a raven

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stormy weather boys

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April showers, it is said, bring May flowers.

So what do April blizzards bring?

Oh. Juncos.


And steller’s jays, looking a bit mussy.

steller’s jay

And with it, oddly enough, a mountain quail, which flew up to my balcony, with snow on its tail.

steller’s jay and mountain quail on my balcony
mountain quail, hungry enough to fly up to my balcony

good riddance

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Here’s a treat for my liberal leaning friends.

Tom DeLay is not seeking re-election.

Three cheers for that. Good riddance I say.

This might surprise some folks who wander the halls of dualravens.com expecting my rants and ravings to lean rightward. Tom DeLay is the hero of the Christian conversation, right?

Nope. Indeed I would credit Tom DeLay for being one of the strongest forces in the last fifteen years to push me leftward. I don’t like Tom DeLay. I think he was bad for this country, and I think he was bad for the so-called Christian conversation.

He was, in my estimation, a 1950s sort of Christian politician, some words for the public, many different words in the backroom deals, being the sort of partisan hack who settles only on the positions which would bring him more power. These sorts of people are why I despise the Democratic party these days. I have no more regard for the sort in the Republican party.

I can name the day. It was at the beginning of the war in Croatia, when we were flying high, bombing heavy, all to suggest that killing swathes of innocent people is not an acceptable social policy. Clinton ordered it, and my being somewhat in favor of stopping evil men especially when they are in power, I thought it the least we could do. Tom DeLay came out sounding not much different than Teddy Kennedy sounds today, decrying the use of force and whatnot. After hearing for years the rhetoric about Iraq, I realized such a man cared only about the political posturing not about anything substantial.

Also. The mark of a 1950s Christian leader was to have a lot of rhetoric, but be corrupt and surrounded by corruption. That’s what got our wonderful Quaker president in a hole. Nixon was a brilliant man, a very good politician, with good instincts, except for the bit about corruption. He thought it okay to have corrupt people doing corrupt things around him. It gets into the soul, and causes no end of a mess, and indeed soils the whole conversation. When folks in power talk about Christ, but involve themselves in decidely unChristlike methods and standards, for the sake of their own gathering power and finances, they soil the name of Christ.

And to such a person I say good riddance.

It’s not about particular decisions for me, it’s about particular people. DeLay was not a man to represent us, even if he talked a good talk. Thankfully, for the good of his own soul and for the Republican party, he realizes it’s better to retire. I wish those in the Democratic party with the same sort of character would do the same thing. We might have a decent conversation in this country again on things political.

And I know, my liberal leaning readers will guffaw at this whole post and ask why I dismiss DeLay but support GWB.

Discernment, that’s all I can offer in my defense. One may disagree with GWB on policy decisions, but I’ve no doubt in my mind that he really does want to do the right things, for the right reasons, and earnestly, if not completely successfully, wants to have his faith reflected in his life. GWB is not putting on a show. And I respect that, and support that.

Weasels I don’t support, no matter what party they are in.

A realization

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Charles Parham was wrong.

And not for the reasons most people would suggest. He was right about those bits.

For those who aren’t up to date with their early 20th century American Church History Charles Parham was a professor at a small Bible college in Topeka, Kansas. He assigned his students to discover what was the nature of the Spirit’s baptism. They came up with the gift of Tongues, both as an answer and as a renewed practice, suggesting a power behind their answer. This is considered the spark of the Pentecostal movement.

Charles Parham, and his students, didn’t read far enough. And so they were wrong. The evidence of the Spirit’s presence includes tongues but that’s not the primary revelation.

It’s something else. Something else entirely.

And I checked the rest of Acts, and then Paul, and then the other epistles. It’s definitely something else.

a bit on immigration

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So, if you’ve caught the news, or your favorite politically minded blogger, recently you may have heard there’s a bit of a ruckus concerning immigration. For those native to Southern California, or Southern Anywhere In The Southwest, this is not a new topic of consideration. It’s sort of like a volcano, always seething under the surface erupting when some tectonic plate moves up or down, right or left.

Most folks are aware of the problems involved. There’s a lot of people coming into this country, illegally, to do what is mostly a whole lot of work. They make a big effort to do things we wouldn’t really want to do with no effort, all because, for the most part, such jobs may be bad but they pay, and I know how irritating it is to do a lot of work for no pay, or no work for no pay. Both are very poor for one’s diet, which is a problem, and more of a problem when a person is responsible for the diet of others.

Cardinal Mahoney, the LA Times, and others came out against the most recent attempts in congress to fix this issue once and for all. Honestly, I haven’t been paying attention to the details. Call me cynical, but I think it’s mostly all smoke and mirrors, with little that will be changed. But, after seeing the demonstrations, and reading a some bits on other sites, I suppose I’ll weigh in with my thoughts. Being I took sixteen weeks of Latin American history way back in Wheaton land, I am, of course, somewhat of an expert. Well, not really. But that and my own personal family history does inform my thinking.

Some have said this is the Civil Rights issue of our generation. I couldn’t agree more. I think this is absolutely a Civil Rights issue, not quite at the level of slavery, but definitely up there with the Jim Crow era, and child labor issues, and big labor disputes.

However, I don’t think Congress has any part in this. At least not our Congress. This is the biggest Civil Rights issue of our generation, but this is a problem of Mexico. The problem in the United States is we are forced to come to terms with problems that should not be problems, and make decisions in which no side can be righteous because the problem at the core is unrighteous from a much earlier source.

Let’s pretend for a moment. Imagine if the situation were reversed, that we were living in Bizarro North America, where up is down, where brown is white, and where Americans were eagerly making there way underneath fences and through badlands to get to the underclass jobs of the thriving Mexican economy.

Now, I can say I know a few Americans. If Mexico decided this method wasn’t working out for them, that they could not support two countries worth of people, who would we complain to? Would there be a mass demonstration in Mexico City led by people of all colors to insist that the Mexican government have better schools, better jails, better conditions for all the anglos who just want to eat? No. Of course not. We’d be in Washington. We’d be making this a political issue in every election from the local water board to the President of these United States. My goodness, I remember the last Presidential election and one of Bush’s big marks against him was the perception there would be a net loss of jobs in this country. Not a net loss of people going to other countries to find jobs, but a net loss of jobs, because of a recession, that was already changing.

Imagine if a vast number of people in our country had no hope of a job and had to scurry through the desert to do something silly in Mexico? That would be a Civil Rights issue of profound importance speaking of the failure of the American States to serve our own poor. Roosevelt faced just this, and radically changed the American scene.

So what now? In ethical circles today, however, there is no other moral agent besides America. There is no other cause, no other subject besides America. If there is something wrong. Blame America. This is particularly non-Christian, however. For a Christian, who in this world recognizes no borders as a limitation nor nationality as a badge of distinction should not just be about willing to criticize their own politics. A spade, to a Christian, should be a spade.

Which means, to me, the most Christian thing to do, the best illustration of ethical principles, would entail taking it to the governments most responsible, and making a major show of change. We don’t need Democrats or Republicans to do a thing. We need the Mexican government to stand up for its own people, to fight its own corruption and rebuild a country that does not force millions of its own citizens to leave their family and homes to go to something stupid in a foreign country.

In my estimation Jesus would not be saying a word to Bush, but would be down there chatting with Fox, chatting with the various Bishops, encouraging the people to take a stand, and encouraging people up here to take a stand in the way that really matters.

Otherwise, it all just looks like the same old dumb politics dressed up in religious and ethical clothes, but cares very little about actually helping people in the ways that count.

The Christian response to all of this? Get Mexico in order. Get all those countries with starving populations in order. Until they do their part, until their leaders of churches and politics are willing to step up, America can never do the right thing, and it’s a waste of time for us to think we can.

a random rumination

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What wanders so close it cannot be seen? What is so near it is now hidden to our blinded eyes? This is the soul. Our soul. The soul of another which cries and yells in rabid discontent, caught up in our own inner frenzies of being, unable to say more or do more or show more. Yet we ignore the plaintive cries, we expound on things irrelevant, never listening, never noticing, never bothering with that which is loudest and clearest.

And so we wander, always wander, never settling into ourselves, wanting only to become what someone else is, even as they wander to yet another. There is no peace, there is no comfort there is nothing which gives sign to an end. We are refugees from ourselves. No one will take us in.

A Daily Journal

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Every once in a while (such as the post just before the last one) I make reference to Quaker friends. Now, my circle of Friends has grown a bit, from taking part in a writing conference organized by a Quaker Publisher, to running across a Quaker or two in emerging places.

Now, I make note of the first Quaker I really had a good conversation with. He and his wife are two of the most excellent people a person could come across, and so it was always with a bit of pleasant surprise I kept coming across them in situations that I didn’t expect. We all have our different worlds, you know, but these two had some kind of hyperspatial sociality, which allowed them to appear in all my different worlds.

I take it as a sign. Because, we all know I most likely would not have run across them at a political rally or in support of a favorite cause.

This all, of course, is a lot of words to say a really quick thing. He’s writing a daily journal over at that Quaker Publisher I made note of above. And my suspicion is what he says will be worth reading. The picture, by the by, is merely capturing the typical Quaker enthusiasm. Just in case you were worried.

California Coach Sued for Belittling Players

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A father of a softball player in Arcadia sued her coach for $3 million because the coach used belittling language while he was coaching. This father, no surprise, is a lawyer and a namby-pamby pansy.

peace and such

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Alright, rather than try to circle my mental wagons and have some nicely packaged considerations of all things ethics and political. I think I might instead throw out my process. That is, start collecting the various things which pass through my head when I think about topics relating to this world, and which seem especially relating to my somewhat new relating to Friends. Like I noted in my previous post, I find an affinity with Friends, and this is something which has been bolstered by my reading of George Fox. I’m only about halfway done, but I’m thinking I have gotten a feel for his approach to this world. I’ll wait until I finish to gather my thoughts about him.

Maybe, however, my affinity comes from how I’ve participated in church myself over the years. To put it lightly I can be a bit feisty in ecclesial environs. I speak my mind. That my mind is filled with some little bit of training now adds to my considerations, and to the apparently frustrating reactions I provoke at times. It is noted in family folklore that I share the blood of George Fox. Now I haven’t confirmed this, but it wouldn’t surprise me, not least because of this seemingly persistent prickliness.

However, I seem to have one clear bond with Fox and that is a very strong emphasis on the Spirit’s work in each person’s life, and a very strong emphasis on discernment of spirits. It was said George Fox had a very strong gift of discernment. I wonder if this is a gift that almost by nature provokes the discontent. Most folks can wander through church worlds being variously bothered or encouraged, seeing the church as a structure like most others. Those with discernment, however, see and feel it all with a potency hard to describe, and in their understanding they say what they see because they can’t help but do otherwise. It’s similar to prophecy in that way.

Oddly, then I don’t necessarily share all of Fox’s beliefs about particulars, and that leads me to different political considerations in the present.

Take war, for instance. I think war can be a very effective answer at times. And so I don’t necessarily consider a staunch pacifism as being the only position a dedicated Christian can take.

At some point in my pondering the possibilities of military service I came to the story of David. David was a man of war, a man of violence, a man of passions. When his wife to be was made a little more difficult to get David slaughtered a 100 Philistines for their foreskins, to be presented as the price for his promised bride.

That’s not a very Christian thing to do. Of course, David wasn’t a Christian so that seems a silly statement to make. He was, however, the servant of the Most High, whose revelation in that era we contend was continued in the person of Christ. Not changed, that would be not quite right, but continued. David was a man after God’s own heart, a friend of God, and remains the brightest point of the Old Testament. He is, in his life, the pivot of the nation, where the whole prior story was rising upwards, and the whole story after descended. On the person of David rests the height of the Old Testament narrative, which is why Jesus, who was to be a new peak of Israel, is so importantly described as the son of David.

David’s immediate son Solomon was a man of tremendous wisdom, of profound wisdom and indeed a man of profound peace. 1 Chronicles 22:9 notes this:

See, a son shall be born to you; he shall be a man of peace . I will give him peace from all his enemies on every side; for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days.

David wanted to build a Temple for God. God didn’t want a permanent home but David thought it would be a good idea, and so God relented but said that David couldn’t build it. David had blood on his hands, you see. Solomon noted this in 1 Kings 5:3 when he said, “You know that my father David could not build a house for the name of the LORD his God because of the warfare with which his enemies surrounded him, until the LORD put them under the soles of his feet.”

This led me to a consideration. Violence is not of God. However, violence is also not apart from the work of God in this world. A person who engages in violence will cause a degree of separation, limiting the depths to which wisdom, inner peace, and holiness can be discovered. However, it is my estimation, from reading Scripture and personal consideration, that the tools of violence are not outside the tools the Holy Spirit can use in this world. War, in Scripture, was provoked by God, indeed provoked by God for a people who would have rather sat out the violence thank you very much. God made Israel into a warlike people.

This isn’t to say anything about present wars. It’s merely to say that if God is unchanging, then God has and may still use war as a tool for his own purposes. The Spirit can say yes when a person asks whether violence is appropriate in a situation.

David then is a curious example. For he was a man of God who was told by God that he could not fully represent God. By committing violence he acted in accordance with God’s will. Yet by doing that he separated himself from God in a way. Solomon, however, could build the Temple, could worship God, and was a man of peace. Yet, that wisdom did not protect him, and his reflection of peace was not a reflection of holiness and unity with God. David was more in alignment with God than Solomon.

Violence does impede our relating to God. Yet violence in this world can be used by God, has been used by God, and any reading of Revelation suggests it will be used by God.

Peter, for instance, in Acts raised a girl from the dead and slaughtered a fine Christian couple, who would likely be on the elder board of any of our present manifestations of church, with the same power and authority of the Spirit.

So, where does that leave me? War is something that has been used by God. Violence is not outside the tools the Spirit may use for the broader work in this world, though is never used for evangelism. God sees life and death very differently than we see life and death. For God some kinds of life are not life, and some kinds of death are not death. Life and death mix in a much different way from his perspective, so we cannot use the causing of death to limit how God does work in this world.

Violence then is like any other sort of sacrifice. For the sake of something, whether it be justice or protection or some other higher goal, we can sacrifice this part of ourselves, partaking in violence when violence is not outside our understanding of the Spirit’s call in our lives. A policeman, for instance, can use violence. Or in the defense of someone being assaulted. That would be the neighborly thing to do, I would guess.

Violence is not ideal, and it is not Godly, but God has used violence, though not for the same reasons we use violence, for a lot of our reasons, most of our reasons, are not God’s reasons. Which brings me back to George Fox. He lived during the time of Oliver Cromwell, who led Protestant/Parliament armies to fight the Royalists and the Catholics.

Which leads me to think about the importance of context in consideration. There are very few things in this world which are always used by the Spirit or always rejected by the Spirit. That makes discernment such an important thing.

Which really was Fox’s key point in what he had to say. Let the Spirit guide you.

This is a curious demand because it also insists that we are cautious about judging how the Spirit is guiding others. Our story is not their story, their story is not our story, and the Spirit is writing a story substantially more complicated than we can perceive, with our real duty to concern ourselves with our story, and not lose focus on what we are called to do because we are bothered by what other people are doing.

And that ends my morning ramble. I know this was disjointed, but I don’t feel much like edited and my mind is a wee bit wandery this morning for more coherent arguments. I felt I should post something.

You see why I put off writing for a bit. More to come later, maybe a foray into immigration.

Sunday afternoon treat

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For Christmas last year I got a frozen dessert maker. Which really is a grand thing to have. Being that today is the 2nd of April, and the first sunny day we’ve had in Spring I thought I would make a a bit of ice cream.

Here’s my recipe:

1 1/2 cup whole milk
2 cups cream
1/2 granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
teaspoon of peppermint extract
teaspoon of vanilla extract
dash of salt
a squirt of green food coloring
1 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream.

Bailey’s Irish Ice Cream

Bailey’s Irish Ice Cream

Mmmm… good. I know you wish you could have a bowl.