Remember Who We Celebrate

Advent is a good time to read about the tiny child born in a manger, the humble beginnings of a remarkable life. But I am reading the omega of that story.

Let’s not pass thoughtlessly by the images in the Book of Revelation. Let’s not glaze over when we read the uncompromising declarations of Who He Is.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord,

“who is

and who was

and who is to come, the Almighty.”

“One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.  His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;  His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters;   He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.  And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.”

I am the First and the Last.  I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

“Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.”

“To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,  and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.”

And that’s only the first chapter!

The passages are visually astounding. The book is so visually strong. When we read Revelation, we feel like we’re strangers dropped off in a foreign country. That’s because we are. We are meant to feel overwhelmed, awed, small, lost. It is the place to open the eyes wide and be quiet, and to listen.

There are no grey areas in the declarations of His identity.

This Jesus-God from Revelation is the baby whose first cradle was a feeding trough. The all-powerful one is who He is now, without the disarming personas  He wore in his obedience and humility before His Father while on the earth. This One of the Book of Revelation is the One with whom we must make our peace.

There is only one response possible in heaven toward this One.

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands,  saying with a loud voice:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

 Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.

Jesus of Nazareth was among us on earth as a humble wanderer, a simple teacher who yet could not be suffered to live by the powers that were. These are the things He told us:

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you

You are my friends if you do what I command.

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

 

Let us remember Whose incarnation we are celebrating at this joyous Christmastime.

He came first as a newborn baby, as helpless and meek a creature as possible, in order to become one of us. The people of the world are at a disadvantage when we celebrate the lowly child’s birthday. It’s a comforting image; whether we regard the manger story as myth or history, we feel good about celebrating the poor underdog babe and congratulate ourselves on our insight about the disadvantaged child who would become the great teacher.

In the carol “We Three Kings,” each of the magi tells of his gift to the promised king. This verse from the third foreshadows Jesus’ life as a man:

Myrrh is mine: it’s bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom.
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding dying,
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

We who believe celebrate the tiny babe. And we remember that he is also the simple teacher, the willing martyr and the Resurrected One. He is the one to whom we are absolutely accountable. Ultimately we must remember the One who revealed himself to John and showed us who He is and will ever be.

He will not be disregarded by anyone. This babe is really the one with all power, the One who will be the Judge of all the earth, the one with the Keys to Hell and Death.

Kiss the Son lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him

 

 

 

 

Civil War

What he said. Surely your relationship with the woman who raised you is about more than whether or not she agrees with Rachel Maddow or Bill O’Reilly. Choose to enjoy, rather than bury, the memories you share with that friend of 40 years.

Glass Planet

captain-america-civil-war-international-poster-excerpt

I finally saw “Civil War,” the umpteen zillionth movie in the unendable Avengers series.  It was quite enjoyable but there was one scene in which all the that-would-never-happen-ness came to a point.  The bad guy has just explained with utmost clarity and precision how and why he moved heaven and earth to set the Avengers against each other.  He knows he could never destroy them so he manipulates them into destroying each other.  “See?  That’s what I’m doing!  I’m playing you!”

To which Tony Stark, of all people says, “Great idea!” and starts wailing on Captain America.

I thought that really took the audience well past suspension of disbelief into delusional territory.  You’d have to be crazy to buy in to the premise that the smartest man in any given room would let himself be played.

Then I went to Facebook.

My my.  Such crazy!  Such eagerness to follow pipers! …

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The Unbearable Smugness of the Press

The Unbearable Smugness of the Press

Almost every sentence in this piece is pure gold. Read it slowly and savor.

Journalist Will Rahn, much to his credit, gets it exactly right. He is one of very few able to even conceptualize a reality outside of the candy store on a cloud in which he works.

I woke on Wednesday to a surprising sense of encouragement, even though I had not been supportive of Trump. It wasn’t Trump I found encouraging but at least one other thing.

The American people had largely given the bought-and-paid-for-press the slap in the face for which they had so earnestly worked. The press told us, on the one hand, not to worry our little heads over all that innuendo and rumor, and tried to terrify us with forced birth, misogyny and nuclear buttons on the other.

We don’t appreciate being lied to and clearly said so. We particularly don’t like the cartoon level of discourse we’re expected to care about.

Have you ever been given a backhanded compliment and understood that the offender thought that you were too stupid to know that you’d been insulted? To most Americans, that was the last eight years.

The people who did buy into the script are understandably at sea today, but I find it hard to sympathize. In order to cuddle with your favorite TV hate machine, you must also buy into the smugness. You have to really think that you’re a more sophisticated thinker than all those other dimwits composing most of your country. We’ve all seen it and it’s remarkably unattractive.

And the candidate who unabashedly questioned why she wasn’t 50 points ahead thought that by literally buying the media, she would saunter into that Oval Office with the ease to which she was entitled. In spite of all the fixes we know about, and the fraud we’ve yet to discover, in spite of Springsteen and Cecile and Michelle and Obama Himself, in spite of the limited menu of information served to us, the voters said no thanks.

Or maybe because of.

Support System

More truth here than in anyone’s campaign speech. Take a break from all that and read this.

Glass Planet

support-system

“Ok George,” read the message posted on the writers’ critique site.  “I’m still waiting for your analysis of my story ‘The Rockets Go Boom!’ but here are my comments about your piece.

“Given that prologues are never a good idea it would be superfluous to say that yours is too long.  What an info dump!  Try to reveal the setting and alien psychology through action rather than dialogue and exposition.  Show, don’t tell!

“Now, to the meat of the thing.  I found your alien protagonist to be rather… androgynous.  Sure, he’s married and all but your descriptions of his ‘luscious indigo eyes veined with silver’ and ‘hair infused with the light of the sun’ leave a definite impression, if you know what I mean.  And why the knock on religion?  Contrasting the enlightened, science-worshipping husband with the raving religious fanatic wife is a little over the top, don’t you think? …

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Out of Sight

Happy Halloween.

Glass Planet

out-of-sight

“No, Mommy!” protested six-year old Sarah Reid.  “It’s too scary!  People will get scared!”

Beth Reid looked at her daughter’s eyes peering out from the holes cut in the old sheet.  The ghost costume was a Halloween classic and Sarah liked Casper the Friendly Ghost.  Seemed simple enough to a busy adult but kids were never simple.

“I know what to do,” said Beth as she rummaged through a desk drawer that was only opened to stuff in things that had no place else to go.  She soon found a big red Christmas bow, which she stuck on top of Sarah’s head.

“What do you think?” she asked hopefully as she held up a mirror.  “Now they’ll know you’re a friendly ghost, not a scary one.”

“Okay!” Sarah agreed as she picked up the plastic Jack-o-lantern with the open top, imagining the candy that would soon overflow.  “Let’s go!”

The…

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We Are a Plague…Or At Least You Are

Sir David Attenborough says that humans are threatening their own existence and that of other species by using up the world’s resources.He said the only way to save the planet from famine and species extinction is to limit human population growth.

“We are a plague on the Earth.”

“We keep putting on programmes about famine in Ethiopia; that’s what’s happening. Too many people there. They can’t support themselves — and it’s not an inhuman thing to say.”

David Attenborough– Humans Are Plague on Earth

Overpopulation panic is a rather retro fear, one which badly needs updating. One example of 21st century people still buying into panic over mid-20th century (questionable) hypothetical problems. Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb, clings to his guns about the apocalypse of overpopulation, even though all of his deadlines have long since passed with no sign of his promised disaster.

Ehrlich:  “Allowing women to choose to have as many children as they desire is like allowing everyone to “throw as much of their garbage into their neighbor’s backyard as they want.”

People = garbage. Other people, that is.

And can you just feel the outrage that someone is throwing their garbage into my yard?

Today, birth dearth and the failure to achieve replacement numbers is a crisis in most of Europe. Economies the world over are in danger of collapse, and many millions of men have no hope of ever creating families because their spouses were aborted or prevented.

The progressive solution focuses entirely on the need for women to limit their childbearing, especially third-world women in less white cultures. We need to stop producing so many (poor) people!

In fact, one reason for seven billion people is at the other end of the age spectrum. One reason there are so many people is that so many people are living longer, and projections have this “problem” growing exponentially. Look here.

Our civilization has succeeded in producing such a sustainably high quality of life that people are living longer, healthily and comfortably, for far longer than ever before. Cue the subversive change agents to transform that achievement into a catastrophe.

And since Sir Attenborough is 85  plus, the personal earth-friendly solution should be obvious. That’s a joke. I would never suggest that someone ought to commit suicide. But perhaps Sir Attenborough would gain a new perspective on the issue if the solution required him to act, rather than to suggest what the less fortunate ought to do about the problem.

I have many acquaintances who know exactly what other people ought to do about overpopulation. But I have never heard one of them volunteer to help out in any way that would infringe on her personal preferences, or to volunteer to reduce overpopulation by one.

The proudly Childfree love these news items. It’s confirmation bias. I don’t want children, I don’t particularly like children, no one should have children. I have my search engines on the lookout for why it’s morally superior to be childfree. ( The internet responds favorably, just as it would with a totally contradictory search.) I’ve only experienced family from the perspective of the child, but I know best.

And it’s just one baby step to: YOUR only morally responsible act is to limit YOUR family to one child, if any. Moral condemnation follows for families of more than two.

Others should sacrifice. Abortion to the rescue! Death to the helpless is an easy solution. But better yet,  prevent that infestation of humans from being conceived in the first place. Sir Attenborough and the like: Sorry, little one. I will live into my nineties sucking up wealth and fame but the planet is just too crowded to permit you a spot.

However, even when our society eventually takes its eyes off the little ones in this equation, and decides to consider the elderly as candidates for elimination, there’s still no way that people like Sir David would be considered as expendable. We are willing worshipers of experts, celebrities, royals, presidents and the fabulously wealthy. Even in America, we want kings. And we love hitching our cabooses to someone else’s engine as long as we can advertise our morally superior destinations. When the celebrity-expert wears a mantle like environmentalist, or social justice warrior, we love the bling of associating ourselves with him, and we swallow the slogans whole.

Maybe we should acknowledge some facts about our human nature: we are fundamentally self-seeking and desperately self-important. We do not create social improvements that ask us to kill ourselves off. We invent solutions which make it a moral imperative to kill off other people, or to prevent them entirely.

There is no scenario where we do not value some people and devalue other people. We are tenacious respecters of persons.  As a society we have decided that the most helpless, the ones who most deserve our protection, the mockingbirds, the ones who are situated in the most naturally protective and nurturing place: the womb…are the ones who are chosen to be sacrificed in the building of a better world.

When social planning elitists sound alarms, we are all too willing to rally, as long as  someone lesser  makes the sacrifices.

 

 

 

Reducing Relationship

Re-posting this from two years ago.

I have a husband who won’t let me get near the dishes lately. There are always a lot of dishes here, a lot, always. His reasons are clearly excuses.

In 31 years, we have not had Fight One over who works harder, whether he should help with the housework, or whose job it is to iron his clothes, mow the lawn or put the kids to bed. But it’s certainly not because we’re above such things.

We don’t do 50/50 here.

Did other people speak wedding vows which assigned domestic duties, and which spouse was going to be the primary breadwinner?  Because  to hear some people complain about the sorry thing called marriage, you would think that in their vows, they promised to model Ozzie and Harriet in their suburban 1950’s home. And they don’t want to, so away with marriage, that obsolete patriarchal engine of oppression.

We didn’t sign a contract outlining household duties or role requirements when we got married. We didn’t confuse our wedding vows with societal expectations or TV sitcoms.

What did we vow?

“Will you have this woman/man to be your wife/husband, to live together in holy marriage? Will you love her/him, comfort her/him, honor, and keep her/him in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful to her/him as long as you both shall live?”

“In the name of God, I, ______, take you, ______, to be my wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.”

What we vowed may have been a slight variation on these words, I don’t remember. We knew what we were promising.

Notice that we both vowed the same things. There wasn’t the Housewife Version and the King of the Castle Version.

You’ll also notice that these vows are not limiting, but rather open-ended, except as to duration–until death. We were promising to love, to comfort, to be faithful.  We were not promising the nuts and bolts, the how we would achieve these abstract states of existence. We were promising to live the rest of our lives committed to and committing to one relationship.

A relationship has the potential to grow and expand, and to build toward almost infinite intimacy. To live under a contract would reduce our love to a pre-ordained set of boundaries.

On another front…

During my tenure as a parent, I’ve been advised by persons who are over The Age of Eighteen, that I ought not to tell adults what to do. All the advice-granters in the world would tell me to say: OK, you’re an adult now, so I’m not allowed to tell you what to do. In return, I give up caring whether you get yourself up for church, school or work. It’s your business and I’m not going to help you anymore. You’re not my responsibility.

There is certainly truth in there. My role as a Mom changes as my child matures and I do have to increasingly step back and let him make decisions, and let him live with the way those decisions play out. I’m fine with Mr. Experience  teaching her the responsibilities of adulthood. And I’m not above feeling a tiny bit of pleasure when an “I told you so” would be a legally appropriate thing to say.

But relationships are not contracts. A contract spells out what I am, and am not, responsible for. Beyond the requirements of a contract one does not go. A contract limits my actions.

When we had a young teenager who was self-willed and apparently in danger of going off the rails, the going advice was to put the relationship under contract.  This is what’s expected of you, Teenager.  And if you commit these crimes, here is a handy list of the corresponding consequences. Now you know what to expect. 

It was an invitation not to be resisted. And because our children are creative people, it was unresisted very creatively. There was no instance in which he/she committed Offense X and therefore was liable for Consequence X.  It was never that simple.

Because they don’t just want to do X and get away with it; the goal is to confound your attempts to be the authority in the first place. They want to mess with you. It’s all about the relationship, and the rebellious child knows that better than you do.

Contracts and legal agreements reduce a relationship to that which is spelled out therein. Do we really want our family relationships lived via contractual agreement?

Relationships are not contractually binding; relationships supersede contracts. My behavior toward those I love aren’t limited by the letter of the law. Or so says The Author of Relationships:

Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

John 15:12-13 “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Romans 12:8 “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”

“We love him, because he first loved us.”  1 John 4:19

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”   I Peter 4:8.

Relationships with human beings are infinitely more binding than legal agreements. We are accountable to love one another. To act on their behalf toward their good, even and especially when they aren’t able to appreciate the help, even and especially when we don’t think we have the strength to do it, even and especially when we feel like doing the opposite.

According to J.Budziszewski, “Love is a commitment of the will to the true good of the other person.”

I want to relate to people in my life according to love and grace, not according to a reductive contractual agreement.  At times, I must borrow heavily from an inexhaustible Source to fulfill my part.

I give the Adult a wake-up call because I know he has trouble hearing his alarm, on the morning after receiving the caution not to tell the Adult he should go to bed. Or go pick her up when she didn’t plan for the ride home. Overlook irritating and irritated talk.  Dive in to thankless tasks. Really act as though the person is truly loved, and you couldn’t live without her, because it’s true.

And isn’t the debate over complementarian (no, it’s not in my spellcheck vocabulary either) vs. egalitarian marriage really a hyper-focus on this very thing? They can’t get their eyes off of that simplistically reductive 50/50.

The change agents are so proud of their enlightened egalitarian marriages.  They’ve given us something new, something never seen before in the long millennia of human history: men and women, equal in marriage! Hey, congrats and thanks, guys!

I do hate to tell them that the Bible had this one a long time ago:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21.

And specifically on marriage:

Ephesians 5:33: “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

I Peter 3:7:Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”

Each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”  I Corinthians 7: 2-5

Settle what job is whose, for goodness sake, and move on.

Of course when you have just now thrown away: what women are, what men are, and what you are; and you confuse Ward and June Clever with millennia-old Scriptural teaching, it makes for a little tiny bit of confusion. If you’re going to set out to right societal wrongs, it would be best to get an understanding of the issue all the way down to its foundations.

My husband does the dishes lately without explanation.  He fends me off and tells me to go relax.  After working all day and then chauffeuring for awhile, then going to a meeting, after working on his own writing, before going to bed much too late and getting up much too early.

It’s not because he’s invented a brand new kind of marriage. It’s not because he’s heard on Christian radio that husbands doing housework get rewarded in the bedroom. He has nothing to prove and no secret agenda. He just understands what he promised.