24 December 2008

Two things in view and a baby born of a virgin

Pamplona baluarte
Originally uploaded by al_loromanchego
Sometimes two people can be looking at different things and making comments in contrast, and sometimes one person can be looking at two different things at the same time and making comments. This could be confusing. Let me explain.

For the first, the story is told of two ladies sitting on the porch on a Wednesday evening in Tennessee. One is listening to the church choir practicing and the other is listening to the sounds of the crickets. The first, "Don't they make beautiful music?" Replied the second, "Yes, and I hear they do it by rubbing their legs together."

For the 2nd, and more timely to the season is the story told by Isaiah the Jewish prophet some 700 years before the birth of Jesus. Isaiah is writing his prophecy to encourage two different sets of folks. One living in his time, much like the wall and bridge we see in the photo, and the other group of people who are living 7 centuries later, much like the faint far-away building in the background of the photo.

The hint of how this works in found in Isaiah chapter 7 verse 14. There we read "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."

The hint? The Hebrew word for 'you' in verse 14 is in the plural. Whereas the context of the comforting words is a message to the king, King Ahaz, all of a sudden, there is a shift to make this plural. So a larger group can be assured of the sign, of the guarantee of God's presence. I believe this is the double view of the prophet.

The significance for us? God wanted to speak words of comfort to the king in 700 BC (or so) and that's good news for him. And God wants to speak good news and comfort to us about a virgin having a baby and his name would be "God with us" (That's how Immanuel translates).

When I hear the Christmas story, I don't think of Santa, or of presents or reindeer. I think of God comforting us, of sending his presence and of the redemption that's found only in the Son of the Virgin, Y'shua (Jesus), who gives eternal life to all who believe.

That's good news!

To all who read this blog... a very merry Messiah-mas!

Actual text of Isaiah says this, "Not long after this, the LORD sent this message to King Ahaz: "Ask me for a sign, Ahaz, to prove that I will crush your enemies as I have promised. Ask for anything you like, and make it as difficult as you want." But the king refused. "No," he said, "I wouldn't test the LORD like that."Then Isaiah said, "Listen well, you royal family of David! You aren't satisfied to exhaust my patience. You exhaust the patience of God as well! All right then, the Lord himself will choose the sign. Look! The virgin* will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel--`God is with us.' By the time this child is old enough to eat curds and honey, he will know enough to choose what is right and reject what is wrong. But before he knows right from wrong, the two kings you fear so much--the kings of Israel and Aram--will both be dead. " (Isaiah 7.10-16)


My new friend Alvaro, who lives in Madrid, shot this photo on a trip to Pamplona last month. Gracias, amigo, por la foto. Y Feliz Navidad y prospero año nuevo.

07 December 2008

Australia: The movie

An Epic story: Australia

I’m from Kansas. I grew up there in what has become known as the “Land of Oz.” The themes from “Wizard of Oz” and even the Judy Garland song “Somewhere over the rainbow” feature sharply in “Australia” the movie.

Baz Luhrmann directs the movie. Giant actors like Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman make this story of our country bigger than life, or at least bigger than Errol Flynn! There are cattle driving scenes which could be found in ‘epic’ movies, but too many zooms for such a grand adjective. It’s just not big enough for me.

Ever-good as an actor, Bryan Brown brings the king into our movie houses, and when he waltzes with Nicole, we are transported to another era and another place.

Many other Aussie actors like Tony Barry are well chosen. The film shows the harsh life in the 1940s in our country, and an epic love story, it all goes to bring us to another place.

The trailer features the twice-said line, “Just because it is, doesn’t mean [that’s the way] it should be.” I liked that thought. We who are involved in thinking outside the traditional method of thinking, whether in religion like me, or in politics or in basketball or whatever, look beyond the traditional borders and actually break or seek to break them. For us the epic is an encouragement.

The movie speaks of racism in its ugliest colouring from the Stolen Generations (creamies, meaning offspring or mixed black and white people) to those who intersect and engage with them. Again, a very good subplot to discuss and consider. It’s an ugly part of Aussie and most Western civilization. Earlier this year (as the film also highlights in the end segment) our Prime Minister apologized for such activities. Thank you Mr Rudd.

So what is the ‘other place’ the movie takes us to? 1942 Darwin and Japanese bombing? Of course. To romance between Nicole and Jackman? Of course. But to Oz? That’s another question.

Nicole tells the young creamy a story, and glances down to get her topic from the newspaper of the day. The story: The Wizard of Oz. So a girl (is it Nic?) sets about to a far distant land (is it Faraway Downs, her homestead?) with her dog (Nic brings a horse) and gets caught in a storm (is it the business dealings with Brown’s character or the 2nd World War itself?). OK, the similarities are clear there.

But where is Nic’s Oz? Is it romance or the homestead? That’s missing for me. It’s no coincidence that Australia is nicknamed Oz (or Aus) for people of the world. And her people are Aussies. So is Luhrmann intimating that Australia is Oz, and Dorothy would never have clicked her ruby slippers if only she had found Sydney or Darwin on the Yellow Brick Road? Perhaps. And it is a great land. And the people are great.

All the while, I’m thinking about another place. And being transported to where no racism lives, and no place is as it is, only because it is. Things are the way they should be. Without apologies, we can all get there.

The place is Heaven. The owner is God and we can be tenants if we desire and long for such. We don’t earn our way there anymore than Dorothy earned her way to the farm in Kansas. It’s given to God’s children, one by one, to all who put their faith in Him and in His Son, Y’shua.

This is indeed, the ‘other place.’

And one to find out about. I recommend the Bible for you who want to know more. Great place to start. And hey, in 3 hours, the length of the epic Australia, you could get a lot of reading done. And may I recommend you start at say, John’s Gospel . That’s a biography by John of the person of Jesus. John lived with Jesus, so it’s a firsthand account. Very reliable.

Enjoy the movie. If you live here, you will probably like the movie better than those who have never been here. And enjoy the ‘other place’ too. That will last for a long, long time. And with great reviews, too.

05 December 2008

A mother's love?

Mothers gone mad

The mother of a two-year-old boy whose body was found in a suitcase appeared in the NSW Supreme Court today for the first time since she was charged with his murder. Rachel Pfitzner is accused of killing her son, Dean Shillingsworth, and dumping his body in a suitcase lined with a plastic bag at a pond in Ambarvale, near Campbelltown.

According to court documents, she picked him up by the cord of his jumper and shook him until he went limp and started to gurgle and froth at the mouth. She allegedly told police she had tried to resuscitate him by tilting back his head and breathing into his mouth.

Over in the UK, here's another insane mother story.

A British mother was found guilty on Thursday of kidnapping her own nine-year-old daughter, probably to scoop the reward money when the girl was found.

The disappearance of Shannon Matthews prompted one of the biggest searches in British history, costing over £3 million ($6.83 million), but she was found safely 24 days later in the base of a divan bed at the flat of Michael Donovan.

Donovan, 40, was convicted along with the girl's mother, 33-year-old Karen Matthews, who is from Dewsbury in northern England. He is the uncle of her former partner. Prosecutors said Donovan kept the schoolgirl drugged and imprisoned in his flat less than a mile from her home as part of a plan he and Karen Matthews hatched to claim reward money.

But back home this one is worse.

A man who stabbed his fiesty environmentalist mother to death says his only regret is that he didn't murder her 20 years ago, a Sydney court has been told.

Adam Patrick Owens, 35, of Cremorne on Sydney's North Shore, has admitted murdering his mother Doris Owens, 69, between September 6 and 9, 2006.

The body of the woman, known as a staunch environmental campaigner in the seaside village of Swanhaven, near Sussex Inlet on the NSW south coast, was not found until September 12, 2006.

Owens pleaded guilty to her murder moments before he was due to face trial last month.

During sentencing submissions in the NSW Supreme Court on Friday, Owens asked for any mitigating factors to be ignored by the judge and a maximum sentence imposed.

"I knew exactly what I was doing. My intention was to kill her and anything else is incorrect," Owens told the court.

"It was quite clear what I was doing.

"I'm not in the least remorseful, nor am I repentant.

Wow, what are these people (not) thinking? A mother is a mother and they say there's nothing like a mother's love. (Spoken by a father, of course)

I'm shocked, but why? If people like Owens will not repent, if they will not be remorseful, for whatever reasons, then the world only gets worse. God help us. God help us to repent. God help us to love our mothers, our children, our friends, even our enemies. That would make God happy. And that, in turn, makes us happy. Won't it?