links: this went thru my mind

 

Capital punishment & the death penalty: Secret Drugs, Agonizing Deaths

“In the name of security, states are now withholding vital information about their death penalty procedures — from death row prisoners’ lawyers and from judges, whose stamp of approval they need to impose the ultimate sanction, as well as from the public, in whose name the sentence is carried out.”

Children, compassion, morality & parenting: Raising a Moral Child [essential reading]

“Despite the significance that it holds in our lives, teaching children to care about others is no simple task.”

Church: * The Church as a Hospice for the Dying [essential reading]; * What the Church May Need is What the Church Does Not Want

* “It seems to me that it’s better to think of the Church as a hospice, rather than as a hospital. … The Church as hospice makes good, Gospel sense. And, there are very practical implications in this metaphor as well. When people tell the pastor that they are leaving the church because their ‘needs’ aren’t being met, all the pastor has to do is remind them of what the Church is, and point out that their ‘needs’ are indeed being met: They’re being given an opportunity to die to their ‘needs’ in order to experience more of the resurrection life of Christ. So, the church really is meeting their needs; they just don’t know it.”

* “… I wonder if the Christian element in America has grown fat and sassy.  Have we fallen into a dangerous religion of indifferent slumber? Persecution may not be at our doorstep; but I do think it is traipsing up the sidewalk. This will never be the thing we want.  Yet, it may be the very thing needed to move us from our glut of mediocre indifference.”

Crucifixion: Roman Crucifixion Methods Reveal the History of Crucifixion

“… Hershel Shanks looks at evidence of Roman crucifixion methods as analyzed from the remains found in Jerusalem of a young man crucified in the first century A.D.”

Faith & science: 9 Groundbreaking Scientists Who Happened to Be Christians

“There’s a general sense that science and religion are two camps, and the two can never meet without fighting or, at the very least, stepping mighty carefully around each other’s views. There might be a very little bit of truth to that—a few noisy emissaries from both sides have been known to go out of their way to discredit the other. However, what is frequently lost in all this is that the history of science is rich with believing Christians, for whom the process of discovery did not jeopardize their faith, but enforced it.”

Fear: Do Not Let Fear be the CEO of the Church

“How many times have we said or at least heard, I’m afraid of what this might lead to?”

Passover: Passover as Jesus Knew It

“It was a joyous, celebratory occasion: work was temporarily stopped, families were reunited, food and wine were plentiful, and hopes and dreams were in the air. At the heart of the festival was a story: an account of a chosen people liberated from slavery centuries before through God’s gracious deliverance. But there was also a tragic irony: Israel was no longer free. This time the oppressors were not the Egyptians, but Rome. Together, these ideas created a lethal cocktail of deep religious yearnings, nationalism and resentment. ‘It is on these festive occasions that sedition is most likely to break out’ noted the historian Josephus wryly (War 1.88), and most of the riots recorded in his works seem to have occurred at Passover in particular.”

Prayer: Did Jesus Send a Mixed Message About Repetition in His Teaching About Prayer?

“… Jesus is talking about different things in these two teachings.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Care, communication, considerate, counsel, empathy, sensitivity & sympathy: The Semantics of Sympathy [essential reading]

“… by using ‘but,’ we invalidate them—we shrug them off as if the harm they’re causing isn’t worthy of our concern. We use the word carelessly in conversations that feel crucial to the suffering person, and we send the often unintentional message that ‘Hey, I know it hurts, but that’s not really meaningful because there’s this other happy stuff you should be thinking about.’”

Civility, kindness & social media: 12 Ways Christians Can Be Less Mean [essential reading]

“It seems to me, we’ve lost some of our civility when it comes to what we post on social media. … The web has made it much easier to be a critic. … It all has to hurt our witness as Christians.”

Health insurance & Medicare: * Why I’m Jealous of My Dog’s Insurance; * Medicare: A Quiet Sea Change in Medicare

* “I was envious. My 11-year-old brown Labrador was getting the kind of treatment that I could only dream of. I wanted to go to PetCare. I wanted pet insurance.”

* “The change may have the most far-reaching impact on seniors who want to avoid institutional care. People with chronic conditions may be able to get the care they need to live in their own homes for as long as they need it … if they otherwise qualify for coverage.”

Hobby Lobby & the Supreme Court: Church of Christ Member Serves as Counsel for Hobby Lobby

“Lori Windham, a member of the Fairfax Church of Christ in Virginia and a graduate of Abilene Christian University in Texas, serves as counsel for Hobby Lobby in a closely watched religious freedom case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Christian faith, compassion, empathy, love, poverty & wealth: * Rich People Just Care Less; * The Surplus Population [required reading]

* “A growing body of recent research shows that people with the most social power pay scant attention to those with little such power.”

* “God has chosen the poor. We do not. … Where in our churches today do we ever hear words like those James writes in 5:1-6?”

Christianity & politics: God’s Kingdom: The Concession Prize? [required reading]

“It seems like trusting God — for some of us, at least — becomes a viable option only after our candidate loses.”

Food stamps/SNAP: Six Myths About Food Stamps

“In the middle of the worst economy and job situation in decades Republicans in the House voted to cut $40 billion from food stamps. This will kick 3.8 million people out of the program by 2014, then 3 million more each year after. … In the months leading up to this vote … the … propaganda machine invented a number of justifications for cutting the program. Here is a take-down of some of those myths and lies.”

Race & racism: When White People Don’t Know They’re Being White [required reading]

“I could give example after example of ignorant cultural and racial blunders in the church, but for the white hands who hold the historical and institutional power, it basically boils down to this: We want to say that everything that happens in church is about Jesus, but it’s simply not. There’s a whole lot of culture and power and history and social structure in there as well. Until we acknowledge how these realities shape our thinking, we’re going nowhere. We say we want to be a ‘church of many nations’, and cheer on videos like the ones above, but sometimes our arrogance, ignorance, and unwillingness to listen communicate that we really view ‘the nations’ as our minions, not our partners. …

“I know, I know.  It all sounds a little harsh, right? I’ve been right there with you, defending myself, confident that my intentions are pure. However, regardless of our intentions in these endeavors, the fact stands that the impact of our actions can be isolating and downright hurtful to people of color.”

Wendell Berry: Full Show: Wendell Berry, Poet & Prophet [56 min. video]

“People who own the world outright for profit will have to be stopped; by influence, by power, by us.”

the church Jesus goes to

 

I know where Jesus goes to church. Without a doubt. He goes to the church that lives deliberately, boldly, and consistently …

pursuing peace and reconciliation. Though it lives in a world saturated with anger, disrespect, snarkiness, and insult, with a will it refuses to go there. It’s done with living by rage, choosing righteousness instead. It’s not defined by its own insecurities and its ability to utter barbed wit in retort to those who mock it, but by its humble confidence in its Christ and its dependence on the provision of God’s Spirit in every situation, no matter how dark or difficult. Imagine: a church made distinctive to all by not being abrasive and hard to live with.

unruled by its wants. Though surrounded on every side by people chasing after every kind of lust and sanctifying all sorts of unfaithfulness in every relationship, it isn’t seduced to do the same. It doesn’t seek its own will, but whatever God’s will is for it. Instead of searching for meaning in whatever it perceives as sexy (not just sex itself, by whatever is “sexy”), it finds its meaning in its Lord and Savior, for he is enough, and more. Picture this: a church known to the world for its contentment and reliability.

by its words of honesty. Though the culture in which is resides is given over to dishonesty and deception, it quietly walks its talk. It practices what it preaches, not merely what’s “practical” in the moment. Its ways aren’t determined by always choosing what works out for its own best interest, but by going after the truth that true love can truly rejoice in always. Capture this vision: a church perceived as genuine and true by all who care to truly engage it.

extending mercy generously. Though its world is largely driven by retaliation and payback, fueled by fear and the never ending yearning for hard justice, it walks by faith on higher ground. It thrives on the Spirit of compassion, not the spirit of competition. Its life map is not of doing whatever would instill fear in others of it, but to do whatever would help install faith in others in the God it follows. Draw it in your head like this: a church characterized by selfless giving and costly care.

loving the unlovable. Though seemingly all of society continually calls it to elicit indifference, ill will, hate, or anything and everything else that dehumanizes, it chooses to love with the love of the divine instead. By so doing, it traffics in forgiveness, not fierceness or fighting. This is because it seeks its definition not in its enemies, but in him who allowed his enemies to spike him to a tree. Place this before your eyes: a church that will mount the cross with its Lord, and die with him. Daily.

After all, what else could a person honestly conclude after reading what Jesus candidly said in Matthew 5.21-26,27-32,33-37,38-42,43-48?

And so, I have to ask: what might a church become if it understood and made these matters its chief means of worshiping and following Jesus Christ? In a week? A month? A few years? Over the course of a lifetime? Or after several generations?

Would it not become more and more like the One it worshiped? And wouldn’t that be what both the Lord, and they, wanted most of all?

Let’s find out. Let’s go to church with Jesus!

this went thru my mind

 

Compassion, illness, prayer & service: Jesus My Patient [required reading]

“A prayer from Mother Teresa and used by her Sisters of Charity in their care for the sick, poor, and dying …”

Creation & faith: Seeing God in the Stars

“Dr. Jennifer Wiseman is an astronomer, author, and speaker. … As senior project scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, she studies star-forming regions of our galaxy using radio, optical, and infrared telescopes. As director of the Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, she helps improve communication between scientists and faith communities.”

Immigration & the poor: Do Illegal Immigrants Actually Hurt the U.S. Economy?

“Illegal immigration does have some undeniably negative economic effects. … Labor economists have concluded that undocumented workers have lowered the wages of U.S. adults without a high-school diploma — 25 million of them — by anywhere between 0.4 to 7.4 percent. The impact on everyone else, though, is surprisingly positive.”

National debt: Our Debt, Ourselves

“I want to present a calmer view, by emphasizing six facts about the debt that many Americans may not be aware of.”

Shane Claiborne: Ask Shane Claiborne … (Response) [essential reading]

“… non-violence doesn’t mean getting stepped-on. The call to non-violence is to disarm violence. A part of the way we do that is suffering with those who suffer.”

imagine you, on food stamps (5)

 

Note: The following is not an account of any one conversation I’ve had with any one person regarding the Imagine You, On Food Stamps project, but is a composite derived from a number of conversations.

Oh, the conversations this project is generating!

“David, aren’t you afraid?”

“Afraid of what?”

“Of what eating like that for a month could do to your health, that’s what!”

“No, not really. Should I be?”

“Yes! That stuff can’t possibly be good for anyone!”

“That ‘stuff’?”

“You know what I mean. I mean the food you’d have to live on that can be bought for $4.00 a day.”

“Oh, you mean the ‘stuff’ we’re content for other folks to live on as long as we don’t have to live on it ourselves, don’t you?”

“No, that’s not what I mean. I mean those people who receive that kind of food are only getting what they deserve. You don’t deserve that.”

“I’m not sure I understand your point. Help me here.”

“They’re in the fix they’re in because they wanted it that way. They made some bad choices and now they have to experience the consequences. If that’s all they have to eat, let them eat it. Perhaps they’ll learn from the experience!”

“Really? ‘All’ of ‘them?’ How do you know the situations of all of the lives of all of these people? I doubt either one of us would say, after a little reflection, that every person who is poor – or even the majority of the poor – chose to be poor or want to remain in need. And even if what you’re saying is true – and I don’t believe for a minute that it is – what does that have to do with eating on $4.00 per day for a little while?”

“Okay, we both know there are surely some exceptions, but you and I both know most of the money going out for food stamps is just a waste.”

“No, actually I don’t know that … and I don’t believe you do, either. I only know a great many people don’t eat nearly as well as either of us and I think we both would do well to remember that often. Doing so would surely change the way we think of and live with the people around us.”

“So you’re telling me people who make their own bed shouldn’t have to sleep in it? I don’t feel bad for bums who won’t work. It’s in the Bible for crying out loud!”

“I’m saying none of us knows what all went on to get anyone to the point they’d cry out for help with putting food on the table. We mustn’t presume we know what they’ll do with any or all of the help that’s offered to them, either. If they do happen to misuse some, or all, of that help, that’s on them, not us, and it’s between them and the Lord. It’s no excuse or reason for us to not be merciful. Besides, no small number of the ‘them’ you’re talking about are little children, people who have absolutely no say in their circumstances or their sustenance, but who like the rest of us, need to eat every day. There are more than a few words about mercy and about leaving all judgment to the Lord in the Bible, too.”

“I don’t think I’m being ‘merciful’ to them if I see them driving a newer car than I drive!”

“Again, we don’t know all the circumstances of their lives, do we? And, I must say with all kindness, but with forthrightness, I find the way you’re lumping and labeling all sorts of individuals together under the word ‘them’ and as people of suspicious character as degrading and dehumanizing, both of which lead to being judgmental.”

“So you’re saying I’m judgmental! Who do you think you are? I have eyes to see how some of them live.”

“I thin I’m someone inviting you to join me in eating the same thing other people eat for a little while just to see what that must be like.”

“Well, you can count me out because I don’t want anything to do with those folks!”

“I think you’ve established that quite clearly. And that’s the real issue, isn’t it? Not your fears for my health, but your own insecurities over who receives help and how that doing such might draw you closer to some you have little care for … and that’s very uncomfortable for you.” Right?”

[Long pause] Maybe.”

“Then let’s pray. Let’s pray right now on what we both must surely agree.”

“Father in heaven, by your goodness and mercy and in the name of Jesus Christ, we pray that neither one us ever gets to such a point of need or want that we’re ever tempted – much less frequently tempted – to cheat, lie, or steal.

“Because only you are the Most Holy One, we pray you would ever deliver us from setting ourselves up as judges of others. May we both be always content to leave all of that up to you.

“Because you are the Creator of all, we pray that our fear of others would melt away. What can man do to us?

“Because you are the source of all that is true strength, we pray that our fears based on our own frailties and weaknesses would recede through growing faith in you. May that faith lead us daily to where we know by faith you would have us always go: doing good to all as we have opportunity.

“Open our eyes to truly see every person we meet. Deliver us from seeing ‘around’ people. Open our minds to discern what you would have us to be them. Help us to think the way our Lord and Savior thinks. Open our hearts daily so that we love others – all others – with the love you have for them. May we be channels of your blessings, not filters. And may you open our hands so that we are genuinely giving people, seeing as how you are so generous to us in so very many ways every day. Amen.”

[Long pause] “Perhaps I was a bit … hasty. I’m not saying I’ll do this! I am saying ‘I’ll think about it.’”

“Thinking is good and an all too rare commodity these days. Let’s continue to think – and pray – about these things together.”