Jesus Christ

Day 96

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

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

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

Good night, all. Peace be upon you.

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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 44

Writer’s Note: This was recorded yesterday and is being transcribed today, obviously. I didn’t get much sleep last night either.

It’s been a really interesting, busy week. I did my reading yesterday and I transcribed the previous day’s writing, but I didn’t get to make my post. I didn’t do it. I’ve been so tired, so beat, and today is the day that I pick myself up and say today I will do better. Today I will reaffirm what I need to do. I will do better, so today I’m playing catch up with work, with my blog, I’m going to get some sleep… I’m playing catch up with my life.

Today I had an interesting conversation; I was talking to some of my coworkers about alcoholism and alcohol problems, especially in regards to Native Americans. Two of my coworkers are Navajo and they’ve seen a great deal of alcohol abuse and problems firsthand. One of my other coworkers who is white, she asked, “Isn’t it true that Native Americans don’t process alcohol the same way?” And I was confused and was about to say something, but I asked my coworkers if this was true. One of my Navajo coworkers said it was. I knew Asians had that issue, but I didn’t realize that it was a trait they had in common with Native Americans. Apparently it is.

This white girl starts talking about how she’s really “spiritual” and… she basically started talking about how spirituality leads your DNA to vibrate at higher frequencies and so your body rejects things like alcohol and drugs. I wasn’t even sure what to say to that at first. I don’t know, man. I’ve heard some pretty New-Agey stuff in my day, and I can’t imagine there’s any kind of scientific or rational backing for that. The idea of sympathetic vibrations of energy is a pretty metaphysical concept in and of itself, but to use it as a broad generalization for why Asians, who, to loosely quote her, are “a very spiritual people,” and Native Americans have a low tolerance for alcohol… like this is somehow carried down through the generations because of their intense spirituality… I don’t even know.

Every time I hear something like that, I think back to my little fictitious illustration/idea/thought experiment that is “The First Church of Five-Minutes-Ago,” and the idea that everything sprung up into existence, fully-formed, five minutes ago, and is designed on purpose to look as though it has existed for much longer than that. I was just thinking about unprovable things, and seriously how could you ever prove this idea of DNA that “vibrates” on higher spiritual frequencies? To say that all Asian culture and all Native culture is spiritual… and I get the idea, but this does not ring true to me. Honestly, it sounds ridiculous. Sympathetic vibrations make for great metaphors, but in my opinion they don’t make for good biology. It doesn’t make for good biological and sociological policy to just wave away this whole issue of alcohol intolerance as some kind of voodoo bullsh*t in your DNA.

keithdavid

You rang? ¹

I don’t really know what DNA has to do with it, anyway. Your liver processes alcohol. Higher states of being, I get that idea, at least the idea of “higher” levels of consciousness, but I don’t think we’re transcending our own physical form. I could see from a psychological standpoint, and this is what I said in response, is that the psychological benefits of having a healthy spirituality, can lead you away from seeking temporary pleasures in substances, from running away from your troubles and looking for escape in alcohol or drugs. A healthy sense of self and a sense of your place in the universe, those are things that when you don’t have them, you feel lost or lonely or empty, and you turn to something, be it drugs or alcohol, to numb it or escape it.

But I think that someone with a healthy sense of self can either avoid or control themselves around those substances. I don’t think it necessarily has to do with “elevated vibrations.” On one hand, this could be me getting defensive because I feel as though I’ve had some pretty enlightening experiences, and I’m doing my best to put what I’ve learned from these experiences into practice. I’m not going to use her word, “ascension,” but I do have a strong sense of my place in the world. I look around me even in this very moment and I revel in everything I see and smell and feel, and it’s great; I see God everywhere. It’s an amazing feeling, to feel God within myself. I do my best to remind myself that God is with all of us, and that there are so many different people, different vessels for this energy of consciousness that I call God, this vast Being that everybody is. It’s amazing, you know? I see that everywhere.

Maybe I’m getting defensive, because if what she says is true, then I shouldn’t be affected (or should be sickened, even) by alcohol or any drug-like substances. She says that when you’re enlightened, supposedly “toxins,” like alcohol, make you sick. So here’s my meta-reasoning, here:

  1. I consider myself to be living in at least a semi-enlightened state.
  2. Those who have “ascended” to higher “levels” cannot tolerate things like alcohol.
  3. I can tolerate alcohol, and it does not in reasonable quantities make me sick.
    1. If living in an enlightened state is Q, and being able to tolerate alcohol is P…
    2. My coworker’s assertion is that Q → ¬P. (If Q, then not P.)
    3. My case is P…
    4. ∴ ¬Q
  4. Therefore, I must not be as enlightened as I think I am. (Also I really wanted an excuse to use some logical notation.)

Maybe it’s just me being defensive, but I just don’t accept her statements. I see no proof, no evidence, no reason to believe all of that. The thing I like about “The First Church of Five-Minutes-Ago” is that it shows at once the limitations of science (because it can never be disproved) but it also shows the fallacy of accepting a lack of dis-confirmation as confirmation. Just because I can’t prove that the DNA of an enlightened person “vibrates” at some higher frequency doesn’t mean that it explains why Asians and American Indians don’t tolerate alcohol.

One of my Navajo coworkers is Christian, and she doesn’t want to take peyote because of the potential for abuse, or whatever the Christian deal is with avoiding drugs.² My partner has explained it to me, if I remember correctly, that people avoid them because of the behaviors that can result therefrom, or because when you lose control of your mind/body, then you open the door for “evil things” to come in, be that demonic forces or the devil’s influence or what have you. Admittedly, that’s kind of a scary thought…

Actually, as an aside, while I’m jumping from topic to topic, I mentioned to one of my clients (a ten-year-old boy) that I’m not scared of anybody. This one client, he’s really interesting. He’s said some weird, out-of-context religious stuff from time to time. He said something about being afraid of the devil. I said, “Why? Why should I be scared of the devil?” I trust God, why should I be afraid? I’ll see how I even feel about “The Devil” as a concept when I’m done with the Bible.

The idea of the devil as a mythological concept, that’s amazing. I love the whole conflict and the idea of a devil as far as a mythological opposition to the power of God. The idea of a devil as a strong metaphor, even, for all the ills of the world. I get that, that’s powerful.

But this kid tells me I should be afraid of the devil. But I’m not. Why would I be? I trust in God. I am strong in God, and I know I have nothing to fear. I feel like my “soul,” whatever you believe that to be, is protected. I feel like if you trust in God, you can realize this divine sort of energy within you and be protected. I understand that there is temptation in the world, and there are what I would consider “evil presences” or “dark presences.” I would use the term “dark presence” and say that there is such a thing, again based on my personal experience. I don’t know if that came from within my own mind or if it is some external supernatural evil, I can’t speak to the cause… Just like I told this woman at work, I can’t speak to the metaphysics of spirituality; I don’t f***in’ know.

I just think that my ultimate point here is that I am not afraid. There are times when this body, this vessel has fear, and that is understandable. There are moments of tension or anxiety, but overall in a big sense, I am not afraid. I have God on my side, and my spirituality is such that I see God all the time, and I feel the presence of God with me all the time. I’m not always paying attention, but every time I pause to look around, and see trees and other people, and the dirt of the ground, and grasses and bushes and I see all this color and this energy, and for me it all ties back to these things being different reflections of God.

I was talking to a very close friend of mine last night about spirituality and about my personal experiences that I’ve had… every single idea that is important to me about spirituality, about God, every single truth that I hold is based entirely on my own experience. I like that, and I don’t want to sound cocky or sound like I think I’m better than other people, but these ideas are all based on things I have felt or visions I have had or something I have read or experienced.³ To me, the details don’t really matter.

Obviously, yes, you should learn about things you can’t experience for yourself, but ultimately the whole “spiritual vibrations” thing, for example, seems like it doesn’t make sense. In this case, you can look at genetics and look at enzymes that deal with alcohol that are not present or as present in Asian or Native culture. You can look at the cause and see why this appears to be the case. I think coming up with some weird metaphysical reason… I understand that we often want to believe that there is more to this reality than we can see, and in my opinion there is, but that doesn’t mean, for example, that I think people should follow an arbitrary set of rules to get to some external Heaven.

Everything that I’m concerned about is practical, it is for here and it is for now. Everything I want to learn and teach is information that I think people can use to make their lives more enjoyable and more functional. It’s information that doesn’t have a downside, information that will lead to positive changes in your life, information that will lead you to acceptance, love, and respect. That’s the kind of thing I can promote because I can promote it with a good conscience. I know that the things I have to share with people will bring about good changes.

I have no reason to believe otherwise because I’ve seen it for myself and I’ve seen it in other people, and I’ve heard the message that rings true for me, repeated by wise, happy, healthy people. Part of why I’m reading the Bible is so I can understand it and accept it with no contradictions. I hope to spread all of what I learn, and I hope to serve other people so that they can find their own truths the way that I’ve found mine. It means a lot, and I will make it happen.


¹ The Thing, Directed by John Carpenter. 1982, Universal Pictures. Image accessed from http://www.zuguide.com/image/Keith-David-The-Thing.7.jpg

² Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” — Matthew 15:10-11, NIV

³ I do suppose, looking back, that most of what other people believe is what rings true for them. I just… I think some people stick with what they were told when they were young and refuse to learn or be open to the possibility of anything new. Hand-waving away any contrary evidence or criticism does not make one’s faith appear strong.
As has been said before, sometimes with pride/disrespect, “If your faith can move mountains, it should be able to withstand criticism.” Obviously some people don’t feel the need to rationally defend their faith, but for my faith to ring true, it had to be as rational as it is spiritual.

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 33

Happy Good Friday, everybody.

Today, I had an interesting horoscope:

horoscope 4 18 14 edit

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

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

angel cloud edited

Img Credit: Me

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


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

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

Creosote bush; a 

thousand tiny lights glowing

in the setting sun.


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

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

Happy Good Friday, everybody. Peace be upon you.


 

Day 31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

— Romans 1:20, NKJV

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

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

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

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

— Jesus Christ, Matthew 7:7-8

Peace be upon you.


 

This Is Why Switchfoot Won’t Sing Christian Songs Anymore

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

This Is Why Switchfoot Won’t Sing Christian Songs Anymore

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

Day 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I will press on.”


Genesis 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Day 14

Holy crow, yesterday felt like three days. I worked a solid eleven hours, mostly outdoors, and I can feel a slight crisp on the skin of my face.

I slowly struggled out of bed just now to eat a slightly dried chocolate muffin that I got from a church’s coffee shop. I might have to check out this church in the future; it seems like a pretty nice place. I’ve never consistently gone to church in my adult life, and I only once attended a Mormon service, sort of out of obligation.

Just as recently I had a vision of death, two nights ago I fully connected with my Spirit Council again and was shown something else. Anyway, I wrote a short poem about what happened. It doesn’t have a name.

I have seen the face of my anger
It is a swirling burning thing.
Crimson light bleeds from it
Like an image of an angry sun.
Into the four corners of my life does it spread
A profane cross of impotent rage
Fueled by the fear that hides in my heart.

I haven’t written poetry in a while, and I’m not terribly satisfied with it, but the whole point of this project is to “Learn by Doing.” I’m not only writing when I feel like writing because I’m often unmotivated and tired and too busy seeking other pleasures. I was listening to the book Antifragile, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and he wrote that if he ever procrastinates writing something, he doesn’t ever use it and throws it out. I’m just not like that. I’m busy rekindling my writer’s spirit, and it’s going to take time and practice before this becomes a habit, before it becomes a burning need that I cannot ignore.

I wanted to tell you about my Left today, but I think I will save descriptions of my spirit animals for a later date. Although, without meaning to, I have already introduced one.

Genesis 14

I read this chapter today and didn’t think a whole lot of it. It describes a war between a handful of kings, but Abram and Lot get caught up in this mess. Long story short, at one point, Lot gets snatched up (it seems) while he is in Sodom, and the armies take his stuff.

Then, someone comes and tells Abram, “Hey, so these guys up and kidnapped your nephew, Lot.” Abram mans up and arms his servants and chases the offending army as far north “as Hobah, which is north of Damascus” (Genesis 14:15). That’s a pretty damn long way.

Abram saves Lot and heads back home; it would appear that on his way or upon his return, he is met by a) Bera, the king of Sodom and b) Melchizedek, king of Salem.

Melchizedek is a very interesting character, if he be a character at all. He “brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High” (Genesis 14:18). Firstly, he brings bread and wine, which most of us associate with Jesus Christ and the idea of body and blood. Secondly, while Abram and his family have been described as being the righteous ones, Melchizedek, who has no ancestry mentioned thus far, is a holy man, a “priest of God Most High.”

There are a lot of odd mysteries surrounding this name and this person. Some identify him as Shem, descendent of Noah. The Dead Sea Scrolls identify Melchizedek, if not this Melchizedek, as a divine being, sometimes giving unto him the name Elohim, traditionally associated with God. Even his “name” itself may mean “the king [of] righteousness,” from malki tzedek, which contrasts with a mention in the Dead Sea Scrolls of a “Melchi-resha,” which means “king of evil,” the name for an angel of darkness. ¹

Jehovah’s Witnesses – An Aside

I was just interrupted from my work by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who come to my house frequently because I invite them back. Today they invited me to their annual event commemorating the day on which Christ gave His life that we may all live. They also talked to me for a while, and I told them about my project. They told me to pay attention when I get to the story of Joseph (of Technicolor Dreamcoat fame), because he has something to say about interpretation. I want so badly to look ahead but I am reading this Bible chapter by chapter and I will wait. The gentleman today brought his wife, who seemed like a charming lady, and she slipped a hint as to what Joseph says, but I will not yet mention it.

What I will mention, though, is John 17:3.

“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

— Jesus Christ, John 17:3

The Witnesses told me essentially that it is Good to study the Bible, that by reading it and learning of it, we can know God and Jesus, and thus gain eternal life. The gentleman said that everything in the Bible tells us about God. Interesting when contrasted with the ideas of, say, the Eastern Orthodox Church, which believes that

“The words do what they can do, but the nature of the Trinity in its fullness remains beyond our comprehension and expression, a Holy Mystery that can only be experienced.”²

Perhaps God is knowable for practical purposes but a Holy Mystery in totality, the way Albert Camus describes man in The Myth of Sisyphus. We can know God and seek union with Him enough to be saved and to know, sense, or feel what He wants for us. But the nature of God? The essence of God? The spiritual form of God that exists in contrast to the material? At least in this lifetime, in these bodies, it cannot be understood.

The King of Sodom

There are but a few verses left in Genesis 14, but before reading about Melchizedek, they were the only thing that interested me. The king of Sodom offers to trade Abram: Abram gives him back the people (his people? Previous subjects? I’m not super clear on this) in exchange for stuff. The stuff is really unimportant; the important part is that Abram says no. Abram vows in the name of God to not take even “a thread [or] a sandal strap” from the king (Genesis 14:23).

Abram remembers God’s promise and realizes that he has no need for these material things. Abram chooses the people because he knows that God has plans to make him rich in spirit, a wealth to which material substances cannot compare.

Peace be upon you.

 

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

² http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Orthodox_Church#Trinity

Day 5

Five days into this project and I’m already having a crisis of faith. Yesterday when I decided to make coffee in the morning I chose an oversized mug with a drawing of the Buddha. It felt so weird.

I have a copy of the Bible (maybe two or three), a copy of the Quran, a copy of the Book of Mormon, and, somewhere around here, a copy of the Bhagavad Gita. I also have my medicine cards and my own spiritual experiences, both intense and mundane.

I feel strange delving so deeply into the Christian faith. This is a faith that I for many years, rejected, and in many ways I still do. I understand that God is, I have felt that presence and as far as I can tell, spoken with Him. I have prayed to God in the name of Jesus Christ.

But I usually append that, and while I pray to no one but God, I often pray “in the name” of various wise, intelligent, and spiritual people the world over. I have added people such as Carl Sagan, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, and others which I cannot at this time remember. It has been a while since I have formally prayed. I have even prayed in the name of all of humanity.

One thing I do not enjoy which seems to be a part of modern American life is that faith tends to be equated with scientific ignorance as a necessity. I don’t get it, and I don’t see why this is often the case. In my opinion, if one’s faith crumbles at the presence of observable, objective facts (as much as such a thing is possible, anyway), then it is my opinion that a person with such a problem would need to do some praying and reconciling of their faith.

Take, for example, the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation. Detectable with powerful telescopes, it seems that all throughout the universe there is a small “static,” if you will, of faint radiation that comes from no discernible source. It is almost uniform, and it can be found even where an optical telescope would find “black” or empty sky between stars or galaxies.

The CMB is everywhere. When variations that are observed within the CMB are modeled, the only explanation that matches up with observed data is the “Big Bang” model of cosmic expansion and universal creation. Does this mean that an unmeasurable, spiritual-bodied God had no hand in the universe? Not at all. My explanation or interpretation (back on Day 1) allows for the idea that God sparked the universe and all of existence into being.

Now, a hypothetical person might say, “You said observable fact. CMB is observable from microwave detectors and radio telescopes. How does this mean anything to me?” So, maybe bad choice on my part. But the fact is that when you turn on a TV or a radio to a channel with nothing but static, a very tiny amount of that static is indeed coming from the CMB. It exists.

The other thing I do not enjoy about (I was going to say Christianity but ideas don’t do anything in and of themselves so let’s say) some Christians specifically, although I’m sure practitioners of other religions do this as well, is their tendency to focus on differences rather than similarities. Basically, the main tenet of Christianity, especially Protestant Christianity which removes a lot of the details and rituals of Catholicism, is that the man named Jesus from the town of Nazareth was indeed the Son of God, that He performed miracles in his lifetime, that He died upon the cross to redeem all of humanity’s sins, and that by accepting Him as your Lord and savior, you allow yourself a path to Heaven. Yes, there are other important details, like the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and the Second Coming and all that, but the reason John 3:16 is probably the most famous verse of the New Testament is because Christ’s death is the crux (no pun intended, I promise) of the Christian faith. Jehovah’s Witnesses celebrate no holidays other than the anniversary of the day Christ died, because it was on that day that he offered salvation for all humanity.

(Jesus, a page and a half and I haven’t even started on today’s chapter.)

Anyway, the thing that gets me is that literally any faith in the whole wide world that doesn’t focus on Jesus Christ and his role as savior is immediately wrong. And that’s pretty much all there is to it! Religions that had been established for hundreds if not thousands of years are all wrong if they do not include the acceptance of Jesus Christ as their savior.

This has never made sense to me.

I don’t understand how God could create the world, scatter humanity all over the globe, allow us different cultures and languages (discussion on the Tower of Babel will come later), and somehow expect everyone to rally behind one Jew from the Middle East!

Maybe it is something that will come with time. But from what I know about people and about psychology, conversion via condemnation seems like a terrible f***ing strategy to me, and that’s the only word I can use to describe how opposed I am to it.

If you want people to understand, accept, and love God and Jesus Christ, then you need to show them the parallels, not the differences. People are not just going to wake up one day and abandon the faith of their fathers and grandfathers or mothers and grandmothers or whatever and suddenly switch over. I’m not saying such sudden “miraculous” conversion is impossible, just that it is highly unlikely.

And even if God wants the whole world to accept Jesus Christ as their savior, a) there must have been a reason for all these other cultures and stories and myths and faiths in the grand scheme of things, and b) I don’t see how God would expect them to accept Jesus without being able to relate to or understand the stories and the principles and everything else!

I got into a long debate with my partner late one night about this very issue. It was her belief that God speaks to all of us, which I agree with, but then we differ on the idea that people always recognize that voice as God. She says that people choose not to accept God. I explained to her that I didn’t accept God until I truly felt God, what people call the Holy Spirit. In the course of one evening, my life changed. I felt the Holy Spirit and I understood why there was suffering and despair in the world, which previously had been an obstacle toward my acceptance of God.

Over the course of one evening, I was overcome with both joy and despair before settling on acceptance. It was a three-step process. I overcame the philosophical “problem of evil” by realizing that human beings a) have “free will” (going to leave a “sort of” here; this is another thing I won’t get into right now) and that b) human beings grow with a certain amount of stress or suffering. By not having a perfect life, we look for ways to grow or to solve problems, thus expanding ourselves and making our lives and the lives of others better.

For humans and humanity to achieve their full potential, there has to be suffering. One story of Satan, which at some point I will be able to confirm or deny as Biblical, one story that I have heard is that Satan wanted to make the world a perfect place where all of humanity was forced to accept God. The Good Lord said “No” because apparently that’s not how the plan is supposed to work.

So humanity as represented by all the individual humans has the “choice” to accept or reject God. And if that choice is dependent on a human being’s experiences and life up to that point… and that life has been nothing but terrible… then I just don’t see that it’s likely (although I do accept that it is possible) for that person to accept or love God.

During this discussion I brought up the song “Hasa Diga Ebowai,” from the award-winning Broadway musical, The Book of Mormon. The song is sung mostly by members of a village in Uganda in Africa, and they say that having a saying, the titular “hasa diga ebowai,” that helps them make it through all their terrible circumstances, which include “war, poverty, famine” and the fact that “eighty percent of [them] have AIDS.” This is all put to an upbeat and sprightly tune, which makes it all the more shocking for the Mormon missionaries when they learn that “hasa diga ebowai” means “F*** you, God.”

My point in explaining this (hilarious and well-written, if blasphemous) song both to my partner and here as part of this post is that it serves as a good example for what became my overall point: If people don’t understand God or have never felt that love or peace, how can they be expected to accept God? And if they don’t accept or believe in God, then how can they see His presence in their lives? And if they don’t see His presence and the little “coincidences” (which are anything but) for what they are, then how can they be expected to understand Him? And so on and so forth.

My partner didn’t have an answer. But to me it is a clear cycle that can be broken with new experiences or information presented in an appropriate, understandable way. You can’t just tell a Hindu or Muslim family or whatever to accept Jesus. They simply don’t have enough understandable information to make that decision.

I don’t really believe in Hell, personally, not really as a physical realm. One person I met in college who had been studying to be a Christian (or Catholic, I don’t recall which) priest before coming out and accepting his homosexuality, this person told me about Christian Universalism. The main tenet that separates them from traditional Christianity is the belief in “universal reconciliation,” which states that “all will eventually be reconciled to God without exception, the penalty for sin is not everlasting” (Wikipedia.org, Christian Universalism). This means that Universalists do not believe in Hell. The argument this person put forth to me was “The life of a human being is finite, and a loving God would not make someone suffer infinite punishment for finite sin.” Yes, the wages of sin trickle down and down from person to person, but still. I think this makes sense. I shall analyze this view in light of scripture as I proceed through the Bible.

This seems like a good point to bring up, once again, The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. You might as well get used to it, dear reader, because it’s going to come up a lot. Anyway, in TFA, Ruiz writes, in short, that Hell is a state of mind, a state of mind in which we suffer the “fire” of our own negative emotions. The burning sensations of anger, envy, and jealousy are the “fires” of Hell. The idea of Hell as punishment exists in this state of mind as well, because we punish ourselves and beat ourselves up endlessly for things we do and don’t do, or say or don’t say. We live in this state of fire and punishment. We live in a state of Hell.

Ruiz writes that if Hell is a state of mind, then so is Heaven. To Christians or whoever: I’m not opposed to the idea of Heaven being a place, but even in the Bible, I think Heaven is also a state of mind. Look to Luke 17, verses 20 and 21. In the NKJV, Jesus tells the people,

“The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

— Jesus Christ, Luke 17:20-21

In the NIV, He says that “the kingdom of God is in your midst.” In his famous speech at the end of The Great Dictator, Charlie Chaplin cites this with such vibrant passion that I am almost overcome with emotion every single time I hear it.

“In the seventeenth chapter of Saint Luke it is written, ‘the kingdom of God is within man’ — not one man, nor a group of men, but in all men, in you, you the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.”

— Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator

My God, even now, just writing it and hearing it in my mind it gives me chills. Don Miguel Ruiz writes that human beings, living as we do in a dream-like state, have the power to dream Hell or Heaven. Ruiz says, poignantly, “My choice is to dream Heaven. What’s yours?”

Genesis 5

That seems as good a spot as any to end on. If I were to keep going, I’d never get to today’s chapter. Which would defeat the whole objective of this project. So let me flip back from Luke (page 500-something in my Bible) to Genesis 5 (page 3). Oh, my aching head.

We have another few examples here of the non-literality of the word “day,” but I’m so tired of swinging this stick to beat that dead horse, so I’m going to just leave it. The other thing we have here is a ton of genealogy stuff. So much begetting.

Back to the line of Adam, we have Seth, Adam’s new son, we have Seth’s son Enosh, Enosh’s son Cainan, then Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch (more on him in a minute), Methuselah, Lamech, and finally Noah. Well, not finally, because in closing, Genesis 5 tells us that Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Methuselah is famous because according to the Bible he was the oldest man who ever lived: nine hundred and sixty-nine years of age. And he and everyone else died.

…Except Enoch. Enoch is the only person whose tabulation of years is not immediately followed by “and he died.” Enoch, interestingly enough, is described twice as having “walked with God” (Gen 5:22 and 5:24) and his part of the story ends with “and he was not, for God took him.” The NIV translates it thusly: “Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Gen 5:24, NIV).

Either case, Enoch is not described as having died. There are different beliefs all across the Abrahamic spectrum (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) regarding Enoch and his fate. The apocryphal (and totally bad-ass) Book of Enoch basically describes him being brought alive into Heaven, perhaps the only human being to have done so. Another interpretation is that he possessed such purity that he was taken or killed before his time so that he might not be corrupted. Yet another is that he was granted immortality in some form or another, but not taken to Heaven.

I like to think that Enoch was taken up to Heaven to serve as scribe and as the Metatron who sometimes serves as the voice of God. This idea is not based on anything in particular save for esoteric Jewish texts and a brief section in the Talmud where Elisha ben Abuyah, a rabbi, entered Heaven/Paradise and saw the Metatron sitting next to God.

As an aside, I always thought Metatron sounded very sci-fi, or like the name of a Transformer (™ Hasbro), but finding out what it actually means is near impossible. I will direct interested readers to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metatron, where an analysis of possible etymologies can be found.

Anyway, I like this idea not because it is based on anything but simply because it is awesome and very mystical in an old-world sense. It probably helps that society and literature have used allusions to such concepts since time immemorial, but I am absolutely fascinated with esoteric aspects of Judeo-Christian mythology. And that’s all I have to say about that.

But today we are concerned about scripture. Canonical scripture. I couldn’t tell you why all the people in Genesis 5 lived so long. I have read before that this was taken as an example of the dwindling purity of mankind that trickled down from Adam, that had Adam not been removed from Eden he would have lived forever. This is possible, but in Genesis 2 it seems to be implied that only by eating of the tree of life would Adam and Eve have lived forever. But maybe that wasn’t even a concern until after they had eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Like I said before, God didn’t say they’d die immediately.

Today I accessed the Matthew Henry Commentary  via the website

http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/genesis/5.html

and ho-ho-holy crap. This is way more information than I would ever think to include! I’m already tired from all this writing. The interested reader will direct their attention to the above link and read what is there written. I’m not about to go that far in depth.

But the interesting point that this site makes is that these particular names and this genealogy exists so that an interested party could track the lineage of the man who would be Jesus Christ. Supposedly, this accounts for the capitalization of “Seed” in Genesis 3:15, to which I had previously paid little attention.

I will end today’s tiring essay with the observation of Genesis 5:29.

“And he called his name Noah, saying, ‘This one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord has cursed.”

— Genesis 5:29

Lamech seems to realize that life is miserable and full of toil because of the sins of their forefathers and the punishment for those sins that came from the Lord. Lamech either wishes or knows that Noah will in some way comfort or perhaps deliver humanity from this suffering. And then after almost 600 more years, Lamech dies, never having witnessed Noah fulfill his destiny.

But fulfill and deliver he shall.

Have a good day, everyone. I hope this is as interesting and thought-provoking for you as it is for me.

Farewell, and peace be upon you.

Day 4

We got the Internet back up yesterday; it turned out to be a cable in the wrong slot. Of course, our Internet access goes out so frequently due to failure to pay the bill that no one thought to check that.

I spent more time with my partner last night and this morning. I love her so much but this is the worst week to be spending this much time together. I had to tell her as much because I kept snapping at her and she got upset.

Part of it is that I haven’t told her or anyone about this project yet. Granted, it hasn’t even (as of my writing this) gone online yet, but still. Part of me doesn’t want her to know so that I can just write it in peace without having to worry about the opinions of someone I know and love. She’s a Christian with a fairly literal interpretation of the Bible and I know we’re going to clash theologically. We already have, and if she reads this we will have many more occasions to do so. On the upside, we might be able to understand each other better after a few more such discussions, and if we can get through this we could probably get through anything.

But! Once again I am pressed for time. This is what’s stressing me out because she doesn’t realize I’m waking up extra early every day and that I need to take upwards of an hour to write these posts. So here we go with…

Genesis 4

Oy. Here begins the genealogy stuff. There must be a point and a purpose but… right now, this early in the morning, it just makes my head hurt.

Let’s start with Cain and Abel, one of my favorite stories in the Bible. Cain is not only the first murderer, assuming one accepts the account of creation, but the first wise-ass. Cain invented sarcasm.

Cain and Abel, brothers, sons of Adam and Eve, both bring offerings to the Lord. Now the Lord “respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering” (Genesis 4:4-5). The Lord appears to have done this to teach Cain a lesson. Cain gets upset and angry, but the Lord tries to tell him to “rule over [sin].”

God says, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” as written in Genesis 4:7. I find this interesting because it makes me think of, again, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. In that book, one of the titular agreements is “Always do your best,” or “I always do my best.” By doing one’s best, Ruiz writes, one can never blame oneself or feel guilty. If one tries to do more than their best, one will become frustrated and overexerted. If one tries to do less than their best, one will judge oneself and feel guilty. God even says, “If you do not do well, sin lies at the door.” In TFA, Ruiz writes that anything, especially emotions, that go against ourselves are sins, because through those emotions we do harm to ourselves.

It would seem to me that God is telling Cain to do his best, and not worry so much about the outcome. Cain becomes angry, jealous, or envious, which is a result of inner feelings or emotions. Cain feels inadequate, it seems, in the eyes of the Lord, and so instead of looking inward, he looks outward. Cain cannot spend his anger attacking the Lord, so he goes for the easiest related target: Abel, the object of his jealousy and envy.

And this is the part that gets me every time. Cain kills Abel, and when God comes asking where he went, Cain says, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9)

Wow. Cain literally mouths off to God. I don’t think he thought this one through. So God destroys Cain’s livelihood, it seems, by telling him “When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you” (Genesis 4:12). And then Cain is “driven […] out” by God, crying “I shall be hidden from Your face” (Genesis 4:14).

In other news, now I know where the band name “Avenged Sevenfold” comes from. Should anyone kill  Cain, “vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold,” so sayeth the Lord, Genesis 4:15. (The direct quote shows up in Gen 4:24.)

The website christnotes.org explains the story thusly: Abel came to God humbly and offered the firstborn of his flock as a valuable sacrifice to the Lord. Cain “showed a proud, unbelieving heart.” I’m not entirely sure where they get that out of the scripture, but it makes for an interesting explanation. To me, it seems like Cain was a farmer, so he gave God his crops as an offering. But maybe there’s something I’m missing?

The website goes on to mention that Cain and Abel are representative of two types of believers: “proud, hardened despisers of the gospel method of salvation, who attempt to please God in ways of their own devising; and humble believers, who draw near to him [sic] in the way he [sic] has revealed.”

I have a sneaking suspicion that I won’t understand this chapter until somewhere down the road.

So Cain leaves the land of his birth and dwells “in the land of Nod on the east of Eden.” I have heard before that the word “Nod” is somehow related to an old Hebrew word for “wander,” and christnotes.org says that Nod means “shaking” or “trembling.” This interpretation is new to me, and the site says that this “shows the restlessness and uneasiness of his spirit.”

“They that depart from God cannot find rest any where else.”

— Matthew Henry’s Commentary, christnotes.org

Cain leaves the “land” and “sight” of God, be this physical or metaphorical, and goes elsewhere. He takes a wife (who?) and has a child named Enoch. Then there is a city that gets built and a whole lot of begetting. Long story short, after a while comes Lamech, who appears to be just as troublesome as his ancestor.

First he takes two wives, which is apparently also a sin according to christnotes.org, even though if you’re reading the Bible like I am and not yet as a whole, this isn’t quite clear. I guess Genesis 2 might imply that the rule is one man and one woman.

Then Lamech has a whole family of people that proceed to become craftsmen, farmers, and musicians (Genesis 4:20-22). From the commentary found on christnotes.org by Matthew Henry, this just showcases the sin of the family, because instead of teaching people about God, Lamech and his family are concerned with worldly things. Even the aforementioned city is due to Cain’s lingering dissatisfaction and unease. He cannot obtain the wonders of heaven, and so he builds a city here on earth. So should we all go live in the woods? Should no one create wonders on earth?

I think the importance here is that we not forget God and heaven while concerned with earthly matters during our human lives. We can integrate the spiritual into the material; perhaps not literally, but like a televangelist who uses the marvels of modern technology to preach the gospel, or even the bookmakers who printed the Bible on a press rather than write it by hand, it is possible to use technology wisely and to our spiritual advantage.

Anyway, so Lamech gets all uppity and starts striking down people who hurt him, saying that “If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, / Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold” (Genesis 4:24). What a guy.

And so ends the story of Cain and his family, at least as far as Genesis 4.

My time is running short today, but I wanted to address a few things that I forgot in previous chapters. Firstly, I wanted to make the observation that there are a number of parallels between Eve and the Greek Pandora. This is not news to many, but the resemblance is interesting. Pandora, however is deliberately sent to men to cause harm. One could say that this is not the case for Eve, but in a roundabout way, if God never wanted Man to fall, one would think he could have prevented it. As I said before, the Fall of Man appears to be necessary. Why else would a Redeemer be needed?

There are other interesting parallels between the ancient Greek myths and the first few chapters of Genesis. In Hesiod’s Theogeny, Prometheus plays a trick against Zeus (the powerful divine father figure) related to two separate sacrificial offerings. In this myth, Zeus revokes mankind’s fire privileges, but Prometheus steals that back. In retaliation, Zeus sends Pandora and all the ills of the world are set forth upon mankind, etc., etc.

In Works and Days, Hesiod writes that “had Prometheus not provoked Zeus’s wrath, ‘you would easily do work enough in a day to supply you for a full year even without working; soon would you put away your rudder over the smoke, and the fields worked by ox and sturdy mule would run to waste’” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prometheus).

Does this sound familiar? “In toil you shall eat of it, all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,” and “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.” So sayeth the Lord, Genesis 3:17-19.

Zeus in his myth and God in the Bible both take away mankind’s easy life. In a way, one could take this for a piece of evidence related to the mythology of the Bible. I tend to say that, once again, all stories have a purpose, and if one believes that God guides or at least has a hand in the world, it is impossible to say that something exists either for no reason or for a reason that would go against God and his Word.

So to me, these old myths and legends are good stories. They have tales to tell and lessons to learn, and in a way, the humans of old would have had to learn these lessons before the cultures of Judaism and Christianity came along.

I asked my partner why God is so different from the Old Testament to the New. The Old Testament has animal sacrifices, destruction of cities, pillars of salt, and so on and so forth. The New Testament has Jesus Christ who came to save humanity and absolve all of their sins. So which is it? If God is infinite and unchanging…

Well, her explanation, which I particularly enjoy, is that it’s not God that was different, it’s humanity. In the Old Testament, mankind is in its infancy. How do you discipline a child? Regardless of whether it is right or best, we train children via punishment and reward. God used animal sacrifice and the like as ways for people to show their faith and humility, their submission to the Lord. God gave mankind a path to salvation via sacrifice. Time needed to pass before it would be right for Jesus to walk the earth and offer salvation through the redemption of mankind’s sins.

Also as a quick aside, salvation and redemption are not the same thing. This might not be news to you but it was to me. Redemption is when Jesus died on the cross, and chose to take the weight of all man’s sin. Salvation is what humans receive when they accept redemption. Or something like that.

Well, I deviated quite a bit from Genesis 4 today, and I’ve definitely pushed my time. I hope anyone reading this is happy and enjoying their day, and if not, work through your troubles. Do not be like Cain, always a vagabond, or a fugitive. It seems like we have everything we need in this world, in this life, from our food and shelter to medicine and entertainment, but at our very core, there is a spiritual need from which we turn away. I heard a Christian radio station give the advice once to “rest in God,” and I agree. Find the love and acceptance that is always there for you. Rest and fall into the arms of God the way a child rests in the arms of its mother or father.

If nothing else, know that I am here, thinking of you, wherever in this world you may be. We may not always get along, or we may not always like each other, but we can make the decision to love and respect one another. So go forth into this day, go forth with strength and power, but go forth with humility. There is always something new to learn, and every experience is a new lesson.

Despite what anyone else says, God loves you. I love you. Whoever you are.