Abraham

Day 27

This week is ridiculous; my partner has such bad luck that I’m beginning to think that she wronged a gypsy or something. (No offense to gypsies.)

But anyway, here I am. I haven’t missed a day yet, and I don’t plan to start today.


Genesis 27

Back to Jacob and Esau.

Isaac is old and dying and cannot see very well. He is also either unfamiliar with the Lord’s promise to Rebekah (Gen 25:23) or doesn’t believe it. (?) Either way, how strange for a man of God such as he.

He calls Esau, the older brother who is destined by God to serve the younger, the brother who has already lost his birthright over a bowl of soup… Isaac calls Esau and asks him to go hunt game and serve it to Isaac, and then Esau will receive a blessing. Rebekah overhears this business and will have none of it.

She tells her son Jacob, whom she loves, to go through this elaborate Scooby-Doo-villain scheme wherein he will disguise himself as his older brother to receive the blessing. This all seems like a moot point, since back in Genesis 26, Esau already gave up his birthright. It would seem that his words didn’t mean all that much. If Jacob wants everything that comes with that birthright, then by gosh, he’s got to get it himself.

This is probably the point that struck me most powerfully: even though Rebekah (and hypothetically, Jacob) knew about God’s blessing/prophecy, they did not just sit around and wait for it to happen. Many people have said that God helps those who help themselves, and to me it seems that  “helping oneself” requires taking action, much like the joke about the drowning man I shared the other day.

Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy if you will, but Rebekah is determined to see Jacob receive his father’s blessing, and she is dead-set on making it happen. I think many people feel a strong calling, or have a great deal of potential, but without the determination and drive to fulfill that potential… well, let’s just say that you reap what you sow, and God isn’t going to pull you out of your own mess. Even lottery winners end up (statistically) unhappy and often broke. But I digress.

Esau heads out to hunt, and Rebekah dresses Jacob up in his brother’s clothes and puts goat skin on his smooth body so that his father might be fully deceived. Rebekah prepares a meal for her husband and the ruse is ready. Jacob goes in, does his thing, lies to his father, and obtains a blessing, which, Matthew Henry points out, amounts to some generic nonsense.

No mention is made of the distinguishing mercies in the covenant with Abraham. This might be owing to Isaac having Esau in his mind, though it was Jacob who was before him. He could not be ignorant how Esau had despised the best things. Moreover, his attachment to Esau, so as to disregard the mind of God, must have greatly weakened his own faith in these things.”¹

So Jacob takes his blessing and dips out, and in true sitcom fashion, Esau walks in immediately afterward. (Laugh track.) Esau gets all indignant once he finds out what happened, even though however long ago it was, he gave up his “despised” birthright.

The day is coming, when those that now make light of the blessings of the covenant, and sell their title to spiritual blessings for that which is of no value, will, in vain, ask urgently for them.”¹

True story. This is an amazing statement. Esau cries or whines or moans or whatever about something that he gave up and now wants back. How often do we give up our future for things of no value? How often do we trade away our presence in the now for temporary pleasures or gratifications? We only get so many second chances; eventually the day comes when we have none.

This whole darn family is messed up. Isaac and Esau disobey God, Rebekah and Jacob lie and cheat to try and “fix” things. When we take matters into our own hands and disregard our innermost feelings, when we deny the presence of the divine in our lives or within us, we are asking for trouble. Surrender to God is key.

Esau vows to kill his brother for wronging him (Cain-style), and Rebekah makes up another ruse, telling her husband that she wants Jacob to leave town and find a wife in the old country because she can’t take another one of these Hittite girls in the family. Leave it to a Jewish mother, am I right? (No offense to the Jews.)

Anyway, I will end today’s post with one last quote from dear Mr. Henry:

“When reading this chapter, we should not fail to observe, that we must not follow even the best of men further than they act according to the law of God. We must not do evil that good may come.”¹


¹ Henry, Matthew. http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?b=1&c=27&com=mhc

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Day 25

Update: I wrote this last night, before going to bed, but apparently it didn’t publish. So here is yesterday’s post, and today’s is forthcoming.


Genesis 25

This chapter jumps around a bit; it begins with genealogy related to Abraham’s second wife. I’m not going to list it all here. The long and short of it is that Abraham leaves his inheritance to Isaac, but makes sure all his other children are provided for before sending them east.

Sometime after this, Abraham passed away at the ripe old age of 175. Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave (vault?) next to his wife, Sarah.

Ishmael lived to 137 years and begat 12 children; if you recall, God and Abraham had this conversation back in Genesis 22.

Next we return to Isaac. His wife is unable to bear children, but after he talks to God, she becomes pregnant. She can tell that something is amiss, and the Lord tells her, in Genesis 25:23,

“Two nations are in your womb,
Two peoples shall be separated from your body;
One people shall be stronger than the other,
And the older shall serve the younger.”

We get a description of birth, with the first child, Esau, coming out “red,” and his brother Jacob hot on his heels — literally.

Esau grew to be an outdoorsman, a hunter, it seems, while Jacob was more intense.

Get it? Get it?! ¹

Anyway, time passes.

Esau comes in one day from the fields and Jacob is cooking. Esau must have been starving, because Jacob asks him for his birth-right in exchange for some dinner. Esau gets snarky or snippy, it seems, and again Jacob tells him to swear on it. Jacob must make a mean lentil stew. And so God’s word is fulfilled, with Jacob gaining the inheritance of his older brother.

Matthew Henry makes a few good points that I will repeat here: firstly, he discusses the level of patience and prayer that we see from Isaac and Rebekah, which shows that God’s promises will be fulfilled in due time; secondly, we see the surrender of a divine birth-right for a worldly pleasure. Esau gives away his inheritance, his blesséd destiny to the land of Canaan for a bowl of stew.²

How often do we turn away from God, from our futures, from ourselves, only to gain some temporary gratification? How often do we cause ourselves harm, or do things we regret, because they feel good in the moment?

Think past your material needs, the so-called desires of the flesh. We can be present in our body, we can exist in the moment, but we can be in a state of spiritual peace. We do not need to keep chasing food and sex and drink and entertainment. It is difficult, because it is often all we know. That is not to say that we need to be in a state of ascetic denial, just that we need to be centered. We need to remember to “rest in God,” to enjoy the love that arises therefrom, and carry that strength and peace throughout our lives.

Good night, everyone. Peace be upon you.


¹ Willenbrock, Mark. Retrieved from http://www.laurierking.com/7702.html

² http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=25

Day 24

At the time of writing, my internet connection is down. But, it is 10:46 pm and tomorrow is not yet here. Today has felt long and short at the same time. I got some work done, got some things accomplished, and was fairly lazy for the rest of the day. It happens.

So, dear readers, I have looked into today’s chapter and I’m ready to go!


Genesis 24

Sarah, wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac, has passed away. Abraham wants his son to have a righteous wife and so makes a servant swear an oath to find one for him. He makes the servant swear to not allow Isaac to take a wife from the Canaanites, and for some reason insists that Isaac not return to his homeland with the servant.

It seems to me from the scriptures that Abraham is now taking very seriously God’s promises, and knows that Isaac must stay and live in this new promised land. As I write that, I remember another use of the term “promised land;” Don Miguel Ruiz uses it as one of the names for the mindset of heaven.

Here in the story of Abraham we see God taking the unfaithful, “lost” land that is Canaan and promising to make make it into a better place suitable for the families of the righteous. God alone works His magic and infuses the material with the spiritual. The power of God can make “heaven” out of “hell.” Heaven, in this case, being a righteous mindset, a strong holy purpose, love and compassion for others, and compassion for oneself. Hell is wandering and never finding, looking but never seeing, hearing but never listening… hell is the emptiness of the heart; hell is being lost at sea, cast about by the capricious whims of fate.

Heaven is finding purpose and fulfilling that purpose, knowing that God is with you through and through. Genesis 24 shows this, in a way. Abraham’s servant, who must travel to find Isaac a wife, is not sure if he can complete the task, at first. But he takes some men and camels and travels to the city of Nahor, home to Abraham’s brother.

When he arrives at the city, he waits by the well, and prays with intense purpose; his desire is strong, he is in place to fulfill his mission. He has clear expectations, and can envision how they will be fulfilled.

Lo and behold, who should come during his prayer but Rebekah, first introduced to us back in Genesis 22:23. I sort of overlooked her on Day 22, as I had no idea who she was. To me it just looked like a mish-mash of Hebrew-ish names. But here she is, apparently the granddaughter of Nahor.

The servant asks her for water, and she gives generously from her pitcher. She tells him that she will bring water for his camels too, and returns to the well to give him water. The man was surprised and waited, “wondering at her” (Genesis 24:21).

Seek and ye shall find, so they say. With clarity of purpose and determination to fulfill his task, yea, it is fulfilled. By the grace of God did this woman Rebekah come to him, this woman who fit his expectations and the needs of his master. And so it is, that with definiteness of purpose, with faith and determination, we can find a way to fulfill our needs and our goals. We can complete the tasks set before us through our own strength and will, but ultimately through the grace of God.

Many people have said this before and written books on the subject (Think and Grow Rich, The Secret, the latter of which I have never read and for which I cannot vouch) but I know it is true for myself. I once read somewhere that it is not necessarily true that events have inherent meaning, but it is possible to find meaning hiding anywhere. “Contemplate a grain of sand,” and so forth.

If you are looking for a solution, start looking at everything through the lens of your situation, and you will be amazed at how much suddenly applies and connects. Trust your instincts.

This happened to me once upon a time. I had gone camping and during that time of peace and quiet, that time of separation from the tyranny of clocks and the racing rats of life… during that time I had the most amazing experience. It is hard to explain, but I felt God in a cosmic, universal way. I was fresh and new from moment to moment, there was no past and no future, just a wondrous, miraculous now, and that now, the same now as right now, was at its core made up of the purest, whitest light. Color and shape and beauty abounded, but it was as though I could see the Light behind it all; I could see the light and love that is Creation. It was amazing.

The only problem was, I didn’t know what to do afterward. How could I ever go back? How could I go back home, back to living by a clock, back to working at my bulls**t, dead-end job? I was afraid and I was filled with despair. Much like Abraham, who had seen the power of the Lord, I still doubted. Oh, Abraham… I never realized until just now how much I understand you.

And so my night passed in contemplative silence; reality was coming and I had no choice but to face it sooner or later. But I knew that something in my mind had to change; there was a switch that needed to be turned on, some new piece of information I needed to acquire to be at peace. Lo, and behold…

I had brought with me a book, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman. It was lent to me by a friend and spiritual confidant; she thought I would appreciate it. I don’t know why I brought it, or why the circumstances in my life had led me to talk to this friend, or the circumstances that led her to be in a place to acquire and read and value this book, and so pass it to me. A million little choices added up to one little miracle…

So the morning we’re supposed to pack up and leave, head back to “civilization,” as it were, I was still feeling empty. Like Abraham, I felt as though I would be headed to a foreign land, and I was concerned about my safety. That morning, I picked up the book and started reading where I had left off. This is the other part that gets me: I left off in such a perfect spot, and so on this morning, I was able to find exactly the piece of information I needed. Like Abraham’s servant, I knew I needed something, and by the grace of God, I found it. What follows is one version of the same parable:

“Long ago, there was a young man who was searching for enlightenment. He saw a very old man walking towards him, carrying a heavy sack of rice on his back, and was stooped over, his head low to the ground.

The young seeker went up to the old man. He said: ‘Please, sir, can you tell me what enlightenment is?’

The old man threw the sack off his back, and stood up straight and proud.

‘Ah yes, I see!’ The young man cried. “Now can you tell me what comes after enlightenment?’

The old man picked up the rice, and continued his stooped march up the hill.”

I read this and stopped. I looked up and laughed and wept. It was hilarious, it was beautiful, and it was obvious. My burden and my fears were gone from me, and I was able to return home in peace. Of course, I grew increasingly dissatisfied with my position, and only lasted about three more months there, but that is a story for another day.

By the grace of God, we are given what we need, if only we have the courage to look and to ask with an open heart. I am reminded here of a joke that shows what happens when you do not have the eyes to see the gifts of God.

“There was an old man sitting on his porch, watching the rain fall. Pretty soon the water was coming over the porch and into the house.

The old man was still sitting there when a rescue boat came and the people on board said, ‘ You can’t stay here. You have to come with us.’

The old man replied, ‘No, God will save me.” So the boat left. A little while later, the water was up to the second floor, and another rescue boat came, and again told the old man that he had to come with them.

The old man again replied, ‘God will save me.’ So the boat left him.

An hour later, the water was up to the roof, and a third rescue boat approached the old man, trying to get him to come with them.

Again the old man refused to leave, stating, ‘God will save me’ So this boat, too, left him.

Soon after, the water rises and the man drowns. He arrives in Heaven, and when he sees God, he asks, ‘Why didn’t you save me?’

God replied, ‘You dummy! I tried! I sent three boats after you!’”

Gets me every time.

But I digress. The servant does not have the problem of the drowning man, and he sees the work of the Lord for what it is. He speaks to Rebekah, offers her a golden nose ring and golden bracelets, and prays to God. She tells her family about the man, and her brother Laban speaks to him and invites the servant into their home.

The servant tells his story to Laban and Bethuel, his father, and they are reluctant to let her go so quickly. They wish to keep her for ten days, but the servant implores them to reconsider.

reconsider

Something like that. ¹

They ask Rebekah about this and she agrees to go with the servant. Her family blesses her, and Rebekah and her maids leave. They travel back to the land of the Canaanites, where Isaac and Abraham dwell. Rebekah covers herself with a veil and meets Isaac; the servant explains the story, and Isaac and Rebekah are married. First cousins once removed wasn’t such a big deal back then.

Genesis 24 ends in verse 67, stating that Isaac was comforted after his mother’s passing. It seems to be only natural that the new takes the place of the old, and that we move on after our mourning period. Abraham does not forget his wife, but he buries her and mourns her and then goes about the business of living.

Isaac, too, must live, for his life has purpose; he must not spend forever grieving over the loss of his mother. In this case, the beautiful and virginal Rebekah (Genesis 24:16) seems to ease his mind. But of course I joke; Genesis 24:67 also says that Isaac loved Rebekah, and by loving her, he can once again experience joy.

Well, time is up for the day! Midnight has come, and further writing will have to wait for tomorrow’s chapter.

Good night (or good day, depending on when you’re reading this), and peace be upon you.


¹ Kung Pow! Enter the Fist, 2002. 20th Century Fox and O Entertainment. Image retrieved from http://archive.4plebs.org/tg/thread/26247501

Day 23

Oy, some days I just do not feel like writing much. After waking up after not enough sleep and going to a joyous tax appointment, I’m barely up for it. But a promise is a promise, and so here I am.

I’m just going to take a moment today to promote my Contribute! page. For those of you who are following or reading along, I’m always interested in people’s experiences or interpretations, and if you have some insight or opinion on a chapter or verse of the Bible, please share it with me!

Also, I’ll probably have a new page tomorrow or the next day: I’m going to start a list of book recommendations. These will be spiritual- or self-help-type books that I have read and that I highly recommend. Expect it by the end of the week.

Let’s get started, shall we?


Genesis 23

Sarah, wife of Abraham, finally passes away at the tender young age of 127. Abraham seeks to find a burial site for his wife, somewhere where she may be “out of [his] sight” (Genesis 23:4). This struck me as interesting, because it suggests that even our closest attachments in life can be put behind us. Abraham will not forget his wife and the time he spent with her, but she has passed; his duty is to live and keep living a godly life. He honors his wife Sarah with a burial, and he honors himself by moving on.

Adventure Time!

Adventure Time S5E16 – source: http://imgur.com/gallery/WvaQn

Now that I’ve posted the above image, I am reminded of Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. In the book, Tolle explains that the state known as “enlightenment” does not come from a denial of the body or an escape from the present moment, but instead comes from acceptance of and presence in the now. Things and people come and go; living in the past or future can cause depression or anxiety. Living in the moment, in the now,is key. This does not mean to disregard or ignore the past or future, necessarily. It just means being wholly present, being aware of feelings and sensations, being an impartial observer and not ignoring what it means to be human and alive in this moment. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, just being fully present is enough to be alive.

Abraham chooses life, and even though he loved his wife dearly, he buries her out of his sight. He puts the past behind him, for that is the land of the dead. Now is the only time to be alive.

Abraham speaks to the people of Canaan, the sons of Heth, and they tell him to speak to Ephron about the land he desires. Abraham does so, and Ephron offers him the land for free. Abraham has the ability to pay, and does not take advantage of Ephron’s kindness.¹ Ephron deeds the land to Abraham, and he buries his wife Sarah.

It is strange that I should feel sad about this. I am reminded of what I wrote the other day about death and dying (hard to believe it was a week ago). Even though death is a release, a release from this human realm of suffering, I am still imagining how Abraham must feel. After many long years with his wife, her time had come to an end; he grieved and he buried her.

I have never had to dig a grave for a person, but I have dug a grave for a beloved pet; that was difficult enough. I sang and I cried while I dug the grave; I am not ashamed. We can love so completely and so dearly, and letting go is hard. It is natural for us to be accustomed to others, to be accustomed to their presence and the joy or comfort that they bring us.

We forget, or perhaps many of us never even learn, that all the love and joy is within us. We spend so much time seeking love and seeking peace, hoping that it will come externally or in the future. The truth is that all the joy you have ever felt has come in the form of brain activity and neurotransmitters. Not so poetic, I know, but feel free to attribute this to the actions or presence of the Holy Spirit if that suits you.

My point is that with the right frame of mind, it is possible to realize the joy that is within. I know it is possible, because I did it. It was a fleeting feeling, but it came during intense self-reflection and meditation. I searched deep within myself, exploring my thoughts and my past, trying to understand some of my dysfunctions, trying to find the motive force behind my recurring problems.

I suddenly understood, and more importantly, felt the truth of the matter: the love I was seeking was within me. It was like a wellspring that had been forgotten and ignored, but I had rediscovered it. I have not visited that place, that state of mind, in quite some time, but knowing that it exists makes me feel better.

This well exists as a boundless love, love which as always implies acceptance. This acceptance is centered in the timeless divinity of now, the eternal peace of Being. The well is the love of God, the path comes from awareness and presence: a state of Being. The well is within us; the path is within us. And this is not a path that the so-called egoic mind can traverse. Only the higher consciousness, the Observer, the great “I am” can walk this path. And all of this is within you. This divine wellspring, this boundless love is within you right now, waiting to be found.

The well, the path, and the traveler; all three are God. These three aspects are one and the same; each implies the existence of the others. When one discovers this love, this peace, this presence… the moment before the realization, you feel a progression, you feel like you’re approaching a destination, you have a sense of the path. But the moment after the realization, you will realize the unity of it all. The truth is that you are at the well because you are the well. The love comes from within you, and it is only now that you are finding yourself.

Words are terribly insufficient for describing this phenomenon. I’ve tried like four times to write a sentence and I can’t come up with one. You’re not just finding yourself, though. You’re finding everyone else, and realizing that the every words “everyone else” are meaningless. I’m going to quote Don Miguel Ruiz from The Four Agreements and hope that it is sufficient:

“It is true. I am God. But you are also God. We are the same, you and I. We are images of light. We are God.”

My brain is officially wracked trying to explain something for which there are no words. Just be present, explore yourself, love yourself. Grok the meaning of “I am,” and never forget that it is one of the names of God.

Peace be upon you.


¹ Henry, Matthew. From http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=23

Day 22

Three weeks! I’ve officially passed the three-week mark as far as consistent, daily writing. One of my absolute favorite quotes (which I just learned is attributed to Katherine Center) is

“You have to be brave with your life so that others can be brave with theirs.”

My soul burns with these words; it resonates on such an intensely personal level that it feels as though it were written for me alone. This is my philosophy and my creed. It is as beautiful as the Golden Rule of “doing unto others” but it is turned inward. It is about how one treats oneself, how a person lives his or her own life as a beacon, a shining example. It is about doing and about being, about taking risks and overcoming challenges and letting other people see and believe it is possible.

It is about challenging old ways of thinking and old patterns of behavior. It is everything I love about psychology and faith rolled into one amazing statement. My mind races and my body vibrates with energy every time I think of it. It makes me want to go out and change the world, to go out and do something incredible, something that would have seemed impossible.

That is why I am writing this blog. That is why I am reading the Bible. A daily commitment of time and effort to something is impossible based on all of my previous experience and attempts. I could not write poetry every day, I could not exercise every day, I could not clean my house every day. I had not the power nor the discipline to see these things through, to visualize them in my head, to need them to be true and to realize them, to use all of my strength and will to bring them into being.

But, by God, here I am. Three weeks in and I shall not cease. I will write every single day until I am finished reading the Bible. And then I will write more and more. I will fill my life with… I will fill it with many things. But I have a sneaking suspicion that by the time I am done reading the Bible three years hence, I will know how to decisively finish that statement.

I want to say thank you today to all my followers. Right now there aren’t very many but every single one means so much to me, because in a way it reminds me that what I have to say means something. I committed to this task and I will see it through no matter what, but it feels good to have others following on my journey. I know no one asked for my advice, but I want to share what I’ve learned thus far:

Search deep within yourself for that nagging feeling, that one thought, that one imperative that will not let go. Dig deep and find the goal that you cannot dismiss, and find a way to achieve  it. If you are to be a writer, then start writing. Find that desire that cannot be ignored, for that is the fire of your life begging to be lit.

My followers:

  1. Musings from a Tangled Mind
    http://www.musingsfromatangledmind.com
  2. GODisms
    http://godisms.wordpress.com
  3. Jarosław PlayWithLifE
    http://www.playwithlife.org
  4. Kendall F. Person, thepublicblogger
    http://thepublicblogger.com/
  5. thisyearinmusic
    http://thisyearinmusic.wordpress.com

I just want to say thank you, and I hope that despite our diverse backgrounds or beliefs or what have you, I hope that the ideas I spread through my words mean something. I hope that watching as I move forward toward completion of this task, I hope that it brings you inspiration, that it drives you to do more than you thought possible.

This is nothing less than a realization of a dream, a transmutation of desire into reality, an exercise of pure will. And now that I have made up my mind, I feel a true and deep conviction… It is like nothing I have ever felt, and I know that my will has strength and that it will triumph at any cost.

Triumph_des_Willens_poster

Oh for Christ’s sake… That’s not what I meant and you know it!¹

Hey, just because I’m baring my soul doesn’t mean I can’t keep a sense of humor. I know, I know, Nazis aren’t funny, but… I can’t resist a terrible pun.

Also while I’m thanking people I want to thank my partner for being with me through this trying time, for encouraging me and believing in me. I love you so much.


Genesis 22

Ah, famous Genesis 22. God calls upon Abraham to kill and offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. I like how God says, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love…” just to drive home the point and make this extra difficult for Abraham (Gen 22:2). But at this point Abraham seems to have learned his lesson(s) and this time he obeys without question.

Long story short, just as he is about to kill his son, God calls him again (“Abraham!” “Here I am.” I wonder if that rhymes in Hebrew too?) and tells him that he can stop now, and he doesn’t have to stab Isaac. God once again reaffirms his promises to Abraham regarding descendents and land and all that, and hopefully Isaac forgave his dad for this whole mess, and to wrap it all up, we get some genealogy of Abraham’s brother Nahor.

Matthew Henry says a good deal about this chapter but for the most part the story speaks for itself. The only thing that really struck me during this whole story was the parallels between the near-sacrifice of Isaac and the future sacrifice of Jesus Christ. “Your only son,” and so forth. Henry even makes the point that Isaac carries the wood toward his own sacrifice as noted in Genesis 22:6, just as Christ bore the cross on which he would be killed.

One excellent bit of information that Henry brings up is that

“In Hebrew, to tempt, and to try, or to prove, are expressed by the same word.”²

I’ll keep this in mind any time any of those words shows up. Also, I discovered Wesley’s Explanatory Notes today, my eyes having been drawn by a banner ad to that part of the page. I’d heard of them before but never explored them, having stuck with Henry. John Wesley is credited with creating the Methodist movement, apparently. His notes break each chapter down verse by verse. Frankly, I might use him for some clarification, but it’s… it’s just too much.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for today; I’m going back to bed.

Peace be upon you.


¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triumph_of_the_will

² http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=22

Day 21

Last night after I finished my writing, my partner read it and told me that she thought I was a good writer. It might not seem like much on the outside but after a long, tense, stressful week, this is how it felt:

I never noticed how husky her voice sounds; not how I’d imagine some young fawn, but whatever. That’s beside the point! I’m tired and distracted and still trying to recover from my sunburnt and exhausting day yesterday, so let’s get down to business.


Genesis 21

Psalm, Chronicles, Kings, Judges, Deuteronomy, Leviticus… here we are! Genesis.

I’m going to give the short short version today. (inhale)

So God visits Sarah and Sarah births a son to Abraham just as God said and Abraham names his son Issac and Isaac gets circumcised when he’s eight days old and Sarah thinks it’s still super weird and funny that she birthed a child but Sarah is all catty and jealous or something and so she tells Abraham that Hagar needs to get out and take her kid with her and Abraham doesn’t seem so thrilled with the idea but God tells him that it’s going to be okay so trust me on this one and so Hagar leaves with not a whole lot of water or food and she gets away and worries that her son is going to die and they talk about the kid like he’s a baby but in Genesis 17, Ishmael was already like thirteen years old but anyway God comes to her or sends an angel or something and tells her not to worry about it and showed her a well and the kid grows up and becomes an archer I guess. (gasp) So anyway then apparently he grows up and gets married and then “at that time” Abraham is talking to Abimelech and his general Phichol and they swear stuff to each other and are all well and good but then Abraham gets upset and rebukes Abimelech because of some well somewhere and I’m not sure what the heck is going on because Abraham acts like he dug this well apparently but Abimelech’s men seized it and I guess this is a big deal so then they made up and called the well Beersheba which was totally the same name as the place where Hagar went back in Genesis 20:14 so I’m really confused and anyway Abraham plants a tree there and it grows and he calls on God and prays or something and then he lives there in the land of the Philistines for many days. The end.

Oh, Matthew Hennnnnry…

So first of all I misread 21:9 and it turns out that the point is that Ishmael scoffed at Isaac. He was being disrespectful of someone who is really his half-sibling, and thus being disrespectful of his own father. Having no respect for the house, he is cast out. Matthew Henry says this:

“By abusing privileges, we forfeit them. Those who know not when they are well off, will be made to know the worth of mercies by the want of them.”¹

Regarding the whole thing with the well, I forgot how important a well of water is in a time before indoor plumbing and pumping stations. So it seems as though Abraham wanted his rights to the well back. I suppose when the Bible mentions the Wilderness of Beersheba in 21:14, perhaps that was a known area back then, but perhaps it got its name after Abraham and Abimelech made their oath. In this sense, it would be like saying “what is now California,” or some such thing.

While living in this land, Abraham plants a tree and prays. Henry has this to say:

“Abraham kept up public worship, in which his neighbours might join. Good men should do all they can to make others so.”¹

It’s poignant to me, and I think many Christians would agree with this statement. However, I think many people seek to accomplish this goal by pushing their beliefs and, intentionally or not, putting themselves on a pedestal. When someone acts like they’re better than everybody because of their faith, others are more likely to try and find fault. The truth is we all sin, in one way or another, or at least we have in the past. Nobody is “perfect,” but I feel like I must append this statement. We are who we are, and it cannot be expected that we should be different. All the inputs and experiences and things learned from life have put is here, now, in this place, wherever that may be. Where else could we be? Who else could we be?

But the power is within us to change our environment, to have new experiences, to take time to observe our own thoughts and thought patterns and to interrupt dysfunctional ones and promote or reinforce healthy ones. I can’t think of how to phrase all the things I want to say right now, but in a sense you must be the guardian of your soul, keeping watch for the anger and fear that seeps in from outside sources as well as that which bubbles up from within. I was going to use walls and barriers as a metaphor, but you’re not protecting a fragile heart or defending a delicate soul; you are strengthening the very thing you protect.

2012-11-27-twowolvesnewBy giving back, by being kind, by spreading love, your heart grows and your soul strengthens. Your love will run deeper and deeper until there is no place for anger or fear or hatred. Love, which implies God, will suffuse your entire being and you will realize the beauty of life. You will discover what I mean when I say that nobody’s perfect, but everybody is.

Have a blesséd day. Peace be upon you.


¹ http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?b=1&c=21&com=mhc

P.S.: Oh my God I’ve been dying to include some Zen Pencils comics in my work but haven’t found an appropriate point until now. Gavin Aung Than, the artist, is one of my idols and heroes. I can draw a little bit, but not like him. I haven’t practiced and haven’t worked at it. Maybe someday, but for now I will spread my messages through my writing. Regardless, his work always seems to be in the back of my mind. The comic posted above can be found here.

 

Day 20

I really tried to get up early this morning to do this. Just shows how well “trying” gets anything done. It was bad enough today having woken up at around 6 am; I can’t imagine if I’d gotten up at 5. The problem is that now I’m just tired.

But, dammit, I’m going to see this thing through to the end. By the time I’m done with this project, and I know I will finish because I can visualize it perfectly, when I’m done, I will have made writing as much of a daily ritual as sleeping. I can’t wait. Part of me always wanted to become a writer, and I’ve got archives of old poems to prove it. (Their quality varies.) I’ve started two or three books and never finished and I’ve had ideas for several more that have never come close to fruition. But I have stories to tell, and I can’t seem to bring myself to practice much but this right now. Although by doing one thing every single day, I can build new habits. I can “unlearn what I have learned.”

I finally looked this up, because I thought of Yoda and the whole “trying” thing that I mentioned above. I was just going to use an image but I forgot the entirety of the scene, and I felt that it was important to include. This project, case in point, is not getting done because I am trying. It is getting done, chapter by chapter, day by day, because I am doing. If there is one thing I can recommend to anyone, and I know this has been said before, but do. Sitting and thinking and hoping and theorizing and whatever is all well and good, but you will not get anywhere unless you go out and get things done. It doesn’t matter if you are defeated the first time, or the second time, or the hundredth time. You are learning the whole way.

The important question is, “What are you willing to commit to?”

I myself am willing to commit to spending time every day, no matter how tired I may be, to reading the Bible and writing this blog. I am pushing myself harder than ever before and I am feeling the burn, I am feeling the resistance. Part of me wants to collapse and is ready to throw in the towel. But now I have no choice. I have no choice but to succeed in my career because I will not go back to waiting tables. I have no choice but to continue this project because of my conviction and spirituality. I would not live with myself otherwise. The time has come for me to dig my feet in and say that I will give no ground. No matter how hard life pushes me I will push back. I will press on.

It has been said that “faith can move mountains.” In one sense, by maintaining one’s climb, by pressing ahead, by taking one step after another no matter what, the mountain will have moved: the obstacle that lay ahead  now lies behind. In another sense, look at Christ’s words in Mark 11:23:

“Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.

I spoke earlier on Day 8 about the Language of the World… a communication that is beyond words and human speech. It is wind and water and element and action. It is a language of happenings. In our human tongues we need to say “I am” in a million different ways; we speak our thoughts and feelings just so that we can show others (and ourselves) that we are here, just so we can avoid being forgotten and drifting, lost, into obscurity. But in the Language of the World there are no words, and it is through our actions that we must convey our existence. Actions happen to us and we take action, effecting change in the world. I don’t even mean big changes; by doing something as simple as cooking an egg or drinking water we are moving atoms and reorganizing molecules. The world is different because of our action.

So go back to Christ’s words. One cannot stand next to a mountain and command it in English or Hebrew or any other tongue; mountains do not understand such things. But if you tell it to move in the Language of the World… now that is a language that a mountain can understand. There is no room for misinterpretation. Your action, in that sense, speaks for itself. Actions speak louder and deeper than words, and reverberate long after words have gone silent.

The second part of His statement in Mark 11:23 deals with belief. It is necessarily to have a clear picture, to develop one’s faith in a desired outcome, to see it in the mind’s eye. Once it is real to the mind and heart, once all doubt has been cast aside, then the path lies open and the dream will be made real.

Napoleon Hill knew this truth and gleaned it from so many successful men. Interested readers will direct their attention to Think and Grow Rich by Mr. Hill, for he gives instructions on how to develop faith, the likes of which I have never seen. Faith is a delicate in its early stages and must be tended to as a precious flower; it will not grow in infertile soil. It must always be tended to and strengthened, and once it is developed, nothing can shake it.

Time to delve into my chapter of the day. No matter how hard things get, readers, say it with me:

“I will press on.”


Genesis 20

So Abraham pulls the same stunt he pulled in Egypt back in Genesis 12 and tells Abimelech, king of Gerar, that his wife is his sister. I wanted to find some super stereotypical redneck picture for this but I really couldn’t bring myself to do it. Especially considering that after he is called out on it by Abimelech, Abraham says

“But indeed she is truly my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.”

Nice one, Abraham. Keepin’ it all in the family. So okay, half-sister, if this is to be taken literally? Whatever.

The whole point here seems to be that Abimelech, after taking Sarah, was visited in a dream by God and informed of the truth and of his unwitting sin. Abimelech is warned of the consequences of his sin because God knows that he was deceived and will not allow him to fall into sin. It is important for us to cultivate a righteous heart so that we can listen when God speaks.¹

Also important is Abraham’s deception. For some reason, once again, he fears for his life and distorts the truth about Sarah. He comments that he was worried that “the fear of God is not in this place,” but he himself slips back and fails to trust in God and the covenant established therewith. Steady that inconstant heart, Abraham. S**t ain’t over yet.

The thing I wonder about Genesis 20, just out of curiosity, is how long this whole episode takes. At the end of this debacle

“Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his female servants. Then they bore children;
for the Lord had closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.”

Yeesh. I just wonder if this actually took some time, maybe a few months or something before Sarah was restored to Abraham. Or maybe Abimelech and his people are just good at getting freaky as soon as the Lord’s curse was lifted. Either way, don’t mess with Abraham’s wife.

So ends Genesis 20. Looks like a long chapter ahead for tomorrow.

Have a blesséd evening, everybody. Peace, I’m out.


¹ http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?b=1&c=20&com=mhc

Day 18


Out of the Bag

Well, thankfully, I finally told my partner what I’ve been up to. She was asking me what else I had to do tonight and I finally just explained the whole thing to her. She spent some time reading my posts but she was super tired and didn’t get through all of them. I’m glad it’s not a secret anymore, and we had a good talk about my tendency to perceive disagreement as always being a negative conflict. I’m not sure where this comes from, but past relationships is where I’d put my money. It could have potentially come from my upbringing, too. I don’t remember seeing or hearing many disagreements between my parents, and I rarely had disagreements with my parents until I was in middle school or high school. At that point, it was always about something that I’d done wrong or been dishonest about.

But as a Christian, she is happy for me and she approves of this project. Now I just need to make sure I can set time aside. This might be a good way to help establish healthy relationship boundaries. I need to find and set them more than she does.

Especially because writing at the end of my day is terrible for productivity. I helped my partner move and that took up most of the day, and I was already tired beforehand. I had friends help me, and I got to spend some time with them, but it’s just not the same as having free, unstructured time to do whatever I want or even nothing at all. Some days I just want to be lazy and it usually doesn’t take very long for me to snap out of it. But when I don’t get that time, I get more and more backed up until I snap.

At least, that’s how it would work in the past. That anger will never get the best of me again. Instead, I was a mixture of grumpy and sad tonight and I finally just resigned myself to letting my partner leave me alone. We had our separate space, her to watch Netflix and me to do work. And no great harm came of it. Yay, I’m learning to not be crazy!


Genesis 18

In Gen 18, Abraham is hanging out near the terebinth trees of Mamre when “the Lord appeared to him” (Gen 18:1). He looks up, either from a vision of the Lord or from hearing someone coming, and he sees three “men” approaching. This to me is immediately suspect. There is not a clear distinction made here between the appearance of the Lord and the appearance of these three men. It seems that some are of the opinion that these three are related to or actually are the three aspects of the Trinity in human form. Now, to me, the idea of a human form of the Holy Spirit seems to contradict the very concept thereof, but whatever. As far as I can tell from the literature, these are somehow divine beings, because they are here almost as proxy for the Lord.

Abraham bows and allows them to wash their feet, and he feeds them. Abraham knows them for who they are, and treats them well. I remember my story yesterday about the hitchhikers, and how I felt that they were more than what they appeared. Would that we could treat everyone in our lives as though they were angels in disguise! Would that we could recognize the Divine within all of us, and never seek to hate or harm another human being ever again. Abraham has awareness and a heart full of compassion, and his faith is rewarded.

God, whether directly as one of the men or by proxy through the man, tells Abraham once again that his wife Sarah shall bear him a son. Sarah at this point is long past menopause, being at least ninety years old, according to Genesis 17:17, and she laughs with surprise. Her exact words in Genesis 18:12 are “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” So, there is a possibility that she is speaking of the pleasure of childbirth and of being a mother. It also dawns on me that perhaps Abraham is having some trouble keeping his staff raised, if you know what I mean, and maybe it’s been some time since he has “known” her.

Either way, the Lord hears this and wonders why Sarah laughed at a proclamation of God. Genesis 18:15 reads

“But Sarah denied it, saying, ‘I did not laugh,’ for she was afraid. And He said, ‘No, but you did laugh!'”

Whoops. Don’t laugh at God. But God seems to have a good sense of humor about the whole thing. That exclamation point says it all, as far as I’m concerned. Had the line been

“No, but you did laugh.”

it would have come off as very stern and disappointed. To me, it’s like God recognizes her fear, calls her out for lying to Him, and has a good laugh about the whole thing. At least I hope so, since he doesn’t smite her into ashes and all. But on the other hand, a promise is a promise, and she has some begetting left to do.

The Lord or these men or somebody has a little internal monologue, it seems, in Genesis 18:17-19, related to whether or not He should tell Abraham what’s going on. So the Lord decides to tell him that the plan is to go warm up the old smitin’ muscles and lay waste to Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham sidles up to God and His fellows: “Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham stood still before the Lord” (Genesis 18:22). He spends the next ten verses talking God down from this whole “smiting” business.

Perhaps Abraham remembers his nephew Lot, who lives there, and would rather not see the whole place destroyed because of a bunch of sinners. So Abraham starts narrowing numbers, asking God if he would spare the city for 50, then 45, then 40 righteous people, and so on down to 10.

The conversation pretty much goes like this:

“Look, God, far be it from me to question your plan and all, but what about the good ones? You just gonna kill them all too? What if there were, say, 50 righteous people there?”

“Well, I guess I could spare the city for 50.”

Abraham cringes ever so slightly. “Nice, that’s good to hear. Now I know I’m talking to God here, but… what about 45?”

God sighs. “Alright, 45 righteous people, and the city will be spared.”

Abraham’s eyes narrow. “How about 40?”

Abraham continues. “Look, God, don’t get mad. This is the last time, I swear: What about 10?”

God throws up His hands. “Alright, alright. 10 righteous people and I swear I’ll spare the place.”

I guess I’m sort of dramatizing the whole thing, but it sure is funny to imagine. And I guess if you want to stereotype Jews as being good bargainers, well, here’s Abraham, talking God’s price down. I’m picturing this as a Mel Brooks scene now.

After Abraham and the Lord are done, God leaves.


The interesting thing that Matthew Henry notes about this chapter is that Abraham never begs God to spare the wicked their punishment.

“Righteousness only can be made a plea before God.”

— Matthew Henry¹

I see this story or the overall idea of God’s “punishment” as more of a “reaping what one has sown,” as opposed to the smiting and the destroying and all that. Wicked people bring unto themselves misery and guilt and shame, and as humans we are all born with a) the propensity for sin (Eastern Orthodox) or b) the burden of inherited sin (Catholics). So either way, we’re all sinners, and without repentance, we will reap only death and never harvest the most nourishing fruit of life.

I think it’s important to remember and to have a healthy spirituality that God will never do wrong. Man can take circumstances and make them painful, man can fill an empty vessel of an experience with negative emotions, but there is a silver lining to every cloud and a lesson that can be learned from every experience. This probably sounds like a load of bulls**t to those of you who feel that you drew the short straw in life, and I completely sympathize. I’m not there now, but I was for a long time. Between growing up with constant money problems compounded by my father’s unexplainable stroke at the ripe old age of 36, I felt like life was just going to keep kicking me while I was down.

I can’t really say what led up to it, but I’m pretty sure the episode with the Infinite Serpent that I mentioned back in Day 3 was pretty much the tipping point. That was the day I understood, no, I grokked the potential for suffering to make us stronger. That changed my outlook, and I realized that God was not to blame for suffering. If anyone can be said to be blamed, it is man. It is man with our free-ish will and our weak and cowardly hearts. We do so much harm to one another, and it can take a long time for someone to see or grasp potential benefits or growth from that harm.

But God or the universe or whatever you want to call the great Unity, the Oneness that is, that Consciousness has a plan. It may not be a plan in the human sense, but regardless, there is a beginning, there are an uncountable number of turns and choices and switches and changes, and there is likely to be an end. We are not just observing this “plan” over the course of our human lives; we are the plan. The meaning of life is living.

Somewhere a few billion years ago stars were born, and they burned and fused elements and then exploded and scattered those elements throughout the universe. And some of them, enough of them, collected in a cosmically tiny sphere of rock that burned and melted and stormed and cooled…. And those elements cooked in the hearts of stars became building blocks that could copy themselves, and those blocks made more blocks and so on and so forth, and DNA was born and several billion years later, the same atoms that cooked in stellar furnaces are what lie behind our eyes and in our beating hearts. We are the universe.

So go forth, find the silver lining to every cloud, no matter how close you have to look or how far away you have to stand. Find the benefit, find the learning experience. Learn and grow and know your own power. Begin to master your emotions and your will, feel the spark of the Divine that flows through you. The knowledge and awareness of Adam and Eve gave them shame and sin, but it also gave them the possibility of change and growth. We learn the most from our mistakes…

Go forth and learn! Become wise and find thyself, and you will recognize the inherent goodness of “the plan.” Accept what is, and be free. The true power of God will never lead you to weakness, only humility.

“SHALL NOT THE JUDGE OF ALL THE EARTH DO RIGHT?”

He shall.


¹ http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=18

 

 

Day 17

Time is running short today…

I don’t know where you are or when you’re reading this, but it’s nearly midnight and I’m just starting. This would be a lot easier if this weren’t still a secret from my partner, but oh well. Maybe today’s just doesn’t need to be long.

Hitchhikers

Yesterday I did something out of the ordinary, for me anyway. I was driving to work and I saw two hitchhikers with a shopping cart full of stuff. They needed to go out beyond where I was going. I started to slow down to tell them I couldn’t take them, or to make conversation, or something really stupid, but when I pulled up and rolled my window down, they were so happy that someone had stopped that I just couldn’t say no. I pulled off and loaded all their things up; one of their bags had a very large knife, hunting-style, not kitchen-style, and I made sure it stayed put. I was a little paranoid but they seemed like good people.

It was a nice drive. They were wonderful people who were going through some terrible things. The man, when he worked, did hard labor, mostly construction-type jobs. He had dabbled in various kinds of drugs but only smoked marijuana these days. The woman used to do some sort of care-taking or behavioral health or some such related thing. I don’t know if this is cheesy bullshit or not but these people were vibrant. They didn’t look like much at all on the outside but I could just tell that they were living every single minute.

Perhaps they were not “conscious,” as Eckhart Tolle would say, but damn if they weren’t digging deep into life. I can’t say whether they would have traded it for stability. The woman, again just radiant beneath her dirty hair and sun-browned skin, her story was much sadder than his. She left her husband for the second time; they had been married twice. He never laid a hand on her, she said, but she suffered every other type of abuse. Her children had been taken away, some three years ago, and she had little hope of ever seeing them again. It was neglect, they said, but she called it a kidnapping. Armed officers showed up at her door and took her children and gave them to someone else. She was never found guilty, but her two little girls are somewhere else. Now she’s on the road, and she may never see them again. She started to cry in the car, and all I could do was stare uselessly at my empty tissue box.

Part of me wishes I’d spent the whole day with them, taken them out to dinner, talked to them more. But it was beautiful while it lasted. They were just so positive, heading down, hitchhiking out to the middle of nowhere where his dad lived. I guess that’s really all they had. I don’t even know how they met. Are they friends? Did they fall in love? Who knows?

The craziest part was when the man, all wild blond hair and long, ragged goatee, he tried to offer me money. Not once, but twice. The man had all of two or three dollars to his name and he was going to give it to me for giving them a ride.

And you know what? Honestly I don’t really care what they were. Some people would be so suspicious and worried and whatever and say that they were probably meth addicts or who-knows-what, but I just don’t think so. I don’t know why I stopped, but at that point I was in too deep to back out. The looks on their faces throughout the whole thing, the emotion, the sheer joie de vivre that they possessed in spite of everything. I’m obviously romanticizing the whole thing but I don’t give a shit. They smiled and they laughed and they cried and goddamn they were just out there living it. I can’t help but imagine that as soon as I drove out of sight, they vanished into thin air, two strange, tan, angelic hitchhikers that showed up in my life and were gone just as quickly.

But I hope they didn’t disappear, and I hope that wherever you are, Lance and Theresa, I hope you are doing fine. Damn, I wish I’d gotten a picture.


 

Genesis 17

I don’t even know what the hell to talk about right now. I’m just happy to have shared that story.

In Genesis 17, God outlines His covenant with Abram, who is now dubbed Abraham, for, as God says, “I have made you a father of many nations” (Genesis 17:5). The biggest part of this covenant is circumcision. Most of you are probably familiar with the Jewish practice.

robin_hood_men_in_tights_circumcision

Interested parties will direct their attention to the historical documentary Robin Hood: Men in Tights

God outlines the details for circumcisions, and also lets Abraham know that he will bear a son with his wife, now “Sarah” from “Sarai.” God blesses Ishmael, Abraham’s other son, but tells him that his covenant will be continued with Isaac, his son to be born in a year.

The important thing about this, apparently, according to Matthew Henry, is that Abraham obeyed God and trusted God with the circumcision decree. Granted, Abraham laughed at the idea of a son, since he is 99 years old, but he appears to be laughing out of joy or wonder.

Now I’m making a point not to read ahead, but good God, after reading this, how could I not?

“But let us remember that the true circumcision is that of the heart, by the Spirit, Romans 2:28,29.”

— Matthew Henry²

Just, wow. It’s a good point! A beautiful point. But seriously, read that line out of context. “True circumcision is that of the heart.” Read that a few times, and try and tell me that God doesn’t have a sense of humor.

Good night, all. Peace be upon you.


 

¹ http://www.metacafe.com/watch/hl-6125628/robin_hood_men_in_tights_circumcision/

² http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=17