Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Blessed are you...

Andy and Reyna
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

"You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are—no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.

"You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.

"You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'care-full,' you find yourselves cared for.

"You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

"You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.

"You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom.

"Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don't like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble."

Matthew 5: 1-12

Sermon on the Mount

Distant Lighthouse
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

In this coming month in which Christians and many others celebrate the birth of Jesus, I thought I’d take a few days to post what is perhaps Jesus’ most well-known (and yet simultaneously unembraced?) sermons – the Sermon on the Mount. My more traditionalist blogging friend, Roger, actually made the suggestion in an email and I like this message so much, I thought I’d post it here.

A version of this appears in the books of both Luke and Matthew, I’ll use the version found in Matthew, chapters 5-7.

So as to provide a perhaps slightly different angle on the passage, I’ll be using the translation called, The Message, which attempts to put things in more modern language. It loses some of the poetry found in other versions, but it also sort of freshens things up for those who may have read this passage dozens or hundreds of times.

I will break it down into half-or-so a chapter at a time. I invite anyone to feel free to make comment along the way.

Happy Holidays, and Peace, Good Will to us all.



With two entire people complaining about my choice of versions (The Message), I'll switch over to some other translation. I'm nothing if not accomodating and I want to spend any discussion time talking about the content, not the translation.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Rules for Right Living

Paul, Greg Juggling
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

Some rules for living a-right from Wendell Berry:

1. Beware the justice of Nature.
2. Understand that there can be no successful human economy apart from Nature or in defiance of Nature.
3. Understand that no amount of education can overcome the innate limits of human intelligence and responsibility. We are not smart enough or conscious enough or alert enough to work responsibly on a gigantic scale.
4. In making things always bigger and more centralized, we make them both more vulnerable in themselves and more dangerous to everything else. Learn, therefore, to prefer small-scale elegance and generosity to large-scale greed, crudity, and glamour.
5. Make a home. Help to make a community. Be loyal to what you have made.
6. Put the interest of the community first.
7. Love your neighbors--not the neighbors you pick out, but the ones you have.
8. Love this miraculous world that we did not make, that is a gift to us.
9. As far as you are able make your lives dependent upon your local place, neighborhood, and household--which thrive by care and generosity--and independent of the industrial economy, which thrives by damage.
10. Find work, if you can, that does no damage. Enjoy your work. Work well.

What do you think? What rules would you add or take away?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Faith of our Mothers...

Sophia and Susan
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

Many Christians who dislike Welfare (and when they say “welfare,” they’re talking about “the gov’t redistribution of wealth towards the poor,” moreso than gov’t redistribution of wealth towards the wealthy, which is where most of our tax dollars go) like to say that gov’t providing for the poor is like stealing, which is clearly a sin. They say nowhere in the Bible can one find support for such actions.

As our church has been studying in Ruth here lately, I’m reminded of how wrong that statement is.

Ruth is a poor young widow in Israel – and a foreigner from a hated nation, to boot! But Ruth does not starve because God implemented in Israel a means of taking care of the poor. In Leviticus 19, God commands:

When you reap the harvest of your land, you are not to reap to the very edge of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You must not strip your vineyard bare or gather its fallen grapes. Leave them for the poor and the foreign resident; I am the Lord your God.

This is just one of many rules (including the Jubilee Laws) that God implements in the gov’t of Israel to make sure that the poor don’t go untended and that wealth does not accumulate in too few hands. It is a constant theme of the Old Testament, along with many rebukes when the poor go untended and oppressed and when wealth accumulates in too few hands, as seen in Jeremiah 5:

They have become fat and sleek. They have also excelled in evil matters. They have not taken up cases, such as the case of orphans, so they might prosper, and they have not defended the rights of the needy. Should I not punish them for these things? This is the Lord's declaration. Should I not avenge Myself on such a nation as this?

Yowch! God’s in the business of avenging God’s Self against nations who don’t have a plan for taking care of the poor.

Now, we can disagree as to the helpfulness or hindrance of TANF or Medicare or other programs, but for Christians concerned with God’s Word, we clearly have excellent models in the Bible of gov’t assistance. And we can see that it was this very gov’t assistance that kept Ruth from starving and dying.

Ruth, who was the great-great-great-etc-grandmother of Jesus - whose birthday we are preparing to celebrate, but who may not have been born if his ancestors had been allowed to die because a nation refused to act in solidarity with the poor.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Fall Sunflowers

Sunflowers at Jeff St
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

Goofy Baptists in the news, again.

The Southern Baptists have once again spent time getting right down to the heart of Christianity (he said, snarkily). This time, in North Carolina:

GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)--The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina strengthened its membership criteria Nov. 14 to specify churches that do not support homosexuality and do not allow homosexuals to be members until they repent.


They are free, of course, to make whatever rules their little hearts desire. My question is, are they taking this approach to every sin? Will all churches who allow the greedy to be members be ex-communicated as well? How about all churches who allow those who drink alcohol? Who watch R-rated movies? Look at the bra ads in JC Penney magazines? Who are bad tippers?

As those who regularly stop by here know, I disagree with the notion that homosexuality is a sin, biblically speaking. But even assuming that they were right on this point, what is it about that particular “sin” that causes such consternation amongst some? Why single out this ONE supposed sin as a litmus test as to whether or not you can be a Southern Baptist in good standing in North Carolina?

Is it because of all the time Jesus spent rebuking gays? Oh, wait. Jesus never talked about homosexuality.

Is it because of the way that homosexuality is condemned dozens of times throughout the Bible? Oh, wait. The idea of homosexuality as a sin only appears about five times in all the Bible.

Does anyone know why some folk spend so much time, money and energy focusing on this marginally biblical offense (according to them) to the exclusion of most others?

One of a Kind

Wild Jordan
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

Here's a fun little website, How Many of Me? that asks the digital question: How many people in the US share my name.

You can enter your first and last names and find out how many of you there are in the US. For instance, there are five Dan Trabues, three Donna Trabues, three Sarah Trabues and, according to this site, ZERO Jordan Trabues (my son's name). They've obviously missed at least one.

Still, it appears that he's one of a kind.

But then, I sorta knew that already about both my kids...

How many of YOU are there?

[I found this at Hipchickmamma's fine, fine website - thanks!]

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A repeat

Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

I originally blogged this poem last March, but wanted to run it again at a more seasonally appropriate time...

The Last Farmer's Ghost
dtrabue fall 2001

Haunting empty fields
of overgrown weeds,
walking the rows where corn once grew,
she moans and mourns the
lost season.

The hallow ground, now laying
fallow ground.

She died and no one was there to bury her
and so she haunts and walks
as she always has
this earth only dear to her.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Blue Skies Ahead?

Autumnal Bucolia
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

I stopped along the river this morning. A fog was lifting. Blue skies were being hinted at above.

Along the river, trees stretched their branches high, nearly clean of their golden leaves.

A new day was upon me, and a new season, too.

The debris of the previous season was carried along by the gentle river, feeding life in its passing.

New days are a good thing. They bring encouragement, hope, a chance to begin again. New seasons remind us that all things pass, the bad and the good, and that life goes on.

Is this to say that the new day is inherently better than the old?

I’d suppose that would depend entirely upon what we do with the new.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

The Bible, War and Peace, Part I

Embury Methodist Church
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

[Adapted from an earlier post of mine]

When looking at the Bible in regards to war and peace, it will be evident that there is at least an apparent leap in positions. The Old Testament seems to not blink at the use of war. Jesus, on the other hand, is consistently portrayed as peace-loving. We are commanded to love our neighbors – even the disagreeable ones! Even those who are our enemies!! We are commanded to turn the other cheek. To overcome evil with good.

The New Testament seems completely devoid of support for violence-as-solution, at least for Christians (a case can be made that waging war may be a legitimate role of gov’t). All of which points to, if not a command not to wage war, at least a teaching for Christians to not take part. To suggest that all this “love your enemy, overcome evil with good,” talk allows for sometimes killing them (and their children and neighbors) is to do damage to our language.

And so, if one is a Bible believer and wants to take the Bible seriously, then one has to consider how to reconcile this seeming chasm. Let’s begin with a look at the OT.

Early on in the OT, you have God as sole deliverer. That is, God's people were in trouble and God saved them by God’s own hand, without any military support from the people.

As in the story of the flood.

Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, "I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them...” ~Genesis 6

As in the Exodus.

[I will sing to the LORD because God has won a glorious victory; God has thrown the horse and the rider into the sea... ~Moses' song

The concept of Israel wanting to depend upon kings who will lead an army with horses and chariots (military strength) and God rebuking Israel for these desires is repeated throughout the OT.

Later in the Bible (in Joshua, Judges...), you have mixed situations of God winning the fight, but then Israel's army going in and mopping up (often killing all survivors).

As in Joshua, as in Gideon, later on, as in David and Goliath.

One might be tempted to ask, "What changed? Before God wanted to be the sole deliverer and now God is willing to let an army do some of the work? Has God changed?" And I think that is a good question to ask. More on that later.

Throughout this time (Joshua and the settling of Israel, pre-Kings), you still have God telling Israel to not have a standing army, to not have the latest in weaponry (chariots and horses). God wanted Israel to trust in God, not its military. "I gave you the victory...your swords and bows had nothing to do with it." Joshua 24

When Israel began demanding a king, like all the other nations, God was opposed to the idea, knowing rightly that it would lead to Israel's trusting in its own power and not God. Samuel warned Israel that going the King route would result in a king that drafts their sons into a chariot army, that would make their children work for the king, that would tax them to support this military and royal infrastructure, but, as we know, the people persisted and God relented.

Did God relent because it was the right thing? Clearly not.

God warns in Deuteronomy: When you do get a king..."he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the Lord has said to you, "You shall not return that way again." Neither ... shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.”

In other words, God is telling Israel not to try to get many chariots and horses for defense, but to rely upon God.

In Deuteronomy, God goes on to say that "When you are in battle, and you see chariots and horses and are outnumbered, do not fear. I will be with you."

Despite these warnings and rules, the time of the Kings in Israel was the most war-torn period of the OT. And, it seems to me, this is exactly BECAUSE Israel was trusting in an army.

And so, for those who point to the OT as a reason for supporting our military, it seems to me that they're comparing apples and oranges.

Israel, when it was most right with God, had a small volunteer army only used for special occasions when God called for it.

We have the most massive military machine on earth.

Israel did not use the latest technology available.

We are always on the cutting edge of destruction technology.

Israel was trusting in God to deliver.

We are trusting in our military and hoping that God uses our military to deliver us.

The concept of God in the OT using an army or allowing an army to kill to further God's will (as in when Israel was overtaken by the evil Assyrian army) in no way endorses us taking part in such an army.

Or, at the most, you might stretch that to say that there are certain times when God has told some to go and kill the men, women and children of a kingdom; but if we were to consider doing so, well, we better be pretty damned sure that it's God speaking.

Myself, I don't see it happening.

The Bible, War and Peace, Part II

Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

I think of Isaiah, whom God had run around naked for three years. Does that mean you and I ought to be running aroung naked? No. That was a specific occasion called for by God. But our norm should be not running around nude.

As in nudity, so in war. As Christians, our norm must be Jesus, who taught us to love our enemies, to stand up to evil but turn the other cheek.

And you know, Jesus did reinterpret the law ("You have heard it said, 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,' but I tell you to turn the other cheek...You have heard it said, 'Hate your enemies,' but I tell you: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.")

Does that mean that Jesus thought God had changed? No, but it could mean that people were wrong in their interpretation of what God had done. Or simply that Jesus had an even better teaching from God. Regardless, this is a definite change from Old to New Testament.

Maybe there would come a time where God would call us to do something (like kill) that is so completely far outside the norm of Jesus, but that would be the exception rather than the rule and even then, we must trust in God to do the delivering and not a military.

In short, I might concede the concept of an army based on the OT, but only if said military is done in an OT manner:

1. volunteer army amassed in time of crisis
2. only when God has told us to
3. without all the latest military weaponry and
4. without the HUGE drain on the budget that accompanies disobeying the first three rules

Actually, upon thinking about it, I probably would concede the concept of such an army.

Regardless, if we’re trying to reconcile the Jesus who commands us to love our enemies and overcome evil with good of the NT and the God who apparently sometimes allowed for armed forces – but always with limits and with the emphasis on relying upon God and not the military, we must consider the whole.

We can’t reject the clear meaning of Jesus’ teachings to accept the example given in the OT (where it is never commanded for us to behave in that manner).

Am I possibly incorrect in my assumptions about what the Bible says about God and Peacemaking? Sure. As are those who support war-as-solution. We’re fallible humanity and prone to get it wrong.

All the more reason to be prudent in our support of war. If we start off with the assumption that war will always be a great evil, then we will be less likely to rely upon war and truly treat it as a last resort.

Ultimately, the Bible tells us, vengeance belongs to God. If some want to view the “warrior Jesus” some people see in the book of Revelation as a significant portrayal of Jesus, I’d respond by saying that Jesus is God and God can seek vengeance wherever God pleases.

But the Jesus portrayed in the Gospels is the Jesus in whose steps we have been commanded to follow, who, “When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly.”

These are the steps we're to follow in.

Monday, November 6, 2006

I've been to the mountaintop...

Treetop Jesse
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

This past weekend our church took part in our annual fall retreat.

Some people look forward to Halloween, others to Christmas or Easter as their favorite time of the year. Me? I look forward to our fall retreat.

With time, I'll write more about it later. For now, if you want to see the preliminary slide show, you can see it here:

2006 Jeff St Retreat

You can click on the Slideshow option at the top right of the page or you can look at the individual photos.

Hallelujah and amen!

[By the way, any Jeff Streeters who attended: If you could send me any good photos of yours, I'd be glad to add them to the collection - especially if you have any "Talent" Show shots, I missed most of those. - Dan]

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Wanna buy some prime real estate?

Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

Now, as through this life I've rambled, I've seen lots of funny men.
Some will rob you with a pistol, some with a fountain pen.
Now as through this life you ramble and through this life you roam,
You'll never see an outlaw rob a family of its home. ~Woody Guthrie

Let me get this straight: Bush and the Republicans are in an uproar over recent comments John Kerry made in a joke whose point was to keep kids in school.

Bush and the majority of the Republicans in power – who have twisted truths, led us into an immoral and possibly illegal invasion of a country, in the process strengthening terrorism rather than reducing it. Who have increased Big Government, forsaken conservative values, placed corporate flacks in the roles of defenders of our environment and energy policies, engaged in a war against science and the environment.

THIS Republican leadership is upset and trying to start a national uproar about an admittedly poorly worded and executed joke whose point was to encourage kids to do well in school? Are you kidding me?!

Fortunately for us, we, the people are smart enough to recognize a desperate attempt to change the subject when we see one.