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Friday, December 12, 2008


As a young man of 18 who had recently graduated from a small town high school, I had to adjust to life in the big city and to the realization that I was not in fact the smartest person in the world. I needed somebody to share the rest of my life, my innermost thoughts and know my intimate details. Someone who'd stand by my side and give me support and in return she'd get my support. She would listen to me when I would speak about the world we live in and life in general, though my views may have been wrong; they may even have been perverted, she'd hear me out and not easily be converted to my way of thinking. In fact she'll often disagree, but at the end of it all, she would understand me.

I needed somebody who cared for me passionately, with every thought and with every breath. Someone who'd help me see things in a different light--all the things I detested I would almost like. I didn't want to be tied to anyone's strings; I carefully tried to steer clear of those things. But when I'm asleep, I want somebody who will put her arms around me and kiss me tenderly.

Though things like this make me sick, in a case like this I'll get away with it, because not too long after arriving in Evanston, I found that somebody I needed, and sixteen years ago we made things official.

Happy Anniversary, Pat.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Second Meeting of CCJM

Tonight we had the second meeting of Chalice Christian Justice Ministries. We developed five criteria for evaluating issues that we may venture into. We want to address an issue that Chalice is not currently addressing. It should be an issue about which we have a passion. Although there can be an outreach/charity component of the issue, it should be primarily about justice rather than charity. It should be an issue about which we can have a deep understanding of why we are speaking to the issue and how it connects to the gospel. Finally, it should be something on which we can have an impact; something we can have measurable success.

Below is my representation of the various issues we are considering and the categories we put those issues into. Another major theme of the evening was the recognition that participation in this process will change us. That such adventures are not just about helping some other. We talked about the deep connection to spirituality that we can find in working for justice in any of these areas.

NOTE: You can click on the image if you can't read the diagram.

Interior Secretary

This post is off topic because, while political in nature, it is really just about a guy I admire. I learned that Kevin Gover is on the list for Interior Secretary. I Professor Gover for Administrative Law at ASU. He was one of my favorite professors. He is intellectually honest--willing to explore ideas that contradict his own. He also has a big picture view of the administrative state the United States has become. Finally, his is a reserved demeanor like many of the other Obama nominees; something I've heard criticized. In this politico story, Representative Grijalva of Arizona suggests this is a reason Gover might not be up to the task.

I know nothing of Grijalva or the other front runner's qualifications. But the image of a federal government full of level headed pragmatist, given to finding answers rather than grandstanding, is one I can live with.

Reminds me of this public service announcement from Obama.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Looking at Isaiah

I'm just thinking out blog on this, but here is how I restructured the Isaiah passage for this Sunday:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, (A)
because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. (A)
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, (B)
to proclaim freedom for the captives (B)
and release from darkness for the prisoners, (B)
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor (C)
and the day of vengeance of our God, (C)

to comfort all who mourn, (D)
and provide for those who grieve in Zion (D)—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, (E)
the oil of gladness instead of mourning, (E)
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. (E)
They will be called oaks of righteousness, (F)
a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. (F)

They will rebuild the ancient ruins (G)
and restore the places long devastated; (G)
they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. (G)
. . .
"For I, the LORD, love justice; (H)
I hate robbery and iniquity. (H)
In my faithfulness I will reward them (I)
and make an everlasting covenant with them. (I)

Their descendants will be known among the nations (J)
and their offspring among the peoples. (J)
All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed." (J)

I delight greatly in the LORD; (K)
my soul rejoices in my God. (K)
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation (L)
and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, (L)
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, (M)
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (M)

For as the soil makes the sprout come up (N)
and a garden causes seeds to grow, (N)
so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. (N)
I've read that Hebrew verse often repeats entire thoughts, like here with "rebuild the ancient ruins and resotr the places long devestated." Ancient ruins are places that have been long devestated. So, I broke this up to identify such repeated thoughts. The first set of 2-3-2 is about those oppressed by society, the poor, the captive, the prisoners. They get vengeance. The next set of 2-3-2 is for mourners. They get to be seen in splendor. Then comes a triplet, where the last is longer than the first two about restoring cities.

Then we get a 2-2-3 about how much God loves just and hate injustice an is building a new nation. Then we get a 2-2-2-3 about how Isaiah loves God and how God is building a new nation.

Summary: Good news for the outcast and those who mourn, God is helping them out. Good news for the nation, God is helping it out.

Why do I believe in God?

I believe in God because I have felt the presence of God. I have been moved by God while looking in to the eyes of the Elder at Chalice saying, "The body of Christ, the cup of Salvation." I have been moved by God when filling a water tank in the Sonoran desert. I have been moved by God when I spied an old friend at my father's funeral.

I recognize the presence of God with the same power of perception that shows me Love and Beauty. My physical senses provided the data, but Love and Beauty are present at another level of abstraction. The physical world is like a carrier wave; Love, Beauty, and God are like messages carried on it.

A radio signal can be fully described, in some sense, by a Time-Frequency or Time-Amplitude plot. But if there is a message encoded on the signal, then there is more to be known about the signal than the particular modulations of the frequency or amplitude.

Likewise, the human experience is more than a series of electro-chemical reactions. Life is different from non-life. To reduce all human existence down to the physical world leaves no room for the Soul which observes super-natural things like Love, Beauty and God. Now, there is no physical, or natural, evidence of supernatural things. But my explanation of a world that is more than the natural world better fits my experience than a world that is only physical.

Sam Harris recognizes the need to feed the soul, although he thinks irrational religions are not the way to do it. I've witnessed much suffering and loneliness among those who neglect their non-physical selves. But what about my friends who profess to only believe in the physical world, but are happy? It is a bit of a conundrum for me; as my faith is a conundrum for them.