Halacha vs. Torah

Recently I stumbled upon a group of orthodox Jewish followers of Yeshua Messiah, jerusalemcouncil.org. And it didn’t take me long to realize these guys have definitely benefited from an orthodox instruction. Having said that some things bothered me, namely a strong leaning on orthodox traditions. I spent much time in Backwards pointing out Paul’s objections to tradition taught as Torah.

But . . . as I read their arguments, they are very good. And I can’t deny the benefits of some of this line of thinking. For example, they found the virgin birth, the name of Yeshua’s mom, and her betrothed status without ever leaving the Torah. I can also see some great benefits of tradition, like presenting a united front and being visible to the world as distinct from the world. That is something that has been increasingly pressed upon me in my own study of scripture. The lack of our distinction as holy is terrible.

But most of have been burned and again there is the words of Paul and more importantly Yeshua, about laying heavy burdens and forsaking mitzvoth for traditions. But one of the writers for this group raises an interesting dilemma. He was pointing to the appropriateness of wearing a Kipa on the grounds that Torah has two instances in which the head is to be uncovered (a covering removed), since the Torah does not say “if they have a head covering”, he and many rabbis have inferred that the Torah expects that a covering would be present. Therefore one should wear a head covering to be ready to keep this command even though neither will probably come up in our lifetimes.

Now I can think of many commands that if I applied this same logic could go terribly wrong. For example, divorce calls for a writ to be given, should I then in preparation for keeping the appropriate way to divorce (though I have no intention to divorce) keep such a writ on me so that I can keep it if that were to occur? Is it forbidden to leave Israel because many commandments expect a visitation to Jerusalem?

But then he throws the sucker punch . . .

There is no prohibition in Torah for a woman lying with a woman as with a man. Does that mean lesbianism is ok, but not homosexual actions between men? For that matter many commands, like murder for example, address only men, does that mean its not murder to kill a woman?

It seems clearly (and Paul for example infers the prohibition of female homosexuality) that there are things addressed that are never specifically addressed. Doesn’t that mean we do in fact have binding tradition or halacha or even oral law?

How does one navigate these two concepts? Clearly there is something that is a heavy burden that is to be avoided. Clearly, we are not allowed to add one word or subtract one word from Torah, and yet . . . we are also given the repeated command to guard or hedge the Torah. How do we do that without adding or taking away? To me the principle example of wrongly hedging is Adam and Chavah, what then is the example of it done right? Or is it that there is no ‘boundary’ but rather a focus of will and spirit to perform the commands? Are we then left with individual determinations? That could be fine, but again, shall two women lie together? Is it not murder to kill a woman? There must be someway that this crosses over into a place where it can be judged by the community.

I wrestle . . . as I read “The Yoke and Burden of Messiah, and Moses.” [http://jerusalemcouncil.org/articles/teaching/yoke-burden-messiah-moses/] Has anyone else read this? What do you think?

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How Edenic-Mutts might help us live Torah Observant

Couple months back . . . well, I guess it would have been six or more . . . I was at the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Ken Ham ‘happened’ to be there. A nice treat as I always enjoy hearing him speak. I used to not like him as much because he didn’t cite a bunch of science, but now I like him for that reason. That sounds ignorant, but I believe God made truth and necessary knowledge accessible to everyone. And that’s Ham’s specialty, articulating reason with faith that is accessible to just about anyone.

That day he was, in a nutshell, saying how evolution puts forth that creatures evolved from simple to more complex, but the highly-adapted versions of creatures resulting from natural selection are actually representatives of lost data. For example, if you have a mutt (a true mix) it has genes for long and short hair. When its descendants migrate too far north, the short haired offspring die out leaving only long haired dominant genes. So the long haired descendants of the mutt can never produce a short haired. Going south, the inverse happens. Thus these dogs that have ‘evolved’ to fit their environment are actually less able to survive a trip back the other direction because they no longer have the genes for that. They can never go back based on their own gene-library; they would need fresh blood from their alternately evolved cousins. In short they are more adapted, but less adaptable than their mutt ancestors.

So how does the evolution-claimed idea of common ancestors provide some insight into Torah since I’ve just disregarded evolution? Where evolution goes astray is where it starts disagreeing with scripture and saying everything came from a gob of goo resulting from millions of years of rain on rocks. But this idea of common ancestors does agree to a degree with scripture. Didn’t all dogs come from the dogs of Eden and/or the dogs from the ark?

Now I also believe that the ‘curse’ of Genesis 3 is self-inflicted: God didn’t rewire everything to not work. Yah was simply saying that because of sin, the world wouldn’t work right. If I believe that as I do, none of the fallout happened immediately. Thorns didn’t miraculously appear, and since there was no death they didn’t walk out of the garden and immediately see scenes from National Geographic.

So what about the Serpent, and losing his legs? Suppose he didn’t immediately lose his legs, but because of man’s sin (or the serpent’s own fault) he had the ‘mutation’ of laying an egg with an offspring that had no legs. Or indeed smaller legs as evolutionary theory suggests. For some reason the parent and the offsprings with legs died, and thus by natural selection in a sin-filled world you have snakes without legs.

But what use is this speculation? So there were common ancestors? Well, if we start looking at the world not as if modern species came out of Eden, but that these are ‘splintered’ mutants from original Edenic-mutts, then maybe some of our problems come from that splintering?

For example, Pitbulls. Why do Pitbulls have to exist in God’s plan? Maybe 59% of fatalties from dog attacks between 06-08 were from Pitbulls because they weren’t part of the design. In fact, all of the major dog bite fatality percentages came from distinct breeds. Mixed breed or mutts accounted for only 1%.

Or take wheat allergies. Some research could be suggesting that ancient grains are less likely to offend the growing segment of population intolerant to modern wheat. Wouldn’t these ancient grains be more likely to be closer to grain-mutts? Original herbs that God seeded on the Earth?

Or take the maladies like diabetes, asthma, lung scarring, and others that are more likely and more devastating on black people? Meanwhile Cystic Fibrosis and hereditary haemochromatosis are more common among whites?

This is all really me thinking out loud, but if we are to keep the garden and have dominion (because God’s gifts and callings are without repentance), then perhaps we would benefit by being more conscious of the fragmenting that’s taken place since Eden? Perhaps, we should stop trying to breed ever more speciality, and try instead to get back to more ‘primitive’ varieties. Maybe we have ‘invasive’ species because we have too much speciality? Maybe invasive species are even a good thing attempting to restore the balance?

Maybe this would even apply to people, encourage more ‘mixed’ race marriages. Most of us aren’t a bunch of racists anyway, but maybe we should try to put forward to our children the beauty of the so-called other races? “Wow, son, look at the brown on that girl!” Maybe, try to pay a little more attention to evolutionists when they talk about what was a common ancestor, then in theory we could bread to species from that same ancestor to try and get back to it?

I’m just thinking out loud here. I might not have posted at all, but a brother said it had been a month, so I felt like I should =)

 

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Co-sleeping

If you want to have a knock down drag out fight, one of the most efficient means is to give parenting advice.

So this is not advice. (Checks all of the exits. Assesses most vicious looking parent in the area).

This is just a thought.

My wife and I have been practicing co-sleeping with our son since he was born. Practice might be too strong of a word, since we sort of fell into it out of emotional/physical exhaustion in the wake of a painfully steep learning curve on breastfeeding. With me being the helpless spectator/cheerleader. So it wasn’t really a ‘choice’ other than a surrender. Ever since then, we’ve paid a nightly price since he now refuses to sleep without us.

Refuse might also be too strong a word because now and then he does. And he does stay asleep now so we can get up and have at least a half the night without him.

So it would be easy for me to tear down the practice. And as any husband can imagine, the drawbacks are . . . often on my mind.

But, then I hear some suggest that it’s not healthy. That its a harmful way to parent. Not that I’ll get drawn into one of the KDDO fights, but I’m not sure I buy that. A verse that comes quickly to mind is Luke 11:7, “Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed.”

My general life philosophy (at the moment) is that God provides for all your needs–which has pretty good longevity as a philosophy thus far. I don’t believe we are ever in a place of true need. We may be unable to reach something that we will need, but at that moment we do not need it. An unpayable bill may be coming, but by the time it arrives the means to satisfy it will be there as well.

As much as I gripe to God about this, He has always come through.

Now, in our current situation, we’ve become very adept at working with less. There’s not a lot of money floating around our geography, and for a variety of reasons neither relocating nor an extended commute nor giving up on things like Shabbat, seem worth the trade (though, I often fudge those lines). I’m merely saying we do well with less.

And as I read scriptures, I find God has a lot of good things to say about such people. They apparently have better odds of getting in the Kingdom than a rich person–and that seems like a well-worth it benefit. Cause I’ll be laughing my butt off when you’re– well. Nevermind.

So if this is the case, then it seems reasonable to assume that the poor are just as able (perhaps more able) to build a godly family/house than the rich. Perhaps they are even at an advantage because they live with humility and dependence. That verse from Luke 11:7 of course doesn’t prove anything. The scriptures provide neither positive nor negative commentary on the practice. But think about it logically.

If you were poor, are you likely to have a big house or small? Small. So there’s less room for beds right? Are you likely to have a good supply of fuel or other heating methods? Probably not. So if you were poor, which makes more sense, having multiple rooms heated or one? Having each person in a cold bed, or sharing warmth in a single bed?

My wife and I aren’t poor. In many financial ways, we’re ahead of the curve because we own land and a house (more or less) and we have money saved. But we’re not flowing with cash either, and its simply easier to heat fewer rooms. And it’s simply warmer and more comfortable to share a bed in one warm room than multiple rooms.

So my point is co-sleeping makes sense (at least when we’re talking about small children). It would be a more practical/doable option for a truly poor person, so are you telling me that God made it impossible for such a person to raise a child undamaged?

I find that unlikely.

Also, when I get in bed and my son rolls over and puts his arm around me and says, “I love you.” I find it hard to believe that’s a sign that we’re doing something wrong. However, I may hate the inconvenience of someone who insists on being between my wife and I . . . I can’t find the sense that I’m doing something wrong when it seems to develop such a trust.

Now, certainly, trust can become dependence (for that matter isn’t trust always dependence?). There can be that disabling that comes with over-dependence. But does God teach us independence by hiding from us when we are young in faith? Are we teaching our children to be independent by telling them we are always really there for them even when we seem distant (as God does), or are we teaching them to be independent by telling them that they’re really on their own and can’t trust us?

And further more, what value is this independence? Certainly, I want my children to have confidence. To know that they need nothing but what exists between them and God. But our society is awfully independent if you ask me. And I stress awfully. We have children that don’t seem to care about their parents. Don’t care about their families (at least not until its too late). Want to get out of the house, keep family on the other side of a state border and see them in controlled doses until you have to put them in a nursing home waiting to die.

Of course, there’s a lot of other factors that contribute. I’m certainly not saying that co-sleeping solves this or not co-sleeping causes it. But maybe its part of the same culture. Maybe, there is a similar spirit that says ”Get the baby in another bed, in another room,” and “Get away from the parents.” I’m just looking at the ‘modern’ world, and I really don’t see much that tells me it values family. That it wants family to succeed. That children should love their parents, and parents their children.

Just some thoughts and questions, and maybe the small opinion that co-sleeping isn’t so beyond the pale as is generally considered by a world whose families are falling apart.

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Modesty

When I look at modesty (haha, pun!), I find that there are more varied aspects than seem to be accounted for in the popular use of the word.

Modesty: The principle appears to me to be about humility, an expression of true value, seeing oneself as God sees, and the way that principle should express itself.

If you search scripture, there is no dress code. Unless you’re a priest and on duty. For everyone else, there are rules about what can or can’t be worn (with fringes, sans mixed materials. Plus/minus debate). But what we normally think of as modesty in the church (hem length/cut/etc) are not found in Torah. In fact the mark of a prostitute in some places was what they covered, not what they uncovered.

If you look up the word modest in the KJV, you find it in reference to the instructions not to wear expensive clothing, not a definition of yardage. Which makes sense of the word modest, which means neither too much nor too little, but fitting (another pun!). Torah doesn’t forbid wearing beautiful clothing, in fact some seem to imply it is good when on a godly person, so it seems the apostles aren’t talking about a blanket prohibition (they keep on coming!), but that godliness should not be in show but in substance.

But the things they use to express this warning is not with the danger of revealing wardrobe, but the danger of showing wealth. Unless you have a certain amount of status you can’t afford the time/money/ or energy to be fashionable. I think there’s space for fashion as art, just as its not wrong to make a dish taste good rather than simply nutritious. Or just as its not wrong to sing well rather than just sing. Or do anything well. But the point is, especially back before the industrial revolution, clothing was a sign of status. As was plaited hair, and definitely jewelry. To dress well then, in a way was to publish how rich you were. A kind of competition that sowed division.

In Jewish religious circles, it is commonly understood that modesty is really about humility. Not drawing undo or undeserved attention to oneself. And that is something you can find in the Torah, because even the King was not to think himself above his brothers. If you love someone else as much as yourself, it leaves no room to make yourself more auspicious if it means making someone else more lowly. Your desire is for them to live with you, not beneath you.

So then, dress is just an expression of modesty. In truth it should include every action, word, or thought. Even totally naked married men and women should be and can be modest with each other, because they are humble. And what is this humble thing? It is not thinking one less than one is, because that would be to deny the image of God in you and the work of God in transforming you into it. To degrade the creation is to degrade the Creator. Nor is it to think oneself higher than one is, for that is obviously pride, and also discontentment as you claim a position higher than the one God gave you, thereby saying to the Potter, “What are you making?”

Humility is simply seeing yourself as God sees you. Who or what is the focal point of humility? It is God’s perspective. So what is lack of humility? It is focus on the perspective of someone other than God! So then if you dress in a way that promotes the beauty of the body as a praise of God’s handiwork and greatness, then that promotion by dress is humility. Just as singing God’s praise by a gifted singer is not exhibitionism, if they are showing off God rather than themselves. Likewise, covering because of shame of the body or revealing for the praise of anyone without God would also be immodest.

Thus exhibitionism of self is always immodest, and selflessness is always modest.

Expression of Modesty in Dress: But are there practical considerations? What about the complication and deception of lust.

From the first understanding, I think the idea of modesty must revolve around an objective. It’s not omnidirectional, it does not have one definition, but takes many forms. Modesty must revolve around a specific objective. Therefore neither more, nor less, is inherently modest but the reason for it. For example, if one is swimming then extra yardage makes swimming more laborious even dangerous. Therefore wearing less is modest. Perhaps even wearing nothing, just look at Peter. No one seemed to take issue with the fact that he is working without attire. Do we suppose this is the first time it happened? Or that it never happened afterwards? This was just the one time Peter decided to go au natural without any consideration for what anyone including his Rabbi might say?

Having said that. If my objective is to minister to others, where they are, then shouldn’t my dress reflect that objective? Perhaps Peter was ok because everyone understood that his manner reflected nothing other than practicality.

That sounds reasonable, so does that affirm the idea of asking women to be concerned with how their attire might distract or cause a man to stumble? Perhaps, yes and perhaps no. Perhaps, more nuanced than that. On the one hand, if a woman (or a man) knows that what he’s wearing would cause someone else to stumble, then it seems she or he should abstain. But notice it is not because it is inherently wrong, rather it is an act of sacrifice for another. If they did not know they were stumbling someone, then it could not be their fault because no one can be expected to abstain from everything that might offend. Even Godly things can offend. The very fact that someone can do something not inherently wrong and it might offend, means that the freedom of God is actually offensive to some. If a believer attempted to abstain from everything that could offend, they would have to abstain from life itself.

Further complicating is that, while one might claim to be offended by the freedom God gives us, isn’t the laying on of burdens by tradition also a stumbling block? If by abstaining, we take on ever-heavier load aren’t we falling into the criticism of Yeshua toward the Pharisees? While Paul seems to make a big deal of stumbling brothers, Yeshua goes out of his way to offend people on several occasions. This is the same man who tells his closest followers that they’re stupid/foolish at times. Tells one of them that he’s speaking for Satan. Clearly, there is a limitation to how much we can be inoffensive.

If Peter was concerned about expensive dress, what about having a nice car? I won’t lie, my car is ‘junk’ in the natural and it’s very easy for me to look at someone’s car and say, “If only I had. . . ” Does that mean everyone else is required to sell their nice cars? How low is the bar set? Do I have to give up my car for someone who is even lower on the food chain?

The only conclusion I can reach then is that people of either gender should be considerate in specific with a specific person who has given them reason to believe this is a hurdle for that specific person in a specific time. But that in general, such a standard should not be observed and the general community should call each other to true understanding and not entanglement with tradition-made-into-command, but rather one of true modesty which is defined by the need of the situation and not some artificial imposition. But since sometimes practicality leaves different options of style, and since we don’t want to encourage division just as we wouldn’t with jewelry, then one should dress in a way that is generally acceptable. Neither outstandingly ‘conservative’ because of the message that projects, nor outrageously ‘liberal’ because of the message that conveys.

I guess what that leaves me with is, nothing is either forbidden to wear (except for the Torah prohibitions) or required (except for the combinations Torah requires). But that we should take reasonable consideration for the message our attire projects and ask whether it is projecting what we mean to. Does it achieve our objective?

 

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Dear Nature, stop looking at me like I owe you money

I see these short ads from some international conservation group. And while I am far more ‘environmentalist’ than I once was, just for fun I will point out the ways this ad annoys me.

#1 The female narrator–ahem, the condescending, angsty female narrator. Informs me that everything is hers. As if she were god, and I owe some religious homage to her.

#2 The video ends with “Nature doesn’t need people. People need nature.” Which I really want to agree with the sentiment, but if God’s word is true than God made humanity to manage nature. That means God believes nature is made better because of our intervention. At least intervention of a godly nature. When humans act in God’s Image than nature is improved, so don’t feed me and everyone else around me this bull#&$* that nature doesn’t need us. God thinks it does.

#3 This one is just kind of funny because I’m pretty sure the movie makers don’t take my view on God. Either nature is god, there is no god, or god/gods/goddess(es) don’t matter. So when the narrator tells me how everything belongs to her, and then says “I have fed species greater than you, and I have starved species greater than you,” besides wanting to gag or throw something at the screen, I can’t help thinking . . .

Wait. Nature, didn’t you kill off more species (in evolutionary theory) than are currently on the planet? So mankind has killed off a couple hundred thousand, and we’re supposed to feel bad when you’ve whole sale slaughtered all these greater species? We owe the greatest killer in history . . . anything? Nature, that keeps creating diseases to kill us? Nature that has to be redirected to allow our species to prosper? I mean, it doesn’t exactly hand survival to us on a silver platter. I mean that whole ‘survival of the fittest’ kind of tells me that we’ve had to work pretty dang hard to get this far.

So how exactly do we owe you anything besides to shackle/chain/cage/imprison and enslave you for our own prosperity?

#4 Building on the previous thought. If nature wiped out all these species before us, in the evolutionary view, nature was quiet different. At one point, nature was barren rock. Then it was lifeless rock. Then it was a swamp with a bunch of germs in it. Then it was a series of catastrophes that killed everything that had dared to rise out of the muck.

Point being, nature is not a status, its a flux. So how is nature now, complex, and beautiful with some polar caps more valuable or better than a lifeless desert? A polluted ocean? A nuclear waste populated by cockroaches? What makes one nature better than another, and nature itself is indestructible.

The only thing that makes nature now ‘better’ than the way it was (in their theory) is that we value it this way.

Wait, what nature? You’re talking like you’re all that, but you don’t mean a thing except that we say you’re great. The only reason to preserve you in your current ‘natural’ state is because we have said it’s good. Because that nature serves us.

 

So, I’m not making a point here just having some fun at the expense of snooty, inconsistent environmental messages.

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Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

Guilty.

Now that that is out of the way, I’ve been thinking about the Shmita year. At the Clark household we’re practicing keeping it 2014-2015. I know some debate when to keep the Shmita (Sabbath year), wondering if you start counting from when you acquired the property, do years of rest prior count, etc., but the way we see it God’s design was a single Sabbath year kept by His people. So we just keep it when the common Hebrew calendar indicates.

But we’re in a quandry since even in a good year our garden has not yet been sufficient to provide a full year’s sustenance, let alone two or three as God promises. I can meditate on how that is the case, after all God promises the blessing before the year arrives, but I’m not hung up on it. If God hasn’t provided the blessing than I wager he’s merciful to however best we look to keep his mitzvah.

But I have been thinking about the why. One answer that comes to me is that Yah’s people are not united and that the blessing was promised to a people in covenant and obedience, which we lack. Some might suggest its because this isn’t the promised land, but I would point out (as I do in my WIP) that Yah judged heathens for defiling a land that had not yet been given to Israel, among other points of rebuttal.

But another thought came to me recently. Our garden insufficient garden, I frankly imagine is the norm for most of us, who end up relying on the professional farmers. But is that a problem if our inability to provide for ourselves as a people pushes us to rely on those who don’t keep Yah’s ways?

If that’s not the ideal situation then our ability to obey is in many ways tied to our planning. Makes sense of that little word in many mitzvot, ‘observe’. Yah doesn’t just want us to do or not do, but to be observant, to look for the chance to obey. An inclination that asks, “How can I keep this?”

Thinking this way, I reflect on all the times a feast day has ‘snuck up’ on me. Or I find myself in a place thinking, “Isn’t there a command about this?” And after the fact, I’ll find myself having missed something. It occurs to me that many of the ‘surprises’ come about because I’m driving along my life when suddenly, I see a sign that says, “God this way —>”.

It’s hard to make the turn because I wasn’t looking for it.

Suppose I had a garden of sufficient size, with a bountiful harvest. Would I have had the foresight to put away the excess or would I blow it in a big shindig or say, I have more than I can use and not worry about storing at all? I don’t know, but I get the sense it would have been something like that.

It occurs to me that many of the commandments are hard to keep because our lives have been built without them in mind. We have ‘our lives’ that we live, and then a commandment comes up that is outside of our normal life and so its hard to keep it. A friend once told me about an service member he was coaching for profanity in a training environment. And my friend told his subordinate that it looked like the he/she was “trying to maintain two vocabularies,” one for home and friends to be ‘cool’ and one for work to be professional. That the problem was this duality and not the difficulty of the standard.

Is God asking us something hard? Or is it that our whole lives have been built without Him? Are we meant to rush for that quick turn? Or is God calling us to change lanes a couple miles back because His place was the destination instead of the rest stop?

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Trading Places with Machines

I was at my retail job the other day, when I was given a new assignment.

The standing assignment was to walk to the end of my checkout line, whenever I had no customers. But even though, that was my job, the system couldn’t tell I was doing it instead of off playing with lemondrop flavored unicorns, so after thirty seconds ‘doing my job’ I would have to walk back to my register and log in for a second or more to tell it I wasn’t off in fairy land. Thereby making the register idle to prove that I wasn’t being idle.

Now what do I care? I’m paid, right? If you want me to count the tiles on the floor for eight hours minus breaks I’ll do it.

An obvious bother was the idea that I could get counseled for not proving to the system I was doing my job when any human being in the area could vouch that I was, plus my own ‘empowered’ word. But I learned to overcome that by saying, “Hey, if I know I’m doing my job and your system doesn’t tell you, the problem is your system.”

But it occurred to me, that here I was, in a business where I’m supposed to act friendly and personable, but I’m being jerked back and forth because I’m literally being micromanaged by a machine to do something that has no reason at all except to show productivity by mechanical behavior.

Then I started thinking again about the idea of a uniform. People are not uniform. We come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and refreshing scents. And I don’t have any ‘uniform’ for my friends, so by definition a “friendly” employee should be non-uniform. Of course, the uniform helps to facilitate business . . .

. . . in a world where employees turn over so fast that no one has a chance to actually relate to the person serving them.

So, I’m supposed to show up looking like something that came off an assembly line, with about as much variance as an assorted set of lego figures, say a specific number of lines, not take it personally if a customer lies to me or insults me, and manage my behavior according to mechanical whim . . . I kind of sound like a machine, don’t I?

Then, on the other hand. We have machines that we talk to like people. “Hello, Siri.” And they greet us, like they’re people. They get individualization to their exterior and their interior. They are our tool for all the liking and friending and sharing that we do. They keep track of our friends names, faces, birthdays, lives, and every nuance of their day.

So sometimes, I wonder, if we’re trying to make people into machines or machines into people? Or are we just trying to make them the same?

Maybe I’m just too sentimental, but I don’t want a machine that thinks its my friend. And I don’t want human beings who act like machines.

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A Part from Paul, I’m not sure I Believe

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

– 1 Corinthians 15:19

I was thinking about this verse and related passage recently, and I’m not sure I agree.

If God is the giver of all good things, then God is the source of happiness. If God is the source of happiness, then God Himself is the most happy of all beings. If godliness is an act of communion between us, restored to His Image, then godliness is a moment of restored happiness. If that is the case, then no matter what may be yet to come, even if our lives were miserable by Earthly standards, then it would still be the happiest of all possible lives.

It seems to me, if the relationship God promises with us is true then whether or not there is a resurrection and a coming kingdom, then life in Messiah now is itself worth all the outward misery. This is hypothetical for most, myself included. But sometimes, don’t we get that sense? Aren’t there moments when you’re doing something completely miserable, like holding the hand of a dying person, or having your child vomit or defecate on you, or forgiving someone who is ‘beyond’ forgiving . . . when you get a sense of “This is why I’m here.” And isn’t that sense of knowing who you truly are, meeting the real you, doesn’t that seem to balance out (for a moment) everything that went wrong before?

Maybe those aren’t good examples, but I sincerely believe there’ve been moments in my life when because of a perspective God gave, for a moment everything was worth it. That the moment itself justified itself without a future hope.

So what do I do with Paul? It doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but it kind of seems like a criticism if all you have is the future and not the way your life is changed here and now. So I wonder if it’s not something larger. Not that Paul isn’t saying the resurrection is great, and who wouldn’t look forward to it? But maybe it’s more like, if the resurrection isn’t real, then maybe neither are the other promises. Maybe we’re just fooling ourselves through some emotional frenzy about the goodness of here and now, and one day we’ll see it was all a waste.

What do you think? Is following Messiah only worth it because of a future hope? Or does it carry its own weight, now?

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Who says big is the goal?

I used to be a fairly hard core capitalist. And while, I share many behaviors with that culture (like people being ”free” to determine what their occupation is, invest in it, and reap the benefits to do with as they see fit), I’ve since rejected identifying with it because God’s ways of government, community, responsibility and freedom don’t seem to fit into any human construction.

And as I’ve come to this understand this, I’ve really had my eyes opened to the evil of consumerism, capitalism, and the so-called free market (not that the human made alternative structures aren’t equally so). It sounds great when you’re riding the wave. But what about when you’re in the way of the wave?

If you want to go to college, get an advanced degree, work in an office, live in suburbia, etc., then the system works great. But what if you just want to live a simple life, grow your food, live and work with your family, do some art (whatever form that takes: dance, woodcarving, painting, sculpture, programming), and worship God? God’s government-cultural design as found in Torah, where your property was forever, interest on debt was pretty much forbidden, debt was cyclically forgiven, etc., then that simple sort of life was easy. If you wanted to do the office job/etc, you could still do that. But it would be like an add-on. Your life is “sustained”. Your family has enough whether you succeed or not, so you really can program or do labwork or whatever, for “fun”. Because you love it, not because you had to.

But, what about the normal routine in the here and now? You probably don’t own land, and even if you do you have to work just to keep it. And the land you own probably isn’t big enough to grow enough for yourself, and you probably can’t pay your taxes based on what you create there because you can’t compete with Walmart, and no one knows about you anyway. And even if you have something worthwhile that someone would want and you could let them know about it through the internet, a lot of things you’re able to make or do for yourself, you’re not allowed to sell.

Say you want to have a little store in your garage? enter government who tells you that you need sprinkler systems, and architectural schematics, and handicap bathrooms. Things your house and land seemed to have done without for decades.

So instead you end up this intense pressure, then you have to go out in the world and work for someone else. Oh, and along the way, you were told you had to get a college education, so now you have a mortgage even before you have property. Now you definitely have to go work because you need the money.

See, one of the great evils of this “free” market situation is that it creates conditions where you have to work for someone else. It creates slavery. Now, some will point out that’s because the market isn’t free because of government over regulation. But those regulations, I suspect, came about under the influence of big business. Is it coincidence that these regulations protect those already in the game from new competitors? Is it a coincidence that health regulations require the kind of multi-million dollar facility that Tyson has and that a local individual family cannot afford which makes their meat, dairy, and eggs “unsafe”?

The whole thing builds up this huge pressure to just do “normal.” Where the family is forced to work apart and not actually enjoy the benefits of owning property. A silent sort of slavery.

Why do we put up with it?

Because we think we can get on top of the wave and do well. We can have that nice big house, and our business can eventually dominate.

But . . . why do we have to dominate? Why does our business have to grow beyond our local market? Why does our business need to grow beyond our community? Where its taking money from customers who we will never have a chance to meet with love?

I think the problem with it is really the same as the problem with having too many children. I think children are blessing, and I disagree generally with artificial contraceptives, or at least how they are used. But I also disagree with lack of family planning. I don’t think God intended us to have as many children as we are physically capable of. The curse said we would have too many children (“I will greatly increase your sorrow and conception”). I think we should only have as many children as we can invest the love and training in their lives to give them a good “chance” of being God’s children. We should only have as many children as we can shape into God’s image.

I think the same applies to business. Bigger is not better. More is not more. Our business should only grow so far as it increases God’s kingdom by doing so, not simply making more money. Perish the thought! I should not expand my business beyond my ability to use it for God. That is one of the reasons (less precisely understood in my own past mind), that I never wanted a corporation. I don’t want shareholders. I suppose silent shareholders would be alright, but I never want to dilute my vision with someone else’s. I never want to be under the influence of someone else who wants me to grow the business for money’s sake. It should only grow for God’s sake.

And when you understand that, it becomes obvious that there are financial opportunities that should be passed up. Expansion and acquisition are not in and of themselves signs of success. Success could easily be measured by giving a godly competitor an advantage. Refusing to enter the market of a neighbor who is also God’s child. I would hate to find myself in competition with a brother or sister. I shouldn’t desire to compete with them. If I know a better way to do something then I should desire for them to succeed even if it was at my expense. Likewise, they should do the same for me.

Of course, I think I need to protect myself from those who aren’t godly. So I wouldn’t be willing to make my business weak. And I want to make mine able to weather storms. I want it to be strong, like a house or a car.

But that’s why its so important to have that base of a sustainable house and land. To be able to fall back to it. To say, “I have enough if this fails.” To be in a position where I can afford to fail. And getting caught up in this world’s way of business is antithetical to that. It wants you to be in a position where you have to succeed outside of the home. To force you to succeed even at the expense of another. So you can’t choose to do right, but only to do more.

***Action point: Normally, I just share thoughts here. But I have this idea that I’m working on, for a “phone book” probably on the internet. Probably a network of sights. It would probably be a great idea for a big central run business, but that’s opposite of the idea. So I think many operators linking to each other would be better.

Anyway, the phone book would be based on Torah consistent business. It has to be more than a vague “love thy neighbor”, it has to be the love God already defined. It requires you to actually act for the benefit of your neighbor. That is why business, where you don’t actively work for the good of your neighbor (= nigh-bor/near person) is evil. You have to consider whether in God’s eyes what you’re doing is good for the customer and for your “competitors”. That doesn’t mean being weak, it means you are REALLY TRULY seeking an outcome of blessing for them. You don’t want your customer to buy, you want them to experience good (and ultimately to do good themselves). You don’t want to crush your rivals, you want there to be enough for both of you.

So this phonebook would be of those kinds of businesses, and by businesses I also mean individuals working/producing out of their home, and probably also have room for believers who don’t explressly agree with the Torah but are at least recognized as leaders trying to express the Kingdom  in their business.

But in the meantime, let me encourage us to seek out our people (God’s people) and not just spend money in the market, but spend it in the market that actually is building God’s kingdom. Don’t go to a mass manufacturer (if you can help it), find a believer who makes or does that.

Let’s start funding what we want the world to become.

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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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