Gratitude List 1626

(1) Thankful for the phenomenon known as “sleep” and for a safe place in which to obtain it. On three hours sleep, staring at all those black musical notes on a Finale template, they might as well have been a bunch of flies I was supposed to be swatting. What happened after six more hours of fine, unadulterated sleep? The picture is considerably prettier.

(2) After a good third session of pastoral counseling this afternoon, I find myself thankful for the current overload. At least it’s not an “underload” — an idle brain being the devil’s playground, and all that.

(3) Thankful for a very positive friendship with my one and only daughter. How many dads can claim that they get to talk to their daughters every single day? Maybe more than I know, but I still feel very fortunate, and blessed.

(4) Thankful for the good friends I’ve made and kept throughout my life. About to catch up with my friend Holly down in California by telephone. Good to have friends.

(5) Thankful for the cooler temperatures lately, it being only 58F degrees right now, though it’s three in the afternoon. I no longer have to restrict my daily exercise to the early morning or late evening hours. Looking forward to a nice run, round about four. Life is good. :)

” Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things.” — Philippians 4:8

Faith, Science and Masks

Just had my 8th column published in Spokane Faith and Values.  It’s an effort to find commonality between people of faith and those of science, and to urge all my fellow believers to please wear their masks.  

Science and Masks: Why Christians Ought to Listen

These days more than ever, we find ourselves caught up in talk of an alleged conflict between science and religion. This has been dramatized by the controversy around the issue of wearing a mask. In general, those who wear masks understand and believe the recommendations of the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control. These recommendations are based, in a general way, on findings of science.

In general, those who decline to wear masks are skeptical as to these recommendations. Many people don’t trust science, especially if they are influenced by our current administration.  The president and others in his circle continually downplay the benefits of scientific research. Also, many religious people don’t trust science, on the basis that the One whom we’re supposed to be trusting is God.   

That this distrust should have come about is only natural. Scripture adjures us not even to trust in “man” or our fellow humans, so complete is our understanding of the Divine as being the only One who is worthy. “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the LORD.” – Jeremiah 17:5 NLT.  Ultimately, God is the only One we can completely depend upon and rely on. We should be wary of placing our trust in anything or anyone else, lest we fall prey to idolatry, and make other objects of our devotion more important to us than God.

It is also pretty easy to understand why some scientists may be skeptical of certain religious principles as well as religious people. The principle of faith, so essential to Christian practice, is often presented in such a way as to render it incompatible with reason.  But faith and reason are not mutually exclusive. If faith and reason were mutually exclusive, there would never be a Bible Study. We would never scour the Scriptures in search of wisdom and revelation. For all these matters are gained through reasoning.  “Come, let us reason together,” says the Lord (Isaiah 1:18), Biblical study is not at all an unreasonable pursuit, and it has attracted some of the most intelligent and logical people I’ve known.

But in deference to the skepticism of some scientists, there is also such a thing as “blind faith.” This is the form of “faith” that does not question what it is being told, usually by a human voice that one has come to depend upon for truth.   But no human represents the truth perfectly. In fact, excellent liars are skillful at using the truth to obfuscate their lies. So when a person decides not to wear a mask because they “trust in God, not in science,” it is unconvincing, because the attitude in that facsimile of faith is blinded to any ongoing search for truth.

I once had a job in which my boss had to pick me every morning at a train station and drive me up steep, curvy mountainous roads until we arrived at the job site.  Two things about her driving disturbed me.  First, she drove alarmingly close to the cars in front of us.  Secondly, she never wore a seat belt.

While I of course wore a seat belt, it was small consolation. So I asked her why she had to drive so close to the cars ahead of us.  She told me flat out that because of her faith, we would not get into an accident.

Somehow this was not reassuring.  If she wanted to risk her life in that fashion, that’s one thing. But should I have to die because the person driving me won’t wear a seat belt and won’t stop tailgating? It seems to me that this is analogous to the quandary one finds around the topic of wearing a mask.  I may well never catch the virus, or be harmed by it. But someone a few feet away from me may not be so lucky.  Why should I endanger them by refusing to wear a mask, if it can help them? Similarly, why should my boss have endangered me by refusing to keep a decent distance from the cars in front of us?

It doesn’t seem that to refrain from tailgating is a particularly huge sacrifice to make, when one considers the possibly lethal consequences of tailgating.  Unless one has a medical condition that causes wearing a mask to endanger them, I don’t think that to wear a mask is an unreasonable sacrifice, either. I have found it a mild inconvenience, at worst.

So let’s look at how a scientist will naturally feel when confronted with this disagreeable opinion, having been offered no proof as to why it is believed as firmly as it is, other than the strength of a “faith” that seems subjective and inexplicable at best. If I were a scientist, and somebody told me flat out that to wear a mask was unnecessary — perhaps even ungodly — and that all their scientific research is useless, I would naturally be skeptical, if not insulted.  That person has given me no reason to be persuaded of their position.  

If, on the other hand, the person says something along the lines of: “You know what? I cannot prove the existence of God. But many things have happened in my life that are best explained by the agency of some kind of invisible superpower who is concerned with my affairs, and who pretty much lines up with the biblical description of God.  Would you like to hear what some of these events have been?”

I have never received a scornful response from a scientist when I have introduced my testimony in such a fashion. Worst I get in such a scenario is:  “Perhaps some other time.” But scorn or mockery is not generally received by scientists in such a situation.  

Why not?  Because the scientific method is essentially a search for truth. I frame my Christian conversion as the result of a search for truth, and I tell people that my search for truth has not stopped there — because Jesus is the Truth — and if I am to claim devotion to Him, then I am to continually seek Him.  Otherwise, I fall prey to complacency, and feel falsely that I have “arrived.”  (1 Cor 10:12, Philippians 3:12). 

People may disagree with my characterization of Christ as personifying the truth, but they cannot refute that my Christian experience has come about somehow as the effect of my personal search for truth. Because the scientific method is also a search for truth, it would seem that this commonality is a lot deeper than many of the supposed incompatibilities between religion and science.

At the very least, it’s a starting point. What is sad is when we as believers become so set in our own assessments of current events — often differing not widely from what we hear from our own pastors and from the particular teachers whom we follow — that we blind ourselves to further seeking. We ought all to listen to the well thought-out positions of others, even if — no, especially if — we disagree. 

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I Will Pour Out My Spirit

“Fear not, O land;
be glad and rejoice,
for the LORD has done great things!
Fear not, you beasts of the field,
for the pastures of the wilderness are green;
the tree bears its fruit;
the fig tree and vine give their full yield.

“Be glad, O children of Zion,
and rejoice in the LORD your God,
for he has given the early rain for your vindication;
he has poured down for you abundant rain,
the early and the latter rain, as before.

“The threshing floors shall be full of grain;
the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.

“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the LORD your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I am the LORD your God and there is none else.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.

“And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.

  — Joel 2:21-28 ESV

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The Writing on the Wall

At that moment the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. As the king watched the hand that was writing, his face grew pale and his thoughts so alarmed him that his hips gave way and his knees knocked together.

The king called out for the enchanters, astrologers, and diviners to be brought in, and he said to these wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this inscription and tells me its interpretation will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”

So all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the inscription or interpret it for him. Then King Belshazzar became even more terrified, his face grew even more pale, and his nobles were bewildered.

Hearing the outcry of the king and his nobles, the queen entered the banquet hall. “O king, may you live forever!” she said. “Do not let your thoughts terrify you, or your face grow pale. There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the days of your father he was found to have insight, intelligence, and wisdom like that of the gods.

Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers, and diviners. Your own father, the king, did this because Daniel, the one he named Belteshazzar, was found to have an extraordinary spirit, as well as knowledge, understanding, and the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve difficult problems. Summon Daniel, therefore, and he will give you the interpretation.”

So Daniel was brought before the king, who asked him, “Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah? I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that you have insight, intelligence, and extraordinary wisdom.

Now the wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this inscription and interpret it for me, but they could not give its interpretation. But I have heard about you, that you are able to give interpretations and solve difficult problems. Therefore, if you can read this inscription and give me its interpretation, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”

In response, Daniel said to the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the inscription for the king and interpret it for him. As for you, O king, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness, glory and honor. Because of the greatness that He bestowed on him, the people of every nation and language trembled in fear before him. He killed whom he wished and kept alive whom he wished; he exalted whom he wished and humbled whom he wished.

But when his heart became arrogant and his spirit was hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne, and his glory was taken from him. He was driven away from mankind, and his mind was like that of a beast. He lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like an ox, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until he acknowledged that the Most High God is ruler over the kingdom of mankind, and He sets over it whom He wishes.

But you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this. Instead, you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven. The vessels from His house were brought to you, and as you drank wine from them with your nobles, wives, and concubines, you praised your gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you have failed to glorify the God who holds in His hand your very breath and all your ways.

–Daniel 5:5-23

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For Those Who Make Peace

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 

But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 

Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 

For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 

And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

— James 3:13-18 NRSV

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Vanguard

Between the vestibule and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep
and say, “Spare your people, O Lord,
and make not your heritage a reproach,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’”

Then the Lord became jealous for his land
and had pity on his people.
The Lord answered and said to his people,
“Behold, I am sending to you
grain, wine, and oil,
and you will be satisfied;
and I will no more make you
a reproach among the nations.

“I will remove the northerner far from you,
and drive him into a parched and desolate land,
his vanguard into the eastern sea,
and his rear guard into the western sea;
the stench and foul smell of him will rise,
for he has done great things.”

— Joel 2:17-20

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Gratitude List 1350

Did this one Saturday morning immediately on awakening.   I’m glad I’ve given up the concept of a “morning ritual.”   Things have been working out a lot better with my new “spontaneous” approach.  (Helps with the holiday blues, too).

1. Really interesting, obviously meaningful, vivid dreams.

2. Slept almost 8 hrs between 10:30 and 6:30, getting up briefly at 4 to take my thyroid medication.  Surprised I slept so well and so long.

3. Made it to the Food Bank and this time they gave me coffee too. Walked two big bags home and nothing broke.

4. Heard from T. three times yesterday, like late at night.  She seemed to want to interact, but I was too brain-dead. Then I dreamed about her all night, and it’s interesting that I’ve gotten to No. 4 (doing this first thing on waking up) and still remember the dreams.

5. I even stopped to make coffee in the meantime, and I still remember the dreams.  Moreover, this time the coffee’s at the right strength — it’s Winko’s Classic Roast — and it tastes so good. Nice to have a coffee maker and good coffee, when it’s so cold outside. Nice to be inside. Nice to be out of the cold.

6. Heard from Jennifer, the God Thru the Arts lady, whom I believe is a music teacher back East. She liked my We Three Kings.   Sorta made my night to hear from her.  

7. I don’t seem to have a big urge or craving to smoke, or any desire to go out of my way to get any.  For me, this is a good thing. I just want the issue to be out of the way so I can stop tripping on it and be more effective in life, without it always tugging at me. And that seems to be happening, though I feel a void.

8. Thankful for those two theology groups, and the way I met them just because they were entering the reserved reading room to the right of the Round Table, and I sort of merrily joined in. The one from St. Mark’s has turned out to be a real blessing. 

9. Read all of 1 Peter and 2 Peter when I came home last night. I should read the Bible more, it has a way of making me humble.

10. Okay, so I’ve been depressed lately because it seems I don’t quite know how to love or be loved.  The things that most people seek after escape me.  They don’t interest me; I don’t understand what they think they’re going to receive from all these situations that almost invariably cause them pain.  The dream was all about that too, combined with me being in a stressed out leadership position and winding up crying on some lady’s shoulder at the end. But you wanna know what? It’s my Karma. Time to Embrace It. My lot in life, my portion – could have been a lot more meaningless.  Let God Be My Judge.  I am grateful for who I am.  

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Flagrant

Your hurt is incurable,
and your wound is grievous.
There is none to uphold your cause,
no medicine for your wound,
no healing for you.
All your lovers have forgotten you;
they care nothing for you;
for I have dealt you the blow of an enemy,
the punishment of a merciless foe,
because your guilt is great,
because your sins are flagrant.
Why do you cry out over your hurt?
Your pain is incurable.
Because your guilt is great,
because your sins are flagrant,
I have done these things to you.
Therefore all who devour you shall be devoured,
and all your foes, every one of them, shall go into captivity;
those who plunder you shall be plundered,
and all who prey on you I will make a prey.
For I will restore health to you,
and your wounds I will heal,
declares the LORD.

–Jeremiah 30:12b-17a

 

To Those Who Are at Ease

Woe to those who are at ease in Zion,
and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria,
the notable men of the first of the nations,
to whom the house of Israel comes!
Pass over to Calneh, and see,
and from there go to Hamath the great;
then go down to Gath of the Philistines.
Are you better than these kingdoms?
Or is their territory greater than your territory,
O you who put far away the day of disaster
and bring near the seat of violence?

“Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory
and stretch themselves out on their couches,
and eat lambs from the flock
and calves from the midst of the stall,
who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp
and like David invent for themselves instruments of music,
who drink wine in bowls
and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!
Therefore they shall now be the first of those who go into exile,
and the revelry of those who stretch themselves shall pass away.”

— Amos 6:1-7

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The Noise of the Enemy

I’m posting this psalm for a reason I would be remiss not to state. My PTSD was triggered shortly before Thanksgiving Dinner, and I spent the entire dinner and evening thereafter processing frightening thoughts related to traumas past. In the morning, I was still troubled. Then I opened my Bible to this Psalm, and found that the Psalmist was troubled in the exact same way that I was. So his words became my words, and I was given new hope.

Give ear to my prayer, O God;
and hide not thyself from my supplication!
Attend to me, and answer me;
    I am overcome by my trouble.
I am distraught by the noise of the enemy,
    because of the oppression of the wicked.
For they bring trouble upon me,
    and in anger they cherish enmity against me.

My heart is in anguish within me,
    the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me,
    and horror overwhelms me.
And I say, “O that I had wings like a dove!
    I would fly away and be at rest;
yea, I would wander afar,
    I would lodge in the wilderness,
I would haste to find me a shelter
    from the raging wind and tempest.”

Destroy their plans, O Lord, confuse their tongues;
    for I see violence and strife in the city.
Day and night they go around it
    on its walls;
and mischief and trouble are within it,
ruin is in its midst;
oppression and fraud
    do not depart from its market place.

It is not an enemy who taunts me—
    then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
    then I could hide from him.
But it is you, my equal,
    my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to hold sweet converse together;
    within God’s house we walked in fellowship.
Let death come upon them;
    let them go down to Sheol alive;
    let them go away in terror into their graves.

But I call upon God;
    and the Lord will save me.
Evening and morning and at noon
    I utter my complaint and moan,
    and he will hear my voice.
He will deliver my soul in safety
    from the battle that I wage,
    for many are arrayed against me.
God will give ear, and humble them,
    he who is enthroned from of old;
because they keep no law,
    and do not fear God.

My companion stretched out his hand against his friends,
    he violated his covenant.
His speech was smoother than butter,
    yet war was in his heart;
his words were softer than oil,
    yet they were drawn swords.

Cast your burden on the Lord,
    and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
    the righteous to be moved.

But thou, O God, wilt cast them down
    into the lowest pit;
men of blood and treachery
    shall not live out half their days.
But I will trust in thee.

  –-Psalm 55

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Against Thee Only

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to Your loving devotion;
according to Your great compassion,
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me clean of my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against Thee, against Thee only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in Your sight,
so that You may be proved right when You speak
and blameless when You judge.

Surely I was brought forth in iniquity;
I was sinful when my mother conceived me.
Surely You desire truth in the inmost being;
You teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones You have crushed rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Your presence;
take not Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
and sustain me with a willing spirit.

–Psalm 51:1-12

The Least of These My Brothers

Then the King will tell those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’

“The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in; naked, and you didn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

“Then they will also answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn’t help you?’

“Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to Me.’

–Matthew 25:34-45

Psalm 52

Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man?
     The loving devotion of God endures all day long.
Your tongue devises destruction
     like a sharpened razor.
     O worker of deceit.
You love evil more than good,
    falsehood more than speaking truth.

You love every word that devours,
     O deceitful tongue.
Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin;
     He will snatch you up and tear you away from your tent;
     He will uproot you from the land of the living.

The righteous will see and fear;
     they will mock the evildoer, saying,
Look at the man
     who did not make God his refuge,
but trusted in the abundance of his wealth
     and strengthened himself by destruction.

But I am like an olive tree
     flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in the loving devotion of God
     forever and ever.
I will praise You forever,
     because You have done it.
I will wait on Your name–
     for it is good–
     in the presence of Your saints.

— Psalm 52 BSB

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Rosy

Happy Independence Day, to whomever it may apply.   It applies to me in numerous ways, not the least of which is that I finished  a working script and score to my musical Eden in Babylon on Independence Day, exactly one year ago today.  And now, may I present you with a third version of my song “Rosy.”  This is from last Friday’s open mike.

Andy Pope on the Yamaha at the Open Mike
at the One World Cafe, Friday June 29, 2019.
“Rosy” from In Lies We Trust.
Copyright © 2019 by Andrew Michael Pope.  All Rights Reserved.  

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The Fine Linen She Wears

After this I heard a sound like the roar of a great multitude in heaven, shouting:

“Hallelujah!
        Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.
For His judgments are true and just.
He has judged the great prostitute

who corrupted the earth with her immorality.
        He has avenged the blood of His servants
that was poured out by her hand.”

And a second time they called out:

“Hallelujah!
        Her smoke ascends forever and ever.”

And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down
and worshiped God who sits on the throne, saying:

“Amen, Hallelujah!”

Then a voice came from the throne, saying:

“Praise our God,
        all you who serve Him,
and those who fear Him,
        small and great alike!”

And I heard a sound like the roar of a great multitude,
        like the rushing of many waters,
and like a mighty rumbling of thunder, crying out:

“Hallelujah!
        For our Lord God, the Almighty, reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad.
        give Him the glory.
For the marriage of the Lamb has come,
        and His bride has made herself ready.
She was given clothing of fine linen,
        bright and pure.”

For the fine linen she wears is the righteous acts of the saints.

 — Revelation 19:1-8

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