And Coming...

"She-Bear in the Beautiful Garden" is an allegory for children of all ages, written and illustrated by Ellen Gillette. Order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or at

Sunday, October 30, 2011

October 30, 2011 Occupying

I'll admit it. I haven't studied the whole "Occupy Wall Street" movement in depth. I did listen to a Dave Ramsey show in which he invited OWS supporters to call in and explain their personal reasons for joining and frankly, I was unimpressed. Every caller was angry about something, but not a single one, even the more articulate angry people (AAP), could offer a suggestion as to resolving the issues that angered him. And I say "him" in the specific, rather than the sexist, sense as every caller I heard was male.

I gather than some people are supportive for that very reason, however: anger is good. It means people are thinking. It means people are asking Important Questions. It means people are doing something.

It just feels like a lot of what they are doing is throwing a tantrum, making a mess where they decide to camp, and messing with law enforcement. It grieved me to read that Scott Olsen, a soldier who served in Iraq, was injured in an OWS/police confrontation, but it grieved me even more that people were blaming the police! Whatever your politics, when the po-po says you've got to stop, you'd better stop, or be willing to sacrifice along the lines of Mohandas K. Gandhi's civil disobedience in India. (There are conflicting reports as to who threw what, but you don't want to see anyone hurt when it could so easily be avoided.)

Note: Gandhi did not throw things, or yell, or spit, or litter. He discouraged anything of the sort. The principal of ahimsa, or nonviolence, pulled the rug out from under Great Britain and achieved the unthinkable--complete independence for India. It was achieved, not by a group of loud, complaining radicals calling themselves Occupy Delhi, but by dedicated people willing to lay down their lives for a just cause.

I just don't think Gandhi would have been there with the Canadian-started OWS. I don't think they would have asked him to speak, because he would have fussed about their behavior. And that alone makes me uncomfortable.

Do we have serious problems in the financial sector of the United States? Absolutely. Is there unjustifiable polarization between the have's and the have not's? Again, yes. The Bible even has something to say about this, although I have yet to hear an OWS quote James 5 (NIV):

 1 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. 2Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.6 You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.
Them's fightin' words! Pretty strong stuff for those who use their wealth irresponsibly and immorally. Those words serve as a warning to all who oppress the less-fortunate -- justice will come eventually. If nothing else, there is the fact that no one, not Howard Hughes, not Bill Gates, not the Donald, not the sheik, no one, gets out of this place alive. We will all die, all face a final judgment. All debts against God will be paid, whether by standing before the throne and saying, "Well, yes, I was a monumental sinner and screw-up, but I think Jesus has something to say now..." at which point our Advocate takes over, reminding the Father that he already paid for the the sins in question....or by eternal suffering and separation from a loving God.

So there's THAT aspect of what-goes-around-comes-around for the screw-ups of Wall Street (and every other street, for that matter) to bear in mind, but there are also peaceful, workable solutions possible that don't involve littering city streets and engaging in violence toward law enforcement.

And the anger aspect? Aside from the fact that it is bad publicity, there is a time for anger according to this verse:
BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:25, NASV).
We are made in God's image, and God gets angry. I won't list them, but God's wrath against the wicked, God's anger at unrighteousness, it's all there. Look it up. Jesus himself, whom I've never pictured as the anemic meek-and-mild character hung on many Sunday school walls, took a whip to the money-changers who defiled the temple. Sometimes, anger is the reasonable response.

OWS has every right to be angry. So do you. So do I. Our government has failed us in many ways. Financial gurus have created a culture of debt, but whose responsibility is it when we purchase on credit and wind up paying high interest on sums twice, thrice, the original amount we borrowed? That's no one's fault but our own.

OWS (and all the rest of us) have valid reasons for being angry. They have valid concerns -- I'm always skeptical of "demands," especially when the demander has no way to enforce them -- but there are better ways of affecting change than costing the New York Police Department millions of dollars in overtime, and creating a colossal mess in the process. If their motives were all that great and they were themselves obeying the laws of the land, they wouldn't require all that policing. Or, if they were like Gandhi, they would sit there silently and take whatever came. That would, at least, have more impact on the nation.

The question is: does OWS really want change? Or just attention?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

October 2, 2011 Happy New Year!

Anyone who follows this blog know that it is unlikely I am three months early with anything. Not that I am habitually late with this blog, or anything. Habitually is a harsh word, in my opinion. I prefer "tendency," as in I have a tendency to veer off the self-prescribed two week period between blogs.

I refer not to New Year's Day, January 1, 2012, but the New Year 5772 on the Jewish calendar which fell on Thursday, September 29 on the "regular" calendar, the 1st of Tishri on the Jewish one. Also known as Rosh Hashana, the "head of the year," the differences go beyond the date. Rosh Hashana marks not only the beginning of the calendar year, but the beginning of the 10 days of repentance ending with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is a time of celebration, of acknowledging God's kingship over one's life, but it is also a time of introspection and confession.

Typically, Americans spend New Year's Eve at parties or sitting up watching the ball drop in Times Square on television. The more spiritual segment of society  might pass the night at a watch service, in prayer for the people partying their lives away. On New Year's Day in the South, at least, greens and black eyed peas (the food, not the band) are customary in many homes. Some people write a list of resolutions.

My personal, fairly ironclad New Year's tradition involves going to sleep at the normal hour on December 31 and waking up January 1. The past few years, I enjoyed a mimosa brunch with some of the folks at Lillington Presbyterian Church in North Carolina followed by a devotional. This year, I will probably have to pass, having moved back to Florida. More mimosas for everyone else!

I had the pleasure of attending an Ev Rosh Hashanah service last week. There were readings in Hebrew and English, Israeli-flavored worship dancing, singing, prayer, and the blowing of the shofar, or ram's horn. There is something about that lone, ancient sound that goes straight to the heart.

After the service, we ate the traditional challah bread with...bleh....grape juice. Did I mention this was a messianic synagogue's service? Perhaps that is the reason God's original fruit of the vine (wine!) was neglected. At any rate, prayers were said in thanksgiving for grain and vine, as well as for fruit. Apples with honey were included. I doubt anyone minded that the customary fish or ram's head was overlooked.

The following day, there was to be a service at a local river park, which I did not attend. Stones would be gathered representing a particular sin in one's life to be cast into the water, symbolic of God's promise in Micah 7:19 to cast our sins into the "sea of forgetfulness."

So with all this going on, I have been thinking about forgiveness, and the idea that we are fairly clueless about the scope and depth of God's forgiveness, perhaps because we have such trouble forgiving others and ourselves. Do we really believe, as the story goes, that when we have asked for God's forgiveness and then...still feeling guilty... ask again, he says, "What are you talking about?" Do we really believe that Jesus died not only to erase the eternal power of the sin nature we inherited at birth but also each and every sin that each and every person had ever and would ever commit? Do we really believe that forgiveness is not only available but freely given to all who ask for it? Could it possibly be that simple? That Jesus, knowing we were unable to live righteously, offered himself as a sacrifice for our collective sin/sins, once for all, and that it isn't so much our asking God to forgive us, but our own acceptance of what he has already done?

We all have regrets, things we should not have said or done or thought. Things we wanted to do enough to carry them out, fully realizing  that they were wrong and potentially hurtful to others. Things that were contrary to God's Law, maybe even man's. While I can think of a multitude of things I have done that were wrong, I can think of a few things I was guilty of that have never been completely forgiven by those I hurt. Occasionally, past mistakes still haunt through the helpful "reminders" of others who can't, or won't, let go. It is a good reminder to me, when this happens, to check my own heart: Have I forgiven him, her? Is there anything between this person and me? We need to forgive if only because we need it ourselves so very often.

Maybe you, like me, have not been forgiven by someone you wronged, or who believes that you wronged them. That is not God's heart. God is love, and love "keeps no record of being wronged," according to 1 Corinthians 13 (New Living Translation). The blood of Jesus covers completely. The work of the Cross paid the price for whatever I've done or will do. Whatever you have done. Whatever, I would remind you gently, of whatever will be done to you as well.

May each of us, in the New Year of 5772 (or the New Year of 2012 in a few months) let the truth of God's forgiveness become more alive in our hearts. May we offer forgiveness more freely to those around us, conscious of the fact that we each have need of God's forgiveness on a daily basis. And may we stop beating ourselves up for past stupidity! 

And stop allowing others to make us continue to pay for things even God has forgotten.