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

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

Gifted

One of my favorite jokes that revolve around the holidays is misunderstanding what the purpose of a gift is. I think Seinfeld did the joke best. Jerry gives his dad a Wizard pocket organizer. His dad is unaware off all the things the organizer can do and instead only uses it to calculate the proper tip at restaurants. Jerry spends the whole episode trying to convince his dad that he can do other things with the device to no avail. Pee Wee Herman (never thought I’d get to write about him) does the gag as well with an iPad.

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I’ve never tried using my iPad as a drink tray but I know there are much better uses. By the way this video came out about 20 years after Pee Wee’s show was canceled which really makes me wonder if the set was just waiting around collecting dust for this video. The point is we often seem to not realize the full potential of things especially when they are new and impressive.

 

Isaiah starts by reminding the reader that compared to God we are insignificant. He goes so far as to call Jacob a worm and Israel an insect. That piece of the reading is very small and Isaiah spends more time telling us about the amazing things God is doing. Filling us with his power and hope, caring for the poor and answering us when we call. God is doing amazing things for us and through us. Whats more is that we understand this action of God being spoken of as the life and ministry of Jesus. Isaiah is letting us know all about the coming messiah all about Jesus. The amazing thing about this is that we know these actions are for us as a gift of love and grace. This is the sort of thing that should fill us with vigor to go and do God’s work with our hands. Sadly it seems that too often people never get past the first few lines.

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(Ok so sometimes not getting past the first few lines is a good thing)

It can be easy to become hung up on our own insignificance when compared to God. And certainly God does not want us losing perspective and equating ourselves or anything else with him, that whole false idols commandment and all. But God does not want our humility to be an anchor that weight us down. We are called to enter into the world and with God bring glimpses of his kingdom to life. We have been given an amazing gift, the freedom and support to do God’s will may we use that gift to its fullest.

Doors

My earliest Christmas memory is from 1984, I was 3. After opening all the presents there was one remaining, the infamous “to the family” present. These were always a mixed bag as a kid usually it was a bigger present but at the same time it usually involved sharing. As the youngest of 3 brothers sharing wasn’t something that always went so well for me.

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(We’ll let you know when it’s your turn little brother)

What we opened was an Atari, I loved it and spent a lot of time during my childhood playing video games. I was pretty good at figuring out what I needed to do next. I would usually be able to get to the end of games and found it to be rewarding. Of course there are always hiccups along the way. Every person who ever played a video game knows that moment when you fall in a pit or the turtle monster eats you and you look at your controller and say “you it’s your fault”. Yes every one know the frustration that erupts when you can’t quite make a jump and your convinced that the fault lies in that small rectangular piece of plastic. The other pinnacle of frustration is the dead end. When you have no early idea what you are supposed to do next. This is where my greatest enemy in all of video gamedom comes in… the door. Yes the mighty door . When I would get to a door, certain that my next task was behind it, there were few words more terrifying than “Key is required”. Nothing was more heartbreaking than those moments where you need a key and have no clue where it is and you know the only option is to backtrack endlessly until you find it. It was so confusing to me, I could be a giant mountain of a man able to break rocks in two but a flimsy wooden door which I could kick down in my sleep blocked my path like a great colossus. There was no easy way past that mighty door. Luke had Darth Vader, Sherlock had Moriarty, and I have a simple flimsy wooden door.

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(This barbarian turn away from the camera, so you would’t see he was crying)

The Church seems to be in the midst of a similar feud with doors.

 

Matthew 28:16-20

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

Jesus gave an order to his followers. They were to spread his message and to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They listened well, spreading this community of people following Christ across the globe. From these humble beginnings Christianity was born and Billions of people followed Jesus. At some point this following became so big that the followers didn’t even have to go anywhere to find people to share this message with, people came to them looking to be a part of God’s activity in the world. Buildings were built as centers of worship and for centuries they were filled. Beautiful buildings, an emblem of the beauty of God standing high above the skyline as a symbol to the community of the power of God. The buildings of course had strong, sturdy doors

 

Things changed, it seemed sudden, many people stopped coming to those Churches. For a bunch of reasons this model of a huge building to draw people in like a lighthouse stopped working. The solution seems simple, go out and engage people again like the first followers did all those years ago. But there is a problem, those doors. It can be so hard to take what we’ve known and carry it outside those doors. On the other side of those Church doors, in the community, in the world there are people who need to hear the message of hope in Christ. They may think they know who Jesus is and what Jesus stands for but so often the picture they see is distorted, or missing pieces, the world need the message we have to share, they need the whole picture.

 

Back in those game the only solution was to backtrack hoping to find what I had missed the first time through. We as followers of Christ need to look back at our early Church leaders see how they engaged with those around them and continue living the mission that Jesus laid out for us.

 

Peace

Jamie

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(Doors are known to operate in both an open and closed position)

Catchphrase

Catchphrases are awesome. Little memorable quips repeatedly thrown out by a character that tells you all you need to know about the character. For instance in Happy Days the Fonz has his iconic AYYYYY, Rerun in Whats Happening had Dy-no-mite and Arnold Schwarzenegger had I’ll be back long before his catchphrase became an odd mispronunciation of the state he governed.

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(Mr. Governor it’s pronounced California not Cullifornaya)

Those catchphrases tell you all yo need to know about the characters, The Fonz was cool, Rerun was a happy goofball and Arnold would, no matter the odds, kick butt and come back to defeat the bad guy. I always thought it was funny to imagine if characters had a different catchphrase. I thought it was funny to think of how that would change the character. For instance replace Arnold’s I’ll be back with a diminutive “I give up” and all of a sudden you have a much different ending to all his movies.

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“Cry Havoc and let slip the dogs of war!”

“Sorry Henry lets try another catchphrase”

 

I’ve often wondered what the catchphrase of the Church is, or at least what should it be. It seems that all to often people outside of the Church think about today’s reading when they think about the message that Christianity is sending to them.

 

Romans 1:18-25 (NRSV)
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. 

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 

Not the rosiest of pictures is it. God’s existence is so clear that everyone can see it. Anyone who doesn’t believe in God must be actively avoiding him, and now the wrath of God is coming for all those who don’t believe in him. Yikes. The truth is a lot of people, outside the Church, hear this sort of message and feel strong armed and condemned. They feel like they are being told that their lack of belief, or lack of church association mean that they are bad people who idle away their time on trivial, Godless pursuits. Whats more they feel they are being told that God’s wrath is all that awaits them unless they make a change ASAP. In other words the catchphrase they are hearing is “Follow us, or else”. What a sad state of affairs, there are lots of messages that the Church has to spread, we call those messages the Good News or Gospel but to be clear the Gospel is not a threat.

 

Through out Roman’s Paul, who wrote it as a letter about 2000 years ago, spins a persuasive web luring readers into the inescapable conclusion that we all need God’s grace. He starts by indicting those who follow pagan worship, which would make those who believe in the God of Israel nod their head in Judgmental approval. Paul then turns that argument around in such a way that those who are nodding their heads in judgmental approval would realize they too fall short and should aim that judgment at themselves too. The clincher is that Paul drops Gods grace into the middle of those failings, into the middle of that judgment and shows us that Gods grace is for everyone. The point is that we all fall short and screw up but we are made right by God, who forgives all those failings not by what we have or haven’t done but because of his gracious love. We all need God’s grace and fortunately it’s there for us all. Or else makes a terrible and in accurate statement of the church, there has got to be a grace centered catchphrase to be found somewhere, I’m sure someone more clever than I could find it.

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“Graaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace!”

“Still pretty bad Henry”

Peace

Jamie

 

Mr Comeuppance

For my money the best character in any disaster, horror, or survival movie is a guy named Mr. Comeuppance. That’s the guy who ignores, the big disaster that’s on its way, acts like he has all the answers when he actually has none and mocks the hero along the way. I first met this man in a movie called Daylight staring Sylvester Stallone. Its a bad movie, awesomely bad. Viggo Mortensen plays a CEO who is arrogant and sure he has all the answers. When he and the other characters get caught in the Lincoln tunnel he is sure he is the man to save the day. His plan is to rock climb out of the tunnel. When the other characters tell him he can’t because it’s to unstable it goes like this..

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(I have all the answers I’ll ignore any and all advic… )

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(Guess we were right about the cave in)

Mr Comeuppance comes in many forms, the guy who says the aliens are our friends just before they get him, the Guy who says the weather is not a problem, then gets caught in a twister and of course the cocky Lawyer who gets eaten in Jurassic park.

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(Surprisingly this doesn’t end well for the Lawyer)

 

The basic idea is that wee seem to like characters who get what’s coming to them, characters whose arrogance is their undoing. We want to see the hero be a hero and the arrogant jerk face get what he has coming to him. The story of Daniel in the Bible has a Mr. Comeuppance too.

 

Daniel 5


King Belshazzar made a great festival for a thousand of his lords, and he was drinking wine in the presence of the thousand. 

Under the influence of the wine, Belshazzar commanded that they bring in the vessels of gold and silver that his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. So they brought in the vessels of gold and silver that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank the wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. 

Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and began writing on the plaster of the wall of the royal palace, next to the lampstand. The king was watching the hand as it wrote. Then the king’s face turned pale, and his thoughts terrified him. His limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. The king cried aloud to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the diviners; and the king said to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever can read this writing and tell me its interpretation shall be clothed in purple, have a chain of gold around his neck, and rank third in the kingdom.” Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king the interpretation. Then King Belshazzar became greatly terrified and his face turned pale, and his lords were perplexed. 

The queen, when she heard the discussion of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall. The queen said, “O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts terrify you or your face grow pale. There is a man in your kingdom who is endowed with a spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father he was found to have enlightenment, understanding, and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and diviners, because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation.” 

 

Here is what these words mean:

Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.

Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.

Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

 

That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain.

 

So Belshazzar is arrogant, disrespectful and blasphemous and ends up dead that same night, a Mr. Comeuppance if ever I’ve seen one. The question this raises though is a more troubling one, did God do it. Clearly God was the one sending the message so was God also responsible for his demise? Quite often you here people talk about God’s plan, and God being behind events that seem unfathomable. Indeed many see this death of Belshazzar as God’s punishing him for his actions. I’ve always had trouble with this idea. I know it can be comforting to some but to me it seems like this sort of belief is unfair to God. In this case it would make God part of the assassination of Belshazzar, sure he may have deserved it (comeuppance guy and all) but is that how God works? I think that Daniel’s involvement in this paints a different picture. Daniel is a prophet, a person whose job it is to point out where your current actions are leading you. Like when your mom said stop hanging out with your friends they are leading you down the wrong path. Belshazzar is being told that this fate is the sum total of the way he behaved. The lesson is simple treat people well and you can expect better returns than if you teat people poorly. God is always there to help show us a better way to be in community with one another.

Peace

Jamie

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(This guy was on to something)

 

Hopping on the Breaking Bad Bandwagon

Usually I don’t have any idea what image I want to use when I write one of these devotionals.

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(For instance I’m Still waiting to use this image)

This week was different. I’m a big fan of the show Breaking Bad. The show is about a Chemistry teacher ,Walter, who after being diagnosed with cancer decides to begin manufacturing drugs, using his formidable knowledge of chemistry. Suffice it to say The show is definitely centered around adult themes and is far from family friendly. What caught my attention about the show wasn’t the story line it was the characters and the acting. This is a show about character development as Walter develops from a mild mannered teacher into a criminal. It’s also about the development of the characters around him whose own development is altered by Walt’s actions. It’s fascinating how simple character development executed so well can be so gripping. You end up caring about the characters curious about what will unfold in their lives and how those events will change them. Many critics have gone so far as to say that in terms of writing, acting and story that it is the best show of all time. On Sunday the show aired it’s final episode, there was a lot of story lines to tie up and many wondered how they would do it. I had a different question though it was what was Walt’s ultimate motivation, what led him to follow such a destructive path. Was it Money, power, family, fear or something else. As the episode went on this question went unresolved. And with two minutes remaining this scene aired.

(Thanks for introducing me to that awesome song btw)

Walt takes his final moments to say goodbye to his lab, where he made the Baby Blue methamphetamine mentioned in the song. He did it for his love of chemistry. The chemistry that led the character to almost winning a Nobel prize, to being a teacher and eventually into his drug business. Through his love of chemistry he lost his morality, his family, his reputation and eventually his life. Yet even to the end he looks upon his equipment with a faint smile and without regret. His devotion had taken him down a dark path but he remained devoted. I found it quite gripping and hoped it would in some way fit a devotional, then I looked at today’s reading.

Revelation 2:8-11 (NRSV)
Be faithful until death

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life:

“I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich. I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Whoever conquers will not be harmed by the second death. 

The prophet of revelation is commending his readers to have a devotion to God even until death. In other words a devotion to God like Walter’s devotion to chemistry. This devotion to God will lead down a much different path it will strengthen and inform morality, it will build up the relationships of family and friends and will lead to life in all it’s fullness even as the end approaches. I think we could all stand to cling as tightly to our faith as this character was able to cling to what he loved. In the end I hope I can look as lovingly and as peacefully at my faith as death creeps in as Walter was able to look at his lab. Knowing of course that death is never the season finale of our story ( I don’t care if that line was cheesy I like it)

God help me to value my faith in you above all else AMEN

Note: Now I have to find a new show to watch

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(What do you mean it was cancelled?!?) 

Birth Month

I’m a big fan of birthdays, particularly my birthday. It started as a joke a while back when I declared that I would be celebrating a birth month.

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(I will be celebrating my birthday all month long, I have a very patient wife)

 

It may have been because I had two older brothers and simply liked a day that was “all mine” or it may have been that I liked the opportunity for my family to gather together. It was never really about the presents for me, I liked them and all but I was never a child who wanted much. My mom would always ask what I wanted and every year I would respond with “ there isn’t anything I need”. Today’s reading made me think of that conversation.

 

Luke 20:45-21:4 (NRSV)

In the hearing of all the people he said to the disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” 

He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.” 

 

This reading is often quoted and the message is usually somewhere along the lines of give generously based on what you have. I always worry about that message because it usually is received with some guilt based on wishing there were more to give. When I hear that reading it makes me think of a particularly memorable gift I received. I was going off to seminary and for the fist time moving away from home. I had always been something of a big brother to my cousin who was nine and he had always been the little brother I never had, we spent a lot of time together. When I was getting ready for the move he gave me a going away peasant, a beta fish which he had named after himself so that he would be able to go with me at least in fish form. When I think of the widow and her coin I think of Mitch the fish, a gift that mattered because of what it was as well as what it meant.

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(fun fact this is a picture of my cousin not the fish)

perhaps we can all take a lesson from this, that when we are giving to God the most important gift we can give is a piece of ourselves.

 

God help me to give good gifts. AMEN

 

Epilogue: I went through many Mitch the fishes throughout seminary and even now 9 years later, he has changed gender and species he is currently a female cichlid who the pet store owner informed me is eating her own hatchlings , the real Mitch has not changed gender or species and does not eat his hatchlings.  I still think of him when I look at my fish tank.

I love orange Julius; Church I’m not so sold on.

Boy do I love a delicious orange Julius.  I drove 15 minutes out of my way and back to grab the largest one they sold, less than an hour later my cup is empty and I am doing the math to see if I have time to go get another one.  I mean look at it.ImageIt looks absolutely wonderful.  I’ve never passed an Orange Julius store without stopping to get one.  The beauty of a chain like Orange Julius is that great efforts are made to ensure that the food is consistent from store to store so that their delicious orange, milk and ice beverages are the same every time.  They do a great job.  That  is why I love Orange Julius.  Church on the other hand that’s more of a mixed bag and that in a nutshell is why I don’t love “church” as much as I love Orange Julius.  I know that is probably an odd statement for a Pastor to make, an  odd statement for someone who spends most days inside a church but the truth is I have a love hate relationship with church.  I love Jesus, how he taught us to live and the hope that can be found in the resurrection.  I love God and the life I believe he is calling us into.  I love the Spirit and the feeling I get when I feel the spirit moving through God’s people.  What I don’t love is that the word is so all encompassing,  for instance you can throw the word church on the end of the phrase Westboro  Baptist and all of a sudden it’s hard to love what that word “church” has become  . I looked at today’s reading and it didn’t help much.

1 Chronicles 21:1-17 (NRSV)Satan stood up against Israel, and incited David to count the people of Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Go, number Israel, from Beer-sheba to Dan, and bring me a report, so that I may know their number.” But Joab said, “May the Lord increase the number of his people a hundredfold! Are they not, my lord the king, all of them my lord’s servants? Why then should my lord require this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?” But the king’s word prevailed against Joab. So Joab departed and went throughout all Israel, and came back to Jerusalem. Joab gave the total count of the people to David. In all Israel there were one million one hundred thousand men who drew the sword, and in Judah four hundred seventy thousand who drew the sword. But he did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, for the king’s command was abhorrent to Joab. 

But God was displeased with this thing, and he struck Israel. David said to God, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing. But now, I pray you, take away the guilt of your servant; for I have done very foolishly.” The Lord spoke to Gad, David’s seer, saying, “Go and say to David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Three things I offer you; choose one of them, so that I may do it to you.'” So Gad came to David and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Take your choice: either three years of famine; or three months of devastation by your foes, while the sword of your enemies overtakes you; or three days of the sword of the Lord, pestilence on the land, and the angel of the Lord destroying throughout all the territory of Israel.’ Now decide what answer I shall return to the one who sent me.” Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress; let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is very great; but let me not fall into human hands.” 

So the Lord sent a pestilence on Israel; and seventy thousand persons fell in Israel. And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it; but when he was about to destroy it, the Lord took note and relented concerning the calamity; he said to the destroying angel, “Enough! Stay your hand.” The angel of the Lord was then standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. David looked up and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, and in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell on their faces. And David said to God, “Was it not I who gave the command to count the people? It is I who have sinned and done very wickedly. But these sheep, what have they done? Let your hand, I pray, O Lord my God, be against me and against my father’s house; but do not let your people be plagued!” 

I need an Orange Julius after reading that, seriously I’m leaving my computer and getting one right now.  2013-02-18_13-25-32_669 Ok that’s much better.  So in this reading David makes God angry by trusting the size of his army (taking a census) rather than trusting God’s power.   So maybe Hannibal Lector was just a misunderstood follower of this anti-census God. Seriously though let’s look at how God responds.  He gives David a choice 3 years of famine, 3 months of being ravaged by an army or 3 days of God’s punishment.  David takes the merciful option and God shows further mercy my not destroying Jerusalem.  No God “only” kills 70,000 people.    That’s a lot of deaths! Its over 23 9/11 attacks, its 76 Jonestown massacres  2592 times more than the Sandy Hook shootings, 4666 more than the Columbine shootings.  It’s more than was lost in any single battle in american history, Antietam is considered the bloodiest day in american history and this is still 3 times more deaths than Antietam.  And to be clear this death toll is to be thought of as a sign of God’s mercy because it could have been worse.  And to top it off the guy who made the mistake to cause all of this, King David, he is left unpunished.  The message seems to be do what God says, or else you will face  punishment unlike any other.  The truth is a lot of Churches have that sort of message too they just trade a plague for hell.  From what I can tell hell is a small town in Michigan.  It is also possible people are talking about this place.  That site by the way is the third link listed when you Google search hell which means when some random person wonders what this Hell thing Christians talk  about is, they will most likely find a site like the one I just linked to , or Wikipedia, which is always accurate.  The point of all this is that when people look at this view of Christianity and this view of God they want no part of it.  This God whose mercy isn’t very merciful, this God whose punishments are beyond imagining is a God people want no part of.  Now most Christians (I think) have a much more Gracious understanding of who God is.  They understand God to be full of Grace, forgiveness and love.  This is the God of all Good things the God of the footprints poem.  But that takes me back to Orange Julius.  The reason chain restaurants have such strict standards is because you never know which customer is trying your product for the first time.  Imagine if my first Orange Julius was rancid, it would have been the only one I ever tried, I wouldn’t have Gone back.  And that is why I don’t like churches, because we all get lumped together, people think we are all the same, people think all Christians have the same understanding of God and the obvious truth is we don’t.  No the truth is God is bigger than we can picture, whatever we say God is, we can be sure that God is in fact bigger than our words.  That goes for the Bible too, we can’t look at this one story and say this is how God operates, even in we read the whole bible thousands of times our errors in perception  logic, reason, memory and so much more will skew our vision of who and what God is to some degree.  But I don’t think we are left with a God who is imperceptible  we just won’t get the whole picture.  I would say start with the words Grace, love and forgiveness to describe God explore who God is from there.  I am sure someone would say that other words would be more important to start with, but that just goes to show you that Christian understandings just aren’t as consistent as Orange Julius’

As an aside writing this inspired me to find a recipe to make Orange Julius at home and each site gave me the same recipe, talk about constancy!

6 ounces frozen orange juice concentrate

1 cup milk, lowfat okay

1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 ice cubes
Directions:

1
-Combine all ingredients, except ice cubes, in blender.
2
-Blend 1-2 minutes , adding ice cubes one at a time, until smooth.

What Do these names have in common, Marty McFly, Doctor Who and Jesus…

I have been looking forward to the year 2015 for a long time and October 21st 2015 in particular.  The reason is that’s the date Marty McFly travels to in Back to the Future 2: Electric Boogaloo (I may not be right on that secondary title).  The time Marty and Doc spend in 2015 is some of the best future predictions ever, hover boards, holo-theaters, food hydrators, self fitting and drying clothes, not to mention flying cars. Some of the predictions are really bad too for instance people still use fax machines and the fax machines print like one of these

 Image

Time travel always seems to be a good idea for a movie or TV plot (exceptions being Star Trek: Enterprise, Masters of the Universe and Beast Master 2).  Often the premise is to fix time (Back to the Future 2) or make the future better (Terminator)  or to right some wrong (Quantum Leap (Quantum Leap counts as time travel right)) it never seems to deal primarily with the burden of seeing the future, of seeing what is going to happen and being unable to change it.  Sure there is always the talk of the catastrophic results of messing with time, paradoxes implosions, Biff owning the world or Abe Lincoln losing all dignity ( had to make at least on e Bill and Ted reference) but the results always seem to be generally positive or neutral no one seems generally shaken by seeing the tragedies that history has in store.  Jesus here has a different take…

Luke 19:41-44 (NRSV)

As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” 

About 40 years after Jesus was in Jerusalem (70 CE) Rome had enough of the locals and their idiosyncrasies so they burned the Jewish temple, burned its ashes and forcibly relocated the Jewish people across all of the Roman Empire.  It should be pretty clear but its still worth noting this was pretty terrible for the Jewish people, if you ever doubted how tough the Jewish people are they’ve been putting up with this kind of oppression for over 2000 years.  It seems fair to say that this is what Jesus was referring to when he weeps while looking at Jerusalem. 

——Side bar here The book of Luke was first put on paper, or scrolls, or papyrus or some early form of a Kindle, or whatever they had back then  in about 80-90 CE or 10 years after the event being predicted by Jesus.  Because of that the argument can be made, easily, that the author added this in to point to how great Jesus was, to add fortune telling to wine making and water walking on the things Jesus can do list.  Time isn’t relevant to God (it’s one of the questions asked on the are you God quiz) so if you believe in God you believe God is not subject to our linear time and if you believe in Jesus as God then A=B and Jesus would think beyond the constraints of liner time (Do I sound like a professor in a time travel movie, because I’m trying to).  So if Jesus actually said this or not is rather inconsequential the point is more his response than the prediction itself. —————-

Jesus looks at the city, thinks of the pain that will occur there and is sad, and weeps.  He wishes that the people could see what God has in store see that life could be better see that peace is real and achievable and make it happen, see what God is doing in Jesus and stop the flow of time that leads down this path of pain.  They didn’t.  We didn’t   Truth is Jesus could have walked to any population center and done this.  We could do the same pick a town a city a country whatever you want  say the same words Jesus says feel free to paraphrase “Pain and agony are preventable if only you knew how to stop them before they happened”  then watch the news for your location see what happens.  Sooner or later you’ll see something bad, depressing, disheartening, something that makes you wish events had happened differently and when you do I bet you’ll be able to see a way in which it could have been prevented through compassion, concern, love or care the way you feel in that moment is how Jesus felt.  I think that is a powerful statement about God he feels for us, God wants better for us, God weeps with us.  God gives us the gift of life and freedom wishes for the best and is with us when the best doesn’t happen.  The real gold in this verse for me is the line “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!”  The call is for us to be the change to figure out what makes for peace and be that change.  God has the perspective of the time traveler (The 12th Doctor perhaps) but we are the ones called to change and shape the future through compassion, concern, love and care.  Instead of being Sarah Connor fighting against a future where machines rule the planet we are called to be regular people fight for a better world.  We know the ugly is out there, we know things can be done to make this world better now we just have to do it… without a time machine.