Month: June 2014

Day 107

Using the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, I figure I’m up to at least 200 units and counting for the past twelve months. And that’s a conservative estimate. I’ve gotten three new jobs, quit three jobs, started a new close relationship, changed a number of my personal habits and responsibilities at work, changed my sleeping habits, changed them back, had my sleeping habits challenged and varied, had issues with my partner’s family, had issues with my family, lost touch with a bunch of friends… the list goes on and on and on.

In the past week I have shouted in anger, I have screamed in frustration, and I have cried in despair. These events are not mutually exclusive. My throat is sore right now.

The only response I got from God was “pray for patience.” I felt a calming in my soul, ever so slightly, at the words and feelings that came to me. But I’m tired. I’m tired and I’m angry. Now I see why Wrath is considered a mortal sin. It can consume you.

I was supposed to go to bed early tonight, can you believe it? The one night.

My birthday is coming up, and at this rate it is going to be but a temporary respite from all this. Even my three days off this past weekend did little to help me in the long run. There’s just been too much. I’m still not accustomed to this much chaotic change. I do not like it.


Leviticus 17

There’s a lot more in here about blood being the stuff of life and what is used for atonement and so don’t eat it, you guys.

But at the end, there’s something about being unclean from eating an animal that either died naturally or was killed by beasts that struck me:

“But if he does not wash [his clothes] or bathe his body, then he shall bear his guilt.”

— Leviticus 17:16, NKJV

I have seen some New-Age-spiritual-type beliefs that speak of water as a conductor of spiritual energy. I am reminded of that sort of idea from this passage and those like it.

I can picture now a “running off” of water from one’s body, and the cleansing effect it is supposed to have. I want so badly to wash away this anger… to wash away these tears, to wash away the sleep from my eyes. But I know, like a dumb animal or an obstinate child, I will return to them sooner than I would like. My brain, my body, my fragile animal vessel can only handle so much. My soul is tired… I want to sleep.

I am reminded of C. S. Lewis’ confession in The Problem of Pain:

“You would like to know how I behave when I am experiencing pain, not writing books about it. You need not guess for I will tell you; I am a great coward.”

I am a miserable, wretched wreck right now. I have had revelations in the past about turning to God, and about Christ coming to us in the middle of the storm rather than making the storm go away.

I will tell you right now, for all I have said and done, for all I have read, though I know in the future I will appreciate what I have gone through… I will tell you right now: I have had quite enough. I have no interest in weathering this storm.

God forgive my blasphemy, but I would rather it simply went away.

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Day 106

Leviticus 16

Leviti-wha?

I just realized this is the last book of the Bible that sounds like a Harry Potter spell. Sad face.

Honestly, I do not understand this rackin’ frackin’ chapter. I’m bored of reading Old Testament instruction manuals. I hate to say it, but it is true.

“Here’s a bunch more offerings that Aaron has to make as high priest… yadda yadda clothes yadda yadda blood yadda yadda sacrifice.”

Pretty much the best thing I got out of reading some commentary is about how the goat is Jesus.

I’m starting to think that through Christian eyes, everything in the Old Testament is Jesus. The High Priest? Jesus. The sacrifice? Also Jesus. The other goat? Also Jesus. The “holy place” of the tabernacle? Not Jesus, but the door to heaven opened by… you guessed it! Jesus.

I think at some point I should sell bumper stickers that read

EVERYTHING’S COMING UP JESUS

but I’m not sure if I’d want people to buy them sincerely or ironically.

Anyway, old man Matthew Henry has some good commentary. I’ll just leave this here (and format it myself, because seriously this giant block of text hurts my eyes) and sign off for the night:

“Christ is both the Maker and the Matter of the atonement; for he is the Priest, the High Priest, that makes reconciliation for the sins of the people. And as Christ is the High Priest, so he is the Sacrifice with which atonement is made; for he is all in all in our reconciliation to God. Thus he was figured by the two goats.

The slain goat was a type of Christ dying for our sins; the scape-goat a type of Christ rising again for our justification. The atonement is said to be completed by putting the sins of Israel upon the head of the goat, which was sent away into a wilderness, a land not inhabited; and the sending away of the goat represented the free and full remission of their sins. He shall bear upon him all their iniquities. Thus Christ, the Lamb of God, takes away the sin of the world, by taking it upon himself, John 1:29.

The entrance into heaven, which Christ made for us, was typified by the high priest’s entrance into the most holy place. See Hebrews 9:7. The high priest was to come out again; but our Lord Jesus ever lives, making intercession, and always appears in the presence of God for us.

Here are typified the two great gospel duties of faith and repentance. By faith we put our hands upon the head of the offering; relying on Christ as the Lord our Righteousness, pleading his satisfaction, as that which alone is able to atone for our sins, and procure us a pardon. By repentance we afflict our souls; not only fasting for a time from the delights of the body, but inwardly sorrowing for sin, and living a life of self-denial, assuring ourselves, that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

By the atonement we obtain rest for our souls, and all the glorious liberties of the children of God. Sinner, get the blood of Christ effectually applied to thy soul, or else thou canst never look God in the face with any comfort or acceptance. Take this blood of Christ, apply it by faith, and see how it atones with God.”

Good night, all. Peace be upon you.

Day 98-105

“It came to pass on the eighth day that the writer finally updated In Excelsis Deo.”

Welcome back, people. I’m alive, and mostly well. I’ve been very busy, apparently too busy for my duty to myself and to God. It feels bad to write that, sort of.

Here’s the thing: I struggled back and forth with doing

A) a series of rapid-fire, single-post updates, or

B) one giant update with everything in it.

I obviously went with option B. My first thought was that I’d just write every post and make each update individually so that I wouldn’t feel as bad about “copping out” and cramming everything together in one big update. But then, I thought, if I feel bad about writing one big update, then maybe I should just do it and accept my shame. Then I thought, what if I’m being prideful about my shame, and parading it around by admitting it, the way people do when they talk about how humble they are?

“Oh, I’m so ashamed of myself! Look at how low I’ve brought myself before God! Look how devoted I actually am! More than you, I bet!”

It’s like I’m ten layers deep into self-aggrandizement. It’s like Asshole-ception.

So I decided to just say “f*** it” and go for it. It’s true that I goofed up, but apparently (partly due to the nature of this blog) I can neither sin nor be forgiven in silence. Part of the point of this blog is to explain my thought process (often in wondrous streams of consciousness) as I read the Bible and (ideally) move closer to an understanding of God and what He means in my life.

But I was struggling with this last night, because all day yesterday I put off this update. I recorded this little gem on my phone, describing my feelings:

“Is this one reason that people give up? That people lose faith? Because they don’t feel they’ll ever be good enough? They feel like they’re just too imperfect, too weak, too animalistic, and that it’ll never change? That they’ll never ever be satisfied? That they’ll never be good enough? Is that why?

I don’t know. Because I know it’s hard to reconcile that with the idea of infinite forgiveness. I don’t know what to tell you.”

I mean, it sucks. This is something I’m seeing, especially in our modern society, where suddenly no one has to feel bad for who they are. That’s good, sort of, but we’re doing it for all the wrong reasons. I once heard some quote about — ah, f*** it, it’s worth looking up:

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'”

— Isaac Asimov, The Cult of Ignorance

So now what we have is a combination of that as well as what C. S. Lewis mentioned when he wrote that we are (paraphrased) “reducing all virtues to kindness.” So there are two things at play: we reduce all virtue to kindness, thus discounting the possibility of submission, faith, etc., as being virtuous, and then we have this attitude that Isaac Asimov described above.

People want to have the right to not be ashamed of themselves, to not feel guilty. To that I say, well, don’t feel guilty. We can’t help what we are, so there’s no sense feeling guilty about it. But shame? Here’s how I see it, and I’m sorry if I’ve written this before.

“We should have the good sense to look ahead, to dream for something bigger and better, so that when we look at ourselves, we are not content with our current state.”

I wish I could say that more fluidly right now, but oh well. You get the gist of it. By aiming for righteousness, by submitting to God’s will and finding the Good that He works in everything, we can look at the way we are now in comparison to what we will become (so to speak), and we can be ashamed of ourselves. Again, no sense in feeling guilty! But I see now that shame can be a very Good thing.

But people don’t want to feel that. Comfort in life may be an incredible burden disguised by our society as the greatest blessing. Everyone wants to be accepted for who they are, to not be discriminated against. And you can find that in God. But here’s the problem: people also want to be told that who they are is okay. God will not tell you that. God says, “I love you for who you are, no matter what, but I love you so much that I want you, I need you, to become better. I cannot bear to see you the way you are now. I love you and I cannot bear to see you suffering in your sin and imperfection.”

We have to love ourselves enough to want more. Being content with our sins is not self-love, maybe self-acceptance at best. But that is only the first step. If we love ourselves as God loves us, we will strive to be better and better, but we will realize, as I did above, that we hit a wall. We can only go so far in these human bodies. This is why we must turn our eyes above.

As a quick aside, I’m surprised more Christians don’t believe in evolution. To me, the idea that we struggle against our animal natures on the path to God is perfectly in line with Christian theology. Divine souls though we may be, we are confined to animal bodies governed by physical laws.

In the Bible, Adam was created to be supposedly “perfect.” The first sin was disobedience, which granted knowledge that led to self-awareness and shame. The ego is the source of sin.

The way I see it is this: humans evolve, but are still essentially animalistic. They are in awe of the world around them because it does not make sense. It appears in many ways to be unpredictable and uncontrollable. Humans, though having small and “crude” tools, essentially rely on the patterns of earth and sky for their sustenance. And then that changed.

Perhaps in the end it was a fruit: an apple, or perhaps as some have suggested, a fig. Something as simple and innocuous as all that. A person ate the fruit, and found smallish bits inside of it, seeds, that fell to the ground. At some point, some one put two and two together: food could be grown on purpose. Suddenly, Man could rely on himself. This is the turning away from God, from nature, from a state of ignorant bliss. Man thought that he knew how to game the system. Man thought he would no longer struggle, no longer hunger and thirst.

But now rules have to be established. People have to work long hours in the fields and grinding grain. Irrigation has to be controlled and monitored lest floods break out. People want to own land, own livestock, own workers or slaves. There needs to be a sense of order. Rulers have to enforce rules. People gain power and abuse it. Over-farming occurs. Lush fertile land reduces into barren desert. The land turns away from Man, the very earth spurns him. Man is brought low and is ashamed.

Some men find God and turn to him, appealing to a higher power, looking for the answer they cannot find by themselves. Some curse God for their misfortune and decide that they can make it work on their own without His help. And so it goes…


Leviticus 8

Alright, now these are going to be rapid-fire updates. Here goes nothing!

Moses takes Aaron and his sons, dresses them up in the prescribed priest’s clothes, they sacrifice some animals, and Moses consecrates Aaron and his boys with oil. Here’s a bunch more rules that you have to follow, the end.

(I know this is half-assed. Deal with it.)


Leviticus 9

Moses explains some things to Aaron about making atonement, not just for himself but for the people of Israel. They sprinkle lots of blood around the altar, several times, I believe. Aaron blesses all the people, comes out from the tabernacle, the Lord appears in all his glory, and consumes the burnt offering in fire. Everyone is awed and falls on their faces.


Leviticus 10

Two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, decide to make an offering or some such thing that was previously forbidden by the Lord. He fries them.

Aaron is understandably upset about this, but Moses basically tells him, hey, look, God said “if people are going to try and come to Me, they need to do it properly and respectfully.” In my opinion, this is so that people will not constantly be making excuses, misinterpreting God’s word and trying to do His work while in reality committing sin against Him. I could see how this would be applicable today.

So anyway, there’s also a thing in here about not getting drunk in the tabernacle so that no one goofs up the sacrifices.

At the end of this chapter, two of Aaron’s sons screw up an offering. Moses rails against them and Aaron explains:

“Look. My boys are grieving. I am grieving. Sorry we were stressed out and couldn’t do it right, but we tried our best to keep the spirit of the offering. I was supposed to be rejoicing over this gift of food, but I am not in the right mind to do so. Do you really think God would have wanted me to eat it and disobey him thusly?”

Moses realizes that Aaron is sincere in his desire to please God, and has done nothing wrong. As long we have that desire sincerely in our hearts, we will eventually begin to do right.

(Credit for this chapter goes to John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes, because I had no idea how to interpret Lev 10:16-20.)


Leviticus 11

Here’s what you can eat, here’s what you can’t eat, here’s what dead animals not to ever touch, here’s how to clean yourself if you do touch them.

Taxonomy Bonus: Apparently bats are birds. (Lev 11:13-19)

Entomology Bonus: Apparently flying insects have four feet. (Lev11:20-25) This one I’m willing to chalk up to translation errors, but who knows.


Leviticus 12

If a lady gives birth, she’s unclean, she needs to be purified, etc. etc. Longer for a female than for a male, apparently.

This passage probably draws a lot of ire, but I interpret it like this: the whole blood and suffering thing that comes along with childbirth should serve as a reminder of our animal natures. Therefore, we should seek to “clean” ourselves afterward, reaffirming our commitment to being cleansed by God. Hell, wait til Leviticus 15, and men get theirs too.


Leviticus 13


Leviticus 14

Here’s the process for ceremoniously cleansing a leper or someone with a skin condition.

Also, if you get mold or whatever in your house, here’s how you guys deal with that. There’s only a moderate chance that you’ll have to tear down the whole house. Wash your clothes, don’t let them get moldy. Nasty.


Leviticus 15

This is the Biblical prescription for STDs. Enjoy that. Anything you sit or lie on or whatever is unclean.

If a man emits semen, he is a filthy animal and needs to wash. If he has sex (but only if he finishes?) then both need to wash.

If a woman is on her period, then for God’s sake, anything she sits on is unclean. If you have sex with her, you’re unclean.

If anyone’s unclean, separate them so that they don’t walk into the tabernacle and get fried.


And that’s the ball game!

Peace be upon you.

 

Day 97

Leviticus 7

Well, at least this explains why you’re not supposed to eat the fat or the blood: back in the day those things were needed for sacrifices, for atonement. As such, they were not to be consumed by the people of Israel.

This chapter also outlines some of the rules for voluntary offerings, offerings of thanksgiving. Rules for these are slightly less strict. When we sin, we make restitution in a very specific way, a way that only leads to God. But when we rejoice! When we rejoice and give thanks, we do it in our own ways and for our own reasons. Some of us hike mountains, some fish in lakes, some go to church, some blast their stereos. We can do all or none of these, but we should find ways and make time to thank God for everything he has given us.

Heh, and to think I was just going to write

This page intentionally left blank.

I guess if you look hard enough you can find something of value. Thanks, God. I see what you did there.

Good night, dear friends. Peace be upon you.

Day 96

Oh my God Leviticus is so boring right now. I can only hope this means more to me the second time through. I’m starting to be really glad I wasn’t born a) several thousand years ago or b) Jewish. Although if I were Jewish I might have the chance to learn Hebrew and play with numbers and meanings. I am referring here to Gematria, which I’ve always thought was a truly fascinating practice. I like the way they look at shared values between words/phrases and draw parallels. I like it because it’s all based on what some might call “coincidence,” and examining “coincidences” is a favorite hobby of mine.

Also, honestly, I’m going to cop out tonight and not write about Leviticus, at least not Leviticus 6 in this post. This book of the Bible is great and all (God knows I’m stretching the truth right now) but it is so dry and boring. The language is very repetitive and the whole thing just reads with all the thrill of an instruction manual. Which is essentially what it is.

I appreciate Jesus opening the path to atonement/salvation so much more now that I see what the Israelites had to go through back in the day.

Good night, all. Peace be upon you.

Day 95

My partner just asked how many days behind I was. Turns out it’s three. Doops.

Pulled my pipe out so I could feel distinguished. Now I might have to have a quick smoke tonight. Don’t know how my partner will feel about that, but we’ll see. It’s like having a glass of red wine in my hand as I write: it makes me feel thoughtful and classy.

I just watched the movie Saved! tonight. If you’ve never seen it, go watch it. I forgot how good it is. It’s different to see movies that involve God now that I’ve grown closer to (but still infinitely distant from) Him. My favorite part of movies like Saved! and Dogma is that they involve a character (or two) doubting, questioning, and at some points even denying God, but later they come to know and love God again, and usually their eyes are opened by an unlikely source: in Saved!, the cynical, rebellious Jewish girl comes to the main character’s aid when no one else will help or pay attention to her, and in Dogma, two irreverent stoners, a stripper (who happens to be Serendipity, a muse), and the never-mentioned thirteenth apostle of Jesus Christ (all who have very non-traditional views on God) are the ones who help the main character (who works at an abortion clinic) save the world.

I think the hard part for me is that in both of the above movies, the hard-headed religious zealot is the bad guy/girl. I don’t want to be like that; I don’t want to turn into something I hate. I can see how it must be easy for people to get incredibly evangelical and feel like if they’re not talking about God all the time then they’re doing it wrong. I have to remember that sometimes (often?) in our modern world that people do not want to hear this message. People do not want to hear that they are wrong, that who they are is not good enough. I don’t blame them.

For those of us living in this strange world, caught as we are within the so-called “Great Mystery,” travel down the road comes slowly; at least for me it did. It still does. And it’s hard for me to remember that there are people with different interpretations of the Bible. I feel as though I’m missing something. Perhaps by the time I have finished the Bible I will have a better understanding. Perhaps I will have a sense of how to interpret it and still remain myself. Right now I feel like I’m going to be lost in all this.

A Christian who is a sculptor might make statues that glorify God, a painter might make a painting. I know how to write and speak; perhaps this is how I will glorify Him. But I also have empathy and compassion… perhaps by demonstrating and teaching the truth of Love, I can bring people to the truth of Light.

1 John 4:8 would be appropriately quoted here,

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

but I prefer, having now read it, 1 John 4:7, which reads

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

I like it because the negative is absent; 1 John 4:8 clarifies that God is love (but as C. S. Lewis writes, love in itself is not God or a god to be worshiped) but 1 John 4:7 is a positive command, a blessing, if you will, a wish that we will love one another as dear friends. If I were to die right now, I would want 1 John 4:7 to be my last words to the world.


I’m going to catch up on my other two chapters. This is good enough for this one.

Peace be upon you.

Day 94

Leviticus 4

Goodness gracious. I’m looking ahead at what’s to come and there are at least 3-4 more chapters of laws and rules and sacrifices.

I suppose I can see the point here; the way parents have to be with children, for instance, is to set up strict rules (bedtime, diets, etc.) that over time grow less severe as the child gains more independence, knowledge, and wisdom. So it is with God as the Father figure to His children. Early on, the Law needed to be obeyed in very specific ways.

I notice, for example, in this chapter that atonement is done through the action of a priest and through a ritualized sacrifice. Later, with the death of Jesus Christ, animal sacrifice was no longer necessary for atonement. From the point of view of the New Testament, I suppose, the old Covenant is fulfilled; the old rules are no longer needed.

As a real world, personal example of this method of teaching, I think back to my math classes that I’ve taken over the years. They start by teaching you general rules, strict yet broad cases. Later, once you understand the general case, they move to specifics, and sometimes those specifics work around the general case. We have to understand the basics before we can understand or respect the exceptions. Perhaps this is a reason that the Old Testament is still a part of Christianity: by reading the old Law, we can see how things have changed and the grace that God has given us in Christ.

But has He made it easier or harder without the old rituals? Does He now trust us as people to give proper respect and worship without elaborate reminders? Does having infinite opportunities to be forgiven make us better or worse?

The world may never know.

Anyway, seriously, Lev 4 is about people goofing up and sacrificing animals. If you want more, go read it yourself.

I’ve said all I need to say for tonight, and I have to be up for work in the morning.

It feels good to get this done. Thanks, Lord, for everything.

Peace be upon you.

Day 93

Alrighty, back on schedule.

Of course, I’m behind on work stuff, but here I am making time for God. You know, late. Because I’m such a good minister.


Leviticus 3

Lambs and goats and whatever else! And now they get specific; apparently you have to be a biologist to be a priest:

“the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he shall remove.”

— Leviticus 3:4, 10, and 15

Seriously, that quote appears three times over. Apparently you save the best parts for God. I don’t know.

Well, I’m going to bed everyone. I’m tired and it’s late. I have much work ahead of me.

Good night, everyone.

Peace be upon you.

Day 92

(This would have gone up on Sunday, June 15, 2014. I’m going to go ahead and write it based on that day.)

So today was awesome. My partner’s brother got married, and it was a beautiful ceremony held at a vineyard in a little mountain town. Beautiful lights, dinner right at sunset, the whole thing was lovely. Oh, and an open bar.

(Lordy. A quick Google image search for “happy drunk” turned up like 7 NSFW pictures, and that was just in the most immediate results.)

It was interesting because the ceremony was a Christian one, and I was reasonably sure her brother was not Christian. I talked to him afterwards; he is not. But apparently the family of the bride is, and her mother overrode a great deal of their wedding decisions. He said that if it been his choice, he would have had either me, or a Buddhist monk. I would have been honored, but c’est la vie.

I really like officiating weddings because it is such a beautiful moment between two people. I suppose that’s the same reason I like attending weddings. That and all the free food/alcohol. But seriously, it is a beautiful moment in what one can only hope is a long and happy marriage. For the most part, barring family drama, everyone at a wedding is happy and joyous, especially at a beautiful venue like a mountain vineyard. The last wedding I attended, also the last one I officiated, was on a steamboat on a lake. We caught the sunset there as well and watched that orange light gleam down through the canyons.

Simply magnificent.

There must be some reason that God made me find so much joy and beauty in nature, but I’m not sure where that will go yet. I suppose out in the woods is where I found Him, so that’s as good a reason as any (and a better reason than most). It’s weird because out in the woods with my friends, I had no desire to write like this, but I did read the Bible. Perhaps a reminder not to get too caught up in the interpretation?

If I ever become one of those legalistic people who, as C. S. Lewis puts it,

“[are] so preoccupied with spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ,”

then just put me down. He rails as well in the same breath at

“men… who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God himself… as if the good Lord had nothing to do but to exist.”

Maybe this is why I find comfort in absurdist philosophy; seeing the illogic, the impossibility of any concrete foundation… perhaps in a way this is my defense against becoming too moralistic or legalistic with my faith. Or perhaps I’m just being a prideful jackass who needs to shut up. 😛

Who knows.


Leviticus 2

Honestly, this chapter is about how you offer your baked goods to God. Let me tell you, it is quite possibly the most exciting chapter in the Bible.

Make sure to add oil and salt to your pita bread/cake/flatbread/whatever before giving it to God, kiddos!

Wowsers. Even my partner said some of this stuff was boring.

Peace be upon you.

Day 91

(Note: This would/should have gone up on Saturday, June 14, 2014. It did not.)

You know, every time I get ready to right another one of these big headings for a new book of the Bible, the intro music to STAR WARS comes into my head. Every. Single. Time.

DUNNNNN dun dun dun… dun dun d-dun… da da DA da da DA da da da da da DA da da DA DAAAAAA da da da DAAAA daaa…

You get the idea.

Oh man. So awesome. Get ready for

The Third Book of Moses Called

leviticus

Boom! Look at that font! Even better than the last one.

So not that I had ever given it any thought, but I now realize that “Leviticus” is some Latin bastardization of something related to the Levites. The priestly types.

Oh yeah, new category.


Leviticus 1

Oh, that feels fresh. And Leviticus is only 27 chapters! I’ll knock this one out in less than a month.

This book is all like, “Kill the bull, bleed ‘im out, skin the corpse, wash the guts.” Leviticus opens like a heavy metal album cover.

Leviticus also gives handy tips on how to sacrifice a bird to the Lord.

Hooray!

(Two more to go…)