from a place of reason. It's not a question to be answered, but an observation that we can establish.

Now, all of our reasoning may not be as solid and well-thought-out as others and none of our reason is anything like perfect, but it IS our starting point, just as a point of fact. For all of us. Thus, sola scriptura is not the starting point, as a simple point of fact, our reason is.

And, using our reason, we see that the Bible's authors nowhere specifically push sola scriptura. Just as a point of fact. Further, while some people have, using their reason, taken some passages and reasoned out sola scriptura as a theory, it is a human theory derived using human reason. So, for those people, too, reason was the starting point, the "primary source," literally speaking.

I point back to Luther's quote which I cited early on...

"my conscience is held captive by God’s Word, and I neither can nor will revoke anything, seeing it is not safe or right to act against conscience."

What is Luther citing there? Nominally, "God's Word," presumably he meant the Bible. But, what is he actually citing? He's citing HIS UNDERSTANDING of what God wants. His primary appeal, then, is to his conscience, his reason, not primarily the Bible. Which is right, it's just the fact of the matter.

There's no harm in citing the reality that we are all beginning with our reason. I know there's more comfort and "certainty" if we can conflate our understanding of the Bible with fact or God's Word, but that's just not factual. Thus, let us cling to our fallible human reasoning and acknowledge it as such.

It's what we have.

And if someone were to demand that I recant from this "heretical" position, what would I do?
I would answer, with Luther, that this is right and good and factual, as best I understand it, and I must follow the good and right and factual (ie, God, to me) and can do no other. The difference between Luther and me, is I am making it clear that this is the good and right, as best I understand it, and I do not conflate my opinions and interpretations with God's Word.

It is a critical - the critical - difference.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

I love autumn in nature, and few people express a love and reverence for nature like John Muir. So, in honor of this beautiful time of the year, some Muir...

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves...

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike...

Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean...

As long as I live, I'll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I'll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I'll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

For I was a Stranger...

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God."

"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me"

In my small circle of friends, I am dear friends with five people - from two households - who are in here in the US because their lives were threatened in the places from which they come. I, myself, am descended from Huguenots, who came to America to escape being killed in Europe.

In my church today, we heard prayer concerns about a family friend who had escaped from Latin America to the US - again, to save his own life - only to be promptly arrested and placed in a for-profit detainee center. We also heard about a recent trip to Hungary that just happened to occur at the same time that thousands of people fled from the Middle East to escape life-threatening danger there.

In all these cases, I have heard how family members and friends of all these people had already been killed. They risked boats over-turning and death and they left all they had behind, they left friends and family behind... all to escape persecution, death... real, imminent dangers. They didn't do it as a fluke. They didn't do it to get "free stuff" from other nations. They did it - are doing it - to save their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

This is not a conservative/liberal issue. It's not a democrat/republican issue. It's not a Christian, Jewish, Muslim or non-theist issue. This is a human issue, because it's a human problem. We MUST change our policies.

When someone crosses our borders and says they were escaping from wherever to save their lives, our first response as human beings concerned with human rights and justice, MUST be to say, "Welcome" and let them in. Now, if we have reason to suspect foul play, by all means, we can investigate. But part of our great tradition in the free world is the notion that we are innocent until proven guilty. If someone is running for their lives, we are obliged by simple human decency and a thirst for justice and righteousness to help them.

We are our neighbor's keeper. For, as God reminds us in the Bible, we - all of us - were and are and have been and will be an immigrant at some point in time. I'm not talking about being "aw, isn't that nice" or simple charity, I'm talking about justice and basic decency. It is past time that we, the people, demand policies that work for justice for the immigrant, because this is justice for ourselves.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

No, Thank You Very Much

Latest idea that is not very well thought through... a conservative blogger is making the case that the answer to the question of "Do you REALLY want to have civic rules based on what a particular religion thinks should be rules?" should be Yes. Stan at Winging It (and as always, I'm not picking on Stan, I'm talking about the idea he is expressing) said...

And, frankly. I'd much rather have a religion instituted and documented by God with values instituted and documented by God to serve as the basis for laws in this (or any) country than the completely arbitrary, unsubstantiated, baseless values of the alternative of non-religious systems. 

The problem with this thinking, of course, is the completely self-unaware hubris, arrogance, self-righteousness and lack of grace in it. He appears to THINK that, "IF we institute a nation based on rules that I AND PEOPLE LIKE ME believe to be what God wants, then that's better than relying upon other people's opinions about gods..." But then, if that is the rational rule, then the extremist Mormon, extremist Muslim, the extremist religion-based racist and the extremist fundamentalist Christians are all on equally valid footing for making the case that THEIR HUNCHES about what God wants is what ought to be Law, not because of them, but because of "god," which god they fail to see is NOT a god, but only a not very clever version of themselves.

So, the answer to his question is, "NO, I do not want a state to implement the rules YOU THINK God wants where people should just go along with you because you say you speak for God." And just as true is that I don't want a state to implement rules just because I might think God wants it.

We make our case based on reason and logic and what makes sense, what promotes good and diminishes harm, oppression or what strikes against human liberty. If you happen to ALSO think that God wants this rule or that, that's fine with me, but don't try to make that the standard by which people should bow to your will, because YOU speak for God.

It's not that I don't trust God or want what God wants. It's that I/we don't trust YOU (or me) telling us that you speak for God and therefore, we must listen to you. That is one of the geniuses on the part of many Baptists, anabaptists and many others who fought for human liberty and human rights all those years ago and, apparently, still today.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Love is always blessed
and in all ways
a blessing

May we support love
not criticize it
May we encourage love
not tear it down.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

It's Just Not That Hard, Friends...

Regarding Kentucky's own Kim Davis and her many zany religious right defenders:

Friends, it's just not that hard.

We have religious liberties in this nation. And that is a very good thing. No one can take away our right to worship or follow God as we see fit, the government can not come in and force you to have an abortion against your will, or force you guys to marry a guy if you don't want, or force you to abandon your religious beliefs in any way. That is not happening in this country.

To those who whine and worry about "losses" of religious liberties because of cases like Davis, stop it. It makes you appear whiny, impotent and irrational. We're all embarrassed for you. Just stop it, for your own sake. If you truly believe what you believe, then learn to say it in a different way, you're undermining your own case by presenting yourself as whiny, irrational and immoral. Make your case on a respectful adult level, not appealing to false demons and socialist tyrant boogety-men.

We have religious liberties in this nation. Those who are saying that Davis needs to do her job are defending religious liberties. Do you understand this? Because it appears you don't (see point II).

Your religious freedom is something you rightly enjoy. You ARE FREE to make your own decisions for yourself based upon your personal values and beliefs. Congratulations. We live in a free nation.

BUT (and this is the vital point), your religious freedoms end at you getting to make your own decisions for yourself. You do NOT have the religious "liberty" to tell other people how they must act and what they can and cannot do. IF your religious views insist that you get to tell other people how to live, well, in that case, you do not have that specific religious liberty. Sorry, but you don't (as long as the others' behavior is not causing harm, anyway).


So, if you are in a job whose responsibilities involving providing alcohol licenses and you don't believe in alcohol being available: YOU DO NOT GET TO REFUSE TO PROVIDE ALCOHOL LICENSES. If you don't believe in selling alcohol, you do have the religious liberty to step down from that job (or not take it in the first place), but you do not have the religious liberty to make that call for others. You just don't.

If you enroll in the army and you are a Quaker or Amish or other Peace Religion, you do NOT GET TO SAY, "I WON'T DO THIS JOB." You are free to resign from the army as an CO, but you don't get to keep the job and simultaneously refuse to do the job. You just don't have that religious liberty.

IF you are in a job that, initially, you could perform the duties within your religious belief system, but the job changes (or your views change), you have the religious liberty to resign from the job so you don't have to do what is against your beliefs, but you don't have the religious liberty to keep the job and refuse to perform the duties of that job. You just don't have that religious liberty.

In conclusion:
It's just not that difficult.
You DO have religious liberty.
You are NOT being oppressed.
Don't claim that you are being oppressed, it makes you look wimpy and irrational.
You have religious liberty to make decisions for yourself, but not for others.
If your job has duties that conflict with  your religious values, you have the freedom to NOT perform those duties. You do this by finding other work, not by insisting the world should bend to your religious idiosyncrasies.

It's just not that difficult. Now that it's been explained, I hope you understand and we can just move on in peace and neighborly community.

God bless you.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Orange Sky

I saw an orange sky
broken by strange blue lightning
and then the deep weirdness began...

Monday, August 24, 2015

Glory Bound

Special music from church Sunday. We've been considering stages of our lives, with the latest theme being grieving and loss. This song is a beautiful song by a group called the Wailin' Jennies (clever, eh?) that sounds very much like a traditional old hymn... It's called "Glory Bound."