Tagged: Writing

One Sentence Writing Challenge

I’m still in Tolstoy’s short stories. Again, one particular sentence just struck me as perfect. So here’s the challenge: In the below comments, let’s see if we can write with similar excellence. (One sentence.)

The bonfire was extinguished, the forest no longer looked as black as before, but in the sky the stars still shone, though faintly.

****

Here’s my attempt: The young boy stopped running, the city moved even faster, but he still felt her hand in his, though now she did the squeezing.

Sacred Safety

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Today my pizza delivery adventures took me (on a delivery) to a hospital with an automated, high-tech, and brisk revolving door. *I think* this sign is supposed to warn parents that the unmanned, potentially lethal object (UPLO) may not “see” children as surely as it does us big people.

But I also couldn’t help notice that this sign looks like the famous scene from the Sistene Chapel–if viewed through the eyes of the pizza-loving, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Michelangelo.

Fast Broken, Fast Renewed–For Two Reasons

From Star Wars Episode VII until Logan, I had determined, for spiritual reasons, to not watch any movies. That’s fourteen months of no movies. While I do confess that several times during those months, I told folks, “If it gets solid reviews, I’ll go see it,” no solid reviews came in for those films. Finally, my childhood hero, Wolverine, seemed to rise to the occasion. Rated-R Adamantium claws and solid reviews? How could I resist?

Unfortunately, I seem to not be able to fully “escape” anymore–darn you, books!

By my thinking Logan normalized the act of harpooning little girls through the chest on screen and also advocated lying to children if it keeps them hopeful while the world falls to shit. No thank you, Hollywood. As Colonel Nathan R. Jessup once said, “You see Danny, I can deal with the bullets, and the bombs, and the blood. I don’t want money, and I don’t want medals. What I do want is for you to (censored) extend me some courtesy.” Do we really need to see a bloody (red-not-British) harpoon point sticking out of a little girl’s chest to be entertained? Fool-ish-ness.

Then, as if I needed another reason to not visit the cineplex again, I resumed reading some Tolstoy short fiction and came across a story called, “God Sees the Truth, But Waits.” It’s a brief account of a wrongfully convicted man spending his adult life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. And while in prison he finally meets the real killer, who proceeds to try to escape by digging out, little by little, and dumping the sand from his pockets onto the prison yard. Upon light investigation, sho’ ’nuff the internet tells me I’m not the first to notice that Shawshank Redemption totally ripped off Tolstoy.

So I’m back on the movie fast. Twenty-eight plus years of staring at screens. And for what? What a waste.

It’s Not Over

I fought in Iraq.

Not often, but sometimes while I was there I felt a unique-to-me sensation which I later determined to be my body’s response to feeling afraid-for-my-life. For me, this kind of fear feels similar to run-o-the-mill crying. But whereas everyday crying feels localized to my face and eyes, afraid-for-my-life doesn’t leave any part of me untouched–plus it is many times more intense. Put another way, I might say crying cuts like a scalpel, afraid-for-my-life cuts like a semi-truck.

That said, as I keep reading about these attacks, I hear the interstate. What about you?

****

Maybe you don’t think you’re smart enough to see what is going on. It’s not that difficult. If you can read, you can get it.

Here’s what I could track down as the formal response of some of the West’s leaders. One formal statement is different from the others. Can you discern whose it is and how it is difference? Or do you need pictures?

Germany – Merkel: “We have to assume it was a terrorist attack.”

Russia – Putin: “This is a shockingly cruel and cynical crime committed against peaceful civilians.”

America – Trump: “Our hearts and prayers are with the loved ones of the victims of today’s horrifying terror attack in Berlin.”

America – White House Spokesman: “…we stand together with Berlin in the fight against all those who target our way of life and threaten our societies.”

Poland – Szydlo:  “…with pain and sadness we received the information that the first victim of this heinous act of violence was a Polish citizen..”

London – Khan: “My thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the awful suspected attack on Berlin last night…”

Can anyone explain to me what Khan means by “suspected”? Does he not know what “an attack” is? Does he not know that even if it turns out to be the equivalent of a Columbine or Sandy Hook mass-murder that it is still an attack? Is he really asking us and expecting us to withhold forming an opinion?

What about you? Are you with Khan? Am I being silly? Does he seem reasonable to you? Should we put our ability to match like-with-like on hold? Also, who is he praying to? Allah? The same god that the “suspected” attacker prayed to? How does that work?

****

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is only path to victory. For H-‘s sake, do not believe the lie that the war is against flesh and blood.

Our God’s Word–the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who loved the world so much He sent His son Jesus the Christ to die for us and whom He resurrected on the third day, this God and no other–could not be clearer: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 

Do not send our children to fight flesh and blood. Instead, turn off the television and fulfill your calling and proclaim the Gospel. In our day this looks like ensuring and insisting the people in your life know that Our God is not their god. This begins with you knowing this is the case. Do you know this? Do you know our God? Do you know Jesus? Really know Him? If you have any doubt, then track down a “Christian” and ask them to remind you what the Gospel is. If they don’t seem to know, or if what they say doesn’t sound like good news, thank them for their time and find another one. (Christian churches are a good place to start…)

When You Say ‘Radicalization’, What Do You Mean?

The 1910 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica uses “Mahommedan Religion” to describe what we now call “Islam.” Times have changed so much that my 2016 spell-checker thinks even the spelling of “Mahommedan” is wrong–both times. Here’s how the entry opens,

“The Mahommedan religion is generally known as Islam–the name given to it by Mahomet himself–meaning the resigning or submitting oneself to God. The participle of the same Arabic verb, Muslim (in English usually spelt Moslem), is used for one who professes this religion. The expression “Mahommedan religion” has arisen in the West probably from analogy with “Christian religion”, but is not recognized as a proper one by Moslem writers.”

(As a grammar refresher, a participle is a verbal adjective. In English, it is usually an “-ing” word: running, walking, or in this case, in Arabic, Islam (“to resign/submit [verb] to Allah”) becomes Muslim (“resigning/submitting” [participle] to Allah”).

Before getting to radicalization, I want to take one moment to call your attention to the name change–or how no one says “Mahommedan Religion” anymore. My point is not to romanticize the past, but instead to suggest that we can benefit from the admission that there has been a change. And not just a change in names, but in the way we write–a change in our methodology. That little paragraph is very observational. The writer merely recorded what was going on. The writer was very honest. He admitted, “We say ‘Mahommedan Religion’, they say, ‘Islam’.” (period)

I cannot speak for you, but to me that kind of honesty feels as refreshing as a new pair of wool socks on a snowy winter morning in the Rockies.

On the whole, though, like the American prize-fighter Muhammad Ali demonstrated, I fully support letting each person decide their name. This should be no surprise considering the theme of my last two posts. At the end of the day, I just want to be able to swap stories and ask what you mean if I become confused.

And I am confused these days.

See, we hear the word radicalization more and more. In my social circles, I seem to be the only who is confused by this word.

By my thinking, radicalization is a distinctly non-Christian word. By my thinking, radicalization implies some form of neutrality at an earlier stage. And by my thinking, followers of Christ–those of us filled with the Spirit of the Living God–know that there is no such thing as radicalization. Instead, we believe that there is redemption. For we believe that all have sinned–even the terrorists.

There is no neutral–not in our story at least. I certainly was never neutral. I have only ever been in motion. And I think no matter what story you have believed up to now, you have only ever been in motion too.

I have been moving forward or backward or left or right my entire life. It was never a question of “should I move?” or “should I grow?”, but “which direction?”

Cars have neutral. People–not so much.

You want to use the word radicalization? That’s cool. But can you please tell me what it means? Because as of this moment, I can’t seem to ground your word except in relation to redemption. And redemption only comes from the blood of Jesus Christ.

On Talking

I’m wearing down. I’ve been studying Hebrew nearly all day. I figure I have one more round of flashcards in me after I write this. Then the big final is in the morning.

This wraps up my third semester of studying ancient biblical languages (though, unlike Koine Greek, Hebrew is alive and well). I love it. Really, I do. I even switched my degree program and concentration so that I take more languages. But I have one big beef with the way the material is being presented. Often times we are told something like, “So because of this, then, we know we’re working with a nominative noun, and that’s how we know he meant ‘ship’.” Or what have you.

That’s flatly wrong. Grammar does not give words their meaning, we do. Grammar is a tool we invented to help communicate meaning, but at the end of the day, we give words their meaning–you and I.

Words are not transcendent. They are here. They are mine and they are yours. They are me. They are you.

Do you understand my words?

We are each responsible for our words’ meaning. It’s not like there are a bunch of words floating around and we just grab them out of the air and order them in some aurally or visually pleasant manner–no. We have something to say (or not) and then we begin to utter the words within us. Where do we get new words? People. How do we know what the new words mean? People tell us.

Looking for fun in unexpected places? Join me in telling “men of letters” that they give their words meaning. Sheesh. It’s like I was arguing for flat earth or something. It is quite frustrating. The more “educated” someone is, the more they desire, perhaps unwittingly, to turn words into numbers. Folks want each word to mean one thing and only one thing. This desire and the attempt to manifest the desire is selfish. By calling it selfish, I do mean to communicate clearly that I believe it is downright evil.

To be sure, if you’re ever confused about what I meant, just ask. I will tell you what my words mean. If I’m confused and ask what you meant, then you tell me what your words mean. This back and forth is called talking.

Welcome to Erff.

Reflection

H- answered, “Officer Judy is from Zootopia.”

“Zootopia, eh? When were you watching that?”

“Before school.”

“So you wake up early enough to watch movies before school when you’re at your mom’s?” I asked.

“I wake up when my alarm goes off.”

“What time does your alarm go off?”

“Seven ten.”

“Then what?”

“I go down stairs and eat breakfast and then I change clothes.”

“You change clothes downstairs? Why downstairs?”

“Well, my mom throws down my clothes, and then I put them on and watch tv until it’s time to go.”

“I see. Where is your mom while you are watching tv?”

“She’s upstairs with C-.”

“Oh,” I said, cutting myself off quickly. Unable to resist the pull to follow inquiry further, I rejoined with, “What is she doing with him?”

“I think they play with each other.”

“Hmm. What do you mean? Like play games? Maybe play video games?”

“No,” she held the note, “not video games.”

“I don’t think I understand, H-. What are they playing?”

“I don’t know,” she said.

As if Truth’s gateway, the rear-view mirror reflected that her searching eyes did not notice mine.

Finding no satisfaction, H- concluded, “More like wrestling, I think. I don’t have the word.”

 

But Who Can Explain Longing To My Child?

But who can explain longing to my child?

 

The teardrop tries but fails,

For it carries many.

 

The silenced voice is unheard,

The pounding heart, muffled.

 

The knotted gut is unseen,

The lumped throat, concealed.

 

But who can explain longing to my child?

 

I could explain longing to my child,

But for it is not when I am with her.

To Lighten The Mood

Two slaves to the Qur’an walked into a bar. No, wait. It was a Christian church in France. And they killed a priest.

President Obama says Islam is one of the great religions.

Nothing to see here folks. Just make sure you DVR your programs tonight so you don’t miss a moment of the illusion that nothing is the matter.

On to the promised lightening of the mood.

****

This morning after H-‘s piano lesson, we were walking to our car when a police car slowed as it drove by. The officer rolled down his window and said, “I just wanted to let you know there is a dog on the loose that is biting people.”

I said, “Thanks. We’re outta here anyhow.”

He waved and went on his way.

H- asked, “What’d he say?”

I answered, “Apparently there is a dog on the loose that is biting people.”

H- said, “Oh.”

About five minutes into our car ride, H- admitted, “I didn’t know dogs went to jail.”

****

Better than any light than H- can shine is the one that emanates from the Lord and Savior of the Universe, Jesus Christ. He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12).”

Get Behind Me, Satan

Heavenly Father, in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, and with the power of the Holy Spirit, I beg for mercy, for I am a sinner.

The context of this homily’s title is below.

Matthew 16:20-23 reads, “From that time on Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. “Far be it from You, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to You!” But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me. For you do not have in mind the things of God (Yahweh), but the things of men.”

Let’s talk about Peter. He was the disciple from whom Jesus rebuked Satan. Then the resurrection happens and Peter changes (repents) his tune. Here’s account recorded in Acts.

Acts 2:1-14 reads, “When the day of Pentecost came, they (the believers who came to be called Christians over time) were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like a mighty rushing wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw tongues like flames of a fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem God (Yahweh)-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.  And when this sound rang out, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking his own language. In wonder and amazement, they asked, ‘Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? How is it then that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,a Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism; Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the mighty works of God (Yahweh) in our own tongues!’

Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’

But others mocked them and said, ‘They are drunk on new wine!’

Then Peter stood up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and addressed the crowd: ‘Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen carefully to my words. These men are not drunk as you suppose. It is only the third hour of the day!‘”

Christians, like the Apostle Peter, we need to stand up, lift our voice, and address the mocking crowd.

Have you seen that Islam hasn’t violently attacked the West yet today? Do you feel safer?

I don’t. And because I don’t I’ve been trying to figure out why not. My investigation has led to the development of a litmus test regarding the recent terrorist attacks and Islam. Ask your friends and family members if they are interested in defeating Islam/Terrorism through non-violence. If they respond, “Non-violence will never defeat Islam/Terrorism,” then you know whose side they’re on and need to preach the Gospel. If they respond, “It isn’t Islam/Terrorism that’s the problem,” then you know whose side they’re on and need to preach the Gospel. If they respond, “Yes,” then preach the Gospel.

As a refresher, the Gospel is the history of the Jews as recorded in the Old Testament culminating in Peter’s explanation to the Israelites who heard “Yahweh”–their god, and only their god–when Peter says God in Acts 2,

“Men of Israel, listen to this message: Jesus of Nazareth was a man certified by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know. He was handed over by God’s set plan and foreknowledge, and you, by the hands of the lawless, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. But God raised Him from the dead, releasing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for Him to be held in its clutches.

David says about Him:

‘I saw the Lord always before me;

because He is at my right hand,

I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad

and my tongue rejoices,

my body also will live in hope,

because You will not abandon my soul to Hades,

nor will You let Your Holy One see decay.

You have made known to me the paths of life,

You will fill me with joy in Your presence.’

Brothers, I can tell you with confidence that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that He would place one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did His body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, to which we are all witnesses.

Exalted, then, to the right hand of God, He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend into heaven, but he himself says:

‘The Lord said to my Lord,

Sit at My right hand,

until I make Your enemies

a footstool for Your feet.’”

Peter then concludes,

“Therefore let all Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ!”

Hallelujah and Amen!

Let’s keep talking about truth. To do this, I want to ask a question. This question should be simple, but I’ve come to realize that we’re inclined to make it difficult. Resist the inclination. When I announce that I love pizza, as I have done many times, does that mean that I love food? In other words, when I say, “I love pizza,” can you declare, “Pete loves food.” Please resist complicating this. When I declare that I love pizza, does that mean that I love food? The answer is no. That I love pizza does not mean you can tell me (or any others) that I love food. The reason you cannot, is you do not have enough information, at least not yet. All you know so far is that I love pizza.

The truth is, Muhammad, via the Qur’an, lied when he told the world that Moses and Peter loved god (Allah) because he (Muhammad) knew that they worshiped their god (Yahweh/Trinity respectively). Muhammad lied. Muhammad invented Allah, the same way someone invented 0 and another person invented the airplane. 0 and the airplane and Allah do not exist in nature. The Trinity does exist. All glory be to the Blessed Trinity.

As a sidebar, all this talk of that cheesy, bready delight has me wondering, did you know that, “Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’ (John 6:35)?”

Christians, I’m teaching you about the truth because I’m worried about you. I have heard you say, “Well, religion is a personal matter,” when asked about Islam.

Religion is not a personal matter. Religion is the most public matter there is. Moreover, I believe the Triune god of Christianity calls me to tell you religion is the most public matter there is. “What makes you believe the Triune god called you to tell us this?” you ask. That’s a fair question. Consider that the historical record indicates that the Holy Bible was written over the course of at least 1300 years and has around 40 unique men. Then consider that the Qur’an was written within only one lifetime, by only one man. Do you see?

Unlike Christianity’s claim that religion is the most public matter there is, Islam began after Muhammad demonstrated that he thought religion was a personal matter. But Muhammad is dead and buried. And Christianity claims that the entire Holy Bible is the story of Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected (marvelous to relate). Yet, We’re still living. While you’re alive are you siding with Muhammad or with Truth? Is religion a public matter like Christianity suggests? Or is religion a private matter for folks to tinker with in their free time like Muhammad suggested?

Your words matter. So be careful what you say, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12).”

Finally, if you’re with Truth, if Jesus is your Lord and Savior, it’s clearly time to defeat Islam. How do we do it? Paul tells us how in Ephesians 6:17, “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of (the Triune) God.”

To my mind, this command, taken together the public nature of religion, entails reading the Holy Bible out loud.

Do you belong to a church? START a ministry called “Ephesians 6:17”. CREATE a sign-up sheet (the internet should make this part easy), and EXHORT Christians to sign up for 30 minute blocks of time to read the Holy Bible from Genesis through Revelation (then repeat), around the clock. INVOLVE the kids. They can’t read well as it is–this will be good practice for them. DO NOT let Satan bog you down in the details of which version. Whichever version the believer can easily read is the one to use (I think you’ll like the NIV, but, again, just READ.) For children, consider the New International Readers Version or New Century Version if you haven’t heard of them. They’re both the complete Holy Bible (unlike some Bible-based storybooks that are out there), they just employ, der, use an easier vocabulary.

I haven’t enacted this at my church yet (the ideas are coming fast and aplenty these days), but I’ll let you know the logistics which we work out as we work them out. The goal is 24/7, eternal flame style, reading. I believe the goal is worthy and practical, but I am not sure that is how it will begin with 24/7 application. And I’m not talking loud speakers. Just someone reading at normal reading volume all the time.

Lastly, never and I mean, never forget, “But thanks be to (the Triune) God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:57-58).”

Heavenly Father, ANOINT us with Your Holy Spirit. GIVE us strength and wisdom–not the idea of strength and the idea of wisdom–but real strength and real wisdom. We ask that you Give them to us for use right now! Father Almighty, not tomorrow. In the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, we ask that You SOFTEN our hearts so that we can understand that with Islam, like lust, our minds (our imagination), not our bodies, are the home of the abhorrent sin. MAKE the very earth beneath our feet and the very unstoppable bullets we formed from that earth with our own hands, in order to kill each other, REMIND us that the world You created is more real than any of the worlds we can imagine. REMIND us of this as we, like Peter before us, stand and lift our voice against both Islam and the false idea of an Allah in whatever form it manifests itself. LET the Truth of Jesus Christ shine from us like Light upon darkness as we endeavor to accomplish Your will. Amen.