C.S. Lewis

Day 147

Numbers 29

Moses outlines the festivals that followers of the Lord are commanded to celebrate. Interestingly enough, celebration was the topic at last Sunday’s sermon, which… took place on the day after I was supposed to write about Numbers 29.

The problem with the sermon, as well-meaning as I believe the pastor to have been, is that it sounded a lot like “if you’re somber or sad, then you’re not being a good Christian.” This is a little too close to what has been called prosperity theology, or the prosperity gospel. To quote Wikipedia,

“Prosperity theology teaches that Christians are entitled to well-being and, because physical and spiritual realities are seen as one inseparable reality, this is interpreted as physical health and economic prosperity.”

It is also noted that followers and preachers of the prosperity gospel view poverty and sickness as spiritual ailments or curses that can be alleviated through faith. My partner has had some very negative experiences with churches that follow prosperity theology.

Poverty and illness are curses? Yeah, I mean it’s a damn shame to be sick or poor, and I believe that dedicated faith can lead to greater willpower and desire which can in turn lead to financial success. However, I don’t think that God’s plan for people involves or guarantees financial well-being. Poverty is not a sign of God’s disfavor.

Can poor personal habits and a lack of direction lead to poverty? Yes. But I don’t think that physical, material wealth has much to do with faith in Christ.

I see this situations as teaching surrender to God and His will, as opposed to undesirable curses. Does being poor debilitate a person? Damn right it does. I’ve lived with it for a long time, and sitting around that poverty line is depressing. It emotionally and spiritually drains you. Or it can.

But regardless, God can and will give you the strength to work through it, if you ask. “Thy will be done, in all things.” I seriously hate the phrase “Let go and let God,” but it’s important to ask that His will be done, that He may guide you to it.

Can the principles in the Bible teach you to be rich? Probably? I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but I’m willing to bet that if that’s the motivation one has while reading it, one will find a variety of implementable tips or lessons for financial success.

And just to be clear, I have no problem with people who want to be rich. I myself am determined to achieve some measure of wealth, to surpass my parents and my family, to provide for my own family and possible future children.

However, I think we, especially as Christians, have to see wealth as a means and not an end. Wealth as an end is idolatrous. But with wealth, one can do many things and help many others. We should seek to do our best as Christians even in poverty, but if we are wealthy, then our goal should still be to serve and glorify God.

Bill Gates is probably my favorite example of a wealthy person who does amazing things with his riches. Go to the website of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Read the 2014 annual letter. If that doesn’t restore some of your faith in humanity, I don’t know what will.

Wealth and power are responsibilities. Health and stability may be gifts if God intends them to be, but they may make us complacent.

“[A]s there may be pleasures in Hell (God shield us from them), there may be something not all unlike pains in Heaven (God grant us soon to taste them).”

— C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

In Numbers 29, the Israelites are commanded to celebrate, but every day of these festivals and celebrations involves sacrifices and offerings to God. Even, or especially, in our celebrations, we are told to humble ourselves to God, to supplicate ourselves before Him, and to glorify Him in all things.

In sorrow and in joy, do not forget the Lord.


Numbers 30

Oh my goodness, I went and looked at Matthew Henry’s unabridged commentary. It made my head hurt a little.

Numbers 30 concerns the making of vows, oaths, and pledges. Basically, at its core, this chapter states that a man who makes a vow must not break his word.

That’s a quote, by the way: “[H]e must not break his word but must do everything he said.”

This chapter also outlines how fathers and husbands have the power to override vows made by their daughters and wives, respectively. I think this is meant to be indicative of the Biblical position of fathers/husbands as the heads of households, which I think is intended to correlate with how God (the Father) is meant to be the head of the Church, both as a collective and as the singular body of worship that one human being offers.

Now, I don’t have the book in front of me, but I am reminded of the book Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill. If I recall correctly, he talks at some point(s) about the importance of keeping one’s word or speaking the truth. Or maybe I’m thinking of The Four Agreements, in which I know for a fact the author Don Miguel Ruiz outlines the importance of what he calls “being impeccable with [one’s] word.”

“Impeccable,” by the way, comes from a Latin word, meaning “not liable to sin.” An impeccable word is free of sin.

The way I see it, breaking vows erodes the strength of one’s soul. You make a habit of being disingenuous, of saying things that you have no intention of following through upon, of being careless in word and in deed. There is some Biblical support for this, I think:

“Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.”

— Ecclesiastes 5:5

Keep those words and deeds in line, dear readers! Keep that soul strong, exercise the power of your will, that you may have more dedication to offer to God.

Peace be upon you.

Day 109-115

Welcome back, all. Given that it has been a week since I last updated this blog, part of me wanted to just say, “Ehhhh, make it a weekly update!” But the thing is, I need to strive for daily updates. If all I shoot for is a weekly update, I’ll end up going two weeks without updating, or three, or a month. And then what? And then the whole project goes to s***.

So here I am, after a long day of work and paperwork. I’m very tired. If I weren’t so tired I would probably do a series of updates but I’m really just not feeling it. I barely wanted to do this but I promised myself and my partner and I suppose God that I would get it done tonight. I’ve put it off long enough.

Oy, but these chapters are so long!


Leviticus 19

God reiterates a few of the Ten Commandments (maybe all of them) and adds a bunch of other things for Moses to tell the people. Among them:

  • No shaving sideburns (Lev 19:27)
  • No gossiping (Lev 19:16)
  • No tripping blind people (Lev 19:14)
  • Leave some food unharvested so that poor people can eat too (Lev 19:10)
  • No idols, seriously guys, we went over this (Lev 19:4)
  • No tattoos (Lev 19:29)
  • No turning your daughter into a hooker (Lev 19:29)
  • Another man’s b**** ain’t nothin’ to fuck wit’ (Lev 19:20)

And so on. Be honest, be polite, treat people nicely, because I am the LORD your God who will smite the ever-loving s*** out of you if you don’t.


Leviticus 20

This is the point where I looked up who exactly this “Molech” fellow was. Apparently he was some old Middle Eastern god back in those days and people apparently sacrificed their kids to him. YHWH says that’s a no-no. God then gives a whole list of people that you can’t have sex with. No sisters, no half-sisters, no aunts, no women on their periods, no mother-daughter combos, no daughter-in-laws… You know, I just realized a lot of this was geared toward men as the transgressor. The only verse that has a woman as the subject of the rule is Leviticus 20:16, where God says that women shouldn’t have sex with animals.

Thanks for the tip! Of course, in the end, everyone gets put to death anyway.

If only they’d had some kind of choice…

Also, C. S. Lewis at one point talked about the comparison between God’s love for man and a man’s love for a woman. In Leviticus 20:5-6, God talks about people “prostituting themselves” with mediums and “[committing] “harlotry with Molech.” One of the ways we can understand God’s love is to look at the love between the sexes. First sign I’ve seen of it in the scripture; thought it was worth pointing out.


Leviticus 21

In Leviticus 21, God talks to Moses and gives him information for Aaron and the priests. “Do not defile yourselves” is pretty much the key here. No dealing with dead bodies, no dating divorced women, gotta marry a virgin, no uncovering your head or shaving your beard… burn your daughter alive if she’s a prostitute, you know, standard stuff.

Also, no fuggos, no cripples, no dwarfs or eunuchs, no acne scars, no weird eyes, no lanky dudes… Apparently “any man [descended from Aaron] who has a defect shall not approach [the altar/sanctuary].”

Harsh, man. Harsh. I feel like modern political-correctness-/equality-Nazis* would have a field day with this chapter.


Leviticus 22

Here are some more rules about how to properly make sacrifices, and what kind of weird crippled “defective” animals work for which sacrifices.

Also: Eeeew, bugs! Unclean.

Also also: Semen! Unclean.

We knew this stuff before but God reiterates for the priests.

Also also also, the whole thing about this chapter is in regards to who among the priests can eat the holy offerings. The answer is “only the clean ones.” So don’t go profanin’ yurselves, now, ya hear?

*spit*

This chapter reminds me of a joke:

A Catholic priest, a Reverend, and a Rabbi are discussing their income.

The Priest says: “I draw a circle on the ground, take the offering, and throw it up into the air. Any money that falls outside the circle is for the Lord, and the money that falls inside the circle is for me.”
The Reverend says: “I do things almost the same, except the money that falls outside the circle is my salary, and the money that falls inside the circle is for the Lord.”
The Rabbi says: I do things quite different. I take the offering, throw it up into the air, and pray: “Lord take whatever You need, and feel free to send back the rest.”

Get it? Because Jews.


Leviticus 23

“You shall make a grain offering again after seven Sabbaths and fifty days to the day, but feel free to sacrifice all the rams, bulls, and lambs you want, for lo, the LORD your God is watching His carbs, but truly I say to you, on protein, there is no restriction. And make sure to sacrifice some wine, for I am the LORD your God and I do enjoy a good red.”

— Leviticus 23:skiddoo


Leviticus 24

Burn the lights using fresh olive oil. Here’s how to make some little cakes. Don’t kill animals, and if you do, you have to find a replacement. Don’t kill people, except that guy who killed a guy. Him you need to stone to death.

This chapter is also the source of the famous “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” bit.


Leviticus 25

“The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me.”

— YHWH, Leviticus 25:23

Seriously passed out in the middle of writing. I need to go to bed.

I love you all. Peace be upon you, and good night.


*Like grammar Nazis, but different.

Day 107

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

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

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

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

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


Leviticus 17

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

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

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

— Leviticus 17:16, NKJV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 98-105

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

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

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

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

B) one giant update with everything in it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Isaac Asimov, The Cult of Ignorance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Leviticus 8

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

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

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


Leviticus 9

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


Leviticus 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Leviticus 11

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

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

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


Leviticus 12

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

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


Leviticus 13


Leviticus 14

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

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


Leviticus 15

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

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

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

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


And that’s the ball game!

Peace be upon you.

 

Day 95

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 John 4:8 would be appropriately quoted here,

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

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

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

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


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

Peace be upon you.

Day 92

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

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

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

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

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

Simply magnificent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who knows.


Leviticus 2

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

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

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

Peace be upon you.

Day 85-87

I really am terrible at this game. It’s hard; I’m not at that third level of yirah yet where sin is abhorrent. I’m still giving in to some pretty base impulses over here and neglecting my duties.

I’d like to take a moment to apologize to God and ask His forgiveness. What I really want (and what I think a lot of people really want) is the be living in a state of bliss, as best we can achieve it on Earth, anyway. The problem is, it sure does take a lot of work to get there. “I’ll do it tomorrow” doesn’t quite cut it. Tomorrow never comes.

That all being said, I did go to church on Sunday and it was a very pleasant experience. A friend of mine who is not actively religious asked me if I wanted to go and I said yes. I’m glad I went; I learned a lot again and got some good ideas. He got… I know not what, but I could see that it was good.

I think I shall have to go once in a while.


Temptation and Duty

Before I get into Exodus, I want to mention here something that I may have already written. In one of C. S. Lewis nonfiction expository books, he talks about how the writing of the book seems to have become a temptation: a distraction from God rather than a duty to God.

I’m not sure about this blog yet, but I know it’s definitely not a temptation in and of itself. I have plenty of those to go around, and this isn’t one of them. This is still a chore, for better or for worse. I think by the time I’m done with the Bible I might have to revise that statement.

I need to get cracking; I’m almost up to Day 100. From there it’s only about 20 days before I’ll have reached my first third of a year. Which will mean that I’m approximately 1/9 to 1/10 of the way done. Hooray for progress!


Christians and Christianity

Okay, another few things. My partner and I are going to her brother’s wedding this weekend and she informed me that I’ll be meeting her sister, who we’ll call “Rose.” Now, Rose is a very convicted (read: judgmental) person who tries to come off as being concerned for everyone else’s souls, but seems to me to be tooting her own horn and trying to show how much better and how much more devout she is.

I finally have to dig up this quote that C. S. Lewis uses in The Problem of Pain:

“You can have no greater sign of confirmed pride than when you think you are humble enough.”

— William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life

If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far studying Christianity and the works of Christian authors, it’s that we are not good enough. We never will be. I can no longer claim to be a good man; my heart just doesn’t believe that any more.

The good news is that God loves us anyway. He wants us to come to him, to accept His love, and to love others as He loves us. We can do good in the world, to some degree. We can alleviate suffering and elevate the human spirit so that it reaches out to God; these are things we can do. But we cannot be perfect.

So when some person comes along and tries to say that one sin is more or less than another, it makes me sad and frustrated at the same time. God loves you; He knows you will not be perfect but I feel that He wants us as people to make peace with the past and move toward a brighter future. That is the idea of repentance. We make amends as best we can (ish) and move on.

“Go now, and sin no more.”

Unlikely, but it is a nice sentiment. Lewis in The Problem of Pain compares it to giving a puppy a bath and having the puppy run right back out into the mud. That is how we are. Even when we approach God, when we surrender to God, we can forget Him in the next moment.

I guess what I’m saying is, keep your self-righteousness. I don’t want to hear it. There is more to Christ than Christianity.


A Mathematical Explanation of Sin

I want to share a little argument that I explained to my partner this morning; this is how I think of sin and the weight thereof.

Here on Earth we tend to see certain sins or certain things as being “worse” or “better” than others: a white lie is seen as “less bad” than a murder, for example. Divorce or infidelity might be seen as “less bad” than homosexuality. You get the picture.

So we keep little tallies in our heads: “good” actions add up positively, and “bad” actions or sins subtract. Let’s just start with some hypothetical baseline of zero as an “average.”

Person A goes to church, donates to charities, and tells a few lies here and there, as we all do. As humans, we might ascribe a low positive value to this person, let’s say around +12.

Person B is a pastor at a church; he spreads the faith, advocates for Christ, and does good works. He might get a higher score, maybe somewhere around +43.

These numbers are of course completely arbitrary. Let’s look at negatives.

Person C is an alcoholic who beats his wife and lies habitually. We see this person and we ascribe them something like -19. Below zero, clearly tainted by their sin.

Person D gets an abortion and has problems with depression. She might get a very negative score, depending on perspective. We’ll give her -35.

Remember, I’m not condemning anyone here. I’m just setting up some arbitrary examples of our human judgment that we pass on one another.

But whatever the case may be, you can see we assign scores to people: Stalin is maybe the worst, followed by Hitler, followed by X… all the way back up on the positive side to the Pope? I don’t know.

And then we have God.

God is an uncountable Good; His “level” goes beyond mortal understanding. So we signify God with an infinity symbol: ∞.

God is all the Good in the universe; He is an infinity within which resides all the mathematical and cosmological infinities, and whatever other ones you can think of. If we’re talking about some abstract “amount of goodness,” then God is ∞.

Let’s do some math. How far from God are my hypothetical people, A, B, C, and D?

Person A: Infinity minus 12 equals…

Infinity. ∞ – 12 = ∞

(For you math nerds out there, I realize one doesn’t typically use ∞ in operations. But I’m making a point.)

Person B: ∞ – 43 = ∞

Person C: ∞ –  (-19) = ∞

Person D: ∞ – (-35) = ∞

If you take away any value, no matter how large, from an infinite quantity, the quantity is still infinite. In this case, we are speculating that God is an infinite distance “above” all humans, and as such, no matter how “near” or “far” we think we are from God, we will never in this life be as good as He is.

My point with all this? We are all separate from God. It is not our goodness that brings us closer to Him but our willingness to surrender to Him. Once we acknowledge that we are infinitely distant from Him, we can reach out and allow Him to bridge that gap by touching our hearts.

I am reminded here of the criminal condemned to die alongside Jesus Christ. He was not, by our understanding, a good man. But in his last moments, he realizes what he has done and the price to be paid. He turns to the Living Word, the Incarnation of God Made Flesh, and says:

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

— Luke 23:42, NIV

This one request, made with all our hearts, is all God truly asks of us. Because when it is made with all our hearts, we will dedicate our entire lives to be sure it is fulfilled.

Have a good day, all.

Peace be upon you.

Day 67-80

Beware! I live!

Yes, dear readers. After a long, lazy, unproductive hiatus, I have returned. My camping trip ended a week ago and I still haven’t managed to get off my ass and update my blog. So I’m going to zip through everything and just get up to today so that I can start fresh with renewed commitment tomorrow. (Update: Also, most of Exodus is [forgive me Lord] boring as s***. I’ll get cracking on that tomorrow)

Actually, before I go ahead and write all this, I’m going to go draw a Medicine Card. Be right back!

I have drawn Raccoon, in the Contrary position. Let us look him up, shall we?

“If Raccoon has appeared in the reverse position, you may be robbing yourself of much needed strength at this time. Do you need an attitude adjustment?” Etc., etc.

Appropriate as always. It says a bit more about “feeling drained,” as well as giving energy to others that you may essentially revitalize yourself. Perhaps this is what I need. Perhaps the “other” in this situation is God, and my duty thereto.

Speaking of duty, I was reading C. S. Lewis while I was on my camping trip, and he is a positively amazing writer for those who wish to have a better understanding of Christianity. Granted, it is just one man’s perspective, but considering he was a former atheist, he has a great deal of insight and offers quite a bit of explanation. I shall have to list some of his books.

Anyway he mentions at one point that our worship our our devotion to God can itself become an object of worship. He at one point started to see his work on, I believe, The Problem of Pain, as becoming a temptation rather than a duty. I’m definitely not there yet, as evidenced by the fact that I couldn’t force myself to write this blog for a full week. So far, this is still duty. Which in a sense implies my lack of virtue, since I struggle against the Word and duty to God rather than rejoice in it.

If you’ve read my About page or some of my previous posts you know that I spoke of revelations that allowed me to grok the idea of “oneness with God.” My idea is/was that we and everything in existence are one with God, although I am no longer sure in what sense. We are reflections of Him, all good is His Good, all love is His Love, and all energy is His Energy.

If He is, as C. S. Lewis puts it, the Uncreated, and everything else (us included) is the created, then in a sense all of our matter and energy came from God in the first place. I guess this is sort of a roundabout argument that is going nowhere. The point is, I had this idea of oneness with God, of a spiritual and to some extent physical unity with some form of the Divine.

On my camping trip, I understood our separateness from God. I saw why this was so, and that it was, in its own way, Good. God, as one vast infinite Being could neither do nor love except to create. God, as an infinitely creative and loving force, could do nothing less. If God did not create anything, what would He have to love? Thus, the universe, I suppose.

And we had to be given free will because otherwise there would be no point. C.S. Lewis makes the point that God could have removed the consequences of the First Sin (the whole Adam and Eve thing) but then He would have had to remove the consequences of the second, and the third, and so on, and there would be no free will. But like prodigal sons all of us, we are allowed to leave in hopes that some day, some long day after we have been bruised and hurt, after we have hurt others, after we have lied and been lied to… we are allowed to leave in the hopes that after all this we will return. Return to our real “home,” so to speak, in the presence of and in a unity with God.

So how did all this come to me? Well, Mr. Lewis was a big help. My partner gave me some books just in time for me to bring them, and they were the perfect reading material on my trip. But also, in the form of a song! The following lyrics are to the tune of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, or if you prefer, John Brown’s Body.

Ahem.


In the creaking of the pine trees, I heard an open door

I have seen His praises written there upon the forest floor

Though I have eaten from His table, He keeps me coming back for more

His Truth is marching on!

(Chorus, if you like)

In the beauty of the briars, Man was born upon the Earth

He strains and pains, complains and blames; he wonders what he’s worth

But Christ who reaches out to him is heedless of his birth

His Truth is marching on!

(Chorus)

I grin, my skin is paper thin, my mind is like a sieve

I lie here in His loving arms that I shall never leave

Beneath the broken tree leaves lie the tangled webs we weave

His Truth is marching on!

(Chorus)

Here and there and everywhere, whenever we my ask

He is present with his children, regardless of our task

By His Grace we go about our days, in His Glory we may bask

His truth is marching on!

(Chorus)

As eagles fly down mountainside, my journey’s just begun

May my gaze be fixed upon His Grace until my days are done

May He burn himself into my eyes like the righteous setting sun

His Truth is marching on!

(Chorus)

The gift that You have given me exists beyond compare

The Glory You are showing me is more than I could bear

So You gave to me this human form to find You everywhere

Your Truth is marching on!


This is my anthem to God. I cannot think of any other way to describe it. He has given me and shown me so much. Part of me wants to discontinue this project but I know I will regret doing so. I must continue to work on this, and do “my best.”

This, of course, is laughable. I realize what “little” creatures we are, now. Lewis writes in The Problem of Pain

“Christianity now has to preach the diagnosis—in itself very bad news—before it can win a hearing for the cure.”

I finally understand the diagnosis. The cure has already been discovered; the prescription is written. But so many are in denial of the diagnosis that they will not accept the cure.

But as far as being “little,” as I have said… C. S. Lewis has this to say, from The Great Divorce:

“You weren’t a decent man and you didn’t do your best. We none of us were and none of us did.”

We are infinitely far from perfect; I grok that now. We are perfect in the sense that we could not in this moment be anything other than what we are, but what we choose to do with this moment and each successive Now is up to us. But in terms of being perfected, that is something we cannot and will not be, at least not in this life. Can we get close? Sure, in the sense that successively higher numbers appear to approach an infinitely distant point. But I have seen the truth in the old adage: nobody’s perfect.

Only God is perfect; all we creatures can do is trust Him.

Until tomorrow. Peace be upon you.

Day 60

I’m reading The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis. It is awesome. My partner lent it to me but it is clearly the kind of book I will need to buy and read several times over. That is all.


Exodus 10

This chapter is very interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, God finally explains to Moses why they’re going through all this trouble and why Pharaoh is so ridiculously obstinate. God tells Moses:

“Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among themthat you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the Lord.”

— Exodus 10:1-2, NIV

I’m going to divert from the NKJV here, because apparently God tells Moses to “Go in to Pharaoh,” and I don’t think that’s quite what God meant… I was a little confused and shocked given the previous uses of the phrase “go in to.” You’re welcome to insert your own banjo music and Deliverance joke here. I really want to, but I’m not about to go that far. Not today, anyway.

But the point is that God specifically tells Moses that this is the way things have to go down so that way all the descendants of Israel will remember forever who God is. Makes sense enough to me.

Moses and Aaron go to warn Pharaoh about the impending locust plague and this time, Pharaoh’s servants finally beg him to end this madness and let the damn Hebrews go worship, already. So Pharaoh brings Moses and Aaron back. He tells them finally to just go, and then asks for clarification of who will be going to make this sacrifice.

Moses tells them that everyone will be coming, boys, girls, elders, youth, and the animals. Pharaoh’s response in different translations is interesting; I find the Jehovah’s Witness translation the best, as in it makes the most sense in context. This is what Pharaoh responds in NKJV (Exodus 10:10-11):

“The Lord had better be with you when I let you and your little ones go! Beware, for evil is ahead of you. Not so! Go now, you who are men, and serve the Lord, for that is what you desired.”

“God had better be with you, because there is evil ahead! But no! Send the guys out.” What? This is super confusing and I’m not sure I understand. Pharaoh sounds like he’s changing his mind mid-conversation.

Now let’s take a look at the NIV:

“The Lord be with you—if I let you go, along with your women and children! Clearly you are bent on evil.No! Have only the men go and worship the Lord, since that’s what you have been asking for.”

The NIV mentions that “Clearly you are bent on evil” could also mean “Be careful, trouble is in store for you!” But again, Pharaoh’s meaning is confusing. At least here he is clearly denying letting everyone go, and only wants the men to go.

The following is the New World (JW) Translation:

“If I ever send you and your children away, then Jehovah is indeed with you! It is clear that you intend to do something evil. No! Only your men may go and serve Jehovah, for that is what you requested.”

Does that not make so much more sense? “Wow, really? If I ever let all of you go, then God really is on your side. No, it’s totally obvious that this is some kind of trick. How about only the men go, and we keep everyone else as collateral?” (The bit about collateral is borrowed from Mr. Henry’s commentary/interpretation. Didn’t really think of it that way myself.)

Pharaoh makes his demand and kicks Moses and Aaron back out. They shrug and summon a plague of locusts that ravage the already-ravaged land. Whatever was left after the hailstorm gets devoured. Egypt is in a sorry state indeed. Pharaoh begs for forgiveness and asks Moses to ask God to remove the locusts. Moses does so, and predictably Pharaoh does not let the people go. Shocking.

Before we move into the ninth plague, I want to bring up another translation issue. Exodus 10:19 mentions that God summoned a west wind to send the locusts away and blow them into “the Red Sea.” The Red Sea in this case is in the proper direction for this to happen (i.e. east of Egypt) but the NIV notes that this could also be translated as “the Sea of Reeds.” While this isn’t such a big deal now, this potential mistranslation will come into play in the near future.

So, plague number nine! Pharaoh doesn’t let the people go; Moses stretches out his hand and darkness falls across the land.

thriller - zombie

Why yes, that is a Thriller reference!¹

The Egyptians are all stuck in the dark, but the Israelites are fine and have light. Gee, heavy-handed-metaphor, much? Didn’t even notice that til just now.

Pharaoh tells Moses once again to go make his sacrifice, but this time to leave his flocks. Moses tells Pharaoh that he does not yet know what kind of sacrifice they will have to make, and they will need their flocks to make burnt offerings. This exchange follows, ending the chapter with an awesome Biblical one-liner (in the NKJV, anyway. The other versions I’ve read are decidedly less cool).

Then Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me! Take heed to yourself and see my face no more! For in the day you see my face you shall die!”

So Moses said, “You have spoken well. I will never see your face again.”

mic-drop-charlie-murphy-o yeahhhhhOhhhhhh! Moses out, b****.


¹ Thriller. 1983 John Landis and Michael Jackson. Image retrieved from http://theukuleleblog.blogspot.com/2012/09/thriller-1983.html

Moses’ mic drop: http://gifsoup.com/view/1324222/mic-drop-charlie-murphy.html

Moses’ air punch: hiding in a link on http://www.gq.com/blogs/the-feed/2014/02/house-of-cards-season-two.html

Killer guitar riff: http://youfoundasecret.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/video-games-according-to-csi-miami/

Day 57

Exodus 7

Now we get into the beginning of the plagues.

Moses and Aaron, 80 and 83 years old, respectively, confront Pharaoh about all this Hebrew-enslavement nonsense. Pharaoh, of course, has no reason to listen to them or to believe any of this voodoo. He tells them, as God knew he would, to show him a miracle. So Moses gives his brother the signal, and Aaron’s rod turns into a serpent. Yeah, don’t read too much into that.

Pharaoh sees this serpent and doesn’t think much of it, so he calls his magicians and sorcerers to do the same trick, proving that this is not a divine miracle. Holy crap, if the Bible is to be taken literally, then sorcery is definitely a thing. Who knew? Well, I knew… but true magic is worked through God. I’ll get into that some other time.

So yeah, the sorcerers get their rods out, and Aaron’s serpent and their serpents fight… and… all this talk of “rods” and “serpents.” God, why do you have to make it weird? Somewhere, the Almighty is giggling. Anyway, Aaron’s serpent-rod eats those of the sorcerers. Pharaoh is not amused and declines to let the Hebrews leave.

Moses and Aaron talk with God, or rather God talks to them, and they head back to see Pharaoh the next day, presumably, when he goes out to get water. Why the Pharaoh is getting his own water is beyond me. But Moses and Aaron are waiting for him by the riverbank. “Let My people go!” sayeth Moses in the name of the Lord. Predictably, Pharaoh refuses. Aaron proceeds to turn all of Egypt into a death metal album cover, and the river and all the water in Egypt is turned to blood.

river of blood

Easiest Google search ever.¹

Apparently, just to prove that this strange occurrence was not divine either, the magicians gather up some of what must be the last remaining water in Egypt and turn it into blood with their sorcery. Pharaoh completely disregards Moses and Aaron and holds out for at least seven days, since B-Day +7 is where Exodus 7 leaves off.

There is one interesting thing I got out of Matthew Henry’s commentary: He says

“See what changes we may meet with in the things of this world; what is always vain, may soon become vexatious. See what mischievous work sin makes. If the things that have been our comforts prove our crosses, we must thank ourselves. It is sin that turns our waters into blood.”²

This reminds me of something that was shared with me by my partner. She shared an excerpt from C.S. Lewis’ “The Problem of Pain,” an awesome book that discusses why humans suffer and examines human suffering from a Christian standpoint. My partner just bought it for me, actually, and I haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading the whole thing for myself.

But the passage I am reminded of which is appropriate as God is just laying waste to Egypt by proxy goes something like this:

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Lewis says that pain drives us to action, as opposed to our comforting “sins and stupidities.” This to me rings true. The problem to me is that people can get so accustomed to pain that they ignore it or accept it as inevitable when in reality it is not. Our pain reminds us that something needs to change. Physical, mental, and spiritual pain all serve a purpose. When our waters turn to blood, we have to soften our hearts and become humble. We have to admit that something is wrong. Only then, in the name of God, can we create change.

(Almost there…)


¹ http://www.metal-archives.com/albums/Chainsaw_Dissection/River_of_Blood_and_Viscera/139596

² Henry, Matthew. http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=2&c=7