A Sower went out to sow . . . Why?

I think the parable of the sower is often misunderstood, much due to the fact that we are farther and farther from an agricultural society. We’ve spent so many sermons hearing and telling potential disciples that the sower is about becoming a believer. It encompasses that I believe, but the scope is grander than that.

It begins by asking, why does the Sower sow? It’s simple, but the hinge of the whole parable. When a gardener or a farmer plants a seed, what is he or she hoping for? If they plant a tomato seed, are they hoping for a tomato plant? Yes, but that’s not really it, is it? In a natural non-GMO world, wouldn’t the gardener want a tomato plant that also produced tomato viable seed? Of course.

But even that is not it. Would a gardener be grateful for a plot of tomato plants that produced a thousand such seeds, but . . . without one tomato? In fact wouldn’t the seeds be by definition, not viable, since they are all likely to produce more plants with no fruit?

The fruit is the point of the whole exercise. And it’s the key difference between the four categories in the parable. Only one group produces a plant that bears fruit. Now, with something like wheat, the fruit and seed are the same object, but they are different concepts. One is valuable for reproduction: one is for food value.

We get all wrapped up in the seed = the word; the word = the Messiah. But the point of the sowing is the fruit. And what is fruit? It is the goodness, the desirability which contains the seed. See the point of God’s sowing the word in our heart is not to produce just more of the word, he’s not trying to make a bunch of preachers. What he’s growing is a garden of good and desirable things that “happen” to come from and hold within themselves the word. The same word that can then implant in someone’s heart to reproduce Messiah again in the fruit of another person’s life.

It seems to that the mere transfer of information is not the point. It is the package deal that is sought. God is making people desirable by the change in their lives. The bitter man who becomes a forgiver. The betrayed woman who finds love for her betrayer. The person who gives when others grow weary. When these people are met, getting to know them, the world will find within them the Messiah, but they ask about that seed because of the way they live because of their sweetness.

We need to get away from this meaningless debate about who has gone through a ritual to be born again. God doesn’t seem to care who is born again, nearly as much as he cares about who produces fruit. And we definitely need to get away from the heresy that says good works are just the lucky fallout of a relationship. Changed lives is the only point of redemption. Even in the passage (John 3) that introduces the concept of being born again, being born again is not the goal: the goal is to see and to enter the kingdom. The kingdom is the goal, and what is the kingdom like?

It is like a sower who went out to sow . . .

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Forgiveness Means I’m not out to Hurt You, but . . . not that I’m not Going to Hurt You

Lately, I’ve been noticing a lot of people talk about someone deserving some bad consequence. Whether it’s, “I’m leaving him!” or “That guy needs to find the end of a short rope.” And I’m not excluding myself. I derive satisfaction from many a story where someone gets their comeuppance.

But for a follower of Yeshua, shouldn’t I be searching for compassion and forgiveness, rather than retribution?

Of course. Our Father is forgiving, and the children are like the Father.

But our Father is also just (why else, would He need to forgive?), and the children are like the Father. As our Father is grieved and angered by injustice, likewise so will we. In fact, at the end, when the last bit of God’s patience has been exhausted–perhaps when, repentance is no longer possible–God takes pleasure in the destruction of something that has placed itself beyond redemption. Psalm 2 says God will laugh as His wrath is unleashed. Psalm 58 says the righteous shall rejoice to see God’s vengeance. 94 asks for an appearing of the God to whom vengeance belongs. 2 Thessalonians, God counts it righteous to repay those who persecute his people.

God is patient, but when that season has passed, when the year of vengeance arrives, God is not apologizing, or hiding his judgment.

It only makes sense that those in his image long for an open reckoning.

But when it comes to forgiveness, our hunger for rightness can blind us. We see forgiveness and zeal as at odds. We worry, that if we forgive someone, the injustice will continue. That we are in fact tolerating and enabling the very thing that rightly offends us. But consider the case of David with Bathsheba.

In 2 Samuel 12:13-15, David confesses his sin. Bam! God forgives the sin. David just sinned in front of the whole community, took someone else’s wife, then killed the man (one of his own) when he couldn’t trick him into covering the sin . . .  Yet God stands ready to forgive the moment he confesses.

But the matter isn’t settled. Notice, that God says though the sin has been dealt with, because of the consequence (God’s name will be blasphemed), God can’t let David off without paying a price.

Was David forgiven? Yes.

Did David still pay for his sin? Yes.

Check out Psalm 99:8, “. . . you were a God that forgave them, though you took vengeance . . . ”

Forgiveness does not anull consequences. And that’s not just “bad stuff” that just “happens”, it includes stuff God is going to do to you, supernaturally. How then is it forgiveness, if we still have to pay sometimes?

The problem is that we have a hard time understanding what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is simply that someone is not going to hold against you, some offense that you have committed. But what if this ’bad’ consequence is actually beneficial for you? Then wouldn’t removing the bad, actually be an act of malice? And wouldn’t inflicting suffering actually be an act of love?

Take David. Suppose God did nothing. Now David, this great “man of God”, is the servant of a God who just lets things slide if you’re his buddy. He’s just like the cop who covers crimes for his friend. The politician who takes care of his own. God’s name is tarnished. When David praises God, everyone knows its just because God “hooked” him up. Both God and David are degraded.

Now, David knows that isn’t true. And if we believe David’s heart, then David now has to see the God he loves dragged through the mud for his actions. Imagine how you feel when your mother or father or your wife or your child is maligned because of something you did.

But by placing a consequence upon David, God’s name is sanctified and thus David’s love of God is also sanctified. A scene from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington comes to mind. An old and corrupt senator cares for a new senator who is the son of a friend and a noble politician, but to protect his own interests, he sets Mr. Smith up to take a fall. Mr. Smith makes his case for his innocence until he collapses on the floor, exhausted. At which point, in complete contempt for himself and admiration for the other man’s integrity, the old senator confesses. What the old senator most needed to do was also the thing that would destroy his own career and reputation.

Sometimes what we need to go through is the fallout of our sin. Thus the fallout is not because we haven’t been forgiven, but because we have. Him whom the Father loves, him the Father disciplines.

And that is the answer to the problem of justice vs. forgiveness. By forgiving, I do not give up the right to do something painful to you. I give up the evil thought to do it for your harm. After the choice to forgive, what I do is because I love you.

If an otherwise good man that I love, a friend,  for some reason loses his mind and attempts to kill his wife and children, then the most loving thing I can do for him is to stop him even if it means killing him. Because that is exactly what the good man would have wanted me to do. I can inflict pain, suffering, even death because I love him. Or because I forgive him.

In fact, one could argue that the motive behind what I do after the offense, is actually the test of forgiveness. It doesn’t matter what words I say, or whether the action I take is relieving a consequence or inflicting a consequence, the truest standard is whether I am doing it because I love you after what you’ve done, or I hate you after what you’ve done.

Forgiveness is giving up the intent to harm you. Forgiveness doesn’t mean I’m not going to hurt you. It means I’m only going to hurt you if I have to for your sake.

What that means for this fear we have that we’re just “enabling by forgiving” is that in fact if we think we are enabling then we have to ask if we really are forgiving. If you steal from me, and I think you’re going to steal again, forgiveness doesn’t mean I let you into my house, it may very well mean that I don’t let you into my house. If a spouse cheats on you, it doesn’t mean you go on like nothing happened, it may mean packing up and separating but not divorcing. It’s not about words or actions, but why you are using those words and actions.


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Still here, but late, and often frustrated

My overriding thought right now is that, Yes, Evangeline is still on the verge of ready to launch . . . it’s this last bout of editing that has the parking brake stuck in the on-position. Yes, I also have started on the sequel to New Arbor Day, albeit not far enough to speak of because ahem, Evangeline. There’s another non-fic in the works, I think, (pretty sure). And at last count, 5 novel projects waiting in the wings, plus the continuation of the Aiyela space gypsy stories.

I say all that to insist that I am still a writer. Mainly, I have to say that to myself because coming up on two years since New Arbor Day, I find myself looking in the proverbial mirror saying:
Really? He stares at himself like his other self is about to pawn the family minivan for an Xbox 360.
Has it really been that long? What have I been doing with all this time!?!? He is now grabbing the mirror and throttling it.

But no matter what I do, I can’t seem to get more time. The Turtle closes, but now I’m studying with the extra time . . . or more specifically boring my eyes out with form at form of the beloved internal revenue service.

I say that with some sarcasm since I have mentally pledged not to complain about anything anymore, including the government.

But the truth is, I simply don’t have the time. And I can I either get all frustrated about it or just admit that’s the case. And maybe it’s alright that I can’t churn out a book every six months. Or year. Or two years. Raising a family is more important. Loving the people in your community is more important.

So get over it. You’ll sleep better at night.

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Let There Be Night!

After a month of dial-up purgatory, God has allowed me a few minutes online.

Watching Food.inc, I was not surprised to connect the failing of Americans’ health to an unkosher (literally un-fit) and unnatural food system. The movie just put another nail in the coffin for me. Though I’m still behind Alisa, who has been pushing a seasonal diet for a year or two now. How much would we save on gym memberships, workout videos, and doctor’s visits if everyone had a small garden, a couple chickens, and a cow or two in the neighborhood?

That thought collided with another. Look how much time, money, and energy we use to disinfect our houses and bodies, when sunlight and a clean breeze would do much of de-germing, if we just developed a little more natural tan and had houses that were built to harvest their environment instead of seal it out. Like build it so the sun can touch most of the house, and when it’s too hot in the summer? Go spend time in the shade on the backside.

I don’t necessarily think natural–as we understand it–equals some moral imperative, but it sure seems like we make life a lot more work than it needs to be. Take the idea that kids need to move out when they turn 18: is it such a bad idea for an aging couple to have a pair of young hands around? Maybe a spouse could be married and brought in, and instead of the mountain of debt from a mortgage and the drain of a nursing home . . . you just kept living in the house that was already paid for? What kind of families are we that we can only put up with each other for 18 years plus holidays? Maybe there’s something wrong with a family where we just need a break from each other?

But I digress.

In the saga of helping our son learn to sleep, we were thinking about that seasonal diet, when amidst all the chaos of ideas, it occurred to us. If God meant for our diet to change with the season, wouldn’t it make sense for our activities too? Maybe we should do the seasonal house hop with spreading cheer and hot beverages, sharing our table, but maybe God meant for you to sleep more too? Or generally tone down the activity level. Maybe have a season, just to relax?

So we started to think about light. Here we are lighting our houses in the dark instead of learning to live with the dark. Obviously, use some common sense. God also gave us the ability to make light, but maybe that’s supposed to be less the norm? Maybe God intended us to spend a little more time in the dark?

I began by downloading a free ap for my computer. F.lux, which shifts the spectrum of light from your monitor as the sun sets because the “blue” end of the spectrum (most common with screens, smartphones, and LEDs) suppresses more melatonin than does the red side. Now doesn’t that make sense? Staring at a screen strains your eyes, staring at a fire makes you think about eternity. Or your wife. Maybe there’s a reason the following exchange never happened:

“Let’s eat dinner by cellphone light.”

“Oh, John, you’re so romantic.”

So with a bittersweet start to our experiment, we started turning the lights out when it got dark. Bitter because you have no idea how much you’ve come to rely on light after sundown until you try to do with a lot less (say a candle or two, or an oil lamp). It’s a hassle, and I don’t fool myself by thinking its cheaper than that of Saint Edison. Just kidding, Edison doesn’t sound like he was a saint. But then, good food costs more than bad food. A good car costs more than a bad one. Maybe we should just learn to be content with less instead of pretending we have lots, when it’s all crap.

But it was sweet too. Get this. Ladies, pay attention. The main urgency of the experiment was we wanted our son to sleep. And that much has been a pretty good success. Bed time has moved from 10PM to 8PM. He still doesn’t sleep through the night, but he wakes less, and Alisa and I get some time to ourselves for a little bit. But the first night, you know what we did when we had no lights, and we were both fully awake?

You were thinking sex. Admit it, you dirty procreator!

No, Aiden was still there and awake, so that didn’t happen. But here were two married adults stuck in bed with no light and no sex. So what did that leave us with? Talking. Just talking. And you know what, it wasn’t bad. It was like that divine thing that happens when you go camping and you’re in your bags, maybe even in different tents and you just talk through the walls, waiting for sleep to take you.

Like we were trying to tone down our son’s distractions and stimulation by turning out the lights, it worked on us too. No movie, no board game, nothing, you’ve got no choice but to relax to the sound of your spouse’s voice. Or a friend, who’s sleeping over, or whatever.

Now, that was only one night. Most nights that doesn’t happen because we want those old, dependable things like a movie on the couch. But, I’ll tell you I enjoyed just talking with my wife. And it makes me think of all the possible connections we miss because we keep the lights on and our minds too busy. Even if friends were over, you could have the light of a small fire or candle and share a glass of wine or something. Just something that’s quiet, restful, nightish. Just pattern your life after the cycle, instead of fighting it. The world is going to sleep, maybe now is not the time to go to a rave. At least not often. Maybe, we should stop patronizing businesses that operate late so their employees can spend the time at home?

I’m not about to be dogmatic. We don’t keep our schedule perfectly. And we’ll still visit people who keep the lights on to obscene hours like 9 PM. I just want to plant a seed. That’s a natural little object that will grow all by itself under normal conditions.

Maybe we should let the night happen. Maybe, we need the rest? Maybe life doesn’t have to be so much work.

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Was “The Life of Pi” a Cinematic Waste?

“Like Cloud Atlas, the Life of Pi is aesthetically fulfilling and philosophically vapid.” — Mike Duran, “The Aesthetics of Nonsense.”

I respect a lot of what Mike Duran thinks. In fact, even in this blog, I thought he had some good thoughts. But as one of the commenters said about the philosophical journey of the film, “I’m not so ready to cast off a step in that journey [of seeking truth] as some are, just because it’s incomplete.”

I can’t presume to know what the author of the book or creators of the movie intended the message to be. And perhaps that validates, Mike’s overall point: If we can’t tell what the message was, doesn’t that make it a poor message?

Then again, if an unclear message is a criticism, what do we say about the Bible? Clearly, God is not opposed to leaving a seeker with incomplete understanding–for a season at least.

So what did I get out of Pi that made me think it might not have been a waste? Even for a believer who has a Bible?

Now, I’m not one of those “let’s study other religions to see what they know about truth” Christians. In fact, I’m pretty sure God told us in the Torah not to ask how other people’s serve their gods. But when Paul came to Athens, though the rampant idolatry made him only to preach the harder, he mentions to the pagans of the city that he witnessed their devotions, even with enough detail to read the inscriptions on their altars. Paul was not seeking to emulate them, or learn from them, but neither was he whistling up into the clouds trying not to notice what was going on around him.

So if you’re going to Life of Pi looking for truth, you will be disappointed. But just as Paul used the inscription to the unknown God to introduce Yeshua to the people of Athens, I found several redeeming things in the movie. For one, while the movie depicts Pi as someone able to accept multiple religions (he ends up being a Hindi, Moslem, and Catholic), I appreciate the depicted relationship. I believe even a pagan seeking God will find him, so even before he knows His name, he is still in relationship.

So when Pi goes through the movie just assuming God is there, looking into a raging storm and calling out to God both to praise His awesome display of power, communing, and also asking hard questions that force the person to change–I see someone who isn’t far from the kingdom.

But what I found most redeeming was the end. Spoiler: Throughout the movie, Pi is telling about his time lost at sea with a tiger, escaping from a ship that sinks at sea for a cause unknown to him. At the end, he’s telling his interviewer (who came seeking a story that would make him believe in God) about his interview with the company that owned the ship. He tells his fantastic tale complete with supernatural overtones and a floating, man-eating island. Not surprisingly, the representatives don’t buy it, and ask for something that they can tell their company.

Pi pauses, then begins to tell the story again, but this time instead of all the miraculous stuff, the story is explained materially. A hyena that killed a zebra was actually the pig of a cook who cannibalized another man. The orangutan that fought the hyena briefly before being killed herself, was really his mother. The tiger that finally killed the hyena and spent the journey home with Pi, was Pi himself.

The interviewer and the audience are suddenly faced with doubt, that all they saw before was a lie. A fantasy of a damaged mind. Disappointment floods in. The interviewer takes it for granted that the matierlistic story is the true account. Then Pi points out that neither story explains why the ship went down, and both stories explain how he survived at sea all that way, but which is the better story? Which is the one that gives hope instead of despair? Which does the interviewer want to be true?

The interviewer smiles: the one with the tiger, he answers. Pi smiles back, “And so it goes with God.”

I found that answer incredibly profound. Some might be offended, am I saying that faith in God could be nothing but a pleasant fantasy? That’s one way to look at it, but let me offer another.

Despite having a plausible material explanation, the interviewer does think the supernatural story is better. In the larger world, can everything be explained without God? Sure. This is just the way it is. Random, chance outcome from unprovable but methodically constructed origins plays a chain of events devoid of direction, to bring about the human race and all its members. Everything can simply be explained as “that’s how it happened.” It’s just chance.

A shooting happens and it’s just chance that the gun jams allowing more people to escape alive. It’s just the way the cookie crumbled when someone from the world trade center towers called in sick on 9-11.

Yet, despite having perfectly plausible causes and effects, we see stories all around us. Meanings that we invest in events we claim have no intrinsic meaning. If everything is just chance, falling where it may, then a hero is no hero because even the choices they make are just chance. The first responders of 9-11 or the teacher at the latest school shooting is no different than a chicken crossing a road: just a person acting out their genes based on their life experience which only came about because they were randomly born on such and such a time and place.

Life is explainable without any mysticism. Yet we reach for something else . . .

The fact that we “have” an answer and it doesn’t satisfy makes no sense from a chance perspective. Or rather, the fact that it doesn’t satisfy doesn’t matter in a chance perspective because that’s it. Deal with it. And if you can’t, that’s just your luck. Sucks to be you.

The fact that even the most educated and well off among us, continue to seek for something more speaks volumes. No matter how you explain it, that the person is just acting out genes or seeking a fantasy to assuage a defect in their mind, the fact is they keep looking.

If there is no one out there, and my life is just chance, why should I seek that anyway? If a delusion better solves my life questions, why should I settle for a plausible explanation that does not?

And who gives a crap what you think anyway?

God is the better story, and that is tremendous. Whether God is real or not, He remains the better answer. It’s like a math question that no matter what you do always yields the same answer. Is the irresistible pull of the question of God evidence that we all enjoy a delusion and should choose to suffer disillusionment?

Or is it evidence that God wrote us with Him, as a relatable figure that no matter how deep we delude ourselves with other thinking, His part in the play still calls out. A story written so deep in us that no amount of human re-imagining can ever pry it loose.

That is why I don’t find The Life of Pi to be a waste.

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Is It Too Weird to Holy Kiss?

When God began to give me a family, I knew that I wanted it to be an affectionate family. That was easy in the beginning since I wanted to locks me some lips on my wifeses. Then a son came along and we didn’t get to keep him, so by the time second son, and him being the cutest kid when he’s not pulling on my last nerve, there was a double portion of hugs and kisses and ‘I love you’s already stored up.

It’s just been natural.

Then God pulled me aside one day and pointed out at the saints of every nation, tribe, and tongue, and said, “Whosoever doeth the will of God, the same is my brother and sister and mother.” Suddenly all this talk about, “they shall know you by your love”, came into closer, more real perspective. We aren’t to love other disciples of Messiah just because it’s the “Christian” thing to do, but because we are family.

Now growing up, my family wasn’t so affectionate (but that’s changing), but when I look at God’s idea of what a family ought to look like (the father loves the son, the son honors the mother, the only thing closer than a brother is the truest friend). I mean think about it, in the Song of Solomon, the groom calls his bride, sister, and the bride calls her beloved, brother. Look at how the patriarchs kissed their sons, and wept in each other’s embrace. They lived in a close, emotionally open state with each other (not always, but when things were more right). Look at Jonathan and David. You just get this sense that God intended family to be intimately close.

I haven’t seen the family like that–except maybe in glimpses–but I believe it’s what we ought to aim for. So many of our family problems seem like they would be solved by openly affectionate familial relations.

So then it seems strange to me, that the “family” we will spend eternity with is reserved to seeing each other once a week, only in their Sunday bests (which they hurry home to get out of), greeted with a handshake and occasional hug from a person who has been assigned it as a job, a family generally kept at a distance.

As I look at my natural desire to shower my family with affection, and God’s ideal family, and even the way God talks about his feelings for His family (prodigal son anyone? Messiah’s love for the congregation is the model for a husband’s love for a bride?), I can’t help but think that if I would readily kiss and hug and be generally touchy with my nearest family who–God forbid–might not be my family forever, why am I so slow to show affection to my eternal family?

The idea of the holy kiss talked about by Paul has become nearly extinct and weird, at least in America. Even though, Yeshua was offended that Simon had not given him a kiss of greeting. We say, that was cultural and it would be weird now, but again, don’t you kiss your sons and daughters? Your mother? And at least sometimes, your father? If we never did the former, then it would make sense that we neglect the latter. But since we do it for some and not for others, what we’re really saying is that our brothers and sisters in Messiah are not really our brothers and sisters.

Now don’t mistake me. I do think kissing anyone “outside” my family is weird. Awkwardly so. But does that mean it shouldn’t be done? Is this an awkwardness to be protected or overcome? Let me ask it this way, if Yeshua comes up to you and gives you a kiss, are things going to be weird between you and God?

And think of the practical relational benefits. If you kissed as an intentional show of love, don’t you suppose it would be harder to carry a grudge with your fellow congregant? It would be easier not to kiss than to kiss hypocritically–in my opinion at least. Just think about the parents who force fighting siblings to hug until they love each other again. Either could be done wrongly, but that’s with someone who already chooses to do wrong in their hearts, and the same could be said of any form of affection, whether in a church context or not.

I think the act of kissing encourages the disciple to seriously consider their relationship with this person. Sure it could be rout, but given what we know about germs, we may be too smart to do it thoughtlessly. So how can I kiss this person and not really care about them? How can I kiss this person when I know I have unforgiveness toward them? Or in reverse, if I kiss one person and then don’t kiss another, why didn’t I kiss? Am I showing partiality? Am I judging based on appearance? Has something come between me and them? In most churches I’ve seen, we’re so reserved that if someone was being unwelcoming or cold, I could only know by guessing at their tone and eyes. But if the norm were a kiss, the breach would be far more evident.

It just seems to me that greater good would be done by an openly and relentlessly affectionate body of Messiah, than damage would be done by weirdness.

But just in case you are weirded out, know I only do this when you come to my house for fellowship. I don’t think it’s my job to set the relationship boundaries at your house–though I’m a little gray at church. But think about it, and ask yourself whether this weirdness about being affectionate with someone, who loves the same person who died for you, isn’t the real weirdness.

It just doesn’t make sense to not have a completely irrational, awkwardly close relationship with someone who is bound to you by God’s blood and spirit.

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Could Life Be a Lot Better with a Little More Planning?

Obviously, the right answer has been drilled into everyone. We get that right sometimes, somewhat. We plan to go to college, even if we don’t plan why to go to college. Guys plan to do all the fun stuff now before they get married; because marriage is like a retirement community for fun. Kind of like you have to hurry up and use your smartphone because you know Dad will make you turn it off once you get to the Grand Canyon, right?

But what about little plans? Do you know when your next brake check should be, who will do it, and how you’ll pay for it? Do you know what time you’ll get up every day and when you’ll be in bed by? Or as I often ask at the Turtle, have you given any thought to what you will eat today? Before you actually step in front of the window?!?!?

This all comes about because the other day, as on many days, I found I had no time, surprised as if I though perhaps yesterday would have 27 hours in it . . .  Hmm, that’s an interesting story idea . . .

Anyway, a “discussion” ensued with someone close to me, with longer hair and noticeably feminine structure. Sometimes, in my time shrinkage (time that I suspect has been shoplifted from my day), I find activities that I was supposed to remember or new things I should have thought of, are left without a time slot.

I won’t lie. This happens a lot. I just forget things. I am absentminded. Hmm . . . maybe I shouldn’t post that for future employers. I have taken steps to fix it. Getting a notebook (not a computer, an actual notebook), to keep little notes to myself. Problem is that I either have too many pockets when I have my coat on and it gets misplaced when I change outer layers. Or I have to few pockets and can’t carry it at all.

I miss the Marine Corps days when I always had pockets.

But I’m wondering if the real problem isn’t time. I have it so plum full that I never really have time to simply sit and think about the day. I have to jump right into work without pre-thought/planning.

But what if I made the time? Just stopped and plotted out the day for 15 minutes, on paper? And definitely put in part of that planning as thinking about family functions, ie., deliberately planning good family functions. I’ve started by keeping a watch near the computer and timing certain functions. Like . . .  Facebook. Sorry, I’m going to limit myself to 10 minutes per day until I get this figured out.

If that has an affect at all like having dial-up, it will probably mean no more political cracks–which is good because I’ve determined those almost never do any good. Sounds kind of liberating.

So what about you? Do you run out of time? Are you forgetful? Do you think the two are connected? What do you do to solve them? Do you have a plan or just wing it and hope everything finds a spot?

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Working in a restaurant that can’t seem to make itself financially viable, can be frustrating. You keep hoping it will turn around, but . . .  If you serve real food (ie., caring about the process and ingredients), the fact of the matter is only those who can afford a $15-20 plate and don’t mind making reservations or at least waiting 45 minutes. Somewhere along the line, modern people have come to believe that food, the most basic element in sustenance, health, and family/church/social gatherings should be the smallest bill on your schedule. And should be “quick” and “easy”.

But I’m not writing about that right now. I’m not thinking about how our whole country is in a tizzy over their healthcare, childhood obesity, rising diabetes, and a host of other ailments and yet people treat what they put in their bodies, three times a day by the pound, as an after-thought.

No, really, I’m not.

[While I was writing this a new customer came up, and thought that $5 was high for a cup of fresh made soup. If I hadn't been so put off, I might have noticed that I overcharged her .75. I feel bad about that, but honestly for real food that's a good deal. You want cheaper, good food? Make it at home!]

I actually was thinking about how Alisa and I are trying to sell the Turtle. I’m even willing to lower my price to 40k for the trailer and equipment and 30k without equipment. But sadly no takers. Or serious lookers.

Nevertheless, life is beautiful and good, as God continues to teach me. The difficulties are just another level of the game, like fishing in a Zelda quest.

Yet every year, we continue to make things more operable here. Either getting newer equipment or finding a clever way around current limitations. Today, I got new straw again. I’ve been buying it for years, trying to block the wind so pipes stop freezing. And this year, I’m expecting a hard winter.

So, I said this time, no shortcuts. I bought ten new bales. Then got under the Turtle, in the pipeworks. And in my beat up Carhart that’s been with me, probably since my teens, I crawled under and wrangled the whole bales and cut up the other ones.

I guess that’s not exciting, but I sure felt accomplished as I stuffed the natural insulation in a square around my pipes. Straw dust getting in my nose, my little cave growing warmer by the bale. I’ll keep that place up to temperature this time. Maybe the building will be a little bit warmer, this year?

Posted on by jsclark | Comments Off

Do We Really Live in a Fallen World?

Hebrews 2:6-18: Things that stand out: man was made lower than the angels (Greek)/God (Hebrew). Crowned with glory. All things are put in subjection to him. Yeshua was made like man, lower than God, crowned with glory.

Was Yeshua really condescending to become a man? Was it a burden? Was it like becoming a worm? If it was, why does he say “… he is not ashamed to call them brethren…” Of course, we know that the heaven of heavens cannot contain God, and Yeshua is God. He is the one of whom and by all things are made. As such, for God to be made lower than God is a step down.

But didn’t God see this coming? Isn’t this his plan? The way we talk, God is basically stepping down from Heaven to crawl through the sewers, but didn’t he choose this for himself? Not to negate the sacrifice, but we imagine Yeshua with his lip curled, holding his nose, as he plunges into the life of man. And yet, “He is not ashamed.”

Note verse v10, “…it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things [that’s Yeshua, Col 1:16] . . . to perfect the captain of their salvation [Yeshua again] by sufferings.” The word became, prepo, means proper or suitable. It was “becoming”. The same word is the reason Yeshua lets himself be baptized by John in Matt 3:15, it is the reason not to fornicate for saints in Eph 5:3, it is what good works are to a godly woman in 1 Tim 2:10. The Hebrew equivalent could be naveh, as in Psalms 33:1 “praise is naveh/comely for the upright.” Or Psalm 93:5, “Holiness naah/becometh thine house”, naah means to be at home; “holiness is the homey feel of your house” you might translate. God doesn’t primarily judge an event or circumstance based on whether it is pleasant or miserable, but what it accomplishes. Suffering that brings a person to perfection is beautiful to Him.

So was God taking the plunge with his nose held, or despite the unpleasantness that he knew would come, was he actually looking forward to becoming a man?

How could God have wanted to become a man? He’s God; anything less than God must be unbearable! But isn’t God love? 1 John 4:8, says so. And didn’t Yeshua teach us that to love one another is to do unto others, what we would have done unto ourselves, Matt 7:12? If that is the case, and God greatly loves us . . . then doesn’t everything He’s ever done have to be what He would have done unto Himself? What I’m asking is, did God create for us a life and plan of redemption that He would not have wished upon Himself?

Go back to Genesis 1-2. In the beginning, God describes the work he did at creation, seven times, as good, v4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31. Seven, is the number of an oath, in essence he swears to the goodness of his creation.

But wasn’t there a fall since then? Man sinned and creation fell. Or did they? When exactly, did God reevaluate His work’s goodness? Isn’t the whole Earth full of His glory (Isa 6:3)? Is the curse(s) in Genesis 3, a switch that God threw, or is it something else? Take the curse on man, for example. It says that “in sorrow shalt thou eat of [the earth]…thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee . . .” Gen 3:17-18. Now let me ask you, does every garden produce thorns and thistles? Is every day working the earth, one of sorrow and worry?

I don’t find that true. There are hard days, but I really don’t have any actual thorns or thistles growing in the land where I work and occupy. My family’s presence and activity seems to keep them at bay. And don’t many people, even unbelievers, attest to the therapeutic refreshing found in working the earth? Don’t people long for the chance to put their hands in the soil and see something living come out? Isn’t the harvest a time of celebration?

Consider a couple other places that God has something to say about the land. Deu 7:12-14, bless the fruit of the womb, fruit of the land, corn, wine, oil, the herds, blessed above all peoples. 28:3-5, blessed everywhere and in everything. Now in English the word blessed is a synonym for happy, and while it doesn’t exactly mean that in Hebrew, we can see that the man who is blessed is also the one who is happy. Psalms 1:1-2 describes the happy man (asher) as one who meditates in the Torah, day and night, and doesn’t act ungodly. Well that is the conduct of a man who God promises to bless in Deu (baruch). Psalm 32, the happy man is the one whom is forgiven and not charged with sin (breaking Torah). Throughout scripture the righteous/forgiven man/the man who is seeking God and his Torah, is the “asher” man.

Well, how can these blessings be true if the curse is? Blessed in the ground and in the womb, and the man himself is happy not in sorrow? Or do we misunderstand the curse?

If you go back to the curse, you find God says the earth shall bring forth “to you”. If you look at each of the curses, I think you find that God does not say what he is going to do to man, but rather what will happen. Because women will sometimes be afraid and other factors, they will experience more pain and sorrow in child birth. Because of distrust, because man and woman blamed each other, man will end up ruling over woman. Now back to the thorns. I said, I don’t find thorns in my garden, but I do find them outside the garden. Where I’m not working.

See, man wasn’t deceived when he ate the fruit, that means he did it on purpose, consciously. Regardless of why he did it, he was saying to God, “You’re not good enough. I need this other thing too.” Each curse responds to the failure in the person. Man said, God’s not enough. So man goes out and works. And he works a piece and gets the thorns out and makes produce and has something for which he could be glad, but because God is not enough, certainly a small garden isn’t either. So man expands out, and what does he find? Thorns and thistles. Notice that like me Adam had to leave the garden to find thorns and thistles and sorrow. We don’t see thorns in thistles when we stay and work and are satisfied with one place, we see them when we expand out. Our dissastisfaction, our discontent is what brings forth the thorns. Likewise our sorrow because we are dissatisfied with what we have and where we are, and the times we live in.

That is why it says, “To you,” it will bring forth… The people experiencing God’s blessing in their fields are not experiencing it because the land is yielding up better things, to them, but because it is yielding them to God. The person who is keeping God’s covenant is dependent on Him. To Him, the people say “You are enough.” And to God, the land does not bring forth thorns, and thistles; and rather than working in sorrow, man does it in happiness.

So, I ask you is there anything really wrong with the creation? Has it actually fallen? In scripture we even have people who because of faith, never died. Of course, Paul tells us that the creation groans waiting for the appearing of the children of God (Rom 8:19-21). That’s true, but he goes on to say that the creation was made slave. He does not say that it is corrupt, but that it is slave to corruption. Let me put it this way, if everyone were righteous, do you think death would still happen? Would the animal world be full of violence, or would the lion lay down with the lamb?

So what does this have to do with Yeshua? I think I can say that he was not ashamed to become one of us, and he did not think it was an indignity. Less than his fullness, but still good and very good. I put to you that he came into a creation that he knew as very good. One that had not fallen, only its rulers had become corrupt and dragged it down with them.

Why is this important? In reality, aren’t we still dying? Isn’t the world still miserable with chaos and death?

I say that thought is part of the problem. What did the Serpent say to Eve? “God doth know that . . .” He slandered the goodness of God. And if so, if God had been evil, then could God be trusted on what he swore was good? If God were corrupt, heaven forbid, then could you trust that the creation was really good? Eve didn’t think so. And Adam also said, “You’re not enough.” What does God do? Kicks them out of the garden that God planted, and lets them fend for themselves and be insatiably finding new weeds and sorrow.

Fast forward to Moses. God wants to take his people out of Egypt, where to? A large land, a good land, flowing with milk and honey. What do the people do, after they leave Egypt? Grumble about the journey. Say how much better life in Egypt was. Doubt God’s motives for taking them out. God brings them to his good land, providing the whole way, and after at first seeing that it was a good land, they start saying how it’s a bad land. It can’t be conquered, even if they did it would eat them up. Again, after seeing God’s goodness, they malign his motives and slander what he has provided. No, it’s not good!

Do you see, why God may have been so angry? God does all this good, and the people grumble. They’re still looking for thorns! And what does he do? He kicks out that generation from the promise, they get their own self-fulfilling prophecy of death in an evil land.

Over and over, we see God provides and people grumble, then God gets angry. It makes perfect sense because in the beginning God said “it is very good.” When we doubt the goodness of his provision, we are doubting him. If pride is not the original sin, than grumbling is.

Now, let’s get back to Yeshua. He thought it was comely/seemly/fitting/beautiful to be made a human and to suffer unto perfection. He showed in example that even in a sin-mired state, this life, the path to redemption, itself, is good. If he is the example of our faith, then why do we act as if this life is a prison and a punishment? We are living as people whose God only will be good; with a future that will be good; with a kingdom that’s coming; instead of a God who is already good, in a present that is still good, with a kingdom that, for us, is already here. Realize, by faith, that this world is good. That Yeshua thought it beautiful to come down here and become one of us to bring us to perfection. This life is good. Think about it, if everything works to the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose. Than everything in this life, no matter how terrible, is for your good. It is an act of lovingkindness to us.

Think about it. Out of all the options available to God, he chose to become a man, born through the same process as most humans. He would get sweaty, tired, use the bathroom, bathe, bleed, touch lepers. And that whole process, was something a holy God saw without shame.

And if God saw it without shame, as a process for perfecting the savior of all those who would be brought to glory, shouldn’t we see it that way to? What if we saw morning sickness, as something God is not ashamed of, something that is perfecting us? That the transmission blowing out on the highway, is all part of God’s plan, not just that we endure it, but that he chose for us to go through it as a “very good” thing. If the thorns come from dissatisfaction and grumbling, then none of these things are truly bad. Difficult and challenging, but…

Let me put it this way. Think about your favorite game. What came to mind is Zelda. You’re a guy looking to save a princess, typical stuff. And throughout the games you have to get new equipment, which sometimes means going fishing to make some money or win a prize, or wander all over the place trying to make a good trade, or help some guy catch his chickens that ran away. As the player you do it freely and willingly, without grumbling (unless its getting late). Even though you’re doing mundane things, you see it as serving a purpose and epic; you don’t feel like anything is being wasted in your character’s life. Even though you’re doing ordinary things working up to extraordinary ones. Think about baseball. “Alright Joe, today, I want you to run around and touch all of those four white things, after you hit that little white ball with your bat.” Later people in the stands will have paid good money so they can stand up and shout for a couple of hours while a guy paid, way more than them, runs around being chased by a guy with a ball. Think about a “good” story. We want the hero to face terrible odds, and endure hardship. Somehow we enjoy their trials, and the story would seem to be meaningless without them, and our feelings become invested in them because of it, and we believe in the characters and root for them because of what they’re going through.

Context is everything. If you, looked at your life and said. This is what God had for me to do and it is good, and the world is good, and no matter what happens right now, I have enough. And this leaky roof or this cancer, is just one of those mini-games on the way to saving the princess or just the sprint from second to third. Don’t we see it is all good? It is all holy? The world never fell, only we did. And all of God’s goodness, right now is available to you because this is exactly where God wanted you right now. What you are going through right now is part of the plan that perfects you and that is always good no matter where you are in it.

That is why, David could say even where he was having to act a madman to Abimalech (Psalm 34): “O taste and see that YHVH is good. Blessed is the man that trusteth in him.”

Perhaps that’s why God’s people developed a tradition of blessing continually throughout the day? The Talmud extrapolates from a verse in Deuteronomy, that we ought to bless God 100 times in a day because the word “what” is sounds close to the word for 100. That could be legalistic if you did it just because, but if grumbling causes so much trouble and slanders God, then the antidote has to be speaking gratitude. And that’s what the traditional blessings are. They pretty much all begin “Blessed (worthy of adoration, and also by implication happy) are you, YHVH, who . . .” Each blessing is en effect describing God; describing Him as worthy, describing Him as happy, and telling us what a good and happy and worthy person is.

It is certainly harder to think of life as bad and depressing, if every time we are turning around, we are bringing to mind God’s goodness. So let’s be challenged. Every time you notice something. Good or “bad”, take a moment to realize it’s a very good thing (in reality) and that Yeshua thought it was beautiful to go through, and therefore bless God for it. Testify that he is good, and this is good. Every time something reaches the level that you would call it good or bad, take the time to bless God for it.

Out loud (if only a whisper) is even better.

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To Shutdown or Not to Shutdown?

I’ve mostly checked out of politics. I still vote, and I’ll still make a case for how I think something should be, but I’ve concluded that without God the world is going to make bad choices so don’t hold your breath for it to get the choices right.

But the other day I was drawn into one. This government shutdown is a big deal to some people. And I get why that is, I never said it would be painless. And I’m not saying it’s the best option. In fact, I even got into the discussion by saying, I wasn’t sure if it was good or bad.

How can I be so heartless, when I know it will cause so much suffering? Because all the resources to provide everything the government does, already exists. The government does not create the food bought with food stamps. It does not drive the trucks that get it there. It does not invent the medicine for the sick. It doesn’t administer the medicine to the sick. All it does is pay for it in case you can’t afford it.

What stops us from giving directly? Can’t the grocery store give the same food away? Sure, but it will be at a loss if no one pays them back. Well, the government is paying for it at your loss, so what’s the difference? And why can’t the grocer tell the distributer, “With the government shut down, I gave away X amount to wic recipients.” The distributor could then say ok and tell the farmer, the story. The farmer could then tell his neighbors or suppliers, “I gave away X. Can you give me Y so I can keep living too, and not take a loss?”

Yeah, that’s an ideal situation, a dream, but it could work. The point is the government doesn’t actually need to do it. We can. Sure they have money, but it was your money anyway and what is money, but a form of credit?

Why can’t we make that work? Because we don’t trust each other to give. Someone might cheat us . . . unlike the government.

And that was my point, and why I’m not sure the shutdown is a bad thing.

If we can’t trust each other to give to each other in a time of need, then how is it was can trust each other to put good, fair leaders in office? They come out of us. And in the case of a highly divided society, the elected leader will be viewed with distrust by a near half of his constituents, and likewise if we distrust, don’t you suppose he also distrusts and looks down on the constituents that didn’t agree with him? Listen to how the national leaders talk about the Tea Party or the Progressives, depending on which side you’re on. Can we say that the two sides respect each other? Truly? If they do, then they certainly don’t respect the voters enough to be honest.

All government represents its people’s character. Suppose you had an absolute dictator, how does he maintain power? He can’t go around and threaten everyone with guns. He has to have other people who will do it for him. And they will have to be in turn supported by others. All government is the same, it requires the people’s consent (at some level) to exist. That means that a certain amount of the people must agree with the government.

It can be top heavy in some circumstance, but it can’t get top heavy without initial consent. That means that a people who are selfish and distrustful and uncompassionate and disrespectful will eventually and inevitably become a government that is selfish and distrustful and uncompassionate and disrespectful.

If you don’t think so, then you must not buy into the idea that evil corporations and special interests have compromised members of the republican party. You must believe their behavior is a fluke and completely random. Strangely, everyone did the right thing and somehow we have two parties holding the country hostage. And I say two, because both sides could “easily” capitulate to end the shutdown.

If we say that government cannot become selfish, then what is our problem with what’s going on in DC?

But when I look at a growing populace who doesn’t care if the other side has to give up their earnings or the conscientious objection to this or that provision, or doesn’t care that someone may be going broke because of unrestrained capitalism, or doesn’t care about their own child in the womb, or their father or mother dying surrounded by strangers in a nursing home . . . it doesn’t surprise me that we now have a government that doesn’t care about the hardship it causes by shutting down the government.

So that’s why I think the shutdown could be good. While the government continues operating “normally”, things don’t look that bad. But when it brakes down we see that behind the veneer of civilization is a country filling with greed and hatred (on both sides, in the parties and out). It reveals that government only hides the real problem, and that we need a better solution. A God solution. What we do in a time of crisis reveals who we really are.

Eventually a society that is cruel on the inside will become one on the outside. I mean look at the way political activists talk about each other? Calling each other every name they can think of, wishing they’d have a heart attack and go to hell. Do you think people can keep talking like that without actually thinking it? I mean until recently, patients in Great Britain could be killed without consent or knowledge, do you think that just happened one day or did it start with a thought and then a word? Did Hitler immediately launch into concentration camps for the Jews or did he start by demonizing them?

The point is the shut down like many other opportunities gives us a chance to see what our country is underneath. And it ain’t pretty. The love of many grows cold. It lets us know where we’re headed before we get there.

A society that can’t continue to do right without government, will have a government that won’t do right either.

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