Archive for August, 2009

2888570931_b57cdb2444Samplings from the Presbyterian USA Church’s Study Catechism:

Question 13. When you confess the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, are you elevating men over women and endorsing male domination?
No. Human power and authority are trustworthy only as they reflect God’s mercy and kindness, not abusive patterns of domination. As Jesus taught his disciples, “The greatest among you will be your servant” (Matt. 23:11). God the Father sets the standard by which all misuses of power are exposed and condemned. “Call no one your father on earth,” said Jesus, “for you have one Father — the one in heaven” (Matt. 23:9). In fact God calls women and men to all ministries of the church.
Gal. 3:28 “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
Eph. 5:21 “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Question 14. If God’s love is powerful beyond measure, why is there so much evil in the world?
No one can say why, for evil is a terrible abyss beyond all rational explanation. Its ultimate origin is obscure. Its enormity perplexes us. Nevertheless, we boldly affirm that God’s triumph over evil is certain. In Jesus Christ God suffers with us, knowing all our sorrows. In raising him from the dead, God gives new hope to the world. Our Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, is himself God’s promise that suffering will come to an end, that death shall be no more, and that all things will be made new.
Ps. 23:4 “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me.”
1 Pet. 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
2 Pet. 3:13 “But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.
Rom. 8:21 “The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”
Job 19:25 “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth.”

Question 16. What does it mean to say that we human beings are created in the image of God?
That God created us to live together in love and freedom — with God, with one another, and with the world. Our distinctive capacities — reason, imagination, volition and so on — are given primarily for this purpose. We are created to be loving companions of others so that something of God’s goodness may be reflected in our lives.
Gen. 1:26 “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.'”
Gen. 1:27 “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Question 17. What does our creation in God’s image reflect about God’s reality?
Our being created in and for relationship is a reflection of the Holy Trinity. In the mystery of the one God, the three divine persons — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — live in, with and for one another eternally in perfect love and freedom.
Luke 3:21-22 “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.'”
John 1:18 “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”
John 5:19 “Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.”
John 17:21-22 “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

Question 18. What does our creation in God’s image reflect about God’s love for us?
We are created to live wholeheartedly for God. When we honor our Creator as the source of all good things, we are like mirrors reflecting back the great beam of love that God
shines on us. We are also created to honor God by showing love toward other human beings.
Ps. 9:1 “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”
1 John 4:7 “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”
1 John 4:11 “Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.”
Matt. 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

Question 21. What does it mean to say that Jesus Christ is the image of God?
Despite our turning from God, God did not turn from us, but instead sent Jesus Christ in the fullness of time to restore our broken humanity. Jesus lived completely for God, by giving himself completely for us, even to the point of dying for us. By living so completely for others, he manifested what he was — the perfect image of God. When by grace we are conformed to him through faith, our humanity is renewed according to the divine image that we lost.
Is. 65:2 “I held out my hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices.”
Phil. 2:8 “He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.”
Col. 1:15 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”
Rom. 8:29 “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.”

Question 22. What do you understand by God’s providence?
That God not only preserves the world, but also continually attends to it, ruling and sustaining it with wise and benevolent care. God is concerned for every creature: “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand, you satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Ps. 145:15). In particular, God provides for the world by bringing good out of evil, so that nothing evil is permitted to occur that God does not bend finally to the good. Scripture tells us, for example, how Joseph said to his brothers: “As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen. 50:20).
Rom. 8:28 “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
Ps. 103:19 “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.”
Ps. 145:17 “The Lord is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings.”

Question 24. What difference does your faith in God’s providence make when you struggle against bitterness and despair?
When I suffer harm or adversity, my faith in God’s providence upholds me against bitterness and despair. It reminds me when hope disappears that my heartache and pain are contained by a larger purpose and a higher power than I can presently discern. Even in grief, shame and loss, I can still cry out to God in lament, waiting on God to supply my needs, and to bring me healing and comfort.
Ps. 42:11 “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.”
2 Cor. 4:8-10 “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.”
Ps. 13:1-2 “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”
Job 7:11 “Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.”

Question 27. Does your confession of God as Creator contradict the findings of modern science?
No. My confession of God as Creator answers three questions: Who?, How? and Why? It affirms that (a) the triune God, who is self-sufficient, (b) called the world into being out of nothing by the creative power of God’s Word (c) for the sake of sharing love and freedom. Natural science has much to teach us about the particular mechanisms and processes of nature, but it is not in a position to answer these questions about ultimate reality, which point to mysteries that science as such is not equipped to explore. Nothing basic to the Christian faith contradicts the findings of modern science, nor does anything essential to modern science contradict the Christian faith.
John 1:1-3 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.”

Question 35. How can Jesus be truly God and yet also truly human at the same time?
The mystery of Jesus Christ’s divine-human unity passes our understanding; only faith given by the Holy Spirit enables us to affirm it. When Holy Scripture depicts Jesus as someone with divine power, status and authority, it presupposes his humanity. And when it depicts him as someone with human weakness, neediness and mortality, it presupposes his deity. We cannot understand how this should be, but we can trust that the God who made heaven and earth is free to become God incarnate and thus to be God with us in this wonderful and awe-inspiring way.
Mark 1:27 “They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching–with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”
Mark 4:41 “And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?'”
Matt. 28:18 “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.'”
Luke 22:44 “In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.”
Job 5:9 “He does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number.”

Question 37. Was the covenant with Israel an everlasting covenant?
Yes. With the coming of Jesus the covenant with Israel was expanded and confirmed. By faith in him Gentiles were welcomed into the covenant. This throwing open of the gates confirmed the promise that through Israel God’s blessing would come to all peoples. Although for the most part Israel has not accepted Jesus as the Messiah, God has not rejected Israel. God still loves Israel, and God is their hope, “for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29). The God who has reached out to unbelieving Gentiles will not fail to show mercy to Israel as the people of the everlasting covenant.
Is. 61:8 “I will make an everlasting covenant with them.”
Jer. 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”
2 Sam. 23:5 “For he has made with me [David] an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure.”
Rom. 11:29 “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

Question 51. How will God deal with the followers of other religions?
God has made salvation available to all human beings through Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. How God will deal with those who do not know or follow Christ, but who follow another tradition, we cannot finally say. We can say, however, that God is gracious and merciful, and that God will not deal with people in any other way than we see in Jesus Christ, who came as the Savior of the world.
Rev. 7:9 “And there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.”
Ps. 103:8 “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
John 3:19 “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.”
Titus 2:11 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all.”
Question 52. How should I treat non-Christians and people of other religions?
As much as I can, I should meet friendship with friendship, hostility with kindness, generosity with gratitude, persecution with forbearance, truth with agreement, and error with truth. I should express my faith with humility and devotion as the occasion requires, whether silently or openly, boldly or meekly, by word or by deed. I should avoid compromising the truth on the one hand and being narrow-minded on the other. In short, I should always welcome and accept these others in a way that honors and reflects the Lord’s welcome and acceptance of me.
Rom. 15:7 “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
Luke 6:37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Matt. 5:44 “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Eph. 4:25 “So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.”
Acts. 13:47 “For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'”
Rom. 12:21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Rom. 13:10 “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”

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Rush Limbaugh’s been impaled in the mouth by a telephone pole!!!!
Film at 11 !!!!rush

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“Beauty will save the world” — Doestevsky

So many fantastic colors: Pretty pictures by photographer Lawrence Paiken:


Beauty will save the world.”
—- Doestevsky

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When the mighty ones fall

The news about politicians, sports figures and other high-profile folks and their infidelities has become all too common.
It’s easy enough to condemn these public figures as cads and hypocrites and really turn up the heat on them with harsh judgment, especially if it’s a politician. The libs love to see a conservative fall, and the conservatives love to see the libs fall.
I don’t like to see anybody fall.
I actually felt sorry for Hillary and daughter Chelsea when Bill Clinton’s had has Monicagate. I couldn’t help but think of the family’s pain and public humiliation.
I actually feel sorry for the Republican governor of South Carolina’s family because of the enormous pain and public humiliation they are suffering still.
These things get into some really sticky areas–a famous coach gets a pass from fans because the coach is a winner in some cases. And when it’s a politician, the supporters on his or her side of the aisle will do all sorts of moral gymnastics to excuse the sinner’s adultery.
In addition, the late-night comedians and everybody pile on night after night.
We tend to become way too unforgiving and unmerciful–or way too merciful and forgiving in these matters, depending on whether it’s our Democrat or our Republican, our coach or our rival’s coach.
But it’s hard enough on spouses and children when these things come to light in the most obscure of families. For a spouse and children to have to endure the enormous public exposure and fallout would be almost unbearable, I would think.
That’s not to say that the adulterers–especially those who profess their religious faith at every turn from their public-office pulpits while carrying on affairs–should not be held up to the light of day and held to account. What I do want to say is that they and their families should be held in prayer and not bashed without mercy for political or any other ill-begotten reasons–not by Christians. We’re all broken, sin-sick people living in a broken world full of worldy temptations.
Anyway, here’s an interesting take on such “cheap shots” from Father Stephen Freeman, an Orthodox priest in Tennessee who blogs at a site called “Glory to God in all things”:

The news story is so common that the name can be left blank. ” N. confessed today that he has been unfaithful to his wife and children and let down his fans. ‘I want to say I’m sorry for what I’ve done and ask God’s forgiveness.’”
I do not believe that our nation is suffering a rash of infidelities. We are suffering a rash of cheap shots – easily made because the targets are too big to miss.

A Basketball Coach, a Senator, a Congressman, a News Anchor – these, and similar folk, are all people that our entertainment culture has “writ large.” The few minutes of fame afforded certain figures usually brings additional wealth and influence. Many of those around them are eager to use the cache of their presence for their own ends – sometimes the ends even seem good. Thus the commonplace headliner at a local evangelical church – the popular coach or the football star. It carries a not so hidden message: ‘Jesus is a winner.’

With every winning headline the target gets bigger. When human frailty reveals itself, the headlines that follow are bigger still. That a football coach goes to Church and believes in Jesus is not news. That he does drugs and chases women on the side – that’s news.

Hypocrisy sells.

The popular-figure-as-Christian-leader is an American myth. For years our history books were filled with mythic tales of the righteous founders of our nation. Not even ancient Israel had such righteous leaders. King David was a murdering adulterer. George Washington could not tell a lie. The disconnect between these two figures is the disconnect between the traditional Christian faith and the American Christian faith. Jesus is not an American and He did not found our country. He also did not coach at Notre Dame.

Being moral does not make you famous – and being famous has nothing to do with being moral.

I am not a believer in traditional morality – because I think it’s a modern invention. Conventional morality thinks in terms of a moral code well kept. Think Immanuel Kant as business leader. Proper Christian morality thinks of death and resurrection. Jesus did not die in order to make bad men good – He died to make dead men live. Immoral people act the way they do because within they are filled with death and corruption. There is something fundamentally broken about the human being – and we often find our lives to be a mass of contradictions.

The moral man, in this understanding, is the one who acknowledges his utter weakness before God. Christ told His disciples, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Someone who believes this spends his life learning to depend not on himself but on the only Lord and Giver of Life.

In Alcoholics Anonymous, one of the 12 traditions teaches that anonymity is essential to the program. AA does not depend on famous spokesmen to sell its way of life. It wisely depends on men and women who successfully struggle for sobriety. What they do and who they are is of no consequence. All that matters is sobriety. Indeed a famous spokesman, returning to the bottle is just the kind of advertising they do not need.

The Christian faith is not helped by the endorsements of the rich and famous, the talented and successful. The resurrection does not need the testimony of dead men. For the Christian Church is a communion of dead men and women who cling to God because He alone gives life. We survive because we can share the good news of that life with each other. Anonymity is not a bad idea.

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O Susanna, O won’t you pray for me?

Help me, Lord, to remember that religion is not to be confined to the church, or closet, nor exercised only in prayer and meditation, but that everywhere I am in thy presence. So may my every word and action have a moral content. . . . . May all the happenings of my life prove useful and beneficial to me. May all things instruct me and afford me and opportunity of exercising some virtue and daily learning and growing toward thy likeness. Amen.”
—- Susanna Wesley

Susanna Wesley (1669-1742), although she never preached a sermon or published a book or founded a church, is known as the Mother of Methodism. Why? Because two of her sons, John Wesley and Charles Wesley, as children consciously or unconsciously will, applied the example and teachings and circumstances of their home life. Their early purpose was to help people reshape their own lives for the better and almost before John and Charles knew it, they were shaping a movement that would reform not only individuals, but the church and the society of England. Because they behaved purposefully and methodically in the Holy Club they organized at Oxford, other less disciplined students who had not had Susanna for a mother derisively called them “method-ists”. The Wesley brothers accepted the term as a badge of honor for their growing movement.

Susanna was a remarkable woman. She certainly never went to university or had any of what we would term formal education; that simply was not available to women in 17th century England. But her father taught her to read and to think for herself and as the twig is bent, so grows the tree.

Her father was the Rev. Dr. Samuel Annesley, a noted scholar, beloved clergyman, a mentor to young seminarians, renowned and respected preacher, and sometime chaplain to Parliament [noted for chiding the members of Parliament to “forget your greatness and give account of your goodness, if you have it”.

Dr. Annesley was a man of conscience – a Dissenter who could not sign the Act of Uniformity in 1662 which would have meant agreeing to changes in the Church of England Book of Common Prayer. He left St. Giles Cripplegate in London and founded a new parish, thus setting an example of independent thinking both for his daughter (who later chose to rejoin the Church of England) and ultimately for his grandsons who, although they remained priests in the C of E all their lives, applied their own independent thinking to reform of abuses in church and society.

Susanna Annesley was the youngest of 25 children, so it seemed unexceptional to her that she gave birth to 19 children (including two sets of twins). At the age of 19 she married Samuel Wesley, a congenial and bright young clergyman who’s father was also a Dissenter, John Westley. After 1662, Westley had chosen to travel from parish to parish preaching, thereby setting another kind of example for the grandsons he never lived to see, for he died young.

After living for a few years in London and in South Ormsby, Samuel and Susanna moved to Epworth near Lincoln, where they remained until his death nearly 40 years later in 1735. Of the children born to them, ten survived to adulthood: three sons and seven daughters. Despite the Wesleys’ poor financial condition, all three sons earned M.A.s from Oxford. All three were ordained in the Church of England. The eldest, Samuel Jr, became a teacher at Westminster in London and helped his family generously by sending home money and by taking Charles especially under his wing when the younger brother came as a student to Westminster. Samuel Jr later became head of Blundell School the Free Grammar School in Tiverton, Devon.

Samuel Jr was already in London but John was about five and Charles a babe when in 1709 a fire destroyed the Epworth rectory in fifteen minutes one cold February night. Homeless, the family was forced to split apart for a while two daughters looked after by an uncle in London, other children staying with friends nearer home. Susanna’s 19th child was born a month later and not for the first time in her life was Susanna deeply sad and almost immobilized by shock and grief. Yet she seems to have survived, and with a great determination to unite her family and to save her children’s souls. This, she wrote, was indeed her focus for twenty years of the prime of her life.

It was now, after the rebuilding of the rectory, that Susanna more than ever regulated home life in order to reassure her family of stability and to reestablish the necessity for order and priorities by which to live a useful life. The Wesleys arose at 5:00; each hour of the day was assigned to specific activities.

She set aside an hour each day of the week for a particular child – Thursdays, for instance, was Jacky’s (John’s) day. During this hour she would inquire after the state of their soul on its journey as well as their progress, fears, expectations, and goals in other endeavors. Thus began lifelong habits of regular self examination.

As children left home – the sons to school, the daughters to serve as governesses or to marry – Susanna wrote them letters not only about family news but about manner of living and subjects of belief.

John asked if she might convert the customary hour spent in one-on-one conversation to an hour spent in writing him on various themes… but she had already in effect been doing this, and not only for John. Letters to other children too are meaty and insightful products of a probing and devoted mind.

In addition to letters, Susanna Wesley wrote meditations and scriptural commentaries for her own use. She wrote extended commentaries for instance on the Apostles Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments. Alas many of these were lost in the rectory fire, but many survive. The most accessible means to her writings is Charles Wallace’s excellent and important Susanna Wesley, Her Collected Writings.

Susanna Annesley Wesley was a remarkable Christian woman. One can only wonder to what she would apply herself were she alive in this 21st century!
But she was not of the 21st century; she was of the 17th and 18th centuries and it is in that context that, tucked away in a small town, she planted seeds in her children’s minds that engendered the Methodist movement. From her frequent illnesses and no doubt the often poor health of others in the family suffering the wants of poverty grew a lively concern for clinics for the poor.

 From Susanna’s effective home schooling grew a recognition of the importance of education and schools for the indigent; from this grew too schools where the unskilled could learn trades to lift them from poverty and dependence. From her own love of learning and habits of independent thought grew the respect for differences in persons and beliefs. From her determination to provide regularity in a world of disorder grew a method for bringing creative, positive, Christ-centered change. From her example and methods grew Methodism.
{*** Bio taken

Susanna Wesley

Susanna Wesley

from the web site of Susan Pellowe.}

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Your Saturday nigh special: Quotable quotes to mull on


The church can reach those whose lives are breaking down simply by forming Christians who know how to practice compassion, how to listen, how to withhold judgment, how to bake casseroles, how to look after other people’s children when those people are too confused or grief-stricken to do it themselves, how to give away their money and their time without expecting any direct return, how to be quiet with people in a noisy world, how to see God in the lost and the least, how to work for justice instead of just talking about it, how to make decisions that will benefit the widest number of people, how to swallow bitterness and choose peace, how to love God so much that they see God in every person they meet. Church is not a building. It is a community of people who know how to do these things and do them.
—- Barbara Brown Taylor

Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back- in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.
—- Frederick Beuchner

The problem for most of us is that we don’t realizehow united we are with God. Except in rare moments of mystical experience, most of us don’t generally feel such intimacy with the divine. Even if we believe devoutly that God is present with us, our usual response is that were are “here” and God is “there,” loving and gracious, perhaps, but errovocably separate. “We just don’t understand ourselves,” says Teresa {of Avila}, “or know who we are.”
At worst, we give lip service to God’s presence, but then feel and act is if we were completely on our own. I think of church committee meetings, pastoral counseling sessions, or even spiritual direction meetings I have attended. They often begin with a sincere prayer, “God, be with us (as if God might be at another meeting) and guide our decisions and actions.” then at the end comes, “Amen,” and the door crashes shut on God-attentiveness. Now we have said our prayers and it’s time to get down to business. The modern educator Parker Palmer calls this “functional atheism . . . the belief that ultimate responsibility for everythiing rests with me.”
—- Gerald May, from the book about St. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, The Dark Night of the Soul

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about1_190By JIM DWYER
From the Aug. 23 New York Times
First the superintendent and the handyman checked the oven from top to bottom. Then they tested the electrical outlet that supplied ignition power for the oven. Everything worked. Finally, they gave their verdict to the tenant, Andrei Melnikov.
It was simply not possible, they said, that his oven, a Magic Chef made by Maytag, had turned itself on full blast, as Mr. Melnikov maintained.
“Maybe you imagined it,” the handyman said.
Mr. Melnikov picked up a warped meat thermometer, its plastic casing melted.
“How did I imagine this?” he asked.
“He told me, ‘Probably you don’t remember pushing the button,’ ” Mr. Melnikov said.
Actually, Mr. Melnikov and his wife, Lina, almost never cook in the oven, which was new when they moved into their apartment in Gravesend, Brooklyn, three years ago. Like many people who live with more stuff than space, they store kitchenware in it.
On the day it turned itself on, Mr. Melnikov recalled, his cellphone had rung in the kitchen. He talked for about 10 minutes. Then he smelled smoke. The oven was roaring. The thermometer was in flames.
“Maybe the ringing cellphone turned it on,” Mr. Melnikov suggested to the two men.
They scoffed.
He laid the phone next to the stove. They dialed it. Suddenly, the electronic control on the stovetop beeped. The digital display changed from a clock to the word “high.” As the phone was ringing, the broiler was heating up.
Three other apartments in the building are fitted with the same make and model oven: Maytag Model CGR1425ADW. “My phone turned on all of them,” Mr. Melnikov reported. “One apartment had a General Electric. It didn’t work on that one.”
On Thursday, Mr. Melnikov welcomed a skeptical visitor — me — into his kitchen.
“Will it happen now?” I asked.
“Sure,” he said.
He reconnected the oven, which he had unplugged from the wall for safety, and turned the gas valve on. I dialed his number. The electronic pad on the oven beeped, the word “high” appeared, and the phone rang. The flames were licking from the broiler jets.
“It goes right to the high setting on the broiler,” he said. “It prefers high.”
He disconnected the oven. I asked him to show me again, and he cheerfully started over. Once again, a call to his cellphone turned it on.
Maytag learned about the rogue oven from a report on WINS 1010, which broke the story last week. A company technician confirmed the problem.

“In our experience, this situation is highly unusual,” said Jill M. Saletta, a spokeswoman for Maytag. “We have offered to replace the unit with a brand-new one, at no cost, and will be taking the old unit to fully test in our lab.” Any other ovens with the same problem will also be replaced, she said.City fire marshals came to the apartment Friday and saw a demonstration. The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission has written to Mr. Melnikov for information. Ms. Saletta said all Maytag’s appliances are tested and meet safety standards set by Underwriters Laboratory and the American National Standards Institute.
The landlord of the building, Arkadiy Eydlin, said he bought the Maytag ovens about four years ago. “Maybe around $500, $400 each,” he said. “It’s not the most expensive, and it’s not the cheapest one.”Cellphones, which send signals at up to 3 watts, often create electromagnetic interference with baby monitors, computer speakers and car radios, so it’s not surprising that they might also affect an oven’s electronic controls. People with heart pacemakers are cautioned not to carry phones in pockets over the implant. Engineers for Consumer Reports say that it is possible that Mr. Melnikov’s cellphone induced voltages in the keypad of the oven.Whatever the exact mechanism, the evidence is strong that these Maytag models are vulnerable to cellphones — and not just the one owned by Mr. Melnikov. The superintendent was able to turn on the oven in his own apartment by calling his own cellphone, which is a Samsung. Mr. Melnikov has a Sony Ericsson PDA.

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By Craig Medred, Alaska Dispatch
One year ago Saturday, Republican presidential hopeful John McCain hoisted little-known Sarah Palin onto the national stage. Little could McCain imagine the cast of characters she would bring with her or the firestorm she would create.
Isn’t it odd how nuclear explosions alter the time-space continuum? Thirteen months ago, much of Alaska knew Sarah Palin almost as much by her marriage to “first dude” Todd Palin, the Tesoro Iron Dog snowmachine racing champion, as by her political office, and the world — well, the world didn’t know her at all.
Now the world knows not only Sarah but Todd and many of the rest of the players in what has become the Palin Family Soap Opera: Bristol, the teenage daughter who has become a national spokeswoman for teen abstinence. Levi Johnston, Bristol’s ex-fiance and the daddy of the baby she had because she couldn’t abstain. Sherri Johnston, the mother of Levi, and a convicted drug dealer. Meghan Stapleton, the former television talking head who became the bark-at-the-media attack dog for Sarah, who was in turn the attack dog for Republican presidential contender John McCain.
And those are only the main players. Throw in the bit players — people like Palin’s Fox News buddy Greta Van Susteren; Levi’s handler, Tank Jones, and flamboyant attorney, Rex Butler; the gaggle of photogenic Palin children; Sarah’s plain-spoken father, Chuck Heath; even comedian Kathy Griffin, who dragged Levi along as her date to Nickelodeon’s Teen Choice Awards in August — and the show really gets weird.
Welcome to the strange new world of Sarah Palin, one-time Alaska beauty queen, one-time stay-at-home mom, and one-time mayor of the strip-mall town of Wasilla along the picturesque shores of Lakes Wasilla and Lucille in the shadow of the spectacular Talkeetna and Chugach mountains, below which dwell many hardworking people and a handful of the not-so-hard-working whom former state Sen. Ben Stevens once impolitely referred to as “Valley trash.”
The setting here is awesome, the cast of characters intriguing, and the spectacle sometimes hard not to watch.
At least until it gets just plain overwhelming.
Maybe by now you’ve had enough. Even one popular Alaska radio talk-show host was on the air in Anchorage only days ago expressing relief that with Palin gone from the governor’s office and comparatively silent on Twitter and Facebook, there have actually been a few days of quiet since she threw the “death panel” fireball at President Obama’s plan for national health care. The Obama administration, of course, is still trying to calm the “death panel” storm Palin created by posting just a few lines of copy on the Web.
And to think that prior to Aug. 29, 2008, Palin was — at least on the national level — an obscure, Republican governor in a far-off state serving as something of the de facto leader of a pack of Democrats in the state House.
That was then, when Sarah Palin was a uniter, not a divider.
This is now, with Sarah Palin one of the most visible Republicans on the national stage and arguably the most divisive figure in American politics. An ABC News/Washington Post poll in July found 70 percent of Republicans hold a favorable view of Alaska’s ex-governor, but among all voters — Republicans, Democrats and independents — 58 percent view her unfavorably.
She is quite simply the most popular Republican in the country at the moment, and the Republican least likely capable of bringing Democrats and independents into the conservative fold. It’s a long way from those halcyon days of yesteryear when she was cozier with some Alaska Dems than with her own party leadership.

It would be nice to ask Palin herownself what happened, but she can’t be found. The exact location of the former governor is being kept top secret, though there seem almost as many Sarah Palin spottings as Elvis sightings in the Lower 48 these days. At last report, she’d been rumored to be shopping for real estate in Montana, New York and Rhode Island. Take your pick.
She is also rumored to be struggling with marital problems. Who knows. The rumor has been denied vehemently, and yet it persists persistently.
What is known is that Palin isn’t at home in Wasilla.

“I don’t even know where she is right now,” her father, Chuck Heath, said this week from his home near hers in the big valley north of Anchorage.

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The word salvation, a key term for understanding the Christian worldview, derives from the Latin word salus, which means healthy and sound, in turn deriving from the Greek holus, which means whole. The Christian Gospel, as a message of salvation, can also be understood as a message of healing, one that brings wholeness to our lives.
The Gospel, or Good News, is addressed to us in our cosmic woundedness, proclaiming the Way wherein we can be healed and come to wholeness once again. This is by undergoing a total change of heart and mind, a metanoia wherein we experience a renovation of our being as we are reconciling with God, with our true selves, with our fellow human beings, and with the whole of creation.
“Understood this way, we can see how the Buddhist expression of the human predicament in terms of duhka, that is, as a situation that is dis-located, dis-eased, out of step, or out of touch with itself, is in basic resonance and in agreement with the Christian understanding of cosmic woundedness.”

—- From Healing Breath: Zen Spirituality for a Wounded Earth” by Ruben L.F. Habito. He spent nearly 20 years in Japan where he did Zen koan training and is now resident Zen Teacher at the Maria Kannon Zen Center in Dallas. A former Roman Catholic priest, he also teaches world religions and spiritualities at Perkins School of Theology where jitterbugger here obtained his Master of Divinity.

I like to think of salvation in terms of its healing power with Christ as the great Physician of souls. We are all broken people living in a messy, broken, noisy and violent world. We all stand in need of God’s saving grace, love and mercy and God comes to heal us in all our brokenness.

United Methodist Bishop Scott Jones, a former Perkins professor, writes in his book United Methodist Doctrine, that in Wesley’s scheme of salvation, “genuine religion is best understood as the therapy of the soul. Christianity is the way in which God is transforming God’s creation away from its sin and restoring the original God present in the first creation. This means changing of individuals and of entire social systems.”

“A common mistake about salvation is to relate it only to life after death,” Jones wrote. {Wesley’s Sermons} emphasize that salvation is a present reality, not merely something acheived after death.”

We’re all wounded, all broken, all “dis-eased,” all standing in need of God’s grace and healing power–all in need of renovation and restoration to original blessing.
Before there was original sin, there was original blessing.

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