“Out in the eye of the storm, the friends of God suffer no permanent harm.”

(Mark Heard -“The Eye of the Storm” 1990)

I drove through the devastated communities of Phoenix and Talent, Oregon again. There seems little rhyme or reason to the destructive path of the Almeda fire. Car washes, doctor offices, stores, restaurants, food vans, mobile homes and half a million-dollar homes were leveled. I returned to our former home and dug through more of the debris, with a mask, gloves, rake and shovel, courtesy of the Red Cross. I found a few more pieces of china, faded but whole, and a nativity piece I have had since a child. Amazing, that such delicate pieces survived the flames and collapse of a 2-story house.

“What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun?”  (Eccles. 2:22)

I remember the houses that lined the street since I walked it a few times a week. They were expensive, ($400,00+) and some of them still have the burned-out shells of cars on the lot. I have no idea what the interiors were like, but many were nicely landscaped and well taken care of. So much money invested, so much saved, so much spent, and now gone, worthless except for scrap. It seems wasted and meaningless. People toil, sweat, worry and even are willing to kill to defend their property but in the end, it is not ours to keep. Our possessions are not eternal, nor are we mortals. All returns to dust, if not now, then later. In the end, all I have to treasure is that “the loving-kindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 103:14-17).

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor. 4:18)

While it may sound like I have been reading too much Ecclesiastes, I have really been pondering how much stuff I have dragged around with me for so many years, feeling the loss and dislocation of a fire and now considering what it means with the years I have left. I know I am not alone and many others are experiencing the same, most in more dire circumstances. Writing is one way I try to cope. At a minimum, I plan on the days remaining not being about acquiring more stuff.

For Your Reading Pleasure…

I am happy to announce that I have published a small collection of some of my writings. “The View from Right Field – Thoughts on God, Life & the Stuff in Between” is a collection of stories and essays that range from reflections on the church and spiritual life to rural America and journeys overseas as well as 2 short stories that delve into the mystery of lost Spanish gold and the tumult of the Reformation era.

You can read on-line or download for free from Smashbooks. fair & courteous feedback appreciated!

P.S. – Right field is not right wing!

“Hominem te Momento”

What’s so terrifying about a pandemic?

The unknowable – the uncontrollable – the unpredictable – the uncertainty – subvert my sense (and our shared cultural belief) of mastery over my future, my sense of control over my fate, my desire to be without need of others, without dependence on the actions of others – and  that sickness, health, death are a matter of my choice (and what I should have done –  diet, exercise, washing hands) and not the random, vagaries of a sneeze, a cough, an expelled droplet of virus infected fluid.

A virus pandemic is a “memento mori,” a reminder we are from dust and ultimately not the masters of life or death, whispering in our ear “Remember you are only a man.”

Life is but a brief layover

Suicide

The news of the death of Anthony Bourdain was a shock to hear. I admit I don’t watch much TV, so I confess my ignorance, but he seems to have had a love for life, for adventure, for people and of course for good stuff to eat. Food seems to have been the medium to build bridges between people of different lands and cultures. Why he killed himself is even more a mystery.  That is not judgement of his actions – but my pondering about what happens in a person’s life when they determine that their life is over.

Some months ago, a man I knew also ended his life – with a gun. I saw him the week before and he discussed business plans he had for his future. I recall no despair or sadness or a hint of what he was thinking of doing. He was stressed by his responsibilities but future oriented. I was shocked, saddened and angry at what he did to himself and what he left behind for his family, friends, and employees. As an older, white male, he fit the demographic profile of those who succeed at suicide. I don’t know what was going through his mind, but I wish there had been someone who did and had been able to help him choose differently. My assumption is that life is worth living – yours and mine, as people made in the image of God.

I know the theological opinions of some, past and present are harsh towards those who end their life. I focus on God’s mercy, which he delights to show (Micah 7:18), for the friends, the family and loved ones left behind and the one who decided such a course.

For those who hurt and suffer, there are people who care genuinely – reach out, don’t go it alone. There are people who will listen.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255

Text CONNECT to 741741 from anywhere in the USA, anytime, about any type of crisis.

Where Christ is Crucified Again

Religious institutionalism and exploitative consumerism turn Christ’s suffering, crucifixion and death into a historical artifact to be dusted off once a year.  Artifacts are convenient ways to ignore a disturbing truth.

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Christ’s suffering, death and victory on the cross are not only to be remembered as past tense, but are a present reality. Jesus’ death in the action of the Lord’s Table is a commanded practice, a remembrance, a proclamation of his victory (1 Cor. 11:26), a communion of a present reality between heaven and earth (1 Cor. 10:16), and a foretaste of his coming again in glory (1 Cor. 11:26).

Yet, Christ may be crucified again as the writer of Hebrews mentions (6:6).

Where is Christ crucified again?

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In the denial of his own people of his saving atonement or in the abandonment of their covenant with him when they substitute earthly powers for his Lordship whether out of fear or political or worldly expediency or their own self-righteousness for his blood bought gift.

He is also crucified again in the sufferings of his people who face rejection, loss, threats, beatings, prison or death whether in Iran, India or China.

He is also crucified again in the suffering of countless and nameless people all over the world who are flogged, tortured, kept behind bars, denied justice and voice to defend themselves as he was in the name of national security or the war on drugs or terror whether in Guatemala or Guantanamo.

In the prayers of the desperate and abandoned, and the singing of his saints, his cry of forsakenness and abandonment (Mt. 27:46) and his declaration of victory (John 19:30) have not been silenced.

Forbidden Observances

PuritanChristmasBan

“Merry Christmas” has become the rallying cry of the jingoism of the (t)Rump pseudo-nationalistic ideology. However, Christmas has not always been popular even among Christians. In 1647, the Puritan-led English Parliament banned the celebration of Christmas, replacing it with a day of fasting and considering it “a popish festival with no biblical justification”, and “a time of wasteful and immoral behavior.” On May 11, 1659, the Massachusetts Bay Colony legislature officially banned Christmas and gave anyone found celebrating it a fine of five shillings

“For preventing disorders arising in several places within this jurisdiction, by reason of some still observing such festivals as were superstitiously kept in other countries, to the great dishonor of God & offense of others, it is therefore ordered … that whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by for-bearing of labor, feasting, or any other way, upon any such account as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for every such offense five shillings, as a fine to the county.”

Cotton Mather, New England’s most influential religious leader, told his flock in 1712 that “the feast of Christ’s nativity is spent in reveling, dicing, carding, masking, and in all licentious liberty…by mad mirth, by long eating, by hard drinking, by lewd gaming, by rude reveling!”

Most Western churches mark Dec. 25 for the liturgical celebration of Christ’s birth though the date is historically unreliable and most likely inaccurate. Many Eastern Orthodox churches mark the incarnation on Epiphany typically the first Sunday in January. Some, who are in the Puritan tradition make no big deal about it. Roman 14:5 tells us “one person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.” That seems like a wise policy that spares making “much ado about nothing.” Sadly, Trump’s hijacking and distortion of the day to celebrate the wonder of the incarnation is far more damaging than any supposed “war on Christmas.” Slogans may pump up the crowds but it’s not the faith the church has confessed in the words “for us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”

So then, either way, have a Merry Christmas, an incredible Incarnation, an effulgent Epiphany, and Happy Hanukkah or for any neo-pagans, a Super Saturnalia!

Christos Anesti!

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How does Christ’s resurrection benefit us?

First, by his resurrection he has overcome death, so that he could make us share in the righteousness which he had obtained for us by his death.

Second, by his power we too are raised up to a new life.

Third, Christ’s resurrection is to us a sure pledge of our glorious resurrection.

Heidelberg Catechism, 45