Monthly Archives: July 2012

Olympics Opening Ceremonies: What Was That?

Did you watch the opening ceremonies at the 2012 London Summer Olympics? Did anyone else find it less than inspiring? Did anyone feel it had little to do with the summer Olympics or honoring our world athletes?

David and I watched the show that preceded the parade of the nations on Friday night. While the show did a fairly good job depicting British history, starting with the agricultural era and proceeding through the industrial revolution, it disappointed in its portrayal of more recent images of Great Britain. The visually colorless first half degenerated into an advertisement for the glories of socialized medicine, with dancing doctors and nurses and bouncing little children. This was followed by what appeared to be a fast decent into hell, with the poorly scripted contemporary “love story”, ending (thank God) with quick visuals of “memorable” movie kisses that included a lesbian kiss, and a man kissing an animal. Is this where the British culture is headed? Or is it already there?

Highlights for us were the children’s choirs and the Chariots of Fire number by the London Symphony, accompanied by the UK’s favorite comedian – he was priceless.

I thought it admirable that Queen Elizabeth was a good sport by participating in the opening ceremony video portion, but I have a hard time believing that the she was thrilled with the show, as it digressed into ultra-liberal social and moral commentary.

What had promised to be a spectacular event turned into a mere spectacle. We stayed with it because we wanted to see the Parade of the Nations. Even that seemed to be in fast-forward motion – but it was thrilling to see the representatives from the 200 or more nations who came to compete for the gold. Even though most will go home without any significant recognition, they will have the memory of being a part of the summer Olympics and representing their nations to the best of their personal abilities.

As we watched the thousands of contestants from every continent and island nation around the globe, David paused the video display and said: “Can you imagine what it will be like when Christ comes to set up His kingdom? When people from every tribe and nation will come into the presence of the King to worship and honor Him? That will be awesome!”

That ceremony will be unlike anything that could even be imagined on earth. A glimpse is found in Rev. chapter 7, beginning with verse 9:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

“Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with His presence.

They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.

For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

What a thrilling time that will be! The pomp and glory will be beyond what any Olympic programmer could ever dream up – far beyond human imagination. All of the praise will go to God, not man.

And when Christ’s kingdom is firmly established, there will be no more hunger, or poverty, or disease, or inequality, or hatred, or bitterness, or regret, or disappointment. No more physical, mental, or emotional pain. No more rejection, or failure, or striving. No more war or wickedness. No more death.

As I see our own country slowly degenerating, losing sight of godly values and even of God Himself, I find myself praying, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus! Deliver your children from such a world, devoid of virtue and sinking ever quickly into impurity and immorality of every kind. Where good is called bad, and evil is called good. Where the motto is “me first”, even among many who claim to be your children.”

I read the answer to my prayer in Revelation 22:12-14:

“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me,and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,the Beginning and the End.

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”

What a day that will be! Are you looking forward to it? Or are you still enamored with the show that’s put on for us here – like the ill-fated glory of the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony?

©2012, Marcy Alves

Fixed Points and an Accurate Compass

How secure are you in the choices you have made and the course you have set for your life? Are you following an accurate compass? Are you a person of “fixed points”?

I have a friend named Joan who applied at a local hospital for a position entitled “spiritual director”. At the job interview the current spiritual care director asked Joan how she felt about entering into  the rituals and rites of religious belief systems other than her own. The director went on to explain that in order to relate to a particular genre of spiritual seeker she would sometimes find herself chanting with the animist, smoking a peace pipe with the native American, or dancing with a group of neo-pagans.

Joan responded that although she has a very definite set of beliefs that would make it difficult for her active participation in those particular spiritual expressions, she did not feel it would hinder her in providing spiritual comfort and help to those in need.  She added that she could refer people to professional holy men and women within their own religion if they needed something other than the spiritual counsel or encouragement which she could offer.  The interviewer patronizingly cleared her throat and thanked Joan for coming for the interview.  She explained that “of course, the hospital has several other applicants to interview before we can make a decision on whom to hire”.

In relating the experience to me, Joan said, “I really don’t expect to hear from the hospital.  I’m sure I’m not the type the director has in mind for the position.”

I thought a lot about that interview and our ensuing discussion regarding the “broad-minded approach to religion”.  There appears to be a mindset in today’s educated western society that to have a “fixed course” in religion is less than desirable.  It’s better to be eclectic, open minded, all embracing, indefinite, non-judgmental, inclusive, pluralistic and wishy-washy. We are pressed to believe that if we are too steadfast and sure of our own particular faith, it will make us unable to empathize with people of other faiths and will certainly disqualify us from serving or being helpful to them on their journey to spiritual wholeness.

Something about the broad-minded approach troubles me.  It woke me up in the middle of the night and I thought about its implications: if you are too sure of your own course, you can’t be helpful to others who are on a different course, or who have lost their own course, or who have no sense of direction at all?  Interesting concept, that personal “absolutes” might render one ineffective in a spiritual care-giver role.

Yet, the planet on which we live runs on a system of definite and sustained absolutes.  The whole world operates on fixed standards of time, seasons, and locations. We have a north and south pole, out from which run imaginary horizontal and vertical lines that enable us to pinpoint exact locations of peoples and places in any hemisphere. We don’t have to wonder, like the early explorers did, how far it is to such and such a place. Or at what time we will reach a location if we travel at such and such a definite speed. We can figure these things to the minute because there are universal absolutes, fixed points.

Just as our planet’s absolutes are valuable to global relationships, personal relationships also benefit from people with settled beliefs;  absolutes by which they govern themselves; predictable, reliable people, fixed in their course.  There is a strength and optimism of hope that radiate from such people, which helps to stablize our own course. Like the steady flashing from a lighthouse, a person with spiritual integrity can lead us through the rocks and sandbars to the shoreline.  Their own security makes us feel safe when we are with them.

I believe that my friend, Joan, would have been perfect for the job of spiritual director for the hospital for the very reason that she was rejected:  she has a fixed point in her spiritual life. While others don’t have to adhere to her course or navigate by her chart, neither does she have to give up her standard in order to comfort or encourage those in need. People of other faiths can look at my friend and draw something from her strength and courage and compassion.  They can set their own course much more easily by looking to the light from the windows of her life, than by drifting on a sea with no stars, no moon, no sun, and no compass pointing north.

As a Christian, I have a fixed point that has guided me through many difficult life experiences; as it says in Hebrews 12:1-3:

” . . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

The Scriptures also encourage me to know what I believe and why:

1 Peter 3:15  “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

There is a category into which people with well defined spiritual journeys are often lumped; it is called “narrow minded”. Often these people are disqualified by the very fact of their dogma. But “narrow” is not synonymous with ignorant, confused, unkind, unfeeling, or uncompassionate.  “Narrow-minded” in a broader sense can mean secure, steady, sure, or focused.  When guided by compassion, a person who has such a fixed point can be much more steadying to troubled souls than someone adrift on the sea of spiritual possibilities. Floundering people need to know there is a shore-line in sight in their time of spiritual storms and troubled waters.

It would be hypocritical for a person who is safely standing on a rocky shore not to throw a lifeline to a drowning person.  There is also an irony in a person who throws out a lifeline, but can’t pull anyone into the safety of the shore because she is still floating in the drink herself.  If I were drifting on an ocean of doubt and insecurity,  feeling threatened by the towering waves around me, I would want a fixed point person to come to my rescue, not someone who is merely able to identify with my drowning experience.

How about you? Do you prefer someone with spiritual steadiness to minister to you in times of fear or doubt, or someone who pats you on the arm and says, “We just have to hope for the best.”?

Marcy Alves 2012 (revised post from 3/11)

Personal Opinion: In Danger of Extinction?

Have you ever experienced vitriolic treatment, like threats or verbal abuse, because you expressed a personal opinion that was contrary to someone else’s opinion?

Maybe it’s safe for “unknowns” to have opinions on things political or social that fly in the face of current foisted ideologies, but it seems if you are a family member of someone famous, you don’t have that luxury.

I’ve read several articles this week about Brad Pitt’s mom, Jane Pitt, and the uproar over her innocuous letter to the editor of Missouri’s Springfield News-Leader, in response to another reader, Richard Stoecker, who stated that Christians should not vote for Romney based on his Mormonism.

In response Mrs. Pitt wrote:

“I have given much thought to Richard Stoecker’s letter (“Vote for Mormon against beliefs,” June 15). I am also a Christian and differ with the Mormon religion.

But I think any Christian should spend much time in prayer before refusing to vote for a family man with high morals, business experience, who is against abortion, and shares Christian conviction concerning homosexuality, just because he is a Mormon.

Any Christian who does not vote or writes in a name is casting a vote for Romney’s opponent, Barack Hussein Obama — a man who sat in Jeremiah Wright’s church for years, did not hold a public ceremony to mark the National Day of Prayer, and is a liberal who supports the killing of unborn babies and same-sex marriage.

I hope all Christians give their vote prayerful consideration because voting is a sacred privilege and a serious responsibility.”  Springfield News-Leader

Is there anything that smacks of “hate” speech here? Any character assassination? Any falsehood?

No, just statements of facts about each candidate’s record and some personal opinion about a Christian’s responsibility in the use of the voting privilege.

Yet this letter-to-the-editor has brought the “hate speech” cockroaches out of every conceivable crack and crevice. Mrs. Pitt has been personally attacked, no, ravaged by others on Twitter, Facebook, other “newspapers”, e-news media, and who knows what else, just because she expressed her personal opinions. Horrible language, insane suggestions of killing her (twitter: “kill the bitch”) and other vulgar and idiotic diatribes have not only fueled the fire, but actually struck the match that got it burning.

Since when has it become of national concern to express a personal opinion in a letter to an editor of a local newspaper, in which the writer disagrees with the more liberal view of life in our country – the United States of America, the land of the free? Who’s really free here? Only those who support abortion and same sex relationships? Is everyone else full of
“hate speech” because they have a variant opinion about these lifestyle choices?

If a federal or state legislative body attempts to implement “hate speech” laws, we are in deep trouble. For it appears already that the general public’s view of “hate speech” can be construed to cover any voiced or written opinion that disagrees with whatever minority status quo is currently in fashion. If any American citizen is threatened with fines, imprisonment, or death for exercising freedom of speech, we are a doomed nation. For limitations on freedom of speech create the soil in which despots spring up and rule.

Think of pre-revolution life in Egypt and Libya. Remember Orwell’s 1984 and “big brother is watching you”? Don’t think it couldn’t happen here.

Something I dislike: “news” agencies of all kinds who will publish articles which take great liberty in “interpreting” a story for the public that is far flung from the original comment or intent of the person who is being quoted or referred to. It’s called “putting words into the person’s mouth.” When a “news reporter”, who has no firsthand knowledge of an individual, of her beliefs, or of her character, attempts to extrapolate a meaning from her comments which was not clearly stated or intended, it’s pure fabrication; it’s called embellishing, which is a euphemism for lying. Such has been the case with Mrs. Pitt’s letter-to-the-editor spin-offs.

“Disagreement” is not the same as “hate” – if it were, most human relationship would be constantly in flux between hate and love on any given day.

I can totally disagree with your opinion, your choices, your very lifestyle and still not hate you as a person (though I might consider it if you are disgustingly vulgar, spiteful, wicked, and vengeful because I disagree with you). I can have very strong, even repulsive, feelings about your choices, opinions, or actions and still not hate you or suggest that someone kill you.

By the way, where are the cries of “hate speech” when it’s done in the social media? The venom fairly dripped from some of the Twitter responses to Pitt’s letter-to-the-editor and/or to misrepresentations of that letter.

There is one thing I do hate – the use of public media, social or commercial, that pounces upon almost any tidbit of “news” to create argument, hostility, division, suspicion, anger, threats, or that dreg up any other of the baser elements of human nature for personal gain, recognition, or revenge for perceived personal rejection.

My fellow Americans, we need to grow up, put our big girl and big boy undies on, allow each other the right to personal opinion, and agree that it’s okay to disagree.

Does anyone agree with me? Or disagree? I can take it, I live in the “home of the brave”.

©2012, Marcy Alves

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