Thursday, June 12, 2014

Always Let My Conscience Be Your Guide

Last week there cam a report that said Americans are learning more from Stephen Colbert, a master of parody, than the actual news. For the last three days, our local news cast has lured us with two relatively noteworthy headlines -- a political upset, multi-car pile ups -- and then revealed, "But today's top story is rain!" Really? When rain is your top story, my hat is off to The Colbert Report.

Jon Stewart is another source of political humor and fact(?)-based satire. I like Stewart; I don't necessarily agree with his views, but they challenge me to think, and he is funny -- I don't care who y'ar.

On Tuesday, the Huffington Post Comedy site featured the headline, "Jon Stewart: Fox News Doesn't Know What a Conscience Is." I took the bait. Stewart shows a clip of what appears to be the set of Fox & Friends, on which co-host Steve Doocy is quoting Bowe Bergdahl's father as having told the officer, shortly before he went missing, "Obey your conscience." The host then goes on to question some "authority" -- on desertion in the military, the Taliban, Jiminy Cricket, I'm not quite sure -- as to Papa Bergdahl's advice. "Doesn't it sound to some like he's telling his son to just go ahead, go do what you want." Stewart pokes, "Yeah, to someone who doesn't know what a conscience is."

Stop! I'm taking the middle ground on this. First, yeah, a conscience is not something that gives you license to "go ahead, go do what you want." Yes, you're right Jon, a conscience is what is supposed to speak us, personally prohibiting us from just doing whatever. This is what I will call the letter of the law.

As for the spirit of the law, what I assume Doocy was trying to say, every conscience is different, personal. For example, Jon, would your conscience bother you if you had casual sex with someone you'd dated for seven months? Not only do I think your conscience wouldn't bother you, but I'm willing to bet you probably wouldn't even call it casual sex -- you'd been together two-hundred seventy+ whole days, after all. My conscience would say, "Wrong! Don't do it." See the difference -- personal.

How about this example, would your conscience bother you if you told your daughter that homosexuality is wrong and you did not condone her current relationship? "I couldn't live with myself!" you might say. Well, Jon, not only would my conscience not bother me, my conscience would compel me.

I certainly do hope we've not vilified an innocent man, as we are wont to do. Political pundits always say things like, "Of course it's all based on the results of the investigation, BUT...," or "He's a traitor, a baby-killer," and then mumble, "We'll I don't want to judge until all the facts are present." But as far as his conscience goes, his conscience is his conscience and is, therefore limited only to what he believes is moral. Conscience, as I believe was Doocy's point, is an unreliable measure of right and wrong. Sometimes it's easy to justify what we do, move the boundaries of conscience just a bit at a time. And it's never the same between any two people. Bergdahl would no more want my conscience to be his guide as I'd want his to be mine.

The Devil Called; He's Holding on to Hillary for a Few More Years

My bedtime is so ridiculously early I don't even want to say -- ok, I'm asleep before the weather -- at 5. But my little adventure this past week allowed me to catch something a little later -- Diane Sawyers' interview with Hillary Clinton. My teachers and professors had always said, "Stay abreast of world events and political activities; it will help you vote more intelligently in elections." With all due respect, politics today are a sham and an offense, and that horse has left the barn. If a politician's lips are moving, he/ she is lying. There are no statesmen/ people or public servants anymore. Diatribe over. However, I must have been feeling particularly self-loathsome and decided to tune in.

After Hill's assertion that Benghazi was certainly not the most dangerous American outpost -- well, definitely top twenty-five -- ok, top fif-- high tens, Diane questioned her on her responsibility. "Well, that's why we hired those people." "I am not qualified for those determinations." Yada, yada. By this time I'm screaming (inside) at the TV, "But they were your people; they are your responsibility! If I have people who work under me, it is my responsibility to monitor, to supervise them, and correct -- even fire -- them, if necessary. If I don't, if they fail miserably, IT'S ON ME!" Still, she refused to accept any responsibility on her part, OR admit to a Presidential race in 2016. Here's the rub, Clinton's book, Hard Choices, was released the following day. In it she says,

"I should have stated my regret sooner and in the plainest, most direct language possible. I held out against using the word mistake. It wasn't because of political expediency. [I]n our culture saying you made a mistake is often taken as weakness when in fact it can be a sign of strength and growth for people and nations." 
First of all, regret is not guilt. She has no intention of accepting guilt or taking responsibility of any kind. Why? Because it's politically convenient. "Yeah, but she sai--" Look what else she says.

Number two, she does not want to be viewed as weak. She did not use the word "mistake" because of some connotation of weakness she believes it holds in the eyes of the American people. Now, I'm not going to speculate what this body, "the American people" believe, but I do know what I believe, and what most of my friends believe. None of us is perfect, and the person who thinks they are, or feels others must believe they are, is conning someone. I know what a mistake is -- and I wouldn't define it as anything other than a misstep or misjudgment. Webster's doesn't either.

Mistake: to understand (something or someone) incorrectly; to make a wrong judgment about (something); to identify (someone or something) incorrectly   
Do we want a superhuman El Presidente? If Hill was so godlike, ran for President and won, she could usurp us all with her divine powers? We would be minions, serfs. Don't we want a representative? Someone who looks like us?

Number three, Ms. Clinton decides we (the Ignorant) all need to know a little bit about mistakes and, I assume she means, the character in the admission of them or wisdom garnered from the experience of it all. If this is indeed what you're saying, I'm with ya, Sister. Just one thing, you still haven't said you've made one.

Oh, and based on the hour I wasted:

I got yer back.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Into the Depths

This post is about the pit of despair, discouragement. I don't like to wallow there, and I'm sure you wouldn't want to read it if I did, but please don't leave, this is not about me, really.

Yesterday morning was bright, beautiful, on the other side of that glass. The weather was warm and the air was fragrant, on the other side of that glass. It was Sunday morning, a day to worship the loving Creator of all things and bask in the fellowship of those like-minded, on the other side of that glass. But this was a different place -- a lonely, sterile and empty place; a place of sickness and even death. And the dear soul in the room next to me was feeling it, as was I.

As I did my devotions, delving into the glorious hope of the book of Revelation, the tears came on in an uncontrollable fury.  Tears of joy? Release from the pent up stress and excitement of the last few days? Some. But most were tears of loneliness, self-pity and hopelessness. The progress of the previous day's rehabilitation seemed all but burned up; there appeared no hope of going home. And there they were, in a place they never should have been, tears. But we are human and God is good. I cried out and He was merciful enough to listen. That's my story, but what of others who are still in that place, a place I believe we all must see from time to time? My "next door neighbor."

She is a Catholic nun, from what I have gathered, not a faithless or untethered woman. Her complaints of "lousy" when asked her condition, her refusal to eat even when bribed with something she enjoys, appear contrary to the faith she lives on the other side of that glass. What is it about a mere three quarters of an inch that can separate us from victory and leave us cloaked in the dust of defeat? What do we do about it? And how, on earth do I keep it from happening to me?

Let's take that last question first, as I think it most obvious. You don't. Next door is a nun, folks. Not that any of that makes her better or more godly than anyone else, but her support system is solid and immense. She's had visitors coming and going -- like-minded visitors -- for days now. She's been encouraged and prodded and reminded and prayed for, and will be until the cows come home. Her career training prepared her for this, and prepared her to be a spiritual icon for others going through this. Never think you can prevent it. If God desires to use it to break you or build you, you will find yourself there.

What is it? A foothold. A foothold that Satan wants and God allows. Three quarters of an inch of glass, separation from those we love by miles, bearing a night on the sofa with a husband who has no love for you, watching that last chance for employment slip away. It manifests itself in all forms, but it is always called "defeat."

Lastly, what to do. My best guess: hold on. Hold on to your faith. Hold on to God's hand. Hold on to others with faith. As I found the verse for the day, yesterday, even more tears fell:

"The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights." ~Habakkuk 3:19
It wasn't instantaneously remedial, but it was hope. It was another, truthful and loving window with which to view the rest of my day. I prayed for God's wisdom, and for Him to show me how He would make this promise true. And I prayed for my neighbor with her sadness so deep and deceitful. "Allow her to see Your hand reaching out to hold her and heal her."

Live obediently and trust that what is found in His Word is true. And hold on. My hope returned throughout the day, but I was walking, talking to others, not simply gazing through a solid, forbidding window. My friend is still in despair, but I know she will hold on. And I pray God will continue to open her eyes to the view from His window.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Never Too Revealing

As I opened my Bible study yesterday morning -- I've been working a bit in Revelation -- a nurse, or tech, or someone came into my room (I tend to lose track, the folks here are so wonderful and attentive). Nevertheless, I hastily shut my notes and laptop; Revelation can be a bit heavy and many folks tend to link it with the zombie apocalypse, the Mayan calendar (I think that's been debunked at this point), even some occultist influences, and certainly the "beyond belief.". Google "Revelation images, " and see what you get.

I've studied Revelation before, and sadly, I tend to forget what a wonderful, hopeful book of prophecy it is! I mean, what does Walt Disney make every year, worldwide? What about the movie or book industry in general? And why worldwide?  Because every human being, everywhere is looking to escape, adventure, and experience. Revelation is all about that -- but for real. Why would people pay good money to visit theme parks or take their family to a night at the movies, but not embrace the free good news of Revelation? If I may, let me just open your eyes to some of the wonders predicted in this book:

Chapter 4, verses 1-5a: "After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, 'Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.' At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder."
A door, standing open to heaven. A mere mortal shown what was to come -- "come up here." Rubies, emeralds, rainbows -- sound familiar, Dorothy? Crowns, and thunder -- I digress. But the wonders are just getting started:

Chapter 4, verses 6b-8: "In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings."
Pretty freaky, huh? But these are creatures of praise. We might be a little intimidated by them if we met them in a dark alley, but if J.K. Rowlings painted them into a tapestry of magic and myth, we'd eat it up. Why do we find the things we'd like to be true, so hard to accept?

I am going to fast forward through all of the punishment and condemnation, as it is my wish for you that you might open the Word of God, believe its truths, and never look at what will befall the wicked as something you need fear.

Let me take you, by way of Scripture, to "A New Heaven and a New Earth:"

Chapter 21, verses 1-5a: "Then I saw 'a new heaven and a new earth,' for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death" or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!'"
Newborns. A new bride on her much anticipated wedding day. The fresh smell of new wood and paint in a brand new home. That new car smell. New! Verse 6 goes on to say, "It is done!" No more tears, or worry, or struggles with depression, or poor health, or marital problems, or addiction. New. Done. Who wouldn't dream of a new beginning or the end of this world's ugliness or brutality? I think the tragedies we witness each day in the news are evidence of people trying desperately to cope with some of the difficulty of daily existence. I think everybody dreams of new. And, lastly:

Chapter 22, verses 1-5: "Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever."

A river of life, flowing, alive, and straight through the middle of the city. Fertilizing, anointing, permeating the soil that the tree of life bears fruit in all seasons -- ripe, delicious and perfect fruit. And the leaves are leaves of healing. Ever feel the cool gel of aloe on your back after a day in the sun? Refreshing and rejuvenating, healing and moisturizing. No curse. Servitude -- the giving of oneself in complete confidence and expectation of another who loves you so deeply He desires to reveal all of Himself to you. Face to face intimacy with the One Who loves you most, Who marks you with His very own seal of acceptance and kinship. No more night. Ever spent the first night alone in a small room in a big house, or a small tent in a big wood? Ever been so alone and worried about the next day, or the next week, or the rest of your new life on your own? Ever felt the sun go down, literally taking your happiness and piece of mind with it? No more night; the Lord God Himself is the light, and we will reign with Him forever!

No need to close the books on this one, and Chapter 22, verse 10 even says so:

"Then he told me, 'Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near.'"
Come, Lord Jesus, come.