Script for Lord of the Rings Reboot surfaces!

I don’t have a lot of spies in Hollywood, but when you’re a world famous author (having sold books to the UK and Japan markets [I think]), you’re bound to cross paths with others in the biz [I can legitimately claim to have a picture of me and Chuck Norris, and I got a signature from Mr. T . . . but then threw  the autograph away because it was just on a piece of notebook paper, and that seemed like a silly thing to have an autograph on].

But anyway, my associate informs me about a script being shopped around, to production teams that would like to build on the success of recent hit reboots like Star Trek and Star Wars Episode VII. here’s what I saw from my associate:

“Lord of the Rings: Episode 1: the Ring Awakens”

Scene 1:

Country Music playing. Bilbo (played by Daniel Craig) working on a rap in his shire house about his first battle on the side of mount Doom. He’s there in stylish hobbit armor, a sword in one hand, a piece of cheese in the other, as he fights an orc three times his side.

Gandalf knocks on the door, begin Taylor Swift song; Gandalf played by Samuel L Jackson (for more racial appeal). “Bilbo!?!? You gonna make an old wizard stand on the doorstep, all day long? Get your butt out of your chair and open the door!”

Bilbo wanders to the door: “Hey, Old Dude! You still look old, but not a day older than you looked way back when when you were still old! I figured by now your hair might have changed back.”

Gandalf: “You haven’t aged either. You on a new diet or something?”

Bilbo: “You know me, always eating granola and low-fat cheese. Limiting myself to two or three ales a day.”

Gandalf: “Listen shorty, I know about the ring.”

Bilbo, feigning confusion: “What ring?”

Gandalf: “The one ring that’s came from Sauron and you use for playing hide and seek.”

Bilbo: “Sauron?”

Gandalf: “A long time ago–”

Frodo, Merry and Pippin and Sam come flying in through a window knocking over poorly placed cabinets. A keg of hard liquor breaks on the floor and runs into the hearth. Fire explodes out narrowly missing all of the major characters.

Merry (played by Ben Affleck): “That’s was close. But at least we’re all right.”

Bilbo: “This looks like an adventure for younger people. Here Frodo, my boy. Have a ring!” He hands the ring of power to Frodo.

Frodo (played by Chris Pratt): “What’s this?”

Bilbo: “Oh, just some bling. And don’t mind the old man with all the Sauron talk. It’ll give you indigestion.”

Fire from the keg explosion ignites a rack of other similar kegs.

Pippin (played by Anne Hathaway for more gender diversity appeal): “At least we’ll get a good view.”

Samwise (played by Kevin James): “Guys, we gotta get out of here!”

Gandalf: “Darn straight!”

The characters jump out through a window, but Samwise gets stuck. They all pull until Bag End explodes, throwing them and a section of wall onto a wooden raft floating on a river.

Frodo: “Why were you guys running anyway?”

Pippin (pulling out his LG Smartphone): “Well, we were at the bar talking with these gents in black robes. I was telling them about you and instagraming back and forth, along with Frendlo, my third cousin–have you met him? He’s my cousin twice removed on my father’s side, when–”

Gandalf: “Wait, dudes in black? Motherhobbit, why didn’t you tell me! I’ve got to talk to an old white guy about old things.”

Frodo (as Gandalf jumps off the raft and onto a white horse): “Wait, a dude older than you?”

Samwise: “Look out!” He grabs Bilbo and yanks him away from the edge and shoves off as Black Riders come galloping up.

The Black Riders shriek than start throwing swords at the hobbits.

Merry: “Ha fools! Now we have swords. Do you bleed, undead servants of Mordor! You will!!!”

Samwise: “Kind of unhobbitish a thing to say there, Merry. And how do you know they’re undead?”

Merry: “Well, I had a feeling when they didn’t eat any of the cheese rolls with mushrooms at the tavern.”

Frodo: “Yeah, you’d have to be undead to pass those up.”

Samwise: “Another volley, boys!”

Daggers come whizzing through the air. The hobbits dive for cover behind packs that were conveniently left on the raft.

Pippin: “What do we do?!?!?”

Aragorn (played by Tom Hardy) pops out of the water: “Now is not the time for fear. That comes later.”

Aragorn begins batting the daggers away. Orcs also start popping out of the water (proceeded by reeds used for snorkels). As he fights, the Hobbits get better and better until they are fighting on his skill level. But then a half-sea monster, half-warg, half-balrog: yes, three halves! appears from the surf!

Merry: “Oh, shire folk!”

Pippin: “Bring it! Is that all you brought?”

Frodo, Merry, Samwise and Aragorn: “Shut up, Pippin!”

At that moment, Arawen (played by Jennifer Lawrence) jumps onto the raft (on her horse), and puts a sword under Aragorn’s muscular throat: “What’s this? A ranger caught off his guard?”

Aragorn: “You think wit is your ally? You merely adopted it. I–”

Samwise [Sea-warg-alrog tentacle around his throat]: “Maybe, we could save catching up for later?”

Arawen [looking longingly into Aragorn’s eyes]: “Right.” She hurtles her sword, which splits the sea-warg-alrog’s head, followed by an explosion ring, filling the screen with a wake of smoke and mist.

The fog clears, Frodo is down, having caught shrapnel from the exploding monster, half-way a wraith, already. The other hobbits busy over him, lots of crying, (except for Merry who swears undying vengeance against the forces of Mordor). Arawen and Aragorn are in the other corner making out.

Samwise: “Aragorn, what do we do?”

Aragorn tosses them a Morgal-Narcan, and Frodo is right as rain.

Pippin: “That was close. So, where are we going?”

The darkness suddenly peals away into choral singing and golden sunshine. The raft bumps into a shore of white sand and frosty cedar. Elrond (played by Hugh Jackman) standing on the shore, looks down at Aragorn and Arawen: “Ahem . . . ”

Aragorn shoves Arawen off and starts straightening his clothes: “Nothing happened.”

Elrond: “I know. I forsaw it.”

Arawen: “You were future-spying on me?”

Elrond: “No . . . I was future-spying on the mortal, dying, future dead man, Aragorn.”

Aragorn: “Uh, was that a threat or a prophecy?”

Elrond: “Pick one.”

Aragorn is pondering, when Gandalf returns, brought by an eagle. “Why are you still here? The ring has to get to Mount Doom.”

Elrond: “You have a plan? Because so far your guys have done a bang-up job. And–wait, did you just say the ring? You brought the ring, here? To my house?”

Gandalf: “Why you got a flying eagle that can take it away or something?”

Eagle’s (voice by Simon Pegg) eyes widen, takes off, waving at Gandalf: “Have a good one, G-man. Send me a flutterby, anytime, you need another lift!”

Frodo: “An eagle like that?”

Everyone shouts: “Wait, we need you to take the ring into the heart of Sauron’s realm and toss it into a super-magically hot place, behind the lines of his entire army!”

Eagle looks confused and holds a talon up to it’s ear: “What? What’s that? Can’t hear you! Sorry, can’t turn around, too many calories on lift off, you know. But I’ll catch you later!”

Gandalf: “Son of a down jacket.”

Pippin: “So, what’s the ring? And where are we going?”

***

Scene 2:

Montage set to I Came In Like a Wrecking Ball, directly into the council seating area, comes Boromir (played by Adam Baldwin): “I hear we’ve got a thingy that helps us kill bad guys. Count me in to the end worthy of songs.”

Pippin: “I thought we were going to melt the ring?”

Boromir: “Who’s the retarded dwarf?”

In comes, Gimli (played by Jack Black): “The air must be rare up there, big guy. Dwarves have beards, how could you miss the lack of awesome?”

Boromir: “Then who is the retarded elf who wants to melt the ring?”

Legolas enters (played by Zachary Qunito): “Have you heard nothing, Lord Elrond has said? The ring must be destroyed.”

Boromir: “No, I just got here. Straight from the front!” Lifts up his shirt to show a jagged scar from sternum to below the belt. “See! This thing still seeps puss! I got puss keeping your lands safe! And if this ring will let me put a gondorian boot up Saurons even darker parts, then I’m going to use it!”

Aragorn: “Bro! We’re all on the same team here. Except me, I’m the king–so I’m like the captain over the team. But don’t worry, man, I don’t really want it. So we can still be cool.”

Boromir, shakes his head: “So who’s the retarded man who thinks I’m going to help him take my job?”

Frodo gets up to leave.

Gandalf: “Frodo, where are you going? You almost got wraitherized! You shouldn’t be out of bed.”

Frodo: “It’s ok. I had some of Elrond’s Re’d Bu’ll, and I feel like I have wings. And all I know is, this ring has to be destroyed of else the shire will never be safe. And I may be small, but I know if I don’t do th–”

Legolas: “Come on hobbit! We must not linger.”

Frodo: “But Boromir was just saying–”

Legolas: “He got over it.”

Frodo: “How’d you convince him to change his mind?”

Legolas: “That’s a good question for a time when we can linger. Now, move it.”

The fellowship sets out to epic music from the team behind Fast and Furious, with them running. Arawen and Aragorn exchanging smoochy good-bye’s, while running.

***

Scene 3:

Still running, the fellowship heads up a hill that gets blizzardy fast.

Gandalf: “It’s Saruma–” He’s cut off by a head-swallowing snowball.

Boromir: “We should get off this mountain before the half-lings–” Snow plasters him to the mountain wall.

Merry: “This looks bad!”

Aragorn looks up at a scream on the wind: “Nazgul!”

Boromir: “Snow Wargs!”

Legolas: “Nazgul on Snow Wargs!”

A flurry of exploding clouds of snow, mixes with screaming Nazgul, and snarling white wargs. Swords are drawn, lightning arcs off of steel and the hillside explodes. The nazgul are buried in an avalanche that the fellowship rides down a slope that becomes a snow tube that becomes a volcanic tube that ends in a slide across a polished floor.

Pippin: “Well that worked out all right.”

Gandalf: “Welcome to Moria.”

Pippin: “Sounds cheery.”

Gimli: “Yes, if by cheery you mean thousands and thousands of my kin dead, at the hand of ten thousand thousand goblins and orcs!”

Gandalf: “And Balrogs.”

Legolas twitches. “Balrogs?”

Gandalf: “Elite warrior Balrogs.”

Legolas glances around for an exit. “Elite warrior Balrogs?”

Samwise: “But they’re all gone now, right?”

Gandalf stares at him with blank eyes. “Uh, yeah. Sure. All gone.” He turns to Aragorn, “If any of them happen to have hung around  . . . or come back . . . ”

Aragorn: “We’ll fight them to the end. We’ll never break the bonds of fellowship. We’ll—“

Gandalf: “Easy there tiger. Let’s save the death and glory stuff for when the chances of glory are higher than the chances of death.”

Aragorn: “You want me to  . . . not  fight?”

Gandalf: “You got it all wrong, Arie baby. You know you’re the man . . . but this situation might require a little more subtlty.”

Pippin in the background: “What’s this shiny thing do?” Suddenly the room is filled with disco light and lasers.

Gandalf: “That’s stupid hobbit has chanced way too much light.”

Burning ropes fall from the ceiling, and balrogs rapel into the room, while orcs and goblins pour out of every crack and hole.

Gandalf: “Now. This is no time for fear.”

Legolas breaks into hysterical screams, and runs in circles.

Gandalf: “Nevermind. Run!”

The fellowship runs for the bridge of Kazadun as the hall around them explodes beneath the samurai-like swords of the Balrog as they tumble and attack like giant fiery ninjas. Explosions get louder and bigger, until it’s a firestorm consuming the hall. They get to bridge, Gandalf barely makes it, striking the bridge with his staff causing it to shatter behind him as he slides across it. But one of the Balrog jumps after them, Gandalf turns and leaps back across the gulf: “Yipee kayaaaaaaaaaaaa!”

And down he goes.

Frodo: “Well that bites.”

Legolas, screaming: “We must not linger! We must not linger!”

***

Scene 4:

The fellowship is in the woods.

Gimli: “Nothing like fresh air to take the mind off the death of your friends. Or your kin. Thousands and thousands of your kin.”

Boromir: “Well, you know if we’d used the ring . . . ”

Galadriel [played by the girl from Divergent] drops from a tree in a skimpy two-piece: “Your mind is always on the ring Boromir of Gondor. Get your mind on something else? Why are you such a weak-willed sissy of a Westernen man?”

Boromir: “Well, now I feel bad.” He looks dejected.

Galadriel: “And I didn’t even get to the part where your city burns down.”

Boromir: “Wait, what?!? You have the gift of foresight. Tell me what you–”

Frodo: “Look out!”

Black arrows fall from the trees, from black bows, fired eight at a time by giant spiders. Galadriel picks up two bows at the same time, loading each with four arrows and fires back. The arrows go through multiple different targets, at different trajectories, richochet and take out more spiders that explode as they come down in black gew that hits everyone but Galadriel.

Galadriel: “You’ve brought great evil here, ring-bearer.”

Frodo: “Now wait a second, I was just trying to do a good deed for the third age. This is my first quest, so I hardly feel I should be blamed for this.”

Galadriel rolls her eyes. “Hobbits . . .  Where’s Gandalf.”

Frodo, pauses: “Also not my fault.”

Gimli: “Fault? Gandalf did this awesome flying, fire attack of the the Valenor. Writing himself a legend that he carved with the smoldering bones of a balrog. I still get choked up thinking about it.”

Pippin: “I know! Why don’t the elves sing a song for him?”

Galadriel: “That’s a great idea!”

Legolas: “Look out!”

The spiders have lit barrels of oil and are using their webs as giant sling-shots. Lothlorien is quickly aflame. Trees full of elvish cultivated sap, explode, sending shrapnel and concussive blasts through the woods. The air is filled with charred leaves, that tumble in slow mow, set to songs by Adele.

Galadriel: “Get that stupid ring out of here and torch it in Mt Doom.”

Frodo: “But it’s so far. How will I know how to get there and who I can trust? I don’t think I can do this.”

Galadriel: “Get your soft-cheese butt, out of my forest before I stick an arrow so far up it, you can pick your teeth.”

Samwise: “Well, that’s a side of the elves you don’t hear about.”

Galadriel turns all stormy: “GET OUT!!!”

***

Scene 5:

Running from Lothlorien, they grab some boats that have shiny bottles. At first they think they’re for light, but Aragorn pulls outboard motors out of stealth elvish hiding spots and poors the Elendil light-juice into an elegant opening. Next thing, they’re cruising down the river, bouncing hard over choppy water. Aragorn at the bow, his clothes knocked about by near gale-force winds. But undeterred. Statues rise in the distance of ancient men.

Aragorn: “The Argonauth. Long have I desired to–”

Legolas: “Look out!”

From the cliffs, Uruk-Hai, with a captain played by Dwayne Johnson, jump from the rocks. And land on the front of the boats. Others splashing in the water.

Boromir: “Quick, Frodo, give me the ring for safe-keeping.”

Frodo: “No. You’d never do that in your right mind!”

Boromir: “If only I’d brought a grenade the ring would already be mine!”

Pippin: “Aragorn, help Frodo!”

But Aragorn can’t hear because he’s too busy fighting five Dwayne Johnson-copies at the same time, on a boat, speeding along at close to sixty miles an hour!

Merry: “Men aren’t brave. Hobbits are brave!” He grabs a sword and drives Boromir into the water.

Boromir, thrashes in the water and comes to his senses: “I’m sorry. What was I thinking?”

But Frodo has already abandoned ship, swimming away invisibly. Samwise follows on a water-tight food basket that he’s paddling along: “Mr. Frodo! Mr. Frodo!”

The fellowship boats crash into the shore. Some explode as they skip over the sand and impact the trees and rocks. Boromir screams primally and wades ashore. Uruk-hai attack, but he slaughters them in sprays of black blood, until the water looks like an oil-slick and the white shores look like volcanic sand. But the captain of the Uruk-Hai lifts a gatling gun-crossbow and drills Boromir. Arrows stick in him and also pass through. But he keeps fighting. Until Aragorn attacks the captain and then kicks him back, into the path of a late arriving boat (piloted by Pippin) which then spears the captain into a tree which attracts a bolt of lightning that ignites the tree, boat, and sand, scorching it into a crater.

Gimli: “The fellowship has failed . . . but awesomely.”

Legolas: “You only say that because Boromir’s dead, the ringbearer is lost, and the half-lings have been kidnapped by murderous Uruk-Hai to suffer unspeakable torture before they die, giving up the only secrets they know, like where to find shrooms. But at least, we got to meet Lady Galadriel. Let me tell you how amazing that was. I could think and talk about her all day. I think I’ll compose a song right now.”

Gimli: “Ugh. I wish I’d died too. Wait, the other hobbits were taken?”

Aragorn: “You didn’t notice?”

Gimli: “Well .  . . a dwarf is used to looking up . . . I don’t really pay attention to things shorter than me.”

Aragorn: “Well, we can’t leave them to their fate.”

Gimli: “I know I joked about wanting to die, but . . . taking on a band of Uruk-Hai outnumbering us thirty to one, wasn’t what I had in mind.”

Legolas: “He’s just worried I’ll kill more of them.”

Gimli: “In your dreams, blondie.”

Aragorn: “Would you rather track Frodo, through Emon-Muir, and into the Black Land?”

Gimli: “Well, I’m not a racist. I don’t care what color the land is.”

Aragorn: “Mordor, Gimli!”

Gimli: “Hmm. . . The Uruk-Hai were heading into Rohan, and I hear there are some interesting caves over there . . . so sure, let’s go save those half-lings, whatever their names.”

Cue epic rock music to a split scene of Frodo and Sam doing free-running along a rocky ravine, with dark things in the shadows chasing them; alternating with Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli hacking their way to Rohan over the falling corpses of Wargs, Orcs, and man-eating, rolling, swarming, plants!

Roll credits.

If you were worried because this sounds like a script hollywood might accept . . . then there’s really only one way to know and that’s to actually circle it around hollywood. . . I write very cheaply if they ask.

But alas, you are the only fortunate souls to have seen me channel my inner-hollywood-disneyish-script writer. Otherwise, I hope you enjoyed. Rest assure no one has managed to shop such a script . . . that I know of.

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Yom Kippur: Is about Giving

Yom Teruah is passing by, and we rejoice, and believers in Mashiach Yeshua, look forward to Sukkot. But, isn’t there a holy day between? Certain feasts, seem to get all the glory, while others, seem to be . . . neglected. Yom Kippur, seems to be one of those.

To our natural brothers, the Jews, this would seem scandalous, since to them it is the most kadosh (holy) day of the calendar. But then, they would probably say what does it matter to what a bunch of crazy goyim do?

But many of us adopted olive branches kind of ignore Yom Kippur, because we’re not sure what to do with it. How can we talk about a Day of Atonement, when Yeshua is our atonement? Aren’t we doing despite to the Ruach of grace? Crucifying afresh the risen lord? Trampling under foot, His precious blood? What do we have to do with a day so clouded with animal blood?

But if Yom Kippur is somehow invalidated, nullified, brushed aside, then why do we take the Pesach as Kadosh? For that matter, why any feast day, when they all had sacrifices for them? For that matter, why Pesach with its overlaid tradition of the Bread and Wine? Why do we keeping drinking His blood, when it was shed ‘once’ and for all?

I think, the first thing we need to avoid is putting our understanding ahead of our obedience. A mitzvah is for us to do and to meditate on the why. Not to wrestle with a why, and try to make it into a do. If YHVH tells us to keep a certain ritual, we aren’t really qualified to decide if the ritual is right. I cannot tell you, why communion is sensible. Why can’t we simply tell each other to remember, His body and blood? Why do we have to do a ‘rehearsal’? Why do the feasts have to fall when they do in a year? Why can’t I simply do a lesson, once a year like a re-certification? Why the tie to the seasons? Why can’t Shabbat be simply once any seven days, instead of the seventh day?

Should I ‘waste’ time, trying to figure out a why to these things before I start doing? Or is it that the doing, will cultivate the why? Do we tell our children to wrestle with why’s when they are young? Do we ask them to think about whys, or do we tell them do, and then hope the why will become evident?

As parents, we know in the basic practices of life, the do precedes the understanding. I wish I could cite the verse that I’m thinking of, but Ya’akov 1:5-8, suggests the same principle. The wavering man, the one who shrinks back from the wisdom of YHVH, won’t receive it. Wisdom comes after the decision to do.

So the step is obediance, and understand comes second. And what are we commanded? Vayikra 16:29-31 “And it shall be a chokkah [a rehearsal, an enactment, a custom] for ever unto you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and shall do no manner of work, the home-born, or the stranger that sojourneth among you. For on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins shall ye be clean before the LORD. It is a sabbath of solemn rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls; it is a chokkah for ever.” Vayikra 23:27-32 says much the same, but with even more repetition of not working and afflicting the soul.

This sounds very offensive to believers in Mashiach: again, He is out atonement. What do we have to do with this thing?

The next thing we need to trust is that Elohim is not schizophrenic. What I mean is that He doesn’t talk out of both sides of His mouth. He doesn’t tell you one thing and then tell you something completely different. He was not surprised by His own plan of redemption. The Mashiach was slain before the foundation of the world, Hit-Galut (Revelation) 13:8. Think about that.

YHVH knew before Adam, before Moshe, that the sacrifice, the gift offered to cleanse our sins is the blood of Mashiach, not of any four-footed kosher, herd animal.

So was YHVH teaching us to tread underfoot, the blood of His own son, for thousands of years? For thousands of years shedding the blood of animals, when it never accomplished anything?

Oh, we say, that it was a picture for us, of Mashiach that was yet to come. But why the picture? Was Avraham imputed righteousness on the basis of offering? Or the basis of faith? Wasn’t it he, our father, that taught us that YHVH would provide the offering? We are told that father Avraham looked up on mount Moriah, and saw the work of Mashiach. We knew since Adam and Chavah that the work of deliverance wasn’t by us, but by the Mashiach who would crush the head of the serpent. Acts 2 tells us that David in the Ruach knew of Mashiach and His death and resurrection for us.

So it begs the question: Why all the sacrificing, at all?!?! If we have already been saved on the basis of faith in Mashiach, then sacrifice is a red herring. If you don’t believe, then it’s just a ritual. And a misleading one because it’s like offering a gift to someone you have wronged. You start to think, that you’re now even, and thus misunderstand the debt at entirely.

And if you already believe, then you know it has nothing to cleanse you, so why does this animal have to die? Why is a price exacted from you, when YHVH wants to teach you that the work cannot possibly be done by you?

Consider, an even more perplexing problem. Y’ezekiel 45:17, speaks of a future temple, in a future state of Isra’el, where the tribes are together in peace. “And it shall be the prince’s part to give burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and drink offerings, in the feasts, and in the new moons, and in the sabbaths, in all solemnities of the house of Israel: he shall prepare the sin offering, and the meat offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, to make reconciliation for the house of Israel.”

The “make reconciliation” is the same word for atonement. Who is this prince? 34:24 and 37:25, identify him as David. Some suggest this is actually Yeshua.

Now, why would David or Yeshua be offering anything for atonement? Yeshua had no sin for which to atone; and David is a believer in Yeshua therefore covered under the blood; so why point to anyone, but directly to Yeshua for atonement? It doesn’t even matter if there’s blood of an animal or a stick of gum offered, the point is scripture says it’s for atonement, and we know nothing needs to be added to Yeshua’s blood.

Let me ask further. When Yeshua was born, did Miriam (Mary) make a sin offering to be cleansed from giving birth? Yes. So you’re telling me, that the woman who brought the Mashiach into the world–having never even had sex, mind you–in obedience to YHVH’s will, is offering a sin offering? That doesn’t sound right either, does it?

Was Yom Kippur being observed in the time of Yeshua? If so, then every year, the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) was going into the temple and shedding blood and confessing sin on behalf of this sinless Mashiach. Was that doing despite to who Yeshua was? How dare the Cohen say “we” have sinned, with Mashiach there? Shouldn’t Miriam or Yosef, or one of Yeshua’s talmidim have gone to the Cohen and said, “You need to say, we–except for Yeshua!”

What was Yochanon the Immerser (John the Baptist) doing at the Yarden river? Luke 3:3 “…preaching the immersion of repentance for the releasing of sins…” This is very interesting, not only is there a freedom from sin, without temple sacrifice or profession of Mashiach, but along comes Yeshua to be baptized for sins that He hasn’t committed. What does, Yochanon say, Matt 3:13-14 “Then cometh Yeshua . . . unto Yochanon, to be immersed of him. But Yochanon forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?

Yochanon recognizes this dilemma. Much as Peter later says, “You shall never wash my feet!” But what does Yeshua say?

Mat 3:15 “And Yeshua answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.”

The man who has no sin to remit is receiving the act of remission from a sinner: why? To fulfill all righteousness. In fact, the word “becometh” means to tower up. To be suitable. Like when someone says to a woman, “That’s very becoming on you.” In other words, it makes beautiful to fulfill all righteousness.

So let me propose, an alternate perspective of offerings, and sacrifices. My Mashiach paid what He could, for a debt that wasn’t His. Now the word offering isn’t about giving up, but giving. Minchah: it’s a gift. So He gave Himself for us. Since our debt was larger than anything we had to give, then by definition He overpaid. He gave more than was owed.

Now, what do we have? If we are made like Him, then wouldn’t we want to give as well? Not of owing, because His was not of owing. Not in exchange, but simply to give because He has given. Now are we ourselves, enough? He gave the most valuable thing He had. Further, the Kingdom comes with Him so we got Him and His Kingdom. So even those things that we have, they are His too, and yet He keeps on giving them to us. So then, even if we give our souls, our minds, and our bodies. Is that enough? Do we say, “We’ve given you enough.” His gift was infinite! It was all that He had. Why would we want to give less?

When you think of it that way. The fact that we might offer, gift, an animal to Him (which I’m not suggesting, I’m merely saying if we were in a position to do it, rightly). Then would that be strange? Or would it be strange that we would not give every animal, every dollar, every scrap of land, every moment of time?

It is not that the life of an animal is somehow too sacred to give to the Son of Elohim; it is that how could we give less than everything? Our lives and the life of every subject to us. It’s not that what we have is too sacred, it’s that He does not ask for it. Right now anyway.

So then, when you look back to what Yeshua did at the Yarden. You see, He gave a righteous act, a ritual, that He did not owe. Just as He stood, no doubt, at Yom Kippurim and confessed sins that were not His. And at Pesach consented to the ritual slaughter of a Pesach lamb on His behalf, though Death had no claim on Him. He suffered it because it was right, and He looked to do all that was right, not just the right that was due from Him. He didn’t say, “I’ve done enough.” He said, “How may I do more?”

So then let’s look at Kippur. Covering. Atonement. We fear, that perhaps we are ‘despiting’ Him because we might confess a sin on this kadosh day. That we afflict ourselves, might devalue His gift. But let me ask you. Do you confess your sins on any other day?

1 Yochanon 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Ya’akov (James) 5:16 “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another . . .”

Luke 11:4 “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive everyone that is indebted to us . . . ”

If we are encouraged to confess our sins, both to the Father and to man, and in fact are taught by Mashiach to pray for forgiveness, in general . . . then why would it be wrong to do it especially on Yom Kippur? If it does not despite on one day, why on a mo’ed? Do we not sin?

Is our thinking backwards? It isn’t strange that we, who are redeemed, would confess and forsake and ask for forgiveness; it would be strange that we wouldn’t. Because we of all people know forgiveness is there! He took on Him sins that were not His own. Why would we not even admit those that are our own?

And what is confession? Y’hoshua 7:19 tells us the story of Achan and the forbidden thing taken from Yericho. And Y’hoshua says, “Give glory to Elohim, and confess!” Likewise Phillipians 2:11 tells us that confessing Yeshua is lord, gives glory to Elohim. Confessing truth always glorifies Elohim. That means, when you sin and you know it was sin, and if you refuse to acknowledge exactly what it is, then you are withholding glory from YHVH.

The point I’m trying to make in this is that confession, atonement, all these things are gifts. Offering anything is not about our debt, it is about our abundance. We are not devaluing the work of Mashiach by trying to give something back to Elohim, anymore than we are devaluing His provision when we tithe. When He gives to you, your natural, supernatural response is to give in response. The fact that what you are giving is totally inadequate to the debt is irrelevant, because what you are really giving is obedience, not merely an object or word of offering–you are bearing fruit and that was the reason that the seed was sown.

Atonement isn’t about undoing a gift. It is the natural response of someone who has been given a gift. When my wife kisses me, I don’t kiss her back because I owe it to her, but because I am so filled with love that I have to give back. If I’m full of love and goodness, there can be no other response. Did the woman weeping at Yeshua’s feet, do despite to His mercies on her? No! The fact that she wept and kissed and wiped his feet with her hair, an offering hardly less than a sheep, was because she deeply understood what had been given to her. Giving is the response to a gift.

What did you think? That Mashiach gave you something to keep to yourself? Or that you should give to everyone except the one who gave to you? Don’t we understand that the whole point was to make us like Him, who is the greatest giver of all?

So what of this Yom Kippur? Is it wrong to confess my own sins? Certainly not, we are told to in the Torah and in the writings of the Shellachim (Emissaries). Is it wrong to offer a gift? Certainly not. Even if it were to be the life of animal? Again, not suggesting this here and now, but you eat animal yourself don’t you? And you pour out the blood as is commanded, don’t you? So why would Elohim, be the one person to whom you would refuse meat? Or don’t we remember that the sin offering was eaten (Vayikra 6:26)? Elohim deserves more steak than anyone else.

Is it wrong for us to afflict ourselves as an act of atonement then? As if keeping your sin inside, wasn’t affliction. Suppose, it had nothing to do with atonement. If you had the flu you might abstain from eating, so why would it be wrong to do the same, but in connection with prayer and confession? Do you see my point, how this thinking doesn’t even make sense? Why is it okay to afflict yourself for a physical ailment (which, as you’ll recall, He died for those too), but not for a spiritual one?

Consider the One, we follow. He didn’t have to die. He didn’t owe us anything. He did it because that was what His Father wanted. It pleased YHVH to afflict Him. For Him to be bruised. To make the Captain of Deliverance perfect through suffering. Why would the servant be above the suffering of His Master? We are told that if He suffered, so will we. Why is it a surprise, that we would willingly suffer instead of only unwillingly?

And that’s a huge part of Yom Kippur, because when you study it, you find that it was for the Tabernacle, because of the sins of the people. Not primarily for individuals. Again Yeshua who had no sin, participated. When Moshe went up the mount to “make atonement” after the golden calf, it wasn’t for himself, because he hadn’t done the crime. It was for others! Of course, you would confess your own sin, but Yom Kippur goes beyond that, to the sins of others and to the sins of your people, and many of them may not have repented. So if Mashiach afflicted Himself for you, then why would you not afflict yourself for them? Mishlei (Proverbs) 14:34 can literally be translated: “Righteousness exalteth a nation, And the goodliness of peoples is a sin-offering.” When we do right, we are making intercession on behalf of those around us. 1 Sh’mu’el (Samuel) 15:22 says, “…to obey is better than sacrifice…” So if He calls us to afflict our souls, and we obey. That is better than sacrifice. We don’t need to understand how our suffering, or offering of any kind, fits into the economy of Elohim, all we need to know is that He commands it.

We are made into His Image. We are to be like Him. It is not strange that we would follow His example. Taking the sins of others on ourselves. It is strange that we would not. Even stranger is to believe in YHVH’s infinite mercies, but fear that if we, in love, corporately confess and forsake sin, willingly afflicting our own souls . . . that somehow would offend Him.

So this Yom Kippur. Get right with YHVH. It’s what you should have done any day, and every day. Confess your sins to Him. And while you’re at it, seek out your brothers and even strangers that you have wronged, and tell them. Ask for their forgiveness. That’s you doing right. That’s you making an offering. Spiritually, we are called to be Cohenim of Heaven aren’t we? And if they forgive you, then you have helped them to make an offering as well. And if they don’t, then may your affliction count for them. May it be a gift to the one who has given you so much, and perhaps He will give them more time to change.

We should not be afraid, to give back to Elohim.

 

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Review: Amish Vampires in Space by Kerry Nietz

You’ll think I’m joking if I don’t give some context. A couple of years ago, I was reading the blog of Mike Duran, Decompose. A frequent discussion was reoccurring. In Christian publishing it is difficult to get manuscript attention for anything ‘edgy.’ Or so it is said. Edgy doesn’t mean bad or obscene here, but some of us believe that even the Glad Tidings (gospel) can be (and should be) told with the grit of sin. And I would go to the Bible to make that case. The Bible–those collected stories, breathed through the Ruach HaKodesh–contains murder, graphic violence, sexual content, innuendo or suggestive language, nudity, and profanity. Sometimes different writers in different contexts, glossed over details; other times, they zoomed in. Take the book of Judges where a sword is plunged into a man, until the hilt disappears. That’s kind of graphic, right? For that matter the death of Yeshua, has flogging, striking, spitting, blasphemy, blood and guts.

But Christian publishing seem to hold to higher standards than the Bible, making it difficult for even conscientious writers to deal with anything other than the Amish. Needless to say for writers like myself (and Kerry Nietz) who visit the realms of sci-fi or fantasy or ‘speculative’ scenarios, it’s even harder. But they will eat up anything Amish.

So on this blog, someone jokingly proposed that an edgy story could get in by framing itself like, Amish Vampires in Space. It was a joke, but as I can attest, a single turn of phrase can spark a story. So Kerry Nietz saw an opportunity, and thus AVS was born.

Synopsis: Context aside, now onto the review. Despite the joking origin, the story is not told as parody, satire, or joke. It’s not over the top. Kerry shoots it straight. So what is this serious story where Amish, vampires, and space collide?

The opening is with a ‘stereotypical’ Amish, Jebediah who lives on a planet colonized by using the Amish–who are perfect for the job because they don’t use technology and the planets being colonized have no technology to depend on. Jeb’s just about everything you would expect from an Amish. I have frequent contact with the Amish and Mennonites (to an Englisher, they’re hard to tell apart, but there are differences), so I have some sense of authenticity on the subject. In fact through the course of my reading, I found out things I didn’t know and then asked my Amish contacts about them.

. . . I did leave out the fact my prompt was a book titled Amish Vampires in Space. I also omitted that for the character of Jebediah, I immediately pictured the particular Amish gentleman that I was asking the question.

So Jebediah has one thing that’s a bit different. A family heirloom of technology. He doesn’t know what it does, but was told when a future, unforeseen, catastrophic problem arises (like say, their local sun getting ready to eat their planet), he’s supposed to use it. He manages that, with considerable guilt because he’s a legit Amish. The machine turns out to be a beacon that summons a ship to pick them up and transplant them on another planet.

Unfortunately . . . the ship also has another package that turns out to be undead. The story then revolves around a growing vampire presence, and the tension between faith, religion, and need.

Thoughts: I won’t lie, I looked forward to this book. I wanted this book to be good because the premise, was my kind of premise. I love stories, where the author takes something normal and turns it askew. I mean, my first published novel is about killer trees. So when, I say that the book exceeded my expectations, then some of that could be my own placebo. But I found stuff wrong too, so I think that justifies what I found right.

What really shines in this story is actually the character conflicts; the vampire dynamic is just icing on the cake. Like any good story. You have some lesser conflicts; a developing romance between the captain (Seal) and the communications officer (Singer), complicated by Singer’s being a Christian, in a future setting where relationships are regulated by their government-company (not sure if they were separate or one and the same) and Christianity is seen as some, “Oh is that still around?” anomaly. To Seal this makes Singer akin to the Amish who of course look very weird to him.

Except she’s more attractive than they are. And I know this because the narrator tells me it. Several times. The story is written from the omniscient POV or at least semi-omniscient. Which is less popular, but it can be done, and it works. But the narrator should have some vocabulary. A voice all his own. And when the narrator is the one telling us how attractive each female character is, literally using the word attractive outside of dialogue, then he feels like a dude scoping out chicks, and also lazy. I would have preferred discerning from the details who was more or less attractive.

Back to the conflicts. Another is the loading supervisor who see the Amish as free-loaders, willing to let others go to hell for using technology or fighting wars, while they reap the benefits. Kind of made me think of Seven Samurai with the one samurai who used to be a country peasant.

But the conflict that really shines is Jebediah vs. the world and his own community. SPOILER!!! Using the beacon puts him in a state of sin before the community, which he is absolved of, but then ends up shunned because he stands against the leadership, who want to stay on the planet even though the sun appears to be dying—trusting God’s will. The community ends up going, but he remains shunned. Yet, of course, he thought he was saving the lives of everyone. So he didn’t want to not be Amish, didn’t want to use technology, but now he’s forced away from everyone else and surrounded by technology. But he wants to come back. Things only get worse, when Amish start getting vampirized, thus ‘proving’ that they should have stayed on the planet.

I read this in the present, where I am wrestling through the concept of community [yes, the series will continue, but it was suggested I talk to a particular brother/sister, and it’s proving hard to do]. And found it quite stirring in the subject. I firmly believe in the need to be willing to submit to leadership (so long as they are committed to faith in Yeshua and loving Him according to Torah), but I found myself immediately identifying with Jebediah, who was being shunned for not submitting to leadership. How does one navigate the waters, where they believe in submission (as Jebediah also did), but find their leadership is about to scuttle the ship? I’m still not sure, but I’m working on it, and I benefited by reading this story because it made me face the realness, of what some of my brothers and sisters are telling me: that ‘community’ may exact a steep price.

The setting is also quite creative, and real. I’m no expert in ‘hard’ sci-fi, probably because I’m not really a science major. I use science as many authors do, as a substitute for magic, to explain the abridgment of physical laws. Explaining, why I feel the need to not use ‘magic’ is a blog unto itself, but suffice to say the real problem is the substance, rather than the appearance—so even science can model the same sinfulness—but I strive in my narration to identify the real power as Elohim, not some spell or charm turned science. Why not just say ‘magic’ then, and let your narrator’s voice distinguish it as not the abhorrent thing? To that I ask, can you write a story about child molestation, but make the molestation ‘good’? “Yes, I know it says ‘child molestation’, but my narrator’s voice shows that its not the bad molestation, it’s the good . . . molestation.” See it doesn’t really work. In my opinion, when a believing author makes magic out to be ‘neutral’ they’re just revealing that they don’t understand it to be truly wrong. Which is understandable since the part of scripture that most clearly deals with the evil of magic, is the part that most Christians say is “done away with.”

But I was going to say that the setting feels real. There’s a log of ‘magic’ science in it, but there seems to be a logic behind it. Like at one point explaining that a screen and physically pressing controls was still the way of doing things rather than hand motions in the air, that lead to people smacking each other. Faster than light travel isn’t depicted as flying through a rainbow or a blinding meteor shower, but a monotonous gray fog. Not everything is glowy and shiny, but a lot of stuff is painted business like shades of blue and brown. It felt authentic, and this is a writer’s review so it was worth noting.

Unfortunately, the characterization was a little uneven. The characters were easily distinguishable from each other. No blending, not really stereotypes. Greels (the loading supervisor) was especially enjoyable, because I expected that he was going to go one way and become that sleezy, cowardly, weak-willed, type of antagonist—and he hits several of those notes—but instead turns out to have some redeeming qualities, even heroism when the chips are down.

But another main character, Seal, is a little bit flat. Probably a ‘good’ thing in that he makes Singer (who’s also a little flat) appear a little less flat. They’re not terrible, but they sometimes feel like their hitting their marks and don’t have a life of their own. For example, the ship is falling into the hands of vampires, the full extent of the threat is not known, but there’s enough going on that this storm front should have the captain’s full attention. But while dealing with that, he mentally segues into whether or not he might love Singer, and what to do about her religious weirdness. Are you kidding me?!?! You’re thinking about your relationship at a time like this? Or later, near the end, when the vampires have overrun the ship, and the Amish are refusing to fight because they believe in non-resistance even at the cost of their own lives, he ends up asking a group of unbelievers and obstinate religious believers to pray, but he himself has not had any ‘conversion’ experience.

Clarification on that last thought: I’m not saying there should have been some born-again scene. I’m perfectly fine with a fireworks-free ‘slide’ into faith. I don’t think you need to say a special prayer, but I would have liked to see some internal thought process, even if it was only a, “Well, maybe this prayer thing is worth a try.”

And there was a perfect opportunity [SPOILER!!!]. The Amish leaders have been increasingly condemning of Jebediah since it was his “saving” of the community that has turned most of them into ungodly vampires. And even he himself wonders if maybe he has lost his salvation. But Seal as captain has reason to believe the problem started with the other package that he picked up. And now part of the solution involves a pregnant woman who is only there because of Jebediah. Seal could see in that that his whole crew would be lost if not for this confluence of coincidence that lead a technology eschewing community onto his ship, where his people could be saved, along with the entire planet that the vampires are now targeting. That would have been a big prompt to why Seal should break out into a prayer marathon.

The Amish I actually found to be the strongest characters in the story. Who were dealt with both as being rigid, entrenched in their ordunung (order or sect), but also sincere. They’re not depicted as ignorant primitives, simply people who believe in somethings that aren’t entirely reason-able. And really, every sincere believer has to reach that place where they admit—no, I can’t prove my faith. I have some good reasons to believe what I do, but in the end, it is a choice, because I believe my faith offers the best answers to life.

Pace wise, the story is a page turner. You can stop early on, but the tension builds as things develop. Another thing I really liked was the way the vampires are dealt with. There is one scene where the first new vampire is ‘educating’ himself on his new powers and needs, that’s psychologically gruesome. Not really gory, but the whole scene didn’t seem necessary other than to show that he’s bad and gross. I don’t understand the appeal of going inside the villain’s development, unless its to show something relatable—as in the danger of what seduces someone to evil. Like seeing how David stumbled. But here, I didn’t feel like it moved the plot—other than providing exposition.

But what I did like were some of the creative vampire complications; such as vampire goats. And later mutations as the ‘infections’ take their course. It added tension because you thought you figured it all out, only to find that the good guys’ plans had become out of date.

Conclusion: I give it 4 out of 5 as a whole. There are some characterization weaknesses. But there are also some strengths. Coupled with a building pace, creativity in development, and authentic feel in setting, plus a few hints along the way, and by the end I was hoping for a sequel. And in lieu of a sequel, I just started reading the story again (being on vacation, I had that option).

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Outdated Reviews: First Men in the Moon

Facing a shelf of inherited classics that are falling apart, I decided to read them before deciding their face. These are their reviews . . .

“The First Men in the Moon” By H.G. Wells

I’m a Wells fan. I still contend that the best fiction opening I’ve ever read is War of the Worlds. That may be because his are about the first I ever read. But I stand by my evaluation. It’s simply beautiful word craft . . . “No one would have imagined at the close of the twentieth century that across the gulf of space. Intelligences greater than man’s, vast, cool, and unsympathetic regarded our Earth with envious eyes. . . ” Or something like that. I have to quote it from memory because my ‘friend’ Rebecca ‘borrowed’ it, to read and has yet to return it. =)

But this is not a review of War of the Worlds. First Men in the Moon must stand on its own. Wells reminds me again, why I like his style. I even tried (unconsciously) to emulate it, in my first stories, but now I’d say I’m more influenced by Stephen King. I don’t want to say that Wells’ style is unsuitable for modern audiences—if I did it would be a criticism of modern audiences lack of depth and attention span—but it can be harder to digest. It’s very . . . self-possessed. Very filtered. In contrast to the school which I frequent: ‘Don’t tell me the character ‘saw’ something, just show me what he saw, and I’ll know from the perspective that it is he, who saw it.’ We don’t want to see the narrator. We don’t want to be told a story, we want to be in the story!

I like both ways, Wells (as many were at that time) is a story teller. He’ll often break the ‘fourth wall’ and address the reader. “Imagine [he says to the reader] if you can, an immense hall . . . ” It’s boring and overly wordy according to modernly conditioned readers. But so are many classics, like Dracula, The Count of Monte Cristo, or Lord of the Rings. Broaden your tastes or skip this one.

So through that style, Wells tells an interesting and introspective story, about a failed business man who finds himself working with an absentminded scientist, to invent a substance, Cavorite, which blocks gravity (treated as a type of radiation) like how opaque glass can stop light and insulation can block heat. Hee hee. The science may be outdated, but what’s really funny is the series of terrible decisions made by the main characters. It’s almost as bad as Jurassic Park: The Lost World. They pack for a trip to the moon, but half the party (who has no scientific expertise) didn’t even think to bring anything to read for the flight. When they get to the moon, they are surprised to find life there. Plants growing on the surface, so they determine there must be air. How do they figure out if it’s enough to breathe? First they find out it’s oxygen by sticking a naked hand outside with a burning paper. Then they open a valve and depressurize their traveling sphere . . . not an airlock but the single-cabin-chamber. Finding they can bare it similarly to a high-altitude climb, they go aside dressed in regular clothes plus a blanket for the each of them.

They decide to go exploring immediately. You could forgive them for losing their space craft because of the rapidly growing foliage, but really, what kind of idiots would let themselves get out of sight of their oxygen/food/shelter supply? (It’s even more unforgivable when it happens the second time) Later, getting hungry and thirsty, they decide to try some local herbage . . . the characters don’t give us a good measure of time, so we might forgive them for eating out of desperation of starvation, but why did they go exploring on an empty stomach? Later, they meet humanoid beings on the moon, and the POV character, Bedford, becomes the embodiment of a self-centered, xenophobic stereotype and things quickly escalate to where—within minutes or hours of first meeting these intelligent beings, Bedford has already killed a dozen or two of them.

Now. I’ll grant Mr. Wells that many people are stupid, self-centered, and xenophobic/racist, whatever. But the utopian in Wells comes out (he was a socialist who believed in a benevolent dictatorship/aristocracy). Dislcaimer: I know now everything said or done in a story is not a depiction of what a writer thinks, but some things are. And I’d agree that in an imperfect world such an aristocracy is the only chance of an effective and good government. The libertarian view of let everyone, pretty much do what they want, and it will work out well holds little persuasion for me. But his solution, or what he hints at as a solution, is equally bad. Perhaps worse.

So, in another terribly decision, Cavor, the ‘brains’ of the enterprise, has been re-captured and is relaying his experience to Earth. He’s managed to convince the moon people that he is not an unthinking savage, despite his partner’s callous disregard of the lives of their fellow citizens. He then goes on to tell their supreme leader that he is the only one with the secret of making the cavorite . . . and that he comes from a homogenous species of beings that think the best thing in life is war. Yeah. That’s smart. No wonder this guy could choose such a reprobate for a partner to the moon. This lack of commonsense not only makes him a terrible candidate for earth’s ambassador, but like The Lost World degrades the author’s point.

Cavor’s stupidity draws attention to the obvious fact that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Does every human being actually relish war? I think even in the ‘uncivilized’ past, you’d find that farmers and country folk did not relish war. For the majority of history, you’d find that the people who liked war were people with no better employment. Gainfully employed people building things have little interest in leaving the product of their labor to go smash the product of someone else’s at the risk of their own lives.

Then what of the stupidity of the glorified, Grand Lunar (supreme leader of the moon)? He sits in judgment of the entire species based on one representative, who he admits to having trouble understanding?

But deeper this seems to reflect that Wells doesn’t understand the nature of the problem or solution of human society. For example, he identifies that the industrial/corporate world aims at turning people into machines. The better solution exemplified by moon people? Identify what you think each individual is best for (from birth!), then force them into that mold, including psychological conditioning so that they’ll want it whether they did naturally or not, and surgically altering/crippling them so that they are not fit for anything else. (And how exactly did they pick the Grand Lunar for his position . . . from birth?) And Wells through Cavor (or so I interpret it), thinks this is the better way!

Or another example? Someone is unemployed? Between tasks? Just drug them into sleep. Why would you want them awake if they weren’t working? What could a person possibly have to contribute to the world, if they aren’t doing something that you forced them into doing? Apparently the utopian mind sees no inherent value in a person just being a unique person. In fact, you could argue that the utopian sees the uniqueness as the problem. Which truly reveals the selfishness of its nature. Do we suppose anyone would want such a utopia if they were the ones crippled and predisposed to a life of work that they had no natural desire for? Of course not; they wish only that someone else had that lot and that they could profit from it.

But, there is some vivid description that makes the story bearable. Wells always paints a luscious landscape for me, however shallow the world’s imaging. In many places the story is carried solely by this trait (since the characters have not succeeded in recommending themselves). For example, he introduces the horror of a tentacled monster that the moon people fear, with such succinct description that we don’t much miss the fact that the monster never appears. I don’t have the text in front of me, but it was the impression I walked away with. I think from a literary standpoint that much of this is due to the brevity. The monster is mentioned with reverential fear, so we are just left with it’s unspeakable terror . . . we never get to see the monster’s zipper, so to speak.

In the end, while I much enjoy the style of Wells’ writing, I decided not to retain his work First Men in the Moon because of the odious utopian delusions, which could have been forgivable if only the characters weren’t shallow stupid creatures that compromised the credibility of all their backhanded criticisms of the society from which they came.

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Community: The Real and the Red Herrings

If Americans understood they were really many people’s, the current discord of the “nation” would not be surprising. But then what can the people of Elohim add to that? Are we closer to living together in unity? Sadly, we have more burned by community than actually looking for it. I was talking with such a pair of crispy sisters who had become discouraged. Conscious that in their hearts they had given up on community as a goal. Not just that it wouldn’t happen, but that the attempt or the prospect should be avoided.

The conversation started with, how do you make community work? So I asked if they had read my blog about mikvah: “How do you do Community: The Hoped For Gathering”. They hadn’t . . . after which I ended up having to explain in a mixed company why I thought the mikvah as practiced by the orthodox–nude with another person–was not only not a fringe idea (albeit neglected in the Messianic community) but might actually be part of the solution.

Ay-yai-yai! Oy vey!

But I digress. The essential part of the blog that I wanted to drag out was something that had kind of gotten buried in the writing of the original article, so I’ll state it better here. Yah-fearing men and women often fall in love with the idea of a community, but fail to fall in love with the actual people of the community. When someone doesn’t live up to one family’s or a clique of families’ private interpretation of kedushah (holiness or sanctification), they get ex-communicated/ex-fellowshipped. Would this happen so quickly or easily if it was their own son or daughter?

We have to love each other. We have to want to be with each other. Before community can work, we have to think of each other as actual family—not just theoretical, ethereal, spiritual family, but real family. Do you think it is an accident that the model of society or community in scripture is in fact, one family? That even those who are adopted in, cease to be separate, but become in all ways family? Where are the descendants of the ‘mixed-multitude’? Where are Ruth’s children called ‘adopted’ or ¼ Moabite? That salvation is about joining a family?

We have to adopt each other, before we can community. In these so-called communities, when it’s time for a family to leave, the conversation is framed: “I don’t want that influencing my family…”? We seem to think talk of ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ applies only to the point of conflict. Because real brothers and sisters never disagree . . .  We seem to confuse family and informal association.

That is why I think mikvah is important. Not just for the fun of skinny dipping. Ahahaha! Chill out ya’ll! I think it’s important because family sees family naked. Butts get wiped! Kiddos get bathed, and a time or many the kiddos probably see parents hopping in and out of the shower. I mean, come’on, YHVH’s design introduces people to the world by having them suck from a woman’s breasts. If that offends you, don’t blame me. In my version of creation, I just give babies nutrient rich pacifiers (that don’t resemble nipples) that grew on trees. Wait, that’s still too close. I know, babies will have solar panels for hair and just soak up the sun’s rays without any human contact.

I digress again, but hopefully you laughed. The point is family sees family as they really are, yet remains attached through all but the most egregious wrongdoing. [Yes, there is a line in the sand given to us in Acts 15: idolatry, fornication—which is a catchall for sexual sin, not a fancy way of saying premarital sex—and blood. Blood by the way is probably not, blood in meat, but violence. All big ticket items, not so-and-so said something mean and was insensitive or interpreted Revelation different than you.] That sense of familial loyalty and familiarity was what I was trying to draw out—the quickness to cling, not to sever. And the concept seemed to resonate with this family, and in fact several others who heard it. Maybe community wasn’t done for, because they could see too, the other families in the detonated-communities never seemed to really stick to each other. But I still sensed the word community was being regarded like a live-wire. What is community? I asked. What does the word make you think?

The example I was given was a guy who bought 800 acres, allowing others to live there, but the others would never own the property and have to abide by (as far as I can tell) an unaccounted for standard of kedushah, and the requirement to work . . . but what you created with the work would belong to the community (under the one guy’s leadership).

I said, Well, I like community, but what you described scares me. Thinking of community in scripture—taking the type of Isra’el—I can see that working together is necessary. So is submission to elders. Shared chukot (customs) or halacha (the way we walk) of a community is also necessary. But something seems to be missing . . . freedom and ownership.

A lot of flowery, Jeffersonian words could be used to build a theoretical case, but I’m lazy and would rather say, let’s look at scripture and then try to figure out how to do it, and why it might be that it works. Details aside, when YHVH brought the people into the land, he gave each family a piece of land. What does that tell you? They had just come out of Egypt/Mitsrayim where pretty much everything was owned by the Pharoah. If YHVH wanted resources to be directly under a central governing head, then why undo what the Isra’eli would already have been used to? For the matter, why did YHVH not give them a strong central ruler from the git-go?

The Torah makes distinction between YHVH’s preferred idea of a judge who essentially referees to make sure everyone is playing by Torah, and the tendency of fallen man to reject YHVH and set up an earthly king who will rule over the people. So this 800 acre idea, sounds good as a temporary arrangement of a land owner and tenants, but YHVH intended us each to have a place that was our own.

Some people will challenge the idea of ownership. Some will even argue that there is no word for ownership in Ebri (Hebrew). They have a point. Even the land of Isra’el, divided up between the families, is not considered to be absolutely owned. YHVH says, “ . . . the land is mine, for you are strangers and sojourners with me.” In that sense, correct, no one owns anything in an absolute sense. But the idea is also false. What does “own” mean? In English it has within it, the root, owe. As in what is owned is that which is owed. And lacking the divine deed does not mean we lack the owing. In fact, the passage in Vayikra 25, where YHVH says the land is His, is where He tells people they owe to return land to the inheritor at the Yovel year. I own something, because it is owed to me. My wife owns me, because by out covenant, I owe myself to her. If the idea of ownership was false, then you cannot have adultery because nothing is owed. You cannot have theft because nothing is owed to you. You cannot even honor your father and mother without acknowledging that it is owed. We can just make everyone happy and call it jurisdiction, but whatever.

But all this talk or yours and mine, doesn’t that sound so unchristian? I think a lot of people, Messianic people/Hebraic roots people/Completed Jewish people, take their idea of community out of the book of Acts; at least at first glance, but what they imagine is more like communism (great, it even sounds like community!). Don’t get me wrong. I won’t criticize what was done in Acts, and I won’t disregard it. Sharing and working together and abiding house to house, sounds all well and good. But . . .

Did Yeshua teach that? He told the talmidim, who were selected as Shelachim (sent ones/ emissaries), to go, trusting for provision; true. Or sometimes to share an extra coat with someone who had none. Etc. He even told a rich man to go and sell everything he had and join the ministry. But, did he tell Yosef of Aramithea (a rich man) to sell everything? Did salvation through t’shuva come to Zacheus after he sold everything, or after he restored what he had wrongly taken? Consider the case of Acts 2:

People went house to house, worshipping, yes? But someone still owned the houses legally, didn’t they?

“All things” were held in common, but when Ananias and Saphira had their property, it was theirs, was it not? Yes. When they sold it, didn’t Kefa/Peter say, the proceeds belonged to them? Yes. Even to hold back? Yes. The only problem was the deception.

What we see in this example seems to be a specific instance of this “things in common”. A start-up capital investment for lack of a better term. When Shaul/Paul goes to collect funds to send to the brothers in famine, he doesn’t take things does he? No. He tells them to decide “every man according as he has purposed . . .” to send, and he receives it. If things continued always in common, then you do not ask permission before reaching into the fridge.

And understand that we don’t see this all-things-in-common lifestyle practiced either before Acts (as a group), nor do we see it after. Lydia remains a business woman; she does not sell her house or her business and she is not asked to sell her house or business. Paul does not give away his tents; he sells them. What’s the key to understanding this abnormal situation in Acts? Chapter 2, verse 2, “…they were all with one accord . . . ” Verse 44-46, “…all that believed were together, and had all things in common . . . parted them to all men, as every man had need . . . they continued with one accord . . . ” Commonsense (there’s something that should be held in common =) tells us these words are limited. Did they move about as a group of 3000? Of course not, there would be sub-groups. You think a mikvah is hard to imagine with one attendant; imagine 3000! Clearly ‘together’ is another way of saying in agreement (like accord), rather than physically in constant personal space with each other. They parted to all men, clearly that doesn’t mean all men, but also women. And not just men and women, but clearly not unbelievers. The context tells us that these were people on the same bandwagon. As every man had need, that tells us it wasn’t a smorgasbord of pilfering each other’s houses; there was someone identifying needs, and distributing accordingly. And this is all wrapped up in the phrase: with one accord.

People will try to say, this is the ideal. We need to get to this. But there is a more obvious interpretation here. They all agreed this was the thing to do. If someone in the party was saying, “This is a bad idea. This guy over here is a freeloading hipster, who just showed up when the stuff was being handed out!” That would mean there was not accord. In fact, you might notice that was why Ananias and his wife ended up dead, because they pretended to agree when they did not.

What am I trying to say? That this way of life worked at that time because everyone agreed it was what was to be done. If people stopped agreeing would it still have worked? Would it be somehow wrong if they stopped agreeing? Or would it simply mean that when the agreement ended that it was time to move on to something different?

If you are in a community, in a moment in time, that together agrees to practice this, that’s great. More power to you! But that doesn’t mean that we should try to pretend or force such an agreement. If we have different ideas about how to proceed, and everyone has the same spirit of Elohim, the Ruach HaKodesh, that simply means that He is changing us from a large battalion of Heavenly fighting power, into an agile platoon size strike force.

If YHVH had meant for this to be the always-only way that the talmidim of Yeshua were to conduct themselves, then it is strange that none of the Epistles of the Brit Chadasha ever suggest it. Nor is it hinted at in the Torah. You’d think, since this idea is so foreign to the thinking of those times (and every time), that there would be whole epistles on this, but instead . . . you have one chapter, in one book, that itself never mentions it again, and we’re supposed to conclude this is the community ideal?

I think not.

To be continued . . .   

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Thoughts based loosely on a long time ago in a galaxy far far away

#1. J.J. Abrams . . .  Put down the Red Bull. Seriously, you cannot entertain a plot that requires patience or development! That is why the planet Vulcan is ten minutes away from Earth, and a girl who grew up as a scavenger is, without any training at all in the first movie, mind tricking like a pro, resisting mind-melds from the sith villain And then slapping him around like he’s never picked up a saber before!

 

#2.   I’ve got an alternative title for the movie: Pirates of the Carribean: A long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away. Am I the only one who was expecting Johnny Depp to show up at any minute? I remember there were funny parts in the original Star Wars trilogy; the droids were hilarious as I got older. But almost no one played any of the jokes straight. When old Han (by that I mean young Han) tried to bargain with Jabba the Hutt, it was funny but it was like real life humor. From the moment Han shows up in the new one he’s making a joke of himself, playing stupid when old Han would play suave. “There’s gotta be one of those thermal things. There’s always one of those thermal things”?!?!? Harrison Ford must have suggested killing his character off after he’d read the rest of the script.

 

#3. So . . .  Droid lands on a desert planet . . .  Carrying important information . . .  Get’s found by someone in grimy-white . . .  Who’s a pilot . . .  Turns out to be strong with the force . . .  Get’s Anakin Skywalker’s old light saber (somehow found from the bottom of the clouds of Cloud City) . . .  And then they have to stop a giant planet killer . . .  With moves involving blowing up a shield generator . . .  And flying down a trench . . .   Which Star Wars movie are we watching? Once you understand you’re watching a reboot of Episode 4, it makes sense that Han dies because he’s an old dude. All we needed was for his voice to come through and say, “Run, Rey. Run!”

 

#3.5 . . . And, yeah. Blow up a planet from a long long way away? And somehow the resistance knows who’s being targeted . . .  And I must have missed how they knew the resistance base location. But anyway, yeah blow up like three or four planets at once? It may sound pretty cool in theory, Disney, but in this case it felt like watching an episode of Dragon Ball Z after Freiza is dead, and you’re like . . . well how do we top that? Oh let’s just do the same thing with a bigger celestial body count. Did anyone put any thought into this movie’s originality at all? Besides having a black and a female lead character? Anyone?

 

#3.75. And did everyone forget that the empire was blown up? I knew something was wrong as soon as I read that Leia was desperate! Why is there still a resistance?!?!? How is it a resistance when there’s a senate again? How can there be a republic and a resistance working for it? Does the republic not have an army? The republic would have to be the resistance!!! WHAT IS GOING ON HERE!?!?!?!

 

#4. I now officially long for the prequels. Seriously, I miss George Lucas.

 

#5. So now all the people who told me this movie was so great . . . I’m guessing you saw a midnight showing. And stopped at a bar first. And it had been a long long time since you watched the originals. In fairness, Lucas did make it awfully hard to watch the originals, didn’t he?

 

#6. The badguy = biggest let down wuss, ever. No wonder he lost it in Luke’s academy. He’s probably a millennial, who wanted Luke to grade on a curve where 60% was an A-. Alisa points out that it was good he got his clocked clean because we’ve already had a Vader (and this guy is no Vader. This guy doesn’t deserve to do Vader’s laundry), so this guy should be something new. New. Like Anakin Skywalker in the prequels. But with angst. What we really need now is a love triangle with him competing for Rey’s affection against Finn. For a real surprise, how about they all turn to the dark side?

 

#7. Thank you, Disney, for meeting my expectations. Ever since I saw that D that looks like a G on the toe of some guy dressed as a monk coming out of a French fashion show, I knew I could count on you. I had my doubts when I saw the trailers. Those directors made it look like a movie that I wanted to see. One that recaptured the magic lost in the nineties. But you didn’t let me down. I knew anyone who could make Cars 2 and Finding Dory before a sequel to The Incredibles could take a special place in my memory and make it smell like the garbage disposal from episode 4.

 

#8. I need to go watch some Star Wars movies, now. The ones with Luke and Han and Leia in them. I just reminisced the scene with Luke on Tattoine (not the look-a-like Jakko or whatever they called it), looking at the twin suns with epic music in a long shot that made you think and feel. A shot that would be unbearably long for J.J. Abrams. Seriously, he’d get bored. In his version Luke has to fight something and blow something up before he could check on the droids. And he’d probably use force lighting in the process. Then Obi-Wan and him could play a drinking game instead of wasting time on those boring saber drills.

 

#9. Seriously that was almost as bad as Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

 

#9.5. Ok . . . it was probably much better that KCS. There were some good parts. Basically before any of the original trilogy characters showed up. I actually did like Finn and Rey and Po, I just wish they’d been in a different movie that didn’t involve the defilement of Han and Leia, a wuss-version of Vader, and a rerun plot based on large quantities of white sugar.  

 

#10. How about Christopher Nolan directs the next one? And can someone please make sure that Johnny Depp is not already cast for a lead role?

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The Tragedy of the Gorilla vs. the Tragedy of Human Insanity

This gorilla tragedy is just another example of the complete insanity that is modern ‘thought.’ Or as the Bible talks about it, the corruption of the mind.
Sad that the gorilla was killed? Yes. I’m also sad when I run over a squirrel on accident. For that matter, I also say a special prayer of thanks when I eat meat, because I know my meal came from the life of an animal. I generally avoid the combination of meat and dairy out of consideration for this.
In both of those cases, I would not hesitate for a moment to squish the squirrel rather than endanger myself or someone else on the road. Or for that matter, damaging the large investment of the vehicle. (Though if I can safely avoid, I will. Which I usually do). And after my special prayer, I eat the animal flesh which, just like the gorilla, were not doing anything but minding their own business.
In fact, to emotionally swayed masses I would say the chickens are more tragic because the gorilla’s life plan was doing whatever he wanted until he died of natural causes. Your chicken sticks were bred to grow so fast that they got sick, but were ‘mercifully’ killed when they were too heavy to support their own bulk, but before they died from other complications. They were then butchered, diluted with other ingredients of variable ethical and nutritious nature before they were unceremoniously consumed, with your child not even knowing where they came from. And then some of them went to waste along with the rest of the 43 million tons of food that America throws out every year.
Give me a break.
Then some people have the mental rot to suggest that perhaps we should have let the child die rather than the gorilla? Or try a hail-mary pass tranquilizer, on the slim chance that the 400-lb gorilla might not do anything dangerous in the minutes before he goes out (hopefully not landing on the four year old boy).
Maybe some of the more reasonable see that the obvious, only right choice, was to save the boy regardless of the cost to the animal because of the God-given premise that a human life is more important than an animals. That the Elohim of the Bible, while commanding kindness, did give us the animals to use including ending their lives. Why could we kill for food, but not to save a life?
Some of these higher-level thinkers though, now search for someone to blame for the tragedy. Now. I haven’t been there, so I can’t say whether the gorilla enclosure was too lax. And I can’t say whether the parents were watching youtube videos on their smart phones rather than watching their children. And even if I thought one of the parties could have done better . . . I’d remember that millions have gone through that areas without anything like this. This doesn’t happen every day. It’s what you call a ‘freak’ accident.
In comparison . . . perspective is delicious isn’t it? How many children are run over by cars every day? I don’t hear anyone proposing that every sidewalk needs at least a ten foot fence around it. Maybe we can get some politician to take a look at that.
How many children drown in pools, so why don’t we turn them all into kiddie pools?
Kids get injured in government sponsored sports, so maybe we should have all the football players where those big sumo suits?
That last one isn’t a bad idea, because I think football as it’s played is stupid. Really? I’m supposed to run into this big guy as hard as I can? Oh sure, if we actually taught self-control, and trying to play hard with the restraint not to hurt each other that would be one thing. But instead we glorify the damage!
The point is. #$&% happens. You cannot stop everything. And there’s an opportunity cost to trying. You can add layer after layer of protection, and the cost will go up and people will still get injured. Just in different ways. In this case, everyone should take consideration for their own actions that lead to this. Was there something they missed? Or did something just happen? And remember not every risk is worth eliminating, unless you want to give up your car, pool, execute all criminals, grow all your own food, and do without electricity . . . of course then you’ll face the danger of not being able to get help in a hurry, cool off in dangerously hot weather, have mercy for lesser criminals, or do all the wonderful helpful things electricity enables.
Long story short. The gorilla is dead. Have some sorrow, then move on. Stop trying to charge people with stupid stuff.
And certainly we do not need a law named after the dead animal.
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‘Mean what you say and say what you mean,’ may be the most under utilized piece of advice

A while back, I was having an argument with someone close to me. No, not my wife. Of course, not her. It had to be someone else . . .

So, I suddenly had this thought . . . I keep saying this thing (I can’t remember what it was), and then she keeps saying another thing (because I’m a guy, I definitely don’t remember what that was). And I thought, “It’s like no matter how many times I say ___, she never seems to absorb it. She always comes back with something that’s not related.”

Now, the obvious criticism on myself is, “Did you actually listen to what she said?” It’s hard to argue that I did, since I just admitted to not remembering what it is she said.

But in my defense, I also can’t remember what I said, so was I not listening to myself either?

Don’t give some elvish-riddle as an answer.

But let’s side step that. It occurred to me, as I thought about this empasse, that what I was saying, wasn’t actually what I wanted to communicate. There was something I wanted to communicate–in a crude fashion (not vulgar, I mean rough, unfinished)–but I believed it was unacceptable. So what I ended up doing was finding a polite lie to say instead. Now, I’m not about to go all Trump on the world and just start lashing out with whatever garbage is in my soul and call it, “Telling it like it is.” But sometimes I say something that I don’t really mean, because I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, but then I get mad because they don’t get the message!

About this time, I read a part of B’resheit (Genesis), where Ya’akov (Jacob) is hearing about Yosef’s dreams. The scriptures say, Ya’akov reproves Yosef as if Ya’akov is disregarding the dreams as childish foolishness, but then says he guarded the sayings in his heart. Why would you do that if you were disregarding? And why, for a younger son who was prophecied to be greater than his older brother, who was the grandson of a younger son who was prophecied to be greater than his older brother . . . why would that person find offensive the idea that the youngest son of his beloved would rule over the older sons from a less beloved wife?

I think some commentaries make a good suggestion, that Ya’akov did believe the dreams, but didn’t want to offend the other brothers. But in fact, what follows is that the brothers get more angry. Before that, we had another situation (with Dinah), where the brothers also say something they don’t mean (terms for getting Dinah) that they never intended to keep–I think the terms were designed to be too high, hoping Shekhem would release Dinah rather than pay. And what happened? Turns out, Shekhem would pay and so they end up ‘having’ to kill them instead to prevent an assimilation that they should never have agreed to.

So taking this altogether, I begin to think that not saying what we actually mean . . . actually causes the situation to escalate. That seems to be true in my life. Does it seem so, in yours? You stand there and ask why, does this person keep doing this, when they know how much it ticks me off! But the fact is, you’ve never truly told them how/why it ticks you off!

But again, is the answer just to verbally vomit on them? That can’t be true. Because that is also not saying what you mean. Do I mean to degrade this person? To exaggerate their wrong? To compare them to animals and disregard every good thing we’ve ever shared? No.

The only answer that I can think of is to be . . . slow to speak. I know, how boring. But we have to stop, and ask, What is this person saying, and what do I actually believe about that. When offended, rather than saying, “Don’t worry about it.” Out of reflex, I have to stop and say, “Actually . . . that makes me feel like you just don’t care about what I think. What I’m hearing you say is that you just don’t care how much work it takes to build a retaining wall?”

And if I said that, what they might then say, if I spoke in love instead of verbal vomit, “Maybe, I didn’t really think about how much work it took. I was just thinking, how much more work you’ll have to do because that wall is too high. You won’t be able to finish the project in the time either of us agreed to.”

Of course, that’s if everyone can calm down. But you get my point. If instead, I just get mad, then the real issue will probably never be addressed. Which means for all that blustering and arguing, the foundation of the argument was never discovered. Thus, the argument will be built again.

I think this also applies to national debates. People on the radio talk about the bathroom gender thing. And the argument usually sounds something like this. “I understand there are people who can’t tell if they’re a boy or girl, but I’m concerned about straight-guys who are perverts. So it’s a safety thing, not to have boys showering with girls.” The gay marriage argument is pretty similar. “I don’t have a problem with whatever they do in private, but they shouldn’t be able to call it marriage legally.”

Those seem like stupid arguments to me. Actually bigoted, because they’re proposing punishing someone for something they say isn’t a problem, and usually because of some other hypothetical problem. A lot like the argument that people shouldn’t have guns because someone else might abuse them. But if we were talking, directly, then we could say, “No, I believe there’s a problem with the initial behavior. I believe it is the sign of someone in the process of self-destruction. When I hear about medical disorders, where someone doesn’t see their own arm as part of their body and wants to cut it off. I don’t hand him a saw; I say we get him some help. Not knowing what gender you are, or that you are made for the opposite gender, is a sign of serious, deep-rooted confusion. It does not need to be enabled or dressed up; it needs to be addressed and us try together to pull them back from it.”

Of course, that argument would fall on deaf ears, unless both parties have possession of the truth. I mean, we have a large portion of society who thinks that relations that have not produced one-single human life, are the same as relations that are responsible for 8 billion human lives. Which is why, I would rarely make it, but if it must come up (say for voting), then we need to be able to say what we actually mean instead of abandoning the actual bedrock truth in favor of an argument that is disingenuous.

But I digress. And I understand there is a place for simply not making an argument at all, personal or nationally. I think that’s probably most of the case in America and in our personal relations, because the other person is probably not answering from the same place of truth. But in our personal lives between those of close relations, people we actually know, I think maybe we just need some more directness.

Strike that. I do think we need more directness. Say what you mean (instead of some convenient cliché), and mean what you say (stand behind what you’ve said).

Posted in faith, Family life, Politics | Comments Off on ‘Mean what you say and say what you mean,’ may be the most under utilized piece of advice

For All the Boring Guys, Out There!

Update: I’m way behind on my blogging, due to lots to do! I left my position at the unnamed giant retailer that I’ve been working at since the close of the Happy Turtle. I’m now once again, working for myself as a sole-proprietor in the form of a private contractor. However, being paid much better than previously, and with the hard to quantify value of being able to work pretty much as I want. Not unobligated, you understand, but no uniform, no pretending people are right when they are wrong, that sort of thing.

Bloggery: But I’ve been wanting to post. I’ve had several ideas. Some include continuing to open cans of worms of doctrine, but I’m kind of seeing the wisdom in why even the clearest revelation of Elohim (the Mashiach) chose to hide doctrine in parables. I’ve thought of political posts, but … blech.

But during the process of this new business venture, my woman and I decided to get a vehicle, requiring a car loan. Now, I’m anti-debt in the sense that I think debt represents the symptom of generational mismanagement. I include myself in that. With a more clear thought process and vision, I could have been a land lord by now. But it’s not a sin to take on debt, especially in a country that operates contrary to Torah anyway. Debt would not be nearly so tempting if the Yovel year was kept for example.

We did decide that any debt taken on must be payable within a schmita cycle so that the lender is not left incriminated for not forgiving our debt.

So we sit down to take out this loan, and frankly, we’ve over drafted our accounts with an embarrassing frequency, mainly due to our previous business venture. Needless to say, I was joyfully astonished to find that our rating was north of 800. I felt quite good, despite how much I listen to Dave Ramsey (who I respect).

And it got me thinking. Forgive me if I brag. But, I didn’t have good credit because of a moments decision or because I scored really well on some intellectual test. I have a great credit score because I’ve lived a boring life. I’ve never had a smart phone (though that may change). I’ve never bought a TV on credit. In fact, other than a car paid off nine years ago, and credit used in the course of business, I haven’t done much of that.

The point is that I did nothing exceptional. I simply had a habit of making those boring, adult decisions in terms of finances. So it occurred to me, that here I was benefitting because I’ve been boring.

Lately, I’ve become increasingly enamored with the idea of building an estate, and leaving inheritances, etc. Listening to Dave Ramsey, watching Downton Abbey, and restoring a farm haven’t hurt that. For example, the other day I looked at getting a tractor repaired. This tractor, used, goes for $5,000. It is 60 years old. Think about that, a piece of equipment that has been used consistently and still runs 60 years after it came off the line. And we’re lucky if a car makes it 5????

The other day, I heard about how some college students are leaving college with 120,000 in loans. And I thought . . . 50,000 would get you maybe 50 acres of land. You could built a decent economical, efficiency house for 20,000 maybe. Buy a tractor for 30,000. Clear any trees (you can sell those or use them for construction or heating for a good many years), make back some extra cash. Buy a butt load of farm implements (little stuff) say another 10,000. We’re at 110,000. Get a good farm truck for delivering. There you go. You’ve now got direct income potential immediately and all of that invested is directly secured by physical collateral rather than unsecured debt.

That was just an example to say, we’re throwing money at institutions so that they can train our children how to work for someone else–and they’ll need to because of the debt. Instead of using that same money to create the ability to build more wealth independently.

I may right a book to more elaborately explain this, but essentially it comes down to something I heard years ago:

  • The poor see money for spending. That’s not a criticism, because when you have little, it has to go directly to living. But you need to be looking, mentally, to graduating to the next worldview.
  • The middle class see money for saving. That sound’s like a good idea. And it is, that means you are not simply spending because you can, you are saving for future expenses. You are looking to the future, but even that needs to be graduated beyond.
  • The rich see money for investing. How is in investing better than saving? Saving retains the surplus that you already had. It means keeping things from getting worse. Investing means making the money make more money. But, we think that investing means buying stocks and making money off of other people’s efforts. The truth is that investing is simply growing your capacity to create new wealth.

For example, I got a tax return this year, and I planned to get solar power, to cut my energy costs. But a friend told me, “At some point you cannot cut your way to wealth, you have to increase your earning.” So instead, we turned to infrastructure upgrades that would allow us to make more, like the purchase of the vehicle. Pasture fencing. A grain mill.

I’ve gotten off subject, cause it looks like I’m talking down education. I’m not. It’s great if you have a specialized purpose for knowledge that you can’t easily attain. But I do believe that most people need a better basic training at home in the form of estate vision than they do college education. I mean if you build a company and hand it down successfully to your children, you should have trained them it. That means they have the real world knowledge to run a company and they have the company and the experience, what the crap would they need the degree for? And if people viewed their family wealth like a companies wealth (net worth and each family member as a shareholder) then they could create internally growing wealth, and each generation should be able to grow without “needing” to get a mortgage worth of education to learn what frankly they could have been learning all their lives.

And they wouldn’t need to go to the bank for a vehicle loan, they would go to the family. Or maybe the congregational body.

But the main point is that all this requires is those boring choices. The simply saying save instead of spend. Buying things that make money or improve the family infrastructure more than entertain it. Buy a chain saw, not a new cell phone every year. Start paying yourself a car payment so the car gets paid for and you get the interest instead of the bank. Encourage the generations to live together so they grow in assets instead of debt.

Little boring decisions. Be the boring guy. Does that mean you won’t be as cool?

It depends when you ask the question.

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Review: “Lina’s Holy Struggle” by Gary Riner

The following is an expanded review of Gary Riner’s Lina’s Holy Struggle (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/545477), an ebook available on Smashwords.com. A condensed version can also be found on Smashwords. My intent in the expanded edition is to help writers (myself and Gary Riner included) develop their craft. This review contains mild spoilers.

***

The book is a story in a planned series of stories about young godly women. The main character is a sixteen-year old Iranian girl, who is a follower of Yeshua (a Christian). And normally when I say, ‘Yeshua’, and I am mentally substituting the Hebrew name for “Jesus”, because that’s how I speak. But in this case, the girl actually uses the name Yeshua. Which helps develop the tone that this is not about a western Christian girl in an exotic setting, but actually about a middle-eastern disciple in her native setting. Gary does a wonderful job throughout the story of weaving in cultural details, such that many readers will find their horizons expanded.

And even though the villains in this story are Islamists, Gary does not make all Islamists out to be villainous. The title character clearly reflects a viewpoint of trust in the truth of scripture, that Yeshua is Mashiach, and Mashiach is the way of salvation. Yet many of the Muslim characters are presented as kind, wanting to do right as they believe it, and to have compassion. 

Another thing the story does really well is to portray the plight of someone (especially a woman) who converts to trust in Mashiach in a fundamentalist Islamic culture such as Iran. Gary does this fairly . . . realistically. Early on, a Christian character is tortured for their faith, while others are tortured and killed elsewhere. Gary does a good job not softening things for the readers. And that’s a hard thing to do, but how do you tell a story about the trial of holding to the faith, without communicating how real is the struggle? Would Yeshua’s sacrifice have meant so much to us, if had lived perfectly on a deserted island and died peacefully, or too suddenly to make a choice? Isn’t the magnificence of His perfection, that He was tempted? That He saw His gruesome death coming, and chose it anyway?

Gary’s story askes us just what we would endure and still hold true to our faith. Now, I do think he pulled a few punches. A few times he left out details that would have been difficult to read, but would have made it a little more true. But, I think every believing artist has to find a balance between what is necessarily graphic or distasteful, and what is unnecessarily graphic. I mean even the Bible uses euphemisms for horrible things in some cases, and goes into scandalous detail in others.

Overall, the story is pretty good. Diverse in activity, surprising at times, stirring, even (one particular scene had me near tears). But it’s not without its flaws. What comes first to mind was inconsistency. It seems it needed another scrub. Formatting stuff: numbers that would normally have been written out were left as numbers, strange uses of quotation marks, underlining, etc. Violating convention is fine, but it’s like driving on the right side of the road. Would it work if you drove on the left side? But in the wrong country, you’ll probably get some funny looks, wild gestures, and flashing lights. Don’t break convention unless you have a good reason. This felt like the writer just didn’t know it was a convention.  

Another inconsistency is the rotating of character titles. One person can be Jane and also the banker, Mom, Sis, the short brunette, all in the same story. But whichever title you use in a particular place, that title should have meaning beyond simply variety of word choice. For example, if I wanted to have some variety, and I had a scene where Jane was trying to turn on a light by pulling a string hanging from the ceiling, I might say, “The short brunette tried and tried, but that string waved just out of reach, silently saying ‘Neener, neener, neener.’” The title choice is relevant and descriptive. You wouldn’t have Jane nuking a burrito in the microwave in a home-life developing scene, and write, “The banker watched the burrito swell as if it would explode.” Her being a banker is irrelevant. So I think Gary could have done better in many cases (especially when referring to God), simply by referring to the characters by name or simply by pronoun when it was clear.

Besides uneven formatting and presentation choices, the main character comes off uneven. There’s a moral dilemma early on, the solution to which, left me aghast. But honestly, that was because I was expecting something more Hollywood. So kudos to Gary for not going that route. That’s one of his strengths. From that choice, Lina goes down a morally offensive path toward ‘redemption’; it’s Lina’s Holy Struggle, after all. But along her struggle, she is eventually hit by a bus—spiritually speaking. Afterwards she becomes a completely different person.

Now the event is of such magnitude that one would expect changes, but it felt like at that point that she became a full-time evangelist. Fine, great! But the annoying kind. The one who turns a conversation about pancakes into, whether you’ll go to hell if you choke on said pancake. Far be it from me to discourage anyone from sharing the Glad Tidings, but there’s a reason those people are annoying. It annoys me, I think, because for one its conversational hijacking. But also because the hijacking says the pancake itself has no value. Normal life events have no value. It devalues the very life of a person. Why would I listen to you if you’ve just told me the normal joys of my life have no meaning? Beyond being a turn-off, it doesn’t even make sense because we know it is God’s goodness that leads men to repentance. Rather than lowering the pancake, we should be elevating it. Ignoring basic goodness in life, makes it seem like the only moments that count are those that are printed with scripture and explicit gospel priming. Didn’t Yeshua point to birds to make a point? That would only work if you paid attention to the birds. What did YHVH say to Job when He made His appeareance? Did He say, “What if you choked on a pancake…?” No, He pointed to creation again and again and again. Why? The presumption is that life itself teaches us truth. The pancake’s innate buttery, fluffy goodness is innately telling us something; you either have ears to hear or you don’t.

So the main character becomes this kind of person. Of course, those people exist. I’d even daresay that most of the best believers probably are tempted by that pattern of behavior. I mean, if you grasp the fullness of what it is to be in a loving relationship with the Elohim of elohim, the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth–from an intellectual standpoint–everything else seems like a distraction. So it’s perfectly, possible and realistic that, after such a traumatic event, Lina would become like this.  

Then what are the grounds for criticism? I think the problem is that Gary doesn’t show us the inside that justifies this shift. Early in the story Lina makes a decision that I found reprehensible, but the display of her inner workings made me see that it was hard to imagine how she might have avoided that decision. I understood—however I might have disagreed. In the later case, I saw a vacuum of normal reaction. As if Lina was actually some kind of impossible, robotic believer. Why did she not react to being nearly killed? Someone is trying to help her, and she just brushes aside their best efforts and condemns them for not being a believer, why doesn’t she see how unreasonable she’s being? Why don’t any of her believing friends say, “Hey, girl, you’re being a jerk.”  

I think that was where the story had the most potential to be improved, by letting Lina mature and become a powerful saintly figure, but while maintaining her humanity. Or else showing us that she was immature, but it was coming out of an honest internal process. 

One related area. Lina’s later shift, I inferred to be Gary focusing on delivering a specific message, rather than allowing the characters freedom to tell that message through who they were. So, being focused on the message, Gary passes up avenues for better story telling (IMO). For example, there was a scene where Lina goes to a pool. Now being an Iranian girl growing up with strict modesty standards, she’s had quite a culture shock moving to Isra’el which is mostly secular and therefore not concerned with modesty. So being at this pool, wearing something she never would have in the past, surrounded by others even more “scantily” attired, that could have had an influence. Someone might have seen her discomfort. Showing some scarring from a recent event, could have given her more difficulty. Thinking about a recent near death could have been a factor. Point being, lots of things could move the story on a personal level. Some of these are mentioned in passing, but the whole scene lasts a paragraph or two and concludes with Lina again talking about Yeshua to some people (who we only meet by summary). When I read that I concluded: that scene only existed so we could see that doors are opening for her to share. And because of that sense of the scene’s singular purpose, it felt like empty calories.

The “magic” of a story comes in hiding the structure. Why? Probably because living our lives, our own stories don’t seem to have structure. It’s like a magician’s tricks don’t work unless, he can distract you with the show. So how could Gary have worked this better? Stories have structure. In fact I would say, my poorest writing is when I’m just wandering without structure; failing to ask myself, “What does this scene have to do with the story?” Focus on the “reason” for each scene helps cut out a bunch of superfluous wordery. But once the reason for a scene is identified, then you have to add in the ‘superfluous’ details: the magician’s distractions. You fog it up. Hiding what the reason for the scene was, so the astute reader will afterward think . . . “Oh, that happened because of . . . ”  And that realization may never reach the conscious level; Kudos if it doesn’t! The reader shouldn’t know why something worked, they should simply sense that it does.

A great example is watching Castle or The Flash and watch the way the show explains things. A character will begin to say something, but then a question will come up. In the worst cases, the question is so obvious no thinking person would ever ask it. But then another person will dramatically enter the conversation to supply the answer. This ‘works’ because it makes the dialogue become a conversation with flare instead of a monologue. Usually, the person who supplies the answer will also begin to answer from off camera. As if they just rolled up, figured out the conversation, anticipated the question, and supplied the answer before there could be real-life dullness. It keeps the story moving, makes it kinetic. The only problem is when (like in Castle) you do it multiple times in every episode, usually with the same characters. Once you see the technique it just becomes annoying.

“Really? You couldn’t have explained that all where you were? How is it that you always begin your complicated explanation away from the computer screen with all the answers? What? Did they find you in the break room and started to ask you there instead of beginning the conversation at your work station?”

In a later blog, I intend to lampoon the abuse of these techniques, but when used right, these add those ‘distractions’ that hide the seams. And they aren’t just distractions. They are life. If you think of your life in terms of a list of items, actions, etc. It becomes boring, very very very boring. “What did I do today? Well . . . I got up. And I had breakfast. I went to work. Then went to the gym. Came home. Ate again. Melted my brain with The Voice and went to bed.” I got bored just writing that. It seems like nothing happened at all. But that ignores all the bounty of the life YHVH has given us. The way those pancakes tasted. That crisp breeze that slapped your face and antagonized you until you got in your car, feeling the cold of the seat grab you through your clothes. The funny dance you did to stay warm while the car defrosted.

Good writing needs to include those little details, because it is the little details that fill out the story and make a scene that was only ‘there for a reason’ into a scene with a reason in it. And in the best cases, this shouldn’t just be details hiding a reason, it should be two or three reasons. In the scenes where it works, characters are doing things, interacting with others, and giving exposition all at the same time. If Lina needs to be seen sharing, that’s great. Send her to the pool, but have her do something else in the same trip.

Conclusion: The premise is interesting; timely and relevant might be better descriptors. Gary writes a story that has a lot of pull, but suffers from rough patches in formatting, and more so a message getting in the way of the story. Again, the message is not the problem, but the delivery gets in the way of the story, making both feel artificial and unrelated. But that problem doesn’t really surface until the last third or so, and even then Gary shows some good scenes and ironic twists. 

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