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Does your bowl have enough?

I’ve been seeing it a lot lately. The memes about that lady at the grocery store talking on her iPhone while using food stamps or cash aid. The stories about the MediCare patients who you see at the ER because they seem to have a cold and are wasting our tax money and keeping us from being able to get the emergency services we feel we need. The entitled folks who suck up all of the nation’s resources that you feel should be going to you instead because you are, after all, a tax paying citizen in good standing. I also recently saw a meme to the effect of “life isn’t fair, it’s never going to be fair and you should learn that now. The only reason you should be looking into someone else’s bowl is to see if they have enough, never to see if they have the same or more than you.”

I have knee jerk reactions to both types of posts. Maybe you do, too. What should our reaction be to the first kind of posts? Agreement? Re-share the post and add our own comments? Identifying with either party in the post? Nothing, it isn’t my problem? Educating people about poverty? Depending on your perspective and world view, it could be any of those. How does one deal with poverty when one comes face to face with it? That is a question we all deal with, sometimes on a daily basis.

Let’s look at a scenario. You hear of a family in need. You want to help! So you collect food and toys and hand me downs and you give them those. You feel good! You helped! But did you? Did you ask the family what types of food they eat? What they can afford to buy and what they can’t afford to buy, but need? Or did you just have all of your friends empty out their cupboards of what they don’t need anymore and gift that to the family? Did you ask if they need clothes? Did you ask if they wanted you to buy presents for their children? Did you even consider their humanity and dignity for one second or did you just decide to do what “felt right?” Are they still going to be extremely thankful for your help? Absolutely! Their heart will probably overflow with gratefulness to be remembered and thought of and helped.

Maybe what they actually needed was the dignity of having their children’s gifts come from them, not some beneficial stranger. Did you ever consider that now makes it look like a stranger loves them more than their own parent? Their own parent couldn’t even buy them a gift. Maybe they see it as their parent doesn’t love them enough to buy them gifts, but this stranger/friend did. Maybe what they really needed was a bill to be paid for them. Maybe they need legal help because they are so deep in poverty that is the only way out.

Well, they are poor. I guess if they had dignity, they would have a good job and be providing for themselves instead of relying on others for things.

The poor are not animals. They are humans with feelings, and thoughts on life, and dignity and pride and dreams. Have you ever had to apply for state benefits like food stamps and cash aid and state insurance? Have you ever walked with someone through the process? Have you ever applied for and tried to spend WIC coupons? Let me tell you, it is a dehumanizing process. It is a last resort for most people. It is being kicked in the gut when you are already so low that you decided this was the only way. It is a frustrating, fearful, life and time sucking process. It is very easy to harden yourself and become jaded while trying to get through it.

So where do we go from here? May I suggest that we let go of our feelings of what is fair and what is owed to us and someone not working for what they are getting. Instead can we focus on how we are the same? How we would like to be treated should we find ourselves in a similar situation? How we can respect each other’s humanity and help with actual needs not just perceived needs? Let’s start the conversation. Let’s think and let’s talk and let’s do.

Be peace,
Kimbrah

Don’t Assume Commentaries are Right

This is a reminder of caution when reading a commentary. We can’t simply assume they are correct because they have Commentary in the title.

I just got a hold of Teach the Text Commentary Series: Mark. Regarding « Mark i.17 » (Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people.”), the commentary reads

The disciples are professional fishermen, and Jesus uses a brilliant metaphor to describe their new careers. In their profession they kill fish, but now they will bring life to people. In the Old Testament the fishing metaphor is used for coming judgment (Jer. 16:14–16; Ezek. 29:4–5), but Jesus reverses the imagery: netting people for salvation.

While I appreciate how the commentator points out the judgment language associated to fishing, I am lost as to how he could immediately (in true Mark form) switch to a place where he says, “but Jesus reverses the imagery.”

Where did he reverse the imagery? When speaking with the soon to be disciples, he never mentioned netting people for salvation. He never mentioned salvation at all.

This passage is often romanticized and expounded on as a great missionary call, speaking of fishing for men as going out into the world to save sinners. But, as the commentator admitted, “the fishing metaphor is used for coming judgment.” There is simply no explanation given by this author showing the shift from judgment to salvation. If Jesus is reversing the imagery, ought there not be some evidence of that? Or is the commentator bringing those ideas in from somewhere else, ultimately forcing the text to say something?

I’m thinking most commentaries do not mention the judgment language and imagery. Even resources like Wuest don’t mention it: “The addition of the words ‘to become,’ indicates a long, slow process in making them soul winners.” (Wuest, Word Studies, Vol. I, pg. 29) I’m not saying a commentator isn’t free to present their own conclusions, e.g. in this case, that Jesus is calling for disciples to start a ministry to save souls. I’m trying to emphasize the idea that a commentator, like a Bible teacher or preacher, needs to have a higher standard when teaching the text. What this author did shouldn’t be considered good enough. If he believes Jesus is talking about soul winning and salvation, and that Jesus is reversing imagery, than present the case because it’s simply not in the text.

Instances like this remind me to stay a bit cautious when reading a commentary. It’s good to remember that an author of a commentary still has his or her own agenda, vision, theology, etc. being poured into their work. They have traditions and blinders like anyone else. The fact that it’s published does not mean everything published is fact.

Pacifists, non-pacifists, and What would you do?

jesusDisciples_topper

Christian Pacifists (or non-violent or non-resistant practitioners) get asked by Christian non-pacifists (for lack of a better term; don’t want to label them violence lovers or something like that) the “What would you do?” question constantly. The most common comes with a scenario having to do with a violent home invasion when the lives of our loved ones hang in the balance. But there are times when the question has to do with a historic situation, and they’d like us to share how we would solve the problem without the use of violence. Maybe the most popular is everyone’s favorite man to hate, Adolf Hitler. “What would you do with Hitler? Would you kill him?”

Along those lines, there’s, “How would you handle the massacres in Rwanda?” Or, “How would you have stopped World War II without dropping the nukes?” Or, “How would you stop the Muslim and Christian kill-fest in Nigeria?” And, of course, there’s, “What’s your solution to ending the massive killings between Israel and Hamas?” (Though, let’s be honest with that last one: they would have said Palestinians not Hamas, as if the two were equal.)

Whatever the particular scenario might be, there is a general problem underlying just about all of them. They are asking peacemakers (genuine peacemakers, who abstain from the use of violence) to fix a problem that was never created by peacemakers. These conflicts were created, long ago, by people who at some level of their ideology, philosophy, theology, or practice believe that violence has a just or proper place. They believed then or believe now that there is a time and a place where killing is necessary and right. When violence entered the conflict, and then violence was used as a counter or response, especially in attempt to solve the problem, the cycle of violence took over.

Violence was then used to stop the violence. What else could you do? We have to respond violently, because those people are being violent and will only respond to violence. Nothing will end this without a violent act. For decades and centuries, violence was the only solution that had any serious chance of making a difference.

And it’s at this point in the game when we’re asked what we would do to stop it. When violence is in complete control they want to know how we will put a stop to it. My knee-jerk reaction is, “What? It’s your mentality that got you into that mess. How are you going to stop it?” (I’ll touch on that some more in a little bit.) The problem is they want to take a completely populated ferris wheel going at full speed–faster than safety allows, with everyone already in danger–and hit the emergency brake, causing an immediate stop to the spinning. The ferris wheel will stop (end of the conflict), though everyone on the ferris wheel will die (collateral damage), but it was for the greater good. They feel as though the only viable solution is another Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and want to hear from us if there is a pacifist equivalent.

The answer to that is, “Of course not.” Keep in mind what the US did when they dropped the nuclear bombs on the Japanese people. While it could be argued they brought World War II to a quicker end, the clear reality is the action only added to the cycle of violence, with decades of threats, the Cold War, nuclear missile defense systems, the US wanting all other nations to eradicate their nuclear arsenals while keeping their stock at the ready. What ended exactly? Many people died as the ferris wheel stopped, but the killing kept spinning.

The mentality that believes violence is okay at times can’t seem to get away from it. People who have that mentality might say, “Only as a last resort,” yet reaching that last resort seems to come quite quickly these days. They create the deeply seeded situations where violence begets violence and violence takes control. When they see that violence isn’t solving the problem, they seek alternative solutions but still want it to look and act a certain way. My knee-jerk response earlier has some validity. Those who advocate the use of violence do need to answer how violence will solve the problem. If they can’t do it, they must immediately stop considering violence as an option.

Only then can they begin to understand how the pacifist will respond. Because the first answer is to look at the history and how we could have avoided, if possible, the problem in the first place. Then we move on to looking at how the road will be very long, and very hard. It will involve putting ourselves in potentially fatal situations among the people being killed while the various warring factions and leaders keep fighting over whatever they are fighting for.

It will involve emulating Jesus, who died more times than he killed.

And it will continue to seem pointless and misguided in the eyes of those who believe violence is necessary and right. If our non-violent ideas–which are nothing more than taking the words of Jesus seriously, as if he meant what he said–are pointless and misguided, then how do those Christians who support the use of violence propose to stop the violence without adding to the cycle?

As a last little aside, did you catch on to the underlying assumption here from the folks asking the pacifists what they would do? They tend to ask the question as if we aren’t doing something already. It’s a subtle idea, but pervasive: because non-violent action doesn’t look like violent action, it must not be action at all. Just something to remember as the conversations will continue to happen.

How should we respond to ISIS?

I know there are some who see ISIS and their murderous activities in Iraq as further evils of Islam. Keep in mind, though, that ISIS is not only driving away and killing Christians and Jews; they kill Sunni and Shiite muslims as well. While they may point to certain passages in the Quran as justification for their sinful and evil action, their actions are not representative of Islam. The Bible itself can be (and has been) used in just a decrepit way.

Don’t focus on the religion they use as a mask for their hate and depravity. Remember these are men, who were created in God’s image. They are sinful, depraved creatures whose hearts will not change by hating them or killing them. Hatred and murder is their language, is their practice, and they are far better at it than you are. That’s my guess, anyway.

They are killing Christians, our brothers and sisters. They are killing their own “fellow” Muslims, our neighbors. Affinity with those being killed is easy. Much harder is realizing and reacting in the Christ Commanded way to the people of ISIS, our enemies and our persecutors. Much harder is stepping away from the desire for the US military to enter Iraq and eradicate ISIS with several drone attacks or the massive ground offensives this country is quite capable of, and considering how we–followers of The Way, disciples of Jesus, a people called out from the ways of the sinful world to act just as our master and exemplar did–might consistently and genuinely live out the way of Jesus, here and now, under these circumstances.

How do we respond in genuine unity with our persecuted and martyred brothers and sisters? How can we act in such a way that does not involve laying down the cross? Must some of us lay down our lives for our friends?

We know that we Christians will rise again, will eternally dwell with Jesus our King, no matter how we die on this Earth. But, it’s still so difficult to consider sacrificing ourselves, being willing to die, for the sake of a friend, especially for the sake of an enemy. We still tend to value our own lives more than others. We still want to control our fate, our life and death, in spite of what Jesus has said. We still want to be the masters of wrath against perpetrators of evil, believing that’s our job on this Earth, in spite of what God has said. We, the people of God, in our passion for autonomous free will, have distanced ourselves from the one we claim to follow, and have forgotten how much we truly depend on Him for life, death, and resurrection.

So how do we, a community far removed from the active carnage ongoing, respond? How do we act so our brothers and sisters know they are not alone? How do we act so our neighbors (the Muslims enduring their own persecution) know we will not forget them or lump them in with their killers? How do I remember that being a graphic designer isn’t my calling, it’s just something I do; that my calling is to make disciples, to love my neighbors and enemies, to teach, to baptize, to feed, to visit, and to sacrifice?

How do I be a Christian in the face of ISIS? I can’t, because I cannot be a Christian by myself. The real question is how can we, the body of Christ, be the body of Christ, in unity with the persecuted and martyred in Iraq and around the globe, in the face of ISIS?

A nice free font: PROMESH

Here are some players to watch in this World Cup.

Lionel Messi

Mario Balotelli

Cristiano Ronaldo

Here’s another great free font that you may be able to utilize: PROMESH. This one’s created by Paul Reis, and you can « see more about it and download it here ».

Graphic Design Salaries in 2012?

This graphic is both funny and sad.

Back in 2012 I was working full time as a graphic designer at a local media company. Even though I created ads, worked on marketing campaigns, designed full pages, 8-page spreads, did online work, created billboard art, supported the marketing artists with their overflow, was good at it, and had over 5 years experience (so, looking at the middle pencil there), I didn’t take home even half of the lower line (shown there at $59,500).

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Was that a kiss? When Kimbrah and I got married.

weddingKiss_topper

Our first kiss as husband and wife was the stuff of legends. In our family at least, as legends go. You see, our kiss wasn’t your ordinary wedding kiss. It told a tale, and was a fitting marker on a timeline of wonderful adventures. And, as any good epic tale goes, we need to start somewhere in the middle.

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Tips for Non-Designers: Sketching and Sketching

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For info about this series, check out Design Tips for Non-Designers. Hope you enjoy it.

The first, and what I consider the most important, tip I give to any and all designers and non-designers alike is to just keep sketching.

That annoying, waste of time activity that your teachers told you to stop doing every hour in class, doodling, is the most valuable, worthwhile tool for any designer. I cannot emphasize this enough: to design better you have to draw more.

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Design Tips for Non-Designers

thinkNotDesigner_topper

I am going to have an ongoing series giving some design tips and techniques to folks who aren’t designers. Hereafter, I am assuming you are one of those who would consider yourself a non-designer. Whatever your situation or role, or reason for needing to design something, hopefully these can help you a little.

Maybe you’re creating a birthday party flyer. Or perhaps you’re putting charts together for an upcoming meeting. What about a yard sale sign? Or Facebook or Twitter banners? Whether it’s the slides or brochures at church, or whatever else you might be doing, some basic design fundamentals and tips could help you make something impressive and fun.

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It’s not about Derek Webb

If you think this post is about Derek Webb then you’ve missed it.

I sit here, typing away, and listening to Derek Webb’s Ctrl album. It’s now been a few days since I saw the message from Webb that he and his wonderful singing, song-writing wife, Sandra McCracken, would be getting a divorce after 13 years of marriage. They have had two kids during that time.

Both Webb and McCracken are amazing artists. And I’m sure they will continue to be. They just won’t be amazing artists together, going around the country and doing little concerts in people’s homes like they’ve done.

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Racism should not shock us

Juventus Against Racism

I’m somewhat befuddled by the reaction to NBA team owner Sterling’s racism. Today he was given a lifetime ban and fined $2.5 million. While I think that’s a good move by the NBA, I also think it’s a meager band-aid, and many folks will be under the delusion that racism is being stamped out.

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Three named martyrs in Apocalypse i-ii

Exile of John on Patmos, Topper

There are three different and different kinds of martyrs named in the first two chapters of John’s Apocalypse. There’s Jesus in i.5, John the author in i.9, and Antipas in ii.13.

Jesus was called “the faithful martyr,” and was considered the prototypical martyr, the exemplar for his followers. He bore witness to the Truth and The Way, and called for his disciples to take up their cross and follow him.

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Torture as baptism? Palin, the NRA, and Christianity

I am wondering if there are any fellow brothers and sisters in Christ–who embrace the teachings of our Lord, who called us to bear witness to the truth, to go into all the world making disciples and baptizing them in the name of our Holy God, who Created all men and women in His glorious image, and told us to love our enemies and persecutors–who will continue to support Sarah Palin and what she says.

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Conference on the Adulterous Woman passage in John

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Fascinating. On Saturday (4/26/2014), at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, there was a Pericope Adulterae conference. I missed it but am glad there was some live blogging and summaries put together. The blogging of Jacob Cerone was helpful.

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I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living  creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain.
– Apocalypse v.6 –

Why was John on Patmos?

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That John, the same Apostle who wrote the Gospel and three letters, was the same John exiled on Patmos and wrote Revelations was something I always knew and was always taught. At least as far back as I can remember learning or reading about such things. Over time, as I grew and read and studied further, what I knew changed. The first heresy I repented of was calling the little book Revelations; it’s either Revelation or the dark and ominous (and preferred) title, Apocalypse. I pray we can all repent of the silly s. Moving along, I also came to understand the three Johns didn’t necessarily have to be the same person. Doesn’t mean they are definitively not; just that tradition has historically decided who we believe authored those texts. Tradition can be just as wrong as it can be right.

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