The Dragons

Every year, Forbes publishes a list of the 400 Richest Americans. In 2016, the entry criteria was a one-point-one-billion-dollar fortune. They also published a “self-made” grade, ranging from 1-10, indicating to what extent their wealth was inherited, earned, or simply maintained.

Oprah Winfrey, who grew up in poverty and overcame significant obstacles (including abuse) rates a 10 on the self-made scale. (Way to go, Oprah! Why can’t everyone be like you?!?)

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of facebook among other things, rates an 8, which is described as self-made who came from a middle or upper-middle-class background. (Kudos to you as well!)

Donald Trump gets a 5. (A five on the self-made scale?!?) He is not only self-made but also fact-making up as he goes along.

On June 17, 2016 US Senator Bernie Sanders said, “It is an outrage that in America today the top 1% makes 25 times more than the bottom 99%. That’s 20% of all income going to 1% of the people.”

Those are mind-bending, heart-breaking numbers.

I was told that if I worked hard and played by the rules, I would achieve the dream-come-true. And that was true for me. But when I look around, it seems everyone is working harder and most of them are playing by the rules, so where is the dream-come-true for them?

There is no such thing as a free lunch, but at Olathe North High School, 40% of kids qualify for free or reduced lunch. The average in Kansas is 43% on free or reduced lunch. Meanwhile, at Olathe Northwest, the percentage is 16%. Thus, Olathe Northwest is not average. For a family of 4 to qualify, your annual income must be below $44,000.

Why do we force people into poverty before we help them? Wouldn’t it be better if we prevented poverty instead of just maintaining it? Perhaps the battle against poverty could be won by a fair education for everyone, young and old and rich and poor. It seems we are fighting the wrong battle, making the investment too late in a person’s life.

This makes me think the Forbes 400 who got eight or less on the self-made scale don’t know shit about poverty. The nines are just barely acquainted with it. Did 40% of the 400 grow up on free or reduced lunch? It seems that Oprah is an exception… Why do we hold her up as an example? When really, she is a miracle.

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The Three Temptations

When the serpent comes to Eve and says, “Is it true what God said?” She says, “No. God actually said…” But from there it is all downhill. The serpent has her questioning.

And when she looks at the fruit. It looks yummy! And she has something to gain: the knowledge of good and evil! And the serpent was right. That fruit tasted good, like a good-fruit should. And although she did not get (and we have neither inherited nor attained) a functional, practical knowledge of Good and Evil, she got something else (a bonus) in the bargain: the knowledge that she is naked, vulnerable. At that moment, she probably realized she was a creature, human, made of mud, that she would die. For Nelson, that happened when he was about four.

When Moses sees the burning bush that is not consumed by fire, which is likely just a wick for an oil well, which has been struck by lightning; he takes off his sandals, kneels, and prays. He asks, God a hypothetical question, “If I were asked what your name is, what should I say?” And God says, “I AM THAT-WHICH I AM.” [Exodus 3:14]

I translate it “Never-you-mind-what-I-am!”
And “I yam what I yam!” (The Popeye description.)
And “I am foundational being.”

But nothing sticks.

I spell it YHWH, and my mind is boggled;
I pronounce it as a voiced inhalation (YAH…)
and exhalation (WAY),
and I am thunderstruck.

If Moses had then asked, “Can you create a rock so big that you can’t lift it?” or “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” the Israelites would still be in Egypt. God would have thought, “Well. This one doesn’t get it.”

In Luke 4, when the Deceiver comes to Jesus in the Desert, after Jesus has fasted for forty-days (which is ancient Hebrew for a really-long-time) and he is hungry, the Deceiver says, “If you are God’s Son, turn this stone into bread.” Jesus says, “Homey don’t play dat.”

And that is enough to convince me
he is the Messiah right-there.

He does not need to be born of a virgin
or to be crucified, dead, and buried
and on the third day raised to Heaven
to sit at the right hand of the Father.

He just needs to know what to say to the Deceiver
when he is hungry, in the desert, and there is no one else around.

And yet, when the United States is presented with a stone and asked whether we will ween ourselves from fossil fuels or turn it into oil, we say “Drill, baby! Drill!” We frack it. And we damn the consequences, our selves, and our children.

As Jesus was tempted to turn stone into bread, Esau was tempted by his twin-brother Jacob into selling his birthright for a bowl of soup. (Genesis says that Esau took his birthright lightly, he disdained it.) Jesus refuses to use his unearthly-power to fulfill his earthly needs. We can be sure that he respects his birthright; he will fulfill his calling; he will do what he was born to do.

Returning to Luke 4, Satan lays out all the kingdoms and riches of the world. He says, “These things are mine. And I give them to whomever I choose. Worship me, and I will put them in your control.” Jesus refuses saying, “Worship YHWH and YHWH only.”

I wonder if there is any truth in what the Deceiver says, but how can there be?

It seems true that the kingdoms and riches and power are the Deceiver’s.

But Jesus teaches us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come.” And Jesus will later tell Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.” [John 18:36]

But this is the bargain that we make in the secular world. A little power over these people and these things is granted to us, but we must still answer to our bosses, to our masters. We wind up being driven by the question, “What is your bidding?” And we are haunted by the thought of our power and position being eroded or taken away. We are in this world, and some of us are of and from this world as well. And all of us are at least some of the time.

Jesus did not put himself in the position of borrowing power from someone or a system. He relied on God, and built his power from the ground (from the stones) up. Thus, he becomes the Chief Cornerstone in the wall between church and state.

If ever a church and state were separate, it was in Jerusalem, c. 0 BC under Roman rule. Yet, “the factions (Pilate, Herod, and the Sanhedrin) soon agreed” [as in James K. Polk by They Might Be Giants] that “this Jesus must die.” [as in Jesus Christ Superstar]

During the run-up to the 2016 election, I was thinking of Trump as Hitler. And I was thinking that some people thought Hillary was the Anti-Christ.

And then I thought, that’s all wrong.

Neither one of them is perfect, far from it. Neither one of them is pure evil. And then I thought, Jesus, when offered the kingdoms of the world, refuses to have anything to do with it. [John 4]

If Jesus didn’t want to be Roman Emperor, he surely would not run for President of the United States. Then I wondered, why? Wouldn’t that be the best way for him to establish heaven on earth?

Then I thought, politics, our idea of government by coercion must be wrong, flawed. It is a system of power, not a system of truth and grace. [Insight brought to me by What’s So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancy]

This does not absolve us from advocating for public policy based on our moral convictions. We cannot abdicate our responsibility to the vulnerable, the immigrant, the voiceless. We cannot wash our hands. But we also must be careful if we find ourselves staking out the moral high ground, because very few of us have been to the Mountain, and none of us can tell Good from Evil.

Thirdly and finally, Jesus is tempted to jump from the top of the temple, to leap from the peak of religious power and defy the Laws of Nature. Why would you do that? To prove that you are the Son of God? Why would you play a losing game to prove a point to someone? If he jumped and flew, he couldn’t be fully-human. He wouldn’t know what it was like to be me. And he couldn’t be the Christ, the Messiah. I would never have any hope of following him.

Well, Caiaphas, the chief priest, will take that leap of faith. He will pass judgement on the Son of God just to prove that it is he (and he alone) at the head of the Jewish religious establishment. And he will fall, and no angel will rescue him. Still, perhaps, Jesus did rescue him. I can’t deny Jesus that right, that ability, that Grace.

The first temptation (turn this stone into bread) is about trusting God (not yourself) from moment to moment. And the second establishes the division between church and state. After all, politics is a graceless system. It is a hopeless cause, doomed to exist only on this side of eternity. The third is about not testing God. God is an axiom. God cannot be proven because God cannot be put to the test (scientific, logical or theological).

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2088: Friends’ Running Base of Kansas City

Nelson lived in the time of Trump the First. Trump built the Mexican Wall, repealed the Affordable Care Act, replaced it with Trump Care, and removed the fetters that were preventing the Incorporations from maximizing their profits.

Universal Basic Income replaced the welfare state; but it just meant everyone had a few dollars to play the lottery and there were no government agencies employing federal workers with attitudes. Congress got to save a lot of money, private industry became fully-automated, and the motor of the Western world spun on to another extreme. [Cut to the Chase by Rush]

Nelson opened the Friends’ Running Base of Kansas City. It was a place where you could get a shower, change clothes, go to the bathroom, and then go to work. Runners and the homeless were his most frequent guests. There was a small kitchen, and you could fix yourself some food. It was self-serve from the pantry. Some people brought their own food and usually left some behind. Nelson spent Friday afternoons clearing out the fridge and freezer.

The Running Base really took off after the Sanctuary Cities united. Times were so hard that people were allowed a fresh start once every seven years. Trump called it Freedom Year, but it was based on the Sabbath Year from Leviticus. That’s how he sold it to the Republicans.

The concept was simple. For a week in early spring, the gates of the Sanctuary Cities would open, and anyone from anywhere could move without papers. People who were in jail for non-violent crimes could leave the city, and try for a fresh start somewhere else.

When you arrived in a city, you checked in with the Settlement Department. You were given an apartment, work clothes, and an account for your Basic Income deposits. It was a little like getting to the end of a race, where there are bagels and bananas and space blankets. The catch was if you got stuck in the Country, you were on your own. Still, some people wanted to live in the Country.

See Cherith Brook.

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College Years

I’m nobody! Who are you? [Emily Dickinson]

I was nobody my Freshman year at KU, just a kid. I was a medium-fish in a huge pond. I was a smart, zany kid from small-town Kansas. That was the way I wanted it: anonymous, no expectations, lots of options. I was exactly where I wanted to be/ On the Road to Nowhere by the Talking Heads.

I lived in Pearson Scholarship Hall at KU. This was a communal living arrangement, a low-cost alternative to a fraternity or dorm for students who were more academically fit for college than economically or socially fit. At the time, there were four women’s and four men’s halls.

The people of the hall did most of the work; like cooking the meals, cleaning the bathrooms, and washing the dishes, pots, and pans. This kept the costs low and it meant you learned a lot about others by the way they did their jobs. The hall was full of eccentric characters, and it was a blast to live there. These four years were so good/ the best.
Most of the men were from small-town Kansas, but there was also a clique of Johnson County upper classmen. I admired them, and I did not share the festering resentment that I could feel from some of my small-town peers. The Johnson County folks had a condescension, an easy-acquaintance with privilege, and the careless avoidance of anything uncomfortable. And I understood the resentment of those who were not privileged, those who had not grown up with house-keepers, those who already knew how to mop the floor. And now that I have come to live in Johnson County, I guard against that mindset, but we do have house-keepers.

In the first week, we voted on the rules for the hall. It was like a Constitutional Convention. For the most part, the rules were adopted unquestioned from the past year. But this question was posed, “Are female guests allowed to visit twenty-four hours per day?” And there was unanimous acclamation. The raucous atmosphere of college men deciding on the loose rules that they would live by was unnerving at first, but quickly embraced by me and the other Freshmen.

With my free time, I played Spades and Ultimate. I was excellent at Spades, though I never was much good at Hearts, and I never had the patience for Bridge. I was great at Ultimate, sometimes called Frisbee-football. I once said that it was a perfect game for me because I had no understanding for the parabolic motion of balls. Reading a disc, however, (figuring out the earliest possible moment you can catch the Frisbee as it comes slicing through the air) came naturally. You had to be fast, but (with no tackling) you didn’t need to be big.
During the summer after my Freshman year, I went to Cheyenne, where my cousin Eric connected me with a job working in a warehouse. He is a softball enthusiast, and they don’t play Ultimate; so I played softball.

I was weak and inexperienced as an outfielder, and I started in right field. I caught very few fly balls. Then, after several days of practice shagging balls with Eric, I got promoted to left field. One of the highlights of my athletic career (burned in my muscle-memory) was running down a line drive. It was hit solid and low, and I reflexively shot off for it. I read it perfectly. Running at full tilt, I put my left hand out. At the final moment, I swear I was a line from my right foot that had just pushed off the ground to my left hand that snagged the ball. The force of the ball in my mitt nearly tore it off, but everything held. The batter was out.

Eric, who originally introduced me to Rush, now expanded my repertoire with music and movies that summer. I remember listening for the first time to Moody Blues, Peter Gabriel, and lots of Talking Heads. I made a bunch of tapes from the CDs in his collection, and I would play them on the twenty-minute drive to and from work. I watched Blade Runner for the first time and the gaps in Monty Python were filled in.

He also made me familiar with the phrase, “That bastard!” I began using it too easily. Over the summer, I saved enough money to buy a Macintosh, which I named Schnoopy.
In college, by the beginning of Sophomore year, I was thrift-store-chic, I was alternative-eccentric-music-savvy. I knew what I liked, I was sure of myself. By Thanksgiving, I fell in love with my future wife, Melanie. I was obsessed with her. I wandered and wondered my way through Philosophy, Business, Mathematics, and English, finally earning a B.S. and a B.A. in the latter two. It took me five years.

But… One of my low points was as a waiter at Pearson. Waiters set the tables family-style, clear the tables, and clean the dining hall. We were cleaning up after dinner, and one of the waiters had not shown up on time. At least, I thought he had not shown up. He was a Native American who had transferred from Haskell Indian Nations University. And I was remarking… “That bastard.” When someone pointed him out, “Who? Henry? He’s here.” And yes, there he was, glowering at me, on the opposite side of the trashcan, scraping food off the serving dishes while I did the same. We were mirror images. Only I didn’t see him. I was blind, busy with resentment and complaining.

I felt horrible. I maybe said, oh, and muttered an I’m sorry. But I couldn’t really fix it. The privilege had slipped out. I was part of the in-crowd, and he was out.

Henry was gone after that semester.

I’m afraid I was a racist. That’s hard to change.

In my Junior year, I was the Social Chair for the hall. This was the year Pearson was in exile, living in a dorm, while the hall was getting remodeled, improved, and made handicap-accessible. Being Social Chair for geeks was fun.

I became Proctor in my first Senior year, and my self-assurance melted away. My joie de vivre took a mortal blow, though it would still be a couple of decades before it was dead. The Proctor is the man “in charge” of the Hall; he assigns the shifts and enforces Housing Policies. I thought that it would be a resume builder. I thought that it would be the best job ever; because I loved Pearson, and I loved the people who lived there, and I thought I could make it even better. But I learned some lessons about myself.

I learned that I did not want to be in middle-management, stuck between the people (my constituents, colleagues, friends) and the Man (KU Housing, the system). I had to enforce the dry campus rules. In the past, some proctors established a beer-tax. The concept was you paid in beer to have beer; but I didn’t go for that. I just turned a blind eye when I could. Still, I caught one of the residents during checkout with an open bottle of liquor. I had to bust two parties because they got so loud that they were spilling into the neighborhood. I had to write people up. And that sucked. And I was a hard-ass about other things. I woke one guy up at 8:00 on a Saturday morning, because he had not properly cleaned the kitchen the night before. He got up and did it, yes; but he was not happy about it.

One Saturday night, as I was drifting off to sleep, as the rest of the hall was nearly empty, there was a roar in the hall that startled me (terrorized me). It sounded like a plane taking off or a wicked tornado siren wailing.

I leapt out of bed, took a deep breath, and opened the door. There/ Staring at me/ Was a vacuum cleaner.

My room was at the end of the hall, and the vacuum was plugged into the outlet way down the hall, near the stairwell. Nice. Well-thought-out-plan. The perpetrator was well-away by the time I reached the door.

I whipped the cord out of the outlet, silencing the vacuum, and wheeled it into my room. Problem solved.

Message received. Resentment brewing.

Some would call it brain-washing, but I say KU opened my mind about homosexuality.

I met a student who was discreetly gay. He was a handsome, athletic man; and he could have dated any of the women for miles around, but he didn’t. He had a boyfriend to whom he was faithful for the two years that I knew him. He was worried about being found out by someone who would just hate him for being gay, who would maybe try to beat him up. He was deeply afraid. This did not square with the “hedonistic, gay lifestyle-choice” with-which I had grown up, what I half-thought, what I believed without knowing. The way I came to know a real-life homosexual did not square with my expectations, my preconceived notions, my stereotypes.

Why be gay if you were so desirable? Why endure the slings and arrows of other people’s judgement, hatred, disgust, and possible violence? Why be faithful if you were just in it for the sex?

I grew to respect this man for his honesty, sense of humor, and integrity. I sympathized with his worry about the perceptions of others. None of the reasons I had been told people were gay would compute. The only thing that made sense was he was born that way. It was not a choice; it was chance, determined.

I was introduced to this question, “When did I decide to be hetro?” And I realized I never did; I just always was. More hetro than homo; that’s me.

I thought I would always live in the hall, even if it took me five years to get through college. But early in my Proctor year, my fourth year, I knew I could not come back.

Until that First Senior summer, I still thought I could be socially-liberal and fiscally conservative. Then, I read Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead, and I thought, “That’ll never work!” As a Sophomore, even at KU, the heart of liberal Kansas, I was an NRA apologist, and I even gave a speech in Communications about stopping gun control legislation, back in 1990. My argument was that the guns used to commit crime were obtained illegally for the most part; so what good is it to outlaw something that is already against the law? Enforce the laws you already have.

Now I see that the law can be leveraged and exploited. I see that some laws are impossible to enforce. I see that a handgun in a bedside table might be used in a fit of rage, or it might be shown to a friend or sibling when no one else is around, or it might be used in “self-defense” when a teenage child comes home unexpectedly from a late-night party. It is better to not even have the tools of the trade in circulation.

In my fifth year, I decided to move into an apartment with a convenient friend from the hall. That’s when I transitioned to married life. My roommate and I (both with our own girlfriends) fought over what food to buy; it was good-natured and fun. I imagined people might mistake us for a gay couple. That summer I got married, and Melanie and I went to grad school. She got a Masters of Civil Engineering, and I got a Masters of Mathematics at the University of Illinois.

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Our Father

YHWH, let my soul rise to meet you
as the day rises to meet the sun.

Prayers for Others

Our Everlasting Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come. Your neighborhood and family come.
Your Will be done, on the earth-here-now as it is in heaven-ever-after.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive our debts (what we owe), our sins (when we have missed the mark), and our trespasses (when we have gone astray or damaged the critical edge) as we forgive our debtors (let go of grudges), those who sin against us (resentments and abuses), and those who step on us (wrongs).
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
And do not put us through the trial (like Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22 or Job), but deliver us, save us, provide for us, and have mercy on us.
For the kingdom, the neighborhood, and family; and the power, the truth, and the grace; and the glory and the cross are Yours, now and forever. Amen.

(Daily Prayer) Remind me that true wealth comes from a sustainable way of life for all.
Grant me peace with who I am and the courage to become more like the Messiah.
Give me the words to protect the worker, widow, and orphan; because I-myself am a working man, I may become an orphan, my children may become orphans, and my wife may become a widow.
Give me a heart that will welcome the immigrant (and those who wander) into your family, because I was once the new-kid in a small-town. [Malachi 3:5]
Help me fit in with my family, eat and drink wisely, lose weight, and become a better runner.

Benediction Now listen and remember this; wherever you are lead by the Spirit, whatever may happen during the storm of Life, in everything you do, and whoever you become, you are God’s child and you are in God’s hands. Go in peace. Serve YHWH.

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Waking Up at Four AM

Spiraling Shape by They Might Be Giants

This could lead to excellence. Or serious injury.
Only one way to know… Go. Go. Go.
Go ahead / Wreck your life / That might be good.
Who can tell what’s wrong or right?
Nobody can.

Nelson frequently thought of these lyrics when he wondered if he was doing something stupid, like leaping from a high place.

Every day for a while now, I wake up at four fifteen for my run. I take a strip of tape, wrap it clockwise around my right pinky toe, and then wrap the rest of the tape around my right fourth toe. This buddies up my pinky toe so that when I run it does not start to roll under my foot. That has happened in the past, and it can hurt. On my left foot, the problem piggy is my fourth toe. Using another piece of tape, I buddy it up with my third toe.

On days when I’m going for a long run, I tear up a band aid, discard the pad, and put the sticky parts on my nipples so they don’t get rubbed. I smear Vaseline on my left thigh where the jock rubs. I start sweating at about mile two, by mile three I am in flow, and by mile six I am soaked through and running in puddles. My shoes are squishing. I run until my IT band aches.

Then / I run a few more miles.

Right now, the stupid thing Nelson was doing was waking up and going for a run. He had been staying in bed until 5:00, but that was just wasting time. For a few days, he woke up as early as 3:45 and would start running by 4:30. This led to some early, long mornings. Wednesday he grossed an extra 2.42 miles in 22:00; Thursday was an extra 3.77 miles in 34:00. For that week he ran a total of over forty-eight miles, which was twenty percent more than he had run in recent history.

The following week he ran more than fifty-two miles. It was Daylight Savings Time (Fall back! Lose an hour!) and that was when he bonked. Fifty-two miles in a week was too far. His legs were tired; he couldn’t run at the paces he should; his will was fraying. An emergency cut-back week was declared. The next week was a mere forty miles. Followed by forty-five and then forty-nine. He felt better during the forty-nine mile week, but the long runs were still coming in below expectations.

Despite all this, the Spring half marathon went well. He ran a 1:34:54. When he adjusted for the hills, it gave him a flat pace of 7:03 per mile. It was enough to give him hope that he could qualify for Boston in the Fall of 2016.

As of May 5, he had not committed to actually running a fall marathon, but Wichita on October 9th was in his sights. It was just a matter of running an interim training to build his base and then starting into the marathon training. If no injuries cropped up, and if he managed to stay in the good graces of his wife and family, then (when it was a little closer) he would register for the race.

Nelson settled on a morning wake-up time of 4:15. This left a little time in the morning for futzing around, writing his so-called novel or taking a longer look at a run, or living in the past. He figured he didn’t need more mileage or the strength work-out to maintain his fitness; what he needed was a distraction. He needed to find some Peace. He needed to get to know himself again.

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Exodus 2: Truth Speaks to Power

I am teaching a Sunday School class with the working title of “Truth speaks to Power.” This week and next, we are examining the confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh.

As much as I would like to be Moses, I feel like someone who has been leveraged, coopted, forced, tricked, slid, eased into the power structure as a helpful cog. I have taken the easy-out. I feel uncomfortable in this position because I see the “violence inherent in the system.” But the bridle is not that uncomfortable; I am useful. I vacillate between feeling like one of Pharaoh’s advisors, one of the powerful members of the elite; or being one of the educated, assimilated Hebrews, perhaps a designer of pyramids.

In class, Anne shared the story of a man who is coming into the law library where she works. This is a public facility at the county courthouse, and he is not causing a problem. He comes in the morning at 8:15, washes up in the bathroom, and then parks at a computer terminal. He leaves promptly at 4:45. He showed up in November, just as the weather turned colder. The staff has discussed this situation, and they have decided to treat him like any other patron. He is welcome to stay for as long as he follows the rules, the Law.

Hearing this, I am reminded of a story from Reluctant Pilgrim by Enuma Okoro. She tells of visiting an assimilated friend (let’s call her Anne, too), who lives comfortably in New York, married to a husband with a mainstream job. Anne is socially active, socially conscious; but she is also in relatively-comfortable circumstances in comparison to Enuma, who is trying to answer her call, who is trying to write. On the way home from dinner, they pass-over (or come-across, step-around) a homeless man who has passed out on the sidewalk. Anne stops, replaces the man’s shoe on his foot, places his stocking cap on his head. All the while she keeps up a one-sided, caring conversation, asking for his permission to help him out. Meanwhile, Enuma is becoming more uncomfortable and aware of the scene they are making. Finally, Anne places the remains of the cookies she has been eating as her dessert in the man’s coat, and then says a prayer for him. She then turns for home, as if nothing has really happened. Reflecting on this episode, Enuma realizes that Anne was expressing a sincere concern for the man, and her own dis-ease with the event served to convict her of her-own selfishness.

In Sunday School, we read the Moses origination story from Exodus 2.

Exodus 2:1-10 Pharaoh’s daughter takes pity on a Hebrew baby [Nelson’s revised version]

[About 400 years after about seventy-or-so Israelites (Jacob, his twelve sons, their immediate families, slaves, and livestock) came to Egypt and settled down, there was an evil Pharaoh, who ordered all Hebrew boys to be drowned in the Nile.] In this time, there was a Levite man and woman who were married. The Levites were the priests of the Hebrews. They had a son, and they hid him in their home until he was three months old.

When they could no longer hide him, they made a wicker basket for him. They covered it with tar to make it water-proof and placed the basket in the reeds of the Nile. And his sister (Miriam) watched over the boy in the basket from a distance, guarding him.

One day, one of Pharaoh’s daughters [Amisi, meaning flower] came down to the Nile with her friends to take a bath. Amisi saw the basket and sent one of her friends to bring it to her. When she opened it, she saw the infant and heard his cry. She took pity on him and said, “This must be one of the Hebrew’s children.”

[Amisi knew very well what her father, the Pharaoh, wanted her to do; she knew what the law required. She was supposed to kill this child. And she could have easily done it, right then and there. She could have thrown him into the Nile. But she didn’t. While Amisi was standing there, Miriam emerged from her hiding place. She was full of courage, ingenious. ]

Miriam said, “Should I go find a nurse for you? Someone from among the Hebrews who can nurse the child?”

[Amisi knows what she is getting into. She can connect the dots. This girl is the boy’s sister. The nurse will be his mom. Together (Amisi and Miriam) skirt the law.]

Amisi said, “Go ahead. Take this child, and find a nurse for him. Raise him. I will pay you a fair-wage for this. And when he is old enough, return him to me.”

Amisi said, “I name you Moses, because I drew you out of the water.”

[Then she handed Moses to Miriam. That afternoon, Amisi filled out the necessary papyrus work (and endured Pharaoh’s wrath) to make sure no harm would come to her adopted child.]

  • How long do you think Moses was in that basket, covered with tar, by the Nile?
  • Do you think Pharaoh’s daughter knew that Moses’ mom would be nursing him?
  • Do you think Miriam put the basket where Amisi was likely to find it?

It wasn’t until Monday that I realized I was Pharaoh’s daughter, who is granted the small but pivotal role of rescuing the infant Moses from extermination. I am the one who is privileged, yet has eyes to see what others might miss, ears tuned to the cry of the vulnerable. If I can spot a basket hiding in the reeds and act on those cries, get out of my own world, be Christ-like; perhaps even without understanding where it might lead, I can help emancipate the oppressed.

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