No Further

High angle of rocky cliff covered with green plants and moss located on shore of wavy ocean on dull day
Harry Cooke at Pexels

No further

The edge is within reach

Nothing lies beyond

Except the deep

How have you arrived here?

Your options to limit

Shall you go forward

Or shall you pause for a minute?

You can turn and retreat

Retracing your steps

Perhaps you can revisit some past regrets

Whatever the choice – the decision’s up to you

Whether onward to the edge

Or back to see past places anew


Padre

Beyond Preference

Woman, Model, Food, Drink, Coffee
Pixabay

Tea or coffee?

To stay or to go?

Do you like sunshine,

Or do you prefer snow?

When by choices confronted

That are just matters of taste

It’s easy to decide

And to do so with haste

But when the choices are more weighty

Our preferences aside

We tend towards safety

Even if the option’s despised

Afraid to go for our preference anyway

Lest bad things transpire, we’d rather be wise


Padre

FOWC with Fandango — Preference

On The Fence

Sitting on the fence

Trying to decide

To in the garden stay

Or explore the world – wide

We to have decisions

That we have to make

We often wait a bit too long

Trying to avoid mistakes

But in these troubled times

That we find ourselves within

Sitting on fences

May help the wrong cause to win.

 

Padre

 

 

The Decision

Arlington House National Park Service.jpg

image – Public Domain

What does loyalty to one’s country mean?  What sacrifices need to be made to uphold honour?  And what does “one’s country” even mean?

The fifty-seven year old Army engineer pondered – no agonised over these questions.   He paced, fretted, and then sat to write a letter.  Colonel Robert Lee, had made up his mind.  Loyalty for one’s country requires sacrificing one’s own life for it.  Honour demands it.  Loyalty to one’s country – your home, the “state” is greater than some vague “national ideal.”

Lee would serve Virginia, not the union of other states.  He finished his resignation letter from the US Army, had left Arlington House for the vary last time.  He was going to Richmond, and his destiny.

(117 Words)

Padre

What Pegman Saw – Arlington, Virginia/Washington, D. C.

Holy Intentions?

Bench, Church, Indoors, Nun, People

Image by Pexels from Pixabay 

 

“Tell me honestly, My child, why have you come here?” the mother superior asked kindly.

“I wanted –  want to be a nun,” Regina responded.

“Do you feel you have a vocation?” the senior nun asked.

“Like a call from God?” Regina asked. “I’m not sure.  But it feels right.”

“How so?” the mother superior asked.

“I feel that I can ‘belong’ here,” the aspiring sister said.

“Don’t you ‘belong’ in your family and community?” the superior queried.

“No, Mother Superior, I have always felt an outsider beyond these walls.”

“Are you running from life, or to God?” the chief nun asked. “Ponder that before our next meeting.  Only when you can give a truthful answer to that can we consider your final vows.”

 

Padre

Christine’s Daily Writing Prompt: Sister Outsider

 

 

Con-fusion

 

I watched a documentary recently about Italian food.  In it, one commentator said, “There is no such thing as bad food, only badly prepared food.” The idea was that any food made with fresh ingredients, and prepared with care, and a little thought is going to be “good.”

Enter the world of fusion food.  Italian food, in a sense is fusion food, it is a blend of tastes and ingredients which were once regional food.  Some of these have melded and adapted within Italy, and others when regional ideas came together in the Americas.

Fusions have taken place in other cuisines as well. Chopped Suey is one such dish.  Its origins are debated.  Some say it was the melding of traditional Chinese cooking techniques to the taste and ingredients of America, others claim it originated in certain provinces of China, then evolved when new ingredients were available in America.  In either case it is a fusion of East and West.

Some fusions just work, others leave us unconvinced. The jury is out on pineapple on pizza for instance.  I personally find it okay, but don’t rush out for it. Others rave about its wonderful taste especially when paired with ham, and others hold that it “is just wrong.”

One of these questionable fusions is Tuna Salad (American usage) or Tuna Mayonnaise (British usage).  In my American experience it is served with canned tuna, diced onion, pickles, often with celery, and occasionally with hard boiled egg; all mixed with mayo.  In England it is tuna and mayo, and often mixed with canned sweet corn. Yes, in America the home of maize, corn is “weird” with your tuna, and in Britain, corn is the way to go. Go figure.

See, fusions foster con-fusions.  The secret again is in the comment in the opening paragraph. Good food is what ever food YOU like. I experiment a lot with ingredients. There are many winners, and some really big losers (I attempted some mint flavoured, butter based fat bombs – in short it was a fail in the way I tried it.  More on that in another post). The bottom line on fusions then is this, mix and match to please you and those you cook for.  If it is soy sauce infused ice cream -great, and if not great also.

Let your palate be your guide.

Padre

A Conflict of Principle(s)?

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Life is full of contradictions. Grey areas are ever present.

“The motion before you is not in principle one to limit access to a voice or platform to anyone.  We fully support the freedom of individuals or organisations to express their consciences and beliefs.  However, if we are to share a platform with individuals which stand in opposition to our own beliefs and principles, let us make it in a forum of structured debate, where we can make our views of opposition clear. All too often people take the view that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  This is not always the case.  While there may be many with whom we share certain views and principles, it does not follow that all of their views may be held by us.  If such varied views are of a neutral nature, then we need not address them.  But, when someone with whom we share a platform with, hold views which we hold to be incorrect, or even abhorrent, we should make it clear, that our presence on the same stage does not suggest we agree with such view.  It may at time require that we refuse to share the platform, and at the minimum due diligence to make sure that our disagreements, are clear. Due diligence also means we should make an effort to know and understand the views of those we stand beside. Colleagues, there may be those here who have reservations about the motion.  We welcome the debate which will follow. But, I am proud to be a member of a union which has laboured and struggled for toleration. I am proud that we are tolerant of difference.  But I am equally proud that in our history, we have shown one intolerance.  We are intolerant of intolerance.  I ask that you support the motion.”

The above is a seconding speech I gave at a trade union conference. It addresses an old problem of alliances, but also of hierarchies of principle.  We make value judgments every day. We prioritise these, and (ideally) follow the paths which promote our “higher” values.

Conformity and pragmatism are ever threats to the above. We (like many politicians) do some “horse trading.” We make alliances but in doing so have to “give” as well as “take.” We justify one action that we might normally eschew in the name of “a greater good,” or as a “necessary compromise.”

The photo for this post is an example. It is of me at an American Civil War reenactment event.  The persona of the “character” is true to the 21st Century me. I am a Southern man. Born in North Carolina, and raised in Maryland by a Kentucky-born father.  I was college educated in Tennessee. I am a Southern man.  But, I am nevertheless a Union man (in this case the Federal Union of the United States).

Add to this I am a Christian and a minister, thus the uniform of a chaplain.

The question I must ponder is, would this have been true in 1861? As a North Carolina born, Maryland reared, Tennessee educated man, would I have “gone North?” I really don’t know. It is the issue of my Christianity which I hope would be the constant in my decision. My belief in the equality of man, and the authority of secular powers, I think would have still led me to the Union cause.

This (if you have noticed there is only one veiled reference to equality) is not thus far a reference to slavery. Again, my Christian, socially liberal, and altruistic 21st Century self hopes and pleads internally that I would have been anti-slavery. My theological position in this modern age clearly states I would. But what of those other influences, including a Tennessee based theological education? Would my understanding be skewed by teaching I might have received in the 1840s or 50s?  I again hope, that a thoughtful reading of God’s word, would overcome the external influences on my mindset.

Now, I have set the stage.  Are we really any different in 2018? Do we diligently explore the scriptures for our answers? No matter where we may be in the political (and social) divide there are some things God makes clear: Black lives do matter, Me Too should mean that I too am respected, cared for, and never harassed or abused.

I may not have total confidence of the pathway my 19th Century self might have followed, but my Christian-self thinks I would do the right thing. As for my 21st Century self, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).”

Padre

The Choice is Ours

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Choices: photo credit – http://jenekapela.com

Sister Joe brought an incredibly powerful word this week. Her focus was on the choices we make as free moral agents, and how these affect our lives and our relationship with God.  She began her message with Daniel 3: 16-17,

 “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.”

Here we have three young Hebrew men, who have been taken from Israel and given positions within the Babylonian Empire.  They are housed, fed, and even renamed by the king, but they go along with it. To a point.

They are then faced with a challenge. The king has made a decree that all must bow to a golden image. They choose to say no.

This idea of human choice, often called free moral agency was in two gardens: Eden and Gethsemane. In the first case, God’s simple command to avoid a single fruit was ignored by choice, leading to the fall of human kind. In the second, Jesus faced the decision as to whether to follow God’s plan and face His own death, or to refuse.  In the end, he chose to obey, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done (Luke 22:42).”

This example of Jesus as a choice maker is consistent throughout the New Testament. When Jesus was tempted in the desert, He three times had to decide between His physical needs, His ego needs, and His ultimate mission, and God’s plan for the same.  In each case He responded with scripture, and yielded to the Father’s plan. The choice, however, was always His own.

This brings us back to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They too had to make a choice of ultimate destiny. They could obey the edict of the king, or follow the first two commandments. Look closely at their words. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up (verses 17-18).”

They would not comply, and they trusted in God to deliver.  And even if not delivered physically, they could rest assured in God’s promise to keep His promise of the covenant, so they were going to keep their side.

The three were indeed punished by the king. But in furnace, they were preserved.  They had chosen obedience to God.  It would have been easy to make a token gesture to appease the king, but they chose integrity! Much as Polycarp would centuries later.

How then do we choose? Sister Joe gave four really great tips on this!

Choose Companions that will encourage and support you in keeping to a positive path. As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17).” If we are to choose wisely, let us surround ourselves with those who do likewise.  The inverse of this is also true, “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character (I Corinthians 15:33).” Be an example of integrity and yo will strengthen others. Resist and avid that which corrupts. These are choices. 

Choose Your Battles wisely. Don’t wear yourself out on things that don’t matter. The three Hebrew youths of Daniel 3 accepted exile from Israel, new names, positions, and more.  But only when it came to things that would truly corrupt their relationship with God, did they make a stand.  Let that be a standard we can hold onto.  Does it glorify God?  Does is help or hurt our relationship? These are the battles to choose.

Choose to PrayRather simple, but profound. We need to choose relationship with the central power in the universe.  You cannot have relationship without communication.  We need to choose to keep this avenue open.

Choose Eternity. Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego chose to follow God’s plan, even at the risk of this life. They saw God’s promise as sufficient. In fact, the El Shaddai, all sufficient God was enough.  How about for us?  Do we cling to the here and now, or for a better hope?

The choices are ours, but in the end, neither Sister Joe, nor I cannot make your decisions. You are a free moral agent.  The choices are yours to make.  How will you choose?

Padre

Thank you Sister Joe for such an amazing message.  It was truly inspiring, and powerful.

Sacrifice is Choice

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We often talk about sacrifice in regards to Remembrance Day or Memorial Day.  Those who made the “ultimate sacrifice” is often referred to. Sacrifice is the surrendering of something of value to you on behalf of others or for a cause. If the thing surrendered (a life, etc) has no value to you, it is not sacrifice.  Placing a pound or dollar into a beggar’s cup or charity bowl, for most of us, is not sacrifice.

Jesus showed this in the Temple with the widow’s mites.

And He [Jesus] looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all;  for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had (Luke 21: 1-4).”

Jesus in noting this, was discounting the offerings of the rich.  No, they were not worthless, or without merit, but they were not sacrificial. The widow’s offering was. Would the world have understood if she gave one mite? Probably so. But God saw her sacrificial heart. She didn’t hold back.

Abraham showed a similar spirit.  He had spent years learning to trust in God. He had obeyed, but often with a parachute plan of his own in place (taking Lot, etc).  But he had come to see as God called him to see. That is why God’s call for the sacrifice of Isaac was so profound.  He was asked to surrender what he saw as his reward for previous obedience. Yet, he was prepared to do it. Not joyfully, but obediently.  Sacrifice was a choice, and he chose God’s path.  The end result was that it was not required of him, and Isaac was spared.

Jesus likewise chose to go the path of sacrifice. The temptations of Luke 4 illustrate this. Jesus is first challenged as a man.  His human need for food is focused on by Satan. Jesus  chooses to focus on His spiritual rather than his physical.  A minor sacrifice, but a sacrifice all the same.

 “And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread. But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written,‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God (verses 3-4).’ 

The devil then offers Jesus a shortcut in His mission.

Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here.  For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,’ and ‘In their hands they shall bear you up Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God (verses 9-12).’ 

Surely, such a spectacle would have made believers of those who doubted Him. But was that as important as the groundwork He was to lay in His ministry to uneducated fishermen, and tax-collectors? He was to spend three years on the road, facing a life in which,  “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head (Luke 9:58).” He again chose the path of sacrifice.

The greatest temptation seems to be a way out of His coming death.

“Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.  And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.  Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.” And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve (Luke 4: 5-8).’ 

The devil essentially says, “all those on Earth are mine.  They have followed the path of sin. Worship me, and I will give them to you.  No death required.”  Jesus again chooses sacrifice, rather than self.  “I will go to the cross rather than worship evil.”

But the path sacrifice is not easy.  Look at Abraham, on the way to sacrifice he saddled the donkey, then cut wood. He was a bit all over the place.  It is like us today starting the engine, then packing the suitcase. Stress, and the expectation of sacrifice can do that. Gethsemane shows this as well. Jesus despite His triumph over Satan in the wilderness, still sought an alternative. “Father, if there is any other way!”  But in the end it was “Your will be done.” He chose sacrifice.

Sacrifice is a choice. What choices will you make today?

Padre

 

Joseph’s Dilemma

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The Angel Gabriel had brought Mary the announcement of her role in God’s plan.  She has accepted the call, but faced now telling her betrothed the news of her pregnancy. He was now placed in a dilemma. His virgin fiancee was with child.  He hadn’t touched her.  She must have cheated.  The law is clear, she should be stoned. But she claims there is an angel involved.  An angel!?! Right! But, maybe.  He loves her.  He doesn’t want her to die.  Maybe a quiet divorce. That might do.

Pastor Vince brought a really thoughtful message on this dilemma which is found in Matthew 1.  Here is a man determined to put his fiancee away quietly.  He literally sleeps on it.  God used the opportunity of his slumber to remove all doubts. “20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.”

Joseph has his own divine intervention.  The angel of the Lord not only upholds Mary’s account, but reveals the meaning of the pregnancy to Joseph. Pastor Vince noted that Mary and Joseph are prototypes in their transformation by the gospel.  Mary of the openness to God’s call, and her surrender to it. Joseph of one who was willing to look beyond skepticism and the “impossibility” of it all, and to accept faith beyond reason.

Joseph’s response to the dream is instant and decisive. He, “raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife.” He also, follows the instructions of the angel, and names his stepson – Jesus!  

There had been a 400 year “silence of heaven” in which there seems to be no prophet in Israel.  We often cite John as the breaker of the silence. But here we have Joseph receiving revelation from God. This revelation provided a testimony of Messiah’s mission, and names to be fulfilled.  Joseph acted on the call as much as Mary did, and they are wonderful models of how we should respond as well.

Thank you Vince, for drawing my focus onto this, it is a great challenge to be ready to answer the call.

Padre