I smell forgiveness and candy.

I don’t know wither this is awesome or sad. Jimmy Kimmel challenged his viewers who are parents to record themselves telling their children that they ate all their Halloween candy, these are the results.

First the awesome. It’s funny to watch the over the top reactions of the kids. Candy is of course trivial, and a luxury and its funny to watch the kids act like this is a matter of vital importance. The other awesome part is the imaginary story I build around these sorts of things. I’m sure I’m not the only one who invents stories to go around snapshots like these. In this case its the story that these are households where pranks and jokes abound, the kind of situation where love and laughter go hand in hand. The kind of households where lives are filled with wacky 80’s sitcom activities and where each day ends with a freeze frame and theme music.

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(I like to imagine that even though the Breakfast Club was just a movie somewhere this guy is still freeze framed on this football field)

Then there is the sad. In a way this whole thing seems a bit mean spirited. I hope these kids aren’t learning to tease and bully others. I hope they aren’t leaning that it is OK to upset others as long as people think it’s funny. But what makes me think it’s sad even more is how seriously these kids take their candy. These kids yell at their parents and get noticeably mean towards them, shouting, telling them to leave and so on. It makes me want to go tell the kids “Its only candy, you can get more” and then remind the kids how much their families do for them. Candy is a luxury and sure it tastes good but it still is a bonus, a perk, a frivolous thing to add some color to life, it does not define life. But these kids act like their life is at stake, that the loss of their candy is a threat to their existence.

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(We have their demands, they want 4 tootsie rolls and a pack of hubba-bubba)

As I think about it more it may not be accurate to make this issue about candy alone. The kids plan for Halloween, prepare for it. Then they put on special clothes and carry out a task they would not do without some form of compensation. Then that preparation and effort pays off at the end of the day when the kids get to enjoy what they’ve earned through their labors. In other words trick or treating is in many ways work. Kids go out do labor in return for payment. It may seem odd from an adult’s perspective but the same work in exchange for pay dynamic is at play here.

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(Although everyone dressing in costume can really spice up a business meeting)

With that in mind it changes the dynamic of the whole thing. Were you to take an adult and tell them that you spent their whole paycheck their response would be just as strong as the responses of those kids. The only real change would be that it is far less endearing when an adult throws a temper tantrum.

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(And yet Adam Sandler has made tons of movies where the only plot is “Adult throws tantrums”)

But with all that being said I finally come to the reason I have decided this video is awesome. Forgiveness. There are a handful of kids who forgive the fictitious mistake of their parent. Some forgive right away with a smile on their face and my favorite moment is a boy who pauses seems like he may explode with rage and then walks towards his Mom says its ok and gives her a hug. These kids have learned to forgive, they have learned that the relationships in life that matter are more important that the fruit of their labor. They probably learned this by watching the adults in their life be role models of this kind of forgiveness.

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I think we could all stand to learn to forgive better than we do. We all have those things that make us angry that in the grand scheme of things aren’t all that important. Maybe we could all stand to pause for a moment and think if what we are so angry about is really not all that important, are we throwing a tantrum over candy. For me the next time I feel myself getting upset about something I’m going to remember that boy hugging his Mom and be reminded that nurturing relationships is far more important than stuff, people matter sugary treats not so much.

Peace
Jamie

We Live in an unfair world where Surge no longer exists.

One of my favorite things that has sprung up recently is the whole idea of taste test marketing. That is where several flavor of a food product are released and the most popular one will become regularly available. Mtn Dew did it a few year back with what they called the Dewmocracy. They released 3 flavors for an online vote. My favorite was the Green flavor which had a hint of lime, it came in last place and was never seen again. Then Lays did it with their Do Us A Flavor campaign. They had regular people come up with flavor ideas and three were made into actual flavors. Again online voting decided the winner, my flavor Chicken and Waffles lost and I systemically went to all the supermarkets around so I could stockpile the soon to be extinct chip. Then Earlier this year Doritos had their flavor challenge and again my flavor Caribbean Jerk (Which will be a nickname I use if ever I fulfill my dream of being a Lucha Libre Wrestler)

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(I’d look like this but covered in Doritos Dust)

lost. Now this week Lays released 4 flavors for their new Do Us a Flavor campaign, Cappuccino (seriously), Mango Salsa (sounds awesome), Wasabi Ginger (finally a chip I can put my sushi on) and Bacon Mac and Cheese (all cheese chips taste the same). I cant wait to try all four so that I can decide which I like best so it can promptly lose and never be heard from again. I am the Job of snack foods (The nickname I will use if I ever become a grocery store mascot).

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(Like this but with less night terrors) 

There is only one thing to conclude from this life isn’t fair. Some times your favorite salty treats disappear never to be heard from again.

It actually goes deeper though. Throughout High school my favorite foods were From Russia with Buzz an awesome flavor of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and Surge a green soda which had an XTREME (1990’s buzz word for you whipper snappers) marketing campaign. They were awesome foods and I ate them all the time. Since I graduated high school as 117 lbs of twisted steel and sex appeal its safe to say I would have been invisible if not for these foods. But then tragically after high school both of those products were discontinued and now years later they have yet to resurface. So its safe to say I’m cursed and the world isn’t fair.

(Insert awkward Bible transition here)

Psalm 119:121-128

​I have done what is just and right;
     do not leave me to my oppressors.
Guarantee your servant’s well-being;
     do not let the godless oppress me.
My eyes fail from watching for your salvation,
     and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise.
Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love,
     and teach me your statutes.
I am your servant; give me understanding,
     so that I may know your decrees.
It is time for the LORD to act,
     for your law has been broken.

These are the words of a man who is being oppressed. His world isn’t fair and for reasons much bigger than my snack food obsession. The Israelites were routinely subjugated by more powerful empires. Despite being God’s people they often ended up in dire straights. In this case the writer of the psalm has stayed faithful to God and is seeking God’s help. Its a cry we all know. I started with a silly first world problems unfairness but we know they get bigger than that. People die, justice is not served, the most deserving doesn’t always win and so much more. So often people see these inequities of life and come to a few conclusions, God does not exist, God does not care, God has turned his back.

Despite what the writer of this Psalm is going through he holds out hope that God will be there for him that God is with him. He has every reason to come to one of the conclusions I listed above but doesn’t. The psalmist seems to believe that God is with him in his suffering.

We live in a broken world where bad things happen way too often. Once a challenge was issued to write the shortest novel possible which tells a story and conveys emotions. The winner was 6 words long “For sale Babies shoes, never worn” the reason those six words are so powerful is because we know what truly unfair looks like. And yet in this deep suffering God is with us. The promise of Jesus isn’t “Believe in me and everything will be ice cream and cake” the promise of Jesus is the promise of the cross that God is with us always especially when we are in the middle of suffering. Suffering, and an unfair world are not signs that God has left us. They come with the promise that God is with us.

The world is not fair but you don’t face it alone. We are surrounded by people to share the journey with. And we have a God who promises to meet us in our pain.

Peace

Jamie

Oh and by the way Please Snack Food industry bring these back!!!!!! Please Please Please Please Please!!!!!!!

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Just put a plate over it.

We all know that moment. That moment where you’ve made some mistake and your first thought is to hide the mistake. Kids are awesome at this. Not awesome in the fact that they hide the problem well awesome in that when they do it can be super funny. Giant stain in the carpet? Put a plate over it. Broke a nick-knack? Shove it under a couch cushion. Took an extra cookie and Mom’s coming? Shove it in your mouth and mumble responses to her questions. As we grow up most of us stop attempting these sorts of techniques. OK full disclosure I still do so if you ever invite me to your home and after eating you discover someone has left a late in the middle of the floor, please don’t move it until I leave. it, at least not until I leave. Kid-Makes-a-Huge-Mess-With-Dog-Food-300x225

(I’m gonna need a bigger plate.)

This does continue into adulthood though. It Just sort of changes form. For instance the realtor doesn’t say “this house is a broken down dump” she says “Its a fixer upper”. And no one at a job interview says “I’m super lazy but I need a paycheck so here I am.” Instead they say “I have a strong motivation to be here.  We all tend to soft peddle some issues and put our best foot forward. Although it is funny to watch someone skip the soft peddling on a first date.

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(So anyway I’m unemployed live with Mom and Dad, have a serious fungal infection,  and yes I just farted)

Today’s reading is a different story though.

1 Kings 1:28-37
​ King David answered, “Summon Bathsheba to me.” So she came into the king’s presence, and stood before the king. The king swore, saying, “As the LORD lives, who has saved my life from every adversity, as I swore to you by the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Your son Solomon shall succeed me as king, and he shall sit on my throne in my place,’ so will I do this day.” Then Bathsheba bowed with her face to the ground, and did obeisance to the king, and said, “May my lord King David live forever!”

King David said, “Summon to me the priest Zadok, the prophet Nathan, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada.” When they came before the king, the king said to them, “Take with you the servants of your lord, and have my son Solomon ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon. There let the priest Zadok and the prophet Nathan anoint him king over Israel; then blow the trumpet, and say, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ You shall go up following him. Let him enter and sit on my throne; he shall be king in my place; for I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and over Judah.” Benaiah son of Jehoiada answered the king, “Amen! May the LORD, the God of my lord the king, so ordain. As the LORD has been with my lord the king, so may he be with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord King David.”

It may not jump out to you at first why this story is odd so let me give some back story. David was king and had whatever he wanted. Including at least 7 wives at the same time. On day he was on his roof a saw a beautiful woman taking a bath so he decided he wanted to get to know her better. So well in fact that she got pregnant. The problem was she was married at the time. So after several failed schemes to cover up the indiscretion David comes up with a plan that works. The bathing woman (Bathsheba) is married to a man who is in the military. David as king in in charge of the military so he sends her husband into battle on the front lines. He then orders everyone else to retreat back a bit so that her husband is sure to die in battle and he does. Then David marries her (she’s lucky number 7). So there you have it Boy meets girl, boy impregnates girl, boy kills girls husband, boy marries girl. Its not a children’s story.

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(It’s like I always say Kids should stick to physics)

This brings us to the reading from above. It’s years later and the child from this relationship is all grown up, his name is Solomon. David declares that Solomon will succeed him as king and in this reading he does. Here is the thing this is just the sort of indiscretion that people try to hide. At this point David’s secret was out, you’d think he would break of contact with Bathsheba or that at least one of his other sons would become king but that is on display. This branch of the family tree is out there for everyone to see.

What makes this more interesting is that it is through this line of David’s family tree that Jesus is born. Jesus’ family tree is full of other warts and blemishes but perhaps none as public and scandalous as this one.

There is no plate on the carpet no mincing of words the child born from a sordid affair becomes a king, a great king. And from that king comes the King of Kings.

Jesus came because the world is a broken place where dumps are sold as fixer uppers where carpets are stained extra cookies are eaten and where people at times attempt to avoid responsibility for their mistakes. Jesus lineage is a testament to that brokenness. There is no attempt to hide it or put it in rosier terms. Maybe we should take a lesson rather that hide our mistakes show how they have made us the people we are today. Jesus puts it all on display, and in this story so did David and it turned out well in both cases. Perhaps we should do the same from time to time.

Christians, Jews and Muslims a family tree where no one is the Stephen Baldwin

Often times it seems like famous families have at least one member who has a normal life. For instance the manning family has Peyton and Eli but there is also their older brother Cooper. I wonder what it’s like when his brothers start comparing the designs on their Super Bowl rings, I bet it make his funny story about the office picnic he went to seem a bit anticlimactic. Or worse yet what about famous siblings where one has far more success than the other. It must be an awkward moment at the Baldwin house when Alec talks about the big role he just landed and all Stephen has to talk about is how luck he was when he bought some runts and the whole package was banana.

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(Seriously why do those other flavors even exist)

Or when Sylvester and Frank Stallone get together and after Sylvester talks about his big summer blockbuster does Frank spend the next several hours seeing if anyone remembers that he was in Staying Alive the 1983 to Saturday Night Fever?

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(I remember Frank, I remember!)

It seems that a forgotten sibling is not that uncommon. It does seem a bit unfair that they become the punchline of jokes just because their brother or sister is a celebrity but that seems to be the way things work out sometimes. This paradigm even pops up in the Bible too.

 

Genesis 21:8-21

The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.

But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.”

So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

So Abraham has a son named Issac who has a son Jacob who has a son named Joseph (who starred in that technicolor dream coat musical). This family and their descendants would become the people of Israel, the Jewish people. So Issac son of Abraham and his wife Sarah would become the forefather of a tribe that would become a nation. The Jewish people who have survived the worst that history has to offer can all trace their beginnings back to Issac, not a bad legacy to have. On top of that the Bible talks about the Jews as God’s chosen people. The whole old testament is pretty much focused on telling the story of these chosen people and the involvement of God in their life. The problem is Abraham has two sons.

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(And when I say problem I mean someone is probably not going to live)

Ishmael is Abraham’s son with his slave Hagar. He was in effect plan b, his wife Sarah was unable to get pregnant and he needed an heir. When Sara gave birth Ishmael was no longer needed and he and his mom were sent away into the wilderness. If ever there was a slighted sibling story this is it. Issac gets to inherit his father’s everything (including some big promises made by God) and Ishmael gets sent of into the wilderness where death was more or less expected. What makes this really harsh is that other slighted siblings get talked about more than Ishmael we hear some of their stories, Ishmael on the other hand is little more than a footnote that many people are unaware is even in the Bible. But something strange happens in the wilderness.

At he moment that Hagar is ready to throw in the towel God steps in and saves her and Ishmael. On top of that God makes a big promise to Ishmael that he will become the father of a nation to just like his baby brother. By the way that nation is also still around today. Muhammad the founder of the Muslim faith is a part of that nation which Ishmael founded. So just as the Jewish people, and by extension Christians, identify Issac as a forefather Muslims identify Ishmael as a forefather. Turns out Ishmael isn’t a slighted sibling after all.

The Bible despite being a huge tome essentially tells one story. The old testament is the story of the Jews, God’s chosen people and the New Testament is the story of how Jesus’s life death and resurrection brought God’s grace into the story in a New and all encompassing way. What this Ishmael story reminds us is that when we focus our attention on one area or person we can miss the significant contributions of the other.

What makes this truly note worthy is when the passage says that God was with Ishmael. It doesn’t say it in a way that means just at that moment but that God was with him forever, just like God was with Issac. People of one faith or another often times make the mistake of thinking God is only with them. This is particularly true when it comes to Christians and Muslims since we both are talking about the same God. Sure we have differences is how we understand God’s involvement with us has transpired. They would say Jesus is a prophet not a messiah but at the end of the day we are all talking about the same God. A God who was with and continues to be with both sides of this family tree since way back in the Book of Genesis.

Perhaps we should stop thinking that God is closer to one person than another. We tend to want to make distinctions that separate people. God doesn’t seem to make those distinctions. God doesn’t care if you are famous or not or is you can throw a football well or not I don’t even think God is too concerned if you spend your Sundays in a Church or a Mosque God wants you to Love him and to love one another. So lets focus on love rather than our divisions in understanding.

Peace

Jamie

How I learned to stop worying and love Bob Evans

Years ago my family and my Uncle’s family took a cross country vacation together. We drove out to Yellowstone together making stops along the way, it was the longest vacation I ever went on, lasting about a month. Along the way every time we passed a Bob Evans restaurant my Uncle would comment about how he would never eat at one of “those” again. Apparently shortly before the trip he had been to one and received poor service and decided he would never go back. The funny thing is over twenty years later I have still never been back to a Bob Evans either.

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(I don’t know if I can forgive Denny’s for discontinuing the MEAT LOVERS SKILLET)

The grudge held against the restaurant chain is something that stuck with me, though I have never really stopped to think about it before. Who knows maybe I’d really like it, and I’m sure at some point in the last twenty years it would have been convenient to have eaten at one. On top of that I am all but positive that whoever was responsible for the poor service my Uncle received is no longer working at a Bob Evans.

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(Because they work here now)

The truth is I suppose grudges stick with us, they are hard to shake. They can stick with us and affect us in ways big or small and sometimes we don’t even realize it. What made me think of this after all these years was reading a short passage from Leviticus.

Leviticus 25:10

10 And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family.

What this passage is declaring is a year of Jubilee. A celebration every fifty years in which all debts are forgiven and all slaves are set free. It was a major celebration in Israel and one of the prime ways in which people lived out God’s mercy. You can imagine how liberating it would have been for the debtor and the slave. We of course have our own form of jubilee. Jesus set us free from the debt of sin, from the slavery to sin. What at one time was a once in fifty year celebration has become our new reality.

At the same time I think this idea of forgiving debts is one which we ought to revisit. My relationship with Bob Evans is one of debt. My family came to believe we were owed better service and that debt has been carefully accounted for years. In the end that grudge that debt is something that has helped no one and only served to inconvenience and annoy. Think of the debts you owe and the debts that are owed you, not the financial one but the ones of broken relationship. Do those debts help or are they just a source of annoyance, inconvenience and frustration. Sure it is important to remember those people who hurt you and those people who create an unsafe situation and to make sure you aren’t hurt or unsafe again, but most debts are different. Most debts only serve to bind us to our anger, hurt and pain, most debts would be better off forgiven.

Our debts of broken relationship only serve to keep us away from our friends, our family or our Church. We are worried about what we owe or are owed, so worried that we miss what could be. How many people are missing from our lives and our pews because of some grudge which simply doesn’t matter anymore? I’m going to declare a year of Jubilee for myself, I’m going to forgive old grudges, I hope you will join me and declare a year of jubilee for yourself as well. I for one am going to begin by going out to dinner, if you need me I’ll be at Bob Evans.

Peace

Jamie

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(How could I not like a food chain that looks like a barn and was started by a man in a cowboy hat!)

Wrestling with Revelation.

Let’s say the world’s population disappeared tomorrow.

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(Yes lets say that mwah ha ha ha)

Then let’s say in a few thousand years alien’s come to earth and decide to investigate what kind of people it was than once inhabited this planet. I’m sure a few things would confuse them .

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(Like this Picture!)

In my estimation nothing would be more confusing to them than trying to figure out the wonderful world of pro wrestling. First to get the necessary out of the way, I love pro wrestling more than I should. I’ve watched it more or less for the past 20 years. I’ve seen the good the bad and everything in between. It is through being a fan that I can say no form of entertainment is harder to explain to friends than pro wrestling. The questions that flow forth from a first time viewer are seemingly unending. “You know it’s fake right?”, “who’s that guy?”, “why are they fighting?”, “why are they dressed so silly?” , “Does that really hurt?” “what in the world is happening?”, and the questions go on. In short it is a confusing mess for those uninitiated in it’s strange world. I’ll try to explain the wonderful world of sports entertainment (that’s what pro wrestling likes to be called) as best I can. It is scripted, the outcomes are predetermined, and the wrestlers try not to hurt each other while making what happens look as convincing as possible. At the same time there is some level of realism, people do get hurt, some of the stories are based on real events and tragedies in the performers lives, some performers don’t like each other and this is often worked into story lines in hopes that their real animosity will make their fake feud more realistic.

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(Fake or not this is about to hurt.)

Even though everyone knows it’s fake the performers remain in character to some extent in their public appearances and activities. On top of all that is the fact that it is always changing. Performers leave or change characters (sometimes we are supposed to notice it’s the same guy sometimes we aren’t) , story-lines disappear and reappear, some stories develop while some are dropped and the overall presentation of the shows change too. In the 80’s it was very kid oriented, with superheros like Hulk Hogan. In the 90’s it became raunchy and decidedly not child friendly and now over the last 10 years or so it has tried to become family friendly again but not as cartoon-ish as the 80’s. Sports entertainment is a blend of soap operas, stage productions, reality TV all stretched over the frame of (fake) athletic competition. OK now back to the aliens.

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(We thought you forgot about us.)

There is no way these aliens would figure sports entertainment out. They may think it was a real sport and be very confused. They may think it was a stage production, but wonder why they stayed in character when shows weren’t going on. They may think it a TV show but then why is it filmed live in stadiums and arenas. I would love to see the anthropologists findings and conclusions about our culture based on their study of the WWE, I am 100% positive they would be wrong. The problem is that wrestling is a unique genre of entertainment and in order to understand any entertainment you need to first understand genre. This goes beyond entertainment to literature, art, and so much more including the Bible.

 

Revelation 10:1-11

The Message (MSG)

10 1-4 I saw another powerful Angel coming down out of Heaven wrapped in a cloud. There was a rainbow over his head, his face was sun-radiant, his legs pillars of fire. He had a small book open in his hand. He placed his right foot on the sea and his left foot on land, then called out thunderously, a lion roar. When he called out, the Seven Thunders called back. When the Seven Thunders spoke, I started to write it all down, but a voice out of Heaven stopped me, saying, “Seal with silence the Seven Thunders; don’t write a word.”

5-7 Then the Angel I saw astride sea and land lifted his right hand to Heaven and swore by the One Living Forever and Ever, who created Heaven and everything in it, earth and everything in it, sea and everything in it, that time was up—that when the seventh Angel blew his trumpet, which he was about to do, the Mystery of God, all the plans he had revealed to his servants, the prophets, would be completed.

8-11 The voice out of Heaven spoke to me again: “Go, take the book held open in the hand of the Angel astride sea and earth.” I went up to the Angel and said, “Give me the little book.” He said, “Take it, then eat it. It will taste sweet like honey, but turn sour in your stomach.” I took the little book from the Angel’s hand and it was sweet honey in my mouth, but when I swallowed, my stomach curdled. Then I was told, “You must go back and prophesy again over many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”

 

Isn’t the book of Revelation fun. It is the last book of the bible and is written in this odd confusing style with vivid and unusual imagery. The thumbnail version of the book is that it is a prophecy from a guy named John. It tells the story of the destruction of the world and the rebirth of the world in the form of God’s kingdom. That is a way oversimplified version but gives you the gist of it. Along the way it vividly tells of the end of the world, with boiling seas, a massive death toll, lots of suffering and so much more. If you’ve ever seen Bible inspired end of the world imagery it came from Revelation, from the antichrist to 666 to the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse to the battle of Armageddon it all came from here.

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(Not to be confused with wrestling’s much cooler 4 horsemen)

The mistake that I think many people make is not identifying the proper genre that this book is written in. Many see it as a book of prophecy. For them it is the Biblical equivalent of those people who have read ahead in the Game of Thrones books and tell you what is going to happen before it airs.

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(Spoiler: He says Hodor.)

They feel that John was given that opportunity to “read ahead” and is telling us what the destruction of the world would look like. I think people who understand Revelation in these terms picked the wrong genre. If I assumed pro wrestling were a real sport I would make all kinds of wrong and inaccurate conclusions about what was going on and people do the same with Revelation. It’s not a fortune telling prophecy it is actually written in a Genre (appropriately) known as apocalyptic literature.

 

Apocalyptic literature is very different from prophecy. It is a genre that is no longer familiar to people. It is most often written by and for people who are being oppressed. The cryptic imagery and language serves to hide the true intention of the book from those oppressors who may read it, a hidden code in a way. Revelation was written by and for those oppressed by the Roman empire. The goal of the writer is to help the reader understand that there is reason for hope. That though the Romans are powerful their power is nothing compared to God’s power that their empire can fall but God’s will remain. The end of the world death and suffering imagery through out the book serves to show the reader how the oppressors are vulnerable to things such as economic collapse, disease, death, foreign invaders, political instability, and subversion. On the other hand God is not vulnerable to any of those things. For those who are truly oppressed it can be hard to imagine that a power beyond the oppressor exists apocalyptic writing served to remind people that the oppressor is never truly almighty. So the book of Revelation is in many ways an illustration of all that could go wrong with Rome, all the ways it can fall and how none of those things will cause God to fall. Apocalyptic literature is in other words hope for the oppressed, their oppressors will not have the last word.

 

So often however when it is understood as a glimpse ahead at the end of the world when people chose to understand the Genre to be prophecy Revelation takes on a different tone. In the book some are taken to heaven before the destruction begins. The implication of this is that some will be saved (the faithful) and the rest will suffer horribly. This then becomes an ultimatum to believe or else, this word of hope becomes a threat. If you believe you will be saved and if you don’t then you’ve turned your back on God and will suffer more than anyone has suffered before. I don’t think this interpretation paints a picture of a loving and caring God. No it paints a picture of a God who allows his children to burn because they weren’t obedient enough.

 

I think it’s a shame that a book written to be a word of hope a reminder of where power truly lies(with God) and what kingdom truly has power (God’s) has turned into something so negative. To go back to my analogy at the top we have become the aliens examining something thousands of years old. An odd little something and we don’t quite understand what it is. We have two choices we could endeavor to find out exactly what we are looking at then make conclusions or we could make assumptions about what it is based on our own culture and understandings and make false conclusions. I fear too many people have chosen the latter option. Revelation is as much about telling the future as pro wrestling is about actual athletic competition.

 

(Pictured here; the opposite of athletic competition)

 

Peace

Jamie

 

 

But it seemed like a good idea at the time.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. It’s the rallying cry of youth across geography and time. Its the impetus behind too many bad ideas and regrettable decisions to count.

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(How many of you lived this story.)

The idea generally is that young folks don’t always think about or understand the consequences and implications of their actions.

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(For instance MC Hammer didn’t realize we’d still be making fun of this look 20 yeast later.)

There is, however, another side of that statement. It seemed like a good idea at the time can be said of those times when you are doing what you feel is right to later discover you were mistaken. Those times when you are sure your right only to find out you were wrong. I think we’ve all had those moments where we are advocating for something passionately and realize all too late that our passion was misplaced. Sporting events seem to bring this out in people. A few months back you would have heard me eloquently explain why the Denver Broncos would easily win the Superbowl.

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(And the agony of defeat.)

This happens with important things too. Your a strong advocate for a political candidate and then they let you down. You believe a reform will be positive and then it doesn’t go the way you expected. I’m sure you have your own story. For me I remember arguing with my brother that I was sure they’d find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, I was so sure they would.

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(Did they ever look under the couch cushions?) 

These mistaken beliefs can shape our actions our outlooks and our values. I kept thinking about this while reading today’s reading.

 

Ephesians 4:25-32

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

That opening line, Let us put away falsehoods has become something of a trap for people. Since it goes on to talk about the manner in which we are to live people understand this to mean “Understand the truth of God and live accordingly.” That is all well and good in theory but a lot harder in practice. The truth is on a lot of issues there is no universal agreement with what God’s truth is. This can lead to people on both sides of the issue claiming that the other is blind to God’s truth. Lumping those who disagree with them into the group of thieves and evil doers in the reading. In the end people walk away frustrated with one another.

 

The Church has reversed it’s understanding of a lot of issues over the past few thousand years. The church has in the past been pro slavery, pro gender inequality, pro crusades, anti Jewish, and a lot of other mistaken stances.

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(Although one man still stands by the Churches strict no dancing policy)

The problem is we are always clouded by our own thoughts and ideas. We as people are very good at using the bible to justify our beliefs. The problem is that often we don’t realize we are doing it. In that list of poor stances the church has taken I’m sure there were people who followed along whole heatedly believing they were doing what was right.

 

Perhaps when the reading is talking about forgiveness and putting away malice one of the things that it is referring to is setting our ego aside. Perhaps we should always remember that we have been wrong in the past and will be wrong again. Sure we should stand strong in our convictions but at the same time we should be open to other ideas, hear people out and even challenge our own assumptions. If an idea can withstand scrutiny, debate and counter argument then it is a valuable idea, one on which to stand. Hopefully the next time we say “it seemed like a good idea at the time” it’s followed up with “so I’m glad I cam to a new understanding” not “and I’ve held tightly to that bad idea for years”.

 

Peace

Jamie

 

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(Some people never learn)

We have nothing to fear, except vending machines

Roller coasters are one of those things that seem to split people in to two camps people who love them and people who will never go on them. The split seems to be a result of the basic premise of a roller coaster, its scary. People ride on them to enjoy the thrill of being scarred, they should call them thrill rides! Although people do get hurt on roller coasters, like that time a bird flew into Fabio’s face, they are designed to be safe while presenting the illusion of danger. I know many of you failed to finish that last sentence because you were picturing a bird flying into Fabio’s flowing hair.

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( I can understand the bird’s confusion It took me hours to realize he didn’t have a bird’s nest on his head.)

The truth is you are more likely to be harmed driving to the amusement park than riding a roller coaster. But for those who love them the illusion of danger is quite a thrill. Our brains take in information and come to conclusions. They register a huge fall twists spins and high speed turns and start a fight or flight response because all of that sure seems dangerous. And while theme parks take advantage of that to provide a fun ride other things we are afraid of lead us to make poor decisions. We think something is a threat and spend time and money addressing the perceived threat, or avoid it or we simply live in fear of it. There are lots of things that we are afraid of sharks, spiders, flying, strangers and so much more. The odd thing is that most of those things are far safer than things we encounter without fear or things we actively chose to do.

 

Deer kill more people annually that bears (130 vs 5)

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(You can see it in their eyes, they have evil intentions!)

More people die from choking on a pen cap they were chewing than from lightning (about 100 vs 40-50)

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(The pens consider it justice for all the abuse they’ve suffered.)

Vending machines kill more people than roller coasters (13 vs 4)

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(Shown here: The earliest prototype of a terminator.)

More people from die falling out of bed than from tornadoes (450 vs 60)

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(It’s worth the risk to sleep in this piece of awesomeness.)

and more people die from texting and driving in the us than from all air travel in the world (6000 vs 1200)

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(Can I still play my Xbox while driving?)

In fact driving in general is the most dangerous thing we do in a day and yet most of us think of driving as a casual activity or pastime. I believe the entire country music industry would fall apart if there were no more songs about how cool it was to drive cars.

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(Country music may be out of luck but we sing about driving and surfing.)

The point of all this is that sometimes the most dangerous part about something is how the fear of it negatively impacts our lives. I started thinking of this after reading today’s scripture.

 

Colossians 1:15-23

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;16for in* him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17He himself is before all things, and in* him all things hold together. 18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

21 And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22he has now reconciled* in his fleshly body* through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him—23provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.

 

Lots of people read this and think the message is that if you shift away from the faith in the gospel then you are no longer holy and blameless. This leads to a bunch of other questions about how do I stay faithful to the gospel, is there a right way and a wrong way to do it, do I have to be faithful my whole life or just at the end, people have different understandings of which way to be faithful is right so how do I pick the right one, what about kids who are to young to understand matters of faith, what exactly is the punishment for not being faithful, is there a point in time where I run out of chances to be faithful, and many more questions. The sum total of all these questions is self doubt and if you believe you are outside of God’s grace, perhaps irredeemably so, in short it creates fear. In other words this becomes a verse that instills fear in people, fear of a God who’s grace is not for them. I think this is the exact opposite of what Paul is trying to tell us.

I think Paul is telling us that we don’t need to be afraid of what God has in store for us. There isn’t some divine check list on which we need to rack up enough gold stars to pass.

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We have, by God’s grace been saved. The result of this is we no longer need to be afraid. I think Paul stating that we need to remain faithful and not lose sight of hope is a warning to not backslide into a life of fear. Just like we are afraid of many things that we don’t need to be, we don’t need to be afraid that God’s grace isn’t for us, because it is for us. The faith and hope help us to be reminded of this and live accordingly, to live as people free from this ultimate fear.

Being afraid of things which we shouldn’t be afraid of leads to irrational choices and mistakes. So being afraid that we are outside of God’s grace leads us to avoid God, who we feel has already made a judgment against us. In fact the most dangerous part of God is the fear that leads us to avoid God, a danger we create in our own minds.

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(So your saying it’s safe to come out?)

Live knowing God’s grace is for you and that you don’t need to be afraid.

Peace

Jamie

 

Author’s note: In case vending machines have taken over the world by the time I post this, I for one welcome our new robotic over lords… oh and you owe me like 330$ for all those times you failed to dispense the food I paid for.

Styles

Well The 2013 movie season is officially over. With the Oscars in the books we can stick a fork in 2013. It’s the first year in a long time where I can say I didn’t see too many of the movies talked about at the Oscars and I didn’t see many movies in general. When I looked at the top money making movies of 2013 I noticed a trend, an almost complete lack of original ideas. Here is the list of movies that made over 200,000,000$

1) Sequel based on a book

2)Sequel based on a comic

3)Loosely based on a fairy tale

4)Sequel

5) Comic book reboot

6)Original Story!!!!!!

7)Sequel

8)Sequel based on a book

9)Sequel

10)Sequel based on a book\

11)Sequel based on a TV Show

12)Sequel based on a comic book

13)Based on a Book

In case you didn’t notice a pattern there were a lot of sequels, adaptations from books and comics and combinations of those two things. In the top 13 there was only one original story, Gravity. This could be a sign that film writers are lazy and figure the best bet to make money is to stick with established stories an characters.

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(“The only thing that makes me happier than all this money is people paying to see a movie just so they can complain that the book was better”)

OK So it is partially that. But That doesn’t explain why so many people go to see these movies. If you add up all the income these movies made you end up with approximately a money bin full.

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(Pictured: My accountant who gave me the calculated movie income)

So Why is it that so many people are going to see remakes, reboots sequels and rehashes. Seriously how many Dracula, Great Gatsby, Romeo and Juliet, and A Christmas carol movies do we need because if you add up all the remakes of those movies you end up with an absolute ton. These movies wouldn’t keep being made if they didn’t have an audience and they clearly still have an audience. People are willing to put down 10-20$ on a movie ticket and watch a story that they already know or at least characters they already know. I think the reason may be that people sometimes want to hear and see things presented in a new way. Sure they’ve seen the story before but not like this. That’s why people will read books, watch movies, watch the TV show adaptation and heck maybe even go to the Broadway musical

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(How could this possibly be bad)

Sometimes people just want to hear the same message in a different way, when it comes to understanding something sometimes we need that information presented in a new way.

 

1 Kings 19

 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

 

Yes God came to Elijah in the silence. What makes this interesting is that Elijah was looking for God in the big flashy spectacles. Burning Bushes, booming voices, Plagues, Miracles, wonders, fiery doves, Strangers, Angels are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to listing the ways God has communicated with his people. Elijah was familiar with the Big actions of God but Found God’s voice in the still silence. The point is often made that we need to slow down some times, so that we have a chance to find God in the still silence too, its a good and valid point. What I think is often missed however is that God keeps on communicating in a multitude of ways from the beginning of the bible to the end. The point is God seems to know that we need to hear is message in new ways, that sometimes the same message needs to be spreed in a variety of ways.

 

Yet so often Churches seem to have the idea that their way to spread the Gospel is the best. Contemporary, traditional loud music, soft music, indoors out doors, traditional Church building, non traditional church building, guitar, organ, and so many more distinctions begin to arise. The answer to which is best is yes. Just like some people like chocolate, and some like vanilla we need different varieties because people have different tastes and sometimes tastes change.

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(I prefer Scotchy scotch scotch ice cr… wait does that say limited batch, I need to go out and stock pile a dozen or so pints)

The power of our ability to spread the Gospel sometimes lies in the variety of ways we have to spread it. So instead of focusing on which is best we should start focusing on what is the best way we can use our contexts, our strengths, our gifts and our traditions. Don’t tear someone else’s way down, build your own way up!

Peace

Jamie

Superhero

I’m a big superhero fan. I’ve always loved the tales of over coming huge odds to save the day. It turns out though that the hardest battle the superheroes ever faced happened off the page.

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(A battle even bigger than this.  But still take a moment to fully appreciate this cover, if museams had pictures like the I would be there everyday)

In the 1950’s folks started to feel that comic books were contributing to “delinquency”. Just like every generation has found something that “causes” kids to be bad the folks of the 50’s picked comic books. It was decided that they were too graphic and too violent and that they needed to be censored. I find it a bit humorous that this happened right after WWII and during the Korean war, both of which were fought by plenty of 18 year old kids and were, its safe to say, more violent and graphic than comic books. The comic book industry, faced with government censorship decided to self police and started a group called the Comics code authority and agreed that no book would be published without it’s seal of approval. This meant that Superheroes had to undergo some changes, they could no longer be vigilantes and instead had to work closely with the police. They moved away from fighting crime because that could become too violent. They all had to have steady girlfriends and boyfriends so they wouldn’t look promiscuous. The CCA even removed all slang from comic books so kids would learn to speak proper, or is it properly, so kids would speak good, (that has to be grammatically correct right?) Comics became more kid friendly and superheroes became more one dimensional. Superheroes ended up in much stranger situations during this time…

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(The flash faces Glandular problems)

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(Head Fat is always the hardest to get rid of)

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(Who knew Orville Redenbacher was Superman’s Dad)

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(Batman faces off against umm…ahh.. the debt ceiling?)

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(OK why did the writers hate auctions so much?  Did they get an advanced screening of Storage Wars?)

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(I guess Batman’s auction was just clearing room in his closet for these fancy new duds!)

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(OK Now I’m just confused, and sad, and a little curious, but mostly confused)

In the 1960 Stan Lee and Jack Kirby decided they would take a new approach they would give their characters more realistic problems, like self doubt, struggle with identity and not being accepted in society. It worked and these ale hallmarks of superheroes to this day. In many ways the most compelling part of the story isn’t their powers its how they struggle with the realities of the world they live in. It is through these struggles that they become truly heroic not because they are without flaw but because they are trying to be heroic in spite of them. They are struggling to be the best version of themselves that they can be. It connects with us so well because that is a version of heroism which we can all strive towards.

Psalm 119:105-112

 Your word is a lamp to my feet
    and a light to my path.
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
    to observe your righteous ordinances.
 I am severely afflicted;
    give me life, O Lord, according to your word.
 Accept my offerings of praise, O Lord,
    and teach me your ordinances.
 I hold my life in my hand continually,
    but I do not forget your law.
 The wicked have laid a snare for me,
    but I do not stray from your precepts.
 Your decrees are my heritage forever;
    they are the joy of my heart.
 I incline my heart to perform your statutes
    forever, to the end.

The writer of this Psalm could be writing an inner monologue for a superhero. He knows that he is surrounded by challenges and that the road ahead won’t be easy. Yet in the midst of his reality he is looking to God. His promise is to work towards knowing God better to follow in God’s ways as well as possible to be a better version of himself. The truth is it sounds very heroic. It’s heroic not because he is going to face everything alone like an action hero but because he is looking for help he is looking for God.

Often People think of Christians like those silver age comics above. A bit goofy, a bit odd and a lot naive. That we walk around like everything is fine and OK like God is a blinder for us. I don’t think that is how we are called to act. God call us to see the brokenness around us and within us and to aim for better. God calls us to be heroes not the kind who do everything alone, not the kind of hero Baby Batman was (seriously that was a thing?) but the kind who recognizes that aiming for better despite the struggle is where true heroism lies. Be a Hero

Peace

Jamie

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(Told you it was a thing)