Friday, April 27, 2012

Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion





Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion 
Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck (Moody)





  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Moody Publishers (July 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802458378
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802458377


Here's the blurb:




Why We Love the Church presents the case for loving the local church.  It paints a picture of the local church in all its biblical and real life guts, gaffes, and glory in an effort to edify local congregations and entice the disaffected back to the fold.  It also provides a solid biblical mandate to love and be part of the body of Christ and counteract the "leave church" books that trumpet rebellion and individual felt needs.


Why We Love the Church is written for four kinds of people - the Committed, the Disgruntled, the Waffling & the Disconnected.

About the Author

Ted Kluck's work has appeared in ESPN the MagazineSports Spectrum Magazine, ESPN.com Page2, and several small literary journals. A bi-monthly column for Sports Spectrum Magazine entitled "Pro and Con" won the Evangelical Press Association award for best standing column in 2003. Additionally, Ted has written two WGA registered screenplays and an award-winning (Damah Film Festival, Sabaoth Film Festival) short film. Ted co-authored Why We're Not Emergent with Kevin DeYoung. He lives in Lansing, Michigan with his wife Kristen, and son, Tristan.


Kevin DeYoung is Senior Pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, across the street from Michigan State University.  A graduate of Hope College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, he serves on the executive team of RCA Integrity, a renewal group within the Reformed Church of America.  DeYoung in the author of Freedom and Boundaries and co-author of Why We’re Not Emergent with Ted Kluck.  He and his wife, Trisha, have three children.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fantasy Roundtable 2: The Baggage of Language in Fantasy

Recently, there was a bit of an uproar about the Hunger games. Apparently, many folks who had read the book were not aware that certain "dark-brown" characters were what we in the United States would call "a black person."

Words are a powerful thing.  I've had moments when I simply wanted to describe a character as a Native American or a Chinese person -- but such countries and groups did not exist in my story. I therefore had to use words such as "crescent-shaped eyes" (which only made a few people wonder if my characters were aliens.

But there are other issues besides physical descriptions of characters. I always seem to trip over what to call eating implements: Forks...meat spear? Pronged utensil?

Of course, Language can be revitalized in fantasy as well. We all know what a zombie does without calling them "zombies." Same for "vampires" and "witches." It's great using words in a new way. 'Friend age-long' for a best friend. 'Unfleshed ones for spirits.' By changing language, a Christian can do a lot with the idea of
zombies versus Resurrection  -- true spiritual growth versus a spiritual legalism herd-mind. Or vampires and cannibals and the Christian idea of taking on the lifeforce of another. Or witchcraft and the spiritual power of words to curse or heal.

My biggest issue in fantasy is all the high english or high fantasy language. Noble folk should speak nobly, and poor uneducated folk should speak badly. But even if one creates a world without class distinctions, there will be different cultures who all  use different greetings, vocabulary, customs. Of course if the fantasy takes place in a world that is very like Europe, one can fall into the old patterns created by other fantasy authors. But how does one create a Native American fantasy language with a folkloric language when high fantasy Arthurian words are whispering in one's ear? And how does one get one's reader to understand the grammar, vocabulary, lingo, of the various non-European clans and castes one has created?

The other discussions on this topic can be found all combined at this link
http://www.andreakhost.com/2012/04/travelling-fantasy-round-table-part-2.html

Or you can go to individual websites:

Theresa Crater has published two contemporary fantasies, 
Beneath the Hallowed Hill & Under the Stone Paw and several short stories, most recently “White Moon” in Riding the Moon and “Bringing the Waters” in The Aether Age:  Helios. She’s also published poetry and a baker’s dozen of literary criticism. Currently, she teaches writing and British lit in Denver. Born in North Carolina, she now lives in Colorado with her Egyptologist partner and their two cats. Visit her website athttp://theresacrater.com 

Andrea K Höst was born in Sweden but raised in Australia.  She writes fantasy and science fantasy, and enjoys creating stories which give her female characters something more to do than wait for rescue.  See: www.andreakhost.com

Warren Rochelle has taught English at the University of Mary Washington since 2000. His short story, "The Golden Boy” (published in The Silver Gryphon) was a Finalist for the 2004 Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Best Short Story and his novels include The Wild Boy (2001), Harvest of Changelings (2007), and The Called (2010. He also published a critical work on Le Guin and has academic articles in various journals and essay collections.
http://warrenrochelle.com

 I began writing professionally in 1982 as Deborah Wheeler with JAYDIUM and NORTHLIGHT, and short stories in ASIMOV'S, F & SF, REALMS OF FANTASY and STAR WARS: TALES FROM JABBA'S PALACE. Now under my birth name, Ross, I am continuing the" Darkover" series of the late Marion Zimmer Bradley, as well as original work, including the fantasy trilogy THE SEVEN-PETALED SHIELD. I'm a member of Book View Cafe. I've lived in France, worked for a cardiologist, studied Hebrew, yoga and kung fu, and am active in the local Jewish and Quaker communities.
 http://deborahjross.blogspot.com/

Sylvia Kelso lives in North Queensland, Australia. She writes fantasy and SF set in analogue or alternate Australian settings. She has published six fantasy novels, two of which were finalists for best fantasy novel of the year in the Australian Aurealis genre fiction awards, and some short stories in Australian and US anthologies. 

Carole McDonnell is a writer of ethnic fiction, speculative fiction, and Christian fiction. Her works have appeared in many anthologies and at various online sites. Her novel, Wind Follower, was published by Wildeside Books. Her forthcoming novel is called The Constant Tower.
 http://carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com/  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Adam and his Maker

We aren't given any clue as to what Adam said when he first opened his eyes on the world. I am assuming that when he first opened his eyes, he saw God looking down at him with love and admiration. I am assuming Adam felt the love God had for him and that Adam sensed that he was a perfect "good" creation. The reason I'm thinking that is because God had declared all His creation "very good."

But we have no idea of Adam's reaction to being suddenly made, suddenly existing. I suppose his reaction to his Maker looking down at him is very much like a newborn child's action looking up at his/her parent and at the world around him/her.....except there would, of course, be mega-intelligence and total spiritual understanding of the One Who had created him.

The first actual words we get from Adam are when God made Eve and Adam exclaims something to the effect of "Wow! You did it! This is the perfect match for me!"

At that moment, we feel Adam as approver and applauder of God's creativity and God's joy in that His creation appreciates his handiwork.

What's interesting about the relationship of these two Beings is how accessible and humble God is. In fact, even when God is talking to Cain there is this incredible easygoingness.

We see the easygoingness because God's creations are so chill and cool when they talk to him. When Adam and Cain are in self-defense "blame" mode, they are awfully flip with God. The familiarity is amazing. This is not like the Greek Gods who are so full of pride that they want everyone to treat them with extreme awe. This is not like God's later encounter with the Israelites on the mount where he is so holy none of the people could even touch the mountain. The Creator is so accessible that his Creation actually feel free to pull an attitude with Him. Cain evil tells a snide punning joke; "Am I my brother's keeper?" The knowledge of His loving personality, the knowledge of His sweetness and kindness and accessibillity is so great that even in their sin, they can have an attitude with The Holy One.

Now, I'm not saying we should go around being flip with God but I do stand amazed at how loving and proud and near He was to His Creations...and how sad and how far and how estranged we are from that Good Shepherd, Creator, and Dear Holy Father who loves us. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Writer's Worldview

Every writer has a worldview. Emotionally, spiritually, emotionally, socially, politically. My worldviews are pretty much this: this is a supernatural world, this is a sinful world, this is a wounding world and this is a deluded/self-deceived world.

Thus, I cannot write stories that don't have a supernatural factor. True, most Christians believe that the world is supernatural...but perhaps not to the obsessive degree that I do. So while a Christian writer might allow himself to write a mainstream novel without even a whiff of actual spirits, demons, angels, spiritual laws, supernatural events... I tend to feel a novel is a lie if it doesn't include some of that stuff. This is not to say I won't ever write a mainstream novel. But...it'd be a hard go for me to keep the thing straight in a rational world.

It's one of those things folks must come to terms with. Just how supernatural is this world? and Why should humans think it so strange that the world is really way more magical and rooted in the supernatural than we think?

Secondly, I think humans are wounded. Thus I could never in my wildest imagination ever create a character who was not emotionally wounded or a psychological mess. I simply believe life is too difficult for the average person. It's not only that we all know we will die, but we are all deeply aware of how isolated we are from each other's mind. In the deepest part of our soul, we know we should all know each other perfectly and should all be loved.

God gives us all missions and each mission is based on what we feel is important. What I consider important is what makes my worldview. For me, the vision of perfect people and perfect heroes in stories is the main thing because the images are destructive. For me the great evil is deception about what a true human being and the world is like. For me, deceptions at their worst are the slickest and most powerful because they are so powerful and so pervasive...and the deception about how real human beings supposedly behave creates unreal ideas and helps to propagate notions that make people insecure and fake and feel inferior to others. So for me, I am at war against things that are foisted upon the world as "real" or emotions foisted on the world as "acceptable." For other writers, there are different issues therefore different worldviews. We all are called to follow the vision God has given us and to declare what we have seen. To not follow the vision we see or the mission we are called to do...is to be fake and to not submit to one's calling. It means we are hiding some aspects of the truth we are called to declare. When we hide the truth of ourselves and we don't sound the alarm we are called to sound, we have failed our mission. We are all like watchmen and we are called to declare what we see...so when we have Christians who all write the same thing...well, it's bothersome. Our missions in life are more varied than what the Christian publishing world or Christian media and Christian society or Christian politics declares as important. To not share your worldview is to hide your talent in the ground. There is a peace that comes with hiding one's talent...but....well, one has to do what one has to do.

Anyways, am going on about this because I have to remind myself about why I like my books every once in a while and why I refuse to change certain aspects of my character. Constant Tower is full of woundedness. It's a messy world...and yeah, that's how I see this world. Heroes are supremely messed up and no one has that perfect CEO personality or that coffee-klatch personality the secular and Christian world would want us to have. We simply don't. And for me, it would be a dimming of my own light, a committment to untruth for me to write a book with sane folks in it. We humans are not that sane...we are not even half-sane. But there is a pretense and a hiding..and the world likes stories to show this facade. I can't bring myself to do that. Oh well, adelante. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

God as benevolent tyrant

IT is soooo hard talking to some kinds of devoted lovers of God, especially those who have been trained by their denominations to see God as a benevolent tyrant who gives them diseases, troubles, afflictions, torments, legal issues, sick children, to test and purify them. Where does one start?

It is sooo hard to try to get them to have creative joyful images of possible futures when their denomination has so trained their minds to accept the evil in their lives. Why? Because they are imagining the problem continuing and they are imagining growing stronger and stronger in denying themselves and in denying the possibility of any kind of good coming in the future.

God created imagination and memory primarily for us to use the mind for good. To imagine good, to remember good. But the human mind uses the imagination to imagine evil, and they often use the memory to remember evil. I'm not talking about imagination that is about people planning on doing evil things in their lives or in other folks lives. I'm talking about people imagining only bad things happening to them and not having the habit of sitting down in their chair and challenging the negative thoughts and the fears coming at them. St Paul says, "We have to cast down evil imaginations. We have to stop being conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds."

Learning to hope and to dream of good things.... to imagine something good and wonderful and joyous will happen to us, to imagine a sweet God who does good for us for our good....and not a God with a kooky idea of "a goodness filled with bad things that is for our good." That's what we have to do. God is benevolent, He's not a tyrant. Let us fast from wrong thinking, from fearful discouraging negative thinking, from insulting God by making him out to be so cruel he gives kids cancer, and he takes away daddies because "God knows best." Folks, we live in a world where rich humans affect our food supply and mess with our foods, where people kill themselves by eating too much or speaking the wrong things about their lives, where the devil roams about seeking whom he may devour. Let's not go blaming God for the bad stuff that happens to us and then call evil good. The Bible says, "woe to those who call evil good and good evil." Let us seek to see the true love of God and stop taking his name in vain by insulting him with our "piety" and "submission to the sorrows of life." Heck, folks, we are not Buddhists. We are not put on earth to submit to evil but to overcome evil with good, with the blood of Jesus who has conquered the world and given us the authority to conquer sin, sickness, poverty and death!

It is the lovingkindness of God that leads us to repentance.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Indirect Confrontation, Repression, and Defending the Heart


So, I've been up all night. As usual. Sleepy as heck. Headachy, in pain through my body. Fibro. But I got an insight into something. A few insights. First: I never really get angry at people. I fume, I get peeved, I get pissed, I grieve and whine. But I don't get angry. Second: Not only do I seem to be a slow reactor to hurt but I get hurt instead of getting angry. Thirdly: I don't confront people and I seem especially unable to to confront people who have hurt my heart because there is this shame issue with actually feeling someone should honor my heart.

A few examples, if you will: (And trust me, it hurts and shames me -- makes me feel like a kid-- to have to point out the heart's hurt) but here goes:

And I'll name names because, heck, this kind of indirect pointing out of my heart is what I do. I have never told any of the folks what I'm now about to tell you.

Examples:
Katherine sent me her story to critique. She added, "There's a character named Carole in there, but I swear, it's not you." Okay, for me: red flag. I read the story. The character seemed definitely like a nasty caricature of me. I said nothing. Later she said, "You said I should write real characters. I do write real characters." I didn't respond to her directly. Instead I posted to my facebook status: "I wish people wouldn't tell me they write real characters after I spent an hour critting their story when I'm sick." Note the indirect confrontation. Never once did I say what I should have said: "I am very hurt, Katherine, that you not only made a caricature of me in your story but now you're expecting me to accept that caricature as a real person." Why didn't I say that? Because it would have been defending my heart.

Example:
I told Jessica on Thanksgiving 2010: "You're my best friend." She responded. "Yes, Carole, you're one of my best friends." Now, that hurt. I didn't confront her on that. Why not? Because it is quite natural for other folks to have many best friends and that was my problem having a person as a best friend who didn't think of me as her best friend. So upshot: the indirect confrontation: nothing but a slow pulling away and closing my heart in that friendship. I haven't said I am closing my heart but for my own safety I have been.

Example: Lawrence Dagstine once put a post on his facebook wall asking if folks believed in angels or ghosts. Many folks answered. Then I answered, telling him about my encounter with an angel, a demon, etc. Immediately after that, my atheist friend Cindy Ward, wrote. "No, I don't believe that." Note: she had all day to comment on his post.  But, she commented after me. Apparently, we're in some religious battle against each other. But from that moment when she pretty much called me a liar, I have disliked her. Have I challenged her? No! Because oversensitive sleepless Black Christian writers do not challenge healthy white atheists. She would only respond that I didn't know how to be a rational person.

Example:
A Christian friend said to me apropos of nothing, "Your son isn't healed because you have no faith" or "you don't pray enough." At first I just kinda sit there. Then I defended myself thusly, not looking at her but staring past the dashboard. "Why are people often dismissive of other people's pain?" I went on like that very philosophically for about fifteen minutes. At last she got it and said, "Are you talking to me?" To which I responded, "I'm just saying people should know how to keep their mouths shut." Note the wimpitude I am capable of. I should have said, "You judgmental pious smug bitch! You just hurt my feelings! What the fuck do you know about healing a child with developmental issues? Quite with the easy answer and stop judging me!" But nooooooo

There was one friend who made a crack about how reading romances as a child ruined her life. I tend to write romances. I got angry with her. But I never said, "I am angry with you because you basically just said the writing I do is useless and ruinous to young minds." So now she thinks I snipe at her for no reason.

Christians, in general, because they are so often so directly accusatory, are a problem because I don't confront. And the fuming and hurt doesn't go anywhere. When Wind Follower came out, I was slammed so much by Christians because of it. Apparently, for some people everything was wrong with that book. I didn't say, "Why are you hurting my feelings?" Once again, because defending one's heart seems silly to the rationale mind. After all, they were reviewers, so why should I be hurt at their honest opinions? But trouble was: mixed into their honest opinions was a lot of racist ideas about what Christian fiction should be and a lot of prissy ideas about sexuality. One of them even cropped the cover of Wind Follower on her blog because she thought it was indecent.

Of course this kind of non-confrontation on my part is like one's slip showing. We humans cannot help but leak. We're snippy or nasty or cold with people but they don't know the reason why, and because I am so good at not confronting them on the original hurt, they tend to think I'm just this wacky woman who is being cold to them for no reason.

So why am I going through this list right now?

Well, as I said, I was up all night. I tend to be up all night. I haven't slept in about three days except for a thirty minute stretch yesterday morning. And while I was up I got to thinking about this healing service I'm supposed to go to. And the more I thought about it, the angrier I became. And the holy spirit -- who reveals our hearts to us-- brought up the truth of my not being able to confront anger.

Consider: I emailed two friends who are in charge of the healing crusade.But not one word back from them. I KNOW for a fact I haven't hurt these folks' feelings. So why the ignoring? Or is it paranoia on my part? Then there is the actual going down to the healing service. If you've ever been to a healing service, you know what I speak of. Tons of people in pain and suffering, preachers on the podium sticking to their script, worship folks worshiping God supposedly but caught up in their worshiping instead of really caring for the sick. Ministers who go on and on with long speeches and who are covered with pride. But for me it's especially hard. I shall have to sit through all that. I, who haven't slept for years and who am generally in bed by 8:pm because sitting up later than that gives me a pounding headache. I who will have to hold onto an agitated younger son for two hours until the healing service actually begins. So why didn't I just email Richard and Maria again and say "You hurt my feelings because you ignored my prior email about questions for this healing service?" Because once again, it would be about validating my heart's pain.

So, why did the Holy Spirit bring all this to my mind now? Because, apparently, it's something in my heart. All this hurt and grief and anger before a healing service makes a healing service pretty useless unless one gets rid of them. Apparently, I can argue and speak up for all causes except the cause of my own heart! Why? Because it is weak and needy to say "But don't you care about me? Don't you love me enough to care to call me?" Seriously, i should ask...because they would probably say "YES!" But noooooo. I learned somewhere not to defend my heart.

Lord knows where I got this tendency to repress any defense or honoring of my feelings. Probably from a childhood where no one cared for me mixed with Christian notions of being "patient with those who wound you" mixed with being generally a wuss. I'm thinking it's like the line in For Colored Girls about not being sad or hurt because being colored and hurt were synonymous or redundant. Except with me, being raised by a minister grandfather in a wounding dysfunctional atmosphere just makes it all even more messy.  I feel challenged now by the holy spirit to not hold anything in my heart against folks....which means I shall have to honor my heart when someone dishonors it. Scary prospect. But if I want to get myself or my son healed I've got to work on forgiveness and learn to speak up so the sun doesn't go down on my wrath. Will see how this all pans out. Maybe I'll end up creating some truly angry main characters in my stories...instead of just sad suffering ones. Will see. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Camelot Dream and the Stronghold of Defeatism


Okay so a few days ago, hubby had this dream:

1) He was on stage singing the theme song from Camelot. He didn't know the song but was faking it with the others on the stage. At last, he was found out when he was supposed to do a solo part --a tumbling trick-- on the stage. He didn't realize the cue because you didn't know the script.

So we got to thinking about it. First we googled the theme song from Camelot. The song is basically a song about Happy-ever-after-ing, about Exceptionalism, and in its fantastical way can be compared to the gospel -- the state of being blessed, a too-good-to-be-believed news. In fact, part of the song has the king attempting to convince Guinevere that there is such a thing as blessed Camelot. 

So why would this dream pop up? 

We talked and talked and the subject got around to the death of hubby's sister when she was a little eleven-year-old girl. Luke remembered his stalwart, unchurching, self-sufficient former Roman Catholic father praying, "Oh God, I have never asked you for anything and I will never ask you anything again. Just heal my daughter." From that incident, a stronghold of defeatism lodged in hubby's brain. The stronghold could be defined as: "even when one prays only once and lowers one's pride to pray to God for some impossible thing, God will not grant it."

Hence, the dream was showing hubby the stronghold that fought against faith. It is generally faith that defeats our prayers...but the arguments, vain imaginations, strongholds in our mind. This is why we are taught that belief is in the heart. The heart has to be open to miracles. It is akin to St Thomas. St Thomas did not doubt that a miracle could make Jesus rise again. At least he didn't doubt more than the others. And the others were all doubters. But St Thomas was always melancholy and proud to pessimism: he didn't believe that something good would happen to him or to one he loved. 


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dreams and Walking with God


I don’t see why so many Christians still don’t see the importance of dreams.

Dreams come to A) tell you what's on your mind
B) tell you God's opinion about what's on your mind
C) give you instructions --whether God seals it and we understand those instructions mentally or not
and D) to guide you

The way i see it
God gave humans a way to psychoanalyze their fears, to see their worries,  spiritual doubts , spiritual things they can't quite verbalize"  WAYYYYYYYY  before psychology came on the scene . Dreaming is a tool that  God uses to make us have a connection with the world , with our feelings about events in our lives , with people .

Even if Daniel hadn’t given the king the interpretation  of the dream, Daniel told the king
"King,
 you were thinking about building a kingdome that lasted for ever."

So yes, dreams are about psychoanalyzing and seeing the self   but it is also about the holy spirit showing a person her heart because Jesus came that the hearts of many would be revealed.

During the day, God speaks with the still small voice  but who listens? So at nights --because we don't listen in the day  because of too much tv, too much phoning, too much internet, too much work, too much playstation , God has to speak to us in dreams. We have to open ourselves to the possibility that God speaks to his children EVERYDAY.

Some folks son't want to believe that . It makes God too near. They have the God in the sky the God-as-CEO mentality . They believe God gives us His word  – The Bible—and maybe some advice through a pastor and we follow the leader and only ask for God to speak to us when necessary  and when we’re in a pinch.

But Enoch walked with God. God was Abraham’s friend. We are told that we have to pray without ceasing  -- and that's not just  asking and petitioning and praising . We have to always walk with God. He desires our friendship. He desires to accompany us everyday and to always be with us. It is not like God to say "Okay , today i won't talk to Carole. I talked to her yesterday.”


God talks to us everyday as if we are the only ones he can talk to , because he lives inside us.

Are we gonna go around saying
 "Well, although God's spirit is alive in me , Christ in me , Immanuel , God with us , TODAY God will be silent to me"  ?????

No, God talks everyday
 to us. Even if it's just to say , "Remember to call your cousin."  Or “I love you” or “Go down this road, not that one.”

And if he can't get to us in the day
 to give us his opinion on what we're thinking about  -- for good or evil-- then he HAS to do it in our sleep .


14
For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not.
15In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed;
16Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction,
17That he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man.
18He keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword.


 Christianity  is about a daily friendship with God . Friendship is discussion and conversing along the way.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Dark Parable: Hubby's three dreams of spirituality

He dreamed:

1) He was on stage singing the theme song from Camelot. He didn't know the song but was faking it with the others on the stage. At last, he was found out when he was supposed to do a solo part --a tumbling trick-- on the stage. He didn't realize the cue because you didn't know the script.

2) He was at a church or an auditorium. Something like a religious or spiritual talk. Like a spiritual/philosophical talk at googletalks or TED or like a religious service. As he listened to folks talking on the stage, he looked out the window and saw that a young boy had taken a car and had speeded up and crashed into a tree. He waited for them to help but no one seemed to understand or to care about this boy. After a while, he got up with someone else to help the boy. Then the others in the room and on the stage also noticed and went to help the boy.

3) He and a workman were standing in front of a house. There were two large big sturdy trees in front of the house. One would have been okay but there were two and it was really too small a space for two such large trees so they were trying to figure out what tree to cut down. Suddenly behind them a tall -- almost 200 feet long-- very slender tree rose up. Or maybe it had been there all along. It was in the street and had no roots but it was soo tall. They kept looking at it, up, up, up, and then suddenly the tree toppled over and fell on all the neighboring houses. No one seemed to mind the fall of the tree because it was so slender, so hubby and the workman removed the debris. 

I asked God to show us if we should go to the healing service and to show us why healing and other family needs haven't come to us. I'm thinking these dreams are here to help us understand.

The first dream seems to be asking "Is hubby faking it? Be real. Admit you're over your head and this spiritual performance is a performance. That's the first place to begin." So that's problem one with where he is spiritually.

The second dream seems to be saying, "You have seen some very uncaring or seemingly uncaring spiritual talk, folks who talk the talk but who don't seem to have the love or the power or both." I'm thinking the young man with the runaway car is our younger son. And the question is: If these people are so spiritual and so loving and so knowledgeable, why don't they care for this accident? Why don't they help?"

The third dream seems to be saying that there are choices to be made. Trees tend to represent people or the outgrowth of spiritual thought. If it is a thought, it represents a deep-rooted issues of spirituality... to decide which to cut down or to uproot. Double-minded? Two large powerful thoughts which both cannot share the same space in the mental/emotional yard. The third tree that sprung up in the street. The tree looms large but is not going to last in any wind because it has no roots. This tree could be a theology that is a diversion -- something like head-covering or all those other flaky diversionary theologies that folks waste their times on or the tree could be a very true spiritual thought but which unfortunately had no root in the person's life so it couldn't last. Either the third tree was a good tree or a bad tree...but whatever it was, it was not rooted and it was outside the house.

Gotta figure this out. 

So... emails flying back and forth with dream interpreter/friends.

Got this insight from Debra M:
Shall study the dreams. The first thing that struck me though is the common thread of blindness/ignorance/unawareness..... as we go through Life with the barest of understanding or instruction.
What was missing in each?
In the first: a script.In the second: fellowship and compassionIn the third: man going about his egoic constructs with no regard or knowledge of nature and the other world who co-exist on the planet with us
The word of GodThe love of/for GodThe respect for God
Without these things we will fail. We will miss the cue. The child will die. The house will fall. 
Which made me think of this:

TALK TO JESSICA
i think  the dreams are about the healing service on saturday. It's as if the first dream says he hasn't read the sript or he hasn't become one with the script so he is speaking with his mouth but not from his heart. faith comes when we believe in our hearts what has been written in the word and unless we speak from the heart it is only a script and the praying doesn't work really. Then in his own heart there are the words spoken but no action.


The second dream are ministers and church people who see the sick boy and don't care enough to stop their preaching to go out an help. The old "Be ye warmed and filled." but nothing else. The church can do all this with power it has, but there is no love and no leaving from their script to help someone in obivious need and maybe God is showing luke his resentment of the fact that the church hasn't really been there fore us. We've been put on prayer lists and folks have said a prayer in passing. but no one stopped their little work to help. I don't know if that's true because luke doesn't say anything like that but maybe God is showing him his heart-cry to God from his heart that he feels overwhelmed. he said this morning to God while we prayed "God I don't mind Gabe staying the way he does..if only he would stop hitting. I don't want him putting away and living a life of being shut up because of that." My heart just went out to him when he prayed that because it was as if he understood some aspect of the dream without actually knowing it yet because we hadn't started the dream interpretations yet.


Then the third dream: Two two-part questions
First: is the third tree a true theology that has not rooted in his heart? A theology on the road but not yet within his heart? or is it a false theology, a distraction like a lotta other flaky deceptive grand theologies out there? it was such a tall tall tree?


the other question is What are the two trees? Why must he choose one of them? Wwwwhy can't both trees/thoughts grow together? Biblically i understand that to be double-mindedness but what are the two stronghold thoughts?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Church versus State: abortion

I've thought about the whole abortion debate for ages and am gonna just throw out my opinion on it...and let the chips fall where they may.

First, everything I'm gonna say is based on my limited knowledge of humans and my religion.

Second, my religion tells me that religion and the state working together crucified my Lord. Thus I am very suspect of religious folks getting in bed with lawmakers. Not that I trust atheists either. Witness the trouble caused by Stalin, Napoleon, the French Revolutionaries, and Mao Tse Tung to name a few.

So here goes:

One: medical science has proven the fetus is pretty much a child. Abortionists and pro-abortion folks want to muddy that because they just don't want to deal with it. I'd like them to be honest and to simply say, "Yeah, we know it's a person but we would like to kill it anyway." That would be honest, I think. So plain and simple: abortion is murder.

Two: Abortion should be kept legal. Yes, I know. I just said it was murder. But it's a strange kind of murder. Indulged in by the terrified, the ignorant, the wounded, the selfish, the very young, the very old, the neither young nor old, the moral, the immoral....or all of the above. And these things have to be taken into consideration because humans are gonna do what they can to get rid of a child no matter what. Infanticide has been around for ages. Although women are still being killed because of and during abortions -- the abortion industry doesn't mention this-- we don't want wire hangers.

Three: The pro-abortion folks should understand the consequences of abortion. Many women go through depression. Some do not go through depression but they develop a kind of coldness in their hearts. I've seen this in action. And many go through "empty arms syndrome" which make them get pregnant again or become serial aborters. If pro-abortion advocates are so caring about women, they should provide post-abortion counseling.

Four: The pro-abortion folks should understand the way women are abused by abortion. Abortion advocates do not want to talk about the fact that abortion is often the tool of men or parents (sometimes religious parents) and that women are bullied into abortions. The most dangerous time in a woman's life is when she becomes pregnant because many women are killed by boyfriends because they did not get abortions. Pregnant women should therefore be protected from those who wish to force abortions on them. But as long as the pro-abortion folks keep saying pregnancy is a private matter and is "a woman's choice," they show they know diddly-squat about real life...and that it is often a tool of violence used by men against women

Five: Black folks and minorities should be aware that Planned Parenthood was born in eugenics and that even now the Black population in the US is being slowly decimated. At one point we were almost a third of the population of the US. That was during slavery when we were herded together and treated like livestock. Then migration and happened and our population dwindled. But after the laws of abortion came into effect, we pretty much committed self-genocide. Much to the happiness of eugenicists like Margaret Sanger.

Six: Churches should play their part in telling people about the emotional, cultural, and familial consequences of abortion.

Seven: Churches should show people that adoption is an option. The abortion community has pretty much trained people to not even think about adoption.

Eight: Churches should have ceremonies for the healing of those who have had abortion and for the naming of children who were aborted. If a woman has had an abortion, she should know that there are ministers she could go to to be absolved and to have her relationship healed with her dead child.   I would not recommend a woman telling her minister or her church about an abortion because ministers are human and some of them will shame people and when they see a woman who has had an abortion will always keep that against her. But the woman should seek healing and repentance from God.

Nine: I am not sure if people should stand in front of abortion clinics attempting to save babies. The woman is already stressed. Although quite a few babies have been saved because of these interventions. So I dunno.   But I definitely advocate that Christian women do everything in their power to convince their friends not to have abortions, and after the baby is born the Church should support the woman in her choice of keeping the baby.

Ten: A baby is often the means of saving one's own life. Many a person has had to turn from their non-serious life to maturity because a child has been born. I do not believe God sits there and plans for every child to be born. I think we humans have control over the creation of an immortal soul. Yet, I do believe that once a child is conceived God sends his Spirit into it and has a plan for that child. In addition, the child is now placed on earth to bless the parents. Therefore, destroying a child's life is tantamount to destroying one's life.

Upshot: Abortion should remain legal -- state's responsibility
             Abortion should be fought against ethically and personally -- the Church's responsibility. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Christian groups and the Angry Black Woman

For a while now I've been wondering why I have so many battles with Christian women in general and Christian bookreaders specifically. I do have a talent for ticking off a lot of people and I seem to have the record for ticking off Black folks, Christian folks, women folk, etc. (All groups to which I belong.)

But the ones who have been particularly miffed have been Christian women. I am often forgiven by atheist feminists, for instance. And by Christian men. But Christian women have a gift for holding a grudge that well, it's a gift. So...why then?

So Jessica Fry and I came up with the following reasons:

A) a lot of time groups can't handle anger. Anger is an emotion that is to be kept hidden, and anger against those within one's own group makes everyone uncomfortable...because some larger issue (agreed upon by the group) is being challenged. If one had taken the person aside and commented, maybe there would be some hope of some understanding but...with the group as back-up...holding to the beliefs/assumptions/presumptions of the group...well, let's just say it is never good to argue with groups because "if everyone is angry at the same thing, there is backup." Basic meaning: one can continue believing the same thing if there are certain tenets the group has been taught to believe.

B) The Christian idea of a patient non-mouthy woman. If one talks back, well one is immediately not only mouthy and unsubmissive but immature and unspiritual. Indeed, one is even called "unforgiving." Oh, most Christian women or Christian women writers don't come out and say that but at the foundation of their thoughts, that is apparently what's going on. One is being judged for one's pain and one should, apparently, be spiritual enough (and strong-but-silent American enough) to bear it without being a bitch. When all the group is emailing back and forth or telephoning back and forth about a mouthy Christian, the herd mind will back up the person. The herd mind is a comforting mind, Jessica says. When you're in the herd, you don't really have to think of the merits of your argument. And it is true. So if I as a Black woman challenges the herd mind on a particular thought...the herd mind will survive...but my reputation won't. (I've gotten into many arguments about homosexuality, welfare queens, and race with some white Christian writers and Lord have mercy! The men have forgiven me for being wrong...(even if they still think I am wrong)...but the women, wow!)

C) The Christian idea of fellowship and the protection of the herd from evil, and the protection of the theology from taint. Of course in America, Christian theology is often mixed in with so many other issues. I remember challenging a Black Christian woman who believed that "if you're still suffering, God is trying to tell you something." I asked her, "so if a woman has lost six of her children in Africa or to drugs in America, God is trying to tell her something! How will you survive if you suddenly lost everything? Will you think it's because you aren't good? What a smug theology!" (Yeah, I can be nasty when I know I'm right. That's a failing I have to work on and which no doubt doesn't help my cause.) In this situation, I was challenging Christians, Blacks, and Women (not to mention the woman's livelihood because she went on spiritual engagements talking this crap) so I got pretty slammed.

Yet, there is something very pushy -- unChristian? Christian?-- about me. I just can't let a stupid comment go. I wasn't always like this. I was really quite bullied as a kid. But... since I got older, and sicker, I guess I just can't put up with crap.

Of course, this is not to say that atheists are free thinkers or that Blacks are free thinkers. I'm always telling atheists that their assumption seem to be that they are smarter, deeper, less deluded than everyone else. And I'm always questioning Black folks who insist on certain facts that just aren't true (for instance, like when I tell them that the broom-jumping ceremony is not African but Irish-Scottish, or that Cleopatra was Greek and not African) while they also ignore certain things that really should be noticed (like the fact that Planned Parenthood is rooted in the genocide of minorities, the disabled, and Black folk.)

But the thing is that Christians hold their anger at me way longer. And I must learn to deal with this....this making enemies of those in my own camp. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

LOT’S FAMILY

Genesis 19
Lot is very much like us. Many Christians, however, like to think of Lot as a carnal Christian who "pitched his tent" symbolically and literally towards Sodom. (Gen 13:12) Thus they see his story and the events surrounding the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as a kind of come-uppance for Lot and his family. This "come-uppance" factor is a kind of righteous "serves-them-right" spitefulness that occurs in many Bible studies. Basically, the underlying feeling is that Lot deserved what he got because people who don’t do right have to suffer. We see this kind of thing also in sermons about Samson. Yet not in sermons about Noah. Or about Jesus. But if we read the Bible we certainly should understand that the end of a Bible character’s life or story may or may not be a judgement on that person’s life. The death of good people are more complicated than this. A good ending does not imply a good life, just as a good death does not imply that a character has lived a good life.

Few people are called "just" in the Bible. It is a high and huge compliment. Lot is called (2 Peter 2:7) a "just" man whose spirit was daily vexed because he lived among evil people. If we believe that the writers of Scripture spoke as the Holy Spirit moved them, then we should accept the Holy Spirit’s witness that Lot was a ‘just’ man.

But many sermonizers disagree with this. They begin by showing that when Abraham gave Lot a choice of choosing where he wanted to graze his flocks, Lot chose to live near Sodom because the land was green and lush. This, we Christians have been taught, is a sign of Lot’s carnal thinking: Abraham could look at something that seemed empty and doomed to failure but, seeing the invisible, he could imagine God’s power working in any atmosphere. Lot, on the other hand, we are told was so enslaved to his eyes and to the non-spiritual ways of seeing things that he chose the path that looked easy. Of course, this is partially true. But before we judge Lot, let us ask ourselves what we would have done if given the same choice. Very few of us would willingly choose to work in a field which seemed doomed to failure.

So Lot lived near Sodom and later actually entered the city and lived there. The writer of Genesis states that Sodom was such a wicked place that a cry against it had reached heaven. God heard the cries when Sodom’s cup of sinfulness had overflowed its brim. He therefore, in one of his pre-New Testament human appearances, to arrive at Abraham’s tent where he told Abraham that He intended to investigate the city and destroy it. After seeing what later happens in Sodom –-an entire town filled with men who have only murderous rape on their minds–- the reader has no doubt that Sodom deserves to be wiped off the face of the earth, although one does wonder about who made the cry against it. One can only assume that the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah had been raping and destroying innocent travelers for quite a while. But isn’t it also possible that Lot’s own vexation against the place had also been part of the general cry against Sodom?

When Abraham heard God’s plans, knowing he had relatives in the city, he made a bargain with God: He made God promise that if God could find ten good people in the city, the city would be spared. Ten persons would include Lot, his wife, his daughters and future sons-in-law.
As the story goes, angels were then sent to the city, and being supernaturally beautiful, they attracted the lust of the men of Sodom who demanded that Lot turn the angels over to them. Lot refused. He then offered his daughters to the lustful men.

The importance of hospitality was what prompted this; protecting one’s guest was very important, even if it meant sacrificing one’s family. The men of Sodom, however, wanted the angels. They grew enraged and reminded Lot that he was a stranger in a strange land and shouldn’t bring his moralizing to them. This behavior only proved that the cry against Sodom was true. As the men of Sodom became more violent, the angels repaired matters by blinding them. This put a quick end to the problem as the men began stumbling about looking for someone to lead them by the hand. Disregarding them, the angels turned to Lot and declared that the city would be destroyed. Now Lot had to convince his family. His daughters and wife believed him but his future sons-in-law did not. At this point, this is where our tendency to scapegoat begins.

It starts out very often with ministers or Bible study teachers saying that Lot’s sons-in-law (or future sons-in-laws) did not believe Lot’s witness about the coming destruction of the city because Lot had compromised himself and lived among them as a backsliding believer for so long that they couldn’t possibly take him seriously. Well, of course that kind of stuff happens. One cannot be quiet about one’s morals and faith and then suddenly rise up and speak as a religious prophet and expect to be believed.

But why is this charge laid against Lot? In his day, Noah (Hebrews 11) prophesied about a coming flood. In our days, many Christians say that the end of the world is near. No one listened to Noah. And now modern Christians will mock. Therefore, the fact that the sons-in-laws or fiances didn’t believe Lot shouldn’t be the first nail used to lock Lot in the "bad guy" category.
If we analyze the story, we would realize that since many of the men of Sodom were presumably blinded by the angels, the entire town should have stood up and noticed this great miracle in their midst. But, in the face of this astounding evidence, the sons-in-law still refused to believe Lot. Their refusal to believe Lot had little to do with Lot’s reputation. The sons-in-law either could not believe that God interceded into human lives. Or they found the idea too unworldly to take seriously. But Lot’s supposedly "carnal" compromising lifestyle is not the reason.
Something else: Lot was a sojourner in the city of Sodom. This meant his religion was probably different than theirs. How difficult is it for people with one type of God to actually be converted by a stranger, especially when the stranger tells them that "his" God is going to destroy their world!

Abraham met people of other cultures only when he had to. For the most part, he wandered in and out of the lives of gentiles and –with the exception of Melchizedek– he tended to believe the worse of the gentiles he meant, expecting them to behave immorally or unspiritually. But Lot was more cosmopolitan. He lived among other people and he was a holy man who lived in an unholy world. In many ways Lot was more like the typical North American multicultural Christian than Abraham was. When Peter writes in his second epistle that Lot’s spirit was vexed continually because of evil he saw every day, shouldn’t most Christians immediately feel a similarity to Lot? Don’t we feel our separateness when we ask a non-Christian to refrain from cursing or taking the Lord’s name in vain? But instead, malicious self-righteous judgmentalism enters the Bible study and Lot is constantly made to appear as if he deserves his plight.
As the story proceeds, the time arrives for Lot to leave Sodom. But Lot dawdles. Finally the angels have to take matters into their own hands and they grab Lot, his wife and daughters and drag them out of Sodom. When this is being studied, this is where another instance of "serves-them-right" judging pops up. This "serves-them-right" attitude is another way of scapegoating a character and turning them into "bad guys."

The angel had warned Lot’s family not to look back as they fled the city. But during the escape, Lot’s wife looked back and was turned into a "pillar of salt." A note about this "pillar of salt" is needed.

There are many salt formations at the southern end of the Dead Sea and since many believe she was turned into a real pillar of salt, there is actually a formation that has been so named. Others believe that the sulfur falling from the destroyed city engulfed her or that she became dehydrated from the heat. But those who are knowledgeable in Arabian linguistics believe this phrase "turning into a pillar of salt" is much like our English word, "petrified" which means "turned to stone" and which we use when someone is overwhelmed with. When we say that a person is petrified, we do not believe that they have literally turned to stone.

Everyone has his own reasons for his interpretation of the "pillar of salt." It is, after all, a situation that almost seems to require an apology. People who consider themselves scientific cringe at the idea of God stepping into history to destroy a city just to do something so unnatural as turning a woman into a block of salt. But even those who don’t feel the need to apologize for the miraculous or folklore sometimes have a problem with this scenario. Kinder-hearted folks can understand the destruction of Sodom but they are uncomfortable with a God who seems petulant and who "fingers" Mrs Lot for destruction. The big question then is "Did God ‘do something’ to Lot’s wife? And if He didn’t, why do we want to believe that He did?

Sadly, many Christians over the centuries feel a need to "defend" God and because of this, they feel that Mrs Lot should be judged. This means that they must find a reason to turn her into salt. The popular opinion is that Lot’s wife was carnal-minded and that the carnal concupiscence in her heart made her look back longingly on the carnal joys of the Cities of the Plains. But again, this is unthinking and heartless judgmentalism. Mrs Lot may have looked back, but certainly she had more important things to think about.

Depending on your Bible translation Lot either had four daughters –two married and two unmarried, or he had only two unmarried daughters who were engaged to men who were natives of Sodom, or he had married daughters and sons-in-laws. Once again, she should remember that Lot lingered. Isn’t it logical to assume that Lot is waiting for his sons-in-law (or his daughters’ fiances) to appear? Families and friends who had not escaped with Lot were now wiped out in the sudden heaven-sent flames. In such a situation, would not Mrs Lot look back in grief and loss? The heart of anyone who saw such a conflagration would probably fail them from fear, even more so the heart of someone who had lost someone she loved such as future or actual sons-in-law.

When prophesying about the last days in the gospel of Luke (Luke 17:32) Jesus warned, "Remember Lot's wife." Many think Jesus was judging her and showing how evil she was, but from the context Jesus did not seem to have disdain for her but sorrow. After all, the family separation and stress that will occur in the last days will be difficult. Two women will be grinding at the wheel, one will be taken and one left. Two people will be in a house, one will be taken one left. There will be tears wiped from our eyes before we enter heaven and those tears will be for those of our families who were "left." The word "remember" does not mean "judge this person harshly." It means, you will probably be in the same situation. You will want to look back, but no matter what you do, do not look back and do not fear. Jesus warned that in the last days emotional anguish and anxiety would be so common that people’s hearts would be failing them because of fear? John in Revelations told his reader that God will wipe away tears from our eyes? (Rev 21:4) Isn’t it possible that those tears will be, like the tears of Lot’s wife, shed for lost friends and relatives, because some will be taken and some left?

The next building block against Lot and another episode which makes him easy prey for scapegoating is what happens after Lot escapes to the cave with his daughters.

Like Tamar who deceived Judah into having children, Lot’s daughters felt that having children was expedient. The world had to be repopulated and they had no other choice but to do their part. His daughters devise a plan. They give Lot wine. We don’t know where the wine came from or how long Lot was in the cave, but the entire episode echoes the incidents that happened after the flood when Noah became drunk.

The Bible tells us that Lot was afraid to go to Zoar, the smallest city of the Plains. But it doesn’t say why his daughters didn’t press him to go to Zoar to find good men. Perhaps they thought the destruction was not localized and that all the rest of the world had been destroyed. Perhaps they thought that, like Noah’s family, their family had been chosen to repopulate the world. As far as they could see, their father was the only man who could help bring children back to the world. As we read in Genesis, the girls said to each other, "There is no one else on earth who will give us children." It is obvious from their conversation that they thought they were the only family left on earth, and their father was the only man.

Perhaps this was shortsightedness on their part. Perhaps it was arrogance and genuine respect for their father’s goodness. They knew how the just Lot was daily vexed (2 Peter 2:8) to live in that unholy city. He was probably the holiest person they knew. Perhaps their misguided expedience was brought on by despair and by a confused theology. Perhaps they knew that God had destroyed the earth by water in Noah’s time and now believed the world (not just Sodom and Gomorrah) was entirely under God’s wrath. Not knowing Abraham or whether his family had lived or whether he had a son, the girls felt they had no other way to create a holy human line. Whatever their reasons, the daughters of Lot did that which was "right in their own eyes" and had sex with their father.

One can assume that this was evil in the sight of God without scapegoating them. One of the reasons Moses wrote this account is because he wanted to show the Israelites why the land of the Ammonites and Moabites were now being reassigned to them. Yet Moses also showed the Israelites that they were related to these two peoples. And of course, Jesus would be descended from a Moabitess, David likewise. Therefore, the descendants of Lot would be redeemed in spite of their origins.

But when we study the story of Lot, we should examine ourselves to see our hidden motivations in believing certain things about these characters.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dark Parable: Cry for hire

In February 2009,

I dreamed a minister had decided to have an affair. It was a favorite minister of mine and in the dream I might have been his wife. I didn't want to come out and rebuke him and I remembered a book written by a famous writer from the past who talked about the dangers of affairs and how they can destroy a ministry. So
I decided to look for this book. I remembered I had put it in a bookcase near a dumb waiter. But the house had so many bookshelves, crawl spaces, and dumbwaiters that I couldn't quite find which one. The book was called "a cry for hire." I looked everywhere for it. While lookign for it I came upon a world behind the dumbwaiters where people had created a world behind the pulleys. They still used the pulleys but never came out outside into the larger house. I think they were aware of the larger world but didn't really care about it. They even  had raised children there and had different generations. One child had bad scars or blemishes on his legs and I said to him, "you must go out into the sun." I never found the book but when I woke up I went online and googled "a cry for hire." I got nothing. There was no such title. But when I googled "cry for hire" I got this:

True friends appear less mov'd than counterfeit; As men that grieve at funerals are not so loud as those that cry for hire. ~ Horace

I had never heard of the book/ode before and suddenly here is the phrase! It reminded me of the time in college when I dreamed of Sonnet 8 and figured I'd read it when I woke up. When I did read the sonnet, it totally spoke to my situation. Am not sure what counterfeit friends I may have or -- vice versa-- which folks I think don't love me but which really do. But it really blessed me. I like stuff like this because it makes me know that stuff in dreams are not entirely about thoughts or events the dreamer is aware of but that God does wonderful things to show us the way.

I decided at that time to write a children's story about the pulley world. A nice metaphor for we
Earthers and how we've forgotten where we came from. It turned out not to be an adult story. So that dream helped me in three ways.

1) I was being told to go out into the sun more to help my sleeping issues (okay, i still need to do that more)
2) I was given a world to describe and explore.
3) I was told how to deal with fame and with criticism.

THIS IS THE HORACE POEM IN ITS ENTIRETY. IT'S ABOUT NOT TRUSTING FOLKS WHO
PRAISE YOUR WORK. TRUST THOSE WHO TRY TO IMPROVE IT. ("f" replaces the "s" in
many of the words. Olde Englifhe.)

HORACE. ioi


Take leave of Woe, and the soft Joys of Love:
And no Musician dares pretend to Skill,
Without a great Expence of Time and Pains-,

But ev'ry little busy Scribbler now
Swells with the Praises which he gives himself ;
And taking Sanauary in the Crowd,
Brags of his Impudence, and looms to mend.

A Wealthy Poet takes more Pains to hire
A Flatt'ring Audience, than poor Tradesmen
To persuade Customers to buy their Goods:

'Tis hard to find a Man of great Estate,
That can distinguish Flatterers from Friends.
Never delude your self, nor read your Book
Before a brib'd and fawning Auditor.;
For he'll commend, and feign an Ecstasy,
Grow pale or weep, do any thing to please;
True Friends appear less mov'd than Counterfeit
As Men that truly grieve at Funerals,
Are not so loud as those that cry for Hire.

Wise were the Kings, who never chose a Friend,
'Till with full Cups they had unmask'd his Soul,
And seen the Bottom of his deepest Thoughts.

You cannot arm your self with too much Care
Against the Smiles of a designing Knave.

Umtillius (if his Advice were ask'd)
Would freely tell you what you should correct,
Or (if you could not) bid you blot it out,
And with more Care supply the Vacancy ;
But if he found you fond and obstinate
(And apter to defend, than mend your Faults)
With Silence leave you to admire your self,
And without Rival hug your darling Book :

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Faith at the Edge: A Book for Doubters


Robert N. Wennberg (Eerdmans)

  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (October 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802864732
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802864734


Here's the blurb:

Have you ever doubted your faith? Have you ever, deep down in your heart, doubted that God was really present in your life? Or wondered whether everything you believed in as a Christian was false? / Call it existential doubt. Call it “the dark night of the soul,” as one Christian saint famously did. Whatever you call it, it’s real. It is personal, it is painful, it is distressing, and it can last for years — maybe even a lifetime. / You are not alone. Such crises of the soul have come upon saints throughout Christian history — from John of the Cross in the sixteenth century to Mother Teresa in our own time. In fact, there may be something of this God-doubting in all of us. At some point in our Christian walk, most of us have traveled — or will travel — this dark path. / In Faith at the Edge Robert Wennberg draws from his own experience with doubt to address such troubling issues. But he also calls upon the wisdom and insight of such figures as Blaise Pascal, G. K. Chesterton, Simone Weil, C. S. Lewis, and Martin Marty. Laying out a theologically insightful account of what happens during doubt, Wennberg helps us understand how we can cope with these dark episodes and even profit from them spiritually.

About the Author

Robert N. Wennberg is professor of philosophy at Westmont College, Santa Barbara, California.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Holy Saturday -- My sweet, sweet, dead and mutilated friend

Lord Jesus, my dear, mutilated, humiliated, forsaken, friend. I love you so much! Yesterday, I lived to see a good man who loved me die. And now, now, on this Holy Saturday, I've lived to see another day pass. I am attempting to live life without this lovely one...to commit to a life without this loving one. Lord Jesus, whatever will I do now that you're not here?


Yes, I know...there is a resurrection day coming. I know tomorrow Jesus will rise again and the disciples will be happy. But the Holy Saturdays of our lives! The Long Endurings with no sign of restoration, renewal and resurrection!

I always get into a funk on Holy Saturday. And I think it's a good thing. We must remind ourselves of those who grieve and have no hope. We must remind ourselves of lovely, lost people we think we may never see again. Worse, we must remind ourselves of lovely, lost people we will DEFINITELY not see again. Because, although they were lovely and beautiful while they lived, they did not know Christ. They were sweet and good and loved us more than many so-called Christians have loved us. And yet, they died and went into darkness. And we must do all we can to save those now living from going to hell and being separated from God for ever.

But...for those with the glorious hope....

Friday, April 06, 2012

That Bitter Cup: The Crucifixion

Consider the Crucifixion. Historical ignorance towards the mechanics of this extreme form of torture has created literature and religions that don’t stand up to the evidence. Theories such as the swoon theory, for instance. But before we get to the swoon theory, let’s examine what went into Jesus’ crucifixion and see what happens when there is a lack of knowledge of history. On the night of His arrest, Jesus went to a garden to pray. The Bible records that so intense was the torment He felt, that bloody perspiration issued from his veins when the capillaries in his sweat glands ruptured. (This description is often doubted by those who lack medical knowledge of hematidrosis or bloody sweat.) After the arrest and the various, religious, political and regional trial he endured, the assaults to Jesus’ body began. First He was scourged or “flogged.” The Jewish Law of Moses recommended flogging for wrong-doers. The Torah recommended 40 lashes. But the Jewish clergy of Jesus’ time ordered only 39 lashes in case of miscount. A powerful deterrent, scourging was also used by the Roman Empire. A punishment in and of itself, scourging was often a precursor to crucifixions. The Roman soldiers used a Roman flagrum, a cat-o-nine tails made of leather whose tail end split into two or three thongs in which small pieces of bone, metal or glass were attached. The scourging left the skin ripped from the back, torso, and legs, with exposed tissue, leading to much loss of blood. Already hypersensitive from the hematidrosis, Jesus’ skin would have been even more sensitized to the scourging. The soldiers further assaulted Jesus by plucking out hairs from His beard and forcing Him to wear a crown made from a thorny large-spiked plant. In this weakened condition, Jesus then carried the crosspiece of His cross to Golgotha, the Skull Place where He was to be crucified. Sleepless, beaten, stumbling ahead under a heavy load, bruising His forehead and possibly breaking His nose after falling several times, Jesus was so battered that the Roman soldiers forced a passer-by to carry His cross. Arriving at Golgotha, the soldiers stripped Jesus of His clothes, exposing His beaten body to the elements and set about nailing Him to the cross. Thick seven-inch Roman spikes were thrust through His wrists and one nail through both ankles. Then He was lifted up for all to see. Crucifixion was a precise art. Depending on how quickly or how painfully the authorities wanted the punishment to be, the accused criminal could be crucified in many ways. Jesus was charged with treason unlike. It was necessary, therefore, that Jesus suffer as a deterrent. But Jesus’ crucifixion fell before a holy day and a dead body left hanging on a cross would be a sacrilege to the Jewish people. Therefore Jesus had to die painfully but quickly. The right kind of cross was needed. Scholars disagree as to the exact cause of death in crucifixion. The probable causes were a combination of shock, suffocation and cardiac failure. Suspended by his wrists, with his feet weighted down and fastened in one position, the crucified offender found movement difficult. The condemned had only two choices of movement. The accused could either pull himself up into a “T” position, arms outstretched in order to breathe. Or he could rest in the “Y” position, which took the burden off the feet but which made breathing difficult. A crucified man found it hard to move. And yet, he had to move or die. Some crucifixions, usually for people who were meant to linger, used ropes to hold up the outstretched arms of the condemned. Some crosses had a sedile built in. A sedile was a small stool-like apparatus on which the condemned could almost sit. In Jesus’ case, no sedile was used. The importance of the knees - and the prophecy that his bones will not be broken is clearly seen. If the soldiers wanted death to come quickly, they broke the knees of the accused and prevented him from elevating himself in order to breathe. The soldiers would also give wine and myrrh to the dying men as a kind of painkiller and to ease the burning thirst crucifixion caused. At first, Jesus did not take the sedative when it was offered to Him, preferring to suffer the fullness of the pain. But knowing Scripture must be fulfilled, he drank it, lifted himself up in order to speak and breathe and shouted with his last breath, “It is finished!” (“Debt Cancelled.”) After His death, the officiating centurion pierced Him in the side, through the pericardium of his heart, ensuring death. Even with all this historical evidence of the gospels and the Roman Empire’s effective skills, certain theories arose after Jesus’ death whose main purpose was to debunk Jesus’ death and resurrection. These theories are all based on ignorance of the historical fact of crucifixion. One of the first theories was first posited by Mohammed in the Koran. This is known as the Switch. Mohammed claimed that Allah switched Jesus with someone else and it wasn’t Jesus who died but someone else. The real Jesus, Mohammed states, was sneakily taken up into Heaven by God. Thus in making God too good to kill an honest man, Mohammed makes God a liar and deceiver. The problem with this theory is this: even if the real Jesus did not die on the cross, where is the body? The Jewish Sanhedrin through their lie attest that the tomb was empty. The priests knew that Jesus died. They had seen His dead body hanging on the cross for three hours. And didn’t the disciples notice that the body was not their leader? Mohammed believed in Jesus’ Virgin Birth. But he did not understand why Jesus was born of a Virgin, which is that the redemption of sinful man came through the female line. Honestly, if God makes one person look like another, then God is slick and dishonest. If God helped Jesus with His Holy Spirit, as many Moslems believe, why couldn’t he save Him from the cross? And if Jesus could raise the dead, why shouldn’t he raise Himself? If God rescued Him by raising Him to heaven, why make someone else look like Him? Why not show everyone that He had rescued Jesus? Isn’t there a chance that what Allah meant when he said “this was not so” was not that God slipped another in Jesus’ place but that Jesus did not die forever? God doesn’t deceive but he does raise from the dead. Creating another being to look like Jesus would be deception and not Godly at all. The gospel states that Jesus was crucified. The Koran tells us to believe the people of the Book If we don’t believe the gospel, then we aren’t agreeing with the Koran. Why didn’t the "other man" defend himself and say he was not Jesus on the cross? There is also the swoon theory. This is the most common theory and shows how far people will go in order to deny the resurrection. According to this theory, Jesus did not die on the cross. He merely fainted and then revived in the tomb. After reviving, He appeared before His followers then disappeared into the Roman Empire. The people who believe this theory are not knowledgeable about crucifixions, the facts the Bible declares, or the effects of trauma. Let’s debunk this theory. Remember that Jesus died at three in the afternoon. His dead body hung in the Y position, after being pierced by a Roman lancia, upon the cross for several hours before sunset impelled the soldiers to take down the crucified bodies. Secondly, people in ancient times knew death much better than we do. They personally handled their dead. If the swoon theory is to believed, then neither one in Jesus’ family realized they were burying a warm body. Then, after the beaten hemorrhaging body was placed in the airless cold stone tomb in a winding sheet weighed down with 75 pounds of gelatinous myrrh, Jesus revived from his swoon. And although, sleep-deprived, naked, bleeding profusely and hungry, He rose from the cold slab, neatly folded the linen he was wrapped in, rolled away the heavy stone overpowered several healthy professionally-trained guards. After this, He managed to discover where his cowardly disciples were hiding and traveled bleeding and naked through the city unnoticed until He found them. The disciples, in turn, when they saw Him were so crazed with hallucination that they immediately proclaimed that He was the Lord of life. There are other theories which also subtly show a lack of commonsensical knowledge. One theory, often called the Passover Plot, and mentioned in the gospels as being invented by the Jewish leaders of the time states that the disciples stole the body while the guards slept. The first question here is: are these guards Roman soldiers - who would be killed if they slept - or Jewish temple guards? Another problem with this lie is that the guards are testifying to something that happened while they slept.” A sleeping witness is strange enough. But the lie is even stranger to accept because it doesn’t take into consideration the history of the disciples and our knowledge of human nature. Are we to believe that Jesus’ cowardly disciples - people who fled the arresting guards and deserted Jesus at the cross - stole His body, hid it, accepted persecution, death and mockery for years and yet never - not one single person – revealed the nature of the hoax? Surely, someone would have gotten tired of this kind of perverse life and death game and brought Jesus’ decaying body out from its hiding place for all to see! Another theory is the disciples forgot Jesus’ burial place in all their excitement. Because of this, they thought that Jesus was resurrected. Surely, all the disciples could not have communally forgotten the same thing...for years! Once again, knowledge of human history and common sense declares that common sense is missing. Besides, if fanatics are roaming around declaring a resurrection, the Jewish or Roman authorities would have showed their stupidity by bringing the decaying body out for all to see. Debunkers also try to say that the disciples were deluded about Jesus’ post-death appearances. The gospels state that Jesus appeared to women. Let us be real here. Any man two thousand years ago who wanted to create a religious tradition would not pin such an important event on women. Women were not to be believed. In addition, many say that the vision on the road to Emmaus in which Jesus’ uncle Cleopas saw him is a hallucination typical of those experienced by the newly-bereaved. However, the people in the Emmaus vision, do not recognize Jesus, whereas in the essential bereavement vision the bereaved always recognize the deceased. Other historical inaccuracies surrounding the resurrection state that Jesus never said he was God or the son of God. But the Bible clearly states Band this is what Jesus’ declared crime of blasphemy was about he said he was the King of the Jews, the Messiah, the Son of God. It is the nature of unbelief to try to disprove Jesus’s claim and one of the biggest attempts at debunking comes from the Koran which was written by one man six hundred years after Jesus’ resurrection, four hundred years after the Christian Bible was accepted, and two thousand years after the Hebrew Bible was compiled.

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