Bible

Day 48

Sweet Jesus, we’re almost done with Genesis. I have such a headache, and I’m so tired right now, but still I’m up typing away…

This project, combined with my new job, is going to be the most trying and demanding thing I’ve ever had to do. Maybe this hectic week will be good for me; if I retire early tonight and wake up early, I can start fresh and write my Day 49 post early, before I have to work all day. And the next day. And the next day.

You know, I’m going out of town in less than three weeks, and I cannot wait. I’m going camping, and I’m going to be away from the computer for about 7 or 8 days. I’ll be bringing my Bible and a notepad with me on the camping trip, and I’ll read and write every day. But the posting is going to have to wait til I get back. I think it’ll be a really nice vacation; I can’t wait to turn my phone off for a week; it’s always buzzing with texts and emails… Days like today, I just want a little silence. As soon as I’m done with this post, I shall have it.


Genesis 48

Joseph brings his sons to meet his dying father, Jacob. Jacob/Israel takes the children close to him, recounts his vision of God and the promises therefrom, and says this (Gen 49:5-6):

And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine. Your offspring whom you beget after them shall be yours; they will be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance.

I wasn’t sure what to make of this, so I visited our old friend Matthew Henry. Haven’t heard from him in a while. He makes the point that Jacob “adopts” Ephraim and Manasseh to carry on the promises of God, to carry on the blessings, to live a godly life rather than an earthly one. Jacob wants the two boys “to know, that it is better to be low, and in the church, than high, and out of it.”¹

Jacob then blesses the boys, placing his right hand on the head of Ephraim, the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, the older. Joseph tells his father essentially that he is confused or mistaken in his blessings, but Jacob speaks “from a spirit of prophecy,” according to Matthew Henry. Jacob knows that, just as with his life and his brother, the younger shall surpass the older in the eyes of God.

Here is Jacob’s blessing to the boys (Gen 49:15-16):

“God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
The God who has fed me all my life long to this day,
The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil,
Bless the lads;
Let my name be named upon them,
And the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac;
And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”

I like the second and third lines; the second because God has cared for Jacob all the way up til now, almost out of expectation or a leading-up to his death. Also, because this chapter made me think about it, I realized that there has been no mention of anyone dying and going to Heaven. The only mention of “heaven” throughout Genesis seems to be used to mean “sky,” and the only person who has had anything else happen to him besides death is Enoch, for if you recall, “God took him” back in Genesis 5:24.

As far as the third line goes, I was confused as to “The Angel.” Obviously this figure is equated with God, which made me think of the idea of the Trinity and all the appearances of the “Angel of the Lord” throughout Genesis. Both Matthew Henry and John Wesley equate this figure with Jesus Christ, “the Angel of the covenant.” 1,2

It is interesting to see all these interpretations of the appearance of Christ in the Old Testament. Someday I should like to talk to a Rabbi or a Jewish scholar about all of this and see what their take on it is.

Anyway, I’m calling it an early night. I love you all; peace be upon you.

Good night.


¹ Henry, Matthew. http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?b=1&c=48&com=mhc

² Wesley, John. http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=wes&b=1&c=48

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 30

Thirty days of blogging! Jacob stayed with Laban for one month… and then worked for the next fourteen years. Shall it be the same for me? We shall see.

There are a lot of things I want to talk about right now, but I’m going to just get on with today’s chapter.


Genesis 30

Here we have the soap opera that is Jacob’s life. Get ready for the Real Housewives of Haran.

Rachel wants children, and gets upset at Jacob for not giving her a child. This is a wonderful example of how we take out our anger, even on those we love, for no reason other than that we feel bad about something. Then Jacob gets mad at her and wonders why she doesn’t take it out on God for not giving her a fruitful womb.

Rachel “solves” this problem by giving her servant to Jacob for the purposes of bearing children. Sounds a little like Abraham and Sarah, no? So Jacob has two sons with his wife’s servant.

Leah, not to be outdone, does the same thing, and Jacob has two more sons by her servant.

Leah’s son Reuben at some point collects mandrakes from the fields. Rachel wants some of them, and agrees to whore out her husband for the mandrakes. Jacob doesn’t seem to mind, and he does his business with Leah. Long story short, he has two more sons with Leah, and a daughter.

I’m not going to count the size of Jacob’s family, here. This is getting ridiculous.

Oh! And let’s not forget Genesis 30:22. God remembers Rachel (finally!) and opens her womb that she might have a son of her own. (She does.)

So at this point, Jacob is ready to return home, but Laban implores him to stay, since the Lord seems to be blessing Laban for Jacob’s sake. Also, it sure helps to have free labor around his land, especially considering Jacob’s good business and farming sense.

hm2

Pictured: Jacob and his friendly Harvest Sprites.¹

Jacob makes a convincing case that he is to head home, but Laban wants to know what he can give him. Jacob and Laban make an agreement that all the brown lambs or speckled goats will belong to Jacob, and all the others will belong to Laban. Laban takes all of these animals and sets them aside while Jacob tends to the rest of the flock. Now here’s where Jacob gets tricky, and uses his herding experience (and informal genetics knowledge) to his advantage.

“Now Jacob took for himself rods of green poplar and of the almond and chestnut trees, peeled white strips in them, and exposed the white which was in the rods. And the rods which he had peeled, he set before the flocks in the gutters, in the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink, so that they should conceive when they came to drink.”

It took me a while to understand what this meant, but “Farmer Tom” at his blog explains that Jacob must have started breeding them to find out which animals were carriers for the recessive colors. This would obviously take some time, but once he had the genetics down, he made sure to breed the animals so that the strongest ones would be colored or speckled and the feeble ones would be colored normally. Farmer Tom also suggests that the rods had some kind of phytoestrogen that would induce “heat” in the female animals; Jacob only put the rods in the water when he wanted his strong, speckled or brown animals. When Laban’s livestock went to drink, Jacob did not place the rods, and thus he increased his own herds and left fewer and weaker animals for Laban.

It seems like this is once again a deceitful practice on Jacob’s part (has he learned nothing?!) but regardless of all that, it is at least shrewd business sense. Jacob puts time and care into increasing his herds and his wealth, and Lord knows he needs it to support all those kids!

Jacob’s adventures will continue tomorrow. Good night, all. Peace be upon you.


¹ Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town. Natsume Co. & Marvelous Interactive. Image Credit: http://31.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lgr1xsTSAn1qb1zilo1_500.jpg

Day 29

I almost forgot to play catch-up today. I’m going to knock this one out. Here we go:


Genesis 29

Jacob makes his way to Haran and meets Rachel, a shepherdess, outside the city. After having spoken to the local shepherds, he knows her to be Laban’s daughter. He moves the stone from the nearby well, helps her get water for her flock, and then kisses her. Man, Jacob is a smooth operator.

Rachel goes and tells her father, who invites Jacob into the house. Jacob stays with Laban for a month before Laban finally asks how he should pay Jacob for his service. Jacob wants to take Rachel as his wife, and in an absolutely terrible display of negotiating skills, volunteers to work seven years in order to wed Rachel.

Two verses later, Jacob’s labors are completed, and in a shocking display of audacity that I hope was somehow phrased more delicately in the original Hebrew, Jacob asks that he may have Rachel as his wife so that he “may go in to her” (Genesis 29:21). And he says this to her dad.

Maybe this was some kind of consummation thing? Because Laban tricks Jacob, and gives him Leah to sleep with instead. Jacob doesn’t realize this until the morning and he is understandably upset. Laban explains that it is not customary to give away the younger daughter before the older, and so Jacob has to deal with both. Since Laban couldn’t marry off Leah in seven years, Jacob gets a package deal. Although, it’s not really a deal, since things work out weird, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Laban tells Jacob to “[fulfill] her week,” and then he would be allowed to also take Rachel as his wife. This confused me a bit, but I looked up Adam Clarke’s commentary on the matter, and he explains that this is a reference to a “bridal week” which consists of long celebrations following a marriage.¹ In other words, once all the guests leave and this deception is finished, you can also have Rachel. But… you have to work seven more years afterwards!

“What a man soweth, that shall he reap. Jacob had before practiced deceit, and is now deceived.”

— Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Bible

Jacob works a total of fourteen years for his two wives, one of whom he never asked for, and Leah bore him four children at some point, while Rachel, whom he loved most dearly, bore him none. Matthew Henry’s commentary does not say much about this point except to dissect the names of Leah’s sons.

The most obvious information I gleaned from this chapter is in regards to Jacob’s labor. He works for such a long time to realize his dream, to manifest his life with Rachel. Sometimes, this is what we must do. Ask and ye shall receive, but remember that God works within the language of the world… asking God with words is only so helpful. God gave us bodies and minds that we may “ask” with those; our actions are like words, but much, much louder. Jacob does not pray for a “miracle,” but one can imagine him praying for strength and willpower that he may complete his task. I wonder if the reversal of roles was lost on him or not; perhaps he prayed for forgiveness now that he knows the feeling of being deceived.

Either way, I have a feeling we will revisit Jacob and his business tomorrow. I’m going to stay up and watch the eclipse.

Farewell, all. Peace be upon you.


¹ Clarke, Adam. http://biblehub.com/commentaries/genesis/29-27.htm

Day 28

I’m really starting to lose track of things right now. I’ve been so busy with work and with this and with life… I’m sort of behind a day, technically, as this post should have gone up about 5 or 6 hours ago. But I’m awake at 4:00 am doing yesterday’s paperwork, so I might as well play catch-up here too.

Even though it be difficult, every day that I commit to this I get better. Every day I commit to writing, I improve. Let my struggle be a lesson and inspiration. That might sound cocky, but I’m just going to leave it there anyway. It is so important that we strive for more in life, and right now as I sit here tired, sunburnt, and hungry, I am striving for excellence. I am seeking to improve, and I will not stop.


Genesis 28

Having blessed his son Jacob and listened to his wife, Isaac sends Jacob away to take a wife from the house of Bethuel in Padan Aram. Once gain, they’re keeping it all in the family, as Jacob will be seeking a wife from “the daughters of Laban [his] mother’s brother” (Genesis 28:2). In other words, his first cousin.

Isaac sends his son away with a new blessing, one that confers upon him all the blessings given to Abraham, and the destiny and promise contained therein.

Esau hears about this whole business and realizes that the wives that he has chosen are not to his parents’ liking. He takes a new wife, one of the daughters of Abraham’s firstborn son Ishmael. It seems that Esau is trying to make up for some lost favor, seeking to please his parents. This is noble, but I have a feeling his time would have been better spent connecting with God.

Speaking of…


Jacob’s Ladder

Jacob travels north toward Haran, and one night, while he is resting…

“he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.”

— Genesis 28:12

God is atop the ladder and speaks to Jacob, blessing him with the blessing of Abraham, reiterating the promise of the Seed by which “all the families of the earth shall be saved” (Genesis 28:14). Long story short, Jacob accepts the Lord’s blessing and vows that if the Lord is providing for him, then the Lord he shall serve.

But I’m not concerned about the details, here. I want to talk about the ladder.

Jacob’s Ladder has been referenced in many forms and depicted in numerous works of art. It was Jacob’s introduction to the divine, and by this vision he understood and welcomed God into his life.

There are numerous interpretations of the ladder, most of which revolve around the fact that the ladder is described as reaching from Earth to heaven, and thus depict it as being a metaphor for the path of the righteous man (Tarantino 25:17). But seriously.

One interpretation from the Torah states that the angels represent the exiles of the Jewish people, with each “step” of the ladder essentially marking a year.¹

Philo Judaeus, a Biblical philosopher born c. 50 A.D., gives a handful of his own possible interpretations:

  • The angels represent souls descending to and ascending from bodies (some consider this to be Philo’s clearest reference to the doctrine of reincarnation).
  • In the second interpretation the ladder is the human soul and the angels are God’s logoi, pulling the soul up in distress and descending in compassion.
  • In the third view the dream depicts the ups and downs of the life of the “practiser” (of virtue vs. sin).
  • Finally the angels represent the continually changing affairs of men.¹

Wikipedia makes note that these “allegorical interpretations” are “not mutually exclusive.”

Also from the Wikipedia article on the topic:

“Jesus can be seen as being the ladder, in that Christ bridges the gap between Heaven and Earth. Jesus presents himself as the reality to which the ladder points; as Jacob saw in a dream the reunion of Heaven and Earth, Jesus brought this reunion, metaphorically the ladder, into reality. Adam Clarke, an early 19th-century Methodist theologian and Bible scholar, elaborates:

‘That by the angels of God ascending and descending, is to be understood, that a perpetual intercourse should now be opened between heaven and earth, through the medium of Christ, who was God manifested in the flesh. Our blessed Lord is represented in his mediatorial capacity as the ambassador of God to men; and the angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man, is a metaphor taken from the custom of dispatching couriers or messengers from the prince to his ambassador in a foreign court, and from the ambassador back to the prince.'”¹

This too, seems to be a fair assumption. Angels moving up and down a ladder; the ascending and descending, especially the descending, is what gets me about this story. I can see the interpretation of the angels representing or being a reference to messengers, as that always made sense to me as a reason why they would be going to Earth from heaven and vice versa.

Now is as good a time as any to bring up the fact that sometimes crepuscular rays (pictured below) are apparently sometimes referred to as Jacob’s Ladder. It is interesting that when viewed from above, they are actually parallel rays, but staring at them, they appear to be diverging from the sun. Ah, the relativity of truth…

I think this is interesting because to me, even as a young child, I can remember that these rays of light are how I conceived of God. I remember being out on our back patio and watching the beams of sunshine that caught every particle in the air. “Rays of God,” I called them.

I am also reminded of one of the early lines from The Four Agreements, where Don Miguel Ruiz writes that

“light is the messenger of life, because it is alive and contains all information.”

These beams of sunlight that shine down upon us carry life. You can consider this a metaphor if you like, but in a literal sense it is true: the energy that comes from the sun is the energy for plants is the energy for animals and so on.

But let us discuss angels: we have angels ascending and descending, and let’s play with the idea of Jacob’s Ladder as light. Perhaps the angels are metaphors for photons, then? By ascending and descending, these angel-particles are gaining or losing energy, or perhaps transferring it. Photons travel within a beam of light and give energy to the world, carrying it from an infinite timeless domain of God.

I realize this is a stretch, but I like to think that it is a beautiful-sounding idea nonetheless. Or the angels could be electrons, which ascend and descend from different energy levels and emit light. See, we’re stumbling upon a whole new domain here of angelic physics. Angelectromagnetism? It’s like how moving a magnet near a copper coil generates current, moving angels up and down a ladder generates… who knows what.

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For a fuller examination of angelic physics, including angel/antiangel pairs, I recommend Problem Sleuth, by Andrew Hussie.²

But let’s get serious and finish this with a beautiful quote I found while researching Jacob’s Ladder. Apparently in Islam, Jacob’s Ladder is considered a symbol of God, emphasizing the “straight path” of Islam.¹ Martin Lings, a 20th-Century British scholar who converted to Islam gave a mystical interpretation of the ladder:

“The ladder of the created Universe is the ladder which appeared in a dream to Jacob, who saw it stretching from Heaven to earth, with Angels going up and down upon it; and it is also the ‘straight path’, for indeed the way of religion is none other than the way of creation itself retraced from its end back to its Beginning.”

What an intriguing statement. I like it because the Beginning is God, and we are returning there, if “there” can even be conceived. It is not a place but a state of mind, in my opinion. Obviously we cannot turn back the clock and return to the moment of creation, but we can seek God and know God by doing and by loving.

Science tells us about the Big Bang, whatever that may have looked like, but at the heart of that explanation is still the idea of one central point, one infinite Unity that had contained within it all the matter and all the information that would spread and unfold and change to become… now. Returning to that connectedness, that unity, that Beginning… that is knowing and accepting and loving. It is how we find all the virtues that we commonly attribute to God.

We are split and distant and separated, we have our own bodies and our own minds and our own experiences. I am sitting at a desk in a room and I am separate physically from these objects but some part of me, especially right now in this moment can recognize the shifting, shaping light of God that underlies all form and substance.

We are separate and we are not separate. As Carl Sagan said,

“We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”

Peace be upon you.


¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacob’s_Ladder

² http://www.mspaintadventures.com/?s=4&p=001722

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

Day 26

Don Miguel Ruiz once said, “Always do your best.” It’s the fourth of the titular agreements in his book. But he also says

“Your best will be better when you are healthy as opposed to sick, or sober as opposed to drunk.”

— The Four Agreements

And I’m not drunk, but my best is not very good today. I’ve been battling a terrible stomachache and I’m exhausted, so let’s get this thing done.


Genesis 26

This chapter opens with a famine in the land, and although Isaac is tempted to move his family, God tells him not to and explains all the promises and oaths that He gave to Abraham. Isaac then does as his father did, and pretends as though Rebekah is his sister, and not his wife. It is not until Abimelech sees them together that he chastises Isaac. Abimelech proclaims that no one shall harm Isaac or touch his wife, on penalty of death.

Isaac does very well for himself in a year’s time, and he was the envy of the Philistines. These jerks went around and filled in all of Abraham’s old wells, and Abimelech kicks Isaac out. So Isaac leaves, heads to the nearby Valley of Gerar, and digs up the old wells. After running into troubles with the locals twice over, he names the first two wells Esek, meaning quarrel, and Sitnah, meaning enmity.

No one fights him on the third one, and he names it Rehoboth, literally spaciousness, because

“Now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”

— Isaac, Genesis 26:22

All goes well, and Abimelech and his commander, Phichol, and one of his friends, Ahuzzath, come to visit Isaac. They make a non-aggression pact with him, announce that he is blessed, and do not want him to hurt them. Isaac makes a feast and they go on their merry way.

Then things end with Esau taking two wives at age 40, which apparently is a huge pain for Isaac and Rebekah.

I’m not going to go to Matthew Henry today, but just share one of my own observations about this chapter. The Philistines are jealous of Isaac and his success; they kick him out and stop up his father’s wells and generally just harass him. And yet they only see the material things. They do not see his spiritual wealth, and if they do, they are put off by it. It seems to me that Isaac is a dedicated man; even though he inherits a great deal from his father, he also makes his own success. He prospers materially as well as spiritually, and it is my belief that the two go hand in hand, the latter preceding the former.

I am not saying that everyone who is materially wealthy is spiritually wealthy, nor am I saying that anyone who is spiritually wealthy will become materially wealthy. It just seems to me that as in this tale of Isaac, having a strong heart, having faith and a sense of purpose, these things can lead one to success, whatever that may be. For Isaac, his destiny is to inherit a land and to father a nation of people. This is what he has been told by God, and he has faith enough to get things done toward this end.

By faith, all things are possible.

I’m sick again, now. My stomach feels miserable. Contemplate these points, and rest well, everyone.

Peace be upon you.

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 19

I just realized I’m not even halfway through Genesis. This is such a long book.

I’m going to start organizing my schedule so that I can wake up and do this in the morning again; doing it in the evening is not so good for my productivity. I feel like I wrote this already, but I need to keep reminding myself.


Genesis 19

I think Genesis 19 is the longest chapter yet. It begins in Genesis 19:1 by clarifying that yes, indeed, those men who went to Sodom were angels. They meet Lot at the gate, and he bids them enter and come to his home. Lot knows that it is not so safe out at night, due to the roaming ravenous rapists. When night falls, all the men of Sodom, it seems, “old and young… surrounded the house” (Genesis 19:4).

They haven’t had fresh meat in so long that they want those men outside so they can “know them carnally” (Genesis 19:5). Wow. I’m wondering if Lot hasn’t been dealt his share of this knowing. He tries to appease them with old fashioned female rape, by offering his daughters, but this does not satisfy the crowd of butt-hungry rapists. That is quite probably the worst sentence I’ve ever had to write.

The men rush forward but the angels grab Lot and bring him inside. They blind the men at the door, who keep searching for the door. This city is so wicked it’s almost cartoonish.

Also, as an aside, apparently these angels have the form of men, and are mistaken as such by the wicked. Perhaps they cannot see them for who they are, as Abraham can.

The angels tell Lot to take his family and GTFO.

“For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.”

— Angels, Genesis 19:13
thatswhatthemansaid

That’s what the Lord said! He said that!¹

Lot gets his family, except for his sons-in-law, to whom “he seemed to be joking” (Genesis 19:14). Morning comes, Lot gets his family together to leave, and out they go. The angels hold hands with his family and take him out of the city, setting him down outside. Whether they flew or teleported or whatever is unclear, but they got him out. The angels and Lot have a brief discussion regarding where he is supposed to go: the angels tell him to go to the mountains in Genesis 19:17, but Lot fears for his life and tells them that he must go to a nearby city instead. The angels cut him a break and tell him to get to the city, but one says, “I cannot do anything until you arrive there” (Genesis 19:22).

So the sun rises… Lot reaches Zoar, and…

“Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens.”

— Genesis 19:24
Bartleby and Loki

Mass genocide is the most exhausting activity one can engage in, next to soccer.²

God straight demolishes Sodom and Gomorrah, and no one ever sinned again. But seriously, the whole nature of Sodom and Gomorrah’s sins are the subject of a great deal of debate. The “carnally,” in NKJV’s Genesis 19:5 seems to have been added or something to make the narrative clearer. Some people say that the men of Sodom wanted to mistreat the angels, harm them, interrogate them, or rape and dominate them, but that this has nothing to do with loving sexual relationships. Readers interested in sources and details of this debate, as well as various claims over time regarding the historical accuracy and locations of Sodom and Gomorrah will direct their attention to the Wikipedia article here.

Before Lot left, the angels told him to not look back, but as he and his family get to Zoar, “his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26).

terminator-2

Pictured: Lot’s wife.³

This reminds me of the Greek myth of Orpheus, who goes to Hades to rescue his lover. He is given the command to not look back at her until they are completely out and away from the Underworld, but he cannot contain himself and turns around to make sure she is there. As a consequence, he loses her forever.

As far as the rest of this chapter goes, Lot and his daughters escape to the mountains, have some drunken incestuous sex, and that’s pretty much that.

For as significant and memorable an event as Sodom and Gomorrah, even Matthew Henry has little to say about this chapter. Regarding the deception and incest committed by Lot’s daughters, Matthew Henry once again warns about drinking, as “many a man does that, when he is drunk, which, when he is sober, he could not think of without horror.” He also makes the following somber comment:

“From the silence of the Scripture concerning Lot henceforward, learn that drunkenness, as it makes men forgetful, so it makes them to be forgotten.”

Lot escaping to the mountain, “higher ground,” as it were, seems to be representative of man reaching toward God and moving away from sin. Matthew Henry makes the point that, as Lot is saved from the fate of the wicked by the angels, so too are we “saved by grace.” Henry says “the salvation of the most righteous men is of God’s mercy, not by their own merit,” which to me sounds a little weird under the traditional concept of God.ª

The idea that God “pulls strings,” so to speak, and leads some men to salvation rubs me the wrong way. However, taking a more abstract view of God, we should always be thankful for God’s love and the joy that He brings us and becomes to us through the Holy Spirit. God is joy and salvation, and when we feel these things and realize this power, we are truly blessed by God. But we have to be willing to receive the blessings; the surrender and acceptance are the hardest parts.


The time has come for me to rest now, so I hope all of you have a wonderful evening. I have another long day ahead of me, but at least during this time, while I am writing, I am at peace.

With luck, this energy and this peace will transfer throughout my life, and God willing it shall be so.

Good night, all, and peace be upon you.


¹ http://www.aveleyman.com/TVEpisode.aspx?FilmID=199&Episode=19460202

² Dogma. 1999, View Askew Productions and Lionsgate Films. Image retrieved from http://www.rottentomatoes.com/quiz/quotes-from-the-movie-dogma/

³ http://www.empireonline.com/features/scariest-movie-dream-sequences/2.asp

ª Henry, Matthew. http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=19

Day 10

Woo! Ten days in a row. So far so good!

So I added a new page, which I will be sure to whore out every day until it starts receiving regular attention. Basically I’m soliciting interpretations from the good people out there reading this blog. I have my opinion and I have Matthew Henry’s opinion, but I want to hear from a broader variety of people. I’m interested to see what people from different walks of life think about the Bible.

The submission page and guidelines can be found here. Click the link and go at it!

Also I want to clarify something before I get into today’s chapter: I keep referring to my partner as just that, my “partner.” I know someday she is going to read this and probably be confused as to why I chose that word. A few reasons:

  1. It does signify a close bond, as we go through our lives together.
  2. Saying “girlfriend” seems cheesy, even though I’ve already outed her gender.
  3. Part of it seems distant and mysterious, and for purposes of this blog, I kind of like that.

That’s all there is to it, really. Just wanted to clear that up because I know someday she’ll read this. (Yes, you. ♥)

Genesis 10

Today we have the weird inbred genealogy of the sons of Noah. I know Biblical genealogy is concerned with the lineages of sons, and that daughters are not mentioned, but seriously, either back in the day people knew that these were stories and that there were other people to be found on Earth… or people were just totally a-okay with a lot of incest and inbreeding. Maybe they just didn’t read into it.

What was that about inbreeding?

“Well, golly! Only people round here to beget with are my cousins, my sisters, and my mother!” ¹

So we have the sons of Japheth (see above), who become the Gentiles, who “separated into their lands, everyone according to his language, according to their families, into their nations” (Genesis 10:5).

Then we get into the sons of Ham: Pork, Bacon, Loin, Cubed, Shaved… Alright, I’ll stop. But seriously, the sons of Ham. Eventually through his lineage, we get one of Canaan’s nephews, the mighty hunter Nimrod, whose reputation lasted right up until Bugs Bunny came along and turned him into an insult. I wasn’t going to write much about him but then I looked up the Matthew Henry commentary. I’ll just leave this here:

“Nimrod was a great man in his day; he began to be mighty in the earth, Those before him were content to be upon the same level with their neighbours, and though every man bare rule in his own house, yet no man pretended any further. Nimrod was resolved to lord it over his neighbours. The spirit of the giants before the flood, who became mighty men, and men of renown, Genesis 6:4, revived in him. Nimrod was a great hunter. Hunting then was the method of preventing the hurtful increase of wild beasts. This required great courage and address, and thus gave an opportunity for Nimrod to command others, and gradually attached a number of men to one leader. From such a beginning, it is likely, that Nimrod began to rule, and to force others to submit. He invaded his neighbours’ rights and properties, and persecuted innocent men; endeavouring to make all his own by force and violence. He carried on his oppressions and violence in defiance of God himself. Nimrod was a great ruler. Some way or other, by arts or arms, he got into power, and so founded a monarchy, which was the terror of the mighty, and bid fair to rule all the world. Nimrod was a great builder. Observe in Nimrod the nature of ambition. It is boundless; much would have more, and still cries, Give, give. It is restless; Nimrod, when he had four cities under his command, could not be content till he had four more. It is expensive; Nimrod will rather be at the charge of rearing cities, than not have the honour of ruling them. It is daring, and will stick at nothing. Nimrod’s name signifies rebellion; tyrants to men are rebels to God. The days are coming, when conquerors will no longer be spoken of with praise, as in man’s partial histories, but be branded with infamy, as in the impartial records of the Bible.” ²

Come on, Matthew! You’re making me look bad, over here. I’m making incest jokes about Gen 10 and he’s busy analyzing that Nimrod is a tyrant, a “rebel to God,” which would make a kick-ass band name. But seriously, wow. Matthew Henry expands on this point in his analysis of the line of Canaan. I can’t not share this.

“The posterity of Canaan were numerous, rich, and pleasantly seated; yet Canaan was under a Divine curse, and not a curse causeless. Those that are under the curse of God, may, perhaps, thrive and prosper in this world; for we cannot know love or hatred, the blessing or the curse, by what is before us, but by what is within us. The curse of God always works really, and always terribly. Perhaps it is a secret curse, a curse to the soul, and does not work so that others can see it; or a slow curse, and does not work soon; but sinners are reserved by it for a day of wrath. Canaan here has a better land than either Shem or Japheth, and yet they have a better lot, for they inherit the blessing. Abram and his seed, God’s covenant people, descended from Eber, and from him were called Hebrews. How much better it is to be like Eber, the father of a family of saints and honest men, than the father of a family of hunters after power, worldly wealth, or vanities. Goodness is true greatness.” ²

Wow. This is a beautiful description, an amazing interpretation. It reminds me of everything I have read thus far related to goodness and success. It reminds me especially of that wonderful book, The Four Agreements, where Don Miguel Ruiz describes the dream of Hell in which mankind is living.

“We cannot know love or hatred, the blessing or the curse, by what is before us, but by what is within us.”

— Matthew Henry

This reminds me especially of something written in The Myth of Sisyphus:

“It is probably true that a man remains forever unknown to us and that there is in him something irreducible that escapes us. But practically I know men and recognize them by their behavior, by the totality of their deeds, by the consequences caused in life by their presence.”

— Albert Camus

All these authors and writers are privy to a truth that many of us feel but have no words to describe. No matter what shows on the outside, man suffers in the absence of God. In the Bible, Noah curses Canaan and his lineage, but in truth he need say nothing; Canaan curses himself and his children by his actions, by leading them down a bad road, away from the grace and love of the Lord.

Ruiz knows that we live in Hell, that men suffer in silence in the depths of their souls because we have abandoned love and truth and beauty. We are wounded, lost children, and we strike at others out of fear and anger. No matter the heights of our success, in the end we are empty and miserable. We cannot be placated with material things; gold does not fill the coffers of the soul.

Camus would not be thrilled that I suggest turning to God to rectify this, but let me clarify: the feeling, the knowing of God can be had on Earth by mortal men. One does not have to cling to a hope of a distant heaven. Ruiz says as much himself: Heaven is a state of mind, and it is possible to attain. There are people on Earth who live lives of happiness, who do not suffer despite having excuses to do so.

I recognize God, I love God, and I accept God, in my own way, but I also recognize and accept the absurdity of “the human condition.” I cannot prove God to you. But my experiences and my life have been nothing short of miraculous, and if you have the eyes to see it, you will realize that your life is the greatest miracle and the highest truth. God works his magic through you. Look at all the “coincidences,” learn from them, see where your life has come from and where it has gone. There is no place you could be but here, no time you could be but now.

This moment is yours.

Seize it.

 

¹ http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/25574/gomer-pyle-usmc-the-complete-first-season/

² http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=10