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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Promise Potential and the Orange Peel Option

Where do you find it hardest to be accepted as a person of value? How do feelings of rejection affect your participation in a group...? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1438).

You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away - a man is not a piece of fruit.

 Willy, act II - Death of a Salesman

At some point, not necessarily related to chronological age, a person can come to be perceived as no longer at the top of their game.  When one is at the top of their game, the promise potential of effectiveness is at its greatest.  The more promise potential one has, the more valuable  and attractive they are seen to be. Students and employees perceived to have great promise potential inevitably find broader expanses  of encouragement.

Politics  is always a contest of promise potential.  A candidate perceived to have real promise (not necessarily the one making the most promises) normally has the better odds of being elected.

The play Death of a Salesman pleads the case for residual value in the absence of promise potential.  This residual value derives from inherent dignity and a compelling sense of appreciation and empathy.  The Social Security System (of which I am now a payee) underscores the importance of a measure of financial value to support and validate human value.  In short, American society--now that I'm age 70--has not tossed me out as a superfluous orange peel.  As much as we may agonize over the implications of challenging present and future demographics, I do not believe the orange peel option will ever again be found acceptable to the American sense of ethics, fairness, or our underlying social nexus of empathy.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Positive Intelligence: A Christian Perspective

It is my intent today to align Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine with Christian thought. The book is proving to be my greatest friend outside the Bible and related works. I will begin by quoting from two devotionals: Joshua Dubois in The President's Devotional entry for February 23:

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace abound? Certainly not! How shall we who have died to sin live any longer in it? --Romans 6:1-2 (NKJV)

As believers, we must move beyond our old ways.
If we find ourselves stuck in the same patterns of sin even after accepting God's grace, let's pray that these patterns would be broken. “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound. Certainly not!”

Dear God, help me to break free from old patterns, old ways, old sins. I do not want to abuse your grace; it did not come cheaply. In you, I am set free. Amen.

The second devotional: an excerpt from “A Cross to Choose”, page 56; Through the Year with Jimmy Carter.

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34

Jimmy Carter writes: What does “taking up your cross” mean for us today? I think it requires us to forsake our own pride and to submit to God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Briefly this is how I align Positive Intelligence with Christian thought. The ten Saboteurs (especially the Judge) represent the old patterns of sin. The Sage is a gift from the divine Creator. Sin is when we sell out and heed the old Saboteur structure and forsake our true freedom. We then submit to the slavery of selfish pride (a special attribute of the Judge). We are then deeply misled for we mistake Conscience (the enlightened discernment of the Sage) for the Judgment of the Saboteurs who quickly usher in endless guilt and anxiety without salvation. The peace, the joy, the creativity of the spirit is only possible through the modalities of spirit—empathy, exploration, innovation, navigation (the spirit of Christ being the compass), and activation (the spirit without works is dead). Salvation does not completely free us from temptation as Positive Intelligence does not free us totally from our Saboteurs. Some are so entrapped by their Saboteurs that they cannot see the wisdom or possibility of breaking free from the old structures. It is by the grace of God that insight is first possible

I repeat, Positive Intelligence is proving to be my best friend outside the Bible and related works. I highly recommend you visit the following site and take the two assessments (click on PQ Assessment)—one is to determine your key Saboteurs and the other is to determine your Positive Intelligence Quotient. The explanatory assessment reports generated include helpful summaries of the concepts found in the book, Positive Intelligence.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Who Owns Government

Luke 4:5-8
New International Version (NIV)

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

The key questions: Is government an institution ordained by God and is it and institution co-opted by Satan? I firmly believe with Bonhoeffer that government is an institution ordained by God. This, of course, does not validate any and all occupants of government or any and all forms of government. It merely means that government as an institutional template was ordained by God and it is up to us whether it takes on the cast of angels or demons. That is government is an institutional tool and can be used for purposes of good or ill. The devil said “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” It is necessary from what I've said above regarding the divine origin of government to interpret this in the following way: When the authority and splendor of nations become idols of worship, the ultimate object of worship is the devil since all idolatry is of the devil. Jesus retorts: “It is written: 'Worship the Lord you God and serve him only.'” Certainly we have ample evidence to demonstrate that when humanity makes an idol of nationalism and statism, momentous and tragic catastrophes result.

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Chow as Communion

What's one of your all-time favorite foods? How often do you eat it? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1437).

Ever wonder why Jesus chose the Last Supper—supper—as the vehicle of Christian remembrance? One reason besides the ingrained existence of the Passover itself is in my view the communal nature of eating.

When I was mentoring children the most favorite thing we liked to do was eat together. Food is a great leveler—a testimony to our equality within the human family. We all equally need to eat and we all equally enjoy eating—salivation before good food is universal and the savoring of food unites all mankind irrespective of sometimes ugly dividers. Let us commune and chow down together often. 

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pain: The Source of Big Dreams?

In today's devotional** is a quotation from James Baldwin: I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain. It seems to me this observation is of overwhelming importance. Picturing in my mind James Earl Ray, for example, surely at base of some of his impelling hatred was pain not yet faced within the roots of his own childhood or later in life.

When I thought about the quotation again, another rendering of it came to mind: I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their Big Dreams so stubbornly is because they sense, once the Big Dreams are gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.

I look at this personally. Several blogs ago (click here) I wrote about my dream to be president of the United States. I have always viewed this as a divine directive. Could it not be possible that an equal possible source of this Big Dream resides within pain not yet faced in the roots of my own childhood or later in life? Below is a picture of me from the 1st grade.

Now it's entirely possible that before entering the imposing photo-shoot room I was carefree, spontaneous and free. It is also possible, however, that this photo captures an underlying pain that even to this day I have not yet faced and which is driving a Big Dream that once realized would purportedly prove beyond cavil that I have grown “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).

**From James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son quoted in The
president's Devotional by Joshua Dubois, Feb. 22).

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Places of Worship

What is the most unusual religious service you ever attended? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1435).

I have visited in several religious venues including Jewish, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Muslim.  All of these venues had one thing in common--they looked religious, they were all places set aside for worship.  The most unusual religious venue I ever witnessed was in a conference room normally set aside for business meetings.  It was in the late 1950's.  I as a youth was in Jacksonville visiting my Uncle Calhoun and Aunt Virgie.  They were Quaker.  One afternoon Uncle Calhoun and I visited a business office that housed a rather small conference room to the side.  My Uncle wanted to make sure the room was ready for services the next day, so he removed the ash trays from the table and straightened the chairs.  It was a novel idea to me at the time that a business office could serve as a place of holy worship.  There was no pulpit or podium--it had no designated front or back.   That seemed very strange to me then and would today except that I have come to appreciate that some of the most meaningful and memorable moments for me at church have taken place in utilitarian Sunday school rooms which typically look very plain.  Worship is clearly no respecter of place.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Reconciling Opposites

Matthew 5:38-47
New Living Translation (NLT)

Teaching about Revenge

“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.  If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.

Teaching about Love for Enemies

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.  If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.

The problem presented by this difficult teaching is the challenge of effectiveness.  The disciplines of love call for us to be helpful--effectively so.  We are not being helpful to the extent that we are limp doormats inviting self-abuse.  This simply cannot be what Jesus and the God of love require of us.  

The first thing to observe is that under many circumstances unanticipated responses can summon great power to effect change.  Think of the contributions of Gandhi, MLK, Mandela.  Their unanticipated responses to strident provocation was deeply unsettling and eventually triumphant.

The second consideration is that "Love is not a reward to be parceled out as a favor to friends; it is a tactic by which we share the best in us so that others have an opportunity to live at their best."** Parcelling out favors for friendship merely prostitutes us as doormats.  This is not love but abuse of self.  Love [it is worth repeating] "is a tactic by which we share the best in us so that others have an opportunity to live at their best" (ibid).

Reconciliation therefore requires that we compete with the best in ourselves to establish helpful opportunities for those who at the outset may not like us very much.  

**A Year with Jesus by Eugene Peterson, page 52.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Senior Citizen Peer Pressure

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

(T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets quoted in
The President's Devotions by Joshua Dubois,
Feb 19).

I'm not where I need to be,
but thank God I'm not where I used to be.
I'm okay, and I'm on my way!

(Power Thoughts Devotional by Joyce Meyer,
page 50).

The above quotation from T.S. Eliot seems particularly appropriate now as I have recently retired. In some ways retirement is like returning to my youth: a time during which I did not have to work to pay light bills and water bills – those were paid by my parents. Retirement, however, has an added bonus for unlike in my youth, I enjoy the full rights and privileges of an adult. This altogether is an entire blessing and is not by any means enjoyed by the bulk of mankind.

Not only has my situation changed, but I have changed as well. The stresses of youth to appear acceptable – that is, perfect – have long since gone and have been replaced by acceptance of imperfection. This is a very freeing realization as I continue to strive for perfection but realize it is a never-ending journey. Now the peer pressure from my fellow senior citizens is to let go of attempts to appear perfect (lord knows physically that would be a joke anyway) and the anxieties that this despotic obsession produces.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Nothing Is Impossible with God

In what area of your life do you need to believe that "nothing is impossible with God"? What keeps you from believing this? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1429).

For many years I have had imminent intimations given me with more solid assurances than is possible from a spawning arising from isolated personal speculations. This confirmed, deeply held conviction is that I will be president of the United States. Now this is probably a dream of most school-age children which falls away rather quickly and is replaced by other dreams. But for me this dissipation has never occurred and because of the persistence of this dream, I have studied speech, with advanced degrees in English, business, and public administration. Now I am 70 years old and retired. I have had no experience in running for any political office – as they say, not even for dogcatcher. While I like politics and like to follow it much more than sports, I have not at any time canvassed my neighborhood in support of any candidate. I am not a prominent member of any political party. The more time that elapses without any indication that the dream will ever be fulfilled, the more belief – perhaps out of desperation – I have that "nothing is impossible with God". I take encouragement from Bible stories in which the impossible is factually realized. Nothing has kept me from believing nor—so long as these intimations persist— ever shall.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Beyond Socialism and Capitalism

Genesis 20: 3-6 NLT

You must not have any other god but me.

You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.

It is easy to make an idol of routine, finding security within the boundaries you build around your life. (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, page 50).

There are two principal habitual approaches to life—either one of which can become routines of idol entrapment. One is competition, the other is cooperation. To habitually engage the world in only one or the other greatly impoverishes life. For socialism, the great Trojan horse undercutting existence is the habitual routine of cooperation, while for capitalism it is competition. Socialism must pro-actively seek to balance cooperation with competition, and capitalism must embed within its system a good measure of cooperation. In successful practice both approaches inevitably share a common perch formed of highly moderated routines.

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

While on the Edge of Beulah Land

If an angel were to reveal God's plan for my life today, I would?:
a. ask a lot of questions.
b. wonder if I had any say about it.
c. rejoice that God could use me.
d. worry about my ability to do it.
e. run away scared.
f. tell the angel I would rather not know my future.
(Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1429).

The answer to this question depends upon my disposition as a recent retiree.  Do I at this point wish to retire from essential service?  Do I want to disappear in an RV camper and park by a secluded fishing hole or do I wish to remain a hard worker in the matrix of life?  There is no doubt in my mind as to the answer for this--I wish to remain an earnest player within the matrix of life.  Now the angel could say God wants me to spend my last days in secluded peace in a retirement home.  The Lord knows that this would depress me.  I do not feel I am ready now for a retirement home--however I am well aware that retirement homes are no doubt one of God's mission fields.  Of all the above possible responses, the one that would hold true no matter what is "ask a lot of questions." How is this going to happen and how can I effectively advance God's kingdom in this role?  I wish to not only survive but prevail.

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

What Jesus's Resurrection Means to Me

How would your life be different if Jesus was not risen from the dead? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1426).

The death and resurrection of Jesus confirms for me the vibrant existence of life eternal.  Jesus said that whoever believes in him has eternal life.  A living faith hinges on a belief in eternity--the very long term.  Jesus's resurrection confirms that we can affirm life in the present and concurrently in the indeterminate future.  Because of this, life not death is triumphant.  The principles of the universe are eternal and the spiritual life is subsumed within them. For me as a Christian, belief in Jesus's resurrection puts a little steel in my backbone to stand fast without fear or anxiety when confronted with the short-term vicissitudes of life.  In short, the resurrection of Jesus obviates oblivion and the meaninglessness that would inevitably entail.

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Crucifixion Viewed after a Little Experience

When did the crucifixion begin to make a difference in your own life? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1425).

It is not uncommon for children to be raised in homes where parents will do anything possible to genuinely benefit their children—commonly to the point of self-sacrifice and even in extreme cases to the point of death. Likewise soldiers and emergency personnel die for others in combat or disasters.

What makes the crucifixion of Jesus different? After leaving a loving home, it took a while for it to completely sink into my thick skull that generally speaking the people I meet and greet in the world have less than absolute commitment to my welfare. I would quickly add this applies to my own disposition relative to the welfare of others as well. In other words, the general rule is that interpersonal commitment is strictly limited. Now in this context the sacrifice made by Jesus is exceptional—even singularly so—since he died because of and despite of the sins of mankind, and he did so with a loving and forgiving spirit. In other words, if I were to give my life for someone, it would almost certainly entail a judgment on my part that the person for whom I was dying was exceptionally deserving. It is extremely unlikely that I would die to save an enemy asshole combatant. But that is precisely what Jesus did. His sacrificial act was redemptive in part because he refused to view the enemy as unworthy, undeserving, and unredeemable. Rather than seek to destroy assholes, he lovingly sought to redeem those tragically blind to their own misguided passions. 


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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Duplicity as Camouflage

What is the riskiest thing you have ever done because of your faith in Jesus? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1425).

As animals, humans have inherited a strong tendency towards dressing the truth beneath camouflage. We feel a strong drive to hide the truth, to prevaricate. It's almost as if the more strongly we experience something as real the more the need to pretend it doesn't exist. Prevarication thus becomes not second nature so much as first nature. This is especially true in matters of sex. It is my belief that homosexual dreams and occasional sexual arousal in the presence of beloved animals is not uncommon. But to discuss this with any candor is taboo. It is my belief that Americans have a special responsibility to brainstorm the truth. We, after all, have free speech accompanied by a Christian tradition that holds truth in high regard—not just spiritual truth in elevated abstract terms, but experiential truth in ordinary daily life. Spiritual truth and experiential truth are indivisible and are of the same cloth. Therefore in America we are ethically obliged by integrity to explore the truth in an innovative brainstorming manner in which we say “Yes....and......”** rather than to brutally repress the truth in a drive of camouflage.

Jesus ushered in a new order, and America's free speech was a direct product of it. The animal drive to camouflage the truth runs head-on into ethical demands for integrity and veracity. Will we assume the risks inherent in spiritual and political freedom? Will we set aside camouflage and duplicity and more fully realize our greater legacy—that of simple candor? It is my firm belief that this is our emerging trajectory.

**For an interesting discussion of overcoming psychological saboteurs see Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine. This reference on page 89.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Is There a Future in Our Future

Matthew 6:28-34
New Living Translation (NLT)

And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

When we think of the love of parents for their children we think of unconditional love. A parent would gladly expend his/her life to save the life of their child. Unconditional love is therefore translatable into limitless concern over the welfare of the child. Love is of the Kingdom of God and as such unconditional and limitless commitments are appropriate. We must come to the cold realization, however, that such unconditional, limitless commitment can enslave us if misapplied. Jesus was clearly concerned in the above passage with a tendency for human beings to have unlimited concerns for future provisions. That is to say, since I do not know now what will be necessary to sustain me 10 years from now, I therefore tend to set about piling up unlimited resources to protect me from future uncertainties. No amount set aside is ever deemed sufficient. I must sacrifice urgent callings to invest in my present environment to placate my unlimited anxieties about the future. Clearly, Jesus was correct in understanding the danger of denying present needs for future uncertainties. When we deny ourselves or others daily bread in order to hoard up unlimited resources for the specter of towering unlimited future needs, then we paradoxically imperil the future by torpedoing the present welfare necessary to get us there in the first place. Thus, we need to focus on the present and in some sense trust God to supply future needs. We need to seek first the Kingdom and freely follow our conscience in love and concern in meeting today's needs and only then by compassionately focusing on the present will we have a future in our future. The lack of appreciation for this paradox (focus on today provides for a future) causes great mischief in human affairs for otherwise it's a trite truism that responsible people duly sacrifice the present for the future.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Due Attention Paid

If you were the only person in the world, would Jesus have done the same thing [die on the cross]? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1424).

With those who love Jesus, it is a personal thing – Jesus's death on the cross. Today in church we sang the hymn "What a friend we have in Jesus." With Jesus there is always sufficient intimacy to surpass social correctness. Jesus through the mystery of the gospel is able to connect with each person individually. And the knowledge that someone has died just for me gives my life precious worth no matter what dismissive even abusive value the world may place upon it – Jesus's life and death inscribe forever the sanctity of individual personality. Thus Christ changes the topography of human affairs. His endorsement surpasses in importance all other endorsements and is able to stand regnant even in the face of neglect and abuse and the curse of rejection. To deny Jesus's love and all of its benefits suggests a tragic form of self-debasement.

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Exculpatory Irresponsibility

When in your life were you most disappointed with yourself? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1422).

This is a difficult question to answer because when I look back upon my past when I have not faced my responsibilities as a man of God I always find extenuating circumstances that yield a certain kindness to my self judgment. For example, as an undergraduate, I was less studious than was ideal. Looking at it from one point of view, it would seem evident that I was lazy or shirked responsibility. However when I look back upon it I tend to forgive myself for I was operating under intense psychological pressures. Looking back upon it, to be quite frank, I'm really amazed that I did as well as I did and held in the fight to the extent that I did. Ironically, one of my key failures at the time as I perceive it now was that I would not – in one sense of the word – sin. In other words I had opportunities to have sexual relations with the opposite sex but was compelled not to do so. In some sense, I think of this as a failure even though it would have been fornication from my point of view at the time. I only ask for forgiveness for sins of omission and commission at all times in my life and I feel certain that God forgives me because of my inherent human limitations to always see clearly the good.

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Friday, February 7, 2014

The Widow's Might

Mark 12:41-44
New Living Translation (NLT)
The Widow’s Offering

Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins.

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”

What does this story have to say about self-esteem?
a. God's opinion of who we are and what we do is the one that counts.
b. God doesn't judge our worth by assets, abilities or appearances.
c. Anyone can make an important contribution to God's kingdom.
d. God is aware of what we do for him, no matter how insignificant it seems to others or ourselves.
(Serendipity Bible 10th anniversary edition, page 1418).

When when will we ever cease being more impressed by power than by spirit? That is the key question. The story of the widow's offering buttresses – indeed redeems – the self-esteem of people with power deficits. It is shown that such deficits are irrelevant in the eyes of God - anyone can make an important contribution to God's kingdom. And this is true and operative no matter what others think or indeed even what we think.

The irony that lies at the core of belief is that the last shall be first, and the first last. This is true in the world of meaning—a world that has more final importance and sway in human affairs than all the mere accoutrements of power. For meaning has to do with perception and perception with great facility undercuts power symbols – for symbols gain their strength from meaning but meaning is finally ruled by spirit—The Kingdom of God.

That is, we can have our coffers overflowing with highrolling symbols – but their value can be undercut instantly by perceptual shifts. That was the grave danger that Jesus presented. The great light of spirit and meaning that shone upon the world devalued in place the currencies of the power structure—and the diminishing of property values is the ultimate sin of the righteous. The power structure in disgust murmurs “there goes the neighborhood!” But they are powerless to doing anything effective about it.

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