Thoughts on the latest terror attack

In this time of unrest, let us listen to these wise words from people from all over the world and all across time. Let us remember that we have a choice.

“Heracles was journeying on a narrow road when he saw what looked like an apple on the ground. When he stepped on it, the object instantly became twice as big. Seeing the extraordinary growth, Heracles stepped on it with both feet and smashed it mightily with his club. As result, the thing expanded so rapidly it blocked the road. Heracles threw down his club and stared at it dumbfounded.

The goddess Athena appeared to him then and said, “Dear brother, leave that thing alone! It is the spirit of argument and disharmony. If you keep from touching it, it can do no harm. But, as you have seen, if you try to fight, it only grows greater.” – Fable of Aesop.

“Rabbi Akiva traveled with a donkey to lighten his load, a rooster to awaken him at dawn, and an oil lamp to study by at night. He trusted in God and believed that all God does is for the good. One day, God made it that Rabbi Akiva arrived at a town after the gates have been closed, so he had to sleep outside in the dangerous woods. When he, at last, sat down to study by the light of his lamp, a great wind arose and blew it out. So, saying to himself “All is for the good,” he lay down to sleep, confident that the rooster would wake him early the next morning.

But then a fox came and carried the rooster away. Rabbi Akiva said, “This too will be for the good,” and with that fell asleep. In the middle of the night, a lion pounced on the donkey and devoured the animal before it made a sound. Rabbi Akiva mourned over the life of his donkey, but saying “Everything is surely for the good,” he found joy and comfort and returned to a deep sleep.

When Rabbi Akiva awoke in the morning, he saw that the town had been attacked and burned to the ground. “See,” he said, “all is truly for the good. If I had gained entry into the town, or if my lamp had remained bright, or if my rooster had crowed, or my donkey had brayed, these attackers who destroyed the town would have certainly come after me, too!” – Traditional Jewish story.

“Ambrosia can be extracted even from poison;
elegant speech even from a child;
good conduct even from an enemy;
gold even from impurity.”
-from the Laws of Manu (sacred text of Hinduism)

“How far that little candle throws his beams.
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”
– William Shakespeare

“You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 5:38-40, HCSB translation)

“An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind”
– Gandhi biographer Louis Fischer, summing up Gandhi’s view on the Hindu concept of “ahimsa”

We have a choice now. We are at a crossroads. We can choose life or death. We can choose to be present and aware. We can choose to love our neighbors. We can choose to not be afraid. We can choose to rise above, rise together. We can choose. We are not powerless.

This isn’t about race or religion or creed, not anymore. This has happened too often, in too many different ways. There have been more mass killings in this world than we can easily count. It has become our normal, this terror, this fear. Some male takes a gun and kills many people, all strangers, in a moment.

In the same way that it has become our present normal, it can become our past. This does not have to continue. All things change.

In the meantime, we must remember that we have a choice to remain calm. To listen to the stranger. To be open and welcoming. To forgive. To show love and compassion. We must remember that there are far more kind, compassionate, and loving people than we realize. They don’t get the press attention so we don’t notice them. Start looking for the good, and you will find it all around you.

We must embrace the “other”, the different one, and include rather than exclude. This is a time to unite, not divide. I do not mean for “Us” to unite against “Them” – but to have a “We” instead.

We have a choice. It is time.

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Thanksgiving thoughts

I saw this picture recently

pilgrim refugee

…with these words….
1) “Where would we be if the Wampanoag hadn’t helped the Pilgrims?”

2) “Where would the Wampanoag be if they hadn’t helped the Pilgrims?”

These are two different thoughts, and both worthy of consideration.

These are good things to think about right now in light of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing for their very lives from areas of war and oppression. These are good things to think about in the week before we in America celebrate a day dedicated to giving Thanks.

The Pilgrims left England because their way of worship wasn’t allowed. They wanted to worship God in a manner that differed from the official Church of England. The Church of England was, at the time, equivalent with the government of England – go against one, and you’ve gone against the other. The punishment was fines for lesser offenses, and execution for greater ones. They decided to leave rather than change their way of worship, knowing that where they were going to was completely alien to them.

The people who lived in the area the Pilgrims landed were known as the Wampanoag, and they made sure that the Pilgrims had shelter and food. If it weren’t for them, the Pilgrims would have died out in short order as they were not used to living off the land. This is where the first Thanksgiving came from. Two different groups having dinner together. Sharing. Peaceful. Even though they didn’t share the same language or culture, they lived together in harmony.

However, over the course of time, the Pilgrims expanded and pushed out the Wampanoag. The Pilgrims weren’t interested in sharing. They’d forgotten their debt to the Wampanoag. They’d forgotten the tenants of their faith. Their diseases killed off the natives as surely as their guns did. The Wampanoag didn’t have a chance.

Native Americans all over the USA are marginalized. They live in reservations, they have low-paying jobs, little education, and rampant alcoholism. They lived much better before the white people came and imposed their way of life on them in an effort to “help” them. They didn’t need help. They were fine. They only needed help after the Pilgrims (and other settlers) came with their diseases and an insatiable need for more and more land.

How does this relate to today’s issues? If we in America show compassion to people who are different from us, will that result in our being pushed out, in our being killed? Will this nation become a Muslim nation? Wouldn’t this be fair, after what our ancestors did to the natives who were here?

But – should we allow fear to rule our actions? Jesus tells us repeatedly to not be afraid. Jesus tells us repeatedly to love our enemies, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked.

Is there another way to act, other than the way we always have? A middle ground?

There is a fabulous re-imagining of Europe meets the Native Americans in Orson Scott Card’s book “Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus” – where time travelers go back to the natives and secretly inoculate them against the diseases. They also strengthen the native’s opinions and actions so they won’t let the Europeans push them down. They are able to live in peace after this.

Our government says they are worried about Sharia Law – forgetting that their ancestors pushed their own version on to the natives. We need a whole new way of thinking – where people share ideas and work together, with nobody higher or lower.

This is an amazing chance for us to learn from the past and re-vision a new future. This is a time of testing, where we can welcome in the stranger and become stronger because of it.

Consider a garden – one with just one kind of flower is boring. Having many makes it look beautiful.

Consider an orchestra – one with just one kind of instrument is dull. Having many makes it sound beautiful.

Consider a soup – one with just one kind of seasoning makes it taste bland. Having a variety makes it taste wonderful.

This is America – the land of immigrants. The land of second chances. The place where we say we are “The melting pot”, where we say “E pluribus unum” – which means “Out of many, one”.

It is time to let love and compassion rule us rather than fear.
It is time to truly be the “Christian” nation we say we are and take in the stranger, the lost, the refugee. Not because they are Christian, but because we are. Not to turn them into Christians, but for us to prove it through our actions.

Jesus himself was a refugee.

Matthew 2:12-15, his adopted father Joseph gets a message from God in a dream to escape their home and flee to a foreign land, because Herod had ordered every child under the age of two to be slaughtered.

“13 After they were gone, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Get up! Take the child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to search for the child to destroy Him.”14 So he got up, took the child and His mother during the night, and escaped to Egypt. 15 He stayed there until Herod’s death, so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled: Out of Egypt I called My Son.” (HCSB)

Jesus himself was homeless –

In Matthew 8:20, talking to a man who wants to be his disciple –
20 Jesus told him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” (HCSB)

We must welcome the refugee. We must do this fearlessly. We must do it because Jesus would do this. As his disciples, we have to.

The life of following Jesus isn’t simply about everlasting life after we die. It isn’t a life where we say the words and get the prize. It is a life where we live, every day, a life of trust and hope and joy, right now, serving everyone as if they are Jesus, and serving everyone as Jesus would serve them.

This is a living faith. Let us act like it.

Christlike love

“I have loved you in the same way that the Father has loved me. Abide in my love. You will abide in my love if you follow my instructions, just as how I have remained in the love of my Father and kept his instructions.

I have told you all this so that you may be completely filled with my joy. This is my command of you – love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to sacrifice your life for your friends. If you do what I have commanded then you are my friends. You can no longer be called slaves, because a slave has no idea what his master is doing. I call you friends because I have told you everything the Father has told to me. I chose you – you didn’t choose me. I selected you so that you could go out and produce fruit that lasts, in order that the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. My only commandment is that you show love to each other.”

JN 15:9-17

Feed my sheep!

After they ate breakfast, Jesus asked Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than the others?”

“Of course, Lord,” Peter replied. “You know that I love you.”

“Feed my lambs.” Jesus said.

Then a second time he asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter answered “Yes, Lord. You know I love you.”

“Shepherd my sheep.” Jesus said. Then Jesus asked him for the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was upset and even a little sad that Jesus had asked him three times if he loved him. He said “Lord, everything is revealed to you! Surely you know that I love you.”

“Feed my sheep.” Jesus said. “Listen to me closely. When you were young, you could do anything you wanted to do however you liked, but when you grow old you will reach out your hands and others will take you where you don’t want to go.” In saying this, Jesus indicated how he would die that would glorify God.

Then after saying this he said to Peter “Follow me!”

JN 21:15-19

The Primary Commandment

The Pharisees went to where Jesus was when they heard how he had refuted the Sadducees. An expert in the Law challenged Jesus asking him, “Which commandment is the most important?”

Jesus answered, “‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all of your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second commandment is like it -‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ There are no commandments greater than these two. All the teachings of the Prophets and the Law base their foundation upon these two commandments.”

The man who questioned him said “You are correct, Teacher! You spoke the truth when you said that there is only One God, and that we are to love God with all of our being, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. These practices are far more important that all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Because of the wisdom of his answer, Jesus said to him “You are not far from entering the kingdom of God. You have answered correctly. If you do these things you will live. ”

The authorities did not dare to challenge him any further.

MT 22:34-40, MK 12:28-34, LK 10:25-28

Love your enemies. Go the second mile.

“You’ve been taught the message ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemies.’ But I’m telling you something deeper – love your enemies and pray for people who persecute you. Bless anyone who curses you and ask for God’s blessing for those who mistreat you.

The Law of Moses says ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I’m telling you something deeper – don’t retaliate against someone who harms you. Instead, if someone slaps you on your cheek, turn and offer him the other one. If someone sues you to take away your coat, let him have your shirt as well. If someone demands that you carry a heavy burden for a mile – carry it two miles instead.

If someone asks you for anything, give them whatever they ask for. If someone wants to borrow something, let them have it. Even if they take your possessions away, don’t ask to get them back.

How does it help you if you are nice only to the people who are nice to you? Even sinful people can do that.

How does it help you if you are welcoming only to people who are nice to you? If you welcome only your friends, how are you doing anything different than everyone else? Even people who don’t believe in God do that.

How are you to be seen as different if you lend only to people who you expect to get something from? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. Instead, love your enemies, do what is right, and lend what you have, expecting nothing in return. Treat others the same way that you like to be treated.

By doing this you will reveal yourself to be children of your Father in heaven. God makes the sun shine on those who are evil as well as those are good, and God makes rain fall on the just and the unjust alike. He is compassionate to those who are ungrateful and evil. Your goal is to be perfect and merciful, just like God is perfect and merciful.”

MT 5:38-48, LK 6:27-36

Tell the truth, go the second mile, and love your enemies.

Tell the truth.

“The Law of Moses also says that you shall not break your vows – you must honor your vows to God. But I’m telling you something deeper – don’t make any vows! Don’t swear by heaven because it is God’s throne, and don’t swear by the earth because it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem because it is the city of David, our great king. Don’t even swear by your head, because you can’t change even a single one of your hairs white or black. Simply let your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ mean ‘no’. To say anything more than this is wrong.”

MT 5:33-37

Go the 2nd mile.

“The Law of Moses says ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I’m telling you something deeper – don’t retaliate against someone who does wrong. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn and offer him the other one. If someone sues you to take your shirt away, give them your coat as well. If someone demands that you carry a heavy load for a mile, carry it 2 miles instead. Give to anyone who asks and don’t refuse anyone who wants to borrow something from you.”

MT 5:38-42

Love your enemies.

“You’ve been taught the message ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemies.’ But I’m telling you something deeper – love your enemies and pray for people who persecute you. By doing this you will reveal yourself to be children of your Father in heaven. God makes the sun shine on those who are evil as well as those who are good, and God makes rain fall on the just and the unjust alike. How does it help you if you are nice only the people who are nice to you? Even sinful people can do that. If you welcome only your friends, how are you doing anything different than everyone else? Even people who don’t believe in God do that. Your goal is to be perfect, just like God is perfect.”

MT 5:43-48