Sunday, April 29, 2012

"Thou, O Lord." Encouragement. Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

This song is in English, with Spanish language captions.
Based on Psalm 3, verses 1-3!

Psalm 3_New International Version of the Bible
Lord, how many are my foes!
    How many rise up against me!

 Many are saying of me,
    “God will not deliver him.”

 But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
    my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
 I call out to the Lord,
    and he answers me from his holy mountain.

I lie down and sleep;
    I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
 I will not fear though tens of thousands
    assail me on every side.

 Arise, Lord!
    Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
    break the teeth of the wicked.

 From the Lord comes deliverance.
    May your blessing be on your people.

Sunday, April 29, 2012-Opinari Writers
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Monday, April 23, 2012

Chuck Colson has died--"Precious in the sight of the LORD"

Sunset from Colson's Hill
 (Photo credit: EssjayNZ)
Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.
--Psalm 116:15_NIV

Evil applauds darkness and secrecy, and goodness loves light and openness. Among many who have walked in both darkness and the light, and choosing light, Charles Colson stands out in American life and around the world. That's what I'm thinking about, reflecting on the recent news of Charles Colson's death at age 80. 

Like many people who never met him face to face, on the news of his death my thoughts flooded with memories connected with his name, during dark days and during days walking in the light. Like so many people today, I thank God for the redemption offered by God for the world through Jesus Christ and accepted by renewed souls daily, often in quiet, unobserved places. God's Spirit revealed Truth to Charles Colson in one of the man's most desperate hours, if not the most desperate hour, of his life. God transformed him into a gracious and selfless child of God.

Charles Colson, a power-holder in the White House under President Nixon, was a counselor to the President and one who could "make or break" people and ideas; he became a man scorned by Congress, convicted in court, and then a prisoner. 

Charles Colson was born again before he went to a federal prison for seven months for Watergate-era crime. Skepticism abounded among Christians and unbelievers, thinking that Mr Colson's new claim of faith might be due to desperation of facing prison rather than an experience of God. 

While in prison, Charles Colson bore continual and faithful witness free of bitterness or blame for others. He comforted with the comfort he had received from God

Mr. Colson, like so many of us, including those reading this now, knew what it was and what it meant to go completely from soul-deadening darkness to soul-saving light; and when he reached the Light, he remained in it.     

Surely this living hope of life with God after death on earth comforts his family and other loved ones. Surely it comforts many freed from prison and others still in prison, men and women, whose lives were touched for good by the transformed man, Charles Colson, since 1976 when he, an ex-prisoner, began a lifelong and faithful ministry to prisoners, through the non-profit Prison Fellowship. The Colson Center was formed later.

Death's Midnight
The Bible says that death is the last enemy; at the Cross, Jesus defeated sin; His Resurrection announced the defeat of death's terrors for all who believe on Him. After death to sin to new life in Christ, life changes in significant ways. Similarly, it seems that many everyday followers of Christ die without fanfare or any semblance of being the center of attention.  

  • A British academic and Christian writer, C. S. Lewis, died in the shadow of mourning the assassination of an inspiring American president, John F. Kennedy.
  • An Albanian girl who became known as Mother Teresa died in the shadow of the mourning the death of a beloved British princess, Diana.
  •  Now, a helper of prisoners in the name of Christ, Charles Colson, has died in the shadow of mourning for an admired American journalist, Mike Wallace. 

Precious in the sight of the LORD...
Members of mainstream media and cable news after his conversion and release from prison lost interest in Charles Colson, as happens for many public people who experience the life-changing gift of God's forgiveness. Like so many transformed people previously followed by major media reporters, Chuck Colson, as a devoted follower of Christ, worked within different circles...prisons, teams of Prison Fellowship, and others. He preached, as well, evangelizing whenever opportunities arose. He cared about the decay of American society witnessed by so many who love their country. He wanted the church to be like salt in the world, preserving good character in national and personal life; he wanted unsaved people to meet the living Christ. 

A fitting tribute to this faithful and generous life would be, I think, to do something through Prison Fellowship to help meet prison families' needs, spiritual and material.  

From the Colson Center - "Salt in a Decaying Culture" by Chuck Colson
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Friday, April 20, 2012

I Think a Drone Flew Over Me Last Night

NSA EMPLOYEES ONLY Français : NSA employés seu...
NSA EMPLOYEES ONLY Français : NSA employés seulement (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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UPI--Feb 8 2012: "The FAA could give the green light to drone traffic by 2015" (if the President signs--or has signed by now--the recent FAA--Federal Air Administration-- Reauthorization Act approved by Congress).

I think a drone flew over me last night...

You see, my husband and I live not far from the NSA (National Security Agency--"home of American's code makers and code breakers") and Fort George G. Meade (US Army), both highly secretive places. We pass by them every time we go to the nearby Thurgood Marshall/Baltimore Washington International Airport. We go there a lot.

If I am correct about last night's fly-over, a drone did fly over my house and the implications of that seem...well, I don't even yet have words for it. For one thing, a drone's infra-red capacity could have detected suspicious activity:
  • I was doing some serious reading (well after 11 PM); and, the book was in old-fashioned form (printed on paper and bound).
  • Also, the book's context was precursor to Washington DC's political intrigues, a Susanna Gregory historical novel about a hero who works for and spies upon the royal court, also following religious and secret society intrigues.
  • The book's timeline spans the year 1662, exactly 350 years ago and about 13 years after Cromwell's strict Parliamentarian government ended (along with Cromwell's life), and the reign of the second post-Cromwell king of England. (The first king fell to regicide.)
Drones' infra-read abilities do not include reading thoughts, however, and that's good, for I was suspiciously thinking and observing, while reading the book and learning about a long-ago spy's life, about today's human thinking and observing...including behaviors by some among the politically powerful that seem strikingly similar to those of London, 1662 A.D.
The UPI drone report said that the recent expanded  law "follows vigorous campaigning by defense and security industries that see drones as a multibillion-dollar growth area...."

And consider this: the marketing of drones includes local police. I prefer to think it was only a police helicopter flying over last night, making sure our neighborhood, as quiet as it is, does not fall into the wrong hands. Whatever that means. No matter what the mission in the sky late last night, it definitely was not done from a Cessna two-engine or a commercial jet airliner. 

Recently, in the sky above Chicago, uniformed men hung out helicopter doors, held rifles pointed downward, and scared, really scared, a lot...I mean, a lot...of people. We do not need this on my street. We are all cool here, believe me, as far as I know, as least where international intrigue is concerned. (But then, what do I know?)
  1. The recent scary event over downtown Chicago turned out to be a security drill in anticipation of an international group to meet in that windy city in the coming days;
  2. Under the new US legislation, drones will not be allowed to crowd the skies until 2015, if even then;
  3. I don't mind who knows that I am reading or what I am reading, even after 11 at night and even if about the year 1662; and
  4. Even so, I think drones do far better at reading body heat than the human mind. (Gotcha there, Mister Drone.) 
True, drones might be able to send streaming film in clear images of words in books, with help of the giant, 3-acre-span (at least) satellite dishes (believe me, they are really, really large!) that we see on MD Rte 32 at the National Security Administration (NSA)--"home to America's codemakers and codebreakers" (see the NSA website for more info). 

I wonder what the drones, if they could think, would think of the Earl of Clarendon's shenanigans at the royal English court of 1662. Not far from the Tower of London.

Note: This tongue-in-cheek article touches on one of many serious fears circulating around the world...many well-founded, including fear of persecution for race, religion, political affiliations, or national origin. 

However...wherever you and I are and whatever is going on, with or without drones, God is with His church. Consider these words He gave to one of His prophets for then, now, and forever:   

Fear not, for I am with you; 
be not dismayed, for I am your God. 
I will strengthen you; yes,
I will help you; yes,
I will hold you up with My righteous right arm.
--Isaiah 41:10

The One at the Lord's right hand is Jesus, the only Son of God. 
God is faithful. 
Copyright (c)2012 Opinari Writers
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Monday, April 09, 2012



The Visitor_Final Part of Three, in edit phase (third draft)

"Will you be at home for a while? I'd like to come by."

Catherine's voice seemed hesitant. Do I want to say yes? I wondered. Hadn't the dinner last week gone far enough?

The idea to ask her to dinner had not been mine, for sure. It had been Elizabeth's

Now this annoying Catherine wanted to come into my home again. I did relent.

"If you can come now, then come." Surely Catherine, who noticed (and seemed to worry about) almost everything, detected the lack of excitement in my voice.

Undeterred, she answered, "I'll be there soon." 

This would likely be the last time I would see her, regardless of my close ties with her now-deceased grandmother, Ruth. Catherine's refusal to believe me about my daughter Elizabeth, or "E," as our family calls her, set up an enormous barrier that only E's intercession could have breached up to now. Elizabeth's desire that I reach out to Catherine had made the family meal here possible.

I had planned the dinner, then, for E and maybe, a little, also because of my friendship with Catherine's grandmother until Ruth's death. My move to a northern state had not stopped our friendship, which continued to thrive and laugh by letters and phone calls. And we had both warned our families that trouble would find any one of them who tried to intercept our letters or to interfere with our friendship in any way. 

Every Wednesday had been Ruth's and my day, our day, to go to the fresh foods market together, picking out vegetables and fruit, advising each other, enjoying every minute of it. We had a connection that we could not explain, describe, or claim was not unique. For it was.

The day of Catherine's call, asking to re-visit me, was a Wednesday, too, when I still pondered questions about her.

My daughter Elizabeth and I had had a few hurried phone conversations about all of this.
We shared an assumption about what might be behind Catherine's refusal to believe, or accept, that E truly is my daughter, flesh of my flesh. 

"You're more curious than you want to admit," E had said. "You want to know why Catherine would not at first accept that I am your daughter! I think we both know the bottom-line problem. But what do we know about the cause of her rude insistence? Is it her doing, or others'?"

Elizabeth's path had crossed Catherine's, by her own admission. But E was more prominent than the annoying visitor. E meets new people all the time and all over the country, sometimes other countries. She has no memory of Catherine. How could she?
And Catherine admitted knowing E only from a distance, emphasizing that they had never been introduced.

I had told E: "I cannot welcome into our family circle anyone who will not admit that you are my daughter!"

Not even if Catherine reminded me of her grandmother's best manners and qualities...which I have yet to see in Catherine. She has her Grandmother Ruth's quietness and, I am sure, her fierce determination. But in Ruth those were attractive, once I got to know her better. I shiver at trying to spend much more time with Catherine if she continues to cling to this barrier of her own making...about Elizabeth.

Catherine's visit today would have to be the opening to talk straight with her and insist that she explain herself...and admit. 

The doorbell sounded just as I finished pouring hot water over tea leaves in a teapot. At the door, with the storm door separating us, I saw Catherine's demeanor, as if she carried an invisible rock load on her shoulders. Her face and her body pose suggested an intense heaviness.

Can you believe we sat silently in the living room for a few minutes after that? She had wanted this meeting, so I said waited. In silence I served her a steaming cup of tea and indicated the cream and sugar containers.

Eventually, she looked up, still fiddling with the edge of a cloth napkin, not taking any tea. "Drink," I said, then got up, went past her, and opened a window. Spring air wafted across my face and arms. That's better, I thought, and took a deep breath.  

"Do you have any idea why I am here?"

She had finally spoken, tea cup leaving her lips. Again sitting across from her, I saw her head tilting down, her eyes looking up at mine as if locked there.

"It's up to you to clear the air, Catherine." I went straight to the target, my voice low and probably more annoyed than ever. This difficult young woman evoked frustration.

Yet, didn't my heart go out to her a little bit? Didn't I even feel some pity...or empathy?  

"Dr. Ransom is your daughter," she admitted, speaking of Elizabeth finally as mine. She seemed to push the words out. Then she sighed loudly and sat back.

I sensed again the sad feeling I'd felt briefly toward her over that dinner, where we all sat, in the next room now returned to its undisturbed setting.

"Don't be angry with me," she said, adding, "please just let me try to explain and get it all out. I have known this, but it shocked me. I came here first to meet you, my grandmother's unusual close friendship. I was not prepared to hear that Dr. Ransom is your daughter. It shocked me. That was why I dug my heels in to refuse it. And rudely, I know. But I could not believe it. I had to understand it to a certain extent, and I had to let it all sink it...including the fears it gave me. Not for myself. For her. when she will be in Atlanta soon. Just a few months from now. Did she tell you she'll receive an award at a meeting of breakthrough neurosurgeons and researchers? I guess she has no idea that my family will be hosting a big reception and other amenities for the honorees and other guests!"

I nodded and then shook my head, and I meant both understanding and irritation.

She began her side of the story, the ridiculous and yet not uncommon side, with a preface about how much she admires Dr. Ransom, as E is known by so many, regardless of her intentionally low profile, or at least whatever she can control.

"I prefer to focus on what I'm doing," E has often said, for she loves her husband, family, and what she does as a surgeon. Those are her life, and I realize that.

Catherine was continuing on, remarking that my daughter and she, Ruth's granddaughter,  are committed to medicine, although in different specialties.

"Isn't that a coincidence? A weird one?" she asked. "I admire Dr. Ransom so much, but now I fear for her."

"There is no need to fear for her," I interjected. "She never pretends or hides. She is herself." I paused. "But what can I do if you have fears for yourself?" I felt very sure we were talking about the same, as yet unspoken, matter.

Catherine spoke as if to herself: "She is a gifted neurosurgeon. She is a person! She deserves respect."

I nodded.
"She does, but don't you think that she also knows how to take care of herself?"

"With people like my family?" Catherine blurted. It was not what I expected. Was Ruth's family still living in the past?

Then Catherine summarized what I now was sure clung deeply, like a root, to this puzzle. The ramifications would not surprise me, either, now that I had just learned more about about Ruth's descendents. Catherin's family.  

"Oh, yes, we get together with people from all over the world," Catherine continued, " 'every tribe and nation,' as the saying goes. We know people from medical, legal, the arts, and other foundations helped by the family. Yet how often do members of different 'tribes and nations' visit and stay in each other's homes!" she emphasized rhetorically.

I remained quiet. There was more to come. 

Catherine described it: "Dr. Ransom...uh, your daughter" (there, she'd said it without hesitation!) "Elizabeth...does not remember ever seeing me in a crowd or receiving line, I'm sure. She is in a different medical stratosphere than I am. But my family is enormously prominent in Atlanta, and they are leaders where Dr. Ransom will be speaking in only a few months. They do not know that she has any connection with you, my maternal grandmother's closest friend. They do not know or suspect any of this! How could they? I worry for Dr. Ransom. That was part of my denial. My family might make a bad show of themselves when she is in Atlanta if she or anyone mentions her, or introduces her, for example, as Elizabeth DeVries Ransom. Or if she has told anyone about her connection, through you, with Atlanta. Your husband's family name is not that common, and they know you by your married name, through my grandmother's letters addressed to you, and yours to her."

She paused, nervously wringing a napkin in her hands. I saw the pain on her face. Who was she hurting for--Elizabeth or herself? 

"I still don't understand myself," she continued, "how Dr. Ransom is your daughter. Is she adopted?"

"Do you really think that's it?" I countered, again upset with her.

You are hedging, I thought. Say it, I heard my head and heart tell me.

"Look at me, Catherine. You are in medical research, you know about many disciplines. Hasn't another possibility occurred to you?"

"Yes. That she is your biological daughter and a genetic anomaly." She spoke it softly.

"You are correct. Finally."

I could see her struggling to put it all together and to sort out the years of linkage between her grandmother and me, which she had known all along, then the identification issues presented by Elizabeth, along with fear regarding her family's likely non-acceptance of what E's prominence meant...and her background.

"You have a very determined family," Catherine said softly, almost whispering. "I saw that with Elton and Robert, their wives, the grandchildren, here at dinner with all of you."

"You saw how they treated you, Catherine. They, more than most, are not race-focused or intimidated. They really don't care what anyone thinks, on any side. They do care about the harm done because of it, however. And, Catherine, they have trained themselves to reject being angry at anyone for any reason, except where Elizabeth's and all of our protection is concerned. All of my children were brought up to be loyal, fair, and forgiving."

My sons had always treated their younger and only sister as...a sister. Even in the early moments of shock, at her birth, her father and I loved her and felt this anomaly only strengthened that we had been given a special gift in our third child, our first daughter. We had no more babies, but not on purpose. We would have welcomed any number of children. And thankfully we had moved to a part of the country where, although still problematic, E's difference from us, and ours from her, had not been as much like a circus show as it would have been elsewhere, especially over 30 years ago.

My thoughts turned back to Catherine's words and demeanor. I reflected on what I knew about communities and sub-communities of power and influence in cities and small towns. I knew the gaps of rich and poor, regardless of regional differences, of race, of whatever.

"Catherine, will you be in Atlanta for the award events?"

"I will. And I need to understand soon how this happened."

"This? We know what this means. But is that the most important? Don't you think something similar could happen in your family?"

I had to get straight to it and so I began in detail.

"Not every family has known intermarriage between races or what happened during slavery in the north and south of the U.S. Yet, since the 1600s, intermarriage or rape could have happened in any family, and did happen in many more than you would like to guess. What followed were other unusual alliances across racial lines that slowly changed family gene pools. And then, there are the genetic irregularities, if you want to call them that.
     "A child can be born into a family whose DNA reverts back generations to Africa or Europe, including the Nordic countries... to wherever might be the "opposite" of their own heritage, their own genetic roots. Then, there are those rare genetic anomalies, added. The unexpected deviations. Incongruities between what is expected genetically and what is."

"E looks like 'us,'" Catherine said. "Everyone in our family looks the same in that way."
She said that on the night of the dinner with E's family, she had realized that Dr. Ransom is a rare example, as if her DNA had sided with one heritage and no mix of races, yet not the same as her biological family.

"It seemed to me, being here that night at dinner" Catherine claimed, "that data had reversed, maybe across generations, from what I know of genetics. Now I see Dr. Ransom differently and yet the same. It involves a mind shift.  
     "That night, I saw proof of her connection with this family in your sons and also your grandchildren, for in spite of, color, facial characteristics, hair color and texture, all opposite from yours...I saw major resemblances anyway, in certain facial expressions and mannerisms. She has those too, even when she is speaking in public, and especially when answering questions, when a subtle humor can come out sometimes."

I interjected, "After her father, my husband, died, she got a lot of 'fathering' from Elton, and much of his discipline she sometimes rebelled against. They are very close now. I think she is a lot like him. He seems very serious at times, but you know already that he can be very kind too. He used to be a good practical joker, too."

Catherine said she had been proud to look forward to meeting Dr. Ransom with her family at the award dinner in Atlanta... until the day she saw E's photo and I said she was my daughter. Up to then, she knew her only as Dr. Ransom, a prominent neurosurgeon. Not my daughter. I, her grandmother's friend, was the mother of this prominent doctor whose background her family would never intentionally honor, from what Catherine knew of them.

"She looks just like..." Catherine stopped. Then added, "I hate that I put it like that."

No prestigious award and no outstanding achievements in medicine could override the family tree that, if it came to light, would offend her family, Catherine tried to explain.

"That means that in Atlanta, if my family learns the connection between Dr. Ransom and you...that you are her mother, it could be used to embarrass Dr. Ransom. My family can be rude when they want to be."

"I will tell Elizabeth what you have told me. E will continue to do well, God willing. She knows there are prejudices everywhere, from different races towards others. But not everyone is in that trap."

"I know," Catherine nodded. "I understand differences that make each 'tribe and nation' distinctive. But those differences should make no serious divides. We are more than our looks or cultures. I am very different from my family, Mrs. DeVries, in these beliefs."

Suddenly and to my amazement, a calm silence seemed to hold us together, as if we were embraced in an understanding beyond description. Then each of us smiled at the other. I felt that if Catherine ever felt she needed to tell her family about my daughter, she would. I also knew that she wanted to protect Dr. Ransom, who never hid her identity yet was naturally assumed to be of another race than her family's.

As she started to leave Catherine looked at me as if struck by a new thought.

"What about Dr. Ransom's husband?"

I smiled, deliberately excluding matters of culture or race.

"He's a terrific guy," I said proudly. "Maybe he will be able to go to Atlanta with her."

THE END (link to notes on Author Support after second draft Part III)

Jean Purcell
Copyright (c)2012 Jean Purcell  and Opinari Writers
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Sunday, April 08, 2012

The Love of Jesus, What it is...

A phrase in the song goes like this:

"The love of Jesus, what it is...only His loved ones know."
(Were you there when they crucified my Lord?...Were you there when God raised Him from the dead?)

All people of the world are touched by God's love through Christ, born a Jew in a Gentile (Roman)-occupied land. Whether Jew or Gentile and regardless of race, religion, national origin, economic and any other status, the people of the world are the objects of God's love, and His love for us had nothing to do with our deserving or qualifying. God loves. His character is love. Infinite, perfect love.

Most people of the world do not realize that it was God who sent the protection during disaster, comfort in that storm of life...during loss too deep for words, that it was God who gave the will to go on, the hope to get through a hopeless time, the help to survive something too difficult for explanation, the helping hand, the healing after sickness, the happiness however fleeting, the presence of friend, family member, or just the right time, the most needed time...a gift granted by God because He is love. Each point was a time when God was there yet no one noticed that it was He who provided what was most needed. No one had a thankful heart. Each point was a time when Jesus knocked at the door of the heart of faith, hoping to be invited in. Each point was a time when God gave freely.  

God loves the world. God loves the world that He created people for. He created it, and Jesus was with Him when He created it.

The love of Jesus, what it is, only His loved ones know. He was obedient unto death. He saw the joy set before Him. He set His face like flint to accomplish salvation for the whole world.
Do you know? 
"God, if You are there, help me. Show me the way that is right." 

He answers.
Do you see Him in the answers, the help, the moment of relief...? 

God, open my eyes that I may see...

Copyright (c)2012 Opinari Writers

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Maundy Thursday_the Greatest Virtue

William Blake's Holy Thursday (1794).
William Blake's Holy Thursday (1794). (Photo credit: Wikipedia) *clear text below

If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you had asked almost any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance.
__C.S. Lewis,"The Weight of Glory" (The Weight of Glory).

The closest anyone could come to showing a picture of Love would be to show God giving his Only Beloved Son for the world He loved so that all who believe on His Son might be saved, never perishing, but having eternal life. That picture would encompass: all of God--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--present at Creation at the beginning; the Annunciation: announcement to Mary, mother of Jesus; His birth; His baptism by John; His ministry of teaching and healing; His prayers; His words from the Cross; His death on the Cross; His being raised from death by God: Resurrection; the promise that He will come again to the earth.  

The picture of Love includes Obedience (thereby, Unselfishness) portrayed. The Son obeyed the Father's plan and thereby became Incarnate in human flesh. What a comedown from heaven's glories, and leading to betrayal, scourging, and the Cross, outside the city gates, as if being crucified on the dung-heap of Jerusalem. 

To Christians, Maundy (Latin meaning commandment) refers to Jesus' words about the new commandment He gave:

 "I give a new commandment to you:
'Love one another; just as I have loved you, you should also love one another'"
(John 13:34_Aramaic Bible in Plain English (c)2010).

Maundy Thursday in the Church calendar is the new commandment day, the Passover day of The Last Supper, the new communion that Jesus told his disciples to keep "in remembrance of Me." It is the Thursday of Holy Week, the day before Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the day when believers celebrate the bodily Resurrection of the Lord. 

There remain faith, hope, and love, and "the greatest of these is love."  

This Maundy, then, is a commandment given by Love telling us to love. May every person born again of the Spirit of God obey this commandment, which is to love as God loves.
*A Poem (Holy Thursday in London Town)
by William Blake (1794)

‘Twas on a Holy Thursday, their innocent faces clean,

The children walking two and two, in red and blue and green,

Grey headed beadles walk’d before, with wands as white as snow,
Till into the high dome of Paul's they like Thames’ waters flow.

Oh what a multitude they seem’d, these flowers of London town!
Seated in companies they sit with radiance all their own.
The hum of multitudes was there, but multitudes of lambs,
Thousands of little boys and girls raising their innocent hands.

Now like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song,

Or like harmonious thunderings the seats of Heaven among.
Beneath them sit the aged men, wise guardians of the poor;
Then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door.
Original post text copyright (c)2012 Opinari Writers 4/5/2012
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