Category Archives: Blog

Molochizing A Generation

“First Moloch, horrid king, besmear’d with blood
Of human sacrifice, and parents’ tears,
Though for the noise of Drums and Timbrels loud
Their children’s cries unheard,
that pass’d through fire to his grim idol”.
(John Milton: Paradise Lost 1.392-96)

We again are a nation in mourning. Gun violence has brought us another traumatic event, robbed young people of a future, and their parents, the fruit of years of investing and sacrifice towards that future.

“Molochizing” means “to sacrifice”[by passing children through the fire].Looking at anguished faces, of parents who lost children and students who lost classmates brought me to tears and prayers for this younger generation.

May their voices be heard above the “noise of drums”, insert [guns]. Our lawmakers are held hostage by the gun lobbyists who have sold this older generation on the hype about the “5th amendment guarantees us the right to bear arms”. They insist the government can’t infringe on this right. BUT doesn’t every right have a corresponding responsibility?

Since when do we put assault rifles into the hands of eighteen year-olds like the child soldiers of Africa? That’s a lot of dangerous fire power! Making money through gun shows often makes people insane with greed, and the use of reason and common sense is thrown into the garbage just to make a sale.

This generation hoped and expected to be protected by us, the adults in the room, and we have failed them. FBI intelligence has failed us, the citizenry, hoping to be protected by this agency.

May these young people continue to raise their voices in protest marches and testimony. May we have ears to hear the cry of their hearts. And may we join in circling the wagons of protection around them. That’s what parents are supposed to do.

The Super Blue-Blood Moon


The SUPER BLUE BLOOD MOON

I was searching for the right word to describe this rare heavenly event on January 31, 2018 that we haven’t seen for 150 years! The last time this happened was in 1868! It’s interesting to note that the total solar eclipse of 2017 was something that wouldn’t happen again for another 150 years, and so many people traveled to Oregon and parts of the Midwest, some from across the ocean to share in witnessing this phenomenon.

The year 2018 began with another celestial event with many layers of significance: SUPER because it’s closer to the earth’s orbit and appears between 12% to 30% larger and brighter, BLUE because it refers to a full moon at the beginning and end of the month, BLOOD because the total lunar eclipse causes the moon to pass through earth’s shadow and take on a reddish hue.

The lovely old-fashioned word PRETERNATURAL seems to fit the occasion.
“Medieval theologians made a clear distinction between the NATURAL, the PRETERNATURAL and the SUPERNATURAL. Thomas Aquinas argued that the SUPERNATURAL consists in “God’s unmediated actions”; the NATURAL is “what happens always or most of the time”; and the PRETERNATURAL is “what happens rarely, but nonetheless by the agency of created beings…Marvels belong, properly speaking, to the realm of the preternatural.”

Yes, it was marvelous in our eyes It certainly causes us to look up in awe at the precise mechanism of the universe we live in. Scientists relished the moment because they could get more information on the density of moon dust. “The fact that complete eclipses, solar and lunar, occur with the sun and the moon blocking each other perfectly is indeed a wonder, and unique to the Earth. Astronomers refer to this as the ‘Grand Coincidence’: the fact that the sun is exactly 400 times larger than the moon but, since the moon is 400 times closer to the Earth than the sun, the two bodies appear to be the same size. This confluence does not appear on any other known planet”. Rabbis have seen this Blood moon as a warning sign of judgment against the haters of Israel. As Christians we understand that the “last Days” began when Jesus returned to heaven and left us here to be His Body on earth.

In Matthew 24 the disciples asked Jesus, “What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?”. Jesus responded, “Don’t let anyone mislead you….”When we are always looking for signs, instead of focusing on our everyday assignment as Christ followers, we become very susceptible to being deceived. Jesus also said, “No man knows the day or the hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven, or the Son himself. Only the Father knows”.

The important thing for us is to be ready. We can speculate all we want, but we have to acknowledge there is a mystery locked up in heaven’s vault. Let’s keep looking up in wonder and anticipation for God’s perfect timing.
He is PERFECT in all of his ways.

Passport to Paradise


A golden passport needed to travel from this world to paradise.
It contains the following petition written in ancient Greek:I am parched with thirst and am dying; but grant me to drink from the ever-flowing spring. On the right is a white cypress. Who are you? Where are you from? I am a son of earth and starry sky. But my race is heavenly”.

The ancients had no road map, only a shadowy mythical path to the underworld, and they needed to convince the gods of their worthiness to gain immortality, and a place in paradise called the Elysian fields. This passport was buried with them and acted as an amulet against evil spirits they might encounter on their journey.

Images, dreams and visions of a paradise lost and found have always haunted the human race. The longing and hope for its existence has been encoded in our spiritual DNA, our racial memory.

Each New Year I return to a slow meditative reading of Genesis, and this year I added another dimension by listening to it on audio bible. My husband John has listened to the bible for thirty plus years, and gave me one for Christmas! Sound waves of God’s Word have invaded the atmosphere of our home.

I love to trace the roots of our heritage in Genesis describing the first recorded interactions between God and man. A beautiful pattern of relationships emerges connecting me to my spiritual ancestry. This is a golden passport for my earthly journey, guiding me through life’s dark shadows, until I am safely home in heaven, a place God has prepared for all His children.

La Orana Maria

“La Orana Maria”

Paul Gaugin Painting, 1891

Hail, Maori Maria, sturdy as a tree
Lifting the curled branch
Of your son upon sun-stained shoulders
He is still green and growing
Like a vine around your head
Linked together now
By heart-shaped halos for a crown

Poised above a filigreed sapling
An elegant angel guides
Two worshipers dressed in pareas
Baring breasts and folding hands
They hear a prayer Maria sings
As she walks slowly
To the altar filled with fruit
Given by the fathers of the land

Planted in a shadowed garden
Crowded with flowers
Springing up along a violet path
Like memories of a paradise
That cannot, will not last
They walk together now in peace

Mary’s son is the only naked one

His face stares down, and dares us
Come close and make him known
To be uncovered more
His mother’s face turns to us
Serenely cast in a ceramic smile that veils
The cutting words of warning she once heard
The coming sword to pierce her heart
Signs of the terrible beauty she had birthed

Ah, but when he leaps away―
To heal unholy men with love’s embrace
And lay a seal of clay on vacant eyes
Born blind, and when he spears
His fingers into dull ears, and tears
Apart the densities that cannot hear
Cannot bear the truth, and when he bellows
A command, desperate to staunch the stench
Of death, and calls a friend from the abyss
And when he towers above wind and waves
Hemmed in by hungry men, battered by seas

In a fragile fishing boat, and when he’s whipped
And lashed by angry men and fastened to a tree,
A symbol of the curse he bore

Then her Shalom will shatter into wailings
Her stature crumble and collapse
Upon his tattered bloody robe
Thrown down by astonied men upon the stones

Why Poetry Does Matter

Can you see the little blue dot we call home passing before the sun?

Dana Gioia’s book, “Can Poetry Matter?” published in 1992, endeared him to both academic denizens and to the literary world in general. It’s subtitle “Essays on Poetry and American Culture” helped to expose the need of retaining poetry as part of our general culture, not as the microcosm of an exclusive academic subset. He lamented that magazines and newspapers no longer review poetry, and that the National Book Awards no longer includes poetry as a literary category.

I had the pleasure of meeting Dana and his wife Mary at a reading he gave in Angel’s Camp this summer. At dinner he remarked how important music was to him and encouraged us to listen to Morton Lauridsen’s “Lux Aeterna”.He has also written librettos for Opera, and other books of literary criticism.

Dana Gioia is the current poet laureate of California, and has published four widely acclaimed books of poetry, “Daily Horoscope”, “The Gods of Winter”, “Interrogations at Noon”, “Pity the Beautiful” and most recently a collection called “99 Poems”. He is currently a Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at USC in Los Angeles, and confesses he has read poetry for as long as he could read, while his mother often recited verse from memory to him as a child. Perhaps that is why he has inaugurated an important program for schools called “Poetry Out loud”in which students are challenged to recite poems from memory and engage in competition with other schools for significant prizes and scholarships on the state and national level.
“Poetry needs to be liberated from literary criticism. Poems should be memorized, recited and performed. The sheer joy of the art must be emphasized. The pleasure of performance is what first attracts children to poetry, the sensual enjoyment of speaking and hearing the words of the poem. Performance was also the teaching technique that kept poetry vital for centuries. Maybe it also holds the key to poetry’s future”.(p.23)

Gioia describes Poetry as “the art of of using words charged with their utmost meaning”, and warns us “that a society whose intellectual leaders lose the skill to shape, appreciate, and understand the power of language will become the slaves of those who retain it”. And just after WW II George Orwell prophetically announced that “the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language”. (p.20)
Though we can see our language shrinking into sound bites and tweets, and reading actual books becoming an anomaly, let’s infuse the love of poetry into our children and grandchildren by reading to them, and encouraging them to read their favorite poems to us. That will be a most delightful music to our ears.

Freedom is the Air We Breathe

THE CROSS OF JESUS HAS PURCHASED FREEDOM FOR EVERY TRIBE,TONGUE AND NATION

The United States of America is rapidly becoming one of the few countries in the world to allow religious freedom. Here we are free to worship God according to our individual conscience. I recently read a UN report that states 3/4 of the world’s governments prohibit and/or punish individuals from exercising this basic right.

This kind of Freedom is an immense privilege that restricts us only in the way we interact with family, neighbor and friend. How do we handle the truths we hold sacred? Do love and respect constrain us? If not, we inevitably commit the gravest of errors: PRIDE, SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS AND INTOLERANCE resulting in wars, pogroms, ethnic cleansing, hatred, persecutions, fanaticism, and rage against those who don’t think as we do, or who dare to question our standards. There is nothing more dishonoring to God than cruelty done in the name of religion. When EVIL wears the mask of piety, or uses the “God Card” to excuse barbaric mistreatment, the ones who usually pay the price are defenseless women, the elderly and children. I think we have seen more than enough examples of that in our time.

This is an interesting thought: “The doctrine which, from the very first origin of religious dissensions, has been held by bigots of all sects, when condensed into a few words and stripped of rhetorical disguise, is simply this: I am in the right, and you are in the wrong. When you are the stronger, you ought to tolerate me, for it is your duty to tolerate truth; but when I am the stronger, I shall persecute you, for it is my duty to persecute error”.(Thomas Macaulay, poet, historian 1800-1859) In other words, the OPPRESSED becomes the OPPRESSOR.

TRUTH by its very nature doesn’t need defending, nor the sword to enforce it. Truth is defined as: A) 1) the body of real things, events, facts, actuality (2) :the state of being the case :fact (3) :a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality B) a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true truths of thermodynamics C):the body of true statements and propositions 3) a.the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality. b. fidelity to an original or to a standard. Science and Mathematics only work on the premise that there are universal truths underlying the Laws of the universe that are waiting to be discovered.

Our English word for TRUTH comes from a Germanic abstract noun *treuwitho as in TROTH or wedding vow: faithfulness, fidelity, loyalty; veracity, quality of being true; pledge, covenant.
Therefore TRUTH is not necessarily a belief, but an actuality, and integral to a person’s behavior. Both Science and Philosophy attest to the existence of truth, and therefore, the existence of error. Where there is truth there is order, peace, and a rational logic to that order, a harmony that results in beauty and unity of purpose. Where there is error there is chaos, violence, irrationality, and cruelty to one’s fellow man.
There is only one person in all of human history who had the right to claim He was TRUTH INCARNATE….Jesus. And the religious zealots of his day killed him, but could never silence the words of truth He has given to nourish our souls.

The twin gods of Mormonism and Islam

I’ve been reading books on Islam recently: “Seeking Allah, finding Jesus”, and “No God But One”, both by Nabeel Qureshi, (a devout muslim convert to Christianity who recently died at the age of 34 from cancer) in conjunction with some notable books on Mormonism: “Under the Banner of Heaven” by Jon Krakauer (Into Thin Air) and “No Man Knows my History; the life of Joseph Smith”” by Fawn Brodie (biographies of Thomas Jefferson, Richard Nixon).

I was thunderstruck by the similarities I found in each of these religions. Normally one doesn’t say Mormon or Muslim, Joseph Smith or Mohammad in the same breath, but they are rooted in the same unholy spirit, the spirit of Anti-Christ.

Let me explain: (1John 2: 21-23)  I do not write to you because you don’t know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the anti-christ- he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” 

I have also read the Qu’ran and the Book of Mormon to educate myself in the teachings and revelations they propose. They are both filled with skewed biblical borrowings strung together to create a further and final revelation to man.

The Qu’ran, transmitted by the angel “Gabriel”, denies that God has a Son, and that Jesus was only a prophet like Mohammed. The most important fact Mohammed teaches his followers is that Jesus did not die, either by crucifixion, or otherwise, and that someone, possibly Judas, was chosen to take his place on the cross, because Allah ultimately took him to heaven.

The Book of Mormon, transmitted by the angel Moroni, to Joseph Smith, a handsome, charismatic charlatan turned a “hat trick” revelation into a “native” American religion. The golden plates the angel supposedly transcribed were never seen, or found, and Joseph tried to create a “City of God” on earth he was put in jail and hanged for violating young women.

Both Islam and Mormonism denigrate and abuse women, both Mohammed and Joseph Smith had many wives, and both married child brides. The main functions of women were bringing children into the world or being sex slaves; they had no personhood except in those capacities. Mormonism teaches that Adam was God, and that godhood is the ultimate goal for every male, therefore there is no need for a savior. Women can obtain paradise only they submit to a temple marriage arranged by one of the elders.

 

 

 

 

 

People of the Book

Some of the common misconceptions and downright lies that Muslims are taught about Christianity are: 1. The Bible has been corrupted. 2. We serve three gods. 3. God cannot have a son because he isn’t married. 4. Jesus did not die on the Cross. 5. Neither Jesus nor anyone else can pay for our sins.

The Muslim argument centers on the many translations of the Bible we have from Hebrew to Greek, to Latin, to English, with so many different versions. A scholarly response is that we have many original Greek manuscripts from the 2nd C. and dozens more from the 3rd C., and all the current “versions” of the Bible are based on these original manuscripts. And the Qur’an has been translated into many different languages, and still revered as sacred, even though Arabic is the sacred language. Also, the Qur’an honors the Talmud, and the Gospels as sent from God.

The three gods we supposedly serve are Mary, Jesus and God. Mary may have           been in preeminence during the early church, and the terms, “Queen of Heaven” and “Mother of God”were often ascribed to Mary. Yet, the Qur’an devotes an entire chapter to her and the Virgin Birth. The concept of the Trinity (Three persons in One God) is very difficult to discuss until the scriptures are opened to the Muslim mind. They revere Jesus (Issa) as a true prophet from God, and his teachings.

Calling Jesus the “Son of God” is a stumbling block to Muslims. Yet, the Qur’an states unequivocally that Jesus was born sinless, and conceived by the Spirit in Mary’s virgin womb, without sex being involved. This concept must prayerfully be addressed using the Qur’an as our guide into the full revelation of the Bible.

Proving the historical fact of Jesus’ death on the cross will often dispel the myth that someone else replaced Jesus, or that he was in a “swoon” state, and revived later in the tomb, and taken to Heaven by God.

The death of Jesus becomes pivotal in describing the “blood sacrifice” God used as early as Adam and Eve in the garden as an atonement for sin. The story of the Passover clearly points to Jesus as the “Lamb of God” whose blood paid the ransom for God’s people, delivering them  from bondage and death.

Who are the “People of the Book?”  Both Christians and Jews are labeled this way in the Qur’an, and is not used as a derogatory term. They both had received sacred scriptures the Qur’an says are directly from God, and must be honored by every Muslim. It is ironic that Muslims should rightly receive this title since  they revere their “book” as a sacred entity in itself, that must never be defiled. They view the Qur’an is the last and final revelation from God, adding to what came before.  Hmmm….sounds familiar. Book of Mormon? Mary Baker Eddy’s Key to the scriptures?

Let us pray for the “People of Peace”, those Muslims who refuse to be identified with ISIS or jihad, and especially those women who are brutalized by the heavy hand of Islam. More Muslims are being saved now (since 1990) than in the last 1300 years! Jesus is revealing Himself in dreams, and using the Qur’an to open blind eyes to the reality of Isa al Masik, Jesus the Christ, their Messiah.

The 21st Century seems to be the time of their redemption.

 

 

Jesus in the Qu’ran

PART TWO:

Who is Jesus in the world of Islam?

I. Jesus is called Isa al-Masih (Arabic for the Hebrew, Meshiach, the Anointed One; the Christ, or Messiah), in the Qu’ran. This title is used eleven times, and is usually translated as Christ Jesus. Behold! The angels said: O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word  from Him; his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and in the hereafter.and of those nearest to Allah”. (Q.3:45)  “The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, is the Messenger of God and His Word conveyed to Mary and a Spirit from him”. (Q. 4:170)

II. The Virgin Birth of Jesus .Maryam is held in such high regard by Islam the Qu’ran dedicates a whole chapter to her life. Of course many stories in the Qu’ran are a curious mixture of folk tales, half-truths, and legends (Jesus speaks from the cradle, and creates a little bird from clay) There was no Arabic Bible translation available in Mohammed’s lifetime. His information about Jesus’ followers (Nasara: Arabic for Christians, followers of the Nazarene) was mostly hearsay.

O my Lord, how shall I have a son when no man has touched me?” “He (Gabriel) said: even so, Allah createth what He willeth: when He hath decreed a matter, He but saith to it, “Be”. and it is”. And He will teach him the Book (Pentateuch), the Wisdom (Five Books of Wisdom) and the Injil” (Arabic for the Gospels) (Q. 3:47) And in a chapter dedicated to Maryam (Arabic for Mary) Gabriel says, “It will be so, Your Lord says, “It is easy for Me, and we will make him a sign to people, and a mercy from us”. (Q.19:21) Jesus was created miraculously in Mary’s womb by God’s Spirit, so “sex” was not involved.   “We breathed into her from Our Spirit and made her and her son a sign FOR ALL PEOPLE”. (Q. 21:91) A Muslim will say that God cannot have a son because he did not have a wife.

“God said, Jesus, I will cause you to die and raise you up to me, and purify you from those who denied the Truth, and I will exalt your followers over those who deny you until the Resurrection Day” .(Q. 3:55a)  Jesus speaks from the cradle: So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life”. (Q. 19:33) This presents a problem because most Muslims deny Jesus was crucified on the Cross, died and then was resurrected.

III. Jesus is both Healer and Prophet in Islam.  “I, by God’s permission, heal men born blind, and lepers, and give life to the dead.” (Q. 3:49; 5:110)) Jesus, son of Mary, remember the grace I bestowed upon you and your mother? How I strengthened you with the Holy Spirit…when I taught you the Book , the Wisdom, the Torah and the Gospel…when I inspired the disciples to believe in Me and my Messenger (prophet)? They answered, We believe and bear witness that we submit ourselves to You.” (Q. 5:110, 111) “(Jesus) said, I am the servant of God; He has given me the Book, and made me a Prophet”. (Q. 19:30)

IV. Jesus is the Way. “When Jesus came with clear evidence, he said, I have brought you Wisdom and to clarify for you some of what you differ about. Be always mindful of God and obey me. God is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. This is a straight path.” (Q. 43:61)

V. Jesus is the Truth. Such is Jesus(Isa) the son of Mary-the WORD OF TRUTH-about which they are in dispute. (Q. 19:34)

VI. Jesus is the Bread of Life ” Behold the disciples said: O Jesus, son of Mary! Can you Lord send us a feast from heaven? Jesus answered, Remain mindful of God if you are truly believers. They said, we only wish to eat from it so that our hearts might be reassured that you have told us the truth, and that we ourselves be witnesses to the miracle. Said Jesus, the son of Mary, “God our Lord! Send us a meal from heaven so we can have a recurring celebration (Arabic, eid, or a solemn festival) for the first and last of us, and a sign from You. Provide for us because You are the best of providers.God answered. I will send it down to you, and anyone who denies the truth after this will be punished with a punishment that I will not inflict on anyone else in the world”. (Q. 5:112-115)  Even though this is a mixture of several different accounts, as is typical of the Qu’ran, to a Muslim we can easily point out our celebration of the Lord’s table, in communion.

Of course, Muslims will be quick to explain that Jesus was no more than an Apostle (Q. 4:171), that Jesus was not God (Q. 5:17).

Next week we will discuss the common misconceptions that Muslims have about Christianity, and who are the “People of the Book”.

  1. The Bible has been corrupted.
  2. We serve three gods.
  3. We think Jesus is God’s Son.
  4. Jesus did not die on the Cross.
  5. Jesus cannot pay for our sins.

 

 

Exploring the World of Islam

 

 

PART ONE:

IS IT AN IDEOLOGY OR A RELIGION?

As Christians, I think it is important we become aware of the doctrines, ideas, culture, and practices of the Islamic world in which we have recently been immersed through the historic migration of peoples from Muslim countries, especially Syria, and the emergence of ISIL, a radical interpretation of the Qu’ran, or the teachings of Islam, with the end result being world dominance.

According to the dictionary an ideology is a body of ideas that reflects the beliefs and interests of a nation, political system, and underlies its political action; also, the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program, and “is usually taken to mean a prescriptive doctrine that is not supported by a rational argument”. (D.D. Raphael, 1970)

Broadly speaking, a religion is defined as an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god, or a group of gods; beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe when considered the creation of a supernatural agency, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. Religion is the human response to that which is sacred, holy, absolute, spiritual, divine, or worthy of especial reverence, and deals with the ultimate concerns about their fate after death.

Islam is the Arabic word for “submission”, and a Muslim is any person who has submitted to God, and in a sense, are slaves of Allah ( Arabic for God). The focus of their religion is to do the will of Allah, and please him by good works, known as the Five Pillars of Islam. Hopefully their good works will outweigh their evil works so they can enter the paradise of God. They have no other assurance of Allah’s acceptance before death.

 So Islam is both and an ideology and a religion.

 ISIL operates as an ideology because it sees itself as a nation state, or a caliphate, using violence, cruelty and Jihad (Arabic for struggle) against Muslims, Christians, and Jews, or those they consider apostates and unbelievers. This group teaches its adherents that the only sure way of gaining Paradise is to commit Jihad, or holy war against the infidel. It can be viewed as “Islamism” because it envisions a political solution in terms of a struggle, and demands absolute loyalty from its followers, and a willingness to die for the cause.

The 19th and 20th centuries saw the rise of Communism, Nazism and Facism, and certain forms of Nationalism. We in the 21st century are confronted with Islamism, an ideology wearing the slimy cloak of religion.

I am currently studying the Qu’ran, (Arabic for Recitation) a very difficult book to understand. Mohammed did not know how to read or write, so common in the 7th Century Arab world of Caravan traders like himself. So he transmitted it orally by reciting it to his followers over a period of some 23 years. It has no order, or spiritual coherence, and the linear Western mind sees it as a rambling jumble of half-truths. But it can also be viewed as a steppingstone for Muslims to explore the Bible, the whole truth of God’s relationship to man, from Genesis to Revelation.

What does the Qu’ran have to say about Esa al Masih (Arabic for Jesus Christ, the Anointed One, or Messiah)?

Tune in for next week’s installment. Feel free to comment and ask questions.