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Archive for September, 2009

Time Religion Editor Elson

Time Religion Editor Elson

From the New York Times obituaries:

John T. Elson, Editor Who Asked ‘Is God Dead?’ at Time, Dies at 78
September 17, 2009
All journalists want to write a story that makes a big splash. John T. Elson, the religion editor at Time magazine, was no exception. But in 1966 he got more than he bargained for.
For more than a year, Mr. Elson had labored over an article examining radical new approaches to thinking about God that were gaining currency in seminaries and universities and spilling over to the public at large.
When finally completed, it became the cover story for the issue of April 8, as Easter and Passover approached. The cover itself was eye-catching, the first one in Time’s 43-year history to appear without a photograph or an illustration. Giant blood-red letters against a black background spelled out the question “Is God Dead?”
The issue caused an uproar, equaled only by John Lennon’s offhand remark, published in a magazine for teenagers a few months later, that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. The “Is God Dead?” issue gave Time its biggest newsstand sales in more than 20 years and elicited 3,500 letters to the editor, the most in its history to that point. It remains a signpost of the 1960s, testimony to the wrenching social changes transforming the United States.
The quiet, studious Mr. Elson, who died on Sept. 7 at the age of 78, was an unlikely bomb-thrower, and his article, for those who ventured past the cover, reflected his scholarly bent. Meekly titled on the inside as “Toward a Hidden God,” it began: “Is God dead? It is a question that tantalizes both believers, who perhaps secretly fear that he is, and atheists, who possibly suspect that the answer is no.”
For the next six pages, readers were guided through thickets of theological controversy and a shifting religious landscape. Profound changes taking place in the relationship of believers to their faith were often expressed through the words of people, both eminent and ordinary, grappling with the same fundamental problems. Simone de Beauvoir, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Billy Graham and William Sloane Coffin were quoted. So were a Tel Aviv streetwalker, a Dutch charwoman and a Hollywood screenwriter.

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From “The Jesus Manifesto” of Len Sweet and Frank Viola:
“In a world which sings, “Oh, who is this Jesus?” and a church which sings, “Oh, let’s all be like Jesus,” who will sing with lungs of leather, “Oh, how we love Jesus!”
“If Jesus could rise from the dead, we can at least rise from our bed, get off our couches and pews, and respond to the Lord’s resurrection life within us, joining Jesus in what he’s up to in the world. We call on others to join us—not in removing ourselves from planet Earth, but to plant our feet more firmly on the Earth while our spirits soar in the heavens of God’s pleasure and purpose. We are not of this world, but we live in this world for the Lord’s rights and interests. We, collectively, as the ekklesia of God, are Christ in and to this world.
“May God have a people on this earth who are a people of Christ, through Christ, and for Christ. A people of the cross. A people who are consumed with God’s eternal passion, which is to make his Son preeminent, supreme, and the head over all things visible and invisible. A people who have discovered the touch of the Almighty in the face of his glorious Son. A people who wish to know only Christ and him crucified, and to let everything else fall by the wayside. A people who are laying hold of his depths, discovering his riches, touching his life, and receiving his love, and making HIM in all of his unfathomable glory known to others.

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Russian Orthodox Christian at Compline

Russian Orthodox Christian at Compline

“There is a candle in your heart, ready to be kindled. There is a void in your soul, ready to be filled.
You feel it, don’t you?”
~ Rumi

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Her

Her

Properly attended to, even a saltmarsh mosquito is capable of evoking reverence. See those white and black striped stockings on legs thinner than a needle? Where in those legs is there room for knees? And yet see how they bend, as the bug lowers herself to your flesh. Soon you and she will be blood kin. Your itch is the price of her life. Swat her if you must, but not without telling her she is beautiful first.”
—- From Altar in the World

“One way to deal with your own pain is to use pain-killers. Another is to focus on other people’s pain. I chose the latter. Feeding other people was my way of avoiding my own hunger. As long as I focused on what was hurting them, I did not have to think about what was hurting me. ”
— From interview with The Ooze.

“When all of our own hopes have died, we still have this faith that seeks nothing for itself–not wisdom, not spiritual power, not rescue from suffering. “Success” is not in its vocabulary. This faith seeks nothing but God, to whom it is willing to surrender everything–up to and including its own cherished beliefs about who God is and how God should act. This faith is willing to sell all that it owns and bet the farm on one chance for union with God. If God plays hard to get, then this faith will never stop its wooing.
“Purged of all illusion, weaned from everything that is not God, this relentless faith will devote itself to doing justice and loving mercy no matter what the consequences are, and if the consequences turn out to be a cross, then this faith will hang there for however long is necessary, asking God to be present, asking God to speak, regardless of whether or not God chooses to answer. This kind of faith, embodied by Jesus, is what makes him the Christ–God’s own Being of Light, God’s own Anointed One–whose self-annihilating love for us and for all creation is never more vivid than it is on this day.
“I actually know people who come to church on Good Friday and who don’t come back on Easter. Easter is too pretty, they say. Easter is too cleaned-up. It is where they hope to live one day, in the land of milk and honey, but right now Good Friday is a better match for their souls, with its ruthless truth about the stench of death and the high price of love. It isn’t that they don’t care about what happens on Sunday. They do. They just don’t believe that God is saving all the good news until then.”
—- from a Good Friday sermon

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Eye-Gore? No, Igor

Eye-Gore? No, Igor

I don’t like to reprint out of newspapers for blog material, but this–like today’s prior posting–was too good not to excerpt from the Morning News, since this blog is all about God and things spiritual for the most part:
(BTW: Everytime I see the name “Igor” I immediately think of “Eye-Gore” of “Young Frankenstein” notoriety. Can’t help it!)

A spiritual force: Dallas Cowboys’ Olshansky fiercely proud in his Jewish faith
Saturday, September 26, 2009
By BARRY HORN / The Dallas Morning News
bhorn@dallasnews.com
It is a good bet that in the 50 years Cowboys history has overlapped the 5,770 years of Jewish history, no player ever before uttered the word “Elohim” inside the team’s training facility.
That streak ended last week when Igor Olshansky dropped the word in a discussion about his religious faith. Toweling off beads of sweat outside the weight room, where he had just finished inordinate repetitions with almost inhuman numbers of pounds, Olshansky mentioned Elohim.
It was a conversation stopper. Time for one more repetition.
“Elohim?”
“Elohim,” Olshansky replied.
“Elohim” is the third Hebrew word in the Bible. It is repeated often throughout the Old Testament as well as Jewish prayer services. It means “God.”
“I don’t try to please Elohim with everything I do; I couldn’t,” Olshansky said. “If I did, I wouldn’t be playing sports, I couldn’t be playing sports.”
Olshansky, a 6-6, 315-pound run-stopping defensive end whom the Cowboys last spring imported as a free agent, doesn’t claim to be an observant Jew. He will not be in synagogue on Monday, which is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, a time for prayer and fasting. Rather, he will be preparing to battle the Carolina Panthers that night on national television.
But he is a proud Jew. The identical Stars of David tattooed along his massive clavicles bear witness. In a sports world with relatively few Jewish athletes, and fewer who talk openly about their religion, he has become a role model of sorts to Jewish children. That’s what happened back in San Francisco, where he grew up, and in San Diego, where he played the last five seasons for the Chargers. Perhaps it will happen in Dallas someday as well.
“I am who I am,” Olshansky said. “I am a Jew, a spiritual person who has my own personal relationship with God. I try to be a good person … and although I never chose to be a role model, I don’t mind it.”
For Rabbi Pinchas Lipner, dean of San Francisco’s orthodox Lisa Kampner Hebrew Academy, the Soviet-born Olshansky is not only a good Jew but a proper role model. Lipner was Olshansky’s teacher.
“He’s a mensch,” Lipner said, choosing a Yiddish word that roughly translates into a person of integrity and honor.
Olshansky attended the Hebrew Academy after his family immigrated to San Francisco in 1989.
His parents sent their 7-year-old Igor and sister Marina, seven years older, to the school not to learn about the religion they couldn’t practice in the Soviet Union, but because it wasn’t far from their apartment, it was relatively inexpensive and it offered scholarships to children of Soviet émigrés.
It would prove to be a life-altering experience. Not only did Igor learn English while wearing a traditional skull cap – yarmulke – and tasseled fringes – tzitzit – under his shirt, he also prayed daily and studied Hebrew, the Bible and Jewish ethics. And most important of all, he met his future wife, Liya, a fellow Soviet emigrant there.
For many children, the transformation from the Soviet Union to the religious school was difficult. They left after a semester or two, as Liya did. Igor stayed four years until he completed the eighth grade.
“I liked the school,” Olshansky said. “It was all so new to me. I was really interested. I learned a lot.”

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All the nebulous and often outright false arguments against health-care reform rage on and meanwhile, people suffer and doctors hear nothing, as this doctor says in this Dallas News article I’m excerpting in this posting, but “lip service.”
How many doctors–very conservative folks–do I know who feel the same way as this one in the article. They are ready for reform and are frustrated by decades of lip service and politicians kicking the can down the road while the insurance companies keep writing the laws and raking in the profits.
And they talk about poor people and immigrants playing the system?
Remember the days of outrageous HMOs? Remember how irate and frustrated we all were by that? The system has only gotten worse.
For sure, there’s a huge number of factors contributing to the health care mess. For one thing, advancements in technology — and the enormously huge costs of high-tech treatments and diagnosis–have to be factored in.
And yes, people do manipulate and play the system, but nobody can outdo the insurance companies for manipulation and playing the system for profit.
Personally, I have a serious problem with the federal government forcing me, or anybody else, to have health insurance or face a stiff penalty, and a problem with mandatory policies with such high price tags that are going to torpedo people’s checkbooks even more. Too many unforeseen circumstances can make all that unsustainable (think gas prices and the harmful spikes to our checkbooks we’ve seen before, for example). But I’m still hopeful for some kind of really good healthcare reform this year.
THIS YEAR.
We can’t just keep kicking the can down the road because of lack of political will.
So I’ve said it here before and will say it again: Good for President Obama for having the fortitude and political will, in the face of a lot of misguided labeling–the man is so not a socialist– and name calling, to keep pressing for reform now, because any change will be an improvement in the long run and in the big scheme of things.

High prices, red tape fuel popular Dallas doctor’s move to Temple
September 27, 2009
By DAVID TARRANT / The Dallas Morning News
dtarrant@dallasnews.com

For the last time in 31 years of practicing medicine in Dallas, Dr. Bill Walton slips into the examining room at his family practice office near Medical City Dallas Hospital to see a patient.
He sits next to 63-year-old Maggie Moore, one of the first patients who came to see him when he opened his practice in Dallas. He listens to her litany of aches and pains, reviews her lab tests and finishes up by urging her to exercise more and eat less.
It’s the kind of routine care that Walton has carried out since 1978 as a solo practitioner in Dallas. But he has decided to quit the practice that he carefully built – and not so he can retire and pursue his beloved pastime of bird-watching.
Fed up with the business side of medicine, he has accepted a salaried position with Scott & White Healthcare in Temple.
This opportunity will free me to practice good medicine without the pressures of the ‘business’ of medicine,” he explained in a letter to his patients announcing his decision this summer.
Soft-spoken, unhurried, yet firm, the 60-year-old physician is a throwback to the kindly doctor seen on the old TV show Marcus Welby, MD. Beloved by his patients and employees and respected by his peers, he was appointed president and, this year, chairman of the Dallas County Medical Society.
He is leaving Dallas because of the pressures and costs of running his solo practice, including longer hours and lower pay. His experience shows why fewer medical students are entering primary care, and why family doctors are becoming an endangered species.
•An avalanche of paperwork, ever-changing insurance plans and complex rules for collecting payments have created acutely complicated administrative hassles and higher office expenses.
Walton grew weary of fighting through obstacle courses erected by insurance carriers and government agencies to control payments to doctors – barriers that resulted in a loss of time with patients and income. “I have had to deal in my practice with 300 to 400 different insurance plans – each with different rules, co-pays, deductibles and coverage variations,” Walton says.
•A payment system that ultimately rewards doctors, not for the quality of their medical care, but for the number of procedures they do – the more, the better. “I get nothing for phone calls, e-mails, coordination of care with the hospital and specialist, filling out forms, interpreting and acting on test results or filling fax or phone prescriptions,” Walton says.
•Pressure to see more patients per day. Reimbursements from insurers and government programs failed to keep up with the rising expenses of running a medical practice. Doctors wage annual fights with Congress over Medicare’s physician-fee schedule, which consistently undervalues primary care physician services in relation to specialists, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Seventy percent of medical office managers reported that operating costs are increasing faster than revenue, according to a survey released this month by the Medical Group Management Association.
Quality of care suffers, Walton says, because shrinking revenue puts pressure on primary care doctors to do more in less time. “It was a case of having to go faster and faster to pay for the expense of owning a medical practice in the face of reimbursements that didn’t keep up with inflation,” he says.
Walton says he cannot wait any longer for reform.
“I hear over and over again from medical organizations and politicians that we need to change the payment structure to encourage more primary care,” he says. “All we get is lip service. Insurance companies have continued to squeeze every dollar out of the system that they can, and Medicare continues to give only paltry raises.”

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Lewis Smedes

Lewis Smedes

Lewis Medes on forgiveness:
Some people believe that you should not forgive anyone who wronged you unless he or she crawls back on his knees, says he or she is sorry, and begs you to forgive him. I think that is a bad idea.
If you wait for the lout who hurt you to repent, you may have to wait forever. And then you are the one who is stuck with the pain. If you wait for the person who hurt you to say she’s sorry, you are giving her permission to keep on hurting you as long as you live. Why should you put your future happiness in the hands of an unrepentant person who had hurt you so unfairly to begin with? If you refuse to forgive until he begs you to forgive, you are letting him decide for you when you may be healed of the memory of the rotten thing he did to you.
Why put your happiness in the hands of the person who made you unhappy in the first place? Forgive and let the other person do what he wants. Heal yourself.
Some people suppose that you should be able to forgive everything in a single minute and be done with it. I think they are very wrong. God can forgive in the twinkling of an eye, but we are not God. Most of us need some time. Especially if the hurt went deep and the wrong was bad. So when you forgive, be patient with yourself.
When you decide to forgive you first make a baby step on the way to healing. And then you go on from there. You may be on the way for a long time before you finish the job. And you may backslide and need to forgive all over again.
I once was in a rage at a police officer in the village where I live for abusing my youngest son for no good reason. I stomped about my house for several days in a fury of anger at the officer. I knew I would be miserable unless I forgave him. But I did. I did forgive him. I forgave him by going into my study and getting on my knees, and saying, “Officer Maloney, I forgive you. In the name of God, I forgive you.”
About a year later I saw this same office drive by in a patrol car and I had to do it all over again. Only it was easier the second time. Then, a few years later, I heard that he had been fired from the force for abusive conduct. Hearing that tasted sweet as honey to me. I secretly smacked my lips with vengeful satisfaction. Then I realized I needed to forgive him one more time. Which I did. And, who knows, I may have to do it a few more times before I’m over it.
Nobody but God is a real pro at forgiving. We are amateur and bunglers. We cannot usually finish it the first time. So be patient with yourself. Make the first step. It will get you going and once on the way, you will never want to go back.
These are the five things I wanted to tell you about forgiving somebody who wronged you. Let me go over them once more:

1. Forgiving is the only way to be fair to yourself after someone hurts you unfairly.
2. Forgivers are not doormats; they do not have to tolerate the bad things that they forgive.
3. Forgivers are not fools; they forgive and heal themselves, but they do not have to go back for
more abuse.
4. We don’t have to wait until the other person repents before we forgive him or her and heal
ourselves.
5. Forgiving is a journey. For us, it takes time, so be patient and don’t get discouraged if you
backslide have to do it over again.

And remember this: The first person who gets the benefit of forgiving is always the person who does the forgiving. When you forgive a person who wronged you, you set a prisoner free, and then you discover that the prisoner you set free is you. When you forgive, you walk hand in hand with the very God who forgives you everything for the sake of his Son. When you forgive, you heal the hurts you never should have felt in the first place.
So if you have been hurt and feel miserable about it, our Lord himself recommends forgiving as the only way to healing. I hope that you will try it for yourself.

***** Lewis Benedictus Smedes (1921 — December 19, 2002) was a renowned Christian author, ethicist, and theologian in the Reformed tradition. He was a professor of theology and ethics for twenty-five years at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. His 15 books, including the popular Forgive and Forget, covered some important issues including sexuality and forgiveness.

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