The Most Likely to Suceed Did Jobs Reserved For Illegal Immigrants

Adam and Eve InterviewHave you ever wondered, how Adam and Eve could have had the most perfect brains in history, in an environment with zero modern distractions—no facebook, smartphones, news about trouble in the economy, trouble in the middle east, and trouble in Ferguson—and what YHVH most wants them to do is raise people in his Image and tend a garden?

Someone might say, well they didn’t need scientists, or doctors, or lawyers, because it was a perfect world. But even that perfect world needed filling, subduing, tending—and naming—for that matter. Man’s work was part of that perfection. For the newest adults I repeat: Work was part of perfection.

And to tend anything, don’t you have to understand it? If you want to keep a flock of chickens, you have to learn what they eat, where they like to roost, what they do with their spare time, what a properly cared for animal looks like. So Adam would have to be a scientist, and being a scientist (in the paradigm of faith) would be an integral part of man’s work. And why wouldn’t that apply to the human body? Wouldn’t you study the body in a perfect world just as much as in an imperfect world? I mean even in my world, I like to study my wife’s body as much as possible. Without the possibility of running into some gross disease, I think it would be even easier to be curious. You could be a doctor, but instead of studying why someone is wilting, you would be studying how to really make them blossom. And you’d have to have a sense of justice too, because how do you decide when one species has enough of a habitat and to encourage the growth of another?

There’s no reason to suppose that ‘tending’ the garden only implied manual labor. Yet, one could argue that being a godly warrior is an extension of a man or woman with a sense of justice. And a sense of justice would be important to that gardener and not just because of the garden, but because he’s also in the Image of YHVH, and justice is important to God (who is also a warrior by the way). And that’s my point, one could say that inside of a good gardener is also a good warrior, but YHVH did not call Adam and Eve to be warriors, but to be gardeners.

When I take this academic discussion into the real world, I find that with my mind I think of my law enforcement work as ‘important’. Like I’m really doing something. Or for the four grueling years I spent running a restaurant with my woman, ‘that was really something.’ Even my writing seems like ‘something.’ Meanwhile, all my life I’ve disliked the idea of farming as unimportant. Necessary, but someone less capable should do it. The idea of living an Amish lifestyle is asthetically abhorrent to me.

But then, I’m out in the woods, chainsawing a tree into 6.5 ft posts to enclose a pasture for goats. I’m wearing more clothes than are comfortable because bugs always eat me alive, I’m sweating about half a liter per hour, sweat makes my clothes stick to me along with the woodchips that the chainsaw is ripping out of the trees, and I know that at the end of the day I will be exhausted and I won’t have recovered after one night’s sleep, and if I’m not careful to take in enough calories I will end up below 140, again.

Yet there I am. Staring into this woods, seeing a tree come down and the light come in. Branches that once went everywhere, slowly become a pile that will either be a home for woodland natives or be burned, the ashes (full of nitrogen and carbon) will feed the soil that grows more plants for food or for beauty or even better, to put off a citronella smell that keeps the feast on Jesse down to a light luncheon. And I’m satisfied.

Here, this detestable, menial labor provides as deep perhaps deeper sense of accomplishment than any of my books, or walking up to a vehicle at night wondering what kind of person is on the other side of that tinted window, or having a business that’s ‘mine.’

That’s not to say menial labor is the only labor of value. The scientist is in the gardener, and so is the writer. I hope someday, soon, to be past the idea of looking down on anyone because their work is not like mine. But it seems as though, that some part of everyone’s life, it seems even the core, ought to be something that puts us in touch with the land and animals. After all, the prophets tell us that we’ll each have a fig tree and vineyard of our own, not a desk and a company car.

Perhaps, not a core, but an anchor? A compass? We’ve all heard stories method actors. It seems some of them forget who they are, they can become creepy, unknowable, perhaps even in-human. Perhaps that’s why self-destruction is so repetitive among the ‘brightest.’ I’ve often wondered if it’s not because they got ‘too deep’ in character, but because they had no heavier center to pull them back (did you know the word for glory in Hebrew is related to weight?). It’s as if they had no deeper roots that pulled them back at the end of the day.

The same thing can happen to a man or woman in their office, they become obsessed with it and become ‘workaholics.’ Or even in the family. Did you notice that part of the curse involved the woman’s desire for her husband. After ‘the fall’ the two seem to become entangled in each other in ways that weren’t part of the original design. Not that we should be aloof, but there became a degree of personal interdependence, or rather need for control, that is clearly not paradise. The point in all of these is that people become myopic. I don’t like cops or military people when they become this way either.

But what about working in a garden? Working the land? In the land, if you pay attention to only one plant then others will fall into chaos. If you destroy all the others and replace them with the one you prefer, then eventually you will be ravaged by the predator that also prefers that one thing. If you merely focus on the plants you’re working with and not the shape of the ground, the direction of the light, the sources of water, your plants may not thrive and you will always be fighting uphill.

Working with nature forces you to diversify. Forces you to come back to the most basic truths. What do I really need? What really satisfies? And most importantly, who really provides it? If you spend just a little time working and choosing to enjoy the work that God originally gave us, then it won’t be long before you find simple goodness all around. A little shade, a cool breeze, the sunlight, the smell of living things. The feel of the elements on you.

Maybe it’s not that gardening is better than work away from a garden, but because something in that particular work is meditative, is centering.

But there’s probably other ways to look at all this. It’s just a thought for consideration, a reminder that the smartest two people in history were a pair of gardeners.

What do you think? Should we all have some kind of garden tending? Do you feel more satisfied when you have are shaping something natural with your hands, or avoiding nature? If we should all have a bit of gardener in us, how much? How do you know if you’ve had enough or when you need more?

And maybe we shouldn’t be in such a hurry to preach to our kids that they need to work hard at getting into an office job.

Well, I gotta go mow the lawn, which I will then collect up the clippings. Soak it for 1-2 weeks, get fertilizer tea out of the retted water, then boil the clippings, shred then into a tangled mess, and drain and dry them into paper.

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What Happens to a Soul after Death?

I’m not actually looking to get all conclusive here. More of just a fresh thought for discussion, and because I haven’t posted in over a month.

While I was on vacation, a brother gave me a pamphlet warning me about protestant teachings. It was kind of unusual in itself since the pamphlet was by some organization called “catholic quest”, which made sense, but the brother was in a messianic synagogue and talked like a seventh day Adventist. I, of course, reject all those labels as divisive, but its interesting how many different strange roads Yah meets us on.

The larger discussion was about eternal punishment vs. eternal destruction. I lean more toward the latter. I can see a way the former could be consistent with scripture and God’s character, in fact a way that I see the two become one which always sounds like truth to me.

But in the author’s view, that question hinged upon two things the immortality of the soul and the conscious or unconscious state of the soul after death. And here’s where I’ve always had problems.

Immortality: existent source, does not in anyway negate the possibility of immortality for his creation, merely saying its not of themselves. In fact, God’s eternality suggests man’s eternality. For example, before I write a scene in a story, before it’s on paper, I already see the characters in my head. They exist before they exist. And if I happen to kill off a character (whether they are good or evil), does that character cease to exist in my head? No. They last as long as I remember them, whether or not they are alive in the story.

You can argue that the character is not as “eternal” as me because there is a time before I thought of them, but is there a ”time” before God thinks of anything? Since he’s outside of time, aren’t all his thoughts present thoughts? Can something new “occur” to God? Isn’t that why he can say “before I formed you in the womb, I knew you”? How can he predestine someone before the foundation of the world, and yet we say that person did not exist? If God has a purpose for them, and his will is unstoppable, then whether that person takes a breath or not, they are as good as existing.

You could also argue that my characters can go away because I might one day forget them. But can God forget? He might not bring something up anymore, but if God could truly “forget” something, then there exists the very real possibility that God might forget one of us.

Sleeping or waking: The second thing thrown up is that there are numerous scriptures which talk about those who are dead as being asleep. There are places in Job and Psalms and Ecclesiastes, which tell us that there is no remembrance or praise in the grave. It certainly seems to be an inactive state. Yet these are also seemingly in conflict with Yeshua telling the thief “today” you will be in paradise. And Paul saying to be absent is to be “present” with YHVH. Or the visions of Revelation where there are saints walking and talking and doing, and asking “how long wilt thou not avenge . . . ?” All of which suggest mental faculties. Or what about the mount of transfiguration? If the souls are unconscious, why did Moses and Elijah get woken up to talk with Yeshua about what was about to come to pass in Jerusalem? It makes little sense for people who have been asleep the whole time to be woken up to talk (how inefficient a way to catch up on a couple hundred years of history?) about what was happening in the present, of which they are not a part, only then to go back to sleep for another 2,000+ years? And then what of Enoch who clearly never died at all. Is he the only awake person in heaven?

Yet there are all those verses in the Tanach. They can’t simply be ignored. And this is where I had a new thought (new to me):

Firstly, we make assumptions about terms that are not pre-figured in the natural world. For example, we take death to be cessation or annihilation. A ceasing of being. Yet in the natural world this isn’t true. When a body dies, it does not slip out of our dimension. It’s still there, but inactive, and then it decomposes, but even in decomposition, nothing is destroyed; only the organization is changed. This chemical breaks into this one, but every atom is preserved. The remains of every dead person is currently in circulation as part of the ecosystem that sustains our lives.

So there is nothing about death which suggests oblideration, just disorganization. That is why I can be open to a position of “eternal torment” in unity with “eternal destruction”, because when something is ruined it does not cease to exist, it simply ceases to exist as it was. Thus the thing that we love in someone who “might be in hell” would not be in hell. Ie, we love good things, but God takes back his goodness from those who reject him, so what’s in hell is simply the shed skin of sin. Everything that has no part of God is what is burning in hell. It’s like mourning a beautiful painting in a fire, but the beautiful parts have been taken away. All that burns is the ugly and wasted.

So all death really means is a different state of being.

Now consider the concept of sleep. Those brothers and sisters who argue for unconscious waiting, argue this because sleep means inactivity and not knowing. But is that true in the natural? Isn’t the brain in fact still operating in sleep? It can still receive outside stimulus or you could not be woken by a prowler or a baby’s cry. Perhaps this is akin to how the “dead” are “woken” with the trump of God? Because they can still hear.

Not only can they still receive stimulus, even in sleep, the body moves. It can gesture, talk, laugh, elbow its wife or shove its husband out of bed, or even walk.

And even the mental faculties are not arrested. We dream don’t we? We make decisions in those dreams. We have emotions. We recall memories. We can even get the sense that we are out of place. That we are not in the real world. We can even be asleep and yet awake! Frequently, I’ll wake (knowing I have to use the bathroom), knowing that I am in my house, in my room, next to my bed, and yet be unable to get my bearings to make my body move in the right direction.

All this is to say, that I’m not convinced that being dead or being asleep means unconsciousness of the soul. Clearly, the body is unconscious in death. From the outside, the sleeping body and dead body can look the same. How often have you checked on a sleeping baby with a tingle of terror because you’re not sure you can hear them breathing?

So perhaps, the “sleep” is not about what they are doing, but about what it looks like to the living? And yet, it could also be about them, because the dead could be dead in the body, and yet be alive in a “dream” in Heaven (or in Hell). Knowing they aren’t where they are supposed to be (alive and on Earth). They can not know or praise or remember things as a body, but they can in spirit just as a sleeping man can sense right and wrong in a dream. I’ve repented for many things done in dreams, and woken so very glad to find out that I did not actually do in the body those things. And I think I’ve even experienced God’s presence a little in dreams . . . all while I was “asleep.”

So what do you think? I’m not sure that it even matters other than a theological exercise in reconciling scriptures. The only place it could make sense to me is in understanding God’s mercy and justice at the moment. There’s a good follow-up discussion: how does it matter?

 

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Capitalism is hated for the same reason Communism is hated

The title comes from a recent revelation. The Mrs. and I trying to sell the restaurant. We’re looking at selling it for hopefully ten thousand less than we bought it for. Despite improvements. Because we were the only people in the states of mind willing to pay it at the time. Call us poor business people. I won’t lie, that’s probably true.

But here’s something I realized, when I look at someone across from me in a business transaction. I set out with prayer (lately, not so much in the past) desiring earnestly that God would show me how to love the other person through this transaction. Sure I’m praying for a great deal, but God has at least changed me enough that I desire that great deal to be a blessing to the other person as well. I’m not great at it, but I can honestly say that I’m learning to consider the good of the other person and not just my own.

But I have yet to feel like I’ve met someone doing the same for me. I never feel like anyone else really cares about my interests, who is actually doing business with me. And I think that’s why people hate capitalism (myself included) is that the focus is about the money. Success is measured in sales and profits and not in goodness and blessing. We try to dress it up by saying that my efficiency in business is benefiting people by ensuring the best value on the market. But we’re kidding ourselves. Or maybe I’ve just never been convinced that was anyone’s sincere primary motivation.

Even then, there may be an intent of carpet bomb blessing, but does this mastermind or his agents actually stop to care for me personally? Like I said, I’ve never been convinced.

Now so people don’t think I’m a communist. The same applies for the other system (or any other system for that matter). Why do people hate communism? Because it may say its going to benefit everyone, but history and personal experience both teach us that it really benefits whoever happens to be in charge, and it fosters a “have I got mine” mentality, not a “how do I bless my neighbor/comrade?” mentality.

It all comes back to the person who stands as the agent of the “system”. And then we see, that the system doesn’t work at all. It is the person that works. Or doesn’t.

It’s like the absurd idea of a nation of laws. The idea is that we have these laws that are somehow themselves alive and expressing their own will (like the ring of power, ironically), and that if we just let them live they will judge us all in just ways. Unfortunately, we have yet to find one of these laws alive in captivity, capable of expressing itself. They always have to be expressed by a person. Thus the law is not its own identity, but a mirror for the identity of the person expressing it.

That’s why laws seem so flawed and stupid, because the person is flawed and stupid.

Perhaps that is why Yeshua had to come as the Word made Flesh. The living Torah. The only way to give us a just law, a “system” that worked, was to become it.

I just wish I could meet more Yeshua’s in the world so that someone could live it for my benefit. What would it be like if Yeshua bought the building from me? Or sold me a car? Or even rang me up at the cash register?

Even better, perhaps I can be transformed, so that I can be Yeshua selling my building? Or my car? Or scanning someone else’s produce?

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No Excuses: Sometimes unreasonable expectations are the best

In the real world forgetting a wrist band isn’t a big deal. In the real world, someone can live if a coworker or customer service employee is five minutes late. Everyone has a story about how they had to wait for a doctor. Some might not even call you late at five minutes. Certainly not at two minutes prior.

But these are just a couple things that students get in trouble for at the police academy. Not major trouble, just egg on the face/slap on the wrist type stuff.

It’s easy to see those instances as symptoms of someone on a power trip. I mean really. No one needs to be dinged over a few extra minutes if someone had car trouble or got stuck behind a school bus. Or with all the hustle and bustle, a hat got misplaced, or when some other piece of equipment that you didn’t even need got left behind.

Now, you’ve probably heard the counter-argument. Attention to detail, blah blah blah. And the fact that a couple minutes can be the difference between life and death.

But I’m driving this bus, and I want to take it down a different road.

Today, I went to the range. Yesterday, I was fully prepared: all uniform and equipment? Check! Went to stay at a friend’s house so I’d have a shorter drive, got out of bed at the right time. “Cleared” each room as I left to ensure that I left nothing behind.

Then I get to the range, on time, and sit down in my chair. In a pretty good mood despite two days of fever, with the help of a little caffeine. I did everything right . . . except my wrist band was missing. No one had noticed yet, so I slipped back out the door and searched my car.

No luck. What I do? In about a minute I improvised a red band out of a campbells soup label and a wrist watch. Now I’m no MacGyver. Another classmate did something similar with a foam beer cooler.

To me that is the real advantage of zero tolerance training. Attention to detail is great, but the fact is that you can’t control what you forget. You can take steps to remember, but sooner or later you’ll miss something. Things go wrong despite all human effort, but using that as an excuse is simply giving yourself permission to fail. In the real world, life does not play fair. You might have done everything right, but someone else didn’t. Now you’re up a creek. You either make yourself a paddle or go over the falls. It simply doesn’t matter why you have no paddle.

Zero tolerance training forces you to deal with scenarios when things don’t go according to plan. When there is bad traffic, when the car doesn’t start, when the firearm fails to extract another round, when the bad guy is stronger and faster than you. In life, you can’t pause to make things right. You learn to keep a back up plan, another route, extra time. You learn to play injured. You learn to find an opponent’s weakness and exploit it.

Next time you get chewed out for something stupid that you can’t see how it was your fault, don’t take it personal. They might be being a jerk, but it doesn’t matter, learn from it. Get into the mindset that you are going to overcome all obstacles.

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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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