Friday, January 9, 2015

"Prions pour la France" #jesuischarlie

The title of this post translates to, "Let us pray for France." #IamCharlie

When my friend Laura saw me post #jesuischarlie on Facebook, she asked, "Huh?" She had thought I was saying, "Jesus is Charlie."

Unfortunately, that hashtag has nothing to do with Jesus or any famous Charlies (such as Charlie Brown or Charlie, the perfume.)

Charlie, in this case, is Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine based in Paris, France.  No person or group is safe from being ridiculed by Charlie Hebdo--everyone is an open target.

In 2011, the staff of Charlie Hebdo published an issue renamed "Charia Hebdo"--a reference to Sharia Law--guest edited by the prophet Muhammed  A caricature of the prophet Muhammed appeared on the front cover saying, 100 lashes of the whip if you don't die laughing.

Certain Muslims were not amused.

On November 2, 2011, the offices of Charlie Hebdo were firebombed, and its website was hacked. Charb--Stephane Charbonnier, the editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo--stated, that the attack might have been by "stupid people who don't know what Islam is" and that they were "idiots who betray their own religion".

In September, 2012, Charlie Hebdo published a series of cartoons satirizing the prophet Muhammed. Some of the cartoons were nude caricatures.   The cartoons were published just days after a number of demonstrations at various American diplomatic missions allegedly protesting the movie Innocence of Muslims, a film considered blasphemous by Muslims.    

In March, 2013, the Al-Qaeda branch in Yemen put out a "hit list" which included Charlie's editor, Stephane Charbonnier.

On Wednesday, January 7, they struck.

They forced an employee to open the door by threatening the life of her toddler daughter.  Once inside, they headed for the room where the staff was in an editorial meeting.  When the carnage was over, twelve people were dead, including Charb, and eleven others were wounded.  One of the men murdered was a Muslim police officer that had been shot and wounded before being executed with a shot at close range.

For the next two days, the shooters were on the run.  

This morning, I learned that the two shooters--by now identified as Said and Cherif Kouachi--had been cornered near the Charles deGaulle airport.  They had a hostage, and they had vowed that they wanted to die as martyrs.

After Matthew went to school, I took a nap . . . and when I woke up, I discovered that there were two hostage situations going on at the same time in Paris.  One was at the deGaulle airport.  The other was at a kosher supermarket in Porte de Vincennes, in east Paris.  Two gunmen--one later identified as Amedy Coulibaly, the other suspected to be Hayat Boumeddiene--had stormed the market and were holding a number of hostages.  One of their demands?  The Kouachi brothers must be freed.

The news drew parallels between the situation in Paris and the search for the Boston Marathon suspects in 2012.  People were told to stay home, stay indoors; and the gendarmes of the Paris police mobilized. 

Two separate teams stormed both sites simultaneously.  

The Kouachi brothers were killed, and they are now discovering that the 72 virgins promised to martyrs do not exist.

Amedy Coulibaly was killed, and when the police stormed the building, they discovered at least four hostages dead.

Hayat Boumeddine is on the run as I write this.  

There is speculation that this is just the beginning, that al-Qaeda in Yemen is gearing up for a major operation in Europe and possibly in the US.  

Our President, while expressing condolences to the people of France, still shows a strong reluctance to admit what we know to be true:  This is the work of Islamic terrorists.  

Not "workplace violence".  Not just "criminals".  

Open your mouth, Mr. President, and repeat after me:  Islamic terrorists.

These are people who are spreading terror in the name of their religion.  It does not mean that all Muslims are terrorists.  It does mean that there are terrorists using their religion to spread terror.  

If these were people using the name of Christ to spread terror, or the name of Judaism to spread terror, would our President be hesitant to call them "Christian terrorists" or "Jewish terrorists"?  

I am hoping that this is not the beginning of a new wave of terror.

In the meantime, the best we can do is prions pour la France.

And to stand with those who have been attacked.  


Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

"My hand is on your back" . . .

On occasion, I have watched the TV show Flashpoint, which is about a tactical response unit based in Toronto, Canada.  This team is much like the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team.  Flashpoint's unit is called the "Strategic Response Team", and this team handles events such as hostage taking, bomb scares (and actual bombs), criminals that are heavily armed, etc.

The episode I happened to catch today was the final one of the series.  (ION Television airs reruns of Flashpoint.)  This episode was the last of a two-parter where a deranged terrorist had planted bombs all around the city.  The team had to work fast in order to find and disarm all the bombs.  At least one bomb went off.

When a group of people work together in intense circumstances, there's a bond that forms among them.  This happens with people who are together in combat.  I've also read that it happens with medical school students.  I've done research on archaeology (for a fiction book idea) and I suspect that this bond may form among archaeological dig teams.

In the case of a combat unit--and probably, to a lesser extent, among the other examples I mentioned--you have to know that the other people have your back.  You have to know that, if the enemy starts shooting, your fellow soldiers will shoot back in order to protect their unit.  If you're a commanding officer, you have to know that if you give orders, your subordinants will follow them.

In this last episode of Flashpoint, the members of the team were scattered all over the city but were in radio contact with their team leader.  In the middle of this intense situation--trying to find bombs and trying to find the perp that had set the bombs--the leader was giving his instructions, and then he said, "remember, even though I'm not with you, my hand is on your back, just like your hand is on mine."

That phrase stuck with me.  "My hand is on your back."

We talk about "having people's backs".  In the first episode of this season of Doctor Who, with new Doctor Peter Capaldi, Clara, while confronting that episode's monster, said that "if the Doctor is still the Doctor, he will have my back."  (which he did).  One definition of "having someone's back" means, being willing to support or defend someone.

In the case of the Flashpoint team, every member needed to be willing, at every moment, to support and defend their team against whatever situation was coming up.  If someone was not able or willing to support or defend their team, their mission would fall apart,  One of them could get seriously wounded or killed.

The team is also under leadership.  Their leader has to know that the team is able and willing to follow orders--in other words, support and defend him when absolutely necessary.  The team also has to know that their leader is going to have their back--support and defend them when necessary.

In the final episode, team leader Ed Lane is giving directions to his team, and then he adds, "remember, even if I'm not there with you, my hand is on your back."

My hand is on your back.  

I got a picture of someone guiding, protecting, supporting someone, even though not physically present.  And I wondered, isn't this what God does?  What Jesus does?  What the Holy Spirit does? Isn't this the way that he "has our backs", in a sense?  Doesn't he guide, support, protect, and defend, even though we cannot see him?

I confess that my faith is rather shaky right now.  My circumstances have been tough, and it makes it hard to have faith at times.

But if God has my back--if he is willing to support and defend me when necessary--if, even if he is not physically present, his "hand is on my back" . . . that means he is with me.  Even if I cannot see him.  Just like Ed Lane had his hand on his team's back, even when he was not there with them.

And perhaps that is a way to encourage others as well.  We "have their backs" even if we are not there with them.

"Even if I'm not there with you, my hand is on your back."

My hand is there, supporting you, guiding you, protecting and defending you.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Michaela Jackson, redux . . .

On January 24, 2013--almost two years ago--I wrote the following:

Michaela Jackson?  

At the moment, I am typing this with my right hand encased in a latex glove.

Why, you may ask?

Because I have gotten into channeling, and I plan to change my name to Micheala Jackson and go touring as a female Michael Jackson impersonator.  Which means I need to save up plenty of money to download Thriller, Bad, Dangerous, Off the Wall, and all of the Jackson 5 recordings.

That sounds a lot more dramatic than saying, "I cut my thumb on a can lid while opening it for dinner and put on a glove to protect it while making chili.

Now, can anyone tell me where to get a pair of shoes and where to sign up for moonwalking lessons?

Well, two years later, I've done it again.

This time, it wasn't while opening a can of chili, and it wasn't my thumb, and it wasn't my right hand. Rather, it was while chopping up onions and celery, it was my pinky finger, and it was my left hand. The weapon involved was a blade from my food processor.

Googling "moonwalking lessons" in three, two, one . . . 

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

"God is in control . . ."

"God is in control." 

This is another phrase I can add to my list of "annoying Christian phrases".

Do not, I repeat, do not tell me that "God is in control" unless you want to get virtually bitten.

That phrase is one I often hear from well-meaning Christians. It’s supposed to be a comfort to me but it really doesn’t help one bit.

This is what I hear when I hear the phrase, “God is in control”:  

“I don’t know how to handle your questions, and I don’t know how to handle your negative emotions, or your pain, and I’m uncomfortable with them. Frankly, I’m not even sure if Christians should be thinking the way you’re thinking and feeling the way you’re feeling. But I know I’m supposed to say something spiritual here. So I’ll just give you one of the patented Christian phrases that we all use. Then I can walk away feeling like I've done my Christian duty by trying to 'encourage' you.”  

“God is in control” makes me think that I have no right to the feelings that I do have: the feelings of fear, anxiety, etc., over my personal circumstances and the circumstances that are around me. That phrase gives me the impression that Christians are supposed to smile and be happy (as opposed to being joyful) through everything, that they are not allowed to weep, show fear, show concern, etc. 

It makes me think of the verse in James that asks, suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If you say go, I wish you well, keep warm and well fed, but do nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? If you say, “God is in control” but don’t take the time to listen to the concerns of a brother or sister, and maybe guide them towards some practical help, what good is it?  

There’s another verse in Proverbs that says: “Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.” (Proverbs 25:20, NIV) More often than not, THAT is what the phrase, “God is in control” does to me.  

The episode I think of when I hear the phrase "God is in control" is this one:  Right before the 2008 election, I said to members of my small group that I was really afraid of the outcome.  Immediately, two Obama supporters chorused, "God is in control."  My mental reaction was, "Of course you can say, 'God is in control'!  Your candidate is going to win!"

I do believe that God is sovereign and his will will be done. I do believe that God takes care of his people. It’s not the principle I have the problem with. It’s the use of the phrase as a Christian cliche, as what is called a “thought stopper”.  

Yes, you can probably call me cynical. But that just happens to be where I am at this point in time. 

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

"The Lord will provide".

I have added "the Lord will provide" to my growing list of annoying Christian phrases.


It's not because the Lord doesn't provide.  I believe He does.  In fact, Philippians 4:19 even says, "my God will meet all your needs through his glorious riches in Christ Jesus".

God provided manna for the children of Israel in the desert.

He also provided food for Elijah in the desert as well.

So why am I so annoyed at the phrase "the Lord will provide"?

Because I think that it's often used as a throwaway cliche, or as an excuse to do nothing.

Some time back, I saw an episode of the TV show Hoarders where a psychologist confronted the husband of a hoarder.  The man wasn't working and, in response to a question from the psychologist about how he was going to support his family, said, the Lord will provide.

More recently, on a Facebook group I'm part of, someone asked, "If a Christian is not to work on Sunday.....who is feeding the hungry and caring for the sick at the hospital or nursing home?"

A discussion followed, and someone said, "I won't take a job if it requires working Sunday.  I tell people before I take it."

When asked, "What if your family needs the income?" the poster replied, "The Lord will provide."

So . . . apparently the Lord will magically "provide" for your needs if you choose not to work on Sunday, even if your family is poor and in debt?   I believe there's another passage in the Bible that talks about providing for your home and family, and if you don't do it, you've denied the faith and are worse than an unbeliever. (One poster replied, "Maybe the Lord provides a job that requires work on Sunday?")

What about doctors, nurses, first responders, and other health care professionals?  Will the Lord "provide" for them if they choose not to work on Sunday?  What about those who work in retail?  Those who work in an industry that is up and running 24/7?  

In the Facebook example I posted above, "the Lord will provide" almost sounded like a throwaway answer, given with a wave of the hand that brushed off the person's concerns.  "What happens if I need the money and the only job I can find is on Sunday?" "Oh, the Lord will provide."

While the Lord does provide, He doesn't always do it in the way we think He should.  It's rare that he rains manna from heaven or provides ravens to deliver meat.  Usually, he uses other people or opportunities that come our way.

I'd love us to cut out the annoying Christian phrases and really listen to our brothers and sisters who are having questions and concerns, instead of brushing them aside with phrases such as "the Lord will provide".  Otherwise, a trueism--that the Lord does provide--just comes off as hollow, insincere, and annoying.  Which is not what the Lord intended in the first place.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Mea maxima culpa!

Yesterday I criticized the Seminole football team for not showing good sportsmanship by refusing to shake hands with the Oregon football team after Oregon beat FSU.

I spoke too soon.  According to a Facebook friend of mine, here is the reason why the players (except for the coaches and the quarterbacks) didn't shake hands:

"So, apparently, the reason FSU did not shake hands with Oregon (and Oregon did not shake hands with FSU) - except for the coaches and captains - is because the Rose Bowl officials told them not to, in order to get off the field quickly in order to have the trophy presentation. That makes sense."

I stand corrected.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Duck soup tomorrow . . .

Tomorrow my menu will consist of the following:  duck soup, with humble pie for dessert.


Because the Florida State Seminoles had a 26-game winning streak snapped by the Oregon Ducks.  By Ducks, of all people!

I mean, seriously, you put a team whose mascot is a duck against a team who is led onto the field by a Seminole holding a flaming spear which can do serious damage if you're on the wrong end of it . . . and the ducks win??

To make matters worse, my minister is a Ducks fan.  He and I will probably not speak to each other on Sunday.

Actually, I'm kidding with that last sentence.  He'll probably crow from the pulpit, then go on to preach a great sermon and I'll forgive him.  :-)

What I find classless, however, is the action of over half of the Seminole football team.

They left the field without congratulating Oregon on their victory.

I know, it's a difficult thing to have a winning streak snapped.  But they were defeated by a good team, led by a team whose quarterback won the Heisman Trophy.  They deserved congratulations, if for no other reason than to show that the losing team are good sports.

Perhaps they should be eating duck soup and humble pie along with me.

I know where to buy duck, it's sold at most of the local stores around here.  But there I two things I don't know:

1. How to make duck soup.
2. What in the world are ingredients to humble pie?

The soup part I can solve with an Internet search.

The humble pie?  Well, that is probably going to take some effort.

In the meantime, I will finish this New Year's Day watching a Twilight Zone marathon.

Happy New Year.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.