Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Love of God

When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don’t take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am God, your God. 
--Leviticus 19:33-34 (The Message)

God's chosen people were given many directives relating to their mode of living. To fail in the observance of these rules was to sin, and atonement was required.

It was made clear to the People that those who were aliens and chose to dwell among them were to be treated with respect, and with the same consideration one would give to his own, to abide with them in love, in fact.

But this is Old Testament law, by which we are not bound.  Really?  Jesus said, Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. (Matthew 5:17 KJV) And then He reiterated the law of love, stating that the two greatest commandments were to love God, and to love your neighbor.  Then he upped the ante when He said, But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. (Matthew 5:44 KJV)

Thus I am asking myself this morning, Mister, are you living the love that Christ showed to you, and demands from you?

Probably to shut off the news channels and open the Bible would be of great benefit to most of us.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Disaster for Small Town Shoppers

 Photo: All ALCO Stores Going Out Of Business: Liquidation Sales Start Today!  

In a stunning surprise move, Alco announced today that they are closing their stores.  In our community, the announcement came by way of placard men standing on street corners.  I think it safe to say that virtually no one expected this.

Big deal, you who live in urban areas might be thinking, you who have such a plethora of shopping venues that it is hard for you to pick the one you will start with.  Not that way here.  "You have moved me to a place that doesn't even have a Walmart," BBBH wails betimes.  However she has adapted to small-town living and she typically visits Alco several times per month.  I mean, even I visit Alco, should I need a ream of copy paper or a can of coffee.

And now what is left?  Drugstores and a Dollar General; and by the way, Dollar General and its ilk have been credited largely with the financial woes of Alco.  Things change; and as I have been fond of pointing out for the past half-century, not all change is progress.

What about a half-century ago in this town?  Shopping opportunities virtually unlimited, and most merchants clustered around the courthouse square.  J.C. Penney, Danner's Five and Dime, Gambles, three jewelry stores, two shoe stores, a haberdashery, two women's boutiques, a great office supply store, a furniture store, hardware and drug stores, and a bunch a more, as we are fond of saying, all within steps of each other.  All gone.  Wait.  Not quite.  We still have a jewelry store and two hardware stores downtown, and just around the corner is, you guessed it, a Dollar General.

Yes, you might ask of me, but would you go back to that time in exchange for the conveniences of today?  In a heartbeat!  And I would be better off in ways too numerous to list.  Well, for the most obvious thing, I'd be thirty years old again, wouldn't I?

Alco was founded by Alva Duckwall in Abilene, Kansas in 1901.  Today they are closing all 198 of their stores  spread across 23 states.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Paucity of Posts

It is not that I have not been writing.  It is simply that the words have been stringing themselves into lines of drivel.

Pen in hand, I reread the opening paragraphs of the story I imagined I was writing.  Now, in order to receive the go-ahead to post, a piece has only to pass a very simple test: the author must find it interesting.  The pages I am examining fail to meet that criterion.

First, it becomes clear as I peruse that which I have written that it is rooted in cynicism.  That is a personality quirk I am trying to eradicate, and failing that, at the least to polish it a bit so that it is less abrasive.  Second, no "second" is required.  No post.

Footnote:  In the event that you imagined I did my writing at the keyboard, you would be partially right.  Sometimes the words flow right out my fingertips and jump onto the keyboard.  However, there are times when I have to concentrate all my brainpower and squeeze the words through the point of a pen.  Recently, neither technique has been effective.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Good and Perfect Gifts

We are in the season of gifting.  It is that time of year when we are searching for gifts to bestow on our loved ones, and soon the giving and receiving of gifts will take place.  The following is a rerun.  I think it worth looking at again.


Achsah's Heritage

In the fifteenth chapter of the book of Joshua we are told that because Othniel went up against Debir and conquered it, Caleb gave to him Achsah, his daughter, to wife. Tradition demands a gift to the bride. Caleb gave her land.

Achsah rode out to her father on her donkey, alighted, and confronted him. “ You've given me desert land, unproductive if it have not water. Give me water.” And so Caleb gave her springs of water, both in the upper region of the land and in the lower.

Achsah

We have a saying in our day, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” Achsah was much smarter than that. The completion of a gift is in the acceptance of it. The girl knew enough to know that the “gift” from her father was worthless in the incomplete state. So rather than a simple “thank you” followed by abandonment of the worthless property, Achsah chose to confront the giver of the gift with an analysis of its value. This yielded the desired result, for now the additional gift of water made the land valuable and the woman secured it as a valuable inheritance for her progeny.

How often do we offer a tepid “thanks” for a present, shrug and go on our way never utilizing the offering? Why do we do this? Well, because we “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” And we are “polite” to a fault.

Are there lessons in Achsah’s actions in this story?  I think a deep spiritual lesson in the actions of this good woman in claiming her heritage is this. God offers us the gift of salvation, a good and perfect gift through the blood of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. We must appropriate the gift by accepting it. Then it behooves us to ask for the in-filling of the Holy Spirit so that we can be productive citizens in the Kingdom of God. Without water, Achsah’s land is not productive; with water it is valuable and useful land. Filled with the Spirit we may be useful in the building of the Kingdom!  On our own, we are nothing.

(Verse 18 says Achsah “lighted off her ass.” (KJV) We might more likely prosper if we, too, get off our asses. Just sayin'.)

Image: UMC Global Ministries

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Kooshdaakaa

A recent post here included a sketchy presentation of one Kokopelli, trickster of Native American legend.  Vee commented that it is interesting that legends among native peoples often bear similarities one to another, though tribal differences and locations are evident.  This is a subject area in which I am not well-versed, but it got me to thinking about my own limited experiences.
When I was a sophomore in college, my roommate was Bill Demmert,* a Tlingit from Craig, Alaska.  After considerable time had passed, and after the basketball season was over (Bill was on the basketball team) we found ourselves comfortable enough with one another to be able to share some of our thoughts.  After the lessons were completed in the evening, and before we extinguished the lights for the night, we would simply sit and perhaps munch on the seaweed which Bill carefully doled out from his stash.  It was in this setting that he would relate his family history and the legends of his people.   Fascinating.
One tale that I recall specifically was that of the kooshdaakaa.  The kooshdaakaa were the shape-shifting land otter people of Southeast Alaska.  I was informed that the Tlingit people were very reluctant to talk about these creatures, but I was privileged to hear a bit about them.  It seems that one of the goals of the kooshdaakaa was to steal the souls of other people, and failing that, they might on occasion kill a victim outright.  To the Tlingit, loss of the soul  was a big deal, indeed, for this deprived the victim of his chance at reincarnation, and hence his hope of eternal life.  This behooves one to be exceedingly cautious as he goes about his daily living.  Do not have an encounter with kooshdaakaa!
In keeping with Vee’s line of thought, I recalled that over the years I have read various stories involving shape-shifters in other locales and among other peoples.  At one stage of my life I “got hooked” on Tony Hillerman’s stories set in the American Southwest primarily involving the Navajo people, as well as the Hopi and the Yaqui to some extent.  One of his books was entitled Skinwalkers.  Skinwalkers, or yee naaldlooshii to the Navajo, were witches with the power to assume animal forms, and even, in some cases, the forms of other people.  Hillerman’s last book prior to his death was The Shape Shifters, and again we find the theme of creatures that assume various forms.

Shape-shifters have made an appearance in many novels, and movies and television shows over the past decades.  It is highly likely that if you participate at all in popular culture you have encountered these creatures, and hence you may fill in the rest of the story from your own memory.

*Demmert. had a very distinguished career. You may read a bit about it here.
William G. Demmert, Jr.  1934 - 2010  RIP

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Reddin up the Office

Five years ago I posted this little tale.  I have resurrected it because I have just spent the better part of two mornings in the office attempting to restore a semblance of order to the chaos I have allowed it to fall into.

BBBH designed and we redecorated my office recently. (She is an HGTV enthusiast.) Since I was born and raised in Colorado, she thought to choose a "Western" theme. During our travels in the West, BBBH found the Anasazi very interesting, and the ubiquitous appearance of Kokopelli througout the Southwest inspired her to choose his image as a recurring motif.

Kokopelli is the little dickens depicted here. He is the music-loving flute player who also happens to be a trickster as well as the god of fertility. So it is said. He appears in the legends of the Anasazi and modern tribes such as the Hopi. Historically, it has been determined that his image appeared among The People well over 1000 years ago.

Many of the images much more clearly suggest the "fertility" aspect of his behavior. Some legends say he carried unborn babies in the sack on his back (the depiction of Kokopelli often shows a distinct hump). He was said to "distribute" these little tykes to young women so that they might bear them into the world. For this reason, the girls were often frightened of this being, very reasonably fearing pregnancy.

There is much information about this personage available, so if this little vignette has piqued your interest, start by entering his name in your browser, and have fun.