Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Words that mean something

© 2016 Christy K Robinson

"This terrified wild donkey would not leave the firefighters sides yesterday
at the Willow Fire in Mohave Valley. Photo taken by my neighbor and friend,
Chief Bill Weber of the Desert Hills Fire District. The firefighters
sprayed the donkey down and he was safely removed from the danger.
Way to go guys!!!" --
Karen Kuehnel‎, to
Lake Havasu Living Magazine, August 9, 2015
When my friends and I were kids in Christian school, we weren't allowed to say "ass" unless it was the equine kind, and we were quoting from the Bible, as in "Balaam rose up and saddled his ass," or Joseph and Mary and the ass were traveling to Bethlehem. It was fine to say "donkey," of course, but where was the fun in that?

This photo came up in my Facebook "On This Day" app, and my comment was that "If you remember the story of Balaam and the donkey in the Old Testament, donkeys know angels when they see them."

The story is found in Numbers 22:21-35. Balaam was a non-Hebrew follower of Jehovah who lived in Moab, part of modern Jordan. The Moabites were distant cousins of the Hebrews (Moabites were descendants of Lot, the nephew of Abraham). The Hebrews, who had left Egypt 40 years before, were now conquering Canaan, their Promised Land. The Moabites were understandably nervous about such a large group trampling and possibly making war or claims on their land, and they refused to allow the Israelites to enter their territory. So they called on Balaam, the Moabite prophet of Jehovah, to sacrifice to God and curse the Israelites. Curses and blessings weren't just words. They were calling down God's actions on someone.

Balaam was willing to make some money off the Jordanian and Syrian kings, so he agreed to make animal sacrifices and talk with God, though he didn't promise what he could do or say. On his way to the rendezvous with his contact, Balak, the ass had some problems.

Unknown to Balaam, the donkey could see God's angel blocking the road, and in fright, she pushed up against a stone wall one time, and against a fence another time. Balaam beat her to make her move. Again with the scary angel, and the donkey refused to move, and lay down right under her rider. He beat her again, and that's when the donkey spoke human words to him.
Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29 And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.” 30 And the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?” And he said, “No.”
He didn't seem very surprised at the donkey speaking his language, or perhaps that he understood the braying of hee-haw. Then God opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the angel with the sword, who told him to go on to meet Balak, but not to speak negatively about the Israelites--only what God told him to say.

Anyway, when I was a child, that was the end of the lesson. The moral was, be gentle and kind to animals. When I was older, the moral was not to disobey God and try to profit from a spiritual gift. 

But as a middle-aged adult who loves to find God's grace in a story, as I read the next chapters, I find that Balaam performed the requested sacrifices and then asked God what he should say about the Israelites, who he could see camped in the distance. He was told not to curse them, but bless them. He said that they were a strong people who would be victors in their conquest. On a different mountain with another seven bulls and seven rams sacrificed (the ass must have been worried at the bloodletting and burning of her barnyard colleagues), Balaam said,
Behold, I received a command to bless:
    he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it.
21 He has not beheld misfortune in Jacob,
    nor has he seen trouble in Israel.
The Lord their God is with them,
    and the shout of a king is among them.
22 God brings them out of Egypt
    and is for them like the horns of the wild ox.
23 For there is no enchantment against Jacob,
    no divination against Israel;
now it shall be said of Jacob and Israel,
    ‘What has God wrought!’
On a third day and a third mountain with another 14 animals sacrificed, Balaam gave a similar oracle, even more complimentary to the Israelites. He deeply disappointed the kings who had employed his services, and they refused to pay him. But Balaam, the independent prophet of God, seems to have found "his" people, and he left the kings and went to the Israelites. We don't hear of him again, probably because they had a priesthood, seers, and temple sacrifice system already in place.

So what love do we discover in this lesson from 3,300 years ago?
  • That God loves to love on us, for no other reason than that we are his children. 
  • That though we may think we're in crisis, God has not seen trouble. It's what God sees that counts, not what we see. 
  • That if someone blesses us (by prayer, or laying on of hands, or speaking God's words to us), it can't be revoked. 
  • That God is with us to fight our battles for us, not with us. For us. In our place.
  • That we are already victors, even when it's not immediately apparent. 
  • If God can bless us, we can bless others. We should want the best for God's children, and seek the blessing of God for them.
Words mean something. And Jesus was called the Word of God, "word" meaning an active verb, not a noun or nickname. God does, God acts, God is (one of the meanings of YHWH, "I Am.")

God has been blessing us, he is blessing us, and he always will bless us. It cannot be revoked. The curse of sin and death has been removed, and we are held in the tender arms of a Father who loves us.

Be like the little ass. Pay attention to the angels in the path, and if you can put a firefighter between yourself and the conflagration, do it.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Laid Bare: Bathroom-bedroom police are after your money

© 2016 Christy K Robinson 
 
When the American Family Association boycott of Target began in May 2016, it was not about who uses which restrooms (because Target has locking restrooms for baby changing and disability access), it was about *FUNDRAISING* for the AFA. 
 
It's not about transgender people threatening your vulnerable daughters in a public restroom, or exposing their genitalia to impressionable children, somehow twisting children to an inevitable fate of gender reassignment. Do you know that in the AFA-generated hysteria about predators in the ladies' room, the AFA sent straight (but obviously pervy) men into women's restrooms to prove it could be done? Well, they had to send operatives in, because transgender people are not preying on others--they're answering nature's call behind the stall door, like everyone else.
 
As a public relations and marketing writer earlier in my career, I was told how effective fundraising works, and this AFA campaign is classic. The AFA's "philanthropy" strategy is to:
1. Create fear and outrage (Perverts! Deviants! LGBT! The gay agenda! They're coming for your children!);
2. Organize a petition from which to build a database;
3. Put the petition signer into an appeal cycle so they get hit again and again for ever-larger donations;
4. Ask for money (Urgent! Now! We must stop this outrage!);
5. Suggest giving amounts starting with a high figure and ending with a blank ($1000, $750, $500, $250, $___) and offer credit/debit card convenience or a special envelope for direct mail;
6. Cha-ching!
From the May 13, 2016, WaPo article: "The AFA is also asking for a “tax-deductible” donation of $5 to reach those “who have not heard about the boycott” in an attempt to gain two million signatures. The statement contains a claim that one anonymous donor gave the association $50,000." 

Right. That last statement about the anonymous donor? See Number 5 above. Because the $50K is from "Anonymous," there's no accountability. Maybe there was a donor, or maybe the figure is a planted suggestion. Again, classic fundraising tactic.

When fundraisers and marketers discuss that database, they talk about "giving units," not human beings who are giving sacrificial individual donations or pledging their estate to a charitable trust. Yes, it's that cold.

The AFA reported to Charity Navigator that $25.3 million of their $28 million income in 2014 was from donations. Do they spend those donations on improving family life or feeding/housing/teaching/medically treating children (that would be a big, fat NO), or do they spend their millions on getting their extremist candidates elected, lobbying legislatures, and creating bathroom laws? You know the answer.  
 
The AFA is not the only fundraising operation that uses the above strategy. Recognize the steps I've outlined above, and give responsibly, where your donations can have the best effect.
 
When you make donations or support charitable trusts, do so with a heart for the people Jesus mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount, the people who are "the least of these," or the poor widow who has only mites to put in the offering. Like the men and women Paul thanked in his epistles, support the poor, and support the pastors and missionaries as they spread the gospel. And as a responsible adult who knows that bills must be paid, please support your local church. 
 
But fear mongers and bigots? No. Deprive them of the fruits of their greed. Don't be a sucker.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Joy among the tax forms

 So I was doing my tax return, as usual at the last minute. As a self-employed person, I never get a refund, and always have to pay double employment tax since it's not shared by an employer, so the government doesn't get my payment until the last few hours before the deadline. I did all my business bookkeeping in the week of Christmas, so in mid-April, it's just inputting it to the online tax service.

I'd saved the 1099 miscellaneous income forms and the charity receipts that came in January, and there was one I was dreading to open because it was from a financial institution to which I was indebted when my father died. Time's up, though, so I had to look at the numbers to deal with the situation.

 "Debt discharged." Not paid by his estate, not charged to me (as I thought). No interest as I feared. Just erased. This is one of those "too big to fail" banks, and they just don't do that. And yet, that's what the letter said. Debt discharged, and the amount.

That's not a bank thing. That's a God thing. I can't and won't tell details in a public blog because no one but me has a right to that information. But when my father died several years ago, there was no inheritance; not one item of antique furniture, family heirlooms, or anything from my father's and mother's estates came to me from my dad's second wife. Nothing except this shared debt. It deepened the grief at losing my dad, knowing that he didn't leave a letter or phone call, didn't bless us, didn't make a will or provision for my brother and me, but put everything in his wife's name. A not-nice person who constantly undermined relationships and treated us badly at every turn. 

"A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children." Prov. 13:22

But my *other* Father made a silk purse out of a sow's ear. He took my burden onto his own yoke. And he's given me hope. He's proved himself as the Father who has an inheritance for me--both someday, in heaven, and now, in his kingdom. Debt discharged. I'm free.

"You, O God, sent abroad plentiful rain; You confirmed Your inheritance when it was parched and weary." Psalm 68:9

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Going nowhere fast



© 2016 Christy K Robinson



I'd say I'm speechless, but I can't be. My jaw has dropped open in shock, but I definitely have things to say.

Ben Carson said (defending his endorsement of Trump and Trump's bomb blasts of misogyny, racism, religious oppression, and hate) that "...when you're very nice, when you’re very respectful, you talk about the real issues... where does it get you?” Carson asked. “It gets you where it got me: nowhere.”
--The View, 3/24/16

"It gets you nowhere." Bitter much, Dr. Carson? Goodbye to integrity, kindness, compassion, respect for others, not to mention Carson's profession of Christianity, which is supposed to be about compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and taking care of the downtrodden and helpless.

Being "nice" and "respectful" isn't supposed to convey you somewhere, or bring praise or votes or financial success. Being kind is something you do because it's something you ARE
Carson perhaps wants to go "somewhere" after his failed bid for the White House, so with his endorsement, he hitches his wagon to the Trump warhead.

"He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm." Prov. 13:20.

An English proverb says that "A man is known by the company he keeps."

Let me be found with the kind, the respectful, the compassionate, the inclusive, the thinkers, the wise, the grateful, but especially the lovers.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Are you voting with your middle finger?

Why Christians should not support this man:
"Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas."
"You're known by the company you keep."
We are transformed by what we behold:

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Philippians 4:8
"And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Cor. 3:18
 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

What it took me 5 decades to learn

© 2015 Christy K Robinson

I've always been thankful. When I receive a gift, I say "thank you" to the giver, or write a thank-you note before I use the item or spend the money. It's just good manners, as I was taught from infancy. I guess I thought that was enough: acknowledging the gift and telling the giver I liked it and they were very kind to give it. Not any more.

Gratitude is something deeper, I believe. The word comes from the Latin "gratus" or "gratia." We often use the word "grace" in faith settings, and it's usually defined as undeserved favor, or even as extreme as showing mercy to a known enemy. Gratitude is the condition of being thankful for a gift.

If the money or thing was earned, there's no grace about it--it's payment. But gratitude acknowledges that the giver owned something of value and relinquished it forever to the recipient with no expectation of repayment or reciprocation.

Something I've learned, again and again, but perhaps in a deeper way recently, is that gratitude is a lifeline out of despair. It doesn't make a lot of sense to be grateful for adverse circumstances, but I've found that being grateful that I'm beloved of God, and that I have the respect and love of friends, lifts me up from the pit where the Adversary flung me.

Rather than a rational explanation, the miraculous answer is that when I set my eyes on God, instead of my miserable circumstances, he has the opportunity to remind me from whence my blessings flow--and then sets them in motion. It's not that I deserve the blessing by my actions, but that he loves me and is liberal with his gifts. 

And as mentioned in the video "Just Be Held," if my eyes are on the storm, I'm not seeing the one who's saying "Peace, be still."

So being thankful, nay, being grateful right down to my core, is what I hope to be, and hold in my heart in increasing measure, in the new year ahead.



Sunday, December 6, 2015

Saint Nicholas on Santa's Naughty List!

From a Facebook post by minister Benjamin L. Corey
Today (December 6) is the Feast of St. Nicholas-- yes, the original jolly fellow himself.

He's remembered for giving gifts to children, trying to save girls from human trafficking, advocating for people on death row, and perhaps most of all: punching heretics in the face.

At the Council of Nicaea in AD 325, The man who would become "Santa" lost his cool when Arius argued that Jesus was not co-eternal and con-substantial with the Father, and punched Arius in the face for being a heretic. Some legends have it that a man named Eusebius responded by urinating on Nicholas' robe, but the position of Nicholas carried the day anyway.

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas! Heretics beware. 

********************* 

Comments from his readers: 


Adam Tate: St. Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra was present at the Council of Nicea but not on the list. So he was probably in a gallery around the Patriarchs involved. Or...its possible the slap was just days or even hours prior to the council sessions.

Arius was a deacon at the Church of Alexandria who defied the teaching on the nature of Christ. He had beef with the Bishop of Alexandria's teaching on the nature and substance of God. Essentially he claimed there was a time when the Son was not.

St Nicholas was known for his humility and poverty. He came from well to do parents who left an inheritance to him. Of which he gave away. He served time in prison for preaching the gospel. Just prior to Constantine taking the throne. He was an old man, while Arius was a young man. Probably young enough to be Father Nicholas' grand son. He slapped the young lad no different than we would scold a teenage son for his ignorance and defiance of their elders.


Michael Jay: Remember the result of this was he was removed from the council, stripped of his bishop's robes, and locked up until the council was over. His position was restored -- but, Nicholas removed himself from the council by his bad behavior.

Yes, he was an old man, but he also slapped a priest who was not in his Diocese, and who was bluntly the main reason the council was called in the first place. I imagine a lot of people wanted to slap him, but Athanatius (also a priest, same Diocese) managed to use his words; and that was what was necessary.

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