religion

Day 133

Went to church this morning. I don’t know if I was tired or what but it was not as emotional but it was enlightening. As an update/continuation from yesterday, I did indeed dream last night. It was a dream of war and international strife. I’m not so sure it was an actual war, though, because despite being decked out in combat gear and getting ready to get into a combat-ready vehicle, I think my “unit” was going to bring aid to some area hit by a natural disaster.

It was interesting.

But, in relation to my dream (and last night’s weather), I learned that James and John, two of the Apostles, were called by Jesus the “Sons of Thunder.” Apparently it is suspected that a) this has to do with their temperament or that b) the transliteration is not entirely accurate. I might say a little of both.

The word “revival” was in my head today at church. It’s a good description of my vision of the future, in terms of faith, but it’s already been appropriated and given meaning by various Christian sects. The other thing I got out of church came directly from the sermon, which spoke about finding God’s purpose for oneself.  The pastor talked about how in the Bible, there are many stories about someone waiting and having patience for God to act through them, but the pastor mentioned that it’s not just waiting — another term that is used is preparing.

It gave me a good perspective on my blog: perhaps this three year endeavor is preparation. For what, I can only guess. I sort of hope it’s in line with my vision, but I know that whatever God has me do will be good. He and I had a productive talk last night. I still have a lot to work on. A lot to prepare for.

The other thing, that came into my head while I was driving around for work today was a sort-of answer to a question I’ve had for a long time. So the conundrum goes like this:

The Bible exists. I’m staring at one now.

I have no way of knowing if anything (in general, but that’s another story) that happened in the past is actually true, therefore I can’t know that the Bible is true.

And then it goes on like: then why is it so important? Do I accept it just because I have no reason to believe otherwise? At that point, wouldn’t I believe anything that is equally a) distant in time and b) irrefutable?

So phooey on all that. I mean I know at some point, theoretically, people had to be around to witness events and write them down and its possible that they got embellished over time but how on earth do you explain something like the resurrection being written down but not actually happening because it seems like the kind of thing people would remember very clearly and the issue is that that event is like the whole crux (no pun intended) of Christianity but on the other hand even though overt miracles like that don’t really seem to happen any more the truth of the matter to me seems to be that every moment of our lives is miraculous and who are we as mortals to say that one miracle is more or less miraculous than any other but how in the world do you explain the resurrection using any kind of science because what the eff unless of course Jesus actually was God at which point I guess anything is possible but that can never be proven so then it all has to be accepted on faith which to an outside observer means and does nothing but the truth of the matter is that faith makes real changes in people’s lives.

Yeah, it’s a run-on sentence. What of it?

Anyway, the sort-of answer I got about all this is that ultimately I believe it because I want to believe it. But why? Couldn’t I then believe anything I “wanted” to believe? Isn’t that what everyone does?

So then the next question was, “Why should I want to believe it?” And the answer is tied to what I wrote above about faith: because of what it means to people, what it means to me. It is a transformative faith, one that brings about the betterment of human beings, individually and as a whole. We can be so much more than what we are, and this faith, this book elaborates on how and why that is as well as why we should seek to grow and how to achieve that growth.

I used to believe that we are who we are, and that’s okay. As I’ve said, there’s no guilt in who we are, but we should have the good sense to look higher, look at the possibilities of what could be, and have the good sense to be ashamed of our miserable state. People can suffer so much and yet never seek to change. The Bible has been good to me thus far, and God in combination with the book have done great things in my life. I want to see God do great things in other people’s lives too.

Numbers 16

Rekris. I click away for like a minute and come back and realize how much I wrote. This is part of why I didn’t originally want to do this tonight. Of course, if I weren’t distracted by the rest of the internet I’d probably be fine. Or I’d find a different distraction. My brain is dying fast; I’m super tired and going to wrap this up.

Basically, a bunch of Levites call out Moses saying essentially that they want to take over the priesthood and that Moses can shove it up his ass. So Moses tells them, alright, you’re-so-smart, get your holy censers and your incense and the 250 of you meet me at the tabernacle in the morning.

So this happens. And predictably, God shows up and tells Moses and Aaron to go right ahead and step back because He’s gotta waste some fools. “Consume them in a moment,” He says in Numbers 16:21.

Moses and Aaron convince God to dial it back a notch and just deal with those responsible. So everyone backs up from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, the three guys behind this whole debacle. Moses, says look, if I’m not the appointed priest, then these men and their families will die a nice natural death. But if I am, then they’re about to get eaten by the earth.

I’ll give you three guesses as to what happens, and the first two don’t count.

The ground shakes and caves in right below their tents. Them, their stuff, their families, just gone. So the people start freaking out and scattering, but… God just smokes em. Every one of the 250 dissenters is fried by holy fire. Oh, and Aaron takes the consecrated censers to hammer them into a covering for the altar, so commandeth the Lord.

Anyway, the next day, the congregation comes to Moses and Aaron and complains about all the people who died the previous day. God has had about enough, and barely gives Moses and Aaron warning before bringing death down upon the people in a giant wave of wrathful plague. Aaron lights his incense and runs out into the crowd to make atonement and stop the death. Sure enough, we get into a “Hold me back, bro! Hold me back!” situation where the plague literally stops in a line right where Aaron is.

You’d think by now the people would learn to stop messing up, right? Nobody’s perfect. :\

Good night, all. Peace be upon you.

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Day 116

Views are dwindling from their already dwindled state. This is what happens when I don’t update for a week.

Also, I re-read yesterday’s post to laugh again at some of my own jokes (23:skiddoo! What a killer!) and realized that I censored several words but did not censor the word “fuck.”

notsmartOh well. Onward and upward…


Leviticus 26

After 50 chapters of Genesis and 40 of Exodus, Leviticus feels so darn short. I’m glad I caught up, though. I really don’t want to miss the first day of NUMBERS. Why is it called Numbers? Who knows? Probably lots of people. But soon I will be one of those people!

*ahem*

So this chapter is kind of cool. God speaks and tells Moses that by following God and keeping His commandments, that all will be well. The Israelites will have good harvests, peace in their lands, and they will triumph over all their enemies. The people will be fruitful and multiply, they will have new harvests to clear out the old and they will walk upright as a free people.

But if they do not…

If they do not follow the commandments and do not keep the statutes, well then, the earth and the heavens will turn against them, disease shall consume them and sorrow will fill their hearts. The number seven seems to be a recurring theme here.

“I will punish you seven times more…” (Lev 26:18)

“I will bring on you seven times more plagues…” (Lev 26:21)

“I… will chastise you seven times for your sins.” (Lev 26:28)

But seriously, it gets worse. There will be pestilence, plagues, wild beasts, cannibalism, destruction, desolation! The Israelites will be cowards in their hearts and flee before imagined foes!

But!

But there is still hope. Looking back, I forgot that one of the definitions of the word “remember” is

  • bear (someone) in mind by making them a gift or making provision for them.

So when God “remembers” His covenant, it is less that He has forgotten it and it has come back to His mind, but more that He is once again willing to bestow all of His blessings upon the people, for they are once again willing to honor and be faithful to their God.

This requires confession, submission, humility… God asks many things of us, but they are never beyond our reach.

The thing I noticed about this chapter, and I didn’t need Matthew Henry to spell it out for me, thank you very much, is that much of what God threatens to do to the people is also what happens in the heart of an individual that turns away from God.

One who walks with God lives in harmony with the land, and has the courage to stand up to any foe. This man or woman who lives this way is confident yet humble, accepting the world as it is and submitting to the will of God.

But those who turn from God find that God turns from them: to those filled with anger, all things are frustrating; to those filled with sadness, all things are reminders of sorrow. It seems as though the world works against them. They toil and struggle but all in vain. And by continuing to walk this path, their anger, sorrow, and fear will grow stronger; they will tear apart their own families and they will flee from imagined threats. They will be ruled by the cruel and will have neither the courage nor strength to stand tall.

But the old road is never closed, and God’s arms are always open to those who wish to walk with Him.

Amen.

Day 63

Exodus 13

Here we get a lot more about Passover and unleavened bread and making sure your kids don’t grow up to be ungrateful heathens and so on. I think it is interesting that they say, after describing the whole bread thing, that

“This will serve for you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial on your forehead.”

— Exodus 13:9

In John Wesley’s explanatory notes, he writes that this is a metaphor for “things which are never out of our thoughts.” I find it interesting that this is similar to the “mark of the Beast” in Revelations, as well as the whole idea of it as a metaphor for something else. I also find more interesting the fact that according to the JW New World Translation, “on your forehead” can apparently be translated as “between your eyes.” Many mystics and New-Age types talk about the “third eye,” and its supposed relation to the pineal gland, which happens to be located roughly “between the eyes.”

But my favorite part of this chapter is Exodus 13, verse 21, cited here from the NKJV:

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night.

This image of God as a magnificent pillar of swirling clouds, or as a pillar of raging fire against the night sky is marvelous. I have stared deeply into a campfire in the dark of night and regarded the whole thing as an otherworldly, mystical experience. To me, this all rings true.

I cannot speak to the literal interpretation of this, and it is hard to take it metaphorically. All I know is that the image and the story are magnificent.

Good day, all. Peace be upon you.

Day 29

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


Genesis 29

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Bible

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

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

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

Farewell, all. Peace be upon you.


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

Day 28

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

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


Genesis 28

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

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

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

Speaking of…


Jacob’s Ladder

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

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

— Genesis 28:12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also from the Wikipedia article on the topic:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ps1509

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace be upon you.


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

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

Day 27

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

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


Genesis 27

Back to Jacob and Esau.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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