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Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Cost of Doing Nothing

I have been, for several days now, increasingly nervous that the United States would begin launching military strikes into Syria.  When I saw the announcement that President Obama would be speaking today at 1:15 about the Syrian conflict I felt my stomach drop.  I waited and waited and waited as that 1:15 time came and went and President still hadn’t come out to the Rose Garden to make his announcement.   When finally he did, I was partially relieved. 

And, disappointed at the same time.

I voted for President Obama – in large part because of his opposition to and his pledge to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I have, in the years since, hoped for more rapid progress in these promises.  I have also been angered by our increasing use of attack drones to target and kill our ‘enemies’ – as well as numerous other ‘unintended targets.’

This afternoon when President Barack Obama laid out his plans for Syria I was angered to hear him declare that he has “decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets.”  Even if, as he said, “[t]his would not be an open-ended intervention.  We would not put boots on the ground.  Instead, our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope,” it felt like a betrayal of my vote. 

This is not what a Nobel Peace Prize recipient does.

And yet, I was partially relieved to hear the President continue, “But having made my decision as Commander-in-Chief based on what I am convinced is our national security interests, I'm also mindful that I'm the President of the world's oldest constitutional democracy.  I've long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  And that’s why I've made a second decision:  I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people's representatives in Congress.”

We can still stop any American escalation of this tragedy.  Please write, call, stalk your congressional representatives and let them know that you oppose any U.S. military action in Syria.

But the part of President Obama’s speech that disgusted and disappointed me the most was the following:

A country faces few decisions as grave as using military force, even when that force is limited.  I respect the views of those who call for caution, particularly as our country emerges from a time of war that I was elected in part to end.  But if we really do want to turn away from taking appropriate action in the face of such an unspeakable outrage, then we just acknowledge the costs of doing nothing.

Why is it that not “using military force” is automatically equated with “doing nothing”?  Are we so limited in our thinking?  To the one with a hammer, everything looks like a nail and to the nation with a massive military everything looks like a reason for war. 

But there must be alternatives. 

There can be no doubt that what is transpiring in Syria is “an assault on human dignity” but sending missile strikes will only further compound that situation.   (And, I am not at all convinced that missile strikes would be the end of it.  We may say “limited in duration and scope” now, but those who have lead nations into every war ever fought have promised that it would be over quickly…) 

As a Christian, as a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, I believe that we are called to be Peacemakers – and this is no easy thing.  War is easy.  Fighting is easy because it comes naturally to us.  It’s one of our two automatic responses – the other being to run away.  But being a Peacemaker requires us to find a different response.

I agree that we can’t “do nothing.”  We should do something – but this emotional plea to do something about the many thousands that have been murdered in Syria, should not be used to compel us to actions that will only lead to more death and suffering.  We must find another way – we should find many more other ways. 

Doing nothing is not an option.  Neither is military intervention.  But these are not our only alternatives.  This is not a binary, black or white, all or nothing situation. 

Let us be Peacemakers for a change.

Biblical Limericks: Because “Son of a Perverse Rebellious Woman” Doesn’t Have the Same Ring To It

King Saul wanted Jonathan to snitch
on his friend David; there was this hitch
Jonathan was loyal,
so Saul’s anger boiled,
“I’ll kill him yet, you son of a bitch!”

1 Samuel 20: 25 – 31

Read it in the Living Bible (1972) paraphrase…

Friday, August 30, 2013

Selfless Good Deeds Don’t Exist

In Luke 14 Jesus is sharing a Sabbath dinner at the home of a leader of the Pharisees.  There is a confrontational healing of a man with dropsy (an abnormal swelling caused by excessive build up of fluids in body cavities…) and then a brief teaching time in which Jesus tells some parables that don’t sound very much like parables.

After speaking to the other guests around the table, Jesus turns back to his host and says, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid.  But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.  And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14: 12 – 14)

Invite the poor because they can’t repay you.  (Not, as in some translations, “even though” they cannot repay you…)  It almost sounds like a perfectly selfless good deed, until he adds the comment about being repaid at the resurrection.

After all, “there’s no unselfish good deed, sorry….selfless good deeds don’t exist.  And you know the deal with Santa Claus, right?

Biblical Limericks: Plunder and Rape Your Way to a Biblical Marriage

The men of Benjamin had no brides
so they armed themselves, set forth to ride.
No virgin would escape
as they plundered and raped,
not till enough women were supplied.

Judges 21

“Rape” in this sense means: “an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation, the act of seizing and carrying off by force.” – As in the rape of the Sabine women – but I’m sure that the more modern meaning of the word was involved as well.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Just as Obscene as…

Killing done with chemical weapons is just as obscene as killing done with attack drones is just as obscene as killing with land mines is just as obscene as killing with AR 15 rifles is just as obscene as killing with M-1 Abrams tanks is just as obscene as killing with fighter jets is just as obscene as killing with smart bombs and cruise missiles is just as obscene as killing with machetes is just as obscene as killing with hand grenades is just as obscene as killing with hand guns is just as obscene as killing with …

Twerking Before the Lord

The internets have been ablaze recently with heated discussions – especially among Christians - about the sexually provocative attire and ‘twerking’ of Miley Cyrus at the MTV Music Video Awards.  But this is not the first instance of provocative attire and dancing causing disgust among the faithful – not by a long shot. 

“Wearing only a linen ephod, David was twerking before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and twerking before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.”

2 Samuel 6: 14 – 16 (SAV – Slightly Altered Version…)

Biblical Limericks: Some Rules for Happy Polygamy

Say your first wife’s a bit of a bore,
and that you’re looking for something more;
you may take a new wife,
but for all of her life
you must care for the first as before.

Give her the food, and clothing, and rights
that she had before, and do not sleight;
though you have a new bride
if the first is denied
she may leave your cheap ass in the night.

Exodus 21: 10 - 11

Oooh get over it. Limericks are supposed to be rude.

A Letter to President Obama - Let Us Be Peacemakers for a Change.

President Obama,

I am writing today to urge you to put into practice those values and ideals of the Nobel Peace Prize that you were awarded.  Do whatever you can to prevent U.S. military action in Syria.  We have only just begun to claw ourselves up out of the hole we dug for ourselves in two foolish and massively expensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We cannot afford another.

And over and above the fiscal concerns are the moral issues.  We have no justification for military involvement not while so many other options are yet available.  The emotional cry to “to something” about the very real horrors that are occurring should not compel us to make the same tragic mistake we have made over and over again in the past. 

We cannot obviate human suffering with violent action; we will only create more of the same.   If we must “do something” let it be something constructive rather than destructive. Let it be something that prevents further conflict rather than dragging us into another protracted military action. 

Let us be peacemakers for a change.

Jeff Carter

Dr. Tarrec’s Free Weekly Horoscope #3

Aries:  There is something just below the surface causing unusual ripples and waves in the otherwise still waters of your life.  Perhaps it is a creature like the Loc Ness Monster.  You should try to get a picture of it.  People will pay good money for pictures like that.

Taurus:  An image of the Virgin Mary will appear to you this week.  When it does you should seek and heed her advice.  If, however, it should be an apparition of The Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, you may want to think twice.

Gemini:  As the song says, “The passion of lovers is for death,” but don’t worry.  Considering your circumstances, you should live a long life.

Cancer:  Your self-imposed quarantine is coming to an end.  Wash your face and do something about your bad breath before going out among people again.

Leo:  There is treasure to be found in the nearby pond, diamonds hidden inside the mouths of frogs.  Do not seek the treasure.  Let it find you.

Virgo:  Try new shoes.  That always seems to help.

Scorpio:  You seem to have fallen victim to absurdity.  Why not embrace it? The poets will thank you.

Sagittarius:  The woman of the snow, with her pale skin, dark as night hair, and soft blue lips is waiting to meet you in the mist.  If you know her name, she may release you.

Capricorn:  Great Vladimir Putin in lingerie! Do you realize what you’ve done?

Aquarius:  The atmosphere of the Earth was once much more sensitive to changes is solar radiation, but you should stop blaming Sunspot activity for your bad temper. 

Pisces:  The NSA has targeted you for *******.  Be sure to ******** until Tuesday or ******* or *******.   Deposit the package ******** under ******** for our agents to find.  You will be contacted after **********. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Dog Day Cicada Husk

It's late summer and very hot.  The long, long days melt into nights that don't cool down until long after the sun has set.  Dog Day Cicadas in the trees sing their long complex songs and when they molt they leave their husks for me to find.

 photo CicadaHusk_zps60b139c5.jpg

Claiming God's Sovereignty Does Not Absolve Us of our Responsibility To Be Peacemakers

I had a brief – but infuriating – conversation on FB this morning.  I had shared an article calling for us to avoid falling into what seems to be our national pattern in times of world political crisis – we bomb the crap out it and then try to deal with the “unexpected” consequences.

An acquaintance of mine replied:
I don't think we will do anything. First I don't think Obama will do it (no guts) plus it’s the enemy killing each other. If he does bomb it will get us closer to the point of the Lord's return and that won't be so bad either. Either way God is in control and he knows what needs and will happen. So  not worried about it either way.

That is an absolutely deplorable eschatology. 

Do we accept that the world can just go to hell and not worry because we’ve got our rapture tickets out of here?  That killing is good – because, either 1) bad people die or 2) Jesus comes back?  Win / Win for everyone!

With this eschatology we can confidently ignore all human tragedy, because Jesus is coming soon and besides, God has everything under control.    

Claiming God's sovereignty does not absolve us of our responsibility to be peacemakers.


It's the fear of the end times, a phobia of the last days, an irrational terror of the end of the world. It's also paranoia and conspiracy theories and crackpot interpretation of biblical myths and legends. It's Eschatonophobia.

It's a completely free download.  So, why not?  Tell a friend.  Share the link.  Pass it on - there's enough crazy here for everyone.

Tracks #1 and #3 were previously published on this blog.   Those posts have been updated...

Track Information and Credits:
01 John Hagee Describes the Naked Merciless Power of the Illuminati
 “Beneath the Planet of the Apes”

02 Jack Van Impe Has 10,853 Verses to Prove His Point
 “Pump Up the Volume”

03 The Computer Is the Image of the Beast
“Image of the Beast”

04 Perry Stone Makes it Clear that Demons are the Spirits of Giants
Sinus 0001 
 “Reading that Science Fiction Garbage” - ?
“Get off my phone” Glenn Beck
“Planet of the Apes”
“12 Angry Men”

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Thief in the Night Filmmaker Dead at 86

In the news today- Russell S. Doughten Jr. has died at the age of 86.  Maybe that name doesn’t mean much to you, but if you’re an Evangelical Christian in America, it’s likely that you’re familiar with some of his films – the most famous of which is A Thief in the Night (1972).

I don’t subscribe to Doughten’s rapture theology.  And his films scarred the pee out of me (quite literally, I assure you...) when I was young.  His intent was to lead people to Jesus by scaring the hell out of them (metaphorically) but he succeeded in only making me afraid of God.

I’ve been able to get over that fear – thank God – and have come to appreciate Doughten’s films, albeit in an ironic fashion.   May God bless Russel Doughten jr, and receive him into his glory.

Here is some music inspired by my reaction to Dougthen's work (and which includes Doughten himself...)

And here are two short films inspired, in part, by Doughten’s work.

The Sign of the Antichrist from jeff carter on Vimeo.

This is the Beginning of the End from jeff carter on Vimeo.

Biblical Limericks: King Solomon Was a Randy ‘ole Goat

There once was a woman in sandals
whom Solomon liked to handle;
the curve of her smooth thighs
drove the king to loud sighs,
and at her breasts he liked to gambol.

Song of Solomon 7: 1 - 3

Monday, August 26, 2013

Come and Join Me at My Table

Here is another of my attempts at hymnody - taking inspiration from this week's gospel reading from the lectionary (Luke 14: 7 -14) and combining it with Dmitri Bortniansky's Vesper Hymn.

Come and Join Me at My Table

Come and join me at my table;
come enjoy the food and rest.
Come and eat, all who are able,
all are welcomed, all are blessed.
You who were despised, rejected,
you who were most dejected,
come and join me at my table;
all are welcomed, all are blessed.

There’s a place of honor waiting
for the one in life oppressed.
There’s a love that’s reinstating
those who are by Christ confessed.
Join him at the heavenly banquet
leave outside all past regret.
Come and join me at my table;
all are welcomed, all are blessed.

Biblical Limericks: Let There Be Light

You might think it exceedingly odd
that in the very beginning God,
when starting on day one,
made light before the sun.
Something about this story is flawed.

Genesis 1: 3 - 19

Hey Dan Brown!

Hey Dan Brown - you're four books into the Professor Langdon series of (cough cough) thrillers.  I thought perhaps you'd figure it out by now.  It's not "symbology."  It's "semiotics."

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sky Glider

I took this photo at the Iowa State Fair earlier this month.

 photo SkyGlider_zps5b95f3e9.jpg

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2013 - Week 36

Here it is again - another free background image for you to use in Powerpoint (or another  similar presentation program) slides.  These images are free for you to use in your own projects at home, work, school, or church.  Use the however you like; I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

For those who are interested in knowing these sort of details - this photo is a close up of a painting I did on a piece of paper torn from a magazine - close enough that you can see some of the Ben-Day dots of the magazine's printing. I added the larger dots in Photoshop for flair.

 photo Week36_zps1770f542.jpg

Jesus, Satan, and the Bent-Over Woman

In this part of the story Jesus is on his way from the hill country of Galilee up to Jerusalem.  Today we could make that trip in a couple of hours.  We could hop in a car, get on the highway and be there in time for dinner.  But Jesus would have been walking.  Assuming the average human walking speed of about 20 miles per day, this is a trip that would have taken him about 5 days. 

It’s not a terribly long trip (at least for those like Jesus who would have been accustomed to walking such distances).  But Luke seems to stretch it out a bit.  Jesus must be taking the scenic route – stopping at every little town and village along the way…Between the beginning of his journey in Luke 9:51 and his arrival in Jerusalem in chapter 19 (somewhere between verses 41 and 45…)  - Ten Chapters - Jesus is involved in preaching and teaching and healing and telling parables all along the way.  Some of Jesus’ most memorable stories were told along the road to Jerusalem.

Actually, our estimate of 5 days might have to be modified.  It would be about 5 days if he were walking straight through, but that fails to take into account Sabbath days. If he started mid-week, then Jesus could expect to stop for the Sabbath.  And since he seems to have been taking the long roundabout route, it’s likely that he stopped for several Sabbaths along the way.  On Sabbath days – the day given to rest and worship – Jewish people were to limit their walking distance to about 2,000 cubits, roughly three-fifths of a mile. 

But this is no bother.  He doesn’t exactly seem to be in a hurry.  We’re stretching this 5 day walk over 10 chapters; so he has plenty of time to linger.  And besides, Jesus liked to be in the synagogue on Sabbath days.  It was his custom to be there with others of his faith even as he journeyed from place to place, from town to town and village to village, you could always find him in the local synagogue on any given Sabbath.  He taught the people there.  He met them there, shared with them, and ministered to them.  So as he made the long journey from Capernaum – his base of operations in Galilee – to Jerusalem, Jesus stopped for Sabbath rest and joined the worshipping community in the synagogue wherever he was.

There was only one Temple for Jewish people; it was located in Jerusalem, and it was there that they would gather to worship with the sacrifice of animals and grain offerings.  There was only one Temple but there were many synagogues – in fact wherever there were Jews in community there were synagogues, sometimes called houses of prayer. 

In larger communities these synagogues may have had a building reserved exclusively for synagogue activities and a full time leader or teacher.  But in smaller rural communities it may have been converted house, whose leader may have held another occupation during the week.  People attending the synagogue sat on benches around the outer edge of the room, while the speaker stood in the center of the room.  This arrangement encouraged questions and discussion among the gathered community.

The leader would speak, perhaps ask someone from the congregation (a literate someone) to read from the sacred scrolls.  Prayers were prayed and hymns were sung.  Visitors were welcomed and allowed to speak if they had something to share with the others.

And this is what Jesus liked to do, to teach in the synagogues.

On this particular Sabbath (Luke 13: 10 – 17), Jesus is in the synagogue of some unnamed village or town, and he is teaching.  Luke doesn’t provide us with any detail about his teaching – perhaps it was one of the parables that Luke records in these 10 chapters – but in the middle of his teaching Jesus saw a woman among the congregation – a bent-over woman, who had, for 18 long years, been crippled by a “spirit of infirmity.” She had been unable to stand upright.  Her face was forever down towards the dirt; she was unable to look up to heaven, or to look into the faces of those around her.  And Jesus called her forward, into the center of the room so that everyone could see her.

And though Luke describes her disability as being an affliction caused by a “spirit of infirmity,” Jesus does not treat it as an exorcism.  There is no evil spirit being cast out, there is no demonic presence exorcised.  Luke describes it as a healing.  Jesus says to her, “Woman, you are loosed – you are freed – from your infirmity.”  And then he placed his hands on her and she was immediately well.

I can imagine her in that moment slowly standing upright for the first time in 18 years – I can hear all the snaps and pops along her vertebrae and neck and she extends her frame.  I can see the smile on her face as she lifts her hands and her face up towards heaven to praise the God that had given her this healing.  She praised and glorified God.

But not everyone was happy.

This is one of three Sabbath day healings that Luke records in his gospel.  In the other two Jesus is confronted by upset members of the Pharisee party.  And though the leader of the synagogue in this story is not specifically described as a Pharisee, he certainly sounds like one.

This man was vexed – irritated – (or to use my own personal favorite neologism, he was “disgustipated”)

“There are six days for work” he snapped at the crowd and – indirectly- at Jesus.  “Come back on any of those days to be healed. Not on the Sabbath!”

The German language has a word, schadenfreude, which describes the pleasure derived from seeing someone else suffer.  Think of the enjoyment we have in watching a Three Stooges movie, as they fall, and get slapped, and poked in the eye.  That’s schadenfreude.  But the leader of this synagogue he has the opposite of schadenfreude.  He derives displeasure from someone else’s joy.

Where Jesus had previously called out the bent-over woman, he now singles out the synagogue leader,  “You Hypocrites!”    And then proceeds to tear into him.  “Don’t each one of you untie your ox or donkey – even on the Sabbath – so that you can lead it to water?”  If this untying of farm animals is permitted on the Sabbath (the day for rest) then how much more should the untying of this “daughter of Abraham”? 

We usually read about the “sons of  Abraham” but here, in this patriarchal culture, Jesus lifts up the dignity of this previously bent-over woman and gives her the noble title, “daughter of Abraham.” His healing was of more than her body.  He healed her mind, and her soul as well.  He restored her body and restored her dignity, her self-worth.  He restored her rightful place among the community.

And though I pointed out earlier that Jesus doesn’t treat this “spirit of infirmity” as an exorcism story, there is a satanic power being overthrown here.  The word “Satan” in Hebrew means “opponent” or “adversary” and whether he knew it or not, the leader of the synagogue in that unnamed village was acting as the Satan – the opponent, the adversary that morning.  He indignantly opposed the breaking in of God’s kingdom.  He opposed this display of God’s glory.

Though he thought he was honoring God by keeping the strictures of the law regarding work on the Sabbath, his spitefulness towards this oppressed woman was evidence of his own “spirit of infirmity.” Jesus came to heal and to restore and to give life and dignity to oppressed and downtrodden people.  He came to lift them up – quite literally in the case of this bent-over woman.  He came to restore their dignity and their worth. To give them honor as God’s favored children. 

And any who oppose this work are agents of Satan – opponents and adversaries of the Kingdom of God.  Any who seek to stop us as we restore broken lives and lift up the fallen are oppressive agents.  Any who resist us as we comfort the dispossessed and as we welcome those who have been shunned are Satans to be cast out.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

John Hagee Describes the Naked Merciless Power of the Illuminati

I was goofing around last night with some of John Hagee's paranoia.  This is the result.

If you enjoy this kind of nonsense you can download it here.

I made this in Ableton Live 8 with stuff I recorded myself, and with these samples from the Freesound Project:

More Light
Asia 8
Bleep Pong Noise

I also used a clip from Beneath the Planet of the Apes (in a slightly altered form...)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Biblical Limericks – This Story Needs the Theme from Rocky

Forty long days with nothing to eat,
and nothing to drink, just desert heat;
Satan came to tempt him
and it might have been grim,
but Jesus said, “I’ve got this thing beat.”

Mark 1: 12 - 13

After Doubt - A New Song

This is a new song, written for the one who told me recently that I'd helped to dash his "neat and tidy beliefs."  He meant it as a positive statement - but also as a sort of lament.  Breaking through to new levels of understanding, breaking down old constructs can be dangerous and disheartening work. But there is something after doubt...

Feel free to download it and to share it with others.

And, if you like it, you may want to check out some of my other songs.

For Where Your Thesaurus Is…

I like learning new words and expanding my vocabulary.  I realize that admitting this may cause me to sound a bit like a nerd or an egghead.  But it is true and I don’t care.  I like words.  I subscribe to a word of the day email service.  I sometimes even read the dictionary – for fun!  Give me old words, obscure words, foreign words, forgotten words that no one uses anymore, I love them.

And apparently, so does Jesus.

In Matthew 6: 21 Jesus said, “..for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”   And in that verse the word “treasure” is the Greek word thesauros. 

"Where your thesaurus is, there your heart will be also."

The Greek word thesauros from which we do derive our English “thesaurus” literally means a “treasury or a storehouse, a repository.”  Our book of words is a treasure-house. 

Biblical Limericks: Noah Was an Angry Drunk

Now may a curse be upon Canaan
for what his father, my son, has done;
he saw me passed out drunk,
naked and in a funk,
let him be a slave to everyone.

Genesis 9: 20 - 25

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dr. Tarrec In His Observatory

-from Dr. Tarrec's personal journal:

"Throughout the expanse of the sky which encircles us there are figures, signs by which we may know the secrets and most profound mysteries of the universe. These signs are formed by the constellations... But I have yet to read their secrets for I cannot break the code... Still, I must keep trying. I must persist!"

Recently I was asked to reveal the identity of the secretive Dr. Tarrec, but I cannot.  I am bound by honour to keep his secret.  

Biblical Limericks: Jeremiah’s Lament

You deceived me and I was deceived,
the words I speak have not been received;
if I’m silent I burn,
if I speak I am spurned.
And you wonder that I am aggrieved?

Of the Reading of Books There Is No End

Qoheleth had it right:  "Of making many books there is no end..."  And there's no way to read them all.  My list of books to read only ever grows, no matter how many titles I check off, there are three more, five more, ten more to replace it.

Currently I am reading - The Historical Figure of Jesus - by E. P. Sanders

But waiting for me in my ever expanding stack are:

The Phenomenon of Man - by Teilhard de Chardin
The Apocalyptic Jesus: A Debate - edited by Robert J. Miller
The White Lioness - by Henning Mankell (the 3rd in his series of Kurt Wallander Mysteries)
Christianity in Action: The International HIstory of The Salvation Army- by Henry Gariepy
and - just arrived in the mail yesterday -
Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World - by Rene Girard

and all this, of course, conveniently ignores the fact that I still am bogged down in my friend Joel Watts' book -Mimetic Criticism and the Gospel of Mark

Roman Sketch

It's nothing much, just a quick doodle.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Some Early Thoughts on the Bent-Over Woman of Luke 13

I’ve been reading and digging and studying and getting myself ready to preach this upcoming Sunday from Luke 13: 10 – 17 – the story of Jesus’ Sabbath day healing the woman who had been crippled for 18 years.  What follows are some of my early thoughts and questions about this story.

It may be important to note that Luke has 3 of these Sabbath day healings (6:6-11, 13: 10-17, and 14: 2 – 6).  In the two other stories Jesus confronts “lawyers and Pharisees” and “Pharisees and scribes.”  The leader of the synagogue so vexed by Jesus in this particular story is not described specifically as a Pharisee, but he rather sounds like one.

Luke attributes these 18 years of crippling to a “spirit of infirmity” or “weakness,” and has Jesus attribute it to “Satan”  - but the woman’s cure reads more like a healing – he lays hands on her and she is immediately well – than an exorcism; nothing is cast out from the woman.

And speaking of Satan (which means opponent or adversary) – should we draw a connection between that arch opponent / adversary and the opponents / adversaries who were put to shame by Jesus’ healing and rebuke?  I’m inclined to think that maybe we should.

But just how many opponents to do we have in this story?  The leader of the synagogue (singular) is vexed by Jesus’ healing of the woman and he rebukes the crowd telling them to come back for healings any of the other 6 days of the week.  Then Jesus shouts out “Hypocrites! Does not each one of you…” – Plural.   

Some have suggested that this might indicate that this statement of Jesus originally circulated independently of the story to which Luke has attached it.  Others argue that Jesus recognized that the crowd agreed with the synagogue leader and so included them in his rebuke.  But if this is the case, then why does the crowd rejoice for what Jesus is saying and doing, rather than sulk off in shame with the leader of the synagogue?

This is the last time (in Luke anyway) that Jesus is seen inside a synagogue.

I don’t know what I’m going to make of this story; I’m still working on it.  But I’m more than a little intimidated by something I read in Adam Clarke’s commentary: “A preacher will know how to apply this subject to general edification.”

This is my always and continual fear- that I don’t know how to apply it – any of it – to general edification.  I can only share what I’ve found to be helpful, and trust that it might be of some value to you as well.

Thatjeffcarter's Passport Photo

I'm getting my passport updated so I can travel.  Next spring I'll be heading to Israel.  Here's my passport photo.

Dr. Tarrec’s Free Weekly Horoscope #2

Aries:  The sound of gunfire means that it’s time to disappear. Take the opportunity before it takes you.

Taurus:  The Beast of Trowbridge is devouring its prey. But this is no cause for alarm.  Things like this happen in the natural world.  If you should happen to catch sight of this large cat take a few photos for the local newspaper, but maintain a safe distance.

Gemini:  Did Oswald act alone?  What is the CIA hiding with its obfuscation of the relevant information?  What difference does it make?  All men have secrets and you’re looking very old tonight.

Cancer:  If your home is plunged into darkness this week, it is the cows that are at fault.  These bovine terrorists are scratching at the power lines in retaliation for our consumption of steaks and hamburgers.  Perhaps it’s time to switch to pork.

Leo:  That bruise on your knee that won’t go away, that itches relentlessly no matter what topical ointments you apply, that is swelling and causing you great amounts of pain, is in fact a sea snail growing just beneath the dermis.  It’s gross.  You should see a doctor and have it removed.

Virgo:  The rain falls hard on a hardtack town.  But everybody knows this.  It’s really nothing. Carry an umbrella if it bothers you.

Scorpio:  Disregard any reports of extraterrestrial activity in your neighborhood for the next several days.  It is nothing more exciting than a troop of circus baboons.  They will make a lot of noise and a bit of a mess and then they’ll move on. 

Sagittarius:  Now would be a good time to get your family a new pet.   A python would be nice. The kids will love it.

Capricorn:  Don’t worry.  It wasn’t your fault.  Just let the salvage team in; they’ll clean up the mess.

Aquarius: You really should update your calendar.  The one you are using aligns on the Midwinter sunrise and may have provided ancient hunter-gatherers with an annual "astronomic correction" in order to better follow the passage of time and changing seasons, but is completely obsolete in this modern age.  Get with the times, friend.

Pisces: Do you know where you’re going? Have you consulted the map?  Life is trying to show you something but you aren’t paying attention.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Biblical Limericks: One for the Mythicists

My friend, James McGrath often contends against those who seek to demonstrate that Jesus was only ever a myth created by the NT authors by cutting and pasting various stories about other gods into the purely fictional tale of Jesus.  In one of his recent posts he tries to deal with those Mythicists who want proof of Jesus in 400 characters or less (the length of a Youtube comment...)  

And someone in the comment section of McGrath's blog suggested that if it can't be given within that 400 character limitation, then perhaps a limerick would work.  

Challenge accepted! 

I've been writing a lot of biblical limericks this year, so here's one for the Mythicists:

If you want to establish the truth
parallels should not count as good proof;
it takes more than a nod
to other ancient gods
to make history’s Jesus go poof!

A Bible Film that will Be Accurate Only if it Ends with Socialism

Seasons of Gray - in theaters September 2013 - is a modern retelling of the story of Joseph.  But if they're going for accuracy it's going to have to end with Brady Gray (the modernized Joseph) as the Vice President taking control of the nation's economy and establishing a centralized, socialist system of wealth redistribution.  Just sayin'....

Komodo Dragon

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Yesterday Was Miserable. Tomorrow May Be Better…

Yesterday was miserable. 

It started out fairly well.  I had a productive meeting at the church over lunch, then worked on some music for our brass band to rehearse later that evening.  Then I went to visit my friend.  And that’s when things took a turn for the miserable. Yesterday was miserable for me because I chose to share my friend’s misery.  But it was only a vicarious misery and it was only for a few hours.  My friend has been miserable for pretty much his entire life. 

He has been told by so many and for so long that he is terrible, that he is abominable, and that God could never love him that he has come to believe it.  He is bruised and broken emotionally and spiritually and believes that he deserves whatever pain and misery he experiences.

When he’s feeling particularly miserable he drinks.  And even though The Salvation Army is an alcohol abstaining denomination, I find it hard to begrudge him his drink.  (Not that I’d encourage him to drown his pain in alcohol, but I can't bring myself to condemn him for it…)

Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish,
And wine unto the bitter in soul:
Let him drink, and forget his poverty,
And remember his misery no more.

Proverbs 31: 6 – 7 ASV

What worries me though, is when he drinks he tends towards the suicidal.  The weight of his grief is so overwhelming that even the numbing effects of alcohol can’t help.  He’s attempted suicide in the past – so I’m more than a little nervous when he starts talking about it again…

Put me out of my misery
I'd do it for you, would you do it for me
We will always be busy making misery

Misery – Soul Asylum

I left him yesterday afternoon without being able to help and this bothered me.  I’m not quite so naive as to believe that I can in just one afternoon undo the effects of a lifetime of scorn and abuse, but I was quite miserable for and with him just the same.

I wrote the lyrics for this new hymn with him in mind.

And then the following quote, attributed to the Jewish American composer Harry Ruby, came through my Twitter feed last night.  I don’t know if it’s attributed accurately, but I like the quote:

The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night's sleep.

And, at least for now, that has proved true.  I went again to visit my friend this afternoon, and things were much better – or at least comparatively better.  He was sober, and glad to see me.  He asked me to pick him up for church Sunday morning. 

The psalmist said that weeping lasts for a night and that joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30: 5) but how quickly does joy come when the misery has lasted a lifetime? 

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2013 - Week 35 Bonus

Usually I create just the one free background image for use in Powerpoint (or similar presentation programs) each week, but sometimes I have something left over, something extra.  Here is a bonus background image.  You are free to use it in your own projects at home, work, school, or church. Use it however you like, I only ask that you share it freely and that you tell others that you found it here.

For those who may like to know such things, the two parts of this image were both shot at Cordova Park in Marion, Iowa on Lake Red Rock.  Enjoy.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Lord, Let Us Rest in You - A New Hymn

Here I am again, trying my hand at hymnody.  This time combining the story of Luke 13: 10 - 17 (the woman bound and unable to stand upright for 18 years healed by Jesus on the Sabbath)  with the music of the Latvian national anthem - Dievs Sveti Latviju (“God Bless Latvia”).

Lord, Let Us Rest in You

For those who have been bound
and those who’ve been turned round,
all those chained to the ground,
Lord, please hear our prayer.
Come take away our grief;
bring joy and sweet relief;
strengthen us to belief,
Lord, please make us well.

Lord, let us rest in you.
Lord, let us rest in you.
Lord, break the chains that bind
and let us rest.

Here now with wounded hearts,
broken in all our parts,
we need your healing art,
Lord, please hear our prayer.
Long have we been confined
and to our fates resigned;
now we leave that behind,
Lord, please make us well.

What I like most about the combination of these words with this melody is the dignity- even in suffering and hurting.  Too often people are made to feel like trash, torn down and told that they deserve whatever pain they have.  "It's your own fault,"  they're told.  No one should be treated that way.

It's my prayer that those who are desperate and  broken and hurting will find rest in God.

Biblical Limericks: Was He Diagnosed with Catatonic Schizophrenia?

Ezek’el was a man to excite
and when he saw Israel’s sad plight
on his left side he lay
three hundred ninety days
and another forty on his right.

Ezekiel 4: 4 – 6

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Biblical Limericks: Job’s Wife

Old Job of Uz was a patient guy
who suffered much, but never knew why,
lost cattle and children,
then his wife said to him,
“Job, why don’t you just curse God and die?”

I Am the Captain of Shoelaces and Strings

I am the Captain of shoelaces and strings;
I live inside your Xerox machine,
I have been given the golden key
that unlocks the spaces between things.

Below me, a river of fresh water
above me  an empty sky,
I used to mean something,
now I’m just mean.

Board up the windows and lock all the doors
I’m buying and selling the winds
and everything is going to change.
You can read about it when I’m done.


A word of explanation, though it will explain very little.

A few days ago I had a gentleman in my office who told me that I am "the Captain of shoelaces and strings."  I don't know what he intended with this remark, but I take it as a compliment.  Also, a few years ago after I had finished preaching a sermon and was standing at the back of the chapel as people left, a woman who was visiting our church that day took my hand and stared into my eyes and said, "God told me to let you know that you have been given the golden key."  She left and I never saw her again.  I still don't know what my key unlocks.

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2013 - Week 35

So by now, you probably know the routine.  Each week I create a new background image to use in powerpoint presentations at my little church.  I then post the pictures here and share them with the world.  You are free to download this 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 the details - the two parts of this image were both shot at the Iowa State Fair.  On the left is an architectural detail from the Sheep building and on the right some flowers in the Discovery Garden.


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Some Men Just Want To Watch the World Burn

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Transmutation of Space

Famed alchemist Dr. Tarrec announced today that he is working with NASA officials to develop a process to aid in crossing the almost unimaginable distances of interstellar space.  “The Sons of God” he says “saw that the daughters of men were fair, and crossed through the mysteries of space to be with them.  We are attempting to recreate the alchemical reactions that allowed them to achieve this magnificent mode of travel.”

Specifically it was the angel Amnael who perfected this art, and left a record of his work with the Arabs.  It remained a forgotten and lost art for millennia, but now, with the rediscovery of an important manuscript, the Chrysopeia of Al-Mu'allim Al-Awwal interstellar travel can soon become a reality.  Dr. Tarrec has been, for the past seven years, working tirelessly to translate this obscure book of secrets and is now ready to launch (quite literally) into his work with NASA.

It will require a whole field of new specialties, but Dr. Tarrec predicts that by as early as 2025 humans could be traveling to distant star-systems on huge alembic engine space craft.  

The Humble Bee

The Humble Bee photo TheHumbleBee_zps14dcedec.jpg

Photo taken at the Iowa State Fair Discovery Garden

Friday, August 16, 2013

Biblical Limericks: ‘Dat Ass

Moses had but one favor to ask,
“Lord, please let your face before me pass.”
But Yahweh, he declined
to show aught but behind,
“Not my face, but I’ll show you my ass.”

Exodus 33: 18 – 23
Ooooh get over it.  Limericks are supposed to be rude.

What I Saw at the Iowa State Fair

antique doll photo IMG_5972_zps60594b62.jpgAmong the many many things I saw today at the Iowa State Fair were:

a yellow John Deere Tractor
a 908 lbs. pumpkin
newborn goats (3 hours old)
clowns on stilts
2 co-workers
emu eggs (they have green shells)
children being thrown by sheep
a working printing press
free hard-boiled eggs (I ate 6)
snakes, snapping turtles, and an alligator
some really creepy antique dolls
a butter cow
a butter Abraham Lincoln
a partially melted ice statue of the Statue of Liberty
...and later an almost completely melted statue of the Statue of Liberty
a teepee
food on sticks
lamb sausage (very tasty)


state fair tardis 1 photo IMG_5917_zpsa746f505.jpg
state fair tardis 2 photo IMG_5921_zpsb8a98ab8.jpg

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Biblical Limericks: Never Enough

There are three things never satisfied,
no, make it four that will not subside:
a barren womb, and death,
deserts of rain bereft,
and fire - these will not be denied.

Proverbs 30: 15 - 16

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2013 - Week 34 Bonus

Usually I create just the one free background image each week, but every now and again I have something extra, something more.  And this is one of those weeks.  So here is a bonus freebie.  You are free to use these images 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 such things -this image is a combination of 2 photos: 1) some bokeh Christmas lights and 2) an ordinary ceiling lamp shot through a piece of glass cut like a crystal.

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A Reading from the Book of Levitations

When you bring a bloodless offering to the Lord
you must bring it without leaven
and without honey.
Burn it upon the altar.
It will rise.

In the smoke it will rise,
above the camp it will rise,
into the sky
into the heavens it will rise.

And the 1100 stars of the heavens
will receive the smoke
and they will be obscured,

but bright will be the glory
of the wise among you,
as the radiance of the sky
starry-bright forever their glory.

Biblical Limericks: That’s Quite a Moniker, Son…

Isaiah’s son’s name had real pizzazz;
it sounded a bit like modern jazz,
for the name was received
before he was conceived.
He was called Maher-shalal-hash-baz.

Isaiah 8: 1 - 3

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Biblical Haiku: Daniel 7: 9 – 10

Thrones put into place,
the Ancient of Days arrives;
the books are opened.

He Said Many Hard Things

I have been, off and on this year, trying my hand at hymnody.  I recognize that I'm no Charles Wesley or Fanny Crosby, but I have enjoyed the challenge of trying to fit new words to old (and sometimes forgotten) hymn tunes.

This week I combined the strange words of Jesus recorded in Luke 12: 49 -56 with the hymn tune "Lewis-Town" by William Billings (1746 - 1800).  This is not a hymn tune that is used in The Salvation Army's songbook (at least not in its current version.  There is, apparently, a newly revised version to be coming out in the near future...)  I found it in the Lutheran Book of Worship #426 (O Son of God, in Galilee)

He Said Many Hard Things

And to the crowd that gathered there
he said many hard things:
I came to bring fire to the world
and would that it now burned.

And to the crowd that gathered there
he said many hard things:
think I have come to bring you peace?
No, I came to divide.

And to the crowd that gathered there
he said many hard things:
you read the signs set in the sky,
why can’t you read the times?

Biblical Limericks: Daniel’s Apocalyptic Menagerie

First was a lion plucked of its wings
then came a bear told, “Eat many things!”
Third, a leopard to dread
with wings and four strange heads;
last was a beast with horns that were kings.

Daniel 7

They Are Gone, But Something Remains – A Graveside Committal Sermon

I am performing (Performing? Performing isn't the right verb, but the only other ones I can think of: "conducting," "leading,"..."officiating" are even worse...) a graveside committal service this morning.  G. died last week.  The ashes of he and and his wife, V. (who died a few years ago) are being interred together.

Funerals are for the living - and for that reason, the final song quoted in this sermon was one of the family's choosing. 


We are here this morning because they are gone, G. and V.  

While alive they shared our lives, and we theirs.  We shared their joys and triumphs.  We suffered their losses and miseries.  The highs and the lows.  The pains. The celebrations.  And all the daily routines and the extraordinary wonders that compose this life. We shared these together.

But they are gone from us.  Gone from this life.  And yet something of them remains, something more than their ashes which we commit to the elements, today. We have the memories of them formed within us, and the shape they gave to our lives. These things outlast our fragile bodies.  Call it spirit, call it soul; though the body is temporary, something remains.  And it is that something that we honor today. 

We are here because they have gone. In this life we will hear their voices no more.  We will never take their hand or clap their shoulder.  No more shared laughter over jokes and games.  No more shared tears for grief and wounds. For G. and for V. these things are past.  Yet something remains.  The past is gone, just as G. and V. are gone from us.  But something remains.  The future is wide, wider than we can know.

Jesus of Nazareth, our Savior and Lord, on the occasion of the death of his friend, Lazarus, said “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”[i]   There is life after this life, and in this we take great comfort.

Death is not the end.  This mortal life is not all there is for us.  In his famous play, Hamlet, William Shakespeare wrote the lines, “all that lives must die, passing through nature to eternity.”[ii]  All that lives must die.  Everything and everyone passes through this brief life and then is gone.  Yet, we insist that something remains.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”[iii] Faith remains, even when our friends and loved ones have passed, Faith remains.  Hope too, remains even after this flesh is gone.  And love.  The greatest of these, Love, remains.  Our love for G. and for V. does not cease when we commit their ashes to the elements.  Love remains. 

And it is God’s great love for us that gives us ground for our faith and our hope and our love.  It is his great love that nullifies the power and finality of death.  He breaks the power of cancelled sin and sets the prisoners free.[iv] It is his love that has swallowed up death in victory and gives us immortality,[v]  so that we might remain forever with him.

We are here because they are gone.  And their absence leaves us with grief and sorrow.  But we take comfort in what remains.  We have our faith that God is good.  We have our hope, the blessed hope of eternal life with God the Father.  And we have our love, our love for each other and our love for G. and V., despite their absence.  Our memories of them will keep that love alive within us, and in however many days and weeks and months and years we have left here ourselves, we will share those memories with others.   And in doing so we will share that love with others. Love not only remains but Love grows.

We may gather around the grave to grieve today for what we have lost, but we take comfort in all that remains.  We say farewell to G. and to V.  We entrust them to God’s great love, and place ourselves within that same love for peace and comfort in the days ahead.

So, go rest high on that mountain.
[G. and V.] your work on earth is done.
Go to heaven a shoutin’
love for the Father and the Son.[vi]


[i] John 11:25 – 26 
[ii] Hamlet – Act 1 Scene 2
[iii] I Corinthians 13: 12 - 13
[iv] O For a Thousand Tongues To Sing – Charles Wesley
[v] I Corinthians 15: 54
[vi]Go, Rest High on that Mountain – Vince Gill

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Dr. Tarrec’s Free Weekly Horoscope

Aries:  What began as a lark has the potential of becoming quite dangerous. You should stop now before anyone else contracts gastroenteritis.   The items you left in your high school locker have been identified as yours; you should reclaim them, soon.

Taurus:  A fondness for fungus will bring unexpected opportunities for travel. Go for it.  All mushrooms are edible...once.

Gemini:  Like the lobster, you have a tendency toward cannibalism.  Protect your children.  Global warming and rising water temperatures may be the cause of your errors in judgment, but try to make amends before the week is over.

Cancer:  Now is not the time to investigate another incident of cattle mutilations.  The winds of blame are shifting.  Extra-terrestrials are falling out of favor.  You could be next.  There will be no witness, no one will see or hear anything, but the tongues of the beasts will be removed.   Don’t let them wag about you.

Leo: Brittle teeth and bones can be replaced.  Epithelial cells collected from your urine make great source material.

Virgo: Be active and vigorous this week.  The sedentary will be devoured by hungry dogs, starting with the testicles.

Libra: Watch for roaming herds of prehistoric wooly mammoths.  They will ask you for a favor. You would be wise to refuse.

Scorpio:  Ring the bells.  Sound the alarm.  Communion wafers are bleeding within the shrine.

Sagittarius: The rising of Jupiter and Venus should not be mistaken for Chinese spy drones.   Prudent decisions are based on accurate information.

Capricorn:  The Carrier Pigeons you used to send your last messages have gone off course.  They will be found, fed and returned to you, but the messages will not have arrived.  Prepare for plans to falter because of this communication failure.

Aquarius: Beware of sentient dolls.

Pisces: Even decapitated snakes should not be trusted.  They can still bite.

Biblical Limericks: Worst Psalm Ever

The Psalms are lovely, nothing to mock,
but some of them can give quite a shock,
and it must be agreed
that it is hard to read
a blessing for smashing babies on rocks.

Psalm 137

Monday, August 12, 2013

Henry M Morris Should Have Written Science Fiction

I have in my library the book The Revelation Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Prophetic Book of the End of Times[i] by Henry M. Morris – a commentary on the final book of the bible and a sort of bookend companion piece to his similarly named commentary on Genesis.  And it is a howler, ridiculousness on nearly every page, far too many to share them all...

Despite the claim that this is a “scientific” commentary on the book of Revelation, there is very little actual science.  There is, however, a great deal of science fiction (or speculative fiction, if you prefer that term).  I’m beginning to think that Henry M. Morris should have written science fiction; he might even have been pretty good at it.

Consider his discussion of the Great War in Heaven described by John in Revelation chapter 12.  Morris wrote, “With what weapons and by what tactics will this heavenly war be waged is beyond our understanding.  Angels cannot be injured or slain with earthly weapons, and such physical forces as we know about are not able to move spiritual beings.  But these beings do operate in a physical universe, so there must exist powerful physico-spiritual energies of which we yet can have only vague intimations, energies which can propel angelic bodies at superluminary velocities through space and which can move mountains and change planetary orbits. …”[ii]

This is the stuff of great science fiction, but it isn’t science.  Neither is it biblical exegesis. 

[i] Morris, Henry M. The Revelation Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Prophetic Book of the End of Times Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, Wheaton IL, 1983
[ii] Page 224
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