Sky Links, 6-30-18

Seeing homeless people as persons

-Gregory P Smith

I was recently asked by someone what they should do when they come across a homeless person. My response to this question is quite simple. Maybe you cannot make a difference to that person’s circumstance, but you can make a difference to how you see them. Many are hurting with the shame and stigma of being homeless. Don’t pretend they don’t exist: they are people too...

Dying well

A Good Death: Reflections on Euthanasia, Medicine, and Helplessness
-Steven Fouch

Around the world, various groups are calling to make it legal to help end someone’s life in the case of terminal illness. As a nurse who has worked with the dying, I sympathize with the natural desire to avoid unnecessary suffering at the end of life; it’s the same impulse that undergirds palliative care and the hospice movement.

There is, however, a spiritual despair at the heart of this call for assisted dying. In a society that celebrates youth, vitality, beauty, and self-determination above all else, the fear of losing these is almost intolerable. Then only despair remains. One’s last act of self-determination becomes to end one’s own existence while one still has the autonomy to do so.

How different is the Christian understanding of the self. Scripture teaches us that we are not our own: we are Christ’s (1 Cor. 6:19–20). As such, our lives are hugely valuable. It is not for us or anyone else to determine the timing and nature of our deaths.

Furthermore, we are not autonomous individuals, but part of a community, an interdependent body (1 Cor. 12:12–13). When one part suffers, all parts suffer. When one part rejoices, all rejoice. This is a community where we are enjoined to “bear one another’s burdens.”

Data published by Oregon’s assisted suicide program over the last decade shows that the vast majority of patients cite the fear of being a burden as one of their main reasons for ending their lives early, alongside fear of loss of control and independence and the feeling that life has lost meaning and joy.1

Yet scripture tells us that we are meant to be burdensome to one another (Gal. 6:2). I was a burden to my mother at the start of my life. I saw this as I cared for her and my eight-month-old daughter at the same time. I had to feed both of them, change their diapers when they soiled themselves, soothe them to sleep when they were distressed. My mother had done all of this for me, and now I was doing it for her. There was a natural symmetry. And while I wish my mother had had many more years of life, I would not have given up the chance to be with her and care for her in those final weeks. It was one of the most profound privileges of my life...

...When advocates for assisted dying argue that it is a lack of compassion that drives caretakers like me to oppose their agenda, we have had to constantly, compassionately, and patiently argue back with the facts. People do not need to die in pain and with uncontrolled symptoms. Allowing doctors or nurses to kill certain groups of people, or to assist them in killing themselves, will eventually lead to opening the same “option” to anyone who feels that his or her life is not worth living. We are already seeing this happen in the Netherlands and Belgium, where voluntary euthanasia legislation has slowly been extended to those with dementia, to those in comas, to infants and children, and most recently to those struggling with past traumas, anxious about the future, or simply tired of living.2

The consequences of removing these legal constraints are far-reaching. The vulnerable feel pressure (real or imagined) to stop burdening their families and society by ending their lives. Governments, healthcare systems, and insurance companies faced with mounting costs start to see assisted death as a cheaper, more “humane” alternative to long-term care. The symmetry of mutual burdensomeness is lost, and society loses its soul as it kills off those it deems unworthy of life in the name of autonomy and compassion.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “There is no way to peace along the way of safety.” Some of my colleagues have been vilified in the press and social media for taking stands against euthanasia. Yet time and again, our arguments have won over our legislators, much of the serious press, and healthcare professionals.

What does God want me to grow into for this next season?

Discovering and Activating Your Inheritance Words
-Allison Town

However we receive them, Inheritance Words seem to take on a life of their own and become places of comfort and deep wells of life to go to that encourage us again and again.

Inheritance Words will hold a three dimensional picture of the authentic nature of God, but they also hold clues to your true identity in Christ, too.

Joyfully ask God for inheritance words. It’s a prayer He loves to answer, though His answers may surprise you...


Leaving The Liberal Bubble
-Dave Rubin

Ken Stern (Former CEO of NPR) joins Dave to discuss his new book “Republican Like Me: How I Left the Liberal Bubble and Learned to Love the Right,” defining what liberal means to him, intolerance of viewpoints and lack of diversity of thought on the left, his journey from left to right, his evolution on the gun control debate, and more.

How to not steal a photographers work

20+ Websites for Incredible Free Stock Photos
-Jessica Stewart

Whether you're a blogger looking for the perfect photo to accompany your article or a designer in need of an image for a new T-shirt, there are innumerable reasons that free images come in handy. But, as you're searching for stock photography, it's important to know the right places to do so in order to find what you're looking for and to use the images properly.

Luckily, there are many free stock photography websites to meet the needs of any project. Some sites specialize in particular genres, like food or travel photography, while others cast a wider net. To make things easier for you, we've broken down the top 22 websites for free image downloads, as well as a quick reminder on how image licensing works. Before you use any free stock photo in your next creative project, make sure you clearly read the terms of usage and credit the photographer (if necessary).

Nanook of the north

Trail Dog Helps Rescue Injured Trekker in Alaska—On His Own
-Justin Housman

Trail angels come in many forms. The fellow hiker who appears from nowhere with an extra bottle of water. A radio-toting ranger in a time of medical emergency. Or maybe a husky named Nanook who shows the way back to the trail to a lost, distressed hiker in the Alaskan wilderness.

Last week, 21-year-old Amelia Milling was on a three-day solo backpacking trip in the Eagle River Valley, near Anchorage, when she glissaded out of control near the Crow Pass trail, was launched into the air by a boulder, then slid/fell some 300 feet further. When she came to rest she was injured, confused, and lost. That’s when Nanook showed up.

Leading young

Staying Effective as an Aging Leader
-Shane Young

Leading a single congregation this long is a constant process of holding fast to a mission on one hand and constant reinvention on the other. At fifty-six, I can no longer lead by being the “best player on the team” but I am clearly not ready to hang up my cleats. I have to offer value in different ways. It is a paradigm shift for sure but not as difficult as you may think.

How to “Lead Young”:

You are no longer your intended audience 

On Easter this year, I walked into the sanctuary a bit after we had started our first service and heard a song being played that sounded just like every song I hate. I felt like we were “clubbing for Jesus” and I was wishing someone would hit me with a club. Then I had an epiphany! I was not the intended audience. When I looked across the worship space, I noted dozens of Millennials completely into the music who were no doubt thinking, “This is best song we have EVER done at church!”

Reach the grandchildren (and you will keep the grandparents) 

I love taking my four grandkids to lunch. I treasure the time but they ALWAYS pick the restaurant and I ALWAYS have to buy. Spending quality time with them requires some sacrifice from me but I am happy to make it. Reach the grandchildren and you will keep the grandparents! Believe me on this one, grandparents get it!


Photo Credit: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0