Curse’s People

The next episode for Jamison’s Battlefields. Here are the previous episodes in order. Like any story you will get the most out of it by reading it in sequence.

The first battlefield was The Battle for the Mind.  Zilkas Asteroid Belt, Jamison’s Rescue,  Dinner with an Alien, Dibolocos Attack, Departure Orders, Homecoming, Into the Darkness, The Family BusinessJewel’s Place, ShanghaiedFirst MarkThe Pirate’s Life, Defensive Position, Adrift, Self Sacrifice, Crash DownThe Lake HouseDancing with Egopods, Lunch with Aliens and Kilkian Alignment

The second battlefield is The Battle of the Hands, Here are the previous episodes in this battlefield Learning to SeeMaintaining Common SenseMeeting CompagnoUnseating DibolocosThe Journey HomewardAmbush on Platinum 9, Refit, Retrain and Rethink, Saved by Rodent Weed, Convoys and Propaganda,  Changing the Moon, Expanding HorizonsRunning the Blockade, Dueling Politicians, Legislation, Delegation, and DeliberationFailed Tyranny,  Political Parties, Visiting the City, Passing the Constitution, Tried for Treason and Necessary Failure.

The third and final battlefield is The Battle of the Heart. Here is the previous episode : Living Under Curse.

Today we get the second episode of this final battlefield, which is episode 42 overall.

Curse’s People

Over the next couple of weeks they did their best to blend in on the base. Jamison and Chambers made themselves useful by repairing and upgrading the stations defenses. Judasson balked at the repairs, but Jamison noticed he soon assigned crew to man the weapons and put training drills into operation so that they would be well acquainted with using the weaponry if the need ever arose. Jamison asked him about it, and he said the station had to be defended, their lives might depend on it.

His discussions with the crew seemed to carry a similar theme. They were all too busy working to survive to make any real profit off their labors. Yet in the times they were not on shift they had every distraction available to them in the form of alcohol, drugs, gambling, and sex industries. These businesses operated somewhat independently inside the station. They paid no rent or tax to the station, but everyone thought of them as essential to its operation. Jamison and Chambers could tell they were guided by Dibolocos. This combined with their knowledge that bounty hunters would be hanging out there, caused them to stay clear. They also knew all the profit the people might make was swallowed up there.

The workers were always too busy to talk about aligning with the Kilkian King, but they always had time to go spend their little bit of income on these vices. In fact, when they would bring up the king, and alignment people did things like change the subject, walk away, or perhaps just stare at them like they didn’t understand.

The young steward came by every morning to check on them, and to chat about meaningless things, at least they were meaningless to him. He always knew if any bounty hunters were visiting the station and who they were looking for. He knew what traders were from which crime syndicate. It seemed as if none of the traders to the base were legitimate freighters, or perhaps legal operations were not worth gossiping over.

The only thing he didn’t mention was who else was hiding on the base. The steward had once mentioned that as long as they contributed to the welfare of the facility, everyone would ignore them, but that it was those who did nothing to aid in their survival that the crew betrayed. From this they surmised the youth was aware of other exiles on the station. Jamison figured this was a good detail for him to leave out of his reports, and he hoped he left it out of his discussions with everyone else too. He had no doubt the steward was conversing many other people, and therefore they were careful how much they told him.

Once the stations defenses were in good shape, Chambers and Jamison began making themselves useful by putting out communication satellites. These devices allowed the station to receive some news and entertainment from the main colony. But they didn’t allow direct feed, instead all news went through them so they could redact out any mention or pictures which revealed their identities. In addition to this the satellites could be used to communicate with the nearest worlds, and thereby link to all others. Finally Jamison was able to use them to detect approaching ships and if necessary to triangulate exact firing equations for the stations defenses. The guns were quite outdated, but with this secret ability to aim precisely they were more than adequate to defeat most enemies.

Within a few days of making the system operational, the automatic alarm that rang in their quarters went off in the middle of their sleep cycle. They both jumped up and sprang into action. The satellites showed three ships spread out around the dust trail of curse. They were hailing the base, demanding all the bases rare materials, under threat of destruction. Judasson had made a short attempt at negotiation, but then had promised payment in trade for everyone’s lives.

As Chambers and Jamison watched the situation unfold, they were aware of dangers Judasson was not. There was a Dibolocos on the lead ship influencing the pirate captain and he planned to have the station destroyed after even after payment was made. Jamison set the main missile launcher to fire on all three ships simultaneously. He also set one of the satellites to jam their sensors for long enough that the missiles could find their mark.

He set a timer for all these things to begin two minutes later and then took off running to the station command center. He hoped to be there before the fireworks started. But he got stopped by a crowd outside of one of the seedier bars. It seemed as if the majority of the crew were there, unknowingly reveling away their last few minutes of life.

When he did arrive at the command center, the place was in celebratory pandemonium. A very confused gunner was being hoisted up on everyone’s shoulders and hailed as a hero. The man kept saying he didn’t do it, and he was confused. But the crew would not be dissuaded, they had seen the three shots and the spectacular marksmanship. They related the fact the ships did nothing to harm the station, but instead turned their guns on a satellite destroying it seconds before being destroyed themselves.

From these bits of information Jamison pieced together that the attackers figured out they were being jammed. They shot the satellite doing it, but not quickly enough to warn them of the incoming rounds. Judasson, seeing Jamison, called everyone to hail him as a hero too. It had been his work to steady the defenses which had allowed their victory.

When the celebration began to wane, both men were invited to speak. The gunner was almost apologetic rather than celebratory. He still didn’t know what had happened, but was sure it hadn’t been him. When it was Jamison’s turn he took the opportunity to speak of the difference between Kilkians and Dibolocos and the fact Dibolocos were willing to destroy them, while Kilkians wanted them to survive and do well.

The reaction of the audience though was not what he expected at all. The people laughed like he was jesting, making some great joke. Finally Judasson said, “Jamison my friend, enough of these fairy tales. The people on this ship are too sophisticated to believe in such things.”

“Judasson, these things I tell you are not fairy tales, they are real. I have seen both Kilkians and Dibolocos with my own eyes.” He intended to go on, but the uproar of laughter from the command crew drowned out any effort.

Gila Woodpecker

Gila WoodpeckerThis is a Gila Woodpecker. It lives in the saguaro forests of the desert Southwest. Of the excavating birds it faces a unique problem. When it hollows a nesting hole in a saguaro, it penetrates the portion of the cactus where it stores water.

Because of this the sides of the cavity will be too wet for nesting. They will drip and ooze moisture which would damage the eggs and mold the nesting materials. The solution to the problem is time. After a while, the flesh of the cactus lining the cavity will dry out, making a hard shell. This process serves the cactus, preventing the evaporation of its precious water out the hole of the cavity. It serves the needs of the woodpecker, giving it a dry place to nest.

We live in a society with no patience for processes which take time, but as believers we need to see the importance of time. Much of the Christian life is time sensitive. It takes time for faith to mature.

For example, integrity is the process where one proves their consistent goodness over a period of time. Yet somehow I meet a lot of people who expect everyone to trust them, the minute they pray a prayer.

Calling is also time sensitive. Most everyone finds a desire toward their calling some time before they are brought into action. This period will probably be used in preparation, education, or networking. But in a society that believes everything can be had now, from the microwave, we have come to accept microwave results in too many things.

What I mean by microwave results is, the compromise between getting it now and getting it done right. I remember when microwaves first came out. When they were new we cooked about everything in them, because of the novelty of their speed. Chicken was rubbery, but at the time we only cared that it was fast. Scrambled eggs were cooked unevenly but they were done in a flash.

Accepting microwave results in today’s churches results in leaders who don’t have the spiritual discipline to avoid embarrassing themselves, their churches, and their Lord. Believers who are doing less and less on a weekly basis for God, but consider themselves better educated, better serving, and more involved than past generations.

Even Jesus in His work of delivering mankind was dependent on time, and the patience to work at the right time. He both waited for the right time in history before coming, and in His lifetime waited until the right time and age to begin His ministry. Now we all wait for the right time for Him to make His return. But this too, like all else in our Christian life, requires us to recognize the value of waiting for the right timing.

But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience. Romans 8:25 (HCSB)

Immigration and Social Justice

One aspect of the debate about immigration, which I am sympathetic with, is the topic of social justice. Should a person be considered different, better or worse, because of which country they were born in? My answer to this is, no they should not. I believe that we should do what we can to bring up the quality of life of all people in the world.

On the surface, this appears to be an argument in favor of opening all borders, allowing all comers to enter the country and to become citizens. However, I believe this would ultimately have the effect of lowering the United States down to the quality of life the rest of the world has, rather than raising the other countries. There are simply too many people in the world for the US economy to swallow them up.

This then raises the question of whether it is morally correct to lower the quality of life of some people in order to equalize them with others. My answer to that is I believe taking away what people have is wrong. It don’t see the difference between taking from the rich to give to the poor, and stealing.

There is another choice, although it involves a longer process where people have to pull together to build society, and individuals have to work for what they get. This other choice is helping other countries form healthy, stable economies. Some will say this is too slow, others will say it is impractical. But I believe that history teaches it is the only approach that has ever worked.

The social justice issue however has some dubious wrinkles to discuss. One such wrinkle, is what about the children of illegals? Some who were born here, others who came so young they know no other country. This tactic of focusing on the children of law breakers is interesting, but really just creative obfuscation. What would happen if we treated violation of other crimes the same way? We could not convict tax evaders, mobsters, or bank robbers on the basis they needed the money for their children. We would not return children kidnapped for long period of times because they will be distressed to meet their real families.

Another dubious wrinkle in the social justice argument is, how do we determine that illegals who have been here for a certain length of time are more deserving of privileges than the ones that will cross tomorrow? If it is really social justice for some, than it must be for all. Yes this means we have a large contingency of people here who do not qualify for these privileges. Our president speaks of the impossibility of finding these people to deport them, and that in the meantime they are forced to hide in the shadows. But we did not choose that for them, they or their parents made that choice.

One other dubious wrinkle, speaking of shadows, is something we cannot see, but still ought to anticipate. Do you remember how last spring we suddenly had massive numbers of illegal, unaccompanied minors crossing in the US? Why did that activity suddenly increase and why did it suddenly decrease to more normal levels? I don’t know the answer to that in specifics, but it had to be because something communicated to the people in desperate situations, that their best hope was to send their kids to the US. We should expect the president’s actions will also be a signal which causes the migration of many more people towards American borders.

Ultimately this is my strongest reason to oppose blanket changes of policy that affect millions. It gives a false hope to millions more who will be our next wave of illegal immigrants.

Living Under Curse

The next episode for Jamison’s Battlefields. Here are the previous episodes in order. Like any story you will get the most out of it by reading it in sequence.

The first battlefield was The Battle for the Mind.  Zilkas Asteroid Belt, Jamison’s Rescue,  Dinner with an Alien, Dibolocos Attack, Departure Orders, Homecoming, Into the Darkness, The Family BusinessJewel’s Place, ShanghaiedFirst MarkThe Pirate’s Life, Defensive Position, Adrift, Self Sacrifice, Crash DownThe Lake HouseDancing with Egopods, Lunch with Aliens and Kilkian Alignment

The second battlefield is The Battle of the Hands, Here are the previous episodes in this battlefield Learning to SeeMaintaining Common SenseMeeting CompagnoUnseating DibolocosThe Journey HomewardAmbush on Platinum 9, Refit, Retrain and Rethink, Saved by Rodent Weed, Convoys and Propaganda,  Changing the Moon, Expanding HorizonsRunning the Blockade, Dueling Politicians, Legislation, Delegation, and DeliberationFailed Tyranny,  Political Parties, Visiting the City, Passing the Constitution, Tried for Treason and Necessary Failure.

Today we begin the third battlefield.

The Battle of the Heart

Living Under Curse

Jamison and Chambers had a bunch of questions about the battle of the heart, but Colopher and Colophen refused to answer any of them at this point in time.

“All your questions will be answered at the appropriate time. But first we need to talk about a plan for surviving the next few weeks.”

They spent the next couple of hours going over what they would do. Colopher informed them the CDF forces had developed a secret way of tracking ships. They would soon find the trail and follow them as long as they were in open space. The trail however would be confused if they were in an area where a lot of solar wind occurred, too much gravitational pull, or where other ships have left a similar engine trail. It was this last detail they planned to exploit to escape the CDF.

First they could not go to the planet originally planned because the trail up to this point was like an arrow pointing the CDF to that intention. Instead they would go to a well-traveled freight route and see if they could confuse their trail among a multitude of others. The main trade route between the colonies primary galaxies was the most obvious place to go, but of course this was heavily patrolled by the CDF.

Using the stealth capabilities of their ship they were able to sneak behind a line of freighters, when different ones found their destination they would peel off and head to their destination. Jamison followed one of these freighters when it was heading to a suitably remote location. But instead of following the ship into dock it headed around the other side of the planet and then headed away passing by the sun. He then arced to open space. Once out in clear space he dropped a proximity locator and set it up to send a signal if any other ships come that way. If one did, it would mean he had not lost the CDF.

“So where to now?” Jamison asked.

“Might I suggest a location?” Colopher asked, “Somewhere not on many maps yet.”

“Certainly.”

“Nazaret Hydrogen is a new mining facility just within the boundaries of the colonies. It is new, so it is still quite uncivilized. It is considered unimportant enough that even the CDF doesn’t protect it.”

“Nazaret Hydrogen? Okay, where is it?”

Colopher called up a 3D holographic chart, and pointed to a region of empty space. “It’s about here. But we will have to find it when we get closer. At the moment its location is known only to outlaws, bounty hunters, and a few of the CDF upper commanders.”

“I don’t see a galaxy there, much less a planet?” Chambers was speaking in surprise.

“There is neither. This place is a free standing space station mining space gasses from a slow moving comet.”

Jamison’s eyebrows went up. It was rare for anyone to build a free standing base because that meant air and water had to be constantly hauled in. And the further out it was the more expensive and impractical that would be. So how exactly did this station in the middle of empty space survive?

He figured if he asked his questions they would only answer, he would find out when the time was right. So he laid in a course and continued to drop beacons which would warn him, if he was followed.

After a week and a half of travel they were further out than either of them had ever been before. As they approached the area where Colopher had said they would find a station, she and Colophen left on other business. Jamison and Chambers began a search pattern looking to detect either a station or a comet. Soon they found a massive slow moving comet, but failed to see a station.

When all else failed they circled the comet and as soon as they came around behind, they were hailed. The station was tucked right in the middle of the dust trail of the comet, making it almost impossible to detect.

They spoke with a station administrator named Judasson. For a nominal fee, which had to be paid in non-trackable currencies, he would allow them to dock. Three cases of platinum sweet moss later they were on board the space station. Judasson met them upon disembarking.

“Welcome to Nazaret H.” he said with a lisp that made him sound a bit like a snake. “You will like it here. Very little interference, lots of freedom. But on the other hand, life is cheap and absolutely anything can be acquired by trade.” He was staring at Chambers as he said this.

Her hand instinctively dropped to her side arm, her fingers checking the settings in well-rehearsed patterns. The motion was noticed by Judasson who took a step back and bowed his head slightly in deference.

Jamison didn’t miss any of these details, but also didn’t want to cause any trouble. “Sounds perfect for us. At least for now. So what housing is available on this station, we thought we might stay for a while.”

“Of course, for a couple like your selves, used to the finer things in life, you can rent suites from the station administrator.”

Jamison was sure this man would eat up every available resource he had if he let him. Instead of a presidential suite he negotiated for an apartment among the workmen. He paid well for such mean quarters and paid much better for an assurance the man would tell no one. Then Judasson had a steward show them the way to their new home. Jamison used the opportunity to make a friend and learn about the location.

“How does this station get air and water?” he asked.

“We mine them from the comet.” The young man answered with enthusiasm.

“Oh? How is that possible?”

“The station is equipped with a device Judasson invented. It takes frozen oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen off the comet and process them to make air and water. It also makes hydrogen crystals, Nitrogen dust and a bunch of other things we can sell.”

As they entered the apartment, Jamison asked, “So this station is wealthy?”

“Well no, it’s a part of the curse. Curse, that is the name of the comet. We spend everything we get keeping the equipment running. We have to or we will perish. We can’t slow down the works, or else we will run out of air.”

After they settled in, they wondered how long and what it will be like living under this curse.

Total Depravity

Descriptions of classical Calvinism generally begin with a statement on total depravity. This doctrine means a lost man is incapable of reaching out to God, because of the manner in which sin has corrupted the human form. In this corruption, this fall, we are remade to not desire the things of God. We are free to choose what we want, but apart from God’s intervention we will not want God.

Today I want to make a few notes about this construct and how people use Scripture to support this idea. I notice that with any doctrinal idea, the person who believes it, sees it in Biblical passages others would not. For total depravity, I have heard many verses cited, which made me scratch my head.

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable —who can understand it? Saying the heart is deceitful, or that humanity is sinful, is not logically the same as saying we are incapable of choosing God, or desiring God. It is logically uncomfortable to think God created a world where we are capable of choosing anything else, but not that which we were created for, that which we need the most.

Romans 3:10-12 As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away; all alike have become useless. There is no one who does what is good, not even one. This passage is part of a longer one speaking of the nature of sin. This discussion of the nature of sin is in a longer passage describing why we need Jesus. In this context, it doesn’t appear to me to be a statement of absolutes but of general tendencies. Yes it does use all-inclusive language, but like Jesus speaking of chopping of a hand, it is used for emphasis. If it were literal lost people would not be able to do any good. But we all see lost people do good things. In my opinion this includes the ultimate good of reaching out to Jesus for salvation.

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins (Note, this is a part of longer passage you should read carefully if wrestling with this issue.) This passage is affirming we were spiritually dead prior to coming to know Christ. It is step beyond though to say that spiritually dead means unable to choose life. Spiritual death is used comparatively to physical death, but like any illustration, we can choose to include details unintended in the original text.

1 Corinthians 2:14 But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually. This verse is describing what the process of rejecting God looks like inside the person. The term unbeliever here probably means more than one who rejects God, but one who rejects all things spiritual.

There is a habit of people arguing theological points to flood their opponents with Scripture, moving so quickly that each one cannot be evaluated as it goes by. While all of these passages will appear to read in support of total depravity to one who is already convinced of it, I have a hard time seeing it in any verse.

In my view, humanity is incapable of reaching out to a God they do not know. The intervention they need in order to make them capable of choosing God therefore, is a faithful witness speaking of the Christ who took on flesh to reach out to them. Those who hear of Him, have sufficient new information to make them capable of choosing or rejecting God’s Savior. Romans 10:14 But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher?

Northern Harrier

Northern HarrierThis is a picture of a northern harrier. I was attempting to get a picture of a sparrow in a field when this guy flew over. The sparrow disappeared down into the brush, and in revenge I took a picture of the harrier as it flew away.

The picture illustrates something about the manner in which this hawk hunts. It will not only follow its prey visually, it will also fly low and slow enough to listen for its next meal. Somewhere down below is a rodent standing watch for the rest of his family. When he sees the hawk flying nearby he will let out a little bark. This will warn the family to run for cover.

But up above, it also signals the harrier, which will turn to follow the sound. It might not see the rodent yet, but the victim will still be watching. When the bird turns its direction, it will likely let out another warning because of the strength of its instinct. The bird will again fine tune its direction. As the bird gets closer the former sentinel now makes a mad dash out of the clearing, likely screaming panic as it goes. These sounds guide in the final and deadly approach of the harrier. The rodent is assisting the hawk with the language of defeat.

Unfortunately, rodents are not alone in using the language of defeat. I see it all the time among people. It’s on Facebook when a job hunter fills their wall with drunken pictures and temperamental rants. It’s in the classroom when a student says to themselves they are too stupid to learn algebra. It’s on ball fields, where players don’t even wait for the game to end, before openly blaming teammates for losing games. It is very common for people to get emotionally carried away and say thing which are aimed at others, but harm themselves as well.

Like the rodent in the field it might start with a normal life circumstance, likely progresses with instinctive reactions overriding common sense, and then finds its full destructive force when words spill out under the spell of emotional pain. The speaker feels justified in making harsh comments publicly, but everyone exposed to their tirade will shape their opinion of the speaker accordingly.

Do you remember the Parable of the Talents where the master says, “I will judge you by your own words.”? Most of us are guilty of speaking unwisely and revealing to those around us, the less positive side of our own nature. James speaks to the issue by teaching the tongue is untamable. These passages, and many more, tell us how important it is to choose our words carefully.

Probably one of the best quick summaries is from Proverbs 25:28. A man who does not control his temper is like a city whose wall is broken down.

Rebellion to Tyrants

President Obama has promised that, if necessary, he would use the power of his pen to change policies which the congress has failed to address. The word necessary in this sentence indicates the policies are essential to the future of the country. The sentence assumes the perspective of the man with the pen is obvious and correct. The sentence also assumes the actions are important enough to justify making an end run around the balance of powers.

Apparently it never occurred to the president that being unable to get a consensus to pass legislation might be an indication the ideas might not be as brilliant as he thinks. Instead he decides those who hold different opinions are simply not as intelligent, or caring, or insightful, as he is. Since the rest of the country doesn’t really understand what is important, they must not be allowed to enter the decision making process.

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin had encouraged the founding fathers to adopt a seal which stated, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” Although that theme was not approved, I am beginning to see its virtues.