Category Archives: 25 D.O.P. (2017)

Hermit

(#25 of 25 – 2017)

A hermit is a person who withdraws from the world, often for religious reasons.  I’ve considered the life of a hermit as something that I would perhaps be suited for.  Frankly, TV and books that romanticized hermitage were primarily to blame, but something about the simplicity of it all spoke to me.  No messy interactions with people who are predictable only in their unpredictability, no unexpected phone calls with bad news.  No reason to depend on anyone but yourself.

I’ve dabbled with hermitage.  Most of the 18 months I spent in my first apartment were spent alone.  From the moment I left work until the moment I returned the next day, the majority of my days were spent by myself, interacting with only me and the world I could touch through the internet.  At first I enjoyed the solitude, but as the months wore on, I found that there was certainly something missing in my life.  Obviously this was not a full hermitage, as I worked regularly during that time, often times spending the day interacting specifically with other people as part of my employment.  At the end of the day, I found that I did not have the peace I thought I would find in being alone.

Things have changed quite a lot since I first moved out in mid 2015.  It is now the beginning of 2018, and I have proposed to my fiancé, and we have begun to plan a life together.  At a certain level, I will never be alone again for very long.  My future wife is depending on me to be present in our marriage, just as I am depending on her being present.  We are making a commitment to each other to stay together and never seek to be apart emotionally (even if work or other realities take us apart physically for a time).  I am forsaking the call of the hermit.

Or am I?

Unfortunately, for me it is easy to seek to withdraw from chaos around me.  I hear news about world leaders calling countries I know and love ‘shitholes’, and sending back 200,000 people who have made their home here in the United States and I just want to run away from it.  I fear the harsh words that could be said to me if I stand up against those actions, if I put my foot down to say “This is wrong.”  I have found that conflict is more easily avoided than resolved, so when the conflict doesn’t directly involve me, it is easy to exempt myself from confronting it.  I seek the seeming solitude of distraction.  I peruse websites and read comic strips by the hour.  I find myself seeking escape from the harsh realities around me.

I’ve found that my life is more full, now.  My relationship with Samantha has broadened it and deepened it significantly.  I still have rough days where I want to just hide in bed and never come out, but now I know that Sam is depending on me (at least in some sense, she is capable of being a very independent young lady) to wake up and engage with her.  Yes, there is sometimes a cost to these interactions.  Sometimes I have to delay something I was focused on doing, so that we can be more together when she has time available, but the rewards found in the relationship have been more than worth the costs.

Sometimes I have to give up just a bit of my personal peace, in order to find relational peace.

When I began dating my future wife, I forsook the call of the hermit in my personal life.  It is tremendously important that I don’t withdraw into myself, that I don’t shut her out.
For a long time, my attention has been drawn to the lack of peace in the world, and sometimes it is so easy to close my eyes and pretend that everything is okay.  I don’t want to give up my personal peace to make a difference in the world around me.  I am too often unwillingly to sacrifice the peace I have to pursue peace for the world at large.  I’ve become a hermit, withdrawing from the world because it is easier to keep my personal slice of peace than to share it with those in need around me. I’ve been following the way of the hermit, and I’m afraid that one day I will regret it tremendously.  One day the consequences for the world we be so high that I am directly affected, regardless of my desire to remain aloof.

I must confront this desire towards hermitage in my life, and do the work that the world needs me to do.

I must choose Peace instead of peace.

Prince of Peace

(#24 of 25-2017)
Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

So what did he do to bring peace into various situations?  What can we learn from his actions?

Jesus very first miracle was turning water into wine.  He was at a wedding with his mother, where they ran out of wine, and Mary asked Jesus to do something about it.  A wine shortage certainly wasn’t the biggest issue in the world at the time, but Jesus, in obedience to his mother chose to act.  He turned the water brought to him into the finest wine of the wedding.    I have never really spent much time studying this story before, because it seems so cut and dry.  I approached it as if Jesus took care of a minor problem, and moved on with his life, and so should we.

Now that I am helping plan a wedding of my own, I realize just how much this moment must have meant to the happy couple.  As we work on planning a special day for us, for our family, and for our friends, we are constantly focused on money and costs and amounts and wanting to be sure we have enough of everything for everyone.  This couple had likely done the same thing, but somehow came up short.  If I was the groom in that situation, I would have been pretty upset and I would be trying to scrounge up enough cash to buy another cask so my very thirsty friends could drink their fill.  It would have been a huge distraction, and it might have even ruined my memories of the special day.

Jesus stepped into this lack, and supplied.  He brought peace through provision.

We see another moment when Jesus is confronted by the religious rulers of his day, they have brought with them a woman caught in adultery, and they are demanding that he pass judgement on her.  The Mosaic law requires that this woman be stoned to death.  They have done everything they can to trap Jesus between a rock and a hard place, and it does seem to be an impossible situation.  Jesus can deny the law of Moses (which come from God his Father) and let the woman live, or he can allow the woman to be killed for her sin.

Jesus seems speechless in this moment.  He writes on the ground with his finger, but the scriptures do not tell us what he wrote.  The religious sect around him continues to press him for an answer, feeling that their trap is working.  Jesus finally responds to their questions.  He tells them that the man with no sin can throw the first stone.  In one masterful stroke, Jesus judges not only the woman, but each man who has brought her to him.  The religious men are forced to accept that they too have sinned, and they leave the woman alone with Jesus.   Jesus has saved this woman from this life threatening situation.

Jesus delayed judgement to give the woman (and each of the men as well) a chance to repent of their sin.  Jesus brought peace through delay.  We never meet that woman in the scriptures again, but my hope is that she found herself changed through her encounter with Jesus.

I have one more story for today.

Peter denied Jesus three times, even after swearing that he would never forsake Christ.  After the crucifixion, we find Peter to be a broken man, ashamed of his failure, ashamed of his denials.  Peter returns to his life as a fisherman, leaving behind everything his Rabbi taught him, certain that he had no place in the work Jesus wanted to do in the world.  During a breakfast by the fire, Jesus restores Peter to himself, healing their relationship.  He sets in front of Peter a tremendous task, one that will eventually take Peter’s life.  He welcomes Peter back into the family as if no wrong had been done.  Jesus brings peace through forgiveness.

Jesus truly is the Prince of Peace.

Drone

(#23 of 25 days of Peace-2017)
As a race humanity has some unique characteristics.  While we aren’t the only species to use tools, we are certainly a species that has truly mastered tool use.   While otters have their favorite rock, and scientists have declared that chimps and monkeys are living in the stone age, the genus Homo has most fully learned to use tools.

When we use tools, we open up new worlds of possibility.  A hammer brought forth the possibility of the home you may live in today.  A knife allows a human to pre-digest their food, cutting it into smaller sections to aid in digestion.  When we began to tame fire, we again made our own process of digestion easier.  The invention of gunpowder, led to the rifle, which made harvesting game to eat even easier.  Each tool has opened up new possibilities for the human race to survive.

This knowledge comes at a price, however.  Or perhaps I should say this knowledge comes with a choice.  The tools we use in our daily lives, can so often be used to destroy possibility as they can be used to create it.  In fact, each tool I named above can be easily used to kill another human, to snuff out the possibilities that exist in that person.  We live in a world where our power grows daily, as new tools are developed that allow us to bring forth new life, or new death.  These tools can bring peace, or they can take it away.

So do we bring the ban hammer down on, well, hammers?  Or do we accept the inherent risk of the hammer, to take advantage of the tremendous opportunity presented to us by it?  That decision has already been made in history.  We know that the good of the hammer will outweigh the bad if we as a society teach young children that it is wrong to use the hammer for evil.  The decision has already been made for the hammer, but there are new tools being invented every day, for which this type of decision will need to be made by society.

I have recently begun using a new tool that has opened up an entire new set of possibilities for me, but that also has a terrible destructive potential.  This tool can help find a lost hiker in the woods, or it can be used to spy on your sunbathing neighbor.  This tool can be used to deliver medicines to remote villages, or it can be used to deliver guided munitions in a precision strike.  This tool can be used to study fragile habitats, or used to destroy them.

I’m speaking about my sUAV, more commonly known as a drone.

I’ve never used a more polarizing camera tool in my life.  I’ve upset people by even bringing it in to a shoot, I’ve had it taken away in an airport, and I’ve had to take the most difficult test I’ve taken since high school in order to use one commercially.  I had to spend more time learning how to use one in a lawful and safe way than I had to spend to acquire my concealed carry permit for a handgun.  (That should probably be telling us something, by the way.)

Drones are an incredible tool, and they have been used in disaster response to deliver medicines, save lives, find sinking refugee ships at sea.  They open up new perspectives on our planet, and even beyond, as the Cassini mission shows us.  We have drones on the surface of Mars, places where humanity is unwilling or unable to go.  Through the use of this powerful tool, humanity has extended it’s reach beyond itself, to entirely new places.  One drone has even become the first man made object to leave our solar system and enter interstellar space. (Here’s looking at you V’ger!)

Drones have brought tremendous potential to humanity, but there are those who have taken this tool and perverted it.

Most people first heard the term drone in reference to ‘drone strikes’ being carried out by the United States government.  Large drones (the size of a small plane, not the little quadcopters you most often see in the U.S.) carry ordinance to a target, and attack it from above.  Currently these actions are controlled by a human, sitting in a control room some distance away, but there are those that seek to make this targeting and attacking process autonomous.  I’ve written on this subject previously here.  Other drones have been used by perverted individuals to spy on others, and I’ve seen videos of women being directly harassed by a perverted individual bent on using this tool to destroy instead of create.

I hesitated for a long time over the word pervert.  It is an ugly word, describing an ugly situation.  I choose to use it, because I want society to recognize these uses of drone technology as a perversion of it’s potential.  I want society to see that brave new technology should not come with a loss of personal freedoms, or a loss of life.   A person who uses technology to harm others is a pervert.  They have taken the glorious potential of a technology and twisted it for their own purposes.

The only way to ensure that new technology is used in a positive way is to put societal pressure on those who would do otherwise.  We, as a society, have a choice about how new technology is used, and those of us who are seeking peace can not be silent as the world around us attempts to pervert and exploit those who have no voice.  So stand up for those killed by the military’s use of drones, stand up for those whose privacy has been invaded, for those who have been sexually assaulted by a pervert with a remote control.  Encourage strong punishments for those who use technology improperly, including our own government.

End drone warfare.  Stop the perversion of technology.

Peace demands it.

Underdog

(#22 of 25 – 2017)
Everybody loves a good underdog story.

When I see a film or watch a TV show that features an underdog, I am silently rooting for the underdog.  While I’m not much of a sports fan, I nearly always root for the underdog in the competitions I happen to watch.  An underdog is loosely defined as the person or team who is predicted and expected to lose.  The Jamaican bobsled team is an example of this, as they were from a tropical country, and had no experience or funding to compete at the Olympic level.  The movie Cool Runnings portrays this adventure in a bit of a romanticized way, but ultimately the Jamaican bobsledders did achieve at least some success in future Olympic contests.

We have a soft spot for the underdog, and often, we relish the opportunity to see the underdog defeat the dominant team in a sport.  We feel as though the dominant team secretly deserved the loss, and it gives us hope that we can one day beat those who hold dominion over us in the same way.   We glory in the knowledge that sometimes the best equipment, coaches, and players that money can buy can be defeated by a team with heart and just a little luck.

Underdog stories are popular during war time as well.  We read of Audie Murphy who held off a German advance single-handedly for hours.  We celebrate Alvin York who single-handedly captured more than 100 opposition soldiers.  We remember hundreds of men and women who fought with great heart against all odds to win the day for their comrades in arms.

So what does that mean when your country has the strongest military force in the world?

When the underdog loses, it is no surprise, they were predicted and expected to lose, and the glory of the victor is somehow less than the underdog would have received had they won.  Yeah, the victors still win, but the glory of the victory is lost in the inevitability of the win.  Of course they were going to win, they spent nearly 10x as much on player contracts this year as the underdog.

So what does it mean, when your country can assault nearly anyone, anywhere without even putting it’s own soldiers at risk?

What does it mean when your country literally spends more on its defense than the 8 other leading countries combined?  
What does it mean, when your country can take on any other country in the world and win, immediately, according to the numbers?

I love the freedoms that I have been granted here in the United States, and I understand that freedom is not free, but purchased through struggle and sacrifice.  I also understand that war was never intended to be fair, and never will be, but can we take some time for self reflection here?

How can we claim to be a nation of peace, when we are clearly preparing for war?

When will the underdog come for us?  After all, every dog has his day.

Jesus, Refugee. (#21 2017)

According to Wikipedia, a refugee, generally speaking, is a displaced person who has been forced to cross national boundaries and who cannot return home safely.

The world is full of refugees right now.  In fact, right now, 152 million (152,000,000) people are considered refugees.   There are more refugees on our planet right now, than people living in Russia, the 9th most populated country in the world.   That means that if we treated refugees as a nation of their own, they would bump Russia down to the 10th most populated country.

This blows my mind.  So many people are living without a safe place to call home, right now.

Of course this is a big deal, and you’ve been hearing about it on the news for years, but each year, instead of getting better, the situation gets worse.

I could continue to hit us all over the head with stats and figures about how serious the situation is for the world right now, but it seems like it isn’t really doing any good, since I know that the news is reporting these stats regularly, and the situation continues to get worse.

So instead, I’ll point you to Matthew 2:13–23.

In this passage you will find that Jesus himself became a refugee.  He had to flee the country he was born in, and live in Egypt in order to be safe from an evil government bent on destroying him.  Jesus, born a Hebrew, returned to Egypt, the land of his peoples enslavement to escape death.

Perhaps you’ll argue that Jesus is a special situation, since he is the son of God.

May I point you to the Pilgrims?

You do realize they were refugees, right?  They were fleeing religious persecution in their own country, and fled to the Americas to find the freedom to worship they were seeking.  Many of us in the United States today would not be here if it were not for the Pilgrims, and others like them who fled their governments and established themselves in a new place that welcomed them.

The refugee crisis is complex, and terrifically hard to understand, and frankly I don’t have any new answers to these questions.  Luckily, we don’t need new answers.

Matthew 25:31-46 says this.

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will tell those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’

“The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in; naked, and you didn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

“Then they will also answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn’t help you?’

“Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

The word stranger can be translated as refugee, or ‘other’.  Someone not like us.  I hope that when it is my turn to be judged, I am found on the side of the refugee, but it is not enough for me to just hope.  I must take action.

Now excuse me while I wrestle with what this must mean to me in MY life.