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Better Together

i may hate your ideas, attitude, or actions
but i cannot hate you
we are all one
humanity in common
and i want Us to Be Better than We are.

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Love your enemies, or go to hell

Russophobia Gets Christians In Hot Water

 

Believe it or not, there are hundreds of millions of self-identified “Christians” in America today, who fear their enemies.

Many would even like to do grievous bodily harm to their enemies. Or rather, they would like to see others (say, their government) do harm to their enemies — preemptively — on their behalf.

But in matter of fact, it is much worse than that.

Today, hundreds of millions of “Christians” fear and would do harm to those who they are only led to believe are their enemies, but who are not their enemies at all.

If Jesus were still in his grave, I imagine he would feel like rolling over about now.

Remember, this is the same Jesus who expressly commanded his followers not to fear death, or hate their enemies, but on the contrary, to love, bless, pray for, and do good to their enemies.

According to the 2014 Religious Landscape Study by Pew Research Center, a clear majority (70.6%) of Americans still self-identify as “Christian”.

And yet, you could be forgiven for thinking that a majority of those (roughly extrapolated) 225 million self-identifying “Christian” citizens of the U.S.A. either have not heard, or, have not taken into their hearts, the clear commandment of Jesus most famously taught in his magisterial Sermon on the Mount.

Because according to a 2014 Global Attitudes Survey*, also by Pew Research Center, some 72% of Americans have an “Unfavorable View” of Russia. Indeed, according to a recent Gallup poll, Americans now consider Russia to be their “greatest enemy”, with 49% of survey respondents considering its military power to be a “critical threat”.

Incongruently for a purportedly “Christian” nation, some 54% of Americans believe that the U.S. is not being “tough enough” with Russia, according to another Pew Research Center study whose findings were published last month.

Apparently, having their government exercise their nation’s power to force other nations to support the imposition of economic sanctions on Russia — with a deliberate intent to cause suffering for her people, in hope of prompting them to rise up and overthrow their government — is not “tough enough” for America’s “Christian” believers.

In Europe, this incongruity between proclaimed “Christian” beliefs and manifested un-Christ-like behaviour is even more marked.

According to a 2011 National Survey, some 87.5% of people in Poland claim to be Christian; in Pew Research Center’s 2014 Global Attitudes Survey, 81% of Poles held an unfavorable view of Russia. So much so, that the Polish government has “embarked on a lavish defence spending spree to buy new heavy arms and equipment”, and passed legislation with a view to compulsory military training for all able-bodied men.

Other “Christian”-majority nations of the European Union such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, and Germany display similar trends; indeed, three out of four of these majority “Christian” Western European nations exhibit a stronger “unfavorable view” of Russia than does France, arguably the most secular nation in Europe.

So what terrible thing, exactly, has Russia done to the people of the U.S.A., U.K., Poland, Italy, Spain, and Germany, that might justify their many hundreds of millions of “Christians” holding such an overwhelmingly “unfavorable view” of her, much less labelling her their “greatest enemy”?

Let us imagine for a moment, that all of the things the “Christians” of the West have been told about Russia are in fact true. Let us imagine that Russia did annex the Crimean Peninsula. Invaded Eastern Ukraine. Provided East Ukrainians with a missile launcher, that was used to shoot down an airliner. Let us imagine too, that Russia’s overwhelmingly popular leader does aspire to recreate the Soviet Union.

Even if all of this were true — a gentle hint, none of it is — would it relieve a true Christian of their divine duty to “fear not them which kill the body…”? Would it relieve them of their divine imperative to “love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you”?

The next time a “Christian” in the Western world experiences a feeling of fear while watching a “world leader”, government official, “expert” “analyst”, or TV news anchor “reporting” on Russia, Iran, Syria, North Korea, or any other supposed boogeyman in a far-away land, they might do well for the future of their immortal soul to consider something else that Jesus Christ had to say:

He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

 

 

* Pew Research Center is “a nonpartisan American think tank based in Washington, D.C., that provides information on social issues, public opinion, and demographic trends shaping the United States and the world”.

In light of this, thinking readers will find it noteworthy that “(N)early all interviews were conducted after Putin’s statement on March 18th that Russia would annex Crimea. A majority of interviews in France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom were completed within a week of the announcement”. How convenient.

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Embryo

O Lord, you have searched me thoroughly and have known me.

You know my downsitting and my uprising; You understand my thought afar off.

You sift and search out my path and my lying down, and You are acquainted with all my ways.

For there is not a word in my tongue still unuttered, but, behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.

You have beset me and shut me in—behind and before, and You have laid Your hand upon me.

Your infinite knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high above me, I cannot reach it.

Where could I go from Your Spirit? Or where could I flee from Your presence?

If I ascend up into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol (the place of the dead), behold, You are there.

If I take the wings of the morning or dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

Even there shall Your hand lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.

If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me and the night shall be the only light about me,

Even the darkness hides nothing from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You.

For You did form my inward parts; You did knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I will confess and praise You for You are fearful and wonderful and for the awful wonder of my birth! Wonderful are 
Your works, and that my inner self knows right well.

My frame was not hidden from You when I was being formed in secret and intricately and curiously wrought 
[as if embroidered with various colors] in the depths of the earth
[a region of darkness and mystery].

Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days of my life were written before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them.

~ Psalm 139 (v.1-16)

The day after my last long walk (“Do you see what I see?”), I went for another.
A little over 16 kilometres.

This time, unlike the last, my gaze was not downcast. As with my spirit, my head was up.
And here following are some of the things that drew my eye.

(again, apologies for the old, not-“smart” camera phone image quality).

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It was a warm day, and after about 6 kilometres I paused at a public reserve area to refill my water bottle.
There I spotted a cricket ball nestling down in the grass.

I sat down to rest and stretch for a while. As I enjoyed the feeling of old, roughened leather in my hands,
memories of childhood came flooding back.

Like so many Aussie lads, I was addicted to cricket as a youngster. Fast bowling was my specialty.

As I looked out across the reserve, my mind inadvertently recalled the imagery of long forgotten major triumphs
— and sadnesses — of my sporting youth.

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I remembered how, in Year 6, a new and very sports-oriented school principal was appointed to head my primary school.
He promptly raised the emphasis on organised sports activities, including, for the first time in my experience, inter-school competition.

The particular images I recalled as I gazed out over the reserve, were memories of my own participation in two such inter-school competitions. And in so remembering, I was sharply reminded of the perils, and injustices, arising from the notions of popularity, peer pressure, and celebrity. Yes, even at primary school grade.

I recalled how another young lad, along with myself, spearheaded the school cricket team’s fast bowling attack. The other lad, however, was rather more gifted than I; he could bat as well. Unsurprisingly then, he was anointed team captain.
Being more charismatic to boot, he was the school’s unquestioned Mr Popular.

The memory of our first ever inter-school cricket match came painfully to mind. An “away” match. I was reminded how our team bowled first, and I was “on form”, ripping through the top and middle orders, taking figures of something like 6 for 10. The team captain collected 3 wickets, and chasing a tiny total, we won at a gentle canter.

He was voted man of the match.

Then I remembered our first inter-school soccer match. In a somewhat embarrassing 9-0 overall drubbing, I scored the first 5 goals for our team, demoralising the other. The team captain — yes, the same lad who captained the cricket team — then followed up with the final 4 goals.

Those final 4 goals appeared to be all that anyone remembered when the final whistle blew. Because once again, the team captain was popularly voted man of the match. And this time, being a “home” game, he was mobbed by backslapping teammates and enthusiastic home audience. I wandered from the pitch alone, wondering at the injustice of it all.

Then I was blessed to recall something entirely more pleasant, and really, quite beautiful. Indeed, a little tear came to my eye as I remembered it. Seriously.

After the soccer match, at the end of the school day while waiting for the bus, and yes, feeling a little down, one of the girls in my year came to me with a personal gift. She had made, and colourfully decorated, her own Man of the Match award, fashioned from cardboard. Shyly, she handed it to me, along with the declaration that she thought I should have been named man of the match, before scurrying away.

Such a beautiful memory. What a sweet, kind, lovely heart she possessed.

True it is, that “unless you turn around and become as little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven”.

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As I rolled the cricket ball around in my hands, I experimented with what I could remember of the different grip techniques. And I tried to recall what was the special grip I had always used, and practiced countless times, in trying for
my special “unplayable” delivery.

If you know nothing of cricket, then this will of course mean little to you. Suffice to say, my special delivery was a ball which would — on incredibly rare occasion — swing away from a right-handed batsman, but on striking the pitch would then
seam back in the opposite direction, towards the stumps.

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I remembered fondly a moment of unalloyed sporting triumph, which came on moving to a new school in Year 8. On one of the first occasions of playing sports, two teachers divided the boys into opposing teams, which they would captain for a cricket match.

When the teacher on the opposing team — a very large man — came to the wicket to bat at No. 3, the ball was thrown to me. If I recall correctly, I had perhaps boasted somewhat of being a decent fast bowler. I guess there were those who must have been keen to see what the new boy could do.

Naturally then, when I ran in to bowl to the imposing figure at the other end of the pitch, I was determined to try to get my special “killer” delivery to come off. And remarkably, in that first over, on about the third attempt, it did.

The batsman stepped forward to the pitch of the ball, following the outswing, and played a confident drive to off … only to hear the death rattle of his stumps behind him, as the ball neatly jagged back, through the gap between bat and pad.

Quietly delighted within — not at having dismissed the batsman, but at having actually pulled off that delivery — but not wishing to outwardly display anything but “cool”, I strolled nonchalantly down the wicket, only to rapidly become more than a little startled and bemused as, quite unexpectedly, new school teammates — and even the teacher captaining our side — rushed me with excited vigour and enthusiasm, as though I were some conquering hero.

Perhaps noticing the puzzled expression on my face — like, “What’s the fuss?” — the teacher informed me that the man I had just completely bamboozled was a Grade cricketer, who had never been dismissed in all his years teaching at that school.
I had cleaned him up in my first over.

I never took his wicket again. Ah, bittersweet nostalgia!

Rested and refreshed, I returned to the present as I donned my Frillneck hat and Julbo Sherpa sunnies, before walking on.

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About a kilometre or so further, I came upon some horses grazing in the paddocks adjacent the quiet country road. Noticing me approaching, they came to the fence to greet me, doubtless hoping for a treat. The sight, the smell, the touch of a horse … truly, there is something unquestionable grand, noble, earthy, and magical about it all.

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It was a truly wonderful, glorious day, with hardly a cloud in the sky. A little further along, I snapped these photos with my old phone. Alas, their quality is woefully inadequate to capture the beauty of the vista across the fields and towards the mountains, beneath stunning skies, but perhaps you will gain some small sense of it.

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Barely 500 metres further, however, I was startled to suddenly spot a large red-bellied black snake in the grass no more than 5 metres ahead of me. I moved off the grass verge and onto the road, keeping my distance, and observed it for a short while.

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Sadly, of late I have noticed a number of adult, and baby red-bellies, who have suffered the fate of encountering whizzing motorists; it is springtime here in Australia. Happily, this one decided to abandon any thought of sunning itself on the warming asphalt, and instead slithered off into the surrounding shrubbery.

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Perhaps it was my day to rescue creatures from the perils of careless and inattentive motorists. For no more than 100 metres further along, a long-necked turtle was quietly lumbering up the road, right in the wheel tracks. Indeed, so near was it, that I spotted it while watching the red-bellied black, which prompted my moving on to its rescue, and in so doing, perhaps being the cause of startling the snake into going for cover.

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Naturally, I picked this fellow up and — mindfully holding him at far arms length, to avoid being splashed by the inevitable pungent stream of retaliatory urine — gently placed him well off the road.

It was some kilometres further before anything else caught my eye sufficiently to prompt my pausing to take a photograph. And then, such attractions came rapidly. All within 100 metres, in fact. Perhaps I just suddenly became more acutely observant —

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My final resting place on the day’s journey was the little old local cemetery. I find it is a lovely quiet place to turn in, and take a break from one’s exertions.

I could not help but notice — and ponder — the inscriptions on these two headstones.

Beautiful. Don’t you think?

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Heads up

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Love, thy will be done
I can no longer hide
I can no longer run
No longer can I resist the guiding light
It gives me the power to keep up the fight
Love…thy will be done
Since I have found you my life has just begun
And I see all of your creations as one
Perfect complex
No one less beautiful or more special than the next
We are all blessed and so wise to accept
Thy will love be done

Love, thy will be mine
And make me strive for the glorious and divine
I could not be more, more satisfied (satisfied…)
Even when there’s no peace outside my window
There’s peace inside
And that’s why I no longer run (I no longer run)
Love thy will be done

Love, thy will be done
I can no longer hide
I can no longer run (no…)
Love, thy will be done
Thy will love be done

No longer can I resist (no…) the guiding light (guiding light)
The light that gives me power to keep up the fight
I couldn’t be more satisfied (no…)
Even when there’s no peace outside my window
There is peace inside
And that’s why I can no longer run
Love thy will be done (thy will be done, done, done…)

Love, thy will be done
I can no longer hide
I can no longer run
Love, thy will be done
Thy will love be done

Love, thy will be done
I can no longer hide
I can no longer run (no…)
Love, thy will be done
Thy will love be done…
Thy will love be done…
Thy will love be done

© 1991 Sony BMG – Martika

* I … love? … the constant backline of drums/bass throughout this track; without variation in rhythm, or intensity. That “steady state” behind the music is, I think, profoundly symbolic, and in context of the lyrics, divinely inspired.

One of the most pure, beautiful pieces of ‘pop'(ular) music … ever.

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I rode out to the lakeside

In turmoil of mind and soul

There, in time

I met again, with a long lost friend

Thanks to the Ancress of Lynn

Who pointed me straight

To the fountain

The Living Water

Which did not burst forth, strong, overfilling

As before

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My head bowed, eyes closed

He came

Like dew forming

Gently, gently

Gently rising

Cool refreshing, slowly soaking

Shadow moistening

The dry walls of my well

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And now, this place, this quiet

Gentle, light and floating bliss

Mystical oasis,

Surrounded yet

Untouched by cursed desert

Has not remained behind, by the lakeside

Fading

Soon after I rode away

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It has come with me

Within me

I feel, I see

A presence

Dissolving my compulsions

Anxieties, and hatreds

As though they were all

Ever so distant

Alien things

Those former companions now

Seem foreign to me

And true it is

So long as I continue

To hold my peace

And look in upon

The face of these Present Waters

They rise a little

A little

A little more

To meet my thankful gaze.

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“Thou shalt not please Me

so well as thou dost

when thou art in silence,

and suffrest Me to speak

in thy soul.”

 

“If thou wilt be

high with Me in heaven,

keep Me alway in thy mind

as much as thou mayst…”

 

“In nothing that thou dost

or sayest…

thou mayst

no better please God

than believe

that He loveth thee.”

 

— from A Short Treatyse Of Contemplation

Taught By

Our Lord Jesu Christ,

Or

Taken Out Of The Book

Of Margery Kempe,

Ancress Of Lynn

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These Present Waters

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Turn around

kingdomofheaven

 

And He called a little child to Himself

and put him in the midst of them,

And said,

Truly I say to you,

unless you turn around

and become like little children,

you can never enter the kingdom of heaven.

— Matthew 18:2-3

 

Truly I tell you,

whoever does not receive and accept

and welcome the kingdom of God

like a little child

shall not enter it at all.

— Mark 10:15

 

Image credit: @therealbanksy

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