How do you run an efficient house?

Over the last year, our family has been moving in what I can only describe as an efficient household. At first, it came out of financial limitations, but after awhile it sort of becomes . . . hobbish?

For example. I hate mowing the grass. It’s not the work. It’s that I have other things I want to do, like writing, which theoretically could bring in fresh income. So I started thinking of ways to get away from it. So we started planning for goats, because instead of buying gas to mow the lawn we would be feeding goats which we would then eat. Yummy lawn mowers.

Then my wife tells me not to expect that goats will do all of the mowing. She still wants an area of lawn that is foot friendly without that soothing squish of goat fecal matter. Back to square one. Then, I find out you can make paper from grass. Some of my family and friends for sukkot received a green card (the color of the paper, not an immigration document) that was made from grass. Apparently, people will pay for homemade paper, so in theory, next year people will be paying me to mow my own yard.

Then it turns out, in the paper making process, you incidentally make strong liquid fertilizer. Hmm, can I sell that too? It remains to be seen. But a lesson has come out of this, that everything we do seems to generate not “waste” but a resource that with a little ingenuity can become an asset.

Another train of thought came about when we realized pretty much any food that comes in a box has something we don’t really want to eat. Plus there’s the box itself which then goes into the trash. But wait! The box can be recycled. The metal even recycled for money. Plastic, glass, and paper for “free”, but metal is money. Not only that but things like appliances can be reduced into their components that are again recyclable. So why am I paying for trash? I found out that whatever I couldn’t or wouldn’t recycle (say a dirty diaper), I can take directly to the landfill at 90 pounds a month for what I pay to have trash hauled off . . . from cans that are less than 1/5 full.

So it really seems, that my house (probably most houses) run really inefficiently. Nothing wrong with paying for luxuries and convenience, but most people don’t seem to even know how much and where they are paying. A little thought and family coordination can make resources like money stretch further, but in fact, turn expenses into incomes.

But it does seem to tempt toward a never ending black hole of efficiency, but it’s kind of fun too.

  • I was thinking of keeping inventories of household items for each room so I can easily see what’s supposed to be there, and easily make shopping lists.
  • Organize tool areas, with screws and stuff in clearly marked containers instead of mingled buckets.
  • I’m already converting trash cans to be divided between metals of different recyclable values.
  • I recently found a mill that discards “slab” lumber that’s perfectly usable, that I think if I repair a band saw downstairs, I can turn into furniture for selling, or use whole for raised bed gardens, or certainly firewood.

So, I may be crazy, but I think there’s other people having thoughts like this, and I’m curious about what ideas/practices/thoughts others are having?

 

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I think the one of the greatest gifts God gave us, is a reason to love ourselves

Hold onto your rolling eyeballs.

You ever stop to think why the news runs on blood and embarrassment? Why the tabloids are all about someone’s fat but or whose cheating who? Which divorce is the biggest blow up? Why do some people feel so much pressure to catch eyes whether with outrageous behavior, tattoos, increasingly large gauge earrings? (Don’t get upset, I’m not necessarily against any of those things, but I’m saying, they seem to be about catching attention. I mean its fairly obvious.)

Is it a leap that people don’t really think too much of themselves? Oh, sure, lip service gets paid to this self-esteem problem, and we’re constantly told while people are committed atrocities against each other, what a glorious thing humanity is. But why would we have to keep putting on a new coat of paint if the old one was so great? Why do have to so many people being paid (teachers, psychologists, politicians to their constituents, hollywood) to tell people their so great, if everyone already believed it?

The saddest part about it, is that the world has had so little success in combating this. Of course, it should be no surprise. The main religion of the civilized world says you are just a cosmic accident. In fact, for many of us, there are large swaths of the world that says we shouldn’t even have existed. Our lives aren’t worth the widening of humanities carbon footprint. And that seems to be the message it says, over and over.

While one part of the mouth says, “You’re so wonderful . . . for an accident.” The other part says, no one can be expected to live their whole life with you because you’re not worth that much. If you’re a child, then you’re not really worth too much of your parents time, so we have to plan where we can fit you into our comfortable lives, and of course, who will take care of you for most of your years? And as much as we love you, it’s not enough to stay with the man/woman who helped us bring you into the world, because, well he/she wasn’t worth it either.

Then we have our magazines telling us all that’s wrong with the way we look and how we can measure up. Our educators saying we’re so great, but we’re wasting ourselves if we don’t utilize our potential as they calculate it.

It just seems there’s so much of the world telling us the opposite of what it preaches. That we’re really not worth it. No wonder then that skulls are part of our clothing, we drink venom, we paint our faces, and all our stories are really about finding some meaning in our existence.

It makes me think how important it must have been for God to put in the very first chapter of His book that we were created to be in His Image. A doctrine which, illustratingly, the world rejects. It can’t believe that these “great” people came from a loving creator instead of a freak accident with apes.

To think, God created you to be like Him. For the finite to share qualities of the infinite. To be meant for a destiny that, like its author, is great.

It seems to me, the only way we will ever learn to make any good out of this “love thy neighbor” business, is if we learn the second bit about “as yourself.” And I don’t know how we get there without believing God’s truth that we really are something special. Not that somehow undermines our need for redemption. On the contrary, only if we are great is our loss so profound. And only if our loss is profound is the need for redemption also so.

 

 

 

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A Sukkot Message

[Thoughts from a Message I gave at Sukkot]

Lev 23:33-44

As we’ve been seeing, all the feasts have to do with time of the Exodus. The pattern and meaning deepen for those of us who have also come to Messiah; if there was time, I think I could show that we each go through all of the feasts as individuals as we experience the covenant of God, and also I think the entire people of YHVH experience this pattern corporately, and as individual communities. The same cycles repeat until they come to fullness. 

Pesach we are told commemorates how YHVH delivered us from Egypt and from death by the Blood of the Lamb, redeeming us out Egypt which symbolized the world. We are told at that season that we, as part of Israel became a people.

Matzah (Unleavened Bread) happened literally right after Pesach, and commemorates how we left the world (Egypt) in haste, rejecting the leaven of the world in favor of a journey with YHVH.

Shavuot appears to commemorate when we came to Mount Sinai; there our people became a nation, by receiving a shared covenant and a shared Torah.

Yom Teruah (the day of the Blast) tells us of how that nation, having received the covenant and the Torah, then were able to meet with God, who descended the mountain in fire, to the sound of a louder and louder shofar. So great was God’s presence that when the people saw the thunderings (Exo 20:18), and saw the lightnings, and saw the sound of the trumpet, that we became so frightened that we didn’t want to talk with God directly, but through a mediator.

Yom Kippur then tells us of how, we had placed too much faith in a man in that specific time it was Moses, and because we had not wanted to speak with God directly that now we felt we needed to ‘make us gods’. We sinned. Some of us as individuals, but at the time we also remembered that we are one people and that we are each connected to the sin of our neighbors. Thus we must seek atonement, first on our behalf, but also the guiltless for the guilty, as Yeshua taught us.

So now we come to the seven days of Sukkot (Tabernacles or Booths). In a sense, Sukkot actually has to do with the entire time of the Exodus; it’s kind of like a recap, because when did God make our people to dwell in booths? Ever since we left Egypt. We left from houses living in the world (Egypt) to living in tents in the wilderness with God. In this, I find particular significance because what might have happened had we stayed in Egypt another generation or so? We were working there. We probably had houses there (certainly some permanent camps). And if you stay in one place, living within a system long enough, eventually just because we want to make the best of wherever we are. We start to accept the system. We start to take ownership of it, and then . . . we become the system. I wonder if God chose to save us when he did because we might have been Egyptianized in another generation? If God’s desire is to make a people to show his glory, then stands to reason that God moves when He does to make his light brighter. If so, then perhaps not to move would make his light dimmer?

I’ve been wondering in this last year, if perhaps that’s why anti-semitism and anti-Messianic sentiment abounds, because perhaps without it making life difficult, we might forget that we are a separate people. A Kingdom in the world, but not part of it.

So Sukkot is a time of great joy. Because when God made us to dwell in tents, it was because He had brought us out of slavery. In fact it should have been a long vacation, because other than some minor shepherding (which I imagine God helped with, because he did everything else, even the shoes on their feet, Deu 29:5), they had nothing to do but listen to God, learn his ways, and practicing being a holy nation. No gardening. Even war was ‘easy.’

All because YHVH provided for them, at every turn. He was their shade in the day time (like a tent roof) and a light by night. They didn’t even have to light candles. It was like a year long camping trip with people who were all family, all of the same religion, all taken care of so rich and poor were almost meaningless distinctions (certainly some had more and some had less, but everyone’s needs were met and the truly important part . . . YHVH was present!). No wonder this was a time of such great joy! I pray for this kind of thing all the time. Just to be able to relax with God’s people without being tempted to worry about anything, certainly not CNN or Fox News.

It makes perfect sense than that Yeshua would be born at this season. If you haven’t looked into it, I’d suggest it. Though there are some secular or traditional records that suggest otherwise, if you consider that Zachariah was a priest of the course of Abiyah (the 8th course, and the mention of the course suggests that his service was during one of his scheduled two, non-consecutive, weeks of service). You find that Zachariah could have been serving during Shavuot (which explains the great crowd outside the temple). With a conception of John the Baptist shortly after his return, would have had John born about Pesach. Which as he was in the Spirit of Elijah, would have fulfilled prophetic understanding that Elijah would precede the Messiah. Which John was six months older than Yeshua so that would have brought Yeshua to Earth at . . . Sukkot.

Interesting timing since this would have been a feast celebrating the giving of Torah (since Moses came down with the Torah after Yom Kippur after the Golden Calf). Also it was already considered a season of joy because, remember, that it wasn’t just about dwelling in booths after Egypt. At Yom Kippur, Moses begged for mercy on behalf of Israel, and as a sign that Israel was indeed truly going to remain God’s people, he asked that God would make his presence go with the people and not only send an angel. So Sukkot was also the feast celebrating that Atonement had happened and YHVH would also travel with them. Remember the Tabernacle where God met with the people, was also a Sukkot.

No wonder than that Messiah came now, to Tabernacle with us! John 1:14 says that the Word (including Torah) became flesh and dwelt among us. The word dwell means tenting or camping, or a temporary dwelling.

That is why we celebrate Messiah’s birth at this time. A day when God himself set up, a day of this exodus pattern when God agreed, that despite our congregational sin, He would continue with us. That while we were strangers in a land that was not ours, He would not leave us. He would not forsake us. He would not be where we could not reach Him. And a day to remember that it is His provision, back then, throughout centuries of the enemies attacks, and even today in a secular and pagan world as we live by day to day miracles, as we gather in the harvests at the end of the year; we remember that we are not preserved by our own efforts, but by God’s lovingkindness. And if you think about it, Israel could only dwell together in the wilderness because of YHVH’s provision. In that we see, that YHVH made us to dwell in Sukkot. Only around YHVH can we be together. Only with His presence can we have peoplehood, and nationhood, and community, and brotherhood. He is the gravity that holds us, not any effort of our own.

Truly, this is a season of our great joy!

Carols

 

 [Post Script: During these fall feasts, this train of thoughts was building with each feast. And it left me with a ‘closing’ though. The quotes are because we’ve still one convo to go.

But the question occurs to me? Do we have such a hard time functioning as a people and a nation/kingdom of Heaven, because we haven’t really left Egypt? That we’re still at Passover? Maybe we’re still there because only through slavery did Israel become ready to be delivered? Perhaps we continue to suffer in the bondage of the world because we aren’t ready to keep Torah as a people, and thus we cannot have the kingdom?]

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The Most Likely to Suceed Did Jobs Reserved For Illegal Immigrants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What Happens to a Soul after Death?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Capitalism is hated for the same reason Communism is hated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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No Excuses: Sometimes unreasonable expectations are the best

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Sower went out to sow . . . Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was David forgiven? Yes.

Did David still pay for his sin? Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Still here, but late, and often frustrated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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