Medicine Cards

Day 88

For even just one day, I can do this. One day at a f***ing time.

Today’s post is brought to you by: Elk!

Elk, in regards to these Medicine Cards, represents Stamina. I think this is appropriate at the moment because it has a great deal to do with pacing, something at which I am terrible. It’s funny how when I’m camping, there is no pacing. You do what needs to be done when it needs to be done and there is no difficulty in doing so. And yet here, in this mess of a house, in this mess of a life, I can’t get anything done that I need to.

Case in point, I have probably 2 hours worth of paperwork to do that’s backlogged from about a week ago. There’s no reason it should have gotten this bad.

Elk is a good medicine for today and a good reminder for me.


Exodus 38

Oh, would you look at that! I’m almost up to Leviticus. Gotta get a header ready.

Man, even Matthew Henry doesn’t have much to say about this part of Exodus. They should have called this book “Exposition” because once you get past the whole “leaving Egypt” thing, it’s suddenly a catalog of measurements and repeated descriptions.

I’m going to be honest, this is really very dry. I had to finally look up a tabernacle to see what on earth these people were even building. I gathered that it was some sort of tent, judging by all the descriptions of fabric and curtains. But here’s the picture I found on Wikipedia:

Tabernacle-viewI like the groovy colors on the front gate thing. Basically what I didn’t quite gather from scripture was that this thing was designed to be a portable temple. It’s essentially a big cloth tent that can be set up or taken down as the Hebrews trek around the Middle East.

Interesting. Anyway, two more days and we’ll finish out Exodus and I will move on to book three of the Bible.

Have a good day, everyone. Peace be upon you.

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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 64

Exodus 14

The famous parting of the Red Sea. If I were really interested, I’d go look up all the names of the cities/places the Bible mentions to try and determine if they were actually talking about the Red Sea or a “Sea of Reeds,” which would be a possible translation or spelling or whatever. I am currently not interested.

The point is, the Egyptians get their panties in a bunch and decide to send their army after the Israelites. Quite frankly I have no idea why someone would decide to send their army onto a sea bed when the sea is only being held aside by the power of the person you are chasing but these Egyptians are a pretty dense bunch. A few bricks short of a pyramid, so to speak.

Israelites escape, Egyptians leave, and nothing bad ever happened to the Jews again. (cringe)

But what I really want to talk about today is…


Thunder Dreamer

I bought my first firearm. The NRA should be contacting me any time now.

It is a thing of beauty: a 1950-something bolt-action 12-gauge shotgun. It looks like something you’d find in a post-apocalyptic setting and between the age and size has this very crude brutality about it. Simple, crude, but elegant in its own way. I have this tendency of falling for things/ideas based mostly upon their novelty. This is so aesthetically novel to me that I couldn’t help but love it. I cleaned it out for the first time and paid as much attention as I could to the details.

My friend told me that he “couldn’t wait to see her,” and after reading that I felt like it needed a name. With the bolt being such a crucial and identifying part of the gun, I wanted to name it after some sort of thunder god. I was looking for a female name, but there are few female thunder gods in mythology, at least few that a quick Google search could turn up.

(This is a great example of my Moose medicine in action; I’ve told this story twice already and I want to tell it several more times.)

So then on the advice of my brother I started looking up female names from the 30’s and 50’s. No such luck; nothing jumped out at me. So I told my brother about the “thunder god” idea, and we went back to a list. He pointed to one that was Lakota in origin: Haokah.

I looked at the article on Wikipedia and learned about Heyoka (or Haokah, or Heyókȟa). You’re welcome to read the article for yourself here, but I will tell you that it is perfect. The name applies to a set of joking, contrary holy men or medicine men that use humor and satire to teach lessons, to show people that which is not easily shown, and to bring humility and laughter even (or especially) in dire circumstances.

I saw a video while researching the heyoka that purported to tell how to find out if you are a heyoka. I did not watch it. Another video featuring a man named Chief Walking Bear has an explanation of a heyoka “initiation” or test. I don’t think I’m even remotely qualified, and I do not have the arrogance to proclaim myself one of these special teachers. I do however share some of the qualities they possess, and I love the concept. Now that I have a term for such a thing as a “sacred clown,” I really enjoy the thought of that. It especially made me think of the trickster mask I made long ago, and the jester mask I purchased. I have always liked trickster gods.

Anyway, Chief Walking Bear talks about being struck by lightning, how he saw it wrap around his ankles as he ran, and the explosion from the lightning flipped him end over end and landed him right back on his feet. If I get struck by lightning this weekend, I’ll come back and tell you all about it. They are predicting rain…

But seriously. The other half of the Wikipedia article talks about Heyoka as the name of a spirit. He is a hunting spirit, and a spirit of thunder and lightning. This quote from Black Elk struck me like lightning, and I knew I had the name I was looking for:

“When a vision comes from the thunder beings of the West, it comes with terror like a thunder storm; but when the storm of vision has passed, the world is greener and happier; for wherever the truth of vision comes upon the world, it is like a rain. The world, you see, is happier after the terror of the storm… you have noticed that truth comes into this world with two faces. One is sad with suffering, and the other laughs; but it is the same face, laughing or weeping… as lightning illuminates the dark, for it is the power of lightning that heyokas have.”

— Black Elk

Read the article; do your own research. To me, the idea of an unconventional hunting spirit of thunder suits this new gun perfectly. Plus, I wanted to find something American, and the Lakota language/mythology is excellent, having been in this land for God knows how long before white people showed up. Also, I’m pretty sure the Lakota make flutes similar to the one I have. Not to be disrespectful, but I seem to have a theme going.

I’ll be taking Thunder Dreamer with me on my camping trip. I can’t wait.

Day 46

Hoo-rah and hallelujah, I am officially caught up.  Tomorrow will be Day 47, as it should be.

Today’s Medicine Card was really interesting; I had a sneaking suspicion that today’s card would be upright as opposed to contrary and I was correct. My card was Prairie Dog, and Prairie Dog has to do with “Retreat.” The book explains this as removing yourself from situations, taking time to recuperate. Could not have been more appropriate for this nice day off that I enjoyed.

Got some laundry done, got to hang out with my friends… stayed up a little too late but, oh well. Gotta write.

We’re winding down Genesis, so let’s get this show on the road.


Genesis 46

Israel heads down to Beersheba to make an offering to God; God speaks to him and tells him that He “will make of [him] a great nation” in Egypt (Genesis 46:3).

Jacob goes down to Egypt and takes all his descendents and children and so forth, and it is here that we are treated to nearly twenty verses of genealogy.

I really wonder about all this genealogy stuff. I mean, I know the point is (so I’m told) to be able to trace the lineage of Jesus Christ, and from an accommodation or condescension perspective it could just exist so that people understood in the simplest terms that God created the world and created mankind and here’s the genealogy written down to prove it.

But if you do the math, and I haven’t, but just looking it up gives me a little bit of a headache. If you’re really interested, just Google it and you’ll find it no time. Anyway, if you do the math, supposedly the age you get for the earth (assuming that each “day” in Genesis is a 24-hour day), the age is around 6000 years. One website backed this claim up by saying that most cultures have histories going back about that far.

This is the thing that gets me about that, and I realize this is quickly becoming a long aside, is that around that time period, let’s say 4000 BC to 2000 BC, that’s when writing was being invented. That’s the time period when people could record their history, as opposed to just telling stories or using whatever language looked like six thousand years ago.

Even then, it’s been nearly impossible to preserve a document or a language in its original form, and I don’t see how this would be any different in the past. From the time of Adam to the time of, say, Moses is a really long time. Even if they were able to write things down, over several hundred to a thousand years, language changes, writing changes… things change.

I’ve brought up stuff like this with my partner and others and the answer I usually get is that God “makes sure,” essentially, that the message is intact. This much I agree with, because it’s obvious to me even if it seems silly that the Bible exists in its current form for a reason.

There is so much more I want to talk about, but my feeling is to save it for another day.

Anyway, we get the genealogy, Israel is reunited with his son Joseph, we learn that shepherds aren’t welcome in Egypt (Or something. Gen 43:34) and so the family will go live in the land of Goshen, where they can just go and do their thing.

So I haven’t been able to much about this phrasing in the past, I think, but I really like that when people are contacted by God, the common response from these Old Testament patriarchs is “Here I am.” It won’t be until Exodus somewhere that we learn about “I AM,” but when you know that and look back, they are responding to God with His own name.

The “here” to me serves as a great reminder of living in the Now, of living fully in the present moment, of being present when God or the universe speaks to you. If nothing else, when God spoke, these men listened.

In truth, as it has been shown to me, God speaks with us all the time. It is only when we stop, collaborate, and listen (couldn’t resist), when we pause the fascination we have with future and past, when we awaken to the moment that is Now and say, “Here I am”… that is when we hear  and notice God. The act of being present is a communion with God and with ourselves.

Also, since “I AM” is a name of God, it’s like responding when someone calls your name. If Steve calls your name, you could say, “Here, Steve!” So in the Bible, we have people responding with “Here, I AM!”

First explanation, deep and spiritual. Second explanation, humorous and irreverent (but not terribly so). As far as I can see, God still has a sense of humor. As long as He never loses His, I’ll never lose mine.

Good night, all. Peace be upon you.

Day 36

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

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

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

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

Peace be upon you.

Day 32

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

We’ll see what I draw forth tomorrow.

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


Genesis 31

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

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

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

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


Genesis 32

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

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

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

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

Carl Sagan once said,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good night, all. Peace be upon you.


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