Genesis

Day 40

Man! 40 days. If I had started this a week or so earlier I would have been spot on for Lent. How appropriate would that have been?


Genesis 38

So, real quick, we have a brief interlude in Genesis 38 wherein we follow Judah son of Israel and he has a few kids and Er, his son, is wicked and dies and Onan is supposed to “go into” his dead brother’s wife to give his dead brother an heir but he signifies his refusal with a little coitus interruptus and emits on the ground and so God kills him for not impregnating his sister-in-law. So the story goes.

This whole “spilling seed ” business has been used to condemn masturbation, coitus interruptus, and contraception, the first two even being referred to as “onanism.” I think it’s more like, he disobeyed his father and disobeyed God and SMITE you’re dead. I really don’t think the sex thing in and of itself is that big of a deal. But that’s just me.

Some stuff happens, Judah accidentally has sex with her, thinking she is a harlot, and and oops she gets pregnant and has twins. She has proof that it was him, and so he owns up to being the father.


Genesis 39-40

Back to Joseph! He gets taken down to Egypt and becomes a pretty successful slave, as slaves go, and his master’s house was blessed for his sake (Genesis 39:5). Like any good servant/pool boy, he attracts the attention of his master’s wife. She wants him, but he turns her down. This happens over and over, until one day she grabs his clothes and they literally come away when he runs from her.

tearawaypants

Joseph and the Amazing Tear-Away Dreamcoat. ¹

She uses his clothes as “proof” of his advances, and Joseph gets thrown in jail. But God makes it easier on him and makes it so the keeper of the prison trusts him and likes him. End Genesis 39.

In Genesis 40, Joseph is depicted as a wise man (I suppose) because he is godly enough to interpret dreams. The Pharaoh’s baker and butler end up in the prison, and they have strange dreams which Joseph interprets for them. One of them is to be saved in three days and the other to be killed in three days. The butler, who is saved, had been told by Joseph to remember him and to help him get out of the prison. Yet, after being freed,

“the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.”

— Genesis 40:23

Sad day! So Joseph is stuck in the prison. Tune in tomorrow, dear readers, for another amazing installment of In Excelsis Deo!

Actually, as much as I want to go to bed, I think it’s funny because I’ve had some strange dreams lately which my (devout Christian) partner was able to interpret for me. Funny how that works. To me it just seemed like my brain finally had some time to collect and sort through all the stuff I’ve been up to, but she did give me some good insight.

For those interested, my dream involved strangling a Nazi officer to death, working with Walter White of Breaking Bad, being threatened by Amazon-style warrior women, and being watched by a teleporting lizard-man with a magic eyeball. No drugs were involved, I promise you.

Goodnight everyone. Peace be upon you!


¹ http://www.ebay.com/itm/Adult-Tear-Away-Pants-Halloween-Holiday-Costume-Stripper-Party-Size-X-Large-44-/360744741407

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Day 39

Checked some of my blog stats today. Big surprise, “Jesus Christ” and “God” are the ones that get the most attention.

It would be easy to be cynical about this but I see it as a good sign. I think it’s important that people want to know things, that people are interested in spirituality.

One of my clients is a particularly troublesome child who acts out in various ways. I can’t figure out if he’s manipulative or not, but he’s a real character regardless. We met for the first time the other day and at one point he asked if I had been baptized. I said that I had not, and he asked why not. I wasn’t really sure how to answer that question to a ten-year-old. The answer to an adult or to a friend would be that I already feel “born again” and I don’t need someone else’s ritual to give me peace with God.

Truth be told, I like the idea of baptism, but if I ever get baptized, I want to do it old school, in a lake or river. I should remember that next time I jump into a lake or something. Nothing like that sudden shock of diving into cold water to make you feel alive and present.

I told this kid that I hadn’t really thought about it, and I asked him why he wanted to do it. He said he wanted to be able to go to God, or some such thing. I think the implication was that this was so that he could go to heaven. I wonder if a lot of people feel this way, that as long as they were baptized that they will go to heaven. It would certainly explain a lot.

I told my client that I think it is more important to live harmoniously with God and one’s fellow man, to not steal, cheat, harm, or gossip. To not just avoid evil but to actively promote good. I’m not sure he knew what to make of this, given that he lies and steals and harms. Perhaps this will be good motivation for him to work on his behavior. Perhaps his family can find more meaning in their life through a unified vision and understanding of God. Perhaps everyone can. It’s certainly a nice dream.

As I’m sitting here writing this, I spotted an old fortune cookie fortune on the floor. (My house is quite the mess.) I picked it up to take a look, and the quote written thereupon reads:

“Man’s mind is not a container to be filled but a fire to be kindled.”

I figured this had to have come from somewhere and so I looked it up. Most sites attribute it to a writer named Dorothea Brande. I decided to look her up on Wikipedia, and I found this:

“Her book Becoming a Writer, published in 1934, is still in print and offers advice for beginning and sustaining any writing enterprise.”

Beginning and sustaining any writing enterprise. I learned something new today, and now I might have to buy this book. Who has two thumbs and is beginning and sustaining a writing enterprise? (Hint: it’s this guy.) So someone went to a Chinese restaurant and got a fortune cookie which held this fortune inside it which got discarded onto this floor and hasn’t been cleaned because I’m lazy and messy because my parents were lazy and messy and it’s been sitting there for God-knows-how-long and today I get the itch to pick it up and it has a quote written on it that as a result of my natural curiosity leads me to a woman who wrote a book about writing which is the exact thing I’m struggling with the most.

You see what I mean about miracles?

Day 38

sunsetclouds

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies within us while we live. “

— Norman Cousins, journalist, author, professor, and advocate for world peace.

I read about all the wonderful soap opera shenanigans that comprise Genesis 38, but it is so very late. I’m behind on everything again and I’m not sure what needs to change. But I thought tonight I would share with you this quote. I forget which audiobook I was listening to when I heard it, but it struck me in a profound way.

The version I heard used the word “tragedy,” instead of loss, but the point is the same. I was just watching part of an Ellen Degeneres stand-up show and there was a part where she talked about children and playing and how we should just run up to strangers on the street, hit them, and shout, “You’re it!” and then run away.

My current audiobook is about childhood anxiety, and even though childhood can be such a difficult and confusing time, children still possess such joy and such innocence. We get older and we become bitter or jaded or cynical, and it’s such a damn shame.

Don Miguel Ruiz, in The Four Agreements, wrote that we have the opportunity to become child-like again, but with the benefit of the wisdom of age. As a child we cannot always make sense of the things we feel or the things that happen around us. A saying of mine is, “No one makes it through childhood in one piece.” Our parents cannot be perfect, and we cannot be perfect either. Not in a never-ever-hurting-other-people-even-by-accident way, anyway.

I think that we should do the best we can with children. I work with children and I do care about my clients and I want them to grow up and be happy and healthy, to live healthy lives with functional attachment to others and positive self-image, to live with a desire for adventure and an ability to accept change. I work with these children but when I’m done they go back home, often to whatever environment contributed to their behavior or “problems” in the first place. We can only do so much.

But adults have freedom to make all kinds of choices, adults can take matters into their own hands and (for the most part), no one else is legally or ethically responsible for their well-being. They bear all the risk, but they get to reap all the reward. It’s just a matter of wanting to change, of looking deep within oneself and realizing and accepting that we are perfect and not perfect, that we are messed up, twisted, and confused, but at the same time, who else could we be based on the experiences of the past? Based on everything we’ve learned and everything we were taught?

But the time has come to seek out new learning, to make our own decisions, to not let our minds drift unconsciously from one day to the next. Answer the call, and rise to the occasion. No more dreaming without awareness.

I’m very passionate about this sort of thing. One of these days, my definite chief aim will be a reality. At the moment, however, it is time for bed.

Good night, all. I love you, wherever you are, so show yourself a little love back!

Peace be upon you.

Day 37

*deep inhale*

So alright everybody we’re gonna get this Bible business back on track so here goes!

Jacob wrestled with God and won and it was like a metaphor for prayer I guess and then he goes and makes amends with his brother Esau who he thought still hated him but Esau was just happy to see him after twenty years and Jacob is such a nice and rich guy that he gives Esau a massive tribute to show that there are no hard feelings.

Then one of Jacob’s daughters goes out to make some lady friends in this new territory and she gets sexually assaulted by some prince dude named Shechem who is a prince and then his father Hamor says that Shechem wants to marry Jacob’s daughter Dinah and then Jacob’s sons tell Hamor that all the men living there have to be circumcised and then long story short Simeon and Levi who are two of Jacob’s sons just go right ahead and slay all the men in the city and Jacob berates them for making enemies and they’re all like “What were we supposed to do just let them treat our sister like a prostitute?”

Then God makes a bunch of promises and reiterates stuff that He said to Abraham to Jacob who is now called Israel which apparently means “prince of God” or some such thing with the “El” part meaning “God” and some stuff happens and Jacob casts out all the old idols and such and Deborah dies and then Rachel has another baby and she dies in childbirth and Israel buries her and then one of his sons Reuben sleeps with his father’s concubine and they list off Jacob/Israel’s twelve sons and then also Isaac lives to 180 years old and DIES.

Then we get this whole big chapter about Esau’s genealogy and I don’t really care to list them all off because anyone who really wants to read all that can just go check out Genesis 36 or maybe a genealogy chart of the Old Testament figures but the gist of it is that he dips out of town because it ain’t big enough for the two of them with the two of them being him and his brother and all their stuff and livestock and such.

THEN we get Genesis 37 which features Joseph son of Rachel wife of Jacob who is totally his father’s favorite and has a fancy tunic or coat of many colors and all his brothers hate him because he has all these dreams that they will be bowing down to him and that his father and mother even will bow down to him apparently because he dreams about the sun and moon and eleven stars bowing down to him and so his brothers plot to kill him by trapping him in a pit but one brother Reuben wants to save him later without them knowing but after doing the pit thing one of them Judah suggests that they just sell him so at least they can make a profit from the whole deal and so they sell him to some Midianite traders and sell him and he gets carted off as a slave to Egypt and they take his fancy clothes and cover them in goat blood and show their father and he mourns because he believes that Joseph is DEAD.

That’s it! We’re up to date. Genesis 33-37 in a nutshell.

Goodnight, all. Peace be upon you.

Day 36

I’m so far behind with things that it’s beginning to stress me out. I’m behind with this, I’m behind with sleep, I’m behind with work.

As much as I want to write, and I know I need to, I took one look at Genesis 36 which is just a massive, several-generations-long genealogy of Esau, brother of Jacob. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

My Medicine Card that I just drew is Contrary Hummingbird. Everything’s coming up contrary, lately. Contrary Hummingbird says that my sorrow is but another reflection of my joy. This is sort of appropriate, just because right now I’m feeling overwhelmed and stressed, but I know in the end all will be well, and I will be better for it. For now, I need to rest.

Thank you all for tagging along on my journey. I bid you adieu.

Peace be upon you.

Day 35

Happy Easter, everybody. Even if my well-wishing is a little belated…

I got invited by my partner to go to church today. This is the first time in over ten years that I’ve been to a “regular” Protestant service. I say “regular” because I got invited to attend an LDS service sometime within the past two years.

It was not exactly what I was expecting, and yet, it was everything I needed. The church itself was a large complex of buildings, complete with a cafe. I was so lost; I’m used to churches being big, one-room, rustic-looking buildings. This was an ultra-modern campus that looked more like a small university than a church.

When we were ushered inside to the actual worship and service it was like going into a rock concert. The room was dark, everyone was standing, they had a whole bank of colored spotlights and a projector facing each of the four walls. There was a freakin’ fog machine, for heaven’s sake! Again, I’m used to solemn and dramatic hymns sung slowly in a well-lit room, so this just blew my mind. I guess I’m out of the loop.

I wish I could remember the entirety of the brief service. Of course, what with it being Easter, they talked about the resurrection. The pastor also spent a great deal of time talking to people about the veracity of the scriptures and especially the story of Jesus rising from the dead. He made the point that even if medical knowledge at the time was not as good as ours (when it came to declaring people dead), he said that the Romans were exceptionally good at killing people, and they would have made darn sure that Jesus was dead before burying him.

He also said that the “rising from the grave” part is the most important part of this whole story, as it becomes sort of the “stamp of approval” that tops off the act of dying for everyone’s sins. The Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate Easter; based on their readings of the Bible, they commemorate the day that Jesus died. This is based, presumably, on the fact that this is the date that matters because it is the date following which everyone in the world could be saved and be free from death. The so-called “curse” of Adam and Eve was broken.

But hell, anyone can read the Bible and figure this out. I’ll be discussing it at some point in the next, oh, two-and-a-half years or so, once I get that far into the New Testament.

What really interested me was the feelings within me during the service and the conversation I had with God. I learned and remembered a lot about why people go to church, and about how the energy and the music and all those other people really wrap you up into a state of religious ecstasy. Even though I know the psychological principles behind it all, I couldn’t escape it this time around. By the time the band started playing the second time, I was really just standing there, weeping silently.


I have… a relationship with God that is both simple and remarkably complex. I realize I’m blowing my own horn here, but it has been a long and rocky road. I was never raised in the church or with any particular idea of God, but it was not infrequently that I went to church with my aunt. Any time I stayed at her house for a weekend I went with her on Sunday. I don’t remember much except old people in old fancy clothes and little youth activity workbooks. And maybe getting animal crackers at Sunday school.

I avoided my aunt as much as possible as I got older. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t enjoy church as I didn’t enjoy her attitude or behavior toward me and later toward my brother. We just didn’t get along.

Later in life, my teenage years, I would become a dedicated atheist. I was very against Christianity and I thought their whole conception of God was ridiculous and childish. I thought of myself (as some atheists do) as a shining beacon of reason blazing against the darkness of ignorance and myth. I thought I had it all figured out.

Later, in high school, I learned about the Universal Life Church, and the fact that anyone can get ordained as a minister. I don’t know what it was about this that I thought was so funny, but I did it. I have since made sure that my ordination is valid and up-to-date, but there I was, a high school minister. I charged 25 cents for a confession, and I think someone only took me up on that once. Again, I was mostly playing around.

I even had a little tubular piece of paper that I decorated like the Pope’s hat; I wore it on my finger like a puppet. You can just tell how serious this was to me.

I don’t know exactly what changed, but at some point in college I began to feel a draw toward… something. Actually, I need to back up. For a very brief time following my atheist phase, I had a flicker of conception of God. I distinctly remember praying to God, getting into a relaxed spiritual state, and listening to the voice that came back. I don’t think this lasted very long, but I definitely remember it.

But, in college, something came back, and I remember walking around the churches near my campus. I wanted to talk to someone, but I don’t know why or what I would have even asked. I just remember feeling so lost and empty. That day, all the doors were closed and the churches were unavailable to me. This seems appropriate, now that I look back on it. I don’t think I would have been ready for anything they had to say.

It would be a few more years before I would rediscover God in a big way, when I would reconcile the idea of the Christian God-as-Father with the things that were going on inside my head. To my own satisfaction, I had answered the problem of evil, and I was ready to accept and believe in God.

This happened during a camping trip, far away on a mountaintop surrounded by beautiful pine forests. It is an amazing place, and I’ve written many poems about it. Maybe someday I’ll even share some here.

But I went up to this mountain weary and with a heavy heart, lonely and empty. I came back a man rich in spirit, full of awe and hope. I had a fresh outlook on the world, and I had made my peace with the idea of God, an idea with which I had wrestled for most of my life. But like Jacob, I emerged triumphant and felt blessed.

It was this strange and mystical experience that led me to call myself a shaman. Unlike my initial ordination, this was something I would take very seriously, but not to the point where I can’t laugh about it. The way I see it, you go up to a mountaintop, you have a mystical experience and visions unlike anything else in your life, you make peace with God, and you come back a changed man. If that’s not a shamanic initiation, I don’t know what is.

Just to clarify, I didn’t choose this title based on any particular cultural tradition. Altered states of consciousness, a connection to the natural world, a love of God, and a desire for spiritual healing are the things that this term encompasses for me. It is a term that has been used to anthropologists to describe many traditions the world over, but I use it because it feels so right. It ties together everything about my initial experience and the others that have come after.

But even this doesn’t explain why I wept at church. That experience would come later, during another camping trip at the same place.

What I failed to mention on Day 16, when I talked about ego death, is that I’ve been there. I can’t tell you about the brainwave patterns or the science behind the experience, I can only tell you what it feels like.

In the shortest sense, it really was a “letting go.” It was like I was drifting further and further away from “myself,” and I was so afraid. I didn’t know what was happening or what was coming next, all I knew is that I felt this intense swelling of energy that wasn’t going away. After a while of wrestling with this impending something, I finally reached a place were I felt peaceful, and it was as though all the energy flowed away gently. I washed away with it.

When I came to, it was as though I was seeing the world for the first time. It was a beautiful experience; I realized how little we really see in our day-to-day life. I read somewhere that most of the time, we only see the idea of a color because we’re not really looking. I understood what that meant, because I knew what it was like to actually see color for what it was.

This was the day that I understood and conceived of God on a deeper level. This was the day I mentioned in the About page, the day that I understood God-as-Everything. This experience was nothing short of a rebirth. This experience is why I was standing in church today, unable to stop the tears from running down my face.

The story of the resurrection is so beautiful, and it reminded me so much of my own experience. It was a powerful reminder. I know from my own experience that the promise of life that Christ professed is a real promise. We can be free of living as if we are dead. We can be free to truly live.

I wish I could remember the pastor’s exact words today. He was describing the scriptures, and he said that they were true because they have the power to transform people’s lives. I could not agree more. The essence of the faith is so beautiful, and I cannot wait to get to the New Testament in order to read and understand the words of Jesus Christ for myself.

As much as I was reminded today of the beauty and inherent truth of the Bible, I was also reminded of the limitations of current interpretations. I feel like this book has so much more that can be learned from it. The only way to find out is to press on and keep reading.

Good night and good day, everyone.

In your heart and mine, He is risen.

Day 34

Art and Culture

Today was wonderful. I went out and helped paint designs on a previously-tagged bridge out on a reservation. Got to meet some really cool people and artists. Here’s my painting:

imageme

I call it: Desert Sunset. (Spray paint on concrete, freehand.)

Looking good, looking fresh, right? Oh, yeah. It’s maybe three feet wide, at best. Now here is the mural that a gentleman named Paul painted:

To get an idea of the scale, you can see a water bottle and a spray can on top of the wall. He wasn’t even done.

Someday in the future when I’m financially set, I’m just going to buy a bunch of paint cans and go to town. The kind of work that people can do! Just blows my mind, man.


The Pow Wow

After all that, I went to a big pow wow full of artists and vendors and dancers and drummers. In case you haven’t noticed, most of my job is spent working on an Indian reservation. The pow wow had lots of interesting stuff: great turquoise and silver jewelry, lots of cool paintings and woodcarvings, turkey wings and fox tails, all kinds of things. The best part, though, was watching the dancers. We finally sat down and watched some of the performances, between the costumes and the drumming and the singing, the whole thing was wild. Makes me want to get my hand drum and sit around a campfire and just go nuts.

The most interesting part was when one of the dancers dropped his eagle feather. Now I didn’t realize this was such a big deal, but he literally stopped dancing right in the middle of his group’s performance and an event organizer/emcee came out and talked to him. It was some kind of rod/scepter thing with the feather and they just left it on the ground. Nobody touched it. I didn’t know what was going on at all until they made an announcement after the dance concluded. As it turns out, if an eagle feather touches the ground, it has to be “cleansed” or “charged” or something before it can be picked back up. From what one native woman told me, eagle feathers touching the ground is a major taboo, not unlike traditions surrounding flags.

Four older dancers came out, each sprinkling something on the staff (and presumably the feather) in turn. Then the announcer told everyone to please refrain from taking pictures or video, and the song began. The four men, called “honor dancers” danced around the fallen feather, dancing, then moving inward toward it, then dancing outward and rotating clockwise around it. Everyone was standing in silence during this sacred ceremonial performance, and they rotated until they had completed a full circle, I believe. Finally, when the song was completed, one of the dancers lifted the staff off the ground and brought it back to the younger dancer and his family. They talked with him for quite some time before returning it.

What blew my mind about this whole thing, is that the whole afternoon had been sunny and hot… until this happened. I was sitting in the stands, shading my eyes as I watched these dances, but when that song ended after the man had dropped his feather, a cloud passed in front of the sun, blanketing everything in soft, uniform shadow. The shadow persisted while the older men danced, and it was not until they had talked to the young man and given him back his feather that the sun shone once again. It really is the little things…

As a funny aside, when I told this story to the native woman I mentioned above, her eyes got as big as dinner plates and you could almost see the goosebumps on her arms. She remarked how funny it was that even in modern day, with all our technology… strange things still happen. There are still little miracles to be found. I wholeheartedly agree, and I love it.


I know I said yesterday that I would go over Genesis 33, and now as far as scripture goes, I’m behind when it comes to the writing and summarizing. But today was busy, tomorrow is Easter, and I want to go see my partner.

I did my reading and writing and I still feel that I got some good work done. Our best is all we can give, and today, this is my best. I’m fine with that. Oh! And for anyone who is curious (I just know you are!), my Medicine Card for the day was Contrary Fox. It seems that in some way, I may have forgotten that I am worth noticing, and I think I can see the cause. I will address this down the road.

Enjoy your Easter tomorrow, everybody. Have a wonderful night, and peace be upon you.

Day 33

Happy Good Friday, everybody.

Today, I had an interesting horoscope:

horoscope 4 18 14 edit

Not so subtle considering what I ranted about yesterday, i.e. “being in the world but not a part of the world.” God’s always giving me little reminders of my humility… and of His good humor.

Also, while I was outside working, I snapped this picture:

angel cloud edited

Img Credit: Me

I like it. It looks like an angel wing to me, feathers and all. Also, that spire near the middle of the bottom of the picture is the top of an LDS temple. Topped with, you guessed it, an angel. Anyway, just some cool stuff for Good Friday. More interesting to me considering it’s not often cloudy around here.


I read Genesis 33 today, but I’ll get into it tomorrow. I really have been dying to show off some pictures, and today seems like the day. In other news, I figured out the “gallery” feature in WordPress.

The following are pictures of creosote bushes I took during a hiking trip. Ever since I found out what they were, I’ve loved the way they look. The pictures in the left column are the originals (with adjusted contrast/levels) and the ones on the right are obviously filtered. I also wrote a little haiku to go with them.

Creosote bush; a 

thousand tiny lights glowing

in the setting sun.


Thanks to all my readers and followers. Thanks to my partner for always being there for me. Thanks to Jesus for dying that we may live, and thanks to God for coming into my life.

I hope to have some exciting news in the future, but we shall see where life takes me.

Happy Good Friday, everybody. Peace be upon you.


 

Day 32

I was digging through some old posts today, looking to see if I’d talked about a particular idea yet, and I remembered my Medicine Cards and decided to draw one. After some shuffling and deliberation, I fanned through the deck and drew forth… Contrary Blank. Same as last time.

We’ll see what I draw forth tomorrow.

Yesterday’s post was more the kind of thing I envisioned when I started this blog, as opposed to a breakdown of verses and chapters. But when it comes to the long view, I am still in the earliest stages. My first month of this project is behind me, and many more months yet lie ahead.


Genesis 31

In Genesis 31, Jacob leaves the house and land of Laban for his home. He takes his wives and children, all his flocks and servants, and steals away before Laban is aware. This chapter also seems to indicate (through a vision that Jacob received in a dream) that it was God’s will that Jacob would come to possess the largest flocks and the best animals. God knew that Laban had cheated Jacob, had “changed [his] wages ten times,” and Laban lost much of the greatness of his flocks for having wronged Jacob (Genesis 31:7).

Laban catches up with Jacob and accuses him of stealing his idols. Jacob denies this and tells him to search for the man who took them and feel free to kill him. Jacob does not realize that Rachel, his wife, took the idols, but Rachel conceals them from her father and he comes up empty-handed. Jacob rebukes him for this false accusation, and together they come to an understanding. They make a pillar and a covenant, which basically amounts to “You stay on that side, and I’ll stay on this side, and we’ll leave each other alone.”

It is interesting to note that one of the names or titles of God is “the Fear of Isaac,” used in Genesis 31:42 and again mentioned in 31:53. I analyzed the use of the word “fear” back on Day 15, and interested readers will return there to see the three levels of meaning, the last being akin to “reverence” or “awe.”

In the end of this chapter, Laban leaves and returns to his home, leaving Jacob in peace.


Genesis 32

Jacob witnesses the angels of the Lord at his camp, and recognizes that God is with him. He knows that in the past twenty years that Laban kept him, Esau has become a leader of men in the land of Seir. Jacob sends a message to his brother, asking for his brother’s favor and telling Esau of his time with Laban. The messengers return, telling Jacob that Esau is coming with four hundred men.

Jacob divides his forces and flocks, and is afraid. He prays to God that night, humbling himself before the Lord and praising God for His assistance. He prays that God will deliver him from his brother Esau.

Jacob takes huge numbers of livestock and sends them as tribute to Esau. He tells his servants to let Esau know that Jacob is sending these gifts, and in this way he hopes to appease his brother’s anger.

I find this interesting because a common point of theological contention between myself and my partner is the idea of condoning behavior by association. My partner is a passionate and outspoken woman, and not known for her willingness to compromise on matters of importance. She is not afraid to share her opinion, and to me is representative of Christians who know that they will bear their faith like a cross. Many of them know that they will be condemned by the world, and take this as a point of pride. I cannot say if my partner feels this way, or at least in the way that I explain it.

Carl Sagan once said,

“The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses.”

I say also, the fact that some good people are condemned does not imply that all who are condemned are good people. Some Christians go out into the world expecting to be condemned, expecting to be put down or ridiculed, expecting to be criticized, and to them this is proof of their faith. I see the reasoning, but I don’t always agree. Some criticism can be valid, and good criticism (or being a good listener to criticism) can open doors for new understanding.

My point is, instead of being vocal or critical, expressing details that make me different from one another, information that sets me apart from others, I focus on what brings us together first. Once rapport and respect have been established, once a person has been understood, then it is possible to show how your beliefs or your ideas relate to them, showing them the value that they might find.

My girlfriend has, multiple times, quoted a verse or statement about Christians “being in the world, but not a part of the world” or something along those lines. I understand the meaning but I cringe a little on the inside when I hear it. I understand that there is this idea of higher levels of existence, of moving on to Heaven, away from earthly suffering, but to me it sounds so much like creating deliberate distance between oneself and others.

This world has so many wonderful things and wonderful opportunities. There is beauty and joy that can be found, love that can be experienced. There are 7 billion people on this planet, each with different stories and experiences; with so much to learn and do, why would we not want to be a part of it? Why would we not want to join our fellow man in seeking brotherhood and peace? While the message of her statement relates more (I think) to not getting caught up in material things, it sounds like it is used as reasoning to keep oneself separated from other people, and that to me is irreconcilable with who I am and what I do.

Yes, I understand not wanting to condone something indirectly. I have a very close friend who is slowly destroying himself with nicotine and alcohol. Do I think it is okay? Not in the least. I love this bastard to death, but I haven’t yet found something to say or do that will help him change. So do I condemn him for this? Do I focus my attention on telling him the wrong he is doing or the sin he is committing? Or do I recognize that there are underlying needs that are not addressed, that there is underlying emptiness in his heart, and shall I not fill it with my love and friendship for him? Shall I not stand by his side and carry him, even when his injuries are his own doing?

God does not prevent us from harming ourselves. We as a collective species of humanity are very self-destructive, but God does not reach down out of the sky and stop us. We have chosen our lot in life. But God is always present to give us love, to show us both our humility and our worthiness. We get angry, we fight, we get hurt, and we weep… but no matter our shortcomings, God is present to comfort us, to let us rest in the love that He embodies.

My goal, and this is the first time I have worded it this way, is to be an ambassador for God, to show others that His love is the Truth and to show that one doesn’t need to become a pious monk with a stick up his ass to commune with God. God has a sense of humor, and this is apparent if one can recognize the jokes. God wants us to love, laugh, and smile. We are meant to be happy, or at least content and at peace, rather than dour and disagreeable. It is my opinion that being condemning and contrary does not inspire others to join one’s cause. Being open, friendly, accepting, and loving above all else is of the utmost importance. I cannot emphasize this point enough.

Before I get back to Genesis 32, I want to share two videos. The first is from the Christian movement Got a Hug that focuses on expressing and showing love. The second is from a group called The Marin Foundation and the website loveisanorientation.com, which seeks to bridge opposing worldviews.

These videos depict the work of Christians who attend gay pride parades to demonstrate love and acceptance to members of the oft-persecuted LGBT community. Shouting down fire and brimstone and exhorting people to change does not work. Meeting people where they are physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but coming from a place of love is a much better way to show people that your cause is true and just. In my eyes, some of the most obnoxious types of people are those who believe themselves to be above others because of their beliefs, and would rather look down on others than associate with them, teach them, or (worst of all) learn from them.

All that now said, let us get back to Genesis.

Jacob sets out one evening, after having sent his tribute to Esau, and he sends his wives and servants over the brook to the other side. When he is left alone, a man (Man in NKJV) wrestles with him all throughout the night. Once day breaks, this wrestler dislocates Jacob’s hip with a touch, but Jacob maintains his hold. Jacob seems to recognize this “man” with whom he wrestles, and Jacob says that he will not let go until his opponent blesses him. This mysterious Man blesses Jacob, granting him the new name of Israel, meaning “Prince of God,” for he has “struggled with God and with men, and [has] prevailed” (Genesis 32:28).

Jacob asks for his opponent’s name, and I can just picture the Lord smiling as He says “Why is it that you ask about My name?”

Matthew Henry writes that this wrestling match between God and Jacob is a way for us to understand the nature of prayer.

“When the spirit helpeth our infirmities, and our earnest and vast desires can scarcely find words to utter them, and we still mean more than we can express, then prayer is indeed wrestling with God. However tried or discouraged, we shall prevail; and prevailing with Him in prayer, we shall prevail against all enemies that strive with us. Nothing requires more vigour and unceasing exertion than wrestling. It is an emblem of the true spirit of faith and prayer.”¹

I can attest to this, for at times when I have prayed, it is not a simple task but a long and arduous process. Answers and understandings are not always forthcoming, but we must press on if we are to have resolution. When Jacob is finished, the sun is rising; Jacob’s troubled heart is at peace, and he is filled with righteous purpose.

Good night, all. Peace be upon you.


¹ Henry, Matthew. http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=32

Day 31

I’ve said quite a bit and done quite a few summaries of the chapters of Genesis thus far. This is the latest I’ve been, I think, but I haven’t slept yet, so to me it’s still “today.” I read Genesis 31, and I will talk about it and summarize it, but I feel the need to discuss something else.

My girlfriend recently sent me an article called This Is Why Switchfoot Won’t Sing Christian Songs Anymore that it seems has been all over under slightly different titles. I remember when I was in middle school, I knew a boy who was Christian, whose family went to church, and he listened to Switchfoot and Christian rock. I just now looked up the name of the band, and while it is related to surfing, it has a connotation that I expected. Quoting Jon Foreman, the lead vocalist,

“To switch your feet means to take a new stance facing the opposite direction. It’s about change and movement, a different way of approaching life and music.”

Sounds about right to me. This article was written because of a question that Jon was asked about whether or not Switchfoot is a Christian band. This is his response, as edited by me.

“To be honest, this question grieves me because I feel that it represents a much bigger issue than simply a couple [Switchfoot] tunes. In true Socratic form, let me ask you a few questions: Does Lewis or Tolkien mention Christ in any of their fictional series? Are Bach’s sonata’s Christian? What is more Christ-like, feeding the poor, making furniture, cleaning bathrooms, or painting a sunset? There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds. The view that a pastor is more ‘Christian’ than a girls volleyball coach is flawed and heretical. The stance that a worship leader is more spiritual than a janitor is condescending and flawed.

These different callings and purposes further demonstrate God’s sovereignty. Many songs are worthy of being written…. Some of these songs are about redemption, others about the sunrise, others about nothing in particular: written for the simple joy of music.

None of these songs has been born again, and to that end there is no such thing as Christian music. No. Christ didn’t come and die for my songs, he came for me. Yes. My songs are a part of my life. But judging from scripture I can only conclude that our God is much more interested in how I treat the poor and the broken and the hungry than the personal pronouns I use when I sing….

You see, Jesus didn’t die for any of my tunes. So there is no hierarchy of life or songs or occupation only obedience. We have a call to take up our cross and follow. We can be sure that these roads will be different for all of us. Just as you have one body and every part has a different function, so in Christ we who are many form one body and each of us belongs to all the others….”

Mr. Foreman here makes several good points. A song can inspire religious feelings, or it can inspire someone to do or be better. But a song does not itself feel the Holy Spirit, although the notes may be a wonderful vessel by which God speaks to you.

This line of thinking is important to me because it implies that different things and different people exist for a reason. But I took this reasoning down a road that I don’t think Mr. Foreman would like. If he says that a profession cannot be “Christian,” or a song or work of art cannot be “Christian”… Then I am curious if the Bible can be considered to be so. I realize this line of thinking may be disrespectful to some and downright heretical to many, but as Christ did not die for a song, neither did He die for a book. The purpose of His death was to save the souls of men. (I have not yet decided how I feel about souls, since I know that the Greek word was “psyche,” meaning mind. I’ll let you know when I’m done with the Bible.)

Is the Bible not a useful tool, that we may know God and His works? That we may better serve Him and ourselves? Truly, it is, and I think anyone who says otherwise has a skewed perception of the Bible, of religion in general, or of Christianity. As far as I’m concerned, that skewed perception is understandable. Vocal people who call themselves Christians give the group as a whole a bad name. Consider Pastor Terry Jones, who burned a copy of the Islamic holy book, the Quran, because of the September 11th attacks. Consider Ken Ham, who denies or comes up with alternative explanations for things that are measurable, observable, and help our understanding of the modern world (biology and evolution, to name a few).

I realize I’m diverging from my point here, but I don’t care. I had a good conversation with my partner about this the other day, and I finally just said, “You take the Bible literally, and I do not.” There is no biological mechanism that indicates how a human being would have lived to be nearly a thousand years old, and there is no historical evidence to my knowledge, besides the Bible (if you consider that to be historical), that makes mention of men living for fifty generations. There are no fossil records or anthropological sites that show evidence of long-lived, “perfect” humans who degenerate (whatever that means biologically) due to sin.

Now, the archaeological record does show that life expectancy and quality of life dropped after the development of agriculture. People lost their hunting and gathering lifestyle and were confined to long work days, slaves to the seasons and the growth of crops. Over-farming would destroy lush wilderness and leave barren desert in its place, and women sat for hours grinding grain into flour only to develop malformed backs, crippled knees, arthritic joints, and so on. A high-starch diet rotted teeth and gave way to more suffering. If one looks at the story of Adam and Eve as an allegory, this is the Fall of Man. This is the loss of innocence: a carefree lifestyle gone and never to return. Hell, the first murderer was a farmer, according to the Bible.

Eden was a lifestyle of innocence and freedom. It was also likely a place, preserved in memory and eventually in text, of the once-lush land that existed, watered by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Before I return to my point (whatever that was), if you are a Christian, I want to hear your opinions on these things. I want to know if you take the Bible literally or figuratively, and if so, which parts, and why? I’ll reiterate this at the end, and hopefully someone will comment for me and we can start a dialogue.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. The Bible as a “Christian” book. As I have said before, I operate under the assumption belief feeling knowledge idea that there is one omnipresent God. I tend to stick with the Christian convention of a male personal pronoun, and I have the idea that this omnipresent God is timeless, that He forever was and forever will be. I have the idea that all things are manifested through God, and that His energy is what brings us into being. I have the idea that God’s existence implies everything we see, know, and do, and that our existence implies God. I have the idea that God is a Consciousness, but not in a human sense, and that He is present in all the matter and energy and space and time that comprises our universe. Perhaps, if there be something beyond this universe, then God is there as well. But these are just ideas.

Together they form what I consider to be a functional theology. My theology and my ideas lead me to see an underlying Unity with my fellow man, with the beasts and plants of the earth, with the water and the fire and the wind and the stars that shine from impossible distances. My theology leads me to deem everything and everyone worthy of respect and reverence, not in an idolatrous sense, but in the sense that everything is an aspect or manifestation of God. My theology leads me to love myself, to meditate and write and create art and go deeper within the depths of my mind and soul, to find where God resides in the shadows of my heart. My theology leads me to always strive for more, to be a shining example to others that they too may seek more. My theology motivates me to learn and to grow and to strive for spiritual Unity with God, that my life may be transformed and that I may realize the spark of divinity within myself.


I think I’m forgetting something. Oh, right, the Bible. I’m not very good at this game.

I consider the Bible to be a good way of learning about God. But it is not the only way. Truly, it is a sacred book, but in my eyes all things are sacred, one way or another. The problem I have with the Bible that I will address today is that as much as God can speak to us in our own language, God’s power works within the world, and the Language of the World is closer to what I would call God’s “native tongue.” My Bible is the world itself, all that I experience and all that I do. It teaches me many of the same lessons taught in this book which lies before me. Just as the Bible has many books, so too does the world, and each chapter of one’s life, no matter how long or short, contains valuable lessons.

If anything, the Bible is important because it teaches about Christ. Christ, as a person, an idea, or both, is to me the ultimate key. In the Bible, he is a link between God and man. A point of contention that I have with Christians is that they heap all of the divinity on Jesus and forget their own. True, perhaps we are not the miraculously conceived “Son of God,” complete with Capital Letters (again if you believe in that), but we are all children of God, and we have the potential within us to know God and to be like God, filled with mercy and wisdom and love.

My new Bible that I received from the Jehovah’s Witnesses has some introductory questions, and the second of these is “How can you learn about God?” It offers numerous examples from scripture, but this is my favorite:

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”

— Romans 1:20, NKJV

God is present in the Bible, but He is also present in everything else. His qualities and presence are “clearly seen,” but only by those who have the eyes to see them. To me, subject of one’s study is less important than the act of contemplation, the act of wanting to understand, the act of seeking God. Seek God in the Bible, and you will find him. Seek Him in a thimble, and you will find him there as well. But perhaps you have to look differently.

On that note, I will leave you with a quote from the Book of Matthew.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

“For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

— Jesus Christ, Matthew 7:7-8

Peace be upon you.


 

This Is Why Switchfoot Won’t Sing Christian Songs Anymore

– See more at: http://faithlikes.com/2014/04/05/this-is-why-switchfoot-wont-sing-christian-songs-anymore/#sthash.Tq8JXNSF.dpuf

This Is Why Switchfoot Won’t Sing Christian Songs Anymore

– See more at: http://faithlikes.com/2014/04/05/this-is-why-switchfoot-wont-sing-christian-songs-anymore/#sthash.Tq8JXNSF.dpuf