Thursday, September 24, 2015

Poetry: The tainted glass

The poet's eye
should not be mirrors
but glass;
To speak of one's self
one must turn one's gaze outward.

instinctively understand this.
Among the greats,
selfies are rare.
And great conversationalists
do not speak of themselves.

Young poets struggle to believe this.
The challenge to put self aside
insults, hurts, them.

But, if they wish to be great,
this is the passage
they must walk through
In art, this dying to self
leads to a purer declaration of self.
This is what craft is about
the hiding which shows itself.

The poem,
being pure glass --
its taint, its color,
will reveal your true self.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Remember Lot's Wife

It's funny. Preachers always preach about Lot's Wife with a kind of sneery petty maliciousness. They always have to see her as looking back at sin and lust. They figure that can be the only reason why she looked back. And they don't seem to realize that when they think this kind of thing they are really not seeing the real issue behind the text. They are either rehashing what other ministers have taught them or they are too addicted to seeing sins in certain Bible characters and judging them.

Jesus has just finished talking about separation. Two will be in bed; one will be taken and one will be left.

It is unclear in the English Bible how many daughters Lot and his wife had. We know that Lot delayed. Why did he? We know that the angels were very specific: "your unmarried daughters who live with you in this house." We know there were daughters' husbands or daughters' fiances who would be left behind. Is it possible that Mrs Lot looked back because of her grief at losing people and not because of her love of sin? We don't know how many daughters Lot had. Two? Two unmarried? Two betrothed? Two unmarried AND to married?

I really want to write a book about Lot's wife that looks at this woman mercifully.

So then, why did Jesus say to Remember her?

Because, won't those who are raptured (I don't care if it's pre, post, or mid) will be grieved at such a terrible separation? Heck, when death comes to some of our relatives, won't we also be grieved at the eterna separation? Heck, when judgement day comes, won't we also grieve at the family separation?

But why don't we concentrate and focus on this aspect of the command. Separation..a terrible separation. Why do Christians insist on using those three words only as a way to be maliciously petty about a woman they really don't know? Because the minds of Christians are very hard to change. Sad, though. Because what stays with me when i see those three words is the terrible separation, not the "oh this is an evil woman who loved sin." Where is the love?  

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Lamech, emulation, and murderous rage

Recently when the reporter was murdered by the aggrieved angry former employee, a TV station was talking about his manifesto in which he talked about other rage murderers. I forgot who. Might have been Dylann Roof. Or Columbine. Whoever it was, there was some identification and emulation taking place. And this is apparently quite normal. Mass murderers, rage murderers, murderers with manifestos are always looking back and praising some mass murderer or rage murderer who murdered before they did. Columbine, for instance, has popped up in several manifestos. Usually something like, "I'm gonna kill folks like the guys at Columbine folks did." Or "XXX who killed all those students/theatergoers etc was right."

So this got me thinking about Lamech, Cain's descendant. Lamech was the first person in the Bible -- that we know of-- who emulated a murderer. He looked upon Cain as a kind of spiritual idol/excuse/validation. Cain got mad; I, Lamech, got mad. Cain was forgiven and I also will be forgiven. Cain was his spiritual pedigree. Ah, we humans! Always looking toward exemplars.

Of course, we are all to look upon others who attain great deeds. Paul said, be imitators of me. Jesus wants us to imitate Him. But wholesale generalized selfish emulation is forbidden. I used to think Paul spoke against emulation because we humans only imitated things that made us lose ourselves in some other person's stylings, antics, etc. But apparently I missed the serious point. Emulation can make us do nasty things to other people because other folks have done nasty things.

Lord save us from wrong emulations.  

Monday, August 17, 2015

God, beauty, the pygmies and me

God is so unlike what we have imagined him to be..and sometimes when we get a gimpse of how God thinks, we are flummoxed for a while and confused. Because God's ways are not our ways.

This post will be about beauty. And about the broadening of my mind.

I like to think I'm clear-thinking and not encumbered by culture. But recently something made me think. It involved the pygmies.

It turns out that there are many evolutionary DNA mitochondrial genome alleles in the world. Certain pygymy populations have an abundance of alleles..more so than other genetic groups. The implication is that the riches of all this genetic material in one group of people may indicate that the pygmies were the first people from whom we all are descended. My crappy description of this evolutionary discipline aside, let's just take a moment to let that settle in.  The pygmies are probably the nearest to the image of Lucy/Eve. Again, let that settle in. But even if I'm not quite understanding what all this is about, and if we ignore the pygmy research....let's pause a moment.

What did Lucy (the evolutionary first mother of us all) look like? What did Eve look like?

Now, I didn't think of myself as racist or even affected by the thinking of European evolutionary types. But as i looked at the pics of pygmies, I actually found myself thinking that God's idea of beauty was seriously wrong. It became clear to me that I believed Adam looked like Will Smith or young Denzel or even Amir Khan.  (I was at least advanced enough to know that Adam would be dark-skinned. After all, his name means "Red" like the earth he was taken from. ) But apparently, I still had the European model. In my mind, Adam had to be 6 feet tall, with mega Abs, etc.  In short, I had this western idea of beauty and the historical Adam did not seem perfect to my narrow cultural mindset.

I found this hard to wrap my mind around. For a while, it seemed to me that God didn't know what he was doing. Why would a perfect God's ideal perfect first human being look like a pygymy and not "a body like Arnold's with a Denzel base"? Why wasn't God's idea of beauty like mine (which was obviousy the truest best idea)? Yes, I was judging God by my limited mind and by my cultural norms and brainwashing. But the entire concept seemed so weird to me it took a while to get over it. But I at last learned how mired I was in my own mired that God's ways just seemed wrong.

I got to thinking about this when someone on Facebook posted yet another meme about Michelle Obama's butt and Michelle being fat. I understand that the default of many white Americans is that their culture is the best, the superior, the perfect. I've seen racist white guys with big noses, guys covered with hair all over their arms, necks, chest, and back, who thought they were superior to black folks because black folks have big lips and dark skins. It's as if their minds are so stuck in their paradigm that someone big lips imply racial inferiority while big noses do not. Or dark skin imply stupidity while a body covered with hair does not.

I have had to remind some racist folks that the way we look is merely a genetic thing and that God does go around rating external beauty. He doesn't have the Hollywood or Aryan standard. It is often very difficult for white Christians to imagine Adam and Eve being dark-skinned with big butts. As part of the Euro-mindset, even if everyone says "man first came out of Africa" ..the average white Christian has an idea of what Adam and Eve's butt would look like...and any bigger or higher the butt would be deemed wrong or somehow made by an incompetent God who did not understand beauty. I'm just saying that the American idea of what is beautiful or fat is not something God even gets into. And his idea of beautiful has to deal with the heart. God made a variety of genetics and all are perfect. Man looks at appearances but God, the angels, the whole host of heaven only see the heart.

God hates racism. There are two times in which God lost his patience where racism was concerned. One was when Jesus turned over the money changers table. The Jewish moneylenders were cheating the proselytes. God's house was to be called a house of prayer for all people, but the money changers were taking advantage of non-Jewish beievers from all nations. The other time was when Miriam was prejudiced against Moses Ethiopian wife. And God symbolically spat in her face.

Sadly, there are many Christians -- good people who believe in their Bible-- who are prejudiced. They don't realize their prejudices are preventing their prayers from being answered. God has said we must love everyone, and he who hates his brother without a cause is a murderer. When I'm on facebook and some cultural issue comes up and good Christians show their hateful racial sides, I often wonder what we wil do with so many good but hateful Christians. It's hard for them to see past their cultural assumptions.

Lord, thank you for challenging my infantility. Save me from cultural prejudice. Save me from stupid assumptions.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A soft answer turns away wrath

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.  Proverbs 15:1

This is a verse that has saved the lives, reputation, and livelihood of many people throughout the ages. It is found in the Book of Proverbs,  book of great wisdom that is designed to protect its reader from sin, shame, poverty, and death. There is much in Proverbs about anger, and it behoves the reader to take these admonition to heart.

It is generally a part of human nature to defend itself, whether the "self" is right or wrong. It is also generally a part of human nature not to allow one's self to be intimidated. Humans are also insightful. They can perceive egotistical and subtle human pride in the rebukes, corrections, and scoldings they receive from when certain teachers, officers of the law, pastors or others use or abuse their "authority" to lecture them and triumph over them.  Rebukes can be given at the correct or incorrect time, with the wrong or right attitude, with a desire to help or a desire to assert the rebuker's pride. Those with power, however, often become so identified with their power that they do not wish to be challenged.

In American culture, there have been many instances of cruelty done by police, slaveholders, financiers, and others in some kind of authority. Sadly, those in power have often won, especially when there was no videotape or fair-minded judge to challenge them. The guilty have often triumphed over the weak even when the laws were fair.  

The Preacher writes in Ecclesiastes 4:1, "Again, I observed all the oppression that takes place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. The oppressors have great power, and their victims are helpless."

The Preacher also writes in Ecclesiastes 7:17, "Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself? Do not be excessively wicked and do not be a fool. Why should you die before your time? It is good that you grasp one thing and also not let go of the other; for the one who fears God comes forth with both of them."

Those who believe in God trust God to defend them and to show them when to speak and when to be silent.

The Psalmist writes: "How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?" Psalm 13:2

He also writes: "O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me."  Psalm 25:2

The Preacher also states, "I said to myself, 'In due season God will judge everyone, both good and bad, for all their deeds.'"

A victim might or might not get justice inside a court of law, but learning to answer one's oppressor carefully by "biting one's lip" can protect one's life, livelihood and health. As the Preacher says in Ecclesiates 9:4, "There is hope only for the living. As they say, 'It's better to be a live dog than a dead lion!'" The victims of oppression in many countries have learned to survive the unjust authorities over them by knowing when to use gentle --if cowardly-- answers. This is how the ancestors of Black people survived during the early days of lynching and perhaps this will be necessary in the modern day when the counterpart of lynching is also prevalent.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Hebrews 11:31 -- Rahab

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.  -- King James Bible
by faith Rahab the harlot did not perish with those who disbelieved, having received the spies with peace. -- Young's Literal Translation

In the book of Judges, it is written that Joshua sent spies to Jericho to search out the land. The spies happened upon a tavern where the prostitute Rahab worked. She protected them and told the spies the way to escape. At that moment, she aligned herself with God's people. She was a harlot, yet God chose to have the spies meet her. She did not welcome angels unawares. The spies were not angels but her gift of hospitality caused her to be rescued. The citizens of Jericho, however, are described as "disobedient" or "unbelieving." How then did they not "obey?" Were they given a chance to "obey"? What did they not "believe"? Is Paul writing about all the dwellers of Jericho or only about those who had received the message of possible salvation from Rahab?

Rahab is shown as a messenger of salvation. If she believed what had been told her, she and her household would be saved. How many received her message? The Bible is full of messengers of salvation: There was the Samaritan woman at the well who told her village about the man who told her everything about her life? There was the Gadarene Demoniac who spread the news about his salvation and caused all the inhabitants of the ten cities to meet Jesus when Jesus came the second time to their coasts. There was Cornelius who gathered all his friends into his house because of the angel's message. All these people preached the gospel and had oportunity to share the good news of rescue -- from death, destruction-- with others. The others who heard their message could choose to obey the message or to disbelieve it.  

And what of those who did not hear of possible salvation but who only heard of destruction? The Gibeonites believed and came from afar and used deception to save themselves. The people of Jericho didn't seem to battle the Israelites at all. So, then what does Paul mean by the disobedient. Rahab believed and showed her belief by using the scarlet thread at her window. It is also written that she and her household were saved. Therefore, it can be assumed that her family believed they could be rescued from such a large invading army.
It is a difficult thing to believe that one can be saved when a thousand are falling at one's side and ten thousands at one's right hand. The scarlet thread was a thin string to hang one's hope upon. The scarlet blood of Jesus Christ is a thin string to hold onto, if one does not believe. But to those who believe, the cross of Christ is the delivering power of God.

The Exception on earth is heaven's rule and often one must be courageous or conceited eough to trust that one would be an exception. The spies had promised salvation. If Rahab had not believed in the power of that little scarlet thread and had been disobedient to the promise made by the spies, she would not have lived.  

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Hebrews 11:30 -- Jericho

By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.  Hebrews 11:30

Joshua had inherited the leadership of the Children of Israel after the death of Moses. One of his first challenges was to conquer the city of Jericho which had a large protective wall around it. Joshua was told how to break the wall down: The Israelite army, along with its priests, were to walk around the wall for seven days.  On the seventh day they were to walk around the walk seven times. Only the trumpets of the priests would be sounded during the seven days and only on the seventh day were the Israelies allowed to give a war cry or to make any human sound.

The inhabitants of Jericho were already full of terror. What must it have been like for them to stand within their barred city gates awaiting certain doom? But what would it have been like for the warriors in Joshua's army? Perhaps they wished to speed up the taking of Jericho? How difficult was it for them to remain silent during the seven days?

Six days of dutiful treading around the city turned into a seventh day in which the momentum increased. Faith often requires momentum, more action as the days of prayerful waiting advances. Faith added to faith, fasting added to faith, silence added to faith. Then at last, the release comes with a war cry.  

This is another undertaking which requires communal faith.The science behind the fall of Jericho's walls is unclear -- the steady tramping of human feet and the sound of trumpets might have had some effect on the ground and the walls. But it was the faith of Israel's army and the perfect adherence to God's commands that caused the walls to fall.  Later in the book of Joshua, the story is related of Achan's sin: Achan is the only one in the whole Israelite camp who sinned, yet the entire nation suffered. It is also written in the Bible that a little yeast permeates the entire lump of dough. The Church of God is affected by the sins and blessings of every individual believer. How glorious and triumphant would the church be if unity reigned in the church. However, at this time in history, one part of the American Church values the rainbow flag and another part of the American Church values the Confederate flag.

12Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, "I am of Paul," and "I of Apollos," and "I of Cephas," and "I of Christ." 13Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I Corinthians 1:13

(We) have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him-- 11a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. 12So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:11

 is divided between  

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