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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Young Woman Arrested for Treason and Sedition (A Christmas Story)


Nazareth, PA: A 16 year old girl was arrested and charged with treason and sedition after police say she uttered unpatriotic slogans and threats against the government.

The young woman (name withheld) was booked into the county jail and is being held without bond.

Witnesses say that she was singing or chanting political protest slogans. “I heard her say something about pulling down the thrones of power,” said Terry Ousterman, a Nazareth resident. “She was going on and on about how the rich are going to get what’s coming to them, and how the poor are going to take it all. It’s this kind of class-warfare that’s ruined our country,” said Ousterman.

When asked if the Treason and Sedition charges (which, if convicted, can carry the death penalty) are too extreme considering her age, Federal Prosecutors said, “It’s hard, we know. But these poisonous sentiments cannot be allowed to destroy our nation.”

The young woman herself has declined to comment on the charges, but has asked for special medical consideration during her incarceration as she is pregnant.

Her next court hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 6.


(Luke 1: 46 – 56)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Glitter Suspension


More sparkles and spangles for those of you who like such pretties...

Glitter Suspension by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

Joseph Was a Good Man


I’ve been thinking about that question my friend and colleague asked me the other day: Do you know any songs about Joseph?  I shared the few that I knew and found in my library of music books. But it still seems that Joseph is a bit slighted in the carols department. There are multiplied thousands of songs for Mary, for the shepherds, for the magi, for the angels, for the stars, for the animals … but relatively few for Saint Joseph.

So I decided to write one for him myself.  Here is “Joseph Was a Good Man” – sung to the tune “The Lone, Wild Bird”

Joseph was a good man, upright and true
and he did what the angel told him to;
he took as his bride
the virgin, Mary,
and Joseph loved her baby too.

Joseph took them both to Egypt land
to escape King Herod’s mighty hand;
when the tyrant died
Joseph knew he could
take his wife and the child home again.

After that we hear no more of him -
how he lived, how he died, the story dims,
but we sing with pride
of that good man
and we sing to God our Christmas hymns.




It ain’t much, I know, but it’s better than Christmas Shoes. *shudder.

A (Very) Few Christmas Songs for Joseph


A friend and colleague of mine asked a wonderful question yesterday: she asked me if I know any Christmas songs / carols about Joseph.  And this is striking.

There are countless thousands of songs about the Virgin Mary, about the shepherds, the wise men, the angels, and the star.  There are songs about the animals and the children who came to visit. But there are relatively few Christmas songs and carols about good St. Joseph.

I dug through my memory and through the books of Christmas music that I have on my shelves and found a few:

There is the French: Joseph Est Bien Marié  (Joseph Married Well)


And the German: Joseph Dearest, Joseph Mine



The Portuguese: José Embala O Menino (Joseph Rocks the Little Boy)



Joseph gets the third verse… half of the third verse, actually, of The Snow Lay on the Ground:



He’s mentioned again (but briefly) in the French song: Noël Nouvelet:



Though the Catalonian carol El Rei Herodes is titled after King Herod, the song focuses on Joseph:



Joseph gets several verses of the Venezuelan carol: La Jornada:



The Mexican carol, En El Nombre del Cielo (In the Name of Heaven) is a conversation between Joseph and the Innkeeper (who, you might remember isn’t actually in the story.)



And of course, there is the strange but wonderful Cherry Tree Carol, which has an emotionally wounded Joseph telling Mary to let the boy’s real father pick cherries for her. It’s based on a story from the Gospel of Psuedo-Matthew.


There are probably more – but not many.  Have I missed any? Share them in the comments.









More Holiday Sparkles


I may not enjoy the holidays, but I can (and do) enjoy taking pictures of the holiday sparkles.

More Holiday Sparkles by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

Monday, November 28, 2016

O Come… Sermon for Advent 1 - 2017


Psalm 122
Isaiah 2: 1 - 5

First, I’d like to say: “Happy New Year!” You smile because you think I’m early, but I’m not. I’m right on time. We all live under several different calendars – those of us with school age children have the school calendar that begins in August and ends in May, In the Salvation Army our fiscal calendar begins in October and ends in September (I don’t understand it. I just use it.)  And in the Christian church we have the liturgical calendar, the church year that begins today – the first Sunday of Advent. So again, I say: “Happy New Year!” And may it be a happy one, filled with goodness and light.

In the summer of 1914 the world seemed fairly bright. Things were going well. There was hope and a sense that the world was moving forward into a brighter, healthier, wealthier future. This isn’t to suggest that there weren’t significant social issues that needed to be addressed, but there was a sense that the world was getting better.

International trade  was growing with traditional goods as well as new technologies: Electrical goods, chemical dyes, internal combustion vehicles, gold, diamonds, African rubber, South American cattle, Australian sheep, Canadian wheat, etc… goods were bought and sold around the globe. (Keegan 10 – 11)

Of that time, the English journalist Norman Angell wrote in his book, The Great Illusion (1910) that the disruption of international trade and credit that would inevitably be caused by the outbreak of war would either inhibit nations from going to war, or would force them to bring conflict to a swift resolution. (Keegan 10) Because war would be futile, and it was a matter of “enlightened self-interest,” to avoid going to war. (Angell 488)

This Belle Époque was further enhanced by the development of international laws. “It had been recognized then… that the peace of Europe was a matter for the concern of all European countries. There were certain categories of actions that were widely recognized as threatening the peace and security of all states, and as such actions were not supposed to be taken without prior consultation with the other governments” (Lafore 31).

There was also the growing recognition that continued the militarization of nation states would not protect the peace, but would lead to war. Tsar Nicholas II called for an international conference in 1899 to strengthen limitations on armaments and to found an international court dedicated to settling disputes between stations. Tsar Nicholas warned that the accelerating arms race – to produce ever larger armies, heavier artillery, and bigger warships – was transforming the armed peace into a crushing burden that weighs on all nations. (Keegan 17) “It appears evident, then, that if this state of things were prolonged, it would inevitably lead to the very cataclysm which it is desired to avert, and the horrors of which make every thinking man shudder in advance.” (Nicholas II)

And if the bonds of international trade and commerce guided by enlightened self-interest, along with the recognition of the need for international law and the need to check the increasing militarization of nations weren’t enough to keep the peace, there were also the bonds of familial relationships.  The leaders of many of the nations that came to be involved in “the great war” were related either by blood or marriage or both. The Kaiser in Germany was cousin to the Tsar in Russia. “It was broadly true that all European royalty were cousins; even the Hapsburgs of Austria, the most imperious of sovereigns, occasionally mingled their blood with outsiders; and since every state in Europe, except France and Switzerland, was a monarchy, that made for a very dense network of inter-state connections indeed” (Keegan 16).

But in the summer of 1914, when everything seemed good and bright, primed for the increasingly peaceful relations between nations, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo sent the world into an extended paroxysm of violent, bloody death, the likes of which the world had never seen, and from which – one hundred years later – we still have not fully recovered. The “war to end all wars” as it came to be known, did nothing of the sort.

World War One came to an end, only to flare up again a few years later in World War Two, which ended but not really. The cold war, Korea, Vietnam, Algeria, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan… the War to End All Wars continues to be fought.

But it will happen. It will happen. It must happen. We must put an end to our incessant warring. The prophet Isaiah had this hope, this faith, this vision – that there would come a time when humanity would put away their weapons of war and learn the ways of peace.

“How desperately our world needs such a faith! Without its inspiration and its power to sustain our search for a way of peace, we are condemned to the dreadful prospect of wars succeeding wars until the human race destroys itself. We have in each generation the strange, tragic spectacle of men endowed with genius, yet wholly unable to learn the art of living together in peace. Even with bitter experience of the horrors of war, every proposal for peace is basically related to the use of force” (Kilpatrick 180 – 181).

The prophet dreams, and I dream and hope and am anxious for that time when I can “lay down my sword and shield down by the riverside, and study war no more.”




“Let’s go up to the mountain of Yahweh,” I rejoiced when they said that, because there we shall learn peace. There we shall learn the peace of God. There we can be united and whole with our weapons put away, our weapons melted down and the instruments of death turned into the tools of production. There our swords will melted down and made into plows and our spears will be hammered into sickles.

Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are the peacemakers – they have learned the ways of God and walk in his paths. Peace based on “enlightened self-interest” will not hold. Peace through continually increasing militarization – that is, peace through superior fire power, - is a lie. There is only the peace of God found in love, and grace, and forgiveness.

If we are sharpening our swords, instead of melting them down, then we have not learned the law of God; we have not gone up to the mountain of the house of Yahweh.

Come, please. O Come, let us go up to the house of God, up to the city of peace.


Angell, Norman, “The Influence of Banking on International Relations,” Speech to the Institute of Bankers, London. January 17, 1912. 

Keegan, John. The First World War. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 2000. Print.

Kilpatrick, G.G.D. “The Book of Isaiah: Exposition” The Interpreter’s Bible. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press. 1956. Print.

Lafore, Laurence. The Long Fuse: An Interpretation of the Origins of World War I. Philadelphia, PA: J.B. Lippencott Company. 1965. Print. 

Nicholas II, “Peace Conference at the Hague 1899” 



Christmas at the Subatomic Level


It is, of course, much too early to begin celebrating Christmas - but I really must share some of my research with you. I've been using a high powered electron microscope, sending an accelerated beam of electrons across the surface of a bit of glitter scraped from a Christmas ornament one of my kids made in kindergarten.

As you can see, Christmas at the subatomic level is a curious thing.

Christmas at the Subatomic Level by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Notes from a Field Journal Discovered in the No-Man’s Land


I am startled awake by the sound of shattered glass and I didn’t realize I had dozed off. Again. I dozed off again. My eyes are thick and slow to focus, so I wipe them with my muddy hands. It doesn’t help – but everything is out of focus here in the mist, and fog, and smoke, and drizzle. Glass shatters again. Someone is shouting. I am awake. At least, I think I am awake. Sleep is deceptive and I sometimes shout at my dreams.

There are dead men everywhere. Dead men and horses. Musicians. Shepherds, Statesmen. All dead. Still I take no pleasure in the death of an enemy. I wear no frogged jacket, no iron cross, no flag pin, no medallions of bravery for country or for king.

The fields are wide and stretching into forever. They are unfurrowed, but torn ragged. They are unfenced. Why bother? No one wanders here except for me – but if that is true, then who is shouting and smashing windows? Am I dozing off again? Dreaming?  I hear voices and think, “That’s not me.” I want no phone conversation, no orchestra, no Russian choir – only silence as October and November disappear into the eternal, horizonless fog.

Three things this afternoon (this evening?)
1) The bridge is out – sappers took it out with explosive and with axes. 2) Machine gun units are pulled into place by scrawny dogs. 3) The river foams with blood. And though these three are not unrelated, I cannot find the connective tissue between them.

She has something in her eyes, but it isn’t me.

The basement is cold and dark, and burnt books provide no light, no fuel, no warmth.  The basement is cold, but it’s where I sleep – with the lights turned off dark is dark. Who’s to notice the ragged edges of my blanket, or my träumerei screaming? If the lights are out, shouldn’t the danger be gone? Who is shouting?



Friday, November 25, 2016

Advent 2016 Background Images

I've been somewhat remiss this year about creating and sharing free, weekly background images.  If you were one of the three or four people who downloaded them regularly and were counting on them, I'm sorry.

But, in what I hope is not too little - too late, I am sharing these four images for Advent that you are free, and welcome to download, and to use as your very own. Use them at home, at work, as school, at church, use them in a train, use them in the rain.  Use them in good health.




















Thursday, November 24, 2016

Holiday Sparkle


-for my friends who like the holidays and the sparkles.. the weirdos.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Hall of Mirrors


I've fallen into a hall of mirrors and I can't find my way out.

A Hall of Mirrors by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

Amnon and Tamar in the Modern American Version


David’s son Absalom had a beautiful sister whose name was Tamar; and David’s son Amnon fell in love with her.  So Amnon lay down, and pretended to be ill; and when the king came to see him, Amnon said to the king, “Please let my sister Tamar come and make a couple of cakes in my sight, so that I may eat from her hand.”

Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, “Go to your brother Amnon’s house, and prepare food for him.” So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house, where he was lying down. She took dough, kneaded it, made cakes in his sight, and baked the cakes. Then she took the pan and set them out before him, but he refused to eat. Amnon said, “Send out everyone from me.” So everyone went out from him. Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the chamber, so that I may eat from your hand.”

So Tamar took the cakes she had made, and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother. But when she brought them near him to eat, he took hold of her, and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.”  She answered him, “No, my brother, do not force me; for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do anything so vile!  But he would not listen to her; and he said, “When you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything ... Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything."

2 Samuel 13: 1 – 14 Modern American Version


What Kind of King? What Kind of Kingdom?


Today’s Gospel reading (Luke 23: 33 – 43) seems dislocated in time – it seems strange to read from the Easter story, of Jesus’ death by crucifixion as our thoughts are turning towards Thanksgiving, and Advent, and Christmas. But it is a fitting reading, appropriate for today which is the Feast of Christ the King.

The Sunday before the beginning of the Advent season is marked, in the Christian liturgical calendar, as “the Feast of Christ the King,” or, more fully, the “The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.” This festal day is a relatively recent addition to the Christian calendar, instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925.  Pope Pius XI established the Christ the King festival in response to the troubling growth in violent nationalism that led to World War One, the splintering of Europe, and increased polarization and divisiveness along arbitrarily drawn boundary lines and between differing cultural groups as a way to draw Christians together in unity under Christ the King. 

During our recently concluded and very bitter election, many people shared what were intended to be words of comfort, saying that, “no matter who wins the election, Christ will still be King.” And this is true. It does not matter who is president of the United States, Prime Minister of England, or King of Saudi Arabia; King Jesus still sits on the throne of the universe.

But, the question needs to be asked: What kind of King? And what kind of kingdom? There are a few answers that we can draw from today’s reading.

King Jesus offered no resistance or retaliation to the abuse and scorn he received. He was abused and tortured; he was jeered and mocked, but he did not resist. He did not strike back.  When they hurled insults at him, he did not hurl curses back. He did not call up his followers and disciples to rescue him or to avenge his death. He did not call down a legion of angels to destroy his enemies. “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7 NIV)

“They crucified my Lord, and he never said a mumblin’ word.”


Instead he offered a prayer of forgiveness. “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”  He offered “friendship instead of disgrace.” (“O Sacred King” – Matt Redman)

King Jesus offered grace and forgiveness. When the “good thief” (Luke doesn’t use the word “thief” he instead calls them, “wrongdoers”) rebuked his compatriot for his mockery, Jesus offered him grace. He didn’t earn it. He didn’t deserve it. But King Jesus gives it. It is an extravagant and gratuitous grace. “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

King Jesus moves from death on the cross to resurrection from the grave; he is a king that moves from death to life – not from death to more deaths.

It is our human pattern, and the behavior of kings, and premiers, and presidents around the world – and through time, to respond to attack by attacking, to answer bombs with bombs, to return death for death. If our citizens are killed, we respond by killing the people of the offending nation. Our earthly prime ministers, and presidents move from death to death – and from death to death – and death to death in a never ending spiral of darkness and destruction.

But King Jesus moves from death to life. He moves from crucifixion at the place of the skull to resurrection in the garden of Paradise.

This is the kind of King that we serve, and this is the kind of kingdom over which he rules. So now – how will we, as servants of this High King of Heaven, live as citizens of that Kingdom? Will we live with grace and forgiveness, moving from death to life? Or will we accept the earthly pattern of revenge, and retribution, moving from death to death in a spiral towards hell?


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Let Me Gaze into My Crystal Ball


What does the future hold for us? Will I be rich and famous? Will I find the answers that I seek? Let me gaze into my crystal ball...

Crystal Ball by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

Friday, November 18, 2016

Leftovers


This image is made up of several abstract photos, or rather, parts of several abstract photos that I didn't like quite enough to publish on thier own. Still, leftovers can be good sometimes.



Thursday, November 17, 2016

Danger Corrosive



Danger Corrosive by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

A Little More Holiday Twinkle

Here's a little bit more holiday twinkle for you. I shared one like this the other day, but I think that I like this slightly more.  The previous one utilized no photoshop trickery; this one used a little bit. Just a little bit.

Holiday Twinkle by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

Download a Muted Hosanna


Did you never get around to purchasing a copy of my book, Muted Hosannas? Do you like free books?  Would you like a free .pdf copy of my book?

Well then, my friend, you are in luck.  You can download the whole thing - photos and poetry and all - for free. It's yours. Enjoy.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Remember Me in the World to Come



Outside the walls of Castle Machaerus, perched high on a hill in the Judean desert and surrounded by steep ravines, the wind moaned and rattled like the final, gasping breath of a wounded man. Sand and grit picked up by the wind flicked against the stone walls of the fortress – and, given enough time and a steady wind, would eventually etch away the stone stronghold.

Within those walls there was the noise of drunken revelry. King Herod and his guests had drunk their way through cask after cask of wine during his birthday celebration. Their inhibitions were drowned in the flow of wine. They snorted and laughed with dissipated carousing; their boorish shouts echoed through the halls and corridors of the fortress palace.

Shimon bar Alpheus heard them from his post. A soldier in Herod’s army, he was now stationed as a guard outside the dungeon cell of the dangerous radical, Yochanon, know everywhere simply as “the Baptizer.”

The Baptizer had threatened Herod’s rule – which is easy to say since Herod felt threatened by most everyone. He had a suspicious temperament.  The king had feared that Yochanon would lead the crowds that gathered to hear him preach (and they were large crowds) to raise up a rebellion, or other mischief, and had him imprisoned here within his strongest fortress, “The Sword,” Machaerus.

Shimon regarded the imprisoned prophet, a wizened man whose body had been coarsened by long exposure to the sun, and heat, and wind of the Judean wilderness, now gaunt and skeletal from malnourishment during his long imprisonment. His sink, once firm and brown, now appeared sickly green, death pale and sagging.  Who would fear this pathetic figure? To whom could he be a danger? Yet Herod would not release him.

He heard footsteps now, another soldier descended the stairs to the basement dungeon with orders from the king: “Send up the head of Yochanon,” he said, then added, “on a platter,” before turning smartly and climbing the stairs back up to the palace.

Shimon trembled. He knew this man had done nothing wrong, had broken neither the laws of man nor the Law of the Lord.  Now the king demanded his death.  And it would be death for Shimon and for his family as well, if he refused to obey.

“Rabbi,” he said to the imprisoned man, “you are an honest man, a man of God, and speak only truth. Tell me, if I do what I can to make your death painless and swift, will you bring me with you into the World to Come?”

From the shadowed corner of his cell, the prophet spoke only one word: “Yes.”

“Do you swear?”

And again the gravel throated voice said that one word, “Yes.”

“Bless you, rabbi, and forgive me. I will sharpen my heaviest sword, and will make my aim precise. The stroke will be sure; you will not suffer.”

Shimon applied a thin layer of oil to his whetstone and passed the blade of his heavy, two-handed sword carefully, slowly, repeatedly over its surface until it was as sharp as a thin, new razor.  Then he unlocked the iron door to the cell, and the manacles that bound his prisoner.  He lead the condemned prophet to the block. Yochanon knelt down and stretched his neck obligingly for the headsman.

“Remember me in the World to Come, Rabbi,” Shimon said as he lifted the heavy sword above his head. “Yes,” said the prophet as the blade came down.

The sword was sharp, and his aim was sure. Yochanon’s neck was sliced clean through. The head fell away from the bleeding trunk.  Shimon dropped his sword and lunged to snatch the prophet’s head out of the crimson spray. He wiped away the blood that had besmirched the noble face.

Shimon watched with revulsion as the Baptist’s eyelids and blue lips twitched spasmodically. “Rabbi, I’m sorry,” he sobbed.

Just then Yochanon’s twitching eyelids snapped open and his eyes locked in place – eye to eye with Shimon. Time froze. The dungeon walls receded. The sounds of drunken revelry and moaning wind were silenced. Then the Baptist’s eyes turned reverently toward heaven and his lips parted. From that maw spoke a voice that was not the parched and gravel throated voice of the decrepit prophet, but a clear and resonant voice that said:

“There are those who acquire their place in heaven through years of practice and suffering, but there are also some who enter the World to Come in a single moment. The Lord is gracious; blessed be the Lord.”

***

This story is based on / inspired by the "good wrongdoer" crucified with Jesus, the story of John the Baptizer's death, and a story told in the Talmud ('Arobda Zara).

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Cry-Baby Diaper Pins


These are, apparently, the words of Jesus - at least according to what I've been seeing on the Facebook and the Twitter.


































Goodbye, My Soul



We laid our faithful, loving dog, Psyche, to sleep today. She has been a good dog.

I remember the way she would chase the boy child around and around the house, nipping at his heels to make him run faster, the way she would bark a high, piercing bark of concern when I tickled the girl child until she squealed. I remember the way she would press her face into my leg and nuzzle for attention.

She has been a good dog; goodbye my soul.

Our Psyche by Jeff Carter on 500px.com



Psyche by Jeff Carter on 500px.com



Let Sleeping Dogs Lie by Jeff Carter on 500px.com


Stalking the Beast by Jeff Carter on 500px.com


An Old Soul by Jeff Carter on 500px.com


Psyche at Night by Jeff Carter on 500px.com


Psyche Doth Magnify the Lord - 1 by Jeff Carter on 500px.com




Holiday Twinkle


A long exposure + zoom = holiday twinkle.

Holiday Twinkle by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

Monday, November 14, 2016

Biblical Limericks: Proverbs After the Election


After the worst election in history,
filled with frauds, falsehood, and frippery,
it’s a good time, I think,
for us to have a drink,
so we can forget our misery.

Proverbs 31: 6 - 7

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Second Explosion

Last night I shared a photograph I made of a small explosion of light and color. Here's another. They're made with a macro attachment for the camera, a wadded piece of cellophane, and a colorful placemat. Simple really.

Explosion II by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

An Explosion

I created a small explosion last night - fortunately I managed to catch it with the camera.

Explosion by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

Friday, November 11, 2016

Blasphemy and the Donald


I don’t like to throw around the word “Blasphemy”; it is used far too casually. But this video endorsement President-Elect Donald Trump is the most blasphemous thing I’ve seen in quite a while:






“Every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, whoever disagreed, whoever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.”

Omarosa has (mis)appropriated the biblical language of the worship of God (Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:10) and applied to “the Donald.” This is blasphemy or I don’t know what is.


And, is anyone else concerned that becoming president of the United States is equated with revenge?  This is blasphemous and dangerous territory. 

I Do Not Know How To Say “Happy Veteran’s Day.”



I do not know how to say “Happy Veteran’s Day.”  How can a day set aside to honor those who have served, and are serving in our nation’s military be a “happy” day?

I say this not as a denigration of those who have served in the armed forces. It is not an insult. It is not a disparagement of the millions of individuals who have served in the military.

But every military conflict, every war, every battle, every casualty, every death represents humanity's failure to be kind, to be just, and to be peaceable. This is not a happy thing. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Waves on an Ocean of Light


Beveled pieces of glass over a holographic image - photographed with a macro attachment

Waves on an Ocean of Light by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

Hate Wins (At Least in the Short-Term)


I am, you will know, disappointed by the results of yesterday’s election. Disappointed, not because Hilary Clinton lost – I had not pinned my hopes on her or the Democratic Party. Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.” (Psalm 146: 3) But disappointed because Donald Trump won. And while I don’t believe he will be an apocalyptically bad president, I have no confidence that he will be a good one.

This election has shown me that Hate wins – at least in the short term. I say that for at least two reasons that I can describe.

1- Conservative and Evangelical voters hated Clinton enough that they could stomach voting for Trump. Many of them held their noses and voted for him, not because they want him as our president, but because they hate Clinton and the establishment and elite that she represents in their minds. Hate won.

and

2 – I know that not every conservative and Evangelical voter is racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic – but their endorsement of Trump has legitimized the hatred of those groups like the KKK that also supported Trump. His victory is their victory. Hate won.

But I am not hopeless (trying, anyway). Hate may win in the short term. But I believe in Love. And I believe in Justice. And I still believe in Hope and Change (with or without the help of political parties.)  

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Mike Pence is Fear Mongering


Republican candidate for vice-president, Mike Pence, shared a video with thousands of Christian churches this Sunday. In the brief video he shared a bit about his own personal faith experience and urged Christian voters to vote for Trump.

In the video he also promised that “President Donald Trump” will repeal the “Johnson Amendment” which Pence says, “threatens tax exempt organizations and churches with losing their tax status if they speak out on important issues facing the nation from the pulpit.”

This is not true. 

The Johnson Amendment prohibits 501(c)(3) organizations from, “directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”

Church leaders can – and should – and do – speak about important issues facing the nation, from the pulpit even. But they cannot endorse or oppose any particular candidate on behalf of their organization. Churches are not threatened by this amendment. Not at all.

But if any particular church feels the need to campaign for a particular candidate they can certainly do that. They are free to do so, if they choose. But they will have to relinquish their 501 (c)(3) status and pay taxes. 

This is not a threat. This is not harassment. This is not an infringement of the first amendment. It is the tradeoff between rights and responsibilities in a pluralistic, democratic society.

Mike Pence is fear-mongering.


Watch the video here


Church Greeting 40MB from Phenomenon Post on Vimeo.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Our Pysche


Our Psyche by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

The Powerful Kindness of God


There once was a man, a good man who tried to live by his faith, who sought to find the kingdom of love and grace. But he was tired. He was depressed by the evil that he saw in the world around him. And he began to doubt. ‘If God is good,’ he pondered, ‘and if God is active in the world then why,’ he wondered, ‘does evil so often prevail?’

One night as he lay down to sleep he prayed, “O God! The world is gone bad and there is no kindness anymore. I just want to see something of your goodness before I lose all hope.” He put his head down on his pillow and was soon asleep.

As he slept he saw a vision of an angel that said to him, “Your prayer has been heard, and God will answer. Tomorrow you will see the powerful goodness of God on display. You will see the light of kindness in this darkened world and your faith will be restored.”

He awoke the next morning with great anticipation. “Today I will see the power of God fighting the forces of evil.” He dressed and set off for work, eager to see the goodness of God prevailing during the course of the day.

At the bus stop, he bounced on the toes of his feet as he waited for the bus, he was so anxious. “God will show me something good,” he said to himself. Just then he saw a young woman being threatened by three teenagers, hoodlums. They were grabbing at her as she walked, and shouting sexually aggressive comments at her.

“Hey you!” he shouted at them. “Leave off! Get out of here. Leave her alone.” The trouble-makers cursed him and threw an empty beer bottle at him and the woman, but did not cause any more trouble. The bus arrived and he and the young woman found their seats inside. “Thanks,” the woman said to him.

The man sat in his seat, thinking about the young punks who caused so much mischief. “Why do they get away with it?” he wondered.

He exited the bus and walked the block and a half to the office where he worked. Outside the building stood an Asian couple puzzling over a piece of paper. They stopped him before he could enter his building, thrusting the paper in front of his face and speaking rapidly in a langue he didn’t understand. On the paper was an address. The couple motioned, pointing up and down the street. The man understood that they were lost and looking for directions.

He tried to explain how to get to the address written on the paper, it wasn’t far but the inability to communicate left them both stymied. He shrugged and motioned for them to follow him and he walked with them the short distance to their destination. They thanked him in their strange language, and shook his hand and patted his arm.

He was late getting to work, so he had to stay later than usual to finish his work for the day. Afterwards he took the bus back home again. It was nearly dark as he walked back from the bus stop to his home. 


As he walked he noticed a jumble of furniture and appliances piled at the curb in front of an apartment building. There was a couch and a stained mattress, a microwave and bags of clothing and a refrigerator. Closer now, he heard muffled screams and sobs coming from inside the fridge.

He dashed to the refrigerator and saw that the hinged door was wedged shut – and someone was crying inside. He pulled the other debris away from the ice-box and yanked the door open. Out tumbled a boy with a dirt-smudged face; his tears had carved canyons through the dirt. The boy fell on the ground and rolled over on his back gasping. His sobs dried up quickly as he caught his breath. Then he stood and ran away, towards home the man hoped.

Back in his own apartment again, he sighed and locked the door. He changed out of his work-day suit and into casual clothes, then set about making a meal for himself, a meal that he ate standing in the kitchen over the stove.

“God,” he said between bites. “I thought you were going to show me something today. I thought I was going to see your powerful goodness on display, but I saw nothing. Nothing except the same sort of violence and desperation I see every day. Nothing changed.”

Just then the angel appeared to him again. “Nothing changed, you say, but you are wrong. You saw the powerful kindness of God on display three times today.”

The man snorted, a cynical sort of laughter. “What? Am I living out the Russian cobbler’s story? When I helped those people I was helping God? Is that what I was supposed to learn?”

“No,” said the angel. “Not at all. When you helped those people today you were not helping God. God does not need your help. No. When you helped those people you – YOU – were the powerful kindness of God to them.”

I'm Melting


I'm melting. Melting. Oh, what a world! What a world...

Painted Weeds

I took this photo a couple of weeks ago with my homemade, DIY blur filter.

Painted Weeds by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

God’s Plan for America


It’s one of those things we say; a cliché without meaning except for the meaning that is understood by our peers and comrades when we say it. The phrase itself doesn’t have to mean anything in itself, everyone already understands what we mean.

God is in control of everything. God’s plan will be accomplished in the upcoming election.

But what might that mean? If we really believed it, what might it mean? Here are some possibilities:


God is using Donald Trump to punish America for its sins with its sins personified. President Donald Trump will lead us further into the darkness that we have chosen.

God is using Donald Trump to restore America to its former glory, to lead us back from the edge of darkness.

God is using Hilary Clinton to lead America towards a brighter and better future.

God is using Hilary Clinton to destroy America for its sin and liberalism.

If you’re using the cliché, maybe you could let us know which of these (or other) possibilities that you intend to communicate. 

Boring Pants - New Music


This one comes from my friend's son, Jonas, who does not like boring pants.









Tuesday, November 1, 2016

How Should We Hermeneutic?


In the Evangelical branch of the Christian community, we have been taught that the right way, the proper way to interpret a passage of scripture is to attempt to understand it in its historical-grammatical context. We are to put aside (as best we can) our own worldview and attempt to find the author’s original intent.  We are to ask ‘what did the author write?’ and ‘what did the author mean?’ before we even begin answering the question ‘what does it mean to me?’ Observation and interpretation before application.

And I appreciate this method. It is an attempt to be objective in our exegesis. It is an attempt to favor exegesis over eisegesis. Properly followed it would keep us from wild interpretive flights of fancy and from reading our own issues backwards into the sacred texts.

But this is not the way that our biblical predecessors worked; this was not their hermeneutic.
I’ve been reading from Luke 20: 27 – 38[i] this week, in preparation for Sunday’s sermon – the story of Jesus’ singular encounter with the enigmatic Sadducees in Luke’s gospel – and thinking about the question of hermeneutics. How should we hermeneutic? How should we interpret the scriptures?

In the story we are told that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. And this is, apparently, all that we need to know about them for the story to play out. In fact we know little about them at all – and what little we do know comes from sources that were biased against them.

In addition to their denial of the resurrection, one of the things that is commonly said of the Sadducees is that rejected everything except the Pentateuch. The Jewish historian Josephus said that they observed nothing apart from the Law. “But the doctrine of the Sadducees is this: that souls die with the bodies; nor do they regard the observation of anything besides what the law enjoins them…” and “…the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the law of Moses; and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them and say that we are to esteem those observances to be obligatory which are in the written word, but are not to observe what are derived from the tradition of our forefathers…” (Antiquities of the Jews 18.17 and 13.297)

This should not be read to mean that they kept only the Torah and rejected the Writings and the Prophets. It may mean only that they elevated the authority of the Torah over the other books of Hebrew scripture (which had not yet been firmly established. It may be “that at a time when the Jewish canon was still in flux, the best ‘ground rules’ for a dispute among the Jews who differed in their theological outlook were for both sides to draw their scriptural citations and their arguments from the universally revered written Torah of Moses” (Meier 420).

When the Sadducees approached Jesus that day with a question about the resurrection, it wasn’t specifically an attack on Jesus or his followers (though as a group that denied the resurrection, this certainly set them in opposition to the Christian audience reading the gospels.) They came to him with one of the theological questions of the day.

It was, of course, a trick question, a question designed to make the idea of a physical resurrection of the dead (and anyone who held that belief) look as foolish as possible. Their question revolved around the hypothetical ridiculousness of the system “Levirate”marriage. They took the situation and stretched it to what they felt were absurd, ludicrous conclusions: Polyandry is ludicrous – Resurrection will lead to polyandry - Therefore resurrection is ludicrous.

Jesus answers in two parts – first to side-step their trick question. He nullified their ridiculous conclusion by showing that they really didn’t understand the concept that they were trying to refute. There won’t be any need for marriage in the resurrection because the resurrected will be immortal and there won’t be the need for procreation to create children to carry on one’s name.

Then, secondly, Jesus attempts to prove the resurrection to the Sadducees by citing one of the texts that he knows they can both accept as authoritative (Exodus 3:6), but it is his interpretive hermeneutic that is under question here.

There is little in the Old Testament that speaks about a resurrection. The idea of a resurrection of the dead “does not appear except in texts that are rare, obscure with regard to their precise meaning, and late” (Martin-Achard 680). In the Old Testament there is no concept of resurrection, life after death, or rewards or punishments in the afterlife. In the Old Testament, the dead, all of them –the good, the bad, and the ugly, go to the grave, the pit, to sheol. And that’s it.

The origins of Jewish belief in a resurrection after death are unclear (Nickelsburg 685). But by the time of Jesus, many (but not all) Jews accepted the idea of a life after death. The Sadducees did not accept this theological point, and thus the debate we have recorded in the gospels. 

The text that Jesus chose to use as a defense of the resurrection, if we are following our historical-grammatical method, says absolutely nothing about resurrection.  “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (Exodus 3:6 NRSV) You can pull it apart, you can examine the verse in the larger context of Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush, you can parse the words and phrases of the text, but you won’t find any clear, authorial intent to describe, define, or defend the resurrection in Exodus 3:6.

Jesus was not interpreting the scriptures the right and proper way – not the way that we have been taught to do it.  Jesus (along with the Jewish rabbis) started from a different point and followed a different set of interpretive rules and guidelines. Jesus started with his community of faith, a community “that already held to belief in the resurrection. Already confident that God does in fact raise the dead and that he had revealed this truth to Israel in the Scriptures, [they] readily found clues and intimations of resurrection in texts whose literal sense has nothing to do with the subject” (Meier 426).

So how should we hermeneutic? Should we be objective and neutral? Should we favor exegesis over eisegesis? Or is interpretation more fluid? Should we look for support of theological concepts we believe in texts that may not apply in the plain sense to those concepts?



Martin-Achard, Robert. “Resurrection (OT)” The Anchor Bible Dictionary Volume 5. New York. NY: Doubleday. 1992. Print.

Meier, John P. A Marginal Jew Volume 3: Companions and Competitors. New York, NY: Doubleday. 2001. Print.

Nickelsburg, George W. E. “Resurrection (Early Judaism and Christianity)” The Anchor Bible Dictionary Volume 5. New York, NY: Doubleday. 1992. Print.





[i] The story is also in Mark 12: 18 – 27 and Matthew 22: 23 – 32.

Biblical Limericks: Polyandry Is just Ludicrous




The Sadducees come with a question,
one to force Jesus’ accession,
but it won’t work unless
polyandry is less
believable than resurrection.

Luke 20: 27 – 38

There is no polyandry in the bible...
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