Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Imago Dei - Image of God


This post is the result of the collision of several different trains of thought. 

I have been posting on various days as we have moved from Thanksgiving to Christmas, art in various forms as my “hymn” for the day.  For, Christmas Eve, I had in mind to share a clip from one of our traditional family Christmas movies, The Family Stone.  Simple right…

But this whole thing this past week over Duck Dynasty, and extending back maybe a little further, the debate on whether or not Santa and even Jesus is white, it has been frankly, a little irritating.  And I say this carefully.  There are many people I know well who are quite incensed at what was said initially by Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson.  This to them is very personal, and they have every right to be upset.  I am not irritated because they are upset, or even because others are jumping to his defense.  What irritates me is that much of the conversation is diatribes from both sides, doing little by creating more fires of hatred, fanned on by a sickening media hungry for controversy.  We have lost it seems the necessary grace and patience for civil discourse – we are not interested in discovering the position of others because we are to firmly entrenched in our own.

And then the morning of Christmas eve in the gym, I find myself watching a piece on the remarkable transformation in the papacy.  Video and images of Pope Francis doing and saying things that are not only shaking up the church he leads, but getting people across the Christian faith to take a good look at themselves through the prism of what the bible says about what we should be like as followers of Jesus.  I’m no expert on other faiths, but I suspect he has earned quite a bit of respect and has unleashed some soul searching there also.

And as they showed again, images of the pope embracing a man terribly disfigured by what I don’t know, it occurred to me…

Imago Dei - Image of God

The creation story in the Christian bible, probably quite similar in the Jewish Torah instructs us that God made us in the image of God, that we reflect the nature of God, even that we are godlike.  The problem is, we don’t really believe this, not about ourselves much of the time, and certainly not about those who are radically different to us, who do not look like us, do not think like us, or do things we find unspeakable horrors…

As a good friend of mine, Nar Martinez has said, “If the God you serve is always for everything you like and against all the things you hate, you've simply made him up.”

 
Imago Dei – Phil Robertson was made in the image of God, before and after he apologized for the hurtful, but deeply held personal beliefs he shared


Imago Dei – Syrian refugees, not just white Christians were made in the image of God
 

 
Imago Dei – Regardless of how we were coming into this world, or have become, we were made and remain in the image of God
 

 
Imago Dei – Megyn Kelly and all who have had fun publically mocking her for the silly things she said – yes – all of them – made in the image of God
 

 
Imago Dei – the least amongst us, and those who are unaware of them – again, made in the image of God
 

 
Imago Dei – these three boys, now facing murder charges for killing an Australian baseball player “for the fun of it” – also made in the image of God

 
We want God to be just like us, well mostly anyway.  But God is not so limited.  Most simply as I see it, all of us are like God – if not, God is not like us at all?  God is so immense, it takes all of creation, and all of humanity as the jewel of that creation to gain just a hint of what God is like.

And so back to The Family Stone, and why it had particular significance as my mind wandered this Christmas.  The Dinner scene as it is described on the DVD and generally can be found in searches holds for me a pretty darn good image of why God decided to intervene in such an extravagant way as unfolded that first Christmas.  And it also contrasts in the same character, our human limitations.  I am not tech savvy enough to extract a more focused segment, but the whole five minutes is worth the watching to understand the whole story and probably makes more sense anyway. 

After the stiff, starchy and quite conservative Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) fumbles around and through what I perceive as ignorance and insensitivity (as opposed to hate) insults and belittles gay people in particular, but also black people, Sybil (Diane Keaton), the matriarch of the family says and signs to her deeply hurt deaf and gay son, “I love you”.
Dinner Scene - The Family Stone
 
God’s love for us is not predicated on whether we are black or white, male or female, adherents of the Christian, Muslim or any other faith, gay – straight – lesbian - bi-sexual or transgendered, powerful and privileged or poor and marginalized.  We were created in the image and likeness of God, and yet right from the outset, different, yet no indication of inequality.  And so that is my takeaway, and I hope also perhaps one of yours this Christmas – that God Loves You.  And if God loves you, as Pope Francis shared insightfully and wisely this year, “who am I to judge”.
 

Genesis 1:26-28, The Message (emphasis mine)
God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them

        reflecting our nature

    So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,

        the birds in the air, the cattle,

    And, yes, Earth itself,

        and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”

    God created human beings;

        he created them godlike,

    Reflecting God’s nature.

        He created them male and female.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thank God for Goldman Sachs – Mother Theresa alone really doesn’t amount to much…


No - this is not an article from The Onion – so not surprisingly this is what no small number of people really think and believe... 

I’m also surprised I had not seen it at all somewhere on the social media traffic on the interwebz.  Must have been off the grid for a spell a month or so ago.

Give Back? Yes, It's Time For The 99% To Give Back To The 1%

Yep – if you read this, that is what the author is proposing.  Hard to believe?  Lets think about this then.

Now I'm not one who argues the merits one way or the other of the whole 99 vs. 1% thing.  It is in my opinion pointless and like most such discussions fails to grasp the many different circumstances people on both sides of that divide find themselves in.  But I do unreservedly reject the notion that the 99% in fact owes more to the 1% than the other way around.

It is time to combat the notion that people who have great wealth are somehow smarter or work harder than those who are not.  It is certainly true in some instances but equally untrue in many others.  In a good number of cases, quite possibly the only difference is the aversion to taking risk, and perhaps built on that, the better understanding of some of how to take risk with other peoples money.

The person who develops a business around an idea rarely works in isolation.  In some cases, the transaction of cash and other benefits for labor and the profit gained from that labor are fair, and in other cases they are not.  To make teachers for example a poster child for fairness in value received is beyond absurd and only the most brain-dead of right wing conservatives do not know this to be true. 

As if for example the Henry Fords, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates would have achieved everything they proved ultimately capable of without this key developmental phase of their lives.  I’m sure based on their very nature, they would still have been successful, but does at the current average cost per public school pupil of around $10,000 per year (in the USA), I think they have come out significantly on the plus side of the ledger here.  And teachers are probably in many cases more like the example of the mother described in this article – who does what she does out of love for her children.  It is most certainly not a commercial transaction.  If it were we might see teachers paid in royalties from those they helped to fashion.  I suppose in the eyes of the author of this article, they are really just other workers who benefit from the wealth their prodigy students will go on to create.  They just don’t happen to be on the payroll directly. 

Of course I’m biased as you know if you read my last post on teachers -

So onto the proposal of not taxing those who make over a million dollars a year at all as it is immoral?  I guess this is the ultimate gambit in trickle down economic theory.  I mean, I could get this a little if you were saying let’s do this to further encourage people to achieve greatness and strive to earn over a million dollars a year – except taxes are not the reason the vast majority of people who are not making a million dollars a year are not doing so.  But taxing them is immoral? WTF!!!

But coming back to economics, here is the ultimate kicker for me.  If in fact there is nothing to give back (by the 1%) because as write says and I quote:

Each particular individual in the community who contributed to a man’s rise to wealth was paid at the time–either materially or, as in the case of parents and friends, spiritually. There is no debt to discharge. There is nothing to give back, because there was nothing taken away.

Then why should the 99% pay and not the 1%?  Haven’t they already paid as well?  Surely they topo have “no debt to discharge”?  Well, although I think Obama was (and generally is) full of BS when he asserted the only reason for a business persons success is the roads and infrastructure built by others, I suppose someone has to pay for this stuff.  After all, they aren’t going to just build themselves.   And if you are going to just be a user, a worker drone who contributes nothing to society more than the 8 hours you are paid for, then you probably should pay your own way to get to and from work.  This after all is why we shouldn’t have public transport in this country as the working poor who use it really are not paying their fair share and should probably be riding bicycles to and from the factory – on bike paths they pay for.  Also under the current system, you could argue the difference between a living wage and what a number of corporations pay people is getting paid by the wealthy indirectly through social programs they fund with their taxes – so there is that to consider.  Certainly governments waste money so get rid of the middle man I say – the cost of passing through the difference between the minimum wages many subsist on and a living wage will come way down if they just pay it directly to the workers and not pay times to get it to them through taxes and social programs.  And that difference my friends, is PROFIT!!!

So on that whole morality thing.  I mean, if you come from a mindset that proposes the head of Goldman Sachs has done infinitely more for mankind than Mother Theresa, then clearly you believe the 99% are indeed what the system is being increasingly geared to create – an underclass of working drones, for whom the biggest argument is whether or not the notion of a living wage should be entertained.  Maybe we should go back to the days of servitude and indentured servants that Benjamin Franklin (a person possibly highly admired by the author of this piece – although despite being a founding father, he was embarrassingly liberal) found so abhorrent in England he came to firmly believe in the virtues of the movement for American independence.

Seriously??? 

For a start, reading this article provided me with the name of the head of Goldman Sachs – one Lloyd Blankfein.  But to be fair, I am well aware of the entity that is Goldman Sachs.  I’ve even indirectly (probably more times than I know) done work for them through their subsidiaries.  And seeing as how in the USA a company is in fact a person, then knowing Goldman Sachs is more or less the same as knowing the person who runs it (all on his own do you suppose?).  So comparing the value to the world of Goldman Sachs against Mother Theresa – and finding that it is not even close based on the billions of dollars in profits generated by Goldman Sachs, suggests that indeed the people who work for the 1% are indeed nothing more than human capital.  What they think, feel or dream, how they change the world to be a better place is indeed of no consequence, and they should presumably just be grateful that they have 401K plans gaining wealth courtesy of Mr Blankfein.

Certain other inspiring people who have left an indelible mark on the world – indeed have left it a better place are not mentioned.  Probably could have been used to make the authors point.  I mean let’s see, people like Harriet Tubman and so many others who were part of the movement away from slavery.  Hard to argue profits would not have been better if we could have kept this long standing practice in place – in fact given it goes on more or less in many other countries now, all we have done is placed ourselves at a disadvantage.  Or folk like Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela.  I mean look at the troubles those countries have struggled to overcome.  Surely this could all have been avoided had the British ruling class kept running India, or minority rule stayed on in South Africa.  Despite their troubles, I wonder if the people there feel better off because of those folk.  And let’s not get started on the whole mess left by Martin Luther King and others through the civil rights movement.

OK – rant over.  I think I’ve answered my own questions here – hope it was helpful to you.

Now to read or not to read another post by the same author… “Insider Trading Is A Right: Don't Shackle The Knowledge-Seekers”.  I think the only reason he has Al Capone or Bernie Madoff on his shit list is there were SO MANY ways they could have got rich just working the system, within the law that is…
 

The article shared lest the self-proclaimed philosopher who wrote it feels I am somehow gaining wealth from his efforts was authored by Mr. Harry Binswanger, and published in Forbes Magazine, September 17, 2013.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thank you for your service...


The timing on this is somewhat of a coincidence. I’ve been mulling these ideas, even the title of this post for a while now. I do that a lot. Sometimes the ramblings of my mind make it onto paper. Many times they do not. Even fewer get let out…

So yes, this remembrance day, I want to thank you for your service…

Mrs. Hancock – 1st grade teacher and lover of reading and gardening

Mr. Murray – 4th grade teacher – first time to have a male teacher but more importantly perhaps plant the seed that I needed to be stretched further than was likely in a small one class per year level rural school

Mrs. Summers – 5th grade teacher who challenged me to read classics and to speak in public

Brother Darryl – who in 6th and 7thgrades opened the door to drama

Mrs. Delaforce – who in 6th and 7thgrades opened the windows to singing

Ms. McLaughlin – who may have been a little crazy, but whose passion for English made it interesting again in senior years of high school, and also explored creativity through school musicals

Mr. Duffy – whose clarity and precision in math brought me close to perfection semester after semester

Mr. Kaplick – who got past an mind grounded in absolutes to enable me to grasp the more abstract concepts of physics

Mrs. O’Donnell – who freed me to discover music was about passion, not just precision (although a little precision never hurt)

Ms. Graham – who survived having me in senior chemistry and taught me to see the forest instead of the trees

Professor Vuckovich who managed not to give us lung cancer in his lectures or nicotine stained office, and while I cannot remember much of his petroleum engineering classes, will never forget his pearls of wisdom such as “You boys, you must remember this one thing. You will be mining engineers. You will marry nurses or school teachers – that is all”

And so I did, in fact, so many of our class did.

So yes – I may have a little bias here. Probably in interests of full disclosure, my mother was a teacher. My father also. One of my sisters still does. And but for a summer job that never ended during the mining slump of the mid 80s when I graduated with my mining engineering degree but no job prospects, I might have been. I didn’t go back to school to get my Dip. Ed. that next year…

I am not begrudging the honor shown our veterans or those in active service. Theirs is not an easy job. A good number of my close friends and family serve here too. Perhaps more so here in the USA, we hold these people in a special place, we feel it important to thank them for their service. But how often do we think to do the same for a teacher. Would they be worthy for example of being granted the comforts of an airport lounge while travelling. Or generous discounts on many goods and services. And I could go on – and to those whose business does acknowledge teachers and give them some sort of recognition, thank you!

I mean it is not like teachers are well paid. An officer (a degreed professional so similar in that respect to a teacher) in the US Army with regular promotions after the minimum time at each level makes close to three times what my wife makes some 20 or so years out of college. So to the past and present members of the armed services, indeed – thank you for your service. You most certainly earned and deserve what you have, and maybe more. Nothing can repay the ultimate sacrifice some have made – or the permanent scars both physical and mental that some live with as a sacrifice every day. So to be a teacher, while generally not putting yourself in harms way (far from a certainty in US schools sad to say), you are not doing it for the money - it is most definitely a gift of service.

So to those who taught us how to be anything we could be, to those who were both firm and patient, to those who inspired and cajoled, to those without whom my life would be one more ordinary…

From the depths of my heart, THANK YOU for your service

Friday, November 8, 2013

Injustice is not a moment in time


I wrote recently about a book I had just finished, Shadows at Dawn by Karl Jacoby.


Many sides to every story




I mentioned in this post a desire to visit the site of the tragedy outlined in this book – Aravaipa Canyon.  And so on this trip to Tucson, I did just that.  This morning I headed up to the canyon to just be there at dawn – to listen for the silence.

There is no memorial to this tragedy, no marker identifying the site of the massacre of more than 100 Apache, mostly women and children by a posse made up of Papago Indian, Americans and Mexican Americans (noting this part of the USA had only recently been part of Mexico).  So I wandered a few miles up the road that more or less follows Aravaipa Creek from its confluence with the San Pedro river, the site of Camp Grant, the US army base after which the massacre is most commonly named. 

And stopped – and listened to the silence…


I guess I don’t really know what I expected to see… or feel…  or think...

Some words from the gospels came back to me

“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?”

Didn’t really help – but it got me thinking.

I wandered around a little in the crisp morning air.  Heard what might have been 3 different types of bird chirping from somewhere in the peculiar foliage that adorns the desert.  Listened carefully for rattle snakes.  Watched a rabbit scurrying about, probably annoyed I had disturbed his morning.  And finally it sunk in…

Injustice is not an event, something you can pin down with at marker or a memorial.  Injustice is not a moment in time that can be frozen.  Something you can look at and say, yeah – glad we put that behind us.  Although often I think that is exactly what we hope to do. 

Very few are truly willing to listen to the other side(s), before or after major events that erupt due to injustice, to truly understand what the injustice represents, why it exists, and .  The passage I quoted in the aforementioned post still stands well in this regard, particularly from that sense that we are so eager to point out how we have been wronged, we find it impossible to listen well to other parties.

“Given the obstacles to merging these fragile and diverse forms of storytelling into a single tale, it is, paradoxically, by venturing in the opposite direction -- by listening for the silences between accounts; by discovering what each genre of recordkeeping cannot tell us -- that we can capture most fully the human struggle to understand our elusive past. What this past asks of us in return is a willingness to recount all our stories -- our darkest tales as well as our most inspiring ones -- and to ponder those stories that violence has silenced forever. For until we recognize our shared capacity for inhumanity, how can we ever hope to tell stories of our mutual humanity?”

Karl Jacoby, Shadows at Dawn: A Borderlands Massacre and the Violence of History

The injustices, in this particular instance suffered by all the involved parties in one way of another at the hands of one of the others led to this shameful massacre as the milestone event recorded in history.  And they also did not end there.  The legacy of the event  for some was very clear and tangible, for others less so.  The underlying causes of these injustices were not resolved by this event, they continued for many years, decades even, some not fully resolved today.

This is not a deep discussion on injustice – just a note on my growing understanding of it…
 


 
 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Beware the quiet one…




A little something I shared at out family celebration honouring our Jillian who turned 16 today!


Jilly is our baby – and so it is a little hard reaching this point.  In a couple of days she will most likely get her drivers license and will become even more independent.  That is of course assume she passes the test – it took her two attempts on the written!


But she will always be our baby – she was after all – and always will be, little. 


Maybe really we should say, beware the little one, because although to the larger population, many make the mistake of thinking she is quiet, really when you get to know her – she is anything but.




 
 
 
We have so many fond memories of Jilly. She has always been a bit of a mischief. Like watching carefully for her big sister to get all her dolls perfectly arranged – and then“accidentally” walking through the middle of them. 




Or colluding with her big sister after bed time in “You play, I play”.And there is also the doting little sister, who used to wait by the door for Mallory to come home from school – and then be a little disappointed when her sister needed some alone time to recharge her batteries.

 
But just because she was little – and appearing to be quiet, did not mean she did not have a great depth of strength and determination.  This has sometimes resulted in rather impressive standoffs – like the time in grade school when her space was interfered with and a substitute teacher refused to listen to her pleas resulting in a standoff to where the assistant principal was called in and phone calls were made to her mother, or the altercation over something at one of her birthday parties where again she refused to back down and spent time in her room. 
 
There was a meltdown with a coach in under 9’s hockey that led to her spending the rest of the game on the bench, a feat repeated in the 10th grade in JV soccer where she felt the coach was picking on her and a friend and benched them.  The coach held out an olive branch – but of course Jilly outlasted her and sat in silence (well that part is probably debatable) on the bench for the entire game!  Given this game was in Kansas (well not literally – but close) and we had no idea what was going on, needless to say, we were not completely amused.  There was one time I remember I made the mistake of offering her a choice – between a nap or a spanking.  She without a moment’s hesitation asked for the spanking.  It is so hard not to laugh at Jillian at the most inappropriate moment in terms of parenting!  One thing is for sure – she has a mind of her own and just like her big sister – she will make her own decisions.



The great depth of strength and determination also shows up in some great ways.  She excels in school and really – most anything she puts her hand to.  This is a little different to Mallory, who also always does well, but has little time for things she does not find interesting.  Hockey of course outside of academics is clearly one of her passions – from the very earliest of days.  She was so disappointed when she went to the local club with a friend from across the street only to be told she was too young and needed to wait a year.  That young boy now plays for Australian age teams – so clearly the advantage of that year was significant!  But start the next year she did and they were oh so cute!  Her second year was of course the worst year of her life – I was her coach and Joy was her teacher in school.  Now of course she plays on arguably the strongest team Colorado has seen in high school completion for some years and is pondering options to keep playing even in college.


And so while she is about to turn 16 and become all grown up, we are glad that she like her big sister has grown into a beautiful young lady.  She is passionate, graceful – when she chooses to be, full of life, and always enjoys doing things with family and friends.  She loves for example babysitting her youngest cousins  - who of course adore her.  She also loves hanging out with friends and has really found her own voice.



Jillian, you have made the first 16 years of your life so memorable – we can’t wait to see what lies in store.  You may be little in stature, but you live life so much larger!


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Reagan Was Right


Yes, you heard me – Ronald Reagan was right…
“We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the law-breaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”
Ronald Reagan; July 31, 1968
 

At some point we either take actions that make sense and stop this carnage – or our actions are to continue to stick hour heads in the sand and pretend that wholesale and rapidly increasing ownership of handguns and so called “assault style” weapons, instruments with no purpose other than killing other people is OK.  Pretend that there is no connection to the gun violence inflicted in this country at a much higher rate than any other modern industrialized nation.
 
But here’s the thing.  YOU are responsible for your actions – one way or the other, YOU are also accountable.


And so in a week where a young Australian was shot in the back and killed because his murderers were bored, where tragedy was averted by a brave (unarmed) woman talking a heavily armed gunman who invaded an Atlanta school, now there is this.  A toddler was killed by his own grandfather claiming he was acting in self-defense (from the toddlers father, not the toddler – obviously).  Of course I am glossing over the 200 or so (based on average of 10,000 deaths a year) other lives that will be lost this week in this senseless and largely preventable carnage.



The caption on this image from the Atlanta shool incident published by CNN read:
A child peers out the window of a school bus as the children are returned to their parents at a nearby shopping center Tuesday afternoon.
 





Thankfully this little girl and all the other teachers and children survived this incident.  But can their lives ever be the same?  Will their families lives ever be the same.  Perhaps for some, some sense of normalcy will return, but for some, perhaps many, I wonder...


Reagan also said:
“There can be no real peace while one American is dying some place in the world for the rest of us.”

So if a child here or there, has to die as collateral damage while the “rest of us” maintain our so called "freedoms" (often also referred to as "rights", and unfathomably to me by some who profess the same faith I hold dear, "God given"), I think it is fair to say, there is no peace.  One thing for sure is that there is no justice.



Epilogue.
I’m sorry if you feel this is a theme that dominates what I've had to say lately.  I really would rather I was finishing up some other things I’ve been writing of late.  Probably half of what I write I never share publicly.  The writing itself is the catharsis I need.  I wrote a lot on this yesterday and that was enough, I was spent.  But these stories sadly  keep coming…
One thought as I sat on my deck last night enjoying the glow of the almost full moon was how lucky I am to live here with my peace and quiet, and then a conversation with someone on the shooting of the young Australian led me to realize I live in a fools paradise.  Columbine High School is less than three miles from my door.  And although in some ways it seems on the other side of the country, the site of the tragedy at the cinema in Aurora last year is just over twenty miles away.


 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Many sides to every story


Vacations are great!  I find time to read, an old familiar pastime too often elusive these recent years.
I just finished a fascinating book providing a history of an Apache massacre.  Before you misread that, this was a massacre of approximately 150 Apache people - many women and children.  The massacre is known as the Camp Grant Massacre (or “affair” depending on who was describing it).  The book was written as a history of 4 different people groups involved so explored the incident from the different perspectives.  It was not an easy read, but it was a different presentation in terms of structure and well written, consequently, it was not hard to read either.
But the actual story I was reading notwithstanding - think about how many conflicts involve a number of points of view.  Especially those that go on for many years, decades, even generations.  And then let this closing paragraph from the book soak in to your consciousness.  Let is wash over your soul.  Think about how this might fit in the conflicts in your life and relationships.
“Given the obstacles to merging these fragile and diverse forms of storytelling into a single tale, it is, paradoxically, by venturing in the opposite direction -- by listening for the silences between accounts; by discovering what each genre of recordkeeping cannot tell us -- that we can capture most fully the human struggle to understand our elusive past. What this past asks of us in return is a willingness to recount all our stories -- our darkest tales as well as our most inspiring ones -- and to ponder those stories that violence has silenced forever. For until we recognize our shared capacity for inhumanity, how can we ever hope to tell stories of our mutual humanity?”
― Karl Jacoby, Shadows at Dawn: A Borderlands Massacre and the Violence of History
 
Interestingly I was in Tucson just over a week ago. I looked at a map to see if I could perhaps find my way over to Aravaipa Canyon (site of the massacre) early in the morning before we had to set off to the meetings of the day. I realized quickly that it was a good hour from where I was staying, and that was not practical.  But I hope one day soon when I am back in Tucson, to be there at dawn and listen for the silence.
 
"To the Lakota, to the Indian,
        when you listen, you're praying.
                That's a form of prayer, when you listen."
- Russell Means

Related theme in a fashion... 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Jubilee



Joy and I enjoyed a little road trip this past week.  By little, I’m talking just under 1,800 miles.  We slogged our way through something close to a blizzard the first morning but nothing was going to stop us from making it to Albuquerque to spend some time with our oldest who has almost finished her first year of university studies there (that can’t be right can it???).  We enjoyed a few days with her and her fabulous friends and then on Tuesday headed across to the eastern border of the state to where Joy’s brother John lives in Clovis.  

As fortune would have it, when Joy changed out the CD’s, one that was stuffed in the door of the car was Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Stones In The Road” album.  I think Chapin Carpenter is a fantastic artist, that rare combination of musician, poet and storyteller that appeals perfectly to me on almost any day.  One of my favorite Chapin Carpenter songs, Jubilee, is on this album.  Halfway into an 1,800 mile drive leaves you a little time to meditate on certain themes.  And so this little post in the nexus of those musings and the celebration today of Easter.  I posted fragments on FaceBook, but perhaps this will be more coherent – perhaps not – and that’s OK too.

The day draws to a close... and soon Easter overwhelms us.  The words of a poem from Mary Chapin Carpenter are ringing Easter in for me this year.
I can tell by the way you're walking

That you don't want company

I'll let you alone and I'll let you walk on

And in your own good time you'll be



Back where the sun can find you

Under the wise wishing tree

And with all of them made we'll lie under the shade

And call it a jubilee


The idea of jubilee is to me an important element of the Easter mystery. Something that makes no sense certainly in our culture, and probably made no more sense thousands of years ago... NO ONE should permanently lose their inheritance. 

For those not familiar with the Judeo-Christian notion of jubilee it was originally a year at the end (or beginning perhaps) of a 50 year cycle – the year of jubilee.  In this year of jubilee all Israelites who had sold themselves into slavery were set free, and all land that had been sold reverted to its original owners. In practical terms then, this ensured that no Israelite could ever be in permanent slavery; nor could any Israelite permanently lose his inheritance.   If you’ve never heard of this concept before, it probably seems rather odd, and likely it is.  It may in fact be quite a stretch to refer to it as a Judeo-Christian idea as we see little evidence of it in the modern church or societies that have strong Judeo-Christian roots.  It is certainly fair to say that then as now, this practice was RADICAL!

The poem continues...
And I can tell by the way you're talking

That the past isn't letting you go

But there's only so long you can take it all on

And then the wrong's gotta be on its own



And when you're ready to leave it behind you

You'll look back, and all that you'll see

Is the wreckage and rust that you left in the dust

On your way to the jubilee

...
 
Jubilee to me is more that the big picture. We like the idea that there are big solutions, that government in particular can tackle the big problems, and indeed as we have seen just this week, that large social issues of our time and provide a sweeping solution – a “New Deal”, a “Grand Bargain”.  And to some extent this may be true, yet I’ve always struggled a little with it.  For redemption is and always has been, personal - something we need to figure out one with another as much as with our creator.  When someone else provides a sweeping one size fits all solution, we lose the intimacy, we lose the personal connection.  

As an example, a few years ago, the government of my homeland Australia issued an apology to the “Stolen Generations” of our Aboriginal people.  I’m not going to go into detail of what all that means - most of you unfamiliar probably get the gist of it and by all means look it up.  But part of me struggled with this.  And not because I did not think the apology was warranted, for indeed it was, and for what it was, in reality as little more than words, was largely symbolic.  It was too little, too late.  My discord was that for too many, this sweeping gesture took care of the issue; put it behind “us”, in an impersonal and distant way.  It conveniently avoids the requirement for personal responsibility.

Each of us needs to be able to come to terms with our own life, its past and our present.  Then and only then can we begin the process of moving forward into something new, something radically different from that past.

And so continuing on the theme with this beautiful poem
And I can tell by the way you're listening

That you're still expecting to hear

Your name being called like a summons to all

Who have failed to account for their doubts and their fears



They can't add up to much without you

And so if it were just up to me

I'd take hold of your hand, saying come hear the band

Play your song at the jubilee

...

But here’s the amazing thing about moving on.  To some degree, we can do it on our own.  But there is almost always a better way.  We are communal in nature – it is part of our DNA.  As afraid as we are that our shortcomings will be apparent to others, we have within us, most of us anyway, an innate compassion that would extend a hand to help someone just like us – if they only were willing to reach out for help in the first place.  Being able to reach out though, to take that first step is hard.  And sometimes, that helping hand can only come from our creator God, whose desire for communion with us was so great it collided with human history culminating with Easter.

Continuing with the poem…
And I can tell by the way you're searching

For something you can't even name

That you haven't been able to come to the table

Simply glad that you came



And when you feel like this try to imagine

That we're all like frail boats on the sea

Just scanning the night for that great guiding light

Announcing the jubilee

...
 
Grace to me is also key to jubilee, and something else we struggle with, that idea that we can receive from someone else something we don't deserve.  To me this builds on the previous verse.  We struggle so much sometimes to see ourselves as worthy.  I think this often begins with ourselves, the messed up idea that we are not worth the effort.  Something has got messed up to where we can’t even value or love ourselves.  This for sure precludes going beyond that, but for sure it just gets harder sometimes even if we feel OK about ourselves, to see ourselves as of value to others, worthy of love from others, and certainly of value or deserving of the love of the God who created us – and yet we are.  So much more than we could ever imagine.

And the poem closes
And I can tell by the way you're standing

With your eyes filling with tears

That it's habit alone keeps you turning for home

Even though your home is right here



Where the people who love you are gathered

Under the wise wishing tree

May we all be considered then straight on delivered

Down to the jubilee



'Cause the people who love you are waiting

And they'll wait just as long as need be

When we look back and say those were halcyon days

We're talking 'bout jubilee



Friday, March 1, 2013

Love always...

And so for some, you will have received this in hard-copy already - well with one minor modification - Joy felt the reference to "annus horribilis" was out of place.  I'm OK with that - it's a part of my colonial heritage I suppose.  But this is my blog so the original version gets a run - for good or ill.  And being a blog, I get to toss in a few extra pictures.



Seems late the day before Christmas Eve to begin writing our family Christmas letter, but our fabulous family photographer and friend will be home from Oman right after Christmas and so we decided to send out New Years greetings.  If you are not used to the Christensen family doing things differently, then why the heck are you receiving this – you obviously are not that familiar with us.


 I’ve been mulling what to say for a few days, and to be honest, it’s been hard.  The many tragic events in the US and wider world this year, especially with one so close to Christmas have torn at me.  I’ve written about them elsewhere so won’t dwell on them or my feelings about them here – a Christmas/New Years epistle seems after all not the place – unless of course you are the Queen.  But that notwithstanding, this year I go a different way…


For this year has not been “annus horribilis”.  From the prologue of Love Actually, one of our favorite Christmas movies:

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaking suspicion... love actually is all around.


In the times we’ve spent with family and friends there has been a lot of love AND a lot to love for us this year.  These things give us hope and joy.  Our girls have had continued to amaze us as they have grown. 


Mallory graduated after an amazing four years of high school and has not missed a beat in the transition to university.  Overnight, a year of lasts turned into a year of firsts.  As always her life is full of great people and so while she is sorely missed around the house she is making her way in the world as we have always wish for and known she would.  Nonetheless, there are days we will always remember; senior prom, graduation ceremony and backyard party, and that sad/happy day she walked off through security on her way to university.


Jillian also continues to grow and find her voice.  She loves life and somehow finds time to balance hanging out with friends, sport and schoolwork.  Being Jillian, she still enjoys a little down time in the quiet coziness of her own room also, although that space has expanded some having commandeered most of Mallory’s room and closet space.  Sport remains one of her passions with the thrill we all got to share in as she and her very young hockey teammates made a statement going undefeated and taking the Colorado high school state 
championship in the fall.         






Joy and I continue to marvel at all the events in our lives and the great friends we get to share them with.  Of course we miss the dear friends we have made in other places we have lived, but are enjoying life and this season here in Colorado.  I think we both can relate to Mary in the Christmas narrative by Luke:

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Our love to you, and lifes blessings also for 2013.