March 17, 2019

Elisbeth Rooney

Elisbeth Rooney died on January 21st 2019; she was 63 years old.
Liz was a unique person, quite a character. When she first moved to Somerset, at the Beecher House, it is said everyone was afraid of her. When she first came to our fellowship, I could see why. Admittedly, she sometimes rolled in with a scowl on her face, and at times seemed like she really might roll over someone. When Bill wished her Merry Christmas, she gruffly replied, "happy Hanukkah". You know what I mean, many of you may have not thought much more about her but that tough scowl.
But, if you got to know her, as a few people did, you found she was, under that tough exterior, sweet and kind. Margie and Candice can attest to that. She, on several occasions, posted Facebook invitations to her house for coffee, for others needing encouragement. She was intelligent; a few years ago she started her own company, Prairie Dog Marketing for web advertising through "Traffic Exchange". She was witty. Maybe sometimes her wit and humor were a little “colorful”, but at least she was real. She was a believer, and openly confessed her faith in Christ.
You may know that she had a lot of health problems in the past few years, heart failure, diabetes, and chronic debilitating pain. She had cancer and chemotherapy back in 2012. So, you can begin to see, along with being confined to a wheelchair, how she might have a bit of an attitude.
What many do not know is how she ended up in that wheelchair. When she was 28, about 1983, she had three children and an abusive husband. One day the husband murdered her three children, in front of her, then pushed Liz down the stairs*. She was left with 3 dead children and a broken neck, from which she was unable to walk, and left with life-long pain. For 35 years she lived with that pain, went through depression at times, and at times was suicidal. She was stalked by that deranged husband for a number of years. And yes, maybe she developed an attitude. But, she did carry on, kept faith, and made many friends. She’s lived in Tennessee, California, Wisconsin, and Kentucky, that I know of. I've been in touch with 3 of those friends from California (she lived in Sacramento for some time). They had nothing but love and respect for Liz. When I talked to her friend Meegan, I recognized a true friendship, accomplished because Meegan would not stop at the tough exterior, but persisted, invited her to her church, and from there became a dear friend, enough so that we both shared a few tears just at the beauty of such a tortured life being able to have friendship and love.
Well, Liz died alone, and left no family. But, she died in Christ, and left many good friends. I had to get to know Liz by her Facebook page, Linkedin, Twitter, and her friends - after her death. We are now friends, but later than I would have liked. I went to her gravesite on Monday. She is buried in Science Hill Cemetery, in the far back, in the indigent section. Her life deserved more, but she does have so much more, now. I said a prayer over her grave, something like this: “God, thank you for taking Elisbeth to yourself. Some of us have been quick to judgement of her, and have neglected her. Thank your for picking up the slack for us. Keep her soul in eternal peace; maybe the first complete peace her soul has known. Help us to do better.
Her name was Elisbeth Rooney -E-l-i-s-b-e-t-h- I want you to know that to say this:
Every person has a name, God knows their name; try to learn names.
And every person has a story, many of incredible pain, as Liz, but many of lesser pain and more joy. Either way every person is worth knowing, and every story is worth hearing. And never let the appearance or the attitude of a person prevent you from hearing them and loving them. God loves them, and HE knows their name.

Downtown Fellowship 3-13-19

December 29, 2016

Gender Revolution?

GENDER REVOLUTION?

I've subscribed to National Geographic for years, but cancelled it today. On many occasions I have disagreed with them on some issues, scientifically and culturally, but still valued it enough to continue. A special issue "Gender Revolution" just arrived, and it covers all the different "variations" on gender (eg. a person who is "tri-gender"). A television special is to follow. Our culture has attempted to overrule our biology, and NG has been happy to advance this evolution (it is NOT a revolution). Their thesis is not science, as they purport, but is the very definition of unnatural. It is the agenda of humanism.
There are biologic facts about humans that define two genders. Simply stated, and ignored in our culture: only females can reproduce, and they can do so only by males. Yes, we have artificial means of reproduction, but they do not change the natural requirement for a zygote derived from a female and a male. Neither can surgery change gender, though egotistical surgeons sell this lie. Do you really think the intricacies of human anatomy can be so drastically altered by surgery as to duplicate the natural? They cannot.
If each person, and by extension, culture, is to define - or redefine - gender identity and gender roles, then there is no end in sight to our madness. If NG accomplishes anything useful with this issue, it is to demonstrate the unending variations once the door is opened. There are surely people who have psychological variance from the natural; they are important, their dilemma can be real and even painful, but they do not change biology. The easy course is to redefine gender to meet our desires or world view, rather than deal with the very complicated issues. Biologists know that altering biologic systems can be disastrous, even if the effect takes years to realize. In all species, there is a pattern for reproduction and all students of biology know reproduction is part of the definition of living things. But, ironically, the only option not available in these discussions is that of maintaining the biologic imperative, because there can be no absolutes in the humanistic/atheistic view.
If you think this is only a magazine and maybe harmless, remember that our children, in our schools and media, have already been influenced by these ideas in other areas of sexuality. If we are biologic machines without meaning or purpose, the humanistic agenda is right, and literally “anything goes”. There is an alternate world view, and if we are designed with a purpose, our choices do matter.

August 01, 2015

George Harrison - a life that keeps giving

George Harrison 8-1-15 by Alvin Perkins

A few weeks ago I woke with George Harrison on my mind. He died in 1952, when I was 1, so we didn’t really know each other well. But, what little I do know of him, from word-of-mouth and from his family legacy, makes me proud that he was my grandfather. I knew I needed to share a little about him today; he has affected all of us. Whether you carry his DNA, or you have been grafted into the family, you can’t escape his influence. This year is the 120th anniversary of his life.
George was born in 1895; he died when only 57 years old. He was known to be intelligent and completely devoted to God. He was a hard worker, which was the only kind of work here in those days, hard work. He apparently worked all his life in the coal mines. In the late 1930’s, when work was non-existent due to the depression, he did get a soft job. The WPA built a small library at Meadow Creek and he was the librarian. My mom told of going there with him as a little girl; both she and he were fascinated with books and education. This affected her all her life; she was an avid reader and pursued further education while raising our family. In turn, her influence (and Grandpa George’s) affected some of us with a love of books, learning, and the Bible.
He was known to be very knowledgeable on the Bible. He was apparently a gifted teacher, as well. We can see this influence in Eugene, Harvey, Carl, and Jimmy, and others. Several years before he died, he suffered a stroke, and was left with paralysis on one side. You can imagine the difficulty to go on, but go on he did. He continued to work in the mines, and he was at every church service. Of course, they pretty much had to walk everywhere, but he did so, basically dragging his bad leg along with him. Even when it was raining and muddy on the dirt roads of Jacks Fork, he limped along, devoted to his family and his God. George was a Methodist, and Lillie a Baptist. He was welcomed to teach Sunday School at Jacks Fork Baptist Church, but could not be a member without their baptism. It seems this troubled him (or Lillie) little. He possibly understood better than most, what the words of Micah mean, to “walk humbly with your God.”
My dad knew George well and his love of God and his righteousness were noticed. When a young married man, my dad went to church with my mom (the daughters, especially, carried on the faith), but was not a believer. He came under conviction that he needed to come to the Lord, and struggled greatly, refusing to give in. God was pursuing him. One day that stopped. It wasn’t a good thing, though, when he stopped feeling the call of God, and felt he had no hope, having missed the opportunity. My dad then began pursuing God. It seemed hopeless; In his agony he would plead with God, and try to pray, but nothing. He was miserable. One day in 1954 when he was trying to pray, he suddenly and clearly saw the face of George Harrison (dead for 2 years), who was just smiling at him, didn’t say anything. In that moment, my dad yielded to God, and felt the wave of forgiveness and peace that many of us know. He was saved, and the vision of George brought him to the right place to receive Jesus.
I know our world’s great wisdom and progress make God seem irrelevant or non-existent. In our day, when, more and more, people find all hope and purpose in humans, what we can do, and how we can make ourselves happy, George Harrison will continue to be a witness in your heart and soul. We have become very intelligent, maybe, but he was very wise. His simple faith is still the right way, and I pray we all will find it. The simple truth is still the truth.

July 04, 2015

Two Flags

Two Flags … won’t be flying at my house today, July 4th, Independence Day in America.

Neither the Confederate flag nor the American flag will fly at my house today. The Confederate flag has useful good meaning to some people, but it is so offensive to many Americans that it should not be used, and I never do. The American flag is a proud symbol, I display it every year, but as a small protest against our government I just feel I shouldn’t display it this year. Actually, the symbolisms of the two have come to tension recently.
I am proud to be southern born. Southerners have values and a culture that make us proud. We drink hyper-sweet iced tea and we have found that if you add enough sugar, rhubarb (otherwise unpalatable) can be made into a tasty pie. Well sugar and butter can make many things right. But, there is that ugly chapter of slavery, and the many decades of racism that can never be made right. The persistence of the Confederate battle flag is emblematic of the persistence of resentment in many southerners over the war between the States (Civil War). This was not a war to end slavery, but to abrogate states’ rights, in this case to secede. States joined the Union willingly; they should have been allowed to leave the union. The failure to allow this, and to pursue force, was the beginning of the loss of States’ rights, which is fundamental in the Constitution. We continue to live with the consequences today: a federal government larger and more powerful than intended or allowed by the constitution.
In the course of the War, slaves were set free, and I am glad for that. Slavery was unjust and a tragedy, it had to go, but it was already on its way out, and it could have been defeated in other ways. I wonder if some of where we are today might be different – disproportionately more people of African descent in poverty and incarcerated, for example – if peaceful means would have been pursued. The end does not justify the means, which was an unconstitutional exercise of power by the President and the federal government. Would that there had been a Martin Luther King type to lead the country at the time. Many Southerners are passionate about States’ rights, and the scars of the unjust war haven’t healed as of this day. None of that makes violence or racism right. I do think it has a lot to do with why the flag has persisted, as a symbol of defiance, not against abolition, but against the infamous war and the extreme punishment of southern states after the war. However, please take down that flag. You have a right to fly it, but if you love people, you will respect the offense it has become, and how it empowers racists.
States’ rights and constitutional government were further degraded recently when the Supreme Court struck down decisions and actions by several states over the issue of same-sex marriage. I won’t even argue their reasoning on the topic – and obviously they and the country were pretty evenly split on that – but marriage, which is a cultural institution, not a constitutional one, is rightly left to the states whether and how it should be regulated. The day before, they admittedly ignored plain language in a written law (ACA) and presumed the intentions of Congress to uphold the law. Many actions by the Court have been characterized as “activist”, going beyond their constitutional role. This continues to degrade democracy and the Constitution. Then we have the autocratic divisive Presidency, which could do so much to heal racism and political divisions, but does the opposite. Our congress is no better. The ongoing failure to cooperate in the best interest of the country is despicable. This is caused by career politicians who are more interested in re-election than in justice. None of the above would be acceptable to our founders, and shouldn’t be acceptable to us. Unfortunately, this is may be beyond recovery. Our vast entitlements, which reach almost everyone, assure that we will continue on the road to socialism. Our system is dysfunctional and we must seek the collective will to return to constitutional government and seek needed reforms. I am just not very proud of our government right now, so no flag this year. No amount of sugar or butter will help.

July 01, 2015

Marriage, Redefined

Marriage- it’s just a word, I suppose. The Supreme Court ruling that states must recognize same-sex marriage redefined the word, in order to apply the Constitution. It was a stunning moment, really, centuries of history and cultural norms seemingly overturned by the stroke of a pen. Many celebrated and many grieved, but the word and the institution had already moved very far from the ideal we thought we practiced. The fifty percent failure (divorce) rate, re-marriages, cohabitation, and various sexual freedoms had already changed the meaning of the word for the culture at large. For a minority, it remained a traditional, meaningful, and even sacred institution. In the aftermath, we consider what the effects will be, beyond the obvious of gratifying half the country. Celebrations continued - even the President giddily lit up the White House - but the grief is destined to continue for a long time.

Traditional marriage was not defeated or abolished by this decision (though the Constitution suffered another defeat). The real losers are our children. They will be faced with a confusing array of relationships as never before. More and more, children will be deprived of the traditional family, where they are nurtured and normal roles are modeled. This, of course leads to more confusion about gender roles and relationships. The adults got what they want; the children are left with the ongoing consequences. And of course, there will undoubtedly be more infringement on the rights of Christians and Christian organizations. Religious liberty will be sacrificed. It isn’t a great surprise to Christians; it is part of the ongoing slide to secularism/humanism.

Christians support traditional marriage, and do so from a different perspective. Understand, Christians are those who believe in, have a relationship with, and try to follow God, through Jesus Christ. As such, our world view and our paradigm are at odds with the rest of the world: We believe we must yield to the commands of God, even to the denial of self. Yes, this is foolishness to many; it is foolishness, unless it is true. Of course, our culture has evolved to favor self. The person is in center and first place. All choices are of equal value, with fewer and fewer exceptions. This world view is godless, by definition unavailable to Christians. Christians would do well to recognize that we are in the minority in this country, perhaps one-third, being generous. This is not a Christian nation; we should be happy we can be Christians in this nation. But, over the marriage issue, we are fairly evenly split, so it is not just a Christian issue. When I see such an even split, I understand there is a genuine difference of opinion, and try to respect that. We are not homophobes; we do not fear you. We do fear what our collective morality can do to our society and nation.

We should acknowledge that we Christians (and the we includes me) have failed to model what we preach when it comes to marriage, and also, especially, when it comes to loving one another, which is our second-greatest command. We need to take notice. At this time, we should see the opportunity to be more Christ like in loving others and to specifically take Christian unions more seriously. Pastors and churches should examine their wedding practices. The church needs to be involved from engagement through to the end. If the words “marriage” and “wedding” have become devalued, we can perform Christian unions under some other name in meaningful ways. We can do better, and we will. This is just the most recent moral slide; it is not the end.
Even in the governmental arena, options remain, and are already being exercised. This is the time when states need to get out of the marriage business. It is unnecessary for states to issue marriage licenses and perform weddings. Under the new definition of marriage, individuals can and should be able to declare their relationships with whomever or whatever they wish in secular society. People already marry their pets; their marriages must be recognized in the same way. I believe the government should not interfere with polygamy (and how else would “bisexuals” fulfill their compulsion?). Governments should do away with marriage licensing and do away with special treatment for married individuals. It’s the law; we have to learn to live with it. Let them have the word; it's just a word.

November 22, 2014

The Bible: What we know, what we believe

The nature of the Bible is a cause for divisions among Christians. This is especially so among those who make large assumptions about the Bible without knowledge of its source and nature. It is helpful to consider what we know about the Bible before discussing what we believe about it. Knowledge about the Bible includes its sources, authors, genres, history, and translation. Incredibly, some treat the Bible as a unit, handed down complete, formatted, and in their own language. Such is not the case, of course. In contrast, the Bible is an anthology (compilation) of Hebrew and Christian writings, by various authors, in various literary forms. If we had “the Bible” in original form, it would consist of individual scrolls, letters, and at best booklets, all handwritten, and in Hebrew and Greek. The invention of the printing press, binding (codices), translations, and canonization led to the volume we now see as a unit, the Bible. A common factor in all of these developments is the human component; that might be significant. If we ascribe to the Bible things it is not, we deceive ourselves and diminish its power. Truth will bear away the victory.

There are several problems in validating the Bible. None of the original texts exist. Instead, there are numerous copies, usually partial, which reveal variations. We cannot be certain of the author in many cases, although scholarship is able to make reasonable confirmations. For example, tradition has Moses as the author of Genesis, but there is considerable suggestion of more than one author, and the earliest parts very likely come from oral traditions, including older traditions known from outside Israel. Clearly, humans wrote the Bible, translated the books, and decided what writings would be included in the Bible. The notorious Apocryphal books, for example were at first included with the King James Version, later removed, and remain in Catholic Bibles. Translation is less than perfect, particularly Hebrew to English. There are not equivalent words or expressions in many cases. At the very least, choices are made about how a text is to be translated. The literary forms in scripture are also important, among those recognized: history (and traditions), law, prophecy, gospel accounts, and letters. Each has its own characteristics and significance. These things are knowledge, therefore can be affirmed (or challenged) by anyone, believer or not.

We transition from knowledge to belief, sometimes imperceptibly. Among Christians, there is widespread belief that the scripture is inspired and that it is authoritative. These are beliefs, not knowledge, but that does not mean they are untrue. In fact, these beliefs might be considered foundational for Christians. These concepts come from many years of scholarship, tradition, and reasoning. They are affirmed spiritually. Of course, not everyone can accept that form of affirmation; not everyone can see or experience spiritually. Furthermore, inspiration is seen by some to be all-inclusive and absolute, by others to be more general. Other beliefs proceed from and are added to these foundational beliefs. They begin to diverge, and result in a range of practices and doctrines. Some of our beliefs about the Bible are more defensible than others.

If we begin with some common ground, we may be able to improve unity without sacrificing truth. We might agree that God is revealed and Christ promised in the Old Testament. God is described as creator. His nature as all-powerful, eternal, and just is also revealed. And then, Christ is revealed in New Testament writings and he is shown to be God come down to man. Therewith, the gospel is introduced, which is God’s plan for those who accept him. Understanding the nature of scripture is not necessary to accepting the gospel. God’s grace is discoverable in very simple terms, even to the very simple.

Despite the humanity involved in scripture, we trust and treasure scripture with reason: Jesus quoted extensively from the Old Testament and he affirmed the written law. In a sense, Jesus himself canonized most of the Old Testament. The gospels of the New Testament provide a strong apologetic for his messiahship; an unbroken chain of believers testifies to this; and (most importantly) the Holy Spirit continues to confirm him. From this line of reasoning you can see that, for Christians, all centers in Jesus Christ. If the Holy Spirit did not confirm him in the present, all the other suppositions and scriptures themselves would be very interesting, but suspect. This would be so because the claims of scripture itself could not be validated by experience. Bringing people into relationship with Jesus Christ is the critical point. The follower of Christ will experience the word of God from scripture because the Holy Spirit reveals those words, in real time. The believer will find the Bible authoritative for holy living, also revealed by the Spirit.

Others will make additional claims on the Bible, including opinions about infallibility, inerrancy, whether it is the “complete” word of God, and what inspiration means. There are difficulties in all these terms. I will leave those arguments to others, because they are not productive for the kingdom of God. The Bible works.

Alvin Perkins, Somerset, KY ©2014

March 23, 2014

A Wedding in Haiti

Well, our most recent trip to Haiti was just amazing. Wow God! Maybe the greatest blessing was my new friend Roni. We met in the van on our way over the mountains. We sat together. He speaks only kreyol and I was studying some kreyol words, he was reading with me, trying to learn the English. We practiced for some time and bonded just from this simple attention. When we arrived I was to learn that he was living with a woman with whom he has a 4 month old baby (and she has 2 additional kids). Yet I saw he is a good man; we began to talk about this. You know, if you have read my previous posts, that I believe in Christian marriage as the proper relationship between man and woman. He does, too, but allowed circumstances to get out of control. As I counseled him on the need to make things right, it seemed his only hesitation was that he could not afford a ring, and that is expected in Haiti. He also could not afford the necessary party for the wedding. We talked about these things; they are not very important, certainly not in the eyes of God. If a couple wait to consummate their love, in marriage, they can also wait for these things. But, here the consummation had already occurred. Too late to worry about the details, just a need to honor God. We had a few conversations and quickly became good friends. With additional encouragement from the rest of the group, he decided, she agreed, and we had a wedding! Wow, indeed. Our whole group, and the whole community were so very happy. And we did party! (The group put together money for the party.) Oh, and he asked me to be his best man. There could have been no greater honor.