Friday, January 26, 2007

Heaven

What do you think heaven is like?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Jan 25th: Conversion of St. Paul

Today is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Paul was an avid persecutor and hater of Christians. The Scriptures say he stood by while St. Stephen was martyred. One day while he was traveling, the Lord appeared to him in a vision, convincing him of the reality of Jesus' resurrection, and blinding him for a time. This was the beginning of Paul's conversion.

Paul is known as an Apostle, though he is not one of the twelve that Jesus selected while he walked the earth. He is also known as the Apostle to the Gentiles. It is due mainly to Paul's ministry that the gospel of Christ spread among non-Jewish people groups. Many of the Apostles resisted this at first, until further convinced by revelations from Christ as well as conversations with Paul.

In some aspects, Christianity has become like the Judaism of apostolic times. It is a people group who see themselves as select or chosen. It is very much an "in" or "out" group. Non-Christians are considered "Gentiles" and inclusion is often regulated while membership is approved if certain criteria are met. Rather than circumcision, it might be "quit smoking", "no swearing", "no drinking", "not Catholic", "hold to an Evangelical theology", etc. Who will be the St. Paul's of our day?

Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity:
"Let us pray. O Lord Jesus Christ, who saidst unto Thine Apostles: Peace I leave you, My peace I give to you; regard not our sins, but the faith of Thy Church, and grant unto her that peace and unity which are agreeable to Thy Will; Who livest and reignest ever, one God, world without end. Amen."

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

"Madam Speaker..."

i'm sitting here watching the State of the Union, and the president just addressed the Speaker of the House, who is the first female to take this position. It is a truly historic moment. On top of this is the recent announcement that Senator Clinton is seeking to run for the presidency. Since it will be a democrat who wins the next election, if she is the candidate, it will be another historic moment of unparalleled significance for our country. All this while the Southern Baptists argue over whether women ought to be banned not only from the pastorate, but from teaching in seminaries.

Recently i stayed at a parsonage of a Church i am candidating at. It's a great little church and it may be where i begin pastoring. My wife and i were surprised when we discovered there were no power outlets in either bathroom. My wife said, "How do i dry and do my hair? i need an outlet near a mirror." That's when it dawned on me...the layout of the house was probably planned by a board of male elders some time before electric shavers became popular. If there were even one woman on the building committee, there would have been a power outlet in the bathroom. When women are left out of leadership, important details are often left out.

i have to believe that what motivates this stance is a sincere desire to remain true to scriptural interpretation. i do think it will be interesting to see how this debate continues in light of the surrounding societal changes that are occurring, especially if Hillary becomes the Commander in Chief and Bill the First Lad...Gentleman.

(Democratic response to Bush's State of the Union Address)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Pro-Life?

i have to say that all the headlines boasting the number of hostiles killed, or more recently the hangings of Saddam and those who were on trial with him, have been bothering me. i remember when a US helicopter went down in some Arab city some time after the Afghanistan invasion, and how the people of that city dragged the bodies of the US soldiers through the streets and celebrated by decapitating, burning and making a mockery of them. While many people tried to defend "Islam" as a peaceable religion and Muslim terrorists as a deviant minority, i couldn't help but think this was not the truth. i didn't see a small minority in this miscellaneous town, i saw a people group.

On account of the media over the last few years i've begun to develop something of the same picture of the US and her allies. News headlines boast the number of "extremists" killed by special operations attacks. It's advertised like a victory banner. Today, looking at CNN, the hangings of Saddam's brother-in-law and chief of staff were on display with quotes of people talking about how the two looked very frightened before they were hung and how one's head "just snapped off" during the hanging. Most excellent and bodacious!!! (detect sarcasm here)

A number of talks with my friend Christian really challenged my perspective on "Pro-Life". Of course when we hear "Pro-Life" we immediately think of defenseless fetuses. Yet this is a very limited view of Pro-Life. Many who rage over the death of the innocents are quick to cheer over the death of those they fear, or blink at the deaths of those who die in the line of combat. Yet pro-life is so much more encompassing than the abortion issue. To truly be pro-life, one must be pro-life wherever there is life.

Will the one who taught us to "love our enemies" give us a high five because we voted against abortion but smiled at the extermination of thousands of others who were labeled "terrorists" (though we really don't know who or what they are)? Or how about when we consign thousands to death by sending them into hostile areas when we really don't know whether or not it's for the better.

i'm not completely convinced yet that the death penalty should be done away with, or that we should all become pacifists, but i do believe my understanding of Pro-Life has been severely limited and i need to think this through further? What do you think it means to be "Pro-Life"?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Worker is Worth Her Wage

i couldn't be happier to see that the Federal minimum wage raise has been passed under the democratically controlled house. It will go from the current $5:15 to $7.25 an hour. This of course will boost all other wages for the majority of Americans who make thirteen dollars an hour and less.

The median household income in America is $43,000 a year, which of course is the combined income of two or more household workers, meaning most individual Americans are making under $22,000 a year. This means that those who would like to raise a family off of one income, allowing one of the parents to stay home with the kids, don't really have that option.

i'm all for the liberation of women, but i don't like how our capitalistic/consumerist society cashed in on this, making it necessary for the majority of families to have two full-time workers in order to make an average living. Those who choose to live off one income usually have to make some big sacrifices in living conditions.

Well, this minimum wage hike was well overdue, and it certainly won't mean that families will be liberated to live off of one income again, but it is at least a step in the right direction. i know there are some small businesses that will feel the pressure of this wage increase, and still i think that overall this is the best decision. Perhaps more tax breaks for small business and less for big industry would be a viable solution.

Of course some would rightly say that when big buisness is taxed they simply hike up the cost of their products so that consumers end up paying the extra taxes. So really it ends up being a sort of "back door" tax raise on the people. So i guess i don't have the anwer/solution. What do you think?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Celebrating Ephiphany


Today is the day of Epiphany on the Christian calendar, where we celebrate the revelation of God through Jesus and the events leading up to and including his baptism by John in the Jordan. Here's some more from Wikipedia: Also check out this gallery from CNN

Epiphany (Greek: επιφάνεια, "the appearance; miraculous phenomenon") is a Christian feast intended to celebrate the 'shining forth' or revelation of God to mankind in human form, in the person of Jesus. The observance had its origins in the eastern Christian churches, and included the birth of Jesus; the visit of the Magi, or Wise Men (traditionally named Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar) who arrived in Bethlehem; and all of Jesus' childhood events, up to his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist. The date of the feast was fixed on January 6. Ancient Liturgies speak of Illuminatio, Manifestatio, Declaratio (Lighting, Manifestation, Declaration); cf. St. Matthew's Gospel (iii, 13–17); St. Luke's (iii, 22); and St. John's (ii, 1–11); where the Baptism and Marriage at Cana are dwelt upon. The Christian Churches have traditionally also talked of a "Revelation to the Gentiles", where the term Gentile meant all non-Jewish peoples. The Biblical Magi represent the non-Jewish peoples of the world.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

S.F. group enjoys shopping sabbatical

By LISA LEFF, Associated PressWed Jan 3, 4:12 AM ET

It began, as grand ideas often do, over a dinner — risotto, artisan cheese and wine. What would it be like, 10 environmentally conscious friends wondered as they discussed the state of the planet, to go a year without buying anything new?

Twelve months later, the results from their experiment in anti-consumption for 2006 are in: Staying 100 percent true to the goal proved both harder and easier than those who signed on expected.

And while broken vacuum cleaners and malfunctioning cell phones posed challenges, some of the group's original members say the self-imposed shopping sabbatical was so liberating that they've resolved to do it for another year.

"It started in a lighthearted way, but it is very serious," said John Perry, 42, a father of two who works for a Silicon Valley technology company. "It is about being aware of the excesses of consumer culture and the fact we are drawing down our resources and making people miserable around the world."

The pledge they half-jokingly named The Compact, after the Mayflower pilgrims, spread to other cities through the Internet and an appearance on the "Today" show.

As it turned out, The Compact was modest as far as economic boycotts go. Several cities in the United States and Europe have communities of "freegans," people whose contempt for consumerism is so complete they eat food foraged from Dumpsters whenever possible, train hop and sleep in abandoned buildings on principle.

The San Francisco group, by contrast, exempted food, essential toiletries like toothpaste and shampoo, underwear and other purchases that fell under the categories of health and safety from their pledge.

But perhaps because its members included middle-class professionals who could afford to shop recreationally, their cause caught on. Nearly 3,000 people have joined a user group Perry set up on Yahoo so participants could swap goods and tips.

Besides thrift stores and garage sales, participants found a wealth of free or previously owned merchandise in online classifieds and sites where people post stuff they want to get rid of, such as http://www.freecycle.org and http://www.garbagescout.com.

After going through an initial period of retail withdrawal, discovering just how easy it was to score pretty much anything with a little time and effort was an eye-opener, according to participants.

Rachel Kesel, 26, who works as a dog walker, said she was astonished by how often the items she needed simply materialized — the friend who offered a bicycle seat when hers was stolen, the Apple store employees who fixed her laptop at no cost.

Similarly fortuitous timing happened often enough that group members came up with a name for it — "Compact Karma."

After postponing purchases such as a new wind breaker and a different stud for her pierced tongue — she couldn't bring herself to buy a used one — Kesel broke down only twice.

Once was when she was planning a trip to Israel and couldn't find a used guidebook that reflected current political realities. The other was after her commuter coffee cup suffered a fatal crack.

"I really found a lot of times there were things I thought I needed that I don't need that much," she said.

The pledge provided unexpected dividends as well, such as the joy of getting reacquainted with the local library and paying down credit cards. Gone, too, was the hangover of buyer's remorse.

Perry got satisfaction out of finding he had a knack for fixing things and how often manufacturers were willing to send replacement parts and manuals for products that had long since outlived their warranties.

"One of the byproducts of The Compact has been I have a completely different relationship with the things in my life. I appreciate the stuff I have more," he said. "I don't think I need to buy another pair of shoes until I'm entering Leisure World."

Over the holidays, Compact members gave homemade gifts or charitable donations in a recipients name instead of engaging in the usual Grinch-making shopping crush. Kate Boyd, 45, a set designer and high school drama teacher, visited a new downtown shopping mall and felt like she had just stepped off a flying saucer.

"It was all stuff that had nothing to do with me, yet for so many people that's how they spend their weekends," she said. "It's entertainment and it is the opposite of where I've been for a year."

Now that they know they can do it, Boyd, Kesel and Perry are ready to extend the pledge into 2007. But first, they plan to give themselves a one-day reprieve to stock up on essentials — windshield wipers, bicycle brakes and tongue studs.

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On the Net:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/thecompact