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Archive for August, 2012

From sea to shining sea, there is a raging effort to take down crosses in America. These memorial crosses symbolize death in battle so it is intensely ironic that they are now under siege themselves.

Whether it’s the steel cross found at Ground Zero now being enshrined in the National September 11th Memorial and Museum or San Diego’s famed Mt. Soledad Cross, the real battle is over THE cross. For there is nothing special about a physical piece of metal or a concrete monument. It’s THE cross that’s under fire.

According to Christian theology, the cross symbolizes that we are to put others before ourselves on a daily basis. Here are two scriptures that cross at the cross:

“Then he [Jesus] said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.'” Luke 9:23

He also said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

 

Well, who the ____ wants to do that? Put someone else first? This Jesus is either a kook or a God with a polar opposite schematic of today’s prevailing view.

People wouldn’t object to the cross if it didn’t so pointedly object to them. If it was a symbol with little meaning, it is likely that not a single judge would have heard of the cross.

Whether a cross sits atop a steeple or buried in the rubble of the World Trade Center or high upon a mountain in San Diego, it should remind us that God is looking to kill our selfishness.

In that sense, the cross is a friendly enemy.

The Mt. Soledad Cross in San Diego

A 22 year-old lawsuit that’s getting verrrrrry old.

 

 

 

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Some people come in and out of your life. They seem to rise like a planet in the early morning sky that ascends until the light of day makes it disappear.

I woke up thinking about that. They seem to come and go. Though they are still alive, we accept their departure. Sometimes, we have a vague sense that they will return and we will again consistently cross paths. Most never do. In fact, we often only had one shot with them. That thought could make us very remorseful. 

It behooves us to take a serious look at who shares the stage with us right now. What lines are we feeding them? Are we trading kind and effective punchlines or are we using each other as punching bags? When they exit left or right, did the audience get the joke or was the joke on us?

Sometimes, there are hasty exits and this is not usually a good sign. I really wonder if our Playwright really wrote these into the script.

I came across the following from The Message

19-21It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.

   This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.

 22-23But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. [Galatians 5:19-23 from The Message, Copyright, 2002, Eugene H. Peterson. All Rights Reserved.]

If we could measure every thought and spoken word through this filter, I wonder if the script of our lives would make for less regrets, produce an effective witness to those around us, and yes, perhaps even bring our audience to their feet for a standing ovation for the Playwright?

Who is walking onto your stage right now? Covet every line.

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So, this socialist and this capitalist have a beer. Guess who buys?

Sounds like a set-up for a pre-election joke? No. It’s a true story. I am the capitalist and it happened the other night.

I was at a bar watching for the newest rise in country music. I ordered a Blue Moon. I hardly drink, but the beer’s title intrigued me. Before I had the opportunity to judge the beer on its merit, I had the opportunity to judge the band on its music, sort of.

The band’s leader was doing more talking than singing and he was bragging about being a socialist.

“I’m a socialist and I’m voting for Barack Obama,” he said. “Now, I can tell you I’m a real socialist – he is not.”

So, there you have it. If a socialist is voting for Obama, which candidate might you guess has socialist ideology?

Getting back to the bar story: I tap the shoulder of the guy next to me at the bar who’s vigorously cheering this socialist singer…before the band closes its set with its socialist anthem, “This Land Is My Land.” (I always thought that was such a sweet and innocent toe-tapper.)

The fan turns to me. I ask him why Stalin and Mao Zedong were to be admired for butchering millions? He started shoving me, but I again plied the question about the murders. I didn’t back off. Finally, he calms down and offers to buy me a beer. I declined, feeling content with my Blue Moon. He finally answers that a Stalin and Mao were just one man and that “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” That threw me into a state of laughter because socialism always ends up elevating one man. At least, he didn’t hedge with all that stuff about the differences between Communism and socialism.

“The difference between a socialist and a capitalist is that a socialist like to share,” he said. He then promptly asked me if he could have some of my beer. I smirked at the irony. I must be a socialist because I was the one doing the sharing. This “sharing stuff” started to sound like a kindergarten teacher’s admonition.

I didn’t learn much from the band, but I learned a lot from my peaceful resistance at the bar.

The answer to the pre-election joke is that capitalists have something to share, usually will, and socialists will gladly have you “share” all you want. He was the punchline.

P.S. The following is no joke…

From Hong Kong Historian Frank Dikötter’s book, “Mao’s Great Famine; The Story of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe:”

State retribution for tiny thefts, such as stealing a potato, even by a child, would include being tied up and thrown into a pond; parents were forced to bury their children alive or were doused in excrement and urine, others were set alight, or had a nose or ear cut off. One record shows how a man was branded with hot metal. People were forced to work naked in the middle of winter; 80 per cent of all the villagers in one region of a quarter of a million Chinese were banned from the official canteen because they were too old or ill to be effective workers, so were deliberately starved to death.

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When in Quebec, it’s hard to rest on a bench that’s not in the shadow of one of many of the city’s statues.

In Esplanade Park, for example, there is one honoring fallen heroes of a conflict from 1899 in South Africa. I like history, but I don’t even remember what they lost their lives for now. “For the Empire,” which is inscribed on the statue, is just not good enough for me.

While sitting there, coincidentally, I got an email on my phone asking for prayer for a Marine platoon in Afghanistan which just lost 12 guys in the past 4 days and I’m not sure we have a President or Congress who even believe in the mission over there.

Quebec is a town of war as is evidenced by the wall that still surrounds its “Old City.” Handed back and forth between the British and the French, there are still divisions about culture and language; almost a love and hate relationship.

But does anyone really know what started this conflict?

I’ve had some very recent personal conflicts, but I’m not totally sure I can locate with laser-like accuracy the true north of the problem.

The scriptures say, “Yet, man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” Job 5:7 Man creates many of his own problems, fights to get his own way, loses his life in the process, erects statues to honor himself so that people won’t forget the very things we are destined to forget. But…. put a statue up just to make sure you don’t forget anyway.

Isn’t that a lot like the hurts that result from these personal conflicts we have? We erect mental statues. We make sure we remember the time, place and the affront. (It is said that women can even remember what the man was wearing when he hurt her!) “There,” we say to ourselves, “It’s clear in my mind. Now, I can’t forget it.” Huh?

There’s a beautiful statue in a Grotto in Portland, Oregon. (I’m sure I could have found one right here in Quebec, but I didn’t make it to the Basilica.) It’s of Christ carrying the cross.

Image

The amazing thing about God is that He has the only perfect memory and yet chooses to forget based on Jesus’ action on the cross. For those who would accept His sacrifice, He removes our sins as far as the east is from the west and remembers our sins no more.
Now, that’s a statue worth being under its shadow.

(For the record, I’m not a pacifist. But as I’ve gotten older and observed young adults and children, I’ve made a conclusion about most of their fights: they are unnecessary.)

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