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Monday, July 29, 2013

Global Wave

Here is another short (very short) video from my brother.  It features some music that I created for him.

Global Wave from Brad Carter on Vimeo.

Burning Sunset, Family Vacation

I'm away on vacation for a few days - in Southern Indiana visiting with family at my parents newly purchased home.  It will be their retirement home when they finally retire in a couple of years.

It's a bit like living in 1992  here though.  No wi-fi.  We're all out at McDonalds on a wi-fi raid tonight.

I took this picture last night.  We stopped at a rest station along as the sun was setting.

Burning Sunset photo burningsunset_zps312396c5.jpg

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2013 - Week 32

Here it is again, another free weekly background image for use in powerpoint (or similar presentation programs)  I use them in the powerpoint slides at my little church, but you are free to download these images and to use them in your own projects at home, work, school, or church.  Use them however you like.  I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

For those who may be interested in knowing this photograph is of the map of Palestine found in my copy of The Citizen's Atlas by J. G. Bartholomew, LL.D. - from 1912.  This wonderful book was given to me when I was 7 or 8 by a member of our church.

Week 32 photo Week32_zpsdc94ac02.jpg

The Lord’s Prayer, the Disciples’ Prayer, Our Prayer

In Luke chapter 11 we read "Once, on a certain day, in a particular place (Luke isn’t exactly piling up the details here, is he?) Jesus was praying. And when he had finished one of the disciples (details, Luke, details! Which one?)  said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray as John the Baptizer taught his disciples.'"

It’s a little bit disappointing that we don’t have any record of what sort of instruction John gave to his disciples.  Perhaps it was something like the Jewish prayer known as the Qaddish:

Magnified and sanctified be his great name in the world He created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom during your life and during your days, and during the life of all the house of Israel, speedily and in the near future. And say Amen.[i]

Again, it’s a little disappointing not to know what John might have taught his disciples, but Jesus took this opportunity to give to his own disciples a form and model of prayer that they  could pray.  It is often pointed out that, despite what we call it, this is not really the “Lord’s prayer”.  This is the model prayer that Jesus, our Lord, gave to his disciples, and by extension, to us.  If we want to read the “Lord’s prayer” we might look to the Gospel of John, chapter 17.

We should also note that this is not the Lord’s Prayer (by whatever name we call it) that we are immediately familiar with.  If someone should call upon us to pray – not mere to say or to repeat – the Lord’s prayer we are likely to begin:

Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be thy name

which is how Matthew’s version of the prayer begins.  Matthew’s version of the model prayer, which comes in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, follows a warning against wordy and verbose forms of prayer – which is a little bit ironic since Matthew’s version of this prayer seems to be an expansion of the shorter and simpler version found in Luke’s gospel.

Luke’s version begins simply, “Father.”

The longer phrase, “Our Father, who is in heaven” is appropriate for communal worship settings; praying it thusly unites us and focuses our combined attention on God who lives and reigns in heaven.  But I like the immediacy and intimacy of “Father.”  He is close, immanent – not far removed in some distant, far away heaven.  He is present in every part of creation and he is here, as close as the breath upon which those two syllables are formed, “Father.”

This is the personal relationship with God that evangelical Christians speak of so often.  This is the personal relationship that Jesus himself had with the father, whom he addressed as “abba” the Aramaic word for Father, both intimate and dignified.   He is the father of us all, collectively and individually.  Your father, my father’s father, and my father.  [ii]

hallowed be your name

Though it isn’t my favorite version of the bible, I do appreciate the way that the Living Bible (paraphrase, though it is) treats this second phrase: “may your name be honored for its holiness.”  Now in Semitic cultures, a person’s name is so closely associated with the person as to be almost the same.  That is the name IS (nearly) the person.  In fact God is, to this day, referred to as HaShem by the Jewish people – HaShem which means “The Name[iii].”   God is his name, and our prayer is that his name would be honored, that God himself would be regarded as holy. 

Our prayer is that we might understand God in his holiness.    Our prayer is that we might know God’s holy name.  Our prayer is also that others, everyone everywhere would understand and recognize God’s holiness, that we might be so awed by the presence and holiness of God that we would cease trying to use God as tool to use for our own purposes, and instead find ourselves in his will.

hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,

This short petition, like Matthew’s more elaborate, Your kingdom come and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” is a prayer for the inbreaking of God’s divine rule into the present world.  This is not merely a prayer that we might see heaven someday in the future, but that God’s Kingdom would be as present in the here and now as God is himself.  It is a prayer that the grace and mercy love of God’s peaceable kingdom would be enacted in this world in this present time.

Not merely heaven when we die, but let us, we pray, see something of that kingdom now.  Let us see mercy.  Let us know justice.  Let us live in peace.  Let us be blessed as we live under the sun and upon the earth.

hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us day by day our daily bread.

The first lines of this model prayer are focused on God and God’s activities in this world.  Our prayer now turns toward us as we live in this world.

This next petition, as simple as it sounds, has given exegetes fits for centuries.  It is a phrase that exists nowhere else in the bible (excepting the parallel passage in Matthew) and nowhere else in ancient Greek literature (as far as we know.) Even the early Church Fathers who spoke Greek as their mother tongue were not quite sure what to make of the phrase.

A completely literal translation of the term might render it as our “supersubstantial bread” but that hardly clarifies things for us.

St. John Chrysostom (he of the golden tongue) interpreted it as ordinary bread “bread for today: Just enough for one day….Here Jesus condescends to the infirmity of our nature….[which] does not permit you to go without food….I require necessary food not a complete freedom from natural necessities….It is not for wastefulness or extravagant clothing that we pray, but only for bread and only for bread on a daily basis so as not to worry about tomorrow.” [iv]

St. Jerome believed it to be bread for tomorrow:  “The word used by the Hebrews to denote supersubstantial bread… means ‘for tomorrow’ so that the meaning here is ‘give us this day our bread for tomorrow’ that is, for the future.” [v]

St. Jerome went on to say that this supersubstantial bread is “bread that is above all substances and surpasses all creatures” and connected it to thoughts of the Eucharist, the communion bread which is the mystical body of Christ.   

Without dismissing these more esoteric interpretations, however, I tend to focus more on the ordinary bread – whether for today or for tomorrow as well.  We need bread to eat.  Granted, humankind does not live by bread alone, but also by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, but we do need physical bread.  We have very physical nutritional needs.  And much of Jesus’ ministry was devoted to meeting the physical needs of those who came to him.  He fed their bodies. He cured their illnesses.  He provided for their needs.  The Gospel – the good news – is not merely the story of spiritual salvation, but also the meeting of physical needs.  This prayer for our “supersubstantial bread” is a prayer for social justice – for the elimination of want and poverty.  Give us the food we need; give us the things we need to sustain our bodies in this world.

hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us day by day our daily bread;
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us;

After the meeting of our physical needs – the bread – comes the meeting of our spiritual needs – the words proceeding from the mouth of God.  It’s appropriate that the physical needs are met first.  Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs describes a progression of human needs beginning with the basic physical requirements of human survival – air, food, water, shelter, etc.  If these requirements are not met, the body will die.  And if a person is struggling to meet these needs they will be unlikely to be interested in other, more spiritual needs (equally necessary though they may be). William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, expressed it the simple phrase, “Soup, Soap, and Salvation.”  The physical needs must be met before the spiritual concerns can be addressed.

But after praying for our daily bread – our physical sustenance – we move to the spiritual, to forgiveness, both vertical and horizontal.  We pray that God will forgive us (the vertical between us and God) in the same way that we have forgiven those who have wronged us (forgiveness in our horizontal relationships). 

But this is a dangerous prayer.  We pray that God will forgive us in the same way that we have forgiven others.  It is reciprocity.  If we want good and right relationship with God, if we want a restored relationship with God, then we must set about restoring the broken and damaged relationships with have with our fellows.  This is community.  This is fellowship.  This is relationship.  Do we want to live in peace with God in God’s peaceable kingdom?  Then we must live in peace with our brothers and sisters. 
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us day by day our daily bread;
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us;
and lead us not into temptation.

Temptation here is a somewhat ambiguous word which can mean something like “trials” or “suffering” or “persecution.”[vi]  This is a prayer for protection, both from within and from without.  We know that we have enemies.  We know that there are struggles and difficulties in this life – and we pray for God to protect us from and through them.  (Though, like Daniel’s three friends said just before being thrown into the furnace, “even if he does not”[vii] we will continue to follow him). 

But never mind those difficulties that come to us in life, and never mind those enemies who might seek to do me harm, Lord, protect me from myself.  I am my own worst enemy.  My weak will and poor choices are more to blame than any persecutor or calumnious enemy.  Lord, do not let me wander away from you.  This is my prayer. Lord, protect me from myself.

And here is where the prayer ends.  That beautiful doxology, “For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen” is not found in Luke’s version of Jesus’ model prayer, nor is it found in the earliest manuscripts of Matthew’s gospel.  It seems to have been added to Matthew’s gospel as part of a liturgical use in a worship setting, sometime in the 2nd century.  Not that it’s wrong; it’s a wonderful way to conclude the prayer, it just doesn’t seem to be part of Jesus’ original teaching.

hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us day by day our daily bread;
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us;
and lead us not into temptation.

This model prayer is intimate and immediate; it focuses our attention on our relationship with God and on our relationship with others.  It seeks to address our physical and spiritual needs.   This prayer is, in short, a succinct summary of the Gospel itself.    We pray it, not out of rote repetition, but in sincere desire.  So perhaps, turning to Luke’s version of Jesus’ model prayer every now again will help us to focus more clearly on what we are praying.  Matthew’s liturgical worship setting prayer is wonderful and the memorization of it can only be helpful.  But to consider the shorter, blunter, more direct, more intimate version recorded in Luke’s gospel can push us deeper into prayer which is communication with the God is here among us and within us.

So let us pray:

hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us day by day our daily bread;
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us;
and lead us not into temptation.

[ii] Can we conceive of God as our Mother as well?  Certainly and rightly so.
[iii] See for example Leviticus 24:11
[iv] Gospel of Matthew Homily 19.5
[v] Commentary on Matthew 1.6.11.
[vi] The Interpreter’s Bible Volume 8, Abingdon Press, New York, 1952.  Page 202
[vii][vii] Daniel 3:18

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Mother Mary of the Coconut Shell

Mother Mary of the Coconut Shell photo MotherMaryCoconutShrine_zps01a91527.jpg

I made this little piece several years ago.  The virgin stands inside a coconut shell the inside of which has been textured and painted gold.

Biblical Limericks: Too Gross To Be Telling

If you are a recalcitrant git
the Lord will drive thee crazed in thy wit
with scabs and with swelling
too gross to be telling,
and boils on the part where you shit.

-Deuteronomy 28: 27 - 28

July Anomalies A – Z: Xanthicus

“King Antiochus to the senate of the Jews and to the other Jews, greetings.  If you are well, it is as we desire. We also are in good health. Menelaus has informed us that you wish to return home and look after your own affairs. Therefore those who go home by the thirtieth of Xanthicus will have our pledge of friendship and full permission for the Jews to enjoy their own food and laws, just as formerly, and none of them shall be molested in any way for what may have been done in ignorance.  And I have also sent Menelaus to encourage you. Farewell. The one hundred forty-eighth year, Xanthicus fifteenth.”  -2 Maccabees 11: 27 - 33

Xanthicus is the cruelest month, breeding
barley from the ground
and letters of peace from a mad king,
stirring hope against memory,
but then comes drowning
and burning, massacre
against those taking refuge;
the defeated nomads offer cattle and coffee.

If there were no hope of a resurrection
it would seem superfluous and foolish
to pray for so many dead.

This is part of July Anomalies A-Z, a creative writing exercise and not intended to be an altogether accurate picture of the creature described above.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Computer (is the Image of the Beast)

Remember back in 1981 when Russel S. Doughten had us convinced that the rapture was about to occur at any moment and that when the Antichrist rose to power it would be because of computers? The Mark of the Beast was the ubiquitous UPC code connected to a worldwide computer network and that the Antichrist would use a computer to convince us that he had power...

Oh, don't pretend.  The Computer (is the Image of the Beast)

I used one sound from the Freesound Project this time: Computer.
I also used Russel S. Doughten's voice

Redneck Jesus

If I am honest, I will have to admit that I would be likely to have missed Jesus as the Messiah.  I very probably would have, like Nathanial, when told "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote--Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph,” have responded: 

Nazareth?  Can anything good come from there?”

I have to be careful when reading the gospels because I have a tendency to imagine Jesus as being intellectual, and sophisticated, as being at the same time urbane and uncouth – a sort of 1st century hipster, too cool for those in power. In my unguarded moments I imagine Jesus like this because this is how I like think of myself.

But this self-portrait Jesus is flawed.  Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, “the Bumblefuck of its day” as historian Thomas Cahill describes it. [i]  He came from the sticks, the backwoods and spoke with a thick rural accent. In the Talmud (c. 200 CE), a story is told of a rural Galilean being ridiculed for his red-neck accent by the sophisticated and urban people in the marketplace of Jerusalem.

“You stupid Galilean, do you want something to ride on [hamar: a donkey]? Or something to drink [hamar: wine]? Or something for a sacrifice [immar: a lamb]?” (Mishnah Erubin 53b)

Peter was called out as one of Jesus’ followers, recognized by his broad backwards way of speaking.
The prejudice against this rural rabbi blinded the religious authorities of his time… and would probably have blinded me as well.

[i] Cahill, Thomas Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus, Doubleday, New York, NY 1999. Page 89

July Anomalies A – Z: World Rulers

It is not against flesh and blood that we enter the lists; we have to do with princedoms and powers, with those who have mastery of the world in these dark days, with malign influences in an order higher than ours. – Ephesians 6:12

Call me Pancras, for I hold everything. 
I ascend, when I will, into the heavens
and fly out again among the stars.
I fall like lightning.

Prince Albert may have ridden
on the back of giant tortoise,
and Prince George upon a walrus,
but I am the one who delivered to King Solomon
that magical ring

which enabled him to command the demons
and compel them to service,
and which gave him knowledge
of every human tongue.

I can do these things,
and much more besides,
for you as well.

I can raise up a pillar of air
or of fire, if you prefer.
I can bend stone
and transmutate the elements.

You have only to call upon me.

This is part of July Anomalies A-Z, a creative writing exercise and not intended to be an altogether accurate picture of the creature described above.

What I’m Reading: Agenda 21

Glenn Beck Agenda 21 photo agenda21.jpg
In Agenda 21 radio host and political commentator, Glenn Beck [i], has put to paper an outlandish version of his own paranoid conspiracy theories and dystopian predictions of the future.   I can’t describe the book as a thriller (as it isn’t thrilling in anyway) or as a nightmare (because to be frightening, it would have to be believable, and it isn’t.)

Beck (since his name is emblazoned on the cover, he gets the blame)  has created a bizarre future world wherein a distant and never actually seen Central Authority has crushed the American democratic government and collectivized private property.  Everyone lives in centrally planned communities.  Every decision from birth to death is made by the Authorities. 

And it’s all because of Agenda 21 – a nonbinding, voluntarily implemented action plan developed by the United Nations to promote sustainable development – that is, to meet human needs without polluting the environment and depleting natural resources.  But in Beck’s delusion, this means socialist totalitarianism.  Everything Beck doesn’t like means socialist totalitarianism. 

The novel is dull. 

There is no action, only a series of history lectures given to the protagonist, Emmeline – who is a surrogate for the reader.  She is a home-raised, homeschooled young woman – she did not attend the village school.  Emmeline, ostensibly the heroine of the story, is profoundly ignorant about the events that led up to her world situation and about how to live in that world.  It makes me wonder if Beck isn’t hurting one of his own favorite causes: homeschooling.  Emmaline is unbelievably ignorant.  How could her parents (her mother a history teacher, even) have raised her for 14 years and kept her so sheltered that she knows nothing about the past or her present?  She, in effect, becomes the epitome of that stereotypical ignorant and unsocialized homeschooled kid.

Seriously, the novel is dull.  And it doesn’t help that the writing is flat and unimaginative.  It’s a very easy to read book; I read it in a couple of hours – but that’s not a plus. It’s simplistic and shallow.  The characters are one dimensional (if that) and exhibit none of the complexities that make people so interesting.

But Beck isn’t really interested in people, nor is he interested in human drama or compelling stories. He’s got his own agenda:  Selling tinfoil hats and making lots of money.

[i] Yes, I am  aware that the book’s afterward makes it perfectly clear that Harriet Parke actually wrote the book, but if Beck is going to splash his name across the cover to take credit for it, then he’s going to take the blame for it too.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Wind Power

 photo Windpower_zpsde011738.jpg

I took this photo yesterday along Interstate 80 in Iowa. Did you know that almost a quarter of Iowa's electricity comes from wind farms.

July Anomalies A – Z: Vanities

Bleached whites bones of a skull
and rotted fruit,
the charred end of a wick
in a puddle of melted wax.
havel havelim

You are a bubble in time
blown here, drifting;
you are a snowflake
landing on the palm of a child,
havel havelim

This is part of July Anomalies A-Z, a creative writing exercise and not intended to be an altogether accurate picture of the creature described above.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

July Anomalies A – Z: Uriel

Dominus illuminatio mea

The bright white burning of a cloudless sky, a fire, heat like an ocean wave, slamming into you, pounding and oppressive.  A southern wind, loud and full of grit and sand bends grass and shakes trees. This is the piercing presence that shatters and shudders the smoldering sky.   This bodiless power over the earth, this unseen presence over deep and secret places within the earth.   A flashing sword, turning this way and that, at the garden’s gate.

“I am the reflection. I am the effulgence. God is my light and I am the light of God.”

Like molten gold, like burnished bronze polished bright, like glittering rays at dawn.  Like softened silver, like iridescent ice, like silent stars his presence which is The Presence spreads across the earth, filling the void.  There can be no absolute darkness, not with his all pervading photons.

This is part of July Anomalies A-Z, a creative writing exercise and not intended to be an altogether accurate picture of the creature described above.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

There Will Be No Extroverts in Heaven

It's true.

Just read Revelation 8:1, "When he opened the seventh seal there was silence in heaven for about half an hour."

No extrovert could stand it.

If God Has Chosen the Weak and Foolish…


If it is true, as it is so often claimed, that the United States of America is a Christian nation, founded on and guided by biblical principles,


If it is true that God  has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, (1 Corinthians 1:27)

then why do we continue to spend so much money on our military?  Why do we continue to invest in predator drones, attack helicopter, M1 Abrams tanks, and firearms and explosives of all caliber and variety?  Why do we strive so desperately to ensure that our military is strong and powerful?

If this is, after all a Christian nation, then shouldn’t we abandon those tools of power?  Shouldn’t we renounce the use of violence and force?  Shouldn’t we embrace weakness?

But, you will say, 'how would we defend ourselves and our interests?  This suggestion is foolishness.'

And I say, exactly so.

July Anomalies A – Z: Thunder

I was sent from the Power
with lightning and with hail
and with the sound of a very loud trumpet,
I was sent.

Look at the sky,
I am there.
Hear me, hear me,
but do not wait for me to speak.

I am the silence that follows.
I am the burning smell of ozone.
I am the unpaid professional.

I am novels of war and songs of peace.
I am the richest of the poor
living in gold plated squalor.
I break cedars and shake deserts.

I am alone in the sky
unequalled among the many.
I go where I will, following the decrees
and the path that he laid down for me.

Over floods,
over kings,
over people with peace.
Tremble beneath my words.

Pray that the thunders cease
and will release you.
Stretch out your hands
and the rains will stop.

Let the sea, and all that it contains,
fish and great sea monsters give praise;
let the fields smile under their burdens.
The folds of your flesh may be solid,
but if thunder should strike?

This is part of July Anomalies A-Z, a creative writing exercise and not intended to be an altogether accurate picture of the creature described above.  It is based, somewhat, on the Gnostic text, Thunder, the Perfect Mind.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Excavators Uncover Samson’s Jawbone

jawbone photo Jawbone_zps43d2fb78.jpg
After 7 years of excavating Ramath Lehi, archaeologist Arnold Snodgrass announced today that he may have discovered the jawbone that Samson, the famed Israelite judge of the Iron age, used to kill 1,000 Philistines.

“Everything that we’ve been able to test indicates that this is the jawbone swung by that mighty hero,” said Snodgrass in a telephone interview.

“The age of the bone appears to be about right. And it is covered in what looks like blood stains.  We’ll know for sure when the tests come back from the lab.”   

 In addition to the jawbone, members of Snodgrass’ team discovered a number of other bones as well, some of which “could be human bones, could even be the bones of Samson’s Philistine victims.” Also found at the site were broken bits of pottery, and a sandal thong.

When asked if he felt that perhaps his team was rushing to judgment in he answered, “With the recent discoveries of King David’s palace at Khirbet Qeiyafa and the Prophet Elisha’s house in Tel Rehov, we felt like we had to announce our discovery to the press.  The time was right; the interest was there in the public. And our grant money is running out…”

July Anomalies A – Z: Seraphim

With wings of feathered fire
the seraphim surround the throne
to sing the sacred sibilants
of the trisagion:
“Holy God, Holy Strong, Holy Immortal,
the universe unveiled is full of his glory.”

Flying serpents of celestial flame,
ophidians of the First Light,
sing again, that refrain:
“Holy God, Holy Strong, Holy Immortal,
the universe unveiled is full of his glory.”

From the source of light and heat
from the plane of Atziluth,
share the spirit and the power with us below.
“Holy God, Holy Strong, Holy Immortal,
the universe unveiled is full of his glory.”

This is part of July Anomalies A-Z, a creative writing exercise and not intended to be an altogether accurate picture of the creature described above. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2013 - Week 31

I have been calling these weekly image give aways "powerpoint slides for everyone" but really, there's no reason to limit them to powerpoint (or similar presentation programs).  use them as desktop pictures for your computer.  Use them in school reports.  Use them on your blog.  Use them at home, work, school, or church.  Do with them as you will; I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

For those who may be interested this picture is of an exterior lamp in our back yard.

Week 31 photo Week31_zpsa0a52204.jpg


I no longer believe in Eschatology – that is: the study of last things and end times.  I no longer believe in eschatology; I believe in eschatologies.

When I was young my parents (who are Salvation Army officers – clergy in our quirky denominational nomenclature) didn't talk much about eschatology, not that I remember anyway [i].  Though my dad did show the Thief in the Night series of films to our congregation.  And those films left a significant mark (heh heh heh) on my young and impressionable soul.

I remember vivid nightmares of earthquakes and volcanoes.  I remember that fear of coming home from school and not finding anyone and being immediately convinced that I had missed the rapture.  I remember freaking out any time the moon seemed especially large or orange.  Eschatology made me afraid. We didn't talk much about eschatology but held a sort of half-digested and barely understood Premillennial  Dispensationalism.

Later, when I was 19 or 20 I started studying eschatology for myself – partly as a way to undo some of that fear that had never left me. And I quickly dropped the Pre-Millennial Dispensationalist system.  The continued “it could happen at any moment” hype left me dry and I wanted to discover an eschatology that was based less on fear and artificial divisions between “Israel” and “the Church”  (It seems to me that Dispensationalism excels at creating a multiplicity of artificial divisions). 

I began reading about Postmillennialism – many of the early members of The Salvation Army held a post-millennial eschatology and were convinced that they would be instrumental in making the world a better place and ushering in the Kingdom of God.  That kind of eschatology influenced some of the songs they wrote.The song, “Shout Aloud Salvation” by Salvationist George Scott Railton, for instance:

March on, march on! we bring the jubilee;
Fight on, fight on! salvation makes us free;
We'll shout our Saviour's praises over every land and sea
As we go marching to Glory.

Early Salvation Army soldiers and officers believed that the expanding work of the Army would, in fact, bring about the great Jubilee, the kingdom of God on earth.

But I didn't stay long there.  I soon discovered Preterism – an eschatological system that holds that most (or all) of the predictions of the end times were fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  And this system seemed to make a lot of sense.  The pieces of the puzzle began to come together for me.  When Jesus said that “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” (Luke 21:32) he meant what he said… this generation, the very one he was speaking to as he made his predictions.

This belief freed me of that dispensationalist fear, established within me a deeper commitment to seeing the Kingdom of God here on earth, and gave me a great impetus to deeper study of scripture.  But that same impetus toward study has, in recent years, moved me (however reluctantly) away from a Preterist understanding of eschatology.

I say “reluctantly” because I liked that Preterism made sense.  It was a single unified theory that explained everything (or seemed to).  I liked that it was whole and complete.  There was comfort in that. But (and there’s always a “but,” right?) I have had to let it go.

Because I’ve come to realize that there is no eschatology of the bible – there is no one eschatology; there are many.  Daniel’s eschatology is not the same as Zephaniah’s. And the eschatologies of the synoptic gospels (though strikingly similar) are not the same.  And neither is Paul’s eschatology the same as John’s.  They were all writing at various times, to different peoples, with different expectations and with different goals.  And they each had different expectations about what “the end” would (or should) look like. 

I’ve come to accept that there is no way to meld all these eschatologies into one Grand Unified Field Theory.  There is no eschatological Theory of Everything. 

So what do I believe?  I do believe in the resurrection in Jesus Christ – that we who believe live in Christ – and that in some sense we live in and create the Kingdom of Heaven within us and around us in this world here and now.  “Making heaven on earth is our business,” said William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army. I believe that.  I love that.  Making heaven on earth is our business.

And whatever I might learn from the many and varied eschatologies of the bible – I filter them all through that thought: how will this help me to better see and create the Kingdom of God in the world around me?  I don’t expect the world to end in a matter of days or weeks or years.  The kingdom of God is an eternal and everlasting Kingdom and it begins anew each day.

[i] The Salvation Army does not officially endorse or embrace any particular form of eschatology.  There is a wide variety of opinion on the topic within our ranks.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

July Anomalies A – Z: Raven

This is a mystery, that:
His fingers are of iron;
his ears are elemental fire.
His legs are cedars tall
and his eyes are pomegranates,
but his mouth,
his mouth is the raven,

the raven dark and swift
through the night
through the wind
over floods and deserts

to bring a word, a message
to bring deliverance from demons,
iridescent with preternatural wisdom.

This is part of July Anomalies A-Z, a creative writing exercise and not intended to be an altogether accurate picture of the creature described above. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Langston Hughes Could Write the Blues

Langston Hughes could write the blues;
ole Langston could certainly write the blues
but I’ve always had new shoes.

I’ve never been up to Harlem town;
I’ve never been up to Harlem town,
but that Langston, he sure gets around.

Langston Hughes wrote of the Negro song;
Langston Hughes could write the Negro song,
I’m just a white boy trying to sing along

A poem to celebrate and honor one of my favorite poets.  While he wrote about the period when "the negro was in vogue,"  his experiences and his writings are still relevant and powerful.

Watership Down

 photo rabbit_zps4a67a95f.jpg"Great golden Frith on a hill!" I live in a house of Philistines who wouldn't know great books if they came right up into the garden and nibbled on their carrots.

I've just finished re-reading (more accurately, re-re-re-reading) one of my favorite books, one of the greatest books - Watership Down - by Richard Adams.  But my family doesn't appreciate it.  My wife tried reading it once but gave up after just a few chapters.  She called it dull.  My daughter (who loves Harry Potter and all things fantasy) said, "It's 200 pages about bunnies."

To which, I replied, "It is not just 200 pages about bunnies.  It's 475 pages of excitement and danger and wonder."

My son looked at me with eyebrows arched, "Bunnies?"

"Yes.  It's about rabbits, rabbits who face enemies and have wonderful adventures across the English countryside."


"Yes. Rabbits who fight, and one is slightly psychic... and they ride a boat..."

"Psychic bunnies?"

"Yes. And an angry sea-gull."

July Anomalies A – Z: Queen of Heaven

See the children gathering sticks, father lighting a fire,  mother kneading dough, and all to make cakes for the queen of heaven!  – Jeremiah 7:18

She sends the storms; 
she sends the rains
through the blue scattered light
of silicate skies.
She sends the stinging rain of glass,
falling sideways in strong winds.

Her long dark tresses, woven
 with garlands of flowers hang low.
In delicate hands she holds
a mirror,  which reflects
a hidden blue-green moon of Neptune

Dressed in silken fire,
she is moved by your weeping and your prayers,
pleased by offerings of star shaped cakes.
She will find your missing boy
and raise blades of corn.

She will relieve your blinding headaches
and remove the maggots from your ear.
But she can do nothing
for the hundreds of dying stingrays
dumped on the beach
by disappointed fishermen.

This is part of July Anomalies A-Z, a creative writing exercise and not intended to be an altogether accurate picture of the creature described above. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Macro Life

Filmmaker Sill Naveen has used some of my music (Music for Unfathomable Jovian Depths)in his short film - Macro Life - a fascinating look at insects and arachnids.

He's edited my song to fit the length of his film and though the edits are a little clumsy (oh well...) the images are wild and colorful and creepy and beautiful.

Macro Life from Sillnaveen on Vimeo.

July Anomalies A – Z: Phoenix

Hail, thou Becoming One!
Hail! Red-gold Bird of Dawn!

He comes not often into this land;
he comes but seldom,
at the end of 500 years
to build a nest
upon the Altar of Paradise.

With patience, molds an egg
of myrrh and oil
and drops within its shell
a feather of his own.

Then placing the incense
upon the altar
he is consumed by the flames;
and the smoke of the incense
mixed with the prayers of the saints
ascends up before God.

Hail, thou Becoming One,
risen with healing in your wings!

After three days, a wind
that blows the ash and soot away
to reveal a worm
that will grow
and take on feathers
and assume his former shape again.

Thus to live forever
with the Name
that spoke his name
at the Sun’s first dawning.

This is part of July Anomalies A-Z, a creative writing exercise and not intended to be an altogether accurate picture of the creature described above. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Why does God hate me?

We were supposed to meet at 10:00, to practice playing some music together.  But he didn’t show up.  At 11:00 I cancelled some of my other plans for the day and drove over to his apartment to see if he was okay.  I knocked on the door and waited.  After a few moments I heard him approaching from the inside. “Who is it?” he shouted through the closed door; I told him that it was me.

“You can’t come in…” he shouted back.  “You can’t come in, I’m in full drag.”

This wasn’t a surprise. He’d already told me about this.  The previous evening he’d shared with me a little bit, over the period of an hour, about his struggle with gender and sexual issues.

“You can’t come in; I’m in full drag,” then after a moment he said, “I told you about that, right?” He’d been a little drunk when he told me this the night before, so I wasn’t surprised that he’d forgotten.

“Have you had lunch?” I asked him through the still closed door.  “If I come back in half an hour, would you like to have lunch with me?”

After a brief pause he agreed.  So I left.  Did a few quick errands and then came back half an hour later.  He was ready for me, all evidence of his drag regalia removed or hidden.  And we went for lunch at a nearby fast-food joint of his choosing. And over burgers and fries he shared with me some more of his questions and struggles. “Why should I have to live in hell on earth and then die and go to hell?”  he demanded of me.  And I had no answer.

“Why does God hate me?

He’s had it drilled into him for so long that God hates him that he believes it.  Sincerely believes that God hates him; has created him this way out of spite so that he could be condemned to the fires of hell because of God’s inexplicable wrath.  I don't believe that God hates him, but I know I won't be able to overcome a lifetime of fear and confusion and pain in two days...

The restaurant soon became too crowded for such an intimate and painful conversation, so we cleared our table and left.  After lunch we drove around town for a while; listening to his favorite music and just enjoying the summer afternoon.  If I couldn’t answer his questions, I’d just be his friend.

The Market in Review

 photo TheMarketinReview_zps375f0ea2.jpg
I opened my copy of The New Interpreter's Bible (A Commentary in Twelve Volumes) Volume VII  today and this little doodle fell out.  Its drawn and painted on a scrap of newspaper.  On the reverse side is the police blotter for Sunday, October 2 (which means that this little doodle was shoved in the book back in 2011.)

 12:07 a.m. - A report of someone who pounded on a back window of a residence...

10:51 a.m. An ongoing problem with a barking dog was reported...

12:39 p.m.  A report of an unlicensed driver was received...It was later confirmed the driver was valid.

2:58 p.m. A report of juveniles stealing pumpkins ...the juveniles were located and a verbal warning was issued.

5:18 p.m. A complaint of older kids who stole toys from younger children was received...

The Bands of Orion

The bands have been loosed. The stars of the constellation Orion are slipping in space.

(Job 38:31)

July Anomalies: Orion

Canst thou …loose the bands of Orion? Job 38:31

Bound was the ancient hunter
with cosmic bands of gravity,
held between great galaxy clusters

but now those fetters are breaking,
and space is wearing thin;
the bands are loosed, the prisoner is escaping,

I have been monitoring changes
in that most recognizable constellation,
watching and recording his increasing motions.

Did you know that the fires off the shoulder of Orion
are already 7% hotter than at any time in the past 10,000 years?
Or that when Betelgeux explodes (as it is primed to do)
it will be visible on Earth, even during daylight hours?

But that’s not the worst of it. No.  Not nearly.
The stars are no longer fixed in space,
do you know what this means?
Orion, the giant, the primordial hunter
is about to escape, and when he does
he will be coming for us.

This is part of July Anomalies A-Z, a creative writing exercise and not intended to be an altogether accurate picture of the creature described above.   And this anomaly has a soundtrack.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Daisies photo Daisies_zps1618b932.jpg

I don't know much about plants.  I tend to kill houseplants and have had only the rare, occasional success in the garden.  Perhaps that's why I like daisies.  They can live and grow quite well without me.  I know some consider them weeds, but I thank God for daisies.

"For Zen students, a weed is a treasure." Zen master, Shunryu Suzuki

July Anomalies A – Z: Nimrod

Nimrod…he was the first on earth to be a mighty warrior. He was a mighty hunter before Yahweh.
Nimrod’s Trophy List     
1.                      Latifi Viper
2.                      Egyptian Vulture
3.                      Pakistani Sand Cat
4.                      Dhole
5.                      King Cobra
6.                      Arabian Oryx
7.                      Zebra
8.                      Iranian Crocodile
9.                      Water Buffalo
10.                  Himalayan Musk Deer
11.                  Bahamut Fish
12.                  Qarin
13.                  Bat Eared Fox
14.                  Aardvark
15.                  Gerenuk
16.                  Phoenix
17.                  Dugong
18.                  Pangolin
19.                  Finless Porpoise
20.                  Central Kashmir Vole

This is part of July Anomalies A-Z, a creative writing exercise and not intended to be an altogether accurate picture of the creature described above.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Parable of Progress

There was a man who had a wife – a wife he purchased from a neighboring village (this was back when such things were still done, mind you…) And he treated her very poorly.   He made her work from before sunrise to well after sunset.  She sewed for him and cooked for him.  She carried water from the well and she split wood for the fire.  She milked the cows and raised the chickens.  She kept his garden and took the produce to the market for him.   But he never allowed her to use any of the money for herself.   She dressed in castoffs and second hand rags, while he wore fine silks and linens.  She ate gruel once a day while he ate fine meats and dandies, three square meals every day.  She slept on a straw pallet while he rested on a comfortable down filled mattress.  And, what is more, he beat her. Severely.  And when she bore his children he made them serve just as their mother and he beat them as well.  Mercilessly.

After many years the other citizens of the town began to complain of the way the man treated his wife and children.  They said, “He is cruel.” They said, “She should take the children and leave him.”  Some said, “They should kill him.”

The man, hearing these complaints, begrudgingly allowed that, perhaps, maybe, he’d been a little unfair and vowed to change his ways. The woman was now allowed to use some of the family’s money for better food and clothing for herself and for the children, but the man still kept most of it for himself and his own comfort.  And he did, truth be told, beat her and the children less often. But they were still hungry and ill-dressed, and still abused.

And the woman and her children cried out in their despair. 

The husband took offense at their complaints, “How dare you complain.  These issues were addressed long ago.  Hasn’t there been substantial progress here?   Aren’t things better than they were before?  Will you never be satisfied? “

Flamingo Says I'm a Bird Person

Flamingo photo Flamingo_zpse7696c0a.jpgI don't usually think of myself as a "bird person."  I'm not a bird watcher, I don't sit in the backyard with a pair of binoculars and a copy of the National Audubon's Field Guide to North American Birds. And I'm certainly no ornithologist.

But, apparently I do like birds.  I find myself a little surprised by the number of posts I've made on this blog about birds.  I draw them, paint them, photograph them, write poems and music about them.  Apparently, I am something of a bird person.

Here's a flamingo.
I took this picture at the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa.

And I can never (seriously never) see a flamingo and not start singing the Violent Femmes song:

July Anomalies A – Z: Molech

Mechanical Molech, the horrid king,
with arms outstretched, besmeared with blood
of human sacrifice, the blood of children,
will not be satiated.

Gears and teeth grind
as the faithfully devoted
send their young into the fire.
The M-Machine, marching into war,
with tanks and treads and magazines,
oiled, fueled, and armored for the fight.

“They are not men, but soldiers,”
and he eats them whole.
“Soldiers! Soldiers!”
but his appetite is never satisfied.

So go on, feed your sons,
your daughters, too
into the flames of Molech.

His militant priests are already
beating the drums again.

This is part of July Anomalies A-Z, a creative writing exercise and not intended to be an altogether accurate picture of the creature described above.  

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Improbable Black Swan

Another photo I took at the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines.

The Improbable Black Swan photo TheImprobableBlackSwan_zps48ff0006.jpg

I took some photos of these same swans back on Holy Saturday, as well...

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2013 - Week 30

Each week I make a new image to use in powerpoint slides at my little church.  The images I create, I then share here on my blog for you to use in your own projects at home, work, school, church, or wherever.  Use them as you will.  I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

For those who may be interested to know - this photo was taken at the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa. It's the pond in the animals of Australia exhibit.

Week 30 photo Week30_zpsfc1ecd56.jpg

We Trust in God, But Samaritans Have to Pay in Cash

He came from the “holy city” of Shechem, this traveling merchant - Shechem, where Father Abraham had once offered sacrifices at the great Terebinths of Moreh, and where the Lord confirmed his covenant with Abraham.  From Shechem where weary travelers can still draw water from Jacob’s Well. From Shechem, with the holy temple on Mount Gerizim (though it had been destroyed, it was still a holy place).   He came from Shechem –sometimes called Sychar -in Samaria for he was a Samaritan.

He came from Shechem with goods and merchandise piled high on the back of his donkey to sell in towns and villages along the road to Jericho and Jerusalem.  It was a difficult trip, but well worth the dangers risked and indignities endured. 

He sold carved trinkets, bolts of cloth, dried fruits, tools, beads, spices, anything that could be carried without spoiling.  And though the trip was often arduous, and frequently humiliating, the profits of the trip fed his family, and he found that he enjoyed the long solitudes between the towns and villages.

The trip itself had many dangers.  The treacherously steep and winding road down from Jerusalem to Jericho could hide wild animals or bandits. It was no accident that the road was called “the Bloody Way.”[i]  It was 17 miles from Jerusalem to Jericho, and a drop in height of almost 2,500 feet. It was a steep and twisted road, and there were stories told of the many travelers found beaten and murdered along the roadside, their possessions and clothes stripped from them, their bodies left to be devoured by vultures and jackals.  But these were only risks.  Only possibilities, not certainties. He carried a small dagger for protection, but he’d never actually had cause to use it.  Still, he was cautious and kept himself alert for threats from beasts and from men.  

These risks were real, but only potentials; the indignities of the journey were certain. 

He was a Samaritan travelling in Jewish territory, where his presence was usually tolerated but never welcomed.  He could not count on the sacred relationship of hospitality.  It was considered an honor and a duty – a holy rite – to welcome travelers and strangers, to feed them and to see to their needs while they rested in your home.  But he would never be welcomed into Jewish homes.  His accent betrayed him as a Samaritan.  And Samaritans were hated here.

Though closely related in ancestry and culture, the Samaritans were regarded as low as the Gentiles by the Jews.  After they returned from their exile in Babylon, the Jewish people regarded the Samaritans as religious compromisers and degenerate half-breeds.

The “wise” and “all virtuous” Joshua Ben Sirah wrote of the Samaritans:
My whole being loathes two nations,
the third is not even a people:
The inhabitants of Seir and Philistia,
and the foolish people who dwell in Shechem.[ii]

That “virtuous” man loathed the Samaritans and denied them a place among God’s chosen people. Some were quick to call down fire from heaven on Samaritan villages for the smallest of offenses[iii].  And others placed Samaritans on the same level as the demon possessed[iv]

It was even said that the great Jewish leaders, Ezra, Zerubbabel, and Joshua, gathered together the whole congregation in the Jerusalem temple, with 300 priests, 300 trumpets, 300 scrolls of the law, and 300 children, and they blew the trumpets and the Levites were singing.  And they anathematized – they cursed- outlawed, and excommunicated the Samaritans saying, “Let no Israelite eat of one morsel of anything that is a Samaritan’s; let no Samaritan become a proselyte, and allow them not to have part in the resurrection of the dead.”[v]

Samaritans who built their homes on or too close to Jewish territories were evicted and their homes razed.  And the authorities looked the other way.[vi]  The rabbis had declared that “by reason of their idolatry, separation from them was established,” but also that “their slaughter was prohibited.”[vii]  This, however, didn’t stop the Sanhedrins from looking the other way when young Samaritan men were killed by Jewish authorities.[viii]

Oh the trouble went both ways, to be sure.  The Samaritans would hurl epithets and curses (and the occasional stone) back at the Jews.  And there were occasional outbursts of violence – from both sides. But the Samaritans were the minority.  They were outnumbered, surrounded on all sides, and oppressed.  The Samaritans were the minority in every way and he was traveling alone in Jewish territory.  Here he was the outsider, the rejected, the accursed. 

He sold his goods as quickly and quietly as possible, never expecting to receive a fair or full price.  He was often barred from village markets and chased away from Jewish towns.  He’d been spat upon and cursed. Some of his goods had been stolen and the elders of that village had refused to even acknowledge his claim.  He knew that he would not expect to receive any kindness from them.

Ahead of him on the road were two men – a priest and a Levite from the temple in Jerusalem, he guessed based on their clothes.  Many of the thousands of priests and Levites who served in the temple in Jerusalem lived in nearby Jericho.  He followed them at a distance, knowing the disdain they had for him.    He’d been close enough to them as they left Jerusalem to overhear them muttering about the “stupid Samaritan” that was following them.  They’d called him “filth” and “scum.”  He’d slowed his steps to allow extra distance between them.  No need to antagonize them.  After all, he still hoped to be able to sell the remainder of his goods in Jericho.  If he offended this priest and Levite along the road they might stir up trouble for him when they arrived.  It was better to choke on their insults and on the dust from their feet, than to lose a sale in Jericho.

But now, as he was coming around a sharp twist in the road, he discovered that they’d stopped.  He surprised them as he came around the rocky corner.  They jumped in fear and surprise, which in turn startled him.  He found himself reaching for his dagger.  But the fear passed when he realized why they had stopped, and he tucked the dagger back beneath his robes.

The priest and the Levite were standing a few feet away from a body sprawled out across the road.  A naked and battered body.  He’d been attacked by thieves – that much was clear.  His clothing had been taken from him, right down to his sandals.  There was an ugly bloody wound on his head and several knife slashes on his hands and arms.

“We found him thus,” said the priest.

Then the priest and the Levite crossed to the far side of the road, squeezing as close as they could to the rocky ledge so as to put as much distance between themselves and the body. 

“Aren’t you going to help him?” he called out to them.  “You must do something for him.”

“I cannot,” answered the priest. “He may already be dead and to touch a corpse would render me unclean and unfit for temple service. I cannot risk that.”

The Samaritan watched as the two of them backed away from the man laying in the road and then shuffled further down the road.  Then the two of them were gone, around another switchback twist in the road. He rushed to the body and discovered that he wasn’t, in fact, dead.  As touched him the battered man let out a pitiful groan.  And the Samaritan’s heart burned with compassion for him.  He rushed back to his donkey and unloaded a skin of wine and a jar of oil that he’d hoped to sell in Jericho.  He used these to clean the man’s wounds.  And then, using a piece of fabric torn from his own robe he bound the wounds.

He hefted the man up from the ground and placed him, as gently as possible, on the back of his donkey.  He had to shift some of the merchandise to his own back to do this, but he did it quickly, and soon they were on their way, carefully down the steep path toward Jericho. 

It was just after nightfall when they arrived in Jericho.  The Samaritan knew that he could expect to find no welcome there – no pious member of the community would receive him, the stranger, the traveler, or the wounded man he carried with him, into their homes no matter what the tradition and demands of hospitality might have dictated.  So he made his way to the inn.  It was a seedy place, frequented by traders and caravan merchants, run by an untrustworthy innkeeper – good people wouldn’t stay there, of course.  They would be invited to stay with the righteous and proper people of Jericho.  No.  The inn was for traveling merchants mostly, foreigners, and outcasts, but it did have a well with clean water, and was better than sleeping outside the city walls.

He spoke with the innkeeper through a barred window and arranged for a bed for himself and the injured man.  “You’re a Samaritan, aren’t you?”  The innkeeper asked.  “How do I know you didn’t do this to him, yourself? “

The Samaritan man barely managed to keep his tongue quiet.  He bit back a sharp and hasty reply and then said, “If I had robbed him and beaten him close to death myself, as you suggest, would I then bundle him upon my donkey and bring him here?” 

The innkeeper looked as if he wasn’t sure he could follow this line of reasoning.  The Samaritan sighed and then said, “There was a priest and a Levite on the road as well.  They came into town some time ahead of me.  Ask them if you won’t take my word”

Finally the innkeeper acquiesced and settled the price between them for lodging and care for the injured man - but only after seeing the Samaritan open his purse and withdraw two silver denarii.  We trust in God, after all, but Samaritans have to pay in cash.


So the story was told, and so the story remains.  Who is my neighbor?  Do I ask to justify and excuse myself?   Change the question and ask, how can I be a neighbor? 

[i]  Wilkinson, "The Way from Jerusalem to Jericho" The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 38, No. 1 (Mar., 1975), pp. 10-24
[ii] Sirach 50: 25 – 26
[iii] Luke 9: 54
[iv] John 8:48
[vi] Replace Samaritans with Palestinians here. 
[vii] The injunction came from the great Rabbi Maimonides – Montgomery, page 195
[viii] Replace young Samaritan men with 17 year old black men (Trayvon Martin) and Jewish men with George Zimmerman.
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