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  • karen horst cobb: September 2006

    Friday, September 15, 2006

    Meditation: The Serpent and The Dove

    I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But, beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. 10: 16 &17.

    The little dove’s nest is snuggled securely in the corner of the porch posts. Eggs were laid and hatched, babies were well cared for and little doves learned to fly. At the same time the grass snake stealthily traveled in and out of the budding lavender, fragrant sage and dense woody thyme. All the visitors who spent a leisurely afternoon on the porch were pleased to see the now empty nest and hear the story of how the babies took their first flights. Only a few were as eager to hear how the serpent sometimes climbs up the side of the porch and around the benches. It was late in the summer when the snake shed her skin and neatly draped it over the now empty nest of the dove. The afternoon rain blessed them both, the wisdom of the snake and the innocence of the dove.

    Like the disciples Jesus sent out, we are empowered to bring peace and healing to people weighted down by laws and rules and religious dogma. The serpent and the dove represent all that we need. The snake in Genesis before “the fall” was the wisest of all the creatures. Throughout history and in every culture snakes are used to convey spiritual attributes. They are associated with wisdom, eternity, healing, mystery, magical (unknown) power and feared by many as a form of holiness.

    The serpent is prominent in today’s symbol for medicine. Their healing powers have been used to treat illnesses and even are utilized in some modern drugs. In Babylon the serpents was worshiped. In Indian tradition we often see the serpent as a sign of immortality in the act of swallowing itself which creates a circle. The continual shedding of its skin represent regeneration and renewal. Mankind has always been fascinated by the serpent.

    The dove is widely associated with peace, safety, sustainability and blessing. It was the dove which provided Noah with a sign that it was safe to leave the ark. The spirit of God “like a dove” descended upon Jesus at his baptism. The dove is gentle and soft. The sounds the dove makes are soothing and bring a sense of comfort. It represents purity, vulnerability, simplicity and innocence. It is unusual in its sleek beauty.

    Some Bible commentators interpret this verse as being a contrast between good and evil but it seems more likely that Jesus was using nature as he often did to explain principles and attributes. Jesus would not be telling the disciples of his day nor us, his modern day disciples, to emulate Satan or evil or to study and learn from it . He is instead teaching us to embrace all the characteristics demonstrated in his creation as we are brought before governors, kings, church counsels and synagogues. Just as he explained that we can consider the lilies of the fields and be assured we already have what we need, we are to learn from the serpent and the dove.

    Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Be complete in wisdom and innocence. Walk in the balance demonstrated in nature between reason and faith. Hide in the tall grasses at times, sun your self on the warm stone, be renewed and leave behind that which is dead. Like the dove take flight when needed for safety or for a clearer view. Sing your soothing songs of peace and innocence, teach your young ones to fly. You have all that you need to follow Jesus and proclaim his compassion for the world. Those who use fear to retain power and load people down with laws will never embrace the message of love and grace. Because of that, many have been delivered up before Governors, Kings, and Counsels. The serpent and the dove strengthen and encourage us to use our earthy knowledge and spiritual wisdom.

    Prayer: Thank your for the timeless lessons of the serpent and the dove and all of earth’s creatures. Give us the courage to be wise as a serpent and the to be as gentle as a dove. Thank you for the promise that we already have all that we need when we stand before Governors, Politicians, and religious leaders as we proclaim you message to love our enemies as well as our friends.

    Action: Meditate on the attributes of the serpent and the dove: wisdom, eternity, healing, mystery, power, holiness, renewal, regeneration, peace, safety, innocence, vulnerability, simplicity and purity. .. Decide today to speak up when you hear someone who professes to be a follower of Jesus advocate violence and war. Do not to be afraid of standing before Governors and religious leaders.

    Friday, September 08, 2006

    Meditation: Running the Race and Staying the Course

    We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. Hebrews 12:1&2

    Racing is a national past time. We race in triathlons, we race against the clock. We race around finishing errands. We participate in the “rat race” and as we get closer to November we are well aware of political races. As followers of Jesus we have made a choice about which race we are running. Jesus’ words and example of love are at the beginning, sustain us throughout, and greet us at the end of the race of love.

    Powerful people around the world try to ensnare the public to gain or retain power. The threat of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, both offensive and defensive, seeks to hold citizens of all nations hostage to fear. Each day children, the elderly and powerless citizens are being destroyed by advanced weapons technology. We can not be a true follower of Jesus and remain silent witnesses of these atrocities.

    Most weapons technologies are developed in the US with the monetary, educational, and political support of Christian citizens. They are then bought and sold to enslave us all. As followers of Jesus it is essential we keep our eyes on the author and finisher as we renounce the arms race and stay the course on the race of love for humanity .

    This is at the core of political debate and worldly races of all types. We transcend distracting issues by reminding the world through words and deeds of the transforming power of love. Rather than thinking of sins as behaviors which other people do it is good to remember the list of the seven deadly sins and look within. It is sin which entraps us and causes us to lose sight of love.

    The scriptures teach that with knowledge comes understanding and with understanding comes wisdom. Wisdom brings peace to all areas of our influence; family, community, nation, world and even informs decisions which impact our universe. By following Jesus’ teachings and example Pride is traded for Humility, Greed is traded for Generosity, Lust is traded for Self-control, Envy is traded for Love, Gluttony is traded for the Faith to be Temperate, Wrath is traded for Kindness, Sloth is traded for Zeal.

    With our eyes fixed on Jesus we are laser clear. We have no right or desire to cast the first judgmental stone at another or lash out in fear. The anniversary of September 11 during this election year will not be used to build compassion for the suffering but will be used to activate the sins which "so easily beset us. " We will be encouraged to fear and to respond with anger, hatred and violence. Our support is coveted to “stay the course”. The question we must again explore is which race are we running?

    As followers of Jesus we are surrounded and encouraged by the spirit of those who have died professing God’s love, grace and forgiveness. It is now our turn to stand for the perfect love which casts out fear.

    Prayer: Thank you for the witness of the great cloud of peace martyrs who stand as witnesses along the path as we run the good race. Let us not become entrapped in a net of destructive attitudes and behaviors. May we resist fear which is at the core of all sin and embrace love which gives courage. Amen

    Ask yourself- What role do I play in the development, manufacture, purchase or use of deadly weapons. (all of us are minimally tied to arms production simply by paying taxes.)

    Read accounts this week of peace maryters and remember September 11 of 1906
    http://www.swarajpeeth.org/events/051109/index.php and Gandhi's witness to non-violence

    Sunday, September 03, 2006

    Article: It's the Pits...

    Plutonium pit production had ceased when the facility at Rocky Flats, CO closed in 1989. Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL), operated by the University of California, Bechtel, BWX Technologies, The Washington Group International, and the Federal government wants to change that. On April 22, 2003 LANL announced it’s interest in the pit production program and recently is actively seeking to commence. Plutonium “pits” are essentially the plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads. Currently, the stated goal (according to reference documents available though Nuclear watch New Mexico )is to increase the number of new pits by 80 each year. At the same time, the pit production program will be extended for an additional 25 years.

    This will dramatically increase the amount of nuclear waste to be transported on our highways and stored on site as well as in nuclear waste facilities around the country. The citizens of New Mexico are speaking out against the plan in hearings as they try to influence the vote in the New Mexico House and Senate. Like many other issues which greatly impact our lives this story is not being reported on the nightly news. Perhaps if it were many would still not speak out against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

    I sought to understand the motivations behind this plan and find a way to explain how good citizens (many of them professed followers of Jesus) are ambivalent on the topic of nuclear weapons. How can citizens remain silent while nuclear weapons are developed with our tax dollars? These weapons indiscriminately destroy children and the aged and contaminate the environment for generations. On a quest for the answer to this question I traveled up the nuclear mountain, known as Los Alamos, to see what I could see.

    The expansive late summer sky seemed to swallow me up the steep ascent. My destination was not far from the summit and promised illumination and insight. The entrance to the sanctuary was quiet this Thursday afternoon. I timidly pulled open the massive doors and stepped inside. Quiet reverence, dim lighting and the soft gentle voice of a women welcomed me. Is this your first visit?” I admitted, “it is.”

    Old men stood close together and spoke in low reverent tones as they remembered sacred moments and young students stood in wonderment. Others were reading text with thoughtful expressions and now and then I saw an eye glisten with a held back tear.

    This was my first visit to the Bradbury Science Museum of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, a dark shiny edifice honoring the ultimate god of America; the Atomic Bomb. I saw “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” the first nuclear bombs. Signs flashed above theater doors with a “countdown” until the next praise and worship to the powers of destruction “The Lab Today”. The “Stockpile Stewardship Program“ presentation demonstrates how our nation’s physicist/priests care for our nuclear weapons. A well modulated voice explains each weapon in clinical detail.

    The shiny capsule which holds the plutonium core is given a special place of honor; an ark of a dark covenant of destruction. These weapons have killed children, mothers, fathers and grandparents. I felt I was in the presence of worshipers of fear, death and destruction.

    I asked the greeter where the Nuclear Disarmament Museum is located. She didn’t know. I stood stunned next to a shiny bomb mounted in a large Lucite box. She came to me suggesting that the “Public Forum” in the back might have “something on my topic“. (Perhaps the word “disarmament” is forbidden.) A tiny dark cubical and some photos of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were pasted together by members of the public who demanded a voice. One was of a mass grave with a sea of skulls (too many to count). It was far beyond any found in Iraq. The text explained that the war was essentially over before the US dropped the bomb. It was immoral and unnecessary! I saw the suffering, the wounded, the orphaned, the homeless, the traumatized. There was a nursing mother with radiation sores seared into her breasts. Her eyes pleaded for her baby’s future. I read again on the pamphlet given to me that the goal of LANL is to “reduce the global threat of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.” What irony!

    Two veterans of WWII lingered along the wall chronicling the history of the Manhattan project. They seemed to stand a little taller, their voices a little stronger, as they remembered Groves and Oppenheimer and the others. It was a great war to remember, a war which continues to give meaning to some people’s lives.

    I’ve heard of people who practice demonic crafts in secret and worship death, destruction and suffering. But, I came face to face with the enemy of compassion and understanding who openly honors destruction. The atomic city set on a hill continues to strive for equality with God. Bombs of every size and shape have been designed and “improved” here, even the thousands of unexploded bomblets which are littering Lebanon and Iraq. There is no pornography greater than the image of the little Lebanese boy who reports in agony that his “insides fell out” so he “held them and started screaming.” Let this be the Satanic power and pornography we stand against. Perhaps this is “why they hate us.”

    The descent from the mountain was slow. There was thunder and lightening . The Father Son and Holy Ghost was not the power at the Trinity test site. Like many cars in New Mexico the message on the bumper of the car in front of me “It Started Here-Let’s End it Here”.

    According to information provided by the Los Alamos Peace Project , the US currently has 23,000 nuclear pits which have been proven to be reliable for the next 20 years. Scientists suspect expanded viability for 90 years or more (the upward limits are unknown.) The Nuclear nonproliferation treaty ratified by the US in 1970 mandates that all the nuclear arsenals begin to be dismantled. This current production plan violates the intent of the treaty. It is unclear what the environmental impact will be to the citizens of New Mexico and the rest of the nation.

    The US is seeking to go to war against a country which weapon’s experts conservatively estimate is 10 years away from even having one nuclear weapon. The hypocrisy of the US increasing an already overflowing stockpile of nuclear weapons will only substantiate the fears of other nations and increase their desire to follow our example on the nuclear path to national offense and defense.

    A total of $6.6 billion (tax payers dollars) is allocated for continued nuclear weapons development in 2006. This would go along way toward a Manhattan style project for renewable and sustainable technologies as many have suggested. We still have a representative government. Make your voice heard before it is too late to stop the increased plutonium pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratories. It started here let’s end it here.

    Petition: http://www.lasg.org/DisarmForm/DisarmamentPetitionForm3.htm

    Karen Horst Cobb lives in rural New Mexico and is a regular contributor to Common Dreams. Her article No Longer a Christian Oct. 24, 2004 is still circulating with over 10,000 reader responses to date. Her articles remind the world of the ethics and values of the sermon on the mount and proclaim that there is no GI-Joe Jesus. She also writes a weekly column for Every Church a Peace Church http://ecapc.org/ Contact Karen at cairnhcobb@msn.com and find her other articles and speeches at http://karenhcobb.blogspot.com/

    Friday, September 01, 2006

    Meditation: Worthy of Wages

    The laborer is worthy of his wages. Luke 10:7

    The “company town” of Pullman, Illinois owned the lives of their workers. The lowest paid workers were given the simplest shelter, the craftsman had better housing, and the executives and potential customers were provided lavish Victorian homes. The company owned the housing, set their rent, the price of groceries, and even owned the bank. In a depressed economy in 1893 Pullman decreased the workers wages and laid off many while keeping the rent and other expenses the same. Out of desperation and in solidarity the workers demanded fair wages. The members of the United Railway Union all across the nation stood with them.

    Executives continued to live in luxury while the workers were facing homelessness, hunger, crime and disease but President Grover Cleveland deployed 12,000 troops to break the strike. US marshals fired on protesters and two were killed. The union leader was imprisoned and the workers were forced to sign a contract promising they would never strike again. Many other industrial unions were disbanded and destroyed until the great depression when workers again tried to organize.

    Grover Cleveland sought the growing labor vote in 1894 and created Labor Day. Several years later Samuel Gompers, the head of the American Federation of Labor said it is a day in which “toilers look forward“, when their “rights and their wrongs will be discussed“, when they can “lay down their tools for a day“, and “touch shoulders as they march” with their co-laborers.

    Today, for the lowest paid workers, Labor Day only means more people to serve in the restaurants, at the check out counters, hotels, resorts and places of amusement. With the advancement of the “free market” the workers have often been judged to be selfish, lazy, wasteful, greedy and unwise. Even many Christians today praise company executives for being “good managers” as they get more work out of fewer people, hire desperate people willing to work for lower wages and who are willing to live in crowded and/or substandard housing.

    Latest figures show that many executives make as much as 500 times that of their workers. As in the days of the Pullman executives, those with the most money have the most influence over government and media. This unfair advantage results in the repealing of hard won labor laws designed to protect workers and restricts worker’s rights to organize.

    The contracts awarded to areas hard hit by Katrina last year offer an excellent example of power and worker abuse. The AshBritt company gained a $500 million contract to remove debris. This amounted to $23 a cubic yard. AshBritt sub-contracted the job to a company who bid it for $9 per cubic yard and they hired a company who charged $8. This company sub-contracted to a company who charged $7, who then hired a company who charged $3. Desperate workers did the hard work for almost nothing. When these workers are not paid for their work they have no recourse because they have no resources. In many cases they can be deported or imprisoned.

    The Bible has a lot to say about work and the paying of wages. Jesus always stood with those who had no power and took to task those who did. In the United States, where the citizens elect people to make decisions in Washington, we each have a responsibility to stand with and vote for the interests of workers who are oppressed and taken advantage of. A laborer is still worthy of his wages.

    Prayer: Today I pray for those who work hard and are cheated out of fair wages by those who seek outrageous wealth and power. Help me to have the courage to stand with those who are oppressed so that they too can live in dignity. Thank you that we live in a nation with a representative government where we can influence the laws which protect the least of these among us.

    Action: Learn more about what is happing in the world of work at Corporate Watch http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?list=type&type=166 Commit yourself daily to speak up against worker abuse when you encounter it. Refuse to let your own frustration, while waiting in line or being served, cause you to lash out or speak against low paid employees.