Friday, July 27, 2007

"To you I lift up my eyes, you who are enthroned in the heavens!" (Psalm 123)

To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
Behold, as the eyes of servants to the hand of their master,
As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes to the Lord our God, until he be gracious to us.

Be gracious to us, O Lord, be gracious to us;
For we are greatly filled with contempt.
Our soul is greatly filled with the scoffing of those who are at ease,
With the contempt of the proud.

- Psalm 123

Back in Psalm 121, it was, "I will lift my eyes up to the hills." Here it is, "To you I will lift up my eyes." We're ascending to greater wisdom.

We're learning here that we're his servants, and so he is where to go for our help. And the help we need is for him to be gracious to us. Nothing else will do.

When our souls are filled with the scoffing of those who are at ease, the contempt of the proud, it's easy to console ourselves by scoffing in our turn, easing our pain through contempt of our tormentors.

This is especially easy to fall into because scoffers earn the scoffing of others, precisely because they are refusing to be serious people, and the contemptuous are indeed contemptible through their pride. This makes it very easy to stumble over them, becoming just like them.

The answer is, instead of consoling myself with scoffing and contempt as they do, to look to the Lord to be gracious to us. Even when David was about to kill Goliath, his purpose was for "this whole assembly" - his Philistine adversaries included - to know the salvation of God (1 Samuel 17:46-47).

Those that treat us with contempt and scoff at us - as my son and I are experiencing right now - may have fallen into real degradation, but they remain human beings made in God's image and likeness. May I learn to humble myself so as not to vaunt myself over them, respecting their humanity at all times. To look instead to God to be gracious is to humble myself so as to ascend in God's sight. Psalm 123 is rightly called a Song of Ascents.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

More news

After our meeting with Superintendent Edmond Heatley, I paid my 24 kopecks at Rancho Cucamonga Superior Court for a certified copy of the divorce decree so Gayle and I can get our marriage license. We expect to cough up another 73 kopecks for that today.

Gayle gave her notice at work yesterday, her last day being the day before the wedding, Friday the 24th, and to her amazement they were actually surprised. She's working hard to get caught up on her contact notes and whatnot so it's not too bad a mess when she leaves. With a month notice, they have plenty of time to arrange things and not give her new cases.

The meeting with Superintendent Heatley.

He seated us at one side of a conference table with himself on the other, and presently his deputy Nancy Harms came in and took notes.

We went in having received a call yesterday from Jeff, who was sitting in a lawyer's office and talking about pursuing a civil rights case on behalf of lots of people who have been abused using bogus 5150s - Stephen's case being one of the more outrageous in their judgment.

Stephen opened by recounting his experience - how the interview went with Casas, and how things went at Canyon Ridge. Heatley then wanted me to recount how things went from my viewpoint, and I said nothing new.

Heatley wanted to get right to, "So what do you want from me," without admitting that the district might have done anything wrong that we have to take account of in moving ahead. He tried to say it was the cops who decided to take Stephen in, although they have no discretion in such a case, as he surely knows and as a psychologist and lawyers have advised me - as I pointed out. He denied that the district even had any authority in this matter, claiming that it was DCS or CPS that had decided on this in response to Casas's report.

He claimed that it was my opinion that Casas had told Stephen in the interview that he needed to do his schoolwork and be drugged to make him "feel better" to that end. But that wasn't anyone's opinion; it is a fact attested in Stephen's sworn statement to that effect. And it is a fact that DCS and CPS had nothing to do with this, except that two weeks before DCS had determined that there was no cause for action and had closed the case that CVUSD had prompted them to open. It is a fact that the cop called Casas from the base of my stairs, and that Casas herself insisted that the cop take Stephen away right then.

If the district didn't do this to Stephen, the Roman Catholic Church didn't kill anyone in the Middle Ages, because instead of doing it themselves they had it done by the civil authorities that were required to act on the Church's wishes. No pope in recent memory has claimed anything so absurd about his organization's history as what our superintendent was claiming today. And Stephen and I are supposed to repose some kind of confidence in people who behave like this?

Another fact, which did not come up in this conversation but will come up in court or any other venue if that's how they want to play it, is that back in February when it happened, nobody in the district thought that Stephen being up on the roof and threatening to jump when Dykstra arrived to teach him - so that she went away empty-handed - merited a 5150 investigation, much less a certification. Casas suddenly got interested in this incident a whole month later, ancient history in 5150 terms, when she came to talk about how Stephen needed to do his schoolwork and that the "drugs will help him."

Not "would," but "will."

They already had it all arranged that this 5150 would be certified and lead to Stephen being drugged according to their wishes. Being imminently suicidal when the teacher arrived to teach him in February so that she had to leave without doing so didn't call for a 5150, but wanting him drugged a month later because they figured this would get him to do his schoolwork suddenly caused this old incident to justify a 5150!

Since Superintendent Heatley had nothing but such shuck and jive for us today, we could not yet ask him to do anything for us, since he would not give us the security that must accompany any business we may do. He flatly refused to give us the assurance we need that they won't do him more harm like this. It was especially annoying to see the triumphant little smirk with which he denied any responsibility as he tried to blame it all on the cops and DCS, while asserting all the while that they absolutely would certify another 5150 against Stephen if they felt it was warranted - putting him in the same deceitful and ruthless hands to traumatize him again at their arbitrary pleasure.

I explained to Heatley that I had already trusted the school district and by doing so had brought upon him the most traumatic event of his life at their hands. If I trust them again, and he is betrayed again, how can I lift up my face to him in future?

With that, and being proved wrong on the law and the facts, he did stop smirking at last and realized that he would do well to acquaint himself with the actual events. He said that after reviewing their files and talking to some people, including the captain at the Sheriff's station, and getting the police report, he would call me Thursday afternoon and set us another time to talk. A continuance.

Stephen went out of there flashing back to the conversation that led to his being dragged away March 27th. Being terrified to go home, he went elsewhere for the day.

They can do such damage to a kid and, when they see the wreckage, they think of nothing except how they might cover their own butts! And they deserve our trust?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Daily bread

Gayle and I were talking Saturday morning about the value of serving God rather than ourselves or other people. He's a better boss.

Whether it's me or anyone else, it's a true saying, "Hell and destruction are never full, and the eyes of man are never satisfied." When we're pleasing men, we don't just find it impossible to please God. More to the point, there's no pleasing them, just as when we want to please ourselves, there's no pleasing us. Mick had it right: "I can't get no satisfaction. I try, and I try, and I try but I can't get no . . ."

All it takes to please God is truth. He'll certainly want more tomorrow, but he's satisfied with the truth he gets from us today, for today, and tomorrow God will give us the daily bread by which God gets his daily bread from us. I was realizing in that conversation that when Jesus had us pray for our daily bread, he was calling us to be divinized, to receive for ourselves the divine nature. God is content today with just what should happen in us today. He's not grumbling to himself today because he hasn't seen in us yet what he expects next year or even tomorrow. "Give us this day our daily bread" isn't just what we're supposed to say. It's the divine perspective - wanting today's provision only, and wanting to store future provision in heaven where it won't get ripped off, until its day comes.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

News items

Gayle and I have set August 25th to be married in Kevan and Judy's back yard - a function it has served before, so we're upholding tradition as always :) . Santos Ramos, the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Pomona, has agreed to officiate - in fact, he brought it up.

Stephen, Jacob, and I will be moving out of here the end of the month, or in September if we take up the complex's offer to move into a bigger place around the corner. Gayle will be moving out of her room at Oakwood Drive, probably to Judy's for a little while.

Stephen, Diane, and I have a date with the CVUSD superintendent, Edmond Heatley, on Tuesday the 24th to see if we can come to an understanding. I was advised by the school board president, Fred Youngblood, that that is the way to go. Heatley's secretary first made me go through a couple of other administrators, Heather Williams and Nancy Harms. Both had lots of trouble understanding why Stephen might have a valid problem receiving a psychological evaluation from the school district when the last time this exact evaluation was promised it was a ruse designed to carry out an act of base treachery and deceit, one of the most traumatic experiences of Stephen's life. But we eventually arrived at where Youngblood said we had to go in the first place, a date with Heatley.

Stephen is afraid to go there, of course, but with my promise to "never leave his side" and the presence of Diane as a witness to everything, he is willing to go through it. He knows his job is to simply tell the superintendent the truth, and we'll make Heatley either look at it and deal with it - or make it plain that he refuses.

Canyon Ridge Hospital's collection agency has begun trying to collect. I do not intend to accommodate them. If I went against their will and painted their building high gloss purple with orange stripes and then sent them a bill, I don't think they would pay me. I think they would have me arrested for vandalism and sue me for damages, and rightly so. So I will be sending the collection agency the pushback letter from the lawyer that the hospital evidently forgot to share with them.

Other efforts in this connection are moving ahead. The father of the autistic girl roughed up and handcuffed on May 7th plans to file his injury claim shortly, which the district will doubtless reject. Complaints are being made to the nursing board and other agencies about Linda Casas, the school nurse who falsely certified the 5150 against Stephen, which as I understand is a criminal offense, besides being a cruel act of child abuse under color of authority. But as Jesus said to Pilate, the one who sent her has the greater sin. I would let her go in a moment if she repented so far as to give her truthful testimony about the affair, who her handlers were and just what they told her to do.

Humor break!

The Voice of America, on 17 July 2007, reports the following:

"President Bush has signed an order that allows the U.S. government to block the assets of any person or group that threatens the stability of Iraq.

"The order exempts the United States." for the whole story.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

"a city that is compact together" (Psalm 122)

A Song of Ascents, of David

I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the Lord."
Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem,
Jerusalem, that is built as a city that is compact together;
To which the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord
- An ordinance for Israel - to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
For there thrones were set for judgment, the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
"May they prosper who love you. May peace be within your walls, prosperity within your palaces."
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God I will seek your good.

- Psalm 122

One reason we want to be friends of this world is that we like to be part of the pack. It sucks to be expelled from the camp along with the lepers. The men of this world love to shout slogans together and fall in love with lies together, thereby being in. It's been like that ever since they got together at Babel to build a tower to heaven.

The call to follow Jesus is to die to all that, to walk alone with him in the truth and to follow him outside the camp, and so few take that tight and lonely way. There's lots of company and reassurance on the broad and easy way that leads to destruction. This is why many go that way as Jesus said.

But as we see here in Psalm 122, there's all the companionship we crave in the truth; we just don't get to see it until we go there. God doesn't call us to stand in the truth as proud individuals, in which we are always deceived in our self-conceit. In truth that appeals to us because we're hoping that way to be admired by the crowd for our boldness; we're not really walking away from the world's party scene at all.

The city of God is compact together. We're brought into unity with others, but we're not shouting "United We Stand," or "Sieg Heil" because it's the truth from God, not our own unity, in which we stand. Our feet stand only when they're within the gates of Jerusalem, under the word of God issuing from the thrones of judgment that God sets up. That word is the mortal enemy of the unity which we devise for ourselves, as it has been since it scattered them at Babel. When Mary and his brothers got together to take Jesus away, Jesus publicly back-handed them and chose the community of the word of God, the truth, over the unity of his family in the flesh (Mark 3). We need to do likewise.

Mobs love their unity in the world because in them people can lose themselves, but not really. They lose their responsibility to the truth, to be decent human beings when the mob decides otherwise. As particles in the mob we lose our humanity, but we gain the fulfillment of our vilest desires, feeling bold in everyone's praise as we fully indulge our cowardice.

We lose ourselves in the unity of God, too, but differently. We lose our right to walk in darkness so as to indulge our own passions or the multitude around us that resents the demands of the truth.

We find ourselves in the truth, hated and persecuted for it, and not least by our own self-indulgent passions. Standing alone like that, we find ourselves in the company of those doing likewise, and only because we are of that great company. We can never really stand alone, not without the God of truth, and not without our companions in the truth. And then we don't have to shout "United We Stand!" - because it's true.


Thursday, July 05, 2007


Every year the US Independence Day seems to me to call for some comment. I'm a bit late this year.

"Independence" deserves some careful thought. In particular, when we consider in Romans 6 two kinds of freedom - from justice or from wrongdoing - it becomes pretty obvious that "freedom," like "love," is applied to all sorts of things that have nothing in common. We want to be clear, just as when we order a warm steak we want to be sure we're not getting a warm stake - to be burnt at!

Abraham Joshua Heschel put it well, explaining how everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin, as Jesus said:

Is liberty alone, regardless of what we do with it, regardless of good and evil, of kindness and cruelty, the highest good? Is liberty an empty concept, the ability to do what we please? Is not the meaning of liberty contingent upon its compatibility with righteousness? There is no freedom except the freedom bestowed upon us by God; there is no freedom without sanctity.

Professing believers in Jesus Christ must clearly understand this teaching we hear that America gives us liberty, through the blood of those who die in its wars. This is simply a demonic religion of human sacrifice, and as Paul wrote, we're not supposed to have communion with demons and their doctrines. It will always be around - just as long as Satan is the god of this world. But it has NO place in the mouth and heart of anyone who professes to believe in Jesus Christ, whose blood alone gives life and liberty through his resurrection so that his blood lives NOW to give us life and liberty - a liberty that owes nothing to any worldly power, and has no use whatever for the sacrificial blood of men (Micah 6:7).

The independence that this world offers is death - separation from God and others in our conceited self-assertion. That much we should suspect just from the failure of independence to actually do much for those African and Asian nations that have gained it in the last 70 years, although it has been good for the empires that ruled them to be forced to stop overseeing the business of others. And we ought to notice that American independence gave Americans nothing which Canadians didn't get without it - except arrogance, a history of wanton aggression, enslavement, and mass murder of others, and the fear of others, together with brazenness and self-righteousness, that our collective guilty conscience has brought forth.

God in fact does give real independence, an independence having nothing in common with the conceited independence that this world celebrates. While we don't get to say to others in our insolence, "I have no need of you," we are in one vital sense made independent of everyone. We don't have to rob them or suck their blood in various ways. We don't have to invade their countries in order to feed our addiction to petroleum - which addiction is certainly no kind of independence. The independence God gives is a gift and not a thing gained by our fighting for it, which excludes boasting. It comes as we humble ourselves to recognize our dependence on God alone. Jesus spoke of it in this way:

Why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow. They do not toil, nor do they spin, yet I say to you that Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more you, O men of little faith?

Do not be anxious then, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "With what shall we clothe ourselves?" For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Now the way the Gentiles "eagerly seek these things" is to rob other people, to invade them in order to make their petroleum supplies our own, and to lie about it all because telling the truth makes it less likely that we will succeed in these thefts. "You shall not steal" and every other commandment of God yield to the imperative to "eagerly seek these things," along with all genuine faith in Christ who taught us these things, and whose words we are flagrantly blowing off in our manifest contempt for his counsel - even as we may in vain call him "Lord, Lord."

If we are in this way totally enslaved to iniquity and the mind of this world, altogether dependent on its devices, what real independence do we have? What kind of freedom has the blood of American soldiers bought us, except the freedom to rob and murder others - what Paul called being "free from righteousness."

If we are not free from sin, from doing wrong to others and having to lie to ourselves and others about it, what kind of "independence" do we have?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Submission to authorities

Yesterday I looked up the poop on marriage licenses in California and found that, among other places, you can pick one up at the Montclair public library. They're 73 bucks, good for 90 days.

The other thing is that they will do a marriage ceremony for 40 bucks, right there in the library. I woke up this morning meditating on why it feels so crappy to think of avoiding lots of inconvenience and expense by doing it that way.

Pastor Santos touched on submission to authority in church last Sunday, so it's been sort of in my head ever since.

I realized that it really comes down to excluding all sorts of people from this event that ought to be involved and get to celebrate it with us. They have authority to be involved. We need them involved in our business, because it's their business too. Just paying 40 bucks in the library would be resisting all these people in our lives.

Of course they don't have any coercive power. That's why God says to submit to authorities for the Lord's sake, not for the sake of their billy clubs and prison cells. To see what's in our hearts, God sends authorities into our lives that have no teeth, who will do nothing to us if we blow them off. But if we do, we will be punished from heaven, learning to respond only to the threat of force as we exercise our power to ignore those can't threaten us with force - in this way becoming slaves of the force which we worship.

It turns out then that the authority we really are called to resist is illegitimate usurpation resting on violence. We read in Daniel of the Antichrist that he honors no god but the god of forces (Daniel 11:36-38). The only way to resist that is to submit to all legitimate authority, especially when it has no force to send against us. Thus it is written, "Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you."

All effective resistance to usurpation rests on submission. It starts by making sure we're not being usurpers ourselves. The penalty for exalting ourselves against authority is for God to subject us to the humiliation of raw force. You want to know how many divisions he has before you listen? Then God will send you someone to rule over you with divisions, instead of by the powerless truth that you despise.

For this reason, we ought to be looking for reasons to submit to people, thinking about how to serve them and do what they want, instead of trying to find excuses to say no. All authority is instituted by God, as Paul writes in Romans 13, but Romans 13 follows from Romans 12, in particular such words as "give preference to one another in honor," and "rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." This is about being in submission to one another. The rejoicing and weeping may not be fully justified, but often we should not go there, just as the Lord often doesn't go there with us.

This is good news for us. God doesn't think we have to be right in order to go along with us. Aren't you glad you don't have to be right about everything before God and other people listen to you? God gives grace to the humble, not to the right, which is no doubt why Romans 12 says, leading up to Romans 13, "Do not be wise in your own eyes."

When we're not being wise in our own eyes, it looks like good news for us that God listens to the humble rather than to the right. When that sounds like bad news to us, we must think we are the right. We're being wise in our own eyes.

Once we know that we shouldn't always get what we want, we're ready to say that others shouldn't always get what they want. We need to submit to authority for the Lord's sake; as Peter said to the rulers telling him to shut up, "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). If all authority is instituted by God, then no authority can tell us not to obey God - but can we tell them so and pass the laugh test if we ourselves are not really interested in obeying God and everyone else as far as we can?